June 30, 2014

Meet Emmie Mears, Author of The Masked Songbird (Out July 1)

Good morning, world! Happy Monday!

Today I'm SO excited to host my friend, Emmie Mears, as she continues her blog tour in support of her new novel, The Masked Songbird. It's out tomorrow, and from what I hear/read/see....you're really going to want to keep an eye on Emmie. Not only is she super-sweet, but her fiction is fun and sassy and cool. 

She dropped by my blog space to answer a few interview questions and tell us a bit more about her book. I know she'd love to hear what you think, so feel free to drop her a line or a comment and let her know!

Without further ado...Meet Emmie Mears!!

LR: When you write a book, are you an outliner, or a seat-of-your-pantser? Why do you think it works for you?

EM: I used to be a die hard pantser. I told myself that I just did what my characters said and that was that, which I used to absolve myself of any responsibility for their propensity to sit around drinking tea. It wasn’t until I read Larry Brooks’s Story Engineering and a few books by Don Maass that I had the epiphany that I was God in my universes and that the issues I was having with structure could be fixed because I could smack my characters upside the head and tell them to leave their tea fetishes off-screen.

Now I tend to draw up a blueprint and go from there -- the wall color might change, and the furnishings might end up more chic and less rustic, but I stick to the overall plan these days.

LR: When you were a kid, were there any fictional characters on whom you had a crush? (Confession: Mine was and still is Calvin O'Keefe from A Wrinkle in Time.) Who was it?

EM: Oh man, Calvin! I totally had a crush on him. I also had a huge crush on Ash from L.J. Smith’s Nightworld series as well as Gabriel from her Dark Visions trilogy. Actually, also Adam Conant from the Secret Circle. L.J. Smith provided me with a LOT of crush material.

LR: Favorite movie(s)?

EM: I have way too many to count, but for the sake of brevity, The Princess Bride. I come back to it every year. Pretty much anything with Cary Elwes in it is my happy place. Though admittedly I’ve never seen Saw.

LR: Favorite album/band to which to write?

EM: It completely depends on my mood. Usually something low key or instrumental, even if it’s rock-y.

LR: Favorite book(s)?

EM: O_O I have to pick?


I love Harry Potter and Kim Harrison’s Hollows series. I also am a huge Wheel of Time fan. The Giver has stuck with me over the years, and Gary Paulsen’s Hatchet is still one of my all time favorites.

Mildly hapless Edinburgh accountant Gwenllian Maule is surviving. She’s got a boyfriend, a rescued pet bird and a flatmate to share rent. Gwen’s biggest challenges: stretching her last twenty quid until payday and not antagonizing her terrifying boss.

Then Gwen mistakenly drinks a mysterious beverage that gives her heightened senses, accelerated healing powers and astonishing strength. All of which come in handy the night she rescues her activist neighbour from a beat-down by political thugs.

Now Gwen must figure out what else the serum has done to her body, who else is interested and how her boss is involved. Finally—and most mysteriously—she must uncover how this whole debacle is connected to the looming referendum on Scottish independence.

Gwen’s hunt for answers will test her superpowers and endanger her family, her friends—even her country.

You can preorder THE MASKED SONGBIRD here (http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00JD7TWZK)! Released in a box set, you get four great paranormal and urban fantasy books for less than $4! 

Follow Emmie on Twitter @EmmieMears and join her on Facebook!

June 26, 2014

Summer school, Rhyne-style

Remember, a while back, when Zoe told me she didn't want to learn to read and it almost broke my heart?

In the many months since then, Zoe's not only learned to read...but she's become a reader. A real reader. We go to the library and take home stacks of books. Her closet is full of books, but most of them wind up under her bed while she's reading them, and re-reading them. She does what I did when I was a kid, finishing a book and turning back to the first page to start it all over again. 

It's brilliant. So brilliant.

I absolutely adore sharing with Zoe the books I loved when I was a child. She's torn up some Judy Bloom books, and the Cam Jansen series remains one of her favorites. I'm forever buying/borrowing books I think she'll love, and hoping she does. I'm forever giving her suggestions. 

"Here, Zoe, try this book! You have to read it!"

Sometimes she loves it, sometimes not, but we already share a love of The Secret Garden, so what more can I ask?

What more indeed.

You see, Zoe thinks she knows everything. She's in THAT stage. You know the one - full of instructions and helpful tips. Full of random facts she makes up on the fly that she somehow convinces herself are true. It's hilarious and annoying, true, but sometimes I remember to stop and listen.

Like today. 

At the library, she was tickled to find a huge stash of Boxcar Children books. She's mentioned them a few times throughout the school year - I knew she read one of them during nap time, and I knew she loved it. 

Today she asked me to find the very first one from the library's stash: The Boxcar Children by Gertrude Chandler Warner.

"You have to read it, Mommy," she said, giving me that look that lets me know she means business. 

The thing is, I hadn't ever heard of these books until she mentioned them. I somehow missed them,growing up. While The Happy Hollisters (shut up) were staples in my house, solving mysteries with freckles and smiles, The Boxcar Children were completely absent. 

I didn't think I was missing anything.

After the library and a morning spent working outside, we were both quiet this afternoon. She read one of her library books (one of the ABC Mysteries, I believe, which she LOVES if you're looking for children's book recommendations), and my book was all the way upstairs. Yes. I was being lazy. 

But I picked up The Boxcar Children.

I read it in one and a half sittings (the half was only because Charles came home and I had to get up and say hi). 

It was written in 1942 and follows four orphan children as they try to survive by living in the a boxcar they find in the woods. 

It's sticky-sweet. Saccharine. With formal dialogue out of the mouths of children, it probably wouldn't be published today. But still. Something about it...

I loved it. I'm not going to lie. The idea of surviving on my own, of adventure, has always appealed to me (I once thought about applying for Survivor, at least until I remembered how afraid I am of spiders), and this was a great outlet for little adventure-seeking me. I love the idea of kids taking care of each other, of working hard to make a home. 

It was really lovely and I'm glad I read it. 

Today I learned I should listen to Zoe when she tells me things. Today I found a sweet book we can share and discuss from now until...well, I guess until forever. Today I discovered a new way to stay connected with my child.

I, the teacher, learned from my student. Just another piece of the bits of our summer we devote to learning, and today, Zoe was the better teacher. 

Oh. And by the way. She's still reading. :D

June 24, 2014

Bookish News!

Well, it's taken some soul searching. It's taken some tentative steps. And now I'm excited to say I'll be releasing my book, JO, at the end of the summer. It'll be my first major step towards truly being an indie-writer, at least for a little while, and I can't wait to see what you all think of this story.

So. Why am I self-publishing?

For one, I'm still working toward publishing in the more traditional way (i.e. agent, big-five publisher, etc.), but I have this book. This story. I posted the first chapter of it here a couple weeks ago, and got some really great feedback (emails, comments, etc.) about it. This story is also the one book my husband and brother both LOVE...the one my brother returns to every so often. "Remember...you can't let JO sit in a drawer and die. You have to do something with it."

It's not exactly a horror novel. It's not exactly sci-fi. It's a blend, a mix, and as such, I'm having a hard time finding a place for it within the traditional publishing model. Agents and publishers want something they know exactly where to put on a bookstore's shelves. This...is a little different.

But I think it's a fun story. An exciting story. There's blood and guts. There's love and lust. There's danger and adrenaline and fire and all kinds of other craziness.

Here's what it's all about:

Jolene Hall is dead – sort of. She can walk, think, and even talk, but her heart doesn’t beat and her lungs stopped breathing ages ago. Her body’s a mosaic of jagged wounds and stapled flesh.
Jolene Hall has a choice: turn herself in to the authorities, led by a suspiciously handsome police officer, or team up with her roommate Lucy and her boyfriend Eli to find a way to save herself. To Jo, the choice is clear. She’d like to know who turned her into a monster-girl, and she’d like to live to see another sunrise. 
But that choice has drastic repercussions. 
On a trip deep into the snowy White Mountains, to a hidden laboratory filled with danger and cadavers, Jo and Lucy find more monster-girls. Different monster-girls. Part body, part machine, run by batteries and electricity, these girls are killers, created by a shadowy Order with a penchant for chaos…and murder. 
To make matters worse, a photo on a wall of victims reveals Lucy is next in line to be “recruited” into this army of beautiful, walking corpses. 
When Jo’s physical condition takes a turn for the irreparable, and the Order kidnaps those she loves most, she must sacrifice herself to save them all.

I really think you're going to enjoy it.

So what's next, right? Well, I want this to be a successful release. I want lots of people to hear about this book. So I'm going to try to take all the steps successful indie authors take to spread the word about their books. I'll pick a release date, and publish it here. I'll pick a cover reveal date (I already have the cover - trust me, it's amazing!!), and publish it here. I'm going to try to make this HAPPEN in a big way.

And I could use your help!

If you're a blogger and you're seeing this, and would like to participate in any sort of blog tour/cover reveal, email me. If you'd like an advance copy of the book to read/review on your site, email me. And if you're a friend or family member and you'd like to help, do what you've done all along (please and thank you!!)! Share posts, share links, read it, review it on Goodreads. I'm SUPER excited about this book, and can't wait for you all to see it!


In other news!!! Undead America 3: Revolution has been submitted to my publisher! Hopefully she loves it and wants to publish it this fall - as soon as I know for sure, I'll let you know! There's a LOT in store for Jenna, Sam, and Will in book 3....and my early readers love how it all comes together in the end.

Or does it all fall apart in the end?

You'll just have to read it to find out!

EEEEE!! I can't wait to share these stories with you!!!

June 6, 2014

Summer of Zombie Blog Tour Guest Post: Mark Tufo

Happy Friday, y'all!

Today I'm excited to take part in the Summer of Zombie Blog Tour, hosted by the indomitable Armand Rosamilia, who may have the best name EVER. But the tour itself is really cool, too - 30+ zombie writers (though I was too late to hop on the train; maybe I'll get to play next year), visiting 30+ blogs through the month of June. There are giveaways, contests, you name it. If you like zombies, it's really the place to be right now, so definitely go check it out.

Right now I'm happy to introduce to you author Mark Tufo. His Zombie Fallout series never fails to make top ten zombie lists, and I've kept an eye on him from afar for quite some time. He's here with a story of teenage trauma, weed, and pure, dumb luck, that'll set your teeth on edge.

And since I'm normally fairly family-friendly here, though you know I have an affinity for the f-word, I'll go ahead and give a warning: this post is rated R, so if you're offended by the occasional cuss-word, I can only say: sorry! 

Welcome Mark, and thanks so much for stopping by!

Mark Tufo

ZOMBIES!!!! (Armand said this had to be about zombies so I figured I satisfied that requirement with my initial word, plus he won’t read any further than that anyway so I should be safe.)

This is a true story.

It was a dark and stormy night. (No really it was!) The temperature had to be hovering around 40 degrees. Fall in New England was rapidly degenerating to its more blustery cousin Winter. A driving rain, closely resembling ice pellets, sheeted down upon my 1970 Buick Skylark. I had just stopped at my best friend’s house, Dennis, to be called Wags henceforth.

“Hey man want a hit?” I’d no sooner pulled up into his parents driveway when I lit up a joint and took a large drag.

“Dude you do realize you’re still in front of my house right,” he asked as he hopped into the passenger seat.

I was still holding on to my intake as I urged the bone onto him. I put my car in reverse, let go my exhalation, and drove off. Wags just shook his head and took a drag himself. We didn’t say another word as we finished off the mary jane.

“That’s pretty good stuff.” Wags said, playing air drums to Ozzy on my dashboard.

“California Goldies, a hundred and ten an ounce.” (Trust me that was a lot back in the day).

“I would have held my breath longer if I’d known.”

I drove a little further. The rain was beginning to abate even as the wind picked up, and leaves were now dropping down almost as hard as the rain had been. We were still a little early for Beckie Wilson’s party (her name has been changed to protect her identity - her house got so trashed by the party she threw she had to tell her parents that someone had broken in. They didn’t buy it but that was the only way they were going to get the insurance company to cover the damage, but that has nothing to do with this story).

“Want to head to the bluffs? The rain has stopped,” I asked him.

He looked up at the sky. I don’t know what he was hoping to see. It would have been easier to see the bottom of a full inkwell. “Tufo I’m not a fan of your excursions, definitely not while I’m baked. Plus I’ve got my decent clothes on. I don’t want to get all muddy before I go to a party.”

“I didn’t say anything about rolling around in the dirt, but whatever we’ll just sit in the car and talk about school.”


“I’ll take that as a yes, and your ‘decent clothes,’ what the fuck does that mean?”

I pulled off the main road onto a deserted path, which stopped after going into the woods for a hundred feet or so, far enough back that the cops couldn’t see it on an ordinary patrol. From here it was a mile and a half hike up. Maybe five or six hundred feet in elevation, at the very end it got tricky scaling a twenty foot outcropping of ancient sledge, that’s where it got the name the Bluffs. The view though, that was what made it worth it. You could see the distant lights of at least four or five towns. Plus I’d yet to meet a cop who would make that hike just to nab a drinking teen.

I was putting all my paraphernalia into my pockets checking it at least three or four times. I didn’t know what it was called back then but even in my teens I showed signs of OCD, oh the joy to come. When I was confident I had everything I did one more check. I was now kind of wondering myself if I wanted to do this, it was cold and certainly wet, and maybe I was wearing my ‘decent clothes’ too. I was near to telling Dennis that maybe we should just go get some food. I glanced out the windshield, just as my hand grabbed the door handle.

“You see that?”

“See what?” Wags was now looking where I had been.

Whatever it was, had departed. I was left with the after-image of a vague body shaped blue, transparent figure.

“Are we going or not.” His face looked pale under the dome light as he opened the door.

“You alright man?” I asked.

“Huh?” He had quickly exited the car and now stuck his head back in. “Shit man I could say the same about you. You’re as pale as a ghost. Is the weed bad?”

“Fuck no I’ve had it for two days, been nothing but a good time. Must just be the weather.” A severe chill ran up and down my spine. “Maybe we should just go.” Whatever I’d seen was something I could not explain, and I saw no reason to seek out answers to questions I didn’t even know I had yet.

“Tufo, was it blue?” Wags was peering over my hood looking down the path we would need to take that led to the top of the Bluffs.

“Fuck, yes.”

“We going to check it out?”

I answered with the same two-word sentence I’d used previously. The creature or being, or more likely hallucination, flitted from tree to tree like a giant blue fire-fly. It finally brightened to the point where Wags and I both had to shield our eyes and then immediately it went out like it had spent its energy. This was followed immediately by the distant sound of multiple tires screeching violently and then the heavy impact of metal on metal and it was continuous like a vengeful Thor was taking out all his frustrations on a used car parking lot for having sold him a lemon.

Dennis and I hadn’t moved as we listened to impact upon impact. It was the thunderous explosion that got us moving.

“What was that?” Wags asked.

He didn’t clarify whether he was asking about the accident or the apparition, for that was what I was convinced it was.

“Let’s get to the top of the Bluffs we’ll probably be able to see what happened.”

We made that mile in pretty decent time considering we didn’t have much ambient light to work with and the weed had performed its job admirably.

“Holy shit.” Wags said. Having made the rock climb first, he was looking off to the east (honestly I have no idea which direction he was looking but I figured I’d pretend to know).

“Fuck me.” I was now looking where he was. The tangled wreckage was about two miles up the road from where we had parked, at least half of the cars involved in the accident were on fire, the rest soon would be. We could see and hear the approach of multiple rescue vehicles.

I was doing the math in my head, had we not pulled off for the Bluffs and not gone chasing whatever spirit we’d encountered there was a good chance we would have been in that cluster-fuck that raged below us. Was the paleness we had seen on each other’s features a portending of an event we had been allowed to avoid? Was the specter sent to further entice us away from death’s cold embrace? Listen, I don’t fucking know, I ask the same questions I do now as I did thirty years ago.

We would later learn that five cars had piled up when a seventy year old man lost control on a patch of roadway strewn with wet leaves. Every New Englander knows that leaves in enough abundance are as dangerous as black ice. Two cars had plowed into him from behind, and three that were coming in the opposite direction it was that third vehicle a chemical truck carrying ethanol that had sealed all of their fates. It had slid sideways before finally dropping onto its side, a weak weld in the tank had broken under the abnormal pressures exerted on it and had coated the entire scene in a fiery phosphorescence that burned in an unearthly blue much like our guide.

The stench of rotting flesh is in the air! Welcome to the Summer of Zombie Blog Tour 2014, with 33 of the best zombie authors spreading the disease in the month of June.

Stop by the event page on Facebook so you don't miss an interview, guest post or teaser… and pick up some great swag as well! Giveaways galore from most of the authors as well as interaction with them! #SummerZombie

June 5, 2014

Crowd Source Decision Making

Hi there! 

Today's the first day of the rest of my...summer? Ha! Yep, Zoe graduated kindergarten yesterday, and while my thoughts on that subject I'll save for another day, it has put into sharp focus the fact that my summer is here. Less time to work, more time to play. Which is all well and good, but I still have plans. Big plans. I want to write a book in my *spare* time, but Zoe and I are currently in debate about which book I want to write. She thinks I should finish a kid's horror novel I've been mucking with for a while; I'd like to finally tackle that adult Holocaust-themed magic realism thing that won't leave me alone. I'm not sure who's going to win, but either way I can't wait to start writing. 

That'll begin next week....I'm taking today and tomorrow off. 


The other decision I have to make is this: I've got a book, called JO, and I'm thinking of releasing it this summer. I love it. Charles loves it. My brother loves it. 

I'm just terrified of that thing called "formatting digital files." The learning curve would be steep and intimidating, so I'd like to feel like it'll be worth it in the end. 

Ya know?

Anyway, I figured I'd crowd source a bit now...and maybe build up some momentum that'll carry me through publishing this beast. So here's the first chapter of JO. I'd love to know what you think!


Part 1: Preservation

I’m dead.
Sort of.
I thought you should know that right away, because this story won’t end well for me. I don’t have much longer. The battery that’s powering my brain is shutting down.
I’m sitting in my dorm room in the middle of the night. My mother’s asleep on the bed, and she’s snoring. It’s not a loud snore, not by any means, but it’s soft and it’s nasal and it’s there. I hear it. It transports me back in time, back to the days before things went sour and I had all the time in the world. Back then, sometimes, when I was very small, my mother and I had sleepovers in my bedroom, pretending we were girlfriends. We’d paint our nails and eat ice cream and giggle for hours.
Then my mother would fall asleep on the bottom bunk, and she’d snore like she’s snoring right now. So soft, so gentle. I’d lay in the top bunk and listen to her for hours. I loved feeling so close, so intimate, like I was the only one in the world who got to be with her like that. I felt so safe, those nights in my room so far away from here.
Right now, I wish I felt safe. I wish I could fall asleep to the sound of my mother’s snores, like when I was a little girl. I’m so tired. But I won’t let myself sleep yet. Because if I do, I won’t wake up, and I haven’t told you my story. I want you to hear it. I need you to hear it. Are you ready?
First, and most important, I’m not almost-dead by choice. I didn’t choose to be this way. I didn’t choose to become a monster.
That choice was made for me.
And second. Second is this: the smallest decisions, the smallest choices in your life, can sometimes have the biggest impacts. You never know where you’re going to end up, and who you’re going to hurt in the process of living your life carelessly.
Me? I made a series of choices that tangled me up with some of the ugliest sort of people I could have imagined. I got my best friend, my boyfriend, even my parents involved. It’s been a disaster, and though the end has come for me, it hasn’t for everyone else. These bad guys won’t stop. No. They have big plans, regardless of the outcome of my little story.
So that’s why I need to share it with you. Maybe if you listen, if you hear, you can help stop them.

Chapter 1

A blizzard raged outside Eli Peterson’s apartment, and I ran back to his bed and pulled his tattered, stained comforter tighter around my shoulders, shivering against the idea of the snow outside. He, in turn, pulled me in closer to his bare chest, the warmth of his body soothing and comfortable. Slowly I stopped shivering.
“Why’d you get up,” he asked, his voice thick and sleepy.
“I had to pee.”
He laughed and wrapped his body around me, turning me to my side, sliding his legs through mine until we were as tangled as a pretzel.
I couldn’t get used to sleeping that way. I always waited for him to fall asleep, and then I’d wriggle out from his grasp and over to the far side of the bed, where sometimes, if I was lucky, I’d manage to catch a few hours of rest before the next morning’s classes.
Wind howled outside, slamming a tree branch into Eli’s window. I jumped. “Stupid storm,” I said. “I’ll never fall asleep with all that noise. I’ll be late for Price’s class, and he’ll dock my grade, and when my father sees my report card he’ll kill me.” I groaned and pulled away.
Eli wasn’t bothered. Still half-asleep, his voice was a mumble. “Maybe it’ll be so bad they’ll shut down campus tomorrow. Maybe we’ll have the day off.”
I laughed, and it was sharp and somewhat rude. “Yeah, right,” I said, poking at his hand as it tried to slide back around my waist. “Are you crazy? This is Smytheville. Smytheville never closes for snow. Ever.
Eli quit grabbing me, quit trying to pull me back to him, and he rolled on his back, fully awake. He sighed. “Aren’t you just little miss sunshine tonight?”
“I’m just tired,” I whined. “And you were snoring, and the storm is so loud, and I can’t sleep!”
He sighed again, and sat up, swinging his legs out from under the covers.
“Where are you going?” I asked.
“To get a drink.”
Eli stood, his boxers hanging loose on his hips. When he opened the door to his room strains of Pink Floyd filtered in from one of his roommate’s ancient stereo systems. I flopped back on the bed, pulling his pillow over my head. “Why does everything have to be so loud?”
By the time Eli shuffled back to bed, my frustration at not being able to sleep had me raring for a fight. He slid in beside me and tried again to pull me to him, but I pulled away.
“What now,” he said, and I could tell from his voice that he was getting irritated.
I smiled my sweetest, most innocent smile, one I knew he could see in the dim light from the streetlight that was barely visible through the raging storm outside. “I was just wondering,” I said. “What you’ve decided about med school, and what we’ll do when you graduate in May.”
Eli groaned. “Really? You want to talk about this now? It’s two a.m. and you have class in the morning.”
“Whatever,” I said. “It’ll be canceled, you’re right. And I’m just curious.”
“Why are you curious now, Jo?”
I ran a finger down his side, satisfied when I felt goose bumps rise to the surface of his skin. I kissed his shoulder. “Well, it’s just…” I paused, giving him some time to think. “It’s just that the guy I told you about last week – the big German soccer player in my bio lab – well, he asked me out to a show this weekend.”
Now it was Eli’s turn to pull away. He gave me a hard look. “And you’re telling me this why?”
“Well, I told him I’d think about it. I wanted to see if it would bother you if I went?”
“Bother me? Would it bother me? Are you serious? Would it bother me if my girlfriend went out with another guy?”
I sat up straight in the bed, pulled my bare legs out from beneath the covers and slung them over the side. “Oh, so now I’m your girlfriend? Now that someone else wants to take me out? Why aren’t I your girlfriend when I ask about med school? Or when your friends want you to go hang out with them instead of me? I’m not your girlfriend then, am I?”
“Oh, come on, Jo,” he said, and his hands balled into fists. He took a deep breath, and I saw him count silently to ten before he spoke again. “Knock it off. You’re tired, and when you’re tired, you get crazy. You know you’re my…”
“Now I’m crazy, huh?” I felt my cheeks turn pink, and my hands tremble. Tears burned in my eyes – I always cried when angry, and the presence of tears never failed to increase my fury. “Crazy. Wow. It’s nice to know what you really think of me, Eli. Now I know why you won’t talk about May with me. A doctor doesn’t need a crazy wife!”
“Jesus, who’s talking about getting married! You’re nineteen. Jolene Hall, would you please calm down and go to sleep. We’ll talk about this in the morning.”
I stared at him. His cheeks were flushed, his body tensed for a tussle. We stood on opposite sides of his rumpled bed. Outside, the storm was loud, but inside things felt worse. I turned my back on Eli and walked over to my pile of clothes in the corner of his room. I dug out my jeans and pulled them on.
“Come on,” Eli said, walking over to me and taking my arm. “What are you doing?”
“Going home,” I said, tears finally spilling out of my eyes. “I don’t want to burden you with my craziness anymore.”
He tried to pull me to him, but I yanked my arm away from his grip. “Leave me alone,” I said. “It’s nice to finally know what you really think.”
“Jo,” he said. “You know I don’t think you’re crazy. I misspoke. You’re not going home in the middle of this storm and we both know it. Now take off your jeans and come back to bed.”
Part of me wanted to. Part of me wanted to let him comfort me, let him hold me and kiss me and apologize for calling me crazy.
But a bigger part of me was led by a need to get out, to run away, and so I made a choice. The choice. The choice that would change everything.
I slapped his hand away. “I’ll be fine,” I said. I pulled on my boots and heavy winter coat. “I’m not afraid of the snow. And I don’t want to stay here with you another minute, you stubborn, stupid asshole.”
Eli had a slow fuse. It was hard to get him angry. “Fine,” he said, his voice shaking. His shoulders rose and fell with deep breaths. “Go then. Go be the spoiled little brat I always knew you were. Go out with your Russian guy…”
“He’s German!
“I don’t fucking care! Go out with whoever you want, and get the fuck out of my life.”


It only took me a minute to finish getting dressed. I slung my bag over my shoulder, pulled out my cell phone, and stomped down the stairs. When I opened the door, the force of the wind outside was almost enough to make me turn around and wait out the storm in the living room, but then I saw Eli coming down after me. I gave him one last, withering look, and I stepped out into the blinding, pelting, violent snow.


The next thing I knew, I woke up inside a morgue.
Of course, it took me a few minutes to figure that out. All I knew at first was that I was cold. So cold, in fact, I couldn’t feel my hands or feet. And I know people say that all the time, that they can’t feel their hands or feet, but what they really mean is that their hands and feet hurt in that bizarre way we all equate with “not feeling them.”
But me? Right then? I really couldn’t feel my hands and feet. There was an absence there that my brain couldn’t explain, an inability to move my fingers or wiggle my toes. I shivered in the cold, and I could feel my body shake, but not at all my hands or feet. They were gone.
My eyes were shut tight, the lids glued together like a kid with crusted-over pinkeye. I would have reached up a hand to pry them open, had I been able to feel even one of my hands. Since I couldn’t, I lay on my back, blind, as cold seeped upwards from whatever hard, freezing surface was beneath me. I definitely wasn’t in my dorm, nor was I on the creaky mattress at Eli’s. Like Dorothy and Toto, I wasn’t in Kansas anymore. In fact, I had no idea where I was.
I tried to open my eyes. I tried so hard the muscles in my neck spasmed with the effort. But my eyes remained closed, and my hands and feet remained numb.
So then I moaned.
Really, I tried to cry out, to shout for help. But all I managed was a moan, and even that came out all wrong. It was an inhuman sound, unlike any I’d ever uttered. It became another lopsided piece to the bizarre-o puzzle my brain couldn’t fit together in those first few seconds. Because that’s all it was. Just a few seconds.
I moaned again, that creepy, guttural sound. I tried to roll to my side. I couldn’t. Groaning, I leveraged the little movement I’d managed to roll to the other side.
I was perhaps a bit too successful. I rolled over the edge of the rock-hard bed (or at least, in some terrified, panicked part of my brain, I thought it was a bed) and fell with a crash to the rock-hard floor. My head hit the ground with a jolt that sent something like electricity crackling through my body.
And suddenly I was on again. Zap. Just like that. The bang to my head was apparently all I needed. My eyes flew open, crusties be damned, and my hands and feet sprang back to life. Sitting up, I rubbed my head with a hand that felt new and exciting. I was no longer cold, filled instead with a sudden, almost burning, energy that flowed through my muscles with a twitching intensity. I blinked a few times to clear my eyes -- they felt dust-bowl dry – and ran my hands through my hair, catching them in a few thick tangles. As my vision came into focus, I was able to begin to process my surroundings.
The ground on which I sat was as hard as the bed from which I fell. But no, I realized. Not a bed. It’s a table. It was tall and made from stainless steel, with long legs ending in dusty black wheels. The floor was white tile, flecked with gray, and it was spotless but for some splatters of green goo that surrounded my immediate location. I wrinkled my nose at the goo, afraid to look beyond it to see whatever else there was to see. From that first impression, I wondered if I was in a hospital…or a warehouse.
A warehouse? That doesn’t feel right, I thought. But a hospital. Yes. That makes sense. Something must have happened. I’m a patient somewhere. But where is everyone? Why am I alone? Why am I on the floor?
I…began to freak out. Just a little. The weird thing was, even though I was terrified, even though I should have felt my heart racing and my stomach flip-flopping and my face sweating, I felt nothing. I wasn’t even panting.
Then I noticed I wasn’t breathing. Not even the tiniest bit. I took a deep breath to see what would happen, and the mechanics of breathing worked. The air came in, the air went out. But as soon as I stopped thinking about it, I stopped breathing again. And I didn’t feel like I needed to breathe, which was really weird.
So then I panicked.
A lot.
I yanked myself to my feet (it was a little more difficult than normal, but really, what with waking up alone in some crazy, unidentified space, I hardly had time to notice), and finally saw the room around me without table legs and shelves blocking my view.
Definitely not a warehouse.
Fluorescent lights in stainless steel hoods swung from chains below a high gray ceiling. Perfectly square cabinets covered with white Formica filled three of the four walls. They looked vaguely familiar, like maybe I’d seen cabinets like them in some 70s detective rerun. Matlock. Murder She Wrote. A flash of light flickered against a silver table, and I turned to it.
Beside me stood three other tables, identical to the one from which I’d fallen, and on each of the three tables lay the three dead bodies of three dead girls.
Dead. I’m in a morgue.
I opened my mouth to scream. All that came out was another moan.


From the OoA files, dated December 12:
Design Doc 32-A
Iteration 3
Vocal chords are problematic. They are delicate and rupture easily. Care must be taken to preserve the integrity of a subject’s voice in order to achieve full integration. This can be accomplished via a swab of oil (vegetable or olive; peanut has caused reactions in those with allergies) along the back of the throat every two hours during procedures.