114k words.

11 months.

A stupid first draft.

Many facepalms and “head-to-desks”.

And I finally finished Esmeralda.

So….

“The End.”

I’m not gonna lie, it was super exciting to type out those two words.  I wrote Esmeralda’s first draft in 100 days exactly (350+ pages) and am quite proud of the fact.  A few of you read that original ending, and can attest to just how dreadful it was.  To be honest, I don’t know that I have the greatest ending now, but I think it’s better.  And for now – since this rewrite took me eleven months – I’m more than willing to just let it sit for a bit.

I felt like a whole chunk of my life was gone when I finished this time.  It was kinda weird, like empty-nesting.  But a good-weird.  I’ll kinda miss my characters, but Finding You is really taking off in my mind and I can’t wait to turn my attention there now.

I wish I had the time / patience to write a drawn out “author’s note” of a post here, but I don’t.  I am so incredibly grateful for all of you who read Esmeralda- especially for the comments and reviews that told me what you were thinking.  You are all so kind and encouraging, and when I’d read that you cared about what happened to the characters, it gave me this giddy feeling in my stomach.  I felt like a real writer, and I don’t know what would have happened to my poor book if I’d never gotten feedback.  There were definitely times when I felt like it wasn’t worth saving, and then I’d find a new comment asking for more.  And that always spurred me on.

I know there are several issues left to work out.  Someday I’ll write a third draft, after I have some understanding of the Russian language, perhaps, and can make Evy’s world into a Russian one.  I’ll fix the inconsistencies, maybe deepen the characters, and work out a few of the issues that Evy would have had after eight years a prison cell.  And amidst all that, I’ll manage to cut it down about 25,000 words.  Yeeaahhh.

(Screenshot of my title page in the word document. ^^  I’m totally laughing at the whole “short novel” thing.  That was a dream that passed quickly.)

There’s much teasing debate at my house as to who I’ll “dedicate” the book to- my little brother insists that he has always been there for me (though he mocks any hint of romance, so…), most of my family is saying that I’d “better not dedicate it to ‘some friend’ because they’ve always supported me”, and my sister Em says I should dedicate it to “Matthew, Marilla, and ‘Gil’” and give it to said “Gil” as he’s dying of scarlet fever.  I  think I like her suggestion best.  😉

My biggest thanks goes to my God, though- without His strength I would be a mess and a shoddy writer, and it’s only by His grace that I’ve gotten as far as I have.

So thanks so much for sticking with me, folks.  I love you all (and I mean that, really- my Figgie friends are some of my dearest).

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How many of you have read even a bit of Esmeralda?  A few hands?  Okay, that’s good. I just need a couple of opinions.

I am nearly finished with my first draft (nearing that dreadful ending I have to somehow rewrite to work in with new elements of the plot) and I am starting the exciting/tedious process of setting it into book form, in the Blurb BookSmart editor, so I can send in the files and have a real live book-version of my story sent to me. *claps hands* Yay!!

I have this little love affair with witty/profound/poetic quotations (my “Wilkommen” about me page is proof of this) and I want to put a relevant quotation right before the title page.  I have scrutinized my “favorite quotations” Listhings board, and have narrowed the list of candidates to the five listed below.  Would you let me know which you think is/are best fitting for the story?

Here they are:

1. “We owe it to each other to tell stories.” ~Neil Gaiman

2. “Stories are light. Light is precious in a world so dark.” ~Kate DiCamillo, The Tale of Desperaux

3. “In the light, we read the inventions of others; in the darkness we invent our own stories. ” ~ Alberto Manguel

4. “Stories can conquer fear, you know. They can make the heart bigger.” ~Ben Okri

5. “All stories are lies. But good stories are lies made from light and fire. And they lift our hearts out of the dust, and out of the grave.” ~Mike Carey

And then, with the “book” version of Esmeralda comes a new cover…ish.  The image I’ve been using on Figment is too low in quality for a full-sized book cover, so I’ve done my best to enhance the stock image, and print the title as best as I can.  The font is new, but the picture is the same. Don’t be mad. 😉

Read Esmeralda Here!

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Here they are, folks! [Most of] my cast!  I’ve had a few characters that only exist because I someone to shape them around [Leopold] and others that took me months to figure out what they looked like [Evy’s mother, the queen].  But here’s what I’ve come up with.

To see them better, view the image in a new tab; I had to make it a bit small so it would fit my theme. 😉

Going down each column, left to right:

Nicolai [Liam Neeson],

Roman [Chord Overstreet],

Natalia [Natalie Portman]

Leopold [Henry Cavill],

Evangeline [random image I found],

The Queen (Evy’s mother) [Femke Janssen]

Leopold (again) [Henry Cavill],

Evangeline (again) [Mischa Barton],

The King (Evy’s father) [William Fichtner]

Aron [Peter Facinelli],

Jakob [Daniel Craig]

Daria [Kate Micucci],

Yurik [Rupert Penry-Jones],

Ivan [Matt Bomer]

There you are!   Tatiana is not pictured here, as I’m still sorting out her exact appearance, and neither is the maid who gave Evy a hard time (and returns soon), who looks like Eve Myles, or Luka, who is based a little off of Sean Palmer in the original cast of the Broadway Little Mermaid.   I haven’t yet gotten Mikhail figured out either. :/ Let me know if these aren’t how you pictured the characters, if they are, or if you have any suggestions on changes!  Thanks!

p.s. I’m about to post two new chapters! Check them out!

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Before I begin, I’d like to make it clear once and for all that Esmeralda has NOTHING to do with gypsies.  I promise.  It’s the truth.  Gypsies are awesome and all, and yes I’ve written a dozen cliched and possibly thrilling stories about heroines who join gypsy troupes, but this is not one of those.  Just putting that out there.  (This is a hint to all those lovely people who ask me to please stop.)

Now, to business.  A brilliant friend of mine once shared via her blog some of her personal strategies, quirks, pet peeves, and idiosyncrasies (than Heaven for spell check on that one) about writing.  One thing she mentioned that inspired me to no end was an, “Inspired By” list. She says she keeps them at the beginning of her stories, to remind her of the feel she wants her book to have.  For instance the list for her pirate novel, Privateer, includes the song “Woman” from Boubil and Schonberg’s musical, The Pirate Queen.  You can see instantly why we’re friends. I THOUGHT NO ONE ELSE HAD EVER EVEN HEARD OF THE PIRATE QUEEN.

So I thought I’d do the same for Esmeralda.  I’ve come up with some of the items, settings, characters and old stories that for a time roiled my mind until coming out as Esmeralda.  So here are a few:

Marie Antoinette, the fate of her family, and the French Revolution in general. (Best history subject ever much? YES.)  This also includes the book The Red Necklace.  I get chills just thinking about it. *shiver*

The fashions / weapons / prisons in The Pirates of the Caribbean movies.

The jail cell in The Count of Monte Cristo. Not gonna lie- I basically just described that cell, no imagination necessary.

The old myth of the tragic lovers, Pyramus & Thisbe.  (I’m pretty sure Shakespeare was inspired by them as well.)

The bloke who plays Monsieur Thenardier in the 1998 movie adaptation of Les Miserables.  He just kinda stuck in my mind, and then boom! One day I needed a jailer, and there he was.  No Armand Dorleac, to be sure, but I couldn’t really plagiarizeThe Count of Monte Cristoagain.

The book and the movie(s) of The Scarlet Pimpernel.  Again with the French Revolution.  I don’t know why since the stories have nothing to do with each other.

Random things like masquerade balls, decorative masks, black feathers, purple silk, dingy cellars / jail cells, clock faces, clock chimes, roman numerals, flintlock pistols, hook & eye boots…the list goes on.

And then of course people: Henry Cavill, Chord Overstreet, Daniel Craig, Mischa Barton, Peter Facinelli.

That’s about it, at the moment.  There are lots of scenes and memories I can’t place, but I don’t want to bore y’all by wracking my brain for too long.  That’s the basics. 🙂

Brace yourselves, y’all: I have news.  Whether it’s good or bad you can decide, but here it is: “Project: Proxy” has been terminated, temporarily.  *tear*

I’ve ranted to some of you about the issues it has been giving me and honestly guys, I can’t handle it right now.  I’ve always read / heard writers joke about their characters “taking control” or “not listening to them” or a scene having its own ideas of where it’s going.  And I really truly thought I knew what they were talking about.

I DID NOT.

I was an innocent babe.

A fool, an amateur, an idiot.

I KNEW NOTHING.

Proxy actually hates me, and it’s rather heartbreaking- like a little child you’ve nurtured from infancy who suddenly says “no” and eyes you with disdain.  And yet I’m far too attached to discipline as of yet.  So we’ll see what happens with my own dear Proxy– I’m a firm believer in not leaving your characters hanging, in giving them if not a happily ever after then at least some sort of closure.  And I did break out the old versions of Proxy I never got more than 14 pages in, including (but not limited to) versions where “Jude” was this kick-butt and yet middle-aged tutor guy called Malachi who was far too heavily influenced by the character of Red in The Edge on the Sword (aaaaamazing book) and a piece where the “Roe” character doesn’t even know about the courtship until it starts happening and decides to be a freelancing spy. I’d like to think the story has improved.  Oh, and the messenger, “Liam”, calls her “lass”…ummm…I had probably just read The Lioness and her Knight. I’m gonna excuse myself this time.

But anyway, that’s the deal with Proxy right now.  I’m a little sad to see it go, but I have to chop it for now. It will return!

I have, however, been continuing “Finding You” and “Esmeralda Draft #2” whenever I get a moment, and I like some of where they’re both going.  I’m dying to introduce my character “Des” in “Finding You”, and “Esmeralda” is finally getting to what I think is the interesting stuff.  That being said, I am in love with the below picture of Henry Cavill (who, if you don’t know, “plays” Leopold in the movie version in my head).

Also, last quick thing about Leopold.

I read this one book about a year ago. Perhaps you’ve heard of it, or perhaps you live under an enormous rock.  Either that or you’re homeschooled. (I’m allowed to make those jokes.)  The book is called Divergent.  I’m a critical reader, okay?  I’ve found flaws (albeit minor) with Shannon Hale, Suzanne Collins, Orson Scott Card…my idols. (Jane Austen remains blameless, folks.)  But I swear, Divergent (Veronica Roth) was pretty close to perfection. Pretty close.  I’m still freaking out waiting for my hold at the library for the sequel, but I’ll see how that goes.

The only thing about the book that super duper irritated me (*spoiler alert*) is that the guy, known initially as “Four”, has a secret identity that is later discovered by the heroine, Tris, and she ever after calls him by his real name: Tobias.  Now…I have nothing against the name Tobias (I have this super cool friend with that name, though we call him Toby).  But it did. not. suit. him.  It drove me nuts.  And just as Veronica Roth changed the name of the “hero” half-way through the book to a completely different one, I’ve done the same with Leopold.

Is that allowed?  Because when I was writing the first draft I planned on Evangeline calling him “Bastian” throughout the entire book- true identity revealed and all.  But then…it happened.  He became Leopold., because he’s different than Bastian, just as “Esmeralda” is different than the Evangeline he knew in prison- they’ve both changed and they’re both following a different set of protocols and fulfilling different roles in such their current setting.  So.  Have I done wrong?  Because I don’t think I’d want to change it now.

I’m rather in love with Leopold, in a different way that I was with Bastian.  Does that make sense?  Oh well.  I hope it does. :/

[P.S. world- did y’all hear that Henry Cavill is playing Superman with Amy Adams as Lois Lane?  I’m not freaking out or ANYTHING.]

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Some of you know that I have an embarrassing and ongoing love affair with sticky-notes.   I’m sure my family thinks I’m some kind of freak, since my mirror, walls, bureau, headboard, and desk are all covered in them, some scribbled feverishly in the dark when I’m supposed to be sleeping and slapped to the nearest hard surface, others when my eyes pop open in the morning and all I can think of the next plot development or character’s back-story I’ve thought (or dreamt) of.

It’s pathetic.

And then one day my friend Anderson mentioned in casual (facebook) conversation, this thing called “Listhings” that he thought I might enjoy. Little did he know…. *maniacal laugh, maniacal laugh*

I’ve become obsessed. It’s like sticky-notes…on my laptop.  And you can have pictures, and put script in bold, and italics, and cross it through, and you can drag things around and add checklists and…I’m in love with it.  I’ve made half a dozen “boards” (not to be confused with the nearly as epic Pinterest-style boards) and I have to force myself to stop at that for now.

So anyway.  Because I love y’all, I will let you in on my secrets.  In previous posts, such as “Leopold” and “Evangeline” Ihave introduced you to my leading characters.  I’ll put a couple of screenshots of my board here, but if you’d like to officially view it, put a comment on this blog and I’ll send you an invite to view the board.  🙂  Be warned that there are dozens upon dozens of spoilers.  Don’t read beyond the section with the pictures if you don’t want to know the entire plot. 😉

I like to put questions I’m pondering as well:

And then random things that overwhelm me because I want to live up to them:

Anyways, that’s it for now.  Comment or message me if you want the password to view it in full!

I was Anne Shirley growing up.  I memorized every line of The Lady of Shalott – all ten pages.  I treated everything like a scene from a play and tried to look on the bright side of everything unless it was beautifully gothic and dramatic to be tragic for a moment.  Gilbert Blithe was the closest thing I’d ever seen to a Prince Charming, and I dreamed of being a writer.  The main difference was that, unlike Anne, I prayed for red hair.  Yeah….  Oh, and I dreamed of falling off the ridge poll of a roof (so I practiced balancing on ours like a n00b) only I had already decided that I would NEVER decline help from my own version of Gilbert, whoever that turned out to be.

Obviously when I had finished reading those books, I had to find anything else by Miss Montgomery to pore over.  This lead me to theEmily of New Moonbooks.  These I devoured.  I was actually in love with the character Teddy for a while, saw much of myself in the protagonist, Emily, and wanted her life.

In terms of what real-life lessons I took from the books, what I got wasn’t a lot: never trust the creepy jealous mother of your true love to pass love letters between the two of you, do NOT entertain affections from guys old enough to be your father, and the idea of writing letters to yourself in the future.

Emily writes letters to herself ten years in the future, but I knew I was too impatient to wait that long, so I went for five years instead.  And GUESS WHAT?!  Today, being my nineteenth birthday (w00t) was the day I opened the two I wrote when I was 14!!! Oh my word.  Made. My. Day.

It was amazing and amusing and rather heartwarming / chuckle-inducing to read what the little version of me had written.  Mostly I was keen that the future me was still a Christian, loved horses, went barefoot, and wasn’t in love with anyone I had known then, since “that would be weird”.  Safe on all accounts, then. 😉

It was like a mini time-capsule.  (I even included a drawing I had done and I’d like to think I’ve improved. Golly.)

I can’t seem to discover who invented the ballpoint pen, but I owe said person my life.  I’m not even exaggerating.

I understand but am secretly not a fan of the term “writing” when it refers to only typing one’s work.  That is typingWriting involves a sheet of paper and a pen.  Possibly a dictionary, thesaurus, and “baby name” book on the table as well.  Chapstick and a mango smoothie are helpful, but not essential.  Dried banana chips are a must.

I have resigned myself to being the only person in the world with these convictions, but still I’d like to introduce y’all to my writing process- in particular that of Esmeralda. This involves a significant investment in Pilot pens, college ruled loose-leaf paper, index cards by the dozen and a plethora of sticky notes.

Here it is. 🙂

So that’s about it. 🙂  It’s a very heavy folder.

When I was eleven I wrote this story about a brother and sister living in a London orphanage with a mom who was a…well, she had a less than reputable past. They were shunned, stuck in the basement all night and it was sad and pitiable and I thought I was a very fine writer indeed.  They eventually got this friend who was sent down to live with them, called Sebastian (I’ve always had a thing for that name, saw what you will) who contracted a fever and in a *very* touching scene…died.  It was the first time I ever cried while writing something (not that it happens often now, mind you) and I was seriously impressed with my own skill.  (The other day I reread “Beth and Oliver” as it was temporarily entitled and was verging on appalled at my own arrogance- it was cute and mildly sad but nothing to shed a tear over.)

All that to tell you that I get kinnnnddd of caught up in my characters– again, it’s probably some form of pride, but I think every writer does it.  I also hate them sometimes.  (I once finished a story because although I had run out of inspiration and hated it, I felt I owed my heroine an ending since I’d bestowed on her an abusive father- I didn’t want her to have to live with that life, even on paper. Yeah….)

But funny thing: because I knew from the start that Roman was going to be the “second guy”– the one Will Scarlet, the St. John Rivers, the Nick Carraway- I wrote him with very little real love in my heart for him.  I never gave him a chance. I realize, as I reread and edit, how unfair I was.  In the brief moments that I did give him that chance (chapter 46 is my favorite part of his, now that I reread it) he’s actually kind of adorable at times.

And now…. *puts on River Song accent* Spoilers!

Roman-

As I do this rewrite, I’m taking the advice of some of my readers and fleshing Roman out a little more- he’ll still be the same person, but now he’s got a past, or at least his family does.  So, a couple of things:

He had a brother and sister.

His brother and sister were killed before he was old enough to remember them.

Hence Natalia is depressed and Nicolai is furious- guess who killed his kids? Not gonna say, sorry.  It’s all coming soon. But he has a motive other than justice for revenge and there’s always been a lot of pressure on Roman.

His eventual craziness is going to be more believable and a little less…crazy.  More just infuriated / a little out of it / jealous.  At least I hope so. I’ve got my fingers crossed that my writing talent will improve by the time I get to those scenes.

Jakob-

I’m so excited! I’ve found Jakob’s place in the book, his role, his story, his relationship with Evy, his entrance and exit points– and I think I’ve got down what he looks like…..Voila!

Daniel Craig…but with reddish-brown hair.  I’ve thought he’d make a good assassin / tough-guy character after being awed by his performances in Road to Perdition and especially Defiance. 🙂  Cool guy.


Natalia-

I’m reworking her a bit too, but she’s going to be in it less than Bekah.  I basically picture her like a slightly less gorgeous Natalie Portman (nothing to do with the similar names). 🙂

So I’ve been stuck for a while, as I intimated in my last post.  But then wahbam!  The other night, an idea sprung to mind.  I’m beyond thrilled.  I know how to save Esmeralda!!!  The answer is not the one I imagined it would be, but that’s possibly because my imagination wasn’t functioning.  The answer is… *drumroll* Nicholai!  Not what you were expecting?  Me either.  Weird, I know.  It doesn’t sound exciting, but trust me….that’s all I’ll say for now, but just know that I have something stupendous planned. 🙂  It involves a lot of development throughout for Natalia, Nicholai, Roman (and the reason for the way he went mad on everyone) and Leopold the First, as well as for Evy, who I find myself annoyed with as a character frequently.  So just be warned- the rewrite and ending is coming, and (I think, I hope, I pray) it’ll be far better. 🙂

Meanwhile I’m editing like mad- I have about 200 index cards, twice as many sticky-notes, and page upon page covered in notes and rewrites and edits…it’s enough to drive a person mad and fill them with delight at the same time.  It’s wonderful, but I kinda hate it at the same time.  Mostly I love it.  I’m a spaz right now because I haven’t been sleeping a lot.  Sorry.  So I’m working on switching most of the names over to Russian and Slavic names, like swapping Aaron to something like Marek or Dimitri, Bekah to Sonia or Tatiana, maybe, Marscel to Mikhail.

It’s kinda fun, and the more I do it, the more I realize how often those darned (wonderful) Russians pop up in my writing- in my book  The Puppet Queen Tamsin’s dance instructor, who works with her to hide her limp (and with whom she falls in love) is Vadim, (pronounced Vwah-deem- I love that name) and as Russian as it gets with his honey-colored hair, gorgeous blue-green eyes and soothing voice, and in Dichotomy there’s Raskolnikov, the malicious schemer inside Will’s head who calls him “comrade” and says his “w”s like “v”s.  (Unoriginal? Maybe, but a good chunk of the voices in Will’s head come from various pieces of literature, so I think I’m pardoned.)

It turns out I’ve been in love with Russians for quite some time (though not with any of those I know personally, for the record).  🙂

I’m hoping to begin updating Esmeralda again soon. Thanks for your patience, y’all!

(Also, I’m going nuts making collages and folders for all of my characters to kind of get to know the people and scenery better, to plant it inside my head.  So here’s another of my leading man, “played by” (in my head) Henry Cavill. 😉