Ever since Fangirlish was privileged to host Eva Darrows’ cover reveal for THE AWESOME, we have eagerly been waiting to share more! This book is packed with the fun, horror and snark necessary to make us even more delighted with the announcement that there will be an all-female Ghostbusters film.
And with Friday the 13th being a thing this month and next, a little extra event planning should happen, don’t you think?! Especially when Eva Darrows in the guise of Hillary Monahan will be appearing on amazing panels at Boskone52.
Waaaaaaay below is her schedule for the event, but first have we got the goods for you — an EXCLUSIVE look at the first chapter of The Awesome and an inside perspective on all of Eva’s favorites. We all fangirl something here after all!
Favorite dessert: Oreo Cookie Ice Cream or my mum’s apple pie.
Favorite superhero: Mystique. The trouble I’d get in with shapeshifting, man.
Favorite time of day: Late at night when normal people are asleep.
Favorite article of clothing: YOGA PANTS FOREVER.
Favorite book: Oh, this is tough. Probably MEMOIRS OF A GEISHA?
Favorite fictional father: Atticus Finch.
Favorite fictional mother: Is it wrong to say Janice in THE AWESOME? I based her on my mother.
Favorite fictional sibling relationship: George and Shaun, FEED
If I could have any job… I have it. I get to play with imaginary friends for money.
If I were a vegetable… Brussel Sprouts. I’m an acquired taste.
If I could have any superpower… Oops. Answered this already. SOZ.
Weakness: Furry things. I’d weaken in the face of baby animals.
Special Ability: I really wish I knew how to ice skate. Every attempt to teach me has only proven that my feet are unruly.
CHAPTER ONE ~ FIRST LOOK:
I am not the asskicker people think of when they hear ‘monster hunter,’ but more on that later.
My name is Margaret Cunningham, though I prefer to go by Maggie because Margaret makes me feel like I’m four hundred years old, and screw that, I’m only seventeen. Cunningham was my father’s name, or it was the name he used when he knocked up my mother. The hunting population identity shifts a lot, mostly to keep themselves off the radars of the very monsters they kill. In my dad’s case, he died on a werewolf gig before he could give Mom a real, actual name, so Cunningham I was and Cunningham I remain. Around grade school a few of the boys decided it’d be cute to call me Margaret Cunnilingus. Mom says she knew I was destined for hunting greatness when I beat them up at recess, all the while screaming, “Do you want some more?”
Those were the good old days, when life was full of your everyday assholes instead of ghoul, ghost, and golem assholes.
I’ve been around hunters my whole life, but my apprenticeship didn’t start until four years ago, when I was thirteen. Mom decided a poltergeist removal was a great way to break me in, so she took me to a job in scenic Cape Cod, Massachusetts. I remember the house clearly because it was the nicest place I’ve ever seen. It sat on the bluffs overlooking a picture-perfect private beach. There were three stories of French doors and floor-to-ceiling windows, and every room was packed with antique furniture. Matching his and her Jaguars sat in the driveway—hers was Barbie Corvette pink, and I seriously wanted to key the crap out of it, but Mom would have killed me if I’d touched it.
It was obvious Duffy and Muffy Moneybags were rich, and me and Mom showed up in a bunch of thrift shop dollar bin finds. Hunting is a dirty job; go into it expecting to get covered in something nasty. We headed up the steps, rang the doorbell, and Mrs. Moneybags opened up. She wore Ralph Lauren from head-to-toe, but there was so much ecto dripping from her clothes, it was hard to make out the stitched logo of the dude on the horse. I’ve seen ectoplasm clear and I’ve seen it black, and this lady had black all over her, like someone poured a vat of tar over her perfectly-dyed frosty locks.
“You’re from the agency?”
“We are. I’m Janice. This is my daughter, Margaret. She’s my apprentice and will be helping me with the job today.”
“Maggie,” I said to no one and everyone.
“Hello, welcome. We seem to have an angry gho . . . ”
She cut off because her husband came screaming around the corner, dripping with so much ecto he looked like a ghost had spooged on him. He hugged a huge blue vase to his chest, sobbed like an infant, and I was pretty sure I saw pee stains on the front of his pants.
“We have an angry ghost,” the woman finished.
My mother nodded and stepped inside. “If you’d be kind enough to vacate, we’ll take care of that for you.”
“Of course. Ronald! We need to go outside!”
Mr. Moneybags, who was apparently also called Ronald, shrieked by in the other direction, this time followed by a phantom blob that glowed a sickly yellow. I’d never seen a ghost in person before, but I was more than ready for it. Mom told me at the tender age of nine that the oogedy boogedy things were all real and Mommy’s job was to exterminate them. It was like killing bugs, only in her case, the bugs were nine feet tall and ate human flesh.
I wasn’t so much afraid of the spirit as I was fascinated by it. This was what Mom did, it was what my grandparents did, and if I wanted to carry on their completely insane legacy, it’s what I’d do, too. Some families had dentistry practices or drywall businesses. Our people hunted monsters and put ’em back in their appropriate crapholes.
“Ronald, honestly. You’re embarrassing me.”
Ronald’s answer was to squawk and barrel-ass past all of us to get to the driveway, still holding the vase like he wanted to make sweet love to it.
“Is the vase, like, his girlfriend or something?”
My mother jabbed me in the boob with her elbow, but not before Mrs. Moneypants cast me a withering look. “It’s seventeenth century pottery and the ghost won’t leave it alone. He’s afraid she’ll ruin it.”
I would have asked more questions, but the ghost chose that moment to rush us to get to Ronald. It was the first time I’d ever been run through, and let me tell you, you never forget having that particular cherry popped. It’s like someone shoving a snow cone down your throat and a popsicle up your butt at the same time. It’s hideous, the most invasive thing you can experience this side of the grave. It didn’t help that freezing cold ghost goop smeared me from head to toe; my hair was plastered to my scalp, my clothes hung heavy thanks to lumpy black jelly.
“Holy shit! Gross!”
“Maggie!” my mother snapped.
“Holy crap! Gross!”
Mom cocked her head to the side like getting ghost-molested ain’t no thang, watching Ronald run circles around his Jaguar. The ghost stayed in hot pursuit, hands extended and swiping as she hissed. A few times she darted through the car to lunge for him, smearing the glossy exterior and fine leather seats with more goo. I would have cheered if she’d gunked the pink one instead, but that would have scored me another maternal booby-whack, and no thanks, those hurt. “When did the haunting start?”
“Last night,” Mrs. Moneypants said, sloughing the freshest layer of ecto from her shoulder. “Around eight.”
“When did you get the vase?”
“Yesterday afternoon at auction.”
“So it’s a haunted item. I need the vase, Mrs. Richmond.”
“That vase is worth thirty thousand dollars.”
My mother forced a smile so bright, I thought sunshine would blast out her ass like a Care Bear Stare. “It’s a thirty thousand dollar haunted item. I can separate the ghost from it, but I need to handle it to do so.”
“We don’t have it insured yet.”
“Oh, well. That changes everything.” The sarcasm was palpable, and my mother grabbed my shoulders to face me toward the street. A not-too-gentle shove later and we walked away from the Richmonds and their pretty house. “Good luck with the ghost,” Mom called over her shoulder. “If it gets violent, throw salt at it. It’ll keep it off of you for a few minutes.”
We were nearly to the van before Mrs. Richmond came trotting after us, screeching for us to stop. Mom paused, her expression flat. “Yes?”
“We can’t live like this.”
“Oh, you can for a while. They don’t kill you immediately. Not until they’ve settled in and decided your house is theirs, anyway.”
Mrs. Richmond flinched. “You know what I mean. Please, come back.”
“I can handle the vase?”
“Yes, yes, fine. Be careful.”
*~* *~* *~* *~* *~*
An hour later my mother had laid two salt circles five feet apart from one another in the Richmonds’ living room. The left one had an incomplete top side; the right was fully sealed and half the size of the first. My mother stood between them, in arm’s reach of both, a sack of sea salt in hand. The Richmonds hid behind her, watching the poltergeist rearing at them from the hallway. A line of salt along the threshold kept the ghost at bay. She shrieked her fury, throwing a nutter-fit because she couldn’t get to her vase. When I asked Mom why she didn’t pass through the walls to get around the salt, she shrugged and said, “They’re not real bright.”
Good to know.
“I need you to put the vase in the incomplete first circle, Mr. Richmond,” Mom said. Ronald didn’t look happy about it. As soon as his hands were off the ceramic, he looked like he’d projectile hurl like The Exorcist chick on a bender. I retreated a couple feet to avoid heave-range.
“Good. The ghost is fixated on the item, not you, so she will go straight for it when we break the line at the door. You can stand in the second circle for safety if you want. Once she approaches the vase, I’ll complete the circle behind her to trap her. At that point, Mrs. Richmond will need to drop the sheet to block out the light.”
The windows in the room were covered by flattened moving boxes, the edges sealed off with Duck Tape. The aforementioned sheet was tacked above the door, ready to be dropped as soon as a strategically-placed strip of tape was removed. I was on salt-breaking duty and UV duty. I foisted the light to let my mother know I was ready. I’d read all about ghost banishments, and my mother had talked my ear off about them, but the actual doing was way more exciting than secondhand stories. I was so stoked my nipples were hard, like I’d smuggled raisins in my bra.
” . . . what if she hurts the vase?”
“Shut up, Ronald,” Mrs. Richmond snarled. “I’m not living with that thing any longer than necessary.”
“Stuff it, Missy.”
I coughed into my shoulder, fairly certain if I let out a full-throttle cackle my mother would whale me upside the head with the salt bag.
“All right, let’s do this. Margaret, the salt line please.” I glowered at her to let her know what I thought of her using my full name, and she winked at me, nodding towards the poltergeist. I approached the doorway, extending my leg as far as it would go. The moment my sneaker broke the line, the poltergeist raced past me. I barely got out of her way before she swirled around the vase, trilling and cooing like Gollum with his precious. My mother shook salt onto the floor behind her, but the ghost ignored her, too intent on the vase to notice. Mom double checked her circle then motioned at Mrs. Richmond.
“Let it down, please. Maggie, into the corner. Don’t turn on the light until I say.”
I put my back to the wall, waiting for the darkness. There was a fwoosh as the sheet dropped, and the room went black save for the yellowish glow of the ghost. Her spectral hands coursed over the vase, sometimes passing through it, sometimes going solid enough to rock it on its base. Whenever it teetered, Ronald whimpered, sounding a lot like he’d weep again.
What a nerd.
“All right. Go.”
I flicked the switch on the light and waited. The idea behind this particular ghost trap was simple: we recreated the light people saw when they died, giving the illusion of Heaven. Most ghosts were people who missed the afterlife boat the first time around because they were too busy picking their noses or sniffing their armpits to notice. Or, you know, had died so violently they were too freaked out to do anything other than flail. The UV light was bright enough and brilliant enough that it looked celestial in a dark room and, if the ghost believed it was the mighty hereafter, that was enough to shepherd them on. Mom said she’d gotten the ultimate pain of a ghost one time who refused to cross over because he liked being a turdburger to the people in ‘his’ house, but that was a rarity. Most spirits wanted peace; they just needed a few theater props to get there.
The poltergeist stopped caressing the vase to ogle the light, drawn like a bug to a zapper. Since she wasn’t writhing, spitting, or hosing anyone down with ecto, I got my first good look at her. She wore old-timey clothes, like maybe she came from the same era as the vase. If that was the case, maybe it had been her most prized possession when she was alive, or maybe it was in the room with her when she died.
I wasn’t given long to ponder it. The poltergeist drifted to the edge of her salt circle and smiled, her hand extending toward the light. She flared bright and expanded, brilliant like a star, and then she poofed from existence, her only remnant a cloud of acrid-smelling smoke.
*~* *~* *~* *~* *~*
Not to brag or anything, but it was a pretty fantastic way to start my illustrious spook-hunting career. The Richmonds had their vase back, I’d officially become an apprentice hunter, and Mom was five thousand dollars richer. Sadly, flawless victory didn’t stop Mom from getting on me like a fat kid on cake as soon as my butt hit the passenger’s side seat of the van.
“What’s the first thing I said to you before we left the house this morning?” She demanded, pulling out a pack of Nicorette and stuffing her cheeks until they bulged. I was pretty sure she wasn’t supposed to have four pieces at once, but Mom had been doing whatever the hell she pleased for as long as I could remember, so why would this be any different?
“That the van smelled like a dead dog’s bunghole.”
“Okay, point. What was the second thing I said to you?”
I rolled my eyes. “Don’t swear in front of the clients. Look, I’m sorry, but that was the grossest thing, like, ever. It came out before I could stop it.”
She popped Hendrix into the CD player, cranking it loud. The van’s wheels shredded rubber over the Richmond’s driveway. “I get it,” she said, shouting to be heard over the music. “It’s skeevy to be run through. But keep a lid on it next time. The only reason I’m not chewing out your ass is because they were a pair of douchecanoes, and I could give a damn what they think of us.”
“What’s a douchecanoe, Mommy?”
“Don’t know, but it has a ring to it, don’t you think?”
I had to admit, it sorta did.
Eva Darrows will be joining some other Fangirlish favorites (Melissa Marr, Lauren Roy, Carrie Vaughn, and Bruce Coville) on the panels as follows:
2/13 7 PM
ANGELS DEMONS AND SAINTS
Religion has always played a strong role in fantasy, and we’ve seen an influx of fiction that specifically features characters that have been touched by higher powers — especially in today’s urban fantasy. What role do these characters play within the story? How do we see these roles changing or morphing into something new? Why do we keep coming back to these types of characters? And what are some examples of stories that use these characters especially well?
2/13 9 PM
WRITING FOR TEENS VS ADULTS
With so much crossover, is there a difference anymore? And where does middle-grade fiction fit? Editors and authors discuss.
2/14 10 AM
KIDLIT: GREAT SPEC FIC FOR YOUNG READERS
There’s some pretty spectacular speculative fiction available for children these days. What’s behind the ongoing boom? Panelists talk causes and trends, while plugging their favorite authors and stories — including some that grownups could also learn to love.
2/14 2 PM
PG-13: VIOLENCE, SEX, AND TEEN READERS
When writing for teens or choosing books for young adults to read, is there a PG-13 line that needs to be drawn? Is there more violence and sex in YA books today? Or have we just become more aware of it? How does a writer address difficult or sensitive topics without going too far? Panelists discuss danger zones within YA fiction.
2/14 4 PM
Signing (Hillary Monahan)
2/15 11 AM
THE FAIRYTALE PRINCESS, CIRCA 2011
Before Disney appropriated Snow White, Jasmine, Aurora, and the rest of the “princess clique, ” these were characters who presumably served a deeper purpose in structuring the fables of bygone years. What parts do they play for today’s children? What meaning might these reminders of a fairytale feudal past still hold a hundred years from now?
2/15 1:30 PM
Hillary Monahan reading from her Eva Darrows title THE AWESOME and MARY: Unleashed.
So if you’re in the Boston area this Friday the 13th, you might want to consider booking it to the Boston Westin Waterfront. Boskone is bound to have hijinks and mischief galore with this crowd of rowdy authors attending! And what did you think of that chapter?! Pretty AWESOME, right?! ;)
The Awesome is expected to release to the public, May 26th of this year.