When my dogs and I went for a hike Friday afternoon, it was close to sundown (still getting used to the daylight savings time change). I always take a little break at the top of the old orchard we walk through and sit on a tree trunk that stretches across the path, at just the perfect level for a seat. As I caught my breath, the sun slipped behind the edge of the mountains, and the sky flushed a lovely golden pink that deepened to coral to the east. The trees, some still clinging to their autumn finery, made a tracery of dark branches and trunks against the sky and the backdrop of the mountains. The peak of the fall colors here happened last weekend, but you wouldn’t have known it if you’d been sitting where I was sitting. All the yellows and oranges of the leaves, a thousand separate gradations of that particular band of the spectrum, lit up like flames under the coral glow of the sky. For that fleeting moment just before twilight, my world was on fire in a magical blaze of color. It looked animated, too bright to be real, all the warm shades and tints glistening like fresh paint. I love this time of year!
In other news, I’m almost done with the first book (now tentatively entitled The Bird Children) of the new series about the House of Landers. I expect to have it available in early 2014 and will post more details here as I move through the process of pushing this reluctant fledgling out of the nest.
Click here if you would like to be notified via e-mail when I have a new title available
Thanks to Melissa of Melissa’s Eclectic Bookshelf for hosting a giveaway of print copies of The Witch Awakening and Fledgling Witch! She also interviewed me about my writing, life, and what’s next for the Landers. If you would like to enter the giveaway and/or read my answers to the interview questions, here’s the link:
Melissa’s Eclectic Bookshelf hosts Giveaway and Interview
How I longed to type Star Trek in front of this post title! I remember Star Trek fondly from my childhood, at least the original series and Star Trek: The Next Generation. We had a little black and white TV when I was young that picked up about three channels, one of which aired Star Trek re-runs. I loved hearing Leonard Nimoy’s voice intoning “SPACE . . .” My grandmother, who lived in town and had cable (and a color TV–wow!) had a crush on Patrick Stewart and tuned into The Next Generation, which I suspect is one reason I remember it in such vivid technicolor. I also credit Star Trek with helping my mother and me through one of her more difficult treatments when she was sick. We often had the hospital TV on in the background when I visited her, and that afternoon Star Trek was playing. We howled laughter at the episode where an alien woman in a fur bikini steals Spock’s brain and he wanders around like a zombie for most of the show, his disembodied brain voice echoing in Kirk’s ears. Of course, Kirk kisses the alien woman before the end of the episode–he always had to kiss someone before the end of every episode. The kiss sent Mom and me into such gales of amusement that the nurse came to check on us–when she saw what had us in such a state, all she could do was shake her head and go on with her rounds.
But this post is not supposed to be about Star Trek. So onwards . . . as some of you loyal readers know, I am working on the first book of my new series. Actually, working isn’t so much the right word at this stage in the creative process as entertaining–writing this story is how I entertain myself when I get home from my day job (now that’s WORK) and on the weekends when I’m not out with friends or traveling. I have close to 120,000 words written so far, which means I’m over halfway done, since I suspect this book will be around the length of Phoenix Ashes (200,000 words.) In these days of e-books with their varying page numbers depending on what kind of e-reader you have, it’s much easier for me to understand length in terms of word count than in any other way. I also have plans for at least two other books, more likely three (I do love groupings of four, four seasons, four calling birds, four elements . . .) and have been scribbling down cryptic notes for these stories when I hear a shred of phoenix song in the distance.
In The Curious Fear of High and Lonely Places, I included a number of scenes with young children, which might have surprised some readers, considering the Landers Saga is meant primarily for adults and contains quite a bit of court intrigue, sword fighting, illicit romance, and sometimes lethal violence. However, it’s because the series has its dark moments that I wanted to bring the children to the forefront in several scenes in the last two books. As a literary and thematic counterweight to the series’ tragedies, the children proved to be invaluable. Also, they fascinated me as characters in their own right, their growth as important to me as any of the adults’ development. After all, even Mordric was a toddler at some point in his existence, and one of the children, Dominic, was the first Landers to start talking to me when I first conceived these stories at the age of fourteen, long before any of the other characters showed up. It’s thrilled me that a number of readers, upon finishing the last book, have asked about the children and/or signed up to be notified when I have the next book ready. Apparently, I’m not the only one interested in their adventures as they move into adulthood.
For children, everything is new, everything is possible, because they have so little life experience. If I’ve heard it once, I’ve heard it a hundred times from those of us who grew up in not-so-functional families; as a child the dysfunction seems normal because that’s all you know. It’s only when you get out in the larger world and start encountering people with very different experiences than yours that you start to realize that no, perhaps your family life wasn’t so normal. On a lighter note, this innocent acceptance contributes to our ability to believe in magic, an ability we tend to lose as we age. For me as a reader, the best fantasy writing elicits this dormant ability to believe, this ability to be enchanted, at least until we turn the last page and return with a sigh to our adult reality. For me as an author, the younger characters’ perspectives on the sometimes terrible events in the Landers Saga elicited a new sense of wonder from me for this world in my imagination. Like little pied pipers, the Landers children led me on flights of fancy that I never would have believed possible when I finished the first draft of The Witch Awakening back in 2004.
Even though I was a history major in college, worked in history museums, and write what most would consider historical fantasy, I often speculate about the future. Just like I’ve wondered what the world was like long ago, I wonder what the world will be like in ten years, fifty years, a hundred years, for people just born or not yet born. The decisions we make today will ripple down through the generations, a small stone cast into a still pond today perhaps swelling to a tidal wave in a century. When it comes to the passage of time, we’re all the proverbial butterfly flapping its wings in China. This is one reason why I’m so eager to follow the adventures of the Landers children, just to see what they do with this strange reality they’ve inherited from their parents.
Although nightmarish in spots, Stephen King’s Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption, the novella that inspired my all-time favorite movie, is ultimately a story about hope. The stories I enjoy most are the ones where the characters endure suffering and ultimately grow as a result; perhaps they have a happy ending, perhaps a bittersweet one, but whatever the ending, they weave their tragedies and joys into a vibrant tapestry that contains all the colors, not just the sad shades, not just the cheerful tints, but both. The children were my brightest threads in the last book, motivating the adults around them to hope and work for a better world no matter what awful events occurred.
So I invite you to join me and the Landers as I write my way into this better (still mostly unknown) world. The path winds through an enchanted forest, impossible to fathom around the curve ahead, and the wooded depths are alive with eyes, whether friendly or not, I can’t tell for certain yet. But I’m going to poke around until I find out . . .
If you would like to be notified via e-mail when I have a new title available, the link to do so is: Click here to sign up for new title notification
If you would like a complimentary Landers Saga bookmark featuring images from some of the book covers and my tagline for the series “Kiss the flame . . . love defies family, king, religion, even death itself in a skewed Renaissance world of witch burnings, sword fights, and court intrigue” please e-mail me your P.O. box and/or street address, city, state, and zip. Also in your e-mail, tell me who your favorite character is from the Landers Saga and why. My e-mail is email@example.com. This offer is valid through the first 50 e-mails I receive–after that, I can’t guarantee a bookmark, but I will answer any questions about the Landers Saga you may have.
Thank you and as always, happy reading!
Eventually I’ll add a fancy widget for this, but in the meantime, if you would like to sign up to receive an e-mail when I have a new title available, please click on the link below:
Click here to sign up for new title notification
I’m really enjoying writing about this next generation of Landers and their adventures, which is why I haven’t posted much to the blog lately . . .
Have a lovely night and thanks for reading!
reading any of the books in the Landers Saga and you would like some complimentary autographed bookmarks, please let me know. I realize most of you who are reading the Landers Saga are likely doing so on an e-reader. However, you probably still have paperbacks and hardbacks around the house for which a bookmark would come in handy at times. Especially one featuring the cover art for the new omnibus edition of the Landers Saga:
Beneath which is my tagline for the series, inscribed in black on a peridot green background:
Kiss the flame . . . love defies family, king, religion, even death itself in a skewed Renaissance world of witch burnings, swordfights, and court intrigue.
If you would like some of these beautimous (has to be one of my favorite made-up words of all time) bookmarks for your book club, please leave a comment below or e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For a long time, I wasn’t going to publish an omnibus edition of the Landers Saga. However, after I finished the last book in the series, The Curious Fear of High and Lonely Places, the idea began to take shape in my mind, to the point it ended up on one of my endless to-do lists. And once it’s on a to-do list, it might take me awhile to get around to it, but it’s ultimately impossible to avoid. Hey, our to-do lists are like contracts with ourselves–once it’s in writing for me, it’s ironclad. My mother always did want me to be a lawyer. All right, back to the post.
See, ever since I finished the first draft of The Witch Awakening way back in July of 2004, I knew that it was the only the overture of a much longer story. I wasn’t sure at that point what the entire story was, but as it turned out, Safire and Merius had no problem telling me as long as I was willing to listen. And sometimes when I wasn’t. They talk quite a lot and rather loudly, considering they’re imaginary people.
As I wrote Tapestry Lion, Phoenix Ashes, and Curious Fear, this incredible momentum took hold of me. One of my biggest worries (and this is going to sound rather morbid, but that’s me, a combination of morbid and silly) was that I would die before I finished the Landers Saga. I just had to finish it. Well-meaning friends suggested that I slow down, pace myself, and some of my critique partners wondered why I didn’t turn the books into stand-alone novels or split the longer ones, like Tapestry Lion and Curious Fear, into two volumes. Although I appreciated the advice, I couldn’t take it. And here comes the silly part, silly metaphor and silly reasoning: These books are my babies–my fretful, colicky babies who cry at all hours of the night and then charm me at unexpected moments with dimpled hands and cute smiles. Although I can clean them up with editing, I can’t split them in two. Although I can dress them differently from each other with their own cover art and colors and story arcs, I can’t make the individual books stand alone, not without their siblings. They’re a family, and they belong together.
So I’m excited to announce this omnibus edition, which contains The Witch Awakening, Tapestry Lion, Phoenix Ashes, and The Curious Fear of High and Lonely Places. I didn’t include the novella Fledgling Witch, even though it’s technically a prequel to the rest, mainly because I wrote it to provide background information about Safire’s adolescence, so it’s outside the main story arc of the saga. Right now, the omnibus is available in Kindle format for the great price of $9.99. I thought about charging more for it; however, due to Amazon’s awesome 70% royalty rate on e-books priced between $2.99 and $9.99, I actually earn more royalties by charging $9.99 than say, if I were to charge $12.99. I do plan to publish it at some point on Smashwords and Barnes & Noble, but I won’t be doing a print edition for the simple fact it’s too long. Maybe someday Createspace will give me the option to do a boxed set.
If you click the link below and are familiar with the individual books in the series, you’ll see the omnibus has a slightly different cover design from the individual books. I thought about putting all four book covers together to make one big one, but that was just too many colors and images jumbled together in one place. So I used an image from one of my mother’s paintings that captured the atmosphere of the entire Landers Saga for me.
Click here to purchase The Landers Saga Omnibus on Amazon.com
Sometimes I walk late at night when it’s clear just so I can see the stars. I stare up at the sky in wonderment and try to find constellations and make up new ones as I go. It always gives me an odd sensation, like a feather running up my spine, to consider that some of the stars I glimpse are long gone, yet I’m still seeing their light shining just as brightly as it did when they were full-fledged suns. I’m seeing stars’ ghosts when I see that light.
Star references have been all over for me the last several weeks. It started when I was reading Miracle in the Andes by Nando Parrado. He mentions how close the stars seem at one point in his narrative of escaping the Andes on foot after a horrific plane crash. The passage struck me with its stark beauty, a commentary on the miracle of how these young men survived the harshest conditions and terrain you can imagine for 72 days, the stars their silent witnesses. As well-written and gripping as Piers Paul Read’s account of the 1972 plane crash and subsequent struggle for survival is, he still was an outsider to the events. Read’s book Alive has the objectivity and balance of a good news story, but you will find no passages about stars in it. I highly recommend both books, read one right after the other if possible. Parrado’s writing made me cry.
I was staying at a friend’s house over Christmas when I picked up Charles Tazewell’s The Littlest Angel, which I remembered from my childhood but hadn’t read in years. It choked me up too. I had forgotten what a bittersweet little story it is. It has to be the most touching, enchanting explanation for the Star of Bethlehem I’ve ever read.
Speaking of enchanting, the last book I’ll mention is Thomas Moore’s The Re-Enchantment of Everyday Life, which is what inspired me to post about stars. Moore quotes a Passamaquoddy poem on page 315 that made me want to weep too when I read it, the words are so beautiful and mysterious:
“For we are the stars. For we sing. For we sing with our light. For we are birds made of fire. For we spread our wings over the sky. Our light is a voice. We cut a road for the soul for its journey through death.”
I recently got tagged in The Next Big Thing, a chain-letter-promotional thingamajig of sorts that’s traveling on the internet via writers’ blogs. I’m not a big fan of chain letters–usually I delete them. Also, it seemed like from the forward I received that they had quite a few fantasy authors already participating and were looking for other genres. However, the questions piqued my interest. Also, posting this gives me the opportunity to promote other awesome writers whose blogs I follow. Please, if you’re one of the writers/bloggers whose website I mention below, don’t feel as if you’ve been tagged and have to repost and answer these questions on your own blog (unless, of course, you find the whole thing interesting like I did and wish to participate.)
1) What is the working title of your next book?
Okay, I’m already going off script here. I don’t want to talk about my next book (or series rather), as I’ve just started it, and for me, talking about it too much at the beginning stages is like opening the oven when you’re trying to bake popovers. For those of you who have never made popovers, if you disturb them mid-baking, instead of getting puffed, flaky, crusty bits of wonderful-ness dripping butter, you get flat, doughy lumps. So I’m going to talk about the series I just finished instead. The title of my finished series is The Landers Saga, which includes four rather lengthy novels (The Witch Awakening, Tapestry Lion, Phoenix Ashes, and The Curious Fear of High and Lonely Places) and one novella entitled Fledgling Witch.
2) Where did the idea come from for the series?
Not sure exactly–a lot of places, I suspect. It was a long time ago, when I was fourteen or so. I do remember walking along the road and a character named Dominic appearing in my thoughts. He started telling me about his family, the House of Landers, and it was such juicy gossip that I ended up writing it down so I wouldn’t forget it. The story kept evolving from that point, my own personal soap opera, new ideas coming to me when I was walking, driving, working, showering, cooking, talking to my pets, talking to my friends, talking to my characters, cleaning, sitting in class, reading. I have a lot of practice manuscript hidden and moldering in my basement. One of these practice books I burned when I was eighteen–it was that awful. Friends came over, and we roasted marshmallows over its smoldering corpse. Eventually, the story became about the generation before Dominic’s. I did have the really nifty, somewhat scary experience of waking up one morning in November 2009 with the pivotal scene of the whole series playing in my head like a movie. I knew then how many books were going to be in the series and had a roughed-out overall series story arc–all in a moment’s time. I don’t remember what I dreamed that night. What fascinates me is that I already had The Witch Awakening and Tapestry Lion written at that point, and when I went back and re-read them, I realized that there was a ton of imagery and symbolism that pointed to the serie’s pivotal scene, that my subconscious and intuition had been guiding my writing process long before my conscious mind was aware of it.
3) What genre does your series fall under?
Historical Fantasy Love Story Family Saga. Something like that.
4) What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?
Okay, another off-script moment. Hearing other people reading my writing out loud, hearing myself read my writing out loud, bothers me immensely. I’m one of those people who cringes when I hear my own voice on the answering machine, so I guess I’m just overly self-conscious? Anyway, I think it would be amazing if someone wanted to make a movie from my books. However, I don’t know if I could bring myself to watch it when it was completed. Hence, I haven’t really thought much about actors who could play the different characters. However, there are several directors whose work I admire, so if one of them could direct the movie, that would be awesome just so I could meet these visionaries, a list which includes: Christopher Nolan (I especially love The Prestige, The Dark Knight, and Inception), Nora Ephron (who sadly is no longer with us), Ang Lee, Peter Jackson, Clint Eastwood (I was upset that my dad, who introduced me to Clint Eastwood movies, passed away before Gran Torino came out–he would have loved it), and Steven Spielberg (Catch Me if You Can is one of my all-time favorite films.)
5) What is the one-sentence synopsis of your series?
Love defies family, king, religion, even death itself in a skewed Renaissance world of witch burnings, swordfights, and court intrigue.
6) Will your series be self-published or represented by an agency?
Self-published. This question makes me want to get on my soapbox for a moment. I dodged a bullet, frankly, avoiding literary agents and the traditional publishing industry, which I feel has gotten so over-commercialized and focused on the bottom line that most fresh ideas soon wither in the arid sands of a corporate desert wasteland (notice I said most, not all–there are many great books out there now that are traditionally published. I’m just saying I don’t credit a book’s greatness with its publisher–I credit it with its author.) If you want to read a good book about this issue, I recommend John David Rose’s Rescuing Capitalism from Corporatism. I like Rose’s argument because he separates small businesses and newer, smaller corporations (usually still being run by their founders, who have a vision they want to bring to the masses, like Henry Ford or Walt Disney or Jeff Bezos) from the larger, older corporations (where profits are everything because the founder has moved on and taken his vision with him). Being the daughter of two small-business owners/artists and now technically a business-of-one owner myself, I hate arguments that lump all businesses and entrepreneurs together. It’s a complicated issue, one vital for our economy, and so I won’t go into it any more here. Let me suffice it to say that in the current market, some great writers will self-publish and other great writers will find traditional publishers, and in the long run, it won’t matter as long as their books end up in the hands of readers and the authors get a fair income for their work. Anyway, I had some very nice correspondence with individual agents and publishers before I went the self-publishing route. I pinned these letters on my office walls–now I’ve covered them up with very inspiring e-mails from enthusiastic readers, which I like far better than even the kindest rejection letter. That’s really what it’s all about for me–my readers, who support my work with their money and time. Thank you, thank you, thank you to all my readers.
7) How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?
It takes me a year or so to write the rough draft of a novel. Tapestry Lion took longer than the others because from about 2004 to 2008, my personal life was a tornado of stress, death, mental hell, and destruction (which probably influenced Tapestry Lion and its successors quite a bit–The Witch Awakening is from a more innocent, happier time in my life.) I am grateful now for those years; the tragedies shaped my determination to see my series finished and my books in print. Also, there were some awesome bits, like becoming friends with my step-mother, my niece’s wedding, going to Norway, etc, and so forth. Oh, I’ve rambled off-question again. Sorry.
8) What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
I really want to skip this question. I could give you some silly, made-up answer, but I won’t, not here on my own blog. I guess my inability to answer this stems from my inability to think about books I enjoy this way, except maybe in a college literature class. How, for instance, can you compare Tolkien to another fantasy writer? He’s just Tolkien–either you love his books or you don’t. I will say I was inspired to write by many authors and their works, including Tolkien’s incomparable The Lord of the Rings, but most of the other authors who inspired me wouldn’t be classified in the fantasy genre: Susan Howatch, Alexandre Dumas, the Bronte sisters, I can go on and on. Pretty much any book I’ve ever read has had some influence on me for good or ill.
9) Who or what inspired you to write this series?
My love of all things Renaissance. The Renaissance, that European marriage between the faith of the Middle Ages and the rationalism of the Modern Age–what an enchanting period of history to play with in a fantasy setting! And I’ve always wanted to write a love story. Though it may shock some of my friends who haven’t read my books, I’m a bit of a romantic. My favorite love stories are the ones where the two main characters evolve and grow together–I think the most interesting part of any romance is after the wedding, when two people actually try to build a life together. I credit my parents’ example for this inspiration. My parents met in a bar and married two months later and were happily married for 31 years before Mom passed away (Dad, a tough Merchant Marine, tenderly nursed Mom for the last two years of her life–it about broke my heart to see them together like that.) They knew relatively soon after they met that they were destined to be together–they were both very intuitive people and had enough life experience/independence to recognize a lightning bolt when it hit them. They weathered a lot of challenges during their marriage, and their beautiful example of true devotion will be with me always.
10) What else about the book might pique the reader’s interest?
I put fiction writers into three basic categories: plot-inspired, theme-inspired, and character-inspired. None of these approaches is better or worse than the others; it’s all in what works for the individual writer in question. I’ve always most enjoyed reading character-driven books, and hence, those are the kind of books I like to write. And I feel, as a character-inspired author, that my job is to talk to my characters, get to know them, and then do my best to convey their essence on the page. My job is not to put my words in their mouths, even if some of the things they tell me upset me. My job is not to plan out their actions for them, even if some of the things they do upset me. The last thing I want is for a reader to be able to guess my politics or my religion from my fiction. I have friends from many different walks of life and with very diverse points of view on a wide variety of topics. I find my friends to be interesting and good-hearted people, and when I don’t agree with one of my friends on a particular topic, I figure that my friend has his or her perspective for a good reason and usually let it go at that. I feel the same way about my characters–I may not agree with them on occasion, but they’re entitled to their points of view without any interference from me. I’m just here to transcribe what they tell me into a form that you can read, a form that will hopefully entertain you.
Now for the fun part of this post: links!
Martha McMullen has written a wonderful memoir of growing up on the home front during and after World War II, centered around her family’s beloved classic “Woodie” car: Learn more at Martha’s website
Most excellent writer Cheryl Dietrich, who served in the Air Force for twenty years, has just launched a fascinating blog about her experiences as an officer and a lady: Learn more at Cheryl’s website
Kristine Kathryn Rusch and her husband Dean Wesley Smith, best-selling novelists, former editors, and bloggers extraordinaire, amaze me with the amount of writing and other stuff they do. I suspect they don’t sleep. I would recommend any fiction writer considering publishing, self-publishing, etc., to check out their blogs for some no-nonsense, very current advice on an industry that changes hourly and adds new pitfalls for the unwary (or at least that’s how it seems to this very little fish in a very big pond): Learn more at Kristine’s website Learn more at Dean’s website
One of my best friends, Ron, has suffered “a long night of the soul” to emerge triumphant from the darkness and now intends to study for the priesthood. I’m so proud of him and would like to share his blog where he writes about his spiritual journey: Learn more at Ron’s website
Magaly Guerrero e-mailed me a couple years ago–she was interested in all things witchy and my books got her attention. I found myself charmed by her on-line persona in her blog about Pagan culture and fantasy fiction: Learn more at Magaly’s website
Soon after I published The Witch Awakening in 2010, I was on Amazon looking for a top reviewer to send my book to when one of Ana Mardoll’s reviews caught my eye. I was impressed with her analytical skill and her kindness and thus understandably delighted when she accepted my book to review. She writes from an intensely feminist perspective–I knew little about feminism before I started following her blog, so it’s been an interesting learning experience for me. Her insightful posts on sexual assault awareness and the devastating effects of chronic illness/disability have struck a particular chord, as these are issues I feel strongly about: Learn more at Ana’s website
I must be the world’s most erratic blogger, but I figure people come here to find out about my books (hopefully) and not my blogging prowess. That’s why I wanted a website in the first place–so that people could find about my fantasy stories, since fantasy is what I enjoy writing the most. I enjoy blogging and writing poetry on occasion, but I don’t feel a compulsion to blog or write poetry. I do, however, feel a compulsion to write about the Landers, and since it’s a compulsion I’ve felt since I was about fourteen, I figure it’s probably here to stay for awhile.
Anyhow, for those of you who have asked and may be reading this, I have started a new series about the next generation of Landers. If you’re already on my e-mail list and would like to remain on it, I will e-mail you when the first book is available (probably early 2014). If you would like to be on the e-mail list and aren’t yet, you can drop me a line at email@example.com . Or just leave a comment here. Or check here to see if I’ve posted, as the one thing you can depend on with this erratic blog is that I will definitely post here whenever a new book is available.
Anyhow, since this blog post actually needs content, I’m re-posting one of my personal favorites for a good friend who missed it the first time around . . .
My favorite animated fairy tale has to be Disney’s Sleeping Beauty. I love the angular, elegant, highly stylized animation–it has a different look from most other Disney movies. I love the character development. Of all the early Disney princes, Prince Phillip stands out as one of the few who actually gets his own story arc and a distinctive, wisecracking personality as opposed to just being a prop Ken doll prince (I don’t think the poor princes in Snow White and Cinderella even have names–they’re just there to show up at the end and pose with the bride on the wedding cake). Briar Rose/Aurora comes across as a bit spooky (in a good way, as in being dreamy and mystical), the fairies, especially Meriweather, make me laugh, and the scene where the two kings get drunk is classic. And then there’s Maleficent — best Disney villianess ever. She has a pet raven, crashes parties with a big bang, is wonderfully sarcastic, and turns into a dragon–what more can you want? My mother gave me an eyeglasses case with Maleficent on the lid that I treasure to this day, even though it’s falling apart–she bought it on our last major shopping trip together. That year was the year for Disney villianesses to shine, when all the Goth merchandise took off in a big way. I remember seeing Maleficent’s picture on a shirt with “Ultimate Goth” printed beneath it on that shopping trip. My sentiments exactly.
But as much as I love Disney’s Sleeping Beauty, it doesn’t tell the whole story. Most versions of “The Sleeping Beauty” don’t tell the whole story, and I think that’s a shame. Case in point: I have an absolutely gorgeous picture book of “The Sleeping Beauty” written and illustrated by Trina Schart Hyman (her paintings for “Saint George and the Dragon” won the Caldecott award–if you’ve never seen this book, find it). Like almost all versions of “The Sleeping Beauty” out there, this one ends with the prince waking up the princess with a kiss and a wedding. Sigh. Given how wonderfully gothic and creepy Hyman’s illustrations can be (her painting of all the poor princes stuck and dying in the thorn hedge still gives me nightmares), I would really liked to have seen how she illustrated the original ending of the story.
Charles Perrault’s ”The Sleeping Beauty” doesn’t end with the happily ever after kiss and wedding. No, in Perrault’s version, the prince’s mother turns out to be an ogress (perhaps she inspired Maleficent). The prince, fearful of his mother’s temper, keeps his marriage to Sleeping Beauty a secret. He and Sleeping Beauty produce two children (Dawn and Day) before his mother discovers her son’s big secret. She is not pleased, and when the prince goes off to war, Mommy-Dearest-the-ogress goes to the palace cook and tells him that she wants her granddaughter Dawn to eat for dinner (with ”a tasty sauce” no less). The cook can’t bring himself to kill Dawn, so he hides her and serves a lamb in her place. The ogress then demands little Day for dinner and finally Sleeping Beauty herself. The cook hides them all and somehow fools the prince’s mother with various poor animals sacrificed in their stead and his amazing sauces. Eventually, however, the ogress discovers the trick. She orders that the cook, Sleeping Beauty, and the children be thrown into a huge basin filled with snakes, vipers, toads, and “a few spiders.” Just at the moment that Sleeping Beauty is about to be hurled into the “squirmy, loathsome basin,” the prince returns from battle and saves the day. In a fit of fury, the ogress throws herself in the pit, and the remaining characters live happily ever after (I don’t know about you, but just being alive after everything they’ve endured would make me happy).
All the remarks in quotes in the previous paragraph come from The Fairy Tale Book: A Deluxe Golden Book published by Simon and Shuster in 1958 and translated from French by Marie Ponsot. It was my mom’s book before it was mine, and it’s a wonderful fairy tale book in the sense that reading it probably helped develop my warped sense of humor. I had forgotten until reading ”The Sleeping Beauty” out loud a few weeks ago to some friends how cleverly written the fairy tales in this book are. For instance, here’s the paragraph right after the prince awakens Sleeping Beauty: ”Meanwhile, the other sleepers had wakened, too. Since they were not falling in love, they were all very hungry. The maid of honor announced, firmly, ‘Dinner is served.’” The whole story is full of such dry wit–the bit about the “tasty sauce” in particular made me howl with laughter.
I suspect that Charles Perrault based his “The Sleeping Beauty” on an even earlier tale–there are too many similarities between it and “The Handless Maiden” to be a coincidence. To read ”The Handless Maiden,” I recommend Clarissa Pinkola Estes’s Women Who Run with the Wolves. Estes relates “The Handless Maiden” in Chapter 14 and then does an excellent job breaking down the archetypes and discussing their possible meanings, both ancient and modern.
As a perpetual insomniac, the tale of Sleeping Beauty has always held great charm for me–some nights when I’m tossing and turning, I think it would be nice if all I had to do was prick my finger to fall asleep. And I’d much rather have a handsome prince as my alarm clock then the shrill, plastic apparatus I have now. Sorry Timex