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.
Allie sat behind the large desk, feeling smaller than ever. Her dad was going to kill her if he heard about this. Her only hope was that he would be too distracted with whatever he had wanted to tell her, that her acting out at school wouldn’t bother him.
“Sooo…” Principal Eisner started out. She paced behind the desk, frowning at Allie. Finally she sat, her fingers forming a steeple.
“You don’t understand…” Allie started, but Principal Eisner held up a finger.
“This is how you want to start the year?”
Allie looked to the floor, not knowing how to answer that.
Principal Eisner leaned forward and the chair groaned beneath her. “Look, Allie. I’m not mad here, per say.”
“It’s just that I had high hopes for you, after your mother said—”
Principal Eisner looked around as if caught. “Oh, yes.” She paused as if unsure how much to say, then said, “We used to work together, in a way.”
“What do you mean?”
“Young lady,” Principal Eisner interrupted, looking quite flustered. “I don’t know, I think it’s best we focus on you and what’s going on with school for now.”
“But how could—”
Principal Eisner cleared her throat and Allie saw it wasn’t the best time to ask questions. She leaned back, dejected.
“I tell you what,” Principal Eisner said. “One more pass, but only because….” She seemed to zone out, her eyes focused on Allie, in deep thought.
“Yes?” Allie said, hopeful now.
Principal Eisner shook her head, clearing it. She looked into Allie’s eyes. “I like to see a girl stand up for herself, Allie. But be careful, you got that?” With that she spun her chair around and seemed to go into deep thought again.
Allie sat for a moment, wondering what had just happened. She stood, not sure if she was dismissed, and then walked to the door. She glanced back once, only to see that Principal Eisner was looking at her in some deep, somewhat unsettling way.
“Be careful,” Principal Eisner said, and then waved her out.
Allie entered the hall and shook her head, wondering what the heck that had been all about. What a weird school, she thought. She started walking down the hall and noticed the next classes were already in session. The last thing she wanted now was to have to explain herself, so instead she made a straight line for the exit, burst out, and found herself running for the tree line.
Light raindrops trickled along the pine needles and several small streams of muddy water had started to form. She entered the trees around her school and found a babbling brook that she decided to walk along for a few minutes. She hopped over it and watched a fern blow in the wind, then heard a creak from a branch above and looked up to see the trees swaying beneath a stormy gray sky. She sighed, wondering if she would ever escape Washington. What she had loved growing up, the beautiful nature and intense seasons had just now begun to get on her nerves.
A loud thwack sounded from nearby and caused Allie to jump. She looked back to the school, considering whether she should run back, when she heard the thwack again. Her curiosity won out.
She rounded the trees and saw him again – Daniel. He stood on patch of moss, head down with the rain forming his ear-length brown hair into little spears. He raised his head to look off toward a particularly thick tree and bent his knees. He pulled his hand back and threw it forward with a—
Something hit the tree and Allie started. Daniel bent down and found a rock, then went through the same routine three more times before turning to see her watching.
“Hey,” he said, unsure.
She couldn’t find it in herself to be mean to him again. “What a day, huh?”
He nodded with a half-smile.
“I didn’t mean to—”
“Sure you did,” he said and turned away from her, looking for another rock. “Everyone does, I had hoped you were different.”
She felt awful and embarrassed, like the time she had stolen a five-dollar bill from her mom’s purse and then lied about it. She would never forget that look in her mom’s eyes. She felt that same weight in her gut now. She was glad he didn’t ask her what she was doing out here instead of in class, and she felt no need to ask him. She got it.
“We put on quite a show for the whole lunchroom, huh?” she said.
“You know those guys?”
“Chester and Vince? No, well, kinda. I mean, when I transferred in sixth grade they were in the same school, but we never talked much. Different teacher and all, but I saw them picking on kids all the time. Didn’t know I’d be one of the kids being picked on someday. Someday sucks.”
She laughed. “You shouldn’t be so nerdy.”
Daniel looked over his clothes and nodded. One of his pant legs had managed to get tucked into his white sock, which he quickly corrected.
“I guess,” he said.
He shrugged again.
“What’s up with the rocks?” She nodded towards the poor tree he’d been pelting. “Quite the arm.”
“Oh,” he smiled, bashful. “Just like to throw, I guess. I’m thinking of trying out for the team this year.”
“The team? The throwing-rocks-at-trees team?”
He laughed. “Baseball.”
“Oh. You don’t think it’s boring?”
Again, with the look of hurt in his eyes, she cringed. But then he smiled and shrugged it off.
“Are you kidding me? The fans, the hotdogs, the waves!” He raised his hands as if part of a whole group of fans performing the wave, then held his hands around his mouth and made the sound of crowds cheering. “There’s nothing like it.”
“You ever played?” he asked.
“I’m into sports that require a skill, that give you rewarding sense of accomplishment.”
“You stand around on bases, then throw things at each other occasionally!”
Daniel blinked then looked away, dropping the rock in his hand. Instantly she felt the guilt return, aware she had hurt him again. She would have to find a way to stop that.
“Listen,” she said, her mind running on what to say. “You really handled yourself well back there, and kneeling behind that guy at the right moment, that was great.”
He turned, eyes bright. “And the way you pushed Chester, seeing his face after he fell was so worth it. Then that kick in PE!”
“Are you kidding?” he said. “You were awesome!”
“Yeah well,” a voice said from nearby. “Now it’s time for revenge.”
Allie turned and saw Chester and Vince approaching. Vince still sported a bright red mark on his cheek from where the dodge ball had whacked him, and Chester walked a bit odd. Chester’s eyes burned into Allie as he said, “We never finished getting to know each other.”
“Not again,” Daniel said with an edge of desperation as Vince and Chester approached.
Allie looked past them and pointed, to nothing. “Principal Eisner, we were….”
Chester and Vince turned, but nobody was there.
Allie pulled Daniel by the hand and shouted, “Run!”
They made their way through the woods, dodging a couple of low hanging branches and hurdling a fallen tree. Allie had no problem, but Daniel was a bit clumsier when it came to all this maneuvering. A rock hit a nearby tree and Allie realized the bullies were throwing rocks at them! She kept running, pulling Daniel along whenever he lagged. Her chest started to burn and she wondered how long they had been running, and how far these woods reached, when suddenly Daniel lurched to a stop. He turned back and she saw that he only had one shoe on, the other was stuck in the mud.
“Leave it!” she shouted as the tree branches shifted in the distance.
He looked to her, desperate, but held up a hand. “I can’t go on. You, run.”
“What?” She couldn’t leave him here, and she knew it.
She looked between him and the rattling of the trees, then grabbed her necklace tight, as if for comfort.
“Come on!” she said in almost a whisper.
He bit his lip, looked at her, and then pulled his shoe from the mud and slipped it on. She almost smiled as he broke into a run and she found herself following him. The fog hadn’t been noticeable before, but now it grew thick around them. The raindrops slowed and the fog seemed to darken, almost glowing a greenish brown in the dense woods. Allie and Daniel slowed to a walk, not wanting to run into a tree because of their increasingly limited vision. A soft blue glow reflected off of the white air, and Allie looked down to see it was coming from a blue shimmer of her necklace.
Daniel noticed it too and looked at her with wide, questioning eyes. He opened his mouth, about to ask, when from the nearby trees they heard someone’s voice say “This way.”
Daniel’s eyes stared, wide with fright, at the glowing stone of Allie’s necklace. She cupped her hands around it, trying to keep the glow hidden from their pursuers. A sound of rustling leaves seemed to break them from their trance and they threw themselves down behind a fallen log just as Chester appeared, as if a ghost through the fog. Allie could see him through an opening beneath the log, where the earth had crumbled.
Chester’s voice seemed to echo through the woods. “She had the necklace, right? Did you see it?”
Vince appeared beside him, almost an outline in the darkness. “The Strayers are gonna have to let us in if we get it. If it’s legit, if it’s—”
“You really think it’s Solomon’s Seal?” Chester interrupted. “The Star of David, I mean the real one?”
“I don’t know why we’re chasing her if it isn’t,” Vince answered, as their forms disappeared into the fog.
“Only one way to find out. We gotta catch that girl.”
Allie looked at Daniel with as much surprise and fright as she saw in his eyes. She stood and checked to make sure the coast was clear and then motioned for him to turn and follow her back the way they had come. He hesitated, eyes on the blue glow that escaped between her fingers of the hand clutching the necklace, but she gave him a stern look and waved him over.
They walked back through barely visible trees around them and a darkness above. It didn’t feel like mid-day at all. The air even smelled different all of a sudden, like the air after a campfire has been put out. And the rain had stopped, leaving a void that felt too silent.
Allie paused, eyes searching their surroundings. She turned to Daniel, who was also spinning and looking. Where fog had been moments before, now a rural darkness surrounded them. Stars filled the sky with an intensity Allie had never seen in city skies. The evergreens of the school grounds were replaced with firs, small red flags tied to some of the branches. A violent wind shook the branches and pushed the flags about, while Allie had to lean in to Daniel to be heard.
“Don’t be scared,” she said. “All this, it…. I think it’s a dream.”
“We’re not sleeping, Allie.”
She ducked as the wind blew a branch her way, nearly colliding with her head.
“We have to be.” Allie wrapped her arms around her torso and rubbed, trying to stay warm.
He looked at her with skepticism.
“If you know what they were talking about, if you can explain this to me,” he motioned toward the necklace and their surroundings, “now’s about the right time.”
She stared at him in disbelief. For a moment she considered telling him everything about how her mom never left the necklace out of her sight, and how that morning she had seemed to have visions that she was now starting to doubt had been a dream. But instead she shook her head and said, “Daniel, I have no idea.”
He squinted, as if trying to read her, and then shook his head. “Fine. So where are we?”
“At school,” she said, but she wasn’t so sure. “We just need to—”
“Allie…” a voice carried on the wind. A whisper, but one she knew all too well. Her mother’s voice. “Allie…” it said again.
The images of that morning returned, of the dark tunnel and the horrible sense of being ripped away from her mother. Somehow this was all connected.
“Hello?” Allie said, spinning, eyes searching to pierce the fog. “Mom?”
“What are you talking about?” Daniel looked at her like she was crazy, but she held a finger to her lips to shush him as she listened.
“MOM!” she yelled out.
“They’re going to hear you!” Daniel said, stepping toward her. “Quiet.”
But Allie didn’t respond, because she was focused on something that had appeared in the darkness, like the peak of a small mountain, or perhaps a dark tower, past the woods.
She motioned for Daniel to come close. “Do you see it?”
This time he didn’t question her, but asked, “How’d it get here?”
“Or how did we get here?” she asked. “Wherever here is.”
With a slight pulse of the blue glow from the shape in the distance, like a glimpse of a heartbeat, Allie heard the whisper once again as it said, “It’s up to you now, Allie,” and then it was gone, along with the fog. Allie stumbled backward and nearly fell in the mud, but Daniel caught her.
Daylight returned as if the sun had been eclipsed and was back to normal.
“You saw it?” she asked.
He nodded his head.
“You heard the voice, my mom?”
He nodded again, his eyelids showing a slight twitch of fright. For a moment, they stared at each other. If this was happening, then the images of that morning were most likely not a dream either. The rain began its pitter-patter again as it trickled through pine needles, and soon it was pounding them, pouring into the streams that threatened to cut them off from the school grounds visible beyond the trees.
“Come on,” she said. “We can’t stay here.”
They ran back to the school, careful to avoid Chester and Vince but seeing no sign of them. The first door they reached was to the library, and they darted in, happy to escape the torrential downpour. Allie shook herself dry, then watched Daniel as he looked down the nearby aisles of books to make sure they were alone. His hands were shaking, whether from the chill of rain or the craziness of what had just happened, Allie could only imagine.
“So?” he said as he turned his gaze to her and then her necklace. “What was that about?”
It was then that Allie realized she was shaking too. She held the necklace so she could inspect it, but it looked normal now. She had no idea how to answer his question.
“You were right,” he said. “We were definitely not on school property. We weren’t even in Washington for all I know.”
“And those boys, what were they saying?” She assessed the star shape on the stone. “The Seal of Solomon?”
“You don’t know what they were talking about?”
“Not a clue.”
“But you’re wearing the necklace, you oughta know something.”
He was right, and in a way, maybe she did. But the idea that this necklace was somehow special and had powers was too much for her to handle.
“All I know,” she said with a shudder of fright, “is that something happened. It’s like the necklace took us somewhere else, and my mom, I don’t know. It’s like….”
A footstep sounded and a deep, husky voice said, “Magic?”
Allie and Daniel whirled around in surprise to see the librarian standing nearby. He placed a book in the shelf, several more in his hands.
The librarian winked at them, but his expression was serious. “I imagine that is exactly what happened, Allie.”
She stared at him in shock. When her legs seemed to once again follow her command, she started to slowly back away.
“Wait,” the librarian said as he set the books on a nearby pile on the book cart. “It’s okay, I work with your mom.”
“We both do,” said another voice from the other direction, and they spun to see Principal Eisner in the doorway. “And now we know it’s up to you to find her. You have been chosen, Allie.”
Allie’s head swiveled back and forth between the librarian and the principal. “What do you mean, I’ve been chosen?” Allie asked, her voice cracking. “What do you mean, find her?”
“I trust you will join us, Gabriel?” Principal Eisner said before turning to Allie and Daniel. “Come, it’s best we do not speak here.”