Thursday, June 26, 2014

Cinderella Revisited: Book Tour & Giveaway

Displaying Final Cover.jpg

What happens when Cinderella is so painfully shy that she cannot bear the idea of attending the royal ball? Or when the slipper fits . . . but on the wrong girl? What happens when Cinderella is determined to oust an imposter prince from her rightful throne? Or when she is a cendrillon miner working from a space station orbiting a cthonian planet? What happens when Cinderella, a humble housemaid, is sent with a message for a prisoner trapped in a frightening fairy circus?

Welcome to the fourth day in a week-long Cinderella Tour hosted by Amber Stokes and Rooglewood Press!

Last year, Rooglewood Press hosted a short story contest with a Cinderella theme. Five Glass Slippers presents the five winning stories, all with a unique twist on the fairy tale's true-love story. Today's Cinderella is Stephanie Ricker, author of "A Cinder's Tale."

I haven’t finished Five Glass Slippers yet, but it's waiting on my Kindle...

Speaking of which, the book is on sale through the end of this week—you can currently get the ebook on Amazon for only $0.99, so now is a good time to check it out if you are interested. I loved Stephanie’s story, though, and I'm looking forward to seeing what the other authors have done with their stories. According to the blurb for “A Cinder’s Tale:”

It’s a dangerous life, yet Elsa wouldn’t trade this opportunity to work at Tremaine Station, mining cendrillon from the seething surface of planet Aschen. Nevertheless, when a famous deep space explorer and his handsome son dock their starcraft at the space station, Elsa finds herself dreaming of far galaxies beyond Aschen's blistering heat. There is no time for dreaming, however, when danger threatens the space station, and Elsa and her fellow miners are tested to the limits of their courage.

This story had me enchanted with its pumpkin patch full of bubbling lava, but it also introduces a fun, reinvented cast with Bruno, Gus, Jaq, and even the fay Marraine.

Today, Stephanie is answering questions about herself and "A Cinder's Tale," starting with her own Cinderella moment at Seasons of Humility. I’m excited to have Stephanie here today with a question of my own. So, welcome to The Loremistress, Stephanie!

Q: What would a ball gown spacesuit look like?

A: Hi, Audrey! Wow, tough question…I haven’t considered that before. Does the suit need to be life-supporting, perhaps for a ball in zero gravity? If so, the helmet wouldn’t be a bubble, but would be sleek, following the contours of the head, with a large viewplate so that the wearer still had good peripheral vision for dancing. The suit would be form-fitting and would transition smoothly into light boots that wouldn’t be too bulky. To give the impression of a ball gown, the suit would have sheer, flowing fabric attached here and there to float in zero gravity. I have no idea if this would actually work, but it sounds pretty!

Thanks, Stephanie! You’ve got a fantastic dress for Elsa in the story, even if it isn’t a spacesuit.

It does seem unlikely that someone would design a real space suit in a ball gown style. Still, if space travel becomes more practical, I’m sure someone will find a market for fashion designs even in space—perhaps for a suit like the one on the title page for “A Cinder’s Tale?”

About Stephanie Ricker:

Stephanie Ricker is a writer, editor, and tree-climber. She adores the cold and the snow but lives in North Carolina anyway, where she enjoys archery, hiking, canoeing, and exploring with friends.

Stephanie’s fiction has been published in Bull-Spec, a magazine of speculative fiction, and in four consecutive editions of The Lyricist, Campbell University’s annual literary magazine. She was the editor of the 2009 edition of The Lyricist, which won first place in the American Scholastic Press Association Contest. Stephanie’s non-fiction has been published in an assortment of medical magazines and newsletters, and her senior thesis on Tolkien was published in the 2009 issue of Explorations: The Journal of Undergraduate Research and Creative Activity for the State of North Carolina.

You can find out more about Stephanie and her writing on her blog:

Want to see what other questions Stephanie is answering today? Check out these links, but be sure to enter the giveaway below as well:

8. You mentioned in an interview with Anne Elisabeth Stengl that this was your first foray into fairy tales. Can we expect to see more sci-fi retellings in the future?
9. Your story takes place in the far corners of the universe. Do you have a favorite spot in outer space and a picture of it?

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Friday, June 20, 2014

Why the World Needs a Better Butter Tray

Around this time last year, when the two of us set up house together, we bought a butter dish.

What’s important about a butter dish?

Actually, the butter dish are very important, along with salt-and-pepper shakers and candle holders. The butter dish may be the one thing we use every day, apart from the fridge and the oven, of

When I was growing up, butter was important for my family. We used it in the morning to fry our eggs. We used it in the evening to butter muffins.

My family had a couple different butter trays, but the main one was a beige plastic tub. It had a flat tray with a semi-rough texture for us to set the stick of butter on, and it had a flat-topped cover that snapped over the tray.

Why am I even thinking about this?

Last year, I married a UX designer. UX designer means user-experience designer, or someone who tries to make sure people can use the product the way it’s meant to be used—without tearing their hair out in agony. The term applies mainly to programs IT people use, but someone out there is responsible for designing butter dishes.

Over the years, my family dumped the butter on the floor several times—both with and without the cover on. Sometimes the cover kept the butter from making a mess. We washed the greasy butter off the tray countless times. We tried not to get it messy, but the lid usually stuck a bit. Most of the time, as we pried the lid off, one corner would bump into the butter. It the butter was soft, the lid got especially greasy, and we’d have to wash it even more frequently, soaping away the butter and crumbs, before unwrapping a fresh stick of butter and setting it carefully in the center of the tray.

So last year, my husband and I made a special point of getting a butter tray. We even picked out a glass one. We picked out one without a snap-on lid, thinking it would be a nice tray for every day and special use, easy to use, easy to clean, and easy to keep clean.

We were wrong.

The lid doesn’t snap on, but it doesn’t have a handle either. We can’t lift it straight up and down, so to use it, we have to slide the lid until we get a solid grip and lift it off.

The bigger problem, though, is the tray’s size. With something designed specifically for butter, you might expect the tray’s designer or manufacturer to find a stick of butter and measure it to make sure it actually fit into the tray’s proto-type.

One brand of butter does fit okay, because it’s a longer, thinner stick of butter. Most butter, though, comes in short, stubby sticks. The lid on our butter tray is about a millimeter too short for those brands of butter.

I refuse to buy a different brand of butter just to get a stick of butter that fits into the butter tray. I’m also not going to shave the top millimeter off every stick of butter I put into the tray. So, our butter tray will inevitably have a thin streak of butter across the top of the lid.

Someone out there failed, and because I married a UX designer, I now notice things like that.

I also notice little things about websites, like the site that has its log-in box only on the front page, in a small sidebar of the front page, and the other sites where you can’t log out—you can only click the little tab meant for “if you’re not the person who’s claiming to be logged in.”

Good design is important, and the world will build a path to the door of the designer who builds a better butter tray.

I guess you can say it's been a good year, though, if that's all I can find to complain about.

(Also, it’s true that you should choose your friends wisely…because the people you hang out with will affect you, sooner or later.)

Friday, June 6, 2014

Speculating from the Bible: WWBJD?

Imagine the comments Mary must have gotten.

“How long does he sleep at night? I hope you know how lucky you are.”

“Wow, does that baby never cry?”

Okay, I know this isn’t Christmas, so it’s not really the time for a discussion about baby Jesus and “Away in the Manger.” Jesus was a baby for a lot longer than Christmas time, though.

We aren’t told how he acted as an infant, since that’s not part of the story being told in the Bible. Still, it makes for interesting Speculative History: What Would Baby Jesus Do?

Let’s think for a minute about how the perfect baby would act... 

That means perfect not as in “never cries,” but as in “never sins.” 

We know Jesus wept over other people’s pain. We also know he sweated in agony before his crucifixion. Obviously, Jesus cried as a baby, right?

The general consensus in child development books seems to be that newborns cry to express a need. They aren’t aware enough of their surroundings to realize that they can manipulate people by crying. That seems pretty simple. No sin in asking mom for a snack if you're hungry, so no sin in crying to get fed as a baby. As a newborn, Jesus might have cried primarily to communicate that he was hungry, or because he was tired or he needed his diaper changed. 

The question gets trickier with time, however. Older children occasionally learn that they can get what they want by crying. As a perfect toddler, Jesus wouldn’t try to manipulate his mom into giving him an extra cookie after she said no. That would be ‘disobedience to parents.’

But what if Mary put him down for a few minutes, while she took the bread out of the oven? A normal toddler doesn’t understand why mom is worried about burning the bread, and he cries because it’s significantly more lonely on the floor than in mom’s arms. Besides, it’s a scary thing—not knowing if you’re ever going to see someone again.

But perfect love casts out fear. So, as since Jesus was fully God, and God is love, would Jesus have been frightened as an infant or a child? Would he have cried because he startled himself awake at night and didn’t know where his mom was until she picked him up?

And pain—since Jesus was able to heal other people’s disease’s, maybe he never got sick himself? Or, perhaps because he took on humanity with all of its weaknesses and temptations, he also felt normal illnesses and had the flu as a child. Maybe he was also susceptible to colic as an infant.

As an older child, say about seven, it might be easy to imagine Jesus patiently putting up with the flu and having mom tell him to stay indoors. As an infant with colic? It’s not a sin to ask for help, and crying is the only way babies can ask. Perhaps Mary had some sleepless nights after all, rocking Jesus and trying to sooth her baby’s collywobbles.

Still, there's that manipulation issue again, and Jesus wouldn't have thrown a fit because Mary told him to shake his bedroll out and put it away. Would he have cried because he lost the rattle Joseph made for him? I don't know, but I doubt an older Jesus would even have cried because his sister took his toy sword away.

(Imagine the pressure his siblings must have gotten.)