I didn’t mention inside ‘Seven Tales’ where the cover image came from. And that was because I simply didn’t know. I used a public domain scan of the original. But until today, I didn’t know what the original was. I figured it was a fantasy illustration from Victorian or Edwardian times, maybe for a storybook or historical text.
Well, it turns out it, the castle is not from someone’s fancy at all. It is the Lockenhaus Castle which is in Burgenland, eastern Austria. According to Wikipedia, “Settlements in the area of Burg Lockenhaus date to the Stone Age. Illyrians and Celts who settled here are credited with building the castle around 1200 with construction material available locally, although it first appears in written records dated to 1242. Burgenland’s oldest fortress, Burg Lockenhaus was built to defend the area against the Mongols.”
Though castle has been partially destroyed and rebuilt many times over the centuries, the artist obviously took some liberties with the towers and the proportions. But it does sit on a hill – which the locals call Castle Hill – and it was certainly occupied by knights, kings and queens. And yes, it has a dungeon.
The original picture is a wall hanging and was commissioned by Leipziger School Pictures around 1900 to be used as a teaching aid in schools. The name of the artist is unknown.
Well, the book is done and sent off to the printer. My sense of relief is outdone only by my excitement. I can’t wait for people to read it! Huge thanks to my editor Marg Gilks, who did a rigorous job editing the stories. And to Dianna Little for the extraordinary layout of the book (wait till you see the decorative ornaments inside!).
My wife Nora played no small part either and helped me hugely on several fronts. She read and critiqued the tales as a devoted reader, a staunch feminist and a professional editor. She never let me get away with anything iffy, let me tell you.
I can’t wait for this fall when I get to share the book with kids in schools. For me, it’s almost (almost!) as much fun reading to kids as it is scribbling away in my office.
So there it is. Twenty years of writing between the two thin covers of a book. I’m hoping you’ll enjoy it.
If you’re a blogger or reviewer and would like an advance review copy of Seven Tales, you can email me here:
My designer, Dianna Little, has been hard at work on the interior of the Seven Tales for the past couple weeks. I’m happy to report that she’s almost done and it looks absolutely beautiful. The finished book will be 5¼x8″ and around 270 pages. The font will be of a generous size, meant for reading out loud, though not large enough to qualify as ‘large type’. She’ll be done the interior in the next couple of days and then start on the cover.
I can’t wait to have a copy of the book in my grubby little hands (well, they’re large and clean, but still). I expect to be able to receive a proof in early May and start sending out advance copies later that month. The official launch date is October 7th, 2015, and already, I’m booked up for readings all that week.
Since my last update, I’ve been working on the last fairy tale that will be included in Seven Tales. The story is called, The Miller and the Old Hag. It was published over ten years ago in the zine, Challenging Destiny, but since honing my skills on the other six tales, I thought I could do better version of the story.
The Miller is going to be the one tale that isn’t published as an ebook before the print version comes out in the fall of 2015. I can’t tell you how much I agonised over this story without sounding like some idiot over-sensitive artist. But it was tough. It was already a good tale and the last thing I wanted to do was wreck it by tweaking it too much. But like the miller in the story, I spent more time standing back and considering than doing any actual work. The result, according to my darling wife, may have turned the story into the best one in the bunch. Well, certainly the most emotional and holy cow… the one most riddled with symbolism.
The story is now as much about the miller’s wife as about the miller. That look on the face of the woman in the header image above tells you everything about her.
Yesterday, it went off to my wonderful editor. The book is now six sevenths complete and a few weeks from now, all the word work will done and the design and layout will begin. I have wanted to have this book in my hands for over twenty years. Now… I’m goofy with anticipation.
(Image Credit: La Fille de Ferme by Gustave Boulanger)
Well, it has been quite a year. It started out in the spring with the launch of my first young adult novel, “Kana and the Red Pilot”. I was such a blast reading it in schools. My favorite reading was to the kids at Academy at King Edward, where one poor fellow nearly died laughing. I’m not kidding. He had acute asthma and if by chance he laughed too hard for too long, he could have died. Well, that day, he and his class laughed for an hour straight at my goofy book. It was contagious, which didn’t help my reading or the health of young Master Asthma, who ended up on the floor, screaming with hilarity, his teacher hovering over him with great concern.
Then came my fairy tales. Getting those finally polished, edited and out into the world has given me such a sense of satisfaction, if I got bit by a cobra on my writing fingers tomorrow and could never write again, I would rest content, knowing I’d done some pretty decent work.
And so it’s Christmastime. For twenty years I carried around the story of the princess who discovers the dollmaker’s house in the woods. I wrote it and rewrote it dozens of times over the years, never satisfied. Now, it’s done. Though it doesn’t say so in the book, the story is dedicated to fathers who must work far away from home and miss big parts of their children’s lives. It’s as much a tale of the king as it is of his daughter, of best intentions that result in tragedy and letting go resulting in redemption.
For the five days around Christmas, I’m giving you the story as a heartfelt gift. Read it, share it if you like. And if you’re a father, home only for the holidays, hey, let it go.
Along with every other writer of children’s books, I seem to have a thing for orphans. In my case though, it isn’t some calculated literary device. I was given up for adoption at birth and spent the greater part of my life wondering where the heck I came from. The word ‘adopted’ represents only Scene Two of any adoptee’s emotional landscape. Scene One is all about the words, ‘given up’. Every one of us experiences the two in different proportions.
Finding my birth parents decades later was a sort of fairy tale conclusion to my own story. But it never erased the mental and emotional knowledge of what it’s like to be a young child without blood-ties, facing the world as a sort of one person nation. You have to have some tricks up your sleeve in order to survive.
The story of The Sneaking Girl came out of a decades-long attempt to turn a great idea into a workable fairy tale. Last year, while giving the idea another go, I failed once again at the original story, but succeeded in coming up with this one. (I’ve since conquered the plot of the original tale and am in the process of writing it.)
This one has a lot in common with The Wishing Oak. Both have female heros and villians and both have a high quota of quirk worked into their tellings. I have a big soft spot for The Sneaking Girl. Yeah, she’s an orphan. And I’m happy she made it. But I’m just as happy I’m here to tell about it.
The Sneaking Girl and the Other Queen is now out on Amazon.
Well, fairy tale number six, The Sneaking Girl and the Other Queen has gone off to my editor. And that’s a huge relief. I had another tale planned as number six, but it was simply too much work to make it fit with the others, as it takes place in the 19th Century and defies the rule of narrative concision for fairy tales.
So I turned to my latest story, The Sneaking Girl, which was conceived and written in the fall of 2013. (The other six tales date from a decade or two before that.) The trouble with using The Sneaking Girl though, was that I was not satisfied with the second half of it. I spent most of the late summer and early fall revising it, but when my darling editor wife read the new ending, she pined for the old one – which was modelled on the dark twisted fairy tales from Eastern Europe, where bizarre things happen unexpectedly, because, well… that’s what sometimes happens in real life.
Back I went to the drawing board. I managed to incorporate the old ending, but in a more integrated and less jarring way. Nora loved it, but I’ve yet to hear what my editor thinks of it. She should be done in a week or so.
Which brings me to the final tale of my seven story collection, The Miller and the Old Hag. It was published in a magazine quite some time ago, but with all my recent experience reworking my other fairy tales, I figured I could improve it. And over that last month or so, I have. The general flow is better and it has a brand new ending – which had both Nora and I crying over it in the truck last weekend. (We’re just big saps like that.) The Miller and the Old Hag is too short for publishing as a stand-alone ebook. It’ll be included in The Seven Tales as a bonus for anyone who’s read the previous six online.
So by the end of this year all the writing and editing will be done. It’ll then be time to plan the cover and hand the book over to my designer slash layout artist to get it ready for print. I’m proud of everything I’ve released for publication, but nothing more than this book. And I can’t wait to hear the reactions once people get to see the seven tales as a whole. I’m pretty sure it’ll make readers darn happy someone took the time to write it.
(Image Credit: Ivan Bilibin, Illustration for a poem “Walls of Cain” by Vyacheslav Ivanov)
Unlike my first four fairy tales, this one is inspired by a real medieval practice – that of pounding coins into the bark of an oak tree and making a wish. It’s also the first that is bluntly humorous. It contains so many tropes from traditional fairy tales even I lose track in the first three pages. And for the first time, the cover does not show our hero – but rather, her self-absorbed sister.
Here is the link to The Wishing Oak on Amazon.
I love this story. It’s an underdog tale – as you can probably tell from the cover. It’s the story of a kid with a tragic past and a hopeless future. Small, frightened and powerless as he is, he has to face a threat bigger than any adult around him can handle in order to save the kingdom where he lives. I cannot wait for this tale to be out in the world. On October 7th, you can have it for your own.
The Brave Houseboy is now out! Here’s the Amazon link to the book.
Earlier this week, The Brave Houseboy came back from my editor, Marg Gilks. Even after all my grammatical and punctuational flubs, her comment at the end of the tale was, “I LOVE this story, Gordon! No wonder it’s one of your favourites. It’s one of mine, too.”
Wow. high praise from my (professionally) nit-pickiest critic. I cannot wait to get this story out into the world. It was sitting around for many years, great at it’s core, but crippled by poor execution. Earlier this year, I finally took the time to rework it and now… yeah. It’s quite the loveable tale. Another giant story. But this time the giant is uncompromisingly fierce and the boy of the title is pretty shrimpy. It comes out on the seventh of October.
In other happy news, this morning I finished editing November’s story, The Wishing Oak. This one was really good from the get-go. It arose from readings I’d done in the ’90s on the day-to-day lives of the average medieval peasant. But I’ve spent the past many weeks smoothing it out and upping the characterization. This one is bluntly humorous, a good sorbet after the dark, emotional tales of the Dollmaker and the Houseboy.
(Image Credit: Louis Huard, from Giant Suttung and the Dwarfs)