the cutest blog on the block

Wednesday, December 22, 2010


So here I am, minding my own business, when Katriona, Sydney's older twin sister, decides to put in her two cents:

Katriona: You need to introduce Silas to Sydney already.

Me: Wait, where did you come from?

Katriona: Never mind that now. Why isn't Silas here yet? 

Me: Because it's not time to introduce him. 

Katriona: Time! Your brother leaves in January and I thought you wanted to get the story done by then! And my brother keeps making cow eyes at Ayden and Silas needs to come and break that up.

Me: You haven't even met Silas yet. Why are you so interested in him?

Katriona: I need someone to distract me from my brother mooning over Ayden.


Katriona: Yes, you are.

Sydney: She's annoying and intelligent, and the last thing I need right now is two intelligent females about to gang up on me.

Me: Sydney, go back to Halcyon House, please, and help Wyatt and Amos. 

Sydney: Fine. But I do not moon over anyone!

Katriona: He's so cute when he's in denial. 

Me: Sydney, go. Katriona, I honestly can not have you both having a battle of wits each other every time you show up.

Katriona: But it's fun and you're so good at it. And is Silas going to show up soon?

Me: I'm working on it.   

Katriona: See that you do. 

Ayden: Wait, why are you talking about my brother?
Katriona/Me: We're not.

Ayden: Because I distinctly heard Silas's name being mentioned. 

Katriona: I didn't say anything. (turns to me) Did you say anything?

Me: Not a word.

Ayden looks at us both suspiciously.

Ayden: If you're certain...
Katriona: Of course we're certain. Now come on, we need to look at more fabric swatches. 

Ayden: Not more fabric....

Me: That was close. (wipes brow)

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Writer Recommedations

So I found two new books this week to read and I enjoyed them both immensely. They're both by Sally Gardner, The Red Necklace and The Silver Blade. Picture A Tale of Two Cities and the Scarlet Pimpernel, but with teenagers. Now that might strike horror in your literary soul, but really, they're very good books. They're set in Revolutionary France and England, and Mrs. Gardner does a really good job of describing the sheer horror and mob mentality of the era, where ideals like Liberty, Equality and Fraternity were scarified for violence, greed, and stupidity. The bad aristocrats are deliciously weak-minded and foppish, the villain, one Count Kalliovski, is one of the most genuinely creepy and evil bad guys I've read in recent teen fiction. It focuses on Yann Margoza, a mysterious Gypsy boy with unusual talents and Sido, the crippled daughter of a vain and cowardly marquis. To tell you any more might spoil the books, but for anyone who wants a good old-fashioned adventure/romance story with supernatural elements thrown in, pick these two up. Sally Gardner paints an accurate and sometimes wrenching portrait of Revolutionary France, with its Madame a la Guillotine the true ruler of the masses.
On the note of book recommendations, I have another story for you to pick up, should you be so inclined. I'm a sucker for re-told fairy tales and the standard fare is usually Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, Snow White, or maybe (one in a while) Little Red Riding Hood. But one fairy tale is usually left out of the pantheon, Rumpelstiltskin. I've never been satisfied with the story, myself. Why would the miller tell the king "My daughter can spin straw into gold" and why would the king believe it? Why does the daughter go along with her father's preposterous yarn and then accept the help of the little man who shows up so unexpectedly and demands such strange payments? And why would she marry the king, after he threatens to kill her three times if she doesn't comply?  And finally, the miller's daughter turns on the only one who helps her the entire story, Rumpelstiltskin himself, by revealing his name and sending him to who-knows where.
See? The whole story makes no sense whatsoever. Modern scholars say that Rumpelstiltskin is one of the darker tales in the Brothers Grimm pantheon, a vehicle for anti-Semitism, Rumpelstiltskin being portrayed by the illustrators in the robes of a money-lender, the main occupation of Jews in Europe. So you'd think that a score of teen authors would try and breathe fresh life into the tale, wouldn't you?
The one really good retelling of Rumpelstiltskin I've read is A Curse Dark As Gold, by Elizabeth Bunce. She sets the story in alternate universe of pre-Industrial Revolution England, where steam-run machines are beginning to take over the work force. The main character is Charlotte Miller and her sister Rosie, trying desperately to save the family mill from foreclosure and from their grasping and so-called "genteel" Uncle Wheeler, who accept the dark bargain of the mysterious and frightening Jack Spinner. What I liked best about the story that it provides a really good reason for why Jack Spinner (the Rumpelstiltskin character) wants to "help" the Miller sisters. The "king" of the story is a banker, who is actually a really decent fellow who falls in love with Charlotte (the oldest daughter) and marrys her in all goodwill. It's full of magic, fascinating tidbits of English folklore and charms, and it sets the old story to rest easy. I highly recommend it to anyone, like myself, who has been displeased with the original story.
Over & Out,

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Lyrics and Titles

So. Sydney likes Lifehouse and Johnny Cash.
Quite a combination. Though really, I hadn't planned on using so many songs in Halcyon House. It just sort of worked out that way. The original idea was to use the "In Which" format, which two of my favorite authors, Patricia C. Wrede and Diana Wynne Jones use to great affect in their books (see The Enchanted Forest Chronicles and Howl's Moving Castle) but it requires a lot of cleverness and ability to write those kind of chapter titles and not give too much away. So I decided to put it off for another story.
Now I basically raid my iPod for songs I think would go with the chapter and plot. So far I've used Switchfoot, Paramore, Taylor Swift, Leonard Cohen, and The Letter Black, just to name a few. I state the song title and the artist then I use a (brief) snippet of lyrics as my chapter title. For example, Chapter Three is "Out of Control" by Capital Lights. The format I'm using looks like this:
"Out of Control"--by Capital Lights
I'll write you out of the story like you knew that I would, living happily ever after never happens for good…
Of course, in the actual chapter, it looks a lot different. But I like using songs better than making up my own chapter titles; the lyrics do a much better job of explaining or foreshadowing the action that's about to take place than I would.
I've also decided to be a total cliche and have Sydney play an instrument. Two of them, actually. Specifically, guitar and piano. Every girl's dream, right? (Side note: to any guy besides Aaron who might read this--piano? Most romantic instrument ever. You will win any girl's heart if you can play a pretty song on the piano and play it well.) And it totally opens up the possibilities for me to use more songs! Especially Lifehouse. A lot of Lifehouse songs seem to speaking exactly for my Sydney. And Johnny Cash, as mentioned above. Hey, who doesn't like Johnny Cash? I've put a disclaimer at the top of the manuscript clearly stating that none of the songs used within are mine. I'm just using them because I like them so much.
Halcyon House might be winding down sooner than later, and I'll be sad to see it go. So I won't talk about it just yet. I'll just tell the story until Ayden and Sydney decide they want to get their acts together and put me out of my misery!
Over & Out,