Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Online "Beast Charming" review party (with prizes!)

I know a lot of you guys don't live in Utah like I do, but that doesn't mean you can't join in on my launch party. Anyone who submits a review of "Beast Charming" to any site on March 28 (this Saturday!) – Amazon, Goodreads, Barnes and Noble, Google Play, etc. – and sends a link to will get entered into a contest for one of three prizes (your choice):

1) An e-book copy of "Beast Charming" 
2) A short story (between 800-1200 words, depending on where inspiration takes me) featuring your character of choice from either "Fairy Godmothers, Inc." or "Beast Charming." 
3) A character in the book I'm currently working on (working title: "Piper's Song") will be named after you or the name of your choice (no joke names, though, unless you can really make me laugh with it). 

The more reviews you post, the more entries you'll get into the contest (reviews posted before 3/28 will be included, as long as you message me and let me know they're there).

Note: I will also consider "Fairy Godmothers, Inc." reviews - I know not everyone has "Beast Charming" yet - but they have to be dated March 28 to count). 

To make sure as many people as possible get a chance to enter, I'm extending the contest throughout the entire month of April. Happy reading! 

Friday, March 20, 2015

"Beast Charming" alternate scenes: A Sinking Sensation

This is an unused back story for James, aka Beast, from a much, much earlier draft of  "Beast Charming" (so no real spoilers if you haven't read the book). For me, the most hilarious thing about this is that there was once an entire version of the novel written in first person.

Chapter 2
A Sinking Sensation (Beast)

Looking back, it was not one of my more intelligent moments.

The entire fiasco was not, however, entirely my fault. Iliana looked at first glance exactly like every other predatory young thing that always crowded balls like this, giggling and fluttering her eyelashes at each and every available lordling in the immediate vicinity. If that weren’t enough of a cheat, her ice-blond hair had been piled on her head in a complicated style that all-too-conveniently hid the pointed tips of her ears from the unsuspecting.

I, naturally, had retreated to the library, drink in hand and a large chair blocking the only entrance. Just because Waverly insisted that it was part of my duty to hold a ball once a year didn’t mean that I actually had to attend the thing – as long as I let them use the space and paid for the hors devours, I considered my part in the festivities amply fulfilled.

Also, I was hiding. The fairy godmothers had published a list the year before rating the eligible noble males in the kingdom, and to my horror I had several gold wands beside my name – a title slightly more impressive than most of the young men within reach, a respectable amount of money to back that title and, thanks to a nasty curtain accident several years previous, no annoying father to stand in my way. Together, they added up to a picture that was irresistibly and unfortunately attractive to several members of the opposite sex, and they along with their mothers declared me the top target on their list of suitable prey

Sadly, the additional point that I was also a moody, sarcastic little snot did little to significantly change my standing, no matter how often I tried to advertise this particular aspect of my personality. Though I had managed to scare off one or two women, most didn’t have enough idea of what I was talking about to be offended. Hence the library, and the thick, heavy wooden doors ready to stand guard between me and massed femininity outside.

Unfortunately, my butler refused to see the genius of my plan. When the door creaked open, I set down my glass and picked up the heaviest book within reach, but it was only Waverly ready with another drink and a disapproving expression. “Can I get you anything, sir?” he asked in a faintly pained voice. “Perhaps some hermit rags and a long white beard?”

“Go show the guests how hilarious you are,” I hissed, taking the drink out of his hand and making shooing motions with the other. “And leave me alone until the uninvited guests are gone. Who knows who could have followed you?”

Waverly rolled his eyes. “Heaven forbid you should actually have to speak to someone, sir. Who knows what tragedy could strike.” Still, he closed the door, and with a deep sense of satisfaction I locked it behind him.

Unfortunately, that wasn’t enough to stop it from opening again a few minutes later. “Waverly, I told you ….”

“You could tell me more.” I swore at the distinctly feminine voice, and cringed at the pale, delicate looking creature that swept into the room and shut the door behind her. “I have been looking for you the entire evening, my lord. I’ve heard so many lovely things about you.”

My eyes narrowed at her. “That door was locked. How in Grimm’s name did you get in here?”
She lifted an elegant shoulder. “Magic, my lord. What else?”

Okay, maybe that should have been a clue. Still, as warning signs went it was unfortunately small – anyone could bribe a fairy godmother and get the same effect. “Fine” I growled, returning to my book.  “Now use it to leave again.”

She frowned at me for a long moment, then smiled the smile of a person who has just completely dismissed the last few minutes of conversation because there’s no way they could have conceivably happened. “What a sense of humor you have.” She swept forward, hunting for a seat close to mine. “If you could only dress a little more appropriately I’m sure we could work wonderfully together ….”

I stood up, stopping to grab a dictionary as I approached her. “Let me be more specific,” I cut her off, glaring at her. “I don’t want to talk to you. I don’t want to look at you.” As her eyes began to widen, I lifted the book in a menacing manner. “And the mere thought of ‘working wonderfully’ with you makes me want to break out in hives. Leave now, before something unfortunate has to happen.”

”But …” Her breath hitched, and she splayed a delicate hand across heaving bosoms. “You don’t want to hear about my ….”

“The only thing I want to hear from you,” I snapped. “Is the sound of the door smacking you as you leave.”

I could see the tears start to glisten at the corner of her huge violet eyes, usually the sign that they were about to scurry away in defeat. I set the book down, but barely had time to take a step back before a wand was suddenly pointed at me. Then everything went black.

And, as I realized when I could open my eyes again, furry.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Book Corner: "Once Upon Two Kingdoms"

“Once Upon Two Kingdoms” by Ana del C. Dye

An arrangement made when Elizabeth was just a babe ties her to someone she has never met, never spoken to, never loved. Now she desires freedom—a way to choose her own path—her own husband. The moment Elizabeth meets Patrick she knows he is her soul mate. But when you are bound to a crown how is any choice your own?

As a longtime fan of Hallmark Channel original programming, there’s a part of me that’s an absolute sucker for all of the classical romantic tropes. The accidental meeting, an arranged marriage that leads to a love match, a healthy amount of swooning and pining … it’s like the best kind of literary comfort food.

Reading “Once Upon Two Kingdoms,” the latest book by award-winning author Ana del C. Dye, is like enjoying a heaping plate of some of my oldest favorites. If you like your good guys great, your bad guys satisfyingly evil, and a happily-ever-after as sweet as honey, this is the book for you.

Elizabeth, the story’s heroine, falls more into the traditional “princess” gender role but still shows off plenty of spunk. Patrick is courtly in all the ways we want princes to be, and the duo’s romance hits all the right notes. I particularly like when the two first lay eyes on each other – I’m a sucker for meet-cutes that involve weaponry, however briefly – and a nicely dramatic moment near the end. (I’d tell you more, but the last thing I want to do is spoil the book for you.)

Though the setting is general medieval – princesses, etc. – Dye never lets herself get bogged down in period details. She has a good, simple style, where everything that’s going on is easy to understand and the emotions of the characters are clear at all times. The story offers a smooth, easy read from beginning to end, just the right kind of book to devour in a single afternoon.

“Once Upon Two Kingdoms” is available through Dye’s website, 

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

“Ghostbusters,” “Cinderella” and “Maleficent:” Remade vs. reborn stories

Photo courtesy of Disney
There are only so many times you can tell the same old story.

Hollywood, unfortunately, can never decide whether it believes this is true or not. They announce an all-female “Ghostbusters,” bringing a fresh idea to a beloved franchise that would actually justify resurrecting it, then turn around and approve an all-male reboot that will just bring more of the same. Disney makes “Maleficent,” which transforms a classic one-note villainess into a powerful heroine, then re-makes “Cinderella” solely to give the titular character an even prettier dress
But if we’re going to claim a story for our own, we can’t just slap a fresh coat of paint on it and tell people that we’ve created something. There’s already a perfect all-male “Ghostbusters” that exists in the world, and if someone is craving that all they have to do is pop in the DVD and listen to Bill Murray at his finest. Listening to Channing Tatum say the lines won’t make them funnier.

True, Tatum was hilarious in “21 Jump Street,” but that’s because the movie is nothing whatsoever like the original TV series.   An all-female “Ghostbusters” should exist because the change in gender automatically alters the entire dynamic of the movie. It gives audiences the opportunity to have a brand-new perspective with a story they thought they new well, giving them a fresh experience rather than trying to duplicate the old one.

The same is true for fairy tales. They’ve been retold so many times we’ve all memorized the traditional versions of the stories, whispered in our ears from the time we were little kids.  We all watched the original animated “Cinderella,” cheering on the ridiculously intelligent mice and enjoying how well the Fairy Godmother could rock a guest spot, and seeing it again in the live-action version was pleasant but dull. We already knew how that particular story went.

“Maleficent,” on the other hand, is nothing like “Sleeping Beauty.” It re-imagined the story, even more so than an all-female “Ghostbusters” would, and completely transformed a character who had been nothing more that a static (but incredibly cool) villain. Reversing her polarity like that made the story entirely different, and allowed it to go in directions that the original “Sleeping Beauty” could never touch. It’s not necessarily better or worse than the original – as with everything, your mileage may vary – but it’s worthy of standing on its own. The world is a better place because both stories exist.

That kind of new perspective was my goal with both “Beast Charming” and my previous book, “Fairy Godmothers, Inc.” Both books are set in a world where fairy tales aren’t special or exciting – they’re every day, practical occurrences, and the world responds to them accordingly. You can go to graduate school to become an evil sorceress, and you can make pretty good money selling anti-curse insurance.

In a world like that, there’s no guarantee that the story will work out the way it’s “supposed” to.  And happily ever after … well, that can mean just about anything.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Disney’s “Cinderella,” “Beast Charming,” and “good” girls

Copyright 2015 Disney
There’s such a thing as being too nice.

Mainstream fairy tales, I’ve found, almost entirely disagree with me on this point. The latest example can be found in Disney’s upcoming live-action adaptation of “Cinderella,” where Lily James’s Ella is so good and sweet that she never even raises her voice to her cruel, manipulative stepmother. She’s pretty much sweetness personified, and the local animal life is literally drawn to the goodness radiating out of her. She keeps reminding herself to be kind – one of her mother’s last admonitions before she dies tragically – but doing so never seems to be at all hard for her. She also doesn’t seem to do much, with the fairy godmother and freakishly intelligent mice pretty much doing all the heavy lifting.

The heroines of a lot of fairy tales seem to be like this, with the author always making sure to highlight the character’s gentleness and purity of thought at every opportunity. Even more than being beautiful – though that’s always quite a factor, too – being nice seems to be the vital element in what distinguishes fairy tale heroines from the random background characters. You’ll get the happily ever after, but only if you’re so sweet and gentle sugar wouldn’t melt in your mouth.
Basically, only if you’re perfect.

I, on the other hand, am about as far away from perfect as a person can possibly be. My friends insist that I’m a nice person – though “can be” a nice person is probably more accurate – but I can also be as crabby as a nap-deprived toddler and have so little patience sometimes that it can’t be found using modern scientific instruments. I can get almost psychotically competitive in certain circumstances – I’ve actually been forbidden from playing a particular video game out of fear that I’ll injure human life or property – and I will think insulting things about people who probably have no idea how much I dislike them.

Characters like Ella should probably try to make me aspire to be a better person, but mostly they just drive me nuts. I love nice people in real life – even though they make me feel guilty – but even the best people have a flaw of some kind. The “classic” fairy tale heroine, on the other hand, is more like a beautifully carved marble statue than a living, breathing human being, and the world she lives in has no place for someone like me. If only those kind of people get happily-ever-afters, then I’m in deep trouble.

Which is why I decided to change that. In “Beast Charming,” Beauty is a basically good person who loves her sister, wants to help people, and always tries to do the best job she can. She also has a temper – her shouting fights with her father are epic enough to draw crowds – and a tendency towards sarcasm and insisting she get the last word. She’s had to fight for every drop of self-esteem she has, and she’s secretly afraid that she’ll never be quite enough for anyone. Still, she doesn’t let any of that stop her.

In short, Beauty is nowhere near perfect. And if someone like her can fight her way to a happily-ever-after, maybe there’s hope for the rest of us.