Cursed – Chapter 1

I finally got this back last night. Here’s the first chapter. Enjoy!

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Chapter 1

The sound of punishing hydraulics snapped me from sleep. My eyes shot open, but I couldn’t see much of anything through the closed lids of the dumpster. The stink of rotten eggs and festering meat filled my nostrils, turning my stomach as I struggled to find my bearings but succeeded only in burying myself further beneath gobs of slimy debris. I reached out, trying to claw my way through the plastic trash bags piled on top of me as the whole world shuddered up and to the left, covering me in dirty diapers, rotten tuna fish, and moldy cheese.

My right hand lashed out with a mind of its own, trying to grip the inside of the steel dumpster as it began to tilt, dousing the back of my neck in warm, sticky fluid that smelled of rancid beer. Bile rose up in my throat as my fingers scrapped against the paint-chipped metal, desperate for purchase that would not come.

The sound of a garbage truck’s crushing hydraulics filled my ears, reverberating deep down in my gut as a snake of fear twisted inside. I tried to scream, to cry out for them to stop as gravity, the bitch that she is, began pulling me toward my inevitable demise.

The lids beneath me fell open then, smacking against the metal side with a sound like a gunshot. The sudden glare of sunlight was nearly blinding, but it was the flash of a trash-filled pit that threw me into a panic. I scrambled to grab onto something, anything that could arrest my fall before I tumbled into the gaping maw of the trash truck.

As my feet cleared the edge of the dumpster and my fingers slid off the metal, a wave of rancid, curdled milk crashed against my face, filling my nostrils with fetid goo and cutting off my air supply. Without thinking, I opened my mouth to suck in a breath before my lungs exploded. Milk spilled down my throat, and while I tried to curse in rage and horror, the only sound that came out was a hoarse, bubbling gag that would never be heard over the noise.

Even if I could have managed to cry out, there was no way for someone to hear me scream over the roar of the punishing hydraulics destined to compact me into pulp. Not that it mattered. If I survived the fall into the metal jaws below, I was going to be pretty damned dead about a second later when the automated press punched my teeth through my brain.

If the driver saw me now, it would probably be too late for him to stop his truck from killing me. As the dumpster upended itself, I fell backward, scrabbling against the metal like a pathetic lizard as the lower part of my body cleared the edge. My heart hammered in my chest like a goddamned bass drum as I tumbled ass over elbows. My right hand shot up, reaching for one last desperate handhold. A stream of crimson light, so bright it was blinding even over the sunlight streaming into the alley from above, burst from the tattoos emblazoned on my arm.

With that last desperate lunge, my fingertips brushed at the edge of the heavy plastic dumpster lid, and I jerked to a stop that damned near dislocated my shoulder. A howl of pain ripped from my throat as I hung there, trash cascading down around me from the dumpster like rain from a hideous, disgusting storm cloud.

As I hung there, watching the metal jaws of the compactor crush the trash into the back of the truck, part of me marveled the driver hadn’t seen me. The other part of me was thanking any and all gods for letting me live, even though I wasn’t sure how that was possible. I ought to be dead.

I craned my head upward, shielding my eyes from the still falling trash as best I could. My right arm was as black as pitch. Scarlet symbols I didn’t recognize glowed with feverish light across its entire length, but what was even weirder was how my fingers clung to the heavy plastic lid like I was Spiderman. I mean, hey, I’m not complaining because I was pretty sure I’d been about to die in a hail of old beer bottles and half-eaten sandwiches, but still, it was a little weird, especially because the rest of my skin was so pale I could have blended in with a milk display.

Before I could begin to figure out what the hell was going on, the dumpster began to tilt back the other direction. Momentum and gravity took turns slamming me into the metal belly of the dumpster before the lids fell back into place, leaving me shrouded in darkness. My hand released its grip on the lid, and I fell against the steel bottom hard enough to make my teeth rattle in my skull. Agony shot through my back as a sickening crack of my spine against metal filled my ears. I lay there, struggling to breathe until well after the dumpster was back on the ground.

I was tempted to lay there and rest for a while, to try and figure out what the hell had happened, but what if I passed out? Sure, I’d somehow survived this time, but I might not survive the next time. Besides, the idea of being covered in garbage wasn’t exactly appealing. In the unlikely event people who regularly dumped trash in here decided to glance inside first, they would probably notice me taking a nap inside and call the cops. I was pretty sure I wasn’t exactly friendly with the police. Call it a hunch, but I don’t think cops looked kindly upon people who slept in dumpsters.

With all the willpower I could muster, I crawled to my feet and pushed the heavy black lid open. The sunlight greeted me like a punch to the face, and I was forced to look away and cover my eyes with my black hand. Thankfully, the tattoos along my arm weren’t glowing like they were radioactive anymore. I gave myself a moment to get used to the brightness before pulled myself over the metal lip. Even though I tried to land gracefully, I wound up collapsing onto the cracked asphalt. It hurt, but at least I was out of the dumpster.

I pushed myself to my feet, intending to walk off my recent debacle like a badass. Then I was going to go home and get myself a nice warm shower. I stopped mid-step. There was just one problem. I didn’t remember where I lived. Hell, I didn’t remember anything other than my name. Mac Brennan.

What’s Next?

For anyone keeping score at home, Cursed is now in it’s second round of editing (line editing.) After that, it will get proofread. Yay! I’ve never been more excited and more nervous for a book to come out.

However, I’d like to take a moment to talk about Lillim. The last volume was Mind Games, and even before I wrote the book, I was a little worried about it. I still have no idea if fans really like the book, but hey, here’s to hoping.

It’s certainly not a traditional Lillim book by any stretch. That was part of the reason I released it at the same time as Wardbreaker. I wanted folks who had been waiting for a new Lillim book to get one where Lillim is punching people in the face and taking names.

I’m tentatively planning on doing another Lillim book in time for (or in) April. I sort of want to finish up the third Revelations book first. It’s half done. I’ll be happy when it’s over. As much as I love them, the Revelations novels are a lot more work for me because of the four different perspectives in each book. The new one has five.

But, Lillim. We were talking about Lillim. I have two books currently outlined for Lillim, and if things stay as they are, you’ll get one in April and one in May.

One is the direct sequel to Mind Games, entitled Fatal Ties. Lillim is still missing her sword and there’s an apocalypse happening. It ought to be a doozy.

The second is a sequel to Wardbreaker, taking place a few weeks after that book. It’s tentatively titled Ghost World (though I may do Ghost Story). This premise for this book is that Zef asks Lillim (and Mattoc) to find something for him in the land of the dead.

Cursed

Cursed2

Hey everyone. I’m writing in to let you all know I finished up my secret project last week, and it is with the editor now. It’s a book called Cursed and will release on February 8, 2016.

Cursed is a little different from my normal fare as it’s not a young adult book. The main character is around thirty. My wife really helped me out in the structuring of this novel, and I think it’s one of the best ones I’ve ever written. I suppose time will tell.

For now, I’m going to leave you with the blurb and the cover.  I’ll be back sometime soon with the first chapter.

Blurb:

My name is Mac Brennan and that’s the only thing I can remember about myself. Not why I woke up in a dumpster. Not why my right arm is as black as pitch and covered in glowing red tattoos, and certainly not why a vicious death cult is after me.

Actually, that last part isn’t true. I know why the death cult is after me. It’s because I saved that damned girl from them. I didn’t know who she was at the time, but I’d have done it anyway. I just don’t like it when girls get beat up, call me old fashioned.

Still, I can tell she’s hiding something behind those devilish eyes, and if I want to find out what it is, I’ll have to help her.

My name is Mac Brennan. I have no memory, and I’m a werewolf-hunting, hellfire-flinging version of Faust himself.

The last sixteen months

For those of you wondering, I’m currently 23k into Conquest’s Hammer, the third and final Revelations book. With any luck, I’ll have it out this month. If you haven’t picked up Death’s Mantle, you can do so today for free on Amazon.

The reason for this post is a little different though. I wanted to talk about my progress a little bit. For those of you who didn’t know, I started in September 2014 self-publishing my books. January 2016 marks my sixteenth month.

It seems like so much longer ago than it is. I still remember being completely overwhelmed by formatting Kill It with Magic for Kindle, and now I can format an entire book in 15 minutes. It’s sort of funny.

So, how is it going thus far? Well, to date I’ve sold 5,097 books and have made approximately $8,500. Not too bad, if I say so myself. It’s hard to believe so many people gave me money for my writing. You guys are awesome, and I truly hope you enjoyed what you bought from me.

Still, it’s been an incredible amount of work. I’m definitely taking the hard slog uphill with no shoes method.

Why do I say that? Well, to date, I’ve published approximately 886,000 words across 15 novels, 1 novella, and 3 short stories with over 700,000 of those words written in 2015.

It isn’t just about writing, either. Each one of those volumes has been through at least three drafts by me before an editor even looks at it. Then there’s more revision based upon what the editor says. Sometimes this might mean 4 additional drafts. Yikes!

That said, I have already made more money in January then I made in all of 2014. Still, I would like to do a little better. This led me to having a hard conversation with myself. I need to do something different. Really different.

I had a few outlines for stories I want to write this year, but I’m not sure how well they will sell. To say every series besides Lillim has been a staggering disappointment is a major understatement because I would say Lillim accounts for 80% of my sales. It’s really hard for me as a person to write book 3 of a series that just isn’t selling, especially when you consider the fact that it takes so much time and energy after writing.

I started writing a Dirge book. And, I’ll be honest, I think it’s great. I think the people who read Lillim will like it. Still, I’m deathly afraid of it crashing and burning.

Right now, Lillim is paying for Abby, Thes, and Revelations in a big way. Unfortunately, I think Lillim may have hit its limit as far as earning potential goes. It’s hung pretty solid at around 500 copies a month for the last 7 months or so despite all my attempts to cajole it upward, and the other books haven’t moved to push up that number significantly.

So, here’s my plan going forward. I’m going to finish up Revelations. That’s gotta happen, and it will. After that, I’m going to try something I haven’t done before.

I’m going to write a book centered around an adult male in his late twenties that takes a page out of my Jet novella and evaluate. If it hits, I’m going to write more. If not, I’m going to pivot again.

In 2015, I learned a great deal about writing and publishing. Now, in 2016, it’s time to show that. Hopefully, it works.

That said, if everything stays as it is right now and I continue selling ~500 copies a month, I’ll still be happy. But hey, I want to sell more. Guess I’m greedy, who knew?

My Year in Review: Reading

I did this last year and it was sort of fun, so I’ve decided to continue the trend where I brag about how much reading I did over the course of last year. So how did I do in 2015?

 

2015 readedit

Total Books Read: 78

Total Pages Read: 19,299

Longest Book Read: The Skull Throne by Peter V. Brett, 681 Pages

Shortest Book Read: Theriac by Becca Mills, 29 Pages

First Book Read: Twisted by Laurie Halse Anderson 01/02/15

Last Book Read: Every Day by David Levithan, 12/30/15

Books in Progress: Hounded by Kevin Hearne

 

These numbers were a little skewed because I read several shorter books on publishing as well as a few short stories and graphics novels. This is why if you notice in 2014 I read only 39 books (Half of what I read this year) but only read about 6k pages less. Oh well.