Unicorns, dragons and talking tortoises might not be standard fare for everyone. But Marian Allen's fantasy realm created in the Sage trilogy fulfils any fantasy lover's craving for those exact things. The first book of the trilogy, The Fall of Onagros: Sage: Book 1 (Sage Trilogy) (Volume 1), begins like this:
Unicorn pressed a hoof into the yielding earth, leaving a moss-lined hollow. Phoenix shook a tiny iridescent feather into the impression. Tortoise spat upon the feather; the droplets dissolved it, swelled, burst their surface tension, and filled the shallow bowl with shimmering liquid. Dragon breathed gently on the water, and a vision appeared.
However, just as quickly as that dragon-inspired vision appeared, Allen's novels can take a decidedly mysterious turn, such as in Sideshow in the Center Ring, beginning with these ominous first lines:
It started with parties and ended in blood. I'm not a violent woman–who would have thought it would end in blood? Maybe it started on Helena Street. If you go back that far, maybe the blood makes sense.
Helena Street was where I was born and raised: a thousand feet of narrow, broken, asphalt that we called Hell Alley. It ran from Market Street to the service entrance of 63 Andriot, a block of condominiums, overpriced for the upper class. We were a century into the New World Order, and a quick flip through a history book showed a pretty familiar picture. The Haves did, do, and always will; the Have-Nots didn't, don't, and won't. Helena Street was for Have-Nots.
About the author
Louisville, Kentucky-native Marian Allen's own description of herself is as
an inveterate this-and-thatter. Along with having written since she can remember, she reminds her readers that the content on her blog is about
anything [she] damn well [pleases], including recipes and one-liners. Having been told at the age of six that it was possible to do what she loved (which was write) and make money doing it, she knew what she wanted to do for a living.
A graduate of Eastern Kentucky University in Richmond, Allen has worked several positions ranging from high school teacher to a soda jerk, and prefers small-town living. Her blog is one way to connect with friends and writing circles. Allen describes her passion for writing like this:
I try to remember, in my books and stories, that no one exists in total isolation, but in a web of connections to family, friends, colleagues, self at former stages of maturity, perceptions and self-images. Most of my work is fantasy, science fiction and/or mystery, though I write horror, humor, romance, mainstream or anything else that suits the story and character.
Allen's work includes stories in anthologies, on-line and print publications, including Oceans of the Mind and Marion Zimmer Bradley's Sword and Sorceress anthologies 22 and 23. Her work can also be seen in less common formats, such as on coffee cans and on the wall of an Indian restaurant in Louisville, Kentucky. She has books in electronic formats and paper, self-published and traditionally published, and is a member of Southern Indiana Writers and Quills and Quibbles.
Books, collections and free reads
Allen's collection of books and stories, along with links to preview and purchase each, are available for prospective readers to peruse, and the author offers multiple free reads and free samples. It's easy to make a purchase for Kindle or print copies of her work, and many of Allen's blog posts are sample chapters from her books or writing. For example, a post she categorizes under #SampleSunday is a complete short story she wrote for her local Quills & Quibbles writers meeting, limited to approximately 250 words. She then follows that story with a writing prompt for her readers:
Write about an encounter at a bar, concession stand, or food cart.
Another post is an original short story Allen wrote that was published in the Southern Indiana Writers' Group's now-out-of-print anthology, Christmas Bizarre. The story is reprinted as part of the group's new anthology, Holiday Bizarre, which includes stories involving holidays throughout the year. Here's a brief sample of the introduction of "The Christmas Pool" (the rest can be found within this post):
How do you tell a four-year-old you don't want him around, ever? "This is not a good time," I could manage. "It's time for you to go home now," I could manage. "I'll be busy tomorrow," I could manage. But, "Go away now and never come back"? Couldn't be done.
In late August, Len started pre-school. Every evening I drove home to find a grubby urchin on my front porch with an armful of my dog and a stream of gossip about "the kids."
Darkness held no terror for him; the days grew short, but my headlights always picked out that figure waiting for me. I'd give him "goodies," listen to him while I got my supper started. Now and then he'd say, "Whatcha making? That looks good," but I had no trouble resisting the temptation. I'd just put everything on simmer and drive him home, then come back to my quiet and my solitude."
Allen begins her blog's poetry section with a story about a party in which a challenge was thrown out to write ten-word, surrealist poems. The way she describes it, each participant took a piece of paper, wrote down a made-up title for a poem that hadn't been written yet, and folded the paper so that each person's title didn't show as they passed the paper to the person next to them. They then wrote a new title on the paper, folded it, then passed it on—three times until they each unfolded the title in their hands and wrote a ten-word poem. Here are a few of the results:
Gray Day in January
Sky, slush, river–
January thaws before that gray.
I Always Hated Psychologists
Then I met you.
You make me feel so Jung.
Is it real?
Does that matter?
I live with it.
Writing advice and prompts
My favorite tidbits available on Allen's blog were her multiple writing prompts, which are found throughout many of her posts, such as this one:
A writing prompt for you: Write a character who thinks the height of happiness is being in a mess of loud, drunken people behaving badly.
In addition to these wonderful prompts, Allen offers multiple posts with writing advice and inspirational tips, such as this one entitled "Life Outside the Storyline". In this post, she writes the following concerning genre writing versus literary writing:
Everybody says, "Know your characters inside and out — and then leave most of it out of the book." I think that's more true of genre writing than literary. I think genre books focus nearly exclusively on the storyline, with peripherals coming in as subplots. I think literary books focus on life outside the storyline, with the storyline simply being the thread through the beads.
There are also guest posts by Floyd Hyatt, such as this post entitled "Adjective Objective," where he offers advice on the use of adverbs and adjectives that isn't typically taught in the industry. Here's a hint: it goes against Stephen King's advice stating,
The adverb is not your friend.
Additional links on Marian Allen's site lead visitors to selected nonprofits meaningful to the author. Allen also offers several products for purchase in her Café Press shop, including shirts, a tote bag, a messenger bag, an apron, a mousepad, and a mug with flash fiction shorts of her writing.