Monthly Archives: January 2012

NOLA til we die…

New Orleans was all I hoped it would be– mysterious, decadent, full of old ghosts and oddballs. I can’t possibly hope to make sense of it all, but here are the highlights:

Part One: The Conference

Marvelous Macmillan sent me to the American Booksellers Association Winter Institute where I had the opportunity to meet some of the amazing independent booksellers who are keeping people reading and buying books across the country.

Barring the terror of being rear-ended on the way to the airport, missing my flight, and nearly missing the whole party, the conference was like some kind of bizarre and wonderful dream. The first night, we dined in a beautiful little private room with painted walls at Susan Spicer’s Bayona. Strangest moment? Looking down to see my book set up as the centerpiece on the table. After that, it was all a blur. We talked about Shadow & Bone, but we also talked about how indies are doing after the close of Borders, our favorite comfort reads, and Comic Con. Bayona is one of the best restaurants in NOLA and I do not remember a single thing I ate.

The only pic I had time to take at the signing.

Day two: The signing! All of the authors were set up at tables ringing a giant ballroom. I had a few minutes to meet the delightful Andrea Cremer and Veronica Rossi–both glamorous and gracious. Then I was whisked off to my table to sign. It was… heady? Unreal? How many times as a kid did I imagine this moment? “Can you make it out to Lauren?” “Can you write ‘happy birthday’ to my daughter?” Why yes, yes I can.

A doorway at Pravda

The signing was followed by barbecued shrimp and grits, and an absinthe party at (wait for it) Pravda. Oh, Tsarpunk, you follow me everywhere. I actually loathe absinthe, but I managed a couple of sazeracs with the helpful coaching of Allison Verost and Mark von Bargen. I was too tired to sleep so I joined some new friends for dancing at One Eyed Jack’s, then fell into bed at 4am.

Part Two: The City

The Reznor/Goodman House

* Walking tour of the Garden District with my friend Jimmy and our wonderful guide Nita of Magic Tours. She’s adorable and happens to play drums in an all-girl jazz band called “Some Like It Hot.” (I find it very odd that John Goodman now lives in what was Trent Reznor’s house. I realize properties change hands all the time, but somehow it just seems weird. Like wife swapping or something.)

Carriage House. Perfect fixer upper for a writer type, no?

It was cool to see Anne Rice’s house, the inspiration for the home of the Mayfair witches, but I have to admit to being more intrigued by the mansion across the street and its rundown carriage house.

Sunflower post on the cornstalk fence. As we passed the cornstalk fence surrounding Colonel Short’s Villa, Nita told us that after Katrina, whole swaths of the city were just grey– covered in trash and debris, totally lifeless. But then out of nowhere, you’d see a giant yellow sunflower poking its head out of the wreckage. In a novel, that would feel like a heavy-handed metaphor. In real life, it’s just a beautiful thing.

Later that night, Jimmy and I strolled the filthy madhouse that is Bourbon Street on a Saturday night. It all had a very End Times feel to it. If New Orleans is a slow seduction, Bourbon Street is a stranger trying to hump your leg. Best moment? A tie between Jimmy “borrowing” some poor guy’s bike and the college kid who giddily told me, “I’m a philosophy major! I love writers!”

Bourbon Street. What is up with neon lady's boob?

* The raucous dinner at Eat NOLA: wine, butterbeans, much giggling with friends I haven’t seen since junior high. The karaoke that followed is best forgotten. We will not speak of it again.

*Best shopping: A tie. I loved browsing new and retro fashion on Magazine street, and popping into sweets-purveyor Sucre (the store is like a little bonbon itself). But my favorite purchase was made at Masquerade, a mask shop off of Jackson Square. There are feathers involved and it had to be shipped. I promise to post a pic when it arrives.

Sweets at Sucre

*Best savories: short ribs at Cochon Butcher, oysters Bienville at Antoine’s, fried catfish po’boy at Parkway Bakery

*Best sweets: the marmalade drenched Gateau Basque at Luke’s, warm chocolate pudding cake with caramel corn at Herbsaint, and of course, beignets and cafe au lait at Cafe du Monde.

Poached Pears at Iris

*Best cocktail: Easily the French 75 at Luke’s. At the risk of receiving hate mail, all of the NOLA cocktails seemed to skew a little sweet to me. Maybe LA drinkers have a different palette?

*Best local color: The Chart Room (most definitely a dive bar) where I met a sorority girl with a thirst for vengeance, a hollow-eyed bartender wearing– no joke– a shirt embroidered with golden yetis, and a weeping woman who swore she’d met me in a dream.

Finally, can you SOLVE THIS MYSTERY? On my last day in NOLA, I came across this bizarre building on the corner of Magazine and St. Mary. The first person to post a (verifiable) comment solving the origins of the crest and its relationship to the building’s history gets a $25 gift card for Powell’s Books or Powells.com.

I also want to shout out Eve Troeh and Georgia Archer who were kind enough to share their NOLA recs with me. Eve wrote beautifully about the city here. If you care about freedom and net neutrality or you just like a good story, I highly recommend checking out Georgia’s film Barbershop Punk. (It will be screening in Georgia, North Carolina, and South Carolina in February, so if you’re down south, don’t miss it!)

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Filed under The Violet Hour

South for the Winter

“Madame Lily Devalier always asked “Where are you?” in a way that insinuated that there were only two places on earth one could be: New Orleans and somewhere ridiculous.” ― Tom Robbins, Jitterbug Perfume

On Wednesday, I’ll be headed to New Orleans for the first time. Most miraculously, I won’t just be going as a tourist, but as an author. The decidedly wonderful people at Macmillan/Holt are sending me south for the ABA Winter Institute. I’ll get to meet booksellers and other writers! I’ll get to sit at a table and sign books! Me! Signing books! (I have this fear that no one will come to my table and I’ll just be sitting there all alone with a giant stack of ARCs. Then James Patterson will laugh and hit me in the face with a dodgeball.)

I’ve been dreaming of going to New Orleans since I first picked up Interview with a Vampire, lo these many years ago. So I intend to stay for a week after the conference and stuff myself so full of beignets, alcohol, and atmosphere, that I will be incapable of rational thought. When I told my friend Michael I was headed to NOLA, he said, “The city will either embrace you or spit you out. You’ll know pretty quick.”

Well then, laissez les bons temps rouler. And do keep your fingers crossed for me.

“In the spring of 1988, I returned to New Orleans, and as soon as I smelled the air, I knew I was home. It was rich, almost sweet, like the scent of jasmine and roses around our old courtyard. I walked the streets, savoring that long lost perfume.” ― Anne Rice, Interview with a Vampire

(And since both of my quotes reference perfume, I’ll leave you with a link to one of my favorite scents, Frédéric Malle’s Le Parfum de Therese. I know there’s jasmine in there, but I swear there’s something peppery, too. Feels right for New Orleans.)

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Filed under The Violet Hour, Writing

To Get to the Other Side

I’ve run into a lot of walls in this life. I don’t mean that metaphorically. I’ve physically and literally run into walls, doors, rocky outcroppings, and once a gentleman of surprising breadth whose friends called him “Mac.” Do this enough times and, if you have any survival instinct at all, you develop a certain level of caution. You slow your step, pay attention, reach out to feel your way before you plunge headlong into the dark. This is smart. It is, in fact, an essential part of not being an idiot. But it’s also not necessarily the best way to get through walls.

I always feel a little shady handing out writing advice. After all, if I was sure of the alchemy that brought a book from idea to manuscript, I wouldn’t be staring down the barrel of Book 3 with fear in my eyes, right? But this is sound advice and it’s advice I myself need to remember so I’ll offer it up to you.

When I was writing Shadow & Bone, my mantra was “Just finish.” Let’s call this the Get to the Other Side Philosophy. Get through the wall. Get over the ravine. It doesn’t have to be pretty or clever or smart, you just have to get there. When you’re on the other side, looking back at the work you’ve done, you can take the time to refine, revise, obsess. But first you have to make it there.

Recently, a friend was dealing with the daunting process of writing his first synopsis. How to begin? If doctors are taught, “First do no harm,” then writers should be instructed, “First just write crap.” Inelegant? Perhaps. But you didn’t come here for the petit fours, and the business of writing occasionally calls for a battering ram instead of a polite tap at the door.

Being cautious is wise. Being tentative can be outright dangerous. Being cautious is judging the gap, then making the leap. Being tentative is judging the gap, second guessing, slowing your momentum, toppling into the breach.

When writing a first draft, write with abandon. Write fast. Put your head down and charge. I write with an outline because it makes it less likely that I’ll get stuck. But even while writing the outline, I’m just trying to get to the other side. If I get bogged down, I move on to the next thing. Then I go back again and again, filling in the blanks. I move quickly because it helps me to outrun the voice in my head, the voice of doubt and judgment and nitpickery.

In a way, writing asks that you be young, that you be fearless in the way that you were before the world taught you caution and diffidence. Sometimes, the wall is weak plywood, sometimes it’s sturdy oak, but very rarely is it solid brick. Take the bruises. Do some damage. The other side is closer than you think. When you reach it, look back. See? That door was just a wall until you barreled through.

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The Skin Game

It’s been a while since I did a product post, but this one can wait no longer. THE PEOPLE NEED TO KNOW.

The product I get asked about most frequently is mascara, but right behind that is foundation. No single foundation is right for all skin types, but if you have dry to normal or combination skin, the only answer is FACEAtelier Ultra Foundation.

I’ve been using FACEAtelier on myself and on clients for almost two years now. It’s a silicone-based foundation that gives a gorgeous, natural finish under any lighting. It’s easy to apply and easy to layer for more coverage. (Plus it’s cruelty free!)

So if I’ve been using it for so long, why blab about it now? Because I just saw the stills from the video I made for my UK publisher. Now, let’s be clear: I am a very vain girl. Consequently, I curate my Facebook photos mercilessly. (My coat of arms should read, “Don’t tag me, bro.”) But on video, there’s nowhere to hide and it can be a rather cringe-inducing reality check. (Who’s that girl with the round cheeks and the crazy eyes? Oh! Oh.) That said, thanks to FA, the one thing I didn’t have to squirm over was my skin.

Ees glowy, no? And I have what can be politely called “problem” skin.

If you have serious texture problems, FA won’t magically make them disappear. (As we say in the business, “It’s a brush, not a wand.”) BUT it provides lovely, natural, moisturizing coverage that is kind to redness, fine lines, pores, and bumps.

FA is a Canadian brand, but it’s carried by a few salons and beauty supplies in the US and you can click here to see where. You can also order online. If you’re worried about finding the right color, you can order 5 ml samples for $1 each. Yes, it’s a bit of a pain, but this product is so worth it. Also, may I just say that FA is fantastic for women of color?

Finally, I need to offer HUGE thanks to Rachel Tejada, Ray Tejada, and Austin Wilkin. They oversaw everything related to the video– scheduling, scripting, concept, crew, and post. They also nabbed the crazy talented Travis Smith-Evans to shoot little ol’ me. I’ve been on a lot of sets and this one ran like a dream. (Despite the temperamental talent. Yeesh. What a diva.) They’re planning on forming a production company and I can’t wait to see all the amazing projects they’re sure to deliver.

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