Yearning for Wonderland

There is such a place as fairyland - but only children can find the way to it...until they have grown so old that they forget the way. Only a few, who remain children at heart, can ever find that fair, lost path again...The world calls them singers and poets and artists and story-tellers; but they are just people who have never forgotten the way to fairyland. ~ L.M Montgomery

Once Upon a Time Writing Contest: Theme!

If you are here, you are wondering about the #tweetofdoom, also known as Once Upon a Time Flash Fiction Writing Contest (tag #ouatwriting on Twitter). That, or you stumbled onto my blog due to the surplus of John William Waterhouse paintings.

There are only two general types of people who visit Yearning for Wonderland: writers/those who love good writing and art thieves. For those who are the latter, please help yourself to the lovely Waterhouse sketch below (only kidding, totally ganked this from the Wikipedia page). I do encourage you art thieves to stay and read on a bit, however. Especially if you also write.

A Female Study, John William Waterhouse

So today’s post (not to completely digress) regards the super secret extra exciting announcement of the wondrous theme of the Once Upon a Time Writing Contest. *cue bombastic music with lots of cymbals clashing and soaring horns*

Oh, you wanted to know the theme! The theme for the Once Upon a Time Writing Contest is:

UNEXPECTED FAIRY TALES

Take that as you will. Perhaps it is a fairy tale set in an unexpected place, like a gas station. Perhaps it is a fractured fairytale, a fairy tale turned on its head, a fairy tale that isn’t one till the end. There are fairy tales all around us, should we only care to look.

Given the awesome breadth of the Fairy Ring Contest, I have every confidence that our unexpected fairy tales will be equal parts lovely, charming, terrifying, inspiring, and daunting. Plus, this contest is now international and co-sponsored by the lovely British flash fiction writer, Susi Holliday (@SJIHolliday on Twitter), so you know there will be twists even I cannot foresee.

copyright Ulrika Kestere

The photos are by the talented Ulrika Kestere, described as: “a woman whose drying laundry is taken by a sudden storm, and as she travels the countryside discovers her clothing has taken an unexpected form.” You can see her work here.

Copyright Ulrika Kestere

More details to come, be sure to add #ouatwriting on Twitter. Ask me, if you don’t know how to do a tag search and be sure to use it when sharing about the contest.

As the theme is unexpected fairy tales, please try to honor that. You do not have to use the words “Once Upon a Time” in your story. The title is not included in the word count.  If you have other questions, feel free to comment, tweet or email me. Please no erotica or slasher fiction.

So go forth, my fictionlings, and ponder this unexpected magic. I expect great things from you!

Book Review: The King’s Rose by Alisa Libby

Poor, foolish Catherine Howard: she is my favorite of Henry VIII’s queens. Much fuss is made of Madame Boleyn, but the difference between Anne B. and Catherine H. is the difference between fire and water.

Anne’s passionate and tumultuous reign managed to immolate just about everything she touched: her brother, her family name, the unfortunates who paid court, and of course herself. Catherine was under water, in way over her head before she even knew it, and was soon washed away for Henry’s final wife, Catherine Parr. Catherine’s greatest crime is that she was young, foolish and in love.

Take a young girl, raised in lax circumstances, and raise her to the highest lady in the land. Then surround her with courtiers and confessors and advisors who would rather see her fall. Add a mercurial, jealous king, old and ailing. Drama, in any setting, let alone the Tudor court where the penalty for refusing the king anything is treason.

Should you be equally enamored with this era, you will be enchanted by Alisa Libby’s novel, The King’s Rose. Written from the point of view of young Catherine, it sweeps you into Catherine’s dizzying ascent through the Tudor court.

Catherine’s primary assets are her notable beauty and willingness to be dangled in front of the king as a dazzling lure by her family, the Howard clan. She loves the magnificent gowns and jewels: “I am like a dream of me.”

Only later does she realize the true cost of all these luxuries: complete and total compliance to a king old enough to be her grandfather. Libby does a masterful job of portraying the fascinating yet creepy courtship of Catherine by Henry and the willful blindness of the court to the inappropriateness of the match.

Predictably, this glorious wealth’s appeal starts to wane as she is thrown together more often with Thomas Culpepper, a handsome courtier. The pursuit of this love affair, as crazy as it might be, seems all the more inevitable and poignant in the way it is portrayed by Libby.

Through the eyes of Catherine, you see the dread as the coils tighten, you hear the pound of distant drums; she is surrounded by people who know too much of her past, as she walks the steps to the end that history has taken her.

The King’s Rose is quite well-paced and all the little delicious period details are tossed in with effortless flair. One of the greatest challenges of historical fiction is immersing the reader in the era without distracting them with all the things they must learn to understand the people of the time.

Fans of Philippa Gregory and of the Tudor era will devour The King’s Rose. Read more at Alisa’s website.

Article first published as Book Review:The King’s Rose by Alisa Libby on Blogcritics.

Ergo, NaNoWriMo

I wish that I could blame my lack of recent posts on my new obsession with my word count on NaNoWriMo’s website. However, since it starts in November and I am still 48,332 words away from my 50,000 word goal, I can hardly blame it with conviction.

I have kept up nicely on the Facebook page. If you haven’t joined up, please do check it out. There is some content that is exclusive to Facebook and I enjoy promoting the amazing creative projects of others as much as my own.

I am pleased that I am writing, even if it is not in blog form. My project for NaNoWriMo was inspired by a dream, actually. I had the dream on the 31st of October, so the timing was impeccable. I tend to have these epic, plot-driven dreams that have no seeming parallel in my real life. In fact, the dream was so fascinating that I actually half-woke up thinking that I needed to write it all down…so I wrote it down in the dream and woke up with no notes. Figures.


Agatha Christie

I have an odd, half-superstitious fear of synopsizing, so I won’t bore you as to the content of the dream. Suffice to say it involved London in WWII, a derelict theatre, apparitions, a sprawling country estate, mesmerizing patterns, a murder of a beautiful girl and an unlikely killer. Kind of a cross between Dame Agatha Christie and Busby Berkeley.

I’d love to hear some comments from the writers who read my blog. Have you done NaNoWriMo? Did it help to have a deadline? Were you pleased with the results?

So, forgive my silence, friends and picture me scribbling away on my note cards and the backs of burger wrappers. “Write, write and maybe one day you might be read”, think I.

DVD Review: The Thomas Hardy Collection

Article first published as DVD Review: The Thomas Hardy Collection on Blogcritics.

To many people, the name Thomas Hardy will draw a blank, but he is quite well-known through the titles of his books: Far From the Madding Crowd, Tess of the D’Urbervilles, Jude the Obscure, and The Mayor of Casterbridge.

Thomas Hardy wrote of 19th century rural England and the conflict that ensues when the poor bump up against the wealthy. The Thomas Hardy Collection is a two-disc DVD set, containing imaginings of two of Hardy’s greatest works, Tess of the D’Urbervilles (1998) and The Mayor of Casterbridge (2001).

Of the two, it’s easier to love Tess as a protagonist. Justine Waddell is an inspired choice and believable as a period heroine, all billowy clouds of brown hair and pure pale skin. Her Tess evolves from glowy farm girl to hollow-cheeked beauty ground up by poverty and then finally to fae-like impulse child with nothing to lose. Arguably one of the most believably written women in the English language, Tess appeals to modern audience with her bold independence.


Justine WaddellThe first time Tess leaves home, she tries to improve her family’s situation by approaching the wealthy D’Urberville family, to whom she mistakenly believes she is related. She staunchly refuses the advances of the master of the house, Alec D’Urberville (an excellent Jason Flemyng).

There’s a charming sequence involving Tess trying to whistle at the songbirds, at the request of the eccentric Lady D’Urberville: “Mother won’t be happy with you unless you can whistle to her birds”, teases Alec, whistling before he kisses her on the cheek. She pulls away and he snappily retorts: “I taught you whistling, cuz, and one day I’ll teach you kissing.” As a Victorian tragedy, though, such repartee does not lead to happiness.

Tess takes takes a job as a milkmaid, which offers a second sighting of her first love – Angel Clare (Oliver Milburn). This film version will introduce you to the unexpected romance of milking a cow, the sideways glance along the haunch. Symbolism of the natural world and its dangers abound: the sharpening of a scythe, the pricking of rose thorns. Watching love’s petals unfold for Angel is touching, but Tess has been compromised and happiness is all too brief.

The ending of Tess of the D’Urbervilles is abrupt after such an epic travel, but oh, what a journey. Both books (as well as the movie adaptations) are set in the semi-fictional part of England known as Wessex, based on Hardy’s homeland of Dorchester.Tess of the D’Urbervilles features idyllic artistic visuals, from May Day dances to gloriously golden brown harvests, industrial age machines contrasted with peasants bent-back from scything.

Contrasted with Tess’ indomitable resourcefulness is the character of Mike Henchard. Henchard is the eponymous Mayor of Casterbridge, a believably flawed man who is the sole disruptor of his own happiness.

In The Mayor of Casterbridge, Henchard starts off as a drunken sot who sells off his wife and infant daughter for money to drink. This leads him to vow off alcohol for a period of 21 years and he manages to build himself a life of respectability as a prominent corn and grains merchant.

Ciaran Hinds
Henchard, played by the ever-astonishing Ciaran Hinds, is by turns unfaithful, fickle, cruel and unjust. A chance at redemption arrives in the appearance of his formerly-sold wife and their now-adult daughter. They are destitute and so move to Casterbridge where she poses as a widow and he “marries” her. He confides in his new manager, the confident and charming Farfrae (James Purefoy), of his past shame.

Lucetta (Polly Walker), a wealthy widow loved and abandoned by Henchard, seizes her chance at happiness and marries Farfrae, who up till now had courted Henchard’s daughter. Henchard sees both of the women he loves being lost to Farfrae and jealousy blooms, leading him to a series of bad business and personal decisions.

One consistent thread through the The Mayor of Casterbridge is the female characters’ anxiety about their public reputation and lack of control over their destiny; this is shown in moments like the suspenseful delicacy of opening a highly-anticipated letter.

Lies are told, secrets are kept, and shame is hidden until publicly exposed. Henchard’s weaknesses lead to the loss of all he holds dear; the plot rivets your gaze, like a carriage crash in slow motion.


This 2-DVD set is the perfect addition to any literary film buff’s library. Watching The Thomas Hardy Collection made me wish to go back and reread the books…and what greater gift can a literary movie adaptation give?

Thomas Wyatt and Anne Boleyn – Circa Regna Tonat

I have been immersing myself in The Tudors recently, Showtime’s soap opera of Henry VIII. It’s an insanely guilty pleasure, as they conveniently overlook how old and gross Henry was at the time of his last three marriages (Jane Seymour, Catherine Howard, Catherine Parr). It’s one of my favorite time periods of history…to read about, at least. It was a rather tumultuous time to be alive, seeing as you had to be correctly Catholic or Reformer (Protestant) at the right time and also on the king’s good side always.

Sir Thomas Wyatt, poet and courtier, is believed to have a romantic connection to Anne Boleyn; it is unknown as to whether she returned his feelings. It is believed Wyatt wrote this poem after witnessing Anne Boleyn’s execution (May 19, 1536) from the window of his cell while imprisoned in the Tower of London. The third stanza, in my opinion, is as deeply felt and dire a feeling as can be found in English poetry.

Sir Thomas Wyatt

  
Innocentia Veritas Viat Fides Circumdederunt me inimici mei
(Innocence, Truth & Fidelity – My Enemies Surround My Soul) 
by Sir Thomas Wyatt

Who list his wealth and ease retain,
Himself let him unknown contain.
Press not too fast in at that gate
Where the return stands by disdain,

For sure, circa Regna tonat.

Anne Boleyn (detail)

The high mountains are blasted oft
When the low valley is mild and soft.
Fortune with Health stands at debate.
The fall is grievous from aloft.
And sure, circa Regna tonat.
 
These bloody days have broken my heart.
My lust, my youth did them depart,
And blind desire of estate.
Who hastes to climb seeks to revert.
Of truth, circa Regna tonat.

The bell tower showed me such sight
That in my head sticks day and night.
There did I learn out of a grate,
For all favour, glory, or might,

That yet circa Regna tonat.

By proof, I say, there did I learn:
Wit helpeth not defence too yerne,
Of innocency to plead or prate.
Bear low, therefore, give God the stern,

For sure, circa Regna tonat.

* Circa Regna Tonat – “About the Throne the Thunder Rolls”