Monday, April 29, 2013

Writers' Workshop

Ada works in a comfy chair.
Sam and Emily settle in to write.
Writing is a pretty introverted job, with the possible exception of co-writing. But that doesn't mean writers don't benefit from a crowded room.

Snack time!
One of the members of our local Science Fiction/Fantasy Meetup group occasionally hosts a writers' workshop. We all go over, eat, and write. It's like a party of sorts, wherein everyone sits in his or her own little world and works. With occasional breaks for food, chatting, and laughter, of course!

This past month's food theme was Greek food, so we had lots of healthy, delicious brain food that 'mysteriously' vanished over course of the day. Strawberries were in at the local farmers' market, too. Irresistible!

I was happy to get about a 1200 new words (I got there late), but some came out with close to 4000! Surrounding yourself with other writers is a great way to keep motivated, and get everyone working. Plus, it's just fun.

Special thanks to our hostess, Allegra, for opening her house to us for the day!

Friday, April 26, 2013

Contemporary or Urban Fantasy?

I had an interesting discussion with fellow writer and blogger Lauren Harris yesterday. We talked about genre.

It's a moot point, in the original sense of the word moot: arguable. Kristen Nelson, for example, suggests that New Adult might be Chick Lit revisited, and many authors have struggled with the fluidity of defining their own precise genre.

My novel takes place in the modern world, has a touch of romance, and tons of magic--the last means it's fantasy, but is it "modern fantasy," "contemporary fantasy," or "urban fantasy"?

The sticking point, of course, is that the recent stereotypes of urban fantasy revolve around detective stories, shifters, vampires, or demons. Of which my manuscript has none.

Contemporary fantasy is not a frequently-used term, however. Paranormal romance tends to apply to only, well, romance, but it's known to overlap urban fantasy. Contemporary fantasy is a catch-all, and includes non-urban settings... it's just not frequently used. And while the book has video-game and steampunk references, "geek fantasy" conjures an entirely different mental image than the story portrays.

For marketing reasons, I may continue to bill it as urban fantasy--because there's a market for that right now--but on the whole, I have to agree with Lauren: contemporary fantasy is a better term, at least for this manuscript. And it's a term that needs to become more common, as it's a better catch-all and doesn't have the same narrow connotations as urban fantasy.

Which would you, as a reader, prefer to hear? A better-known genre, such as "urban fantasy," in which the book is not quite typical? Or a slightly more specific "contemporary fantasy" that describes the book, but is less known?

Do you think it's time for the "Contemporary fantasy" genre to make a comeback? What other books do you know that would fall under this genre?

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Wednesday Writing Exercise: Developing your story through food

$6.99 at Amazon...
or $2.99 at my local
Asian Market
Norimaki arare: it's a piece of seaweed wrapped around a sweet rice cracker. I would never have thought seaweed crackers would be addictively good, or something I couldn't stop eating. But they are.

The other day I had a seaweed craving. Could not stop thinking about how much I wanted to eat seaweed. So badly that, having only a short period of free time, I dropped by the Asian Market just to pick up a bag of these, despite the fact that I haven't been to the regular grocery store in a couple of weeks and have been eating leftover dinner for breakfast. Mmm, seaweed rice crackers!

Food can be a great source of subtle humor in a book. Whether a character has an odd craving, or an addiction to french fries dipped in tomato soup, or frequently refers to fish fingers and custard, it's a great way to lace in a character quirk. 

It can also tell you something about the character. How does your character take her coffee? Does she gulp it down so fast it scalds her tongue? She's showing her impatient, impulsive side. Does she set it aside and wait until it's cool? Patience, planning. Maybe she adds lots of sugar--a sweet tooth, meaning she likes a little luxury. Or if she pours in cold milk with no sugar, she's showing herself to be a thinker--impatient and unwilling to wait for the drink to cool down, but smart enough to avoid burning herself. Perhaps, instead, she's the one tea-drinker in a group of coffee-lovers: she could be an outsider, or an independent thinker.

Maybe you have a group of characters. How they eat together will evolve as their relationship does. At first, dishes are probably passed with polite requests, but as they get to know one another well, a wave of the hand or a "Hey, pass that over here" takes the place of formal manners. Slightly awkward polite small talk makes way for jeers and friendly banter. Or, for a couple, perhaps flirting evolves into plate-sharing, casual touches of the hands and arms, and warm smiles. 

Try finding a scene in your WIP (or write one as a side piece if there isn't one) in which your protagonists have food at hand. What are their food choices showing about their personalities? How are they eating, and how are they interacting with one another? 

Without increasing your word count by more than 10 words (try to cut it shorter, if you can!), try layering in a little food-symbolism, humor, or character development.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Using weather in a story

Do you use the weather to write?

I always feel inspired to write during storms. Thankfully, I have a laptop with a long-lasting battery, so I can disconnect it from the wall during lightning storms.

For a while, I had a storms CD. When I was having a spot of trouble getting inspired, I'd close the blinds and play the CD, and pretend there was a storm raging behind me. It helped. Because, I've noticed, there's always action in storms.

Often, the weather is just a background, a setting that doesn't influence the story all that much. But sometimes, active weather becomes a part of the story. Melting sun? That's active weather; it interferes with the characters' actions. Driving snow? A blizzard makes it hard to see, disrupts radio signals, and makes going outside dangerous. Pouring rain, lightning, and whipping wind? It's all fun and games until someone has to try to fight in it.

The sequel to Into the Tides has the working title Derecho right now. A derecho is a type storm system that's basically a long line of powerful, fast-moving storms with winds that blow in the direction it's going. The title may well change as the manuscript continues, but it refers to the fact that magic has played havoc with the weather, and so the weather will be a minor character in the story.

How do you use weather to strengthen your scenes? Do happy moments happen in sunny, cheerful weather? Do your storms do more than set the mood--do they play a part in how the events take place? Or is your weather a backdrop, a hint at the mood of the story without playing an active role in it?

In which books has weather been an active character? What books do you think use weather to the best effect?

Friday, April 19, 2013

Publishing Industry News

My heart is with the families of those lost in the tragic events, and the heroes who worked to hold us all together.

Have to admit I had a hard time getting myself to put this news post together. Not doing so seemed worse. I'll dedicated this one to the people of Boston who have the heart to open shop in defiance of cowards determined to spread fear. The point of acts of terror is to stop life from going on as normal. The best way to defeat it, is to continue living.

For the people of West, Texas, I'm keeping you in my thoughts and prayers.

This week's publishing news and relevant industry blogs cover 4/5-4/19.

Publishing News

Night Shade, in order to prevent itself from going into a bankruptcy that would stick most of its clients in legal limbo, decided to sell its contracts to SkyHorse Publishing and Start Publishing. At first the deals weren't great, but SkyHorse, after listening to the authors involved, changed the terms to be more favorable.

Indie booksellers ask the courts not to dismiss their lawsuit against Amazon and the Big Five publishers over DRM, which the indie booksellers say has locked them out of their ability to compete by locking e-books into the Kindle format instead of making e-books available on any e-reader. A couple of weeks ago, Amazon and the Big Five had asked that the suit be dismissed.

Barnes & Noble's PubIt! has a name change to Nook Express. It adds features to make self-publishing even easier than before, hoping to draw in authors with ease of use, with a product that it claims is very friendly even to the techno-unsavvy. Royalties are still the same as before.

The class action lawsuit against Harlequin was dismissed. The lawsuit was based on complaints that Harlequin had not adequately compensated authors for e-sales, but the dismissal came "on grounds that the plaintiffs failed to state a claim."

Simon & Schuster are giving the e-lending program a one-year trial, available in New York libraries.

The European Union has now approved the Penguin-Random House merger.

PubMatch and Copyright Clearance Center work together to create an online rights service, which seems to facilitate the sale of foreign rights for e-books between countries, if I've read the article correctly. (This isn't my specialty yet, so you might want to get someone with more foreign rights experiences to explain what exactly it means for you.)

Kobo releases a fancier e-ink e-reader for $170. It refers to the device as the "Porsche of e-readers."

Amazon's Jeff Bezos talks to authors about publishing royalties, explaining why they're now paying authors monthly instead of twice a year.

Industry Blogs

QueryTracker's Publishing Pulse for 4/12 and 4/19.

Nathan Bransford's Last Few Weeks in Books.

Are agents still necessary? Rachelle Gardner explains why even self-published authors might want an agentWhen should an indie author consider partnering with an agent? After they've sold a ton of books and are now looking for new and further ways to be exposed to a wider audience, says Kristen Nelson. And at the London Book Fair, the role of the agent was much discussed.

Have you been planning on getting an agent to help you self-publish? Don't do it for a book that's already been published, says Suzie Townsend: Bring a new book to the table if your book hasn't already sold tens of thousands. Agents aren't interested in self-published books with poor sales, because they in turn can't sell the books to publishers. Remember, if you've self-published a book, your book is already published. Show the agent an unpublished manuscript instead.

Should you do a book trailer? Keith Cronin offers his insight on what his book trailer has done for him.

Taxes are over--for Americans who haven't filed extensions, at least--but Rachelle Gardner's general tax advice applies year-round: take the taxes out of your royalty checks when you get them, file quarterly, and save. She also busts some myths about publishing, such as, you don't actually have to be published to get published.

Writers Write offers advice on how to write a one-page synopsis.

So you may have read that bit of silliness opinion article by Scott Turow that sent every major writer, publisher, and industry-related professional into either fits or fits of giggles. The "slow death of the American author" indeed. Rebuttals have been sprouting up all over.

The FF&P blog interviews agent Beth Campbell, with BookEnds LLC, who is looking for great fiction, particularly "a great urban fantasy, YA, sci-fi, or women’s fiction author."

The Editor's Blog talks about writing the passage of time in a story.

GalleyCat launches an experimental program to help writers find writers' groups across the world. It also puts together a list of video tutorials to help self-publishers use the major self-publishing platforms.

What major publishing news have you encountered in the past couple of weeks?

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Moving: The Main Event

So I've lately moved to a new apartment. The last few days have contained the following excitements:

5. I finally found my socks!

4. I learned how to re-caulk a bathtub.

3. The patio garden has sprouted! Poking up their heads are spinach, kale, catnip, blue buttons, and some other things that I can't remember what we planted. The mint went viral and thus got put into time-out (aka its own pot), and the thyme is settling in nicely. On the other hand, the squirrels got my gerbera daisies and my strawberry!

2. My roommate and I have now have a cabinet devoted entirely to tea. Note: any project that has screws instead of nails to secure the backboard on, is a project you will want to smash... if only your hands didn't hurt too much!

1. The cats met the roommate's kitten. The kitten is valiantly defending her castle; the cats are somewhat confused as to why a mouse is pouncing on them.

What are your most exciting moments in moving?

Monday, April 15, 2013

The Numbers of Self-Publishing

Self publishing and traditional publishing are two different paths to the same goal: being published. But neither path is right for everyone. When trying to figure out which you'll take, consider these two blogs:

Chuck Wendig offers a list of reasons you might choose to stick to traditional-first.

And Marie Force offers the actual sales numbers of some self-published authors. This is a self-selected response, so the numbers do not actually represent any kind of statistical average: it's just a snapshot of what some authors choose to report. (Amazon's been pretty reluctant to release the true statistics!)

Some people sell hundreds of thousands of books self-publishing; others don't break a thousand. Where will you fall? Do you have the time to promote, and the audience to sell to? Are you in a high-selling genre? And do you have the money to risk for that initial investment?

But when the sales are good, the money is great. Every traditionally published author had fantastic self-publishing sales. Some non-traditionally published authors had enough sales to live off, too. There's no clear-cut answer. Because, honestly? What works for someone else may or may not work for you.

When tides of magic drown the South, tone-deaf Kelly lost everyone she loves but her twin brother.  Now, to protect him and everyone she's met since, she'll have to master the music magic she long ago gave up on--and go into the heart of magic itself. Into the Tides comes out this fall, 2013.

Friday, April 12, 2013

A better deal: Why knowing the business gives you power

If your publisher was going out of business, and offered you a choice between taking a below-industry-standard royalty rate and a less-than-ideal rights grab, or losing your work in legal limbo forever, which would you choose?

For a while, that's what the authors of Night Shade Books were afraid of. Night Shade is going under, and to stay solvent (and thus not have their assets seized by the government until the debts are resolved, assets including the copyrights of all their authors), they are planning to make a deal with Skyhorse and Start. Skyhorse and Start will then use the authors who sign the deal to start a new imprint, but the deal will only go through if 90% of the authors sign on.

Then Skyhorse and Start sat down and looked at the internet response to their terms, and talked with the Science Fiction Writers of America, and revised their terms to be pretty much industry standard--in some points slightly better than industry average. In other words, the publishers talked with authors and agencies that represent authors, listened to the feedback authors and readers left them, and improved it.

It's happening all over. Thanks to the internet, the ease of self-publishing, e-books that allow better royalty rates, and writers having a multitude of options, authors everywhere are getting better deals.

Not every author, every time. Certainly not. And there are some things that are getting consistently worse, like the winnowing of the author advance. But on the whole, authors have something that was previously lacking: power.

We, as writers, own the copyrights of our work until we sell them. Not long ago, I had someone ask me if they had to pay their publisher a royalty when personally optioning foreign rights. Did the publisher have the foreign rights as part of the contract? No. Was there anything in the contract stipulating they'd have to pay a fee to option other rights? No. (And what a horrible contract that would be if the answer had been yes!) Therefore, no, the author owed the publisher nothing. The publisher had no claim to those rights in the first place, so the author could do anything he or she wanted with them.

Everyone wants in to the rights-grab: publishers will try to take as many rights as they can, because it makes them money, and making money is their first business. But, they also know authors have power. Authors have the right to say no, and the ability to go elsewhere, which enforces that power. If a publisher makes an insulting offer, it knows it won't get an educated author. So, proving you know something about the industry means you'll get a better deal.

Teach yourself. Know your options. You have power, and publishers do--really do--listen to you.

What are some of your favorite publishing sites? Where, or to whom, do you go to learn about the industry?

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Missing post! Oh no!

Whoops! Missed a post this morning! I was... uh... unavoidably detained.


 I miss post, you get random free picture to use however you want. Taken in South Carolina months ago. Even though the glass is perfectly clear, the framing and the colors of the trees make me think of a stained glass window. I could see that being in a story somewhere, couldn't you?

Also, this may be my excuse not to write anything of intelligence. Between packing for an in-town move and work, it's pretty darn busy. The brain cells went to bed half an hour ago.

What do you do when you can't think of something worthwhile to blog about?

Monday, April 8, 2013

5 tips to a good Google+ Hangout

Pirate Duckie doesn't worry
about nose hairs.

Getting ready to do a Google+ Hangout? Here's 5 tips for making sure your Hangout goes well:

1. Headphones: Ask all participants to use headphones or earphones. Because sound coming out of the speaker will be picked up by the radio, and because there's a small lag in most Hangouts, you can end up with a distracting echo. By asking everyone to wear headphones, you avoid the echo.

2. Raise your camera until it's about 2 inches (or just a little more) above your eyes. For those of us whose webcams are in the top of the monitor, this means you should be eye level with about the center of your screen. Why? If your webcam is below eye level, others will be looking at you from below. Nobody looks their best from the nose-hair side. Eye level to the center of your screen is good for your posture anyway. If your webcam is separate from your computer, attach it about that level. (For more tips, see Rachelle Gardner's "7 Ways to Look Good on Your Webcam.")

3. Mute typing: Ask everyone to mute their microphones when typing. Tck-tck-tck from every audio becomes annoying fast. You can still hear others as long as your speakers remain on, but turning off your own audio for typing sessions will reduce ambient noise.

4. Separate laptop keyboards: If you use a laptop, try using a USB keyboard. This goes with #2: typing with your wrists up in the air is very bad writing posture and can help lead carpal tunnel. Also, it's just plain uncomfortable. Use a separate keyboard than your laptop's built-in one so you can place at it a comfortable height. This also helps with #3 if someone forgets to mute a microphone.

5. Lower Third: Use the "Lower Third" function in the Hangout Toolbox application. Using this feature, you can add a bar with a fill-in title (usually your name), with a subtitle for things like updating wordcount, adding a job title, or just adding a funny statement. You can also change the color of the bar (good for team events). The text on your own screen will appear backwards on your monitor,  but correct on everyone else's.

What do you do to get the most from your Google+ Hangouts? Leave your own tips in the comments!

Friday, April 5, 2013

Publishing Industry News

This week's post covers 3/22-4/5/2013. Big events in the publishing world these past couple of weeks, so clear a little space in your day: you'll want to read up on these if you haven't already heard of them!

Industry News

If you haven't yet heard that Amazon bought GoodReads, you've probably been engaged in a space battle on another planet. Whether or not this makes you happy depends on your standpoint. Amazon promises that GoodReads will be allowed to continue to operate independently and keep its buylinks to other vendors, although many suspect the ownership will lead to an inevitable crowding out of non-Amazon links and material.

Reactions? On the bright side, getting access to the data and reviews may be all Amazon wanted, because it will help Amazon become even better at connecting readers with books and let Amazon incorporate a social element they've always wanted. The founders of GoodReads are excited about the move, and assuming Amazon's current and future leaders keep to its motto of "First do no harm," it could be a great thing for the reading community. Although Apple, Barnes and Noble, and other retailers probably won't ever appreciate the move. LibraryThing founder Tim Spalding loves this news, but thinks B&N and other buy links will be soon dropped no matter what Amazon claims; president of the Authors Guild Scott Turow is horrified and thinks "Amazon’s control of online bookselling approaches the insurmountable." (In other words, the publishing community is divided.)

Also, Simon and Schuster and Barnes and Noble are having a fight. Is this a problem? Yes, it affects authors. Barnes and Noble will be ordering fewer S&S books. (Thanks to Sabrina Jeffries for sharing the links!) Why? Kristen Rusch explains her take on it: Because B&N orders fewer books from S&S, which means those authors sell fewer books, which affects the re-orders. And for industry members watching Hugh Howey's print-only deal, this might make the difference as to whether or not that catches on.

And if you've been wondering whether or not you'll be able to resell your e-books, it's looking like a firm "no": the US District Court of Manhattan ruled that music reseller ReDigi will be liable for copyright infringement (ReDigi is expected to appeal, of course). This seems to say the Right of First Sale Doctrine doesn't apply in the same way to electronic works, something that both Amazon and Apple are watching because they've both applied for patents to resell digital books.

Kobo releases its own Kobo e-reader, to compete against the Kindle and Nook and other such devices.

In February, indie booksellers started a lawsuit against Amazon and the Big Five ("Six") publishers over e-book DRM that locked e-books into certain e-readers (namely the Kindle). Amazon and the publishers are now requesting to have the case dismissed, on the grounds that there's no proof that DRM has had that effect, or harmed competition, or that there was any such conspiracy between the Big Five and Amazon to promote the Kindle exclusively, as that would be harmful to the publishers themselves.

And in New York, the courts have ruled that the internet sales tax is legal (due to the Marketplace Fairness Act of 2013, recently passed by the Senate). That means online sellers will have to include sales tax in purchases made by customers regardless of the customers' locations. Overstock has stopped selling to NY affiliates, and Amazon already "supports nationwide sales tax rules."

GalleyCat introduces the monthly Self-Publishing Intelligence Report.

Authors with Night Shade Books are being faced a dilemma. Night Shade is going out of business, and in trying to avoid bankruptcy, which would leave authors potentially unable to reclaim their rights ever (meaning those books would become forever out of print with no further print options) by selling its contracts to another publisher... who wants to rewrite the contracts. The deal will only go through if enough authors sign off on it, but authors feel like they're between a rock and a hard place with this one. You can comment yourself at the Facebook and Twitter sites of the parties involved:

(Thansk to Anthony Deaver for sharing the links, through Bliss Morgan, through Michael Bernstein.)

Industry Blogs

QueryTracker's Publishing Pulse for 3/29 and 4/5.

Best-selling author C.J. Lyons gives an interview about KDP Select on Jane Friedman's blog, and who she thinks it's best for. Authors with 2-3 books out would probably get the most benefit, while for those with only one book, she doesn't recommend it. Authors with established fan bases who buy from varied retailers might end up alienating their audiences, so they should be careful.

If Amazon's acquisition of GoodReads makes you nervous, here are five review sites unaffiliated with Amazon.

Agent Kristen Nelson puts forth her view on Indie author and agent parings, in a several-part series. If you want to know how agents are connecting with indie authors and why she feels it benefits both, it's worth a read. She sat down with Hugh Howey (author of the Wool series), and from that conversation,  started to get an idea of how she would have to change to work with indie authors. Or, in her words, "Let’s quit complaining [about traditional publishing being archaic and not changing] and start having conversations to instigate change because how do you think change happens?"

What do you think about hands-free books? Nathan Bransford is excited about the concept. (For "awesome" appeal alone, I'm in! Especially if the Google Glass can track your eye movements enough to automatically scroll so you don't have to.) He also offers some alternatives to Google Reader, if you were a big fan of RSS and are now searching for a replacement.

QueryTracker writer Carolyn Kaufman creates a comparison chart for various Cloud services. She doesn't suggest using any of the big-brand names for your original creative works due to the legal loopholes in them (such as allowing the company to use your data in any way they want), and although the sites claim they won't do so, probably good advice not to put your manuscript in some of these services.

Agent Janet Reid gives 3 basic mistakes not to make in queries: Don't say "copyright 20xx" in the text (it's not needed and shows you haven't done your research), don't make your comp titles movies, and don't say your book is intended for adults (the genre covers that). She also suggests focusing on one genre in writing, and gives four mistakes that show a lack of professionalism, such as using someone else's e-mail address to send a query. And she defines what counts as "timely" in the publishing world, as far as an agent following up with an editor about a submission goes.

Oh, yes, and if you've read the QueryShark archives (and you should), one of her readers has archived all her posts for easier perusal.

Writers Write explains why considering word count and staying within standard guidelines is important for debut books looking for traditional publishing.

And Hugh Howey gives some advice on why authors might want to switch to self-publishing. He pretty much says self-publishing is good. Publishers aren't bad, but you'll get a better deal self-pubbing, and if you do traditionally publish, make sure the contract is on your terms. It's got a lot of the reasons I've decided to switch to self-publishing first, and worth a read.

So, we're all terrified of adding a picture to a blog that's been copyrighted, and getting sued for it. But Imgembed, a new image site, aims to help bloggers avoid fear of copyright infringing by making it part of the terms: You can use the images for free, in return for promoting the artists.

And Rachelle Gardner talks about legal and effective pinning on Pinterest for authors.

And, taxes. Ready for them? Here's some advice for writers at tax time. (Thanks to Lauren Harris for the link!)

What other interesting publishing news have you encountered in the past couple of weeks?

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

The Hungry Writer

It's confirmed: I have a slow metabolism.

Our workplace has a nutritionist who comes by, and any employee can make an appointment with her. She has a device that measures resting metabolic rate. For my height and frame, the standard formula estimated I should have a RMR of about 1340 calories a day. The actual measured RMR was 1260.

This isn't big news to me, actually. Both my parents have historically struggled with weight, with varying success, and I noticed a significant decline in my own metabolism a few years ago. Like most women with moderately slow metabolisms, that means I have to be careful about what I eat in order to not gain weight. (Blargh.)

I do eat out. Like the food trucks that come by the work place each week: there's this Greek food truck that makes the most delicious lemon-soaked herb fries, and a dumpling truck with all sorts of delicious sauces. And of course I go to girls' night, where we do eat red meat and bacon and cheese and all sorts of unhealthy things...

...And where we also eat collard salads made with raspberries, cranberries, apple slices, banana slices, tomatoes, and balsamic vinegar. Where every meal has something green and delicious, like asparagus with lemon zest and cherry tomatoes, or cooked kale...

...And gravy, butter, and olive oil flow like water, and the ginger ale mysteriously disappears by the gallon.

The #1 thing trick to not gaining weight, for me, is being satisfied with what I do eat. And that means eating delicious things. Part of that means enjoying girls' night and using it to discover healthy new alternatives, while using the indulgence to restore my mental health.

I get 1325 calories most days (if it seems low, that's to accommodate the days I eat out, so I can still enjoy splurging with the girls and with writers' groups). And the local farmers' market is fantastic (excited jig because it's almost strawberry season). So hey, looking forward to a little bit of creative cooking!

I'm glad I did figure out what my RMR really was. Guessing has been troublesome, and I've often worried whether I was eating too much or too little. Now I know what I have to work with, so it should help me manage better.

Have you ever had your resting metabolic rate officially checked? Can you guess how it compares to average? How does that effect your eating habits and lifestyle choices?

Monday, April 1, 2013

April Fools

I'd ask for your help, but chances are, you changed, too.

I don't know what happened. One minute, I'm sitting around writing. The next, I hear a sound, sort of like wind but full of song and babbles. I go to look out the window, and by the time I get to the window--I'm a cat.

Yeah. That's right. Furry, four-footed, bewhiskered kitty.

A hundred butterflies giggle and dance past me, and all I can think is, Hysterics help nobody.

There's something odd about this feline form. Besides the whole feline thing, that is.

Cold. It's cold. The world is screaming, and I'm swimming in--in magic?

Then, suddenly, it's gone, and I'm sitting at the table again, my computer whirring and clicking back on, "Safe Mode" restart screen accusing me of doing something awful.

Does anyone know what's going on? Did you change, too?

There are kids on the corner, all clinging to each other and looking confused, by a stop sign covered in overgrown English Ivy. The walls are cracked, and the flowers on my balcony are withered to nothing, except the rosemary that's three times larger than before.

Last year I was worried about zombies. My baseball bat still sits in the corner after that ham sandwich incident. Thank goodness that got cleaned up before there could be real trouble (the zombie apocalypse ended 5 minutes after it began), but still, I thought for sure that the end of the world would be heralded by groans and brains, not butterflies and cats.

The bloody handprints on the wall, though: those are the same as I imagined. Where'd they come from? What did I miss? Why can't I remember anything but whiskers and cold? Is it gone now, for good?

This wasn't the apocalypse I expected...