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.
MY DELETED SCENE:
The late bell rings and I find myself in a deserted hallway, but that’s fine by me. It gives me a chance to take it all in. Lockers line the walls interspersed with classroom doors and corkboards displaying announcements, rules, and awards. The main office isn’t hard to find, but before I enter, I pause and take a deep breath.
The two women behind the tall desk dividing the room are so deep in their own conversation they both seem incredibly startled to see someone come through the door. Or maybe they find me startling. They’re an odd pair, the closer one so thin it looks like she’d break in a strong wind and the other one is large enough to make it justifiably questionable she’d survive running a mile. I keep my eyes down as I step up to the desk, concentrating on making a good impression. That’s not easy when the first things people notice are my height, the scars on my arms, and my pitch black eyes. Usually in that order.
As the office assistants guide me through the necessary forms and regulations, an increasingly annoying tingling sensation climbs up my spine and down my arms. The last time I felt like this was just before being jumped by two idiots with knives and one with a 9mm and a twitchy trigger finger. Without this slight warning, I would have died instead of simply adding a gunshot graze and two knife wounds to my collection of scars. But I’m not in the alleys of Trenton. What could possibly be lying in wait for me here?
When I finally hand over the last of my paperwork, the skinny secretary, Ms. Laurel, begins to give me instructions, but the sound of the door opening pulls my attention away. Automatically, I tense, hating my vulnerable position, but forcing myself to hold it. I’m not in Trenton, I remind myself. No one is going to attack me here. No one has a reason to attack me here. Not yet, anyway.
“That should be your mentor now,” Laurel says, apparently oblivious to my distress. I don’t turn, happy to put off the inevitable for another minute, so I’m watching Laurel as her smile dims and her eyes widen. Mrs. Quinn has frozen with a baby carrot halfway to her mouth, staring at person at the door.
“Oh, dear.” Laurel glances at Mrs. Quinn and hisses in the loudest whisper ever, “Can we really expect her to mentor anyone? She hasn’t said a word in four years! It never even crossed my mind they’d put her name on the list, bless her heart.”
A mute? Awesome. Maybe I’ll be able to escape the usual ritualistic grilling. Still, I feel a little bad for this girl. Why are they talking about her like she isn’t standing right behind me? Maybe she’s deaf. I don’t remember much sign language. It doesn’t matter right now, though, ‘cause I can’t ignore the growing certainty that I’m standing under the sword of Damocles.
Wait... A mute?
The image of the blonde girl silenced with a pink ribbon fills my vision. Can it be this easy? Am I really going to get this lucky for once in my life? I want to turn around and find out, but I make myself hold my position. I’m too amped up now. If I turn around before I get myself under control I’ll either latch onto her until she tells me what I want or have to face the disappointment of finding out this isn’t the girl I’m looking for.
“Mariella, sweetie, this is the newest addition to our honors program.”
Mariella. The name slams around my head like the clapper in a bell. Laurel is speaking directly to the girl, so she’s not deaf. But she’s also talking to Mariella like she might not understand English, slow and over-annunciated.
“His name is Hudson and he just moved here from… I’m sorry, Hudson, where was it?”
My backpack starts sliding off my shoulder. I pull it back up before placing my hands on the counter, turning my right hand palm up and staring at my brother’s initials on my wrist trying to ignore the ugly blue glow. My muscles are tensing, preparing for disappointment or danger, just in case.
“Don’t worry about it,” I tell Laurel. “I’m sure she doesn’t care.”
I expect Laurel to argue my dismissiveness, but she frowns and shakes her head. Standing up, she beckons me closer and whispers even louder than last time, “Mariella is a very bright girl, but she has trouble connecting with people.” She heaves a sigh and shrugs. “I don’t know how you’re going to communicate with her. Silent for so long, the poor dear.”
Poor dear indeed, if only for having to listen to some office assistant pass judgment on her. But at the same time, everything Laurel tells me makes me even more sure this is the girl I’m looking for. This is the person who can help me find a way back into the dreamworld. I prepare to say something to take the heat off her—I don’t know what, just something—when a light tapping noise from behind me makes Laurel and Quinn spaz like frightened cats. Conversely, it allows me to relax just a little. I don’t know what she did to make them jump like that, but good for her. I hope she flipped them off.
It takes Laurel a minute to refocus. Her gaze keeps darting to Mariella.
“This should be everything you need,” she whispers, this time quietly. Maybe because she finally remembers being mute doesn’t make someone deaf or stupid. “Good luck. You just let us know if you need anything, honey.”
I thank them and roll up the paperwork since I can follow Mariella from class to class. Now, the only thing left to do is face the music. I take a deep breath, turn around, and say hello to clue number three.
There’s no way the woman I saw at the supermarket yesterday isn’t Mariella’s mother. They’re practically clones of each other. But the physical features are where the resemblance ends.
Mariella is wearing baggy jeans three or four sizes too big and her shirt is hidden by a black hoodie I probably can fit into with her still inside it. Headphones hang out of the neck of the hoodie and she’s holding a composition book in her hand, but she doesn’t have a backpack. Mariella's wheat-gold hair seems dull, but it’s hard to tell since it’s all wrapped up in a hairdo I’d expect to see at a prom. Her skin is too pale, her lips too white, and her eyes too wide and glazed.
But none of that matters compared to what I see glowing against her skin. If I’m a smurf, this girl is an orange. No. Not even. It looks like she walked out of a horror movie. She’s on fire, burning from the inside out.
Was everything in my dream literal? The sign, the trees, the ribbon, and now the flames eating this girl alive. I’ve never seen another victim of the demons, but even when I was fully under their spell, I don’t think I ever glowed as bright as this girl. I blink to lower a dampening filter over my vision, protecting my eyes from the glare of the light she throws off. As soon as I do, though, I realize it might not have been the best idea.
Underneath the pallor, underneath the orange mist caressing her skin like the flames in my dreams, Mariella is gorgeous. I remember the end of the dream, the girl I pulled out of the blaze. I remember the expression in her eyes as she tore at the ribbon embedded in her skin. I thought I saw her clearly in the dream, but it can’t compare to standing this close and looking directly into her eyes. My heart stops. I stop breathing. Time stops. Lush, full lips under a small nose and overlarge eyes. Her porcelain-like appearance contradicts the set of her chin and tells me she may not be the fragile flower she looks like. She is built to smile and tease and laugh, but I bet she’s practically forgotten how. Just like I have.
She jerks back just a little as her eyes meet mine, sticks her hand in her pocket, and grips onto something that intensifies that sickening light tenfold. Even through my dampening filter, the light intensifies a lot, the strongest glow centered around her pocket. The glass nightingale, maybe? If this girl is still sucking energy from the dreamworld, she isn’t going to be much help. Whatever she knows will be locked inside her head and she’ll be watched by the demons twenty-four/seven.
If I look only at her eyes, I can almost see who she used to be. I can remember the girl in the dream who fought against the ties binding her and I can picture the woman from the supermarket, living her life with that unbearable sadness eating away at her. It takes me a moment to shake myself free of the spell Mariella seems to have thrown over me. Luckily, only a second has passed and neither of the office assistants has noticed anything odd. Yet.
“I know you two will manage,” Laurel says. Trying to make the best of it, I guess. “Mariella may be quiet, but I’m sure you two will find something in common.”
I can’t tear my eyes away from her. I’m a passing asteroid sucked into orbit around a planet. Every instinct in my body screams at me to tear that token away from her and save her from the demons plaguing her dreams. I want to, but I can already see it isn’t going to be that simple. But when has anything in my life been simple?
“I have a feeling you're more right than you know,” I manage to say.
My Deleted Scene Q&A:
1. I love this scene. Why did you delete it (obvious question I know)? It is so
descriptive and insightful. I love how Mariella is described in such a negative way
by the people who are supposed to really know her yet how Hudson knows her so
well but does not know her personally. I would read the book based on this deleted
It’s a great question! And highly relevant considering the purpose of the tour.
Unfortunately it’s absolutely impossible for me to pinpoint one particular reason that this scene was cut. Mostly, this scene was lost because it no longer fit the needs of the story. When Spencer Hill bought the book and the editing process began, everything changed.
It’s funny that you specifically mentioned the negative way the other people spoke about
Mari because that was one of the major things we changed! In fact, no character in the book has changed more than Mariella. In early versions, I worked very hard to make her distant and disoriented, but she basically came off as (more than a little bit of) a b*t*h.
Unlikable characters are one thing, but there’s definitely a tipping point where it becomes too much. There are also certain types of unlikable that readers aren’t willing to accept.
In the beginning, Mari was one of those. It had to be fixed and fixing it wasn’t easy.
In addition to the work we did on her, subplots were removed, timelines were changed, and a lot of the “hows” behind the construction of the story changed. Hudson still moved to Swallow’s Grove looking for a girl he saw in his dream, but meeting on the first day of school no longer worked with the new elements I needed to add. Their first meeting is still jarring and tense and fraught wit strange signs and emotions, but it takes place at Mariella’s house instead of at school. Add all of that together and this version of their first meeting had to go.
2. What inspires your work? Do you listen to music, have a muse, do you have
a "voice" in your head that helps you write (which I think is really really cool)?
Inspiration can really come from anywhere. The original concept for The Dream War
Saga came from song lyrics. Another book came from the idea of two people meeting
somewhere weird like a fire escape, and a different book evolved out of a question
lingering in my mind about what society would look like if aggression were not only
expected but completely normalized within a culture. That’s one of the great things about inspiration—anything can trigger it! Conversations with friends, trips you take, photos, events you witness...the list is endless!
As for how I write, it depends on the day! Sometimes I listen to music (classical is
best when I’m really trying to concentrate because otherwise I get distracted by the
lyrics), sometimes I watch movies or TV in the background (usually only things I’ve
seen more than a few times so I can fight the urge to really watch it), or I go to a coffee shop/café type place where I can work with the low level distraction of other people around. I probably should have a routine, but every time I get one something happens to completely disrupt it! Luckily laptops make it easy to adjust. ;)
3. How does the book you are writing affect your personal life? Does it consume
you? Do you live through your characters?
Deadlines are definitely consuming. And when you’re aiming for a career in an industry like this, you need to work consistently (if not constantly). Add those two up with my natural tendency toward introversion and reclusion and....yeah. What personal life?
Besides TDWS books, I’m also working on several other projects that are in various
stages of completion. I wrote the first two books of a contemporary series with my friend Lani Woodland, I have a fantasy series I’m honing, and right now I’m working on a thriller with lots of guns and explosions. With all of this plus my day job...yeah. My
books most definitely consume my personal life. Luckily, I have some amazing friends
and family who understand that my work weeks aren’t normal 40-hour weeks. They cut me a lot of slack when I disappear on them for weeks at a time.
4. What is the worst character you have written but had to write?
Like morally horrible or just awful to write because they gave me a hard time?
Mariella definitely gave me a hard time. No matter how hard I tried, getting the right
balance for her character just wouldn’t work! It took a lot of work and many drafts until
I found something that worked. There’s also a contemporary novel I want to write that
straddles the NA/Adult line that would have a really incredibly morally horrible character in it, one that will be especially hard for me personally to write. Since that hasn’t happened yet, the Balasura are definitely the most straight-up evil characters I’ve written.
They’re selfish in ways that no other character I’ve written or imagined could possibly
5. During this scene, Hudson seems almost hypnotized by Mariella. Do you regret
deleting this scene? Could this have made an impact to the overall storyline?
You picked up on a lot of small details! Hudson is definitely enthralled here. He still is to an extent in the final version, but you’re picking up on subplots and layers and elements from this version that didn't carry through to the published product. While this version is definitely sentimental for a lot of reasons (early version of my first published book! Early version of my babies!), I don’t regret the changes I made here. They needed to happen.
The changes I made in the beginning created a ripple that moved through the entire book and when the edits were done I ended up with a much better product than I ever could have imagined. It’s fun to look back on the early editions, and it’s even more fun to share them with readers, but I regret nothing. ;)
Goodreads link: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/16044329-sing-sweet-nightingale?from_search=true
Dream War Saga Website: http://thedreamwarsaga.com
Dream War Saga Tumblr: http://thedreamwarsaga.tumblr.com/
Barnes & Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/sing-sweet-nightingale-erica-cameron/1116551195?ean=9781937053963
The Book Depository: http://www.bookdepository.com/Sing-Sweet-Nightingale-Erica-Cameron/9781937053963
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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