Blooming

bloom

When I moved into my new house in LA, I wanted a yard full of poppies in springtime. A small thing, sure, but I could see it, and it was going to be glorious. Rows of sunset orange, tangerine, cream and dusty green. I bought seeds, put them in the fresh, damp ground — I expected them to grow.

As spring arrived, and the whole of California it seemed was bathed in that orange glow, my backyard filled up with green stalks. Rows and rows of green. Not a single blossom anywhere. I would walk outside, combing the —what really just looked like weeds at this point — green for the smallest sign of color.

And I was disappointed. I really wanted those flowers to bloom and they weren’t. Every time I saw a poppy on the roadside, or in my neighbor’s yard, it was a small reminder that my flowers might never bloom. It was hard to be happy for the rest of California when my yard was still poppy-free, and my expectations were totally dashed.

But, I didn’t pull up the green, even if it wasn’t what I hoped it would be. One day, maybe, there would be poppies in this garden, maybe I would get to see it, or maybe I would have moved on to some other house, some other garden, some other field of wildflowers waiting to bloom. One day, I would get my little sunset garden.

Sunday afternoon, while I was doing homework at the kitchen table with my son, my eyes traveled to the backyard, to all that wild green, and they caught on something.

Bright, vibrant, wide open, bathing in sunlight. A few perfect poppy flowers.

popp

When I look closely now, I see a multitude of blooms waiting to open up, promising me flowers for days, more than I even expected.

Expectations can create a false sense of urgency, they can push your patience into panic, your faith into fear. They can make you feel like everyone around you is getting the fields of wildflowers you hoped for, while you are getting green stalks of flowerless weeds. But patience pays off in time. Not pulling up the flowers you planted because they aren’t blooming yet, pays off, too.

Waiting for that warm Sunday, when the sun touches the garden just right, and the first little flower opens up, pays off in spades.

 

A Writer’s Journey

plane

I wrote my first novel during my then 2-year-old’s afternoon naps in my tiny living room in Brooklyn, NY. Writing it was a fever dream & I was consumed. I poured everything I could muster into it.

But I learned a lot writing that book over and over. I got close to signing with agents and met many of my core writing community during that time. I also learned how to let something go when the time was right.

I used the only guide I had as an early writer: the books I was falling in love with. I copied Suzanne Collins and Veronica Roth, Maggie Stiefvater and Leigh Bardugo. I spent way too long revising. Like three years. I obsessed. I didn’t want to give it up.

I wrote another YA fantasy, & it was better because I was a much stronger writer then. I landed an agent & I went out on sub. I wanted the sale, and it never came. It was time to go back to the drawing board again.

I also kept writing screenplays. Then, thanks to a real life fangirl experience, I fell in love with Comic Con. I became deeply fascinated, rooted, to what it meant to be a fan. I wrote a screenplay set at Comic Con that was about grief & isolation & being alive.

I ended up submitting that script to Austin Film Fest & placing in the second round of the competition. I decided to write it as a book. I’d never written anything contemporary before, or this personal, or this truly, deeply completely ME. It was exhilarating.

During the writing of that book, we decided to move to LA, and then I decided to part ways with my agent. To go back into the query trenches was terror inducing, but staying where I was no longer felt right.

I began querying again in January 2017. I had a 100% request rate. It was a roller coaster of feels. And then it was nothing. After few reluctant passes, mostly silence, I felt powerless, & confused, & I was not doing great with it.

I started writing a book with my writing partner. For six months, we wrote ELLIE IS COOL NOW on Wattpad & I worked on a solo book in the background. Then ELLIE took off. We were nominated for the Watty Awards, and won! It was freeing, and empowering.

January 2nd, 2019 I decided to query five more agents. I decided that would be it. Whatever happened, it was well with my soul. I searched MSWL on Twitter, & that’s when I saw Devin Ross. I had a punch in my gut that I should to query her.

And then she requested. Then she emailed me less than a week later in the middle of the night to set up a call. I ran around the house. I punched the air. (& maybe my husband a few times from excitement.

She offered to represent me. She loved this thing I loved and wanted to work on it – wanted to work with me. It was exactly where I was supposed to be, a whole year later than I expected.

The journey we take as writers is a lot like the journey we take as people. We think we have a path we’re on, & that we know where it’s leading, what it will look like. We even think we know what we want. Then we learn: we don’t know, not a lick.

Your journey may be different. It might seem easy for me to say “Never give up” because so far that’s worked well for me. But it isn’t. There’s nothing easy about looking back. At any point I could have stopped – I DID stop even – & I might never have gotten back up.

Now I have to believe that book will sell (and sure, another will if not that one but that’s not the point) – I have to believe somewhere very near is my next yes, and somewhere out there is yours.

Never give up. No matter what.

Big Announcement

announcement
I’m thrilled to say that I am now represented by Devin Ross of New Leaf Literary! She’s fierce and whip smart. Her passion for my book is the stuff of dreams. I’m an over-the-moon and flying-through-space kind of excited about partnering with her to build my career in new, awesome ways.

It’s a journey, y’all. This publishing journey. This life journey. It’s a ride full of twists. It’s sitting and thinking and digging deep. It’s getting up and doing the work.

I couldn’t be happier with all the dips and ebbs, the massive climbs, the sweeping views I’ve already experienced. I can’t wait for all the things to come, and glad I have this person in my corner to help me pull the best punches.

Here we go…!

 

BY THE BLOOD MOON’S LIGHT

A scary story for the full moon on a Friday the 13th!

And if you aren’t in the mood to read, you can listen to an audio performance of this short story on the HALLOWEEKLY podcast HERE for free!

bloodmoonlight

The water well smelled of sulfur. Gordon Langford, newly elected mayor of the town of Willow Creek, was trying to determine why. He didn’t like the notion given to him by the City Council, and he wouldn’t acknowledge it no matter what was happening to the moon tonight. This well had been boarded up long enough. An easy source of pure water, flowing freely, was something he couldn’t leave closed off.

He’d get the town back on track if it was the last thing he did.

As he passed the welcome sign on his way back from the well, he nearly drove himself off the road. His tires screeched to a stop. Someone, or many, and probably hooligan townies no doubt, had painted a message the color of blood across the middle of the sign.

Drink the drink

Then let go

To unleash the glow

And unhinge the soul

The splatter of paint, the swirl of the moon soaked that same violent shade, was an immediate irritation he didn’t have time to fix. He had to get back to oversee final preparation stages for the festival. He simply didn’t have anymore time to spare.


Meg Montgomery had never smoked a cigarette. In her eighteen years alive, she had never done a lot of things. The curl of the smoke taunted her, like it was ghostly fingers reaching out and beckoning her to the edge of her boyfriend, Hugo Forest’s, plump, wet lips.

Meg snatched the cigarette from Hugo’s lips and took a drag so fast she almost choked. The smoke filled her mouth and slid down her throat before she was forced to expel it. She left a ring of her signature shade around the cigarette filter.

Hugo beamed. He’d been trying to corrupt her since July when he first saw her gingerly sipping a lavender latte on the porch of the Hallowed Grounds Café. She was the kind of girl who never looked messy. Her soft brown hair was like dark coffee without cream, her skin like roses and silk. She had a tiny button nose Hugo thought could use a ring in it.

She passed the cigarette back to him, and he stamped it out.
“Come on,” Meg said, lips twitching for another taste. “We gotta head home for the festival.”

“Back to purgatory,” he said, his voice edged by agitation. “I’ll get you a coffee before we go.” He turned back toward the café, shoulders sagging in his leather jacket.

Meg hated to constantly disappoint him, but she hated getting in trouble even more.

They walked back inside and straight up to the counter where Bea, the full busted barista, stood ready to take their order.

“Usual?” she asked, smiling.

“To go,” Meg replied, smiling back.

“Not joining us?” Bea tallied up their order as she talked.

“You know how my parents are,” Meg said, and Hugo let out a small grunt. Meg rolled her eyes and smirked at Bea.

The university her parents selected for her was near the town they’d recently settled in, a little village called Willow Creek. Bea, and most of the kids at school, were going up north to the mountains tonight to watch the Blood Moon rise and get high as kites. Meg was going home to join her family at the Founder’s Festival.

“Careful. You know what they say about Willow Creek?”
Meg did not, in fact, know that anyone, ever, said anything about that tiny nothing town.

Hugo laughed outright, his lean, broad shoulders shaking. He cocked an eyebrow at Bea. “For a college-educated modern girl, you’re damn superstitious.”

Bea kept his change just to spite him and walked off to make their coffees. “What do people say about Willow Creek?” Meg asked.

Hugo wasn’t a local, but he’d been at Milford University for three semesters. Even though he didn’t live in Willow Creek, he’d still heard the story.

“There’s a legend.” He raised his eyebrows dramatically and wiggled his fingers at her. “Three hundred years ago, when the founders broke ground on the first water well, they dug too deep. So deep, they uncovered a demon trapped way down inside the world.”

Meg’s heart raced, driving a speedy thump thump thump into her ribs. Bea handed her the coffee from behind the counter and it shook in her hand.

“It’s not a joke. My gran grew up in Willow Creek,” Bea said, pursing her lips in disgust as she went to take another order.

“The demon had some needs and he used the townsfolk to meet ’em,” Hugo carried on. “He couldn’t get out of that pit, so he fed and frolicked through their bodies. Supposedly, on a Blood Moon night like this one, they managed to bury him down in the dark again. Then, they warned their kids and grandkids away from the well for all eternity.”

“The well Mayor Langford tapped for town use?” Meg asked. Hugo just curled his lips. Meg felt the word yes hiss across her skin.

She looked at her coffee cup and wondered if they were using the water from Willow Creek here at Hallowed Grounds. Then she felt silly for wondering. Hallowed Grounds Café was in Milford, and they didn’t use Willow Creek water.

And, besides, there wasn’t anything wrong with the water. “You don’t believe it, do you?”

“I don’t think it matters. Lots of places have weird stories like that.” Hugo shrugged. “I think people make up these things because the truth is too damn depressing.”

“Right,” she said, the beat of her heart starting to settle. “You’re right.” She was sure he was right.


Roland Montgomery had been listening to the other boy’s stories all week long on the bus ride home from Edison Elementary. He was sick of the noise. He buried his face in his book, like if he burrowed in deep enough he’d wind up inside.

“My mom said we gotta get out to the festival before sunset tonight,” Jonah Russell said in his gruff, raspy voice. He tossed a hackysack over Roland’s head and just barely missed.

“You think it’s true though?” Finn Durmont asked, sending the hackysack back.
“I kinda hope so,” Jonah replied.
“Me too,” another boy said from somewhere near the back of the bus. They all laughed.

Roland sunk into his seat. He’d been trying to avoid the water all week, but last night his mother threw him in the shower and stood there while it soaked through his clothes. She would not have her son growing potatoes behind his ears, she’d said. Nor would she tolerate him believing in wild stories.

The water had trickled inside his mouth and right down the center of his throat. Roland was determined to forget it had happened. He pinned his eyes to the words on the page.


Meg and Hugo walked toward his beat-up, faded-blue truck with their fingers laced together. She slid into the passenger’s seat, not bothering to buckle. There was little traffic between campus and Willow Creek, just woods and road and a single gas station.

The truck sputtered to life and promptly dinged. “Gotta get some gas at Mo’s,” Hugo said.

The woods around Milford University and the town of Willow Creek were a dense, steady wall of sugar maples lit up like the Burning Bush, pale-skinned beech trees huddled together, and the knobby arms of yellow birches reaching toward the sun. The forest came right up to the road edge, but not a step further.

Meg watched the trees zip by as they drove toward the boundary of town. They began to thin the closer they got to Mo’s. She tried to ignore that gnawing hollow in her stomach that had formed after hearing the story about Willow Creek.

Hugo turned into the parking lot and cut the engine. Mo’s was a mom and pop operation complete with two ancient gas pumps and a food truck that sold the best chicken dumplings in a fifty-mile radius. As Hugo pumped the gas, Meg decided she’d get a bowl and warm up her unexpectedly chilly insides.


Roland had followed his father, Les, to the center of town. His mother had stayed home, insistent she wanted to wait for Meg and would meet them. His dad was talking to the physical education teacher at Roland’s school. Shop talk he had no interest it.

Roland stood up and wandered along the boundary of the square. People were already arriving for the festival. Laughing, wearing big chunky sweaters and argyle, scarves and hats knitted by hand. But Roland didn’t feel happy watching their happy faces. Something inside him felt off. Like he was sick and a little bit tired, and every time he saw a gleaming white smile he felt the distinct urge to rip all of the teeth from their gums.

Roland paused at the limestone table in the center. Everything else in the town square was decorated for fall, but this table lay bare, as if forgotten.

As if somehow saving its space for later.


Mo’s dumplings were not only perfectly plump, but cheap as dirt. There were wooden picnic tables set up in the dusty clearing alongside the food truck, and a few townies were always hanging out there. The townies went quiet as Meg passed. Most men did that when they saw her.

“Just a bowl of dumplings,” Meg said, when she reached the food truck. The girl working the order window was new. She didn’t look Meg in the eyes as she took her three dollars and name. “Thanks.”

Meg pulled her sweater in around her, wishing she had worn something warmer. The sun was hanging low on the horizon now, ready to disappear from sight. She paced around, looking at the way the light bled through tiny crevices in the tree arms like droplets of blood on the bark, then trickled over the top of Mo’s station, and ran across the gravel and asphalt toward her. As she trailed her attention back to the truck, her eyes caught on the dumpling bowls sitting atop the picnic table a few feet away.

The white paper bowls were stained red. They sloshed with some sort of thick, syrupy liquid. Meg took a step toward the table, her legs dragging her against her will, trying to reconcile the sight before her. Maybe it was a trick of the red-stained light.

She blinked. When her vision cleared, she felt her stomach lurch. Burgundy like wine and thick as molasses.

The townie ran a finger around the rim of the bowl. Meg followed his finger, coated, until it rested along the edge of his lip. He flicked it with his tongue.

You can always feel the pressure of attention turned squarely your way, and Meg Montgomery couldn’t move for all the weight now laid across her shoulders. Only her eyes shifted.

Opaque like the vast, deep dive of a well.
That’s what she saw when she met the man’s eyes.

He smiled, his teeth outlined in rusty brown almost black. It trickled from one corner of his lip to make a trail through his stubble and fall in a drop back into the bowl.

Without thinking, Meg began to walk. Fast as her two legs could carry her.

The townies stood, all in unison. Organized like a single-minded beast. One called out in a voice darker than the inside of a coffin. “Where you runnin’, little rose?”

Hugo closed the gas cap with a final twist. He glanced up to see if Meg was coming, and what he saw set his teeth on edge. Meg’s eyes were the size of saucers, her skin had lost all its color and now just glowed the shade of the fading sunset.

Behind her the group of townies stood, watching, and one of them called after her. Hugo felt a spark of anger flare in his chest, and he stepped forward.

“Back off man,” he yelled in response.

The other man, with cropped blond hair and a ratty AC/DC T-shirt shredded at the hem, turned his eyes toward Hugo. They were bottomless. Hugo stuttered to a stop. Meg reached him just then, and she whispered something fierce and fast, grabbing him by the jacket and yanking him toward his truck.

She let go only when they’d reached the passenger side, shoving him away toward his car door and climbing in without a word. He fell in beside her, his hands shaking.

“What was wrong with his eyes?” He trembled.

“Drive, Hugo. Those guys all live in Willow Creek.” At this, she turned her dark brown eyes to him. “They were drinking blood from Mo’s bowls.”

The door to Mo’s station opened up, as if the proprietor’s ears were now burning. Even as dusk began to settle over the parking lot, Meg and Hugo could clearly see the man that emerged. Wearing a flannel and cap, his silver hair peaking from the lip, Mo stared at them through the same shiny black eyes as the others. His lips were stained that awful color.

Hugo shoved his truck into gear.

They sped the rest of the way toward the boundary of town. Meg pulled out her phone and dialed her father. No answer. Same for her mom. The click of her voicemail made Meg want to throw her phone right out the window. She looked out instead. As they passed the Willow Creek welcome sign, she read the poem painted across the center. The car grew suddenly cold. The windows fogged.

She wiped it away with the sleeve of her sweater.

On neighbor’s yards were harvest decorations, fall leaves and lanterns, smiling scarecrows and pumpkins stacked up beside door frames. But not a soul was around. Not on the sidewalks or the porches. Not inside the curtained windows, dark and cold though there was little daylight left. Hugo peeled around the corner and shot down Meg’s road.

Still as the dead, he thought as he pulled into her driveway. Meg stared through the windshield at her house. The porch was deep, painted a soft gray that complimented the white wood. It had a wide swing she enjoyed reading on beneath a burrow of blankets. She loved the dormer windows and the leaded glass. She tried desperately to find the courage to climb out of the car, but the fear of what she might find inside had turned her feet to lead.

“What if they’ve already left for the festival?” Meg breathed. “Then we’ll go find ’em,” Hugo replied.
In that moment, Meg felt certain she loved him.

Hugo stepped out first and shut his door. Meg followed, and she tried to steel herself against the hollow hum of fear rattling in her chest. Her eyes traveled down the road. Lamplights bloomed, their glow out over the street created tiny pockets of light all down the road.

She shot back against the car. Hugo startled.

“What is it?” he asked. She only pointed.

He could only follow her finger. The street yawned in front of him, and on every lawn that was empty moments before, now stood the darkened figures of Meg’s neighbors. Tall and lean. Short and stubby and round. The tiny bodies of children still as statues. All facing the direction of Hugo’s truck.

“We need to get inside,” Hugo said, pulling on the loose arm of her sweater.

They stumbled up the stairs and turned the door handle, falling through the front door and into the foyer. The light in the hallway was off.

Hugo shut the door with a thud that made Meg jump.

“Meg,” a swift, sharp noise. From somewhere on the other side of the den and the dining room came a voice. Her mother was home.

Meg unclenched her fingers from a fist. She didn’t realize she’d been holding so tight, but her palms were ridged with red, half-moon cuts. She ran toward the sound of her mother’s voice, something Meg hadn’t done since she was a small child.

There, at the kitchen table decorated for fall harvest, sat Jewel Montgomery. She was a slim line of light in the dim blue kitchen. Her hair, her skin, her cream button down blouse — all flawless. Not a spec on anything, not even her ivory skin. Her eyes skimmed across the full color magazine page in front of her.

“Where’s Roland and Dad?” Meg’s voice shivered, panic leaking into every word.

Not even the terror in her voice drew her mother’s eyes up. Meg took a step forward, just as Hugo entered the room.

“Out,” was all Jewel said. She flipped the glossy page.
“At the festival?” Meg asked, taking another step toward her mother. “We’ll meet up with them soon,” Jewel said.

This didn’t sit right with Meg. None of it. Her mother wouldn’t have waited for her here. She would have called her, chewed her out. She’d have left for the festival and given her an ultimatum. Even at eighteen, Meg had rules to follow.

“Mom.” Meg’s upper lip trembled. Sweat that collected there felt cold and clammy. Jewel flipped the magazine page. The corner ripped.

Hugo hovered at the entrance to the kitchen. Meg’s house had always felt warm and been filled with the smell of baking bread or meatloaf, pot roast, or evening decaf coffee brewing. Nothing like his Dad’s place in Pennsylvania, which only ever smelled like beer and rotting pizza.

Meg took a final step and placed her hands on the chair back. It shook from her trembling. The teetering shuffle of the wood on tile made Hugo’s skin crawl.

“Mom, why won’t you look at me?” Meg asked.

Jewel’s hand froze mid-swipe of the page.

Hugo didn’t carry a weapon, but as Jewel Montgomery sat there still as a statue, he searched the kitchen with his eyes for one. There was a cast iron skillet on the stove. A single wine glass, still full of white wine, on the table. A knife block on the island.

Jewel’s smile crept up her face and she laughed.

Meg clenched the chair back until her knuckles were white but her mother kept laughing. And she knew: That laugh was not her mother’s at all.

Jewel looked up, straight at Meg, her eyes the color of coal. She blinked and they filled with red, staining the rims like blood colored eyeliner.

Meg yanked the chair from the table and lifted it in front of her like a shield.
Hugo lunged for the wine glass, grabbing the stem and cracking it along the edge of the table. Jewel shot up. Her chair crashed to the tile behind her.

“Sweet of you to come back for them,” the voice was as cold as ice hardened in the dead of winter. It was not her mother’s voice, but then it was, and the way it could be both made Meg almost faint.

She let the chair slip from in front of her. Her head spun like a top.

Hugo grabbed her by the waist to keep her upright and at the same time he waved his newly fashioned weapon at Jewel, threatening her not to come a step closer. Hugo didn’t understand what was happening, but he figured keeping Meg out of her mother’s grasp was a bright idea.

Jewel was a hollow shell. Whatever she’d once been was gone.

“It won’t matter,” came that creeping, cold voice again. It crawled across the floor and turned it to ice. The whole room changed temperature every time Jewel opened her teeth. “They’re already coming for you.”

“I won’t let them take her,” Hugo said.

Jewel cocked her head, curling her lips again into a hollow grin. “Her?”

Meg pressed the soles of her feet firm into her boots. There was something wrong with her head, and it was throwing her balance all off. Every time she swallowed, she tasted metal. Heat flooded her stomach and she lurched forward. Her knees and her elbows pinned to the ground.

When she was a little girl, Meg had been prone to stomach bugs. She got used to throwing up whatever food she ate, heaving dry when it was all gone. She learned to see the signs hours away and make herself comfortable on the bathroom floor. Meg tried to swallow now, to breathe through the nausea, but it was impossible.

She heaved.

Blood sprayed from her lips across the pure white tile.

It splattered against Jewel Montgomery’s flawless cream flats.

Hugo had never been a screamer, but there was a time for all things under the sun, and at the sight of that blood dripping from his girlfriend’s lips, Hugo shouted high into the heavens.

Meg looked up at her mother. “What is this?

“It’s in the water. After all these years, someone finally was fool enough to use the well again,” the voice said through her mother’s lips. “I will get my chance by light of the blood moon tonight.”

Meg wiped at her lips. Her hands were stained red.

“The demon,” she whispered. “From the legend.”

Jewel laughed. “It’s not a legend if it’s true.”

“They drank the water from your well,” Hugo cringed.

Meg felt sick again. When she swallowed, all she could taste was the blood.

“They’ve been bathing in it. Drinking it. Cooking with it for days.” More blood dripped from Jewel Montgomery’s eyes. Hugo couldn’t remember now what color they’d been before.

Fathomless, ghoulish, pitch-black. That’s what they would forever be.

He looked at the back of Meg’s body crouched on the ground in front of him. She had gone slack. All the tension left her shoulders and hands. She slumped into the blood-slick floor.

Jewel was staring at Hugo. “They’re he-ere,” she said in a sing-song. Her breath made smoke in the air.

Meg jerked once.
“Meg.” Hugo’s voice shook.

At first, she did nothing. No noise left her lips. No movement shifted her limbs. Then all at once she stood, not slipping or lurching. With a soft sigh she turned, her rich chestnut hair trailing in front of her face, the ends all soaked with blood.

Meg raised her face to the boy in front of her. It was strange, she thought, because he was familiar somehow. He looked at her with drawn features, eyes wet with fury and he whispered her name. But it was not her name, either, and this made her smile. She was better than Meg — a weak little girl who’d never gotten her hands dirty, never, ever tasted of danger. She flexed her hands. The blood had already begun to dry between the cracks of her palms.

She met the boy’s eyes. His were the color of sky. The color of freedom.

He shifted them away from her. Out, out the window where the torches appeared. The girl took a few steps to the door, knowing he wouldn’t follow — couldn’t move for the fear, the tremor of shock that now rushed through him. Electric, paralytic, all-consuming.

She swung it wide open and surveyed the lawn.

Gathered in force was the town of Willow Creek. Mothers and sons, fathers and daughters, elderly women crooked with age, men wearing ball caps and boys dressed in denim. They bled from the backyard out into the street. They hummed with excitement, fire flickering across their cheeks.

She inhaled the scent. They’d come for the boy.

She looked up at the sky. Hanging overhead, swollen and bright, was the Blood Moon. Its light cast over the yard, turning it an eerie orange glow. This was what the demon had been waiting for, and the girl could feel his desire course through her veins, powerful in a way she’d never imagined possible.

There was no need to speak because they all felt the draw. The living body inside the house. He was not a spotless lamb, but he was there, and he would have to do.

They pried him out, down the stairs.
“Take him to the table,” Mayor Langford said, pointing toward the town square.

With torches ablaze lighting the way, they carried him. Hugo screamed, guttural and violent. He grew hoarse for the screaming, but then who on earth was there to hear him? He was alone, but for Meg, and now Meg was someone else. Something else. And Hugo was fairly certain he’d lost her for good.

The table had stood generations at the center of Willow Creek. Witnessed countless festivals, white weddings and funerals. But once, it had been an alter to the demon. A feast ground for his wicked yearnings.

The men of the town pinned Hugo down. The women, one by one, tore pieces of his clothing until he lay naked on the table, bathed in the eerie moonlight. Meg and her mother approached. In the crowd he saw Meg’s father, a pillar of dark. Beside him was Roland, just as pure white as the sun. Roland’s eyes were the blackest of all.

Hugo had always liked Roland. He was odd and quiet, gentle but not weak. Roland took a single step forward. The whole crowd shifted to let him move.

“Drink the drink,” he said in that same chilling voice as Jewel. It rang out through the night. Bugs stopped buzzing. Chirping. Glowing. Only the voice filled the void. “Then let go. To unleash the glow and unhinge the soul.”

Roland slid a knife from the pocket of his corduroys. He slid it right across the apple of Hugo’s neck.

Blood pooled beneath him on the table. Hugo choked, coughing and spitting, it bubbled from his lips. It drained out of him like a river.

The town of Willow Creek watched and waited.

He stopped sputtering. Stopped breathing. Stopped. Stopped. Stopped.

It was hours beneath the Blood Moon’s light, standing silent, staring hopeful.

It was sudden, all at once, that he opened his eyes. The wound on Hugo’s neck began to close, stitched together with invisible twine until it vanished. He sat up. He wasn’t Hugo anymore.

The demon flexed his new fingers, twisted his new neck. Stood on his new, long legs. He was finally free.

 

End to Begin

meyellow

2018…

I took roads never expected to take, leaps I had been afraid to make, and I loved every bleary-eyed, wild, weird and wonderful moment. Even the really horrible ones.

I experienced some of my biggest professional let downs to date alongside some of my most profoundly exciting accomplishments. I decided that every moment will work together for my good no matter how grim it feels as I wade through it.

I taught myself to think differently about almost everything. I let go of a method that was leading me to madness. Depression and anxiety peaked, and I had to learn how to feel and war my way through without going under.

I changed the way I went for my goals, what I believed about the story I was living, what would happen when I set my eyes like flint.

I learned to be quiet.

I learned to take responsibility, forgive, redeem and reward in a new way.

I partnered with my destiny. I partnered with a writing partner. I learned that to be truly successful at either, you must be truly transparent and willing to grow.

I gave myself validation. I believed in my talent. I discovered a new process.

I won every battle — even the ones I lost. Because I was up, doing it, and I was not going to take NO for an answer.

I lived. I took time off from writing. I went on trips and flew first class. I asked for MORE than I’ve ever asked for and I watched it come my way.

In 2018: I learned to be me again.

I can’t tell you how to be you more fully, how to live your big life and what that will look like when you do, if you are. But – never settle. Stop settling. As Nelson Mandela said, “There is no passion to be found playing it small – in settling for a life that is less than the one you are capable of living.”

2019 better get ready.

XO,

R

PS. There are two more IO strategy sessions up for grabs with our genius Jenny Beres. If you think you want more for your books and want a way to MAKE IT HAPPEN.

WHAT YOU GET:

  • 90 min to 2 hour strategy sessions with JENNY BERES  –  genius of IO Strategy and the one who designed our ELLIE IS COOL NOW campaigns. The same campaigns that drove our reads to almost 70,000 reads.
  • A detailed and customized Influencer plan specifically for YOUR book.
  • Video trainings to take you to the next level.

Influencer Outreach For ALL

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I already shared how we used influencer marketing to help readers discover ELLIE IS COOL NOW.

(Read here if you missed out!)

But I gotta tell you, this decision came a lot easier to Alex, my co-author, than to me. Selling wasn’t a natural thing to me. And even though we were giving it to readers for free through Wattpad, make no mistake – we were selling.

And selling is an art form all it’s own.

The first time I posted on Instagram about ELLIE, I didn’t even put a link to the story. Asking people to read felt… uncomfortable. But oh man, I wanted them to read.

I knew that awkward whimper every time I posted couldn’t go on.

And I decided to do what needed to be done to change it.

Y’all. I love to write. I dream in stories and I think in plot points, but what I’ve learned watching ELLIE explode on Wattpad is that a passionate readership is its own stunning love affair. It makes the hours alone in the room feel even more rewarding. Because after the writing is done, the readers are the ones who give the story a whole new life.

Learning to create meaningful campaigns with influencers is an incredible, versatile tool to get your story in front of readers who will fall in love with it.

And once you learn how to work with influencers to help build your readership, you can turn around and recreate the magic again and again.

For every book you publish.

For any platform you publish on.

And I want that for you. I want that for me.

I want that for every dedicated writer with a story to tell. This influencer table is overflowing with delicious food and room to spare.

If you’re an author, if you have a book out RIGHT NOW, or will have one out soon, if you want to learn a strategy to sell your book using influencers, drop me a comment and I will tell you more about a supacoo way to do JUST THAT!

Finding an Audience

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Now that the writing of ELLIE IS COOL NOW is wrapped (but new chapters are still being posted weekly on Wattpad — we like to keep y’all in suspense), I wanted to share a little bit about the ride.

First, some back story:

ELLIE IS COOL NOW is the rom-com I’m co-authoring under the pen name, Faith McClaren, and we publish chapters every week on the free reading platform, Wattpad.

My co-author, Alexandra Grizinski (pen name, Victoria Fulton), and I began posting our story at the end of May.

On August 27th, we were selected for a featured list on Wattpad, curated by the brilliant minds at Wattpad HQ.

One week later we were longlisted for the yearly celebration of storytelling known as the Watty Awards.

We were shortlisted.

Then we won.

It’s been a dream come true + a blast and there’s more to come.

But it didn’t happen by magic. (Okay, maybe a little magic. We are unicorns after all.) When Alex and I jumped aboard this train, it took a minute to find our seats in the first class cabin where all the popular books seemed to be hanging out.

Then we had an idea. A coffee-fueled epiphany.

And fortunately we knew exactly who we needed to help us make it happen.

Our friend (and Alex’s business partner), Jenny Beres specializes in Influencer Outreach Strategy. It’s a talent she’s employed with top clients and companies to get them the best advertising bang for their buck. So we thought, if she could do it with skincare, why couldn’t she do it with our book?

We know that what sets stories apart — in any sense, and not just on Wattpad — is reader engagement. On Wattpad, that meant numbers. Eyes on the story. Votes. Comments and interaction. In a sea of free content, what brings new readers is visibility.

Jenny used her skills as “the LeBron James of Influencer Outreach” (direct quote from her Linkedin), to create an influencer campaign at a price point we were excited about.

That campaign began the first week of August.

Now, if you’ve read this whole post (hi, you’re awesome) then you’ll know all the baller sh*t hit the gilded fan the third week of August.

It is not a coincidence. It’s a direct result of marketing.

This week we climbed over the 60k reads wall. We get to share our story with readers who LOVE it. We have found our spot by the window in the first class cabin and we just ordered a bottle of champagne.

I know a lot of us are writers with books coming out – or already out. Many will be writers with books coming out. To most of us — myself included — marketing is an opaque and terrifying orb of mystery. But here is an example of when it worked.

I would love to hear: have any of you used influencer outreach for any of your books?

Let me know in comments!

xo,

Rebekah