Is This What Success Looks Like? Part 2

It’s been a strange last few weeks for me. Things have been changing at a vast rate of knots, and I’ve found I have had to look at what was once familiar with new eyes – on an almost daily basis. So I thought I might try to share some of my experiences with you – though I reserve the right to be private about specifics.

Regular followers of my blog will have noticed gaps in my weekly routine of entries during the last month. This has been in part due to the excess of events in my life, and in another part, to the necessity to take time out to process them. And it is about this processing that I find I want to write, this week.

In thinking about success, I have encountered a few unexpected things. I have lived for a long time now with the expectation of a dramatic change in how my life pans out. In short, it looked very likely that I would lose my home.

This is nothing new for me. I have lived in many different houses, in many different places, and often with the knowledge that I would be moving on after a relatively short time. I guess I’m not alone in this. But I’ve never been homeless, and I carry a constant gratitude to whichever deity is looking out for me, for this fact. It has engendered within me a further expectation that I never will be homeless. Something always turns up.

What is different this time is that I have lived in my current house for a long time, and officially, I actually own this one. So coming to terms with the fact that I might lose it, has been quite hard. Though, it turns out, not impossible.

During the last couple of years, I have let myself dream. I have conjured up, and played around with, any number of new scenarios – just to see what they looked like. And I discovered some of them were very exciting. So I had gradually come to a place where I was quietly reconciled to an empty future with multiple possibilities. More than a little reminiscent of writing a book, I think.

Then suddenly, something happened – out of the blue – which appeared to offer me the opportunity to stay in my current house, after all. It was at this point that strange things began to happen. After the initial elation, the eruption of hope and the dalliance with fantasies of what this might mean, unaccountably, I began to mourn the loss of the undefined future I had grown accustomed to.

Despite the comforting pleasantness of the picture unfolding in front of me, I was strangely sad. Sad that the unformed would remain so, that the unexplored might never be visited, and the envisioned would only ever be a vision, not a reality. Even though the future I now had very nearly sitting in my lap was definitely not something I would wish to throw away, it still made me sad to relinquish what might have been – along with the familiar uncertainty that had been my companion for a long time.

It made me wonder whether this is one of the reasons that some people never achieve success – because saying ‘yes’ to whatever form success takes for them, even if much desired, necessarily involves also saying ‘no’.

It might be saying ‘no’ to success in a different format, but which, perhaps, is not realistic or achievable. It might be a ‘letting go’ of previously held beliefs and expectations about life. It might even be a relinquishing of something that you want to relinquish – it’s still a kind of grieving, and it involves a change of heart.

To move truly into a place of success, I discover, means leaving something behind. And even if that is something I want to leave behind, my mind, my psyche and my soul will need time to adjust before I will be able to step into being successful and stay there.

I have met people before who prefer to be miserable rather than change. I am determined not to be one of them. I have a regular practice of finding at least five things every day for which I am grateful, and over the years, this has enabled me to love what I now have around me. My beautiful fireplace, the elegant tulips grown on my allotment, the photos of the dogs who have been my family – all are examples of this.

I now look forward to this new chapter with anticipation. I can’t wait to see what life throws in my direction next.


Is This What Success Looks Like? – Part One

When I first began to write fiction, about four and a half years ago, I had no idea how much my new ‘hobby’ was to overtake my life. A change in my personal circumstances freed up a space in my lifestyle, and I decided to take a class in creative writing. It was something that had intrigued me for a while, and now I had the opportunity.

I entered that first class with no expectations. I didn’t know whether I’d be any good at writing – though I had masses of experience at academic writing of all sorts. Essays, reports, theses, teaching texts, exams – both setting and taking. Needless to say, none of these prepared me for what I was asked to do at that first class.

But I’m a fast learner. In fact, I think learning is one of my best skills. I seem to have an ability to learn how to learn something new, very quickly. I can see where the difficulties lie, how the precepts of unfamiliar territory work and what new thought processes I’ll need to acquire.

I also have great faith in the plasticity of the brain. If I don’t yet have the neural pathways I’ll need to complete the task, I’ll set about creating them. In conjunction with patience, determination and perseverance, I can usually be assured a degree of success in any new venture. Whether I actually turn out to have talent within it, is something else.

So I arrived with confidence that I’d be able to manage something, but with almost total ignorance as to how I was to go about it.

I found the initial comments about my work, confusing. Fellow writers mentioned that I was ‘very intellectual’. My tutor talked about how my work would be improved by dialogue. That was the first week. I returned with a proper story the second.

Next, I discovered ‘viewpoint’, and how to stay inside one person’s head. I took on board the need for description combined with action. I learned about ‘show not tell’. In short, by the end of the first term, I was not only really enjoying what I was doing, I had discovered I was actually quite good at it. Surprise!

My second shock was the way a brief classroom exercise had developed into the beginning of a story – a murder-mystery. We began to learn about the  differences between writing short stories and novels. By the second term, I realised this murder-mystery was begging to be a full-length book. It unravelled quite happily at a steady pace, developing first into a crime thriller, then a full-blown international conspiracy.

With the realisation that I – somehow – knew how to do this, I began to investigate how to get published. And to write a blog about my thought processes surrounding this! That was two years ago.

And it was round about that time that I seriously started to question just how ‘successful’ I wanted to be.

That may sound a strange thing to say. Most writers I come across have only one dream, and it revolves around getting a book deal from a big publisher, and living a life of what is commonly known as ‘fame and fortune’. It didn’t take me long to decide that was not exactly the way I wanted to go.

Now don’t get me wrong. I have absolutely nothing against my book(s) selling, and selling well. What I have no desire for is the lifestyle I might be required to lead if I tried to align myself with a publisher, and if I were then to achieve a high level of the above-mentioned ‘f&f’.

You see, I have a very lovely life. I get to do almost entirely what I want to do every day. I don’t have to meet anyone else’s deadlines, I am not required to work to anyone else’s standards, rate of production or required number of hours, and I can take as much space to rest, ponder and play as I need or desire.

I get to walk in the countryside, with my dog, on a daily basis. I find time to knit, spin and otherwise play with yarns and fibre, as well as doodle with my crayons, grow vegetables and flowers on my allotment and watch the birds in my garden. I am able to cook each day with fresh, organic food, to sit in front of a log fire each evening and to stand and natter over the fence with neighbours and visitors whenever I want.

Consequently, when I began to consider what publishing success might mean, I found it was not what I really wanted, and for a while, it almost stopped me from writing.

Fortunately for me, the ‘f&f’ kind of success, within the book world, is not easily come by, so I didn’t have to waste too much time worrying about choices I probably wouldn’t have to make. It didn’t take me long anyway to realise I knew which choices were the important ones for me, and to feel very secure within them.

This was one of the reasons I opted for Indie-publishing instead of wasting my efforts on trying to break into the world of Publishers, Agents and Book Deals. This, the life I have now with the opportunities it offers, feels very like success to me.

I didn’t realise at the top of the page how much I would have to say on this subject. (You’d think I’d be wise to this by now.) Hence, my original title has been amended, so that this is just part one of a two-, maybe three-part series, exploring my thoughts. I hope it triggers some reflections for you, too.

How Many Conundrums Can You Get Into A Mini?

A more intellectual offering this week. It was non-fiction night at my writing group again. The more long-standing of my readers may remember my piece on the history of zero last year. This time round, I thought I might take a look at infinity …

To Infinity And Beyond

The story of infinity has, as you might expect, a middle but no recognisable beginning or end. In its various guises, it weaves its way through time and space, interacting with human history whenever the fancy takes it, and going off on its own adventures for the rest of – and presumably, the bulk of – its existence.

What I have written here is not an attempt at the history of infinity, nor have I striven to paint a complete picture of the complex, yet simple, idea. Rather this is a snapshot of my reflections about, and responses to, the intriguing concept. A piece about infinity.

I begin this way because I wish to point out that it cannot, of course, be a piece of infinity, because that would entail knowing how big infinity is. The construction of a fraction of infinity – indeed, of anything – can only be made by measuring the whole, and if one knew precisely how large infinity is, then it would, by definition, no longer be infinity. Infinity is infinity because it has no limitations or boundaries.

I offer this perplexing paragraph as an introduction because it sums up precisely the conundrums (or should that be ‘conundra’?), fears and ‘incomprehensibles’ that surround the concept of infinity, making it a thoroughly intriguing and challenging idea.

The first recorded writing about infinity comes from an ancient Greek philosopher, Anaximander, but the earliest use of it as a mathematical concept is attributable to Zeno of Elea, who you may remember had a lot to say about zero and the nature of tortoises. In fact, many of his ponderings seem to have included both zero and infinity as essential ingredients in understanding – or misunderstanding – the universe. For even in pre-Socratic circles, there were already a number of different kinds of infinity being defined.

The trouble with infinity is that it defies definition as much as it does measurement, making it a dangerous concept to play with. It is not a straight-forward mathematical notion, veering at will into the worlds of philosophy, metaphysics and spirituality. It just will not behave.

Why, then, bother to include it in such a precise discipline, one may ask. Surely, we’d be better off restricting the numerical world to numbers that actually have tangible meaning? Unfortunately, the blessed construct keeps cropping up of its own accord. For example, one cannot ask perfectly innocent questions such as what is the largest number?, or what do you get if you divide any number by zero?, without automatically arriving at the necessity to answer ‘Infinity’, even though the solution will appear to be imprecise.

Dealing with infinity is rather like trying to get a cat into a bag. Unlike Schrodinger’s cat who was apparently well-trained enough to sit inside a box (albeit managing to be both alive and dead at the same time), more normal cats have an in-built aversion to being contained, and will inevitably either employ shape-shifting qualities to leak through even the smallest opening, or use their excellent teleporting skills to transport themselves to the other side of a closed door, thus rendering it impossible to trap them where they do not wish to be. Infinity behaves in a similar fashion.

Doing mathematics without infinity is impossible, but doing them with it, is almost as difficult. Mathematicians, therefore, cheat. They make useable definitions of infinity, they create categories of infinity and they lie about what it really is.

For example, in the Jain mathematical text, written approximately in the fourth century BCE, all numbers are divided into three categories: enumerable, innumerable and infinite. These categories are further subdivided into three. Enumerable includes lowest, intermediate and highest; innumerable is made up of nearly innumerable, truly innumerable and innumerably innumerable; whilst infinite numbers can be nearly infinite, truly infinite and infinitely infinite.

Such wonderful nonsense persists today, as academicians everywhere attempt to make the unassailable, manageable, in order to practise their craft. The nomenclature of ordinal and cardinal infinites in set theory, the use of countably infinite integers as opposed to the infinite set of uncountable real numbers, and the subtle invention of hyperreal numbers which include infinite numbers of different sizes – are all magnificent illusions which enable mathematicians to do what they do.

Mostly, they seem happy with their tricks, but scepticism about this approach has brought about an extreme form of mathematical philosophy called finitism, with all the turf-wars that entails.

But if you think mathematicians have a problem, spare a thought for the physicists. After all, they have defined their branch of academia as the science of measurement, so they can get really ‘antsy’ when infinity shows up. Some take the simplistic view that if you can’t measure something, it can’t exist, however theoretically valid it might be. Mostly, they propose that using infinite series and the like is tolerable if the end result is physically meaningful.

These are the physicists who aren’t that keen on quantum theory. As you might imagine, infinity – in all its glorious manifestations – inhabits this world in abundance. When it appears as the inevitable consequence of a calculation, it is quickly hijacked and made into something more acceptable. A process known as ‘Normalisation’!

However, cosmologists inevitably come to the rescue, spilling the indefinable all over their infinite universe, proclaiming the impossibility of normalising, for example, a black hole and asking difficult questions such as how many stars are there? and how big is the universe?

Because here it becomes nonsensical to insist on limitations. Wherever one puts the end of the universe, there must be something beyond it. Enter the magical world of Topology – that magnificent branch of mathematics that deals with consistent properties of certain objects that remain after transformation, such as connectedness and continuity. We’ve probably all encountered the Möbius strip, that tantalising bit of paper with its single surface and one edge.

These adventurous ideas have allowed cosmologists to point out that the two-dimensional surface of the earth is finite yet it has no edge. Perhaps, they suggest, the universe has a similar topology.

I pondered this one on the park walk with Rosie, my collie, this morning. She very sensibly retorted that if the universe were ball-shaped, there would have to be a dog lurking somewhere nearby, with jaws big enough to clamp its teeth around said object – and where would your finite universe be then?

Whose Line Is It Anyway?

I had to sit through an extensive, rather stressful meeting yesterday – don’t ask. What was particularly interesting, though, was what I observed about different people’s perceptions, including my own. I was fortunate to have a friend sitting in with me who was able to mitigate the damage between two completely opposite viewpoints of how one sees the world, so that communication became just about possible.

This was not because the two people involved – okay, I admit one of them was me – were in any way trying to create misunderstanding. Alright, another admission – I did get a bit obstreperous at one point, but not because I was deliberately trying to be obtuse. I was merely expressing how I genuinely feel about things. It just happened not to make sense in that particular context to anyone in the room except me.

I have this habit of interpreting things said to me, firstly at a philosophical, ethical or metaphysical level. The practical, pragmatic or physical understanding of the comment arrives somewhat later. This can, I believe, make conversation with me somewhat strange and unpredictable. I experience such dialogue as exciting and adventurous.

I was struck, therefore, by the various viewpoints of the people in the room, in the sense of how they were perceiving and interacting with the flow of the discussion. Perhaps in a way that wouldn’t normally happen for me, since I rarely partake in meetings of this sort.

So that, for example, when the other person asked me whether a particular sum of money would make me happy (again, don’t ask), I replied by assuring said person that my happiness was not in the slightest dependent on any financial considerations. This, my friend interpreted for me, was not what the other person meant – he, apparently, was trying to ascertain whether I considered this sum to be satisfactory.

Do I come over as pedantic, unintelligible or just plain crazy, I wonder? Do I care, if this is the case? And why don’t they have the same questions in their head?

It’s a valuable exercise in viewpoint for a writer, because we are encouraged in contemporary writing to disclose the story from only one – or, at least, only one at a time. When you’re writing a scene between multiple characters, you have to know whose head you are in, and give insights only from there, in order to make your writing flow.

In the various writing groups I have participated in over the last few years, I have seen many aspiring writers struggle with this concept. Interestingly, although I was unaware of it when I first began to write, it was something I learned very quickly.

When people ask me how I manage it, I always say it’s because I get inside that character’s head. I literally see the scene the way they would. Watching from the inside out, if you will. So I never get confused about whose views I need to be expressing.

However, one has to be careful … because sometimes it’s very important to get inside another character’s head and see what’s going on there.

I heard someone recently read a piece that involved three people, telling the story neatly from one person’s viewpoint. This character then left the room, but instead of going out with them, the storytelling continued with the other two having a conversation without her – until she returned, when we, the listeners, were plonked back inside her head again. This is not impossible to do well, but without signalling it clearly, there was a definite ‘clunk’ as we shifted from one head to another.

I like to write my current crime thrillers from three viewpoints, but I will always stick with one per chapter. The three characters involved are usually in different parts of the country, each investigating different bits of the plot, so this can work quite well.

However, I had quite a shock this week when one of my non-viewpoint characters – a young constable acting-up as sergeant, temporarily – suddenly got up to leave the room. I was writing from inside my DI’s head. I knew he was going to query where Maxwell was going, but imagine my surprise when the young man said, ‘I have an idea’!

What?! Who gave you permission to do that? What the hell is your idea? Is it crucial to solving the case, for heavens’ sake? 

Because of the way I write, I let the characters lead the way, and I have very little, sometimes no, idea where the plot is heading. So to hear one of my characters declaring he might know something I don’t, was, to say the least, disconcerting.

However, I trusted the process, and although I never wrote a single line from Maxwell’s viewpoint, I was determined to sit inside his head until his idea showed itself, and then to describe my DI’s response first hand.

My patience and trust paid dividends, giving us all a vital piece of evidence a few chapters further on. Thank God! You’ve got to love this stuff …


To Be Or Not To Be … The Schrodinger Perspective

I have, over the past few years, acquired a new skill. That of following a  tennis Grand Slam in two and a half minute bursts.

There was a time when the BBC deigned to share the evening matches at the Australian Open with the British public through their red button service. That privilege suddenly disappeared, and for those of us dependent on Freeview, our only available option then was to access the tournament’s own website.

Here, one could find videos of almost any match of significance – but only handpicked highlights, reduced to perhaps one ‘best shot’ per set plus the final point, accompanied, if you were lucky, by commentary and the whole event lasting somewhere between two, and two and a half, minutes. It’s definitely an practised art to follow, and make sense of, a two week-long contest using this offering. Still, better than nothing …

This year, however, the Beeb upped their game, and during the second week of the competition, condensed a day’s play into an hour or so of highlights, each afternoon. So I was able to enjoy a fair dollop of the men’s final on Sunday and witness Federer’s historic twentieth triumph at this level, securing him, perhaps for ever, as the highest scoring male player in Grand Slam titles.

The problem with having access only to highlights is that they don’t tell the whole story. However well the entire event has been edited, the end result is never going to be the same as sitting anxiously through a long drawn-out five-setter, that might go on for several hours.

So, it was not easy to tell whether the sudden comeback on Cilic’s part during the fourth set, was really down to a better attempt on his part to play well, or a drop in intensity of the part of last year’s champion. I found myself wondering whether the enormity of what he was about to achieve, suddenly became frighteningly apparent to Federer, and his concentration – his ability to be fully present – was temporarily thrown.

I’m sure we’ve all experienced such moments. Occasions when we know, beyond all doubt, that the next few minutes will change our lives for ever. Attending an interview, giving birth, stepping off the kerb… The examples are endless, and sometimes we recognise there was such a moment when we have to face the consequences. Like backing into someone else’s car! If only we could turn the clock back a few seconds …

In the high-adrenaline minutes before something dramatic happens, it can sometimes seem as if we’re moving through treacle, as we wait for events to play themselves out. We know there will be a far-reaching conclusion, but we don’t know exactly what it will be.

I was reminded, recently, of the delightful concept of Schrodinger’s cat. (I was researching quantum entanglement – stuff for another blog, I think). It’s quite a popular idea these days, cropping up all over the place. Devised originally as way to illustrate a problem with a particular interpretation of quantum mechanics, it has become a useful way of approaching any kind of paradoxical situation in which the outcome may be positive or negative.

The cat in the original scenario – poor thing is shut in a box with a potentially lethal set of apparatus – may be alive or dead. In fact, could technically be considered as both alive and dead. The only way to resolve the dilemma is to open the box and observe firsthand. The cat, at that point, would then be alive or dead, thus resolving the paradox.

I wondered if this was the kind of ‘angst’ that Federer was experiencing during that fourth set. He knew there would definitely be an outcome to the match, and he could, at that stage, envisage it both as winning and losing, but until the final point was played, he couldn’t know for certain what the end result would be.

This is a brilliant place, I think, for writers to inhabit. The world of potentiality. If, like me, you write the story as you go, you will find yourself continually taking the Schrodinger perspective, when, at every stroke of the pen, or tap of the keyboard, you could change for ever the fate of your characters.

And even if you write to a fully-drawn-up synopsis, you still have to convey to your reader that sense of multiple possible storylines, else they may not stay with you and read to the end. It’s that unravelling, unwrapping, slowly discovering, journey that makes your writing worth the patience taken.

And that’s just not possible if you open the box too early.

A Critical Point

Recently, I received my first negative review on Amazon. At least, they counted it as negative. It was only three stars, and since all the rest of my reviews so far (for The White And Silver Shore) have been five stars, they classed it as ‘highest negative review’. Well, if that’s the worst I get, I shan’t mind.

And that ‘I shan’t mind’ marks a critical point for me. I find I am extremely glad that I haven’t received a ‘negative’ review up until now, because I think I might have been profoundly affected by it, had it appeared previously.

Despite my belief in what I’m doing, and my love of writing, putting myself ‘out there’ requires supreme confidence, and maybe, just maybe, a negative review arriving earlier in the process would have subtly undermined my determination to push ahead.

I have a rather sad history of listening too hard to other people’s comments, when often they are just that – comments; and I’ve, all too often, ended up being super-critical of myself as a result, and lost my way.

Nowadays, I am much more willing to listen to my intuition. Indeed, I’m much more able to hear it. I guess that skill comes with practice, and the more you’re willing to heed those inner messages, the more they become available. However it works, it works really well now.

So, it was quite interesting to read this review, and to reflect on what it said. The key point – the only really critical point – which the author made was to say that, like all first novels, it would have benefited from some serious editing. A point with which, at some levels, I am now able to agree without detrimental derailment.

But … I also disagree.

It all depends on what you want a first novel to do. Sure, in terms of marketability, or attaining the heights of literary fiction, most first novels will fail miserably. And I certainly never aspired to fulfil the second category with my first attempt. (In fact, I’m not sure it’s a field I particularly want to be part of; but that’s a subject for another blog.)

For me, and I’m sure for many other first novelists, it was an exploratory venture. A initial enterprise to discover just what I could write – having never attempted to do so before. I found it strange, exciting, unnerving, dangerous, to let myself loose with a pen within the realms of fiction. I could literally write whatever I wanted to, make it up as I went along. Which, of course, is what I did.

But what else I discovered – as I began to take on the concept that my initial short exercise stretched into the beginnings of a story, and then expanded into a chapter, before declaring its intent to become a novel – was that I had a need to say a lot of things I’d never had the chance to say out loud before.

Some of these things were personal – insights about life, recollections of experiences, wishful ‘thinkings’. Some were experiments – creating dialogue,  setting up a murder investigation (could I make it unravel satisfactorily?). Some were me trying to convince other people of the beauty of my favourite place – or maybe I just needed to describe my love of Skye for myself.

And that’s the point, I think, of a first novel. Somehow, it’s about saying all those things – for yourself. Just because you can. And sometimes, that will produce a lovely book that other people want to read. And sometimes, that just doesn’t matter. The point is to do it.

Because once you’ve written one, there’s absolutely no reason why you can’t write another, and then another, and …

And the more you do so, the less impact the criticism will have detrimentally, and the more you’ll be able to access it in a positive way. Because now you’re in charge of what’s happening. You will have passed that critical point where there’s no stopping you …

Mirror Mirror …

Those of you who, like me, have been following and thoroughly enjoying Star Trek Discovery over the past few months, will be aware that the crew have recently visited  – indeed, appear to be stuck in – a very dark and dangerous universe, completely alien to their own.

The Mirror Universe is a plot line well-visited on Star Trek, but rarely has it grabbed hold of its entire crew and kept them there for more than a single episode. (I confess here to not having watched every episode of every incarnation of the franchise, so I may be mistaken and am willing to be corrected.)

However, the latest unfortunate adventure sees the starship and its inhabitants well and truly entrenched in this malevolent, disturbing place, and it looks like we may not be leaving for a few episodes yet.

The idea of a mirror universe is a fabulous one. Most of us as writers are familiar with the idea of a person’s shadow – that part of our character which we would rather not have to admit to and which we often find very difficult to face, let alone reconcile. This makes for a very useful way into a story when one is exploring a specific character.

What is so fascinating about the mirror universe is that it takes this concept one step further. Everyone in the universe is a weird transformation of who they present as in the ‘real’ world. Obviously, the ‘goodies’ come over as less than favourable, but those who are normally recognisable as dodgy, dubious or downright evil have a chance here to become champions and heroes.

Take Voq, for instance, a fairly typical un-politically-correct Klingon, who majors in trying to put down all and sundry in the name of Kahless, including his fellow warriors. In the mirror universe, he gets to be a leader of the  rebellion, uniting any number of alien species against the ruthless Terran empire. Oh yes, it’s the humans who have relinquished any idea of respect or peace in this world.

Interestingly, when Michael challenges him to explain how he has come to be in this position, he still talks about the importance of unity within the Klingon tribes under the ideals of Kahless, but now states that because the Klingons are at one within themselves, they are able to be open to others from outside their race.

This is the beauty of the idea of the mirror universe. It is not a straight reversal of the original, nor is it, for each individual, a simple visit ‘to the dark side’ (to mix my sci-fi references). As a concept, it has innumerable places to go because each of us is a complex person. And in our writing, so should our characters be, if they are to be life-like.

I believe the idea of a mirror universe could be a utilised as a fantastic writing aid, because it allows each character’s potential to be fully explored. If you were to try writing your character from within this perception, you would begin to clarify quite clearly who this person could be if they chose differently, and therefore define who they definitely are not in their current situation.

I would think – I have yet to try this out – the technique would help tremendously in enriching the persona of a novel or short story, enabling one to avoid thin, superficial characters and to create a rich canvas for each personality, even if most of it never reached the page.

As I have said before, I don’t believe good writing features its people in a vacuum. We need to know much more about the characters we create, than we actually spell out, if they are to be credible.A visit to their individual mirror universe could be just the treatment they need to achieve this.

If nothing else, it could allow us to envisage new perceptions which might influence the story we’re telling. Remember, after all, what happened to Alice, not to mention Snow White.