Writer’s Corner: 6 Books That Changed My Life

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1. The Little Prince by Antonie De Sanit-Exupéry – I first read this book when I was in the fifth grade. Compared to everything else I’d read prior to this book, I found that the story was a bit on the ‘dark’ side in some parts, which I liked. Despite the fantastic plot of a little boy who comes from a tiny, far-away planet, it was the first book that felt real to me. The characters felt so alive and full of emotions that I’d never seen in the children’s books I’d read before.

I couldn’t help but fall in love with the prince because for once I wasn’t reading about some perfect prince who saves a perfect princess. I was reading about a kid—not unlike myself at the time—who sometimes felt sad, lonely, and even a little hopeless. I thought it was beautiful, even back that, that the prince wanted so desperately to please his rose and return to her despite how badly she treated him. It was new for me to read about a character who was so blinded by innocence and so ruled by his heart that he couldn’t see the injustice in the way he was being treated by his rose. He loved the rose despite her bossiness, arrogance, and severity, and, in turn, taught me the importance of unconditional love and devotion. The prince was loyal to a fault, but that’s what made him so charming and original—his unwavering love for the rose who didn’t deserve his affections.

The Little Prince touched my heart and opened my imagination to stories that consisted of more that just the tried and true ‘happily ever afters’. It taught me that heroes come in all shapes and sizes as well as the importance of ‘journey’ over ‘destination’. It is for these reasons that The Little Prince will always have a special place in my heart and on my shelf.

 

2. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain – Now, I know a lot of us were forced to read this book in elementary school, but I actually read this of my own accord after my mother gave me her copy from when she was a girl. Admittedly, being a kid, I was a bit shocked by the language, but once I got over it I really began to see the genius of the book. Huck was a kid who wanted to follow the rules but had a really hard time doing it. He wanted to do the ‘right thing’ by doing as his guardians asked. He wanted to adopt the moralities set by society … but he couldn’t—and that, ladies and gentlemen, is why I think Huck is so awesome.

There’s one part in the book that really sticks out in my mind, even though it’s been years since I read it. The part I’m thinking of is when Huck contemplates turning Jim in (his runaway slave friend). He writes a letter and intends on delivering it to the people who owned Jim to disclose his whereabouts, reasoning that doing so was the ‘right thing’ to do. Huck wanted so badly to be a good boy who the widows could be proud of, and he wanted to stop doing ‘bad things’ (like harboring fugitive slaves, for instance). He tried to convince himself that it was the correct course of action, but in the end, and, despite everything society tried to instill in him, he says what I feel is one of the most powerful lines in the book: “All right, then, I’ll go to Hell.” And he rips up the letter and vows that his attempts at reformation are over. He finally decides to follow his heart instead of conforming to the ideals of society. Hallelujah and aaaaamen!

Huck is such an amazing character and he is a perfect example of how a person can overcome hate despite what they’ve been taught. Huckleberry Finn, regardless of his crassness, will eternally be one of my all-time favorite characters from a novel—I mean, come on, that quote alone should have won Twain some sort award!

 

3. A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle – Like Huckleberry Finn, my very first copy of this book was a hand-me-down from my mother. I usually don’t like books with heavy Christian themes (which is why Narnia didn’t make this list), but this has such a lovely message, I couldn’t pass it up. First off, the concept is so unique, even in today’s world where everything is an over-sexualized copy or remake of something else. A Wrinkle in Time isn’t about sparkling vampires, or dystopian societies, or even traditional ‘romance’. It’s about love in its purest forms—the love of family, friends, and self.

I loved Meg from the moment I first started reading the book. She was awkward, shy, and unsure of herself—kind of like me when I was a kid. Charles Wallace was the first boy genius I’d ever encountered in a book, and he’s the reason I adore them to this day—almost any book with super intelligent kids (Artemis Fowl and A Series of Unfortunate Events for instance) I have a hard time putting down. And Calvin is just so charming in a ‘boy next door’ kind of way—I remember having the biggest crush on him when I first read the book.

In the end, I loved that the story hinged on the truth that love is stronger than hate, and it can conquer nearly anything if one only allows it into their heart. That was the first time I’d ever seen that concept done in a book without romantic love being involved—for that matter, it was the first time I’d ever seen the book reach its end without some sort of physical confrontation. The struggle in this book was all internal. In a world filled with action-sequences and super heroes, we may forget that inner struggle is at times more difficult to overcome than physical struggle. A Wrinkle in Time demonstrates this concept and executes it in the most lovely way I’ve ever seen in a novel.

 

4. Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie – Growing up, I saw many versions of Peter Pan and they never really resonated with me. Sure, they entertained me, but I really didn’t get the fuss about never growing up. The concept didn’t seem all that scary. After all, grown up women were beautiful, so I was really looking forward to getting older and becoming one of those said beautiful women.

Years passed and I grew up without giving Peter Pan a second thought. I was finally an adult with a job, an apartment, and a relationship, and it felt good. Back then, I didn’t think twice about being a kid again. Sure, being responsible and paying bills was a little overwhelming at times, but I was free and I was finally being treated like an adult.

In the course of three years I quit my job, moved to Utah, moved back to California, and found myself in an unfortunate situation. I had no job, no relationship, and I had to live with my family again. I had to hear them chastise me for the bad decisions I’d made—decisions which I have yet to live down in their eyes.

That’s when I found Peter. I read the book in a few hours—because I couldn’t put it down—and only after did I understand what all the fuss was about. Peter was right all along—growing up was scary! Reading that book made me long for the childhood that had long since abandoned me. It made me regret wanting to grow up so fast. It made me wish that there really was a Neverland.

Yes, Peter is a jerk on all accounts, but you can’t help but fall in love with his innocent charms. He’s selfish, and mean, and prideful, but he embraces childhood for all that it is, thus we forgive him for his otherwise unacceptable actions—he’s just a kid after all, he doesn’t know any better.

I don’t think one can grasp the true beauty and sadness of Peter Pan until they’re all grown up—until it’s too late. Barrie is right, all children grow up, and I think most of us wish that we were the exception to that rule—I know I do. This book may have been written for children, but there is also a very powerful message for adults too: yes, we all grow up, but if you retain a youthful heart, ‘Neverland’ will never be far away.

 

5. 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne – I watched this movie as a kid and didn’t really like it all that much. However, when I read the book a couple years back, I fell in love with the story and it’s now my hands-down favorite book. First of all, it was a breath of fresh air to read something without romance being involved. Second, the characters were so vivid—they felt like they could have been real people.

Captain Nemo is what made this book amazing for me. He’s so intelligent that he engineered his own submarine, can speak several different languages fluently, and he’s a talented musician. The cherry on top of everything is that Captain Nemo isn’t a white guy, as one may assume—he’s Indian! I feel like for the time period this book was written (mid-19th century) an ethnic character was uncommon in western literature. Not only that, but Captain Nemo was the main focus of the plot even though it’s written from Professor Aronnax’s point of view.

Nemo is mysterious and carries a lot of emotional baggage which he keeps well hidden beneath a steely façade. He pretends to be callous and uncaring, yet he allows his ‘hostages’ free roam of his ship and treats them like guests. Nemo, despite him being a pirate and arguably the ‘villain’ of the story (granted I’m using the term ‘villain’ very loosely in this instance), is gentlemanly and even charming at times. Even when the Nautilus is being attacked by a giant squid, he maintains his composure while everyone else is freaking out—and rightfully so!

Nemo’s character inspired me to write more dynamic male characters who are intelligent and cunning while still maintain a sense of relatability. Although this was a relatively recent read for me, I think it’s going to remain my favorite book for a long while. What can I say? Captain Nemo’s a tough act for anyone to follow.

 

6. The Book of Lost Things by John Connolly – I only just read this book last summer, but it has definitely been added to the list of my all-time favorites. The fairy tale elements of this book really drew me in and kept me interested all the way to the end. From the very first line of the book I was hooked. I felt as if I was experiencing everything that David was first-hand. It was a moving experience that had me laughing, crying, and gasping right along with the main character.

I really connected with David and his struggles in the fantastic world he stumbles upon. The Crooked Man was an excellent and terrifying villain that, if I was younger, probably would have given me nightmares. The people David meets along his journey through the fairy tale land are all wonderful and charming in their own ways (Rolan’s story was my favorite and gave me all the feels). Although David is intelligent in his own right, his naivety gets him into so much trouble and sometimes has him trust the wrong people. Although David’s journey is wrought with trials that mirror his fears and insecurities, they transform him—a jealous, lonely, and frightened little boy—into a courageous, and honorable young man.

On the surface, this book is whimsical and reminiscent of all the fairy tales I grew up with, but, on a deeper level, this story is about self-discovery, letting go of the past, and overcoming the obstacles we place in our own paths. Reading this book inspired me to rewrite my first book (which was less than a month away from coming out at the time). The Book of Lost Things made me want to write something that inspired the feelings that I felt when reading that book.

I cried when I finished reading it, not because it ended sadly, but because I was sad that it was over. It felt like I had gained something and lost something at the same time—I don’t think a book has ever made me feel like that before. In any case, this book, like all the others on this list, changed my life and made it better.

 

There is still beauty in this world, my friends. If you ever find yourself doubting that, just open up a book and immerse yourself in its pages. There you will always find the brilliance of the human spirit.

 

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Rudyard Kipling’s “Parade Song of the Camp Animals”

     ELEPHANTS OF THE GUN TEAMS

     We lent to Alexander the strength of Hercules,
     The wisdom of our foreheads, the cunning of our knees;
     We bowed our necks to service: they ne'er were loosed again,—
     Make way there—way for the ten-foot teams
           Of the Forty-Pounder train!

     GUN BULLOCKS

     Those heroes in their harnesses avoid a cannon-ball,
     And what they know of powder upsets them one and all;
     Then we come into action and tug the guns again—
     Make way there—way for the twenty yoke
           Of the Forty-Pounder train!

     CAVALRY HORSES

     By the brand on my shoulder, the finest of tunes
     Is played by the Lancers, Hussars, and Dragoons,
     And it's sweeter than "Stables" or "Water" to me—
     The Cavalry Canter of "Bonnie Dundee"!

     Then feed us and break us and handle and groom,
     And give us good riders and plenty of room,
     And launch us in column of squadron and see
     The way of the war-horse to "Bonnie Dundee"!

     SCREW-GUN MULES

     As me and my companions were scrambling up a hill,
     The path was lost in rolling stones, but we went forward still;
     For we can wriggle and climb, my lads, and turn up everywhere,
     Oh, it's our delight on a mountain height, with a leg or two to
        spare!

     Good luck to every sergeant, then, that lets us pick our road;
     Bad luck to all the driver-men that cannot pack a load:
     For we can wriggle and climb, my lads, and turn up everywhere,
     Oh, it's our delight on a mountain height, with a leg or two to
        spare!

     COMMISSARIAT CAMELS

     We haven't a camelty tune of our own
     To help us trollop along,
     But every neck is a hair trombone
     (Rtt-ta-ta-ta! is a hair trombone!)
     And this our marching-song:
     Can't!  Don't!  Shan't!  Won't!
     Pass it along the line!
     Somebody's pack has slid from his back,
     Wish it were only mine!
     Somebody's load has tipped off in the road—
     Cheer for a halt and a row!
     Urrr!  Yarrh!  Grr!  Arrh!
     Somebody's catching it now!

     ALL THE BEASTS TOGETHER

     Children of the Camp are we,
     Serving each in his degree;
     Children of the yoke and goad,
     Pack and harness, pad and load.
     See our line across the plain,
     Like a heel-rope bent again,
     Reaching, writhing, rolling far,
     Sweeping all away to war!
     While the men that walk beside,
     Dusty, silent, heavy-eyed,
     Cannot tell why we or they
     March and suffer day by day.
        Children of the Camp are we,
        Serving each in his degree;
        Children of the yoke and goad,
        Pack and harness, pad and load!


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Happy Birthday Lewis Carroll!

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I know this is irregular of me to be posting on a Tuesday, but I couldn’t pass up the chance to pay tribute to an inspiring children’s author on his birthday! That’s right, folks, 183 years ago today, Charles Lutwidge Dodgson (more famously known as Lewis Carroll) was born. So, I did a bit of digging around the internet and found a few things that I didn’t know about Mr. Carroll. Hopefully you find these little known facts as interesting as I did!

  1. Carroll taught mathematics at Oxford University. Whoever thought math and literature could mesh so well together, huh?
  2. He had ten siblings (seven sisters and three brothers) and they all played literary games together when they were children. I’m so jealous–I can’t even get my sister to play Words with Friends with me!
  3. He invented the Carroll diagram (AKA the Lewis Carroll Square)—a method of grouping data that is still taught to this day.
  4. Carroll suffered from quite a few physical and mental ailments including: a stammer, epilepsy, deafness in one ear, and ADHD—I’m never complaining about having to wear glasses again.
  5. He gave the manuscript of Alice’s Adventures Under Ground (the first version of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland) to Alice Liddell (12 at the time), in November of 1864.
  6. Queen Victoria loved Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland so much that she asked if Carroll would dedicate his next book to her. So, in 1867, Carroll sent his ‘next book’, An Elementary Treatise on Determinants to the queen. I bet Queen Victoria found it just as light-hearted and whimsical as Alice! *SARCASM*
  7. Lewis Carroll’s epitaph says: “Where I am, there shall also my servant be.”

 

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I’m not sure what to call this, but here we go!

So, since late December I’ve been working on a new book series which I have yet to name (hence the title of this post). In November I finished my sixth and final Prince of Prophecy book, and I promised myself that I was going to wait a little while to start writing again, but … I cracked. I HAD to start writing this or I would have probably exploded.

I had the idea for this science fiction series in 2009 (about three years before I started writing The Prince of Prophecy). It was originally going to be a Science Fiction/Horror series based off of a dream I had (I get a lot of my inspiration from dreams), but, in the end, I decided to lean more towards adventure than horror (although there will be horror elements). I was considering posting my originals notes, but they’re honestly not written very well…

However, what I do have for you is the prologue (first draft, so be gentle with me) of this new series of mine. If it’s received well, I might post a couple more preliminary chapters so be sure to “like” this post if you liked this post, haha!

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Prologue
Welcome to the Jungle

The sound that roused Noire from a peaceful sleep, he had not heard in a very long time and he shouldn’t have been hearing now—it was the middle of the night for goodness sake! He had painstakingly went to extreme lengths to make sure his base of operations stayed hidden from the authorities along with everyone else.
He sat up in bed, narrowing his yellowish eyes as he slipped his hand beneath his pillow to grasp the cold titanium handle of his plasma gun. Perhaps he’d just dreamt of the sound? That must have been it. There was no way anyone could know where he was—it just wasn’t possible.

Knock, knock, knock, came the infernal noise again. Noire could no long deny that someone was indeed at the entrance hatch of his underground base. He was very much awake and that sound was very much real. He slid from his bed and pressed a button on his bedside stand. Stairs extended from the floating platform upon which his ‘bedroom’ was located and he silently crept down the steps, keeping his finger on the trigger of his gun.

Knock, knock! The noise sounded more insistent this time, as he maneuvered around the mechanisms and equipment that littered the floor of his bunker. The machines whirred and hummed as their clear tubes glowed reds, blues, and greens in the otherwise – space. Although it may have looked like a mess of gadgets and machinery to the untrained eye, Noire had meticulously placed everything just so and nothing was a single nanometer out-of-place. Where others saw chaos, he saw order, and he liked it. That was what he excelled at—looking past the obvious and seeing things that others could not. This extraordinary ability is what his entire career hinged upon.

He prowled towards the entrance hatch his muscles tensing as he neared it. Whoever was at his door was dead, they just didn’t know it yet. There were plenty of ways he could exterminate the pests outside his door without even opening it, but he always got a bit vindictive when he was woken from a pleasant sleep—which was not often. He was going to see with his own eyes the face of the fool who dared encroach upon his solitude in the middle of the night.

Noire typed in a code upon the keypad of the steel reinforced entrance hatch and lifted his plasma gun. He heard the sound of one, two, three large bolts pulling back from their sockets, and a moment later the hatch slid aside to reveal three hooded figures standing just outside. The figure at the head of the group was holding what looked like a small body in his arms. The two men on either side of him already had their plasma guns trained on Noire. He kept his finger on the trigger of his own gun but didn’t shoot just yet.

“That’s it?” Noire asked, his expression as cold and stern as his steely voice. “You only brought two guards with you? You do know who I am, don’t you?”
The figure at the head of the group, carefully hoisted the body up onto his shoulder so he could remove his hood. Noire saw that the older man who stood before him had dark, slicked back hair with streaks of gray. His features were strikingly angular, and his eyes were as dark as the blackest night. Noire had seen this man before, but it had been several years since they last saw each other.

He slowly lowered his gun and the two hooded men did the same. “Mr. Cain. I thought our business had concluded.”

“So did I, Mr. Noire,” Cain replied, his voice low and growling. He had the same rich accent as Noire.

Noire had long suspected that Cain was from the same place as he—the eastern most quadrant of the North Western Empire formerly known as ‘England’. But he had never bothered to asked—given their relationship, Noire felt it was hardly an appropriate question. Now they, along with many others, resided on what centuries old—not to mention banned—texts referred to as the ‘North American Continent’.

“Why are you here?” Noire asked, his tone cooler than he intended it to be.

Cain didn’t seem to mind Noire’s cool demeanor. Instead he motioned to the bundled up figure in his bulky arms. “The package you left with us two years ago is no longer safe in our possession. You must take it back.”

Noire’s eyes fell upon the bundle over Cain’s shoulder. He felt the blood drain from his face in that instant. “No. No, I can’t take it. I’m in no position to care for something like that.”

“Do you think my organization was any more prepared for it than you are now?” Cain asked calmly. “We are a rebel militia group, not a daycare center. As you may know, the Timber Organization has recently come under fire, and the North-Western Empire has found many of our hideouts. For the safety of this child, she must stay where no one else can find her. She must stay with you.”

Noire’s lips pressed into a thin, white line. “You can’t be serious. My lifestyle isn’t suitable for a child—especially not one so young.”

“Then make it suitable,” Cain said, stepping over the threshold and offering what Noire now understood to be a blanket wrapped child to him. “This world is more dangerous than it has ever been before, and she needs to be protected. The emperor is scouring for her—she knows something that could incriminate his empire, I know it. It is my duty and yours to protect her as well as the information she possesses.”

Noire shook his head and backed away as if the child was an unstable chemical substance. “And just how do you suggest that I do that?”

“Make her forget. That’s the only way,” Cain said, his voice softening as he stroked the little girl’s back. “She hasn’t said why they might be after her, but she possess the information the Empire seeks—the information they want to keep secret from the rest of the world. It’s somewhere in that fascinating mind of hers… So you must extract it and keep it hidden well.”

Noire ran a hand through his short, black hair, glancing back into his chaotic bunker. “Extracting memories is tricky. My machine is a hundred years old at least—the best I can do is wipe her entire memory clean.”

“Then so be it. She’s only five—she has her entire life to create new memories. Pleasant memories,” Cain said. He shut his eyes for a moment, before going on. “Do you have a safe place to store the momentos you extract?”

“Of course. Unfortunately I have no way to view the momentos after I’ve extracted them,” Noire said, placing hand on his slender hip. “Last I checked, you wolves don’t have a way to do it either. Once I wipe her memory, that information the Empire wants her for might as well be destroyed. You really want to risk that?”

Cain exhaled through his nose and nodded once. “Perhaps one day the Timber Organization will be able to acquire a memory reader—that’s the best we can hope for, I suppose. But the most important thing is that she remains out of harm’s way. She’s more than just a way to help us bring down this Empire for good—she’s a living, breathing person, and she deserves the chance to experience life just like anyone else. She’ll have her best chance with you, Mr. Noire.”

Noire pressed his hands to his face and dragged them down until his fingers were steepled beneath his chin. “That’s why I brought her to you, Cain. I thought you would be able to give her her best chance. You’ve got a whole organization at your fingertips. I can’t raise a child! I’m not equipped. Besides, my business is one no impressionable youths should be subjected to.”

“I’m well aware of your ‘business’, Mr. Noire—or should I say Panther?”

Noire raised a brow. “So you know.”

“Of course, I know,” Cain said. “There is no one else on earth that possesses the skill to steal such precious artifacts from right underneath the Emperor’s nose. But, worry not, I’ve told no one that you and the elusive ‘Panther’ are one in the same.”

Noire’s yellow eyes flicker to Cain’s two companions. “Are those AIB’s?”

“Yes,” Cain replied. “The newest models.”

Noire raised his gun and shot both of Cain’s companions in the head. They sparked, shuddered violently, and fell to the ground. He then stuck his plasma gun in the waist band of his pajama pants. “Sorry. Can’t be too careful with bots—they’re really easy to extract information from.”

Cain glanced back over his shoulder at the broken Artificial Intelligence Beings, sighing to himself. “It’s alright. I would’ve had to do it when I returned to headquarters anyway. Although, I wouldn’t have been so brash with my execution…”

Noire shrugged. “To each his own.”

Cain hoisted the girl from his shoulder and handed her to Noire. He held out his arms, not wanting the sleeping child to fall to the ground. “Now then,” Cain said in his usual growling voice. “Take good care of her, Mr. Noire. Raise her well.”

“I’ll do the best that I can, but I doubt she’ll ever be what the Empire considers a ‘model citizen’. I’m a thief, not a nanny.”

Cain chuckled lowly as he turned to leave. “I would expect no less. You can keep the AIBs. They’re of no use to me now.”

“Wait!” Noire called hurrying after him. “She’s not chipped, is she?”

“Of course not,” Cain said, scowling back at him. “I’d never allow her to be sullied with Empire technology.”

Noire relaxed upon hearing this and held the girl closer to him. “Good.”

Cain continued on his way, waving his hand without even turning around. “Goodbye, Mr. Noire. If all goes well, we shouldn’t be seeing each other again any time soon.”

Noire watched Cain disappear into the darkness of the underground pipeline in which he’d made his home. He shut and locked the hatch once more before gazing down at the little girl in his arms. A gentle smile spread across his usually stern face as he touched the sleeping girl’s cheek with the back of his hand. “It’s good to see you again, Kira. You and I have a lot of work to do, don’t we?”

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I’m still working on the names of the technology I’m using in the book since this takes place 1000 years in the future (it’s going to be a challenge that will demand weeks of research). But if you guys have any ideas about futuristic technology and names of said technology, please leave them in the comments and if I like them I’ll include them in the series! Remember, if you enjoyed this, please like this post and I’ll post more chapters here. 🙂

 

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Writer’s Corner: Interview with Eren Angiolini

I just got the chance to interview the lovely and talented Enrica ‘Eren’ Angiolini (my illustrator) about being an artist–this is my first interview guys, I’m so excited! She did some amazing artwork for my second novel, The Prince of Prophecy Vol. II: Cursed, and I’m super excited that she’ll be illustrating the other four books for this series (the third one will be coming out this October). Now, without further ado, here’s my interview with Eren!

 

Me: What first inspired you to become an artist?

Eren: I wouldn’t say I was inspired by something in particular. I’ve always like drawing, ever since I was a little kid: both my parents have artistic hobbies and I grew up in a house full of art and creativity. Probably one of my biggest inspirations to pursue my passion was the work of two Italian comic artists: Barbara Canepa and Alessandro Barbucci (W.I.T.C.H., Sky-Doll), whom I discovered when I was in middle school. I got so much in love with their works that I drew every hour of every day. I don’t even know if I can call my-self an “artist”, or if I somehow “became an artist”. I do this because I like it and I hope that one day I’ll be able to do it professionally as a full-time job.

Me: I’m sure all of us artists would like to make a full-time career out of our passions–I know I would! What are your favorite things to draw (people, places, animals, etc.)?

Eren: Surely I prefer drawing people. I feel more comfortable drawing male figures, since I like the shapes of the male anatomy. Perspective always comes a bit tricky to me, but I’m working on it! Lately I’ve discovered that I like painting landscapes as well, which seemed like an impossible target to me until last year, but I’m growing fond of that too.

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Me: I’ve seen some of your landscapes and they’re beautiful! I really love the forest landscape you did for Cursed (so much so that it’s my background for this blog and my Facebook Fan Page)! Who inspires you and do they influence your artworks?

Eren: As I said before, surely Barbara Canepa and Alessandro Barbucci are one of my main inspirations, and they did influence my style during the years. I love the way Barbara colors and Alessandro’s lines are just amazing. I’ve had the pleasure to meet Barbara last year, attending one of her coloring workshops and she taught me so much. I’m sure they’re one of my biggest references and influences. But they’re not the only ones, obviously.  My favorite artists come from really different worlds and styles, from Marvel comics, to Japanese anime and manga:  Joe Madureira, Michael Turner, Brom, Frank Frazetta, Massimiliano Frezzato, Metteo de Longis, Staney “Artgerm” Lau, Takeshi Obata, Oh!Great, Norihiro Yagi and many more.

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Me: I can definitely see the anime/manga inspiration in your works–that’s part of the reason I was so drawn to your art. In your recent shirt designs for me, I can also see the comic influence (I’m a huge marvel comic fan myself–GO DEADPOOL!!!).Do you have a favorite genre that you enjoy creating for (fantasy, science fiction, horror, etc.)?

Eren: I’ve got a really strong and deep bonding with fantasy themes. I grew up reading Tolkien’s books, playing D&D and live role-playing games with my friends, listening to epic metal bands… Fantasy is my veins! But I surely enjoy trying new stuff. I’ve been doing a lot of sci-fi lately for commissioned works, and I do appreciate that. Cyberpunk and Steampunk are fun too, since they give me the chance to try out some crazy stuff. And from time to time, I don’t dislike drawing more “kawaii” and cartoonish themes.

Me: Yeah, fantasy is my niche as well, though I do tend to mix it in with a bit of everything in my works (sci-fi, steampunk, horror, and other genres). I can’t wait to see more of your sci-fi artwork! How did you learn to draw? Did you go to school for it, or did you teach yourself?

Eren: I’ve learned by myself. I’ve been drawing since I was a kid and I started with Digital Art when I was quite young, so I’ve had a lot of time to experiment and learn to use Photoshop as well. When I was a little kid there was no internet or online tutorials, so I asked my parents for some help on the basics of PS, but the rest I discovered by myself. I’ve never attended any art school, just a 3-day workshop on digital coloring and a 4-day one on concept art with the amazing Jim Moore last year. I like saying that my teachers are the best artists from all over the world, since I always learn so many things watching the works of other artists. I think that watching and studying the paintings and illustrations of the great artists from the past and from the present, is one of the most important keys to learn and improve in art.

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Me: Watching and studying the pros of any profession is a great way to improve. It’s no different with writing–if you want to get better you’ve got to write every day and read all the time. Besides making beautiful pieces of art, what other hobbies do you have?

First of all, thanks for the nice words! I’m a very busy and active person, I have tons of hobbies, which I’d like to bring to the “next level” and make a living of out those as well. With my boyfriend I have a small video and photo production company: we shoot music videos, event videos and do photographic books and stuff like that (it’s called “White Whale Production” you can look us up on Facebook or google if you want to!). I’ve always liked photography and movies, so that’s a way of cultivating another one of my passions. I also am a translator (specializing in video game, audiovisual, and comic translations)! I practice historical fencing and I play an ancient strategic board game called “go”, created in China, but very popular in Japan and Korea as well (I play the Japanese version). Of course I enjoy listening to music, reading, and watching movies and TV series as well!

Me: Wow, you’re certainly a very busy person! Since this is a writing blog I would be remiss if I didn’t ask you some ‘bookish’ questions. So, what’s your all-time favorite book?

Eren: Probably I’d have to say the series “A Song of Ice and Fire” by George. I started reading it nearly 9 years ago, when I was in High School, and I’ve loved it from the first page. More of my all-time favorites are: “The Lord of the Rings” and “The Silmarillon” by Tolkien,  “Saving Fish from Drowning” by Amy Tan, “The Girl who Played Go” by Shan Sa. And even if I just got it as Christmas present, I’ve got the feeling that “S.” by J.J. Abrams and Doug Dorst is going to be a really interesting read.

Me: I’m also a fan of Tolkien, but I’ve never read Martin’s stuff–even though all of my friends rave about Game of Thrones. On that note, who are some of your favorite authors?

Eren: Of course George Martin, but I also love Tolkien’s works, which had a really big influence on me. On the sci-fi side, the “Hyperion” series by Dan Simmons is a must, but George Martin wrote some amazing sci-fi novels as well. Another one of my favorite writers is Terry Pratchett: he’s hilarious! Such a genius! As of now, I’m reading “The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle” by Murakami Haruki, trying to understand if I do like his writing style or not, since this is the third of his books I read, but the first one that I’m really liking!

Me: Those sound like interesting books–I’ll have to check them out! What is your favorite fairy tale and why do you like it so much?

Eren: Oh my… this is a tough question. I don’t have a favorite fairy tale, but I do like many of them. If I had to choose, I’d probably go with “Peter Pan”, because of the “not growing up” concept, which really fascinates me. When I was a little girl, my favorite fairy tale was actually “The Hobbit” by Tolkien, which my mom used to read me before I went to bed every night. And it also was the first book I read all by myself as I grew up.

Me: Peter Pan is my favorite too! I love Peter’s character because he’s not really the ‘typical hero’ is he? He’s kind of a jerk, but I love him for it. The Hobbit was also one of the first books I read by myself–I remember pretending that I was sick just so I could stay home from school and read it! If you had to choose between spending time in only one of these magical realms, which would it be and why: Neverland (Peter Pan), Wonderland (Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland), Narnia (The Chronicles of Narnia), or Oz (The Wizard of Oz)?

Eren: I’m tempted to say Neverland, so I would never grow up, but I think Narnia would be the place that fits me the most. Fantastic creatures, magic, brave warriors in armors… that’s where I belong!

Me: Narnia would be pretty cool to visit–you’ve just got to find the right wardrobe! For my book, The Prince of Prophecy Vol. II: Cursed, who was your favorite character to draw and why?

Eren: Probably my favorite one to draw was Destan. I like his outlaw design a lot. Also I like him as a character, with his desire for adventure and freedom! Scarlet was really interesting as well, since his outfit was great to draw and I was able to go crazy on it. As I said before, I practice historical fencing and I study rapier (among other swords), so it was fun to draw him a pair of those. Little secret: for one of the inside illustrations I used some of my friends and teachers from my historical fencing academy as references, so that was incredibly fun as well!

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Me: It’s funny you should say that since Destan and Scarlet are crowd favorites! Now I’m kind of curious as to which illustration you used your friends and teachers for… So, where can people see more of your awesome artwork?

Eren: My works can be found on different sites:
-Facebook: my official FB page, where I upload all my finished works, by WIPS and sketches and much more https://www.facebook.com/EnricaAngioliniArt
-DeviantART: my entire gallery and my personal journals are here http://eeren.deviantart.com/
-YouTube: I have a channel where I upload my drawing videos and tutorials https://www.youtube.com/user/LadyEren
-Tumblr: I don’t use it much, but I also upload here non-art related works and random stuff: http://www.ladyeren.tumblr.com
-My Official Portfolio: http://enricaangiolini.daportfolio.com

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 Me: Do you have any advice for all the aspiring artists out there?

Eren: My only advice is to never stop drawing. Don’t abandon your passion, even if it’s hard and it looks like you’re not making progresses (because even if you don’t see it, you’re always improving ;D). Keep on trying, exercising and dreaming. Art is all about passion and effort! Don’t get discouraged! ;D

 

For new fairy tale, Prince of Prophecy, and Writer’s Corner updates every Wednesday and Saturday, follow this blog!

Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Storks”

ON the last house in a little village the storks had built a nest, and the mother stork sat in it with her four young ones, who stretched out their necks and pointed their black beaks, which had not yet turned red like those of the parent birds. A little way off, on the edge of the roof, stood the father stork, quite upright and stiff; not liking to be quite idle, he drew up one leg, and stood on the other, so still that it seemed almost as if he were carved in wood. “It must look very grand,” thought he, “for my wife to have a sentry guarding her nest. They do not know that I am her husband; they will think I have been commanded to stand here, which is quite aristocratic;” and so he continued standing on one leg.

In the street below were a number of children at play, and when they caught sight of the storks, one of the boldest amongst the boys began to sing a song about them, and very soon he was joined by the rest. These are the words of the song, but each only sang what he could remember of them in his own way.

“Stork, stork, fly away,
Stand not on one leg, I pray,
See your wife is in her nest,
With her little ones at rest.
They will hang one,
And fry another;
They will shoot a third,
And roast his brother.”

“Just hear what those boys are singing,” said the young storks; “they say we shall be hanged and roasted.”

“Never mind what they say; you need not listen,” said the mother. “They can do no harm.”

But the boys went on singing and pointing at the storks, and mocking at them, excepting one of the boys whose name was Peter; he said it was a shame to make fun of animals, and would not join with them at all. The mother stork comforted her young ones, and told them not to mind. “See,” she said, “How quiet your father stands, although he is only on one leg.”

“But we are very much frightened,” said the young storks, and they drew back their heads into the nests.

The next day when the children were playing together, and saw the storks, they sang the song again—

“They will hang one,
And roast another.”

“Shall we be hanged and roasted?” asked the young storks.

“No, certainly not,” said the mother. “I will teach you to fly, and when you have learnt, we will fly into the meadows, and pay a visit to the frogs, who will bow themselves to us in the water, and cry ‘Croak, croak,’ and then we shall eat them up; that will be fun.”

“And what next?” asked the young storks.

“Then,” replied the mother, “all the storks in the country will assemble together, and go through their autumn manoeuvres, so that it is very important for every one to know how to fly properly. If they do not, the general will thrust them through with his beak, and kill them. Therefore you must take pains and learn, so as to be ready when the drilling begins.”

“Then we may be killed after all, as the boys say; and hark! they are singing again.”

“Listen to me, and not to them,” said the mother stork. “After the great review is over, we shall fly away to warm countries far from hence, where there are mountains and forests. To Egypt, where we shall see three-cornered houses built of stone, with pointed tops that reach nearly to the clouds. They are called Pyramids, and are older than a stork could imagine; and in that country, there is a river that overflows its banks, and then goes back, leaving nothing but mire; there we can walk about, and eat frogs in abundance.”

“Oh, o—h!” cried the young storks.

“Yes, it is a delightful place; there is nothing to do all day long but eat, and while we are so well off out there, in this country there will not be a single green leaf on the trees, and the weather will be so cold that the clouds will freeze, and fall on the earth in little white rags.” The stork meant snow, but she could not explain it in any other way.

“Will the naughty boys freeze and fall in pieces?” asked the young storks.

“No, they will not freeze and fall into pieces,” said the mother, “but they will be very cold, and be obliged to sit all day in a dark, gloomy room, while we shall be flying about in foreign lands, where there are blooming flowers and warm sunshine.”

Time passed on, and the young storks grew so large that they could stand upright in the nest and look about them. The father brought them, every day, beautiful frogs, little snakes, and all kinds of stork-dainties that he could find. And then, how funny it was to see the tricks he would perform to amuse them. He would lay his head quite round over his tail, and clatter with his beak, as if it had been a rattle; and then he would tell them stories all about the marshes and fens.

“Come,” said the mother one day, “Now you must learn to fly.” And all the four young ones were obliged to come out on the top of the roof. Oh, how they tottered at first, and were obliged to balance themselves with their wings, or they would have fallen to the ground below.

“Look at me,” said the mother, “you must hold your heads in this way, and place your feet so. Once, twice, once, twice—that is it. Now you will be able to take care of yourselves in the world.”

Then she flew a little distance from them, and the young ones made a spring to follow her; but down they fell plump, for their bodies were still too heavy.

“I don’t want to fly,” said one of the young storks, creeping back into the nest. “I don’t care about going to warm countries.”

“Would you like to stay here and freeze when the winter comes?” said the mother, “or till the boys comes to hang you, or to roast you?—Well then, I’ll call them.”

“Oh no, no,” said the young stork, jumping out on the roof with the others; and now they were all attentive, and by the third day could fly a little. Then they began to fancy they could soar, so they tried to do so, resting on their wings, but they soon found themselves falling, and had to flap their wings as quickly as possible. The boys came again in the street singing their song:—

“Stork, stork, fly away.”

“Shall we fly down, and pick their eyes out?” asked the young storks.

“No; leave them alone,” said the mother. “Listen to me; that is much more important. Now then. One-two-three. Now to the right. One-two-three. Now to the left, round the chimney. There now, that was very good. That last flap of the wings was so easy and graceful, that I shall give you permission to fly with me to-morrow to the marshes. There will be a number of very superior storks there with their families, and I expect you to show them that my children are the best brought up of any who may be present. You must strut about proudly—it will look well and make you respected.”

“But may we not punish those naughty boys?” asked the young storks.

“No; let them scream away as much as they like. You can fly from them now up high amid the clouds, and will be in the land of the pyramids when they are freezing, and have not a green leaf on the trees or an apple to eat.”

“We will revenge ourselves,” whispered the young storks to each other, as they again joined the exercising.

Of all the boys in the street who sang the mocking song about the storks, not one was so determined to go on with it as he who first began it. Yet he was a little fellow not more than six years old. To the young storks he appeared at least a hundred, for he was so much bigger than their father and mother. To be sure, storks cannot be expected to know how old children and grown-up people are. So they determined to have their revenge on this boy, because he began the song first and would keep on with it. The young storks were very angry, and grew worse as they grew older; so at last their mother was obliged to promise that they should be revenged, but not until the day of their departure.

“We must see first, how you acquit yourselves at the grand review,” said she. “If you get on badly there, the general will thrust his beak through you, and you will be killed, as the boys said, though not exactly in the same manner. So we must wait and see.”

“You shall see,” said the young birds, and then they took such pains and practised so well every day, that at last it was quite a pleasure to see them fly so lightly and prettily. As soon as the autumn arrived, all the storks began to assemble together before taking their departure for warm countries during the winter. Then the review commenced. They flew over forests and villages to show what they could do, for they had a long journey before them. The young storks performed their part so well that they received a mark of honor, with frogs and snakes as a present. These presents were the best part of the affair, for they could eat the frogs and snakes, which they very quickly did.

“Now let us have our revenge,” they cried.

“Yes, certainly,” cried the mother stork. “I have thought upon the best way to be revenged. I know the pond in which all the little children lie, waiting till the storks come to take them to their parents. The prettiest little babies lie there dreaming more sweetly than they will ever dream in the time to come. All parents are glad to have a little child, and children are so pleased with a little brother or sister. Now we will fly to the pond and fetch a little baby for each of the children who did not sing that naughty song to make game of the storks.”

“But the naughty boy, who began the song first, what shall we do to him?” cried the young storks.

“There lies in the pond a little dead baby who has dreamed itself to death,” said the mother. “We will take it to the naughty boy, and he will cry because we have brought him a little dead brother. But you have not forgotten the good boy who said it was a shame to laugh at animals: we will take him a little brother and sister too, because he was good. He is called Peter, and you shall all be called Peter in future.”

So they all did what their mother had arranged, and from that day, even till now, all the storks have been called Peter.

 

For new fairy tale, Prince of Prophecy, and Writer’s Corner updates every Wednesday and Saturday, follow this blog!

Writer’s Corner: Self Publishing–Not as easy as it looks

Around this time last year I started leaning towards publishing my first novel The Prince of Prophecy Vol. I: Destined without the hassle of looking for an agent or praying that a big publisher might give a first time author like me a chance. As those of you who have tried to publish a book may know, most publishers do not accept unsolicited manuscripts so cutting out the middle man (the agent) wouldn’t really help my situation. And that’s where I thought my dreams of being a published author would end—no agent, no publisher, and no chance.

Then I stumbled upon self-publishing. At first I was opposed to the idea—although it wasn’t for the right reasons. I thought print on demand books looked cheap and the title “self-published author” sounded so pretentious back then. However, I wanted my book published. I knew it was good and with some fine tuning I could make it even better. My ambitions outweighed my apprehension, and thus I decided to set aside my dreams of being signed with a big publisher.

Little did I know of the hurdles that awaited me…

The first things I did (to make things feel more official for me) was got out and register a Fictitious Business Name with my county, and applied for a business license. Next thing I knew Nautilus Press was up and running! I set up a website, a Facebook page, and a Twitter account for my business and waited for people to take an interest in my work. And I waited. And waited…

Nothing happened.

Not completely discouraged yet, I figured I’d expand my horizons a bit by creating a blog, buying some ad space on Facebook, and trying to advertise my book that way. Things picked up for a time and I acquired followers (albeit not as much as I’d hoped). Hope was temporarily restored for my “rags to riches” dream, and I thought that by the time by book was released in June I’d have HUNDREDS of devoted followers anxious to get their hands on a copy of my breakout novel, Destined.

I hired an illustrator—who was kind enough to take the job despite my only being able to pay her a pittance—to create the cover and six inside illustrations for the book. I begged friends, family, and acquaintances to edit the book for me since I didn’t have thousands of dollars to throw at a professional editor—needless to say, everyone did an excellent job and I’m proud to say that Destined is nearly pristine.

However, this was just the tip of the iceberg. Slowly new followers on my blog sites and new Facebook likes dwindled down to practically nothing. Not only that but I’d come to realize that I had to format my own books. Unfortunately, I didn’t know a thing about formatting—thank goodness for google, huh? Deadlines were creeping up on me (actually, they were charging at me like a bull at a matador), and no one seemed to care one way or another about all the time and money I was sinking into this book. It hurt. It made me want to quit. It made me feel like I was insignificant … and I still had so much to do before the book was released.

I was in way over my head with preparing the eBook, the paperback and the hardcover (the latter of which I don’t recommend if you haven’t got a large following), marketing the book, and making sure everyone I employed finished their work by the time I needed it done. It was like I was running a real business except I wasn’t getting paid anything to do the work!

I kept handing out more and more money in hopes of expanding my audience and maximizing sales when the book was finally released, but no matter how much money I spent nothing seemed to be getting any better. Despite how well-edited the book is, the beautiful cover art and illustrations that it contains, and the excellent reviews it has received from the few people who gave me, a first time author, a chance, I still haven’t broken even. I know I’ve got a great story (and apparently so do the people who’ve reviewed my book on Amazon.com, Barnes&Noble.com, and Goodreads.com), the problem is trying to get people to move past the stigma of self-publishing and give my books a shot. Trust me, that’s a lot harder than it sounds.

It took a lot of hard work to get where I am now, and, to be completely honest, I’m not in a much better position than when I started out. But I started down this path and, for better or for worse, I’m going to stick with it. The bright side? My books are beautiful and they’re done almost exactly the way I wanted them to be done. The integrity of my book remains intact, completely free of sparkling vampires and raunchy sex scenes. I met awesome people who, despite me being broke all the time, believe that my book series will be successful someday and are willing to help me make it the best that it can possibly be (I’m talking about you, Samantha and Eren).

The self-publishing path isn’t easy (as I hope you gathered from this article), and for a time you may find yourself working very, very hard for only a little return. Self-publishing is definitely not for those who give up when things get tough, nor for those who are content with throwing a half-finished manuscript onto the market. To produce a good book, you’ve got to put in the time and effort. You’ve got to truly believe that, despite the slow beginnings, your work is going to take off someday and never give up striving for it.

Bottom line: self-publishing is really hard … but I don’t regret starting down this path. I’m proud of all the work I’ve managed to complete by myself, and I know that I’ve got a really unique and interesting story in my Prince of Prophecy series. All the trials and tribulations I’ve faced aside, I’m happy with the fruits of my labors. And, as Frank Sinatra would say, I did it my way!

The Prince of Prophecy Vol. I: Destined and The Prince of Prophecy Vol. II: Cursed are available for purchase on Amazon.com and B&N.com.

 

For new, fairy tale, Prince of Prophecy, and Writer’s Corner updates every Wednesday and Saturday, follow this blog!

Lewis Carroll’s “As It Fell Upon a Day”

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As I was sitting on the hearth

(And O, but a hog is fat!)

A man came hurrying up the path,

(And what care I for that?)

 
When he came the house unto,

His breath both quick and short he drew.

 

When he came before the door,

His face grew paler than before.

 
When he turned the handle round,

The man fell fainting to the ground.

 
When he crossed the lofty hall,

Once and again I heard him fall.

 
When he came up to the turret stair,

He shrieked and tore his raven hair.

When he came my chamber in,

(And O, but a hog is fat!)

I ran him through with a golden pin,

(And what care I for that?)

 

For more fairy tale, poem, The Prince of Prophecy, and Writer’s Corner updates every Wednesday and Saturday, follow this blog!

“The Prince of Prophecy” Facebook Fan Page Contest

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Hey, everyone! I’m really excited to announce that The Prince of Prophecy Fan Page will be hosting its first FAN COMPETITION!!!! I’m so excited guys!

It’s super easy to enter! All you have to do to post a picture of yourself holding up your copy of “The Prince of Prophecy Vol. I: Destined” (softcover, hardcover, or eBook version on your ereader device will do) to the fan page, and comment on who your favorite character is and why. Be creative with your poses and responses, because the winner will receive a free eBook of “The Prince of Prophecy Vol. II: Cursed” on the device of their choice!

The contest will be open from now until 2/06/2015. For those of you who don’t have the first book yet, you can purchase it HERE.

I wish you all the best of luck, and happy reading!

Happy Birthday Jacob Grimm: “Simeli Mountain”

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There were two brothers; one was rich, the other poor. However, the rich one gave nothing to the poor one, who barely made a living as a grain dealer. Things often went so badly for him that he had no bread for his wife and children.

One day he was pushing his cart through the forest when off to the side he saw a large bare mountain. He had never seen it before, so he stopped and looked at it with amazement. While he was standing there he saw twelve tall wild men approaching. Thinking that they were robbers, he pushed his cart into the thicket, climbed up a tree, and waited to see what would happen.

The twelve men went to the mountain and cried out, “Mount Semsi, Mount Semsi, open up.” The barren mountain immediately separated down the middle. The twelve men walked into it, and as soon as they were inside it shut.

A little while later it opened again, and the men came out carrying heavy sacks on their backs. As soon as they were all back in the daylight they said, “Mount Semsi, Mount Semsi, close.” Then the mountain went back together, and the entrance could no longer be seen. Then the twelve men went away.

When they were completely out of sight, the poor man climbed down from the tree. He was curious to know what secret was hidden in the mountain, so he went up to it and said, “Mount Semsi, Mount Semsi, open up,” and the mountain opened up for him as well.

He went inside, and the entire mountain was a cavern full of silver and gold, and in the back of the cavern there lay great piles of pearls and sparkling jewels, piled up like grain. The poor man did not know what he should do, whether or not he could take any of these treasures for himself. At last he filled his pockets with gold, but he left the pearls and precious stones lying where they were.

Upon leaving he too said, “Mount Semsi, Mount Semsi, close,” and the mountain closed. Then he went home with his cart.

He no longer had any cares, for with his gold he could buy bread for his wife and children, and wine as well. He lived happily and honestly, gave to the poor, and did good for everyone. When he ran out of money he went to his brother, borrowed a bushel, and got some more money, but did not touch any of the very valuable things. When he wanted to get some more money for the third time he again borrowed the bushel from his brother. However, the rich man had long been envious of his brother’s wealth and of the fine household that he had furnished for himself. He could not understand where the riches came from, and what his brother wanted with the bushel. Then he thought of a trap. He covered the bottom of the bushel with pitch, and when he got the bushel back a gold coin was sticking to it.

He at once went to his brother and asked him, “What have you been measuring in the bushel?”

“Wheat and barley,” said the poor brother.

Then he showed him the gold coin and threatened that if he did not tell the truth he would bring charges against him before the court. Then the poor man then told him everything that had happened to him. The rich man immediately had his wagon hitched up and drove away, intending to do better than his brother had done, and to bring back with him quite different treasures.

When he came to the mountain he cried out, “Mount Semsi, Mount Semsi, open up.”

The mountain opened, and he went inside. There lay the riches all before him, and for a long time he did not know what he should take hold of first. Finally took as many precious stones as he could carry. He wanted to carry his load outside, but as his heart and soul were entirely occupied with the treasures, he had forgotten the name of the mountain, and cried out, “Mount Simeli, Mount Simeli, open up.”

But that was not the right name, and the mountain did not move, remaining closed instead. He became frightened, and the longer he thought about it the more he became confused, and all of the treasures were of no use to him.

In the evening the mountain opened up, and the twelve robbers came inside. When they saw him they laughed and cried out, “Bird, we have you at last. Did you think we did not notice that you came here twice? We could not catch you then, this third time you shall not get out again.”

He cried out, “I wasn’t the one. It was my brother!”

But however much he begged for his life, and in spite of everything that he said, they cut off his head.

 

I decided to upload this fairy tale by the Grimm brothers (it’s about two brothers–go figure) on Jacob Grimm’s ACTUAL birthday instead of yesterday (I was super busy with my launch party). I hope you enjoyed this fairy tale by Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm, and I’ll post again with another fairy tale on Wednesday! For more fairy tale, Prince of Prophecy, and Writer’s Corner updates every Wednesday and Saturday, follow this blog!