A Rose in the Shadows

Red Rose, proud Rose, sad Rose of all my days!
Come near me, while I sing the ancient ways . . .
In all poor foolish things that live a day,
Eternal beauty wandering on her way.
“To the Rose upon the Rood of Time” by William Butler Yeats (1893)

I took the photo below on the side of my apartment building. I had to bend down to snap it, having nearly passed it by in my haste to get to my car. But a flash of red had caught my eye, and I discovered a rose almost hidden in the shadows—a little bit of beauty to brighten my day.

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More than once my father has advised me to slow down and pay attention to life. Otherwise, by rushing through it, I might miss the tiny bursts of beauty and wonder along the way.

It’s like the old saying: “Stop and smell the roses.” You’ve heard it and you understand it. But do you also think about the people, animals, or items you almost pass by—little pockets of beauty begging to be noticed? Like the child who offers you a shy smile at the grocery store. Or your beaming four-year-old who stops you on your way to work just to hand you a hard-to-decipher drawing made just for you. Or how about your elderly uncle or aunt whose nuggets of wisdom are sometimes discounted by others but seldom wrong? And what about that bird whose song wakes you up in the morning—a concert you get free each day? Unlike the rose by my apartment building, you can’t see it. The early morning shadows keep it hidden away. But you can listen and be inspired. While you’re at it, you might as well take in the sunrise—nature’s daily fireworks free of charge.

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Do your soul a favor. Stop. Look. Listen. You never know when you might find a rose hidden in the shadows.

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Sunrise photo from wallpaprer.com.

Wicked World Building: Filling the Space in Wicked Lovely

Before I get into what that title is all about, it’s time to reveal the winner of another book, this one by the fabulous Adi Rule. Click here for the interview with Adi if you missed it.

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The winner of Strange Sweet Song is . . .

Is . . .

Is . . .

Is . . .

Ellar Cooper!

Congrats, Ellar! Please confirm below, then email me at lmarie7b(at)gmail(dot)com to provide your snail mail address! If for some reason, you do not wish to receive the book you won or already have a copy of the book, please comment below and I’ll choose another winner. Thanks for commenting!

Moving on, here’s a question for you (um, not just Ellar—anyone can answer): Why is the art of Maurits Cornelis Escher so fascinating? He plays with our perspective in illustrations of stunning symmetry. In one illustration, he’ll fill up every inch of space evenly. For example, M. C. Escher: Visions of Symmetry by Doris Schattschneider features an illustration entitled “Baarn XII-48” (Schattschneider 174; see illustration below right). In it, Escher shows a series of boats—the same brown boat each time—going west. What at first appears to be a green backdrop of waves is really a series of fish heading in the same direction. You have to take a closer look to see them.

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305234Melissa Marr is like Escher in the way she built the world of Wicked Lovely, a young adult paranormal romance. (This isn’t a new release, so you should easily find it at your library if you’re interested.) Two worlds are depicted within the same space. At first glance we see a town as real as anyplace found in our world. This is Huntsdale, where the main character, 18-year-old Aislinn Foy lives. It has pool halls, Catholic schools, and tattoo parlors. But take a closer look. Marr fill up every inch of space with a second world enmeshed with the first. That’s the faery world.

Feeling claustrophobic yet? You will.

A hint of the interlinked worlds occurs when Marr introduces Aislinn in a pool hall:

Aislinn circled the table, paused, and chalked the cue. Around her the cracks of balls colliding, low laughter, even the endless stream of country and blues from the jukebox kept her grounded in the real world: the human world, the safe world. It wasn’t the only world, no matter how much Aislinn wanted it to be. But it hid the other world—the ugly one—for brief moments. (4)

Marr shows the claustrophobia of Aislinn’s world, thanks to the intrusive, relentless faeries. A few paragraphs later, a faery gets up close and personal with Aislinn by blowing on her neck and touching her hair, confident that he can’t be seen, heard, or felt by normal humans. But Aislinn is anything but normal. She has “the Sight”—an ability (or curse in her case) to see and feel the fey. But to protect herself, she has to pretend that she’s “normal” and therefore, can’t feel or see the fey.

Aislinn lives by three rules: “Don’t stare at invisible faeries, Rule #3” (11); “don’t answer invisible faeries, Rule #2” (12); and rule #3: “Don’t ever attract faeries’ attention” (13). Unfortunately for her, the fey have a way of forcing her to break those rules. One such faery, Keenan, the Summer King, is relentless in his pursuit of her. And that’s the conflict of Wicked Lovely.

There are two things a fantasy writer can do to build a fantasy world: (1) adapt an existing world or (2) invent a new world. Either way, the world has to make sense to the reader.

To populate her world, Marr used the hierarchy of the Seelie and Unseelie Courts from Scottish folklore and William Butler Yeats’s solitary and trooping fey classification from Irish folklore.

19432758The fey are the sidhe—“the Good People” or the Fair Folk. The fey of the Seelie Court are considered benevolent (Seelie means “blessed” according to Wikipedia) while the Unseelie Court fey are malevolent. The trooping fey, according to Yeats in Irish Fairy and Folk Tales, are fallen angels “not good enough to be saved, nor bad enough to be lost” (Yeats, 11). They are fairy royalty with entourages, while the solitary fey lack an allegiance to a court and come in many styles: leprechauns—from the Irish leith bhrogan or “one-shoemaker”; cluricauns—drunken leprechauns; far darrig—“red man”—leprechauns with red caps who play horrible jokes on people; fear gorta—“man of hunger”—a spirit that goes around begging for food; house spirits; and others (57). Many solitary fey are evil (Maleficent in Sleeping Beauty below) while others are merely mischievous.

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In Marr’s world, Aislinn and other humans are powerless against the machinations of the fey. Aislinn constantly watches as the fey play pranks on humans, most of whom remain oblivious.

By the end of the book and the defeat of the antagonist, Aislinn has grown in confidence and even sets some rules of her own that the fey have to live with. Aislinn’s rules are her way of making the best of the world she now inhabits—a world even more enmeshed than when the story began.

Now that’s some wicked world building!

Works Cited
“Classification of fairies.” Wikipedia. Web. 13 March 2014. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Classifications_of_fairies>
Marr, Melissa. Wicked Lovely. New York: HarperTeen, 2007. Print.
Schattschneider, Doris. M. C. Escher: Visions of Symmetry. New York: W. H. Freedman and Company, 1990. Print.
Yeats, William Butler, editor. Irish Fairy and Folk Tales. Digireads.com Publishing, 2010. eBook.

Escher image, “Baarn XII-48,” found at Pinterest.com. Maleficent from fanpop.com. Book covers from Goodreads.