In 2000, I had written a short story, “A Marriage of Equals.” It was based on a legend that Guinevere was a queen, and her betrothed, Arthur, was not a king but a general. I was intrigued that she had status in her own right.
I wrote the story because I couldn’t get the legend off my mind. I was proud of it then but couldn’t find a home for it. In 2000, self-publishing was seen as a vanity project, something for losers. Never mind that getting a short story published in a magazine provided exposure but not much, if any, money. Still, getting published in a magazine meant (and still means) that someone else thought it good, and an author could use that as they sought an agent for a novel.
A lot has changed in 17 years. Although magazines and anthologies are still a good way for a writer to get exposure (and for readers to enjoy), self-publishing has gotten more respectable, and many books are just as good as ones published by the Big 5.
I went indie last year, and as I seek new ways to introduce my writing, I am again looking at my short story. I thought it just needed some dusting off, and I could offer it as a free ebook. But when I reread it, I was not so proud of it. There was no setting, no hint of what my characters look like.
Worse for me, it feeds stereotypes. Medieval women were not damsels awaiting rescue. My heroine, Gwenhywfar, certainly isn’t, but she make a reference to maidens swooning at the sight of blood. They didn’t.
And I have Artorius coming in with armor and sword. Mail was so uncomfortable that warriors wore it only when needed. Guests to noble households had to check their weapons at the door. (Eating knives used by both men and women weren’t considered weapons.)
The title was wrong, too. “A Marriage of Equals” appeals to this 21st century feminist, but it doesn’t say much about the story. My working title now is “Betrothed to the Red Dragon,” but I wonder if that’s right. Is it too close to my debut, The Cross and the Dragon?
So I’ve done more research about daily life in 5th and 6th century Britain, and I am making a lot of revisions. And then my critique partners will have at it.
So instead of a dusting, this story needed a cleaning crew.