Writing Wednesday: 7 Stories, 7 Days – #8

My goal with this writing effort was to write seven short stories in seven days.  #7, “The Princess Behind the Thorns,” stretched to two days and 9,000 words.  After I finished it, I found I wasn’t quite done with the project.  So on day 9, I wrote one more story.  After that I went on to other projects…until the next time I decide to write a spurt of short stories!  I really enjoyed the project, and loved the chance to invest deeply but briefly in new worlds and characters.

I also enjoyed the chance to write in different styles than usual.  This last story, “Cinderella’s Dresses,” is obviously a fairy tale twist, but darker than most of what I write.  Here’s the beginning, written from the prompt, “The dress spoke for her.”


The dress spoke for her.  It said wealth, power, beauty.  It said she belonged, amongst this august company who glittered and glimmered in the candlelight.  She never had to say a word.  The footman let her in without a murmur, without asking her name, without looking for an invitation.  The dress said she was meant to be here.

It was the dress that told the prince to approach her, as she stood near the bottom of the stair, suddenly afraid to take the last few steps down to the shining ballroom floor, to enter into that whirling, elegant throng.  She knew she would be lost among them, not knowing where to turn, what to do.  The dress shimmered and glowed and beckoned the prince away from the girl he had been eying with a considering favor, to approach her instead, to bow and to extend his hand.

The dress seemed almost to dance for her too, its full skirts whisking about her legs, twirling and floating and carrying her along with the music in the prince’s arms.  When he whirled her away from the crowd, out into the moonlit garden, the dress spoke for her then too, rustling as they walked, whispering that she had secrets.  But the whisper of silk could only hint at elegant secrets, rich secrets, aristocratic secrets.  When he plied her with questions and she blushed and demurred, the dress whispered that all was well, that her story was a delightful one, that someday he would be so pleasantly surprised when he learned the truth.

When the clock struck midnight, the dress all but carried her away.  She ran away down the path, feeling her skirts growing slight and intangible in her hands as she lifted them to flee.  The dress distracted her, its thinning, dissolving remnants twining about her legs, so she didn’t judge the steps correctly, so she stumbled and lost one shoe.  The dress was mere cobwebs and air now, and she didn’t dare to stop, even to pick up that one glittering shoe left behind.

She limped home, retired to her small bed by the fire, and lay awake until nearly dawn, trying to decide if the ball had been the most delightful thing that had ever happened to her, or simply terrifying.

Blog Banquet: Guest Post on The Bookworm Chronicles

PFF Orange Grove Cover - SmallToday is our first stop (first course?) in my Blog Banquet book tour for The People the Fairies Forget.  Today you’re invited over to The Bookworm Chronicles, where hostess Jessica blogs.

Jessica posts frequent book reviews, and is a dedicated responder to comments from lovely readers!  She frequently participates in the Tough Traveling meme, looking at fantasy tropes.  So for my guest post, I wrote a bit about the fantasy/fairy tale tropes I made use of in my novel–characters especially.

Head over to The Bookworm Chronicles to read the post and find out more about my Sleeping Beauty, Prince Charming and Fairy Godmother. 🙂

Book Review: The Ugly Stepsister

You all know how I am about retold fairy tales, especially ones with a twist.  I certainly couldn’t resist The Ugly Stepsister by Aya Ling, retelling Cinderella from a very unusual perspective.

Kat is a typical modern teenager…who suddenly finds herself trapped inside the world of a storybook.  Specifically, Cinderella–but not as the heroine.  Kat is one of the stepsisters, and she won’t be able to get out of the story and go home until the book achieves its happy ending.  But the other stepsister is gorgeous and vying for the prince, the prince has no interest in balls or marriage, quiet and obedient Elle definitely won’t be pursuing the prince herself…and also, it’s hard work being in Society.  Kat could desperately use a fairy godmother, but none seems to be in sight.

I enjoyed the fish-out-of-water aspect of this, as modern Kat tries to cope with a (more or less) Victorian world.  Between corsets, curtsies and dull society calls, not to mention watching her modern slang, Kat struggles to find her way.  Her anachronistic status takes a more serious turn when she ends up confronting the harshness of child labor in the factories.  Her modern sensibilities drive her towards efforts at reform. Continue reading “Book Review: The Ugly Stepsister”

From Beijing to France, with Cyborgs and Lunars

I’m waiting in line at the library for Cress, the third book in the Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer.  Waiting turned out to be a good thing…because it gave me time to reread the first two books, Cinder and Scarlet.  You can click the links for my original reviews, but I thought I’d do a quick re-read review too!  (Some spoilers to follow for Cinder)  These are sci fi, but since they retell fairy tales, I’m still counting them for Once Upon a Time.

The Lunar Chronicles are set a vague but significant distance in the future. Earth has formed itself into seven countries, all at peace–but in an uneasy truce with the Lunar Colony, ruled by the cruel Queen Levana.  Lunars possess magic-like abilities to manipulate the minds of others, and no one is more powerful than Queen Levana.

Cinder is a teenage girl living in New Beijing, a gifted mechanic–and a cyborg.  Despised by society and her adoptive mother, her best friend is Iko, a robot with an overactive personality chip.  Her path crosses that of Prince Kai, shortly before the annual ball (can we see where this is going?)  At the same time, life begins to spiral out of control for both of them–Cinder’s sister is deathly ill with the letumosis plague, Cinder begins to find out startling revelations about her own past, and the death of Kai’s father forces him to take the lead in dangerous political dealings with Queen Levana.

My favorite thing about Cinder may be that she is just so level-headed.  I never understood Cinderella’s relationships in the original story, but I love how Meyer has reimagined things for Cinder.  She has no choice but to stay with her adoptive mother, because as a cyborg she’s legally property.  Cinder is fiercely loyal to her kind younger sister, and her robot friend, so we know she cares about people…but she doesn’t fall immediately under Kai’s spell.  Oh, there’s a crush going on…but she keeps perspective about it all.  It feels like how someone might legitimately feel about a near-stranger they’re attracted to.

I love a Cinderella who would rather run away and start her own life than go to some ball and dance with a cute prince.  Not that she wouldn’t like to dance with the cute prince, but she has priorities!

Oddly enough, much as I love the not-ridiculously-fast romance, it backfires to a certain extent in that I don’t find myself especially rooting for Cinder and Kai as a romantic couple.  Cinder gave us the very beginning of a romance for them…and I hope subsequent books will give us more so I can get more invested in them as a pair.

My other favorite part is Cinder’s amazing cyborg abilities–from the relatively mundane, like having a cabinet in her calf, to the really awesome like being able to detect lying.  They’re woven throughout the book in a very cool way.

Scarlet picks up right where Cinder left off.  Cinder is now a fugitive from both Queen Levana and the Earth authorities, and winds up joining forces with the dashing Captain Thorne.  In his stolen spaceship, they’re on the trail of information about the missing Lunar heir, Princess Selene.  The trail takes them to France, to intersect with our other heroine of the book, Scarlet.  Scarlet is desperate to find her grandmother, who vanished two weeks previously.  She meets Wolf, a street fighter who fluctuates between gentle and fierce, who may have a clue to her grandmother’s abduction.  Although she doesn’t really trust him, Wolf is her only help, and they set out together for Paris.

I liked Cinder, but I really liked Scarlet.  Scarlet is fiery, impulsive, and even more fiercely loyal than Cinder.  And unlike Cinder and Kai, I definitely got behind this romance.  Yes, it’s fast–yes, it doesn’t always make sense–yes, I know all that…but it just works.  Although I tend to like Brooding Heroes with Hearts of Gold (it’s a thing), so that may be a factor…

And a purely personal aspect that will probably not matter nearly as much to anyone but me–a big chunk of the book takes place in the Opera Garnier!  It’s never identified by name, but trust me, it’s the Opera Garnier, former home of the Phantom of the Opera, and Meyer clearly researched the floor plan.

With broader appeal…much as I enjoyed Scarlet’s storyline, I also enjoyed Cinder’s storyline, which kicked into a higher gear in this installment–and how can I not love Captain Thorne, roguish and charming, if not quite as charming as he thinks he is.  I have this thing about arrogant charmers too, so this book was just hitting all my favorite hero-types.

I have to say, I am even more excited for Cress now, which was kind of the point…that, and making sure I’d actually remember who everyone was when I picked up the new book!  I also snagged on to a possible clue about Cress in the first book that I’m sure I didn’t spot on a first read, and I can’t wait to find out if my guess is right. 🙂

Let’s see…#15 in line, and with 27 copies circulating, that’s not so bad!

Don’t forget, you can win a signed copy of my fairy tale retelling, The Wanderers! Just put #WanderersGiveAway in your comment to enter.  Ten days left!

Author’s Site: http://www.marissameyer.com/

Buy them here: Cinder and Scarlet

Classic Review: Silver Woven in My Hair

I don’t know about you, but what with one thing and another, I find myself in a fairy tale mood!  So until I have time to finish reading something fairy tale-related and review it for you, here’s a classic review of one of my very favorite retellings of Cinderella…


Silver Woven in My HairI originally read Silver Woven in My Hair by Shirley Rousseau Murphy from the library when I was…maybe nine?  I don’t really remember.  Young.  I read it several times, and then it somehow disappeared off the shelf.  Miraculously, I remembered the title–I usually don’t.  I usually remember something like, there was a bit in there where the girl is watching the royal family come back from the island and she sees the goatherd, and then she invites him into the kitchen at the inn to have dinner and it makes her stepfamily mad but he just laughs so it’s all right…oh and then they had a picnic later on in the book, and there was that really good part about the owner of the sword.

And that’s not going to help anyone find the story they’re looking for.  But fortunately I remembered the title, and by the time I was in high school the wonderful world of online booksellers existed and I was able to buy Silver Woven in My Hair for my very own, and I spent an entire afternoon rereading the whole book.  It was lovely.

It’s one of the best retellings of Cinderella I’ve ever read.  It’s a story about Thursey, and her terrible stepfamily.  The royal family was coming back from that island because they were there while the queen and the prince recovered from being captured in a war.  Thursey’s father went to the war and never came back, so this Cinderella actually has a reason to stay where she is–even though she knows he’s probably never coming back, she can’t bring herself to leave, just in case.

Thursey doesn’t have a sparkly fairy godmother, but she does have friends who want to help her go to the ball at the palace.  There’s Anwin the monk, and there’s Gillie the goatherd, who’s funny and charming–and very far from a sparkly fairy godmother.  🙂

I love that Thursey is a Cinderella who loves Cinderella stories.  Her family runs an inn, and she collects stories from the travelers who pass through–all the different Cinderella stories from different cultures, Cendrillon and Aschenputtel and Catkin and so on.  Even though Thursey’s life isn’t very good, she never stops dreaming.  The ball is one aspect of the story, but Thursey’s dreams have a lot more substance than dancing a single night at a ball.

The characters, from Thursey to Gillie to the nasty stepfamily, are well-drawn and life-like.  The story is very grounded in reality, in a practical world where dishes have to be washed and goats have to be fed and there’s none of the impossible and incomprehensible leaps that the original fairy tales often make.  Yet there’s also something whimsical about the tale.  For some reason the word “gossamer” keeps coming to mind, and I think it has to do with the writing style.  Murphy has kept some of the poetry of the old tales, while giving us characters and a plot that are more substantial.

Silver Woven in My Hair isn’t exactly a fantasy…or it could be.  Murphy leaves it up to the reader to decide whether some elements are really magic or not, and I’m not entirely sure what I think.

But even if you decide it’s not a fantasy, it’s definitely a magical story.  And a marvelous tale.

Author’s Site: http://www.srmurphy.com/

Other reviews:
Ex Libris Draconis
Mel’s Desk
Anyone else?  I am sad that this book is not better known…

Buy it here: Silver Woven in My Hair