Fearless Friday…now with wings: Anna-Marie McLemore

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AMfairyandtreetrunkHola, everyone!

Anna-Marie McLemore here, author of THE WEIGHT OF FEATHERS, flitting in for a winged edition of Fearless Friday.

So THE WEIGHT OF FEATHERS is a book about mermaid performers and tree-dancers who wear wings. I’ve already documented my exploits in a mermaid tail.

Mermaid Anna-Marie McLemore

Mermaid Anna-Marie

Water, swimming, wearing a mermaid tail. No problem for me. But, um, the tree-climbing thing. Never happened. I am afraid enough of heights that I managed to get through my childhood without ever having climbed a tree. Sure I’d hopped up on a low branch. But, like, climbing a tree high enough that I could actually fall out of? Forget it.

Knowing this, for TWOF, I enlisted a tree-climbing consultant. Yes, you read that right. A tree-climbing consultant. He’s about as comfortable in trees as Cluck Corbeau is, so I knew he’d be able to help with the details. What I didn’t know is that he was not going to let me get away with this never-having-climbed-a-tree business.

So he found a tree of both decent height and relatively easy climbing mechanics, and he took me up.

AMfairyandboughAll he told me was to wear comfortable shoes. The wings and fairy makeup were my idea. If I was going to plummet to my death, I thought I might as well do it in style.

I’m not going to say I wasn’t shaking or clinging to the branches, but once I was up there, I was glad I did it.

Until I realized I had to get down. This of course did not involve me clinging to a branch, telling my tree-climbing consultant, “No, I’m good, thanks, I’ll just stay here” while he tried to give me instructions on lowering myself onto the branch underneath me. Because no self-respecting, AMfairy1professional author would ever admit to something like that.

But as you probably guessed, I’m not typing this from up in the tree, so the tree-climbing consultant successfully half-talked me down, half-caught me when I made my less than graceful descent.

There you have it, friends.

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I have vanquished my fear!

I have climbed a tree!

I have decided I am probably never doing it again!

*slips into mermaid tail and swims away*

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Anna-Marie McLemore writes from her Mexican-American heritage and the love for stories she learned from her family. She lives in California’s Central Valley with a boy from the other side of the Rockies. Her debut novel THE WEIGHT OF FEATHERS, a YA contemporary love story with a magical twist, is out now from Thomas Dunne Books/St. Martin’s Press. You can find her on Twitter @laannamarie.

FEARLESS FRIDAY WITH NATASHA SINEL: THESE ARE A FEW OF MY MOST FEARFUL THINGS

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I’ll be honest, as I approach the long-anticipated release date of my debut YA novel, THE FIX, I have two major fears:

  1. No one will read my book
  2. Lots of people will read my book

Now that that’s out of the way, I decided to just show you a few things that make my heart beat a bit faster and the hair raise on the back of my neck.

1. A blank word document with cursor blinking (some people love this. Not me. I find it scary.)

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2. Rejection (I’ve learned to get past this fear, because…practice. Writers get rejected on a daily basis. If you want to be a writer, you must know this.)

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3. Stepping on a LEGO (If you haven’t, take my word for it…it smarts.)

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4. A traffic jam when I have to pee

5. Apocalypse survival-type scenario–I have no contact lenses and my glasses are broken beyond repair

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6. And finally, my number one fear…tidal waves (I don’t know why I put a picture here–now I can never look at this post again.)

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Natasha Sinel writes YA fiction from her home on a dirt road in Northern Westchester, NY. She drives her kids around all afternoon, but in her head, she’s still in high school, and hopes no one near her can read minds. Find her on Twitter and on YA Outside The Lines. Natasha’s debut YA novel THE FIX will be out from Sky Pony Press on September 1, 2015.

FEARLESS FRIDAY with Austin Aslan: Fear not your SECOND book launch…

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This past weekend I celebrated the launch of my second novel, The Girl at the Center of the World. It is the sequel to my fall 2014 debut, The Islands at the End of the World. I can’t tell you how much I FEARED–and how long I agonized over–doing a second book launch so soon after the first.

Now, this is a good problem to have as an author, to be sure. But believe it or not, for me at least, it was an issue. The first book launch was fun. It was a celebration of an accomplishment, a life long goal, a really, really difficult goal. Getting a book published deserves a party. It’s like a wedding. Or, what’s the opposite of a retirement party? Anyway, you get the idea: Victory! Let’s celebrate!

My debut book launch last August for THE ISLANDS AT THE END OF THE WORLD. Hey, everybody, look at ME! Yay!

My debut book launch last August for THE ISLANDS AT THE END OF THE WORLD. Hey, everybody, look at ME! Yay!

But I was a debut author, with zero following, except for family and friends. SOOO…guess who I dragged out to my big “Me” celebration? Everyone I knew. So many great folks, God bless them, obliged. They came out. I gave them some free food and drinks to make it worth their while. They went through the dog and pony show with me. I speechified about writing and becoming an author. I read a passage. They bought books and I signed them (weird, btw, but cool). It was a glorious day. A wonderful celebration. A big wet and warm blanket of love. For me. Yay!

Now…fast forward to exactly one year later.

The book monster industrial complex must be fed. Promotion. Publicity. Launch, launch, launch!!!

I’m supposed to do that all over again?

Yikes.

It’s not like I have a huge fan base at this point. ISLANDS has been trucking along, but I could see from a mile away that a sequel launch that didn’t have the feel of crickets chirping was going to require me having to drag all those same people out of the woodwork again. I dreaded the idea of putting everyone I knew back in that situation.

So I didn’t. Not exactly.

Instead, I dragged all of my friends and family out to something completely different.

Here’s what I did, and I think you should keep this trick in the back of your mind should you ever find yourself thrust into a similar situation:

JOINT BOOK LAUNCH!

And…

*wait for it*

…FOR CHARITY!

I partnered with another local Random House author who was fretting about the same situation. Amy K. Nichols’ While You Were Gone was also due for fall lift-off. It was very convenient that our books released on the same day, and that they were both sequels, and both YA science fiction–but I firmly believe that’s not necessary for this to work.

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Our joint event was so incredibly refreshing. We each received double the audience for the amount of work we had to do. We were able to cross-pollinate our fan bases. It was wonderful working with Amy and getting to know her better. We have a real resource in each other moving forward in this crazy industry. We were able to share the stage. It was such a relief to not be the only one up there!

And we partnered with a local literacy charity, Kids Need to Read, to conduct a raffle. The representative was given several minutes to share their charity’s mission with our audience, they were given wonderful press in the newspaper, and we raised some serious funds for them.

Check out the amazing press we got out of this idea. The Arizona Republic put out a full half page SUNDAY article the weekend before our event!

All in all, it was the perfect solution to our fears. I highly recommend doing something similar with your subsequent book launches.

Austin Aslan was inspired to write his young adult sci-fi survival eco-thrillers THE ISLANDS AT THE END OF THE WORLD and THE GIRL AT THE CENTER OF THE WORLD while living with his wife and two children on the Big Island of Hawai`i, where he earned a master’s degree in tropical conservation biology. A National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellow, he can often be found exploring the wilds of northern Arizona in a tent on a punctured air mattress or on Twitter at @laustinspace.

Fearless Friday with Alexandra Sirowy & Shannon Grogan

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August YA Thriller Debuts Shannon Grogan and Alexandra Sirowy teamed up to ask their MC’s a few questions!

Introducing, Kara, the main character of FROM WHERE I WATCH YOU:

Dealing with the aftermath of betrayal, her sister’s death, and the collapse of her family, 16-year-old Kara focuses on her dreams of becoming a professional baker. Winning a national baking contest could help her escape to a prestigious culinary school.

But someone is watching.

Someone hides, follows, and leaves her creepy notes.  If she doesn’t figure out who it is, she could lose everything. Her chance of escape. The boy she’s beginning to love and trust. Even her life.

 

And, Stella, the main character of THE CREEPING:

Stella is the lucky one. When she was six, Stella and her friend Jeanie went into the woods to pick strawberries. Stella came back. Jeanie never did. Eleven years later, Stella is over it, even if whatever happened to Jeanie is still lost in her messed up memory. Stella has a summer full of cove days, best friends, and her gorgeous crush to look forward to, that is, until the fresh corpse of a little girl with eerie similarities to six-year-old Jeanie is found on the anniversary of her disappearance.

What are you most afraid of losing?

Stella: My friends! Especially my three bests, Zoey, Michaela, and Cole. I’d be lost without them.

Kara: I’m most afraid of losing my mom. She’s really all I have left. Even if she is a nut job and she drives me crazy. After everything, I guess I still need her. As long as she doesn’t turn into the mom from “Carrie”.

 

What are you afraid of that you’d never admit to aloud?

Stella: Ouija boards completely eek me out. Totally crazy, I know. I can handle the real stuff that goes bump in the night, but just whisper something like Bloody Mary to me three times in the same zip code as a mirror and I can’t sleep for a week.

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Kara: Bloody Mary, Bloody Mary, Bloody Mary! No, just kidding, Stella! I’d never admit this to anyone but you, but I’m afraid of pigeon germs. I kinda live in the city and they’re dirty and everywhere and they poop everywhere! I swear there is going to be some kind of pigeon flu outbreak. It’s gross.

Pigeons Pigeons Pigeons!

Pigeons Pigeons Pigeons!

Which scary movie or book would you cast yourself in and why?

Stella: I don’t like all those scary movies that have the girl always shrieking her head off or running the wrong direction or waiting for someone to save her.
I wouldn’t be that type of heroine. Whatever movie or book I’d be in, I’d be the one figuring things out and saving the day.

Kara: Me too, Stella. I think maybe “Silence of the Lambs”. The heroine in that was kick ass smart, in FBI training. Oh, FYI, that one is a book and a movie. Creepy!

Silence of the Lambs

Silence of the Lambs

Would you rather be covered by spiders or snakes?

Stella: Snakes for sure. Anything but spiders.

Kara: Yuck, neither! I think I agree with Stella. Snakes. At least if you stand up they will fall off. Spiders cling! Ick!

What’s your most embarrassing moment ever?

Stella: Ummm, hello? I already get enough sideways glances and stares. Invite more attention or whispers? Not gonna happen.

Kara: Ooh Stella, what secrets are you hiding? Why are people whispering about you? Hmm. Well, I try to keep mostly to myself so as not to bring attention either. But I think my most embarrassing moment was in 9th grade when I dropped an F bomb in Home Ec after I burned my hand pulling cookies out of the oven. That wasn’t really the embarrassing part though, the embarrassing part was Mr. King making me repeat it and spell it on the white board, and then use it in a sentence. And then giving me a detention.

 

Shannon writer photo crop 2Shannon Grogan teaches 2nd grade by day, and writes at Starbucks while her kids are at ballet and baseball. If she can stay off Twitter and stay awake, she writes at night, in a tiny logging town near Seattle, Washington. Her debut, FROM WHERE I WATCH YOU, will be published by Soho Teen, August 2015.
Alexandra Sirowy PhotoAlexandra Sirowy is the author of THE CREEPING, a debut thriller for young adults coming August 18th, 2015 from Simon and Schuster’s Books for Young Readers. To learn more, visit Alexandrasirowy.com or follow her on Twitter.

Fearless Fridays: Gail Nall Watches Stop-Motion Animation

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I may have the weirdest fear ever – stop-motion animation.

Why?

I have no idea. There’s just something really freaky about the jerky movements the little characters make, and the fact that the clay ones seem to have no bones. Maybe it reminds me of old, bad horror films I shouldn’t have watched as a kid, or maybe I can blame it on my mom (who has some unresolved issues with Gumby). All I know is, stop-motion movies give me the heebie-jeebies, even though I can objectively acknowledge how much work goes into making them.

So today, I’m going to call up all my courage and watch 3 clips of stop-motion animation. Please, join me in this trip to Creepytown! Up first, the classic, spine-chilling Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer

Freakiness Rating: 9 out of 10
How long did I last? 1 minute 5 seconds (the independent eye movement!!!)
Why this one creeps me out: Holy majoly, where do I start? How about with the most nightmare-inducing part – the elf’s eyes roll INDEPENDENTLY at about 1:03. It’s the The Exorcist invading the North Pole’s. You all, I’ll see that in my dreams tonight. *shudder* Plus, the way the mouths move like they’re being operated by NASCAR drivers but everything else stays perfectly still. And they jump, almost as if they’re apparating Harry-Potter-style from one spot to the next. Creeptastic!
Would I watch more? Well, I’ve seen the whole thing, more than once. So I can suffer through it for my kid’s sake, should she ever feel the need to watch it. I can’t promise I’ll watch that independent eye-moving part again, though.

Moving on, clip number two is from Wallace and Gromit, a.k.a. The Creepiness Goes British…

Freakiness Rating: 5 out of 10
How long did I last? I watched it all! (Granted, it was only 1:34…)
Why this one creeps me out: Okay, I have to admit the dog is cute. (Also, I have no idea which is Wallace and which is Gromit, so for the sake of clarity, I will rename them The Dude and The Dog. Clever, right?) And I admit that I laughed when the robot said, “Knickers!” before exploding. But now to the more important, hide-under-the-covers things – the eyes, again. They’re like little round balls that are going to pop out and roll on the floor. Eeewww. And The Dude – he has no lips people! No lips, yet his face is frozen into a perma-smile! How? Why? Finally, I think the fact that it’s British makes it more creepy (no offense to the Brits of the world). There’s just something extra creepified about that proper accent paired with a jawless, lipless man…
Would I watch more? Ehhhh… it was funny…so, maybe? If I could keep my eyes on The Dog, anyway.

And lastly, Bert and Ernie’s Great [Disturbing] Adventures

Freakiness Rating: 8 out of 10
How long did I last? 1:29
Why this one creeps me out: Dear Sesame Street, what was wrong with normal, puppety Bert and Ernie? Why did you have to clay them out and subject me to watching this at least once a week with my three-year-old? Whyyy??? Okay, let’s start with that bed at the beginning. The bed’s legs bend. They bend, people. And if that’s not enough, they run with those bendy legs. Ernie’s strands of hair seems to move of their own volition, which sort makes me think of Medusa. And then, THEN, the eyes. Again. Little black dots that roll around in a sea of white. Thanks, Sesame Street!
Would I watch more? I don’t have a choice. My child likes it, and I try to hide my face.

Oddly, I ran across The Nightmare Before Christmas while searching for clips, and I never realized it was a stop-motion movie. It’s always been one of my favorites, so I opened a clip, and sure enough, it’s stop-motion. My unscientific conclusion on why Nightmare doesn’t bother me: it’s supposed to be all weird and Tim Burtonish. The creep-factor is negated with a movie meant to be creepy.

Well, that’s it, folks. I hope your nightmares are as lively as mine are tonight!


Gail NalGail Nalll lives in Louisville, Kentucky with her family and more cats than necessary. She spends her early mornings writing, her days writing grants for a non-profit, and her evenings trying to stay up past eight o'clock. You can visit her on her website, and chat with her on Twitter. Her debut contemporary MG novel, BREAKING THE ICE, and a co-written MG novel, YOU'RE INVITED, are both available now from Aladdin/Simon & Schuster.

Fearless Fridays: Maggie Lehrman digs up secrets

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When I was nine, I started writing stories on our family’s first computer, a black and white Macintosh. I used to throw myself in front of the screen whenever someone in my family so much as strolled by the office door. I would have died if anyone saw my stories.

This highly protective behavior lasted years. If I felt like I’d “finished” with something, I could let the outside world look, like when I started writing plays that people had to read in order to, you know, memorize and act in them. But anything else I kept carefully guarded.

When I became a teenager, the feeling of “finishing” almost never came, so I almost never showed anyone anything. My critical eye — the ability to look at something and say “that’s terrible” — developed much more quickly than any artistic ability, so I froze. It took many years of practice, in college and afterwards, to get used to the (essential, valuable) process of sharing unpolished work in order to try to make the work better. It was only because I shared rough material — in grad school, in particular — that I was able to write The Cost of All Things.

But I was writing all the time, even during the period when I was most hard on myself for the words not living up to what I imagined — the high school years. I carried (and still always carry) a notebook with me everywhere, and when I was bored or angry or sad, I’d write it out.

I kept all of these notebooks.

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I have no problem in front of crowds, bugs are gross but much smaller than me, and I can handle roller coasters if I psych myself up for them. If I’m being honest my biggest fear is probably being cut adrift in space like Sandra Bullock in Gravity, but there’s no good way to confront that here (THANK GOD). So I’ll return to a deeper, more personal fear.

I am going to open a notebook and let you see what’s inside.

I grabbed one randomly from the box; it was from fall of my junior year. Let’s see what we’ve got! I blacked out names and initials, though honestly, I don’t remember who any of them are. Naturally, there are a lot of descriptions of/meditations on boys.

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Quotes from things I was reading.

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Some half-hearted attempts at poetry.

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Cheerful late-90s fashion ideas.

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But mostly, I used the notebook as a companion in boredom, picking it up whenever I had a moment to myself, writing free associations about the things I felt.

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There’s a lot of angst and worry and heartbreak in the notebooks, because they were a place I could let go of all that stuff, or at least try to understand it. For many years, I dreaded looking at the notebooks almost as much as I feared someone else reading them, because they were so weighted down with emotion. But I’m glad I had them, and I’m very glad I kept them.

And now they’re on the internet. Yikes!

Maggie Lehrman is a writer and editor living in Brooklyn, New York. She grew up outside of Chicago and went on to get a degree in English at Harvard, where she once received a grant to purchase young adult books the library didn’t have. During her decade of working as an editor of books for children, she also earned an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from Vermont College of Fine Arts. The Cost of All Things is her first book. You can follow her on Twitter, Facebook, or Tumblr.

 

Fearless Fridays: Angelica Jackson Proves She Can Write Songs, But Not Sing Them

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When I was a kid, I didn’t talk much. Seriously, at times I could go days and only say a handful of words. But I sang–a lot.

I wore out my Grease soundtrack on the record player, singing all the parts and dancing around. My brother took me to see Bugsy Malone in the movie theater (I know, I’m dating myself) and I learned every song by heart.

In school, choir was one of the few group activities that I enjoyed (the other one was spelling bees, where I discovered my excellent memory overrode my shyness). As I grew up, I kept singing, but never really had an outlet for improving my craft–no one else in my immediate family was terribly musical, so I just sang for the fun of it.

But when I started college, I took a musicianship class and fell in love with the structure and symmetry hidden in musical notation. So I was briefly listed as a music major as I took some classes (and in the process, was diagnosed with a visual learning disability that came to light when I struggled to read sheet music) before I moved on to other studies.

I continued to sing, but not much in public–realizing that I was never going to “make it big” took some of that drive away from me. Not the drive to sing, but the desire to sing as a performance. With the exception of long shifts at the bookstore where I worked, when I’d put on a Billie Holiday CD and sing my heart out while stocking the shelves, my husband and pets were the only ones who heard me sing much.

And it was fine with me, but over the years, I started to get uncomfortable about singing in front of other people. Until, that is, my voice went away–after a surgery that left me with a paralyzed vocal cord, I couldn’t speak above a whisper, let alone sing. And it surprised me how much I missed my voice, both speaking and singing. My speaking voice did come back, but my singing voice is unreliable at best, lol.

Sometimes I’m back in full soprano voice, and other times I sound like a lifelong smoker. But in that uncertainty about how my voice would sound, I discovered a benefit: without the ability to have control over my voice, all the pressure to be perfect went away. I could go back to a childlike enjoyment of singing just for the pleasure, and be just as pleasantly surprised as everyone else when it comes out nice, haha.

I find myself singing more often, even if other people can hear me. Even when I can’t hit those high notes, I don’t fear them the same way and just have a good laugh at it.

So if you laughed at my singing, don’t feel bad–you can see in the video that I’m holding back laughter too! I think I’ll stick to my day job of writing.

 

In keeping with her scattered Gemini nature, Angelica R. Jackson has far too many interests to list here. She has an obsession with creating more writing nooks in the home she shares with her husband, and two corpulent cats, in California’s Gold Country. Fortunately, the writing nooks serve for reading and cat cuddling too. Her debut novel, CROW’S REST, a darkly funny young adult urban fantasy, is coming from Spencer Hill Press in May 2015.