I would like to welcome you all to the third stop in Estevan Vega’s tour for Arson! I would like to thank Molly Edwards and Partners in Crime Tours for letting me be a part of this. I would also like to thank Estevan for writing such an insightful piece for my blog this week. I think we’re seeing an amazing change take place not only in the book publishing world but the book reviewing world. At the same time that we’re seeing the rise of self publishing, we’re seeing the rise of the book blogger too. It’s a very interesting time for us all to be doing what we do. I’m surprised every day as I see my blog grow in leaps and bounds. It’s exciting and scary at the same time and I’m sure that’s how many self published writers feel. Even the ones that were published with a big publishing house at one point and now went self published.
The Abandoned Legacy
By Estevan Vega, author of ARSON, ASHES, and the upcoming Sacred Sin
It continues to astound me how much the world is changing. Weather disasters destroying towns all over the country. Earthquakes ripping through Chile and Haiti. Tornadoes making us their bee-otch. Yet here we are. Human beings have survived what many might call the apocalypse.
But why, oh why, am I talking about the weather? I’m no meteorologist. I’m a writer. Quite simply, I bring it up because it is a wonder how similar the patterns of the world are to the patterns happening all around the book industry. Borders filing bankruptcy then intense liquidation. Independent bookstores closing up shop because they can’t pay the bills. A Website becoming a major contender in the realm of publishing and making the big houses shake in their boots. Unless you’ve been wearing blinders these last few years, you know things don’t exactly look like Kansas anymore.
I was doing a book signing last summer at a Borders store in Rhode Island for ARSON. The book sold very well, and the tour was a very successful one, even if it didn’t put a ton of cash in my pocket and resulted in the much devouring of Taco Bell at ungodly hours of the night. During the signing, though, I went to the bathroom. As I peeked into the handicap stall, I noticed a book without a cover. Obviously curious, I picked it up and glanced at the spine. It was Stephen King. If my memory serves me correctly, it was his novel The Dark Half. I remember just taking a step back and gasping my devoted Keanu Reeves impression with a one word, breathy “Whoa!” Something’s not right here. A Stephen King book…on the bathroom floor…abandoned…and without a cover? It seemed crazy.
But then I got to thinking, after a second Reeves impression, about it, and how it’s strange but makes sense. Books are like legacies. I guess that’s why many readers and writers call signing with Random House or Harper Collins Legacy Publishing, because there is this great mystery that by signing with a major house you will be remembered, and therefore, leave behind a legacy of words. After many years of trying to play ball in their arena, with some bites and ultimately deep, resounding nos, I’ve had a revelation: There is no difference between us and them. Us being the ones willing to fight out this industry storm either ourselves or with the help of indie publishers like StoneGate Ink, companies that are continuing to rock the boat, and them being the one ones who were fortunate (?) enough to get signed and offered a storm shelter, for a little while.
Ultimately, though, the storms do come, the rains fall, and the twisters show no mercy. If Stephen King, one of the most respected and wealthy writers around, could suffer the birth pains of lying face down on a dirty bathroom floor, maybe the hype behind legacy publishing is similar. Maybe you will be out there fending for yourself when the waters rise. Maybe you will be dropped from the contract before your trilogy completes because the big guns are desperate and can’t take the risk of you not selling. Maybe you will find it ever a challenge to market yourself in an industry pushing hard copy books to the max with little to no profits going to you, the writer, while brick and mortar stores limit your access to the audience you fought so hard to reach. And maybe, just maybe, you’ll find yourself discontented and abandoned on a bathroom floor.
The world is changing. The industry is changing, before our very eyes. The way data and information and fiction is being devoured and shared and marketed and sold is changing. The big shots in publishing and writing are being challenged for the first time as ebooks and cheaper-priced paperbacks fight the war on the frontlines. Social media is shaping the future and replacing billboard ads and the like. The future is being written as you’re reading this story about a writer trying to outlast these storms. What’s your story gonna read like? And are you ready for what’s coming?
Estevan Vega published his first book when he was fifteen, and his second followed shortly after. His fascination for the supernatural ignited a desire to write his third and most praised work to date, Arson. For those just joining, Ashes continues the turbulent story. Vega currently resides in Connecticut, where he is feverishly plotting the next chapter in the series. Get stoked.
Connect with Estevan:
Genre: Supernatural/YA/Coming of Age
Publisher: StoneGate Ink
Publication Date: May 2011
Synopsis: Arson Gable feels like a freak. He can create fire. he never asked for it. He never wanted it. But he can’t shut it off.
Before now, three things were true: he both loved and despised his grandmother; his life was going nowhere; and he was alone. But when a strange girl…who feels more normal behind a mask than inside her own skin-moves in next door, Arson hopes to find something he’s never had: purpose. Using what he fears most about himself, Arson must face his consuming past and confront the nightmare that is his present as he walks the fine line between boy and monster. Dark, moody, and breathtakingly relevant, Arson, the chilling chronicle of an isolated boy with unimaginable ability, is sure to ignite the hearts and minds of a new generation.
The lake was quiet.
A lazy fog hovered over the surface of the gray water, whispering in the wake of currents and steady ripples. The world seemed dead to Arson Gable, silent anyway. Like the calm before a storm.
Arson stepped off the porch onto the lawn; his mind was swimming. This was where he came most mornings while Grandma slept. He cut his gaze toward the lake, that black womb which rested beyond and beneath the rickety dock. It was as if the lake knew his name and his heartbeats, much like the streets and corners of this town knew his name, cold and faceless as they were. Whether he wanted to admit it, this place was home, and there was no going back.
A bright light burned in the sky, somewhere far enough for him to notice but close enough to nearly blind him. He breathed deeply and blinked, welcoming the dark rush of black behind his eyelids. From where he stood, he could see the towering oaks rooted deep in the ground. Their thick branches stretched upward into the clouds, some parts draping over the shady spots of the worn-out cabin. One final glance and he was reminded that these tortuous, beaten things seemed to swallow the world. Just thinking about them—how he’d watched them ruin—made him seem small, so worthless.
Arson made a fist and felt the heat swell in his grip. He wanted to run into the brush, to get lost deep in the small section of backwoods Grandma had forced him to avoid ever since they’d moved here. But he didn’t move.
This town seemed so close-knit and yet so separated. Less than a mile up the road were a country market, restaurants, and a bowling alley. There was even a liquor store, a cheap pharmacy, and some fast-food chains, and a few miles past that, a movie theater and a nightclub. But at the heart of this place was disunity, a fierce and futile fight to be known and accepted. Arson never understood why Grandpa had picked here to have the cabin built, right beside the lake.
As Arson slowly approached the dock, his mind returned to thoughts of Danny, the only childhood friend he’d ever had. Dim mornings somehow made each memory more real, hard to let go and even harder to erase. Was he always here, always watching? Odd how seven years could come and go without warning, as if the world blinked and somehow forgot to open its eyes again.
In all fairness, it had never been his grandparents’ intention to stay anywhere for too long, but it seemed East Hampton, Connecticut, had become a part of them now, a part of him. “One day we’ll be like the rest of them,” he recalled Grandpa saying—a man of ideals, empty dreams, and hopes Arson could never freely call his own.
Eventually, they had grown tired of running. This dull corner of the world seemed ordinary enough for them to believe starting over again as normal folks would be possible. “Forget what happened all those years ago in Cambridge,” Grandma said so many times that Arson imagined her screaming it to him while he slept. But it was always there—the memory—a splinter in the back of his mind. No going back. Ever.
Arson staggered across the dock, images of child play and stupid laughter pouring in all at once. Danny’s face stuck out the most, and behind that he glimpsed their old home in Cambridge and flashes of his first birthday. His mother wasn’t there, though, nor dear old Dad, but that day had been recounted to him only once by his grandfather, and it stuck.
Nevertheless, with every joyous memory, distilled regret was close behind. He sometimes imagined what it might be like to get thrown in jail by some nameless special agent and be forgotten, or to wake up and find strong hands squeezing the life out of him.
Arson was an unusual boy. A freak. He knew it. And he hated it. Whatever lingered inside his bones always left as quickly as it came, breathing out in short moments of fear or rage. Over the years, he’d asked to be examined to locate the source of his imperfection and if possible terminate it. After all, why did he sometimes wake up in the middle of the night with a fever? How come his sweat sizzled when it hit the ground? What was he?
Grandma always argued there wasn’t much point in talking to no-good doctors or even finding out answers to questions he was better off not asking in the first place. Some people were just born with demons, she’d say.
Arson swallowed hard and threw a stone into the water. The splash shattered his reflection, and ripples spread across the dark surface. He wondered why he was the way he was, wondered why those little girl’s parents quit looking all of a sudden, why the investigation against two stupid boys evaporated. Perhaps they didn’t care about retribution, or maybe they were just sick of chasing shadows.
I want to be free, Arson thought, nausea creeping up into his gut. While boats raced along the surface of the lake, Arson stared in awe. They vanished so easily, like mist gliding across the water and dissolving into nothingness. What if men could do the same? There was a man once, he’d heard, who walked upon water and didn’t sink. Maybe he could too. Maybe one day there would be those who believed in him.
Arson’s gaze moved over the lake, across to the other side, where Mandy Kimball lived, and her neighbor, his science teacher from the ninth grade. Then his eyes drew back to the ripples spread out before him, to the dying cabin behind him, as he spit. Beads of sweat streamed down his bony frame, his ash-brown hair trapped inside the gritty creases of his forehead. Arson listened for the lake’s soothing melody but couldn’t hear it. He focused instead on the sound his feet made atop the splintering dock, kind of like the way swings sounded in cheap horror flicks—empty, rocking back and forth to no melody at all. Closer to the edge he came, lingering.
With shut eyes, he stepped out onto the water and began to sink. Peace soon abandoned him to the lake’s shallow world. In a blink, he was looking through the eyes of a ten-year-old boy.
“I don’t like fire,” he heard the boy say, so frightened, so naïve. “It’s dangerous.”
“Don’t be such a wimp,” came his older friend’s taunts. “Just light it already.”
With each shove and curse, the memory turned alive; it was as if it knew he was watching and didn’t like it. The pain still stung, images wilting and dying, only to come alive again and again.
I. Hate. Fire.
Arson could feel the cold, could even remember the way everything sounded or how there was no sound at all. Until the night shattered. The weight of remembering dragged him down while he sucked in a filthy drag of water, his coffined body jerking. The veins on his head began to swell. He was choking.
Time to return to the real world, to release the nightmare once more into the dark of the lake. The struggle eventually pulled him to the surface. Slinging his head back and forth, Arson fought to bring himself out of the bitter current, eventually falling upon dead grass. He tasted the grit of sandy dirt in his teeth. Panting, Arson stood up slowly and staggered toward the cabin, where Grandma Kay’s shadow guided him in.
There was something strange that came over Grandma when she exacted punishment, like a part of her enjoyed it too much. She said fixing their leaky roof was a good and righteous way of killing the demons inside him. Nothing like hard work. She said there was no way a lake could cleanse a boy’s troubled mind anyway and that he was just plain stupid for thinking it could. To ease his frustration, Arson let himself believe that if he had been caught any other day, her scorn might have resulted in worse than fixing a leaky roof, which Arson would’ve had to do eventually anyway.
Grandma’s reasons for why she did things, why she treated him a certain way, seemed to get worse with time. It was no secret that she loathed the idea of him diving into the lake, especially if fully clothed. She even claimed there were toxins in the water from pollution that had supposedly killed a bunch of fish years back. But maybe it was a fair trade. He’d returned to the lake all the toxins he’d soaked up with every vile thought. When considered, Grandma’s logic didn’t seem all that twisted. She probably just didn’t want him bringing any of that evil back with him, infected or not. She was superstitious, so Arson made a promise he knew he couldn’t keep and said it wouldn’t happen again.
The muggy June morning caused his palms to sweat. Arson almost lost his grip on the bucket during the climb to the top but regained his balance before losing any supplies. Spiderman would have been proud. Reading comic books all his life came in handy now and then.
Grandpa took care of the cabin to the best of his ability, had even showed Arson how to repair the roof years back. “If you want something done right, you gotta do it yourself,” he recalled. But in spite of his grandfather’s hard work, it was clear that time eventually wore away all things, even hope.
Arson worked for about an hour before carelessness got the best of him. A loose, jagged shingle sliced through the palm of his hand. Blood gushed from the wound and onto his leg. He swore as the sting began to overwhelm him. He chucked the hammer and tried to keep pressure on the cut.
“What happened?” Grandma’s voice echoed from below. “I heard you cussin’ all the way in the kitchen. You know how I feel about that.”
“Sorry, Grandma.” Arson was glad she left it at that. Sitting on the roof, he turned slightly toward the sun. It’s a gusher, he thought. Then, as he stared in amazement, he watched the wound cauterize itself in seconds. It burned.
“Arson, are you all right up there?”
He looked down at the remaining scar, struggling to make sense of it, neglecting the mess on his clothes. “Just fine, Grandma,” he called down.
“That roof isn’t going to fix itself. If I have to spend another night with drops of water hitting my face, I promise you’ll regret it.”
“All right,” Arson said. “I’ll get back to work.”
By evening, the task was complete. He braced himself and watched the sunset from the rooftop as it melted against a fluorescent sky. Arson listened as Grandma concluded her tea conversation with the man she loved.
Moments later, their time together ended with laughter, and he knew it was safe to come down. Arson caught her while she was clearing away the silverware and china.
“Did you finish the roof, love?” she asked in a pleasant voice.
“Yes, Grandma. It’s healed…I mean, fixed.”
“Marvelous. Say, whatcha mean healed?”
Arson grabbed the ladder. “I’m really tired. I’m not thinking straight right now. Maybe I just need some rest.”
“I think you’re right. You’re not making any sense at all. Say, do you want a piece of cake before I put it away? Grandpa didn’t eat much tonight. He’s never been much for carrot cake.”
“No thanks. Not hungry,” he said.
“Suit yourself. Put your tools away and get on up to bed, then. A growing boy like you needs his rest. I hope you learned your lesson, though. I don’t like you spending so much time in that miserable lake. The very idea doesn’t sit well with my soul.”
Arson nodded with reluctant eyes and put away the ladder and the tools. Then he rushed inside the cabin and up to his room to read a comic book before dozing off. Maybe tonight his dreams would be different.
Buy it now at:
Amazon ( Kindle ) | Barnes and Noble ( Nook ) | Smashwords ( All Formats )
Barnes and Noble ( Print )
Be sure to check out the rest of the blog tour!
August 1-Review@The Musings Of A Book Addict
August 3-Guest Post@Tributes Books Reviews
August 4-Guest Post@The Top Shelf
August 5-Review@Gelati’s Scoop
August 8-Interview@Beyond The Books
August 9-Guest Post@The Calico Critic
August 10-Review@The Top Shelf
August 11-Guest Post@Stuff & Nonsense
August 12-Review&Guest Post@The Bookshelf
August 15-Review@Oodles Of Books
August 16-Guest Post@The Book Faery Reviews
August 16-Review@A Good Day To Read
August 17-Guest Post@Terri Forehand
August 18-Review@Coffee and a Keyboard
August 19-Spotlight@Suspense By Anne
August 23-Review@Hypnotically Entranced
August 24-Interview@Book Marketing Buzz
August 24th-Review@ Lady Lit Reviews
August 25-Interview@The Children’s & Teens’ Book Connection
August 26-Interview@Coffee and a Keyboard
August 29-Review@Frequent Reader, Infrequent Blogger
August 30-Review@Romancing The Book(Valerie)
August 31-Review&Interview@Darlene’s Book Nook