Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Teaser Tuesday -- THE TRASHLINGS

This excerpt is from my new manuscript THE TRASHLINGS. Our hero, Reese Knightling, stumbled upon a strange bluish creature the night prior, a grunting, snorting thing that looked and sounded a lot like a--pig.

BTW: I just put up my website for this book, if you want to take a quick peek!

xoxo -- Hilary

"C'mon, lazy bones, time to get up!" called Reese's father from the other side of the door. "I'm making my world renowned pancakes in honor of our first breakfast in the new house, so get a move on! You start your new school tomorrow kiddo, so we need to get unpacked today."

Joseph Knightling sent his son to bed last night, hoping a good night's sleep would cure him from his visions of imaginary blue swine in junkyards.

Reese insisted what he saw, or at least what he thought he saw was real, but by the time his father calmed him down, even he thought maybe his mind was playing tricks on him. What if the flash of bright lights had skewed his vision, changing the beast's color to a blotchy blue, making an oversized raccoon or possum, shriek away in a panic? The vast woods of Funks Grove were teeming with wildlife. It could have been anything.

For now, Reese decided he'd forget about his otherworld encounter. Today he'd get his computer set up and email his friends about their new house. He decided he'd leave out the part about the technicolor pig. He didn’t want it to get around his old school that he’d already gone nutty, confined one night in the backwoods town.

He climbed out of bed and went to his window. He sat on the sill and looked down at the hazy yard, still weighed down with fog. It looked different in the daylight, faintly benign. He saw the boat--the one the pig thing disappeared into last night. He looked for the tire it left behind. It had vanished.


Reese joined his father and sister at the kitchen table.

"There he is," said Reese's father cheerily. He plopped a heavy plate of pancakes in front of him. "I gave you a tall stack, since you didn't have dinner last night. You must be starving."

Famished, Reese drained his orange juice in three noisy swigs and assaulted his pancakes, cramming his mouth with an oversized bite.

Smiling slyly, Darby eyed Reese as he ravenously stuffed his mouth. "Dad, could you please tell Reese not to eat like such a...pig?" she asked.

Joseph warned his daughter. "Darby Knightling, that's enough."

"How does she know?" Reese looked at his dad, hurt. "You told her?"

Darby cut in before her father could answer. "Dad didn't have to tell me anything. I could hear you all the way down the hall last night, freaking out about your blue pig. Speaking of pigs, could you please pass the bacon?" She giggled, delighted at her own cleverness.

Holding up the plate of bacon, Reese looked ready to hurl it at her. "Whatever I saw out there exists! I didn't imagine it! What would you know anyway? You still sleep with a nightlight, hugging your stupid plastic horses!"

Joseph slammed his fist on the table, rattling his plate. "Now, that's enough!" he shouted. "Darby, your behavior is completely uncalled for. Reese, put that plate down--now! I wanted us to have a nice breakfast, not a wrestling match. Darby, apologize to your brother!"

Clenching her chin stiffly, Darby sulked for a moment, but begrudgingly obeyed her father. She looked directly at Reese, hoping he might actually listen to her for once. "I'm sorry," she said softly. "I'm just tired of you pouting all the time. I like it here and I want you to like it too." She smiled weakly. "Mom would have liked it."

Joseph hadn't yelled like that in a long time. Reese knew he'd been impossible the last few weeks. He deserved his sister's teasing, acting like a spoiled brat to her and everyone else. He smiled back at her. "You're right, she would have."

Joseph looked fondly at his children, thankful to see the two agree on something. "That's better, and you're both right, your mother would have loved this place. She had wanted to get away from the city for years. I'm sure she's happy that we're here." He got up from the table with his mug of coffee. "Now, I need to start unpacking. You two clean up the dishes, alright?"

"C'mon dad," said Reese. "I thought you wanted to clean up as part of our first breakfast celebration."

Joseph chuckled. "Good try son. Do you see pigs flying now too?" Even he had to throw in a pig joke.

Grabbing his glass and plate, Reese headed towards the sink. He peered out the kitchen window. Thick October clouds loomed over the junkyard. "Not yet," he replied.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

My Shiny New Editor--Julie Amper of Holiday House!

So, I spoke with my editor from Holiday House, Julie Amper, for the first time today! I was a little nervous, not knowing what to expect, but she immediately put me at ease. We had a fantastic talk and all her suggestions for NIGHTSHADE CITY I totally agree with. I'm so excited to start editing. Looks like we will have a release date of Fall 2010. My rats will finally cut loose during Halloween, yay, perfect timing for the little buggers, nice and creepy!

Speaking of creepy, I'm over half way through with Edwin Copperpot, my YA novel about the dead, and now I'm deciding where I'm going to take the ending. My friend suggested I throw some flesh eating zombies in, since they are the current fad, but they move too slow, the novel would be 500 pages long! Anyway, zombies just aren't my bag, too sluggish and the dialogue would just be a bunch of moans and groans and "I wanna eat your brains" nonsense...my dead folk have far more character than that, they're funny too! See for yourself! http://www.nightshadecity.com/EdwinExcerpt.html

So, lesson learned: Don't be scared of your new editor, flesh eating zombies yes, editors no!

xoxo -- Hilary

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Teaser Tuesday -- THE TRASHLINGS

This is from my new manuscript, THE TRASHLINGS, already in the hands of a few editors. It's a middle-grade fantasy. Our hero, Reese Knightling, is investigating the junkyard, where he had an eerie encounter with the pig creature, just the night before...

xoxo -- Hilary

It was going on two o'clock. Since most of their things were in a Chicago storage unit, Reese didn't have much unpacking to do. His dad sat in the family room, doing the bills on his laptop, while Darby busied herself in her room, arranging her massive collection of stuffed animals and plastic horses.

Reese grabbed his coat and quietly headed outside. The incessant fog webbed through the yard, its spidery plumes ferreting their way into every piece of wreckage, knitting them strangely together. Its vapors blanching the whole lot the color of bone. An ideal setting, thought Reese, surveying the metal cemetery of vehicles--perfect for Halloween, barely two weeks away.

A few yards to the right of the house, stood a rickety staircase leading down to the junkyard. He walked down the stairs and stood on the ground. He felt odd standing in the junkyard after what happened, but not scared anymore, at least not in the light of day.

He walked over to the old car where the pig thing had been last night. He stuck his head in through the missing door. The car looked as if it had been gutted. The dashboard demolished, smashed to a fine powder. The front seats flattened, presumably by the weight of whatever had bounced all over the inside. The upholstery was now missing, as if the seats had been skinned alive. The same rancid goo that the creature left on Reese's hand coated the bulk of the car's interior. He recoiled as the gummy balm's aroma hit his nostrils.

The scent reminded Reese of his dad's Chinese cooking fiasco, wherein he managed to ignite an entire frying pan of oil, nearly burning down their Chicago brownstone. The house stank for weeks. "At least he sticks with pancakes now," said Reese. He pulled his head back outside and took a deep breath, escaping the heady odor.

He turned in a circle, surveying the entirety of the expansive yard. His father was right. There was a lot to explore. There were cars, appliances and random junk dating back to the fifties or earlier for all he knew, a story behind every item. He maneuvered through the mountains of scrap. The lower the scrap, the older it was, eras on top of eras.

His eyes caught sight of an odd van. Not odd for any other reason, other than oddly out of place. Like the rest of the vehicles in the yard, it donned extensive damage, its innards torn out, dents galore, and all four tires missing. It had all the earmarks necessary for labeling it scrap, but with one distinction. It looked brand new. The blue paintjob shined in perfect condition, no rust or corrosion to speak of. Clearly modern, it couldn't have been more than a year or two old.

Reese examined the driver's side. A yellow logo covered the door, along with a company name, Langley Geophysical Services. Reese opened the door, revealing a barren shell. At first Reese thought maybe car thieves had stolen it and stripped it for parts. That happened in the city, so why not here? Upon closer inspection, he quickly changed his mind. Deep gashes trailed down the van's naked floor, some cut clean through, revealing the ground below. Reese couldn't figure out what type of equipment could slice metal like that. The jagged gouges looked more like claw marks than something manmade.

Reese reached for a piece of paper stuck under the driver's seat. It appeared to be some kind of Langley work order, dated only a few months back, in August. It gave the junkyard's address and listed its purpose as GPR services. Reese's brow creased, none of this made sense. Why would this van, purposely sent to the junkyard, suddenly end up as its scrap? What had gone on here?

The wind hissed, whipping madly through smashed car windows and hubcaps. Reese climbed into the van for warmth. He sat in the driver's seat, the only seat left. He spied something colorful sticking out from under the brake pedal. It was a clump of hair, thick and wiry like steel wool, a purplish color. It looked phony, like the kind on his sister's stuffed animals. Strange gold flecks stippled each individual hair. The tuft had a metallic smell intermingled with some kind of animal stench, like a rusty tin can jumbled with the ape house at the Chicago zoo. "Gross," said Reese. He shoved the Langley work order and the clump of hair into his pocket. In spite of its offensive smell, the purple tuft demanded a second look. He would check it out later. Right now, he had one more stop to make.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

It’s official!! NIGHTSHADE CITY to be published by Holiday House Books!

Finally, I can give my news! NIGHTSHADE CITY, my first manuscript, has been sold to Holiday House Books! I'm so excited to be a part of this house! They've been in the business of children's literature since 1935! Julie Amper, who I've heard loads of great things about, will be my editor and I can't wait to get started!

I want to give a special thanks to my agent, Marietta Zacker. She has been instrumental in making this happen. She is not just an agent, but my biggest supporter and a real friend (and shrink too)!! So many, many thanks Marietta! I'd also like to thank Nancy Gallt, who stood behind my work and of course Craig Virden. If he had not taken a chance on my work, none of this would have been possible. I've said this before, I will forever regret never being able to meet him. Someday, though...

Thanks to everyone involved and a huge thank you to my husband, Eric, who read this manuscript about 20 odd times and was my free freelance editor! He listened to me talk about it endlessly (more like whine) and still stayed married to me!! Now that's a great man!!

xoxo -- Hilary

Friday, August 7, 2009

My First Official Interview or Are You Sure You Want to Interview ME??

So, on Thursday of next week, I will be having my first official interview with a graduate student from Northwestern University's prestigious Medill School of Journalism in Chicago. We will be talking about how I fell into writing (almost literally) and how my artistic vision transfers to writing. Uhhh...good question! After all, I did manage to get a degree in painting and art history and now I'm writing about rats and dead people. Wha? Exactly! How did that happen??

I can't speak of non-fiction writers, but there are a plethora of us fiction guys and gals who write and do some form of visual art as well. I think they go hand in hand, creative writing and visual art--Author & Illustrator. Whether it's on paper (or your laptop these days) or on canvas or mashed into clay. It's that spark, you know? That thing that drives us to keep going and keep making and molding and of course creating bold new ideas.

Enough said! I'm excited about this interview! I thought, you want to interview me? Huh? Are you sure you have the right person? I tried to talk her out of it, but she insisted she had the right Hilary Wagner! Ha, ha! So, I'm meeting my lovely interviewer on Thursday at Starbucks and hoping I don't put her to sleep in her latte. That could be rather messy and dangerously hot. Hopefully she'll go for an iced coffee! ;)

I'll let you know how it goes! BTW: Happy Friday!!

P.S. I have big news, but per my wise agent can't say what it is yet!! ACK!!

xoxo -- Hilary

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

New Teaser from NIGHTSHADE CITY - Billycan

A few people have been asking for a bit more of NIGHTSHADE CITY, so here it is! This is a favorite excerpt of mine, all about Billycan, the most depraved rat in all of the Catacombs. In other words, not a nice guy! It's hard to believe some day this angry fellow will be in print. Yikes! All comments welcome!

xoxo -- Hilary

Billycan ambled down the corridor of Sector 337 with a deviant leer. He had come to collect the Ministry Stipend. His red eyes flashed against the flickering torch light, making his appearance more maniacal than usual. Parading down the corridor, he swung his beloved billy club, as he yelled raucously for the High Ministry's weekly Stipend.

The towering, snow white rat had the vexing habit of sporadically speaking in the third person in a grating, irregular tone. "Billycan thinks you should be more generous to your Ministry. Don't try my patience, Billycan wants the Stipend paid now!"

Billycan held the dual title of High Collector of Stipend and Commander of the Kill Army, dangerously clever and wicked to his very core; the white rat served his Ministry well. Catacomb citizens were hard pressed to find something about the albino rat that didn't strike them as unsettling. Especially sadistic, his depravity outreached even the most evil of creatures. His callous persecution of Catacomb rats harmonized with his cold, colorless exterior.

Citizens claimed Billycan to be possessed, supernatural--just not right. The old ones maintained he once drove a rat to stab himself, possessing him with his eyes. The rat lived through the ordeal, to this day claiming Billycan's eyes glowed like galvanized rubies, two glass bulbs filled with a red vapory substance, commanding the citizen to take his useless life.

The few rats that had dared to challenge the High Collector were either deceased or missing their tongues, a favorite among the appendages he enjoyed extracting. He had a raised, black scar running across his face, as a result of one such challenge during the Bloody Coup. The thick gash trailed from the corner of his left eye, over his long snout, finally tapering off at the opposing corner of his mouth. His opponent met a gristly fate. The Trilok Loyalist had briefly gotten the upper hand over Billycan, but not for long. Left bleeding out in the corridor, the fearless rat lay dying, one eye splattered against the corridor's dirt wall.

Rumors circulated through the Combs regarding Billycan's damaged brain. Everyone knew he served as a lab-rat at the Top Sider pharmaceutical company, the infamous Prince Laboratories. He alone survived the torturous experiments. No other white rats existed in the Catacombs or all of Trillium for that matter. Since his liberation from the lab, he'd never seen another of his kind, nor did the rats of the Catacomb's every produce one. Excluding Billycan, the albinos were gone forever.

A favorite topic, the citizens often debated as to what made Billycan so wicked. Some insisted the drugs given to him at the Top Sider lab had eaten away part of his brain, leaving only the corrupt portions intact. Others believed he was a demon rat, sent from the pit fires of the underworld, while others argued the eerie white was nothing more than a bad egg, plain and simple. Years of inbreeding, forced on the rats by the lab personnel, combined with the mind altering injections were most likely the culprits, but gossip propagated throughout the Combs.

The Top Siders' testing had caused Billycan's spine to grow coiled and elongated, obliging his neck and angled jaw to jut out far in front of his body. His milky coat disbanded at the base of his extended tail, which trailed behind him like a hairless garden snake, revealing his pale skin, a powdery, encrusted white, more reptilian than vermin.

The drugs from the lab cursed him with a nagging and insatiable hunger, still unappeasable no matter how much he gorged and gobbled. Forever eating, Billycan could not keep weight on his considerable bones, giving him a lean, cadaverous manifestation, like a farmer's scarecrow half stuffed.

Stipends were collected weekly. Eleven years back, Killdeer proclaimed each citizen must produce one Stipend a week, a tariff for enjoying the sanctuary of the Catacombs. Stipend consisted of items useable to the Ministry, such as food, weapons and tools. Food had to be edible. Attempting to disguise compost as Stipend incurred a fatal consequence. Once, a desperate rat tried to palm off a rotting pear as Stipend. As sentence, Billycan chained her to a post in the center of Catacomb Hall, leaving the rat to die of hunger for all citizens to see. Still a youth, the girl's parents wailed in misery as their daughter took in her final breath.

"Stipends for Killdeer!" shouted Billycan. "Stipends for Killdeer! Everyone to their doors, quickly, quickly, do not test Billycan's patience." With a piercing pitch, his voiced blasted through the corridors. "Billycan's time will not be wasted. Have them ready. Billycan does not like to wait--no, no, no!" The Collector sauntered down the corridor, followed by three hulking lieutenants and his Kill Army assistant, Senior Lieutenant Carn, all four pushing rusty wheelbarrows in a single file line.

Billycan walked with his hollow chest pushed out like an underfed rooster. He wore a crimson and navy blue sash, Kill Army colors, made specifically for his lanky frame by the High Mistress of the Robes. As he strolled, he swung his billy club from side to side, banging it on Catacomb doors, and scratching it against their flimsy planking with an uncanny resonance. Citizens knew the Stipend routine. Don't speak unless spoken to, have all items ready and above all things, don't look the High Collector in the eyes.