Holiday Traditions: Reality Check

December 18, 2012
(This post originally appeared on HerKentucky.)

Every year, I dream up these elaborate plans for beautifully executed Christmas traditions to do with my family. My daughters are 3 and 6, the perfect age to be completely swept up in the magic of the season.

I found some really great ones for this year. I'll link them up for you in case you're interested.
  • All Aboard The Minivan Express! A fun little after bedtime treat for the kids, involving really cute printable golden tickets to grab a seat on a trip around town to see the Christmas lights. My girls would love this little surprise! A trip to Southern Lights would work well for this, as well as a quick drive past Fire Station #20 on Harrodsburg Rd. (You've all seen that, right? It's one of my most favorite holiday displays. Check out this video!)
  • Letters to Santa party! This would be so perfect for my kindergartener, who's just learning to sound words out and is always so excited that she can write things on her own now. She and a few of her buddies would have a blast with this.
  • Put together a Christmas Eve Surprise Box that the kids get to open at sunset on Christmas Eve. Include things like Christmas pajamas, a holiday movie, hot chocolate, a Christmas book, anything to make the night special.
Like I said: Big plans. Every year. All the excitement.

And then suddenly Christmas is a week away and I've done nothing! I haven't even put anything, ANYTHING, in the advent calendar on the wall!! (And the beauty of it is that for as long as we've had the advent calendar, I have never remembered to do anything with it, so the girls don't even realize they're missing out.)

This has happened for three years in a row now, and I'm always so disappointed in myself for getting swept up in boring day-to-day stuff and forgetting to do all these things I'd looked forward to. 

And today, I realized traditions don't have to be perfectly organized events doused in hot chocolate and tied together with sparkly ribbons. I realized that we already had traditions that I didn't even consider to be "real" traditions.

We put our tree up the day after Thanksgiving every year. I pull out my vinyl albums of Christmas music and put them in the record player and blast them throughout the house. Lauren loves helping me bring all the decorations out of storage, and the girls help put the ornaments on the tree. to decorate their own trees in their rooms. I did make hot chocolate. (This amaaaazing hot chocolate. Make it, make it, make it.) And almost every night this month we've watched a holiday-themed show or movie, unless UK basketball was on, obviously. And on Christmas Eve, just like we've done the last 3 years, the girls will wear matching Christmas pajamas...the kind with footies. 


The traditions may not be elaborate, but they're ours. I still want to do some of the bigger things that require more planning (and yes, advent calendars seem like a lot of planning to me), but for now, I know that Lauren already looks forward to these little things every year, and Ella is starting to get into them too. It's that time of year when every little thing seems magical, especially when kids are involved. When I see the girls decorating the trees in their rooms, or watch them eat the slice-and-bake Christmas cookies from the store (because I never remember to get the cookie decorating supplies to do the "real" homemade Christmas cookies), they are thrilled to pieces. And suddenly, my little traditions seem like enough.
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Love in a Pan

November 12, 2012
(This post originally appeared on HerKentucky.)

My grandmother was the best cook in the entire world. The woman would put butter on toast and I would basically die over how she got the exact perfect ratio of butter to bread. It was so beautifully melted without being mushy. No one will ever top that woman in the kitchen EVER.

So many of her recipes weren't written down anywhere. I tried a few times to watch her make mashed potatoes, because hers tasted like creamy goodness and heaven and love all stirred together in a crock pot, but she never seemed to make them the same way twice and I finally gave up.

"made an out of this world mess"

Her handwritten notes are the best.

When she died last year, I inherited her recipe collection. It's an enormous mess of newspaper clippings, recipes cut from boxes, recipe cards, and hastily written notes on the back of whatever she had handy, such as receipts, envelopes, and shopping lists. I've been going through this pile for the last two days, trying to find some of her recipes to make for Thanksgiving this year. 

Her best recipes- the magic she performed on green beans, the unbelievable macaroni and cheese, and of course, those mashed potatoes- aren't anywhere in my stash, but I finally picked one that I know she'd love. She was a firm believer in the power of cream cheese. I thought you guys would like this too. Enjoy.

There's no title. So let's just call it Love in a Pan.

What you need:
2 pkgs crescent roll dough
2 bars of cream cheese, softened (you can use light, but Granny is frowning on you for it)
1 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1 stick butter, melted (I refuse to allow you to use anything but real butter here)
Cinnamon-sugar

Directions:
Preheat oven to 350.

Spread one package of crescent roll dough across the bottom of a 13x9 dish. Press all the seams in the dough together, and press it into the ban and a little up the sides.

Mix cream cheese, sugar, and vanilla. 

Spread cream cheese mixture on top of crescent roll dough.

Place the other package of crescent roll dough on top. (This can be tricky. I usually spread it onto a cutting board, press all the seams together and roll it out a bit before laying it on top of the cream cheese.)

Pour butter on top. (Oh sweet Jesus YES.)

Sprinkle with cinnamon sugar. Do enough til you think it's too much and then do a little more. Trust me on this.

Bake for 30 minutes. Let them cool before you  cut and eat them--it'll be hard, because that cinnamon smell is going to destroy your willpower, but they're easier to handle when they're not quite so soft.

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Ok, I admit it.

October 24, 2012
I am a terrible blogger.

I mean, I think I do okay blogging with YA Misfits and HerKentucky, but when it comes to this blog right here? I can never think of anything to talk about.

For whatever reason, blogging just seems like a lot of work to me--maybe because I'm doing so much writing and revising on my book lately, the idea of sitting down to write one more thing is just really unappealing. Plus, I feel like I have to have some sort of plan so the blog post will make sense. I end up spending WAY too long thinking about it, finding links, editing, revising, and DEAR GOD I MIGHT AS WELL WRITE MORE ON MY BOOK.

But I like having my own little blog here, in the event that I do have something to say.

SO- in order to keep things active over here....I'm going to start vlogging weekly. Just a quick update to talk about whatever I want. Vlogging comes more naturally to me anyway, because I like to talk (as you are all WELL aware) and when I start rambling and going off topic in a vlog, it doesn't seem as bad as when I do it in a blog post. It's just part of my charm!

I'm also hoping this'll be a good way for me to set goals. I figure if I tell you guys my plan, you can all bust me on it if I don't reach the goal for the week. With that in mind, here's the first weekly update!



22

The HerKentucky 60 Things Project: Lancaster

October 23, 2012
(This post originally appeared on HerKentucky.)

In last Sunday's Herald-Leader,  Cheryl Truman, with the help of many readers, listed 50 things that define Lexington.  We thought it would be fun to make a similar HerKentucky list, with 10 things that define our respective hometowns. Here's Megan's list of things that define Lancaster. 





1. Every town has that perfect local diner, and Burger House is ours. It's right off US 27 before you reach the Lincoln County line, and if you're passing through I simply insist you stop there to eat. Be sure to try the onion rings, and when you leave get yourself a peanut butter milkshake for the road.

2. I always smile when I see Mom Blakeman's Candy in stores around Lexington, because the business is family-owned and based in Lancaster. The original creamed pull candy is great, but the peanut butter flavor is my FAVORITE.

photo courtesy of the Garrard County Historical Society

3. It seems like so few towns have a traditional town square, but we do. The courthouse , library, and local newspaper office can be found there, as well as a few banks, shops, and restaurants. The picture above shows the historic town square, with a circular park right in the middle of the intersection. Plans were recently approved to renovate the square and rebuld the park there. 

4. Known for it's great fishing reservoirs, the 3600-acre Herrington Lake is also the deepest lake in Kentucky and spans Garrard, Boyle, and Mercer counties. 

5. Like any self-respecting Kentucky town, we're proud of our football team. The Garrard County Golden Lions played in their first ever state semi-final game last year, and a huge crowd turned out for the game. Alumni from all over came in, wearing their letter jackets and cheering for the boys. It was a heartbreaking loss, 34-27, and the crowd gave the team a standing ovation at the end of the game. 



6. The Grand Theater was originally built in 1925, and used to show films as well as plays. It eventually closed, and the building was rented out for various housing and commercial purposes. In 2007, renovations began to restore the building, and many of the original furnishings were returned to the theater. The project is expected to be completed in a few months.

7. Retired teacher Jean Turner runs Hammonds Hall Bed and Breakfast in the heart of Lancaster. Hammonds Hall hosts themed tea parties throughout the year, including murder-mystery teas and princess teas. I've been to a couple of them, and there's not a more perfect person for her job than Ms. Turner. She provides costumes, will help you adopt a foreign accent if your part calls for it, and serves the BEST food.



8. The Owsley House, also known as Pleasant Retreat, was the home of Kentucky's 16th governor, William Owsley. For the longest time, the house stood off US 27, abandoned. When I was a little girl, I always wondered what it looked like inside. (My fascination with abandoned homes is probably worthy of an entire blog post all by itself.) In 1991, several forces joined together to rescue the property, including my great-aunt Rose Holtzclaw, and restored the home. The home is now open for tours, and the carriage house can be reserved for special events.

9. Peninsula Golf Resort in northern Garrard County has been ranked as one of the best 200 courses to play in North America. The 18-hole course was designed by world-renowned designer Pete Dye


10. Lancaster has had a few notable residents and other random claims to fame:
  • Country music stars John Michael Montgomery and Eddie Montgomery grew up in Lancaster. John Michael even filmed a couple of music videos here. (He also performed at the Garrard County Fair in 1994. I got there hours early so I'd be in the front row. It was all worth it because HE TOUCHED MY HAND while he sang I Love The Way You Love Me. I'm sure he thought I was the cutest 14-yr-old EVER.)
  • The 1957 movie Raintree County starring Elizabeth Taylor and Montgomery Clift was filmed in the area, and a few scenes were shot in Garrard County just a few miles from the house I grew up in.
  • Carry Nation, whose radical stance against alcohol was one of the factors that contributed to prohibition, was born here in 1846. Because of this, Garrard County is known as the "Birthplace of Prohibition."

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Interview: Jessa Russo

October 16, 2012


Jessa Russo has been a friend of mine for several months. We both write YA, and wound up in a few contests together, and she's always been wonderfully supportive and very involved in the writing community. Her YA paranormal romance, EVER, was published at the end of September by Curiosity Quills.

You may have seen an earlier post about EVER when my blog was hijacked by one of the main characters on her release date! In case you missed it, here's the (gorgeous, so so gorgeous) cover as well as the back cover copy!

Seventeen year-old Ever’s love life has been on hold for the past two years. She’s secretly in love with her best friend Frankie, and he’s completely oblivious.
Of course, it doesn’t help that he’s dead, and waking up to his ghost every day has made moving on nearly impossible.
Frustrated, and desperate to move on, Ever finds herself falling for her hot new neighbor Toby. His relaxed confidence is irresistible, and not just Ever knows it. But falling for Toby comes with a price that throws Ever’s life into a whirlwind of chaos and drama. More than hearts are on the line, and more than Ever will suffer.
Some girls lose their hearts to love.
Some girls lose their minds.
Ever Van Ruysdael could lose her soul.
*I* have my VERY OWN AUTOGRAPHED COPY. (I know, sometimes my awesomeness is too much, even for me.) If you would like a copy of your own, you can go here for a signed copy, or here for a list of other places EVER can be purchased. Note: I'm sure the e-book is great and all, but if you get the paperback, you can marvel at its soft, caressable cover like I did. It's just so smooooooth.

When Jessa announced her book deal, my knowledge of small publishers was pretty pathetic. Her deal opened my eyes to a whole new set of people to query whenever Between is ready. So when EVER's release date finally arrived and Jessa made plans for her blog tour, I was most interested in learning more about her experience with Curiosity Quills and what it was like travelling a nontraditional path to publication.

There's one answer in particular that makes me just FREAKING LOVE HER, as I've been screaming its message from the rooftops for the past few weeks. See if you can guess which one it is.

1. How did you hear of Curiosity Quills, and what made you want to work with them?

Believe it or not, until the contest responsible for my publishing contract, I hadn’t heard of Curiosity Quills. I had only started to consider smaller publishing houses, and had queried a small handful of them when I entered Sharon Bayliss’ contest. I continued to query smaller publishing houses while the contest went on, as well as a few more literary agents, not wanting to put all of my eggs into the contest. We all know how crushing those contests can be, and I had no doubt in my mind that this one would end up like all the others I’d entered.

(Psssst … it didn’t.)

As far as what made me want to work with CQ, I’d say Krystal Wade can take all the credit for that. She was an awesome face for the company (and I don’t mean looks, though she’s pretty too! Lol) … she was very upfront with me about editing issues, and the revisions she would require of me moving forward, but she also conveyed how much she loved my manuscript. I had some people gush about loving EVER, but I think that in order to maintain professionalism, there has to be a certain amount of seriousness to go along with the gushing. Krystal had that mastered in her offer email to me, and I was impressed.

(And most of you already know this, but I was obsessed with the skull on the CQ website. LOVE!)

2. How involved were you in the cover design and marketing plan for your book?

I was completely involved in the cover design. 100%. I had an idea that I wanted to see, and CQ allowed me to make it happen. I was incredibly blessed to have my favorite photographer (Face On By Tamara) take the picture, and she found models that were PERFECT for Ever and Frankie. She also doctored the image to make Frankie’s body translucent before we forwarded the image to a cover designer. My cover designer then made the cover EXACTLY what I was picturing. We have some amazing cover artists at CQ, but I have to say that Michelle (Alex and Me Designs) is my personal favorite. She knew what I wanted and delivered more than I had imagined. She understood my vision immediately and created the gorgeous cover you see now.

With a small publisher, a lot of the marketing falls on the author. Though I will say that CQ is extremely supportive and helpful, and they do everything in their power to help promote. I don’t know how much this really differs from Big Six pubs these days – I’ve heard that many authors are slightly surprised with how much falls on their shoulders. But in the end, no one – even a publisher with money at stake – is going to care about how high I climb or how low I fall the way I will. I have to remember that this is my baby, and I have to nurture it and present it to the world as such.

3. Why did you choose to publish with a small press rather than self-publish your book? What are the advantages? 

I don’t know much about self-publishing, to tell you the truth. When I was looking for representation/publication, I just knew there was a horrible stigma attached to self-pubbing that I didn’t want to have. Unfortunately, I have since realized that small, indie presses carry a similar stigma, which has opened my eyes to the negative way I once looked upon self-pubbing. It’s a shame we can’t all just support each other and lift each other up. I have followed my dreams and shot for the stars as much as the next author, whether they are big six authors or self-published, and regardless of how I chose to go about it. The differences between us are insignificant when you’re looking at your book for sale in bookstores. Isn’t that end goal the same for all of us?

(Megan's busting up in Jessa's answer to say: THERE! RIGHT THERE! Did you catch it? The moment I fell in love with Jessa all over again? It started right about "It's a shame we can't all support each other" and wrapped up around "Isn't that end goal the same for all of us?" I swear y'all, it is like she is INSIDE MY HEAD.)

4. What's the biggest surprise, good or bad, that you've encountered so far in the publishing process?

That’s easy. I’d say that the biggest surprise for me has been book reviewers. And yes, I meant reviewers, not just reviews. I knew going into this that not everyone was going to love my book. That’s just life, and I’m not an idiot. But I can honestly say that I am appalled at the behavior of some of the reviewers on Goodreads, and it has definitely tainted my experience, as well as the validity I place in that website as a whole. I no longer check there for reviews on books I want to read. I continue to add books to my TBR because I know authors like that, and I post reviews for books I’ve enjoyed, but as far as my own reading preferences? I will pick a book based on the blurb, the cover, and the recommendations received from friends, not the Goodreads reviews.

5. If you could tell everyone one thing about being an author with a small press, what would it be?

I really want to drive home the point that there are multiple ways to realize your dream, and small presses are a perfect option. I am so, so glad I made this choice. The people at Curiosity Quills are tight-knit and supportive, and I couldn’t ask for more. We help each other and build each other up, much like the online writing community does – but how blessed am I that I can find that same love and support within my publishing house!?
9

An Interview with Gwenda Bond, Young Adult Author

October 9, 2012
(This post originally appeared on HerKentucky.)

Gwenda Bond is a Lexington author whose debut novel, Blackwood, launched in September. I had the pleasure of meeting her when I went to her launch party at Morris Book Shop, and she was nice enough to let me interview her for my very first HerKentucky post! First, here's a little info about her book: 


On Roanoke Island, the legend of the 114 people who mysteriously vanished from the Lost Colony hundred of years ago is just an outdoor drama for the tourists, a story people tell. But when the island faces the sudden disappearance of 114 people now, an unlikely pair of 17-year-olds may be the only hope of bringing them back.

Miranda Blackwood, a misfit girl from the island's most infamous family, and Phillips Rawlings, an exiled teen criminal who hears the voices of the dead, must dodge everyone from federal agents to long-dead alchemists as they work to uncover the secrets of the new Lost Colony. The one thing they can't dodge is each other.

Doesn't that sound GREAT? (It is. I personally vouch for its awesome-ness, as well as that of its lovely author. I mean, it combines one of my favorite American mysteries with 1. young adult audience, 2. alchemy, and 3. KISSING. Because of course.) If you're interested in grabbing your own free, signed copy, I'm giving one away this week on my blog

And now, eight questions with Gwenda!

1. Where'd you get the idea for Blackwood? How long did it take from the time you came up with the idea to the time the book made it to the shelf?

The Lost Colony story had been rattling round in the back of my head ever since I first encountered it in elementary school. It’s a tantalizing bit of history that you breeze past in a few minutes, moving on to less mysterious topics. I’ve always loved unsolved mysteries, strange historical topics, etcetera. My husband and I were on a road trip to visit friends in Raleigh and passed a sign for Roanoke—Virginia, of course, not Roanoke Island, but something about seeing the word brought what was an almost fully-formed idea into my mind. I asked Christopher is anyone had ever done a story where there was a disappearance like the original one, but on modern day Roanoke Island. Neither of us could come up with one, and so when we got back home I started developing the idea.

And I managed about 50 pages before I stalled out, because I had no clue how I was going to link the modern mystery with the historical one. I didn’t know what solution the book would propose. I put the manuscript away and worked on other things for several years, finally returning to it a couple of years ago. This time around, I encountered a mention of John Dee, the famous (or infamous) alchemist and advisor to Queen Elizabeth I, early in my research and that brought everything together.

2. I've always been fascinated with The Lost Colony, and I love that you found a way to tell a story that feels like it COULD have happened. Did using such a well-known American mystery make things easier or harder for you? How much pressure did you feel to stick to the facts?

This is an excellent question. I definitely wanted to know enough that I knew where the leaps were being made; I wanted there to be a sense of history infusing the book, and to incorporate some little-known facts. So I did do a great deal of research and reading. This being such a well-known subject made it very easy to find vastly different approaches to the history, and being a tourist destination made doing research on modern Roanoke Island easier as well. But I also was aware that by proposing a supernatural solution—by bringing fantasy into the mix—I’d be departing from reality, obviously. So that was freeing. Many of the leaps I make in the book involve the fantasy elements. And there’s a long and grand tradition of people riffing on the Roanoke Island story, using history but also speculating. The most famous example is the long-running The Lost Colony production, which made it perfect to include in the book.

3. I love Miranda and Phillips (and of course, Sidekick), Blackwood's main characters. Do you have a favorite character in the book?

So hard. I love all three of them, too. Sidekick is based on our sadly departed golden retriever George the Dog, so I have a completely sentimental attachment there. But I think Miranda ended up being my favorite to write, because it took me a while to get under her skin and figure out what she was about. And it was fun writing a character who’s into lots of nerdy things.

4. If you had to pick a theme song for Blackwood, what would it be?

Probably “Devil’s Playground” by Gram Rabbit, for reasons that will be obvious to those who read the book.

5. Tell me about your favorite writing spot. Do you have a certain routine to help you get in the mood for writing?

The closest thing I have to a routine to get me in the mood is lunchtime walks, where I listen to the playlist for whatever I’m working on. Other than that, I do most of my writing early in the morning, during lunch, or occasionally in the evenings in the back yard. The back yard is actually my favorite place to write—especially when I’m stuck, since there’s no wireless—but I don’t do it nearly often enough.

6. What's been the most rewarding part of your writing career so far?

I would definitely have to say getting to know so many wonderful book people. This includes other authors, writers of other types (bloggers, reviewers, reporters), and readers. Both YA and science fiction/fantasy have such active and enthusiastic communities. It feels very tight knit and supportive. Meeting so many wonderful new readers and booksellers and librarians (and other authors) has been the most fun part of having a book come out.

7. What's it like being an author in Lexington? 

Lexington is a secret literary hotbed, I think. We are tremendously lucky to have such a vibrant scene. There are many wonderful writers of diverse styles around here, and lots of readers to boot. I believe that Kentuckians truly value storytelling and support it, in a way that’s unusual. And just look at our thriving bookstore scene! In a time when many places are losing their independent stores, we have the venerable Joseph-Beth Booksellers and the new and just as exciting Morris Book Shop, not to mention an even newer entry The Wild Fig (owned by fab author Crystal Wilkinson), plus a Barnes and Noble, and a host of good used bookstores. Our libraries are fabulous, and the Carnegie Center is an excellent hub of literary activity. I have been completely overwhelmed by the level of support for Blackwood locally. I pause to blow kisses at Morris and Joseph-Beth and the Carnegie Center, in particular.

8. What's next for you? I know Blackwood was a standalone title. Can you tell me about the book you have coming out next year?

Happily! The Woken Gods is a bigger book than Blackwood in many ways, and should be out in July of next year. Here’s the set-up: Ten years ago, the gods of ancient mythology awoke, all around the world. Now, in a transformed Washington, D.C., that has become the meeting ground for a no-longer-secret society and a council made up of the seven tricksters who are the gods’ main emissaries to humanity, a 17-year-old girl must find a mysterious missing relic and navigate intrigue involving dangerous gods to save her father. I have been known to describe it as Raiders of the Lost Ark meets American Gods, but with more teenagers.

Thanks so much for the interview!

Gwenda Bond's debut novel, Blackwood, was released in September as a launch title for the new young adult imprint Strange Chemistry. She is also a contributing writer for Publishers Weekly, regularly reviews for Locus, and guest-edited a special YA issue of Subterranean Online. She grew up in Eastern Kentucky--Jackson County, to be precise--and did her undergraduate work at Eastern Kentucky University. She also holds an MFA from the Vermont College of Fine Arts’ program in writing for children and young adults. She lives in a hundred-year-old house in Lexington, with her husband, author Christopher Rowe (an Adair County native), and their trio of pets adopted from local rescue organizations

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Giveaway! - BLACKWOOD by Gwenda Bond

October 8, 2012
**My love for ALL CAPS is fully evidenced in this blog post. You have been warned.**

So I've learned this very cool thing about the city I live in.

Fabulous people live here.

Fabulous WRITING people.

One of whom is the lovely Gwenda Bond, author of one of my new favorites, BLACKWOOD.


While I'd followed Gwenda on Twitter as soon as I found out she was in Lexington, I didn't actually meet her until a few weeks ago when I attended her launch celebration at Morris Book Shop. (And then I had the pleasure of running into her again when Libba Bray came to town. So basically, my life is awesome.)

Sidenote: Her twitter handle is @Gwenda, which pretty much means she runs the world, right?

Here's the thing- she's from Lexington, she writes YA, and she's so open and friendly with a great laugh. And me being ME, I immediately thought- "SHE SHALL BE MY FRIEND." (She's reading this going, "Megan may be a stalker." I swear I'm not.) But you know, I hadn't read her book yet. So there's always that awkward, "What if I don't like it?"

Which was just a SILLY concern because HOLY CRAP I loved it. I can't even tell you all the things about this book that are so great. Miranda. Phillips. Sidekick. The romance. The whole Lost Colony connection (because come on, who DOESN'T love the Roanoke mystery??). AND THE ENDING. The ending is fantastic.

Here's the back cover copy:
On Roanoke Island, the legend of the 114 people who mysteriously vanished from the Lost Colony hundreds of years ago is just an outdoor drama for the tourists, a story people tell. But when the island faces the sudden disappearance of 114 people now, an unlikely pair of 17-year-olds may be the only hope of bringing them back. 
Miranda Blackwood, a misfit girl from the island's most infamous family, and Phillips Rawlings, an exiled teen criminal who hears the voices of the dead, must dodge everyone from federal agents to long-dead alchemists as they work to uncover the secrets of the new Lost Colony. The one thing they can't dodge is each other.
I mean, RIGHT?? Who WOULDN'T want to read this book? (Sidenote: Did you NOTICE it has "MISFIT" in the cover copy?)

And guess what. I just happen to have a SECOND autographed copy, and because I think you're cute, I'm gonna give it away.

SO. To win your own signed copy of BLACKWOOD, leave a comment on this blog entry with the answer to the following question....

What's your favorite young adult novel OF ALL TIME? (OF ALL TIME! Oh, Kanye.) 


This giveaway closes Friday, October 12, 2012, at 12:00pm EST. I'll use random.org to pick a winner from the comments. Come back to see if you won!

**THIS GIVEAWAY IS NOW CLOSED!**

Random.org chose #10, which is Jeigh!! I'm so excited because Jeigh mentioned one of my most favorite books of all time and I NEVER hear anyone talk about it anymore! Jeigh- I'll find you on Twitter! Congratulations!

Thanks to EVERYONE who entered. I love love love hearing about your favorite books!!



45

#WriteClub!

October 4, 2012
(If you're here looking for the #PitchOn entries, scroll down to the next two posts!)

A little over a week ago, I was spending my Friday night with BETWEEN (just like I do every Friday night, basically, because my life is so insanely wild). I tweeted something about how we should have a Write Club for those of us who were spending our Friday night writing.

It was kind of a joke. I enjoyed the fact that Write Club rhymes with Fight Club. I thought a couple of people would jump on board. So you can imagine my surprise when basically all of Twitter was like, "HEY! THAT IS A FANTASTIC IDEA AND IT SHALL HAPPEN NOW."

It took about 20 minutes for #WriteClub to start trending and I counted over 115 writers using the hashtag. It trended for at least four hours before I went to bed. Since then, I've seen the hashtag pop up all over the place at various times of day during the week when someone's looking for company to write with. We did it again the next Friday night, and I'm hoping to keep it going every Friday.

I've gotten several tweets and DMs about it since that first night, so I thought I'd compile a quick FAQ for you here, if you're interested.

So what exactly IS #WriteClub?
We do thirty minute writing sprints with fifteen minute breaks between them. I tweet start and stop times from @FriNightWrites. It doesn't matter what you're writing. And at this point, I'm revising, not writing. Basically this is just something to help us stay focused and get things done together!
How do I join?
There's a pretty complicated membership process. It involves you following @FriNightWrites and using the #WriteClub hashtag so people can find you. And also you have to tell me how delightful I am at least once a day. That's the biggest requirement.
What's the quickest way to annoy Megan?
I'm SO happy you asked! If you use #WriteClub to tweet nonstop marketing about your book, I will be super annoyed. If you don't know how much the aggressive tweeting about your book irritates me, then you obviously don't pay enough attention to me. I can't stand it when people do this. So spamming me and adding #WriteClub to the end of it really irritates me. Please don't.
(Sharing good news is one thing. Announcing a book deal with all your #WriteClub buddies is great. Telling me your book is on sale, fine. But if you tweet and tweet and tweet and tweet and tweet about it, I will have all the unkind thoughts about you. All of them.)

I usually start the sprints around 8pm EST and quit around midnight. Then the lovely Darci Cole (@Darci_Cole) offered to run some sprints for the West coast folks, so she takes over when I quit and runs them til around 11pm PST. (So BASICALLY- we're doing #WriteClub from 8pm - 2am EST).

You can also look for the hashtag anytime to see if anyone happens to be writing during the week, or tweet it yourself and see who wants to join in. I've seen several tweets that mention how much work everyone is getting done by having some kind of structured writing time...and I just LOVE THAT. It definitely keeps me from getting too caught up in tweeting when I should be writing, and I'm glad that other people are finding it useful also!

So jump in anytime! It's a great way to meet other writers, find critique partners and beta readers, and generally just get to know some fun people!


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PitchOn Entry: SUPERTEENS IN TRAINING

October 2, 2012


Hey gang! My feedback is below the pitch. Please comment on this post with your own suggestions. (And see yesterday's post if you have no idea what I'm talking about! While you're at it, take a few minutes to critique the pitch in yesterday's post as well!)


Title: SUPERTEENS IN TRAINING

Genre: YA urban fantasy with sci-fi elements

Word count: 54,000

Pitch: When five sixteen-year-old girls of various races discover their awesome elemental powers, they think of themselves as superheroes. However, normal superheroes aren’t distracted by hot dates and mall shopping when dark forces from another planet want to destroy them. It’ll take more than sexy costumes and kick-ass fighting skills for these girls to defeat their enemies; only their bond makes them stronger than any other force in the universe.


I think it' s a good idea to pick either urban fantasy or sciifi for your genre. I've read in various places that agents prefer it. For what it's worth....this sounds more sci-fi to me.

Can you be a little more specific about the plot? What kind of dark forces want to destroy them? And is it THEM specifically that have to be destroyed? And why? (I'm guessing because they're so powerful?) Is it their lives that are at stake, or their powers? 

I don't think you need so much detail in the first sentence...it's probably not absolutely essential to note that there are five of them and that they're from various races. 

Basically- I'd just like a clearer picture of who or what exactly is threatening them, and what stakes are involved. It sounds like a fun story and I like the voice in this pitch a lot. The idea of superheroes who struggle with typical teenage girl angst is hilarious!

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PitchOn Entry: KISSING FROGS

October 1, 2012



If you caught my blog post last week, you know that I'm one of the host blogs for the PitchOn contest! 

Since the writing community is SO SO SO awesome, there were several blogs that volunteered to host entries. And because of this, each blog just has one or two to host! So here's my ONE. And it's a YA contemporary, which basically thrills me to pieces.

To PIECES, y'all.

I'll include  my own suggestions below her pitch, and you guys leave your own feedback in the comments! And be sure to check out this post, which will tell you the other host blogs involved, so you can go check out and critique more pitches!

ORIGINAL PITCH: (It's been through two revisions, be sure to scroll to the last revision at the bottom of the post!)

Title: KISSING FROGS

Genre: YA Contemporary

Word-count: 57,000

PitchAfter a brutal attack, seventeen-year-old Alaina is afraid of most boys. When one she has begun to trust steals a not-so-innocent kiss, she’s afraid to ever let her guard down again. Alaina has to find a way to trust herself and listen to her heart, or she may never be able to believe in anyone.



First off, I love the title.

I'm curious about the attack. I know it's hard to provide a lot of specifics in a short pitch, but I'd like to know if she was attacked by just a random guy (because based on the rest of the pitch, I'm assuming she was attacked by a boy) or a boyfriend, a male family member, etc. I think providing that detail would give me a better idea of the issues involved in the story.

I'd also tighten the wording up a bit. Instead of "has begun to trust," why not just say "When one she trusts steals a not-so-innocent kiss..." And instead of "EVER let her guard down again," why not just "afraid to let her guard down again."

And this is probably nitpicky, but- saying she'll never be able to believe in ANYONE doesn't seem to match the rest of the pitch to me. Did the attack make her afraid to trust everyone, or just boys? I think finding a way to be more specific about exactly what's at stake would be nice. She'll never be able to believe in love, in relationships, give her heart to a boy,  whatever.  Again, I think knowing what kind of attack she suffered would probably help explain the stakes too.

All in all, I think it's a great pitch. I've been in the mood for contemporary lately, and I'd pick this up if I found it on the shelf!


REVISED 10/1/12

Title: KISSING FROGS

Genre: YA Contemporary

Word Count: 60,000

Pitch: After narrowly escaping a rape attempt by a close friend, seventeen-year-old Alaina is afraid of boys. When one she thinks she might love steals a not-so-innocent kiss, she’s certain that she can’t trust her own judgment. But the friend she turns to for advice doesn’t have her best interests in mind. Alaina must learn to listen to her heart, or she may not be able to trust anyone.

I think this is much better- now I understand what kind of attack she suffered, as well as the fact that we're talking about a threat to her trust in friendships as well as love interests.

Of course NOW I want to know more about this friend. Is it a girl or a boy? Just curious if there's a love triangle here. And why would the friend be working against her?


REVISED 10/4/12


Title: KISSING FROGS

Genre: YA Contemporary

Word Count: 61,000

Pitch: After narrowly escaping a rape attempt by a close friend, seventeen-year-old Alaina is afraid of boys. When one she might love steals a not-so-innocent kiss, she’s afraid to trust her own judgment, but the jealous “best friend” she turns to for advice is more interested in controlling than helping her. Alaina must learn to listen to her heart, or she may lose herself completely.

I think this is great! I'm a little iffy on "lose herself completely," only because...it seems a little bit cliche. I'd go back to saying exactly what she'd lose. BUT that's super subjective so wait and see what other people say!

Since she'd had a previous rape attempt, I'm wondering if that means she's doubting her ability to judge things anymore (if the rape attempt was from a boy she thought liked her, a boy she got close to). So it's important for her to be able to trust herself again too, right? And for this age group, that's huge. 

Random thoughts from someone who hasn't read your book, of course. :)

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Get Your Pitch On!!

September 28, 2012
So we all know I love contests. The last couple of months, I've loved them a little TOO much, I think. I entered a few, some of which overlapped, and MAN it was nuts! (But did get some love for BETWEEN, which makes me happy.)

And NOW I'm letting you guys know about another contest that is coming up- and this time I won't be entering, but my blog (along with several of the Misfits' blogs) will be hosting some of the entries!!

The lovely Sharon M. Johnson is hosting the Get Your Pitch On contest!


Here are the details, straight from Sharon's blog!

Commissioning and Managing Editor of Hardie Grant Egmont, Marisa Pintado, will be poised and ready to take your pitches both here on Down Under Wonderings and on my group blog YAtopia on October 15th. 

Marisa is looking for YA in any genre and is accepting submissions from any where in the world. It's your chance to skip the slush pile and put your pitch right under the nose of a fantastic editor. There's even better news - there is no limit on how many requests Marisa will make from the contest. 

Here's the rules:

  • Your manuscript must be complete, polished and ready to query - this means no first drafts or almost finished manuscripts.
  • It must be YA.
  • When the contest goes live on October 15th, post your entry details in the comments section of either YAtopia or Down Under Wonderings - each blog is accepting 100 entries only.
  • Your entry detail needs to include a 50 - 70 word pitch.
  • You can enter more than once if you have more than one complete, polished, ready to query manuscript.
Your contest details should be formatted like this:

Name: Sharon Johnston
Email: smjohnston [ @ ] live.com.au
Country of residence: Australia
Title: SLEEPER
Genre: Speculative Fiction
Word-count: 58,000
Pitch: Seventeen-year-old Mishca Richardson is a sleeper soldier with a weak heart. She has no idea that a life saving heart transplant has accidentally triggered her programming. In the search for answers, she discovers the truth and that her creator, Wirth, has classified her remaining "sisters" from her experiment group as defective, scheduling them for termination. Mishca sets out to save them before they're eliminated. 

Just as it's important to get someone else to look over your manuscript before you query, it's a good idea to get feedback on your pitch before you post. We have about twenty blogs who are ready to help you hone your pitch. These workshops start on October 1 and you can find the list of blogs participating here.



Submissions are open NOW. Go here for more info! http://downunderwonderings.blogspot.com/2012/09/get-your-pitch-on-workshop-submissions.html


GOOD LUCK!
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HIJACKED!

September 20, 2012

Hey guys and dolls, how's it going? 

Don't look so startled - I don't bite. 

My name's Frankie. And I'm just a regular guy. 
Well, except for the whole ghost thing, I guess. 




You’re probably wondering what I'm doing here. Well, it’s pretty simple actually. Something is coming for my best friend Ever - something I alone cannot protect her from. Regardless of how much I love her how hard I try. 

So I have to spread the word.

And I need your help to do it.

I've been a bystander for far too long, trapped in this ghostly shell for the past two years. I've decided it’s time to make myself known and set some things into motion. See, I've hijacked Amazon, Curiosity Quills Press, and blogs all over the internet to make my move. 

You're probably wondering why, right? 

Well allow me to be a bit more specific. Something isn't just coming for Ever; her actual soul is in danger. So I've decided to stay silent no longer. Word needs to spread. People need to know. 

Evil lurks in the shadows.  

To give Ever more time to figure things out and try to protect herself from the trouble that awaits her, I'm upping the publication date of our story. 



 I'm sure you can understand. I mean, souls are on the line here. 

So, with that said, EVER IS NOW AVAILABLE. Yes, you read that right. NOW. I couldn't wait any longer, so I did what I had to do to protect that stubborn girl I love my best friend, Ever. 

I had to do it. Some things are too important to wait for, and Ever is one of those things for me.

Now as you’re spreading the word about this new development, take heed this one warning:

Evil lurks in the shadows. And not just any evil. 

It’s disguised as that slick talking, good-looking bastard, Toby James ... the new kid next door. 





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September 11, 2001

September 11, 2012
My desk was loaded with file folders, a stack that grew by the day. I was supposed to file them, but it was the task I put off the most. I didn't want to file. I wanted to write journal articles  and press releases, which at least seemed like a step in the actual career direction I wanted to go in.

But that Tuesday morning, I wasn't even doing that. I was downloading music to Napster on my work computer, which was so very not allowed, and trading emails with my friend Bret. We used email like instant messaging, talking our way through our days--me in Lexington at my boring desk job as a Communications Assistant with a non-profit education association, he at his much more interesting position as a Marine at the Pentagon.

Bret and I had been friends since middle school, although we didn't become close until high school when he dated one of my best friends. While that relationship eventually ended, he became one of my best friends after high school and through college.

I don't remember at all what we were talking about.

The phone rang. I worked in a small office, and every single person aside from me was in a meeting to plan the group's annual conference. It was mostly women, and they all shared a hairdresser. That hairdresser was on the phone, calling at a little past 9:00am to tell me to turn on the TV.

"A plane has crashed into the World Trade Center."

Still holding the phone to my ear, I emailed Bret, "Hey, did you know a plane crashed into the World Trade Center?"

The hairdresser was still talking, something about how they'd originally thought it was some kind of horrible accident but then another plane crashed into the second tower. 

"It's a terrorist attack," the voice on the phone said.

"What? No." Because those things didn't happen here. Not like this. 

Bret hadn't responded to my email, so I sent another one. "It's two planes. This guy is saying it's a terrorist attack. Is it a terrorist attack?"

I went to the conference room to interrupt the meeting. The only TV in the office was in there. I don't remember what anyone said or did, but I do remember ending up alone in that room, glued to the TV. I watched dark smoke pour from the towers. News anchors didn't bother to keep up a cool, reserved appearance--they were emotional, and it was weird. I'd never seen or heard anything like it. The screen kept showing a replay of the aftermath of the first plane crash, and the stunned live reaction of the news anchor when the second crash occurred.

I went back to my office.

Nothing from Bret.

But at this point, I knew it was a terrorist attack. I imagined his day had just become insanely busy.

Back to the conference room. I pulled a chair up to the TV and sat, wondering who would do this and why. I was twenty-one years old. I should've been much more concerned about the rest of the world than I was.

The screen went dark, filled with smoke so thick you couldn't see anything else. I can still very clearly remember what I heard next. "I'm not sure what we're looking at here. Ok, alright. It's the Pentagon. A plane has crashed into the Pentagon."

I stood straight up, staring. The smoke had hardly cleared, but you could barely make out the unmistakable shape of the building.

I flew back to my desk, pulling my cell phone from my drawer at the same time as I logged back into my email.

Nothing from Bret.

I sent another email. "Let me know you're okay."

I left a voicemail. "Call me as soon as you can."

I spent the next hour sending more emails and leaving more voicemails. "I know there's probably no way you're going to be able to get to your phone or your email anytime soon. I just don't know what else to do. I want to know you're okay. I hope you're okay."

I left work around 11:00. The whole office shut down, like most other businesses that day. I drove to my parents house. The drive took about an hour, and took me down quieter, two-lane roads that allowed me to cry in my car without anyone seeing.

It was a long afternoon, sitting at my mother's table, wondering if my friend was okay. I cried for all the people I knew had died, for the people who experienced the horror in and around the towers, in the plane that crashed in Pennsylvania, and in the Pentagon. My heart hurt for all of them and their families, but I was very much focused on the guy who had been such a wonderful friend to me for so many years. He'd served his country abroad, and came home to a position in the Pentagon doing what he loved. Bret was always so proud to be a Marine.

I finally heard from him late that afternoon. Just a quick phone call to let me know he was okay, but the things he saw and dealt with that day were horrifying. I was so relieved to hear from him I started crying again.

There are so many images from that day that come to mind every year. Watching people jump from windows, seeing the towers eventually crumble to the ground, knowing I'd just watched thousands of people die, watching the TV screen fill with smoke and hearing the words "A plane has crashed into the Pentagon"...I'll never forget it.

I'll also never forget the way people came together like nothing I'd ever seen before. It didn't matter what else had separated us before--for the next few months, we were all united by our grief and by the compassion we felt for people we didn't even know. 


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YA Misfits Pep Rally Monday: MY WISH LIST

September 10, 2012
Over at YA Misfits today, we asked this question:

If YOU were an agent, what would be on your wish list?


Book Love
photo courtesy of the lovely and talented Jenny Kaczorowski


This is SO HARD.

I like so many different kinds of books. I can pretty much appreciate anything as long as it's well-written. But here's what I'd want to see if I were an agent...

  • YA thriller: a super creepy one that makes it hard for me to be alone in my house. 
  • Adult Historical Romance: Um, because I always love historical romance. And I'm realizing at this very second that I've never read a YA historical romance. It exists, right? But....probably the things I like about adult historical romance would not be there in YA historical romance. Hmm....if you have a YA historical romance to recommend, let me know!
  • YA romance: I'm a sucker for a good romance, but it's so hard for me to say exactly what kind of story I'd want. I don't know til I read it. Something with a guy who's got a weakness ONLY for his girl...I love guys like that- ones that you wouldn't expect to be so sweet/romantic until the right girl comes along. But that guy can exist in just about any story, I guess.

So....I'm looking back over my list and realizing that I wrote a YA fantasy but I don't have YA fantasy on my wish list. This probably says something profound about me or the market or something but I don't know what it is.

What about you? Post your answer on your blog and then share the link in the comments on today's YA misfits post! Can't wait to read your answers!


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About Megan

Visit my website! meganwhitmerwrites.com

Loves kissing scenes and funny t-shirts. Knows the words to most 90s rap songs and entirely too many broadway musicals. Talks too much. Laughs too loud. Doesn't dance nearly enough. Swear words make me giggle. If we meet, I'll probably hug you.

This blog is for my writing news, but I'm sort of a wanderer so you'll probably hear a lot about my family and food too. That's sort of my life in three words: Family, food, and writing. Oh, and t-shirts.

My young adult novel BETWEEN will be published by Spencer Hill Press in July 2014.