Monday, May 30, 2011

Nothing Like That First Copy

Seriously, there is nothing like opening the package with the first copy of your new book! My fellow writers, you know exactly what I'm talking about. I wondered if I wouldn't be as excited for round 2 of this adventure, but that was pure silliness wondering. Of course I was just as excited! If not more so!!!

This book was a lot harder in coming than Heartless. The concept is much more complex and the work it took to find a form for it that truly worked was intense. I had a lot of back-and-forth with my editors as we labored to find the right way to tell this story. And I think it was so worth it in the end! This book was no walk in the park, but it came to life for me in ways that no other project has. Every novel has a life of its own, of course . . . and I truly love all of my projects. But it's different with each. You appreciate different aspects.

One thing I particularly enjoy about this story is how much of my Rohan turned up in it in very random places. The poor dear man was just starting to court me when I was on a two month deadline to get this novel drafted. (For those of you non-writers reading, two months to write a 120,000 word manuscript = insanity.) My handsome suitor truly saw me at my very worst hair-pulling-out-depths-of-despair-absolutely-nothing-left. And still wanted to marry me at the end of the summer!

That's love.

But it amuses me now to read the story and see little phrases that are pure Rohan. Or word choices. Or descriptions. Tiny little details that no one else would pick up on, but which I read and go, "Ha! Yeah, I wonder where that came from." Life definitely inspires art.

Thus, the dedication: To my David Rohan.

Rohan: "Hmmm, this better be good . . . ."

One skeptical eyebrow later . . .

After all he went through, I really hope he enjoys it!

Squeeeee!!! It's so exciting to see them both together! I can't even begin to say how much I love this second cover. I didn't think I could possibly like a cover as much as the first book, but I just love the last-minute changes they made to Veiled Rose. The colors are rich and vivid, and the image is so perfectly suited to the story, it's almost unbelievable. I just adore it and feel blessed beyond belief!

Anyway, it's been a lovely four-day weekend at Rooglewood. Back to reality tomorrow. The office for Rohan and the manuscript for yours truly. I will write again soon.

Until then, happy reading!

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Project Maya

I keep meaning to write up another literary-type post on writing theory . . . I even have one halfway written! But I have just been too distracted lately to get back to it. Mostly with rewrites on Book 3 in Tales of Goldstone Wood.

But also with kitten work!

Meet Maya:

She is a feral kitten who lost her mother and her sibling while still very young. Soon after, she started coming regularly to visit me . . . unusual behavior for a feral cat. They are usually completely wild and want nothing to do with people. But she started watching me from a distance while I worked in the garden, demonstrating a shy willingness to make friends.

So I started feeding her. And I would sit in the yard and talk to her, making gentle sounds and getting her used to my voice.

Pretty soon, I had her almost completely comfortable with me! She still isn't wild about being petted (though she'll let me pet her while she eats), but she loves to play and will often press up against me while napping. Lately it's been too hot for that, so she's gotten a wee bit standoffish. But she still comes running whenever I call her, eager to play and socialize.

This is her glamour shot, above. I think she looks really pretty!

I started looking around for a permanent family for her a few weeks ago. Because she is feral and has little to no familiarity with people, I was concerned that I wouldn't find anyone willing to take on a project like Maya! But, after much prayer, a family came along ready and willing to give her a chance. They've already done well by giving her such a pretty name (I was calling her 'Mabel,' which isn't as romantic).

"My camera cord!"

But the work isn't over just yet. I want to get her at least a little prepared for life as a housecat before sending her over to her new family's house. So yesterday evening, I caught Maya and brought her down for some time in our basement to get her used to being indoors and to train her in how to use a litterbox. The poor little thing is so scared! It breaks my heart a bit. She's never been indoors, so there are a lot of scary smells. But she is eating well and has a comfortable bed that Rohan bought her, so I am hoping she will adjust quickly.

Big yawn!

In a week and a half, she has her appoint to be spayed. Then she will be off to her new home and, I do hope, a happy, comfortable life as a housecat. Not entirely certain how I'm going to transport her to the vet (she's now shy of the trap I caught her in . . . and I don't blame her!). But we'll cross that bridge when we come to it.

So, if you think of it, say a prayer for little Maya that she'll have a smooth transition into her new life. Then, when she is settled, there is this pretty silver tabby starting to come to my door. A pretty tabby who is obviously pregnant. Might be I have another project coming in the near future . . . .

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Review: The Five Red Herrings

I guessed who done it.

Okay, okay, it took me most of the book to figure it out. And no, I didn’t actually piece it together using subtle clues dropped by the much-more-brilliant mind of Dorothy Sayers. I simply have a little bit more knowledge of Sayers and her work than I used to, so my sleuthing was based off of what I have come to expect of the author rather than the story itself.

Besides, Ms. Sayers, I have a bit of a gripe with you. You purposefully—purposefully!—withheld the key piece of information!

Dearest Lord Peter Wimssy, early on in the story, tells the police officers that they must search the scene of the crime for one particular object. He tells them what that object is, and the proceed to scour the countryside for it. The whole solution to the mystery rests on the location of this one object. But we, the reader, aren’t told what the dragon-eaten thing is!!! Not until, like, the second to last chapter of the book! Maddening!

Not that I would have been able to put together any sort of a solution had the knowledge been handed me on a silver platter. Nope. Darling Wimsey (and his creator) remains forever my intellectual superior, and I bow to his genius (and hers).

Nevertheless, lack of Sherlockian-skills aside, I did actually manage to guess who the murderer was before the great revelation was given.

You see, four weeks before my wedding last summer, I returned to my native haunts in the forgotten wilds of Wisconsin and lived deep in the quiet Northwoods among the woodland creatures (and brothers) while awaiting the arrival of my Beloved. I was dead bored. I also caught rubella, so I was all over red spots and wanting to die . . . except dying meant not marrying Rohan, so I decided to struggle on.

During this interval, when I wasn’t languishing in fever (or experiencing feverish dreams about Rohan’s ‘secret wives’ . . . it’s amazing what your subconscious will concoct and batter you with on the eve of your wedding!), I was reading mystery novels. I’d never particularly read the genre before, other than my Sherlock Holmes craze in high school, and I was surprised to find how much I enjoyed it! I read my first Agatha Christie novel, but must admit that Dorothy Sayers proved herself the superior author. In short order (and completely out of order), I read Strong Poison, Murder Must Advertize, Gaudy Night, and some other that I can’t quite recall at present.

I think I will always associate those weeks before my wedding with murder mysteries . . . and rubella.

I cannot say enough about Ms. Sayers’ genius. If you haven’t read her, do yourself a favor and give her a try! She’s stylistically much more complex than Christie, and her characters are that much more satisfying. Especially dreamy Peter Wimsey (whom I cannot classify as a literary crush since I did not truly encounter him until the few weeks before my wedding, during which time all my romantic sensibilities were thoroughly occupied elsewhere. I did, however, see a lot of similarities between Lord Wimsey and my handsome Rohan, which I continue to see to this day. Perhaps that counts for something).

Anyway, all that to say that, while her methods and inventiveness still boggle my inferior mind, there is one, tiny, almost unnoticeable trend in her work that I did manage to pick up on. There is a particular type of character that she likes to make her villains. And, I’m sorry to say, I can’t tell you what that type is because the LAST thing I want to do is spoil any future Sayers books you might pick up! What’s more, even though I knew the type, it still took me a good three-quarters of the novel to finally pick my criminal candidate.

So, I must declare The Five Red Herrings an excellent read and give it a high recommendation! You might want to try to pick up the Wimsey novels in order, though, starting with Whose Body. I’ve been reading them completely mish-mashed and enjoyed each one thoroughly . . . but I can’t help but wonder what the experience would have been had I taken a more conventional route.

Now, on to the next read.

I told my Rohan that I wanted something different. He has a large selection of paperback fantasy that he brought to the States from Sri Lanka, so he took me to our Rooglewood library, selected one, and handed it to me.

"I already read fantasy,” said I.

“Look at the cover,” said he.

“Is that a grendel and an elf in a diner?” said I.

“Actually look at the cover, sweetie,” said he.

“Oh. A grendel and an elf in a subway station. Got it.” said I.


“It looked like a diner!” said I.

“Shall I make you an appointment with an optometrist?” said he.

I have never read an urban fantasy. Never in my life! Can you believe it? So here’s to Rosemary Edghill for providing my first portal into the world of urban fantasy, and may it be an interesting, enlightening, and (hopefully) entertaining experience!

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Prologue for Veiled Rose available online!

So excited!!!

I just discovered that the prologue for Veiled Rose is up on Amazon! If you are curious for a sneak peak at Leo and Rose Red's story, go here.

So interesting . . . they actually changed the cover. Not drastically, but in little ways that I think really improve it. Don't get me wrong! I liked the cover the way it was very much. But I do love these changes! I love that Rose Red's face is more covered. I love that the reds are brighter and the dragon is more of a lurking menace in the background (kind of miss how bright his eyes were, but not too much). Paul, the artist, seems to have added pretty details to the mirror, which I love!

And do please notice the absolutely, eerily fantastic back cover. I just adore it! It suits the story so very well, and I love the back cover blurb too. I just can't say enough for Bethany House and their brilliant work! I do hope my story is worthy of all the effort they put into it.

Let me know what you think!

Friday, May 20, 2011

The Gardens of Rooglewood

I was going to write a literary post today, something about style, technique, literary research . . . something fascinating. Really, it was going to be fascinating!

But I'm lazy.

So, instead, I am going to show off the recent green-thumb pursuits of the Rooglewood inhabitants! My Rohan and I have never particularly gardened before, but we have a great big, blank yard. A yard that we don't want to be a mere yard, but rather a garden . . .

Here is the porch area, fresh black dirt in place, a bunch of tiny, new petunias, a bare root rose, and as-yet unseen dahlias:

Here it is developing! Sorry the picture isn't better. But you can see that my petunias are sprouting nicely, that dahlia is getting huge, and there are gladiolas coming up along the wall! The bare root rose is also covered with leaves and starting to look more rosebush-like:

I love petunias! Such happy flowers:

Here is one of the back planters near our sunroom. I dug up all the scraggly grass, Rohan put down fresh dirt, and I built the little rock wall around it. Two more bare root roses, gladiola bulbs, vinca, etc.

Here it is coming along! The gladiolas have shot up to towering heights, dahlias are growing, vinca is settling in well. So excited for summer blossoms!

Speaking of blossoms . . . I didn't realize my rose bushes would bloom the first year! Here is the first rose bud of the season! A pink Dreamweaver:
 And here it is, bigger and frillier!

And here is a picture taken this morning! Spectacular!

Just glorious!

I can hardly wait until they are climbing all over that black rail!

And my first dahlia, stunning in scarlet:

 Opened up a little more here:

Anyway, so there you have a taste of our gardening endeavors! I believe, in time, we shall transform Rooglewood into a veritable butterfly of color! In time . . . in time . . .

All right, I should get to work now. Only ten (outlined) chapters left to write in the current manuscript. I'm just getting into all the fun stuff when all the foreshadowing is coming to fruition, all the characters established foibles and desires are rising to a head, and all the menace is ready to explode! The last ten or so chapters are always my favorite to write. :)

Thursday, May 19, 2011

More On Those Literary Crushes . . .

A friend of mine, with whom I made a pact to list our literary crushes, has posted her list over on her blog. Have a look . . . it cracked me up!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

The YA Conundrum

The other day, I discovered and devoured this interview by one of my all-time favorite authors, Megan Whalen Turner. Ms. Turner is the author of the fascinating Queen's Thief Series which, you may or may not have noticed, gets mentioned more often than not on this blog. I'm a bit of a fan . . .

My favorite part of this particular interview was the moment when Ms. Turner was asked, “Do you think you’ll always be writing YA? Or do you have any interest in writing an adult novel someday?”

(Note: For those of you who might not be familiar with the term, YA stands for “young-adult literature,” or literature written, published and marketed toward adolescents and young adults.)

I thought this was an interesting question for the interviewer to hand the author of a popular and award-winning YA series. And I loved Ms. Turner’s answer: “No.”

As a YA writer newly come to the field myself, I have already gotten a taste of the attitude that sometimes comes with the job. There’s a school of thought that seems to think as follows: Beginners write children’s books, progress up to YA, and begin writing adult literature as soon as they reach that proper level of maturity.

Acquaintances of mine or friends-of-friends have said (or told my friends) things along the lines of: “Well, I had some trouble getting into Heartless at first, but as soon as I realized it was just YA, I liked it better.” I have had people speculate that, now that I’m married, my work will probably “mature.”

What they tend to mean by “mature,” is “take on a sensual element.”

And my answer to this question is as simple as Ms. Turners: “No.”

You see, I have never enjoyed the sensual aspect of adult novels (Married life has not changed this). And really, this tends to be the main factor separating adult from YA literature. I’m not saying it’s wrong—everyone must live by their own convictions—but I simply do not and never will enjoy reading that stuff. It’s as though as soon as a novel slides from YA into the adult section, all the characters are motivated by sensual desires and the compulsion to have these gratified.

To me, this is cheap writing. I find much deeper satisfaction in the YA literature that pulls motivations and desires from very different sources . . . very real and human sources, but not this one-note focus. I often find that YA lit. is more reminiscent of the classics which, while very aware and willing to deal with all sorts of human emotions, sordid or otherwise, never played up the sensuality to the crazy extent you see happening in our modern literature. The classic authors—Austen, Dickens, Gaskell, Hugo, Tolstoy, etc.—recognized the importance of all the intricacies of the human heart. They never fixated on this one, small aspect.

I am certainly not implying that I don’t enjoy a good romance in a story or series! Turner’s Queen’s Thief series has one of the most compelling, interesting, complicated romances I have ever read in any novel, adult or YA. But Ms. Turner, while maintaining realism of feeling and emotion unparalleled, doesn’t feel the need to focus on sensuality. Instead, we get politics and betrayals, conflicted hearts and jealousies . . . everything you could possibly ask for in a romance that makes it all so very satisfying. She never resorts to mere sensuality to make an easy play on our emotions. She doesn’t need to!

And I don’t consider the Queen’s Thief series to be a “romance” as such. Not at all! The romance is an important piece of a much more complicated puzzle. But it doesn’t single-handedly run the show. I like this and find the romance much more satisfying this way. I attempted (to relative success) to make this the case in Heartless as well. While the romance is important to the story (the plot doesn’t exist without it), the center of the plot is Una’s stubborn clinging to her own will, the disaster that ensues, and her eventual redemption. It’s really not a romantic love story . . . it’s a story about undeserved love.

Anyway, I’m getting away from myself. I would like to point out that, despite the popular view that a more experienced writer writes more “adult” literature, I tend to see the opposite among my favorites. Have a glance at Neil Gaiman’s work. He made his name with his very “adult” Sandman Chronicles and American Gods . . . but his most recent pieces have been wonders like The Graveyard Book and Odd and the Frost Giants. Children’s literature. Not even YA. Books for children.

Or, to pick an author I respect that much more, take a look at C.S. Lewis’s writing career. While he wrote many brilliant and fascinating adult novels (The Space Trilogy, Till We Have Faces), he will always be renowned for his children’s literature, the beloved Chronicles of Narnia.

YA, as Ms. Turner points out in her interview, is a relatively new development in the publishing market. It bridges the gap between children and adults . . . but not in a progressing-from-intermediate-to-advanced sort of way. It’s a sophisticated genre that I have seen cover many mature themes. Themes like love and loss, death and life, abuse and abandonment, promiscuity and rebellion . . . in short, all the major themes you find in adult literature. But usually (and not always. Have a glance at all the “vampire romances” dominating the YA shelves will tell you that!) without such a focus on sensuality as the #1 motivation of mankind.

I might even go so far as to name YA the most complicated genre to write. Because it bridges that gap between child and adult, it is necessary for it to appeal to both. You can’t have children solving all the world’s problems with no help from adults . . . neither can you have adults solving all the world’s problems with no help from children. There must be balance. There must be recognition of both the advantages of adult maturity and childlike innocence. It is a difficult genre to write well . . . but such a satisfying genre to read!

Anyway, those were some thoughts stimulated from reading Ms. Turner’s great interview! If you haven’t read her series, please do. She creates a rich world which, though peppered with a pantheon of old gods, actually teaches spot-on theology (the pantheon aspect aside). As a Christian reader, I was startled to find that the views she presents on godhood are so compellingly true . . . but perhaps I’ll write an article on that at a later date.

Happy reading!

Monday, May 16, 2011

Review: I Shall Wear Midnight

Witty and whimsical, tragic and terrifying, fascinating, fantastical . . . this is Terry Pratchett, my friends!

I Shall Wear Midnight is the fourth book in the Tiffany Aching sub-series of the much larger Disc World universe. Her story began with The Wee Free Men when she was only nine years old. Miss Tick took a stroll into Tiffany’s country village, recognized a particular talent, and Tiffany’s life was forever changed.

By this fourth installment, Tiffany is 16 years old and the professional witch of her village.

Note: For those of you with concerns about reading books with witches as protagonists . . . I totally understand and don’t recommend this book for you. I personally am not bothered by it, considering the universe Pratchett has created is completely different from our own. In this universe, the role of a village witch is very much the role of traveling nursemaid. Tiffany spends most of her time caring for the forgotten elderly, delivering babies, bandaging farm wounds, etc. She does work magic, but the magic is, as she puts it, “mostly Common Sense” . . . which does, indeed, seem magical to everyday people! And she wears a black pointy hat as a symbol of office.

Anyway, Tiffany’s story opens at a fair and ends at a fair, which I love. I absolutely adore bookends in stories. You start somewhere simple, build to all kinds of impossibilities then end where you started, simply. There are also brilliant uses of foreshadowing in this tale: The story the old dying baron tells Tiffany about crop-burning at season’s end . . . the recurring image of a hare running into the fire . . . everything is beautifully set up long in advance for the tumultuous climax.

I loved the very human elements of this story, especially the main character. Tiffany’s reactions to the young baron’s betrothal were hysterical and touching simultaneously. I really felt what she was going through!

Then there’s the danger: The Cunning Man, the old wraith of an evil memory, has risen from the darkness to hound Tiffany. Because she is a witch, and the Cunning Man, though he is nothing now but a memory, wants all witches to burn!

So, yes, plenty of intrigue, character development, plot twists . . . and, of course, Terry Pratchett’s laugh-out-loud wit peppering every page. I adore how the man takes a dark and complicated story but writes it from a comedic bent. He sees that life is both comedy and tragedy, that you cannot have one without the other.

So ultimately, I loved it. Not my favorite Pratchett novel ever, but a great read. I do not recommend it if you are uncomfortable reading novels with witches as protagonists. But if you don’t feel convicted on that score, this is a marvelously written and engaging tale (though you really should start with Book 1).

Pratchett is a genius.

Which is why he was knight and is now Sir Terry Pratchett. England knows how to honor her authors!

Friday, May 13, 2011

We Have A Winner!

Congratulations to need2read for her brilliant success, naming all the dragons in the Maiden and Dragon contest! The interesting thing to note is that not all of her answers were the same as mine . . . yet all her answers were correct! Here is my list of Maidens and Dragons:

1. Princess Cimorene—Kazul (The Enchanted Forest Chronicles)
2. Princess Adelina—Vollys (Two Princess of Bamarre)
3. Mulan—Mushu (Mulan)
4. Lady Sibyl—Errol (Guards! Guards!)
5. Lessa—Ramoth ( Dragonflight)
6. Una—The Dragon of Errour (Faerie Queen) OR . . . the Dragon King/Death-in-Life/Father of Dragons from my own book, Heartless! Tricky, that one . . .
7. Aerin—Maur (The Hero and the Crown)
8. Alice—Jabberwocky (Alice in Wonderland)
9. Kara—Draco (Dragonheart)
10. Princess Aurora—Maleficent (Sleeping Beauty)
11. Kale—Gymn and Metta (DragonSpell)
12. Belinda—Custard (The Tale of Custard the Dragon)
13. Princess Fiona—Dragon (Shrek)
14. Princess Elspeth—Vermithrax Pejorative (Dragonslayer)

need2read, however, answered Brom for #4, which is correct . . . Brom is another one of her pet dragons. She also answered Flagra and Byrn for #9, which is also correct. I had to research that one, but Kara turns out to be the heroine of the Flight of the Dragon Kyn, which is definitely full of dragons!

Excellent work on all those answers, people! Yet again, I am impressed by your dragon knowledge.

need2read, if you would please email me your mailing address (, I will be certain you get one of the very first copies of Veiled Rose!

Monday, May 9, 2011

Contest: A Maiden Needs Her Dragon

Some of them rode dragons. Some of them searched for dragons. Some kept dragons as pets while some were kept as pets by dragons. Some of them cooked and kept house for dragons. Some were ensorcelled by dragons. One hunted dragons . . . and one was even eaten by a dragon!

But all of them are part of that brilliant pairing, the Maiden and the Dragon.

See how many dragons you can name to go with these maidens! The first to complete the list will win a free copy of Veiled Rose. If you can’t finish the list, don’t worry! If no one finishes then whoever can name the most will still win a free, autographed copy of Heartless.

Please skip on over to here to add your tally to those already posted.

Winners to be announced on Friday. Go for it!

1. Princess Cimorene—

2. Princess Adelina—

3. Mulan—

4. Lady Sibyl—

5. Lessa—

6. Una—

7. Aerin—

8. Alice—

9. Kara—

10. Princess Aurora—

11. Kale—

12. Belinda—

13. Princess Fiona—

14. Princess Elspeth—

Saturday, May 7, 2011

The Christy Awards

Well, that was a surprise! I just received word that Heartless is one of the finalists in the First Novel category of the Christy Awards. That is pretty exciting! A writer-friend told me that the Christys are CBA's version of the Oscars, so being a finalist is a big honor. That definitely caught me by surprise!

It will be interesting to see how Heartless compares to the other two books in its category . . . both of which look very interesting! Neither of which are YA fantasy/allegory. Hmmm. Well, best to both Gina Holmes and Rusty Whitener! Your work looks awesome, and it's great to be a finalist with you!

I think Rohan and I might just go to this event. It's in Atlanta, which isn't too far away. And it my first awards ceremony as an author, which is important and exciting! I'd get to meet other CBA novelists and see some of the folks from Bethany House as well. My Rohan is all for it, so . . .

Friday, May 6, 2011

Literary Crushes

How many times have you found yourself so head-over-heels in love that you wanted to spend all your time with just one person? It’s a beautiful and, for all the crazy number of people in this world, a rare thing. Something precious. Something to be nurtured, often in secret, because the idea of ridicule is so embarrassing, so painful? But you wouldn’t trade that feeling for the world . . .

How many times has that one person been fictional?

Okay, I’m going to share a list of my Literary Crushes in totally random order. Do please note two things, however:

1. I am talking about crushes! Not a character you simply like to read about/find yourself picking up more books on that character, etc. I mean a full-fledged (and usually, but not always, secret) crush!

2. All of these were before I was married. My Rohan is aware of (most of) these fellows and does, in fact, feel prepared to deal with the residual feelings (because some loves never truly die).

Okay, on to the noble company.

My very first literary crush happened when I was 14 years old. One bored evening a picked a certain thick volume off my parents’ bookshelf, purely on a whim. And was introduced to the dark, twisted, fascinating world of 221B Baker St. and this fine gentleman.

He was dangerous. He was polished. He was tortured. He was brilliant. He was musical, analytical, lethal, and sardonic. I mean . . . what’s not to love?

So I crushed pretty badly for quite a while there, read every single short story or novel Conan Doyle ever wrote on the man and even dared attempt a few spin-offs by other authors (notably, this series).

Thus I first learned what a literary crush means.

Following that, and not too very long after, I picked up The Lord of the Rings. I was familiar with the story because my father had read it aloud to me and my brothers back when I was about 9 years old, during our move from England back to the states. So I knew I loved it already. But I did not expect to fall so very hard and fast for the main character: Frodo Baggins.

A hobbit.

Well, when you’re 14, there’s not accounting for taste.

But seriously, I just adored this brave fellow who was willing to risk so much and risk it so beautifully for the sake of others. And, unlike Sam, he didn’t have a possible love-interest waiting for him back home, which made him all the more tragically appealing to me! So I crushed really bad and found myself totally swept up in his adventures.

(Another note: I did not fall in love with the movie incarnation of this character. I mean, Elijah Wood was very wide-eyed-sweet and all that . . . but he just did not compare to my own imagined Frodo. And he never will.)

So that crush on Frodo lasted a good long while. Until about midway through The Two Towers. Because you see . . . that’s when I met Faramir. (Again, not the movie version. I am sticking strictly to literary crushes, not cinematic ones).

If Frodo was a crush, Faramir was a passion. Mixed with a crush.

Okay, moving on.

After that, at various times my literary crushes included:

Howl from Howl’s Moving Castle

Sydney Carton from A Tale of Two Cities (you knew there’d be a bad-boy in there somewhere)

Eugenides from The Queen’s Thief series

Mac from Eight Cousins (O! I crushed hard on him! In fact, that may have been an earlier crush than Sherlock Holmes . . .)

Dr. Neil McNeill from Christy (book, not TV series. Didn’t particularly care for the TV series)

Cyrano de Bergerac from the play. (And no, his romantic French prose didn’t hurt a thing! “Non, merci! Non, merci! Mais. . .chanter, rêver, rire, passer, être seul, être libre . . .”)

Wow. What a strange romantic history I have had all in my head. Some of these I have to ask myself . . . where the heck did that come from? But, hey. True love knows no bounds.

I once really crushed on a historical figure, Major John Pitcairn, who died tragically at the Battle of Bunker Hill. I fell for him while studying Lexington, then turned the page to Bunker Hill and . . . Sniffle! Sob!

My brother very practically pointed out that he would have been long dead by the time I was born anyway. Thanks! ‘Cause that helps! (sniffle)
Anyway, those are mine. I’m sure I’ve forgotten several, but that’s a goodly number of them anyway! Who were some of yours?

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Recent Reads and Recommendations, Spring 2011

Here are some books I've read in recent history and thought particularly good. Some are rereads, some first-timers. All good in very different ways, some better than others. Have you read any of these? Any recommendations of your own? I'm always looking for new reads!

1. Cordelia’s Honor—Lois McMaster Bujold
An interesting sci-fi . . . a bit of a “romance in space,” but with intriguing plot twists. If you’re looking for your next Isaac Asimov, skip this one. If you’re looking for a fun, snappy, longish adventure with plenty of romance and intrigue, this might be just for you! Rating: P-13 for sensuality (the main characters are married).

2. The Enchanted Castle—Edith Nesbit (reread)
I adore Nesbit! This is one of my favorites . . . a great read-aloud with children (or with your new husband, whatever the case may be!). Nesbit is a true genius. Seriously! Rating: G

3. Richard III—William Shakespeare
The ultimate villain! But historically unlikely. Read for the pleasure of Shakespeare’s language and wit, not for any historical information . . . and possibly balance it out with Josephine Tey’s Daughter of Time just to be fair to poor Richard. Rating: N/A

4. Gaudy Night—Dorothy Sayers
Brilliance! Slow-paced at the beginning, but I don’t think that’s a bad thing. Take the time to get into it, into these characters. Great mystery and even greater romance! Wonderful insight into the life of a writer. This one gets the Adored status. Rating: PG for some scares.

5. Gone with the Wind—Margaret Mitchell
Epic . . . Some say America’s version of War and Peace. Great writing, great pacing (especially considering how long this book is!). Definitely recommended. Rating: PG-13

6. Tombs of Atuan—Ursula Le Guin (reread)
Scary, atmospheric, and heavy despite its brevity. I enjoyed it, though. If you’re in the mood for something darker, give it a try. Rating: PG for frightening moments and dark themes.

7. Rose Daughter—Robin McKinley (reread)
This is a book to read if you’re in the mood for poetic language and rambling prose. McKinley takes her time developing the plot and the characters, but I so enjoy her processes. Gorgeous fantasy. Rating: PG

8. The Weirdstone of Brisingamen--Alan Garner
Strange book, but excellent. One of the scariest children’s books I’ve ever read. Actually, though the protagonists are children, I wouldn’t call this a children’s book. Interesting and unusual fantasy. Rating: PG-13 for frightening moments.

9. Elidor—Alan Garner
Again, a strange book. But fascinating. This man is in a league all his own, though he is heavily influenced by Robert Browning in this story. Read it! His endings are unbearable and wonderful all at once! Rating: PG

10. The Foundling--D.M. Cornish (Book 1 of the Monster Blood Tattoo series)
Another slow-paced book, but worth the time it takes to gain momentum. Interesting world building, beautiful illustrations, and I loved the character of the Monster Hunter. She was excellent! Rating: PG

11. Demon: A Memoir—Tosca Lee
Not bad at all. Lee deals with some interesting subjects and writes some beautiful imagery. The message of grace was presented with great elegance as well, which I loved. Rating: PG for some frightening moments.

12. The Great Divorce—C.S. Lewis (reread)
One of the most beautiful and challenging books I have ever read, for all it is very short. Such a perfect picture of the Heaven we reject and the Hell we cling to. Rating: PG

13. A Wrinkle in Time—Madeline L’Engle (reread)
Great children’s book! Startlingly profound. I don’t agree with all of the message she preaches, but when I read it this time, I was surprised at the depth and understanding she packs into this relatively short novel. Definitely recommended! Rating: PG

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Moonblood Illustration Process

Some of you may know that I am also an artist. I used to teach art classes to children and adults and also painted portrait commissions for a couple of years there! But my true love is for illustration. When I went to college, I studied both illustration and English Lit. with the hope of one day writing and illustrating my own stories.

Well, the writing is happening on a professional level . . . not so much the illustrating. But, my Rohan gave me a gorgeous art studio after we got married, so I figured I might as well start dabbling a little bit in that side of my creativity again! Thought you all might like to see the development of one of my illustrations.

This is a collage-style acrylic painting for Moonblood, book 3 in the Tales of Goldstone Wood. Here is the initial sketch and beginning of the base coats. I kept the sketch very minimal since most of the details will happen in the paint. The color blocking I did in gouache.

And here it is completely blocked, all the various characters in place. Oh, dear! I have to be careful not to name names! Don't want to spoil the next book or two for everyone. Well, the cat at least you will recognize from Heartless. Monster is looking very smug here in his base coats, isn't he?

Here you see the first layers of acrylics going down. I always start with either a blue or a purple undertone for skin, thus the corpsy look for the girl! Probably too much detail in the unicorn for this early on. Oh well! The forest was probably the hardest part for me . . . I'm used to portraits, but landscapes are not my thing. Had to experiment a couple of times before finally hitting on the right undertones. Monster looks smugger than ever with his first layers of gold!

Oh no! She went goth! Actually, I realized her mouth was the wrong shape and had to reconstruct it.

Now she has highlights! Less goth though, right? And you can see that the forest is starting to develop nicely . . .

Flesh tones for her. And the Hunter is starting to come into his creepy own! He has a bit of a batman-esque quality to him. Not sure if that's what I was going for, but okay!

Now for the tiny queen. I kept putting her off because she was SO tiny, I wasn't sure how I would paint her! Even considered painting her out for a while there. Glad I didn't though. She adds a nice ghostly touch:

Now for the unicorn and Monster. They've patiently waited long enough in their base coats. Looking much handsomer now:

Here you an see the rose getting redder and stars starting to emerge. But she's looking a bit pasty. I wanted a moonlit glow, but she kind of looks sick. Besides, she's described as having golden skin in the novel . . .

Okay, that's better. And finished too! I gave her a bit more color and reconstructed aspects of her face as well. Added some ominous mist, and voila! The first illustration I've done in years! I think my favorite part is Monster. But then, I'm always partial to the cats!

So nice to get back into a bit of painting. Just for the fun of it, I made an advertisement!

This was a purely for-fun project, not professional work. Hope you enjoyed watching it develop!