Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Spam of Cute!

So I saw my beta today, and we had a huge breakthrough with Crash. It's a huge cause of celebration, you don't know how long I've been waiting for this. This means that probably half the book is going to get axed, but I don't care because I've been trying to crack this book since November and I finally got it.

I'm breaking out wine and chocolates. That's how awesome this is.

Along with seeing my beta, I also got the chance to see her ducklings! They're a week old today. The yellow one she's called Golden, the small brown one is known as Special (he's the runt) and the third we've named Mysterion. (No, we aren't South Park fans, why do you ask?)

Spam of cute! Cute!



Monday, May 30, 2011

"Is This Okay...?"

I can't count the amount of times I've encountered a writer who asks, "I'm writing a young adult novel. Is it okay if I have guns/sex/swearing/drugs/underage drinking? I don't know if it's right/allowed/will get me rejected." There are a million ways to phrase this question, but in the end, it all comes down to:

"Is this too edgy for YA?"


When I was a teenager (At 19, I'd like to think I still count as a teenager, even though I'm a legal adult) the thing that would piss me off more than ANYTHING else in the world was to be treated like a child. Or that I was stupid. I hated when adults thought they had to "protect" me or "shelter" me. I hated that conversations would get censored around me. It was as though everyone around me thought that if I heard the word "fuck" I would die right then and there.

It made me feel like I was stupid. Like they were belittling me just because I was between the ages of 13 and 18.

And I still feel that anger whenever I hear a variation of the question: "Is this too edgy for YA?"



I'm only going to say this once, so listen up and listen good:


Want to know what teenagers are doing? They're fucking. They're testing out drugs. They're drinking. They're swearing. They've handled weapons at SOME POINT, and most of them LOVED IT. Even those goody-goody kids that you know and love in your life, that you think, "They can't possibly be doing it." Well, news flash, they are. And if they haven't yet, they're talking about it, and they know someone who's done it.

An editor or agent will NEVER turn you down because you have a swear word, or a character using a gun, or even a love interest who is a hardcore heroin user. If you have to ask if these subjects are going to get your book rejected, YOU ARE NOT READY TO QUERY YOUR NOVEL. Think I'm kidding? I'm not. If you think that any of these topics are taboo, you have to stop whatever point you're at in publishing, and go read more YA books, go read more agent blogs, read, read, read. Because you have clearly not read enough young adult to be able to publish a book in it.

When you ask yourself, "Is this too edgy for young adults?" you're actually asking, "Are my readers smart enough to understand why I'm doing this?"

Nothing makes me angrier than people who assume teenagers are stupid. Or aren't mature enough. Or can't handle it. They aren't. They are. And they can.

"But Katie," I can hear you saying. "I'm not worried about the kids, but the parents. What if they won't buy my book for their kid because they don't like the content?"

Then, again, I have to say: You're missing the point, and: quit writing and start reading.

We aren't writing for parents. We aren't writing to impress school boards. We're not writing to be bought. We are writing FOR TEENAGERS. If their parents won't buy it for them, you know what they'll do? 9/10, if they want it bad enough, they'll buy it themselves. Or they'll read it at a library. Or they'll find it, somehow, because they are not babies, and they don't need to be protected.

The ONLY question you should be asking yourself regarding edgier content is: Is this what the story needs?

Is your character a pot head? Then he's a pot head. Are you making him a pot head just to be edgy? Then you're ruining your story.

Editors/agents won't reject you because you wrote about a sex addict. They will, however, reject you if you shoved that sex addict part in just to try and stir up controversy.

So write what's right for the story. If that involves writing a clean romance (hate that term) then do it. If it involves gun toting, pot smoking teens, then do it. Do what works for the story, and don't censor yourself, assuming that your readers are brain dead morons. We didn't become writers to all write PC, Disney rip-offs where everyone has a happy ending. We tell stories, good or bad, tragic or beautiful, fucked up and insane. We write to reflect life, in all its gritty, ugly glory, and things like sex, drugs and rock and roll are part of life.

Stop asking "Is this too edgy for YA?" and start asking "Is this right for the story I'm writing?"



Sunday, May 29, 2011

The Rules are Different for You

Are you Steven King? A bestselling author? Does your name alone cause your books to go flying off the shelves? If not, then this is the post for you.

When you start writing, it can be an amazing experience. You're free to create anything and everything you can imagine. Create worlds, create characters, create stories. But once you venture into the world of publication, you discover the Rules.

I can already see some of you nodding along, and for other beginner writers, you probably have no idea what I'm talking about. Things like, Don't Overuse Adverbs. Any Dialogue Tag Other Than Said is Unnecessary. Show, Don't Tell. You've probably heard these rules time and time again, and that's because there is truth to them. If you utilize these rules and more, your writing will improve, no doubt about it.

But time and time again I come across new writers who show an example of a famous writer who has broken these rules. And their book is good for it. It can be frustrating, really frustrating, when you've had to change your style to suit these rules and you find writers who are exempt from them.

The sad truth? You are not allowed to break the rules, because you don't have a career backing you.

Publishers don't want to risk on a new author. This is not to say that it's impossible to find a publisher or that no one want to work with you because you have the stigma of being a new author. No. But if a publisher is going to choose between a debut author with a really good book and an established author with a mediocre book but a huge following, they will go with the established author every time. Because even though you've put your heart into it and it's your baby, this is still a business, and at the end of the day editors have to pull it books that will make them money.

So new authors have to follow the rules, because those rules will make your book better. It will groom it to look presentable. And if you've got a good story and awesome characters behind it (As well as impeccable timing, a savvy agent and if you're not a lunatic) you will get an offer.

Once you've sold a book or two, and you've got a following, and the publishing houses trust you, then whip out your rule breaking masterpiece and see if the editor thinks s/he can sell it.

But even then, if you're going to break the rules, have a reason for it. There's a difference between breaking the rules because that's what the story demands and breaking them because you don't like the rules. The first can make your book amazing, if you understand the rules and know how to break them. The second will make you look like a novice and a jackass.

The rules only came about because they are common mistakes that first writers make. And if you want to make a career out of this, you have to learn from them. Just as you should be learning from every book you read, every post you read, and every time you put pen to paper.



Wednesday, May 25, 2011

WIP Wednesday: Crash

So, if you've been following me on Twitter, you know I've been bitching and whining about my current WIP, Crash, the sequel to Shell. I'm currently 78K in, God only knows what the final wordcount is going to look like, but I'm finally almost-sorta-close-to done. There are lots of problems with it, but I'm hoping to be able to sit down and fix them during revisions.

One of the problems I've been struggling with (though it's a minor one) is the case of my character Vetis. During Shell, it became a running joke between me and my beta that Vetis was gay, mostly because of how he acts towards another one of the guy characters. And as that draft came to a close, I knew, without a shadow of a doubt, that Vetis was in love with this boy. It never once came up as more than hints, but it was obvious to me.

But as I keep writing him, it becomes really apparent to me that Vetis is really in love with this boy, and I don't know what to do about it. On the one hand, I don't want to boil down his motivations to just being in love. On the other hand, I'm not sure if avoiding this characteristic is good for his character. Back again, it's not essential to the plot, and I'm not sure if it would justify his character to bring this piece of him to light. And back again, he's really, flaming gay.

At the moment, it's not an issue, but I know it might be when I get to the third book.

Either way, here's an excerpt. It's Vetis and another main character discussing Seth. (AKA, Jamie, AKA, Rhamiel, AKA, the boy Vetis is madly in love with.)

“Is he okay?” she asked.

“He’s fine,” Vetis said, grabbing his jacket from the couch and shrugging it on. “Just a little sick.”

Dahlia scuttled forwards. She shot a glance at her coworker before she hissed, “Is it him?”

Vetis stilled for half a beat, his eyes growing distant. Dahlia was hopeful. From the moment Seth stepped into the cafĂ© a change came over Vetis. Vetis, the silent one, the shadow, who came to her gigs to quell his boredom, had completely transformed. He’d approached Seth, something he had never done before as long as Dahlia had known him.

“No,” he said at last. “It’s not him.”

Dahlia’s shoulders slumped. “Who is he?” she whispered. She wanted to go on, to say, you never act like this. But she didn’t dare push it. Not on these rare moments when he spoke to her.

“A friend,” Vetis said, meeting her stare with his own. “A very old friend.”

Wednesday, May 18, 2011


I want to talk about beginnings today.

Not beginnings of stories, but rather our beginnings as storytellers. How we went from picking up a pen and scribbling down a first draft of a first story to seeking publication.

I can't really give you an interesting story of how I started writing. I think I always knew I wanted to be a writer. (I actually have an "author's page" from a book I wrote in second grade and in it I said that I had been writing for three years. Ha!) But there are milestones that I've found along the way that I know were vital for me becoming the writer I am.

I was about 10 or 11 when I wrote my first fanfiction. Thinking back it was probably about novella length, maybe a short novel. I'd spent months writing it out long hand, transferring it over to the computer, and then finally uploading it to a fanfiction site. After a few months (I checked the site religiously) I got my first review. I can't even remember what it was, something inane like "Awesome" or "this is really good." But it filled me with a surge of excitement and I knew from that moment I was going to be a writer, and someday I would be published.

It had a lot to do with feedback, I'm not going to lie. I loved sharing my work. From when I was 10-11 up until I was about 16-17, I wrote fanfiction. I loved it. It was a great way to practice my craft and receive some feedback. I wrote original things on the side, but it was hard for me to find communities to share it with. I couldn't find a writing class, my friends didn't want to read it, so I mostly stuck to fanfiction.

Over the years my fanfiction grew more elaborate. I wrote novel-length fanfics with the characters being the constant from whatever I happened to be ripping off. I made up my own world, my own characters, until I realized that I wasn't satisfied with fanfiction anymore, and I started writing my own stuff.

My first finished novel was a piece. I wish I still had it, truthfully. There were a lot of themes in it that I still work with today. Around the time that I was writing this epic first draft, I picked up the Pendragon series by DJ MacHale. It was in 2006 that I first picked up his books (So I was 14). I had never been a big reader even though I was a writer, mostly because I was SO picky. But I fell in love with these books (They are fabulous, you should definitely check them out if you're into MG)

Well, I emailed DJ MacHale and told him how I'd picked up his books and how I was attracted to the third book (It had a picture of Bobby Pendragon in a bi-plane from the thirties. I was in LOVE) By the time I got to the third book, I was hooked. So I did what every naive kid does, I asked him how I should get published.

He said two things that have stuck with me to this very day: "Wow, you are a great storyteller" (which made me SQUEE like you couldn't believe) and "Get yourself a literary agent."

I think I'd be in a very different place today if he hadn't told me that.

After my first epic, terrible book was finished, I looked for a literary agent. (Unedited first novel by a fourteen years old. Shudder, literary world, shudder.) I quickly realized I was in over my head and didn't query that first book. I decided to wait and try to write some more before I pursued publication.

So I went back to fanfiction until I was sixteen and came up with the idea of a series called The Underground (Why yes, this blog was named after that series, how perceptive of you!) It was a five book series about two parallel worlds and the struggle of slavery, war, and the different stories of people caught between. I loved that series. I don't know if I would be able to start from scratch and rewrite it, but I should really consider trying.

After I wrote the first three books I went back and started pitching it to literary agents. (Weakly edited book by a sixteen year old. Shudder, literary world.) It flopped, horribly, but it was around that time when I discovered Absolute Write, which helped me ENOURMOUSLY in EVERY CONCIEVABLE WAY POSSIBLE.

After that, really, it just became, write a book, polish, query, learn, start again.

Rinse and repeat.

Until finally a query of mine was noticed by Michael Carr, who read my manuscript and decided he wanted to work with me. The dream that started nine years ago is starting to look like reality. My journey's a LONG way from being over. As writers, our career is never over. We're going to be working away at this for a long time, reaching new milestones, learning, working, growing. But every story has a beginning and I think it's important that we realize that.

So, peeps and peepettes, I want to hear your beginnings. I want to know how you got into writing, how you started down the wacky road to publication. If your story is too long for the comment section, blog about it and share the link with me. I want to hear your story.



Sunday, May 15, 2011

Why YA needs New Adult

Sorry for the blog silence for the last little while. I'd like to blame it completely on blogger going AWOL for a while, but the truth is I couldn't come up with something to write about besides inane little things that pop into my head which seem funny at the time but once laid out have the appeal of rotten grapes.


I think at some point, if you write YA or MG or even adult, you get the customary questions from newbie writers (After all, you are the wise one). Things like, "What's the appropriate wordcount for a fantasy YA?" or "How dark can MG get?" and so on and so forth. Well, one of the questions I'm used to seeing as a YA writer is, "Is it okay if my character is ____ years old, or does that make it MG/adult?"

The answer, of course, is that it's the content that matters. YA must be written in a voice or deal with problems that a teenager would face, but the sad truth is, if you're trying to pitch a young adult novel and your main character is 25, you're going to run into some problems. Teens don't want to read about a 35 year old divorced lawyer who spends most of his time drinking with guys at the bar and dreaming of one day owning a baseball team. If they did, they'd be reading adult. Kids want to read about things they can relate to, which is what we all want, really.

And that's great. I mean, categories help us find what we want. If you're writing about a 35 year old divorcee, you're probably writing adult, which is okay. Just as it's perfectly fine if you discover randomly you're writing a YA novel. (It happens)

But we've got this new creature that's stirring about in the world and it's been coined: New Adult. WTF? It's a section devoted to novels for college-age protagonists, from about 18-25. It's slowly taking form and we finally have books that talk about living alone for the first time, trying to deal with college problems, ect. Nothing outside of YA's themes of growing up and taking charge of your own life, but different enough that we can see the need for a new section and a fancy sign at your local bookstore.

I'm going to be honest with you: We, as YA writers, and those teens who read YA, NEED NEW ADULT.

This isn't about having something different to read/write, or exploring new issues that young adults deal with. No, this is a, “holy flying sausage monkeys why don't we have this RIGHT NOW?!”

To show you what I mean, I'll back up a step. When I was in high school, one of my favorite subjects was English (duh) and one of my favorite things to do was write essays. Partly because I love writing, but also because it's easy. I could snap one off and get an A. The only reason it was so easy was because I knew the formula. Teachers insisted on the essay formula which was: start out vague, close in on your thesis, have each paragraph contain separate points to support your thesis, back your points up with evidence which is properly cited, last paragraph start with your thesis and move out broader to finish. The formula was everything. They shoveled it down our throats from day one all the way until final exams in senior year. If you knew the formula, you were guaranteed at least a B.

In high school, nobody cared about the content so much as the presentation. So you can imagine my surprise in my first college class when I was handed back my first essay and got myself a C-. Oh, my form was impeccable as always, but my argument was weak, my content was thin and quite frankly the entire essay was written with a lazy academic voice.

I almost lost my mind. There was no way I could get a C-. I was GOOD at this.

And I started to realize that was university. Nobody cared if I wrote my essays backwards and upside-down as long as the content was good enough. Everyone talked to each other. People weren't bound by rules of what to wear or who to talk to. Kids came to school in sweatpants and pajamas. Professors treated their students like adults instead of children they had to watch out for. Suddenly it wasn't about what your status was but really who you were as a person.

In high school it's completely the opposite. What you wear, who you hang out with, where you eat lunch, what classes you take, what music you listened to, whether you played sports or music or did theatre or was an academic, what your test scores were, whether you worked, if you had a car. The entire three years I was in high school was a scrutiny. School was not an option; I had to fill my schedule, I had to be doing something and I damn well better be good at it. You have to be the family person, be the person with the cool girl/boyfriend, work, look good, get good grades. It's all a balancing act in high school all around your image.

And you don't even realize it. Being trapped in that world as a teenager, you're used to it. Sometimes it's cruel, and rears its ugly head in the form of bullying, gossip, drama, isolation, ect. And because that world is cruel, a lot of teens read YA to feel like there might be something else. They read about kids like them, who have it tough going off on an adventure, whether fantastical or mundane. Reading can really help you feel not alone.

But this is where the New Adult comes in. YA can show how kids can deal with the adversity in their own high school lives, but NA can help kids see there's a light at the end of the tunnel. A life away from parents at university is a whole new world that most teens aren't expecting, because for some reason the media is obsessed with representing high school and not what happens after. Life doesn't end after high school.

So many different movements are popping up to help teens deal with bullying, coming out, suicide, depression, abuse, and many of them push the "Life gets better" philosophy. (Like the "It Gets Better Project" which helps GBLT teens in dealing with the problems that they face. Watch that video to the end, it's amazing.) Because it does, and that first step is college, where suddenly it's no longer about what you are but who you are, and instead of staring you down and expecting you to do just as you're told, suddenly people are looking at you and waiting to see what you'll do because they're excited about your potential.

NA is such an exciting prospect because there are so many doors it opens for us. Not just to give kids struggling hope, but to entertain and to give college kids a voice and to open up some themes about the things kids face at that age.
Some editors/agents are reluctant to pick up on the NA wave because of one fact: not a lot of college kids are reading recreationally. They have too many textbooks to read. While that's true, some college kids do read recreationally. Not to mention the golden rule of children's fiction: kids read up. So who's going to be reading about nineteen-twenty year olds? Kids sixteen or seventeen.

We don't stop growing up at 18 and neither should our YA fiction. We need to broaden our horizons as well as our age bracket. Let’s take this train to the next level. Life doesn’t revolve around high school and neither should we. Growing up is about change, and as writers we strive to mirror life, so I think it’s about time we change too.



Thursday, May 5, 2011

Shell + Crash: Setlist

Hello everyone! Thanks to the wonderful support I received on my dorky post about contemporary YA, I've decided to keep with my contemp idea and really try to see where it goes. I've decided on a tentative title: HOW TOBY RIDEWOOD ACCIDENTLY ON PURPOSE BROKE THE WORLD. Catchy, eh? It's a nice change from my one word titles I've had going on for a while.

Anyway, I promised you guys a setlist from Shell (currently on sub) and Crash (current WIP). I do use a lot of music when I write. I plug in my iPod when I sit down to write and zone out so I don't have to pay attention to anything else going on. Music inspires me a lot too, but I've never really given it much thought. I mean, I love music, but I'm not a music-person. I grew up with band geeks who could hear a song once and then play it on whatever instrument tickled their fancy, so I've never considered myself musically knowledgeable.

But I figured I'd do a blog post about some of the songs that inspire me. Who knows, maybe when (if) these books ever make it to print I could do up a CD and give it away in a contest.

Either way, that's a long ways from now, so let's start, shall we?


All the songs are linked to the music videos on youtube so you can have a taste of what I'm talking about.

Missing by Evanescence. This song always, ALWAYS, reminds me of Jamie Winchester, one of my MCs. Jamie is a sweet, kind boy who is a little depressed and is the typical "sacrifice." Something about Amy Lee's haunting voice makes me think of Jamie and his problems, and the chorus, oh the chorus, always reminds me of a major plot point which I'm not going to talk about for fear of spoilers. This song actually helped inspire a specific scene near the end of the book. Three guesses what happens.

The End by Classic Crime. This song always makes me think of the other MC from Shell, Adam Fenn. The slow tempo and the singer's voice just always reminds me of Adam, and the lyrics fit him PERFECTLY. It gives me shivers thinking about it sometimes. Mostly, this song makes me think of what Adam would say to himself. He doesn't have much of a self-esteem, despite his cocky and carefree attitude most of the time.

Univited by Alanis Morisette. This song 100% inspired Leila Litt. I was listening to this song and an image popped into my head of a girl of Indian or Middle Eastern decent wearing a veil and riding a camel. So many sexy images came out of this song, which later ended up being transferred into sexual tension between Leila and Adam.

Down by Jason Walker ft Molly Reed. This song is Vetis, my sort of maybe anti-hero. OMG, Jason's voice is so much what I imagine Vetis's voice sounds like. Really, this reminds me of Vetis's life as an angel, him rebelling and casting into Hell. I think this song really illustrates his longing for his return to Heaven.

(If my beta readers are reading, I'm sure you're wondering where Avery's song is. She's another major character, but Avery wasn't inspired by a song, and I could never really find one that really fit her character. She was actually inspired by Harry Potter, but that's a story for another day.)

All You Did Was Save My Life by Our Lady Peace. This song to me, really illustrates Adam's relationship with Jamie, (and Arthur's relationship with Seth). Because Jamie does save Adam's life. Over. And over. And over. And over....


All Around Me by Flyleaf. This song birthed Dahlia Slade. I was listening to the song and all of a sudden I was struck with an image of a punk girl wearing ripped fishnets, long brown hair singing on stage in front of a crowd of people. Even though Dahlia's character has changed since then, I think this song still encompasses her passion, and how she puts her heart into everything she does.

When I'm Gone by Three Doors Down. This song is Arthur Fenn, and I have no idea why. The lyrics don't really fit him, (besides the chorus, and even then that's a stretch) but the guitar here and the singer's voice just create the perfect atmosphere. Arthur is hard and soft, a lover and a fighter, and I think this song captures that dual aspect of him.

Crashed by Chris Daughtry. This is Seth Beckett, and really the whole book itself. I listened to this song once and couldn't get it out of my head. All I could see was Seth, fighting his way through the troubles of his life. The line "Then I crashed into you, like a runaway train, you will consume me, but I can't walk away." That IS Crash, and Seth too. Plus, the line about bursting into flames kept bringing up an image of Seth, quite literally, on fire, so I ended up adding that scene into the book because I couldn't get it out of my head.

Cold as it Gets by Patty Griffin.(Couldn't find a youtube video for it. Look this song up, it is amazing.) This song is another one of Vetis's. His character really fits the slow songs best. The haunting sound of the singer's voice makes me think of the struggles he's gone through. Plus I can't shake the image of him in old west times in a cowboy hat and riding a horse looking for Rhamiel. So much love.

Made of Steel by Our Lady Peace. This is Jynx's song. It started off as a joke, because Jynx is essentially a robot, but it grew on me. And really, he does want to be the hero in the end.

It's Not Over by Daughtry. This song is totally another one for Seth. It ain't over until it's over, and I think it demonstrates Seth's stubbornness and his unrelenting will.

Anthem of the Angels by Breaking Benjamin. This one is kind of general, and that kind of speaks about the relationship with the characters, especially between Jynx and Seth and Arthur and Seth. It just sounds dark and bleak, and I think it shows the world they're living in. It feels hopeless, and that's really how this book feels closer to the end.

Well, there you have it, I think. My playlist. What I wrote to, and am still writing to.



Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Contemporary YA

I was planning on doing an extensive post about songs and my setlist for my books, but the truth is I'm feeling really lazy (this is also probably why I'm not writing right now) so I'll have to save that for tomorrow. Probably.

What I do fell like talking about is contemporary novels in YA.


Seriously. Do you write contemp? Really? Then not only do I love you, but I think you are the bravest person ever. Seriously. Have a "HERO" badge.

No matter how hard I try, I can't seem to get the grip of contemporary. I've tried to write numerous contemps in the past, but they always seem to peter out after the first or second chapter. Right now I was struck with the idea of a boy who sets out to find himself through chance encouters with other people.

I love this idea. I love Toby, my MC. He came to me in entirety, and I just madly scribbled out an entire page of notes for him and his story. It's very rare that a story comes to me as a whole. Normally I have to piece it together painstakingly. But I'm super excited about this, and I really want it to work.


Contemporary has always seemed, to me, very character driven. I'm a plot-driven writer by heart, but I love character driven novels. I tried my hand at a character-driven novel and ended up with my agent. Woo-hoo. But the thing about Shell was that even though it was character driven, it's still heavily placed in plot.

The problem with contemporary is that it's so similiar to real life that the characters can pretty much do anything. They're not really bound by plot like characters from urban fantasy or fantasy are. To propperly illustrate:

You can click on those comics if you want a better look. I know, I'm such a wonderful artist, aren't I? :D

So all you contemp writers out there: how do you decide what's crucial to the plot? How do you write contemp? Most importantly, what do you love about it?



Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Seasons and a small teaser

So, it hailed today, which always makes me laugh because for some reason, despite living here their entire lives, people in my city are always surprised when the weather goes completely bat-shit crazy. Every spring, without fail, it hails, and every spring, without fail, people around here are like, "WTF? WHY IS IT HAILING?"

I love seasons. Winter, especially, is my favorite, which confuses people immensely. I love winter for the snow, but also for the sense of silence and stillness that it brings. I always end up transfering this love into my writing, and Shell and Crash are no exception. Shell is especially heavy in the whole "OMG, SNOW" factor, and Crash carries similiar traits.

So, in honour of the annual hailing, I thought I'd share a teaser from Crash, my current WIP and the sequel to the book currently on sub. If you've been listening to me whine at all these last few months, then you know I'm having problems with it, so it took a lot of courage to just pick something to share and hope it wasn't crap. Hope y'all like it.

This is (pretty much) how I introduce Arthur, one of my MCs. He is in an underground boxing ring.

“Next match,” the announcer’s voice boomed from overhead. “Trapjaw versus Artie. Gentlemen, this is the fight you’ve been waiting for! Our king of the ring is back to defend his title. Let’s see if Trapjaw’s got it in him to take the crown! Bets are closed once the fight starts, so if you haven’t yet, make your way to the betting booth.”

Trapjaw turned and glared at Arthur through the cage that ran around the ring. His square face pulled into an ugly grin.

“Fuck this guy up, Artie,” Hutch said.

Arthur stepped into the ring. The blood staining the mat sloshed under his bare feet. Arthur heard the cage door close behind him. For the next five minutes, there was no getting out.

Just the way Arthur liked it.

“What do you think you’re doing here, kid?” Trapjaw asked him, crossing his arms over his broad chest. “You see what I did to the last punk who thought he could take me?”

“Yeah. It’s kinda why I’m here.”

Trapjaw threw his head back and laughed. “You think you’re some shit-for-brains hero, dontcha?”

A smile quirked on Arthur’s lips. The chanting of the crowd grew to a crescendo, the sound of his name ringing on the putrid air.

Ar-tie! Ar-tie! Ar-tie!

“I’m a hero all right,” Arthur said. “Waving the white flag of justice.”

The siren rang and the timer started. The fight had begun.