Google+ The Bluestocking Firefly: July 2010
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Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Roselle

A couple of years ago, I started working on a retelling of "Cinderella". That novel has gone through a number of reworkings of plot and character since then (among other things, it was reset it Regency England and the Cinderella element was dropped), but it has persisted, in all of its forms, as one of my favourite pieces. I spent the entirety of my year abroad at Oxford working on it, and though I came out at the end of the year pretty burnt out on it, I still loved Ella and James and all of the rest of the characters with whom I had populated the story.

What I ended up with is a story about the crown princess of Stjara - Ella - whose mother dies when she's young and whose father consequently sends her away to live in the foreign court of Atlaia, where she remains for most of the next eight years.

This snippet comes from the very beginning of the novel, when Ella is young (about ten) and her mother is pregnant again - with what Ella's father hopes will be a son.


Prologue
14 December 1802
Agneholm Palace, Stjara

Queen Roselle stood at her bedroom window and gazed down at her snow-covered garden, one hand resting on her round stomach. Another storm had blown through overnight, adding a soft layer of white over the ice that had formed the previous week. The snowy garden looked peaceful, but the ice-encased branches of the tree directly outside creaked beneath their own weight, and the Queen bit her lip. Though she had been assured that the storms and the ice were nothing out of the ordinary, the winters here, in her adopted country, were much more severe than in her native Etoin, and the creaking branches made her anxious.

She was about to turn away from the window and busy herself with something more pleasant - music, perhaps - when a flash of black caught her eye. Curious, she returned her attention to the garden. A dark-winged bird stood below, pecking at something in the path; when she peered down at it, the bird cocked its head and hopped forward, leaving something crimson behind in the path, bright against the snow.

Queen Roselle shivered. "Marta," she called.

A maid appeared and curtsied. "Yes, your Majesty?"

"Fetch Ahlstad."

"Right away, your Majesty." The maid curtsied again and vanished.

The Queen stared down at the bird, absently stroking her stomach, until she heard a door open and close behind her.

"You asked for me, Majesty?" a woman's voice said in Etoinaise.

Queen Roselle had never been more relieved to hear her native tongue. After nearly ten years of marriage, she spoke Stjaran fluently, but it was always a comfort to slip back into Etoinaise.

Without turning from the window, she spoke. "What sort of bird would you say that is, Marie?"

Marie Ahlstad, Roselle's lady's maid, joined her queen at the window and appraised the bird. "I would suppose it is a rook," she said after a moment, and pushed her spectacles more firmly into place. "Though I am hardly an expert when it comes to winged creatures."

"That was my thought, as well," the Queen said. She looked down at her stomach, then smiled sadly. "A harbinger of death, I fear."

Ahlstad raised her eyebrows. "I do not recall that you have ever been superstitious, Roselle."

"No," Roselle said. "And you have known me since I was a child. But - " She hesitated. "But I have known for some time that there is something wrong with my child." She glanced out the window at the bird. "He has not moved in weeks."

The rook flapped its wings and lifted off from the path. The Queen flinched as it swooped near the window, her fingers tightening over her stomach. Ahlstad gently touched her arm.

"I expect you are overly concerned," she murmured. "It is only a bird. I would not worry."

Roselle looked once more out the window, then turned away. "No," she said brightly, turning on her famous smile. It lit up her face, brushing away the tiredness of pregnancy and reminding Ahlstad why the Queen was called the most beautiful woman in Stjara. "You are correct, of course. I am - emotional. You know this."

Ahlstad inclined her head. "It is not unexpected, given your condition." She smiled. "You were the same with Eleonora. But if you wish, Roselle, I will call for your physician."

Roselle made a sharp gesture with her hand. "My physician believes I am perfectly well." She frowned. "I would like to see my daughter. Will you find Ella and send her to see me, please?"

"As you wish, your Majesty," Ahlstad said, and turned to leave.

"Marie - "

Ahlstad paused. "Yes?"

Roselle hesitated. "You will always watch over her, will you not? My daughter. Should anything happen to me?"

"You are overly anxious," Ahlstad replied. "But you need not fear. I will always care for her. You need not fear."


Stay tuned for more snippets from Ella. :)

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Rapunzel

I have a passion for rewriting fairy tales. You might call it my thing. My writing folders are littered with retold fairy tales, some in short form, some stretching to the length of novels.

Two of these tales, very different in tone, made their appearances in my final Senior Portfolio, a graduation requirement for my creative writing major. The first, 'Forgotten Memories', had previously been published by Wynken, Blynken, and Nod, an online genre magazine operated by Knox College's genre publication Quiver (it may be found here). The other, 'Rapunzel', is a short snippet that found its first legs as a scribble I wrote in my Fairy Tale class in Fall 2009 and that I later expanded for my portfolio. I don't tend to write much in the way of comedy, but I was generally pleased with the way this piece turned out.


When she woke up that morning, it felt like a regular Tuesday. The sun was shining, the birds were singing, and undoubtedly somewhere someone was rescuing a princess.

Rapunzel stared at the ceiling for a moment before yawning and propping herself up on her elbows. She squinted at the calendar pinned to the stones at the foot of her bed.

'Dammit,' she muttered, and, unable to find her glasses on her bedside table, inched down the bed. 'I
told her to fix my eyes instead of making my hair grow faster.'

She found Tuesday the seventh. It was dotted with little hearts, which threw her for a moment until she realised that Tuesday the seventh said 10:00, haircut.

'Oh, thank
God,' she said, flopping back on her duvet. Thirty-one yards was just one yard too many, thank you very much.

She sprawled on her back and watched a blurry drop of water slowly detach from the rafters and splash against the stone floor before she sighed and rolled out of bed. She hated mornings. They were
cold. And the birds always sang. Shivering, she pulled on her dressing gown, a present from the sorceress, and scowled down at it; it was bright orange and lime green. The sorceress had terrible taste, but Rapunzel wasn't about to tell her that. At least the gown was quilted. She just wished the sorceress had thought to give her quilted slippers.

As she began to re-braid her hair, Rapunzel heard a commotion outside and what sounded suspiciously like a siren beneath her window.

Is that a fire truck? she thought, securing her braid.

'Rapunzel, Rapunzel, will you please let down your hair?' called an unfamiliar voice.

Rapunzel tied her sash and poked her head out the window. A heavy-set woman stood below, a clipboard in her hand.

Well, that's definitely not the sorceress. 'Who the hell are you?' Rapunzel demanded. She finally found her glasses, shoved behind the drapes—how did they get there?—and put them on. The woman sprang into focus.

'Olga, Fire and Rescue Division.' She consulted her clipboard. 'You're long overdue for a rescue, and today's your day.' She pasted a smile on her face that reminded Rapunzel far more of a child-eating ogress than anyone resembling a rescuer. 'Sorry about the mix-up, but the Agency is short on princes at the moment, so they're contracting out. Snow White and Sleeping Beauty have been taking precedence. The name, you know.'

'
You're my rescue?' Rapunzel said in disbelief, staring down at the block of a woman below. There was a little patch of thinning hair on the top of her head that was painfully obvious from above.

'Afraid so,' Olga said, and gestured to the fire truck. 'Move in the ladder, boys.'

'Well, screw that shit,' Rapunzel said. Grabbing up a pair of scissors, she hacked her hair off at her ears, sending yards of braid spiralling down to the floor. There was no way in hell she was waiting around for that haircut, not if no one was coming except Olga the Fire and Rescue woman-who-looked-like-a-balding-man.

Before long she had knotted her sheets and dropped them out the window. The idea of using her own hair to escape might have been poetic, but it was also just plain creepy. Sheets were good. Sheets were traditional. As she passed by Olga, Rapunzel gave her a mock salute and a winning smile and carried on down her makeshift rope. At the bottom, she tucked her hands into the pockets of her god-awful robe, bowed to the crew of the Fire and Rescue Division, and started down the hill, whistling something she'd stolen from Snow White.

Sometimes, Snow White and Sleeping Beauty get greedy, and you just have to stop waiting for your prince to come.