The Story behind the Story, Living Bones by Jared Agard

I can still remember how the darkness seemed to be alive when I was a child. How it seemed to reach out for me. The thick, blurry-edged shapes would form and flee on my closet door, wisps of smoky purple against the moonlit dull yellow paint. I first saw the skeleton there when I was three, but I remember him vividly.
My three-year-old self was sure that I had been wide awake when I saw him emerge from the billowing shadows. A chill slithered up my spine and my blood pumped cold through my veins. The face was yellowed bone. The eye sockets glowed red with malignant spiritual evil. His head was crowned with three horns growing straight out of the bone.

Skelly

My body shook uncontrollably under the covers where I hid. I knew he would come for me. Why else would he have appeared in my room? He was going to kill me.
Finally, I could no longer stand hiding. I slowly pulled the covers down from around my head. He was gone, but I expected he would reappear the minute my foot touched fluffy brown carpet fiber. I slid my back against the wall and moved as stealthily as a chubby little boy could, inching my way toward escape. Once I reached the hallway, I ran for my life and threw open my parents’ door.
“There’s a skeleton in my room,” I panted.
My parents were not in any way concerned. In fact, my father rather crossly commanded me to return to the place that I knew would be my end.

LivingBones

Amazingly enough, I lived to tell the tale. In fact, I have lived long enough to have children of my own who throw open my bedroom door and proclaim that monsters hunt them in their rooms in the darkness.
The darkness doesn’t come for me anymore. Even if it did, I wouldn’t notice. With adulthood comes fatigue, which I believe firmly accounts for the disappearance of Nyctophobia. It’s not that adults are too brave to be afraid of the dark, we’re just too tired.
It is strangely satisfying to feel that fear again. Aren’t we odd as human beings? We abhor having certain emotional responses, but in a way we revel in them. Why else would we create stories to force ourselves to feel vicariously through the characters we read about? It is a great thrill to feel with them as they save the world or fall in love. For some reason, we love to cry with them, feel rage with them, and tremble in fear with them just as much.
Living BonesSo, Living Bones started as a dream that I had. A nightmare. It became a book as I was driving home from the Willamette Writers Festival where I had spent the day learning about writing and pitching stories in hopes of landing an agent.
The day had been fun and successful. I had successfully pitched my stories to many agents. I then met an agent named Bree Ogden, who listened to my pitches politely but then told me that she was really looking for middle grade horror.
I don’t write horror, I thought to myself.
On the drive home, another thought came to me. An agent had just told me exactly what she was looking for. Why in the world wouldn’t I try? The next questions that I asked myself were very logical now that I knew I was going to try to scare young people.
What scared me when I was a kid? What scares me now?
And that darn skeleton popped right back into my head. I smiled when I saw him there, in my brain, because he still gave me the creeps. I had my villain, but there was so much left to decide about who he was and how he was able to move around as a bunch of bones. The story really took off from there.
I’ve always believed that a really good story has to have a really bad villain. Villains have the ability to either deflate or inflate the conflict. My skeleton lost the red eyes and horns and became Mordecai Bleak. And Mordecai has been giving people the creeps ever since he turned up on the pages of Living Bones.

To make a long story short, Bree read Living Bones and became my agent. Spencer Hill Press agreed to publish Living Bones. It has always been my dream to be an author, and now I am one.
In other words, my nightmare made my dream come true.

Learn more about the author, Jared Agard, by visiting his author page. Learn more about Living Bones by visiting it’s book page.

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Cover Reveal! The House on Blister Hill

blisterhill_finalBeautiful cover art by the fabulous Veronica Jones! Find more at her website VVJones.com

The House on Blister Hill, coming in October 2015. Click here to request an advanced reader copy!

In the summer of 1949, twelve-year old Neddy Puddy’s only concern is settling a score with Delores Shrumm, her former best friend. But one summer night, a strange snow falls over Heaven’s Peak, North Carolina, leaving blisters on anyone it touches.

Grandpa Joe dons his bowler hat the next morning and sets out with Old Jim Flint to solve the mystery, only to end up dead. To make matters worse, all the adults in Heaven’s Peak have come down with the floating flu, and an evil carnival has risen on Blister Hill. When the carnival owner threatens to eliminate each and every bugsnot kid west of the Dismal Swamp, Neddy knows that everyone she loves might disappear with the last fold of the carnival’s tents.

With a posse of misfit kids and Old Jim Flint by her side, Neddy will have to face her worst fears in the middle of her worst heartache. But will she live to tell the tale?

KT Gannon was born in Queens, New York. She studied writing at Columbia University and then received her MSW from New York University. KT worked with victims of violent crime in New York City for years before returning to writing. Now she lives in Arlington, VA with her stuntman-turned-lawyer husband and her three amazing daughters: Ava, Cate and Syd. When KT isn’t writing she can be found in the bleachers at Ava’s softball game, answering (inadequately) Cate’s questions regarding human existence, and reveling in Syd’s quiet triumphs.

Find out more about the author by visiting her author page.

If you’d like to request an ARC, please use the reviewer form on our website.

http://spencerhillmiddlegrade.com/for-reviewers/.

 

 

D.M. Cunningham, finding inspiration in a traffic jam

For writers, inspiration usually comes from a store in Los Angeles. You can buy it at a place called the Writer’s Store. They sell it in this nice tiny box…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ok, that’s not really where it comes from. But if you did believe me, I’ve got this car for sale that travels to the future and back. I’ll give you a good deal.

 

 

niles_final_tAll kidding aside. My first book, Niles Wormwart: Accidental Villain, came from everyday inspiration. It also happens to take place in the very city I live. Like several other millions of people in the city of angels I sit in traffic daily and poke along at the break-neck speed of 15mph (if I’m lucky). A lot of people do their makeup, eat their breakfast, and make phone calls. I have even seen a woman curl her hair and get dressed behind the wheel. Because I prefer to gets dressed before I leave the house, I use my time in the car to brainstorm.

But let’s back up a bit.

I was searching for a kid lit writer’s group to join. I needed that shot of inspiration and other like-minded folk to read and share material with. I eventually found them at an agent writer meet up at a local bookstore. We shared a laugh that the agent had no idea who Nikola Tesla was and why I was talking about him in my book for children. I was horrified that the agent didn’t know who Telsa was, but that’s how us nerdy types react when others don’t know all the cool things we do. All you nerds are shaking your heads right now because you know exactly what I’m talking about.

All that driving and thinking and meeting with a writer’s group spawned a story of a kid who was sent to a villain camp on accident. It started as a short chapter. Not a very good one, I might add. It had some funny moments, but that was it. How was I going to turn this chapter into a full book? Of course, many times in my life I have gravitated toward stories that everyone else in the Universe seems to be thinking about as well. The only comfort we have as writers is that we might have the same ideas – but none of us are going to tell that story the same way. The writer’s group challenged me, I kept working on the chapter and they kept giving me notes. Eventually I had to set out like Skywalker and face the challenge on my own. I could have written that chapter a million times over. You just have to know when to move on in your writing and that’s what I set out to do.

My love for 80s movies and comic books started to blend and ignite a larger kernel of story. I could actually hear Niles talking and see him doing things that I thought were funny. He wasn’t just a person but a personality. He had quirks that were coming to life each time I sat at the computer to write. I rarely outline (sometimes this is a huge detriment as I have learned in my writing career) and I let the story go. For me, I almost channel the story spirit and it just goes through my fingers. Yeah, okay, that sounds a bit corny. But that’s kinda how it works for me. I’m one of those writers that vomits out the first draft and then I go back and clean it up. Sometimes I go back and throw out gobs of writing. The whole point is to let inspiration awaken. Don’t put a governor on it, no brakes, hit the gas, downhill on roller skates… I think you get the point.

So there I was. Niles erupted.

Part Ferris Bueller,

part Bruce Wayne,

and part me. A half a dozen messy drafts later I had something. And the rest they say, is history… let’s save the road to publishing for another day.

Right now. I’m still sitting in traffic. Niles is just months away from his book birthday and I’m wondering if he will find his way into the world.

Will he be able to pull in some of those reluctant readers?

Will he inspire?

I hope so.

Pre-order the book on Amazon, B&N, BAM or any local retailer near you!

D.M. Cunningham is a film and television writer, director and producer who has worked with several of Hollywood’s top production companies such as Disney, MTV, NBC, History Channel, Cartoon Network, and Lionsgate. His short stories can be found in STORIES FOR CHILDREN, UNDERNEATH THE JUNIPER TREE, AND CROW TOES QUARTERLY. He is a writer and columnist for FAMOUS MONSTERS OF FILMLAND magazine where he interviews the top talent in the horror and science fiction industries.

D.M. Cunningham’s Spencer Hill Middle Grade Books: Niles Wormwort, Accidental Villain

Visit The author online : Website,Facebook, Instagram, follow on Twitter: @LiteraryAsylum

 

 

Welcome to the team!

Reichert_Prt_163The Spencer Hill Middle Grade team is excited to announce a new team member, KT Gannon, author of Blister Hill.

Twelve-year-old Neddy Puddy’s greatest desire is to settle the score with Delores Shrumm, her arch-enemy and former best friend. But one summer night, a strange snow falls over Neddy’s hometown of Heaven’s Peak, North Carolina, and nothing will ever be the same again.

Neddy touches the snow, and it burns, leaving blisters on her hand. But where did the burny snow come from, and what does it portend? The next morning the snow is gone, but when Grandpa Joe dons his bowler hat, sets out with Old Jim Flint on a secret errand, and ends up dead, Neddy has more than a broken heart to deal with. She has a mystery on her hands.

Why did Grandpa Joe go to that awful, abandoned house on Blister Hill? And why has a carnival pitched its tents on Blister Hill’s front lawn? The Carnival of Shivers is no ordinary carnival either. Dead dogs with shining red eyes patrol the carnival’s perimeter, and with attractions like Bash the Banshee, The Diabolical Dunking Tank, and the Tent of Pickled Punks, the place seems designed to make kids squirm.

To make matters worse, all the adults in Heaven’s Peak have come down with the floating flu, and can no longer protect their children. When BD Lamb threatens to eliminate each and every bugsnot kid west of the Dismal Swamp, Neddy knows that everyone she loves might disappear with the last fold of the carnival’s tents.

But Neddy is not alone. Despite being dead, Grandpa Joe is still doling out advice from beyond the grave, because Grandpa Joe’s spirit is stuck inside his bowler that now rests on top of Neddy’s head. With a posse of misfit kids and Old Jim Flint by her side, Neddy will have to face her worst fear and worst heartache, and live to tell the tale.

In Heaven’s Peak, dead things own the world, and darkness has eyes.

But darkness doesn’t last forever…or does it?

Look for Blister Hill in October 2015!

Cover Reveal! The Book of Kindly Deaths

The Book of Kindly Deaths

The Book of Kindly Deaths

The Book of Kindly Deaths, coming in June 2014. Click here for an advanced reader copy!

WHAT WOULD YOU DO IF THE MONSTERS IN A BOOK BECAME REAL?

When twelve-year old Eliza Winter finds a secret room in her missing grandfather’s sprawling, Gothic house, her safe, sheltered life is blown apart. Inside, below a stained glass window where moonlight shines no matter the time of day, sits The Book of Kindly Deaths.

In defiance of her controlling mother, who has always forbidden her to read anything strange or imaginary, Eliza takes the book. As night sets in, Eliza reads one haunting story after another. And the further she journeys inside the book, the more the boundaries between our world and a shadowy land of monsters and forbidden places begin to blur.

When the strange, crooked man from the book arrives on the doorstep claiming to be a rare book collector and demanding entry into the house, Eliza’s world is turned upside down. To escape him she must dive all the way into the spine-tingling world of The Book of Kindly Deaths to save her grandfather-and write an end to the nightmare she’s caught inside.

Find out more about the author by visiting his author page.

Pre-order the book on Amazon, Barnes and Noble or BAM!