GtPGKogPYT4p61R1biicqBXsUzo" /> Google+ Arts & Crafts with Authors: A. J. Larrieu (Twisted Miracles Book Tour) + giveaway | I Smell Sheep

Monday, April 14, 2014

Arts & Crafts with Authors: A. J. Larrieu (Twisted Miracles Book Tour) + giveaway

Louisiana’s cypress forests may seem exotic to many people, but to me, they’re familiar. I was born and raised in Louisiana, and I grew up running the rivers and fishing in swampy cut-throughs. When I decided to write a novel set in my home state, I knew those settings needed a place in my book. They’re so beautiful, and there’s a hint of mystery to them as well—what better spot for a dark paranormal story?
If you’re not from the area, you might not know that Louisiana’s cypress forests have a complicated story of their own. Cypress wood, especially the lumber that comes from the oldest trees, has a beautiful gold or red color and is naturally resistant to rot. These qualities led to a logging frenzy around the turn of the 19th century that all but destroyed the coastal cypress forests. Old-growth trees still exist, but they are rare—most of the gorgeous, iconic cypress forests we see today are populated by new trees.

All of this means that old-growth cypress lumber is rare. Most of it comes not from new logging, but from reclamation. When an old building gets torn down, people salvage the boards for use in new construction.

My grandfather was a woodworker, and he loved to visit the salvage yards in New Orleans, looking for beautiful pieces of wood or antique doorknobs. He passed away many years ago, but he left behind workshops full of curiosities. My father was recently looking through some of his collection, and he came across a few pieces of old-growth cypress. My dad is my biggest fan, and when I told him I wanted to make something special to celebrate my debut novel, he wanted to help. He decided to make the wood into bookmarks. Here’s how we did it:

STEP ONE: Find a piece of pretty wood and cut it into bookmark-sized strips. I’m not an expert on power tools, so I won’t be telling you how to operate anything with a big spinning blade! Step One is definitely find a competent expert to cut your block of wood. ;)

Sand, and then sand some more. We started out with 200 grit sandpaper and then slowly increased the grit until we had a glass-smooth surface. I did a final polish with 600 grit. Because the strips are so thin, it’s important to keep the sanding even. The best way to do this is to make a kind of bracket for the strips. We used a block of wood with matchsticks as place-holders. 
(caption: The matchsticks hold the bookmark in place during sanding.)

STEP THREE: Decorate!
Cypress is such an uncommonly beautiful wood, I didn’t want to do too much to obscure the color and the grain, so I opted for a simple fleur de lis at the top of each piece. I used a cake stencil and an India ink artist pen to trace the outline, then painted the design in a deep crimson color using ordinary wood paint and a very tiny brush.

I gave the paint and ink about a week to cure.

STEP FIVE: Protect.
Cypress is actually quite soft, and the unfinished wood can easily pick up oils from your skin. Over time, this will discolor it. I wanted to protect the wood, and also enhance its beautiful, red-gold color, so I applied a very thin coat of satin-finish polyurethane. 
(caption: A thin coat of clear polyurethane (right) enhances the natural red-gold color of the wood.)

STEP SIX: More waiting!
Polyurethane takes at least a week to fully dry. Until then, it will be slightly tacky (and prone to picking up dust from the air!), so keep it cool, dry, and covered. Oh, and if you’re foolish enough to start this process right before a two-week rainy period, as I did, it might take as long as month for the finish to cure. ;)

STEP SEVEN: More sanding!
A sander’s work is never done. Once the polyurethane coat was dry, I used crocus cloth to smooth it out. Most hardware stores carry this, but when I asked for it, the attendant gave me a funny look and asked what I planned on using it for. When I explained my father had recommended it, he laughed and said only someone my father’s age would even know this stuff existed. Apparently, it’s old-school. But it works. It made the bookmarks beautifully smooth without marring the painted fleur de lis.

Now you have a bookmark—celebrate by reading a book! (The best kind of celebration.)

About the Author:

A.J. Larrieu grew up in small-town Louisiana, where she spent her summers working in her family's bakery, exploring the swamps around her home and reading science fiction and fantasy novels under the covers. She attended Louisiana State University, where she majored in biochemistry and wrote bad poetry on the side. Despite pursuing a Ph.D. in biology, and by the time she graduated, she had an addiction to writing sexy urban fantasy and paranormal romance. Her debut novel, Twisted Miracles, kicks off her dark, romantic urban fantasy series, The Shadowminds, which follows a group of humans with psychic powers through New Orleans' supernatural underworld. A.J. is currently a working biophysicist in San Francisco, where she lives with her family and too many books.

Cass Weatherfield’s powers come with a deadly price.

Cass knows it was her telekinetic gift that killed a college classmate five years back, even if no one else believes her. She’s lived in hiding from her fellow shadowminds ever since, plagued by guilt and suppressing her abilities with sedatives. Until the night her past walks back into her life in the form of sexy Shane Tanner, the ex-boyfriend who trained her…and the one she left without saying goodbye.

When Shane tells her that his twin sister, Mina—Cass’s childhood friend—is missing, Cass vows to help, which means returning to New Orleans to use her dangerous skills in the search. But finding Mina only leads to darker questions. As Cass and Shane race to learn who is targeting shadowminds, they find themselves drawn to each other, body and soul. Just as their powerful intimacy reignites, events take a terrifying turn, and Cass realizes that to save the people she loves, she must embrace the powers that ruined her life.

Buy Links: 
Info Links: 
Book Page on Author Website (includes excerpt)


  1. I collect bookmarks. I have some lovely bookmarks that authors have me. Some are made from beads, others are silver with beading on top. One has a lovely feather. One is leather. Some have silver charms. I love them all because each has special meaning to me.

    1. Michelle, how cool that you collect bookmarks! Thanks for coming by, and best of luck in the giveaway. :)

  2. Oh how pretty! I've not done too much woodwork. And sanding is totally my nemesis. lol

    1. I haven't done much woodworking, either--my dad had to give me a lot of guidance. But I have to admit there was something soothing about the repetitiveness of it. For a while, anyway. ;)

  3. I have a drawer for them, my collection is that big. I love them and I use them until they fall apart.

    This is such a cool way to celebrate a debut too. :D

    1. It was an awesome thing to share with my dad. And hopefully these won't fall apart for a long time! lol. Very cool that you have a collection. Kind of like book trading cards. :)

  4. Well that is just the neatest thing. I have a ton of poplar, black walnut and red cedar scrap. I never would have thought of doing something so simple but elegant. Awesome.

    1. Ooo, I bet those will make gorgeous bookmarks! I think bare wood is so beautiful. :)

  5. I do collect bookmarks. My dad was in the navy and used to bring them from all over the world.
    Congrats on the new release, I've heard a lot of great things about it.

    1. Thank you!! And wow--all over the world? Now I want to know all about your favorites.

  6. collect them; don't really have favs

  7. I have two bookmarks that I keep one was a gift from my brother one Christmas and the other my daughter made for me.

  8. I love how many bookmark collectors there are! Great thing to collect. :)

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