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Monday, December 19, 2011

A Few of My Favorite Things (about the holidays)


There are so many things I love about the holiday season, but today I’m taking my cue from Julie Andrews and talking about just a few of my favorite things. Here they are, in no particular order:

1. Men in sweaters
Call me strange, but I love a man in a sweater. Then take a really manly man like Daniel Craig, and put him in a cardigan? Or a Henley with a scarf? Swoon! And only a precious few can rock the turtleneck. (Oh yes, Michael Fassbender, you are one.)
 

2.  A Muppet Christmas Carol
Dickens’s A Christmas Carol is one of my favorite Christmas tales, but the Muppets’ version of it is almost perfect in every way. I love that: a) Gonzo plays Charles Dickens; b) Statler and Waldorf play the Marley Brothers; c) Michael Caine seems born to play Scrooge; d) the screenplay uses some of the actual Dickens text; e) the movie is genuinely creepy at times, but it always keeps the classic Muppet sense of humor intact. Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without this movie.


3. The smell of snow
My southern-born husband doesn’t believe me when I say I can smell snow, but the air gets this sharp chemical tang a few hours before a snowstorm, and every year I look forward to my first moment of snow detection. Call me Smilla.

4. Eggnog with nutmeg
Many people hate the stuff, but I readily admit to loving eggnog, especially spiked with a little rum and dusted with nutmeg. Try leaving that out for Santa this year!



5. Christmas wrapping
My husband and I have a tradition that makes wrapping the Christmas presents something to look forward to. We make ourselves a delicious holiday beverage (see above), crank up the Christmas tunes, and have our own personal wrap party. We spread out all the supplies on the dining room table and wrap and ribbon curl and Christmas label until not one naked present remains. Then we arrange all the gifts under our tree, turn down the lights, and admire our work.

6. The Waitresses’ “Christmas Wrapping”
There are other Christmas songs I’d sooner classify as my favorites—Nat King Cole’s “The Christmas Song” and pretty much any version of “Oh, Holy Night.” But nothing is more fun than hearing “Christmas Wrapping” while I’m driving to work, turning it up real loud, and rocking out like a Christmas fool. For your listening pleasure:
What are your favorite random joys of the season?

Here’s wishing you all a warm and wondrous holiday and a happy new year! See you in 2012!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Interview & Giveaway for A BREATH OF EYRE!

For her Debut December feature over at Word for Teens, Nicole is featuring some exciting 2012 debuts and hosting authors for interviews, guest posts, and giveaways! Check out my interview in which I discuss the perks and pitfalls of debut novels, inspiration for my book, my love for Rochester and Samoa Girl Scout cookies, and a teaser excerpt. A copy of A BREATH OF EYRE is up for grabs, too. Please stop by, say hi, and enter to win!
http://www.wordforteens.com/2011/12/debut-december-interview-eve-marie-mont.html

Monday, December 5, 2011

My Top 5 YA Books of 2011

This is a Top 5 list I did for The Nightstand blog, but seeing as it’s almost the end of the year, I thought I’d repost it here. This was an exciting year for YA, full of controversy, innovation, and reinvention. Angels and mermaids charged into the paranormal fray, contemporaries made their mark in the wake of Stephanie Perkins's delightful Anna and Lola, and dystopians of all shapes and sizes took the literary world by storm. Here are my stand-out choices for 2011:


What a wonderful end to a wonderful trilogy. It took me a while to warm up to Belly and her agonizing love triangle, but by the third book, I was completely caught up in the angst, the dizzying romance, and the pitch-perfect voice of this entire series. I was sad to see summer end.

4. Demonglass by Rachel Hawkins

Oh, Sophie, you make me laugh, and your potential suitors make me swoon. Hawkins manipulated my emotions so masterfully that I’m completely torn between Archer and Cal—the true sign of a well-executed love triangle. The storyline is so engaging and the dialogue so sparkling that I defy you to read it in more than one sitting. Pure fun from beginning to end.

3. Unearthly by Cynthia Hand

Unearthly really threw me. I was growing tired of paranormals with their impossibly beautiful love interests, and then came Unearthly with a completely new angel mythology wrapped up in an engaging contemporary package. Clara seemed so real to me, flawed and lovable, and the Wyoming setting was so original and grounded that the paranormal elements never stretched credibility. And then there's Tucker. Where have all the cowboys gone? Wyoming, apparently. An excellent start to a new series.

2. Divergent by Veronica Roth

This book was probably THE phenomenon of 2011. And it totally lived up to the hype. Compulsively readable, complex, and full of wicked twists and turns, this was a dystopian with bite. I loved that Tris was no Mary Sue; she’s feisty, proud, and stubborn with a pretty big chip on her shoulder. But she's also brave and selfless. And Four—what to say about Four? Strong, sexy, and brooding, he makes Tris earn his respect. Possibly my favorite love interest of 2011.

1. Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor

Beautifully written, haunting, and original, Daughter of Smoke and Bone blew me away. While the higher fantasy of the last section lost me a little, for most of the book, I was completely swept up in Taylor’s prose and in the world she created. The lush descriptions of Prague had me itching to wander medieval streets and linger in dark cafes. The Marrakesh scenes are so vivid I could practically taste the dust in my mouth. And the forbidden romance between Karou and Akiva is full of such crackling tension and aching sweetness you don't want the book to end. Simply gorgeous writing and brilliant storytelling.

What was your favorite read of 2011?

Thursday, November 17, 2011

My Top 5 Fictional Couples


Lately I've been thinking about what makes certain fictional couples so memorable. Is it the chemistry they have together? The snappy dialogue? The meaningful looks? Or is it the obstacles they must overcome on the way to love? There are some movies I can watch over and over again and certain books I've read dozens of time primarily because they contain a magical and timeless romance. Here are 5 of my all-time favorite fictional couples and their most memorable scenes:
 
5. Rick Blaine and Ilsa Lund (Casablanca)
I love the sense of history and sacrifice in this romance, the acknowledgment that there’s something bigger at stake than two people. So often, love is portrayed in melodramatic fashion—two lovers who would do anything, risk anything to be together. But here, Rick does the right thing while delivering one of the most romantic speeches in cinema.

Favorite scene:
Ilsa: But what about us?
Rick: We'll always have Paris. We didn't have; we, we lost it until you came to Casablanca. We got it back last night.
Ilsa: When I said I would never leave you.
Rick: And you never will. But I've got a job to do, too. Where I'm going, you can't follow. What I've got to do, you can't be any part of. Ilsa, I'm no good at being noble, but it doesn't take much to see that the problems of three little people don't amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world. Someday you'll understand that. (Ilsa cries.) Here’s lookin’ at you, kid.

4. Benedick and Beatrice (Much Ado About Nothing)
This is a relationship that begins in verbal wordplay and ends in a dramatic climax that tests the lovers’ mettle. For all the laughs, the love between Beatrice and her Benedick is no joke; when Beatrice asks Benedick to kill for her, he’s ready to do whatever it takes to prove his devotion.

Favorite scene:
Beatrice: Against my will I am sent to bid you come in to dinner.
Benedick: Fair Beatrice, I thank you for your pains.
Beatrice: I took no more pains for those thanks than you take pains to thank me: if it had been painful, I would not have come.
Benedick: You take pleasure then in the message?
Beatrice: Yea, just so much as you may take upon a knife's point ... You have no stomach, signior? Fare you well. (Exit.)
Benedick: Ha! 'Against my will I am sent to bid you come in to dinner;' there's a double meaning in that...

3. Han Solo and Princess Leia (Star Wars)
I’m not usually a fan of the cocky, arrogant love interest, but no one does swagger quite like Harrison Ford. And this is no insta-love; Han and Leia have to overcome some serious obstacles in order to be together. Plus, for a PG-rated film, the chemistry is pretty sizzling.

Favorite scene:
[Han kisses Leia and is taken by storm troopers to the carbon-freezing chamber.]
Princess Leia: I love you.
Han Solo: I know.

2. Elizabeth Bennett and Fitzwilliam Darcy (Pride and Prejudice)
The verbal fireworks alone are worth the price of admission; all that passion simmering under a veneer of 19th century politeness makes for some compelling reading. And Jennifer Ehle and Colin Firth’s performances were spot-on; the scene in which they make googly eyes at each other across the piano is so romantic and lovely.

Favorite scene:
"I remember, when we first knew her in Hertfordshire, how amazed we all were to find that she was a reputed beauty; and I particularly recollect your saying one night, after they had been dining at Netherfield, "She a beauty!—I should as soon call her mother a wit.'' But afterwards she seemed to improve on you, and I believe you thought her rather pretty at one time."

"Yes," replied Darcy, who could contain himself no longer, "but that was only when I first knew her, for it is many months since I have considered her as one of the handsomest women of my acquaintance."

1. Jane Eyre and Edward Rochester (Jane Eyre)
Of course, you knew this was going to be my first choice. But seriously, the slow burn of passion between Rochester and Jane is full of such restraint, angst, and poignancy—it’s just a brilliantly executed romance. When they finally get together, Rochester has redeemed himself, and Jane has become a strong, independent woman. Only after Rochester has paid for his mistakes does Jane give in to her feelings. There’s no more satisfying line in literature than: “Reader, I married him.”

Favorite scene:

 “Am I hideous, Jane?”
“Very, sir; you always were, you know.”
“Humph! The wickedness has not been taken out of you, wherever you have sojourned.”
“Yet I have been with good people; far better than you: a hundred times better people.”
“Who the deuce have you been with?”
“You shall not get it out of me to-night, sir; you must wait till to-morrow.”
“Just one word, Jane; were there only ladies in the house where you have been?”

Rochester’s insecurity in this scene is just so adorable!

Who are your favorite fictional couples? If you haven’t already, stop by my website and take the quiz to find your literary soul mate! http://evemariemont.com/extras.html

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

DAUGHTER OF SMOKE AND BONE Winner!

Thanks to everybody who entered my giveaway for Daughter of Smoke and Bone and shared their favorite Halloween costumes!

And the winner is...

Magan Bagan!

I'll email the winner for her address.  Thanks again, everybody, and keep on reading!

Monday, October 31, 2011

Halloween Giveaway: Daughter of Smoke and Bone!

To celebrate Halloween, I thought I’d offer up Laini Taylor’s gorgeously written fantasy, DAUGHTER OF SMOKE AND BONE. In fact, I think I swooned more over Taylor’s prose than Akiva’s otherworldly beauty, although they’re both spectacular. This book is pure magic; possibly the best I’ve read this year.

In order to enter, you must be a blog follower. Then all you have to do is comment below and tell me about your best Halloween costume ever. But you get:
+1 entry if you retweet this post (Halloween #giveaway: DAUGHTER OF SMOKE AND BONE! http://tinyurl.com/3bgkpkw)
+1 entry if you post this link on Facebook

Contest is open until Monday, November 7, at midnight EST.
The contest is open internationally.

Happy Halloween!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Wuthering Heights-Inspired Fashion? Yes, Please!


So I was very excited when I stumbled upon this excerpt on the Brontë blog:

“At Paris Fashion Week last month for so many of the Spring/Summer 2012 shows, designers, from Christian Dior to John Galliano, filled the runways with looks seemingly inspired by ‘Wuthering Heights’ and the classic Gothic novel. Though Heathcliff was nowhere to be found, there was certainly a statement made with sweeping black gowns in lace and chiffon. Paired with a loose updo, chandelier earrings, and a bold red lip surely added finishing touches to this look.” (Alexandra Morales)

Despite saying “Heathcliff was nowhere to be found,” I think this photo captures the arrogance and rugged allure of Heathcliff, if he ever consented to wear a skirt…

As I browsed through the photos from the spring preview, many of the fashions seemed to be a hybrid of romantic, flowy silhouettes with sleeker, geometric designs, sort of Wuthering Heights meets The Matrix. This got me thinking about popular culture, particularly about how new trends are often formed at the intersection of old ones.
Even though I am rarely on the cutting edge of anything, trends fascinate me. They give credence to the Jung’s theory of the “collective subconscious,” the idea that we are all subtly influenced by broad archetypes that give shape and substance to our lives. We can’t help but be swayed by the myriad influences around us, and we are constantly absorbing them, adapting them, and reconstituting them into different forms in our never-ending pursuit of the new. 

Take the recent popularity of retellings, whether they be fairy tales, myths, or literary classics. Does anyone find it odd that two different TV networks are touting brand new shows that feature darkly spun fairy tales? (Once Upon a Time on ABC and Grimm on NBC.) Or how about the dozen or so young adult books released this year in which ancient myths collide with contemporary settings? (Starcrossed, Abandon, The Goddess Test)
 
Now, it seems we can add the Gothic novel to the mix. My YA retelling of Jane Eyre releases in April 2012, about a year after April Lindner’s Jane and the Cary Fukanaga movie version made their mark, and a few months before Tina Connolly’s Ironskin (a steampunk Jane Eyre with fairies) takes the world by storm. 2012 will also see the publication of April Lindner’s Catherine, a retelling of Wuthering Heights, as well as Andrea Arnold’s interpretation of Wuthering Heights for the big screen, rumored to be even darker and grittier than the book.  Apparently, it's hip to be Brontë. I leave you with this kick-ass video to feed the Brontë-mania. Enjoy!
 

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

The Class of 2k12 Launches!

The Class of 2k12 is officially in session! We are a group of twenty middle-grade and young adult debut novelists working in concert to promote our books and reading, and we're ready to begin.

In honor of our friends debuting this year, we're giving away a huge prize pack of all seventeen Class of 2k11 titles for a deserving classroom, school, or public library. If you'd like to nominate your favorite library, stop by our Facebook page and tell us about it. The winner will be announced November 12.

Be sure to visit our links to find out about 2k12 books, authors, and events:

our website
our blog
our Facebook page
our Twitter link

I'll leave you with this sneak peek of our debuts. 2012 is going to be a fantastic year! Happy Reading!

Monday, October 10, 2011

Blurbs from Two Amazing Authors!

I am humbled and thrilled to be able to share two blurbs I received for A Breath of Eyre by two authors I respect and admire immensely. Both are master storytellers whose YA books, like mine, have literary inspirations. Lesley Livingston is the author of the Wondrous Strange trilogy, which follows the star-crossed romance of Kelley and Sonny as they battle wits and faeries and surmount all sorts of otherworldly obstacles along the path to love. Each book is inspired by a Shakespeare play, and accordingly, Livingston's writing is rich and strange, full of allusion, humor, and wit. Her most recent novel, Once Every Never, which she was gracious enough to send me--signed!--was equally smart, clever, and addictive. Time travel + Druids + ancient curses + whip-smart protagonist + snarky but loyal BFF + gorgeous nerdy guy = pure genius!


Kelly Creagh is the author of Nevermore. If you haven't heard of this book yet, run to your bookstore now! Inspired by the twisted work and even more twisted mind of Edgar Allan Poe, Nevermore is an unconventional romance that seamlessly blends a contemporary YA world with a fascinating dream world full of poetry, nightmare visions, and thwarted love. It is wholly original, romantic, and spell-binding. And oh, the sensitive goth love interest Varen? He will win your heart even if goth isn't your thing. I am also happy to tell you that Nevermore is the first in a series (yay!), so the Gothic-tinged adventures of Isobel and Varen will continue!

Obviously, I'm a bit of a fangirl of both authors, so you can imagine my elation when I found they had offered blurbs for A Breath of Eyre. The practice of established authors helping newbies is one of the most rewarding aspects of this industry, and so far, I have found YA writers to be collegial and supportive in the very best ways. Huge heartfelt thanks go out to Lesley and Kelly for their thoughtful and gracious words about my book:

"Eve Marie Mont’s A BREATH OF EYRE is a layered and lovely story, full of both heart and mind. I fell into this book in the same way Emma falls into Jane Eyre and I didn’t want to fall back out again. Ms. Mont is a smooth and beguiling storyteller who writes with a keen sense of both the ache and the awesomeness of growing into adulthood. Her transitions between worlds and times, between Emma’s reality and Jane’s, are seamless and gripping and propel the story forward with a kind of heart-hammering rhythm. A rich, wonderful, smart adventure, steeped in romance. More please." --Lesley Livingston, award-winning author of ONCE EVERY NEVER (Penguin) and the WONDROUS STRANGE trilogy (HarperTeen).

"A captivating and heartrending read, richly layered and intricately woven. Like waking from my own mysterious dream, Emma's touching story stayed with me long after the final page was turned. Definitely one for the favorites shelf."  --Kelly Creagh, author of NEVERMORE (Atheneum Books for Young Readers)

Monday, October 3, 2011

Guest Post at The Nightstand: Must-See Halloween Movies!

I'm blogging again over at The Nightstand, this time about my favorite Halloween movies. Time to get into a spooky mood and add some classic horror flicks to your queue!

Monday, September 26, 2011

Guest Post at The Nightstand: Interview with my Characters

Hey, I'm blogging over at The Nightstand, where we've been interviewing characters from our upcoming books. This week, I interview Gray Newman from my YA debut, A Breath of Eyre. Gray and my protagonist, Emma, have known each other since they were little, but now that they’re teenagers, they’re not sure how they feel about each other. Here, Gray offers a rare glimpse of the heart hidden under his sleeve. Come check it out!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Swag Giveaway Winners

Thanks to all who entered my giveaway for signed and personalized cover flats. The winners, chosen through Random Number Generator, are:

Coranne (Amanda)
Rachel
Jessica

I'll email the winners for their addresses. Thanks again, and have a great week!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Blog Award & Random Swag Giveaway!

One of the many guilt trips I feel virtually every day of my life is that I don’t properly keep up with my blog. And now that I’m back to school, I’m REALLY not keeping up with my blog. So it was a wonderful surprise when fellow writer, Blaire Kensley, chose me as one of her brilliant blogger picks. Thanks, Blaire!!! By the way, Blaire is a lovely person and the author of the CREED series, which you can check out by visiting her blog: http://blairekensley.blogspot.com/

I absolutely love the idea of passing on the blogger love, so in keeping with the rules of the blog award, I plan to:
1. Thank and link to the person who nominated me. (see above)
2. Share seven random facts about myself. (see below)
3. Pass the award along to 5 newfound blogging buddies.
4. Contact those buddies to congratulate them.

And so, here are Seven Random Facts about me:
1. The game Monopoly makes me crazy-competitive. My husband refuses to play with me anymore.
2. I hate shopping unless it’s for books.
3. I'm absolutely phobic about needles; I haven’t had blood drawn in seven years.
4. I am an unapologetic fan of both Doctor Who and The Vampire Diaries, which must make me some sort of pop culture anomaly.
5. According to my husband, I make the best scrambled eggs in the world.
6. One of my deepest disappointments in life is that I can’t sing.
7. I can, however, do a mean moonwalk. You can imagine how handy this is in daily life.

Okay, now for my 5 brilliant blogger picks:
1. Danya at A Tapestry of Words
2. Alyssa Goodnight, author of the upcoming AUSTEN-TATIOUS
3. Both Amandas at Short and Sweet
5. Angel at Mermaid Visions

And to celebrate this little blog lovefest, I am giving away signed cover flats for A BREATH OF EYRE to 3 commenters, each personalized with a preview line from my book. I'll also throw in a few bookmarks! Please comment by Tuesday, September 20th by midnight EST. Contest open to U.S. and Canadian residents.
Thanks so much for stopping by, and happy blogging!

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

YA Giveaway Winners!

Here are the winners of my impromptu Labor Day giveaway:

Paranormalcy--Angel C
A Need So Beautiful--Audris
Timeless--Patricia
Shade--Thuy (aka Fishgirl)
Moonglass--Yan

I will email the winners for their addresses. Thanks all for entering. Stop back for more news, posts, and giveaways in the upcoming months!

Monday, September 5, 2011

Things That Go Bump in the Night

Today I'm blogging over at The Nightstand about things that go bump in the night, specifically ghosts. The Nightstand is a group blog for debut authors whose novels have an element of suspense, paranormal phenomena, or mystery. This week we blogged about spooky creatures, horror novels, and things both sinister and strange. Come check it out! 

Thursday, September 1, 2011

YA Books up for Grabs!


This week was all about starting over—cleaning up after Hurricane Irene, heading back to school after a summer spent writing, and thinking about all the changes this year will bring. And with change comes both excitement and stress. One of the ways I deal with stress is by trying to streamline my life, so this past week I gathered up a number of used books to send out to a library struck down by Irene. If you're looking to donate some of your own books, please check out Kate Messner's blog post below about an Adirondack library that lost almost everything to the floods. They are especially in need of children's picture books.


http://kmessner.livejournal.com/207580.html?style=mine&nc=20#


Although the bulk of my books will go to charity, I have a few recent releases that I wanted to give away here on my blog! All you have to do is comment below with your first choice. If more than one person requests a title, I will select a winner at random.

Here are the titles (and by the way, they were all great reads!):

Suzanne Young’s A Need so Beautiful
Jeri Smith-Ready’s Shade
Jessi Kirby’s Moonglass
Alexandra Monir’s Timeless
Kiersten White’s Paranormalcy

If any of the titles aren't requested, I'll send them on to the library. Unfortunately due to shipping costs, I can only mail within the US. Please request by Tuesday, 9/6. Have a safe and relaxing Labor Day weekend, and happy reading!

Monday, August 29, 2011

Pretty Bookmarks!

Despite a crazy weekend dealing with the tropical storm and inches of water in the basement (ugh!), I got a lovely surprise on Saturday when my bookmarks arrived!
Aren't they pretty? Fellow Apocalypsie, Jill Hathaway, recommended the designer: Keary Taylor from www.indiecoverdesigns.com. She designs bookmarks, covers, and other swag, and as you can see, she's amazing!

If you would like a small stack of bookmarks for yourself, a friend, or your local library, please send me your address, and I'll mail some out to you!

Friday, August 26, 2011

A BREATH OF EYRE Cover Reveal Contest Winner

Thanks so much to everybody who entered my cover reveal contest, RT'd, followed, posted on their blogs, or gave such wonderful feedback! And the winner is:


Congratulations!!!

For those who didn't win, please check back in the upcoming months for more posts and giveaways. Hope to see you soon!

Thursday, August 18, 2011

A BREATH OF EYRE COVER REVEAL CONTEST!


I am so happy to be able to share the cover for A BREATH OF EYRE!!!
Isn't it lovely? The model's eyes are so arresting; it's hard to look away. Despite the intensity of her gaze, the model is only 16 years old, exactly the age of my protagonist, Emma. I think she’s perfect! And the dress, the pose, the color? I couldn’t be happier. A huge thank you to the art department at Kensington for making my cover dreams come true!

A BREATH OF EYRE is now available for pre-order on Amazon, and you can add it to your GoodReads list, too!

And if you haven’t seen the book trailer yet, please stop by my website to check it out: http://www.evemariemont.com/books.html

To celebrate the cover (and being only seven months from publication), I’m giving one lucky commenter a JANE EYRE-themed book package including:
 
You guessed it, Charlotte Brontë’s JANE EYRE
April Lindner’s JANE
Jasper Fforde’s THE EYRE AFFAIR
and a gorgeous JANE EYRE pendant
All you have to do to enter is comment below with your thoughts on the cover, JANE EYRE, or anything JANE EYRE related, but you’ll get:
+1 entry if you retweet this post (A BREATH OF EYRE cover reveal contest: http://tinyurl.com/3l9efjc)
+1 entry if you post this link on Facebook
+2 entries if you post the cover on your own blog (please leave a link here)

Contest is open until next Thursday, August 25, at midnight EST.
The contest is open to U.S. and Canadian residents only.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Stress Dreams & Writing Deadlines

I was an anxious little kid. Consequently I used to have a lot of stress dreams. As a child my fears were big and amorphous, and my dreams followed suit: lions outside my front door, tidal waves bearing down on my house. As I grew older and my fears became more concrete, so did my dreams: showing up for a test I hadn’t studied for, realizing I had worn underwear to class. Even now I often have teacher stress dreams about showing up for school without a lesson plan or not being able to subdue an unruly classroom full of kids.

But two nights ago, I had what I think is my first identifiable writer’s stress dream. Oddly, it begins with a search for a seafood restaurant that’s gotten good reviews but is known for being in a sketchy neighborhood. I am scouting it out at dusk, just as it’s getting dark and the crowds are thinning out. I have trouble finding the place, and when I do it’s an unassuming little white building with no signage. I knock on the door, and a bland almost faceless male guide opens it and ushers me in, but he moves so fast I can’t keep up with him.

Once inside, I’m not in a restaurant but a shabby house with exposed pipes, chipping tile, and peeling wallpaper. I walk down a long white hallway toward a swinging 2-way door, the kind that normally leads into a kitchen. Only when I go through it, my guide has disappeared, and I have no idea which way to go. I turn left and go through a door to find myself in a tiny claustrophobic room. I’m suddenly terrified I won’t be able to get out. I pull aside a long curtain that hides a changing room, then try another door that’s locked. I begin to panic until I realize I can leave through the same door I entered.

However, this only brings me to more hallways and similar dead-ends until I open a door that leads to an enormous, cavernous space. The room seems to grow downward as I watch in awe. Concrete ramps appear, but the space is mammoth and dark and rugged, like the Mines of Moria in The Lord of the Rings. I’m beginning to wonder just what I’ve gotten myself into when a fluorescent light flickers above me, and the space slowly transforms into a giant library. Rows of bookshelves appear, and books magically fill them. The scary ramps are no longer frightful, so I descend into this basement library, wondering what I’m doing here when I was supposed to be finding a restaurant.

Even though I’m a fiction lover at heart, something compels me to the non-fiction section at the other end. I walk past rows and rows of books until I come to a library carrel holding a large folio laid out to showcase the portrait of a female figure. Just as I’m about to read who she is, I wake up. 

Eventually I fell back asleep. When I woke later, I told my husband about the dream and asked him what he thought it meant, and he turned to me and said, “It's probably about your writing.” And you know, I think he was right. Over the past few weeks, I’ve been working feverishly on my sequel and trying to write an outline of the entire book for my editor. The dream seems to tap into a lot of the fears and self-doubt that have plagued me. 

In the dream, I go looking for a restaurant that doesn’t look like much on the outside but has gotten good reviews. These, I think, represent my expectations going into the writing process. But as I plunged into the actual writing, I found blank white hallways that led nowhere; exposed pipes and peeling wallpaper—all the messy false starts and loose story threads and dead-ends of writing a first draft.

The deeper I went, the darker and more overwhelming the entire manuscript became until it seemed like an endless cavern, too terrifying to investigate any further. But then—light! And books! And a sense of relief that I was in a library, a place of comfort and order and new ideas. Somehow I had crossed a threshold, turned a corner that let me know everything was going to be okay.

That mysterious open book in the non-fiction section still bothers me, but maybe my subconscious mind was directing me to take a look my own life and experiences and draw from those. Sometimes we’re so lost in the world of our fictional landscape that we forget where all good fiction ultimately stems--from real life. I have a feeling if I’d had time to investigate that book more closely, the woman in the portrait might have been me.

Do you have stress dreams? What’s the wildest one you’ve had?


Monday, July 11, 2011

"Bowties are Cool;" or Why I Love Doctor Who


I will admit this up front: I am a Doctor Who neophyte. I have not watched the series from its inception, I don’t have strong feelings about whether Tom Baker or David Tennant made the best Doctor, and I don’t really even understand the concept of a time lord. All I know is that my husband and I recently discovered season 5 on Netflix Instant, and we are loving every bizarre and frenetic minute of it. Purists criticize the latest season for pandering to American audiences (gosh, we wouldn’t want the show to make money, would we?), but if that’s the case, I say, pander away.

Boasting the writing talents of Steven Moffat (Coupling and Sherlock) and Russell T. Davies (Queer as Folk and Torchwood), the show is like Blackadder meets Star Trek, with a healthy dose of The X-Files mixed in. It’s simultaneously intelligent, whimsical, mysterious, addictive, and more than a little absurd. But it’s also surprisingly emotional.

Last night we watched an episode in which the Doctor and his partner-in-time, Amy Pond, travel to nineteenth century Arles to save Vincent Van Gogh from a horrible fate (other than his self-inflicted gunshot wound). At the end of the episode, they bring the misunderstood and depressed artist aboard the TARDIS time travel device and take him to the Musée D’Orsay in 2011, where Van Gogh tearfully listens as a critic ranks him among the best and most influential artists of all time. After the Doctor and Amy return Van Gogh to his own time and place, Amy is ecstatic, certain that their confidence-boosting mission will inspire Van Gogh to paint dozens more of his electrifying paintings. When they get back to the museum, however, they find that Van Gogh’s output has not changed at all, and worse, he still killed himself. Amy despairs that they were unable to help him, yet the art critic notes that the year after their “visit” was one of the most prolific and vibrant of Van Gogh’s career. The execution of what could have been a hackneyed “Can we go back and change the past?” plot device was so effective that I actually found myself tearing up at the end.

As with every great show, there are stand-alone episodes such as the one I just described, and a greater plot arc that unfolds throughout the series. The show has heart as well as action, and it’s a joy to watch the characters interact with each other and react to each zany plot twist thrown their way. Here are a few of the show’s unique attributes that make it almost impossible to resist:

1.     An infectiously optimistic hero. We don’t find enough optimism on television or otherwise. Matt Smith’s Doctor is refreshingly naïve, boyish and charming, but not without flaws. Sometimes he is overconfident, and his sense of alien otherness can make him blind to human emotions.
2.     A spunky sidekick. Amy Pond, the fiery redhead who has dreamed of the Doctor since his TARDIS crashed in her garden when she was a child, is tough talking and smart, although I am bothered by her penchant for very short skirts. I’m quite certain there are many fans not bothered by this in the least.
3.     A cool hook. A dapper time lord, the last of his kind, travels through time and space with his friends, trying to right personal wrongs and avert global disaster? Awesome. And the fact that the new Doctor is adorable and wears a bowtie is an added bonus.
4.     Sci-fi of the fluffiest kind. Although I’m sure treatises have been written about the world-building of the Doctor Who series, you don’t need a degree in Quantum Physics to understand the show. You do, however, have to be able to tolerate outlandish alien creatures, cheesy special effects, and occasional general silliness.
5.     A super cool icon in the TARDIS, a time machine shaped like a blue police box on the outside, but dimension defying on the inside, much like those cool tents with extension charms in the Harry Potter books. They even make mini die-cast TARDISes, perfect for those who love collecting quirky memorabilia and don’t mind being called nerds. (I’m talking to you, Craig Ferguson.)
6.     A communal forum of fans who both love and hate the show in its various incarnations, but will always provide a wealth of reasons to discuss, argue, and celebrate the power of good storytelling.

The next episode of Season 6, which airs in September on BBC America, is titled: “Let’s Kill Hitler.” Now how can you resist that? Pandering or not, I can tell you this particular American will be watching.

Has anyone else recently become a Whovian? What TV shows do you love?

Friday, July 8, 2011

TORN & TOUCH OF FROST winners!

Thanks so much to everybody who entered my website launch contest, RT'd, followed, or gave such wonderful feedback about my website! Here are the winners:

Kristina Shields is the winner of a signed copy of TORN by Erica O’Rourke.

Diana is the winner of an unsigned copy of TORN.

And Rogier is the winner of the signed ARC of TOUCH OF FROST by Jennifer Estep.

Congratulations!!! I'll email the winners for addresses.

For those who didn't win, please check back in the upcoming months for more posts and giveaways. Hope to see you soon!

Thursday, June 30, 2011

New Website & Book Giveaway!


If you’re here on my blog, it’s probably because you just visited my new website, so THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU!!! So, what do you think? I love it! It’s whimsical, bookish, and a little bit Gothic, all of which are perfect for a trilogy about a girl who keeps getting lost inside the books she’s reading. First off, a few shout-outs:

1.     To my web designer, Denise, at Biondo Studios, thank you so much for all your hard work and for a website that I want to live in! Not only is the site gorgeous, but you were so professional, creative, and easy to work with. I’d recommend you to anyone!
2.     To my brother, Phil, who has handled so many of the technical aspects of my website and blog and has just generally been one of my biggest fans, thanks for everything you do for me!
3.     To my publisher Kensington Books/KTeen, for donating some fantastic new books for my giveaway! (KTeen now has a Facebook page. Please check them out!)
4.     To anyone who’s here on this page right now, thank you so much for putting up with all the shameless plugs and Facebook messages. I wish I didn’t have to do it, but you make it all worthwhile.

To celebrate, I’d like to give away the following brand new KTeen titles, courtesy of my publisher:

1 signed ARC of the not-yet-released TOUCH OF FROST by Jennifer Estep





2 copies (one signed!) of TORN by Erica O’Rourke





 

All you have to do to enter is leave a comment, but you’ll get:
+1 extra entry if you become a follower of my blog
+1 extra entry if you post a link to my website on your Twitter, Facebook page, or blog

Contest is open until Thursday, July 7, at noon EST.
The contest is open internationally.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

A Love Letter to My Husband of Fourteen Years

About sixteen years ago, I was living at home with my parents, going to grad school, and feeling generally uninspired about life. My younger brother and I were fond of coming up with “big plans,” like the time we thought we were going to buy an RV and travel around from campground to campground in order to avoid adult responsibilities for as long as possible. I guess you could say I was going through a period of post-grad angst. Who am I? What am I going to do with my life?

On one particularly angsty night, my brother and I were watching a movie—a terrible movie—I believe it starred Elle McPherson. Enough said. About twenty minutes through, we both looked at each other and said, “Screw it! Let’s get out of here and DO SOMETHING!” Our options were fairly limited, given that we lived in boring suburbia and my little brother was still in high school. So we decided to go to Barnes and Noble to browse for books; i.e. to see if anyone adorably bookish was sitting in the café reading something impressive. In those days, I was more of a book snob than I am now, having come to realize that what a guy reads in public is most likely not what he enjoys reading at home. In other words, the more impressive the book, the more pretentious the guy. It’s not a hard and fast rule, but it tends to prove true more often than not.

Unfortunately, in our rinky-dink town, Barnes and Noble closes at 10:00 even on Friday nights, so we headed up to that dreaded of suburban wastelands: The Mall. We were both feeling hungry and bored and ready to people-watch. TGIFriday’s seemed as good a place as any, so we walked up to the restaurant, which has a glass-enclosed porch facing the parking lot. Through the darkened windows, I noticed a guy sitting at one of the tables on the porch. I didn’t get a good look at him, just enough to see he was cute—dark tousled hair, brooding expression—you know, that guy. The one you always imagine you’ll see when you’re randomly at the bookstore or mall, but never actually do. Well, here he was, sitting in the alcove of TGIFriday’s on a Friday night. Alone.

I thought to myself, “I sure hope the hostess seats us near him,” and without saying a word to her, she sat us in the table directly across from him so I basically had a front row seat to watch him nursing his drink for the next half hour. My brother and I looked over the menu and talked, but I was completely preoccupied with this guy, even cuter now that I’d seen him up close. I eventually whispered something to my brother along the lines of: “What’s the deal with the cute guy sitting all alone? Surely his girlfriend must be coming, right?” One didn’t routinely find handsome guys sitting by themselves at a chain restaurant in Bumblesville, PA.

My brother kept joking with me, saying I should talk to the guy, invite him to our table, buy him a drink, anything so I’d stop babbling. Being extremely shy, I knew this was unlikely to happen. But I couldn’t shake the feeling that if I didn’t say something or do something, I’d never see him again, and that would be a tragedy. At some point, I left to use the restroom (i.e. make sure I had no food in my teeth in case Sexy Mystery Guy by some chance ended up at my table), and lo and behold, when I emerged from the bathroom, there he was. Sitting at my table chatting with my brother. Sexy Mystery Guy. 

Feeling a jangle of nerves, I approached the table and sat down, only to meet this soft-spoken guy with crinkly hazel eyes and great hands. Really, I loved his hands. Face to face, he looked intelligent and kind and sort of sad. He asked if it was okay that he was joining us—apparently, my brother had leaned over in my absence and asked him to—and I imagined the little light bulb that must have appeared over his head when he heard the word “sister;” it hadn’t occurred to me that my brother and I might look like a couple. He then explained that it was his birthday and that his girlfriend was supposed to take him out, but when he got home from work that night she was already asleep. Forlornly, he had headed out alone to one of the few restaurants within walking distance: TGIFriday’s. It was fate!

Wait a minute. He’d said, “girlfriend,” hadn’t he? Crap!

Even though I was immensely disappointed, the existence of a girlfriend took all the pressure off. Now I could relax and not make an idiot of myself. We sat chatting for another hour or so, about everything from books to movies to our goals for the future. My brother and I took him out to a billiards place and played a few shameful rounds of pool, then took him back to the apartment he shared with Insensitive Narcoleptic Girlfriend. We exchanged phone numbers and promised to hang out again soon, but honestly I never thought I’d see him again. This made me inexplicably sad.

Fast forward two months later, to another night when I was sitting at home, or rather, moping at home, lamenting the state of my love life. The phone rang, and my brother (who is the real hero of this story) answered it, and I listened to the following brief exchange: “Hello? Sure, I remember you. How have you been? We’re good. Yeah, she’s right here. Hold on a sec.” Little bro then explained that it was him—Sexy Mystery Man calling—two months late.

I took the phone from my brother, determined to sound like Serene Ice Queen rather than Pissed-off Spurned Chick. Because I had known he had a girlfriend; what had I expected? We chatted for a few minutes, and he told me how the girlfriend—ex-girlfriend now—had found my number and jealously thrown it away so he couldn’t call me. But his birthday debacle had made him realize that his current relationship wasn’t working anymore. And he hadn’t been able to stop thinking about me. He had broken up with the girlfriend a few days after his birthday, moved out of her apartment and into his grandmother’s house, got his act together, and really wanted to see me again. How had he found me? I asked. He remembered my last name and the town where I lived, so he’d gone through the phone book calling every listing, relieved to find that my father’s first name begins with a “B.”

We went out on our first date that very night, and I was so wary of him being on the rebound that I vowed not to let him kiss me. That promise lasted all of two hours. Two years later, we got married at a tiny chapel by the sea. And over fourteen years of marriage, we’ve had our share of heartache and struggle, joy and triumph. But the one constant throughout is that my husband has been my best friend and my biggest supporter. While the last few years have been immensely challenging for him personally, he is starting a new chapter in his life this fall when he will be teaching college-level English for the first time. And I hope to be as much of a friend and supporter to him now as he has been for me. I am so proud of him and so in love with him. I still believe that fate played a part in getting us together, but I also know that a good marriage is not an act of fate; it’s an act of choice, a decision to share your life with someone else, for better or for worse. It’s an answer to a question: “Will you?” And on this day, fourteen years later, I still say yes.


Friday, June 24, 2011

Trilogy Trauma


A friend of mine recently noticed that I’d been describing my upcoming book as “the first in a planned trilogy,” so she asked me, “How does one plan a trilogy?” Funny question…

First off, I will admit that I wrote A BREATH OF EYRE as “a stand-alone novel with series potential.” That basically means that while the first book leaves some plot threads unresolved, the story is self-contained with no cliffhangers. However, when I finished writing the book and began thinking about what my next project would be, I realized I hadn’t let go of those characters yet. They were still knocking around in my head, begging for their story to be continued. After all, my protagonist, Emma, is only 16 at the end of the first book, in which she “travels” into her favorite novel, Jane Eyre. I started wondering how Emma’s love of escaping into books might both cause her problems and continue her growth as a character over the next two years of high school.

And thus, “series potential” was born! I quickly wrote up a brief synopsis for two more books that would continue Emma’s literary adventures, choosing The Scarlet Letter and The Phantom of the Opera as the books Emma would travel into in the sequels. My agent sent the first book out on submission to publishers with synopses of the sequels attached, and the trilogy sold to Kensington/KTeen last November!

Since I hadn’t written a word of the sequel back then, I always referred to A BREATH OF EYRE as the first in a “planned trilogy,” as planning was all I had done to that point. Now, I am about twenty thousand words into the sequel, and I’m beginning to realize sequels are particularly nasty beasts. Here are a few reasons why:

1.     A sequel should have the same “feel” as the first book, but it should be significantly different to offer readers a new reading experience.
2.     New characters should be introduced, but you must also continue to focus on the characters from the first book.
3.     Resolve most story threads from book one, but introduce a boatload of new conflicts to drive the third book.
4.     Your protagonist must continue the character growth initiated in the first book, but leave some room for growth in the final installment.
5.     Try not to let your sequel fall into “sagging middle book” syndrome. Keep the energy and action high!

Phew! I don’t know how J.K. Rowling did all this over SEVEN books! (Possibly because she’s a genius?)

While I am definitely in the writing stages of the sequel now, I find I am still planning as I go, taking a look back at events from the first book, analyzing character motivations, anticipating major plot points that will happen in the third book, and trying to incorporate all of this into my outline for the second book, tentatively called A TOUCH OF SCARLET. For anyone who had to endure reading The Scarlet Letter in high school, you’ll probably remember that underneath Hawthorne’s laborious prose is a pretty gripping story about sex and sin and shame, but also about pride. I hope it promises to be a fun adventure for both my characters and for me!