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Friday, December 13, 2013

Author Melanie Crowder: Writing With Multiple POVs (plus a book giveaway!)

Praise for Melanie Crowder's PARCHED:

“A thrilling, imaginative soul quencher. Crowder’s stunning debut is sure to become a modern classic.” —Rita Williams-Garcia, Newbery Honor-winning author of One Crazy Summer

“The direct powerful prose in this first novel dramatizes the exciting contemporary survival story. . . . Fans of Gary Paulsen’s Hatchet (1987) will want this.” Booklist

I'm so pleased to have author Melanie Crowder on the blog today to talk about character development in a novel with multiple points of view.

Melanie lives in Colorado and writes both middle grade and young adult fiction. I was lucky enough to attend the book launch for her debut novel PARCHED (published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt) earlier this year, and have been dying to interview Melanie ever since. I will be giving away a copy of PARCHED to one lucky person who leaves a comment on this interview.

Here's a summary of her gorgeous book:
Sarel is a girl with secrets. She knows which tree roots reach down deep to pools of precious water. But now she must learn how to keep herself and her dogs alive. Nandi is the leader of those dogs. She knows they can’t last long without water—and she knows, too, that a boy is coming; a boy with the water song inside him.

Musa is that boy. His talent for finding water got him kidnapped by brutal men, yet he’s escaped, running away across the thirsty land that nearly claims his life. And so Sarel, Musa, and the dogs come together in what might be their last hope of survival.

On with the interview!
How did you come up with your characters for PARCHED and tap into their unique voices and perspectives?

Sarel came to me first, in an image, and Nandi was right beside her from the beginning. I had the clearest picture of Nandi, so hers was the easiest character to write. Dogs perceive the world with immediacy, in a highly sensory way, so of course Nandi’s voice would have those qualities. With Sarel, I felt like I understood her from the very beginning, so I find it interesting that hers was actually the hardest point of view for me to write.

To me, Sarel’s chapters were always humming with emotional resonance, but my writing partners helped me to see that the reader wasn’t necessarily feeling the same emotional impact I was. It took many revisions to get Sarel’s emotions on the page in a way that the reader could connect with, but that also satisfied my own need to be true to the trauma and emotional shock she was experiencing.

Musa came later. I had felt for a long time that there was a third piece to this puzzle, and once I found him, thankfully, his chapters flowed naturally.

PARCHED is told with three distinct points-of-view. How is character development (and overall writing, for that matter) challenged by having multiple POVs?

Well, it requires an attentive reader, for sure, to keep track of whose chapter they are in.
And then, each character needs a satisfying arc of his or her own, complete with emotional growth, tangible purpose and resolution of some kind at the end. The key is finding a way in which every character’s journey hinges on the others. I don’t want to give too much away, but in this story, every one of these characters absolutely needs the other two, not only just to survive, but to find a way, in the end, to really live.

Your novel is deliberate in its use of sparse and carefully-chosen language. Was this approach ever a concern for you in terms of making sure your characters were fully developed and three-dimensional?

Oh, it was such a balancing act! But the setting and premise demanded spare prose, so the challenge became bringing about poignancy and emotional connection between the reader and the characters. It was so hard, but I am really proud of the result!

Sarel, Musa and Nandi are wonderful characters, each one with their own personal challenges. How did you balance their individual voices/stories?

Am I sounding like a broken record yet? Emotion was the driving force for me. Because of the spare prose, I needed to use every single imaginable opportunity to show emotion and character in a way that didn’t feel intrusive or inorganic to the style of the novel. So I used chapters from one character to reveal something about another. So when you weigh the needs of plot, pacing, perspective and revealing character, the balance fell neatly into place.

Okay, let’s talk dogs. While I can name plenty of MG novels featuring dogs, there aren't too many where the dog is given a perspective. Both the opening and closing chapters are in Nandi’s point-of-view. What led you to give an animal a more intimate role in PARCHED?

Sarel’s story broke my heart. I could not write her journey without giving her Nandi as a protector. In my mind, Nandi is all things wise and fierce and strong. At the same time, two truths confronted me as I was writing the story: first, that in order for the reader to connect with Sarel and to understand her situation, I had to begin the story with the Tandie raid on the homestead, and second, I could not show that scene through Sarel’s eyes. She, and the reader needed distance from that traumatic event.
So the natural choice was for Nandi to show that scene, and once I had given the reader a peek in to her mind, I couldn’t stop at just one chapter.  
What final advice on character development would you give writers who are drafting novels with multiple points of view?

Make sure that each POV character has his or her own emotional journey. One way to do this is to physically pull the draft apart—to separate it into three stories and to read each character’s chapters as its own draft. There will be gaps in the narrative, and since you will have revealed things about the POV character in other chapters, there will also be gaps in that character’s internal journey. However, it will give you a sense of character evolution and consistency in voice.

Finally, look for ways in which each character affects the others so that their interactions and the ultimate resolution have a sense of inevitability about them. Flora & Ulysses by Kate DiCamillo is a great example of this—I won’t say any more at the risk of spoiling a wonderful read for you all, but if you haven’t already, read it with an eye to how each character’s presence in the story affects change in the others.

A huge thanks to Melanie for coming on the blog! Her next book, AUDACITY, is a historical YA novel-in-verse (coming from Philomel  in early 2015). For a chance to win a copy of PARCHED, simply leave a comment for Melanie! I will count any comment between now and Thursday, December 19th. The winner will be notified by email on Friday, December 20th. 

UPDATE: The winner, picked by Random.org, is
Andrea Mack! Congrats to Andrea!


LINKS TO BUY PARCHED: Order here, here or here!

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Cover Reveal! THE HEADHUNTERS RACE by Kimberly Afe

Author Kimberly Afe
I am thrilled to be participating in the cover release for Kimberly Afe's The Headhunters Race! Kimberly has been a blogging friend of mine for some time now, and we've also exchanged manuscripts for critique.

When I first read The Headhunters Race, I was immediately caught up in Avene's journey and the harsh realities of the world Kimberly created. With an exciting premise, a fierce and dangerous landscape, and a heroine with resolve, this is a novel you won't want to miss. You'll be hearing more from me about the book when it releases next month, but for now, I give you.....

Book Summary
Sixteen-year-old Avene was sentenced to prison at thirteen for a crime she didn't commit. Now she has a chance to win her freedom back – if she enters the Headhunters Race. Second prize isn't so bad either, an upgrade to the Leisure Prison if you make it to the finish line. To win either prize, Avene and the other prisoners must navigate one hundred and fifty miles of dense forest, desert, and worst of all, cannibal territory.

With a mechanical collar timed to strangle the prisoners if they're not back in nine days, Avene allies herself with seventeen-year-old McCoy, another prisoner that insists on helping her at every turn and a boy she's trying hard not to fall for. Together they battle nature, other prisoners, and the timed death collars to win the coveted prize. But when Avene is tested with one deadly conflict after another, she realizes there is more at stake than winning her freedom – first she has to survive. 

Author Bio
Kimberly is the mother of two awesome kids, wife of the nicest man in the world, and her dog's best friend. She works by day and writes middle grade and young adult science fiction and fantasy novels in her spare time. She lives with her family in the beautiful Sonoran Desert.

Kimberly's Social Sites

Website     Goodreads     Twitter     Facebook     Blog

Friday, November 22, 2013

A Really Cool Place To Buy Literary Gifts (and winner of The Real Boy!)

Looking for lighthearted gifts for kids, friends, and family this holiday season? Try browsing the Archie McPhee website. One of my critique partners sent me a link (we were discussing librarian action figures, as CPs tend to do, and she wanted to show me an available option). Little did she know that the website is a gold mine for goofballs like me.

Not only can you find gems like the Shakespearean Insult Bandages above ($5), but they also have:
Jane Austen Tattoos
Edgar Allan Poe Action Figure

Shakespeare Air Freshener ("smells like Shakespearmint")

and you'll also find wonders like:
Bacon-scented Mustache
Great Ideas Napkin Sketchbook--all great ideas start on the back of a napkin

Once again, here's a link: Archie McPhee
Best of luck with your holiday shopping!

And now, via Random.org, the winner of a hardcover copy of Anne Ursu's beautiful book The Real Boy is...


UP NEXT: I'm out of town for the next two weeks and will return on December 13 with an interview (and giveaway) with Melanie Crowder, author of Parched, who will be offering advice on writing books with multiple POVs. See you then!

Friday, November 15, 2013

Author Anne Ursu: Characters, Writing, and Voice in Middle Grade Literature

How do successful authors go about developing their characters? 

As writers, we are in a (privileged and somewhat daunting) position of being able to touch readers with our stories~ to have them find connections and parallels to their own lives within the pages of a book. To have them be inspired by characters who are real and flawed and frightened and brave, who face the dark and scary things in life, not without fear, but in spite of it. Characters who feel things, and think things. Characters who you'd like to hold hands with and bundle into your backpack to take with you for courage when facing your own challenges.

I'm absolutely thrilled to have Anne Ursu on the blog to talk about character development in middle grade literature. In addition to her novels for adults (Spilling Clarence, The Disapparition of James), Anne has written the middle grade books The Cronus Chronicles (a trilogy), Breadcrumbs, and The Real Boy. All of her MG books have characters who have stayed in my mind and heart long after I've turned the final pages. Anne teaches at Hamline University's MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults, and lives in Minneapolis with her son and cats.

If you don't already own a copy of The Real Boy (beautifully illustrated by Erin McGuire), leave a comment on this post for a chance to win a hardcover. It is a very special book. And now, here's Anne:

How has your writing process evolved from The Cronus Chronicles to The Real Boy?

Breadcrumbs drawing: Erin McGuire
I wish I could say that I’ve really refined my process over these five books, learned from my mistakes and grown each time. But it’s always the same: I start with an idea, take some scattered notes, and then just plunge into the deep end. It usually occurs to me a couple of chapters in that I have no idea what I’m doing, and then I start snacking a lot to mask my despair.

I suppose the thing I have learned is that the fear is okay. I’m always terrified—but I’ve realized there’s no point in knowing how to write a book you already know how to write. You learn how to write a book by writing the book, that’s all. This doesn’t make it any easier when you’re staring down an endless tunnel with only the sputtering light of your own ignorance to guide you, of course.

Once you have a character in mind and a situation to challenge him/her with, how do you go about developing that character?

From The Real Boy
As you may have guessed from the above, I’m a very fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants writer. It’s more intuition than planning for me—I just start the book with a feel for the character and see what happens. I tend not to worry too much about what a character would or wouldn’t do, at least during the first draft—if they are doing it, then they would do it.

So, for example, with Hazel in Breadcrumbs, I was thinking of a comment a friend got on a report card in elementary school—“She’s doing better but she still stares out of the window and appears stupid.” That summed up the whole character to me; she had a strong imagination but no one really appreciated it. And then I just started writing, and everything unfolded.

You learn a bunch about your character by the end of the book, and usually most of my rewriting happens at the beginning.  Also, I seem to have a tendency in my first drafts to make my characters, in my editor’s words, more pitiable than sympathetic. So that requires a little bit of attention.

Agents and editors have said that the middle grade voice is one of the hardest to write. What advice would you give a middle grade writer who has plenty of plot ideas, but struggles to find their characters' authentic voice?

From The Real Boy
Read. Read out loud, and listen to audio books. Take apart the books you like—what elements make up the voice? How did this author create the sound of the character?

We treat voice like an abstract concept, but it’s just the expression of character on the page. How does your character talk? What kind of analogies might she use—what are her interests and preoccupations? How self-reflective is she? What’s her sense of humor like? What are her favorite words? Does she exaggerate? How do her emotions affect her voice? 

Sometimes I have students write bits of journal entries from their protagonist. It sounds cheesy, but every time I’ve done it the student captures something essential. It’s just a great way to get a feel for how your character really expresses herself, especially when she is living in a certain emotion.

In your opinion, what are three elements that should be part of any middle grade novel (i.e. action, humor, heart, ninjas, brownies, etc.)?

From Breadcrumbs
I want all my books to be summed up with the words “heart, ninjas, brownies.”

To me, middle-grade is entirely character-driven. I think one of the reasons that genre fiction is mainstream in books for young readers and not in books for adults is that kids and YA books have richer characters at the center of the story. The books still have a beating heart, someone to care about.

I can’t think of a middle grade book that doesn’t offer kids strength or hope somehow. I despise the idea that every middle grade book needs a perfect happily-ever-after ending, but I think you want the main character to have something from the experience of the book that’s changed her and you want to know she’s going to be all right.

And cats. There should be cats in every middle grade book. My prescription for middle grade success: Character, hope, cats.

What’s your favorite thing about teaching MFA courses in creative writing at Hamline University?

My program is a low-residency program in children’s book writing, and so most of the time I’m at home writing editorial letters on student work—we communicate by email. And then twice a year everyone in the program meets on campus for very intense ten-day residencies with workshops and seminars and lectures. I adore my job. When you go to residency, you realize everyone around you loves writing and children’s books and so “gets” you on that level—this is not an experience writers get very often. And no one asks you when you are going to start writing real books.  

I love the chance to be analytical about these books—as I said I tend to go by instinct and feel, but it turns out saying to students, “Oh, you know, you just…do it,” and flailing your arms around isn’t that helpful.

And so I’m learning along with the students, and the chance to dive deep into someone else’s writing helps your own grow by leaps and bounds. But my very favorite thing is watching someone’s writing transform in the program—they just find their spark. It’s amazing to watch.


A huge thanks to Anne for answering questions! Please leave a comment to be entered in The Real Boy giveaway (the winner will be announced next Friday). To find out more about Anne and her books, you can visit the following places:

Anne Ursu's Website

Anne Ursu on Twitter 

And here are two recent essays by Anne that you don't want to miss:

But What About the Children (an essay on how we talk about middle grade)

On Gender and Boys Read Panel

Friday, November 8, 2013

Increase Blog Traffic With This One Magic Item (and a giveaway winner!)

*The winner of Jenny Goebel's Grave Images is listed below*

Okay, so I haven't been the best at leaving comments lately, and I know I've missed out on some great posts by you all. Part of that is due to juggling two little ones at home, which has significantly cut down on my computer time.

Time Bandit #1
Time Bandit #2

Part of that is also because I don't check Blogger every day to scroll through posts. And if I miss a day or two of doing that, chances are, I won't go through enough of them to see older items (kind of like when you follow a ton of people on Twitter, it's easy to miss a tweet here or there).

Now, what I DO check every day is my email. I love, love, love when bloggers have an easy-to-find FOLLOW BY EMAIL button (which is exactly the reason I added one to my own blog a month ago). That way, post titles show up in my email box. Even if I don't have time that day (or even that week) I tend to save posts that catch my eye and read them when I have time to play catch-up.

My big suggestion (and it might be a no-brainer to some of you savvy bloggers out there, but it's a new revelation to me) to increase blog traffic is:

*Add a FOLLOW BY EMAIL button to your blog if you don't already have one
*Put it somewhere highly visible on your blog


Thanks again to Jenny Goebel for her wonderful interview on book launches! Via Random.org, the winner of her debut novel, Grave Images, is...


Leandra Wallace!! 
Congrats Leanda! Please send me an email with your address so I can pass it along to Jenny.

Next Friday: The amazing Anne Ursu, author of The Cronus Cronus Chronicles, Breadcrumbs, and 2013 National Book Award Longlist title The Real Boy, will be on the blog to talk about character development in middle grade literature! 

Friday, November 1, 2013

Book Launch Advice (and a giveaway!) with Debut Author Jenny Goebel

Welcome Jenny Goebel!

Jenny is a middle grade author from the Rocky Mountains of Colorado. Her book launch for Grave Images (Scholastic, October 2013) was last week at an amazing indie bookstore in Denver called The Tattered Cover. I was lucky enough to attend and it was fabulous (scroll to the bottom to see a YouTube video of the event). 

Her debut middle grade novel is a perfect read for anyone who likes endearing characters and eerie plots. I am not a fast reader these days, but I bought this novel last Saturday and emailed Jenny the following Monday about doing an interview and giveaway. It was devoured in just two reading sessions because I HAD to uncover the mystery and make sure Bernie came out unscathed (no comment on whether or not that happened).

Today she's stopping by to share insight and tips about one of the most exciting events in an author's career: THE BOOK LAUNCH. Indie and traditionally-published authors, pay attention~ Jenny offers some wonderful advice in her answers below.

1. How far in advance of publication did you start looking into 
your launch? Who were your points of contact (aka, who is the 
best person to talk to if you want to schedule an event?)

I’m pretty sure I started planning my launch party the day I 
knew GRAVE IMAGES was going to be a real live book. Okay, 
maybe even before that. Sheesh, in all honesty, I was probably 
fantasizing about releasing my precious little book into world 
long before the first word was ever written. But as for actually 
thinking about the logistics of the party (and not just what I 
would say on Oprah someday), I started attending launch 
parties for other debut authors about a year in advance of my release date.  It was while I was attending one such party that I discovered the awesomeness of the Tattered Cover Book Store. And then at another event I was given an introduction to 
Tattered Cover’s event coordinator. So my advice to people 
planning a launch would be to attend as many author events as 
possible in the months leading up to your release date. I’m sure 
you can call around looking for points of contact, but in my 
experience a face-to-face interaction is usually more fruitful. 
Plus, just think of all the great new books you’ll be introduced 
to while making the circuit!

2. How did you determine the right location and timing of your 
launch? Can you offer any advice on how days of the week 
might factor in or time of day might affect attendance?

One reason I felt The Tattered Cover was ideal for my launch 
was because it was centrally located for the friends and family
knew would be attending. As for the timing of the launch, 
everyone agreed that a Halloween themed event would be 
perfect for my spooky middle grade mystery, so luckily my 
publisher and the bookstore worked together to make it 
happen the Saturday before my book was actually scheduled 
for release. I did have the option of doing the launch one night 
through the week, but, as my book is written for a younger 
audience, I knew a school night would make it more difficult 
for children to attend. Another upside of having it 
midafternoon on a Saturday was that my guests could stick 
around and peruse the bookstore after the event, whereas the 
store would’ve been trying to close if we’d done it one night 
through the week.

3. Did you consider the purpose of your launch to be sales-based or celebration-based? A combination?

I would say my focus was primarily celebration-based. My 
friends and family have been cheering me on for quite some 
time and I wanted the chance to formally acknowledge their 
support as well as provide an opportunity to gather together 
and just enjoy each other’s company. With that said I also 
knew many of them had been waiting for the opportunity to 
purchase my book and have it signed, so sales did factor into 
consideration. I knew I wanted a venue where the books could 
be sold, and that I wouldn’t actually have to handle the 
exchange of money.

3. How did you get the word out about your event? Formal 

That’s always the trick isn’t it? In addition to the bookstore’s 
advertisement through newsletters and in the local paper, I 
also sent out evites to just about every email address I could 
scrounge up, and I created an Event Page on Facebook. I also 
dropped off flyers and bookmarks to an elementary school I 
had previously taught at.

4. What did you include in your speaking points? How long was your “program”? Anything you would have changed?

Knowing that there would be a number of young children in 
attendance, I didn’t want to natter on for too long (which was 
totally fine by me), and I also wanted to keep it interesting for 
the adults. I’ve been to a number of events where the author 
chose to speak about their writing process and the journey of 
their book to publication. I think these types of speeches go 
over very well, especially when there are other writers in the 
audience. I tried to touch on these points briefly, but my 
primary focus was on the collaboration of author and reader 
and the magic that happens when the two meet. This was 
something I hoped everyone would be able to relate to. My 
program took around 15 minutes and included a reading from 
GRAVE IMAGES. Looking back, I probably would change the 
part where I burst into tears (Jess note: this was such a 
beautiful, heartfelt moment!); but, what can I say, in addition 
to being a day for my book to be released into the world, the 
event was an emotional release for me as well.

5. Can you offer any advice concerning refreshments? Amount, type, etc.

This is where those evite RSVPs come in really handy. 
Otherwise it’s very difficult to gauge what the turn out will be, 
and how to plan accordingly for refreshments. Once I had a 
vague idea of how many people would be there, I started to 
think about what would work well with my theme. I was 
fortunate to have my book launch landing close to Halloween, 
so it took less creativity on my part. (I ended up having 
pudding cups with headstone cookies sticking out of them, 
cupcakes decorated like eyeballs, and witchy brew.) But I’ve 
seen other authors come up with some very original ways of 
incorporating themes from their books into the refreshments 
they offer. For example, Melanie Crowder offered a beverage 
at her launch that was made from the aloe vera desert plant 
referenced in her middle grade novel, PARCHED. Whatever 
you plan, just be sure to check with your event coordinator to 
make sure the venue doesn’t have any restrictions on what you 
can bring in.

6. Any other advice on launching a beloved book into the world?

Try to remember that it is a celebration. It’s supposed to be 
fun! Don’t lose sight of that stressing over the particulars of the 
event. Typically, the people who turn out for these things are 
incredibly happy for you and excited to be a part of this 
momentous leg of your journey, so just relax and allow yourself 
to enjoy their enthusiasm for you and your book. 

Thank you so much! Jenny is giving away a copy of her book to a lucky person leaving a comment. To be entered, tell us: what is the best Halloween costume you've ever worn (or, if you weren't the trick-or-treating type, the best costume you've seen).

Book Description:
Thirteen-year-old Bernie's summer is looking pretty grim. It's hard to make friends when your family runs a monument company, and your backyard is littered with tombstones. It's even harder when your mother suddenly refuses to leave her room . . .

To make matters worse, her father has just hired a new artist to engrave the headstones--the creepy Mr. Stein. Bernie has a bad feeling about him right from the start, and after snooping around his cottage, she discovers an engraved portrait of their neighbor . . . a woman who promptly dies the next day. And it's not just a weird coincidence. The pattern continues, and Bernie realizes that Mr. Stein has begun engraving headstones before people die, which forces Bernie to ask a horrifying question: Is Mr. Stein predicting the deaths . . . or causing them?

*Cool aside, not only did Jenny own her own engraving business, but she also engraved headstone portraits, just like Mr. Abbot Stein, the mysterious drifter who comes into Bernie's life, thus beginning a spectacularly creepy series of deaths in her town.


Jenny's Website: www.jennygoebel.com

Jenny's Twitter handle: @jennygoebel

(click the link)

Friday, October 25, 2013

Spooky Literary Destinations (and vote to help decide my daughter's Halloween costume)

Aaaaand, here is my second annual encore post of spooky literary destinations! Halloween is around the corner, so I thought I’d bring you five literary destinations that are surrounded by spookiness, but would still make for a fun family trip.

But first, if you would like to help decide my 4-year-old's Halloween costume for this year, here are her top choices (YOU CAN VOTE IN THE COMMENTS):

1. Panda Bear (advantage of this one is that it would be sweatsuit-based & therefore a warm choice~ my area of CO could be chilly that night).

2. Tinkerbell (she's got fairy sheets and loves the Tinkerbell movies)

3. Bigfoot Hunter (she's a big fan of the tv show Finding Bigfoot~ watches reruns with her dad and brother).

4. Cat Ballerina w/ a crown~ don't really know if this qualifies as a "costume" or is just a matter of putting on a bunch of stuff in her dress-up trunk. But she told me to put it on the list.


Okay, spooky destinations....
Drumroll, please (and a big thank you to Wikipedia for assistance):

TRANSYLVANIA- This region of Romania (see the photo above for a landscape photo) is the location of Bram Stoker’s Dracula, a novel that’s said to be (in part) based on the real-life horror story of Vlad the Impaler, who was said to have killed between 40,000 to 100,000 Europeans.

Click HERE for Transylvania tourism info. It looks like a gorgeous and friendly place for a vacation :)

SLEEPY HOLLOW, NEW YORK- Both in written and Disney form, Washington Irving’s The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, is a beloved and spooky tale. It takes place in the Dutch settlement of Tarry Town (based on Tarrytown, New York) in an isolated glen called Sleepy Hollow.

Now you can visit the real village of Sleepy Hollow, New York! The town website is adorable, and it looks like they host one heck of a haunted hayride! There are tons of community events, many hosted in the lovely Irvington Town Hall. The image is of the Headless Horeseman Bridge.

SALEM, MASSACHUSETTS-Arthur Miller’s play The Crucible is a dramatization of the real-life Salem Witch trials. It is the town of Danvers, once known as Salem Village, that was the main site of the hangings of nineteen people (14 women, 5 men). One man was crushed to death by heavy stones, in an attempt to make him enter a plea. 29 people were convicted of the capital felony of witchcraft. Seriously interesting and sad stuff.

Anyway, you should know that Danvers, the true site, changed its name specifically to avoid notoriety. Salem Town (Click HERE for a city guide) capitalized on its name and became the tourism mecca for witchcraft buffs everywhere.

As one visitor from Chicago noted, “The whole thing mostly happened down the road? Well, that bites. And here I was just getting into this nice déjà vu historical groove.”

ESTES PARK, CO-Stephen King once wrote an itty-bitty book called The Shining. Ever heard of it? It’s about a man who takes a job as caretaker of The Overlook Hotel in a remote area of Colorado. It’s said that a stay at The Stanley Hotel (pictured to the left) in Estes Park, Colorado inspired Stephen King to write the book.

I’ve been to Estes Park many times, mostly because of its location as a gateway to Rocky Mountain National Park.

It’s gorgeous and full of touristy shops. Jam-packed with visitors and locals alike. Mostly visitors, though. The town is a good hour from Denver, and the drive is beautiful. At 7,500 feet, the altitude feels much higher than my home at 7,552 feet. Must be bigger mountains and the slightly isolated feel. And the ghosties, of course. Like most mountain towns in Colorado, the weather is unpredictable, making it the perfect inspiration for one of the creepiest stories (and movies) of the season.

ELSINORE, DENMARK- Much of the Shakespeare play Hamlet takes place in Elsinore Castle in the Kingdom of Denmark. The actual castle you would visit these days is called Kronborg Castle (click HERE for historical info).

It’s one of the top tourist attraction and historical sites in Denmark, and is surrounded by a fortress area near the port to Elsinore city. The harbor is near the entrance to the sound between Sweden and Denmark. This might not seem like a Halloween tale to you, but there are ghosts, murders, and intrigue galore (despite this sunny photo of the castle, it's said to be haunted. Yes, that's right,haunted. Now hand over the entrance fee and get in line to see for yourself).

Happy Halloween!