Happy Throwback Thursday!
I have a thing for twisted fairy tales. Here’s one of mine. Hope you like it.
Once upon a time there was a little girl named Gretchen who lived in a cottage in the woods with her mother and father. She was a lovely girl with dark curls and soft brown eyes.
Gretchen’s father had work that caused him to leave their cottage for weeks at a time. When he left, he always said to them, “You must both watch over each other while I’m away.” Gretchen knew her father really meant for her mother to watch over her. She couldn’t think of any reason why she would have to watch over her mother.
One morning Gretchen woke to find her mother in bed, burning up with a terrible fever. “Oh, Gretchen, I don’t feel well,” her mother said. “I’m afraid of what might happen if my fever doesn’t break. I wouldn’t ask you if it wasn’t important, but I need you to go to the village and get some medicine. I’ll write down the name for you.”
“But the village is on the other side of the forest,” Gretchen said. “You told me never to go into the forest because of the evil witch and her wolf.”
“I know,” her mother said, looking sad. “I wouldn’t ask you to do this if I thought there was any other way. You just have to keep a careful eye out.”
Gretchen knew that she had to go. And so she took the paper with the medicine’s name written on it, and tucked it into her wicker basket under a cloth napkin for safekeeping. Then she pulled on her red cloak and, keeping her father’s words in mind, started toward the village.
Gretchen kept a sharp lookout as she got farther and farther away from the cottage. She’d never been in the forest alone.
She hadn’t gone far when she spotted a pair of eyes watching her from the bushes. She gasped. It was the wolf that belonged to the witch.
The wolf stepped out into the path in between Gretchen and the way home. She screamed and ran the other direction.
Blinded by her terror, Gretchen soon ran off of the path. She could hear the heavy footfalls of the wolf behind her. She looked back. The wolf was easily twice the size of the wolves her father hunted around their cottage.
Gretchen ran until she could no longer hear the wolf behind her. When she risked another glance she found that it was gone.
Gretchen dropped to the ground, panting. She looked around her, and found that she was in a clearing full of rabbits and birds. The rabbits gave her an appraising look, and then went back to munching grass and clover.
She could hear a stream nearby and realized how thirsty she was. She pulled herself onto legs still wobbly from her run, and made her way towards the sound.
The stream was cold and clear. Gretchen knelt on a bed of soft moss to drink. Once her thirst was satisfied she realized how comfortable the moss was. She stretched out, setting her basket beside her, and fell fast asleep.
Gretchen wasn’t sure how long she slept in the sun, lulled by the gentle sound of the stream. When she woke the first thing she saw was a shadow of a large animal standing over her. She gasped, thinking it was the wolf again.
It wasn’t. It was a silver, glittering unicorn.
“How beautiful,” Gretchen murmured, rubbing her eyes.
The unicorn tossed its head, making its silken mane flow and sparkle in the sunlight. Then it lowered its horn, and stabbed towards Gretchen.
She moved just in time to get no more than a grazing blow on her arm. Before the unicorn could attack again she scooped up her basket and ran back towards the woods.
As she ran through the meadow the rabbits that had seemed so sweet and peaceful before now seemed like they were trying to trip her. They jumped in front of her feet, forcing her to jump over them.
The unicorn was catching up to her. She tried to duck into the trees, thinking that she would be able to lose it the way she’d lost the wolf. But it kept coming, dodging through the trees with dexterity that was surprising in such a large animal.
Looking over her shoulder, Gretchen didn’t see the tree root jutting out of the ground. It caught her foot and she fell, her basket bouncing away from her down the path.
The unicorn was on her before she could get up, standing back on its back legs, pawing at the air and crying out in apparent fury. It lowered its head, and Gretchen knew that this time she wouldn’t be able to get away.
A snarl filled the air as out of the brush came the great wolf. It slammed into the unicorn, forcing it away from Gretchen.
The unicorn stabbed wildly at the wolf, but it wasn’t able to land a blow. It finally managed to get to its feet, but just then a green bolt of lightning came from behind Gretchen to strike it. She jumped to her feet and turned to see an old woman hobbling towards her. Her walking stick was raised, and pointed towards the unicorn.
“Get out of the way, girl!” the woman cried. Gretchen ducked behind a tree as the woman hurried to help the wolf. Together, they finished the unicorn off.
Gretchen came from behind her tree to collect her basket as the old woman hobbled over to her. “What are you doing out in the woods by yourself?” she asked. “It’s not a safe place with these beasts running around, especially not for little girls. They eat virgin’s hearts; doesn’t anybody pay attention to these things?”
“You’re the witch!” Gretchen said. “But you saved me.”
“You have no idea how tired I am of that sort of reaction,” the witch said with a sigh. Her wolf trotted to her side, his face covered in unicorn blood. “I sent Brutus here to watch over you, and you lose him in the forest. Now you’re questioning my intentions? If you were my child, I’d give you such a paddling!” She shook her walking stick at Gretchen.
“I am so sorry,” Gretchen said.
“Well, you should be,” the witch replied. “Just because I’m a witch doesn’t mean I’m a wicked witch, after all. What are you doing playing about in the woods, anyway?”
“My mother’s very sick,” Gretchen said. “She needs me to go to the village to get medicine for her.”
“What kind of medicine?” the witch asked.
Gretchen took the piece of paper from her basket, and handed it to her. The witch looked at it and said, “That’s a powerful fever potion, that is. Your mother must be very sick.”
“And my father said that we must look out for each other while he’s away,” Gretchen said.
“Of course,” the witch replied. She seemed less angry than she had. “I’ve got something in my bag that will help your mother, I think. And with a fever, the sooner you can break it, the better.” She went back into the woods the way she’d come, and soon returned with a large bag. From it she took an envelope full of herbs, and handed it to Gretchen. “This will do it,” she said. “Brew one tablespoon full every two hours. Make sure she drinks it all.”
“Thank you,” Gretchen said, tucking the envelope into her basket.
“Now, if you don’t run off on Brutus, he’ll see you safely home. Those damn unicorns are all through these woods, and they can smell little girls. I’ll check on your mother the day after tomorrow. Witches are good for something, you know.”
Brutus came to stand beside Gretchen, his tongue hanging from his mouth like a panting dog. He was so large that his shoulder was even with her own. Now that he’d saved her from the murderous unicorn, that seemed a great comfort.
And so, with a parting farewell to the witch, Gretchen set her hand on the wolf’s back, and they started back towards her cottage home.
If you liked this, please consider purchasing Days and Other Stories from Amazon, Istore or Gumroad.
I’m hitting a milestone birthday this year, I’m turning 30. It’s kind of a big deal.
I’m looking behind me, at all the places I’ve been in my 20’s. I’m looking ahead to, at all the great things I want to do in my 3o’s too, but that’s another post for another day.
I never thought I’d be where I am today, but I guess that shouldn’t surprise me. I turned out to be a lot cooler than I thought I was going to be.
You know I’ve never been shy about my past. It wasn’t a happy place. When I was twenty, I had a two year old daughter that I couldn’t control. I wasn’t a writer yet, I didn’t have a job, and I had nothing like a support system. In fact, I was surrounded by people who told me all the time that I was bad and wrong. I had ‘sinned’, and my family had no intention of letting me forget it. I was in an abusive relationship, and I thought that was all the more I deserved. I was a republican who had read all of Ann Coulter’s books, and thought that women should stay home and care for our children. (But I still didn’t vote for Bush.)
Flash forward to today. I have two smart, funny monsters that become more and more like the great women I know they’ll be one day. I have a day job that I like, and I’m proud of what I do. I’m surrounded by people who love me, exactly as I am. I am married to a wonderful man who makes me laugh every day. I am a steadfast Democrat Feminist. I am, and forever will be, a writer.
Needless to say, a transformation like that took time. I learned a lot, and realized that the way I saw the world was limited to the way I’d been raised. When I saw more of the world, I grew and I changed. And I learned.
Here then, is a list of 30 things I’ve learned in my (almost) 30 years. Some of them are personal to me, but I hope you might find something here to help you.
- I am not an inconvenience. You are not an inconvenience, and anyone who tells you otherwise is someone you don’t need in your life. Even if it’s your family.
- Taking steps to organize my life has helped my anxiety a ton. It’s still there, but a lot more manageable.
- I like very sweet red wine, and good spiced rum. Most other alcohol tastes nasty to me. It’s worth it to find this out early.
- You might come to realize that, even if your family is terrible, you might find that there is something good inside you that you can trace back there. I can lay claim to just that good, and give up the bad. I get my work ethic from my mother, my love of things nerdy from my grandma and my desire to make people feel good about themselves from my aunt.
- There are a lot of things you shouldn’t buy cheap. Make up, shoes, jeans, booze, hair products, art supplies, chocolate, bras and electronics just to name a few.
- There are also things you shouldn’t invest a ton in. Underwear, shirts, raw cooking ingredients and anything you’re going to get tired of soon anyway.
- You should try new food any time you can. Have you ever heard of lassi? It’s an Indian drink that’s made of yogurt and rose water and it’s amazing. How would I ever have found that out if I hadn’t gone to a random little Indian place while we were in Pittsburgh?
- I used to be a big horror fan. I’m not anymore. It’s not that I’ve lost my stomach for gore, though that’s part of it. The stories just seem juvenile anymore.
- I had a great English teacher once that told me that when you’ve read and watched enough stories, you’ll be able to guess the ending of any book or movie. He said he hadn’t seen a movie ending that had shocked him in years. Man, was he ever right.
- Ten years ago, I didn’t know what an introvert was, or that I was one. Or that it was okay to be one. But I am and it is.
- You should always carry cash.
- Drinking a good cup of coffee or tea can make your whole day better, even when that doesn’t make any sense.
- I don’t remember where I heard this, but it’s served me well. Talk to grownups like children and children like grown ups. Probably not your spouse, but just about anyone else.
- Not everyone is on my learning curve. I learn fast, especially with technology. There are lots of people that learn faster than me, and lots of people that learn as fast of me. Some people don’t learn as fast as me, but that doesn’t make them any less smart than me. Despite my newfound love for my own intelligence, I shouldn’t treat others like they’re dumb just because they don’t get things as quickly as I do.
- Done is better than perfect, in almost any situation.
- You have to at least like what you do for a living. You don’t have to love it, though you should try for that if you can get it. But you shouldn’t hate it. Most of us spend half our waking time at work. You shouldn’t hate it, and if you do hate it, you should find a different job.
- Even if you work every day at it, writing a whole book and doing it right is going to take a long freaking time. Get used to it.
- What we deserve in life and what we get is sometimes going to be different. Sometimes you’re just not going to get what you deserve. Sometimes assholes are also not going to get what they deserve either. That’s going to suck a whole bunch, but it’s still a fact. You’re going to be happier if you accept it.
- Some people are meant to be homemakers. Some people are great parents, but meant to be breadwinners. Your gender has nothing to do with this.
- Meditation helps, even when you think it isn’t doing shit.
- You’re not supposed to wash your hair every day. It’s bad for it.
- You, all by yourself, are probably a pretty cool person.
- The system doesn’t always work, and just because someone in a position of authority is going to be wrong, or lie to me.
- It’s worth it to take time to draw, paint or create art, even if I have no intention of doing it professionally.
- Stand up is the perfect form of entertainment.
- I should really have some money put aside for emergencies. Like when I thought our dog’s neutering was going to be covered by the adoption agency, and it turns out they only intend to reimburse me.
- It’s usually worth it to learn something I thought would be too hard. For instance, I used to know very little about computers.
- I’m going to not be able to drink as much as you could last year. Every single year.
- It really is worth it to just dress how I want to dress. Because anyone who’s judging me by how I dress isn’t someone I want to hang out with anyway.
- And finally, I am smarter than I was raised to believe. That one took awhile, but it finally sunk in. You, you there reading, you probably are too.
Fantasy is the oldest recorded genre. We, as fantasy writers, are part of a great brother/sisterhood that dates back to the first ever recorded story, Beowulf. Centuries of Fantasy writers stand behind us.
This means that everything’s been done already, mostly by Tolkien.
This is terrible! How are we ever to say anything original when we know there’s nothing original to say?
Actually, it’s really rather freeing. If we understand that everything has already been written about, then we can move past that. There’s nothing we can do about it, anyway.
Here’s what we can control.
Here’s how we get past the legacy of our genre, that is both a blessing and a curse.
Different Points of View
We don’t always need to hear the tale told from the point of view of the hero. Or the hero’s bestest buddy, either. What about the hero’s lover, parent, child, puppy, enemy. Why don’t we tell the story from the point of view of the villain?
I learned this from Writing Excuses, and it has resonated with me. Most fantasy is written in a medieval European setting. We don’t talk a lot about anything outside of England and France. I based my countries, so far, on Italy, Russia, Japan and The Middle East in general. I’d love to see more fantasy based on Ireland, Africa and India.
Your magic structure
This is what really grabs me in a fantasy story. What can your magic do?
While I like an all around magic, where just anything is in the realm of possible, I also think it’s a little lazy. But I’ll go nuts for something like Mistborn, where magic is controlled by different metals. Or Avatar, The Last Airbender, which uses martial arts to great effect.
Just when we would say that it’s all been done, a new subgenre comes at us like a superhero. Steampunk! The dawn of the industrial revolution blended with magic! Honestly, I am just falling in love with this, and I think everyone else should be, too.
If all else fails you, your voice won’t
I am a firm believer in a writer’s voice. It can’t be copied, it can’t be taught, it can only be achieved by writing until it comes out. Your voice, your word choice, tone and what you focus on, is what makes your writing unlike any other writer’s work since the dawn of time.
Here’s the best news; you don’t have to learn anything. You just have to write honestly.
This is a pretty basic market, and one that’s going to be added to the market list. East of The Web is looking for any new story that you would like to share.
Word Count- Anything, so long as it’s still in the ‘short story’ range.
Payout- Not listed.
The artwork on this site is amazing, I have to say. It’s really inspired me to step up my cover art for my own short pieces.
Happy Throwback Thursday.
Do you know what the Bechdel Test is? I only heard of it recently, which makes me sad as a feminist.
The Bechdel test, named for the cartoonist Alison Bechdel who came up with it in a comic called Dykes to Watch Out For, consists of three rules. If a movie didn’t follow these three rules, the character in question wouldn’t go see it.
- The movie must have at least two female characters.
- They have to talk to each other,
- About something other than a man.
I thought this was silly, until I made a chart of all the movies I like that don’t pass that test. I’d like to share that with you. If you don’t see a movie on here, please keep in mind that I am being honest and I won’t add a movie on here if I haven’t seen it. I also have not listed all the movies I’ve ever seen, I would be here all day. This is a list of the movies I’ve watched over the past 12 months, that are fairly well known.
Movies that Pass
The Hunger Games
Mockingjay Pt 1
Frozen (Disney got a win)
Star Wars, Episode 7
Descendants (I have two pre teen daughters, don’t judge me.)
Mona Lisa’s Smile
Paranormal Activities 1-5
Movies that don’t pass
Iron Man 1,2,3
Star Wars, 1-6
All Three Batman movies from the recent trilogy
All the Indiana Jones movies
All the James Bond movies
All the Men in Black movies
Jakob The Liar
All 7 Freddy Kruger movies
Star Trek, 2009
Star Trek, Into Darkness
Yes, Stan Lee can be blamed for a lot of list two. We all know he was a sexist asshat, despite being a brilliant writer. He’s still an asshat.
What kills me is this; why doesn’t every movie pass this test? Is it really that hard to have two women in a book talk about something other than boys? I had to add some movies that were specifically known to be ‘feminist friendly’ to fluff that first list out.
Why? Why is it really so hard to ‘include’ women, when we are fifty percent of the population? Why do more than fifty percent of movies fail this test?
Now, I like all of the movies on the bottom list, don’t get me wrong. But, ladies and gentlemen, hear me loud and clear;
I’m not the only person who’s said it, and I pray I won’t be the last. To have just one woman shown as a real person instead of background eye candy, it sends the message that this is the exception. Sure, Black Widow is badass, but we sure got Pepper Potts reminding us how women really do live to take care of men.
And don’t tell me those kinds of movies don’t sell. We’ve got Katniss, who is freaking awesome, her sister who’s just as awesome, and Joanna, and President Coin. The cast is pretty balanced with awesome women and men. Seems like those movies are doing just fine in the box office.
As writers we don’t always consider ourselves part of the ‘entertainment industry’. We should, because a lot of those movies up there were books first. Even the ones that weren’t were screen written.
And so, as one member of the entertainment industry to another, let me ask you, would your book pass the Bechdel Test?
I speak about fantasy fans from two points of view. On the one hand, I write fantasy, and some of the Annie Wilkes level stories frighten me. But I’m also a fantasy fan, and if I ever get to meet Tamora Pierce I might embarrass myself.
So when I say that fantasy fans are the best fans, I’m totally biased. But I can live with that. Though I will also note that a lot of the things I want to talk about today could also apply to science fiction fans. I write, read and watch that too, though.
Fantasy fans are voracious.
Fantasy series are long. The books are big and there are usually a lot of them. Most fantasy fans know that it’s going to be a year or more between books.
We don’t care. And no matter how many books get written it will never ever be enough. If an author creates a world we love, there can never be enough. I still want to read about the Shire, Tortall, Hogwarts, all of them. Please, keep them coming.
We will nit pick you to death.
Do you know how many kinds of different swords there are? I don’t have a specific number, but I’ll tell you if you’re kind of sword doesn’t fit the world around it. For instance, if your world setting is sort of Middle Eastern and your MC is slashing about with a broadsword, I’m going to call you on it.
I will also notice if you mess up your own rules, which is why it’s important to keep track of what you’re doing. I will believe any rules that you make so long as you do.
And we will be picky about it.
We are kind of crazy.
I am not going to lie to you, fantasy fans are a little nuts. We love fantasy. We play games like D&D and White Wolf. We read as much as we can, and play fantasy video games. Some of us take things a bit too far, I’ll admit.
Look, for some of us, your stories are what we’ve got to be happy about. Maybe we don’t make friends easily, or we just live really stressful lives. My life has never been an easy one, and I accept this. But fantasy books have made me smile on days I wouldn’t have thought it possible.
So sometimes we go a little nuts at cons, or send way too much fan art. (Disclaimer: this does not give a reader the right to stalk you. You call the cops about that nonsense.)
We are loyal
When you’ve got a fantasy fan, you’ve got them until the last The End and beyond. Look at Tolkien’s fans, they’re some of the most die hard fans you’ll find.
We will show up at cons dressed like our favorite characters. We’ll create the best and worst artwork you’ve ever seen, write fan fic that will amaze you and make you shudder. We’ll get into fights over our favorite characters, wear their symbol, and love you all along.
I am proud to be a fantasy writer. I am also very proud to be a fantasy fan. How about you?
Are you sitting on a novel? Maybe something you finished, but just haven’t found the right agent, publishing company, font, time of the year, coffee mug or whatever other excuse you’ve got to not have sent it out yet?
Here, send it here.
Astrophil Press knows no genre, so if you don’t write spec fic feel free to submit anyway.
Genre- Poetry and prose. Basically, anything you want to throw at them.
Deadline- April 10
And that’s really it. There’s no outline for word count, nor do they discuss royalties or rights on the submission page.
Here, by the way, is your link to the submission page. I have to say, I’ve never submitted a novel by submashable before, but it’s cool.
It’s Throwback Thursday!