Novelist Randy Russell has been nominated for the Edgar award for his mysteries for adults. Now, he turns his attention to a YA audience with Dead Rules (HarperTeen), an imaginative take on the paranormal trend that ponders what a human encounter would be like from the ghost's perspective. Here, he tells The Book Case why writing isn't all it's cracked up to be! He's also offering one lucky reader the chance to win a copy of Dead Rules and some sweet buttons. Details at the end of the post.

Assumption Osmosis is a virus prone to attack writers once they’ve become published. It doesn’t kill us. Most authors, in fact, adapt well to having the disease, even if on occasion spiders fall out of our noses in public. We swipe them away with the backs of our hands, as though all is normal, and keep right on talking. Or worse, reading our own prose out loud like it means something while the tiny multi-leg little demons climb back up the water spout.

I hate being a writer because I could be catching a virulent dose of A.O. any minute now. And it’s pretty awful stuff.

Thanks to the Internet* the early stages of the lifelong illness often show up well before an author’s first book is published. [*I’m eyeing Al Gore suspiciously here because he both helped to invent the Internet and now has the worst walking case of A.O. known to humankind.] You don’t even need to have an agent to begin to show symptoms of A.O. All you need do is query an agent and be asked to submit a partial or, heaven forbid, a full manuscript.

Then announce this minor yet thrilling success on your “path to publication” blog or in a seemingly harmless and somewhat guarded tweet. Or place it casually in the comment section of Nathan Bransford’s website. In mere moments, someone out there assumes you know something about being a writer and being published . . . and, cue ominous music, they ask you a polite question about what they assume you know. Initial exposure achieved.

Answer that question and . . . Holy osmosis, Batgirl . . . the virus enters your unblinking eye as if shot from a gun. A.O. is a tiny little spider ovum that penetrates the brain upon original exposure. You will never be the same, dear writer. You will never be normal again. Because someone else assumed you know something, you assume you know something, too.

The A.O. ovum explodes inside an author’s head overnight. He wakes from a dream of being interviewed on "The Today Show" with a million tiny spider legs dancing among the synapses of his formerly normal brain. When he gets up in the morning, he pees clever answers to all the questions the people of world long to ask a published author. It doesn’t even sting.

Even though one is well aware of the accurate assessment of the world at large that people with A.O. are total butt monkeys, if not outright assdiapers, people with A.O. can’t help themselves. If your question, dear interviewer, assumes I know something about anything, I beg you to please understand than I am fighting off a case of the A.O. plague here when I reply, “I don’t know shit about anything.”

All I know is that I wrote a book called Dead Rules, a book that I enjoyed writing. I’m struggling hard right now to forget everything in it. There, I said it. I want to be clean. I’ve joined A.O. Anonymous and have eaten a Volkswagen Jetta worth of donuts. Now, I’m trying to forget where I went to school and whether any of the characters in my book, whose names I no longer recall, would prefer Skittles or M&Ms.

{Thanks, Randy! for a chance to win a copy of Dead Rules, and a selection of buttons like the ones above, please leave a comment telling us about your favorite ghost story–or your own ghostly encounter. One winner will be chosen at random from among the comments left before 5 p.m. CST on Monday, July 4. Good luck!)

ETA: Congrats to our winner! Tillie's favorite ghost stories were told by her grandparents and uncles: "The ghost would enter the house, knock on the dining room door (the heated room) and when one of the family would open the door there would be no one there and no one else in the house." SPOOKY.

Contest is now closed.

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