Thursday, April 26, 2012

Wings Week!

To prepare for the release of Destined, the fourth and final book in the Wings series by Aprilynne Pike, HarperTeen is hosting "Wings Week." Starting yesterday, you can read Wings for free for a week.

I don't book blog-- y'all know that by now. I fangirl occasionally about books that I love, but I REALLY have to love them to have them on here. (BTW, these next two months? Dangerous!) Wings is one of those series that I just devoured in one shot last fall and I've been waiting for Destined with bated breath. It may be the sparkle, but... I really do love this series.

Why I love Wings:

1. I was born in August, which would make me a summer fairy. Summer fairies are dramatic and creative. They dress in bright colors and lots of sparkle. They're the dancers and actors and artisans of Avalon. SO ME!!!

Yes, that's tinsel in my hair. I sparkle ALL OF THE TIME.

2. The infamous line that so needs to be on a t-shirt (if you read the book, you know what I mean. If you don't, let me know and I'll hit you over the head with my hardback copy of Wings)

3. Tamani. That's all. *fans self*

In honor of Wings week, I'm reposting the link to my Laurel-inspired makeup look from earlier this month and asking all of my fellow Wings fans to show their creative side, Summer fairy style. Post the link to your Avalon-friendly projects in the comments, if you dare!

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

It Feels So Good To Write...

... after a few days where I couldn't:

"MAY 15, 19--

"This has been a lyric spring day--and a miracle has happened. It happened at dawn--when I was leaning out of my window, listening to a little, whispering, tricksy wind o' morning blowing out of Lofty John's bush. Suddenly--the flash came--again--after these long months of absence--my old, inexpressible glimpse of eternity. And all at once I knew I could write. I rushed to my desk and seized my pen. All the hours of early morning I wrote; and when I heard Cousin Jimmy going downstairs I flung down my pen and bowed my head over my desk in utter thankfulness that I could work again.

Get leave to work--
In this world 'tis the best you get at all,
For God in cursing gives us better gifts
Than men in benediction.

 "So wrote Elizabeth Barrett Browning--and truly. It is hard to understand why work should be called a curse--until one remembers what bitterness forced or uncongenial labour is. But the work for which we are fitted--which we feel we are sent into the world to do--what a blessing it is and what fullness of joy it holds. I felt this to-day as the old fever burned in my finger-tips and my pen once more seemed a friend.

"'Leave to work'--one would think any one could obtain so much. But sometimes anguish and heartbreak forbid us the leave. And then we realize what we have lost and know that it is better to be cursed by God than forgotten by Him. If He had punished Adam and Eve by sending them out to idleness, then indeed they would have been outcast and accursed. Not all the dreams of Eden 'whence the four great rivers flow' could have been as sweet as those I am dreaming to-night, because the power to work has come back to me.

"Oh, God, as long as I live give me 'leave to work.' Thus pray I. Leave and courage."

-L.M. Montgomery, Emily's Quest, Chapter XII

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Back From the SCBWI Poconos Conference...

... and it was quite a journey.

Emotional because:
  • It was my first Poconos conference and the cozy environment lets you get close to your fellow conference mates and faculty. It's such a supportive and friendly environment.
  • Though I thought that I was going to be cool and not geeky... I burst into tears upon meeting Laurie Halse Anderson and while telling her why I loved Wintergirls. (maybe more on this in a later post)
  • My grandmother died on Friday night and I got the call during the evening keynote speech. Since there was nothing I could do, I just cleaned myself up and headed back into the conference. Throughout the weekend, as my friends learned what had happened, I received an incredible amount of sympathy and support... but they also helped me to push on and keep moving, keep learning.*
Amazing because:
  • The faculty (authors, agents, and editors) workshops and talks, each and every one, taught me so much. I'll go into some of those in a later post when I have a chance to compose my notes, but suffice it to say that I left the conference with a bag full of writing and revision tools that I can't wait to put into practice. And yes, Laurie Halse Anderson, I will try to cut back on my tweeting (Issy crosses her fingers behind her back)
  • Critiques-- both my peer critique group and my faculty critique. I know where to take my revisions and how to make my manuscript shine. I also gained great insight into how editors and agents would look at my synopsis, pitch line... even genre. And a few key questions have shown me that I need to rework my pitch and synopsis to make the uniqueness of my story shine through... otherwise, it will get lost in the pile of vision stories and paranormals.
Inspiring because:
  • I met (and met in person, and reunited with) so many incredibly talented and passionate people. I can't wait for the day when I get to hold all of their books in my hands. My shelves will be groaning.
  • Candy. Writing prompts. Challenges. Art. BOOKS. Hotel photographs with hidden images.
I'll write more in the next few weeks/days. It's going to be difficult for me to recap for a few days, but I wanted to get this post up right away.

Thank you, SCBWI of Eastern PA, for hosting such an emotional, amazing, and inspiring conference.

*I couldn't stop and dwell. I couldn't do anything back home, and the best thing for me was to keep moving and learning. All of my friends let me cry on their shoulders and then helped me to focus. That was the greatest gift that I could have been given.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

YA Eye of the Day: Kate (Revenants Series)

Today's look comes from one of my favorite series by one of my favorite authors. If you couldn't tell from some of my fictional dead boy posts, I absolutely love the Revenants Series (Die for Me, Until I Die*, and... ?) by Amy Plum. So, of course, I couldn't wait to work on this eye makeup.

Plus, look at this cover! The covers conjour up thoughts of mehndi and satin, and, of course, classically red lipstick (like a proper Parisienne.) So, I pulled out the closest thing I had to red eyeshadow and played!

(as usual, putting this under a cut!)

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Teaser Tuesday: Place and Magic

Last week's road trip made me think about the influences for some of the places in The Desired. The little piece below was inspired by some of the grand abandoned homes in the towns, most of them buoyed up by backstories of family disagreements or strange wills (one huge manor property has fallen into disrepair because the original owner's will had a stipulation that it could only pass to the first nephew of the owner. Over one hundred years worth of inheritors have been trying to find a loophole around that clause and... until then, it has been abandoned. No one wants to pay for upkeep of a home and land that won't go to their kids.) People who have been inside of some of these homes told me about lavish ballrooms and inlaid wood floors as well as intricate ceilings that put our family's ceilings to shame.

Part of my bedroom ceiling. There's a hook in the middle of the flower for hanging a lamp.
And, like the trap door and other quirks in my maternal grandparents' home, these houses held secrets. Just dreaming about these secrets has given me years worth of writing ideas. BUT, today I'm just giving you one of Sara's glimpses into one of those abandoned homes:

“Thanks.” I tested each step as I went up the staircase, only putting my full weight on them if they didn’t bounce back. For sixty-plus years of neglect, the wood actually felt pretty solid. Still, I was glad I had skipped that extra piece of chicken at lunch. The banister was a little bit shaky, but the wood felt warm and smooth under my hands. The floor creaked under me and a rotten board would occasionally crush under my heel, but overall, it felt safe to walk here. Upstairs, another set of wooden doors covered in peeling light blue paint opened easily with a light push. These had been the main living quarters and, as I walked down the hallway, bedrooms and sitting rooms broke off to each side. Light filtered through dirty windows, reflecting off of the dust that I was kicking up with each step. Ignoring all of the side rooms, I kept moving forward to another large doorway at the end of the hallway where it looked like another set of doors used to hang. Something about the doorway seemed to promise an interesting room.
My instincts were right. I stepped onto the stone lintel of the far room and gasped at the room before me. A wide, empty space opened beyond the doorway, punctuated with a number of long, arched windows wrapping around three sides of the room. Window-seats were carved into each window alcove as if they had organically grown there. A delicate, wood-inlaid floor stretched the entire length of the room.
This must have been the ballroom my grandfather had mentioned.

The entire room was beautiful in a decayed-but-breathtaking way. I wandered further into the room, trying to be careful to not damage the floor. The room’s walls were covered in a material that felt like raw silk, in a color that looked like it might once have been a pink or peach, and a section frayed miserably under my fingers when I touched its surface. Furniture, covered with drapes or layers of dust just as thick as I’d seen downstairs, sat in a little ring near a fireplace with a collapsed mantel.

As I stood there, that same feeling of almost being able to see the room as it had been rushed through me and I reluctantly gave into the feeling.  Slowly, my vision overlay the ruin that presently occupied the space around me, and the room came to life. A soft sheen came back to the walls, cobwebs disappeared from the carved wooden ceiling. I bent over a table and blew at the dust, amazed that, as it flew up, the table began to gleam like new.    Tentatively, I blew into the room and it righted itself even more, drapes appearing in the windows and lights in the empty wall sconces. “Oh, damn….” I whispered, then, with a deep lungful of air, exhaled once more, watching as, in a swirl of dissipating dust, sixty five years of neglect disappeared. A fire crackled in the fireplace, its mantel now solid and intricately carved. I stepped into the center of the room, turning a full circle in amazement. “I did this…” I murmured to myself in shock, laughing a little bit. The whole thing had me torn between euphoria at my newfound ability and fear for my own sanity. Just to make sure that this was all real, I squeezed the key still in my hand until its carvings dug sharply into my palm.

Monday, April 16, 2012

YA Eye of the Day: Laurel (Wings Series)

I am not a beauty blogger. Makeup review posts from me would sounds something like "Ooooh, this is sparkly. I WANT" or "this doesn't have enough glitter. Time to pull out the Lorac 3D liquid Lustre!" And I have a lot of respect for those bloggers who put themselves out there daily or weekly with photographs of their amazing eye makeup.

But an idea hit me the other day while I was in the makeup aisle at Target, looking at the Pixi Tinkerbell Collection and thinking about how perfectly those colors would fit Laurel from the Wings series by Aprilynne Pike... at least, based on the way I picture Lauren.  I had been online earlier that day, surfing through all of the posts in the Makeup Bunny Sailor Moon Collaboration (where a collection of bloggers each created makeup looks based on a Sailor Senshi and a Villain--soooooo awesome), and I suddenly thought of doing my own YA eye of the day, inspired by my favorite heroines. And maybe other book and makeup geeks like me might jump at the opportunity to make their own YA "look" posts!

Because shots of eyes aren't up everyone's alley, I'm posting all of this under a cut:

Thursday, April 12, 2012

RTW: Forests and Tombs and Cities, Oh My!

This really should be about The Rapunzel Curse, or diving deep into my half-outlined contemporary. But lately I've received two wonderful critiques on the first two chapters of The Desired that have me heavily in edits... again.  I can't complain, because I love the result.  To be honest, the beginning of the story was missing... something, and both critiques sparked my imagination with the perfect "something". I've paused my queries and am back in Sara's world. Therefore, for my YA Highway Road Trip post, I'm answering

What images inspire/ represent your WIP?
for The Desired.

Like I've said before, place is as much a character in my stories as any person. The idea for Sara and her story came to me about a year and a half ago while I was in the cemetery in my "hometown" in Portugal. As I stood in the middle of a granite walkway (swaying a little bit from my constant low blood pressure,) I could just see ghostly figures weaving amoungst the tombs and the entire place flowing back to how it had looked centuries ago. From that moment forward, I couldn't look at a new place without thinking of this shift and how it would affect my nameless teenage character. Ghosts of places and people became my constant companions everywhere I went that year.

But, to really have a story, first there had to be a place. Sara's grandparents' house and land is a mish-mosh loosely based on my maternal grandparents' properties with a bit of my paternal grandparents' mountainy home thrown into the mix.

My family's yard. In the foreground- a rosemary bush, in the background, orange trees and roses.
 I wove in the woods that I've known since I was a baby. Land that has been in my family for centuries, filled with pine and eucalytus and fern, pine nuts sitting on the ground next to blackberry bushes. And the occasional stone house that is barely kept standing.

There's a tiny stable on the righthand side, but this house isn't being used now.
This was mostly used for storage and as an occasional overnight shelter for farmworkers.
The closest city is Coimbra, and Sara hops trains there all of the time. She even drinks at a charming little cafe in the city. In the fall, students in full uniform-- down to their capes!-- wander the streets and pop into the bookstores. Shoppers trip down steep stairways. This is a gorgeous city.

One of the shopping avenues in Coimbra. Charming, but pricey!
But, then... there's also the paranormal element. Hints of the past that haunt my main character. In a landscape that still has remnants of its celtic and roman inhabitants, it's impossible not to find signs pointing towards bits of roman road, prehistoric dolmens in the middle of the woods, or tombs on the edge of fields (in fact, many of these prehistoric, celtic, and medieval tombs were broken up by landowners who didn't want to waste nice, big hunks of stone and that stone was repurposed for walls surrounding the properties. Talk about a creepy vibe!)

A double tomb carved in a huge stone on my great-uncle's property.
According to a local historian, this is likely early medieval. Tombs like these litter the landscape.
Plus, there's just... something about stone walls and granite staircases that captures the imagination and adds that surreal element for any of us who spend most of our time in fairly modern North American buildings.

Taken with my grandfather's old bellows-style Polaroid camera. My shoes are too modern!!!
This is the outdoor stairway that leads to my bedroom (cool, isn't it?!?!?!?)

 And this last picture wasn't taken in Portugal, but definitely still captures the feel of Sara's world:

Taken on the grounds at Drumthwacket, the NJ governor's residence.
I love how the light flooded out this image.
These are my images and my story... what are yours? Comment here or go on over to YA Highway to join the roadtrip!

(all of the images above are mine...)

Sunday, April 8, 2012

I Haven't Had Chocolate for Fourty Days...

... and I have a ton of edits that involve butt-in-chair action, PLUS I'm working on critiques for the Poconos conference in late April...

Yes, those are more Cadbury Creme Eggs in the background

... this could be bad.

(Happy Easter, Passover, Spring festivals, long weekend...)

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Let's Hear it For the Boys!

Back on New Years Day, my baby sister and brother-in-law announced that they were pregnant.  And about a month ago, they had a "gender reveal" during my BIL's birthday party.

It's a boy!

To be honest, when I first heard about pregnancy I picured myself as the aunt of a little girl, doing little girl things, hanging out with her as the cool aunt when she's a teen. Maybe even if I was published by then, being the cool author aunt who wrote stuff that she would love.

But when we bit into the cake balls that my brother-in-law had made for the occasion, the cake inside was blue.*

One of my mom's "little boys"
Suddenly, I thought... "Oh. Boy. A boy. What am I, glittery, sparkly, ballet-dancing and figure skating me, supposed to do with a boy? How am I supposed to be that cool aunt now?" (My practical, girl power voice is screaming right now, "But if the baby was a girl, she might not like traditionally girly things, either! Kids are kids, and even boys can like sparkle." But that still didn't stop me from seeing my dreams of introducing a niece to her first MAC makeup counter float away.)

But, now? I'm excited. I'm looking at little hockey shirts and imagining taking a little brown haired, brown or hazel -eyed munchkin onto the ice. Playing ball with him. Watching him grow up into the awesome young man I know he'll be.

Plus, I love writing the male voice, like Jer and Dev. In about fifteen years, I'll have a beta reader who can totally kick my butt when I'm being inaccurate.

*They didn't have time between the ultrasound and the party to have a cake professionally made, so my sister left the room while my brother in law got the news... and he made chocolate covered cake balls that night so that the gender was a surprise for my sister, too. My BIL is awesome.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012


It's time for another Road Trip Wednesday, courtesy of YA Highway:

Who has helped you in your reading/writing journey?

As soon as I saw this RTW, I knew that I had to participate. A lot of the people who have helped me grow as a writer don't even know how important a little something they said might have made a difference in my life.

  • All the teachers who have encouraged me along the way. You saw something in my writing and encouraged me to play. Oh, and elementary school teachers? Sorry that my presents to you were "books" that I "wrote" about girls solving mysteries on horses while all of the other kids in class were giving you candy and such. I've seen some of those "books" with my illustrations and I don't know how you managed to keep a straight face when I gave them to you.
  • Lucy Maud Montgomery. Emily wanted to be a writer, just like me. Following her journey, failures and all, gave me a realistic view of the journey up the "Alpine Path"
  • All of the authors who have been a support and inspiration, whether they know it or not. Amy Plum, who made the writing process sound so not-scary. Jeri Smith-Ready, who introduced me to #1K1hr and cheered on my own word counts. Jodi Meadows, who saw my tweets about how her writing made me doubt my own writing and tweeted back an awesome amount of encouragement.
  • All of the agents who have participated in contests. Taking time from their busy lives to offer critiques to some of us sludging through the slush-- especially Suzie Townsend and Gemma Cooper. Because of their critiques, I have a much stronger manuscript and a more critical eye towards my own work.
  • Elizabeth Briggs, who paid back her own good fortune with a critique contest and gave me one of the most thorough critiques I've ever received. One of her comments inspired an addition to my MS... which inspired a bunch of changes and is making me fall in love with the part of the MS that has always felt lacking to me. 
  • Brenda Drake-- the workshops! The advice! I love Brenda and the tireless work that she puts into her blog.
  • Kimberly Sabatini!!! and the Poconos SCBWI crew (Stephanie, Megan, Jodi, Taylor)!!!! Even though I've only met Kim in person so far, y'all are awesome and all so inspirational. I can't wait to knit-dance-write with all of you.
  • Deena, fellow Team Kilter, fellow Shadowhunter, fellow SCBWIer, and possessor of the best tattoo on the planet. We prop each other up.
  • My betas and main idea-bouncers: Erika, James, Lori, Tim, Brooke, and my baby sister Susie. All of you had to live with The Desired as I wrote it and have suffered through the early revisions. I've poured out my worries to you. I've tortured you with random writing facts. And you still don't hate me. I love all of you for that.
  • Madeline, my twitterTwin, who sends me hilarious texts and tweets whenever I'm feeling down. And querying can do that sometimes.
  • Marnee, who has told me a million times to write from my heart and to enjoy the journey. She's been my twitter touchstone from the day we wrote through the same  #1k1hr
  • My tweeple knitterly friends who #K1P1hr whenever I need a #1k1hr kick in the pants
  • And all of my regular blog readers. You won't believe how much your comments mean to me. Especially when I'm posting some incredibly stupid little story about a girl falling in mud. Or about mini socks. *giant hug*
Thank you. When I first started this journey, I couldn't imagine how welcoming and wonderful the writing world could possibly be. All of you have taught me so much, made me laugh, made me cry, given me countless virtual and real hugs, and have made me a better writer than I was a year ago.

*throws glitter in the air*

Thank you. Obrigada. Merci. Danke. Gracias. A million times over will still never be enough.