Thursday, January 24, 2013

One consonant the more, one vowell the less

Hardly anyone spells my name right. The truth is, I can’t even blame them for it – I’ve never run into another Jenniffer who’s rocking both two ns and two fs. It’s a small naming flourish – if I’d been born now, my dad might have tried to name me Apple – but it’s marked me as different since the moment I was born. My name stood out from all of the other Jennifers that filled my elementary school classes, and my quiet insistence on making sure people remembered every one of my additional letters made me stand out as well.

My name isn’t the only thing that makes me different, but over the years it’s become a subtle but important symbol of the individuality I cling to so fiercely. In a way, that second f has helped make me who I am.

So when I discovered my editors subtly changed the name of one of my characters, it felt very odd. They were right to – apparently, when you shorted Jonathan it’s got to be Jon, and John is an entirely separate name. But I’d been calling him John for years, and something of that very common, solid-sounding name had leached into how I viewed him. John doesn’t sound very flashy, and I imagined
he probably got dismissed a lot.

When you take out the h, however, the name somehow becomes more modern. Even more elegant, at least in my eyes. Though it’s ludicrous, I think just a little bit differently about someone who spells their name Jon instead of John (this is probably Jon Stewart’s fault, now that I think about it). My Jon, a prince, is the kind of person that deserves the more elegant version of his name. Had I been dismissing him myself by saddling him with the more boring version?

Even if I was, Jon luckily forgives me. And from now on, I’ll give him the samecredit my second f  gives me.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Getting to know you: Kate, from "Fairy Godmothers, Inc."

As annoying as getting-to-know you questions can be, they do have the useful side effect of actually helping people get to know you. So I made Kate, Fairy Godmother extraordinaire and lead character from my upcoming novel, “Fairy Godmothers, Inc.,” answer a few questions for you. In later weeks, I’ll pass the list around to other characters and maybe attack them with fresh ones.

What three adjectives best describe you?
Responsible, quick-thinking, secretly sarcastic

Who is the most influential person in your life?
Are we talking about a positive or negative influence? Either way, I can’t answer this without my mother never speaking to me again. While I fantasize about that, sometimes, it wouldn’t be a good idea in the long run.

Have you ever killed anyone?
Have you had anyone who actually answered this question with a yes? The key to committing a successful homicide is never letting anyone know you did it.

What nicknames would be most fitting for you?
Kate. Just Kate. But if you’ve hired me for an assignment, I’m contractually obligated not to smack you for calling me Katie.

How fast can you run a mile?
It depends on what’s chasing me. I’m not athletic, but I have a very strong sense of self-preservation.

Can you dance?
Just well enough to make sure clients don’t accidentally injure the prince/princess with their shoes. When I’m not at work, I generally grab an extra drink and find a chair somewhere.

What is your religion?
My mother is a practicing Naturalist, which means she believes in the spirits of flowers and trees. She doesn’t actually like it, but since all proper fairies are Naturalists she’s going to be one if it kills her.
As for me, I’m a Naturalist any time I’m talking to my mother. Beyond that, I’m willing to think kindly about any entity willing to think the same way about me.

What’s your favorite band?
Heavy Metals. It’s a group of dwarves, fronted by a very angry-sounding elf, who play (naturally) heavy metal music. Listening to them helps me resist the urge to slap people.

Thanks to for the questions! Go check the rest of the list out!

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

The Next Big Thing: Beast Charming

Thanks, Wikipedia!
The Next Big Thing: Beast Charming
So, The Next Big Thing has come around to me again! Since “Fairy Godmothers, Inc.” has already had its time in this particular sun, I thought I’d give you guys a peek at “Beast Charming,” my book coming out in 2014.
Where did the idea for the book come from?
I love “Beauty and the Beast,” except for one little problem. I wanted it to be about seeing the beauty within people, but most versions I ran across seemed to say that love meant you had to change yourself. Besides, arguing is a lot more fun than listening to songbirds.
What genre does your book fall under?
Like “Fairy Godmothers, Inc.,” “Beast Charming” is humor/fantasy/romance. Technically, the two are even set in the same world.
What actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?
Kat Dennings from “Two Broke Girls” and “Thor” as Beauty (she’s too attractive, but what can you do?) As for Beast … wow. I honestly have no idea (though CGI would need to co-star, I’m sure.)
What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
Beauty finally finds a fairy tale she can believe in, but she has to fight her father, magic, and her own self-doubts to keep it.
How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?
It depends on what you count as the first draft of the manuscript…. Let’s say two years. Of course, I also say I’m 5’6’’ instead of 5’5’’ and a half, so I’m probably not the most scrupulously precise person.
What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
“Fairy Godmothers, Inc.,” for starters. Beyond that, fans of Terry Pratchett and Patricia Wrede’s “Enchanted Forest Chronicles” will definitely want to give me a try.
What inspired you to write the book?
This is the version of “Beauty and the Beast” I always wanted to read. Since no one else wrote it, I had to.
What else about your book might pique a reader’s interest?

Thanks and a huge shout-out to the Berk and Andy Washburn, who invited me into this round of “The Next Big Thing.” Check out their blog post about their upcoming book, “Pitch Green!”

Thursday, January 10, 2013

So You Want to Rule the World: Don’t Get Mad, Get Clever

So You Want to Rule the World: Don’t Get Mad, Get Clever

So you probably can’t shoot the hero. Get over it. We supervillains are supposed to be clever, aren’t we? There are other ways we can make the idiot hero sorry he ever dared to go up against our evil magnificence!

One possibility is to aim for the sidekick. The sidekicks are often the smaller and, frankly, wimpier of any heroic duo, appreciated for his brains instead of his brawn (or other things, if you happen to be fighting a hero of vague sexual persuasion).

The writer is less likely to be protecting the sidekick, because even they can only stretch plausability so far. If you are lucky, the writer may even allow you to kill the sidekick, having been planning his death all along to allow his hero an emotional moment (or several) over his or her fallen friend.

This is especially likely if the sidekick is incredibly annoying - the writer may even be planning for you to kill the sidekick, just to get him the heck out of the way. It’s a good way for them to wallow in angst without killing off anyone they actually need from week to week (this can also apply to love interests, so if there’s a likely candidate in the immediate vicinity you might as well take a test shot).

Even if it isn't the sidekick's time to go to that great tacky costume shop in the sky, there's still a chance you can badly injure him. Since the sidekick's main job is to yell "watch out!" to the hero at inappropriate moments, heavy bleeding will to nothing to deter their mission. If nothing else, you can use it as a distraction while you do something far more interesting with your time.

If this doesn’t work, shoot buildings. A few explosions are great for introducing fear and trembling into the hearts of the general public. As an added bonus, the hero will be so busy rescuing members of the screaming populace from the wreckage that you can pretty much steal anything you want. If he tries to go after you instead of rescuing stupid innocents, people will blame him for not being sufficiently heroic.

Note: When planning an attack from space, the supervillain's aiming curse is somehow lessened dramatically, especially in one on one combat between ships. Photon torpedoes tend to have a rather dramatic reaction, especially when fired at a minor hero. In general, it is the only shoot-out situation which can reliably won by a villain.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

So You Want to Rule the World: The Aiming Question, pt. 1

Does this look like a happy villain?
I don't think so.
The Aiming Question, pt. 1

It is a tragic but well known prejudice against villainry that they will never be allowed to shoot the hero. No matter how many times supervillains, average guys or people doing the grunt work for supervillains try and aim at the hero (especially during a shoot-out) they will always miss.

The hero, of course, will hit your men with disabling or lethal shots at least half the time, and more so if they are slightly more intelligent than a rock. Since few heroes fall into this category, however, it’s safe to assume that approximately 50 percent of your recently hired minions will survive a run in with an average hero.

Sadly, there is no way to get around this, no matter how good a marksman a supervillain is. Writers may give villains all the witty dialogue – heroes can never deliver it properly – but they also refuse to let a hero be killed in all but a very narrow window of circumstances. The reading/viewing public has an appallingly narrow definition of a happy ending, and that generally involves truth or justice and other such nonsense. Especially in a recession, no one wants to see an enormous castle of bones or 20-foot robots capable of kicking down buildings.

One of the few exceptions to this rule are horror movies, particularly if you have a particular resentment against attractive but stupid college girls. The problem with this is that the antagonists in horror movies are pigeonholed into constant killing and menacing, which is only a small slice of the duties and rewards a supervillain is generally responsible for. If this is your niche then more power to you, but there will be no ostentatious thrones or floating castles in your future.

The second exception is mob movies, which will occasionally let an enterprising young soul parlay drugs, guns and menacing into a life of parties and attractive women. Unfortunately, these are generally booby-trapped with pernicious moral lessons, and any villain who finds himself in this situation is likely to die in a hail of bullets.

Thankfully, there’s hope. While fatally shooting the hero might not be in your immediate future, there are plenty of other ways to disable the hero while you make off with the loot. We’ll discuss some of these options in part two.