cinders

Bonded Book Club Visit

Bonded; Three Fairy Tales, One BondOn Wednesday night, I went to a book club run by my friend Ilima Todd. It was her month to choose the book, so she chose Bonded, which makes me feel all sorts of special. Thanks, Ilima!

I’ve done a few book club visits now. I think this was my fifth visit, but the first one I’ve done for Bonded. I was a little worried about how it all might work with three different books. Would it be too much to discuss all of those? Turns out several readers didn’t have the chance to finish all three books, but it was still easy to have a great discussion. Everyone was so kind, even when we discussed things not everyone particularly liked. Mostly, the discussion revolved around questions everyone had about the characters or the plot. What I find most interesting is that these questions are ones I’ve heard time and time again (especially when Cinders was first published). It’s fascinating because readers seem to gravitate toward the same issues every single time. At first, I worried this is because I’ve done something wrong in my writing. Did I not spend enough time on certain aspects? Did I leave a few things too vague? Did I do it all WRONG? (That’s like my greatest fear, ever, mind you).

I’ve realized over time, though, that I haven’t written anything wrong. As I’ve discussed before, there are no right answers. Everyone brings different things to a novel when they read it, but that’s why it is so interesting how different readers ask me the same questions over and over. To me, that means I did something right. The story I’ve written obviously begs different questions and different themes that make a large group of readers stop and think about those same things in a critical way. It’s more than entertainment, and that’s something pretty great.

I think attending book groups is one of my favorite things to do as author. It’s not because attention is focused on me and my book. It’s because I get an insight, in person, how my book has affects readers. I’ve heard the highest praise in these book groups and the harshest criticism. I’ve grown a lot because of it. Wouldn’t trade any of it for anything! Book clubs are awesome. I don’t belong to one, but someday I might. Do you belong to one?

Posted by Michelle D. Argyle in Bonded, Books, 7 comments

Bonded Launch Party at The King’s English Bookstore

First, a suspenseful story.

I live about 40 minutes away from the bookstore that hosted me for my launch party. There’s a stretch of freeway between me and Salt Lake City, which means I was looking forward to a nice drive with three friends. Forty minutes of talk-time isn’t anything I’ll ever complain about! Unless, of course, I almost hit a deer on the freeway while we’re talking. It was rolling across the road, apparently just having been hit by a car. I was barreling along at about 68 mph, when my friend in the front seat pointed out that something wasn’t right up ahead (note, “up ahead” means, like, a split second up ahead). Since about six years earlier, I ran over (it was lying in the road, just hit) an entire elk on a backroad on my way to work (in a sports car, mind you), I had that flash through my head as my brain recognized the deer flopping across the road ahead of us. I swerved because I was thinking there is no way I’m running over a huge freaking deer again. I think my brain registered there wasn’t a car next to me, otherwise, I would have caused a nasty accident. Later, we learned the deer did cause a four-car pileup. Probably the people right behind us. I am very lucky to have missed the deer and not hit another car at the same time. Very lucky.

So that out of the way, we made it to my launch party right at the starting time, thank goodness! We could have all been in the hospital, but for the next three months, I’m thanking God in my prayers for keeping me and my friends safe.

The launch party itself was a fantastic, super, amazingly wonderful success! I wasn’t too nervous, I had fun reading my excerpt, and two of my good friends came dressed up as characters from the book. My six-year-old was well-behaved, and even asked a cute question during the Q&A section. There were a lot of people in the signing line (I consider it a total success if at least one book sells!), and I had so many friends and family show up, I went home with tears of gratitude in my eyes.

I want to thank every single person who came, and a huge thank you to The Kings English for hosting me! A launch party is a celebration, and that is exactly what this felt like.

Thank you to Janci Patterson and Lisa Shafer for most of these pics!

Posted by Michelle D. Argyle in Bonded, Books

“One-Eye Two-Eyes Three-Eyes”: The Fairy Tale Hardly Anyone Knows About

When I mention the fairy tale, “One-Eye, Two-Eyes, Three-Eyes”, I often get a funny look from people. One-WhAT? Eyes. Three sisters. One has one eye, one has three eyes, and one, well, she’s the odd one out – she has two like everyone else.

I grew up reading this tale, and I adore it. In a lot of ways, it’s like the Cinderella tale, but better. Lots better. I love “Cinderella”, but it’s not my favorite for a lot of reasons, one of them being the overly sweet ending, which is why I decided to do more with that ending in my novella, Cinders, and simply continue the tale on a more realistic note. Totally me. After that, however, I wanted to try my hand at a good old retelling of a happily-ever-after tale, and “One-Eye, Two-Eyes, Three-Eyes” seemed very fitting. Thirds is that retelling. The end of the original fairy tale is what peaked my interest from the get-go. A lot of readers might think the ending is the girl getting her man and showing her mean sisters and mother what hags they really are, but that’s not a true happily-ever-after for me, and that’s not the note on which the original tale ends. It’s much more subtle and true. That’s why I love it.

Thirds is a retelling, but not a straight retelling. I put the story in my own world with its own set of magical rules and creatures quite different from the original tale. The fairy godmother character in the original fairy tale doesn’t exist in mine. Instead, it’s an elf. But there is still a goat. And geese. My main character’s name is Issina, and not only does she suffer the unfortunate circumstance of having two eyes, she also suffers the knowledge that she has no magic like her sisters own. No magic. No future. No hope. Ah, the beauty of a fairy tale.

Thirds will be published in my omnibus, Bonded, this November. My publisher has decided to put Thirds in the middle of the three stories, and I think that’s perfect because the other two have bittersweet endings (okay, they aren’t the happiest of endings at all, although I have seen that they are satisfying for many readers, including myself), and Thirds has a really happily-ever-after feel to it, so it fits well sandwiched in the middle.

If you’re interested, you can read some excerpts of Thirds here.

Here’s to little-known fairy tales! May they always be revived and survive.

Posted by Michelle D. Argyle in Bonded, Books, 0 comments

Sleeping Beauty and the Spinning Wheel Spindle

Ah, the joys of research! After receiving some valuable feedback on Scales, I delved into some needed research and found some interesting things. First of all, I want to make clear that Scales is not a retelling of Sleeping Beauty, nor is it a continuation, or much of a prequel, honestly. But it does have threads of the Sleeping Beauty tale running through it. I call it a prequel because, for me, it’s the story I’ve come up with to tell Maleficent’s side of things – at least up to where the well-known tale begins. Maleficent (her name is Serina in my story) is a fascinating character in Disney’s version of the fairy tale. She’s a sorceress, and she’s incredibly jaded, but why? And why, exactly, does she turn into a dragon? Those were the questions I started with.

So to bring yet one more Sleeping Beauty thread into my story, I’ve decided to take a friend’s suggestion and add a spinning wheel scene into the plot and themes. The scene is short, and I weave it through some other spots, but when I started the scene, I ran into a wall because I have absolutely no idea how a spinning wheel works or what all the parts do and are named. Do you? I’m impressed if you do. I knew a spinning wheel is used to spin fibers into yarn and thread, but how it does that exactly, I didn’t know. And, I kept asking myself, what exactly is a spindle on a spinning wheel, and is it really sharp enough for a young girl to prick her finger?

I found this:

In Disney’s Sleeping Beauty, Aurora doesn’t actually prick her finger on a spindle. The animators didn’t quite understand how a wheel worked so what she touches is a distaff (a rod used to keep fiber organized while spinning), which is almost never sharp at all. (http://www.mahalo.com/spinning-wheel/)

That surprised me! So I’ll be sure not to make the same mistake in my story (describing the wrong thing as a spindle, heaven forbid). The spinning wheel first appeared in China a thousand years ago, but apparently, lots of serious crafters are still using spinning wheels! They’re still in production today, being sold for $200 – $2,000+. There are also two types of spinning wheels – spindle wheels and flyer wheels. The type in Sleeping Beauty was most likely a spindle wheel, and that’s what I’ll be describing in Scales. Anyway, this post might be all silliness, but I certainly find the strangest thrills in little research journeys! Don’t you?

Scales will be published in an omnibus titled Bonded. I have some news about the release date, but can’t share it quite yet. I will soon!

Posted by Michelle D. Argyle in Bonded, Books, 0 comments

I Cried Last Night, and Here’s Why

The exciting thing is that last night around one o’clock in the morning, I finished the first draft of my novella, Scales. It has clocked in at 48,000 words, about 10,000 more words than the other two novellas. I was getting very nervous as I kept watching the word count rise. This isn’t a novella anymore! I thought to myself. But I was wrong because a novella is not only defined by word count, but several other factors. I am not certain all three novellas I have written are spot-on novellas, but at least I tried! In the end, it doesn’t matter. They’re stories. Period.

I started Scales March of last year, so it’s been about a year. Can you believe it took me an entire year to write 48,000 words? Yeah, me neither. And here I’m thinking I can start my next book and finish it in six months. Nothing will keep me from trying! The truth is that 2011 was a really hard year for me. This year is already so much better, especially attitude-wise on my end.

So after this long, long year of getting other books ready for publication and trying to finish this little novella, I finally typed the last words last night. This has never happened, but I started crying. CRYING. I don’t exactly know why, but I swear it was one of the most intense writing moments of my life. It was like a dragon literally flew off my shoulders and left me with a feeling of immediate peace. This book has been especially painful for me to write, and I think it’s because it deals with some really deep issues I have – issues I have never breathed to a living soul. Since I cannot seem to speak about these issues with anyone, the only way I have found to deal with them is through my fiction. I think sometimes this is the only way any of us can deal with such deeply rooted things within ourselves. Stories have a way of touching us like nothing else, and writing this one has been a roller coaster for me. Now that the main part of the ride has stopped, I can finally breathe. I’ve discovered something about myself in this story. My hope is that others will discover something about themselves too.

Here’s to stories that make us cry. I hope they never stop coming.

Posted by Michelle D. Argyle in Bonded, Books, 0 comments

Light and Dark, Fae and Humans: A Look at the Immortal Film “Legend”

Cinderella from Cinders | Cinderella from Bonded

Admittedly, I did not first see Legend until 2003. My husband purchased the Ultimate Edition, which contains both the original 1985 theatrical release and Ridley Scott’s director’s cut version with a new score and enhanced features. I’ve heard many places that true fans ofLegend don’t like the director’s cut version and absence of the musical score by Tangerine Dream, but since the director’s cut version was the very first version of the film that I saw, I’m partial to its clearer story, more complete dialogue, and less (dare I say?) cheesy and flat musical score.

This, however, is not necessarily a look at the differences between the two films, but Legend as a whole. As a writer, I have never been partial to writing fantasy or fairy tales—that is, until I decided to write a continuation of the Cinderella fairy tale. My novella, Cinders, opened my mind to the magical simplicity of fantasy. As I watched Legend (for the first time in years!) with my four-year-old daughter last night, I realized some amazing things about fantasy and what we call the fae, or an assortment of magical creatures like goblins, fairies, and elves.

When I first started writing Cinders, I didn’t intend to introduce any sort of fae-like creatures. It was realistic. It would be an all-human cast. However, I eventually gave up that goal when the story steered me into the direction of sprites and elves and fairies – and ultimately, dark magic. Last night, as I watched Legend, I realized why my brain might have steered into that direction.

Legend is the story of the balance between Light and Darkness. The Lord of Darkness, a demon who can exist only in darkness (imagine that) seeks to banish light from the earth once and for all. He wants the world to be a place where he and his dark creatures can frolic in pleasure. How can he do this? Only by killing off the last two unicorns—the protectors of light and innocence, so to speak. These unicorns can only be found by innocent humans, however, and it isn’t until Jack (a forest boy whom I still can’t figure out where he really comes from) and his friend Princess Lily inadvertently lead the Lord of Darkness’s minions to those beautiful unicorns. This, of course, allows those minions to steal one of the unicorn’s magical horns, and the world begins its decent into wintery darkness as the minions kidnap both Lily and the last unicorn and drag them into the underworld. The only hope of light returning is that the one unicorn still lives, and if Jack and his magical fae friends can retrieve the lost horn, the last unicorn, and Lily, all might be saved.

Legend’s story is based on the simplest plot out there—the fight between good and evil, light and dark, innocence and guilt. Beautiful, innocent Lily is the one who ignores Jack’s pleas not to go near the unicorns. She believes her pure heart will not harm the unicorns, but in touching one, she allows the beast to stand still long enough to be poisoned by a dart from the dark minions. When she discovers that she is to blame for the world’s plunge into darkness, she suffers with feelings of guilt and anger through the rest of the movie. This is where I think the true heart of the story lies—this realization that innocence and light can plunge so easily into darkness, but that in the end, integrity and trust and can restore it again. Even when Jack witnesses Lily dressed as a bride for the Lord of Darkness as she is about to happily kill the unicorn, he reverts to his initial trust in her and does not shoot her as his fae friend, Gump, keeps telling him to do. Despite what he sees, Jack trusts Lily is not lost to darkness. There is still hope. That, to me, is the point of the entire story—even as we still question whether Lily has given in to her dark side or simply been bewitched by it.

Like Lily in Legend, my novella, Cinders, portrays Cinderella as a darker character than readers are used to seeing. I give her guilt and pain for choosing magic to fix her problems. I give her another man who she lusts after (an elf of all things). She has a more human and fallible side than most fairy tales show, and in doing that I believe I accomplish what this amazing film Legend portrays as well—the realization that there is duality in all of us. None of us are purely good or purely evil, and it is a shame when fairy tales present the world to us in this way. Even the Lord of Darkness, the very son of the devil, had a soft spot, a desire to be loved and love in return by the Princess Lily.

The reason I love Legend—both the theatrical version (which in the final scene makes the whole duality theme much clearer than the director’s cut does) and the director’s cut version, is because it manages to keep the innocence and beauty of a fairy tale, but also presents such an innocent story in a more grown-up fashion by showing that darkness must exist in all of us for light to mean anything. Princess Lily will make a stronger queen and person because she overcame darkness, not because she avoided it. Avoiding it altogether wouldn’t allow her to grow or see the world as anything but the overly glittery paradise it is in the beginning. Similarly, my Cinderella character in Cinders will make a stronger queen because she loses those she truly loved—because of her own dark mistakes and fears—and realizes she can love again and grow from those mistakes instead of withering from them.

Legend’s story makes it clear that darkness should not necessarily be defeated, but overcome. By embracing both light and dark, we learn more about ourselves and what truly makes us human. If you’ll notice, the fae in Legend are not the ones who ultimately save light from its demise, nor are they the ones who threaten it in the very beginning. It is the humans who usher the entire story into being. In the same tone, when I introduced the fae into Cinders, I did so to set up the legendary dynamic between humans and magic. In both my story and the beautiful, immortal film, Legend, the human element shows stronger and more brightly because of the fae. They are the glitter that allows us to sparkle.

Posted by Michelle D. Argyle in Bonded, Books, Guest Posts by Me, 6 comments

There is No Going Back Once You Publish

I often wonder why writers are in such a frenzy to publish their work. I say frenzy because that’s exactly what it feels like. That’s how I felt before I put my little novella, Cinders, out into the world, and that’s what it feels like as I visit blogs and talk to other writers. Going to my first and only writer’s conference so far was like a writer’s version of publishing-heroine. A chance to get noticed! Learn more about writing! Make important connections! Get one step closer! The tension, euphoria, and energy in the air was so thick I wasn’t sure I was going to make it through the day. I was exhausted when I got home. I was high, too, because I had the chance to meet an agent who currently had my partial of MONARCH. I thought for sure she’d request a full later because I stood in line and shook her hand and introduced myself. Yeah. No full request.

I have a friend online whom I chat with sometimes on facebook. She’s such a sweetheart. She’s also a new writer and she’s asked me a few times about self-publishing and what it entails. She’s on her first book and I finally decided to be completely honest and forthright with her. I told her to stop worrying about publishing and just finish her book. She didn’t seem upset by what I said. It’s simple advice.

Cinders is my fourth book. When I wrote my first book I would have given anything to get it out there. I think I would have chopped off my right arm if it guaranteed me a publishing contract. That was a long time ago. I didn’t make the decision to self-publish Cinders lightly, but at the same time I’m not sure I realized exactly what I was doing.  

If there is one thing I can say to anyone considering publishing anything, traditionally or self, it’s this: There is no going back.

Like having a baby, you can’t send it back. In fact, it’s even more permanent than a baby! You can’t put up a book for adoption. It’s yours and it always will be. You wrote it. Even if you move on and start writing under a different name that book is still out there. Even if it’s no longer being sold or printed, even if you pull it off Amazon, people have still read it or have it on their e-readers or bookshelves. You still loved it enough at one point to put it out there.

Dorothy Howell has a guest post today up on Marilyn Meredith’s blog. It’s about knowing what you want before you publish. It’s an amazing post. You should go read it. She talks about making these very important decisions before you even finish your book. You must know what you want! I don’t regret putting Cinders out there, but because I wasn’t absolutely 100% sure of what I wanted, I start to fear for my own happiness based on sales and popularity and reviews. It’s a bad place to be for me because I want to be happy for how things are now. I’m getting back to that place, but it’s difficult.

I can’t stress enough…there is no going back, especially on your expectations. Don’t be in a hurry. Don’t get frenzied. Even if you feel like your clock is ticking, take your time and make sure that what you finally do put out there is really what you want, how you want it, and when you want it. Believe it or not, this usually means writing more than just one book, and this usually involves years of patience and work. Many of you are already sure. Many of you aren’t.Wherever you are at, whether you are going to publish traditionally, independently, or with a small publisher, step forward with caution. You don’t want to hit rocks at the bottom of that dive.

Posted by Michelle D. Argyle in Self-Publishing, 20 comments

Facing Opinionated Readers…My First Book Club Experience as an Author

Last week I mentioned going to a book club where I was invited as the author of Cinders to take part in the discussion. I was forewarned that several of the members didn’t like my book. In fact, my friend who invited me warned me that one of the readers really disliked the book. Meaning, to me, she hated it. A lot.

I was nervous. I told myself not to defend my work or feel upset by anything that was said. I made the long, long drive to my destination and entered feeling extremely nervous, but confident that I had written what I wanted to write and I would not feel ashamed by anything anyone had to say.

I’m happy I made that resolve beforehand.

I’m a very sensitive person. It doesn’t take much to upset me, especially when it has to do with my writing and something like a novella I self-published because I wrote it just for me. The discussion started off really well with questions from each member. My friend Susan confessed that she didn’t understand the book at all when she first read it, but since she felt there was something deeper going on that she wanted to understand, she read all of the reviews she could find and then read the book again. She fell in love with it the second time. Amazing what that will do! Susan then asked whether or not I chose specific names for a reason and then there were other questions I don’t really remember now. Many of them were things I have answered in interviews and other discussions I’ve had with friends.

I did realize after awhile that I’ve made a huge mistake in assuming everyone knows Cinders is a continuation of the Brother’s Grimm original fairy tale of Cinderella. One of the only things I took from the Disney version is the fact that there is a fairy godmother instead of a magical tree. And because of this assumption, I forget quite quickly that I am:

(1) messing with one of the most beloved fairy tales and characters of all time, and…

(2) telling a story that takes such a deviant course from the Disney story it’s no wonder many readers don’t like the end…or my version of the character Cinderella.

I think if I do a reprinting of the book I may add a short note at the beginning about the original fairy tale. I may also add some book club questions at the end to help guide readers toward a more structured view of the work as I intended – specifically outlining the more subtle layers I added to the story. Readers could, of course, always choose to ignore the questions.

Overall, despite one of the readers not budging in her opinion that Cinderella is a terrible person who adds no empowerment to women for the story (I have my own very strong opinions on this that I will not get into here), I had a great experience. In fact, I stepped away from that meeting realizing I had accomplished exactly what I wanted to accomplish: Cinders makes readers think, feel, and discuss a character and her choices…often quite passionately!

In the end I honestly don’t mind people not liking the story or the characters. This experience was phenomenal and it was fascinating to get down to the nitty gritty of why someone didn’t like the story. I will never forget this. I learned a lot, and I want to thank each and every one of those readers for their opinions and sharing them with such courage.

Posted by Michelle D. Argyle in All Things Publishing, 35 comments

How Fairy Tales Speak to Us

Fairy tales have been around for as long as stories have been in existence. Whether they end happily or tragically isn’t as important as the thread of truth at the heart of each one. I think this is why fairy tales have lasted for so long, and why, like Shakespeare, you can plop a fairy tale story into any setting, and it will most likely work. It isn’t about the characters and setting so much as what we learn from the tale.

One of my husband’s favorite Disney movies is The Princess and the Frog. I love Disney’s version of the tale so much because it is the first Disney fairy tale told in an American setting (New Orleans). Not only is it a different setting than audiences are used to, but it also twists the fairy tale in some exciting, unique ways. At its core, we learn how much appearances aren’t as important as what’s inside (listen to the “Dig a Little Deeper” song, for instance), and that hard work is important only if you take time to smell the roses along the way.

I think, as humans, we cling to storytelling as a way to express the most important elements of who we are. Fairy tales boil down the essence of who we are. We value happiness and reaching goals and wishes. We value learning hard lessons, even if the endings are tragic. Even from an unhappy ending, there is a golden nugget of wisdom to be found—something that can lead to happiness if we will only stop to learn from it. This is why I like unhappy endings. They make me think a lot harder than happy ones!

Fairy tales started out as “little stories” passed down orally from one storyteller to another until the Brother’s Grimm started collecting some German tales in the early 19th century. Since then, we’ve had tales written down to treasure. We continue to write them down today. I certainly can’t keep myself away from telling stories with a traditional fairy tale feel. What’s your favorite part about fairy tales? Do you prefer them happy or a little more realistic?

Posted by Michelle D. Argyle in Guest Posts by Me, 8 comments

How the Bonded Fairy Tale Collection Compares to Disney

I have a lot of people ask me how my fairy tale interpretations compare to the widely known Disney versions, and whether or not I was inspired by the Disney versions. Honestly, it has been different for each novella in the Bonded collection, so I’ll start with Cinders first.

Overall, I was inspired to write Cinders, a continuation of Cinderella, because of Disney. I got the idea when I watched a trailer for Cinderella III: A Twist in Time. I thought to myself, what sort of story would I tell after Cinderella married her prince? The idea was planted, and it took off! After that, however, I stayed far away from pumpkins and talking mice and a cheery fairy godmother. I did, however, take the idea of a fairy godmother from Disney, since the original doesn’t personify the magic giver. Instead, it’s a tree and birds, which give Cinderella her dress and shoes. My version of Cinderella, hinted at in Cinders, is really my own mish-mash of ideas woven together to work for the story I wanted to tell.Thirds, a retelling of One-Eye, Two-Eyes, Three-Eyes, was obviously not taken from Disney, since Disney has not told the fairy tale. I used the Brothers Grimm version as my base, and twisted a bunch of the story to work for the setting I used. It’s one of my favorites because so many people do not know the fairy tale!For Scales, a prequel to Sleeping Beauty, I most heavily relied on the Disney version of the tale as my basis. The reason I did this is because I am fascinated with Disney’s rendition of the evil sorceress (Maleficent) turning into a dragon. This does not occur in any original tales I could find. I kept thinking, why does she turn into a dragon? Why is she so angry with the king and queen? In the Disney version, the only explanation is that she wasn’t invited to the celebration, but why wasn’t she, exactly? I wanted to know more of her story, so I decided to explore her point of view in Scales. The story that unfolds is interesting, indeed!

So there you have my explanations of how the three novellas in Bonded tie in with the Disney versions of the fairy tales. A large difference in my stories is that I try to stick to a darker, more realistic view of these tales instead of focusing on happy endings. If you love fairy tales, I hope this peaks your interest in the book!

Posted by Michelle D. Argyle in Bonded, Books, Guest Posts by Me, 5 comments