Saturday, December 20, 2014

Dead Jed 2 Blog Tour



Welcome to the Dead Jed 2 Blog Tour! Be sure to enter the Giveaway and then read on down for my interview with the author Scott Craven!
 
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Winner will be drawn January 9, 2015

· Five (5) winners will receive a digital copy of Dead Jed 2: Dawn of the Jed by Scott Craven (INT)

~ About the Book~

Title: Dead Jed 2: Dawn of the Jed
Publication date: December 9, 2014
Publisher: Month9Books, LLC.
Author: Scott Craven



The first part of seventh grade was rough on Jed, but things are looking up now that Christmas is almost here. As with past Christmases, Jed asks for the one thing he’s always wanted–a dog–and again, his parents tell him they’re not ready. But fate has a different plan when Jed sees a dog get run over by a car. Then, it happens. Jed suddenly has a pet, Tread, a zombie dog bearing his namesake–a tire tread down his back. Jed may have gained a dog, but he loses his best friend Luke, who fears the way Jed created his undead pet.

When Jed returns to school, he finds a mysterious group called the No Zombies Now Network spreading rumors of the dangers the undead pose to normal people. Forced to disprove Hollywood stereotypes, Jed has his work cut out for him as stories of a zombie dog begin to circulate. Jed could be expelled if he can’t expose the NZN Network as a fraud. Jed needs help from his kind of girlfriend Anna, especially after he discovers Luke has joined the shadowy group.
 
Once again navigating the treacherous waters of middle school, Jed does his best to stay in one piece. Only this time he’ll need even more duct tape and staples than usual.

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Kobo | Chapters Indigo! | TBD | IndieBound

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~About Author Scott Craven~

Proud graduate of Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo, has a teenage son, now a features writer for The Arizona Republic.

Connect with the Author: Website | Twitter
 
 


~Author Interview~
Hi Scott! Can you tell us a little about your writing journey?
I vaguely remember it starting in a log cabin by candlelight, but then I realize that while I’m old, I’m not that old. One of my first school essays detailed how the Pilgrims discovered Thanksgiving. Little did I know faulty research would be acceptable, if not prized, when Wikipedia discovered the Internet.

What do you enjoy most about being a writer?
Making excuses. “Gee, I would love to accompany you to your 30th high school reunion, but I’ve got this deadline coming up. It’s a writing thing,”

What is the hardest aspect of being a writer?
“Really, you have a writing thing? I’d love it see it when you’re finished.” Dang, tripped up by actually having to put some words together.

How much research goes into your story? 

I’ve put in thousands of hours of research into “Dead Jed.” It goes back to my first viewing of “Night of the Living Dead,” because you can’t write about zombies without knowing their habits, from eating to shuffling around mindlessly. Were you aware most people have no idea “Night … Dead” was a documentary? True story.
Writers are sometimes influenced by things that happen in their own lives. Are you?

 Absolutely. When my first bully shoved me into a trophy display case at school, the first thing I thought of was, “I am so going to write about this someday and get my revenge through words.” Forty years later, bam! How you like me now, Robbie?
Tell us a little bit about your publications.

 “Dead Jed: Adventures of a Middle School Zombie” was my first attempt to make peace with the nightmare that was junior high. That trophy-case anecdote? It actually happened. The sequel, “Return of the Jed,” adds a zombie dog to the mix, because a zombie cat would have been pretty boring. How could you tell a zombie cat for a regular cat? I have no idea. I’m also a reporter for The Arizona Republic in Phoenix. Go ahead, Google my name. Just don’t confuse me with the Nebraska dentist or the Montana wildlife expert. Speaking of the latter, I’ll bet not even Scott Craven, wildlife expert, could tell the difference between a zombie cat and a regular cat.
What is the most surprising thing about writing/publishing you have learned?

Writing is not easy, but it’s not nearly as tough as marketing. Did you know that no matter how many times you mention you mention Stephen King on Twitter, and ask him to read your book and then tweet about it, he still won’t? What’s up with that?
What are you top tips for writers? 

Write as much as you can. When you’re not writing, read. What, you want to eat, sleep and go to work too? Some difficult decisions must be made. Did you know cooking by microwave can save you minutes, if not hours a day? Also, if you subsist on Hot Pockets as I do, it leaves one hand free for the keyboard or turning the page. Try it!

Other than writing what else do you love?
Did I mention Hot Pockets? I did. Cherry Coke Zero as well. And my 19-year-old son. Not necessarily in that order. But it’s pretty close.

Who is your favorite author and why?

Stephen King, even though he’s ignoring my Twitter-stalking. He is prolific, talented and lives like any other guy who grew up in a state he could probably buy at this point. I met him once and I will never forget what he said. “How do you want me to inscribe it?” Magical.

If you had a premonition you would be stranded on a desert island what 5 books would you take?
Classics by Tolstoy, Hugo and Homer (not Simpson). If I couldn’t get through them, they’d still provide plenty of fuel. Wait, do I have matches? Now if there were an all-inclusive resort nearby, my selections would be totally different. Perhaps travel guides and the cocktail menu.

 Five words that sum you up.
I can’t begin to describe how bad I am at math.

That's more than five words, Scott. ;)
How can we learn more?
Scott-craven.com, and on Twitter at @Scott_Craven2 (feel free to Twitter-stalk me. If Stephen King is OK with it, so am I).

 

Friday, December 19, 2014

M9B Friday Reveal: Chapter One of I Heart Robot by Suzanne van Rooyen and Giveaway #M9BFridayReveals


M9B-Friday-Reveal

Welcome to this week’s M9B Friday Reveal!
This week, we are revealing the first chapter for

I Heart Robot by Suzanne van Rooyen

presented by Month9Books!
Be sure to enter the giveaway found at the end of the post!

I Heart Robot

Sixteen-year-old Tyri wants to be a musician and wants to be with someone who won’t belittle her musical aspirations.
Q-I-99 aka ‘Quinn’ lives in a scrap metal sanctuary with other rogue droids. While some use violence to make their voices heard, demanding equal rights for AI enhanced robots, Quinn just wants a moment on stage with his violin to show the humans that androids like him have more to offer than their processing power.
Tyri and Quinn’s worlds collide when they’re accepted by the Baldur Junior Philharmonic Orchestra. As the rift between robots and humans deepens, Tyri and Quinn’s love of music brings them closer together, making Tyri question where her loyalties lie and Quinn question his place in the world. With the city on the brink of civil war, Tyri and Quinn make a shocking discovery that turns their world inside out. Will their passion for music be enough to hold them together while everything else crumbles down around them, or will the truth of who they are tear them apart?

add to goodreads
Title: I Heart Robot
Publication date: March 31, 2015
Publisher: Month9Books, LLC.
Author: Suzanne van Rooyen

Chapter-by-Chapter-header---Excerpt

Tyri

If today were a song, it'd be a dirge in b-flat minor. The androids cluster around the coffin, their false eyes brimming with mimetic tears. They were made to protect and serve their human masters, to entertain and care for us. Now, just one generation later, we toss them in the trash like nothing more than broken toasters.
The androids huddle in a semicircle, four adults and a child droid with synthetic curls. They all look so human; their grief real even if their tears aren't. The two male-droids are even good looking in that chiseled, adboard model kind of way. They're a little too perfect. With their machine strength, they lower the cardboard box into the dirt and the child droid begins to sing. His exquisite voice shatters like crystal in my ears, heartbreaking.
Asrid and I shouldn't be here—the only two humans amongst the machines—but I loved Nana. I loved her before I knew better than to feel anything for a robot. It doesn't matter how attached you get. A robot can never love you back, regardless of how human their advanced AI might make them seem.
“Why're they burying it anyway?” Asrid mutters beside me. My friend doesn't wear black to the funeral, refusing to acknowledge the passing of my nanamaton, an android that always seemed more like a mom and less like an automated child-minder.
“Should be sending it to the scrap heap. Isn't this against regulation?” Asrid's face scrunches up in a frown, marring her impeccable makeup. She’s a peacock amongst ravens, and I’m a scruffy crow.
“Nana was like a mother to me. I'll miss her.” Tears prick the corners of my eyes as the coffin disappears into the earth, and the droid keens a eulogy.
“I know you will, T.” Asrid gives me a one-armed hug.
Svartkyrka Cemetery is losing the battle to weeds. Human tombstones from back when there was real estate for corpses lie in crumbling ruin covered in pigeon poop. No one gets buried anymore—there's no space and, anyway, it's unsanitary.
“Can we go now?” Asrid hops between feet to fight off the chill. Autumn has shuffled closer to winter, the copper and russet leaves crunching beneath our shoes. The leaves look like scabs, a carpet of dried blood spilling into the open earth. Fitting for my nanamaton's funeral, but robots can’t bleed.
“Sure, we can go.”
Asrid wends her way toward the parking lot as I approach the grave. Nana loved yellow anemones, said they were like sunshine on a stick.
“Hope there’s sunshine where you are now, Nana.” I drop a single flower into the ground and wipe away the tear snailing down my cheek. Why Nana chose to permanently shut down and scramble her acuitron brain, I can only guess. Perhaps living in a world controlled by groups like the People Against Robot Autonomy, PARA for short, became too much for her.
“Sorry for your loss,” the child droid says in a tinkling voice.
“Thank you for letting me know,” I say.
“She would've wanted you to be here.” The other nanamaton, gray haired and huddled in a trench coat, doesn't meet my gaze.
I stuff my mitten-covered hands into the pockets of my jacket and hunch my shoulders against the chill. You'd think the universe might have had the courtesy to rain given the sullen occasion, but the sun perches in an acid blue sky.
“Tyri, you coming?” Asrid shouts from the gate, remembering too late that we're supposed to be stealthy. Government regulation stipulates cremation for humans and scrap heaps for robots. If the authorities discover us committing metal and electronics to the earth instead of recycling, Asrid and I will be fined. The robots will be decommissioned on the spot.
“I’m so sorry,” I whisper to the androids before turning away. Their artificial gaze follows me, boring into my back sharp as a laser.
“Botspit, I'm hungry. I could gnaw on a droid. Where're we going to lunch?” Asrid ignores the dead and grieving as if none of it exists.
“I think I'll just go home.”
“Come on, T. I know she was your Nana but she was just a robot, you know.”
Just a robot! Nana changed my diapers. My first day of kindergarten, Nana held my hand. When I came home from school, Nana made me cocoa and sat helping me with homework. Nana cooked my favourite dumpling dinner every Wednesday and made me double-chocolate birthday cake. Nana taught me how to tie my shoelaces and braid my hair. The day I turned sixteen, Mom decided we didn't need Nana anymore. She should've been decommissioned then, but Nana disappeared the day before Mom's M-Tech buddies came to kill her core and reprocess her parts.
“She was more than that to me,” I say.
“Ah, you're adorable.” Asrid casts nervous glances across the lot. Satisfied no policemen lurk behind the bushes, she slips her arm through mine and drags me through the gate. The wrought iron is warped and daubed with rust. Marble angels stand sentinel, broken and stained by time. One misses a nose, and the other has lost a wing.
“You didn't say anything about my new bug.” Asrid pouts when we reach her vehicle. The hoverbug is neon pink, matching her shoes, handbag, and the ribbons holding up her blond hair. The 'E' badge that stands for Engel Motors looks more like a spastic frog than the angel it's supposed to represent.
“Is it meant to smell like cherries?” Even the plush interior is unicorn puke pink. I put on my sunglasses in case all that color stains my eyes.
“Yes, in fact.” Asrid flicks a switch and the engine purrs. “Slipstream Waffles.” She assumes that monotone voice she always uses when addressing machines.
The last thing I want is to sit on sticky vinyl in a noisy waffle house, indulging in sugar and calories served by permanently smiling droids on roller-skates.
“Take me home to Vinterberg.”
“Tyri, don't annoy me.”
“Sassa, Don't patronize me.” I give her the glare she knows better than to argue with.
“Vinterberg,” I say again and Asrid heaves a melodramatic sigh.
“Be boring. Going home to make love to your violin?”
“Why ask when you know the answer?” Nana's coffin lowering into the ground replays in my mind to a soundtrack in b-flat minor.
“How does Rurik put up with being the other love of your life?”
It's my turn to sigh. Rurik doesn't really put up with it or even understand why I love music so much. But then, I don't understand why he gets so hung up on politics, and I definitely don't understand why he didn't show up for Nana's funeral when he knows how much she meant to me.
“We manage.” I stare out the tinted windows at the darkened scenery whipping past.
The hoverbug takes the quickest route, zipping along the street ways that skirt the chaotic center of Baldur. The jungle of concrete and steel thins out into a tree-shrouded suburb studded with modest brick homes. Rurik calls my redbrick bungalow quaint, and it is, complete with flower boxes and a patch of green lawn out back. It’s nothing at all like his dad's slick penthouse, all glass and chrome with a panoramic view of the city. The funny thing is, Rurik used to live right next-door till his mom had the affair and his dad became a workaholic, transforming the family business into an automotive empire.
The hoverbug slows and lands in my driveway.
“I'll call you later,” I say before disembarking.
“You heard anything yet?”
“No, but tomorrow is the last day so I'll hear soon.” I'm trying not to think about why it's taking so long to hear back after my audition for the Baldur Junior Philharmonic Orchestra.
“You'll get in T. I'm sure of it. You're brilliant.”
Asrid's words make me smile despite the morbidity of the day. She waves and the hoverbug zooms off, leaving me in the rustling-leave calm of Vinterberg.
I press my thumb to the access pad and the front door hisses open. Mom's at work like always. Taking off my coat and shoes, I whistle for Glitch. She pads into the hallway, her face lopsided from sleep. She stretches and sits down with a decisive humph as if to say, 'Well, human, I'm here. Now, worship me.' And I do.
“Hey my Glitchy girl.” I fold my cyborg Shiba Inu into my arms and sweep her off the floor. Her mechatronic back leg sticks out straight and stiff, the rest of her soft and warm. She licks my ear, one paw on my forehead.
“Good afternoon, Tyri. Would you like some refreshments?” Miles whirs out of the kitchen into the hallway. He's nothing like Nana, just a bipedal mass of electronics and metal with assorted appendages capable of mundane tasks. He doesn't even have eyes, only a flashing array of lights. Despite Mom designing a new generation of androids for M-Tech, we can't afford the new model housebot. Maybe it's better this way. I don't feel much for our bot, but I dubbed him Miles. It seemed to fit.
“Would you like some refreshments?” he repeats.
“Tea and a sandwich.” I carry Glitch into my bedroom at the back of the house. Glitch leaps from my arms, landing on the bed where she curls up in a knot of black, white, and tan fur amongst my pillows.
Still in my black lace skirt and corset, I stretch and flex my fingers. Twisting the cricks from my neck and rolling my shoulders, I ease out the graveyard tension. My violin lies in a bed of blue velvet, waiting for my touch. With the strings in tune and the bow sufficiently taut, the instrument nestles against my jaw as if I was born with a gap there just for the violin. It completes me.
I warm-up my fingers, letting them trip over the strings as my bow arcs and glides. Then I'm ready to play: Beethoven's Kreutzer violin sonata in A major, Nana's favorite. Glitch's ears twitch back and forth. She raises her head to howl but thinks better of it, yawning and curling back into sleep.
The frenzied opening of the sonata segues into a melancholy tune and in the brief moment of calm, my moby warbles at me. I have mail. I try to ignore the distraction and play through the screeching reminder of an unread message, but it might be the one I've been anticipating.
Vibrating in my hand, the moby blinks at me: One unread email. Subject: BPO audition.
“This is it, Glitchy.”
She raises her head as I sit beside her. One hand buried in her fur, I open the email. The words blur together, pixelate and run like wet ink across the screen. Disbelief makes my vision swim. I have to read the message several times over to make sure I haven't misunderstood.
“Codes! I got in.” Blood warms my cheeks as I whisk Glitch into my arms, spinning her around before squeezing her to my chest. She does not approve and scratches at me until I drop her back on the bed. Miles enters with a tray of tea and neat triangular sandwiches.
“Miles, I got in! I'm going to play for the junior BPO. This is amazing.” I'm jumping up and down.
Miles flashes orange. “Could not compute. Please restate.”
“I'm going to play for the best junior orchestra in the country. This could be my chance to break into the scene, to meet all the right people, and make an impression!” My one chance to escape the life already planned for me by Mom. The last thing I want to be is a robot technician.
Miles keeps flashing orange. “Apologies, Tyri. Could not compute, but registering joy.” His visual array flashes green. “Happy birthday!” He says in his clipped metallic voice before leaving the room.
I clutch the moby and read the email another ten times before calling Mom. I reach her voicemail, and my joy tones down a notch. I don't want to talk to another machine, so I hang up and call Rurik instead.
“Hey, Tyri. Now's not a good time. Can I call you back later?”
“I got in,” I say.
“To the orchestra?”
“Yes!”
“That's great.” He doesn't sound half as happy as I am.
“Thanks, I'm so excited, but kind of scared too—”
“T, I'm just in the middle of something. I'll call you back in a bit, okay?” He hangs up, leaving me babbling into silence.
Deflated, I slump onto the floor and rest my head on the bed. Glitch shuffles over to give me another ear wash, delicately nibbling around my earrings. I should've known Rurik would be busy getting ready to go to Osholm University. Getting a scholarship to the most prestigious school in all of Skandia is way more impressive than scoring a desk in the Baldur Junior Orchestra. Still, I received better acknowledgment from the housebot than my boyfriend. I call Asrid.
“Hey T, what's up?” Asrid answers with Sara's high-pitched giggle in the background.
“I got in!”
“That's awesome, except I guess that means more practicing and less time with your friends, huh?” Asrid sounds genuinely put out, as if she’d even notice my absence when Sara's around. Codes, isn't there someone who could just be happy for me? Maybe Mom’s right, and I am being selfish wanting the “Bohemian non-existence” when I could have a “sensible and society-assisting” career in robotics.
“Sorry, I . . . thought you'd like to know.”
“I'm happy for you, Tyri. I know it's a big deal to you. Congrats. Seriously, you deserve this considering how hard you practice,” Asrid says, and Sara shouts congratulations in the background.
“Thanks, Sassa.”
“Hey, our food arrived. Chat later?”
“Sure.” I hang up and reach for my violin. Nana would've understood. She would've danced around the living room with me. She probably would've baked me a cake and thrown a party. Determined not to cry, I skip the second movement of Beethoven's sonata and barrel straight into the jaunty third. The notes warp under my fingers, and the tune slides into b-flat minor.
Two days until the first rehearsal. Maybe I’ll be able to do something different with my life; something that makes me happy instead of just useful.

Chapter-by-Chapter-header---About-the-Author

Suzanne van Rooyen

Suzanne is a tattooed storyteller from South Africa. She currently lives in Finland and finds the cold, dark forests nothing if not inspiring. Although she has a Master’s degree in music, Suzanne prefers conjuring strange worlds and creating quirky characters. When not writing, she teaches dance and music to middle schoolers and entertains her shiba inu, Lego. Suzanne is represented by Jordy Albert of the Booker Albert Agency.

Connect with the Author: Website | Twitter | Facebook | Goodreads

Chapter-by-Chapter-header---Giveaway
Complete the Rafflecopter below for a chance to win!
The book will be sent upon the titles release.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Be Adventurous! Show some #indieluv :)

 
Be brave this holiday! Be adventurous! Read an Indie Book :)
 
The talented minions at Yearning for Wonderland have complied a list of their finest works, including me. Click on over and find your next
holiday read peeps.
 
Enjoy~

Friday, December 12, 2014

M9B Friday Reveal: Chapter One of Horror Business by Ryan Craig Bradford and Giveaway #M9BFridayReveals

 
M9B-Friday-Reveal

Welcome to this week’s M9B Friday Reveal!
This week, we are revealing the first chapter for

Horror Business by Ryan Craig Bradford

presented by Month9Books!
Be sure to enter the giveaway found at the end of the post!

horrorbusiness2

Armed with a passion for classic B-grade horror movies, a script co-written by his twin brother, and a wicked crush on his death-obsessed neighbor; hardcore horror fan Jason Nightshade must finish his student film.
But his plans are derailed when the children of suburban Silver Creek start disappearing – his twin brother among them. Battling a possessed video camera, a crazy zombie dog, a monstrous bully, and a frighteningly broken down family life, Jason embarks on a mission to find his lost brother so the two can write an ending for his story.
As any horror fan knows, saving the day won’t be easy, as Jason finds himself forced to face the real world where death isn’t just a splash of fake blood on a camera lens.

add to goodreads
Title: Horror Business
Publication date: February 2015
Publisher: Month9Books, LLC.
Author: Ryan Craig Bradford

Chapter-by-Chapter-header---Excerpt

Chapter 1

[rec 00.00.00]
Warm colors sharpen as the focus reveals an image of a boy. The boy sits patiently and stares at you. He giggles and sticks his tongue out as the image softens before settling on an appropriate focus. You recognize this boy because he looks a lot like me. A voice from offscreen tells the boy that everything’s ready, that he can begin whenever he feels like it.
Boy: What do you want me to say?
Offscreen: What’s your favorite scary movie?
Boy: Like in Scream?
Offscreen: Just answer the question.
Boy: What’s this for anyway?
Offscreen: Nothing really. Maybe a school project.
Boy: Fine. But a favorite scary movie? That’s like picking your favorite child.
Offscreen: Well, what are some of the ones you like?
Boy: I like ghost movies.
Offscreen: How come?
Boy: I think the only thing more frightening than opening a closet door and finding a knife-wielding maniac is opening up that closet door and finding nothing. If you take away all the monsters and serial killers, all we have to fear is ourselves. We create ghosts when there isn’t anything else left to scare us.
Offscreen: That’s deep.
Boy: Are we done yet?
Offscreen: Just state your name. You know, for legitimacy.
Boy: My name is Brian Nightshade and you’ve just tuned in to What I Think About Horror Movies.
Offscreen: Thanks.
The image goes black.

October
If we shoot a movie in black and white we use chocolate syrup. If it’s in color we use corn syrup with red food coloring.
So much sugar goes into blood.
Chocolate syrup was used for Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho. Corn syrup was used for The Evil Dead. It was my brother who told me that.
Death needs to be sweetened.
I pedal past a row of shuttered buildings on my way to the grocery store. The faux-cabin exteriors only deceive the tourists that flood our town during the summer and winter months. Most shops simply shut down during the fall. Silver Creek has been dead since Labor Day and will remain that way until Christmas.
I check over my shoulder, hold my breath, and swerve into the road. A gust of wind blows a swarm of dead leaves into my spokes, some of which get shredded. The others get caught between the wheel and the fork. I enjoy the gory death of the red and gold foliage. A minivan pulls up alongside me. I make eye contact with the driver, a middle-aged woman with a sour face. She shakes her head and speeds away. I flip her off.
I cut to the left and let the momentum take me up the slight incline of the parking lot. I set my bike against the rack and leave it unlocked.
There’s a cork bulletin board at the entrance to the grocery store—a place where people can advertise yard sales, community events, or lost pets. It’s covered with brightly-colored flyers. The flyers declare their purpose with bold, 20-point font.
MISSING CHILD
The parents who make the flyers use the most attractive pictures, as if that will get their children found faster. I feel bad for the parents with ugly kids. The faces look at you, smiles frozen with gapped and crooked teeth because they haven’t had the benefit of a good orthodontist yet.
Some of the kids have taken to collecting them like baseball cards. Sometimes you’ll see a grief-stricken parent replacing a flyer of their missing kid. It’s awkward.
Hot pink, neon green, electric orange. I look down to avoid them. The neon looks awful and inappropriately bright. Like they’re trying to sell something.
I think again of sweetened death.
The corn syrup is expensive. I check for a knock-off brand on a lower shelf, but it turns out I’m holding the knock-off. The higher-priced bottle’s label shows an abstract illustration of a farm and boasts 100% organic. Mountain prices for a mountain town. Silver Creek loves to spend money on products that make it feel rustic.
There’s barely enough money in my wallet to cover the corn syrup, and I briefly contemplate changing the movie to black and white. I’m sure we’ve got a shitload of chocolate syrup back at the house. It’s been so long since my family’s eaten ice cream.
But no, it has to be in color. I’m not fucking around with this one. It’s going to be my masterpiece.
I wait behind Marilyn Mackie while the cashier rings her up. Mrs. Mackie fills the aisle; her ass grazing the gum and breath mints on the display behind her. She stares ahead until the cashier—a similarly large girl with braces—tallies the total of her groceries. The sum is humongous, and I can’t wait to tell Steve about how much the Mac Attack spent on food the next time I see him. Mrs. Mackie snaps out of her daze and notices me. The recognition makes her gasp and she puts a hand to her chest. It’s like she saw a ghost.
“Hi, Mrs. Mackie.”
“Oh, I’m sorry, Jason. You startled me.”
I nod and look down at my shoes. I pass the bottle of corn syrup between my hands. Mrs. Mackie pays.
“How are your folks?” she asks.
“Oh, you know.”
“That’s good,” she says. “I mean, not good, but. …” She trails off. She exhales and her entire being deflates; her chin sinks into the comfort of her neck. “I’m sorry. It’s been hard for all of us.”
“It’s okay.”
The printer uncurls a receipt, and the checkout girl folds it three times before handing it to Mrs. Mackie. Mrs. Mackie pushes her cart of groceries forward while she reads the scroll of her purchases. I put the bottle on the conveyer belt and watch as it’s pulled toward the cashier. I wonder if she and Mrs. Mackie regard each other as past and future selves.
“You remind me of someone I’ve seen before?”
The checkout girl smiles at me and waits for my reaction. It’s not a question, really, but the upward pitch in her last word forces a glaring question mark. The white bands on her braces have turned yellow from neglect and she holds my corn syrup hostage while I think of a response. Mrs. Mackie looks up from her receipt. The terror returns to her face.
“Maybe it’s my brother. We’re twins.”
“Maybe. Or maybe someone famous?” She twists the bottle around in her hands. It’s disturbing the way she caresses it while she thinks. Her tongue sweeps her broad-set, braced teeth. I want to tell her again that it’s probably my brother who she’s thinking about, but I know that’s not true.
“Excuse me,” says Mrs. Mackie. “Are you new here or something? Don’t you know who he is?”
The checkout girl frowns and gives up. “I don’t know.” She sighs and chucks my syrup into a plastic bag. “They just tell us to be nice to the customers.”
She hands me the bag with a limp wrist. I take it without saying thanks. Mrs. Mackie, embarrassed from her outburst, waddles to the exit, and the automatic door swings open. I maneuver around her before she fills the doorframe and the electric eye senses my urgency. I jump out into the parking lot to feel the cooling-but-still-warm autumn air. I realize I’ve been sweating.
“Don’t listen to her. What does she know, anyway?” Mrs. Mackie calls out to me from the entrance of the store. She reaches into the pocket of her sweatpants and pulls a yellow flyer out, folded into fourths. “Things will work out, you’ll see.” She slaps the flyer onto the corkboard and tacks it in.
The automatic door closes slowly on Mrs. Mackie like a fade out.
***
My brother, Brian Nightshade, was the first to go missing.
Since then, Donny Yates was second, and then a week later it was Collin Stephenson. Bobby Islo, Andy Stoner, Clint Something and the girlish-looking Sean Fornier disappeared within a three-month span. Wendy Dee was the first and only girl to go missing so far. After her disappearance, the town’s cruel irritability toward these “runaways” was replaced by a surging fear of kidnappers and child-molesters. Every recluse and old person became a target for suspicion.
It’s funny how a girl can change things.
Greg Mackie was the latest one. He went missing last week.
Nine children so far.
***
I’m positive that The Lost Boys is the greatest vampire movie ever made, only because it’s the dumbest. Most vampire movies become bogged down by romance and other boring stuff. Or what Greg Mackie called it: moral ambiguities and penetration motifs. He was into that kind of theory stuff.
I lean my bike against the window of King Kong Video, Silver Creek’s only rental store. The clerk, a balding twenty-something, stares through the glass and frowns. He wears glasses and has a beard shaved to create a fake jaw line on his soft face.
A large portion of King Kong’s selection consists of VHS tapes. They don’t stock new releases, which is fine by me—I just download whatever I can’t find. New movies aren’t really scary anyway. I’m pretty sure the store stays in business because of their adult section, but it’s possible to find gems that only exist in analog: B-grade films with lots of gore and nudity. Some of them are actually okay.
“Please don’t lean your bike against the window,” the clerk says. “It could break it.” He’s got some pretentious foreign movie playing on the TV. Waves of an incomprehensible language float through the air. There’s a MISSING CHILD poster taped on the wall behind the counter. It’s Collin Stephenson, the third kid to go missing.
“You got The Lost Boys in?” I ask.
“Vampires?”
“Yep.”
The clerk tsks, but types the request into King Kong’s ancient computer system. He hits a key, and the machine lurches to life. It sounds like actual gears are carrying out the function. Collin smiles at me from over the clerk’s shoulder. It's been a long time since Collin's parents have printed any new flyers, making this poster somewhat of a collector’s item. I wander into the inventory while the computer thinks.
I peruse the horror section, admiring the artwork on movie boxes, noting which ones have the scariest screenshots on the back. Re-Animator 2 is a good one; Chopping Mall is all right but it has the best name of any movie. Frankenhooker is one of my favorites. I watched that twice in one night before.
When we were little, my brother and I were so scared of these boxes that we’d dare each other to look at them. Our mom made us stop when Brian started seeing monsters in the closet.
I pick up another box. The movie’s called Basket Case. On the cover, a claw pokes out from the rim of a wicker basket and a frightening set of eyes peer out from deeper within.
The movie is about two brothers: Duane and Belial. Conjoined twins. Doctors separate them at birth because of Belial’s monstrous appearance—like a tumorous mound growing out the side of Duane. Just a pile of skin molded into teeth and arms, really.
As adults, Duane carries Belial around in a wicker basket to exact revenge on the doctors that separated them. Because that’s what brothers do.
Last year me and Brian wanted to be Duane and Belial for Halloween, but we couldn’t agree on who got to be the deformed twin.
“Hey kid!”
I drop the box and catch it in mid-air before setting it back on the shelf.
“It’s out,” says the clerk. “The Lost Boys. Computer says so. Says it was rented two weeks ago.”
“Can I put a hold on it?”
“What’s the name?”
It’s annoying. I’ve been in this guy’s store nearly every weekend for the last two years and he still doesn’t know my name. Fuck his window. I hope my bike does break it. “Nightshade.”
The guy clacks away at the keyboard. His brow furrows. “Interesting. Says here that you were the last one to rent it.”
“What?” The clerk turns the ancient monitor toward me. The name NIGHSHADE reads out in green text. “I don’t have it.”
“Are you sure? You weren’t the one who rented it?” He slides his glasses up the bridge of his nose. “I’m pretty sure it was you.”
“I rent a lot of movies here, but not that one. I don’t have it.”
“Pretty sure it was you. I have a good memory, Nightwing.”
“Nightshade.”
“Mmhm.” A victorious breath. “I don’t know. Not my problem. It’s on your family’s account, so either find it or pay the fine.”
The cassette playing the foreign movie cuts out. Dialog becomes muddled. Lines of static roll down the screen and the picture jumps from left to right. The image freezes and a loud clicking comes from inside the VCR. Interior whirring speeds up until the machine’s mouth spews out the tape in long strands.
“Shit,” says the clerk with more resignation than annoyance. I leave without renting anything.
***
The main streets of Silver Creek eventually feed into the suburban neighborhoods where houses are modern and earth-toned. You used to be able to walk outside at night and watch your neighbor’s big-screen TV from the street. You could even hear the pummeling action through their surround-sound. Most everyone keeps their blinds closed now. I stand at the entrance of my own house, hand on the door. Vibrations from my parents’ expensive sound-system massage my palm in spurts. This evening’s attempt at twilight is filtered through haze; shadows look smeared. It’s as if a far-off volcano has spewed its evil, and dominant winds have brought the ashes of creatures to settle in the atmosphere over our town, a dusty swarm of spirits that dims the sunlight.
I turn the knob and push. The house is vaguely humid. Mom’s watching a show about historical hauntings. On the screen, some guys are using night vision cameras and EVP recorders to prove the existence of ghosts. They never find anything, but my mom’s completely addicted. She doesn’t even know what EVP stands for.
They’re playing back the audio recording, enhanced for home viewers. The result is a high-pitched squeal that drops out in rapid successions. The ghost hunters try to convince us that this pattern is a ghost saying, Get out of my house.
“Mom,” I say. “Hi!”
Mom looks up from the TV. The screech continues. She waves. “Jason. I didn’t see you.”
I fall onto the cushion next to her. She has no scent anymore. In fact, a faint antiseptic odor has overtaken everything, muting out any sense of home. It’s the smell of keeping yourself busy, keeping your mind off things.
Mom points to the screen. “This house. They say it’s the most haunted house in America.”
“Don’t they say that about all the houses?”
“Huh?”
On the screen, a stationary camera catches a door closing by itself. The creak is deafening.
I shout my question again. Mom laughs. The crew runs toward the camera. The night vision filter makes their eyes look simultaneously alive and soulless, like wild animals. The host’s fear—captured by the green filter—is by far the scariest thing about these shows, not the closing doors or muffled audio. Darkness makes everyone look feral.
The show cuts to commercials that are nearly twice as loud as the ghost show. I stand to leave. Mom grabs my hand, squeezes, and lets it go. A loving acknowledgement. A wordless I know, or I’m sorry, or another deep-meaning pleasantry. I leave her alone to watch her show.
I push through the kitchen door and into an overbearing cloud of smoke, like walking through a sweaty cobweb. The smoke detector buzzes; its alarm sounds weak from overuse.
A pot sits on the stove; flames reach up the side with demonic glee. I shut the monster down. There’s no water left, just burnt spaghetti stuck to the bottom. I turn the sink faucet on and put everything under the cooling rinse. The pot, relieved of its torture, gives off a heavy sigh and unleashes one last puff of steam into the air. I silence the smoke alarm by taking it off the wall and removing the battery.
My dad walks in, waves smoke away like he’s used to it. He opens the fridge and pulls out a diet root beer. He empties half of it in one gulp. A belch blossoms out of his throat, and I smell a day’s worth of closed-mouth.
“What’s with all the commotion in here?” He nods toward the disassembled smoke alarm in my hand. “That’ll kill us, you know.” He winks and finishes his soda.
“It was going crazy. Somebody left the food on the stove.” I pick the pot up out of the sink and show him the caked-together mass of spaghetti, brown and drowning in the tepid water.
“Wasn’t me,” he says and lets the room suffocate on scalding air while he opens another can.
***
We eat sandwiches that night. Peanut butter and honey. The ghost show is still running (some sort of marathon, I guess). We eat at the table, but all our heads are turned to the TV. I peel the crusts off my bread and dangle them above my mouth before dropping them in.
The screech of an EVP recording makes us all wince. I look over to my mom, and her eyes are hidden behind glasses reflecting the images of men running from invisible pursuers.
At the commercial, my mom turns the sound down.
“How was school?” she asks.
“It’s Saturday,” I say.
“That’s my boy,” my dad says. He crams a last bite of sandwich into his mouth.
“Can I spend the night at Steve’s?”
“Sure,” Mom says. “Whatever you want.”
“Oh!” Dad says. “Honey, did you know you left the pot on the burner today?”
Mom looks down at her sandwich as if it’s a piece of evidence. “Oh.”
“Yeah.”
“Sorry,” she says. “Must’ve forgot.”
Dad nudges me. “Must’ve forgot.” He chuckles. “Get it?” He says this like an inside joke. “Get it?”
“I knew I forgot something,” she says.
“Damn near burned the house down. Ask Jason.” He looks at me for approval. I stare at the crumbs on my plate.
“She must’ve forgot,” he says again with some mysterious emphasis. He mouths it to me while Mom watches the ghost hunters. I clear my place without asking to be excused. Mom turns the soundtrack up to ear-splitting levels. Dad grabs my wrist; he’s laughing so hard that the crumbs on his belly are shaking off onto the carpet. Tears stand in his eyes. I still don't know what he finds so funny.
“Get it?” he keeps asking.

Horror Business
We didn’t fuck around when it came down to business: just like how the original Evil Dead was a better movie than Evil Dead II. Just like how the original Halloween was better than Friday the 13th, but still not as good as Nightmare On Elm Streets I and III. Just like how The Ring was good, but every other remake of a Japanese horror movie sucked. Just like how the Re-Animator might be the best comedy-horror ever made, and how there really hasn’t been a good vampire movie since The Lost Boys.
Like how we knew that the original Dawn of the Dead was filmed at the Monroeville Mall in Monroeville, Pennsylvania. Like how it’s lame that you now have to say “the original” when talking about a lot of horror movies.
Like how we thought Pinhead was a good villain but Hellraiser was confusing.
How 28 Days Later is not a zombie movie, technically.
And how movies aren’t really as scary as they used to be.
Horror business was our business, and we didn’t fuck around.


Chapter-by-Chapter-header---About-the-Author
ryanauthorpic3-300x200
Ryan grew up in Park City, Utah. His fiction has appeared in Quarterly West, Paper Darts, Vice, Monkeybicycle and [PANK]. He currently lives in San Diego where he acts as Creative Director for the nonprofit literary arts organization So Say We All. He’s the co-editor of the anthology Last Night on Earth and founder of the literary horror journal, Black Candies.

Connect with the Author: Website | Twitter

Chapter-by-Chapter-header---Giveaway
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Thursday, December 11, 2014

The Story I want to write


In the last year, I’ve written a lot of new material. Over the summer, I wrote two rough, first drafts for two very different projects. One, a total fantasy/steam punk adventure tale, and the other, a contemporary YA. I’m loving them both for different reasons. Now that I’ve done that, what do I want to write next?

I don’t really know. It's kind of like figuring out what you want to read next.

The other project I started and abandoned this year was a historical romance set during WW I. The plot, rehashed from an old script I wrote years ago, was terrible. I can understand now why it doesn’t work. I still want to salvage it, but it think it might become something entirely different. I’ve always loved historical novels and gothic things, so I may tackle that next. Old Southern, gothic creepy thing? We’ll see where the muse takes me.  But first I have to finish the two in progress! 

How about you? What are you reading/writing now?

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Diverse Book Tours presents Hush Puppy by Lisa Cresswell



Welcome to the Hush Puppy blog tour! I’m Lisa Cresswell, the author of Hush Puppy, as well as several other young adult and middle grade books.  Hush Puppy has been published for about a year now and the reviews have been overwhelmingly positive. Here’s a link to a few of them if you like to read that sort of thing. In a nutshell, it’s a Romeo and Juliet sort of tale set in the rural south where white kids and black kids still don’t mix much.
 

I wrote the book as an exploration of friendship and betrayal, but because the plot focuses on the relationship between a black girl and a white boy, I couldn’t help addressing their race and the effect it had on them. It didn’t start out being a story about race relations, but in a way, it is. In the end, the heroine Corrine pays a hefty price for befriending a white boy. I remembered growing up in North Carolina how blacks and whites interacted.  Things haven’t changed all that much from the 1960s in some places.

Right about the time the book was going to be published, Trayvon Martin was murdered by a man who assumed he was up to no good because he was black. It really brought home the fact that things have not changed for black Americans and just how much they need to. I dedicated the book to Trayvon and all the other kids who have tasted the bitterness of hate. It breaks my heart all over again to add Michael Brown’s name to that list this year.

These stories need desperately to be told and shared. That’s why I support the #WeNeedDiverseBooks movement and why I wanted to tour Hush Puppy with Diverse Book Tours.

I hope you’ll visit the other sites on the blog tour, subscribe to my blog for updates, enter the giveaway, and add Hush Puppy to your”‘ TO BE READ” list on Good Reads. I hope you'll read, review, and discuss it. I answer all the comments I get on the blog, so if you have a question or a comment, please ask away. I’d love to hear from you.

Peace everyone. I wish you happy holidays~


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Friday, December 5, 2014

Indie and Small Press Blog Hop Dec. 5-12

Welcome to my blog and the Indie & Small Press Blog Hop. Read on down below about my most recent book and be sure the enter the giveaway at the bottom!

 

Hush Puppy by Lisa T. Cresswell
Featherweight Press, 2013



Hush Puppy is the story of Corrine Lamb, a seventeen year old black girl, and Jamie Armstrong, a poor white boy, living in a backwater North Carolina town. Intelligent Corrine, abandoned by her mother, and artsy Jamie, forced to play football by a redneck father, both dream of leaving their podunk town and never looking back.

Their shared love of literature and a dream of a better life brings them together and a romance blossoms between them in a secret place of their own in the steamy North Carolina woods. When Jamie is involved in the accidental death of a white girl, he's terrified of his abusive father. Corrine takes the blame to protect Jaime, with dire consequences for herself and her dreams of the future. Her life in danger, Corrine's left wondering if Jamie ever cared about her at all.

The events surrounding the death of Trayvon Martin underscore how prevalent fear and hate still is in our country. Sadly, many of the themes explored in Hush Puppy are extremely relevant to today's youth. It's my hope that Hush Puppy is a story not only about poverty and race, but about hope, friendship, and the power of love. Enjoy~

 
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Reviews have been overwhelmingly positive:

With a lot of emotion and skill, Cresswell weaves together a story that promotes the power of friendship and the importance of being true to oneself.

Hush Puppy is a sweet, sweet story of conquering prejudices, forgiveness and family, and a reminder that positive perspective, determination, and the support of one special person are enough to overcome whatever trauma life may deal.



To read an excerpt and more about the author, click on over to
www.lisatcresswell.com~ You can add her books to your 'to be read' list on Good Reads too!


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the other blogs in the Indie & Small Press blog hop and enter all the giveaways!