Author Archives: Christine Hayes

About Christine Hayes

-Middle Grade author of The Mothman's Curse, Roaring Brook Press/Macmillan, spring 2015. -Buyer and seller of funky vintage decor. -Represented by Ammi-Joan Paquette of the Erin Murphy Literary Agency.

Exchanging Doubt for Joy

Heart PicIt’s my turn to leave the nest. It’s cozy and safe and I don’t WANT to leave! But a new generation of debut authors remains, poised for greatness. They are talented and wonderful and the blog will be in capable hands.  I am filled with gratitude for the support and personal growth I’ve experienced during my time as a member of EMU’s Debuts.

This past year in particular has been a study in contrast for me, filled with extreme highs and lows. It was a dream come true seeing my book in print. But there were doubts, expectations, and worries too—issues that snowballed and eventually resulted in a diagnosis of severe depression. I mention this because I had anticipated only joy, and considered it a personal failure when the joy did not materialize exactly when and how I imagined it would.

Thanks to my incredibly supportive spouse, I finally stopped blaming myself and sought proper treatment. I am doing so much better now! And I realize that I waited way too long to ask for help.

So many of us fight a daily battle of doubt vs. joy.

I started playing the flute when I was ten years old. A few great teachers and a lot of practice helped me develop a skill that brought me happiness and made me feel like I was good at something. I played all the way through college and even started out as a performance major with the hopes of joining a professional orchestra someday.

Then doubt got in the way. There were lots of talented flute players. What were my chances of competing? It was too hard, I had to practice too much every day, I’d never make it into an orchestra and if I did I’d never make a living at it. I talked myself out of it, and destroyed the joy it used to bring.

I graduated with a generic music degree and a decision to turn my attention to children’s literature. I don’t regret the choice to write, but I do regret making that choice out of fear, and will always wonder “what if?”

Of course, the path to publishing is fraught with opportunities to doubt ourselves. Even after signing with my agent, even after my first publishing contract, there was still plenty of fear and doubt nipping at my ankles like a ferocious little dog. We learn to power through it, don’t we? We school ourselves to stay on the path, because perseverance is often the one trait that makes the difference in this industry.

But at what cost? All too often the joy gets trampled along the way.

1382268243_f3c1242184_bLast year we attended a performance by the Piano Guys. The cellist, Steven Sharp Nelson, is the absolute picture of joy when he plays. If you’ve never seen him, I urge you to look him up on YouTube. His tone is perfection, his technique jaw-dropping, but it’s his body language that captures my attention: eyes closed, face lifted to the heavens, a peaceful smile on his face. This man loves what he does. Can I say the same? Not always. But I’ve set a goal to experience that type of joy more often, because I do love to write and I believe it is a worthy pursuit.

I’ve resolved to write just for fun sometimes, for the sake of pure creative expression. Sometimes I’ll crank up a movie soundtrack to full volume while writing an action scene, or take my notebook outside to write in the park. Other times it’s a slog and I just have to make deadline, one impossible word after another. Life can’t be fun all the time.

And the doubt? Oh, it’s still there–corrosive, insidious. Yap, yap, yapping for attention. But there are steps I take to quiet it down: making my mental and physical health a priority; spending more time outside in the sunshine; seeking big-picture perspective while resisting the urge to draw comparisons to other people’s lives; and striving to be more compassionate toward myself and others.

In short: Go. Write. Chase the joy. Spread it around. Let it show on your face, and on the page. The world needs it. You deserve it.

We all do.

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ChristineHayesauthorpicChristine Hayes writes spooky stories for middle grade readers. Her debut novel, MOTHMAN’S CURSE, was released June 16, 2015 with Roaring Brook Press/Macmillan. She is represented by Ammi-Joan Paquette of the Erin Murphy Literary Agency. Find her on Twitter: @christinenhayes or at christinehayesbooks.com.

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Filed under Advice - Helpful or Otherwise, craft~writing, Creativity, Farewell, Happiness, joy, Satisfaction, Thankfulness, Writing

The Things We Carry

23395689This week we are thrilled to celebrate the launch of Tamara Ellis Smith’s incredible novel, ANOTHER KIND OF HURRICANE:

“A hurricane, a tragic death, two boys, one marble. How they intertwine is at the heart of this beautiful, poignant book. When ten-year-old Zavion loses his home in Hurricane Katrina, he and his father are forced to flee to Baton Rouge. And when Henry, a ten-year-old boy in northern Vermont, tragically loses his best friend, Wayne, he flees to ravaged New Orleans to help with hurricane relief efforts—and to search for a marble that was in the pocket of a pair of jeans donated to the Red Cross.

“Rich with imagery and crackling with hope, this is the unforgettable story of how lives connect in unexpected, even magical, ways.”

Central to Tamara’s story is one small marble, an object with strong emotional ties for Henry. Several of the authors here at EMU’s Debuts have objects that are dear to their hearts, and were willing to share their stories.

Janet Fox: “I wear a bracelet that my mother-in-law wore constantly; since she gave it up, it hasn’t been off my wrist. It reminds me of her (she passed away two years ago), and when I first put it on it was a talisman for my son’s success, too. I actually have such a superstition about it that it never comes off. Especially since things have been looking up from the moment I put it on.”

Shark Tooth

Elaine’s beautiful and fierce pendant

Elaine Vickers: “I have a necklace with a shark tooth pendant my grandmother gave me before she passed away. I still miss her every day and try to follow her example of kindness–but she could also be tough when she needed to be! Whenever I’m facing a situation that scares me a little, I wear the shark tooth necklace to help me be fierce and fearless.”

Maria Gianferrari: “I have two objects that hold special meaning, and they’re both from my paternal grandmother, my Nonna, who was born in Italy . The first is her pasta maker. I haven’t used it in such a long time, but I have fond memories of cranking the handle, and as it clicked and clicked, watching the dough ooze through the molds in wide-shaped noodles. She also used to roll the dough flat in it, and let me cut it into rows with her pasta wheel, then squares for making tortellini. The second one goes with it—it’s her cheese grater, with its wooden bottom for catching the shavings of delicious parmigiano-reggiano cheese!”

Megan Morrison:I really had to think about this. I have more objects than I need, but when I tried to think of one that has genuine emotional significance, I was stumped. FinRingsally, I realized that the only object I would grieve if it were lost is the one I have on my person at all times: my wedding ring. My mother gave me the engagement ring as a 25th-birthday gift, and my husband knew it was the only one I wanted to wear forever, so he put a diamond in it and proposed. My sister’s godfather, a jeweler, crafted a thin wedding band to fit around the square setting, and soldered them together. It’s special to me not only because it represents my marriage, but because so much love and care went into it.”

Christine Hayes: “My mom’s parents divorced when she was about five years old. She was never close with her dad, Mom Baby Shoesespecially after she and my grandmother moved across the country from New York, eventually settling in California. I met my Grandpa Max only once, when I was 19. He was a mystery to me, very formal, and not much of a people person. He just didn’t know how to be a grandpa–or a dad, I guess. But I’m glad I got to meet him, because it helped me to understand my mom better, to see her in a new light. Max took us to see an old family cemetery in upstate New York, hidden away in a grove of trees. It was beautiful. I hope to go back someday, if I can ever find it again. When my mom passed away in 2010, she didn’t have many possessions–certainly nothing of great monetary value. But her grandmother had bronzed a pair of Mom’s baby shoes and mounted them on a plaque with a photo of Mom with her father. I keep it in a place of honor in my office. It reminds me that family is precious, and to never, ever take it for granted.”

phonographPenny Parker Klostermann: “[This is an] Edison phonograph with cylinder records. My dad helped a neighbor restore it. My dad was in 2nd grade. The neighbor gave him the phonograph with 52 cylinder records so it’s been in our family for a while.”

Rose Rock

Mylisa’s rose rock is the stuff of legends

Mylisa Larsen: “I have a big, old rock that I still move from house to house because it reminds me of my grandpa. He lived out on a ranch and when I was about ten, my cousins and I hiked out to this dry reservoir bed that all the grownups had talked about but that sort of had a tinge of legend about it—did it really exist? We walked and walked and walked and decided that they’d made it up but then went over one more hill and there it was.  We were mucking about turning over rocks and found a red rock that had a swirl of white rock in it that looked like a rose. We took turns lugging the thing all the way back to our grandparents house. When we got there, all sweaty and hot but excited about our momentous excursion and carrying the proof that we had really been there, my grandpa treated us like adventurers and admired our rock with proper awe and put it in a special place in his flowerbed so we could see it whenever we visited. The rest of the adults were kind of like, ‘Ho hum, a rock, that’s nice dear.’ But Grandpa got it. So I keep the rock but it’s not really about the rock, it’s about how my grandpa make me feel.”

What objects hold special meaning for you? Leave a comment for your chance to win a signed copy of ANOTHER KIND OF HURRICANE, plus a lucky marble keepsake!

 

Purchase a copy of Tamara’s book through Indiebound, Powell’sBarnes & Noble, or Amazon.

 

We’re also excited to announce the winners from last week’s celebration of Maria Gianferrari’s PENNY & JELLY! Our book winner is Carrie Charley Brown, and our swag winner is PJ McIlvaine. Congrats!!!

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Filed under Book Giveaway, Celebrations

The Name of the Game

Jennifer Bertman’s thrilling debut novel, BOOK SCAVENGER, centers around an intriguing game of clues, hidden books, and a mysterious prize. People play games for all sorts of reasons:  fun, relaxation, family time, or even just a little healthy competition.

Book-Scavenger-coverWe asked the EMUs to pick their favorite games of all time, and they were happy to share! For many of us it was impossible to narrow it down to just one. Choices ranged from classic board games to outdoor games to RPGs (role-playing games, for the uninitiated).

For starters, we have several hard-core Parcheesi enthusiasts. Who knew?

Janet Fox: “Parcheesi!! I loved it. We used to play it as a family every Sunday afternoon – it was a ritual. Even my mom and dad joined in. Just looking at the box gives me the warm fuzzies.”

Susan Vaught: “I adored Parcheesi as well, played it endlessly. It became a bloodsport with my friends, sending people back to start/home! Bwaahahaha! I was always yellow, and I had NO MERCY.”

Luke Reynolds: “I was a Parcheesi wild man! My grandpa and I played every time he came over to babysit and I absolutely loved it.”

Then we have the miscellaneous board game fans, including one unrepentant cheater:

Courtney Pippin-Mathur: “Trouble board game. The one with the bubble in the middle that held the dice. So, every turn was like popping a giant piece of bubble wrap.”

Trouble GameDonna Bowman Bratton: “As a kid, my family would sometimes gather for game night. I remember playing Clue, Tripoli, and PayDay. I especially loved PayDay, an alternative to Monopoly, because unlike Monopoly, it could be played without investing a humongous chunk of my life.”

Christine Hayes: “Growing up, my sister and I had a closet full of board games, and we played them all: Monopoly, Stratego, Mastermind, Bonkers, Battleship, Trouble, Mousetrap, Hungry, Hungry Hippos, Lay an Egg, The Muppet Show Game, Clue, Life, Sorry, Operation…and I know I’m forgetting a bunch more. I’m surprised those games had any pieces left by the time we were done wearing them out. But my absolute, all-time favorite game, even now, is Scrabble. I usually have to bribe people to play it with me.”

Elaine Braithwaite Vickers: “We had an awesome friend in high school who would host Monopoly tournaments and I would ALWAYS cheat. And therefore, I would almost always win. I justified it by announcing that I was going to cheat beforehand, and letting my friend’s vigilant older sister specifically watch me. But extra money still found its way to my pile.”

Next, the classics, jacks and jump rope:

Rebecca Van Slyke: “When I was in 5th and 6th grade the ‘in’ thing was playing jacks at recess. We had endless variations that we played. I can still feel the tiny rocks on the asphalt digging into my knees as we worked our way from ‘One-sies’ to ‘Ten-sies.'”

Carole Gerber: “Double dutch jump rope.”

JacksTamara Smith: “One of my favorite games as a kid was Chinese jump rope. Remember that one? With the stretchy circular rope? You’d put it around two people’s ankles and the third person would jump in this particular pattern (In, Out, Side, Side, On, In, Out. I remember it, wow!!!) and then once you successfully executed it you’d raise the rope and do it again. I usually played it with one friend and so we had to use a chair too. We’d play for HOURS.”

And our self-professed video game addict:

Megan Morrison: “My favorite games of all time are BioWare’s amazing, fully absorbing and addictive RPGs (role-playing video games, for those of you who have no idea what I’m talking about). But I would never have found those games–would never have given them a chance–if it weren’t for the fact that as a 7th-grader, I spent a few months in the grip of a video-game fever that left me changed. That was the year I became obsessed with Super Mario Bros. I had to save the princess. HAD TO SAVE HER. This was back in the days when video games were punishing; you couldn’t save your progress. If you ran out of lives, you had to start All. The way. Over. You essentially had to memorize every single move in the entire game and repeat your memorized moves perfectly in order to achieve victory. Oh sure, if you really knew what you were doing, if you were dedicated, you could warp. You could even get tons of extra lives. (I did both.) But kids today, with their fancy “Load Last Save Game” options, just don’t know the devastation, the perspiration, the unchecked thrill of beating a game that wants to make you sob and throw the controller so hard that you break the Nintendo console. Wait. No. None of those things happened. It was all very above board. Plus, the console wasn’t even mine – I went to my best friend’s house after school every day and played for hours on her little brother’s console. That’s how hooked I was. Super Mario Bros. should have just been labeled ‘Crack’. That would have been more honest.”

Of course, we have a few EMUs who love EVERYTHING:

Penny Parker Klostermann: “Picking a favorite game is hard for me because  I like games of all sorts. As a kid I loved Hide-n-Seek and Sardines. I, also, liked playing Monopoly, Go Fish, and Liver Pool Rummy with my family. As an adult, I love tennis…especially doubles because I like the strategy involved. And I keep several games of Words With Friends going and enjoy playing all sorts of Solitaire.”

Laurie Ann Thompson: “As a kid, I loved playing Risk, Scrabble, and the card game we called Bull$hit. As a teen, I loved playing Dungeons & Dragons. I spent my 20s playing Sid Meier’s Civilization, Alpha Centauri, and Age of Empires. Now, our family plays a lot of board games like Dominion, Settlers of Cataan, and Splendor. And I hate to admit it, but I have a weakness for iOS games including Candy Crush, Ticket to Ride online, and–my latest guilty pleasure–Bonza.”

candy crushAnd last but not least, our epic outdoorsman and women:

Maria Gianferrari: “When we were kids, we played mostly imaginative outdoor games: when we ran through the culvert, we were playing ‘journey to the center of the earth.’ We squished in the muddy river and dug clay and played ‘Coney Island’ (don’t know why—but that was where we were)! We also used to play Little House on the Prairie in our elderly neighbor’s old barn. Other favorites: kick the can and many a game of hide-and-seek in the adjacent cornfield, lots of Frisbee and kick soccer (which some people call kick baseball). Our current favorite family game is Dominion, a deck-building card game. We often host game nights here and play with friends.”

Adam Shaughnessy: “I will always have a soft spot for Capture the Flag. This is probably because of one glorious day in the summer of 1982. My camp had an all-camp extravaganza match. The word epic was created so that we would have a term to describe that particular game. It culminated when my friend Max stole his twin brother Leo’s spare set of clothes from his swim locker and–masquerading as his brother–strolled across enemy territory, orchestrated a save-the-game jailbreak, and managed to get the other team’s flag in a maneuver that (in my opinion) still represents the pinnacle of covert operations.”

Mylisa Larsen: “My favorite game as a kid happened on summer nights when the grownups had kind of given up on a reasonable bedtime and no one was really paying too much attention to what we were doing. We lived behind our grandma’s house and her front lawn ran along a road. We’d play this game where we’d stand on the the edge of her lawn and wait until a car came over the rise. When the beam from the headlights hit the mailbox down the road, you’d start running like a maniac across the lawn and parallel to the road. The object of the game was to run fast enough that you stayed ahead of the headlights and then, just a split second before the lights picked you up, you’d dive into this empty ditch on the far side of the lawn. No, our mother did not know about this game. And, looking back, I wonder If we were as invisible to the drivers as we thought we were or if they were driving along on a beautiful summer night and then there were three crazed children tumbling into a ditch and they were ‘What the heck?'”

Whew! Are you in the mood to go out and play? Better yet, grab a copy of BOOK SCAVENGER at one of the following links:

Amazon.com

Powell’s

Books a Million

Indiebound

Barnes & Noble

For more info about BOOK SCAVENGER, including details about how to join in the book hiding and seeking fun, visit the official web site: Book Scavenger.

PLUS, don’t forget to comment for your chance to win a signed copy of BOOK SCAVENGER!!!

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Filed under Book Giveaway, Book Launch, Celebrations

A (Not Terribly Original) Writer’s Top 10

Top TenAs my launch date comes hurtling toward me, I’ve been trying to sum up ALL the FEELINGS, struggling to think of something new or meaningful to say. Here’s what I came up with instead, in honor of David Letterman’s recent retirement:

THE TOP 10 NOT TERRIBLY ORIGINAL THINGS I’VE LEARNED AS A SOON-TO-BE-PUBLISHED AUTHOR

10. Writing is difficult and emotionally draining and often takes way longer than it should. What do you mean my plot has to make sense?!?

9. Writing is EVERYTHING because you are creating living, breathing beings with the power of your brain and fingers. And those beings can actually change someone else’s life. That’s huge.

8. Social media is apparently a big deal. It makes my head feel like it’s going to explode, but I’ve been trying anyway because it’s a BIG DEAL. (Here I am on my web site, Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, and now Instagram. Arrrgggh.) But the writing should always, always come first.

7. There are long periods of time in which you just have to wait, graciously, and try to be productive while you’re waiting. Sometimes you will throw things or throw tantrums and hopefully you will keep it within the walls of your own home so that only your family will know for sure that you’ve totally lost it.

6. You will cry. You will be disappointed sometimes. Sometimes there will be wonderful surprises, like amazing friends who are supportive and who totally get you.

5. You will form this tough, thick core of inner strength and resolve that will surprise you and the people who know you. You’ll learn to take risks in your writing and in other areas of your life.

4. It never really gets easier. Just different.

3. You will stress out about a thousand separate things that do not matter. STOP IT! (Yeah, I know, I can’t stop either.)

2. When someone tells you they liked your book, your insides will glow and you will smile a lot. It’s a really, really good feeling.

1. Don’t try to be anybody else but you. There is greatness inside you, but it won’t look the same as someone else’s, because it’s not supposed to.

 

Oh! And if you happen to live somewhere in northern Utah (or if you’re a fan of driving long distances), I would LOVE to see you on June 16 , 7 pm at the Provo Library for the official MOTHMAN’S CURSE launch event, part of the Author Link series! Check it out here.

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ChristineHayesauthorpicChristine Hayes writes spooky stories for middle grade readers. Her debut novel, MOTHMAN’S CURSE, is due out June 16, 2015 with Roaring Brook Press/Macmillan. She is represented by Ammi-Joan Paquette of the Erin Murphy Literary Agency. Find her on Twitter: @christinenhayes or at christinehayesbooks.com.

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Filed under Advice - Helpful or Otherwise, craft~writing, Happiness, Launch, Promotion, Thankfulness

A Mom Photo Gallery

It’s a book birthday for Rebecca Van Slyke’s MOM SCHOOL! Congratulations, Rebecca!!! We’re so excited to celebrate with you.

MOM SCHOOL is a charming love letter to moms everywhere, celebrating all the wonderful things they do for us. So we thought it would be a fitting tribute to post photos of our moms today.

By the way, you can find MOM SCHOOL at these retailers: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Indiebound.

And don’t forget to leave a comment for your chance to win a signed copy of MOM SCHOOL!!!

 

Rebecca and LaVonneHere’s darling Rebecca, pictured with her mother, LaVonne. Rececca writes, “I think we took the ferry from Seattle over to Butchart Gardens near Victoria, B.C. She loves flowers (you should see their backyard), and walking through beautiful gardens is still a favorite activity for her.”

 

 

 

Christine and Sandee

This is Christine at around age six or so, sporting an unfortunate Dorothy Hamill haircut. Her mom, Sandra, always went out of her way to make birthdays special.

Tam and Kathy

Like mother, like daughter. Aren’t they gorgeous? This is Tamara with her mom, Kathy.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Adam and Marilyn

Adam, is that you? Awwww! He’s pictured here with his beautiful mom, Marilyn.

Susan and Sandra

This is Susan at age 2. LOVE the stylish red pajamas, ladies! Susan tells us she still has that book about baby animals. She treasures the time spent reading with her mother.

 

 

 

Penny and Naomi

Here is the lovely Penny, her lovely mother, Naomi, and some other lovely members of her family. We know for a fact that they are all awesome and supportive, because Penny herself is about as awesome and supportive as anyone could possibly be!

Megan and Gerry

There’s something so timeless and joyful about this photo of Megan and her mother, Gerry.

maria & Roberta

Maria and her mother, Roberta. Another beautiful portrait and a priceless moment in time (Maria’s christening).

 

 

Jennifer and Dianne

Jennifer’s mom, Dianne, is probably contemplating how amazing her daughter already is. Furthermore, she’s most likely marveling that when Jennifer grows up she will undoubtedly be EVEN MORE AMAZING.

Carole's Mom Ruth

Carole’s mother, Ruth. What a perfect photo to round out our little gallery! Carole tells us her mom taught her to live by the “Big 10” (commandments, that is). Thanks to moms everywhere for their wisdom, love, and quiet strength.

 

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Filed under Book Giveaway, Book Launch, Book Promotion, Celebrations, Launch

Quit the Chicken Job, You Must

KFC BucketWhen I was 16 I got my first job with my first real paycheck, working at Kentucky Fried Chicken. I only lasted for five months. It wasn’t the low pay or the terrible hours that drove me to quit, or even the fact that I came home every night smelling like poultry.

It was the sensory overload that did me in.

More than once, when a line of hungry, impatient people snaked all the way out the door, I ended up in the back room, crying and flustered. It was just too much. Looking back, I realize I took the job way too seriously. I wanted everyone to be happy, wanted to do a good job. But it was just chicken. I wish I could go back and give 16-year-old me a hug and tell her that: “Girl, it’s just chicken.” I’d still encourage her to quit, though. To have enough confidence in herself and her skills to go find something better. Calmer. More in line with her interests and talents.

Fast forward twenty-something years, and I’m actually doing what I love! The book debut looms just three short months away. And I’m back in panic mode. Am I establishing an online presence? Am I doing enough to prepare, to network, to suddenly become outgoing and eloquent? Will any of it make any difference in the long run? It’s that queue of impatient customers all over again, all clamoring for their bucket of chicken.

I’m the first to admit that social media often sends me into a spiral of anxiety. I’m not witty or interesting or invested enough to keep up. Some days I try. Many days I don’t. Sometimes just having unanswered email feels like an unbearable source of noise and clutter. It can even dictate whether or not I have a productive writing day. I’ve read lots of articles about how much authors should be doing to promote themselves online.  They range from do everything to do only the things you feel comfortable with. Our very own Megan Morrison wrote a wonderful, sensible post along those lines here.

YodaBut what about the days when I DON’T FEEL COMFORTABLE WITH ANY OF IT?!

I’m going to go out on a limb here and say: that’s okay too.

You might be familiar with Yoda’s famous line from The Empire Strikes Back: “Do, or do not. There is no try.” An inspiring quote for most any situation, right? But at the risk of alienating my fellow Star Wars fans, I’d like to propose an alternate philosophy when it comes to book promotion and social media: “Do, or do not. Or try, if you want. But if it stresses you out, or interferes with your writing, then don’t worry about it.

I will say that I’m starting to get the hang of Twitter. I think I’ve been signed up for almost two years now. Needless to say, it’s very, very, verrrrrry slooooow going for me. But that’s the pace I’m comfortable with, and I have noticed my brain gradually absorbing bits and pieces—enough to keep me from giving up. So I will continue to try.

I totally think Yoda would get on board with that.

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ChristineHayesauthorpicChristine Hayes writes spooky stories for middle grade readers. Her debut novel, MOTHMAN’S CURSE, is due out June 16, 2015 with Roaring Brook Press/Macmillan. She is represented by Ammi-Joan Paquette of the Erin Murphy Literary Agency. Follow her on Twitter: @christinenhayes.

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Filed under Advice - Helpful or Otherwise, Anxiety, Book Promotion, Panic, Promotion, Social Media, Time Management, Writing, Writing and Life

In Praise of Imperfection

Next month our family will be moving across the country for a new job in a new state. That means putting the house up for sale and keeping it looking as perfect as possible for potential buyers.

This isn’t our first move, but I had forgotten how crazy-making it is to chase that level of perfection in a house with three kids and a dog. It means nagging everyone to pick up wet towels and renegade socks. It means constantly wiping smudges off the refrigerator and crumbs off the counter.

Not that I don’t do a fair amount of that anyway, but it’s reached obsessive levels, serving up a painful reminder: this isn’t how we live. It isn’t us. The house may look like a magazine (except for the secret dings and stains we’ve done a good job of hiding), but it’s a photo shoot, a moment in time, an expertly crafted illusion. It’s all-consuming, eating up our time, energy, and peace of mind.

There is no such thing as perfection. Not in life, not in writing. I know this.

We all know it.

But how do we put that knowledge into practice? How do we let go of the crazy in favor of the joy and peace that comes with accepting limitations?

I recently received galley copies of MOTHMAN’S CURSE, my debut novel, the dream I’ve been chasing for a decade or more. And all I could do was obsess over its flaws, both real and imagined.

When I caught myself doing it, I was horrified. My fear of imperfection was sucking the joy out of what should have been a milestone moment. Worse, I realized that unless I changed my outlook, my worries about “getting it wrong” would overshadow the entire journey, all the way up to the launch date and beyond.

Life is messy. Houses get cluttered. Words on the page don’t always sound as good as they did in our heads, even after a couple of rewrites (or ten or twenty). It’s okay, it really is. We learn and grow along the way. We get better. We teach each other. We take the risk, open our hearts, and send our words into the world.

With any luck, someone will think those words are pretty perfect just the way they are.

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ChristineHayesauthorpicChristine Hayes writes spooky stories for middle grade readers. Her debut novel, MOTHMAN’S CURSE, is due out June 16, 2015 with Roaring Brook Press/Macmillan. She is represented by Ammi-Joan Paquette of the Erin Murphy Literary Agency.

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Filed under Advice - Helpful or Otherwise, Anxiety, ARCs, craft~writing

NOT IN THE SCRIPT and the Great TV Debate

Not in the Script coverAmy Finnegan’s debut novel, NOT IN THE SCRIPT, takes readers behind the scenes of the fictional TV series, Coyote Hills.  It got us thinking about the television shows we’ve loved over the years, the ones that kept us coming back week after week. When we asked the EMUs to weigh in with their absolute favorite TV shows of all time, it was all very civilized–no punches were thrown, no cross words exchanged. Although the final picks vary widely across several decades and multiple genres, we hope you’ll agree that our list makes for some dang fine television viewing.

Christine Hayes

I watched a lot of TV in the 80s. I mean, like, a lot. To this day, any time I stumble upon an episode of The Love Boat, Charlie’s Angels, CHiPs, or The Dukes of Hazzard, I will sit down and watch. I can’t help it. My gleeful nostalgia meter spikes up into the stratosphere. But my very favorite show of all time was Simon and Simon. Two cute brothers, solving crimes, cracking jokes and watching each other’s backs? I was hooked! Ever since, my taste in TV has followed a similar pattern. Case in point: Psych is probably my second very favorite show, because: Humor! Action! Buddies getting into trouble! I could cite many other examples, but since we were supposed to pick just our favorites, I will merely say that I am predictable but consistent.

Lindsey Lane

Favorite TV Show of all time?!? I never missed an episode of Gilligan’s Island when I was a kid. Never. I think I played island castaway for years in my backyard. My best friend and I would switch off being MaryAnne or Ginger. But really, I think we both wanted to be the goofy, goodhearted Gilligan. I don’t think it had any influence on my writing except maybe, well, the show did play around with multiple perspectives.

Gilligans_Island_title_cardTamara Ellis Smith

So my favorite TV show as a twenty-something was, hands-down, ThirtySomething.  I was obsessed.  Maybe because I felt like it was showing me what my own life could be like in ten years.  Maybe because it was showing me what I WANTED my life to be like in ten years.  I loved following the multiple storylines, I loved thinking about what I might do in the characters’ situations, I loved the dialogue. In fact, at the time, I was both writing and acting, and a friend and I used to memorize monologues from the show because we thought they were excellent audition monologues.

Rebecca Van Slyke

From childhood: Anything with a family who had unusual animals, like Gentle Ben, Lassie, Flipper, and Daktari. I used to long for a family who was cool enough to have a pet bear, dolphin or lion. Heck, I’d even settle for a dog who could understand people, like Lassie. Sadly, the Army frowned on having a pet lion living in base housing, or so my father told me.

From high school: Happy Days and Laverne & Shirley. These shows could make everyone in the family laugh.

All-time favorite: The Bugs Bunny Show taught me most of what I know about the classics: music, literature, great films, and classic movie stars. It was funny as a child, and got funnier as I grew up and got more of the “adult” humor. As a writer, I aim for this kind of humor–something to make kids laugh, and a little something to make the adults reading to them laugh, too.

MuppetShowJennifer Bertman

Oh man, this is a harder question to answer than I thought it would be. I didn’t realize how many TV shows had been an influential part of my life until I tried to narrow them down to “favorite of all time.” But two are without a doubt at the top: The Muppet Show and Gilmore Girls.

I have so much fond nostalgia for watching The Muppet Show every Sunday night with my parents and older brother. It sparked my lifelong admiration for Jim Henson. The Muppets gave the show the pretense of being for kids, but the humor and celebrity guests spanned all ages, and as a kid I loved that my parents and brother genuinely enjoyed the show as much as I did.

I discovered Gilmore Girls on my honeymoon, oddly enough. I came to the show late–I’d heard people gush over it but never took the time to watch it. But as soon as I caught part of an episode and heard the witty banter, saw the wonderful chemistry between the actors, and realized how smart and full of heart the show was, I was hooked. It’s become my #1 comfort show. Forget chicken soup–if I’m sick or feeling blue, you’ll find me on the couch visiting my old friends Lorelai and Rory.

Donna Janell Bowman (Bratton)

I didn’t think I watched much television until this question came up. I mentioned previously that Bionic Woman was my go-to TV choice as a child. So was Gilligan’s Island. These days I’m a big fan of BBC shows. I adore period dramas like Downtown Abbey, Mr. Selfridge, and The Paradise. I suppose it’s not surprising since I love to read and write historical fiction and nonfiction. I love the visual details and historic portrayals. As for laughs, I’m a fan of Big Bang Theory. And, in the reality-show department, I prefer to geek out on ancestry shows like Who Do You Think You Are and Finding Your Roots. Once a research junkie, always a research junkie.

Megan Morrison

Man, this is a big question. I really, really like good TV, so I’m just going to go with the first things that come into my head. Childhood – The Price Is Right. I think Bob Barker should probably get retroactively paid for babysitting me for like four summers in a row. First big TV obsession: The X-Files. Mulder and Scully. I was hooked on the unresolved tension between them, and I would go to great lengths to justify any and all plot holes to myself in order to keep on enjoying it. Finally, recently, I’ve loved Arrested Development.  I can’t think of any other show with more jokes per square inch. Amazing writing. Pure concentrated irreverence. I stand in awe.

xfilesLaurie Ann Thompson

My all-time favorite TV show is Firefly, because what could be better than a western… in space? Oh, yeah, Nathan Fillion as a space cowboy. Everything about the show itself was perfect, from the opening theme music to the characters and their relationships to the futuristic interpretations to the moral quandaries. The only disappointment was that it was cancelled way too soon.

Mylisa Larsen

I’ve had a kind of odd relationship with TV since I was born during the period of time where my parents had decided to throw the TV out of the house. My grandmother lived next door and she would sometimes invite my sisters and I over to watch The Lawrence Welk Show with her. I remember sitting there thinking, “This is the weirdest thing I’ve ever seen.” But my grandma was so sweet and enthusiastic and my grandpa was so generous with his Brach’s Pick-a-mix during the show that we’d settle right into that big flowered couch between them and happily watch the weirdness.

Some years, my parents would import a television during the Olympics and we would lie on the floor of the family room for two weeks, wide-eyed, watching. I still have a strange, binge-watching relationship with the Olympics.

But if you ask me about my favorite shows, I’d have to admit that they were shows that I didn’t really watch but, rather, listened to. When my kids were young, they would watch cartoons while I was in the next room getting dinner ready. So I’d only hear the voice track. My favorite TV show to “watch” in that way was probably Recess. My kids can still walk by and say something in a Spinelli voice and I’m right back there.

Tara Dairman

My favorite TV show when I was a kid was I Love Lucy. No, I’m not quite old enough to have seen the show when it first aired, but there were marathon showings of it every year, and my parents would tape them (I am old enough to have grown up on VHS). Lucy showcased farce and slapstick comedy at its finest, and I like to think that a little bit of the comic timing rubbed off on me as I became a writer. I still love to write funny scenes that are slightly over the top–though thankfully, Gladys Gatsby’s kitchen disasters have not yet reached the epic level of Lucy’s!

Penny Parker Klostermann

I really like TV and there are so many shows I have followed over the years. But my favorite TV show of all time is one from my childhood, The Carol Burnett Show. Carol Burnett is a genius when it comes to comedy and the entire cast was hilarious. My favorite ever skit was Tim Conway as a new dentist and Harvey Korman as a patient needing a tooth pulled. Tim Conway accidentally sticks himself with the Novocain syringe and it goes downhill from there. One of the things that cracks me up about this skit is that Harvey Korman can’t keep a straight face. You should take a few minutes and enjoy this clip: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1CSJw96SAeM

 

So…what’s your favorite TV show of all time? Tell us in the comments for a chance to win a signed copy of NOT IN THE SCRIPT, plus bonus swag!

You can also order a copy of your very own from:

And don’t forget to add it to Goodreads here!

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Cover Reveal: MOTHMAN’S CURSE

The path to publication is long and twisty.  There are many opportunities along the way to pause and ask yourself, “Is this really happening?”

You may try to convince yourself that you imagined the whole thing: the phone call, the contract, the weeks of revisions fueled by Diet Coke and M&Ms. Maybe someone is playing a huge cosmic joke. Maybe the nice book people will come to their senses and fling your manuscript out a window of the Flatiron Building, exclaiming: “Whew! Glad we dodged that bullet!”

But then the day will come that the nice book people show you a completed cover, and you think to yourself, “Ha! They can’t back out now!”

Okay, maybe you will think that for like a second or two, but then you will be awed and honored and so dang excited! I am thrilled to reveal the cover of MOTHMAN’S CURSE, illustrated by the talented James K. Hindle:

 

Mothman's Curse Final Cover

 

Mr. Hindle has also done interior illustrations, which are fabulous and spooky. I wish I could show them to you right now! His art really captures the flavor of the book, which, if you couldn’t tell by the title, is about Mothman. And a curse. And some other spooky stuff. Here, this might help:

Josie may live in the most haunted town in America, but the only strange thing she ever sees is the parade of oddball customers that comes through her family’s auction house each week. But when she and her brothers discover a Polaroid camera that prints pictures of the ghost of local recluse John Goodrich, they are drawn into a mystery dating back over a hundred years. A desperate spirit, cursed jewelry, natural disasters, and the horrible specter of Mothman all weave in and out of the puzzle that Josie must solve to break the curse and save her own life.

In all seriousness, seeing my cover art has been my favorite step so far, and I’ve heard it only gets better from here! Someday soon there will be actual books out there in the world!

Until then, if you feel so inclined, here are the links to add to Goodreads, pre-order on Amazon, find on Indiebound, or peruse my new web site. Thanks so much for stopping by!

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ChristineHayesauthorpicChristine Hayes writes spooky stories for middle grade readers. Her debut novel, MOTHMAN’S CURSE, is due out June 16, 2015 with Roaring Brook Press/Macmillan. She is represented by Ammi-Joan Paquette of the Erin Murphy Literary Agency.

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Roadside Encounters

Evidence of Things Not Seen by Lindsey LaneIn Lindsey Lane’s haunting EVIDENCE OF THINGS NOT SEEN, her character, Tommy Smythe, disappears from a Texas pullout. Never heard of a pullout? Think dusty, side-of-the-road spot, a place to set up a farm stand, change a flat, or maybe even catch an hour of sleep.

For today’s post, the EMUs put their heads together to come up with their most memorable pullout and/or roadside-related stories, ranging from humorous to hopeful, eerie to unforgettable.

 

Donna Bowman Bratton
Everything’s bigger in Texas, or so the saying goes. Turnout areas, or pullouts, are fairly common in the expansive rural areas that abut Texas cities. Depending on the season, it’s not unusual to see fruit, shrimp, rugs, puppies, firewood, all kinds of things being quietly hawked at turnouts from trunks, truck beds, and umbrella-topped card tables. It’s all forgettable stuff, really. Until it’s not. When I was a little girl, my father, a successful corporate business owner, embarked on his annual hunting weekend. After a few days, he left the deer lease without a “trophy,” but he was determined not to come home empty-handed. On his return drive, he came across a turnout where something irresistible, something bizarre, something HUGE tickled his funny bone. I can only imagine the looks on the faces of other drivers as he chauffeured his prize home. Dad walked through the front door of our home with a GINORMOUS, HAIRY, G-G-GORILLA! My mother looked at it in stunned silence. I vaguely remember diving gleefully into the mountain of fluffy cuteness. A few days later, my mother picked me up from school and took me to the office. There was a new desk at the front door and on it was a brass desk plate that read Hairy G. Orilla, Credit Manager. Hairy sat behind his desk, glasses on his face, and tie around his neck, greeting all who entered. For a long time, he made people smile. Folks probably thought twice about asking for credit. And now, all these years later, a new story is swirling in my mind about this particular Texas-sized gorilla, who came to life at a roadside turnout.

Pulloutsketch

Lindsey’s sketch of a pullout for EVIDENCE

Penny Klostermann
My family was traveling from Colorado to Texas. We all needed a potty stop. We were in the middle of nowhere and the next town was miles and miles away. It was dark. My dad spotted a dirt pullout which turned out to have old gas tanks and the skeleton-wall of an old gas station. My dad, being the only guy in a family of six, left the area closer to the car for us and walked around by the skeleton-wall. The next thing we heard was, “Naomi, I need your help. I’ve stepped in something!” We, of course, were all wondering what he had stepped in and wanted to giggle. But we could tell by his tone that this wasn’t a giggling-allowed moment. No. He didn’t step in the previous potty stoppers potty stuff. But it was still pretty gross. His shoe, sock, and pants leg were dripping. He had stepped up to his knee in a hole of slimy, grimy, dirty, old oil. (Those were the days before there were regulations about properly disposing of old oil.) After some rummaging through the trunk for a fresh set of clothes and a way to dispose of ruined ones, Mom and Dad got it worked out and we were on our way.

Eventually we giggled. And giggled some more. Yep! That oily, “pull out” fiasco has been a family favorite that has kept us giggling for about fifty years.

 

Pullout2

Mylisa Larsen
One winter, while driving to northern Minnesota, my husband, my two teenaged sons, and I stopped at a deserted rest stop. We’d just come out of the building and were heading back to our car when two large, brown rabbits came out from under some bushes and started lolloping in our direction. They seemed weirdly untwitchy and determined for rabbits. We backed toward our car. They followed. One of the boys stomped his feet at them. They followed.

We looked at each other and, in that moment, had a four-way, group flashback to the killer rabbit scene in Grail. We turned and made a Pythonesque dash for the car. Maybe they were just someone’s abandoned pets looking for a handout, but it wasn’t gonna be our blood in the snow if they weren’t.

Laurie Ann Thompson
We were on a family road trip many years ago when my son was just old enough to be potty trained, but still young enough to not be giving us very much notice. My husband was taking a nap in the passenger seat and I was driving when my son suddenly screamed that he had to go, “Right now!” There were no exits on the highway. There was no place to stop safely. Meanwhile, things were clearly growing more and more urgent in the backseat. Finally, I spied a pullout. I raced into it, slammed the van into park, and pushed the button to open the side door. My son unbuckled his car seat, ran to the edge of the pullout, and did his business in the grass. I breathed a huge sigh of relief, leaned back in my seat, and looked up to see a large sign directly in front of our van: “WARNING: THIS AREA UNDER 24-HOUR VIDEO SURVEILLANCE. ANYONE URINATING HERE WILL AUTOMATICALLY BE FINED $1,000.” Relief turned to despair as I imagined one quick decision turning into the most expensive road trip ever. Fortunately, they were either faking it or took pity on a small boy in distress and his panicked mother, because we never did receive a ticket. Thanks, WSDOT!

Tara Dairman
My husband and I were on an “overnight” bus in Mali, West Africa. We had taken lots of overnight buses in other countries that drove throughout the night to get us to our destination, so we assumed that it was the same deal here. Not so! Around 3 am, the driver pulled over to the side of a desolate road, and everybody clambered down off the bus. Thinking it was just a bathroom break, Andy and I followed–only to witness everyone else rolling out blankets in the dirt and bedding down on them. Everyone, including the driver (and even, eventually, the two of us) slept at the side of the road for the next three hours before loading back into the bus to continue the journey when the sun came up.

Pullout1

Amy Finnegan
I was raised in Northern Utah, near Logan, and my grandparents lived forty-five minutes south in Brigham City. Their home is the site of some of my favorite childhood memories, but in order to get there, we had to go through the ten mile or so stretch of road that locals call Sardine Canyon. In the days of my youth, the canyon was twisty, narrow, and downright scary (especially in winter). Every year there were multiple automobile fatalities, and to add to its ominous reputation, there was a single opportunity to pull to the side of the road. But no one ever, ever, no matter how badly we needed to stretch or use a restroom, suggested we stop there. You see, there was a bar at that pullout—blood red with just a single electric beer sign hung in one of the dark windows. Once in a while we would see a lone battered pick-up truck parked out front, or even more frightening, a line of large black motorcycles—Hell’s Angels, no doubt, because who else would dare to stop at that horrifying place? But that was all. Every time we passed this bar, my family would fall silent as if we were all afraid someone might hear the hum of our engine and chase after us with an ax. And I always stared with both wonder and fear, certain at that very moment there was a murder taking place right before my eyes . . . if I could only see through those blacked-out windows. So there is the stuff of my childhood nightmares (and still, I’ll admit). Creeeepy.

Jennifer Bertman
Jenn PulloutThis is a photo from June 2004, taken at a pullout somewhere in the middle of Utah. My then boyfriend/now husband and I were about halfway on our road trip moving me from California to my future home in Colorado. I’d never lived anywhere other than California, other than a brief summer in Manhattan, and my decision to move to Colorado is probably one of the most daring things I’ve ever done. I walked away from a great job and the perfect studio in San Francisco, and put hundreds and hundreds of miles between my family and closest friends. But I knew it was the right decision, and that’s what I see more than anything when I look at this picture of myself at a pullout in the middle of Utah: my excitement about the future that lies ahead of me.

Dana Walrath
There is nothing quite like a pullout Armenian style.  Ancient Armenia spanned from the Black Sea down to the Mediterranean, over to the Caspian and included high peaks in the Caucasus mountain range. Silk Road caravans traversed these lands, so pullouts always include delicious mountain spring water flowing into a stone or tiled basin. Fertile river valleys of the Euphrates, Tigris, Arax, and so many more, let people populate these pullouts with tasty edibles and things of beauty: small bundles of the earliest mountains flowers in February; wild asparagus and godek, a green worthy of “super-food” status in March and April; tart green unripe apricots, promising sweet glory as they ripen; the luscious tomatoes, melons, grapes, and figs as summer turns into fall; dried herbs, jars of pickled vegetables, teas, homemade wine and flavored vodkas.  My first experience with these pullouts was the summer of 1984, as I travelled in today’s Eastern Turkey—the Western Armenia of my ancestors. At a pullout along the road from Trabzon to Artvin, I tasted my very first Asia Minor Apricot, just picked fresh from the tree. Its flavor stayed like a ghost on my tongue haunting me for nearly 30 years. In June of 2013, I found it again, at last, at a pullout along the Ararat Valley on the other side of the closed border between Turkey and the tiny land-locked independent Republic of Armenia. Mounds of apricots cast a sweet, golden aura on the pullout. Each bite in that familiar pullout setting, made me sure of the continuity and the need for connection on both sides of this closed border.

Have an interesting pullout story of your own? Share in the comments for your chance to win a signed ARC of EVIDENCE OF THINGS NOT SEEN, plus a killer T-shirt!

To purchase a copy of EVIDENCE OF THINGS NOT SEEN from your local independent bookstore, find one here or order it from your favorite national or online retailer such as FSG, BookPeoplePowell’sB&N,or Amazon.

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