Eek! Did you notice my blog banner is looking different? I finally got the go-ahead to post the Lips Touch cover, so after much mystery and waiting . . . [drumroll please] . . . here it is!!!!!! Yippee!
(Beautiful art by Jim Di Bartolo)
To properly unveil the book, I will let it introduce itself. Each of the three tales -- which are about kissing -- begin with a short introduction:
There is a certain kind of girl the goblins crave. You could walk across a highschool campus and point them out: not her, not her, her. The pert, lovely ones with butterfly tattoos in secret places, sitting on their boyfriends’ laps? No, not them. The girls watching the lovely ones sitting on their boyfriends’ laps? Yes.
The goblins want girls who dream so hard about being pretty their yearning leaves a palpable trail, a scent goblins can follow like sharks on a soft bloom of blood. The girls with hungry eyes who pray each night to wake up as someone else. Urgent, unkissed, wishful girls.
* * *
SPICY LITTLE CURSES SUCH AS THESE
Kissing can ruin lives. Lips touch, sometimes teeth clash. New hunger is born with a throb and caution falls away. A cursed girl with lips still moist from her first kiss might feel suddenly wild, like a little monsoon. She might forget her curse just long enough to get careless and let it come true. She might kill everyone she loves.
She might, and she might not.
A particular demon in India rather hoped that she would.
This is the story of the curse and the kiss, the demon and the girl. It’s a love story with dancing and death in it, and singing and souls and shadows reeled out on kite strings. It begins underneath India, on the cusp of the last century when the British were still riding elephants with maharajas and skirmishing on the arid frontiers of the empire.
The story begins in Hell.
* * *
Six days before Esme’s fourteenth birthday, her left eye turned from brown to blue. It happened in the night. She went to sleep with brown eyes, and when she woke at dawn to the howling of wolves, her left eye was blue. She had just slipped out of bed when she noticed it. She was headed to the window to look for the wolves --wolves in London, of all impossible things! But she didn’t make it to the window. Her eye flashed at her in the mirror, pale as the wink of a ghost, and she forgot all about the wolves and just stared at herself.
It was no trick of the light. Her eye was an eerie white-blue, the color of ancient ice in a place that never thaws, and as startling as it was, there was something profoundly familiar about it too. Esme’s blood quickened as a shock of memories pulsed through her: a world of snow and spires; a milky mirror framed in jewels; the touch of warm lips on hers.
Esme swayed on her feet. These weren’t her memories. This wasn’t her eye. She clamped a hand over it and ran to wake her mother.
* * *
Oh man, I had so much fun writing these stories, and I love them so much! It's really hard to say which one I love the most. This book came out of play, out of loosening up and writing for pure fun, about the kind of things that are most exciting and juicy and scintillating to me. Let's see . . . what are those things? Kissing, of course! Curses, the British Raj, heresiarchs, demons, goblins, shape-shifters, teenage girls, souls, immortality, forbidden fruit, LOVE. Serious soul-deep love.
And did you know, this book is illustrated? And it's printed in two colors? That is, it's your typical b&w novel, but with the addition of red, which is so awesome! Of course, I haven't really seen that yet (except in Jim's original art, here at home), as the ARC is not in color, but I can see it in my mind, and it's going to be so gorgeous and decorative. Jim's interior art is so beautiful, and the illustrations really tell whole stories of their own. Also, the fabulous designer, Chris Stengel at Scholastic, did a marvelous job making everything look so pretty, delicate, ornate, and memorable. SO. COOL!!! I can't wait to see and hold the real book. Can't WAIT! (Must wait, unfortunately. The release date is October 1.)
I've written from time to time here about how this book came to be, but I want to recap, because it's completely enmeshed in my blogging history, and would never exist at all without this space right here, for which I am so, so grateful. (Blogging, I love you!) The story begins almost exactly three years ago, when I was brand new to blogging, and during which time I was awaiting my first ever editorial letter, for my first novel, Blackbringer. Now, that was scary, that waiting. I was filled with aimless, nervous energy, and though I'd sold the Dreamdark sequel, Silksinger, I didn't feel I could begin writing it during that time of uncertainty, before I knew what my editor thought of the first book! I just wasn't ready.
To tell the truth, I really needed a break from writing a novel! I'd been working on Blackbringer for over two years, and had written nothing else in that time. When I started blogging, this strange new world was unfurling around me into cyberspace, I was meeting new people, writing in a free new way, and I had the idea -- which coincided neatly with an idea had by another blogger, Meg in England -- that I'd like to write short fiction for fun. For the pure joy of it. So we started Sunday Scribblings, a weekly writing prompt site open to all.
The first prompt was "What would you attempt if you knew you would not fail?" which is a quote that I love. Here is my writing on that, which says essentially (but with pizazz) that I would write more, and that I would write more freely, and find a way to let the stories out of my mind and onto the page. The second week I started to do just that. Meg posted the prompt "Real Life" and within minutes of sitting down to write something for it, a first line had popped into my head: "Six days before Esme’s fourteenth birthday, her left eye turned from brown to blue." The story was called "Hatchling". Writing it was an exercise in pure fun like I could never remember having while writing. No angst! I probably don't need to tell you what an amazing experience that was, I'm sure you understand :-) (And it's not like I'd turned some corner and from then on writing was only ever pure, dazzling joy, but from time to time, writing from prompts with no expectations, I can tap into that.)
So that was the beginning. I kept writing little stories for Sunday Scribblings. Here's one I love, "The Eleventh God" which is about the origin of chocolate, according to my imagination. Here is one of my favorites, "Gentlemen Send Phantoms" about a ritual three girls perform to learn who they're going to marry. And there are a lot of others. I fell in love with the way I could conjure a story out of nothingness, with only a short prompt to get me started. Later that summer of 2006, from the prompts "Music" and "Monster," came a pair stories that had something in common:
Both hinged on a kiss that had supernatural repercussions for the kissers' souls. And I thought, "Hm." And Jim thought: "Book." And I agreed that would be very, very cool. And together we dreamed it would be illustrated.
And now, three years later, it exists! It exists as a book! Thanks to the vision of the marvelous Arthur Levine, it is very close to our original daydream idea, but even better, even cooler. And that's the story of Lips Touch, at least the beginning of the story. See, those initial short fictions were very short, and I went back to each one and revised them into long stories (and in the case of "Hatchling," a novella), which wasn't always the same kind of pure joy as the initial writing, but you know what? It was still pretty dang awesome, as writing goes.
If you suffer from perfectionism as I do, I really recommend trying short pieces from prompts as a way of freeing yourself from your expectations. And even if you don't suffer from perfectionism, this is a great way to generate ideas for novels! The book I am writing now rose up out of a Sunday Scribblings prompt (but I'm not saying which one.) When I sit down with a prompt, I usually just brainstorm a little at first, jot down ideas until something strikes me as an exciting place to begin exploring, and then I just write and see what happens. When I'm writing a novel, I can't always find that freedom, though I have various techniques to try. I've learned so much from writing this way, I really can't recommend it highly enough!
I don't participate in Sunday Scribblings that often anymore, mainly because if I wrote a new story every week I'd never get any work done on my novel, but every once in a while I do it as a diversion, and it can be such great joy. Here's a more recent one with the delightful title, "Strangers Will Be Stabbed".
But back to Lips Touch. It's up on Amazon and open for pre-order (yay!!!) (and there you can find a brief description of each tale), as well as being available now to purchase, in ARC form, at auction (proceeds to benefit the Project Book Babe charity). There's a single copy, with an awesome ink illustration by Jim, and it's HERE.
To my EXTREME DELIGHT, Lips Touch has the honor of being one of six books presented at Book Expo America in May at the YA Editor's Buzz Forum. Hurrrrrrayyyyy!
Also, CHOCOLATE & TATTOO BRIBE still in play.