September 16, 2014

Interview with Author Alissa Heyman

About a month ago, I posted a review of Twelve Dancing Unicorns and now I'm delighted to bring you an interview with its author, Alissa Heyman.
Reprinted with permission from Twelve Dancing Unicorns © 2014 by Alissa Heyman,
Sterling Children’s Books, an imprint of Sterling Publishing Co., Inc. Illustrations by Justin Gerard.
1. What’s the origin story behind Twelve Dancing Unicorns? Why retell this particular fairy tale?

My editor felt that retelling this fairy tale with unicorns instead of princesses would be a fresh and appealing approach and asked me to come up with an idea for an adaptation. I was intrigued by unicorn mythology, especially the lore behind the famous medieval Unicorn Tapestries, which led me to explore the idea of captivity and the role of young maidens in taming these wild creatures. I wanted to have a strong female protagonist who had a special bond with the unicorns.

2. Most people don't realize just how difficult picture book writing is because of the length restrictions. How do you keep things short while still telling a full story?

I write more than I have to and then I pare it down, figuring out what is essential. I write poetry, and poetry, with its necessary concision, is perfect training for writing picture books.

3. Do you write other genres?

I write poetry and prose for all ages.

4. Do you have a favorite fairy tale?

I’ve written poems based on some of my favorite fairy tales—Little Red Riding Hood, Rumpelstiltskin, and Rapunzel, among others. I also enjoy Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tales and Oscar Wilde’s “The Happy Prince.”

5. How do you know if a picture book idea might work?

I think an idea works if it has a strong story, memorable characters, appealing, age-appropriate writing, and is something that would interest young children.

6. Tell me about some authors who have inspired your own writing.

Paul Zelinsky’s Rapunzel has inspired me because it is such a beautiful retelling of the fairy tale. Also fantasy writers such as J.K. Rowling, Philip Pullman, Lloyd Alexander, and Susan Cooper, because of the way they create completely believable worlds in which to explore human nature.

7. What’s next for you?

I’m working on several picture books, a collection of poetry, and a young adult novel.

August 28, 2014

Ebook Review of "Mermaid" by Kate O'Connor

 – Reviewed by Brogan Merrill

Kate O’Connor’s Mermaid is a science fiction re-imagining of Hans Christian Andersen's "The Little Mermaid". O’Connor brings a true sense of otherness to her retelling while keeping the spirit of the original.

Our heroine, Coral, is a mechanical sea drone with six arms and green hair. She has only existed for 22 months, but the human DNA inside her has created a longing for connection that goes beyond her programming.

It is a Frankensteinian tale that explores what makes humans unique. Can partial humans ever be satisfied with their limitations or must they exert their will to satisfy their curiosity? In Coral’s case, she sacrifices everything to be human (-oid). Her transformation leaves her with no voice and pain when she walks—she basically becomes a disabled human. How far will she go for acceptance?

Although I have never liked the original Little Mermaid’s tragic storyline, I found myself admiring how the author kept the story’s skeleton intact while creating an entirely new skin for it. Mermaid is a heart wrenching coming of age novel that isn’t afraid to wrestle with tough ethical quandaries. This book is a rare gem—and that’s coming from a “happily ever after” junkie.

You can buy Mermaid in digital format through Musa Publishing HERE or on Amazon. 

August 27, 2014

Book Review: The Boy Who Kicked Pigs by Tom Baker

Editor's note: I usually don't accept reviews for books that aren't directly related to a fairy tale or myth, but I decided to make an exception since Baker's style seems similar to modern fairy tale writers like Roald Dahl and Norton Juster. After all, the stories of today might just be the classics of tomorrow.

Book Review of Tom Baker's The Boy Who Kicked Pigs by Jude Tulli

Tom Baker’s got voice. As an actor, best known for his iconic portrayal of Doctor Who Number Four, and in his literary works as well. The Boy Who Kicked Pigs is a testament to that fact. While not marketed as a fairy tale per se, the narrative does have the feel of one of those in which the protagonist fails. The stakes are profound, and our anti-hero finds himself duly lavished with just desserts.

At just over 60 pages of text and as many full-page illustrations, it’s a very tight ball of a multi-colored yarn. You can easily knit it into the fabric of your consciousness (or perhaps a long scarf) in the span of a day or two. Yet this fussy reader is still thinking about the tale months after having read it. It’s that good.

It all starts when Robert Caligari essentially becomes addicted to kicking pigs. He even suffers physical withdrawal symptoms when trying to curtail his peculiar impulse. The form of the swine doesn't matter so much; his sister’s piggy bank starts the breadcrumb trail toward a fateful encounter with a bacon butty he mistakes for forsaken. In the aftermath, Robert casts his lot with the unloved creatures of the world. He slips “beyond the pale” and becomes a wanton evil-doer.

There are so many beautifully written, laugh-out-loud and highly quotable turns of words and plays on phrases in this book that I want to recite all my favorites here (so many pages dog-eared in my mind). It’s available as an e-book though I found an inexpensive used hardcover edition delightful to read.) But I won’t, because they’re more wonderful to discover in context for yourself.
The illustrations by David Roberts perfectly complement this sordid, lovely tale. Though it looks as if it might make for a great children’s book, I’d suggest parents read it first and decide whether it’s something their child might enjoy. I imagine some kids would love it while others might come down with a chronic case of Monster-Under-the-Bed Syndrome.

As a reader, I tend to put a lot of books down after just a chapter or two and forget to pick them back up again. This one had me looking forward to getting back to it. I only wish it had been longer and that Mr. Baker would publish more books (his excellent autobiography was the only other one I knew of until my wife just found me his other treasure Never Wear Your Wellies in the House and Other Poems to Make You Laugh.) You got me; that was two wishes. But that’s not all bad. If wishes were hearts I could be a Time Lord. Who wouldn't love that?

Jude Tulli lives in the Sonoran Desert with his beloved wife Trish and two small prides of cats (one of the indoor purring pet variety and the other, the outdoor hissing feral kind). At the age of 13, he met and shook hands with Mr. Baker, his childhood hero, at a convention where, at the end of the day, the star personally said goodbye to every single attendee. Baker: [Shaking Tulli's hand vigorously] Goodbye, thank you! Tulli: [Wide-eyed] Goodbye!

August 12, 2014

Book Review and Giveaway: Twelve Dancing Unicorns

I'm a big believer that, regardless of age, everyone should have a picture book collection. Since the quality ones will often run you upwards of $15, you have to be selective, but this is definitely a genre you won't want to buy for cheap on Kindle. If you have kids to share your literary treasures with, so much the better.

For the fairy tale lover interested in starting their own picture book collection, look no further than Alissa Heyman's upcoming book Twelve Dancing Unicorns. In this beautifully illustrated retelling of The Twelve Dancing Princesses, a young girl offers to help the king uncover the secrets behind why his prized unicorns disappear every night.

The writing is charming, the illustrations enchanting, and the story is full of magic. For those familiar with the original tale, this version keeps the simple plot arc. The main difference is the substitution of unicorns for the princesses and the author's switching the protagonists from soldier to little girl. 

Sterling Publishing who sent my review copy, was kind enough to throw in an extra for me to use as a giveaway item. So if you'd like to be entered to win a hardback copy of this gorgeous book, like us on Facebook and/or leave us a comment sharing the name of your favorite picture book. Then use the widget at the top to be entered into the giveaway. 

This book comes out on September 2, 2014 and will be $14.95 on Amazon, but you can pre-order it now for $9.50.

P.S. Keep an eye out for a special author interview with Alissa Heyman, coming soon!

July 27, 2014

Ask the Editor Chat!

This Sunday, August 3rd, starting at 5 pm PST (8 pm EST), we will be hosting our first Ask the Editor chat using Google Hangouts. Come by and ask our editor, Tahlia Kirk, answer questions about writing, publishing, fairy tales, myths, or just to say "Hi". 

The link to the event is here:

Hope to see you there!

July 26, 2014

Last Chance to Vote and Win!

Only two days left to cast your vote for Issue #4's theme. Perseus and Medusa has taken the lead lately, but Baba Yaga isn't far behind.

And don't forget that we have TWO books up for grabs in our giveaway. The deadline is 11:59 pm on July 28th, so don't miss your chance.

Stats as of July 26

July 18, 2014

Lots of News

1. Calling all writers! Timeless Tales submissions open July 21 for Issue #3: The Twelve Dancing Princesses. That's this Monday, guys, so start writing! Full details can be found on the Timeless Tales submission page

2. In a similar vein, please note that we created a new email address exclusively for story submissions. We'd had a few requests for writers to receive an email confirmation after they'd submitted, so this will make that possible. The new email is You can still direct questions/comments to our regular email, of course.

3. We have an official logo! Thanks to Dreambrella for the design.

Of course, a new logo meant that I had to redesign the website a bit...okay, maybe a lot...

Ta da! New website look! 

I know the website has gone through a ton of transformations since it launched, so let me know if the constant changes give you whiplash. This is a small community, so don't be shy in giving your feedback on stuff, okay? 

4. I plan to host a live Ask the Editor chat in the next few weeks. I'm still working on the details, so stay tuned. What I really need to know is whether you would rather I did a video livestream (where people type their questions and I verbally answer) OR if I should just stick to a text chat format. Opinions?

July 14, 2014

Book Review: Cruel Beauty by Rosamund Hodge

I found Cruel Beauty through a free YA audiobook program I'm following this summer. At its core, it's a Beauty and the Beast retelling, but I was delighted to find elements from many tales mixed into it, including Pandora's Box, The Little Mermaid, Bluebeard, Persephone, Rumpelstiltskin, Psyche & Cupid, and even some djinn mythology.

Our heroine, Nyx Triskelion, is betrothed to the kingdom's evil lord and moves into his castle intending to kill him. However, her plans get a bit muddled when she finds herself strangely attracted to her mysterious new husband. Her family is counting on her to free the kingdom from the evil lord's tyranny, but he's always one step ahead of her assassination attempts...but let's be honest, she isn't trying all that hard.

The novel successfully pulls the reader into its drama, creating a world full of mystery and romance. In fact, the world is so richly developed that if you're not well-versed in various mythologies, particularly Greek, you may have trouble following some of the overarching politics (I was scrolling through amazon reviews while writing this and noticed a few complaints). I personally liked that the magical system and the story's curse weren't one dimensional, but they are certainly complex.

Nyx's character can be frustrating at times because she believes herself to be more objective and determined than she really is. She believes t her resolve is strong, but she's actually quite blinded by her emotions. One minute, her teeth are gritted as she prepares herself to attack and the next, her heart is all fluttery under the influence of his gaze.  Perhaps she wouldn't be as relatable if she was capable of real cold-blooded attempted murder.

What also makes her compelling is that she has a ton of guilt and bitterness inside that she must overcome. Is Lord Ignifex actually the "beast" half of this retelling? Just like how Austen doesn't easily assign one character the "Pride" and one character the "Prejudice", Hodge keeps her characters layered and nuanced.

So overall, this is an enjoyable read. The ending felt a bit too convenient and tidy, but really, I suppose I shouldn't complain too loudly about happy endings.

Learn more about Cruel Beauty at the author's website: