I know I've already posted this image on the front page of my website but I feel like I should give it a proper moment in the sun so here we go. My Beating Teenage Heart's next incarnation, as a paperback, will look like this when it hits shelves in late September:

My Beating Teenage Heart paperback

I liked the mysterious way Ashlyn looked in the hardcover but this is cool in a different way (while still being ethereal) and makes me think of the Moby song We Are All Made of Stars, which in turn makes me think of Finn Kavanagh from One Lonely Degree since she listens to it in Chapter 9. Yes, it's weird being a writer. Songs and places can remind you of fictional people!

The great Mic Christopher's ruminations on his relationship to his songs in Skylarkin' aptly describe my feelings about my books:
“...my songs don't know that I exist
And though I give them life it is
A friendship that will never grow
My songs are friends I'll never know”
And with that I'm going to disappear for awhile again. Now that I'm about 80% free from a winter cold (although how I could catch a winter cold when there's barely been a winter, I don't know) there's a certain manuscript I've been obsessing about in my thoughts that I need to get back to. I can't say much about it at the moment, but here's a snippet from page two:
“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?”
Yep, this one is a love story through and through. To quote my favourite play, Unidentified Human Remains and the True Nature of Love, “Here's to love, in all its many forms.”
Yes, I've stolen the title of a Billy Bragg track for my heading here. Any excuse to mention Billy Bragg! I haven't been to a Bragg gig since 2009 (the last time he was in Toronto) and find myself very much in withdrawal lately. So before I really get started pull up a chair and enjoy some Billy Bragg philosophy & music with me:

Young Bill on The Tube singing A New England in 1983

Waiting for the Great Leap Forwards with 2011 Lyrics

Interview and music clips from the Rapido show in the early 90s (sadly his comment on "the failure of capitalism to deliver the fruits of society to the majority of people" is ever more relevant)

Three of the greats—Michael Stipe, Natalie Merchant & Billy Bragg—perform Hello in There by American country/folk singer-songwriter John Prine back in 1990

Valentine's Day is Over

You'll notice, if the song Valentine's Day is Over is new to you, that Billy's singing it from the point of view of a survivor of domestic violence.
If you want to talk about it well you know where the phone is/
Don't come round reminding me again how brittle bone is

Thank you for the things you bought me thank you for the card/
Thank you for the things you taught me when you hit me hard/
That love between two people must be based on understanding/
Until that's true you'll find your things/
All stacked out on the landing, surprise, surprise

Clearly this is not a love song in the traditional sense, although it is very much a song about self-worth. I have to wonder if the girls and women who were tweeting things along the lines of I'd let Chris Brown beat me any day in the run-up to the Grammy's would get that or if domestic violence is just a joke to them? Because I remember those pictures of Rihanna after Chris Brown punched her in the face and to me there's nothing funny about that, or about being willing to swallow toxic cultural messages that say if you're powerful and rich enough (not to mention male) you can treat women however you want and still get invited to play at the Grammy's.

A brief reminder, in the form of a police statement, of the abuse Chris Brown committed against Rihanna:
A verbal argument ensued and Brown pulled the vehicle over on an unknown street, reached over Robyn F. with his right hand, opened the car door and attempted to force her out. Brown was unable to force Robyn F. out of the vehicle because she was wearing a seat belt. When he could not force her to exit, he took his right hand and shoved her head against he passenger window of the vehicle, causing an approximate one-inch raised circular contusion.

"Robyn F. turned to face Brown and he punched her in the left eye with his right hand. He then drove away in the vehicle and continued to punch her in the face with his right hand while steering the vehicle with his left hand. The assault caused Robyn F.'s mouth to fill with blood and blood to splatter all over her clothing and the interior of the vehicle.

"Brown looked at Robyn F. and stated, 'I'm going to beat the sh-- out of you when we get home! You wait and see!' "
This is what you're saying you're cool with, girls. And what the Grammy's is saying they're cool with.

Of course there were also people who were extremely upset about Chris Brown being invited to perform at the Grammy's:

* "It is absolutely unacceptable that someone who is known to have perpetuated violence against a woman has been so uncritically welcomed and promoted by the music industry."
—Country Star Miranda Lambert

* “We – the grown-up influencers in this country, the people with platforms and with educations and with power – are allowing a clear message to be sent to women: We will easily forgive a person who victimises you. We are able to look beyond the fact that you were treated as less than human, that a bigger, stronger person decided to resolve a conflict with you through violence. We know it happened, but it’s just not that big of a deal to us”.
Sasha Pasulka, 'I'm not okay with Chris Brown performing at the Grammys and I'm not sure why you are'

* "All along, the business, Brown himself and just about every celebrity who's had anything to say about Rihanna and Chris Brown have treated the assault as a private domestic matter - or even, most creepily, as just one dark element of a star-crossed romance. The outright condemnations have been few. When it comes to partner assault - and when it comes to attitudes about women in general - big parts of the music industry seems to lag the rest of North American society by at least a half a century."
Vancouver Sun

However, seemingly there were not enough irate people to convince the Grammy's Chris Brown had no place on their stage. I didn't watch the awards but I understand he was "welcomed with wild applause and a standing ovation."

I thank the people who publicly voiced their opposition to Chris Brown playing at the Grammy's, but if we want to reach a pointed where something like this doesn't happen again, and where our culture quits producing young women who say they're willing to be punched bloody by a celebrity, and where one in four women isn't physically abused in her lifetime, those of us—both male and female—who see domestic violence for the evil that it is and not something to be joked about or ignored, need to make a hell of a lot more noise. Speak up for your daughters, your friends, your sister, yourself. Valentine's Day is over.

Happy Groundhog Day! Apparently, Punxsutawney Phil has predicted another six weeks of winter but because so much of this winter thus far has felt distinctly April-like up here I can't really complain. Let winter roar or whisper, whichever it feels inclined to do I'm okay with at this point. Six weeks isn't long.

Since I last posted on the blog a synopsis for Yesterday has appeared on the Random House site so I've also added it here. I always find it both exciting and nerve-racking when the book I've been working on in my den begins to step out into the world. I want to show it off but shield it from danger and inclement weather at the same time. Yes, I am nothing if not conflicted!

Interestingly, I feel less protective the longer a book has been out there. So I don't worry about my first three books so much anymore (they're all grown up!) but I still feel protective of My Beating Teenage Heart. By the way, I found out that I Know It's Over made The Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books February 2012 bulletin titled “Down and Dumped: A Heartbroken Dozen.” It's a Valentine's Day list for people looking to read about heartbroken protagonists and I Know It's Over is on there with lots of other great YA novels like The Boyfriend List, Audrey, Wait and Other Words for Love.

I also happen to be writing a book about love right now so I'm feeling by turns elated and raw. It's a total rollercoaster ride and there are a couple of lines from the Sam Roberts song Without A Map which sum up what I want this book to be:

“I surrender to the very mention of you/I hope I get to see you again.”

So in a way Sam Roberts is helping me write this book. And with that kind of help, I cannot fail!
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