MARY: UNLEASHED Covers!

I have a few treats today.  First, I’m revealing the opening letter from MARY: UNLEASHED (out September 8, 2015.)  Here is the cover copy:

Mary in the mirror.
Mary in the glass.
Mary in the water.
Mary lurks in the emptiness, in the darkness . . . in the reflection. That is, until Jess unleashes her into the world. Now Mary Worth is out and her haunting is deadlier than ever.
No one is safe.
Shauna, Kitty, and Jess must band together to unearth the truth about Mary’s death to put her soul to rest for good. Their search leads them back to where it all began-to Solomon’s Folly, a place as dangerous as the ghost who died there a century and a half ago. Quick sand, hidden traps and a phantom fog are the least of their worries. To stop Mary, they need to follow a dark string of clues and piece together a gruesome mystery that spans generations.
But time is running out.
As chilling facts come to light, Mary inches ever closer to her prey. Can Jess, Shauna, and Kitty break Mary’s curse before it’s too late? Or will history repeat itself until there is no one left to call her name . . . ?

>><<

Here is the first letter:

June 24, 1864

 

Sister Mine,

 

Below, I have listed my dastardly deeds since you abandoned me for Boston. “But Mary,” you say. “I did not abandon you so much as find a handsome gentlemen to kiss me breathless for eternity.” The result is the same, Constance. I have brought a reign of terror to Solomon’s Folly. I will not be sated until I have tainted everything you love with my terribleness.

 

  1. I have claimed your room as my own. The pink sashes are gone because pink is an affront to all that is good in the world. I have replaced it with a shade of green you would abhor. I do this as both a declaration of war and because green is a far superior color.

 

  1. I have taken over your gardening duties. This is not to help Mother but to destroy your handiwork. Plants wither in fear at the sight of my boots. I am not blessed with your green thumb but, as Mother says, a black thumb, and I shall use it to wreak havoc upon your peonies.

 

  1. I have taken your place on the church choir. The psalms you hold so dear are now sung so off pitch, dogs bay thinking me their pack mistress. Our sweet mother has asked if perhaps I would like to do a Sunday reading in lieu of the hymnals, but I remain stalwart.

 

(To her chagrin, I might add. When I expressed that I preferred the music, she looked much like your peonies—wilted and sad.)

 

  1. Despite your instruction that the shawl you knitted me last winter should not be worn with my shapeless blue frock, I have done just that. I disavow fashion! I want those who look upon me to know repulsion and fear. Your innocent lace shawl is a weapon in my hands.

 

  1. I have taken over your duties with the Spencer girls, and I believe they find me the better nanny. What better way to vex you than to fatten up the children you love with so much shortbread, they explode. Whilst Mrs. Spencer will undoubtedly take offense to my practices, the children will love me best, and that is all that matters.

 

(I caught Agatha with two meaty fists in the shortbread pan. The child had eaten half the contents in the three minutes I took to attend her sister’s nappies. I would have been impressed if I was not so horribly afraid she’d get sick.)

 

  1. Biscuits is a traitor. Your poorly named dog has all but forgotten you. He sleeps at the foot of my bed every night making terrible sounds and equally as terrible smells. Every morning he looks upon me like I am the sun in his furry little world. This is likely because I am the one to feed him the scraps, but let’s pretend he is drawn to my shining disposition.

 

  1. Not only did I not go to the summer dance, I told Thomas Adderly that I would rather wash my hair than attend. I did not do this simply because Thomas is overly ardent and annoying. No, it was to defy your terrible sisterly advice! For shame, Constance! For shame!

 

(Honestly, the boy is dull, and I’ve seen better teeth in horse mouths. There’s also the Elizabeth Hawthorne problem. Her preference for dull, horse-teethed gentlemen causes me far too much grief. While attending a dance may have been nice, the company was lacking and the repercussions weren’t worth it.)

 

  1. Last, but by no means least, I cancel my trek to Boston. Fie upon you and your fancy home! I shall remain in Solomon’s Folly until my skin is withered and my teeth fall out!

 

(I am suffering a summer cold that has wetted my lungs, and Mother says I must wait to travel. While I do not like postponing, my sickness has kept me abed the last few days. I will write you when I am less apt to play the part of Pestilence. I hope to reschedule soon.)

 

I hope this letter finds you miserable (blissfully happy) and that Joseph snores in his sleep (that would be awful. Mr. Biscuits is bad enough. A full-grown man must be thrice as disruptive.)


Write soon, my beloved harpy.

 

Your sister,

 

Mary

>><<

Now for the covers!  Once again, Hyperion has given me two beautiful covers that I couldn’t be happier with.  And once again, the art on the book is different than the art on the jacket.

Jacket:  

COVER1

Book Itself:

MARY_Unleashed_Case

I sincerely hope people enjoy the contents as much as I enjoy the packaging.  If you’re interested in pre-ordering MARY: UNLEASHED, you can go to your local bookstore, check out Indiebound.org, Barnes and Noble, or Amazon.

Squee!

hillary

Trophies.

I was a terrible cheerleader once.  This was pee wee cheerleading, not the big leagues, and no kid at that age is going to be a paragon of grace, but especially not a girl who’s taller than her classmates and a little fat and in the midst of her gangliest stage.  But I wanted to try it.  My friends who were not so tall or fat or gangly were all there and said, even to a young kid like me, that maybe the exercise would help me lose weight.

I was worried about that sort of thing before junior high.  Sad to think about now in retrospect.

Anyway, I went to practice.  Every practice, without fail.  I practiced at home all the time.  I practiced with my friends at their houses.  I still remember some of the cheers a million years later because that’s how my brain works.  It’s a spongy piece of skull meat that can’t recall locations of wallets, keys, or second shoes, but do I ever remember, “WESTIES CONQUER AND DEFEAT, LET’S GO BIG TEAM YOU GOT THAT BEAT.”  I even remember the hand motions of the stupid cheer.

I cared then.  A lot.  I attended every game.

For a while.

Every town sport, no matter what age, has a competition season.  Statewide events where you go to compete against kids your own age.  Cheerleading was no different, and we had “try-outs” for the state competition.  We weren’t a big squad, so it wasn’t really necessary, but it certainly succeeded in doing what the coach of the team set out to do.  You see, after try outs, every single person on the squad got to go to regionals except me and one other girl.  Both of us were tall, a little fat, and gangly.  We didn’t blend.

I cried.  I cried more when, a few days later, that friend (named Erin, by the way) got called up to go to regionals because one of the other girls on the squad couldn’t make it.  I was the only kid left out.  I was the only one not good enough to go with the team I practiced with and cheered with.

I stopped going to cheerleading for the most part after that.  I certainly never signed up again.  The writing was on the wall that I wasn’t worthy and I wasn’t good and I wasn’t and I wasn’t.  It’s hard to muster much enthusiasm for something that’s such an utter humiliation.  One kid out of twenty.  Hi, I’m Hillary the failed cheerleader.

I often see people talk about our entitled generation where every kid gets a trophy for trying.  I often see people insisting that rewarding everyone only encourages mediocrity and that’s not how people WIN in life.  Well, as the kid that would have been the only one denied the trophy, I can tell you that’s a pretty horrible thing to wish on a child.  I would rather reward a kid for giving something a shot than to discourage them by communicating that their efforts matter less than those of their teammates.  That they aren’t as good as other kids so just deal with it because SORRY MIDDLE SCHOOLER, THEM’S THE BREAKS. Sure, there are always going to be superstars in any sport or club and those superstars deserve an extra gold star, and I have no problem giving them said gold star (or, by this analogy, a Much Bigger Trophy), but I also don’t want to deny the one tall, fat, gangly kid their token gesture.

I tell this story because, as I get older, I look back less at all the things I’ve done and more at all the things I didn’t do.  Weird how that works, but it’s true.  I was always afraid of team sports after the cheerleading thing, so I stayed away from them.  I developed a fear of public humiliation that is, to this day, crippling.  I can’t stand not being good enough so anything that makes me uncomfortable?  I avoid like the plague and that means I miss out on a lot of cool things.  No, cheerleading didn’t afflict me with these issues, but it certainly didn’t help as it was this kid’s first foray into sporting.

What an impression it left.

So everybody out there reading this right now?  Who has a kid or knows a kid who’s trying something or doing something that they’ve never done before?  Who’s extending beyond the limits of their comfort zone and participating in life?  Lighten up on the trophy thing.  Encourage don’t diminish.  Be a positive influence, not some child’s first introduction to the School of Hard Knocks.  Dropping the anvil on a kid’s head is not a badge of honor.  And giving one tall, fat, gangly kid a participation trophy in no way diminishes the achievements of your superstar athlete kid, cause trust me, next to my awkward ass your kid’s going to look absolutely fantastic.  You don’t need ALL the statues–yes, even the rinky dink ones–to confirm what you can see with your own eyes.

Or, if you do, the problem ain’t the tall, fat, gangly kid in the first place.

Hillary out.

The Instagram Thing.

Instagram has made beauty DIFFERENT. There’s this push to do Full Makeup Glam looks–girls are thinking that’s what’s beautiful. The Kardashian full contour with falsies. If you wanna do that (which is your prerogative) be honest about your time investment. I know what I’m doing with the warpaints and it STILL takes me awhile. I timestamped “The Instagram Process” for a point of reference. No one needs to go through this every day to look pretty. No one.

PROCESS2

BOSKONE 2015, FEB 13 – 15

Hi!  I’m at Boskone next weekend!

Panel/Signing/Reading details follow:

2/13 7 PM

ANGELS DEMONS AND SAINTS

Religion has always played a strong role in fantasy, and we’ve seen an influx of fiction that specifically features characters that have been touched by higher powers — especially in today’s urban fantasy. What role do these characters play within the story? How do we see these roles changing or morphing into something new? Why do we keep coming back to these types of characters? And what are some examples of stories that use these characters especially well?

2/13 9 PM

WRITING FOR TEENS VS ADULTS

With so much crossover, is there a difference anymore? And where does middle-grade fiction fit? Editors and authors discuss.

2/14 10 AM

KIDLIT:  GREAT SPEC FIC FOR YOUNG READERS

There’s some pretty spectacular speculative fiction available for children these days. What’s behind the ongoing boom? Panelists talk causes and trends, while plugging their favorite authors and stories — including some that grownups could also learn to love.

2/14 2 PM

PG-13:  VIOLENCE, SEX, AND TEEN READERS

When writing for teens or choosing books for young adults to read, is there a PG-13 line that needs to be drawn? Is there more violence and sex in YA books today? Or have we just become more aware of it? How does a writer address difficult or sensitive topics without going too far? Panelists discuss danger zones within YA fiction.

2/14 4 PM

Signing (Hillary Monahan)

2/15 11 AM

THE FAIRYTALE PRINCESS, CIRCA 2011

Before Disney appropriated Snow White, Jasmine, Aurora, and the rest of the “princess clique, ” these were characters who presumably served a deeper purpose in structuring the fables of bygone years. What parts do they play for today’s children? What meaning might these reminders of a fairytale feudal past still hold a hundred years from now?

2/15 1:30 PM

Readings from MARY: Unleashed and my Eva Darrows title THE AWESOME.

Art Hurts. Do It Anyway.

Hey there.  You.  Human.  Or thing that vaguely resembles human so I let you share my space without hosing down your facemeat with acid.  I want to talk to you about something unfortunate.  The I word.  Yeah, you know the one.  Inferiority.  That fanged beastbitch that wants to sink its claws into your self-worth and shred at it until there’s nothing left but a twitching pile of pink viscera. 

Fact:  you, human, are one day going to want to create something great.  That something is going to require cosmic buttloads of work.  It’s going to take tears, sweat, and maybe a few archaic rituals to get off the ground.  It’ll keep you up at night.  It’ll supersede basic functions like showering and eating.  It’ll be the thing you talk about to anyone and everyone who will listen to you (until their eyes glaze over with The Sad and your tongue grows wilty in your mouth.)  It’ll require alcohol fuel and maybe sniffing a few lines of pixie dust off a goblin’s butt to complete.

I’m talking art, son.  Birthing ether and whimsy from your quivering creative loins.

You’ll suffer for this baby.  You’ll bleed for it, and sometimes, you’ll convince yourself it’s worth the little piece of  soul you paid in tithe.  But the ugly reality is more often than not, it’ll drain you.  Despite wrestling monsters, toppling gods, and bargaining with the devil himself to get it done, AT SOME POINT you’re going to feel absolutely cruddy about what you’ve wrought.  Because that’s what inferiority does.  It gives you ten whole minutes of satisfaction before it slithers into your peripheral vision.  It whispers in your ear.  It tells you that all that toil was for nothing because what you thought was gilded perfection?  Is actually a cowpie covered in glitter.

You’ll look at what you’ve made and then you’ll look at the world around you and see everyone else who did what you did only better.  You’ll see art that’s a little more polished.  You’ll see books with superior stories.  You’ll see glimmering reviews with another author’s name on them. There will be awards that don’t include you, and sales numbers that beat yours. Every little thing you encounter as it pertains to art will serve as another reminder of how LACKING you really are.

It’s gutting, that feeling that you just aren’t up to snuff.  That you don’t belong with the Illuminati of artly perfection.  Your confidence falters, your self-worth plummets, and you want to throw that once-precious project to the wolves and watch them gnaw on it with their gnashy teeth.

Here’s the thing, human: inferiority lies.

Every artist, even the ones you put on pedestals, felt as you feel during their journeys.  Every creator fears for the longevity of their brain child.  We are all scared.  We are all cut to the quick and hemorrhaging hope.  We all falter beneath the weight of our insecurities.

So what does this mean?

If you accept that self-doubt is universal (and it is) and that all art is despised by its master at some point (and it is) then either the perceptions of all artists are off (they are) OR every artist is correct and we’re all terrible (we aren’t.)

Get what I’m saying here?

Inferiority’s an ugly part of the artist’s life but it doesn’t have to be a ruling part.

Keep creating.  The only failed art is the art you won’t let yourself make in the first place.

Hillary out.

In Defense of the Gatekeepers.

Gatekeepers in publishing are, by and large, viewed as the nemesis of the will-be published author.  Agents, agent assistants, submission inboxes, acquiring editors–I see a lot of folks on social media taking shots at the gatekeepers like gatekeepers have it out for writers.  Like they stand above a big cauldron with their warty noses, green skin, and toad eyes cackling as they send your rejection letter.

It’s bullpucky.  It’s a huge pile of bullpucky, oh let me count the ways.

1)  People in publishing got into the business because they love books.  

It’s not the money.  Is it not ever the money.  On the agenting side of things, the cash flow can be impressive, but that’s after you’re established, built a stable, built your network, and generally floundered in the trenches awhile.  Inside publishing houses?  Yeah, those gatekeepers aren’t exactly rolling in money.  The industry is “frugal” by and large.  The common draw then?  THE LOVE OF BOOKS.  So if they love books, why would they hate your book from the get go?  Erm.

2)  Quality control exists in every facet of our lives. 

Every part in your car was inspected by number fourteen to make sure when you put your key in the ignition, your gilded chariot doesn’t explode in a fiery ball of death.  Every implement in a doctor’s hands was inspected to ensure it passes standards before the doctor removes your spleen.  Your jeans were inspected to make sure the stitching is secure and your fly doesn’t stay down exposing your tallywhack to children at the mall.  Your goddamned CHEETOS were inspected to make sure you don’t get some conjoined twin giant Cheeto in your bag of snacks.  Quality control is, by and large, a great thing that improves our lives.  Until it’s not working to your personal advantage, I guess?

3)  It’s not personal no matter how much it feels like it is.

“Of course it is,” you say. “I’ve put heart and soul into this book and they should appreciate that.”  I bet they do, dear writer, but as much as you think you’re a special snowflake, that your tears are more precious than unicorn farts, you’re wrong.  You’re not reinventing the wheel here.  You should absolutely be proud that you FINISHED A BOOK, but you shouldn’t put on rose colored glasses about it, either.  You put just as much heart and soul into writing as everyone else who commits those months (sometimes years) to ass-in-chair time.  Sure, your contribution is going to feel greater because you’re close to it, but the reality is–lots and lots and lots of people write books.  Everyone toiled.  That gatekeeper sees all the toil of every writer forever.  That gatekeeper cannot appreciate you anymore than they can appreciate everyone else who did exactly the same thing you did. They’d go crazy.

 4)  The gatekeepers have their own monsters to battle.

The gatekeeper might absolutely adore your work, but they have three monsters they have to battle before they can pass your submission onto the next set of hands.

Monster One:  The spaces on their list.  If they have all fantasy projects already and there’s only so many editors with so many hours for fantasy projects and they’re stretched taut?  You’re out.  If an agent has four projects on submission similar to yours that haven’t sold, why would they scoop up a fifth to let it flop around like a fish without water?  Editors and agents have gaps on their lists for certain genres at certain times.  Some aspects of publishing are like gambling in that you need to strike at just the right moment–when the almighty gap is available. Gatekeepers know about gaps.  They respect the gaps they have to work around.

Monster Two:  The backlist.  If there’s work the house has already published that looks TOO MUCH like your work, welp.  You’re done. Lightning rarely strikes twice.  They don’t need forty-seven versions of the same story.

Monster Three:  The market.  Writing is a business.  Why would they take your submission and pass it on if the genre you’re writing in has been unprofitable? It’s going to be an insta-no.  Maybe not for the editor who can appreciate your story, but the editor ain’t getting you an offer without the support of the Money People.  And the job of the Money People is, unsurprisingly, to make money for the company.  If they don’t, they’re crummy at their jobs.  Does this mean they might not take risks they ought to take on good books?  Sure, but it’s a reality of the business.  If you’re writing for a glutted market.  If you’re writing for a dwindling market.  If you’re writing too obscure to properly market to the reading audience?  The money people will kill the project.  The gatekeeper will know these things.  The gatekeeper isn’t going to waste your time or theirs.

Yes, we all know that great books sometimes don’t get published.  Sometimes a great author is overlooked by an editor or an agent.  Sometimes JK Rowling is turned down nine times before someone makes an offer on HARRY POTTER.  The gatekeeper will make mistakes, but if publishing is making money (and it is no matter what the naysayers will have you believe) it’s doing something right.  When a gatekeeper turns you away, it’s not because You Suck.  It’s because THAT PROJECT (that might be great) is not right FOR THEM at THAT TIME.  That’s it.  It is not STEWIE YOU’RE A DOUCHE.  It’s not OMG QUIT WRITING YOU PILE OF SHAME.  It’s not HAHA I’M GOING TO SHOW THIS AROUND THE OFFICE AND LAUGH AT IT.

It’s one single project at one single moment that doesn’t fit their needs.

So make another project.  That’s better.  For a profitable market.  And lay off the gatekeepers who may very well take your NEXT project and fling it up the line.  They’re not your enemy, and when you finally get the almighty sale, you’ll often find they were the best friend you made in business.

Hillary out.

Next Up. DANGEROUS GAMES.

Do you enjoy short stories?  Do you like horror?  Get thee to the interwebs to pre-order!

My contribution is The Bone Man’s Bride.  “Set in a Dustbowl town in the US during the Great Depression, Hillary’s story–her very first short story, in fact–oozes atmosphere and menace.  A tale about the hyopocrisy of desperate adults, willing their children to a game they would never play themselves.  When times are tough, it is often the youngest that suffer.”  

meatyfist

Indiebound * B&N * Amazon

Available 12/4/2014