[Cover Reveal] 21 Stolen Kisses by Lauren Blakely! Can I just say Sa-woon?!

March 18, 2015

Aaah, another Sparkie has a cover reveal! And this one is gorgeous.

Lauren Blakely’s 21 STOLEN KISSES!! 21 STOLEN KISSES is a New Adult Forbidden Romance being published by Bloomsbury Spark. Mark your calendars for May 5th! I know I will. I mean just — just — LOOK AT THAT COVER. Or, you know, you can pre-order and your future self will be a VERY happy camper.


21SK cover

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Bloomsbury | iTunes | Kobo



When I first met him I resisted.
Like any forbidden love, I told myself he was a crush, and it would pass.
That was a lie. It never faded.

And I never expected he would fall for me just as hard.

There were so many reasons that should have kept us apart, least of all, the decade that separated us.
Growing up in New York City, I learned early on that love is a double-edged sword.
Love broke up my parents, love took away my friends, and love — the big, intense, never-been-like-this-beforelove — landed me in therapy.
Now I’m heading to college, and it’s time to give love a clean slate again. But, can I really start over when he’s still in my life?
Because the one man I’ve always wanted, is also the only guy I absolutely can’t have…
And he wants me just as fiercely.

Can I settle for anything less than the love of my life?


Author PhotoAbout Lauren Blakely:

Lauren Blakely writes sexy contemporary romance novels with heat, heart, and humor, and her books have appeared multiple times on the New York Times, USA Today, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and iBooks bestseller lists. Like the heroine in her novel, FAR TOO TEMPTING, she thinks life should be filled with family, laughter, and the kind of love that love songs promise. Lauren lives in California with her husband, children, and dogs. She loves hearing from readers! Her bestselling series include Caught Up in Love, Seductive Nights, and Fighting Fire. She recently released Nights With Him, a standalone novel in her New York Times Bestselling Seductive Nights series that became an instant New York Times Bestseller. Her next book in that series is Forbidden Nights, releasing in early 2015. She also writes for young adults under the name Daisy Whitney. To receive an email when Lauren releases a new book, text BLAKELY + your email address to 678-249-3375 (please use the actual + sign).



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Rumblings from the Nether-realm

March 17, 2015

Okay, so not really the nether-realm, but definitely something’s moving in my little corner of the book world! Because I have SO MUCH GOOD NEWS I decided to put it all in one fantastic post. So, first good news:




So who IS Dark and Brooding?

My editor just sent me a (mostly) final cover for We Own the Night (add it on GoodReads! You know you want to!) and I’ll have to lie if I don’t say I peed a little. Like, ya’ll, I love the cover for The Sound of Us but…

I’m staring at it right now, and while the image set to the right is NOT the cover (because I can’t show it to you quite yet, or else it’d be there — I assure you), I just want everyone to know how beautiful and illustrated and artistic it looks. Bloomsbury fo’ sho’ brought their A-game to this one! It’s just — aaaah, just so many feels. So many feels!

With that said, though, I’m sorry to say that We Own the Night is no longer coming out this Spring. It’s now slated for a Summer release. Which is good news! Yay! More time to plan swag and pre-order gifts and YAY AWESOME STUFF!




I went to BEA last year and it was a blast — so I’m going again this year! But this time, I’m bringing along a really cool friend of mine, Jarad Greene, and we are going to have an absolute ball. I’m going to be giving out tons of bookmarks and pins and I hope to see some of you there!

However, I do have ulterior motives in going to NYC this year because, well…


Not only a graduate school, though. I can now tell everyone I’ve been accepted into The New School for Writing for Children for the Fall semester. Which is pretty BAMF, not gonna lie. I’d been sitting on my hands for two years, debating on whether or not I wanted to pursue a (some would say) useless degree but — I don’t see it that way. I’ll be in a City I love, surrounded by people who care about the craft just as much as I do, and I’m sure I’ll learn things about my writing and about myself that I wouldn’t be able to find out otherwise. I’ve realized that I have limits as to what I can teach myself (and then there’s the whole debate about if you can actually teach writing — and no, I don’t think you can, but you can teach the art of it to those who already have the knack), so it’s scary to think I’ll be picking up and moving away from my family but…

I think it’ll be good for me. I think the experience will be good, and the people, and the nearness to the publishing industry (I’m probably going to sit in the Random House lobby at least once a week, just sayin’).


See? I wasn’t lying about all the rumblings in the nether-realm! Maybe there will be more rumblings in the near future–who knows?

5 Must-Follow Authors on Social Media

March 7, 2015

I love being an author.

Sometimes it’s for the actual act of writing, but most of the time it’s for the act of tweeting about writing when I’m actually knee-deep in season six of Gilmore Girls (kidding, kidding, it’s always because ALL THE WRITING). But really, social media is so cool. How you can pretend to do one thing and actually being doing another, how you can communicate to fans, how you are just ONE CLICK AWAY from your readers, how you can so accessibly stalk research your favorite authors…

If I could, I’d eat social media for breakfast like Cheerios.

And these are the social media accounts I’d eat first:


1) Beth Revis. 

Beth is an incredibly active member of the YA community. (And she’s hosting a writing workshop in Asheville in November!) Not only is she an incredible author, but she’s a fantastic person. Yeah, I definitely sound like a fangirl right now, but that’s because I am one AND I FLY THAT FLAG PROUDLY. She taught me that, when explored correctly, explosions can be a quintessential plot device, and that sci-fi is never cut and dry. She’s the Dr. Frank-N-Furter to my Damnit, Janet. Between all of her nerd-a-rific posts on her tumblr and her hilarious tweets, she’s always doing giveaways of not only her books, but ALL THE BOOKS. Seriously. She’s amazing.


2) Courtney Summers.

I only need to post this:

You’re welcome.


3) Brooding YA Hero.

Not exactly an author account, but let’s face it, Carrie Ann is a genius when it comes to tongue-in-cheek spoofs of your favorite brooding Young Adult hottie. Calling attention to all the incredibly rampant tropes in YA love interests, Brooding YA Hero is oddly reminiscent of all the sex-a-licious love incarnations of Edward the Sparkling Vampire. And I love it.


4) Chuck Wendig.

Mr. Wendig is hilarious and smart. He’s not so much a gem in the rough anymore–whoever doesn’t know about him is living under a literal rock (one that I put you under because HOW CAN YOU NOT KNOW OF HIS GREATNESS YOU UNCOUTH SWINE of reasons). For instance:


5) Eric Smith.

Millionaire. Playboy. Philanthropist. Eric is one of these. Between his Talk Nerdy To Me way of tweeting and his absolute love for everything YA and his amazing cosplay, how can you not follow him?

So, who are some awesome authors YOU flock to social media for?

In Defense of the Beast

March 2, 2015

Everyone knows the story of Beauty and the Beast.

Heck, know the story of Beauty and the Beast. Dare I say I know it so well I can quote the entire film with my eyes closed while juggling a squirming bag of kittens. So this entire blog post is going to come from the heart. Yes, I will take a batting swing at Stockholm Syndrome. Yes, I will address the “abusive relationship”. And yes, I will do this all while eating chocolate and telling everyone that you cannot compare 50 Shades of Grey to Beauty and the Beast. Don’t even start. Here, share my chocolate. Let’s go for a ride.

To defend the Beast, we’ll examine Beauty first.

I will start out by admitting that the fairytale Beauty and the Beast doesn’t make a strong case in and of itself. Written in the 18th century by Jeanne-Marie Leprince de Beaumont (quite a mouthful), the fairytale is pretty standard for its time: a girl, with no power of her own, becomes betrothed to a man not of her choosing by her father. Digging a bit further, you can actually draw parallels to young women’s plights toward arranged marriages and learning to love their new husbands (East of the Sun, West of the Moon has similar themes). But in the same light, Beauty and the Beast is also a tale of pretty subliminal feminism (Betsy Hearne takes a pretty fantastic swing at this in her essay collection).

Disney’s version breathes life into an otherwise rather insipid heroine (sorry Beauty, but you really are dull in the original fairytale). To say that she has “Stockholm Syndrome” really degrades her character, not to mention how much of a misinterpretation it is of the syndrome.

What is Stockholm Syndrome, you ask?

History lesson! Stockholm Syndrome is a term coined about forty years ago when hostage situations began to rise. While renown criminologist and psychiatrist Nils Berejort created the name, it was fellow psychiatrist Dr. Frank Ochberg who actually defined the syndrome for the FBI and the Scotland Yard in the 70s. His criteria? It included:

  • It begins when a hostage is taken, sure they are going to die.
  • As a hostage, they feel as though they are unable to eat, speak, or go to the toilet–essentially live–without permission.
  • Then, small acts of kindness–like being fed–prompts gratitude for their lives.
  • Because of this, the hostage experiences a powerful, primitive positive feeling toward their captor. In denial that this person is the one who put them in this situation, their captor becomes their hero–the person who is going to let them live.

And, just to point out, all of the hostage’s feelings must be incredibly irrational. Their captor must successfully frighten away all logical thought for this primitive positive feeling to take hold.

So let’s apply this to Disney’s version of the fairytale, and let’s summon up our heroine.

A wild Belle has appeared!

Tah-dah! Belle from Disney’s Beauty and the Beast is nothing if not willful. She is the princess (the title can be argued since we never see her marry) who is known for standing up to who she is and what she believes in. You know, I always have this running joke in my head where Mulan, when singing about A Girl Worth Fighting For talks about “a girl who’s got a brain/who always speaks her mind” is, in fact, Belle. Because when does Belle not speak her mind?

cricket chirps


In the beginning, she stands up to Gaston when he calls her father crazy–with vehemence too, I might add. Then she rebuffs his marriage request, which let me remind you was forcefully pressed upon her by Gaston, without him ever consulting her father. When her father doesn’t come home, she rides off into the dark forest alone, knowing full-well that there are dangers in the woods. But she goes anyway because, you know, it’s her father. The only person who’s ever truly cared for her. That’s some hardcore love.

But here’s the real kicker, and the reason why the whole Stockholm Syndrome argument doesn’t hold up in court: when Belle arrives at the castle and finds her father, the Beast tells her to leave. That her father is his prisoner. Which, yeah, is pretty shitty. The Beast is a real piece of work (we’ll get to him in a minute, I promise), but he tells her to leave.

But Belle, because she loves her father, asks to take his place.

Then, after the Beast sends her father away, he heeds Lumiere’s advice and shows her to a bedroom, and on this memorable walk he openly tells Belle, “The castle is your home now. You may go wherever you wish.” In the film she is free to roam absolutely wherever she wants–with the exception of the West Wing, his room (and for good reason, dat rose). The terms of her stay are held explicitly clear–she is a guest. They even sing about it. And, as seen after her disastrous visit to the West Wing, she escapes the castle with absolutely no resistance. The Beast literally tells her to leave (again–gee, he’s always telling her to leave!). And this time–she does.

And yes, while some people could argue that she is held emotionally captive by the Beast, then doesn’t she hold him emotionally captive in the same toxic way? If anything, she’s running the show. The Beast needs her to break the spell. She doesn’t need the Beast. Her father is free. She can leave whenever she wants–but something keeps her there.

And no, you can’t say that’s Stockholm Syndrome.

Belle could not be the clear-headed, incredibly stubborn girl she is if she did portray the symptoms of Stockholm. In the film, she rebukes every single choice she is given. She does absolutely everything her own way, on her own terms, and I think that right there speaks the loudest of all. Because when the Beast tells her she can go save her father? She leaves. She leaves under her own duress. She doesn’t stay because she knows who needs her more at that exact moment, and the Beast lets her leave because she is not property, not his, but of her own volition.

“But Ashley,” you ask, “the Beast is abusive to her! It’s still a terrible relationship!”

I will readily admit that the Beast is not perfect. He is far from perfect. But I think that is also his saving grace. (Wait for it–I promise there will be an ah-hah moment here.)

Belle, under no circumstances, makes excuses for the Beast. She does not write off his anger as her fault, or that she deserved it. She literally leaves when he scares her. She passes go, collects her cloak, and rides off to never return.

Except, of course, the wolves.

I think that, upon closer examination of the situation with the wolves, if the Beast had not come then Belle would have died. While no, we’re not sure why the Beast followed her out into the woods. Because he wanted to take back his property? Because he wanted to stop her from leaving? Those are valid arguments, but upon inspecting the Beast’s character arc, I truly don’t think either those hold any water.

Let’s reflect back on the opening scene. The narrator sets up the argument: Who could ever love a beast? In the beginning of the film, the narrator sets us up with the knowledge that the Beast, at the core, is really just a spoiled child who turned an old beggar away because he didn’t want her dripping all over his nice rugs (read: a complete bastard), before the movie oh-so-subtly shifts to Belle, but we can’t forget the opening.

Who is Beauty and the Beast really about?

Is it about Belle, who throughout the entire conflict of the movie, stays stalwart and true to herself? Or–and dare I say it–the main character in this film is more the Beast? Yes, the film follows Belle, but only to the extent to which we need to know who she is in the story of the Beast. Beast’s story is Belle. She is the embodiment of everything he must learn about himself–to be compassionate and caring and true to oneself. 

So if you begin to argue that the Beast follows Belle out into the woods to bring her back, I have to disagree, because of his character arc. If he wanted her as property–if he wanted her to stay in the castle–he would have locked her up. He would have kept her in the dungeon. But this scene, as he’s fighting the wolves, is clearly the turning point of his character. Because afterwards, he isn’t the same Beast as he was before the wolves, now is he?

In fact, I’ll go so much as to say this scene is the reason why I don’t think Belle and Beast’s relationship is in any way abusive.

And, most telling I think, is when you compare the climactic moment at the end to this scene. They are, essentially, one and the same. The Beast releases Belle (“Get out!”/”I release you.”), only to face conflict that are in direct danger of her life.

The parallels between Gaston and the wolves is almost uncanny.

While the wolves want to physically devour Belle, Gaston wants to do so in the same emotional way. In contrast, the Beast fends them off, tooth and claw, until the bitter end. But when he has Gaston by the neck, dangling him over the ravine–something happens. While with the wolves, he lets his anger take the best of him. He slams a wolf against the tree, killing it. He doesn’t care. He is wild. But in this final scene, looking into Gaston’s pleading face, the Beast’s final character arc surfaces. He sees how wicked Gaston is, how terrible a person, and I think in that moment he sees the remnant of what he could have been. The Beast could have just as easily been Gaston.

But then he draws the man from the ledge, sets him down, and tells him to “Get out,” mirroring the same words he told Belle, then told out of rage and anger, but now out of pity and perhaps his own self-loathing. Then, the Beast hears Belle’s voice and sees her on the balcony, and you can see his face light up. He never thought she would come back. He had been so sure–so certain–he would die a Beast, but at this moment the curse is so far out of his mind it doesn’t matter. Here, he is not the Beast. Not anymore. Here, he so gently touches Belle’s cheek, as if half-thinking she is a mirage. There is adoration there, and love, and so many other things that are wonderful and true–and none of them being possessive. “You came back,” is his wondrous reply, because he never owned her, never thought to, never wanted. I don’t think it was ever in the Beast’s capacity to own Belle. I think that perhaps it could have been,  if he had never let her go.

No, the true beast is behind him, catching his breath, drawing the knife, who had said just minutes before, “Belle is mine!”

Now this brings us to the really troubling character: Gaston. He actually thinks of Belle as property. He thinks of Belle as something to hunt. Gaston is a very gifted hunter, after all, and Belle is a very wily prey. In contrast to the Beast–who physically and mentally overcomes his own curse to try and become a better person for Belle–Gaston simply believes that he will get his way no matter what. Gaston is the man we need to watch out for. He’s the one who will do absolutely anything to get his way. He’s scheming and manipulative and a self-righteous egomaniac.

And his friendship with LeFou? Oh, don’t get me started.

When all is said and done, and you delve deeper into the plot and characters of Disney’s Beauty and the Beast, I think you might find something more beautiful than just the bare-bones interpretation by people who want to cast a quick judgement on the film (ANGRY GUY + TRAPPED GIRL + BEING TO HAVE FEELINGS FOR EACH OTHER = ABUSE ABUSE ABUSE!). There are so many nuances to this beautiful film — all the allegory! the parallels! the heroine who don’t take no shit from d-bags! — that I have to defend it until I’m blue in the face.

Yes, I’m sure a lot of people will argue that this fairytale still shows signs of abuse or Stockholm Syndrome, that the Beast should never take any captive period (to this I agree with), that Belle is way too forgiving of the Beast, that Lumiere and Cogsworth are enablers, that this is all just one big acid trip with talking inanimate objects, or a tale of beastiality, that Belle has a psychological need to always be the caregiver (first to her father, then to the Beast, perhaps because of the absence of her mother), etc, etc, etc. So many arguments can be made for this film, and it can be interpreted so many ways.

I think that’s the beauty of art and storytelling, you know? And in the same light, those interpretations can also be the beast.