Torn (#2 Deathwind Trilogy) Released!

Torn SmlAt last, it’s here: the second book of the Deathwind Trilogy!  I finished my final read-through and released Torn at about midnight last night, only two days after I had hoped to have it done.  Right now, it’s only available on Smashwords.com, but will be distributed from there to other eBook stores very soon.  I’ll post those links as Torn becomes available at other vendors.

Fortunately, at Smashwords you can download Torn for any eReader (including your computer) so there’s no need to wait.

Get Torn HERE for $2.99

Book Two of the Deathwind Trilogy

Allie’s former best friend, Bethany, says she’s a monster, and Allie’s starting to believe her. Allie turns into a tornado every time it storms, and it’s freaking out her mother and her boyfriend, Tommy. She’s lied to her parents, and worse, she’s already helped level a town.

And things are about to get much worse.  Madeline has kidnapped her father and she’s still armed with the Deathwind. Allie will have to go through her to get him back, but this time, Madeline’s different.  She’s…unhinged.  Crazy.  Willing to do anything to get to Allie for some horrifying plan. 

But Madeline and the Deathwind might not be the scariest thing Allie has to face. There’s a growing evil inside of her, an urge to destroy and kill those she cares about. If she can’t fight it, she just might become that monster after all.

I apologize for being so silent lately, but I’ve been super busy finishing Torn (#2 Deathwind Trilogy), doing its first rewrite and getting it out to the editor.  I haven’t heard back yet on how long it will take them to edit Torn (or even if they will take it!), so I can’t give you a release date quite yet.  Tonight, I’ll be going back to working on 11:39 (#2 Timeless Trilogy) while I’m waiting for Torn to come back.  It will be at least a couple of weeks before I can start the second round of edits on Torn, likely longer, but once it’s back it shouldn’t take too long to fix.  I’ve already gone through and fixed the things that I know was wrong with Torn, but of course, writers can’t see many of their own mistakes and I’m going to need another pair of eyes for that.   Once I know when I’ll be getting Torn back, I’ll be able to give an estimate of when it will finally come out.

Plus, I need to get a cover made.  I think I have the artwork chosen for it and I need to contact Robin Ludwig Designs, but that shouldn’t take too long.  I usually have a cover within a week of contacting them.

When Torn does come out, it will be up on every store except for Amazon.com, due to the experiment I’m trying with release dates. (For those of you who are new, I’m going to see if releasing all the books in a trilogy in under two months makes my sales better on Amazon.com.  I’ve had terrible luck selling books on there, probably due to releasing them a year apart in the past.)  But for those of you with Kindles, there’s no worry–I’ll have a link where you can pick it up in Kindle format so you don’t have to wait!

The next update will probably be either my cover reveal for Torn or my release date, so stay tuned!

Upcoming Book Fair Appearance…

aabflogoIf any of you will be around the Ann Arbor area this Saturday, you may be able to catch me at the Ann Arbor Book Festival.  I’ll be at the Street Fair, along with several paperback copies of Twisted and a few copies of Tempest and Inferno.  All of my books will be on sale for 8 dollars!  For more info on this event as well as directions, click here.

reflectionI’ll be sharing a table with two other authors: Kacey Vanderkarr, author of Reflection Pond, and Chris Dungey, author of the Pace-Lap Blues and Other Tales From the Seventies.  I’ve read both of their books, and I’m not lying when I say that they’re both amazing writers.  If you like young adult paranormal books, you’ll like Reflection Pond, which I just finished this week!  I highly recommend that you pick up a copy.  The story and the characters are superbly done.  You can find it HERE.

paceOr if you like literary fiction and the 70’s, check out Chris Dungey’s Pace-Lap Blues.  I recommend this short story collection for adults only, however, since there’s plenty of mature content.  (It is the seventies after all.)  Chris is an awesome writer and I’ve had the pleasure of reading his stories!  You can find his book HERE.

 

Drastic Measures

I’m flying in a helicopter over the ocean as a passenger.  There’s an island ahead, a barren, rocky one that’s far from civilization.  We fly lower and are just about to pass by when I spot groups of people standing on hills and at the edges of cliffs, waving desperately to us.  I realize that they’re stranded and I ask the pilot to land so we can help them.

I get out of the helicopter.  There are hundreds of people on this island and I talk to them for a while.  I learn that they’re survivors from a plane crash who landed here on a raft some time ago.  These people are all on the brink of starvation, and they’ve been barely surviving here for a long, long time.  I tell them that I’ll get them off this island or at least get them some food, but that I’ll have to go for help.

I get back into the helicopter and we fly over the ocean again.  I spot some cruise ships and we radio them for help, asking them to head to that remote island and find those starving people.  However, they refuse.  I’m upset, because if the ships would just go over there and notice those dying people, everything would be okay…

Of course, I knew this was all a dream when I woke up this morning, but I couldn’t let go of it.  I lay in bed for a while, thinking about it, wondering what the whole thing meant.

And then it hit me.  That island and those half-starved people is my writing career.  Those cruise ships are the goal I’ve been struggling to reach for four years now: sell enough books to be able to write full-time.  My failed efforts to get those ships to help are all my efforts to gain some traction and get somewhere.

I’ll begin by saying that I released Tempest in September of 2010.  I have to date released 9 novels, one short story and one novella while working a full time job.  I have one complete series under my and two more going that I’m in the process of finishing.

And yet, for the past three and a half years, I’ve sold only a few books per day, total.  It’s never changed or gotten better even though I’ve released more books.  There are some books that I sell only one copy of per month, and several others (such as Frostbite and Ancient) that have sold only 5 or 6 copies per month.   Sure, I’ve had rare days where my total sales were in the double digits, but they were gone as fast as they came.  And I had a day a few weeks ago where I sold 24 books, but that was due to a huge sale that I ran where I got Tempest featured on several websites.  That, too, was gone was fast as it came.

I made a lot of mistakes in the past that largely caused this to happen.  When I first started, I waited a year to release the second book of the Destroyers series.  Those who did buy the first book had lost interest and moved on by then, so I didn’t gain any traction with that release.  I started out with an awful cover.  While I did use beta readers and critique groups back then (and still do!) I didn’t use a professional editor like I do now.  While I got mostly good reviews, my overall average wasn’t as high as many other young adult fantasy and paranormal books, making it harder to compete with them.  And since Amazon.com promotes new releases more than older books, this was a lost opportunity to jump up the charts.  And if nobody sees the first book of the series, nobody sees the sequels, either.

I’ve noticed that most young adult books that do well on Amazon (sell dozens or more copies per day) have an average rating of 4.8 out of 5 stars.  Tempest has an average of 4.0.  Twisted has 4.1 and 2:20 is sitting at 3.7 (largely due to a review from someone who didn’t know it was a young adult book.)  A rating of 4.0 is barely enough for most of the good advertising sites to even consider taking your book, but not enough to compete.  It’s not enough for Amazon’s search engine to put my titles anywhere high in the search results.  This means that no matter what I do now, I will never reach that cruise ship.

Unless I go for the nuclear option and start over.

That is, to take everything off sale and then re-publish all of my books.  One by one.  From scratch.

Yes, it’s drastic and risky.  I’m pretty much going by my gut here.  I’ll lose sales temporarily, but re-publishing everything and not making the dumb mistakes I made before will give me the second chance that I won’t be able to get back any other way.  I have tried everything up to this point.  I’ve tried getting more reviews.  I’ve tried playing with my Amazon descriptions and categories.  I’ve tried advertising, getting better covers and even hiring a publicist.  Nothing’s worked.

Plus, it’s my hope that I will get better rating averages this time and be able to release every two months instead of every year, which should help me gain some traction.  I know what I’m doing now.   And don’t worry – none of the stories will be different, so there’s no need to buy a book you’ve already read!  Twisted will probably be back up within a week or two, followed by Torn, which I am still planning to release soon.  I will continue to send out the Destroyers E-Zine and four free short stories per year.  And those of you who signed up to get Torn and 11:39 for free will still get your freebies once they’re released.

I will admit that I’m a little bit nervous about doing this, but overall I feel pretty good about this decision.  It’s certainly not as scary as spending the next ten years working fifty hours per week, coming home exhausted each night and and checking my book sales to see that I’ve sold one or two books…or nothing.

I’m typing this while my cat is on my chest and trying to snuggle, so bear with me.

Firstly I’d like to apologize for not getting an issue of the Destroyers E-Zine out last week. Too many things came up and it slipped my mind.

But I’m back with lots of news!

Walls is now available in almost all eBook retailers for 99 cents for all non-subscribers.  If you’re one of my E-Zine subscribers and didn’t get your free copy, feel free to leave a comment or email me at hollyannehook (at) yahoo (dot) com.  I’ll get you set up.

(Pause as cat changes position to snuggle on my other shoulder.)

I left the ending of Walls open as I may do more with these characters in the future. A novel, maybe? Feel free to let me know what you think.

I’m thinking about the next short story now, which I should have done in late spring if all goes well. The title for this one will be Cliché: The Story and it’s going to be a comedy. I haven’t started on it yet. Right now, I’m still in the brainstorming phase.

My biggest projects right now are the sequels to Twisted and 2:20. I’ve been working on these in the past couple of weeks now that Walls is done, and I’m closing in on 25,000 words on Torn. I’m gaining more momentum on 11:39 as well after losing steam for a while.

(My cat jumps down. Phew!)

Speaking of my sequels, I have hired Red Adept Editing to go through the rest of the Deathwind Trilogy and may do the same for the Timeless Trilogy as well. I’ll be focusing more on characters and plot in these edits rather than grammar and spelling. This is why getting a novel out will take a bit longer than usual, but I want to guarantee the most amazing read possible when I release a new title. It costs money, yes, but I know it will be well worth it.

I’ll begin by saying that during the past couple of weeks, I’ve been sticking with my new writing plan. I’ve been taking my Netbook with me to work and getting some writing and editing done before I need to punch in for work. I’m also doing more work on my lunch breaks on most days, and I have to say that I think I see a difference in the quality of my work! Writing while I’m still fully awake and alert has definitely boosted my storytelling abilities (even though I don’t enjoy waking up at 6 in the morning.)

At least, I hope. Writers can’t really see the quality of their own work. I’ll be running my edits through some beta readers well before release.

I’m going through what I’ve written for Torn this week and going deeper into the characters and their relationships with each other, something I wasn’t able to do much of in the first book of the Deathwind Trilogy. I now know why Allie and Dorian have that connection, and the reason for it will be revealed in Torn! There will still be plenty of tornado scenes in this book, but the characters will have more room to breathe as well, which is something I’m very excited about.

Walls is almost completed. I’ve rewritten it a couple of times now and I’m drawing close to the end. It’s going to come out somewhere around 7,000 to 8,000 words, which is longer than I expected. Before I release it to you guys as a freebie, I’m going to run it through my critique group one more time and do some more edits to ensure a good read.  Walls doesn’t have anything to do with any of my other stories, and it’s probably the first thing I’ve written in a couple of years that doesn’t involve some kind of natural disaster.

Walls should be out shortly, but I will not set a date. (No more deadlines, remember?)

I’m Going to Change My Novel-Writing Process

I’ll start by saying that this post isn’t about throwing a pity party for myself or asking for pity.  It’s also not an attempt to make excuses or to blame anyone for anything.  All I want to do is explain some things, is all.  It’ll make my new writing plan make some more sense when I get down to that part.

Ok, now for the post!

I’ve done a lot of thinking this past week.

During my last post, I mentioned how I’m beginning to feel that some of my past writing should have been better.  How my characters should have come out stronger.  Of course, anyone’s writing can be better and it’s impossible to write anything perfect or to please everyone.  But I really feel like I’ve missed the mark on a lot of things in the past, writing-wise.  And I think I’ve figured out why.

Writers can’t see their own mistakes, so we need others to look at our work before even thinking of releasing it.  I’m in a great critique group for this reason, and it has helped me to improve my writing.  But sometimes issues with a book slip through, things that I totally miss or don’t think are problems.  These are the things that don’t come to light until a book’s out there in the world and in the hands of readers and reviewers.

Then, and only then do I see how good of a book I’ve written.

I do get mostly mixed to positive reviews on my books, but many of these still point out what could have been better, or what could have made an OK or a good book into a great book.  These are those things where I miss the mark.  I don’t want to write “OK” books.  I want to write amazing books for my readers and put out the very best.  So many of you guys have been very supportive and you deserve to get the very best.

Which brings me to what’s stopping me from doing that.  And how I’m going to get rid those hurdles.

Hurdle #1: I work 9 hours a day, 5 days a week at a job that has nothing to do with writing.  This job is mentally and physically taxing sometimes.  That doesn’t include the hour and a half of driving that I do every day.

That means that every day of the week, I spend almost twelve hours a day at my day job or going back and forth from it.  And in the winter when the roads are usually bad, that can take even longer.

I get up around 7 every morning and get home close to 7 at night.  Then, it’s time to make dinner, do some possible errands, feed the cats, water my tarantulas and do whatever else happens to pop up.

Then I have time to write.  Maybe.

I do most of my writing when I’m at my most tired, when most of my energy for the day has already been used up.  Sometimes, I don’t get any writing done at all.

This “duh” moment hit me earlier while I was at work earlier and my brain was still working at 100%.  Of course I’m not going to write at my best when I’m super tired!  I do write on the weekends, too, but this doesn’t make the mess I’ve probably made during the rest of the week disappear.

Solution: Do some writing in the morning.  Before work.

I’m not a morning person, but I think I will need to set my alarm an hour earlier and see if I can write before work takes all the energy from me.  If I can make myself get used to this schedule, it’s possible that this will help me out quite a bit.

Hurdle #2: Deadlines force me to rush on top of being super tired after work.

In the past couple of years, I’ve made a habit of setting tight deadlines for myself to finish a book so my readers don’t have to wait a long time for a sequel or a next project.  That’s the way it works in publishing.  If you don’t release a new book every few months or so, readers tend to forget about you, so there’s lots of pressure to keep up.

Having a tight deadline gives me less room to work on a book, and therefore less time to catch any issues or flaws with it before it’s too late.

Solution: No more deadlines.  Ever.

I won’t release books quite as fast as I used to, so please bear with me.  I won’t slow down too much, but I will no longer say when a book will be done until I’m very close to release and I’ve had extra time to make sure it shines.  If I have no deadline, I won’t feel as much pressure to hurry as fast as I can and can focus on other things.

I’ll still keep you updated on progress, though!  That won’t change.

Hurdle #3: I give myself way too much to do on the weekends, and some of it has nothing to do with writing.

I also run a Youtube channel and post videos there weekly (that have nothing to do with writing) and I have a schedule to keep up with there as well.  This distracts me from writing on the weekends, so I’m losing lots of non-tired time that I could be using on my books.

Solution: Do my Youtube stuff on weeknights and more writing on the weekends.

I’ll just switch the two.  I don’t have to think nearly as much for Youtube.

I’m posting today to let all of you know that I may need a bit more time on Torn than I anticipated.

First, I had to fight a toothache during the past week and just got two of my wisdom teeth taken out yesterday, so I’m still recovering from that.  The anticipation of the upcoming procedure pretty much distracted me from writing during the last week, but I should be getting back to work.  I’m almost done with my short story, too, and hope to have the whole thing ready for my critique group at the end of this week.  Walls should be ready for my E-Zine subscribers near the end of the month and will also be available for sale for 99 cents to everyone else.

The main issue with the Deathwind Trilogy is that I’ve been forced to conclude that there are a lot of issues with the first book, none of which I was aware of until recently.  I’m definitely not proud of this and I apologize to anyone who felt let down by Twisted.  It’s my goal to make each book I write as good as possible for my readers, and I feel as if I’ve missed the mark.

(I will admit, though, that I end up feeling that way about all of my books after they’re finished.  Maybe it’s just a writer thing.)

I can’t change the first book now since it’s out there, because that wouldn’t be fair to those of you who have read it.  But this is the reason I will need more time on Torn to make sure that my characters are more likeable and more in-depth.  I’ll need to take some time to figure out what I’m doing wrong and how to fix the issues.  Only then will I release Book #2, but I promise it won’t take me too long–probably early summer at the latest.  I won’t be writing as quickly, but I’d rather take some extra time to make sure that Torn is a book worth reading and loving.

Read the First Chapter of Torn (#2 Deathwind Trilogy)

Here’s the first chapter of Torn, the second book of the Deathwind Trilogy.  If you’re signed up for my newsletter, you’ll also be getting this in your inbox.

Chapter One

My latest transformation has to announce its arrival at the absolute worst time.

During the first big Algebra test of the year.

I’m sitting in the back row—which I’ve chosen in case of an emergency just like this—when my phone buzzes in my pocket.

I drop the pencil and watch it roll across decimals and formulas.  It falls to the floor.  Gets lodged under Eliza Cunningham’s shoe.  She puts her foot all the way down, engrossed in her own test, leaving it trapped with no escape.

My phone buzzes again, more urgent, more desperate, more scared.

I make sure Mr. Lance is looking down at his desk.  He’s grading last period’s tests, leaving lots of red marks and devastation in his wake.  It’s my chance.

I pull the phone out, praying it’s just a stray text or something.

Weather Alert.

I curse under my breath.

Those are the two scariest words my phone can shove in my face.

I check again.  Mr. Lance makes a huge red mark on someone’s test.

Scroll down.

Special Weather Statement.  A line of thunderstorms are moving towards Williams Town.  Possible torrential downpours and small hail.  Stay indoors until these storms have passed.  Storms will be near…

I curse again.

Tuck the phone back into my pocket.

I need to leave.  Now.

The clock ticks away on the wall above some Wisconsin University poster that Mr. Lance has had there since the dawn of time.  I glance out the window over some really tall kid’s messy haircut.  The sky to the west is darkening, turning into the black-blue color I’ve come to dread and hate.

Growling fills my being.  I shudder with it.  It sweeps through my body, shaking my bones, threatening to burst out of my skin.

I’m up at Mr. Lance’s desk five seconds later.

“Bathroom,” I say, crossing my legs for dramatic effect.

“Allie, Allie,” he says, shaking his head.  “We’re only two weeks in, and that’s the second time you’ve bailed out on class.”  He smiles, but his eyes frown with disapproval.  He’s right.  Last time I took a pass, I didn’t come back.

“Look, I really, really have to go.  It’s an emergency.”  Oh, if only he knew that it’s not the bathroom kind.

Mr. Lance yanks a drawer open to the stack of hall passes.  He fills one out and signs, stabbing the paper at the end of his signature.  “Here.  Just so you know, Allie, you don’t get to make up the time on this test.  And if I don’t see you back in a few minutes, you’re going to serve detention after school tomorrow.”

Great.  I’m hosed.

Allie, just get out of there.  Take the detention.

Dorian’s voice rings in my head.  I blink.  I haven’t heard his voice in my head since July.  Since–

Trust me, I think.  I am.

A very faint rumble of thunder floats in through the open window.  Mr. Lance hands me the pass.

“Thanks,” I say, and I’m out the door.

The halls are empty.  Marge, the hall monitor, isn’t here to see me break into a total run.  I skid to a stop in the bathroom and pull my phone out again.

If Tommy hasn’t gotten the same alert as me, he’s about to.

I text him our emergency phrase.

Code T.

Send.  And wait.

If he doesn’t get the message, I’m going to have to call Mom and have her take me out of town.  She’s the last person I want to see my transformation.  While I’m pretty sure that deep down, she knows what happens to me, it might put her over the edge to see it actually unfold.

A full minute drags out.  Then, the phone buzzes.  Tommy’s on guard like he promised.

Parking lot.  Now.

I tuck the phone back in my pocket and break into a run again.  I leave the bathroom behind.  Leave Mr. Lance behind.  Leave the test sitting on my desk that I’m definitely going to flunk.

The smell of rain wraps around me as soon as I open the double doors to the parking lot and come out under the Cardinals sign.  Tommy’s coming out the doors of the Science wing, waving me over towards his car which he’s left parked close to the entrance of the school for events like this.  His eyes are wide behind his glasses.  Behind him, the sky’s darker now, lower…greener?

We’ve got to go before it gets here and I—

“Allie.”  Tommy snatches his keys out of his pockets.  He looks from me to the sky.  “Wow, what a crappy time for this to happen.”

He unlocks the doors of his old Corolla and we climb in.  He starts the motor and checks both ways for the truant cop that usually patrols the parking lots while school’s in session.  He’s gone, thankfully.  There’s not much point to patrolling so close to the end of the school day.  The only movement is of some guy running towards his car by the football field.

“Clear,” I say, unable to hide the tension in my voice.  If I transform right here at school–

We’re off.  “Hold on, Allie.  I hate this place, but not that much.”

“Tommy, thanks,” I say, giving him a peck on the cheek.  “This is way better than having to call my mom and have her bail me out.”

“No problem.  It got me out of Lit.  Wow, I hate Mrs. Trollface.  Um, I mean Mrs. Trollis.”

I laugh, even though I feel far from doing that.  The line of storms loom closer.  My body tingles.  Yeah, I’m definitely facing a transformation with this storm.  Out of the dozen or so other new Outbreakers that now inhabit Williams Town, I’m one of the ones the storm drew out of the lotto.  Lucky me.

“State park?” Tommy asks.

He turns and we’re driving through downtown.  It’s all repaired now except for a blue tarp that’s still on top of Robins Ice Cream Shoppe.  I really don’t want to undo it all.

“Yeah,” I say.  “State park.  Away from the campsites.”

Tommy does a fake salute.  “Sure thing.”

He’s shaking.  We’re both trying to avoid talking about what’s about to happen.  Tommy stares straight ahead at the road like he’s trying to vanish into the horizon.  The engine whines higher and higher.  He’s picking up as much speed as he can.

“Did you get in trouble?” I ask.  “You know—for ducking class?”

“I’m sure I did.  But it’s no big deal.”

“I’m sorry.”  I really need to get my own car.  My own license.  I’m going to get Tommy in trouble every time a storm comes in during the school day.

“Allie, stop apologizing.  I totally offered to do this for you.”  He’s trying, but he can’t hide the fatigue in his voice.  It makes my insides curl in a way that has nothing to do with the coming storm.

Tommy merges onto the expressway, almost cutting off a semi truck.  We’re leaving school behind, where Mr. Lance is looking at the clock right now and filling out my detention slip for tomorrow.  He’s also marking down my test as a zero if he’s mad enough and if I’m lucky, twenty percent.

But that’s better than maiming or killing all my classmates.

Tommy gets in the fast lane and leans forward in his seat like he’s driving in the Indianapolis 500.  “Man, Allie.  What if someone else at that school’s still there because they don’t know they’re a new Outbreaker yet?  I just thought of that.”

I had, too.  Madeline turned sixteen people in my town on the fourth of July.  Had she broken out of jail yet?  If she had, she and the Deathwind might have claimed even more victims.

My throat’s so dry that my teeth hurt.  “There might be a couple of people.  Oh, crap, Tommy.  Maybe we should go back and–”

“Too late.”  He looks in the rearview mirror and clicks on his turn signal, swinging over into the right lane.  A car zooms past us, doing at least ninety.  Tommy punches the gas like he’s trying to catch up.  We’ve got a few miles before we get up to the state park.  “Madeline said that not everyone would transform during a storm if there’s too many Outbreakers around, didn’t she?  Sixteen people’s too many.  So maybe nothing will even happen back there.”

“I hope.”  That’s all I can do.  I look out the window.  I’m going light.  Turning to nothing but air inside.  My head’s about to float away like a little kid’s lost balloon into the storm above.  I grip the handle of the car door and squeeze, anchoring myself against what’s to come.

Yeah.  I’ve got minutes left before I turn.

“Tommy?  Hurry.  Or Mrs. Trollis is going to be the least of your problems.”

“I am.”  He cranks down his window and wind blasts in.  “Roll yours down.  In case you, you know.”

I do.

If he doesn’t hurry—

If we don’t get to the park in time—

“I mean it, Tommy.  Lots faster!”

We pass the sign for the exit.  We’ve been on the road for fifteen minutes.  My being growls again, so loud this time that I’m sure Tommy can hear it.  God.  We’re not going to make it.  I can’t hold it back.  I’m going to—

Tommy swings the car off the freeway and up the exit ramp, missing the speeding guy’s hood by inches.  He struggles to keep the car under control.

I slam into the door.  “Now’s not the time to go off the road!”

“You told me to go faster,” he breathes.  We stop at the blinking red.  Beyond it is a few houses and past that, the safety of the forest.  The car ahead of us turns in the direction that we need to go.  “Great.”  Tommy follows.  “We don’t need company.”

“I know we don’t.”  Thunder rolls.  The sky’s an angry dark gray and the world’s in shadow.  “Pass him.”

“That’s what I’m doing.”  Tommy turns on his turn signal, checks behind him, and swings his car around the guy that’s practically drag racing with us.  The entrance to the state park peeks out from behind a clump of pine trees.  He clicks on his signal again and turns into the dirt drive.  The trees block out the storm clouds above, making it even darker.

The roar erupts in my head again.  I’m going to fly away.

I can’t wait any longer.

“Tommy…stop the car!”

He does.

I throw open the door.

And then, impact.

Tommy’s car lurches forward.  I fall to the ground.  He shouts my name.  My vision snaps to white and I’m heavy and solid again.  I scrape gravel and dirt.  Tommy’s wheels lurch past me.

There’s another car with its nose in the Corolla’s rear end.

The same one we just passed.  Then I see the guy inside.

It’s Coach Langer.

One of the victims that Madeline turned that night.

I push myself off the ground.  Coach Langer opens his door and climbs out of this car.  He knows what he is.  It’s clear from his wide eyes.  The way he looks at the storm and not at us.  From the way he trembles as if the growing wind around us is shaking him at the core.  He’s come to the state park for the same reason that I have.

Then he stares right at us.

“You two!” he shouts, backing away and holding up his hands.  “Run away from me.  We’ll deal with this later.”

Tommy’s out of his car.  He glances at the sky, too, and at both of us standing there, staring at each other.

My being growls again.

“Tommy, go for the entrance,” I yell.

He runs.  Blows past me and huffs up the drive towards the main road.

I’m running the opposite way.  Coach Langer crashes through the trees, getting away.  Underbrush crashes.  I barrel through branches and leaves.  They grab at me, trying to slow me down, trying to push me back to Tommy.  I can still hear him running.  Can still hear him trying to save his life.

Thunder cracks and rain pours down.  The sky lights, making shadow hands that blur and wave.

I’m flying.  I can’t feel my feet hitting the ground.  I’m a gliding phantom in the dark forest.

Tommy—

No—

“No!”

I grit my teeth so hard that the pain makes me solid again.  My feet pound the ground.  The trees slap at me and hurt, but I keep going, focusing on the pain, feeling the cold of the rain that beats on my skin and blows into my eyes.  Tommy’s gone.  So is Coach Langer.  They’re in the woods too, in their own hells.

I’m holding it back.  For the first time ever, I’m holding it back.

The rain parts and a fallen tree blocks my way.  And another.  And another.  There’s a path cleaved right through the forest like a house-sized bowling ball has smashed through for miles.  The fallen trees’ leaves are wrinkled and wilted from weeks away from the dirt.  Above it the storm drops lower, expecting me.

I stop.

This is where my last transformation broke loose.

I’m dizzy.  I fall to the mud and the leaves.  Shrubs embrace me.  I’m past feeling them.  I’m past fighting.  It’s time.  I can’t fight anymore.

I leave the ground.

I’m wind.  Storm.  Drifting away.  Getting sucked up towards the twisting maw of the clouds.  The ground tilts and turns, falling farther away.  The trees turn to shrubs.  The—

Someone stands right where I fell, hand on the first tree’s snapped trunk.  It’s a woman in dirty jeans and a gray sweater.  She looks right up at me, hair snapping back in the wind.

It’s Madeline.

The one who turned me into this.

But I’m past shouting anything.  Past caring.  The rain closes in, blocking her from view.  I whip away, higher and higher, and enter another life.

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