Hello! And welcome to the first day of February and, thusly, the first chapter of Sew, It's a Quest. Please note, for those of you who haven't read it yet, I will be posting a LOT of spoilers, especially the further along I go. I'll try to keep them to
Sorry about this post coming a day late. Yesterday was my long day at work, and honestly, I don't remember a bit of it. It was rainy. I made a bunch of Mochas and Hot Chocolate and Coffee. There were a lot of people. I like people … but not in the avalaunces I had yesterday. Also, I finally have my library card working, and I've been reading a lot – finally have Seraphina, House of Hades, The Goosegirl, and a few other books that I've been meaning to read for a long time. And on Thursday, Ihad the random desire to hunt down a RP game my mom used to playseveral years ago, and to my delight, it was still free, so Idownloaded it. Currently, I've been having fun killing Jack (the newest member of my party) every few minutes.
Anyways, excuses aside, let's get to the commentary.
I have this prologue memorized, and I used to recite it at random moments. (Though, no, I didn't recite it for the purposes of the trailer) Honestly, it may be my favorite prologue I've ever written. It's the perfect blend of mysterious and obvious. While it doesn't, at first, seem to have anything to do with the following story, it's so short that readers don't complain about it.
Many of my readers already know that Sew began as a sequel to Sleeping Beauty entitled No Longer a Dream. For it, I had written, as the prologue, my own version of the fairy tale. When I changed the focus of the story, however, I wanted to keep Sleeping Beauty at the core. So I stripped away the story, changed to present tense, and this is what I got. Believe it or not, I only ever changed one word. I had used silk to describe two items, so I changed one to lace.
Once upon a Time, in a land called Bookania …
Since this was still, at its heart, a fairy tale retelling, I wanted the beginning of the story to reflect this. The most well known version of a fairy tale opening is the classic “once upon a time”, so naturally, that's what I used.
People have told me that this is a very captivating first chapter, and despite some minor inconsistencies with the rest of the book (more on this later) I'm quite fond of it. I've learned its appeal is that I took the time to establish the twin's characters by establishing their normal life – on the day that their normal life changes. It's a neat trick, actually, and something recommended by several writing websites that I hadn't even heard of at the time I wrote it.
Anyone who's read my blog has probably heard me mention that I adore twins, and that most of my books include at least one pair (or half a pair in a few cases). However, while I introduce the twins and their normal lives in this scene, notice that I didn't, at first, say which had which. One has a distinctly feminine hobby, while the other is clearly the boy … right?
But I don't use pronouns. “The fighter” does this while “the sewer” does something else. Finally, Robin gets a name, but even then, it's a gender-neutral name. What's going on here? And now Robin is complaining that their father might be trying to stop this swordpracticing? Is it because Robin has been spending too much time doing it … or is the reason much more complicated?
With this one exclamation, the entire scene twists. Robert is definitely a boy's name – yet he's the one doing the sewing. Robin is now given the pronoun her. The girl is the swordfighter!
And then we enter Robin's head for a few moments to find out why – they have a Fairy Godmother who messed up their gifts – the premise of their story. And I also slip in a veiled reference to Sleeping Beauty – a princess with seven fairy godmothers who disappeared mysteriously.
However, I do have a few issues with this scene. First of all, Robin mentions “father” as being the one who was trying to make her stop, but from where I stand now, I know that her father was actually quite proud of her talent. It was her mother who wanted her to stop. Second, Robin managed to lose her sword . (Not loose, though, as I constantly try to spell it …) Honestly, I'm not sure how she managed that, but I guess because she doesn't have an opponent, and Robert was involved, it was possible. I shall have to explore that …
And another thing, when Robin snaps at Robert, she rolls over onto her stomach. And then she rolls over to mutilate a blade of grass (or glass, if you want to believe a recording I have of me reading it on my MP3 player). And while this isn't a blatant contradiction, I had pictured her on her stomach while mutilating that grass. Not on her back as the text implies.
“I Did wear your skirts for six months”
In this chapter, I drop all sorts of interesting hints and tidbits that won't be explained until chapter six – a clever trick, in my opinion. One is the fact that they had apparently swapped clothing as kids, and that Robin looks back at it as a high point in her life. And then, when they're talking about Robin's suitors, Robert cautions her to “not get his sword stuck in the ceiling – a caution that she immediately associates with an “Eric” who “deserved that” and she obviously doesn't like.
Such a boy, such a girl.
This a phrase that I wish that I had worked into the story a few more times, because it's something of an inside joke between the pair, and they do it to remind themselves that, despite the swapping of their gifts, Robert is still a guy, and does guy things, and has a guy's brain, and Robin is still a girl, does girl things, and has a girl's brain. I kinda like how it was handled in No Longer a Dream, where it involved Robin pining after a “nice hot bath” but when I reached that scene in Sew, It's a Quest, it just didn't work.
Robin, fed up with being teased about the potential of a suitor, heads inside to be turned into a princess. Since she was a princess, she no doubt had servants, so I threw a servant-sounding name out. And then my mom got a hold of her, and suddenly she had backstory, a love interest, and direct connections to at least three fairy tales, a myth … and Shakespeare. Unfortunately, you won't learn about most of these connections until at least book six. Some will take even longer.
Of course Robin does turn into a princess quite nicely – even if she is uncomfortable about it.
I'm not a seamstress like some of my fellow writers, barely interested in learning the terms connected to clothing, so it should be no surprise that I don't spend long paragraphs describing clothing. I give the bare minimums – it's blue satin and has lace (notice that there isn't any embroidery, however, that is important, as we'll later discover), and she's annoyed with all of the jewelry she has to wear, especially the tiara that is “flaunting her status as princess” and the earrings.
Interestingly, earrings are never mentioned again in connection with Robin for the remainder of the book – and there's a good reason, as Robin has since informed me during an interview at Miss Melody's blog.
King Alexander and Queen Charlotte
And with a sweeping, generalizing sentence, I present the twin's parents. Their names are even quite typical for kings and queens.
Enter the emissary
And at last, anticipation over who the trumpets announce is resolved. It's Sir Hugh, back from his search for the elusive fairy godmother. Everyone watches with bated breath – was he successful this time? Would their prince and princess finally be as they ought?
But before he can out and tell the news, he has to give a detailed account of his adventures, which makes for a bored Robin and the mention of a physical sword in the ceiling. Apparently, it's important, as it's the third time it's been brought up in this chapter. I like how I unconsciously followed the rule of three with this matter.
An old lady – Fairy in disguise!
Just as Sir Hugh gets to the important part, Robert reclaims Robin's attention. Now, while sharing food with an old woman seems innocent enough, any reader of fairy tales knows that old women are seldom what they appear. As is the case with this one. As soon as she finished eating, she reveals that she's a fairy! The first fairy seen in years! His mission was a success! Robin and Robert will have their proper gifts! Right?
Hold on a second, this is only the first chapter of a book. No one ever gets what they want in the first chapter of a book.
The wrong fairy.
Remember, there's more than one fairy. Unfortunately, the fairy Sir Hugh met wasn't the twin's Fairy Godmother – but she does know who the Fairy Godmother is. Fallona. And she knows that the twins will have to find Fallona on their own.
This bit of news calls Queen Charlotte to question whether or not this was really a fairy – but Sir Hugh does have proof – when the finished talking, she turned into a young woman with auburn hair and a green dress, and the disappeared entirely. Obviously, she was telling the truth.
Oh, and as Robin impulsively extracts from Sir Hugh, there is a time limit to this quest. She must be found by the twin's eighteenth birthday – a mere four months away.
I actually find this a bit amusing, as I was fifteen when I wrote this book. And while this sounds innocent enough, you must take into consideration the fact that when I wrote The Ankulen, which has a fifteen-year-old as a main character, when I was seventeen. Interesting age swap there.
Queen Charlotte, however, is not amused. She doesn't like the idea of her children facing the world on their own. King Alexander, however, is willing to consider the option, and dismisses the court, giving the twins to come see him later.
Robin at loose ends.
And then they have to entertain themselves until later arrives. I don't say what Robert does – though I'm sure, as level-headed and resourceful as he is, he probably didn't get into any trouble. Robin, however, heads straight to her room, gets out of the dress jewelry, then finally gets her sword out of the tree – only to have it start raining.
And here I find another continuity issue. I describe it as an “early spring storm,” but counting back four months from June 12th, the day I have since declared to be their birthday, it should be late winter. Ah, well, maybe Bookania seasons are slightly ahead of ours …
They can go.
King Alexander is actually a pretty good dad and takes the twins pretty seriously as people. As such, he gives the choice to them. Both accept, Robert not as enthusiastically as his sister, but that's Robert for you.
And then King Alexander tells them that not only that they may go, but that he thinks that they should go alone – no servants or knights or any other sort of companion. Not only that, but they should be secretive about the affair – run away from home in the middle of the night, if you will.
Robin is obviously thrilled. Running away from home has been something she's wanted to do since she was little – as we'll see later. However, I don't think she would actually have ever gone had her father not given her permission here – or had her brother not gone with her. Yes, she's impulsive and all that, but this is one of the points where she's a lot like me. It's a very romantic idea, but not one we'll ever carry out on our own. Too many uncertainties.
She knows her brother looks out for her, just as she looks out for him. She's quite all right with that arrangement.
“It’s not silly,” argued the sewer. This was, by the way, an old argument between them. “I enjoy watching the scenes I sew come to life under my needle.”
“It’s boring,” yawned Robin. “Now swordplay…”
“Makes you lose your head,” the sewer finished.
“No thank you,” said Robin. “But, if it is, I’ll just challenge him to a swordfight, and that will be the end of it.”
“Don’t get his sword stuck in the ceiling,” cautioned Robert.
“Eric deserved that!” Robin exclaimed, her eyes flashing again.
Putting his hand on his son’s shoulder, King Alexander said, “Take care of her, Robert. Don’t let her hothead carry her away.”
“I will,” promised Robert. “I always have.”
King Alexander gave Robert’s shoulder a squeeze as he said, “I know you will, thank you.” He smiled warmly.
- Did the identities of the swordfitghter and sewer take your by surprise, or had you already figured it out? (Or had it been ruined by reading my blog or a review somewhere?)
- Who did you think this Eric would be and the connection to the sword?
- What's your favorite line?