Posts Tagged ‘teen’

Because of this blog and my first few posts, I’m beginning to realize that I can write short bursts of slightly amusing prose.  But a blog post is a completely different beast than a fantasy novel.  The Last Princess already has an established voice and tone and pacing, and trying to shoehorn in a funny scene that our outline calls for is proving to be much more difficult.

In the scene I’m writing our hero, Cat, decides to confess her Big Secret to her mother, who she is sure will not approve.  However every time Cat plucks up the courage to broach the subject someone comes along and spoils the moment.  They all know about Cat’s Big Secret and they assume Mom does, too, and each time someone almost spills the beans Cat finds herself frantically trying to cover before Mom gets suspicious.  Finally Cat loses her nerve altogether … and … scene.

Right out of I Love Lucy.  Perfect for a middle grade novel.  Inherently funny, right?

Yeah, it’s not that easy.

It turns out that most of the jokes and funny moments in The Last Princess have all pretty much happened spontaneously.  I didn’t plan any of them.  But now, faced with the task of writing a whole funny scene on demand, I seem to have developed stage fright, or cold feet, or whatever other euphemism for “paralyzed” you care to use.

I can’t even imagine how someone writes a sitcom every week.

It’s like Justice Stewart said: “I know it when I see it.”  But that doesn’t necessarily translate into the ability to produce it.  I know a good lemon meringue pie when I taste one, too, but don’t ask me to bake one.  I tried, once; it turns out that in recipes it matters what order you add the ingredients.

There are lots of things I don’t do well which I have the good sense not to attempt.  Building a campfire.  Picking out clothing.  Any kind of activity involving a ball.  But this scene calls for humor, and I can’t farm it out.  So here I am.

I think I’ve got the basic set-up.  In classic I Love Lucy tradition, it begins with a misunderstanding:

If I was going to confess my problem to Mom, now was as good a time as I was ever going to get.  I took a deep breath as my heart started beating faster.  “Mom?  Do you think you can help me with a problem I’m having?  I don’t know who else to ask.”  There!  If she thinks I’m in trouble, maybe she won’t be so mad when I tell her about my quest.  And the fae-born.  And my superpower.  My stomach clenched as I started having second thoughts.

Mom misread the panic in my eyes.  She lost her smile and peered at me, concerned.  “What is it, Catherine?  What’s happened?”

I gulped.  Now I had to tell her.  Cheese!  What am I supposed to say, now?  “I need your help to scare away a prince so I can be princess of the faeries?”  I swallowed.  “Um … there’s this boy.”

Mom’s eye narrowed and she frowned.

“See, we both want the same thing … but … I don’t know how I’m supposed to—”

“Catherine!”  Mom’s eyes were wide with panic.  “How old is this boy?  Have I met him?  Where do you know him from?”

“Whoa, whoa, whoa!”  Great!  Now she thinks I want to date him!  “No.  It isn’t like that at all!”

Then, before she can explain she gets interrupted, and more confusion gets added to the mix.  What do you think?  Does that “feel” funny to you?

When people ask Steve Martin what makes him feel funny, he says he likes to put a tuna fish sandwich in each shoe.  I haven’t tried that yet.  Depending on what you think, maybe I should.

Steve Martin

ImageI thought I would tease you all a little by posting a fragment of our WIP, The Last Princess.  Not because I’m lazy and don’t want to write a blog post today.  I am lazy, but I’m posting this excerpt because I think you might like to know what I’ve been talking about.  Briefly, this is what The Last Princess is about:

Cat Brökkenwier has a secret — the ability to see that the descendants of faeries and elves and ogres still walk among us. With the help of an ancient diary she learns she may be the last princess of all the fae. Now Cat must learn all there is to know about the secret world of the fae-born and earn the crown before another, more sinister candidate beats her to it. Or worse, before her mother finds out.

I believe this is called the “elevator pitch.”  And it strikes me as odd because I hardly ever find myself in an elevator.  And if I do, I am unlikely to recite this to the stranger standing next to me.  But who knows; maybe that’s how book deals go down.  Here’s the prologue:


I looked with wonder at this little old lady squinting at me with the greenest eyes I’d ever seen.  “Who are you, my fairy godmother, or something?”

“Your’n?  No.”  She sat back.  “And a faerie’s about the worst choice for a godmother you could possibly pick.  Don’t you ever read?”

“Of course I read!  I’ve read the complete Brothers Grimm, all of Hans Christian Anderson—”

“Piffle and poppycock!”


“Those’re mostly bedtime stories for children, girl.  But who told those stories to the Grimms, eh?”  She winked and cackled.

“What do you mean?”

“You’re a hard nut to crack, m’girl, and no lie.”  She shook her cane at all of the carved creatures littering the walls and shelves of her booth.  “Sprites and brownies and elves!  Goblins!  Banshees!  Trolls!”  She pointed at each one in turn.  “They’re all real!  Or were.  Most have gone a’hiding.”  She pointed a gnarled finger at me.  “’Cept you know how to find ’em.”

I just stared at her, the hair on my neck standing up.  “How?”

“Because you’re one of ’em.”


Okay, that’s a real tiny taste.  Too tiny.  Here’s a scene from much later in the book, when Cat is in the middle of her quest to become the Last Princess:


Rose looked at me, then at Nanny Schumacher.  “Nanny?  Don’t brownies have magic?”

“You’re finking of elves, dear.  They get’s us mixed up in stories.  Baking cookies and sewing shoes and making toys.  That’s brownies, but they calls us elves.  Only brownies don’t ’ave magic dust like in the stories.  No such fing as magic dust.”

Rose sat back next to me.  “Oh.”  She looked more disappointed than I felt.

Nanny Schumacher put down her glass.  “But there is magic.  Wait right ’ere.”

Rose and I looked at each other as the little old woman rummaged noisily through her closet, muttering under her breath.  I nibbled at what was left of my fingernail.  If Rose’s nanny couldn’t get me a mouse skull I could forget about impressing the ogres.

“Oi!  ’Ere it is!”  Nanny Schumacher returned and triumphantly set a dusty wooden box on the table.  She blew the dust off with a mighty huff, then sneezed.

Rose leaned forward.  “What is it?”  She reached for the box.

“You just keep your ’ands to yourself, Roselyn Connelly.”  Nanny Schumacher shooed her back and pulled a dust rag from her sleeve.  She polished the box lovingly until it looked like new.  Well, really, really old, but … clean.  “It’s a music box.  Me mum gave it to me when I was just a girl, and ’er mum before ’er and all, back a dozen generations.”

She unhooked a tiny latch on the front and opened the top.  The inside was lined with red velvet and the lid had mirrors on the inside so you could see the small carved wooden figurines from all sides when they moved – a brownie woman holding a shoe in her lap and a brownie man with a hammer poised over a wooden toy.  Nanny Schumacher slipped a little key into the hole in the front of the box and turned it a few times to wind it up.  Then the music box gave a ping, a grind, and a sad clunk and the little hammer moved a bit.  Then nothing.

Nanny Schumacher sighed.  “Only it’s broken.”

I wanted to touch the pretty carved wood of the box, but I didn’t dare.  “What’s it supposed to do?”

“You ever hear the story of the Pied Piper?  Same fing.”  She sat down and rested her chin in her palms, staring sadly at the music box.  “Me gran said it worked a treat when she was a girl.  You’d wind it up and all the mice and spiders and fings would come for a listen, in a trance like.  And you could just sweep ’em out the door, quick as you please.”

“What did it … sound like?”

She looked up at me.  “Don’t know.  I never ’eard it.  Me mum told me gremlins got to it.”

Rose choked.  “Gremlins are real, too?”


I hope you find this as enjoyable as my daughter and I do.  We’re about halfway done with the first draft of the novel.  If you would be interested in being a beta reader, let me know in the comments and I’ll put you on the list.

Would you like me to post more excerpts from The Last Princess in the future?  For more, also please check the The Last Princess tab, above.

Am I Doing This Right?

Posted: February 26, 2014 in Writing
Tags: , , , ,

Last Princess Cover 3

I never studied (or learned, according to my wife) basic child-rearing skills. It’s just as well; she’s outstanding at it. We have three amazing children as evidence. But, being a man I am cursed with the hubris to think I can contribute from time to time, despite the overwhelming evidence to the contrary.

So, when my 12-year-old daughter seemed to have an unhealthy obsession with fairy tales, how did I handle it? I decided to write a tween fantasy novel about a girl who sees faeries everywhere using my daughter as inspiration, and invited her to be my co-author. See? This parenting thing ain’t so hard.

I think I may have sailed off the map, here.

Let me tell you, there are no How to Write a Semi-autobiographical Urban Fantasy Novel Using Your Own Family as a Model, for Dummies books out there. I’ve been told, “Write what you know.” Check. I’ve also heard, “Truth is stranger than fiction.” Can’t argue with that; if I wrote about my actual family … well, I’m not sure there’s a section for that in the book store.

That’s okay. I still had a lot of left over hubris to convince myself I could create an amusing fictional family with all of the wonderful quirks and qualities of my real family, that would be just right for a middle grade audience. And the characters just came alive on the page — practically wrote themselves — because I already knew them so well. I felt like a freaking parenting genius.

I realized my navigational error about the time the typhoon hit. My daughter read the first draft of chapter one.

How to Alienate Your Family For Fun and Profit doesn’t say how to explain that the quirky girl in the story is only based on your daughter — she isn’t what you think of your daughter. I wasn’t prepared for the tears.

But I think I managed some actual parenting, somehow. After a long talk in which I told her how beautiful and smart and talented I knew her to be, the two of us made it out of the storm and back in sight of dry land.

Our book is going to be great. Even if it doesn’t sell, my daughter loves the story and her fictional twin, now. And we’ve bonded in a way that is special and magical and totally our own. Plus I’m now clear why I should leave most of the parenting to my loving and infinitely more savvy wife.

I should probably tell her that before she reads our book.