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.
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.
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.”
*currently available on Amazon. Further retailers to come.