Get Spooked in Thirty Seconds

I have a new book out today!

Or to be more precise, I have two pages in a new book out today!  🙂

HalfMinuteHorrors - bigger

Woo hoo!  It’s an anthology of very short horror stories; the idea is that you can read each one in about thirty seconds.  And I’m in some really thrilling company (the front cover even calls us "the world’s most astonishing authors and artists!"  OMG, ME?)  :-)  Check out some of the ridiculously awesome/famous/actually astonishing authors who are included:

Margaret Atwood (!!!!), Lemony Snicket, Neil Gaiman, Gregory Maguire, Joyce Carol Oates, Libba Bray, Holly Black, Kenneth Oppel, and, hilariously, Erin Hunter.  I’m not sure which Erin Hunter, except it wasn’t me!  I’m in there as actual-me, on pages 80 and 81, if you go looking for my story.  🙂

But you should buy the whole book, because (a) it’s adorable AND creepy (at the same time!), and (b) all these authors wrote these stories for free, so that the royalties could go to the awesome organization First Book, which is dedicated to giving books to kids in need.  So not only do you get a really fun book, but you also help the world at the same time.  Yay!

All the stories in the book are terrific and weird and surprising; some of my favorites are the ones by Jerry Spinelli, Jon Klassen, M.T. Anderson, Faye Kellerman, Vladimir Radunsky, Stacey Godenir, Jonathan Lethem, and Lauren Myracle.

The way I got involved is that the fabulous editor Susan Rich emailed me one day asking me to write a thirty-second horror story, and I said ABSOLUTELY YES PLEASE.  My first anthology!  So exciting!  Hey, anyone else compiling an anthology out there: please ask me!  I will so totally say yes to anything!  I’m very agreeable and punctual, I promise!  🙂

So then I started thinking about what to write.  I have to admit, I am not a horror girl.  I am an ENORMOUS scaredy-cat about horror movies; I’ve never seen Nightmare on Elm Street or The Exorcist or most of the horror classics, and Scream gave me nightmares for weeks (although I still think it’s a good movie).  I have to cover my eyes during the gross parts of Bones and House, and although most of Dexter doesn’t bother me (because it’s funny and AWESOME and surprisingly not that terrifying for a serial killer show), that opening title sequence where he’s slicing oranges and flossing in this really close-up, murderous, gory way, totally freaks me out every time. 

I started out by making a list of things that scare me (or scared me when I was a kid):  being alone in the house; finding out your parents aren’t who you think they are; spiders; rats; noises in the darkness; dentists.  (Not my current dentist, who is lovely.  But I did have a dentist straight out of Little Shop of Horrors when I lived in the Dominican Republic.  He was a SADIST, seriously.  He made like FIFTY of those horrible giant molds of my teeth where they have to stick your mouth into a cement tray for half an hour, for no reason except he knew I hated it.  TOTALLY EVIL.)

I also asked my family what they find scary.  I think Kari said "eating gross things" (agreed!) (although she might just be trying to wiggle out of having to do those Roadblocks once we’re on The Amazing Race together…I’m on to you!) and Adam said "mobs", which is fascinating.  Mobs?  You mean, like, with pitchforks and burning torches?  Who are we, Frankenstein’s monster?  I think he means the kind of mobs that get all outraged over lies they see on TV and then stomp around shouting and being annoying and voting for the wrong people.  Which is not quite the kind of scary I was looking for, but OK, I see his point.  😉

So then I looked at my list and I wrote three different short stories, to see which one I liked best.  Since they’re so short, I’ll include the other two here…but if you don’t like them, remember that the one that ended up in the book is WAY better!  😉

This first one I decided to reject because it felt familiar somehow, and I wondered if I’d read something like it somewhere else (this is a fear I have all the time).  But the freaky thing is that there is a story in the actual book that is remarkably similar to this…and the freakiest thing of all is that we even used the same name (Ava) for the girl in it!:

What Goes Around…

Pebbles seemed like a sweet little gerbil. Her ebony black eyes glinted and her tiny claws held her food tightly and I loved watching her dart around her cage.

All right, maybe I forgot to feed her some days. And maybe I didn’t always refill her water dish right on time, or clean out her cage. I just forgot, OK? But I always made it up to her by holding her really tight and putting tiny little doll clothes on her. She looked so cute!

Then one night I picked her up and she looked at me. Her eyes were bright. She was very still, not all wriggly like she normally was. I lifted her up to my face and said, “What’s wrong, Pebbles?”

In a flash of motion, Pebbles sank her claws into my nose. I barely had time to yell with pain before everything went dark.

When I opened my eyes, I was in a strange place. I was lying on a pile of splintered wood—and it smelled really bad. I tried to stand up and fell over.

That’s when I saw my paws.

“No!” I tried to yell. My voice came out as a squeak. I spun around frantically. Now I saw that there were tall glass walls around me. I ran up to one of them and pressed my nose to the glass.

There I was! But—it wasn’t me. I could see myself walking around my room, brushing my hair.

“Come on, Ava!” my mom’s voice called. “You’ll be late for school!”

“Mom!” I squeaked as loud as I could. “I’m in here! I’m trapped!”

“Coming, Mom!” the other Ava called. She went to the door, and then, just as she turned to close it, she looked back at me. Her black eyes glinted as she smiled.

The one in the book ("Tenton," by Tom Genrich & Michele Perry) is wonderfully creepy and different from mine in several ways; the similarity is that Ava gets her life stolen by something seemingly innocent (in their case, a toy).  I think it’s just kind of cool to realize how authors can think alike, especially when they’re working with a genre like horror, where there are some things that are universally scary.  Even within the book there are definitely some recurring themes (monsters under the bed, mysterious houses, babysitters…).

My other story, which I debated choosing for a while, was my attempt to find something scary that was kind of new and modern:

I was just clicking around on the Internet. I didn’t feel like doing my homework. I guess I was bored, because I never click on pop-up ads, but this one caught my attention. It just said: THIS IS YOUR LIFE. Click HERE.

It was the worst mistake I ever made.

A website popped up. The first thing I saw was a picture of me. A chill ran down my spine. It looked like a yearbook photo…but it wasn’t the one from last year. I looked at it more closely and realized I was wearing my new sweater in it. The sweater I hadn’t even worn yet. The sweater Mom bought me to wear for yearbook photos next week.

My heart started beating really fast. I scrolled down the page. Under the photo was my name, and then a bunch of other photos of me. It was like someone was following me around. My skin crawled, thinking of some creepy person taking pictures of me and putting them online. What if they were watching me through the window right that second?

But the weirdest part was, I couldn’t remember doing some of the things in the photos. There was me dropping a pile of books in the library. There was me cutting my finger as I sliced an apple. There was me falling off my bike into a ditch. None of those things had happened…yet.

Were these things that were going to happen? I shivered. All the photos were of bad things. I was afraid that just looking at them might make them happen. But I couldn’t stop looking.

And then it was too late. I saw the last photo.

I was lying in a pool of blood…my blood. My sightless eyes stared at the sky. I was wearing my new sweater.

I was dead.

HAVE A NICE LIFE, said the message at the bottom of the page. IT’LL BE OVER SOON.

Whee!  Freaky!  At least, I hope so.  I ended up giving Susan both stories and letting her decide; she picked the other one (which you’ll have to buy the book to read!), which is definitely more classically scary.  It’s called "Skittering" and it’s about spiders (fair warning, Amy!), because spiders CREEP ME OUT, and spiders in my bed is just about the most horrifying thing I can imagine actually happening to me (I know, I lead a sheltered life.  BUT SERIOUSLY WITH ALL THE LEGS AND AAACK.)

Like I said, I’m a ‘fraidy-cat.  Even writing that spider story gave me the heebie-jeebies.  I seriously couldn’t sleep if I started thinking about it in bed…so I hope that means I accomplished the "make it scary" goal!  :-)  But it also reminded me why I don’t write entire horror novels, because I couldn’t handle losing that much sleep for as long as it would take me to write one. 

So for now I think I’ll stick to my usual level of scary, which is "uh-oh, this extremely hot guy may or may not be a vampire!  eeeeee good thing he’s so extremely hot!"  😉

Anyway…hope you all enjoyed that peek behind the writing curtain!  And I hope you like the book if you do buy it!  I think it’s really quite fabulous.  (Especially pages 80 & 81.)  😉

Quote of the Day:  "Hey, I know a joke! A squirrel walks up to a tree and says, "I forgot to gather acorns for the winter and now I am dead." Ha ha! It’s funny because the squirrel gets dead."  — Dug the dog, in Up