Ghost Stories

Last night's event at Joseph-Beth was a great deal of fun–especially since I fully expected to be talking to my parents and Christopher, given cold, miserable weather, but ended up with a good-sized crowd filled with a few familiar faces and more unfamiliar ones. So thanks to all of you guys who came out and, of course, to the wonderful Joseph-Beth crew, as ever and always. MWAH.

Anyway, as promised, I told a little ghost story, which I had to preface with my general ghost story disclaimer. Which is, the ghost stories I tend to tell people come from my family members–primarily my grandmothers–and like most such stories that come from people relating their own personal tales of spooky happenings (or those of people they know/knew well), they tend not to really be story-shaped in the general way we think of stories. They aren't so much about an arc, a beginning-middle-and-end, as they are about an experience that happened to someone. If there's a revelation or overarching meaning, it's usually on the part of the person who experienced it. But, often as not, it's just a shared incident, a "this happened to me and it was strange and now I'm telling you about it" or "here is a seriously weird thing someone told me happened to them." Not to say there aren't masterfully shaped ghost stories that are stories, but they aren't usually the ones I tell. And I find the open-endedness of these ghost vignettes, let's call them, can be satisfying in an entirely different way. (And, in this sense, I believe in them the way I believe in all stories.)

SO, I thought I'd tell one here in honor of Halloween.

The one I told last night is from my paternal grandmother, and happened to her when she was a kid. It involves seeing a long table laid out with a sumptuous feast and people eating and drinking (but without sound she could hear) in the middle of a usually deserted field while she was on the way to feed the cows. I'm not going to tell that one here, because you can read a probably-more-satisfying version of it in Kelly Link's fabulously creepy "Two Houses," in the Ray Bradbury tribute anthology Shadow Show. (Bonus: There's also a borrowed creepy story of Christopher's in there, too.)

But here's another family ghost story, which I've dressed up a little for the occasion, but not too much…

There was this two-story house way back in the woods, off a certain ridgeline. It's abandoned now, but she remembers when people lived there. That was a long time ago, when she was a little girl. The family was tight-knit, but not from around the area originally. They moved in from somewhere vague, and never really fit in. After a few years living there, someone in the family died–maybe more than one someone–but no one can ever remember who it was. It might have been the older brother, away fighting a war, or the mother from some lingering illness. Maybe it was even the little girl. But the death devastated the family. They lost their money. They lost the house.

They left. The house was in an isolated area to begin with. It was a place that only became more and more isolated as roadways got established elsewhere. The road left to it was basically a deserted dirt track. No one else ever moved in, and no one knows who owns it, if anyone does. The bank might, if they bothered to claim it. The unmowed yard grew up all around it, and the trees kept watch. But mostly it was a forgotten place.



(photo courtesy of JanZio, not actual house in question)

Except, of course, not entirely forgotten. After a few years, there were some teenagers who remembered the family had lived there, and thought they'd go check it out. She was with them. One of them claimed the younger girl in the family told him a ghost story about the house. There's a single wide chimney that runs along the far side of it, two fireplaces stacked on top of each other–one on the first floor and one on the second. The girl told him that if you took off your shoes and put them in front of the fireplace on the top floor, then went back downstairs, your shoes would be waiting for you in front of the bottom fireplace. But only if you do it by yourself.

It seemed harmless and silly to try it. So, she said she would. She went in alone while the rest waited outside. She comes out ten minutes later, just as they're starting to worry, holding her shoes dangling from her hands and laughing. She swears to them that she went upstairs and put her shoes in front of the dusty fireplace, then picked her way down the rickety stairs to check. She swears it felt like someone was watching her as she found the shoes waiting there, just as promised, picked them up and came outside. But here she is, fine, holding her shoes.

No one else goes in to try it. Maybe they believe her, maybe they don't. I went and found the house with three friends when I was in high school, many years later. It was still standing, but barely. There were empty beer bottles on the porch. We dared each other to go upstairs and leave our shoes, but no one would go in alone. It was too dark that night, even with our flashlights.

And I don't think I'd have had the guts to try it anyway. I've always wondered, what happens if the house decides not to give them back?

Happy Halloween, everyone.

Update: Joseph-Beth Event, Hijinks Elsewhere

Happy Monday! If you're in the path of uber-storm, please stay safe. Here's hoping this is another one that won't be as bad as expected–though looking at the scary satellite photos makes that seem unlikely. Here in the Bluegrass we don't expect much except some moderate wind and rain (with snow in the mountains), at least at this point. Which means if you are in these pleasantish environs you should DEFINITELY come out to Joseph-Beth tomorrow night for my pre-Halloween event there. 

The details: Tuesday, October 30, at 6 p.m., Joseph-Beth Lexington, me discussing and signing Blackwood. Be there or be square. (Should you be attending the Walking Dead creator event at UK, I think you'll still have plenty of time to get there. Do both!) In addition to talking about Blackwood and taking questions, I plan to tell at least one ghost story and I might, depending how things go, read a short scene from The Woken Gods.


(If you can't make it but want a personalized copy or want to order one if you're elsewhere, then I'm sure the store would be happy to hook you up. Here's their contact info.)

A couple of other quick things:

And yes! I'm still waiting for the big news to be share-able, which should happen anytime. Keeping secrets is hard. But soon. Soooon.

Monday Hangovers

Thursday Hangovers

Bookish Updatery, Tuesday Five Edition

Five things to share today, so a quick update. I’m knuckling down on the second half of this revision and staring down the barrel of jury duty later this month, with more revising of a different project coming soonish…so probably this will be a season of less frequent updating. (But if anyone has requests or suggestions for a particular topic for a blog post, then let me know in the comments or at twitter or via email and I’ll do my best to work it in.) Also, hello lovely visitors by way of *waves*

  • First things first:

Received confirmation this morning that barring mega-earthquakes, volcanic explosions, or other large-scale protests from the Earth, the release month for The Woken Gods will in fact be next July! (Which means there will probably soon be an official description and maybe preordering type links. Cover discussion has tentatively begun. In the meantime, if you want to know more there’s this.) Cue *nerves*. Not that there is going to be time for them.

  • Second things second:

Are you in Kentucky, particularly near Lexington? Then you should come out to the fabulous Joseph-Beth Booksellers on Tuesday, October 30, at 6 p.m. I will be discussing Blackwood and telling a scary ghost story or two in honor of Halloween and taking your questions and I might even share a little snippet from the new book, time permitting.  (Signed copies of Blackwood make a great stocking stuffer–and Christmas will be here before you know it. Just saying!) I dropped by the store last Friday and was a bit woozy to see that I have a table display and an event banner:




This is particularly cool and surreal because this is the bookstore that first taught me what a wonderland bookstores could be. It was basically my favorite destination as soon as I discovered it in high school, having before only had access to a WaldenBooks (which was itself an hour away). And the team from Joseph-Beth has been absolutely wonderful to me. *draws hearts in air* This one should be fun. So, cooome out, okay? Okay.

  • Third things third (you see how this is going, right?):

New audiobook review from Bob Reiss of the excellently named audiobook-focused blog, The Guilded Earlobe: “Blackwood is a strong YA tale with themes that permeate the label but are done in a unique and engaging way. The strength of this novel is in its characters. Bond created two engaging protagonists, and a slew of secondary players that are well developed.”

Want to sample said audiobook? I thought you’d never ask. The folks at AudioGo have just put up a youtube clip for your sampling pleasure.

  • Fourth comes fourth:

Two things absolutely made my day yesterday. The first was a review from Delaney, age 12, in the October issue of the Sacramento Book Review. Snippet: “Blackwood was an amazing book! … This book was an excellent mystery, full of romance, ghosts, ancient curses, historical figures, betrayal, and so much more. I loved how the already intriguing mystery of the Lost Colony was given some unexpected twists and turns. I would highly recommend this book to anyone who loves mystery and magic.” (Thanks to the one and only Bookalicious Pam for the pointer.) *beam*

  • Fifth and final:

The other thing that made my day was this photo from Ballou High School:

You can see another photo of books arriving and read more about the impact the Ballou High School book fair has over at Guys Lit Wire. To whoever sent my book to Ballou, my love to you, kind soul. And if you haven’t sent a book via the Powell’s wishlist yet, there’s still plenty of great ones left to choose from.

Annd that’s it from me today. Have a great week, everybody.

Friday Hangovers

Returning Vampires Snippet Celebration + In The News

Yesterday I had a nice long conversation about YA and Blackwood and related topics with Louisville public radio station WFPL's ace arts reporter Erin Keane (who is also fabulous writer–highly recommend both her poetry collections), as a preview to the Writer's Block Festival where I'll be panel discussioning about YA (and signing) on Saturday. The resulting story is here.

And, if you didn't know (gaspALARM), tonight is…

…the return of The Vampire Diaries.

In honor of this momentous fall occasion, here's a teeny not-spoilery snippet from a scene between Miranda and Phillips in Blackwood:

She blinked, but he couldn't tell if it had worked until she said, "You snooped in my room?"

He had her.

"I had to help pack your stuff." He wrinkled his nose. "You have a thing for brooding vampire brothers?"

"You've seen it?"

Keep her talking. He shrugged. "Study lounge has a TV. Doppelgangers are hot. I'm not proud."

Happy Thursday, y'all.

Dept. of Nice Surprises Redux

So, yesterday was a loooong Monday.  I still had some work to do when I got home, but I couldn't get home. All the streets surrounding our house were blocked off for some mysterious race, so I had Christopher meet me at the only accessible pub grub place I could find. As we were–finally–on our way back after the streets re-opened, I was checking twitter on my phone and saw an i09 update that said "What's more thrilling than a fantasy about the Chosen One? How about the Cursed One?" And I actually thought to myself, Huh, the cursed one instead of the chosen one is kinda how I think about Blackwood; I wonder what the link's about?

Wellll, it turned out to be a lovely review of Blackwood by the fabulous Charlie Jane Anders. Snippet:

There have been a ton of young adult fantasy novels lately where one person stands against a dystopian world, or faces a terrible menace, and they're sort of the chosen savior. But Gwenda Bond's YA debut, Blackwood, takes a very different tack: Her heroine, Miranda Blackwood, is the cursed one, who bears the mark of the betrayer, and she's also the most hated person in her small town. Blackwood is a neat spin on all of those YA fantasies about being special — especially when it turns into a story about "freaks in love."

Go there for the rest. I don't read all reviews (because I don't want to go crazy), but it really is amazing when someone has read the book you were trying to write. And that's how I feel about this one. Day = made, in other words.

Also, a new interview conducted by the delightful Megan Whitmer has just been posted at I talk about Blackwood and Lexington's wonderful literary community and Other Things.

And! I'm told that SOON I will be able to share VERY EXCITING NEWS…but not quite yet. *commences secret chair dancing but tries not to be obnoxious about it*

Quick Update! (Writer’s Block Festival & Other Things)

I'll be at the Writer's Block Festival in Louisville on Saturday. I'll be doing the following panel in the Green Building Gallery:

1-2:15: Younger Games:  The Pleasures and Pitfalls of Writing Young Adult Fiction

Young adult fiction is hot! Consider the recent Twilight and Hunger Games series, which have been enthusiastically received by both young and adult readers. Join our versatile panel of contemporary young adult fiction writers:  Gwenda Bond (Blackwood); Katrina Kittle (Reasons to Be Happy), and Kelly Creagh (the Nevermore series) moderated by YA novel and short story writer, Matt Jaeger (The Creation of Lilith Pomegranate and The Care Takers). Our panelists will discuss their writing lives and the challenges and the benefits of writing fiction for a young adult audience.

Copies of Blackwood (and everyone else's books) will be on sale courtesy of the wonderful Carmichael's, and I believe I'll be signing at their spot in the Green Building at 2:30, right after the panel. (If that time changes I'll post here. But books should be on sale all day, and I'm happy to sign copies whenever so approach at will.) If you're in the Louisville area, come out and say hi. Most festival events–including the panel–are free to attend.

A few other things:

  • Leo Elijah Cristea review: "Bond writes a compelling, addictive story that merges together so many genres it’s difficult to really call it one or the other: with elements of romance, mystery, the supernatural and even horror, Blackwood is a unique, exciting story that kept me glued to the page. It is an engrossing, detailed story that is deliciously written and marks Bond as a writer to look out for." (Another review I want to marry!)
  • Book Angel Booktopia review by Jenni: "I really enjoyed this book, it incorporated the legend of the Lost Colony well into a contemporary setting blending the past with the present cleverly. The way the plot twists and turns keeps the book exciting from start to finish, there were a couple of moments that left me feeling completely surprised."
  • Much Loved Books review of the audiobook: "The narrator of Blackwood made it interesting and kept me entertained. I even forgot a few times that it was just one person doing all the voices for the characters. I loved her accent and the different tones she uses to get across the emotion the characters are feeling."
  • The LOVELY Megan Whitmer says nice things and is giving away a signed copy of Blackwood over at her blog.
  • The Cynsations giveaway is also still going.

And one last link that is too interesting and important not to share: