Friday, January 2, 2015

No-kiss/Almost Kiss 2015!

Happy New Year! 2015, you definitely won't be an ordinary year (Oh, HAI, BOOKISHLY EVER AFTER! My book babies will hit the world this year! *tries not to freak out*)

But I'm kicking the year off with one of my favorite traditions--taking part in the annual no-kiss/almost-kiss blogfest, hosted this year by the wonderful Amanda Byrne (click on her name to head over to her blog and the blogfest linky posty thing where you can read even more no-kiss goodness!) This year's excerpt started as something only for the blogfest, but was so much fun to write that it has turned into what I've been calling my procrastination book. In fact, the original piece I wrote for the blogfest clocked in at a nice 2.5K words (oops,) so I've cut out the beginning to make it a more respectable 1.6K!

Warning: I'm also mid-revisions on Bookishly, so this only had minor revisions and edits. Still, I hope you like it!

No Kiss Blogfest 2015:

            “Remember, Sabina, play to the crowd. Make sure they can see all the sparkly. Show off your accessories. Call out Hoshiko's transformation phrase or something. Anything to show you’re really into character.” Ariel fixed my hair so it fell in perfect teal curls over my left shoulder.

            “Got it.” I looked nervously at the AnimeMidlanticCon costume contest organizers who were trying to, well, organize us backstage and shoo out anyone who wasn’t a part of the contest. “They’re going to call security if you don’t get out of here.”

            “Fine," she said, straightening my rhinestone-d ribbon bow before stepping back and nodding her approval. "Fight for the heart of the stars!” She yelled on her way out, getting a snicker from some of the cosplayers. She stopped in the doorway, shaking her head at them. “You guys know Elsa making out with Jack Frost is definitely not canon, right?”

“Good one.” One of the girls dressed like a Sailor Soldier from Sailor Moon giggled, hi-five-ing Ariel.

            As soon as she was gone, I leaned against the wall and closed my eyes, trying to forget that almost every costume backstage with me was amazing.

            “Princess, you look so distant right now, truly like the stars you defend.” A deep voice came from right in front of me and I opened my eyes to a pair of the darkest blue eyes I’d ever seen. They scrunched a little bit as their owner broke into a smile. “Princess?”

            My world spun for a second, reality, manga, and anime smushing together. I blinked and the rest of him came into focus. Black hair, a little bit on the longish side. An Imperial Star Defender formal uniform, the armored chest plate bright silver with a sun instead of a star to signify the head of Princess Star Soldier’s warriors. And the boy dressed in them was right around my age with a body that fit the uniform perfectly. I swallowed back my double-time heartbeat and decided to answer in character. “I am simply contemplating the universe, Takeshi. Will we ever truly be able to enjoy peace?”

            He took my free hand in his. “I will fight until my last breath to fulfill that wish, my Princess.” He broke out of character and let go of my hand, stepping back to take in my costume. “That costume is epic.”

            “Ditto.” Even his boots were perfect, like he’d just stepped off the screen. The hilt of his sword caught my eye, especially what looked like an LED behind the blue crystal. “Wait, does your star sabre actually work?”

            “Why wouldn’t it?” He drew the sword and the jewels all along the hilt lit up, tinting our section of the dark backstage blue.

            “It’s just funny because,” I flicked the switch hidden under my ribbon so that all the tiny LEDs I’d set into my bodice and skirt lit up like a starfield and squeezed the hidden button on my star-staff so the crystal at the top glowed the same shade blue as his sword, “I wired my dress to imitate her transformation look. I guess we had the same idea.” After twirling to show off the whole effect, I snapped off the lights to save battery. I needed my “glow” to last the whole masquerade ball tonight.

            “Takeshi” stepped back a little more and studied me, nodding, lips twisted like he was thinking . “I have an idea, Princess. What if we change our entries from individual to group? We can split the prize when we win.” He slid the star-sabre back into his belt and the hilt went dark again.

            “You’re pretty confident about us winning.” I tried to sound cool instead of jumping at him. Being one of two people on stage would be a million times less nerve-wracking. Being one of two people when one looked perfect? Even better.

            “Nah, I’m confident about you winning. I’m just tagging along to ride on your wave.”

            “You’re as much of a flatterer as the real Takeshi.” He had to be messing with me —the chestpiece on his armor, alone, would get him right to the top on its workmanship, alone. My sewing and rhinestone skills had nothing on actual metalworking. 

            “And you’re as bad as the real Hoshiko when it comes to not really answering a question. What do you say? They’re gonna start calling us up on stage soon. I’m number three in line.”

He held out his hand and, after a second’s thought, I took it, curling my fingers around his gloved palm. “Okay.”

“Takeshi” pulled me through the people lining up and straight to the front, where a girl with a clipboard was talking into a headset. “Hi, I’m number three, and I just found my princess backstage. It’s not too late to combine our entries, is it?”

The girl smiled and shook her head, her bunny ears bouncing. “Nope, you’re still good.” She pulled a pen out of the clipboard clip and held it poised over the clipboard. “I don’t blame you, you look awesome together. Name and number, Princess Star Soldier?”

“Uhm, nineteen. Sabina Aino.”

“Got it. You two are on right after Akira.” She pointed with the back of her pen at a guy working on his martial arts poses. “Good luck. Fight for the heart of the stars,” she added with a wink. She moved to the front of the line, talking into her headset.

He let go of my hand and I bounced nervously on my heels as we waited. The first person to go was an Eternal Sailor Moon that got an “oooooh” from the crowd when her wings unfurled to full size. Nothing like having the first entry be absolutely amazing. We were so going to lose to something like that.

Akira bounded onstage, and “Takeshi” took my hand again, moving it so it rested in the crook of his arm. “Follow my lead, okay?”

I bit my lip nervously and nodded.

“Okay, entry three, you’re on.” They announced our names, but I couldn’t hear anything over the claps, Ariel’s whooping, and the anxious buzz in my ears as we made our way out to center stage and the fashion-week-like runway that brought us out into the middle of the crowd.

“Light up now,” he whispered out of the corner of his mouth as he let go of my arm and drew his star sabre, turning it back on. “For the heart of our planet!” He yelled out, swinging his sword into Takeshi’s battle pose.

I followed suit, turning on my dress and swinging my lit staff into Hoshiko’s battle pose, saying, “For the heart of the stars!”

He gently grabbed my arm and pulled me in close—I thought we were about to go into a standing pose like the cover of act forty-one, but he dipped me, instead, his sabre and my staff crossing in front of us like the classic Takeshi-Hoshiko art for act thirty, when they declared their love for each other. “And for the heart of my princess,” he said, loud enough for the crowd to hear but not so loud that he was yelling into my face. He bent closer and my heartbeat sped up as if I’d really just gotten out of battle. Tingles, like star energy, ran along my skin where his arm circled around my back and burned my shoulder, where his hand held me securely. The logical part of me yelled that I knew nothing about this guy, but that voice faded along with the noise of the crowd. It was me and Takeshi glowing under the spotlight, like stars. His lips came within a breath of mine and I closed my eyes, tilting my face up to his. We were so close, I could feel the energy jumping between us. Just a tiny bit closer…

And just as suddenly, he swung me back up to standing. “Sorry about not warning you,” he said under his breath as he swung his sabre one last time at the crowd and turned us to head back up the runway. His cheeks looked a little red and he looked out of breath, too. The lights and crowds were probably affecting him as much as his dip affected me. He lifted my hand and planted a kiss on the back of it as we reached the wing of the stage.

I managed an “It’s okay,” as oxygen came back into my brain, right before he led us down the stairs, into the audience, and right at a jumping and screaming Ariel.

Ariel yanked me away from him and grabbed me by the shoulders. “That was so, so perfect. Who was the Takeshi guy? Is he single? What’s his real name? The announcer’s microphone sucks.”

“I—” I turned to see him disappearing into a swirl of people slapping him on the back and taking his picture. “No idea.”

“The two of you in that last pose was the hottest thing I've ever seen. You so need to get his number.”

“Ariel, I don’t even know his name.” I resisted the urge to touch the back of my hand. I knew it was all an act for the audience and votes, but my burning skin refused to believe it. At least it was dark enough in the audience that no one could see the blush that was probably turning me coral.

“Don’t worry about that. You’ll definitely win and you can get it from him then. And then you’ll date, marry at a future Animemidlatic Con in Princess Star Soldier and Takeshi wedding outfits like that one couple yesterday did, and you’ll have adorable cosplaying babies.”

“Oh, shut up, Ariel.” I dropped into the closest chair and switched off my lights. From the starry look in her eyes, she wasn’t even teasing me. I needed a slap of reality, not someone else feeding this stupid attachment to a random guy.

“Shh. Look at that Madoka cosplay. So perfect!”

For the rest of the hour, I tried to pay attention to the rest of my competitors, but all I could do was scan the audience behind me for a silver and gold uniform and a blue light.
Happy New Year! I wish you all a year filled with joy, growth, and wonder. And many almost-kisses that turn into real ones ;)

Monday, December 29, 2014

No Kiss Blogfest is coming!!!

It's that time of year again! If you regularly follow this blog, you know that every year on January 2nd, I jump on the no-kiss bandwagon and post a short or WIP excerpt or SOMETHING that involves an almost but not kiss :)

I consider it a fun writing exercise, but you can also post pictures, video, excerpts from your favorite no-kiss scenes (with proper attribution)... you get the idea. Hop on over here to sign up and join in the fun.


Sunday, December 21, 2014

Light (a re-post)

(reposting from last year, because it's still true)

I love Yule. I love light festivals. I love how we celebrate light in the midst of darkness. From Diwali to Hanukkah to Yule and Christmas, I love how we're so different yet so alike at the same time. I love how pretty the world becomes these times of the year. (And for my southern hemisphere friends, have a wonderful Midsummer!)

Another year and a repeat quote from my paper journal December 21st, 2001 entry: 

"Tonight is Yule-- the longest night of the year.

Tonight reminds us that even the darkest of nights are followed by light, and that even in the worst of times, we have hope. No night is so dark that day will never follow. long as we have hope, it will never truly be dark."

You might not know it, but many of you have been my light in the past, either through your posts, books, comments, texts, or just by being you. 

You are all incredible. 

On this solstice, I wish you all lives full of light and hope, as bright as the brightest stars in the sky.

Details from my snowflake skating dress :) I thought the sparkle is rather applicable!

Friday, October 31, 2014


I've had a LOT of change in the past few months--transferring divisions in my company and moving full time to South Jersey (and still moving!) But I couldn't miss Halloween!

What book lover could pass up a chance to dress as Belle? I mean, really, her accessories include at least one book. I made the Once Upon A Time version of the blue dress because, honestly? Prettier!

"Sometimes the best book has the dustiest jacket. And sometimes the best teacup is chipped."

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Bonfire and Visions (Yearly Midsummer Repost)

Reposting my midsummer post from two years ago, with minor edits. This is one of my favorite times of the year for all the old Celtic and Ibero-celtic traditions my grandmother used to tell me about:

Celtic dolmen, Portugal (Beira Alta Region)
There's magic in the simple fountain* in my family's village. According to local legend, if a girl drinks water from it in the middle of the night on Midsummer's eve, she will dream of the man she is meant to marry. 

If you believe in the old traditions, that is.

And if you believe in these traditions, you probably would have already jumped the midsummer bonfires, maybe while holding hands with the boy in town who had stolen your heart. Because, you know, jumping the bonfire will guarantee that you will stay together forever.  And, of course, you wouldn't have forgotten to crack an egg into a glass of water to leave outside for another 'bout of pre-sunrise fortune telling.

Anything's possible on Midsummer.

A lot of this folklore is amazingly similar to Midsummer traditions throughout Europe. Generation upon generation of girls, with the help of Midsummer fountain water, dreamed of the boys they would love. Will o' the wisps were chased through forests. Magic and wonder wove into the everyday for just one night a year.

These customs are dying out with my grandparents' generation as young people move overseas or to the city, or push away "silly old superstitions." Sad, because they stretch back centuries, back to the days before Christianity replaced "Midsummer" with the feast of St. John. 

I still think the magic is still there, waiting. 

All you need to do is take a sip and believe.

*These aren't the jumping water kind-of fountains, but usually just spigots of continuously running spring water from the mountains or faucets connected to a communal well. Before modern water towers and plumbing, families who didn't have their own wells were dependent on the town fountain for their drinking/cleaning/bathing water. Many towns still test the water to make sure it's drinkable, and many fountains still run to this day.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

BEA in Pictures

At the end of last month, I slipped on a comfy pair of shoes, hopped on mass transit, and made my way into New York City to attend BEA, a North American publishing industry conference.

This is so not like the Medical Device Manufacturers conference or the North American Spine Society meeting or the Association of American Orthopaedic Surgeons meeting and definitely not like the Cervical Spine Research Society meeting. The first three may have a massive number of booths that fill a venue like the Javitz, but they're mostly packed with *everyone* in suits.

Plus, no one lines up in massive lines for anything at any of the other conferences :) And none of them have practically shirtless guys hanging around a certain publisher's booth. (I felt uncomfortable passing that publisher!)

Of course, the other conferences don't have BOOOOOOKS or the awesome people who make and market them. Or my publisher or my amazing editors or my wonderful agent.

The other conferences may have me, but without the rest that BEA does, I'm just a bright drop in the bucket of black and grey suits.

This post is going to be *insanely* image-heavy. So, for the sake of computing power, sticking everything under a cut.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

The Poconos Picture Post

I went to the Eastern PA SCBWI Poconos conference at the Highlights Foundation in Boyd's Mills, PA from May 2nd-4th. While I can babble on forever about friends and workshops, inspiration and so,so much kidlit love, let's start with pictures (and captions!) Warning, this post is insanely image-heavy!

The Barn. Gourmet food, 24-hr ice cream and coffee and snacks, workshops, and chatting 'til late!
The farmhouse (I stayed there this year)
Pre-yoga 6am view from the farmhouse kitchen.

Playing in the poetry garden! (Don'tcha love my camperific clothes?)


A little inspiration
The cabins (I WANT ONE!!!)

S'mores at night. Burnt marshmallows are the best marshmallows!
Our writing prompt table--pick an item and write a paragraph about it, then hang it up on the wall.

I wrote a *little* more than a paragraph. Oops.

Even though winter stretched into spring this year, April showers apparently did bring May flowers!
 This is my favorite conference, surrounded by nature and everything writing. I could live in those cabins and eat that amazing food with no chance of ever getting bored.

What is your favorite conference?

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

My Call Story...

... is up on Michelle Hauck's blog, if you're curious. (You know you are... *Jedi mind tricks you into clicking the link*)

Even if you're not, definitely stop by her blog and read the other call stories she has posted-- there is so much inspiration on Michelle's site. A lot of waiting and rejection and surprise successes. A ton of different paths to that email or phone call or google hangout invite. It's really inspirational.

So click, you know you want to :)

(disclaimer: No Jedi mind tricks were used in creation of this post.)

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

The "OMG, I Have Author Photos" Post

Apparently, when you get a book deal, people start asking for your picture, which is something I probably should have realized, but didn't, along with a bio (Oh, that's fun and easy. Hahahahahaha, Eep.) While I have no shame sharing with you my ridiculous "I'm trying on new makeup, look ma, eyeliner" selfies:

or my "It's CAMP NaNoWriMo TIME! Look at my writer battle-paint" selfies:

I thought it would probably be a good idea to get real photos taken by someone who knows what they're doing. I could have turned to family, but, while I absolutely love them, they're not photographers. In fact, most of the photos end up looking something like this:

Oh, look, BOOKS. What the heck is going on with my face?
I think I saw something like this in a horror film...
 To be fair, dad has managed a few pretty awesome pics like this:

This pic and the one above were taken in Sintra, Portugal at the Quinta da Regaleira 
 But while I'm brave, I'm also a Ravenclaw and Erudite (translation: I'm not that brave, but boy, can I think through things) so I contacted Rachel McCalley, a local photographer whose portfolio blew me away. I wanted to take my pictures here in South Jersey, where my heart is and where BOOKISHLY EVER AFTER is set, and Rachel looked like she'd be the perfect photographer.

And she was!

She calmed my nerves and made me laugh (especially when a random fisherman would wander into the background or when I almost fell in the lake. Twice,) and I had so much fun. And the pictures-- it was so hard to choose! (there's one I absolutely loved because it was SO fairy tale, but I chose others that were more versatile, instead *pout.*)

But enough of my chatter! See for yourself:

Outfit change! Rachel said my coat and dress had a "Little Red Riding Hood" look, and we had some fun taking pictures in the woods!

 What do you think? Any favorites? And can you spot the fisherman in one of the photos?

Location: my hometown in South Jersey.
Photocredit: Rachel McCalley,

Fun fact: While telling Rachel about Bookishly, I mentioned that a location in the book was inspired by a camp I attended in 6th grade-- and apparently, so did she! In fact, there's a scene in the book inspired by something both of us lived through at that camp (us, my sister, and apparently every girl our age in the county.)

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

The Writing Process Blog Hop

Earlier this week I was tagged in the Writing Process Blog Hop by the awesome Fifi the Ninja! Hi, everyone joining me from her blog--I hope I don't disappoint!

Soooo... here we go!

1. What are you working on?

While I'm waiting (nervously!) on edits on Bookishly Ever After, I've been pouring my time into other writing projects. Lately, I've been torturing myself with Summer Story, a WIP my regular blog followers might notice I've been whining about since last August. It's hard and beautiful and scary. Like I always say, it's probably not very marketable, so I'm really writing this for me, to get it out of my system, even though it's hard.

Plan: I'm bringing the first 10 pages and synopsis with me to the Poconos retreat peer critique session in May, so I need to, well... write the synopsis.

Confession: I actually like writing synopses *ducks*

Problem:  I don't think the main character's stakes I'd originally planned are high enough. The internal conflict is on track, but the external conflict is... meh. I'm back to throwing around plots and diving into character motivations. It's good for me. It also gives me heartburn.

I know Summer Story will be lovely. It already makes me smile and gives me chills when I read what I'd written to this point. I just need to get past this latest round of "this WIP is going to age me a gajillion years."

I will, until the next round of "this WIP is giving me heartburn" hits.

2. How does your work differ from others in your genre?

I wrote it.

Here's the thing--unless you're a mind reader, we never know what and how others see the world, except through their books. No matter how different my characters can be from me, my writing will always be colored by my experiences, how I see the world, how my eyes interpret colors and nature and buildings around me. You get a peek at the world I see and hear and feel.

It's the same with every writer, and that's why reading is so magical. For a little while, we get out of our heads and get to jump into someone else's world, even become someone else. (That's why studies show reading increases empathy!)

3. Why do you write what you write?

Because the voices in my head tell me to?

I write for and about teenagers because they're amazing and interesting people. I write what I like to read and what YA me would have wanted to read. And I'm so lucky that's the voice I write best.

4. How does your writing process work?
  • First comes the idea, jotted on whatever flat, portable surface I have on hand or recorded into my phone or voicemail if I'm driving. Sometimes, it starts with dialogue or a scene. Then, I put the idea aside.
  • Into the moleskine: Every idea that survives sitting for a few days gets a mini moleskine. I jot down characters, locations, bits of dialogue, and plot concepts, enough to get it out of my system and save it until I have time to work on it.
    • That keeps me from chasing a million plot-bunnies and having multiple WIPs
  • From moleskine to planning: I try to get a good idea of where I want to go, key scenes, etc. Those get jotted onto post-its.
    • Usually at this point, I start writing out a scene or two to understand my characters, especially if that scene is screaming to be written. This might change the plot as I get to know my characters.
    • I'm a plantser. I can't write without a map telling me where I need to go, but I do change my plot sometimes. Usually when I'm stuck, it's because I don't know where to go.
  • I write clean-ish first drafts. I know a lot of people want to get all the words down fast, but I don't work that way. It's not perfect and sometimes the plot is wonky, but I like fixing glaring errors and typos as I work. Then, I go back and re-read, looking for places where the plot isn't working or fixing the plot.
    • Cleanish draft or no, there's still a TON of revision. My first draft never goes out to anyone--usually, I only start thinking about sending it out to my critique partners around the third draft, and even then I know it might have a long way to go.
Aaaand, that's my process! Now, I get to tag three other people to share their processes!

First, Veronica Bartles, whose debut novel, Twelve Steps, just released not too long ago and is sitting in my Nook, begging to be read (I need to clone myself, seriously.) While you're visiting her blog, check out her books and her crock-pot recipes. Plus, she's a fantastic critique partner who I met through cpseek.

Next, Deena Graves. I've been lucky enough to read some of her MSS, and woah, I can't wait to see these on shelves! Seriously. She's also invaluable both as a CP and as a friend, especially lately when I frantically text her for fashion advice or during nail-bitingly massive nervous moments.

And last, but not least, Diana Sousa. We met during (I think) the Writer's Voice about a year and a half ago, and I was fascinated by her pitch, and we became twitter friends. Plus, she's a bilingual writer whose primary language is Portuguese but who writes in English and is all-around super talented. You have to get to know her!

She also is nice enough not to make fun of my laughable Portuguese tweets :)

Now that you know my process, any thoughts? Are you a plotter, pantser, or plantser? How do you write?