I went to Sleepy Hollow (VIDEO)

Well met, everyone, and welcome back! To get a better idea of the vibe for my novel The Hollow Bones, I wanted to go to the source—namely, Sleepy Hollow, New York. When I was in New York for a family trip, we took the opportunity to go to Sleepy Hollow Cemetery. I took some video footage while I was there (with some help from my family) and made it into a vlog on my YouTube:

The point of my going was to see if I could feel the atmosphere of the area as Washington Irving had described:

“It is remarkable that the visionary propensity I have mentioned is not confined to the native inhabitants of the valley, but is unconsciously imbibed by every one who resides there for a time. However wide awake they may have been before they entered that sleepy region, they are sure, in a little time, to inhale the witching influence of the air, and begin to grow imaginative, to dream dreams, and see apparitions.”

Excerpt From: Washington Irving. “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow.” Apple Books.

I also wanted to go into the Old Dutch Church to see what it looked like, as well as visiting the Old Dutch Burying Ground to visit Washington Irving’s grave. We also went to visit a scenic bridge crossing the Pocantico River on the cemetery grounds. The original “Headless Horseman Bridge” is now part of Broadway as it leads towards the Old Dutch Church, so the scenic bridge is closer to what the iconic bridge may have looked like in 1790 when the original story takes place. This bridge, as well as seeing Philipsburg Manor and the old mill-pond, made it feel like even though it’s the 21st century, in that part of the town, history still has its influence there in part due to Washington Irving’s legacy.

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As I’ve described in a previous blog post, Sleepy Hollow means a lot to me. Even though I’ve never lived there, it’s an obsession I’ve had for years, and I hadn’t been to the area since I was very young. To come back to Sleepy Hollow for some reason felt like coming home, and I’m even more inspired to finish my novel now than ever before.

I hope you enjoy the video, and that I’ve inspired you to visit Sleepy Hollow as well! Are there places that inexplicably feel like home to you? Let me know in the comments section!

Thank you for stopping by! Until next time, stay magical, everyone!

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The magic of making things

Well met, everyone, and welcome back to the blog!

One of my aspirations for my life and my home is something I picked up from the elves of middle-Earth. What I loved about Lothlórien and Rivendell in Lord of the Rings is that the items in those places are both aesthetically beautiful and practical. As much as I can appreciate the light, simple aesthetic and practicality of a modern minimalist home, the utilitarian, geometric silhouettes of currently fashionable home décor are not part of my dream aesthetic, which is mainly inspired by the Art Nouveau movement, Baroque furniture design, Tudor and Gothic Revival architecture, fairytales with a moody twist, celestial and steampunk-like accents like those of the Wiseacres Wizarding Equipment shop in The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, and a use of clean, flowing lines that feels timeless and organic.

Photo credit: StackExchange

As I wrote about before in a previous article, I have so many skills I want to develop so I can create things to use in my everyday life, from reupholstering furniture to carving my own wood accent pieces like Christine McConnell did in this video, to sewing a lot of my own wardrobe pieces like Bernadette Banner and Enchanted Rose Costumes (in this video), among others. My problem is, sometimes working up the motivation to start a project is like psyching myself up to get teeth pulled without numbing medication. I never put much thought into the phrase “once begun is half done” until now, because for me, it is very much a thing.

Earlier this week, I was finally motivated to do something creative. As a result, I blew the dust off my sewing machine and made a wrist pincushion in the shape of a rose! Roses are my favorite flower, so I love the idea of having a pincushion that is I can use for dressmaking that’s also beautiful and in my aesthetic. I was also pleasantly surprised about how empowered I felt with the emotional high of “I made this and it came out great”, so much so that I took out the pins and went out that evening with the rose on my wrist as a bracelet. One idea in my head was, if making this tiny thing makes me happy and empowers me, how would that feeling be amplified if I’m surrounded by more and bigger pieces I make in my life? I once saw an image on Pinterest that had a message along the lines of, “what you create with your hands holds magic,” and I believe this world needs a bit more magic in the everyday!

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Pincushion by me, pattern by michellepatterns.com

I’m hoping to develop my sewing skills over the next few months, as well as working on more home decor DIYs similar to the candelabra I transformed back in August of this year. Are there any DIYs you’re working on right now? Let me know in the comments!

Thank you so much for stopping by! Until next time, stay magical, everyone!

Why I don’t write what I know

Well met, everyone, and welcome back to the blog! Recently, I was asked why I write fantasy with supernatural creatures instead of writing stories in a so-called “normal” setting. Aside from the bitter memories of people gatekeeping fantasy and science fiction as “not classic literature” (a day may come when I write about that in another post, but it is not this day), I don’t like to read about things that I have to deal with in my everyday life. I read novels to escape reality, so why in all the high heavens would I want to write about reality? In addition, there’s the dreaded phrase “write what you know”, which I’ve seen be credited to Mark Twain. Even though I do appreciate Mark Twain’s wit in many cases, I don’t believe this is a helpful piece of advice as it is often presented. While I often agree with the idea that you have to learn the rules before you can break them, in my opinion, this rule borders on ridiculous.

As I’ve been working towards editing a draft of The Hollow Bones with the intent to send it off to beta readers, I’ve basically flouted the idea of “write what you know”, but at the same time, there are points I can take from this advice. Do I have firsthand experience about life in late 18th, early 19th century New York state? No. Does that stop me from writing my story by doing research about that time period and writing about it to the best of my ability, as well as drawing on similar experiences in my own life? That answer is also no. While there’s something to be said for writing about what you have experienced firsthand, I think it’s too easy for this advice to limit us to semi-autobiographical writing and in my case, doesn’t allow for fantastical elements that could allow for a nice temporary escape from daily life.

While I was writing this article, I put up a poll on my Twitter to see how many of us had even heard the phrase “write what you know” in our time writing. At the end of the 24-hour poll, six of the eight contributors had voted that yes, they had heard that phrase before. Now here’s the question: if so many writers like Ursula K. Le Guin, Toni Morrison, Ernest Hemingway, Dan Brown, Avi, and Philip Pullman advise (at least partially) against the “write what you know” cliché, why are a decent majority of writers still being taught this? I want to hear from you: have you heard the phrase “write what you know”when you’ve been writing? How do you interpret this in your writing process? Please let me know in the comments section below!

Thank you so much for reading! Until next time, stay magical, everyone!

Why I don't write what I know

Too Ambitious For My Own Good?

Well met, everyone, and welcome back to the blog! It’s been a bit slow around here after being happily busy these past few weeks. A few days ago, I came down with laryngitis and bronchitis, and I was somewhat disappointed that I didn’t have laryngitis when we were at Disney World so I could make all the Ariel jokes (oh, the joys of having red hair). So, in all seriousness, what do I do when I can’t talk, and therefore can’t work? I drink a lot of tea with honey, hope and pray I don’t get an upset stomach from the antibiotics, try to finish the first draft of The Hollow Bones before NaNoWriMo starts (and get horribly distracted in the process), and binge a lot of YouTube videos.

I’ve been watching the videos from Christine McConnell’s YouTube channel after Netflix mistakenly made no second season of The Curious Creations of Christine McConnell, and I find myself wanting to do so many things like woodworking and sewing. Her aesthetic is a lot more retro than my own, but it’s also reassuring that aesthetics don’t have to be dark or depressing in order to be goth. Now that I’ve gotten my sewing machine up and running (the house fairies ran off with the foot pedal and power cord), I’d love to start making my own clothing like tops and dresses, as well as home décor items like pillows and duvet covers. I get frustrated with the clothing I find in the store when it’s not exactly how I want it to be (don’t even get me started on the disappointing depth of most hoods), so there are so many times I just think, “Screw it; I want to make my own clothes.”

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Can we all agree that Sophie Hatter from HOWL’S MOVING CASTLE is #goals in general?

The only problem is that I’ve said the same exact thing about other skills and hobbies like painting, knitting, spinning fibers, bobbin lace making, cooking, resin crafts, baking, and learning how to play at least three musical instruments, and there’s only so much time I can devote to developing all these different skills.

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Fun fact: Out of all the GIFs I have and use on my computer, I’m pretty sure a decent majority of them are from TEEN TITANS.

I get too ambitious for my own good, and I also don’t want this blog to get too scattered with too many topics. As a result, I’m curious: what would you folks like to see posts about? Writing? Documenting the progress on my new hobbies? Music? My favorite recipes? Please let me know in the comments section below!

Thank you so much for reading! Until next time, stay magical, everyone!

NaNoWriMo 2019 will be different

Well met, everyone, and welcome back to the blog! I’ve recently gotten back from a trip to New York to see family and visit Sleepy Hollow, which I loosely chronicled on my Instagram. While I was there, I kept writing scenes for my novel The Hollow Bones, and I’ve started to feel somewhat comfortable with starting the editing process in the near future. Incidentally, I also realize that a lot of writers I know are gearing up for NaNoWriMo, which starts next month, and I have no plans to start another story this November. (It doesn’t help that I may also be nursing a cold over the next few days, so that’s taking priority at the moment.)

In the two years I’ve done NaNoWriMo, I’ve focused on the novel WIPs I had at the time (or any other stories that come into my mind during that month), but I also have noticed a really bad habit I have of completely dropping a project for the new story idea in my mind, so all 35-40 (!!!) story ideas I have are often permanently in the purgatorial space between first draft and fully-revised second draft. This is a habit that I need to work through if I’m going to get any of my novels published as I’m hoping to do.

This year for NaNoWriMo, I plan to edit The Hollow Bones and get it ready for beta readers. This would, embarrassingly, be the first book that I’m officially editing with the intention to send it off to a professional editor for a second pass, and I’m terrified. I’m terrified that I’ll miss a mistake and I’ll never hear the end of it on social media. I’m terrified that I won’t take the story in the direction that would be best for the plot development. I’m terrified of the comments from beta readers and the imminent realm of oblivion that is the querying process.

I’m terrified, but regardless, I’m editing my novel, and I plan to publish it.

One of the writing podcasts I follow (I’m pretty sure it was Write Now with Sarah Werner) gave me the unpleasant but nonetheless necessary reminder that “done is better than perfect”, and this may be a great example of this reminder. The publishing process is about letting go, as terrifying as it is. Hopefully, with focusing on editing and making it ready to go to the readers, it won’t be as terrifying later.

Has anyone edited a book during NaNoWriMo? How did it work for you? Please let me know in the comments!

Thank you so much for reading! Until next time, stay magical, everyone!

The Magical Wonders of THE SIMS 4

Ad disclosure: This article contains affiliate links. As an Amazon associate, I earn from qualified purchases, so if you make a purchase using the links in this article, I receive a small commission at no additional cost to you. I have not been compensated for my commentary about The Sims 4: Realm of Magic or The Sims 4: Strangerville.

For the past two years, I’ve been in love with the video game The Sims 4, but over the past two months, my copy of Origin must have been dealing with a gremlin infestation because I couldn’t open the game. But now that I can open the game, I realized that they released a new game pack called Realm of Magic, and now I just can’t get enough!

When I started playing this game pack, I fell in love with the concept of the neighborhoods, the outfits and accessories, and the Art Nouveau-inspired designs in Build Mode. I also found the game pack Strangervilleand it reminded me so much of the podcast Welcome to Night Vale that I wanted to try it out. I’ve been focusing more on the Realm of Magic game pack, but I liked the concept of Strangerville being more story-driven, so I’m excited to start and see what’s going on for myself! Who knows? It might inspire some ideas for a new story!

Do you play The Sims 4? Have you tried Realm of Magic yet? If so, what were your thoughts about it? Let me know what you think the comments section below!

Thank you so much for reading! Until next time, stay magical, everyone!

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Meet the Characters: My “Sleepy Hollow” Retelling

Disclaimer: This article contains affiliate links.

Well met, everyone, and welcome back to the blog! I’ve noticed with fans and writers alike that it’s fun to put real-life actors to the characters in books, and it’s interesting to see why people see the actors they chose as those characters. I like to write my book like I’m making a movie; I want to be as descriptive as possible as well as have a dynamic pacing that keeps the reader engaged and rooting for the characters. As a result, it helps to have actor’s likenesses linked to character names, since it gives me a clearer image of how the scene will appear.

As I’ve been writing my manuscript for The Hollow Bones, a sequel/retelling of Washington Irving’s “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow”, I’ve been thinking of who I’d want to play the characters of the story, if it were completely up to me. So, here’s my dream cast for The Hollow Bones:

Evangeline “Lina” Van Brunt: Lily James in BBC’s War and Peace 

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Image source: Harper’s Bazaar

Like her mother Katrina in many film adaptations of the story, Lina is blonde, and I mention this because a lot of the reference photos I saw of women in Regency-era films like the Jane Austen movies were brunette (with the exception of Rosamund Pike as Jane Bennet in Pride and Prejudice). As a result, I ended up using photos of Lily James as Natasha Rostova in BBC’s War and Peace as reference images for Lina.

Runner-up: Elle Fanning in Mary Shelley

Michael von Essen: Tom Mison in FOX’s Sleepy Hollow

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Image source: POPSUGAR

It feels strange “casting” Tom Mison because he played Ichabod Crane in FOX’s TV series Sleepy Hollow, but after listening to his audiobook narration of “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” (affiliate link), now I can only imagine his voice as that of Mr. von Essen.

Runner-up: Aidan Turner in BBC’s Poldark

Washington Irving: (tentative) a dark-haired version of Jack Lowden in BBC’s War and Peace 

Image source: Wikimedia

For reference, I used a painting of Washington Irving by John Wesley Jarvis dated to 1809, but I wasn’t finding actors that were enough of a likeness of our favorite writer for me to go, “That’s it!” When I saw photos of Jack Lowden as Nikolai Rostov in BBC’s War and Peace, all I had to do was imagine him with darker hair to be satisfied for the time being. I’m open for suggestions on who would be best to play Washington Irving—I don’t want to mess this one up, considering he’s the author of the original story!

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Image source: Pinterest

Sarah Van Ripper: Miranda Richardson in Phantom of the Opera

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Image source: IMDb

Sarah Van Ripper’s household owned Gunpowder, the horse that Ichabod Crane rode on that fateful autumn night, and she likely knew more of the town’s secrets during the time Mr. Crane would have been there—almost two decades before the timeline of The Hollow Bones. Possibly because of her knowledge of the Hollow, I drew a connection to Miranda Richardson’s portrayal of Madame Giry in the movie Phantom of the Opera, due to the similarities in their characters. (Interestingly enough, Miranda Richardson was also in Tim Burton’s Sleepy Hollow as Lady Van Tassel. What a coincidence!)

Katrina Van Brunt (née Van Tassel): Hayley Atwell in Disney’s live-action Cinderella

Image source: Pinterest

While Katrina Van Tassel is eighteen in 1790 when the original story takes place, I had to take some creative liberties to make the timeline work for The Hollow Bones (sorry, Mr. Irving). Even if Katrina is older in my version of the story, I believe she’d still have her charm, wit, and beauty almost twenty years after the events of “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow”.

Abraham “Brom Bones” Van Brunt: (tentative) Oscar Isaac

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Image source: IMDb

Say what you want about the new Star Wars movies (which brought Oscar Isaac to my attention), but in some of the photos I’ve seen of him, it seems like he would be old enough to be Lina’s father, but also would have been young, lively, and handsome when he married Katrina.

Baltus Van Tassel: Donald Sutherland

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Image source: SuperiorPics

I first knew Donald Sutherland as Mr. Bennet in Pride and Prejudice (seen above), so that along with his performance as President Snow in the Hunger Games series sealed the deal for him to be who I imagine as playing Katrina’s father and Lina’s grandfather.

Ichabod Crane: Matt Smith in Pride and Prejudice and Zombies

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Image source: Pinterest

When I thought of who would be Ichabod Crane, my mind went straight to Matt Smith as Mr. Collins in Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, because he looked so similar to how Washington Irving describes Mr. Crane in the original story. If you aren’t familiar with the story “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow”, you can find the Amazon Kindle and Audible versions here (Amazon affiliate link).

This is not a list of all the characters in the book, but those are the main characters. Have you done this for your stories? What else would you want to know about the story? Let me know in the comments section below!

Thank you so much for reading! Until next time, stay magical, everyone!

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Edit: I previously wrote that Katrina Van Tassel is blonde in the original story. I have not found reference to Katrina’s hair color in Washington Irving’s story, but in Tim Burton’s 1999 film Sleepy Hollow and the 1949 Disney cartoon, Katrina is shown with blond hair. The relevant parts of this article have been edited accordingly.

 

Hurricane Dorian and CARNIVAL ROW

Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualified purchases.

Well met, everyone, and welcome back to the blog! Today is interesting because here in Florida, we have quite the unwelcome visitor coming our way: Hurricane Dorian. As I’m typing this, it’s not supposed to hit our area directly, but we might get the outer edge. We joke that the closer we are to Jim Cantore from The Weather Channel, the more concerned we need to be. Luckily, he’s not super close by, so we shouldn’t be that concerned—not yet, at least. To everyone that may be in Dorian’s path, I hope you all stay safe during the storm!

Earlier this Labor Day weekend, I also binge-watched the new Amazon Prime series Carnival Rowstarring Orlando Bloom and Cara Delevingne. After watching the series, I was inspired by the neo-noir Victorian vibes—not necessarily steampunk, but still having the Victorian and distressed elements along with a fantastical vibe from the Fae. I have some ideas for DIY home decor and fashion pieces inspired by the series, but I’m still not sure how to execute them. Luckily, with the hurricane coming, I should have plenty of time to brainstorm ideas and practice the techniques I’d want to use.

What would you want to see for Carnival Row-inspired DIYs? Let me know in the comment section below! Thank you so much for reading! Until next time, stay magical, everyone!

Storybook-inspired Vintage Crystal Candelabra DIY (VIDEO)

Well met, everyone, and welcome back to the blog! I’m so excited today, because I’ve uploaded my first video on my YouTube channel! My video showed how I made over a crafts-store candle holder into a vintage-inspired crystal candelabra.

My inspiration for this DIY experiment came from Lulu Sapphire‘s videos on YouTube. Her style seems to be French Baroque inspired with a whimsical touch, with many of her videos inspired by Disney’s Beauty and the Beast. Personally, I love the combination of bronze and crystal; the bronze gives an antique feel to it—like the piece has a long, fantastical history behind it—while the crystals give a bit of a glamorous touch. What I also love about this type of project is that you can really make it your own, using different colors or crystals to achieve the look you want. Here’s how I made over this candelabra into a piece that fit the aesthetic I was going for.

I bought my candelabra from Michaels (if this isn’t it, then it’s very similar to it), and because I like warmer metallics like copper or antique gold, I used bronze spray paint (I used this type) to make it the color I wanted. I then ordered crystal strands from Amazon, as well as 38mm (1.5 inch) teardrop pendants. A word of friendly warning: it can be a bit tricky working with the small crystal pieces and connectors, but be patient, and you’ll get to where you want.

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Those of you who follow my Instagram may find this similar to my sneak peek photo!

To keep everything from slipping off the candelabra, I took five links from the crystal strands and linked them together to form a ring. These rings would go around each of the candle holders to hold the strands and pendants in place.

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This picture is getting a little ahead, but it shows how the crystal rings work. It should be noted that at the very last minute, I changed the topmost ring from five crystals to four, but that was at the very last minute, so I didn’t get that on camera.

After I connected all the rings, I then worked on the strands. The strands I used come with connectors that remind me of staples, and the pendants come with jump rings, so I added the jump rings to the strands in order to thread the strands through the connectors. I left one connector open in between where the strands connected, because that’s where I’d connect the teardrop pendants.

 

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This picture shows the technique I had for the strands and the pendants.

After I finished all the strands, I then added one extra octagonal crystal to each of the teardrop pendants that would go on the arms of the candelabra (I left the teardrops that would go on the topmost ring as they were). Then, I attached the pendants to the rings in the same way as I did the strands.

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After I added the teardrop pendants to the topmost candle holder, I called the project complete! I’m so happy with how this turned out, and I’d love to see your take on this project! If you want to see the finished result, please check out my YouTube video!

Thank you so much for watching! Until next time, stay magical, everyone!

The hardest part of writing

Well met, everyone, and welcome back to the blog! I’ve been trying to wrap up the first draft of The Hollow Bones, as well as work on a short story idea that I’ve had for a few weeks, and I noticed something: I hit what I consider the hardest part of writing.

For me, the hardest part of writing a novel or a short story is when I know the order of events, but I’m not sure how to transition between those scenes smoothly and realistically. Climactic battles, poignant conversations between characters, and even typical days in the lives of students can flow onto the page so easily that my pen has a hard time keeping up with the movie screen in my head, but connecting those pieces together? Not so much.

This morning, I was working with one of those transitions for The Hollow Bones, and I had to remind myself that it’s better to be done than to be perfect. I just started writing the transition from one scene to the next, and hopefully it’s not that bad when I go back to read the scene for revisions. Is it perfect? Probably not, but that’s not the point. The point was to just get the words into my computer, and it worked.

If nothing else, this instance is a reminder for me that writing transitions may not be as hard as I think it is, because I may be putting too much pressure on myself to have it be ready for the publisher the first time, when that’s not easily possible (if at all). Writing transitions might be a challenge when I’m writing stories, but the hardest part of writing in general may be to let words just come out with the acceptance that it’s not going to be perfect.

Do you guys deal with this too? What’s the hardest part of writing stories for you? Let me know in the comments! Thank you for reading! Until next time, stay magical, everyone!