Hello all again! It’s Friday – aka blog catch up day.
So much has happened. I’ve started by Seadrake blog: http://seadrakecreations.wordpress.com/ and be prepared – it’s dire. The situation, not the blog. I’m very close to throwing in the towel, so the posts will be giving a true to life view of what it’s like starting a small jewellery company in an age where there is virtually no disposable income. That said, I think it’s got potential to spin out a bittersweet ‘tried and failed, but hey, at least I tried’ book.
Books, that brings things home. So many books to work on this year, why did I allow myself to get distracted with Seadrake in the first place? Ah yes, I was after some sort of income for a stay-at-home mum. So far, writing has been my real income for the last two years. Yes, a very meagre income too, but I’m blessed to have been given the post of ‘staff writer’ for knowonder.com which brings in the bulk of my literary earnings. I’ve sold about three copies of Blood Tide in three months and one copy of Faerie Conspiracies. The tax man is going to give me that look again – you know, the one where disbelief and frown mingle? The, ‘what are you smoking??’ expression that means, ‘creative endeavours have no place in this day and age, and will definitely not bring you enough income for me to tax you.’
With little to no sales for my novels this year, I’m not going to be thinking about income or even hoping about it. Instead, I’m going to be editing the Isabella anthology for Springbok Publications, the small press that is also going to publish Three Victorian Women in Asylum, of which I’ve only written two chapters and seventeen pages of notes. Due this autumn, I will be buckling down as soon as the Isabella book is edited.
And… I’m still writing for knowonder.
101 is on the out – they don’t pay anything anymore and seem to
be lost at sea… With the knowonder
stories, I’m compiling my own anthology of faerie lore based on a mixture of
Grimm’s tales retold and expanded for modern understanding (but still in a
fairytale ‘ancient’ setting) and Cornish tales, along with my own slant on the
basic fairy lore formula. It’s going to
be pretty thick, and have illustrations throughout. In two years, when it’s ready, I’ll publish
it hardback, paperback and e-book and it’s the hardback copy I’ll be loving the
most as fairy lore should be hardback, folio and ready to pass down the ages.
I’m probably just repeating myself – so I’ll just add one of the fairy stories I’ll be putting in the book J
and the Whispering Woods Willow
Deep in the woods in a land far across the ocean grew a huge willow tree. The people in the village just outside the woods knew it was a magical place but were too freighted to go there and told their children to stay away.
But of course, some children would sneak out to the tree anyway…
“You’re not going into those woods, you’re too scared. And… you’re a… you know, a GIRL,” said one of the village boys to Tanya.
Once again, she bristled, ready to shout back. But she couldn’t. She was holding her baby sister in her arms and didn’t want to make her cry. “I’ll go to the woods,” she whispered in the most menacing voice she could muster, “and I’ll bring back a piece of the tree to prove it.”
“Yeah, right,” another boy said. They seemed to all be ganging up on her now. The other village children smelled a fight and started wandering towards them, their knees showing through tattered skirts and trousers.
They all started jeering at her and calling her ‘coward’ until she furrowed up her brow and said, “I’m going right now, let’s see which one of you is brave enough to follow!”
Her little sister Rose woke up and started crying, but as Tanya walked towards the woods, the baby fell back asleep in her arms. The dust kicked up at her heels, but she didn’t look back. She knew they wouldn’t follow and she was confident they’d never tease her again if she brought back a twig from the wood.
Soon she was at the edge of her village and the road which was once well looked after and smooth, now became broken with potholes and weeds. Eventually, it disappeared under long grasses and elder trees. The air became cooler and she held Rose closer to her shoulder. “Not long now, and then we can go home for some lunch.” It was only partial truth as there was enough milk for Rose, but only a few berries for Tanya. Her mother was working hard to keep the food coming in, but times were hard since their father was sent to march with the Royal Army.
The trees started to get closer and darker the further in they went, but Tanya wanted to see the ancient willow tree that held everyone in fascination. “Just one look and then, if I’m lucky, a fallen branch,” she whispered. But not seconds before she’d finished, the woods whispered back, “if you’re lucky, you’ll meet the lady of the tree and satisfied forevermore you’ll be.”
Tanya clutched just a little tighter to Rose and slowed her pace. But she didn’t turn back. If anything, she was now more curious. The wood became even denser, but instead of having twigs and branches claw at her heels, they seemed to peel back away from her as if letting her pass. Soon, she could see a mound of earth, topped with the biggest willow tree she’d ever seen. Its branches opened up to the sky and its trunk was wider than both her arms stretched out. Its roots were half out of the ground and twisted round small boulders, spiralling up and around themselves. “Wow,” said Tanya. “Rose, look up – it’s the willow tree of legend. And we’re standing under its beautiful boughs.”
Just then the birds stopped singing and a low wind rustled the leaves towards them. A soft, gentle whispering, almost like musical chimes rose up around them in the leaves. “Then welcome here my little friends, now come in peace and do defend, the reasons why you’ve come to me, I lift my boughs now you shall see…”
The wind dropped and the two lowest branches of the willow tree lifted like welcoming arms; below, a gnarled root stairway twisted down. “Enter, if you dare,” came the whispering voice.
Not wanting to put Rose in danger, Tanya left her wrapped safely between two roots of the tree and went below. Inside was glorious. The roots rose up around her to form the ceiling of a fairy palace. “Welcome,” said a tall woman with long flowing robes, “I am the spirit of the
Tanya, previously brave, now felt shy. “I… I just need something to prove I’ve been to the woods,” she said in a meek voice.
The lady laughed. “Would you not prefer a feast?” She waved her hand and a table filled with delicious-looking fruits and roasted vegetables appeared.
Tanya was tempted, but she shook her head. “I must get back to my sister and go home,” she said. “But your offer is very kind.”
The lady smiled. “You are very polite. Let me gift you this,” she said, holding out a wand made of the tree itself. “It will protect you in time of need.” Then, she and the room vanished and Tanya found herself outside the tree with Rose in her arms as if the last ten minutes had never happened. But in her left hand was clutched a willow wand. She pulled Rose in closer and noticed that she too had been given a gift by the lady of the tree: a small star no bigger than a pinpoint was on the baby’s forehead.
Tanya left the wood in a daze and when she made it back to the village, the other children looked at her warily – partly with respect and just a hint of suspicion. Nobody went to the Whispering Woods.
Odd hushed whispers spread around her and when she went to her home, she saw her mother with her head in her hands.
“Tanya, I’m so sorry. I cannot pay the rent on the house and I cannot feed you. I have to go find work elsewhere and old Myssa has said she will look after you if you work for her.” At that, her mother broke into heavy sobs and wouldn’t be consoled.
Once again pulling the sleeping Rose tightly to her shoulder, Tanya now knew life would indeed be different. That night, Tanya was taken to Myssa’s home on the edge of the village. There was a splintered cot for Rose and just a thin blanket with no bed for Tanya on the front room floor next to the fire.
“You can start by scrubbing the floors,” said Myssa, “and then collect firewood from outside.”
Tanya worked hard for Myssa, but both she and Rose were given food and milk – enough to live from. But Rose was cold and unhappy and cried too much for Myssa. So, one day when Rose was crying louder and longer than normal, Tanya was asked to bring a huge pot from the stables.
“What’s that for?” asked Tanya. Myssa had never cooked enough food to need such a large cauldron.
“Your sister is a menace and we don’t need the extra mouth. You work too hard looking after her when you should be looking after me.” Although she didn’t tell Tanya exactly what the pot was for, Tanya was filled with fear for her sister.
So, when Myssa was out gathering herbs and berries from the edge of the wood, Tanya wrapped up her little sister, took her willow wand and escaped from the old witch’s house.
“Stay quiet, little one, or I think we may be done for,” whispered Tanya to Rose. But Rose just smiled up at her, and for a moment, it looked like the star on her forehead started to glow.
Just then Tanya heard Myssa stomping furiously through the house. “I know you’ve run off and taken our evening meal with you! I’m coming to get you both!”
She burst through the back door and before she could see Tanya, Tanya whispered, “If only we could look like two stones…” In a heartbeat, Tanya and Rose turned from being human children into a large standing stone and a small boulder. Myssa didn’t recognise them and hunted the area until it was dark.
When the first star shone down on the stones, the girls changed back into their normal forms but it was too dark to travel and so they curled up together in the barn and waited for morning.
At dawn, Tanya and Rose were woken by the sound of Myssa’s angry voice. “I’m coming to get you now, I’ve found your footprints! You won’t escape this time.”
“Please,” whispered Tanya, “let us be like mice in the hay.” Instantly, the two girls were once again changed. And again, Myssa didn’t recognise them.
When she was gone, they changed back. “Come Rose, now we really must flee to the woods…” But as they left the stables, Myssa caught sight of them and chased after.
Tanya’s legs were not as long as Myssa’s but she was younger and fear made her fast. She ran with Rose in her arms, jumped over roots and ducked under brambles, until there was a little distance between them and the witch. “Please,” she whispered again, “let us be like two rich princesses that the witch won’t recognise.” And with that, the two girls turned into finely dressed princesses with a white horse to guide them and a royal escort to follow behind.
Tanya smiled and looked down at Rose. No longer wrapped in tattered old blankets, Rose now had silks and ribbons with pearls on her cap and a silver bell on her wrist. She giggled when she looked back at Tanya. “Now,” she said in a bold voice to the escort behind her, “there is an old witch following us who means us harm. Please take her away so we’ll be safe.”
The escort nodded and in seconds, Tanya heard Myssa’s voice pleading for forgiveness. “What shall I do with her exactly?” asked the escort with a slight smile. For just a brief moment, Tanya was reminded of the lady of the willow tree.
“Put her to work at the castle’s gardens,” Tanya said, surprising herself. “She may not like children, but she can still tend her plants well. Just don’t let her cook anything.” Tanya remembered with a shudder the large cauldron meant for Rose.
Just then, a soft breeze from deep within the Whispering Woods carried to them light musical laughter, “Well chosen, my darlings…” As the Royal Escort left with Myssa, the two girls changed back to their own selves.
Tanya sighed. She wished she could have stayed in the silk dress for longer. It would certainly pay the rent on her mother’s house. But not a moment after she’d made the wish in her head, Rose’s giggling laugh made her look down in surprise. Both girls were once again dressed in finery and there was a weighty purse dangling on her arm where there once was a wand. Tanya noticed that Rose’s little star was glowing brightly.
Hunger made her go back to the village and buy bread and cakes from the bakery, but nobody recognised her when she entered. She pulled out a gold coin and handed it to one of the boys who hadn’t called her a coward the other day. “Find the woman known at Sasha and tell her she can move back into her house.” For Sasha was the name of her mother.
Then she found the landlord in the tavern. “I wish to purchase the property formerly rented by Sasha,” she said in a serious tone.
The landlord put his tankard of ale down and glanced over to her. His face changed from annoyance to wonder and he quickly stood up and bowed. “Y… yes, of course my lady, anything you wish!”
Tanya smiled kindly and handed him three coins. “There, this will more than cover such a hovel. Now, can you please tell the builder to fix the roof and adorn it for a royal visit.” She gave him another coin and left with a smile on her face.
By the time her mother returned to the village and her old home, the house looked like a small palace. Tanya, Rose and their mother lived comfortably there for many years and every spring, Tanya and Rose would go into the Whispering Woods and lay a wreath of roses for the lady of the willow tree as a thank you.