The blogging of my book continues! You can pre-order it on Kindle, iBooks, and Kobo, and I encourage you to do so if you enjoy the blog (Only $2.99 while on pre-order, $4.99 after). If you are intrigued and want to know what happens now…
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When the book goes live (November 15), it would be great if you have a review ready to go (hint hint). You can also pre-order book 2, Allie Strom and the Sword of the Spirit, which will go live mid-December (just in time for Christmas).
PLOT: Allie discovers that her new necklace and an unlikely friend are her keys to traveling across the world to save her mom from a cult and their otherworldly leader, and in the process learns that she has a greater destiny.
Without further ado, let’s dive into my MG novel, Allie Strom and the Ring of Solomon.
By the time Allie found history class, she was feeling horrible. As always happened in the end, her conscience had won. That darn gnawing feeling deep down where she tried to hide it had managed to bubble up and eat away at her. She could see her mom looking at her with those judging eyes, wondering how Allie could have let her down. Her parents had taught her better than this and she knew it.
She found a desk to the back left of class and dropped her bag with a clunk. How had she let herself lose it so badly? He seemed all right, but not her style. He had to understand that. But all of her self-justification had floated away between the hallway and the moments it had taken to sit down. It didn’t help that the room smelled like stale oranges – now she was guilt ridden and annoyed at the stinging in her nostrils.
The door opened and two girls entered, Daniel behind them. He walked directly toward Allie, not seeing her yet. His eyes stayed on the ground, his bangs hanging over his face like a closed curtain. When he saw her, he left-faced and continued to the opposite corner.
He wore a look of rejection on his face because of her. She was trying to play the game, but maybe it was time she grew up. Maybe it was time she stopped being such a jerk.
She tried to catch his attention with a smile, but he picked at his fingernails and didn’t seem to notice her. On the one hand, she wanted to apologize, on the other she wanted to stay seated as far as possible from the click-click-clicking of his nails.
“Good afternoon students,” the teacher said as she entered the class. Her hair flipped up in a fun, seventies style way. She introduced herself as Ms. Aldridge and sat behind the oak desk facing the students.
Ms. Aldridge outlined a shape on the board that Allie thought she recognized. But from where? She stared for a moment and listened, suddenly attentive. Ms. Aldridge went on about border crossings and something about a coup, but Allie couldn’t take it anymore.
“Excuse me,” she said with a raised hand.
Ms. Aldridge turned with as much surprise as the rest of the students. “Yes?”
“Um, what is that you drew there?”
“Miss Strom, is it?” Ms. Aldridge said, stepping closer and folding her hands before her. “I have been discussing the importance of history with current events, and for about five minutes now I’ve been talking about Kyrgyzstan here.”
The class giggled but Allie was too busy thinking over where she had heard of Kyrgyzstan before. Then it hit her. The map on the floor of the library.
“Oh, bordering China!” she said.
“That’s right.” Ms. Aldridge nodded in approval, apparently surprised at this bit of knowledge so early in the year. “And also bordering Uzbekistan. A large portion of the southern half of Kyrgyzstan is made up of Uzbeks, a fact that exists because of borders drawn in the time of Stalin. Does anyone know why this southern population of Uzbeks is of relevance today?”
Everyone turned to Allie to see if she had an answer. She did not, because she had never cared before. And now the chair couldn’t get low enough as she shrunk down into her seat and waited for the teacher to answer her own question. Her eyes darted to Daniel, who quickly looked away.
“It was not long ago that a major clash broke out between the Kyrgyz and the Uzbek people,” the teacher said. “And, by some accounts, over four-hundred thousand Uzbeks tried to flee across the border within two days of the outbreak of violence.”
Allie found her attention span wavering, but she heard Ms. Aldridge go on about the danger these families had to face, and how homes were burned and even children were attacked. However, Allie decided she disliked history class more than ever, because while in the past it had bored her, now it was making her sad. She wondered why she couldn’t worry about her own troubles and let more experienced people, like her mom, worry about the problems of the world.
That thought struck a nerve. Her mom was always off saving the world. Allie’s whole year of third grade had been chaos as her mom was deployed and her dad had scrambled to make sure Allie and her brother got to school on time and had lunches aside from leftover pizza (though leftover spaghetti was never a problem). Where was her mom this time? She had talked about somewhere full of mountains like Ms. Aldridge was saying, an area that used to be along the Silk Road. And then Ms. Aldridge said “Central Asia” and Allie felt her heart jump. That had to be it.
But why had she been drawn to that spot on the map in the library? And was it a coincidence now that the first country her teacher chose to discuss was this one in Central Asia? She gulped and looked around, searching for an answer, but the rest of the students were back to their own worlds, none paying attention. None except Daniel, who stared straight ahead, taking notes. For a moment, this little act of his made Allie wish she had been nicer to him. He cared. He wanted to learn about a subject with which she suddenly had a connection.
The feeling of confusion faded by the time the bell sounded, and Allie decided it had been one big coincidence. After staring at the map for half of class, she now knew there was Afghanistan, Pakistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, and Kyrgyzstan—who knows which one her mom had gone to? She wasn’t even totally sure that her mom had gone to Central Asia this time. Or was that before? Her mom had probably gone to Southeast Asia, or Africa this time. Why did she have to go to so many places and make this so confusing? The bell rung and Daniel brushed past her at the door without so much as a glance her direction.
In the hallway, Allie looked at her schedule and smiled—PE class. Finally, something she kicked butt at. She could enjoy at least part of her day. That is, until PE class came around and she saw the tiny gold shorts they gave her to wear.
“You gotta be kidding me,” she said, but Ms. Trallis, the unnaturally large PE teacher, faked a smile and nodded to the locker room.
After changing into her PE clothes, she walked into the gym, constantly pulling at the legs of the shorts to stop them from riding up. The boys didn’t have to wear such tiny shorts, so why should the girls? It got even worse when she noticed an eighth grader looking at her legs. She quickly turned away from him and hid behind some other kids. Then she saw the girl from earlier, the older girl from the library. She wanted to talk to her, but decided to observe instead.
She saw Daniel, alone again.
He always seemed to be alone, and each time she saw him alone, she felt terrible. But it wasn’t her fault! She glanced toward the older girl, then bit her lip with the realization that no, today she would not be earning cool points. Today she had to go talk to Daniel and apologize for earlier.
Halfway there she stopped. Someone else was approaching him and she looked around with dread. It looked like she would have to step in and help him out again. But when the boy reached him he said something and they started laughing. They even pounded fists. As if in a moment of understanding, she realized she may have misjudged this Daniel boy. She was the only one at this school without any friends, and that thought stung. It didn’t help that his dimpled friend with smooth blond hair was cute.
She stood there staring until a whistle sounded and Ms. Trallis emerged from the locker room with a large green bag. Ms. Trallis dumped the bag on the ground and two dozen large red balls bounced across the gym floor. Within minutes, the class was divided into two teams for dodgeball. Allie found herself on the same team as Daniel. His buddy was on the other side.
It wasn’t until that first ball whizzed past her face that she noticed that the two guys from earlier, Chester and Vince, were also in her class and on the opposing side. Chester ran for a ball in the center. The older girl from the tour was on Allie’s side and reached the ball first, but Chester shouldered her out of his way and took it. He threw right at Allie, but missed. Ms. Trallis’s whistle blew repeatedly as kids were hit out, then called back in when their teammates caught balls. Allie grabbed a ball and focused on deflecting the myriad balls flying at her from Chester and Vince – it was like they’d completely forgotten about Daniel.
So had she!
She looked around for him. He was dodging like all the rest and moving like he’d been born to throw big red balls. Half the whistle blows were due to his well-aimed attacks. A ball slammed right into Vince’s gut and the whistle blew. One of her assailants had to step out until someone would bring him back in.
Chester wasn’t done though. He yelled as Vince abandoned him, then threw with all his might right for Allie’s head. Helpless, she stared at it coming her way, unable to move. She was sure the velocity of that ball would split her nose in two.
But out of nowhere the older girl appeared, red ball in hand, to bounce Chester’s ball aside and return the favor. Everyone was watching. Allie stood beside this older girl and the two of them were on the assault, throwing balls like nothing else mattered. Kids were getting whistled out left and right, and before she knew it there were only two guys on the other side, Chester and the cute boy that was Daniel’s friend. But when Allie looked at her own team, she saw only the older girl and Daniel beside her. The rest of the crowd was stuck in the out-boxes, cheering them on.
The older girl lunged forward and released, but it wasn’t good enough. Chester caught it and Vince was back in the game. They moved close with their shoulders together, each with a red ball, deflecting the attacks. Allie ran and threw until her whole body was sore, and neither side gained ground. Then, as if in answer to her prayers, while the girl ran for a ball Chester stumbled with his eyes on her, and before he could recover, Allie threw all her weight behind the tossing of that textured red ball and watched with amazement as it went straight for his groin. The whole auditorium cringed with “oohs” as Chester collapsed, his eyes rolling up to the ceiling.
But no whistle blew.
The teacher stood there with a look of stupid shock on her face, her mouth open and the whistle at her lip.
Vince hadn’t stopped and his eyes glared at Allie. He ran forward, grabbed two balls at once and crossed the line to heave them at her. She didn’t have time to react. One slammed into her gut as the other hit her in the forehead. She looked as if she would fall back and crumble forward at the same time. She stood there dazed, confused at the ringing in her ears and the yellow and red circles floating around the auditorium.
The whistle blew and Ms. Trallis called both her and Chester out.
“What?!” Allie yelled back.
“You heard me, you’re out,” the teacher said.
Daniel stepped forward, hands out wide in protest. “He was over the line!”
“And she hit the big kid in the crotch, neither was fair so both are out. Get moving.”
Allie couldn’t believe it – first the teacher was making ridiculous calls, but even crazier, now Daniel was standing up for her? What kind of world was this? She wouldn’t have it.
“No,” she said and stood her ground.
“Out, young lady,” Ms. Trallis said. “Nobody plays until you step into the out-box. Nobody wins until you learn to behave like an adult.”
Allie adjusted her shorts and looked to the older girl for assistance, but she was ready at the line, focused on the resumption of the game so she could take Vince down. Daniel shrugged and moved to find a ball. He too was giving up on her.
“This is junk!” Allie said.
A ball sat five feet in front of her, with Vince not far past it. For the first time she smelled that fresh rubber scent. The goose-bumpy skin of the ball felt like part of her. The lights of the gymnasium shone like this was her moment. She was sick of her first day at school, confused and disoriented. Injusticed. With a giant step toward the ball she lifted her right leg back, up in the air, then brought it down to connect the instep of her foot with the ball.
It shot across the short distance to smack right into Vince’s cheek, knocking him onto his butt.
“Tell him he’s out!” she shouted, pointing at Vince. She stormed off to the locker room to the students’ calls of “All right!” and “Ooohhh” behind her.
Allie slammed the locker room door but it shot back open. Ms. Trallis stood looming in the doorway, clipboard in hand and whistle at her side. She stared down at Allie like a giant ready for its meal.
“And what was that young lady?” Ms. Trallis asked.
Allie stared, refusing to back down. Refusing to answer, because she too had no idea what had come over her in PE class. How had she become the bad kid, the one that loses her cool?
“Very well,” Ms. Trallis said after several moments of the staring game. She lifted her clipboard and scribbled down something, then looked down her nose at Allie. “This will be on your permanent record.”
And with that Ms. Trallis returned to the gymnasium and Allie heard the whistle blow. The shoes squeaked on the floor and kids yelled again. But she wanted to sit on the bench in the locker room and be alone. She wasn’t even totally sure why she had lost her cool, to that degree anyway. Regardless, they shouldn’t have been forced to play dodge ball. It was a stupid game!
“Agh, whatever,” she said and threw her clothes on over her gym suit.
As she walked into the hallway, she looked to her necklace and it sparkled like a teardrop. It brought her a moment of comfort, a reminder that her mom was out there somewhere, thinking of her. A left turn brought her back in the auditorium, leaving her unsure of where to go. Her next class didn’t start for another fifteen minutes, but she didn’t want to stand there by herself. She was about to go find the library, when a pair of eyes caught her attention – the older girl, still in her gym clothes.
The girl approached and nodded. “Nice moves there.”
Allie looked around to make sure the girl was talking to her. “Thanks.”
“Hey, you gotta win right? Do whatever it takes.”
“I don’t think I was worried about winning. Is this what it’s always like?”
“You mean those punks? They’re part of, well, how do I say it? You seen the kids walking around in black here?”
“I guess so.” She remembered seeing some kids in black in the auditorium and lunchroom, but wondered what they had to do with this.
“This school’s super weird, but you just have to go along with it sometimes. Stay away from them. They think they’re some secret society or something, the Strayers they call ’emselves. Twelve fights in one day last year, you wouldn’t believe it unless you saw it.”
“Yeah, those two weirdoes back there claim to be part of the group. Don’t think about joining, they’re a bunch of idiots.”
“Of course not. They make their new-joins do stupid stuff like picking on other kids, stealing stuff, you know. Typical immature boys if you ask me. That’s why they were picking on that friend of yours during lunch.”
“Yeah well… He’s not my friend.” Allie fidgeted with her bag then looked back to the girl. “So you saw that too, huh? In the lunchroom?”
“Twice in one day. They’re gonna be out for you.” The girl assessed Allie for a moment then shrugged. “That was some kick though.”
“I’m Paulette, by the way.”
“I play goalie for the Angels, I don’t suppose you—”
“Goalie?” Allie couldn’t believe it. “You mean—”
“The soccer team. Cute right? Vigil means protector, so we figure since we’re Vigil Junior High, we’d call ourselves the Angels, like guardian angels. Ever played?”
“I might’ve played a few times.” She didn’t want to appear too eager.
“Well Allie, give me your phone, I’ll shoot myself a text on it so you’ll have my number.”
Allie dug into her pocket for her cell phone and then handed it over. A smile spread across her face. This school was starting to look a little less crummy. Now she had to see if she could hang. But the next stop was, once again, the principal’s office.
Did you miss chapter 1? Get it here!