Friday, March 30, 2012

Fairy Tale Friday: Snow White and Rose Red

“There is no satisfactory equivalent to the German word m√§rchen, tales of magic and wonder such as those collected by the Brothers Grimm: Rapunzel, Hansel & Gretel, Rumpelstiltskin, The Six Sans, and other such familiar stories. We call them fairy tales, although none of the above stories actually contains a creature called a ‘fairy’…”

link to original here
So begins Terri Windling’s introduction to Patricia C. Wrede’s spectacular rendition of Snow White and Rose Red. This is by far my favorite version of said fairy tale, and now that I’m revisiting my copy, I’m wondering if my love is in part because the introduction is so spectacular. 

And I’m not one for introductions. If the first page of a book starts with "Introduction" enlarged and bolded across the top, I’m more likely to put it down in favor of doing a load of laundry instead.

And I’m not one for doing laundry. Ask Hubs…or on second thought, don’t.

Terri Windling is the creator and editor of the Fairy Tales series, so she writes this intro to give background on fairy tales in general. Some of her points:

  •  Fairy tales were originally created for adult audiences, and were very popular, used widely as fodder for many well-known authors' and poets' work. Both the aristocracy and people of the masses loved them (you probably already knew this?).
  • It wasn't until the Age of Enlightenment, when more emphasis was placed on rational and scientific ways of thinking, that literary fantasy went out of fashion. “[Fairy tales] came to be seen as fit only for children, relegated to the nursery…” (maybe you didn’t know this?).
  • A lot of the tales date back thousands of years, back to when stories were oral rather than written, and much of the magic I imagine was in the face-to-face telling; the leaning into each other, waiting breathlessly for what’s going to happen next; the flicker and smell, the warmth, of fire as people drink and eat and gather around the hearth (I kind of knew this, though in truth, I hadn’t thought about how important it was).
  • Yet much of the magic, the heroism, and the courtly romance has been lost in watered-down versions of the stories. Some have been altered so much that the originals have been pretty much forgotten. Do we all know that the little mermaid really dies at the end? Something having to do with sea foam…?
Which is one of the reasons I brought Snow White and Rose Red to the forefront again. Most people I know don’t recall this fairy tale. I didn’t, when I first found Patricia’s version. I was at that tenuous age somewhere around 14 or 15, where I was sure I knew pretty much everything there was to know, and yet I could be shaken off my foundations with one ungracious “puuff” from teacher, friend, or foe.

This fairy tale shook my foundations, but in a good way. “I thought I knew all the fairy tales," I said to myself, then, being a voracious reader. "There’s more?” 

Tonight, with a sigh that releases some of the desperation I didn’t know was there, I smile a little. "I thought I knew it all," I chuckle to myself, now, trying everyday to be a voracious live-er. "But thankfully there’s always more."

link to original here
Huge thanks to DR and Sleepy Joe, who boldly took up my little challenge from last week’s Fairy Tale Friday. In doing so you did multiple things that are very meaningful to me – 

      You remembered. You took some time out of your lives to think about and then create something beautiful and unique, something no one else could have created. Time is hard to come by, these days. Beauty, uniqueness too. I can’t find these stories anywhere else but on your blogs? Truly awesome.

      Then you shared your stories. This is a big deal, I know, because you’re putting pieces of yourselves out there for others to read, draw judgments about, opening yourselves to potential ridicule. But you’re also opening yourselves to the idea of community, that you’re part of something bigger, and that you’re words and your humanity are an integral ingredient of what makes up the whole. 

      By sharing you invite me, and other readers, to your virtual hearth. I’m bringing my own beverage, I hope you've got something yummy too? We may be thousands of miles apart, but tonight the flicker of the screen lights up my face, I’m leaning in, and as I go through your variations of the Snow White and Rose Red story, I can tell that  somehow you've tapped into the magic that was there before. 

Maybe the originals aren't entirely lost, rather locked away somewhere inside ourselves? What do you think?

Here are their links:

Happy reading!

Total pages logged as of today: 183 but visit my Deadline Updates page for more info

Moment of Magic today:

Refer to all of the above. I'm basking in it all tonight.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

300 Words or Less: Guest Writer -- Isa Lee Wolf

link to original here
Have you ever heard of the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award Contest? I had not, until Isa-Lee Wolf, who’s made it through the first and second rounds to be a current quarter-finalist , graciously volunteered to guest-write today’s 300 Words or Less post.

If you’re interested in the nitty-gritty, perhaps wanting to look into it for next year? Here are the Rules

This is where the contest gets fun, though: the finalist period goes from May 22 to May 30, and involves your votes if she gets that far (and if you love her writing as much as I do). This is true reality TV, or rather… not TV at all, but it’s along the same lines. Reality publishing? Because the winners get a full publishing contract with Penguin to market and distribute their manuscripts as published books.


So what I love about her writing voice is that it’s quick of wit and heart, thoughtful, fresh. All those things you need at the end of a long day when you want to put your feet up and smoosh down into a comfy chair. Maybe a mug of something warm nearby. I’m imagining a tattered sweatshirt is somehow involved too.

If you’re interested in checking out her book it’s called, Aunty Ida's Full-ServiceMental Institution (by Invitation Only).

A quick link to the first chapter is here.

And if you are saying, “Alas, I don’t have a Kindle,” like I did? Apparently you can download free Kindle apps for your PC, your phone, etc. That link can be found here.

Meanwhile. Oh yes, the 300 Words or Less post. Here’s a taste of her charm:
link to original here

It’s About Time

You know the kind of day where you get trapped in an endless loop? You start with the best intentions, visualizing a “to-do” list obliterated by strikethroughs, the future shininess of your stove, the smell of laundry folded and put away.

That’s how it starts

But first comes coffee, and then a quick check of the internet, and the next thing you know, you’re only going through your Receptacle of Infinite Wonder for a minute, five minutes, tops, and suddenly you don’t know where the time has gone, but it’s not striking through your “to-do” list, that’s for sure.

No real damage done, of course, you do have the Receptacle of Infinite Wonder after all, it must have something to get you the day back, somewhere inside. Ah yes, the flea-market find.

OK, maybe most people don’t get their time manipulators from a flea market, but it was so quaint, mid-century. Bakelite, I think. I couldn’t resist. It was only three dollars.

What’s that phrase, “be careful what you pay for?”

Anyway, I twirled it back, the gears clicking with every twist, figuring I’d be back with my morning ahead of me, unspoiled, unwasted, Infinite Wonder or no.

And that’s what happened. Sort of.

Except, well, you see, the laundry’s all done, all of it, everything I could think to wash. I added to-dos because I’ve crossed them all off, and my stove is so shiny, it could host a disco.

And it’s no later than when I started. I know I wanted to be productive, but there are limits, for goodness sake. If only I could go back to not use the time manipulator in the first place. Yes, perfect. Great idea.

Hey, where’d I put that Receptacle? There has to be something in here …

Thanks again Isa-Lee, and quick reminder -- last call for this writing challenge.

Total pages logged as of today: 183 but visit my Deadline Updates page for more info

Moment of Magic today:

Speaking of relaxing with your feet up...

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Master of Plot

link to original here
On paper, Brandon Sanderson looks formidable. He’s the bestselling author of multiple books (an easy to digest list can be found here), as well as the writer chosen by Robert Jordan’s  widow to finish the Wheel of Time series. 

In person he is just as daunting. 

There was so much information he jam-packed into his 45-minute workshop titled, "Advanced Plot Structure" at the writing conference I went to a couple of weekends ago, my notes don’t do justice. There was no way I could keep up. My blog post will do even less justice, so bear with me please, but there were a few things that really hit home with me from this workshop. Maybe they’ll be useful to you too.

First, he says that when it comes to plot there are two basic types of writers:

link to original here
Those that are all about the Discovery as they go (Stephen King would be a great example) – in essence, for this type of writer the characters create the plot, and the story develops from who they are and what they do with the circumstances they've been dumped into.

If you are this kind of writer, here are some things to be aware of:
  • Your stories may have fizzled endings, because there's so much excitement and adventure as you're going, and then huh. The story just seems to...end? Watch out for this.
  • Many of these types of writers tend toward getting bogged down with too much revising as they go, so you may have a hard time even getting to the end.

And then there are those that first create an Outline (Orson Scott Card is this type of writer) – the outline provides a place for the characters to inhabit and act out what's been already planned for them…

If you're this kind of writer, keep these things in mind:

  • Your stories may have wooden characters, because the plot takes precedence over what a character may or may not do due to their personality traits, etc. Watch out for this too.
  • Many of these writers never want to revise while they're going, so do whatever you need to do to make yourself go back and polish.

Second, readers need to have a sense of progressing. Understanding types of plots/subplots is essential, four main types being:

·       Mystery – readers feel progression through this type of plot by slowly giving out info throughout story.

·       Relationship – readers progress through the story as characters develop relationships with each other.

·       Big Problem – this is a big thing we can break up into smaller steps for characters to accomplish, and readers have a sense of progression through the story as each accomplishment is made.

·       Character Arch – progression is felt as the character grows through dealing with their various issues.

Then he says to cross-pollinate plots to get your wild and crazy stories, if that's what you're going for, but don’t worry about being too original with the plots themselves. This is not the place to be original, which leads me into…

Third, writing is about making promises to readers. 

link to original here

So this was a light-bulb-moment for me. Ever since last summer, when I seriously sat down to plan and plot and prepare to write something bigger than a 5-page essay, I've been wondering whether to write for myself or write for my readers. 

The answer if you want to be a published author, is of course, both. But this approached the problem from an angle I hadn't looked at before. For example, if I'm setting up a story that uses relationships do drive the plot forward, then I better resolve problems with the relationships in the end, because I've made that promise to my readers.  

And that doesn't even skim the surface of what he had to say. It was awesome. I've heard lots of people give the advice of going to conferences and workshops, and now I'll add my affirmation too. If you can go, do go, especially if Brandon Sanderson is giving out his two (times infinity) cents.

Oh, and, if' you're up for a writing challenge, don't forget to do this.

**Update: Brandon Sanderson had the following to contribute about this post over at --

"One thing I've found is that writers really like to talk about writing, and I'm no exception. The problem is, the longer we write, the more most of us seem to move by instinct rather than intention. Perhaps that is a result of becoming increasingly comfortable with our own process.

Regardless, it can sometimes become difficult to describe what we do and why. I sometimes feel like I act more like an expert than I truly am. I'm mostly trying to describe my process after-the-fact, and my analysis may or may not have any validity.

For what it's worth, however, here is a video of me talking about some of these same concepts at JordanCon a few years back."

Many thanks to him for his thoughts, and especially for his link. The video helps me breathe a little easier because he says it much better than I, and you can watch him there saying all the things I couldn't get down fast enough. So you can sit back, relax, take notes, and go back to parts you want to hear again.

Total pages logged as of today: 183 but visit my Deadline Updates page for more info

Moment of Magic today:

Sitting in a secluded isle at the library, leaning back into shelves of books, reading the first few pages of a book I was thinking about getting. I love that subtle first taste, first glance. And then I had to sneak a wicked glance at the last page... heh. Anyone else out there do that?

Friday, March 23, 2012

Fairy Tale Friday: Riddle Me This

link to original here
So riddle me this: what fairytale uses these story elements?

Setting: Cottage in a forest, winter initially, though the main action happens later in the summer.

Characters: Two sisters (or just one, depending on the telling), their mother, a bear, and then later an ungrateful dwarf (and again depending on what version it is, there's also a brother that shows up later, but to tell you who he's a brother to would most likely give everything away).

Some of the Conflict Includes: The bear comes into the cottage to get out of the cold, the dwarf gets himself into all kinds of trouble, and later the dwarf curses the girls.

link to original here

Total pages logged as of today: 183 but visit my Deadline Updates page for more info

Moment of Magic today:

Friday = dancing around the kitchen day. Do you dance too, when there's no one there to see you?

Thursday, March 22, 2012

300 Words or Less: Guest Writer -- TangledLou

link to original here
300 Thursday again, where I’m posting bits of original work within 300 words or less.

Except today’s a little different, though, and exceptionally so, because I’m pleased to share an excerpt from the original writings of guest writer TangledLou.

She trains words like a tiger-tamer. So with much appreciation to her, for her, I bring you:


I was going to write you a letter today on the backs of old grocery receipts. Yards of scribblings in ink that will only disappear if you keep them in your pocket; leaving behind the random history of my family's eating habits and the price of groceries. 

This morning's oatmeal sits congealing on the table and the pile of Little People are abandoned in a heap by a Hooligan earthquake in the middle of the living room floor. It all sits, but it will continue to sit a while longer. This stuff of life - the repetition, the ritual - it's always there. Comforting in its way, I suppose, but what a thing to define a life. 

I thought about an old poem of mine, scribbled on manuscript paper, my current copy a color laser print of the original (there's a message in there somewhere about the passage of time, but I digress...)

"cold hands
in my pocket
found it
there amid the
always been there
now it fits"

A life changing encounter reduced to the contents of my pockets the day I wrote the poem. But if you read enough murder mysteries, you know that your whole life can be reduced to the contents of your pockets on any given day. Hence, the grocery receipts. They'll tell you more than I ever will.

link to original here

Total pages logged as of today: 183 but visit my Deadline Updates page for more info

Moment of Magic today:

When I first heard this song I was so hungry for so many things. Listening to it again reminds me of how deeply I yearned then for many of the things I have now. It makes me grateful, over and over again.

Have you heard this song before? What does it make you think of?

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Angel in Disguise

link to original here
Apparently Jennifer Nielsen is an angel in disguise. I needed what she had to say to help me get all amped up for diving back into writing. She presented one of my favorite workshops at the conference this last weekend titled, “The Psychology of Characterization.” Here’s an excerpt from the blurb describing the class: 

Okay, you’ve put your characters together, but do you really understand them…get inside your character’s heads, discover their fears, worries, and motives (hint: they might not be what you think!),…understand why they might not be cooperating with your plot.

And she had me at “Hello.”

The workshop was 45 minutes of non-stop information, starting with four basics of characterization. These are great tools for me, things to keep in the back of my head/notes to double-check when I’m struggling:

1. Personality is stable; traits may evolve or adapt (ex: Type-A personality vs. an angry temperament).

2. It’s not only the presence of a trait that matters, but how intense it is (ex: an angry temperament vs. a person so angry and out of control they are abusive).

3. People do behave out of character, but not very often, so their behavior needs to match their traits (ex: a shy young girl isn’t going to jump at the chance to do a solo on stage for the talent show, so if your character does this there’s got to be a good reason for it).

4. People’s issues tend to be reworked repeatedly throughout their lives, so when designing characters, it’s okay (better?) to have just 2-3 issues they’re hashing and rehashing as the story progresses, rather than many issues. Why complicate things more than you need to?

I loved these, but then she went into detail about a character building worksheet she created based on her long-time experience in work as well as what she’s done through her own writing. Since she made it herself, I’m not sure what the copy-right issues would be? At the very least, I think it’d probably be rude to just start handing it out without her consent. Instead, I’ll refer you to Jennifer Nielsen herself. It’ll definitely be worth your time to contact her…she has a couple of sites:

Last, she’s compiled list of resources that can help writers understand their characters’ personalities and traits better…
click on image to enlarge

And her book coming out in April looks, in a word? Awesome. Intriguing. Fantastic. Take your pick. And then go check it out.

Total pages logged as of today: 183 but visit my Deadline Updates page for more info

Moment of Magic today:

Happy Spring Equinox! With this I give you? Music to relax into and pretty springtime visuals...
What did you do on your first day of Spring?

Monday, March 19, 2012

Deadlines and Updates

Ok I’ll try to keep today’s post relatively short, while at the same time covering quite a bit of ground. I know a few of you are more interested in some topics I cover than others, so I’ll make things easier this time. Here are my three subjects today; feel free to skip to whichever section most grabs your fancy:

1.      Conference/deadlines.
2.      Asking for help.
3.      NPR gig?

link to original here
One: So I purposefully made this deadline coincide with this conference because I thought they would lend well to each other. I was right. The conference was tremendously worthwhile, both for feedback as well as networking, but now more than ever I know there’s a lot of work still left to do.
First rough-draft down, at least 11 still left to go.They gave us some new writing tools about character-stuff and plotting-stuff at the conference that I’ll be sharing on Tuesday this week and next (3/20 and 3/27), so watch for those.

Two: Meanwhile, did I say 11 drafts? At least? Heh. I have to admit that just looks huge in my head, and the thought of all that hugeness makes me want to curl up in bed with the covers over my ears. To hibernate until further notice. 
link to original here
But recognizing my fear helps me face it. I need to get my mind back into noveling, and I’m doing this by setting smaller, more attainable goals. At the same time, though, I don’t want my blog to slow down?
So this is where I’m asking for help. For the next two weeks I’m going to need a little outsourced content. What’s that called in the blogosphere – guest writing, I think? I would absolutely love me some guest writers. Do I have any volunteers?

It would be for the “300 Words or Less” posts on Thursdays. Take courage, take heart, and message me for details. Or say you have your own blog and want to create the piece on your site? Then do a link-up? Love it. Send me the link and we'll play that way. Easy-peasy. 

If you need something to spark your interest, try incorporating one of these ideas:

  • The travel-size humidifier is leaking again.
  • A bent bottle cap lying on the floor next to a...?
  • "It's not the size of the dog in the fight, it's the size of the fight in the dog." - Mark Twain
  • Or for my visual friends, try this:
link to original here

And then,

Three: NPR is doing this cool creative competition called, "Three Minute Fiction." Details can be found here, but the quickies are:
  • Must start with the sentence, "She closed the book, placed it on the table, and finally, decided to walk through the door."
  • Per the title of the competition, it needs to be original short fiction that can be read in less than three minutes -- so 600 words or less.
  • The deadline is Sunday, March 25, at 11:59 pm ET.
I’m all over this one. You? Come on, it’s only 600 words. Or less. Do I really need to dare you to?

Total pages logged as of today: Visit my First Draft -- Deb Stats page to find out

Moment of Magic today:

It would be magical if I could line up some guest writers for the next couple of weeks, so I'm wishing on a star tonight, which brings back some sweet memories of warm summer nights.

link to original here

Friday, March 16, 2012

Fairy Tale Friday: The Goose with the Golden Eggs Pt. 2

link to original here
Alas my fair readers, I’ve purposely mislead you, for a goose is not a gumball machine. Even heart-of-the-city-girl that I am, I know the difference.

This folktale is most often linked with the idea of greed, but I think there’s something else embedded in the story we’ve lost. If it was merely about the egg, why wouldn’t we say it was a chicken or a duck who laid the golden egg? There are far too many references to geese in our older stories. Mother Goose. The Golden Goose. Aphrodite rode on the back of a goose.

There’s something, something about the goose. I just can’t put my finger on it. Here are a few bits that have sifted to the top of my research:

  • “The history of the goose is steeped in both mythology and ancient symbolism (original link here).”
  • “Apparently [the goose which laid the sun egg] was at one time sacred… The sun god Ra, of Egypt, was supposed to have been hatched from the egg which rose from the primordial deep (original link here).” 
  • “In China geese are still a symbol of marriage, because of their lifelong pair-bond (original link here).”

And to bring it to a more personal level, this is an experience my friend shared with me about her geese:

“My husband and I wanted geese and one of my former students who lived down the street had two they needed to find new homes for. The reason? The school bus stop was in front of their house and, while the children waited for the bus, the geese would chase and bite the kids. A new home was needed immediately. That's where we got lucky. So did the geese. So did the kids.

These geese were named Hondo and Jane. They were an item and spent all of their time together. On the morning of the first snow of the year, I went to my car to go to school and saw Hondo dead in the street. (Apparently they had both been sitting in the middle of the smooth, now white, pavement because it made a nice resting place, but a passing car or truck must have struck them.) Jane was nowhere in sight, but there was a trail of blood leading to the pasture behind our house. 

My husband followed the blood and found Jane at the end of the trail. She had a puncture wound from the vehicle. Scott brought Jane into our unfinished basement and called the veterinarian who said most people wouldn't even bother. They'd just put her out of her misery. We decided we could clean the wound and apply the usual human medicine…Neosporin…and hope for the best.

Jane spent several weeks in the basement and never once made any attempts to bite us or hit us with her wings. She seemed to know we were trying to help her. After all of that time looking in her eyes, we could tell there was more there than dinner, and we never ate meat again.”

Now. I’m not necessarily saying you should stop eating meat (though it wouldn’t really hurt?). And I’m not saying you should start believing in God(s), fairies, and dragons (though that couldn’t really hurt either?)

What am I trying to say?

I’m not sure, exactly, except that it’s much too easy to just intone, “Don’t be greedy.” As evidenced by the results of the poll, and by peoples’ comments from Part 1, there’s a lot more involved in this scenario.

The heartache and moral for me in this folktale is not that the man has lost his magic gold dispensary, but that the goose has lost its magic life.

Because life is magical, whether we see it and acknowledge it, or not. Call it what you will, but there is a rhythm, a synchronicity here, and we’re all part of it somehow. I may not have been able to exactly identify what’s embedded in this story, today, but I can feel it there. I can tell there’s more. 

And that is magic.

What about you and your experiences? What do you think the significance of the goose is in this folktale?

Total pages logged as of today: Visit my First Draft -- Deb Stats page to find out

Moment of Magic today:

I watch their shoulder muscles move as they fly and think, "Oh, how exhausting." Birds seem so frail. This is another reminder to me that things are never exactly what they seem.

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