Ever since the beginning of November, I've been meaning to write a glorious post all about the story I've been working on, and I kept putting it off. The little writer inside of me kept yelling at me, "Work on the story! Work on the story! You can blog later!" And I'm sure all of you NaNo-ers can understand.
But now, I'm happily at 58K words and still climbing, and I'm making the time now to tell you all a little more about it. Be quiet, Little Writer, I've earned this blogging break. And all of my wonderful friends deserve to know more about the story that I have not introduced to the public yet.
Once upon a time... or something like that, I came across a certain writing contest that sparked a great idea in my mind. Anne Elisabeth Stengl and Rooglewood Press announced in May of this year that they were holding a writing contest called Five Glass Slippers in which five Cinderella stories would be published all in one book. Details aside, in short, my Little Writer went, "Nope, Kiri, you've got too many stories to work on. Forget you even saw this." And I went, "Let's do it!"
My mind went into overdrive, as you can well imagine, and I soon hit upon what I thought was a great idea for a Cinderella-based story. I chewed on it, made a Pinterest board for it, and began writing up notes. I added characters, did this and that, and then realized I could never write this story in 20K or less, which is the word limit for the contest. This was more 75K. Or more, because I have a tendency to follow every plot bunny that crosses my path. So, to stop beating about the bush, I'm not going to enter the contest. I'm writing this story because it has a right to be told and because I'm way too interested in it to leave it alone.
So, what exactly is it that I'm writing? Get ready for it... a Cinderella Murder Mystery.
It's loads of fun.
Celesta Le'Blancard is the only daughter of Duke Gerarn and Duchess Claria of Marchalla Hill. Like most fairy tales, tragedy must hit first before a heroine can emerge, and Celesta finds tragedy in the event of her beloved mother's death, after which her father distances himself from everything and leaves their home. Months later, he returns with a new wife, a widow with two young daughters around the same age as Celesta.
And you know what happens from there, right?
Celesta becomes your classic Cinderella character, forgotten by her father, unloved and mistreated by her new step-family, with only the housekeeper as a true friend. When an invitation to the prince's ball comes, along with the rumor that the prince, the Crown Prince, is seeking a bride (which is another matter entirely), Celesta's two stepsisters are giddy at the thought of dancing at the castle and marrying the prince.
And that's when the story changes. This is not your typical fairy tale, people. When her stepmother refuses to let her go to the ball, Celesta doesn't sit and cry and wait for her fairy godmother. In fact, she doesn't have a fairy godmother at all. Or a pumpkin coach. This is Cinderella without any magic at all, and it's based on Cinderella with the hazel tree (duh) and the white bird. And yes, that's a different version than the one with the pumpkins and the fairy godmother.
Although legend claims that Cinderella went to the ball seeking a husband, Celesta went for no such reason. She was seeking a murderer. Her mother's murderer. When Duchess Claria died from an unknown illness, no one thought much about it. Celesta missed her mother terribly, but she didn't guess how her mother really died until a terrifying meeting with a man whose threats make her think something more sinister might be at work. When she learns that her uncle, a baron that she had never met before in her life, will be in attendance at the prince's ball, she determines to go to discover what truly happened to her mother.
Luckily for her, the prince's ball is a masquerade, so no one knows it's her.
And now with the summary behind us, how 'bout some snippets, just so I can unofficially link up with Katie's Snippets of Stories? These are all from the first part of the story, when Celesta is eight years old.
Many men and women claim that happily ever afters are bestowed to those who so richly deserve them; others say such an ending can only be granted to those with title and royal blood, and the majority of tales seem to favor the latter opinion.
But what of those who many deserve happiness? Those who, by their kind actions and generous hearts, have given themselves a reputation that others may hold up in high honor, a reputation of such worth that they may justly ask of some reward? Alas! Many times they and their goodness go unnoticed, and those people live out their lives doing the same as they have always done.
For it is those that continue to help and encourage others without a thought of recompense that truly deserve a happily ever after. But the proud opinion of history seems steadfast to keep them from their rightful claim.
Once there was a girl who had no title or social standing, nor was she fortunate enough to have been born in the royal family. Shy but kind, she met with tragedy and poverty alike and did not hesitate to lend a helping hand. How could they expect to allow such a girl to have a happily ever after?
Her name was Celesta, and this is her story.
The mother's cloudy gaze held the sight of her daughter's face for a long minute. Then with a trembling chin, she swallowed weakly and said, “I... I fear we must say farewell now.”
“No, Mother! You don't have to!” Celesta cried, but her earnest petition fell on ears that could no longer hear her.
“Don't forget... my hazel tree...”
“No, no, I won't forget!”
“Farewell, Celesta...” her mother's voice grew softer. “Always remember that... I love... you.”
All too soon, the story came to a close, and Ahna was reading the famous ending of the princess and her prince living happily ever after.
“Why is the princess always beautiful?”
Ahna shrugged. “Not sure, chil'. It could be 'cause the royal blood in 'em makes 'em pretty, but I think the writers of these stories jest make that stuff up.”
“'Cause ain't no princess as beautiful as you, darlin'.” She touched the tip of the little girl's nose with her finger.
Celesta turned away from the finger. “I'm not beautiful.”
“An' why ya say that?”
“Because I'm not skinny, and I don't have long hair like the princesses in the stories, and I have ugly gray eyes, and they have all twinkling blue ones.”
“But ya got yer mother's dimples, an' I think that makes you the most beautiful eight year old girl in all of Troisem.” Ahna put her hand on Celesta's cheek and brought her face back around so she could look into Celesta's eyes. “'Member darlin', skinny don't make someone automatically pretty, jest like long hair or blue eyes don't make a princess. There's a lot more to pretty than what's on the outside. Yer heart is what makes ya beautiful, an' ya have the most beautiful heart 'o anyone I knows.”
The petticoats were easy enough to get on, but the dress stubbornly insisted to present itself a problem. Celesta got her arms in all right, but no matter how she twisted and turned she couldn't reach the back of the gown to fasten it up. It was a full five minutes before she gave up completely and focused on her stockings.
She had gotten one partway up her leg, gritting her teeth with frustration the whole while, when the door opened again and Ahna came sweeping in.
“Breggti never got ya up?”
Ahna pursed her lips and looked ready to spit. “Lazy girl. That's the last time I trust 'er with somethin' on a day like today.” She knelt by Celesta and raised her eyebrows at her charge's attire. “Did ya think ya could run 'round all day with yet dress hangin' open like that in the back?”
“I couldn't reach the buttons.” Celesta demonstrated, straining her fingers to their utmost length.
The Crown Prince, on the other hand, seemed completely at ease. “This gingerbread is really quite marvelous, Denstan.” He said, holding it aloft and admiring it with an eager eye. “You must try it.”
“If you wish it, Your Highness.” The somberly dressed man answered in a voice to match his attire.
The Crown Prince caught his tone and rolled his eyes. He leaned toward Denstan and whispered in a voice that Celesta clearly heard, “You're boring.”
“I thank you for your educated observation, Your Highness. It demonstrates the great attainment of your tutors.”
“Your mother died, too?”
Kadsa nodded, her eyes full of sorrow, and although Celesta already felt a keen friendship with this older girl, built on the recent months they had laughed over the laundry, the knowledge only further knitted them together.
“I was thirteen at the time,” Kadsa reflected, “an' I had seven younger siblings ta watch out fer.”
Celesta's mouth dropped open. “Seven?”
“Aye, an' I had three older ones, too.”
Kadsa laughed. “So, tell me young scholar, how many children does that make total?”
Celesta ran the numbers through her head quickly. “Ten?”
“Almost.” Kadsa tapped Celesta's nose. “It's eleven when you count me, too.”
The elegantly carved tombstone stared at her placidly. Although she had seen the words countless times since the funeral and had them every one memorized, Celesta read them again. In her last days, the duchess had written out exactly what was to be carved on the stone, and the mason crafting it had done all that she had requested, even to adding the design of hazel branches along the sides.
The Duchess Claria Marchalla Le'Blancard
Wife and Mother Taken Home To Père
Where Lies Greater Treasure Than Below
“Farewell, Mother.” She fought to keep her sobs back. “I'm sorry I have to leave, but the duke needs me in Larsen's Valley. I'll come back, though. I promise.” A sniffle threatened to break her words. “I will see you again. I-”
Celesta could take no more, and her tears got the better of her. She threw her hands over her eyes and let the sorrow she had so successfully held back all that morning flow freely.