The Shape of Tales

Last year two other authors and banded together to invent GalacticDreams—a shared sci-fi universe for novellas based on fairy tales. As I mentioned in a blog at the time I was shocked to go through the fairy tales and realize how full horrible things they really were. The shock only deepened when I learned that these were the sanitized versions. Apparently, the Grimm brothers put out a first edition and found out that they were a little too gory and horrible for even their 1800’s audiences. So they switched some of the baddies to step-parents (instead of full parents) and pulled out some of the most egregious elements and put out a new edition that is more similar to the stories we’re familiar with today. However, as the shock of cannibalism, incest, and limb removal wore off, I began to notice another strange thing about the stories: they don’t make sense.

The story I’m using this year for my sci-fi novel The Seventh Swan is based on the story of the Six Swans. The story involves at least 2 witches, 2 kings, and 3 queens and not one of them has a name.  But you won’t need to worry about which is which because they never interact. The witch at the start of the story disappears after she’s set events in motion. Ditto to the evil queen witch step-mother.  The doting father of the swan brother and heroine puts them in a tower to protect them from the evil queen witch step-mother, but when his daughter says “Dad your wife turned my brothers into swans.” He’s all “Nah, she wouldn’t do that.”  And the story is called the Six Swans, so clearly it must be about the brothers, right?  No.  They show up once and disappear again until the end.  And then the heroine, now sworn to silence to save her brothers (and how did they know that was what had to happen to save them?) gets married has not one, but three children, and her mother-in-law steals them and accuses her of eating them. Because… that was so common that people would buy that story? Eventually, (after the third baby) the husband’s like “I guess she’s a cannibal” and he decides to burn her at the stake. But fortunately the six years of silence is up and she saves the brothers and avoids the stake.

None of that makes sense. However, the story still makes sense.  A girl must save her brothers from an evil curse by suffering in silence and setting herself to a menial task.  The flow of the story works, but the actual events and characters are insane.  And in fairy tale after fairy tale the same holds true.  Characters pop up and then disappear. Characters contradict their own statements.  Random events occur. But they all move the story toward the mandated happy ending.  Fairy tales are not a lesson in how to write beautiful descriptions or develop fully fleshed out characters, but they have been an amazing lesson in how stories function and how much a reader will forgive to get to the happy ending.

Noir at the Bar


Author Bethany Maines, crime, event, morgan freeman, noir at the bar, reading, Seattle, swearing This week I’m engaging in a local Seattle event called Noir at the Bar.  There are several of these around the country—they’re a collection of live readings from crime writers with a few open mic slots at the end.  I don’t do crime exactly.  I’m more action-adventure / mystery. If you’re wondering about the distinction, I would say that the crime genre usually involves a higher body count and more depression and alcoholism.

A public reading is a difficult beast to master. The story or piece has to fit the time allotted and it has to be satisfying to the audience.  Just reading a chunk of my latest work in progress wouldn’t be helpful for the audience. There wouldn’t be enough set up and no conclusion.  It’s OK to leave the audience wanting more and pondering the deeper meaning.  Leaving them just plain confused and wondering what the point was is not acceptable.  Also, the piece has to be somewhat performed. Simply reading is more than a little bit boring, unless you have a Morgan Freeman voice.  In which case, congratulations, read whatever you want.  But I don’t sound remotely like Morgan Freeman, so I have to work a little harder.

For this event I’ve written a more crime oriented piece involving plastic couch covers, cupcakes and a husband who wishes he hadn’t popped home for a nooner.  It’s got some rather naughty words and I’m hoping I don’t stumble over them.  It’s my feeling that if you’re going to swear in public you should do it with authority.  Although, I have to admit that while dropping an F-bomb doesn’t scare me, but somehow the line about tampons has me intimidated.  Wish me luck!

Boxing Day

I had a friend who was extremely disappointed to learn that the day after Christmas had NOTHING to do with boxing. I don’t know if she was hoping for some sort of tale of a historical rumble at Five Points or Canadians engaging in fisticuffs, but she was quite put out to learn that it was about literal boxes and tipping.  I cannot help the history, but the tradition in our family is to loll about the house and stuff our faces while watching an entire days worth action movies selected by my brother.  And action movies frequently involve some sort of hand to hand pummelling, so, there… Boxing Day accomplished.

Watching movies at my brothers house has gotten more complicated due to babies and competing in-laws, but this year’s movie theme is Time Travel.  So in no particular order we are all invited to watch the following:

  • Back to the Future – Michael J. Fox
  • Frequency – Jim Caviezel
  • Time Cop – Jean Claucde Van Damme
  • Looper – Joseph Gorden Levitt
  • 12 Monkeys – Bruce Willis
  • The Terminator – Arnold Schwarzenegger
  • Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure – Keanu Reeves
  • The Final Countdown – Martin Sheen

Merry Christmas, happy Boxing Day, and a wonderful New Years to all!

**

Now Available! Blue Christmas – Amazon – Barnes & Noble – Kobo – iTunes – ¢.99

Drunken TV news cameraman Jake Garner thought he was tackling an intruder. But no, Jake just took out the fantastically attractive dog sitter. Mortified, Jake does what any man would who has just been dumped right before Christmas would do—give the offended party all his ex’s things. Meanwhile, Blue Jones is determined to do whatever it takes to get her grandmother the best cancer treatment possible, even if that means some high-rise burglary from one of her worst dog-sitting clients, the failure to walk, feed or book a pet-sitter for a three day weekend, Grace Lorra. But Blue didn’t count on Grace’s ex, Jake, showing up and drunkenly handing over all of Grace’s belongings— including her adorable French Bulldog, Jacques. It takes no time at all for Blue to fall in love with Jacques, but Blue also finds herself wondering if it would be so bad to return to the scene of the crime to reconnect with Jake. But as Christmas draws closer, Grace pressures Jake to return the dog and Blue is targeted by mysterious assailants. Can Jake find Blue and Jacques before her stalkers do? And can Jake and Blue stop these mystery men without also getting Blue arrested for theft? For Blue, Christmas has never been quite so dangerous. For Jake, Christmas has never been quite so Blue.

Christmas is Coming!

Thanksgiving is looming and that means that… gulp… Christmas is around the corner!  But what that means for me is that I have some awesome new releases to share with readers. That’s right, I’ve been hard at work on stories of murder, romance, theft, and puppies. I may just need the holidays to happen so I can get a rest. On November 15th (that’s this THURSDAY), I have a short story, Mayhem & Mahalo, included in the the Stiletto Heeled issue of Switchblade Magazine.  I’m pretty thrilled to be included in this list of all women crime writers and can’t wait to get my own copy and see what mischief my co-conspirators are up to. Next up is Blue Christmas, a romantic holiday adventure (now available for pre-order) which will be released on December 4th! This cross-genre romance / crime story has everything you need to kick off the holiday season.

Switchblade Magazine – The Stiletto Heeled Issue

featuring Mayhem & Mahalo – Available on Amazon 11/15/18

Hawaii—the land of sun, surf, and a giant pile of dead bodies. Paige Kaneko thought she had left the Kaneko family’s criminal ways behind her, but when a 3 a.m. text from her brother asks for one simple thing—help—Paige can’t say no. Now Paige must get her brother and herself out of a situation that includes eight dead bodies, a backpack full of cash and one slightly dented heroin addict.

Blue Christmas – Pre-Order Now!

High-rise burglary to pay for her grandmother’s cancer treatments might not be ideal, but Blue Jones is determined to do what it takes to get her grandmother the best care possible. She just didn’t plan on being tackled by gorgeous Jake Garner. Jake, drunk and recently dumped, mistakes Blue for the dog sitter and begins shoving his ex’s belongings at her including her French Bulldog—Jacques. But soon Jake is being pressured to return the dog and Blue is being targeted by mysterious attackers. Can Jake and Blue stop these mystery men without also getting Blue arrested for theft? For Blue, Christmas has never been quite so dangerous. For Jake, Christmas has never been quite so Blue.

Wine & Murder

I want to kill someone in public.

I don’t have a particular person. Just someone.

Last weekend I volunteered for my business districts wine walk event.  It was a fun event that paired artists and wineries with local businesses.  Visitors bought a ticket which guaranteed them ten tastings from the wineries of their choosing and then they walked to the various locations ogled the art, tasted the wine and walked to the next stop.  This puts visitors inside local businesses, exposes an audience to new wines and gives everyone a chance to enjoy a fun fall outing.  It’s also a large crowd with people going every which way, no one is really paying attention, and half the crowd is a wee bit tipsy.  That seems like a great place for a murder!

Could I slip something in their tasting glass? Could I stab them quietly in pop them in a business’s back room while no one was looking?  Leave the body in their car apparently “sleeping it off”?  Or is it better to kill them and then stick around as a surprise witness.  Oh my God! Someone’s killed Kenny!  And… surprised face.

It’s a bold move to go for a public murder, which makes it probably unpremeditated.  My motivation would have to be strong.  Lots of money or a truly horrible victim.  And then, perhaps the small town police chief could solve the mystery?  And bam, we’ve got a novel plot.  Although, in general, I should probably not tell anyone what I think about at these events.  I’m going to end up on someone’s list…

Supposed to be…

I’m not supposed to be writing this.  I have a pretty stiff yearly schedule on what I intend to write.  And while blogs are on my schedule, I have currently abandoned all sanity and schedules and have started committing time to a project that is NOT on the calendar.  I should currently be writing my San Juan Islands #3.  Unfortunately, while I had a fantastic idea for the opening, my idea pretty much stopped there. And an inciting incident does not a plot make.  But after I stared and stared at the screen and then stared some more, nothing was coming to me. So I started doing a writing exercise to get the creative juices flowing and now… I can’t stop. 

I think I’ve fallen in love with my own characters.  They keep popping up with more things for themselves to do.   And I keep thinking, “What a great idea!  I’m sure that will only take me twenty minutes to jot that down.”  Note to self: nothing you want to write takes twenty minutes.  And now my cushion of time for making my deadline is whittling down and I’m actually starting to worry.  So if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to stop writing this and stare at my screen and try and figure out why Tobias is in jail.

Sunburn & Books

Last weekend I participated in a “Literary Corner” at a local arts festival.  It was a chance to sell books, meet readers and network with other authors.  It’s always so great to see how other authors sell and a chance to learn some pointers.  It was also, as it turned out, a chance to sunburn my feet.  No one warned me that part of being an author would be having to be cognizant of my sunscreen and footwear choices.  So, if you are also in a summer sun situation, here are some sun burn tips.

  1. Act Fast to Cool It Down

Take a quick dip in a pool or other body of water.  But don’t stay in too long and get more burned!

  1. Moisturize While Skin Is Damp

Use a gentle, but non-oil based, moisturizing. Repeat to keep burned or peeling skin moist over the next few days.

  1. Decrease the Inflammation

At the first sign of sunburn, taking an anti-inflammatory drug , such as ibuprofen. Aloe vera may also soothe mild burns.

  1. Replenish Your Fluids

Burns draw fluid to the skin’s surface and away from the rest of the body. It’s important to rehydrate by drinking extra liquids.

Selected Readings

This week I’m going to take part in a live reading event called Noir at the Bar.  It’s a fun event that focuses on crime tales and the forties pulp-fiction style.  I’m excited to participate, but as usual it throws me into a tizzy of what to read.  Short stories come in all shapes and sizes but reading for an audience is quite different.  Not every story translates well to an audience that’s slurping their way through cocktails and appetizers. I would, of course, love an audience to hang breathless on my every word, but even when an audience comes specifically to see an author it’s very hard to get that level of studiously quiet audience participation. 

Through the variety of readings that I have experienced I’ve developed the theory of “joke” short stories for readings.  Not that a reading has to be funny, but that it should be constructed like a joke.

There is the set-up. 

A man walks into a bar at the top of a rise building.  It’s a swanky place, but there’s a guy in a suit and glasses slumped at the bar.

The tale. 

I can’t believe this view,” says the man, looking out the window.

“Yeah, but you’ve got to look out for the cross-winds.  They’re killer,” says the drunk guy, brushing a curl of dark hair off his forehead.

“What are you talking about?” asks the man.

The drunk guy stumbles off his bar stool.  “Here I’ll show you.”  He opens the window and steps out, but the winds sweep in and he simply hovers in air and then steps back into the bar.

“Holy cow,” says the man.  “I can’t believe that.”

“Give it a try,” says the guy in glasses.

The pay-off.

The man steps off the building and plummets to the ground.  The bartender looks up from polishing the glasses as the drunk guy sits back down.  “Jeez, Superman, you are mean when you drink.”

The story has to have a pay-off or the audience sort of stares at you like cows in a field.  It doesn’t have to be a funny pay off, but there has to be some sort of solid finish that gives an audience a feeling of conclusion.  Usually, it’s some sort of twist that reveals the truth or that gives the audience the key to understanding the story. I’ll be reading a condensed version of a short story from my Shark Santoyo story.  Hopefully, Noir at the Bar enjoys what I’ve selected for them.  Wish me luck!