Friday, December 31, 2010

HOPPY NEW YEAR!

Persebunny, Queen of the Undereverything, says:

"HOPPY NEW YEAR! 2011 is the Year of the Rabbit!!! Best. Year. Ever!!! Woo-hoo!!!"















Here's to a blessed 2011!!

In honor of my beloved rescued lab rabbit Persebunny, I am making a year-end contribution to the House Rabbit Society which helps educate rabbit owners, rescue bunnies around the world and find loving, adoptive forever homes for them. Won't you consder a year-end gift to animals in need today too?

Cheers!!

Saturday, December 18, 2010

All hail the Windy City...

Whew! What a week! 2 days in Ohio, a day and a half in Milwaukee, a stint in Chicago, and now I'm back. May it be noted that all three of those locations were bloody cold. NYC is no tropical paradise either. *sips 5th cup of clove tea in the last few hours*
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The trip, while one big mad rush, was lovely. It began with a brief time with my family in Ohio, where Marcos and I saw a flock of wild turkeys. Among other things. Um, awesome. Don't get me wrong, we had great meals, great company and exchanged lovely gifts, but the turkeys were definitely a highlight. You just don't see things like this in NYC. We did, however, find a Marc Anthony "Live From New York City" CD at the Walgreens in Hamilton. (An album that Marcos had never seen in NYC. Irony.)
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I employed the use of a motor-vehicle to make a bit of a midwestern-snow-filled road trip. At one point a truck stop supplied us with the necessary Red Bull and The Best of Dolly Parton and Johnny Cash albums. (At one point my music mix went from Ministry's "Every Day is Halloween" to "My Tennessee Mountain Home" and I rocked out equally, this is how it is with me.) We trekked out to Wisconsin so that I could have a moment with the "in laws" in the Brew City before moving onwards towards business in Chicago.

What business, you ask? Why, touching down in the home offices of my new publisher, of course! Sourcebooks has a New York branch, but the home offices are just outside Chicago. I've been very excited about all the initiatives Sourcebooks has been doing these past few years, and even more excited to be on their upcoming roster. Kelly and Paul treated me to a day of showing me around, talking shop, and being generally wonderful. It helps that Sourcebooks' founder and CEO Dominique Raccah is one of the warmest, most engaging and dynamic people; she's a visionary in the field and I feel blessed to now be a part of what she's built and keeps strongly building.
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I was called upon to present two brief selections from the draft of -working title- Magic Most Foul. (Releasing November 1st, 2011). Considering my theatrical background, doing readings is always my favourite part of the process, and I was graced by the whole team as an audience. The atrium centre of the Sourcebooks home office is exceedingly pleasant, replete with foliage and fountain, and it was there where I was seated next to the book-bedecked and quote-adorned cow of literacy. (Many cities have had variations on this sort of themed sculpture parade, with various companies sponsoring the resulting works, Sourcebooks urban legend says they outbid Oprah for said bovine...) I had such a lovely time with the whole, lovely team. And a big shout-out to Sean Murray for winning Barnes & Noble's sales rep award! I'm very thrilled to have such talent on board. Check them out on Twitter and follow all their goings on!
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I also had the great joy of meeting with Liz of True-Blood.Net, the original Fansite for HBO's True Blood. If you've spent any time on their amazing forum or here on my blog, you'll know that they've been one of the most ardent supporters of the Strangely Beautiful series. Liz and I talked for hours (and could have talked more if I didn't have to meet up with the friend housing me) about life, writing, their exciting initiatives regarding all their Fansite knowledge, and we agreed that True-Blood.Net will be where the exclusive cover reveal for Book 3, The Perilous Prophecy of Guard and Goddess , will land! So stay tuned! The Strangely Beautiful series will continue before we know it (May!) and there's lots to update! Thanks tons also to Liz at True-Blood.Net for including Strangely Beautiful in the True Blood Holiday Gift Guide! I'm so thrilled to be up there with such big names in the field! Thank you Mel and Liz!
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After a day at Sourcebooks, fellow author of goddess-themed books and friend from the FF&P RWA Chapter, Pamala Knight, kindly agreed to bring me in for my Direct Your Book workshop for the Chicago North RWA Chapter! I was thrilled to have a moment with the talented and lovely Blythe Gifford and hear about her upcoming trilogy (yay!) and the equally talented and lovely Beverly Long and hear about her next Time Travel (another yay!). These ladies are just two of many- the wealth of talent this RWA Chapter has is very impressive. I met a slew of awesome and enthusiastic fellow writers on every part of the often difficult publishing journey, which ever reminds me how much I enjoy the company of artists.
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My beloved, extremely talented friend Danny Taylor was kind enough to house me in the Windy City, and it's always so lovely to see him, he was in the founding "Young Company" of the Cincinnati Shakespeare Company with me way back in the day - truly endless days of touring and performing Shakespeare that proved very formative for me. We looked through old photos and he made me snort wine out my nose with laughter. Good times.
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And now I'm back in NYC and slammed on deadline for the Strangely Beautiful musical script, and revisions on two novels and a novella. Whee!
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A MIDWINTER FANTASY is featured on Borders' True Romance blog! Please come by and say hello! (And you'll be entered to win goodies from Sue Grimshaw's stash!)
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Happy Holidays, Merry Christmas and Happy New Year from my household and kisses from Persebunny the fluffy white bunny.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

"A Christmas Carroll" reviews & digital vendor updates for A MIDWINTER FANTASY!

My kind and awesome friends at True-Blood.Net weigh in on "A Christmas Carroll" (Strangely Beautiful 2.5)!

From True-Blood.Net:

"Leanna Renee Hieber is one of our favorite authors here at True-Blood.net. We were introduced to her with her wonderful paranormal romance novel, The Strangely Beautiful Tale of Miss Percy Parker, and then The Darkly Luminous Fight for Persephone Parker. Now Leanna is taking us through the holidays with another heartwarming story in the short story, “A Christmas Carroll”, part of the A Midwinter Fantasy anthology.

Readers of Leanna’s Miss Percy books are already familiar with the lonely headmistress, Rebecca Thompson, and the cheerful, lovesick vicar, Michael Carroll. Rebecca has been in love with Alexi Rychman since first meeting him one haunted night on a bridge in 1800′s London. Michael has loved Rebecca from afar for just as long. Can these two find their heart’s desire? In “A Christmas Carroll”, Rebecca takes a journey into heartbreak and guilt that brings her to the very edge of a world she does not yet belong to, but may never let her leave. With the help of some ‘old friends’, Rebecca faces her guilt and her fears, finally letting her see and accept the love that’s been right in front of her.

Michael is taken on a similar journey, but he must face the heavy mantle of his own guilt and self worth before he takes on the strength of his love for Rebecca. These two stricken hearts are helped and protected by Percy and the Old Guard, including one with a very special Christmas gift for her friends.

This story handles love and its heartaches and triumphs with such gifted tenderness. It’s not often that a book can make me cry, but this one did. However, Leanna is so good to her readers that she never leaves us with sad and hopeless feelings. This is the magic of her books. “A Christmas Carroll” is one of three novellas found in the anthology, A Midwinter Fantasy. The two other stories included in this book are “The Worth of a Sylph” by L. J. McDonald and “The Crystal Crib” by Helen Scott Taylor."

Thanks True-Blood.Net!
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Also please check out Poisoned Rationality's beautiful "A Christmas Carroll" review - it's such a beautifully penned review, and I'm grateful! Thank you, Lexie!
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A Midwinter Fantasy is available as an eBook via the following vendors:

Barnes & Noble
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All Romance eBooks
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Books on Board
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Amazon
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Read an exclusive Alexi / Percy excerpt from "A Christmas Carroll" over at BABBLING ABOUT BOOKS AND MORE!
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You can find an excerpt from Chapter One in the previous post. Cheers!

Monday, November 22, 2010

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows





So it's no secret I'm a Harry Potter fan. And there's nowhere better than New York City to be a fan, where The Group That Shall Not Be Named creates incredible events around the Potterverse. Add the Harry Potter Alliance into the mix and the lead up to the Deathly Hallows midnight shows at Lincoln Center was really amazing. Please check out The Harry Potter Alliance's petition for Fair Trade chocolate in Harry Potter branded chocolate. This is only one of the many real-world Horcruxes they're trying to solve. From flaming HP themed drinks to invading a local diner to the flashmob around Columbus Circle (as documented by the New York Times)- it was blast of a twelve hour long celebration. As you can see, I chose a bit of a Narcissa Malfoy look and rocked out with my fellow Slytherins.













One of the great highlights of the night was meeting fellow author and media maven Violet Haberdasher, who had for quite some time come highly recommended to me as an author and person. Her Knightley Academy series is a clever Victorian take on, as the title does not mislead, an academy for Knights. Of course I was going to adore her. It helps that she's a tremendous lot of fun in addition to being a fellow fan of just about everything I go SQUEE over. Um... fabulous books and NaNoWriMo cheerleader aside, she reviews Doctor Who episodes. Considering I've been a Doctor Who fan since I was 7 years old, the meeting of minds that everyone said was meant to be, indeed felt just so.

With all this wind-up, it was a good thing the movie lived up to all the celebration. *sigh* Wow. Now, being a fan of the books first and foremost, I never go into the films with expectations. I know things will be different, I know things will be omitted, but I always know the casting and acting will be top notch, and I am always particularly won over by that. And this film? Best one yet. I'm not going to give anything away, only to say that I laughed and cried. A lot. The film is such a different feel, tone and take, just as the book is. And it was beautifully done. This part of Harry's hero's journey is painfully and beautifully rendered. The strength of this film is that we care about these characters so much. At this point we are so invested, it makes every difficulty, choice, loss, triumph and brave act all the more meaningful. I truly felt this one was made for the fans of the books especially, and maybe it's no coincidence that Our Lady J. K. said it's her favourite. It is simply beautiful.
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Around the Strangely Beautiful universe... Thanks tons to Reading with Tequila for a lovely new Strangely Beautiful review, it's so wonderful to see new readers getting on board with a series set to unfold into its further adventures. On that note, we'll soon be marking a new chapter in the Strangely Beautiful universe, so stay tuned, I can't wait to share the Midwinter treat with you!

Monday, November 15, 2010

Draco and Me

I have several jobs. All of which I'm blessed enough to enjoy. My favourite of them is writing books, of course. Another occasional job is doing background/extra or stand-in work for film and TV. Another is stage managing at a small TV studio which specializes in media tours, where I'm the lone human in a room, on a headset, with famous people. I've met a lot of really interesting personalities in the past few years. I spent a 14 hour day on set for the latest Ben Stiller film last week, which was cool. But only a few of my experiences get me really, really, jumping-up-and-down excited when going into the studio for a media tour. For example, The Muppets. (Follow that link to see a ridiculous happy Leanna).

And Monday, I got another wish fulfilled; to meet a cast member of Harry Potter. And not just any cast member, but a Slytherin. I said to my boss when I first started working at the studio a few years ago; "If there is ANY Harry Potter press tours that come through here, I will never forgive you if you don't bring me in to work it." Thankfully we're friends enough for me to say that, and he was good on his word. And so I present to you: Me and Tom Felton, Draco Malfoy.



Could there be any more of a SQUEE expression on my face? What isn't visible is my Slytherin pin I was wearing in House solidarity. Major House points. In all seriousness, Tom Felton is one of the nicest guys in the world, gracious, kind, easy to chat with, funny as hell, great in interviews and an all around stand-up young man who the world has watched grow up. That's a lot of pressure but he's handled it beautifully. He's genuinely humbled and grateful for the opportunity, but also excited for his next projects. (Like his music (!) and a Planet of the Apes prequel, Rise of the Apes). Oh, yeah, and he's really cute. I made my friends in The Group That Shall Not Be Named very jealous. I can't wait to watch the midnight showing with the TGTSNBN crew this week, now 700 strong! Wow!

It makes my day when stars live up to their billing and deserve every bit of their success. These films feature the best casting in the world, and it was fascinating to hear about the close-knit dynamic of the cast, the incredible journey these films have taken, bringing the world along on pages and screen thanks to J. K. Rowling's genius.

Cheers, Tom, for being a consummate gentleman and a major highlight of my year. :)

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Strangely Beautiful the Musical. In the Beginning...

How does one make a show? A show on a trajectory to a Broadway musical? Very carefully. And with talented people. Step by step, a show comes together.

I hope you'll recall this spring when I excitedly announced that the option rights had been sold for my debut novel, The Strangely Beautiful Tale of Miss Percy Parker to be adapted into a musical theatre production. As an actress / playwright / author who never expected all her talents to come crashing together into one enormous dream, there's nothing really more thrilling, and I'm still trying to wrap my head around the fact that its happening. Now to be clear, it's a long road to Broadway, with stops in other cities prior to the big move, but making a show begins small; in the minds and hearts of a core group of people, and for me, on index cards. I promised I'd offer an inside view onto the process, so here goes.

My role as script writer (in theatrical terms: "the book" of the musical) is to create the structure into which the composer and lyricist's beautiful (and I mean beautiful- they've done incredible work so far) songs will be placed, and make sure the connective tissue from one theme to the next is full of simple but effective storytelling.

To do this, I had to think of my book in skeletal form; to storyboard it out. To wrap my head around this, I picked up a stack of blank index cards. I've been working on the Strangely Beautiful storyline for a decade at this point so I pretty much know the story blindfolded, in my sleep, by rote, etc. Rather than picking up the book, I simply thought about the bare bones of my story. On the top card I wrote: "The Strangely Beautiful Tale of Miss Percy Parker As Told By Index Cards" (see photographic evidence). When adapting a work of fiction that is ostensibly longer than the work you are adapting it into, the main plot points are what needs representation, not all the details.
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I then took what were the obvious bullet-points and typed up a document with headers and subcategories, the main events and the smaller moments, called "beats" in theatre. I also included in the document some quotes from the novel encapsulating the 'feel' and most important theme of that particular chapter. From this the composer and lyricist hopefully get a sense of things to take away into their own work, which is to write the big numbers, while I create the structure and weave in appropriate dialogue, which will either be spoken or sung, depending on what the creative team decides. I have to be a storyteller on a grand and bold scale, making sure the bare bones of what Strangely Beautiful is all about remains structurally clear, the musical numbers filling in and fleshing out all the information, conflict and emotion I've hopefully set into place.
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Last week I sat in on a session sharing some of the themes, music and lyrics already composed for the show. All I can say is wow. I think the music is inspired, lovely and well-suited, atmospheric, beautiful when beauty is called for and spooky when called for. The team had a great discussion, we made some choices and got on the same page, I cut some characters (a necessary evil, it must be done!) in hard and fast decisions.
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And I had a moment, sitting at the table, my book in front of me, music inspired from my book caressing my ears, and all my years of theatre training and playwrighting and fiction writing had led me to that moment where I felt a God-like voice murmur: You were meant for this.
And so it is; we're making a show. I'll keep you posted along this magical journey as it continues to unfold.
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Newsy Bits:
We have a release date for A Midwinter Fantasy including "A Christmas Carroll" (Strangely Beautiful 2.5): November 23. (digital / eBook only). Join the Midwinter Page for access to more details.
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I joined my new publisher's Teen Fire forum, where we'll be actively discussing YA Fiction and Magic Most Foul. Join in the fun! I just set up a group for Magic Most Foul, so come join me!
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I just turned the sequel to Dark Nest, titled Dark Nest: Reckoning, to my editor and that should release from Crescent Moon Press within the next couple of months. Look at CMP's pretty new site! It's definately a change of pace to return to the Dark Nest world, a futuristic paranormal, but I hope all those who have been asking "what is going on on that ship next!" will be pleased. :)
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If you still have not joined my new Facebook Page, please do, I'll be running a lot of contests from there in the months to come and a lot of information will flow through that portal in regards to Magic Most Foul, Dark Nest, and also, the future of the Strangely Beautiful series.
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Cheers and blessings!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

The Rally for Sanity / March to Keep Fear Alive

My household gets its news from National Public Radio, but we can only stomach television news via The Daily Show. We also happen to think Stephen Colbert is perhaps the greatest luminary of our age. So when the Rally for Sanity / March to Keep Fear Alive was announced, we knew we had to go.
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Yes, there was a CRUSH of a million people. Yes, it was hard to hear, hard to see, but as we were jam-packed amidst the very reasonable and surprisingly sane and entirely diverse throng, we all knew we were a part of a meaningful cultural event. We all knew that this event was, as Stewart indicated, beyond politics. It was about human beings, sanity and countering extremism on all sides. Because no one can hear if everyone is shouting. It was about looking critically at the fearful world we live in not because we don't have things to fear but that we cannot live in hysteria. We can only live as a community of human beings acknowledging that yes there is evil in the world but we can't let fears rule us or our choices. As Stewart so aptly said; "We live in Hard Times. Not End Times."
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A girl in a head-scarf held the sign: "Don't jump to conclusions, just jump rope." She was part of an interactive group of young Muslim men and women who were jumping rope with participants beneath the sign that simply read: "Jump Rope with a Muslim". They were doing just that. Jump rope and you got a sticker. That was just one way in which the Rally crowd engaged in fun and thought-provoking ways to bond as human beings, fears and prejudices aside. It did my heart good. It did my soul good. And, because Stewart and Colbert were everything I expected them to be, clever and to-the-point, it made us all laugh.
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But what was even better and even more clever than the Daily Show writers? The crowds themselves. And their signs. And so I give you: A sampling of Rally signs. Enjoy. I sure did.




































































Saturday, October 30, 2010

Mexico and the Steampunk Indie Mart!

Goodness me. I've been traveling so much that keeping up with myself has been hard. :) I went back to Ohio, trekked down to Mexico and over to Brooklyn for a Steampunk Festival. Somewhere in there I did some film work and finished a novella. All in a month's work. :)
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Mexico City. WOW. How do I describe it? Here are a few tangled phrases and brief highlights to give you some idea of my rapturous sentiments; the thousands of years of culture and the sheer VAST mass of Mexico City had me in awe from the start. The exceedingly generous people warmed my soul, the many kinds of music was enchanting, the drinks were delectable, the never waiting more than a minute for a subway train on a platform that was very clean was unheard of for us New Yorkers, the incredible museums like the Anthropology museum where the huge and famous Aztec Sun Stone now lives- look how enormous it is compared to the onlookers- was daunting and overwhelming. The shopping was incredible and made me wish I had a hedge fund to sponsor all the things I wanted to take home, the architecture was diverse and spoke of so much complex history, Diego Rivera's murals in the governmental palace truly had us speechless. The Casa Azul- Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera's aptly named blue-house-turned museum was full of art and the palpaple life of two geniuses. The pre-Columbian excavation site at Templo Mayor- a thrilling work in progress led by Annabella's inspiring cousin Carlos is a must-see. We witnessed an amaing Aztec dance next to the colonial Metropolitan Cathedral- (also the first picture above) that is hundreds of years old and was built atop the Aztec holy structures which had stood in that plaza in the 16th century - you can see the dancing beside the church came out like an amazing ghost dance on our camera, the faint traces of the white shifts and some of the elaborate plumed head-dressing.
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Our souls were transported by the invitation, due to a fateful and meaningful connection across a dinner table, to Guernavaca south of the City, to attend church with and visit with the generous Catherine and her inspiring family (she is pictured with us at the incredible pre-Columbian pyramid sites at Xochimilco - our stellar guide Rey told us about the mix of different indigenous cultures that the stone carvings behind us indicate were present at this sacred site). The beauty of these Pre-Columbian pyramids and temples high above the valleys took my breath away amidst my trying to spot local birds.
The language continues to enchant me (es bueno practicar mi Espanol!), the food... well, the food was: *swoon*. I was in Mexico City thanks to and on behalf of the Annabella Gonzales Dance Theatre, helping out with the sound board in exchange for the trip - we were put up in an amazing historic hotel in la Zona Rosa and treated to some of the most incredible meals I have ever eaten, including divine fare at the San Angel Inn, thanks to Annabella and her extremely generous friends and family. What an incredible week, and bonus, I was with my sweetheart/parnter/real-life-hero. I cannot pick one favourite experience. I've tried. Every museum, meal, conversation and sight was its own distinct pleasure. One of my favourite things of all? The incredible Goth clothing shop I found; The Horror Boutique. I found it because of the dress high in the window; a gorgeous gown many stories up in a shop window with all the trappings of fine Gothic couture. I elbowed Marcos saying: "Mi gente!" - "My people!" The Horror Boutique is a heavenly little shop just off the central plaza near the enormous Metropolitan Cathedral pictured above. I got a great deal of clothing at a great deal, direct from the designers. Ariel was so cool, as were all the designers and staff, and the talented designers were there making clothing as we shopped! The whir of sewing machines on corsets while I drank in all the finery was dreamy. I happy-danced right in the store. Just look at this incredible Dia de los Muertos gown hanging in the window high over The Zocolo (square) below! Squee!
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I was beside myself with all of the amazing Dia de Los Muertos (day of the dead) crafts. My suitcase returned full of cut paper banners, ceramic skulls (calaveras) and joyful skeleton dioramas in boxes called Nichos, a tin skeleton with a winged heart bearing an image of Frida Kahlo from the Casa Azul, and a Jack Skellington necklace. Jack, from The Nightmare Before Christmas, is all over Mexico this time of year. Tim Burton had to be aware of the incredible rich cultural history of calavera art throughout the country, and Mexicans embrace Burton’s imagining as their own. Speaking of which, my favourite Halloween movie is The Nightmare Before Christmas. I listen to the soundtrack throughout October. Well… all year, really. Jack Skellington is one of my many gothic-esque literary love-affairs. Hail to the Pumpkin King!
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But I do love my town, New York, and its always good to come back to the city, and to Persebunny the bunny who I miss madly whenever I'm away.
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Coming back to a Steampunk event is always nice too. Thanks to the fine folks at Tor Books and Tor dot com for sponsoring the Steampunk Literary Corner at the Brooklyn Indie Mart, the Lit Corner organized and presided over gloriously by editor extraordinaire Liz Gorinsky (who was dressed in a gorgeous corset and emerald green doubled skirts and had managed to bake over 200 DELICIOUS scones and prepare delicious tea- as if she wasn't a rockstar already, this took the cake). I was invited to read from The Darkly Luminous Fight for Persephone Parker to a fabulous (and fabulously dressed) crowd which included readers, Steampunkers, fellow authors and bloggers like Ay-Leen from Beyond Victoriana who, while at the fest, managed to win The Last Drink Bird Head Award on her awesome blog's first birthday. Huh-to-the-zzah! A good time was had by all. Thanks to dear friend (and NYT Bestselling author) Sarah MacLean for coming and for taking this photo! And note: I'm wearing clothing I got at The Horror Boutique in Mexico City!
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In other news, I turned the sequel to my 2009 Prism Award winning novealla "Dark Nest" (futuristic fantasy), titled "Dark Nest: Reckoning" in to my editor so more news on that will be forthcoming, in the meantime if you're curious about "Dark Nest" - head on over to my Facebook page where I'm holding a contest and giving away one print copy.
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Stay tuned for more book news and events. Next up? A report from the RALLY FOR SANITY / MARCH TO KEEP FEAR ALIVE... Considering I get a healthy dose of my news from Mr. Stewart and Colbert... It's nothing short of my very duty as a citizen to attend. :)
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Blessings!

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Announcing MAGIC MOST FOUL... a new series!

(Photo by Barbara Vey - Thanks Barbara!) Monday night was quite an exciting night. It being the first Monday of the month, it was Lady Jane's Salon and we had an incredible lineup of bestselling authors; from L to R, Sabrina Jeffries (who recently hit #8 on the NYT with her latest!), innovator, author and activist Donna Hill, the charming and hilarious Janet Mullany, and myself in my Victorian regalia, de rigeur whenever I'm reading. We also had the pleasure of Publishers Weekly's Barbara Vey being our guest Emcee for the evening, thanks to Barbara for this picture and for mentioning us on her Beyond Her Book PW blog! Getting to step from Lady Jane's co-founder into the spotlight to read is always one of my favourite events, since I don't have time to be on stage in productions anymore, reading at Lady Jane's certainly scratches that itch. I read from "A Christmas Carroll" featured in A MIDWINTER FANTASY, and since there's been a delay in the release, Dorchester has put up a special MIDWINTER Page where you can join the mailing list and receive coupons too! Check it out!

The crowd was filled with industry professionals, authors and readers. It was here, as I took the stage, that I got to make the announcement of my really good news; a new book deal!

Come November, 2011, I'll begin my new Victorian Paranormal Young Adult series: MAGIC MOST FOUL...


Set in 1882 New York City, the story is told via the diary of eighteen-year old Natalie Stewart, a spirited and intelligent young woman who, despite innate talents, suffers from Selective Mutism due to a childhood trauma. When her father, who works for the new Metropolitan Museum of Art, gets wrapped up in a supposedly haunted painting, Natalie's world is turned upside down. A sensitive young woman who has always wondered about the supernatural, she has no idea how profoundly her curiosity is only the tip of a terrifying iceberg of dark magic. The portrait of young Lord Jonathon Denbury is no ordinary painting. Inside that canvass is a trapped soul, while a body possessed is terrorizing New York's infamous Five Points. Its up to Natalie and her newfound guide, the wealthy and compelling caretaker of the painting, Mrs. Evelyn Northe, to solve the mystery of the curse and up to Natalie alone to reverse it. All while on a ticking clock; the soul of Lord Denbury is fading. The harrowing mystery must be solved before more murders take place, and Natalie must find the courage to not only stare a demon in the face, but to use her most hidden of all gifts; her own voice.

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With ties to my favourite 19th century novels, this series will create common ground for those who love the classics and those who love YA/Teen paranormal fiction. I get to maintain my background in and my profound love of Victorian-era stories, continue with my theme of unusual, unique, underdog heroines; as Natalie is a strong and vibrant character despite her disability, and weave in the sort of dark, lyrical, fantastical paranormal reality that I love most in storytelling. For those of you who have loved the Strangely Beautiful saga, I promise you this will appeal to you as well. While entirely new; it will feel familiar; a different dress out of a similar fabric, creating a fresh design from my favourite materials.
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The series will release in Trade Paperback format, as well as in digital, from Sourcebooks and their Teen Fire line. I'm very, very excited. My editor, Leah Hultenschmidt, is fabulous, and the Sourcebooks team is a thrilling cast of individuals passionate about the book arts. Follow Sourcebooks on Twitter, Paul their Fire publicist, and Danielle their Romance publicist, they've got a lot of exciting things going on. Those of you who love YA fiction check out the Teen Fire forum.

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Blessings and thanks for your support along the way! I couldn't do it without my committed readers, friends and fans. I am so blessed to have the opportunity to continue writing the fantastical stories that keep me up at night for the love of them.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Miss Percy's growing awards shelf and a picture of a bunny

Hurrah! More awards for The Strangely Beautiful Tale of Miss Percy Parker!
She's sure cleaning up this year. Miss Percy wins the Paranormal Category of the 2010 Heart of Excellence Awards sponsored by the Ancient City Romance Authors! Here are the contest results, congratulations to all the winners and finalists!

Ancient City Romance Authors (ACRA) is pleased to present the winners of the 2010 Heart of Excellence Readers’ Choice Award for published authors:
Historical Romance
1st Place – Captive of Sin by Anna Campbell aka Karen Schwartz
2nd Place – A Bride in the Bargain by Deeanne Gist
3rd Place – Where the Wind Blows by Caroline Fyffe
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Inspirational/Traditional Romance
1st Place – A Lady Like Sarah by Margaret Brownley
2nd Place – Learning to Let Go by Elizabeth Pina
3rd Place – Sunset Beach by Trish Perry
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Short and Long Contemporary Romance
1st Place – Scene of the Crime: Bridgewater Texas by Carly Cassidy
2nd Place – His 7-Day FiancĂ©e by Gail Barrett
3rd Place – Her Best Bet by Pamela Ford
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Romantic Suspense
1st Place - Cover of Darkness by Kaylea Cross aka Kari Lee Walker
2nd Place - No Turning Back by Kaylea Cross aka Kari Lee Walker
Tied for 3rd Place - Last Gasp by Carla Cassidy
Tied for 3rd Place - Under Fire by Beth Cornelison
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Erotic Romance
1st Place - Drive Me Wild by P. J. Mellor
2nd Place - In the Flesh by Sylvia Day aka Livia Dare
3rd Place - Rogues Run by Lara Santiago aka Laura Freeman
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Paranormal Romance
1st Place - The Strangely Beautiful Tale of Miss Percy Parker by Leanna Renee Hieber
2nd Place - Garden of the Moon by Elizabeth Sinclair
3rd Place - Wild Magic by Ann Macela aka Fredericka Meiners
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Strong Romantic Elements
Tied for 1st Place - Seeing Red by Susan Crandall
Tied for 1st Place - Flying Free by Amber Polo
2nd Place - Murphy’s Law by Sandy James
Tied for 3rd Place - According to Jane by Marilyn Brant
Tied for 3rd Place – All the Right Reasons by Sandy James
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Single Title Contemporary Romance
1st Place - Healing Luke by Beth Cornelison
2nd Place – Faith of the Heart by Sandy James
3rd Place - It Happened One Night by Lisa Van Auken

LEANNA on the INTERWEBS:
- There's a great INTERVIEW and contest to win signed books at Buckeye Girl Reads!
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- My interview as Miss Percy, a GREAT 5 star review of "A Christmas Carroll" (Strangely Beautiful #2.5) featured in A MIDWINTER FANTASY as well as a signed SB #1 plus other fun swag contest is still up at Larissa's Life!
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And more fabulous announcements will be coming soon! I've some very good news I can't wait to share.
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For those of you looking for A MIDWINTER FANTASY, releasing electronically, thanks for you patience, hopefully the new download links will be up from Dorchester on Oct. 1st? *crossing fingers*
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And because there are never enough cute pictures of bunnies:
Persebunny has begun to devour The Darkly Luminous Fight For Persephone Parker as heartily as the she did the first tale...

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Authors After Dark Paranormal Weekend 2010

The Authors After Dark Paranormal Weekend was not only a huge success in every way, but gosh it was fun! Hosted by bestselling author Jacquelyn Frank, who is beyond fabulous, and organized flawlessly by the force of nature that is author Stella Price, this personable yet larger-than-life conference, in only its second year, is an event to be reckoned with. I was fortunate enough to be utilized as a featured author and participated in panels on worldbuilding, about the many inventive creatures that my fellow authors and I have created in our diverse worlds, we discussed Steampunk and I even got to present the Victorian Language of the Fan. Being in a generous, friendly, excited environment, all of us together for the same idea; love of paranormal fiction, creates a great space for sharing, making new friends and having great parties.
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I was so thrilled to meet some of my beloved book bloggers who have made all the difference in my Strangely Beautiful series, like JoJo's Book Corner, Bibliophilic Book Blog, Intense Whisper, Simply Ali and Joyfully Reviewed, and the particular delight of Larissa's Life and her interview at the Literary Masquerade, where I got to play Miss Percy in person- and where Percy won the costume contest! (See below). I also got to meet many fabulous fellow authors. Jennifer Armintrout and I got to go all mutual fangirl on each other. Thanks tons to Jacquelyn, Stella and Froggy and all the organizers for creating a wonderful experience! And thanks tons to Biz Urban Photography for the following great photos:
Photo 1: Gaslight Gothic
2: Lurve for Stella
3: Teaching the Victorian Language of the Fan
4: Playing Miss Percy, caught in one of her shy, quiet moments at the Masquerade
5: Author Jennifer Armintrout as Marguerite from The Scarlet Pimpernel (one of our mutual favourites), with Miss Percy at her side
6: Miss Percy wins the costume contest announced by Jacquelyn (in lovely Regency regalia) and Stella (in Steampunk plaid)
7: Last but not least, Miss Percy's first interview! Thanks Larissa!







































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Friday, September 17, 2010

The Golden Apples

Last night was the Golden Apple Awards sponsored by the Romance Writers of America New York City chapter, where I was extremely honoured to be named Author of the Year, alongside lifetime achievement winner Mary Jo Putney, Agent of the Year Lori Perkins, Editor of the Year Deb Werksman of Sourcebooks, who was named Publisher of the Year. (I'm proud to mention my editor, Chris Keeslar, won Editor of the Year last year). Thanks to Biz Urban Photography for taking lovely photos of our awards and of ourselves.

I'm posting my speech, as it sums up just about everything I- and Miss Percy- have to say about this whirlwind year:

"For any year to receive this incredible honour, this certainly has been the most amazing year of my life. A year ago, The Strangely Beautiful Tale of Miss Percy Parker hit the shelves and I began a hell-bent course of promotion, appearances, guerilla marketing at its most frenetic, and you’ve been kind enough to want to hear about it along the way, and I want to share anything and everything about the journey. Because an award doesn’t happen in a vaccum. It happens because north stars are generous enough to lead someone in the right direction. There are so many north stars in this room. Isabo Kelly who got me here in the first place, then president Elizabeth Kerri Mahon, who at my very first meeting pointed me in several right directions, one of which landed me my agent, Nicholas Roman Lewis (More about him in a second). Marcos, my love and strong help always. And thank all of you, for being the net under me while I’ve been off doing crazy aerial tricks and unsure if I was going to stick the landings, we all need such a net. Wonderful parents are a great net too, and I was blessed with the best. Since my desire to publish has been the sole fault of one strange young woman and this year has indeed been her year, here are closing words from Miss Percy Parker herself:
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“Hello, friends. She Who Created Me knows I’m too shy for crowds so since she’s so good at putting words in my mouth, it’s only right and proper she offer my personal thanks. For in honouring her you honour me; her fierce labour of love for a decade, me; an awkward, overwhelmed girl with a story of love conquering all odds that so desperately wanted to get out into the world. But, as I so dearly feared, no one wanted me. I was too strange, too hard to pin down, too ‘cross-genre’ – but it only takes one person to accept you, and suddenly you’re on your way to finding a community. Thank you, Nicholas Roman Lewis, for seeing some glimmer of possibility in my eerie eyes and never doubting me for a moment. And he’s even landed me a musical! Isn’t it marvelous? And then to the man who took that greatest chance upon my tale, Chris Keeslar, editor extraordinaire who refined my tale and helped it win awards and lovely things, you gave me very the gift of life, and there’s naught more precious than that. And then you, for accepting the tale of a simple girl who dared to dream. And isn’t that what you all do, by that brave act of putting pen to paper, daring to dream against those terrible odds called the Publishing World? Don’t ever doubt the dream, even for a second. Despite all odds, provided you believe, and you rely on this beloved community, your tales must and will be told, and then you’ll tell another. And another. Because you must. I cannot thank you enough for helping me to tell my tale, and for honoring it.”


Monday, September 13, 2010

Newsy Bits

As we come into my favourite season; Autumn, I'll be busy with events, releases and new work. I've a new Strangely Beautiful series release in A Midwinter Fantasy, huzzah, and I'm very excited to be working with some of the crew of Unhallowed Metropolis on upcoming ventures.
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Around and About, or, My Writer Friends are Awesome:
1. Congratulations to my friend, colleague and Lady Jane's Salon co-founder Hope Tarr who launched Beer Gardens NYC, an awesome App that gives you the rundown on all the Beer Gardens in the Big Apple, so very useful for tourists and natives alike, be sure to check it out, the upgrades they have planned are as great as the App itself already is. Having had such a wonderful experience with tasty beers while visiting Germany, I'm so excited to have a way to find those brews here in my city! They've gotten a mention on The Gothamist already, yay! For their latest news, fan them on Facebook and follow them on Twitter. (And the App is a $1.99 well-spent)
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2. Congratulations to my friend and colleague Stella Price who, in the midst of the superhuman feat of organizing Authors After Dark Paranormal Weekend has managed to release the latest in Stella and Audra Price's American Satyr series, and since she hasn't had time to promote her really fun work as best she'd like to- considering she's so incredibly trying to make all of us Authors After Dark authors look good- the least we can do in return is tell everyone about it, so check out her latest!
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3. I'm very excited about the signed ARC of Skyler White's IN DREAMS BEGIN that I picked up from Skyler herself at DragonCon. We were on the Angels in Fantasy Literature panel together and she's so lovely, and the subject mattter of this book deals with one of my favourite authors, the poet Yeats, so I'm very excited to read the rest of it AND very excited to be hosting a giveaway of this lovely work via Twitter. Join me there to be sure you don't miss it, as this is a book not to be missed.
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4. And a huge THANKS to photographer and woman-of-many-talents Jessica M. Coen for her amazing photos of DragonCon, several of which include me (like this one), and all of which I love. Her Flickr account is full of delightful things, especially for those of you interested in STEAMPUNK...

(And for those of you who missed my gushing DragonCon ode to Doctor Who fangirl love, please see my previous post, "Being Romana")
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5. Katiebabs of Babbling About Books (mega-congrats to Kate on her many book contracts this year!!) knows the coolest people. She introduced me to Brian Solomon and thusly to his blog, The Vault of Horror. It is so full of awesome win. Visit it and enjoy!
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6. And lastly, while I wish I could call author Caleb Carr my friend, I just have to say that I finished The Alienist and it may be one of my favourite books of all time. Dr. Kreizler has nestled himself into my personal canon of literary loves.

Newsy Bits on Leanna in particular:

I am VERY thrilled an honoured to be named the 2010 RWA NYC Author of the Year on Thursday! Thank you RWA NYC and to all the people who made this amazing year possible for me in so many ways.
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Regarding A Midwinter Fantasy:
Please note that due to changes at Dorchester Publishing, this anthology will release digitally (eBook) ONLY. I am sad about this change, as I like having my work in every format possible, because I have readers who like all the different formats and this limits my ability to do signings for this particular work. Moving forward with Dorchester, the rest of the series should be available in Trade Paperback Format but that transition isn't coming in time for this release. If you were one of the wonderful fans who pre-ordered this title, I thank you for your support, your accounts shouldn't be charged as the item scheduled to ship actually won't exist. Double check and if you have any concerns, I'd try and contact customer service and any other questions to Dorchester directly.
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I do hope you'll be willing to join Rebecca, Michael and the whole Guard coterie in "A Christmas Carroll" on September 28th, Midwinter Fantasy's release day, in digital format. I'll have a small "Christmas Carroll" blog tour right around release day so stay tuned for that, and also, on release day I'll be posting an excerpt from the novella. It picks up directly between where the last chapter of The Darkly Luminous Fight for Persephone Parker ends, and the Epilogue. It is the "Christmas miracle" to which Percy refers. - As for the rest of the Strangely Beautiful series, it's scheduled to be both in print and in digital simultaneously, so we won't have this problem going forward, it's just that A Midwinter Fantasy got caught amidst the transition. (Ohioans: Please note: I will be in Ohio October 9th to teach my Direct Your Book! Workshop for the wonderful OVRWA Chapter in Cincinnati.)
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Other works:
1. Thrilled to report that my "Marketing Smackdown" column that I write for RWA NYC Keynotes newsletter has now been picked up by many regional RWA newsletters, even in Canada! Very glad all my in-the-trenches and trial-by-fire marketing knowledge has been taken as useful by many RWA Chapters.
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2. I'm very excited to be joining the team of Unhallowed Metropolis for some fun fiction involving their incredibly awesome RPG game of "Neo-Victorian Horror" - stay tuned this fall for more details!

Happy September!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Being Romana















There's nothing so powerful as your first love.
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I attended DragonCon 2010 this past weekend, and while I could tell you about how wonderful the Fantasy panels were, how impressed I am by my amazingly talented friends old and new, how awesome the costumes were, how much ridiculous fun I had, all of which are utterly true, (and a fabulous rundown and picture of me can be seen at Publishers Weekly's Beyond Her Book) I'm going to focus on one particular moment of my weekend that outshone the rest. If blogging about Verdun, France was the most powerful thing I've blogged, this may be the most personal. And definately the geekiest.
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For one evening, a little seven year old girl from rural Ohio got to be recognized- for just a moment- as the woman she wanted to grow up to be. The fictional woman she so desperately wanted to be. Only conventions like DragonCon can make magic like that come true.
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Long before my 12-year-old self fell obsessively in love with The Phantom of the Opera and that, along with innumerable other 19th century tomes, would go on to define my aesthetic and literary fascination with the Victorian Era, long before Harry Potter changed my life and I fell into what would become my greatest cosplay love of all, Narcissa Malfoy, there was the first and what has been the longest running of my fantastical love-affairs; Doctor Who. I'm a 'legacy' fan of the BBC show, loving it all along, warts and all, long before its admittedly fabulous redux. All Whovians have their Doctor, (usually the one they first began watching) and their Companion. My Doctor is #4 (Tom Baker), my companion, Romana (#2 as played by Lala Ward), the novel lady Timelord and companion who regenerated. I was somewhere around 7 years old when my father began taping the Baker episodes on PBS as they aired in America in the 80s to watch the next day (they came on too late for me to watch in real time). I'd hear the theme song in my room as I tried and always failed to fall asleep, frissons of excitement coursing up and down my little body in thrilled seizures. The next day I'd watch (and often re-watch) the episode, enratpured by sci-fi/fantasy worlds that had my already overactive imagination firing at top speeds. The theme song still has that same effect; a cherished muscle memory.
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I know there were other Doctors and many other Companions, even another incarnation of Romana herself but no one could compete with my Romana. The blonde. The intelligent blonde, the sweet and sometimes fierce lady Timelord. She was poised and confident, she was an equal, she was an asset, she was a hero, and she traveled through the whole of time and space (way more exciting than Ohio) with The Doctor (coolest guy ever) and wore really pretty dresses (swoon). What more could an awkward, geeky little blonde girl like me want in all relative dimension in space?!! Of course I loved her desperately and would have given anything to be her and to live her adventures. Even for a pretend moment. I'd never gone as her for Halloween. Because no one would know who I was and it would make me sad to have to explain it all the time to people who could really care less. Enter DragonCon into my life and the equation differs.
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It's not like I'd forgotten any of this when I put on my costume Saturday. What I was unprepared for was what it would feel like. I looked in the mirror and I'd become a childhood dream. It hit me like a ton of bricks. Very squealy bouncy little girly bricks. Before you question my sense of reality (which is admittedly strained, but bear with me) please remember I'm an actress as well as a writer- I do live and make my living in fake worlds. Putting on the costume was always the final transformation into becoming my character. While I wouldn't take that character out into the world, when on stage - and ALL the world of DragonCon is a stage, I am the character. It was being recognized upon the DragonCon stage as Romana that hit home and had me beaming. Going up and down escalators amidst the endless, streaming parade of elaborate costumes, meeting gazes and people snapping fingers at me exclaiming: "Romana!" and me grinning and replying (in British accent) "Very good!" or "of course!" - and both of us strangers being ridiculously pleased with ourselves for knowing and being known, agreeing that her choice to go off and fix E-Space was a damn shame for those left behind (though the full canon makes her as awesome as she deserves), and all of us thinking for the thousandth time how much we love this convention where unabashed geekery is rewarded, cherished, and entirely unapologetic.
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I desperately thank my many friends with me that night, who kindly humoured me, let me slip in and out of a British accent and play the part that I had a hard time eating dinner and not playing (For an actress who hasn't had time to be on stage in a little while, my 'on' and 'off' switches are fairly rusty). Due to the fact we all had a long and passionate Doctor Who discussion, these were some of the only people on earth who understood the careening, uncontained, bouncing energy of an ecstatic little girl who'd caught her adult self at a loss to contain. I've often been told when I'm truly excited about something I could single-handedly power a small country were I plugged into a grid. But I have to keep that enthusiasm veiled if I'm to cope in this world. I've had a long history of being told to "calm down", a long history of being told I'm annoying to people who just don't have, or want to know, that kind of excitement. That's often been painful, so while I now fully own and am proud of my ability to be enthusiastic, I've built some walls. Not a bad thing, walls are protective. But when in the safe company of loved ones and again with trusted friends, sometimes those walls can tumble down and the sunlight bursts through. Really bright light. I said that evening; "Very few people see this. Unveiled." It was understood. Such experiences can create innocent, pure yet profound intimacies. Suddenly new friends have known each other for years.
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All of that volanic energy. All of that consuming obsession kindling bonfires in my storyteller soul. All my love for fantastical worlds, unrestrained travel, tumultuous, wild adventure and endless possibility. All of it has had to find a healthy place to go, an outlet that won't leave me restless. And so I've learned that the course of action that makes me happiest in all this world- a world I cannot travel through via a blue police box- is simply writing books. Fantastical books; bigger on the inside. Books where good companions are the most vital part of the story. And with all of that raw, unwieldy, unfiltered, sometimes thorny energy that can grow both weird and wonderful roses; I regenerate.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

DragonCon 2010 Schedule

It's time for Dragon*Con 2010!!

I'm excited to see familiar friends and faces at one of my very favourite cons.

My Schedule:

Fri 02:30pm Room: Edgewood - Dragon*Reading:
I'll be reading from the Strangely Beautiful series, (replete with British accents and in my infamous Victorian regalia) AND I'll be giving away a bag of books!

Fri 04:00 pm Room/Section: M301 - M304 Dragon*Autographs - Come get something signed! My books will be available at The Missing Volume table, I'll also be signing / giving away bookmarks, pins and postcards.

Panels:

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Title: Surprise! You're Dead
Description: Death, ghosts, and the afterlife in fantasy fiction.
Time: Fri 08:30 pm Location: Cairo - Hyatt (Length: 1 Hour)

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Title: Steam Queens: Women in Steampunk
Description: The many roles of women in Steampunk
Time: Saturday 1pm: Location: Westin Track Room

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Title: The Worlds of Tim Burton
Description: A fan panel about the works of Tim Burton. What did you think of Alice in Wonderland? Do you ever think he'll ever make that Dark Shadows movie?
Time: Sat 07:00 pm Location: Cairo - Hyatt (Length: 1 Hour)

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Title: Dancing On The Head Of A Pin
Description: The role of angels and divine messengers in modern fantasy and horror.
Time: Sun 11:30 am Location: Montreal / Vancouver - Hyatt (Length: 1 Hour)

I'll be tweeting up to the minute info via @Leannarenee

Cheers!

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Verdun

Verdun, France. From my diary, August, 2010:

Where to begin? That’s what the history begs, as the history does not begin with one date in 1914 and ending in a date in 1918 – it does not bear one year, one single identiy, one particular flag (while it would choose the French flag if it had to choose) but it is a graveyard turned verdant – a word very near to its name.

I mustn’t neglect the journey on the rails to Verdun; a simple yet remarkable foray. En route to Verdun one sees field after golden field; the hills a particular yellow, a Van Gogh yellow. A crow on a hay-bale conjured up countless museum images and the impressionism of a master painter was translated into reality. I saw with Vincent’s eyes, his palette. We passed a whole vast plot of sunflowers, a transporting sight that connects me not only to Van Gogh but this sea of bright flowers also startlingly reminds me that I’d written about just such a field in my upcoming novel. In The Perilous Prophecy of Guard and Goddess the Goddess offers her Guard a glimpse of when she first met Phoenix; in a field of sunflowers arranging their seeds into iterate patterns. It was as if I knew that field before I’d ever seen it.

Arriving into the heart of Verdun, the first thing I see is a warrior-angel towering over the city, sword strong in her folded arms. She stands over la Rue de la Victoire and her declaration of victory is stern, not joyous. She is flanked by canons and she reminds you of death and war. She is a god not to be trifled with and you can see her from every city vantage point. She pierces above the 14th century turreted city gates, watching. Warning. "Seven hundred thousand..." she murmurs.

Transferring to a bus that takes tourists to World War I sites, monuments and forts, it is very clear that within its life and charm, Verdun remains a city of memorial. And it has just cause for grief nearly a century old. The most costly battle of the entire War to End All Wars, Verdun saw 700,000 dead, directly in the middle of the war, 1916. Its land, while overgrown with grass, trees, wildflowers, in many places remains jagged and unnatural, the work of bombs, mines and innumerable shells. The earth still bears the scars.

But it is a pocked landscape transformed green. Life will out, I was reminded, as swallows had reclaimed Fort Douaumont as their own, chirping and diving, nesting and flocking, these birds found the cool, dank fort a haven, turning what to humans appeared a bastion of hell, into a place that sheltered fragile, avian life.

Sorting through my notes from the fields and furrows, words are more raw than I'm used to. I stood drinking in what was once a “lunar landscape” of mud, shells fell like rain and opened violent craters. Though the land is blanketed again with green, the disconnect remains between the verdant carpet and the stories of the heart of the battle, when trenches were dug and yards were gained and lost. A small village named Fleury changed hands a heartbreaking number of times before being wiped from memory, existent now only in plaques and in honour. You can walk the two main streets of what was once Fleury, now forested and green. You can still see some rubble in the uneven, cratered land. Markers tell you where the baker shop stood, the butcher, the shoe-maker, the well, the farms. It is a ghost town in the truest sense. On that ground families shot bullets from their basements- when there still were structures for shelter. It is nearly impossible to reconcile these disparate realities, but through imagination one can layer images upon one another like two separate photography slides; one slide reveals the loud destruction, exploding shells, rubble as far as the eye could see, dead bodies, the heart of a village ripped open and destroyed. This plate you struggle to place atop what is really staring you in the face; a quiet forest of pine, the sound of birds chirping – hardly a more peaceful place, the din of war seems impossibly far. Only those unnatural pockets and furrows of a ground landscaped by pummeling bombs remains to link these two disparate architectures together.

In Verdun I learned a new word. Ossuary. Visiting this repository, a tomb of the unknown soldier housing at least 130,000 unnamed bones, I would never be the same.

A field- a tunnel- a hall- a wall- a pit- a vast mansion of bone. Staring at the femurs stacked to my height for a countless number of square feet, carefully interlocked like log cabin timbers, I knew, staring into those square panels at the base of the monument that if I took a moment, even one moment to then process what I am writing now I would have broken down before countless other similarly stoic, awed, somber, stunned tourists. All of us putting our hands out – first to shield the sun and the light so that we might see into the pit of anonymous bone, and then the hand out became a distancing tool. Perhaps a primitive instinct to detach, to keep the disturbing vision at literal arm’s length. Trying not to imagine our own skeletons in such pieces, added to the mass, our hands remain out trying not to imagine that flesh once decked those bones. The pure essence of life that once animated those hundred-thousand bones would have taken a monument twice the size were the pit filled with bodies... It is hard to reconcile the flesh with the bone when we see them so separated. It is foreign, not of us, of an entirely separate time and place, it takes time to separate flesh from bone- through a horrifyingly organic, disturbing process. We see these bodies now pure, stripped of their flesh and in pieces they are dehumanized and yet we all can recognize them as the building blocks of ourselves.

Some bones are more of a trigger than others. For me, the interlocking femurs. For my father, the jaw bones, separated from the skull and tossed in a silent heap, baring their teeth to the stagnant air of their mass grave. The mind separates these images, compartmentalizeds them safely to assure that sanity and sense remain intact.

Was this the same France as golden fields and sunflowers? I read about France, I knew a deal of Paris and about art. I know what Victor Hugo wrote and Debussy composed. One feels one knows a country by its art, its books, its dance and music. But knowing its bones is another country entirely. The 'undiscovered country' indeed. All of it France, and all French beauty may be found in Verdun, the banks of the Meuse no less beautiful for the monument of bones. More beautiful, perhaps, for the contrast. And as it appears to have been intended by the Ossuary's founders and builders; a reminder. A cautionary tale of war, whether world leaders hear it or not. Those who visit do.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Paris is Magic

Anyone who would say otherwise has not visted the same city I did. You think you know monuments from post cards and stock photography. I felt this same amazement when visiting the Grand Canyon; that just nothing can prepare you for the real thing. So when you stand beneath something like the Eiffel Tower, you are stunned. And you are thrilled like a child, your heart is beating rapidly with wonder, realizing that something familiar was far more special than you could ever have expected, now that you stand under its eaves and wonder at its engineering and prowess. Paris and I, much like London and I, have had an interesting relationship through the years. I've felt I've long known Paris, and in certain ways I have. I knew a bit of French from high-school (and I am proud to say I used it as best I could). I'd long ago fallen in love with the great 19th century French writers, artists, composers, etc. So visiting Paris was, much like London, greeting a long lost friend. I said hello to the gorgeous Garnier Opera house and at long last ascended its grand staircase. The palace that inspired The Phantom of the Opera, Leroux' novel and Webber's musical combined in a seminal childhood obsession that began my fascination with the 19th century. I owe this building much, one of many sacred places on our tour. Paris is a city of magic. A 'city of light' indeed, a city endeared to me long ago. But in walking its streets, in praying hard and long at a Notre Dame mass, it will remain a city forever in my heart, not just an acquaintence but now a friend. The view from our hotel windows proved that the grandeur of Paris exists for the whole world to celebrate; Gare du Nord station an impressive palace at our doorstep.


I believe a gauge of a famous, historical city's spirit is by traveling upon its waterway. Understanding where the Thames is in relationship to London is critical, as is the Seine in Paris, the Meuse through Verdun, the The Rhine through Germany. One of my priorities in this course of travel was to feel the beat of that particular vein, for in understanding a city's body of water you understand a key to its history, a key to its magic. Water and graveyards, these were my priorities. Thankfully my family humored my mission to examine the many necropolis quarters housed withing the cities on our tour. Pere-Lachaise is a stunning necropolis not to be missed. I would not have traded my tearful moment at the grave of one of my most beloved authors; Oscar Wilde, for the world. I left a prayer with Oscar, asking for his blessing towards my future project. I hope someday soon to be less cryptic about that, but all in good time.
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A city of light in every way, Saint Chapelle certainly did not disappoint, with its walls of coloured glass...
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Upon the rails, heading east, I felt and saw a France outside of its superstar capital city. Just as charming and lovely in its own right. And full of stories to tell.
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Next, I will write about Verdun. And my entry recounting Verdun will be unlike anything I have ever written on this blog. I shall leave cute and bouncy recollections of adventures behind in order to talk about one of the most sobering, complex moments of my soul and my writer's imagination. Until Verdun, au revoir.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Ah, homecoming. London 2010

Oh, London, how I love thee. Returning to London is the homecoming of my soul. The only thing missing was the love of my life, but he had to remain in NYC as our work schedules just couldn't make a joint trip possible. But my incredible family were more than wonderful to have as traveling companions, and made the trip possible in the first place. I'm so grateful.

The London part of my trip 'across the pond' was all about recharging. A trip to London means indulging the invigorating surge that overtakes my mind and heart while walking the streets; returning to the inciting inspirations that first birthed the Strangely Beautiful saga. This trip wasn't about packing in moments of tourism, this was simply about happily wandering and paying homage. First of these blissful days had me returning to the Bloomsbury district and strolling along the paths Alexi and Rebecca would have done in a promenade route to my fictional Athens Academy. Here's a specific shot down Grape Street in the heart of Bloomsbury, which looks quite similar to what the alleys around Athens, and indeed Athens itself would appear to be.

A further course of meaningful wandering included Hampstead Heath and Highgate Cemetery, two places of particular importance and magic. Its no surprise that graveyards are particularly fascinating to me, they hold a distinct energy not replicated in any other context. Eternal crossroads, these locales are both sacred and alluring- particularly to a paranormal author. A garden-style graveyard like Highgate is the epitome of aching beauty, a paradox of life and death; eternal monuments, temporal humanity, cold stone and soft flower. You know Hampstead and Highgate well from my books. The Rychman estate is just off Hampstead Heath and Highgate Cemetery, built in the first half of the 19th century and seen pictured here, is a focal point of ghostly unrest in the Strangely Beautiful saga. In my Highgate pilgrimage, from the moment I slipped inside the gate, I again saw my Guard darting among the monuments. I paid my respects to beloved authors Douglas Adams and George Eliot among others, ever marveling at the beauty of sculpture, stone, verdant ivy and flora. Wandering nearby Hampstead Heath and looking down over London in the distance, I was transported by walking the childhood haunts of Miss Violet Rychman, who will be the star of Strangely Beautiful #4; Miss Violet and the Great War, and for whose book the bulk of the research on this trip was dedicated. I ate wild blackberries and my mind's eye watched her and the hero, William Page, doing the same as children.
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The Imperial War Museum was a day in and of itself. I spent countless hours learning about the details of World War I. It is not something I can begin to summarize in a blog post. It is sobering, terrible, incredible tales, millions of tales, millions of lives affected and lost. I will but scratch the surface in my book as I continue to learn about this behemoth struggle that was supposedly The War to End All Wars. You will hear much more about my complex response to the research when I post my Verdun, France entry later this week.
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Ghost and Jack the Ripper expert Richard Jones was kind enough to reserve a place for my family and I on his Jack the Ripper walking tour, led by Ripperologist Philip -, an expert and author on the matter. His tour was entertaining and informative and while I had gone on this tour once before, and doing so inspired me to use The Ripper in The Strangely Beautiful Tale of Miss Percy Parker, it was meaningful to do so again as certain forthcoming changes to the London streets will block certain murder sites from visitation. So paying one last homage to Mitre Square, the site of Catharine Eddowes' murder before it is irrevocably changed was important.
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An exciting signing at Forbidden Planet brought my London adventures to a close. I will have more pictures forthcoming. There couldn't have been a nicer staff and attending managers, the store is one of my favourite places on earth, a haven for all things I love, and after a rousing Doctor Who discussion, one of the managers there, Jon, gifted me with a Tom Baker (Doctor #4) action figure that now holds a sacred place on my awards shelf. I was attended there by blogger extraordinaire Hasna from The Bookpushers, ever grateful for her presence and support. It was such a delight to meet her in person. And Richard Jones himself dropped by! I was so honoured that my foremost resource on the Ghosts of England and on Jack the Ripper came by in support of my work. As you know, all the ghosts I use in the Strangely Beautiful saga, other than spirits I've created inside Athens, are real London haunts that I plucked from Richard's accounts in his many books on the subject. Please look for his next work; Haunted Britain, releasing in October. It was so thrilling to meet this kind and generous inspiration of mine in person. Having dinner with him and Hasna was such a treat, there couldn't have been a better way to say goodbye to London. If you'd like a signed copy of The Strangely Beautiful Tale of Miss Percy Parker and / or The Darkly Luminous Fight for Persephone Parker, Forbidden Planet has them ready to ship to you!
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While it was goodbye to London, it won't be for long. A girl gets too homesick for her soul's native land otherwise. Then on to Paris! And that's another entry entirely. Stay tuned. Blessings!