Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Vlad Tepes' Mountain Fortress, or, The Curse of Dracula

I've tried to post on this part of my Romania trip several times, but every time I do the photos mysteriously refuse to load. At first I was blaming Blogger, but then I realized where I was trying to post about. The mountain fortress of Vlad Tepes (historical Dracula), where he withstood a Turkish assault after (allegedly) kidnapping unsupportive villagers from an Easter feast and forcing them to build it stone by stone until they died.

A photo curse?

You decide.

Me, I'm still blaming Blogger.

Near the end of our trip Hot Stuff and I were in historical Wallachia. Romania has been many, many countries over the years, but the traditional political regions are Transylvania, Wallachia, and Moldavia. What's funny is that although everyone associates Dracula with Transylvania, he was actually a ruler in Wallachia, and was only in Transylvania when he was being held prisoner by a pissed off royal.

And of course when I say Dracula I mean Vlad Tepes, whose father's surname was Dracul, and whom many believe is the historical figure that inspired Bram Stoker's Dracula. (Also interesting to note is that, while not eavesdropping on conversations because I couldn't understand them, I noticed a group of twenty-something guys repeatedly mentioning Dracula. "Weird," I thought. "They must really be into history." Until my husband kindly explained that the base for that name is one of their worst swearwords. Which makes much more sense, but I think I'll pretend like they were having an animated discussion of Vlad's depiction in modern media.)

While Transylvania is mostly hills and plains, Wallachia has the most incredible, dramatic mountains I've ever seen--and I'm a mountain girl, so you know when I say they are amazing, I'm dead serious. Hot Stuff's local friends had told us that it was quite a hike to get to the fortress, and they mentioned 1000 stairs.

"Psh," I thought (since I often think things like, "psh," or "meh," my inner thoughts being startlingly less articulate than you'd expect). "It's probably like 500." Romanians tend to exaggerate these things. So we got there, and looked up at this:

Oh, hi, mountain.

Oh, hi, stairs.

The camera couldn't really capture the depth, but the slope of the hill is almost straight down, and those stairs keep going and going and going and going. To give yourself a better idea, please cut and paste this image about 100 times in your browser. Turns out Hot Stuff's friends WERE wrong. There are, in fact, 1,480 stairs to get to the top. But when everything is green, and you're up so high that you're actually walking through the clouds, and you're with the hottest translator ever known to mankind, well, 1,480 stairs are actually kind of fun.

I miss the green. It was the most beautiful countryside I have ever seen. So many areas we went to were, for lack of a better descriptor, magical. Like somehow we'd left behind the 21st Century and anything could happen.

Like those soul-devouring slugs. But we won't talk about them.

Finally, after conquering the steps, we got to the ruins of the fortress.

"Yay! I did it! And the trip is almost over and I'm out of clothes, and if Vlad could see my lavender-and-black striped shirt with my brown capris he'd have a stake made just for me!"

The guy in a station at the top apologized for the cloudy day, but I couldn't have asked for better weather. A) It wasn't hot climbing up those infinite stairs, and B) Holy freaking gorgeous.

600-year-old Fortress Walls

And honestly, when the Turks lay siege to the fortress, I don't think it was anything personal against Vlad. I think they just wanted the real estate for the views.

That building way, way, way down there is a huge hotel.

Walking around the remains of the fortress, knowing that one of history's most infamous (and probably unfairly so) figures lived and fought there, was all sorts of cool. Hot Stuff and I also had fun discussing the finer points of an imaginary video game based on his life that mostly consisted of impaling as many people as possible during the time limit. It was, umm, delightfully gruesome.

The breathtaking views, however, trumped any sense of history for me. One of the saddest parts of visiting historical sites in Romania is how little they can afford to keep them up (which makes sense considering they are EVERYWHERE), but one of the best parts is how unspoiled they are. We were the only ones up there, and I keep trying to come up with adjectives other than incredible, but, well, it was incredible.

They even had thistles. I think they planted them just for me.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Romania: The Signs

Okay, I'll admit it. I'm a sucker for a good (read: strange or inexplicable or funny) sign. And Romania did not disappoint. (Also, yes, I went to an incredibly beautiful European country and toured castles and ruins and centuries-old cathedrals and fortified churches and I am posting about silly signs. What else did you expect? Beautiful stuff will come tomorrow. Unless I think of something else ridiculous to talk about first.)

"How was the fishing?"
"Man, it was a load of crap!"

"...inspired a lot of literally and artistic works."
But were they literally artistic? Or just figuratively artistic?

Say what you will about Romania, they do creepy mannequins like nobody's business.

What? No, Hot Stuff and I didn't work in "BinderBubi!" to every conversation we possibly could. Clearly we are more mature than that.

Because nothing says "Delicious!" like "Digestive!"

No Cars, Children Playing Ball, Houses, or Trees Allowed
But no worries, just go fifteen feet down the street and...

Cars, Children Playing Ball, Houses, and Trees are now allowed

Umm, maybe this is fashion? At least they're honest.

Not very stealthy, CIA.

Although I am usually the irreverent one in the family, Hot Stuff saw this and said: "YES! We caught Jesus!"

Dude, they aren't kidding. Not a street sign you'd see here, but very, very applicable.

The world's finest tribute to Coldplay! And that is an area with stiff competition, folks. Coldplace is my favorite Coldplay tribute band EVER.

And finally, my favorite:

And you know what? They're probably right.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

The Problem

I don't even know where to start. How do you begin to sum up fourteen days in a country as incredible as Romania? Do I show you the insanely beautiful pictures first, in a sort of shock and awe campaign?

Peles Castle, the summer home of Romania's first official king.
(Yes, that's a real photo--completely untouched. For serious, yo. The Romanian countryside and mountains are like stepping into a fairytale.)

Do I talk about experiences, and how much fun it was to get to have time with just Hot Stuff?

What? Oh, I dunno, I guess he's a little bit taller than I am.
Also, hottest translator ever.

Do I talk about the amazing museums filled to the brim with stuff that American museums can only dream of having--and the Romanians have so much of it they don't even know what to do with the stuff?

This would NOT be an example. Creepy, right?? That gross little baby head at the top of the coat of arms is supposed to be the Pope. I think. That, or he's just supposed to be the Stuff of Nightmares.

A lot of people have asked me about the food. I'm not really a foodie and didn't take pictures, but I could tell you all about the fabulous cuisine.

Guess which dish was my favorite?

Or do I just go ahead and get back to editing an old project instead and start posting by location tomorrow? Yeah. I think so.

Just outside of Dracula's mountain fortress.

Also, quick poll: How many days can I use jetlag as an excuse not to answer my piles of email? I'm gonna go for seven. Although I feel sort of like this:

This slug was so big I'm pretty sure its diet consists of the souls of the dead. Gluttonous little monster. One of the only truly terrifying things in the whole country.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Submission Purgatory: Guest Post by Carrie Harris

Carrie Harris is a ninja--she's the one to go to in case of a zombie apocalypse. Her skills include finding the strangest videos on the internet, abusing photoshop, and writing kissing scenes. Her debut novel, BAD TASTE IN BOYS, is yummy yummy yummy (or yummy scary funny yummy, if you want to be specific), and coming out in Spring 2011 from Delacorte. Also, I adore her.

Submission Purgatory

I threw a party when I got an agent. Okay, so I’m using the term “party” loosely; I really just danced wildly around my living room to Thriller. (And OF COURSE I know all the moves. What self-respecting zombiephile doesn’t?) But that one-person dance party felt awfully good, because I’d finally done what so many writers dream of: I signed with a fabulous agent. I knew that awesomesauce book deal was right around the corner.

Yeah, in retrospect, that makes me laugh so hard.

See, what many of us don’t expect is that you pretty much go right back into the waiting game after signing with an agent. He or she sends your book out to editors, and you wait. Again. Your heart pounds double-time every time you check your email, because now you know it could ACTUALLY HAPPEN. Because someone in the industry likes your book! Apparently, you don’t suck! Go you!

Then you get an email. Someone’s interested. Your heart pounds EVEN FASTER; you dash up the stairs to dance to Thriller because now it’s a tradition and maybe it brings you good luck and good luck is a good thing because an editor likes your book enough to take it to acquisitions! In fact, you should do the Thriller dance TWICE, because then that would be twice the luck, and maybe you’d get a two book deal! WHEE!

But there’s just one problem: Acquisitions are tough. Take it from an expert; I went to acquisitions so many times I actually lost count. And I can count pretty high. I’m a statistician. Fer realz.

It’s an emotional rollercoaster, and the most important thing you can do to prepare for it is find someone else in Submission Purgatory and send them an email out of the blue that says, “Do you like me? Check Yes or No.” At the end, be sure to mention that you too are on sub, because otherwise they might call the cops.

You need people who understand what it means to be on sub. They’ll understand your Twitter-stalking tendencies (and maybe even encourage them [although I’m not speaking from experience here {yeah, I don’t believe me either}]). They’ll send you jokes on the days you’re sure that the Gods of Acquisitions have a serious vendetta against you. They’ll try to bribe the Universe on your behalf.

They’ll make Submission Purgatory kinda fun. In a weird, semi-masochistic way.

Don’t get me wrong; your other writer friends are still invaluable. But no one understands Submission Purgatory better than someone who’s been stuck in it for, say, a year. Again, not talking from experience or anything. And on the day you get that offer? They will scream for you, and maybe do the Thriller dance.

So here’s the big twist. You ready? Kiersten was my submissions sis. And now she’s all kewl and almost-debuty, and I sold my book too, and instead of writing each other daily emails that say things like, “What crap, Universe? What crap?!?” we’re talking about taking our ARCs on a playdate. Or we would be if we weren’t on different sides of the country.

The moral of this story: Get a submissions partner. It’s also helpful if you have a sekrit handshake or code names or something. Kiersten and I had a special uniform we both wore for luck. At least *I* wore *mine* faithfully. Every day. Got me lots of funny looks at the bus stop.

We have matching Submissions Snuggies! Go us!

Of course I wore mine everywhere... Jump on Carrie in the comments and make her give you a nickname. That's another of her skills I forgot to mention.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Gilbert Blythe Owns My Heart: Guest Post by Sarah Bean

Sarah Bean is a teen librarian (YAY LIBRARIANS!) and a book blogger. Her website, GreenBeanTeenQueen, has pretty much the coolest title ever. Also, she's adorable, and here to talk to us about her ultimate literary crush!

Ah, Gilbert Blythe. Just typing the name out like that makes my sigh. I don’t remember how old I was when I first discovered Gilbert-I was somewhere around seven or eight and my mom had decided to record the eight hour long Anne of Green Gables movie marathon that was on during the PBS telethon. Once I saw it, I was hooked and I watched it almost every day (it would have been every day if my mom would have let me!) I begged my mom for the book series and she bought the entire Anne collection and I found myself lost in Avonlea.

Gilbert was my first book crush. I knew I loved him the moment he called Anne “carrots.” He wasn’t being mean, he was flirting! How could you not see that Anne? I want Gilbert to flirt with me! Ugh-I got so mad when Anne wouldn’t talk to him because how could she not see how adorably cute and nice he was? If she wasn’t going to have him, I’d gladly take him! Dumb Anne Shirley for not seeing the charm of Gilbert-it took her the entire book to finally come around! When he saves her from drowning after the boat gets a leak and she gets stuck-swoon! And when he gives up his teaching post so Anne can stay closer to Marilla and Green Gables-double swoon!! And anytime Jonathan Crombie says “sorry” in the movie version-movie Gilbert swoon!!! But no, it takes Gilbert almost dying for Anne to realize they’re meant to be together. I realized Gilbert and I were meant to be together from the moment I book and movie “met” him! I mean, come on-how can you not love him? He’s cute, he’s funny, he’s smart, and he challenges Anne. He doesn’t always put up with her whining, but at the same time he lets her have her temper and her fits and fume over dumb little things, and he lets Anne be creative and loves and encourages her imagination. I love Anne, I really do, but she can be really dense when it comes to boys.

Even though I was shy as a kid, I had quite the imagination like Anne and boy did we share a temper! Gilbert gave me hope that someday I would meet a boy almost as charming (because let’s face it, no one is as charming as Gilbert Blythe). He gave me hope that even with my wild imagination and crazy temper someone someday would love me as much as Gilbert loved Anne.

My crush on Gilbert hasn’t faded-he’s still my number one book crush. I will happily spend my day watching all eight hours of the Anne movies one and two (but not three-never three!) just so I can dream about Gilbert. I re-read the books and I even listen to them on audio-full book version and radio dramatization when I’m traveling. I’ve dragged my husband to local school productions of Anne of Green Gables (and I get annoyed if they don’t get Gilbert right-he has to be very crush-worthy for it work!) I’ve hosted an Anne of Green Gables tea party and Book Boy Crush party at my library just so I can gush about how much I love Gilbert. I’m seriously addicted.

Boys should go to Gilbert Blythe training school where they learn to be as awesome and charming and crush-worthy. If they did that us girls would be swooning! Luckily I did find an amazing man who is my own Gilbert, but I do think that if Gilbert Blythe came walking out of my copy of Anne of Green Gables and wanted to sweep me off to Avonlea, I would take him up on it-really, who wouldn’t?

So, discuss: Who do you hold to the highest standard of literary love? Who would you transfer directly from the page to your life?

Monday, June 14, 2010

Kiersten and Hotstuff in Romania: Guest Post by Andrea Cremer

Andrea Cremer is the owner of one of the most beautiful heads of hair in creation. Other than that, she does things like write really buzzed about books (her debut NIGHTSHADE comes out this October from Philomel/Penguin and is awesome), teach college, and tame a herd of wild pugs. I like her. You should, too.

Kiersten and HotStuff’s Saga Romania: Episode 3

[Scene opens on a forest glen. Owls hoot. Mist swirls between dark tree trunks. Romani wagons are gathered in a circle, surrounding a blazing bonfire as the moon climbs in the sky. Kiersten and Hotstuff emerge from one of the wagons]

Kiersten [scratches her back]: It’s nice they’ve gone for authenticity, but did they really have to stuff the mattresses with straw? My nap was not so much a nap as an itch fest.

HotStuff [looks pained]: You don’t like your surprise, do you?

Kiersten [takes his hand]: Oh, HotStuff, of course I do! It was so thoughtful of you to spring this “genuine Gypsy caravan tour” on me for our third day of the trip.

[Night noise vanishes, leaving only crackling logs on the fire]

HotStuff [unfolds printed itinerary]: Huh. That’s weird. I only woke you up because it’s time for the “Gypsy Ghost Stories with S’mores.”

Kiersten: So where are the gypsies? And the S’mores?

[A wolf howls. The bonfire roars up and then flares out, leaving only glowing embers in the fire pit]

Kiersten: Ummmm…

HotStuff [reading itinerary]: It says here “authentic, chilling tales plus gooey chocolate goodness,” I bet this is setting the mood.

Kiersten: Setting the mood with remote control bonfire and creepy night soundtrack…in the middle of the woods

HotStuff: Well…technology can do amazing things these days

[Shapes form in the darkness beyond the circled wagons. Wolf-like shadows slink between the trees]

HotStuff: …..

Kiersten [reaches into her coat pocket]: …..

[One of the wolf shadows straightens, lengthens until the shape of a tall man forms. The man walks into the forest glen, in the light his eyes gleam red. The shadows around his body swirl into a long cape.]

Stranger [in exaggerated accent]: Good evening.

Kiersten [giggles]

HotStuff [sweating]: Why are you laughing?

Kiersten: ‘Cause he sounds like Count Chocula.

Stranger [looks a bit flustered]: You’ve stumbled upon my lair. I hope you’ve enjoyed your stay…because you’ll never leave!!!

Kiersten: Oh dear

HotStuff: I didn’t sign up for this! I’m so sorry honey. I love you.

[Kiersten pulls something purple and sparkly from her coat. Gives HotStuff a quick peck on the cheek]

Kiersten: Don’t worry, dear. I’ve got this.

[Kiersten jumps forward and slams the sparkly purple tazer into Stranger’s chest. Stranger gives a strangled cry, tumbles over, and doesn’t move.]

Kiersten: Go me!

HotStuff: Go you! I have the best wife ever!

Evie [stomps into the circle, brandishing sparkly pink taser]: Oh please. Why do I even bother to show up?

Kiersten [hides purple tazer behind her back]: Hey Evie.

Evie [hands on hips]: Don’t ‘hey Evie’ me. This is my job, not yours. And where did you get that gorgeous purple tazer. You know you aren’t supposed to have one.

Kiersten: It’s a prototype. They never asked for it back.

Evie: You were supposed to send it back. Besides I need the lavender to coordinate my outfits when I’m not quite feeling the pink. ‘Kay?

[Evie holds her hand out. Kiersten sighs, mournfully drops sparkly purple tazer into Evie’s palm]

Evie: That’s better.

[On the ground, Stranger groans. Rolls over. Evie bends down, but before she can speak Stranger jumps up, eyes wide.]

Stranger: What is wrong with you people??

HotStuff: Hey! What happened to your accent?

Stranger: My accent?? My accent?! You DID sign up for this!! This is the beginning of the “authentic Romania mythos experience bonus package #4” that you paid extra for, dude!

HotStuff: Oh…oh!!! I guess I forgot I added that [looks at Kiersten] they were running a special.

Kiersten: Awwwww that’s sweet.

Stranger: Sweet?! I just got tazed. You’re crazy lady. I’m calling my lawyer, you can forget about the midnight coach chased by wolves ride. There’s no way I’m putting any more of my staff near you.

[Stranger stomps off to a nearby wagon, muttering, slams door]

Kiersten [calling after him]: Sorry! My bad!

Evie [holding both tazers up to the moonlight, judging their sparkliness]: You see – this is why you leave the work to the professionals.

Kiersten: Fine. You have my tazer. Now can you leave me to my vacation.

Evie: You bet. See ya!!

[Evie grins, melts back into the forest]

HotStuff: So I guess no ghost stories for us.

Kiersten: It’s okay. I got to taze faux Dracula.

HotStuff: Yeah. That was cool though I’m sad we don’t get the horseless coach ride with wolves. Oh well. So, back to straw mattresses? Tomorrow we’re hiking up to that castle. We’d better get some sleep.

Kiersten: Sounds like a plan…hey…does it seem like the mist has gotten thicker?

[Mist has indeed gotten thicker. Fire has completely died. All forest sounds are gone.]

Kiersten: Uh, HotStuff? Did you sign up for super creepy bonus package #5, by any chance?

HotStuff [gulps]: No.

[Mist forms into tall shapes. Men and women with dark, gleaming eyes, pale skin and no capes ring the camp. One of the men steps forward and smiles. His sharp canines catch the moonlight]

Vampire: Welcome to our home.

HotStuff: That’s not Count Chocula

Kiersten [reaches in pocket for tazer that’s no longer there]: Oh bleep.

[Cue melodramatic voiceover]

Narrator: Will Kiersten and HotStuff defeat the real vampires? Is Evie still watching in the shadows? Will Kiersten make it back to the US to finish Paranormacly 2? Is there such a thing as an “authentic gypsy ghost tour”? Stay tuned!!!

I, personally, am dying to know what will happen... Bug Andrea in the comments to give you spoilers on the sequel to Nightshade. (Also, I promise I did not ask my friends to write Kiersten Fanfic. They're just all equally insane.)

Saturday, June 12, 2010

100 Days to Paranormalcy!

Okay, this is a surprise post from Natalie! Because I may never get this power again. How can I not use it?

So I noticed on Kiersten's Paranormalcy count down widget, that today is officially 100 days until the world gets to meet Evie! I cannot tell you how excited I am about that, and I thought I'd tell you all a little bit about how I met Evie for the first time.

Because, well, I did meet her first. (And yes, I'm totally bragging.)

It happened early in January 2009. I'd just started writing Relax, I'm a Ninja, since I won a certain contest and thought maybe I should write the whole book. Kiersten had just gone out for her first time on submission. She was bored. She needed a good distraction. That, and she needed to trade chapters with me. We do that pretty often as we rough draft.

Here are a few lines of our chat from that day:

Kiersten: I know it's not the most original idea
but I think I can do it funny/exciting/clever
we've got a lot of endangered species in the world

Natalie: fresh takes--there are no new ideas:)

Kiersten: vampires, werewolves, shapeshifters, swamp things
(I KNOW--vampires)
(but they aren't main characters)

Natalie: :)

Kiersten: I know
I gotta get a name for her, quick

Natalie: I love seeing what you come up with
because they are names I never think of

Kiersten: well they aren't unusual ever

Natalie: no
that's what I enjoy

Kiersten: right now it's Laura, Hazel, or Violet. Ooh, or Evelyn. Evie, I've always liked that
I think her name is Evie

Natalie: Perfect

Kiersten: he he, I'm going to send you the first page

Natalie: sweet


Natalie: lol
yeahthis will be awesome

Kiersten: okay, you like it? he he

Natalie: oh yeah

Kiersten: good good

Natalie: I can tell Evie's my kind of girl

Kiersten: yeah, you'll like her

Looks pretty simple, doesn't it? One day. One idea. And in 100 days that little bud of a story will be a real live book. I feel so privileged that I got to see Evie grow every step of the way—watching all this happen to my dearest friend has been incredible and inspiring.

Kiersten, thanks for letting me tag along for the ride. In just 100 little days I'll be the first person at my local bookstore, talking you up to everyone I see.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Pros and Cons of an MFA, by K. M. Criddle

Today our guest is the lovely and talented (and did I mention talented? Because she's talented) K. Marie Criddle. K. Marie (Or can we call you Ms Criddle?) is a children's/YA writer represented by Nathan Bransford. Her blog is fabulously entertaining because not only does she write, she also illustrates. So when she offered an illustrated Pros and Cons list--with unicorns--of course I was thrilled. (***Please note that, since I am not around to check whether or not this actually worked and is readable, Ms Criddle will be posting the same thing on her blog today, where it will no doubt go off without a hitch because she's just smart like that***)

Great. Now I want a unicorn.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Whirl and Kiersten Versus the Alien Invaders (Or, a Nice Video Chat): Guest Post by Whirlochre

Today is a special treat from my friend Whirlochre. All we really know about him is that he's British, he takes insults from Sock Monkeys as a form of therapy, he has strange taste in socks, and he's unparalleled in the field of making up words. (Also he's a writer, and awesome, and is one of my oldest readers. As in, he's been reading my blog the longest. You're not THAT old, Whirl.)

When Kiersten invited me to be a guest blogger, my first thought was get that tentacle out of my ear, you foul otherworldly shibboleth. Just my luck that the diminutive superstar-in-waiting should stop by for a chat at the very moment an alien invader from another galaxy was about to suck out my soul.

If you’ve ever found yourself in this kind of situation, you’ll know the dilemma. Type ‘help’ in the chat window, and the alien gets you; fight the alien, and you risk alienating a friend. As for the on-screen luxury cowhide liederhosen offer: not helpful.

At risk of having my head ripped clean off, I opted for typing. Writing is in my genes, it seems. Along with stupidity.

Me: Hi! Wow! Yeah!

It’s amazing how eloquent you can be when you’re eyeball to eyeballs with an armoured insectoid horror.

Kiersten: So you can do it? Yay!

As her words flashed up onscreen, I sensed the zest behind them. She’s good like that. Flattered to be the recipient of a KW quasi-squee, I knew couldn’t let her down, which made the whole alien scenario all the more disturbing. ‘Look,’ I said, and explained the problem — 103 words and just the one typo (‘wauuuuuuuuuuuuugh’ instead of ‘waaauuuuuuuuughhh’).

Kiersten: Describe this creature to me. I’m kind of awesome with paranormals.

Me: It’s not so much a paranormal as an alien. A para-abnormal.

Kiersten: Para will do nicely. Let’s switch to vidcam. Trust me, I’m an expert.

Our monitors swapped live pixellated footage. What flashed up on Kiersten’s screen, I have no idea (though I suspect my backside featured heavily and unflatteringly, along with the coffee mug I was using as a weapon). I got the view you see regularly on her Vlogs, complete with self-opening fridge and that crazy eyebrow action we all know and love. Problem was, Ms White also had visitors...

Kiersten: Waaauuuuuuuuughhh! That’s how you spell it btw ;)

Me: Try...kicking...the darned thing...on its wibbly bits...

Ellipses — show or tell? All I know is, every time I ventured a poke at the creature’s eyeballs, I kept hitting the period key by accident. That’s when Kiersten’s foot appeared from between her assailant’s thrashing coils, daintily adorned with a sky blue flip flop.

Kiersten: Kick? In these? What are you, Whirl? Some kind of dork?

Before I could Google the statistics for how flip flops matched up to swords and machine guns in the killer weapon stakes, Kiersten managed to slip free of her foul otherworldly shibboleth’s grasp. It’s a trick many short people can perform, which is why so many of them end up in circuses. Or in this case, the fridge.

Kiersten: Throw pizza! Aliens love pizza!

Me: Will a thesaurus do? I’m in my study.

Kiersten: Hmmm. Tricky. You’ll just have to pass it off as meat loaf and hope for the best...

A transatlantic anti-invader thesaurus ‘n’ pizza fling fest ensued, augmented by a cacophony of shrieks to rival Snow Patrol playing Madison Square Garden with half a ton of itching powder shoved down their jeans. If H. G. Wells had known about this kind of arsenal, War of the Worlds would have run to 15 pages.

I have no idea whether we saved the planet between us, or merely discovered a better way of staying trim than cavorting about our respective abodes at the mercy of Wii Fit Home Acrobat, but as our unwelcome invaders fled in their Teleport Hub cum Play Doh Fun Factory thing (don’t ask me, I don’t make the rules for what’s hip in modern day interstellar space travel), Kiersten and I concluded that, at very least, combatting otherworldly shibboleths was considerably more fun than editing.

Kiersten: Phew. I could sure use a Dr Pepper.

Me: And I could heck deploy a cup of tea.

We exchanged raised eyebrows in that “divided by a common language” kind of way, smiled, then waved goodbye.

And that, as they say, was Mission Accomplished.

Ruined my best pair of flipflops, they did. And I had no pizza left to feed my kids--now THAT is a terrifying scenario. Ask Whirl to make up words for you in the comments section.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Reth: Guest Post by Natalie Whipple

Or really rather less of a guest post and more of a guest COMPLETE AND TOTAL AWESOMENESS, by the lovely and talented Natalie Whipple. Besides being my unbiological twin and a fabulous YA writer represented by Nathan Bransford, Natalie is also a talented artist. She created Reth, Evie's faerie ex-boyfriend...ish...thing. He's one of my favorite characters to write, and seeing him on my screen, well, let's just say there's a little more drooling and googly-eyed grins than are normally present in my household.

"Everything about Reth was golden, except his laugh. That had always been silver."

Ooh la la! Natalie will also be posting this picture on her blog today, in case of technical difficulties or if my blog doesn't let you zoom in. Because admit it, you totally want to zoom in.

Monday, June 7, 2010

The Truth About Kiersten White: by Stephanie Perkins

Today, a woman who needs no introduction, but whom I'm going to go and introductinate anyway. Stephanie Perkins is the author of ANNA AND THE FRENCH KISS, coming this December from Dutton. She is a connoisseur of HBMs (Hot British Males), a collector of Celebrity Boyfriends, and one of the most geniunely delightful and kind people I have ever known.

The Truth About Kiersten White

Please allow me to assure you, I am not here to blog about me. You and I are here for the same reason—we like reading Kiersten's blog. So for the purpose of this post, here is the only thing you need to know about me:

I have met Kiersten White. In person.

And unless you know her personally, like myself, here are some things you THINK you know about her:

—She is short. Supernaturally so.
—She is married to someone hot, and they have two children.
—She wrote a book called Paranormalcy.
—She has never smoked, tasted alcohol, or uttered a dirty word.

WELL. I am here to tell you that these things . . . are lies.

I first met Kiersten White last spring. To this day, I vividly recall the shock I felt when she climbed out of her car, and I discovered . . . she's tall. I'm not even talking regular person tall, but Kiersten is, like, basketball player tall.

Confused, I asked this strange woman, "Are you Kiersten's sister? Because your face is kinda sorta like the pictures online*, but I was expecting someone . . . you know. Smaller."

*I said "kinda sorta" because her face was covered in acne blisters, she was wearing heavy black eyeliner, and she had a Tweety Bird tattoo on her forehead. She is, apparently, a Photoshop whiz.

I'm sorry to say that I cannot tell you what her reply was. It was so profane, so spectacularly vulgar that not only would I not want to tell you, but halfway through her diatribe, my ears began to ring and my subconscious took control and muted her words.

To this day, I am not sure why I got in her vehicle. Perhaps it was the taunting lure of jelly beans in her passenger side seat.**

**More on that later.

As she pulled out of the adult video store parking lot (it was a handy meeting spot, she'd claimed), it immediately became clear that Kiersten White was:

(A) Drunk as a sailor.
(B) High as a kite.

We flew down the California interstate, crashing between the other vehicles as if in a high-speed bumper car race, and I attempted to calm my nerves by asking her a few questions. Things like, "Do you live far from here?" "Will there be anyone else in your home?" and "How close is the nearest police station?"

Her (edited for family-friendliness) answers were: "No," "Fudge no," and "None of your fudging business, fudge-face."

"No?" I replied, rolling down a window to let the cigarette (I hope it was a cigarette!) smoke escape. "Hot Stuff? Nayna? Dojo? They won't be around?"

She laughed. "Oh. They're around, all right."

Five terrifying minutes later, we arrived at a tiny brick house in the corner of a dark neighborhood. The grass looked as if it had never been mowed, and the bushes, on closer inspection, were actually dandelions.

Now, I didn't make it all the way into adulthood just to have it end right there. As soon as the child-safety locks were off, I jumped from her car and ran straight into the woods behind her house. I'd hoped to lose her there, to cut through to another neighborhood. But what I hadn't expected was this: a second house.

The second house was hidden behind her regular house, and the most peculiar thing about it was that it looked exactly like the main house but playhouse-sized. And as I raced past it, I heard the screaming of children.

I am not proud about this next part.

I did not stop to see who was in the playhouse. I kept running.

To make a long blog short, Kiersten caught me. It turns out her legs are not only long enough to play basketball, but they're STRONG enough, too. She yanked me by my blue hair back to the playhouse, which was where I discovered her biggest secrets of all: "Hot Stuff" is more like "Okay Stuff." And he's the one who guards the children.

Oh, Nayna and Dojo are real, all right.

And they're the ones who wrote Paranormalcy.

Lured from their Preschool for Brilliant Children with—yes—jelly beans, Kiersten has locked them into her playhouse to do her bidding. Okay Stuff sleeps in a hammock in the corner (the children sleep on a bed of straw) to ensure they churn out a minimum of 500 words per hour. (Not including the three hours allotted per night for sleeping, nor the ten minutes spread throughout the day for bathroom purposes.)

I am not proud about this next part, either.

I walked to the closest 7-11 and bought two packages of Tropical Skittles. And then Nayna and Dojo agreed to finish MY novel. And then Kiersten and I went inside and watched Penelope.***

***She really does love that movie. That much is true.

And we have been close friends ever since.

OH. And one of us—Kiersten or me—is a great big liar.

That tweety bird tattoo was the best decision I ever made. And if you think this was funny, wait until you read Steph's books! Please pester her in the comments.