I tried my hybrid best between 1700's and 70's. But somehow everything I do is a little Victorian. I can't help it. It's who I am, and what I do. The purple velvet pants and the Lennon glasses were my 70's nod. However those glasses are strikingly like the ones Gary Oldman wore as Dracula. Back to Victorian. I can't escape from the love-affair.
Note: MacGyvered Bustle, created by a simple length of Tulle clumped together and threaded through the back bottom lace of my corset just so to affect the bustling layer over the longer length of the train. Genius.
People were serious about costumes. That's what I love about these Dances of Vice events, they are to-the-nines on costumes, and the beautiful venue maximized the effect.
It's up at the COVEY AWARDS! Voting only happens the month of November so be sure to vote, and vote often! Great things can happen when people vote! I really do enjoy this cover, so thanks in advance for your vote!
I'm usually not political here on the blog. Well, save for that Obama graphic to my right...
Okay, so to say I didn't care about what happened on election night would be a big FAT LIE. I cared very much.
So after pulling the big red lever (Liz Maverick hearts the big red lever and you can see it, and great coverage of our eve...) myself, I flitted about the City, feeling nervous, excited, leery, hopeful, jaded, all at the same time. There was an electricity in New York City, beyond that of the usual rat-race. Walking across Times Square, the crowds gathered for the CNN broadcast drove it home that it was really happening. And then there was a random float of people dressed up in elaborate pirate costumes promoting Captain Morgan's rum and an element of surreality added to the mix.
Sharing the evening with friends was definitely in order. I needed people near me, because I was an emotional/physical space-cadet. I almost walked on to the entirely wrong train had Hope Tarr not gently grabbed my elbow to steer me towards an alternate train towards Brooklyn, where our hostess awaited.Thanks for the party, Megan!
I do have my own photos of the evening, but alas, due to technical difficulties, I cannot upload them because my laptop is currently possessed by the Devil.
Here's a little personal play by play.
I had my eye on a few key states of emotional significance, many of which were battleground. Pennsylvania, since I campaigned in Philadelphia, Minnesota, since I lived there for a few years, Florida, lived there too, and lastly... Ohio. Home state.
We saw Pennsylvania. Blue. Happy Dancing abounded. (Really, there was authentic Happy Dancing). Then I heard Minnesota went for our team, and Wisconsin (Marcos' home state where he'd been campaigning all week. Good job, love!). Every state win was like a world series ending home run. More kicks and Molly Shannon cheerleader poses. Then Ohio was called by Fox. (We were switching back and forth to see the excitement or the frown lines, depending on the network) I freaked out a little, but wasn't going to really Happy Dance until CNN called it, just for good measure. They soon did. I was enraptured with the maps as they turned colors (thank you, New York Times):
In my voting career, no one I had ever voted for in Ohio had ever won. Seeing my home state, a state that has struggled and wrested over huge problems and job losses, a state with a sometimes conflicting identity and incredibly gifted people- seeing my Ohio turn "that beautiful shade of blue" was overwhelming. I didn't realize how moved I would be until it happened. Was on the phone with Mom & Dad, to whom I credit every ideal I've ever had, and we all tearfully shared in the Ohio victory. Sent excited texts to my lil' Sis, who cast her first ever vote. And I called Marcos, who attended a huge election party in Wisconsin, where I heard "Yes We Did!" chanted in the background.
And so as the electoral votes kept ticking upwards, there was much dancing and much sobbing, particularly during Obama's pitch-perfect acceptance speech. Critics have slammed his idea of "HOPE". But that's the thing about Hope, it's very hard to suffocate. It wants to live, and help us live better.
As the hours waned late, still reeling from the adrenaline and emotion, we encountered what the dear and utterly un-ironically named Hope mentioned; the impromptu drum circle on newspaper bins at Union Square. Awesome. (Until the cops gently said the time had drawn nigh for the loud noise and the people dancing on the telephone booths. It was, after all, after 4am.) But jumping and clapping and high-fiving with complete strangers for a common cause really has its thrill.
And then the next day... I was still feeling the high, and I wasn't alone. I kept running into strangers on the street who said "It's a great day, isn't it?" to which I said "Amen."
My favorite moment came when I passed a group of grade-school kids in Upper West Side Manhattan who were on recess. They were all in a huge group, facing the sidewalk and screaming, grinning, jumping, clapping, and chanting: "Yes, we can..." for all the city to hear and appreciate. A young girl held up a newspaper with Obama's picture on it and was pointing, screaming "That's my President!" - Yep. There I went, all choked up again. (After having cheered with the kids as I walked by).
Since Marcos wasn't back yet from the campaign trail, it was my duty to collect all the daily papers. So I wandered the city trying to find a New York Times. Every single stand. Sold out.
I decided to try the shiny new New York Times building itself, on 8th Avenue.
When in doubt, go to the source. I saw a loooong line stretching up the entire block. I approached the security guard, gestured towards the line, opening my mouth when he immediately replied, "Yes, that's the line to get a paper." Okay, then. The NYT editorial board had to mention this phenomena in a brief, encouraged blog post. The line was not irritating or inconvenient, it was exciting.
We were all there for the same thing, and in the end, that's what this is all about.
So October was a very busy month. Between edits, plotting, projects, work, conferences - The New Jersey RWA conference was really wonderful and fun - campaigning and costuming... I'm exhausted! But it's a good tired. Here are a few Halloween Awareness Month Highlights!
THE GREAT PUMPKIN BLAZE! Every year at the historic Van Cortlandt Manor thousands of pumpkins are carved and the outdoor display is just amazing. Marcos and I have made it our October tradition. It is SO cool. The pumpkins are beautifully elaborate!
Then came the New Jersey RWA Conference, where I met up with a bunch of friends, made new ones, schmoozed and signed Crescent Moon Press's bestseller DARK NEST - check out Kate at Babbling About Books for her take and thanks for that lovely picture of me at the signing, Kate!
Then immediately after the conference, it was on to Philadelphia where my awesome other half Marcos and I went campaigning for Obama for a couple of days to try and do our part. What struck me most about the City of Brotherly Love, a place I'd never been before, was the generosity of our hosts, the excitement of the campaign volunteers, and the gorgeous murals all over the city, in both the nice downtown areas of the city and the economically harder hit outer areas.
Two of the countless treasures.
Viva Puerto Rico!
And soon... before I could catch my breath, it was Halloween day itself...
The day being spectacular, and the day being Halloween, the lovely and talented Hope Tarr and I, always up for a little outer-borough adventure, headed up north into beauteous Bronx territory to the Woodlawn Cemetery.
It was magical weather. The trees were turning gorgeous shades, the sky was a brilliant blue...
The stained glass glimpsed while peeking inside the mausoleums were all breathtaking. (I have a stained glass and an angel obsession, put them together; heaven). I'm particularly moved by the weeping angel.
And then... HALLOWEEN!!!!!!!
Most of my camera's pictures didn't come out so well, but here's Marianne Mancusi and I, her as Little Dead Riding Hood, me as Little Dead Muffit, replete with spider. The Rebels of Romance will have more pictures of our evening's adventure, INCLUDING my Muffitt Halloween Jig (tm), and the impeccable camera-wielding hostess Morgan has great pictures HERE.
The Halloween Parade is my annual tradition.
The huge skeleton puppets are always worth the wait!
After the parade, on to Morgan and Nick's studio where hilarity abounded.
This picture of Nick says it all. What, exactly, I'm not sure, other than hilarity.
Here's just one of the many plates, and this is the area where most of my 'action' takes place, right around Bloomsbury (following the above link to the interactive map allows you to zoom in, this is just an example of one plate and the legend):
Red is Middle-Class/Well-to-do.
During initial research, I found a newspaper article that came out just after one of Jack's murders in August of 1888, lamenting that if there had just been more Gas-lit or those new Electrically lit streets, none of it would have happened... Just more light... Some of the murders did take place outside, one in Mitre Square, in what couldn't exactly be called a courtyard, under cover of complete darkness. The author of the article lamented that there was no light to banish the demons terrorizing the unfortunate.
Notice how in the above map, the widest streets are the most "Red" and well-to-do. Those would also have been the streets that were Gas, and not too far forward in the future, Electrically lit. Maybe the author had a point. So how does any of this relate to our modern day poverty situations? I always think having a knowledge of history lends context to the present. Desperate situations often get to a point that a horrific event like Jack the Ripper or an influential piece of reporting can begin to turn a tide of public awareness of social problems. For New York's Lower East Side, HOW THE OTHER HALF LIVES - published by Jacob Riis in 1890 was a key in turn-of-the-twentieth-century legistlation for housing laws, where a populous was confronted with the visual ravages of poverty in Riis' incredible photos and illustrations, just as Victorian London was confronted with the gruesome deaths of many "unfortunates" just two years prior.
Here's how my hero, Professor Alexi Rychman, has to confront Whitechapel, in pursuit of "Jack":
From Chapter 11:
"Into the dark and dirty underbelly of London Alexi plunged on horseback, spurring his stallion Prospero into the depths, seething with anger and hungry for knowledge.
Areas of London passed before his eyes that he liked to forget. Urchins, beggars and streetwalkers beckoned him, undeterred by the terror singularly targeting their neighborhood. He hissed at their advances, stricken by their plight.
One particular young woman, barely more than a child, called up to him asking if he wanted company for the evening. Alexi grit his teeth.
“Find shelter, for God’s sake! Don’t you know something terrible is on the loose?!” Alexi cried, flinging coins onto the street as he passed.
“I know, Sir,” the consumptive waif in a torn gown called after him, darting to a cobblestone to pick up his offering. “But I’m starving, I’ve got no choice. Bless you for the shilling, sir.”
Alexi reared his horse suddenly and turned back to the form silhouetted in the dim sulfur light of a distant lamp. She, thinking perhaps she had procured a client after all, looked up at him with a practiced, inviting look that was far more desperate than attractive. He shook his head and emptied the entirety of his pockets into her hands. “Find as many of your lot as you can and spend the night in safe shelter.”
The hollowed young woman gazed up at him in awe, past locks of hair piled haphazardly beneath a moth-eaten bonnet. “Are you trackin’ ‘im, then, good Sir, are you the detective?” she said, her small voice strengthened by hope.
“Of sorts, dear girl,” Alexi replied, taking the reins in his hand to dart off again. Her besmirched hand reached to stroke the black horse’s warm neck.
“Then you’re our guardian angel tonight, Sir,” she breathed. Alexi could neither acknowledge the sentiment nor look her in the eye, knowing he could never guard all such poor wretches society cast onto the streets.
“Don’t take long, and don’t part company,” he said gruffly, and started off.
“I won’t sir!” She cried. “Bless you, Sir. I was a friend of Annie Chapman, may she rest in peace, by God she’s lookin’ out for me by sendin’ you this night!”
The name of the ‘Ripper’s’ second victim rang in his ears as he plunged towards a peculiar light down near a train yard. Instinct told him that the beast that nearly killed Elijah earlier in the evening was the sole source of Whitechapel’s sorrow. Instinct also warned it may be ready for another atrocity.
Street lamps ended at Commercial Street and Whitechapel Road. Alexi had forgotten the fact, because when summoned to these depths of darkness in the course of his Great Work, there had always been ethereal light to guide his way. Spectres always cast their own illumination. But tonight, the sector was black. Even the ghosts had been frightened off…
These wards were the poorest, the most hopeless, the dregs of those who had come to a city seeking better than their countryside could offer and finding no love nor shelter within the bosom of the Empire. The heavens must have felt a bit of pity for the clouds thinned to allow a dim grey moonlight to filter over the city. It was just enough light for navigation, but only at a slow plod. Prospero stamped impatiently, his hooves pounding against the cobblestones or messily splashing in muddy puddles.
Turning a wide corner, just inside the dim, sooty haze of Duffield’s Yard, just off a set of train tracks, Prospero halted his heavy tread.
Alexi caught the sight of something amorphous rustling in a space between miserable brick buildings. He could only make out sounds, because there was a black hole ahead of him, a pitch black deeper than night itself, snuffing out all existence; the terror of Whitechapel…"
(end of MISS PERCY PARKER excerpt)
I hope you'll take a moment today to remember the Annie Chapmans of the world, and other victims, then, and now.
Be sure to check out Willis' blog for adorable photos, great animal welfare tips, and heartwarming stories. He's a therapy dog, a tool for educational outreach, and a superstar. And considering he was found wandering about Staten Island all alone, he's a trooper too. Make pet adoption your first option.
Hi, I'm a fluffy-cute rescued lab bunny, and I approve this message.
That's it. From now on, I'm writing down striking things I hear on the streets of New York for posterity, contemplation, anger or amusement. Today: Amusement.
The scene: Adorable one-ish year old little girl in burgundy velvet dress being held up by Dad as she tests out walking her little, bare feet on 28th street. Mother approaches, grinning and bending down to daughter.
Quote from grinning Mom to said child:
"This isn't Burma! You can't walk around without shoes in Manhattan!"
Now this phrase has its truths, and its untruths. True, 28th street is not Burma, and I also agree that you can't walk around barefoot in Manhattan.
But personally, I think the maximum amusement potential of this quote comes from the fact that it's not Burma anymore, it's Myanmar.
(Left: proposed new flag of Myanmar)
(Unless you listen to the BBC. They still call it Burma. I assume because they can't quite get over the fact that they're just not the same 'sun never sets on the Empire' anymore, so maybe Mum was a Brit. I couldn't tell with the baby-talk-tone colouring her voice - see, I put a 'u' in colouring. I'll be the first to admit to severe Anglophile tendencies so don't think I'm being a hater here. Either I had an awesome or a traumatic past life in England because the land calls to me like a Siren. And my upcoming book is set in London, as a matter of fact. However I shall call the former land of "Burma" Myanmar.
Another recent, great "Only In New York" moment, I was escorting my dear friend, talented actress/singer Kate to her bartending gig at the St. James theatre, and she leads me in through the darkened house of the Broadway theatre, where only the single Ghost Light is on the stage. It's a neat and eerie thing to see, the Ghost Light:
Mesmerised by the Ghost Light, hoping to see and actual ghost, I trip and fall in the dark and cavernous space.
We giggle like kids tresspassing.
All the while we are serenaded as Tony award winning actress and awesome diva Patti LuPone warms up for Gypsy by belting her guts out two floors up.
I get to see the show next week!
Still another momentous Only In New York moment?
Walking into the offices of Dorchester, my coveted, debut "New York publisher" for the first time last week! I could be all suave and say I wasn't excited and giddy, but that would be an outright lie. My eyes were sparkly.
In other news. Now comes the part where Leanna admits she's being a space-cadet.
So where have I been?
...That's right, my friends.
I'm in the midst of edits for my upcoming 2009 Dorchester release THE STRANGELY BEAUTIFUL TALE OF MISS PERCY PARKER. And I have to shift major emotional arcs for my main characters because my editor is really smart and it will be a better book when done. (He is smart, I'm not just saying that because I'm still sparkly-eyed, it's true.)
To do this with any degree of decency, (I'm clothed while I edit, get your mind out of the gutter) or skill, I have to be really IN it. THICK in Victorian England. THICK into my character's heads. A Soupy kind of mental thickness. Going into the world that I love so dearly (I really, really love it) is great. It's the coming out of it and back to real-world that kinda sucks. I work as a tour guide and there are moments when tourists blink at me and ask me where the Empire State Building is and all I want to do is shake them and say "DON'T YOU PEOPLE UNDERSTAND I NEED A CUT-SCENE BETWEEN CHAPTERS SEVEN AND EIGHT AND I DON'T CARE IF YOU MISS YOUR FERRY TO THE STATUE OF LIBERTY..."
*sigh* I never say that. But I want to.
I've described my state of Soupness kind of like the Matrix... where all those green binary numbers just keep scrolling... scrolling... And that's the pages of my book in my head... scrolling and I'm in that wierd bullet-time where Neo can alter stuff, and I swoop one scene in and swoop another one out as it all just keeps scrolling and I could look at it forever...
So that's where I am. Brain-Soup. And where are you?
DARK NEST is under RomanceNovel.tv's "Books We're Pimping" home-page column for this week! Here's what the lovely Maria has to say:
"Here's a fresh new voice on the scene. This romance fantasy novella hits all the right notes. Leanna has created a world that is so descriptive it will dance before your eyes. Set in the future, newly evolved psychically gifted humans are sent by the Homeworld to charter new territory. But as they discover betrayal, they also realize their true potential. I say pick this one up."
So there's this other thing I do sometimes. What I got my degree in. Theatre.
Now let's be clear; what I did yesterday at Silvercup Studios in Queens was not acting, it was just showing up and bringing a cute outfit to the set of Gossip Girls. OMFG! The food was really good.
It was indeed a lot of fun. There was a Screen Actors Guild waiver waiting for me, (one step closer to SAG, baby), a wide pan shot through our bunch-o'-actors-way-older-than-high-school-playing-seniors crowd, a bit of a screen shot with Blair - we'll see if it survives the editing process, don't get too excited but you might actually see me on screen, and a 9 hour day paycheck. (I got a scene in a new novella written in the down-time, see how studious?)
The funniest thing about the day? The random fire-drill at the studio. Yep. Just like High-School, only with more costumes. Lots of people lookin' pretty n' preppy filing down 4 floors and outside to gather across the street as a storm brews over Astoria. Dramatic, eh?
Hop on over, check it out, and while you're there, leave a comment about all the great blurbs!
Thanks and love!
*dance dance dance*
DARK NEST blurb:
Chief Counsel Ariadne Corinth has just found out her long-time lover, the powerfully gifted Chief Counsel Kristov Haydn, has died. Newly evolved psychically gifted humans have been sent by the Homeworld on a space mission aboard two distinct “Nests”. Relationships between the Light Nest and the Dark Nest have faltered and Ariadne is sure there’s something insidious behind it. In a matter of hours, Ariadne must find out what really happened to Kristov, unite her people to discover vast new powers the Homeworld denied them, or else submit to genocide.
Okay, so meeting the Muppets was like the best day ever.
What could be the more Best Day Ever?
Selling a book to a New York publishing house!
After more years of dogged determination than I care to mention, I've landed a two book contract with DORCHESTER PUBLISHING here in New York. And can I say, beside myself? Beside myself. Me. Then Self. Beside.
So the moment I found out about this, I had to share it with a couple of friends on the inside loop before I could tell the world.
Liz Maverick and Marianne Mancusi, certainly no strangers to publishing, took pictures of me in my ridiculous bliss. This is what it looks like to have a dream come true. Yes, it's that rabid-joy look again that you'll recognize from the previous post. Now that I can officially shout this news to the rafters, there will be more celebratory pictures to come with many other wonderful friends.
So I want to thank the academy... my family, my boyfriend, God, my friends, etc.
I'm really, really thankful and blessed.
For those of you also wanting what I've wanted as long as I can remember, keep on keeping on.
Actress, playwright and award winning, Barnes & Noble bestselling author of the STRANGELY BEAUTIFUL, the MAGIC MOST FOUL and the ETERNA FILES series of Gothic Victorian Fantasy novels for adults and teens. Her books have been translated into many languages and chosen for multiple book club editions. Four time Prism Award winner for excellence in her genre. Actress (Member AEA, SAG-AFTRA), lifelong Perky Goth, vegetarian, devotee of all things 19th century, owner of more corsets than is sensible, loves nothing more than a good ghost story (she works for Boroughs of the Dead tour company) and a long stroll through a beautiful graveyard. Passionate advocate of Gothic Literature at conventions, symposiums and schools around the country. A proud member of performer unions AEA and SAG-AFTRA, she works often in film and television on shows such as Boardwalk Empire.
"Leanna Renee Hieber rules with an iron fist and a tiny black hat." - author Sam Sykes
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