On October 14th, 1963, you were given a camera and a plane ticket for your seventeenth birthday. The camera was a Polaroid Highlander. The plane ticket was dated November 20. The destination: Dallas, Texas.

Your father was a Venezuelan businessman with ties to the oil industry. He spent half of your childhood away from home while he took care of business in the United States. He spent the other half of your childhood listening to you beg him to take you along on one of his many trips north. Your father spoiled you senseless, and he would have done almost anything you asked. Your mother, like most mothers, was a much tougher customer.

Finally, she agreed to let you accompany your father on a short trip to Texas. Three days in Dallas, then back home to Caracas. For weeks your mother prayed that you’d have a safe journey. Perhaps she should have prayed harder.

On the morning of November 22, your father left for a business meeting. You were supposed to have breakfast at your Dallas hotel, get your hair blown out at the salon, and twiddle your thumbs until your dad could return. Of course the moment your father was gone, you slipped out of the hotel and set off on your own. The President of the United States was in town, and a bell boy who’d chatted you up the night before had said you might be able to get a glimpse of JFK as he rode through town. You weren’t about to miss the spectacle.

You reached Dealey Plaza at 12:15 and pulled out your camera. You weren’t interested in taking pictures of the President, who was a bit overrated in your humble opinion. You just wanted shots of the crowd. The crowd’s clothing, to be exact. Your mother had agreed to let you visit the US on one condition—that you take lots of photos of fashionable ladies so she could have their dresses copied by Caracas tailors.

Just as the presidential motorcade approached, you were aiming your camera at a woman in a fetching blue dress when something strange caught your eye. There was a man leaning over a concrete structure at the top of a grassy knoll with a rifle in his hands. When you heard the first shot, your finger twitched and a picture was taken. When you looked up from the camera, the man with the rifle was gone and the President of the United States had been shot. Either by Lee Harvey Oswald . . . or by the man you’d seen on the grassy knoll. Your father.

When you returned to the hotel, he was waiting for you. And when he asked where you’d been, you told him the truth:  Taking pictures of ladies’ dresses. You never knew if he really believed it.

When you returned to Caracas, you had the photos developed. The picture of the gunman was blurry, but the evidence it offered could not be denied. Except, apparently, by the US Embassy in Caracas. The ambassador himself confiscated your photo without so much as a “thank you” and sent you home in a rage.

You hid the photo’s negative and started your own search for answers. You discovered two things almost immediately. Your father wasn’t Venezuelan. And he wasn’t a businessman. After that, all the information you collected went straight into the book you’d started writing in secret.

Two days after your father died in 1970, they came for you. Your photo’s negative and your manuscript were discovered and destroyed. When the men were finished, it was as if you’d never existed. They removed every last trace of you—but one. Sitting on an editor’s desk somewhere in New York City was a copy of your untitled manuscript. Where it is now is anyone’s guess.

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I’ve been doing a little guest-posting and answering a few questions over at author Brenna Yovanoff’s blog! (She, by the way, is the author of the amazing, super-scary book The Replacement, which I will be reviewing here next month! Be sure to stop back by for that!)

Here’s the review of The Eternal Ones in Seventeen magazine.

And the ladies over at Readergirlz have been thinking about “courage” all month. Here are some of my thoughts on the subject! (And if you aren’t familiar with the Bildungsroman blog, you should definitely check it out, too! It’s one of my favorites!)

Oh, dear, I know I’m missing something. Please write in and yell at me if you know what it is!

And yes, there should be another past life reading this afternoon!

You Were: The Beloved

July 29, 2010

In the 13th century, you were a lady in the court of the Count of Champagne. At the age of thirteen, you married a nobleman three times your age who promptly ditched you for the Crusades. You were young, rich, and bored—a combination that’s spelled trouble throughout human history.

At eighteen, you began to frequent tournaments. You loved the jousting, the pageantry, and especially the melee, where all the knights battled at once. (As dainty and sweet as you may have been, you like nothing more than a nice, bloody fight.) At first you sat in the back with your mother-in-law, your pretty face hidden by fans. Then, one day the old lady stayed at home with a cold, and you made the tragic decision to move to the front of the stands.

That was the same day a new knight arrived on the scene. It was whispered he came from a foreign court. Your friends swore he was English. His dark, gleaming armor fit his handsome form so perfectly that it must have been crafted from quicksilver. And when the young man removed his fearsome helmet, all the girls in the stands gasped in unison. He had milky white skin, hair darker than the blackest ink, and eyes so green they recalled the rich fields of his native land. He looked up toward the ladies watching him from above. Then his eyes found you, and the rest of the spectators disappeared.

Back in those days, it wasn’t uncommon for knights to fall passionately in love with women married to other men. In fact, it was almost encouraged—as long as the love didn’t involve hanky-panky. From the day of that very first tournament, the knight wore your colors as he wiped the floor with his every opponent. Soon, there wasn’t a knight in the land who hadn’t been beaten—or a lady who didn’t sigh with jealousy at the thought of his love for you.

Still, the other ladies could never have imagined the beautiful letters the knight paid to have smuggled into your room—or the songs he wrote so the troubadours could sing you to sleep. Finally, your mutual desire grew so intense, that you kicked caution to the curb and devised a plan to meet in person.

But the tournament that afternoon didn’t go quite as planned. The other knights of the region had grown bored of losing. As your knight’s horse enjoyed a pre-tournament snack, they added something to the hay. (What it was you never knew.) When your knight mounted his horse, the beast went crazy—bucking and kicking until it delivered its rider straight to death’s door.

You had your knight rushed back to your home (which, I should remind you, was also your husband’s home). Even if he had lived, your reputation would have never survived. But your knight died in your arms, just moments after your lips met for the very first time.

The next afternoon, the tournament stands were abuzz when the knight in the quicksilver armor arrived at the tournament on a trusty new steed. One by one, he destroyed his competition—not just beating each man, but destroying him. There were many knights who never fought again after that day.
The final contest was a match between the two best jousters in the land. They struck each other at the very same time, both blows hard enough to kill. And one did. When they removed the quicksilver knight’s helmet, they discovered a beautiful young girl inside.

You Were: The Archivist

July 26, 2010

There’s a women’s university in Geneva that once possessed an unusual—and invaluable—archive. Hidden in a carefully-guarded room located somewhere in the university’s library was a collection of little-known texts. Books, ancient scrolls, letters, unpublished memoirs, and top-secret telegrams. Together they offered a version of history that’s much different than the one most of us are force-fed in school.

Those who were fortunate enough to peruse the archive knew that Alexander the Great was really Alexandra the Great. Shakespeare was the pen name of an actress named Molly McMartin. The first person to fly a plane wasn’t Orville or Wilber Wright. It was their half-sister Gertrude.

The archive in question proved, beyond all doubt, that our civilization was built by women. You were the person who brought all the texts together. And you were the person who died trying to protect them.

Your parents had both been librarians at illustrious European universities, and both had eventually quit in disgust. You and your sisters grew up in a tiny alpine village far from your parents’ hometowns. You were over-educated and horribly poor. And when you were twelve years old, your parents told you a story that would change your life forever.

Sometime between the World Wars, libraries all over the world were visited by men in unidentifiable uniforms. They came in and closed the doors behind them. For weeks, the libraries remained shut while “renovations” took place. When the doors opened once more, things inside had changed. Mostly first names and pronouns, as it turned out. Alexandra had become Alexander. Gertrude and Molly had disappeared altogether.

There were plenty of people like your parents who fought the revisions. By 1945, almost all were in hiding. It had taken two decades for history to be rewritten, but once it was, the whole world believed what it read.

There were still books out there, your parents told you, that hadn’t been revised. Books buried in library courtyards, books in waterproof boxes at the bottom of bogs, books tucked under mattresses the men in uniforms wouldn’t have wanted to touch.

You thought your parents might have gone mad until you found your first batch of unexpurgated books inside an outhouse on the slopes of the Matterhorn. From that day forward, you dedicated your life to hunting down the truth—what little was left of it.

You traveled the globe with nothing in your suitcase but two tweed suits and a dagger disguised as a fountain pen. When you located a text, you had it shipped to the university in Geneva, where kindred spirits filed it away in a safe and humidity-controlled environment.

You hoped to one day make your discoveries known to the public. And in 1965, you met a man who could make that happen. He was the dashing, debonair editor of an American newspaper. You whispered your secrets to him one night after a bottle of champagne and a roll in the sheets. When the men in uniforms arrived the next morning, you were too heartbroken to fight them.

But love hadn’t made you as reckless as many had hoped. They had captured the archivist, but the location of the banned books remained unknown. You’d told the editor they were in Genoa, not Geneva, and they ransacked most of Italy before they knew they’d been had.

Your fate wasn’t pleasant, and I won’t provide any details. The texts you collected were moved to a more secure location somewhere in Canada. Or Cambodia. Or Cameroon. I can’t say where, but I have a hunch that one day soon they’ll be read by the rest of the world.

So here are a few that have come in!

Publishers Weekly (Starred Review!)

School Library Journal (Starred Review! I’ll link to the review when it’s available online.)

Kirkus (Unfortunately, you need a subscription to see the whole review, but here’s a quote lifted from Amazon: Miller is adept at humorous description. Her keen eye for detail and Haven’s bold maneuvers keep the tale humming along. Yay!)

You Were: The Fiancee

July 24, 2010

The last time you were a child, you had a bad habit of disappearing. One moment you’d be shopping on Michigan Avenue with your mother—or strolling along the lake shore with one of you nannies—and the very next moment you’d be long gone. It was as if the wind had whisked you away. The first three times you vanished, the police were called and search parties formed. The fourth time you disappeared, no one panicked. Everyone knew where to find you.

On a side street not far from your home, there was a cluttered antique shop that sold mostly junk. Few people could bear the dusty air that reeked of mold, but the little store was your own personal wonderland. The wizened old man who ran it rarely looked up when you walked through the door. And unlike your rather mean-spirited grandparents, he never shouted at you for touching the treasures he’d collected throughout his long lifetime.

When your furious father arrived to haul you home, he would always find you gazing at the same little box that sat toward the back of a glass display case. The box had been carved out of mahogany in some distant century, and it must have belonged to dozens of well-off young ladies.

“It’s mine,” you would tell your father. “It shouldn’t be here.”

Your father was a wealthy man, and he offered the store’s owner a fortune for the box. But the man always refused to sell. The box was locked, the owner explained, and he was searching for a key that could open it. It appeared to be empty—nothing rattled inside when he shook it—but the old man couldn’t be sure. Once he knew what the little box held, it would finally be put up for sale. Until then, it couldn’t be purchased at any price.

Much to your parents’ displeasure, you continued to visit the box whenever the whim struck you. You left in the middle of Sunday School. You snuck out of your grammar school classes. Once, you jumped out of your mother’s carriage when it stopped to let some firemen pass.

Even you didn’t quite understand the box’s appeal. All you knew was that it had once belonged to you. You knew you were the one who had hidden the key. And you knew the box should have been given to someone named Gordon.

Then one day, you disappeared again. When your father arrived at your favorite shop he found it empty. The police were on the way to your house when a neighbor’s maid arrived with you in tow. You’d been caught wandering around upstairs in the neighbor’s mansion. Your mother was mortified, but she wasn’t surprised. Even as a toddler, you had always pointed to that house and said, “mine.”

You were lectured, spanked, and sent to bed without your dinner. When you got undressed for bed, you made sure no one saw the little key you’d hidden in your shoe—the key you’d found under a floorboard in your neighbor’s bedroom.

The next day, you paid your last visit your favorite shop. The owner laughed when you held out the key, and stopped laughing when the box opened. Inside was a ring. Just a cheap gold band with a tiny diamond—nothing special at all. When your father arrived, he purchased both the box and the ring for less than five dollars.

The final time you disappeared, your family never knew where you went. You walked to a neighborhood three miles from your own and knocked at the door of a house where a handsome bachelor lived all alone. Two decades earlier, the girl to whom he’d been secretly engaged had drowned in Lake Michigan. After that, he had decided never to marry.

You gave him the box with the ring inside, told him how much you missed him, and then you turned around walked all the way home.

A year later you’d forgotten everything.

Check it out here! Thanks, Reggie!