I have not fallen off the face of the planet

I haven’t written a post on this blog in about a month and to be honest, I’m not sure I have a lot to say. I’ve been busy with work and housework and cooking and writing and writing about cooking etc…

That said, I AM still working on The Dark Queen of Darkness. I’ve started sending out sneak peaks of the first two halves of the book – The third half pivots and focuses on different characters and I’m only about half-way done. What’s interesting about this book, aside from it being the hardest I’ve ever written, is that it actually has a theme. To date, I’ve written books where no solid theme emerges. I like what I’ve done so far with the other work, but this one stands out in a way that, regardless of where it takes me (or more likely doesn’t take me), I’m proud of the work AND what it says.

The main theme is the fallacy of ‘true love’. Not that a true love isn’t possible, no not that, no I’m talking about the fallacy of the sort of fairy tale ‘true love’ that causes folks to go starry-eyed at first sight. Sure, we sometimes have those moments where our heads turn and the word ‘wow’ drops from our conscious mind even as far as out lips. What I’m really going after is pedestal upon which we (Americans) put love, and as a consequence the idea of marriage, because it’s not reality. To be honest, I can’t think of a better way to talk about reality than a satirical fairy tale.

An interesting side effect is that by focusing on that theme, the writing of character and plot feels somehow easier or at least more fruitful. I made everyone a caricature (which somehow made most of the characters stronger, still working that out), loosely based the plot around a standard fairy-tale trope, and then set to focusing on the theme. Of course, I did go a bit further in that I’ve spent a considerable amount of time layering in concepts from both traditional and contemporary fairytales, sometimes overtly and other times with enough subtlety that actual thought is required. Each scene is set up to speak, in some way, to my theme, and in doing this, nothing feels particularly superfluous. When I do find myself having to build a scene to flesh out a character, I can do it to the fairy tale vibe or the main theme of true-love not being what you think it is. Basically, every scene makes a point, no matter how silly that scene is.

I think what I’m trying to get at is that by trying to say something with the book, rather than just tell a fun story, the writing gained some muscle. Sure, there are still some very rough edges, but the core is there and from the perspective of an unpublished author with 3 manuscripts under his belt, I can’t believe I’m the one who wrote the thing. So, the take away? Write to a theme, it’s life-changing.

AND, since you’ve made it this far, if you’re interested in reading through the first half, I’m looking for feedback on plot, voice, and characterization (to that end I’ve gotten some advice on this score that I’m working on now). Just drop me a line and I’ll send it out.

Breaking a Fairy Tale 

Except for my efforts to get Wine Bottles and Broomsticks published on inkshares.com I’ve got two major works in progress at the moment. The first is the Deep Space Help Desk – I really want to knock that out, but I got stuck -I have to back up a chapter or two and take a different angle. Really, I just need a solid day to focus on that project to get it put back on the rails again. The second project, The Dark Queen of Darkness, is in slightly better shape, even if I’m finding it a slightly more difficult project to write. 

The Dark Queen of Darkness is an unexpected project. It launched as a way to test out my new iOS version of Scrivener, and also an excersize in employing tricks learned (stolen) from Terry Pratchett. Not so much as taking his words or style as incorporating parts of his approach to story telling, it appeals to me and, as they say, what doesn’t kill you or get you sued for copyright infringement will only make you stronger. In any case, the story has taken hold because it’s got a fairly clear trajectory. At least, it has if I treat it like a fairy tale, albeit a seriously broken, yet true-to-form fairy tale.

With all that in mind, and some advice received after sharing the first part of the first chapter, I went back and pivoted slightly more toward a YA vibe, and starting working the fairy tale angle a little harder. Right now, I’m looking largely at Snow White, while brining in characters from other tales. This isn’t anything like a new idea, but it’s a new approach for me. I also happen to be fortunate enough to have in my possession a stack of books containing hundreds of old fairy-tales with a publication date of 1928, which I realize as I write this puts these books at nearly 90 years old – the oldest we have in the house by a considerable number of decades. The image up top features one of these books with the illustration of Snow White and Rose Red, which I only know because I read that one last night from the other book of Grimm’s Fairy Tales.

In any case, the idea with this story is to make it an upside-down fairy tale that takes on the well trodden tropes and re-uses them in a slightly bent or fully ironic manner. For example, there’s the huntsman. He appears in a bunch of stories, I’m going to work him in with a lead role. Prince Charming comes in all over the place, even if not by that name. He’ll appear, after all how could a good, epic fairy tale end without a kiss by a Prince Charming? I’ll also see about writing in some dwarves, trolls, elves, wizards, and other various characters. With that, I’m off to do a bit of research and plotting.