Saturday, March 23, 2013

Guest Blog: Developing New and Interesting Characters

On today's blog we have Andy Washburn, co-author of the new book "Pitch Green." He's got some interesting thoughts on what it takes to bring a new character into the world.

Dissociative Identity Disorder
(Or Developing New and Interesting Characters)
By Andy Washburn
(Some personal thoughts)

Dissociative identity disorder (DID) is the technical name for what we laymen refer to as a “split personality”.  It is a controversial diagnosis with some experts believing it is not real, or maybe even therapist induced.  (Isn’t Wikipedia wonderful?)  I bring this up, because I sometimes believe I may have a form of DID, though I have never seen a therapist.  (I was going to say, “Where is the fun of having a mental disorder if you get it fixed?” but then I worried that someone with a real mental disorder would be offended, and yes, I think that people with mental disorders are the most likely to be reading my stuff.  Whatever.)
When I’m writing, I sometimes believe that I have multiple personalities within me, all battling to get out, or at least take control of the writing process.  And, most of these personalities, wait, no, all of these personalities are younger than me; healthier than me; and without a doubt, thinner and better looking than me.  The sixteen year old personality is especially keen to take over.  He must not have caught a look of me in the mirror yet.
It is from these disparate and distinct personalities that I form the characters that I write about in my novels.  To some extent or another, everyone I write about, or maybe I should say, everyone I write for is deep down inside my id somewhere. (Damn, I am esoteric!)  So, when I write about different people I am really just writing about some part of myself.  I am the young, good looking, high school football star Cal; and I am also the middle aged, overweight, balding, mean and obnoxious Mr. Samuel. (Both characters from Pitch Green.)
In real life, I am not young or good looking, but neither am I mean or balding.  I’m only a little obnoxious.  But both of these characters are inside of me, and I only need to bring them out and put them in the story to write about them.  I am not writing about people I observe, though I love to observe other people.  I am writing about myself.  No matter how different or unique each character is from the others, I’m there.
Of course, this begs the question: “What about the female characters you write about?”  (My sons will all stop reading this right exactly at this point.)  If I were really cool, and politically correct, I would claim to have female personalities along with the male personalities.  But I am only cool, not politically correct, and no matter how deep you look inside of me, you will not find a woman, or even any woman-type being.  My wife will confirm this.
This does not mean I cannot write for the women I write about.  Women are people, (that sounds so patronizing) and we overlap enough as people that I don’t have a problem writing from a woman’s perspective.  That is, as long as I have women, like my wife and daughters, who read what I write and tell me when I have it wrong.
This means, analogous with the way I write for the guys, when I write for women, I am looking out of their eyes at the world that is being created for them.  So, if I’m not part woman, (and there are a few bullies from my high school days who would claim that I am), the women that I write about are part me.  (I told you I was esoteric.)
The way this works, evidently, is that the guys I write for are all looking out my eyes as I write for them, but as I write for the women, I am the one looking out of their eyes.  Weird, huh?  But, that is the way it works, and for me, it works pretty well.
Whether or not this means I have DID, I don’t know, though it is probably indicative of a need to at least go to therapy.  Yea, well, I’m still not going.  Why mess with all those extra personalities?  I need them when I’m developing new characters.  After all, that’s how I write.

Brief Joint Bio of the Brothers Washburn:
We are two of 9 sons (16 children total) who grew up in the Mojave Desert near Death Valley.  Our father was a dentist, who built up a practice in Trona, California, a small mining town.  While we were growing up, he was the only dentist in town.  As the good citizens of Trona mined the minerals of Searles Valley, Dad mined their teeth.
When, in turn, Andy and I went off to college, we left the desert and never looked backed.  We thought we were done with Trona forever, but couldn’t have been more wrong.  For about 35 years, I was a business lawyer working for international commercial finance companies in the mid-west.  For about 25 years, Andy was a trial practice lawyer working in Southern California.  We both have many years of formal writing experience.  While we have kept our law licenses current, we are now having fun writing fiction full time.
After we each moved to Colorado for different reasons, we talked for some time about starting a business together.  We have always been story tellers, first to our siblings, then to our own children, and now to our grandkids.  Scary stories are a family specialty.  A few years ago, I started writing a young adult science fiction series, so when Andy also tried his hand at writing fiction, it didn’t take long for us to come together as The Brothers Washburn on a young adult horror series. The tale is of course set in Trona, California, the perfect setting for a horror series.
The general outline for Pitch Green, the first book in our Dimensions in Death series, came together in November of 2010.  We were attending a writer’s seminar in Manhattan, listening to panel discussions by top literary agents during the day.  One night, as we rode the subway from one end-of-the-line stop across town to the opposite end-of-the-line stop, and then back again, we mapped out the basic elements we would need to expand a favorite childhood scary story into a full-length novel.  Andy wrote the first rough draft, and then, in our typical tag-team effort, I took that draft over to edit and expand the tale.  In the writing of the first book, the ground work was laid for both the sequels and prequels in that series.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

More Fairy Godmothers, Inc. History: Our Glorious Founding

Credit: graphixwizard
Moments in Fairy Godmothers, Inc. History
Our Glorious Founding

The founder of Fairy Godmothers, Inc., Gloria Grimm, did indeed happen to be both a fairy and a godmother. At the time, there was nothing particularly significant about either of those things, though she became a godmother largely because her friend’s first choice had gotten turned into stone several years before. (There had been a misunderstanding about a pair of enchanted shoes.) Gloria, who had made several failed runs at city office, mostly restricted her involvement to a card every year on the girl’s birthday.
Several years and a few bad business deals later, Gloria ended up owing her friend a great deal of money. She still had her old connections, however, and paid her friend back by securing the girl’s invitation to a ball being put on in honor of some duke’s son who’s name she couldn’t remember. Gloria, never one to waste either an opportunity or a face far more young and attractive than hers, decided that the girl needed to make a proper entrance.
The duke’s son and her goddaughter only ended up dating for six months, but word of her entrance had already spread. Gloria had finally found her calling.  

Friday, March 15, 2013

Fairy Godmothers, Inc. fiction: Squirrel Lessons

Photo by Jenniffer Wardell
Squirrel Lessons
By Jenniffer Wardell

It was supposed to be a simple job.

The client was the soon-to-be Viscount of Thornby, a young man who had spent the last six months as an enchanted squirrel. He’d annoyed whoever cursed him enough that they’d also taken away his ability to talk like a human, but Kate had found a squirrel translation charm that solved that problem.

The curse could only be broken by a kiss from a maid who was genuinely pure in heart, which was a slightly more complicated problem. Still, careful research and some legal wrangling over the definition of “pure” had turned up a perfectly nice young woman named Leslie who seemed to fit the bill. A rumor about a unicorn sighting had gotten her into the clearing, she had found the artfully displayed translation charm that someone had just “happened” to leave behind, and everything was ready to go.
Hiding behind a tree, Kate turned to the enchanted squirrel perched on her shoulder. “That’s your cue,” she whispered.

The squirrel nodded, then leapt down off her shoulder and headed into the clearing. He’d stop in front of Leslie and begin the speech they’d prepared, and Kate would add a little sparkle just to help get the point across. She lifted her wand, ready to nudge things along….

Only to have Thornby head straight through the clearing and disappear into the trees on the opposite side.

Shock had Kate frozen for a split second, then she hurried through the clearing after him. Leslie looked up, the hope on her face disappearing as soon as she saw who it was. “You’re not a unicorn.”

Kate hadn’t planned on dignifying that with a response, but she realized she was missing something. Doubling back, she plucked the charm out of the woman’s hand. “I need that.”

It took her 15 minutes to find Thornby, who was high on a branch cuddled up to another squirrel. She yanked him down by the tail, causing a horrified squeak from the other squirrel, and held him upside down in front of her. “I should make you into a hat, you little sneak. What do you think you’re doing, running off with a poor innocent real squirrel? Does she even know what you really are?”

They both started chattering at her at once. Apparently, the translation charm worked for all squirrels.

“Okay, fine. But if you were so honest with her, why didn’t you have the guts to tell me what your little plan was?”

More chatter.

“I understand wanting to be free of your mother. But you can’t really want to spend the rest of your life as a squirrel, do you?” Kate didn’t add that she wouldn’t get paid if she didn’t produce a human Thornby.

More chatter.

“Yes, I know she’s a squirrel. But you’re going to miss food that isn’t seeds. And surely you have friends somewhere.”

More chatter.

“How can you be so sure you won’t regret this? And if you do, nobody’s going to be standing around with a convenient squirrel translation charm.”

At this, the female squirrel jumped off the tree and knocked against Kate’s hand long enough to make her drop Thornby. Kate swore, ready to start chasing them again, but then the female squirrel touched her nose to Thornby’s.
There was a swirl of magic, and a second later a very human man was standing in front of her. It took Kate a second to realize what had happened. “Mental note,” she murmured to herself. “Wild animals count as ‘pure in heart.’”

Thornby, however, wasn’t listening. He dropped to his knees in front of the squirrel, his face a picture of despair. “Reetcheet, what did you do?”

The squirrel started chattering, and Thornby looked even more despairing. Kate, taking pity on him, held out the translation charm. “This might help.”

He gripped it tight in his hands while the female squirrel kept talking. Kate could no longer understand what she was saying, but a moment later his expression cleared. “If you’re sure, then I’m absolutely thrilled. I’ll find a witch right away.”

The squirrel leapt onto his shoulder, and they both stood. “She wants to become human,” he said, looking absolutely delighted.

Kate smiled. She hadn’t quite gotten over being annoyed yet, but Thornby’s pleasure was infectious. “Great. Just let me handle explaining this to your mother.” It was, technically, everything the woman had contracted with Fairy Godmothers Inc. to provide.
She just hadn’t bothered to specify a daughter-in-law who didn’t speak squirrel.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Moments in Fairy Godmothers, Inc. History

Photo courtesy of Disney. A nice young man named Walt purchased many
of Fairy Godmothers, Inc.'s early company archives.

The Original Uniforms

In the early days of the company, the official Fairy Godmothers, Inc. company wardrobe was far simpler than it is now. Employees would wear a basic blue gown, with a matching pale blue overcloak, the better to let them blend in with the castle staff.

There are conflicting reports as to who added the large pink bow to the outfit, though the general consensus among employees is that a particularly hateful supply clerk sewed them on in a fit of revenge. She then said that she had been ordered to do so via memo, which she promptly lost. Since management writes too many memos to ever remember any of them, management assumed the supply clerk was correct and the bows stayed.

The uniform was later changed to the current tulle skirt when clients complained that the Fairy Godmothers weren’t sparkly enough to meet the standards of the average fancy dress ball. The new uniforms also allowed employees’ wings to show, which served as a useful branding opportunity. 

Friday, March 1, 2013

Fairy Godmothers, Inc. Flash Fiction: Icebreaker

By Jenniffer Wardell

The dance hadn’t worked.

Kate and the client, a shy but perfectly nice young lady named Bonnie, were currently hiding out in the castle corridor trying to figure out what had gone wrong. At the moment, the “figuring” mostly consisted of Bonnie crying and Kate thinking evil thoughts about the young Count Duboir.

“He hates me,” Bonnie whimpered, trying to keep her sobs quiet. “When we started dancing I thought he liked me for a minute, but then he couldn’t get away from me fast enough.”

“That’s because he’s an idiot,” Kate soothed, rubbing a hand along the girl’s back. She’d actually been dumb enough to like the painfully young count for about five minutes. He’d looked incredibly uncomfortable at the party, but when he’d seen Bonnie step out onto the dance floor his whole face had lit up. She didn’t understand why he’d bolted the minute the song ended, which made the whole thing that much more infuriating. “I’ll figure out something.”

“It won’t work.” Bonnie shook her head, her voice wet. “You did everything just right.” She sniffed, sounding absolutely miserable. “It’s all my fault. I should have giggled more or something. But all I could do was stare at him.” That started the tears up again. “He was just so wonderful….”

Oh, the poor girl. “Listen, you’re the wonderful—“ Kate stopped, practically able to feel the pieces clicking into place. “You didn’t talk to him very much, did you? When you were dancing, you didn’t have to, but afterward you’re expected to stare at each other and say all kinds of romantic nonsense.”

“I was hoping he wouldn’t notice when I didn’t say much.” Wiping at her wet cheeks, Bonnie watched Kate stand up with a confused look. “Is that what I did wrong?”

“You did nothing wrong,” Kate said firmly, helping Bonnie to her feet. “The count is just as shy as you are, and after the dance was over he panicked.”

Bonnie just stared at her. “How do you know?”

“I don’t, but any other explanation means I have to kill him.” Kate dragged Bonnie back toward the ballroom, stopping just outside the doors. “Is there any chance at all you might be willing to start a conversation with the man?”

Bonnie looked panicked. “What would I say? I don’t know enough to sound interesting!”

Kate sighed. “Okay, option two.” She watched the pages run back and forth between the kitchen and ballroom, then snagged a dish of custard off of one of the trays. Watching the crowd until the count came into view again, she dumped the custard over Bonnie’s head.

The girl looked like she was about to cry again. “I really liked this dress.”

“Yes, but now the count has a reason to talk to you,” Kate said, pushing Bonnie through the door. The girl just stood there a moment, looking miserable, but when the count saw her a look of instant dismay crossed his face.

Immediately, he pushed his way to her side. “Are you all right?” he asked Bonnie, taking her hands in his. When the girl just shook her head, still sniffling, the count led her out the door. “Come on. Let’s get you cleaned up.” 

Hiding safely around a different corner, Kate grinned