Hellbound in a Hurry Excerpt

HELLBOUND IN A HURRY comes out in 2 weeks!

When Antonia gets a disturbing message from her brother, she drops everything to search for him. What she finds is Jack—an interstellar being claiming to have been dragged into mortal existence against its will by the same cult her brother was with.

Jack just wants to get home, out of the human vessel it’s currently trapped in, and back to immortality. In exchange for her help, Jack offers to lead Antonia to her brother.

The two go on a violent ride—one desperate to survive and the other bent on revenge.

Will either of them be long for this world?

This horror novella is my first self-publishing project and I’ve learned so much.

This was a completely new experience for me and it’s been a lot of googling. I found a wonderful editor to work with, Rachel Oestreich of The Wallflower Editing, LLC and the process was so smooth. If you’re looking for an editor, I would happily recommend her.

I’ve also learned the hard way why people pay to have their books formatted–that was tricky. I have never known Word more intimately and thank goodness for googling.

And cover art by Linn Arvidsson! It was a pleasure to work with her again!

HELLBOUND IN A HURRY is up on goodreads, so please take a minute to add it to your TBR!

Chapter One of HELLBOUND IN A HURRY

Dominic ran over the uneven ground, away from the voices and the flicker of flashlights, and definitely away from the glow of the old greenhouse. He ran toward the arms of darkness in panic and desperation—the only way anyone ever did.

His right ankle throbbed, sending jolts of pain up his leg with every step, dragging him lower and lower. No matter how much he blinked or how wide he opened his eyes, he couldn’t see, the branches overhead so thick that not even starlight could reach him now. There was no way he could escape—nowhere he could go—but he couldn’t stop trying. His arms stretched out ahead of him, scraping against trees in an effort to navigate. He had no direction—needed no direction but away. He was a bird in flight.

The white beams of flashlights strobed through the night to his right and left. Dominic hadn’t realized he was crying until those lights gave him a taste of his own vision, blurred.

A light flashed right over his shoulder. He was sure of it, as though he could feel the heat of the lamp through his sweatshirt.

His right ankle finally gave out and he fell hard, rolling in low bushes and newly fallen leaves. He clawed at the cold ground, dragging himself into the dark. Footfalls came closer, stomping the autumn ground.

Dominic’s short life flashed before his eyes, and he found it lacking. Too much panic and pain and not enough joy, not enough contentment or laughter. Too much running for his life and looking for a place to sleep. Too much hunger.

The beam of light struck him in the back, pouring over him. His dark hair hung in his face, sticking to sweaty skin, and his dirt-coated fingers groped at the mulch of the forest floor. The ink on the backs of his hands stood out in the light, the word ‘hands’ tattooed on the back of his left and ‘up’ on the back of his right in scrawling script. A part of his frantic mind registered the words and imagined a voice with the flashlight calling them—shouting at him in the night under the flashing glow of red and blue lights. But that had been in another place and another time. Not here. Not tonight. These people had no demands of him because they wanted to take everything.

A hand grabbed his shoulder, turning him over and groping at his side, trying to lift him up. Dominic swallowed for air, vision still blurred in tears when the man pulled him to his feet. Dominic kept his weight on his left this time, one hand grabbing the man by the shoulder for stability while his other arm lifted and swung the rock he had picked up from the ground—leaving a crater in the cold earth. He slammed the rock against the man’s temple, hard enough to hear the clap of flesh and crack of bone. The flashlight fell, half-buried against the crisp leaves.

Dominic swung again and again, in brutal succession, until the stranger landed on his knees and then slumped over. He was still breathing, the sound of it raspy and wet. Dominic patted him down in a hurry, found his phone, and took it.

He turned off the flashlight and hopped away, using the trees to keep himself upright in the dark and moving away from the sounds of the search party. He didn’t stand a chance. He couldn’t get far like this, in the dark and with only one leg to stand on. He slid down a slope and crawled into the base of a tree, hoping it would hide him from the search lights.

Dominic turned the phone on, holding it close to his chest and curling his body around it. He dialed the only number he knew by heart and choked back a sob when it rang and rang. “Please,” he whispered to the night.

No answer.

He didn’t know her work number. He dialed again.

Ringing.

Ringing.

The beam of a flashlight stroked the night far to his left and he pressed the phone to his chest to hide the glow. When the light passed, he held the phone to his ear again. The automated answering machine recited the number to him and suggested he leave a message. Not even her voice. He almost forgot how to speak when the beep sounded, coughing and dragging a breath in. “Annie… Please…” He cried and cringed, hating himself for doing this. “I should never have gone with them. You were right… Please. Please help me.”

Logic told him there was nothing she could do now, even if she had answered. He was torturing himself and he was torturing her. “Annie, they’re insane. They’re going to kill me, or I’m going to die in this fucking forest, and I just want to leave.” He choked back a mad laugh. “Save me. Please. Please. Just one more time. Save me and I promise I won’t do dumb shit like this anymore. I promise, I’ll get my shit together. Please, Annie. Please.”

Four beams of light fell on him, hands grabbing from all directions. Dominic screamed when he was lifted from the ground, not even ashamed of that high-pitched sound echoing from his chest. There was no room for shame now—only fear and anger. Annie had told him, back when they were teens, that all other emotions were useless and frivolous. The only ones that would ever help them were fear and anger. She had leaned into it and made those feelings her home. Dominic had never been able to do the same, always aching for something better, something softer. He hated the wild, soul-gripping strength of fear, and the way it infected every part of his heart. And now, he was going to die with it as his last thought, his last friend, his last anything.

They dragged him screaming from the woods and into the clearing, the glow of that old glass building pulsing in the night. He flailed, but they were more than enough to keep hold of him. The phone was gone, he realized. Had they taken it and hung up or left it there in the woods?

The door opened, dozens of figures standing around in their robes and hoods. Cliché motherfuckers, he thought but bit back the fury and begged instead—still hoping against hope. “Please! Just let me go!”

The figures swayed and moaned their strange, melodious chants, side-by-side like faceless lemmings in the dark.

The old greenhouse was warm, the space inside cleared but for an alter at one end and a long dining table in front of it. Their voices echoed inside, rising up against the dirt-coated glass walls. They had no faces—these people, he knew most of them. He had spent months at their compound thinking he had found a home, but it had all been a lie. He had been a fool, and Annie had been right. There was no easy out. There were no homes. Just monsters with hungry needs of their own.

Dominic let out another ragged scream, body bowing when they put him down on that table and cuffed his arms overhead. “Fuck you! I hate you! I hope you all die for this!” he shouted, feeling that rage pour into his heart like the infectious, molten substance it was. He laughed through his tears, his voice echoing over their chanting and moaning. They would die for this, he realized. They would all pay. But it was only a small comfort to him now—not nearly enough.

One man, without a hood drawn, stood up at the alter overhead, and Dominic recognized him. Benjamin stared back at him for a long minute. They had been in the same foster home for a year when they were twelve and reconnected a couple times since. The last time had been when Benny heard about this commune where they could get away from it all, “it all” being the gloom of the city, the shitty jobs Dominic could never quite hold on to, and the drugs that always left him feeling hollowed out and lost. It was supposed to be a place full of sunshine, fresh air, and freedom. But what had really convinced Dominic was the way Benny had said “family.” He promised that was what it was like, up here in the woods. That it would be like finally coming home—finally finding his family.

“Benny… I want to leave.” Dominic managed to choke out the words.

Benny winced subtly, the perfect mix of remorse and excitement all pressed under the numbing weight of his high. Dominic knew what Benny looked like high—his eyes glassy and red-rimmed and his mouth slack in the corners. He was shirtless, jeans riding low on his hips, and the candlelight made the sheen of sweat on his brown skin glimmer like stars.

The chanting grew louder, the robed figures pressing closer. Two of the hooded figures rounded the table, holding a stag mask between them. Dominic struggled, but they placed it over his face, the weight pinning his head back. It stunk inside, warm and animal. He screamed and the sound echoed back on him. He could barely see through the slits of the eyes, catching Benny’s face just before he donned a wolf mask and picked up a slender knife.

Dominic struggled anew, even knowing it was pointless. He struggled and screamed and kicked, sounds growing only louder when the knife sunk into his chest.

He realized, in the last moments of his life, that family had always been bloodshed and struggle. It had always been a fight to survive. But family had also been the people fighting to keep him alive. Family had been the one person that ever fought for Dominic. And he knew, without a doubt, that his last phone call would bring her down on these people like lightning on dry grass. They thought they knew some secret of the universe—that they could summon a demon.

But they had no idea that he had already called one.

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2018 Recap

What happened in 2018?

I didn’t do all of my resolutions for last year, and it wasn’t all amazing all the time, but here are the highlights!

  • I became lactose intolerant. It happened all of a sudden. It was awful. I miss eating cheese without having to take a pill first BUT for the first time in my life I don’t have the acne face of a fourteen year old. It turns out, cheese was my enemy all along.
  • I published my first ever horror novel, Infernal, with Grinning Skull Press! I’m so excited to have it out in the world.
  • I discovered audio-books. When I was younger I couldn’t listen to books because I got distracted and stopped paying attention. I went on with life believing that I couldn’t listen to audio-books. I WAS WRONG! I spend so much time outside walking or at the gym and this is perfect! I love it. I can finally multitask reading.
  • I wrote another horror and outlined a few more!
  • I discovered Stephen King. I know, I’m behind. I tried reading Stephen King as a kid and totally hated it. I was reading fantasy almost exclusively back then and doing it for escapism. Stephen King’s work was just too close to reality for my younger self and I didn’t get it or appreciate it. I went on from there with the continued assumption that Mr. King and I did not jive. The truth is, I just wasn’t ready. I wasn’t at the point in my life where I would appreciate his books. But I am now and OH MY GOSH there are so many to read! So far I’ve consumed: Carrie, Cujo, In the Tall Grass, A Good Marriage, The Outsider, Joyland, and The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon. <3
  • World Weaver Press published the second book of my Crowns & Ash series, Detox in Letters! And @writendesk did live tweeting while reading it and it was one of the coolest, most thrilling, events of my life!
  • I visited my family in California for my mom’s wedding party, survived the aggressive heat, and ate matcha soft-serve in a fish shaped cone in San Francisco!
  • I wrote a rough ROUGH first draft of book 4 of the Crowns & Ash series and sent the 3rd off to my amazing editor, Laura Harvey!

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My first book published was not the first written.

Vanity in Dust was my first published novel BUT it was the fifth book I wrote.

There’s this idea about writers churning out a perfect novel and that being the end of it. And for someone, somewhere, I’m sure that’s true. But for most of us, we have more stories to write than we’ll ever have time to put into words and writing, like any other art, is something that gets better with practice. I learn new things with every book. The first few mostly taught me how to go about writing and finishing a story.

Originally I was writing high fantasy–the kind with sword clanking, thrones at war, and lots of betrayal. I read a lot of fantasy as a kid so it was naturally where I went with my own writing. Fantasy has always been my go-to genre. When I walk into a library or a bookstore, I go straight for Fantasy. It’s my anchor, and my comfort zone. I didn’t even try anything else until I joined a writing site when I was seventeen and started branching out. After that, I tried writing urban fantasy. And then, after FOUR BOOKS, I wrote Vanity in Dust, which is somewhere between high fantasy and urban fantasy. It’s a purely fantasy world, but far from medieval inspired, with modern themes and technology all powered by magic.

Even Infernal, the island horror I have coming out soon, isn’t the first horror novel I wrote. My first tries were just that–a try. Not a failure, because it moved me closer to getting it right, but not a win either.

This isn’t to say that the books I wrote before the ones published have been tossed aside (though a couple definitely have been). Some just haven’t found their place yet or need more work. Because getting a book published is work. There are great steps between creating an idea, turning it into a manuscript, and getting it publisher-ready. Fortunately, I love all the steps–I just wish I had more time.

I haven’t written a perfect book yet. If I do, it might not be until I’m seventy, hopefully with dozens of books under my belt. And, I admit, I kind of like that idea.

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INFERNAL ~ Cover Reveal

Shrouded in Mystery

According to the legends, those who venture onto the shores of this cursed island never return.

Abandoned

Valerie DeNola and her sister Julie have chosen to ignore the legends and the warnings. They have been selected to lead a team of explorers to the island to discover the mystery surrounding it. But once ashore, they become cut off from the outside world, and what they discover is something they could never have prepared for.

Inhabited by Death

Now they must fight against an unknown presence that is picking them off one by one. No one can be trusted, and when even nature rises up against them, all seems lost. Their one hope is the extraction team they know is coming. But will any of them survive to see it arrive?

 

Grinning Skull Press has released the cover for my horror novel, Infernal!

I love it and I can’t wait to hold it in my hands.

Coming soon!

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