Today we're super excited to celebrate the cover reveal and excerpt for LOVE AND VANDALISM by Laurie Boyle Crompton, releasing May 2, 2017 from Sourcebooks Fire. Before we get to the cover, here's a note from Laurie:
Like naming a child, figuring out the title for a new book can be an agonizingly complicated process. My first book went through numerous title changes, beginning with FANGIRL and Her Subatomic Sweatmobile of Doom and landing on BLAZE (or Love in the time of Supervillains). The cover for that book will always be one of my favorites, with the image of a girl’s pink hair blowing forward over her face. Of course the original title of FANGIRL would have made that image seem like she was being assaulted by many blowing fans which didn’t quite match the fun, comic-book-loving heroine of that book.
My next book, The Real Prom Queens of Westfield High kept the same title throughout the publishing process, because, come on: that is a great title. But before it sold the draft file was called Unscripted Popularity for most of the time I was writing it. And then my third book Adrenaline Lush was altered slightly to the (far superior) title Adrenaline Crush after a brief stop at the (vastly inferior) title Adrenaline Girl.
And now, my latest book, Love and Vandalism, has endured a number of title changes. Originally pitched as Graffiti Lions, the title was changed to Graffiti Girl before the deal announcement was even made. From there, it was altered to Graffiti Love for the course of the editing process. When it was time to brainstorm titles I gave many, many title suggestions of various quality which included Crimes of the Art which isn’t half bad, as well as Contents Under Pressure which is admittedly terrible. In the end, the new title was set at Broken Like Us. Which was a really great title. But not as great as the final surprise upset winner: Love and Vandalism! I actually cheered when I heard the news. I must admit this book is my favorite so far and one I truly hope readers will enjoy!
~ Laurie Boyle Crompton (LOVE AND VANDALISM, Sourcebooks Fire)
Ready to see?
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Here it is!
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LOVE AND VANDALISM
He calls it fate. She calls it blackmail.
Rory has a secret: she’s the vandal who paints graffiti lions all over her small town. If her policeman dad knew, he’d probably disown her. So when Hayes, a former screw-up on the path to recovery, catches her in the act, Rory’s sure she’s busted. Instead, he makes her a deal. If Rory shows him around town, he won’t turn her in. It might be coercion, but at least the boy is hot.
As they spend more time together, Rory worries she made the wrong choice. Hayes has a way of making her want things she shouldn’t want and feel emotions she’s tried to bury. Rory’s going to have to distance herself from Hayes or confront a secret she can’t bring herself to face…Excerpt
My can of spray paint rips into the gentle night, releasing a loud pssssht into an open mouth of fangs.
I shove a dreadlock away from my face and pull down the handkerchief mask I’ve been breathing through. The thin material hangs lightly around my neck as if it’s still holding my breath for me.
I take a few steps back from the wall and consider my work.
In the circle of my lantern’s light, a ferocious, blue lion roars in my direction. Streaks of teal and turquoise slice through his mane in an exhilarating way, but I’m not loving the flatness in his yellow eyes.
I’m startled by the growl of a car approaching, and the underpass I’m standing in lights up from headlights rounding the distant bend. Shit.
I fling a long, black tarp over all my supplies and hiss, “Rory’s sorry,” to the cans that clatter and clink together in response.
The car’s high beams grow steadily brighter as I run from the scene. The second I reach the end of the cement wall, I recklessly launch myself headfirst into the bushes beside the road.
I hear the car slow to a crawl as I lie facedown in the underbrush and pray to whatever graffiti gods are within earshot, Please don’t be a police cruiser. Or my dad. Or I’m-begging-you-oh-pleasepleaseplease, not my dad driving his police cruiser.
The car lingers. My lion has been spotted. I lift my head and see a mild-mannered Jeep Wrangler stopped just inside the underpass. The top is down, but the thing is on spring lifts, and from my position on the ground I can’t see over the Jeep’s massive tires.
I will the driver to leave my cans alone and pull away. Maybe I should’ve joined Kat at her weird Jedi Mind Trick training workshop after all. I’m not really clear on what she and her Star Wars groupies do together, but I think it has something to do with trying to channel The Force to make shit happen with their minds. Also, they like to wave around flashlight lightsabers while dressed in bathrobes.
Desperately, I whisper at the driver, “Move-your-vehicle’s-ass-you-need-to-go-go-go-far-away-now-please-thanks.”
A camera’s flash lights up the underpass for an instant before the Jeep jumps forward and roars away.
So I guess that’s how Jedi Mind Tricks work. I sigh with relief. The driver just wanted a photo of the newest lion in New Paltz. Probably didn’t even realize the paint’s still wet.
It was a fluke that anyone came down this deserted road in the first place, but I stay on the ground a few minutes, breathing hard as I imagine all the horrible ways that scenario could’ve gone.
The local police department is on a campaign to rid the town of graffiti art and according to an article in The New Paltz Times, the police sergeant was quoted as saying he considers each new lion painting a “personal offense.”
The New Paltz police sergeant also happens to be my dad, but of course, he has no idea the paintings are mine—or that his being personally offended makes them so much more fun to paint.
I fling the tarp back off of my supplies, and my spray cans rattle with relief.
The lantern illuminates the wall, and I lock eyes with the newest member of the carousing, graffiti pride I’ve created throughout our rural upstate town.
So far, I’ve been painting my lions in out-of-the-way places, but I hope to change that very soon.
Everybody is going to notice the lion I’m planning next.
I used one of my custom stencils on this one’s body, so it shares the same stance as all the others, but with my special spray techniques, I’ve made his face one of a kind.
I’m convinced the only way to capture each lion’s unique rage-y-ness is by going freehand.
The rough texture of the wall gives this particular fellow a snarly quality, and the idea of his roar echoing through the underpass makes me smile.
Somewhat satisfied, I pack my workspace into a long, plastic crate, shove the rolled-up tarp on top, and drag the clinking heap through the weeds to where my hatchback waits.
With a grunt, I toss everything in the back, jump into the driver’s seat, and, after a churn and a shift, I’m zipping down the road.
I notice a splotch of blue paint on my wrist and lick my finger to rub at it. The dashboard’s weak glow shows the blue spot spreading ominously as I speed through the winding woods, leaving my lion to say…
everything I can’t.
My head snaps up at the chime of the brass bell over the art store door. From behind the counter, I watch a gang of teenagers each hold the door for one another as they walk in. They’re laughing together as they head for the project supplies section, and I recognize them from school.
None of them are actual art people.
One of the girls glances my way, and her laugh slices in half when she recognizes me. She is wearing head-to-toe white, and her blond head bows toward a darker-haired version of herself who’s wearing pink.
The two of them act as if I can’t see them whispering about me from ten feet away.
I moan inwardly and turn back to the fashion rag lying open on the counter. Someone left it tucked underneath the inventory clipboard, and it’s okay that I’m reading it because I’m reading it ironically. Nobody would ever mistake me for caring about style and makeup and diets and shit.
“You could be one of those models, you know.”
I slam the magazine closed and fling it deep under the counter. “Can I help you?”
A tall guy with curly hair stands in front of me. He asks, “Got any one-inch brushes?”
“Sure, follow me.” I hop over the counter and keep my head down as I stride along the aisle, toward the front windows. Thankfully, the brushes are in the opposite direction of the poster supplies, where the gaggle of besties is still quacking.
When I reach the brushes, I cup my palm and slide it along the shelf dramatically. With phony politeness I ask, “Anything else I can help you with?”
When I glance up, the guy’s intense, brown eyes are studying mine. He drags them away to consult the list he’s holding, and I admire his messy curls.
Without thinking, I reach out, pinch a curl, and pull it straight. His eyes jump back to mine as I let go and say, “Boing,” with half a smile.
His dark eyes wander down and back up, taking in my height. He’s around six three, so he has an inch or two on me. Finally, he smirks and reaches over, gently tugging one of my dreadlocks. “Smoke a bong?” he asks.
I decide to forgive him for his stupid model comment.
“Love to.” I grin. “Although I’m curious: Did you assume I’m a pothead just because I dread my hair?”
I’m not really curious at all, just messing with him, but his face flushes and I wonder if he’s going to bail on our banter. This could be a nice distraction from being whispered about, but I know that not all guys who come in here can handle me.
After a beat, he says, “Who said anything about a pothead? You just seem like a really cool chick to hang out with.”
I smile, showing him all of my teeth. “I am a really cool chick to hang out with.”
“So then, what time do you get off work?”
The curly-haired guy’s studio apartment is small and stiflingly hot, but fairly tidy for a guy’s place.
I’ve seen enough of them to know that stoner art students who live off campus generally prefer more of a “clothing on the floor and dishes congealing in the sink” habitat. But this guy has actual furniture I can see, and his dinnerware is put away. He may even own a mop.
He asks, “How long have you been working at Danny’s art shop?”
“This is my second summer, but I’m only part-time. I lifeguard too, so my hours are pretty all over the place.”
“I’m a sophomore, but I’ve never been to the public pool. How is it?”
I glance at him. Swimming in a blue chlorine box isn’t really my style, but I just say, “I guard up at the lake.”
“Oh, yeah, I guess that’s a little easier to picture.” He’s obviously picturing me in a swimsuit.
“Heh.” I glance pointedly around the room. “We discussed the partaking of some weed?”
“Right.” He turns his head, and his curls ricochet back and forth. “I think I left it under the bed.” A rare bedframe spotted in the wild. Most art students I’ve known have their mattresses lying directly on the floor. He gestures for me to sit on the mostly made bed, but I plop myself on the tiny sofa instead.
“So, what’s with all the beer posters? Shy about displaying your own artwork?” I’d love to get a sense of his talent and style, since I’m actually here on a serious mission. I need to find an assistant for the big graffiti project I’m planning, but my hunt so far has been unproductive.
This guy doesn’t even have a sketchbook lying around for me to flip through. “Let me guess,” I say. “You’re a sculptor?” I eye a glazed clay ashtray sitting in the center of the coffee table. It looks pretty ordinary.
“This is the only sculpture I’ve ever made.” He rises from under the bed holding up what appears to be a crude, windowless skyscraper made from kid’s building blocks. The colorful structure has a small pipe angled out at the bottom.
I laugh. “Lego bong. Nice.”
He opens his end table drawer, pulls out a Tupperware container filled with buds, and starts packing the pipe. “I’m just taking a summer watercolor class to fill a requirement. I know f*ck-all about art, and everything I paint runs together, but it’s better than studying a foreign language or computer science over the summer.”
I should leave now. My leg actually gives a few involuntary twitches, as if it’s already heading back down the steps. I’m here to find an assistant, not to make time with some basic frat boy.
“But right this moment,” he says, “we’ve got this weed to study. This shit is guaranteed to get you stupid high.”
Then again, it has been a while since I’ve been stupid high. I smile. “I’m up for a quick study session.”
With a grin, he carries his Lego tower to the sofa and sits down beside me.
Handing me the sculpture, he leans back to dig into his front pocket and pulls out a plastic lighter. The Lego tower in my hands isn’t even well crafted. The blue bricks are all clumped together at the bottom and the other primary colors are a haphazard mess, like he started off making the bong solid blue, then realized he didn’t have enough blue bricks and said the hell with it.
He says, “Ladies first,” and dramatically flicks the lighter. It just sparks and we both laugh. With a grunt, he shakes it and continues flicking until the cheap thing finally lights. He repeats, “Ladies first.”
I fit my mouth into the square hole at the top of the Legos and take a few small pulls to light the bong before drawing in as much smoke as my lungs can hold.
Passing the tower over, I sit back and continue holding in my smoke. He takes a full inhale and covers the mouth of the bong with his palm. After a few involuntary coughs, he exhales.
The smoke is clawing at my lips, but I hang on to it a moment longer.
Finally, when a wave of lightness nudges the front of my skull, I let out a smooth stream of air that turns into a laugh at the way he’s watching me.
“Not a bad bong you’ve constructed there.” I take it back from him and draw another deep hit.
“And you clearly know your way around a bong.” He raises his eyebrows in a way that says he’s genuinely impressed.
I tell him about a recent run-in I had with the law, a.k.a. my father and his crazy intuition, and the reason why I don’t carry my own stash.
My new frat-boy friend says, “Oh, I see how it is. So you only like me for my pot?”
“Who said that I like you at all?”
“Touché,” he says and takes another drag.
I give him a few tips on getting past the local law enforcement if he ever gets stopped. “If the officer is anyone who looks middle-aged, just confess and say you’re sorry and new in town. The oldies are the softies on the force. That is,” I say, “besides my dad. If you have a run-in with the guy who looks like a balding, blond, fifty-year-old linebacker, lie like your life depends on it. Same goes for the younger guys on the force: all a bunch of ballbusters.”
“What if I get caught holding?”
“Toss the stuff as far as you can and then deny, deny, deny.”
He hugs his bong lightly, looking like I’ve spooked him.
“That there is some valuable insider advice,” I say. “You’re welcome.”
I lie back on the sofa as my mind skips off to painted lions with colors so bright they can’t be seen with the naked eye.
I envision a giant pride of Rory lions, slowly closing in.
They snarl and yowl until their open mouths turn into yawns. One by one, they lie down in the grass. Release all their rage. I feel myself smiling stupidly at the light beam streaming through the window.
Something brushes against my arm, sliding up to my shoulder, and when I move to swipe it away, I realize it’s frat boy’s hand. His fingers walk toward my neck as he watches me with amusement.
I’m happy enough to just sit here grooving this buzz, but this guy clearly has some expectations. In all fairness, when I thought he was an artist, I imagined he might have some potential, so there’s a chance I may have been leading him on.
I ask, “What’s your major anyway?”
He grins. “Finance.”
I try to keep my expression neutral, but it isn’t easy. “So, you want to…?”
“Make lots and lots of money when I graduate,” he says. “Preferably on Wall Street.” Which is exactly the wrong answer to give if he wanted to impress me.
Not being an artist is one thing but a finance major? That’s the literal study of money.
My mom lived in downtown Manhattan before marrying my dad and has always referred to Wall Street as the “Valley of Lost Souls.”
Mr. Finance Major leans forward to kiss me, and I put a hand on his chest, holding him back and closing my eyes as I try to make a decision. But my decision maker seems to be acting fuzzy at the moment.
I assess the situation.
Messing around with him right now would represent a new personal low. But when I open my eyes, he is giving me the cutest grin. I can tell he’s used to getting the girl, and his curls are practically begging me to play with them. He wasn’t kidding about this weed being quality.
But I don’t owe him anything.
I’m the one in control and I don’t—
His lips are on mine. After an awkward moment of me not kissing him back, he finally pulls back. “You’re not into this?”
We watch each other for one beat…two beats…three beats…and I force my face into a grin. “I just like it more like this.” I push him back on the couch and position myself on top of him seductively.
The surprised happiness on his face is so rewarding, I lean down and give him a deep kiss.
He grunts with pleasure and wraps a hand around my waist as we continue making out. I feel as if I’m outside myself, sitting on the floor and watching this erotic scene unfold on the small sofa.
He’s too good-looking for anyone to have ever corrected his kissing, so I guide him, gently illustrating the concept that less is more, especially when it comes to tongue. He’s a fast learner, and before long, I’m feeling a little turned on. Acting as if I’m really into this helps.
Things continue heating up between us, and when his hand slides from my waist to my side boob, I don’t stop him.
The lions in my head rouse from their rest, but I hush them all. Tell them that everything’s okay. That I’m the one in control here.
I’m always the one in control.
“When you’re working on a special piece, it’s important to access your every raw emotion,” Mom tells me in the kitchen. I’m sitting on the swivel stool by the counter, eating sherbet and mulling over the problems I’m having with my big lion project.
I really need to snag an assistant to help me pull it off, and frat boy is just the most recent in a series of very disappointing dead ends.
My dad hates it when Mom and I discuss art. In fact, he’s tried to forbid it, but it’s our deepest soul connection. All of my talent comes from her, and he can’t find a way to relate to any of it. So he tries to squash it.
“You must listen to your inner voice,” Mom’s saying. “It took me weeks to finally be somewhat content with the twisted, yellow vase on the mantle. At least it should still be there.” She looks perplexed for a moment, closes her eyes, and takes a deep breath.
I wish I could reach over and put a comforting hand on her arm, but we just sit together silently.
Finally, she continues, “Getting that dappled effect took so much planning. Of course, there’s always an element of surprise and discovery with glassblowing. With any art. And with life too, I suppose.”
My mother is the most amazing artist I’ve ever known, and I mean that as an art lover, not just as her daughter. I swear, her way of seeing the world is so unique and deep, it’s like I’m getting one-on-one, free art lessons from a master every time we chat.
We’re breaking Dad’s number-one rule right now with this discussion, but if there’s one thing I’ve learned from her, it’s that art has nothing to do with rules. It jumps beyond the neat and tidy boundaries of order and discipline.
Art that matters is some scary shit.
We’re both smiling as Mom goes on. “Art is our way of expressing our true selves. And the most interesting art comes from our darkest places. You are an artist, Rory, and as an artist, you must not be afraid of your pain. Use it.”
I allow my mind to dip into my chest and consider the dark places. In addition to the myriad feelings of regret and loneliness, there is a black pocket of tender ache trapped just underneath my ribs.
It waits there, always, but I’m not disrupting it now. I save it for when I’m painting. When my lions are wide-awake and out on the prowl.
Mom begins telling me the story about the time she was coming home from kindergarten when she got off the bus one stop too early. I’ve heard this before but lean forward to listen, wishing I could comfort that little girl now, almost forty years too late.
Her expression is one of wide-eyed innocence as she describes that agony of feeling hopelessly lost. My heart breaks for her as she talks about reopening the wound again and again as she paints, tapping into that dark place.
“Every brushstroke is like a step in those stiff, new school shoes that had already bloodied my feet with blisters. I couldn’t know if each painful stride was bringing me closer to home or farther away.” She mimes holding a paintbrush and dabs the air as she clicks her tongue in time with her strokes. She stops and looks around as if she’s just woken up. “I should really be painting right now.”
Finished with my sherbet, I scrape the rest of it into the garbage and quickly rinse my bowl before putting it in the dishwasher. Dad has banned me from art, but Mom is free to do what she wants.
“That’s it for tonight. Love you, Mom.” I head up the stairs to get ready for bed.
I pause when I hear the faint strains of her voice as she continues talking to herself. I waver on the steps a moment, sensing the pull to go back downstairs to her.
But I’m too exhausted to take in anymore. I continue climbing slowly up to my room as I imagine broken blown glass scattered across each step.
The next morning, I stand at the front door and call up to Dad, “I’m heading out.” He immediately comes thundering down the stairs with Kelly at his heels.
Kelly is a retired police dog who’s been busy patrolling our home for the past two years. Supposedly, she’s the family pet, but she hasn’t quite mastered the concept of being off-duty.
“Where are you headed today, Rory?” Dad asks with false casualness.
I give him a mock salute. “Guarding at the lake. Double shift.” As it happens, there is no such thing as a double shift up at the lake.
“So, you have your bathing suit in your knapsack?”
With a sigh, I pull one of my red straps from the neck hole of my T-shirt to show him. “Come on, Dad. I’ve been good all summer.”
“Summer just started last week, Rory, and I thought we talked about you getting a job someplace other than that art store.”
“You discussed that. I’ve explained that it’s just a job. It’s not like I can make art when I’m working.” His gaze on me is so steady, I feel a growl growing inside. “You won’t let me visit the art studio at school. You monitor what I do when I’m home and in my room. Dad, stop worrying. I’ve quit making art.”
“I really don’t want to catch you again.” Dad suddenly looks very, very old and tired. “Rory—”
The two of us are the same height, and I place my hands on both his shoulders as I look him in the eye and swallow down my anger. “Don’t worry. I’m just working there because I’d make a terrible waitress and Danny’s pays better than the bookstore.”
“I’m sorry, Rory. I just worry about you.”
“Well, stop worrying,” I say. “None of that stuff is a part of my life anymore.”
Dad tries a smile, but it’s so forced he looks constipated.
His phone sounds with a ping and I ask, “You on your way to work?”
“No. I’m on the later shift today.” He pulls his phone from his back pocket, glances at it, and quickly puts it away. My dad schedules everything in such detail, that alert may’ve been telling him to go use the bathroom.
I point my thumb toward the door. “I’m heading out.”
“Oh wait, your new AAA card came yesterday.” He pulls out his wallet and starts flipping through credit cards.
I say, “You know one of your patrol guys always comes to my rescue before the automotive alcoholics can get there.” My hatchback isn’t particularly reliable, but our police force is.
Dad gives a chuckle. “It’s always good to have backup.” He hands me a gold card.
I shove the card into the front pocket of my backpack. “You cops and your obsession with backup. You really should trust that I know how to take care of myself.”
He shrugs and says, “A little trust goes a long way…”
Together we finish his favorite mantra: “And the less trust you use, the farther you go.”
I notice a shadow pass over his expression as he glances at my bag.
My breathing slows and I look at the ground. Right now, his words are telling me he’ll see me tonight and that I should have a good day and please check in later, but I know he’s wondering if I’m carrying any drugs.
Clearing my throat, I call, “Hey, Kelly.” When the dog moves in front of me with her ears tuned for orders, I lift my backpack by the strap and hold it out toward her. Glaring at my dad for a moment, my jaw clenched, I turn to Kelly and command, “Find it!”
She digs her nose into the side of my bag with her tail wagging, checking for drugs. Dad’s eyes are filled with emotion as he watches her work.
I let Kelly sniff all over the bag from every angle. She was the top K9 on the force before she retired, and she clearly misses being on the job.
Our shepherd goes over every inch so thoroughly I start to get nervous and second-guess whether there was ever pot stashed in this backpack.
To cover up my nervousness, I snipe at Dad, “Did you train her to sniff out art supplies now too?”
His eyes don’t move from the dog as he reads her every move.
His worry that I’ve gotten back into art is almost as strong as his fear that I’m carrying narcotics. He was horrified when he checked in with my art teacher back in May and found out I’d been spending all my spare time at the school’s art studio.
Finally, Kelly sits down and looks up at my dad, giving me the all clear. If she’d detected any drugs, she’d be scratching at my bag right now, and despite the beginnings of tears in his eyes, I have no doubt Dad would be putting me in cuffs.
“You didn’t have to do that.” His voice cracks, but there’s relief in it too.
I open the front door and leave without making eye contact with him again.
About the Author
When she was 17, LAURIE BOYLE CROMPTON painted her first car hot pink using 40 cans of spray paint. This turned her into an overnight icon in Butler, PA. She now lives near NYC in Queens, but maintains a secret identity in New Paltz, NY where she and her family can often be found tromping through the forest. Visit www.lboylecrompton.com
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