Available on July 26, 2016
Fielding Bliss has never forgotten the summer of 1984: the year a heat wave scorched Breathed, Ohio. The year he became friends with the devil.
Sal seems to appear out of nowhere - a bruised and tattered thirteen-year-old boy claiming to be the devil himself answering an invitation. Fielding Bliss, the son of a local prosecutor, brings him home where he's welcomed into the Bliss family, assuming he's a runaway from a nearby farm town. When word spreads that the devil has come to Breathed, not everyone is happy to welcome this self-proclaimed fallen angel. Murmurs follow him and tensions rise, along with the temperature as an unbearable heat wave rolls into town right along with him. As strange accidents start to occur, riled by the feverish heat, some in the town start to believe that Sal is exactly who he claims to be. While the Bliss family wrestle with their own personal demons, a fanatic drives the town to the brink of a catastrophe that will change this sleepy Ohio backwater forever.
About the Author:
An Ohio native, Tiffany McDaniel’s writing is inspired by the rolling hills and buckeye woods of the land she knows. She is also a poet, playwright, screenwriter, and artist. The Summer that Melted Everything is her debut novel.
To Know More About Her Click the Links Below:
Hi Ms. Tiffany McDaniel and thank you for answering some questions for me,
First things first can you give me five fun facts about yourself?
I absolutely can!
- I wish I was with Howard Carter when he unearthed the tomb of Tutankhamun.
- I can’t decide if I want to chase artifacts with Indiana Jones or chase aliens with Fox Mulder.
- The best book I do not own, but want to own so badly, is Winifred Sanderson’s spell book from Hocus Pocus.
- Growing up, my book boyfriends were every guy in R.L. Stine’s Fear Street series.
- I still have yet to go to Mars and back, though Bradbury has taken me pretty close.
How’s that for five fun facts?
· What inspired you to become a novelist and write books?
Writing is the earliest thing I remember doing as a child outside of any external influence or direction. I just knew I had this innate desire to release what was in my head. Later as I got older, realizing this was story itself. So nothing really inspired me to write books, I just knew nothing would make me happier.
· What was it like writing your debut novel, The Summer that Melted Everything? Did you experience any trouble?
While The Summer that Melted Everything is my first published novel, it’s actually the fifth or sixth novel I’ve written. I wrote it in a month the summer I was twenty-eight. It was one of those Ohio summers that I just felt like I was melting, and thus the title was born. For me writing isn’t encountering trouble. Getting the book published is really where the trouble comes in.
· What was your inspiration for your novel?
I always say what inspires me are the characters themselves. I feel like the vessel through which the characters travel to get into our world. So the characters themselves inspire me to do right by them and to tell their truth as honestly as I can.
Last question, what advice would you give to people who would like to be an author someday?
My advice to them is to never give up. I wrote my first novel when I was eighteen and didn’t get a publishing contract until I was twenty-nine for The Summer that Melted Everything. So it was eleven years of rejection and fear I’d never be published. I know I’m very fortunate to be in the position I am, about to see one of my books on the shelf for the first time and I feel for writers still on the journey to publication. To them I urge them to never give up. Don’t turn your back on your dream. It will happen for you one day. Hang in there and have faith that a publisher is waiting for your words on their doorstep. You owe it to yourself, to never stop believing.
Thank you so much for answering my question and congratulations on your upcoming book The Summer that Melted Everything, which will be out on July 26, 2016.
Of Man’s first disobedience, and the fruit
Of that forbidden tree whose mortal taste
Brought death into the World
—MILTON, PARADISE LOST 1:1–3
THE HEAT CAME with the devil. It was the summer of 1984, and while the devil had been invited, the heat had not. It should’ve been expected, though. Heat is, after all, the devil’s name, and when’s the last time you left home without yours?
It was a heat that didn’t just melt tangible things like ice, chocolate, Popsicles. It melted all the intangibles too. Fear, faith, anger, and those long-trusted templates of common sense. It melted lives as well, leaving futures to be slung with the dirt of the gravedigger’s shovel.
I was thirteen when it all happened. An age that saw me both overwhelmed and altered by life in a way I’d never been before. I haven’t been thirteen in a long time. If I were a man who still celebrated his birthday, there would be eighty-four flames flickering above the cake, above this life and its frightening genius, its inescapable tragedy, its summer of teeth that opened wide and consumed the little universe we called Breathed, Ohio.
I will say that 1984 was a year that understood how to make history. Apple launched its Macintosh computer for the masses, two astronauts walked the stars like gods, and singer Marvin Gaye, who sang about how sweet it was to be loved, was shot through the heart and killed by his father.
In May of that year, a group of scientists published their research in a scientific journal, revealing how they had isolated and identified a retrovirus that would come to be called HIV. They confidently concluded in their papers that HIV was responsible for the acquired immune deficiency syndrome. AIDS, as the nightmares say.
Yes, 1984 was a year about news. It was the year Michael Jackson would burn for Pepsi, and the Bubble Boy of Houston, Texas, would come out of his plastic prison, be touched by his mother for the very first time, and moments later die at just twelve years of age.
Overall, the 1980s would prove industrious years for the devil. It was a time you couldn’t just quit the horns. Satanic cult hysteria was at its height, and it stood tall. Fear was a square that decade so it could fit into our homes better, into our neat little four-cornered lives.
If a carton of milk turned over, the devil did it. If a kid showed bruises, he’d be put in therapy immediately to confess how his own parents had molested him around a bonfire while wearing black robes.
Look no further than the McMartin Preschool investigation, which started in ’84 and ended with fantastical allegations of children being flushed down toilets and abused by Chuck Norris. While these allegations eventually would be flushed down the toilet themselves, that time of panic would always be remembered as the moment when the bright, bright stars could not save the dark, dark sky.
Breathed’s own devil would come differently. The man who invited him was my father, Autopsy Bliss. Autopsy is an acutely strange name for a man to have, but his mother was an acutely strange woman. Even more, she was an acutely strange religious woman who used the Bible as a stethoscope to hear the pulse of the devil in the world around her.
The sounds could be anything: The wind knocking over a tin can. The clicking of rain on the windowpane. The erratic heartbeat of a jogger passing by.
Sometimes the things we believe we hear are really just our own shifting needs. Grandmother needed to hear the spook of the snake so she could better believe it actually existed.
She was a determined woman who pickled lemons, knew her way around a tool box, and raised a son by herself, all while earning a degree in ancient studies. She had the ancients in mind when she named her son.
She would say, “The word autopsy is a relative of the word autopsia, which in the ancient vernacular of the Greeks means to see for oneself. In the amphitheater of the great beyond, we all do our own autopsies. These self-imposed autopsies are done not on the physical body of our being but on the spirit of it. We call these ultimate examinations the autopsy of the soul.”
After the summer ended, I asked my father why he had invited the devil.
“Because I wanted to see for myself,” he answered with the definition of his name, his words doing their best to swerve his tears lest they be drowned on impact. “To see for myself.”
Growing up, my father was the wood in his mother’s lathe, held in place and carefully shaped over the years by her faith. When he was thirteen, his edges nearly smoothed, the lathe suddenly stopped turning, all because his mother slipped on the linoleum floor in their kitchen and fell backward with no parachute.
The bruises would come to look like pale plums on her flesh. And while not one bone had been broken, a spiritual break did occur.
As Dad helped her to her feet, she let go of a moan she’d been holding. Then, in a giddy woe, she dropped her knees back to the linoleum.
“He wasn’t there,” she cried.
“Who wasn’t there?” Dad asked, her shaking contagious to him.
“As I was falling, I reached out my hand.” She made again the gesture of that very thing. “He didn’t grab it.”
“I tried, Momma.”
“Yes.” She cupped his cheeks in her clammy palms. “But God didn’t. I realize now we’re all alone, kiddo.”
She took the crucifixes off the walls, buried her Bible in the infant section of the cemetery, and never again poured her knees down to the ground in prayer. Her faith was a sudden and complete loss. Dad still had the fumes of his faith left, and in those fumes, he found himself one day walking into the courthouse, where his mother was getting reprimanded by the judge for unabashedly vandalizing the church—the second time.
While Dad waited outside her courtroom, he heard voices a few doors down. He went in and sat through the trial of a man accused of pulling out a shotgun at the coin laundry, leaving bloodstains that couldn’t be washed out.
To Dad that man was the devil emerged and the courtroom was God’s filter removing that emergence from society. As he stood there, Dad could see tiny breaks in the courtroom wall. The holes of a net through which a bright, warm light shone, pure and glorious. It was a light that made him want to stand and shout Amen until he was hoarse.
While his soul had before paced back and forth from doubt to belief, on that day in the courtroom, his soul settled on believing. If not in everything else, then at least in that filter, that instrument of purity. And the handler of that filter, in Dad’s eyes, the person who made sure everything went the very best of ways, was the prosecutor. The one responsible for making sure the devils of the world are trapped by the filter.
Dad sat there in the courtroom, hands shaking, his feet swinging just above the floor they were too short to reach. When the guilty verdict came, he joined in the applause as he smelled a whiff of bleach that he associated not with the janitor in the hallway but rather with the filth trapped by the filter and the world being cleaner for it.
The courtroom emptied until only Dad and the prosecutor remained.
Dad sat on the bench, wide-eyed and waiting.
“So you are who I heard.” The prosecutor’s voice was like a pristine preaching to Dad.
“How could you have heard me, sir?” Dad asked in pure awe.
“You were so loud.”
“But, sir, I didn’t say a dang thing.”
The prosecutor laughed like it was the funniest thing he had ever heard. “And in that silence, you said it all. Why, you were as loud as shine on chrome, bright and boisterous in that silent gleam. And such loud boys will grow to be loud men who are meant to be in the courtroom, but never—no, not ever—as the ones in handcuffs.”
That was the moment Dad knew he himself would become a handler of the filter. And while his mother never regained her faith, he kept his in the courtroom and in the trials of humanity and, most important, in that filter.
They said he was one of the best prosecuting attorneys the state had ever seen. Yet there was something unsettled about my father. Handling the filter did not prove to be an exact science. Many times after winning a case, he would escape from the applause and congratulatory pats on the back to come home and sit quietly with his eyes squinted. That was how you knew he was thinking. Squinted eyes, arms folded, legs crossed.
It was on one such night that he uncrossed his legs, unfolded his arms, and widened his eyes, in that order. Then he stood, rather certain as he grabbed a pen and a piece of paper. He began to write what would end up being an invitation to the devil.
It was the first day of summer when that invitation was published in our town’s newspaper, The Breathanian. We were eating breakfast, and Mom had laid the paper in the middle of the table. With morning milk dribbling down our chins, we stared at the invitation, which had made the front page. Mom told Dad he was too audacious for his own good. She was right. Even the atheists had to admit it took a fearless man to audition the existence of the Prince of Darkness.
I still have that invitation around here somewhere. Everything seems so piled up nowadays. Hills all around me, from the soft mounds of laundry to the dishes in the sink. The trash pile is already waisthigh. I walk through these fields of empty frozen dinner trays and beer bottles the way I used to walk through fields of tall grass and wildflowers.
An old man living alone is no keeper of elegance. The outside world is no help. I keep getting these coupons for hearing aids. They send them in gray envelopes that pile like storm clouds on my table. Thunder, thunder, boom, boom, and there the invitation is under it all, like a bolt of lightning from the sky.
Dear Mr. Devil, Sir Satan, Lord Lucifer, and all other crosses you bear,
I cordially invite you to Breathed, Ohio. Land of hills and hay bales, of sinners and forgivers.
May you come in peace.
With great faith,
I never thought we’d get an answer to that invitation. At the time, I wasn’t even sure I believed in God or His antonym. If I had come upon a yard sale selling what was purported to be the true Veil of Veronica beside a bent Hula-Hoop, well, I was the type of boy who would have bought the Hula-Hoop, even if the veil was free.
If the devil was going to come, I expected to see the myth of him. A demon with an asphalt shine. He’d be fury. A chill. A bad cough. Cujo at the car window, a ticket at the Creepshow booth, a leap into the depth of night.
I imagined him with reptilian skin in a suit whose burning lapel set off fire alarms. His fingernails sharp as shark teeth and cannibals in ten different ways. Snakes on him like tar. Flies buzzing around him like an odd sense of humor. There would be hooves, horns, pitchforks. Maybe a goatee.
This is what I thought he’d be. A spectacular fright. I was wrong. I had made the mistake of hearing the word devil and immediately imagined horns. But did you know that in Wisconsin, there is a lake, a wondrous lake, called Devil? In Wyoming, there is a magnificent intrusion of rock named after the same. There is even a most spectacular breed of praying mantis known as Devil’s Flower. And a flower, in the genus Crocosmia, known simply as Lucifer.
Why, upon hearing the word devil, did I just imagine the monster? Why did I fail to see a lake? A flower growing by that lake? A mantis praying on the very top of a rock?
A foolish mistake, it is, to expect the beast, because sometimes, sometimes, it is the flower’s turn to own the name.
Copyright © 2016 by Tiffany McDaniel
GET YOUR COPIES HERE:
Tiffany is currently hosting a giveaway (Ends 07/25/2016) Click Here if you are interested to join and win some amazing prizes.