Deadly Ever After

Archive for the tag “Books of the Dead Press”

The Joy of Not Playing Well With Others by Julie

TODAY’S BREW: End of April Vacation Quadruple Shots

By Julie

It’s been a very long time since I gave attention here, and I’m not sorry.

What I am is pleased with myself, overwhelmed and afraid in the best way, and focused, and that means eliminating things that draw my attentions away from THE THING. And THE THING is all-encompassing, my path has a solid plan that relies on pretty much all ME. What I didn’t expect is that taking control of my publishing career by myself with the extreme helping and guidance of Kristen, is LESS overwhelming than publishing traditionally. Sure, there’s lots to do–but I control it, I choose who helps me, who I outsource, the direction we all take.

It lets me be the leader I am while being the artist I am, and it brings a calm that no amount of THINGS TO DO can undermine.

I separated from Books of the Dead Press in January, taking back my rights to RUNNING HOME and RUNNING AWAY. Another publisher tried harder than hard to buy out those contracts, but Books of the Dead wasn’t having it. Now that I’ve taken them on my own, I find that I don’t want to go through a publisher with them–I want to do it myself. I wouldn’t finish the trilogy because of my displeasure with my contract, and now? I can. CRAWLING BACK will be coming out the end of the summer. I’m making it happen. And that doesn’t have to be the end of that world, I can do whatever the hell I want with it.

WAIT I CAN DO WHATEVER THE HELL I WANT PERIOD THE END OH MY GOD.

And that was when I decided that I was going to stop shopping around for agents with my YA, THE WIND BETWEEN WORLDS, which had a lot of success as far as querying goes, being requested in full by a lot of agents that made me go EEEEEEEEEEE, but it was never quite right for them. I harbor ZERO resentment for that, by the way–I have long since said, since the start of writing, that getting an agent, publishing, is a business. Whether or not an agent feels the connection with me, with my books, is crucial to their ability to sell it. If they can’t sell it, what the hell is the point?

Confession: I hated from day one pandering to agents. The minutia of knowing their likes and dislikes personally, the confines of it all…it’s doesn’t sell books for me to know how many cats the agent has. These are representative of some of the reasons I left retail. It reminds me of regional manager visits: HURRY THE HELL UP, THE STORE LOOKS GOOD FOR ME BUT THE REGIONAL MANAGER LIKES A DIFFERENT SCENT CLEANER AND ALL THE BRA STRAPS TO FACE LEFT I KNOW THE LAST ONE LIKED THIS SCENT BUT THAT SCENT IS DEAD TO YOU NOW YOU HEAR ME MINIMUM WAGE WORKER THIS REGIONAL MANAGER LIKES LEMON GODDAMMIT AND THE COMPANY WILL FAIL IF WE DON’T DO WHAT SHE LIKES.

I don’t like that. I do not.

Aaaaaanyway, the fact of the matter was, even with agents still reading THE WIND BETWEEN WORLDS, I started planning on releasing it myself. It will be out on Halloween of this year–the birthdays of the five witches that this book is about, and I cannot wait for you all to love them. Not to toot my own horn, but my early readers like this book a lot. Like, a lot. (side note: if reviews roll in when I publish saying THIS BOOK IS THE WORST THING, THESE CHARACTERS ARE EVERYTHING I HATE IN LIFE AND I HATE EVERYTHING, I will still stand by it being a damn good book. It’s the way I want it. This is why reviews and rejections have never bothered me. I only put out the book as I want it. The end.)

I’m sick of goddamn waiting. I don’t write to play by someone else’s rules, I write for readers. I write for me. I write to connect with that person who needs my special brand of soap-box-standing, I do not write for an agent’s cat or an editor’s preferred scent of cleaning materials. You know what I mean.

I say this still having a book with a publisher. (You all may remember mention of a book I couldn’t get enough of writing, THE HARPY? Yeah, it’s still not out.) Have I mentioned that I’m tired of waiting? HINT HINT TO ANYONE WHO MAY BE READING.

Publishing traditionally is the dream. It is for every writer, I don’t care who you are. You dream of the phone call with the big contract news, the interviews on talk shows, the movie deal. You do. But for me, my dream changed. I control it now. The thing about self-pubbing that I love, that became the new dream for me, is that it means I believe in my ability to do it. It has RISK. A couple of years ago I wouldn’t have dreamed of putting out money for my own cover, my own editing, my own formatting. What if I didn’t sell a single copy and never made a penny back? Now? I know that just plain isn’t going to happen to me. I believe in my ability, my voice, my potential, my plan, my determination, my vision, my stories, my power. It doesn’t require a backup plan. THAT is my dream.

So now, yes. I undertake all the things that have frightened me in the past about putting out my own work. Formatting? What? Terrifying. Cover artists? There are so many, and what the hell do I know and how do I narrow it down to them? Algorithms? That sounds like math. Mailing lists? I thought people hated that. But now I choose what works for me, I choose the timeline and I give work to freelancers that I want to support. It’s all me, bro.

Of course, because I’m me, I do nothing halfway. I have planners that detail every second of my publishing path (which, by the way, I plan time for to update and mold every month, because nothing goes according to plan), I read every book that I love, every indie author’s advice (which I then pick over accordingly), all while still editing for clients and writing books and being Mom and Scholastic chairperson, and reptile owner. It leaves little time that I want to dedicate to other stuff, and I’m perfectly fine with that.

However, I do miss the following things:

  • haircuts
  • eye exams
  • physical exams
  • the gym
  • meals

(my next post will be on self care and how I try sadly to do it and fail.)

In conclusion, I’ve been absent because I’ve changed my path, and with that comes a change in ways. And I’m so happy about it. But I want to include you, and now I feel like I have enough of a handle on things that it can be done. So thanks for sticking around, because you guys. I have good stuff on the way. My plan? My end result? By the end of the year, I’ll have out a minimum of 5 books.

  1. RUNNING HOME as I wanted it to be. (June 30th)
  2. RUNNING AWAY and you’ll actually be able to hold it in your hands. (July 31st)
  3. CRAWLING BACK which has been withheld from you for so long (August 31st)
  4.  THE WIND BETWEEN WORLDS (October 31st)
  5. THE DEPTH OF OUR DARKNESS Book 2, The Wind Between Worlds (November 30th)

And this doesn’t account for THE HARPY which frankly, I have big plans for that may not come to fruition until 2018, as well as a couple of novellas in the RUNNING HOME series that I want for my mailing list folks. When I make a mailing list.

I am not without fault, folks. Mailing lists SCARE ME. (All mailing list advice welcome.)

The cool thing is, this is all going to happen, people. It IS happening. Thanks for supporting me and my books, and I promise not to let you down.

 

In Which You Learn About ALL SMOKE RISES by Mark Matthews and He Gushes About Me But I Didn’t Ask Him To.

TODAY’S BREW: Blizzard Brew by New England Coffee and it is STRONG.

By Julie

As an editor, I get to play with books before anyone else, and sometimes I feel like I’m finding treasure. ALL SMOKE RISES by Mark Matthews, a long-time friend published alongside me at Books of the Dead Press, is one of those glinting jewels. Visceral, beautiful, horrible, speaking of the human condition and of what it could be for both good and bad, frightening and hopeful and destitute. In this post that I SWEAR he asked me to put up, I didn’t as HIM to put up, he raves until I’m in tears about how awesome I am as an editor, but let me tell you that Matthews has a style and unique perspective on his subject matter and in his craft that gleams like a shiny apple. Not to mention that I got to spend time with him at a convention once and it was awesome. He’s just the most genuine, thoughtful and hilarious guy, and it shows in this book.

 

 

All Smoke Rises releases this week, a follow up to my last novella, Milk-Blood. While it takes place just weeks after Milk-Blood ends, it also serves as a stand-alone read. *Hi, this is Julie. It totally stands alone. It will beg you to read MILK-BLOOD, though.* The book tackles drug addiction, urban decay, mental illness, and a host of other real-life horrors.

 

Even though it’s a story, it doesn’t mean it’s not true. The material is not fiction. It’s happening, right now. Addicts are roaming the streets, craving heroin the way a vampire craves blood. Children are living in urban squalor, with poverty so deep their best meals of the day come when they go to school. As Kealan Patrick Burke so generously wrote in the introduction, “All Smoke Rises perfectly encapsulates horror as a reflection of real life.”

 

The inspiration for writing All Smoke Rises came from my own work as a substance abuse therapist. For nearly 20 years, I’ve worked with hundreds of addicts from the Detroit area, many of them indigent. Before this time, I spent years in my own addiction. I woke up each day and my daily efforts were how to get high and get by. I now have 23 years clean and sober, and will never forget the immense power addiction has over the human soul.

 

All Smoke Rises is a book I’m damn proud of, but certainly did not create it on my own. I’ve got a long list of beta-readers and an incredible editor. Julie Hutchings. The most demure woman in the twitterverse. *It’s true, I am.*

I should point out, before I go on, that it was my idea, not hers, to guest blog and thank her for what a great job she did in editing my manuscript.

 

Readers would thank her, too, if they could, for the book they would have read would have been a much lesser piece had not Ms. Hutchings poured her own heart into the story.

 

Nuts and bolts were tightened. Extra parts were thrown away as needed. Paragraphs were reshaped, certain sentences were turned into stand-alone paragraphs, others were ended on a different note to keep the plot flowing. Overused phrases and words were smashed over my head until I saw stars. Rewording these descriptors made me work harder as a writer and created a better product.

 

If you’ve ever had a word document edited, you’ve come to know those little comment bubbles on the side. Well, Julie’s comments were different. They came alive. They spoke to me, made me laugh, or reached out from the screen and gave me nugies. If a nugie wasn’t enough, they grabbed me by the neck and squeezed until I heard my own esophagus crack. All of this to challenge me to be the best version of myself, and I responded in kind best as I could.

 

I’m so incredibly excited for this book. The producer of Monkey Knuckle Films is reading it now, and I hope some of the plot-line will be included into the movie adaptation of Milk-Blood. John F.D. Taff said, “All Smoke Rises makes Milk-Blood look like a freshman writing assignment.” Kealan Patrick Burke agreed to do the introduction after giving it a read, and seeing what he wrote was a highlight of my writing career.

 

But I did not write it alone, so thank you, Julie, for your invaluable contributions. Worth adding that, if you are only a digital friend of Julie, she is exactly as you would think in real life. I spent just a few hours hanging with Hutchings at a convention, and it was like swimming in a pool full of her tweets. She’s genuine good people, with genuine editing skills that I’d recommend to anyone who listens.

 

 

 

ALL SMOKE RISES

Ten year old Lilly is the victim of a terrible house fire and a wretched family. Her father is an addict with mental illness, her mother was murdered and then buried across the street, and her uncle got her addicted to heroin. Lilly’s tragic story has been told in the book ALL SMOKE RISES, and it may be true, for the author has broken into your house, and placed Lilly’s body on your kitchen counter. He demands you read the manuscript, before cutting his own wrists and bleeding out on your floor. Now you have decisions to make, for Lilly’s body may not be dead, and her family is coming for her.

 

“Make no mistake, when it comes to citations of true horror, you will be hard pressed to find a deeper and more challenging example than you will here. Matthews knows the heartbreak and tragedy of his subject. By the time you are done reading this, you will too.” ~KEALAN PATRICK BURKE, Bram Stoker Award winning author of KIN and Sour Candy

******

 

ADVANCE PRAISE “Heartbreakingly sad, overwhelmingly disturbing, creepy, violent and poignant. Highly recommended.” ~JOHN FD TAFF Bram Stoker Finalist “Filled with such dread and depravity that even the most desensitized among us will feel the pain. Matthews’s prose vividly shows the viciousness and hopelessness of drug addiction, and the beautifully horrifying images will stay with you long after the final page is digested.” ~JON BASSOFF, author of Corrosion, winner of the Darkfuse Reader’s Choice Award “True reality horror, with supernatural elements that only serve to make it more believable.” ~MICHAEL BRADFORD, Executive Producer, Monkey Knuckle Films.

 

Check out ALL SMOKE RISES on Amazon. Just $2.99 for kindle

MARK MATTHEWS GOT A BOOK DEAL! And you can get a free book!

TODAY’S BREW: Like you need to ask. Pumpkin. Pfft. Obvs.

By Julie

Many of you know I got my start with Books of the Dead Press, who published RUNNING HOME and RUNNING AWAY. In addition to introducing me to the world of publishing, Books of the Dead did something else for me–introduced me to a few amazing friends. Mark Matthews’ ON THE LIPS OF CHILDREN was published alongside RUNNING HOME a few years back with Books of the Dead, and since then Mark has become a very close friend that I trust, rely on, and just plain love. He’s very kind, incredibly funny, and someone I’m better for knowing. Look at him, he’s so pleasant!

mark matthews

(go find Mark on Twitter https://twitter.com/matthews_mark.)

So when I got the news that his novel, MILK-BLOOD got a movie deal? Well, yeah, I cried, and I begged to be part of announcing it for a lot of reasons. It’s wonderful to see my friend have such success, and it’s fantastic that MILK-BLOOD was self-published.

YES. MOVIE DEALS HAPPEN FOR INDIE AUTHORS, FOLKS.

MILK-BLOODFinalCover.jpgMKF

MILK-BLOOD, a novel by Mark Matthews, has been optioned for a full length feature film by Monkey Knuckle Films. The option includes rights to the short story, The Damage Done, a companion piece to the novel.
damaged
“MILK-BLOOD is true reality horror, with supernatural elements that only serve to make it more believable,” explains executive producer Michael Bradford. “The story will certainly hold an audience.”

MILK-BLOOD is the story of a ten year old girl named Lilly, born with a heart defect, who lives on a Detroit street where poverty, urban despair, addiction, and both the living and the dead threaten her outside her doorstep. The author has tapped into this experience as a
social worker to create what one review site calls, “an Urban legend in the making.”  The author’s previous novel, On the Lips of Children, was a number one best-selling kindle novel on amazon.

The title, ”Milk-Blood,” comes from the Neil Young song, “The Needle and the Damage Done” and refers to the extensive lengths a heroin addict will go to in order to maintain their high.

Monkey Knuckle Films is a newly created LLC, but the founders have a long history of horror, and have worked with actors such as Sid Haig from The Devil’s Rejects, and much of the cast of The Evil Dead. They are currently in post-production for the horror film, “Elder Island“, set for release in 2016. MILK-BLOOD was a semi-finalist for the 2015 Best Kindle Book Awards and is available in paperback, kindle, or audiobook on amazon.

A sequel to MILK-BLOOD is scheduled for release in early 2016. (And I, Julie Hutchings, gets to edit it!) “The sequel is some twisted material,” says Matthews, “but with a purpose. Horror without heart doesn’t appeal to me, and I don’t think to many readers.”
To celebrate the movie contract, the author is offering up to ten vouchers for a free kindle download on amazon. Just email your request to WickedRunPress@gmail.com

Interested in some MILK-BLOOD? Well, you’re in luck. Below are five codes for free Kindle Versions. Just be the first to enter one of the codes into this link here: www.amazon.com/acceptgift  and BAMN! free MILK-BLOOD to your kindle.
Gift Claim Code GS9TU9RCKPGTSAC
Gift Claim Code GS4WEEN9X355NCZ
Gift Claim Code GS6QTAT5HMSRFYC
Gift Claim Code GS99HX2C245U5DT
Gift Claim Code GSR4X27F4W8JWC9
Mark, congratulations, from the bottom of my heart. Couldn’t happen to a better guy.
 

Flash Fiction Friday: SURPRISE! EXCERPT FROM RUNNING AWAY

TODAY’S BREW: Autumn Roast. Okay, it’s snowing, but AUTUMN ROAST.

By Julie

SURPRISE! I’M EXCERPTING YOU! BOOM!

For today’s Flash Fiction Friday, and because of last week’s Virtual Book Signing Party (http://wp.me/p2x7oj-DX) for RUNNING HOME, and my incessant babble about the sequel, RUNNING AWAY, I thought I would surprise you all with an excerpt! YOU’RE WELCOME.

I have one week to finish this first draft, and my excitement to get it out to all of you who’ve been so supportive of Eliza and crew is making me insane. I hope this little bit leaves you wanting more.

spring snow

Where vampires are made. Japan, naturally.

EXCERPT FROM RUNNING AWAY

By Julie Hutchings

It was dark, and I had no idea where I was.

“Nicholas? Nicholas?!”

I heard noises, and worse, I felt something. I felt it again, death, lurking around me, as invasive and comforting as always.

My limbs shook when I threw off the blankets and threw my legs over the side of the bed, only to discover the bed was on the floor. The noise of my feet hitting the floor made me gasp.

When my eyes adjusted to the light, I saw thankfully, nothing in the room but for the bed I’d been in and a few very small pieces of furniture. Shadows flitted across the walls from outside, the trees swaying in the winter night.

Japan, I’m in Japan, and in my own room. Nicholas isn’t here.

I steadied my breathing, knowing I was alone, and knowing anything could be waiting for me. The vampires had kept themselves hidden during the day, and now they were out, looking for blood.

No. These are Shinigami. They’re not that.

I needed light of some kind. Something. But there was nothing.

“Perfect time for some crap karate test, Nicholas, for the love of—“

A branch snapped. I could hear it as plain as day, the rice paper walls concealing nothing. Two walls of paper lead outside, and there was enough snow on the ground that a branch would have to be stepped on to snap.

Death was all around me. It was the only familiar thing I had here.

The silhouette of a man appeared on the other side of the door, inches from my face, and I screamed, stumbled backwards, and fell onto the bed.

He didn’t move. Didn’t try to run or come after me. He waited. Like death itself.

Death always knew I couldn’t resist. It owned me.

I stood, and walked to the door, never doubting if I should open it. When I slid the door open, the figure made no movement, and didn’t even blink. The full moon illuminated him.

He was breathtaking in his darkness.

The night made him brighter somehow. A full head taller than me, bare chested with only thin white karate pants the same crispness as the snow. Perfectly chiseled, smooth, strength in every pore. Beautiful and fearsome. He looked down at me with onyx eyes, shining black hair falling around his cheeks and chest, the front held up in a traditional knot.

He smelled like red wine and roses.

Rich, heady and slightly nauseating. The scent of looking into something beyond.

The smell slapped me with memory, one I hadn’t touched since it occurred. I knelt at my mother’s casket, eyes on my father’s next to her. My grandmother leaned over me, wine heavy on her breath, the scent of failing roses succumbing to it from the wreaths and bouquets all around us.

There’s shadows all around you,” she said into my ear. I hadn’t budged.

My mouth was opening and closing, no sound coming out as I stared at him.

He was Shinigami. And he was looking at me with as much wonder as I was him, all in his eyes. The rest of him was rigor mortis still.

A crack resounded, one I knew all too well, and the man was gone.

I think I scared him away.

Snow was drifting in over my bare feet. I shut the doors and turned to run back to the bed, only to smack into Nicholas, making me scream.

“You’re late,” I muttered, and breathed in his cinnamon plum scent. A mix of New Hampshire and my new home, Japan.

“Who was that?” he asked, like I’d answered the door to girl scouts, not a vampire.

“I don’t know. But he was the same vampire from earlier, in the shadows.”

Nicholas flashed to the doorway, and looked out but we both knew nobody was there.

I collapsed back onto the bed, still drained. I could have slept for a month. I didn’t know what day it was, or what time it was. But I knew that Nicholas was in the room with me, and that I wanted him to stay.

Dragging myself to sitting, I pushed away the nothingness I’d been feeling, reminded myself that what had happened all around me was not my fault, and wasn’t his. I tried to make it a fact in my head before I spoke to him.

“Nicholas,” I said to his back. He didn’t move. “I know I’ve been—missing pieces—lately. And I wish it hadn’t been you I saw every time I thought of Kat being dead. But I’m trying really hard to fix it, Nicholas, I promise you.”

His shoulders relaxed some, or they sagged. I couldn’t tell which. I didn’t see him turn around or come to me, but he was there, kneeling at the edge of my bed.

“I’m not a man who needs apologies for everything to be all right.”

“Good. Apologizing is awful.”

“But necessary. I’ve nearly killed myself for you, Eliza Morgan, and you resent me for it. Feelings don’t die any faster than I do, and it’s agonizing trying to kill them.”

“What are you saying?”

“I’m dying, and you’re spending the time we have hating me for something I had no control over.”

I stopped breathing.

“What is it, Eliza? All the times you said to me no, it’s not your fault, this is my fate you didn’t mean it? You seemed so sincere.”

“Your sarcasm isn’t making this easier.”

“Nothing is easy! Nothing!”

I was terrified that he was calling my bluff. I was terrified that I’d pushed him too far.

But I was pissed that he was treating me this way, knowing what I’d seen, what I’d been through, and what I was leaving; my life.

“I lost my best friend,” I said.

“And so did I. I spent my immortal life with Roman. Until you. Do I hold it against you? No. Because it’s not your goddamn fault. And for the number of times you’ve said to me through gritted teeth that it’s not my fault, it’s yours, maybe I started to believe you. You and I both know we need this to be somebody’s fault.”

The wind was knocked out of me. It felt like I was losing him, and of course, I was. He was melting into nothing because Roman took Kat’s life and he hadn’t. All this death for nothing, and no explanation except that there was no choice.

“I think we both need to remember what it feels like to be alone,” he said, and in a sickening flash, he was gone.

The only scent that lingered was red wine and roses.

 

RUNNING HOME and All Books of the Dead Titles Have a Celebration Sale!

TODAY’S BREW: Not cider. Drank it all.

By Julie

THINGS HAVE HAPPENED! My publisher, Books of the Dead Press’s blog has hit a quarter million views, and so to celebrate

ALL BOOKS OF THE DEAD NOVELS ARE 99 CENTS THIS WEEK!!!!

Yes, that means Running Home, which you can get here, for the same price as shitty 7-11 coffee. http://t.co/wXBPE87nMX

You’ve also heard me babble incessantly about my good friend, J.C. who wrote the horror I fangirl over, Discoredia. HIS book is less than a buck, too. If you like the hidden themes and story within a story style of my writing, Discoredia is for you. I’m hard put to find a novelist that can create something so frightening, but with so much poetic beauty to it. There’s no cheap thrills here, I actually started talking to J.C. on Authonomy, when I got my first review and it was a little overly critical, perhaps. This guy came out of nowhere and told my critic to shut up, and then I got a peek at Discoredia, and was instantly hooked on his writing style. We became close friends over the last year and a half, and that became even thicker when we both got picked up by Books of the Dead. Discoredia was one of the rare books to make it to the Harper Collins editor’s desk at Authonomy, and they had actual good things to say about it! There’s a rarity.

“Readers also won’t be surprised to learn that I swear a lot, have a bad temper, and have been known to display a nasty streak at times. Marriage and fatherhood have mellowed me, but Discoredia was written in, and belongs to, the period of my life before that,” J.C. said to me, when I told him I want people to know him the way I do.

The reason I think the book works so well is because J.C. never wrote it to be published. “I wrote Discoredia because I was challenged to write a novel. It was written for two people, myself and the person that made that challenge. I never aimed on it being published. That’s why it’s so personal, and also why it’s quite commercially naive in that it doesn’t “fit” the genre. Now it’s not about me any more, it’s about something which other people will hopefully enjoy. So click here to buy it y’fuckers.”  YES, THIS IS LITERALLY FRESH OUT THE EMAIL HE SENT ME. http://t.co/UZXLvCqGcD

The band of freaks that Books of the Dead Press picked up this past spring became fast friends, but Mark Matthews and I clicked and are constantly in each other’s faces these days. One of the most genuine guys on the planet, but Jesus, Mary and Joseph, that man can creep me out with the shit he comes up with in a mere tweet, let alone the insane stories he comes up with. (If you don’t believe me, check out last Friday’s flash fiction bit from Mark right here.  http://wp.me/p2x7oj-y3. His writing is so crisp, so evocative and deeply disturbing, I just shake my head at how he comes up with it. SO FOR A BUCK, BUY On the Lips of Children right here. http://t.co/mFzbjq8rNL. Thank me later via check or credit card.

TO SEE ALL OF THE TITLES THAT ARE 99CENTS, GO SLAP AROUND BOOKS OF THE DEAD PRESS HERE http://t.co/3YowvUPte4. (Shut up and buy Mountain Home by Bracken MacLeod, too. Shut up, baby, I won’t recommend any more books, I swear to God.)

My Infection by Mark Matthews for Flash Fiction Friday

TODAY’S BREW: Hazelnut times a zillion

By Julie

At Books of the Dead Press, I met some great people. Mark Matthews and I hit it off fast and have become really good friends. He also happens to be a fantastic author, and the world is finally figuring it out. His latest creation, On the Lips of Children just hit the top 100 in horror on Amazon. If you haven’t read this uniquely disturbing novel, trust me, do so. You won’t be the same after. Get this book. NOW. http://t.co/mFzbjq8rNL.

NOW GET EXCITED BECAUSE I MADE MARK WRITE THIS CREEPY ASS STORY FOR FLASH FICTION FRDAY. Enjoy.

MY INFECTION

By Mark Matthews

Puddles of mud.
After she confessed her eyes became puddles of mud, like tears had fallen upon dirty eye sockets and left a muddy mess. “Okay, yes, we had sex,” she squeaked. “Three times only. I didn’t meant to. Will you still take care of us?”
Latrice only confessed because she was caught. The paternity test showed 99 percent chance I wasn’t the father. She held the child of Puckett in her womb.
“Will you take care of us?” she asked again. It wasn’t a question, she was giving me a challenge.
“I will take care of things,” I answered, but I didn’t say the rest that I wanted to, which was “because the day I fucked you I caught an infection and now I have it for life.”
“What about Puckett? Will you take care of him like you usually do?”
“Yes, I will.”
I had to. Because now Puckeet has the infection too, and I can’t have him talking smack about me taking care of his baby.
Puckeett spent 3 more days alive before I found him. Suffocation by choking has always been my choice when I want others to think for a moment on whose hands is killing them. Later, they shall swim deep. The Detroit River doesn’t give up its dead easy. And my Latrice loved it when I killed for her.
The birthing room was lit like a spaceship and reminded me of Vegas. No windows. I couldn’t tell if it was day or night only that that hours passed. New kinds of liquid flowed from between Latrice’s propped up legs. She sweat and spasmed, and when the head crowned, I felt both nauseous bile and warm shivers of hope.
There was a one percent chance that the baby would have my ebony flesh. But she did not. In fact, her flesh was so white it was see through. Nearly blue and fucking see through.
A heart condition kept the child in intensive care for days, in an incubater, looking like a frog ready to be dissected. I peeked at her, tried to make eye contact, did make eye contact. This infant seemed to be my very own heart beating in front of me, shriveled with doctors prodding it to keep her alive.
“She’s going to die,” Latrice repeated again and again. “I can’t take this, I can’t see her. You do it, you take care of her.”
I did, and stayed in the hospital and put my finger in the sterile glove and touched an index finger to her forehead.
Where’s my mother? she asked with tiny motions of her incubated arms.
“Soon you will see her. I am here. This is how it is,” I answered.
Days later I brought the child home to Latrice. Life had grown stronger in the nameless infant, but she was still barely bigger than the palm of my hand. At home the child shrieked and wailed as if she held the pain from a thousands past lives.
“This is not how it’s supposed to be,” Latrice said, watching me hold the child at 3:36 a:m: in the rocker on a Tuesday.
“This is how its going to be.”
I slept with the week old flesh on mine. It was skin so thin you could see her insides, like she was made of rubbery glass. I put her on my chest, rocked her until 4:25 a:m: and she beat with my heart.
The rocker was to be where the baby fed, yet it refused to take the breast of her mother.
Medications the baby did take. I injected them into an IV port in her neck. Warnings from doctors rang in my ears. Too large of an injection can lead to affixiation. Failure to administer will do the same.
Latrice curled up into a ball much of the time, like a fetus afraid to be born into her new life. Her hair, unwashed for days, became stringy like a broom. Pill bottles with the prescription label rubbed off sat on the counter. Oxy’s or Xanax or both.
The infant tears came at night, sometimes causing trips to the hospital wrapping ourselves in jackets gainst the cold, only to be sent back home again. Sleeplessness weighed us down like soaking wet clothes.
“This isn’t how its supposed to be,” she said.
“This is how it is,” I answered.
“No. You can take care of this. Take care of her like you do. Make it like it was before. She’s not meant to be alive.” Her eyes become the muddy puddles of tears and dirt. They pleaded to me. The infection bubbled in my veins.
Killing again would be easy. The pillow held down with my weight covered her whole face. Things were fragile, and it was just tiny breaths to take away this time.
The body fit easily in the trunk. The night felt cold. The car seats were frigid leather. Soon the car would heat up, and things would be better. I whispered my middle of the night words to my passenger in the back seat.
“We’re taking mommy to the river. Then we’ll be home, and I will give you a name, and I will take care of you”.
My infection was gone.

The World’s Longest Thank You by Julie

TODAY’S BREW: Still drinking champagne.

By Julie

I didn’t move from my laptop the whole morning. This is the text I woke up to from Kristen the first morning Running Home was up on Amazon:

WAKE THE FUCK UP.

LOOK. CHRIST ON A CRUTCH WOMAN YOU’RE KILLING ME.

(sees Amazon ranking of 25 in Dark Fantasy and 12,298 in total books. Hurks into mouth a bit.)

Running Home has been out in the world for ten days (at this point), and is still getting better reception than I ever expected. It’s still in the top 100,000 books on Amazon, which to me is like being in the pretty girl’s club. I don’t know how people release books and don’t just cry into their hands all day at the sheer fucking joy of it.

I have these incredible people all around me that never waiver in their loyalty, and stand next to me through everything. This is a team effort. I wrote the book, but this is showbiz, folks, and it takes an army. The people who put me on their blogs, and are writing reviews, and read the damn thing, and tweeted with me while I was querying and supported me while I freaked out, they are my friends, not my team. They are my family, not my pseudo-employees.

I have a small army sorta. There’s not a thank you card in the world that could possibly say how I feel. And there are so many of you! So many people who handed me over their blogs to make a mess of as I please. So many of you who retweet my crap. And all of you who keep me going when I need it most.

Some of the best friends anyone could ask for and that I never thought I would find; Josh Hewitt, the brother I never wanted. Julie Hill, who makes me feel like I can do it, all the time. Beau Barnett, the sweetest, kindest ladies’ man that brings tears to my eyes with his support.

Laura Hughes, Reggie Whitley, Torgs, Megan Paasch, Jessie Devine, and Lou Gornall. You guys are at my very core, and I couldn’t survive without your faces. Or in Reggie’s case, without his hair.

Chris Liccardi and Bobby Salomons. Or Solomons. Bobby, for real, this last name stands in my way. You guys hear more behind the scenes than you probably want to, and I love you for it. Friends forever. I’d get bracelets if I could that said it.

Thanks to Dylan Morgan, who’s been a friend for a long time, and supported me the entirety of it.

My brothers at Books of the Dead Press, especially John F.D. Taff, my old friend, and one of my new favorite people, Mark Matthews. I’m so happy we’ve become the friends we have. And James Roy Daley. You believed in this book right away, and no matter how many bumps we’ve met getting out there, we did it. I have you to thank for making it real.

Thank you Jacke Czel, Elisa, Megan Eccles, Megan Orsini, all the Megans, including the incomparable Megan Kay, who touches my heart every day. Thank you, Imran Siddiq, for reading my book when he clearly has more to do in a minute than anyone on the planet.

Lydia Aswolf, I cannot thank you enough, honestly. The media support alone, but there could be no better woman in the world to make me feel like I really stand a chance out there. You make me a stronger writer.

How can I thank Jolene Haley? Not only is she one of the first friends I ever made on Twitter, but she has given me endless ideas that I execute poorly to promote the book, she sent me a pre-published book by one of my favorite authors, and she is endlessly gushing over me between making sexual comments. I love you, Jolene.

Rob Kristoffersen, Huggy Bear. The work you put into doing my review, and all the virtual holding back of my hair while I hurked. I love you dearly, but even I had no idea that you would come through for me in such a huge way. I’m floored by it.

My friends at Opening Line Magazine! That review and the interview, and the publishing of The Love Abominable stories, and the tweeting, and all the wonderful conversations we have, AND THAT REVIEW! Finding Opening Line was one of the best things to ever happen to me in the release of this book, and when I think “dream come true” I envision that review and the cover of Running Home on your site. Thank you for believing in me.

Thank you to Phil Cone, a man beyond measure, one of my favorite authors and one of the people I never expected to need in my life the way I do. You may tell me I’m a shitty writer all day long, but I know you think otherwise. Also, everyone go buy Paddy Nemesis. You wish you could write with that little filter, but you can’t because you’re not the amazing Phil Cone. You mug.

One of the first people to ever say Running Home was a solid book, even before it was, was JC Michael. This man went to bat for me immediately after my very first somewhat negative criticism on Authonomy. Then I read Discoredia, and we’ve been in each other’s faces ever since. We’ve come so far together, and I couldn’t be more grateful to have a friend in you.

AND YOU PEOPLE HAD BETTER ALL BUY DISCOREDIA WHEN BOOKS OF THE DEAD PUTS IT OUT SOON, BECAUSE YOU DON’T EVEN KNOW. YOU DON’T EVEN.

One of my real life people, Jillian Marques. This gorgeous creature was actually a favorite employee of mine over ten years ago, and reappeared in my life, thank God, as a grown adult. I loved this girl from the minute I met her, and still do. Now, she’s not only an amazing support person in my life, and one I can always count on, but she has amazing writing chops of her own. Jilly Bean, I can’t wait until your work is out there for everyone to read. I love you.

Chynna-Blue Scott. The British little sister I never had. I don’t know what I did before you, and certainly won’t ever be able to be without you. Nobody knows just how much we really talk, but you’re one of my best friends in the world, for anyone who doesn’t know. Even if you didn’t have an amazing mind for what to do with Running Home, and didn’t put all the effort in that you do to be my personal cheerleader, I would still think you are one of the most incredible people on the planet. Brilliant, hilarious, beautiful and with a voice unlike any other I’ve ever heard in a novel. I love you dearly. Thank you for everything.

Kristen Strassel. You guys all see that we’re inseparable, but it’s so much more than that. Kristen has believed in my writing since we were kids, and has believed in Running Home even when I didn’t. She is the reason why I’m not in a social media hole. She’s the reason why I know anything about all the avenues I took to get this book published. She’s the reason why I never stopped. She was next to me when I pitched this book to an agent by phone in Hurricane Sandy, when we shouldn’t have driven to New Jersey, but did. Not because she needed an agent, but because I did. She feeds me, listens to me, is loved by my children, mom and husband, and she does more for me on an emotional level than even she realizes, and I can’t ever be without her. Kristen, I can’t wait to do this for Because The Night and Night Moves, not to  mention all the other awesome stuff you’re going to write.

And last, I swear, my husband, Tim Hutchings. You put our entire lives on the line by letting me leave my job to pursue this, because you always knew I could do it. You smile through the hardest times, you hold me when I can’t get out of my own head, you love me when I’m too hard to love. You’ve always seen me, and I’ve always seen you. There will never be anyone in the world who reaches my very soul the way you do. There’s no life for me without you in it. I love you more than you can ever know.

There are more people in the world for me to thank, but not all of them will read this, including Mrs. K, and Mr. Waterhouse, my 5th grade teacher. And Professors Curley and Hurley. (That’s real.) And of course, my mom and stepdad, and my Dad. But this is all I can take for today. I love you all.

The Good Cringe: Julie Shoots Off At The Mouth About On The Lips Of Children

TODAY’S BREW: All The Coffee, All Flavors and Sizes

By Julie

http://www.amazon.com/On-Lips-Children-ebook/dp/B00D71FE0K/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1371001356&sr=1-1&keywords=mark+matthews

“Their tongues were dry, her milk was gone, and the last bit of water in the plastic jug had evaporated. She wondered if her monthly bleeding would arrive to help her measure the time. She urinated often at first, but this had stopped, and there was little bowel to pass. Her fingers clamored over the flesh of her children, always feeling their skin, comforting every piece, holding them against her flesh, cradling them together. They may have been better off had their eyes never opened.”

Yeah, that’s just part of the prologue of  Mark Matthews’ new novel, On the Lips of Children, the story of a tattoo artist, his human canvas, and their child who get kidnapped by a blood-thirsty tweaker family raising their twin children in a drug tunnel.

Because I am spoiled, and Mark is being published alongside me at Books of the Dead Press, I got to read this before the rest of you jimooks. This book is one of the rare ones that I could only read in small bits and pieces because it made me so emotional and wore on me so heavily. The wording is incredibly vivid and gut-wrenching, but it’s the sheer possibility of the premise that makes this such an intense read. I’d challenge any parent to be able to read it and not cringe at the thought that this could be you and your children.  Mark says, “mother is indeed the name for God on the lips of all children, and love for family is at the core of this story.”

So, how the hell did this grim shit crop up in the gentleman’s mind? “The idea came from a predawn, dark run in San Diego. It was so dark I could barely see the trail, and ran by faith, not by sight.  As I ran, bodies of sleeping homeless men were strewn about the trail, some of them shuffling as I passed, some rising, and my imagination grew. What if these men were part of some insidious network, what if they were after me? I felt the specter of Tijuana not far from me, and eventually did more research into drug cartels and Tijuana kidnappings.

I came up with the idea of a mother who was trapped with her babies in a drug tunnel and would do anything for their survival, even if it meant feeding off the bodies of others. The twins are raised this way, and it changes them forever.”

Mark’s writing playlist of  Nine Inch Nails and The White Stripes, plus some influence from Cujo show through in the novel’s grim tone. I thought it was very cool that Mark actually has been to the area he wrote about. He said, “The exotic nature of the Tijuana to San Diego drug tunnel needed as much care in developing as any character. I have been deep into the bowels of Tijuana to places I wouldn’t go back.”

Also, Mark says cool stuff. I read books written by people who say cool stuff.  He said this, for example. “I see fiction as life with the volume turned up, and nothing turns up the volume of life like a little darkness to outline the glow of the human spirit.  You need the dark to see the stars, as the character Dante says after snorting some bath-salts.” Obviously, he can write.

I never want to go there either, but I would go back to On the Lips of Children.

Mark Matthews has worked in the behavioral health field for nearly 20 years, including psychiatric hospitals, runaway shelters, and substance abuse treatment centers. His first novel, Stray, is based on experiences working in a treatment center with an animal shelter right next door within barking distance. He is an avid runner, and his second novel, The Jade Rabbit, is the story of a woman, adopted from China, who is raised in Detroit and runs marathons to deal with lingering trauma. Follow Mark’s blog,  Running, Writing, and Chasing the Dragon.  Bother him on Twitter @matthews_mark .

 

Mountain Home Kicks the Ass Off Of Your Ass

TODAY’S BREW: Back to the Keurig. My coffee pot broke, and now I’m a single serving motherfucker.

By Julie

You guys may have heard, my book, Running Home, is being published by Books of the Dead on July 22nd. Hold your applause. THIS guy’s book is first up of the 8 authors being published this summer with Books of the Dead. I got to read his book in super secret before the world got to see it. And what a privilege it was.

Bracken MacLeod
 Image of Bracken MacLeod
Bracken MacLeod has worked as a martial arts teacher, a college philosophy instructor, at a children’s non-profit, and as a criminal and civil trial attorney. While he does his best to avoid using the law education, he occasionally finds uses for martial arts and philosophy. His work has appeared in Sex and Murder Magazine, The Siren’s Call e-zine, and twice in Every Day Fiction. He also has stories in the anthologies, The Alchemy Press Book of Pulp Heroes, Anthology: Year One, and most recently in Femme Fatale: Erotic Stories of Dangerous Women from Go Deeper Press.His first novel, MOUNTAIN HOME, is available from Books of the Dead Press.

Mountain Home blew me away from the start. I’m a sucker for strong imagery and witty wordings, and Bracken not only gives me this, but he makes literally every page tense with constant…and I mean constant action. This book reads like a Tarantino movie watches. Smart action, with immediate consequences and longtime effects on the characters, choices that are life-changing from the inside out. What I really love about Mountain Home is that the characters are so incredibly real. Bracken manages to do something that I find all too rarely; he makes complex characters that you have strong feelings about, and I don’t just mean “she’s so nice, I don’t want her to die” feelings. You hate the sonofabitch restaurant manager that doesn’t deserve to live. You admire the heroine, Lyn, who has more than just heroism to offer us. She’s an artist, with opinions and really believable feelings. She’s courageous, not just ballsy. The girl makes hard choices that affect people she doesn’t like and doesn’t know, and she’s undecided about them. That is what makes her someone I can identify with. She’s not a toughass chick with something to prove. She’s cornered into making a lot of difficult choices, and makes them with conviction, even when she isn’t sure it’s the right thing to do. (Clearly, I love this girl.)

The “villain” we meet is also one we can identify with and understand. One we sympathize with, and fear a little bit, because we see the reality of her a little too easily.

I am honored to keep company with Bracken MacLeod at Books of the Dead. Read Mountain Home and you’ll find a truly unique voice, and one you’ll want to hear again. http://t.co/n5udtkE4Mn

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