Sorry Honey, I Forgot Our Blogoversary . . .

SO, I figured out that my blog’s anniversary was August 13th . . . and then I worked a 65 hour week and didn’t think about it at all.*

So I’m doing a belated Blogoversary post for myself. That means I will use an inordinate amount of gifs and jibber about nothing for at least a page; you have been warned.

I’ve been blogging for a bit now, but I’ve only been consistent for about a year. In that time, I’ve made some awesome friends, and had a lot of fun getting some words out there. More importantly, I feel like the writing connection with others (and the helpful feedback) has made me a better writer, and made me a more efficient writer.

I answered a lot of the “Why do you blog” questions on this tag from blogger Victoria Grace, so I’ll skip that. Also, you probably have heard more random facts about me than you ever needed! So I’ll skip that too. Instead, I think I’ll write a bit about my past year in blogging, and where I see myself going.

As most of you probably know, I had my debut novel scheduled for August publication.

Unfortunately, it’s already September (yes, I’m screaming), and I have yet to hear back from my publishers on a new, concrete date. They haven’t done something terrible like close down or drop my book, they’ve just pushed everything back in their schedule because: LIFE HAPPENS. No one knows this better than me, but it doesn’t make it easy. In fact, it’s made my last couple months rougher mentally than I would like.

In the meantime, I’ve been trying to stay positive and work on the many writing projects (new and old) that I have. I’ve also kept myself reading – because my love of reading is what got me writing, and it’s still my favorite pastime. It’s also good to get other people’s’ words and ideas flowing through your head, just like it’s good to have conversations with various people and not always be stuck in your own brain!

A Few Things I’ve Been Working on Between Last August and Now:

Promoting:

Knight of the Blue Surcoat, my delayed but still debut novel – an Arthurian historical fantasy adventure starring King Arthur’s daughter Melora. More about it here.

Editing:

The Last Coffee Shop (TLCS)- A snarky, post-apocalyptic adventure novel that involves a barista, a bounty hunter, a dancing thief, and a lot of aliens. Read more about it here.

Drafting:

Red as Blood – A genderbent Snow White retelling set in the same “world” as TLCS, just a decade or so later. It involves high fashion, corruption, food service, and quirky, damaged characters. More about that here, and in my current series of Beautiful People posts. September’s entry will be up soon!

Reading:

Scads of research books for a planned Japanese folktale retelling, and a few for an epic fantasy idea that I’ve been tossing around.

ARCS – as many as I can get to, for my day job as a bookseller. Standouts include Vassa in the NightBlood for Blood, and Patchinko.

Most recent reads: Tokyo Ghoul Volume 8 (<3t_t KEN!) and Malice by Keigo Higashino (Japanese mystery).

Learning:

Korean, and lots of other things – to be continued below . . .

Cooking:

If you follow me on Instagram, you might have seen my random kitchen projects. Kimchi-in-everything has been the theme. I’ve progressed to a proper kimchi storage container, so I can make as much kimchi jjigae (김치찌개) as I want!! Other things, such as Korean BBQ, fresh tuna sushi, Thai curries, the usual pies and scones, and many other things happened in my kitchen between work and other work.

Watching:

Obviously, I haven’t had much time to watch anything. However, I did finish the Korean Comedy/Horror/Drama “Let’s Fight, Ghost!” and it was hilarious (and actually a little creepy at times). I also started watching PinocchioCity Hunter, and a big-budget Chinese drama called Ice Fantasy. If you’re interested in hearing more about my tv watching habits, check out this post. AND PEOPLE – if you aren’t watching W: Two Worlds, you should! Not only do we get Lee Jong Suk being a fabulous action hero, it’s a reality-bending drama about being sucked into/out of a manhwa (만화 – Korean comics) and it has a rather Christopher Nolan-esque/postmodern feel about it that is pretty unique.

Oh, and Lee Jong Suk = reasons to watch anything. No, I’m completely unbiased.

ANYHOW.

The last movie I saw was Suicide Squad – and I had very mixed feelings about it. It felt like two different movies competing with each other, and I thought that it would have been better off as a goofy heist-style movie. Everything from the message to the storytelling was muddled (and I seem to be in the 1% who thought the Joker was in there too much – and I’d thought he was the main villain from the trailers . . .). And honestly, the villain (Tia Dalma 2.0, supermodel edition) was completely underwhelming. That being said, the main cast was good and parts of it were very fun/funny – and there were some excellent soundtrack choices.

I’m really looking forward to Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children and Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find ThemMiss Peregrine’s wasn’t my favorite book – I found it rather boring, and the romance was really the only unnerving thing about it, but the movie looks pretty cool. And of course I’m excited about Fantastic Beasts! It looks like breath of cinematic fresh air.

Listening to:

Other than the usual, I’ve really been liking Korean rockers F.T. Island‘s mixture of pop-punk and excellent vocals/instrumentals. Other notable current favorites include BØRNS (Michigan Native!), For the Foxes, EXO and B.A.P‘s dance-y recent offerings, The Unlikely Candidates, and Icelandic rockers Kaleo.

Also in music, I compiled an ultimate Last Coffee Shop Playlist (around 100 tracks) that gives you a great audio picture of the novel – and it includes a lot of the songs I listened to while writing TLCS as well.

Work:

Err, that. Back in February, I took on a second job at a new craft brewery, in addition to working part-time as a bookstore manager/head book-buyer, writing reviews for a women’s mag, and my own personal writing/reading work . . . so, yes. Anyhow, it’s been fun, but I think the crazy work fest might be over for the year.

Travel:

Besides travelling to Nashville and back in three days, I’ve been to Pensacola (for a day, but well, it was a good day), Gulf Shores, Chicago (4 times!), Traverse City, Harbor Springs, and all that jazz. I manage to clock a lot of road hours for someone who is rarely away from work, 😛

Life:

I GOT A NEPHEW!!! I already had a niece (and she’s one of the most precious, sweet, and mild-mannered little angels ever), but as of the end of June, I have a nephew too. He’s adorable and cuddly, and I got to go see him way too briefly in July.

So you remember I was learning Korean?

Well, last fall, after some serious contemplation/soul-searching/finance-shuffling, etc, I decided I’d be interested in putting some of my savings toward a few more college courses (I have some credits, but that’s all). I’ve always wanted to travel, travel write, and make it to East Asia. Not to mention, my passion for Asian History has had me reading courses worth of books for years. SOooo, I thought, well, a degree in East Asian Studies? Worth it? Maybe a foray into International Relations, or a certificate for teaching ESL? My number one goal has always (and probably will always be) to be a published author, but that travelling/teaching/exploring side is loud too. I want to write, in other places. So this meandering paragraph just means, I’m going back to school, as long as I can afford it . . . At least I’ll have a whole class of people to practice Korean with!!

Related to this – readers might remember how my sister and I had to leave our rental and ended up back with our parents? Well, I’m going to move (at least till December) down to Grand Rapids, and commute to my bookstore job in between. So I can’t see the craziness letting up any time soon, but it will probably be a bit more organized now. *Gulp*

And while I’m on the subject of school, I’m attending a college that really is quite a nontraditional place for an adult student – and it feels like I’m in class with high schoolers – I feel so awkward and out of place. So there’s that. I thought about doing a series about what it feels like to go back to school at 27 (on a small enough campus to where you can feel it). So that might be a thing . . . It’s amazing how isolated you can feel when you’re surrounded by thousands of people. Don’t get me wrong, I love being by myself, but trading in 65hr work weeks for 65hr work-and-school weeks is kind of lonely, you know? But I know that I have you guys to talk to! (And believe me, it’s comforting)

So that’s it – that’s all there is in a nutshell. Happy Belated Blogoversary to me! (Also, happy 추석 to my Korean friends out there!)

(I love Lurch’s dancing because we can all do better – sorry Lurch)

If you blog, when’s your blogoversary? Have you ever thought about going back to school after leaving it? Would you read a series about going back to school as an adult student?

What have you been up to this September? Conversation is delightful ;P

*I didn’t forget my beloved Bigbang’s anniversary though (August 19th). Priorities, priorities . . .

 

Beautiful People Part II (August): Introducing Phaidra Callas-Yu (Red as Blood)

10928109_595959117172101_1450331761_nWhen I saw August’s theme, and Cait’s awesome gifs to go with it, I just knew that I had to drop the Seven Sisters in favor of another extremely important character in Red as Blood: Sull’s stepmother, the formidable model, dancer, and actress “Calla Fay.”

No Snow White retelling would be complete without it’s “evil queen,” and since this BP was all about appearances, it’s too perfect.

But first, a little bio:
Name: Phaidra Yu, nee Callas          Nickname: Calla Fay

Age: 25     Height: 1.82 meters       Weight: Really?

Phaidra Callas burst onto the modelling scene at the young age of fourteen. From the beginning, her startling beauty, poise, and charming sweetness made her a star, and agencies were practically fighting to sign her. Nevertheless, she kept her current manager (her mother) until her mother's tragic passing in a freak accident when Phaidra was sixteen. 
Phaidra disappeared (presumably in mourning) for a month, and then came back as "Calla Fay" the female face of SnøFall - the groundbreaking fashion line by young designer Yu Hayato  (유 하야토). This was the first time she met Yu, and his motherless son, who was the other face of SnøFall. Phaidra's star continued to rise, and she made further news by marrying Yu four years later. The "King and Queen of Galactic Fashion" were unstoppable - or so everyone thought.
  1. Give a brief overview of their looks. (Include a photo if you want!)

I imagine that Phaidra looks quite a bit like this photo of classic actress and beauty, Gene Tierney
I imagine that Phaidra looks quite a bit like this photo of classic actress and beauty, Gene Tierney
Hair: Natural black      Eyes: Lavender-grey
Skin: Flawless ivory

2. Share a snippet that involves description of their appearance.

Well – I don’t actually have a snipped that describes Phaidra right now (since I’m playing around with first person), but I will share one of the random snippets I wrote about her as a practice exercise/character development tool. Note that it probably won’t be part of the book and it’s completely unedited, but it gives you a little taste –

The woman was undeniably beautiful, with her doe-eyed expression and milky white limbs curving through the swaths of silver and gold, but it was the child who stole your breath away. It was hard to look at the woman with him there, this creature of nearly indeterminate gender, whose dark eyes held more sorrow than any child’s should. It was then, after looking close, that you might notice the woman again. You might see how her hand rested on the child’s shoulder, a little too heavy for comfort. You might note how her long, silky black hair draped onto the child, mixing with his own locks in a tangle of confusion. Then you would notice how even the extra fabric from her dress somehow shrouded the child, framing his small body and miring his feet in a swamp of exquisite silk. Last of all, you would look back into her eyes, so clear and crystalline that they might have been liquid, and you might feel uncomfortable when you saw how empty they were. And you would turn away, and try to forget their expressions – but you couldn’t get their frozen stares out of your mind. It’s just an ad, you would think to yourself, it doesn’t mean anything.

3. What is the first thing people might notice about them?

Phaidra’s eyes. They are piercing, crystalline lavender grey, with extra long lashes and an extraordinary sparkle to them. Though she has been (quietly) accused of enhancing them, no records exist to prove it.

4. What are their unique features? (Ex: freckles, big ears, birthmark, scars, etc.)

Phaidra’s only “imperfection” is a tiny, heart-shaped mole under her left eye. Otherwise, her skin seems poreless, and her features are suspiciously symmetrical.

5. How tall are they? What is their build (Ex: stocky, slender, petite, etc.)

Phaidra is around 5 ft, 10 inches tall (just a couple of inches shorter than her husband).

Delicate bone structure, immaculate features, and a perfectly proportioned, long-limbed, graceful body made Phaidra one of the most galactically popular models of all time. She has been voted the “Most Beautiful Woman in the Galaxy” for the past six years.

6. What is their posture like? How do they usually carry themselves?

Phaidra carries herself like royalty. She is the queen of a fashion empire, after all. Her posture is perfect, and she moves with an unhurried grace that has been compared to large, predatory cats.

7. Your character has been seen on a “lazy day” (free from usual routine/expectations): what are they wearing and how do they look?

Minimal makeup and exclusive designer loungewear that cost more than some average citizen’s house. One of the perks of being married to a designer is that Phaidra is never wearing the same thing as anyone else.

8. Do they wear glasses, accessories, or jewelry on a regular basis? Do they have any article of clothing or accessory that could be considered their trademark?

Phaidra’s trademark is a pair of silver crown shaped earrings that she never removes. They were rumored to be a gift from her mother, but she has never explained their origin. However, she refuses to take them off, so designers and stylists have had to work around them. Other than these, Phaidra wears whatever accessories are dictated by her current job.

9. Have they ever been bullied or shamed because of their looks? Explain!

Phaidra’s “perfect” looks have been under scrutiny ever since she debuted at fourteen as the face of a popular perfume. There has been a debate over everything from plastic-surgery to rumors that she was forced into modelling by her mother. However, ultimately it all comes down to how she looks. Despite the criticism and harsh accusations she’s received over the years, Phaidra seems to glow brightest when she’s being attacked, almost as if she welcomes any attention at all . . .

10. Are they happy with how they look? If they could change anything about their appearance, what would it be?

Yes. Phaidra has said that she would rather die than be ugly, and that her looks are really all she has. The only thing she would change is her age – though she’s only twenty-five, she lives in constant terror of her looks fading and wilting with age. There is an entire lab (funded by Phaidra herself) devoted to finding products and routines that will hold back her aging process as long as possible.

So that’s Phaidra, folks. Since this was all about looks, I feel like we only just scraped the darkness and complexity of her character – but that’s just too fitting. Most people (okay, characters in my world) have evaluated/judged Phaidra by looks alone. As you all know, this can lead to misconceptions, misjudgments, and be a terrible mistake.

So what did you think? How important are appearances to your current characters? Red as Blood is the first project of mine to have appearances be pivotal to the plot!

 Did you all do this month’s BP? If so, leave a link so I can check yours out!

 

 

Beautiful People Part I (from July): Meet The General (Red as Blood)

In the monthly Beautiful People (hosted/originated by Cait @ Paper Fury and Skye @ Further Up and Further In, and you can read all about it HERE.), I’ve been exploring the rather large cast of my current WIP, Red as Blood. And though I started to do the July feature back in, well, July, I never finished it – so I’m posting it today. Check back soon for BP Part II, which will feature the August questions and another pivotal character from Red as Blood.

So, if you need a refresher on Red as Blood or some of the major characters, check out these posts, and for more on the Seven Sisters, here’s the link to their general bio.

Next up is the third sister – Ayan Stonefist – more commonly known as “The General.” Here’s a photo and a quick recap of her bio:
A younger but pretty accurate Ayan reference photo
A younger but pretty accurate Ayan reference photo
Don’t be fooled by her small stature - she can, and will, destroy you. The General has one of the best tactical minds of the last century, and it’s a mystery why she’s working at an out-of-the-way food joint. Actually, most everything about her is a mystery, and she’d prefer it stay that way.

Age:  early forties (or so the Sisters guess)

Occupation: Assistant Manager of Henpecked Bar & Grill. But that’s just what it says on paper . . .

Height: 135 cm?    Weight: Unknown    Race: Human?

Weakness: *whispers* Don’t even tell her we asked.

Weapon of Choice: Throwing knives or a good spear

Likes: Order, cleanliness, and quiet. Sharp blades. Maps. Dogs.

Dislikes: Bad manners. Insubordinate people. Disorder. Cats.

Favorite Food: Strawberries (she has a surprising sweet tooth)

Of all of the sisters, Ayan is the most reserved and forbidding. However, she exudes calm and excels at managing diverse and difficult personalities. Sull tries to avoid her as much as possible, yet he admires the way she carries herself – as if she’s twenty feet tall and all corded muscle – anyone in her way will be ten feet under . . .

So, now, let’s attempt to get to know The General a bit better.

  1. Does she  want to get married and/or have children? Why or why not?

This isn’t the sort of thing the General thinks about, to be honest. She’s never desired children, and she has zero interest in any sort of life partner or romance. Still, she isn’t opposed to mentoring a young person, and she did very well as the leader of armies. As a general rule, Ayan feels that children are a nuisance, and that they are a danger to everyone if their parents didn’t really want them. Sull basically affirms everything that Ayan believed about kids. 😛

2. What is their weapon of choice? (It doesn’t necessarily have to be a physical weapon.)

I answered this in her profile (throwing knives or a spear), but the General is one of those people who can use anything for an effective weapon. Her brain is her other favorite weapon though 😛

3. What’s the nicest thing they’ve done for someone else, and why did they do it?

When Ayan had command of a particularly large group of young men (soldiers), she caught one of them stealing food from the stores. Normally, that sort of thing was punishable by discharge and the removal of a hand, and the General had not hesitated to carry out the sentence before. However, after investigating the situation, she discovered that the soldier had taken the food for a group of orphans that had lost their parents in the current battles. Ayan looked into this and allowed the soldier to go with only extended latrine duty. She then set up a fund for the children, and personally found them all homes, despite her general dislike of children. When asked why she did it, all the General would say is that war “wasn’t right, and that no one but the instigators should suffer the consequences.”

4. Have they ever been physically violent with someone, and what instigated it?

She is the General – so 99% of her existence has been in the more violent spheres of life – but she isn’t violent without cause or reason. Rather, she only uses physical violence as a last resort.

5. Are they a rule-follower or a rebel?

While Ayan is usually a rule-follower (she believes that rules exist for a reason), she isn’t afraid to color outside the lines, so to speak. If she truly believes an action is right or wrong, she won’t hesitate to act accordingly.

6. Are they organized or messy?

Highly organized. The General despises anything remotely disordered or messy.

7. What makes them feel loved, and who was the last person to make them feel that way?

The General believes that love is like down comforters or a good mattress: comfortable and a life enhancement, but not necessary for a fulfilling existence. Her soldiers usually loved her, but she discouraged it, as she thought it encouraged an unnatural level of risk-taking and devotion (when she was in a dangerous situation).

8. What do they eat for breakfast?

The General strives for balance in every area of life, so she makes sure that her breakfast is nutritious and balanced, with just the right amount of calories to keep her going until the next meal. That being said, she’s partial to strawberry pancakes.

9. Have they ever lost someone close to them? What happened?

While Ayan tries to maintain a professional distance between herself and those around her, she has witnessed the deaths of many young soldiers. The General feels personally connected to every soldier under her command, and every loss or death has made her strive to be a better commander.

10. What’s their treat of choice? (Or, if not food, how else do they reward themselves?)

The General has a sweet tooth, so she will occasionally indulge in one of Dumpling‘s famous strawberry shortcakes. But only if she has had an extremely stressful day, or she feels quite satisfied with herself.

So that’s all for today- do you feel like you know the General a little bit better? (She’s rather enigmatic). Did you do July’s BP? How is your August going, and what are you writing/reading?

Top Ten Tuesday Rewind: Top 10 Things that Books Have Made Me Want to Learn or Do

Copyright : The Broke and the Bookish
Copyright : The Broke and the Bookish

So this week’s TTT is a chance to go back and do a Top 10 that you missed. I have missed A LOT of the recent Top 10’s, but the one I felt the most need to participate in was just a couple of weeks ago. “The Top 10 Things that Books Made Me Want to Learn or Do” is a topic that I haven’t written as much about, and as a writer*, there are a ton of things I have attempted or wanted to attempt because of books!! The difficult part was narrowing it down to just ten 😛

So – without further ado:

The Top 10 Things that Books have Made Me Want to Learn or Do:

  1. Forge a sword

If you’ve ever read a fantasy novel, you probably have read about that pivotal blade for the hero, or magical smith character. I have been fascinated by swordsmithing ever since I was little. The first book that made me think about it though? That’s tough. I’d probably go with The Lord of the Rings trilogy. Aragorn’s sword is reforged from the shards of Narsil, a legendary blade of his ancestors. And it’s Aragorn’s remade blade Andúril that marks him as the “true king.” Now that, is a sword.

2. Become a samurai.
Maybe this is obvious, but Kurosawa’s “Seven Samurai” is one of my favorite movies.

Since I am A. Not Japanese, and B. Live in the 21st Century, the viability of this one is . . . err, nonexistent. But everything I read about these fascinating warriors always made me want to be them. In particular, Chris Bradford’s Young Samurai series sealed the deal. (After all, it’s about gaijin samurai).

3. Archery.

This is one that I actually went out and did. While I’m not a crack shot or anything (especially with my bad eyes), I’m not terrible. And I still love archery. It’s therapeutic. And I can blame Roger Lancelyn Green’s Adventures of Robin Hood for this one! (With LOTR’s Legolas in a close second)

4. Celtic-style Illumination

Illumination^^

I don’t recall when I discovered the children’s picture book Marguerite Makes a Book, but I was probably about six or seven. Anyhow, Marguerite is a young girl with an illuminator for a father. Marguerite dreams of illuminating a manuscript, and when her father needs help finishing a book for a noble lady’s birthday, it’s Marguerite who comes to his aid. I still love this book, and I have spent many an hour practicing calligraphy and illuminating bookmarks and other things!

5. Riding in a horse race

While I did take horseback riding lessons for a few years (and I went to a horse camp), and I do enjoy the occasional trail ride, I have yet to race a horse (or own one). I’m not really the jockey build (or height). But between Black BeautyMisty of Chincoteague, and Walter Farley’s novels, owning a horse and racing it was something I always wanted to do. Still, I did learn to take care of a horse and ride one because of books!

6. Knit a sweater.

There isn’t a single, specific book that made me want to do this. Rather, it was an idea that grew after reading enough historical fiction. So many of the heroines were skilled in weaving, crocheting, or knitting, that I was determined to figure it out. After a few failed attempts, I finally got the hang of it, and I’ve knit more than one sweater now, and designed my own patterns! It’s a skill that I’m really glad I worked at developing. A recent-ish book that really made me want to knit would be Princess of the Midnight Ball by Jessica Day George. It’s the hero, not the heroine, who is the expert knitter of this fun little fairytale retelling. It is also, to date, the only book I’ve read where the villain was dispatched via knitting needle!

7. Go on an epic journey by foot, horse, ship, and/or wagon.

I still haven’t achieved this one 🙂 And I could name off at least a dozen books that made me want to do this. The HobbitLittle House on the Prairie, and The Hero and the Crown are just two of many, many others.

8. Get some beehives and become a beekeeper

I haven’t done this – yet! But I plan on having some hives someday (if I ever land somewhere permanently, that is). I have helped a beekeeper do their rounds, and studied bees and the homeopathic uses of honey. My fascination with the subject is pretty old, but one of the primary factors was Chalice by Robin McKinley. The Secret Life of Bees probably helped too 🙂

9. Go to a masquerade ball.

Err, doesn’t everyone want to do this? I love the idea of a fancy dress ball – but everyone knows that a masquerade is the most exciting (or frightening) type of costume party. So many things are revealed when your face is concealed, and all that jazz. Notable examples would be The Phantom of the Opera and Much Ado About Nothing, but there are a lot more!

10. Become an archivist in a crazy library.

To be honest, I’m halfway there. Every befuddled-looking, dusty person in lumpy clothes – a staple in fantasy novels, is a little (lot) like me. The library in the Abhorsen series, the library in The Thirteenth Tale, the library in Harry Potter, the Archives in the Kingkiller Chronicles – those are the places I want to go/live in the most. Maybe this will be my ultimate bucket list item?

THAT WAS HARD. There are so many things that books have made me want to do, or convinced me to learn. It’s one of the reasons I love books so much, to be honest.

*In the list of things I have learned/am learning how to do because of writing books – we can add learning Korean, dance tutorials, writing with my left hand, and living without modern conveniences, to name a few!

So – what sort of things have books made you want to do or made you do?

5 Reasons that Vassa In the Night NEEDS to be on Your Fall TBR List (ARC Review)

Anyone who follows my blog knows that I have been INSANELY busy all summer. It’s left me little time to read, and no time to blog – but I finally managed to squeeze in some reading time, and now I have to tell you all about it 😛

JUST LOOK AT IT – So Pretty

First things first – a huge thank you to ABA Whitebox and TOR/Macmillan for the ARC – this advance copy was provided for free as a bookseller promotion, and this is an unsolicited, unpaid, and 100% honest review 🙂

I don’t know about you, but I have a lifelong obsession with fairytales. Whether it was Disney, a dusty copy of Grimms, Ella Enchanted, a folktale collection I found at the library, or Once Upon a Time, I’ve given them all a shot. However, for all of the fairy tales and folktales out there (and there are thousands), only a handful ever seem to make it into novels. So when I saw the synopsis of Vassa in the Night, I knew I had to read it as soon as possible. (Official Synopsis Below)

In the enchanted kingdom of Brooklyn, the fashionable people put on cute shoes, go to parties in warehouses, drink on rooftops at sunset, and tell themselves they’ve arrived. A whole lot of Brooklyn is like that now, but not Vassa’s working-class neighborhood.

In Vassa’s neighborhood, where she lives with her stepmother and bickering stepsisters, one might stumble onto magic, but stumbling out again could become an issue. Babs Yagg, the owner of the local convenience store, has a policy of beheading shoplifters and sometimes innocent shoppers as well. So when Vassa’s stepsister sends her out for light bulbs in the middle of night, she knows it could easily become a suicide mission.

But Vassa has a bit of luck hidden in her pocket, a gift from her dead mother. Erg is a tough-talking wooden doll with sticky fingers, a bottomless stomach, and a ferocious cunning. With Erg’s help, Vassa just might be able to break the witch’s curse and free her Brooklyn neighborhood. But Babs won t be playing fair .

Basically, Vassa in the Night is a modern reimagining of Vassilissa the Beautiful (there are a lot of Vassilissa stories out there), set in Brooklyn, NYC.
And before you point out how many fairytale/folktale retellings are out there, scroll down for my

Top 5 Reasons to Read Vassa in the Night:

  1. The Prose is beautiful.

    There are sentences that my writer’s brain was wishing I’d come up with. And Sarah Porter’s “stage-setting” and descriptive writing roots you immediately – just read the first couple paragraphs and you’ll see what I mean:

People live here on purpose; that’s what I’ve heard. They even cross the country deliberately and move into the neighborhoods near the river, and suddenly their shoes are cuter than they are, and very possibly smarter and more articulate as well, and their lives are covered in sequins and they tell themselves they’ve arrived. They put on tiny feathered hats and go to parties in warehouses; they drink on rooftops at sunset. It’s a destination and everyone piles up and congratulates themselves on having made it all the way here from some wherever or other. To them this is practically an enchanted kingdom. A whole lot of Brooklyn is like that now, but not the part where I live.

Not that there isn’t any magic around here. If you’re dumb enough to look in the wrong places, you’ll stumble right into it. It’s the stumbling out again that might become an issue. The best thing you can do is ignore it. Cross the street. Don’t make eye contact—if by some remote chance you encounter something with eyes.

(Excerpt from Chapter 1, Vassa in the Night by Sarah Porter)

Porter takes her time in setting the scene, enveloping you in a fantastical, yet familiar version of Brooklyn. Her writing has its own sort of magic, and it will immerse you in the world of the story in no time.

2. Creativity!

Baba Yaga as a demented shopkeeper? Yes, please. Vassilissa as a purple-haired teen from a blended family? Works for me. Demented, bodiless hands for sidekicks? Sure. Another world on the fringe of our own, populated by characters that Lewis Carroll would envy. SOLD. This is definitely one of the more inventive YA novels I’ve read, and I couldn’t wait to see where it would take me next. I also loved seeing how Porter worked elements from the Vassilissa story into the book.

3. It’s laugh-out-loud funny.

There’s a healthy dose of sarcasm, usually provided by Vassa herself, and a borderline-hysterics sort of humor that balances the macabre setting and rather dark subject matter (i.e., severed heads and gruesome, fairytale style deaths) The side characters and bizarre situations also provide a lot of humor. Erg (Vassa’s “doll), in particular, is a source of hilarious one liners and dry observations.

4. Reality checks.

I love how Vassa in the Night doesn’t have a “perfect” ending. Everything isn’t resolved or tied up neatly. More importantly, throughout the book, we don’t forget that Vassa is a young girl plunged into a world far beyond her comfort zone. None of her problems are magically solved, and she has to work for a resolution. Vassa’s relationships with Erg, her stepsisters, school peers, and missing/late parents are all extremely important, and she has to deal with them in “real-world” ways to grow as a character, and accomplish her goals. And hey – if Baba Yaga was real, I could definitely see her setting up a sinister convenience store chain in NYC. And getting away with it.

5. VASSA.

She’s everything I love in a heroine – smart, funny, snarky, empathetic, and believable. Despite her tough lot in life, she is determined and stubborn, and she refuses to give up when it matters the most. Also of note, though Vassa is obviously our heroine, she doesn’t fall into the stereotypical chosen-one mode at all. Her character growth and arc were well done and satisfying.

Overall: 4 out of 5 stars.*
A lush and inventive modern folktale for readers looking for something a little darker and less romantic than the majority of the fairytale retellings out there. A strong heroine, crazy strangeness, and beautiful prose help Vassa in the Night stand out as one of my favorite YA reads of 2016.
*Here are my minor quibbles (which are really only relevant after you’ve read the book:
  1. Was there a point to the whole story about Vassa’s dad (other than showing his extreme immaturity and selfishness)?
  2. I felt that “The Rules” (governing the magical world/characters) could have been fleshed out a little more. Obviously, like Erg, Babs had rules she was following – otherwise, she might have stopped Vassa more effectively at times. It makes it a bit harder to suspend your disbelief if you don’t know the rules that the world operates by.
  3. Babs defeat was slightly underwhelming. It was fairytale-esque, but (see #2) I felt like it would have worked a bit better if we knew how/why she was defeated.

Vassa in the Night by Sarah Porter will be released in Hardcover on September 20th, 2016.

Do you plan on reading Vassa in the Night? Why or why not? Have you read Vassilissa the Beautiful or any of the Vassilissa stories?

 

Beautiful People: May Edition – “Meet” Mollie (Red as Blood)

So I’m back from BEA ’16 and Chicago (*sniffles* Chicago . . .*), with loads of books and not nearly enough pictures.

*(I never want to leave, but I always do, just like the hero at the end of a western . . .) Err, or rather, like someone who has to go to work on Monday . . .

I fully intend to finish my lowdown on BEA, just not right now. Right now, I’ve been working through my character profiles for Red as Blood, and it’s time to further my character development with this month’s Beautiful People.

10928109_595959117172101_1450331761_n

If you don’t know – BP is a monthly writing meme hosted by Sky at Further Up and Further In and Cait @ Paper Fury. Click the links for their fabulous blogs and info on how to join!

Just like Sherlock needs a Watson to humanize him, and the Doctor needs a Companion for almost the same reason, a larger-than-life main character needs someone more relatable and “average” to ground them. Sull, the protagonist of my WIP, Red as Blood, might be a conflicted, angsty teen, but I know that I gave him a rather outrageous story (read more about it here) that few people can (hopefully) relate to in the details.

Enter Mollie. 

If you read my intro to the Seven Sisters of Henpecked Bar and Grill, you know that Mollie is the youngest (and tallest) “sister,” and that she’s not really content with where she is in life. Just in case you didn’t read her bio, here it is again:

Mollie was raised by warrior priests, and fell in with the seven sisters after events that she doesn't like to talk about. However, she is artistic and dreams of opening a shop or gallery in a big, fashionable city. Though she is a passable fighter, her heart isn’t in it, and she ran away from her army-school-temple as a teenager. Mollie’s real name- Machlah – was hard for her superiors to pronounce. Mollie stuck, but she’s sore about it (why doesn’t she get a fun nickname?)

As the youngest, the tallest, and a half-blooded outcast, Mollie immediately sympathizes with Sull. However, he isn’t looking for an annoying surrogate older sister. Still, she’s enamored with the life he left, or what little hints he drops, and she is determined to be his friend. And what Mollie wants, Mollie usually gets.

Age:  23                      Race: Half human/half alien

In my mind, Mollie looks a lot like a younger version of Morena Baccarin in The Red Tent:

  1. How often do they smile? Would they smile at a stranger?

Mollie smiles quite a bit. She’s naturally easygoing, and a daydreamer, so she’s usually smiling at a thought she had.

She would always smile at a stranger – even if she didn’t work at a restaurant. To Mollie, strangers represent different and exciting, so she’s happy to see them and hear about their adventures.

2. What is the cruelest thing they’ve ever been told? And what was their reaction?

Mollie is used to being the target of bigoted jokes about her mixed alien and human heritage. Though she looks human enough (her eyes are red-gold and she has triangular pupils, and her skin has a gold flush to it, along with scale patches), everyone (where she came from) knew her story and how her parent’s left her with monks rather than raise her and bear the shame. So the cruellest things she’s been told are probably not worth repeating, but they almost always are directed at her heritage.

3. What is the kindest thing they’ve ever been told? And what was their reaction?

When Doctor Pierce (her mentor and employer) told Mollie that she (Mollie) wasn’t defined by her success or failure, and that her art was valid even if only she (Mollie) believed in it, this was something Mollie had never heard. Doctor Pierce is not lavish with praise or unnecessary words, but her encouragement gave Mollie courage to continue pursuing art in the most unlikeliest places.

4. What is one strong memory that has stuck with your character from childhood? Why is it so powerful and lasting?

Mollie was raised by warrior monks. They were strict, ascetic, and firm but well-meaning with their wards. Mollie will never forget when trying to brighten up the drab brown robes with some colored fabric scraps that she sewed on to make flowers. The monks called her to the front of morning meeting and gave her a lecture on vanity in front of everyone. Next, they tore off the flowers and cut her long hair (another sign of her vanity), and she was relegated to latrine duty for a month. They weren’t trying to be cruel (she understands this now), but at the time she was just crushed.

In a way, this almost made things worse – Mollie kept her artistic tendencies secret, and she refuses to cut her hair for any reason.

5. What book (a real actual published book!) do you think your character would benefit from reading?

Probably something practical, like 48 Days to the Work You Love. But I think Mollie would get a kick out of (and be encouraged by) Little Women.

6.Have they ever been seriously injured? How severely? How did they react?

Not really. The worst injuries Mollie has ever sustained were minor fractures and sprains from combat training with the monks and their wards. She’s stubborn and has a high level of pain tolerance, so she rarely shows a reaction – especially if people are watching her.

7. Do they like and get along with their neighbours?

Mollie is generally pretty agreeable. However, if she doesn’t like you, she really doesn’t like you. That being said, she gets along well with most everyone she knows.

8. On a scale from 1 to 10 (1 being easy and 10 being difficult) how easy are they to get along with?

2 – see above.

9. If they could travel anywhere in the world, where would they go?

She wants to go to Ithir (also known as Earth-that-Was), the homeworld of the original humans. She also wants to go to New Milan – which is the fashion epicenter of the galaxy. (And where Sull spent a lot of time)

10. Who was the last person they held hands with?

Despite their asceticism, the monks actually encouraged familial bonding between their wards, as well as kind touches and comforting gestures. Mollie held her fellow wards’ hands all the time, but she grew hesitant to touch others after she left. Being a huggy person herself, she doesn’t understand the premium some people put on personal space. The last person Mollie “held hands” with was probably her mother figure-Doctor Pierce-when the latter rescued her from an ignominious fate and told her to run.

So there you go 🙂

I hope you enjoyed reading more about Mollie and Red as Blood. Thanks for reading! (And if you participated in BP, please leave a link so I can check it out)

Beautiful People #16 – March Edition (Red as Blood)

In which all my good intentions for sticking to the same project derail, and I introduce my newest novel project – vintage-y sci fi/cyberpunk-with lots of food

So, I had fully intended to use The Butler Did It  . . . (my alternate history/steampunk project), but here’s the thing: sometimes characters have such a strong voice that they shove themselves into whatever you’re doing, screaming WRITE ME!

Naturally, as an author, this is a good thing – but it can be pretty inconvenient (if you’re driving on a rainy freeway, or showering, or at work with nothing to write on . . .).
At any rate - that voice belongs to Sull (a.k.a.Sully, Sullen, The Boy, etc ), a mysterious boy who is:
1. Obviously going by a fake name
2. Has a lot to hide
3. Has been starving and scavenging on his own for a year. 
4. Is so lovely that it gets him into scads of trouble and has caused all sorts of psychological trauma

What else you need to know: 
1. This project takes place in the world of The Last Coffee Shop (just later on the timeline), where alternate "Earth" is an apocalyptic wasteland, diverse species and races of aliens rule the skies, and the sci-fi environment is heavily influenced by Edgar Rice Burroughs, world mythology and music, and Lost in Space. 

2. It's currently titled Red as Blood, and it's best described as HippolytusSnow WhiteHallyu Wave culture + Haute couture. 

3. My strange fixation on food service locations continues, with a greasy diner in a mining colony in the middle of nowhere (space) serving as the major setting this time. Henpecked Bar & Grill is famous for it's salvaged, antique chicken signs, and the seven short (dubious and fierce) women who run it with iron fists and toothy grins. It's no place for a pretty boy . . .

Intrigued? Then read on.
(Just in case you were wondering, Beautiful People is an awesome monthly writing meme hosted by Cait at Paper Fury and Sky at Further Up and Further In)

1. What first inspired this character? Is there a person/actor you based them off?

Most of my recent projects have involved mainly adult (or considered an adult for their time) characters, so maybe I felt the need to write in the first person perspective of a teenage boy??  

Sull (a misspelled variation of his name that he goes by for most of the book) is a complicated fellow, and he had a lot of inspiration - my teenage self, my brothers, characters I love, etc. Also, I had the sudden desire to write about a teenage model who runs away and gets a job in food service . . . ahem. Anyhow, here are some pictures/things that influenced Sull's character.
(image credits - L to R, T to B - artmeg101, LuhanMemories, amy-core, Pinterestgermanmissileskqotd

2. Describe their daily routine.

Before he ran away - Sull was on an extremely rigid schedule, supervised by his agent, manager, and nanny. Now he bums around, steals things, and looks for food. He also gets into fights - which he never wins.

3. If they joined your local high school, what clique would they fit into?

That's an interesting thought - Sull has been privately tutored all his life, and his interactions with his peers are a disaster. Personality wise, he'd be in the loners/outcasts. But (pre-story) considering his wealth, his father's name, and his background, he could be one of those rich, popular kids (though I doubt he'd last long there).

4. Write a list of things they merely tolerate. Ex: certain people, foods, circumstances in their lives…

1. Fame
2. His father
3, His agent
4. Humanity
5. Life

Note - this is not to be confused with the list of things he actively hates.

5. How does he react in awkward silences?

He stays silent. He likes quiet and solitude, and would prefer a world where no one spoke. And his poker face is A++

6. Can they swim? If so, how did they learn?

No. He's never been swimming, or even had the opportunity. It probably wouldn't occur to him as a fun activity.

7. What is one major event that helped shape who they are?

MAJOR SPOILERS. You'll have to read the book someday to find out. 
For a secondary event, when Sull gets a job in the kitchen at the Henpecked Bar & Grill, it changes his life in ways he'd never imagined.

8. What things do they value most in life?

His personal integrity. He has his own code and he never breaks it.

9. Do they believe in giving other people second chances? Do they have any trust issues?

While Sull has no problem with "second chances" as a concept, he doesn't really believe in them. Trust issues = his middle name. Based on his past/where he came from, there are a lot of reasons why he never trusts anyone.

10. Your character is having a rough day…what things do they do to make them happy again? Is there anyone they talk/interact with to get in a better mood?

Before Sull ran away, he was carefully monitored for behavioral or mood imbalances. Any sign of rebellion brought a new prescription. Now that Sull's been on his own for a year, he's used to feeling everything, and because he's all alone, he acts out however he feels like acting. He's usually pretty destructive.

Later in the novel, after Sull makes a few friends, he gets a couple confidants who can talk him out of his notoriously bad moods.

While he may not be the most personable chap, Sull is pretty fun to write about, and his adventures with the “Seven Sisters” are all kinds of interesting things to plot out. And I haven’t even mentioned half of the plot or characters here!

What do you think about Sull and his strange world? Would you like to work in the kitchens of a space diner? Did you see the movie John Carter of Mars? I am one of the 10 people who not only saw that movie – they loved it. I read the book first, and I still liked it.

Follow Beck’s board Writing Inspiration: Red as Blood on Pinterest.

Stars Above (Lunar Chronicles Short Story Collection) Spoiler-Free Review

Stars Above by Marissa Meyer
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Like all short story collections, "Stars Above" is a mixed bag. However, seeing as all of the tales are set within the world of The Lunar Chronicles, I enjoyed every one of them. Here's a brief, spoiler-free summary:
"The Keeper"- This story tells Michelle Benoit's story in more depth. It touches on her relationships with both Scarlet and Dr. Tanner, and finishes with how she came to protect Cinder. Well written and plotted, it manages quite a bit of story and character development for its length. 4 stars.

"Glitches"- This story follows Cinder as she joins the Linh family in New Beijing. She's a child, she has no memory of "the other family," and she's a cyborg. Young Cinder and Peony are precious, and I enjoyed reading this part of the story. 4 stars

"The Queen's Army"- Naturally, this is a story about Wolf and how he became an elite member of the Queen's Army. This story has a decidedly different tone from the previous two, and it was one of my favorites. Taken from his parents and genetically modified, Wolf (or Z, as he's known at the time) must deny his gentle nature and become a killer if he wants to survive. 4.5 stars

"Carswell's Guide to Being Lucky"- A cute story about pint-sized Thorne at school. The most interesting thing about this story was that Thorne was from a wealthy background, and how that shaped his character. Otherwise, this one didn't do much for me. 3.5 stars

"After Sunshine Passes By"- Next is a story about Cress as a child, and how she came to be put in a satellite. This one is quite short, and it is basically a reworking of the beginning of Rapunzel in the world of TLC. 3.5 stars

"The Princess and the Guard"- Winter and Jacin are the titular characters in one of the longer stories in the anthology. Basically, this story just explores their childhoods and backstory. Jacin was the character I felt the most distant from in TLC, so it was good to get more of his personality and character. Winter is, as usual, completely charming with a stain of sorrow. 4 stars.

"The Little Android"- A pretty straightforward retelling of "The Little Mermaid," but with an android (Mech6.0). It was a standout in that only Cinder has a brief cameo (as far as the main LC characters go), and we get to see more of the world and everyday people of TLC. Bittersweet and well done. 4.5 stars

"The Mechanic"- I'll admit that I was primed to like this one, since it is the story of Cinder and Kai's meeting from Kai's perspective. It was great fun to get in his head, since he is one of the more impassive/emotionally unavailable characters. As I suspected, he's pretty funny. I would read an entire book with him as the POV character. 4.5 stars

"Something Old, Something New"- Obviously, there is a wedding involved. This story was the sappiest, and definitely had the most corny parts, but it also surprised me with some truly hilarious bits. The mental images of all the male characters decorating for a wedding together was worth the read by itself. It went on a bit long for me, but it also neatly tied up the story and sent the characters into the next stages of their lives. 3.5 stars

Overall: A fun, breezy read with some standout stories, a liberal dose of humor and mayhem, and more of lovable characters. Definitely a must for Lunar Chronicles fans. 4 stars 

View all my reviews

Top Ten Tuesday: Top 10 Songs That NEED to Be Books

Top 10 Songs that NEED to Be Books (Top 10 Tuesday on Wednesday)

Image Source: The Broke and the Bookish

When I saw this, I knew I had to participate, no matter how I managed to obtain internet. Next to books, music is my favorite thing in the world, and I could probably make a list that goes on for days. As I’ve written elsewhere, many/most of my own writing is either directly linked to music, or music is just one of the many ingredients. Either way, music and writing are inextricably connected for me.

The challenge here was limiting myself to 10! (So only one song per artists, or it will mainly be Within Temptation) Anyhow, I included videos where applicable, the song titles are linked to lyrics, and the bands are linked to their sites for more info.

1. Dark Wings by Within Temptation

There is a fantasy novel in almost every Within Temptation song (whether they were inspired by one, or it’s one that’s begging to be written!*). I have WT songs on almost every one of my novel playlists for a reason 🙂
So why pick Dark Wings? Look at the lyrics, listen to Sharon Den Adel’s vocals and the epic power of the music. This is a fantasy novel about the Faye, or some ancient winged race (related to dragons, maybe?)

2. Dragons by The Green Children

 Speaking of dragons, metaphorically, the song Dragons has a story. There are several parts to it (just click on The Green Children’s channel in the links to find the others – starting with Life Was Beautiful), but it isn’t a book. It needs to be. Like a modern Kay and Gerda in The Snow Queen, our video protagonists get separated and caught up in a sinister looking web of magic (?) or not.
The video visuals are amazing, and the dance pop ambiance makes it fun to listen to. And the lyrics are intriguing to boot. There is definitely a book here. One of the many bands I love that haven’t made it into a post yet, The Green Children are another frequent contributor to my novel playlists.

3. One Shot by B.A.P

Note – there is a bit of blood and violence in this video, but nothing too graphic.

Life choices are the major theme in this heavy-hitting song by B.A.P** The video above has handy subs for the lyrics, but it’s still pretty obvious what’s going on. But the surprise ending . . . This gives me all kinds of novel ideas. I’m thinking contemporary YA about a gang of street boys, with a sci-fi/time bending twist.

4. The Maiden and the Selkie by Heather Dale

If you’re into the Celtic/Folk/New Age music scene (or King Arthur), you’ve probably heard Canadian singer Heather Dale. Her music is based on folklore and legends, with her own spin.
I picked this song for the unique ending – the maiden is very proactive about this marrying a selkie prince business (basically Scottish were-seals). Instead of dying on command when she can’t marry her true love (a real danger in Celtic ballads), she finds a way around it. Applause for her. Embellish this story, and it could be a lot like a Tam Lin retelling.

5. Ralph Vaughan Williams Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis, performed by the BBC Symphony Orchestra

Don’t feel like you have to watch all 17 minutes of the above performance, but I promise that it’s worthwhile! You might recognize this piece from the movie Master and Commander. It’s depth and haunting beauty always make me want to write – and if I could write something half as beautiful as this piece of music, I’d be pretty well pleased.
I love Thomas Tallis and his sacred/choral music, but Vaughan Williams (impressively) actually improved upon the original with his 1910 fantasia (above). Seriously, if this was a book, I think we’d all read it.

6. From Yesterday by 30 Seconds to Mars

This video is another one that needs a book. Not only is it gorgeous and evocative, the powerful lyrics of the song just shout novel at me every time. Sci-Fi, historical fiction, fantasy, it doesn’t matter. It would just be a really cool book, regardless. (Am I the only person who thinks that this video is better than a movie already?)

7. Shadows by Red

Lyrics, music, vocals, story, this song has it all. And it’s oh so intense.  We can follow up with So Far Away and Hold Me Now. If you like powerful vocals and messages with driving rock music, then you need some Red in your life.
 I’m envisioning this as urban fantasy with a character who walks the wire between life and death, and constantly suffers from crises of conscience and complex moral dilemmas. With Red serenading them in the background, how can they not be awesome?

8. When I’m Gone by The Click Five

Maybe it starts like this: A famous young detective was on his way to propose to his gf, and he was caught in a freak accident. Or was it just a freak accident? He comes back, but no one, including his girl, can see him. He doesn’t need/want revenge, and though he has some unsolved cases, he’s kind of puzzled as to why he didn’t pass over. And there’s your story – with lots of ghost-solving-mysteries along the way. I don’t think I’ve ever read a book like this.***
But I want a book where the aforementioned ghost is the hero/POV character. I feel like comic books and movies/tv shows have somewhat explored this (but they’re usually stupidly violent). At any rate, this is my ghost’s anthem.

9. Generation Throwaway by The Used

I am envisioning Les Mis meets Holes meets The Maze Runner.
Led by an uncompromising idealist, a ragtag group of misfits and recreants sets out to save the world, but it’s never that simple. I think I need to write this book already, and dedicate it to everyone else who listened to lots of pop punk/emo/post-hardcore as a teenager.

10. Werewolves of London by Warren Zevon

Who doesn’t want this to be a literal book? The lyrics are nuts. I want to read it. Modern, jaded British werewolves just minding their business in London. (On second thought, I might be the only person who wants to read this)

So there you go: 10 songs that needed to be novels, yesterday.

Would you read any of these if they were books? Have you heard any of these songs/bands? Did you watch any of my videos? Is there a song that you think really, really, needs to be a book? Sound off below 😉

Footnotes:
*Seriously – just look over their lyrics. Novels happening everywhere. This seems to be a defining characteristic of symphonic metal – Xandria, Delain, Epica, Nightwish, Kamelot, Sirenia, I could go on forever but google it and you’ll understand.
**B.A.P is the only Kpop band on this list. But I find that the theatrical, overblown nature of Kpop is more suggestive of characters or themes than complete novels. And it’s very good at that (Case in point – my current infatuation with Bigbang and Kim Junsu‘s stuff)
***Closest thing was the ghost fiance in the Kdrama “Who Are You?” He was epic.

Tale as Old as Time

The timeless appeal of an enchanted dude with an awesome library . . .

It’s a truth to be universally acknowledged- we love Beauty and the Beast – whether it’s the Disney movie or a retelling of the Cupid & Psyche myth. 

Even at its most subversive, the story is still powerful. And it really is a “tale as old as time,” with hundreds of similar stories found in cultures all over the world.* Sometimes, the story is even found in the real world (it’s certainly more common than Cinderella!)

I was thinking about this as I finished my latest read, the (excellent) Cruel Beauty by Rosamund Hodges. I had finished numerous novels in the past three months, and [at least] four of them were basically retellings of Beauty and the Beast. 
I decided to look at my Goodreads page and see just how many distinct retellings I had read, and came up with over thirty. There were the straight up retellings, and the ones that were too close to leave out. There were also stories that were basically the same thing, just hidden under other plot threads (i.e. Jane Eyre).** If you think about it, Pride and Prejudice could even fall into this category (“beastly” guy, spirited and intelligent heroine who has to make personal sacrifices/lose everything before she wins his hand, etc.)

In its most basic form, the “Beauty and the Beast” story is this: 

1. We have a girl who is smart and principled (but not always physically beautiful or moral, per se. The ‘Beauty’ can refer to her mind or strength of spirit).
2. And whether she is naturally so (or forced by circumstances), she sacrifices herself for a lapse in judgement (hers, her parents, etc), and gives herself as a “bride” or a “gift/sacrifice” to a Beast.
3. The Beast is often a prince in animal form, but he might be a god or minor deity. The reason for his “Beast” form is one of two: either he was “beastly” in nature and offended a powerful woman, or he (or someone close to him) is testing his bride.
4. How it pans out here is always a little different, but either the girl fails the test and gets to go through trials to reclaim the beast (that she has grown to love), or she leaves and comes back at some personal loss (there always has to be a sacrifice) and her love restores his human form/proves she’s worthy to be his wife.

Somehow the story never gets boring.

So here are a few standouts:

Favorite Retelling: This is hard! Probably Till We Have Faces, by C. S. Lewis, with Robin McKinley’s Beauty as a very close second.

Worst Retelling: Beastly, by Alex Flinn

With Scottish Highlands and a Werewolf: By These Ten Bones by Claire Dunkle

When the Beast Doesn’t Get the Girl: The Phantom of the Opera by Gaston Leroux

More Like Tam Lin (basically the same story): The Perilous Gard by Elizabeth Marie Pope

Where the Girl is the One Under a Curse, and the Guy is Beastly Anyway: Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones

Needless to say, there are a bunch of retellings that I’ve never read. And I will probably never get sick of them (and I’ve written a few of my own!). If you’re interested in the more scholarly look at Cupid and Psyche, there are some good essays here.

So do you have a favorite Beauty and the Beast/Cupid & Psyche retelling? Do you think the library scene (in Disney’s B & B) is basically the best Disney scene ever? Sound off in the comments, and brownie points for retellings that I’ve never heard of.

Footnotes:
*SurLaLune Fairy Tale Blog has a nice list of variations here.
**There is a huge list of B & B retellings on Goodreads.