Did You Know…About the Scarlet Queen?

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Marusya Negreev, the Scarlet Queen, single-handedly seized the faerie mound in the Soviet Union just before the Russian Revolution and the fall of Tsar Nicholas the second. Many believe that the fall of the mound influenced the fall of the tsar’s regime, but no one knows for certain.

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When Marusya gained power within the Soviet mound, she flayed her own parents for her merciless upbringing and proved to the people that she would defeat all who came against her. Ruthless and dispassionate, her name was a sign of what she’d been burdened with, and her family was blamed for much of her bitterness. Names prove potent enough to taint the soul, especially amongst the faerie folk.

Many fae died without their home to hide within—exposed to the Celampresians and humans. Anyone who did not serve Marusya fled her rule. Too many didn’t make it out and more never found their way to safety.

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Immediately following Queen Tarkovsky stepping down from the Soviet throne, Scarlet ordered the execution of what amounted to be a hundred-thousand faerie folk, more than a third of the population, earning her the title as the Scarlet Queen. The bloody queen.

She ran off to join the Celampresians as the revolutionaries gained greater numbers than she had the strength to fight from within the mound. Her death toll rose to a quarter million afterwards.

Now, she works with the vampire queen, searching for ways inside what was left of the independent mounds and the truth about her birth.

Camp NaNoWriMo Week Five and Final Update

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Hello, lovelies!

It’s done. Oh my shit, it’s done. Camp. The book. All of it.

But believe me, the book did not want to end. I kept plugging and plugging and plugging, and the book got longer and longer and longer. It finally wrapped itself up at 94,500 words, and fifty-three chapters.

I sat for a day in disbelief that I’d finished it and rewarded myself with a few chapters of reading for pleasure.

Want to see me try and talk my way through the ending? Check out my Camp writing vlog below.

In my last four days of camp—because my week starts on Sunday, not Monday, fight me about it—I racked up close to five-thousand words and all of my remaining minutes. Actually, with the last day, I got an extra five hours in because I wouldn’t let myself plug in those last ten minutes until the book was done.

Okay, let’s be honest, I would have by midnight because I like checking off the box that says I’d complete something, but the prolonging of button-clicking gratification pushed me to find that ending.

So, here are my number so the week:

Minutes Completed: 585/480

Words Written: 4,989

Total Minutes Completed: 3,720/3,720

Total Words Written: 27,964/20,000

Final note: I WON!

It feels nice to win Camp NaNoWriMo again. It’s been a while. In fact, this year has reminded me just how important writing is to my life. And now that I’ve made it a focus, I’m certainly not letting go of it again if I can help it.

 

Well, I’ll be back next week with a project update and an editing vlog, where I dive back into INFERNO to take a full look at it. In the meantime, let me know how you celebrate when you finish a project in the comments below.

 

Breaking Down Satire: Vividness

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Since one of the main descriptions of satire is the use of vivid language that clearly depicts painful, bizarre, foolish, and wicked events and people in order to make an audience aware of how blinded or insensitive or numb we can become to the truths in which we often must overlook to get through our day. Okay, that opens a can of worms that I will actually dig into.

Let’s jump right into an example, “The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas,” one of my favorite stories to teach for the satire unit.

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Ursula K. Le Guin does an excellent job of crafting this magnificent place, and she does so straight away with her first lines:

With the clamor of bells that set the swallows soring, the Festival of Summer came to the city of Omelas, bright-towered by the sea. The rigging of the boats in harbor sparkled with flags. In the streets between houses with red roofs and painted walls, between old miss-grown gardens and under avenues of trees, past great parks and public buildings, processions moved.

And:

An old woman, small, fat, and laughing, is passing out flowers from a basket, and tall young men wear her flowers in their shining hair. A child of nine or ten sits at the edge of the crowd, alone, playing on a wooden flute. People pause to listen, and they smile, but they do not speak to him, for he never ceases playing and never sees them, his dark eyes wholly rapt in the sweet, thin magic of the tune.

Both create a sense of awe, of fairy tale, or a utopia, which is what Le Guin works for six pages to make us believe in—something more unbelievable than a fairy tale. Utopias cannot exist. Especially not on a large scale.

And that, my friends, is her point. She often asks the reader, “Do you believe me now?”

Then, she drops this bomb on us, more vivid than any of her previous imagery:

Do you believe? Do you accept the festival, the city, the joy? No? Then let me describe one more thing.

In a basement under one of the beautiful public buildings of Omelas, or perhaps in the cellar of one of its spacious private homes, there is a room. It has one locked door, and no window. A little light seeps in dustily between cracks in the boards, secondhand from a cobwebbed window somewhere across the cellar. In one corner of the little room a couple of mops, with stiff, clotted, foul-smelling heads, stand near a rusty bucket. The floor is dirt, a little damp to the touch, as cellar dirt usually is. The room is about three aces long and two wide: a mere broom closet or disused tool room. In the room a child is sitting. It could be a boy or a girl. It looks about six, but actually is nearly ten. It is feeble-minded. Perhaps it was born defective, or perhaps it has become imbecile through fear, malnutrition, and neglect. It picks its nose and occasionally fumbles vaguely with its toes or genitals, as it sits hunched in the corner farthest from the buck and the two mops. It is afraid of the mops. It finds them horrible. It shuts its eyes, but it knows the mops are still standing there; and the door is locked and nobody will come…but the child, who has not always lived in the tool room, and can remember sunlight and its mother’s voice, sometimes speaks. ‘I will be good,’ it says. ‘Please let me out. I will be good!’

Although may lessons can be taken by the way she sets up the trajectory of the story, the largest impact comes in comparing that first child, the flue player, with the child in the closet. Le Guin lays out the rules, without that single sacrifice, that boy wouldn’t have been so blissfully wrapped in the tune of his flute.

In fact, the entire city would fall apart, and so would its people:

If the child were brought up into the sunlight out of that vile place, if it were cleaned and fed and comforted, that would be a good thing indeed; but if it were one, in that day and hour all the prosperity and beauty and delight of Omelas would wither and be destroyed. Those are the terms. To exchange all the goodness and grave of every life in Omleas for that single, small improvement: to throw away the happiness of thousands for the change of the happiness of one…

I hope the point is obvious. Since utopia means something different for all of us, when one is enacted, there will always be someone who is oppressed and violated. Someone will always suffer so that others can have more.

I, of course, use this in class to talk about all types of things, like child slave labor and bad business practices of big conglomerates. But it also allows me to force their hand, to make them look at their bad behavior, at all of ours, because those conglomerates wouldn’t be so big if we didn’t buy their products. But when Le Guin makes that connection between the children, she is describing us—those of us with the easy connection to the internet, who carry computers around in our pockets, drive our own cars to work or school, have more food than we can eat in a week, those of us who have to work fifty, sixty, seventy, eighty ours a week to have a little more than the bare minimum.

She is also talking about the rich and powerful, too, don’t let me distract from that, but they aren’t reading this story. My students are, and they have to know that those luxuries are available to us because of that eight-year-old digging in a field to extract cocoa and coffee beans. Those people who try to jump to their deaths from the top floor of a third-world factory, making our leading brand of phones, because they’re treated so poorly—only to be caught in nets and rolled right back into work.

We buy those products and fuel those businesses. We vote with our dollar, but most of us do not think about it.

We’re distracted by those toys, by the hustle to be successful, to make more money, to live an easier life. Because it’s hard to do. It makes sense that we don’t stop to think about it, and when we do, we feel the pull of that game on our phone, that social media feed, that cat video. We can’t do anything as a single person amongst billions.

That’s why Le Guin names the story after her brilliant ending. There are ones that walk away from the city because they can’t live with their happiness hinging on someone else’s misery.

If you get the chance to read the full story, I encourage you to. Her ability to so vividly describe this place and this problem makes it rich with connections and layers of meaning. And that’s what vividness should do for a satirical text—highlight their point and infuriate their readers.

 

Have you had a vivid description impact you in this way? Let me know about it in the comments below.

Academy Book Fair Giveaway

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Hey, lovelies!

Want to win a complete set of the Harry Potter series? Check out the Academy Book Fair, featuring one of my books, THE GIRL WITH THE GLOWING HAIR.

For the festivities, here’s an entire chapter from the novel.

 

 

CHAPTER FOURTEEN Crazy. Not Stupid.

Uncle Henry insisted on driving me the two minutes to school as a show of authority in taking on my father’s parental role. In fact, he escorted me on campus and to detention to meet Adam.

Luckily, or maybe out of my uncle’s design, we arrived first. When they shook hands, my uncle morphed into a no-nonsense-FBI-dad, and I swear he grew two inches taller like he’d had to intimidate paranormal creatures as a career. Maybe towering over criminals felt the same to him.

And maybe, he’d teach me that someday.

Adam didn’t skip a beat as I took the front left corner desk by the window.

“I worry about the people your niece associates with. She has quite the potential to make a good REP agent, but she has to apply herself instead of being distracted by the nonsense.”

I walked back to Uncle Henry, who held my extra bag of books—I stuffed my backpack with snacks and divided my research into two shopping totes that wouldn’t see a vegetable for quite some time. I smiled up at him as I retrieved it silently from his grip and returned to my seat.

“She’s a good kid. I don’t expect she’ll give you much trouble. And the Walkers are good people, even if their son likes fireworks.”

The corner of Adam’s mouth twinged.

Mine, too. I should have figured my uncle knew everyone in town at least to some degree, but I hadn’t thought about it.

“Yes. Unfortunately, the destruction in one of our labs was a bit more extensive than some loud bangs and flashes of light. Dragons are not toys.”

“Then I hope the school isn’t handing them out indiscriminately.”

Humor shifted Adam’s stance, seeing the family resemblance in the way Uncle Henry defended me without denying my involvement in the Moon debacle.

“I wouldn’t know. Her instincts to run toward danger rather than from it is commendable.” Wow, did he just compliment me? “But until she’s had the proper training, we need to reinforce her need to seek out the proper authorities instead of rushing in.”

Damn. That hit an FBI nerve. Too many stories about not being prepared and getting myself killed echoed in the training sessions he’d run me through.

“We can agree on that,” Uncle Henry said as another student entered detention—totally his cue to stop before he embarrassed me. “You let me know what she needs work on, and I’ll be sure she has the practice.”

With a handshake, my guardian disappeared, and I dropped my head to my things before Adam could catch my attention and likely lecture me for that exchange.

A bag clattered on the floor catty-corner to me and a paper cup with lid scraped the top of my desk. Evan dropped into a desk with a cardboard cup holder and a second drink.

“You moving in?”

Radiating my embarrassment, I tucked the scarf more tightly around my ears. “If I have to be stuck here, I may as well make it a productive time.”

“Takes the fun out of getting detention.” The delinquent look Evan shot Adam’s way knotted my stomach. I did not want to get caught in the middle of whatever feud they had. At least not any more than I already was.

I shook my head and sipped the coffee he’d brought me—sweet but not too sweet, with milk but dark. Good, but not enough to have me bowing to his observational skills yet because the excitement in Evan’s smile terrified me as my mentor looked our way.

I yanked the first book from my bag and did my best to ignore the igniting of tension between them. Leave. Me. Out of it. I sighed into my history reading, mind growing numb and derailing into the little research I completed before Uncle Henry switched me to homework. He seemed proud of the projects I’d put together, but I was on punishment once I finally caved and told him about earning Saturday detention.

He expected me to clean the house this weekend on top of it. I needed to focus so I could get everything done.

Ancient History consisted of a list of names and abilities and dates, which seemed like it would be interesting, cataloguing the variations of different species over a period of time, but it grew tedious rather quickly. One leader clashed with another and had greed motivating them so that each generation had their own wars to fight. Family lineages flourished and died, and I really couldn’t care less.

After an hour, I had my scribbled notes organized to be typed for my chapter response and drained the remnants of my cold coffee. Stretching free of the heavy concentration and pure determination, I jolted at the sight of a dozen precise paper footballs lined up on Evan’s desk. He bent a fresh piece and creased it carefully with the back of his thumb.

Heat rising with my pulse. This was not going to be good. If Evan started a war in here, I was barricading myself in the back and waiting for the fallout.

Both of them seemed so calm and calculating. Adam scratching out notes on a pad as he scanned a book—somehow, he looked right doing it, which I never imagined before. He seemed more of the hands-on, teach-from-experience type.

I grabbed a couple snack cakes from my backpack and tossed one at Evan, who glared at me. “Before your sugar dips and you do something stupid.”

He scoffed like I’d offended him. “Crazy, maybe. Never stupid.”

Shifting in my seat, the coffee hit my bladder, but I didn’t want to interrupt the glare-a-thon. A few minutes more proved this an impossible task. I slipped from my seat and rattled off, “potty break,” on my way out the door.

“Hey. Where do you think you’re going?”

“Bathroom.”

“You need permission to leave the room.”

“Try to stop me, and we’ll both get wet.”

Blonde brows shot high on his forehead, and Evan grinned as I slipped out the door.

Relieved, I returned to Evan examining his paper footballs between two fingers, clearly aligning them with Adam’s desk. He might say crazy, but what he was obviously planning seemed so far into stupidity territory, the natives might think him one of them.

I nearly finished reading for Miss Oscar when the commotion started.

Evan set a white oval stone on his desk, lining it up with painstaking precision. Once satisfied, Evan took his first football, aimed it toward his rock, and flicked with a thumb and forefinger.

Sparks sprayed as the paper met the stone and shot the football into the books on Adam’s desk. They toppled back onto the floor.

Evan armed another, twisting his stone a hair, letting loose, and scattering Adam’s papers in a big puff.

The cold, death in my mentor’s gaze froze me to my seat but didn’t faze Evan. They each moved at alternating speed, Evan fast and Adam slow. Was that an effect of the magic he used to spring his weapons with such velocity?

Three more hit Adam across the chest, but the one spinning for the center of his forehead stopped, hovering in the air.

Adam snatched it, and Evan changed strategy.

The rampage of paper flung around the room, and the two other detentionees ducked under their desks.

Once Evan was out of ammo, he grinned, stretched, and hopped his desk to sprint out of the door.

Fury seethed from my mentor, teeth grit as his gaze followed my lab partner.

Then he stuck me in my seat with it before I knew I’d stood.

Everything fluttered and snapped back into place like nothing had happened, and Adam stomped out of the room after Evan.

After a few minutes, I stopped waiting for them to come back and set to work. They’d either explode back into the room or they wouldn’t, and I was sick of staring at the door in anticipation.

With most of my homework complete, except for the exercises Adam assigned in our mentorship, I tackled my bag of research fromhome. I spread them out around me like Uncle Henry; that was what I needed now—here, sitting in this tiny desk. A serious table might suffice, but a nook would work better.

The only real space was by Adam’s desk and the whiteboard. Instead, I pushed the desks around me, settled against the wall under a window and fanned my stuff onto the floor.

Halfway through my organization process, Evan returned, closing the door, marking it with white chalk, and stuffing small shards of stone between the seams around it. His markings spread to the wall and floor as Adam’s face appeared in the small, rectangular window.

With a shake, the lock seemed to fuel the flames in his blue eyes. His fist rattled the door.

“Uh uh uh,” Evan said, shaking his head. “Remember your duty to protect school property.”

Of course.

I shook my head and ducked into my project.

Evan dropped a stone and markings around the other windows before he squatted across the two layers of notes as I started a third.

“Falling down the rabbit hole, I see. What’s all this?”

“Research.” I spared him an annoyed glance and peeked at Adam making sparks of his own on the other side of the door.

I laid more papers out, and Evan scanned my organized chaos.

“What have you found?”

“Well, nothing yet, but there’s something here.”

“Because you feel it.”

“If you’re not going to help, don’t disturb me.”

I finished spreading my printouts and copies. After a minute, Evan shifted my stack and crawled into the vortex with me.

“You’ve got two different projects here.” He pointed first to my preliminary findings on the three missing students. “Not much in the way of leads there, but what’s that new search you’re doing? The local book by that girl who went feral?”

The mockery in his voice stung, jabbing me a little in the heart.

Evan flipped through my copy with a chuckle. “Been busy with your notes, I see.”

I snatched the book from his hands with a menacing glare and put it back beside me.

“Tell me you’re not genuinely studying Locating Lucifer’s Lair as evidence.”

“I don’t know what I’m studying it as, but there’s something beyond the surface of it.”

“I didn’t take you as a Lucifer-chaser.”

Fumes flared my nostrils.

Adam tapped the window with a long and black stick.

“Lucifer’s my mother,” I said, half under my breath.

“And you’ve never met her.” The softness of his voice surprised me. “Always had a feeling that angel’s kindness and defense of humanity made her a woman.”

“That kindness hasn’t touched me yet.”

His elbow found my knee. “I’ve never really met my parents either.”

“Neither of them?”

A heartbeat of a pause.

“Nope. I was too young. Adopted.”

“So, you’ve got missing pieces, too.”

Evan nodded and took another look around my notes—this time with a bit more contemplation.

Patterns. I needed patterns.

Too many pieces were missing.

I pulled out my phone and logged into my different social accounts, searching for the popular kids.

Too many with the same name and no visual reference. I sighed and tapped Evan for my snack bag, pulling out an apple. I offered him one.

“I’ll take another snack cake if you’ve got one.”

“Do you run on sugar?” I tossed him one.

“And meat.”

“Right.”

I tried to think without thinking.

The two leads weren’t likely connected through anything other than the circumstance of this paranormal town. I mean, how probable would it be for these three to be connected with my mom and the mines?

Since Belle’s tale was already a cold case, I focused on my fellow students.

“What do you know about fey?”

“Matriarch. Big into royalty. Tricksters. Couldn’t care less about human affairs. Mild powers.”

That resembled the sirens quite a bit. “Are they competitive?”

“With other fey, but they’re superiority and pride keep them from challenging other creatures unless threatened.”

“Doesn’t sound smart to me, challenging a hive.”

“It’s not.”

“What about demis? There’s more than one kind, which one is Lucinda?”

“Demon. Most common since they like to sleep around with humans and the DNA overlaps better than gods or angels.”

“Aren’t demons and angels really similar?”

Evan shifted again, shrugging his shoulder and picking some lint off his jeans. “Yes and no. Angels are divinely made. Demons were human once.”

“Oh.”

“If you’re looking for a link between the threesome, they’re all hot-tempered tricksters that use temptation and threats to achieve their goals. Besides, they’re rich kids who live on the outskirts of town. Powerful parents and families rooted into the foundation of our little Saint Siena.”

I tapped at my phone again and showed Evan. “Show me who is who so I can research in other ways. Being the new girl has major drawbacks.”

“Like all of your friends are hundreds of miles away.”

Grief slumped through me again. “Exactly. Who’s who?”

He tapped the first, Lucinda. No friending option, so I followed what little they left public.

Katie next, same sparse public profile. I followed.

Jeremy last. Followed.

Shit. I bet Evan wasn’t friends with any of them with the way he stomped through the world.

Maybe Starr wouldn’t mind a little stalking and gossip. I sent her a quick text.

Got a mini-almost-friends favor. How good are you at cyber stalking?

“Thanks. We’ll see how much I can dig. At least, now, I’ve seen their faces. Class with two of them.” Both in English.

“Count your blessings that you didn’t grow up with the three.” He grumbled incoherently. “And I’m the one with community service.”

“Torrid past?”

Caveman harrumphed.

The window behind us rattled, and Adam levitated there, throwing more magic at it.

“He’s going to murder you when detention is over. We have to leave sometime.”

Evan grinned back up at Adam like he had a death wish. “He has to catch me first.”

I’ve got some serious skill. Who’s your target?

Please, don’t be besties with these three. I need an unbiased third party with some actual interest. I sent her the names.

Set your sights high, girl. What are you looking for?

What was I looking for? Basic info, patterns, routines, outliers…

Everything. Info-gathering mission.

Full-blown stalker-mode, up and running. Hit you back when I’m through.

Relief. Wheels turning. Maybe I’d solve this before the end of the semester. Hopefully, no one else went crazy before then.

“So, are you going to tell me about this feud you have going, or are you going to keep me from the middle of it from now on?”

“It goes back a long way. I haven’t seen him in years. Feels good.”

“Shooting him with paper footballs.”

Evan poked his lip ring. “Yup.”

“Why do I feel like I’m going to have to reveal a deep dark secret to hear this story?”

A shrug.

“Put something into the ether like that, and you’ll have to own up to it.”

“Maybe.” I gathered my knees in my arms. “But not today.”

No. Today, I would be wracking my brain for memories of English class. For Katie and Jeremy. I haven’t seen them in what seemed like weeks; however, my lack of a real life merged school together into one mass of class and homework and lonely nights at home.

I could filter it out.

I needed to.

 

Be sure to check out the Academy Book Fair’s Giveaway!

Killing off Characters |Camp NaNoWriMo Week Four Update

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Hello, lovelies!

Holy shit, y’all. I got close to another 7k on my word count this week. Who is this person Camp has turned me into?

And I’m hovering 500 words shy of 90k in my manuscript. This isn’t including parts that I have to go back and add to, and I have another two and a half chapters left!

Okay. Wait. Breathe. Yeah, I’m almost done. Which is what I wanted. But when I get here, nerves and excitement and the end-of-the-draft crazies descend upon me.

Want to see me freak a little about having to kill one of my main characters? Check out my Camp writing vlog below.

I hope in the next two days that I can hammer out the last few chapters. The end has thrown a few obstacles at me, and some new plot points that I didn’t think of in the plotting of this. Fun thing about my outlines is that they’re usually vague enough for me to squeeze other things in there if I need to, or condense a whole bunch of shit I thought was important but, really, wasn’t.

Yup. Even with all the moving around, I keep racking up the words. I also got to catch up on quite a few minutes, too. Far less behind than last week, and I’m confident in hitting my Camp Nano goal of 3,720 minutes written.

So, here are my number so far:

Minutes Completed: 995/840

Minutes Behind: 105

Words Written: 6,830

With four days left of writing, I have to up my daily goal from 120 minutes to 150. Easy peasy.

Time to win. You with me?

 

Well, I’ll be back next week with another update and another writing vlog. In the meantime, let me know if you’d ever try NaNoWriMo in the comments below.

 

Did You Know…About Cinderella?

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The versions we currently know of the Cinderella story glean their pieces from a piece dating back to the first century, which transformed a tale about a Greek slave girl becoming an Egyptian queen into a supernatural and magical romance.

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The first variant of Cinderella is “Rhodopis,” which originated in Egypt and is believed to loosely based on a real person. Herodotus wrote a story about a young, Greek girl being kidnaped by pirates and sold to a kind Egyptian master. Unfortunately, her fellow slaves are less kind, so she finds solace in her animal friends. Then, she discovers fancy shoes in the Pharaoh’s court. Cue the romance, of course, as she marries the Pharaoh by the gods’ decree. This early tale appeared in various forms across eighteen centuries.

Another close version appeared in the sixth century, depicting a Greek wealthy prostitute named Rhodopis plots to have an eagle steal one of the slave girl’s shoes, fly it across the Mediterranean, and drop it into the lap of an Egyptian king. The shoe was a sign from the heavens, and the king quests to find its owner, marry her, and make her a queen.

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In a ninth-century Chinese portrayal, Ye Xian is granted a single wish from some magical fishbones: to create a gown in hopes of finding a husband. A monarch finds the shoe—a gold fish-scale design—and quests for the woman with tiny enough feet to fit it. Ye Xian’s beauty prompts the king to marry her, and the terrible step-mother dies in her cave home, crushed by stones.

The medieval Phillipines created “Anne de Fernandez,” where the title character befriends Gold-Eyes, a talking-fish reincarnation of her mother. Anne’s evil step-family tricks Gold-Eyes, kills her, and prepares her for supper after sending Anne on an errand across the forest. She’s shown the bones when she returns. Her only way out of this hellhole is when the Prince of Talamban falls in love with her instead of one of her step-sisters. An intriguingly small, golden slipper, leads the prince back to Anne in spite of her family’s plotting.

In Japan, Chūjō-hime, escapes her evil step-mother with the help of Buddhist nuns. She joins their convent in the end. And in Korea, the mistreated Kongji goes to the mayor’s feast, meets his son, and the love story ensues.

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Most of the newer bits stem from more recent tales, like the seventeenth-century’s “Cendrillon” or “The Little Glass Slipper” by Charles Perrault, which depicted a young girl forced into servitude to her stepfamily and is eventually rescued by a prince with the help of a lost glass slipper, a godmother, and magic, of course.  His account introduced the pumpkin and the cinder element, since the maiden slept beside the fire every night and woke covered in ash. But in Perrault’s world, the stepsisters apologize for being terrible and go on to marry lords.

Most of the countless depictions follow this theme. Although one version has Cinderella murder her stepmother. I want to read this one. And another shows Cinderella force-fed her own toe. Ick. Needless to say, this character and her story isn’t so easily defined, yet she permeates our culture so deeply. She intertwines together centuries of storytelling and many cultures.

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Another modern version comes from an Italian collection of short stories. “La Gatta Cenerentola,” or “The Cat Cinderella,” also possessed the ingredients of the modern tale, the step-family, the magic, the missing slipper, but it brings more darkness. A woman named Zezolla flees from a king who wants to marry her, narrowly escaping him at two different celebrations, but he catches her at the third and thwarts her ability to abscond. Instead of uplifting love, Zezolla’s story ends in a forced marriage. Oh, and she has six evil step-sisters instead of two.

A second Italian variant of the tale—or a second-cousin to the story—headlines with a woman giving birth to a talking gourd. A prince stumbles upon it and takes it with him. Eventually, a girl emerges from the gourd and is kept as a slave by the prince, who mistreats her terribly. Beaten to keep her from his ball, she makes it there anyways in disguise. They meet, and he gives her gifts throughout the night, and in the morning, she serves him breakfast as her squashy self, but has slipped her gifts into his food, and he realizes she is his beloved. They get married. Um, what?

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Well, without surprise, the Brothers Grimm got their hands on the tale, too, creating a much darker story in the nineteenth-century. “Aschenputtel,” or “Ash Fool,” provides a tree growing from her mother’s grave instead of a fairy godmother to grant Cinderella’s wishes. Instead of a dead father, he’s obstinately ignorant of his daughter’s misery. Grimm gives the girl golden shoes and has her step-sisters cut off their own toes to get the shoe to fit. However, Cinderella still marries the prince, and her step-sisters are bridesmaids, but doves peck their eyes out during the ceremony. Yes! That’s one to read to the kiddos. I mean, if your kiddo was like me as a child…

In Russia, “Baba Yaga and Vasilisa” was written in the mid-nineteenth century and is similarly more adult. The girl, Vasilisa, is sent to a witch by her step-mother, who assumes that the girl will die. But she survives the hut made of human bones, her brush with death reunites her with her dad via a helpful magic doll. Unfortunately, Baba Yaga punishes the cat whose only job was to kill Vasilisa by scratching out her eyes.

Native Algonquin legends in the late nineteenth century provided us with “The Hidden One,” a variance that emphasizes morals rather than revenge. A young warrior named Strong Wind could make himself invisible, which he uses to test the truthfulness of the women who’d like to marry him. Then, he meets three sisters; two claim to see him when they can’t, but the youngest and most abused, tells the truth and, therefore, ends up with Strong Wind.

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Disney’s version of Cinderella piggybacked on the more kid-friendly elements, like the talking animals and songs popular in Snow White and Sleeping Beauty. It also worked as an excellent marketing tool, showing the merits of consumerism—the nice ride, the fancy dress and shoes, and how a grand entrance really does make a great first impression. Oh, and did you know that sparkly dress was based on designs by Dior, a French luxury fashion designer?

Most recently in 1994, West Africa offers Chinye, a reprieve from the marriage mandate. The young girl is sent by her step-mother to fetch water in a dark, scary forest. Chinye is patient and good hearted, which leads her to a treasure in the woods. This provides her with the financial freedom of her greedy step-family, and she goes on to live a great life, helping others with her riches.

The Cinderella story most often tells us that we can overcome hardship. That we have the power to change our lives. And if you’re a hopeful romantic, that love will find a way to save us.

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I had the honor of reading through and publishing so many new takes on the fairy tale in AFTER THE HAPPILY EVER AFTER. But since Cinderella marries a Charming prince, and so does Snow White, I couldn’t resist smashing the two princesses together in the same kingdom as undercover agents. Yes, you heard me right. Think fairy princess and 007, abusive husbands, crafty DWARVES, and conspiracy theories.

Hardships are abound, but can these two overcome them all? Who’s to say? Well, I could, but I won’t.

 

What’s your favorite version of the Cinderella tale? Let me know in the comments below!

 

 

Sources:

https://www.vox.com/2015/3/15/8214405/cinderella-fairy-tale-history

https://www.refinery29.com/en-us/cinderella-origins

https://www.newworldencyclopedia.org/entry/Cinderella#Origins_and_history

https://www.npr.org/2015/03/13/392358854/a-girl-a-shoe-a-prince-the-endlessly-evolving-cinderella

Camp NaNoWriMo Week Three Update

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Hello, lovelies!

This week I got so many words! I careening towards the end, but it’s taking a little longer than I thought it would. My original goal was 75,000, but as I’m closing in on 85,000, I have to wonder if I’m looking at 90,000 or 95,000 words. What??

Want to watch me dance around after reading my initial goal? Check out my Camp writing vlog below.

I got rolling, and learned a few new things about my world and characters. Ria’s even sympathizing with the enemy! It makes killing the character I need to feel off. Here’s hoping that as I run into that necessary scene, I can get the details right.

But while my words are ranking up like crazy, my minutes are still way behind, and my math from last week was off by a hundred. Oh well, if I can reach the end of this book by the end of July, I will be one happy camper.

Get it? Okay, it was a bad pun. Sue me.

So, here are my number so far:

Minutes Completed: 810/840

Words Written: 7,932

So, I’m behind by 200 minutes, which is roughly three and a half hours. Still banking on making those minutes up, even if I have to get 140 minutes each day. I’ve got this.

I’ve totally got this. Right?

Well, I’ll be back next week with another update and another writing vlog. In the meantime, let me know what you’re working on or what you’re reading in the comments below.

 

Breaking Down Satire: Obscenity

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Obscenity is reductive, which reduces men to equality and humbles the mighty. The fool becomes the king, the whore a preacher, and rigid hierarchy is muddled. Everyone’s place evens out to the same level through the removal of rank and wealth. This is used to strip men bare, removing their robes and crowns, and leaving them naked and too similar.

Through obscenity, a satirist can push further and drop us into our true animalistic conditions, where claims to social and divine powers makes a character seem more ridiculous. We have no heroes, no leaders, no one better than anyone else. It mocks what we often hold as more important than individual thoughts and feelings.

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Some may confuse obscenity with simply using foul language or pornography, but it more closely shows the treatment of a subject by pushing boundaries against taboos and puritanical thought. Those very things that restrict us from our most basic natures and limit society’s progression through the folly of righteousness.

Obscenity preceded satire and comedy in Greek and Roman festivals where phallic songs and rude verses were sung. But the most famous use of it in satire was Swift’s “A Modest Proposal,” and his ability to horrify his audience with the idea of using the poor as a means of producing more affordable meat through eating their young. The suggestion was not a serious one, but an extreme to make a point—something must be done to keep people from starving, and he was sick of having his genuine ideas ignored, so he relied on the atrocity of the idea to gain attention for the problem.

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More modernly, South Park is the front-runner for pushing the bounds of societal commentary through vulgar speech and offensive material. The use of obscenity as a vehicle to create deep, analytical thought is often lost on audiences who cling to the puritanical rules placed within our varying cultures. But pushing past their use of shit and fart jokes, they open us to create dialogues on wider issues concerning censorship, as with their episodes surrounding the use of swearing or images of Muhammad on television. Check out this video if you’d like a more in-depth explanation about how South Park addresses these issues.

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Censorship has always been a big deal for me as an individual and a writer, and may be one of the bigger reasons why I love to read and write satire. I’ve been punished for my foul language by authorities my entire life—I was that kid that got written up for saying fuck on the bus in kindergarten, and first grade, and second, third, fourth, and fifth. I learned to keep it to myself by sixth. Yeah, I was slow on the uptake there, or maybe, I rebelled against people telling me that I had no right to control what came out of my own mouth.

Man, I sound like Ria.

This links more heavily to my on-going battle with conformity, both in my novels and in my life. As someone who has been bullied for my hair, my weight, my opinions, and my ideas, I cling to obscenity like a demented twin sister who loves to get me in trouble. My foul language does not make my intelligence or my arguments any less sound. Although it certainly makes them more colorful.

Again, Ria is the same, dropping f-bombs to make her uptight mentor flinch. Got to fight the man in any way she’s allotted, and she’s unapologetic for being herself. I wish I was more like her, but fiction allows a wider line than reality does since I can get fired for saying certain things in my classroom—or people might rebel if I expressed my every opinion in public.

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Essentially, the use of obscenity allows us to create a visceral reaction in others in hopes that they will examine not only the ideas placed before them, but their reactions, their cultures, and their own behaviors in hopes of progressing thought and reducing us all to the same base note: that we’re all simply human.

Do you use obscenity in your writing? Let me know in the comments below.

 

 

Sources:

Satire: Origins and Principles by Matthew Hodgart

https://nofilmschool.com/2016/10/evolution-south-park-vulgarity-and-tv-censorship

 

Camp NaNoWriMo Week Two Update

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Hello, lovelies!

This week I had a good time with my writing goals and with my family. I got spend a lot of time with my mom, dad, and step-dad, two days with my aunt and uncle in Rochester, some bonding time with my cousins, and a lot of laughter with my friend Donna—we made some silly jokes about Ernest Hemingway.

Want to watch me make a fool of myself? Check out my Camp writing vlog below.

I really picked up the steam this week, lots of words and extra minutes, and a ton of pecking away at this beast. My pantsing magic dropped some great details on me in the last few chapters. I never thought I’d say this, but torture has become mundane. I’ve had to issue a lot of it on my main charrie. I’ve condensed a few of the chapters to limit the redundancy, and I’m glad we’re closing in on the end of it, for Ria’s sake, mine, and my readers’.

As a side note, I got to meet the great candy makers at Hercules Candy, who I found on YouTube this past winter. They are some funny people, and I loved chatting with them while I was there. I knew they were my kind of people when I found out they were from my home town, even though I found them while I was all the way down in Oklahoma. Shout out to those good people!

So, here are my number so far:

Minutes Completed: 740/720

Words Written: 4,575

So, I’m behind by 110 minutes, and that’s a big step forward from last time. Since I go home tonight, I will be pecking away at those extra minutes over the next week.

But first, I’ll have to feed my husband and son, and spend some much needed time with them after a month away.

I’ll be back next week with another update and another writing vlog. In the meantime, let me know what you’re working on or what you’re reading in the comments below.

 

Camp NaNoWriMo Week One Update

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Y’all, last week was one hell of a busy week. I went to a craft show in Pennsylvania with my mom on the third and fourth. It was busy, but fun. I didn’t get the minutes in that I thought I would. Yet, I’m not really all that far behind.

Want to watch me as I struggle? Check out my Camp writing vlog below.

I’m really liking this minutes tracking, although it was hard to judge and keep track of at first, my prediction was right. I can catch up on them far easier than I can words, and my average per day has increased.

What I’ve noticed is the difference comes in not seeking a specific word count. When I push for 500 words a day, I allow myself the minimum effort until I hit that allotment. But when I judge my minutes, I only count them if I am activelywriting or thinking seriously about my story. That difference alone has pushed me to upwards of 1,200 words in one day.

This is a lot for me, especially given my busy life, and I’m super happy that NaNoWriMo now allows these types of goals beyond words because it is working for me.

So, here are my number so far:

Minutes Completed: 590/720

Words Written: 3,664

So, I’m behind by 130 minutes, which in the grand scheme of things isn’t so bad. That’s about a day behind, and I can catch that up without much of a problem. Just not likely while I’m in NY.

What can I say, seeing my family is more important.

I’ll be back next week with another update and another writing vlog. In the meantime, let me know how your writing goals are coming in the comments below.