BLACKPLUME

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Celebrating Debutantes 2016: Spin the Sky by Jill MacKenzie (Author Interview + Playlist + Giveaway)

Celebrating Debutantes 2016 Second Wave

Happy Weekend!

Today I’m thrilled to welcome author Jill MacKenzie to the blog to answer few questions about her upcoming debut novel, Spin The Sky. This contemporary novel incorporate dance in the story and so much more.

Jill also share a fantastic playlist of the book for us to listen too. Have fun reading the interview and listening to the playlist.

And scroll down to learn more about Spin The Sky and the author, Jill MacKenzie. Also, don’t forget to enter the giveaway at the bottom for a chance to win a copy of of the book.

Interview with Jill MacKenzie

What pushed you to pursue writing as a career? How did you know what story you want to write about?

To be quite honest, I’ve never really felt a push, per se, to pursue writing as a career because I’ve always just…written. It isn’t something I made a conscious decision about—at least, not until I had tried a few other careers first. From the time I was really little, I was making up characters and stories and, when I was ten, I wrote fifty pages of a novel about a girl who runs away from home to go live in the wilderness. Although that work-in-progress was accidentally deleted from my computer, it didn’t stop me. From there I continued to write short stories and poetry. Novels, of course, felt like a natural progression for me. I was excited to do it and was just waiting until I had a bit of time to dedicate to learning my craft. After a lot of reading and a bit of research, I realized that what I wanted to write was YA. After that, I just thought back to a time in my teenage life that really stood out to me. That time was on a beach in Oregon where I fell in love with life and fell in love with falling in love. Also, I grew up dancing so the integration of both experiences and memories felt right to me. And SPIN THE SKY was born!

Spin The Sky deals with a reality TV dance competition. Tell us about the process of creating the settings of the story, did any old or current reality shows influence or inspire the book?

The competition side of this story does, loosely, follow the basis of the reality TV show So You Think You Can Dance. I do poke fun at it (gently) but only because I love the show. Truly, I think SYTYCD has revolutionized the dance industry in that it has singlehandedly inspired a new way to look at dance, and having a career in dance. As a result of the show’s popularity, many young dancers who might have given up dance if they couldn’t see a productive future in it (like moi), now stick with it with hopes of making their dreams come true.

Your bio said you enjoy dancing also like your protagonist, how did your own dancing experiences influence the plot of Spin The Sky? Are there any scenes in the book that tell your own dancing experience?

Oh, definitely. I never got the chance to dance as seriously as Magnolia—never auditioned for any nationally televised competitions—but every dance scene in SPIN THE SKY is, in a sense, me dancing. I still dance all the time, although these days it’s more from the comfort of my own home. But dancing, to me, is more a state of mind that anything else. A release, a way to really be yourself, an escape. All of Magnolia’s big dancing scenes were taken from some moment in my life where I felt this power surge inside of me, a time where I felt like I could do anything. Some people do yoga. I dance.

Spin The Sky has a strong focus on family, especially the relationship between Magnolia and Rose. How much does this reflect your own life?

The sister element is pretty huge for me. I have one sister I know very well and we have a very tumultuous relationship (lots of love and little bit of non-love) and one sister that I don’t know nearly as well as I’d like to. I also have a brother who I’m close to mentally but don’t see often and speak to only a handful of times a year. I’m constantly thinking of family in terms of how the family I grew up in is different to the family I have now. I look at other families and try to decipher what kinds of relationships their families are made up of and why—how they got there and where they came from. The Woodson family is one type of family. They weren’t my family, but I loved the opportunity to explore these sorts of relationships as though they were my own.

If readers could take away one thing from having read Spin The Sky what would you hope it would be?

I hope that it’d be inspiration. I hope that someone will read this book and then put it down and say, “you know, if she can follow her dreams against all those odds, what have I got to lose?” I love “rise above” stories, and I’m always telling my girls that a person is nothing without her dreams. I really believe that. I hope my book is a gentle reminder of that to others.

If one of your characters could turn the tables on you and write a story based on your teenage years, what would the title of that book be? What would be the first line?

Ha. I love this question. So many possible titles popped into my mind right now. But I think one that really stands out to me would be taken from a song that, whenever I hear it, I feel really nostalgic for what could have been—maybe even what was–my teenage self The song is called Sweet Disposition, by The Temper Trap. It’s so pretty. And sad. And hurtful too, you know? Anyway, I think Sweet Disposition is a great book title, so I’d happily allow one of my characters to borrow it to name the book of me. And the first line of the book? How about something like, “Staring at the back of his unremarkable brown head, April wondered, not for the first time, why Jordy never seemed to care that everyone outside of Chem and Physics and Math thought he was a loner, a freak, an outcast, a loser and a waste of space, when it would kill April if anyone thought of her like that.” I’m thinking of writing a story along these lines one day. The girl who was popular and had a lot going for her. The girl who always feared that, one day, everyone would find out that she was nothing more than a phony. Nothing more than a freak.

Are you working on any project right now? What we should expect from you after the release of Spin The Sky?

Ah. The tough question. Well, I’m happy to report that I do have a few projects in the works right now. But because I’m a very superstitious person, I don’t really want to say too much about them. So I think I’ll just say that, thankfully, I’m keeping busy and plugging away at this thing I’m forever trying to do!

Spin The Sky Playlist

Thank you so much Jill for answering my questions and for creating the playlist of Spin The Sky for us.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

author-jill-mackenzieAlthough my heart will always be on the West Coast, I’ve lived in the heat of Florida for nearly 11 years and am finally getting used to it. Together with my South African husband named Gus and our two gorgeous little daughters (one girly, one not), our lives are pretty much spent on the beach, navigating the clear, warm waters of the South. In addition to being an avid member of SCBWI Florida, I’m currently completing my MFA in Creative Writing through the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, BC. I also *occasionally* work as a freelance writer and substitute teacher because, you know, I’ve got to help bring home the bacon, too. In my free time, (free time? What’s that?) I enjoy dancing, reading, snorkeling, surfing, running and traveling.

Find Jill

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads


ABOUT THE BOOK

Book Details:

spin-the-skyTitle: Spin the Sky
Author: Jill MacKenzie
Publisher: Sky Pony Press
Publication Date: November 01, 2016
Pages: 352
Format: Hardcover, eBook

Magnolia Woodson wants nothing more than to get her and her sister, Rose, out of the pitifully small, clamming-obsessed Oregon town that hates them—she just doesn’t know how. Forced to put up with the snide comments and hateful looks the townspeople throw at them, Mags thinks she’s destined to pay for the horrible, awful thing her mom did—and that she’s left her and Rose to deal with—until the day she dies.

But when a nationwide televised dance competition posts tryouts in nearby Portland, Mags’s best friend, George, says they have to go and audition. Not only have they spent the past fourteen years of their lives dancing side-by-side, dreaming of a day just like this, but also it could be Mags’s chance of a lifetime—a chance to win the grand-prize money and get her and Rose out of Summerland, a chance to do the thing she loves most with everyone watching, a chance to show the town that she’s not—and has never been—a “no-good Woodson girl,” like her mother. But will the competition prove too steep? And will Mags be able to retain her friendship with George as they go head-to-head in tryouts? Mags will have to learn that following her dreams may mean changing her life forever.

Book Links:

AmazonGoodreads | IndieBound | Publisher

Giveaway:

What’s up for Grab?

  • Copy of Spin the Sky by Jill MacKenzie

The Rules:

  • Open to US / CA residents
  • There will be one (1) lucky winner
  • Winner will be chosen and announced by rafflecopter
  • Winner will be contacted thru email & should response within 48 hours
  • Ends October 15th, 2016
  • Prize will be sent by the author

To enter fill out the rafflecopter form

Good Luck!!!

Treat yourself to a complete #CelebratingDebutantes2016 experience. Click the image below for the full list of schedule and links to each second wave feature post!

CD2016 Second Wave Collage

 

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2015 Reading & Blogging Goals

Happy 2015 Everyone! How’s everyone year so far? I hope 2015 brings us all good cheers and blessings. 2015 is actually kicking pretty fast for me, it’s just few days since the year started but I feel like I’m in the fast lane already doing all the planning and other work related stuff. I foreseeing the year to be very busy which push me to decide to alter my blogging and reading plans. Instead of pushing myself with all the reading goals and challenges like what I do every year, I decided to cut all the goals for 2015 and just let the tides flow for me. No tight goals or concrete plans but to enjoy blogging and reading.

I’ve already cut my goodreads reading challenge goal to half – from the usual 100 books per year I’m doing a 50 books this year. I’m also hoping to read most the books from my shelves and lessened my habit of acquiring new books without having definite plans or timeline of reading them because I’m usually stack with my for review pile. As for getting books for review, just like last year, I will continue to stop requesting book for review. If I get an offer to review books I will consider them but will only accepts those books I think that I will really like or will definitely love. I’m also cutting joining review tour this year – this one will be bit hard since I’m one of the admins of a local book tour site but I’ll still try.

I’m going back reading more non-fictions books too beside those usual required reading for work. Last time I checked, the nonfiction area of my shelve is almost non-existence compare to the volumes of YA fiction books I have. Even if I add those dozens of self-help titles that I lend to my friends they are still too small compare to fictions books I acquired for the past years.

There are other plans but all these plans and goals are just more of a reminder for me to just removed the restrictions and the usual lines of schedule and target goals. Time to go back reading and reviewing for my own enjoyment and just share the love for written words without the hassle of obligations.

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Death in Fiction

GOT deaths

photo credits: @King_Joffrey

*warning: there are some spoilers for Veronica Roth’s latest book, Allegiant!

I’m visiting twitter today when I saw from my timeline the tweet above, where someone re-tweeted a photo of ‘A Song of Ice and Fire’ books bookmarked with each death of character from the series. Though I haven’t started reading the books yet (I insist on start reading them once I got my own hardbound copies of at least upto the 6th book) I’ve been following the TV series adaptation, so I’m at least a bit aware of how the author can easily kill his characters. In fact, I am not yet over grieving with Ned, and Robb Stark death from that series. So thinking about death in fictions, reminds me some of my current reads where major characters were killed by their creators during the process of writing.

If you have read Veronica Roth’s final book to her YA dystopian series, Divergent, it is no spoiler to you how her protagonist, Tris end up in Allegiant. For someone who’s following that series, I am invested to Veronica Roth’s characters already, not only with her major characters, Tris and Four but also their alliance and friends. I root for them and hope only the best for everyone. But having read many dystopian books, I am also aware how bleak and dark their central world is. And with that kind of setting, death is surely unavoidable. Even before reading the first book, I already anticipated lots of casualties as the story push forward. I expected death along the way as I read. I am even ready to let go of the major characters if needed. So Tris’ death is NOT shocking to me.

But what shocked me is that I didn’t feel anything from Tris’ death. I didn’t mourn like what I did when I watch Ned Stark beheaded, or Robb Stark murdered. I didn’t shed any tear like when Augustus Waters of ‘The Fault In Our Stars‘ died in cancer which I already anticipated from the start, or when Mia hall of ‘If I Stay‘ spent her possible remaining days in coma. Even when I go back reading each word slowly about how Tris died, I still felt nothing!

I wasn’t even upset that Tris died. I get why she needs to be the one who make the sacrifices. I totally understand her motivation, but still I think Veronica Roth failed with the execution. Instead of making Tris’ death meaningful it feels more contrived in my opinion.

Sure it is an act of love as Tris traded her own life for her brother Caleb. It also qualified as an act of heroism or noble sacrifice, after all she’s doing it for the greater good. But considering how she end up there in the first place somehow makes the difference.

Losing someone in fiction cannot be compare to losing someone in real life but killing a main character should still feel like lost. Especially those characters we spent a lot of time knowing and understanding. We spent our times reading their stories in a series of books like we spent our times knowing a friend deeper. Losing them by death or by simply ending their stories should at least feel like goodbyes. Because at the end of the day, even a fictional character and fictional world needs to say goodbye. And goodbyes doesn’t always means the end. That we are done with the stories and characters. It just another chapter close from readers experience. And in every end there’s always a lesson. So no matter how a character is killed, or how the story ended, it is how it affected the readers that’s matter. What impact it leaves and what lessons the readers learned from it.

Character death can be one of the best reading moments, as it has the power to trigger something to its readers. If done well, it can be the most memorable and upsetting scene, which in return can be one of the most powerful card of a writer can play in her own hand. It’s like a secret ace he or she can pull to win the readers emotions & feelings. With all that said, death or ending should at least leave impact to the readers.

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Media Conference & Book Signing with Ransom Riggs

Minutes before Ransom Riggs‘ Book Signing event at Fully Booked Bonifacio High Street in Taguig, we got the chance to interviewed him during the separate media conference at U-View room of Fully Booked. Louisse of The Soul Sisters blog invited me to join her in this event since her co-blogger Geraldine couldn’t make it. Thanks so much Louise. I feel blessed and grateful joining the few invited people inside the media conference. There were only four bloggers, few media people and of course the Fully Booked’s representatives.

Seeing Ransom Riggs thrice in a row doesn’t actually lessen my stomach jitters. He is a joy to the eyes, as he always smile and enthusiastic. A lot of questions were thrown to him and he all answered each of those questions enthusiastically. I’ve learned so much about him, his book and his works. As media people throw questions after questions, I can only listen and digest all the information Ransom is sharing to us.

When I asked him, if he ever considered using his own photos for his book, his humble reply is “No”. For him his photos aren’t as good as those photos he used in his book. He thinks his photos are not as old or as expressive. But obviously Ransom has an eye for good photos. After all he is the one in charge in collecting and choosing what photos to use in his books. I think he is just too humble to admit that his photos are also great. And according to him, he is is a big fan of photography in which he draw inspiration, same as with movies, stories, and light.

It surprised me that he actually start collecting photos before writing his book, Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. In fact, it is not even part of his plan to write a novel, but instead he just want to present his collections of photos to his editor as an idea for a picture book. But his editor response with a challenge for him to weaved a story based from the photos he presented. They want him to create a story out of those pictures. And with that challenged in front of him, Ransom started looking for more photos across different locations to complete his now best selling novel.

Ransom Media Conference

After the questions and answers at the media conference, attendees also got the chance to take photos with Ransom and got their books signed. Fully Booked gave each attendees a paperback copy of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children to be signed by Ransom. But since I already have my book signed prior to the event, I just asked Ransom to write a dedication for my sister Rica instead. I’m really surprised that he recognized me from Tahereh’s bloggers’ forum as he said to me, “Hey! Nice meeting you twice in a row!”.

After the media conference, we all go upstairs at the atrium of Fully Booked for the book signing where lots of Ransom Riggs fans are patiently waiting. As Ransom scan the crowds that extends up to the third floor of Fully Booked, it is clear how surprise he is. He even take photos and video of the crowd and posted it on his twitter account. “Say hi to the camera!” he calls out.

Ransom Taking Photos + crowd

Ransom in front of more than two hundred fans is delightfully funny than he is during the media conference. I think it is because media people are much formal than the fans. Before the actual book signing happens, lots of questions were thrown to Ransom which he all answer honestly and eagerly. No unanswered questions left, even those personal questions such as his marital status. *wink* He also discuss few details about his book and the film adaptation which will be directed by no other than Tim Burton. He also reads few passages from his book, Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children.

Ransom&Tahereh

* most of the photos above are grab from Louise and Fully Booked’s Facebook Page

During the book signing I saw someone sketching Ransom on the spot. I forgot her name, but she isn’t a blogger and looks like a very shy and private person. According to her, she is just actually there killing time. I’m amazed with her random sketches and when I saw her sketching Ransom Riggs, I can’t help but inform my companions about it. Louise also amazed with her talent asked her for some photo of her and her drawing, particularly the Ransom sketch. I think she couldn’t say no to us even if she want to because we are all very pushy. Louise even offered her a free copy of Ransom Riggs’ book, Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, if she will go in front and show Ransom her sketch. Which she did eventually. Glad I still got my number for the book signing, which she used to line up to meet Ransom in front and have her new book signed as well as take some photos with Ransom.

Near the end of the book signing, Tahereh Mafi also drop by to check the event. My friends and I actually expecting her since Tahereh told Louisse a day before that she plan to drop by. And Ransom also confirm this to us in a whisper during the book signing, when our group approach him for another photo ops. He surely remember us from the previous event with Tahereh.

Meeting Ransom and talking to him in person is such an awesome experience. There so much to learn about him and from him. His humility alone strucks me. Add his passion and dedication to his work, you will surely love this guy. I hope he’ll be able to visit Manila again.

Thanks to Fully Booked for bringing Ransom Riggs here in Manila and for organizing the media conference and book signing event. Thanks so much to Louisse for extending her invitation to me. And a million thanks to Ransom for gracing us with his presence and giving us a wonderful bookish experience.

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On Writing Poetry

writing+poetry

I love poems. I love reading them and writing my own. Poetry become part of my life since I was a kid when my older brother is too talented to write his own and even add some melody to it. I admit, I look up to my brother so much when I was a kid (and up till now) that I almost copy every talent he has. But sad to admit I always fell behind. I can’t play any single musical instrument unlike him who can pick up and play almost anything with his talented hands. I pretty s*ck at music but it doesn’t mean I can’t write some lyrics right? So yeah poetry become my thing while my brother and his band were recording his songs in studio. I know I sounds like a jealous sibling right now but honestly I am just really proud of him. I am always proud of him even it means I am not the best. So yeah, back to poetry, I used to collect poetry books & even clippings when I was a kid. I started writing verses and rhymes when I was in high school which I usually give to my friend as part of gifts or letters. There are notebooks full of my writings & compositions that I gifted to my best friend. I’m not sure if she still has it, though. I wish she still keep them even how many times she moved and changed places. It would be lovely to read those stuffs again one day and reminisce the story behind those written words.

The first blog I created back in 2002 where Friendster is still a trend is a poetry blog. Too bad I wasn’t able to salvage all my works in there. Even this site, Blackplume was originally intended for my poetry writings. I used to call this site my literary blog before it became a book blog. Most of my poetry compositions were written not in English though, that’s why I rarely post them in here. I think I am most comfortable writing in my native language, Tagalog. There are few composition that make it to this blog but mostly just random stuff I made. You can check them under “Poetry” category if you like.

I’m not sure how other take my poetry. Most of my friends said they never really understand my works. As if I talk alien when I write poems. Which sometimes I translate as “they don’t appreciate”. I don’t really think ahead of what other might thought about my composition. In fact I am completely satisfied and much happy if no one really reads my works. At least by that I know no one will judge me or my writing. I always think that my poems are just for me. A way to express my thoughts and feelings when no one else is available to listen. It’s like my kind of diary but you need to slice the layers between the words to really know the meaning behind them. Even the words are too easy to understand they don’t always mean the same thing. Like lately most of my compositions talked about love, which is so easy to interpret as either I’m in a relationship, just got out of one, or in between. But honestly I am not in any relationship. Not everything I’ve written is all about me, and even if it is about me, it doesn’t explicitly tell my story or at least not all of it.

But I have to admit, it is easier for me to write in verses and rhymes when I am down. Words flow easily when I am in pain, confused, or just simply lost. One of my outlet when my emotions were too high is my writing. That’s why when you read my previous works it is easy to see the pain and confusion behind the words. But more than those negative emotions, those poems gives me relief when I am writing them. They become my anchor when the storm is too strong for me to navigate my sails. They are my eye-opening when my eyes are too blurry with tears to see the truth. They are my reminders that somehow I get pass all the troubles and pain and that I can always make it to the next phase. They become my adviser, my friend, and my solace.

Poems are more than just empty words or rhyming lines. Sometimes they carry more than what a reader can understand. Most of the time it express a deeper truth, holds raw emotions and capture the soul of the writer. It has its own pulse that beats reality, hopes and dreams.

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The Blank Page

I’m not sure how long exactly I’ve been staring this blank form. Though I got a lot of things running in my mind right now I am still not sure what to write at the moment. I just feel writing this blank page in front of me. Like it calling me to write something and make the page no more empty.

I don’t really know where I’m going with this. It’s a totally random post which I hope will make sense at the end. All I feel right now is writing something about a “blank page”.

When I want to write something like a review or any post, the blank page both excites and scares me. The starting point is always the hardest part for me. Even I got a lot of things I want to say about something I usually don’t know how to start. And knowing that the first part of any post is always the one who calls attention makes it more difficult.

Blank page is anything but blank or empty. For me blank page holds a lot of opportunities. It doesn’t matter what kind of page it is, whether it is a ruled notebook, white canvas, blank sketch pad, or empty web form. It is a chance for any writer or artist to share her thoughts, talents, and knowledge to everyone. It’s an inviting opportunity to contribute something.

The Blank Page

You always intimidate me
Your boldness scares me
But I can’t resist your whiteness
Shining brightly, Inviting me

Your emptiness strikes me
It’s part of your charms
I don’t know how you do it
But you hold me at hand

Sometimes you give me chills
With all the promises you hold
You give me a chance to see
All the possibilities yet untold

Your emptiness relax me
Promising an empty slate
It’s like a new beginning
A chance to restart anew

I want to mark your pale skin
Sketch my undying thoughts
Draw each sensitive lines
And create something new

I want to strike you with lines
Fill you with letters and words
Scribble all the arcs and
Put all the lyrics and rhymes

Though I am afraid
That I won’t do you justice
Frightened that you wont shine
With my markings anymore

I feel that I owe you
For the opportunity you give
I hope I serve you well
Justify each space you share

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