I'm having a flash e-book sale for I Know It's Over and Come See About Me (get either for $2.99 or equivalent prices internationally until Wednesday night) to celebrate their new looks:



Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Apple | Kobo
Re-posting from my Tumblr yesterday:


This is what’s on my mind today as is the case with most of my countrymen: did anybody ever understand what we could be at our best and reflect it back to us the way Gord Downie did? We were incredibly lucky to have him for the time that we did, but this is such a hard day for Canada.


A couple of months ago I mentioned receiving a black and white rough sketch of the cover for my upcoming middle grade sci-fi book, STRICKEN. Well, the actual cover came in a few weeks back. In a flurry of excitement I splashed it across Facebook and Twitter, but if you haven't seen the cover image yet, voila:

I couldn't be more thrilled about the fantastic illustration by Canadian artist Nick Craine. Thank you, Nick, for this absolute awesomeness! This is the BEST cover I've ever had right down to main character Naomi's defiant posture atop an overturned car. 

Stricken will be released by Cormorant's Dancing Cat Books imprint this fall. Here's what it's about:

Naomi doesn't expect anything unusual from her annual family trip to visit her grandparents in Ireland. What she expects is to celebrate her thirteenth birthday, hang out with her friends Ciara and Shehan, and deal with her gran's Alzheimer's. What she finds is a country hit by an unexpected virus that rapidly infects the majority of the Irish population over the age of twenty-one.

Amnestic-Delirium Syndrome (ADS) starts off with memory loss, but the virus soon turns its victims aggravated, blank, or violent. Naomi and her friends must survive on their own, without lucid adults, cut off from the rest of the world, until a cure is found.

But there are whispers that ADS is not terrestrial, and soon Naomi and her friends learn the frightening truth: we are not alone.

{{shivers}}

In Canada you can pre-order Stricken through Chapters.Indigo and Amazon.ca. The book will be released in the U.S. in spring 2018.

I'm also ever so happy to say that last week CM Magazine: Canadian Review of Materials published a wonderfully thoughtful review of my most recent contemporary YA, Just Like You Said It Would Be.

Just Like You Said It Would Be review by Joanie Prosek, CM . . . . Volume XXIII Number 39. . . .June 16, 2017

CM give it their "highly recommend it" designation and rate the book a 3.5/4, but more than that I'm just so appreciative of all the background research the reviewer did, including quoting a blog post I wrote in 2013 on why I feel it's important to have realistic sex scenes in YA novels and not just fade to black. I couldn't be any happier!

 "...many of the voters in last year’s {U.S.} presidential election cast their ballots, animated in part by a desire to shrug off the burden of world leadership. To say this is not controversial: it is simply a fact...The fact that our friend and ally has come to question the very worth of its mantle of global leadership, puts into sharper focus the need for the rest of us to set our own clear and sovereign course. For Canada that course must be the renewal, indeed the strengthening, of the postwar multilateral order."
―  Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland

Humour me, okay? Normally I look at pictures of puppies or sunsets over the ocean to cheer myself up but these work too!





















My editor sent me a black and white rough sketch of the cover for my upcoming middle grade sci-fi book STRICKEN last week and I hope I'll be able to share the final cover image in not long. I'm enormously excited as this is my middle grade debut (coming out with Dancing Cat Books in the fall). And this cover, this cover is pure fantastic! It makes all the different versions of me, from ten-year-old me up to the me I am now want to pick the book up and devour it and hey, I already know what happens.

The description of Stricken is now up on Indigo and Amazon so I can at least share that much:

Naomi doesn't expect anything unusual from her annual family trip to visit her grandparents in Ireland. What she expects is to celebrate her thirteenth birthday, hang out with her friends Ciara and Shehan, and deal with her gran's Alzheimer's. What she finds is a country hit by an unexpected virus that rapidly infects the majority of the Irish population over the age of twenty-one. Amnestic-Delirium Syndrome (ADS) starts off with memory loss, but the virus soon turns its victims aggravated, blank, or violent. Naomi and her friends must survive on their own, without lucid adults, cut off from the rest of the world, until a cure is found. But there are whispers that ADS is not terrestrial, and soon Naomi and her friends learn the frightening truth: we are not alone.

Coincidentally, my most recent YA book is also set in Dublin and has a Canadian main character too.


That's pretty much where the similarities end but now's a good time to mention that today is the last day in a two-day e-book sale for Just Like You Said It Would Be. Until the end of the day you can pick it up for $2.99 at Amazon U.S .http://amzn.to/2qWNyHf and Canada https://www.amazon.ca/Just-Like-You-Said-Would/dp/1542749468 with equivalent prices at other Amazons.

You can also pick it up for $2.99 at:

Kobo https://www.kobo.com/ca/en/ebook/just-like-you-said-it-would-be

and iTunes https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/just-like-you-said-it-would-be/id1205047739?mt=11

and B & N http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/just-like-you-said-it-would-be-c-k-kelly-martin/1125660708?ean=2940154005361

If I'm quiet around here lately (okay, yes, I know I am!) it's because I'm hard at work on a speculative YA novel but I'll be back the minute I can share my first illustrated cover.

Psst, ordinarily I'm not big on creative advice (too many generalizations) but there's such great stuff in Mike Birbiglia’s 6 Tips for Making It Small in Hollywood. Or Anywhere. (especially #5 and #6) that I'm passing on the link.


The Just Like You Said It Would Be blog tour ends today and I want to thank Xpresso Book tours and all the bloggers who took part in the event and made it such a wonderful week for me. This is a book that might have sat on my hard drive forever if I'd held out for a traditional publisher as it's anything but high concept. It's slowish at the start, realistic, on the quiet side, literary, and it's also my personal favourite of all my novels. Various agents have told me they loved it, but that they wouldn't know how to sell it, others have suggested changes that would fundamentally alter the soul of the book. It took me a long, long time to realize that what's most important to me is not whether Just Like You Said It Would Be is traditionally published or sells many copies but that I be true to it. This is an eighteen year journey I've been on and whatever happens from here on out, I'm very happy that it's out in the world.

Reviewer Lynda Dickson (of the Books Direct blog) gathered a selection of Goodreads and blog review quotes for Just Like You Said It Would Be together as part of her write-up (thank you Lynda!) and I'm going to recap some of those here, and add a few others.

Praise for Just Like You Said It Would Be

"This novel drew me in from the first page and I was not able to put it down...It was so well-written and full of different and complex characters that I found myself easily invested ...Teen and YA readers will easily identify with the uncertainty that comes with growing up, going away to college, first loves, etc. Adult readers—prepare to find yourself quickly being swept away in the nostalgia of your own experiences at the age. Whether it was joy, curiosity, anger, worry, or sadness, author C.K. Kelly Martin perfectly captures the varying emotions associated with that age."
~ Dandelions Inspired

"The powerful first chapter captured me and made me want to read more. The emotions Amira feels are so well written that it brought me right back to the moments in my life where I felt that sad, scared and lonely and missing "the guy"...The writing is just perfectly detailed and the writing when describing any level of emotion is excellent."
~ Bookshipper

"The air feels crisper, and the world more alive than in most other YA. It’s filled with sass, and zippy dialogue, and tender feelings that have to be protected, and the cavernous, shaky unknown of ... is this thing between them the best thing ever, or is it nothing at all? ...This could easily be a TV series—a good one. Richly drawn characters, sympathetic lead, a central relationship with both sharp edges and soft spots, tons of conflict, great setting..."
~ CC, Goodreads

"Amira is perhaps one of the most most deeply introspective 16 year olds that I’ve read. She has a rich internal dialogue and is also a character that is very empathetic and sympathetic. She's experienced great loss, is facing the possible demise of her parents' marriage. The summer she spends in Dublin opens her up to finding herself. Martin does an amazing job creating a character with the kind of personality open to the exploration and growth she embarks on. She’s spirited and yet contemplative and smart enough to understand the impact of the vast change she is experiencing." 
~ Once Upon A Page

"The beginning of the book is slow, and there is what feels like too much unnecessary and irrelevant information. As the book progresses, however, we see that everything is relevant. This is not just a sanitized summer romance, but a true coming-of-age story ... a touching tale of first love, growing up, and realizing that real life isn't a fairy tale."
~ Books Direct 

"You can’t see me (I hope), but right now I am holding up my e-reader and declaring: This is why I read young adult novels!...The emotions between the characters are palpable and the “sex” means something, which I have to admit has not been obvious in the other books I’ve read lately where it is a rote act and makes you want to skip pages. I didn’t skip these pages. Everything was an amazing discovery ... What made Just Like You Said It Would Be really work for me was that it felt real."
~ Sascha Darlington's Microcosm Explored

"Is there anything more potent, more intoxicating than first love?...I loved the geography of the book, especially that most of it took place in Ireland. It gave the story a magical, almost ethereal quality at times....The writing is fresh and modern, the story is incredibly relatable, and the characters are dynamic and three-dimensional."
~ Reads & Reels

"The music is almost a character itself within ...I thoroughly enjoyed the characters and found the primary setting of Dublin to be stunning. This is a contemporary book that will leave you entranced with the complex characters and the overall plot."
~ To Be Read


I'm excited to pass on details of the Blog Tour for Just Like You Said It Would Be. It's starting in only a months' time and if you want to learn more about the book, and read various bloggers' thoughts on the novel you can drop by any of the tours spots listed below.


March 27th
Ammie’s Book Obsession
aggiesbookreview
2 girls who love books
reviewsbyang

March 28th
To Be Read
Readdayandnight
Drunk On Pop

March 29th
Reads & Reels
Girl vs Books
Barbara’s Book Blog

March 30th
Haddie’s Haven
Once Upon A Page
The Haathers Blog
So Many Books, So Little Time

March 31st
Sascha Darlington’s Microcosm Explored
The Avid Reader
Dandelions Inspired
Amy’s Bookish Life
Rockin’ Book Reviews

April 1st
A Writer’s Devotion
Books Direct
Romantic Fanatic
Sinfonia dos Livros
Erotic Romance Book Blog with Sandy
CBY Book Club

A thousand thanks to Giselle at Xpresso Book Tours for putting this together! The Rafflecopter giveaway in association with the blog tour will be going live when the tour starts. Good luck!


I've also created a website dedicated solely to Just Like You Said It Would Be that you can visit here:
www.justlikeyousaiditwouldbe.com.

http://www.justlikeyousaiditwouldbe.com/


Most years February is my least favourite month. It’s generally dreary and cold, and being that I live in Canada, by the time February rolls around it’s been cold for months already. But today my new young adult book, Just Like You Said It Would Be, releases and I have such affection for this story that it spreads over the edges of the paperback and leaks into February itself, whispering that this month can’t be all bad, that even February holds promise.

Because Just Like You Said It Would Be is essentially a coming of age tale wrapped around a love story, I’ve been thinking about love a lot lately—and which elements of love stories I particular enjoy and/or find compelling. I want to talk about a few of them here, but often it’s music that does the purest and best job of communicating what it feels like to fall in love.

* Dancing to you all night long

Below are a few songs that I personally believe faithfully translate the feeling of falling in love. Listen to the great Bill Withers hold the hell out of that final note at the end of Lovely Day (*this is believed to be the second longest note in UK chart history) and who, while falling head over heels, could argue with the Elton John lyric, “How wonderful life is while you're in the world” from Your Song? One of my perennial favourite lyrics comes from Billy Bragg’s A Lover Sings: “It's things like this that remind me of how I felt/The first time you came back for coffee. The way you took it amazed me.”



But I don’t have to stretch back in time for examples, here and now there’s Warpaint singing, “you're a new song baby, you're a new song to me” and “dancing to you all night long.”


This is what it’s like to fall in love. You didn’t realize it could be this way, and then suddenly you do. Every little thing about the person you’re in love with feels like a wondrous revelation. Their very existence seems to alter reality. The love story-lines that hit me the hardest (some examples are Tender by Belinda McKeon, Love and Other Perishable Items by Laura Buzo)—whether they centre on relationships that will last,  ones that will burn to ashes, or even ones that will never actually start in earnest—often reflect the above feelings palpably.

* Where is all this going?

When I’m reading about love, I don’t actually want the foregone conclusion of a happy ending. I want the journey to feel authentic. That way, I can celebrate and buy into in the happy ending if it materializes and feel devastated along with the character(s) if it doesn’t. Above all, like Fox Mulder, I want to believe whatever happens, and believe in the characters. One of my favourite young adult love stories is Raw Blue by Kirsty Eagar and it’s not a book you would describe as a romance; it’s a book about healing, but I believed and fell for every word about Carly and Ryan. The raw honesty sparks.


* You can talk to me 

Hands down my favourite element of the original Office series was the friendship-but-could-it-be-more? pairing of Tim and Dawn. Surrounded by equal parts mayhem and drudgery, Tim and Dawn are the folks we root for. I’ve seldom seen as good an example of people who like each other as Tim and Dawn (and their American Office counterparts Jim and Pam too) on TV or at the movies. We see a lot of chemistry and conflict in potential relationships but the dynamic that I consider the best foundation for love often is short-changed or skipped altogether. Other good examples of this is the friendship that develops between Harry and Sally in When Harry Met Sally after they meet for the third time, the sweet lightness between Patrick and Richie of the Looking TV series and the messy but authentic attachment between Isabel and Smith in Let’s Get Lost by Sarra Manning.

* Across the divide

The moment an invisible divide between two people is crossed, some kind of act of (wanted obviously!) intimacy suddenly uniting them.

This can be something as simple as someone brushing the hair out of your eyes when you’ve never really even touched before, or suddenly taking your hand.

For me the two standout examples that spring to mind are 1) Robert Redford tying Barbara Streisand’s undone shoelace in The Way We Were before they ever become a couple.

2) Remember the scene in the Casino Royale remake when Bond and Vesper are attacked by terrorists in a stairwell? And much later, after Bond has returned to the card game and then his suite, to find a broken wine glass and hears his shower running? A traumatized Vesper’s sitting on the shower floor, soaked and fully clothed and eventually offering the anguished explanation that the blood on her hands won’t come off. James has sat down next to her so that now he’s being drenched by the shower too. Then he takes her hand, places her fingers in his mouth and sucks them clean.


* Alone in the Universe

David Usher has a song about this experience, and unsurprisingly it’s called Alone in the Universe


I have a scene like this in One Lonely Degree where Finn feels it with Jersy, the boy from her past, as they’re watching snow fall. Anyone who has been in love has felt this at some point, that for a certain moment in time the two of you are a universe onto itself.

We shove our shoes on and go out through the sliding door in the kitchen. The backyard has a swimming pool in it, but it’s impossible to imagine summer. The snow’s coming down so thick and soft that Jersy and I are already covered in fuzz. I fold my arms in front of me and hunch over, doing my best to hold on to my body heat. It’s quiet the way only winter can be, and I’m almost afraid to say anything, in case words ruin it.

“It’s like the inside of a snow globe,” Jersy says, smiling and hunching over next to me. I look at his breath on the air and nod.

We stand silently watching the snow fall for as long as I can stand it. The hazy orange lights from other houses seem miles away. It feels like we’re the only people on the planet, Jersy and me. It’s weird. He’s so quiet next to me, but that only makes him feel more real and near.

I sneak another look at him, for safekeeping. If I had more guts, maybe I’d do something more.

Shit.

Trust me to ruin the moment for myself without even saying a word.



* This isn’t over

Because if it really matters, you'll fight for it! Like in the hallway scene of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind when Joel, having had all his memories of his relationship with Clementine wiped, wants to start again.

Joel: I can't see anything that I don't like about you.
Clementine: You will, you will think of things...and I'll get bored with you and feel trapped because that's what happens with me.
Joel: okay.
Clementine: okay.

They both laugh in acceptance.  

Another classic example comes from The Last of the Mohicans. Daniel Day Lewis parts from Madeline Stowe with the words, “You stay alive. If they don’t kill you, they’ll take you north up to Huron lands. You submit, do you hear? You’re strong. You survive. You stay alive no matter what occurs. I will find you…no matter how long it takes, no matter how far. I will find you.”


* The moment(s) someone becomes attractive to you

Sometimes it happens all at once, like being struck by lightning. You see someone, and you don’t want to look away. Other times it’s a slow burn. A dozen things they do build upon each other to transform someone from the person you knew before into someone who gives you butterflies when they look you in the eye. Amira in Just Like You Said It Would Be explains her experience like this:

It was a surprise to see him in broad daylight. I wish I could say he wasn’t as good looking as I’d remembered and that he’d gone back to being the guy I’d barely noticed at the restaurant. But that would be a lie. Darragh’s song, and our subsequent conversation in Zoey’s backyard, seemed to have flicked a switch inside my head that I didn’t have the power to turn off.

And that's my incomplete list, post-Valentine's Day, of some of the things I like to see in a love story. It doesn't escape me that many of the things I talked about aren't from books or movies that are primarily love stories, but they might give you an idea of what Just Like You Said It Would Be is like. 

Happy February!

Just like You Said It Would Be

My new contemporary YA Just Like You Said It Would Be is out next week and if you'd like to be part of the upcoming review tour (and I'd love it if you would!) head on over to Xpresso Book Tours to sign up: 

Did you ever want something so much that it felt like a kind of sickness, one you didn’t want to be cured of? On New Year’s Eve the feeling compels seventeen-year-old Amira to text the Irish ex-boyfriend she’s been missing desperately since they broke up at the end of summer, when she returned to Canada.

They agreed they wouldn’t be friends, that it would never be enough. But that was then— back when Amira’s separated parents had shipped her off to relatives in Dublin for the summer so they could test-drive the idea of getting back together on a long haul cruise. Back when Amira was torn away from a friend in need in Toronto only to fall in love with a Dublin screenwriting class and take a step closer to her dream career. And only to fall for cousin Zoey’s bandmate, Darragh, the guy who is first her friend, then her enemy and later something much more complicated—the guy she can say anything to, the guy who makes every inch of her feel wide awake in a way she hadn’t known was possible. The guy she might never see again. Or is there, despite the distance, somehow still a chance for them?


* You can read Chapter One here

And enter to win a paperback copy at Goodreads.



Goodreads Book Giveaway

Just Like You Said it Would Be by C.K. Kelly Martin

Just Like You Said it Would Be

by C.K. Kelly Martin

Giveaway ends February 20, 2017.
See the giveaway details at Goodreads.
Enter Giveaway

Just Like You Said It Would Be cover


I'm excited to point out the cover reveal for Just Like You Said It Would Be is tomorrow (Big thanks to Xpresso Book Tours for organizing this on such short notice!) ! I'll be linking to the cover then, and linking to places you can order print and e-copies in the days that follow. On sale date is February 15th. 

But today I'm pleased to post the first chapter of Just Like You Said It Would Be. If you want to learn more about the book, and my long history with it, you can jump back to the previous blog entry. Now, without further ado ...

Chapter 1
The time is right. The time is now.


Did you ever want something so much that it felt like a kind of sickness—one you didn’t want to be cured of because you knew stamping it out would leave you with so much less that you’d be a different person? I didn’t know what it was like to feel that way until last summer and I know the feeling better still now. 

Sometimes when I’m alone I let myself wallow in it until my throat begins to burn. Most of the time, though, I push myself to keep things together, act like I’m fine and remind myself that I can’t truly be as gone as I feel because it’s not like me to be out of control. 

But I am. I haven’t seen him in over four months and I miss him more today than I did the day after we said goodbye. I didn’t have any choice when it came to the way things ended, but I still feel like I made a mistake that I’ll never stop regretting. 


Pain begins to radiate across my forehead as memories from last summer stream behind my eyes. Fighting in the street with him, jealous, bitter, and sad. Us curled up together, skin to skin in my aunt and uncle’s shed, breathing each other in like we could never get close enough. The intent way he’d listen, his face a mystery to me. The way he’d look at me, his electric blue eyes making me feel restless, dizzy, and full of ache. I wanted to know every thought running through his mind, unlock him for good and learn all his secrets. 


Maybe none of that sounds earth-shattering, but it was to me. His voice. His fingers on the guitar. His perfect wrists. The intensity with which he loved music, as though it was something sacred. Every time he walked into a room he made it feel like a more interesting place. What could be bigger than that?


And what do you do when you don’t have that anymore and the memory of it has to be enough? I can’t work that out, but I know—as my eyes skip around the crowded living room searching out my friends—that it was a mistake to drag Lennox to this party with us. Lennox is someone I could’ve liked before—there’s a good chance we would’ve been something to each other if last summer had never happened—but after, when someone three thousand miles away is occupying all the emotional space inside me, it’s impossible. 


Lennox and I have always had a fun time talking movies and kidding around and I guess I wanted, for a few minutes when we were closing the store together earlier tonight, to be the old Amira on New Year’s Eve. The one who was always on an even keel and didn’t spend the majority of her time wanting someone she’d never have again. But now that Lennox is leaning in close enough that I can smell his aftershave it’s obvious I shouldn’t be here with him. Better still, I should’ve skipped any big New Year’s celebrations and headed over to Jocelyn’s place with a movie from the store. Being surrounded by varying levels of drunkenness, frenzied dancing and hoots of excitement is only making me more miserable.


Lennox smoothes one of his thumbs across my cheek and smiles at me as we listen to clambering voices count down to the New Year. I don’t flinch at his touch, but I don’t smile either. I feel bad for doing this to him. Bad enough to kiss him back when the voices reach “one” and he slides his mouth against mine. 


It’s not a bad kiss, but it just doesn’t feel like anything. It’s empty. For me, anyway.


Around us people are shouting in happy voices and Bono Vox peals out from the sound system. Being Irish and from Dublin just like him, U2 would have to be the first thing I’d hear in the new year and I almost laugh, the bitterness catching in my throat. Lennox sees my hint of a smile and thinks it’s for him. He moves in for a second kiss, but this time around he’s going to be disappointed because I just can’t.


I bend my head and push my hand gently against his shoulder, hoping Lennox will read my body language and revert automatically back to the friendly working relationship we had before tonight. Don’t make me explain, Lennox. Please. 


Lennox’s lower lip drops and disappointment flickers across his face. Only for a couple of seconds, but that’s long enough for me to digest it. Then he sort of freezes with his arms at his sides, his head slowly distancing itself from mine. 


Lennox’s brown eyes peer expectantly into my own. When I take too long to say anything he shrugs dejectedly, like he doesn’t understand. “What just happened?” he asks.


I’m grinding my molars and staring past him, trying to come up with the right words, when Yanna appears in my line of vision. She throws her arms around me and hugs me tight. “Happy New Year!” she bellows. 


“Happy New Year!” I yell back, my voice cracking.


By the time we’ve let go of each other the space where Lennox was standing is empty. I think I spy the back of his checked shirt disappearing into the crowd. “Where’s Ker?” I ask. Kérane’s the other friend we came with tonight and the one we usually worry about in party situations due to her tendency to drink too much, make out with random guys, and generally get out of hand.


I spin to look for her, but I don’t need to search very hard because seconds later she’s bopping over to us with a hedonistic grin plastered across her face. Obviously somebody is having a good time. Kérane hugs Yanna first, her streaked blond hair falling over them both like a cloak. I’m next and my nostrils flare as I inhale Ker’s beer breath. 


Our agreed rule is that none of us will drink at parties unless it comes out of a sealed bottle or can (it’s too easy for someone to slip something nasty in otherwise), but since it’s New Year’s and I have no reason to think Kérane’s broken the golden rule, I can’t complain until/unless she starts falling down, slurring or getting unduly frisky with someone she doesn’t know. 


“This is gonna be our year,” Ker sings, shaking her hips. “Six more months of high school and then we’re free!” Well, not free if your definition includes avoiding educational institutions, but freer. No one calling our parents if we don’t show up for class or dictating when we can use the bathroom.


My mind flashes forward to next fall. I picture myself in a lecture hall with a hundred other eighteen-year-olds, analyzing Citizen Kane or The 400 Blows, movies most people my age don’t care about, but those ones will. The professor will be some award-winning indie director with dark corkscrew hair and a no-nonsense attitude. She’ll spot my talent early on, take me under her wing and help me fine-tune my writing skills, turning me into an unstoppable force of creativity.


This time last year that would’ve been my number one fantasy—that and my parents getting back together. But since then my dad’s moved into the house with us again and although I’m absolutely still heading for film school to meet other film fanatics and write screenplays, I don’t want the ache that goes along with having met him last summer to fade. The thought of forgetting him makes me so sad that I don’t know what to do with myself. It’s like that old Dusty Springfield song Jocelyn sent me a YouTube link for near the end of September when it still made sense to everyone that I was missing him because it was only freshly over. 


I just don’t know … I’m lost. 


Maybe it should take longer than one summer to get that fucked up about someone. But maybe if someone’s special enough for you to get fucked up about, the length of time you knew them doesn’t matter. Maybe I was as good as gone the night we met, when we had that first conversation out in my aunt and uncle’s backyard, under the stars.


“We should call Joss to wish her a Happy New Year,” Kérane adds, beaming. 


She’s right and Yanna reaches into the back pocket of her jeans to pull out her phone. If this party had happened last year Jocelyn would’ve been right here with us. So much can change in one year that if someone were magically able to confide what was going to happen during the next twelve months you wouldn’t believe them.


I haven’t had enough beer to excuse what I’m about to do, but I can’t take it anymore. The thought that this year will be one in which I don’t speak to him feels devastating. I can’t let it happen. 


Yanna is pressing her cell to her ear, Kérane’s swaying in time to the strains of early eighties U2 and I’m on the verge of tears smack in the middle of a New Year’s party that I should never have shown up at. My chin’s wobbling with the strain of trying to hold back the rush of emptiness working its way up from my stomach and into my jaw. I need to get out of public view before I break down entirely and Yanna and Ker have to mop me off the floor.


Maybe the time is right,” Bono sings. “Maybe tonight.”


It feels like a sign, but who am I kidding because I’d do it anyway. The time is right. The time is now. I mumble to Yanna and Kérane as I point vaguely towards the right, “Bathroom! Be back in a sec.”


Yanna adjusts her ear as though she’s going to ask me to wait, but I don’t give her a chance, I’m motoring in the direction of the stairs like I’m about to puke. Yanna’s older cousin is one of the people throwing this party and he pointed out the main floor bathroom on our way in, but I don’t want to have to worry about people lining up behind me and banging impatiently on the door. I need more than two minutes alone.


Two girls, one with matted dreadlocks and the other with frizzy green hair and pasty makeup, are sitting near the bottom of the staircase with a stack of black and white photographs in their hands. Other than that the area looks clear of people. The house itself is in a semi-shambles state. Halfway up the stairs there’s a cigarette burn on the carpet and the lone picture hanging crookedly at the top of the steps is a faded one of the Toronto skyline on a summer’s day. The photograph’s glass front panel is smudged with fingerprints, as though someone was determined to molest it, and as I trek along the upstairs hallway I pass over a worn bit of carpet two shades lighter than the rest. Somebody bleached it trying to get out a stain, I bet. 


The house smells like it’s been in the possession of students for decades. Dusty and faintly like stale pizza. A dark grey towel’s hanging off one of the closed bedroom doors and I hear at least two people giggling behind it. My ears categorize the sound as drunken hook-up laughter and I start to panic that someone will be hooking up in the bathroom too. 


Luckily, when I reach it the door’s ajar and I can see at a glance that the room’s empty. The second thing I notice is that there’s a pint glass with muddy yellow liquid sitting in the middle of the sink. 


I flick on the light, slam the door shut behind me and lean back against it, my hands shaky. No, they only feel shaky. When I spread out my fingers in front of me and stare at them they’re as steady as they would be on any other day that I hadn’t made up my mind to do this. Equal parts longing and anxiety whirl around under my ribcage as I tug my phone out of my purse and key in:


I hope you had a great Christmas and I want to wish you and the band all the best for the New Year. World domination!!

I stare at my falsely cheerful words on the screen, my heart racing and my head pounding as though it’s about to split open like a fault line. My finger taps send and for about thirty seconds I savour the relief I’m feeling at having gone and done it.


Then doubt sets in and the ache springs back with a vengeance. I set my cell on the counter and focus on the abandoned glass in the sink. If this were a movie it’d foreshadow something. I’d open the door to leave and Lennox or some other cute guy would be standing in the hallway waiting to reclaim his glass. He’d be exactly what I need and we’d have a conversation that would be the beginning of me leaving last summer behind. 


Real life is more complicated. It doesn’t matter who’s waiting outside or what they might say to me. I’m not forgetting about him anytime soon. 


I dump the contents of the glass into the sink as a formal rejection of the phony movie scenario. Then I snap up my phone and sit on the edge of the bathtub with it, willing it to beep and let me know I have a new message. 


It’s after five o’clock in the morning in Dublin so it’s likely he won’t even see my message for hours. That doesn’t stop me from ogling the phone for at least another four minutes, after which I impulsively begin punching the keys again.


I miss you. I think about you a lot.

This time, there’s not even the most temporary sense of relief after I hit send. I immediately regret crawling out on a limb and I feel sick with myself as I shuffle out of the bathroom and back to my friends. 

Yanna’s standing next to Kérane, repeatedly pushing the same bit of stray hair back behind her ear while Ker laughs into Yanna’s phone. “There you are!” Yanna exclaims, pivoting towards me. “I was just about to go look for you.”


“There was a line for the bathroom,” I lie. 


“Say hi to Joss,” Kérane booms, shoving the phone into my face.


I pinch Yanna’s cell between my fingers and trill, “Happy New Year! I wish you were here.” Or that I wasn’t. Both of us are screwed in different ways.


“Happy New Year,” Jocelyn says back. “Yanna said you brought Lennox.” She says his name like he’s an expensive door prize. “Nice move.” 


“You’d think,” I say reluctantly, my eyes scanning Ker’s and Yanna’s faces to gauge how closely they’re listening. “But not so much really.”


“Uh-oh,” Joss chimes. “What happened?”


What happened is the two texts that I sent him when I wandered off to the bathroom and, with Yanna’s cell still pressed to my ear, I slide my own phone out of my purse and check it in case anything has changed during the last two minutes.


But no, he hasn’t texted me back. Has he even read my messages yet? Why did I have to confess that I miss him when he’s probably already with someone else? 


I begin striding away from Yanna and Kérane. My nose feels snotty and I’m keenly aware, with the part of my brain that’s still rational, that I’m being ridiculous. I’ve held it together (mostly) for four months. Why fall to pieces now? 


Because he’s receding further and further into the past and what we had, is now what we had last year.


“Hey!” Jocelyn exclaims. “You still there, Amira? Mir?”


I rub roughly at the corners of my eyes as I head for the stairs. “I’m still here,” I mumble. “Things are just…kind of messed up.”


“Messed up how?” she wants to know.


I feel stupid explaining because between the two of us she has the tougher situation, no question, but the second I reach the safety of the bathroom I tell her everything. The empty kiss with Lennox. My subsequent internal meltdown. The two text messages I sent to Dublin. 


By then my eyes are streaming and Jocelyn says, “Ohhh.”


“Yeah, ohhh.” I swipe at my eyes again and fight for control of my voice. “I’m an idiot.”


“You’re not an idiot,” she insists. “New Year’s makes people do weird things. Get nostalgic and lonely and—” 


She must feel it too, nostalgic and lonely for what her life used to be like, and I instantly want to apologize for being so self-absorbed. “Idiotic,” I cut in, almost trying to make a joke of it. “Maybe if he texts me back I can pretend my phone was stolen or that I got stupid-drunk and didn’t know what I was doing.”


“Do you think he’ll text back?” she asks gently. “I thought you guys said you wouldn’t do that—stay in touch, I mean.”


“Yeah,” I agree in a hushed voice. “That’s what we said.” That unless something changed and there was a way for us to be together again being in contact would only make things harder.


But admitting it rockets me straight back to the reason I texted him in the first place: I can’t stand the thought of never hearing from him again. If what we had was as real to him as it was to me, wouldn’t he feel compelled to answer me?


“It sucks that distance is the thing that had to keep you apart,” Joss says and I feel her sympathy deep in the centre of my chest. “But long distance relationships suck too. You know how it usually works out for those couples—they break up, same as you already have only it’s usually worse because then it gets messy—someone cheats or loses interest. You didn’t have any of that. You only had the high points.”


I don’t know about that, we had plenty of drama last summer long before we got to the end of it. But the main thing now is damage control and when I ask Jocelyn for advice on how to fix things she says, “If you text him again and try to explain you’ll probably only make it worse. If I were you I’d leave things alone, then if he does text you back try to follow his lead and be cool about it.”


That makes sense, except I was never cool when it came to us. If I’d been capable of being cool about him the whole thing probably wouldn’t ever have happened. 


“Thanks,” I say firmly. “Are you okay?” Joss’s been through so much since last spring and it’s not over yet.


“I’m okay,” she confirms, her tone only marginally wistful. “Taking things one day at a time like always.”


I bite back a sigh. “One day at a time is good. I sort of went MIA with Yanna’s phone. I guess I should get back to her and Kérane.”


“Kay. Call me tomorrow, all right? 


“I will. Thanks.” I can’t stop thanking Jocelyn for advice that I don’t intend to follow. 


I hang up Yanna’s cell and lean forward to set it on the counter while I deal with my own phone.


There are no messages from him, no new messages from anyone, and I wonder what would happen if I actually called his number right this second, in the early hours of the Irish morning on New Year’s Day. But as much as I need to hear from him, I can’t bear the thought of him sounding disinterested or disappointed to hear from me. That would crush me worse than saying goodbye to him at the end of last August because at least then I knew he cared. 

So I do a lesser thing and text him one last time. No, I really mean that. This is it. My final words to him unless he texts me back. 


I stare at my right hand for a moment before hunching over my phone and getting down to business. Miraculously, my fingers still aren’t shaking as they fly across the keys.


Did you mean what you said last summer about making things happen if we could?

I tap send and then, with the message flung out across the miles, immediately shut my phone off to stop myself obsessively checking for a reply that may never come.
 

I still have a soggy lump in my throat. I’m still craving him in a hundred different ways. In my head I can hear him singing as clearly as if he were standing next to me with his mouth pressed to my ear, his voice turning me to mush. If it really is over I’ll have lost him twice now, but either way that knowledge will have to wait until at least tomorrow because tonight I’m going back to my friends to try my hardest to celebrate the birth of a brand new year.
 
Sometimes you hear writers talk about the book of their heart, the one they love beyond all others. The book I'm about to tell you about is the book of my heart. I began writing the first version of Just Like You Said It Would Be back in 1999, making it a nineties baby and a current eighteen-year-old. It was the book I started writing young adult fiction for (at one point it was even a trilogy) and the book I've never really stopped writing. In fact, I doubt I've left the story alone for more than eighteen months at a stretch since 1999; over the years I've revised, reworked and rewritten the novel more times than I can count.

Just Like You Said It Would Be centres around a love story set in Dublin, and focuses on a Canadian girl with screenwriting ambitions (and an Egyptian and Irish background) and an Irish boy in a garage band— that much is the same as it was eighteen years ago. Pretty much everything else is different. It's grown, and then grown again so that except for its heartwhich I know well—I can barely recognize it myself. In 2013 I was incredibly lucky to receive a Canada Council grant for the project and rewrote the story from scratch. This was where the book made it greatest leaps, but the work didn't stop there.The novel was under construction again in 2015/2016 and even more recently, in minor ways.

And now, when it's exactly where I want it to be, and after much internal debate, I've decided to release Just Like You Said It Would Be myself next month. There's a cover reveal scheduled for it February 2nd and because I designed the cover I'm extra excited (if that's even possible for  considering how much I already love this book). If you're a book blogger who wants to take part in the reveal you can head over to Xpresso Book Tours to sign up. You can also add it to your Goodreads list. If you're wondering how it fits in with the rest of my work, I'd say its closest living relative is Come See About Me but without the grief and featuring younger characters. 

I'll be posting the first chapter on my website shortly (after my laptop comes back from the shop) but in the meantime, here's the official blurb:

Did you ever want something so much that it felt like a kind of sickness, one you didn’t want to be cured of? On New Year’s Eve the feeling compels seventeen-year-old Amira to text the Irish ex-boyfriend she’s been missing desperately since they broke up at the end of summer, when she returned to Canada.

They agreed they wouldn’t be friends, that it would never be enough. But that was then—back when Amira’s separated parents had shipped her off to relatives in Dublin for the summer so they could test-drive the idea of getting back together on a long haul cruise. Back when Amira was torn away from a friend in need in Toronto only to fall in love with a Dublin screenwriting class and take a step closer to her dream career. And only to fall for cousin Zoey’s bandmate, Darragh, the guy who is first her friend, then her enemy and later something much more complicated—the guy she can say anything to, the guy who makes every inch of her feel wide awake in a way she hadn’t known was possible. The guy she might never see again. Or is there, despite the distance, somehow still a chance for them?


I'm not going to lie, life has been rough on multiple fronts lately. But I'm immensely grateful to have some wonderful writing news to share. Monday afternoon I received notification from the Canada Council for the Arts that my young adult WIP has been approved for a grant. On that same day I also received a cheque from the Ontario Arts Council Writers' Reserve program for the same project.

I couldn't feel more grateful and elated to have this support and vote of confidence. If there were a hilltop handy I'd probably be singing from the top of it like Julie Andrews. This happy news comes at a time when I sorely need it. I can't thank the Canada Council for the Arts and the Ontario Arts Council enough. I'm also intensely thankful to live in a country that values and supports the Arts with grants like these. They make a very real and tangible difference to Canadian artists.



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