Me: “Can I show them, can I show them?”
Artist: “Well, it might be better to hang onto it and save it for a dramatic cover revea…”
I HAVE A BOOK COVER YOU GUYS.
Well, sort of. The symbol in the middle is pretty experimental and we’re probably not going to use it, and the tower needs to look more like a concentration camp tower and we’re definitely getting rid of “The Chronicles of Squire Chad” because that looks a lot stupider in print than I thought, but HEY IT’S A COVER FOR A BOOK AND IT’S MINE.
I’ve decided I’m going to post updates on my self-publishing process here, in case anyone is interested. Or at least, I definitely want to share my thoughts on buying a cover, as that was enormously exciting.
I at one time toyed with the idea of making my own cover for a book, or at least I did when I was working on The Machinist. It’s not impossible, and I am something of an artist, but my artwork is strictly a hobby and very amateurish, so I decided to go for something more professional.
A fun thing that I didn’t know about book covers–if you don’t want to pay an artist to make you a new cover wholesale, there are a lot of “pre-made” covers that you can look through to see if there’s anything that already looks pretty close to what you had in mind. If you find one, you can ask the artist to make some tweaks, or even turn it into a series-style cover, and wa-la, you’ve got a cover. Good sites for this are Amanda C Davis, Damonza Premade Covers, Paper and Sage, and SelfPubBookCovers, which is probably the cheapest and has the biggest library but man is it impossible to search their gallery for anything. Since they’re all premade, you would probably want to do at least some searching through all the sites.
The hilarious part is that the artists sometimes write in prospective titles for the particular pre-made cover and they’re just amazing. Things like Murder Chair or Bloody Knives or Play place. It puts into perspective how a lot of even super-professional-looking books with those uber-reflective titles still fall into definable categories.
Seriously, even if you’re not writing, scroll through the galleries sometime. It’s really hilarious to realize how stereotypical people’s “unique” titles can be. You’re not stuck with the covers as they are, because the authors will make changes to suit your specifications, though that does cost more.
I went with RockingBookCovers, who also has a lot of tools to help authors be involved in the cover-making process. I thought one of the premade ones looked good, but I ended up asking for so many changes that it turned into a custom job. For that, there was a questionaire I had to fill out, along with providing examples of some of my favorite book covers.
That helped the artist get two concepts mocked up for me. The one I liked better is the one at the top. Now we’re going through the editing process.
BUT THE POINT IS I HAVE A COVER. I’ve been writing this book for two years and I finally have a cover and gosh is that a rush. I’m also working on editing the formatting (maybe I’ll post on that somewhere down the road) and checking out marketing tips. I’m currently on the lookout for people to read the book in advance and review it, so if anyone’s interested shoot an email to firstname.lastname@example.org
The other thing I’ve decided to start doing here is posting chapters from my book. If I were straight up traditional publishing, I probably wouldn’t do this, but self-publishing means your main hurdle is getting people to hear about you at all. Given the choice between someone reading the book for free (and possibly telling their friends and neighbors) and them not reading it at all, I’d rather they just read it.
So. Here is the intro to my book The Nephilim Protocol, out in early September!
I’m halfway to the nurse’s office when I hear the gunshots, and my first thought is: I just know I’m going to get blamed for this.
In my defense, my second thought is Holy shit no way. Is this real? Then I hear a click and turn around to see the classroom door behind me blacking out its window. Holy shit it is. That’s the school security protocol for an active shooter.
I’d heard the rumor at lunch, but I hadn’t really believed it. The first week at school every single thing scrawled on the bathroom walls freaked me out, but I’ve been at Andrea Dworkim Academy for two months and shooting threats now seem sorta… routine. Every week there’s something scribbled on the walls or posted online or even just bragged about in the cafeteria as a joke or dare or something. Heck, J’son flat-out told me that he gave out last week’s “threat”, just because he knew his folks would come and take him out of school if they heard about it. I laughed and high-fived him.
More gunshots. Smashing glass, screams. For some reason I always envisioned these things as a hail of gunfire, but there’s moments of long silence between the bursts. I can’t quite tell where they’re coming from… it sounds like downstairs, at least.
I immediately feel guilty for being relieved about that.
Click. Goes the door ahead of me.
Damnit. It’s only just now occurring to me that I’m in a long open hallway, with every single door off that hallway about to be locked and probably barricaded. I dart up to the next door, but it clicks like the others. I barely get a glimpse of Mrs. Ortiz’s terrified face before the opaque sign is being placed over the window. I pound on the door, but there’s no response. Damnit! I knew she always hated me.
Again the more rational side of my brain kicks in. That’s not what this is. She’s just following standard procedure. Teachers aren’t supposed to let anyone in for any reason; the person might be the shooter.
Still. I’m a six-foot-one-inch target in a shooting gallery. It’s hard not to take this personally, especially with doors click-ing on every side.
Bathrooms. Bathrooms are open. I turn around and start to jog, and then I remember.
“Shit.” I turn and run down the hallway.
Another burst of gunfire. Long, mocking laughter, disturbingly clear and close. He’s on the stairwell. I put on an extra burst of speed and round the corner, just as the stairwell doors bang open.
BANG. BANGBANG. “Run and hide, bitches!”
Is he just… randomly shooting? Like just to advertise?
Shit. I think, as I glance ahead. Sure enough, Jess is there in the little alcove by the maintenance closet. She’s got her headphones in, bobbing her head in time to the music. Gunshots are practically background music to that “Blood Death Chainsaws” group she’s into.
I run down the hall. I don’t dare yell. Jess is deep into her music and doesn’t even notice me running to her. She finally glances up, at the moment when I’m almost on top of her. Her eyes grow wide and she opens her mouth and I think oh no.
My hand clamps over her mouth before I’m even thinking about it. She pulls back and I push her right up against the wall. She’s screaming into my hand, but all I can hear is the laughter behind—he’s headed for the corner. The moment he turns it, he’ll see me and Jess.
The maintenance closet. That’s why this alcove is here, that’s why Jess and I hide out here. J’son told me about it, he knows all the places. It’s usually locked, but maybe, just maybe… I reach around Jess with my free hand and pull on the handle with all my might.
There’s a loud –very loud– crack, and a chunk of the door comes off in my hand. One half of my mind thinks holy fuck, but the other half is too busy shoving Jess into the closet to concern itself. Adrenaline must be doing something to me. Even pushing Jess into the closet, she goes flying into the boxes against the back wall with a shriek.
Oh damn. Oh shit. Oh fuck. He’s gotta be coming he’s gotta be coming there’s no way he didn’t hear that scream or the crack before oh shit oh shit shit shit
I brace myself against the door. Stupid!
I get behind the boxes. Stupid!
A staccato roar outside, not unlike a set of bleachers falling over. Holy fuck gunshots are loud. I sidle up against the wall next to the door, reaching back toward the shelf to grab something, anything.
Door bangs open. A thin black muzzle pokes through. A flash of brilliance has me grab the gun barrel and force it down as I attack the shooter with the first thing I could find.
A roll of toilet paper. It bounces off the man’s head and goes flying back into the closet.
Freaking hell damnit shit!
Sound. Just pure, loud, sound. I can barely think for how deafening the gunshots are in the space. The gun barrel is scalding hot against my hand as it unloads into the floor, but I don’t let go. I can’t.
Flailing. Elbows and hands. Knees bump into each other. I feel my thumb go into his mouth, and teeth bite into nerves I didn’t know I had. I actually scream. The gun… the gun’s on the floor. That’s good. His hand is pushing up against my chin, his fingers pry at my nose, then find my eyebrows. They hunt around, they’re searching for my eyesocket. My free hand comes up and I wrestle it away. This guy is kind of a lightweight, actually.
My whole right arm is on fire, but he’s not letting go of my thumb. Blood is leaking between his teeth and his eyes are wide and wild with a kind of glee. What is wrong with this guy?
His other hand is going back toward his coat—there’s a flash of dark metal—gun.
I rip my hand out of his mouth, sending blood everywhere. I’m groping about desperately for his gun hand, but he’s let go of his coat; he’s howling, his free hand clutching his face. He’s got a weird face.
I haven’t even noticed I’m pushing forward, but we’re out in the hall. He’s still screaming. I’m still trying to grab his gun—I can feel the outline in his inside pocket. If I can get that, this whole fight is over. I’m practically clawing at the coat. Before I know it he’s falling backwards, crashing onto the floor, me on top of him. Both his hands are clutching his face now, and shit all that blood.
My right hand feels a bit numb. It might be damaged.
Smooth metal meets my palm. Gun, there! I yank back with all the force I can muster and I practically take the coat with it. But it’s the gun, I’ve got the gun. I jump to my feet, and I actually pull the trigger three or four times before I realize the safety’s on.
That gives my brain enough pause for me to yell “Stop! Stop! Sto—Stop right there! Lie still! Lie still, you bastard! Not another move!” My brain’s starting to catch up. “Not one more fucking move!”
He’s just writhing on the ground. Technically I guess that’s moving. “Did you hear me?” I yell. “I’ll blow your brains out if you move an inch, don’t think I won’t!”
He stops writhing just long enough to look at me. And suddenly I realize that I know the face beneath that blood.
I turn, and almost jump out of my skin. There’s a black wall of men in helmets and tactical gear who’ve just turned the corner. Submachine guns and ammo pouches poke out at every angle, and there are little laser lights flickering everywhere.
Mostly on me.
Slowly, my brain catches up and I realize what they’re seeing. Me, the gun, the screaming kid on the ground, covered in blood.
Ah damn, my brain sighs, as I raise my hands. I just knew it.
I guess I’m lucky to be white. Or at least, that’s what I keep hearing from other people. Doesn’t seem to be doing much for me right now, locked in a plexiglass cell at what I assume is a police station, but if J’son weren’t breathing through a tube right now, he’d probably tell me that the cops would’ve dropped a black kid with a gun the second they saw him. If Jess weren’t unconscious, she’d probably back him up and add that a blonde white kid like me was practically guaranteed to get off with a wrist slap. You know, like that rapist swimming kid.
I dunno. There are some days I positively hate being white. How is it my fault what cops do or what judges do or what rapist swimmers do? (or what J’son why J’son what the fuck even) Who the frig even compares somebody to a rapist swimmer?
You do, asshole.
Right. I sigh and rub my head. Not something I should be thinking about. Probably not healthy. I wonder if everybody else at the school is all right—actually, I feel a tad ashamed it took me this long to worry about them. (In my defense, it’s been a really intense couple hours) J’son was mostly just spraying bullets around, but I definitely heard screams—but the screams didn’t sound like they were in pain, just terrified.
I try to think back to whether J’son had blood on him, but I can’t remember. And really, it’s hard focusing on thoughts about the school when I’m locked up in some sort of weirdly intense interrogation room. Like TV usually just has an old table in a room with a one-way mirror. Here, three of the walls are one-way mirrors, which looks trippy as shit if I look anywhere except out the remaining clear plexiglass pane. Polished white tile covers the ceiling above me as well as the floor under my bare feet. And I’m sitting on the only chair in the room.
I stand up and give a little cough. It echoes strangely in the space. “Hello?” I say, looking around at the mirrored glass. “Anyone there? Could I get some water?”
I shiver, a little. I’m not exactly cold, but they took all my clothes. I guess that’s what you do with shooters. I’m currently standing in this white room in a pair of grey drawstring pants. No shirt at all. I fold my arms over my chest. It sort of hides the way the whole thing caves in toward the middle like a giant cross. Yeah, it’s one of my few sympathy cards, but Pectus Excavatum is ugly as hell.
Instagram’s gotta be blowing up right now. Did anyone see the cops take me away? Someone must have. That pic of me getting loaded into the police van is probably all over the internet. Newspaper is probably already running my school photo. I can see it plastered over the front page now—blue eyes, blonde hair, friggin’ dimple in my chin. Might as well have a sign hanging on my neck that says “serial killer” or “rapist.” Shit. I better not even check my messages when I get my phone back. Assuming I get my phone back.
I must be getting nervous. I tell myself to calm down. Once they look at the AR-15 they should see my fingerprints are only on the barrel. Once Jess wakes up she should be at least able to tell them I didn’t have any guns at the time she saw me. Once they look at the cameras they should see J’son shooting or… whatever he was doing.
What the shit is J’son doing shooting up our school anyway? I mean, yeah, guy’s always had a weird sense of humor, but everyone knows school shooters are mentally disturbed spoiled white kids. J’son’s none of those things. He’s got a scholarship coming. He’s got a whole future. How did he even get the guns? His parents are like rabid pacifists.
I wonder if Jess is okay. Did she get hurt? Did anyone? That’s probably what I ought be be concerned about.
Someone raps on the glass. I look up.
Principal Elsybiggle clears her throat. “Doing all right in there, Chad?” she says.
“Gareth,” She corrects quickly. “I meant Gareth. I’m sorry, it’s just having to deal with all these officers and this paperwork, I’ve been writing down ‘Chad Gareth Dickson’ all day, it feels like.”
Again, if I’m so lucky, how’d I end up with a name like that? “Principal Elsybiggle, I swear, I wasn’t the shooter. I was just walking…”
“We can talk about that later.” Ms. Elsybiggle gives a little wave. “They’re looking over the tapes, I’m sure it’ll… I’m sure you’ll… I’m sure everything will come out.”
That doesn’t sound particularly reassuring, even with the smile she gives me—too wide, with too many lines around it. It’s usually the smile she gives before she explains what I need to understand and how everything really is my fault.
She seems to realize I’m not convinced by the smile, but sticks with it anyway. “Right now, the… police wanted to ask you about Jess.”
“Yes—what were you doing with her in the supply closet?” Ms. Elsybiggle asks.
It takes me a moment to shift gears. It seems a really weird question to ask, which means this is the part where it’s probably my fault. “Hiding from the shooter. J’son,” I correct. “We were going to meet there, but we heard…”
I blink. “Sorry?”
“Why were you going to meet there?”
Huh? This isn’t becoming clearer. “Uh… well…” For a moment I worry I’ll get in trouble, but then I realize we’re far past that point already. “We just… meet there. Sometimes.”
Mrs. Elsybiggle waits.
The silence gets to me after a while. “To… y’know. Make out and… stuff.”
“What stuff, specifically?” she asks.
“Just stuff!” I gesture, my hands waving in tight frustration. “Just… you know! Shit, why are you even… what does this have to do with the shooting?”
“Answer me! Have you had sex with Jessica Miller?” Mrs. Elsybiggle snaps.
I gape. It takes a few seconds for my brain to reboot, process the question, and compile an answer. “…no! It… no!”
Mrs. Elsybiggle narrows her eyes. “You hesitated.”
“Because who asks a question like that?” I say. I can feel my face burning red. Shit, why is Ms. E going on like this? Why’d the cops even let her back here to question me about something like that? “We’ve been dating for like a month. I haven’t even gotten… Look, is she all right? I threw her in the back of the closet, but…”
“You broke her arm,” Mrs. Elsybiggle says.
I blink. “I what?”
But before Mrs. Elsybiggle can repeat whatever it was she was going to say, the two stainless steel doors at the back of the room swing open, and in comes Miriel, with two guards.
“What have you done this time?” she says, glaring. “You ought to be ashamed of yourself!”
“Mom, I swear it wasn’t my fault,” I say.
She snorts. “You always say that.” She turns to the principal, crossing her arms. “This better be important. I was very busy.”
Right. Miriel watches so many soaps, she barely notices when I get back from school.
Principal Elsybiggle gives me a last look before turning to face Miriel. “He’s had a potential Ascendance Event,” she says. “Director Wolfe has been notified, she’s on her way here to confirm it and to determine whether we need to relocate him.”
Wait, what? Ascendance? I search my brain for someone named Director Wolfe. District Superintendent? I think that’s some guy named Pendergast or something.
“Relocate?” Miriel blinks. “I am not moving again, not for…”
“I didn’t say relocate you,” Principal Elsybiggle says, in that calm tone that means someone’s in deep shit. “I said relocate him.”
Are they sending me to juvie? “What for?” I ask. “I keep telling you, I didn’t do anything! Check the video!”
Miriel glances at me and I see that look again—the one usually accompanied with a diatribe about the church’s views on abortion and what she would have done when she was younger if it wasn’t for the church’s views on abortion. I’ve always thought of it as scorn, maybe a bit of loathing, but today, I recognize something new—or maybe just something I haven’t recognized before.
“Relocate him… where?” she asks.
“There’s a facility,” Principal Elsybiggle says. “Beyond that, I honestly don’t know.”
“A… facility?” I ask. That sounds worse than a school, somehow. “What facility?” They don’t even seem to be looking at me. “Hey!” I tap on the window.
Principal Elsybiggle looks around, quickly. So does Miriel.
“What even makes you think he’s had an Event?” Miriel asks. “Looks as skinny as ever.”
“Of course he does.” Principal Elsybiggle looks over at her. “The Event doesn’t fundamentally alter his body mass. Do you even read that material we send you?”
“Don’t think you can order me around.” Miriel raises her finger at the principal. “I don’t work for you.”
“You take our money, so yes, actually, you do,” Principal Elsybiggle says.
Again, what? I guess I knew Miriel wasn’t earning money from watching soaps, but who even are these people?
“Well he doesn’t seem all that much stronger, either,” Miriel says, nodding at the glass. “So why…?”
“He ripped the jaw off a boy,” Principal Elsybiggle says.
What? Since when?
I punched J’son hard, sure, but I never ripped his jaw off. His jaw was fine. It bit into my hand, there wasn’t anything wrong with…
But then I think of pulling my hand free from the jaw, the cracking sound I heard. I think of all the blood there was everywhere. The way J’son was clutching his face—
My hand goes to my mouth. Holy shit his face.
Shit. Shit. Holy shit. The… how? That would require… shit, I don’t know, I haven’t taken anatomy, but probably a few broken bones, ripped tendons, things like that, right? How did I even do that? I mean, I’m tall, but I’m not really brawny. A stork, Jess called me.
Adrenaline. Got to be. I shake my head. I’d always heard, but man… I stare at my hands in fascination. Weird to think of them having that much power. But then I think of ripping the door off its hinges. Does adrenaline last that long?
I notice something else, now that I’m looking at my hands. There’s no trace of where J’son bit down, no sign of how it should have been mangled when I ripped it out of his mouth. I look at my other hand. No burns from the gun barrel.
Something is very weird here.
The doors BOOM open impressively, welcoming in a new set of SWAT guards. A bit more… intense, these guys. They’re duded up in blue camo (that’s a thing?) and armed with what look like… strange silvery guns. Before I even know what’s going on they’ve charged in, their guns pointed straight at me through the plexiglass.
In the time it takes me to realize this and react, they could’ve shot me twenty times over. And really, the only reaction I can give is to backpedal awkwardly to the rear of my cell, my hands half-raised. I nearly trip over the chair; there’s literally nowhere for me to go. All my mind can do is scream holy shit holy shit what the hell is even happening I’m going to die
A small woman with a sharp face and an ice-blue suit is standing in the middle of the soldiers. The hair on her head is short, grey, and jagged.
“You are Chad Gareth Dickson, correct?” She basically bites off the question.
I swallow. Should I say yes? Should I say no?
Principal Elsybiggle snaps off a goddamn salute. “Director Wolfe,” she says.
Director Wolfe glances at her, then at Mom. “Agent Thatcher. Mrs. Dickson.”
Miriel is breathing hard. “Ma’am.”
Wolfe looks right back at me. “Answer. You are Chad Gareth Dickson, correct?”
“…I tend to go by Gareth Smith,” I say.
She doesn’t seem to be interested in my naming preferences. “Very well then.” She turns back to Principal Elsybiggle. “I’ve looked over the data. I’m declaring this an Ascendance Event and relocating him to Camp Solanas.”
Camp Solanas. The fuck is that?
“The… the police,” Principal Elsybiggle says, with a little glance at me. “They will probably want to speak to him in regards to the shooting…”
“Get an actor or something. I don’t care,” Wolfe says. “We have a jet all prepped. I want him on his way tonight.”
“On his… wait a minute, what?” I’m not quite sure I like what I’m hearing.
The lights in the room flicker a little, and there’s a dull boom. It sounds… curiously far away, and for the first time I really wonder where I actually am. Where did that truck actually drop me off? It almost sounds like I’m deep underground.
Wolfe looks around, sharply. She glances at me hard for one moment, then signals to her men. All but two of them quickly leave through the double doors in the back of the room.
Principal Elsybiggle has her hand at her ear. “Director…,” She says.
“I’m aware,” Wolfe snaps. “Change of plans.”
Boom. It sounds louder. The lights go off for slightly longer this time. Bits of ceiling tile drop down; I can see a clipboard sitting on the swivel chair in the room rattling around.
“Where’s the emergency exit?” Wolfe snaps, as she walks toward my cell.
“Motor pool at the back of the facility. There’s an armored car stored there. Should be able to get to the airport with it.”
“You’re taking him now?” Miriel says.
Taking? “What is this?” I say. “Taking me where? Why? Hey, answer me!”
“Your opinion on the matter is irrelevant,” Wolfe says, tapping some buttons on the side of the wall.
“Wait!” Mom makes a little dart forward, starts to tug on Wolfe’s sleeve. “Hang on, you can’t just… Stop!”
Wolfe shrugs her off. “Talk serves no further point.”
“Hey!” I punch the glass.
I mean it mostly as a threat, I guess. A statement of intent. It’s more out of frustration then anything, just to get them to actually pay attention to me, answer me, for once.
The plexiglass cracks. Thick, two-inch plexiglass of the sort you see at aquariums, and when my bony knuckle meets the glass, white spider-lines spread out across the pane.
Miriel and Principal Elsybiggle jump back. The guards simultaneously raise their rifles, and I hear safeties being clicked off. Wolfe doesn’t stop tapping the keys, but it does seem a bit… faster than before.
I can only stare. Okay. I think. Now that definitely wasn’t adrenaline. So what…?
Dizziness thickens the air, and the room spins around me as my eyes darken. I barely feel it as my head hits the ground