Monday, September 24, 2012

Lean on me...for life.

Happy Monday, everyone. Melissa here, and as you know, our topic for this rotation is "lean on me," or in other words, friendship.

When I sat down to draft this post, I had a hard time narrowing my content. After all, I've been blessed with some pretty remarkable friends, including one lifelong BFF who I blogged about here and a fantastic guy friend who I blogged about here. Additionally, my career as an author has brought new friends into my life, like my critique partners and agency sisters, just to name a few. I love all those fokls, but despite that, I had this nagging feeling that I was forgetting someone HUGE--a friend more devoted than any of the others. That's when it hit me. Duh! Who better to blog about today than my very best friend: my husband, Steve.

Isn't he a cutie?

Now, I know what you're thinking. "This is a YA blog. Why mention your hubby here? Marriage isn't relatable to teens!"

Au contraire, mon frere.

Boys and romance practically dominated my teenage years. Those hormones kicked in, and mother nature started turning my eye toward the opposite sex. After all, "you and me, baby, ain't nothin' but mammals," and perpetuating the species is a drive most of us can't ignore. What's dating if not practice for finding a partner? But I wish I'd known back then what was really important in a romantic relationship: connecting with a guy who was also a great friend. It took me a long time to learn that lesson.

So let me show you a three examples of why Steve is the best friend in the world.

1. He's supportive. Even though writing sucks up 99.9% of my free time, he doesn't complain. He knows that publishing is my dream and how challenging it is to launch an author's career. He smiles and nods as I prattle on about industry-related stuff, and even though he doesn't like fiction, (crazy, I know!), he's made time to read EVERY SINGLE ONE of my books. Even the romances. Talk about taking one for the team!

2. He's giving. Back when it was on the air, Gilmore Girls was my favorite TV show. Steve knew this, so one night he surprised me by moving our television into the master bathroom so I could soak in a hot bubble bath while watching the season premiere. As a bonus, he kept the kids quiet downstairs. Tell me that's not the most awesome thing one friend can do for another!

3. He really cares about me. After our third child was born, I fell into a black hole of postpartum depression that buried me for months. I was a hot mess, and it was awful for everyone. Steve could have complained that I quit talking to the kids, or that I went to bed at eight o'clock each night, or that I quit eating or drank too often. He could have insisted that I get my shit together and take care of my family. But he didn't. Instead, he sat down with me one night and took my hand. Then, with tears in his eyes, he asked what he could do to help. I'll never forget that. A lesser friend wouldn't have put my needs first, especially when I was making life hard for him.

See what I mean? When choosing your partner in life, nothing's more important to consider than friendship. I think that's damned relatable to teens, considering they're beginning to navigate the murky waters of love.

Also, I'm a very lucky gal. J

Now it's your turn. What's the most selfless thing a friend has done for you?

Melissa Landers is the author of ALIENATED, a seriously foreign exchange coming in February, 2014 from Disney-Hyperion. You can learn more about Melissa on her website, and she'd love for you to add ALIENATED to your Goodreads bookshelf!

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Editor Interview: Laura Schreiber of Disney Hyperion

Laura and Melissa at the Disney Hyperion offices.

Happy Wednesday, esteemed followers! Melissa here, and I'm THRILLED to welcome my editor, the awesometastic Laura Schreiber of Disney Hyperion, to the blog for an interview. Let's get this party started!

Melissa: Thanks for joining us, Laura. Would you mind sharing what books spoke to you most during your teen years? Do any of them continue to influence you now as an adult, or in your career as an editor?

Laura: I’m a proud member of the Harry Potter generation! The books shaped my identity as a teen more than any others, and they definitely continue to influence me, both in my personal and professional life.  When I’m seeking inspiration, wisdom, or courage, that’s where I look. It’s an incredibly empowering book, especially for girls, and I still think about it often.  

Melissa: We talk a lot about “voice” here at Honestly YA. How do you define it? Do you have any tips to help aspiring writers develop it?

Laura: To me, voice is erasing yourself (the author) and allowing the character to take over the show. I know it sounds painfully obvious, but instead of thinking "how can I convey the information I want to convey through this ingenious device (a character), think: “what would this living, breathing, person actually be feeling/doing/saying in this situation”?

Melissa: We keep hearing how crowded the YA market is. How can aspiring YA authors ensure their work stands out from the masses?

Laura: Don't chase trends! A good idea is an original idea: something completely new or something classic done in a fresh way.

Melissa: Is there anything on your current wish list? Anything you’re not interested in seeing at this time?

Laura: I’m interesting in seeing anything awesome! But specifically, I would love to see some great YA horror. Also funny, character-driven stories for the chapter book set (age 7-10 or so).

Melissa: What releases do you have coming up that you are especially excited about?

Laura: I’m super excited about The Crimson Crown (coming out in October), the spectacular finale of Cinda Williams Chima’s Seven Realms series. [Melissa's note: ME TOO!] I also can’t wait for folks to read The Darkest Minds, coming out in December, which is the first in a dystopian trilogy by the very talented Alex Bracken.

Melissa: Just for fun, who are some of your favorite YA Heroes of all time?

Laura: Let’s start with some awesome girls: Katsa of Graceling is a favorite, as well as Karou of Daughter of Smoke and Bone. And, of course, Lyra of His Dark Materials. As for the boys: Han Alister of the Seven Realms series, Jonas from The Giver, and Artemis Fowl, who is a fantastic anti-hero (perhaps the best kind of hero).

Melissa: Thanks again for taking the time to chat with me today! I suppose I should get back to those edits I owe you, eh? J

Laura Schreiber began her publishing career at Disney-Hyperion, where she is now an Assistant Editor working on picture books through young adult novels.  Her primary interest is in YA, though she is always on the lookout for fresh middle grade voices, especially funny ones. Genres of particular interest include thrillers, science fiction, fantasy, and historical fiction. She grew up in Washington state and now lives in Manhattan. Follow her on Twitter @lscribs.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Life-Altering Footprints on My Heart

Confession time - The topic is Lean On Me/Stand By Me and I've been struggling over this post for hours. I've always had a very small, private inner circle. Over time, that circle has grown to include my bestie from high school, my BFF from my days touring with a theater troupe, a couple of college friends, my writing partner, a few of critique partners, my two sisters, my hubby, and my two children.

Confession #2: I don't tell those who matter most to me, all the things in my heart. At least, not often enough. But as I reach for sentiments now, I feel as if I'm working in a foreign medium. So, I'm abandoning my clumsy attempts in favor of words that resonate intrinsically and profoundly within me.
To my inner circle: Thank you for leaving life-altering footprints on my heart!

From Flavia Weedn's Facebook Page:

"I grew up in Los Angeles during the post-depression years. As a child I developed a love of color and design from my mother who was a doll maker. But it was my young uncle, Jack, who sparked my development as an artist. His great love of life led me to see the same wonder and beauty he found in the ordinary, and to share we must remember everything... i try to, it's all so fragile and precious... the same joy he found in the writings of the great romantic poets.

As a child I disliked my name until I learned from Jack that I was named after a princess in a book. I was embarrassed that we lived in a house beside an alley, across the street from a tire factory, until I learned from Jack that it didn’t matter where we lived as long as we were a family and loved and cared for each other. I had a thousand dreams inside my heart and thought none of them had a chance, until Jack taught me that if I worked hard and believed in my dreams, I could do anything.

I remember sitting in my grandmother’s fig tree, writing and illustrating my stories, and dreaming my dreams. I knew then that Jack had taught me to see life in a different way, and that he had given me a rare gift. What I didn’t know was that he had changed my life, and that what I had learned from him would directly influence my life’s work.

For more than 50 years, my work has continued to be my passion. I believe that art is communication—a way of sharing who we are and what we feel. I believe that in this life there are no endings, only beginnings; that our lives are journeys and that we grow from our experience on these journeys. I believe we discover through every heartache how to love more and love better, and that life has hidden gifts in its hands—the greatest of which is love.

Whether feelings are expressed on a large painting or a small greeting card, whether they are shared through technology or in a passing whisper, words can touch people. The power of care can heal and make a difference in all of our lives and in this world we live in. This is my belief, the faith I hold in the human spirit, and the hope I wish to share with you."

~ Flavia Weedn

Check out her:     Art      Writing

YOUR TURN: What have you left unsaid to those who share your life? Go say it!

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Welcome Wednesday: Morgan Keyes' Best Friends and DARKBEAST giveaway!!!

It's my distinct pleasure to welcome my friend and fellow Washington DC-area writer, Morgan Keyes to Honestly YA! She's got a great Stand by Me story and an extra special giveaway for you all...

Many thanks to Honestly YA for allowing me to visit here and tell you about my middle grade fantasy novel, Darkbeast!  Due to the generosity of my publisher, Simon & Schuster, I will give away a copy of Darkbeast to one commenter.

In Darkbeast, twelve-year-old Keara runs away from home rather than sacrifice Caw, the raven darkbeast that she has been magically bound to all her life.  Pursued by Inquisitors who would punish her for heresy, Keara joins a performing troupe of Travelers and tries to find a safe haven for herself and her companion.

When Lea told me that this month's theme was "Stand By Me" I was immediately thrilled, because that idea is central to Darkbeast.  The novel starts with a twelve-year-old girl asking whether her family is really willing to stand by her.  Almost immediately, Keara needs to decide whether she's willing to stand by Caw, her darkbeast, her best friend.  Once she takes to the road, Keara discovers new friends – ones who stand by her side, ones that she chooses to stand beside.  And she discovers that some people aren't friends; some people can't be relied upon to stand by her in a crisis.

All of that seemed incredibly natural to write about, because Darkbeast grew out of the games I played with my own friends in middle school.  Okay.  I'll admit it.  We were not the popular kids – not the most physically fit, not the most fashionably dressed, not the most socially leading.

But even when I most felt like a gawky, misfit tween, I had my friends.  I had a core group of girls with whom I shared everything – my super-secret crushes on the cute boy who had the lead in the school play, my newly-discovered favorite books that were expanding my horizons by leaps and bounds, my dream of being a writer some day (!).

I cherished those friendships – they were intense in a way that no other relationships have been in my life.  With those friends, I first tested my own morals and ethics, I first had to decide when I was going to stand with a friend who was being bullied, whether I was going to accept people who were different from me because of money or looks or religion or interests.

I had to confront all the issues, all the decisions that Keara has to face in Darkbeast.  I needed to decide what sort of person I was going to be, just as my main character has to decide what she values.

And I did it, successfully, because of the friends who stood by me.

Middle school was a long time ago.  I have to be honest – I drifted away from those friends over the years.  But when Facebook arrived, I found myself reaching out, typing in names, rediscovering old friends.  Sure, we've all changed over time.  We have different politics, different careers, different families.  But there's a core of friendship there.  A core of knowledge.
Keara and Caw (and all the people they meet on their Darkbeast journey) will never be on Facebook.  But their story resonates with the same magic of friendship, the same aura of standing by the people they love.


Morgan Keyes grew up in California, Texas, Georgia, and Minnesota, accompanied by parents, a brother, a dog, and a cat.  Also, there were books.  Lots and lots of books.  Morgan now lives near Washington, D.C.  In between trips to the Natural History Museum and the National Gallery of Art, she reads, travels, reads, writes, reads, cooks, reads, wrestles with cats, and reads.  Because there are still books.  Lots and lots of books. You can learn more about Morgan at her website and on Facebook.

Darkbeast is for sale in bricks-and-mortar and online bookstores, including:  Amazon | B & N | Indiebound 

So what about you, dear readers? Do you keep in touch with friends from middle school?  Does your reading and/or writing reflect what you read and wrote then?  Do you stand by your middle school self, even now?

*And now for the giveaway! Leave a comment below to enter to win your very own hardcover copy of Darkbeast! Don't forget to leave your email address so we can contact you!  One lucky commenter will be picked at random. The contest will end on Wednesday September 19, 2012 and is restricted to those in the US and Canada.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Friendship Flowers

yellow rose - friendship
For those of you who are frequent readers of Honestly YA, you may know I tend toward a little “comic relief” in my posts. For those of you who are new to Honestly YA, you can just go ahead and believe that “comic relief” is my role, okay? I want to get that out of the way because as much as I planned - months ago, when this topic came up - to keep a little comedy in my post, it abandons me today.

 See here’s the thing. I’m starting a new topic today: Stand by Me / Lean on Me. it’s about “being there” for your friends. Having their backs and them having yours. it’s a particularly meaningful topic for me, and one that shows up repeatedly in my fiction. Deadly Farce a mystery with a generous dollop of humor, looks at how far the main character will go to keep her friends safe. Braving the Titanic looks at how much a character is willing to risk for a friend. Even the manuscript I’m working on now asks a similar question: how much will you sacrifice for the good of your friends? Friendship and loyalty are themes I return to again and again.

cornflower - loyalty

Today I was reminded why.

Because when life goes down the toilet, a true friend is there for you. They pick you up, tell you everything’s going to be okay, maybe take you for ice cream, or a frappuccino. Their default behavior is to look after you, cheer you if they can, support you, defend you, be strong when you can’t be. Your job is the same. When your friend’s life has gone to hell, it’s your turn. You are the one to offer support, a shoulder to cry on, a frappuccino.

Friendship and loyalty. For me, these ideas go hand in hand. They are inseparable. Indivisible. Non-negotiable.

Now here's an odd fact. Those friends who have always stood by me, could always be counted on when life went south, always knew when to make me laugh or when to let me cry... those are the friends I made in high school. And as I've said before, I'm an old broad. High school was a long time ago. But it is also, as you all know too well, one of the most challenging, terrible, wonderful times. It stands to reason the friends you make then will stay for a lifetime.

To be fair, I have friends now, made during my so-called adult years, who are every bit as true as the gals from high school. But I've also been betrayed by more so-called friends since then. So I thank my lucky stars for the friends who've stood by me, who always have my back, and know I'd rather have a frappuccino than an ice cream. To each of those great gals I send today a (virtual) mixed bouquet of cornflowers and roses (with some daisies thrown in simply because they're cheerful *s*), but especially to Petra - even though she keeps beating my ass at Words with Friends - and to Julie for the virtual frappuccino that got me through my day.

Your turn. Who are you sending a bouquet to today? I hope your list is long!

(added note: if you would like to go ahead and send these flower images to your friends, you are safe to do so! both are public domain images!)


Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Welcome Wednesday: Rachel Harris' Summer Romance and #Giveway!!!

I'm so excited to welcome my good friend and publication sister, Rachel Harris to Honestly YA! She's hilarious and super sweet, and super generous, too -- she's giving away a free e-copy of her debut book, MY SUPER SWEET SIXTEENTH CENTURY to one lucky commenter. I've read this book and I can tell you it's awesome. So take it away, Rach and readers, don't forget to comment below to enter to win!

Summer Romance.
It’s crazy how two simple words can hold so many images for me.
Okay, so most of them involve a skipping Sandy and hair-combing Danny belting it out at Rydell High, but others are much more personal, such as a teen me:
·       Hanging out at the New Orleans levee on Fourth of July, watching the fireworks and flirting with random guys who later turned out to be total thugs
·       Stalking my latest crush at his job at the mall for no other reason than I had absolutely nothing better to do with my time
·       Going to a week-long Dance Camp and sleeping in the oversize t-shirt my boyfriend of a whole entire week gave me to remember him by (and yes, I did pathetically close my eyes and sniff it for his oh-so-unique Drakkar Noir scent)
Me in the t-shirt
·       Exchanging smiles, forever-long glances, and eventual sickly-sweet notes with the guy working the kitchen at a retreat with me before senior year
Me and said dude.
·       And finally, kissing the Italian waiter I met on my whirlwind trip to Europe with family
Only one of these scenarios paid off in a relationship of any significance, and sadly, it wasn’t the Italian-accented hunk. Although, the experience does make for an excellent memory!
But you know what? I’m okay with the fact that most of my summer flings fizzled out quicker than they started, because I don’t think longevity is what makes them so special. It’s what they represent.
When you’re a teenager, the summer is one long, lazy stretch of days that seem to last forever. Without the hassle of classes, extracurricular activities, parental nagging, and school-night curfews, you can live a year’s worth of a relationship in just three short months. A girl’s daydreaming heart needs SOMETHING to focus on with all that free time, and with her favorite TV boyfriends on hiatus, her sole fascination becomes her summer crush.
Will he call? Does he like me back? What should I get him for our one-month anniversary? And what will be our song????
Hmm, or was that only me?
So yeah, while my own experiences with ‘summer lovin’ may not have lasted, I’m cool with it because they are all touched with that certain pixie dust magic that only a hot, humid, Louisiana summer can add. The haze lifting off the sun-drenched concrete, the splash of the tepid pool water as we tried to dunk each other, the confiscated daiquiris out by the lakefront, and the rush of butterflies as the hot new guy strutted over and asked for my number.
The magic might’ve worn off as the new school year begun, but the importance of the summer flirtation met its purpose. It sustained me through the eventless break from school and obligations, provided an all-encompassing obsession though the monotony, and fed that romantic heart of mine with the belief that with a dash of sun, a pinch of sand, and a dollop of pure boredom, love—or at least extreme like—can find a way.
As a teen, Rachel Harris threw raging parties that shook her parents’ walls and created embarrassing fodder for future YA novels. As an adult, she reads and writes obsessively, rehashes said embarrassing fodder, and dreams up characters who become her own grown up version of imaginary friends. When she's not typing furiously or flipping pages in an enthralling romance, you can find her homeschooling her two beautiful princesses, hanging out with her amazing husband, or taking a hot bubble bath…next to a pile of chocolate. MY SUPER SWEET SIXTEENTH CENTURY is her debut novel.  She did have her own fantabulous Sweet Sixteen in high school. Sadly, it wasn't televised. 
You can learn more about Rachel at her blog, on Facebook, Twitter and on Goodreads.  
MY SUPER SWEET SIXTEENTH CENTURY is available on Barnes and Noble and Amazon.
Don't forget! Leave a comment below to enter to win a free e-copy of this fantastic book!!! We'll pick the winner on Wed, Sept 12, 2012. Leave an e-mail or Twitter address for us to contact you. :)
***WINNER ALERT: Jackie Hauver is the winner! We've already told Rachel and her publicists at Entangled about your good fortune. Hope you enjoy MY SUPER SWEET SIXTEENTH CENTURY! :)

Monday, September 3, 2012

One Time, When I was at Band Camp...

Okay, make that two times. But who's counting?
Before you get the impression that I was some giant teenage trollop, I'd better explain.

Fredonia Summer Music Camp was my sweet slice of heaven. Nestled in upstate New York about fifty miles south of Buffalo, this program was my refuge from a hectic, responsibility-laden life. I went to camp three times as a teen, spending a combined total of just three weeks at SUNY Fredonia, but they were the best moments of my adolescent life.

At camp, I didn't have to care for a chronically ill mother. Or deal with the chaos caused by my seriously mentally ill sister. Or, more terrestrially, contend with my persistent insecurity over my marginal popularity.

At Fredonia, I was free to be just me, unburdened and normal for a fleeting few days a year.

I took advantage of it. When I was there, I laughed, was silly, made tons of friends, and of course, threw myself into my favorite subject: music. At Fredonia, I was suddenly bold, taking the stage with more confidence than I'd ever had, belting out show tunes at the evening talent show, singing Italian arias in my recital and grinding out down and dirty blues with the jazz band. I was in my element, among like-minded kids who didn't know me or my baggage from Eve. 

And...they liked me. They, really, really liked me. Especially the guys. *grin*

My first summer, I was among the youngest there, a rising freshman and was incredibly intimidated by some of the man-children roaming around. Many were nearly full-grown, muscular and, gasp, some even had facial hair. Next to them, I felt like a baby. So when one keyboard player made it clear he was interested, clinging extra close as we slow-danced to Madonna's Crazy for You at the weekly dance, I had to feign ignorance. 

But then the next year rolled around and I was ready for action. At the first night mixer party, I spied him, tall and lean, tan and gorgeous with the most dazzling smile. Our eyes met. My heart stopped. He was the hottest guy at camp. And more importantly, the attraction was mutual.  
Nothing stood in the way of our love,
not even my heinously short hair cut 
My Summer Love with the Sexy Saxophone player was nothing short of epic. We were perfect together. He cracked me up, I cracked him up, and he taught me a thing or two in a private practice room. And, better still, he lived in Westchester, NY which wasn't too far away from New York City, which wasn't too far away from my hometown on Long Island. We could totally make this work long-term, right? Right?

After camp, we did talk a few times on the phone, even met up once in the City, but despite the fact that I bought him the most kick ass burgundy-and-purple-plaid buttoned-down shirt, it fizzled. Or actually, he pretty much stopped calling. I'm not sure if I was devastated or just disappointed, but either way, it was my first taste of the ephemeral nature of Summer Love. 

But that was okay, because I was headed back to Fredonia.

The last time I went to camp, I was a rising senior. I wasn't exactly on the prowl, but I figured I'd probably hook up with some cutie. And what do you know? I did. I can't remember whether he played the trumpet or trombone but it was some kind of brass instrument that made his lips swell. In a good way.
He saw through my giant, baggy shirt to the inner me.
My Brass Player was from a little town just outside of Fredonia and he was very sweet. And innocent. I probably taught him a thing or two in one of those practice rooms. Anyway, when camp was over, it was my turn to do the heart breaking. When I was looking for this picture, I found a bunch of letters he sent after we left camp. He was seriously in love. Judging by how many months we exchanged our missives--all the way to December!--I must have had some feelings for him too, but honestly, I don't remember ever thinking this was more than a summer fling. It was fun while it lasted in glorious Fredonia, but in real life, he was a Country Boy and I was a suburban Long Island Girl with big city dreams. It was never going to work out. 

So while I'm sure a few Summer Loves have worked out, mine didn't. But that was okay. Because they gave me the confidence I needed to get through the rest of the year. And that was far from ephemeral.


Lea Nolan's YA debut novel, CONJURE, book one in The Hoodoo Apprentice series releases on October 16, 2012. You can learn more about Lea at her website and follow her on Twitter at @Lea_Nolan and Facebook. Learn more about CONJURE on Barnes and Noble | Amazon | Goodreads