Bad Fairy: Class Picture Day

I don’t do much in the way of visualizing characters when I’m writing, but I think most readers are more visual than I am, and they tend to appreciate at least a little description.  But except for the major characters, I hadn’t done much description of anyone in the book, and there were a ton of minor characters whose names were probably mentioned once—primarily Delia’s classmates in her fairy school.  So I decided I should try to draw them so I could get an idea of what she’s seeing every day.

So here’s my “fairy class picture day,” ignoring of course that they lived in a time without cameras. Haha.

The teachers are the ones standing on the stage, and the fairy students are all on the ground—I drew the graduating class of that year.

Fairies are obviously a pretty homogenous bunch, given how consistently they seem to have curly blonde hair and light skin.  A few of them have a little more red or a little more brown in their hair, but it’s rare.  So you can see why my protagonist sticks out a bit.  (That and she’s tiny because she’s four years younger than the next youngest student.  And, well, a few other things.)

I had a lot of fun figuring out what everyone looks like.  It lets me flesh them out more when I write about them in the book.

On Writing to the Market

I tend to write pretty non-traditional stuff.

I also have a natural tendency toward wordiness which makes my work difficult to squeeze into the publishing industry’s proverbial Size 8.

So when I have issues placing it, and I whine about it (good-naturedly, most of the time), sometimes well-meaning people tell me I ought to just try to garner some popularity by writing what’s popular at the moment.

“Wouldn’t it be worth it?” these people say.  “Isn’t it worth compromising a little in order to get a following and get attention for your serious work?”

Let me explain to you why I think this is kind of misguided.

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Article: How to Be an Asexual Ally

Another article of mine was published in Good Vibrations today.  It’s a three-part post and now that they’re all complete I’m sharing them here.

Please read these:

  • Part One: What would we like you to do to make us feel valued and accepted?
  • Part Two: What would we like your reactions to sound like when we come out, and how would we like you to treat us afterwards?
  • Part Three: What questions would we like you to ask, and what behaviors would we prefer you avoid? What assumptions would we caution you against making regarding us and others like us?

Rejection Feedback: “Wind”

I got some kind of interesting rejection feedback from a magazine that decided against publishing my short story “Wind,” and I’d like to share it here:

Cool story! I’m passing on it today mostly because I don’t think [magazine] is quite right for it, rather than the other way around. Our readership probably wouldn’t appreciate it the way a publisher with a wider reader demographic would. I’m always hesitant to give stylistic feedback, but if it’s not too forward of me, this could use a stronger opening section. Your narrative is smooth and your characterization is totally likable, but you need something happening right from the first page rather than five or six pages in, even in a longer story like this. Keep submitting it, though. This tone/content is very right-now, and I’m sure someone with broader content will bite.

I like personalized rejection letters.  Probably not as much as I’d like acceptances, but it’s nice when someone decides my stuff is worth their feedback.

(A)sexual premieres at Frameline Film Festival

(A)sexual is an independent documentary film about asexuality, asexual people, asexual people’s lives, and the making of a movement.  I’m a major “character” in the film. It is available at the following places: Netflix, Amazon, iTunes, YouTube, Vudu, Xbox Live, and PlayStation, or the trailer on Vimeo.

Stats:

  • Director: Angela Tucker
  • Producers: Katy Chevigny, Beth Davenport, Jolene Pinder
  • Executive Producer: Ewa Bigio
  • Editor: Michelle Chang
  • Main Interviewees: David Jay, Barb, Swank Ivy, Elizabeth, Brian
  • Running Time: 75 minutes
  • Production Company: Arts Engine/Big Mouth Films

Premiered: Frameline Film Festival – San Francisco – June 18, 2011

Other Film Festivals Shown: MIX COPENHAGEN (formerly known as Copenhagen Gay & Lesbian Film Festival), Reeling 2011: The Chicago Lesbian and Gay International Film Festival, Queersicht (Bern, Switzerland), Vox Feminae Festival (Zagreb, Croatia), New Orleans Film Festival, Seattle Lesbian & Gay Film Festival, NewFest Film Festival (New York).

Official description: Facing a sex obsessed culture, a mountain of stereotypes and misconceptions, and a lack of social or scientific research, asexuals–people who experience no sexual attraction–struggle to claim their identity.

(A)sexual follows the growth of a community that experiences no sexual attraction. In 2000, David Jay came out to his parents. He was asexual and was fine with it. And he was not alone. Studies show that 1% of the population is asexual. But in a society obsessed with sex, how do you deal with life as an outsider? Combining intimate interviews, verite footage, and animation with fearless humor and pop culture imagery, David and our four other characters grapple with this universal question and the outcomes might surprise you.

This independent documentary introduces the audience to the concept of asexuality–the sexual orientation of not finding anyone sexually attractive–and subjects viewers to both good information and popular misconceptions. Largely following the life and mission of asexual poster boy David Jay (founder of the Asexual Visibility and Education Network), we’re introduced to how asexuals handle intimacy, what the different kinds of asexuals are, what they do to spread awareness, and what the people who study them think.

(A)sexual is both a discussion of asexuality and a slice-of-life portrayal of how several asexuals live their lives, combined with information and commentary from sexologists, researchers, and random people on the street.

Completed New Novel: Bad Fairy Trilogy, Book 1

Finished writing the new version of Bad Fairy!

Genre: Fantasy (fairy tale retelling).

Length: 40 chapters/550 pages/~170,000 words. (Oh no.)

Tag line: “What happened before Sleeping Beauty slept?”

Keywords: FANTASY: Fairy tale retelling, medieval period fantasy, Sleeping Beauty, fairies, magic, magick, dark fantasy, reincarnation, elemental magic, identity issues, quirky narrators, epistolary, autobiography (character).

Protagonist: Delia Morningstar.

POV: First person, past tense.

About:

Bad Fairy is the story of a famous half-fairy named Delia Morningstar who unintentionally inspired the story of Sleeping Beauty.  As the “bad fairy” in the story, Delia has found herself immortalized in this fairy tale many years after the fact, and has decided to write her autobiography in order to set the record straight.  She announces her intent to seek closure through writing her memoir, ridding herself of an undeserved bad reputation.

This first volume of the trilogy depicts Delia’s young life as a fairy child.  Her story begins with infant Delia discovering her world and coming to terms with her half human/half fairy ancestry.  She has an atypical appearance, very like a notorious relative in her family’s distant past, and she vows to avoid becoming another source of shame.  As a toddler, she prematurely manifests the talent of magick, which qualifies Delia as a fairy by society’s standards.  She is therefore expected to attend circle, the fairy version of school, and is enrolled at the early age of six.

At first, Delia struggles to keep up with her classmates, most of whom are nearly twice her age.  Delia quickly discovers that her magick is “dark”—it doesn’t glow and it works differently—and because of that and her mixed blood, the other fairies find it difficult to accept her.  But before long, Delia is recognized as a precocious magickal prodigy, drawing the ire of another class front-runner: Beatrice, along with her sisterhood members Chloe and Livia.  The three “good fairies” declare a vendetta against their peculiar classmate.  As they compete to win the role of Circle Mistress—class valedictorian—Beatrice finds herself regularly outclassed by Delia, and retaliates by trying to turn others against her.

Delia acquires tentative allies and pioneers her own studies in “black magick,” but the older she gets, the more her differences manifest and the more difficulties she has fitting in and finding a place for her talents.  By the end, despite the astounding achievement records she’s able to set, she’s still at a loss as to how to be regarded as a fairy adult when she looks like a preteen human and pursues her passions in unrecognized black arts.  When she finally butts heads with her three enemies, she finds she may have underestimated them, and this sets a precedent for a life of frustration and disappointment. . . .

Markedly disillusioned but still ready to revolutionize her world, this hopeful preteen fairy begins to plot.

Next up: Lots of editing! Thanks to everyone who’s volunteered to help.

Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award 2011, Semi-Finals: Finding Mulligan

Finding Mulligan was cut from the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award competition at the semi-final round.  I will not be moving on.

Here is the (rather unflattering) Publishers Weekly review:

Cassandra is looking for an apartment for her freshman year of college when she sees a painting that seems extremely familiar. She immediately realizes that the painting is of someone she knows from her dreamland. Cassandra (Dia in the dreamworld) has been visiting the dreamland in her sleep ever since she was a child. But until she sees Mulligan, the man in the painting, she’s never met another resident in the real world. Cassandra quickly falls for Mulligan and decides she must track him down. Meanwhile, she also discovers that her dreamland is not the safe, perfect place she thought it was. Finding Mulligan has a simple enough solution, one that is actually clearly described in the first chapter. Yet the author insists on explaining the world in detail through tedious dialogue in the subsequent chapters. This heavy-handed and rambling style of prose permeates the manuscript, making it a clunky and repetitive read. On top of this, Cassandra isn’t especially likable, especially when she makes a habit of taunting her younger sister (who has kidney disease).

As the author of this novel, I actually have absolutely no idea what the reviewer means by “a simple enough solution.”  There isn’t actually a “solution” of any kind in the book, so I’m baffled.  But the rest of this stuff will be taken to heart and used to revise the book for next year.  Hooray!

Also, on the positive side, my customer reviews for the first chapter on Amazon:

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Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award 2011, Quarter-Finals: Finding Mulligan

Finding Mulligan has been chosen as one of 500 quarter-finalists in the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award competition.

My “prize” now is to go on to be judged in the semi-finals.  Publishers Weekly will be judging my novel—the full manuscript—and they will decide whether I get to be one of the 100 left in the semi-final round.

Rating me and recommending me were two Amazon Vine Reviewers.  Here is what they said about my first chapter:

Reviewer #1:

What is the strongest aspect of this excerpt?
Pretty well-done and realistic, Cassie and her parents finding her first college apartment for her, her sister Haley whining about having been left home alone, all intelligently handled. Good treatment of the family situation and dynamics, and of the winning apartment. Unfortunately, no description of campus, or college town, or of the family home, no setting, not actually much description of apartment. Many high school girls will be going away to college, they might identify with the story this exerpt tells.
What aspect needs the most work?
I don’t see why this story has to have a supernatural element to it, why it can’t be a plain straightforward going away to college story. Am not very sympathetic to supernatural element, not interested in Cassie’s REAL nighttime self, think it’s a mistake, doubt author has the writing gifts to mesh supernatural tale with ordinary coming-of-age going away to college story.
What is your overall opinion of this excerpt?
Author has lost me, I don’t want to know about Cassie’s alleged REAL life and existence, or her supernatural powers, have no patience for this sort of thing. Pity, because otherwise, author writes competently and intelligently, and has created intelligent character in her protagonist Cassie.

So, in other words, “I hate this genre and I wish you’d written something else because you write well.”  At least this reviewer must’ve given me good marks since I advanced.

Reviewer #2:

What is the strongest aspect of this excerpt?
All the elements are there for an interesting book. We know we are going to college with Cassandra. We know there is going to be a fantastical story ahead and that there are some above average characters.

All the technical elements are there, too – grammar, punctuation, word choice, sentence structure. The excerpt was a pleasure to read.

Wow! Finally, someone can write a YA novel that says “my parents and me” rather than the other way around (or even “myself and …”. Thank you.
What aspect needs the most work?
Unless Haley is a major part of the book, get rid of her (nicely). Just her brief interruption in the excerpt was annoying.

Not every story needs such a character. The secondary storyline is not mandatory if you have enough main story to keep the book rolling.

If you must keep her around, try to not stereotype her as a normal bratty attention seeker. That’s been overdone.

And, don’t feel required to have every element of society depicted .

What is your overall opinion of this excerpt?
You are breaking the mold for YA novels, and I like it. You have a father (alive), a mother (alive). They not divorced and seemingly getting along with one another. It seems neither assaults their two daughters and, I’m betting, neither is out on parole.

Your ability to write well is a significant plus and the entire excerpt was very well proofread. I don’t doubt that the entire book is as technically well written. The “my parents and me” spoke volumes about your attitude toward writing – in the best way possible.

The story is interesting and the excerpt was far too short. I’m sensing an interesting take on some paranormal relationships. I wanted to keep reading.

Should you not advance in the contest, please don’t rush to self-publish – this has too much going for it. Work hard to find an agent or mainstream publisher.

And, keep writing. I read dozens of debut, mainly international, authors yearly. This was as polished a beginning as the majority of those I’ve read in the last several months. None of them was self-published. Good job.

Yep, Haley’s essential to the plot, #2; I can’t get rid of her.  I’m glad this reviewer liked what I wrote and said all that stuff about self-publishing.  Yeah, I wasn’t considering it.  🙂

On Higher Education

Today I had an online conversation with a woman who observed that I did not have a Creative Writing or English degree and immediately started talking down to me as if I must not know the first thing about being a writer.

And yet an acquaintance who runs a magazine says that just about every author in the slush pile from a person who mentions having a writing-related degree in their cover letter turns out to be complete crap at writing.  (Colleen Lindsay and Nathan Bransford agree that these folks frequently query poorly or send surprisingly amateur work.)

I majored in Music Education for a year and a half.  Then I majored in Elementary Education and finished that degree.  I considered going for an English degree for about half a second.  I decided against it for many reasons, but the most important one was this:

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