Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Teaser Tuesday: The Best of Friends

Hello, dear blog readers! How have you all been? Staying warm, I hope. (Haha, very funny, Caitlin. *glowers at -18 degree windchills*)

I have been feeling a bit glum about writing lately, but my lovely roommate gave me a bit of a pep talk last night, so I thought I'd share a little more of my current project with you (and by proxy, with her). This book is about the relationship between two best friends, so I thought it fitting. :)

Risa - who spends her nights as Venice's most feared thief - is giving her friend Gianna a ride to the opera house in her boat. Because Venice. :)



“So,” she said, skirting away from the Grand Canal and into the smaller rio that would lead them to the opera house. “Will the theatre be glittering with magic for the taking tonight?” 

            “Oh, in all likelihood,” Gianna answered with a mischievous smile. 

            “And do you think that the most fearsome thief in all of Venice will make an appearance?” 

            Il Ragno never makes appearances – objects make disappearances. Especially when this tricky spider has its accomplice close by.”

            “And hopefully not too surrounded by besotted admirers,” Risa added with knowing smirk. 

            “I have spoken of how dreadful my costume for this ballet is, haven’t I?” 

            Risa rolled her eyes and snickered, sharply, just one short breath through her nose. The dreadful costume would make no difference.

            They arrived at the canal entrance to La Fenice in a few more minutes. Risa pushed the boat alongside the opera house’s mooring and grabbed hold of it to steady the boat enough for her friend to clamber out. At least, Risa would have clambered; Gianna always looked halfway to flying. The moment she stepped out onto the dock and bent to straighten her skirt, a few other members of the ballet corps lingering about the doorway turned their heads towards her, raising their long, delicate hands to wave. Risa could hear their previous conversations falter, transitional chords to open their chatter to Gianna’s presence, to add her voice to their melody. 

            “Thank you, Risa! See you tonight!” Gianna called over her shoulder, disappearing into her spotlit world with a flash of a smile and bright blonde hair.

            For a minute, Risa considered climbing up onto the dock herself, stepping into that spotlight, or taking some of it for herself. For a moment she wondered what it might be like to have everyone feel her presence in that soft, subtle way they felt Gianna’s. But she held on to her place in the shadows just a little too long, as always, and instead pushed her little boat away from the opera house. 

            What need did she have of a spotlight, in any case? She had business to attend to, and her business invariably needed the safety of the shadows to succeed.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Cover Mock-Ups

So one of my coworkers asks me a lot about my novel - since she is a joking sort of person she insists that I should write not about the Potato Famine, but a potato version of 50 Shades of Grey, because THAT would sell like crazy (I roll my eyes a lot) - and she offered to make me a book cover.

I thought she was kidding.

On the (extremely) off chance she WASN'T kidding, I thought she'd come in with some fairly respectable stuff, not, you know, clip art and comic sans, but nothing terribly impressive. Maggie tends to sell herself short in the (very strange) conversations we have between customers.

I was in no way expecting something as amazing as this, and I thought it might be fun to share with you!

Dear future publisher: This. Please and thank you. 

I know, right??? I was completely floored when Maggie handed a printout of that to me a few weeks ago.

And, of course, in the vein of "you should write something like Twilight because that would take you no effort and you'd make a million dollars":

I present: Potato Famine Twilight, complete with blurb from Hedwig.

Maggie has assured me that the "jacket copy" is all gibberish, so don't strain yourself trying to see what it says. But still! How cool is that? An actual cover - even if not a real one from a publisher - is a pretty exciting thing to see. :)

I hope you're all staying warm in this horrific cold! Until next week, fair blog readers.

Tuesday, December 31, 2013


This has been one hell of a year.

It feels like a lifetime ago that I was having one of the best semesters of my college career (the semester in London doesn't count. That was the best five months of my life, college or no college), when I had two days off a week just to work on the manuscript that would become The Long Road Home, when I was taking great classes with my favorite professors, when I was still dancing, when I spent many an evening up far too late with my wonderful roommates.

I can't quite fathom that it was nine months ago that I stood in that stupid, ill-fitting black gown and switched over my tassel to the other side of my hat. Nine months ago that I stopped being a student and started being an adult.

Things have been... interesting since then. Don't get me wrong. Everything is, objectively, great. I live with my best friend, who is the coolest person I know. We have a fantastic apartment and two incredibly adorable cats (who persist in climbing the Christmas tree). I have a perfectly respectable job, and I'm paying my rent and my student loans and my internet bill. And I am grateful. I am so, so grateful for everything and everyone that is allowing me to take this stab at being an independent, adult-type person.

But being an adult is hard.

I was talking to a writer friend of mine who is also a recent postgrad. She was a psychology major, and she was explaining the concept of an "existential vacuum" to me. It's what happens when there's a sudden absence of something. We were talking about it in the context of "I've just finished this novel what am I supposed to do with my life now?" and also "post show depression," something anyone involved in theatre will know well.

Thinking about it later, though, it explains a lot about how I've been feeling about being a postgrad. I haven't wanted to talk about it much, since I would like to be professional on this blog and being constantly mopey isn't terribly professional.

And I've felt awfully mopey since graduating. I've felt so lost, so mired in worry that I'll never be able to do the one thing I think I'm actually any good at - writing novels. So afraid that I'll just spend the rest of my life saying "may I help you?" to people who often don't care that I'm standing there. So terrified that I'll actually never amount to anything at all, that no one will ever want to listen to the stories I have to tell. If all I have to offer the world are words that no one will hear...

I tend to be pretty good at just shuffling on through. I've done it for classes I've hated, shows that have been stressing me out, the hellish sublet Lisa and I lived in this summer. This too shall pass, I think, and I just buckle down and deal with it till it does. I'm worried I'm *too* good at that. What if it doesn't? What if I just allow myself to get complacent because I think "this too shall pass" and wind up stuck in a job I don't really want in a place I don't really want to be?

I'm a worrier, and that's never been more evident than it is now. I worry about myself, about my career, about my writing, about Lisa, about everything, in a constant loop.

Next year, things are going to change.

Next year, I am going closer to the mountain. I am taking another step towards being where I want to be, and who I want to be. Lisa and I are moving to New York City when our lease here in Ithaca ends. I'll miss my Ithacan friends, of course, and this town has done many amazing things for me, but I need to leave. I need to stop stalling in the place where I graduated from college. I need to get out there and start making the life I really want to have. I need to be in a city again, where there are convenient corner stores and an actual form of public transportation. I need to be in New York, where nothing ever stops. Because I feel like I've stopped. I'm waiting. And I don't want to wait anymore.

I want to run full-tilt at the kind of life I really want, sprinting towards it until I smash into it, until I catch it and tangle myself up in it.

And yes, I know it's going to be hard. Lots of well-meaning people have told me, in the same way that everyone said "Oh, college in Ithaca? It's cold up there you know," that living in New York is expensive. I know. I know everything won't be perfect when we move. I know I'll still worry about money and paying the rent all the time. I know there will still be plenty of days when I feel like a waste of space. But to be honest, I don't really care. I want this, and I'm going to go after it with everything I've got. 

Next year, I'm going to move to the place I want to be in. Next year, Lisa and I will have more city exploring to do. Next year, I'm going to find a job that's more engaging than simply selling stamps. I'm going to call myself a New Yorker, after years of growing up on the periphery.

And next year, I'm going to make a hell of a lot of really good art.

Here's to 2014. May it be kind to all of us.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Teaser Tuesday (on Thursday): Honor Among Thieves

Merry Christmas, dear readers!

I know I have been remiss in blogging (yet again), so I thought I'd share with you the opening of the project I've just started working on. It's called HONOR AMONG THIEVES and it is about two girls - Risa Nassar and Gianna Agnello - living in Venice in the 19th century, and stealing magical objects from elite Venetians and careless tourists, until one day they steal something very powerful from exactly the wrong person.

It starts out like this, and I hope you're intrigued!


Venice, Italy
April, 1873

            They’d named her Il Ragno because they’d all assumed such feats of daring could only be accomplished by a grown man, not a wiry girl of seventeen years. But she did not object to the title; that very assumption that Venice’s greatest thief was a man only allowed her all the more freedom. No one would suspect the small, dark-skinned girl in her cloak of shadows, not when they were looking for someone else entirely. 

            No one suspected her that night either, when the mist from the sea muted the moonlight shining on the canals, when the city slept soundly in its crumbling glory. As quietly and quickly as the spider she’d been named for, the girl skittered over the roofs of the palazzi until she’d settled on the one she’d chosen. 

            Il Ragno climbed down the elaborate fa├žade of the palazzo, her hands sure against the small niches and curled ornamentations. A smile pressed the corner of her mouth against the black mask fitted over her face when she saw the window swinging open, the curtain billowing in the salty sea breeze. This was going to be simpler even than she had anticipated. 

            She crept inside, her well-worn leather boots silent against the marble floors. The object she sought was meant to be displayed within easy reach, and there it was, settled on a table without even a bell jar to keep it safe. Don Fransisco must truly be a proud, foolish man indeed to display such a valuable scrying mirror for all the world to see. 

            For the fingers of Il Ragno to take. 

            She closed her fingers around her prize, when a sudden loud footfall caught her attention. A servant boy stood in the doorway, struggling to light a candle and still hold a knife pointed in her direction. 

            “Don’t move,” he stammered. “Stay where you are.”

            But the girl smiled beneath her mask, and she bowed low to the boy, tucking the mirror safely inside her tunic as she did. And then she grasped the edge of her shadow-cloak, pulling it sharply up over her head. 

            And Il Ragno vanished into the night as silently as she’d come, leaving the boy to stare at the space where she’d been and the empty table that had once held his master’s mirror.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

New Project Time!

So, fair blog readers - I have begun a new novel project.

I am working on it pretty slowly, to be honest, largely because I am usually pretty exhausted. I mean, I sleep. I sometimes conk out at 11pm. Sometimes 10:30. And yet I yawn my way through work and when I get home I would much rather just relax and hang out with my awesome roommate/best friend (whose work schedule actually aligns with mine now so I get to SEE her and it is awesome) and watch my cats play pounce-on-each-other.

And, let's be real here, when one is already tired, there's nothing like a snoozing, purring pile of kittens to make you think "all right, bedtime now."

Nevertheless, I am a couple thousand words into a project currently titled HONOR AMONG THIEVES (because I am so very clever at titles).

It is a story about Venice, magical thievery, curses, ballet, and, most importantly, best friends. It is (le gasp!) NOT a kissing book. (Sorry everybody.)

It is very strange writing this project, though. I don't quite know what it is about it - maybe I haven't done enough research, maybe it's just that I haven't started a new project from scratch in... um... a looooooooooooong time, but I feel like I've forgotten how to open a novel. I keep remembering that the audience doesn't actually know how these characters and this world work yet, and that *I* don't fully know that either.

It is strange writing characters who are so very unlike Maire. For about a year, I lived in Maire's headspace. Her view of the world was dark and angry and "I just want to punch it and make it go away." Risa and Gianna are very different. They're confident. They think, at least right now, that their world runs entirely according to their plans. They're about to find out that's not so, of course, but still. It's an interesting change. Nice, though.

Anyways. I'm going to go do some writing. Or maybe just watch my cats play pounce-on-each-other. We'll see.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Warning: Cuteness Overload

As I sit here and type this, fair readers, I am accompanied by this:

That's right, guys. I have a pile of kittens curled up next to me.

It is glorious.

I had been pretty set on only getting one cat, since I'd assumed that my roommate wouldn't really want one of her own. But then we were presented with this brother-and-sister pair that couldn't be adopted out separately and... well, that was the end of that, really.

Allow me to introduce you.

This is Mr. Darcy, my kitten, and the most photogenic cat in the world.

Here he is being appropriately British in a photo I cannot for the life of me turn the right way. Alas.

He is SUCH a sweetheart. I have never known a cat as social as he is - he loves meeting new people, which is great since they've already met most of our friends. He loves to be picked up and will happily climb into my lap or Lisa's lap and pin us down for a good hour. He's incredibly adventurous and very intelligent - you can really see the wheels turning when he looks up at high places and tries to calculate what he can jump off of to get up there. He purrs like a truck and meows like a squeaky toy - but really only when he's reminding me that it's dinner time.


And this is Lisa's kitten, Charlotte (Bronte).

Charlotte is the more skittish of the pair and therefore the more difficult to catch on camera. She has two healed breaks in her tail that were there when she arrived at the shelter; our hypothesis is that she was stepped on when she was very young, as she is still a little bit afraid of feet. She's hard to catch and certainly won't crawl unbidden into a newcomer's lap the way Darcy will, but once she gets used to you and if you don't make any sudden movements, she can be just as affectionate as her brother.

She also very much likes being under things, which is problematic when she got under my bed the other day. We're trying to keep the kittens out of our bedrooms for now, but she probably would've been perfectly content to hang out there the rest of the night.

I am really glad we came home with two. They keep each other company all day while we're at work, and they play games of pounce-on-each-other that last for hours. Our house, it turns out, is a cat jungle gym - they get to climb up and down the kitchen chairs and under the room divider screen and in and out of the staircase. They love it.

And, the first night we brought them home, they both fell asleep in my lap. It was the most wonderful thing.

Now, I promise this blog won't devolve solely into cat picture spam... but there are probably going to be a lot more cat pictures on it. Prepare yourselves, fair readers. :)

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

A Beginner's Guide to Cats

In about three weeks' time, my wonderful roommate Lisa and I are adopting a kitten.

I am ridiculously excited about this, which I know makes my parents roll their eyes a lot. (Sorry, parents.)

But Lisa, wonderful though she is, has spent all her life as a Dog Person. Which means that it is now up to me, a lifelong Cat Person, to instruct her in the ways of cat behavior.

Fortunately, the internet loves few things better than cats. Well, perhaps comparing Benedict Cumberbatch to otters, but that's about it.  So I have compiled a handy list of the strange things that cats do to better prepare Lisa for this kitten.

1. They are strangely fond of sleeping in sinks.

2. Similarly, they are incredibly good at being in places where they do not belong.

3. Boxes are basically cat heaven.

4. For animals that are so graceful, they are really quite skilled at being massive derps. For example:

5. Cat hair will get everywhere. I mean everywhere.

6. They are really, really insistent.

(And half the time, for instance when you are eating a salad or something else very unappealing to cats, they will harass you until they are absolutely, 100% certain they didn't actually want it in the first place.)

7. They tend to think that you've died if you close a door on them.

8. This and other cat idiosyncrasies sometimes make daily tasks rather difficult.


9. I don't know how they do it, but cat paws on top of you almost always feel like elephant feet. Especially when they are unexpected.

10. But let's be real here. They are just.




I, for one, am super excited to have cat hair on everything and enjoy the company of a little fuzzy creature again. I think it's going to be pretty awesome.

And don't worry, dear readers. This is the internet. There will be cat pics. ;)