A Valentine’s Day Treat

I’ve been a recluse today, busily plugging holes. Plot holes, that is. But I am given to understand today is a special day, and deserves a special celebration, and so I give you all this gift, a very naughty scene from Bastien. Warning in advance: This content is very, very adult.

Chapter 5

BastienCoverAReThe cards are instantly forgotten. The door through which we entered is gone, vanished into thin air and all around me is pandemonium, a cornucopia of creatures from myth and legend. Three girls dance around the gathering, holding hands. It is only when I look closer that I realize how my eyes have deceived me. They aren’t holding hands—they have no hands at all. Rather, their arms are joined together at the wrist so as to make one creature of three.

Not far away, a stunningly beautiful woman covered only with vines and leaves cuddles three ghostlike lizards. They notice my regard and unfurl massive wings, baring rows of sharp teeth in warning. The woman hisses and disappears.

I spin in baffled circles as my mind struggles to make sense of this. Over there, a tall, handsome pair. Their skin is gray, their hair white as snow, and everywhere their bare feet touch, frost blooms across the ground. On the other side, a woman with hair literally made of gold. Behind her, a behemoth of a man; a monster with horns flowing from his temples, back along his head. His legs are like that of an animal, and giant bat wings are folded against his bare back. Right before me, a red haired woman laughs and twirls, faster and faster until she bursts into flames and burns away. As her ashes rain down, they swirl closer and tighter, growing thick with smoke until it solidifies and pales, and the woman is back again, dancing off somewhere else.

My companions have left me. They are scattered everywhere, as awestruck as I, approaching creatures with caution. Only Louis remains, a smug smirk on his face. “Well?”

“What is this? Where have you brought us?”

Louis grabs my shoulders and gives me a shake. “To Eden, my boy. Now stop gaping like an imbecile and enjoy! I want to introduce you to our hostess. She is… perfect.” He sounds like a green lad talking about a sweetheart.

I look for Adrien to reason me out of this madness. He is reclined on a bed of moss with a pale haired temptress feeding him grapes. Adeline is in the arms of the bat winged monster, dancing. The twins are watching the gray couple create ice sculptures out of thin air. I’ve lost sight of the others.

Somehow a flower shaped cup appears in my hand. “Go on,” Louis says. “Have a sip. I guarantee you’ve never tasted anything like it.” He toasts me with a drink of his own.

The chalice in my hands is alive, a real flower with petals soft as silk and glowing amber liquid inside. I am mesmerized by the sight of it. I take a sip, taste the sweet, thick nectar and sway on my feet. Head spinning, I look around again with dream hazed eyes. Suddenly everything makes sense as though I’ve known this place all my life. I am in the Faery court. I laugh. “Well done, Louis!”

A figure slams into me, turning me sideways. The woman spins around so fast she becomes invisible, and before I know up from down again, my back is against the wall and a shining silver blade is pressed against my throat. The attacker has hair as black as a crow’s feather and eyes red as fire. She is dressed in what looks like black ribbons wound around her body. She is furious, much stronger than she appears, and I have nothing to defend myself with. Even if I did, I suspect it would do no good against this creature so I hold still and try to appear harmless. The female bares her teeth at me and releases me with a huff. The ends of her ribbons trail after her as she walks away. She leaves bloody footprints behind.

“I see you’ve met Discord.”

Louis straightens and his eyes grow wide. He smiles like a child presented with a new toy and bows deeply to the newcomer. “My Lady.”

The woman is perhaps the only creature dressed as a human. Her gown is a simple sheath of silk, her hair is half braided around her head and flows down her back. She is beyond beautiful. When she smiles I feel as though the sun has risen and I am blinded. No wonder Louis is so smitten with her.

Louis shoves at me. I remember myself and take a bow. “My Lady,” Louis says, “allow me to introduce my best friend, Lord Bastien Sauvage.”

“I am Lilith. And Louis didn’t tell me he was bringing such lively company with him.” The reprimand is delivered so gracefully I almost miss it.

Louis seems dumbfounded and a little pale. If I know my friend, and I do, it never even occurred to him that we might not be welcome here. “You must forgive him,” I say. “He was utterly smitten at first sight of you and since then completely forgot himself. Now, having seen you for myself, I understand just how he feels.”

Lilith is lithe in form, nearly of a height with me. Her hair is the color of sun and her eyes shine pale like stars. Inhuman. Inhumanly beautiful. God could not have created this creature; she is too perfect a temptation. I find I am not interested in resisting her.

Louis clears his throat. “Right you are, Bastien.”

Lilith ignores him. “Charming,” she says to me. “Bastien, was it? Well, Bastien, you may come with me. This is a tea party compared to what I have planned for tonight. Perhaps we can see if you live up to your name, Savage.”

She offers her hand and I take it.

“But my Lady… Lilith!”

“You can entertain yourself for a while, can’t you, Louis?” she says without even bothering to look his way. “Corral that pack of animals you brought with you. This one I wish to keep an eye on myself.”

I put on my most charming smile. “I am at your service, Lilith.”

“Indeed you are.” Her tone makes me smile. I know what to expect from this one. And I cannot wait.

She leads me through a curtain of willow branches and the world changes again. Here, the lights are dim and everything is in shades of red and black. Fires burn in pits and around them piles of pillows are strewn about. There are creatures here, too. Most of them are writhing together in a tangle of limbs and appendages to a chorus of sighs and moans. The aura of sex and otherworldly magic brushes against my skin, inside my clothes, and makes me unsteady on my feet.

I drink deeply of the nectar I still have and with each swallow I feel more at ease. When my cup is empty, another replaces it. Hands reach out to me and pull back again. Covetous gazes follow me as Lilith leads the way through the throng to a bower in the center. The pillars are reedy trees and the roof is made of spider webs.

Once past the circle of pillars, the empty spaces between them fill with a reflective watery film. I am encased in a mirror box and all around me my doubles stare seemingly everywhere at once. I turn to the closest one. It doesn’t turn with me. I touch the surface, tracing my profile as my rippling reflection reaches out to something else.

Lilith appears next to me. Her dress is gone and she is naked, her loose hair creating a curtain to hide her nudity. She touches my shoulder and my clothing, too, disappears. She hands me another cup, this one black. “Beautiful, is it not?” She tunnels a hand beneath the fall of her hair and moves it over her shoulder, baring her rounded breast. “We are completely alone. No one will dare disturb us here.” She raises the cup in my hand to my mouth and tips it.

I drink and nearly choke on the first swallow. This is no nectar. It tastes sharp as lightning caught in a cup. My insides turn hot with it. Lilith takes the delicate chalice from me and tugs me to the pillows. I am on my back and my head is spinning, but my cock is hard and straining toward the welcoming heat of Lilith where she hovers so close above me. She kisses me, her hand strokes me and I groan into her mouth.

Lust is too tame a word for what I feel. I am on fire, desperate for release, suffocating. Air does not exist unless I’m kissing her. She laughs when I fist my hands in her hair and roll until she is pinned beneath me. Her laugh turns into a moan when I thrust into her to the hilt. My back bows with the pleasure of it and I turn into a rutting animal, the savage she named me.

Her limbs loop around me and she arches closer as I piston in and out of her. Her skin is like the silk she wore to hide it, cool to the touch but searing like a brand. Her nails are claws that leave bloody scratches in my back, but with a caress of her palm she takes the sting away. In the mirrors I can see the skin heal without a mark left behind. I see us together, my own arse and back, her legs shifting restlessly, hungry for more, just as I am.

My muscles strain and I give her all I have, and when her climax lifts both of us into the air, she drags me right after her into the most intense ecstasy I have ever felt. I am weightless, formless. I am nothing but euphoria and starlight. When I return to myself, I ache everywhere.

Another black cup presses to my lips. “Drink, lover,” Lilith purrs. “We are nowhere near finished.” As the liquid pours down my raw throat, her mouth travels over me. She tastes herself on my cock, still hard and ready, takes it into her mouth deep … so deep. I roar while she sucks me into another climax and am more than happy to return the favor before I mount her again. And again. And again.

Time means nothing. Another black cup, another whisper of praise, a demand for more, harder, now. I am helpless not to give. She robs me of everything and when I am exhausted, too weak to continue, presses another cup to my lips. It is an elixir of everlasting fuck. I don’t care where it keeps coming from or even what it is. All that matters is that while I am drinking it I can keep going as long as I want. And I want more.

Lilith laughs and lets me indulge, luxuriate in her body or fuck it any way I want. Her pleasure becomes mine and everything I am is hers. “More,” I snarl against her neck. “More, more…” the words punctuate each of my thrusts. Her limbs quiver as she clutches me. So do mine. She doesn’t scream her pleasure, she sighs it, and with that one breath steals my soul.

I fall back onto the pillows, gasping for air, reaching for that black cup which is sure to appear. Instead I see Lilith’s face hovering over me. Her eyes shine brighter than ever, her lips red as blood—red with blood. “Humans break so easily,” she murmurs with regret and leans down to press a soft kiss to my lips. I reach for her to deepen it, but she holds me back. Instead of a black cup, a white one appears in her hand and she eases an arm beneath my shoulders to help me drink from it.

An unbearable heaviness permeates me from head to toe. With her soft whispers in my ear telling me to rest now, I let my eyes close and embrace the waiting darkness.

Purchase Bastien at these fine retailers:

CreateSpace (print) | Smashwords | Amazon | Barned & Noble | Kobo | All Romance eBooks | iTunes | Diesel eBook Store | Sony eBook Store

wallpaper WS TBS

DIYDay Lesson 17: Swag

Greetings and salutations! I know you’ve all been itching for more of these lessons, so I figured the next step on our DIY journey is author swag. If you are just tuning in, I strongly suggest you check out the previous DIY posts which can be found here. There is a sort of method to my madness and it makes more sense when followed from the beginning. :)

100_5762

And now on to swag. What is it? Swag is an industry term for promotional materials and giveaway items related to the author and his/her books. The first thing you need to know about swag is it costs money. Yes. Sadly, the old adage is true. There is no such thing as a free lunch. You gotta spend money to make money. And when you have a brand new baby book on your hands, it’s so very easy to get carried away and go on a shopping spree for swaggage.

Time is moneyBefore you even think about swag, set a budget for it. A reasonable one. Personally, I like to set aside a portion of my royalties for this. That way, I am not spending what I haven’t earned, and I don’t need to worry about not making that money back up in sales. You may have heard it said that expenses like this will help you when it comes time for taxes. Well, yes and no. Some expenses will help, absolutely. But there is no redder flag than trying to write off more than you actually made. That will get you audited faster than you can say, “TYPO!”

So now that you have some money to burn, it’s time to decide on what works best and how much of it you’ll need. Here is where I can shed some insight. Consider the questions below:

  • BooAre you an outgoing person? Do you go to events, parties, clubs, coffee houses, etc.?
  • Do you like to talk to strangers about your books?
  • Do you plan to attend any writers’ conferences or get togethers?
  • Do you plan to hold contests and giveaways?
  • Will you have a signing?

The answers to these will determine the quantity of your swag items. Please note, several of the conferences I have seen do offer goody bags to attendees and welcome author contributions to them. However, they require 400-500 pieces of each item, and several will tell you no paper items (e.g. bookmarks, business cards, etc.). Keep that in mind when shopping around.

So what works best? Whatever it is, it should relate to you or your books in a specific way. Obviously, printed books work best of all, but they are also the most expensive. 500 print copies of your book will run you into the thousands, so tread carefully. If you’re on a budget, these would be specialty giveaway/contest items, not something you order in bulk.

cards-done

Click to enlarge

Other printed materials should be carefully considered. While they are the most economical, they are also the easiest to throw away by the people who receive them. Some are staples that, if designed well, work every time. Business cards are one.  Keep it simple, don’t go overboard with contact info, and make sure the color scheme is eye-catching enough that it is artful as well as informative. If your books are digital only, printed book cover postcards are a nice way to hand out autographs. Just be sure to size it properly (borders of any kind end up looking tacky) and order a card stock that will take ink so you can write on them (I’ve been burned by this before). Stickers can be a nice touch. Bookmarks are hit or miss since they are awkwardly sized and the eReader boom has significantly impacted how many paper books people purchase.

If it’s non-paper, swag is usually considered “premium” and depending on what it is, will also fetch a “premium” price. You can go really cheap and order pens with your name on them, or you can go all out and order tote bags, t-shirts, customized jewelry, etc. Whatever you choose, however, always keep in mind that it is a promotional item and should somehow link back to you or your books, otherwise you’re just throwing your money away. This is where having a custom URL will help you a great deal. ;) Something short and sweet that prints nicely and leads to a page with more information.

Swag

Now, I saved the best for last. Where to find affordable, customizable swag:

GotPrint.net (Fantastic for any sort of paper printing in bulk. Great quality prints, very user friendly, and always reliable. You can request a free generic sample package from them that will give you an idea of what the finished products look like.)

Vistaprint.com (Paper printing, and also other photo printing such as coffee mugs, mouse pads, etc.. Somewhat pricier than GotPrint and I am not fond of their templates, but worth a look nonetheless, just for the variety.)

Staples Promotional Products (From the most basic pens to backpacks and USB drives. This site takes only simple designs, so it’s great for logos and catch phrases, not so much for photos and images.)

Zazzle.com (This site is geared toward re-selling your designs so if you are itching to start your own merchandise line, this is your site. They don’t give much of a bulk discount, though so be ready to shell out some serious dough for any promotional giveaways.)

Cafepress.com (Very much like Zazzle. Check them out for a catalog of available items and compare prices with Zazzle to see which is a better fit.)

Happy swagging!

Alianne vs. The Legs: The Inseam Controversy

I am done. Finished. I’ve had it. This injustice will not be borne!

Jeans

And not an ass crack to be seen.

When exactly has the clothing industry for ordinary people turned into a shape Nazi?

In the last few years, I have watched clothing on the racks of my favorite stores take a nosedive in both appeal and quality and shrink to the size of a 5’4″ anorexic. It’s maddening! What the hell is a size 0?? Since when does a waistband 2″ below the belly button qualify as “high waist”? And someone explain to me what “curvy skinny jeans” are. Please. I would really like to know.

And while we’re on the subject, just an FYI, I don’t need “skinny” jeans. Nor do I want a “second skin” or “spray-on”–really? Come on! I’m 5’11″ and my stems look like I stole them off an ostrich! I put on skinny jeans and I might as well be walking on toothpicks.

But apparently, the definition of “wide leg” has been updated to mean just loose enough that the seams don’t stretch over your body. I just want regular loose fit jeans. Is that too much to ask? Why does my choice have to be this in the women’s section:

Ultra-Low-Rise-Jeans-Imageor this in the men’s:

Karl_Kani_Baggy_Jeans

Photo courtesy of Wikipedia because I don’t think they actually make these anymore either.

And what on earth is up with this??? No, really…what?:

low-rise-jeans-men-womenCall me old fashioned, or old, if you prefer (because apparently 27 qualifies as old now), but back in my day, jeans were the go-to pants for comfort. They weren’t a fashion statement, or an excuse to show more than anyone ever wanted to see. They fit without needing to be adjusted every time I moved, covered what needed covering, and could take one hell of a beating. That fabric could survive a freaking atomic explosion.

Now? I put my stretch jeans through the wash one time and the inseam shrinks by an inch–and for a gal of my height, that just pisses me off. It’s amazing how sizes can go up to 5XL now, easily accommodating curvy bodies, but ask for tall sizes and people look at you like you’re from a different planet. “We don’t carry those here.” Sure, yeah, I feel you. No one else does, either. Did you know, there is a certain brand of jeans which comes in “long” but the “regular” is actually longer? I am not making this up.

*deep breath* Ohm…

You’re probably wondering what brought on this psychotic rant. The answer is simple: My one good pair of jeans is falling apart. I’ve had these pants for about ten years now, a lucky find in a close-out sale, they were the very last ones in my size and I adore them.  Faded gray, wide leg that’s actually wide, they even came with a matching belt. So I went online (because I have long ago given up on stores carrying my size of a 36-37″ inseam) hoping against hope that someone somewhere would have the perfect pair of jeans in my size just waiting for me to click BUY.

You know what I’ve discovered? They don’t. Not the cheap places, not the regular stores, not the off the wall fashion stores, not even the super high-end websites where a pair of pants will run you $400 or more. Everywhere I look, I see bone-thin models wearing painted-on blue fabric that just barely covers the front and leaves the back hanging out, and flares the slightest bit below the knee, if at all.

There is so little variety it makes me truly sad. And not just for the lack of imagination, but also for all those women out there like me who have a harder and harder time finding clothes that fit. I’m not a fashionista. I don’t follow the latest trends. I’m just happy to have clothes I can move in, that I don’t have to replace every two months. Really, the jeans aren’t for me so much as everyone else. Without them, I would wear sweatpants or hiking cargos on a daily basis (as my friend and frustrated photographer Mia can attest).

So please, if anyone is listening, bring back proper jeans. I, and the world at large would be ever so grateful.

Sincerely,

This gal:

P6180096

Baby It’s Cold Outside And You’ve Got Work To Do!

Hello and welcome to the first Just Romance BlogHop of 2014! If you’re just joining us, you can check out all the participating authors from the beginning by clicking the picture below:


JustRomance.me Bloghops

And now here’s my contribution to the warm chills and heated shivers: An excerpt from my latest release, The Royal Wizard. Winter days are perfect for getting cozy and learning a little magic, wouldn’t you agree? ;)

* * * * *

Concentrate

* * * * *

TRWNew“Listen until you hear everything. Every movement of the air as you breathe, every beat of your heart, the hum of the candle flame, the chatter of mice…everything.”

Saeran shifted to find a more comfortable position and strained his ears to listen. “I hear nothing.”

“You are not listening hard enough. Concentrate. It helps if you close your eyes.” She closed her own to demonstrate. “Put everything from your mind but the sounds, and listen not only with your ears, but with your heart.”

Saeran breathed in deeply and held his breath, counting heartbeats. He could hear them getting louder, but only because they were thrumming in his head now. Expelling the air from his lungs in an explosive sigh, Saeran shook himself and tried again. He drummed his fingers on the table—that he could hear. He tapped his foot. Also a sound his keen ears were able to pick up. Besides that, he heard nothing. “This is boring. When can I work a spell?”

“When you learn to hear what is around you,” she said without opening her yes. “A thing will tell you how it wants to be changed. It will know your intent and help you achieve it. A pitcher will know when you want it to float next to the table instead of sitting on it. It will do as you command. But a flower will not obey a command to grow if it knows your only intent is to pluck it.”

There was wisdom in her words. She sat unmoving, composed, but still at ease. Saeran’s backside was starting to ache from sitting on the hard chair, yet Nia didn’t show any discomfort at all. Her control over herself was astounding.

She knew what to do and was the only one who could teach him. He would have to learn on her terms and trust she would lead him true. Saeran closed his eyes again and quieted his mind. For a long time, nothing happened. He heard nothing but his own breathing, felt nothing but his weight sinking into the chair.

But then it began to change. Slowly, he began feeling lighter, almost floating. His hands felt warm, his head swam. The flicker of torchlight cast shadows on his eyelids, and he followed the movement as if he could see the real flames dancing.

Suddenly he heard them. Two torches, then three, and then all of them. They were singing! Not in the sense of a human voice, but it was a melody nonetheless. They sang in the direction of the book shelves, as if performing for them, and Saeran’s awareness floated toward the dark alcove. The scrolls and tomes there whispered. He could hear words so ancient and powerful they sent a chill up his spine, and he knew such knowledge in the wrong hands could destroy with impunity.

Wary of it, Saeran withdrew.

He pictured Nia in his mind, sitting in front of him, regal as any queen, and suddenly he heard her breath as he did his own. He heard her heart beat like a drum to the rhythm of life all around him.

SaeranSaeran opened his eyes, amazed when the sounds didn’t dull. He saw Nia there, and she was so beautiful it pained him. She hadn’t moved, sitting quietly with her eyes closed. Saeran had faced armies, felt warriors’ souls leave their bodies and seen peace at last in their dying eyes. He’d met with great kings, masters of every trade, wizards and holy men; sought their knowledge and wisdom. Nia’s silence was more profound than anything those men had ever taught him. Her serenity seeped into his bones and made him feel as if no ill or plight could touch him as long as she was there.

He leaned toward her, captivated by this strange, beautiful dream, and reached out to touch her. His fingers brushed through her hair, and the golden strands chimed for him a harmony of countless strings. Nia tensed. But she didn’t move. Saeran felt like a master musician, playing the silken strands to yield a melody that shamed the most accomplished bards.

The music all around him grew louder to compliment his movements. He did it again, savoring the sound as clear as crystal, and then he leaned closer still and touched his mouth to hers.

The song quieted. His ears became deaf to everything but the beat of his heart, thumping in perfect unison to hers. He kissed her softly, reverently, and Nia yielded to him with a sigh that shivered through his soul.

In that moment, Saeran sensed everything stop and wished it could stay that way forever. Shrouded in silence, hidden in the depths of time itself, Nia looped her arms around his neck and he pulled her closer still. The table was gone. They floated together in a warm current of air that folded around them like a blanket.

They had no anchor to latch on to except each other. Saeran held Nia so tightly he could feel her heartbeat against his chest, yet it still wasn’t enough. He needed more. Her heart set the rhythm of his. Saeran wanted inside her skin, to touch her soul and bind it to his.

Sounds began to intrude. Someone was approaching.

A sharp knock at the door rang out in deafening echoes, jolting Saeran and Nia out of the trance and they fell to the ground several feet apart.

Nia stared at the prince, frozen in shock, unable to look away. Her heart was racing so fast she couldn’t catch her breath. Saeran seemed similarly incapacitated. He looked as if he wished to say something, but couldn’t find his voice. And neither of them dared to blink.

Want to read more? The Royal Wizard is now available in eBook and print format!

Smashwords | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Kobo | All Romance eBooks | iTunes |  Sony eBook Store

Watch Trailer:

http://youtu.be/pWWEKW1mOPU

Fairy Tales (or why my childhood was better than your childhood)

Brace yourselves, this might get political.

Christmas in my family is a time of re-watching old movies, mostly fairy tales, from the home country. See, when I was growing up across the pond in Europe, Disney movies were picture books with accompanying audio tapes (one side in English and the other in my home language translation). I was therefore never indoctrinated in the magic that is Disney, and though I love it now, I have to say I love my own childhood fairy tales more. Here is why:

CinderellaCinderella2 Cinderella vs. Prince Charming

Everyone loves a good rags to riches story. Every poor girl dreams of being a princess. But given a choice, I would rather be a kick ass princess than, well, what Disney presented. In the animated Disney version, Cinderella has a household of mice to help her make a dress, and when it’s destroyed, the fairy godmother magically appears to save the day, giving her a beautiful carriage and horses to boot! She doesn’t have to do anything to earn it except have a magical relative. And think about it. If the godmother can do that much, why does the magic fade at midnight? Why couldn’t it last forever? When the prince goes to find her afterward, all he has to do is fit the shoe on Cinderella’s foot and the happily ever after music plays. Sweet, but eh…

In my version, Cinderella is a rebel. She goes riding when her stepmother doesn’t see, she hunts, she shoots crossbows, and she’s not afraid to stand up for what is right. She pokes fun at the spoiled prince, bests him in a shooting contest, and at the ball, when he asks her to marry him, she doesn’t say yes. She gives him a riddle and tells him that until he can answer correctly, she can’t be with him. Her magic is limited not by an arbitrary time of night, but by a number. She has three magic tree nuts, each of which holds a special disguise, and once they run out, that’s it.

The moral of the story: While Disney teaches kids that magic makes everything possible, the European version teaches that magic only gives you a chance. You still have to be worthy of the prince at the end–and he has to be worthy of you! More importantly, there is a practical limit to what it can do and you must use it wisely. Now that’s the story I would want to teach my kids.

AuroraAurora2 Sleeping Beauty vs. Thorns

The biggest question of this tale is why? Aurora is cursed at birth because (in the Disney version) the evil fairy Maleficent wasn’t invited to the birthday celebration. It seems a bit weak as an excuse, don’t you think? I mean, of all the kids being born in the kingdom, did she get invited to all of them? Was she at the king’s or the queen’s birthday celebration? Why was this particular one so unique, especially considering how antisocial Maleficent seems to be? I have no answer. Do you? How about this: Why did no one tell Aurora not to mess with spinning wheels? I mean, it seems pretty obvious, right? You don’t want someone to do something, you tell them not to do it. If I know one thing about kids, the more you try to hide something, the more determined they are to find it.  Another thing that always sticks in my craw with these princess stories is why is there never time for the hero and heroine to get to know each other? It’s like it doesn’t matter who they are. They’re beautiful and rich, and that’s a solid basis for marriage and happily ever after. Umm… no.

See, in the European version, it’s the queen’s sister who curses the child. And she does it because she was spurned by the king. He was supposed to marry the older sister, but fell in love with the younger instead. She was invited to the celebration, but chose not to attend, and when the king and queen brought their daughter to meet her aunt, she cursed the child out of spite. In this version, the king and queen rid the kingdom of all prickly things, and tell their daughter early on that she is cursed and therefore must be careful. And on her 17th birthday, they try desperately to save her by marrying her off so her prince can take her away from the cursed kingdom. Only problem is, she falls for the younger brother because the older is a douche, and when the engagement to the older is announced, she refuses him and the royal family (including the younger prince) leave. She is tricked into pricking her finger, and it is the younger prince who saves her (because the douche doesn’t think it’s his responsibility). But he doesn’t immediately know what to do, he has to learn to swim, he has to dig through a channel until his hands are bloody, he has to cut through the rose bushes while the evil aunt tries to kill him, and when he finds the princess, he sings to her first, hoping to wake her. Only when that doesn’t work does he kiss her and save the day.

The moral of the story: Love is not easy, and it is not fair, as Disney would have you believe. Life is complicated. People are multifaceted and even those closest to you can turn against you when their pride is hurt. Love needs to be found and fought for, it’s not a natural birthright that will magically happen when you turn 18, and the royal prince is not always the one who will give you that happily ever after. Yet another lesson well learned.

BelleBelle2 Beauty vs. Beast

This is one of my favorite fairy tales, both Disney and otherwise. While I love the Disney version, it has issues. For example, why was the prince cursed, really? For not letting a stranger into his house while his parents were away? Where were his parents? Why ten years for the curse? In all that time, he must have cared for some of his servants, and they most certainly cared about him, so why wasn’t that love enough to break the curse? Why did he have to get the most beautiful girl in town? Wasn’t the point that he learn beauty is found within? In the end it has to be Belle who learns it. It doesn’t seem right.

Now, the European version (or rather the Russian one, since Russia is part European part Asian), there is no prince, or kingdom. The hero and heroine are both from poor village families. The hero, a beautiful but vain and careless snot, decides to go out into the world. He encounters a magical gnome who plays games with him and gives him an enchanted bow as a prize. But the hero doesn’t thank him properly, so he is cursed into a bear for his lack of manners. He only turns back into a man when he performs a good deed (and learns the meaning of the phrase). The heroine is more like Cinderella. Her evil stepmother and stepsister force her father to take her out into the middle of the woods in winter to freeze to death because she’s prettier than the stepsister. There, she is found by the king of winter, who sees her goodness and takes her in. He has to go out to do his job, but forgets his frozen staff which turns anything into ice. The heroine touches it and freezes until her hero finds her and wakes her with true love’s kiss. But it’s not over yet! Bandits conspire, an evil witch has a bone to pick. On their way home, the hero and heroine are attacked and have to fight for their lives. Now isn’t that more believable than talking furniture?

The moral of the story: Magic isn’t arbitrary (or shouldn’t be). A good heart will get you farther than a beautiful face. Caring for people is more important than pretty dresses and jewels. What goes around, comes around. And most importantly, never mess with forces beyond your ken. R E S P E C T.

I could go on, but I think I’ve made my point. In its quest to entertain with lovely music and pretty moving pictures, Disney has created a franchise of entertainment, but left out the true heart of its fairy tales, the lessons those tales were created to teach in the first place. Are they beautiful? To be sure. Worth watching? Absolutely. Should they be used as role models and aspirations for children? I think not. Nevertheless, they are. Every little girl wants to be a Disney princess, without thinking about what that truly means. Fairy wands and pretty dresses, and a prince charming ready to sweep them off their feet. Because Disney tells us this is a veritable guarantee. For every little girl there is a handsome prince and all she has to do is wait for him to show up–and notice all these stories have little to say about the princes themselves. What is a little boy to aspire to? Showing up and being handsome and rich?

Thanks, but I think I’ll keep my fairy tales gritty and realistic, and my expectations low enough to be achievable. I’m not afraid to get my hands dirty in the name of love. Are you?