#amwriting

Whole 30 Update No. 1: The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly by Ryan Hill

 

The first few days of the Whole 30 program have come and gone, and somehow I'm still doing this thing.

Does it have to do with my fiancee's ultimatum that if I don't complete the 30 day program that I can never complain about gaining weight again for the rest of my life? A little.

Does it have to do with early results? A lot.

Now, I haven't magically dropped all the weight I want to, but I have dropped enough to make me curious what Week 2 will bring.

As for no soda/alcohol/pizza/enjoying life? That part is more out of sight, out of mind. So long as I don't talk about it, I'm okay. The second I start talking about it, I become a puddle of immaturity, kicking my legs in the air and begging my fiancee to let me off the hook. 

Of course, she won't let me off the hook.

I'm still getting used to drinking coffee with this ghetto Whole 30 approved creamer and the soda thing has been - so far - not too terrible, thanks to a supply of La Croix berry flavored soda.

I did try this gingerberry flavored Kombucha. It smelled like antiseptic. Tasted like it too.

Overall, I'd say Whole 30 isn't bad. But I still have the weekend to come, and that's when I like to let loose a bit.

Stay tuned.

Ask a demon! by Ryan Hill

 

Welcome to the inaugural edition of ASK A DEMON. It's kind of like a Reddit Ask Me Anything, only with me. A demon. Well... ex-demon. For simplicity's sake, let's act like I'm still a full-fledged demon.

I'm Bartholomew, and I used to be - excuse me - I AM a demon. Been around for thousands of millennia, ruined plans, parties, virgins, all that jazz. Go to LinkedIn if you're looking for a resume, because if being around for thousands of millennia (and all that jazz) doesn't convince you of my credentials for handing out the greatest advice in the history of the known universe, then do me a favor. Ask someone to slap you across the face. As hard as they can. It doesn't matter who they are, just ask. After, LET THEM SLAP YOU, then tell them thanks from Bartholomew. If you need more proof of my credibility, read THE BOOK OF BART. It's about me. By me. For me. And you too, I guess, but mostly me.

Let's see who needs some of my tried and mostly true advice.

Lay Lady Layla asks:

Humans and demons have different skin, and you're always so disgustingly attractive, I have to know. What is your skin care routine?

Demons technically don't have skin. We did when we were angels, but that got messed up when all of us went to Hell. Demons have scales like a snake, but we don't molt. That would be the pits. The good news is demons can disguise our true from underneath human skin. Sort of like a Terminator, but easier to manage and higher quality. In terms of a skin care routine, I try to keep things simple.

Danielle Don't Tell asks:

What is the most unassuming way to get slated for Hell?

Assuming the most assuming way to get into Hell is to be the mastermind behind, say... the Holocaust? Probably saying something along the lines of, "I'd give anything for an hour alone with insert name of person you want five minutes alone with HERE," around the right demon. They'll set it up, but don't be surprised if that hour is spent in a broken elevator along with a screaming baby, a panicky woman who thinks all of you are about to die, a Diabetic in need of an insulin shot, and a man who's hungover and claustrophobic, all while you're stuck with a bladder that will explode at any moment. 

Just sayin'.

Juan John Silver asks:

What's the best way to get a cat out of a tree?

One could go up there and get the cat themselves, wait for the cat to get bored and come down, or call the fire department, but what's the fun in any of those? Instead, I propose stealing a car - the greasiest one available - and crashing it into the tree going at least 40 miles-per-hour. In theory, the force should throw the cat from the tree. And since cats always land on their feet, no harm no foul. Right?

Want your question answered by me? Send them to ryan@ryanhillwrites.com with ASK A DEMON in the subject line. Who knows? You might get lucky.

Until next time...

Bartholomew signing off

 

 

 

Introducing... ASK A DEMON by Ryan Hill

Have you ever needed advice on something, but were too scared to ask your parents? Want to know the best way to get revenge on that bully who won't stop giving you noogies? Then you've come to the right place!

Bartholomew, that handsome, smooth, dastardly scoundrel of a demon (his words, not mine) has graciously decided to take some time away from his busy schedule of chasing virgins and corrupting souls to answer questions from YOU, for FREE. Normally, this kind of thing requires payment in the form of a Maserati or, oh, YOUR SOUL, but Bartholomew is doing this for free. He'd never admit it, but personally? I think his friend Samantha put him up to it in the hopes he might actually help someone. Can't say for sure, though. 

Send your questions to ryan@ryanhillwrites.com with the subject line ASK A DEMON, and maybe Bartholomew will answer your question!

In the meantime, you can follow Bartholomew's shenanigans in THE BOOK OF BART, with parts 2 and 3 coming 2017!

On Going From One Manuscript to Another by Ryan Hill

 

I've picked up on an interesting trend with my writing. Ever since I finished The Book of Bart - Verse 1 - the draft that was submitted to agents and publishers - I've had a tendency to bounce around from manuscript to manuscript for whatever reason. Sometimes it's from writer's block, others because my attention has been pulled elsewhere. The reasons vary, but the point is the same.

I struggle to stick with one manuscript from beginning to completion.

It's not a good or a bad thing, but it is a thing with me. Take my latest release, The Conch Shell of Doom. I wound up writing about 30k words, then abandoned the manuscript. My anxiety/depression had been gnawing at me the entire time I'd been writing (even before), and I'd had enough, so I dropped it and moved on to another book, one that was intended to be more commercial and the first of a trilogy called The Luminari Crown. I only made it 20k words into that one before the anxiety/depression got to me again, and I dropped that manuscript as well. 

I took some time for myself, then sat down to read what I'd written of The Conch Shell of Doom. Without the anxiety clouding my judgment, I noticed that Conch Shell was pretty good, and worth finishing. In between then and now, I had both The Book of Bart and my zombie novel Dead New World published, forcing me to leave Conch Shell for a time. In between edits on Conch Shell, I started The Book of Bart - Verse 2, then had to leave it for more Conch Shell edits, and wound up starting a dark, young adult mystery novel. Earlier this week, I finished the first draft of Bart 2. It's okay if you're having trouble keeping up.

The playing of musical chairs with manuscripts has paid off in an unexpected way. So many writers - myself included - can get so deep into a story they can't see the forest for the trees. Leaving a manuscript to work on something else not only gives you breathing room and the chance to use creative muscles that may have atrophied on the previous work, but it gives you perspective.

Yes, it's difficult getting back into the flow of a manuscript this way, but after a couple of days, it feels like I never left. I also feel refreshed upon return, which brings new ideas that wouldn't have popped up if I hadn't moved to something else. Sure, some continuity issues can arise, especially with things from the beginning of the novel, but that's what editing is for; to smooth out the story and flesh out portions that need more exploration. 

I don't know that I'd recommend this method of writing, but it's been working for me the last few years. If you're stuck or feeling down about your work though, it may be just the ticket to helping the manuscript get back on track.

Enjoy!

Interview time with ASLEEP's KRYSTAL WADE!!! by Ryan Hill

 

"Time to let all the kings know that the ACE is back." - Dr. Dre

That's an appropriate quote for author Krystal Wade, who's already rocked the casbah with CHARMING, the WILDE'S trilogy, and SHATTERED SECRETS. It's only appropriate she does it again with ASLEEP, a thrilling mash-up between SNOW WHITE and A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET (something I totally screwed up in the Q&A below).

Even more, Krystal doesn't just have a new novel out. Because that's child's play for her at this point. ASLEEP doesn't just signify another entry in the outstanding catalog that is the collected works of Krystal Wade, it's the debut entry in her OWN PUBLISHING HOUSE, Blaze Publishing! 

How effin' sweet is that? "Yeah, this book stuff is old hat. I think I'll step my game up a notch for no other reason than BECAUSE I CAN."

Ryan note: Krystal is my friend/kindred spirit/wise kemosabi, and she's flippin' sweet. If you don't know her, you're worse off for it.

Such a great/creepy cover!

Such a great/creepy cover!

"To cure fear, you must use fear."

Rose Briar claims no responsibility for the act that led to her imprisonment in an asylum. She wants to escape, until terrifying nightmares make her question her sanity and reach out to her doctor. He's understanding and caring in ways her parents never have been, but as her walls tumble down and Rose admits fault, a fellow patient warns her to stop the medications. Phillip believes the doctor is evil and they'll never make it out of the facility alive. Trusting him might be just the thing to save her. Or it might prove the asylum is exactly where she needs to be.

If you want to see more of ASLEEP, you can find the Ten Weeks of Teasers and other great content on the Blaze Publishing blog. Order your copy now!

Amazon   Barnes & Noble   Kobo   Signed Copy of Asleep   Goodreads

ON TO THE QUESTIONS!

Congratulations on ASLEEP! This is the first release under your own banner, Blaze Publishing. I won't ask about what it's like creating a publishing house, because we all know the answer: it's hard and a lot of work. What I will ask, though, is with ASLEEP, which you wrote, being the first novel coming out through Blaze, which you run, do you feel there's some sort of weird nepotism thing going on there?

Yep! We plan to have a whole lot of nepotism at Blaze. Because NEPOTISM! 

On a more serious note, there has to be a lot of additional pressure on you. Having a novel come out is pressure enough, but ASLEEP is also the first look the world gets at the quality of work Blaze Publishing will be releasing. To relieve some of the pressure you're feeling, I've provided canned, multiple choice answers for you. Choose the most appropriate.

A. So much pressure I've gone from drinking wine maybe once a month to downing shots of hard liquor day after day in the hopes of finding some relief from this headache.

B. It's a good thing this interview isn't being video-taped, because I've lost patches of hair, and the only extensions I could find came from discarded My Little Pony manes.

C. Pressure? I thrive on pressure. Don't worry about how much coffee I drink or how many cartons of cigarettes I smoke a day. That information is private and I will not share it, especially with you.

D. Huh? What? Sorry, this heroin is some good stuff.

ASLEEP is your second genre mash-up after the very cool CHARMING. A mix between SNOW WHITE and A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET is pretty crazy. Do you have a dartboard covered in potential genres to combine and whichever two genres the darts hit first become the framework for your next novel?

SLEEPING BEAUTY and NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET. But I forgive you. And your idea about the dart board is excellent. Maybe I'll try that in the future.

*Ryan note: That’s right, SLEEPING BEAUTY… I’m an idiot.

Since ASLEEP is very much about nightmares, what's one nightmare you've had that scared you to the point you were freaked out the next day?

I've had several nightmares like that. But the ones that usually have me crying when I wake up are when loved ones die in dreams. I once had a dream so vivid, so horrific about my daughter being kidnapped and then brutally murdered while we were on a skiing trip that I STILL get nervous right before every ski trip. 

I still have dreams where I think I forgot to write a term paper, or forgot to put on anything besides underwear (which isn't a bad dream. In fact, I and the ladies in said dream rather like it). Do you have any recurring dreams like that? 

I actually don't have recurring dreams all that often, and when I do, I usually forget them until the next time they pop up in my dreams. So, um, not sure.

Many readers may not be aware you have a chicken coop in your backyard. Do they ever wake you up at the butt crack o' dawn with their yelling? If so, how often do you feel the need to "make an example" of one of them? Do you worry they may break free and peck one of your fingers off? Also... HOW DO THEY TASTE? The chickens, not your fingers.

No cockadoodle dooing here. We have all hens, and we've never eaten them. We use them for eggs only.

Did anything influence your writing on ASLEEP? Watch any scary films, spooky TV shows, or read any terrifying books to help you get in the right frame of mind to write ASLEEP?

I'm always watching the spooky, the fantastical, the emotional on television or in movies. I don't think any particular show or book influenced me during the writing process, but clearly a couple stories mashed up influenced the book.

Are you currently writing anything else? If not, WHY? PEOPLE LIKE READING YOUR BOOKS, WADE. GIVE THE PEOPLE WHAT THEY WANT. WHY AREN'T YOU GIVING THE PEOPLE WHAT THEY WANT? That is, if you're not currently giving the people what they want.

I'm trying to give the people what they want! Come on! I do have a couple more books in process, but my focus right now is on publishing. I do hope to have one release next year, a mystery that mashes up BEFORE I FALL with FREQUENCY!

Let's play fill in the blank. Come up with your craziest genre mash-ups.

The Princess Bride meets Practical Magic in this tale of lust and revenge set amidst the Protestant Reformation.

Meet Joe Black meets Silence of the Lambs as two brothers, one Asian and one Russian, vie for the affections of a woman who runs a hot dog stand in 1980s New York City.

Field of Dreams meets Doc Hollywood as a humble, poor, illiterate man does whatever it takes to become the greatest dentist in all of South Dakota.

In haiku format, tell everyone why they should buy/read or buy/not read but definitely buy ASLEEP.

You should read Asleep.
It will give you the creeps.
And you will not sleep.

As always, a big thank you to Krystal for taking the time to answer my insane questions, and being an awesome friend/author!

You can follow/stalk Krystal on social media at Website   Instagram   Twitter   Facebook   Google+

See? Toldja she's got her own publishing house!

See? Toldja she's got her own publishing house!

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On being 36-years-old by Ryan Hill

 

No joke, that title felt weird to write. It brings up so many thoughts. Where the time went, what to do with the time ahead of me, and the fact that in the grand scheme of things I'm not old, but hot damn. I'M 36.

Pretty much

Pretty much

Getting older is always something you worry about when you're younger. Twenty-somethings fret over every birthday, because it brings them one digit closer to the end-all, be-all that is thirty. Why? Because it's a number all of us have seared in our brains as TIME TO GET YO SHIT TOGETHER AND BE A REAL, ACTUAL ADULT. Heck, my mom cried when Dad turned 30.

Guess what? Being in your thirties really isn't that bad. At all. I prefer it to being in my twenties.

I was a friggin mess in my twenties. I was still trying to figure life, the universe, and everything out with little success. I didn't have a foothold in, well, anything. My early-to-mid twenties were mired in a haze of longing for my college days while trying to figure out the whole adult thing. My late twenties were more about trying to squeeze as much fun in before the big three-oh hit. I even wrote a manuscript about a guy reflecting on his life before he turns thirty. I can't say I was a mess about it, but some people are.

My thirtieth birthday turned out to be kind of a baptism by fire into "adulthood." I'd discovered someone stole my mail, taking checks intended to pay bills and counterfeiting them to buy stuff to the tune of $800.

Welcome to adulthood, Ryan! Here's a swift kick in the ass to get you started!

It really was kind of a harbinger of things to come. My thirties have by far been the most difficult decade of my life, but it's also been the most rewarding. I've become a published author. I still get to review movies, i.e. see them for free before everyone else and write about them. More than that, other things happen in your thirties that are pretty awesome.

Mainly, you stop giving a flying f--k about everything. By everything, I don't mean ev-er-y-thing, but everything that doesn't really matter in the grand scheme of things. With some life experience under their belt, people settle into themselves in their thirties, and with that comes a level of comfort with who you are - some might even call it self esteem - that elevates you above worrying about whether someone thinks you're full of it, and other assorted items like that. Ya just don't care. And it's a wonderful thing. It builds up confidence, and makes dealing with all the B.S. that life throws at you that much easier to handle.

Granted, being in your thirties does have the drawback of OMGZ MY BODY WON'T STOP FALLING APART.

This part is actually worse for me, since I blew my back out six-years-ago doing too much weight on a Lat Row Machine. I've got two ruptured discs that irritate the Sciatica in my left leg. It's been awful. But enough about me.

I liken the physical deterioration in your thirties to a toy. When it's new, everything is strong and sturdy, but over time, wear and tear sets in. Some things don't work as well as they used to. That's kind of what your body is like in your thirties. It's not terrible, but you do notice the changes, which range from achy joints to inability to stay up late, less tolerance to extreme cold or heat, etc. Basically, if you blew out your knee at some point, that knee is going to remind you of it on an almost daily basis in thirties. Your hair also turns grey on a more steady basis, but that's kind of whatever. It doesn't bother me at all.

So to anyone afraid of turning 30, don't be. Like everything else, it's a mix of good and bad. Sure, it's different and your mortality starts coming into focus, but that's not necessarily a bad thing. Then again, as someone who's never been married, has no kids, a spotty (at best) relationship record, I could be talking out of my ass.*

I pretty much always reserve the right to admit I'm talking out of my ass. If I'm wrong on something, so be it.

 

 

On Adapting THE BOOK OF BART For Film/TV by Ryan Hill

 

Fun fact: I originally wanted to be a screenwriter. After I finished grad school in 2004, I even moved out to Los Angeles in the hopes of making that dream a reality. Long story short, I came back to North Carolina after six months. I missed my family, friends, clean(ish) air, and a zillion other things. But I never lost the writing bug (obviously).

Last year, I got the idea to write a pilot script for The Book of Bart. I've always felt it would make a good show, something that could be a book-end to, say, Supernatural, so while I was in the middle of edits on the upcoming The Conch Shell of Doom, I set to work turning Bart into a 50-odd page pilot script. I'd written feature-length screenplays before, but not an adaptation.

For anyone out there considering adapting their novel, know that writing a script is ABSOLUTELY NOTHING like writing a novel. They're different beasts with different rules. A novel can really dig into details and emotions, enveloping the reader in the soft, gentle sway of a tree branch in the wind. If that line were written in a script, the reader would toss it in the garbage and move on to the next script. With novels, that kind of writing is welcomed, and sometimes even praised. It can also mask potential deficiencies in plot or dialogue. 

Guess what?

SCRIPTS ARE ALL ABOUT PLOT AND DIALOGUE.

Scripts require the most sparse, bare-bones writing possible. Every single word matters. A script is meant to serve as a blueprint for a film or TV production. What's on the page is meant to be on the screen. If it can't be seen or heard, it shouldn't be in the script. Emotions, motive, all that stuff has to be left to the cast and crew for interpretation. Ever read a play, like Thornton Wilder's Our Town? There's the scene location, characters, and dialogue. That's it. Everything else is left to the director, actors, set designers, etc., to interpret as they see fit. A script is similar, though there's room for just enough description to paint a visual picture. 

The transition from book to screen is never seamless. Even films like The Hunger Games and Harry Potter have differences/departures from the books. The change in medium makes it impossible to stay 100 percent true to the source material because of length, a scene isn't visually compelling, or what works as a book doesn't necessarily work as a film. Some books just aren't meant to be adapted, while others are.

This one wasn't.

This one wasn't.

I knew going in that adapting Bart to a visual medium would be tricky. Much of the fun comes from Bart's narration, and only so much of that can survive before characters wind up standing in front of a camera, waiting for the voice over narration to finish so they can move on to the next thing. It became a balancing act of mixing the narration into a mix of voice over and dialogue. 

While I'm happy with the pilot for The Book of Bart, there's a lot of work left before it can even think about seeing the light of day. And that's fine. If nothing else, it was a learning experience, so onward and upward, and all that stuff. I'll share it one day, but today it's about the challenges of adapting one's work to a different medium.

John Irving won an Oscar for adapting his novel The Cider House Rules. Suzanne Collins wrote a draft of the first Hunger Games film. So adapting your work can be done, and done quite well. Just go into it knowing that by no means is it a cake walk, and good luck!

New Month, Same Goals by Ryan Hill

 

It's a new month, which means there's got to be one or two people out there interested in what I have to say, right Mom and Dad? Mom? Dad? Anyone?

*crickets*

Pfft. Like my parents read my stuff anyway. And I'm 100% okay with that. I meant it. Really. I STILL LOVE YOU TWO. NO HATE AT ALL.

New Month

September should be a fun month. I finally get to meet my little niece Jo, college football starts (Go Wolfpack!), fantasy football also begins, and the otherworldly, non-climate change* induced armpit of heat and humidity known as summer goes away. 

sarcasm

Same Goals

My goal(s) are the same they have been for the past few years. Have enough success to where I can write novels full-time, then go from there. 

To get more specific, I'm still shopping around my latest manuscript, The Conch Shell of Doom, to agents in the literary world. Some of you may think that's an absurd title for a novel, and to that I say OF COURSE IT IS. Some of you may also think nobody worth their salt would be interested in a novel with such an absurd title, and to that I say SHUT UP MAYBE SOMEBODY WILL.

Anyone who knows me knows that a novel called The Conch Shell of Doom is right up my alley. It's a fun, paranormal, Goonies-style romp. It will see the light of day, that much I can promise. I'm just not sure how.

I'm also hard at work on an UNTITLED YA MANUSCRIPT, which is a non-funny, non-silly, dark story with one of the most original titles in the history of books. Yes, I mostly write silly books, but I also like to stretch my writer muscles and dive into areas that are new or unfamiliar to me - in this case, a female POV. The story revolves around an 18-year-old teen girl who visits her brother's killer in jail, only to come away wondering if the wrong person was convicted. Scandalous! 

Work also continues on the TV pilot script for The Book of Bart, which I'm co-writing with my friend Josh Lanier, a writer for the Charlotte sketch comedy group Robot Johnson. I'm still a little over halfway through with The Unspoken Rule: The Book of Bart Verse 2, but it's currently on the back-burner while I expand my writing horizons. Not to worry! Once my Untitled novel is finished, Verse 2 is next on the docket.

 

 

#UtopYA2015! by Ryan Hill

 

Greetings!

Some exciting stuff going on the next couple of weeks. HOW EXCITING, you ask? Hoooooo boy. I wish I could say I won the lottery, but it's pretty exciting nonetheless.

Tomorrow, well technically starting tonight, since I'll be making the first part of the 8+ hour drive tonight with a layover at my parents' house, I'm on my way to UtopYA2015 in Nashville!


It's going to be a blast. At least, it better be. Otherwise, somebody's car is getting keyed. But I'm pretty confident it's going to be amazing, so everyone should be safe from my keys o' doom. I'll be signing books on Friday, giving out sweet, soap-based swag (brain soap, Doctor Who Tardis soap), candy, and I'm even having a contest where you can win some pretty nifty Doctor Who items!

Anyone who signs up for my newsletter at UtopYA will receive one free entry into the contest, and an extra five entries will be given to those who buy one of my books (ten extra entries if both are purchased). Winners will be chosen using a random number generator online, and will have the option of picking one of these prizes:

A Doctor Who (10th Doctor) Mr. Potato Head

Doctor Who exploding TARDIS mug

A Dalek

he giveaway will only be happening Friday, since that's the day I'm signing books. If you're in or around Nashville, come on down!

But the exciting news doesn't end there!

Both THE BOOK OF BART and DEAD NEW WORLD have been selected by Amazon to be Kindle Daily Deals! This has the potential to be HUGE. Like... win the lottery huge.

Sooooo many new sets of eyeballs will see my books for the first time, and there's all kinds of potential to crack the Kindle Marketplace Top 100, and maybe even more than that! However, I'm going to need your help do this.

I've got a Thunderclap campaign set up for BART, and need at least 100 people to sign up in order for the campaign to take place. All you have to do is go to the campaign page, sign up, and Thunderclap will send out the message for you.

How flippin' easy is that? Plus, you're helping someone, which has to feel good. Doubly so since it's me you're helping. 

Volunteer for THE BOOK OF BART's Thunderclap here

 

COVER REVEAL - UNDEATH AND TAXES by Drew Hayes!!! by Ryan Hill

 

After discovering just how filled with magic, intrigue, and adventure the parahuman world of being an Undead American can be, Fredrick Frankford Fletcher did exactly what was expected--he became a certified parahuman accountant. Myths and legends, as it turns out, are not so great at taking appropriate deductions and keeping their receipts, and Fred is more than happy to return to a life others view as woefully dull, expanding his accounting business to cater to various monsters and their respective financial needs. 

Said monsters are, unfortunately, still spectacular at pulling Fred into trouble, though. And despite merely wanting to stick with simple paperwork, Fred once again finds he is going to have to deal with enchanted weaponry, government agents, possessed houses, and one enigmatic dragon’s interest. In the parahuman world, any business can turn deadly, even one as mundane as accounting.

 

Add Undeath & Taxes on goodreads


Author Bio:

Drew Hayes is an aspiring author from Texas who has written several books and found the gumption to publish a few (so far). He graduated from Texas Tech with a B.A. in English, because evidently he’s not familiar with what the term “employable” means. Drew has been called one of the most profound, prolific, and talented authors of his generation, but a table full of drunks will say almost anything when offered a round of free shots. Drew feels kind of like a D-bag writing about himself in the third person like this. He does appreciate that you’re still reading, though.

Drew would like to sit down and have a beer with you. Or a cocktail. He’s not here to judge your preferences. Drew is terrible at being serious, and has no real idea what a snippet biography is meant to convey anyway. Drew thinks you are awesome just the way you are. That part, he meant. Drew is off to go high-five random people, because who doesn’t love a good high-five? No one, that’s who.

See Drew talk about himself in first person on his website and twitter.

THE BOOK OF BART won a humor award!!! by Ryan Hill

 

So, remember (or not; the point is I REMEMBER) how THE BOOK OF BART was named a finalist in the 2014 USA Best Book Awards - Humor category? Guess what? Another contest, the Next Generation Indie Book Awards, a fine institution with a superior sense of humor to the USA Best Book Awards, has named THE BOOK OF BART as Best Humor/Comedy novel in their 2015 awards!!!!!

Yes, everyone's favorite well-dressed demon is also the funniest demon... at least according to the Next Generation Indie Book Awards. And that's just for 2015. Next year it could be something completely different. Who knows with these things? 

 

Regardless, thanks so much to the Next Generation Indie Book Awards for recognizing THE BOOK OF BART!!!


The Six Stages of Reading George R.R. Martin's A SONG OF ICE AND FIRE series by Ryan Hill

 

One doesn't simply sit down to read George R.R. Martin's mammoth A SONG OF ICE AND FIRE series. It's an investment in time. LOTS of time. YEARS even. For anyone who reads a lot, each entry in the series (five and counting) is so friggin long, they're the equivalent of three to four "normal length" books. That's not to say the books aren't fantastic, they just require you to give up years of your life to finish them.

So, while you're reading the books, partly for enjoyment and partly because you refuse to let the GAME OF THRONES TV show never, ever, ever rip your heart and your guts out at the same time again, that pile of books sitting on the book shelf waiting to be read only grows larger, adding to the anxiety that your life is spinning out of control because these books are so time-consuming and you'll never reach a point where you can read a book not written by George R.R. Martin in this lifetime. 

Now...

Stage One: Excitement

That's right! Screw you, HBO! You're not going to pull another Red Wedding on THIS guy. I'll already know what's happened! LET'S DO THIS

Stage Two: The crushing blow of reality

Okay, been reading A GAME OF THRONES for a few weeks now, and... shit. Over 600 pages to go. This is really good and all, but damn.

Stage Three: Depression

Three months in. Still 400 pages to go. Most of my relationships never lasted this long. Body shutting down. Tell Mom I love her.

Stage Four: Hope

Only 200 pages to go! Heads are getting lopped off left and right! I can see the finish line!

 

Stage Five: Triumph

Oh yeah! Just finished a 900 page book! It's Miller Time!

One down... wait.

No.

No...

Four to go? At least the ones that have come out? So, after knocking out 900 pages, there's still 4,000 more to go? I WILL NEVER CATCH UP TO THIS DAMN SHOW. 

Stage six: Complete and utter defeat

Just... go on without me. Try to remember the good things we shared. I'm not getting out of Westeros with my head attached to my body.



DAUGHTER OF THE FALLEN Chapter Reveal! by Ryan Hill

 

Check out the first chapter of Madeline Wynn's DAUGHTER OF THE FALLEN! Madeline is a friend of mine, which makes this reveal doubly awesome! 


About the Book:

Most sixteen-year olds aren't worried about the fate of their immortal souls. May Krieg should be.

Typically, honor student May's biggest problems have revolved around her super-hot arch-rival, Jack. But when a school project takes them ghost-hunting in a local cemetery, she discovers that an ominous force roams in the darkness around her.

And it follows her home.

It claws its way into her life, burning messages into her wall and imprinting them onto her body. Even worse, she can't tell if it's trying to possess her... or protect her.

May's thoughts soon become actions, causing the target of her anger severe physical pain and giving her a rush the likes of which she has never experienced.  She quickly realizes that she needs to find a way to reign in this power before she kills someone. May hates the pleasure it gives her, hates herself for hurting others, but she can't stop.

As her entire world shatters around her, she is forced to ask what her soul is worth-- and who would she risk losing her soul to save?

For More Information

 

First Chapter

           This is New England. And in New England, a town without a good witch hanging or ghost story just, well, isn’t considered to be a real town.  So when I walk past the iron gate of the cemetery and feel the urge to bolt riding up my legs like a herd of football players bum-rushing the food counter on taco day, I set my shoulders and do my best to cowboy up.

          Set between imposing stone walls and punctured by large granite fists, Hillside Cemetery definitely looks like it deserves its sinister reputation, making my attempt at bravery rather brief.  “This place sucks. Maybe we should just go.”

          “Here, watch your step,” Cay says and holds out his hand to help me over the uneven cobbles just on the other side of the entry. Once we make it over the stones, he drops my hand and pulls the recording equipment out of the duffle.

          We’ve been friends ever since kindergarten, when some boy taunted me for living in a “little troll house.”  Cay, the kickball king, told him that it was actually a gingerbread house, and everybody knows that only fairy princesses live in gingerbread houses. 

          He was wrong, of course; it was witches who lived in the gingerbread houses, a fact I pointed out to him later, but I gave him props for the effort.  We’ve been “Cay and May” ever since, but the whole dating thing still feels… awkward.

          “Is this all from school or is Jack bringing some of his dad’s?” I swipe an errant curl of hair out of my face and cringe at my surroundings as I reach for the big videocamera.  Why does it have to be so dark?  Why can’t people ghost hunt in the daylight?  You can still supposed get sound bites and whatever in the daytime, right?  It’s not like ghosts go anywhere or sleep or, you know, whatever.

          “Well, the big stuff is the professional gear with night vision from school.  And then we have my stuff.”  Cay stops in front of a wide tomb, laying his multiple cameras and his mini video recorder along the top like they are the most precious things in the world. “Weird that Mr. Dowd put both you and Jack on my team.” 

           “Yeah, weird.”  And a nightmare. If it wasn’t for Jack, I’d be ranked first in our year, and, unlike Jack, if I don’t earn a ton of scholarship money for college, then I can’t go. 

          Cay fumbles with the equipment, his breath rising in great grey puffs of frost, lingering in his dark bob of curls.  I shiver.  

          A BMW pulls up in front of the entry gate, looking sleek and new and out of place.

          I run an unsteady hand through my untamable hair…right…Jack.

          He gets out of the car and strides towards us, stepping out into the camera’s lights: short blond hair, high cheekbones, and a long neck leading to strong shoulders.  Everyone at school, except for me, that is, adores him because he’s rich, intelligent and supposedly lost his virginity to a Victoria’s Secret model.

          Watching the god-like way he strides across the cemetery, you can almost believe the hype.  He lifts his eyes to meet mine as he nods a greeting.  My heart flips.  

          Of course, it would be easier to dislike him if he wasn’t so damn… hot.  I shake my head.  I hate that about him, too.

          “You’re late.”  I grab the sound gear from Cay and hand it to him, eyeing the orange-clad harpy of a girl trailing after him.

          “I had to pick up Alicia.”  He indicates the thing as he straps on the professional sound gear.  “And respond to your post on the AP History board about gun control.”

          I huff.  “You think we should arm everyone with a credit card?”

          “What I think is irrelevant, Mason.”  Jack’s the only one in the universe who calls me by my full name. “It’s what the Founding Fathers wanted that matters.”  He holds out his hand to help me navigate my way over a broken tomb.  I ignore it.  He smirks, “Or do you not support the Bill Of Rights?”

          God, please keep me from throttling him tonight.  Cay clears his throat.

          “WTF, losers?  A graveyard?” Alicia Impestio. Wearing her designer hoodie unzipped so that she reveals way more skin than she has to, her straight brown hair is bleached at the tips and held off of her over-tanned face by some rhinestone-studded catastrophe.  I grit my teeth. 

          “Hey Alicia, glad you could make it.”  Cay holds the minicam out towards her and helps her onto the cobbled path of the graveyard.

          “Whatever.”  Alicia grabs the mini and swats at Cay’s hand as she struggles to gain a foothold.  A challenging endeavor, I’m sure, for someone wearing flip-flops in November. 

          She gives me the once-over, lips curling. 

“You really wore that?”  She asks, mouth open with disdain. 

“Alicia…”  Jack’s voice is low, menacing.

          “I mean” –she gives me the once-over and sneers- “Aren’t the Kardashians some of you people?  They at least know how to dress.  But, then again, they also know who their daddy is.”  

          That’s Alicia: hitting where it hurts. I blink through the stinging at my eyes as my mind races to find something snarky to say...something to…

          “Alicia,” Jack snaps. “Stop.”

“Fine, but tell Clay Aiken over there to hurry it.  I’m cold.”

          Jack makes a motion with his head to indicate that Cay should ignore her as he adjusts the weight of the portable boom on his back.

          “Okay, I’m filming.”  I say and catch the low-hanging harvest moon before panning down to Cay.  “In three, two, one…”

          “This is Cayden Robison of Chase Hills High Broadcasting reporting on site at Hillside Cemetery. In 1734, three witches were reportedly hung just up the road, on the town green and buried, here, in this cemetery, in unmarked graves.”

          “Then, in 1864, three men were arrested for grave digging, and ever since, people have reported strange things not only here, but especially out behind the burial grounds, in the woods.” Cay runs his hand along the top of a worn tombstone.

          “Reports of paranormal activity really began to pick up in the past thirty years.”  He pauses, and I pan the camera over to the creepy oak and the broken bench beneath it, hands a little unsteady.  “Some people claim to hear voices, others see full-body apparitions, but most convincingly, in the 1980s, some kids back here partying say that they found satanists performing rituals in the woods.  They watched as the group made a make-shift temple of one of the half-buried barite mines in the woods, and claim that the men actually raised a demon.”

          He stops, looking intently into the lens of my camera. I flex my fingers, my breath rushed, like I’ve been running.

          “Tonight, we’re going to dig for the truth and see if Hillside Cemetery is actually haunted.”  Cays smiles.

          Deep breath, May.  It’s just a story.  Fairytales. There’s no such thing as demons, or ghosts. 

          Cay motions with his hand to indicate that the “official” filming has ended and that now the “ghosthunting” part of the project begins. Why couldn’t we report on the old tavern, or maybe on one of the farms like everyone else? I blow onto my fingers to keep them warm before turning off the main light of the camera and switching to night vision. 

          A dog barks.  I jump. Looking at the shadows clinging to the crooked, thin stones more cautiously, my heartbeat ticks up.  Stupid dog.

          Jack, eyeing me with something like concern, takes a step in my direction.

“So, what exactly are we looking for?  Has anybody actually taped any evidence here?”  I ask, trying to put some steel in my voice.  Don’t look stupid in front of Jack, May.  He’s not freaked out and you shouldn’t be either.

          “Lots of people have caught pictures and stuff…  a few good EVPs.”  Cay stops and explains as he snaps a bunch of still shots.  “Electronic Voice Phenomena.  Voices of ghosts are usually at such a low frequency that human ears can’t pick them up, but you can catch them on tape.”

          Cay walks, holding out both a still camera and a wand-like mini-recorder in front of him.

          I follow, looking over my shoulder. “Sounds like a bad recording…or interference.”

          Jack laughs soundlessly as we slowly follow Cay’s movements.  Is it wrong to say that I’m happy Jack’s here?  I mean, it would be better if it was someone else, of course….

          Cay storms around the tomb and wags his finger at me, dry leaves crunching beneath his feet.  “It’s not interference, jeez May, didn’t you read those links I sent you?”

          No.  The whole ghost thing is ridiculous. The trees at the edge of the cemetery, though, are freakish.  Black and dripping with shadows…  I absolutely would have read a link about a barite mine lurking somewhere beneath those trees.

          “This is creepy.”  Alicia says, “Jack, we’re going to Eric’s party later, right?”

          Jack glares at her.

          “Whatever.”  She purses her lips and tosses the minicam on the ground, “I’m going back to the car.”

          Thank you, God. 

          Cay’s sweet, boyish features twist at Alicia’s defection. “We’ll do some EVP work, first, OK?” He messes with his digital voice recorder for a minute before holding the wand-like thing before him.  He presses record. “Testing.”

          We wait.  The frost from our breath hovers around us, filling the darkness with fog, hiding us from the trees.

          Cay looks to me. Then he pushes stop.  He plays back the recording and we hear him say, “Testing.”

          Jack shuffles his feet, trying to lower the boom over where Cay is standing in the least conspicuous manner possible.  A strange, cool feeling falls over me.  My teeth clench against it.

          “Shhhh, May. Do you feel that?” Cay holds out his arm, listening.

          My body tenses. “Feel what?”  I ask, angry at myself for my quickening heartbeat.

          “It just dropped like ten degrees.  Ghosts need energy to manifest, and when they’re about to appear, you find a cold spot. Just like this.” He grins.

          Swallowing my galloping heartbeat, I refrain from mentioning that it is always cold in November in Connecticut.  But a wall of cold that hits suddenly, in a graveyard, while trying to talk to the dead…

          “Is anybody here with us tonight?”  Cay asks, holding the recorder out before him. “Is there anything you would like to say to us?”

          We wait in the silence of the night, Cay with the tiny, handheld voice recorder and Jack with the pro gear and mic, both recording, both waiting…

          The cold sits at the bottom of my stomach like a virus, lying, waiting to rear up and make me ill.  I keep the camera on Cay with shaking hands, black hair falling in front of my eyes, but I don’t dare swat at them, in case I miss the shot. 

          Cay plays the tape back. He waits, holding his breath as we hear his voice asking the first question, and thankfully only a blank pause before we hear him ask the second and I relax, shoulders softening, but just then, just as he moves to turn off the playback, a sound, a groaning, emanates from the small machine he holds in his hand.

“Go.” 

          “What the hell was that?”  I shriek, jumping in time with Cay and reaching out to grab at Jack’s shirt. 

          “It sounds like it’s saying ‘go’, hot damn!”  Cay shouts triumphantly.  “We like totally made contact!”

           Jack looks at my hand on his shirt and smiles. I let go. Crap!

“Mason, this ghost hunting stuff is all bull, you know that, right?”

          Heart slamming, I hold my feet steady beneath my pounding heart.  Bull, yeah, bull, right, I do know that.  I nod at him, breath heavy.  

          “Here, I’ll show you.”  Jack lowers the long wand microphone to his feet.  Arm muscles tensing as he pulls the battery pack off of his back, he plays back the feedback on the main sound recorder.  He fast forwards then hits play.  We hear Cay ask his questions and…I hold my breath…and…and…nothing.  Jack’s right.  Nothing groaned.  Nothing said “go”.

          Thank God.

           “The EVP recorder’s more sensitive.”  Cay says incredulously as he points the EVP recorder at Jack’s set lips.  “It’s specially set up to pick up more sound waves than standard equipment.”

          “More sensitive than professional sound gear?”  Jack raises his eyebrow and looks me in the eye.  “He pre-recorded it, Mason.  He’s faking.”

          “Cay?”

          “I’m not lying, May, I swear!” He hops around a cracked tombstone and grabs my hand in his, “Promise.”

          “Right.”  Jack shrugs off the rest of the soundgear.  “Using an assignment on local history as an excuse to play ghost hunter was a bad idea, Cay. Faking a ghost sighting or hearing or whatever to impress your girlfriend is just wrong.”

          “We’ve just experienced something supernatural here!”  Cay turns to face Jack, looking wiry standing against Jack’s athletic physique.

          “No, we haven’t.”  Jack’s eyes meet mine and my heart flounders… not sure as to what the hell it should be doing.  “He’s lying to you, Mason.” 

          My heart tightens, falls.

          “I am not, you dick!”  Cay shoves Jack in the chest.

          Jack doesn’t push back, he just straightens out and looks to me again, “Maybe you should ask him what else he’s lying to you about, Mason?”

          “May, you’ve known me like your whole life, you know I wouldn’t fake this.”  I look into Cay’s eyes, searching for the truth.  He wouldn’t.  For one, he’s not that smart.  And he wouldn’t fake something like this. Not on purpose.  Not if it would mean tricking me. Maybe Alicia tampered with this stuff somehow… And what the hell is Jack implying?

          “He wouldn’t lie, Jack.”  I look across the field to the blackened woods. “Not to me.  It must be the equipment.”

          Jack’s face closes...he’s pissed.  “For your sake, I hope that’s true.”  He hands me the sound equipment.  “I can wait by the car if you want me to, but I won’t be part of this.”

          “Just go.”  Cay demands, getting in Jack’s face.

          Jack raises his eyes to mine. My heart amps up.  I force my eyes to the ground.  I don’t want him to go. Safety in numbers and all that.

          Wait, Jack’s walking away….  

           I turn to Cay. “Why is he so sure you’re making this up?”

          Cay looks at his feet.  “Probably just pissed he’s not in charge of something for once.”

           “Maybe.”  I watch Jack’s form seem to disappear into the trees and tombs beneath the light of the moon.

          “Come on.”  He looks over at Jack’s retreating form and says at full volume, “I’m your boyfriend and I won’t let anything bad happen to you.”

          Jack stops, back tight, and Cay sports a defiant grin as he ushers me closer to the tree line. 

          After a long moment, Cay clears his throat and talks into the wand-like EVP machine. “We’re here to talk to you.” 

          Leaves crunch beneath his feet as he picks his way through the tall blades of yellowed grass and creeps down towards the woods. I ask, “Wait, Cay, where are you going?” 

          He hits ‘record’, ignoring me.

“We want to talk to you.”  Cay calls, talking to the dead as he motions for me to follow him, trampling twisted fronds of dead milkweed as he crosses the field of graves and approaches the trees. 

          My heartbeat ticks up even further by the sudden stillness of the trees.  No owls, no wind, even the yippy dogs from the condos have stopped.  My feet stay planted, rooted… I really don’t want to go near those trees.  Much less walk around in them.

          “Would you like to say something to us?” He waits for what seems like a year, then stops recording.  

          He meets my eyes over the top of the view screen.  He pushes ‘play’.

          We wait.  I feel a trickle of sweat down my chest, sliding over my racing heart…I swallow the lump in my throat…waiting…

          Merciful silence. I let out a breath of relief.  Thank God.  That first voice was probably just the wind, or Cay doing something beneath his….

          “Go away.” The voice is loud enough to hear, coming from the woods, and my heart takes a great leap, stomach trembling.  Cay’s eyes widen, and just before I drop the camera and run back to the car, he grabs my arm, and holds me steady, fear like a giant nail in my chest…. and we hear it again, the voice, low, dark, barely above a whisper. “Demons.” 

          Cay shivers with excitement.  “Did you hear that?  Were you recording?  Did you catch what it was saying?  This is like totally amazing!”

          “It was crystal clear what it was saying, Cay! And it means we need to get the hell out of here right now!”  My breath leaves short, angry clouds of frost in the air around me, and I struggle to keep a good shot on anything as I look into his delighted face.

          No way.  No way.  This is bull. I’m being punked or something, right? He has to have paid someone to hide in the trees.  He didn’t tell me because he wanted me to look scared on film.  He’ll tell me later, we’ll laugh about it later…

          “No way, it means we’re going into the woods!  How many times do you get a chance to possibly catch an inhuman haunting on film!  This is like wicked hot.”  Cay hops a thin sapling and walks into the forest. 

          “Cay, please, let’s just go back to the car.  We’ve got more than enough for our three minute assignment.”  I say, voice thin.  Please don’t make me go in there.   

          Breathe, May, breathe.  It’s just trees, dammit.  You like trees. I look up to try and find Cay.

          But he’s gone, walking into the misshapen wood, trees bending, scooping at the ground instead of the sky.  I peer into the shadowed forest, and then back to the graveyard. Dampening my pounding heart, I square my shoulders and try and think strong, think tough.  I can’t let Cay go in there alone.  He’ll trip on a rock or something and get himself killed. I take a deep breath, hope to God this isn’t a mistake, and take a step into the trees.

          The woods are definitely worse than the graveyard.  The graveyard has some sense of form, some light.  The woods here are a mess of fallen vines, thorn bushes and half-broken, half-dead trees and their sickly, barren limbs above.  Holding onto the peeling bark of an old birch tree, I allow my eyes to adjust to the new degree of darkness.

          Having better vision through the lens of the camera than I do with my own eyes, I raise the camera and slowly make my way through the chaos.  I follow Cay’s movements with the camera, watching his lanky form appear and reappear onscreen ahead of me, asking more questions of the voice.

          There are things here.  I feel them, watching, waiting, my skin tingles at the sensation, as if it has sprouted thousands of tiny, needle-like thorns. The only sounds in here come from us, which is…well… wrong. 

          “Ugh! That totally sucks! May, go around, I got caught in this nasty puddle here.  Oh, wow that’s cold.”  Cay says, shaking his foot and hopping around some saplings. 

          “We should go.” I say.  “It’s hard to shoot in here.”  My path around the freezing mud leads me either through a patch of thorny undergrowth or over a massive downed tree.

          Right, over the tree it is then.  I lower the camera and let it dangle around my neck and use both hands to grab the log and climb up and over.  Landing on the other side, I pull a leaf out of my hair.  Wait…why does it feel like the ground here isn’t frozen?   My feet sink…what’s going on?  Did I step into a pile of decaying leaves?

          The ground gives beneath my feet and the forest floor rushes up to my eyes.

          A moment of dark free fall and confusion ends with the clarity of impact. Pain bursts my body.  Burning up through my legs, through my lungs, through thoughts of anything.  Anything but the pain…erasing everything. 

          I can’t breathe.  Like a fish on a dock, I fumble as my lungs torturously pull in raw, slicing clouds of oxygen.  Short, excruciating breaths, but I have to….  

          “Cay” I call for my friend, somewhere above me, but the sound that leaves my throat is too low, too guttural to carry.    

          I’m wallowing, covered in something.  Oh crap.  Am I in a grave?  I can’t tell; I can’t see anything.  My heart is on overdrive. The smell is noxious. I wipe some of the sludge off my face, only to smear more of it near my eyes.  It clings to my sweater, wet, cold, beneath my filthy coat.  The stench, oh God I can’t see.  What is this?

          The only light filters in from a small hole somewhere maybe eight feet over my head.

          Are there bones?  What is that smell?  Decaying leaves?  No, too deep, and the smell is rancid, like something is dying, or has died, leaving me lying in a pool of decomposing flesh.  Oh please God, tell me I am not in a puddle of rotting bodily fluids.  The noxious fluid clings to me, burning my nostrils as I try and stop the heaving of my chest and I gag.

           “May!  May can you hear me?  Are you OK?  Oh crap, I like can’t like believe this, if you can hear me, I am like calling 911, ok? Are you bleeding?”

           “Cay.”  I try again, a low moan as my body’s initial numbness turns to tiny pricks, like millions of biting ants running up and down the length of my body as my nerves surge back up.  I lay on my side, curled up in the mire.

          Fighting pain, fighting panic, I look around me.  And see nothing.  The dark is absolute.  I move my head to look at my quivering, bleeding hands.  They don’t seem to be broken.  Okay, this is good. Well, maybe not good, but I’m not dead, and that’s at least something.  Just calm down and think your way out of this. Check your legs.

          My right leg is sore, throbbing, but okay. I move my left foot and waves of agony reverberate up my leg. I exhale forcefully, trying to exorcise some of the throbbing so I can focus.

          “Cay!”  My voice is a low, whiny croak…not enough…not enough…

          My eyes adjust, slowly, so slowly. I lean on my aching left hip.  My phone.  Open the phone. I pull my cell out of my pocket.  Hands trembling, I flip the phone open. The ambient light I’m counting on fades to black, as if snuffed.  Damn!  I just charged the stupid thing this afternoon.  It’s so cold, so dark…

          Breathe, just breathe.

          “Cayden Robinson.  I’m at Hillside.  No.  My friend, she fell into like a hole...I don’t know, yes, a hole…no…look, you like have to get her out like now….”  His voice fades.

          Breathe in…His voice echoes down to where I lay in a pool of grayish light.  Breathe out….I look around at the walls, and see nothing.  Nothing but darkness.  Focus, May! Breathe in….Cay is up there, not too far above you, and you will be able to call to him in a minute, once your breathing steadies.

          Breath out… “Cay!” I call, voice finally unlocking.

           “Oh my God!”  He fumbles, kicking debris down into the hole, “May!” 

          “Just stay calm, OK?”  He calls, “The EMTs told me to tell you not to move because you might have a neck injury or something.”

          Not move? Stay calm?  Seriously?  I feel my cheeks moisten and I stifle a yowl.  Breathe in….

          I wish I could see into the dark around me.  Then at least I would be able to know where I am.  Sitting in the only light makes me feel like I’m onstage. 

          Remembering the light on the camera, I fumble around my surrounding area, only to finding more mud.  Hot dammit! 

          “I’m going to look around and see if I can find something to help you out with, OK?  Like a stick or something.”  Cay calls.

          I sit, cold, trying to stay calm.  But I feel…something…. 

          I feel it.  I am not alone.  The tips of my fingers go numb. Something is here…around…watching….

          Cay returns to the edge of the hole and he leans his head over.  “I don’t want you to like, freak out or anything, but I think you’re in the shaft.”

          The temperature plummets and my stomach lurches, “What shaft?”  I ask, voice hoarse.

          “Like, the shaft, May.  I think I just found the entrance over there, it look like it’s sealed and all.”

          My heart flutters.  “Cay, are you talking about the mine shaft?  The one the …..”

          “Yeah.”  Cay murmers.  “But don’t panic.  Help is totally on its way.”

Asshole! Don’t panic?  Is he for real?  I’m in the satanist’s shaft and he tells me not to panic!?!? 

          Something shuffles in the dark not three feet from where I’m laying.  My heart shifts, “Something just moved, Cay.”

          Cay’s head is back in the light.  “It’s probably just a mouse, May, relax.”   His voice is tight.

          Right, a mouse.  But it sounds bigger…

          I hear a low-level snarling.  Bile dribbles down my throat, burning as it goes. “Cay, there is something down here.”

          The color slowly drains from my cheeks and all feeling rushes to my core.  Growling.  Something is here.  Growling.  Oh God help me.  Growling.

          My mind frantically searches, wishing I could see anything in the darkness. My throat tightens and I am barely able to whisper. “Help me.”

           “May, here.”  Cay drops a glowstick down the opening, and I watch with horror as it illuminates a large, growing mass of shadow against the rock of the wall. No. The shadow is vaguely human in form, and can’t be cast by me.  No.  I’m on the wrong side of the light.  My blood ices. Please somebody help me.

          Move!  May, move! I tug at my legs desperately and back away from the sounds, but it feels like I am surrounded.  I have nowhere to go.  I have no escape.  The light of the glowstick fades before it hits the floor, swallowed by the darkness, as if absorbed by this thing, and I hear the sound of the video camera’s plastic casing being ripped, shredded. 

          “Cay!”  Shrieking, I clamor at the wall behind me, looking for some sort of grip to try and pull myself out of the mineshaft, hands only finding slick stone.  Then I feel it, hot breath on the back of my neck. “Get me the hell out of here now!  There is something down here and it’s huge!”

          “May!  Hold on!  Help!  I’m gonna, I just, like…”

          The black is absolute, but I feel it, breath tickling at my skin, everywhere, nowhere, my fingers scraping at the rock wall, trying to find a hold, a way out. “Get me out of here!  Please!  I feel it, it’s everywhere!”

          “May! What’s going on?  Are you OK?  Help!  Somebody!”  Cay’s screams are desperate above me as I fall to my knees, the air taking on life a life of its own as my fingers bleed, clawing against the rock.  Can’t think.  I hear another sharp, angry voice somewhere above me.  Can’t breathe. I lunge right to try and avoid touching the mass of darkness to my left, but my head bangs hard against the rock wall and I can’t keep my eyes open. 

          It all goes black.

About the Author

Madeline Wynn holds a master's degree in procrastination.  When she's not writing, she can be found ghost hunting, gardening and parading around her home state of Connecticut with her husband, dog and two kids.

Her latest book is the YA paranormal, Daughter of the Fallen.

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Interview with Ashley R. Carlson, author of THE CHARISMATICS by Ryan Hill

 

The three or four of you who frequent this site no doubt have come across my author interviews, which are the greatest pieces of hard-hitting journalism this side of Between Two Ferns with Zach Galifianakis (fun fast: We both went to NC State). The latest author to go under the knife is debut author Ashley R. Carlson, whose steampunk novel The Charismatics released wayyyy back on Dec. 13. Of 2014. 

Charismatics_FRONT 2.jpg

 

First, congratulations on your debut novel! The lead up to a release can be pretty hectic/stressful. Has any of your hair fallen out during this whole process? You have to be careful out there. ALL WORK AND NO PLAY MAKES JOHNNY A DULL BOY.

Thank you! It has been exciting but mostly surreal--a year ago I was tinkering on my NaNoWriMo project and dreaming of finishing a book one day. Now it's actually happened, and The Charismatics is something I'm really proud of.

No hair has fallen out, thankfully. This hasn't been that stressful for me, mostly because I love the process so much. I hired two amazing guys (Stuart Whitmore of Crenel Publishing for formatting and M.S. Corley to design my cover) and they've helped me SO much to create a fantastic product.

Now it's just a matter of marketing it, getting it into readers' hands, and WRITING THE SEQUEL. That part is what scares me.

When you picked up the first physical copy of your book were you overcome with emotion? Did a single tear drop from your eye and land on the cover, prompting a "Shit! It's ruined!" Follow-up question: Did this make you consider flinging yourself into the Grand Canyon?

I actually recorded myself unboxing my first physical copies and posted it on YouTube for my readers. You can find it here.

This is my genuine reaction--I didn't cry, but I was very excited and getting overheated and my entire neck was red at the end of the video. That happens when I get excited/nervous/overcome with emotion--imagine going on a date and having your entire neck/chest red and blotchy when you talk to the person. Basically a neon sign that says "I'M NERVOUS RIGHT NOW ISN'T THAT COOL." So yeah, basically the opposite of cool. 

Admittedly, you're a good-looking woman. Do you plan to use your beauty to help sell books? Hint: you should.

HA all of this after I talk about my gross, red neck. (Jennifer Lawrence moment, perhaps?) I don't know how to answer this question without sounding egotistical or something.

I do think that a person's appearance can help or hinder in selling their product--an author who is put-together, clean, and attractive is going to be someone you put more trust in with their writing than a scruffy, unbathed, scary "Gollum" look-alike (and believe me, I've had those days).

Ultimately though, I want readers to enjoy my personality. I try to be very forthcoming about who I am not only as a writer but as a person, and invite you into my life. My dating mishaps, my everlasting love for Jennifer Lawrence and animals, and my desire to help those in need (I have a charity page on my website that you can see here, and I'll warn you--it's got some graphic photos of animals who have been abused. But it's necessary to see, so that we can help them). So yes, perhaps my appearance will attract the attention of some--but I hope it is a genuineness and compelling writing on my part that keeps them around.

Ryan note: This is a good, albeit serious answer to a silly question. Also, I gave $15 to a foundation in Africa that helps elephants last week. SEE??? I can be charitable too!

Back to THE CHARISMATICS. Every author puts a part of themselves in their work. What parts of the novel were more autobiographical? The forced marriage? Oh! Wait. DO YOU REALLY LIVE IN A STEAMPUNK REALITY???

HAHA! Thankfully our government isn't evil (erm...) and forcing young people into advantageous marriages to further there secret motives. Alas, I do not live in a steampunk reality--it is very much real reality (as in I have an entire house to clean today and a menu to memorize for my new job at an Irish pub nearby).

I would say that the main character, Duchess Ambrose Killaher, is the most autobiographical element to "The Charismatics." She is strong, but her strength does not lie in her physical abilities. She is no Katniss (The Hunger Games) or Tris (Divergent). She is also not a Bella (Twilight), wrapped up in a romantic relationship and not thinking of much else.

Ambrose certainly wants love and companionship, but there are more important elements that come into play in "The Charismatics" besides that--namely that the poor in her world (called denizens) are starving, and live in horrid conditions. And she has the ability to change that, or at least try to.

So in that sense, I feel a kinship with her--I have always felt the desire to help those who are struggling, especially children and animals. A lot of time however, life and excuses can get in the way. So in The Charismatics Ambrose has to make a choice--whether she is going to keep making excuses, or whether she is going to buck up and do something about the problem. 

What's your idea of a good steampunk? What the heck is steampunk? Does it involve "steamy" punks? Is it like punk rock, but with smoke machines to simulate steam? Maybe it's some new kind of drug the kids are taking...

I didn't set out to write a steampunk novel, that's for sure. I don't even know a lot about the culture, aside from the general definition: 

Victorian science fiction. What makes my book "steampunk" would be the clothes that they wear at times (fancy top hats and "fascinators") and dresses or suits. Think of the elite of Victorian times--similar to that, except that this is an alternate universe, not set in the future or past. So they also have sneakers, and pants... it just has some of those themes/undertones of elaborate dress from that time period. Also, the transportation is steampunk-inspired--there are no cars, because the nobility live in floating cities over the poor denizens. So they use airships and copters and zeppelins to get around--all flying machines in various sizes. Aside from that, my book is more fantasy-inspired. There is a supernatural realm forbidden to speak of, and invisible companions, and winged horses... all my favorite things.

Speaking of drugs, were there any hallucinogens involved in creating THE CHARISMATICS? Alcohol? Surely you had some drug of choice.

Probably sounds like it after I just described The Charismatics, doesn't it?! No, no hallucinogens or drugs or alcohol of any kind. Honestly, I don't drink much and especially when I'm writing--I need my mind clear. For me, the drug is when I get so wrapped up in a scene I'm writing that I can see it playing out in my head lie a movie. THAT is magical. 

Name three of your favorite authors. And yes, I can be one of them.

HA. Well number one is Ryan Hill, obviously. I don't read as much as I should, because a lot of books lose my interest. I find that adult books are too descriptive or deal with things I don't care about, and that young adult books can sometimes be too juvenile and also deal with things I don't care about.

Not a great thing for an author to say, is it?

There are a few authors that will always have my heart though, and they are:

-J.K. Rowling (of course).

-Gail Carson Levine. She wrote Ella Enchanted, a book I've read close to fifteen times. I have a lot of inspiration from her woven into my own novel.

-Stephen King. I am getting into his work--I find that sometimes he can detail things too much and I get bored, but MAN does he know how to build suspense. He's a master. 

Now play the marry f--k kill game with them.

With the authors? Oh geez.

I'd probably marry J.K. Rowling since she's insanely rich and could fund my writing career until I can myself.

I'd f--k Step--oh no. But I don't want to kill Gail Carson Levine.

Want to know which author I would f--k? PIERCE BROWN, author of Red Rising. That guy is gorgeous. 

Ryan note: NOT AS GORGEOUS AS ME!!!!!

So, why get into writing? Is it because you can't count? Science too confusing? I know those two things played a big part for me.

Basically. I have no other skills.

According to my third grade teacher on one of my writing assignments, "I should write a book." So it must be something I've shown promise with for a long time. Just took me a while to realize it--now that I have however, I never want to stop. Ever. 

Tell us, in haiku format, why we should buy THE CHARISMATICS.

A secret realm of

Dangerous dark rebellion

Is waiting for her

I looked up what a haiku was. Hopefully I got it right. Thanks so much for this Ryan, it was the most fun I've had today!

Ryan note: Yes, this is correct. Also, the lack of people not knowing what a haiku is disturbs me, and I may have to make it a mission in life to educate people about them.

Bio

Ashley R. Carlson grew up wanting a talking animal friend and superpowers, and when that didn’t happen, she decided to write them into existence. She lives in Scottsdale, Arizona with three (non-talking) pets and one overactive imagination. Follow Ashley R. Carlson’s writing at ashleyrcarlson.com, on Twitter @AshleyRCarlson1, and facebook.com/ashleyrcarlson1.1.


Book Blurb

An arranged marriage. A corrupt government called Legalia. A forbidden spiritual realm.

Duchess Ambrose Killaher was just seventeen-years-old when exiled to Shinery—a city of snow and darkness—to marry a man who despised her, finding her only solace in an invisible companion named Roan.

Now as the poor starve in the streets below and rebellious acts become a frequent occurrence, Shinery holds its yearly celebration to commemorate Legalia’s rule. But when Ambrose stumbles into a hidden courtroom and witnesses a violent murder, she is thrust into a secret world of the supernatural—one that could endanger everyone she cares for. With the help of a handsome stranger, Ambrose learns of the past Legalia has covered up, and that she alone possesses the power to stop their unspeakable plans for the future.

Find it on Amazon and Goodreads now.


I used to like those end of year "Best of" lists... by Ryan Hill

 

First, it's my birthday! The big 3-5. I am officially middle aged. I may talk about what that's like for all the younger folk out there, but not today. I will share that since it is Dec. 15, both of my novels, THE BOOK OF BART and DEAD NEW WORLD, are Amazon Countdown Deals today, and available for 99 cents! Get on that. Seriously. This blog will be here when you get back.

As the title suggests, I'm not a fan of those "Best of" lists that every blog/media outlet/publication put out at the end of every year, proclaiming these ten items to be the best in a certain category for that given year. Is this slightly hypocritical, considering my debut THE BOOK OF BART was a finalist in the USA Book News Best of 2014 Awards in humor? Absolutely. Do I love all other Top Ten lists that don't mention books? ABSOLUTELY.

Allow me to clarify on my blatant hypocrisy. Reading a bunch of "Best Books of 2014" lists make me sad. The life of an indie/small press/hybrid author can be a difficult one. Everywhere you go, you're always second (or third) fiddle to authors from the Big 5 publishers, and that's okay. It really is. But, places like The AV ClubTime Magazine, etc. that do these end of year lists, especially for books, rarely read anything outside of the major publishers, eliminating books like mine before they've even had a chance to be considered. When I read these lists, part of me wonders if I'll see one of my books that came out this year, or maybe even one a friend wrote. 

Nope.

Never.

Not once.

Yes, I'm complaining and can be considered sour grapes. Guess what? I am complaining. I am sour grapes. Some author recently publicly ranted about not being nominated (or awarded, I can't remember) for some big writerly award. It made me sick, when so many authors can't even garner consideration for something like that. Sure, it's a case of the haves and have-nots. I get that. Honestly, it doesn't even make me upset when I see the same ten books on every list, none of which are mine. It's cool. I just wish it was easier for authors like myself to get more attention. Ah well. It is my birthday, so I'm allowed to rant about completely superficial stuff. Maybe one day I'll be a popular enough author to merit consideration for one of these lists, maybe not. In the meantime, there will still be a slight womp womp sound in my head when I don't see an author I know on the list. 

On Getting a Bad Review by Ryan Hill

 

For writers, a good review is like an elixir. A validation of their talent. A sign that yes, a writer has talent, and now they have the glowing review to prove it. Sure, everything comes up aces when the good reviews are coming in, but what about those times when a writer gets a bad review?

Of course authors want everyone on the planet to love their book. To laud it as the next Harry Potter, or shout from the rooftops that the world has found the next John Green. That's human nature. Sadly, for whatever reason, if enough people read your book, bad reviews are absolutely going to follow. 

A bad review can wound an author's soul. Send them into a tailspin. Don't believe me? Click here. Every book an author writes is intensely personal. This isn't just a novel. It's their novel. It's a piece of their soul. As such, the work is sometimes thought of as the author's kid, or something along those lines. This makes a bad review all the more painful.

You can't please everyone. It's science. So what if someone doesn't like a book? Writers read books they don't like too. They may have a greater appreciation for the time it takes to create a published novel, but it won't change their opinion on whether or not it's any good. Also, once a writer sends their work out into the world, technically it isn't theirs anymore. A writer has no control over their work once it's in the hands of someone else. So why get upset when things don't turn out well? A bad review isn't an indictment of the writer as a person (or as a writer). And if a bad review comes across that way, then the reviewer is either jealous, looking for attention, is a massive tool, or all of the above. Just like when I get shot down by a beautiful woman at a bar, a writer shouldn't take rejection by a reader to heart. Sometimes, it's just not in the cards. For whatever reason, it wasn't meant to be.

Instead, a writer needs to focus on the positive. Yes, a writer got a bad review, but think about all of the success it took to get the book into the hands of a negative reviewer. If a writer gets a negative review, it typically means that writer is good enough at writing to be PUBLISHED. That's a big effin' deal. Looking at it like that, a writer shouldn't care about a negative review. I don't. With two published novels under my belt, I'm secure enough in my abilities as a writer that a couple of bad reviews aren't going to burst my bubble. Point in fact, I'd like to see them do better (because they can't).

So let go, move forward, and keep writing!

Cover and trailer reveal for WATCH ME BURN by Sharon Bayliss! by Ryan Hill

 
I am thrilled to take part in the cover and trailer reveal for Book 2 in The December People Series, Watch Me Burn!

So without further ado...




A note from the author:

Thank you to artist Michelle Johnson and the whole team at Curiosity Quills Press for creating a cover I love! 

If you haven't guessed it by now, you'll see a butterfly on the cover of every book in The December People Series. The butterfly is a symbol of transformation, hope, freedom, and generally creepy crawlies turning into beautiful things. And also...look how pretty! ;)

Instead of the broken glass from Destruction, this butterfly is surrounded by fire, and it's probably obvious why from the title. Watch Me Burn is the summer book in the series. All the books center around my winter wizard family, but each book takes us deeper into a different season. Summer wizards are the "light" wizards, but light also means HEAT and FIRE.


More about Watch Me Burn:

David Vandergraff lost his home, his job, and contact with his oldest son, but remains determined to be a good husband and father despite being a dark winter wizard.

His resolve is tested when a flyer for a missing girl--who happens to be a summer witch--begins to haunt him. David believes a spell needs to use him to save her, so he follows the magic's command and looks into her disappearance. His teenage daughter Emmy resents him for caring so much about a random stranger. But when she uncovers some disturbing evidence close to home, she begins an investigation of her own.

David and Emmy quickly learn that the mystery is not only about a missing girl they barely know, but a deeply personal story that impacts everyone they care about. As their world crumbles, they fear the warning may be true—never mess with summer wizards, because the good guys always win.




If you're new to The December People Series, start with Destruction--99 cents for a limited time!


Enter to win!! Get a paperback of your choice of Destruction OR Watch Me Burn. International entries welcome. Also join The December People Winter Celebration for more giveaways!!


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Blog hop fun, starring yours truly by Ryan Hill

 

So the very talented Ashley R. Carlson asked me to participate in a blog hop questionnaire, and with me being me, and her being the beautiful, creative woman she is, I naturally said yes. 

Include a quote that you like

I don't have a specific quote that I live by or anything like that. "Be excellent to each other" from Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure probably comes the closest. Maybe "was it over when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor?" That's some motivational stuff right there.

Why do you create what you do?

Create what? A meal? I do that because I'm hungry. As for books, I write what I want to read. Period. End of story. No take backs INFINITY!

How does your creative process work?

To say I have a process is giving myself entirely too much credit. I come up with an idea, try to figure out the plot, characters, conflicts, ending, etc., then typically get to work writing the first draft. After that I enter into the wonderful world of edits, a nebulous black hole from which there is no specific return date.

How does your work differ from others in your genre?

Aside from it just plain being better? Whenever I read a book, watch a movie or TV show, I'm always trying to study the piece. I try to glean what worked and what didn't work, then I incorporate that into my own writing. Hopefully, that leads to something original that avoids cliches. 

What are you working on right now?

I am finishing up edits on my third novel, the paranormal Goonies-esque THE CONCH SHELL OF DOOM. Yep, you read that title right. 

 

Things I can (theoretically) say now that I'm an award-winning author by Ryan Hill

 

On Wednesday, USA Book News announced their 2014 USA Best Book Awards, and my debut, THE BOOK OF BART, was awarded as a finalist in the Humor category. Now that I'm an award-winning author, there's so many new things I can say to people, things that are now infinitely less douchey... though still douchey.

At a bar

"Hey. I'm an award-winning author. What do you do?"

"Oh, I won an award for humor. Because I'm funny."

At a restaurant

"I am an award-winning author and I demand to be seated!"

If I get shafted

"You can't do this to me! I'm an award-winning author!"

If I die

"Award-winning author Ryan Hill died today..."

In the office

"I deserve that last cup of coffee. Why? Because I'm an award-winning author, dammit!"

When cleaning a dirty toilet

"An award-winning author shouldn't have to subject themselves to this kind of tomfoolery."

Watching my team lose

"This is bull$hit! An award-winning author should only be watching winners!"

When buying liquor

"My good man, I do not have a drinking problem. I am an award-winning author, and this is my writing fuel!"

When asked to see a Matthew McConaughey rom-com

"How dare you ask me to see such filth! I'm an award-winning author!"

When asked to see a McConnaisance era McConauhgey film

"Uh, YEAH. An award-winning author has to support other award winners. Just gotta keep livin, baby!"

When farting

"It's okay. I'm an award-winning author."

Dead New World Cover Wrap Reveal!!! by Ryan Hill

 

Check out the cover wrap for my follow-up to THE BOOK OF BART, the YA zombie novel, DEAD NEW WORLD! October 13 zombies aren't mindless anymore.

Excerpt:

I ran my hand across the wall, groping for a light switch. After a minute I found one, and pulled it down. Nothing happened. I raised my rifle, and peered through the target sight, but forgot to turn on the scope’s night vision.

Breathe easy. 

Before I could use the feature, a fluorescent light flickered once, revealing a group of zombies.

Don't forget to enter for a chance to win an autographed copy of DEAD NEW WORLD on Goodreads!

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