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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 followed Daniel into a small bedroom, tiptoeing so as not to wake his dad. A blue comforter lay tossed across the bed and video games were scattered across the floor.
“Some place you have here,” she said.
“I’m sure.” He smirked. “Whatever, I’m a guy. I don’t have to be clean.”
“Huh,” was all she could say to that.
“So, no luck with your dad then?” he asked.
Allie’s sour mood returned. “I thought if I just told him….”
Daniel leaned against his television stand and Allie noticed something behind him.
“Is that a present?” she asked.
He turned and sure enough, he picked up a small package in blue wrapping paper.
“What is it?” she asked.
“Oh, yeah, this. Just a present from Chris.” Off her look he added, “My friend from P.E. class.”
She stared at him. “It was your birthday?”
He blushed. “Day before yesterday. I woulda invited you, but….”
“But you didn’t know me.”
From the wrapping paper he pulled a book, “Aesop’s Fables.”
“Besides,” he said. “I always get these weird presents I have to pretend to like.”
“I remember this book.” She reached out and he tossed it over. She started flipping through the pages. “Yeah, it’s a classic.”
“Back in my old school, we read all about that sort of stuff, it was some hippy school, teaching us about religions and mythologies from around the world and whatnot.”
“Now that sounds cool.”
“I only went there a couple years. My mom wasn’t around much then
They shared a somber moment, but it was interrupted by a crash from the other room. Daniel’s eyes flared and he glanced around, then to the window. The rain had stopped.
“Come on, I’ll show you something.” He opened the window and started climbing out.
“Are you serious?” Allie said, then heard a muffled yelling from the other room.
“I don’t wanna stay here. Are you going home, or can you come with me?”
She followed him, almost falling in the darkness, but Daniel caught her.
They kneeled below the window, still touching, when Daniel said, “That’s how he gets, ever since…” and then the door creaked from inside.
“What the hell?” they heard Daniel’s dad yell. “Boy!”
Daniel motioned for Allie to be silent. They crouch-walked past the window and took off running back to the woods.
They reached the entry point from before and Daniel held back the tree branches for her to enter.
“Back in there?” she asked. He nodded, stern, and she figured it was better than going home again.
The moon lit the path now, and soon they found themselves past the stream and in a little clearing.
“This is where I come,” Daniel said. “When I need to be alone, or to think.”
The clearing glistened with the fresh rain, silver leaves rustling in the breeze. Allie wrapped her arms around herself, realizing how cold she was. She hadn’t fully dried from earlier. She was about to say they should head back when Daniel said, “She died.”
“What?” Allie said.
“My mom, a couple of years back. My dad’s been like this ever since. I mean, I can’t blame him.” Daniel kicked a tree. “That’s why I need this place.”
“I’m so sorry,” Allie said.
He stepped toward her and reached out. She wasn’t sure if he was going to brush her cheek with his hand or what he was going to do. Her breath caught as his hand went to her necklace. He held it up so he could see the blue stone in the moonlight.
With a release of the stone, his eyes rose to meet hers and he said, “Don’t let your dad get like that.”
“It was real, right? We were there, in the fog, with the trees?”
“We have to figure out how to get back.” He looked into the trees, as if an answer lay just beyond the branches. “Whatever it takes, it’s up to us now.”
“My dad thinks I’m nuts.”
“He might be right. But if you are, so am I.”
Allie reached up and put her hand on Daniel’s. “Thanks.”
He looked into her eyes for a moment before pulling back awkwardly. “So how do we make it happen?”
“I don’t know.” She stared at the necklace, considering. But she couldn’t focus. “What about your mom…. What happened?”
He looked away.
“Sorry,” she said. “You don’t have to tell me.”
“No, I want to.” He took a moment, then closed his eyes as he said, “A drunk driver.”
“I…. That’s horrible.”
“But, Allie….” He made eye contact again, and she could tell he was trying to look strong, to be there for her. “Me and my dad, we’ll be okay, eventually. For now, let’s get that necklace glowing. We’re gonna get your mom back.”
She took his hand and forced a smile.
“So what do you suppose we try first?” he asked.
Again, she held out the necklace. A glimmer of light hit the silver to turn the stone a brilliant blue—nothing else.
“Well, before, how did it happen?” she asked. “Tell you what, I’ll go over there and you call my name, then see if it brings me to you?”
“Ah, like with the phone. Might as well try everything.”
And they did. First they ran around in the trees, shouting for each other. Then they rubbed the necklace like a genie bottle, and Allie even tried dancing while holding the necklace up in the air. She climbed a tree and held it to the moonlight, but nothing. Her shoulders slumped and she looked back down the tree branches, realizing the climb down may not be as easy as the climb up. Then she noticed something out of the corner of her eye – the eagle. Could it be the same one as before, she wondered. But when she looked again, it was gone. The necklace sparkled, and Allie climbed down.
Allie and Daniel found a dry spot under a tree and sat, each holding the necklace with their hands clasped around each other’s. Their eyes met and a moment of embarrassment flashed across their faces. Allie scooted back and leaned against the tree as Daniel let his hands fall.
Allie stared sullenly at a wet pinecone nearby, images of her mom floating through her mind, just out of reach. “She took us camping once. I hadn’t wanted to go, I never seemed to. So my mom got us a cabin, for the girls, you know, and we stayed up late drinking hot chocolate and she told me all about her brothers and sisters, all kinds of crazy stories.”
She looked up at Daniel, who put a hand on her shoulder.
“She even said there was this one time that she became a bird at night, soon after my grandfather’s death, and she thought she could fly to heaven and find him.”
Daniel laughed, then tried to hide his smile. “Your mom sounds really cool.”
“She was. I mean, she is.” Allie turned to Daniel with fright in her eyes.
“No Allie, don’t even think it. She’s gonna be fine, and we will find her. Something’s got to work.”
They had called it a night after attempting all conceivable options—more calling out, more holding the stone to the sky, and even praying—and Allie snuck into her room and had changed before her dad barged in bed with her eyes closed. She couldn’t imagine how frustrated he was with her, considering everything that was happening. But when he sat down beside her and caressed her hair, all he said was, “We’ll find her, don’t worry.” He kissed her on the forehead and left, while she continued to pretend to sleep. It hurt that her dad didn’t believe her, but she probably wouldn’t have believed her either, so she couldn’t hold it against him. He was right though, they were going to find Allie’s mom. Somehow.
The next day at school Allie had made up her mind to demand Principal Eisner and Gabe give her more information, and she would go talk to them right after history class. Through the windows of her class, she could see the black clouds forming outside and a thick rain pouring at a forty-five degree angle. She shuddered, glad to be inside. She glanced at Daniel in the seat nearby, and they shared a look of hopelessness.
Five minutes late, Mrs. Aldridge entered the class. Allie liked the way Mrs. Aldridge flipped her hair to the left and wore thick glasses. Mrs. Aldridge took a dry-erase marker and started drawing squiggly lines on the whiteboard.
“Today,” the teacher started, “I thought we would talk about ethnic violence. Remember, contemporary issues are the history of tomorrow.” She drew little mountains in her outline, oblivious to the lack of attention from the students. “Kyrgyzstan, with a coup and then intense ethnic violence, I want you all to write down that name, got it? This is a map of the country, and here,” she turned on a slide projector. “Suleiman Mountain, or the mountain of King Solomon, some would say.” She made direct eye-contact with Allie, who let out a yelp when she saw the picture in the slide. She looked to Daniel and he had seen it too – it was definitely the shape they had seen in the fog in the woods. They had seen Suleiman Mountain.
“In the city of Osh,” Mrs. Aldridge continued, “Southern Kyrgyzstan, some say he was even buried here.”
They both leaned forward to take notes, hanging on her every word—probably the only two in class that seemed to care.
When class finished, Allie and Daniel walked together into the auditorium, heads close, whispering in excitement.
“That was definitely the place,” Daniel said. “So—”
Allie grabbed his arm. “We have to find Principal Eisner and Gabe, they’ll know.”
But something caught her eye. On the other side of the auditorium, Chester and Vince stood in the shadows, wearing cloaks. Chester nodded to her and smiled wickedly. The shadows around them seemed to dance, moving to reveal cloaked figures in the hallway. The Strayers. They filed into the auditorium, staring at Allie with eyes surrounded in black paint. Chester and Vince walked among them, also in black.
Allie stumbled as she took a step back. She looked over to see that Daniel hadn’t noticed the impending danger.
The Strayers closed in.
Allie pulled his wrist.
But then he saw them coming and he was running with her. They ran faster now, trying to make their way to the principal’s office, but she was hit by the sudden realization that it was in the other direction. Everything was backwards as a low chant echoed from the walls, a fog of darkness closing in. Each turn brought her to a place she didn’t recognize. Each hallway grew darker and longer. The footsteps from behind grew louder.
Sprinting around a corner, Allie saw a door. She flung it open and pulled Daniel in behind her. She closed the door and locked it, then turned to see brooms and mops, and shelves full of cleaning supplies.
“I’ve got to stop running into closets!” she hissed.
The sliver of light from the door, the only light in the room, hit Daniel’s wide eyes. “We’re trapped.”
The noise came from the door as someone kicked it.
“Ouch,” Daniel said, and Allie looked down to see she was still holding his wrist tightly.
“What do we do?” she said, releasing his arm to bang on the walls.
“How’m I supposed to know?”
“Think, Daniel!” she screamed. They stared at each other.
“Allie?” a girl’s voice echoed faintly.
Allie jumped, searching. The voice hadn’t come from the other side of the door, but somewhere else.
“Allie, is that you?” the voice said again.
“Hello?” Daniel said as he tapped the walls.
“It’s me,” the voice said, “Paulette. I can hear you through the wall, are you okay?”
“The walls?” Daniel said as he followed her voice.
He knocked and found a spot that seemed hollow. He turned and found a mop handle, picked it up, and slammed it into the wall. Sure enough, it made a hole in the plaster.
“Help me,” he said, and started kicking and pulling at the plaster. Allie followed and was surprised to find a narrow corridor on other side.
Allie stooped to crawl behind Daniel. The corridor was barely tall enough to allow them to crawl easily, but dust caked the walls and felt like dry snow on their fingertips.
“Can you hear me?” Paulette asked. “This way, keep coming.”
They crawled and sneezed, the metallic smell filled Allie’s nostrils and soon she began to feel like she was in a coffin, a long, narrow, dirty coffin. Daniel was ahead of her, she had to remind herself of that fact several times – she wasn’t alone. She focused on her breathing. In, out. In, out. When she was sure she was going to lose it, her head slammed into something soft like a pillow. She looked up to see she had bumped her head right into Daniel’s butt.
“What’re you doing?” she said.
A loud crash came from behind and they heard the door burst open. Then lights were flickering through the corridor. The kids behind her must have been using their cell phones as flashlights.
“There’s a vent covering here, but…” He tried kicking it. “Screws!”
“Hold on a sec,” Paulette’s voice came from the other side, and they heard a scratching noise.
“Wait,” Allie whispered, pulling Daniel by the leg. “Can we trust her?”
“Do we have a choice right now?”
She realized he had a point, and moments later the vent was open and they were clambering out.
“Quick, put it back up,” Daniel said. He helped Paulette hold it in place. She got one screw in with her keys as a screwdriver, but then it was too late. A foot sent the cover flying.
“Run!” Allie pulled Daniel to her right.
“No,” Paulette said. “This way!”
Allie froze. She looked up to see a face appear through the vent, a boy with wild eyes and scraggly hair. She didn’t have time to question Paulette, only to follow. Their legs ached as they ran, turning down hallways until Paulette jumped left to shove open a door. Allie and Daniel followed, finding themselves in a musty room.
“We can’t wait here,” Allie said. “They’ll find us.”
“Don’t worry, I have an idea.” Paulette took out her phone and shone it around the room until the light landed on a spherical object in the corner. She stepped closer and the faint glow of her cell revealed a chest-high globe. When Paulette reached out and caressed it, Allie was surprised to see no dust. Paulette spun the globe and then turned to Allie.
“You have that necklace?” she asked.
Allie hesitated. “What?”
“We don’t have time.” Paulette turned to the globe that still spun, increasing in speed. “Grab your necklace and come here.”
Allie grabbed her necklace and stepped toward the globe. “How do you…?”
“In here!” a voice called from the hallway.
“You must grab the globe, now!” Paulette said.
Allie stepped closer and felt her head rolling, her eyes fading in and out of focus. She couldn’t explain what was happening, but that was becoming the norm for her. She held her necklace tight, searching for Daniel in the darkness but not finding him. She called out to him, and then felt his hand on her shoulder. She grabbed the spinning globe and everything stopped, frozen in a silent moment of utter darkness.