Rapunzel: Stay at Home Mom is FREE for a couple of days on Kindle!

Here’s an excerpt from when she arrives at Sleeping Beauty’s Day Spa:

The forest opened up to a cottage, not a peasant cottage but a multi-story royal cottage with at least ten rooms on each floor, and a servant at the front door. Above the door was a large sign that depicted a sleeping princess followed by scissors and then a candle dripping wax. Rapunzel shivered at the wax. This had to be it.

A pair of birds landed on her shoulders and chirped a melody as she pulled the scroll from her pocket. The servant gave her a once-over and wrinkled his nose, but he opened the door, and she walked in.

Several ladies-in-waiting sat in chairs reading outdated copies of Palace. The birds flew from her shoulders to trellises covered with roses. The servant scooped up the hair Rapunzel had undone to capture the gingerbread man and dumped it at her feet with a bow, closing the door behind her.

A girl not much older than fifteen ran up. “OMG! It’s Rapunzel! Look ladies! I told you her prince was here. He’s soooo handsome. I’ll take that voucher and lead you to the baths. I’m Imogene. Of course Sleeping Beauty will be attending you personally. Ew, is that wolf slobber? I thought the huntsman came through recently. But didn’t you come in a carriage? Did the prince slobber on you? I knew he was a wolf at heart. Oh don’t worry. We’re all girls here. No one will tell.”

Rapunzel glanced warily at the other customers, sure the prince’s fictional exploits in the carriage would be in next month’s Palace.

Imogene led her to a private room with a large tub surrounded by candles and flower petals. Two servants undressed Rapunzel as Imogene commented, “Oh yes, I see what Magnus was talking about—”

Rapunzel turned rose red. “Magnus? Exactly how close did you get to my prince when he purchased my treatment?”

The girl bowed and backed up. “I’m so sorry, he was very formal. That’s just what we call him when we chat amongst ourselves: Magnus, Albert—it doesn’t mean anything.”


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Backstory Part Two: Keeping the Protagonist Active

At the end of almost every Harry Potter book, Harry Potter is near dead in the infirmary, and Dumbledore tells him the reasons for why he was attacked and why he’s not dead yet. Harry Potter can only sit there and listen—just like the reader. JK Rowling gets away with these huge info dumps because Dumbledore is answering many of the questions the reader has wanted to know the whole story. It’s a huge relief to finally understand the reasons for what’s been going on. It’s like the end of a murder mystery when whoever solves the case is explaining.

My problem is I usually end up in the middle of my story with the main character needing to know a bunch of information before she can continue her life changing quest. It’s more like a Council of Elrond moment. For people who struggle to get into the Lord of the Rings, I think they must come to the Council of Elrond and be done. But others love that scene.

I’m reading an urban fantasy right now where the protagonist knows nothing about the magical beings who occupy the world she’s lived in all her life, which is our modern day world. In that way, it’s very similar to my urban fantasy. The protagonist is paired with an alpha male who knows everything about the magical part of the world. Again, very similar to my story. He allows the truth to slip out a little at a time which drives the protagonist crazy.

The story is well written, but I’m not connecting with the protagonist. I’m trying to figure out if it’s because I’m listening to it and the voice talent sounds constantly on the verge of tears, or if it’s because the protagonist is always asking, “Hey, why didn’t you tell me that?”

In the epic fantasy I’m writing, Gwen doesn’t know much about her family magic because her mom hasn’t told her much for reasons of her own. Since Gwen doesn’t know much, it prevents me from giving huge info dumps about the family and the magic, but at a certain point, I’ll have to because she should really know or its ridiculous.

How much can you string the reader and your protagonist along? Wait until the end like JK Rowling? Until the middle like the Council of Elrond or just parse it out a little at a time?

Rapunzel Now

Rapunzel has survived centuries to be one of the more popular and referenced fairy tales in modern times. She doesn’t beat out Cinderella or Snow White by any means, but did you have the Snow Queen memorized before Frozen came out? Rapunzel is a simple story on the surface: a child is stolen from her parents, grows up in a tower and is saved by a prince. But beneath the simplicity are complicated themes of yearning, parenting, adoption, and true love—themes that are still important today.

Like all fairy tales though, Rapunzel continues to undergo changes to fit the times. When Disney reinvented Rapunzel for today’s audience, they devised an intriguing and thrilling story for Tangled. It’s the only version I know of where Rapunzel is reunited with her parents. We are a very parent centric society and look down on any parents who don’t hold their children up as number one in their lives. I think that Disney realized today’s audience needed to know that the mother and father of Rapunzel were always looking for her.

Tangled is also the only version where Rapunzel is born a princess and her rescuer is a commoner. Not only is he a commoner, but he fits the bad boy mold perfectly. Today’s audiences are looking for a little more in a hero than the past perfection of the Disney Prince had to offer. Making Rapunzel’s hero sketchy really tapped into what today’s lovers of Twilight movies are looking for.

But the best part of Tangled is Rapunzel’s cooky personality. I have always thought Rapunzel would be at least a little crazy being locked up in a tower all the time, and I really appreciated Disney addressing it. Rapunzel is often two dimensional in her own story, and Disney really brought her to life.

Though I enjoyed Tangled, my favorite modern retelling is the Rapunzel part of the Broadway musical Into The Woods by Stephen Sondheim. Into the Woods is a mash-up of several fairy tales. I was lucky enough to play in the pit orchestra for a local production of Into the Woods several years ago. While other songs were my favorite (Red Riding Hood and the Princes’ songs particularly) Rapunzel’s story was the best story in the first half of the show. Sondheim holds a magnifying glass up to the themes of abuse and parenting in his treatment of Rapunzel. The witch is often the most empathetic character in the play, especially when she’s singing about her reasons to keep Rapunzel locked away in “Stay with me”. I found myself constantly having to remember that the witch did steal the baby and did lock her away. Making characters gray rather than black and white is something else modern audiences are looking for. We like stories messy, and making the witch not exactly evil was a brilliant move.

In Into the Woods, Rapunzel is also a bit crazy, as in Tangled, because her world revolves around her hair. I would’ve loved to see Sondheim portray her more in the happily ever after segment of Into the Woods, but unfortunately Rapunzel gets squashed by the giant.

I think having her die in the second act has always annoyed me because in March I wrote my own version of Rapunzel’s happily ever after that didn’t involve being stepped on by a giant. As mentioned in last week’s post, Rapunzel had twins. Thinking about a woman who was locked away in a tower for most of her life becoming a parent really sparked my imagination. She must be a totally anxiety ridden mother bent on keeping her children safe even to the point of their detriment. This was a woman I could empathize with—myself being a nut job after the birth of my first child.

When my husband and I started talking seriously about the self publishing business, I decided Rapunzel: Stay at Home Mom would be the first story we’d publish. Well, I got obsessed with my pen name, and published first under it, but this will be the first story self-published under my real name :) Even though it’s a short story, I wanted it to have illustrations like all good fairy tales and didn’t think that would happen at a short story market. Sometimes a story gets one picture, but I really wanted more. Rapunzel: Stay at Home Mom begins with her in the shadow of the tower at her prince’s castle, watching her children playing under the deadly sun. As promised, here is the tiniest of sneak previews:

by Kevin Yancey

I hope you’ve enjoyed these mini-essays about “The Maiden in the Tower” stories and how they’ve both changed and stayed the same throughout their retellings. I’m really looking forward to the December release of Rapunzel: Stay at Home Mom. I hope you are too!


Fairy Tale Inspirations: Rapunzel’s Heritage Part 2

 Rapunzel (The Brothers Grimm)


When I was pondering this post, I got caught up in the notion that nowadays, once something is published we don’t muck around changing it. Copyright laws forbid us to republish a work under our own name. If a story like Beauty and the Beast was penned now as it was centuries before in France, we wouldn’t have version upon version of the story like we do. It’d be like taking Pride and Prejudice and rewriting it with zombies. Oh, wait. Somebody did that.

Rather than being inclined to keep prose sacred, it seems to be human nature to grab onto a story we love and change it over and over to reflect either how we feel as the author or how society feels. It’s the only way I can explain the proclivity to reboot comic book hero after comic book hero.

Last week, I talked about a version of the Maiden in the Tower stories called Persenitte by a French writer named Charlotte-Rose de La Force. La Force actually changed her tale from an Italian story called Petrosinella byGiambattista Basile. La Force’s story was in turn taken by a German man named Freidrich Schultz a hundred years after her. He was the first to call it Rapunzel.

After Schultz, it became a story in German oral tradition rather than something read out of a book, which is where the Grimm brothers come in. The Grimm brothers collected fairy tales as mainly a scholarly pursuit and expected them to be put in scholarly places. They changed the fairy to a sorcerous because fairies were too French. They also called the sorcerous Mother Gothel which is simply godmother. Part of the Maiden in the Tower tradition is Rapunzel always has twins. In some versions, the Prince is discovered by the fairy or sorceress because Rapunzel is growing round from pregnancy. When the Brothers Grimm realized that their stories were being sold to children and families, they began to take out mention of Rapunzel’s pregnancy more and more in each subsequent edition until the twins just magically appeared at the end of the story.

I’d actually like to see the pregnancy put back in for current generations. What a great way to introduce sex education: through fairy tales. Also, taking out the pregnancy strips the story of some of its yearning and feeds into this odd obsession that princesses must be virginal. When I discovered Robin McKinley, I stalked her online for awhile and read many of her essays. She wrote a dark fantasy called Deerskin based on the fairy tale Donkey Skin. In it, the heroine is raped by a family member. A common complaint about the book was the heroine wasn’t a virgin. Really? No empathy for her plight of incestual rape? She can’t be a heroine because she wasn’t a virgin.

I think it should be emphasized rather than obscured that Rapunzel was pregnant, banished to a different land, had not just one but two babies and managed to keep herself and the babies alive on her own. Wow! That is a heroine I can admire. Trying to keep Rapunzel virginal makes her seem like a weak and waiting girl/woman. She can’t do anything until her prince rescues her.

It’d be an interesting study to go through fairy tales and see how sexuality changes depending on the time they’re written in. I’ll have to file it in my “Projects Way in the Future Box.” Next week, I’ll talk about current versions of Rapunzel and my own take on the heroine in my up coming publication Rapunzel: Stay at Home Mother.