Friday, March 22, 2013

Alexandra Duncan Takes the Truth

Long, long ago, in small town far, far away, I was an obsessive Star Wars nerd.*

I'm telling you this because Megan Shepherd dared one of us to talk about a time we wrote a fan letter to an author, and while I don't have any memory of writing to an author, I have a REALLY embarrassing story about writing a fan letter to George Lucas (creator of Star Wars) when I was twelve.

My Star Wars infatuation started sometime during sixth grade. My best friend was sleeping over at my house, so my mother sent us to the video store with $3 to pick out a movie to watch. We chose Return of the Jedi, completely unaware that it was the third movie of the Star Wars trilogy. We were OBSESSED. This was the greatest movie EVER. We had no idea why that guy was frozen in metal, but there was a GIRL trying to rescue him, and then there was a guy with psychokinetic powers, and there was an evil empire and a DEATH STAR. A Death Star, you guys!

We watched Return of the Jedi over and over again, possibly even on successive sleepover weekends, until my mom clued us in. "You know, there ARE other Star Wars movies."

This was an even greater revelation than discovering Return of the Jedi. We watched all the movies and spread the good news about the existence of Star Wars among our friends. Watching Star Wars during sleepovers became mandatory. By the beginning of seventh grade, we had formed a fan club called LECHY. (This stood for Leia, Ewoks, Chewy, Han, Yoda - all characters the founding members had adopted as their aliases for the purposes of anonymous note-writing.)

My 6th grade yearbook photo
Let me stop right here and explain that this is even worse than it sounds. NO ONE else in seventh grade was interested in Star Wars. This was in the mid-nineties, several years before anyone had even heard of the Star Wars prequels George Lucas went on to make. All self-respecting seventh-graders feigned disinterest in everything - except possibly Green Day - in an attempt to claw their way to a level of social acceptance that would allow them to avoid being peed on or having gum thrown in their hair during the long bus ride home. Liking Star Wars and creating a FAN CLUB surrounding said movie franchise? That was the absolute nadir of dorkiness.

By this point, I was so overwhelmed with Star Wars fever, that not only was I trying to develop telekinetic powers, making Ewok costumes for my stuffed bears, and growing my hair out to look like Princess Leia's,** I was inspired to write a letter to George Lucas. In pink, sparkly pen.

I don't have the letter anymore, for obvious reasons, but from what I remember, it went something like this,

Dear George Lucas,
Hi! My name is Alexa and my friends and I love Star Wars SO MUCH! We even made up a fan club that is called LECHY for Leia, Ewoks, Chewy, Han, Yoda! Let me gush on about the mechanics of our fan club and how much I love your movies for TWO ENTIRE PAGES!!!

The trouble was, I didn't have George Lucas's address. And while the Internet existed, we didn't have it at home and we were only supposed to use the computers at school for homework assignments. So, I found the address for 20th Century Fox on the back cover of my Return of the Jedi VHS tape, and sent it to George Lucas, c/o 20th Century Fox.

I know what you're thinking. There's no way that letter ever got anywhere near George Lucas. There's no way I ever got a response.

But you're wrong. Some kindhearted person passed it on to someone else at Lucasfilm, and then on to whichever department handles fan mail. Somewhere around five months after I sent my letter, I got a response from someone who was probably an administrative assistant at Lucasfilm, thanking me for my enthusiasm and gently informing me that I could send fan mail to them directly (address provided). She also slipped several Star Wars bookmarks in with her response, one of which was a hologram bookmark, the coolest thing ever for a nerdy kid when printed holograms were a new thing.

I know Star Wars is a money-making megalith, and we're not even going to talk about the prequels or the fact that HAN SHOOTS FIRST, but I'll never forget those bookmarks or that response, and how it made me feel like someone cared about me. Someone out there took the time to make sure my letter got through, and then someone else did me the small but immeasurable kindness of writing back. Sometimes little moments like that are enough to get a dorky kid with glasses and a bad haircut through the worst years of middle school.

I still have the bookmarks. I keep them in the top drawer of my writing desk.

* Actually, the last part of that statement is still true.
** A significant impediment to having Princess Leia hair: your mother cutting your bangs with toenail scissors.

Alexandra Duncan is a writer and librarian (plus amateur photographer, crochet enthusiast, cinemaphile, and, or course, book fiend). She holds a B.A. in Creative Writing from the University of North Carolina at Asheville, and has been a frequent contributor to The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction. She loves anything that gets her hands dirty – pie-baking, leatherworking, gardening, drawing, and rolling sushi, to name a few.Her first novel, Salvage, is due to be released by Greenwillow Books/Harper Collins in Winter 2014. You can find her online at Twitter, Goodreads, and her personal blog.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Shannon Messenger Takes the Dare

Phew--it feels like I haven't posted here in FOREVER! 

*glances at date of last Shannon-post* 


Wow, looks like my deadlines got the better of me for a while. But never fear--I. am. back! 

And apparently I've tweeted a few too many times about a certain frumpy pair of pants I wear when I'm home writing, because when it was my fellow Thirteeners turn to dare me, they jumped right in with a challenge I'd been hoping to avoid: SHOW THE FRUMPY SWEATPANTS OF DOOM. 


All right, FINE. Here they are:

Though I gotta admit: scary as that photo is, it REALLY doesn't capture the true frumpiness of these pants (though it does give me a shocking glimpse of what my bed-hair looks like...)  

Neither did this one--though it was getting a *little* closer:

(Side note: WHAT IS THAT POSE?????) 

You can *kinda* see how the elastic waistband is so stretched out that the pants sag down to like, mid-thigh. But film just couldn't  really seem to capture the full extent of the Shannon Shame. So to make up for it, I thought I'd ALSO share the full range of Oh-So-Fabulous things I wear when I stay home writing. 

I call these my "Work Pajamas" (yes, really):

Basically they're soft, cozy PJs I change into when I wake up, so I get the benefit of staying-in-my-PJs-all-day without the slightly gross side effect of wearing-the-same-clothes-day-and-night. And yes, they have little dogs on them. 

(Side note again: WHAT IS GOING ON WITH MY HAIR????)

And let's not forget the lovely stretch pants + husband's-Batman-T-Shirt combo that makes an appearance on warmer days...

Bonus: they're capri stretch pants. But I cropped that part out of the photo because my blinding white, haven't-had-a-tan-in-YEARS legs were too much for anyone to handle. It was also hard to tell where they ended and my wall began...

And I know *some* of you (rather kind people) might be thinking the wardrobe isn't THAT bad. But I promise, it is. Especially when you consider that these three outfits are essentially the ONLY things I wear, unless it's one of those rare days when I actually get out of the house and therefore have to make SOME effort to look cute.  The rest of the time, it's this. 



Shannon Messenger graduated from the USC School of Cinematic Arts, where she learned--among other things--that she liked watching movies much better than making them. So she left LA and moved to suburbia where she would have time to eat too many cupcakes, own too many cats, and write lots and lots of books. LET THE SKY FALL is her first young adult novel, coming in Spring 2013 from Simon Pulse. She is also the author of KEEPER OF THE LOST CITIES, book one in a middle grade series launching Fall 2012 (S&S Aladdin). Find her online at

Friday, March 8, 2013

Renee Collins Takes the Dare!

Since my lovely cover went live only a few days ago, I knew I wanted my dare this week to have something to do with that. Only trouble was, there were no unused dares that would work relating to a cover. So I went to the Friday the Thirteener ladies to shamelessly ask for one.

Natalie dared me to mock my cover instead of praise it. But how could I? LOOK AT IT!

Definitely not mock-worthy. Though I did come up with a hybrid of that dare. I wondered, what if I staged a re-enactment of that cover? It's a little know fact that the red-rock cliffs near my home helped to inspire the setting for RELIC. So for one day, I decided to be Maggie. These are the results. . .

First, here's a picture to set the scene. These are the cliffs near my house. I can see them from my bedroom window.

GORGEOUS, right? I agree. That's why I wanted to put them in my novel. (I took this picture. Feel free to marvel in the comments section.)

So, with my hubby and kids, we set out on a trail near our house. Note the difference in color. I took the picture above on a different day. For our excursion this time, the lighting was much less flattering. Alas.

 I led the our little party. An intrepid explorer with a vision and dream.

 After hiking a ways, taking in the unseasonably lovely March evening air, we arrived at the perfect, RELIC-eqsue spot. I can see Maggie here. I can see Landon and Ella and Yahn. I can see . . .(Okay, no more teasers.)

 As I said before, the lighting was less than ideal. Look at this sunset! NOT gorgeous, fiery red like my cover.

But, regardless, I was there, and so a picture I must take. Here are the results. What my cover would like in real life. (If Maggie wore jeans.)

I think I prefer my cover artist's vision. And her artwork around the title, because dude, I clearly have no skills.

 *  *  *
Renee is a YA writer and professional ponderer. She loves historical settings, fantasy, and semi-tragic romance. RELIC is her first novel, coming September 2013 from Entangled Teen!

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Today is LET THE SKY FALL day!

I have been looking forward to today for months now. It's the launch day for Shannon Messenger's LET THE SKY FALL! I had the pleasure of reading this book several weeks ago, but now I can finally own my own pretty hardback copy. Trust me, this book is so beautifully written and romantic and action-packed that you all will adore it.

Here's the description:

Seventeen-year-old Vane Weston has no idea how he survived the category five tornado that killed his parents. And he has no idea if the beautiful, dark-haired girl who’s swept through his dreams every night since the storm is real. But he hopes she is.

Seventeen-year-old Audra is a sylph, an air elemental. She walks on the wind, can translate its alluring songs, and can even coax it into a weapon with a simple string of commands. She’s also a guardian—Vane’s guardian—and has sworn an oath to protect Vane at all costs. Even if it means sacrificing her own life.

When a hasty mistake reveals their location to the enemy who murdered both of their families, Audra’s forced to help Vane remember who he is. He has a power to claim—the secret language of the West Wind, which only he can understand. But unlocking his heritage will also unlock the memory Audra needs him to forget. And their greatest danger is not the warriors coming to destroy them—but the forbidden romance that’s grown between them.

Just check out this awesome book trailer:

And, in honor of how much I loved this book, I decided to compose a song to express how this book made me feel. I really tried to capture the feeling of two people in love, standing together against enormous dangers. Here are some of the lyrics:

Where you go I go
What you see I see
I know I'd never be me witout the security
Of your loving arms keeping me from harm
Put your hand in my hand
And we'll stand....

Let the sky fall, when it crumbles
We will stand tall
And face it all together
Let the sky fall

Okay...I admit it. I didn't write those brilliant lyrics. We have Adele to thank for that, and even though her song and the book have no official connection, they just fit so perfectly that I couldn't help it! If I had any musical talent whatsoever, I would have composed a song, but until that day, I'll always think of Shannon's wonderful book when I hear this...

Congrats again, Shannon!

You can find out more about Shannon from her website or Twitter. Buy the book at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or IndieBound.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Welcome Susan Kim and Laurence Klavan speaking the Truth!

Today I've got the co-writing team of Susan Kim and Laurence Klavan on the blog. They wrote the fantastic post-apocalyptic novel WASTELAND which is out on March 25, 2013.

Welcome to the Wasteland. Where all the adults are long gone, and now no one lives past the age of nineteen. Susan Kim and Laurence Klavan’s post-apocalyptic debut is the first of a trilogy in which everyone is forced to live under the looming threat of rampant disease and brutal attacks by the Variants—hermaphroditic outcasts that live on the outskirts of Prin. Esther thinks there’s more to life than toiling at harvesting, gleaning, and excavating, day after day under the relentless sun, just hoping to make it to the next day. But then Caleb, a mysterious stranger, arrives in town, and Esther begins to question who she can trust. As shady pasts unravel into the present and new romances develop, Caleb and Esther realize that they must team together to fight for their lives and for the freedom of Prin.
 Seriously, how cool does this sound? It's like a post-apocalyptic western with it's own teenage Clint Eastwood type character who is complex and fascinating and a strong girl protagonist who is courageous and smart. So we're really excited to have Susan and Laurence on the blog today with their truths!

TRUTH: if you could go back in time what would be the one thing you would want to tell your 13 or 15 year old self and why?

Susan Kim

Ughhh… I can’t limit it to just one!

One reason is that I’ve thought about this a lot over the years. When I was 14, I was obsessed with the idea of being able to communicate with myself at a later age. I remember writing my older self a long letter, partly because I was convinced there was no way I could possibly remember what it felt like to be young. Growing up worried me because I was scared it meant transforming into some completely foreign animal, one that looked and spoke and acted differently and cared only about weird/ impenetrable/pointless things. So I would have been definitely interested to have been able to hear what my older self had to say… I might have ever listened!
1.     It’s okay to be bored. Boredom sucks, but you know what? It is so unpleasant that it eventually forces you to figure out what it is you really want to do (as opposed to what others want you to do.) I started writing stories and plays because it was summer, my friends were away, and I was bored out of my skull. I liked writing, but most important, it was something I came up with myself. No one ever told me to write, and I think that’s one reason why I kept doing it.

2.     Don’t care what others think. Honestly. This goes not only for your enemies, but your friends, siblings, teachers, and parents. If you want to become an actor, then yes, try out for the school play even though you don’t think you have a shot and your best friend thinks it’s uncool and you secretly think the drama teacher hates you and always casts the same kids anyway. Keep in mind that 99% of what people say about you isn’t really about you at all, but their own hopes, fears, and insecurities… so don’t take it so seriously. (This sounds weird but I swear it’s true.)

3.     You’re not alone. When I was 14, I didn’t wonder how many people felt the same way I did; it literally didn’t even cross my mind that this was a possibility at all. To me, everyone was exactly who they appeared to be on the surface: cool or uncool, confident or shy, happy or sad. It stunned me to realize later, that, of course, everyone is a lot more complex than that underneath. You can be a good girl and reasonably nice person living one life on the surface and yet feel really different and powerful things on the inside: insecurity, hope, confusion, ambivalence, love, idealism, despair. If I knew that others not only understood but maybe even felt the same way, it would have made a huge difference to me.
And last but not least:
4. You’re not fat, so stop obsessing about it.
5. Everything bad leads to something else. Okay, it’s not always something better, but it’s often something you weren’t expecting at all. Don’t assume you know everything. 
6. Don’t take everything so personally. The boy you secretly love isn’t asking you out not because you’re fat or ugly but because he is, in fact, gay. The two of you will stay friends and years later, you’ll both laugh about it.
TRUTH: if you could go back in time what would be the one thing you would want to tell your 13 or 15 year old self and why?

Laurence Klavan
Admit to yourself what you want.
Tell other people how you feel.
Don't worry so much about being liked.
Do more than you don't do.
Enter into the salary investment program at your job--the first year they make it available.
And don't ever go
--> to see the movie, "Cloud Atlas.

 OK to celebrate having Susan and Laurence on the blog, HarperTeen has provided us with a copy of their ARC to giveaway! All you have to do is leave a comment to be entered! That's it!!