Monday, August 15, 2022

New Project Announcement: Silence

I’ve discovered, through trial and error over the last few years, that it’s a lot easier to actually get writing projects done when I have people waiting to read them. Especially when I’m sharing the projects as I write them. And I don’t have a writing group or anything right now, and I never really know what to do with my Patreon, so I’m going to try doing this: 

I’m writing a story right now called Silence. I hope it will be novel-length, but I never really know until I get there. It’s about a mermaid. I would not call it a retelling of The Little Mermaid, but honestly, YMMV on that. Starting next week, I’ll be posting a chapter of this story on Patreon every week. (With possible occasional skipped weeks for holidays, real life interference, etc.)

Silence will be available for everyone, Patrons or not. Patrons will have access to each chapter five days early, and will also have access to occasional bonus content consisting of deleted scenes, outlines, previews, posts about inspiration, posts about the history of this story-type, etc.—basically whatever I feel like, TBH.

One important thing to note here: it’s much easier to stay motivated to write if I’m sharing as I go, but that only works if I know people are reading. So if you’re here, please engage with the posts. Like them or comment—it can be something simple like a heart or a smiley face, or something longer, and I’ll try to respond to any comments, but please keep any criticism constructive and polite. Remember, this is a rough draft that I’m sharing as I write it, and it will go through plenty of editing before standard publication is an option. I’m happy to hear about any issues you notice with the story, so I can make the next draft better, but remember to be nice! (Also, feel free to point out any grammar or spelling issues.)

You do not have to be a Patron to read Silence, but you do need to be a Patron for access to the bonus content. If you are not a Patron, do please consider following my page, which is free!

Chapters will post for Patrons on Sundays and for non-Patrons the following Friday. Bonus content will post whenever I feel like it. A proper summary/back cover blurb/whatever is coming soon. Unfortunately the layout of Patreon is not super convenient for posting writing (I would love it if I could set things up to feel a little more AO3, a little less LiveJournal), so I’ll try to set up some sort of master-post where you can access each chapter easily, but I’m not sure yet if that’ll work.

My Patreon is here.

Thursday, December 2, 2021

Future Plans (I Don’t Have Any!)

So we were supposed to have a new blog yesterday, and we didn’t. Sorry. It’s been a chaotic few weeks, releasing a book and doing nanowrimo at the same time, while trying to sort out major home renovations, and I didn’t realize until this morning that I’d never written a blog. I have several plans for upcoming blogs, but none I can throw together right now. So we’re just gonna talk a little.

I have a Patreon page. (Which this will be cross-posted on, so if you’re reading this on Patreon thinking, well, obviously, that’s why.) it’s not much of a Patreon page. Blogs go up a little earlier there, and there are monthly updates and occasional previews, writing snippets, photos of cover-design-in-progress, etc.

So I know I need to do more with my Patreon, and really I just need to produce more content in general. Because you can’t actually build a career as an author just by writing books - you have to give people a reason to be interested in your books, when you’re not working with a mainstream publisher and are your own media manager.

But media management is hard.

So I’d like to know what you’d like to see - more or more specific fairy tale rant/essay things? Videos? More specific talk about writing projects? I just don’t really know what to do with myself a lot of the time, so I’d love to hear what kind of content you would like to consume in the new year.

Wednesday, November 17, 2021

The Black Bull of Norroway

 So despite having "Norway" in the title, this is a Scottish fairy tale. It does, however, have a lot in common with one of the best known Norwegian fairy tales around. Which is why I decided to talk about it today.

Our heroine is the youngest of three sisters, as our heroines often are. They all go to a washerwoman for a sort of mystical matchmaking session, and the oldest two go off with some men in nice carriages who come by her door, while our girl sees a black bull riding past, and because this is a weird sort of matchmaking gig, she gets dropped on the bull's back, and off they go.

They have a long journey, during which she eats out of his right ear and drinks out of his left, until they arrive at a castle, where apparently the bull's older brother lives. She's given a magic apple, and then they move onto another castle, where another brother lives, and give her a pear. In a third brother's castle she gets a magic plum. Then they ride on to a glen, and the bull leaves her there, with instructions not to move at all, while he goes to fight the Old One.

The bull tells her that if everything turns blue he's won, and if everything turns red, the Old One has. So she sits by herself in the glen, waiting, which isn't my idea of a good honeymoon, until everything turns blue. She's really excited, though I'm not sure why - it hasn't exactly been a fantastic marriage so far. Anyway, she's excited, so she moves around a little (just, like, uncrossing her legs), against the bull's express orders, and consequently, he's unable to find her again.

Our girl wanders long and far in search of him - again, not clear on the why. She doesn't owe him anything and we haven't seen them bonding in any way. Why not just go home?

But she wanders. She comes eventually to a glass hill, too slippery to climb, and meets a smith who promises to make her special glass-climbing cleats if she works for him for seven years. And she agrees, which, again, no clue why - she hasn't been given any indication that her missing bull is up the hill. And she walked around the entire base searching for a way up, so she could have just kept going.

After seven years she climbs the hill in her special shoes, and meets another washerwoman. This one is apparently a little less magical, and not a fantastic person.

She tells our girl about a knight who will marry whoever washes his dirty clothes. Which is where we really start getting "East of the Sun, West of the Moon" vibes - it's the return of the magic laundry. The washerwoman can't wash the clothes. Her daughter can't wash the clothes. But our girl falls madly in love with this knight - um, honey, what about the bull you've been doing all this work to find? - and she's able to wash his clothes, through the purity of her love or something, idk.

The washerwoman lies to the knight and tells him that her daughter washed the clothes, a wedding date is set, and our girl is devastated. She gets out her magic apple, finds a bunch of jewels inside, and gives them all to the washerwoman's daughter in exchange for a night with the knight before their wedding. The washerwoman drugs him, so he sleeps straight through her speech about the seven years of hard work she's put into bringing about their reunion, and, okay, when and how, exactly, did she figure out that her bull and the knight were the same person? Because this is literally the first time it's come up in the text. I mean, it was obvious to us, but it shouldn't have been obvious to her, right?

I'm so confused.

Things move forward predictably from here - she makes the same deal with the pear and the plum, eventually someone tells the knight about all the noise someone's making in his bedroom at night, and he doesn't take the drugged drink on the final night. He's reunited with our girl, and they burn the washerwoman and her daughter (details on this move not provided) and live happily ever after.

This story...this story is

I have so many unanswered questions. There are so many plotholes. This is such a mess.

Why are we choosing husbands based on who (or what) walks past a washerwoman's door first? Why does the bull have to fight an Old One? What does that even mean? Why can't he find her again if she moves at all, and for how many hours or days was she expected to hold completely still? Why did he have to leave her in the middle of nowhere, instead of one of the THREE castles we just visited?

Why did she feel the need to go after him instead of just going home? Why was she so determined to climb the glass hill, when she's fully capable of walking around it, and we have no evidence that the bull is even up there? If shoes that can climb that hill are worth seven years of labor, why are the washerwoman and her daughter just chilling up there? They can't possibly be getting a lot of business.

How did the knight get up there? Why is his clothing magically dirty? Is it from his fight with the Old One? Has our girl actually met him as the knight, or just heard about him? How does she know who he is? When does she figure out who he is? Why are we, the audience, not kept up to date about this discovery?

I just - it's a mess. I give up.

Wednesday, November 3, 2021

The Book Is Here!

So the book came out yesterday, and I'm super excited. We've had several preorders, and some of you have gotten your copies already.

As of yesterday, the ebook is available to purchase directly from the Wax Heart site, which is a great option as it's the exact same file you'd get from Amazon/Barnes and Noble/wherever, but 100% of the cost goes directly to me.

I've been working on this book for a long time, and I hope you all enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it. The 13 stories are a mix of retellings and original fairy tales (well, as original as a fairy tale - or any story - can ever be). I've carried some of these characters in my heart for a decade or more, and it feels so weird to finally be sending them out into the world. I hope they do well out there.

Anyway! The Shoemaker Prince is available directly from Wax Heart Press, as well as from Barnes and Noble, Amazon, and pretty much wherever books are sold. (Or the websites of wherever books are sold, at least.) Buy your copy today!

Sunday, October 31, 2021

The Impossible Enchantment

(This month I am reposting relevant blogs in preparation for the release of my upcoming short story collection - every blog shared is about a fairy tale that inspired one of the stories. 

Last time we finally finished our long search for “The Impossible Enchantment.” So today I thought it would be fun to go through the whole story, as the version I told from memory a couple weeks ago, before finally tracking down the source, was lacking in several details, and outright wrong in others. Which, well, in my defense I hadn’t read it in about fifteen years.

Once a king fell in love with a beautiful but unkind woman. When they had been married for some time, the woman offended a fairy, and as punishment was taken into her service. When a few months had passed, the woman gave birth to a daughter; the fairy sent her home to her husband, and kept the child to raise as her own.

When the queen of the fairies discovered how kindly her subject treated the daughter of the woman who had offended her, and by extension the entire fairy race, she became very angry. She sent the girl to live trapped in a palace by the sea, with only one servant for company. There, she said, the girl would stay until she held in her arms a man she loved, who loved her as well.

When the girl had been at the palace for some time, a merman took a liking to her, and began to bring her gifts. He was very ugly, and the girl wanted nothing to do with him, though she did accept his gifts. One day the merman brought with him his sister, who, unlike her brother, spoke the girl’s language. The two quickly became friends, though the girl still wanted nothing to do with her aquatic suitor.

She told the mermaid of her plight, and one day the mermaid brought to see her a fairy of her own race. The girl asked the sea fairy to break her enchantment and free her from the palace, but alas, the fairy had no power on land. She encouraged the girl to accept the merman’s suit, for she would then turn the girl into a mermaid as well, and she could live quite happily with them in the sea.

The girl began to consider this seriously. Her servant was alarmed by this turn of events. It occurred to her that the girl had lived in this place for many years now, and may not remember what a proper, human suitor ought to look like. Surely, if she were reminded, she would not consent to marry someone so ugly as the merman.

The servant, who was a painter, created for the girl a portrait of a very handsome man, and the girl agreed that, if human men looked like this, surely she could not settle for an ugly merman instead.

There was, meanwhile, a prince on a ship sailing not far from the island, who happened to catch a glimpse of the girl in his telescope. He fell instantly in love, and with the help of a fairy he knew, sent a message by pigeon, asking for her hand in marriage.

The girl replied that she could not possibly agree to marriage without first seeing what he looked like, and so he sent a portrait by pigeon as well. The girl was delighted to see that the prince strongly resembled the painting made by her servant, and agreed promptly to the marriage.

The difficulty, then, was how to reach the girl, for the enchantment around the palace was too strong for the ship to pass through.

While the prince pondered this difficulty, the girl explained to the mermaids, both her friend and the fairy, that she could not possibly marry someone so ugly as the merman. They were greatly upset by this, and planned to tear down the foundation of the palace and drown her.

The prince arranged for his own fairy to turn him into a hummingbird, and flew to the enchanted palace. The mermaids had by this time made good progress at destroying it, and the girl and her servant were very afraid. But as soon as the prince turned from a hummingbird back into a man, and he and the girl embraced, the terms of the fairy queen’s curse were met, and the girl was free. She, her servant, and the prince were all transported instantly back to the fairy who had raised her. 

This fairy took the girl back to her father; her wicked mother had by this time died, and the old king was overjoyed to have family again. And so the girl and the prince were married, and all lived happily ever after.


(Order The Shoemaker Prince to read a story inspired by this fairy tale, and 13 more!)

Wednesday, October 27, 2021

The Golden Root

(This month I am reposting relevant blogs in preparation for the release of my upcoming short story collection - every blog shared is about a fairy tale that inspired one of the stories.) 

(Also, this is definitely the loosest inspiration in the book, so, like, don't worry.)

Last Christmas I was given Il Pentamerone, by Giambattista Basile. This is the collection of fairy tales that contains the infamous story where Sleeping Beauty gets raped. So right away you know it’s gonna be interesting, at least. (The weird part is that I asked for this book.)

But Sleeping Beauty is old news. Let’s talk about The Golden Root. No one knows about it, and it is definitely worth knowing.

The Golden Root actually shows up immediately after Sun, Moon, and Talia (Sleeping Beauty). Fourth Diversion, Fifth Day. (Il Pentamerone has a frame narrative. Kind of like The Arabian Nights. There’s this group of ten people telling stories to this pregnant girl. Each person tells her one story every day for five days. The guy who got this girl pregnant is supposed to be with another girl who’s one of the storytellers. The pregnant girl is black. Remember that. That’s important. The black girl stole some other girl’s charming prince and then got pregnant.)

So The Golden Root starts with this girl, Parmetella, the third daughter of a poor gardener. Parm takes her pig out to the forest because her sisters are taking their pigs to the pasture, and they won’t let her come. But in the forest she finds a really cool pasture ground, and a tree with golden leaves. She takes these leaves home to her father every night, until the tree is bare. Then she notices that the tree also has a golden root, so she goes home for an axe, then she chops it off and pulls it away from the tree.

Under the root there’s a staircase. Parm goes down the staircase, finds a palace, and meets a black guy. (Again, this is important. Remember this.) The black guy proposes, and she says yes, and they take a flying carriage to a different palace.

Then we get a whole bunch of weird euphemisms. Like, really weird. He cards her wool, but he doesn’t comb it. He sucks the first egg of the beauteous chicken. Anyway, basically they sleep together, but first he makes her put out the lights. Then, when she can’t see him, he becomes a handsome youth.

So what we have here, basically, is the specific type of Enchanted Bridegroom story that I like to call “Only Hot When You Can’t See Them.” Think Cupid and Psyche, East of the Sun West of the Moon.

And then think about how when the prince in East of the Sun West of the Moon wasn’t hot, he was a POLAR BEAR. Think about Enchanted Bridegroom stories. Think about Beauty and the Beast.

And now, remember that during the day he was a black guy.

Someone cursed him to be black. His Beast form is a black guy. Like turning a guy black is the same kind of thing as turning him into a polar bear.

Now remember how the pregnant girl who stole someone else’s boyfriend in the frame story was black, too? Also, a whole bunch of girls in other stories, evil stepsisters and evil boyfriend-stealing servants, rotten girls who take everything from the innocent heroine—they’re black too. All of the black girls are evil. I can’t remember if there are other black guys, but this one is playing the Beast in our enchanted bridegroom story.

Now sometimes I misunderstand these things, but this is racist, right? Like, really, really racist? Because I read this book for the first time when I was thirteenish, and even more clueless than I am now, and I didn’t even notice, that first time, that Sleeping Beauty was getting raped. But this I noticed right away. Like seriously, Basile, dude, what is your problem?

Anyway. Back to the story. Parm, of course, is curious about who or what she’s sleeping with. So she lights a candle and sees how incredibly hot and white he is, and then he wakes up. He wakes up and begins to curse and swear, and this is my favorite moment, this is the one moment that’s actually good, as opposed to so-messed-up-it’s-kinda-funny, because if I’d been this close to being uncursed, and some dumb girl did that thing I’d specifically told her not to, I would totally be swearing. I would be so incredibly pissed at her. You never see Cupid or the polar bear getting mad.

When he’s done swearing, Hot Guy tells Parm that he’s gotta be a black guy for another seven years now, and then he takes off. Parm goes outside and meets a fairy, who tells her to find seven girls on a roof, then gives her a bunch of presents that’ll keep them from hurting her.

She finds the girls. She also finds out they’re Hot Guy’s sisters, and then meets their mom, who is inexplicably an ogre. No word on why Hot Guy is not an ogre. But they’re all pissed at her, because Hot Guy is black, and they can’t hurt her because of the fairy, and somehow she ends up sort of working for them.

Ogre Mom gives Parm some impossible chores. Hot Guy (who is no longer black, so those seven years sure went fast) yells about how stupid she is and then helps her. Also, we find out his name. Hot Guy=Thunder-and-Lightning.

Ogre Mom is pissed about this, and sends Parm to get something from her sister. The sister is also an ogre, and the fairy did nothing to protect Parm from her. So Parm goes, not knowing that it’s a trap, and Thunder finds her. Because apparently just not going to see the crazy ogre lady is not an option, nor is sending Thunder in her place, he tells her how to escape after she gets there. This is very complicated and has several steps, but basically what it comes down to is “Throw her baby in the oven, grab Mom’s box, and run.”

That’s right. He tells her to bake his baby cousin. Don’t worry, it doesn’t really matter, it’s just an ogre’s kid.

Um, Thunder? Last time I checked, you were also an ogre’s kid.

So Parm murders the baby, opens the box, gets rescued and yelled at by Thunder, and delivers the box to Ogre Mom. Then it’s time for Thunder to get married.

His bride is an ogre, too. I’m still wondering why he’s not an ogre, but whatever. They have the wedding. They have the reception. Thunder sits between Parm and Ogre Bride. Thunder’s a little drunk by now, and he’s shamelessly flirting with Parm, right there in front of his new wife. It’s kinda the first time he’s been nice to her since he was black.

Thunder wants Parm to kiss him. Parm is like, “Dude, you just married that girl over there. Like, five minutes ago. I’m not kissing you.” But Ogre Bride says, “Oh, just go ahead and kiss him. He’s really hot. Once I kissed a shepherd who gave me two chestnuts.” 

(Not clear on the relevancy of the chestnuts, here.)

Ogre Mom and the sisters take off, so then it’s just Thunder, Parm, and Ogre Bride, and Thunder’s whining some more about how Parm won’t kiss him, and Ogre Bride says the same thing again.

Thunder flips out. He slits her throat, buries her in the cellar, and gets with Parm, who, oddly enough, has no problem sleeping with a homicidal maniac who killed his last wife on their wedding day, literally half an hour ago.

Also, he calls her an “ass of honour.”

When Ogre Mom finds out what happened, she’s pissed. She goes to see her sister, but after Parm murdered her baby, the sister threw herself into the oven, too. Ogre Mom is so upset by this development that she turns into a ram and headbutts the wall until her skull cracks. Then Parm and Thunder and his sisters live happily ever after. Racism, infanticide, weird double standards, alarmingly unbalanced relationships, this story just has everything. So if you’re ever looking for a new fairy tale to read—

Actually, you should probably just stick with King Thrushbeard or something. At least no one dies.


(Order The Shoemaker Prince to read a story inspired by this fairy tale, and 13 more!)

Sunday, October 24, 2021

King Thrushbeard

(This month I am reposting relevant blogs in preparation for the release of my upcoming short story collection - every blog shared is about a fairy tale that inspired one of the stories.)

King Thrushbeard has always been one of my favorite fairy tales. Top five, easily. (The top five, in no particular order: King Thrushbeard, Prince Lindworm, Donkey Cabbages, East of the Sun West of the Moon, and Beauty and the Beast.) This is partly because (spoiler) I'm a total sucker for secret identities (I blame this on early exposure to Robin Hood and The Princess Bride), and I think partly because of a blog post I read years and years and years ago, which analyzed King Thrushbeard as a Christian allegory. It was a really fascinating post, and I wish I could link it for you, but I first encountered it over a decade ago, and I wouldn't know where to even begin looking for it now.

So recently I reread King Thrushbeard for the first time in at least five years. Which. Kind of a mistake. Some things are just better in memory. (Which is why I no longer read favorite books from my childhood. Some things you just can't bear to have ruined by, like, good taste.)

Anyway. Let's get into it.

Our story starts with a princess who doesn't want to get married, which. Fair. But we're in a setting where,  like, you kinda gotta anyway. Princesses in this culture are not doing a lot of marrying for love, even in fairy tales. And our girl, she's being pretty much as difficult as possible about it. Her father keeps on bringing in suitors, and she keeps on rejecting them in the rudest ways possible. Mostly stuff about their physical appearances. "I can't marry this guy; he's so fat he looks like a wine barrel." "He's so red he looks like a rooster." "His chin is so crooked it looks like a thrush's beak." Etc., etc. Except that the thrush beak one - I'm glancing through the version as I write this post and that's what it says, but in other translations I know they've said his beard looks like a thrush's nest, which makes much more sense to me because facial hair is much more easily changed than chin shape.

Now, okay, I get that marrying a total stranger to strengthen your father's political alliances isn't fun. But insulting powerful men as you reject them is just not the best idea, hon. You're gonna cause problems there. People are gonna blame your dad for your rudeness and not want to be in treaties with him anymore. Which you should know.

So. Dad gets fed up with this whole thing after princess rejects the latest batch of suitors, and swears to marry her to the next beggar that comes to the door. Minstrel beggar comes by shortly afterwards, and beggar and princess are married despite strenuous objections by both. King kicks princess out, because it's "not proper for a beggar's wife to live in the palace."

Princess and beggar walk a ways. They pass through a number of beautiful places owned by King Thrushbeard (which is what we're calling chin/beard dude now), and princess bemoans her foolishness in refusing to marry him. Out loud, which her new husband points out is pretty rude, as she's married to him now.

Eventually they reach the tiny hut where they're going to live. Princess is shocked and horrified by lack of servants. Beggar immediately sets her to cooking and housework, neither of which she has any idea how to do. And then he decides she needs to get a job.

(Once he gets married we never see him beg again, or do any other kind of work; he just expects his brand new wife with no marketable skills to provide for him and contributes absolutely nothing to the relationship. Fantastic. Real stand-up guy.)

Princess is set to weaving baskets, but the materials cut her delicate princess hands. She's set to spinning thread, but those materials also cut her delicate princess hands, and, like, what? Exactly how delicate do your hands have to be to be cut by thread? Apparently we just have a full-on Princess and the Pea situation here. Okay.

Beggar sets her to selling pottery in the marketplace. That goes really well; people buy her pots because she's pretty and sad and they feel sorry for her. This is apparently pottery that the beggar bought from someone else, making the princess sort of the middleman here. Which is where the trouble comes in; some drunk dude on a horse comes through the market and smashes all her pots. Which she and the beggar then have to pay for.

And of course, according to the beggar, this is all her fault, because of the part of the market she chose to work in? If she'd set up somewhere else the pots wouldn't have been trampled. And, like, I'm not liking the beggar. Not an appealing character. Kind of a jerk.

He gets the princess a job as a kitchen maid at King Thrushbeard's palace. She starts smuggling food home in her pockets, which will become relevant in a minute here, because she and her husband are very poor, and food is hard to come by.

All goes well until the king's wedding day. She's got her pockets full of food, and the king - King Thrushbeard, who she so rudely rejected - demands that she, a random kitchen maid, dance with him. While they're dancing, all her pockets burst, spilling the stolen food, and she's in filthy rags in a ballroom in front of a suitor she rejected, so she makes the only logical choice and runs right out of there.

The king follows her. He says, "Surprise! I'm your beggar husband and somehow you didn't recognize me just now? I orchestrated this whole big thing - the marriage, the broken pots, that fun little wardrobe malfunction you just had - to teach you a lesson. And now that you've learned it we can live happily ever after!"

To which the princess replies, "I suck and I'm not worthy to be your wife," which. Just. Oh, honey, no. You were really rude to him once, so he made the next several months of your life a living hell. You are not the unworthy one. Why do you think you're unworthy? Is this Stockholm Syndrome? Do you have Stockholm Syndrome? Is that even how Stockholm Syndrome works? Probably not, but I am Concerned.

(One of these days I'd like to make it through a whole fairy tale summary without being Concerned. Hasn't happened yet.)

So. The wedding that's happening is her surprise wedding, she changes clothes quick before the ceremony, and they live happily ever after. Good times. Our beggar/Thrushbeard was a lot more likeable in my memory before this reread.


(Order The Shoemaker Prince to read a story inspired by this fairy tale, and 13 more!)