Category Archives: Musings from the Heart

Dance as a Story

After a long day of editing yesterday, there was nothing I wanted more than to curl up on my couch and finally watch Wednesday’s season opener of So You Think You Can Dance. SYTYCD has been one of my favorite shows since the day it first aired, and if you haven’t checked it out yet, I recommend you do. I’ve long wondered how so many people who watch American Idol don’t watch SYTYCD, but I suspect it’s because they simply haven’t been awakened to the beauty of the dance world yet.

So perhaps I can be the one to awaken you.

My love of dance started when I was young. I wasn’t a good dancer, you see—even now, the best you’ll get out of me is a good “club dance”—but my sister was amazing. She could emulate nearly every style, and I remember her hardly needing to practice for any of her classes or performances. The kid even beautifully choreographed my first talent show performance of Mariah Carey’s “Someday”—oh yeah, I sure did—but the kicker was that she choreographed when I was 11…and she was 8. (What the heck?!)

A couple years later, my sister ended up with a performance after having had minor surgery to remove a large mole. She was terrified to go onstage because she didn’t want to rip open her stitches, and we’d wrapped her leg in a careful attempt to prevent it. The time came for her to go on, and we cheered and cheered—until we suddenly realized that her ace bandage was dangling from the end of her pant leg.

Now, I need to remind you that my sister was ridiculously talented, and though I’m sure she’d tell this story quite differently than I do, here’s what I remember: she kept right on dancing, not an ounce of terror showing in her face as she kicked and emoted and threw that leg at all the right cues until finally she snapped it hard enough that the stupid bandage flew off onto the stage. And then she kept right on dancing, lovely powerhouse that she was, ever so triumphant over that lame little ace bandage. I squealed and cheered from the audience, of course because she was fantastic, but more because I’d never seen such determination and poise (especially in a 10-year-old) as she managed to maintain her artistry and still beat that damn bandage off her leg. She was in that moment, telling her story in her dance, and it was stunning.

Years later a little show called So You Think You Can Dance aired, and I was hooked. I admit, my first interest was all the hip hop…but I soon came to love so many styles, from contemporary to jazz, Broadway to salsa, and more than anything, the effort these dancers put into their performances. Several of them had emotional stories of how they came to dance, having persevered through intense hardship to follow their dancing dreams.

But the reason I watched was not because of their personal stories, or their struggles—it was about the story in the dance itself. Within a few episodes I started to understand contemporary and lyrical dance, and I was mesmerized by choreography that actually told a story. It went beyond “put this leg here and that arm there” and into a whole new world of acting and story-telling, something that gripped my heart because the dancers moved about the stage without ever saying a word, and still they could tell the loveliest story.

I suppose this is why two of the show’s choreographers, Mia Michaels and Travis Wall, have earned so many accolades. Their pieces are dramatic and artistic, driving the dancers in a mind-boggling physicality that will leave you breathless almost every single time. They don’t create dance as something to fit the music and look pretty—they fashion dance as a story, a complex tale in one three-minute segment that will grab you by your heart and take you places you’ve never been.

So after nine seasons, should you start watching? Yes. Absolutely, yes, yes, yes. The dancers that make their way onto the show are phenomenal, and since the show is evolving and growing, dancers are coming in with new and unique takes on dance. Sure, some of them “just” dance, and they look pretty and have a good time and everyone is delighted—but then there are those who tell a story with their dance, choreographing a full arc, from exposition to climax to denouement, and you can feel it all the way into your soul.

There were a ton of great auditions in the first episode Wednesday night, but one I wanted to share with you was a dancer that fans are rather excited about. His name is Hampton Williams, and what he brought to the show is indescribable. To be honest, when I watched his explanation of what he was about to do, I rolled my eyes—and then when the dance was finished, I wondered why everyone was crying on the show…until I realized I was teary-eyed myself. His piece was fascinating, and his style was something I’ve never seen before. It’s definitely unusual, but what is clear is that this dancer has put his whole heart into sharing a compelling, engaging story—and that is exactly why I love dance.

If you’d like to see a clip of his audition, you can do so here: Hampton Williams. I hope you find it as riveting as I did!

In the meantime, happy Memorial Day everyone, and you know where I’ll be on Wednesday night. 🙂

And much love to Sisser Face!

What’s In a Name?

What’s in a name? That which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet.

—From Romeo and Juliet, by William Shakespeare

I’ve been editing my WIP, Kyresa, for the last time (and yes, I really mean it!). Since it is a fantasy book, it has a collection of unusual names, as do many of the books I read in the Fantasy and Sci-Fi genres. Add to that my plethora of friends with wildly interesting names, and I got to thinking—what’s in a name?

Parents often spend months coming up with a suitable list of names for their soon-to-be-born, one that will need to stick with the child as she grows up, takes on her own unique traits, and eventually becomes who and what she is as a person. So how is it that parents pick the perfect name?

And in a similar manner, how is it that we, as authors, pick our characters’ names?

We almost have an easier task, I think: we have a vision for a character, a set of traits, experiences, and journeys already in mind as we set about to write, and from this we can choose a name to match. Sometimes, we may already know the name in advance—and like the choosing of a baby name before parents know anything about their child, somehow, the name tends to fit. (And if it doesn’t, we can always change it later without the hassle of legal paperwork. Thank goodness!)

When I write, I usually have a vision of a character and then suddenly the name just comes out on paper. I really can’t explain how this happens—I see the character doing A, B, or C, and start typing, and then suddenly said character’s name is right there, typed in front of me. Usually, the name sticks. If nothing’s called to me immediately, the name will be a placeholder. I won’t lie—[the chick], [sassafras], and [what’s his face] have been used as temporary holds before. 🙂 Still, it’s generally pretty rare for me to not feel the rush of a suitable name. Even rarer is a name change—Kyresa actually underwent a slight change a year ago, requiring me to undo over a decade of pronouncing her name the old way as I talked about her character. That was tough. But tougher was finding a new name for a character I’d known so long. (Envision post-its with different spellings of names all over the house for a month and you’ve nailed the experience.)

Since I usually feel the name as I write, I suppose that explains how parents can look at their newborn and know the name they’ve chosen is the right one. So I’m curious—how do you pick names for your characters? Do you flip through baby books, or keep a catalog of names alphabetically? Do you sound out syllables until they match the feeling you have for the character? Or, do you simply drop them on the page like I do, changing them only if they conflict with your vision of the character?

Please feel free to share your methods in the comment section below. Whether it be for baby names or character names, how do you smell a rose? 🙂

An Idea; the Love Affair

From heaviness sprang an idea

—A tantalizing whisper, a glimmer of thought,

Speeding the pulse and setting the mind afire.

We danced around, back and forth

This idea and I

Circling, panting, and colliding

As though we were meant to be

Two parts together; a whole

We raced into the room

To create, to craft, to burn

Grappling frenziedly as we whispered into each other’s ears

Clothes fluttering to the floor

Exposing our wants, our wishes;

And then we

Pieced together our dreams

Our destiny,

Becoming one in a moment,

Blooming from the confines of our once lonely lives

Into the fire of an idea,

Our idea.

And it was love.


Just thought I’d try something new today…and yes, there’s a little spark of an idea brewing in my mind right now… Can’t wait to see where it leads!

Happy writing, everyone. 🙂

Protected: So You Wondered Why I Joined the Circus…

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Kreativ Blogger Award

I have been nominated for the Kreativ Blogger Award!

Thank you so much to Rebecca Lane Beittel for nominating me. What an honor! Rebecca is a fellow SheWrites member as well as an author of YA Science Fiction and Fantasy. She is currently working on her second novel, Kingdoms of Blood & Magic. Can’t wait to see how it turns out, Rebecca!

The Kreativ Blogger Award has been winding its way around the blogger circuit for a while, as a way for all of us to share our appreciation of one another, as well as to get to know each other a little better. In addition, it’s a fun way for us to promote the great blogs we’re reading to our own followers.

The Kreativ Blogger Award rules state that I must thank my nominator and provide a link to his/her blog, list 7 things that readers might find interesting about me, and nominate 7 other bloggers.

So, here are 7 things about me that might intrigue you…

1. I wanted to be a doctor when I was a teen. Specifically, a neurosurgeon. I even interned at a hospital and sat in on a surgery! Ultimately, I decided that it would get in the way of writing, and that I didn’t want to be in school my whole life…which is somewhat ironic, considering my day job as a teacher puts me in school. For my whole life. 🙂

2. I have friends with names for almost every season. That’s right, I know a Winter, a Summer, and a Skye (she’s practically a Spring, since she has an incredibly refreshing personality). On the one occasion I got them all together, I threatened to call myself Autumn all night!

3. I use to be an aerial rope artist. I get asked about my circus days a bit, so this seemed a great opportunity to share. I started aerial acrobatics at 25 with a wonderful teacher, Rachel Stegman (she has since started a school in Arizona, and I still think she’s the best!). I’d spent the majority of my life behind a book and occasionally running, so when I started, I didn’t have any strength to work with…but eventually, I trained enough to start performing with Rachel and on my own. I also taught 3 to 7 year olds with her in a few summer camps. My focus was the rope (corde lisse is the official term), and I performed in some demos and cabaret-style shows in San Francisco before a wrist injury took me out of practice for about a year. After my recovery period I gave up performing, picked up other apparatuses, and decided to just practice once or twice a week for fun. This also gave me more time to write, so it turned out to be a very good thing!

4. I am obsessed with knee-high socks, leg warmers, high heels, undergarments, post-its, and nail polish. And by obsessed, I mean I have amassed an impressive collection of each. The knee-high socks get worn at home a lot. The leg warmers don’t get quite the circulation anymore since my circus training lessened. I’m always looking for an opportunity to wear heels, because I most certainly won’t wear them to teach. Undergarments are pretty self-explanatory. The post-its decorate my entire kitchen, car, and bathroom vanity with notes-to-self. As for nail polish—name a color and I’m probably wearing it. Really, it’s just all about options with me. 🙂

5. I taught myself to sew at 23. I had some sewing machine help from my mom, but having decided I needed to make a new costume for Renaissance Faire (yes, I worked that for about eight years, too), I set about on a mission to make my own patterns and create my dream costume. I figured I was a math teacher, after all, so the logical brain would pull it all together somehow. I ended up making three beautiful pieces—again, all about the options—and then made shirts, dresses, pants, costumes, baby clothes, underwear, bathing suits…I even considered started a design company.

6. I have seventeen cousins on my mother’s side alone. And this isn’t even counting step-cousins! My mom is one of eight children so I suppose this isn’t so surprising, but it always boggles my mind. As the oldest of all of them, I’ve watched the family grow and grow…and was delighted as I sat with the youngest cousin last year and we realized that we were twenty-five years apart. Oh my!

7. I feel cheated if I don’t have a pancake breakfast on the weekend. I love pancakes, and I also love making them for friends (this habit started in my teen years). At least one day of the weekend, I make blueberry banana pancakes with a big cappuccino and enjoy them before I do anything else. Sometimes I add bacon, and today I ate all three. 🙂 I love breakfast, and I particularly love pancakes!

Okay, enough about me. Here are 7 other bloggers that I’m following and whose work I deeply enjoy. Be sure to check them out:

1. Jessica Vealitzek’s True STORIES: Jessica’s blog is real, emotional, and also fun. She focuses on the encounters we have in real life, and her tales—as well as her voice—are deeply moving.

2. Vanessa Grassi: Vanessa’s blog follows her journey as she writes and moves into publishing. She is extremely thoughtful in her work and I love the way her heart shines through her writing.

3. theRibz* by Ribal Haj: Ribal writes series fiction, short stories, and poetry on his blog. Remember that phrase, “I love it so much I want to marry it”? That’s how I feel about his poetry pieces. I enjoy his longer works as well, but I’m touched by nearly every poem he posts.

4. Ashley Jillian: This gal has more sass and spunk than a leopard print leotard paired with sparkly sequined shoes. (Okay, terrible analogy, but you get the idea.) I’m still not entirely sure how I found her blog, but her humor is undeniable. She’s tearing up the internet world with her comedy and I love every piece.

5. Dr. Shay Fabbro: Author of Scifi and Fantasy: “Dr. Fab” is just that—completely fabulous. She is an author as well as a University Biology professor. Her posts are both caring and sassy, making her blog extremely fun to read. Her latest entry was titled “Building Webs is For Suckas,” so if that doesn’t give you an idea of how much fun you’ll have reading, I don’t know what will. 🙂

6. Kitty’s Inner Thoughts: Catrina Barton’s blog follows her as she “learns the ins and outs of writing, marketing, and publishing.” She’s shared some great finds in her posts, and has done extensive research on many interesting fantasy and SciFi topics.

7. My Lived-in Life: Mike Manz maintains a blog that I started following fairly recently—he also entered a piece in the Once Upon a Time Unexpected Fairy Tale contest—and so far I’m enjoying his positive thoughts. He is a Canadian author living in China, and his blog is both honest and reflective.

So, there you have it folks! 7 random facts, and 7 entertaining blogs for you to investigate. Thank you again to Rebecca, and of course, to my fabulous readers!

Prom Fantasy

Tomorrow, my dear students will be attending our high school’s annual prom. They are abuzz with excitement, of course (or most of them are, anyway; we cannot forget those lucky ones hauled painfully along for the ride). For many adults, the event is one that brings back a slew of mixed memories. Ah, prom. Maybe it was a social scene we rejected, or an incident best left forgotten, but a lot of us can say we were there, awkward or not, and that it had some sort of meaning for us.

Whether we were the odd duck in the corner, watching everyone have fun; the girl who stressed all day over whether her dress looked just right, or if her nails were the wrong shade of pink; the boy who dragged his feet to pick up his not-so-spectacular date who he’d asked out on a dare; the popular kid who just went to hang with her friends because she was bored; the boy who went because his girlfriend finally said yes to the hotel room; or even the sassafras who couldn’t decide, taking two dates to prom—no, no, that wasn’t me, I swear <cough> ;)—there is some piece of the high school memory that we probably recall, and hopefully with smiles on our faces. It is a custom passed down through the generations, a celebration of what it means to be a teenager, and something that we hope they can enjoy as much as we did.

Prom itself is a fantasy, after all. For the girls, it’s often a preparatory process: dress, shoes, hair, nails, and maybe even a jewelry gift from a proud mother, beaming as she sees her daughter fancily dressed for the very first time. For the boys, it can be preparatory in clothes (though I have yet to hear a teenage boy share how excited he is to get dressed up for prom), but also in the pride of perhaps taking that special date on his arm, or even just going to hang with his pals. The corsage, the hotel room, the limo—all of it brings so much delight in a way that has usually never been felt before, an onslaught of glee, dancing, and teenage hormones churning about to music as they celebrate their youth. Inevitable drama will abound, but still the moment will live in each attendee’s memory…for at least a few years. Prom: the fantasy, the fun, and the dream for so many of our children.

So, as my students head out tomorrow night to enjoy their prom, I wish them a wonderful time. Be safe (in all ways, please), have fun, and enjoy your high school prom fantasy. It only happens once.

Or twice. 🙂

Now, for my adult readers—do you have any fun prom memories to share?

Join My Newsletter…and, From Math to English

Two topics for today.

First up: I’ve officially launched my e-newsletter!

The e-newsletter will be used as a way to announce publications and news related to my writing, and in time, it will provide information on appearances and events. It will be sent out about once a month to subscribers and is hosted by Yahoo groups.

To receive the e-newsletter, please send a blank email to: EvaRieder-subscribe@yahoogroups.comYou will receive a confirmation email with instructions shortly after. (Be sure to check your spam folder if you don’t see it within a few hours.) If you have a Yahoo account, you can also go directly to the group to join on-site by clicking here. Please join! You can unsubscribe at any time.

Next up: From Math to English!

While many of you know me as an author, you may not know that I am also a teacher by day. A high school Math teacher, to be precise. However…next year, I will finally make the transition into teaching English! For most of my friends and family members, this information came as no surprise—and more with a stream of comments along the lines of “Well, geez, Eva, it’s about time!” 🙂 While I’ve always been comfortable with and good at Math, I also tended to morph into “English girl” the moment I climbed into my car and drove home to write. So, becoming a hybrid teacher seemed like a good next step.

But how did this decision finally come about after ten years of teaching Math?

I suppose the idea bounced around in the back of my mind rather indirectly over the years, but in truth I believe it came largely from the inspiration I found in my Precalculus students last year, and most heavily from my fourth period class.

Engaging and fun, lively and clever, the class was one of my more memorable ones. I’m still not sure how it happened, but somewhere early on in the year they learned I had written a book. What delighted me was that their interest seemed beyond the traditional distract-the-teacher-from-the-lesson maneuvers when several of them kept asking me about it outside of class. I was honored to know they were interested! After many requests and conversations, I promised my fourth period class that I would have a “book jacket” for them to read by the end of the year.

These students were so enthusiastic—they checked in every few weeks and rooted me on. Having them interested in Eva Rieder the Human as opposed to Eva Rieder the Math Teacher was incredibly flattering and sweet, and so I did indeed share that jacket with them at the end of the year, and their excitement warmed my heart.

Then came the final seal: I had all of my Precalculus classes do a short writing activity to reflect on their experience in the course. In Math, we talk formulas, procedures, strategies, and applications, but we never really get to just talk. Reading the reflections of my four classes—their musings, their interests, and their challenges—was so extraordinarily inspiring; I remember reading them on a bike at the gym (no kidding) and thinking, “THIS! This is what I want to hear from my students. I want more of this!”

The very next day I decided to move over to English, a career change that would allow me to learn more about my students and the way they think, and that would also partner smoothly with my writing passion.

Teaching something so dramatically different will certainly require some adjustment; nonetheless, I am thrilled for the change. To be clear, I would never have gotten to this decision as easily as I did if it hadn’t been for about 92 wonderful, inspiring Precalculus kids.

So for all those students, I would like to send out a giant thank you. I’ve never felt so lucky to have such great kids in my classes!

Wishing everyone success with all their reading, writing, and number-crunching! 🙂


To subscribe to Eva Rieder’s e-Newsletter, please email:

Quoth The Raven

After a particularly long and stressful week, I decided there was exactly one thing I wanted to do last night: go see The Raven.

I’ve always had a special place in my heart for Edgar Allan Poe. The 19th century dark poet and author was one whose work I treasured in high school because I tended to favor the romantic lyricism of his work, as well as his gory imagination. I admit that my previously shared flair for the dramatic didn’t hurt my fascination with the man, either.

So, walking into the theatre, this deep adoration had me hoping James McTeigue’s direction of The Raven would delight me as much as Roland Emmerich’s did in Anonymous last year (great movie, if you haven’t checked it out yet). Though I think the cinematography of The Raven was lovely—the period thriller is set in 1849 Baltimore, a time of colorful and decadent wardrobes, quaint horse-drawn carriages, and bleakly dark cobblestone streets—and the concept was clever, the movie did not quite meet my expectations. The admirable John Cusack seemed believable as a goateed Poe at first, but I soon found myself put off by some of his attempts to speak in the style of his character. In all honesty, I think most of the actors came across that way—their acting seemed fine, but something about their dialogue didn’t click. In Anonymous, I never felt uncomfortable with or aware of the actors’ Shakespearean dialects; here, I felt everyone struggled, spending more of their focus on attempting to command the romantic language than acting their parts. Blood spewing violence aside, I felt the movie had a unique idea that could have been a little bit clearer, and perhaps needed more depth.

Fortunately, I have a knack for enjoying most movies, even those that leave a bad taste in my mouth. Despite my criticism of The Raven, I did find some prettiness embedded in it—namely, the frequent quoting of Poe’s stories as he connected the serial killer to his artistry. If for no other reason, I enjoyed the movie for bringing Poe’s language to the screen and into the ears of a new audience.

Now for some fun: mesh a flair for the dramatic with a love of Poe and a 14-year-old girl, and what do you get? Some really over-the-top poetry. When I arrived home last night, I remembered Poe’s “The Tell-Tale Heart” and “The Raven” once inspired an intensely mad work of my own. Since it’s always good to poke some fun at oneself, and for your amusement, I thought I’d share a piece that a 14-year-old me wrote for a high school English class—and which my teacher found so dramatic, he actually read it aloud to the class, complete with wild hand gestures…Oh boy. Hold on tight, folks, there’s some real teen angst in this one:



What brought it on?

Was it the anguish inside or

Was it the torture on the outside?

Did the cold nights of loneliness

With the terrible insomnia

Of the pain for tomorrow

Bring it about?

Was it rejection, and the feelings

You threw harshly at me?

Maybe it was blackness

That burnt through my window,

Burning until nothing was left

But a shriveled, diminutive

Shell of what I had once been,

Forcing me into eternal insanity.

You laugh at the torture

I must withstand,

But oh!

How you bring it on, let it continue.

Stop this pain you cause me!

Don’t laugh!  No!

Hold me!  Love me!

Be as you once were.

Halt your squalid words,

Your painful ideas.

Don’t grin at me;

So insolent and deluding.

Deceiving and conniving,

Stop it!  Please!

You’re calloused and shrewd.

What caused it?

And in your insinuating actions,

Your insubordinate ways,

Do you realize a

Part of me tears away?

I’m going mad.

You caused it.

You’ve torn my heart to shreds, but

You keep laughing

With your gimlet eyes

Shooting impetuous hatred

My way.


The pain is

Causing me great


So stop!

You’ve pinioned me against

A wall of thorns

And you won’t release me


You won’t tell me either!

Stop it, please!

My will to live is gone!

I don’t exist.

I’m just not here.


It won’t be long.

You’ve killed my heart,

You’ve killed my soul.

You keep on killing

And you won’t let go.

Your passion to

Hurt me

Is driving me mad;

I’m declining

In more ways than one.

I’m nautious

With your treatment;

Steadily vomiting your putrid

Love out of my system.

But it won’t all leave.

No, it’s still there,

But covered with your madness.

Your madness

My madness,

You’ve given it to me

Like a plague, a disease.

I’m crying out,

Unplug your ears

I love you, please!

I’ve lost my will

I can’t hold on

Save me from this death

You’ve left me mad and insane.

And now…

I’m gone.


Wow. There’s probably a reason I switched to fantasy and contemporary fiction instead of poetry… 🙂

If you would like to read more about Edgar Allan Poe, please check out the Edgar Allan Poe Museum or You can also read more of Poe’s work at

Have a great weekend, everyone!

Anatomy of a Broken Heart

All right, time to get back onto my more traditional blog schedule…and today I’d like to take a slight detour from my usual themes.

I’ve come to learn a lot of things about myself over the years—I can talk a lot, I can be impatient, I have a slight flair for the dramatic, and I can get a little snappy on occasion, et cetera, et cetera (who needs to hear more flaws, seriously?)—despite all this, there is one thing I know for certain: I’m incredibly protective of my friends, and when they hurt, I turn all mama-hen and want to take care of them. It can be as simple as an ear on the phone, or maybe it’s an ongoing attempt to supply cookies everyday for a week. Others it’s heavier-duty, requiring me to threaten to throw myself in front of an oncoming bus or duke it out with a 6’5″ male (I should mention I’m 5 foot 6 and a measly half)—the point is, I’d do just about anything to help a friend in need, because watching the hurt of someone dear can often be more upsetting than hurting for your own reasons.

So, you may ask, where is this going? Since I’m not a fairy godmother with the ability to wave my wand and fix things, I can want to make it better…but it is also important to recognize that everyone must experience his or her own pain, even if it’s something we’ve already felt ourselves. And though there are many shared experiences among us humans, one of those emotional things we all eventually have to trudge through is the end of love.

Crushes, puppy love, teenage love, casual love, tragic love, transformative love, or just true, real love—we all know about it, we’ve felt it, we may even hunt it. There are thousands of songs written about it, stories told about it, movies made about it, and dreams formed over it. Love, the power of love, the ache of love…all of it can be momentous, deeply gratifying, and ever so joyful. Remember that first crush? So sweet, so real, but eventually, it ended. And then there was the next one, and the next one…many of them ending and mourned, and then of course followed by the oft bitter sting of a broken heart.

Sometimes it’s just a headache, others, it’s a 2×4 with a plethora of jagged, rotting nails slammed painfully into your gut. Repeatedly. It hurts! It stinks! It can make you wail into your pillow, slam a fist into a wall, eat more garbage than one should possibly, reasonably consume, or even just wish you’d found a better brand of waterproof mascara. The anatomy of a broken heart is a mixed and troublesome one, eventually marking us with something unforgettable: that one time, that one person, that one deeply horrible pain that left us grieving for too many days and nights…

But from darkness springs morning, and there comes that one day where we wake up, stretch our arms gleefully above our heads, and climb out of bed thinking that today is that day. The day that we can learn to smile again. To embrace a new future, a new happiness, and to forget all that pain and agony we just felt. Each time, the end may have hurt even more—but every time, we recognize the sensation and may get over it a little faster, or grow from it a little sooner. We begin to identify the things that didn’t work and how to avoid them in the future. We find a way to take what went so, so wrong and use it in the future to make something so much more right.

I am by no means an expert on love. Far, far, far from it. (Did I mention far?) I’ve been kicked in the teeth like all the rest, sometimes so badly I didn’t think I’d recover, others so terribly I’ve been scared away for a long time—but truth be told, all of those bad experiences were something I learned from, trials that made me who I am and what I want to be. They made me embrace what I really want, whether in life or in love, and to let go of all the garbage that didn’t work in the past. There is no dismissing the pain of a broken heart, its pulsing, beating agony spreading tainted love through your veins and making you sick with hurt and anger—but eventually, it all melts away and leaves you anew, fresh to find something better, more wonderful…and, first and foremost, seeking that peace in yourself to love you before anyone else.

We’re all searching a little something in this world, our own happiness and contentment, joy and love. There are definitely some bumps and detours along the way, tiny spikes in the road that cause us a bit of agony—but eventually, we’ll find our way there.

In the meantime, we may just need to remind ourselves to keep our chins up, our friends close, and a big, delicious pint of ice cream in the freezer.

Much love to all, and a giant hug for my friend.

On Christopher Pike, Young Adult Thriller Extraordinaire

Last week, I noticed a large book on my best friend’s coffee table: Remember Me, the trilogy. Despite the fact that she’d bought it several weeks earlier with me at her side, I still squealed when I saw it, quickly scooping it up and clutching it tenderly to my chest. “Oh…” I sighed. “Have I told you how much this book means to me? I love Christopher Pike.” She’d already heard this story at least three times, but since her mother was in town and sitting next to me on the couch, I continued gushing for five straight minutes about an author who happens to be my ultimate hero.

You see, long ago, I was a little girl with a taste for books that exceeded my love of ice cream (and that’s saying a lot). All I did was read, read, read, and in doing so, I rapidly outgrew the books in my age range. My friend Carrie had a similar problem, and one afternoon when we were ten, while my mom sang along to the car stereo and we talked quietly in the back seat, Carrie handed me a brand new paperback and leaned close to my ear.

The cover that caught my eye—and started a long-running reading obsession.

“You can’t tell your mom,” she said. I grabbed the book, a brightly colored paperback with a dead girl on the cover and the most interesting, violent-looking font screaming the title and the author’s name across the cover.

Christopher Pike. Remember Me.

“I like his name. What’s it about?” I flipped the book over, scanning the blurb on the back before I gasped aloud. “Oh wow! This looks so neat!”

“He’s great,” Carrie said. “But I think it’s supposed to be for older kids. My mom didn’t want me to read it, so I bought it. I have more, too.”

I smiled, sticking the book in my bag so that I could start reading it as soon as I got home. Carrie had already introduced me to V.C. Andrews—an author whose work was most definitely NOT for kids—so I kept this little secret between us.

That is, until I decided Christopher Pike was the most genius writer I’d ever come across, and then I just had to tell my parents about the amazing plots he created. Thankfully, they knew I had a good sense of right, wrong, and reality, and since my mother had a love of scary movies, it all worked out pretty well. (I still kept the V.C. Andrews to myself.)

Within about six weeks, I’d read all six of Pike’s previously published books. I carried them with me everywhere, terrified by the thrill-ride on every page and yet delighted with the themes written upon them. Here was an author who wrote about teens in a mature, honest manner, but in an unusually addictive way. He never dumbed down the content; instead he let all his characters run wild in completely shocking plots. They lived on the edge—they drank, they smoked, they had sex (or they knew about other teens having sex, because their virginal naivety actually managed to be their fatal flaw). I rooted for every character, even the seriously bad ones: there were teens torturing their loved ones, teens who found monsters while drinking in the woods, teens who somehow found a mental link to ancient goddesses, teens who happened to be ancient creatures, and teens who had mythical origins and thus transformed into clawed predatory beasts! And of course, there were some plain old classically terrifying teens who just killed their classmates.

It really didn’t matter what they were doing—Pike wrote his teens from an adult point of view and let them do bad stuff, while still crafting a compelling and well-written story.

I was so enthralled with his concepts I kept right on reading, eagerly awaiting every next book’s release date. Some of them were so good, I read them twice in a row. Chain Letter (1986), Spellbound (1988), Scavenger Hunt (1989), Witch (1990), and my absolute favorite, Whisper of Death (1991) were some of the titles I wouldn’t stop talking about. Somehow, the man wrote three or four books a year (!), and I collected them like candy, enjoying the long row of paperbacks across my bookshelf; each of them had the same neon-colored binding and scratch-style font that had captured my heart, and I treasured my collection all through middle school and into the start of high school. I even wrote fan mail, telling Mr. Pike how superb I thought he was, and that I loved him. I might even have offered to marry him.

Whatever I said in those letters, I do remember what he made me feel: an excitement for reading, an unparalleled transfixion to every work, and most importantly, a passion for the art of writing and an inspiration to start writing on my own. Christopher Pike is, after all, the very reason I have a young adult horror manuscript tucked safely away in my fire safe box, awaiting the day I might decide to continue working on it.

In the 90s, Pike released some adult stories that I also read—Sati and Season of Passage, to name a couple—but his true voice really echoed with teenagers. He wrote a collection called Spooksville for a younger audience that I never read, but not surprisingly, the books in it were also a big hit. At some point I learned a little more about Mr. Pike, which is actually not that much: his real name is Kevin Christopher McFadden, and he is incredibly elusive and private about his life. Even while researching for this post, I didn’t find much else on him except for a plethora of fan bloggers—and there are tons of us, all inspired by a vast collection of incredible books we read in our impressionable youth.

As an adult, I get tingles whenever I pass the work of Christopher Pike at the bookstore. I run my fingers over the spines, hoping that today’s readers are enjoying them at least half as much as I did. No matter what your age, if you’ve never read a Christopher Pike book, I highly encourage you to do so. You can find a complete listing of his works here: Works by the Amazing Christopher Pike

I’ve reread a few pieces over the years, and have also kept up on the occasional adult novel he’s released—but now that my friend has Remember Me, I’m tempted to move my entire to-read stack aside and instead reread every book by the man who inspired me with his phenomenal thriller work.

That said, I think I’m going to pick up an old classic from Barnes and Noble this weekend. 🙂

Happy reading, everyone!

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