Matters of Tyme: Bardwyrms

Name:

Bardwyrm

Origin:

The offspring of a Red fairy and an Olive fairy

Nature:

These amphibious creatures make their nests on the beaches of Orange, the Olive Isles, and the Blue Kingdom.  They appear snakelike during most hours of the day and night, and when in their snake forms, they work together to create massive, beautiful, intricate patterns in the sand.

These patterns are carefully studied carefully by Orange scholars, who have worked out that there are at least four completely different alphabets used by Bardwyrms. The creatures are poets, and their primary subjects are the wind and the water, which are an inexhaustible source of joy to them. Humanity is occasionally the subject of their poetry, and their insightful observations on human behavior can be both wonderful and embarrassing for humans to read.  

At sunrise and sunset, Bardwyrms’ snakelike bodies unfurl like long scrolls and they are carried by the wind into the sky above the ocean, where they sail and write their poetry in bright streaks against the horizon.  It is not clear whether they are only capable of sailing at dawn and dusk, or whether they choose only to sail at those times because of the exultant beauty of those hours.  

In their snake forms, they can issue painful but nontoxic bites, but they only do so if interrupted in the middle of writing, or if tightly coiled in the shade, which means that they are thinking.  If they are relaxed and basking in the sun, they are happy to be stroked and will gladly curl around the arm or along the neck and shoulders of willing sunbathers.  

Though they are rarely created, Bardwyrms can lay as many as 30 eggs in a clutch, and since they and their babies live under the protection of the academics who study them, they are a thriving species.

Trivia:

Jack dreams of one day watching Bardwyrms write their poetry in the air.

Matters of Tyme: Burlatches

Name:

Burlatch

Origin:

Redlands

Nature:

These creatures are the size of large marbles and are covered with bright red burs, which they generally use to cling to tree bark. They have long, thin tongues with which they probe the bark to eat the sap.

Burlatches are friendly to mammals due to their affinity for the natural oils found on hair, which they happily eat when they can get it.  They can be found clinging to shaggy animals like goats and bears, and will latch on tight to human hair if they get the chance.

Trivia: 

Though Rapunzel does not recognize what they are (she thinks they are rocks), there are burlatches stuck in her hair by the time she reaches the Red Glade.

Matters of Tyme: The Stalker

Name:

Stalker

Origin:

Redlands

Nature:

This deadly creature looks rather like a very large mountain lion with bloodred eyes. It has the frightening ability to blend into its surroundings almost completely; only a slight shimmering in the air is visible as it moves.

The Stalker is highly intelligent. It enjoys the stealth of its hunt and prefers to ambush its prey. It is capable of leaping very far, very fast; in this way it overcomes its victims without ever being heard or seen.

Calling the Stalker by its name forces the beast to show itself. This takes the fun out of its game and angers it greatly, but gives the potential victim at least a small chance of survival.

Stalkers cannot hide when wet. They will not hunt in the rain unless they are ravenous and can wait no longer.

Trivia: 

Rapunzel and Jack encounter and defeat a Stalker at the border of the Redlands and Yellow Country.

Coming Soon

Disenchanted: The Trials of Cinderella won’t be out until October, but Ruth Virkus (co-creator of the series) and I just can’t wait until then. We want to share more with you about the people, places, and things in Tyme – without giving too much away! And so, every so often, we will share a bit of lore about the world we’ve been creating for so long.

See you tomorrow for our first post in this series!

New Reviews

A quick roundup of a few new and very positive mentions of GROUNDED from out in the wild world!

Lindsey from Bring My Books wrote a post called “The One Where Perfect Book Was Perfect“. As if that title weren’t enough to fill my heart, here are a few lines from the review:

I also loved the character arc for Rapunzel, and I have never seen it done better.

Every minor plot that Megan Morrison attempted to execute was done so well, and all of the ones that were started but not yet finished (the jacks competition, for example): I am DYING to see in the next companion novel.

Gina Dalfonzo from BreakPoint also gave the book a lovely and very gratifying write-up. Here’s a snippet:

Morrison is a superb writer, creating an exciting and quirky fantasy world that is, like all the best fantasy worlds, firmly grounded in the realities of human nature. She gives us strong, interesting, complex characters, especially Rapunzel. The young girl who has lived in the lap of luxury — so ignorant that she doesn’t even know what a mother or father is, and has never heard of feelings like guilt or grief — goes on an emotional journey that forces her to grow up quickly, and changes her thinking and her life forever.

Cristina Catanese wrote GROUNDED’s first Italian review (that I know of), which I read using Google Translate. I’m sure I didn’t get the finer points, but I did get the gist, and the review is wonderfully kind. (Also, according to Google Translate, I “suffered from Star Wars,” which, you know, at times, has been true.)

Finally, GROUNDED was mentioned by Holly E. Newton at Meridian Magazine as one of her favorite chapter books of 2015.

I continue to be surprised and delighted by the reception GROUNDED has received. Thank you, reviewers! I am grateful for your time and kind words.

Twenty Questions

I love getting e-mail from readers, and I love to answer their questions. Most readers send me a question or two…

Kayleen, a 6th grader from Baker School, sent me 20! As I wrote back to her, it occurred to me that other readers might share her curiosity.

This hunch was confirmed last Friday, when I Skype visited Mrs. Vanim’s excellent 5th graders at Pickering Valley Elementary School and discovered that many of their questions were similar to Kayleen’s.

Here therefore are Kayleen’s questions and my answers!

~*~

Why did you decide to become an author?

 

I decided to become an author because I have stories to tell, and I want to tell them in writing.

 

When you were a kid did you ever imagine yourself as an author?

 

No, I wanted to be an actress! I loved to read, though. I read myself to sleep almost every night.

 

What age were you when you decided you wanted to be an author?

 

I was in my twenties when I realized that I wanted to tell stories in books, rather than onstage.

 

How do you get the inspiration to write a new book?

 

That depends. Sometimes I get inspiration from reading other stories, or by studying history. I’m often inspired by the world around me, like places I’ve been, or events in the news. I can also find inspiration through talking with my friends and just making things up for fun. My friend Ruth and I invented the land of Tyme when we were chatting online together, and we still invent things all the time.

 

And, on average how long does it take you to write a new book?

 

If I have no other distractions, I can write very quickly. But I am a teacher and a mom, so it takes me several months to draft a novel.

 

Are you writing any new books that are about kid stories like Snow White, Captain Hook, or other fairy tales? And will there be a second book for Rapunzel and Jack?

 

Grounded is the first book in the Tyme series. The second book in the series is already written and will come out in October. It is called Disenchanted: The Trials of Cinderella. It is not a sequel to Grounded; rather, it is a companion book. That means that the two stories take place in the same world, but they concentrate on different characters and adventures. Rapunzel and Jack will be back – you will see them throughout the series – but Grounded is the only book in which they are the main protagonists.

 

Do you have any ideas for a new book or are in the middle of writing a new book?

 

I am in the middle of writing the third book in the Tyme series, and I will give you a hint about the main character: You have already met him! He is a character in Grounded.

 

When you write a new book do you use a typewriter or a normal computer?

 

I sometimes write in longhand and then transfer my writing onto a laptop. Most of the time I just use my laptop.

 

Also, what is your favorite book that you wrote?

 

That’s a tough question. Books are kind of like children that way – I can’t choose a favorite, because I love them all. If I didn’t love them, I wouldn’t write them!

 

Where did you get the inspiration to create the main character, Rapunzel? Also, is Rapunzel based off of anybody in particular? If so, how is that person related to Rapunzel?

 

My Rapunzel is based on the classic fairy-tale character of the same name, but I have never liked the classic fairy tale very much, because the heroine waits around for a prince to save her, and then the prince doesn’t do a very good job of it. I like heroines who take action, so I decided to write about a Rapunzel who takes action.

 

Also, what was the first book you wrote that was published?

 

Grounded is my debut novel, which is another way of saying that it is the first book I have had published.

 

How did you come up with the title Grounded? Also, why did you pick that for the title?

 

I like it when titles mean more than one thing. Grounded sometimes means that a young person is in trouble and their parents are making them stay at home. Grounded can also mean that something is on the ground. Finally, grounded means sensible. All these things are true for Rapunzel: She has to stay in her tower for a long time, she finally comes down to the ground, and she becomes more sensible as she learns about the world.

 

What side was Rapunzel’s Grandmother from? Her mom or dad?

 

The answer to that question is in chapter fifteen!

 

Also, if you have a favorite book or a favorite book series what is it? Is it a children’s book like one of your own books or something different?

 

I love the Harry Potter books. They are very dear to my heart. In fact, without them to inspire me, I probably would not have become a writer. I grew up reading the Anne of Green Gables series and the Little Women books, which are also important to me, and I am a great admirer of Jane Austen.

 

~*~

Novel Advice

The other day I received an e-mail from an adult reader who had enjoyed GROUNDED and wanted my advice. She has a novel kicking around in her brain, and she’s not sure how to get started.

Me either, I thought. But even though I didn’t know the answer, I attempted to give it. I shared a few things that are true for me. What I said was:

-When I write, I finish novels. When I don’t, I don’t.
-Though I do plan and outline my stories, I am never entirely certain of how they’ll go. If I wait until I’m certain, I’ll be waiting forever. Writing helps me figure out what to write.
-No matter how hard I work to create a polished, “perfect” manuscript, there are always thousands of revisions and edits ahead of me, so it’s best just to ignore the inner critic, get the draft down on paper, and go from there.

I sent that reply, but I wasn’t satisfied with it, because, while those things are true, I dodged the real question. What the woman asked was how we as writers are supposed to get started. How do we get past the idea stage and force ourselves to begin?

It’s a really hard question to answer.

I do not subscribe to the “if you don’t write every day, then you are not a Real Writer” school of thought (see more on this from the heartbreakingly articulate Daniel José Older). I’m stretched too thin to be an every-day writer, and I’m too old to be suckered into believing that there’s only one kind of path that works. I go through periods of non-writing, and periods where writing is not the first priority, and both of those things are okay. For me, they’re even necessary. But there are times when I must flip the switch, become immediately productive, and sustain that productivity daily over weeks or months in order to meet the various deadlines demanded by professional publishing. I can and do force myself to begin.

Even if I don’t feel like it. Even if I don’t know how.

So… how? How do I do that? How can I help somebody else who wants to try?

The biggest, and possibly the only piece of real advice I’ve got is this: Go somewhere else. Do the thing that feels clichéd, and take yourself to a coffee shop. Take enough money for one drink, take your notebook or laptop, depending on how you prefer to write, and leave everything else behind. Leave your phone behind. You do not need it. If you’re using a laptop, don’t get sidetracked by the wonderful world of wifi (although it is very handy for doing snap research on the one million bizarre and unrelated things you will find yourself doing snap research on while you write. Seriously, most writers I know have search histories that are so random and freakish that they would be unsurprised if the CIA showed up to seize their computers. Alarmed, but unsurprised. But I digress.)

Going somewhere else works for me. Last summer, when I was not teaching, my son was in a day camp for six weeks, four days a week. I had 20 hours a week to write undisturbed. So I drove my son to camp, went to the coffee shop around the corner, sat down, and did not move except to use the restroom until it was time to pick up my son again. If I had gone home, a) I would have spent an extra hour on the road, and that’s a waste, and b) I would have had a PS4 sitting in front of me calling my name. Or a recipe I wanted to try. Or a sudden need to weed the driveway.

No. Go somewhere else. Go where you can’t suddenly prioritize the laundry. Where you can’t just flick on one episode of Miss Fisher for inspiration and then get back to business. (Okay, so you CAN do that at the coffeeshop if you have wifi, but only if you bring headphones. So don’t bring headphones.)

Go somewhere else, and pretend you have a professional deadline, and that your editor happens to be an extraordinarily professional person whom you would personally rather die than let down, and then WORK.

Work is the only solution. Repeated effort is the only way to build the thing. So go where you can work. Remove yourself from your excuses.

(And remember. It doesn’t matter if you don’t know how to build the thing. It doesn’t matter if the thing isn’t good enough. All that matters is that if you don’t build it, you’ll never, ever know what kind of thing it might be.)

That’s all the real advice I’ve got.

No Power In the Verse Can Stop Us

SWORD AND VERSE, a thrilling and romantic YA fantasy novel, is born today. This moment feels huge to me, even though it’s not my book, because this book was written by one of my best friends, the ridiculously amazing Kathy MacMillan.

Kathy and I met back in 2001, obsessing online over Harry Potter (this is how I met all the best people in the world). We soon afterwards met up in real life, and a fast friendship was born. For many years, we wrote and shared our fanfic. We cheered each other on when we decided to branch out and write original fiction. We encouraged each other to be patient and to try again when things didn’t happen right away. We read drafts and gave each other feedback and hope. We commiserated over difficult revisions. We commanded each other not to give up.

And then, in the same year, within a few weeks of each other, our debut novels were picked up. Now, within a year of each other, our debut novels have been published.

Kathy’s joy gives me joy. Her victory makes me feel victorious. She is one of the most talented, skilled, creative, hardworking, indefatigable people I have ever had the honor of knowing. She is a mother, an ASL interpreter, a librarian, a storyteller – and now a published author. The world is a better place for having her in it, and the library is a better place for having her book on the shelf.

I love you, Kathy! Happy book birthday, my friend. May SWORD AND VERSE find all the readers who will most appreciate its depth, inventiveness, and beauty.

Merry and Bright

My daughter is here. She was born safely into the world, 9 pounds and 4 ounces, healthy and strong. Her hair is red like mine. Her toes are tiny and kissable.

My son is taking it well. Mostly he is fascinated with his baby sister’s umbilical stump and amused by her funny newborn expressions and noises. He is particularly amused when she passes gas. Today, he declared a fuller opinion of her, and I typed it as he said it so that I could capture his exact words:

“She is small. She has an umbilical cord. She has some socks, some shoes, a small tummy, and that’s it. I feel great, and I think she’s really really cute. She has really small ears. And look at that head! Look at her hands. They’re really really small. Look at her eyes; they’re closed. Look at her nose. She has two holes in it. There’s her mouth, lookit.”

Then he reviewed what I had typed and he corrected me. “No, Mom, it’s not ‘lookit’. It’s ‘look at’.”

Just so we’re all clear.

To add to this bounty of joy, there have also recently been some wonderful write-ups of GROUNDED. In The Tampa Bay Tribune’s “The Cool Aunt’s Guide to Holiday Book Buying”Amanda Sellet says:

“A fractured fairy tale with heart: Megan Morrison’s “Grounded: the Adventures of Rapunzel” opens with a cheerful Rapunzel happily ensconced in her tower, rebuffing the advances of annoying princes. Only when she is forced to descend among the scary ground people does Rapunzel begin to discover the true story of her world, and the witch, and what she’s been missing while locked away.”
Finally, Morgan Manning at Gone With the Words has written one of GROUNDED’s best reviews yet. My favorite excerpt:
“I don’t think I’ve ever read another book that I would more readily give to fans of Harry Potter. It’s not even anything like the wizarding world. It’s the intangibles, the whimsically detailed world building and sense of history, the fascinating characters, the dichotomy of good and evil and the realization that there is a very large gray area in between that gives credence to the comparison. Grounded is also incredibly well written, funny, and exciting. It’s an exhilarating MG fantasy and a pure delight to read. I was swept away on this magical, emotional journey that I hadn’t expected!”

High praise indeed! That first sentence especially! It sets my nerdy little heart aglow.

The holiday season here in this house is sleepless and happy and full of love and good cheer and delightful reviews and dirty diapers galore. And since I just fell asleep in the middle of typing that sentence, I think I’ll call it a night. Or at least, I’ll call it a nap. My daughter will decide how long that nap gets to be. 45 minutes? Two hours? Maybe even three?

Yeah, my money’s on 45 minutes.

Merry and bright holidays to you all!

The Crazy Continues

I’ve been slow to post here because I’m going at ludicrous speed everywhere else. A brief summary of the things!

  1. The academic quarter ended, so there was all kinds of crazy grading, which actually hasn’t let up at all. I’m in the middle of reading my students’ narrative fiction, which is both super fun and super time consuming.
  2. The school play is on Thursday. A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Are the kids ready? No. Will they be? Yes. How? I don’t know. It’s a mystery.
  3. I turned all the Halloween pumpkins into pumpkin butter. ALL THE PUMPKINS ARE BUTTER.
  4. I saw another sketch for the cover of book two, and it’s more beautiful every time I see it. I’m dying to share it. I’ll reveal it as soon as I’m able. Also, I got a really lovely blurb for book two, which will also be awesome to share as soon as such things are okay.
  5. My son turned five. Party at the arcade. Awesome.
  6. My daughter will be here any time now. It could be a couple of weeks, it could be a couple of days. We’ve been in hyper-nesting mode, to the point where not only is all the baby stuff built and installed and washed and organized, but all the Christmas gifts are wrapped, all the cards are written, and – as of today – the lights are on the house and the tree is up. Our neighbors must think we are Aggressively Christmassy, but the truth is, we are just scared that once the baby is here, we’ll be so tired that we won’t be able to make ourselves decorate, and then our five-year-old will be bitter.

And that’s it! Next time I write a blog post, it is very likely that I will be balancing a newborn in my other arm while I do it. See you all on the other side.

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