Skip to content

Month: October 2020


Posted in Uncategorized

It’s me again! Here to tell you about a book I wrote on Radish and is now available as an e-book and a paperback. That’s right. TODAY! IT’S OUT TODAY!

Thank you to everyone who has preordered the book and/or spread the good word. I’m so excited about this series and actually seeing this one on my Kindle with its gorgeous new cover by Kris at Covers By Kris has reinvigorated me. I’ll be leaning hard into more fantastical stuff in the future and this feels like the biggest, most fun first step possible. Scroll down for an excerpt and buy links. And if you read Nightmare Born and want to leave a review for it somewhere, that would be cool as Arthur Fonzarelli.

The cover of Nightmare Born: A young white woman with curly red hair and wearing ripped jeans and a leather jacket stands in a faded-purple, mist-shrouded forest. The text reads: USA Today Bestselling Author of the Blood Ties series Jenny Trout," at the top and "Nightmare Born" at the bottom.

Conceived in dream. Born a nightmare.

There are a lot of things I know: story structure, Hollywood trivia, what makes a director great… It’s the stuff I didn’t know–who my real father was, that my uncle is a demon, the fact that I’m not human–that’s gotten me into so much trouble.

After ripping my crush’s heart out–literally–I discover that I’m not just a normal autistic seventeen-year-old. I’m the daughter of the King of Nightmares, the cruel and excessively goth ruler of the Nether. Now, I’m stuck at Miss Perkins’s School for Girls, learning how to exist in a world where things really do go bump in the night.

Dangerous magic, treacherous enemies, unfairly hot vampires, and magic schools are all tropes I love in movies. But throw them into my real life? Hard pass. And I still have to deal with queen bees and bullies while unraveling a conspiracy that could crumble the very foundations of reality as we know it? That’s bullsh–

If you ever plan to tear someone’s still-beating heart out of their chest and eat it, prepare to get tased. I know I’m lucky that’s all I got. Then again, the cops managed to take that rich cannibal guy into custody peacefully after he ate his neighbor’s face right there in his driveway, so maybe I’m not lucky. Maybe it’s just procedure for when someone white eats somebody.

Oh yeah. If you ever plan to tear someone’s still-beating heart out of their chest and eat it, prepare to be forcibly sedated, too. It isn’t necessarily a bad thing; I know that when this stupid shot wears off, I’ll be able to feel what I did. Everybody thinks autistic people have like, zero empathy, but that’s not true. I have too much empathy. So much, I feel like it’s going to crush me most of the time. Once I’m hit with the full weight of what I did to Dakota…

To his family…

To my family.

I picture my mom’s thin face, her freckled skin tinged green as they explain to her what I did. What I am. My memory swirls back to when I stole money from her purse when I was nine. “Don’t you feel bad for doing that? Iris, tell me that you know that what you did was wrong.”

“I do know, Mommy,” I say aloud, my tongue thick and dry. I try to sit up, but something stops me. The padded restraints around the gurney. Oh, right. I’m not nine anymore. I’m seventeen. And I’m a murderer.

“You are not a murderer.”

I blink. The ceiling tiles multiply. When I turn my head, they become a cascade of squares. The room I’m in is completely empty. The walls are bare. No one is here with me.

“Who said that?”

“You’ll find out.”

There’s a door, but there’s no handle on it. Just the outline of the frame and the shift from the bumpiness of the yellow walls to the smoothness of the metal that’s probably been painted over and over a thousand times.

I know I’m in jail. It’s just weird how much it looks like a school.

Cuffed to a hospital bed, loopy on drugs, in some kind of cell for the criminally insane. That seems about right. It’s where I’ve always been pretty sure I’d end up. I just never foresaw it being this early. Or under these circumstances. And I’d kind of hoped it would be more like Arkham. But here I am. Strapped down and hearing voices.

I’m so thirsty. I want a drink of water. I can’t get one because I’m tied down, and there’s no way to call for help. What if they forget me? What if everyone forgets I’m in here? What if I die in here?

Cold sweat stands out on my forehead. It runs into my eyes and I can’t do anything but blink it away. I want to wipe my face. I want a drink of water. I want to sit up. I want my mom. I want to go home.

“Someone get me out of here!” I scream, and it ricochets off the bare walls to hit me like a shockwave of agitation. My fingers grasp futilely; I can’t reach anything. An itch at the back of my head becomes a burning pain that I can’t ease. The thin sheet beneath me twists as I struggle. It bunches under my shoulder blades. I can’t move. I can’t move.

“Get me out!”

The door explodes off its hinges, narrowly missing me.

Did I do that with my mind? Can I use the Force?

The lights overhead flicker; the ones in the hall beyond the door do, too, but the darkness is darker and the brightness is brighter, and I realize that I’m seeing sparks. The lights in the hall haven’t flickered, they’ve burst. A figure wreathed in a cloud of white smoke steps through. As the bulbs overhead buzz back on, I stare in confusion. “Uncle Abe?”

My Uncle Abe has never been a suit-and-tie kind of guy, but that’s how he’s dressed now. Instead of his usual Adidas tracksuit—he has them in every color—and a heavy gold chain around his neck, he wears a full three-piece jacket-vest-pants combo with pinstripes and a long, tan coat that swirls around his legs as he strides into the room. He still looks like a stereotypical Italian guy. Just a different kind of stereotypical Italian guy.

He gestures toward me, and the restraints around my wrists and ankles release their grip, the belts sliding from the buckles of their own volition. I lift my hands and stare at them in disbelief.

“We gotta go!” Uncle Abe says, glancing into the hallway. There are shouts and running feet, but I can’t tell how close they might be because the room is still spinning. Especially, when I sit up.

“Iris, get your ass moving, we gotta get out of here.” He gestures urgently at me, and finally, I manage to put my feet on the floor and stand.

“What’s going on?” I ask him, but he doesn’t answer. He grabs my arm and steers me toward the door. Just outside, a group of uniformed officers has nearly reached us. They draw their weapons, and I flinch, trying to raise my hands to signal I’m no threat.

Uncle Abe throws his arm out and yells, “Back off!”

The police topple backward like a collapsing house of cards.

What the—

Uncle Abe’s grip on my arm tightens and he drags me in the other direction, toward a security door with a coded lock. Just as we reach it, it bursts open. More officers in bulletproof vests crash through. Abe swears and releases me. He reaches out with both hands and grabs hold of nothing as if struggling to pry the air in front of him apart like a pair of stuck elevator doors. There’s a tear and a vertical scar of light rips reality open. Without explanation, he shoves me into the blazing beam. It feels like I’m being burned alive and frozen at the same time. A roar like a tornado hitting a train fills my head. The noise pops off, and I wonder if I’m deaf or dead from the explosion. My ears ring, my vision clears, and I’m standing in the living room of our house.

Mom looks up from where she’s been sitting on the couch, staring at the TV, feet up, body folded around a tattered throw-pillow. Her eyes are red and hollow, and she blinks at me as if she’s seeing a ghost.

I realize that my uncle stands behind me. I catch a glimpse of the hallway we’ve just left before the rift in the air closes, sucking all the light backward. When I face my mom again, she’s already on her feet, running to hold me.

“They said there was—” her voice breaks off as she presses her lips to my forehead. “—an attack at the county jail? Was it you, Abe?”

“What does it look like?” He turns to me and says gruffly, “We’ve got about twenty minutes. Maybe less. Pack a bag.”

“Pack a…” I can’t focus on anything. The sedatives are still at work and I can’t tell what’s real and what’s not because nothing feels real. Am I dreaming? Having a delusion? Is my mind stuck in one of my daydreams permanently?

When I snap out of it, will what happened at school go away?

My hands are covered with dried blood.

“Move,” Uncle Abe commands. “The less you bring with you, the better.”

“Where are we going?” I ask, my tongue thick in my mouth. I’m still so thirsty.

He and my mother share a look. Her face goes pale. “Abe…no…”

“Did you think you were going to be able to keep her forever?” he asks, in a tone I’ve never heard him use with her before. He’s never used it with either of us. He sounds like a stranger. Like a judge passing a righteously harsh sentence.

Mom shakes her head. “No. No, we made a deal! He promised me!”

“He promised you that you could keep your human child,” Uncle Abe says, his voice cold. He can’t be the same guy who calls Mom “Gabby” and asks if she needs money when she leaves for work.

And what does he mean… “Human child?”

“I said get your stuff!” For the first time, I’m truly afraid of Uncle Abe. Of the look on his face, his anger, the finally-fed-up written on every feature in big enough print that even I can recognize it.

But I’m not scared enough to back down. After everything else that’s happened, he isn’t going to be the one to break me.

“No!” I try to stamp my foot, but I’m still not steady, so all I accomplish is rolling my ankle. But I don’t look away. “What did you mean, ‘human’? Why do I have to leave?”

“Are you kidding?” Uncle Abe roars at me. “You ripped a kid’s heart out and ate it. Fill in the blanks!”

“Abbadon!” Mom shouts over him. A tense silence falls. I’ve never heard her use that name before. I always assumed his name was Abraham and that he was just too embarrassed to admit it. But neither of them say anything, until Mom rasps, tears filling her eyes, “Please. Let me be the one to tell her. At least, let me say goodbye.”

“Mom?” My voice trembles. “Why would you say goodbye?”

She puts her arms around me and hugs me tight.

Please don’t let me go.

I’ve seen my mom cry maybe three times in my life. It has felt weird every time, but this time it’s so, so much worse. She steps back and takes a big gulp of air. Then she fakes a smile like I’ll fall for it the way I did when I was a kid. When I don’t, she gives up.

“Mom?” I ask again.

“I have something…” She closes her eyes and a tear rolls down her cheek. “I haven’t been honest with you. About your father.”

Available now in e-book and paperback*! Amazon • Barnes & Noble • Smashwords   

*currently available on Amazon. Further retailers to come.

Dispatches from behind enemy lines

Posted in Uncategorized

We used to leave our doors unlocked. Morning, night, whether we were at home or not. I’ve never felt unsafe in my town. There have certainly been times that I’ve felt unsafe from threats made on the internet, but those threats were coming from other places. Not here. Not in our little rural village.

I open Facebook. I see mugshots of people who share my DNA; two second-cousins I’ve not seen in years. I remember them from childhood: chubby, with bowl cuts, totally indistinguishable from any of the other kids at our middle school. Bill was behind me on the slide ladder at Uncle Junie’s pool when I got stung by a wasp. I didn’t know what to do, so I went down the slide in silent shock. I’ve never trusted hollow, duct-taped aluminum railings again. Both those former kids were arrested as part of a plot to kidnap Governor Gretchen Whitmer.

I check Twitter. There’s the sheriff of my county, giving an interview defending white supremacist terrorists, specifically the white supremacist terrorists I attended family reunions with. The sheriff and I go to the same dentist. Once, during a routine cleaning, I heard Sheriff Leaf two chairs over, complaining that he wished someone would run against him for the job, which he no longer wanted. When someone did oppose him in the next election, he fought back. My white supremacist second cousin sent threats to people who campaigned for Leaf’s challenger. Less than twelve hours after his disastrous defense of my cousins, Dar Leaf changed his mind again, scrambling desperately to distance himself from the “militia members” he proudly stood with to protest Governor Whitmer’s restrictions.

Over a dozen arrests, spanning several counties. A plot to abduct the Governor, transport her across state lines, and execute her for “treason.” All because bars and gyms were closed to slow the spread of a dangerous pandemic ravaging the country. All because a stubborn barber decided to keep his shop open and was stunned to learn there would be consequences.

My cousins’ sister, whom I’ve remained in contact with via social media, posts an ultimatum: if you believe that they’re involved, unfriend her. They did nothing wrong. If you’re not willing to rally to support them, to raise money for their combined $500,000 bail, if you won’t put a sticker on your car expressing your support, you can unfriend her. I fulfill her request with a click of my trackpad. The last I see of her anger is a vow that she stands with the Michigan Liberty Militia.

The founder of that group hails from our village, where everyone  tempers their gossip with insistence upon the boys’ innocence and pleas that we not trust the media. Wait until you see the evidence, they warn. Things aren’t what they seem.

The Detroit Free Press runs an article about the people involved in the plot. Above the section about my blood relations, they’ve used the heading, “‘redneckery’.” They describe rural white conservatives as some kind of wronged people, whether they intend to, or not. Testimonials from neighbors and descriptions of bleak rural yards strewn with beer cans seem sensational or horrific, I assume, to anyone who’s never lived among the rural working poor. But we all live like this, I think, looking out at the remnants of our weekend campfire in the driveway. There are cans here. And a car that hasn’t moved in years. And we haven’t joined a militia.

“I have hard time wrapping my head around the fact that these guys have dropped everything to help [my step grandparents] and your grandma when they had trouble with their houses,” my mom says in a Facebook comment. But militias? Anybody in Michigan understands those.

I was twelve years old when I learned that the government is out to get us. Not from anyone in my immediate family. At the local pizza place one night, my uncle got into a tense conversation with my grandparents about a family in Idaho who were murdered for exercising their second amendment rights. To him and every other single-issue voter in town, Democrats lurked around every corner, just waiting to take our guns. The FBI, the ATF, Federal Marshals were the enemy.

Yesterday, “President” Trump boasted about U.S. Marshals carrying out an extrajudicial execution in his name. The “president” of this supposed “land of the free” bragged about his death squad killing a civilian while his supporters cheered him on. The same family members who felt the government overstepped in Waco, at Ruby Ridge, now they admire the intelligence of a leader who views not just the U.S. Marshals as his own killing force, but who courts those very militias that are supposed to oppose the extreme fascist actions he’s taken.

Many of the men charged in the terrorist plot against Governor Whitmer are hardcore Trump supporters, but since the ringleader once referred to Trump as a tyrant and owns the same generic anarchy flag found in every metalhead’s basement lair or suburban garage hang-out space, the plot was carried out by Leftists. By Antifa. By BLM. By Democrats and liberals, all howling for the fetal body parts of aborted white, Christian babies. Don’t believe the evidence before your eyes. Believe that the right is right, the left is evil, and it’s perfectly normal to storm the state capitol brandishing two semi-automatic rifles with high capacity magazines because face masks are itchy and you can cure a virus by screaming “freedom” at it.

On October 9th, my mother shared a conservative meme about Covid-19. The text warned that living like you’re afraid of dying means you’re dead already.

Last night, she called to tell me that my seventeen-year-old brother tested positive and has had a fever for days. My eighteen-year-old sister is symptomatic. Not my mother, who voted for Trump and still intends to vote for him. Not my stepfather, who also supports Trump. My siblings, who didn’t have a say in whether or not this man was elected, have been condemned to wait and see if they’ll recover fully, partially, or at all. And on November 3rd, their parents will walk into their polling place and cast their votes for the man who did this to their children. The man who, according to another Facebook post shared by my mother, is fighting a war on behalf of Christians by killing so many of them.

Last week, my friends and I made a lot of uneasy jabs about the cottage across the road from the Airbnb we stayed at. The ramshackle little house needed new gutters. A broken down truck half-covered with blue tarp sat in the driveway. An American flag hung in faded tatters beside a crisp, new “Trump 2020” banner. We joked that the occupants might be responsible for that kidnapping thing we’d heard about in passing.

Not long after that, I stood on the porch of our rental and watched that “Trump 2020” flag hang stiff and cheap in the breeze as my grandmother told me over the phone what the “little shits” had done. When we drove away from our trip, my friends joked that at least we were going to be away from that Trump house.

But that same, cheap nylon “Trump 2020” hangs in pride of place over my neighbor’s porch, as well.

We lock our doors now.