Friday, May 31, 2013

The Kindness of Strangers

In honor of the book blast. Get it?
You know those old nightmares you had when you were sitting down in a classroom for a test, and it’s only when you get the paper you realize that you’ve never taken this class before in your life? And all the questions are written in a special alien language that everyone else in the nightmare understands but you?
                
I had that EXACT feeling when the publisher’s PR guy e-mailed me a few weeks ago and said we were doing a book blast for “Fairy Godmothers, Inc.” Since he couldn’t see me staring blankly at the computer screen, I asked him some carefully phrased questions that translated to “Help! I have no idea what I’m doing!” However, not wanting to look like an idiot, I was too subtle about it, and all I got back was basically “You’ll be fine.”
                
This was not comforting. Though I love winging it in my writing, I absolutely hate it in any area where I’m clueless. I have no doubt I will wing myself right off a cliff, and various people to whom I owe things will come stand at the edge of the cliff and look down at me disapprovingly.
                
So, after flailing around a bit on Google, I immediately resorted to begging. I had found Inspired Kathy’s blog in the magical land of the Internet, and essentially tried to beg her to take me in and save me from my problems. Though she was incredibly busy with her own life, she was kind enough not to call the online police and have them drag away her crazy new stalker. If I could figure out what I was doing, she would contribute a post to my book blast.
                
But I still had no idea what I was doing, so I threw myself on the mercy of the wonderful Berk Washburn, a fellow writer at Jolly Fish (“Pitch Green” is out – go buy it!). I threw myself on his mercy, and he saved my life by producing the magical detailed list of instructions I’d been yearning for. Bless you, sir, you are my super hero.
                
Of course that was only the beginning. I had to then throw myself on EVERYONE’S mercy, which is a complicated process involving lots of hopping. I posted desperate, imprecise pleas with various Facebook groups and message boards, and if all of you had entirely ignored me it would have been only fair.
                
But you didn’t. Ella Medler, from Writers on the Storm, kindly took me aside and helped make my blog post package presentable. Other writers from the same Facebook group offered to contribute their Tweets the day of the event. Jolly Fish writers, including my very own super hero Berk, did the same thing. R.K. Grow, one of my most faithful Facebook followers, put up a post. So did Kayla S. and Jesse Kimmel-Freeman, two amazing authors who were still willing to speak to me after my “Fairy Godmothers, Inc.” blog tour. And that’s not including all the people I’d never spoken to before, who still took a moment to Tweet, reTweet, or post about my dear little book yesterday.
                
I’m not one of those people to depend on the kindness of strangers, or even Internet friends/casual acquaintances/ stalking targets. But this time I had to, and you came together in your immense generosity and helped save a new writer in her time of need. There will never be enough words to thank you all. The world seems like a slightly brighter place this morning, now that I know all of you are in it.

I know racked up an immense amount of karmic debt yesterday. I’m super poor, so I can’t actually shower you all with money like you deserve, but if you’re ever in need e-mail me and I swear I’ll do what I can to help. I love you all, even those of you I've never met before, and I won't forget this. 

Thursday, May 23, 2013

A few new Fairy Godmothers, Inc. rules

Anyone who's read "Fairy Godmothers, Inc." knows the company's #1 rule. Here now are rules 2-11, presented to make sure you don't commit a faux pas that will cause Bubbles to chase after you with something sharp. Those of you who follow me on Tumblr (http://jennifferwardell.tumblr.com) will have seen a few of them, but the rest are brand new.


From the Fairy Godmothers, Inc. manual:

Fairy Godmothers, Inc. rule #2: True Love™  should be used whenever possible. Romance is inefficient, and anyone watching won’t be able to tell the difference.

Fairy Godmothers, Inc. rule #3: If a client starts mentioning words like “personal fulfillment,” distract them with more jewelry or other related accessories. Personal fulfillment is not included in our options package.

Fairy Godmothers, Inc. rule #4: Contracts aren’t completed until a wedding date is set. As long as the client is one of the people at the altar, any other substitutions not explicitly barred by the contract are acceptable. 

Fairy Godmothers, Inc. rule #5: Due to budget cuts, all transformation spells will now end at midnight. When warning clients of this, you are not allowed to explain the reason.

Fairy Godmothers, Inc. rule #6: Sharing information on anything trademarked by Fairy Godmothers, Inc. will result in the employee immediately being fed to the nearest dragon. If that dragon is abstaining from sentient life forms, the second-nearest dragon will be used.

Fairy Godmothers, Inc. rule #7: Employees will be issued one wand, and one wand only, upon hiring. Replacement costs will be deducted from your paycheck.

Fairy Godmothers, Inc. rule #8: Clients must pass a gracefulness test before receiving glass slippers. Bloody feet equals bad PR.

Fairy Godmothers, Inc. rule #9: Employees without wings must wear fakes. We’re not “Normal Godmothers, Inc.”

Fairy Godmothers, Inc. rule #10: Never be better looking than the client. We don’t want the prince or princess rethinking their decision until after we’ve been paid.

Fairy Godmothers, Inc. rule #11: Creativity is strongly discouraged. People pay for familiar clich├ęs that will make onlookers jealous, and that is what we deliver.  

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Fairy Godmothers, Inc.'s newest employee

Meet the latest hire at Fairy Godmothers, Inc.! (And the dragon I drew at this year's chalk festival...)


Anyone know what her name should be?

Thursday, May 16, 2013

My little dragon problem

I have a little dragon problem.

Normally, I'm fairly discreet about it. I no longer doodle dragons all over everything - mostly because the work I do is entirely on the computer now - and my dragon t-shirts are now only a small part of my massive collection of geeky t-shirts. But there's one area where my love of dragons is impossible to ignore - the Magic on the Sidewalk chalk festival, which is held every May in Bountiful (where the newspaper I work for is based). Amazingly talented artists line the street to transform squares of concrete into art, and yet somehow I ended up with a long-standing slot of my own. I enjoy taking part, but the only thing I can reliably draw is dragons.

This is not my first dragon, but it's definitely the first I feel comfortable
showing the public at large.

Normally, I prefer traditional Western dragons to wyverns - I feel
like life must be instinctively harder without hands of some kind. This was my
attempt at bonding to the species. 
Not my best work (the actual dragon is very tiny), but rain gave me less
time to work than usual. I'm afraid I either got a bit lazy or experimental,
which can occasionally amount to the same thing.
I imagine the rest of him is hidden beneath the walkway.

I was out of town in 2012, which means the friendly soul above is my most recent dragon up to this point. I'm currently working on this year's creation, and I'll unveil it in a post tomorrow once I'm finished. 

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Being Different


Every once in awhile, I wish I was normal.
           
No, it wouldn’t be as fun. Normal people have to dress a certain way, and not raise their hand and say anything that their neighbors wouldn’t like. Normal people can be warm and wonderful, but they’re bound by the societal rules pretty much every second of every day. 
           
But surely it would be easier. I get to ignore the rules, dress/think/act how I want to, but in exchange for that I have to figure out everything pretty much on my own. The normal people are in the carefully mowed park, having a picnic, while I’m lost in the deep woods hoping that the berry I’m about to eat isn’t poisonous. Yes, I get to see things no one else can see – secret waterfalls, wild animals, and sunsets designed to bring tears to your eyes. But I also get scratched and desperately, desperately lost.
           
We don’t wander out into the woods on purpose. The rules sound like an alien language to me, and the years have proven that I am physically incapable of doing things the way that normal people do them. Because of the way I look, because of the way I think, or maybe just some weird pheromone nobody bothers to tell the freaks about, I don’t get the option to do things the way normal people do. The rules are written into your skin, behind your eyes, and those of us who were born unmarked are cast out to fend for ourselves. We have to stumble through without a map.
           
My brain bends sideways. Some of the most brilliant figures in the arts and sciences have had the same problem, but there’s only so many of us who get to shine that brightly. I’d like to think I have some talents, but I accepted a long time ago that I can’t shine enough to make people forget that there’s something not quite right about me.
           
I’m not broken. I remind myself of that every day, sometimes every minute, and I try with all my soul to be the best whatever in the world I am that I can possibly be. There’s no shame in being something new. Sometimes, if you’re lucky, there’s even glory in it.

But it’s exhausting always having to forge a trail before you can move even a few feet. It’s exhausting not having anyone to ask what to do next. Forgive me for occasionally wishing that I was in the park, eating boring but beautifully cut sandwiches. 

Thursday, May 2, 2013

The Second Time: Book Signing Edition

Photo by Louise R. Shaw
Katherine Russell Rich said that uncertainty can give you power, but I’m pretty sure she was nuts. Sure, you need uncertainty in your life, because otherwise you’re going to spend your entire life in front of the television, but I haven’t noticed it make me any mightier. What it mostly makes me is panicked, though I’ve gotten to the point where the only obvious sign of this is eyes that grow to about three times their normal size (though, since they’re pretty small anyway, that might be a plus).
             
Still, when it comes to new experiences, the second time is usually easier than the first. My first book signing was last Saturday, with my second coming up this Saturday at the Barnes & Noble in Sugarhouse (if you’re in Salt Lake, come say hi!) Here are some things I’ll know this week that I wish I could have told myself last week (or maybe not – time travel is never a good idea). If you’ve had your own book signing, I’d love for your to add your own insights in the comments.

1. Breathe
            
A book signing isn’t nearly as nerve-wracking as I thought it would be. You’re mostly there to talk about your book and explain why it’s the greatest thing ever, a process you’ve already mastered when you were trying to get the thing published in the first place. As long as you don’t try to accost people and shove the book into their hands, you’ll be fine.

2. Think about all the people who might want to buy your book
            
You will be amazed (or at least I was) about the number of people who will come up and ask if your book would be good for kids/adults/romance fans/serious readers/casual readers/goldfish. Give serious thought to the answer – you don’t want to steer people wrong, but you also don’t want to leave out a potential audience. I’ve had everyone from 12-year-olds to women with their own kids say they loved “Fairy Godmothers, Inc.,” but when I was writing it I had no idea the spread would be that wide. 

3. Don’t freak out over the quiet periods
            
Those moments when you’re sitting alone at a table, watching everyone hurrying by to places that are clearly more interesting than you are, isn’t fun. The self-consciousness comes almost immediately, followed by the flashbacks to less pleasant moments of high school.

The key thing to remember is that these quiet periods are a natural part of any book signing, and it doesn’t mean that your book isn’t the most awesome book ever written. How many times have you hurried through a store to get where you needed to go and not even noticed anything else going on around you? That’s what happening here.

4. It’s surprisingly hard not to knock into things when you have wings sticking out of your back.
            
 I have so much more sympathy for Kate now.