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Guest Blog & Excerpt from Benchmark by Georgie Hanlin & Shannon Swann w/a $20 GC giveaway!


Georgie Hanlin and Shannon Swann
Release: December 12, 2014 from Evernight
55K/ contemporary/romance/minor fantasy element
Editor’s Pick
Harper Kingsley has the perfect life until her brother, Braydon, commits suicide.  After his death, Harper returns to North Star, a sailing camp on Whidbey Island where she and
Braydon spent eight summers together.  Joining her are her three best friends who are ready to rule Senior Hill. Harper just wants to escape to the only place she feels is truly magical.
At North Star, Harper tries to forget her reality, but it’s impossible because she comes face-to-face with her brother at a hidden bench in the garden.  Is it really him or just her imagination?  She knows Braydon is dead. Why is appearing in front of her? Scared at first,
Harper rejects his presence, but once he explains that she is the one who brought him back, she wants to hear him out.
Harper chooses to keep these encounters to herself. Who would believe her anyway?  It’s Jeremy Miller, the camp’s ultimate heartthrob and Piper’s ex, to whom she will eventually reveal her secret. And he has a secret of his own.  Their camp romance turns Harper’s friends against her, giving her one more thing to juggle this summer at North Star. 
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“Seriously, Harp,” she began, “if you and Jeremy like each other, you should just be honest about it.” It was obvious to me that the three of them had been talking about this behind my back.
“That’s not even the point, Anna,” I barked defensively.  “We don’t, I mean, I… he… look, Jeremy’s a nice guy and he was friends with my brother.” I felt short of breath trying to explain myself.  “But that’s all irrelevant. The point is: everything in this world can’t always be about Piper.  At school, at camp, wherever we are, it’s always about Piper and her boyfriends or her exes or her
soccer or her clothes or her life or whatever. I am so tired of her.” Those were my honest feelings right at that moment, but deep, deep down, I knew I was just jealous of her uninterrupted life. 
“Look, I know you’ve gone through a lot, this year Harp,” she whispered sympathetically, undoubtedly trying to calm me down before we started to draw a bigger crowd. 
There was the pity. I hated being pitied.  I could feel my eyes start to well up so I began to blink frantically to stop tears from falling down my face. I was so sick of crying. 
“Thanks anyway, Anna, but you actually have no idea.” Anna had been nothing but a friend to me, and I knew my words had hurt her. “One year ago, my life was normal. It was happy and calm and predictable.  I was up here having fun with my brother and you guys, loving it all, probably just like you are this summer.  But, for me, it’s different now. Everything’s different. And it won’t ever be the same again.” I was barely able to finish my sentence, but I could see through my teary eyes that Anna looked uncomfortable, like she didn’t know what to do with me.  We had inched our way from the center to the edge of the art shed, far enough from other people’s earshot, but close enough for anyone paying attention to clue in on all the drama.  I had to get out of there. People were starting to stare.
 guestpostBlog Post by Georgie & ShannonPiper & Jeremy 

The friendship and romance between Piper and Jeremy was fun to develop. We’ve all felt those crush-like butterflies before. In the case of Harper and Jeremy, they had a pretty significant common bond…it was that and their friendship that created those teenage sparks! It was fun creating Jeremy’s character because we wanted him to be “that ideal guy,” who’s actually a genuinely kind person and, of course, easy on the eyes. Harper couldn’t believe that Jeremy Miller actually liked her because she’s a humble and grounded person — also since her brother died, the feelings she had were mostly those of grief so Jeremy’s reciprocal feelings hit her light a lighting bolt! Below is one of our favorite scenes with them.






“I can’t believe this is it.  In a few hours we’ll be on an airplane headed home,” I said, prying open the barn door widely enough to slip though.

“Come on,” he whispered, pulling me in behind him.

“Where? In the barn?” I resisted at first. The dark, smelly barn didn’t interest me in the middle of the night, let alone during the day. Without answering, he pulled me into him until our lips touched.  My legs felt weak as he ran his fingers through my hair all the way down to the back of my neck, making me forget that we were standing in the barn with bats flying above our heads. I could have melted into him, I felt so safe. I wanted to stay there forever.

“Oh my god, what was that?” I cried out, pushing him away. I felt something nudge the back of my head.

“What was what?” he asked, putting his hand behind me so I wouldn’t bump in to the stable’s gate.”

He turned on his flashlight and shined it behind me. He started to laugh so uncontrollably that I couldn’t help but laugh too.

“What’s so funny?”

“Turn around,” he directed me.

I turned around to see a huge horse’s head just inches away from my face.

“I think he likes you,” laughed Jeremy.

“Let’s get out of here right now,” I begged, tugging on his arm. We snuck back through the barn door’s small open slit.

Jeremy was still laughing at me as we rounded the corner to the main path.

“Shut up,” I scolded him, not able to keep a straight face myself.

“Come on, I’ll walk you back to your cabin,” he said.

“But it’s completely out of your way.”

“True, but look at it this way, Harp: I’d much rather walk with you than walk all by myself.” We held hands the whole way until we got to the fork in the road that led me back to Sand Dollar. Leaning into me again, this time he gave me a soft kiss on my forehead. “Try to get some sleep,” he whispered.

“Thank you.”  I wrapped my arms around him.  “Thank you so much for everything.”

Silently, I snuck back into my cabin, and climbed up to my bunk still wearing my jacket and shoes. I fell asleep on top of my sleeping bag. It had been a night I’d never ever forget.

 About the Authors:
Georgie Hanlin
Georgie Hanlin grew up in San Francisco. She has a Bachelor’s degree from Scripps College in French and History and spent her Junior Year abroad studying in Paris. Georgie has Master of Arts degree in Education from Teachers College, Columbia University.  Her writing has been featured in The New York Times/International Herald TribuneThe Washington PostThe Christian Science Monitor, The San Francisco Chronicle and NPR.  Georgie is a teacher in Mill Valley and lives in San Francisco.
Shannon Swann
Shannon Swann was born in Honolulu, but moved to New Jersey as a child. She has a Bachelor’s degree from California State University, San Francisco in Liberal Studies with an emphasis on Speech Communication. For close to a decade, she worked in the fashion industry for some of most well-known retail giants (GAP, Coach, Reebok) in San Francisco, New York and Boston doing Product Development. She currently owns her own small business, MooseCouture, and resides in Chicago where she is an avid animal rights supporter (PAWS Chicago).
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11 thoughts on “Guest Blog & Excerpt from Benchmark by Georgie Hanlin & Shannon Swann w/a $20 GC giveaway!

  1. This sounds like a story that will definitely pull at your heart strings… I would like to know how tough was it to write about a topic as serious and sad as suicide and the after affects of it?

    1. Hi Victoria,

      It was actually very healing to write this book. I wrote it in honor of a very dear friend of mine who took his own life and my co-writer, Shannon, wrote in honor of her cousin, who took her own life.
      What we really wanted to showcase was how devastating the aftermath of suicide is for the loved ones left behind. There are so many complex emotions that follow the suicide of a loved one: shock, anger, sadness, confusion, resentment, disbelief — but learning to keep moving forward while having all of those feelings and missing that person terribly is very hard. We wanted to show all of this in Harper’s character. Moreover, the complexity of Harper being a teenager and having to carry on with her regular teenage life/friends while her heart is so broken adds much more angst to her 15-year-old life. We wrote with our own human feelings having both been affected by suicide… so the emotions in the book are really our own but woven into Harper’s life.

      Thanks so much for your interest in Benchmark.

  2. Thanks so much, Lea-Ellen. We hope you like it. It has many real interactions woven from both of our teen years in it too…which made it really fun to write.
    Happy holidays, Georgie & Shannon

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