Archive for April, 2014

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The Last Princess – the middle grade novel my daughter and I are writing – is an urban fantasy. Which is author-speak for “it takes place on something very close to present-day Earth.” As opposed to “it takes place in another realm where elves and vampires shoot laser guns at one another under the sea.”

I suppose, for the writer, the urban fantasy presents some distinct advantages over other, more traditional fantasy. You don’t have to invent a language, or learn cartography in order to map out all of the different countries, or come up with different names for everyday things like apples and boats and November and that thing you do in the middle of the day when you eat food. In our book apples are still apples and you won’t find Rivendell on any map.

But as it turns out, it isn’t quite that simple, either. At least for us, at least for this novel.

I think our mindset was formed with the basic premise, which was that the book would be about our family, but not quite our family. All of the family members in the book are us, if you sort of squint and turn your head to the side. Our last name, Berkowitz, became Brökkenwier (which sounds like “Broken Wire,” in the tradition of Professor Caractacus Potts), and all of our fictional counterparts use versions of our real middle names as their first names. So already the world of The Last Princess was a slightly-removed reality.

But when it came to certain well-known brands in our world, we found that we sometimes wanted or needed to change them slightly for dramatic license or to make them fit our story better. Or, to invite an extreme, to avoid getting sued. The first case of this was Mary Kay Cosmetics. We feature a group of 12-year-old girls getting together for a scout meeting and doing makeovers with a bag-full of make-up samples from one of their moms. I know May Kay is very strict about how they are perceived, so I thought there might be a chance they could take offense at how their product was being used. So Mary Kay Cosmetics became Carrie Mae Cosmetics. Girl Scouts are the same way (we know; we are involved in both of these things in real life and have first-hand experience of how they feel about their branding). So Girl Scouts became Squirrel Scouts.

When the family visits a Medieval Times restaurant I knew right away that I was going to have to change the nature of the show quite a bit to fit our book. So I really didn’t feel comfortable still calling it Medieval Times. It’s now called Joustorama. Taco Bell became Taco Shack.

Probably the biggest challenge I had in this department came when I had to give our main character, Cat, an iPod. Everyone knows what an iPod is, but I want this book to be timeless. An iPod from five years ago barely resembles an iPod from today. Five years from now they may not even exist, or may only exist as part of a phone or a wristwatch. Plus, Cat will need to do things with hers that you can’t strictly do on a real iPod, like send and receive texts when she’s camping. So I invented a Japanese knock-off, called the Den-Den. You remember that little noisemaker drum from The Karate Kid 2? It’s called a Den-Den daiko.

drumtechnique

I have no doubt that before this book (dare I say series?) is finished, we will have to invent more names for real things. If this were an adult novel I think I might want to stick with the real names wherever possible. But this is a children’s book, and children (and adults who like children’s books) are usually more willing to suspend their disbelief.

What about you?  Have you created made-up names for ordinary things in your own fiction?

NEWSFLASH: We’re getting close to finishing the first draft of The Last Princess.  If you would like to sign up to be a beta reader, please use the “Beta Reader Sign-Ups” tab at the top of this page.

I’m devoting this week’s blog to a re-post of Rachel Carrera’s author interview with me, from a few weeks ago. Thanks again, Rachel! Please take a moment to visit her blog at Rachel Carrera, Novelist, and read her beautiful poetry, invaluable insights on writing, and interviews of many other fascinating authors.

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Recently, I posted a Call to Writers, asking my fellow author bloggers to allow me to interview them for guest-spots on my blog.  (If you are interested in participating, please contact me.)  I asked everyone thirty-five questions, some were basic, and others were multi-part inquiries, and I asked them to answer only what they wanted to or what was applicable. My friend and fellow-blogger, John Berkowitz, had some very captivating responses which I’m sure will enchant you, as well.  After you read his interview, please be sure to hop on over to his blog and follow him for a regular dose of his charisma and wit.  And now, I turn the microphone over to John…

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ABOUT YOU::

john berkowitz1. Please tell us your name (or pen name) and a little bit about yourself:

“John Berkowitz is a husband and father of three who thinks he can squeeze in a writing career between family, two jobs, playing Battleship with his 5-year-old son, doing the dishes, and sleep.  Follow along as he and his co-writer/daughter embark on a quest every bit as magical and fraught with peril as the one they write about in their tween novel, The Last Princess.”

2. Please provide the link to your blog (and website, Facebook fan page, Twitter, etc.):

Blog: www.johnrberkowitz.wordpress.com

Twitter: https://twitter.com/John_Berkowitz

3. How many books have you written?

I finished my “epic fantasy” novel, Mentor, about 10 years ago.  I started it in high school while eyeballs-deep in Dungeons and Dragons.  I’m old, so this was before computers.  Also, apparently before I had talent.  It ended up being about 250,000 words long and I think I’m the only person who has ever finished reading it.

I spent most of last year debating with myself if I wanted to attempt to rewrite that book and make it marketable, or start a whole new project with my daughter.  I finally decided to start the new novel and we haven’t looked back.  It’s a great adventure, for both of us.

4. Has any of your work been published yet?  If so, please share the link(s) to purchase it:

I had a short story published in a college literary publication.  It was actually put in as a last-minute substitute for a piece that got pulled for some reason.

My only other writing experience of note is a spec script I wrote for Star Trek – Deep Space Nine while it was in its second season.  That submission earned me a pitch meeting with the show’s producers, and a few follow-up meetings.  But sadly, no sale.

5. If you have been published, did you self-publish or use traditional publishing?  Why?  If you have not been published yet, what are your plans for the future?

We have our sights set on traditional publishing.  I certainly don’t have the time or resources to personally promote a book the way I see some authors, traveling around the country, signing books at local Barnes & Noble stores.  We hope to secure an agent who knows much better than we do what sells and who’s buying, and guide us to that sale.

6. How old were you when you started writing?  When did you know you wanted to be an author?

I started writing in high school.  At the time I was mostly interested in film-making, and a good friend and I (a fellow D&D player) wanted to make a short film that featured a wizard’s duel.  I wrote the script.  But even then I felt you could not simply show two strangers walk on from opposite ends of some random field and start heaving fireballs at one another – there needed to be a back story and two compelling characters, and probably some henchmen.  The script ended up being a half an hour long, with only about 3 minutes of actual dueling at the end.  We never made than movie, but that script was the basis for my first novel, Mentor.

7. What would you say motivates you to keep writing?

I’m doing this as much for my daughter as I am for myself.  So I think it really stems from a deep sense of commitment.  I said I was going to write a book with her, and I will finish it to the best of my ability, even if it never eventually sells.  It will always be our book.

But I also am deeply motivated by the overwhelming positive response I have gotten from nearly everyone who has read it, of all ages.  None of them are agents or editors (as far as I know), so I’m not fooling myself into believing I have an instant hit on my hands, but these responses have given me tremendous confidence.

8. Who are some of your favorite authors?  What are you currently reading (or what is the last book you read)?

For me it’s a long list.  Almost anything by Heinlein, Niven, McAffrey, Pratchett, Jim Butcher, or Dan Brown.  My daughter and I both fell instantly in love with Michael Buckley’s Sisters Grimm series, and we’ve both read it all the way through several times.  My daughter is fond of Tui Sutherland’s Wings of Fire series, Suzanne Collins’ Hunger Games series, Erin Hunters’ Warriors series, and the Spirit Animals books.  She likes both the Kingdom Keepers and Peter and the Starcatchers series by Ridley Pearson, and of course Rowlings’ Harry Potter series. Probably a half-dozen others I don’t know about.

Right now I’m re-reading Kim Harrison’s Hollows series.  I’m on book 4, A Fistful of Charms.

9. What is your preferred reading method?  (i.e., Kindle, Nook, paperback, hardback, etc.)  Why?

My daughter reads physical books.  Really anything she can get her hands on.  Mostly hardbacks, because she wants them as soon as they come out.  I read almost exclusively on my iPhone using the iBooks app.  I have amassed a pretty extensive ebook library.  I prefer this because I always have whatever I want to read in my pocket, wherever I go.

10. Do you write in first or third person, past or present tense, and why?

I wrote Mentor in third person past tense, with multiple POVs.  Why?  Because everyone was doing it.  The Last Princess is first person.  Because I only wanted one voice for this, and I wanted the reader to experience this story from inside Cat’s head.  Also, most of my favorite books are written in first person.

11. Do you “always read” or do you take breaks between reading books? 

I usually am always in the middle of one or two books.  However, it is my weakness.  I have very limited time to write and I have made a commitment to not let it detract from family time and my other obligations.  So I have to write late a night, or whenever I can squeeze in some time at random moments.  If I am in the middle of a favorite book, I will fill those same moments reading and not writing.  Until a few weeks ago I had sworn off recreational reading until I finished The Last Princess.  However I finally succumbed, and I think I’m handling it pretty well.

12. How many books would you say you read in a year?  How many at any one time?

When I am not writing, I probably go through a dozen or more books a year.  I usually have two going at once.  If I had recreational time and, say, no children, I would get a lot more reading done.

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ABOUT YOUR CURRENT BOOK::

john berkowitz213. What is the title of your current work in progress of the most recent manuscript you’ve completed?

My current WIP, which I am co-writing with my 13-year-old daughter, is called The Last Princess.

14. What is your novel’s genre?  Would you say there is a sub-genre?  What makes yours different than other books in the same genre?

The Last Princess is a middle grade or tween urban fantasy.  Ours is different because none of the others were inspired by my daughter.  Actually, the premise not unlike many other popular urban fantasy novels; Cat discovers there are faeries and goblins and dwarves living among us, and only she can see them.  The difference in this book is that they look just like regular people, for the most part, because those races have interbred with humans for hundreds of years, and all that’s left are these fae-born.  They’re not in disguise or hiding in a secret realm, they’re us, and some of them don’t even know it.  Yet.

15. What inspired the current or most recent story you’ve completed?

It’s all explained in this post.

16. What is your target audience’s age, gender, etc.?

Our hero, Cat Brökkenwier, is 12.  I understand most readers like a hero that’s a little older than themselves, so that puts in in middle grade territory.  However, the language and the emotions are a little more mature than most middle grade books, and it will be longer than most, at about 65,000 words.  There is no romance, so it’s not properly young adult.  So I think that makes it tween.

17. Do you want to tell us a little bit about your story?

The elevator pitch is: Cat Brökkenwier has a secret — the ability to see that faeries and elves and ogres still walk among us. With the help of an ancient diary she learns she may be the last princess of all the fae. Now Cat must learn all there is to know about the secret world of the fae-born and earn the crown before another, more sinister candidate beats her to it. Or worse, before her mother finds out. It is a quest story, but it is really about a young girl learning who she really is and what she’s really capable of, and discovering they are not what other people think she is or wish her to be.

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ABOUT HOW YOU WRITE::

18. How often do you write?

I do a lot of thinking before I actually write, because I hate rewriting.  So I want to know ahead of time what needs to go on the page.  I still consider my self a seat-of-the-pants writer, I just do it in my head first.  So it comes out to a few sessions per week if I’m motivated, fewer if I’m thinking.

19. Approximately how many words do you write at each sitting?

Usually around 500 words in a sitting.  A lot of times I’ll write on my lunch hour, and that’s about as much as I can get done in under an hour.

20. Do you do your own editing or send it to someone else?

I run everything I do through the queues on CritiqueCircle.com. So far the rewrites have been pretty modest, so I tend to edit the chapters before I move on to the next one.

21. What is your method of writing?  (i.e., Do you write the entire manuscript, then go back and make changes?  Do you plan chapters as you go along or write the story then go back and add chapters?  Do you re-read as you go along or after you are done with the first draft?)

I started The Last Princess almost entirely by the seat of my pants. I had a vague idea of the main characters (my family), and the premise, but beyond introducing Cat and her situation and setting up the conflict, I had almost nothing planned out. After three or four chapters I started to see my way ahead, and I researched and created the story along Cat’s quest and the people she would meet along the way, and a basic outline evolved. I do a lot of thinking between writing sessions, so I reread what I’ve written pretty often. This also helps get back in the groove after a week or more not writing. I find polishing the last page or two I’ve written to be an excellent warm-up for writing the next few pages.

22. Do you have a muse?  If so, please elaborate. If not, what inspires you?

My daughter inspires me every day, there’s so much of her in Cat. But I meet people every day who add a little piece to one character or another. I’m re-reading Kim Harrison right now especially because she is so good at letting you inside the head of a young woman with chutzpah and plenty of problems. I’ve also borrowed some notions from TV shows like Grimm and Once Upon a Time.

23. How long does it take you to write a full manuscript?

It took me most of 20 years off and on to finish Mentor. We’ve been actively writing The Last Princess for less than a year and we’re halfway finished. We’re hoping to have a complete draft ready for beta readers before the end of this year.

24. Do you give yourself a word limit for each day or a time limit to finish your novel?  If so, please elaborate.

I try to keep on pace to write a chapter a month.

25. How do you come up with your character names and geographic location / business names?

I want this book to be timeless and not dated. Plus even those businesses and institutions I use I want to have the flexibility of changing certain details to suit the story. Plus, since this is for kids I think a certain amount of whimsy is called for. So I try to make the names as close as possible. Mary Kay Cosmetics became Carrie Mae. Girl Scouts became Squirrel Scouts. We live near a town called Rocklin, so I changed it slightly and put Cat and her family in the city of Rockford.

26. How long (or how detailed) are the notes you take before you start writing?

That depends on what the notes are about. I had pretty extensive notes about each if the fae races Cat will encounter, and developed quite a cast of characters to represent them. But my chapter outlines are fairly general. I have my key plot points and major action bullet-pointed, but beyond that I’m still “pantsing” my way through the chapters.

27. Do you have any “must haves” to help you write?  (i.e., a full cup of coffee, a view of the ocean, etc.)

Not really. My busy lifestyle means I’ve had to learn to write in much the same way a soldier learns to power-nap. You prepare yourself to do it whenever the opportunity arises. I keep my novel on Dropbox and have an app on my iPhone for working on standard Word documents, and I carry a bluetooth keyboard around with me. Or access the current chapter on my office computer on my lunch hour.

28. Do you only write during a certain time of day or in a certain location?  If so, do you make yourself stop after a certain time?

No and no. I can’t afford to.

29. Does your real life ever neglected because of your writing?  If so, how do you feel about that?

Absolutely not. This is the Prime Directive. If this book sells and I’m asked to write another, then I will feel justified in devoting a certain number of hours per week to writing, but until I’m actually contributing to the family income, I will not take away time I spend with my wife and children or helping around the house. With two jobs, I’m home rarely enough as it is.

30.What is the quirkiest thing you do or have ever done when writing?

I’m sure I couldn’t say.  But many people have certainly found it odd to see me attempting (and succeeding) to write a novel on my smart phone, propped up against my lunch box, with a half-eaten sandwich at my elbow in the company break room.

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ABOUT YOUR WORK::

31. If you have written more than one novel, which is your favorite and why?

Mentor was a huge part of my life, but it is not very good except to me. But The Last Princess is a labor of love and a collaboration with my amazing daughter, so it will always be incredibly special to both of us.

32. If you could be one of your own characters for a day, who would it be and why?

Are you kidding?  I am Richard Brökkenwier, Cat’s rather troll-like dad.

33. If one of your books became a movie, who would you choose for the “perfect cast” of main characters?

Honestly, I haven’t thought that much about it, because the story and the characters aren’t fully cooked, yet. But if I had to cast it today, I think I would probably have to cast Bailee Madison as Cat. And maybe Gerard Depardieu as Dad.

34. What is the oddest thing you have ever researched for one of your books?

I recently needed to learn about the Sami, the indigenous peoples of Scandinavia who hunted reindeer with bows and arrows and wore shoes with pointed, curled up toes, as a basis for the elf-born archery instructor Cat meets at camp.

35. What is the most difficult thing you have ever researched for one your books and why?

I probably spent the most time researching how a girl’s soccer practice might look, as neither my daughter nor I have ever seen a soccer game, let alone played. I needed terminology, drills, the name of the equipment, etc., and then I had to write it so it sounded authentic without injecting in too much useless information just for the sake of showing I knew what I was talking about.

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Thank you, John, for allowing me to interview you.  I hope everyone else has enjoyed learning about you and your work as much as I have.

~Rachel

I recently completed a rather complex chapter in my daughter’s and my tween urban fantasy novel, The Last Princess. Over and over I found myself stopped in my tracks as little nagging details cropped up that needed to be researched. By the time the 5,750 word chapter was finished, I felt like I had done as much research as some whole novels I had read.

Without going into a great deal of redundant background, our novel features the modern descendents of the ancient fae (faeries, elves, orges, etc.) that have fully interbred and integrated with humankind, and only our hero, Cat can see them for what they are. In this chapter Cat and her best friend, Rose, are at a girl’s summer camp with Cat’s mom as a chaperone. We had a lot to cover in this chapter, so I wrote a series of short scenes, covering four days of activities.

In one of those scenes Cat meets an elf-born, who happens to be her archery instructor. Elves are known for their prowess with the bow and arrow – particularly because of Tolkein’s Lord of the Rings elves, but also the original folklore told of something called “elf-shot” which people in the Middle Ages blamed for unusual diseases in both man and beast. This I already knew. But for our story I needed our elf-born archery instructor to impart some lessons about taking care of nature, and also he needed to have a skill at carving.

My first inclination was to give him some native American attributes, and so I started researching which peaceful tribes were known for their use of the bow and arrow. Then I started thinking of native American totems and how they were carved. However I soon learned that totems are largely a modern stereotype and were rarely if ever used in realty by native Americans. So I went back to the drawing board.

Elves were originally a Norse myth, so since my archery instructor was going to be Scandinavian I decided to research the early natives or that area. And to my delight I discovered the Sami.

The Sami first hunted, then later domesticated the local reindeer. How could I resist? They hunted with bow and arrow (check!) and were skilled at scrimshaw, which is carving on bone and antlers (check!). But the clincher was the fact that the Sami made their own shoes out of reindeer fur, and they always made them with the toes curled up on the end.

So my elf-born archery instructor was born:

Alfson“Goot morgon! Good morning!” Mr. Alfson came around the corner with several more girls in tow. He had some keys in his hand and he stopped next to a door set into the wall of the snack bar. “We’ll get started in a yiffy.” He sounded just like my Swedish grandmother, but he had short, white-blond hair and big blue eyes and was even taller than my dad. He was movie-star handsome and looked like he’d just skied down a snow-covered mountain, in his white turtleneck sweater and dark green ski pants. I looked down at his shoes.

They were made of brown fur and decorated around the top with red beads. And the toes were pointed and curled up. I barked out a laugh before I could stop myself.

Rose leaned close and whispered, “What’s so funny?”

“His pointy shoes! Because he’s an el―”

“Because I am a what?”

Everyone was staring at me, and Mr. Alfson’s raised his eyebrows.

“Because you’re … so obviously not an elf!” My chuckle sounded forced. “I mean look at you – you’re so tall!” Cheese, I’m an idiot! But an elf with pointy shoes? How could I not laugh?

“Yah.” He frowned at me then went back to unlocking the door. “Where I am from in Lappland they are traditional. Very warm. Made of reindeer fur.”

I had to bite my lip to keep from giggling. Rose punched me in the arm.

This was only the first in a long series of research rabbit holes I went down for this chapter. I also researched:

  • Basic archery and how to teach it
  • Archer equipment
  • Swedish names
  • Popular girl’s names (various nationalities)
  • Scrimshaw
  • How to write a Swedish accent
  • Gaelic sayings and how to pronounce them
  • Japanese instruments
  • Jack rabbit habitats
  • How to tie-dye
  • Camp pranks
  • Maple trees and those nifty “helicopter” maple seeds
  • A pretty flower that blooms in the summer and thrives in the North American mountains, that is ugly before it blooms
  • Dark elves

So my question is this? Does it make a difference to your average 9-year-old girl whether or not I get the smell of a Maple tree just right?

And my answer? I certainly hope so.

Because of this blog and my first few posts, I’m beginning to realize that I can write short bursts of slightly amusing prose.  But a blog post is a completely different beast than a fantasy novel.  The Last Princess already has an established voice and tone and pacing, and trying to shoehorn in a funny scene that our outline calls for is proving to be much more difficult.

In the scene I’m writing our hero, Cat, decides to confess her Big Secret to her mother, who she is sure will not approve.  However every time Cat plucks up the courage to broach the subject someone comes along and spoils the moment.  They all know about Cat’s Big Secret and they assume Mom does, too, and each time someone almost spills the beans Cat finds herself frantically trying to cover before Mom gets suspicious.  Finally Cat loses her nerve altogether … and … scene.

Right out of I Love Lucy.  Perfect for a middle grade novel.  Inherently funny, right?

Yeah, it’s not that easy.

It turns out that most of the jokes and funny moments in The Last Princess have all pretty much happened spontaneously.  I didn’t plan any of them.  But now, faced with the task of writing a whole funny scene on demand, I seem to have developed stage fright, or cold feet, or whatever other euphemism for “paralyzed” you care to use.

I can’t even imagine how someone writes a sitcom every week.

It’s like Justice Stewart said: “I know it when I see it.”  But that doesn’t necessarily translate into the ability to produce it.  I know a good lemon meringue pie when I taste one, too, but don’t ask me to bake one.  I tried, once; it turns out that in recipes it matters what order you add the ingredients.

There are lots of things I don’t do well which I have the good sense not to attempt.  Building a campfire.  Picking out clothing.  Any kind of activity involving a ball.  But this scene calls for humor, and I can’t farm it out.  So here I am.

I think I’ve got the basic set-up.  In classic I Love Lucy tradition, it begins with a misunderstanding:

If I was going to confess my problem to Mom, now was as good a time as I was ever going to get.  I took a deep breath as my heart started beating faster.  “Mom?  Do you think you can help me with a problem I’m having?  I don’t know who else to ask.”  There!  If she thinks I’m in trouble, maybe she won’t be so mad when I tell her about my quest.  And the fae-born.  And my superpower.  My stomach clenched as I started having second thoughts.

Mom misread the panic in my eyes.  She lost her smile and peered at me, concerned.  “What is it, Catherine?  What’s happened?”

I gulped.  Now I had to tell her.  Cheese!  What am I supposed to say, now?  “I need your help to scare away a prince so I can be princess of the faeries?”  I swallowed.  “Um … there’s this boy.”

Mom’s eye narrowed and she frowned.

“See, we both want the same thing … but … I don’t know how I’m supposed to—”

“Catherine!”  Mom’s eyes were wide with panic.  “How old is this boy?  Have I met him?  Where do you know him from?”

“Whoa, whoa, whoa!”  Great!  Now she thinks I want to date him!  “No.  It isn’t like that at all!”

Then, before she can explain she gets interrupted, and more confusion gets added to the mix.  What do you think?  Does that “feel” funny to you?

When people ask Steve Martin what makes him feel funny, he says he likes to put a tuna fish sandwich in each shoe.  I haven’t tried that yet.  Depending on what you think, maybe I should.

Steve Martin

This week I’m handing the reins over to two young ladies you may have read about on this blog, twelve-year-old best friends Catherine Brökkenwier and Roselyn Connolly, two people who appear in my daughter’s and my middle grade novel, The Last Princess. Take it away, girls.

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Cat & Rose

Rose: Okay, I’m Rose. Cat’s my best friend and she can see fairy-tale creatures the rest of us can’t. And I’m going to ask her questions.

Cat: Wait. What’s a blog?

Rose: It’s like … writing in your journal, but posting it on the Internet.

Cat: Oh, cheese! My mom uses the Internet! Is she going to read this?

Rose: How should I know? Are you ready?

Cat: Sure, I guess. Hello, Internet!

Rose: Okay. So, what’s it like being the Last Princess of the Fae?

Cat: Whoa! I’m not any kind of princess, yet. There are secret greetings and different kinds of fae I’ve never even heard of, yet. And a quest. I’ve got to learn everything before I even have a chance at becoming the princess of the fae.

Rose: So what kind of fae have you met so far?

Cat: Let’s see. I met a cute djinni boy. I think he’s the only pure-blood fae I’ve met. All the other fae are actually just “fae-born” – they have a little fae blood in them but they’re mostly human. Like Gail Westerly, the Information Lady at the library – she’s a sylph-born. And Hunter Alfson, the archery instructor at Squirrel Scout camp. He’s elf-born. And a couple of others, I guess. Nobody special.

Rose: Hey!

Cat: I’m totally kidding! You, of course! Piskie-born – what else? You have perfect blond hair and look like a fashion model.

Rose: Hmmm. Maybe. I was going to be a fashion model when I grew up, but with a real princess for a best friend, that kind of sounds boring, now.

Cat: Hmph! You wanna trade? I’ll be perfect and beautiful and rich, and you can try to impress the creepy ogre-born man across the street. Good luck! Don’t let the foot-long butcher knife scare you!

Rose: I’ll pass. So, okay. What’s it like having a super-power?

Cat: You mean my “fae-dar?”

Rose: Exactly. What else did you call it?

Cat: Mrs. Dalyrimple calls it the Sight. She’s the one who told me about how all the fae disappeared and blended in to humanity hundreds of years ago. And how nobody else can see them besides me.

Rose: Right.

Cat: Well, when I look at someone I can tell they have fae blood because they sort of sparkle if I look hard enough. But what I really get is a feeling of … something different, and my imagination or the Sight or whatever just draws a picture. And I can usually tell what they are because I’ve been reading fairy-tales all my life.

Rose: I know, but I mean, what’s it like being able to see stuff the rest of us can’t?

Cat: Oh! Well, totally cool, obviously. But scary sometimes. Some fae-born don’t want people to know what they are. I found that out the hard way.

Rose: I can’t believe you laughed at Mr. Alfson’s shoes!

Cat: They were pointy! He’s an elf-born! What was I supposed to do?

Rose: I don’t know – act normal?

Cat: You’ve met me, right?

Rose: Yes. So … what’s the best part about being a princess? Almost a princess?

Cat: Oh, wow. I don’t know. I guess if I make it, it will be that I get to help all of the hidden fae-born find others of their kind. So they know they’re not alone.

Rose: That’s the most beautiful thing I’ve ever heard. I think I’m going to cry.

Cat: Shut up!

Rose: Ow! Stop hitting me! Okay, so what’s the worst part?

Cat: You know the worst part.

Rose: Yeah. But the people reading this don’t.

Cat: Oh, yeah. The worst part is my family doesn’t know about any of this. And if my mom found out she would kill me.

Rose: Why?

Cat: Because she’s decided I’m too old for fairy-tales and wants me to grow up and be little Miss Perfect.

Rose: Well, you are almost thirteen. What’s wrong with that?

Cat: You’ve met me, right?

Rose: So what are you going to do, Cat?

Cat: This adventure so far has taught me one thing. I can never be the proper, groomed, button-down darling my mother wants me to be. But I can fake it.

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Thank you Cat and Rose! That was very informative. I’m sure my readers join me in wishing you good luck with your quest, Cat, and your modeling career, Rose. And if anyone knows Mrs. Brökkenwier, please don’t tell her about this, okay?