The HerKentucky Guide to Simple Keeneland Wagers

October 8, 2014
(This post originally appeared on HerKentucky.)




It's HERE! Keeneland's Fall Meet has ARRIVED!

You're going, right? Of course you're going. We only get to do this in April and October. Get up, get dressed, and go take part in one of the best parts of living around here. (Yes, I'm basically a walking, talking Keeneland commercial whenever meets are in session. I love it that much.)

When I talk to someone who's visited Lexington and not been to Keeneland, I'm sad. When I talk to someone who lives near Lexington and hasn't been? Words cannot describe my devastation. I recently met a girl who told me she's lived in Lexington for eight years and never been to Keeneland. Not once! 

Even if you don't care a bit about horse racing, go for the sheer excitement of it. See the horses. Enjoy the atmosphere. Most of all, experience the glory that is Keeneland, one of the most beautiful racetracks in the country.

My friend told me she's never been to Keeneland because she doesn't know how to bet on the races. This, my friends, is no excuse. First, any one of the tellers at the betting stations will happily help you through your bet (trust me, they've helped me with several); and secondly, I'm about to give you a quick crash course in how to bet like you know what you're talking about.

Disclaimer: I don't do complicated bets. All these examples will be using a standard $2 minimum bet, although I believe Keeneland lowered the minimum wager to $1. Go big or go home, I say. TWO DOLLARS.

Regardless of what you're betting, when you place your bet, you say...
  1. The name of the track
  2. The race number
  3. The amount of the bet
  4. The type of bet
  5. The number of the horse
One horse, One bet

The easiest bet is just to pick one horse to win, and it's a super straight and simple bet.

Example: "Keeneland, race one. $2 to win on 4."

Across the Board
Have a horse you love but you're not entirely sure it's a winner? Bet it "across the board," or to win, place, or show. That bet will cost you $6 since you're basically placing three bets ($2 to win, to place, and to show). As long as your horse comes one of the top three spots, you're a winner.

Example: "Keeneland, race one. $2 across the board on 4."

Exacta/Exacta Box
And now let's talk about my favorite bet ever. I use this one to make myself sound like I totally know about horse racing. (Note: I do not know anything about horse racing. My betting system is based purely on whether the horse name means something to me and who the jockey is. If Redhead McSparkles is ridden by a jockey named Jesus, I'm betting on it.)

The exacta bet involves picking the horses that will win and place (or come in first and second). Your best shot is to pick the favorites for this one. Whichever horse you say first is the one you expect to win, and the second is who you think will place. This bet will cost you $4 since you're actually placing two bets, $2 on the winning horse and $2 on the placing horse.

Example: Keeneland, race one. $2 exacta on 4 and 6.
Now- here's my bet- the exacta box. Something about saying "exacta" and "box" makes me feel like a total pro. The box means you have the horses you think will come in first and second, but you're not sure what order they will be in. You can box as many horses as you want. (I usually choose three horses in the hopes that two of them will win and place.)

Example: Keeneland, race one. $2 exacta box on 4, 6, and 9. (This is one where you probably want to go with a $1 bet, because these get expensive really quickly as you add more and more horses.)

Trifecta/Trifecta box
These are the exact same as the exacta and exacta box, except you're dealing with the first three slots instead of the first two. You're choosing the horses that will win, place, and show.

It is extremely hard to pick the exacta and/or the trifecta. What are the odds that you'll even get one horse right, let alone two or three? But these bets, without boxing them, are cheaper, and they typically pay out well if you win. The boxes are easier to win, but cost a lot more.

(If you bet and win a trifecta, you basically have bragging rights for life. If you see me there, I'll buy you a drink.)

Daily Double: You choose the winner in two consecutive races. (My mom did this once when I was a kid. She still talks about it.)

Pick Three: You choose the winner in three consecutive races.

Pick Four: You choose the winner in four consecutive races.

More complicated
Remember how I said I don't do complicated bets? There are things involving "Part-wheels" which, I think, is basically boxing a bet but on a much larger scale. And you "key" horses in those if you know which horse you think will win but you're not sure about the order of any of the others. 

That is literally all I know about these bets. You're welcome.

There you go! You officially have no excuse to skip Keeneland this year. 

When you're there, look for me. I'll be the one with the bourbon and coke betting on every single horse with "Red" in its name.
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BETWEEN Blog Tour and TWO BIG PRIZE PACKS!

July 23, 2014
So, I promised you guys that while I would definitely have to do a lot of promotional tweeting/blogging/talking in the weeks leading up to release day, I would also make it more tolerable for everyone by giving you lots of free stuff.

In the last few weeks, I've given away nine books (not including the five I'm giving away this week!) and we're wrapping it all up with two huge prize packs that coincide with Between's blog tour! 

My friends and family who aren't in the book world just read that and thought, "What in the heck is a blog tour?" So just to quickly explain: a blog tour is when several blogs sign up to host you on their blog for several days in a row in order to promote you/your book and reach more readers by going beyond your own circle of followers on various social media sites. When I say "host," I mean that day's post on the participating blog will be mine. My blog tour is made up of a collection of interviews, book excerpts, guest posts, and reviews. 

Between's blog tour started Monday, July 21, and it runs through Friday, August 1. There'll be a new post on a different blog every single day telling you a little more about Between! Here's the schedule:


Monday, 7/21: Miss Riki's Musings
Tuesday, 7/22: Bran Writes 
Wednesday, 7/23: Adventures in Writerland 
Thursday, 7/24: Bumbles & Fairytales 
Friday, 7/25: Who R U 
Monday, 7/28: Left to Write 
Tuesday, 7/29: The Cover Contessa
Wednesday, 7/30: Because Reading
Thursday, 7/31: Lis Les Livres 
Friday, 8/1: A Leisure Moment 

And as I mentioned before- MORE GIVEAWAYS! I called on my author friends to see who would be able to donate things for a giveaway, and I got such an amazing response that we were able to split everything into two awesome prize packs! Here's what we're giving away:


BETWEEN Prize Pack #1
BETWEEN by Megan Whitmer ARC (signed)
SING SWEET NIGHTINGALE by Erica Cameron (signed) 
EVER by Jessa Russo (signed)
RECLAIMED by Sarah Guillory (signed)
TRAGIC TALES OF STRANGE GIRLS ebook by Suzy G
THE ART OF FALLING ebook by Jenny Kaczorowski
postcard with download code for eARC of OF SCARS AND STARDUST by Andee Hannah

BETWEEN Prize Pack #2
BETWEEN by Megan Whitmer ARC (signed)
DOORWAYS TO EXTRA TIME by Erica Cameron (signed)
DIVIDE by Jessa Russo (signed)
RECLAIMED by Sarah Guillory (signed)
Preorder of BLACKFIN SKY by Kat Ellis
ULTRAVIOLET CATASTROPHE by Jamie Grey (signed)

BOTH prize packs will also include various swag from authors: Jessa Russo, Dahlia Adler, Tonya Kuper, Lynne Matson, and Kat Ellis

All the stops on the tour will include rafflecopters to enter this giveaway, and you can also enter it below! Good luck!

1

BETWEEN RELEASE MONTH PARTY! Week Four Giveaways: Books by Gwenda Bond, Victoria Schwab, Danielle Ellison, Dahlia Adler, and Kelsey Macke

July 22, 2014
(In case you're new around here and don't know why we're celebrating, my book, Between, comes out on July 29!  As release day approaches, I've been thinking about what I want people to know about my book. I decided to spend the month highlighting some of my favorite characteristics of Between, and giving away a different set of books each week that share those characteristics!)

ONLY ONE WEEK LEFT! This week I'm giving away FIVE books! The books are: 1 e-book of your choice by Gwenda Bond, 1 e-book of your choice by Victoria Schwab, 1 e-book of Salt or paperback of Follow Me Through Darkness by Danielle Ellison, 1 paperback of Behind the Scenes by Dahlia Adler, and 1 paperback of Damsel Distressed by Kelsey Macke. Five winners, one prize per winner. 

Check out the vlog to find out why I picked this week's books, and fill out the rafflecopter below to enter! (If the vlog doesn't load, go here: http://youtu.be/rsQ8SVEnJxw)


a Rafflecopter giveaway

What's that? You wanna know more about my book? HOW CONVENIENT THAT I HAVE THIS INFO RIGHT HERE. 


When a supernatural freak of nature forces her family to separate, seventeen-year-old Charlie Page must turn to her frustrating (yet gorgeous) neighbor, Seth, to help reunite them. Seth whisks Charlie to Ellauria--a magical world filled with the creatures of myths and legends--and tells her of the Fellowship, the group charged with protecting mystical beings from human discovery. (All except Bigfoot; that attention whore is a total lost cause.) But when Charlie learns that she's under the Fellowship's protection herself, well, "stressed" is an understatement. 

Ellauria should be the safest place for Charlie while the Fellowship works to find her family, but things in the mystical realm aren't what they seem. Magic is failing, creatures are dying, and the Fellowship insists Charlie holds the key to saving everyone. With her family still missing and the danger in Ellauria growing, Charlie doesn't know who she can trust. She's dealing with a power she never asked for, falling for a guy she can't have, and being forced to choose between her destiny and her heart. And if she chooses wrong, she could destroy magic forever. 

Charlie may be in over her head.


Order Between!

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BETWEEN RELEASE MONTH PARTY! Week Three Giveaways: Isla and the Happily Ever After, Intangible, Chime, and Liv, Forever

July 15, 2014
(In case you're new around here and don't know why we're celebrating, my book, Between, comes out on July 29!  As release day approaches, I've been thinking about what I want people to know about my book. I decided to spend the month highlighting some of my favorite characteristics of Between, and giving away a different set of books each week that share those characteristics!)

This week I'm giving away e-books of ISLA AND THE HAPPILY EVER AFTER, INTANGIBLE, CHIME, and LIV, FOREVER. This week, each of these books relates to a different aspect of Between, and since they're all so different, I'm going to let the four winners choose whichever book they want (which means all four winners may choose the same book).

Check out the vlog to find out why I picked this week's books, and fill out the rafflecopter below to enter! (If the vlog doesn't load, go here: http://youtu.be/FPsyugIvjuM)





What's that? You wanna know more about my book? HOW CONVENIENT THAT I HAVE THIS INFO RIGHT HERE. 


When a supernatural freak of nature forces her family to separate, seventeen-year-old Charlie Page must turn to her frustrating (yet gorgeous) neighbor, Seth, to help reunite them. Seth whisks Charlie to Ellauria--a magical world filled with the creatures of myths and legends--and tells her of the Fellowship, the group charged with protecting mystical beings from human discovery. (All except Bigfoot; that attention whore is a total lost cause.) But when Charlie learns that she's under the Fellowship's protection herself, well, "stressed" is an understatement. 

Ellauria should be the safest place for Charlie while the Fellowship works to find her family, but things in the mystical realm aren't what they seem. Magic is failing, creatures are dying, and the Fellowship insists Charlie holds the key to saving everyone. With her family still missing and the danger in Ellauria growing, Charlie doesn't know who she can trust. She's dealing with a power she never asked for, falling for a guy she can't have, and being forced to choose between her destiny and her heart. And if she chooses wrong, she could destroy magic forever. 

Charlie may be in over her head.


Order Between!

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BETWEEN RELEASE MONTH PARTY! Week Two Giveaways: Far Far Away, Hook's Revenge, and Dorothy Must Die

July 8, 2014
(In case you're new around here and don't know why we're celebrating, my book, Between, comes out on July 29!  As release day approaches, I've been thinking about what I want people to know about my book. I decided to spend the month highlighting some of my favorite characteristics of Between, and giving away a different set of books each week that share those characteristics!)

This week I'm giving away e-books of Far, Far Away by Tom McNeal, Hook's Revenge by Heidi Schulz, and Dorothy Must Die by Danielle Paige (three winners, one book per winner).

NEWS! If you can't make it to my launch party and want to order an autographed copy of Between, you can do so by going here, and in the Order Comments just note that you want an autographed copy! I'll sign it at my launch party and The Morris Book Shop will ship it to you after August 2.


Check out the vlog to find out why I picked this week's books, and fill out the rafflecopter below to enter! (If the vlog doesn't load, go here: http://youtu.be/zgTtMzEeNMY) 




  a Rafflecopter giveaway


What's that? You wanna know more about my book? HOW CONVENIENT THAT I HAVE THIS INFO RIGHT HERE. (Click the cover to find it on Amazon!)


When a supernatural freak of nature forces her family to separate, seventeen-year-old Charlie Page must turn to her frustrating (yet gorgeous) neighbor, Seth, to help reunite them. Seth whisks Charlie to Ellauria--a magical world filled with the creatures of myths and legends--and tells her of the Fellowship, the group charged with protecting mystical beings from human discovery. (All except Bigfoot; that attention whore is a total lost cause.) But when Charlie learns that she's under the Fellowship's protection herself, well, "stressed" is an understatement. 

Ellauria should be the safest place for Charlie while the Fellowship works to find her family, but things in the mystical realm aren't what they seem. Magic is failing, creatures are dying, and the Fellowship insists Charlie holds the key to saving everyone. With her family still missing and the danger in Ellauria growing, Charlie doesn't know who she can trust. She's dealing with a power she never asked for, falling for a guy she can't have, and being forced to choose between her destiny and her heart. And if she chooses wrong, she could destroy magic forever. 

Charlie may be in over her head.
0

Want to Download Between by Megan Whitmer for FREE? (Epub, pdf, doc, txt)

July 6, 2014
Hi.

In March of 2011, I started writing a book. I worked on it in bits and pieces, stealing scraps of time when my one-year-old was napping and my four-year-old was in preschool. Mostly, I wrote it at night, between the hours of 10pm and 2am, when the rest of my house was asleep.

I finished that first draft in four months. I paid someone to read it, before I had any CPs. I rewrote it, changing my main character from 14 to 17, and the point of view from third to first.

I found CPs. I let them read it. They ripped it apart.

I rewrote it again. I changed the tense from past to present. I rewrote it. Again.

We went to the beach. I wrote. My kids had birthday parties and classroom parties and tea parties in their rooms. I wrote. My parents spent Saturdays here, helping out. I wrote. Laundry piled up. I wrote.

And then Spencer Hill Press offered to publish it. We decided to make that book into a trilogy. I went through five rounds of rewrites/edits, each one ending in a teary phone call to my super patient editor because I wasn't going to make the deadline (I have yet to actually make a deadline) and I absolutely HATE feeling like I'm letting people down (each time, she talked me off the ledge and helped me keep moving.)

I spent January 2013-November 2013 writing that book. I joke about how I don't remember anything that happened in 2013 that wasn't book-related. Except it's not a joke. I have very little memory of my daughter's swim team season last year, or of her last semester of kindergarten/first semester of 1st grade. I am the absolute worst at work-life balance.

My book advance was a quarter of what I used to make in a month working full-time. My royalties aren't going to be enough to live off of. If you break down what I will make off this book into an hourly wage based on the number of hours I worked on it from the day I wrote that first scene to the day my editor said, "It's finished" .....never mind, I can't even think about that. It's laughable.

This is not a cry for sympathy of any sort. I love this book. I'm thrilled that it's being published. I'm so excited for people to read it. Holding my book in my hands is worth everything I've put into it.

You can find it here:
Morris Book Shop
Amazon
Barnes & Noble
Book Depository

Or go to your local library.

If you download my book for free, don't misunderstand--it's not just a free file you're downloading off the internet. That's my book you're stealing. Just because you pay money to belong to a site that allows you to download copyrighted material for free, don't assume that your money is being spent to pay for those books. The ads on those sites do not pay for those books. You are stealing. It's piracy. It's illegal. Don't do it.






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BETWEEN RELEASE MONTH PARTY! Week One Giveaways: Hex Hall and Paranormalcy

July 1, 2014
JULY IS HERE! LET THE MONTH-LONG CELEBRATION BEGIN!

THANKS SO MUCH FOR COMING TO MY PARTY! YOU LOOK TERRIFIC!

(In case you're new around here and don't know why we're celebrating, my book, Between, comes out on July 29! PARTAAAAAAAAY!)

As release day approaches, I've been thinking about what I want people to know about Between. I decided to spend the next three weeks highlighting some of my favorite characteristics of Between and giving away books that share those characteristics.

This week I'm giving away e-books of Hex Hall by Rachel Hawkins and Paranormalcy by Kiersten White (two winners, one book per winner, and if you've already read these, you're welcome to pick any other Rachel Hawkins or Kiersten White title).

Check out the vlog to find out why, and fill out the rafflecopter below to enter! (If the vlog doesn't load, go here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z1gnnvnnIvc)




a Rafflecopter giveaway


What's that? You wanna know more about my book? HOW CONVENIENT THAT I HAVE THIS INFO RIGHT HERE. (Click the cover to find it on Amazon!)




When a supernatural freak of nature forces her family to separate, seventeen-year-old Charlie Page must turn to her frustrating (yet gorgeous) neighbor, Seth, to help reunite them. Seth whisks Charlie to Ellauria--a magical world filled with the creatures of myths and legends--and tells her of the Fellowship, the group charged with protecting mystical beings from human discovery. (All except Bigfoot; that attention whore is a total lost cause.) But when Charlie learns that she's under the Fellowship's protection herself, well, "stressed" is an understatement. 

Ellauria should be the safest place for Charlie while the Fellowship works to find her family, but things in the mystical realm aren't what they seem. Magic is failing, creatures are dying, and the Fellowship insists Charlie holds the key to saving everyone. With her family still missing and the danger in Ellauria growing, Charlie doesn't know who she can trust. She's dealing with a power she never asked for, falling for a guy she can't have, and being forced to choose between her destiny and her heart. And if she chooses wrong, she could destroy magic forever. 

Charlie may be in over her head.
0

JULY 2014 IS HERE! IT IS ACTUALLY HERE! WHAT IN THE WORLD. (Also, giveaways!)

June 30, 2014
When I announced my book deal with Spencer Hill Press back in January 2013, Between's release date of July 29, 2014 seemed like an eternity away.

AND NOW IT IS HERE.



I MEAN SORT OF.

THE RELEASE DATE IS NOT HERE BUT JULY 2014 IS HERE.



I MEAN SORT OF.

I KNOW IT'S TECHNICALLY JUNE 30 BUT JUST WORK WITH ME HERE.

So here's the thing, Between comes out 4 weeks from tomorrow. That means you are about to see a LOT of promotion from me--interviews, guest blog posts, tweets, facebook things, etc. And you all know that I hate it when someone is all PROMO PROMO PROMO so I promise to do my best not to drive any of you crazy.

I do have fun plans for you though. I'm going all Oprah and giving away books all month long! Every Tuesday, I'll announce two books that I'm giving away that weeksome new, some not so newbut all books that have influenced me and/or BETWEEN in some way. I'll announce the giveaways here and on my vlog, so please share this post and subscribe to both so you don't miss them!

OK COME BACK TOMORROW TO GET THE PARTY STARTED!

I AM SO EXCITED. LET'S ALL DANCE NOW.




(Oh and don't forget! If you preorder Between, you get free stuff! I'm all out of bracelets, but I'd love to send you a signed bookmark!)



2

Signing Between for the First Time!

May 27, 2014





You guys.

Listen. Book Expo America (BEA) is an experience. If you ever have the opportunity to go, you should. I went in 2013 for the first time, which was overwhelming and awesome. You just can't imagine how big it is, and they give you free books. What more could you possibly want in life?

This year, I went as an author. I went to a rooftop party where they served cupcakes with little pictures of my book on top. I handed out buttons with sayings from my book on them. I spoke to people who knew who I was and were excited about my book. There were people lined up to have me sign an advanced copy of Between for them.

WHAT IS MY LIFE RIGHT NOW?

Knowing that people are reading my book right now is a weird feeling. I've always been most excited about this part of the process. I want readers. I want people to know Seth and Charlie. I want to know what they love and what they don't love. It's also completely terrifying, you know? I have no control what happens at this point. The book is finished. People are reading it. I can't control how readers respond to it. I can't change anything now. I just spent years creating this story, and now it's out there and it will mean something different to every single person that reads it.

I'm sure there will be people who see things in it that I didn't even realize were there. I hope some readers connect with the story and the characters. I hope they think Charlie is funny and Seth is endearing. I hope they open that front cover and see that amazing map and I hope they daydream about what a world like Ellauria would be like.





Beyond that, I stood in lines to see my favorite authors and have them sign books for me. I got to spend time with my Kelsey, and several other of my favorite writer friends. I hugged Marieke for the first time. I went to the rooftop party with Dahlia, Danielle, and Heidi, and the Met with Andrea, Megan, and Carey, and had ice cream in bed with Kelsey.



All in all, it was the perfect first book signing. Sometimes I still can't believe this is real.
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Launch party info and BETWEEN preorder giveaway!

April 22, 2014
HI GUYS!

Between comes out in less than 100 days.

98 days to be exact BUT WHO'S COUNTING?!

First off, I wanted to invite everyone to Between's launch party. It will be Saturday, August 2, at 4:00pm EST, and my favorite local indie store, Morris Book Shop, is hosting it! If you live in the area or feel like taking a road trip, I'd love for you to attend! I'll be posting about it on my Facebook page, so if you haven't liked it already, now's a good time to do so.

Aaaaaaand I have these really beautiful bookmarks.....

So I've been thinking it would be fun to do pass out some bookmarks!!! Here's the deal: everyone who preorders a copy of Between will get a signed bookmark. All you have to do is send me proof of your preorder (you can screen cap it on Amazon or wherever you've preordered it) to meganwhitmerwrites (at) gmail.com. This is open to every single person who's preordered the book, even if you did it months ago. This giveaway will run right up until release day, July 29, 2014.

BUT THAT'S NOT ALL!

(I just really wanted to say that. If you were here with me right now you would've heard me do it in all my infomercial voice glory. But also if you were here with me right now it'd be a little weird because I'm in my pajamas and my hair is disgusting and I'm trying out this new face mask so let's just stop this awkward line of thinking.)

At the beginning of Between, Charlie's brother, Sam, gives her a red string bracelet with five beads on it.
This is my attempt at an artsy photo of these bracelets. Just go with it.

I've made fifty of these bracelets. The first fifty people to send me proof of their preorder will also get one "Charlie" bracelet in addition to the signed bookmark!

YAY FREE STUFF AND SWAG AND PREORDERS AND CAN WE ALL JUST TAKE A MOMENT TO BREATHE BECAUSE SERIOUSLY 98 DAYS.

I feel like for the next 98 days "all caps and exclamation points" is going to become my signature formula for blogging, tweeting, talking, you name it. Please forgive me.

To everyone who has preordered Between (or plans to), thank you so much. I love you and I cannot even begin to tell you how much it means to me that you took the time to check out my book. You're all the absolute BEST.

And just in case you need a little assistance to take care of that preordering business...

Amazon
Barnes and Noble
Book Depository

(If you have other online bookstores you like, please let me know in the comments and I'll add links to this post!)

NOTE: If you are planning to attend the Between launch party and want to have your book signed, you'll need to purchase it at the launch party. Just letting you know!

ONE MORE NOTE: I've had lots of people ask if it makes any difference to me if my book is preordered or bought after release, or if it matters where the book is purchased--it doesn't. However, I'm always going to ask you to support your local indie bookstores. If you don't know yours, you can go to www.indiebound.org to find the nearest one. I WILL say, and I'll do a post on this later, that the first week after a book is published is a big week--everyone's paying attention to the numbers and the more sales you have, the better. Preorders count toward first week sales (and if you buy the book at the launch party, it's in that time frame as well). BUT- overall, I'm just insanely excited that anyone wants to read my book enough to buy it, and I don't care when or where you do so.

1

A Post about Feelings

March 5, 2014
Libba Bray and Myra McEntire, two authors I adore, have each written blog posts this week about their own personal experiences with depression. You can read Libba's here, and Myra's here. And you should.

We all know that being silly and giggly and happy and supportive is kind of my thing, right? I love making people laugh. I love being a big dork. I'm constantly on the hunt for new ways to reach higher and higher levels of ridiculousness. And I love love love meeting new people, making new friends, and talking. A lot.

I've mentioned before on the blog that sometimes, my whole Happy Megan persona is an act. I've always had an extremely hard time showing any kind of negative emotion. For a host of reasons, I feel this weird pressure to put on a happy face no matter what. So even if I'm not feeling like myself, I'll fake it until I do.

But sometimes, I can't even do that.

I'm already feeling anxious about this post. When I get upset, my tendency is to withdraw. I go silent- publicly and privately. This behavior has cost me several friends who don't understand why I shut down. They take it personally, and I can't blame them. I literally can't bring myself to speak up and tell them why I disappear. Luckily, I have a few friends who've learned to recognize when I go quiet, and they check in on me, and they wait for me to snap out of it.

I've never considered this to be depression. I just thought, this is me. I'm really good at being happy. I'm really bad at being sad. I criticize myself for being down. I often feel like I have no right to be sad, and then I start to feel guilty. "What do I have to be unhappy about? Look at what [literally, ANYONE else] is dealing with. What is WRONG with me?" (My guilt complex is AMAZING, y'all.)

After reading Libba's and Myra's posts, I reached two conclusions:

1. No one should feel bad for feeling bad. I say this all the time to other people. When my friends are upset with themselves for being sad or hurt or mad or whatever, "Don't feel bad for feeling bad" is one of my favorite pieces of advice. For whatever reason, I've never really turned that around on myself. I'm allowed to feel how I feel. I shouldn't beat myself up for having emotions. Feeling down is bad enough. Believing you're weak or damaged in some way just because you feel down--that's the worst.

2. There's not always going to be a reason for feeling down. I can't always point to something and say- "There. That's the thing that's upsetting me right now." The feeling doesn't necessarily come from anything. It just IS.

I've read well-written posts about depression many times over the last several years. This is the first time I've read them and seen any part of myself in their words. I don't know what that says about me, but I do know that I'm tired of feeling like being sad (or stressed or scared or anything but happy) is something to be ashamed of. I'm thankful that Libba and Myra were brave enough to write their posts. Their honesty helped me admit that I'm not always going to be on top of the world.

And that's okay.

18

Interview: Daron Macke of Wedding Day Rain

February 20, 2014
(This post originally appeared on All The Write Notes.)

Singer/Songwriter and Musician Daron Macke is one-half of Wedding Day Rain, the indie pop duo behind IMOGEN UNLOCKED, the companion album to Kelsey Macke’s debut novel,  DAMSEL DISTRESSED.
IMOGEN UNLOCKED, an album of original songs inspired by the book, will be Wedding Day Rain’s full-length debut. The duo  released an EP of Christmas standards, Rapt in Bows, in December 2013, which you can check out on iTunes and Spotify.  They also plan to release an EP of original songs in the Spring of 2014. 

I interviewed Kelsey about her book several months ago, and now it’s time to talk to Daron about the musical side of this exciting, multimedia project!

Hi Daron! Tell me a little about your history as a musician. Have you always been into songwriting? What instruments do you play? How long have you been doing this? 

Thank you so much for interview Megan!  Hello to the All The Write Notes readership…I’m excited to talk to you all.
I started playing guitar in my late teens and was playing lead guitar in my first rock band three years later. This is where my skills as a player really started to blossom—jamming with other musicians. Sure, you can learn plenty at home and practice until your face turns blue, but until you step into a stinky garage or a grimy rehearsal studio and start banging out songs with other people, your craft is missing something. There is a synergy that happens in a band situation that is really unmatched. When the group is working on a song and you all change to the same chord at the same time or you intuitively know when a rhythm will change, it’s amazing. It’s creation.

I like to think I can play anything that has strings, but my focus is on guitar. I play acoustic and electric guitar, bass, some keys, and I sing. Some of these things I do better than others, but those are the tools I use to express myself musically.
As for songwriting, it ran hand in hand with my guitar playing. I started writing original music as I was learning to play guitar. I was never really one to play other people’s music, despite playing my share of cover tunes. For me, I preferred playing my own melodies over other people’s music. I would use that improvisation to help me develop new musical ideas and transfer those ideas into my own songwriting.

Writing music comes fairly easy to me, so a lot of my early songwriting was instrumental. I’ve written plenty of songs with words, vocals, melodies, harmonies, etc., but I’ve found that my best songs have been written with other people. Of course my ego despises the fact that I just wrote that, but it is the truth. Know thyself.

Top three favorite songs of all time. Go.

Just three!?  Wow…ok.  Bristol Shore by Eric Johnson, Pride And Hunger by Lowen and Navarro, and With Or Without You by U2.

And now, what’s your most favorite song to belt out in your car?

Oh boy. I’ve got a few, but the first one that comes to mind is I Dare You by Shinedown. Brent Smith has some pipes and I like his vocal melodies (I really need to be warmed up to sing this well!). I will also offer a confession. Barry Manilow. Yes, I am a Fanilow! His greatest hits are always in rotation.

(Note from Megan: FANILOW!!!! Ahahahaaaaa Barry Manilow fans are so funny.)

How did you and Kelsey become Wedding Day Rain? And where did that band name come from?

Our approach to a band name was pretty simplistic. It rained on our wedding day. To paint the picture, we were barefoot on a mountain top in the desert southwest, it started raining, and then there were two rainbows overhead. It was an amazing display, and the pictures are fantastic!

What’s your songwriting process like? Do you and Kelsey write the songs and music together, or does one of you take lyrics and the other take melodies?

I mentioned earlier that writing music comes pretty easy for me. With that in mind, I will write something on acoustic guitar and play it for Kels. She will start to sing a melody and if the song gains ‘traction’ then we will write the lyrics together. This isn’t set in stone however, as either of us can contribute whatever we like to the process.

You and Kelsey usually do Studio Saturdays where you work on your music. What’s that like? Give me a quick rundown of a day in the studio working on Imogen Unlocked.

If we had a camera to record this, people would freak out! Being married to your bandmate is both very cool and very difficult at times. Artists have egos pure and simple and when your spouse accidentally steps on that ego, things can get messy. Over time we have developed a method that works for us. We figuratively (and sometimes literally) wear different hats while working on music. Our marriage is temporarily put on hold as we work through the recording process. We are able to offer criticism, respectfully of course, with the understanding that we are musicians trying to make the best songs we can. It’s hard work, but good work. When we are done, we take our hats off and say hello to each other as a couple.

As for the technical side of things, I will record the music and have it ready to be sung over. Since Kels is the primary singer, she will sing first and I will engineer the recording. Once her lines are done, we trade places and I sing while she runs the session.

Who are some of your personal musical influences/role models?

Since guitar is my main instrument, my main influences are guitar players: George Lynch – such aggression when he plays, Eric Johnson – melody and artistry, and Nuno Bettencourt – flashy and technical.

An interesting thing you might have noticed is that these guitar players play fast, heavier music and yet I don’t incorporate that into my songwriting. Imogen Unlocked is all acoustic guitar based and will be performed in the same way. Oddly enough I don’t have an explanation for this…something for me to ponder…

Do you have a favorite song on Imogen Unlocked? 

That’s a hard question because I have several favorites, but I suppose if I had to narrow it down to one it would be My Strength. This one stands out for the way the song was written. I had a couple of pieces of music that I had been playing for months and nothing ever really manifested. Once we started writing songs for Imogen Unlocked, we smashed those two pieces together and My Strength was born. I also like the message that this song conveys. Sometimes people are judged by appearances, financial status, education, etc.  My Strength is about the surprise felt by those who wrongly judge others when they find out just how talented and amazing these people can be. 



Daron and Kelsey Macke have been making music together for over a decade.

Individually, they have experience performing for crowds of thousands and on national tv broadcasts, but together, they’re at the beginning of their journey. The pair married in 2005, and resisted the call of a musical union for a while, each continuing to work on their own projects. Creative collaboration requires conflict-fighting for the perfect line, exact melody, or specific mood-and inviting that tension into a relationship can be dangerous business.

In 2011, the music was tired of waiting, and songs began to form, whether they liked it or not. After several discussions about the separate identities of spouse vs. bandmate, Wedding Day Rain was official.

Their musical style is a mix of soaring harmonies, catchy choruses, and lyrics that linger. Guitar based instrumentation in a classic singer-songwriter style and modern vocals accentuate their singable, folky pop songs.

You can learn more about Wedding Day Rain by visiting their web site, and you can find them on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram.

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BETWEEN is now available for pre-order. Related: I am a lucky person.

February 8, 2014
Saturday mornings are pretty hectic around here. My oldest is trying out cheerleading for the first time and we have a game every Saturday at 10:00am.

Since I like to sleep until 9:00am, this is never NOT crazy.

And this morning, as I'm running out the door, I got this text from one of my closest friends in the world, the lovely Kelsey Macke.


I don't know if you guys know how preorders work. I didn't. But basically, once your publisher buys your ISBN number and everything, they enter all the book info into the sales system and then you wait. You don't know exactly when it will go live, you just know it'll be sometime soon.

My ISBN and info were submitted over two weeks ago. I've been working on book two all day every day (or at least it feels that way), so while I was SUPER EXCITED to know that the preorders for Between could open up at any minute, I generally forgot about it unless someone asked me. (My brain does not multi-task. I can literally focus on only one thing per day. And lately, that's ALL book two. Sorry, family. Sorry, personal hygiene. Sorry, LIFE.)

But this girl, my Kelsey, has been waking up every single morning and checking to see if Between was available yet. Every single day, you guys. And I had no idea until this morning when she sent that text.

I called, and the first thing she says is, "Well, I got up this morning, and like I do every day, went to this little web site called Amazon and typed in Between…" and I have no idea what she said after that because I squealed so loud I scared my children.

This blog post is a "Hey! My book is available for preorder now!" announcement, but it's also a little ode to Kelsey Macke, because she's slammed with book stuff and album stuff and teacher life and wife life and a million other little things, but if she hadn't taken a few seconds this morning to see if Between was on Amazon yet,  I wouldn't have noticed for several more days. I have the best friends in the whole world.

(And if you want to go check out Between in all its glory on Amazon, feel free!)

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An Interview with Singer-Songwriter Nick Flora

February 6, 2014

(This post originally appeared on All The Write Notes.)



My friend Nick Flora is an alterna-pop singer/songwriter out of Nashville, TN. Flora has been writing songs and touring full time for close to a decade. His debut solo record Great Escape (2009) and the follow-up Hello Stranger (2011) are both prime examples of Flora’s grasp of dynamics, heart, and humor. His latest release The Reintroduction Of Nick Flora boasts a bold step forward and as fellow musician and frequent collaborator Stacy Lantz put it is “full of anthems, stories, heartache, and of course, wit.” To check out his music, click here.

Nick and I became friends over a year ago because as we all know, I appreciate funny people, and Nick’s tweets are some of the funniest around. (I’ll wait here while you go follow him.) He was writing his third album while I was tackling book edits, and we bonded while sharing stories about our processes. Songwriting has always been something of a mystery to me–I can barely write a short story; I have no idea how someone makes a point in a 3-5 minute song–and Nick was nice enough to take the time to answer some of my questions about songwriting. Enjoy!

Where do you get your ideas? Do you choose the topic or does it choose you? 

I’d say both. Sometimes I have an idea or something that keeps popping into my brain and I’ll try and tackle it.  But sometimes I’ll just sit down and something that’s been hiding in my subconscious will emerge unannounced and almost write itself.  I can plan all I want to write specific things but the best songs are often the ones that your brain was working on when you weren’t aware. It’s magic!

When you’re writing a song, are you thinking about the listener or are you writing what you need to get out personally? Does knowing that other people are going to listen affect your process at all?

I try to accomplish multiple things when I write. I do think about who’s gonna hear it and if someone else can relate, and that makes me work harder to make sure it’s as honest and true to my original vision as possible.  Weirdly, it’s often the stuff that’s so personal and I don’t think anyone will relate to but me that becomes the most relatable and most-often requested songs.  Which is great encouragement to always write what matters to me and what’s personal.

I know The Reintroduction had a theme–reintroducing people to your style as it’s evolved since the last album. Do you generally have themes in mind when you’re putting together an album? 

Usually, yes. But sometimes the theme reveals itself later.  Or I try to make the theme broad enough so I’m not writing with my metaphorical “hand tied behind my back.”  With The Reintroduction, I wanted to write about certain themes such as starting over again, not being defined by ones past, and moving forward when you are your own worst enemy, among others.  Fortunately these are things I come face-to-face with on a regular basis these days so it wasn’t hard to mine for experience when writing.

At what point do you know a song is “ready” and make yourself move on to the next song?

That’s a tough one. And the least scientific answer I have: you just know.  Over time when writing you figure out by listening to your musical gut that you’ve said everything that needs to be said with the song.  When I started out, my songs were 4-5 min long and pretty boring. But that’s ok! Because over time I figured out that I can say the same thing with the same emotional punches and get the same points across in a 2 min song, if I do it well.  Why say something with 3 verses, if you can say it with 2? It’s a game for me, like cleaning out the clutter to get to the good stuff.
It’s also important to remind yourself that there will be other songs to write.  So if this one doesn’t nail what you’re trying to say, maybe the next one will.

Pick one or two favorites of all the songs you’ve written, and tell me about them. Why are you so fond of them? 

They’re all my babies! *said in Oprah voice*  Haha, but really I’m proud of my songs. I wouldn’t have released them if I wasn’t.  But if I have to pick a couple I’d say:

“Lost At Sea” from The Reintroduction mainly because it’s just a story told start to finish, but to write it, Andrew Osenga (my producer/co-writer) and I had to write the story out in every detail and decide which parts to extract and highlight in the song.  We wanted to make sure and tell the story but at the same time evoke emotion and understanding even if you don’t know the story in it’s entirety.  It’s really hard to do but really fun when it works.  So it needed to work for those “in the know” and for the uninitiated. And I think we did it.

Also my song “Tired Of Me” is one I’m really proud of. I wanted to write a song that was a conversation back and forth with a couple that’s at the beginning stages of their relationship. The guy is an “Eeyore” type who can’t help but point out how he’s gonna inevitably screw up the relationship, and the girl believes that greatness is in store for them if they’ll just put that stuff behind them and walk forward together. My friend Stacy Lantz plays the girl in the song and it was fun to write from opposing points of view especially in some parts of the song when the two are saying differing things but are actually in harmony with each other. Quite literally.

What/Who are some of your musical influences? 

I love anyone who writes from specific or rarely spoken points of view. I’ve listened to 1000s of hours of music so anyone who can bend my brain with a viewpoint I hadn’t heard from or considered before is my favorite.  Songwriters that do that consistently are Ben Folds and Randy Newman.  Others that I find myself trying to be more like are Jon Foreman, Brandon Flowers, Arthur Alligood, Andrew Osenga, etc.

What’s been the proudest moment of your career up to this point?

That’s a tricky question.  Every time I make an album and it simultaneously meets and exceeds my goals for it, I’m proud.  I always set out to make the best album that’s in me in that moment, and if I accomplish that then I’m about as proud as I can be.

Do you have advice for someone who wants to become a songwriter?

Find your specific voice and own it. The world already has a Mumford & Sons, a Paul Simon, and a Jason Isbell. What it needs is a YOU.

In the words of Lester Bangs (ala Phillip Seymour Hoffman) from Almost Famous,  “Be honest, and unmerciful.”

Interested in the humor that makes Nick and I friends? Check out this post for the first set of ridiculous answers he sent me to these questions!

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An Interview with Nick Flora, the Self-Appointed King of Sarcastic Charm

I'm over on The Write Notes today with an interview with singer/songwriter Nick Flora. Nick is an alterna-pop singer/songwriter out of Nashville who's been writing songs and touring full time for close to a decade. I've been telling Nick for months that I wanted to do an interview with him about songwriting, and I finally emailed him some questions last week. 

He responded within five minutes, and I was like, "Wow! Note to self: Nick can fill out an interview CRAZY FAST."


And then I read his answers.


Ladies and gentlemen, meet Nick.



Where do you get your ideas? Do you choose the topic or does it choose you? 

I just google Hall & Oates lyrics and rearrange them to make new songs. 

When you're writing a song, are you thinking about the listener or are you writing what you need to get out personally? Does knowing that other people are going to listen affect your process at all?

Personally I don't think that's anyone's business.  It's annoying that others are listening to what I write.

I know The Reintroduction had a theme--reintroducing people to your style as it's evolved since the last album. Do you generally have themes in mind when you're putting together an album? 

Usually the theme is how much money do I wanna make and how many drugs have I done the night before I record.

At what point do you know a song is "ready" and make yourself move on to the next song?

I set a timer for 3 min then start playing random chords and singing gibberish. When the timer goes off, that's when I know the song is done.

Pick one or two favorites of all the songs you've written, and tell me about them. Why are you so fond of them? 

No.

What/Who are some of your musical influences? 

I prefer to think of ME as the musical influence for others.

What's been the proudest moment of your career up to this point?

When this interview is over.

Do you have advice for someone who wants to become a songwriter?

Don't do it. More money for me.



To see the "real" answers Nick supplied a few days later, as well as links to his music, check out my interview with him on The Write Notes!
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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.