Michael J. Bowler
Genre: teen horror/mystery
Publisher: YoungDudes Publishing
Date of Publication: August 5, 2015
Number of pages: 464
Word Count: 138K
Cover Artist: Louis C. Harris
Fifteen-year-old Alex is a “spinner.” His friends are “dummies.” Two clandestine groups of humans want his power. And an ancient evil is stalking him. If people weren’t being murdered, Alex might laugh at how his life turned into a horror movie overnight.
In a wheelchair since birth, his freakish ability has gotten him kicked out of ten foster homes since the age of four. Now saddled with a sadistic housemother who uses his spinning to heal the kids she physically abuses, Alex and his misfit group of learning disabled classmates are the only ones who can solve the mystery of his birth before more people meet a gruesome end.
They need to find out who murdered their beloved teacher, and why the hot young substitute acts like she’s flirting with them. Then there’s the mysterious medallion that seems to have unleashed something malevolent, and an ancient prophecy suggesting Alex has the power to destroy humanity.
The boys break into homes, dig up graves, elude kidnappers, fight for their lives against feral cats, and ultimately confront an evil as old as humankind. Friendships are tested, secrets uncovered, love spoken, and destiny revealed.
The kid who’s always been a loner will finally learn the value of friends, family, and loyalty.
If he survives…
Available at Amazon
What Are You?
Alex felt uneasy as he lay in his bed and listened to the wind outside. It had been an okay day at school – he’d only been called “Roller Boy” twice, which was almost a world record. After school, he’d kicked it at Roy’s house and they cranked some Hawthorne Heights tunes and chilled. Even Jane hadn’t bitched at him. So why can’t I sleep? He didn’t know the answer. His eyes returned to the dancing shadows that flitted across his floor from the window. His drapes were closed, but the wind whistled through the trees, and the shadows mesmerized him. The patterns of light and dark pulled on his eyelids, dragging him slowly under. A dream loomed at the edges of his consciousness. One of those dreams. Sleep overcame him, and the dream began….
Ms. Ashley trudged down a flight of stairs from her second floor apartment to street level, carrying several overflowing bags of trash. The traffic sounds were omnipresent, but otherwise the night was calm and clear.
A slight breeze ruffled her long brown hair as she slunk quickly to the rear of the complex. Rounding the building, she passed alongside a sloping hill of ivy-covered ground toward the row of trashcans in the far corner.
Looking chilled and unsettled, Ms. Ashley lifted one lid and struggled to get all her bags in without spilling anything.
A rustling noise startled her and she whipped her head around to the left.
The ivy-covered hill ascended upward into darkness, but there was no movement. Only a creepy silence.
She quickly tossed her bags into the can and dropped the lid back in place with a hollow clang.
Suddenly, a large cat dropped onto the top of the can from somewhere above. She uttered a startled cry and leaped back a few steps.
The cat meowed and she chuckled, extending one slightly trembling hand. The animal snuggled against it, wanting to be stroked. She ran her fingers through the fur around the cat’s neck and under its chin.
More rustling leaves drew her attention to the ivy.
The darkness in this corner was deep and penetrating, making the vines and leaves snaking their way up the slope barely visible. Another cat materialized from beneath the thick cover of ivy. Then another. And another.
In seconds, the hillside crackled and seethed with cats of all shapes and sizes. Their glowing eyes shone like eerie beacons in the night. The cat beneath Ms. Ashley’s fingers hissed and swiped its claws at her, raking the top of her hand and drawing copious amounts of blood.
Startled, she cried out and yanked her hand back, gazing in shock at the dark liquid gushing forth and spilling onto the concrete at her feet.
Terror etched her face.
She cautiously backed away.
The cats crouched on the hillside, poised and threatening.
The huge one she’d been petting wailed into the night, and then they were on her, leaping and clawing at her face and hair. Hundreds of cats streamed down the hillside and flung themselves at her while the big one sat and watched like a general commanding his troops.
Ms. Ashley screamed, but loud traffic sounds drowned out her cries. Flailing wildly, she turned and stumbled along the side of the building toward the street, desperately crying out for help.
Claws dug into her back and raked across her neck.
Teeth sunk into her arm.
She shrieked in agony as they yanked out chunks of her hair and raked at her legs, shredding her sweat pants and digging viciously into her soft flesh.
Blood spilled from everywhere on her body.
The street loomed just ahead. She tossed one cat off in a frantic attempt to save herself, only to have three more replace it. She clearly didn’t have much time before she’d topple beneath a tidal wave of claws and fur.
A large truck roared along Lincoln Boulevard as Ms. Ashley staggered toward the curb. The headlights were bright and blinding. The biggest cat now flew from the retaining wall at her face and gouged a chunk of flesh out of her cheek, exposing the bone. She wailed in agony.
Her knees buckled, but Ms. Ashley managed to stay on her feet while stumbling headlong into the street at a frantic pace.
Suddenly aware that the truck was almost on her, she clutched at the nearest light post in desperation. One bloodied hand caught the post and slowed her momentum as the cats ceased their brutal attack. She gesticulated frantically with her free hand, hoping to attract the attention of the driver. With her urgent gaze fixed on the truck, she didn’t see the figure in black leap from behind the retaining wall right at her.
Strong hands pressed hard into her back and propelled her forward.
The truck mowed her down in a splatter of blood and gore, flinging her broken body to the pavement and then crushing it beneath massive tires.
As the truck screeched to an ear-piercing halt near the corner, the figure in black melted into the darkness. Several cats sniffed the dead woman's remains before they, too, disappeared into the shadows. The first cat was the last to depart, watching as the horrified driver jumped from the truck cab and pelted toward Ms. Ashley’s broken body.
The cat seemed to grin before vanishing into the night….
Alex screamed and bolted upright in bed, sweating profusely, his young face etched with horror, hair plastered to his sweat-sheened forehead. Heart thumping with urgent terror, he scanned his darkened room. The door leading outside was closed, but the ominous shadows still crept through the window. His desk was messy as usual, and the door to his bathroom stood ajar, but he’d left it that way. Everything looked like it had before he fell asleep.
Dropping onto his pillow, Alex fought to control his breathing and calm his pounding heart. A dream. That’s all it had been. He’d known one was coming, and he’d been right. God, he hated those dreams! Poor Ms. Ashley. He lay there, sweat making his t-shirt cling uncomfortably to his chest as his heart rate slowly drew down. Could this dream be like the one about his parents? He hadn’t had one like that in years. It seemed so real!
He lay in bed worrying about the morning, and what he’d find when he got to school, even though there was nothing he could do to change anything.
Gradually, he calmed down; the tree branches outside tapping against the house lulled him to sleep. The last image to assail him before he went under was that ugly-ass cat grinning at him before running off into the dark.
Character Name: Alex Maracle
Character Bio: Alex is 15 years old, in a wheelchair from birth due to spina bifida, has severe learning disabilities; he’s been an orphan since age four and shuttled from one foster home to another
Describe yourself what is your worst and best quality?
I dunno how to answer this one. Don’t understand what you asked. If ‘quality’ means something about me I guess the best part is I stick by my friends. The worst? I’m a dummy who can’t read or write good.
What is the one thing you wish other people knew about you?
I wish people wouldn’t always look at me and just see the wheelchair, ya know? I wish they knew I was more than the chair.
What is your biggest secret something no one knows about?
I spin things out of people, good things and bad things, like hurts and colds and stuff. But you can’t tell no one cuz people get all freaky when they find out.
What are you most afraid of?
What do you want more than anything?
To be like other kids and not spin people no more.
What is your relationship status?
You mean do I got a girlfriend? I’m fifteen and a cripple. Whadda you think?
How would you describe your sense of fashion?
You ask weird questions. You’re looking at my clothes. That what you mean? I dress emo, skinny jeans, Converse shoes, band shirts and big-ass hoodies. Like I got on now.
How much of a rebel are you?
I run my own program, if that’s what you mean. I been in and outta foster homes my whole life. I do what I gotta do to keep it together. I do like doing crazy-ass stunts in my wheelchair, though. Drives Roy crazy. He thinks I’m gonna kill myself.
What do you considered to be your greatest achievement?
Why do you use such big words? Didn’t they tell you I’m special ed?
What is your idea of happiness?
I could be normal and walk like other kids and not spin people no more.
What is your current state of mind?
Don’t know what ‘current’ means. I’m afraid for my friends, if that’s what you wanna know.
What is your most treasured possession?
I think you mean what’s real important to me? My wheelchair. Second would be the phone Roy gave me for my birthday. I never got a birthday present before.
What is your most marked characteristic?
I don’t know that word and I don’t like people making me feel stupid by using big-ass words. I’m not stupid, but I never give up trying to be smarter.
What is it that you most dislike?
I hate living with Jane. She’s my housemother and a real bitc– sorry, she’s really evil.
Which living person do you most despise?
What is your greatest regret?
Don’t know that word. I wish you wouldn’t keep asking me questions I can’t answer with words I don’t know. Too many grownups do that to me and it makes me mad.
What is the quality you most like in a girl?
I like a girl who wants to hang out with me and I don’t gotta spin her first.
Who is your favorite hero in fiction?
I know the word hero so I guess maybe Batman cuz he’s so badass. For a while he was in a wheelchair like me and he still kicked ass.
Which living person do you most admire?
I think I know that word, and Roy is my best friend ever and the best guy in the world. He’s the smartest guy I know and he’d do anything for me.
If you could change one thing about yourself what would it be?
I told you before, I wouldn’t spin people no more.
What is your motto?
Don’t know that word either. Are we done yet?
Michael J. Bowler is an award-winning author of eight novels––A Boy and His Dragon, A Matter of Time (Silver Medalist from Reader’s Favorite), and The Knight Cycle, comprised of five books: Children of the Knight (Gold Award Winner in the Wishing Shelf Book Awards), Running Through A Dark Place, There Is No Fear, And The Children Shall Lead, Once Upon A Time In America, and Spinner.
His horror screenplay, “Healer,” was a Semi-Finalist, and his urban fantasy script, “Like A Hero,” was a Finalist in the Shriekfest Film Festival and Screenplay Competition.
He grew up in San Rafael, California, and majored in English and Theatre at Santa Clara University. He went on to earn a master’s in film production from Loyola Marymount University, a teaching credential in English from LMU, and another master's in Special Education from Cal State University Dominguez Hills.
He partnered with two friends as producer, writer, and/or director on several ultra-low-budget horror films, including “Fatal Images,” “Club Dead,” and “Things II,” the reviews of which are much more fun than the actual movies.
He taught high school in Hawthorne, California for twenty-five years, both in general education and to students with learning disabilities, in subjects ranging from English and Strength Training to Algebra, Biology, and Yearbook.
He has also been a volunteer Big Brother to eight different boys with the Catholic Big Brothers Big Sisters program and a thirty-year volunteer within the juvenile justice system in Los Angeles.
He has been honored as Probation Volunteer of the Year, YMCA Volunteer of the Year, California Big Brother of the Year, and 2000 National Big Brother of the Year. The “National” honor allowed him and three of his Little Brothers to visit the White House and meet the president in the Oval Office.
He is currently working on a sequel to Spinner.
His goal as a YA author is for teens to experience empowerment and hope; to see themselves in his diverse characters; to read about kids who face real-life challenges; and to see how kids like them can remain decent people in an indecent world.