Review: The Little Devil

Review:  The Little Devil

By Simone Solon

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www.glimmerbooks.com

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There is a little Devil in all of us.

This brilliant children’s book is based on the idea that we all have our mischievous side. While it leads to adventures outside of the norm, while a certain amount of hi-jinks keeps one creative, this trickster spirit can go too far. Childhood is a time to live and learn, to discover through experience where the boundaries are and what the difference is between having fun and causing harm or distress to others.

The idle brain is the Devil’s playground.

The story opens with three children being naughty.  five-year-old Elizabeth, inspired by the Muse of boredom, is drawing colorful fishes all over her bedroom wallpaper. Her older brother, Jason, is supposed to be minding her, but has sealed himself into his room to play video games. Their teenage cousin, Jasmine, is also shirking her duty writing postcards to her family and friends.  Suddenly, Elizabeth sees a monkey swinging in a tree in the garden and runs to tell the others.  But this is no monkey. It is the Little Devil come to tempt them. The vice of this particular little devil, with his red skin and horns and long, pointy tail, is that he loves to eat human food, stuffing himself so full that he can hardly walk.

Seven Deadly Sins

And tempt them he does, leading them deeper and deeper into trouble. Like most devilish pursuits, at first its relatively harmless fun. Like ransacking the food cupboard to feed the Little Devil. But things gradually escalate.  Soon the Little Devil has the children jumping off rooftops and, luckily, flying, convincing Jasmine to starve herself to get thin, trespassing on a man-eating troll, creating magical mayhem at a party, until they are finally flying through the night like bombers, trashing the village, destroying homes, all in the name of fun.

Solon’s Little Devil is a master of manipulation and situational morality. She understands how wickedness sneaks up and gradually takes over. Beginning with a breakdown in social values such as good manner sand consideration for others in order to maximize fun, each boundary is breached until conscience is corrupted. Luckily for the children, an elderly  neighbor, Mrs. Bevan, knows that Little Devil and is able to help the children turn the tables on him and, in so doing, set him free.

This very well-written chapter book and is fairly long, but Solon’s adventures and magical touches, like the well in the woods that leads to the Otherworld, keep the pages turning. The illustrations by Katriona Chapman are delightful. This is a great story for teaching children the basic difference between right and wrong, a truth that has gone by the wayside in the last few decades. The story illustrates, through the spirit of play, how things can go wrong, and the sometimes painful consequences for others when one gives full reign to selfishness.  The surprise ending is transformational.

Highly recommended

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Find the book at: www.glimmerbooks.com

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On Taking Your Time

Jack Torrence--one sentence fiction

I don’t usually rant about writing, especially on the blog. I’m too grateful to be able to do it. But today,  I am inspired.
I love short stories. I have numerous collections of these gems of the literary world. Nothing gives me more pleasure than to curl up with a story that I can read in anywhere from fifteen minutes to two hours. If I really like a short story I can read it again without having to make a long-term commitment.  Some authors are at their best in the short form, giving you just enough brilliance to satisfy.

I struggle with the short form. Part of this is genre based. Gothic audiences love dense description, evocative atmospheres, descriptions of clothing and furnishings, the more opulent the imagery the better. We are the Baroque artists of fiction. The  last Romantics. I would be disappointed to pick up a Gothic Romance or Gothic Faery Tale and be denied entry into a seductive setting, rich, decadent, emotional, and loaded with mystery. One of the first expectations of a speculative writer its to create alternate realities. All of this imagery requires WORDS.

I have listened at open mics to writers who can  finish a story  in around 5 minutes.  I have noticed that they are by and large “literary” or “mainstream” stories that describe an emotional situation  that reaches a climax quickly and is resolved. No lush settings, no atmospheres, no passages of description that carry the reader away on the sheer power of their imaginative sensitivity to the outer world. They are inner monologues of sorts—-some of them very powerful and even great—-but NOT Gothic Fantasy, and NOT speculative fiction which what I am about. In fact, I am usually the only genre writer in the room.

Part of the problem is because of usual suspect—-the internet. Lots of people read online. I for one cannot read fiction online. Computers = work for me and aside from research, I want to get on and off fast. (You wouldn’t know it by my blog articles, but then I am writing and can’t keep it short.) If I find a story that I like, I cut and paste it and the print it out so I can read it on paper and really enjoy it. Flash fiction online, I skim and forget it. If its really powerful, I might not forget it, I might even print it out. But my tendency is to skim and not really READ, so much is lost in that process.  Some ezines stack these flashy pieces on top of each other in great numbers. More is better I guess. More skimming and skipping for me.

I used to be a poet. I’ve won prizes for my poems. But I am mainly a novelist. This is because I love to create a world an inhabit it for some time. In the same way, I love to inhabit the worlds of other authors that I like. I want to write short, but sometimes characters get in the way of that. They are like zip files. You open them and they keep opening and you hate to lose all that great material.

The normal length of a short story is anywhere up to 10,000 words. Some of my favorites are that long.  I don’t know why anyone is expected to produce abridged works to fit a 3500 word limit. Cutting can tighten and enhance, but after a certain point, it is sheer butchery. Writers don’t write because the King orders us to do it. We write because I want to, and the orders come from the Muse, who inspired us with visions that we are driven to bring to life. Why would anyone work so hard for so long for nothing unless they wanted to do it? So why should one be expected to butcher their work so someone raised on Sesame Street who has the attentions span of a flea can skim it over? Why not teach children how to read for pleasure again? I didn’t grow up and just pick up a book and start reading it. In fact I used to cut them with scissors. My dad TAUGHT me to love literature by giving me great books like he was bestowing a blessing.

I don’t remember who it was, but some successful author said: “Stories will be as long as they are meant to be. It takes as many words as it takes.” Something like that. But its true. Its like when I was in the theater. This director told us before rehearsal: “Take your time.” Which means “TAKE YOUR time.”

If we can’t create work we love, than why bother doing it at all? There are readers for long short stories. One only has to look through the newest anthologies, Best Fantasy, Best Horror, Best Science Fiction to find tales of all shapes and sizes . Even some novellas—-a form I am especially fond of.

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What are Gothic Faery Tales?

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What is the Difference Between Gothic Faery Tales and Traditional Fairy Tales?

Now that she is awake, Briar Rose returns to the palace and the Evil Queen. What else can she do now that she is Undead?

Gothic Faery Tales are reworkings of traditional Grimm’s Fairy Tales, or are based on their themes.

The Gothic Faery Tale writer is interested in the dark, disturbing elements of Faeryland. Whereas most contemporary re-tellings focus on sweetness, simplistic portrayals of good vs evil, and happily ever after endings, Gothic Faery Tales dive deep into the fears, anxieties, and superstitions of the subconscious.

The familiar fairy tales have been ‘Disneyfied’, or cleaned up, for children. Gothic Faery Tales evoke the primal, erotic, and blur the lines between god and evil. They are written for adults.

Vampires, werewolves, changelings, sorceresses, black magicians, dragons, all belong to the Gothic Faery Tale. It is possible that these figures of fright have always been part of the folklore fairy tales come from, or perhaps they crept in over time, leaving the pages of novels and the stage to inhabit the fairy tale realm and spice it up a bit. Of course the evil Queens and witches have always been part of Tradition and most likely held the door open for these others.

What is Our Attraction to the Dark?

Because the greatest mysteries have been forced into hiding; the most powerful truths are sequestered in the dark. To find the core, we must have the courage of a knight or a fool to enter the kingdom of shadows. To know ourselves deeply, as individuals, and as part of the whole, means to discover the vision of the light that lives within the blackest night.

Many great writers have used traditional fairy tales as a basis for their work.

The poet Anne Sexton  was one of the first writers to explore her inner conflicts through the use of fairy tales. Her book, Transformations, explores the limitations of being a woman in the 1950’s, and the dark psychological issues that kept her constantly on the brink of suicide.

It should come as no surprise that Gothic writers have a fascination with death. But isn’t death in its final form, for it is always transcended. The character who dies, or like Briar Rose and Snow White, fall into a 100 year sleep, are always brought back to life. Just as the Vampire is.  Faeries also inhabit the betwitx and between, the boundary between life and death.

There is an interest in transformation. Death is the ultimate transformer and shape-changer. The magnetism of the dead coming back to life mirrors the cycle of the seasons, mirrors the natural progression of living forms on Earth. This is primal. We cannot escape the cycles of seasons: birth, growth, decay, and death. Of all of these death is the most powerful. Yet, Gothic Tales suggest it is possible to live inside of death, to move, to relate, and to haunt. Gothic artists and writers reveal that to accept the facts is to transform them into something glamorous and fraught with desire.  Sometimes the dead become the living in the same gesture by which the living become the dead. It is the mirror realm of reversals where we walk head downwards like images reflected in a still pane of water.


Decadence

Simply put, the favored seasons for Goths are Autumn and Winter. Seasons of decay and death, silence, and a strange quality of light.

The decadence of fringe societies is like the golden decay of Autumn, a time when approaching death produces a gaudy display of glory. Winter covers the coffin under a snowy blanket, making the grave a place of hibernation with the potential to incubate new life. Gothic Faery Tales often take place in dim, ornate, quiet rooms with high ceilings and vast sweeping stairs. Places that are haunted and haunt one with feelings of dread and revelation.

Some Gothic tales seem to have been written by authors immobilized at the threshold between childhood and adulthood, and unable to cross over because of some deep fear of the adult reality. Welcome to the nightmare, the adults seem to say. Here is the true darkness of corruption and loss.

This is the border from which the Gothic Faery Tale beckons with its darkling wonders.

Come across the threshold. The dark is painful and at the same time so achingly beautiful. Of course you are curious. We embody the mystery you seek.”

Here we shall tell secrets.

The parts we are not supposed to talk about. The hidden things. The secrets that give the fairy tale its power penetrating over us.

To set the tone, here is a short piece from  1979’s The Bloody Chamber by the legendary Angela Carter. Based on Snow White, it is entitled:

The Snow Child

Midwinter — invincible, immaculate. The Count and his wife go riding, he on a grey mare, she on a black one, she wrapped in the glittering pelts of black foxes; and she wore high, black, shining bots, with scarlet heels and spurs. Fresh snow fell on snow already fallen; when it ceased, the whole world was white. “I wish I had a girl as white as snow,” says the Count. They ride on. They come to a hole in the snow; this hole is filled with blood. He says: “I wish I had a girl as red as blood.” So they ride on again; here is a raven, perched on a bare bough. “I wish I had a girl as black as that bird’s feathers.”

As soon as he completed her description, there she stood, beside ther road, white skin, red mouth, black hair and stark naked; she was the child of his desire and the Countess hated her. the Count lifted her up and sat her in front of him on his saddle, but the Countess had only one thought: how shall I be rid of her?

The Countess dropped her glove in the snow and told the girl to get down to look for it; she meant to gallop off and leave her there but the Count said,” I’ll buy you new gloves.” At that, the furs sprang off the Countess’s shoulders and twined around the naked girl. then the Countess threw her diamond brooch through the ice of a frozen pond. ‘Dive in and fetch it for me,” she said; she thought the girl would drown. But the Count said,” is she a fish to swim in such cold weather?” Then her boots leapt off the Countess’s feet, and onto the girl’s legs. Now the Countess was as bare as a bone and the girl furred and booted; the Count felt sorry for his wife.  they came to a bush of roses, all in flower. “Pick me one,” said the Countess to the girl. “I can’t deny you that,” said the Count.

So the girl picks a rose; pricks her finger on the thorn; bleeds, screams, falls.

Weeping, the Count got off his horse, unfastened his breeches and thrust his virile member into the dead girl. the Countess reined in her stamping mare and watched him narrowly; he was soon finished.

Then the girl began to melt. Soon there was nothing left of her but a feather a bird might have dropped,a blood stain, like the trace of a foxes kill on the snow, and the rose she had pulled off the bush. Now the Countess had all her clothes on again. With her long hand, she stroked her furs. the Count picked up the rose, bowed and handed it to his wife; when she touched it, she dropped it,

“It bites!” she said.

Hello world!

Now is the dark time. The time and place to explore all that lives within the dark. Tales of Vampires, Werewolves, Changelings, Sorcery. All for your delectation.

Art, poetry, fiction, music, video: all shall grow here like the moss over a great treasure chest  in the attic of a ruined chateau. My hope is that many authors will  come into this Faery Realm and share their extraordinary visions with other Creatures of the Night.

Dream my beauty…Dream the dark dream, the witches dream. One Hundred years in Faery is not very long.