She brings hallucinations.
She lives in gardens and parks where almond trees and roses grow.
She can only be seen during the first snow of winter.
She wears soft pale pink and yellow petals and has russet-coloured wings like a brightly coloured butterfly.
Get your own fairy name from the fairy name generator!
She brings hallucinations.
My son is in second grade and today he asked me what my favorite year [in school] had been. It was an interesting question; I’d never really thought about it. When I did try to answer, I found it easier to pick out the bad years than the good.
Seventh and eighth grades (ages 12 to 14) I recall as being difficult. Not in terms of curriculum; I always found school itself remarkably easy. But those were emotionally problematic years. We had moved and I had trouble settling into my new surroundings. School was school was school but the other students were different from what I was used to, and they mostly all knew each other, and it didn’t help that those were awkward years involving things like braces on my teeth.
Somewhere between eighth grade and moving on to high school, though, I found my place. Maybe because our high school consisted of two middle school populations, and so at that point everyone was dealing with new faces. I did all right until my junior year. To this day, that counts as the worst, most painful year of my life: September 1992 through the summer of 1993. The lingering effects were felt as my senior year began, but by the time we got through to graduation I had cleared away the worst of it and was looking forward to going away to university.
(And I have my high school reunion coming up in June . . .)
“But did you like college?” my son asked, and I told him I did. “I was good at it,” I said, which is true. University life afforded a freedom and independence that I craved, and I enjoyed starting fresh and learning to be myself without the constructs of my classmates or even my immediate family defining me. There was no one to say who I should be or how I should act, no one around in the sea of faces who had preconceived notions about me. As an only child I already knew how to be comfortable alone with myself, but at university I learned how to be comfortable being myself around others. I made some of my best friends during my undergraduate years. (Not so much as a grad student, but that’s a very different dynamic and my schools were very different as well, the first being a massive university with a beautiful, sprawling campus, the second a college bound by a dense and compact city. It was good, perhaps, to have both kinds of experiences.)
My son wants to skip some grades and go to college early, is trying to decide between Stanford and Cal Tech. (For the record, he’s eight years old.) He’s certainly smart enough, but he’ll need to focus a bit more. Or get a fencing scholarship. Which means he really needs to practice fencing more. It’s that careful balance that parents must maintain: encouraging their children while still managing their expectations. Which is why when my son asked me which were my best school years, the diplomatic answer was, “Some are always better than others. In school and in life. You just enjoy when you can and get through the less fun stuff as quickly as possible. Because there will always be another good year coming.”
A digital copy of The K-Pro* is just one of MANY great books in the massive grand prize of this giveaway being hosted by Christine Rains:
(And yes, this giveaway is open internationally!)
The prize package includes:
A signed print copy of The 13th Floor Complete Collection by Christine Rains
Diamonds and Dust (ebook) by River Fairchild
An ebook of your choice from Mary Pax
Ocean of Dust (ebook) by Graeme Ing
Ruby’s Fire (ebook) by Catherine Stine
Passing Time and Taking Time (ebooks) by Ellie Garratt
The Vanished Knight (ebook) by Misha Gerrick
Givin’ Up The Ghost and A Guilty Ghost Surprised (ebooks) by Gwen Gardner
Neverlove and They All Fall Down (ebooks) by Angela Brown
Polar Night and The Ghosts of Aquinnah (ebooks) by Julie Flanders
An eARC of Reborn by Cherie Reich
Cloaked in Fur (ebook) by T.F. Walsh
The K-Pro (ebook) by M Pepper Langlinais
The Second Sign and The Second Shadow (ebooks) by Elizabeth Arroyo
3 second-place winners will win a digital copy of The 13th Floor Complete Collection, 13th Floor series swag, and a thank you card mailed to you from Christine.
This will surely give you enough beach reading for the coming summer. Entries begin on Monday, March 10!
*I am willing to substitute digital copies of St. Peter in Chains and St. Peter at the Gate for readers who would rather have those.
I could give a list . . . If I start with the earliest job, it would be as part-time nanny for a little boy named Thomas David. Never just Thomas. Always Thomas David.
But if you want to talk about my first job in terms of joining the workforce—you know, when the government starts taking notice of the money you’re making—it was Library Page. I got the job to make money to go to driving school. I didn’t particularly want to learn to drive, but I was also tired of having to get my parents to take me places, and eventually one tipped the scales against the other. So I was a library page for only as long as necessary.
It wasn’t that I didn’t like it. I love books and I love libraries, but the women who ran our particular library were not very pleasant. (And then they wondered why no one ever came to the library.) And of course the worst job was having to set the children’s section right after kids had pulled everything off the shelves.
Still, I found a lot of great books that way. And we had a community volunteer (well, I think he was working off some community service time) who took it upon himself to protect me from the mean teenagers who sometimes came and hassled me. Mike was well over six feet tall and had a black belt, so it only took one time for these kids to mess with me, and they never did again.
After the library, I went to work at a jewelry counter in a department store. I would get guys who would come and try to buy me things out of my own cases, which was strange. “Which one do you like? I’ll buy it for you.” I suppose I should have been flattered, but it was really awkward and embarrassing. I was working one Valentine’s night and a guy was quite insistent, and I of course declined and was beginning to wonder whether I should call security, but he left . . . And came back with a huge bunch of roses. Rule of thumb: You can’t call security on a guy who brings you roses on Valentine’s Day.
I worked with a guy named Lee—that is, he worked in the department across from mine—and on slow nights he would come over and chat. I was 17 and Lee was easily in his 30s, and he used to say I looked “like an angel” and sometimes “like Christine McVie.” I eventually came to understand this had something to do with my long, blonde hair so I cut it all off.
I kept that job until I went away to university, and I tried to work at another department store, but it was awful. The manager wouldn’t let me leave in time to catch the bus, which meant I had to wait in the dark for a good 20 minutes each evening, and I didn’t feel particularly safe. So I quit and went to work in a doll shop.
This was an honestly strange little job; the shop belonged to doll maker Jan Hagara. There were only three of us: the manager (Lynn) and another college student (Christy). While there I learned how to cut mattes and frame pictures; we had one old lady client who bought pretty much every Thomas Kinkade print and would bring them to us to frame. I can’t figure where she possibly hung them all. Every alternate Saturday I worked alone in the shop, and it was a little bit creepy, all those Victorian children staring at me out of their glassy eyes. I worked there until Jan decided to close the shop.
Then, in August 1995 I got what, to this day, is the best job I’ve ever had. It was a little family-owned store on Guadalupe, right across from my School of Communications classes and Kinsolving dorm. We ran photocopies, printed and bound theses and dissertations, helped the Advertising students print out their portfolios. I was the official typist because I do 80 wpm, so kids could bring their work or résumés to be typed up, which was better than waiting around the school’s computer lab. Plus, I spell-checked.
We had a soda machine in which the cans were only a quarter. That was a big draw. But for me, this was the one job in my life where I didn’t mind getting up and going to work. Because it meant spending the day with people I liked. On Fridays we would order Texadelphia. Once a month we’d do a work dinner, usually over at Hole in the Wall, but sometimes at Central Market. The owners all but adopted me, letting me use their car and stay at their house when they were out of town.
Eventually I became the person to do the accounting and to handle any copyright clearance issues. But in the summer of 1999 I left to go to grad school in Boston, and not long after that the shop closed. I’m still in touch with just about everyone I worked with, though. One couple I worked with are now my oldest son’s godparents.
While in grad school I worked for a temp agency. I had a few interesting jobs: one at a modeling agency, one covering Senator Kennedy’s desk while his regular assistant was on maternity leave. I worked for a dentist at the Harvard School of Dentistry, too, for a few months.
But then I got (a) a work study job working for the Dean of Graduate Studies, and (b) a paid internship at Houghton Mifflin.
For the dean, I handled theses. People would come to the office and ask about the specs, etc. I even gave one or two little seminars about them. And when people brought their finished theses to me, I whipped out my ruler and, yes, measured the margins. “You really do that?!” Yes, I really do. I told you I would. Why wouldn’t you believe me?
At Houghton Mifflin I was a production intern for elementary textbooks. We were working on the California Reading series at the time, and I would check the proofs when they came back from the printers. I’d route them through the process so that the proofreading team and the electronic production team and the editing team all got to look at them, too. Eventually that internship became my first professional job when, after graduation, they brought me on full time.
It was a difficult time for Houghton, though. Vivendi had bought them, and not long after Vivendi was in straits for having overextended itself. My immediate manager and her boss were conducting a kind of cold war that was uncomfortable for all of us caught in the middle. So I left for Pearson in 2003. I was a Development Editor for college textbooks until 2006. Left when I decided to stay home with my baby. Did a short, part-time stint with Focus Publishing but then had more kids, and . . .
Now I write. Full time. I don’t think I could do it if I were holding down an office job, and really, I’ve never been good at playing the corporate game anyway. Just not my style. Even the film sets (ah, no, I didn’t talk about those) try my patience. They, like offices, have politics that I find stressful. And there is a soul-deadening aspect to those kinds of jobs. At least where my soul is concerned. I really do require a certain amount of freedom in my work. Flexibility.
I am a “Creative,” as they term it in the industry. And we labor under different programming than the average worker. I notice that the jobs I’ve most enjoyed have always had an offbeat aspect to them, and often a familial vibe. The next best would be the jobs that at least allowed me to work on my own, at my own pace, trusting that I could do the work without constant supervision. The worst jobs, for me, were ones with dictatorial bosses and oppressive conditions.
I’ve done other things. Modeled a little. Taught Shakespeare to summer camp students. Used to write for an online magazine. All fun for what they were. But it is interesting, when looking at the larger picture, which things leave lasting impressions on one’s life and which leave only faint fingerprints.
Someone once said to me, “You’re really attractive for a nerd.”
. . .
I want to say a little something about societal constructs of beauty. We’re given these images in magazines and on television or whatever, but here’s what is important to remember: The media does not speak for everyone. It cannot. Because not everyone believes the same things or thinks the same way.
If the media was able to speak for everyone, we would have only one news station and one network. Because all shows and all news would be right for all people.
So when you see the media showing you “what you should look like,” keep in mind that it is only ONE point of view. Not even a majority point of view. Because the world is too large and too varied for one magazine ad to “fit all.”
“They’re all skinny,” you say. “They’re all blonde. They all have blue eyes.”
No they don’t. And no they aren’t. You’re seeing what you expect to see, and you’re seeing the result of a lot of post-production work in which lines are softened or removed and curves are emphasized. You’re seeing a digital punch-up of eye color (or a complete conversion) and dyed hair. And on the next page will be a brunette who is probably a size 12—that is, she’s an average size in “real life”—but they’ll make sure she doesn’t look it by the time they’re done with her.
And even if most of what you’re seeing in ads and on the screen are skinny blondes, there are just as many people in the world not attracted to skinny blondes as are.
You ARE someone’s type. There is something and someone out there for everyone. Don’t let the media—who we all know is only looking for numbers, the lowest common denominator—make you believe any different. You don’t want to be the lowest common denominator. You want to be unique and special, and you ARE beautiful, if not to everyone, than at least to someone. That’s all that matters in the end.
. . . or Bloghop, or whatever they’re calling it these days . . . Join in here.
So I’m working on the last of the Peter Stoller trilogy. And the screenplay version (as I’m sure I’ve mentioned many times) won Table Read My Screenplay, and now there’s an indie director who is very interested in it—he’s actively looking for financing and producers. And here’s who he said he’d like to play Peter:
This is Henry Cavill. And while I originally pictured more of a Benedict Cumberbatch type in the role, I could definitely dig Henry as my lead. Though he is a bit younger, I think, than Peter (who is my age).
This indie guy also has someone in mind for the character of Ken Gamby. Gamby is a big, rough type whom you first hate but later sort of learn his heart is in the right place. The indie director pictures:
That leaves Charles and Gordon. I really have no idea about actors for them. I know how I see them in my mind, but I’m not sure which actors come close to my mental picture.
Charles is in his early 40s, fair to greying hair and a receding hairline. But his most important feature is his brilliant blue eyes. Which actor would that be? Because I’d really hate to have to fake it up with contacts or digital.
And Gordon is older—close to retirement. He’s weary and worn. [ETA: Someone suggested Bill Nighy might do.]
And they’re all British.
So . . . Candidates for these?
As for music, this movie would need to be scored. This isn’t pop/rock fare. It’s all orchestral. I’ve always liked Bruce Broughton . . . Well, okay, I like Young Sherlock Holmes and Broughton scored that film (my ringtone is “Waxing Elizabeth”). Bill Conti’s theme from the North and South miniseries has also always stayed with me, so maybe him?
I honestly do hope we manage to get this film made. I don’t think we could afford all this talent, but even just one? Pretty please?
Calling it a “wrong” is probably a bit much. But still, in the summer of 1993 I wanted more than anything to see Richard Marx in concert. (Proof that I was never cool.) Rush Street got me through the worst heartache of my life, and Marx was my first musician crush. But the week he was going to be in town was the week my parents had planned for us to fly to Alaska to visit my grandparents.
Sitting around my grandparents’ house in the middle of nowhere, in what I considered cold weather, and in nigh 24-hour daylight? Bored to tears and stuck with Perry Como records? When I could have and should have been seeing my favorite singer in concert?
The only things I remember from that visit are (a) I read all of Needful Things, and (b) there were bears in the yard. On our previous trip there had been moose, so bears were kind of a change, but whatever.
It has taken 21 years for me to be able to see Richard Marx play live. But last night I finally did. Front row, too, in a small setting wherein Marx was the only one on stage. He had his acoustic guitar, he had his piano, and it was lovely. He definitely knows how to banter with the crowd, and he has a good sense of humor. And it was so nice to not get the standard record versions of these songs, but to hear them a bit differently. I so often feel when I go to a concert, considering the songs sound just like on the radio, I might as well have saved my money. But when the artists do something interesting—either by changing the songs or putting on a spectacle—that makes it worth the while. I suppose, given the middling ways of pop music, artists then have two concert choices: go smaller (as Marx did, and as I’ve seen Rob Thomas do) or bigger (as I’ve seen Genesis and Pink Floyd do). Everything else is just more of the same.*
Marx played a good mix of songs: most of the hits, naturally, and a number of songs he’d written for other musicians (Keith Urban, Luther Vandross). A fun little country number. And some new stuff from an upcoming album that he hopes will be out in June. (I’ll admit, sheepishly, the last of his I bought was Flesh and Bone, but the song “Just Go” that he played last night and said was available online reminded me I should probably go check out the more recent stuff.)
In any case, it made me so happy to finally fulfill this little dream of mine, to be able to check it off my list. Thank you, Mr. Marx, for living up to my expectations, even 20+ years later.
*Jimmy Buffett excluded. His concerts are a whole other class of experience.
So I was sent this link and asked whether I agree with the article. To summarize, for those not interested in jumping over there, the question is whether True Detective is trying to make a point in the way it portrays women.
Honestly, I don’t think so. Not intentionally. But the text can be read that way, if you’re looking for a reason to justify loving the show despite the fact that it treats female characters badly.
We’ve got Maggie, the long-suffering wife (now ex) of Marty. She nags and is angry a lot, though with good reason. And she’s the closest the show comes to a fully fleshed-out, realized female character. But even then she’s not really whole; she’s only seen through her connections to Marty and Rust. She is not her own person with her own story line.
And then there are all the others: prostitutes and baby killers and Marty’s deranged mistresses. They are all cogs in the writing machinery designed to move the plot along or else to give deeper development to Marty’s and Rust’s characters. I would and should howl about this, but when I look at my Peter Stoller stories I have to admit my women are—though in at least one instance more developed—equally marginal. My Miranda, like True Detective‘s Maggie, is seen only in relation to Peter and the others around her. But then again (in my defense), my stories are all told from Peter’s limited point of view, so how else can she be portrayed? This is not true of True Detective, the writers of which could easily have chosen to give Maggie or any other woman her own story arc. (And I, one supposes, could always go back and write a story from Miranda’s point of view. Hmm.)
Still, I won’t try to make excuses for myself or True Detective. I think it’s a fabulous show, even though it falls down on the gender front. For one thing, I’ve come to expect HBO shows will have a lot of naked, objectified women. (No, I don’t watch Girls.) I don’t like it, but the predominately male audience they’re out to capture does. The Slate article talks about perspective, and this is it: HBO and True Detective are told from the male perspective. And it’s shameful and sickening that this is how so many men see and treat women. But there it is.
But do I think the show’s writers are trying to say something about female power? Do I believe they’re being quietly subversive by giving us these flawed men and showing us “strong” women (if “strong” means: an angry, nagging wife willing to walk out; prostitutes that lecture cops; mistresses who go after men in one way or another)? Nah. That’s more incidental than intentional. When a young girl waits for a woman to nod before doing what a man’s told her to do . . . It won’t be impressive until a man is the one waiting for a woman’s permission.
The last session I attended at the conference was this one, which was run by Mark Coker of Smashwords. He gave “16 Best Practices of Bestsellers.” Coker pointed out that reaching readers is difficult no matter what—whether published in the traditional mode or self-published—but you can find an audience if you think like a publisher and act like a professional.
1. Write a great book. Word of mouth is still the primary way for books and authors to get discovered. Don’t publish your first draft. “Babies are born ugly,” Coker said. So be sure to edit, polish, get feedback, revise. Make your book the best it can be.
2. Have a great cover. They say you shouldn’t judge books by them, but we do. Coker showed a case study in which a romance writer first had a plain cover, then a slightly better one, and then four iterations later hit the jackpot with a great cover that shot her to the top of the lists. The book was the same, but that great cover made all the difference in her sales.
3. Keep creating content. You have to keep writing and publishing to build and maintain a readership.
4. Giveaways. Every now and then make one of your books free, or at least deeply discount one. This particularly works for series. Give away the first one and, assuming it’s great, readers will buy the others.
5. Have patience. It won’t happen overnight, even though it always looks that way. Coker showed various charts of successful books that started with a “slow boil” before hitting a breakout spike. Then they would go back to boil, spike again, up and down.
6. Maximize availability. That is, don’t go exclusive to any one retailer or e-book format. Amazon is, of course, Coker’s chief complaint on this score. It lures authors with its Selects program, and because it holds the corner on sales, many do go exclusively with Amazon. Coker lauded Scribd, but I have to say I’ve had issues with them getting hold of my work and posting it without permission, so I’m not a fan.
7. Build a platform. There it is again. Connect with readers online. Coker added, “Build a platform that you control” but I’m not sure what he means by that and he didn’t have time to elaborate. I suppose he thinks authors should take charge of the conversation?
8. Architect for virality. Try different things to make your book accessible, discoverable, and widely available. Tweak as needed. Coker listed things like covers, distribution, pricing, proper categorization, and of course good writing as “viral catalysts.” Fix one thing and another until it works.
9. Pricing strategy. The sweet spot seems to be between $2.99 and $4.99. In that price range the average is to sell 4x as many books than if priced more than $7.00. (Does anyone price an e-book at $7.00?) Here is where self-publishing has the advantage; traditional publishers price their books too high. They have to because of manufacturing costs. But the reading public has been trained to expect quality for less money. They balk now at spending even $10 for a book—a physical book. And they want to pay even less for an e-book. So be wise when setting your price.
10. Don’t worry about piracy. According to Coker, if it happens, it’s usually by accident. Someone shares your work with friends and family. That’s actually good for you, since it spreads the word about your books.
11. Leverage pre-orders. Try a 4–6 week pre-order “runway.” Apple’s iBooks and Kobo counts any pre-orders as sales on the day the book launches, which helps shoot your book up the charts that day, thus making it all the more discoverable.
12. Practice partnership & positivity. Develop relationships with other authors. Share your secrets. And if you can’t say something nice . . .
13. Collaborate. Get together with other authors to create anthologies. This allows you to share each others’ fan bases and readers.
14. Think globally. Apple sells its iBooks in 51 countries. That’s another advantage of e-books: no borders. So long as the readers in those countries have an e-reader and can read in English (or you can afford a translator to publish your books in other languages), you can have readers all over the world.
15. Backmatter. Be sure to include your bio, a list of your books, and all your social media contact info in the back of every e-book. Make them links so the reader has easy access. The less work it is for them, the more likely they are to look up your books and Twitter account.
16. Pinch your pennies. Most books aren’t bestsellers. So don’t spend a ton of money on publishing. Don’t mortgage your house or go into debt. Hire an editor, a designer, but be realistic about what you can afford. Learn to do as much of it yourself as you can. Certainly, don’t fall for the “publishers” who sell you on big packages and promise to market your book for you because they won’t. They usually require you to buy a minimum of 100 to 1000 of your own title! So be careful and don’t break the bank.
I hope you’ve enjoyed my coverage of San Francisco Writers Conference 2014. I had a great time and am only too happy to share all I learned with my fellow writers who couldn’t be there!