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2K13 at SCBWI OH

Whew, that’s a lot of acronyms…but The Class of 2K13 is going to be at an event in Ohio next week. Well, six of us are! Here’s the rundown!



Reconnect – Recharge – Renew: N. Ohio SCBWI 11th Annual Conference

WHEN: Friday, September 20, 2013 2:00 PM –
Saturday, September 21, 2013 5:30 PM (Eastern Time)

WHERE: Cleveland Airport Sheraton
(216) 267-1500
5300 Riverside Drive
Cleveland, Ohio 44135

WHAT: Reconnect with old friends and make some new friends. You can never have enough acquaintances in this industry. The networking opportunities are AMAZING!!! Recharge and become motivated, educated and inspired with the presentations from experts in the field. Renew leaving the conference with new ideas or goals on making old ideas successful. Feel refreshed and ready to jump into your career of writing and/or illustrating for today’s youth.

WHO: 2K13 Members:

•Kelly Barson, Author of 45 POUNDS (MORE OR LESS)
•Geoffrey Girard, Author of PROJECT CAIN
•Demitria Lunetta, Author of IN THE AFTER
•Mindy McGinnis, Author of NOT A DROP TO DRINK
•Jennifer McGowan, Author of MAID OF SECRETS
•Kate Karyus Quinn, Author of ANOTHER LITTLE PIECE

We will be doing a debut panel on Friday: From Finished Manuscript to First Book: A YA Debut-Author Tells All and a Query panel on Saturday.

There are a ton of other authors and panels, so come check it out! There’s still time to register so we hope to see you all there!



Between the Covers: Age Appropriateness of MAID OF SECRETS

Young Adult fiction runs the gamut of styles, content and intensity, from super sweet young teen reads to dark and gritty stories suitable only for very mature teens and adults. So where does my tale of spygirls in Queen Elizabeth’s court, Maid of Secrets, fall in that range?

I thought it would be easiest to ask the spies themselves.

Meg (The Thief):

Well, begging your pardon, but I am a thief, and a good one. ‘Tis only what I’ve known all my life, of course, and I don’t steal but what someone has left out in the open for the taking. I mean, really, some people are just careless. So, yes, there is thievery, pick-pocketing and the like, and a fair amount of the light-fingering of letters not intended for my eyes. But if I were not to thieve, I and my troupe would starve. And if I were not to follow the Queen’s orders to steal these letters I mention, I would be imprisoned. As to the Queen herself, ’tis said she carries on with a married man… but you’ll never prove it by me. Love is a private matter, and that’s all I will say on that.

Beatrice (The Court Insider):

Oh, pray, don’t preach your morals and high standards to me, for I have seen the truth of them! The only thing ‘noble’ among many of the lords and a fair number of the ladies of Queen Elizabeth’s court is our birth, I’ll tell you now. But still, we are not fools. As bawdy and flirtatious as the Queen’s court is, there is only the suggestion of indecency you’ll find in these pages, nothing plain to the eyes. Of course, Meg’s terrible manners and poor schooling are a scandal… does that count? And while I have it on good authority that the thief makes big moon eyes at her Spanish boyfriend, and the two steal kisses here and there, there is no more between them that. Pish, ’tis a surprise there’s even that, as annoying as Meg is…

Sophia (The Seer):

I cannot really say as I have anything to add to this discussion, for though it is thought that I might, perhaps, one day see more than what one can ordinarily see–see the future in fact–it has not happened yet. Still, there is the idea of magic and some might even say witchcraft, which I suppose is only fitting, as I am ward to John Dee, the Queen’s honored astrologer. But within this first tale, I can assure you, nothing more is wrought from me than the wringing of my own hands. I hope my gift does manifest soon, if manifest it will! And I hope it is indeed a gift, and not the curse I fear…

Anna (The Scholar):

Well! So much to ponder on the question of age — the language in Maid of Secrets is a bit formal, I should say, a bit longer in sentence and cadence than in a typical tale. That’s only fitting, as it’s historical fiction, but still, ’tis something to keep in mind. That said, any learned girl beyond the age of 12 can pick up this book and enjoy it–and any fan of Elizabethan history can find much to recommend this book, no matter her age!

Jane (The Assassin):

I kill people, make no mistake. I stalk and track and strike from the shadows. But as a wise man once said: if you find me at your door, chances are you’ve done something to bring me there. And to be plain, you’ll see none of my handiwork on the page in Maid of Secrets. Ample murders and knife fights occur in this tale–Meg’s young Spanish count, Rafe de Martine, takes particular issue with a few unlucky Spaniards, and the death that has brought Meg to our group was gruesome indeed. There are also grave threats, particularly to Meg, who must face the prospect of a bloody awful fate. And, too, there is some terrible pain visited upon minor characters by the villain. . .though he gets his due, in the end. But the violence is measured and shouldn’t offend. An’ if it does, well. ‘Tis not the tale for you.


And there you have it! Maid of Secrets is intended for audiences twelve and up, and has themes of empowerment woven into its tapestry of Tudor-set intrigue. Murder and violence do occur, but not gratuitously, and the language is only slightly salty. The few curse words that find their way onto the page are mild by most standards. There is no sex on the page in the book, and Meg’s romance with Rafe goes no further than a few passionate embraces. She is a Maid of Honor, after all.

If you have any questions, by all means, post them in the comments below!

Tonight we’re going to party like it’s 1559

Our most recent subject here at the Class of 2k13 has been “what I’ve learned from teens.” But in all truth, I’ve probably learned more about the teenagers of Elizabethan England than I have about modern teens… even though I know several extraordinary young adults and am meeting more every day.

However, the teenagers in my debut, MAID OF SECRETS, are, well… teenagers in 1559. Which brings with it a whole different host of concerns than those faced by most of today’s young adults. Not more challenging concerns, necessarily, but different ones.

So, what did teens stress about in 1559?

1. Staying Alive

Staying alive was a bigger concern for the youth of Elizabethan England than it is for many contemporary young adults in the US. First, there was the Plague. It’s never good to have a capitalized disease associated with your era. Then, there were the lesser evils of a complete lack of sanitary water (no one drank water with meals… it was wine or ale), and somewhat questionable (at least by our modern standards) levels of personal hygiene. If you were not a member of the merchant class or higher, there was also the ever-present concern of starvation. Life sort of sucked for teen Elizabethans.

2. (Not) Getting Married

In 2013, the average age at marriage in the US is currently 26.8 years for men, and 25.1 years for women. In 1559, it wasn’t so much different. Most individuals not of the nobility did in fact wait until their mid-20s to marry. If you were noble, however, you were not so lucky: arranged marriages were the best way to assure the continuation of your family line, and so teens often found themselves promised in matrimony well before they’d even given much thought to a spouse and kids. Courtship in Elizabethan England was also fairly strict: so the more noble you were, the less likely you were to truly know your future spouse before you walked down the aisle

3. Following the Rules

As for many modern teens, following the rules wasn’t a favorite past-time for Elizabethan teens, but the repercussions then were a bit more strict than they are today. If you were part of the nobility, the most frequent crimes you could be accused of included: High Treason, Blasphemy, Sedition (fomenting disorder against the Queen…never a good idea), Spying, Rebellion, Murder, Witchcraft or… Alchemy.

(and yes, that last crime is totally going to be appearing in a future MAID book.. Actually, quite a few of these crimes make an appearance, if all goes well…)

If you were a commoner, you were more likely to get accused of:  Thievery, begging, poaching, adultery, being in debt, forgery, fraud, or… cheating at dice.  And while yes, most of the lawbreakers were older than your typical teen, the rules still applied to anyone old enough to actually understand the law.

Even worse, you didn’t have to do anything particularly “wrong” to run afoul of the law in 1559: just traveling without the proper license or acting in a public place could get you in trouble.

And if you did break a rule and get caught, life was not good.

Crime was taken very seriously in Elizabethan England. If you stole anything over 5 pence… you could be hanged. If you begged… you were stoned mercilessly until you reached the outskirts of town. If you were a habitual beggar… you could be imprisoned or hung.  If your crime was particularly egregious, you would be hung “partway” and then drawn and quartered (no one wants this).  Other popular forms of punishment included: burning, whipping, branding, pressing (don’t ask), being stretched on a wheel or a rack, being boiled in oil, being maimed, or being forced to wear excruciating devices intended to cause extreme discomfort.

Not awesome.

If you were a member of the nobility, of course, your fate was generally better—punishment for your crimes was either beheading or a slap on the wrist. Sure, that beheading concept was kind of final; but if you could escape that treatment, you would make out okay.

But either way, it paid to walk the straight and narrow.

All of that to say… the next time you are really steamed about how rotten life is, just tip your hat to our intrepid teens of the 1500s. Chances are, they had it worse.

Rocking Out, Elizabethan Style

Unlike some authors, I’m one of those people who CANNOT listen to music while I write. I completely get distracted by the lyrics of music with lyrics, and I’m not cool enough to listen to music without lyrics, unless it’s meditation music or astral projection music, which is NOT cool to listen to for a book about Elizabethan England. 🙂

However, I do listen to music BEFORE I write, to get in the mood. The Foo Fighter song I list below for Meg is one that was on auto play for far more times than I’d care to admit!

Now that I’m hip-deep in revisions on MAID OF DECEPTION, book 2 in the Maids of Honor series, I have a new song for Beatrice… I still have a fond spot in my heart for Material Girl, which works for her character in Book 1.

But in book 2, Beatrice and the Queen square off in a constant clash of wills that is, well, best exemplified by this song:


Enemies – Shinedown. (So. Much. Win.)

That said, voila the working playlist of Maid of Secrets! And may you find tremendous inspiration for your work today, whatever that inspiration is!



Meg’s song: The Pretender – Foo Fighters

Meg Fellowes, the heroine of MAID OF SECRETS, has been living a role her whole life… first as a thief, then as an unofficial actress for her traveling acting troupe, and now as a spy to the Queen. But who is Meg really?


Rafe’s song: Way Cool Jr. – Ratt

Meg gets some unexpected (and unwanted) help from a mysterious Spanish spy, Count Rafe de Martine. Rafe is the original bad boy, and definitely not someone you can trust… which is why we’re throwing him back to the Hair Band rockers of the 80s to find his song.


Beatrice’s song: Material Girl – Madonna

This one will also take you way (way) back to the 80s, but no one captures Beatrice’s confidence and style like Madonna. As the darling of the Queen’s court, Beatrice knows everyone’s secrets. But there’s also a secret of her own that she’s desperate to hide.

Anna’s song: Firework – Katy Perry

Anna is the smartest girl in the room—even when she doesn’t want to be. Lost in her world of intricate puzzles and mysteries to solve, she sometimes feels on the outside looking in when it comes to being a part of a group. Her inner light, however, is just beginning to shine.

Sophia’s song: She’s a Mystery to Me – U2//Bono

The youngest spy, Sophia is rumored to have the Sight… only her powers haven’t manifested yet. Despite that, she’s already up to her ears in danger that lurks just beyond the shadows.

Jane’s song: All that I’m Living For – Evanescence

Jane hasn’t had it easy. As the assassin of the spy group, she’s seen her share of tragedy, beginning with a deadly attack on her village that haunts her still. Now she must fight the demons in her memory… even as she defends the Queen.


Queen Elizabeth’s song: Super Girl – Hillary Duff

Speaking of the Queen: in MAID OF SECRETS we find an Elizabeth I who’s just come to power… at only 25 years old. With half the kingdom praising her and half wanting her dead, it’s going to take a Super Girl to stay on top.

Comparable Titles for MAID OF SECRETS by Jennifer McGowan

This topic was a struggle for me, because I have a hard time comparing my spygirls adventure in Elizabethan England to any other work — who’s to say that the connections *I* drew between books would be drawn by anyone else, after all? And how could I possibly name all of the awesome Tudor/Elizabethan tales out there? HINT: One of them is in my giveaway below!

I can tell you this, however: When I pitched MAID OF SECRETS, I styled my query to present it as “Ally Carter meets Philippa Gregory”. The combination captured two separate styles for me–Ally’s fun, high-action tales centering on a group of girl spies and Philippa’s lush, detailed depictions of historical court intrigue. So if you like…

  combined with 

then you may well like:   !

You’ll note I didn’t post Philippa’s book on Elizabeth I as my representative title — but that’s only because she takes a somewhat harsher view of the Queen than I do in my book. In MAID OF SECRETS, Queen Elizabeth is a 25 year old monarch, who but five months earlier was in constant peril from her sister, the then-Queen Mary Tudor. Even as Elizabeth ascends to power, there are those who want to own her, and those who want to kill her. This can tend to make one a little brittle around the edges, and Queen Elizabeth was no exception. However, Meg forges a unique bond with the Queen… the two don’t become friends, exactly, but they definitely have a more positive relationship than, say, the heroine of Book 2 in the series, MAID OF DECEPTION. But more on that to come.

Looking for more great Tudor works? Allow me to suggest something old… and to give away something new!

One of my earliest exposures to Tudor England was a book I still own, tattered and worn as it is: Green Darkness, by Anya Seton. It was part time travel, part historical intrigue, and all awesome. It’s definitely one to check out!

And now for the giveaway!

I’m delighted to giveaway GILT, by Katherine Longshore. I will have the book shipped to your door, either in the Hardback original or in paperback with its brand new cover, once it releases in May. You can choose-I’ll contact you once you’ve won!  GILT is the tale of the best friend to one of King Henry VIII’s most unfortunate queens. It’s a tale of Tudor glamour, intrigue and danger that will leave you eager for Katherine’s next book, TARNISHED, due out in 2013! To enter, just click the GIVEAWAYS tab.

GILT Hardback and Paperback covers. So much win!


Jennifer McGowan & the Inspiration Behind MAID OF SECRETS

MAID OF SECRETS was a long time in the making… a very long time.

I first fell in love with Elizabethan England twenty-plus (cough) years ago, when I studied the time period in college and became something of an informal scholar on all things Elizabeth I. The idea of this one young woman beguiling and defying the men who surrounded her to survive and thrive for a 40-plus year reign completely captured my imagination. From then on, I read histories, biographies and fiction set in the time period, always imagining how I’d spin the stories a different way. Unlike many biographers and fiction authors, I liked Queen Elizabeth I, despite her sometimes callous nature. Yes, she was hardheaded and capricious, but she’d come to power when she was only twenty-five years old, after enduring the beheading of her mother by King Henry VIII and spending a good portion of her youth fearing for her life! Determined to demonstrate a Queen who was both tough and likable, I wrote my first romance manuscript set in Elizabethan England. Intended for an adult audience, HONOR BOUND was requested by a publisher in the late 1990s, but I never sent the manuscript in. I just never felt it was good enough.

After that, I decided that perhaps I wasn’t cut out for historical fiction, and I tried my hand at other genres. I learned a lot, improved my craft, and won some awards… but I never could quite let my dream of an Elizabethan novel go. When I started working on an Elizabethan spy romance – still for the adult market – fellow 2k13er Geoffrey Girard suggested (strongly) that I consider making it a Young Adult novel, particularly since all of my spies were under the age of twenty. I’d never considered myself a YA writer, but his suggestion made sense, and MAID OF SECRETS was born. Sort of.

The first draft of Meg’s story had her possessing an almost supernatural gift, but as I continued writing, I realized that it wasn’t some special random gift that made Meg intriguing… it was her journey to owning her personal power. Meg is a thief and an unofficial actress who is pressed into service as a spy for the Queen. As she struggles to fit in to her new environment and find a murderer in Windsor Castle, she also struggles to find herself, to identify who she really is. That theme proved to be a key inspiration to re-writing the story as a more personal adventure for Meg, allowing her to experience the wonders, intrigue, romance and danger of Queen Elizabeth’s court from her own unique and accessible perspective.

Along the way, Meg interacts with a lively group of fellow spies—a court insider, Beatrice; a girl-genius, Anna; a young woman rumored to have the Sight, Sophia; and a grim assassin, Jane. With this group of intrepid spies for the Crown, the villains set on destroying the Queen’s court don’t stand a chance. And because I was the one writing the story, there still had to be a strong romance. So, Meg also must contend with a heartthrob of a Spanish spy… and try not to fall in love with him.

The second draft proved to be the charm. MAID OF SECRETS took on a life of its own, and has become my debut novel, out May 7, 2013. Following it up will be MAID OF DECEPTION, in 2014, which will feature quite a different spy girl, with quite a different tale. I hope you join us on the adventure.

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