Readers: February 27th: Apologies for the scattered posting that's about to come during the next week or so. University has just started and I have a lot of work to do to get on top of things (and ahead!). Thanks for your patience, as always.

Publishers: I promise I'm not abandoning the lovely review copies you've sent!
I'm getting through them and the reviews will come eventually!

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Valentine's Blog Event: Exclusive Scene - Epic Fail by Claire LaZebnik

I'm really excited to share this will you all today. What have I got in my hot little hands? An exclusive scene from Epic Fail. That's right....Claire wrote it from scratch just for us! And it's the most darn adorable thing... <3 Nothing like a sweet Valentine's story to melt your heart, huh?

If you haven't read this book, I strongly suggest you do so. A seriously entertaining romance with equal doses of humour and conflict. Do I need to persuade you with my review

I promise you'll fall in love with Derek Edwards! If you like this teaser you'll most definitely enjoy the actual book ;) Swoon away!

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“Whose idea was it to put Valentine’s Day in mid-February anyway?” I moaned to anyone who would listen.  “Why didn’t they stop to think about high school seniors who might be dating college freshmen?  Why couldn’t they have scheduled it during winter break? What genius picked February 14?”
I couldn’t really blame people for rolling their eyes and moving away from me when I was going on like that.  I knew it wasn’t exactly a logical complaint, but in early February I was in no mood to be logical.  Derek had gone back to Stanford over a month ago, and even though we’d spent most of his holiday break together—which had been pretty wonderful—I was facing not only a long and lonely stretch until his spring break when I’d finally be seeing him again, but also a dateless Valentine’s Day.

It’s not like we hadn’t made a plan.  We had.  A plan that involved our two laptops (my parents had finally bowed to necessity and gotten me and Juliana our own computers last summer), matching TV dinners, and wine glasses that we could pretend to click against each other on our screens.

Yeah, I know.  Pathetic.

But it was our only option.
It would have helped if I’d had Juliana to commiserate with, but she was at Wesleyan and Chase was at Yale with a car, so he’d be picking her up exactly at seven on Valentine’s Day and whisking her off to some lovely Connecticut restaurant.   She tried to be sympathetic, but it wasn’t the same as having someone to share the misery with.
Layla tried to fill that vacancy and, true to form, only made things worse.
I don’t have a date on Valentine’s Day either,” she pointed out when I was feeling particularly low a couple of days before the holiday.  “It’s humiliating.”

“No, it’s not,” I said.  “Most people don’t at your age.”

“Yes, they do!”  She flipped her fingers at my face.  “Stop acting like I’m like three years old!”

“Okay, fine, I’m sorry.  It’s just—it’s worse when you actually have a boyfriend who you can’t be with than just not having a date.”

She rolled her eyes.  “Oh, yeah, it’s much worse to have a famous, good-looking boyfriend who goes to Stanford and is totally into you and texts and video-chats with you constantly and just can’t make one stupid dinner.  That sounds awful.  How do you survive all that misery?

She was annoying . . . but she also had a point.  I shut up.

The night before V-Day, I studied Derek’s handsome face on my laptop screen and said with a sigh, “It feels like you’re ten million miles away.”           

“Only a few hundred.”

I made a face at him.  “You know, it would help if you seemed sadder about this.”

He shrugged.  “Sorry, Elise, but Valentine’s Day just isn’t that big a deal to me.  It’s always seemed a little manufactured.  The important thing is to be together whenever we can, not to stress about the times that we can’t.  Right?”  He tilted his head toward me.

I forced a smile.  “Yeah.  I know it’s a stupid made-up holiday.  I’m just being greedy and missing you.”

“Me too you.  Which is why we’re going to eat dinner together tomorrow night, right?”

I made air quotes with my fingers.  “'Together.’”

“Technology is our friend.   I’ll call you at seven to set up the videochat, okay?”

I nodded, and then he said a few things that made me feel better about everything, and I said a few things back to him that made him grin--which also made me feel better about everything--and then we said goodnight until the next day.

The next afternoon I did a practice run on my make-up right after school so I could get Juliana’s opinion on it before she took off on her own date.  “Nice,” she said once we were online together.  “Go a little deeper on the blush and a little lighter on the lipstick.  And use some of that highlighter I gave you—just a touch at the top of your cheekbones and under your eyebrows.  Are you going to wear your hair like that?”

“What do you think?”  I gathered it in my hands and piled it on top of my head.  “This better?”

“Depends on what you wearing.”  

“Nothing special--he’s only going to see my shoulders and the picture’s always so grainy—“

“Yeah, I know,” she said.  “But put on a nice dress anyway.”


“Because you’ll feel prettier and that will make the whole thing more special.  It’s like smiling when you’re saying something nice on the phone.  People can’t see it but it changes how you sound.”  She tapped her finger against her chin.  “Seriously, Elise, if you’re going to do a pretend dinner together, you have to commit to the idea, dress like you’re really going out somewhere nice.  Like he’s taking you to ---“  She stopped.  “Where would you want to go if he were actually taking you out?  The Ivy? Providence? Craft?”

I made a face.  “No, nothing like that.  Those are the kind of places Derek’s mother likes to go.”

“I wouldn’t say no to them either.”

“I would.  They’re all . . .  too much.  Too fancy, too Hollywood.  Honestly, Jules, I’d rather go get a burger at In-N-Out with Derek than do something like that.

She raised her eyebrows skeptically.  “In-N-Out?”

“Okay, maybe that’s an exaggeration.  But you know . . . just somewhere small and quiet, where no one knows who Derek’s parents are.  Like that little Italian restaurant in the Palisades that we went to on my birthday. I’d go back there in a second.”

“Okay, fine.  Pretend that’s where you’re going, then, and put on high heels and a great dress.  And then even if you’re just sitting in your room at home, you’ll feel like you’re on a date.”

“Or really really stupid.”

“Give it a try.”  She glanced around.  “I’ve got to go, Lee-Lee.  Chase is going to be here any minute and I still need to figure out which shoes to wear.

“You look fantastic, by the way.”

She fluttered her eyelids at me.  “Hope he agrees.”

“Oh, like there’s even a chance he won’t.  Have a great time, Jules.”  I meant it: she was the one person in the world I hoped would have a good Valentine’s Day celebration, even if I couldn’t.

No, wait—there were two other people.  

I had talked Dad into taking Mom out for dinner tonight.  I’d even made the reservations, since Dad’s hopeless at that kind of thing.  They’d both been working hard and the stress wasn’t helping anyone in the family.  I figured a quiet, calm dinner away from Layla and Katilyn’s arguing would do them good.

Don’t nominate me for sainthood yet: I also wanted them out of the way so I could talk to Derek in peace.  I’d be up in my room, but if Mom were home, she’d probably come bursting in and start waving at Derek on the screen and asking him how his mother was and stuff like that.  Far better to pack her safely off with Dad.

So at 6:45 I ushered them out the door and told them to have a wonderful time and restrained myself from pointing out that Mom’s light gray blouse should never have been paired with the brown skirt she was wearing.  Dad wasn’t going to notice.  I doubt the awful blue and white pumps were going to register on him either.

I told Layla and Kaitlyn they could watch whatever they wanted on the downstairs TV so long as they left me alone, threw a frozen lasagna into the microwave, and ran upstairs to my room.  I felt silly changing my clothing but I knew what Juliana meant: if I wore my favorite tight black dress—the one Derek had once told me was “very distracting”—our pretend date would feel more real than if I just sat there in my jeans.  Plus everyone else in the world was getting ready to go out somewhere special: I wanted to be part of all that excitement.

I didn’t put on nice shoes though.  There was only so far I’d go for a video-chat.  

I’d already washed and blown out my hair and now I redid my make-up the way Juliana had told me to, and of course she was right about every bit of it.  It’s kind of her superpower.

Almost seven.  I ran down, put the lasagna on a plate, got a fork and a napkin, and filled my wineglass with sparkling cider.  I yelled to Layla and Kaitlyn not to bug me for the next hour—“no, make that two”—and was just bringing it all to my room when the house phone rang.  I put the food on my desk and ran to my parents’ bedroom to answer the phone.

“Hey,” Derek said.  “Just checking in.  Wasn’t sure if I could call on your cell.”

“You could have—my parents are out—but it doesn’t matter.  You ready?”

“Just give me five more minutes to get all set up and I’ll start the chat.”

“I’ll be waiting.”

Back in my room, I sat down at my desk, arranged the food in front of the laptop, briefly turned on Photo Booth so I could test which angle was most flattering—okay, obsessing much?  But I had time to waste, so why not?—pulled my hair in front of my shoulders because it looked good that way, and then waited for Derek’s chat request to come through.

That was, of course, when Layla started screaming her head off.

“E-lise!  E-lise!  I need you!  Kaitlyn’s being a pain in the butt!”

“I am not!” Kaitlyn yelled.  “She’s the one being a pain.  Elise, you have to come down right now!  You won’t believe what Layla just did!”

“What I just did?  Don’t pin this one on me!”

I opened my bedroom door and stuck my head out into the hallway.  “I will kill you both if you don’t leave me alone.  I asked for one hour of peace!”

“You’ll get your stupid peace if you just come down for one second!” Layla shouted back up.  “One little second!  And then you can have all the peace and quiet you want!”

“I better!”   It’s hard to stomp down the stairs when you’re barefoot, but I managed it.  I reached the bottom and turned toward the back hallway. “This is it, guys.  Exactly one second and then—“

But whatever threat I was about to make died on my lips.

Because standing there, flanked by a very smug Layla and a very delighted Kaitlyn, was a familiar handsome face and a familiar tall, strong body.

“Hey,” Derek said and handed me an enormous bouquet of roses.

“Are you surprised, Lee-Lee?” Kaitlyn jumped in eagerly.  “Are you?  Are you?  We let him in.  He arranged it all with us ahead of time so you wouldn’t know.  Were you surprised?  Really really surprised?  Really really really--”

“And we’ve had to listen to you complaining constantly,” Layla cut in.  “All that moaning and whining and we knew the whole time that Derek was coming.  Don’t you feel stupid now?”

“Stupid is not exactly how I’d describe it,” I said.

“How then?” asked Derek.

Blown away works.”  I dropped the flowers on the side table and threw my arms around his neck.  “I’m so glad you’re here!  But how did you do it?”

He held me tight. “Friend of my dad’s has a small plane.”

“Well, of course.”  My laugh was a little shaky.  “Whose father doesn’t have a friend with a small plane?”

He pulled back so he could look down into my face, his dark eyes searching mine out.  “I had to be here tonight. Didn’t I?”

“You did,” I said.  “You totally did. “  A thought occurred to me.  “Hey, did Juliana know about this?”

“Of course.  She helped me arrange everything.”

“That explains why she was so determined to get me to dress up!  I’m glad she did.”

“I’m glad she did too.  That’s my favorite dress.  Perfect for where we’re going—Layla’s going to babysit, so you and I can out to dinner, at that Italian place in the Palisades.”

“Did Jules tell you that was where I wanted to go?”

He gave a sheepish nod.

“And you got a reservation?  At the last moment on Valentine’s Day?”

He squirmed a little.  “I may have used my mom’s publicist to book it. . . . I was planning to take you to the Ivy, but Juliana called and said this is what you really wanted.  Hope she was right.”

“Like a thousand times over.”

That won me one of those slow, sweet smiles, the kind that came so seldom when we were around other people, which is why I valued them so highly.   “Let’s go then,” was all Derek said.

My man of few words.

“I’m ready.”

He glanced down at my bare feet.  “You sure about that?”

I laughed and shook my head.  “I’m not ready.”

I ran upstairs and stuck my feet into a pair of strappy high heels.  Then I was ready.  We said goodnight to the girls and left the house.

Once we were outside, with the door safely closed behind us, Derek stopped and looked at me.  “See,” he said, “the thing about video-chatting is that you can’t do this.”  He bent over me.  “Happy Valentine’s Day, Elise,” he whispered.  And then his lips found mine.

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Tell me you're not in love! I want a Derek... Did you all have a nice Valentine's yesterday? ;)

If you're a fan of Jennifer L. Armentrout, hop over to Brodie's blog for a character interview with Aiden and Alex! All other posts from this event can be found here, as well as the form for the Comment Giveaway.


I spy with my little eye...something beginning with...T? No, not really! It's just a letter from the scavenger hunt! All of the letters from Part 1 have been posted up (you can still collect them until the end of this month), but Part 2 has just started! Be sure to check out whichever hunt you're up to to see the instructions so you can enter the big giveaway!
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