YA Scavenger Hunt - Fall 2015

Hi! Welcome to YA Scavenger Hunt, Fall 2015!

I'm, Shari Becker, your host for this leg of your journey.

This year there are EIGHT contests gong on simultaneously, and you can enter one or all! One lucky winner will receive one signed book from each author in each team. I am part of the TEAL TEAM, but there are seven more amazing teams (and groups of authors), and you can participate in as many of the hunts as you'd like. But play fast, the hunt is only online for 72 hours.

 

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RULES OF THE GAME

Directions: Somewhere in this blog, I've listed my favorite number in BOLD. Collect the favorite numbers of all the authors on the TEAL team, and then add them up. (Don't worry, you can use a calculator!) 

Once you've added up all the numbers, make sure you fill out the form here to officially qualify for the grand prize. Only entries that have the correct number will qualify. You can also learn more abut the hunt, the authors and the prizes at the YA Scavenger Hunt Page.

Fine Print: The contest is open internationally, but if you're under 16, make sure you have a parent or guardian's permission to enter. To be eligible for the grand prize, you must submit the completed entry form by October 4, 2015, at noon Pacific Time. Entries sent without the correct number or without contact information will not be considered.

Now that all the technical stuff is out of the way, I thrilled to introduce the author I'm hosting!


Meet: Margo Kelly

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Here's a bit about Margo:

Margo Kelly loves to be scared … when she’s reading a good book, watching a good movie, or suffering from the hiccups. She loves writing thrillers for young adults and hopes her stories give you the goose bumps or the itchies or the desire to rethink everyday things. Margo is represented by the not-so-scary, but totally awesome, Brianne Johnson of Writers House.

For this year's hunt, Margo is showcasing her novel WHO R U REALLY?

  "Guaranteed to give readers goosebumps ... a good choice for families to read together." -- School Library Journal Thea's overprotective parents are driving her insane. They invade her privacy, ask too many questions, and restrict her online time so severely that Thea feels she has no life at all. When she discovers a new role-playing game online, Thea breaks the rules by staying up late to play. She's living a double life: on one hand, the obedient daughter; on the other, a girl slipping deeper into darkness. In the world of the game, Thea falls under the spell of Kit, an older boy whose smarts and savvy can't defeat his loneliness and near-suicidal despair. As Kit draws soft-hearted Thea into his drama, she creates a full plate of cover stories for her parents and then even her friends. Soon, Thea is all alone in the dark world with Kit, who worries her more and more, but also seems to be the only person who really "gets" her. Is he frightening, the way he seems sometimes, or only terribly sad? Should Thea fear Kit, or pity him? And now, Kit wants to come out of the screen and bring Thea into his real-life world. As much as she suspects that this is wrong, Thea is powerless to resist Kit's allure, and hurtles toward the same dark fate her parents feared most. Ripped from a true-life story of Internet stalking, Who R U Really? will excite you and scare you, as Thea's life spins out of her control.

 

"Guaranteed to give readers goosebumps ... a good choice for families to read together."
-- School Library Journal

Thea's overprotective parents are driving her insane. They invade her privacy, ask too many questions, and restrict her online time so severely that Thea feels she has no life at all. When she discovers a new role-playing game online, Thea breaks the rules by staying up late to play. She's living a double life: on one hand, the obedient daughter; on the other, a girl slipping deeper into darkness. In the world of the game, Thea falls under the spell of Kit, an older boy whose smarts and savvy can't defeat his loneliness and near-suicidal despair. As Kit draws soft-hearted Thea into his drama, she creates a full plate of cover stories for her parents and then even her friends.

Soon, Thea is all alone in the dark world with Kit, who worries her more and more, but also seems to be the only person who really "gets" her. Is he frightening, the way he seems sometimes, or only terribly sad? Should Thea fear Kit, or pity him? And now, Kit wants to come out of the screen and bring Thea into his real-life world. As much as she suspects that this is wrong, Thea is powerless to resist Kit's allure, and hurtles toward the same dark fate her parents feared most. Ripped from a true-life story of Internet stalking, Who R U Really? will excite you and scare you, as Thea's life spins out of her control.

As part of the game, Margo is sharing some exclusive content with you: 

Playlist for WHO R U REALLY?

During the creative process of drafting WHO R U REALLY?, there were three fantastic songs that really helped me get into the writing zone.

First, and foremost: BREAKEVEN by The Script:


Second, BROKEN by Lifehouse:

 

Third, the ultimate old-school stalker song, EVERY BREATH YOU TAKE by The Police:

 

Whenever I hear one of these songs, I'm immediately thrown back into the world of WHO R U REALLY?, and I want to revisit the characters of the story.


Did you see that? Margo shared

not 1

not 2

but 3 of the songs that inspired her!


Want to read the book? I know I do.

You can buy WHO R U REALLY here

Or Visit Margo on her WebsiteTwitter, or Facebook pages.


And don't forget to enter the contest for a chance to win a ton of signed books by me, Margo Kelly, and more!

To enter, find my favorite number. Add up all the favorite numbers of the authors on the TEAL team and you'll have the secret code to enter for the grand prize!

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Please note: Unsigned book is available to international applicants, but a signed copy is only available to US and Canadian residents.

NOW TO CONTINUE THE HUNT...

Check out the next author: Josephine Angelini. Enjoy!


 
 
 

When Two Spouses Want To Follow Their Dreams

For my 12th birthday, my grandfather held cheque in his hand. He asked what I wanted to be when I grew up. When I answered, “A writer,” he put the cheque back into his pocket.

“Pick something that makes money,” he said. “What do you really want to be?” Getting that check depended on my next answer … so I lied. I said psychiatry sounded good.

By college, I’d been told my writing dreams were unrealistic so many times that I stopped imagining the possibility. I went into media production, thinking it would fulfill my creative needs – convincing myself I could be happy facilitating other people’s art. But even in my “glamorous” job at Nickelodeon, in New York City, I just wanted to write. I persuaded my supervisor to let me tackle writing projects that were supposed to be outsourced. I wrote at lunch and after hours, and the assignments kept coming.

The more I wrote, the less I enjoyed my job.

My husband seemed like the perfect fit. The perfect ‘out.’ A lawyer at one of the best firms in the country, he would be a stable provider. I daydreamed about quitting my job. I didn’t choose him because of his job, but it didn’t hurt.

Professional opportunities brought us to Boston, and we started talking about having a family. We decided I would stay at home with the kids and write. It seemed perfect.

But it wasn’t. It’s impossible to write when you’re sleep deprived. Or when a child is sick. Or when they have music class or gymnastics. The writing process was slow, and the pay was dismal.

There were other unexpected curveballs, too. Ones I could have never foreseen. My husband, as it turns out, didn’t really enjoy being a lawyer. It seems he had big dreams of his own. He loved sports, the outdoors and adventure. Could we move to Colorado so that he could be on ski patrol? Would I consider starting a goat farm in Vermont? What about the FBI? No. No. And NO!

After years of job dissatisfaction, he started his own business. He had great partners, great meetings, but no bites. In late 2014, a position in the sports industry fell into his lap. He was ecstatic.

I was petrified.

Sports, like media or writing, is glamorous. Glamour jobs don’t pay … unless you’re Joss Whedon or Tom Brady. Most of us glamour-job-doers are lucky if we just cover our costs. We’d already spent so much on his business, and we still had to recoup those losses. This job meant a significant pay cut from what he’d made before.

And just as my grandfather predicted, I hadn’t made any money.

“You’ve had ten years to follow your dreams,” my husband said. “When is it my turn?” I could have thrown my arms around him and exclaimed, “Now! Yes, now it’s your turn!”

But I didn’t.

My career was turning the corner. After numerous rejections, I finally sold my first novel. How could I give up now?

So how do two spouses, with a mortgage, house repairs, bills, kids, camps and activities, both follow their dreams? Doesn’t one spouse have to be logical? Practical?

After heated deliberation, it was clear that neither of us was willing to be that person.

It’s hard to explain to our peers and families that we’ve chosen to be middle-class poor. Getting by, just barely, hoping our financial situation improves. Even though we’re in agreement, it’s still super stressful. We get nervous. Punchy. Our house needs repairs we can’t afford to make. I find myself avoiding the truth about why I don’t go out with friends, or take vacations.

We’ve had to prioritize and compromise. My husband does more chores. We scrutinize every credit card bill and cut costs wherever we can. I’m working on a next novel, but only in between paid assignments. I have to admit, I’ve been pleasantly surprised by how good it feels to be on business calls again, competently participating.

I have to believe success comes to those who do what they love. The jury’s still out for us.

Still, it feels like we’re teaching our kids valuable lessons about resilience and hard work. My husband and I have also gotten better at problem solving.

When two spouses decide to follow their dreams, they need to be ready to work their tails off. They need to do it. REALLY DO IT.

And so, we are.

Doing it.

(Fingers and toes crossed.)

 

***Please Note: This post was originally published at Wise Women Montreal.

Four Months and Counting

Sometimes it feels like I wrote and sold Stellow Project years ago.

Oh wait, I did! HA!

Publishing is a slow moving business, and it definitely requires patience. While your book is in the queue - so to speak - it's best to embrace the exciting little nuggets that come your way. 

For me, I'm embracing:

A completed proof of the book.

A sneak peek at a gorgeous cover that I can't wait to share. (Coming soon, be patient.)

A fabulous blurb (scroll down) and an exciting excerpt from the back of the book that I'm going to share with you, here. Stay tuned for more updates!

So what do they do here anyhow?” I ask, changing the topic for myself more than for him. “In the top secret, hidden-in-the-woods lab?”

“Research,” he says.

I roll my eyes. “What kind of research? And don’t give me the whole spiel from that night at the hospital.”

Daniel whistles. “You’re a feisty one, aren’t you?”

“I’ve been called worse.” I smile.

“I bet.”

“Seriously, aren’t you curious? Just a teensy bit?” I elbow him. “I mean, how can you live your whole life with a top secret lab around the corner from your house and not know what the top-secret secret is?”

“I know,” he says defensively. “It’s research on . . . um . . . how climate change affects living things.”

Climate change. I pause. This place . . . my dad. The coincidences. I shudder, remembering those insane spreadsheets. My hand flies to my chest. I feel the scars under my shirt, and my heart stops beating for a second. My stomach is uneasy.

“Like people?” My voice wavers.

He shrugs. “Nah. Insects and bacteria, I think. It’s gotta be important, though, if all the bigwigs from different universities keep coming over here, and the government gives us a load of money and there are armed guards protecting the place. There’s probably some stem cell and genetic research. But it’s all for the good of science and mankind, you know?”

I’m not exactly sure what to say. It doesn’t sound like he knows very much at all. If it were me, I’d want to know more. I want to know more. I’ve got more at stake.

Throwing Down the Gauntlet on 777

When my friend and fellow YA author, Heather Demetrios, dangled a carrot - in the form of writing challenge -  before me, it was too delicious to pass up.  

If you haven't heard of it, the 777 challenge is when one author challenges other authors to post seven lines of text, seven lines down, on the seventh page of a work in progress. 

Indigo is a paranormal/ sci-fi about Ellie Mason, an adopted teen struggling to contain psychotic attacks that are getting worse and worse. Since no treatment or medication can stop the episodes, Ellie agrees to a stay at a quiet clinic in the middle of nowhere, Michigan. But when Ellie finally feels better, ready to resume her life, she finds the world she returns to drastically different than the one she left behind. 

In this set-up scene, Ellie is walking home with her best friend, trying to fend off an impending attack. 

Here ya go:

KP raised her eyebrows. “Right, and you get to decorate it any way you want, but not smush it under a car. Got it.” She pulled a clump of Ellie’s hair gently. “You know you look a little like one of those scrubby brushes people do dishes with. Like if I turned you upside-down, I could wash the inside of a bottle with your head.”

KP, also known as Kaitlin Proctor was Ellie’s best friend. Her neighbor. Her person. They’d played as kids at the park almost every day, but drifted apart a little when Ellie bought combat boots and KP bought Nikes.

So there you go... I'm challenging Madelyn Rosenberg, Heather Camlot, Rachel Simon, Lori Goldstein, Tova Mirvis, & Jordanna Fraiberg

A Writing Vacation

It’s been a long year. 

Job changes for my husband. A new school for my girls. A best friend moving away. 

Lots of upheaval. Lots of emotions. Lots of stress. 

I shelved the book I spent months writing. I felt like I just couldn’t get to the emotional core of a middle grade novel right now. I tried to bump it up to YA, but then it was too mundane. Months of work let go. I beat myself up for my lack of productivity. In the time it took me to write one novel, a dear writing friend of mine has written three. I feel compelled to keep up.

So when we headed to our my husband’s family’s lakeside cottage for a month, I came with high hopes. In the past, I’d spent every morning writing. It was one of my most productive, creative times.

I told myself I would write every morning until noon. I’d wake up early, do some yoga and stay focused. I would start the new sci-fi, paranormal I’d been brainstorming.

But life had other plans for me. Each of my daughters got sick - nothing serious, but definitely distracting. The weather was cold and rainy, so instead of playing outdoors, the girls were frequently inside. There were lots of relatives visiting. People coming and going, laughing and playing.

And then there was me - I was just plain exhausted. I couldn’t wake up early - all I wanted to do was sleep. When the sun did shine, and I sat in my room listening to everyone outside, on the beach, I didn’t feel inspired at all. I was grumpy and frustrated. I found myself snapping at everyone. 

“I can’t concentrate with all that laughing.”

"Could you sing a little quieter?"

And the words weren’t coming.

Finally, a week ago, I faced the fact that I wasn’t going to write this summer. That what I really needed - more than anything - was a true vacation. To be with my kids and nieces and nephew, to enjoy the sounds of the waves, to have day-long adventures, and to listen to the book on tape I downloaded last summer, but never found the time to listen to.

I started knitting a scarf. Each of my daughters had asked me to make them one months ago, and I promised I would, but I never did. That broken promise had been weighing on me.

Ironically, after a week of not writing, I am beginning to feel inspired again. My brain is spinning in all the best ways: imagining the first encounter between my main character and her love interest and the way mysticism will weave it’s way into the story. 

The truth is, even writers need vacations. Time to clear our heads and just let ideas percolate. The pressure we feel to write and produce can be worst when we are the ones imposing the expectations on ourselves.

I know now that writing is not what I need to do on this last week of vacation. What I need is to not write, to play with my kids, to walk with my dog - and to let my imagination run wild. 

Oh, and of course, I need to finish that scarf. 

#Overwhelmed #Bysocialmedia

After I sold my novel, I had a great conversation with my editor. We talked about future edits for the story. We talked about a possible sequel. And we talked about the importance of social media. #dontforgettotweet

My editor told me I “need to have an online presence.” She said I “need a Facebook page, a website, and a twitter account.” So I went ahead and set them all up, promising myself that I would maintain and update these three different platforms regularly. But this task hasn’t been easy. #suckattwitter

To be candid, I’m a bit baffled about how to integrate ongoing social media updates into my life. I understand that these updates, in particular stream of consciousness tweeting, is what keeps authors present in the their readers’ minds, so that when we DO have a big announcement, our readers will receive it. I get it. What I can’t quite figure out is what to blog / update / tweet about and when! Most days I’m grateful if I get in a few hours of writing and actually remember to brush my teeth. #notenoughtime

I follow many authors who tweet all day. Their tweets are frequently pithy and entertaining. If I tweeted all day, my feed would look something like this: 

Got dressed

Dropped kids off at school

Went to dog park

Wrote

Ate lunch

Walked dog

Wrote

Picked up kids from school

Drove kids to activities

Walked dog

Made dinner

Helped kids with homework

Put kids to bed

Walked dog

Tried to write

Went to sleep instead

Do most readers really want to read tweets about an author’s sick dog? Do they care if a successful author’s kid has a fever? #Boring. Right? I mean, seriously, who wants to read THAT in my twitter feed? If I actually tweeted my daily existence, I’d lose followers not gain them. When my dog or kid is sick … I’m usually #strugglingtosurvive the day … not tweeting about it.

And there’s something else that people don’t really talk much about. Sometimes Twitter makes me feel blue. Cliques form on Twitter – groups of authors band together and form alliances. They participate in “private” discussions that I’m not invited to join, but I can read verbatim. They share their success and promote the success of others. I know I should be happy for every single author whose book wins an award or reaches some huge publishing milestone, but as a struggling, poor, author who’s put in years and years and still needs a day job, I admit that sometimes being reminded of other people’s success is hard. Something about being that kind of voyeur frequently just makes me #feelinadequate.

I won’t even get into how baffled I am about how these online contests and giveaways work. I’m sure if I had the time, I could do more research and figure it out, but clearly, all these other authors have figured out something I haven’t. #timemanagement perhaps.

Still, regardless of my own virtual insecurities, having an online presence is critical in marketing books to YA readers. #igetit I guess what I really want to know is: How do authors find the time to write AND maintain such a strong online presence? How do they find the time to post clever Facebook updates and write regular, consistent blogs about the writing process?

I don’t want this blog entry to sound like a mad rant about social media, and I hope it doesn’t. Really, I’m venting about the disconnect between current social media expectations and the reality of my own life. Is it possible to find the balance? Is it possible to master social media and write my next book? #whatdoyouthink

Share your comments here or with me @sharirbecker. Then you can follow my bi-weekly tweets about #mydog, #mykids, and oh yeah! #mybooks.

*Please note, this blog originally appeared on YA Fusion. Click HERE to see the original.

Brave Enough to Suck

I'm thrilled to kick off my blogging adventures with this piece that launched on YA Fusion today. Thanks to the YA Fusion team for welcoming me - and my candor - with open arms. Be sure to check out all the great bloggers - and their books - over there. Enjoy!

Are you brave enough to suck?

This year I was fortunate enough to sell my first young adult novel. This process is neither easy nor painless. I shed many tears, had many sleepless nights, and paced hallways trying to push through writer’s block. Six months in, I scrapped my entire first attempt and rewrote the whole manuscript keeping only the core idea.

“Close” rejections stung. “I was totally hooked, but it was too similar to other books on my list.” Or, “Really great writing, but I just didn’t connect with it enough.” But it only takes one editor to love your story, and I was fortunate to find her.

The experience taught me a ton about the publishing industry and the writing process. It’s been a humbling journey. I’d love to share with you some of the lessons I learned over the past two years, writing this debut novel. I’m going to start with the one I think was most impactful --

I simply could not write my best work until I was brave enough to suck. I had to understand that even though I’d spent 10 years working on my writing, even though I had an agent, even though I had two published picture books, and even though I had worked for Nickelodeon and a Disney company, I still had so much to learn.

Two years ago I joined a fabulous critique group with super-talented writers. I came in cocky, I’ll admit. But the talent in my group was exceptional and standards were high. The writers were funny and poetic. Their grammar was better than mine. Their pacing was better than mine. They studied and honed, and they had put in hours of time and effort that I simply had not.

I had a huge wake up call: they were better than me, and I had a lot to learn from each of them.

Now of course this is all relative. I HAVE been writing for a long time. I’m not a novice. My work is certainly good enough to have an agent, but it isn’t always good enough for a slam-dunk sell.

The members of my critique group were intense, intent on publishing in a way that was hungry and pragmatic. There was no room for “good enough.” 

Everyone knew that some part of their submission was going to be lousy. It was going to need rewriting. Maybe a lot. It was not good enough for publication … yet. I went to every critique group knowing I was going to get a beating, and the wounds would sting. They pushed and asked tough questions.

Another member of our critique group, who joined at the same time as I did, dropped out after just a few meetings because we critiqued too harshly. We did not stroke her ego. She was positive that her manuscript was perfect just the way it was. It wasn’t. Some parts were great, some needed real work. She was unwilling to accept her sucky-ness while I decided to embrace mine.

Success in this field (in my opinion) means understanding that writing is a process, and none of us are “there” yet. Heck, we may never get “there.” The point is to keep trying to be better. To keep trying to be your personal best. To exceed your own expectations, but to know that if you ever believe you’ve gotten “there,” you’ve probably reached the wrong destination.

To be fair, some part of this crazy business really is luck. It’s finding that one editor who loves your story enough to publish it. You have no shot at being lucky, though, if you aren’t hard on yourself. My critique group was fierce. Fierce about not accepting sub-par work from ourselves or each other. Fierce about being the best we could be. Fiercely honest about understanding the industry: what would sell and what likely wouldn't.

I just started working on a new novel, and I’m already pacing the hallways because I know it’s not nearly good enough yet. I know huge chunks need rewriting. I have to find the bravery – the courage – to accept that it sucks, and the resolve to work my tail off to make it better.