We’re so pleased to have author Hayden Thorne dropping in today to celebrate the re-release of her Teen Fantasy Helleville. She’s sharing an exclusive excerpt from the book and is also offering up the chance for three readers to win an eCopy of the book, so be sure to check out the Rafflecopter widget for entry details.
About the Book
All fifteen-year-old Noah Hipwell wants is to go through high school in peace. Yet he finds himself suspended after a bully pushes him too far, and Noah’s forced to defend himself. His mother, fed up with the school’s indifference to his plight, pulls him out completely and leaves Noah uncertain of his future while they look for a good and safe school for him.
All Dorothy “Dot” Hipwell wants is to go through single motherhood in peace. Yet she and her son are harassed by weekly phone calls from her evangelical family hell-bent on guilt-tripping them both back into the fold. Then Noah’s grandparents ask strange questions about their old van after dropping cryptic references to a group called The Soul Warriors. Pushed to her limits, Dot takes Noah away for a much-needed getaway, only to find themselves suddenly transported to an alternate world, where a town called Helleville awaits them and all other condemned souls.
Along with warm-blooded, living human beings, the Hipwells rub shoulders with zombies, vampires, house ghosts, and occasional “green vomit piles” while picking up the pieces and sorting out what could very well be an eternity in a bizarre, fanciful, and humorous world of ghouls and banned books.
When residents suddenly disappear one by one with no trace and for no logical reason, however, doubts being “housed” in an alternate world for their sins are raised, and time suddenly becomes of the essence as Noah and the rest of Helleville’s condemned race to find answers to what’s quickly turning into a dangerous puzzle.
Buy the Book: Amazon & Other Online Booksellers
From Chapter 8
Noah checked his watch the moment he awoke from his nap, and he saw that it was only one o’clock. He sighed as he dropped his arm back and stared at the ceiling, taking note of the dark wood and the absence of light fixtures anywhere. His bedroom had a couple of old gas lamps, one on his nightstand and the other on a writing desk. Noah chuckled at the thought that he actually had his own old-fashioned writing desk, which he could probably stock with books, now that he was completely deprived of an online connection.
“I hope this place has a bookstore that offers more than just banned books,” he muttered as he sat up and knuckled away the rest of his nap from his eyes. Mr. Jennings’ claims of the sudden appearance of books outside those that the Soul Warriors considered to be demonic filtered through the fading haze in his mind. Noah frowned as he thought about this as well as the strange fact that the human residents of Helleville appeared to be well cared for despite the Soul Warriors’ purpose of terrorizing everyone into virtuous living.
“That’s kind of weird,” he said. “Then again, maybe that’s part of the deal with those families who sold us off—daily maintenance here to make sure that we survive in case we decide to go back. Or if we decide to stay.” He snorted. “Shouldn’t bitch about that, I guess.” For the moment, anyway.
Feeling another wave of fresh, warm air blowing through his window, Noah slid out of bed and walked over to one of his bedroom windows and looked out. His bedroom faced the mountains, and he let himself go as he gazed at the rugged peaks in wonder, suddenly feeling so small and inconsequential against the forces of Nature, whether or not they were in an alternate world. The Soul Warriors might mess around with everyone’s heads by conjuring up creatures from superstition and legend, but there was no way they could subvert Nature, and Noah felt a thrill of triumph as he absorbed Nature’s dominance over human cruelty.
He took a shower in his old-fashioned claw foot tub and charged downstairs refreshed and ready to take on whatever was left of his day. His mother wasn’t anywhere downstairs, so he prepared a quick snack of hot tea and a pastry, which he brought outside.
“Hi, Sadie,” he said as he stood in front of the open front door, tea in one hand, pastry in the other. It was still a bit of a shock seeing a dead woman in probably Victorian clothes hanging by her neck on the porch, but at least the jolt was a good deal less than before. Noah was slowly getting used to this; apparently it wasn’t going to take him forever.
“Hello, Noah Hipwell. Had a good nap?”
“I did, thanks.” Noah walked over to a wooden bench that stood against the wall next to the front door. It was pretty close to where Sadie hung, and he sat down. “Are you stuck there forever?” he asked after staring hard at the rope she dangled from.
“By and large, yes, but I can get off if you prefer me to move around.”
“I’d actually prefer that, thank you. I’m not used to having a dead body hanging like that—let alone having a friendly conversation with it.”
“No problem at all.” Sadie raised her head and lifted both hands to struggle with the noose. Considering how much weight she was putting on the knot, she appeared to have superhuman (supernatural?) strength, pulling at the noose till it was large enough to escape from. It didn’t take long for her to loosen it and slip her head through. When she fell and landed on the porch, she didn’t even make a single sound.
“Thank you. I must admit spending my time like that can be pretty tedious after a while. It’s nice to walk around sometimes,” she said, brushing her gown with deathly gray hands before tidying up her hair. Her voice was still hoarse from the rope, and Noah figured that she was probably doomed to sound as though she suffered from a perpetual bout of sore throat. Her complexion remained dead, and her sunken, shadowed eyes still gave off a muted light. In all other matters, however, she seemed as alive as Noah.
She sat down beside Noah and bent her head left and right. The sound of cracking joints or whatnot followed. Noah couldn’t help but grimace as he watched her, snack momentarily forgotten.
“Does your neck hurt?” he asked.
“No, not really. It feels a bit stiff, but that comes with the territory.” With a few dainty flicks of her wrists, Sadie straightened out her gown before clasping her hands demurely on her lap. She even sighed as she looked out at the expansive scene before them.
Noah shook his head as he took a bite of his pastry, unable to tear his eyes off the dead woman beside him. Totally bizarre, he thought. If we had an online connection, I’d be blogging about this.
“Do you, um, have a story or something?” he asked. When Sadie turned to regard him with a ghostly but questioning look, he added, “I mean, you know, the reason why you hanged yourself? Unless someone else hanged you, that is.”
Sadie thought for a moment, pursing her gray lips. Then she shrugged. “No story. I was just made this way.” She tilted her head a little and narrowed her eyes. “How about you? What’s your story?”
“Oh—Mom and I are condemned to go to Hell or Helleville because I’m gay, and she’s not married and is totally not religious. Pretty simple. Stupid, but simple. Then again, that’s really how my grandparents see life. It’s either one way or another—their way, which is the good way, and other people’s way, which is bad and reason enough to dump family members in the middle of a creepy-ass town like this.”
“You sound pretty bitter.”
“I am. They’ve been hounding us forever, you know.”
“Maybe it’s a good thing to be here for a while. At least you’ll be away from them.”
Noah sighed, sipping his tea. He looked at his tea cup and saucer set, mildly amused by the fact that the cup was one of those fragile, ornate, froufrou types, and the saucer was plain and thick. He found the combination to be oddly fitting.
“I guess. We’ll see what happens,” he said after a moment’s silence. “By the way, are you pretty much stuck out here, or are you going to be haunting our house indoors?”
“Well, I’m bound to this house—that’s how ghosts work, you know—which means that I’ll be making appearances here and there indoors.”
Noah mulled that over. “Can you make exceptions? Like I’d rather not have you in my bedroom and my bathroom. I mean, they’re private and kind of like my escape, know what I mean?”
“Sure. I’ll restrict my presence to the downstairs area. Maybe the stairs. Will my haunting the stairs be a problem?”
“Um—I think so. Mom might not like it. Downstairs will be fine, though.”
“And the porch and surrounding land. If you decide to grow a garden, that’ll be haunted, too.”
“Whatever lifts your skirts up.”
Sadie nodded, turning around and looking back at the meadow around them. “It’s good to be alive, don’t you agree?”
About the Author
I’ve lived most of my life in the San Francisco Bay Area though I wasn’t born there (or, indeed, the USA). I’m married with no kids and three cats and am a cycling nut. I started off as a writer of young adult fiction, specializing in contemporary fantasy, historical fantasy, and historical genres. My books ranged from a superhero fantasy series to reworked and original folktales to Victorian ghost fiction. I’ve since expanded to New Adult fiction, which reflects similar themes as my YA books and varies considerably in terms of romantic and sexual content. While I’ve published with a small press in the past, I now self-publish my books.
Connect with Hayden: Twitter