Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Does Versatile= Eclectic?

Derailing my usual, organized blog stream (oh, who am I kidding?  Do any two posts on this thing have anything in common?) to ascend to the virtual podium and graciously receive a Versatile blogger award from Colin D. Smith .

Oh, make a speech?  Sure!

I'd like to thank Colin, for mistakenly reading my complete and total scatterbrainness as versatility.  I'd like to thank the voices in my head...

*Gives a look of annoyance at the whispering coming from the side of the stage* Not that kind of speech?  What do you mean, tell people seven things about myself?  What kind of acceptance speech is THAT?  *heaves a huge sigh* Fine.  Buzzkill.

So, seven things about me.  Hmm.

1.  I'm a first generation Portuguese-American.  My parents immigrated to the US when they were young-- my dad when he was twelve and my mom when she was sixteen.  I'm the first generation of my family born in the US, though we've had family members coming and going from here since the eighteen hundreds.

2. My first language wasn't English.  And I wasn't accepted at a preschool because I stubbornly decided that green= "blue"  Most of my English was learned through osmosis in preschool and Sesame Street.  Now, I can speak both languages but am much, much better in English

2a. I talk in my sleep.  And, apparently, I sometimes talk in my sleep in Portuguese. (learned that in college)

3.  I'm always cold, but I love snow and figure skating.  Go Figure.

4.  Speaking of cold, I love Canada.  I have yet to meet a province or territory that I haven't loved (uh, don't send me to Nunavut in the winter to prove me wrong, okay?)  I've volunteered at two Canada Games (PEI and Nova Scotia) and am seriously contemplating a third (Sherbrooke, Quebec.)  When visiting Parliament in 2010, I actually knew who the first PM of Canada was (Sir John A. MacDonald, who LM Montgomery had met when she was young,) and got teary-eyed when NDP leader Jack Layton died this past summer.

"My friends, love is better than anger. Hope is better than fear. Optimism is better than despair. So let us be loving, hopeful and optimistic. And we’ll change the world."-- From Jack Layton's last letter to Canadians

5.  I once did a clog dance for a character part in "La Fille Mal Gardee".  I even went on my toes in my wooden clogs.  Because that's how I roll (in ballet.)

6.  I always get hungry whenever I read the first chapter or so of Dracula.  But that's because the main character describes so many wonderful meals! Chicken Paprikash--- mmm!

7.  Most people ease into the cadaver part of my job with one body, usually in a small lab situation.  My first cadaver lab had about twelve bodies, all in a bit of a mess because they had already been in use for about a week.  And I had to cross through the lab to get to the changing room while they were pulling the bodies out of the body bags.  When I reached the locker room, I sat down on a bench and dropped my head on my knees, groaning, "I can't do this.  I just can't do this."  But I pulled myself together and I haven't had a breakdown since.  I'm always surprised at how strong we are.

And now it's time for me to pass the torch onto other (much more) deserving bloggers.

J'aime (and it's not just because she's Canadian)
Wait.. What? - who kept me from talking to plants at the SCBWI conference
Madeline Martin -- you will never look at history in quite the same way again

And... though I'm supposed to give out 15, it's 11:53pm, I have a pulled/torn something in my leg, and I'm kind of falling asleep at the keyboard....so you all get three.  And you'll be happy about it.

*Grabs award and runs off with a wave, yelling "You love me, you really love me!"*

Saturday, January 28, 2012

SCBWI Winter Conference

I am exhausted, exhilarated, and energized.

Two days of the SCBWI Conference down, and one more to go.  As tired as I am after these first two days, I wish that this conference would never end.  I'm learning so much and meeting so many amazing people.  I cried today, during an amazing talk.  I laughed so hard that my sides hurt.  I fangirled an editor and tweeted about how I thought another was cute (more on that in another post...)  And, unlike my usual work conferences, this one isn't filled with people in suits talking about cervical myelopathy or showing bloody pictures of cadaver spines.

Instead, we talk about books and the process of making them.  And I'm loving every single moment.

(plus, Yay, NYC!  Going shopping/possibly skating tomorrow after the conference!)

Thursday, January 26, 2012

When Zombie Worlds Collide

(a day late because I started writing on Wednesday night... and fell asleep.  Let's pretend it's still Wednesday!)

Road Trip Wednesday is a ‘Blog Carnival,’ where YA Highway's contributors post a weekly writing- or reading-related question that begs to be answered. In the comments, you can hop from destination to destination and get everybody's unique take on the topic.

This Week's Topic:
Write a dialogue between two of your favorite YA characters

After my last post, I just couldn't resist the chance to play with two (or maybe more... we'll see if anyone else wanders in) of my favorite Fictional Dead Boys.  Today, I'm introducing Bram from Dearly, Departed to Vincent from Die For Me (the Revenants series.)  Let's see how this conversation would go...


This Paris was disconcerting.  All of the research and holos that Ren had pulled up for me on the Aethernet hadn't prepared me for the noise and smell and differentness of this place that no longer exists, at least in our time.  I hurried down the streets following a memorized map, thanking God Nora wasn't with me.  If her Punk practice clothes made her blush, I couldn't imagine her reaction to some of the clothes that these old-time women were wearing. 

I swung around a corner to find the bridge over the Seine that had been indicated on my map.  Someone high up in the New Vic had made a deal with a completely different kind of monster to get me here, and another kind of monster was supposed to meet me on this bridge, in this very spot, to give me some information before I was sucked back to my own time.  "Excuse me, are you Captain Griswold?"  A slightly accented male voice came from behind me and I turned, pulling my scarf up higher on my face.

His blue eyes grew wide when he caught sight of me, but he quickly swallowed back his surprise and held out his hand.  "Jean-Baptiste told me to come meet you.  I am Vincent."

"Call me Bram," I told him automatically.  Formality was silly, considering what we were going to be talking about.  "So... I've been told that you have something for me?" 

Vincent handed over a book almost as thick as the ones that Renfield was always dragging around with him and a bag full of what looked like test tubes.  He studied what was showing of my face with a frown.  "You're not like any of the other non-humans I've ever met."

"My girlfriend would beg to differ about the non-human part." I retorted.  "Just because I have the Laz doesn't make me less human.  And you don't look dead at all."  In fact, he looked healthier than most living people.

He ran a hand through that black, wavy hair. "Well, I've been 'dead' for about eighty years or so.  And you?"

I gaped at him.  "Three years."

"I win."  He flashed a confident smile.  Chas had warned me about these Frenchmen being worse that the Victorian aristocracy, but this guy took the cake.  My opinion shifted, though, when that smile then turned to a chuckle.  "I can't believe that we're debating about who is more dead."

"Yeah.  It's still hard to believe that you're a zombie, though.  I didn't think the Laz showed up until my time."

"I've never heard of this 'Laz.'  We're Revenants."  He leaned against the bridge railing, never really relaxing.  His eyes would alternate between sweeping the bridge and continuing to study me.  It wouldn't surprise me if this boy also had military training. 

"Never heard of them. Maybe they were all destroyed in the nuclear blast of the second American Civil War. Maybe they still exist and our military just doesn't know about them. Hell, I just found out about them yesterday, when someone contacted Victor to let him know that you people existed."  I rolled the bag of test tubes in my hands.  The blood in there could be the key to fighting the Laz in our undead bodies without making us un-undead.  "Then again, I didn't know anything about whatever sent me back to this time, too, so, apparently, I'm on a need to know basis about fellow monsters."

"I would--"  He looked down, as if he was listening to something and sighed, speaking to somebody who wasn't there.  "Jules, I don't think that's something I should--"  He listened again and then looked back up at me with an apologetic smile.  "My friend has a question for you."

I looked around, but no one was there.  Warily, I gave the Revenant a shrug.  "Okay..."

"You have a girlfriend?  A living girlfriend?"

"Yes.  Her name is Nora."

Vincent listened again, letting out a small laugh.  "Jules wants to know your secret.  He says that you're his new hero."


That's my Fictional Dead Boy conversation... how about you?  Are there any fictional characters that you'd like to introduce to each other?

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Fictional Dead Guys

I have a confession to make:

I have a thing for fictional dead boys.

I think that it started in high school/college with my vampire obsession, fueled by Dracula: the Series (Don't laugh! It was a complete and total cheesefest, but it was still awesome), Dark Shadows, and Forever Knight, as well as multiple readings of Dracula, Anne Rice, and books like The Vampire Diaries.
If it had stopped at vampires, I could possibly pass it off as a trend... or maybe a freak incident.  BUT:

The other night, I sat in the deserted gym locker room for an HOUR reading just… one… more… page of a book (and one more, and one more) because of a certain steampunk-dystopian zombie named Bram who was making me melt (1). And the other night, a French zombie kept me company for hours as I swooned over his sweet interactions with his girlfriend (2).  I can't get enough of these latest incarnations of fictional zombie boys. (1-- Bram from Dearly, Departed, 2-- Vincent from Die for Me and Until I Die)

Yes, I said zombies. And, as someone who occasionally works with dead bodies, I need to pause and note here that real dead people are in no way, shape, or form, hot. Or animate. Or even good-smelling. (TMI and gross, I know.) I’m only into fictional dead guys, okay?

So, why are these fictional dead boys (FDBs for short) so wonderful?

  1. There's something so interesting about someone who has lived through history.  These FDBs didn't just live in the past (well, most of them-- we're excluding Bram for now because he's a special situation), but they almost always had "lived" through an interesting part of history.  As if they have an internal GPS for all of the big events of their era(s).  It would be so INTERESTING to be around someone who actually LIVED in the 1930s (and not just thought that he was from the '30s, like an unfortunate coffee date that I had once. I'm not exaggerating, btw. Occasionally wearing vintage and knowing about big band music= cute. Getting a little TOO into the whole scene, down to talking about famous people from the time as if you had met them? A tad too weird for me.)
  2. They know how to be chivalrous and treat their girlfriends in a way that has gone out of fashion and yet, they're not chauvinistic jerks.  As a woman who works in a traditionally male field, has been asked "You're such a pretty girl.  Why aren't you married and at home with children by now?" and has been ignored in meetings in the past by men who are "uncomfortable working with women", this mix of old-fashioned mannerisms and girl-powered support in FDBs is dead sexy. (see how I worked that pun in there? Hee-hee!)
  3. Even dead, they're gorgeous.  And strong.  And you know that they won't get pot-bellied and out of shape the minute that they're comfortable with your relationship.
  4. They write letters.  With paper and pens.  In bea-u-tiful handwriting with language that will melt your heart.

My 1940's New Look platter hat and 1960s gloves!

All of this shouldn't be too much of a surprise. I love history, fairy tales, and myths. In college, I was a part of the medieval society (specializing--for our group-- in costuming and dance. I can still do a mean flirty curtsy and really miss "Toss the Wench"), I'm doing a 1940's themed skating program, own a replica Victorian under-bust corset, and have a few outfits that would easily pass in the '40s and '50s... including a pile of vintage hats.  These FDBs would fit in my world so well!

So, bring on the FDBs.  I'll be waiting here, fully costumed and ready to go out dancing (oh, did I mention that FDBs dance, too?  *swoon*)

At the Pennsylvania Renaissance Faire-- I made the outfit, minus the wreath!

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Tips to Enjoy Ice Skating

I know that this must be the most eclectic blog ever.

But, I'm a pretty eclectic person.

Six years ago, I was recovering from an achilles tendon rupture that basically had me on my butt and crutches/walking boot/limping for about six months.  I had always been afraid of skating, but the boots seemed supportive and it actually turned out to be great therapy for me-- while I was limping on the ground, I flew on the ice.  Now, I'm jumping and spinning-- and live for the perfect wooosh-wooosh-wooosh sound of a centered scratch spin.

Nothing is impossible. Six years ago, I could barely walk. I had almost no muscle in my left leg, and skating had always been a terrifying experience that involved me clutching the boards and falling on my butt. Now, I still fall on my butt, but I also can do some pretty awesome stuff:

Scratch Spin with crossed arms, video taken this December

Falling still happens-- a LOT.

Rehearsing my 1940's style program in the dress that I'll be wearing (without the tank top underneath!) I'm still working on keeping my balance with the weight of the skirt dragging at me during jumps and spins.

Still, as someone who started skating as an adult, I remember those terrifying public sessions.  And now, when I see kids and adults struggling to enjoy themselves on the ice, I can sympathise.

There are a few common (And easily repaired) mistakes that I see at the rink every weekend that actually make recreational skating less enjoyable.  Note: I am not a PSA certified instructor.  However, I have six years of experience on the ice and skate at the Adult Bronze level.  Always use your own judgement when skating!

(Skating is also on my mind 24/7 because the main character in my current WIP figure skates.  So, I guess that something like this works in a writing-ish blog?)

Tips to Enjoy Ice Skating:

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Taking a Road Trip to My Dream Writing Retreat

Road Trip Wednesday is a ‘Blog Carnival,’ where YA Highway's contributors post a weekly writing- or reading-related question that begs to be answered. In the comments, you can hop from destination to destination and get everybody's unique take on the topic.

This week's topic:
Describe your dream writing retreat.  Where would you go?  Who and what would you bring?

Oh, this is EASY. 

When I was ten years old, a friend of the family gave me a box set of books about this ten year old girl named Emily, written after WWI by a woman named Lucy Maud Montgomery (and set at the turn of the century).  Emily, like me, wanted to be a writer... and she lived on the most beautiful island on the planet, this amazingly magical place called Prince Edward Island.

Visiting PEI became a dream of mine and, in 2009, I realized that dream.  I wasn't disappointed.

Cavendish beach, PEI (2009)

Cavendish Beach, PEI (2009)
Now, since this is my dream writing retreat, I think I would like to have that retreat in the old Montgomery homestead at Fox Point (Malpeque)... supposedly the original "New Moon.":

Image courtesy of lmm-anne.nethttp://www.lmm-anne.net/
 She saw a big house peering whitely through a veil of tall old trees–no mushroom growth of yesterday’s birches but trees that had loved and been loved by three generations–a glimpse of silver water glistening through the dark spruces–that was the Blair Water itself, she knew–and a tall, golden-white church spire shooting up above the maple woods in the valley below. But it was none of these that brought her the flash–that came with the sudden glimpse of the dear, friendly, little dormer window peeping through vines on the roof–and right over it, in the opalescent sky, a real new moon, golden and slender.
— Lucy Maud Montgomery, Emily of New Moon
Image courtesy of lmm-anne.nethttp://www.lmm-anne.net/
 ... or, perhaps the Mongomery Homestead (which, sadly, I think went up for sale *sniffle* and is no longer a museum)?  You can't see in this photo, but the hills behind the house slope down, down, down soooo green, towards the bluest water that you will ever see.

Montgomery Homestead, PEI (2009)
Even just driving about PEI is like being in a picture book, or maybe OZ, with all of its COLOUR (Yes, Canadian spelling.  Because how could I NOT while up there?!?!?):

“Much of the beauty of the island is due to the vivid colour contrasts – the rich red of the winding roads, the brilliant emerald of the uplands and meadows, the glowing sapphire of the encircling sea.”
“I had forgotten that the ponds and rivers of Prince Edward Island were so brilliantly, so unbelievably blue. I walked and prowled by night and day amidst all the old beauty, as I had not done for years.”
– L.M. Montgomery

On the road, PEI (2009)
I would set myself up in the lookout of one of those houses, with an old-fashioned desk overlooking the sea... or an orchard.  My cat, Phoebe, would be given free-reign of the house.  Of course, practicality would mean that I would bring my laptop, some cozy clothes, and my entire library of LMM books.  And, right beside me would be a crock full of "Aunt Laura's" famous doughnuts.

This is where I dream of writing.  Now, tell me: where is YOUR dream retreat?

Monday, January 2, 2012

NO KISS Blogfest... & Some New Years Excitement

In a fit of crazy yesterday, I signed up to participate in the No Kiss, Almost Kiss blogfest created and run by the awesome Frankie Diane Mallis.  In this blogfest, you are supposed to share a scene (either from a WIP, a book, etc, etc) where two character almost kiss... but don't.  Definitely the perfect way to start off 2012.

In that same fit of crazy, I had decided that my entry would be a new scene between two of my characters in my MS, set about a year before the events in The Desired. 

But then... we had an awesome family announcement (NEW BABY coming to the family in July!  EEEEE!!! My knitterly self is dying with happiness and baby knitting cuteness)... which led to much New Years reminiscing where mom brought out piles of photos and started talking about when we were babies, and, to top off the night... I ended up coming down with some sort of stomach virus. 

So, you're getting a semi-first draft that I whipped up between hugging the toilet bowl and eating dry toast this morning. (What a way to kill the steaminess.  Sorry!)

When you're done here, go HERE to find a list of other participants and to continue the steamy, no kiss goodness.  Steaminess that wasn't tainted by dry toast and dreams of baby knitting.


“I still don’t know why you agreed to this.  You’re going to miss out on the awesomeness of the party if you’re working the whole time.”  Jer stared at the dark window in front of them.  Sara had dragged him away from the town Halloween party to climb the four story stairway up to Lonaconing High’s clock tower with single-minded purpose.

The camera bag looked conspicuously out of place against her costume’s delicate cobwebby black and silver dress, its strap jostling at her wings with every gesture.  “This is for the Inquirer.  Getting some pictures in that paper would look great in my college applications.”

He shook his head.  “Just take a few group pics, some closeups.  They aren’t expecting more than that.  You don’t need to kill yourself for a page four article in the suburbs section.”

She threw him a dirty look over her shoulder.  “Look, just help me get up on the balcony so that I can get an overhead shot.  I can’t climb in this getup.”

He sighed, gesturing towards her camera.  “Give me that.  I’ll go up there, take a few shots for you…”

She shook her head so hard that she nearly dislodged some of the ribbons woven into her hair.  “And share the photocredit?  You’re sweet, Jer, but I need to do this myself.”

“You are effing stubborn.”

“Whatever.  Give me a boost, please?”

With a sigh, Jer grabbed her by the waist and lifted her through the window.  When her feet disappeared into the dark hole, he hauled himself up to join her.  “Nice view.”  The balcony was narrow and small and he had to steady himself when he realized how close they were standing.  Sara had leaned against the clock face to catch her breath, her chest heaving with the effort.  The corset that she was wearing pushed… things… up and he had to fight to keep from looking, well… down.  Jer forced his eyes over to the points that she had glued onto her ears and still felt the heat rising into his cheeks.  Since when did elf ears become so sexy?  “Are you okay?”

                She gently set her camera bag on the floor and turned to look out over the festival below them, visibly paling.  “I—“she quickly turned back to face him.  “I’m really not afraid of heights… but, frack”  Her fingers gripped the railing so tightly that her knuckles turned white.  “I’m going to need a minute.”  She bit her glittery lip.  “Are you okay?”

                “Yeah, I’m great.”  He awkwardly pat her arm.  “I’ve been practicing getting up here with some of the other guys for next year’s senior prank.  It’s going to be epic.”  He tugged at one of her black bat-like wings.  “Hey, at least you have wings.”

                “Very funny,” she said dryly, but seemed to relax slightly.  “With my luck, they’ll get caught on the clock hands and I’ll end up splattered on the school green.”

                “I think they look awesome.  Actually, I think you look awesome.”  Barely touching her skin with his fingertip, Jer traced the glittery swirl running from her collarbone to her cheek.  “Nice touch with the sparkle.”

                Sara visibly caught her breath and sounded slightly choked as she spoke, but didn’t pull away from his hand.  “I thought it was a fun twist on the dark faerie thing.”  Momentarily forgetting her fear, she reached out with one hand to touch one of the black runes that he had scrawled on his bare bicep.  “And what are you supposed to be again?”

                “A Shadowhunter.”  At her blank look, he frowned.  “You know, from the books? ‘Looking better in black than the widows of our enemies’ and stuff?  The whole rune thing gives me that edgy look that you girls love.”

“Ri-ight.”  Sara rolled her eyes, but her hand flattened against his arm, burning hot against his cool skin.   “Aren’t you cold?”

“Nah.  I’m naturally hot, you know.  And I think that one of these runes is supposed to be some sort of protection against the cold.” 

“You are such a geek.”

His hand seemed to have a life of its own. Moving from her cheek to her hair, his fingers carefully tucked a loose curl of ribbon behind that pointed ear.  Sara didn’t seem to mind.  “If you have a sharpie in your camera bag, I can draw a fearless rune on you.”

She laughed softly, her big brown eyes meeting his.  “You’re the only person I know who would put on a black t-shirt and pants, draw all over yourself with a marker, and call it a costume.”  Her eyes flickered again briefly towards the drop behind her and she stiffened.

“Let go of the railing, Sare.  I promise that I won’t let you fall.”  He worked her fingers away from the metal, curling them instead between his own.  His voice grew softer, his other hand resting on her bare shoulder.  Damn, that off-the shoulder thing was distracting…  “Someday, you’re gonna be this awesome photojournalist taking pictures of some revolution while hanging off the side of some giant monument and I’ll be in a grungy local paper’s office, talking about my glory days when you dragged me up into the school’s clock tower for one of your first iconic shots.  But you have to trust me first.”

“I always trust you,” she murmured, “You’re my best friend.”  The hand that had been sitting on his bicep slid down his arm and gripped the faux weapons belt that he had mocked up, pulling him closer.

Jer choked back a surprised sound.  He’d been in love with her since eighth grade, but Sara had put him firmly in the “friends” category, and he had never done anything that might mess up that relationship.  But now... “Uhm, what are you—“

She turned, her one hand still gripping his belt, and reached for her camera bag.  Those damned wings whacked him in the face and he shoved them aside.  “Just hold on to me while I get these shots, okay?”  Her eyes sought his again.  “If you drop me, I’m dragging you with me.”  Her voice shook, but her free hand was steady as she turned on her camera.

                The corset-thing felt weird under his hands, the satin and metal bones pressing into his palm as he pulled her close.  “I’ve got you.”

                “Thanks.”  Camera strap wrapped tight around her wrist, she bent forward slightly and started working, her body relaxing as her focus shifted to her art.

                The photographer in him usually loved watching her work, watching as she caught something that he would have missed, or pointing out a good angle that she hadn’t tried.  But this time, he couldn’t focus, hyper-aware of how much of her body was pressed against his.  Even sliding one of his hands down her arm to help her balance the camera made his heart beat so fast that he was convinced that she’d be able to feel it through their clothes.  He closed his eyes and tried to think about tomorrow’s US History test.   The Alaska Purchase was definitely the opposite of hot.

            “Last picture.  Oh, thank God.”  Sara slowly turned in his arms, camera hanging limply from her wrist.  “Why were you talking about eighteen-sixty-seven?”

                “Alaska purchase.”

                “Right.”  She shrugged and then wrapped her arms around him in a hug.  “I think I have some awesome shots in here.  Thanks to you.”  She tilted her face up at him, beaming.  The glitter on her skin glowed in the faint light of the clock face.

                He bent his head until his forehead touched hers.  “You’re the one who took the pictures.  I was just your tripod.”

                Their eyes met and the world around them froze.  Sara was breathing just as rapidly as he was, though he couldn’t tell if it was from the fear, from excitement, or something else.  She reached between them to trace one of the marks at the neckline of his shirt.  “See, I didn’t need that fearless rune, after all.”

                Fearless.  He had seen how Sara’s eyes had lingered on his lips.  Jer bent forward, closing his eyes, and could feel her pulse speed up to match the staccato beat of his own racing heart.  His lips brushed her hair, skimmed that glitter swirl on her cheek… 

“Uhm, Jer…” Sara whispered, her breath tickling the corner of his lips.

His heart skipped a beat.  They were so close.  “Hmm?”

“Isn’t this where we’re not supposed to kiss?  For that blog thing?”

He groaned, opening his eyes to take in her serious gaze.  “Can we please ignore that stupid blogger?  Sare…”

“We’re just friends, remember?”  An impish smile crossed her lips.  “You know, if Stacey Stratford sees us up here, she’ll definitely never go out with you.  I’ll bring down your hotness factor.”

Jer blinked, trying not to groan again.  “Uh, yeah, right.  Wouldn’t want that.”  He let her go, watching silently as she packed up her camera and slipped down into the tower again.  “Frackin’ stupid bloggers,” he muttered, and then, with one last glare at the clock, followed her off of the balcony.

(Many apologies to Cassandra Clare for the Shadowhunter references, but Jer just couldn't help it.)