Excerpt: THE HOLLOW BONES

Lina then saw Mr. von Essen sitting by the mill pond as he read from a small book. When she smiled, raising a hand in greeting, he tipped his hat and stood up from the grass.

“Miss Evangeline,” he greeted her.

“Our new schoolmaster, Mr. von Essen,” she gave a small curtsy in reply as she turned to introduce the two gentlemen to each other, “This is Mr. Irving, one of my friends from New York City.”

The schoolmaster held out his hand, “How do you do, Mr. Irving,”

“How do you do,” Mr. Irving smiled as he shook his hand, “Miss Lina, I believe I ought to see what my brother is up to.”

“Very well,” Lina smiled, and she saw Mr. Irving walk away before she turned to Mr. von Essen, “Do you not have classes today?”

“We just finished,” he held up the small book he was reading, “I found myself wanting to read my favorites again.”

She strained to read the cover of his book. “Shakespeare?” Her face lit up, “Which one is your favorite of his works?”

He smiled, “It’s quite tragic, but I feel quite partial to Hamlet.”

Her brow furrowed with recognition of the name, “That’s the one with ‘to be or not to be’, isn’t it?”

“That’s it,” he nodded, “Are you familiar with it?”

“I merely perused it,” she admitted, “I prefer ones like Romeo and Juliet, but my favorite is A Midsummer Night’s Dream.”

He smiled with an arched brow, “‘I see Queen Mab hath been with you’,” The reference to Mercutio was not lost on Lina, and a giggle escaped. “Is it the fairies that intrigue you?”

She nodded as they sat back down on the grass. “They are both whimsical and dangerous, but they don’t seem to mean harm to people. Compared to those like Hamlet or Macbeth, it seems much more diverting. I always see a warning in Macbeth.” She cut herself short at that. How silly she was to prattle on and on!

Mr. von Essen, however, didn’t seem to be bothered with her brief monologue, and prompted, “How so?”

She shrugged, “The witches’ spell—‘something wicked this way comes’. You probably have heard of the haunted legends in the town by now.”

“Enough of them,” he hedged.

She suspected he was merely being gentle with his words, but she granted a small pardon for that time. “Well, it feels like something wicked may come to Sleepy Hollow, if it hasn’t already. The rumors of the village being cursed have been around even before I was born.”

He nodded, “The hauntings here may even predate the arrival of Europeans to this area. What about Hamlet?”

“When I read it, the idea of ghosts scared me. Maybe reading it now would not discomfit me, but it’s hard to make out the meaning of the Middle English.”

He smiled, “I might be able to help you. Mrs. Van Ripper suggested you were interested in tutoring. Perhaps I could tutor you in Shakespeare’s works as well as psalmody.”

It was Lina’s turn to grin broadly, “That would be quite lovely!”

 

I hope you enjoyed this bit from The Hollow Bones! Let me know what you thought in the comments!

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

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A New YouTube series: My Thoughts On It

Well met, everyone, and welcome back to the blog! A few days ago, I posted a video on my YouTube about my thoughts on Netflix’s The Witcher. This video is episode one of a new series I want to start on my YouTube called “My Thoughts On It”, talking about primarily books and movies that, in my opinion, were really good or really bad and why.

I wanted to branch away from the DIY videos because even though I love doing the DIY videos, the creative experiments were taking more time and supplies than I initially would have thought, and with my current schedule being the way it was, I had been in a creative drought for home decor ideas. I also want to keep posting content on YouTube because I love video production and editing, so I’ve decided to start doing things I love, like providing commentary and discussion on my favorite fandoms.

Right now, Episode 2 of “My Thoughts On It” will likely be about Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Love Never Dies. What are some other books, movies, etc. that you want to hear me talk about? Please let me know in the comments!

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

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My 2020 Resolutions

Well met, everyone, and welcome back to the blog! Considering I put down my 2019 resolutions in an article last year, I decided it’s now time to do it again for 2020.

My resolutions for 2020:

  • Continue to develop my blog and YouTube channel, but do so with self-compassion and without comparing myself to others. Unlike some content creators I follow (no shade), content creation is not my full time job. While I’d love to continue posting content, I can’t compare myself to other creators that have more time and opportunities and different skill sets than I do.
  • Continue to develop my music and a career in such. I have some ideas in the cauldron about some music videos on YouTube, and I’m hoping to include music more into my life.
  • Continue to develop a daily routine that is sustainable and allows for self-care. This year my mental health recovery was gnarly but still made progress. My goal is to continue with that and develop a routine that helps with recovery and maintaining a healthy headspace.

What are your New Year’s Resolutions? Let me know in the comments! Thank you so much for stopping by! Until next time, stay magical, everyone!

The Reality of Rejection

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

It’s been hectic since I last wrote on here, what with the Thanksgiving festivities here in the US as well as work and preparing for the upcoming holiday celebrations. In addition, I’m applying for my Master of Fine Arts (MFA) in Creative Writing, and while it’s fulfilling and I’m excited for it, the application process is ripping open a wound I need to work on.

With my poetry, I was lucky to have been accepted and that my work was well-received. With my MFA, however, the applications require a portfolio and I’m now questioning everything that I’ve ever written in my entire life. Unlike my experience with undergrad applications, when acceptance can depend on test scores, community service, and other more concrete factors, the portfolio is what determines acceptance, and that can be quite subjective.

I often hear the stories of Stephen King’s rejection nail (#2 in this article) as well as the stories from other writers on my Twitter about the roller coaster ride also known as the querying process, so I understand that rejection is something that writers will have to deal with at some point in their careers, if not often. At the same time, knowing that rejection is going to happen at some point has the same level of dread I feel when I anticipate the jab of a needle at the doctor’s office.

Writing means a lot to me. Sometimes I consider myself a writer before I even consider myself a person. So, if I put that much of my time, effort, heart, and soul into my work and it costs me an acceptance into an MFA program, regardless of whether it’s right or wrong to do so, I’m going to take it personally to some degree.

In some instances in the self-help community, this advice to be persistent in spite of hardships can be well-intentioned but nonetheless a bit invalidating. We as writers put our soul into our work, so to have something so personal cast aside so impersonally is likely going to hurt, and it’s okay to feel hurt about it. What we have to do—and what I have to practice on—is not let that make us close up into our proverbial shells and stop trying.

Have you had to deal with rejection? How do you handle it? Let me know in the comments section below!

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

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PHANTOM-Inspired Mirror DIY (VIDEO)

Disclaimer: This article contains affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases, so if you make a purchase with the links, I receive a small commission at no cost to you. Thank you for your support!

Well met, everyone, and welcome back to the blog! I recently uploaded another video to my YouTube channel, in which I made over an IKEA mirror into a romantic, slightly Gothic art installation inspired by Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Phantom of the Opera as well as Beauty and the Beast and Maleficent. I am of the belief that things in my house should be practical as well as aesthetically beautiful, so if I’m going to have a full-length mirror to examine my outfit (and—let’s be real—take a lot of Instagram selfies), why not make it look like something pulled from one of my favorite stories of all time?

The concept I had for this video was that the mirror was from Christine’s dressing room, and that some form of magic was causing real roses to grow from the wooden roses in the frame. This video was inspired by a mirror DIY by Mr. Kate (article) as well as a DIY flower wall tutorial by Lulu Sapphire (video). I also wanted this to be an experiment showing the creative process, rather than a tutorial.

The Mirror Frame

The mirror I used was the Nissedal mirror from IKEA (there are two widths available—I used the wider one). After using some artist tape and notebook paper to protect the glass, I started painting a coat of gold spray paint (Amazon). In hindsight, it was way too windy when I tried to paint the first few coats of paint, so the paint ended up going on unevenly. After some coats of the bronze spray paint (Amazon) from my candelabra DIY on a calmer day, the mirror was finally painted. I also added a clear enamel (Amazon) to prevent the paint from chipping or getting tacky. I also painted my millwork pieces—four corner pieces (Amazon) and one top center piece (Amazon)—with the same colors.

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The flowers and millwork pieces, all unpainted

The windy first day of painting also added another problem. Underneath the notebook paper, some paint got onto the glass. I was able to wipe it away with acetone, but if you use acetone, be sure to use rubber gloves (not plastic gloves like I used in the video—acetone can damage plastic) and work in a well-ventilated area.

There were some things I wanted to do in this project that I ultimately decided against doing. For instance, I had the idea to de-silver the mirror edges to give it more of an antique feel. I decided not to do that, because it’s hard to do indoors, and it’s difficult (if not impossible) to reverse if I decided I didn’t like it. For this project, I left the glass as it was, but I may try it if or when I revisit this project in the future.

After cleaning off the acetone residue with glass cleaner, it was time to add the millwork. I measured the center line for both the mirror frame and the top center piece, and then I added felt pads so the bottom edge didn’t scuff the floor. (I initially thought I’d hang the mirror on the wall, but I ultimately decided to leave it on the floor to add to the “Parisian chic” vibes as I observe them on Pinterest. It also doesn’t help that that would have likely required drilling holes into the wall, and I didn’t want to do that.) I also laid down a plastic sheet to protect the floor from any stray drops of glue. Once everything was ready to go, I attached the millwork to the frame with Super Glue. You can also use E-6000 or any other strong adhesive.

As I came to realize, this part was much easier said than done. The pencil marks I made to mark the center lines were so hard to see that I ended up eyeballing the center piece (oh, well—I tried). There was also another hiccup; the top center piece didn’t sit flat against the frame so I had to mortar one side down with hot glue. This gives the optical illusion that it’s tilted ever so slightly, but I didn’t mind that much. Let this be a warning to work quickly with Super Glue because it dries fast.

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Screen capture from the video

With that, the mirror frame is complete! At this point, the mirror would probably look good as it is, but I want to take this to the next level, so it’s time to work on the roses.

The Floral Arrangement

This part was more challenging than I thought it would be. While these flower stems from Michael’s (similar product) were beautiful and fit almost perfectly into the look I wanted, I was very frustrated with them during this process. With many fake flowers, the leaves, structural pieces, and individual sheets of petals all separate with relative ease. These hardly separated at all, which made it much harder to paint them than it needed to be. It can be done, but if you want to do this quickly and (relatively) painlessly, flowers that separate into individual pieces and put back together easily would likely be your best bet.

My initial plan was to spray paint the stems with the metallic colors and then spray paint the roses red (no Alice in Wonderland reference intended). In between coats of paint on the mirror frame, I added some small pieces of aluminum foil to protect the blossoms from the metallic spray paint. I then sprayed the stems and leaves the same colors as the frame.

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The flowers with spray painted stems

It was when I went to paint the blooms that I realized my cunning plan in fact had a critical flaw. In hindsight, it would have been easier to paint the blossoms first and then paint the stems to cover up any stray paint. Desperate to make this work, I wrapped the stems and leaves in foil and plastic wrap to protect them while I tried to spray paint the flowers anyway. To my further horror, I came to realize the red spray paint I had chosen (Amazon) was too bright for the aesthetic I wanted. I then made the bold, slightly reckless decision to paint the blooms by hand with acrylic paint.

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Screen capture from my video footage to show you the shade of red as it came out of the can.

I used a lot of naphthol crimson (Amazon) and a whisper (seriously—it’s potent) of dioxazine purple (Amazon) to make a rich burgundy color that went better with the aesthetic I wanted, and then proceeded to paint the rest of the blooms with this color. Take your time with this, and definitely wear gloves, unless you want your non-dominant hand to look like a crime scene. The painting process took me about three hours total.

Phantom Mirror DIY: Paint Mixing
This is to give you an estimate of how much purple I used compared to red. Seriously, a little goes a long way.

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Finally, I cut the flowers into individual stems and used clear 3M hooks to keep the flowers anchored to the frame and guide them up the wall. After some rearranging, it’s done!

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I may revisit this project at a later time to see what can be improved, but I’ll also be honest: this came out way better than I anticipated. As a craftsperson, I often get caught up in my fears that it’s not going to come out as I’d like, and I was pleasantly surprised to see how well it came out. Hopefully, this will inspire you to start a project you’ve been hesitant to do; maybe you’ll surprise yourself. I’d love to see what you come up with, so let me know in the comments, or tag me on Instagram and Twitter!

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

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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!