Just published: Jean Lee’s new novella.

Night’s Tooth is a fantasy western. Everything we need to know about what this story is going to do is set up in the opening sentence.

Sumac tucks the brass buttons off the last Confederacy coat into his pocket, before tossing it into the dying fire.

Here we have a character with an interesting name. I happen to know that Sumac is a type of tree, known in Britain as Stag’s Horn. Is this relevant?

I always assume names are potentially important, and since I have the botanical reference in my head, every time Sumac is mentioned, I get a momentary memory of the tree. I also know that sumac powder can be bought for cooking with, though I’ve never used it.

But I digress. Why is Sumac keeping the buttons rather than the coats? That’s intriguing, particularly since the next sentence explains something of where he is, and where the coats have come from.

The road up from Bad Axe had been long and cold, and none of the Wanted papers mentioned anything about Slit Mick’s armed companions.

Confederacy coats confirm I’m in America, and the period is some time in, or after the 1860s. It’s winter, and Sumac has travelled a long way. He must be formidable, because in the next sentence we discover not only that he’s killed the whole gang, also that he ‘enjoyed‘ the challenge.

Sumac, then, is impressively ruthless. I won’t say admirably, since the next thing he does is to pick human flesh from between his teeth. In case we’ve misunderstood the significance of that, this section finishes with Sumac thinking about the dead men as part of the ‘food chain‘.

Here is no cosy hero, despite his appearance.

Sumac’s built like a god, a girl told him once, a god of the old country. He asked which country that was. She called it Norway.

Worrying as some of his actions and attitudes are, Sumac is the focus of our attention. The narration is third person, but we experience the world, and events, as he does. The gang, nearly blew Sumac’s ear clean off when he came for Mick, so it was only right Sumac had his fun with those worthless hunks of meat… Did you note that, ‘only right‘?

I can’t say I’m comfortable with the idea that Sumac had his fun. But I’m in the-world-of-story, and Jean is making it easy for me to accept the unacceptable. Besides, with a name like Slit Mick, the outcome was always going to be bloody. But just in case you did begin reading in the expectation of a traditional Western, that’s been rectified.

It soon becomes clear that Sumac is not human. Besides his appetites and attitudes, he is able to transform into a cougar and use natural magic. His observations about the way the world works are intriguingly alternative.

The men’s photographs are so grainy Sumac wonders why anyone bothers with that technological contraption of wood and glass to do what anyone’s done just fine with pencils and paint.

The narrative voice is also interesting. It’s third person, but so close to Sumac that it assumes the oddities of his sentence structures, a distinctive, colloquial, syntax. Look for instance, at what happens when Sumac arrives at the sheriff’s office, with Slit Mick’s body, to collect the two thousand dollar bounty.

Sumac makes no never mind about the bloody handprint he leaves on the knob.

There’s not much time to wonder, though. Slit Mick is small-fry compared to the big prize Sumac is really after, a mysterious character known as, Night’s Tooth.

“Sumac don’t dare lose him, not now, not when he’s so close Sumac can catch his canine scent riding the snow and coal dust.”

The hunt is on. We’ve yet to discover the true nature of any of the creatures roaming the town, or the full extent of what is at stake. This is an edge of the seat, full speed journey, with plenty of unexpected twists.

Book preview: Jean Lee’s novel, Fallen Princeborn: Stolen.

A Stolen-KindleCvr-MARKETINGJean Lee’s novel, Fallen Princeborn: Stolen, is a story with a heart.  Yes, it’s a racing, pacy quest story, but the main character, Charlotte, cares.  Cares with attitude though.  Charlotte doesn’t know the meaning of passive.  She’s a girl who can and will fight for her space, and that of those she cares for.

As the story opens, Charlotte is a talented young pianist hoping to study music at Lawrence university.  She’s taking her younger sister out of their dysfunctional home, and is heading across country so they can live with their aunt.  There’s a problem on the journey, though, and the sisters transfer to the wrong sort of bus.

As in any well paced story, quite how wrong that bus is, is tricky to pin down.  Is it the vehicle?

A green bus thunders and belches a black fog of smoke as it approaches.  Only Charlotte sees the raven watch the bus as intently as the others do. Its brakes sound terrible, and the E in the old SCENIC TOURS sign is peeling off as if to flee before anything else can happen to it.  The bus groans as it halts, then regurgitates a burly man with chalky white skin.

The language is certainly sinister.  But there are other worrying elements. Amongst the unattractive other passengers is a man Charlotte calls, Potential Homicidal Maniac.  As for the driver’s mate, Jamie, it’s not just his habit of sniffing the luggage as he loads that raises hackles for Charlotte, her instincts scream, ‘Don’t go, stay here.’

Luckily for us, there’s not really an option.  The road the sisters set out on will lead to Charlotte’s quest, and the situations she encounters will reveal the true nature of her character.  Like us, she enters the realm of River Vine with no understanding of potential dangers, which may seem like a weakness, but we soon discover that this can be a strength, too.

The people of the realm are locked in a power battle that resonates beyond the walls that should contain it.  Charlotte’s involvement in the situation will lead to unforeseeable challenges to the balance of power.  Human flaws and weaknesses, it seems, can be a source of unexpected strengths too. Charlotte is not a straightforward character, she’s a girl who carries hidden scars: a dark secret.

HomerCo-incidentally, I’ve also been reading Homer’s, The Odyssey.  It makes an interesting parallel.  Both Odysseus and Charlotte journey into unknown lands to encounter beasts who may or may not be monsters.  It’s been good to see a twenty-first century girl taking up that three thousand year-old mantle and making it her own.

Nice read Jean, thanks for keeping me hooked.

  • Today, (31st October 2018) from sunrise to sundown this Halloween, Fallen Princeborn: Stolen is Free.   Click on the title to find it on Amazon.

List of Sources: MUSIC MINI POST From Jean Lee

My many thanks to Cath for such a beautiful review! To celebrate my novel’s release as well as embellish the reading experience, I wanted to share just a few snippets of music that helped inspire portions of my story. Some of these artists I’ve already written about on my site, Jean Lee’s World, and so I invite you to my site to learn more about these pieces.

“Bus,” by Mychael Danna for The Sweet Hereafter

https://jeanleesworld.com/2015/02/27/writers-music-mychael-danna/

I love the unsettling nature of this track. It’s short, yes, but it provided me with a sense of silent unease—how even when you’re around other people, an isolating landscape makes the most picturesque forest eerie intimidating.

 

“Overture,” by Daft Punk for Tron: Legacy

https://jeanleesworld.com/2017/04/13/writers-music-daft-punk/

Dorjan is the first of the (good) shapeshifters that Charlotte meets. This moment of transformation stuns Charlotte—and, in its own way, Dorjan, too, having not walked on two legs in many years. I wanted to feel the pause of life with this change, that moment of awe striking Charlotte’s senses as Dorjan recovers his own.

 

“Heroes,” covered by Peter Gabriel for Scratch My Back

https://jeanleesworld.com/2015/02/27/writers-music-mychael-danna/

Ever since I first drafted this story, I imagined a scene of magic creation with this song. Liam is an artist, and with this song I could imagine his magic and heart’s memory coming together to build a piece of beauty for Charlotte.

 

“Hanging/Escape,” by Craig Armstrong for Plunkett & Macleane

https://jeanleesworld.com/2018/10/04/writing-music-medea-i-mean-craigarmstrong/

When it comes time for Charlotte to face The Lady of the Pits, she’s totally out of her element. All seems lost, and her sister’s surely a goner. Yet Charlotte fights back. Hard.

This music helped me feel that.

 

“Love Reign O’er Me,” by The Who

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gDbAtWpoA6k

I used quite a bit of The Who’s Quadrophenia when I wrote, but I love “Love Reign O’er Me” in particular because it’s a song of washing all of society’s expectations away and becoming pure and free in hope. Both Charlotte and Liam are slowly learning to overcome what their past lives heaped upon them, and wash themselves clean with hope.

 

“Alice’s Theme” by Danny Elfman for Alice in Wonderland

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ce0dZbPOepE

This likely feels like a given, as this music helped me write the moment Charlotte chases one of The Lady’s followers through a forest behind the Wall. It’s very much a “down the rabbit hole” moment, with disregard for the unknown surroundings in order to pursue a magical small creature. Elfman’s got the perfect balance here with the strings in their heavy arpeggios and the choirs singing to Alice as she leaves her reality behind.

 

“The Promontory” by Trevor Jones for The Last of the Mohicans

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9tjdswqGGVg

There comes a time when you’ve got to face an old demon, that which represents all that you once stood for. This music helped me feel this moment for Liam when he stands alone against The Lady of the Pits and her followers. When your heart burns with love instead of fear, you move with a warrior’s unwavering rhythm, just as Jones’ strings and percussion do here.

Guest Blog: Jean Lee describes her route to becoming a published author

A Stolen-KindleCvr-MARKETING

When Jean Lee, writer of fiction for young adults agreed to write a guest blog for me, she asked what topic I would like her to cover.  Knowing that her new novel, Fallen Princeborn: Stolen, is due for release later this month, I said:

At what point did you decide, ‘Okay, I’m going to send it out’? Were you nudged by anyone, or was it your decision?  What were the key factors?

Short Answer: I was nudged by my husband. Key factor: panic.

Let’s back up a moment.

See, I didn’t actually set out to publish The Fallen Princeborn: Stolen. We are here because of what you’d call a most happy accident.

I had written the first draft back in 2010 for the National Novel Writing Month. It was the first time I’d written since the dark days of graduate school, and it felt so, so bloody good to be writing a story I genuinely cared about. But I was also a first-time mother, still a part-time teacher, so my time was very rarely my own. Over the years I’d pick at the story’s characters/plot/setting, and in 2015 I tried sending it out to a few agents. No interest.

So I put Stolen away. It was destined to be that “unsellable first novel”: the story that got me back into writing, but also the story that’d never see the light of day.

In the meantime, I started my site Jean Lee’s World and was writing there every week. I’d also taken up a challenge from indie author Michael Dellert to write a YA Fantasy series about shield maidens, so I was brain-deep in that. I’d visit Stolen every now and then, its voice finally coming in from the shadows with bleeding knuckles and a mouth full of sass. But still…surely no one would want to read this.

Enter Wattpad & Aionios Books.

Wattpad’s a free publishing platform for stories, poems, plays, and so on. Since my website had been dedicated to writing about craft and music, it was cool to find a place A Middler's Pridewhere I could specifically share fiction and receive feedback on my YA Fantasy Middler’s Pride. My shield maiden series had gotten some excellent feedback as well as some honest to goodness readers—including the lead editor of Aionios Books, Gerri Santiago.

I still remember getting the Twitter message from Gerri while waiting to pick up my sons from 4K one November day: “Have you signed on with a publisher yet?”

My hands start shaking. Who’d want to publish me? A gazillion other fantasy writers are out there probably doing way better. I’m just…I’m just me.

Another tweet: “I love Meredydd’s tough vulnerability in Middler’s Pride.”

Oh! Well… Huzzah, then!

Now you’re probably wondering A) How long is this nattering going to continue and B) isn’t the novel we’re talking about Fallen Princeborn: Stolen?

  1. A) I’m almost done.
  2. B) Publishing often takes unexpected turns.

Gerri asks me to send her a complete manuscript of Middler’s Pride. “Sure!” I start to type. Freeze. I’d been reworking a few key elements inside the story to better fit a series, and that reworking was nowhere near done.

But I can’t afford to lose this opportunity! If I say it’s not ready, she may say thanks and move on. Then who knows how long it’ll be before I get someone’s attention like this again?

I panic myself into a hyperventilating mess—always a smart state for driving preschoolers home from school—seeing all manners of defeat awaiting this exchange with Gerri. I should tell her to forget she ever saw my work. I should flee Wattpad. The internet. The…well you can’t get much more rural than a Wisconsin farming town, so I suppose this is flight enough.

Bo gets home from work and listens to my breathless, teary telling of the Twitter tale. He gets me some cocoa and sits me down. “Can you send her something else to buy you some time?” he asks.

“No. Well maybe. There’s my Fallen Princeborn story. But that’s not totally revised, either.”

Bo considers this. “True, but it’d probably keep her attention long enough so you can get that Middler thing done, right?”

I nod. Okay, that made sense. Distract with the giant green head projection that is Fallen Princeborn: Stolen while I frantically move Middler’s Pride things around behind the curtain. Gerri will also then see I’ve got more than one voice and style in me, which will hopefully make me sound more marketable. Okay. Okay okay. This all makes sense.

So I write Gerri a really, REALLY long rambling email (yes, even longer than this guest post) about time and the importance of storytelling and hey, would you like to read this while you wait for me to fulfill your request?

“Sure!”

THANK GOD.

I think only two days pass, maybe three. Bo’s doing what he can to get out of work early and handle the kids so I can finish Middler’s Pride sooner.

My phone beeps: an email from Gerri.

Oh no. She must be wondering what’s going on. She wants Middler now or never. Dammit, Jean, get the thing done!

I open the email.

“I just LOVE this story! The characters are so complete, and so compelling! Do you have more Fallen Princeborn? I NEED to know what happens next!”

I beam. These characters I’ve known as long as my daughter—they’re loved by someone else. People I made from my own pain, anger, and yearnings have connected to someone else, and made a home in someone else’s imagination.

Could these characters find homes in other readers’ imaginations, too?

Only one way to find out.

Now here we are. While Gerri liked Middler’s Pride, in the end it wasn’t a fit for Aionios Books—and you know what? That’s okay. Meredydd and the other shield maidens found a home with stories by fellow indie authors on the subscription site Channillo. Gerri sent me a contract for Fallen Princeborn: Stolen in December, and she’s been challenging me to build upon the story’s world ever since. I’ve written a collection of short stories featuring characters of this world, and am planning four more novels to follow Stolen, the next volume to come out next spring.

So, if you’re one of those with the “unsellable first novel” in a file somewhere, pull it out. Chances are enough time’s gone by that you can read it as the audience, not the creator. Sure, the heroine sounds too nice for escaping from a personal hell, or the world’s rules don’t make sense, or the villain doesn’t have enough to do. Know what? Now’s the time to right those narrative wrongs. You know better now. You can hear the voice beneath the noise. You’ve only to dig it out.

My deepest thanks to Cath for inviting me to her to her sanctuary of words and wanders. My novel Fallen Princeborn: Stolen will be available for purchase starting Halloween.

About.

Jean Lee is a Wisconsin born and bred writer excited to share her young adult fiction with those who love to find other worlds hidden in the humdrum of everyday life. Lee’s short story collection Tales of the River Vine is currently available for free download on Amazon, Nook, and other markets. Her serialized fantasy Middler’s Pride is available via the Indie E-magazine Channillo. Lee’s first novel, Fallen Princeborn: Stolen, debuts Halloween 2018 from Aionios Books. She currently lives in the Madison area with her husband and three children.

Links for Stories:

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B07HHCDJVW/

Nook: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/s/tales+of+the+river+vine/_/N-8qa?_requestid=2147697

Other outlets: https://www.books2read.com/b/mBPXQR

Channillo: https://channillo.com/series/middler-s-pride/

 Jean Lee’s Contact Info:

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100012373211758

Twitter: https://twitter.com/jeanleesworld

Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/Jean-Lee/e/B07DPP2RV6/

Website: https://jeanleesworld.com/

Publisher Site: https://aioniosbooks.com/jean-lee

Instagram: @jeanleesworld

Email: jeanleesworld@gmail.com

 

 

Review: Tales of the River Vine: “The Boy Who Carried a Forest in His Pocket”

Jean LeeSome titles are irresistible.  As soon as I saw that Jean Lee’s new short story was called, The Boy Who Carried a Forest in His Pocket (TBWCAFIHP), I knew I would have to read it.

The story opens with Mrs Schmidt inviting herself and her son over to her neighbour’s house, on a hot Sunday afternoon, because she believes beer is the devil’s juice, and her husband and his friend are indulging, in her home.

I liked ‘the devil’s juice’, but better yet, I liked that Mrs Schmidt believes organised sport is more wicked than alcohol. This could have been played for comedy: instead there is a hint of sinister, and gothic touches.  When the boys are sent off on a picnic, the main item in the list of warnings for what to beware of is, ‘The Wall’.  If I said any more, I’d give the plot away, and really, you should have a look for yourself.  It’s short, tantalising, and can be downloaded from Amazon’s Kindle and Barnes and Noble’s Nook.

TBWCAFIHP is the first story in a sequence that leads to the November release of Jean’s fantasy novel for Young Adults, Fallen Princeborn Omnibus.  We’re promised a series of on-line story releases over the coming months, as tasters.

I confess now, in case you hadn’t guessed it, that it’s a long time since I was a Young Adult.  However, the way I see it, if I could read adult novels when I was not so old, why shouldn’t I enjoy reading writing not aimed at my age group now I’m an adult?

Labels, who needs them?  Well, sometimes.  Not though, when it comes to genre.  I’ve a broad taste in literature, and if the writing hooks me, I don’t mind how it’s marketed.

If you want to know more about the background to the stories then I recommend a look at Jean Lee’s blog. She’s got some interesting insights into her writing processes, too.