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DIE FOR ME in pictures

Artist Victoria Tomeo with her DIE FOR ME-themed photos.

Artist Victoria Tomeo with her DIE FOR ME-themed photos.

Artist Victoria Tomeo (15) featured two DIE FOR ME-themed photographs in her exhibition at Gallery212 Miami, and I couldn’t be more honored! Two of the 23 photos in her debut show are images of her dog-eared DIE FOR ME books, entitled “Plum Books” and “Amy’s Heart.” Aren’t they amazing?

"Plum Books" (photo by Victoria Tomeo)

“Plum Books” (photo by Victoria Tomeo)

Amy's Heart (photo by Victoria Tomeo)

Amy’s Heart (photo by Victoria Tomeo)

Congratulations on your first exhibit, Toria!

Miami readers – stop by to see her show! Otherwise you can see her photos on instagram as @toriagraphy.

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You and Your 3-Day Book Salon in Gaillac, south of France

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Months before: you get an invitation to the Salon du Livre de Gaillac. You look on the map. It’s a little town in the south of France. You do a little dancing around, and then you graciously accept, trying to sound like a Very Serious Author who has not just danced around her apartment in glee.

Weeks before: you begin getting lots of paperwork: plane tickets, info on hotel, contracts and other stuff to sign. They propose several extracurricular events for authors: a wine tasting, a dramatic reading, a historic visit of the town. You sign up for everything.

A couple of weeks before: you are contacted by the teacher of the class of “quatrième” students you’re going to be meeting with, saying she’s been reading extracts from your book to the class and they’re making bookmarks. They’re going to interview you. Is there anything else you’d like to do? You suggest a “creating characters” workshop you gave to the teens at the American Library of Paris, and a screening of your book trailers. She loves the ideas.

A couple of days before: you realize you have no clue what age “quatrième” is, and you ask a taxi driver. He tells you 10 years old. You freak out. Your workshop is too advanced for 10-year-olds. You get home and check on the internet. “Quatrième” is 13 years old. You stop freaking and translate the games you had planned into French and email them to the teacher for photocopies.

The night before: you aren’t sure what to wear, so pack 2 nice dresses with heels, 1 pair of black pants, a sweater, a top, and a casual dress with leggings. Bookmarks. 3 books. Computer + plugs. And because you can’t decide what will go under what, enough underwear to equip an army. You spend until midnight going over your workshop for the next day wondering if you’ll be able to remember any of the words in French, or if you’ll end up doing your mime routine where you just move your hands a lot because you can’t think of words.

Friday, day of, dawn’s crack: you have given yourself 15 minutes to get up, throw your clothes on, and get your butt out the door. You succeed, call an Uber, and are whisked off to the airport. You check in, check your bag, and proceed directly to your gate even though it’s way too early. You’ve missed too many planes in your spacehead past to leave anything to chance. You locate the closest bathroom to your gate, and put your makeup on and brush your teeth. Then you get a quick coffee and before you know it, they’re calling your flight. This does not surprise you, because time works differently for you than for most people. Sometimes it flashes by without you noticing. Sometimes it drags on interminably. This is why you are constantly missing planes and trains and meetings. You roll with it, and gobble down your croissant and leg it to the gate.

Friday 9:15am: You land at the airport, amazed at how fast the plane has gone. You weren’t supposed to land until 9:55. You go to find your baggage, and look at your boarding pass. The plane number listed on your ticket does not appear on the baggage carrousel screen. It’s not on the arrivals sign screen either. Because it hasn’t yet arrived. But you have, because you were on the wrong plane. You panic for a moment, grab a baggage guy and ask what airport you’re in. He tells you “Toulouse.” You breathe a sigh of relief. At least you’re in the right city. You wait until your plane arrives, and go to the baggage carrousel. No suitcase. Of course. You hope the bomb squad in Paris didn’t blow it up since you weren’t on the plane it was supposed to go on. You think fondly of your hairdryer and wonder if it’s scattered in a million pieces around Orly airport. You see this strange cat sculpture, and wonder if it’s a bad omen. As in, you will never see your suitcase again and will be stuck with the same underwear for the entire weekend.

cat

Friday 10:15am: You go to the airplane exit door you were supposed to have come out of and see a few people standing around looking lost. They have your name on a sign. You wave and everyone looks relieved. You explain everything and go with the driver, a super-friendly volunteer named Magali who speaks perfect English, to file a missing luggage claim. Then you all pile into the car to go to your respective hotels. In the car with you: a Cuban writer who sits up front and chats with Magali since she also speaks perfect Spanish. A French writer named Dominique who tells you she also just got into meditation. And a French literary attaché named Christian who knows everyone in the entire world.

Friday 11:30am: Magali drives you to your charming bed and breakfast in the middle of the countryside. English owner, Catherine, greets you and shows you your room. You have enough time to connect to the internet to see that AirFrance still doesn’t know where your bag is before a car drives up and your are whisked off to the Jr. High where you will be speaking. Your driver, Pascale, the school’s documentarian, leads you to the library, where ten teachers and other writers are eating lunch on an improvised picnic table. The teachers have brought delicious tarts and salads and there is red and rosé wine to drink. No water. Only wine. For lunch. In a school. Before your workshop. You wonder for a moment if your workshop might work better if you are drunk, and then take the high road and limit yourself to a few sips of rosé to wash down the tart.

Friday 1:30pm: You spend two hours with a class of thirty 13-year-olds. You introduce yourself first. Then they interview you with some questions they’ve prepared. The “how much money do you make?” question that American classes always ask doesn’t come up, but the “which famous authors have you met” does. You make an effort not to let them down with your namedropping, and then show them your trailers. They like your “love letter to Paris” one the best. You spend the next hour playing your character creation games, which they REALLY get into, and then they present you with the bookmarks they made. Which are AWESOME.

bookmarks

Friday 4:00pm: Your class over, you hang out in the library until another writer, Eric Boisset, who was giving an event is ready to go. You chat while Pascale closes up, and discover that one of his books already has a movie, and another has a movie coming out in a couple of weeks. You are duly impressed. You tell him you don’t have any movie deals, but your books are translated into thirteen languages. He is duly impressed. And in a spirit of mutual impression and much chatting you are driven back to your B&Bs.

Eric Boisset

Eric Boisset

At yours, you meet the three children’s book illustrators who are staying in the rooms downstairs: Malika Doray, Janik Coat and Pascale Estellon. All French. All lovely and friendly. All already know each other because it’s a small world.

Friday 5:45: A driver picks you and up and takes you and Janik to the wine tasting you signed up for at Chateau Clément Termes. You take tiny sips and pour the rest back because it’s going to be a long night and you’ve done the gettin’-silly-at-the-book-conference thing before and don’t want to solidify your reputation for it. The wine is good. You buy 2 bottles, and are whisked off for dinner with the group who is going to see the dramatic reading. The bottles clink against each other a lot in the car, an omen of things to come.

Ch_clement-termes

Friday 7:30: Dinner with about 30 authors. Sit next to a super-lovely illustrator Isabelle Simler and find out she lives 3 metro stops away from you in Paris. She turns out to be one of your fav people at the salon.

Isabelle Simler

Isabelle Simler

Shovel down some pizza and pork and pie and then make your way a few blocks away to a theater where 2 actors and author Frédéric Clement read an excerpt from one of his books. Since the work is poetic and set a few centuries ago and uses some old French words, you actually only understand about half of what they’re saying. This lasts about an hour, and then you get up and move to another room and it starts again. The second room is underground and vaulted and beautiful with brick walls and brick floor. After an hour and a half, your legs start to kick, which is what happens when you sit for a long time. You try to shift positions, and end up kicking one of your wine bottles over onto the brick floor, making a very loud noise that resonates throughout the room and makes everyone jump. When you sit next to the Frédéric Clement at the signing table the next day, you confess that you were the bottle person. And he confesses he remembers you well.

Frederic Clement, of the dramatic reading, with illustrator Albena Ivanovitch-Lair

Frederic Clement, of the dramatic reading, with illustrator Albena Ivanovitch-Lair

Friday 11:00: Stop by restaurant where the non-theatrical reading authors are. Your suitcase is there! And it shows no signs of having been exploded. You try to stay awake until everyone is ready to leave, and then are driven back to your B&B and fall into bed, asleep before your head hits the pillow.

Saturday 9:30: Spend the day signing books. You display the bookmarks the students made you on your signing table, giving them a thrill when they stop by.

me

You are in the Children’s Book Tent, one of five different spaces housing different genres of books and authors.

gaillac1

Everyone is super-friendly, and the staff and volunteers stop by about every half hour to make sure you have everything you could possibly need. Around lunch time, everyone wanders down to the river where the mayor and other local dignitaries make long speeches about the importance of books and Gaillac and they give a prize to Isabelle for creating the picture book the children of Gaillac voted for as their favorite. Then it’s off to lunch, and you sit with Eric and his friend, Arthur Tenor, who has written so many books that your one-a-year seems somewhat shameful.

Arthur Tenor

Arthur Tenor

Saturday afternoon: more of the same. You stretch your legs and wander a bit, and notice this sign pointing down stairs to the outdoor bar that’s attached to the Book Salon:

Translates as: bar of the evil-doers

Translates as: bar of the evil-doers

There is also this mime, who you are afraid of until he gets up on a ladder and starts shouting. You discover that your mime-fear does not extend to ones who make noise.

The shouting mime.

The shouting mime.

After the signing closes up, you and Eric and Arthur wander in the direction of dinner, but get waylaid by a bar. Isabelle wanders by and joins you. And just when you get up to make your way to the dinner and realize you have no idea where it is, Magali appears out of nowhere in a big empty car, and drives you there. Ah, the magic of Gaillac.

You are driven home after dinner with the 3 illustrators, and sit outside your B&B chatting until the wee hours.

Sunday: sign all morning. Your lovely publicist from Milan Jeunesse, Sophie Bès de Berc, stops by and you thank her for suggesting you for the salon and try to make it clear that you’re open to doing more without seeming overly enthusiastic. After lunch, go on the historical tour of the city and see this:

g1

 

 

g3

 

g4

Sunday around 5: run around and take pictures of the people you’ve hung out with:

vincent

Vincent Villeminot

ericsan

Eric Sanvoisin

janik

Janik Coat

malika

Malika Doray

Pascale Estellon

Pascale Estellon, with a book I bought my son years ago (and which he loved)

Sunday 6pm: Get on a bus taking you and 20 other authors to the Toulouse airport. Hang out as long as possible until you have to split up for separate departure gates. You’ve got 4 people you know on your plane, and scheme with one (Isabelle) to share a taxi back into Paris. 2 hours later you’re home with luggage and your clinking bottles of wine and even more wine that was a gift from the Salon organizers, and you kiss the parquet floor of your apartment and fall into bed and dream of books.

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The BLACKBIRD blog tour: exclusive excerpt and giveaway

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I am so happy to be a part of Mundie Moms’ blog tour for my friend Anna Carey’s new book BLACKBIRD…for several reasons.

1. Because she is awesome. As in she got us tickets to Hedwig last spring type of awesome:

proof:

Anna and Amy on Broadway

Anna and Amy on Broadway

More about Anna:

Anna Carey is the author of The Eve Trilogy (Eve, Once, Rise) and the forthcoming Blackbird series, which hits shelves September 16th, 2014. She studied creative writing at NYU and has an MFA in fiction from Brooklyn College. She likes miniatures, subway generated wind, flea markets, chalkboard silhouettes, dance-offs, arnold palmers, Chinese finger traps, and top-of-your-lungs car singing. She dislikes pennies, paper receipts, and tunafish. For delayed response times, please contact her through this site. For instant gratification, please find her on twitter @AnnaCareyBooks, her Website, or Facebook.

2. Because I read BLACKBIRD back when it was just an itty bitty baby manuscript, and man, did it knock my socks off!

3. Because YA needs more thrillers, and get a load of this one:

A girl wakes up on the train tracks, a subway car barreling down on her. With only minutes to react, she hunches down and the train speeds over her. She doesn’t remember her name, where she is, or how she got there. She has a tattoo on the inside of her right wrist of a blackbird inside a box, letters and numbers printed just below: FNV02198. There is only one thing she knows for sure: people are trying to kill her.

On the run for her life, she tries to untangle who she is and what happened to the girl she used to be. Nothing and no one are what they appear to be. But the truth is more disturbing than she ever imagined.

The Maze Runner series meets Code Name Verity, Blackbird is relentless and action-packed, filled with surprising twists.

4. Because it’s got this awesomely creepy cover:

blackbird

5. Because I get to give one lucky reader a signed copy of Anna’s book. All you have to do to apply is follow Anna on Twitter or Facebook or both and leave a comment below! I will choose a random winner on September 25 when the blog tour ends. Contest is international.

6. And finally, because I have an EXCLUSIVE excerpt to give you, straight from Anna! Are you ready? Here goes…

When you step out into the morning air, the lot is empty except for a few cars. Two buses sit in spaces five and twelve. Their windows are dark. Across the street, a club is just closing. There’s vomit on the sleek metal stairs.

You try to focus on the vending machine, on the twenty breakfast options you have in front of you. Cheetos, Flaming Cheetos, pretzels and peanuts and Snickers bars. You punch the code for Cheetos. The spiral turns, pushes them out, and they fall to greet you.

            You sit against the station wall, popping the bag and eating them one by one. You close your eyes and try to hold the memory again, the tiny snippets of the coffin, your hands, the church. As you walk forward you see the podium. An angel on the altar holds a gold trumpet. You remember the incense and that bright, floral smell, how that one bouquet sitting beside the podium changed the air.

You remember, you remember.

            Everything else exists in a hazy place, like you are looking through a camera that’s out of focus. You can’t quite make out the clock on the church’s back wall. You don’t know what you were wearing, what year it was or where it happened. You focus on the book that was in front of you, trying to remember the exact page number. You can’t remember the passage. You can’t even see the words on the page, instead the memory cuts out, your hand still on that ribbon marking your place. Still, you keep your eyes closed. You wait for it to return. With your head down, your shoulders resting against the station wall, the sound is background at first. It’s somewhere beyond you.

You open your eyes.

You scan the empty lot. One side of it is all grass, some of it three feet high in places. A few tangled trees have sprouted in the abandoned plot next door. The wind has picked up, moving the tips of grass in one direction. Only a four-foot patch is still, the stalks standing at an odd angle. You watch the shadow behind them.

Then you hear the sound again: the quiet crunching of a person moving through dry brush. It takes a moment for you to process what you are seeing. The figure pushes forward and emerges from the grass. The woman is a foot taller than you, clad in a windbreaker and black running pants. Her chestnut hair is pulled back in a ponytail. She looks old enough to be someone’s mother, the type of woman you’d see at a little league game or in a supermarket line. As she starts towards the front of the building, you notice the gun at her hip.

            You stand. She gives you a quick once over as she doubles her pace. You turn away, starting into a run. You cross the street and go down an empty alley. She is right behind you. You scan the backs of buildings, looking for an entrance into the gated parking structures. They’re all locked.

You go another block, but the woman keeps pace. When you look back the woman is pumping her arms, her run effortless. She’s too fast. You try to get a sense of her height, her size, wondering if you have any chance against her. You are only about five three. The woman is taller but she is slight, her limbs long and lanky.

On instinct you run in an arc, cutting down another alley and over Hollywood Boulevard. The traffic is sparse and you feel alone, exposed, the streets too empty to hide. A convertible sees you crossing and slows. It takes only a moment for the car to speed up again, racing past without much notice.

You keep on, turning toward the freeway. You can hear the sounds of cars somewhere above. For a moment there’s nothing except that static hum, and it’s easy to believe you’ve outrun her. But when you glance over your shoulder the woman is there, right at the last corner. She hasn’t slowed at all. You try to keep your breath even, drawing long sips of air, but her presence unhinges you. It’ll only take her a few minutes to close the gap between you.

            You’re all guts and instinct, muscle and blood and bone. You pull the pack to your front, unzipping it as best as you can. The knife is right on top. As soon as you have it you drop the rest, feeling the weight of it go. Everything you own. The cash. The supplies. The notebook. You try not to think about it, try only to feel how much lighter you are without it.

            You pick up speed. As you reach the freeway underpass you turn, moving down an abandoned street that parallels the road above. She’s disappeared from view. There are bushes to your left and buildings to your right—another parking garage, three stories tall. You sprint along the backs of them, hiding behind a dumpster.

She is coming. You listen to her shoes hitting the pavement, the sound moving closer. You flip open the knife and clasp the base of it. Three, you think, trying to stop the trembling in your hands. Two… There’s an unevenness to her steps as she takes the corner, and you hear her hesitation. She’s realized you’re hiding. She’s registered something’s wrong.

One.

            You step forward. You keep the knife down. You level your right shoulder into her breastbone, keeping your feet out to absorb the impact. When you collide everything in your body hurts. You propel her back, away from you, as you struggle to stay standing. She hasn’t slowed enough and her speed is against her. Her legs give out. She stumbles away, falling to the ground, her hand on her stomach. All her breath has left her body and she opens her mouth, wheezing, trying to get air.

She seems so helpless and small. Your first instinct is to go to her, but then she reaches for the gun, aiming it at your heart. Before she can fire you are upon her. Both hands come together in an X motion, over her outstretched arm. The force of it breaks her grip. Your left hand grabs the barrel and twists, freeing the weapon. You throw the thing as far as you can, sending it skidding across the pavement.

It stops your breath, how easy it was to disarm her. You try to ignore the throbbing in your head, your shoulder, your side. Kneeling down beside her, you’re so close you can see the mascara on her eyelashes. She is in her mid-forties but her skin is pulled taut. She has plump, overdone lips.

One hand immediately goes to her neck. She pinches a medallion between her fingers, the metal glinting in the bright morning light. For some reason you’re struck by it, this small ordinary thing, how just holding it seems to comfort her. There’s a shepherd on one side, an antlered deer and cross on the other. She turns it back and forth.

You bring the knife up, letting it hover over her throat. It feels false. You’re not a murderer. You can’t kill her, you won’t, but you try your best to pretend. She just stares back at you, her chest heaving as she struggles for air. She seems confused. She searches your face as if she knew you once, but she doesn’t quite recognize you anymore.

“Who are you?” you ask. “Why were you chasing me?”

The woman coughs. She still holds the medallion, turning it between her fingers. When she parts her lips, her voice is a sad, slow whisper. “Just do it,” she says. “I’m already dead.”

“What?”

The woman’s face tenses, her eyes squeezing shut. “They’ll do it if you won’t.”

“Who? Who are you talking about?” You are holding the knife so tight your hand throbs.

“Them.” Her eyes turn up, her gaze fixed on something behind you.

You stand, starting backwards, scanning the buildings, trying to figure out what she’s looking at. You’re only a few feet away when something hits the woman in the chest. A wound opens up. It’s no bigger than a quarter. The bullet has buried itself above her right breast, in the tender spot below her collarbone. You just stand there, watching her body heave.

You turn, looking at the building’s windows, at the freeway above. A figure stands on the roof of the parking garage, his right foot planted on the concrete ledge. It’s the man from the day before, wearing a similar white shirt and black pants. You blink, stunned, as he watches you.

Then he lowers his gun. He stares at you for a moment, and if it’s an acknowledgement, you’re not sure of what. He’s killed her, this stranger, even though you were the clear shot. Why would he follow you here, watching this from above? Why would he protect you?

The rush of the traffic drowns out your thoughts. You see only images. The woman on the ground, the way the smog blots out the sky. A bird calls overhead. Then he shifts his attention to the silver car behind him. It’s parked there, the passenger door still open. He climbs in. Then the car pulls away.

You run for it, circling the block, trying to get to the garage exit before he does. You can hear him in the parking structure above, the screech of his tires as he takes each turn, speeding back down to the ground level. When you reach the corner you see him pull out, turning the opposite way, down the alley. You break into a sprint but it’s no use. He takes a right and is gone, disappearing as quickly as he came.

Pure awesomeness, non? Anna really knows how to suck the reader right into the thick of the action…and never let you go!

Here’s the info to pick up your own copy of BLACKBIRD:

More info:
Written by: Anna Carey
Published by: Harper Teen
Releasing on: September 16th, 2014
Add it to Goodreads
Get it From: Amazon | B&N
Read a Sample

And don’t forget to enter the contest for a signed book from Anna! (see Reason #5 above for details)!

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