New Imprint Coming Soon

Açedrex Publishing is proud to announce the biggest news since our founding:

RPP

Rook’s Page is a joint venture with a trusted colleague. We’ll be publishing exciting books in English. Coming soon, a three-volume series aptly titled The Best Short Stories.

Açedrex Publishing is also taking on a new edition of the perennial favorite, The Laughing Princess by Seymour Hamilton. This time, full-color illustrations and line drawings by the immensely talented Shirley MacKenzie will be found throughout. See some of Shirley’s work here  and check back for updates!

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Seymour Hamilton on The Laughing Princess as Audio and Teaching Tool

As a teacher myself, and in conversation with other teachers, I have often complained that either my students do not do the assigned reading ahead of class, or if they do, it is by flash-reading as they might scan the splash page of a web site.  In the first case, they are not able to enter into a discussion of content, in the second, they have little awareness of the style, tone and language in which the piece was written.  Their study and comprehension of the imaginative literature presented in English classes is reduced to memorizing a stew-pot of messages.

Parents rarely take the time, and seldom have the skill, to read effectively out loud, with the result that most young people read silently.  Teachers face the same constraints of time and ability. Consequently, many students read only for content, never realizing the beauty of words that have been taken from the page and offered as a performance. It is not that they do not know the magic of words: they encounter it daily in the music they listen to, but all too often they cannot unlock that music from the printed page.

The Laughing Princess was written to be read out loud.

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Accordingly, I recorded it so that it can be listened to and downloaded, free, from Podiobooks.com.

A teacher can therefore play the recording in class, or hand out a “thumb drive” containing the downloaded audio files, so that students can listen on their MP3 players or smartphones — an audio experience that takes place in the theatre between their ears.  Alternately, a teacher can provide the students with the URL for Podiobooks, where they can download the stories themselves. If they wish, they can then read background material and through which they can interact with me, the author on the story website at TheLaughingPrincess.com.

The title might make you think this is a book that should have a pink dust jacket; however, the Princess in the first story is very much a tomboy, who learns to “be, and dare, and risk” as a result of meeting with a sea-dragon. The other eleven stories all involve dragons. They are sometimes gentle and understanding, like the Angular Dragon, who counsels a poet; sometimes soulless and tyrannical, like the Mountain Dragon with whom a blind man matches wits; some dispense drastic justice, like the fire dragon who deals with a wife-beating innkeeper.

The dragons grant wishes that can be exceedingly dangerous to the human beings within the stories.  The protagonists include a retired wizard, a poet who has lost his gift of words, a pretty girl who believes she is entitled to more of everything, a warrior who hires out as a formidable bodyguard, a musician who must choose between his love and his music, and the princess who as queen must face a heartless sea rover.

The stories are held together by a narrator, The Littlest Dragon, who tells his tales to two children who “have reached that special age at which they had discovered that their parents did not always understand them.”  Like the characters in the stories, they must choose their wishes carefully.

The stories follow in the great tradition that was started by the Brothers Grimm.  They deal in ambiguous wishes, lucky numbers, changes of fortune, crucial decisions that change lives.

The language is “family friendly,” and is accessible by readers from 12 or 14 up.  The social and moral implications of the stories can be tackled at different levels, depending on the age and sophistication of the readers.

The Laughing Princess is available in paperback and electronic versions everywhere, and as downloadable audio files from Podiobooks, read by the author.  The web site TheLaughingPrincess.com offers background material, author’s bio, etc, as well as links to the audio files.  Discussion and study suggestions for teachers are available from me, through the web site.

Editor’s note: If all goes well, The Laughing Princess will be available in Spanish in early 2013! Perfect for teaching Spanish through interesting stories!

Strong Women and a Strong Voice for The Laughing Princess

The Laughing Princess is Seymour Hamilton’s enchanting foray into something like fairy tales. Petra and Daniel, a brother and a sister, meet a dragon who tells them a series of bewilderingly surprising stories from the lore of the more-magical-than-it-seems village where they’re vacationing. After much suspense, the audiobook is now available for free download! Go to Podiobooks.com and listen online, or right-click on the files at the bottom of the page to take your own mp3 with you, wherever you like, free of charge. Enjoy!

I took this opportunity to ask Seymour some questions about his unique little book.

I know The Laughing Princess was inspired by some wonderful dragon sculptures, the first of which you met at Exceptional Pass. Did you base the stories on existing dragon folklore, or is the dragon-filled village by the sea of The Laughing Princess your own creation?

It’s all me, but it’s also all that I’ve read. The stories were amazingly easy to write. I had to edit and polish them, but not much, which tells me that I had to be mining a rich vein of magic that has been refined over millennia of story-telling.

People who like fairy stories will recognize time-honoured magical ideas such as the power of the number seven — the stone Daniel skips seven times and the woman with seven sons. The over-the-top revenge-justice that some of the dragons mete out is a staple of fairy tales, though hardly what I would endorse as good jurisprudence. The intertwining of the stories made them satisfying to write, and unlike the chaotic world in which we live. Exceptional Pass was the magic casement through which I looked into a fairy land forlorn, thanks to a few hours with people whose imaginations were unfettered by the literal world in which we live most of our lives, the most important of whom was Pamela Nagley Stevenson, creator of ceramic dragons with marvelous names. Significantly, I was living near mountains which are so unreal that a flight of dragons at sunset would not be a surprise. I’m sure it also helped that I’ve met many dragons in Ursula LeGuin’s Earthsea, in Patricia Wrede’s Enchanted Forest, in Ann McCaffrey’s Pern, not to mention a gyre of splendid winged creatures in the history, myths, legends, lore and heraldry of England, Scotland and (especially) Wessex and Wales, which have their own special kind of dragon, the two-footed Wyvern.

Are the stories interrelated beyond their setting? What was your process for putting them in order?

The stories happened pretty much in that order. I wrote “Elemental Exchange” first, then The Littlest Dragon took over the duty of storyteller and after that, one thing led to another. As the stories unfolded, it became clear that three of the seven sons would be meeting very different dragons, that the Witch and Peder had been friends, that the Princess grew up to be a great and good Queen, that not all stories end happily, and that Dragons are still making their magic for those lucky enough to meet them.

I notice a lot of strong women characters in this book, and a few really nasty men. Is The Laughing Princess a purposeful monument to women’s empowerment? 

In the main, the characters seem to me to be independent people who take responsibility for their actions, whatever their gender — or species. The exceptions are the (male) Warrior, who is conscienceless, the Sea Rover who is an unspeakably cruel man, and Ryll, who is female but has characteristics even the most ardent feminist would despise.

The Princess, later Queen, is strong, female, admirable and shares the Dragon Ke-Au-Ka Ida’s decidedly feminine wisdom.  The dragon Kaiwheil Bhagmani-Ji is also female, but she is a shy and kindly healer of troubled artistic souls. However, the dragon Pu Ahi Oheo Wythe is both female and dreadfully drastic. I really don’t know the gender of the Boulder Roller Dragon, or for that matter the hard-hearted and soulless dragon Aina Lani Kahu Wellan, although Santosh Raal-Zurmath seems male to me, as is Ena Pingala Kythe, who makes a decidedly macho claim to be beyond the comprehension of even his fellow elementals. I’m not sure about the Littlest Dragon, but I have a hunch that he’s a she.

I think the stories are about love and power and what you do with them, whoever you are: woman, man of dragon.  They are told to Petra and Daniel by the Littlest Dragon who says that he (perhaps she) is going to educate them. When Daniel cautiously responds:

“All right,” said Daniel.  “But we won’t have to answer questions afterwards, will we?”

“Of course not,” said the Dragon. “Any worthwhile story is complete when it’s been told and heard.  All you should do is tell it again.”

So, enough analysis, already! Next you’ll be asking me what the moral of each story is, and we all know that the search for a moral destroys any magic a story might possess.

The Danes have the right idea. Instead of importing moral messages into the stories of Hans Christian Anderson, they brought The Little Mermaid out of his story into our world and sat her on a rock in Copenhagen harbour.

See more about and participate in The Laughing Princess at TheLaughingPrincess.com