“A painting undermined my father. And, as you will see by the end of my story, a painting nearly destroyed me. Art is dangerous like that, an unruly thing. I used to consider it as superfluous as those who dedicated their lives to creating it. I no longer do—I’ve learned this lesson, along with so many others, over the past months. During this period my life has become as foreign to me as another land….”
As I mentioned in Friday’s post, I’ll be reading tomorrow night at Litwrap’s Works-in-Progress summer reading. I’m planning to read from the first chapter of the Novel Formerly Known as THE LILY MAID (above) and a short excerpt from the Next Novel.
When: Tuesday, July 29th, 7 – 9PM
Where: Upstairs at 61 Local, 61 Bergen Street (corner of Smith Street), Brooklyn
The reading is supported in part by a grant from Poets & Writers. I’ll be joined by an awesome lineup of local writers: Brian Erickson, Ilana Kramer, Sarah Seltzer, Rachel Lyon, Max Bean, Mary Lannon, and Gerard Cabrera. If all this isn’t enough enticement, I’ll be spilling the new titles for THE LILY MAID and the Next Novel, which thus far only my literary agent and a few close friends know.
So, hope to see you there!
Photographed recently in Brooklyn’s Chinatown. Kind of how I feel when I contemplate first lines.
I’ve been tagged in yet another writer’s meme* making its way about Facebook. This one is all about opening lines for chapters, which seems especially timely as I forge my way through the first draft of the Next Novel.
Here are the rules for the First Lines meme: Post the first sentence of the first three chapters in your WIP to your wall. Tag others to participate.
Here’s mine from the very rough first draft of the Next Novel, which takes place in 1851 London amid poets and photographers:
1. The young woman laid as if asleep, her hands cupped against her breast like she was cradling a dove.
2. It is not an average day when a gentleman is called to photograph his dying father.
3. “I must warn,” Bertram Fitzgordon began, his breath shallow and fetid, “that you may find this story disturbing considering your unfortunate circumstances.”
Related note: this meme reminded me of a post I wrote nearly four years ago about first lines when I was drafting THE LILY MAID. (Yikes, that’s a long time!) Back then, my first sentence for THE LILY MAID was:
“I was surprised when the invitation arrived that June morning from St. John Dulac.”
At that time, I predicted the sentence would probably change. And I was right. My first sentence of the novel is now:
“A painting undermined my father.”
Whether this first line will change again, only time will tell.
* Thanks to the lovely Teralyn Pilgrim for tagging me. Teralyn’s recently expanded and updated her long established blog to include more than only writing-related posts. Check it out here.
Good news in Art and Words land:
Here are the deets:
When: Tuesday, July 29, 2014, 7 – 9 pm
Where: Upstairs at 61 Local
61 Bergen Street, Brooklyn, NY
Subway: F or G train to Bergen Street
Other authors will be participating. I’ll post their information as I learn more. Perhaps I’ll see you there?
2. At the 2014 INATS (International New Age Trade Show), The Sacred World Oracle (right) won the prestigious COVR award for Best Divination Deck of the Year. This is quite the honor, especially since my deck was up against some very stiff competition.
If that wasn’t exciting enough, there’s more: the Sacred World Oracle also won the top award for 2014 Product of the Year. Yup, the big kahuna.
I’m beyond thrilled.
ETA: The good people US Games Systems just sent me a photo of my deck flanked by its two awards. They look so substantial!
Snippet Sunday is a monthly meme organized by Stephanie Dray in which historical authors post six sentence snippets of their novels. For the sake of organization, I’ve decided to post mine on the first Sunday of the month. You can read my previous snippets here.
June’s snippet is from The Lily Maid, which now bears a new-but-secret title upon the advice of a an editor I admire. This excerpt is written from the point of view of my protagonist, a Victorian era artist’s model. It was inspired by my experience touring Kelmscott Manor (above), the Oxfordshire country home of William Morris and his family:
The rest of my tour of Applewood Grange seemed something from a half-remembered dream. We climbed a circular staircase toward Mrs. Curtis’ studio on the third floor, with its wooden box of a camera, photograph prints pinned along the walls, and stacks of fragile glass negatives. Nessa’s workroom contained a loom, spreads of sheet music. A last door led to a cobwebbed library crowded with more books than my father’s office at King’s College.
Perhaps it was the aftermath of viewing the painting, but these abandoned signs of life gave me the sense the Dulacs had created a society infused with beauty, privilege, and affection. A society no one else could enter.
As I mentioned Wednesday, I’ve been tagged by historical fiction author Nancy Bilyeau in a writerly blog hop. Without further ado, it’s time to tell you more about the main character of my novel THE LILY MAID.
1. What is the name of your main character? Is she fictional or a historical person?
Elizabeth Sirini, known as Lizzy to her close friends and family. She is fictional, but her story is very loosely (and I do mean loosely!) inspired by the lives of several artists’ muses of the nineteenth century: Elizabeth Siddal, Jane Morris, and others. My description of Elizabeth’s appearance is based on the Waterhouse painting of The Lady of Shalott.
2. When and where is the story set?
The setting is 1888 London during the height of the Aesthetic Movement—aka “the Cult of Beauty.” Think Oscar Wilde, absinthe swilling, crooked spiritualists, scandals, and decadent artists:
“The newspapers even gave their artistic endeavors a collective name: the Aesthetic Movement. Unlike the Pre-Raphaelites, who’d aimed to depict the realities of nature and society some thirty years earlier, the Aesthetes valued beauty as a corrective to our less-than-gilded age of Victoria. Art for art’s sake….”
3. What should we know about him/her?
Elizabeth was studying the new science of psychology before her life fell apart. (More about that below.) She is determinedly rational in her personal life, yearning to find the “veracity of things” beyond the surface. She’s also very beautiful, but disdainful of the notice her appearance brings:
“Unlike others, I refuse to lie to myself—I yearn to see things as they really are, not what I wish them to be. I know what others see when they look at me: they don’t see me. Nor do they see my regrets. They only see my mother’s gold hair and my father’s northern Italian blue-grey eyes, which always appeared startled to me, as if I’d been caught in some secret transgression. These rested above a slender nose and wide mouth that, someone once told me, resembled a Renaissance madonna. However I took little pleasure in the attention my appearance brought. Even then, I knew beauty was a trap. I’d seen it sentence my mother to the sorrows of losses and small coffins pressed into churchyards, weighing my father in remorse. After all, it was my mother’s beauty that had attracted his admiration all those years ago; he’d been so dazzled he never noticed how her parents disapproved of his immigrant status, or that he bore little in common with my mother beyond love and rebellion.”
4. What is the main conflict? What messes up his/her life?
When Elizabeth’s father unexpectedly dies, a chain of tragic events results in her ending her engagement to her true love. As a result, she’s forced to provide for her invalid mother, which leads her into modeling for a notoriously scandal-prone painter as the lovelorn Lady of Shalott. And that’s just the start of my main character’s troubles.
5. What is the personal goal of the character?
Elizabeth craves to return to her “normal” life before her father’s death: to return to her studies, to love again. This, of course, is very complicated.
6. Is there a working title for this novel and can we read more about it?
The working title has been THE LILY MAID. That written, my novel in the semi-secret process of being retitled—my agent and I have tentatively settled on the new one, though I’m not ready to announce it. I was strongly advised to retitle it after workshopping with legendary editor Amy Einhorn at the Salt Cay Writers Retreat last year. (When Amy Einhorn gives advice, you take it.) I’ve set up a page for my novel here and have been posting about it here.
7. When can we expect the book to be published?
I’m hoping late 2015, fingers crossed.
The next authors whose main characters you will meet: