Tuesday, October 15, 2013

CLP Blog Tour: Everybody's Got a Story by Heather Wardell

Follow the tour HERE


Both personally and professionally, Alexa knows all too well the power of words. Two years after her boyfriend Christophe's vicious attack, she's still trying to see herself as more than simply 'his victim', still trying to figure out her own story.

After his trial, she moves from New York City to Toronto in an attempt to start over, but his words cling to her and even in a new country she can't see how to move into relationships with the new people in her life while hiding the secret of Christophe's worst offense.

She can't hide that secret from her coworker Jake, though, because the news buff has recognized her from the coverage of the assault and trial and knows every word she can't bring herself to say about her ordeal.

With Jake's help, can Alexa reclaim her story and her life?

This excerpt takes place very near the beginning of the book, as Alexa and her family await the verdict at the trial of her ex-boyfriend.

My parents and Ricky and I stood in a corner of the crowded courthouse lobby as the victim's advocate who'd sat with us throughout the trial explained what would happen now.
"The jury could come back any time from five minutes to five weeks. If it goes longer than today, I suggest you stay at your hotel and I'll let you know when they're ready to render their verdict."
"Do you think it's going to take that long?"
She looked at my dad and shook her head. "Honestly, I'll be shocked if they're not back before lunch time."
We all glanced at our watches together. Ten forty-five.
"Well, good," my brother said. "I still think they should just let me kick the guy's ass instead. Save the taxpayers the bill. If I'd been here none of this would--"
"Ricky!" My parents snapped in unison, and he subsided.
I didn't need him to finish it, though, to know what he meant. He'd said the same thing often enough over the last two years, maintaining that if he'd been in New York City with me instead of rural Alberta with our parents he would have been able to prevent the assault because he'd have recognized that Christophe was bad news.
Even though he'd seen Christophe every year at Christmas and had never had anything worse to say about him than the typical big-brother "He's okay, I guess". Even though nobody had thought Christophe was anything more than a loving boyfriend with maybe a little jealous streak.
Not even his best friend had thought that.
As if thinking of him had conjured him up, David walked into the lobby and began looking around. Our eyes met, and though I turned away at once I knew it wouldn't stop him and sure enough he was soon standing beside me.
"Get away from her," the advocate said. "She's made her position clear in the past."
I had, on the first day of the trial, when I told him that none of it would have happened without him then ran into the bathroom to throw up.
He ignored her. "Alexa, I'm sorry. I really am. I had no idea he was capable of that." He swallowed hard. "I'm so sorry. Please. Can you ever forgive me?"
Forgive him for acting like my friend, for asking me how things were going with Christophe and getting me to admit that I was starting to wonder whether almost two years was long enough, and then telling Christophe everything I'd said? For hugging me after our last talk and then telling Christophe that too? That simple innocent hug had fueled Christophe's worst assaults on me while he told me over and over that I'd never be able to hug anyone else again, that nobody else would ever want me, that he'd make sure of it.
Christophe had gone way too far, but David had set him in motion.
I shook my head once, feeling too sick to speak, then pushed past him and walked away toward the bathroom.
"I never thought he'd do anything like that," David called after me, sounding frantic and near tears. "I still can't believe it."
I turned back and stared at him, and his face went white. "No, I believe it. I mean, the jury saw the... God... Alexa, I didn't mean that. I just can't accept he would do something like that. So out of character."
So therefore I must have provoked him?
I almost said it, but my stomach churned again and I had to race for the bathroom through the crowd of people. On the way, I briefly locked eyes with Christophe's grandmother. She'd come over from France for the trial, and though we hadn't spoken her eyes made it clear that she felt sure I'd provoked him. I'd seen that in a lot of other eyes too, the doubt that someone like Christophe would really go that far without being forced into it.
His mother was the only one who'd actually articulated it, telling the media that her good French boy couldn't have done such a thing without an awful American girl goading him into it. Though I was actually Canadian, that little sound bite had kept the case alive in the news and on the Internet far longer than it might have been of interest otherwise, although of course the sordid details had also fascinated people.
The sordid details of the assault on my body and soul.
I made it to the toilet just in time.
Once I'd thrown up, with any luck for the last time in this courthouse, I rinsed out my mouth and fixed my makeup and redid my braided hair. Then I stared at myself in the mirror.
Had I provoked Christophe? Was the assault at least partly my fault?
I didn't want to believe that, but I did share David's disbelief that Christophe had been capable of such a thing. I really had loved him.
And he'd changed my life, even before the attack, and his influence still lingered. Though we hadn't been together for years, I continued to dress exactly how Christophe had wanted me to. Nothing else seemed right to me now. With his French background, he'd seemed infinitely glamorous and classy, and I'd let him mold me into what he called 'the perfect lady' in his gorgeous French accent.
I'd preferred shorter skirts but he'd liked them at least down to my calves, and he had made damn sure I wouldn't wear short ones again. I wore my hair to my shoulders and braided as he'd liked it, my makeup was subtle and neutral as he'd preferred, and even the thin silver chain I always wore around my neck was there because of his influence. I'd never liked the feel of a necklace against my throat but he'd insisted I looked wrong without one, and I'd become so used to that sensation that I'd continued wearing necklaces long after his influence over me should have been finished.
Before I realized I was going to do it, I reached up and gave the chain a sharp jerk. It fell free into my hand, and I dropped it into the garbage can. I wasn't going to be controlled by him any more. I was going to be myself.
I went out, forcing myself to keep my head held high, and the advocate met me at the door. "Are you okay?"
I nodded.
"Good. The jury's coming back."


Dear Emily and lovely blog readers,

I need your advice. Yes, yours. :) I would love to know: how much unsolicited contact do you like from authors?

I answer every email that's sent to me, because someone reached out and it only seems right to respond. But I also have alerts set up for my name so I can see whenever anyone's talking about me online. This is great for reviews, since I like to add them all to my reviews page and being notified means I won't miss any. But I wonder about using those alerts to initiate contact myself.

Goodreads lets readers post automatic "I'm 25% done with "Life, Love, and a Polar Bear Tattoo" by Heather Wardell" notices, and of course I see those in my alerts as well. On Twitter, I can search for my name and see every time someone mentions my work.

I have seen authors who retweet every single one of those mentions, and others who do the same with notes like "don't bother her, she's reading!" added. I've had authors reply to my Goodreads statuses back when I was more active there.

I don't like it. Any of it. I'm finding myself not wanting to read these authors because I dislike this level of "look, people are talking about me and reading my work".

This is obviously not their intent. But it is how I feel. But at the same time it feels wrong to see that someone's reading my book and not acknowledge how great that is.

So... how much contact, as a reader, do you want an author to push on you? Would you like to see "thanks for reading my book" in your Twitter feed or as a comment on your "reading Heather's book" Goodreads status? Or should I just keep my mouth shut? (Fingers shut? :)



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