Saturday, June 24, 2017

June 24th is International Fairy Day

Today we celebrate the Fairies in our midst. Yes, around the world there are those who still believe in the Little People and their magical powers. However, there are some folks who may not have a lot of good things to say about Fairies. That's because Fairies have not always used their powers to benefit the human race. In some places Fairies are noted for their dirty tricks and their attacks on cattle and crops. For that reason, Fairies were often feared. Some of them were thought to have skills in casting spells or in healing, much like witches. In fact, In pre-Christian times when Fairies flourished, no one wanted to refer to by name.

Belief in Fairies as supernatural beings dates back to ancient pagan times and the "old religion" centuries before Christianity was known. In pagan times Fairies were more frightening to the ancients than ghosts. So fearful were the people of that time, they took great care to steer clear of any action that might cause offense. Some ancients even constructed their dwellings in such a way as to avoid blocking a Fairy's path! Legends about Fairies are most popular in Europe, especially in Scotland, Ireland, and Wales.
In Scottish legend, Fairies are divided into two separate and equally powerful groups: Seelies, and Unseelies. The former are simply mischievous, but the latter are considered evil and dangerous. The most despicable ones are those who take human babies, replacing them with Fairy youngsters. These are known as changelings.
Did you know traditional Fairies didn't have wings? Those with wings came much later. These are the Fairies we are probably most familiar with, the tiny winged creatures we've seen in old oil paintings in museums and in children's Fairy tales. Fairies come in many forms and by many names: brownies, dwarfs, sprites, banshees, goblins, hobgoblins, witches, mermaids, bug-a-boos, leprechauns, Fairy god-mothers, and there is the Celtic goddess, Danu who's known as the mother of Ireland's cave Fairies. There are hundreds more as well.
In Irish mythology, Fairies were thought to be the first race of people to settle in Ireland. They were known as the Tuatha De Danaan. During the Neolithic and Bronze Ages, smaller-built races did inhabit areas in Europe and the British Isles. Like the Hobbits in Lord of the Rings, there is evidence that these smaller races lived in barrows burrowed under hills and mounds. These folk had a strong psychic sense, worshiped pagan deities, and lived close to nature. And that is why this author capitalizes the word Fairy, as it is the name of a race.
As more and more people came to the Emerald Isle, endless battles among the races caused the Tuatha De Danaan to retreat into forests and caves. Others hid in the earth in places such as "hidden mounds" (sidhe). Many of these ancient mounds are now known to be actual graves. However, inside some of these mounds it's believed this ancient race, these "Hidden People", entered a different dimension where time does not exist, a dimension parallel to our own.
When I was growing up, my mother saw to it that I had a large collection of beautiful storybooks about fairies and fairy tales. One of my favorite tales was one called Child Roland. As I remember, it was a story about several lovely princesses who were turned into precious stones by an evil wizard who used the gems to decorate his palace walls. Child Roland, a handsome prince, was the hero. My other favorite story was Puss N' Boots. I also had a cat, a small black cat. Wish I could remember his name.
Below, are two of my favorite poems from a poetry book I managed to hang onto from early childhood.

My mom loved fairy tales too, and she read to me a lot. When she took me to the park, she would show me how to build a Fairy a house from broken twigs with a roof of green moss. If there were wild violets growing nearby, we'd have flowers in the front yard and a pathway lined with small stones. On our next park visit, we'd inspect the twig house to see if any Fairies had moved in yet.

This brings me to what I believe and how Topaz the Conjure Cat Books came about. My husband and I had several cats. Or should I say several cats inhabited our home and did as they pleased, our two Siamese cats taking far more liberties than any of the others. Just to prove it, there is a winged-back, Queen Anne chair in the guest bedroom, the back of it totally shredded. All the same, we love cats, and our adult children love cats, and their children love cats. To put it simply - that's why there's a fictional cat named Topaz as the hero of my series. Do I actually believe in Fairies? Well, I'm not quite sure. Whenever I see a ring of toadstools peeping through the grass in our back yard, I always wonder if there's Fairies somewhere nearby.

Cat among the Fairies by John Anster Christian Fitzgerald (1819 – 1906)
P, Elves, Goblins, Trolls, and Leprechauns were the most common species of folklore.

Friday, June 9, 2017

Seven Magic Keys to Supercharge Your Writing

What Supercharges Your Writing Enthusiasm?

As a children's author, I always have one foot in the land of fantasy and magic. I'm forever on the lookout for another exciting adventure for Topaz. He's my furry, four-legged hero with luminous eyes. Anything might ignite the next imaginative spark that launches Topaz on another remarkable journey of danger and discovery. That's why it's important to me to make a note of what inspires my writing and to practice it as often as necessary.
However, what works for me may not electrify your "little gray cells", if I may borrow a famous phrase from one of my favorite sleuths, Agatha Christie's Hercule Poirot. But when you find out what tickles that imagination of yours, jot it down, for it may vanish as quickly as a dream upon awakening. This insight is one of the Magic Keys you'll want to keep handy for those times when your writing isn't going so well.

Here Are Few of Mine:

1. Practice. Although I write at home, I begin writing at about the same time every day. It's my job, and I take it seriously. My writing day is anywhere from six to eight hours long.

2. Work on more than one project at a time. Working on more than one story at a time or balancing writing with time spent on marketing stimulates my thinking process and keeps me from getting stale. It's always good to have more than one story in progress because I'm not starting from scratch when the first book is about ready to publish.  Valuable time may be saved by doing it this way, and I find it inspiring to alternate between two stories. When I hit a blank wall with one story-line, I can work on the other. I may be several chapters into a second book by the time I finish the first book.

3. Exercise. A morning walk or some other form of exercise is good for the brain as well as the body. And, there's no telling who or what I may encounter that will trigger an intriguing new twist to my story.
4. Begin a conversation with your characters. When I'm stuck for a new plot or I'm in need of a dilemma for a new book, I will sometimes list the names of all of my characters on a page and then begin a conversation amongst them. Since most of my characters are the same, book after book, this method usually works well. When it doesn't, there's always number 5.

5. Talk to a friend or a neighbor. Better yet, talk to the ten-year-old boy down the street. A few days ago my neighbor Jan a retired school teacher, came up with a wonderfully fascinating idea for a plot for my next book.

6. Read something every day. I love to read. At the moment, I'm reading a series written by Peter Tremayne. These are fictional mysteries that take place in Ireland in the seventh century. I'm also reading 100 Cupboards by N.D. Wilson. Wilson's book is an enthralling, middle-grade adventure fantasy about a twelve-year-old boy who accidentally discovers mysterious cupboards, each door a portal into another world. When I need a big dose of inspiration, I read from a tattered little poetry book I had as a child. The book contains poems about trees, fairies, sprites, dragons, puffins, pirates, and much more.

7. Take a nap! I would sometimes prefer to work through the entire eight-hour day, eating lunch at the computer. However, my mind, as well as my body, have other priorities. Try as I may to get around it, I need a one-hour afternoon nap, something I never did as a child.

One Final Note:

I believe writing is a discipline. It's something I must work at on a daily basis. Whether it's working on marketing or writing my next middle-grade chapter book, writing is always a part of my daily routine. Not to write is unthinkable. I've had layoffs from writing, like the time I had rotator cuff surgery on my right shoulder. When I began to write again, it was a bit of a struggle to get back into the rhythm of my previous routine. My point is -as long as I stay disciplined, I am inspired to write. It's the discipline that keeps my inspiration alive.
So, now that you know my Seven Magic Keys and how they keep me writing, tell me some of yours.

Sunday, May 7, 2017

First Place for Topaz and the Green Fairies

Topaz and the Green Fairies wins Reader's Views 2016 - 2017 First Place Classics Award in children's book

Reviewed by Faryal Jabbar (age 15) for Reader Views (2/17)

“Topaz and The Green Fairies” by Pat Frayne takes place in a magical world of green fairies, lovable animals, and a strong King Conjure Cat ruling over the desired land Knownotten. Bozel, a young green fairy must save his entire species from a treacherous storm that is threatening to destroy their island and its inhabitants. He embarks on a rocky journey, braving the desolate Barren Island, home to the black fisher bats. He makes friends and finds new species on his journey to find a new home for his people. Will King Topaz, Bozel, and the rest of the gang be able to rescue the green fairies before the island is swallowed by the great Slewnecky River?

While reading this novel I had the recurring feeling of warmth and intrigue, a perfect combination for a bedtime story. The book reminded
me of a big book of classic children stories I used to have and the magical animals that lived in those pages. Though I thought that the story was stretched to a slower pace in some chapters, this book would be excellent for fantasy loving children around the ages of seven to twelve. Bozel is easy to relate to and I think anyone could see a part of themselves in at least one of the diverse characters. The written thoughts of the characters helped me empathize with the characters, as I believe many children will. I would advise readers to go in without any presumptions–I went into the book with the image of talking animals who acted like people. However, I was pleasantly surprised to find that the author added realistic animal behaviors to the characters making them feel more real.

Mrs. Frayne effortlessly switched through different points of views, each character nicely developed, however, I was left wondering about the mysterious spirit on Barren Island and King Topaz. I especially loved the beautiful imagery and the map included in the book. The morals I found in the book included friendship, family, and above all–not to judge a book by its cover. For those looking for an exciting story for their children, or frankly, anyone who loves a fresh classical adventure, I recommend “Topaz and The Green Fairies” by Pat Frayne.