young adult fiction

Lantern: The Complete Collection—available to preorder!

Whew! I wanted to get this out for everyone to enjoy this Halloween. It’s been a scramble, but I’d like to think it’s worth it. For the first time ever, all my Lantern novellas are packaged together in one collection.

Experience three different stories, all with a connection to a certain mysterious lamp maker.

Tori discovers a lantern that shines for her and nobody else. Is it a ghost or a living being that must be set free?

Serah unseals a globe made of Celestial Glass. Does success bring her happiness or create more trouble than it’s worth?

Evelyn meets Graham after attending a party where a lantern burns out. Who lights the way to pull the other through?

Preorder for Kindle, Kobo, and more!

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Interview: Literary Classics Award Winner, Patricia Reding

Author, Patricia Reding, won two medals in this year’s Literary Classics Book Awards contest. Her novel, Ephemeral & Fleeting: The Oathtaker Series, Volume Three, took Silver in both High School Fantasy and College Fantasy. Oathtaker: The Oathtaker Series, Volume One was a 2015 Gold winner, and Select: The Oathtaker Series, Volume Two, was a 2016 Silver winner, both for fantasy/young adult.

Congratulations on your achievements! When did you first start writing?

Thank you so much, Chess, for inviting me, and thank you for the well wishes!

I’ve always written, but for many years did not do any creative writing to speak of. Then about a decade ago, after reading a truly extraordinary fantasy series, I found myself floundering, trying to find stories that would live up to the level of that series in terms of the character development, the element of surprise, and so on. At the same time, I didn’t find myself attracted to fantasy stories that required a glossary to be able to identify what was happening, or that used names for people and places that were so odd that I was unable to pronounce them. For me, stories that do these things make for slow and tedious reads, as I find I must stop regularly to re-read and to do some figuring, just to get to the crux of the matter. After some time of frustration, I decided I’d try myself. I wanted to know if I could tell a full-length story that was of the type I would read—and that was in the nature of what I would/could encourage my (then young teenage) daughters to read. My intention was to illustrate life principles in a fantasy world, thereby potentially influencing young people in ways that would encourage them to do the best they could do and to be the best they could be.

What’s the target age group for your books?

The target audience is really young women 15 and up—but I’ve had readers as young as 13, and as old as 80. Those on both extremes have thoroughly enjoyed the stories. This is a difficult balancing act, as to reach young readers, you need characters young enough that they may identify with them, while to reach older readers, you need a story “real” enough for them not to feel that it is only for a school-aged audience.

What inspired your award-winning books?

The 2017 award winner, Ephemeral and Fleeting, is the third in a fantasy series (in which more installments are yet to come). In each story, I illustrate one or more life principles that I think are worthy of attention. In Oathtaker, Volume One, I addressed the importance of being true to your word, as well as the difficulty that one may experience to do so—and the glory that may come of making the right decisions. In Select, Volume Two, I addressed the importance of determining your life calling—identifying that thing that you and only you are called to do. Ephemeral and Fleeting, Volume Three, was my attempt at addressing the issue of the power people have over life and death. Sometimes the power comes from extraordinary circumstances (or to magic, even!), while in other cases, it is about life decisions that we make.

Describe one of your characters with a cliché or a famous quote.

Reigna (yes, this is spelled correctly, as her name is derived from the word “reign”):

“War is an ugly thing, but not the ugliest of things: the decayed and degraded state of moral and patriotic feeling which thinks nothing worth a war, is worse . . . A war to protect other human beings against tyrannical injustice; a war to give victory to their own ideas of right and good, and which is their own war, carried on for an honest purpose by their free choice—is often the means of their regeneration. A man who has nothing which he is willing to fight for, nothing which he cares more about than he does about his personal safety, is a miserable creature who has no chance of being free, unless made and kept so by the exertions of better men than himself . . .”

–John Stuart Mill

Do you have plans to, or have you already, released audio editions of your books?

Yes, as a matter of fact, I do have plans for audio books. I’ve wanted to do the audio myself and have been working on Volume One for some time!

Who would you cast as the voice actor for your main character?

I guess since I’m working on the audio books myself, the answer to this question would be “me.” Notwithstanding, when Volume One first placed in a contest, WindDancer Films also chose it for further review. I gave some thought to what I would want to do if I had to consider the person to play Mara, the main protagonist in the series (if the story was to be filmed). Mara is a young woman who, for the most part, I did not describe in Oathtaker—with one notable exception. I mention that she has a spattering of freckles across her nose. Dixon finds them amusing—attractive. The “face” I chose for Mara on my cover is that of Mybelin Hernandez. She does not have freckles, but I imagine if she ever played the part of Mara, we could add them.

I find her quite lovely—and interesting. What I don’t know, is if she acts, as well!

Who are some of your favorite YA and/or children’s book authors?

As is true of so many, I thoroughly enjoyed the Harry Potter Series, which matured from mid-grade reads to YA reads with the last additions to the series. I also quite enjoyed (and especially loved the movies for) The Hunger Games. I liked Kristin Cashore’s Graceling when I read it some years ago, and Tamora Pierce’s Trickster books (Daughter of the Lioness Series) also are intriguing. For kids books, my choices will date me a bit . . . I love the Junie B Jones books (and OH, what fun they are to read out loud!), the A Series of Unfortunate Events series, and so many more!

Do you have any quirky writing habits?

I don’t think so . . . except that I learned some time ago that I can most easily avoid that feeling of “writer’s block” coming upon me if I follow one simple procedure. That is, whenever I leave my writing for a day, I leave it mid-sentence or mid-paragraph—or at a minimum, mid-scene, if at all possible. The reason is because when I then sit down the next time, I can start right in with finishing that thought and it seems to move more quickly from there. If I do otherwise, too often I find myself staring a blank screen wondering where to go next.

How do you balance writing with book promotion and everything else there is to do in life?

Ha! Not nearly as well as I wish I did. The hardest part for me is the promotion—not because I don’t have good ideas about what to do, but because efforts geared at the marketing/promotional end seem to take the most time. I still work a day job—and with two in college, continue to have significant added “living” costs. (Yes, there are tuition costs for them, but there are also living expenses, rent, groceries, cell phones fees, health insurance premiums, health costs, car insurance premiums, and so on, and so on, and so on!) Interestingly, I was just looking at some charts the other day that are supposed to calculate when you can retire. I’m not getting my hopes up, at this point . . . Still, I’d like to think that when the day comes that I’m not supporting so many others, I might be able to write on a more full-time basis. At that point, maybe taking time out for marketing endeavors will come easier.

While we are on the subject of marketing, I would like to mention an interesting program called Bublish. Whereas readers get to leave their thoughts by virtue of their reviews., etc., Bublish is a tool that allows authors to share the background to their stories—their reasoning, or whatever else might be interesting about their writing. Find examples of some of the book bubbles I’ve posted, see: (for Oathtaker) https://www.bublish.com/bubble/stream/12594; (for Select) https://www.bublish.com/bubble/stream/12631; and (for Ephemeral and Fleeting) https://www.bublish.com/bubble/stream/12688. Fun. Right?

Do you have anything special you’d like to say to your readers or fellow award-winning authors?

Oh, but of course! (We authors always have something to say—especially if we can do it in writing!) I would like to say, “Thank you” for taking the time with me here. Thank you for reading and following The Oathtaker Series. I always love to hear from readers—particularly when they are in the midst of the story. It’s such fun to watch it unfold through their eyes. You see a reader’s experience with a story is so different from the author’s own. You might say that we never really get to read our stories “for the first time.” So, please contact me on my website, Facebook, or elsewhere, and let me know if you’re enjoying the journey!

Author Bio

Multi-award winning author Patricia Reding leads a double life. By day, she practices law. By night, she reads, reviews a wide variety of works, and writes fantasy. She lives on an island on the Mississippi with her husband and youngest daughter (her son and oldest daughter having already flown the nest), and Flynn Rider (an English Cream Golden Retriever). From there she seeks to create a world in which she can be in two places at once. She took up writing The Oathtaker Series as a challenge and re-discovered along the way, the joy of storytelling

Learn more about this author and her writing on Goodreads, Booklikes, Google+, Instagram, and Twitter.

Award-Winning Book

A Lost Freedom. An Ephemeral Existence. A Profound Mystery.

After Mara and her charges, Reigna and Eden—the ranking twin members of the first family of the Select—discover the twins’ unparalleled magic powers, they return to the City of Light. There they train with the Oathtaker forces, preparing a response to the ongoing threat from Zarek, the evil leader of Chiran. But when a traitor in their midst discloses their plans to visit the realm’s border for a closer look, they are captured and imprisoned. Stripped of her Oathtaker’s blade, Mara soon discovers that an unknown power bars her ability to use her attendant magic to escape, or to free the twins.

As Mara’s dreams endeavor to inform her of events to transpire, as her cohorts labor to decipher ancient prophecy, as the twins learn of the power of a magic artifact they carry, and as Lucy struggles to uncover the traitor in their midst, Dixon’s rescue attempt takes shape. Meanwhile, Zarek’s son—the twins’ cousin, Broden—seeks to assist his father’s prisoners. But before he can do so, Mara discovers that the loss of her charges is only one painful outcome that could come to pass.

Escape is impossible; survival, questionable; loss, inevitable.

And yet . . . things are not always what they seem.

Author Patricia Reding continues to engage readers with unexpected twists and a plot which sears with vivid details of events that will keep readers on the edge of their seats in hopeful anticipation of another installment in this fantasy series. Literary Classics Book Awards

Find links to all books in this award-winning series on Patricia Reding’s website.

Read more about the 2017 Literary Classics Book Awards contest winners on my Interviews page and the Literary Classics website.

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Interview: Literary Classics Award Winner, Lynne Stringer

Stringer’s novel, Once Confronted, won Silver in College Fiction in the 2017 Literary Classics Book Awards contest! Learn more about this author and her award-winning book below.

Congratulations on your achievement! When did you first start writing?

I started writing when I was about eight, penning a little book called Goldie the Pony. It was written in felt-tip pen and I remember loving the experience of writing a book. I tried to write a few novels in my teens but didn’t manage to complete a full-length manuscript until I was in my twenties. Interestingly, the book that became Once Confronted was the third full-length original story I ever wrote.

What’s the target age group for your books?

Seventeen years and up, although I think teens of any age would enjoy it and I know many adults have!

What inspired your award-winning book?

Once Confronted was first written seven years after I was the victim of an armed robbery. I’d been exploring the storyline in my head for some time, and I think it came from the desire to be more like my protagonist, Madison Craig. She’s far braver than me and I wished I had that kind of bravery myself.

Describe one of your characters with a cliché or a famous quote.

Be the change that you wish to see in the world.

Do you have plans to, or have you already, released an audio edition of your book?

I’d like to but considering the level of quality I’d want I daresay I wouldn’t be able to afford it!

Who would you cast as the voice actor for your main character?

Emilie de Ravin, especially since she’s Australian. She wouldn’t have trouble with the accent. 🙂

Who are some of your favorite YA and/or children’s book authors?

Enid Blyton inspired me to write as a child. I’ve also loved LM Montgomery, Louisa May Alcott, Veronica Rossi and Stephenie Meyer.

Do you have any quirky writing habits?

I differ from many other authors in the fact that I hate writing outlines and refuse to use them. The only outline I have is in my head and often the characters take control once I start writing.

How do you balance writing with book promotion and everything else there is to do in life?

It’s hard to find a balance, that’s for sure, especially since I need to have a job that earns money and writing doesn’t often do that! Fortunately, I work as a professional editor so that keeps my writing skills honed.

Do you have anything special you’d like to say to your readers or fellow award-winning authors?

Never give up.

Author Bio

Lynne Stringer has been passionate about writing all her life. She was the editor of a small newspaper (later magazine) for seven years, and currently works as a professional editor and proofreader.

Lynne wrote her debut novel, The Heir (Verindon #1), in 2010. It was quickly followed by two sequels to complete the Verindon trilogy, a YA sci-fi romance series. Her latest book, Once Confronted, is a contemporary drama set in Australia and was released in October 2016.

For more information on Lynne, her books and her writing, visit her website: www.lynnestringer.com. You can also connect with her on Amazon, Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, YouTube, and Pinterest.

Award-Winning Book

After a normal day turns disastrous, Madison Craig tries to put her life back together. She’s jumping at shadows and finds even familiar places terrifying. Can she forgive the men who hurt her? Her friend Evan Mansfield sees no need to do anything but hate their assailants. He struggles with bitterness, but Maddy wants to move on. What will she do when one of the men asks for forgiveness?

“Once Confronted is a moving story that sheds light on the trauma experienced by victims of assault.  Author Lynne Stringer has crafted a powerful book with an important message of healing and forgiveness.” Literary Classics Book Awards

This book is available on Amazon.

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Interview: Literary Classics Award Winner, Rebecca Hammond Yager

Author Rebecca Hammond Yager received the Literary Classics Words On Wings Book Award for her YA novel, Beauty & the Beast. Words on Wings is one of the contest’s Top Honors awards, given to extraordinary young adult fiction. Beauty & the Beast also won Gold in High School Romance.

Congratulations on your achievements! When did you first start writing?

Thank you! I first started writing around age 8, dipping my toes into poetry first before discovering novel writing at age 11. But I’ve been telling stories pretty much since I learned to speak. My mom always said I was alarmingly quiet at first, not starting off with all the typical baby words, and that when I finally started talking, it was in complete sentences. And once I was forming sentences, I was telling stories.

What’s the target age group for your books?

Beauty & the Beast is… I don’t know…12 and up? I think of it as for all ages really.

My first novel, Winds Cove, a YA mystery published in 2004, was also about the same, maybe for ages 10 and up. I think, or at least I hope, that my books are crafted well enough that they can’t be outgrown. My future books, several in the works but none finished yet, will be for teens and some for perhaps a slightly older audience though not because they’ll be inaccessible to teen audiences, more because the heroines will start to range more in age.

What inspired your award-winning book?

This is perhaps a longer answer than you were looking for, but here goes:

I dine on fairytales almost daily. They are not the only things I read—I love all kinds of Fantasy, Supernatural, Murder Mystery, some Horror, as well as Science Fiction/Science Fantasy—but I obsessively collect fairytales. Fairytales were my introduction to the Fantasy genre, and some of my earliest memories are my mom reading me fairytales before tucking me in at night. I can still hear her voice in the cadence of the words in one particular version of Cinderella, and I’m on the hunt for the particular version of Sleeping Beauty she read to me which I have not ever come across since. That’s a long way of saying fairytales are important to me. They’re literally woven into the fabric of my imagination. So in the midst of all the writing projects I have going, I’ve always wanted to squeeze some fairytale retellings in as well.

I had a vague idea, a lifetime or two ago, about a story centering around a cursed black lion. I knew immediately it was a Beauty and the Beast type of story, although I didn’t know how closely it would mirror its source. And then my ideas regarding the noble, raven-furred lion were lost to my piles and stacks and mountains of notebooks as other story ideas threw themselves in my path. I never forgot him. But his story has been stuck on the back burner ever since. Growing up with Madame Beaumont’s 1756 “Beauty and the Beast” and of course Disney’s enchanted retelling, I was utterly unprepared for Gabrielle-Suzanne Barbot de Villeneuve’s 140-page original version, The Story of the Beauty and the Beast, published in 1740, sixteen years before Madame Beaumont severely condensed it into the tale commonly found in fairytale collections. Moreover, I didn’t even know Villeneuve’s version existed until I stumbled across it on Amazon and realized Beaumont, so often credited as the inventor of the tale, was in fact only a reinventor like Disney and everyone else. While I completely understand why Beaumont chose to streamline the rambling story so much, I was simultaneously thrilled and dismayed to discover that the version I knew was only half the story. Beauty’s heritage and backstory had been shorn away and have now been all but obliterated from common knowledge. I was mesmerized in particular by Villeneuve’s Fairy Realm, a kingdom in the air belonging to a fairy race with their own laws, their own hierarchy, their own customs, and which fit so seamlessly within a fairytale world I was already constructing involving a Sky Kingdom and a race of Fae creatures. I also immediately felt I owed it to Beauty to finally get her story out there—or at least my version of it. I read and watched every version of BATB I could get my hands on, marinating in the story and seemingly infinite interpretations of it. Villeneuve’s & Beaumont’s versions of BATB, and the Brothers Grimm “Singing, Soaring Lark” were together the wellspring for my own reimagining. The three greatest influences for my inspiration aside from the fairytales themselves would have to be Jean Cocteau’s beguiling and eerie cinematic adaption released in 1946, the 2014 visual feast directed by Christophe Gans, and Hilary Knight’s magnificently illustrated 1990 rendition, all of which had me falling in love with the story over and over again each time I read or watched them. It is my hope, among many other hopes, that someday people will be as swept off their feet by my reimagining as I was about theirs.

Describe one of your characters with a cliché or a famous quote.

The Beast – “The eyes are the windows to the soul.”

Do you have plans to, or have you already, released audio editions of your books?

I have not. To be honest, I haven’t even thought about it. Hmmm…

Who would you cast as the voice actor for your main character?

Are we talking dream voice castings here? For the Beast it would be Liam McIntyre. I think he’d be smashing in a live action film adaptation too, but the reason I thought of him for the role was first and foremost for his delicious voice. Manu Bennett would be pretty spectacular too. If we’re talking reality then…. I have no idea. I have a friend who’s an actress who I would probably beg and plead to read for Beauty.

Do you illustrate your own books? If not, how did you find your illustrator?

My book doesn’t have illustrations but I did do the cover art myself. All the photography as well as the graphic design to put it all together. I did a fair bit of photography on the side before my allergies to the vulture sun forced me into a more vampiric nocturnal lifestyle.

Who are some of your favorite YA and/or children’s book authors?

Alexander Key for middle grade/YA. His books were my gateway to science fiction, and he captures a marvelous sense of wonder of the Universe while still seeing it as both broken and beautiful. It doesn’t matter how old I get or how many times I read them, his books haunt me and inspire me and sweep me away to this day.

For children’s books, there are probably too many to name but thinking in terms of picture books I would say Jan Pienkowski, Hilary Knight, the Sisters Johnstone, and Kinuko Craft are the ones I specifically look out for. I’m aware that they are all illustrators but some of them do their own writing, and while Kinuko Craft does not, her paintings make me want to fall inside her stories. In fact, she is one of my writing inspirations even though she’s not a writer—she is a master storyteller through her art, and I like to think of my writing as word painting. Even though I use a different medium, I want to tell stories the way she does. She’s fantastically brilliant.

Do you have any quirky writing habits?

I don’t know if they’re quirky—they all seem pretty normal to me anyway, lol. I write inside and outside, at the zoo or the lake or the park when I can find a shady spot, but most of the time I’m holed up in my house, surrounded by plants and animals and stacks of books as I write. I stare into space for days, weeks, even years, mulling and meditating over my ideas and letting them marinate in my imagination. I outline my stories usually halfway through writing them, which perhaps is one of my less practical habits. I also tend to write out of order, writing whichever scene overwhelms me when I pick up my pen and then stitching all the scenes together afterward. I’m trying to break myself of that habit actually since it makes for a lot of extra work toward the end.

I like to surround myself with things that inspire me specifically in the tone of whatever it is that I’m writing. For Beauty & the Beast, for example, I bought up every vintage version of Beauty & the Beast I could stretch my tiny paycheck to accommodate as well as a few lion statues, a pewter pegasus, and along with a pewter castle I’ve had for years that inspired the castle in the story, I would literally surround myself with them, the books open to my favorite illustrations and carefully overlapping each other in artistic piles, the lions and castle etc perched all around me while I wrote so that every time I glanced up my eye would fall on something beautiful and magical, my rescued cats and dogs in fuzzy heaps around me, with youtube enchanted forest videos playing in the background. It’s in those quiet, creative moments that I’m overwhelmed by the fact that no matter how little money I’m making, the writer’s life can be intensely beautiful.

Oh, oh! I don’t know if this is a habit exactly, but while I never ever put real people in my stories, myself included, I do give real animals cameos and roles. My stories always have animal characters as well as human ones, and they’re often inspired by or based on specific animals I have known. It’s sort of my way of imparting a slice of immortality on them. Beauty & the Beast contained 4 animal characters inspired by real life animals.

How do you balance writing with book promotion and everything else there is to do in life?

Book promotion is brand, spanking new to me so I’ll have to get back to you on that one. As far as the balance in my life between writing and keeping up a home and rescuing as many animals as possible, I’m afraid the housekeeping is what tends to fall by the wayside, lol. I’m still working on finding the right balance to be productive AND healthy AND have a clean house. It’s a challenge. My husband is very patient, although I am frequently banned from the kitchen due to my tendency to novel-plot and wander off to parts unknown while handling knives or using the stove.

Do you have anything special you’d like to say to your readers or fellow award-winning authors?

To writers—just write. The hardest part for me is gluing my rear to a chair long enough to be productive because I’m so easily distracted. So to writers like me, just write.

To my readers—thank you for getting swept away by my story. I hope I can sweep you away many many more times.

To all readers—Don’t ever let anyone make you feel like reading fiction is a waste of time. Fiction and Fantasy and Beauty have tremendous value. Savor beauty. Revel in it. It’s a treasure that can be anywhere and everywhere, and yet we can never have too much of it in our lives.

Author Bio

Rebecca Hammond Yager grew up in the bewitching realm of Vermont. She has a degree in creative writing and a lifetime love of monsters and beasts. When her nose isn’t in a book, her head is firmly in the clouds where all dreamy heads ought to be. She now lives in South Carolina with a menagerie of beasts and her handsome, longsuffering husband where she obsessively collects fairytales, devours fantasy and science fiction, and rescues animals.

Connect with her on Facebook, Goodreads, and Amazon.

Award-Winning Book

Winner of the 2017 WORDS ON WINGS Award, Literary Classics’ Top Honors Award for Young Adult Fiction

A young woman sacrifices herself to save her father and enters a moonlit kingdom of beasts on the borders of Faerie, overrun by thorns and roses, haunted by memories, and ruled by lions. To have any hope of seeing her family again, Beauty must unravel the riddle of the Beast and dispel the shadows of her own past in this lush and vivid reimagining of the timeless fairytale.

Those who yearn for poignant prose and vibrant imagery will no doubt delight in Yager’s brilliant representation of this timeless classic. Literary Classics Book Awards

This book is available on Amazon.

Read more about the 2017 Literary Classics Book Awards contest winners on my Interviews page and the Literary Classics website.

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Sign up early for an ARC of Darker Stars!

If you missed the announcement at the end of Tuesday’s post, Darker Stars (The Song of Everywhen, #1) is nearing completion, and will be undergoing another round of edits. If you want to be among the first to read the final chapters of Darker Stars, sign up for my Early Reader List here.

Thank you for your patience and continued support during this stage of editing. If you’d rather wait until the book has published, please join my main newsletter to get a message when it releases!

Darker Stars BETA: Chapter 31 Locked

Darker Stars Beta Cover“Is there really no cure?” I sniffled, rifling through pages. “There has to be a cure.”

I sat in the library, with notebooks, volumes, papers, and all the journals I could find, many of which Grandpa Plaka had written in, scattered about me. Father must have had the journal with the cure. Why would he hide it from us?

“Looking for something?”

I spun around to see Javis’s outline in the doorway, his hand pressed against the jamb.

“I…um.”

“What’s wrong, Silvie?”

“Nothing—I—”

“Don’t worry,” he said, smiling. “The suggestions given at the Clock Tower will work, though I don’t agree the baglamas should be kept hidden. We’ve heard the stories about Susana and the Fire Falls. This is just another chapter. Courage and good will prevail, like they always do.”

I grimaced. “I hope you’re right.”

“Come on, you’re not getting scared now, are you?”

Sighing, I shook my head. I considered telling him about the Occlusion, wondering whether he knew how sick he was. That I’d felt it—the darkness in him—again, at the Clock Tower after he’d collapsed.

“Then, what’s the problem?” he asked. “You look as if there’s something worse to worry about.”

I sucked in a breath. I was sure Father would fill the role of World Builder on our mission, anyway. I couldn’t stand Javis holding a false hope, or worse yet, that he wouldn’t recover from his illness.

“I’m worried about you,” I said.

He entered the room and nudged one of the notebooks on the floor with his toe. “Me? Why?”

“Obviously because of what happened at the Clock Tower. How long have you been feeling like this?”

“I’m not feeling anything at all, honestly. At least not until it hits me, then afterward.”

“What do you mean?”

“Like I told you before, when I fell over in the bathroom, I didn’t feel it coming. Everything disappeared into whiteness, accompanied by a sudden weakness, like I was empty.”

“You have no way of knowing when or where it will happen again?”

He frowned and shook his head. “Father had a couple doctors examine me. They think it’s something I’ll grow out of.” He slapped his ribs with his hands. “I’m fine now, see. Nothing to worry about.”

A huff escaped my lips.

“Is that what this is about?” He grinned at the floor and gathered papers into a stack. “Are you trying to heal me?”

My stomach twisted. “I’d do this for anyone, especially you.”

“You have enough to do right now, Silvie. You don’t need to worry about me. The doctors who saw me are the best of the best. They’re probably right—whatever’s happening will work itself out and go away.”

“But it won’t,” I blurted, my voice rising. “This is more serious than they know. Mother said—”

“What did your mother say?”

Javis and I froze. We glanced over our shoulders to the doorway. Father stood there, clenching and unclenching his jaw.

I breathed in and out, steadying my heartbeat. “Where is Grandpa Plaka’s journal?” I said. “The one where he wrote about Occlusions.”

“Occlusions?” whispered Javis. “What’s that?”

“Answer my question first,” boomed Father. “What did your mother say?”

“I told a past version of her about Javis falling ill,” I began, shakily. “When I reached out to heal Javis, I felt a darkness there, something I hadn’t noticed in anyone else before. It was there again, at the Clock Tower, only darker…stronger. Like the Occlusion had grown.”

Javis’s head snapped toward me, his jaw slackened.

“Mother had sensed this darkness in others,” I continued. “But she couldn’t tell me much about it. She said Grandpa Plaka studied Occlusions and was interested in a cure.”

“Is this what’s wrong with me?” Javis sunk in on himself and pinched his shoulders upward, then shuddered as if he were disgusted by his own body. “Father, why didn’t anyone tell me?”

“I’m not convinced you have an Occlusion,” Father replied.

“Then why are you hiding the journal?” I said. “If you don’t think that’s what’s making Javis sick, why won’t you give it to me?”

“I’m not hiding anything, Silvie. The journal is on my desk at the hospital. I’m sure you’ll find very little of interest there.” He turned and walked away, with steps as icy and rigid as his voice.

“He’s angry,” I said, stating the obvious.

“But you haven’t done anything wrong!”

“I know. But I don’t think he’s angry with me.” I placed a hand on my brother’s shoulder to still his agitation. “Father is angry with himself.”

“For what?”

“By now, he must have come to the same conclusion I have. That he’s responsible for your illness. Mother told me Occlusions tend to be found in those whose travel talents have been repressed. You rarely get to use your World Building talent.”

Javis’s face had blossomed to a deep shade of red by the time I finished explaining. He tugged at his shirt. “So there’s this thing inside of me, feasting on the erosion of my travel talent? And you’re saying there’s no cure?”

I almost snorted at how much he sounded like Grandpa Plaka. “There’s no known cure, as far as Mother and Father are concerned. I haven’t seen the journal yet. Father may be right that there’s nothing in there that will help. But I have a theory.”

I bit my lip and carefully gathered the remaining books on the floor and set them back on the shelf, leaving Javis to pace back and forth behind me. I knew there was a question on the tip of his tongue. He may have been waiting for me to continue, to tell him my theory. But I wasn’t sure I could fully articulate an explanation in words. It was more of a feeling, an amorphous thought too high level to make sense, even if the solution itself was simple.

Footsteps behind me halted. Followed by the thick plop of a cushion. I looked back to where Javis sat in front of the fireplace with his head in his hands.

“What do I need to do to fix this?” he said, finally.

“You’ll need to trust me when the time comes,” I said. “Your World Building talent wants to be released. Something important needs to be unlocked. To be set free.”

Want to be among the first to read the final chapters of Darker Stars? Sign up for my Early Reader List here.

I’ve been posting chapter updates, mostly copy edits and clarifications, to the table of contents, but I’ve reached a point where I need to consider major rewrites to bring home the ending. Thank you for your patience and continued support during this stage of editing.

If you’re new to this story, read Darker Stars from the beginning, and learn more about its serialization here. If you’d rather wait until the book has been published, please join my main newsletter to get a message when Darker Stars releases.

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Darker Stars BETA: Chapter 30

Darker Stars Beta CoverSloe hugged Raven goodnight, but he couldn’t stop thinking about Silvie. He envied her ownership of travel objects; first, the baglamas, and now she had a pair of travel glasses like the pair her father, Valcas, used. From what Sloe saw, it could have been the same pair he’d seen Valcas wearing.

He sighed, wishing he could obtain an unofficial travel object for Raven, for her protection. Those without travel talents could at least use unofficial objects. The travel talents he and Silvie had were in addition to the ability to travel through time and space. The TSTA still regulated travel, though its control over unofficial objects had weakened and the line between what was official—such as a commissioned travel vehicle—and what was not, had blurred over time.

Sloe pressed a hand to the exit portal in Aboreal that would take him home to the Clock Tower. A one-way portal that led to a single, specific destination.

If he had a travel object like those Silvie had, he could have gone directly to her by conducting a search. The limits to his Time Keeper portal talent aggravated him. His talent was nothing without the Clock Tower, which acted as a bridge, an in-between. The realization hit him with a force that made him see stars: like his father, he was bound to the Clock Tower.

But those men…the cloaked men. What were they? It was as if their travel talent had mutated, evolved in a surprising new way. They weren’t bound to the Clock Tower. Their portals had a different, sinister quality. Sloe wasn’t sure he could defeat it. At least, not without help.

Sloe arrived at the Clock Tower; he clung to it for the span of a breath before reaching for the portal to Edgar. When the teardrop glowed, he pushed forward and slipped through.

The stars of Edgar gave off a light, a shade of blue so deep it could have been mistaken for black. Yet, the center of each star blazed white. His shoelaces reflected that light, causing them to appear brighter than they should have been.

Expecting Silvie hadn’t gone back to work that night, after her visit to Aboreal, he crept up to the Halls’ home and knocked on the door. He stood in silence, hoping Silvie would open the door so he wouldn’t have to explain his arrival to anyone else. When no one answered, he considered letting himself in.

Sloe reached out a hand, but left it hanging mid-air. I can’t, he thought. Not again.

He didn’t know how late it was, or how long ago everyone had gone to bed. He gave up for the night, mentally scolding himself for traveling there in the first place, and moved toward the hospital, then to the exit portal behind it.

Careful to keep his bright shoelaces hidden beneath the flowers as much as possible, his thoughts shifted back to the idea of travel objects. Silvie and her family could be somewhere else, for all he knew. She could be anywhere.

There were too many doors, too many portals, to step through to reach her.

In his mind, her method of travel was far more direct.

Maybe she’s right about stopping the cloaked men. His lips bowed into a guilty frown. I need her help, even though I betrayed her.

***

Sloe left the Clock Tower early the next morning. He found Silvie at the hospital making her rounds. The way she whistled and talked to herself and the recovering Lost made him smile. Until she noticed him lurking in a corner and caught his eye.

Her lips dropped open.

He pressed his palms forward. “I’m sure I’m the last person you expected to see here, but I’ve been thinking about what you said before leaving Aboreal. And you’re right. We must stop them.”

Silvie rested both fists on her hips, a motion so slow and cautious, Sloe swallowed several times before continuing. “I’m willing to do my part—whatever it takes to fix what I’ve done.”

“Of course I’m right,” Silvie snapped, spinning the world back to a regular speed.

After a glance down both sides of the hallway, Silvie gripped Sloe’s wrist and pulled him into a broom closet. “We need to talk. Now.”

Sloe caught his breath and forced back an awkward laugh. His forehead nearly touched Silvie’s. He tilted his head back, but it didn’t do much to hide how close they were inside the cramped room. He inhaled. Uncomfortably close.

“I have an idea,” Silvie whispered. “But we’ll have to run it by my father first.”

Sloe raised his eyebrows, then nodded.

“And we’ll need to tell your parents, too.”

“What? No!”

Silvie clamped her hand over his mouth. His eyes widened.

“You said you were willing to do your part, whatever it takes. This is your part, Sloe. You got us into this mess, so you don’t get to be picky about the plans for getting us out.”

“Mmm…kay, fine,” he mumbled beneath her fingers.

She let go as if he’d bit her, then frowned. “I traveled to the past to visit someone I trust, and I told her about our situation.”

“Who? When?”

“Don’t worry about it. She’s a silhouette in the past; she won’t tell anyone. She won’t even remember I went to visit.”

Something in Sloe’s stomach twisted at Silvie’s frown. She rubbed her eyes. One finger grazed the edge of her brow, smudging away its edge.

Sloe winced. His fingers twitched to smooth the edge of her opposite eyebrow to see if that would disappear, too.

“Anyway,” she said, redirecting his thoughts. “Moth—um, she suggested we combine our travel talents to stop the cloaked men. All last night and this morning, I’ve been thinking about how to do that. We’ll need to trap them. I have some ideas for how each of us can help, but we need more input, from my father and your parents to form a plan.”

Sloe clenched and unclenched his jaw, biting back another plea to keep his parents out of the matter. But he’d promised, and Silvie was right. Things had gone too far. They were in too deep. And, yet, hope shined in Silvie’s eyes, a hope that there was a way out.

“Okay,” he said. “Let’s hear what your father has to say.”

***

Sloe lowered his head, his chin brushing against arms crushed against his chest. He was certain he wouldn’t have his bedroom door back anytime soon, not as long as he lived at the Clock Tower.

“So what you and your friends are saying, Son, is that the dreadful man who showed up here uninvited—the one in the cloak—was someone you’d met before?”

Nick towered over Sloe, next to the invisible portal behind their home. The talk with Valcas at the hospital had gone more smoothly than Sloe expected. Filling his parents in on the situation, on the other hand, was as nightmarish as he thought it would be.

Sloe swallowed. “Yes, I knew who he was.”

“And you didn’t think it wise to mention this before now?”

Valcas kicked up dust as he moved from his inspection of the ground where the portal sat and placed a hand on Sloe’s shoulder. “I expect he didn’t want to worry you or your family if he thought he had everything under control.”

“But he didn’t have everything under control, Valcas!” Ivory scowled. “Our son stole from your family and put both of your children in danger. They could have been killed. Raven could have died. Do you know what the death of an Aborealian would have meant for us?”

“We would have been ruined,” Nick added in a chilled voice. His gaze fell on Sloe. “We should have dealt with this when you and Raven first returned with your injuries.”

“It’s too late for that,” said Valcas. “You are welcome to discipline your son as you see fit, later. For now we must deal with what we have before us. The cloaked men will not be able to recover the baglamas where it’s currently hidden, but they will destroy us and our children in their race to find it. Should they fail, the man for whom they’re retrieving the instrument will either send someone else or come after it himself.”

Silvie grimaced each time the adults used the word children.

“How do we catch them first?” she asked.

“Yeah, and assuming we caught them, how do we keep them from escaping?” Sloe looked from his father to Valcas. “The cloaked men have travel talents different than what we’ve seen before; it’s as if the Time Keeper’s ability to open and unlock portals has evolved or mutated. These men can build portals as well as World Builders can build worlds. That means they can build their own escape.”

Valcas brought a fist to his lips and murmured something to himself. When he exhaled, his lips quirked to the side, forming a smirk. He answered loud enough for all to hear. “The trap need not be too big. It could be a small world just starting out. We’ll need to find something to lure them there, and only leave enough room for them and the world’s inherent entrance and exit portals—both of which could be locked by a Time Keeper.”

Ivory shrugged. “I supposed that could work. Could we put them in a cage or something to make it a little less difficult to squeeze in one of their own portal creations?”

“It will depend on how much time we have, but a trap could be built within the trap.”

“That’s so meta.” Ivory grinned, causing Sloe and Silvie to share the slightest of eye rolls.

“What do we use as bait?” asked Nick. “How exactly do we lure them to this new world?”

Silvie took a long look at Raven before answering. “I was thinking we show them what they want. Plant what we want to lead them there.”

Shivering, Raven shrunk into Sloe’s open arm.

“Not you, Raven,” said Silvie. “The baglamas.”

Ivory shook her head. “That’s sweet, hon, but Plaka left that for you. The baglamas should be kept safely locked away.”

Silvie sighed and turned to her brother, her lips already parted as if she were about to say something.

“Javis!” she gasped. “What’s wrong?”

He stood with one hand pressed against the tower, his other hand clutched at his chest. His knees shook and sagged beneath him.

“The white… I don’t… I don’t know.”

Valcas’s face paled to a sickening shade of white. In a swift motion he lunged forward and caught Javis as he collapsed, his hands cradling the young man’s head an inch above the ground. He exhaled. “Silvie?”

“I’m already here.”

“Oh, Valcas, will he be okay?”

Valcas squinted up at Ivory and the group of faces surrounding him and his family. “We need to get Javis home—to the hospital right away,” he answered. “We’ll continue our discussion later. I’ll be in contact soon.”

“I can whip up a batch of healing broth—”

“No.”

Valcas swallowed. In a tone less harsh he added, “Thank you, Ivory, but that won’t be necessary. Once Silvie gets him in a slightly better state, we’re traveling home.”

Continue the adventure with Chapter 31, to be posted July 11. Read Darker Stars from the beginning, and learn more about its serialization here.

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CLC Awards Announcement Blog Hop

Tradition continues with the arrival of one of the most anticipated moments in the world of children’s and young adult literature. The 2017 Literary Classics Book Awards and Top Honors Book Awards were announced on July 1, 2017.

Thank you, Literary Classics, for the incredible honor of Gold in High School Mystery/ThrillerHigh School Fantasy, and Best YA Series! Congrats to all finalists and award winners. All of you have worked so hard to share the love of literature with our youth. It is my pleasure to share this exciting news. Please visit the other amazing authors listed at the end of this post for more information about them and their incredible books.

In addition to this honor, The Call to Search Everywhen received the Literary Classics Seal of Approval and a 5 Star review. Here’s what Literary Classics had to say about the books:

“With well-developed characters and a series of plots that keep readers coming back for more, The Call to Everywhen series is entirely addictive.  As the story progresses past (and simultaneously future) events come together to make this imaginative series of books a sure favorite with fans of YA and fantasy fiction.”

Read about additional awards this series has won here. The books are available individually in ebook, print, and audio editions, and also as part of an ebook box set. Find them at Amazon, Audible, Barnes & Noble, iTunes, Kobo and more!

For more children’s and young adult literature, visit the blogs and websites of the following CLC Finalists and Award Winners:

Gary Schwartz ~ The King of Average

C.M. Huddleston ~ Adventures in Time series

Carmela Dutra ~ A Blog for your Thoughts

Lisa Anne Novelline ~ Piccadilly and Her Magical World

S.A. Larsen ~ Writer’s Alley

M.J. Evans ~ The Stone of Mercy-Book 1 of the Centaur Chronicles

Stephan von Clinkerhoffen ~ The Hidden City of Chelldrah-ham

Sheila Wall Slavich ~ Jumpin’ the Rails!

Patricia Reding ~ Ephemeral and Fleeting

Lynne Stringer ~ Verindon Trilogy and Once Confronted

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Darker Stars BETA: Chapter 28

Darker Stars Beta Cover“You want the opportunity to explain, after you said you weren’t going to tell me?”

Silvie’s face burned red from the tip of her chin to her forehead.

Sloe withered beneath her stare. He was paler, thinner than when he’d last seen her. He fell back down on the bench and looked up at the girl through his lashes, his stomach twisting with worry.

“I’m sorry,” he whispered. “I didn’t want you find out like this. I was going to tell you…eventually. I wasn’t sure when, exactly, or how.”

“I’m here now. Explain.”

“I never would have considered stealing anything, from anybody—especially you or your family, Silvie. But it was to protect a life.”

Emerald eyes softened enough to widen. “Those men were going to kill you?”

“No.” Sloe’s gaze shifted to Raven, who swallowed hard beneath eyes that shined with tears.

“Oh. They threatened her life,” Silvie whispered.

He nodded, seemingly occupied with how Silvie’s eyebrow pointed in a perfect arc above her left eye. It had seemed thicker, blurrier the last time he’d seen her.

He looked away. “We were attacked while out…”

“Where?”

“On a date,” filled in Raven.

“I see.” The tip of Silvie’s shoe, the smaller one, fluttered against the ground. “How’d they know you knew about the baglamas?” she added, her voice tart but under such control that Sloe squirmed beneath her words.

He sighed and squared his jaw. “It was the night of your grandfather’s funeral. Afterward, I told Raven about the healer and how you’d inherited the baglamas. They must have overheard us.”

“Before grabbing us.” Raven sniffled. Her tears ran freely, staining the length of her cheeks.

Something in Silvie’s gaze softened. She lowered her head and rubbed the back of her neck.

“Sloe, why didn’t you tell me what happened? I’m sure Father could have—”

“Done what? Stopped them? If I hadn’t brought them the baglamas, Raven would be dead. That would have only bought time, and I wasn’t crazy about the price!”

“The scenario’s no different than where we are now, though, is it? These men want the instrument back, and now it’s hidden. I’m not giving it to them—or you—not after all Javis and I went through to get it back!”

Sloe’s head snapped toward Raven whose shoulders shook. “I understand.”

“We didn’t tell our parents about it, either,” Raven sputtered. “We were too afraid. I—I’m sorry.”

“Why should you be sorry?” Silvie growled, her face pinched.

“It’s all my fault. I wanted to visit a new world—one I hadn’t seen before. I chose the portal at the Clock Tower that led to the cloaked men.”

“You can’t take the blame for this,” said Sloe; his usually deep voice ran an octave higher.

Ignoring him, Raven spoke to Silvie with pleading eyes and a trembling lower lip. “I wanted him to tell you about this earlier, because I know he felt really bad about it. I do, too. But please, please don’t turn me over to them.”

Silvie frowned. “Handing you over to the cloaked men will do nothing to solve this situation. They’ll still want the baglamas, and so will the man they’re working for.”

“What do you mean?”

“They’ll come after Sloe, and me, and my family—anything they need to get what they want.”

“So, what do we do?”

Silvie puckered her lips. “Like your boyfriend almost admitted earlier, we must stop them.”

Continue the adventure with Chapter 29, to be posted July 4. Read Darker Stars from the beginning, and learn more about its serialization here.

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Darker Stars BETA: Chapter 26

Darker Stars Beta CoverSparks of purple and blue crackled through the tunnel of time and space.

The cloaked man held on to the ankle of his companion.

“The curse must be stronger now, our time shorter.”

“Yannan must be desperate to get his hands on the instrument.”

Struggling against the current of wind and flash of electricity, the hooded man pulled his cowl more tightly over his face.

“We must work faster.”

Continue the adventure with Chapter 27, to be posted June 27. Yes, I’m totally serious. 😉 That was it for Chapter 26. Right now, it’s the shortest chapter in the book.

New to the story? Read Darker Stars from the beginning, and learn more about its serialization here.