UPDATE: I was chosen as the alternate for TEAM KRISTA! *squeals*

Eeep! After a near-death experience with my trusty Mac, I managed to secure a spot in The Writer’s Voice contest, hosted by Cupid of Cupid’s Literary Connection, Brenda of Brenda Drake Writes, Monica of Love YA, and Krista of Mother. Write. (Repeat.). Sooo thrilled! Without further ado, here’s my entry…



GENRE: MG Fantasy


Thirteen-year-old Grim Grinnert has no idea how he got stuck as an Apprentice in Chronicity, the Town of Time. All he knows is that he wants to go home, because there’s something wonky about this place where HoroHounds are used to search the centuries and a class assignment can send you to the Peloponnesian War. Even his mother’s stale-pizza-and-flat-soda suppers would be an improvement on the Count, who’s keeping him under lock and key, or his TimeWheel teacher, who’s trying to off him.

But the Watch, the robotic police force of Chronicity, has other plans for Grim. He’s missing the hourglass birthmark that’s supposed to brand everyone who enters Chronicity, and they’ve given Grim one month to convince them he’s not a Timbukker – an illegal. With the help of his two best friends and a 400-year-old girl he may or may not have a crush on, he sets out to determine how and why he stumbled into Chronicity. If he fails to prove his innocence before the Watch watch they’ve strapped to his arm hits zero, they’ll send him someplace horrible… like 1932. Forever.

Tick tock, says the clock. And in Chronicity, time is the one thing Grim doesn’t have.

CHRONICITY, a MG fantasy, is complete at 54,000 words.

FIRST 250:

Grim hated his name. It wasn’t short for Griffin, or Grissom, it was just Grim, and he’d never understood why his parents called him something that meant “extremely unpleasant”. Some kids at school, mostly girls, thought it sounded mature, but to him it just sounded depressing. Why couldn’t he have had some nice, normal, average name, one that didn’t make him stick out like a sore thumb?

But then, his parents never had been exactly average. And although the Grinnerts lived in an average town, on an average street, in an extremely average house, it only took one peek inside to see that they were anything but.

The front foyer was filled to overflowing with every sort of gadget, gizmo, and useless doodad imaginable. There were machines that paired socks and threw away the strays, prototypes of vehicles that ran on powdered Tang, and widgets that molded earwax into jewelry (this last had been a pretty profitable business until someone at Broadbend General Hospital got curious as to why all the patients had such impeccably clean ears, and discovered Grim’s dad posing as a nurse and Q-tipping everyone in sight).

Every room in the Grinnert house was as cluttered as the foyer, with one exception. Grim’s bedroom was as neat as the rest of the house was jumbled. Only two things proved that someone actually lived there: a coat rack that held one windbreaker and a tattered baseball cap, and a single homemade picture frame on the nightstand.

It pretty much goes without saying that if you’re a writer, you’re probably a dreamer. I know I am. And that’s why things like the contest I’m about to tell you about get me all pumped up. I just KNOW I’m going to be the winner… every single time. 
If you’re a dreamer like me, you’ll definitely want to throw your hat in the ring for this.
Writer’s Digest has 1 free pass to give away for a full registration pass at the 2012 San Francisco Writers Conference (Feb. 16-19, 2012). To enter, you will need to comment on their post, and spread the news a bit via social media.
Go here to enter. Maybe one of us will win!

I haven’t done a Road trip Wednesday in a reeeeaaallly long time. But I’m nearing (so near, so very very near) finishing revisions on my WIP, and I’m about ready to come out of the hole I’ve been in for far too long. And I couldn’t resist a chance to talk about the best book I read in November.

And that book is… The Penderwicks by Jeanne Birdsall! Oh, how I loved this. Automatic classic.

I’ve been working on simplifying my writing, and maybe that’s why The Penderwicks struck me. Jeanne is a master of simplicity. Four sisters talk nearly nonstop, and nearly every dialogue tag is “said” (except Hound, the dog, whose tag is “barked”). “It’s Batty’s fault,” said Skye. “It is not,” said Batty. “Of course it is,” said Skye. “We wouldn’t be lost if…” You get the picture. But every sister has such an individual personality that flowery tags aren’t needed. The dialogue said it all. Nearly whole book takes place in one simple setting (a yard, no less!), but she fills it with the kind of childhood exploration that made it seem huge and thrilling.

The book is wonderful and whimsical and summery and lovely, and perhaps that’s why it’s a National Book Award Winner. Can’t wait to read the rest of them!

The moment Taylor Swift was announced the AMA Entertainer of the Year, my Twitter feed started coughing up a horde of “Is this what music is coming to?!?!” tweets. And I know, I know… she beat out Adele? Seriously?

The more I’ve thought about it, though, the more I understand why. I’m not denying that Taylor minus auto-tune isn’t cringeworthy. What I am saying is that Taylor gets people. More specifically, she gets teen people, and people who were once teens (which, for the record, is a pretty good chunk of people).

It’s been 14 years since I was a teenager, but her songs take me back to the way I felt then (even when I didn’t want to admit it: the angst, the first realization that people weren’t always who you thought they were, the uncrushable hopefulness of having your whole life ahead of you). There was the crush you were willing to cop to, but also the secret crush that you would never admit to, even to your BFF… either because you were too cool to crush on him or because you weren’t cool enough.

  • Taylor on secret crushes: “He sees everything black and white/Never let nobody see him cry/I don’t let nobody see me wishing he was mine/I could tell you his favorite color’s green/He loves to argue, born on the seventeenth/His sister’s beautiful, he has his father’s eyes/And if you ask me if I love him, I’d lie.”
  • On pretending to be someone you’re not: “Seems the only one who doesn’t see your beauty/Is the face in the mirror looking back at you/You walk around here thinking you’re not pretty/But that’s not true, ’cause I know you/Hold on baby, you’re losing it/The water’s high, you’re jumping into it/And letting go and no one knows/That you cry but you don’t tell anyone/That you might not be the golden one/And you’re tied together with a smile/But you’re coming undone.”
  • On the first jerk of a boyfriend: “Say you’re sorry, that face of an angel/Comes out just when you need it to/As I paced back and forth all this time/Cause I honestly believed in you/Holding on, the days drag on/Stupid girl, I should have known/I should have known/I’m not a princess, this ain’t a fairy tale/I’m not the one you’ll sweep off her feet/Lead her up the stairwell/This ain’t Hollywood, this is a small town/I was a dreamer before you went and let me down/Now it’s too late for you and your white horse to come around.”

Who hasn’t felt this way? (Don’t lie. You know you have.) I have. My inner fifteen-year-old relates to these like nobody’s business. A couple of years ago, I was at a weekend event for teen girls, and “You Belong With Me” came on over the gym speakers. In five seconds flat, 300 girls were singing at the top of their lungs: “You’re on the phone with your girlfriend, she’s upset/She’s going off about something that you said/Cause she doesn’t get your humor like I do/I’m in the room, it’s a typical Tuesday night/I’m listening to the kind of music she doesn’t like/And she’ll never know your story like I do/But she wears short skirts, I wear T-shirts/She’s cheer captain and I’m on the bleachers/Dreaming about the day when you wake up and find/That what’re you’re looking for has been here the whole time…” Why? Because every girl in that room had sat on those blasted bleachers watching her boy friend and wishing he was her boyfriend. Every single one of them. And so have I. And so have you. This is the teenage reality.

As writers, I wonder if we run the risk of making our MCs what a teenager “should” look like – what we wish we would have been in high school. Our heroes tend to be tough and hard and never-give-up, and they would never sit around moping because some stupid boy didn’t like them (See: the writing world’s disdain for Bella Swan). I have a feeling that if Jane Eyre had been written today, Jane would have given Mr. Rochester a swift punch in the face and thrown a match onto Thornfield as she walked away. That’s all kick-butt and superheroine of you, Jane version 2011, but the problem is that it’s not really what we do in those situations (the last time I found out that my groom was hiding his mad wife in the attic, I sat down and cried). Right or wrong, Jane loved him, so instead she wanders around aimlessly, starving and homeless. Rational? No. Kick-butt? Definitely not. But the truth is that what we should feel and what we do feel are two different things, and that’s especially true for teens.

Taylor Swift is just about as good as it gets when it comes to the honest emotions of your typical teen. We would do well to learn from her. Remember all the insecurity that comes with becoming your own person, and infuse that into your MC. Your readers will respond.

So, as part of this super-amazing contest from Beth Revis, I’m going to share the book I’m most grateful for. I’ve been procrastinating doing this for several days, because seriously, how do you choose just one? *breaks out in hives* Are we talking books that shaped me, like The Babysitters’ Club series? Or books that reshaped me, like Walden? Books that opened my eyes to the world, like Bridge to Terabithia, or that helped me escape it, like Harry Potter? Lord, help me. This is hard.

I closed my eyes and grabbed something off my can’t-live-without-it shelf carefully considered the books that have most changed my life, and I’ve decided that I have to go with Jane Eyre.

I have loved reading since I was a geeky, bespectacled girl, and I’ll love it until I’m a geeky, bespectacled old woman. But I have never loved reading so much as the first time I experienced the genius that is Charlotte Bronte. I loved the sprawling descriptiveness, the intense pain, the fierce passion for life. (I have goose pimples even now.) The characters are flawed, and palpable, and real. I wept for Jane, and for the first time in my reading life, I wept because I saw so much of myself in her. Charlotte went all Killing Me Softly on me, and in those moments I truly understood what great writing could do.

Thank you, Charlotte. You are my hero.

Hey, check out my new header, courtesy of Jess over at Jest Kept Secret. You like? I do!

In other news… I am SO CLOSE to finishing an enormous revision on my WIP. It’s gone from 98K to about 55K (Yes! Really!) and I’ve totally slashed the last third and rewritten the entire ending. So. Much. Better. I can’t wait for everyone to read it… it’s actually sort of good now. 🙂

So if you don’t hear from me for the next weeks, it’s because when I’m not a) at work b) spending time with my child c) at a camp, I’m holed up typing my fingers off.

Self imposed August deadline, I’m coming for you.

Road Trip Wednesday is a ‘Blog Carnival,’ where YA Highway’s contributors post a weekly writing- or reading-related question that begs to be answered. In the comments, you can hop from destination to destination and get everybody’s unique take on the topic. This Week’s Topic: The house is on fire and you’ve only got time to grab five things. What are they?

Yay! So excited to be road tripping today! Been working feverishly to finish revising my WIP, which has left precious little time for blogging. But this prompt was just too good to pass up.

Hmm… This is tough! I’m going to assume here that hubby and baby were out buying some formula or something when the fire broke out (presumably because I left the iron on AGAIN). That being said, my five items would have to be…

1. Does a bookcase count as one item? No? Drat. Then I would have to grab my world’s-most-beautiful copy of the Lord of the Rings trilogy. Leather bound. Gold-edged. Exquisite.

2. My laptop. WIP, anyone? (Yes, it’s saved in other places, like cyberspace and flash drives, but you can’t be too careful, ya know?)

3. My scrapbooks. I’m counting them as one item because… well, I don’t have an excuse. Just because I can. I got into the scrapping thing in college, which unfortunately was before the digital age, so now ALL my high school/college/early married life photos are cut up in pieces in three enormous books. Hmmph.

4. My jewelry box. Even though 80% of the jewelry I own is Target clearance, it’s got my engagement ring, my grandmother’s diamond, and my great-grandmother’s engagement set in it. None of them are of much monetary value, but they’re priceless to me.

5. Diaper bag. Because some things you can’t go without, even for a day.

It’s funny how we see things as so important, but when I sit here and try to think about what I’d be worried about, none of it matters all that much. If hubby and baby get safe, I just can’t bring myself to get worked up about everything else, even in imaginary land. Which, I suppose, is the way it should be.

What about you? What would you save?