Beautiful People Part II (August): Introducing Phaidra Callas-Yu (Red as Blood)

10928109_595959117172101_1450331761_nWhen I saw August’s theme, and Cait’s awesome gifs to go with it, I just knew that I had to drop the Seven Sisters in favor of another extremely important character in Red as Blood: Sull’s stepmother, the formidable model, dancer, and actress “Calla Fay.”

No Snow White retelling would be complete without it’s “evil queen,” and since this BP was all about appearances, it’s too perfect.

But first, a little bio:
Name: Phaidra Yu, nee Callas          Nickname: Calla Fay

Age: 25     Height: 1.82 meters       Weight: Really?

Phaidra Callas burst onto the modelling scene at the young age of fourteen. From the beginning, her startling beauty, poise, and charming sweetness made her a star, and agencies were practically fighting to sign her. Nevertheless, she kept her current manager (her mother) until her mother's tragic passing in a freak accident when Phaidra was sixteen. 
Phaidra disappeared (presumably in mourning) for a month, and then came back as "Calla Fay" the female face of SnøFall - the groundbreaking fashion line by young designer Yu Hayato  (유 하야토). This was the first time she met Yu, and his motherless son, who was the other face of SnøFall. Phaidra's star continued to rise, and she made further news by marrying Yu four years later. The "King and Queen of Galactic Fashion" were unstoppable - or so everyone thought.
  1. Give a brief overview of their looks. (Include a photo if you want!)

I imagine that Phaidra looks quite a bit like this photo of classic actress and beauty, Gene Tierney
I imagine that Phaidra looks quite a bit like this photo of classic actress and beauty, Gene Tierney
Hair: Natural black      Eyes: Lavender-grey
Skin: Flawless ivory

2. Share a snippet that involves description of their appearance.

Well – I don’t actually have a snipped that describes Phaidra right now (since I’m playing around with first person), but I will share one of the random snippets I wrote about her as a practice exercise/character development tool. Note that it probably won’t be part of the book and it’s completely unedited, but it gives you a little taste –

The woman was undeniably beautiful, with her doe-eyed expression and milky white limbs curving through the swaths of silver and gold, but it was the child who stole your breath away. It was hard to look at the woman with him there, this creature of nearly indeterminate gender, whose dark eyes held more sorrow than any child’s should. It was then, after looking close, that you might notice the woman again. You might see how her hand rested on the child’s shoulder, a little too heavy for comfort. You might note how her long, silky black hair draped onto the child, mixing with his own locks in a tangle of confusion. Then you would notice how even the extra fabric from her dress somehow shrouded the child, framing his small body and miring his feet in a swamp of exquisite silk. Last of all, you would look back into her eyes, so clear and crystalline that they might have been liquid, and you might feel uncomfortable when you saw how empty they were. And you would turn away, and try to forget their expressions – but you couldn’t get their frozen stares out of your mind. It’s just an ad, you would think to yourself, it doesn’t mean anything.

3. What is the first thing people might notice about them?

Phaidra’s eyes. They are piercing, crystalline lavender grey, with extra long lashes and an extraordinary sparkle to them. Though she has been (quietly) accused of enhancing them, no records exist to prove it.

4. What are their unique features? (Ex: freckles, big ears, birthmark, scars, etc.)

Phaidra’s only “imperfection” is a tiny, heart-shaped mole under her left eye. Otherwise, her skin seems poreless, and her features are suspiciously symmetrical.

5. How tall are they? What is their build (Ex: stocky, slender, petite, etc.)

Phaidra is around 5 ft, 10 inches tall (just a couple of inches shorter than her husband).

Delicate bone structure, immaculate features, and a perfectly proportioned, long-limbed, graceful body made Phaidra one of the most galactically popular models of all time. She has been voted the “Most Beautiful Woman in the Galaxy” for the past six years.

6. What is their posture like? How do they usually carry themselves?

Phaidra carries herself like royalty. She is the queen of a fashion empire, after all. Her posture is perfect, and she moves with an unhurried grace that has been compared to large, predatory cats.

7. Your character has been seen on a “lazy day” (free from usual routine/expectations): what are they wearing and how do they look?

Minimal makeup and exclusive designer loungewear that cost more than some average citizen’s house. One of the perks of being married to a designer is that Phaidra is never wearing the same thing as anyone else.

8. Do they wear glasses, accessories, or jewelry on a regular basis? Do they have any article of clothing or accessory that could be considered their trademark?

Phaidra’s trademark is a pair of silver crown shaped earrings that she never removes. They were rumored to be a gift from her mother, but she has never explained their origin. However, she refuses to take them off, so designers and stylists have had to work around them. Other than these, Phaidra wears whatever accessories are dictated by her current job.

9. Have they ever been bullied or shamed because of their looks? Explain!

Phaidra’s “perfect” looks have been under scrutiny ever since she debuted at fourteen as the face of a popular perfume. There has been a debate over everything from plastic-surgery to rumors that she was forced into modelling by her mother. However, ultimately it all comes down to how she looks. Despite the criticism and harsh accusations she’s received over the years, Phaidra seems to glow brightest when she’s being attacked, almost as if she welcomes any attention at all . . .

10. Are they happy with how they look? If they could change anything about their appearance, what would it be?

Yes. Phaidra has said that she would rather die than be ugly, and that her looks are really all she has. The only thing she would change is her age – though she’s only twenty-five, she lives in constant terror of her looks fading and wilting with age. There is an entire lab (funded by Phaidra herself) devoted to finding products and routines that will hold back her aging process as long as possible.

So that’s Phaidra, folks. Since this was all about looks, I feel like we only just scraped the darkness and complexity of her character – but that’s just too fitting. Most people (okay, characters in my world) have evaluated/judged Phaidra by looks alone. As you all know, this can lead to misconceptions, misjudgments, and be a terrible mistake.

So what did you think? How important are appearances to your current characters? Red as Blood is the first project of mine to have appearances be pivotal to the plot!

 Did you all do this month’s BP? If so, leave a link so I can check yours out!

 

 

Beautiful People Part I (from July): Meet The General (Red as Blood)

In the monthly Beautiful People (hosted/originated by Cait @ Paper Fury and Skye @ Further Up and Further In, and you can read all about it HERE.), I’ve been exploring the rather large cast of my current WIP, Red as Blood. And though I started to do the July feature back in, well, July, I never finished it – so I’m posting it today. Check back soon for BP Part II, which will feature the August questions and another pivotal character from Red as Blood.

So, if you need a refresher on Red as Blood or some of the major characters, check out these posts, and for more on the Seven Sisters, here’s the link to their general bio.

Next up is the third sister – Ayan Stonefist – more commonly known as “The General.” Here’s a photo and a quick recap of her bio:
A younger but pretty accurate Ayan reference photo
A younger but pretty accurate Ayan reference photo
Don’t be fooled by her small stature - she can, and will, destroy you. The General has one of the best tactical minds of the last century, and it’s a mystery why she’s working at an out-of-the-way food joint. Actually, most everything about her is a mystery, and she’d prefer it stay that way.

Age:  early forties (or so the Sisters guess)

Occupation: Assistant Manager of Henpecked Bar & Grill. But that’s just what it says on paper . . .

Height: 135 cm?    Weight: Unknown    Race: Human?

Weakness: *whispers* Don’t even tell her we asked.

Weapon of Choice: Throwing knives or a good spear

Likes: Order, cleanliness, and quiet. Sharp blades. Maps. Dogs.

Dislikes: Bad manners. Insubordinate people. Disorder. Cats.

Favorite Food: Strawberries (she has a surprising sweet tooth)

Of all of the sisters, Ayan is the most reserved and forbidding. However, she exudes calm and excels at managing diverse and difficult personalities. Sull tries to avoid her as much as possible, yet he admires the way she carries herself – as if she’s twenty feet tall and all corded muscle – anyone in her way will be ten feet under . . .

So, now, let’s attempt to get to know The General a bit better.

  1. Does she  want to get married and/or have children? Why or why not?

This isn’t the sort of thing the General thinks about, to be honest. She’s never desired children, and she has zero interest in any sort of life partner or romance. Still, she isn’t opposed to mentoring a young person, and she did very well as the leader of armies. As a general rule, Ayan feels that children are a nuisance, and that they are a danger to everyone if their parents didn’t really want them. Sull basically affirms everything that Ayan believed about kids. 😛

2. What is their weapon of choice? (It doesn’t necessarily have to be a physical weapon.)

I answered this in her profile (throwing knives or a spear), but the General is one of those people who can use anything for an effective weapon. Her brain is her other favorite weapon though 😛

3. What’s the nicest thing they’ve done for someone else, and why did they do it?

When Ayan had command of a particularly large group of young men (soldiers), she caught one of them stealing food from the stores. Normally, that sort of thing was punishable by discharge and the removal of a hand, and the General had not hesitated to carry out the sentence before. However, after investigating the situation, she discovered that the soldier had taken the food for a group of orphans that had lost their parents in the current battles. Ayan looked into this and allowed the soldier to go with only extended latrine duty. She then set up a fund for the children, and personally found them all homes, despite her general dislike of children. When asked why she did it, all the General would say is that war “wasn’t right, and that no one but the instigators should suffer the consequences.”

4. Have they ever been physically violent with someone, and what instigated it?

She is the General – so 99% of her existence has been in the more violent spheres of life – but she isn’t violent without cause or reason. Rather, she only uses physical violence as a last resort.

5. Are they a rule-follower or a rebel?

While Ayan is usually a rule-follower (she believes that rules exist for a reason), she isn’t afraid to color outside the lines, so to speak. If she truly believes an action is right or wrong, she won’t hesitate to act accordingly.

6. Are they organized or messy?

Highly organized. The General despises anything remotely disordered or messy.

7. What makes them feel loved, and who was the last person to make them feel that way?

The General believes that love is like down comforters or a good mattress: comfortable and a life enhancement, but not necessary for a fulfilling existence. Her soldiers usually loved her, but she discouraged it, as she thought it encouraged an unnatural level of risk-taking and devotion (when she was in a dangerous situation).

8. What do they eat for breakfast?

The General strives for balance in every area of life, so she makes sure that her breakfast is nutritious and balanced, with just the right amount of calories to keep her going until the next meal. That being said, she’s partial to strawberry pancakes.

9. Have they ever lost someone close to them? What happened?

While Ayan tries to maintain a professional distance between herself and those around her, she has witnessed the deaths of many young soldiers. The General feels personally connected to every soldier under her command, and every loss or death has made her strive to be a better commander.

10. What’s their treat of choice? (Or, if not food, how else do they reward themselves?)

The General has a sweet tooth, so she will occasionally indulge in one of Dumpling‘s famous strawberry shortcakes. But only if she has had an extremely stressful day, or she feels quite satisfied with herself.

So that’s all for today- do you feel like you know the General a little bit better? (She’s rather enigmatic). Did you do July’s BP? How is your August going, and what are you writing/reading?

Top Ten Tuesday Rewind: Top 10 Things that Books Have Made Me Want to Learn or Do

Copyright : The Broke and the Bookish
Copyright : The Broke and the Bookish

So this week’s TTT is a chance to go back and do a Top 10 that you missed. I have missed A LOT of the recent Top 10’s, but the one I felt the most need to participate in was just a couple of weeks ago. “The Top 10 Things that Books Made Me Want to Learn or Do” is a topic that I haven’t written as much about, and as a writer*, there are a ton of things I have attempted or wanted to attempt because of books!! The difficult part was narrowing it down to just ten 😛

So – without further ado:

The Top 10 Things that Books have Made Me Want to Learn or Do:

  1. Forge a sword

If you’ve ever read a fantasy novel, you probably have read about that pivotal blade for the hero, or magical smith character. I have been fascinated by swordsmithing ever since I was little. The first book that made me think about it though? That’s tough. I’d probably go with The Lord of the Rings trilogy. Aragorn’s sword is reforged from the shards of Narsil, a legendary blade of his ancestors. And it’s Aragorn’s remade blade Andúril that marks him as the “true king.” Now that, is a sword.

2. Become a samurai.
Maybe this is obvious, but Kurosawa’s “Seven Samurai” is one of my favorite movies.

Since I am A. Not Japanese, and B. Live in the 21st Century, the viability of this one is . . . err, nonexistent. But everything I read about these fascinating warriors always made me want to be them. In particular, Chris Bradford’s Young Samurai series sealed the deal. (After all, it’s about gaijin samurai).

3. Archery.

This is one that I actually went out and did. While I’m not a crack shot or anything (especially with my bad eyes), I’m not terrible. And I still love archery. It’s therapeutic. And I can blame Roger Lancelyn Green’s Adventures of Robin Hood for this one! (With LOTR’s Legolas in a close second)

4. Celtic-style Illumination

Illumination^^

I don’t recall when I discovered the children’s picture book Marguerite Makes a Book, but I was probably about six or seven. Anyhow, Marguerite is a young girl with an illuminator for a father. Marguerite dreams of illuminating a manuscript, and when her father needs help finishing a book for a noble lady’s birthday, it’s Marguerite who comes to his aid. I still love this book, and I have spent many an hour practicing calligraphy and illuminating bookmarks and other things!

5. Riding in a horse race

While I did take horseback riding lessons for a few years (and I went to a horse camp), and I do enjoy the occasional trail ride, I have yet to race a horse (or own one). I’m not really the jockey build (or height). But between Black BeautyMisty of Chincoteague, and Walter Farley’s novels, owning a horse and racing it was something I always wanted to do. Still, I did learn to take care of a horse and ride one because of books!

6. Knit a sweater.

There isn’t a single, specific book that made me want to do this. Rather, it was an idea that grew after reading enough historical fiction. So many of the heroines were skilled in weaving, crocheting, or knitting, that I was determined to figure it out. After a few failed attempts, I finally got the hang of it, and I’ve knit more than one sweater now, and designed my own patterns! It’s a skill that I’m really glad I worked at developing. A recent-ish book that really made me want to knit would be Princess of the Midnight Ball by Jessica Day George. It’s the hero, not the heroine, who is the expert knitter of this fun little fairytale retelling. It is also, to date, the only book I’ve read where the villain was dispatched via knitting needle!

7. Go on an epic journey by foot, horse, ship, and/or wagon.

I still haven’t achieved this one 🙂 And I could name off at least a dozen books that made me want to do this. The HobbitLittle House on the Prairie, and The Hero and the Crown are just two of many, many others.

8. Get some beehives and become a beekeeper

I haven’t done this – yet! But I plan on having some hives someday (if I ever land somewhere permanently, that is). I have helped a beekeeper do their rounds, and studied bees and the homeopathic uses of honey. My fascination with the subject is pretty old, but one of the primary factors was Chalice by Robin McKinley. The Secret Life of Bees probably helped too 🙂

9. Go to a masquerade ball.

Err, doesn’t everyone want to do this? I love the idea of a fancy dress ball – but everyone knows that a masquerade is the most exciting (or frightening) type of costume party. So many things are revealed when your face is concealed, and all that jazz. Notable examples would be The Phantom of the Opera and Much Ado About Nothing, but there are a lot more!

10. Become an archivist in a crazy library.

To be honest, I’m halfway there. Every befuddled-looking, dusty person in lumpy clothes – a staple in fantasy novels, is a little (lot) like me. The library in the Abhorsen series, the library in The Thirteenth Tale, the library in Harry Potter, the Archives in the Kingkiller Chronicles – those are the places I want to go/live in the most. Maybe this will be my ultimate bucket list item?

THAT WAS HARD. There are so many things that books have made me want to do, or convinced me to learn. It’s one of the reasons I love books so much, to be honest.

*In the list of things I have learned/am learning how to do because of writing books – we can add learning Korean, dance tutorials, writing with my left hand, and living without modern conveniences, to name a few!

So – what sort of things have books made you want to do or made you do?

5 Reasons that Vassa In the Night NEEDS to be on Your Fall TBR List (ARC Review)

Anyone who follows my blog knows that I have been INSANELY busy all summer. It’s left me little time to read, and no time to blog – but I finally managed to squeeze in some reading time, and now I have to tell you all about it 😛

JUST LOOK AT IT – So Pretty

First things first – a huge thank you to ABA Whitebox and TOR/Macmillan for the ARC – this advance copy was provided for free as a bookseller promotion, and this is an unsolicited, unpaid, and 100% honest review 🙂

I don’t know about you, but I have a lifelong obsession with fairytales. Whether it was Disney, a dusty copy of Grimms, Ella Enchanted, a folktale collection I found at the library, or Once Upon a Time, I’ve given them all a shot. However, for all of the fairy tales and folktales out there (and there are thousands), only a handful ever seem to make it into novels. So when I saw the synopsis of Vassa in the Night, I knew I had to read it as soon as possible. (Official Synopsis Below)

In the enchanted kingdom of Brooklyn, the fashionable people put on cute shoes, go to parties in warehouses, drink on rooftops at sunset, and tell themselves they’ve arrived. A whole lot of Brooklyn is like that now, but not Vassa’s working-class neighborhood.

In Vassa’s neighborhood, where she lives with her stepmother and bickering stepsisters, one might stumble onto magic, but stumbling out again could become an issue. Babs Yagg, the owner of the local convenience store, has a policy of beheading shoplifters and sometimes innocent shoppers as well. So when Vassa’s stepsister sends her out for light bulbs in the middle of night, she knows it could easily become a suicide mission.

But Vassa has a bit of luck hidden in her pocket, a gift from her dead mother. Erg is a tough-talking wooden doll with sticky fingers, a bottomless stomach, and a ferocious cunning. With Erg’s help, Vassa just might be able to break the witch’s curse and free her Brooklyn neighborhood. But Babs won t be playing fair .

Basically, Vassa in the Night is a modern reimagining of Vassilissa the Beautiful (there are a lot of Vassilissa stories out there), set in Brooklyn, NYC.
And before you point out how many fairytale/folktale retellings are out there, scroll down for my

Top 5 Reasons to Read Vassa in the Night:

  1. The Prose is beautiful.

    There are sentences that my writer’s brain was wishing I’d come up with. And Sarah Porter’s “stage-setting” and descriptive writing roots you immediately – just read the first couple paragraphs and you’ll see what I mean:

People live here on purpose; that’s what I’ve heard. They even cross the country deliberately and move into the neighborhoods near the river, and suddenly their shoes are cuter than they are, and very possibly smarter and more articulate as well, and their lives are covered in sequins and they tell themselves they’ve arrived. They put on tiny feathered hats and go to parties in warehouses; they drink on rooftops at sunset. It’s a destination and everyone piles up and congratulates themselves on having made it all the way here from some wherever or other. To them this is practically an enchanted kingdom. A whole lot of Brooklyn is like that now, but not the part where I live.

Not that there isn’t any magic around here. If you’re dumb enough to look in the wrong places, you’ll stumble right into it. It’s the stumbling out again that might become an issue. The best thing you can do is ignore it. Cross the street. Don’t make eye contact—if by some remote chance you encounter something with eyes.

(Excerpt from Chapter 1, Vassa in the Night by Sarah Porter)

Porter takes her time in setting the scene, enveloping you in a fantastical, yet familiar version of Brooklyn. Her writing has its own sort of magic, and it will immerse you in the world of the story in no time.

2. Creativity!

Baba Yaga as a demented shopkeeper? Yes, please. Vassilissa as a purple-haired teen from a blended family? Works for me. Demented, bodiless hands for sidekicks? Sure. Another world on the fringe of our own, populated by characters that Lewis Carroll would envy. SOLD. This is definitely one of the more inventive YA novels I’ve read, and I couldn’t wait to see where it would take me next. I also loved seeing how Porter worked elements from the Vassilissa story into the book.

3. It’s laugh-out-loud funny.

There’s a healthy dose of sarcasm, usually provided by Vassa herself, and a borderline-hysterics sort of humor that balances the macabre setting and rather dark subject matter (i.e., severed heads and gruesome, fairytale style deaths) The side characters and bizarre situations also provide a lot of humor. Erg (Vassa’s “doll), in particular, is a source of hilarious one liners and dry observations.

4. Reality checks.

I love how Vassa in the Night doesn’t have a “perfect” ending. Everything isn’t resolved or tied up neatly. More importantly, throughout the book, we don’t forget that Vassa is a young girl plunged into a world far beyond her comfort zone. None of her problems are magically solved, and she has to work for a resolution. Vassa’s relationships with Erg, her stepsisters, school peers, and missing/late parents are all extremely important, and she has to deal with them in “real-world” ways to grow as a character, and accomplish her goals. And hey – if Baba Yaga was real, I could definitely see her setting up a sinister convenience store chain in NYC. And getting away with it.

5. VASSA.

She’s everything I love in a heroine – smart, funny, snarky, empathetic, and believable. Despite her tough lot in life, she is determined and stubborn, and she refuses to give up when it matters the most. Also of note, though Vassa is obviously our heroine, she doesn’t fall into the stereotypical chosen-one mode at all. Her character growth and arc were well done and satisfying.

Overall: 4 out of 5 stars.*
A lush and inventive modern folktale for readers looking for something a little darker and less romantic than the majority of the fairytale retellings out there. A strong heroine, crazy strangeness, and beautiful prose help Vassa in the Night stand out as one of my favorite YA reads of 2016.
*Here are my minor quibbles (which are really only relevant after you’ve read the book:
  1. Was there a point to the whole story about Vassa’s dad (other than showing his extreme immaturity and selfishness)?
  2. I felt that “The Rules” (governing the magical world/characters) could have been fleshed out a little more. Obviously, like Erg, Babs had rules she was following – otherwise, she might have stopped Vassa more effectively at times. It makes it a bit harder to suspend your disbelief if you don’t know the rules that the world operates by.
  3. Babs defeat was slightly underwhelming. It was fairytale-esque, but (see #2) I felt like it would have worked a bit better if we knew how/why she was defeated.

Vassa in the Night by Sarah Porter will be released in Hardcover on September 20th, 2016.

Do you plan on reading Vassa in the Night? Why or why not? Have you read Vassilissa the Beautiful or any of the Vassilissa stories?