Cover Reveal! Love and Other Train Wrecks

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You guys, my next book, Love and Other Train Wrecks, has a cover I'm absolutely freaking in love with, and I couldn't be more excited to share it!

This book means a lot to me. It's set in glorious upstate New York, my new part-time home. It's inspired, loosely, by It Happened One Night, one of my favorite movies. And it was generally just a delight to write, following Ammy and Noah, two teenage strangers who meet on an Amtrak train, on their whirlwind adventure.

What do you guys think about the cover?

Why Wonder Woman Made Me Cry

wonder-woman-movie-2017-gal-gadot-images I have never cried in a superhero movie before.

Don't get me wrong, I'm a total cryer in movies: indie, family dramas, romances, etc. But not action, not movies like this. And yet, last night, about halfway through the movie, Diana (Gal Gadot) is putting on her crown and embracing her destiny, and I am totally tearing up. She was about to kick ass and save a lot of people, but that's not why.

I'm sitting there crying because in about the first 20 to 30 minutes of the film, there's a fight sequence where the whole battleground is filled with WOMEN. Like Lord of the Rings-style epic battle. Except every one of the "good guys" is NOT. A. GUY. (Apart from cutie pie Chris Pine, of course.)

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I'm crying because the movie passed the Bechdel test in about the first five seconds.

Because I didn't realize until I saw hundreds of women kicking ass on a beach that I had never seen anything like that before. And how much that informs my feelings about myself and womanhood and my own power.

I was crying because on the way into the theater, I saw two girls around five and eight in Wonder Woman outfits running around and kicking and yelling and starring in battles in their own heads. Or because I saw little boys realizing that girls can kick ass, too.

And mostly, I was crying because I couldn't help but wonder if we lived in a world where one of the most compelling superheroes of all time didn't take this freaking long to get her own franchise (while we explore male characters pretty much to death), would we be more comfortable with seeing women in positions of power?

Would we be less obsessed about emails?

We're in a geopolitical place right now where the worst elements of patriarchal masculinity--ego, pissing contests, thirst for power and wealth for power's sake--are actually informing our domestic and foreign policies. Of course, Diana and the Amazons, who were created to spread peace and not war, an antithesis to that energy, are the heroes we need.

Wonder Woman is a great movie. It's one of the best origin stories I've ever seen. It's funny. It's heartfelt. It embraces femininity and female power without making light of it. It delves into sexuality without making Diana an object. It shows that a love of peace can be a badass, POWERFUL stance.

Go see it. Show the Hollywood bigwigs who have likely been saying for years, "but will enough people see an action movie if it's only got a woman?" how very wrong they are.

Show the industry that we need more Patty Jenkins's, because we already have tons of Michael Bays.

Vote with your wallet, and hopefully we'll be seeing a lot more movies like Wonder Woman and Hidden Figures.

Or go see it just because it's a damn good movie.

 

Weekend Movies: Moonlight and 13th

movie-review-moonlight-13th I don't normally do movie reviews on here (though perhaps I should start given that I love movies more than just about anything else) but after seeing two movies in the last twenty-four hours, combined with everything that's going on in the national election, I felt I had to start.

Where to begin? Set and filmed in Miami, Moonlight follows the life of Little/Chiron/Black as he grows up through the crack era of the 80s/90s and into adulthood. With standout performances by the whole cast, including my favorite from Luke Cage, Mahershala Ali, as well as Janelle Monae, it's no surprise it's already getting Oscar buzz. Moonlight beautifully and powerfully explores themes of addiction, loneliness, machismo, homophobia, bullying, mass incarceration and the black experience without being remotely heavy-handed or melodramatic. I don't want to give too much away, so I'll just leave you with the trailer. It really is a must-see:

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9NJj12tJzqc]

I followed up Moonlight with 13th, a fairly new Netflix documentary about the 13th amendment and specifically its phrasing that allows slavery in the case of someone who has committed a crime:

"Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction."

13th isn't cinematic or beautiful (though it is haunting). It's mainly professors, politicians, civil rights activists and even someone from ALEC giving interviews about mass incarceration and racial politics from the "end" of slavery to today. It implicates Republicans and Democrats in almost equal measure, and it's depressing as hell. It also has so many important facts held within that I want to watch it over and over and unpack every one. It's a wonderful complement to Moonlight in that it explores many of the same issues but from a policy and historical point of view rather than a dramatic one. I feel like I learned more from this film than I did from any U.S. History class in high school or college. Here's the trailer.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V66F3WU2CKk]

Have you seen either of these films? If so, what did you think?

Friday Writing Inspiration from Neil Gaiman

neil-gaiman-writing-quote I'm finally back to doing my regular Friday afternoon writing inspiration. And boy, do I need inspiration, because between The Romantics coming out and getting married, I am way behind on all my deadlines.

Anyway, this one comes from fellow children's book author and storyteller extraordinaire, Neil Gaiman: “Stories may well be lies, but they are good lies that say true things, and which can sometimes pay the rent.” ― Neil Gaiman

Key word, sometimes! And we're really lucky when it does.

I really like this quote because it reminds me of what I was going for in The Romantics. It might not be my own love story, but there's elements of my own experiences on every page. And I'm hoping that even though it's all technically a "lie," that it will feel true to readers out there.

Happy Friday and happy reading!

 

<3 <3 The Romantics is out TODAY!! <3 <3

theromanticsfinal RUN, don't walk, to your nearest bookstore, because The Romantics is officially out today, y'all!

I'm so thrilled that a book so near and dear to my heart is finally in the world. And it's set in Chapel Hill, no less!

Today is the perfect day to share the last love personality type, The Romantic!

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According to Love, the Romantic is:

One who believes in Love in its finest form and impresses those feelings onto his or her various relationships. May result in scaring off partners, falling for the wrong person, and desperately trying to turn life into a movie with glamorous Old Hollywood actors. May also result in some of the best, most inspiring, and deepest relationships around.

Romantics in the book:

Gael, our main character <3 <3

 

There are too many Romantics in pop culture to count, so I'll detail them in a separate post.

Anyway, thank you all for all your support. I'm over the moon right now!

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P.S. If you're in NYC, join me to celebrate the launch and get your signed copy on Thursday at McNally Jackson in SoHo!

Happy reading!

Leah

 

 

Halloween on Franklin Street in Chapel Hill

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA As many of you know, one of my favorite parts of writing The Romantics was reliving some of my best college days in Chapel Hill. And one of these was definitely Halloween. That's us above doing, IMHO, a pretty amazing hero-and-villain thing. (We were #squadgoals before there were #squadgoals.) I went to Franklin Street that year—and every year—and I will never forget how freaking fun Halloween was in Chapel Hill.

So when I went to write a book set in Chapel Hill, OF COURSE I had to include some Halloween chapters. Without further ado, here is Gael's experience on the very same Franklin Street (edited slightly to avoid spoilers). It includes both the Franklin Street bash and some reference to Cosmic (because no Franklin Street chapter is complete without a reference to my favorite food joint ever):

IT WAS GAEL’S FOURTH HALLOWEEN ON FRANKLIN STREET. The street was packed, as it always was. Each year, students, professors, some high school kids like Gael, and people from colleges nearby descended on the stretch of Franklin that edged the campus. The city estimated about seventy thousand people came each year, making it one of the larger centers of Halloween revelry in the country. As such, people took Halloween quite seriously in Chapel Hill, turning three or four blocks into a giant party packed with people wearing everything from mass- produced costumes of the Party City variety to elaborate group numbers that made you wonder just how much the UNC freshmen were actually studying for their midterms. Gael had been no exception. At the end of September, he’d bought a couples’ costume to wear with Anika, Marc Antony and Cleopatra, but given the Mason-and-Anika situation, Gael thought it was too weird to use it with another girl. (Not to mention, Cara certainly wouldn’t have seen the Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton film it was based on.) And so, a quick run to Target this afternoon had resulted in enough zombie makeup for a Walking Dead episode. It wasn’t as elaborate as his usual setup—past costumes had included the dude from A Clockwork Orange (bowler hat, eye makeup, and all) and the Joker from The Dark Knight—but it would have to do.

---

Now they were on Franklin, perfecting their jilted zombie walk, while Gael, unbeknownst to Cara, tried to hold it together. Lucky for him, the street offered plenty of distractions. “Can we agree that mimes are creepier than zombies?” Cara asked, as the black-and-white troupe headed off in search of their next target. “One hundred percent yes,” Gael said as a swarm of yellow Minions ran past them. “Come on.” Cara linked her arm through his. “Let’s go this way.” There was a small break in the crowd, where a group of firefighters in high heels had just sauntered through. She let go of his arm and turned to face him. “Having fun?” He nodded forcefully, afraid she’d prod if he didn’t sound convincing. He couldn’t deal with any more serious discussions. Not now. “I’m glad I’m here with you,” Cara said. She shivered and started to rub her arms. “You want my jacket?” Gael asked. She was wearing a long-sleeve white shirt that they’d stained with fake blood, but had left her jacket at the dorm, complaining that it didn’t go with overall costume. She shook her head. “I’m fine.” But her chin was shaking. “Come on.” He started to unzip it. “Uh uh,” she said. “Really, I’m fine.” “Well, come here, then.” He put his arm around her, pulling her close to keep her warm. It was nice. It helped to quiet all the crap running through his head. A gaggle of Angry Birds and evil piggies ran past them, and he realized, suddenly, that this was exactly what he’d wanted, just a couple of weeks ago. Cara nuzzled closer to him. “Thanks,” she said. “Looks like I’m totally unprepared.” “Looks like you are,” he said, a bit robotically. He nodded to Cosmic, down the street. “You want to go get some nachos?” he asked. “Try to warm up a bit?” Cara looked up at him and smiled. “That sounds perfect,” she said. “Just perfect.”

Hope you all are having a delightfully spooky and fun Halloween, wherever you are!

Happy reading and Happy Halloween!

Leah

 

 

The Romantics is coming out SO SOON!

theromanticsfinal Between getting married and honeymooning, I've been admittedly a little not focused on work these days. But apparently, just like in show business, publishing must go on! And that means that my new novel, The Romantics, is coming out one week from tomorrow, Tuesday, November 1st! Ahhhhh.

As part of the celebration, I'm kicking off a weeklong series where Love (the narrator in the book, and yes, that's supposed to be the actual entity) shares different romantic personality types straight from the book. Starting TOMORROW, I'll share a new personality each day, plus a quiz at the end, so you can find out which one you are. Stay tuned for exclusive book content each day, plus a giveaway to wrap it up on launch day.

Happy reading (and loving)!

xo, Leah

P.S. The primary reason for this post is a chance to share this awesome GIF. Thanks, Abrams/Amulet, for giving me this adorable image!

 

The Romantics, my love letter to Chapel Hill, North Carolina

Chapel-Hill-Graduation.jpg So if you've read my books, you know that I have a thing for North Carolina. It's where I went to high school and college, and though I haven't lived there in some time, I still treasure the years I spent there. I've set two books in NC now, but both have been in fictional composite towns, little pieces of places I've loved and been inspired by, wrapped up into something new.

That's why I'm so excited about The Romantics, my newest book that comes out in just over two months from Abrams/Amulet. Because The Romantics is set in my favorite place in North Carolina (and one of my favorite places in the world), Chapel Hill.

If you haven't been to Chapel Hill yet, I'm sorry. You should fix that. Now. And if you have, you know how magical and wonderful it is, the perfect little blend of historical university, quirky college town, and Southern charm. (Seriously, you can see how beautiful it is in the silly graduation shot above. That's us in front of the Old Well, a Chapel Hill landmark.)

Even though it's set in a college town, The Romantics mainly follows Gael, a high school student who lives near campus. As he and his friends explore their hometown, I had the opportunity to take a trip down memory lane and revisit some of my favorite college haunts. Below are just a few ...

Cosmic Cantina: The best Mexican restaurant in the world. Home of the super burrito. The ultimate post-bar dive. Frequented by myself and two friends every Wednesday at midnight for four years. Visited in the book by Gael and his friends almost as frequently.

Franklin Street: Main drag for college students. I don't care how many of my favorite spots close, I will never stop loving this street. And even though Gael is in high school, he's spent his fair share of hours hanging on it, as well.

Hinton James: An abysmal, behemoth dormitory that holds a ton of Chapel Hill freshmen. Colloquially referred to as "HoJo," though most Howard Johnsons are probably a hell of a lot nicer. Residence to Sammy Sutton in the book.

The Morehead Planetarium: A gorgeous planetarium on campus, used mainly by students who want to fulfill their science requirement with something that's not Biology or Chemistry. (Actually, Astronomy was still quite hard for a non-science type like me.) Setting of a fictional first kiss in The Romantics.

Spanky's: One of the fancier restaurants on Franklin (meaning you might have to spend $10-15 for dinner, which is just about highway robbery for a college student). Their steak sandwich, the best thing on the menu (and our hero, Gael Brennan's, favorite food), is just $9.75, though. Seriously, go order it. NOW.

The above list is certainly not exhaustive, so you'll have to read The Romantics to find them all. But if you love Chapel Hill as much as I do, I have a feeling you're going to have fun reading this book.

The Romantics releases November 1. Pre-order it here.

 

 

The Last Time We Were Us Blog Tour is Happening NOW!

blog-tour Hey all! Now that book release day has passed and I can finally take a breath (the party was great--a full post to come soon!), I wanted to share the deets of The Last Time We Were Us blog tour, hosted by the lovely Irish Banana!

Here are all the stops on the tour--thanks so much to all the awesome bloggers for participating. Check in on all these dates for their awesome content!

Week 1:
Week 2:

Friday Writing Inspiration: Stephen King

IMG_8239.PNG It's Friday, and I'm hard at work on kicking off new ideas and getting ready to promote the hell out of old ones :D

It's a good problem to have: Over the next 2-3 years, I'll have 4 books coming out. It's an absolute dream, and I am so thankful every day to get to do this writing thing.

But dream or no dream, when you're working on this many projects, it means as soon as you let something go you're off to concepting and drafting once again. The good news is, I can't exactly get lazy--I have deadlines to account for, after all (even if I do tend to always get them pushed just a little bit). But the bad news is, with all the writing going on, I've been a bit remiss in holding up Stephen King's second (and just as important) piece of advice: reading.

I've long believed that reading--and reading voraciously--is the best thing a writer can do to educate themselves. Better than an MFA, better than craft workshops, better than obsessively reading advice on the internet from their author heros. I'm not saying that all of these don't have an important place in improving one's writing, but no amount of instruction is going to even come close to the sheer amount of learning a writer does by simply soaking up other writers' words.

It's why I am not a snob about reading. I read in most genres, literally and super-commercial, high-brow and low-brow (though I hate those designations).

But over the past few months, as the deadlines have loomed and the emails from editors have repeatedly showed up in my inbox reminding me of another deadline once one has passed, I haven't taken the time to make much of a dent in my TBR pile.

So here's to reading! Over the last week, I've gone back to my first love and have tried to choose reading over TV/Internet/insert-timesuck-here. Because I love TV, and I like the Internet, at least, but nothing is so amazing as a damn good book.

So here's to writing--and reading--and taking King's advice to heart!

Happy Friday, y'all.

Back to the Drawing Board ...

IMG_8186And by drawing board, I mean bulletin board. Because the only thing truly constant about writing is that you have to keep doing it. I'm working on a couple of different ideas right now for future projects, and here is my empty bulletin board, inspired by Blake Snyder's Save the Cat beat sheet.

The good news? This is the fun part. Where worlds and characters come to life. Where the writing is super raw as you try to chip away at the heart of your story.

The bad news? This part NEVER gets any easier ...

Wish me luck!

Children's Christmas Books That Meant a Lot to Me as a Kid

41r8ux9-hnL I had a pretty blessed childhood in the reading department. My parents both read to me just about every night, and we practically lived at the library. It probably has a lot to do with why I became a writer. There's something about books that just always feels safe and comforting and like going home. Of course, nothing felt so magical and wonderful as a book at Christmas-time. There are always the classics like The Polar Express and How the Grinch Stole Christmas, but here are a few slightly less ubiquitous ones that I still look forward to reading each year.

As I was putting up my tiny little apartment tree for Christmas this year, I got to thinking about my favorite Christmas book of all time, Bialosky's Christmas (above). It's a sweet story about a bear who spends all day getting his house ready for his Christmas celebration (he runs into a few hitches along the way). Only problem is, he keeps thinking he forgot something, and (spoiler alert!), it's that he never sent out invites to his friends. Of course, his friends show up anyway, and they have a grand old Christmas time. Man, I loved this book as a kid and still do. My mom, sister and I may have had a drawn-out text convo about it yesterday.

P.S. Here is my tree on the left and Bialosky's on the right. See the resemblance?

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Anyway, in the course of the conversation, my sister and I started talking about the other best Christmas book of all time, The Sweet Smell of Christmas. It would be just a fun illustrated book, except it has SCRATCH AND SNIFF STICKERS ALL THROUGH IT.

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Can you get any better than that? My sister and I loved scratching the book to smell oranges and pine and hot chocolate. Unfortunately, our copy's stickers stopped having any scent left quite some time ago ...

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And finally, a Christmas children's book post would not be complete without Jan Brett. Most eighties and nineties kids are aware of the magic of Jan Brett's stunning illustrations and awesome stories. The Wild Christmas Reindeer is great, but my favorite is The Mitten, a story about a lost mitten that soon provides a warm home for just about every animal out there.

mitten

The best part of Jan Brett's books were the side illustrations that hinted at what was to come on the next page (see below). Hello, learning about foreshadowing at a young age!

There were tons of others, but those are the three that stick out in my memory, that I return to year after year. What were your favorite Christmas or holiday books as a kid?

 

Office Space: A Peek Into Where I Write

11188291_10102733005536818_6462092429022030358_n Living in New York City for most of my adult life, I always dreamed of having a home office. Well, first, I dreamed of trading the fluorescent lights of a corporate America for my couch, but once I'd done that for awhile, I wanted the real-deal. The much sought-after dedicated writing space.

This year, I was able to finally make that happen. My fiance and I found a great apartment with just enough space for me to really spread out. My friends reminded me that I used to say that my main goal in life was to settle down in Greenpoint (a residential neighborhood in North Brooklyn), write full-time, and get a dog. Well, it happened. And the home office was the icing on the cake.

Anyway, I'm obsessed with learning where writers do their work, so I thought it fit to share mine!

Writers-desk

Here's my desk on a clean day (it doesn't look like that while I'm on deadline, err, right now). It looks out on a sweet little garden that I may not have access to but is frequently filled with cardinals, which makes me happy. I even went for an Aeron chair. It was part of my goal to take my writing more seriously. But more truthfully, I'm a design nerd, and I salivated over Herman Miller while working for years at Elle Decor, and I'd rather splurge on chairs than shoes ANY DAY.

For art, I looked to things that reminded me of the people I love and my travels. Left to right: A Georgia O'Keefe print of New York City, purchased in Santa Fe on a cross-country trip with my fiance; two paintings from Bali; and a painting by my sister over a collage of snaps from college.

11127866_10102733005636618_6398489754565178809_o Of course, no space would be complete without a color-coordinated bookshelf. (Yes, I realize this is so common it's annoying now, but I still love it.)

Or a white board and bulletin board for serious plotting work only (not illustrating my dog and snapping photos of friends in an attempt to procrastinate).
Which brings me to my favorite part about my office ... my wonderful coworker, Farley!

Seriously, you can't beat that!

Happy writing, everyone! I'm going to stop procrastinating now and actually use my office for deadline-meeting purposes.

Friday Writing Inspiration: Blake Snyder's Save the Cat

recite-2ivjg2 Save the Cat has quite a reputation in the writing community, both for screenwriters and novelists, and now that I've finally read it, it's not hard to see why. It lays out structure in such a clear, easy-to-understand way, and even if you've written lots of stuff before, it makes all the rules you know and rely on all the sharper.

Screenwriters live and breathe structure, but novelists and short story writers, not so much. At least we're not told to. Creative writing classes, from high school through college and beyond, often focus on the prose, itself. They tell you to show instead of tell, to make the dialogue natural and conversational, to avoid cliches and trite phrasing, to not be so heavy-handed, etc., etc. This is all well and good, but this is all part of polishing. Making the words themselves beautiful, engaging, honest. This all assumes that you know how to craft a story in the first place.

Which so many of us struggle with. In fact, many of us get the advice that we should just write the story as it naturally comes to us and not get bogged down in structure and rules. It's literature, after all! Art!

That's why I love this quote of Blake Snyder's. You can break the rules. You can turn them upside down and defy cliche. But it's a lot easier to do once you know and can articulate exactly what those rules are.

The Last Time We Were Us: Cover Reveal and Goodreads Link

Screen Shot 2015-11-17 at 10.15.16 AM Drumroll, please ... after much waiting and biting of fingernails, my cover is finally here! I'm super thankful to the Harper Collins/Katherine Tegen design team for all their hard work on this. Head on over to Vilma's Book Blog to check it out, and let me know what you think!

And while I have you here, it seems like as good a time as any to tell you that TLTWWU is also up on Goodreads. Yay! Check it out and add it to your to-read bookshelf if you so desire :)

P.S. You can also check out the first chapter over on Vilma's blog.