Ugly Addie

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They call me Adrianna the Beautiful. But I was peasant born and Addie had been my name.

I grew up in a village that bordered the west side of the Ancient Grove, the woods where the Sorcerer of the Caverns had made his domain.

For generations, the people steered clear of the dark forest of the Ancient Grove because everybody knew the Sorcerer preyed on the hearts of young girls and virgin women so he would never die.

Yet every so often a pretty maiden from the village succumbed to the Sorcerer’s temptation, only to show up one day with a breast empty of the heart she had sold and the look of smut about her.

They were fools, those women. What excuse could they have had, after hearing cautionary tales about the Sorcerer since they were children? I found that the girls who fell often had dreams and desires bigger than their comfortable lives could satisfy.

Most of the Sorcerer’s conquests were middle class girls, daughters of merchants and officials. Most highborn maidens were out of reach, and of course, the Sorcerer never bothered with the peasant girls.

The ones who had any beauty at all were usually defiled through force or deceit by the patron sons and merchant men of the village before the Sorcerer got to them.

Yet even for those peasant beauties who exercised the prudence to protect their maidenheads, the relentless hard labor of their lives destroyed their allure along with any fairy tale dreams they may have had.

I was not one of those personable peasant girls.

The girls who fell often had dreams and desires bigger than their comfortable lives could satisfy.

The girls who fell often had dreams and desires bigger than their comfortable lives could satisfy.

From time to time, I received a compliment about my eyes on those scarce occasions when anybody bothered to really notice me. But I had been born to be a human mule, that’s how most people saw me, and I certainly looked the part.

Made for arduous work, my body was stocky and sturdy, with muscular hands and meaty fingers. My skin was thick and sallow, my wide face cursed with pockmarks. The mane of horses was softer than my hair, which was frizzy and the color of mud.

No possibility of a fairy tale twist of fate for me. It was impossible that I would even get work as a house servant, where at least I might have married a steward. Our patron and patroness preferred pretty girls as housemaids, and I was hideous.

I was meant for the fields, the hardest labor, and the longest hours. Every year, in the peak of harvest, my fingers never stopped bleeding, that’s how long and hard I worked.

The lay of the land where I worked added insult to injury.

The Big House, where our patrons resided, stood at the crest of a small mound overlooking the vast fields where we peasants labored. So our ruling family could look down on us, while we couldn’t look up without being assaulted with opulence of the Big House.

It was ugly too, the color of rotten food retched from starving bellies with so many curlicues and carved shapes of satyrs and nymphs pointlessly frolicking around its façade. We often got headaches if we stared at it for too long.

Of course, the hideous manor boasted every luxury. The sight of that monstrosity made it impossible for any of us to forget where we were or for whom we worked.

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My people worked for one of the most tyrannical patron families in the country. They were cruel, greedy, and despotic. Once a family was in debt to them, their lineage would be enslaved for eternity.

Everybody around us had been indentured by an impossible debt to pay off. No matter how hard we worked, the money owed grew every year from the ridiculous tariffs and penalties added. There was no end to the drudgery and misery of our lives, especially fifty years ago.

My people had been indentured to them for too many generations to count. The burden of paying off the never-ending debt was especially painful for me because I was an only child. Even though I had been fully productive since I was fourteen, my parents were worked into the ground until my sixteenth birthday.

As ugly as I was, it was improbable I would marry and birth progeny to this misery. Since I was most likely the last of my family line, I was treated even more brutally than everybody around me. At least once a week, I had welts on my back and bruises on my belly from being whipped and beaten for the most inane offenses.

Of course, I despised my patron and patroness. Grateful for minor mercies, they only had two children, a daughter and a son; and they were exactly the kind of people one would expect from such a family.

They were always above their company even though they had no superior qualities beyond inherited status and wealth. The son was so foolish, lazy, and frivolous, it was a stretch of the imagination to picture such an imbecile as the next patron in the village.

But the enmity I felt for the parents paled in comparison for the loathing I had for their daughter.

PS This 1st person narrative is an excerpt is out of my WIP, “The Shepherd and the Courtesan.” If you’d like to read the previous excerpt, “I Used to be Ugly,” click here.

Why Roses Have Thorns - Progress on Illustrations

Illustration by:  Natalya Kolosowsky  website:  http://www.lunariusgraphics.com   Instagram: @lunariusgraphics

Illustration by:

Natalya Kolosowsky

website: http://www.lunariusgraphics.com

Instagram: @lunariusgraphics

As I said in an earlier post, one of the joys of self-publishing is the power of choice. Creative collaboration is one of my favorite parts of this process, especially when it comes to working with artists and designers. 

I wrote “Why Roses Have Thorns” more than twenty years ago. It was the first fairy tale I ever wrote, and I’d say it was that miraculous beginner’s stroke of luck when that tale flowed out of me. I’m still amazed at how naturally people of all ages connect to this simple parable about the dangers of pride.

Since I use storytelling (NOT reading!), I recently had a chance to witness again the impact this story has on people when I told this tale and “The Golden Pedestal” at my stepdaughter’s school for screen-free week.

Illustration by:  Natalya Kolosowsky  website:  http://www.lunariusgraphics.com   Instagram: @lunariusgraphics

Illustration by:

Natalya Kolosowsky

website: http://www.lunariusgraphics.com

Instagram: @lunariusgraphics

I had practiced “Pedestal” for days. After I saw an email from the school librarian that set people up to expect both stories, I did a hasty run through of “Roses.” 

Anyway, the librarian’s kids came to my event, and listened attentively with inscrutable expressions. Later, the librarian told me her son had retold “Roses” to his father when he asked about his day.

Talk about the highest compliment a writer can receive! I love it when things like that happen.

Illustration by:  Natalya Kolosowsky  website:  http://www.lunariusgraphics.com   Instagram: @lunariusgraphics

Illustration by:

Natalya Kolosowsky

website: http://www.lunariusgraphics.com

Instagram: @lunariusgraphics

So needless to say, the illustrator for this story was a crucial choice. 

So far, I believe I hit the ball out of the park in the choice I made with Natalya Kolosowsky for “Why Roses Have Thorns.”

She has been as pleasant and professional throughout this process as she was in our interview. She’s thorough, asks questions, and makes certain we’re clear in our agreement of what my expectations are.

I’m impressed with the level of research she has done to prepare for this story – everything from the shape of roses and other flowers, to greenhouses, children, and the style of illustration during the golden age of fairy tales.

Natalya is passionate about fairy tales, certainly seems to be passionate about my story, and I’m very grateful for that.

I appreciate her grand vision for this work, so much that perhaps the bar is raised for how I want to put this book together. Usually, I try to make books as affordable as possible. To date, I’ve only done paperback and ebook, of course.

Illustration by:  Natalya Kolosowsky  website:  http://www.lunariusgraphics.com   Instagram: @lunariusgraphics

Illustration by:

Natalya Kolosowsky

website: http://www.lunariusgraphics.com

Instagram: @lunariusgraphics

When I told her I avoid paperback because it’s expensive to produce and thus, must be expensive to sell. I’ve seen hardback children’s books run for $25-30, and I mentioned that.

“But why shouldn’t you make a $30 book? You’re investing a lot to do something unusual that nobody else is doing. An original classical fairy tale that I will make beautiful artwork for, and there are people who would want a hardback copy of something like that because it’s special.”

What she had to say made me think twice. Maybe I will raise the bar and have a hardback and paperback version designed.

I’m also really excited about the artwork she’s done for this project. I think what she has done thus far is fabulous! And what you see are only shots taken by phone!

Previous posts about the process of working with Natalya can be read here and here for anybody who’d like to have a look-see.

 

Making the Right Choice - Illustrators

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One of the things I love most about self-publishing is creative collaboration.

I can’t say I love the searching and interviewing process to find my ideal collaborator. But that is a necessary chore.  

Since most of the stuff I write is for an adult audience, I don’t need an illustrator most of the time. But I do write children’s fairy tales from time to time, and 2 were polished enough to warrant completing them into a book form.

I got “The Golden Pedestal” illustrated and designed into a book last year, and I’m working on getting the 2nd one, “Why Roses Have Thorns” illustrated and designed this summer.

By the way, “Roses” was the first fairy tale I ever wrote. 

I learn through making mistakes. Lots of them.

Last year, I didn’t take the time to interview various artists, and went with an illustrator who was willing to work for less because he lacked experience. He said he “always wanted to illustrate a children’s book.”

I had never done this outside of collaborating with friends, and our collective lack of experience caused problems.

So I learned some lessons, and went about things a little differently this year. 

I put up my Craigslist post and waited until I had a healthy variety of choices.

I don’t know what it is about Craigslist, but it seems the incompetent, the inexperienced, the desperate, and the dregs rush to answer brand new posts.

I took my time sifting through the various applications that came in (most of which were hopelessly inadequate), and picked three artists to interview.

Two of the three did exactly as I asked in my post, and the 3rd sent a lot of her work through various replies and was clearly eager.

Since I liked her work and thought it might be appropriate for this story, I asked to meet with her.

Sonja was my second interview, and I really liked her. She really wanted this project, and had an interesting and unique story. Unfortunately, she was not computer savvy and most of her work was from the 80’s.

I’d consider her for another project or to illustrate flyers, but I would need somebody who could transfer her work to a jpg or tiff file.

Truthfully though, the next 2 interviews had a steep slope to impress me because my first interviewee hit the ball out of the park.

It’s weird to remember that I almost didn’t ask for an interview until I thoroughly checked out all the links she sent me.

The illustrations she sent me didn’t impress me as much as the wide range of her experience. Besides illustration, she designs costumes, is a dancer/choreographer/performance artist.

I’m really glad I was thorough because in our interview, she was able to show me work that wasn’t available on her website.

I was also impressed with her follow through.

Since I answered all three at the same time, I thought I had confirmed time and place with everybody. But I hadn’t with her.

So I show up at the tea shop, without my computer or my phone (???!!!!), looked around and waited for about 15-20 minutes. I was perplexed because everything about her seemed so professional.

I began to wonder if I hadn’t confirmed. Since I didn’t have my phone, I didn’t see her email asking for confirmation of where we were meeting.

So Natalya impressed me to no end when she showed up, even though she wasn’t certain I would be there.

Her manner was warm and engaging, and she really loved fairy tales.

She had a lot of knowledge about how they were illustrated, and seemed to get it about dark fairy tales.

Anybody who approaches a subject with knowledge and understanding is going to bring a lot to the table.

I really liked Natalya a lot. I probably made the decision to hire immediately, even though I had interviews with 2 more people.

But I also liked Sonja, my 2nd interviewee. I can’t remember the name of the 3rd artist I met, and I don’t care enough to dig through my email to find out.

She was very professional and had a lot of materials. In the moment, I actually considered her for the covers of my adult work.

I had loved BANE’s art who worked on “Ella Bandita and the Wanderer,” and did all the work for the novelettes.

He was also a pleasure to work with. But he stopped illustrating due to problems with his vision.

This 3rd artist assured me she was good at imitation. I considered working with her, and quasi-offered her that job during the interview, which she quasi-accepted.

The problem was her demeanor. She was cordial and professional, but very cold.

Since I’m pretty scatter-brained, I showed up looking like a mess after workout, while she showed up immaculate.

I also was a mess when I had met Natalya. But there was nothing in the way she acted that inspired me to feel self-conscious.

When I walked away from that 3rd interview, I felt icky. If we really can feel energy from people, it’s possible the woman I just interviewed judged me unkindly. 

Of course, all this may be my imagination or insecurity.

Either way, I don’t see the point of working with somebody AND PAYING HER if I feel like sh*t when I walk away from a meeting. I mean…Eeeewwww…

So, Natalya got the job. I had my first meeting with her and I’m already so happy with the choice I made.

Writing Tips! Character, Plotting, Novel Structure, Oh My!

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Plot first, character second, or character first, plot second?

That is the question many of us struggle with.

General rule of thumb: Characters who drive the plot make up literary fiction; a fully developed plot where the characters come across as ‘flat’ or ‘1-dimensional,’ kind of like actors in a play, make up commercial fiction.

Perhaps that is an oversimplification. But generally speaking, it’s pretty easy to discern when a novel has its foundation in ‘character’ or ‘plot.’

To refer again the marvelous Margaret Grossman, one is either a plot writer or a character writer, and each envies the other their talent.

As a plot writer, I’ve had to research and devise tools to give birth to more intriguing characters – or at least, I think they’re intriguing. But I haven’t a clue how to show those writers who struggle with plot how to develop one.

Remember the post, Engaging Characters or Juicy Plot?

In it, I gave a character checklist for those who write plots but don’t write characters naturally. If you’ve never seen that post, here’s the link.

This is a similar tool I use when I’m struggling with fleshing out characters and why they do the things they do. Since I write plot naturally, I have to work on developing characters. Yet it’s very difficult to give pointers on something that comes naturally, at least it is for me.

Anyhow, on Pinterest, I came across a writer, Penelope Redmont, who offered a very simple and elegant method for developing plot, clearly for those who naturally write character. Here’s that wonderful blog here.

Also, while I’m at it, here is my Cage-Escape-Quest-Dragons-Home, the basic structure for forming chapters and the arc of the novel as a whole. This may help with the character arcs Penelope Redmont refers to in her blog, Plotting Fiction: 3 Plotting Tips to Make Fiction Easy.

And guess what else? Penelope Redmont writes Romance! Regency romance and romantic suspense – ha! Oh, what an odd coincidence that is! For anybody who doesn’t understand why that’s strange and would like to know, check it out here.