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Excerpt: Final Girl Part III

Posted by on Oct 1, 2017 in Blog, Fiction, Fun, Publishing | 0 comments

Final Girl Part III launches October 3 for your early Halloween seasonal reading. Get it now—or check out this excerpt.

Chapter 1: Hush

Jess

Hush little baby, yes that’s an axe /

Daddy’s gonna give mama 40 hacks /

And if that bitch don’t die today /

Daddy’s gonna chop her up right away.

I couldn’t get the stupid nursery rhyme out of my head. I stumbled upon it on Reddit the night before, as I sought out every scrap of information about the notorious axe murderer—and my goddamn birth dad—Randy Lee Kendall. I spent the last week staying up until all hours, ignoring incoming phone calls from Raven and Zero, who wanted to know why I left the team.

Oh, yeah. I quit the team.

Wilson tried to talk me out of it—except I couldn’t bear to talk to him face to face. I wouldn’t answer my phone, texts, or emails. I wouldn’t answer the door. It got so bad that I asked my landlady, Mrs. Huang, to screen my visitors, which wasn’t a bad idea since I didn’t want any. No friends, no coworkers, no psycho dads. The only person I saw for an entire week—aside from grainy internet footage of my dad—was Mrs. Huang.

One day she came to me and said my rent was due. Damn it. I spent my first and only paycheck from the FBI on new clothes. Figuring I had another check on the way, I opted not to pay her out of that windfall. I hadn’t expected to quit.

So instead of joining my (former) team for a debrief about mad scientist Robbie Pendleton, I sat in the cramped back room of Turbo Video surrounded by boxes of video tapes and crates of soft drinks. Somehow Kurt, the manager, had found a way to wedge in a desk and a couple of chairs so he could call it an office. He couldn’t even fully sit behind the desk. His hairy, chunky legs hung out one side while he twisted awkwardly in his squeaky chair.

My resume sat on a stack of papers ringed with coffee stains and the air was misted with weed smoke—though I’m pretty sure it was because Kurt had smoked a joint before my interview.

“Interviews make me nervous, man,” he said, when he led me through the video stacks to the office.

“But you’re interviewing me,” I pointed out. “And you know me already. I worked here before. . . .” Before I joined Jack’s band and we made plans to tour the coast. Which was before John Doe sliced him in half at a gig. Before the Unholy Seven became a thing I had to worry about. “Is an interview really necessary?”

“Jess, man, your resume says you have a ‘positive work ethic.’ You don’t sound real positive right now.”

Oh my god, my brain groaned. I tried to figure out how I managed to work with this idiot hippy for so long. I guess because I started here when I was on my own for the first time and I needed to pay rent and buy food. I had some good times here, with Brian the mega nerd and Lydia the goth. I wondered what they were up to, and then I glimpsed Brian, sucking back a Slurpee and balancing VHS cases on his gut. Some things never change.

“I need a job, Kurt,” I said, trying not to beg. I didn’t want to return to Turbo Video. I didn’t even understand how this place stayed open. Online streaming ran Blockbuster and its ilk out of business ages ago. Maybe that’s why I appreciated Turbo—it was like the final girl of the movie rental business.

“I dunno,” he said, his stubby fingers toying with his worn Livestrong bracelet. “I don’t know if I can go back to three employees. . . .”

“Come on—you know I pretty much manage myself.”

“That was the problem when you worked here, man. You didn’t listen to me—”

“What if I started tomorrow? I can bring my own shirt.”

His eyes fluttered. “I guess so, but. . . .”

“I’ll start right away.” I jumped up to shake his hand. His bloodshot eyes attempted to focus. He gingerly grazed my fingers and I took that for a deal-making handshake. “Great, it’s a deal. I can close tonight.”

“Deal? Tonight? Wait—”

I headed for the front door, not wanting to give Kurt any time to back pedal. But Brian slid out from behind the counter, sucking back syrupy ice and glaring at me through his thick-lensed glasses. “Jess Kendall. So you’re back. Like a bad sequel.” His lisp made it sound like, Jeth . . . bad thequel.

Kurt came up behind me. He was going to retract the job offer I’d wrenched out of him, I just knew it. I was trapped, forced to confront one of them. “Yeah, Brian. I’m back. Didn’t have anything better to do.” Other than save the world.

“Heard you killed a guy.” Slurrrrrrp! “What was that about?”

Scowling, I stepped around him and stormed to the door. “Which one?” I tossed over my shoulder.

I returned six hours later to work alone that night. Lydia, who for some godforsaken reason still worked at Turbo, called in sick. Mono. I remembered giving that excuse when I was her age. I suspected she had a last-minute project due for her fine art class. Seemed like a lot of money to spend on a drawing degree when we both knew she was going to end up tattooing butterflies on co-eds. Might as well save the cash and jump right into the career.

At least she had a career. I was twenty-two with the job of a sixteen-year-old. I couldn’t even keep my eyes open long enough to finish my shift. In fifteen minutes, I could lock the door and call it a night. So I set my head down on the counter and stared at the clock on the wall.

Tick . . . tock. . . .

I swear I was just resting my eyes. I seriously didn’t mean to fall asleep on my first day back at Turbo. I’m not that flakey. It’s just that I’d been up late, searching online for info about my dad. Then I would fall asleep as the sun came up and pound back energy drinks to get me through the waking hours.

Shouting voices woke me up with a start. A puddle of drool had accumulated under my gaping mouth. I half-wiped, half-slurped it up as my fuzzy eyes looked around the video store.

It was a bloodbath. Body parts were scattered everywhere. Customers who had been browsing were now chopped into pieces. One guy was missing his head.

What happened? I found my answer as I clenched my fist around a sticky axe. Blood dampened my hands and clothes. What the—?

From the doorway, two cops aimed their guns at me and shouted a bunch of orders. I dropped the axe and raised my hands. A folded piece of paper floated out from my fingers and landed face up on the floor.

COME HOME!

Want more? Get your digital copy of Final Girl Part III today. And in case you’re behind in the series, catch up now wherever you buy your ebooks.

What scares me

Posted by on Sep 21, 2017 in Blog, Writing | 0 comments

As a horror fan and writer of horror, I’m often trying to drill into what could scare my readers. But the deep, dark secret of writing horror is tapping into what scares ME and then writing about it, and maybe, if I’ve done my job well, what scares me will resonate with readers.

On Tuesday, a 7.1 earthquake hit Mexico City. I’m all the way up in Edmonton, Canada, and if you know your geography, you know there’s no way in hell, I felt it the tremors. But I did feel absolute terror for about 24 hours because my dad was in Mexico City that very day on a business trip.

I had no idea where he was or how to reach him, or if he was safe, and as the body count went up as city officials surveyed the destruction, I feared my dad was among them.

For almost a day, I puttered in my anxiety wondering if he was okay. Thousands of miles away, countries apart, and seven months pregnant, I’ve never felt more helpless. How could I help my dad when I didn’t know where to start?
I could tell you stories about waking up in the night and hearing creaky sounds, or thinking I’ve heard voices outside my window. I could tell you about being alone in the house with my imagination (my best friend and worst enemy). I could paint you pictures of gory and twisted scenarios sure to scare the average person. But the scariest thing for me is losing a loved one and not being able to do a damn thing.

Once I’m able to tap into that fear, I’ll become a much stronger horror writer.

And in case you’re wondering, my dad is just fine, and he’s going to get the biggest hug when he gets home.

Your first page is boring—here’s how to fix it

Posted by on Sep 1, 2017 in Blog, Writing | 0 comments

I won’t link to it, but I just read a blog post out on the interwebs about writing your novel’s first page. The advice was the standard stuff, so I won’t repeat it here.

But it was the comment section that made me roll my eyes. A few folks shared what their first page was about, and not to judge, but one person said that their story started with their young protagonist dreaming of an adventure to escape their boring life.

BORING.

To me, this author has just described every lame first page ever. Sure, your protag is relatable. Who hasn’t been a bored teenager dreaming of excitement? The problem is I don’t care. Other readers don’t care. Because now, on this first page, you have to set up why his life is boring, and we don’t want to read that. We’ve LIVED that.

So how about this? Throw the protag into the middle of the action! Backtrack as he lays out the current scenario:

Hanging over the bubbling volcano, I remembered that I still have that term paper due tomorrow…

As the sword blade cut a chunk of hair off Donna’s head, she realized this was way scarier than spilling all her feelings to her crush back home.

Hint at the ho-hum elements of the protag’s previous life, but show us what’s exciting now and why we should care NOW.

Your first pages will be better for it.

Recommended read: Riley Sager wants you to “write what you feel”

Posted by on Aug 1, 2017 in Blog, Inspiration | 0 comments

Aspiring writers hear this “gem” all the damn time. Write what you know. Well, if we all followed this advice, we wouldn’t have Lord of the Rings (I’m sure Tolkien knows nothing about being a dwarf or hobbit), Star Wars (space cowboys, really), or any horror/fantasy/sci fi and most detective/lawyer dramas/mysteries. So it was refreshing to read Riley Sagar’s thoughts on this topic.

Sagar’s Final Girls is the next book on my TBR pile. (Not to be confused with my own series, Final Girl.)

Yoo hoo! Summer sale!

Posted by on Jul 1, 2017 in Blog, Fiction, Reading | 0 comments

Final Girl is free (for a good, short time) on Smashwords!

And you can download Final Girl Part II for 50%!

Get your summer read on, final girls and guys!

(And why the hell not? Killer Celebrity Island is also free!)