Wednesday, November 05, 2014

Sing Sweet Nightingale by Erica Cameron - Deleted Scene Blog Tour

Title: Sing Sweet Nightingale
Author: Erica Cameron
Release Date: March 4, 2014
Publisher: Spencer Hill Press

Synopsis: Mariella Teagen hasn't spoken a word in four years.

She pledged her voice to Orane, the man she loves—someone she only sees in her dreams. Each night, she escapes to Paradise, the world Orane created for her, and she sings for him. Mariella never believed she could stay in Paradise longer than a night, but two weeks before her eighteenth birthday, Orane hints that she may be able to stay forever.

Hudson Vincent made a pledge to never fight again.

Calease, the creature who created his dream world, swore that giving up violence would protect Hudson. But when his vow caused the death of his little brother, Hudson turned his grief on Calease and destroyed the dream world. The battle left him with new abilities and disturbing visions of a silent girl in grave danger—Mariella.

Now, Hudson is fighting to save Mariella's life while she fights to give it away. And he must find a way to show her Orane’s true intentions before she is lost to Paradise forever.

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Sing Sweet Nightingale deleted scene/excerpt

Mariella – 1
Most people know words can hurt, but they probably aren’t aware silence can inflict just as much pain. I wish I could say I was one of them. I haven’t spoken in four years and every word I haven’t uttered hurts my parents more than yelling at them would. Every minute of my silence is like another dose of a slow-working poison that’s leeching the color and the joy out of their life. But I’ve made a promise that means even more to me than their suffering. To keep my promise and to minimize the damage I do, I’ve distanced myself from them. From everything.
It’s entirely possible to walk through the world as you would a dream. It takes a lot of practice and the ability to separate part of your mind from reality, but it’s possible. What surprised me once I mastered this art is that it gives the world a quiet sort of splendor, almost like an impressionist painting.
I push the remaining food around my plate with the edge of my fork and let my parent’s conversation wash over me in a soothing hum. They refuse to allow me to listen to my iPod at dinner, but I’ve learned over the years to find a quiet kind of music in the cadence of their voices. If I tune out the words and only listen to the pitch and tone, it’s almost beautiful.
Until, of course, one of them attempts to bring me into the conversation.
“Mariella? Right, Mariella?”
I look up at my mother, a woman who still doesn’t understand nothing she can say will convince me to speak. Nothing’s worked in four years and she keeps trying. What she doesn’t know is I promised my silence to the man I love, and I fully intend to keep that vow. Even if my mother knew my secrets, though, she still wouldn’t give up hope. She’s convinced she can find a way to bring her only child out of self-imposed silence. Why can’t she see her attempts only cause both of us pain? Honestly, I find her persistence both endearing and unendurable.
Her brown eyes widen when I meet her gaze—surprise she caught my attention maybe?—but she continues with her statement levelly enough.
“I wasn’t sure if you heard what I was telling your dad. About the music festival coming to Syracuse in November?”
Not this again. She’s planning a lot further ahead than usual. Most of the time they spring things like this on me, but November is still months away. My gaze drifts to my father who is sitting across the table pretending not to be intently focused on the conversation. He doesn’t play it off well. His entire body is angled in my direction, and even though his eyes are locked on his plate, his fork hasn’t moved in at least a minute.
I want to groan and drop my head onto the table, but even that much of a reaction would send the wrong message. My parents have both taken my silence hard and I feel bad about that—in fact, it’s my one regret—but they’ve tried tempting me with music before and it’s never worked. It only leads to disappointment for them—for them and for me—and adds to the guilt I carry.
Glancing back at my mother, I can see she won’t let this one drop until I actually acknowledge the statement. No matter what I do she’ll misinterpret my meaning, so I shake my head and go back to rearranging my dinner. The guilt is already gnawing at the lining of my stomach, burning and making me feel nauseas. What little appetite I had is now completely gone.
My mother takes a deep breath and even without looking I can hear the strained smile on her face. Her voice always raises half an octave when she’s faking a smile.
“Well, I heard from the music teacher at your school that there are going to be quite a few special concerts this year.” She pauses, probably waiting for me to respond. I pretend to amuse myself by building a castle out of my mashed potatoes, hoping she’ll drop the topic.
“Mr. Niles—that’s the music teacher, Mari, you remember?—he said the lineup is impressive. Even Michele Ward is going to be there. Do you remember her? You used to sing her songs all the time.”
Why does she do this to herself? I stopped singing even before I stopped talking. At least, that she knows of. Without looking at her, I shake my head again. If only I could explain to her why I’ve retreated from the world. If only she understood that my silence isn’t her fault, rather something I had to do in spite of her. But I’m not allowed to talk about my reasons and even if I could, I don’t think she’d believe me. Not many people would. It’s hard to believe in something you’ve never seen before.
Both my parents expel a heavy breath at the same time and the air is suddenly tinged with their disappointment. It tastes like copper in the back of my throat and it feels thick, almost like I’m trying to pull oxygen out of smog. It’s suffocatingly strong tonight, much stronger than usual, but I don’t dare leave before they do. They’ll only make me come back downstairs to do the dishes. I know. I’ve tried it before. Anyway, it’s not as though the gates of Paradise will open any earlier tonight. The doorway only exists at midnight.
“Well, think about it, Mari,” my mother says. Her voice has lost that edge of optimism I’d heard in it earlier. I’m glad, but at the same time I hate that I’ve disappointed her again. “I can always take you if you change your mind.”
I manage another few bites of food in the silence while my parents muster the strength to force a new round of conversation. It doesn’t take them long tonight. By now they’re used to living with disappointment. Closing my eyes, I wish I could disappear.
Once they start talking again, I tune out and my left hand drops to the pocket of my hoodie where my glass nightingale rests. The tiny glass bird slips comfortably into my hand and I gently run my thumb along its back, the movement soothing and familiar. There are so many memories attached to its crystalline form. I lose track of time reliving them while I wait for this punishment to end.
My father’s voice jerks me out of my reverie.
“Will you help with the dishes?”
He phrases it like a request, but it’s not really. It never has been, but he always says it like that. As though walking away is truly an option. Does he really think I’m capable of inflicting more pain on them by refusing?
I don’t acknowledge his words, but I pick up my plate and push my chair back from the table. This has all become routine and I can easily gather the dirty plates from the table without seeing anything in front of me. In my mind, I’m not here; I’m in a world no one else knows exists. It’s a world of magic and possibilities and secrets and it’s the reason this gulf exists between my parents and me. They haven’t been chosen by that world. I have.
My father dries while I wash. Part of me wonders if he does this night after night because he honestly likes our routine or just to make sure I don’t have any extra time alone. I can tell just by looking into his eyes spending time together hurts him just as much as it hurts me. At least he seems content with what I’m willing to give. Unlike my mother who’s constantantly pushing and pulling at me, trying to change my mind and change who I am.  
When he places the last dry dish into the cupboard and closes the door, I turn toward the stairs, waiting for my final permission to flee.
He sighs and says, “Goodnight, Mari,” releasing me at last.
I dart for the stairs, running up them much faster than I descended almost two hours ago. Once I’m locked inside my bedroom, I move through my nightly ritual on autopilot, my mind already walking through Paradise with the man I love. What else but love would make it worth the boredom, loneliness, and pain I suffer in the “real” world?
When I lay down to sleep, I wonder if it’d really be so horrible to let my parents take me to the festival. I won’t enjoy it the way they want me to—how can I when the acoustics will be horrible compared to what I’m used to? Plus, I’ll be forced to listen to the music while pressed in on all sides by thousands of people who think consonance is the opposite of a vowel. But my parents would enjoy it and it may be one of the last gifts I can give them.
Paradise smells of gardenias, which is something that’s always amused me; I’ve never seen a single gardenia here. Opening my eyes, I reach for the end of my braid that dangles by my knees and unravel my golden-blonde hair as my gaze roams the vista that never fails to take my breath away.
A narrow, cobblestone path runs through an orchard of cherry trees in full blossom, their flowers not only the usual whites and pinks, but a wild rainbow of reds, blues, and golds. Wrapped tightly around the trunks of these trees is a field of wild lavender, lilac, and forget-me-nots, their blooms blending into a blanket of blues, purples, and greens. The sky above is trapped in a perpetual twilight, never fully dark, but never quite day. The beauty of this world is amazing, but my favorite part is the one in the distance.
At the end of the stone path on the edge of a crystal-blue lake stands a towering willow tree with a curtain of bright green leaves. A replica of my favorite place in the waking world—one of my few sanctuaries there—the tree’s natural drapery protects a chaise lounge where my love, Orane, waits for me.
His shoulder-length auburn hair is blowing in the gentle breeze and when his violet eyes meet mine he smiles and steps forward. That step is the only encouragement I need to lift the hem of my red silk nightgown and run toward him. Trees fly past in a blur as I cross the seemingly vast expanse in seconds. Time and distance mean nothing here. All that matters are dreams and whether or not you have the will to make them real.   
Once I’ve nearly reached him, I let my nightgown drop and launch myself into his arms. Orane laughs and catches me easily, spinning me in a circle as his soft lips find mine. Even after four years, his kiss sends a frisson of energy down my spine and I can barely contain the desire to slip my hands under his linen shirt and finally explore skin that has been forbidden for so long. But I don’t because I know well that Orane’s sense of propriety is almost strong enough to suit a Victorian English maiden’s chaperon.
As though he can read the turn my thoughts have taken, Orane gently places my feet on the ground and takes my hands, holding me at a distance as his eyes take me in from the roots of my golden-blonde hair to my pink-painted toes.
“Tell me about your day, Mariella.” He steps backward, leading me to the chaise. “What ills has the world placed on your poor shoulders today?”
Orane sits down first and gently pulls me down in front of him. Before I can explain that today really was uneventful, his talented hands start massaging my shoulders. I sigh with pleasure and let my head fall forward while I sweep my hair over my shoulder and out of the way. Tension I didn’t even realize I held on to slowly eases out of my muscles as Orane fingers work in deep, slow circles along my back. As he works, I think back to my parents’ conversation at dinner. Did all this stress come simply from that one encounter? I sigh again as he continues to work, but this time the sound isn’t nearly so pleased.
“What is it?” Orane asks, shifting closer and leaning down to leave a kiss on my bare shoulder. “You can tell me everything, you know.”
I smile and turn my head to rest my cheek against his hand for a moment. “I know.”
“So, what has you in such a tangle tonight, my nightingale.”
Even knowing I can trust Orane my darkest secrets, I’ve always felt guilty complaining about my parents. He’s never met them, and never will, so even when I’m frustrated with them for attempting to pull me back into a world that holds no interest, I can’t justify saying only horrible things about them. Their motives are pure even if their understanding is excusably flawed.
“School starts on Tuesday,” I finally say, grasping onto something worrisome enough in its own way. Summer has been blissfully quiet. Being able to delve into music theory and music history during the day and share everything I’d learned with Orane each night has been wonderful. But in two days I will be forced to re-enter the world of juvenile gossip, academic and social pressure, and unreasonable expectations otherwise known as highschool.
“So it does.” His fingers make one last pass at the knots on my shoulders before drifting to my hair. I shift to let him pull the long strands into his lap. The gentle stroke of his touch would lull me to sleep if I wasn’t already sleeping. “Is there some new requirement worrying you?”
“No,” I admit. “But I still don’t want to go.”
“Just remember what I always tell you, Mariella. They can only hurt you if you let them close enough to do so. Humanity is full of deceit and hatred. Children can be especially cruel. There are few exceptions and I have seen none in your town save you.”
It took me a long time to admit he was right, but once I did I couldn’t go back to seeing the world as anything but tainted. “Don’t worry. I remember.”
We sit in silence for a moment and, as Orane continues to run his fingers through my hair, I wonder if I’ve avoided bringing my parents up tonight. I should know better by now. I can’t hide anything from him.
“That is not your only worry. What else troubles you?”
For a moment, I imagine making something up, but then I remember who I’m talking to and I relent.
“Dinner with my parents wasn’t fun. They want to take me to a music festival in a couple months and I just… I don’t know. I kind of want to go.” When I tilt my head back to look up at him, I’m disheartened but not surprised to see the thin set to his lips. There’s only one thing I can try to sooth his disappointment and, oddly enough, it’s the same card my parents tried to play on me. “Michele Ward is going to be there and you know how you love it when I sing her songs. She might have something new.”
Orane finally smiles. “You would already own a copy were that the case.”
He has a point. Still, remembering my mother’s crestfallen expression makes my chest ache. I resort to desperate measures and actually ask. “Couldn’t I go? It would mean a lot to my parents.”
“Mariella, nightingale…” He trails off and the corners of his eyes turn down making him look ancient and weary. “You know I can deny you nothing. Of course you can go if you wish, but have you thought of your parents?”
Of course I thought of them. Why else would I ask to go? But he seems to have realized something I haven’t seen yet. “How do you mean?”
“Well, I—” He presses his lips together and shakes his head, his auburn hair swaying across his shoulders and his violet eyes looking so sad. “It is not important. Of course you should go.”
I turn around, pulling myself to my knees to face him. “No, tell me. What is it?”
Orane sighs and tries to pull me close, but I resist, staring into his eyes until he acquiesces.
“It has been so long since you have participated in their plans, I worry doing so now might only raise their hopes, excite their expectations.” He pauses and his words filter through my mind and settle like a rock in my stomach. “They might hope for other changes and it will only hurt them more when you do not return to them.”
All else is forgotten with Orane’s final words. I hold my breath as hope flutters like butterflies over my skin. For years I’ve begged him to let me stay with him in Paradise forever and though he’s always hinted at the possibility, he’s never spoken of it as reality. Or even as a forgone conclusion. I’ve given up my friends, my family, and my voice to make the eventual separation easier. I’ve endured therapists and school counscelers and dozens of meaningless labels and diagnoses that never come anywhere near the truth. Here at last is the light at the end of the tunnel, the goal that makes all the pain of the last four years worthwhile.
“Orane, do you mean it?” I breathe. “When?”
He glances away and smiles sheepishly, one hand rubbing the back of his neck. “There you go again, Mariella. How do you always make me ruin my surprises for you?”
I press closer, wrapping my arms around his neck and sitting on his lap. “Oh, who cares about surprises? Do you mean it? Please, tell me you mean it.”
He pulls back, just far enough to stare into my eyes. “Have I ever lied to you, my nightingale?”
“No, never.” In the ten years I’ve known him, from the first time he visited my dreams, Orane has been my trustworthy confidant, my strongest supporter, my best friend. He has become the standard by which I measure myself and everything in the “real” world. Nothing even comes close. Not even me. “But when Orane?”
Orane wraps his arms around me and shifts me more comfortably on his lap. “You already ruined one surprise. Will you not let me have any pleasures?”
“Orane, please?” I whisper against his skin, brushing kisses along the line of his jaw. “Please?”
Orane laughs, a low rumbling sound that echoes through his chest. “All I will tell you, my impatient girl, is it will be soon.”
I sit up, adrenaline shooting through my veins like lightning. “Soon? How soon?”
“No. You shall not trick another word from my lips.” He grins at me and touches the tip of my nose with his finger. “Not another word.”
He cuts me off in the simplest and most effective way: with a kiss.
I melt into his arms, shivers of fire and ice chasing each other up my arms and down my body. His hands run through my hair and trace patterns of my arms and I feel like my skin can no longer contain me. His touch has me shooting in a million directions at once and I don’t come back together until he finally pulls away.
“That’s better,” he whispers, tucking a strand of hair behind my ear.
I blink, confused. What were we talking about? He must see my blank expression because he laughs and lifts me into his arms, standing from the chaise in one smooth motion and placing my feet on the ground. My head is spinning and I lean on him for support. How can his kisses still affect me like this? Four years and it still feels like the first time.
Once I’ve caught my breath, I look up into his eyes. “You’re not going to escape so easily, you know. I still want to know.”
Orane smiles and his hands slide down my arms until his fingers link with mine. “I am sure you do. But enough talking for tonight. Will you sing for me, sweet nightingale?”
I glance over my shoulder at the stone façade of the opera hall he built for me almost ten years ago. The cream-colored marble is carved in intricate designs and dark-wood doors stand open, ready to accept us. Even without closing my eyes, I can picture the interior. I helped him design it all. Statues stand in nooks along the walls and hundreds of seats covered in red velvet fill the auditorium. A luxuriously soft black velvet curtain hangs from the proscenium arch and even though the orchestra pit sits empty, the finest music you’ve ever heard will rise into the air the moment I begin to sing.
We leave the protection of the willow and I pick up the hem of my ruby nightgown, draping it and the ends of my hair over my arm to keep them from trailing in the water as we walk along the edge of the lake. As I listen to Orane tell me about the modifications he’s made to the acoustics within my opera hall—the better to amplify my natural talent, he promises—I realize he’s right. Going to the festival with my parents would only lead them to hope for a change that will never come. Especially not now when Orane is finally saying soon. Soon.
Orane leads me through the door, down the aisle of the auditorium and up to the stage. Only once I’m in place does he retreat into the darkness of the orchestra seats, his face lost under the glow of the stage lights.
I concentrate on the song we chose and the first strains of music fill the air. When the time comes, I close my eyes, open my mouth, and pour my heart into my song. I sing for what feels like hours and all I know is I never want to leave this place.
            Soon can’t come soon enough.

Author Interview questions

'Seeing is believing.' What is your opinion of this quote?

I think that it’s an oversimplification of a concept that cannot be simplified. Or quantified. Or actually understood. Belief itself is something strange and scary and spectacular. Belief is something that countless people have fought and died for. Belief is something that even more people have built their entire lives around. How many of those people ever really see something to reinforce the true depth of their belief?

So what do I think of the quote? I think that it can be true in certain cases, in situations where someone is fighting a belief or a fact seeing the truth for themselves can push them into belief. Most of the time, though, seeing is not a requirement for belief.

What is the best part of writing Sing Sweet Nightingale?

The first draft of this story was probably the most fun if only because the whole thing happened in a rush and it consumed my entire life. I stole time from my day job to write it. I wrote until I was falling asleep on my keyboard and then I dreamed about the book and the world and the characters at night. Which, by the way, is extraordinarily creepy when your book deals with demon-creatures who invade dreams. It’s also strange because I never remember my dreams, but I did during this period. I think that was my favorite part of this book—the completely soul-destroying need to write it. It was a powerful experience and one I wish I could relive.

If there’s one thing that readers should understand about Mariella and Orane, what would it be?

One of the things I love about stories is that people can take away whatever message they need to learn. Some people will connect with one character while someone else sees themselves in another. Some readers will quote one line and others will find another that speaks to them. I love that and I love it even more when people share those lines with me. It’s fascinating. For me, though, one of the elements I built into Mariella and Orane’s relationship is the exaggerated example of an emotionally abusive relationship. While there may be romantic moments between the two, they are completely overshadowed by the rest of the manipulative, degrading, and utterly unequal relationship between them. The most important element of them, though, is how Mariella faces the truth once she sees it and finally leaves. Mistakes, however bad or painful they are, are rarely irreparable. THAT is the important part and something I hope readers see in the story.

Why does Orane calls Mariella Nightingale?

Nightingales are songbirds who are known for having particularly beautiful songs. Their voices are pure and strong and notable and they’re also one of the few species of birds that sing at night as well as during the day. Considering how much of the book takes place in the dead of the night, I thought that that element was important. It’s not just that, though. Stories have been written about the power of their song for a long time, including one by Hans Christian Andersen called “The Nightingale”. They’ve been called the temptress of songbirds in a few places. I wanted to pull in all of the fascination and the mythology surrounding the nightingale as much as I wanted the associations of nighttime singing and beautiful music. When it comes down to it, there really wasn’t any other choice. Mariella was always going to be Nightingale to Orane.

About the Author

After a lifelong obsession with books, Erica Cameron spent her college years getting credit for reading and learning how to make stories of her own. Erica graduated with a double major in psychology and creative writing from Florida State University and began pursuing a career as an author.

Erica is many things but most notably the following: writer, reader, editor, dance fan, choreographer, singer, lover of musical theater, movie obsessed, sucker for romance, ex-Florida resident, and quasi-recluse. She loves the beach but hates the heat, has equal passion for the art of Salvador Dali and Venetian Carnival masks, has a penchant for unique jewelry and sun/moon décor pieces, and a desire to travel the entire world on a cruise ship. Or a private yacht. You know, whatever works.

Her debut novel, Sing Sweet Nightingale, released March 2014 and it was the first volume of The Dream War Saga, a four-book young adult series.

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There will be three winners. Prizes are all US/CAN only. Prizes are as follows:

First-Place Prize: Signed copy of Sing Sweet Nightingale, bracelet, two book cover pendants
Second-Place Prize: Bracelet and two pendants
Third-Place Prize: Two pendants

**You may want to read the giveaway Terms and Conditions before entering the giveaway as Queekie Girl Reads is not responsible for the prize.

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