Blog Tour: Bad Girl Gone

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Welcome!

Welcome back! Today I’m featuring next week’s release (8/8/17) Bad Girl Gone. This book begins with an awesome cover and continues with lots of good twists and turns throughout.

Check out the excerpt below and pick up a copy next Tuesday!


Excerpt:

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When I tried to remember exactly how I came to be lying in the cold black room, my mind couldn’t focus.

I could feel myself slowly climbing upward, clawing my way out of the clutches of a nightmare. This was usually a good feeling, because you knew you were just dreaming, and the nightmare was over. Except this time it wasn’t. My hands felt clammy. I gripped the sheets until I knew my knuckles must be white. Help me, I thought. Somebody please help me.

I had no idea where I was, and for a terrifying second I couldn’t even remember who I was. But then I remembered my name. Echo. Echo Stone. My real name is Eileen. When I was a toddler, I waddled around repeating everything my parents said and they called me “Echo,” and it just stuck.

Remembering my name and how I got it kick-started my brain. I knew who I was. I remembered that I was sixteen years old and lived in Kirkland, Washington, with my mom and dad. It was all coming back to me. Mom was a dentist and Dad taught middle school English. Good, I could remember parts of my life. But I was still in a dark, cold room and had no idea how I got there. I held back a scream, my chest tightening. Don’t lose it, Echo, keep it together, I told myself. Calm down, think good thoughts.

I pictured Andy, my boyfriend. Six feet tall, broad shoul- ders, blue eyes, and long golden-brown hair. He loved to feed me cookie bites and called me his rabbit. I called him Wolfie. Sometimes he got the hiccups for no reason at all and usually laughed them away. Thinking of Andy momentarily made me feel warm inside, even though the room was freezing.

Where was I? I was shivering and yet also bathed in sweat, my skin slick with it. I clutched for my trusty Saint Christo- pher necklace. But it wasn’t there. Mom gave it to me to protect me when I traveled. Would it protect me now? I would never have lost it. The chain must have broken. And then I had an ugly thought. What if someone had ripped it from my neck? I shuddered. Where are you, Andy? I need you!

I opened my eyes as wide as I could. It was pitch black. My pounding heart told me, This isn’t some nightmare—it’s real. I hugged myself and breathed deeply, trying to calm my nerves. My shoulders were tight. I rubbed the sheets beneath me. The ones at home in my bed were soft. These were stiff and coarse. I was somewhere completely and painfully foreign. In my head I was talking to myself in a rapid voice, my fear voice: What isthis?—what is this?—what is this?

Someone nearby was crying. I had a knot in my stomach and my throat hurt, like I’d screamed for hours. My head hurt, too, and I guessed I must have fallen, or maybe something heavy fell on me. I explored my scalp, gently at first, then more bravely,

 

moving my fingers, searching for a lump. I found nothing . . . no lump, no holes. My skull was intact, though my long auburn hair felt tangled and greasy. I inhaled through my nose, search- ing for familiar scents. Mom’s cinnamon rolls, Dad’s after- shave. But nothing smelled even vaguely familiar, and the odors that did find my nose were horrible. Smoke. Vinegar. Sulfur.

I reached for my bedside lamp—but my fingers touched something damp and stringy. Oh god. The knot in my stomach tightened and I yanked my hand back. I willed my eyes to ad- just to the dark, but as I blinked, strange pulsing figures leapt out at me. It must have been my mind playing tricks. Right?

I took five good, long breaths, sucking in through my nose and exhaling through my pursed lips, just like my grandma Tilly taught me years ago. But five breaths weren’t enough. So I took ten, and finally my heart rate slowed from a galloping panic to a steady, cautious thudding. Soon I was able to distin- guish shapes. Was that a girl in a bed next to mine? Her hair was impossibly thick and long, spilling down her back. Her sweaty hair. That’s what I must have reached out and touched. My heart returned to its punishing rhythm, a fist clenching and unclenching in my chest. The nearby crying stopped. But then it was replaced by something worse, a ripping sound, like bone being cut by a rusty saw. And then a gurgling . . . followed by a low, feral growling noise. Faraway cackling laughter. What thehell was going on?

I was terrified and breathing so loud I was afraid I’d wake up the sleeping girl. Something told me I should lie still and keep my mouth shut. Stupidly, I ignored it. My voice was raspy, my throat aching . . .

“Mom? Dad?” Nothing. “ANDY?”

The words sounded weak in the stony silence that followed. My ears strained for the comforting sound of my parents’ familiar footsteps—but I was met with more cruel noises drift- ing through the blackness.

I heard a faraway clock ticking and an odd whimpering, and then a cough. But it wasn’t Mom’s or Dad’s cough; it was the cough of a child—a girl, I think. I desperately wanted this to be a nightmare. So I closed my eyes and tried to float back to sleep. But the terrifying sounds continued: the soft, almost melodic crying; the rhythmic, persistent coughing; the howls and metal- lic noises; the rushing water. I couldn’t take it. I opened my eyes again.

“DADDY?”

An echo from the darkness. Distant. Haunting. Mocking.

“Daddy? Daddy? Daddy?”

I sensed something under my bed. The hair on my neck prickled. I imagined dangling my fingers over the side of the mattress, envisioned them being latched onto, bitten by some creature that would drag me down into its fetid pit. I held my breath and listened. There it was. Someone, or something, was breathing beneath me.

I slid to the edge of the bed and then slowly lowered my head, my irises widening. I peered into the shadows—and saw a pair of feral eyes peering back at me. Acid panic flooded my veins as I jerked back, thinking, Please don’t kill me. If you touch me, my boyfriend will hunt you down and beat the living shit out of you!

I heard a rustling sound, then footsteps. I saw the creature leap out from under my bed. Its eyes found me, then it scam- pered out of the room, on two legs I think, a flash of white. It looked human, but it could have been something else. What- ever it was, thank god it was running from me. Or wait! Maybe it was going to gather more of its kind and they’d come back for me in a pack. My skin crawled. Get out!

I couldn’t stay in this room. I had to get up and move. My bare feet hit the cold, wood plank floor. I took tentative steps into the shadows. A floorboard creaked beneath my feet and I froze. My eyes had adjusted to the darkness and I could make out shapes. Up ahead I saw a shallow pool of light. I moved toward it.

I walked slowly, taking tentative steps, my eyes darting back and forth. The hallway felt like a perfect place for an ambush, so I was alert, my muscles taut.

I passed a closed door on my right, another on my left. I caught a scent of smoke. I heard a splashing sound, as if some- one was taking a bath right above my head. I kept my gaze fixed on the pool of light that was spilling out from under a large door at the end of the hallway. As I drew closer, I could see that the door was built from thick oak planks and looked like it weighed a thousand pounds. On it hung a thick brass ring. On my right was a tall, old grandfather clock, ticking away like a metronome but with no hands to tell time with. It made me afraid and angry. What was I doing in a place with a clock with no hands?

I stepped closer to the thick door. My stomach tightened in fear. Something was terribly wrong. I was lost, adrift, not only in the wrong place, but I felt as though somehow I was the wrong me. I was jolted by a terrible thought. What if I never saw Andy again?

I raised my hand to grasp the knocker but stopped. Because I felt someone behind me.

“I wouldn’t do that if I was you,” said a voice, barely above a whisper.

I turned and saw a slight boy, thin as a reed with long, snowy hair, eating a red candy apple. The hair on the nape of my neck rose.

“Wow. You’re a pretty one,” he said.

I might have blushed. I’d never thought of myself as pretty. My nose is crooked, and ever since someone told me my eyes were too far apart, I’ve been convinced of it.

“Want a bite?” he asked, holding out the apple

Final

Bad Girl Gone releases NEXT WEEK, so check it out and get a copy!

Blog Tour: The Inevitable Collision of Birdie & Bash

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Happy August!

Man, it has been a CRAZY Summer with starting grad school and also making time for a little fun. Today my Summer is officially OVER and I am back to WORK until May. Never fear, there’s only a month until Labor Day weekend, in which I will be headed to NEW YORK for the first time…but that’s not what I’m here to talk about today.

Today I want to focus on The Inevitable Collision of Birdie & Bash! First, let’s marvel over this adorably retro styled cover. I was obsessed the first time I saw it months ago.

Check out an excerpt and then go pick up Birdie & Bash! HUGE thanks to St Martin’s for the review copy and for allowing me to participate in the blog tour. You folks are AMAZING as per usual!





Inevitable Collision of Birdie & Bash FINAL

Excerpt:

I lose sight of Layla for just a moment. The crowd parts in a zigzag fashion and beneath the light machine, where the red, green, and blue hit the hardest, I see her—this statuesque beauty—hiding behind a trail of long brown hair and thick-framed glasses. With her hands folded snug in her lap, she’s looking around, sinking farther into the couch’s wilted threads as if hoping to not be seen, but I see her because hiding is typically what I do, too.

“My God,” I say. The cigarette hangs from my bottom lip, and this girl, who finally stops talking, is still looking at up me, glitter plummeting from her silver-tinted eye shadow. The flakes dance down to the tops of my boots like little asshole snowflakes. That shit should be banned. She follows my eyes across the floor to the big, plaid couch, letting her smile fade. Losing interest (finally), she drops my hand and disappears into the sea of people from which she first emerged.

With my heart nearly beating out of my chest, I watch Couch Girl. The way she tucks her hair behind her ears with precision, the way she nudges her falling glasses up the bridge of her nose, the way she pretends she’s not as earth-shatteringly stunning as she really is. Radiance surrounds her—not a halo, but some kind of ethereal glow—and I can’t look away. She looks up at me. Once, twice, three times; tries to avoid my eyes, but can’t. For the length of a whole song, my gaze doesn’t abandon her, and by the middle of the next song, she’s smiling at me. Score. Normally, I’d hang back, wait and see if we “accidentally” cross paths, but Layla’s determined eyes are on me so I up my game. To finish her.

I push through the haze and find my way to Couch Girl. She looks up at me with these electric green eyes that are more evident through her lenses, and I do something I thought I’d never in a million years do—hold out my hand.

“I don’t dance,” she says, reluctant.

“Me either. Too many germs.” A few seconds pass before she decides to take my humble offering. I pull her to her feet, and our palms smash together and slide across the dampness. This would normally gross me out, but I kind of want to linger in it with her. Gently, I lead her to the center of the floor where we are now gestural shapes on this dark canvas, too.

“Help me out here,” I say. “See that girl over there?” I point to Layla with my middle finger. A silent dig, if you will.

She nods.

“I need her to see us talking.”

She scrunches up her face. “I’m not getting in the middle of whatever that is.” Her finger is waving around, grabbing Layla’s attention. “But thanks.”

As she tries to walk away, I tug on her sleeve. Eyebrows arched, and my own full puppy-lipped pout now in full effect. “Please.”

She must sense my sadness (read: desperation), because with one sharp sigh and a roll of her beautiful eyes, she digs her feet firmly into the floor. “Okay, fine. Just for a minute though.”

We’re not dancing, not swaying or grinding, but here we are, in the epicenter of it all. She crosses her arms, I cross mine, too. “So are we going to actually talk or just pretend?” she snaps.

“Who the hell are you?” I ask with a smirk.

She looks down. “Who am I? You mean what name was I given at birth, or who am I in a general sense?”

I start to respond, but she interrupts.

“Because, in said general sense, I’m a girl at a party I should’ve never come to but did and am now trapped in this weird interaction between subjects A and B while I’d much rather be at home teaching my chunky cat how to drink from a running faucet, thank you very much.”

With my gaze pressed hard on her porcelain skin, I drop the last bit of cigarette to the floor and twist the cinder into the grooves until it burns no more. My smile grows, and all of a sudden, I don’t care if Layla’s watching or not. “Fair enough.”

“Who are you?” she replies with a touch of snark.

I look down to the holes in my shirtsleeve where the fab- ric has worn, and I realize I have two choices here. I can tell her the lame, true story of my life and wait for her to walk away, or I can do the opposite and hope that, for one perfect night, I’m allowed to feel this way about a girl who’s way out of my league, knowing the second I leave here, this, whatever this is, leaves with it.

Plus, it’d totally piss Layla off, and that makes it sweeter. “Well,” I say, “in a general sense, I’m a boy at a party I

should’ve never come to but did and am now gloriously trapped in this enlightened conversation with, probably, the most captivating girl in the entire house. In an even generaler sense”—she stops me, tells me that’s not a word— “I’m nobody. Well, until I saw you.” My smile widens. To sell it.

She blushes. Her fingers fumbling through her long, silky strands, she objects. “One, that’s so ridiculously cliché, and two, statistically speaking, you’re a percentage of this party as a whole house equation. Without the exact number of bodies—I estimate around thirty-seven—you’re something like 2.7027 percent somebody without ever seeing me.”

My heart drops through this creaky, wooden floor, and this smile that’s still pasted—it’s about to rip my face in two. The forces of the earth have rumbled beneath my feet and combined, climbing up through the dirt core, into my heart. We stand here, for, I don’t know, what feels like an infinity (she abruptly explains infinity is a concept and there’s no way to solve for x, so in reality, we can’t actually stand here that long), and all these things start flying out of my mouth—how I graduated last year, I’m only in town for tonight—and with every passing lie, I think, You’re no better than Kyle, which makes me sick—like, physically ill with the sweats and a weird clamminess and all these symptoms that remind me how I felt when I first met Layla.

When the song ends, we hold on to this moment that, in the space between, feels like a million electrodes have be- gun to rattle and vibrate. I feel it fuse to my bones. It con- nects us together, grounds us, right here, right now. Layla’s gone—who cares now?—but just as I start to ask for her num- ber, or the name she was given at birth, a tiny little thing with big, springy curls that dangle over one eye pulls  at Couch Girl’s arm.

“Ready to go?” the friend asks. She’s looking me over in this protective kind of way, and I know what she’s thinking because I beat her to it.

While the two of them decide, a hand slaps the back of my shirt hard enough to leave a mark. I turn around to see Kyle’s cousin’s friend’s college boyfriend with a worried look on his face. “Your friend might need to go to the hospital. He’s, like, not waking up.”

With a heavy sigh, something that follows Kyle’s hijinks often, I silently agree to retrieve my sort-of-ill-behaved dog that does as he pleases. Before I can even think about what to say to Couch Girl next, I spin around and she, and her tiny friend, are gone.

Just like that, it’s over before it even started. Story of my goddamned life.

 

Two days have passed since the house party, and I’m still thinking about what an idiot Kyle is. The only chance I had to talk to (probably) the most interesting lady specimen I’ve ever met, and he totally screwed me. One night to be all the things I’m not, maybe make out a little, and instead, I spent the wee hours of yesterday making sure his ass didn’t die of alcohol poisoning—again. And now here we are,

5 questions with PC Cast

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Quick note:

I’m SO excited for Moon Chosen, out next Tuesday! I met Ms Cast a couple years ago at RT book convention and she was incredibly nice. I loved the House of Night series when I was in college, so I’ve been excited to see what she’s done on her own.

Thanks to Ms Cast for taking time to answer a few questions for the blog tour!

PC CAST

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  1. What 3 words would you use to describe your book? EXCITING – HEARTWARMING – UNIQUE
  2. What’s in your “Author Survival Kit”? (Pens, Caffeine, iPods, etc?)

My tread desk!  Yep, I walk and write at the same time (it’s actually awesome and easy – google it!).  I write in silence.  Well, except for four dogs and a Maine Coon cat who tend to either sleep like the dead or create chaos.  I brew a big pot of either green tea or herbal tea and get to work surrounded by my fur babies, research books, crystals, and infused candles made specially for me by the wonderful Sage Goddess (you can find her on Etsy).

3. What was the last book you read that you just couldn’t put down?

SCARLET RAIN by my talented daughter, Kristin Cast.  The book rocks!  But that’s not why I couldn’t put it down.  I couldn’t put it down because she based the mom character in the book on me and what happens to “me” in that books is…well…you’ll have to read it to see!

4. What kind of research did you have to do for the story?

Well, I destroy all of Portland’s bridges, so I had to do lots of research about how they were built so that I could properly tear them down!  My father taught biology for about half a century, so being sure my ecosystems work is imbedded into my DNA.  This series merges biology and fantasy, which means I have to be sure the biological foundation of my world is solid so that it can remain believable when I add fantasy.

I also had to do quite a bit of research about treehouses for the Tribe of the Trees.  I even went to Washington state and stayed in a treehouse B&B (it was fantastic!).

5. Who is your ultimate book boyfriend?

From another author – Jamie Fraser from Diana Gabaldon’s OUTLANDER series.  From my own books – ClanFinan from the Partholon series: DIVINE BY MISTAKE, DIVINE BY CHOICE, and DIVINE BY BLOOD.

Moon Chosen is out next week!

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Not a Starbucks coffee fan, but loved this book…

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Summary:

From the creators of the eponymous viral Tumblr comes a single day with your favorite authors in one Twilight-Zone-esque Starbucks…

Ever wonder which intricate, elaborately-named drinks might be consumed if your favorite authors and characters wandered into a Starbucks? How many pumpkin lattes J.K. Rowling would drink? Or if Cormac McCarthy needed caffeine, which latte would be laconic enough? Look no further; LITERARY STARBUCKS explores such pressing matters with humor and erudition. Set over the course of a single day, and replete with puns and satirized literary styles, the three authors go darker, stronger, and more global than the blog in book format, including illustrations by acclaimed New Yorker cover artist and cartoonist Harry Bliss.

My Thoughts:

Truthfully, I thought this was an odd concept when St. Martin’s approached me about it several months ago. However, when it came in, I ended up thinking it was incredibly fun!

The entries are witty and clever and the book would be fun to pick up and have at your work desk if you need something for a quick mental break during the day.

Furthermore, I’d never heard of the Tumblr that the book came from and found it hilarious when I looked it up.

So…go here to check out more about what Literary Starbucks is all about and then order the book- out today!

 

Blog Tour: Sanctuary Bay

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Book Information:

BASIC DETAILS

SANCTUARY BAY: A Novel

By Laura J. Burns and Melinda Metz

St. Martin’s Griffin

Publication Date: January 19, 2016

Hardcover: 978-1-250-05136-3 / $18.99 USD

eBook: 978-1-466-86917-2 / $9.99 USD

Summary:

When Sarah Merson receives the opportunity of a lifetime to attend the most elite prep school in the country—Sanctuary Bay Academy—it seems almost too good to be true. But, after years of bouncing from foster home to foster home and struggling with the memory of her parent’s murder, escaping to the school’s tranquil setting, nestled deep in Swans Island, couldn’t sound more appealing. Swiftly thrown into a world of privilege and secrets, Sarah quickly realizes finding herself noticed by class charmer, Nate, as well as her roommate’s dangerously attentive boyfriend, Ethan, are the least of her worries. When her roommate suddenly goes missing, she finds herself in a race against time, not only to find her, but to save herself and discover the dark truth behind Sanctuary Bay’s glossy reputation.


Excerpt:

Daddy  pressed his finger to his lips, shushing Sarah quiet as he slid the door to the tunnel back on. She wrapped her arms tightly around  her knees and pressed her cheek against her arm, trying to pretend she was back in her  own  room.  But it didn’t smell like her room. Even the spicy smell of Daddy’s cologne had faded now  that the tunnel was closed.  And  grayness was all around her. She was almost four, and that was too old to be scared of the dark. But it wasn’t all dark. It was just gray dark.

She tried not to think of monsters crawling toward her. Daddy said there were no monsters. But monsters  liked tunnels. They liked little girls.

Sometimes when she was scared she liked to sing the Maggie song. But that was against the rules. She had to be quiet. She had to be still. She had to wait until Daddy  or Mommy  opened the door and got her.

Thinking  about  the rules  helped.   She  could  almost hear Daddy  saying them, as if he was hiding in the tunnel with her. Even though he was way too big. If something bad happens, wait until the room is safe. If you leave the tunnel, put the funny slit- ted door back on. Run fast. Find a lady with kids. Tell her your name is Sarah Merson. Merson. Merson. Merson. Merson. Ask for help.

Her nose started twitching, itching from the thick air. Mak- ing her want to sneeze. But she had to be quiet.

Then she heard Mommy screaming. Mommy never screamed. Were the monsters out there and not in the tunnel?

On  hands and knees she started creeping  toward the slits of light, heart pounding.

“Kt85L is our property,” a man said. “You had no right!”

Out there. Mommy  on her knees facing the hotel room wall. Someone’s legs. A hand  reaching  down.  A silver bird stared at Sarah from a ring on the finger. Stared with a horrible  little black eye. The finger pulled  the trigger of a gun.

A bang. Her ears filling with bees. Mommy  collapsing on the floor. Red spilling out.

Sarah shoved her fingers into her mouth. Quiet. The rule was be quiet.

Shouting. Daddy’s legs running by, out of the room. The bird man chasing. The door banging closed.

Something bad happening.

The  room  was safe. The  bird  man  was gone. So she had  to get out. Mommy  was on the floor. Daddy  was gone.

She shoved the door and it fell out onto the floor. Near Mommy. Near  the red. But the rule was to put  the funny  door back on. She picked  it up and shoved  it over the tunnel like Daddy  had shown her.

Sarah  didn’t  want to look at Mommy.  She looked  out the window  instead. The window  was always open  and there was never a screen. Daddy’s voice came from the hallway, yelling. Screaming.

Another bang.

Sarah pressing her hands over her eyes. Not looking. Not look- ing. Something bad happening.

Daddy  was quiet now. Something bad. She had to run fast.

Sarah climbed  on the chair under  the window.  The chair al- ways went under  the window.  She stuck her legs through the window  and jumped down.  Now run fast.

She ran fast, looking for a lady with a stroller or a kid her age. A mommy  would  help  her.  She would  say she was Sarah Merson.

Sarah Merson, and something bad happened.


My Thoughts:

So…Spoilers: That excerpt is the VERY beginning of the book!

With that said…wow. I was interested from the very beginning because WHAT ON EARTH IS GOING ON?! Right? Right.

 

Sanctuary Bay kept me interested as I enjoy reading about boarding schools for some reason. Maybe because I went to a boarding school one year?

Either way, I suggest this to anyone looking for a good mystery thriller. However, I went into it blind and didn’t realize that it was going to be more than one book, so the ending seemed abrupt, but it was still good despite my short-lived confusion.

SB came out last week, so it IS available now, so good pick up a copy!

-Melanie

Guest post: Alyssa Palombo

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My thoughts:

When I was initially approached about reading Violinist of Venice, I was interested in it from the start. I love historical fiction anyways, but I’m rarely able to find historical fiction about topics that I’m already interested in- such as classical music. I was stuck in the story and loved finding out what was going to happen to Adriana next. I highly suggest it to anyone looking for a good romance or a good historical fiction!

Anyways, without further wait, Alyssa wrote up an AWESOME post on her research for the novel and her road to learning more about Vivaldi and Venice.

Check it out and then go get her book because it is out TODAY!


 

 The research behind The Violinist of Venice

By Alyssa Palombo

It goes without saying that a lot of research has to go into any work of historical fiction. Every author will go about this research differently, but it’s a lot of work no matter how you slice it. Writing The Violinist of Venice was an interesting experience in that I went about it all sort of backwards: I started writing the novel first and did the research as I went.

 

I don’t know if I can say I recommend this method of writing historical fiction, only that it worked for me in this instance. What started it all was a dream that I had, a dream that was essentially the first chapter of the novel. When I woke up I couldn’t stop thinking about it, and throughout that day I kept imagining more things about these characters, more things that might happen to them or that they might do or what might become of them. By that night, I had a loose outline in my head of what I thought the story might be (though I deviated greatly from that outline in the end) and had written the first chapter.

 

I knew hardly anything about Vivaldi or Venice at this point, but the dream and the story I had started to imagine as a result of it completely consumed me; I just had to get the story out and couldn’t stop writing to do all the research I knew I would need to do to really do justice to the story.

 

So, like I said, I did it as I went. I started with Vivaldi’s music, as the musician and music lover in me could not resist starting there. I sifted through tons of recordings on iTunes and randomly downloaded certain pieces that I would listen to, some of which made their way into the pages of the novel. I wanted to make sure that for each scene where Adriana and Vivaldi are playing the violin, I chose one of Vivaldi’s pieces to describe that fit the mood and tone of the scene, as well as one that he would have written by that point in his life. A lot of those passages describing the music took a lot of tinkering and revising to get just right. I listened to music and I studied scores and just immersed myself in it.

 

For Vivaldi’s background, I started in the obvious place: Google. Obviously research needs to get a lot more in depth than Google, but it’s the perfect place to start. If I have a historical figure or event or place in mind that I’m considering writing about, I always do a preliminary Google search just to get some basic facts, so I know what I’m in for (and for my second book, that preliminary Google search completely changed the idea I initially had into something else, based on a fact that I found about my real-life heroine). So I got a general idea of Vivaldi’s life and career, and then I started compiling a list of books about him and about Venice. There are not a ton of biographies out there about Vivaldi – not like there are about Mozart or Beethoven, for instance – but I found the ones there were and read those, and of course I referenced certain portions of them multiple times while writing.

 

Part of the reason there are not as many books about Vivaldi as about other composers, I think, is that not as much is known about his life. This suited my purposes well enough, though, as I could use fiction to fill in some of the holes. The period in which the first half of the novel takes places is one in which no one knows too much about what Vivaldi was doing. And of course, the heroine of my novel, Adriana d’Amato, is a fictional character, so I could have her life take whatever course it wanted. Vivaldi himself doesn’t appear as much in the second half of the novel – it has truly become Adriana’s story by then – and so there I used certain events and dates, such as the premieres of certain of his works, as a touchstone. In shaping his character, I took the facts that history told me about the man – that he could have a fiery temper, and that he didn’t take his responsibilities as a priest too seriously, among many other things – and blended them with what I thought the music he wrote told me about him, and so created a character that I could write about.

 

My list of research books also included lots of books about Venice and its history, culture, and government, among other topics. What should be obvious (but wasn’t to me as a twenty-year old undergraduate who decided to try to write a historical novel) is that you need to read much more widely about your topic than just the scope of your novel. Initially I had thought I only needed to research Vivaldi and 18th century Venice. What I didn’t know (though I figured it out) was that I really needed to read about the whole history of Venice, from its founding onward, and how all the things – from religion to government to trade to social customs, etc. – that defined 18th century Venice came to be in the first place. Certain things I had learned about 18th century Venice made a lot more sense once I understood more fully the history of the place, which was at one point the most powerful and wealthy country in Europe.

 

And let me tell you, 18th century Venice was a crazy place, and quite the party town. I was absolutely fascinated by the time period, by the opera and the art and by the decadence of the upper crust that my main character is a part of. 18th century Venice is the Venice of Giacomo Casanova and of Lord Byron. Carnival went on for months at a time, and when the whole city went around in masks for so long, the results were just as scandalous as you might expect. It was a debauched, loose, fast-living society, juxtaposed against the traditional values of the Catholic Church.

 

Once I had a complete first draft (which, on my full-time undergraduate and part-time office clerk’s schedule, took a year and a half) and had the pieces of the story in place, I knew where the holes in the manuscript were; knew exactly what needed more researching and fleshing out. I had done some research by that point, but knew I had a lot more to go. Between drafts and into revisions is where I did most of the heavy lifting.

 

And, of course, I had the perfect excuse to go Venice, right? It had always been high on my list of places to visit, ever since I found out that there was a city with water for streets. I’ve always had a weird love for bodies of water – lakes, streams, rivers, oceans, what have you – and just like being near water. (My best friend will tell you that’s because I’m a Pisces, a water sign, and though I’ve never been one for astrology I’m inclined to agree with her on this point). The idea that such a place could physically exist had always been fascinating to me, and from the very beginning of writing the novel I knew that I would need to see Venice to be able to really do it justice.

 

So I went, before starting the third (and ultimately final) draft of the novel. I was only there a few days, but that was all I needed: I simply wanted to see the place I had been writing about for so long, as well as visit some of the locations that figure into the novel (such as the Church of the Pietà and Piazza San Marco, for instance). Venice is really the perfect place to write about as a historical novelist, since you can go there and it hasn’t changed all that much – not physically, anyway – in the last few hundred years or so. So when I came home and began the third draft, I was able to try my best to infuse the novel with the breathtaking, beautiful, deceptive, impossible, beguiling reality of Venice.

 

I did also take violin lessons for a bit as research. I had never so much as touched the instrument before, and wanted to have at least a basic knowledge of it to better write about the experience of playing it. I am, as it turns out, a really awful violinist, but I had a ton of fun and learned a lot that I think ultimately did improve the book. I have boundless respect for violin virtuosos like Adriana and Vivaldi! It is a very difficult instrument.

 

Of course, writing a novel without knowing a lot of the information means that some things will need to change from your original draft or vision, and of course that happened to me. Weirdly, some things that I just wrote and guessed about turned out to be true. But ultimately I was able to keep the shape of the story the same, and flesh it out in all the many ways it needed to be fleshed out. Research can be frustrating, time-consuming, and difficult; it can also be fun and deeply interesting. It’s all worth it when you begin to funnel everything you’ve learned into your novel and see it really take shape.

Review: Instructions for the End of the World

instructions

Summary:

From the author of The Good Sister comes a gripping novel about two sisters who learn that there are things in life—love, loss, and self-discovery—that you simply can’t prepare for.

He prepared their family for every natural disaster known to man—except for the one that struck.

When Nicole Reed’s father forces her family to move to a remote area of the Sierra Foothills, one without any modern conveniences, it’s too much too handle for her mother, who abandons them in the middle of the night. Heading out to track her down, Nicole’s father leaves her in charge of taking care of the house and her younger sister, Izzy. For a while, Nicole is doing just fine running things on her own. But then the food begins to run out, the pipes crack, and forest fires start slowly inching their way closer every day. Wolf, a handsome boy from the neighboring community, offers to help her when she needs it most, but when she starts to develop feelings for him, feelings she knows she will never be allowed to act on once her father returns, she must make a decision. With her family falling apart, will she choose to continue preparing for tomorrow’s disasters, or will she take a chance and really start living for today?

Instructions for the End of the World is a gripping, young adult novel that explores family, friendship, and love in the midst of the most difficult and dangerous circumstances.


My Thoughts:

I know I say this often, but the folks at St. Martin’s Griffin are way too good to me! HUGE thanks to them for sending me a copy!

I will admit that, at first, I was kind of iffy on requesting this book, but I decided that I was in the mood for a survival type story.

I think many people are confused about WHAT this book is when looking at it, so hear me out: this is not an apocalyptic survival story!

However, it is about family and survival just the same. I found Nicole’s choices interesting when she had to step up for herself and her sister when her dad left to find their mother. She didn’t have to do that, but she knew how and did.

I’ve also seen people say that “nothing happens.” Again, I think this idea is mostly due to going in blind and expecting some supernatural event or tragedy.

Either way, if you go in knowing what to expect then this is a great story. It is only 213 pages, so it is even a fast read. I enjoyed the two alternating narrations and I think it helped to see everything that was going on.

Check it out because it just came out today!

-Melanie