Self publishing, Self-pub corner, writing

The One With The Little Book That Could…or The One with 115 reviews for A SUMMER LIKE NO OTHER on Amazon!

I’m currently writing a book on self-publishing: my experience, some tips, some of my behind-the-scenes, expectations vs reality, the happy moments…It will not be a book on how to become a millionnaire, but hopefully a book that will give you insights, ideas, resources…If you have any questions you’d like me to tackle in this book, don’t hesitate to send me an email or leave a comment. This blog post will be featured in that book.

Did you know I wasn’t planning on writing A SUMMER LIKE NO OTHER? Did you know that this is the book that got the attention of a French publisher, got picked up by said-publisher and enabled me to be in French bookstores? Did you know this book now has 115 reviews on Amazon?

I published A SUMMER LIKE NO OTHER in July 2015. More than 5 years ago. And since then?

A SUMMER LIKE NO OTHER has been translated in French, German, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese and Chinese. It is currently perma-free in English on all e-retailers (AmazoniTunesKobo Google PlayScribdHoopla). It is available in paperback on Amazon and very soon will be available on Bookshop.org. It is also available as audiobook. (AudibleAmazoniTunes).

I sold more more than 1200 paperback copies of the English edition of A SUMMER LIKE NO OTHER since 2015. And it has been downloaded for free more than 16000 times. I haven’t advertised this book in English for years and just last July, 400 people downloaded it and I sold 56 paperback copies.

The French version has even much better numbers: both for the paid e-book and for the paperback version. Especially since the French paperback version was picked up by a French publisher and was also sold in bookstores and supermarkets and Cultura and la Fnac and in libraries…:-)

It is truly the little book that could. 🙂

115 reviews on Amazon and counting…

Did you know the English version of A SUMMER LIKE NO OTHER has now more than 100 reviews on Amazon?

I mean, granted, not all reviews are raving…the one on top of the Amazon page is a one-star review, telling readers not to read A SUMMER LIKE NO OTHER because it will make you angry. And another one on the German Amazon site talks about the fact that this book isn’t Oscar Wild-esque and lacks moral…

I wanted to share those reviews, but apparently, Amazon reviews belong to Amazon due to copyright? Something else to check out in more details later.

Why am I sharing that this book has some negative reviews? To show you that all books get negative reviews. And that’s perfectly fine. Not everyone will like what you’re writing. Not everyone likes what I’m writing.

And some of those negative reviews might actually help your sales, believe or not. The sales of A SUMMER LIKE NO OTHER didn’t dwindle since that 1-star review took center stage on the product page.

And while, I still get these little moments where my stomach clenches as I release a new book…wondering about those first reviews trickling in, checking my book page to see if anyone reviewed it or what readers thought about the story I spent months on…I don’t dwell on them as much.

And fine it’s also easier not to dwell on them when most reviews are four and higher, and some readers call A SUMMER LIKE NO OTHER the greatest book they’ve read or that they fell in love with the characters.

And did you know A SUMMER LIKE NO OTHER got reviewed in The Guardian? I mean that’s pretty cool.

The story behind A SUMMER LIKE NO OTHER…

I wasn’t planning on writing A SUMMER LIKE NO OTHER.

My goal was to write ALWAYS SECOND BEST as a standalone companion novel to ONE, TWO, THREE. But as I drafted ALWAYS SECOND BEST, I kept on thinking about that summer between Nick & Em. I kept on thinking I needed to really get to know them better. I kept on thinking maybe I should write it out.

So, I did. I did it as a way to really get to know Nick & Em and to make ALWAYS SECOND BEST stronger.

It was only supposed to help me understand the characters better, but I fell in love with that summer story.

And I drafted it very very quickly. It took me a few months only between the moment I started drafting it and the moment I sent it to my copy editor.

My critique partners loved the story and this was one I didn’t need to revise a lot. I had been thinking about it so much while I had started drafting ALWAYS SECOND BEST that I couldn’t wait to dig deeper into their summer.

And it ended up being A SUMMER LIKE NO OTHER (Nick & Em #1). And the rest is history…

Languages and more languages…

A SUMMER LIKE NO OTHER is available in French, German, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese and Chinese.

I even signed with a French publisher!

Throwback to December 2016: Signing the contract with my French publisher for the French versions of ASLNO & ASB.

The French version really took off when I published it. It shot up the charts…I released ALWAYS SECOND BEST in French not long after and it also did very very well…and that’s how A SUMMER LIKE NO OTHER caught the attention of a French publisher. And made me a so-called hybrid author (self-published and traditionally published).

On November 21st, 2016 I received an email from a French publisher, who contacted me by email to see if I would be interested in signing with them for the French versions of A SUMMER LIKE NO OTHER & ALWAYS SECOND BEST. Plus a possible option book.

At first, I thought it was a scam.

Really.

I don’t have an agent and I wasn’t sure how to go about it. I don’t recommend selling your foreign rights without an agent. An agent may have been able to negotiate different aspects of the contract for me. I got lucky, I think. One, because I speak French 😉 and thus, I was able to do my research, see the story of their imprint, look at the other authors they had signed with, and negotiate with them directly. I only sold the rights to the paperback version and not other format or languages. Two, they have been very good with all follow-ups. They, unfortunately, no longer carry the YA line but they were part of a bigger imprint and thus, I still am receiving royalty information and everything.

They also ended up buying the option book! And they acquired the French version of ONE, TWO, THREE as well.

September 2018 – Signing my contract for the option book: The French version of ONE, TWO, THREE…

I got an advance. I got author copies. I got promotion. I even saw my books in French bookstores and grocery stores! Kind of like one of my books making it into Target-level of excitement!

Writing this still feels surreal, even though it happened about four years ago for the first contract and about two years ago

Bilingual copies…

A SUMMER LIKE NO OTHER is available in several bilingual editions (I really need to add a tab on my blog for those 🙂 – coming soon!):

German/English, German/Italian, Italian/English, French/English

And it will be soon available in even more bilingual editions, as I’m regaining the rights of several languages in the coming weeks/months.

The first sentence in different languages…

The pop music blasts from the speakers so loudly that it resonates within me.

Des haut-parleurs s’échappe une musique pop assourdissante ; le son est si fort que chaque note résonne dans mon corps.

Die Popmusik dröhnt so aus den Lautsprechern, dass sie in mir widerhallt.

La musica pop esplode così forte dalle casse che mi risuona dentro.

La música pop suena tan fuerte en los parlantes que retumba en mi interior.

Uma música pop explode nos autofalantes, tão alta que ressoa dentro de mim.

Bonus scenes, anyone?

If you’ve read A SUMMER LIKE NO OTHER and would like to receive some exclusive bonus scenes, don’t hesitate to sign up for my newsletter. 🙂

Thank you to everyone who has given this little book of mine a chance, from my critique partners to my French publisher to all the people who have read it in whatever language and format. Thank you to everyone who has taken the time to review it. Thank you to all the readers who have sent me an email to let me know how much they loved this book…

Let me know if you have any questions…any behind-the-scenes you’d like to read more about…and don’t hesitate to send me questions about my experience with self-publishing that you’d like me to answer in the book I’m currently writing.

revising, rom-com, writing

The One With The Love List…

Do you want to receive my blog posts directly in your inbox? You can…by just signing up below.

If you’d like to receive updates about my books and get exclusive access to bonus content, don’t hesitate to susbscribe to my newsletter here: https://mailchi.mp/elodienowodazkij/website .

What is a love list? Honestly, you could do a love list for a whole lot of different things, but this one is about my manuscript. 🙂

Once upon a time, YA Highway (remember, YA Highway?)’s prompt for Road Trip Wednesday was: “What’s on your Work-in-Progress Love List?”

It was a summer day, forever ago (on August 22nd, 2012), when writers around the globe shared their love lists for their own manuscript. I did, too. Even if I did apparently forget.

Full disclosure: I actually remembered Katy Upperman’s love lists (for KISSING MAX HOLDEN which was then called CROSS MY HEART and another book which is full of hearbreak and emotions), which is how I found my way back to Googling YA Highway RTW Love List, re-read Dahlia Adler’s Love List for her manuscript which popped up in my Google search, and then re-found my own from August 2012.

That YA Highway Road Trip Wednesday prompt was based on a guest post by contemporary young adult author  Stephanie Perkins’ for author Natalie Whipple’s blog.

Whenever I begin a new project, I also begin a list called “What I Love About This Story.” I start by writing down those first ideas that sparked the fires of my mind, and then I add more ideas as I discover them during my push through early drafts. I use this list as a touchstone to remind myself during the hard times why my story is worthwhile. It’s easy to forget the GOOD STUFF when I’m wading through the muck, and the end is still months away, and it feels pointless and hopeless to continue. This list becomes a crucial reminder: Yes! This is a story worth telling! 

And as I’m about to go back into finishing drafting/revising my current work-in-progress, I feel like writing down this manuscript’s love list (in addition to my Pinterest board) will be helpful.

This is my first adult rom-com and I’ve only been sharing snippets of it with my critique partners.

So, here we go.

💕Love List 💕

Second chance romance.
Bucket Lists.
Lace. And tule. And wedding dresses.
Vintage clothing.
Old Bay.
Swans’ Cove.
Maryland Eastern Shore Little Town.
Holiday season.
Laughter.
Animal shelter.
Hockey.
Therapy.
Ice rink.
Self-confidence.
Therapy.
Friendships.
Giggles.
The sweet smell of cinammon apple pie baking in the oven.
The flavor of Julia Child’s Beef Bourguignon.
The sound of the waves.
Family dinners.
Support.
Chemistry.
Scenes full of sexy moments…including sizzling sexy moments and laughing sexy moments and full-of-emotions sexy moments.
and so much more ;-)…

Do you have a love list for your manuscript? Or maybe for your job? Or your day? Don’t hesitate to let me know in the comments. 🙂

Oh, and if you’d like to help me raise money for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society and #LightTheNight, please check out this link.

Do you want to receive my blog posts directly in your inbox? You can…by just signing up below.

If you’d like to receive updates about my books and get exclusive access to bonus content, don’t hesitate to susbscribe to my newsletter here: https://mailchi.mp/elodienowodazkij/website .

revising, writing

One word at a time…

I posted this on Instagram this morning. A little Motivation Wednesday if you will. And it’s stayed with me all day. I am looking forward to adding words to my manuscript. I am gathering them in my mind right now.

I am writing this post from our desktop under the sleeping eye of Bobbie Voltaire The Cat. My laptop’s keyboard is still writing its own story and I can’t really write on it. I did order a new one and it should arrive tomorrow, after some delay. I managed to download Scrivener to the desktop despite the wireless card being a bit problematic so I am gearing up to write. And I am very much looking forward to writing the chapters I’ve unlocked in my last writing session.

Today, I also wrote other words…not manuscript words, but newsletter words. As you probably know I have a newsletter and Mailchimp gives me data on the percentage of people opening said-newsletters. Sometimes newsletters end in spam or maybe my subject lines are not appealing enough or maybe people get busy. And it is important to make sure subscribers are still interested in the news I send. From a business perspective, deleting subscribers who are no longer interested mean I may pay less monthly for Mailchimp 🙂 and from a personal perspective, it’s nice to see higher open-rated on my newsletters….

I’m also working on the back-end of previously published books to keep them updated.

And I just wrote those words.

One word a time.

What are you currently writing or thinking about writing?

writing

My writing process…

Today’s prompt for #ASummerInWriting is Plotter or Pantser.

A plotter is someone who plans their story before writing it. They outline. They usually know what happens in each chapter.  I wish I could underline “usually” because they are many varying degrees and ways of being a plotter or pantser.

When you’re a pantser, the idea is you sit at your computer and write without a detailed outline or a roadmap. A pantser is someone who “flies by the seat of their pants.”

There are a lot of articles detailing both processes as well as the way some authors can be pantsing scenes while plotting chapters or vice-versa 🙂 Jami Gold has a comprehensive article entitled “Pantser vs. Plotter vs. Something In Between” if you’re interested in learning more.

I am a little bit of both. 

I don’t have a very detailed outline. I do have a bit of a roadmap. I usually know how the story ends. I mean it’s a romance so there’s a happy ending, but I usually have the epilogue scene playing in my mind like a movie. I know some of the plot points. Buuuuut…I learn about the story and more about my characters as I start typing. Which means that things change. A lot.

Since I started using Scrivener, I write scenes out of order.

I revise them and re-write them as needed and so when I type “The End” on my first draft, it’s in a much different place than for my first novels.

Because I learned that if I just go to the end without going through that process, if I just push through and continue writing the story without going back to change some things, to polish other scenes, to get more into the head of my characters, I end up needing way more time to re-work said first draft. I’ve been known to completely re-write books because that first draft wasn’t working. And I found that it’s more motivating to me and less time-consuming if I write the scenes out of order, re-write them or delete them if they don’t work and if they do work, make them shine as much as I can before typing “The End.

That first draft is not my final manuscript. Far from it. Revisions still happen of course. But once I type “The End” on my first draft, it’s much much closer to being ready to be sent to my critique partners.

So now, my first drafts may take me a bit longer (depending on the novel but I should do another post on that :-)), but they require less work after typing “The End.

writing

#TeaserTuesday First Lines…

What’s the first line of the book you’re currently reading?

Here are the first lines of my novels (including my Work-In-Progress).

  •  “Bucket List Item also known as “What was I thinking?” or “You’re going to rock this” List (depending on the days): Blind date – tomorrow.” (UNTITLED – Current WiP)
  • “Here’s what we all know: Sometime this week or the next or the one after that, we will find another dead girl.” (FEAR ME, FEAR ME NOT). Technically the first line of that novel is: Fear. (but I took the first line of the second chapter :P).
  • “Evil doesn’t sleep, doesn’t rest, doesn’t forget.” (SEE ME, SEE ME NOT)
  • “The daisies on my mother’s tomb remind me of happier times.” (TRUST ME, TRUST ME NOT)
  • “Blood. The blood is everywhere.” (ONE DREAM ONLY)
  • “Chopin’s music is the soundtrack of my life.” (ONE TWO THREE).
  • “The pop music blasts from the speakers so loudly that it resonates within me.” (A SUMMER LIKE NO OTHER)
  • “I SHOULD HAVE STAYED at the School of Performing Arts this weekend.” (ALWAYS SECOND BEST).
  • “Kneeing a guy in the balls might not be the best idea.” (LOVE IN B MINOR)

Happy reading! Stay safe ❤

writing

Help me spread the word? Sign up for my book blitz…Please :)

My book is coming out in 9 days. Nine Days. *breathes deeply* *runs in circle* *breathes deeply*

And hmm it’s only $0.99 for now (Amazon, B&N, Kobo, iTunes)…

If you’d like to help me spread the word, I would be forever grateful…You can tweet, blog, Facebook, Instagram, Tumblr…or whatever else your heart desires (as long as there is a link :P)

And everyone signing up can choose to be entered to win a $5 Amazon gift card…

And everyone signing up will receive – if they wish an e-copy of A Summer Like No Other.

And everyone signing up will have my eternal gratitude 🙂

 

writing

Soooo happy for this COVER REVEAL (and there is a giveaway too!)

Those are happy days for cover reveals. Yesterday, B&N revealed the cover of Jessica Love’s IN REAL LIFE (and it is gorgeous) and today, I am so excited for you all to see the cover of Riley Edgewood’s latest book: TRUTH & TEMPTATION.

Disclaimer: I absolutely love Riley’s writing. And her. She’s amazing all around and her books are not only sexy (because they are. Oh yes, they are) but they are also full of gorgeous prose and feelings and characters that you want to hang out with.

I am so looking forward to reading TRUTH & TEMPTATION (and other disclaimer: I am going to do that before it is released and yes, you can be jealous :))

And now the cover! Isn’t it gorgeous? And there’s a giveaway too! Scroll down for ALL details 🙂

Truth and Temptation

TRUTH & TEMPTATION:

She’s a liar. He knows the truth.

Teagan Walker gets around. Ask anyone—hell, ask her. She’ll own it with a smile. But beneath that smile is a girl whose parents didn’t want her. Whose grandparents raised her without affection. Whose struggle with a burning anger threatens to consume her, though she’d rather punch someone in the face than talk about it. With a new job looming, she’s determined to work her way into a better life. When she meets the sexiest guy she’s ever seen, she decides to kick it off with a bang. And she makes her move.

But he’s got moves of his own, and before the night is out, he strips her of way more than she means to reveal—without removing a single piece of clothing. That comes, too, of course. He’s gotten under her skin like nobody before him, and what’s the harm in one night with a sexy stranger? Exposed or not, she never has to see him again.

Except she does.

On Monday morning, they come face-to-face. He’s the son of her new CEO—and he threatens to bring her entire world crashing down, making her face every lie she’s ever told.

Truth & Temptation is the third standalone book in Riley Edgewood’s Summer Love series. 

SALES INFORMATION:

Truth & Temptation is available for preorder now—at a discount for preorder only, $2.99! The book releases on July 23, 2015.

PREORDER GIVEAWAY: 

Preorder giveaway

http://smarturl.it/TTPG

 

  • Every (EVERY!) person who enters will receive a signed TRUTH & TEMPTATION bookmark! (US only)
  • Ten (10) winners* will receive a Summer Love series pin! (US only)
  • Four (4) winners* will receive a Summer Love series tote bag! (International!)
  • Three (3) winners* will receive a signed paperback of TRUTH & TEMPTATION–and an e-copy will be sent to a friend of their choice! (International!)
  • One (1) winner* will receive a $50 Amazon gift card! (International!)

ALSO AVAILABLE:

 

 

surf and surrender

She wants to forget he ever existed.


He’d never give up her memory.

Rock & ReleaseSexy guitarist or international rock
star —who would you choose?

 

 

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

RileyRiley lives in Northern Virginia and spends most of her time with her characters, playing with her toddler and husband, and pretending she knows how to be an adult. Former dancer. Current writer. Lifelong lover of accessories, books, and the beach. And cats. Can’t forget the kitties. Of which she has two.

Sign up for Riley’s newsletter and never miss out on new book releases or other fun things: http://smarturl.it/rileynewsletter

You can also find her online–make sure to say hello! She loves to hear from her readers.

 

Books, personal, What´s Up Wednesday, writing

What´s up Wednesday? The Happy Anniversary edition :-)

WUW7

What´s up Wednesday is the brainchild of Jaime and Erin. It´s a weekly meme geared toward readers and writers, allowing us to touch base with blog friends and let them know what’s up. Should you wish to join, make sure to leave a link to your What’s Up Wednesday post in the widget on Jaime´s blog or Erin‘s blog.

What I´m reading

Only a few pages in and loving it!

What I’m Writing

I am outlining ALWAYS SECOND BEST. Outlining, me? I know it sounds crazy. But I´m basically just getting to know my story even better before diving into the drafting.
I am using OUTLINING YOUR NOVEL to learn and so far I can already feel my story getting better even before drafting!

What else I´ve been up to

Finalized the paperwork for the visa and made our appointment with the Consulate for the beginning of September. Crossing my fingers.
Celebrated my 33rd birthday on Monday and it was lovely!
And…prepping for my first #Selfpub Corner post this Friday (to know more about it, you can click on the little button :-))
#Selfpub corner button

What inspires me right now

My husband and our anniversary.

Together for almost 10 years, married for 3…and so so happy!

As I wrote in One, Two, Three’s acknowledgements:

Thank you to my husband, The Chemical Engineer, Alex, (I had another nickname here but he kind of made a face when I mentioned it would be in the acknowledgments…so I’ll just keep it to myself :-)). I would need to write an entire series to explain how amazing you are, and I’m not even sure I could find the words. Thanks for believing in me. Always. (And for taking care of everything while I’m typing away).

I love you!

302550_10100495319317968_1360043_n

I can’t wait to check all your posts and see what you’ve been up to 🙂

writing

A little release day recap…and a BIG THANK YOU!

First of all, THANK YOU!!! Thank you, thank you, thankkkkkk you! I have received so many encouraging words and so much support! I am really grateful!

Thank you ❤

Because my husband knows me oh so well and because he is amazing, he took me to Waffle House for breakfast on Thursday. And it was YUMMY!

2014-06-27_1403832531

I also had a few cocktails…and enjoyed myself. Honestly, it felt all so SURREAL.

The next day, we continued the celebration by going to an awesome restaurant, which served the best shrimp and key lime pie EVER.

That's one big margarita.
That’s one big margarita.

YUMMMMM!
YUMMMMM!

And we went to have some fun on the Pleasure Pier where they had some cool riders. We went on several of them and it totally reminded me of a scene in ONE, TWO, THREE.

 

I am already looking at the next step, at the next book I will release, at the next promo event…but I am also starting to realize slowly but surely that “Hey, I’m a published author” 🙂

 

 

 

 

writing

Exclusive: First chapter of ONE TWO THREE

ONE TCover 3WO THREE is coming out on June 26th…Yesterday, I received my copy edits from the wonderful Danielle and Lorrie from Double Vision Editorial. It’s surreal and crazy and insane and amazing and I cannot wait for my little story to find its way onto the world. As soon as I’m done with copy editing, it will go off to formatting and then the first e-ARCs and ARCs will find their first readers.

Today, I’m sharing an exclusive preview: the entire first chapter of ONE TWO THREE…There might still be a few typos, they will be corrected for the final version.

 

Chapter 1

Chopin’s music is the soundtrack of my life.

Papa played his most heart-wrenching waltzes, Mama used his nocturnes as lullabies when I was little, and my legs itched to form an arabesque whenever I heard Polonaises op. 40. Chopin used to be my escape, a way to dream about the future, about everything I wanted—from finally not being scared of falling in love to dancing the role of Cinderella one day at the Bolshoi Theater in Moscow.

But that was before.

The somber melody of Chopin’s Prelude op. 28 oppresses me. That piece is also called “Suffocation.” How fitting. Mama listens to it on repeat. She’s slumped at the living room table in the far corner. Only one of the lights is working and the darkness almost settles around her as she pours herself one shot of vodka after the other.

“Mama, you need to go to sleep,” I tell her for the fifth time. She’s downing the bottle as if there’s no tomorrow, and maybe that’s what she’s hoping for. Her head wobbles from one side to another. She’s already far gone. I missed my doctor’s appointment today because she was too drunk to drive me. I had to lie for her again. Dr. Gibson bought it, and we rescheduled for two weeks. He agreed that as long as I followed his advice (wearing my knee brace, doing my strength exercises, and no jumps) I could volunteer at the community center to help little kids learn to dance. He even gave my name to the volunteer coordinator there. She was looking for a college student, but I convinced her during the interview that even though I was only seventeen, she should still give me a chance. If I do well with the kids this Saturday, I’ll get to help out every weekend for a few hours.

Mama stands up, swaying around with the bottle in her hand.

“I need you out of my face,” she slurs and pushes me away. I wouldn’t have stumbled before. After all, balance is everything for a ballerina, but my knee brace makes my movements awkward. I stumble into the bookshelves holding my babushka’s favorite novels from Tolstoy and Shakespeare: she loved Anna Karenina and Romeo and Juliet. She always laughed about a pamphlet Tolstoy wrote that criticized Shakespeare, and she could talk for hours about literature. If my babushka were here, maybe she’d be able to get through to Mama. But at the same time, I’m relieved she didn’t see how her family crumbled to pieces after the accident.

“It was my fault!” Mama’s words cut through my heart, knowing I can’t seem to convince her otherwise. “It was my fault,” she whispers. “I killed him!” Her voice goes crescendo.  “I don’t want to see you! Get out!”

My stomach clenches. No matter how many times she pushes me away, I still have the same reaction: I want to comfort her, to remind her she’s not responsible.

I am.

“You weren’t in the car.” I use my most soothing voice. “I was. You didn’t do anything.”

“I told you to get out!” Mama is in my face, but I don’t flinch. Even though her fury scares the crap out of me, she never hit me. Not once, despite being drunk more often than not, ever since the accident.

“Listen, Mama.”

“You listen.” She points a wobbly finger at me, her usual striking features are contorted in a mask of despair: her mascara trails down her cheeks with her tears, her blue eyes, a bit clearer than Papa’s and mine, are all puffed up, and the mouth that can curve into a beautiful smile is a thin line. “I want you out. If only you didn’t ask him to drive you back.”

I didn’t want him to drive me back on that day, but he didn’t leave me a choice. I wanted to know why he was so angry. I wanted him to talk to me. But I had to be back at school. He understood how much it all meant to me, and he insisted I couldn’t miss my plane.

“If only—” She doesn’t finish her sentence, instead she downs another shot. “Just go!”

I clutch the necklace my parents gave me for my thirteenth birthday. The silver chain holds the pendant I had been eyeing for weeks: ballet shoes with pale pink diamond. Papa told me it would be my lucky charm. I was wearing it for my first callbacks at the School of Performing Arts. It was with me the day I received my first big role. But it didn’t protect us from the accident. Touching it calms and burns me at the same time, but I don’t have it in me to take it off.

“Mama,” I try again.

“I killed him!” Mama screams so loudly the entire neighborhood might hear her. There are only fifteen houses or so scattered in our little community, but they’ve been here forever. When we moved into my babushka’s house two weeks ago, they all welcomed us with open arms, giving us apple pies and casseroles. Mama put on her show: she thanked them all profusely but still downed half a bottle of vodka as soon as she closed the door.

This house used to be synonymous with summer fun and spending time with my best friend, Becca, with my parents at least pretending to get along so as not to worry my grandmother or their friends. But this is not the house I would choose to come back to after everything that has happened. My babushka passed away last January and left the house to my parents. I asked Mama why we couldn’t start fresh somewhere far away. She said tears don’t care where you are, that sadness follows you everywhere, and at least in the little town she grew up in and where we spent every summer, her friends could help her find a job. She’s starting as part-time secretary at Becca’s dad’s law firm tomorrow.   Staying in our house in Maine was too expensive anyway. Another reason why moving to Everbird in New Jersey made sense according to her.

The pressure in my chest builds up, but crying won’t change a thing. There’s no way she’ll listen to me now, no matter how angry or sad I am.

“I’m sorry,” I whisper. I grab my coat and my backpack and close the door, not bothering to hide my scar under makeup like I usually do.  When the car crashed against the tree, pieces of the windows stuck in my skin and ripped part of my left cheek. The surgery left a red trail, starting in the middle of my cheek and spreading to my ear.

But I don’t care about my face right now, I need to get to a place that can quiet my thoughts, and stop the sadness from pouring into my veins like a never-ending torrent. The lake that’s less than a mile from our home has always been my special place during the summers. It’s where Becca taught me how to swim and where we named ourselves “Sirens for Life.” It’s where I always went to practice secretly after my curfew and where I have the best memories of my parents. Before Mama’s drinking got the best of her, before their fights, before the crash that took Papa and my dreams.

The shortcut to the lake from our home is a dirt road that isn’t well lit, but I know the way by heart. I hurry down the path, tuning my iPod to Chopin’s happier music. But I can’t drown out Mama’s voice. It resonates in my head. It’s my fault! I know she’s wrong because she’s not the one who killed him. I did. If only I didn’t get into an argument with him in the car. If only I had warned him about the truck. I bite back a sob and rip off my knee brace to walk even faster. At first, my knee is stiff, but at least I can extend my leg much better now.

Seeing the lake calms me down, soothes me. This place is always crowded in the summer, but on this crisp September night, there’s no one. The lights surrounding the area flicker, the tall trees leave interesting shadows on the ground, and a discarded pink umbrella stands next to the bench by the grilling area. I turn up the volume of my iPod even more, settle on the bench, and search through my backpack. My pointes show the wear and tear of the last years, and no matter how much I scrub, there’s one smudge that doesn’t want to go away.

Memories flash back when I slip them on: my father handing me a bouquet of lilies after each of my recitals, the crew from the School of Performing Arts sneaking out to get ice cream, the summers I spent on the raft at the lake with Becca and my babushka, the hours at the barre.

Everything’s gone.

Dancing’s always been my escape from reality: from the fights my parents had more and more often, from my babushka passing away all alone at the hospital because no one told me she was sick, from my fears of letting anyone get really close.

Dancing’s always been my future.

Dancing’s always been who I am. So even if I can’t dance like I used to, even if I can’t put too much pressure on my knee, I’m convinced I’ll train my way back to the top, that I’ll show Dr. Gibson and the rest of them that they got it wrong, when they said it was very unlikely I would ever go back on stage. Juilliard postponed my audition and the director of the School of Performing Arts told he was holding a spot for me if I wanted to come back. If I could come back.

I use the bench as my own personal barre, slowly bend my knees, keeping them over my toes. Grounding my heels on the ground, I stretch down as much as I can, but I don’t make it past a demi-plié. I warm up for ten minutes, losing myself in the familiar movements. The stars reflect on the water; it could be the perfect backdrop for a production of Swan Lake. I wish I could position myself for a grand jeté, feel the wind surround me as I fly into the air, but I know better than to jeopardize the progress I’ve made. The last time I tried, my kneecap almost snapped again. Both my knees were smashed in the car crash, but my pivot leg suffered the most.

Instead, I angle my feet for some small pas de bourrée. I go faster and faster, until I bump into a rock. Fear steals my breath away. I avoid landing on my leg and instead fall on my ass.

Papa used to say there is a Russian proverb for everything. Whenever I was disappointed about a rehearsal gone wrong, I called him. He always asked me if I gave it my best. When I said yes, he asked me if I learned something, and then he would say Na bezryb’ye i rak—ryba, which means on a fishing lull, even a crayfish is fish. It was his way of telling me that “something is better than nothing.”

I repeat the words in my head as my fingers nervously circle my knee, testing for any signs of swelling.

“Are you okay?” There’s a guy in the shadows—with an accent and a nice baritone voice.

🙂 Can’t wait to share the rest with you soon!