Fairy-tale Inspired Books

Frog Princes all in a row by Shawn Zlea at Flickr
Happy holidays! I thought I’d throw out a fun Tuesday Thirteen list today, this one having a theme of fairy-tale inspired books.

I haven’t read some of these books in ten years, but for some reason they still haunt me. Here are my favorite fairy-tale inspired books (in no particular order)! I had to cap it at thirteen otherwise the list might never end. Though, there is a shortage of good fairy tale re-tellings, for some reason… I wonder why that is? Are there any really good ones I should know about that aren’t on this list?

  1. Spindle’s End – Robin McKinley
  2. Enchantment – Orson Scott Card
  3. Spellbound – Ru Emerson
  4. Golden – Cameron Dokey
  5. Seven Daughters and Seven Sons – Barbara Cohen and Bahija Lovejoy
  6. The Book of Atrix Wolfe – Patricia McKillip
  7. Deerskin – Robin McKinley
  8. Briar Rose – Jane Yolen
  9. The Door in the Hedge – Robin McKinley
  10. Phoenix and Ashes – Mercedes Lackey
  11. The Lark and the Wren – Mercedes Lackey
  12. The Pearl of the Soul of the World – Meredith Ann Pierce
  13. Sabriel – Garth Nix

Actually, there is this one retelling of the frog prince and I can’t remember the title of it.

I do know that the prince was turned into a frog as part of a magical conspiracy, and that the princess/girl fell in love with him when he was a frog, and that his own brother/uncle/relative throws him across the room so he hits the wall with a sickening crack. The girl, distraught, thinks the frog died, but he actually just broke the spell by angering his relative into chucking him across the room.

Anyone know the book I’m talking about? It was really good. Anyone have any books to add to the list?

Contest Results and a Book Meme

Drumroll please…

The winner of the free Worderella critique contest is: Jaye Patrick! 

Congratulations! E-mail your first three chapters/first 50 double-spaced pages to worderella at gmail dot com by Thursday Aug 7, along with information about your word processor so I know how to submit my critique.

Now, I rarely do these things, but this meme had questions I’d like to read from other writers as well. And after last week’s intense editing, I thought we could all use a break and do something quick and fun.

Post your answers in the comments or on your blog (but make sure to comment and let me know where to look!).

Hardcover or paperback, and why?
Hardcover, because my hands don’t cramp as much when I read for long periods of time. That, and there’s something delicious about picking up a well-done hardcover book. Especially if it’s fabric-covered.

If I were to own a book shop I would call it…
Bookmark. I agonized over this longer than necessary… about three hours.

My favorite quote from a book (mention the title) is…
“[Anne Elliot] had been forced into prudence in her youth, she learned romance as she grew older: the natural sequel of an unnatural beginning.” From Persuasion by Jane Austen

The author (alive or deceased) I would love to have lunch with would be…
Jane Austen. Have you read her letters? The woman is hilarious.

If I was going to a deserted island and could only bring one book, except from the SAS survival guide, it would be…
North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell. I think I’d just dream about Mr Thornton all the time. As long as Mr Thornton actually had Richard Armitage’s face, demeanor… everything.

I would love someone to invent a bookish gadget that…
Records a list of every book I’ve ever read, as well as my thoughts about it (without me having to do any work), so I’d know which books shaped my awareness of the world.

The smell of an old book reminds me of…
My childhood. Safety. Companionship. Well-weathered friends. Reading late in bed.

If I could be the lead character in a book (mention the title), it would be…
Margaret Hale from Gaskell’s North and South (see above). Or Mary Smith from Gaskell’s Cranford.

The most overestimated book of all times is…
The DaVinci Code by Dan Brown.

I hate it when a book…
Says “Had it been under other circumstances, she might have found the hero attractive…”

Let’s face it. She still finds him attractive, he’s just ticking her off right now, so just say that. We all know she’s probably going to end up with him by the end of the book. It’s okay if he annoys her. Annoying people are attractive too… which makes them more annoying, of course.

Thank you to everyone who participated in Editing Week here at Worderella Writes. The response was positive and enthusiastic, which was all I could ask for.

A reminder to my commenters: I’m always interested in a guest blogger, so feel free to contact me. The same goes for linking in the blogroll, which I finally organized. Use my contact form to send your URL, blog/website name, and a pithy description and I’ll add you to the list.

Inspiration from Clever Television

I choose my television and movie choices carefully (most of the time). If I listed my favorite tv series, a pattern of character-driven plots will emerge (Pushing Daisies, The Office, Gilmore Girls, 30 Rock, Arrested Development, Dead Like Me…). This makes sense because my fiction is character-driven. Maybe I should watch shows that are more about the plot, so I don’t have blindspots? In any case, today I’m writing about one show and one movie that inspire me, and I hope you’ll share yours!

Pushing Daisies, on ABC

Pushing Daisies is a delightful, narrated mystery show about a man named Ned who can bring the dead to life with the touch of his finger. There is a catch, however: a second touch will kill the person forever. And it turns out that if Ned lets the person stay alive for more than a minute after his special touch, someone else must die in their place. Things get juicy when he brings his childhood sweetheart back to life. If he lets her live, someone else must die in her place. If he touches her once, ever, she will be dead forever.

Would you believe me if I said this was a comedy? I love this show because of how clever the writers are with Ned and Chuck’s situation (Chuck is short for Charlotte). Thanks to the narrator, the mood is reminiscent of the most recent movie rendition of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. Really, it’s like sitting down to story time every week. Look for it this fall, I bet you’ll like it.

Penelope, starring Christina Ricci

Now in terms of movies, am I the only one who saw Penelope, that movie starring Christina Ricci? And loved it? This is a fairy tale about a girl cursed with a pig’s nose until she is loved and accepted by one of her own. This movie is straight-forward, and some claim it failed at teh fairy-tale attempt, but this is a movie of characters, each with a motive, each with something to learn. Everyone learns something in this movie (all the main and secondary characters, anyway).  I found it charming and refreshing for the simple reason that the heroine is her own hero.

So here’s something I’ve always wondered about my fellow writers/readers. They always say writers should read a lot, a statement I heartily agree with. But what about other media outlets? Do you feel television and movies can inspire you, or does it blunt your creativity? Are there certain shows you watch precisely because it sparks your imagination? Tell all!

Paper Evidence of a Writer’s Mind

All right, back on track this week with the posts!

So I briefly mentioned some time ago that I have a paper journal. This past year, my paper journal has been a lifesaver, especially when I had to cut back the number of hours I sat hunched over a computer, drastically. I mean, there was a time where sitting in one spot for ten minutes would cause pain. No good for programming or writing. So I turned to a paper journal, in which I could write while laying on my stomach, thus giving my back/legs a break. I’ve never been able to fill a paper journal, and I blame that on the awful journals I used to own. Really, I do. Because the journal I have now… well, just looking at it inspires me to write. The paper is smooth, with large lines so I can write new ideas between sentences. The cover has a magnetic seal, but lays flat when open. And, in the newest journal, I decided to draw a bit. Below are a couple of pictures.

A sketch to inspire
I drew this one night when my
homework really frustrated me.

There is no cure for curiosity.
Close up of my pretty girl.
(“The cure for boredom is curiosity.
There is no cure for curiosity.” – Dorothy Parker)

A messy bit of madness
Writing is a messy business.
The green strips are actually bits of a small square
PostIt that I cut up to use as place markers.

Late night genius
My plot outline, obviously re-worked a bit.
In fact, a lot of the plot doesn’t exist as
written here… it seemed a bit contrived.

Do you have a paper journal? If you do, do you take it everywhere with you? Or leave it at the bedside table for those midnight inspirations? If you don’t use a paper journal, why do you think that is?

Thursday Thirteen: Exercises to Prevent Carpal Tunnel

Morning Yoga II by Shanya
As writers, we tend to spend a lot of time in front of the computer. As a computer scientist, my time in front of the computer is magnified, because it’s my livelihood and my hobby. Over the past year-and-a-half, I’ve come to regret that sort of dedication to the machine, as I’ve suffered back injuries, and continued leg pain if I don’t stretch and move away from the computer regularly. And I’m not even 25, yet! This is a good thing, however. I’ve rediscovered the joy of writing in a paper journal (I hope to post some of my scribbles soon), reconnected with yoga, learned t’ai chi, and I am a much happier person all-around.

So here are the thirteen exercises and bits of information to keep in mind. Please print this list and do try the exercises yourself. I’d sincerely not wish my own back/wrist troubles on my worst enemy.

  1. To start out, most forearm/wrist pain comes from tightness in the neck and lower back. So if you start to feel shooting pains of any sort, step away from the computer and start moving around.
  2. Make sure to stretch SLOWLY, maintain proper posture, and always return to the natural face-forward position between each stretch. Rolling your head around is bad for you because you’re actually popping your tendons and muscles over your joints, which can lead to tenderness and eventually swollen bursas.
  3. Braces should only be used when you are feeling actual pain, because a brace will actually weaken your muscle. The brace does the work your muscles should be doing, so when you rely on that you might be prolonging the problem.
  4. Touch your chin to your chest/collar bone. Hold. This one is the hardest for me because I like to hunch my shoulders. Don’t hunch your shoulders! Keep them relaxed and dropped, breathe deeply, hold by counting to ten, and then raise your chin and look forward. Then sigh, because you’ve just released some upper-back/neck strain and it feels oh-so-nice.
  5. Try to touch your ear to your shoulder. You can use your opposite hand to help pull your head over, as long as you aren’t forcing anything. Hold. Return to the natural face-forward position and do same to the other side.
  6. Touch your chin to your shoulder. Hold (or count to five/ten). Return to the natural face-forward position before doing the same to the other shoulder. You should start to feel pressure release in your neck, and possibly your back if you’re very tight.
  7. Put your arms out perpendicular to the sides of your body. Raise your hands at the wrist so your fingers point toward the ceiling, hold. Drop your hands at the wrist so your fingers point to the floor, hold.
  8. Do thumb stretches. This loosens your forearm and hand muscles.
  9. Clench and unclench your fingers, ten times to get the blood rushing.
  10. Sit in a chair with your feet flat on the floor. Now s-l-o-w-l-y fold forward until your chest touches your knees. If you can’t bend that far forward, go as low as you can, making sure to keep your shoulders down, your limbs relaxed, and no sensations of pain. Count to five. S-l-o-w-l-y sit upright. Did I mention to go slowly? This is very important because you can hurt your back if you do this move quickly.
  11. Hold your hands up as if you’re being robbed (try to keep them just before your shoulders, palms facing forward). Hunch your shoulders as high as you can, keeping your hands in front of your shoulders. Do this slowly, ten times.
  12. Now do the same as # 11, except pull your shoulders back rather than up, keeping your elbows down. These two exercises strengthen your upper back muscles which support your neck.
  13. Stretch your hamstrings and hips, which support your lower back muscles, by crossing your right foot in front of your left and bending as slowly as you can at the waist. Try to touch the floor. Support as much of your weight on your right foot; you should feel the stretch in your left hip. Hold, and as you feel your muscle relax, try to get half an inch closer to touching the floor. If you can’t, no big deal. Slowly stand up, switch your legs so your left foot is in front of your right, and bend again. This is my favorite stretch because it targets about four different muscle groups. I always feel better after this one.

How do you battle the hazards of being a butt-in-chair writer? Do you take walks? Jog? Play with the kids? Or do you try things like yoga and t’ai chi (my new favorite pasttimes)? I’m always looking for new ways to stay healthy, so leave a comment with your suggestions!

* Inspired by my comments at The Good Girls Kill for Money Club.
** I’m not a doctor. If you’re feeling actual pain, please get help. Don’t forget that pain is our body telling us we’re doing something wrong!

Want to be Showcased on Worderella Writes?

Do you have information about how to write, edit, or publish?

Do you have favorite blogs that you read that I haven’t showcased?

Is there a genre you write that I haven’t discussed?

I’m looking for guest bloggers to spice up Worderella Writes. At the end of your post, feel free to advertise your own website/blog, especially if it has to do with the craft of writing, or the progress of your own work.

Contact me at my website or comment to this post with your ideas and I’ll respond to let you know the details.

Things to keep in mind: I try to keep my posts around 600 words. There needs to be a general writing, reading, research, history, or romance theme. I don’t post anything vulgar so don’t bother if that’s what you’re planning to do.

Relating to my Characters: Penmanship and Fountain Pens

Crazy Writer by Ultima_chocobo I envy my own characters even though they live in my head and therefore, are technically me anyway. Why the envy? They have distinctive penmanship and can wield a fountain pen with a flourish. I silently wail against the loss of the importance of penmanship in the real world, and especially the loss of my own penmanship, due to the efficiency of computers and e-mail, and the rising cost of snail mail. Or rather, I wail against the fact that I had no real patience to excel at penmanship in the first place. I could blame this on the now-now-now of today’s culture, but I won’t. I love to get mail, so I should write more of it, which should encourage more people to send me mail in the first place.

Sometimes I think that the historical fiction part of me is entirely at odds with the computer scientist part. For instance, despite my obsession with efficiency, I would love to write in a scrawling hand that visibly defines my personality. I want to take the time to create evidence of my handwriting that, years later, my children and grandchildren can gawk over and infer that I was a determined woman given to fanciful thoughts… or something sentimental like that.

So I decided the other day to buy a fountain pen set and train myself to write the way my characters do. I did some research about fountain pens and found that today, if you want a nice fountain pen, it will cost you at least fifty American dollars. And that technology has advanced the pen so that you can actually buy them in a disposable format, the way you would buy a Pilot rollerball pen. (I, of course, bought the disposable kind. And I love them!)

Fountain Pen from Wikimedia CommonsHowever, I couldn’t stop there with the modern fountain pen; I had to go back to first fountain pen thanks to my thirst for irrelevant knowledge. Sadly, there is a discrepancy between how old the fountain pen is. Some claim the oldest known was created by a Frenchman in 1702, whereas other resources say Egyptian caliphs commissioned the first one in the 10th Century, and still others say there were experimentations as early as the 1st Century.

Fountain Pen cartoon from Cartoon StockThe fountain pen that we know today, where a capillary feed regulates the ink flow, was first patented in 1884 by Lewis Waterman. He invented this capillary feed after his new, extravagant pen leaked all over an important contract that he subsequently lost to a competing broker. Funny how desperation and irritation are the true mothers of invention.

Today, there are multiple ways for filling the ink cartridge of a fountain pen. There is the traditional way of filling it with an eyedropper, and then there are button, lever, coin, and click mechanisms which alter the internal pressure of the pen, allowing it to “suck up” the ink. In the 1950s, pre-filled replaceable cartridges became all the rage because they were easy to insert and cheap to buy…but the invention of the ballpoint pen overshadowed the improvement and I don’t think the fountain pen has gotten over the shock yet.

Even though modern fountain pens are expensive compared to ballpoint pens, there is still a valid use for them in the pen market. For instance, many arthritis/carpal tunnel sufferers feel it’s easier to write with a fountain pen because of the effortless ink flow and large diameter of the pen (to allow for cartridge size). There is a larger variety of colors in comparison to the ballpoint pen. And then there’s the snob factor: There’s something classic, regal, and elegant about writing with a fountain pen. People respect a person who writes with a fountain pen because it’s assumed to be a harder instrument to write with.

…Or maybe that’s just what I like to think people are thinking about me when they see me writing with my fountain pens.

*Information compiled from Wikipedia, About.com: fountain pens, and About.com: Lewis Waterman.
*Fountain pen nib image found at Wikimedia Commons, cartoon found at Cartoon Stock.

From the Notebook: All About Lovers

In the fall I read many wonderful texts from American Lit (circa 1820 – 1860), especially some great things by feminist writers of the time. To celebrate the coming of Valentine’s Day, here is Fanny Fern’s hilarious satire of lovers and love.

Fanny FernFor a little bit of background, Fanny Fern was the pen-name of Sarah Willis Parton, a woman writing in the 1850s onward. Sarah began her writing career because her second marriage was a bust (the first made her a widow, she left the second, presumably because he was abusive), and neither her family nor her in-laws wanted to support her or her children. (To be fair, it wasn’t their fault that she couldn’t keep a husband… and… I’m being completely sarcastic.) Unable to support her girls, she sent her eldest to live with family, and began writing.

Sarah’s best work comes out in the short narrative, often in her articles written for local newspapers. She had a huge following, both men and women, and had a healthy dose of critics who thought she was much too assertive and aggressive of a writer to be a true woman. She had a great sense of humor about it all, as exampled in one of her articles where she describes going to the theatre only to watch a more glamorous woman be pointed out as “that writer, Fanny Fern.”

Sarah wrote both sentimentally and sarcastically, (read Ruth Hall for a great example of both), but I’m providing a sample of one of her more satirical works. The following article advises young women to test their young men with little annoyances, just to see how they might fare in marriage.

All About Lovers

Nothing like the old-fashioned long “engagements,” say we. Then you have a chance to find out something about a young man before marriage. Now-a-days matrimony follows so close upon the heels of “an offer,” that it is no wonder our young people have a deal of sad thinking to do afterward. There are a thousand little things in daily intercourse of my duration, which are constantly resolving themselves into test of character; slight they may be, but very significant.

Some forlorn old lady must have an escort home of a cold evening; she walks slow, and tells the same story many times: see how your lover comports himself under this. He is asked to read aloud in some home circle, some book he has already perused in private, or some one in which he is not at all interested: watch him then. Notice, also, if he invariably takes the most comfortable chair in the room, “never thinking” to offer it to a person who may enter till he or she is already seated. Invite him to carve for you at the table. Give him a letter to drop in the post-office, and find out if it ever leaves that grave–his pocket. Open and read his favorite favorite newspaper before he gets a chance to do so. Mislay his cigar-case. Lose his cane. Sit accidentally on his new beaver [hat]. Praise another man’s coat or cravat. Differ from him in a favorite opinion. Put a spoonful of gravy on his meat instead of his potatoes.

Ah, you may laugh! But just try him in these ways, and see how he will wear; for it is not the great things of life over which we mortals stumble. A rock we walk around; a mountain we cross: it is the unobserved, unexpected, unlooked-for little sticks and pebbles which cause us to halt on life’s journey.

New York Ledger July 30, 1859

When I first read this list of annoyances, I couldn’t help but laugh, but Fanny Fern is completely right. For all her satire, she gives excellent advice for anyone in a relationship or about to start a new one. We “stumbling mortals” never seem to pay attention to the little things, but I know it’s the build-up of the little things that make me just explode sometimes. So to those of you reading this blog, if the significant person in your life starts to really annoy you, take a second look. They might be doing it on purpose.

2007 Reading Stats

Admitting you have a problem is the first step to recovery, right? Well, I think it’s time I admit that I have a problem: I don’t have enough time to read everything I want to read. I admitted this to myself two years ago in June, and I’m happy to say I have made progress. I think keeping a list of books I want to read and checking off the ones I have read really helps. It’s like a multi-step program toward recovery, only… the list never ends. Hey, I’m improving my literacy rate! But in doing so, I’ve created a new problem by re-awakening the avid reader of my childhood and forgetting that sleep is just as important as getting to the next chapter in my new favorite book. Don’t believe me? Take a look at my reading statistics from 2007…

Number of books: 41. I’m pleased with this number, considering I’m a full-time computer science engineering student, I work part-time, I’m very active with my family, and I’m the editor-in-chief/cartoonist for my college’s magazine. I think the trick is reading before I go to bed. It’s amazing how reading an hour every couple of days cleanses my mind like a gentle sponge bath.

Number of Pages: 14,039. Some books were surprisingly short, others, almost too long. The average length was around 350-400 pages.

Genres: Historical fiction, romance, science-fiction, fantasy, non-fiction, women’s fiction, classics, and young adult. Sometimes I think I should branch out and read something new, but it seems to me the only thing I don’t really read is anything erotic, if I can help it. Any suggestions?

Best loved book: North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell, by far (review coming later). Why my favorite? This book was like learning to love reading all over again for me. It felt like I was reading Pride and Prejudice for the first time, and I fell irretrievably in love with the characters and the author’s style. I was left with that satisfied calm one gets after reading a classic that is touching, well-written, and still applicable to the modern world. If you have any sentimental or positive feeling for Pride and Prejudice, you will like Gaskell’s North and South, set in England’s 19th Century industrial revolution.

Runners-up were The Thirteenth Tale, Wildford’s Daughter (review coming later), Hurricane Moon, The Extra Large Medium, The Time-Traveler’s Wife, and Stardust.

Least loved book: I rarely dislike books that I read, but I have to admit I sincerely disliked How to Read a Novel. The linked review gives some of my reasons; I felt like the author was complaining a little too much and complaining is a pet-peeve of mine.

Book list in reading order: here.

So as you can see, when reading a good book, I have absolutely no self-control. I’m an addict of the worst kind, lost to the world. So I have to admit, when I think I’ve gotten control over my reading habits and then look at my To Be Read journal, I have to sigh. My list for 2008 already has 48 books… some leftovers from last year that I never got around to reading, and others that I want to read after seeing it in my library’s most recent issue of BookPage.

What’s a girl to do? For shame, it seems I’m sentenced to read until I die. 🙂 How many of you use a book list? If you don’t use a list, how do you decide what to read next? Amazon.com reader reviews and suggested books? Reader blogs? Newsletters like BookPage? This is something I’ve always been really curious about.

The new year cometh

Happy new year, everyone! Here’s hoping your muse is kind. Mine favored me at the end of my break from school, the procrastinating little wretch that she is, and I’m now 76% complete with the WIP manuscript! I’ve done a lot of work-shopping on the tagline and the hook. Here’s what I came up with for my WIP, Trentwood’s Orphan

A grieving daughter encounters love and ghosts in Victorian England.

A proposal on the anniversary of her father’s death is not Mary Winslow’s idea of romance, but as a 26-year-old maid in Victorian England, Mr Spencer is her last chance. When Mary catches Mr Spencer seducing her scullery maid, her regimented world falls apart, and her secret deathbed promise to her father comes back to haunt her…literally.

What do you think? Something worth reading, or do I need more edits?

From an administrative standpoint, there are new fun things here at the blog, mainly that I have a new plug-in that highlights posts related to the topic of the post you’re currently reading. I added blurbs about the books I’ve written, and I updated the About and Reading List pages. Fellow authors, if your website needs a new look, or if you haven’t looked into web marketing, check out the Siriomi Web Designs tab as an affordable solution to your problems.

My next post will be listing my most and least favorite books of 2007, how many pages I read, etc. What would you like to see in 2008? More information on publishing? Let me know.