2021 releases – NEAR THE BONE and HORSEMAN

Happy new year! I know 2020 was a tough one for everyone but we made it through. Unfortunately the pandemic stopped all appearances after March so I wasn’t able to see as many of you as I would have liked. I’m particularly sorry that my UK tour didn’t go off as planned but I hope to try again when it’s safe for everyone to gather and travel.

I had two books out last year – Looking Glass, a collection of novellas set in the world of The Chronicles of Alice, and The Ghost Tree, a stand-alone coming-of-age horror novel. If you missed either book you can find more information and order links here for Looking Glass and here for The Ghost Tree.

I’m very excited about my upcoming 2021 releases, Near the Bone and Horseman: A Tale of Sleepy Hollow. You can find more information, covers for Near the Bone (covers for Horseman to come) and preorder links where available below.

I hope that 2021 will be a good year for all of us, and I wish you health and happy reading.

A woman trapped on a mountain attempts to survive more than one kind of monster, in a dread-inducing horror novel from the national bestselling author Christina Henry.

“Mattie can’t remember a time before she and William lived alone on a mountain together. She must never make him upset. But when Mattie discovers the mutilated body of a fox in the woods, she realizes that they’re not alone after all.

There’s something in the woods that wasn’t there before, something that makes strange cries in the night, something with sharp teeth and claws.

When three strangers appear on the mountaintop looking for the creature in the woods, Mattie knows their presence will anger William. Terrible things happen when William is angry.”

U.S. edition published by Berkley Publishing, an imprint of Penguin Random House

To add NEAR THE BONE to your Goodreads lists click here

Grab the U.S. edition from your favorite bookseller or one of these retailers:

Anderson’s Bookshops

Barnes & Noble

The Book Cellar

Bookmarks

Books-A-Million

Bookshop

Bucket O’Blood Books and Records

Indiebound

Kobo

Mysterious Galaxy

RoscoeBooks

Unabridged Bookstore

Volumes

Women and Children First

Audible

Amazon

U.K. edition is published by Titan Books

Exclusive Signed Winter Edition hardcover with blue sprayed edges available only at Forbidden Planet

Waterstones

The Beckenham Bookshop

Big Green Bookshop

The Book Shop

Five Leaves Bookshop

Forum Books

Foyles

Mr. B’s Emporium

Hive

Literally Productions

The Mainstreet Trading Company

Max Minerva’s

The Portobello Bookshop

Topping & Company Booksellers

Transreal Fiction

WriteBlend

Covers and preorder links for HORSEMAN are not yet widely available – so far there is just this Amazon link, but I will add more information as it goes up on various sites. You can check out the back cover copy below:

In this atmospheric, terrifying novel that draws strongly from “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow,” the author of Alice and The Girl in Red works her trademark magic, spinning an engaging and frightening new story from a classic tale. 

Everyone in Sleepy Hollow knows about the Horseman, but no one really believes in him. Not even Ben Van Brunt’s grandfather, Brom Bones, who was there when it was said the Horseman chased the upstart Crane out of town. Brom says that’s just legend, the village gossips talking. 

Twenty years after those storied events, the village is a quiet place. Fourteen-year-old Ben loves to play “Sleepy Hollow boys,” reenacting the events Brom once lived through. But then Ben and a friend stumble across the headless body of a child in the woods near the village, and the sinister discovery makes Ben question everything the adults in Sleepy Hollow have ever said.

Could the Horseman be real after all? Or does something even more sinister stalk the woods?

THE GHOST TREE preview

Summer is flying by, and there are just five short weeks until THE GHOST TREE is released. This book is an homage to all the coming-of-age horror novels I read when I was younger – except all those books featured boys as the protagonists when I longed for more stories about girls.

Just to clarify, though – this is not a young adult novel; it’s intended for an adult audience (like all of my work). Additionally, if you’ve read ALICE or LOST BOY you may be expecting a reimagining of an existing story – THE GHOST TREE is not a reimagining of any kind.

I really loved writing this book, and I hope that you love reading it, too!

Read on for the back cover description, a sample of the first chapter, book covers, preorder info and more!

Quick side note: I’m often asked by readers “What’s the best way for me to buy your book?” The absolute best way is to buy a physical copy of the book from a locally owned bookstore. This supports not only the author but keeps your dollars in your community by supporting local business owners.

Additionally, buying a physical copy of the book in a store indicates interest to the bookstore owners, which means they’ll order an extra copy or two for their shelves. This means the book has more potential to reach more readers, who might spot it while browsing.

If you haven’t been able to get out to your local bookstore because of shelter-in-place orders, now is a great time to browse your local shop and pick up a few books. They can preorder a copy of THE GHOST TREE for you!

Many local businesses have been hard hit by COVID-related lockdowns and bookstores need your support more than ever.

If you don’t have a local shop in your area a great alternative is Bookshop.org. Books ship directly from the distributor and the profits are distributed to local bookstores. You can check out their mission statement here.

If you only have a big bookstore chain nearby (like Barnes and Noble) or pick up your books while shopping at Target or Wal-Mart – don’t despair! Buying a book from these places has the same effect – it indicates interest in the title, meaning they’ll order more copies which can potentially reach more readers.

If you prefer e-reading or just don’t have a shop nearby and must order online, leaving a review on the online retailer site helps the book get in front of new readers as well.

I don’t want to leave out libraries! Borrowing a book from your library (or asking your local librarian to order a copy for their shelves) and telling your friends about it is just as great as buying a copy yourself. Libraries buy books, which financially supports authors, and positive word-of-mouth is incredibly valuable to writers.

However you choose to read THE GHOST TREE, I appreciate your support!

When people go missing in the sleepy town of Smith’s Hollow, the only clue to their fate comes when a teenager starts having terrifying visions, in a chilling horror novel from national bestselling author Christina Henry.

When the bodies of two girls are found torn apart in the town of Smiths Hollow, Lauren is surprised, but she also expects that the police won’t find the killer. After all, the year before her father’s body was found with his heart missing, and since then everyone has moved on. Even her best friend, Miranda, has become more interested in boys than in spending time at the old ghost tree, the way they used to when they were kids.

So when Lauren has a vision of a monster dragging the remains of the girls through the woods, she knows she can’t just do nothing. Not like the rest of her town. But as she draws closer to answers, she realizes that the foundation of her seemingly normal town might be rotten at the center. And that if nobody else stands for the missing, she will.

June 1985

Wednesday

Lauren glanced down at her feet as she pedaled her bike toward the woods. She wore brand-new turquoise high-tops; they looked sort of like the Chuck Taylors she’d wanted, but they were off-brand from Kmart. They didn’t have the Chuck label in the back but they were still pretty cool. She thought so, anyway.

They would have to be cool because her mom had told her repeatedly they couldn’t afford the name-brand ones. At least no one else at school had turquoise. They were so bright they practically glowed in the summer sun, but by the time she went back to school in the fall they would be properly beaten up and she wouldn’t look like a dork.

By the time she went back to school she would be almost fifteen (the end of November—five months away still ), which meant she would be one of the older kids in the freshman class but still younger than Miranda, whose birthday had been the week before. Miranda never failed to remind her that this meant she would get her driver’s license before Lauren did, but Lauren didn’t care as long as she was riding to school in a car (even if it was not her own) instead of on her bike.

Lauren knew Mom didn’t want her and Miranda meeting in the woods. Especially after last year. Especially after Lauren’s dad was found near that old cabin. Mom thought Lauren was macabre for going anywhere near the place where her father was murdered.

But Lauren was about as interested in her mother’s opinion as her mother was in Lauren’s—that is to say, not at all. Mom never loved Dad as much as Lauren did. Her mom didn’t understand that when Lauren was in the woods it meant she was in the place he was last alive.

She and Miranda always met under the ghost tree. They’d done so since they were very small, for so long that Lauren couldn’t remember who’d thought of the idea first. One of them would call the other on the telephone and say, “Meet me by the old ghost tree,” and they would both go.

In the secret shadows of the woods, they could have adventures. They built forts and ran through streams and climbed trees and made rope swings. They made a secret base near the cabin that was tucked away in the woods. This was long before Lauren’s dad was found there, and it had been some time since they used it as a base.

In the last year or so things had changed. Miranda didn’t like to get dirty anymore, so she didn’t want to swing over the trickling little creek that ran through the forest or roll in the dead leaves. Mostly she wanted to do things Lauren was not interested in, like paint their nails or braid each other’s hair or talk about boys that Miranda thought were cute—older boys, always, boys that would not be the least bit interested in little freshman girls.

Despite this they still preferred to meet by the ghost tree. It was their special place.

Lauren raced past the Imperial drive- in on the outskirts of town. They were showing a double feature— The Goonies and Cocoon. The wide lot was littered with rubbish from the night before— empty popcorn cups, candy wrappers, cigarette butts. Sometimes Lauren helped Mr. Harper, the owner, clean up the lot in exchange for $10 and a free ticket for her and Miranda to that night’s show, but she’d already seen The Goonies twice and Miranda said Cocoon was about old people so they never stayed for the second feature.

The back of the movie screen pressed against the woods that brushed against the town. Smiths Hollow was the name of her town, and Lauren had always liked the name because it reminded her of Sleepy Hollow.

She and her dad used to watch that cartoon every year on Halloween, Ichabod and Mr. Toad. Even though Ichabod’s name came first in the title, the Sleepy Hollow story was actually second in the film and Lauren liked that better. She liked anticipating the moment when the Headless Horseman would appear on screen, laughing his insane laugh and swinging a giant sword.

When she was little she used to snuggle close into her dad’s arm when that part came on and her heart would beat so fast, but there was nothing to worry about really because she was with her daddy. Of course it had been years since it scared her, but every year she snuggled up next to him. He always smelled a little bit of grease and oil, even after a shower, and also of the Old Spice Soap- on- a- Rope that she gave him every year for Father’s Day.

Lauren wondered if, when Halloween came, she would be able to turn on the cartoon again and watch it with her little brother, David. He’d been too small to watch it the year before.Miranda had wanted Lauren to sleep over last Halloween, so they could watch “real” scary movies on her VCR. Lauren’s family didn’t have a VCR, and Miranda definitely viewed this as a drawback to sleeping over at Lauren’s house.

They always trick- or – treated together every year, but after their candy bags were full they went their separate ways. Last year Miranda didn’t want to trick- or- treat at all, but Lauren persuaded her to go out so Miranda had thrown together a costume of old clothes at the last second and went as a hobo. She’d complained about how lame and babyish collecting candy was the whole time and then got annoyed when Lauren told her that she had to go home after.

“I thought you were going to watch Halloween with me,” Miranda said. “It’s the perfect night for it!”

Lauren shook her head. “We can do it another night. I have something I have to do with my dad.”

“It won’t be the same on another night,” Miranda said. “I can’t believe you dragged me all over town to get a bunch of stupid little candy bars and we’re not even going to watch a scary movie now.”

“I’ll take your candy if you don’t want it,” Lauren said, holding her bag open.

Miranda’s mouth twisted up. “No way. I walked for it, so I’m eating it.”

She’d gone home in a huff, but the next time Lauren slept over they did watch Halloween. Or rather, Miranda watched it, laughing hysterically every time someone was slaughtered by the killer, and Lauren peered through her fingers and hoped she would be able to sleep without nightmares. She didn’t like scary movies. Miranda seemed inured to them.

Anyway, Lauren was glad she’d gone home that night, because it was the last time she’d watch Ichabod and Mr. Toad with her dad. Less than a month later he was dead.

He was dead and nobody would talk about it. Nobody would talk about why it happened or how. The police chief told Lauren’s mom it must have been some drifter, some sicko who went from town to town. But that didn’t make a bit of sense to Lauren. Why would some sicko come to Smiths Hollow just to kill her dad?

And nobody ever told her what her dad was doing out that late at night in the woods, either. Every time Lauren mentioned it her mother’s lips would go flat and pull tight at the edges and she would say, “We are not discussing this, Lauren.”

Lauren reached the scrubby edge of the woods and pulled the brakes on her bike. It was a ten-speed, a grown- up gift for her last birthday even though she wasn’t very tall yet and probably never would be. Miranda told her that girls stopped growing like a year after they got their periods, and Lauren hadn’t gotten hers yet so she hoped she wouldn’t top out at five foot three.

Miranda had gotten her period almost a year before, but both her parents were tall so Miranda towered over Lauren by about half a foot. She also had long, long legs that always looked good in whatever she wore, and Lauren had to squelch the flare of jealousy that bubbled up whenever she saw Miranda looking so cool and beautiful and grown- up.

Lauren hopped off her bike and wheeled it into the forest, following a path worn by her own feet and Miranda’s. The bike bumped over the tree roots and kicked up tiny rocks that bit into Lauren’s shins.

Some people didn’t like the woods near Smiths Hollow. Well, if Lauren was honest, almost everyone didn’t like the woods. She’d heard more than one person say they were “spooky” and “uncanny” and “scary,” but Lauren didn’t think so.

She liked the trees and their secretive natures, and all the little creatures that scurried into the brush when they heard her approach. And there were lots of places to sit and think and be alone and listen to the wind in the leaves. There were many days when Miranda went home and Lauren stayed in the forest by herself, curled into the notch of a tree while she read a book.

Even Lauren’s dad had said that the woods made him uncomfortable.

“I always feel like I’m being spied on whenever I walk near there,” he confessed to her one day. They were both at the kitchen sink scrubbing their hands— Lauren’s were covered in mud, and her father’s had the usual contingent of grease from his work at the garage.

“ ‘I always feel like somebody’s watching me,’ ” Lauren sang as she walked, although she didn’t really. If anyone was watching she felt that it was a benign somebody.

She liked that song a lot, although Miranda didn’t think much of it. Miranda had listened to Def Leppard’s Pyromania album nonstop since she discovered it the previous year, and whenever Lauren came over she would put it on. Lauren was pretty sure she could live the rest of her life without ever hearing “Rock of Ages” again.

The ghost tree was about a ten- minute walk from the place where Lauren dismounted her bike. Miranda was already there, arms crossed and leaning against the tree with her eyes closed. Lauren wondered what Miranda was thinking about.

She wore a white sleeveless shirt that buttoned down the front, and Lauren could see her training bra through it. Lauren had started wearing a training bra too even though she really didn’t need it yet. By the time she actually needed the trainer Miranda would be wearing women’s bras, probably.

The shirt was tucked into her jeans—Jordache, naturally, and their ankles brushed against her white Adidas shoes with the black stripes on the side. Miranda always had name-brand everything, because her parents were both managers at the canned chili factory and they would take her to the next town over to go to the mall for her clothes.

She was also an only child, which meant her parents didn’t have to worry about having money for the next kid’s stuff. Lauren had heard her mother sighing many times that the trouble with having a girl and then a boy was that you couldn’t reuse anything.

Not that there had been so much stuff around for reusing by the time David was born—he was ten years younger than Lauren, a “surprise package,” as Lauren’s dad called him. Lauren’s parents had thought their late nights with a colicky baby were long gone.

“What took you so long?” Miranda said, straightening when she heard the rattle of Lauren’s bike chain. “And what are you wearing?”

What are you wearing was what Lauren wanted to ask, but instead she looked down at her Cubs shirt and cutoff jeans and said, “Clothes for playing in the woods.”

Miranda shook her hair, an elaborately teased and sprayed mass that had been wrestled into a high ponytail. “We’re not playing in the woods. What are we, nine? We’re going to the Dream Machine.”

“Why didn’t you just say we were going to the Dream Machine?” Lauren asked.

Lauren didn’t really care about arcade games except maybe pinball, and she especially didn’t like going to the Dream Machine because lately it meant that she and Miranda would stand around watching boys that Miranda thought were cute.

“Tad asked me to meet him there,” Miranda said excitedly, ignoring Lauren’s question. “He actually called me today.”

So why do I have to go? Lauren thought. If she’d known what Miranda had planned she would have brought a book to read. There was nothing more boring than watching some guy playing Pac-Man. Also, what kind of stupid name was Tad? Lauren wasn’t sure she remembered who exactly Tad was, either. It was hard to keep track of which boy was at the top of Miranda’s scrolling list of interests.

“And he said he’s going to bring some of his friends, so there will be someone for you, too,” Miranda finished. She said this last bit like she had gotten a really amazing present for Lauren and couldn’t wait to hear how much she loved it.

“Oh,” Lauren said.

“Let’s go,” Miranda said. “Leave your bike here. We can cut through the woods and come out behind Frank’s.”Frank’s Deli was directly across the street from the Dream Machine.

Lauren didn’t like coming out of the woods there because there were always rats running around behind Frank’s. She always told her mother not to buy lunch meat there because of that.

“Don’t be silly, Lauren,” Mom would say. “Of course there are rats outside. They’re attracted to garbage. That doesn’t mean there are rats inside.”

“It doesn’t mean there aren’t, either,” Lauren said darkly, and refused to eat so much as a slice of roast beef from Frank’s. It meant a lot of peanut butter sandwiches because her mom would almost always go to Frank’s unless she went shopping at the big super grocery store in the next town and got deli meat while she was there.

“Which one is Tad again?” Lauren asked as she leaned her bike against the tree. There was no worry that anything would happen to it. No one ever stole anything that belonged to the ghost tree.

Miranda hit Lauren’s shoulder with the back of her hand. “He works at Wagon Wheel, remember? We just went there to see him last week.”

Lauren dredged up the memory of a greasy- haired guy throwing two slices of pizza in front of them as they’d sat on the tall chairs at the counter, feet dangling. He’d barely acknowledged Miranda’s existence.

“That guy?” Lauren asked.

“He looks just like Matt Dillon in The Outsiders,” Miranda said with a little sigh.

“No, he doesn’t,” Lauren said.

Usually she let Miranda’s statements pass by without an argument, but she couldn’t let that one go. Lauren had the poster with the cast of The Outsiders on it hanging on the back of her bedroom door, and she got a good look at Matt Dillon every morning. Tad did not look a thing like him.

“He totally does!” Miranda insisted.

“No way,” Lauren said.

“Well, he’s going to be a junior and he has a Camaro,” Miranda said, as if this settled everything.

When Miranda said things like that, Lauren could feel the strings that had bound them together their whole life unknotting one by one. Lauren really didn’t care if he had a Camaro, and the old Miranda wouldn’t have either. The old Miranda would have wanted to stay in the woods instead of going to the Dream Machine. But the old Miranda had disappeared in the last year, leaving Lauren to wonder why she still came when Miranda called.

Maybe it’s just hard to let your best friend go, even if you have nothing in common anymore, Lauren thought, and sighed a little.

They emerged from the woods behind Frank’s Deli. Two rats, a very large one and a little tiny one, abandoned the bread crust they were chewing and ran behind the three large metal garbage cans lined up next to the back door.

“Gross,” Miranda said as Lauren flinched and made a little squeaking sound.

They heard the sound of soft laughter. Lauren saw Jake Hanson, the son of one of her neighbors, smoking a cigarette behind the electronics shop next door. He was three or four years older than Lauren, so their paths had rarely crossed since she’d been very small. She remembered that once, when she was maybe seven or eight, he’d shown her how to throw a baseball and had spent a half hour patiently catching her wild pitches.

Miranda went straight for the narrow walkway between Frank’s and the electronics shop, ignoring Jake entirely.

Lauren paused, because it really went against the grain for her to pretend someone didn’t exist.

“Hey, Jake.”

He was very tall now, at least a foot taller than Lauren, but his jeans barely hung onto his waist with a belt hooked all the way to the last hole. He had on a black uniform polo with the words Best Electronics embroidered on the upper left side.

“Hey, Lauren,” he said, blowing smoke out of his nose.

She wondered when his voice had started to sound so grown- up. He didn’t really sound like a boy anymore—but then, she supposed that he wasn’t. He was probably eighteen years old now, or close to it—old enough to have real stubble on his cheeks and not just the stringy fuzz most high school boys sported.

His blue eyes looked her up and down, assessing. Assessing what, Lauren wasn’t sure. She’d always liked his eyes, how his blue eyes contrasted with his dark hair, but now something in the way they looked at her made the blood rise in her cheeks.

“Nice shoes,” he said, and she couldn’t tell if he meant it or he was making fun of her.

“Lau-ren,” Miranda called impatiently.

“Better hurry,” Jake said conversationally. He dropped the end of his cigarette on the ground and stubbed it out with the sole of his black boots. “See you around, Lauren.”

“Yeah,” she said, jogging after Miranda. She didn’t really know why but she felt flustered, and when she felt flustered she got annoyed.

“What were you doing?” Miranda said.

“Saying hi,” Lauren said, even more annoyed now because Miranda had clearly heard the conversation.

“You shouldn’t say hi to losers like him,” Miranda said.

“He’s my neighbor,” Lauren said. Her face still felt hot she knew from long experience that it would take a while for her cheeks to return to their normal color.

Miranda leaned in close to Lauren, stealing a quick glance over her shoulder to ensure that nobody was nearby and listening.

“He deals drugs,” Miranda whispered.

Lauren frowned. “Give me a break. Drugs? In Smiths Hollow? Where would he even get them from?”

“There are drugs even in Smiths Hollow,” Miranda said mysteriously.

The only thing Lauren really knew about drugs came from movies where a character would occasionally smoke a joint. Miranda had seen Scarface, though Lauren hadn’t, and had acted like an authority on all things cocaine- related since then.

They emerged from between the storefronts of the deli and the electronics shop. The Dream Machine was directly across the street. All the windows were open. The sound of loud music combined with the persistent bleep of electronics and the occasional whoop of a player was easily heard over the car engines on Main Street.

Lauren looked both ways so they could cross, but Miranda grabbed her arm and pointed toward the Sweet Shoppe a few doors away.

“I need some Tic Tacs,” she said. “I ate a tuna fish sandwich for lunch before Tad called. If I’d known he was going to call I wouldn’t have eaten anything. I don’t want to look bloated in front of him.”

She patted her paper- flat stomach as she said this and glanced at Lauren as if she expected her to say You’re not bloated.

But Lauren was only half paying attention to Miranda. Going to the Sweet Shoppe meant that they had to cross in front of the large glass windows of Best Electronics. Jake Hanson was back behind the counter, cigarette break over, and was hunched over what looked like a pile of black plastic and wires.

She quickly looked away, first because she didn’t want to get caught staring, and second because if he did look up she didn’t know if she should wave or pretend not to see him. Her gaze shot out into the road and the passing cars.

A maroon station wagon was coming down Main Street and Lauren pretended to be absorbed in Miranda’s face as it went by. The one person Lauren never had any trouble pretending not to see was her mother.

U.S. edition published by Berkley Publishing, an imprint of Penguin Random House.

To add THE GHOST TREE to your Goodreads list click here

Grab the U.S. edition from your favorite bookseller or one of these retailers:

57th Street Books

Andersons Bookshop

Barnes & Noble

The Book Cellar

Bookmarks

Books-A-Million

Bookshop

Bucket O’Blood Books and Records

Indiebound

Kobo

Mysterious Galaxy

RoscoeBooks

Unabridged Bookstore

Volumes Bookcafe

Women and Children First

Audible

Amazon


U.K. edition is published by Titan Books

Grab the U.K. edition from your favorite bookseller:

EXCLUSIVE SIGNED EDITION available from Waterstones

Amazon U.K.

The Beckenham Bookshop

Big Green Bookshop

The Book Shop

Five Leaves Bookshop

Forum Books

Foyles

Mr. B’s Emporium

Hive

Literally Productions

The Mainstreet Trading Company

Max Minerva’s

The Portobello Bookshop

Topping & Company Booksellers

Transreal Fiction

WriteBlend


News and new releases

Some quick release news for all of you – LOOKING GLASS, the final volume in The Chronicles of Alice, is now available! If you haven’t been able to get out to your local bookstore because of shelter-in-place orders, now is a great time to browse your local shop and pick up a few books. If they don’t have a copy of LOOKING GLASS in stock they can always order it for you.

Many local businesses have been hard hit by COVID-related lockdowns and bookstores need your support more than ever.

If you don’t have a local shop in your area a great alternative is Bookshop.org. Books ship directly from the distributor and the profits are distributed to local bookstores. You can check out their mission statement here.

In other news, the release date for THE GHOST TREE has been moved up to September 8, 2020. I’m so excited for all of you to read this book, which is very close to my heart. More information about THE GHOST TREE can be found here.

I’m extremely sorry that my U.K. tour for LOOKING GLASS with Tim Lebbon was cancelled due to the COVID epidemic. I hope to see all of you in the future.

Be safe, stay healthy and happy reading.

U.S. edition published by Berkley Publishing, an imprint of Penguin Random House

To add LOOKING GLASS to your Goodreads list click here

Grab the U.S. edition from your favorite bookseller:

57th Street BooksA

Anderson’s Bookshops

Barnes & Noble

The Book Cellar

Bookmarks

Books-A-Million

Bookshop

Bucket o’Blood Books and Records

Indiebound

Kobo

Mysterious Galaxy

RoscoeBooks

Unabridged Books

Volumes Bookcafe

Women and Children First

U.K. edition is published by Titan Books

Grab the U.K. edition from your favorite bookseller:

Amazon U.K.

The Beckenham Bookshop

Big Green Bookshop

The Book Shop

Five Leaves Bookshop

Forum Books

Foyles

Mr. B’s Emporium

Hive

Literally Productions

The Mainstreet Trading Company

Max Minerva’s

The Portobello Bookshop

Topping & Company Booksellers

Transreal Fiction

Waterstones

WriteBlend


LOOKING GLASS sneak peek!

Are you ready to return to the world of ALICE in LOOKING GLASS? Read on for a sneak peek of the first novella in the collection, more information on the stories, U.S. and UK covers and preorder links. I hope you love falling down the rabbit hole again with me.

LOVELY CREATURE

Elizabeth Violet Hargreaves trotted down the stairs in her new blue dress, her blond hair neatly done up in curls and ribbons.
She couldn’t wait to show Mama and Papa how pretty she looked. Elizabeth had spent several moments admiring her appearance from all angles in her looking glass, until her maid Dinah had told her enough was enough and that she should get downstairs else she would miss breakfast.
Elizabeth did not want to miss breakfast. She was a hearty eater, somewhat to her mother’s dismay, and breakfast was her favorite meal. There were always pots of jam with breakfast, and a sugar bowl for the tea, and Elizabeth never missed a chance to add an extra dollop of jam to her toast or sneak another lump of sugar.
If her mother caught her she would make that hissing snake noise between her teeth and tell Elizabeth if she kept eating like that she would become rounder than she was already. Elizabeth didn’t mind much that she was round. She thought it made her look soft and sweet, and she’d rather be soft and sweet than hard and clipped, like her mother.
Of course, Elizabeth thought Mama was beautiful—or rather, she was beautiful underneath all her planes and angles. She had the same blond hair as Elizabeth, long and thick. When she took it down at night it would fall in rippling waves to her waist. Some of those waves had turned silvery grey, though Elizabeth didn’t think Mama was that old, really, and the silver was sort of pretty when it caught the light.
Elizabeth had her mother’s eyes, too, clear and blue. But Mama used to laugh more, and her eyes used to crinkle up in the corners when she did. Now there was always a furrow between her brows, and Elizabeth couldn’t remember the last time she laughed.
No, that isn’t true, she thought to herself. She could remember the last time Mama laughed. It was before That Day.
“That Day” was how Elizabeth always referred to it in her mind, the day that she came downstairs for breakfast to find her father at the table looking like he’d aged twenty years in a minute, his face the color of old ash in the fireplace. In front of him was the morning newspaper, freshly ironed.
“Papa?” she’d asked, but he hadn’t heard her.
Elizabeth had crept closer, and seen the paper’s headline.


FIRE IN CITY ASYLUM
No Survivors—
Tales from Terrified Onlookers


Underneath these interesting bits was a photograph that showed the asylum before and after the fire. Elizabeth stared at the “before” picture. The building seemed like it was staring back at her, like something was rippling under the walls, something that wanted to reach out and grab her and drag her inside.
“Elizabeth,” Papa had said, and folded the paper hurriedly, pushing it to one side. “What is it, my darling?”
She indicated the food spread out on the table before him. “It’s breakfast. Did Mama eat already?”
“N-no,” Papa said. “Mama isn’t feeling well. She’s still asleep.”
That was strange, because Elizabeth was certain she’d heard Mama’s voice downstairs earlier. But Papa seemed to have something on his mind at the moment (that was what Mama always said, that Papa had Something on His Mind and Elizabeth Wasn’t to Bother Him) so perhaps he’d forgotten that Mama had been here already.
Elizabeth climbed into her seat and laid her napkin on her lap as she was supposed to do and waited for Hobson to serve.
The butler came forward and Elizabeth said, “Eggs and toast, please, Hobson.”
He nodded, and lifted the cover off the eggs, and Elizabeth noticed his hand trembled as he scooped the eggs onto her plate with a large silver spoon. He plucked two pieces off the toast rack with tongs and placed them next to the eggs.
“Jam, Miss Alice?” Hobson said, offering Elizabeth the jam pot.
Not Alice,” Papa hissed through his teeth, and his voice was so harsh it made Elizabeth jump in her seat. “Elizabeth.”
Hobson brought one of his shaking hands to his face, and Elizabeth saw with surprise that he wiped away a tear.
“Hobson, are you all right?” she asked. She liked the old butler quite a bit. He always saved extra sugar lumps for her in a handkerchief and passed them illicitly at dinner.

“Yes, Miss Al—Elizabeth,” he said firmly. “I’m quite all
right.”
He placed the jam pot near Elizabeth’s teacup and went to stand against the wall behind Papa. Elizabeth watched him, frowning.
“Papa, who’s Alice?” she asked.
“No one,” Papa said in his No Arguments voice. “I think Hobson must have been thinking of something else.”
Elizabeth ignored the No Arguments warning. “But then why did you get so angry when he said ‘Alice’?”
Papa’s face looked strange then, a kind of cross between chalky and mottled, and he seemed to be swallowing words trying to escape out of his mouth.
“It’s nothing for you to worry about, Elizabeth,” Papa said finally. “Enjoy your breakfast. You can have extra jam if you like.”
Elizabeth returned her attention to her breakfast plate, pleased to have permission for all the jam she liked but not so silly that she didn’t realize Papa was trying to distract her. Still, she supposed she could let herself be distracted for the moment.
And in truth, she had nearly forgotten the Incident at Breakfast until later, when she climbed the stairs to get a book and heard Mama making muffled noises in her bedroom. Elizabeth had put her ear close to the keyhole and listened.

“Alice, Alice,” Mama said, and it sounded like she was sobbing.
“Alice,” Elizabeth said to herself, and tucked the name away. It meant something. No one wanted her to know what it meant, but it certainly meant something.

Elizabeth didn’t know why she was now thinking of That Day as she tripped down the stairs in her lovely dress. That Day had been strange and confusing, all the adults in the house speaking in hushed voices.
Her older sister Margaret had even come from across the City in a carriage to confer with their parents in the parlor and Elizabeth had been told in no uncertain terms to go to her room and stay there while this interesting conference occurred.
Margaret was quite a lot older than Elizabeth— twenty years older, in fact, and had two little girls of her own. These girls were ten and nine years old to Elizabeth’s eight but had to call her “Aunt Elizabeth” and she did rather enjoy exerting the authority that came with being the aunt. It meant that when she said that they had to play a certain game they had to listen or else she could tell them off without getting in trouble for it.
They would see Margaret and her husband Daniel (who always called her “Sister Elizabeth” and made her laugh by tickling her cheeks with his mustache) and the girls today at Giving Day. All of the families of the City gathered in the Great Square for their children to receive their gifts from the City Fathers.
Elizabeth had noticed last year that some families— her own papa, even— also gave something to the City Fathers in return. She couldn’t tell what it was, though, because it was a sealed envelope.
She paused outside the door of the breakfast room, to make certain that Papa and Mama were both in there so she could make her grand entrance and hear both of them ooh and aah at how pretty she looked. The two of them were murmuring quietly to each other as they passed the jam and the butter.
Elizabeth swept into the room and paused just inside the door, holding the hem of her new dress in both hands. Mama hadn’t even seen the dress because Dinah had gone with her to the shop to choose it. Elizabeth wanted it to be a surprise for everyone, and of course her hair had never looked quite so nice as it did just then. Dinah had taken extra care on it that morning.
“Ta‑da!”
Elizabeth said, and waited for the applause.
Instead her mother gasped and said, “Alice!”
Papa’s face went from ruddy to white in a moment, and he looked at Mama and said, in a warning voice, “Althea!”
Mama covered her mouth with her hand, and Elizabeth heard little coughing sobs leaking out from behind her fingers.
Alice again, Elizabeth thought. This time she was not curious about the name so much as annoyed. Who was this Alice to steal Elizabeth’s thunder? Where were her “oohs” and “aahs”?
“What’s the matter, Mama?” Elizabeth asked. “Don’t you think I’m pretty in my new dress?”
Papa took a very long draught from his teacup and put the cup back on the saucer with a clatter. Then he held his arms out to Elizabeth, who went to her father and climbed into his lap.
“Of course you look pretty, my sweetheart. I’ve never seen a
creature so lovely as you.” He winked at her. “Except your mother, of course. And you are just the image of her.”
Elizabeth smiled proudly across the table at Mama, who seemed to be struggling to get herself under control. She stared at Elizabeth as if she were a ghost instead of her own daughter.
“You look very pretty, too, Mama,” Elizabeth offered.
Mama did look pretty in her white gown, the same one that she always wore to Giving Day. It was her nicest one and it never was taken out except for this special day once a year. Mama usually wore it with a pink sash around her waist but that sash had been replaced by a blue one that was a little darker than the blue of Elizabeth’s dress. Elizabeth wondered what happened to the other sash.
“Elizabeth said you look pretty, Althea,” Papa said.
The way he said it was like he was talking to a child that needed to be reminded of her manners. Elizabeth had never heard Papa talk to Mama this way before.
Mama closed her eyes, gave a shuddering breath and then opened them again. When she did the ghost hadn’t left her face entirely but she looked more like Mama again.
“Thank you very much, Elizabeth,” Mama said. “You look charming in that dress.”
If Mama had said this the way that she usually said it Elizabeth would have wriggled with pride but it didn’t sound the way Mama usually said it. It was stiff and hard and Mama didn’t mean it. Elizabeth could tell.
“Why don’t you have some breakfast?” Papa asked, kissing the top of her head. This was the signal for her to hop off his lap and go to her own chair.
She did, though a lot of the joy of the day had been drained out already. Well, perhaps Daniel and Margaret would compliment her dress when they arrived.
Still, Elizabeth thought as she put an extra- generous dollop of marmalade on her toast, I must discover who this Alice is.
Elizabeth was tired of Alice spoiling her days.

MORE INFORMATION ABOUT THE NOVELLAS:

In four new novellas, Christina Henry returns to the world of Alice and Red Queen, where magic runs as freely as secrets and blood.

Lovely Creature
In the New City lives a girl with a secret: Elizabeth can do magic. But someone knows her secret–someone who has a secret of his own. That secret is a butterfly that lives in a jar, a butterfly that was supposed to be gone forever, a butterfly that used to be called the Jabberwock…

Girl in Amber
Alice and Hatcher are just looking for a place to rest. Alice has been dreaming of a cottage by a lake and a field of wildflowers, but while walking blind in a snowstorm she stumbles into a house that only seems empty and abandoned…

When I First Came to Town
Hatcher wasn’t always Hatcher. Once, he was a boy called Nicholas, and Nicholas fancied himself the best fighter in the Old City. No matter who fought him he always won. Then his boss tells him he’s going to battle the fearsome Grinder, a man who never leaves his opponents alive…

The Mercy Seat
There is a place hidden in the mountains, where all the people hate and fear magic and Magicians. It is the Village of the Pure, and though Alice and Hatcher would do anything to avoid it, it lies directly in their path…

U.S. edition published by Berkley Publishing, an imprint of Penguin Random House

To add LOOKING GLASS to your Goodreads list click here

Preorder the U.S. edition from your favorite bookseller:

57th Street Books

Amazon

Anderson’s Bookshops

Barnes & Noble

The Book Cellar

Bookmarks

Books-A-Million

Bucket o’Blood Books and Records

Indiebound

Kobo

Mysterious Galaxy

RoscoeBooks

Unabridged Books

Volumes Bookcafe

Women and Children First

U.K. edition is published by Titan Books

Preoder the U.K. edition from your favorite bookseller:

Amazon U.K.

The Beckenham Bookshop

Big Green Bookshop

The Book Shop

Five Leaves Bookshop

Forum Books

Foyles

Mr. B’s Emporium

Hive

Literally Productions

The Mainstreet Trading Company

Max Minerva’s

The Portobello Bookshop

Topping & Company Booksellers

Transreal Fiction

Waterstones

WriteBlend





Returning to the world of ALICE in LOOKING GLASS!

When I completed the writing of RED QUEEN in 2015 I thought I was finished with Alice and Hatcher’s story. Alice and Hatcher would go on into the wilds of your imagination. Their story would continue but it would remain unwritten.

Then, last year, I heard a strange voice in my head, someone crying out – “Don’t do that, sister of Alice!”

Sister of Alice, I thought. Who on earth is this sister of Alice?

Most of my stories begin with a question that I want to answer, so I wrote a story so I could find out about this sister of Alice.  And that got me wondering about what Alice and Hatcher were doing, so I wrote two stories about their continuing adventures. Writing about Hatcher prompted me to wonder about young Hatcher and his life before Alice, so I wrote a story about that, too.

This collection was a labor of love, a last visit with two characters that have meant so much to me. I hope that you enjoy reading it as much as I’ve loved writing it.

You can find more information on each story below, as well as the GORGEOUS U.S. and U.K. covers and preorder links.

In four new novellas, Christina Henry returns to the world of Alice and Red Queen, where magic runs as freely as secrets and blood.

Lovely Creature
In the New City lives a girl with a secret: Elizabeth can do magic. But someone knows her secret–someone who has a secret of his own. That secret is a butterfly that lives in a jar, a butterfly that was supposed to be gone forever, a butterfly that used to be called the Jabberwock…

Girl in Amber
Alice and Hatcher are just looking for a place to rest. Alice has been dreaming of a cottage by a lake and a field of wildflowers, but while walking blind in a snowstorm she stumbles into a house that only seems empty and abandoned…

When I First Came to Town
Hatcher wasn’t always Hatcher. Once, he was a boy called Nicholas, and Nicholas fancied himself the best fighter in the Old City. No matter who fought him he always won. Then his boss tells him he’s going to battle the fearsome Grinder, a man who never leaves his opponents alive…

The Mercy Seat
There is a place hidden in the mountains, where all the people hate and fear magic and Magicians. It is the Village of the Pure, and though Alice and Hatcher would do anything to avoid it, it lies directly in their path…

U.S. edition published by Berkley Publishing, an imprint of Penguin Random House

To add LOOKING GLASS to your Goodreads list click here

Preorder the U.S. edition from your favorite bookseller:

57th Street Books

Amazon

Anderson’s Bookshops

Barnes & Noble

The Book Cellar

Bookmarks

Books-A-Million

Bucket o’Blood Books and Records

Indiebound

Kobo

Mysterious Galaxy

RoscoeBooks

Unabridged Books

Volumes Bookcafe

Women and Children First

The U.K. edition is published by Titan Books

Preoder the U.K. edition from your favorite bookseller:

Amazon U.K.

The Beckenham Bookshop

Big Green Bookshop

The Book Shop

Five Leaves Bookshop

Forum Books

Foyles

Mr. B’s Emporium

Hive

Literally Productions

The Mainstreet Trading Company

Max Minerva’s

The Portobello Bookshop

Topping & Company Booksellers

Transreal Fiction

Waterstones

WriteBlend

Summer update

I’ve had some questions from readers regarding my upcoming work, so here’s a quick update:
1) First up is LOOKING GLASS. It will be released in April of 2020.
What it is not: A full-length novel about Alice and Hatcher.
What it is: Four novellas (about 40-50 pages each) set in the Chronicles of Alice universe. Two stories are about Alice and Hatcher post-RED QUEEN, one story is about young Hatcher in the Old City, and one story is about a young girl in the New City with a connection to Alice.
Preorders are available from most bookstores now for LOOKING GLASS; I’ll be posting links on this page soon. I also hope to have some cover art for you to see pretty soon as well.
2) I have another book coming out in October of next year called THE GHOST TREE.
What it is not: A retelling of any kind.
What it is: A stand-alone horror novel about a midwestern town under a curse. I am really excited about this book and I hope that all of you love it as much as I do.
3) Finally, several people have asked if there will be a sequel to THE GIRL IN RED. There is no sequel planned at this time. Thank you so much to everyone who loved Red.

The Girl in Red!

THE GIRL IN RED is out today, and I’m so excited for all of you to read it! It was selected as one of the Best Science Fiction and Fantasy Books of June by Barnes and Noble as well as one of Amazon’s Best Book of the Month: Science Fiction and Fantasy. Kirkus included it in their June roundup of SFF and said, “With The Girl in Red, Christina Henry once again proves that retellings don’t necessarily lack originality.” Publishers Weekly gave it a great review and said “Satisfyingly upends the familiar tale of a clever girl, a dangerous wolf, and a brave savior, and folklore fans will enjoy this bloody near-future variation on a familiar theme.” Booklist says, “The versatile Henry has reimagined another classic fairy tale, this time with a fascinating narrative about surviving the apocalypse.” It was also included on The Verge’s 11 New Science Fiction and Fantasy Books to Check out in Late June list.

If you’re in Chicago, I’m having a book launch party at Bucket O’Blood Books and Records on Sunday, June 23rd at 4pm. There will be books and conversation and fun! I hope you can join me there.

U.S. edition published by Berkley Publishing, an imprint of Penguin Random House

To add THE GIRL IN RED to your Goodreads list click here

Grab the U.S. edition of THE GIRL IN RED from your favorite bookseller:

Amazon

Anderson’s Bookshops

Audible

Barnes & Noble

The Book Cellar

Bookmarks

Books-A-Million

Indiebound

Kobo

Mysterious Galaxy

Powells

Unabridged Bookstore

Volumes

Women and Children First

The U.K. edition of THE GIRL IN RED is published by Titan Books

Pick it up from your favorite bookseller:

Amazon U.K.

Waterstones

Foyles

Forbidden Planet

Sneak peek of THE MERMAID!

I’m so excited about my forthcoming release, THE MERMAID, that I just had to share the first chapter with you! I hope that you enjoy this sneak peek.

PART I – THE FISHERMAN AND THE MERMAID

Once there was a fisherman, a lonely man who lived on a cold and rocky coast and was never able to convince any woman to come away and live in that forbidding place with him. He loved the sea more than any person and so was never able to take a wife, for women see what is in men’s hearts more clearly than men would wish.

But though he loved the freezing spray on his face and the sight of the rolling clouds on the horizon, he still wished for somebody to love. One evening after a long day he pulled up his net and found a woman in it—something like a woman, anyway, with black hair and eyes as grey as a stormy sea and a gleaming fish’s tail.

He was sorry that she was caught, and told her so, though the storm in her eyes rolled into his heart. She stopped her thrashing and crashing at his voice, though she did not understand his words. The fisherman loosed her and she dove back into the water the way a wild thing returns to a wild place, and he watched her go.

But her eyes had seen inside him the way that women’s eyes do, and his loneliness snaked into her, and she was sorry for it, for that loneliness caught her more surely than the net.

She swam away from his boat as fast as she could and she felt his loneliness trailing between them like a cord. She did not want his feelings to bind her, to pull her back to him, so her tail flashed silver in the water and her eyes looked straight before her and never behind.

But though she didn’t look back she felt him watching, and she remembered the shape of his boat and the rocky curve of the land not too far off and the lines around his eyes, eyes that were dark as the deep sea under the moon. She remembered, and so she returned again to watch him.

She was called a name that meant, in her own tongue, Breaking the Surface of the Sea. When she was born she’d come in a great hurry, much sooner than all of her six older sisters and brothers. The attendant who’d aided her mother had been astonished when she tried to swim away before the cord that bound her to her mother was cut.

Her mother and father and siblings spent most of her childhood trying to find her, for she was never where she ought to be. She was warned repeatedly of the dangers of the surface and of the men who cast nets there, and of their cruelty to the denizens of the ocean.

They should never have told her, for in the telling she wanted to know more, and wanting to know more led her farther and farther afield.

Her home was deep in the ocean, far away from the land that pushed up against the water on either side, and this was because her people feared the men with their hooks and their nets and the boats that floated on the surface of the waves as if by magic. The storytellers told of silver fins caught by cruel metal, and dragged to the decks of ships where blood ran red and spilled back into the water, calling things that swam the ocean in search of dying creatures.

Sometimes there was a storm, and that storm would batter a ship to pieces and the men would fall into the water and sink, sink, sink to the bottom—the lucky ones, that is. The unlucky ones were devoured by roaming hunters with their silver-grey bodies and black eyes and white, white teeth.

When the ships were sunk the mermaid would go to the wreckage and explore, and pick up odd things that humans used, and wonder about them. And then one of her brothers or her parents would find her and she would be chided for her foolishness and dragged home by her wrist, staring with longing over her shoulder all the while.

One day she was swimming near the surface—far too near the surface, her family would have said—and saw a large, large ship of a sort she had never seen before. On the prow of the ship she saw a strange thing.

It looked like her—like a mermaid, but frozen and sealed to the ship.

She swam alongside the ship for a long time, trying to see how the sailors had bound this mermaid to their craft. It was not easy, for the proximity of the ship necessitated keeping out of sight of the sailors. She would break the surface to catch a glimpse of the other mermaid and then would be forced to plunge below the water again before she was spotted.

There was a fine wind and all the sails were full, and so the ship clipped along the surface and after a time the mermaid grew tired. But she wanted to see, she wanted to know, and so she followed and followed even when she could no longer stay alongside. Her tail started to drag, and her swimming slowed, and then suddenly the ship was far ahead of her, disappearing over the flat line of the horizon.

And the mermaid was alone, and far from home, and did not know how to find her way back again.

This ought to have made her sad, or frightened, or any number of other distressed feelings. But while she was sorry she might never see her family again, she wasn’t as upset as she should be.

Rather, she felt the freedom to go where she chose, and do what she chose. Yes, there would be consequences (she was not so silly as to think there wouldn’t be), but they would be her choices and her consequences and not the ones laid out for her by someone else.

Freedom was far more intoxicating than safety could ever be.

She wanted to see and know more than she ever could at the bottom of the ocean. So she swam after the ship, because the ship would go to land and the mermaid had never seen land before.

And so she crossed the ocean, and came to the place where there was land. The mermaid spent many days watching the people on shore and the ones who came out to the sea on boats. Always, always she was careful to avoid the hooks and lines and cages and nets, because she had found her freedom and she loved it, and she would not be bound to someone else’s will again.

Until the day she was busy trying to loose a fish caught on a hook, as it was shaking and fighting and she was trying to help, but it was too panicked to let her. She didn’t see the net come down from above, and then she was caught.

She panicked then too, just like the fish she’d been trying to aid; she thrashed her tail, pulled with all her might, but all her thrashing entangled her more securely than before until she was hauled, furious and weeping, to the surface.

His eyes were dark and full of surprise when they saw what was in his net. Surprise, and wonder, and then a little sadness that she almost missed. When he raised the knife she was sure he would fillet her then, but he only spoke some words she did not understand and cut away that which bound her.

She swam away and wondered about the man who’d let her go.

That night the fisherman watched the sea from his cottage, which was perched on the rocks above a small cove where he tied up his boat at night. It was cold, for it was coming on winter and it never really was warm in the North Atlantic anyhow. He buried his hands in the pocket of his coat and stared out at the churning mass of water, and looked for her under the moon. But though he turned his head at the sound of every faint splash he did not see that which his heart most longed for—the sight of her fin silhouetted against the moonlight.

He’d likely been a fool to let her go. Nobody would believe the story if he told it, and he wasn’t about to make a fool of himself down at the tavern in the village. He was old enough to be past the bragging flush of youth, though not so old that he would have minded seeing the light of wonder in their eyes had he brought a mermaid home.

He could never have done it. That he knew for certain. He could not have taken that wild thing that looked on him with such wild eyes and forced her to stay with him, to make her a prisoner, to profit by her hurt.

She hadn’t looked as he expected her to, the way he’d been told since he was a boy listening to tales that a mermaid should look. Those stories spoke of pale bare-breasted women with long flowing hair, human women in every way except for their tail fin.

What he’d caught in his net had been far more alien, a creature covered in silver scales all over, with webbing between its fingers and teeth much sharper than any human’s. But her eyes had been a woman’s, and they’d looked into his heart as a woman’s eyes do and seen all the loneliness there.

He’d felt in that moment that his heart was visible outside his chest, that if she’d wanted she could have grasped it in those long scaly fingers and taken it away with her.

Then he’d come to his senses and loosed her because he knew he should and the state of his heart was no concern of the mermaid.

But still he watched the water in hope, for the dearest wish of all fishermen is to see a mermaid, to brush up against something magical and hope some of that magic would stay with him for always.

He watched and watched, but he did not see her.

When finally the moon was past its zenith he put away his dreams and went inside to sleep. He knew he would never see her again, and in his own practical way thought at least he’d seen her one time. That was more than most fishermen. He’d touched magic, and he should not want for more.

He did not see her, but she watched him from beneath the water near his cottage, and she knew he was looking for her. She couldn’t say how she knew this except that his eyes had been a little sad when he let her go. His loneliness had burrowed into her heart and the ache of it burned inside her.

The mermaid had heard stories, spoken-under-the-breath-in-secret-places stories, about those of her kind who had left the deep and walked upon land.

There was no special magic about this unless you considered that mermaids were magical in and of themselves; the mermaid did not consider herself anything special because she had always known her own kind.

In those stories, those secret stories, the mermaid only had to touch dry land and her fin would be transformed into legs to walk about. If she touched the water of the sea again, her fin would return.

The mermaid had never wished to walk upon land before, but suddenly she found she wanted this with all her heart. She could think only of all the things she’d never seen that were hidden past the shore: all the people and all the things for which she had no name and wanted to name so she could place them in her memory and keep them there.

It was dark, even with the moon, and there was a stretch of sandy beach hidden in the rocks, a little cove where the fisherman tied up his boat at night.

The mermaid thought she would swim to that place and touch the dry shore and see if the stories were true. Her heart was bursting with anticipation—how wonderful, how free, how perfect it would be if she could pass between the shore and the sea. Not like a man did, of course—men swimming in the water were awkward, flopping things with their limbs splashing out in all directions.

No, she would be as lithe as a fish in water and graceful as a human on land and all the world would be open to her. All the world and its wonders and she would see them, every one.

She swam into the cove, and when her head rose above the water she saw the jagged rocks rising on either side and the boat nestled inside. Beside the boat was a small wooden pier and a short beach that connected to a set of steps leading up to the fisherman’s cottage.

There were no lights in the cottage and the mermaid was certain the fisherman was inside and asleep and would not look out and see her there. Even if he did, she reasoned, he would only see a shadow moving against another shadow—the light of the moon did not reach this place.

The mermaid swam to the shore, until she could feel the wet sand dragging beneath her fin and she could no longer kick up and down for there wasn’t enough water. She reached for the dry land just beyond the lapping waves—reached, and then paused.

What if it did not work? What if those stories, those always-whispered stories were not true? What if her heart longed always for the land and for the man with the lonely dark eyes and she was to never, ever have what she wished for?

For some the possibility of failure would be a check, would make them turn back to the familiar. Not the mermaid. She had to know, and the only way to know was to reach out, to touch the shore.

Her fingers brushed the dry sand, and she reveled in the wonder of it, of the feel of each grain as it passed through her hands free and unencumbered by water. It made her laugh out loud, to touch this thing she’d never touched before.

And then she felt a horrible wrench deep in her gut, and a tearing in her fin, and she tried to cry out but it was caught in her throat. This was terrible, terrible, there was no wonder here at all—only pain and then cold, the most profound cold she had ever known. The waves lapped against her bare legs and she could feel the chill of the ocean. She had never felt the ocean’s cold before. It seemed to sink into her blood and marrow and freeze her from her muscles and bones out to the delicate skin that covered her instead of scales.

How do humans live with this cold? she thought. Every part of her felt fragile, as if she would burst into pieces if someone put a fingertip on her. The sand, so wonderful only a moment before, scraped her raw wherever it touched and her shoulders shook with cold.

Her teeth clattered together in her mouth and she reached up with sandy fingers to touch them because they felt different, somehow flatter. They were flatter, not pointed as they had been before, and more like a human’s teeth.

Her scales were gone and her teeth were gone and in return she had these things, these legs, which felt not free and light like her fin but like heavy bonding weights pulling her into the earth.

Had she thought it would be marvelous to be a human? Had she thought she would have all the world before her? The world was not open to her. Her legs were like a net, a net that caught her and kept her from swimming free.

She almost let go then, to push back into the water and let her scales cover her body and swim back, all the way back to the deep, deep ocean where her family would be waiting for her.

Then she shook her head hard, though she trembled all over with cold and fear. She would not return in shame so they could shake their heads and say she never have left in the first place.

She wanted to know what it was like to be a human. Humans walked on their legs. So she must stand.

But how? Nothing about her body seemed familiar. She did not know how things connected, how to push and pull all these alien parts to get what and where she wanted.

The first thing, she felt, was to get clear of the ocean. Her human form was not meant for this place. The mermaid put her arms in the sand and pulled the rest of her body out of the water—slowly, so slowly, gritting her teeth as the sand scraped against her.

Once she was out of the water she discovered the night air was nearly as cold, and that it blew into the cove and swirled in eddies around her. It made the water that clung to her freeze, and her delicate human skin rose in bumps.

This is why humans put the skin of other creatures on their bodies, she thought. She’d seen them in wrapped in furs, or in sealskin boots, and thought them barbaric. But now she realized that they must have these coverings, or else they would die. She felt, at that moment, like she might die from the cold.

Cold. She was so cold.

She craned upward to see the fisherman’s cottage. Inside there it would not be cold. He would cover her with a fur and dry the water away and she would be warm, warm, warm. And then he would smile because she had come to him from out of the sea so he would not be lonely anymore.

The fisherman. She must reach him. To reach him she must walk. To walk she must stand and it didn’t matter that she didn’t know how.

Her legs had a bend in the middle. She could feel it, feel the place where the leg separated into two connected parts like her arms.

She pushed up to the palms of her hands, and bent her legs until her knees were in the sand, and she huffed out her breath in the cold air because everything seemed so much harder than she expected. How did humans simply stand up on these stiff fins at the end of their legs and walk?

The mermaid rolled her ankles experimentally, curled up her toes, and by slow and careful practice found herself standing (wobbling) on her new feet. She did not feel very certain about what to do next.

She’d seen humans walking on their ships and knew that each foot took turns leaving the ground while the other stayed. This seemed almost impossible as she stood there trembling all over and feeling that at any moment she might find her face in the sand.

But the fisherman was at the top of the stairs. And so she must climb.

The mermaid lifted one of her feet, and the wonder of being able to do it at all struck her then. She stared down at her legs, at the foot stuck in the sand and the other lifted in the air, and laughed out loud.

And then she did fall forward, landing on her elbows and knees, and had to start it all over again.

She struggled to stand. Once there, she shuffled one foot forward very carefully and then the other—one after another, scritch-scratch across the sand. All the while she clutched her body with her arms—they seem so thin and frail, so incapable of protecting her from the frozen air that bit through her skin and into her blood.

Then she reached the stairs and looked up, and had the horrible realization that she would not be able to shuffle here. Each step was high and made of wood and there was nothing to hold except the rock face.

The mermaid felt very tired then, and wanted to do anything but climb the steps. But climb them she did, and later she had no notion of how she’d done this, except that it took a very long time.

When she reached the top, the moon had almost disappeared beneath the horizon of the sea. Her hands and legs were bloodied and covered with splinters from where she fell on the stairs and her teeth chattered with such force that she felt they might break.

The mermaid stumbled to the door of the cottage and reached for the handle, as she had seen the fisherman do when she watched him from the water.

The door swung open and she clung to the frame. Inside the cottage there were many things that were strange to her—things the fisherman would teach her the names for, things like a kettle and a pan and flour in a jar and tea in a wooden box and a table and a chair (soon he would need two chairs, one for each of them).

Beyond the room full of strange things there was another doorway, this one without a door in it, and she heard the sleeping-breathing noise that humans made and knew the fisherman must be there.

The doorway seemed a long way from the one she was in, and the rough wood of the floor would hurt if she tried to slide across it as she had done the sand—this she knew from climbing the stairs, where unpredictable splinters had jabbed into her tender new skin.

It took a long while for her to cross to his room. When she reached it she saw him asleep in bed, the blankets pulled up tight past his chin. He lay on his side and only the lids of his eyes and the black tufts of his hair were visible.

The room seemed warmer than the others, heated by his sleeping breath, and she wanted so much to be where it was warm. She knelt beside his bed, stroked her fingers into his hair, and watched as his dark eyes opened. She saw the recognition in them, and she never wondered how he knew it was her, the same mermaid he’d caught in his net.

A long time later he told her that it was her eyes, that her eyes were the same no matter what form she took and when he saw them he knew she’d returned to him.

He lifted the blanket, and she saw that underneath was his man’s body with no coverings on it as humans usually wore. She went to him then, and his warmth covered her, and his love filled her heart and made her want to stay.

He taught her how to speak his human-speak, and told her his name was Jack. Her name was not something they could say in human, so he told her many names for many days until he said the one she liked, and so she was called Amelia.

Amelia loved Jack, but she could not leave the sea altogether, and at night she practiced transforming from a mermaid to a woman, until she could pass easily between one and the other without the pain that had struck her down the first time.

So she stayed with him, and loved him, and lived as a woman on land and a mermaid in the sea for many years. At night, when there were no other fishermen about and her husband lay sleeping in their bed, she would go out to the rocks and leave her human dress there, and dive into the black water and there she would stay, at least until her heart remembered the eyes of the man she loved and she would return to him.

She loved him almost as much as she loved the sea, and so they were well matched, for he loved the sea almost as much as he loved her. He’d never thought any person could draw him more than the ocean, but the crashing waves were there in her eyes and the salt of the spray was in her skin and there, too, was something in her that the sea could never give. The ocean could never love him back, but Amelia did.

Many years passed, and they were happy and content, but there were no children. Neither of them spoke of their secret hopes, or their secret sorrows, but sometimes they would sit upon their deck and watch the water churning below the rocks and he would take her hand and she would know he was thinking of the children that never became.

They lived near a village—close enough to supply them with what they could not provide themselves but not so close as to force them to be neighborly when they had no wish to be. Jack loved Amelia and the sea, and Amelia loved the sea and Jack, but they did not love the questions that too-keen neighbors asked, questions about where Amelia had come from and where were her people and when had they gotten married and oh this was so sudden, wasn’t it?

Still, they grew accustomed to Amelia after a time, as folk will. They were a good people, but suspicious, and the mermaid’s eyes were always too direct, too beautiful, to make them comfortable. And where there is discomfort there is sometimes jealousy, and sometimes curiosity, and the two mingled on their gossiping tongues until the villagers were accustomed to the taste.

“That wife of old Jack’s, they say she goes out in the moonlight and dances with the devil and that’s how she stays so young and lovely.”

“That’s foolishness, Martha, where would she go to dance up there? Their house is perched on the rocks just so. A good nor’easter would push it in to the sea, I expect, and there are no forest clearings for dancing to be seen,” her companion replied, with more than a touch of New England asperity.

There was more than a touch of New England superstition lingering, though, enough that some folk believed the tales of moonlight and demon-dancing. Many treated Amelia just the same when she came into the village, but there were those who never would.

The years passed, as years will. Jack grew old, though Amelia did not, and after a time the people of the village began to remark on this—even the ones who were inclined not to believe the worst of her in the first place.

They had not known, Jack and Amelia, that when she crawled out of the ocean to be at his side that they would not grow old together. Mermaids, it happened, lived a very long time, though they did not reckon time in the same manner as men. Amelia watched her young strong husband grow brittle, his face as grey and weatherbeaten as the prow of a ship.

Still she loved him, and loved him more for she knew his heart, and after many, many years she found she loved him even more than the sea.

And so the sea, who can be bitter and jealous herself, took Jack away—perhaps in hopes that Amelia would love her best again.

It was an ordinary day, mostly grey but with peeks of sun, and the wind was light and fine. Jack kissed her good-bye as he always did and made his way—slowly now, so slowly—down the many steps to the cove.

Amelia watched from the door of the cottage as he rowed out of the cove. He waved to her when he saw her standing there, and she waved back. She had a feeling then that this would be the last time he would wave to her, that this was their final good-bye.

This feeling clutched her heart so strongly that she believed it was truth, and she ran from the cottage down the steps to the cove to call him back.

It was too late then, far too late, for the wind was blowing into the cove and it took her voice and threw it against the rocks instead of carrying it out to the ears of her beloved.

She watched him row farther out, farther away from her, and join all the other boats out to draw their trade from the sea.

For one wild moment she thought of changing into a mermaid to follow him, to bring him back home. But the presence of all the other boats stopped her.

There were nets there, and hooks and lines. The one time she’d been caught in a net it had led her to Jack, but she had no desire to be caught again. What if the fisherman who caught her didn’t believe that she was Amelia, that she was Jack’s wife? What if he carved her up with his knife to sell at the market?

This fear made her slightly ashamed, for she’d always been brave, but it was easier to be brave when you had nothing to lose. And she did have something to lose now—her home, her life, her happiness.

After all, what if this feeling was only that—a feeling? Would she put her—their—secret at risk for nothing? And what could harm Jack on that sort of day? It was a fine day with no signs of storm.

She was only worrying because he looked so frail lately, she reasoned. But when he came home that night she would tell him in no uncertain terms that he wasn’t to go so far out to sea alone any longer.

All day she tried to go about her chores as usual. She found that she was constantly at the window, looking and hoping, but the sun went on its usual journey and the fisherman did not reappear at the horizon.

As night fell she went out to the rocks and waited. The cold air bit into her bones as it had done the first night she’d walked as a human, so long ago. Amelia didn’t go back inside, to wait by the fire or to put on a coat. She stared at the ocean as if the intensity of that stare would make her Jack appear there, tired and careworn but safe—Above all things let him be safe.

But she could not make him appear, no matter how hard she wished it, so when night fell and all the other fishermen had tied up their boats until the morrow, she went down to the cove and took off her dress and touched the water of the ocean.

In a silver flash she was in the water and swimming faster than any human ever could. Amelia followed the line she thought Jack had taken, out to the open water where he could cast his net.

She swam and swam. It was dark and the land slowly disappeared behind her, but still she swam. She swam, surfacing to look for his boat, always sure that when she came up she would see his dear face looking sheepish and saying he’d lost track of the time.

Finally she broke the water and saw it—his boat, the one with her name carved in the side so she knew it was his. It sat still and empty, the ocean lapping against its sides, and no sign of Jack anywhere.

Amelia swam to the boat and heaved herself over the side, her fin trailing in the water, sure that he was only asleep in the bottom. But there was no Jack, or nets, or fish that he might have caught. There was only the empty boat, oars tucked neatly inside.

She cried out then, and plunged back into the water and down to the deep. Mermaids can see through the dark of the ocean.

Amelia was sure, absolutely certain, that if only she looked far enough she would find he’d fallen in the water and was trying to swim back to the surface. She knew he was trying to swim back to her. He would never leave her. Not her Jack.

She would find him soon. Very soon. She was sure of it. He was just out of sight, but his hand was reaching up for her and she would find him and she would save him and they would go home, home where they belonged, home on the cliff by the sea where they could see the ocean they both loved.

But she didn’t find him, though she looked and looked. After a long time she went back to the surface and found his boat again. She searched all over it for any clue, any sign of what might have happened to her Jack.

There was nothing, only the empty boat and the folded oars and no sign that Jack had ever been there at all.

Amelia knew then that the ocean had swallowed him, torn him away from her, and a great bitterness filled her heart. She hated the ocean, hated the vast and heartless expanse that had taken Jack from her.

She wanted only to be out of the water then, away from the lapping waves and the boat that had borne her love away from her and delivered him into the cruel depths.

Mermaids do not cry, but Amelia had spent too long as a human, and so as she swam back to shore the tears streamed over the scales on her face and mixed with the brine of the sea.

When she touched the sand of the cove she put on her human dress again and climbed the stairs back to the empty cottage. There she sat by the cold ashes in the fire and wept bitter tears until she felt wrung dry.

Jack’s boat never came back to the cove, and some of the other fishermen noticed the empty pier, and they told their neighbors that they saw Jack’s strange wife standing on the rocks every day, staring out at the sea.

They assumed poor old Jack had been taken by the ocean, as was not uncommon, and some of them even spared a kind thought for his wife who watched for him day after day. But mostly they wondered when she would give up and leave, for she was not from that part of the world, and now that Jack was gone they thought that she too would go.

But Amelia did not leave. She stayed there in the cottage on the rocks, year after year. The wood of the cottage became white from the wind and the salt spray, and Amelia’s dresses grew as thin as her face, but she would not leave.

And she did not grow any older.

The people of the village could not help themselves talking, for winters were long and brutal where they lived, and a mystery is good for many an endless night. They wondered what kept her there on those rocks, and where she might have come from, and if, perhaps, she might have come from the sea.

This idea was met with less derision than that of Amelia dancing in the moonlight with the devil. These were an oceangoing people, and everyone knew that mermaids swam the ocean. Everyone knew that a mermaid might fall in love with a human man.

And far from making the people frightened of her, this knowledge seemed to comfort them, for it meant that in her own way Amelia belonged to them. She, too, was part of the ocean that gave and took everything from them.

Because she was one of them they would protect her, and when she came into the village (much less often now) their eyes and their voices were softer than before. She was their Amelia, their wonder, their mermaid.

But the rumors about this strange and unusual woman who never grew old, and who might be a mermaid, traveled from village to village and town to town, as they do, until they reached the ears of a man whose business was in the selling of the strange and unusual.

His name was P. T. Barnum, and he’d been looking for a mermaid.

 

THE MERMAID will be released by Penguin Random House and Titan Books on June 19th, 2018.

You can add THE MERMAID to your Goodreads shelf here

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THE MERMAID cover reveal!

I am so thrilled to share the beautiful cover of THE MERMAID with you! Coming June 18, 2018 – preorder links below.

From the author of Lost Boy comes a historical fairy tale about a mermaid who leaves the sea for love and later finds herself in P.T. Barnum’s American Museum as the real Fiji mermaid. However, leaving the museum may be harder than leaving the sea ever was.

Once there was a mermaid who longed to know of more than her ocean home and her people. One day a fisherman trapped her in his net but couldn’t bear to keep her. But his eyes were lonely and caught her more surely than the net, and so she evoked a magic that allowed her to walk upon the shore. The mermaid, Amelia, became his wife, and they lived on a cliff above the ocean for ever so many years, until one day the fisherman rowed out to sea and did not return.

P. T. Barnum was looking for marvelous attractions for his American Museum, and he’d heard a rumor of a mermaid who lived on a cliff by the sea. He wanted to make his fortune, and an attraction like Amelia was just the ticket.

Amelia agreed to play the mermaid for Barnum, and she believes she can leave any time she likes. But Barnum has never given up a money-making scheme in his life, and he’s determined to hold on to his mermaid.”

You can add THE MERMAID to your Goodreads list here

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It’s LOST BOY release day!

Today is LOST BOY release day, and I’m so excited for all of you to read it!

LOST BOY is off to a great start. Publishers Weekly gave it a starred review and says “Multiple twists keep the reader guessing, and the fluid writing is enthralling”.  Booklist says, “This wild, unrelenting tale, full to the brim with the freedom and violence of young boys who never want to grow up, will appeal to fans of dark fantasy.” Starburst Magazine says, “This audacious and gripping treatment of this well-known story is expertly told by Henry’s emotive, evocative prose.”

It’s one of Amazon’s Best Books of the Month in Science Fiction and Fantasy for July and they gave it a nice shout-out in their Omnivoracious editor’s list. Kirkus Reviews named it one of “Your Best Bets for Fascinating SF/F/H Reads in July“. Barnes & Noble named it one of the Best Science Fiction and Fantasy Books of July and gave it a wonderful review here.

Romantic Times gave LOST BOY 4 1/2 stars and named it a Top Pick for July. Bookish named it one of their Hot New Releases, and Goodreads recommended it as one of their “7 Great Books Hitting the Shelves This Week“. It is also one of Hello Giggles 15 Books We Can’t Wait to Read in July.

Want to get a copy of LOST BOY and meet me in person? I’ll be signing copies at Anderson’s Bookshop in LaGrange on Monday July 10th at 7pm (details here) and at Mysterious Galaxy in San Diego on Friday July 21st (details here). I’ll also be attending San Diego Comic Con – details to come once programming is confirmed.

Entertainment Weekly has an excerpt of LOST BOY here

If you’ve already picked up LOST BOY and loved it, would you consider leaving a review? Reviews help authors so much – especially on online retailer sites like Amazon and Barnes & Noble because of the way these sites recommend books to other people. The more reviews the more often the book is recommended. Thank you so much!

You can pick up a copy of LOST BOY here: