Welcome to YA Scavenger Hunt! This bi-annual event was first organized by author Colleen Houck as a way to give readers a chance to gain access to exclusive bonus material from their favorite authors…and a chance to win some awesome prizes! At this hunt, you not only get access to exclusive content from each author, you also get a clue for the hunt. Add up the clues, and you can enter for our prize–one lucky winner will receive one signed book from each author on the hunt in my team! But play fast: this contest (and all the exclusive bonus material) will only be online for 72 hours!
Go to the YA Scavenger Hunt page to find out all about the hunt. There are SIX contests going on simultaneously, and you can enter one or all! I am a part of the BLUE TEAM–but there is also a red team, a gold team, an orange team, a red team, and an indie team for a chance to win a whole different set of signed books!
If you’d like to find out more about the hunt, see links to all the authors participating, and see the full list of prizes up for grabs, go to the YA Scavenger Hunt page.
Today, I am super excited to be hosting Victoria Strauss, author of Color Song! I’ve known Victoria almost as long as I’ve been writing, which is probably around 13 years or so. I was happy to host someone I’ve known for so long!
Find out more information by checking out the author website or find more about the author’s book here!
Author’s website: http://www.victoriastrauss.com/
Book buy now link: http://www.victoriastrauss.com/books-2/young-adult/color-song/
According to common writing wisdom, a novel should start as late in the story as possible, to avoid a slow beginning and (hopefully) hook the reader’s interest. For Color Song, my first draft opened with the funeral of Giulia’s mentor—the moment right before the cascade of events that force Giulia to flee the Convent of Santa Marta with the secret of Passion blue.
As it turned out, though, my editor and I decided that the story actually needed to start much earlier—a whole year earlier, in fact. So my original Chapter 1 wound up on the cutting room floor. Here it is!
SEALED IN DARKNESS
Convent of Santa Marta
Early September, Anno Domini 1488
The bell of the convent of Santa Marta had begun tolling at dawn. For hours yet it would continue, in slow and solemn rhythm, until darkness brought this day of mourning to a close.
Standing at the back of the church, Giulia imagined she could feel each peal inside her chest, shaking her like a second heartbeat. She was included among the other novices for once; Suor Margarita, the novice mistress, had decided it was easier, even though Giulia was supposed to be kept separate. The vaulted nave was packed with mourners: nuns in their white habits and black veils, gray-clad novices, family members of the deceased and representatives of the public decked out in sober finery. Scores of candles burned in sconces and chandeliers, and garlands of late-summer flowers decorated the walls. The mixed smells of beeswax, crowded bodies, and wilting blossoms made Giulia feel sick.
I’m dreaming, she thought. Soon I will wake up.
But of course she wasn’t dreaming. It was real, all of it: the church, the crowd, the awful reason for this gathering. Suor Humilità Moretti–artist of genius, Maestra of the only workshop of female painters in the world, Giulia’s beloved teacher–was dead.
Giulia had wept the night before, but now she could not shed a tear. Nor had she cried two days ago, when Suor Margarita had taken her to view Humilità’s body, laid out in the parlor where the nuns received visitors, so that mourners from outside the convent could pay their respects. Many had come: fellow artists, merchants and nobles for whom Humilità had painted private commissions, associates of Humilità’s father, Matteo Moretti, who was himself a painter of fame. Kneeling by the coffin, Giulia had kept her gaze averted–she had not wanted to see Humilità’s face, waxy-yellow with her final illness, sunk in on itself in death. She’d felt Suor Margarita’s disapproval, and knew that her dry eyes only confirmed the novice mistress’s opinion: that she was a liar, a hypocrite, a girl who cared for no one and nothing but herself.
There were only a few at Santa Marta who did not share that judgment. Humilità had been one.
The murmur of voices and rustle of clothing fell to silence as the newly-elected abbess, Madre Magdalena, paced toward the altar, her steps keeping time with the cadence of the bell. The sun, streaming through the church’s great rose window, fell directly on the magnificent altarpiece painted by Humilità herself, kindling to jeweled brilliance the gorgeous colors for which her workshop was known: pulsing reds, dazzling yellows, radiant whites, brooding greens–and, most ravishing of all, the shimmering blue that had made her famous, a color so profound, so matchlessly pure and mysteriously luminous, that it had earned its own name.
Instinctively, Giulia’s hand went to the small waxed canvas pouch she wore at her neck, concealed beneath her shapeless novice gown. She’d made the pouch many years ago to hide her own secret. Now it hid Humilità’s as well, passed on almost with the workshop mistress’s dying breath: the formula for Passion blue’s making, which Humilità had guarded for more than twenty years and never shared with anyone, ever.
Until now. Giulia shivered. There were painters in Padua who would give gold for that formula, who would be furious that it had been bestowed upon a mere apprentice. And Domenica. Domenica, who expected the secret to come to her. How angry will she be?
Madre Magdalena brought her staff down on the marble floor with a crack. The ceremony began. A choir of nuns sang hymns, their voices rising in exquisite counterpoint to the tolling of the bell. Madre Magdalena delivered a funeral oration, praising Humilità’s many virtues and achievements. There was more singing. Then, as the priest in attendance spoke the words that accompanied burial, Humilità’s coffin was lowered into the marble crypt at the foot of the altar–a great honor, for normally only abbesses were interred there. The thump it made as it came to rest echoed throughout the church.
Giulia closed her eyes, fearing she would faint.
The priest spoke a final blessing. Madre Magdalena struck the floor with her staff once more, dismissing the gathering.
The nuns began to file through the door that led back into the convent. Suor Margarita snapped her fingers, the signal for the novices to line up to follow. Giulia took her place behind the others. As she passed out of the church, her vision blurred with the tears that had not fallen earlier, she heard the harsh scrape of the crypt’s lid sliding closed, sealing Humilità forever into the dark.
And don’t forget to enter the contest for a chance to win a ton of signed books by me, Christine Norris, and more authors! To enter, you need to know that my favorite number is 13. Add up all the favorite numbers of the authors on the blue team and you’ll have all the secret code to enter for the grand prize!
CONTINUE THE HUNT
To keep going on your quest for the hunt, you need to check out Bree Despain!