The nature of magic in books

“I understand why these people aren’t excited, hon. Your books turn people off,” Mama informed me today. “It’s what they’re about. My family would be proud if you would do something like _Steel Magnolias_, but they don’t like made-up stuff and fantasy. The big problem is they’re all about . . . magic.”

_And that’s ALWAYS EVIL,_ said her subtext.

“I realize that many of my novels are fantasy and do deal with magic. But just let me say this one thing. The Harry Potter books are wildly popular, and the vampire/shapeshifter books are, as well. I don’t know why my books should be singled out as EEEEVIL when those are given a pass. However, there’s a fundamental difference between most fantasy novels and mine. Do you know what a cautionary tale is?”

She wasn’t listening, having already gone on to the next thing, but I continued talking because I like to hear myself finish a sentence.

“In most fantasy novels, MAGIC is the thing they use to save the world. Someone uses MAGIC to fight the bad guys and save the world, and it is seen as a be-all and end-all with little downside. In my books, the magical item comes into someone’s life and turns it upside-down, and the person has to cope with the temptations of using it–or with figuring out how to control it–but ultimately after fixing the awful mess that it got him or her into, he or she gets rid of the magic because it wasn’t worth the sacrifices. In other words, my books are cautionary tales to warn people who are tempted to find an easy way out and tell them that perhaps it is not the way they want to go.”

“Umph,” she said through a mouthful of whatever snack it was that she’d hidden in the glove compartment. “I’m just telling you why you never get anywhere. Write something GOOD like the old romances. Those are on LIFETIME FOR WOMEN all the time! Why can’t you write one of those?”

That sort of story seldom occurs to me because it bores me. Most of those LIFETIME films are just about some horror that happened to someone, some rape or kidnapping or wife-beating thing. Can’t reading be something to use to escape from all that for a while? Good grief.

The mysteries and LITTLE RITUALS are not fantasy, by the way. LR is a literary novel like _Cat’s Cradle_ or _The Crying of Lot 49_. *general hilarity ensues* I mean it’s LIKE them in that it is not a straight representational novel, but it’s not a genre fantasy like the others. Still, they’re not what most people read, I suppose.

Anyhow, I’ll soon have to admit that they were right–that my stuff DOES suck. That I only like it because it’s mine. The same way you like your kid’s piano playing despite his inability to keep a steady beat or notice when he’s hitting clinkers. It’s still nice that anyone reads at all, so if anyone accidentally reads my stuff, maybe they won’t notice and they’ll still enjoy it. That’s what happens with all the popular pulp on the shelves.

Alas, I don’t think my mini-publicity campaign down the I-35 corridor did much good.

At the hotel, they allowed me to put my postcards and bookmarks in their business center next to the collection of menus and discount flyers. They were still all there the last time I checked. The cute night clerk let me put a few on the front check-in desk counter, but the day people took them down and didn’t want them there (it would seem too much like a recommendation from the hotel). One nice thrift store owner put postcards on her checkout counter, but other bookstores didn’t seem enthusiastic.

I suspect if I had been a young cute thing it would’ve worked out a little better . . . they’d have waited until I left and then thrown them away.

Don’t know how people manage to promote without feeling like a two-dollar w***e standing on the street corner with a mattress tied to her back yelling, “A f*** and a s*** for a buck!”

Even at a bargain price like $2, some people still can’t sell books.

Off into the rain and snow tomorrow! Should be fun. The Midwest is not as bad as its negative media attention/bad press would have you believe.


Author: shalanna

Shalanna: rhymes with "Madonna" and "I wanna," and is not a soundalike with "Hosanna" or "Sha-Na-Na." Aging hippie with long hair, husband, elderly mother, and yappy Pomeranian. I've been writing since I could hold a crayon. I started with fiction, which Mama said was "lying." “Don’t tell stories,” she would admonish, in Southern vernacular. “That's all in your imagination!” When grownups said this, they were not approving. So, shamed, I stopped telling stories for a few years--rather, I stopped letting anyone read them. I'm married to a fellow computer nerd who doesn't really like hearing about writing, but who reads sf/fantasy and understands the creative drive. I'm actually a nonconformist/hippie still wearing bluejeans and drop earrings and the Alice-in-Wonderland hair with headbands and sandals. Favorite flavor is chocolate/orange, favorite color is either Dreamsicle orange (cantaloupe) or bubble-gum pink, favorite musical is either Bye Bye Birdie, Rocky Horror, or The Producers . . . wait, I also love The Music Man. Is this getting way too specific and irrelevant yet? Obvious why I don't sell a ton of flash fiction, isn't it? To define oneself, I always say, it is good to make a list. How about a booklist? Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird Frank and Ernestine Gilbreth, Cheaper by the Dozen C.S.Lewis, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe (all the Narnia books) J.R.R.Tolkien,The Hobbit/LORD OF THE RINGS trilogy Gail Godwin, The Odd Woman F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby J. D. Salinger, Catcher in the Rye (before dismissing it, actually read it) George Orwell, 1984 Kurt Vonnegut, Cat's Cradle Donna Tartt, The Secret History Mark Twain, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn James Allen, As A Man Thinketh Mark Winegardner, Elvis Presley Boulevard James Thurber, My Life and Hard Times The Wizard of Oz, L. Frank Baum Winnie-the-Pooh/House at Pooh Corner, A. A. Milne Peter Pan, J. M. Barrie The KJV and NIV Bible (each translation has its glories)

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