Fifth Grade Fans!

I’m not sure that anything in the land of writing could have made me more excited than this.

My awesome friend and beta reader Keri is also a fifth grade teacher at a local elementary school. After she finished THE MAGIC STONES OF MIDNIGHT KEEP, she asked me if she could read it to her fifth grade class. Naturally my response was a resounding yes! But I didn’t expect what happened next. The students not only love the story, they’ve given letters and fan art to Keri to deliver to me! See below.

IMG_20170912_143414 The letter above says “Chapter 3 was amazing when she got stronger and indestructible because of the stones. And also when she threw the barrel of water that landed on her head after she threw it. And before that when she pushed and threw both guys all the way across the room. I love the book so far and we only read chapters 1-3 so far.”

I can’t explain how fantastic that little note made me feel. What an encouragement! Then a few days later, two more arrived via email.

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The first drawing shows the main character, Aril, during chapter 1 when she finds a pair of magic stones while stuck in a pit near Midnight Keep. The second, with accompanying letter, shows one student’s depiction of a fearsome Dramini Bonecrusher – MUCH more fearsome and awesome than any version I could’ve managed! I absolutely love these pieces of fan art and the wonderful messages of support. So wonderful! Many times I have imagined one day seeing fan art and letters about my writing… but I never thought it would happen before I even had an agent (much less a publishing deal)!

Needless to say, I am advertising these comments and pictures to literary agents and acquiring editors ad nauseam. What could be better proof of the potential of a book series than feedback like this from the target audience!

Many thanks are due to Keri and her fantastic fifth grade class. Hopefully there’s an acknowledgement page out there in the future with all of their names on it.

Until next time,

~Kevin

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The Running Sands

dads desert boat final

From THE MAGIC STONES OF MIDNIGHT KEEP, Chapter 5:

I drank a little extra water and pressed on through the hot wind. But at the top of each rise I could see the long depression a little more clearly, and it really did look like there was a river flowing through it. Dark colors stretched along its length, stark against the bright sand, and it appeared to be flowing east. I began to worry; I hadn’t counted on what the heat might do to my mind despite the presence of the stones.

But as I drew closer, I doubted my doubt. It really did look like a river of dark, churning water. Could heat visions seem this real?

Topping another tremendously tall dune, I stopped with a gasp. Far below me and stretching from horizon to horizon in an almost straight line lay my river. Through the misty drog I guessed it about one hundred yards wide and flowing fast with breaking waves of various heights churning in the stiff breeze.

But something was wrong. The waves moved much too slowly, and peaked with bursts of dark mist that carried with the wind far too long, giving the drog a shadowy hue. And the sound was unlike any river I’d ever heard; this was not the rolling rush of water, but high-pitched and hissing as if it was made of…

“It’s sand,” I said, removing my head-wrap. “Diamonds! It’s flowing black sand!”

Original artwork, as always, by the incomparable KTJ.

Interested in reading an advance copy? Just let me know.

~Kevin

Further Up and Further In

Yes, that’s a shameless Narnia quote. But this is no “Last Battle”. Instead, this is likely just a new beginning.

Greetings all! In my last blog post I promised that my next post would be “soon”, where soon was defined as less than 8 months away. Well, it’s been 6 months, so I suppose this post represents a Pyrrhic victory. But it’s a victory nonetheless.

First, the agent update. As of this post I am no longer represented by Jessica Schmeidler of Golden Wheat Literary. I still hold Jessica and her team in the absolute highest regard, but over time (and after much prayer) it became clear to me that I needed to move in a different direction for agent representation. I am therefore back in the hunt for a literary agent, which is a scary prospect given how long it took me the first time. But I must be as brave as my main characters and set off on the next leg of my writing adventure.

Second, I have completed a new Middle Grade (MG) novel! The http://www.KevinEJackson.com website now features new pages for THE MAGIC STONES OF MIDNIGHT KEEP, the second entry in “The Magic Stones” collection. As with the first book, THE MAGIC STONES OF LAKESDAWN CASTLE, the new book takes place in the same areas of the Known Land as THE PROVING and there is at least one cameo appearance by characters in The Proving Trilogy. Just as when I wrote Lakesdawn Castle, writing THE MAGIC STONES OF MIDNIGHT KEEP was an extremely fast-paced and exciting event. It clocks in at around 49K words and – including a first draft re-write – was complete in less than 30 days. Some books just write themselves! Here’s the blurb for the new book.

Twelve-year-old Aril’s parents, teachers, and even the General in charge of Midnight Keep always warned about the desert’s dangers. But Aril loved adventure despite her parents’ desire for her to become a scholar like them. Besides, decades of peace continued between Aril’s home country Touran and the barbaric Dramini Warriors who lived far away among the dunes. What’s the worst that could happen while sneaking out to explore the ocean of sand?

Dramini scouts kidnapping Aril’s friends and the General herself, that’s what!

The night of the terrifying attack, Aril finds a pair of mysterious magic stones that give her amazing powers. With the help of the stones, she treks into the heart of the desert to find her friends. But instead Aril discovers rivers of magically flowing sand, strange villages and creatures, and a pair of evil sorcerers planning to destroy all she holds dear.

In the end, it will take all of Aril’s courage, her new-found magic, and the help of surprising new companions to unravel the desert’s endless secrets, save those she loves, and learn the truth about her destiny.

If you are a MG reader of any age and would like to read-and-critique THE MAGIC STONES OF MIDNIGHT KEEP, please let me know. I am a huge fan of critical reviews… all they do is improve the final product. Be warned, however… the book does not standalone. THE MAGIC STONES OF LAKESDAWN CASTLE is a prerequisite. Check out the new book and read chapter 1 at THIS LINK.

Finally, an update on the long-awaited YA sequel. I am making progress on the first draft of THE COUNCIL OF LORDS, book 2 of The Proving trilogy. Most interestingly, the events and characters that came to light within the two MG novels have directly improved the plot of THE COUNCIL OF LORDS (TCoL). More specifically (and spoiler alert!), both of the main characters in the MG novels appear in TCoL with significant roles and impacts. This has the “tie-in” feature between the two series rising to a whole new level, one that I have not personally seen done before in YA-MG crossover books. I imagine readers as young as 8-10 enjoying The Magic Stones collection then learning a few years later that there are pre-teen-and-older books set in the same world that continue the adventure. Similarly, YA readers of all ages will find interesting clues and Easter eggs about The Proving trilogy and the greater Tome of Pasaron books by reading the Magic Stones collection. I find this idea very compelling, and yes, I am biased. But my hope is that an agent and acquiring editor out there will soon share my vision. TCoL is up to 40K words now, with a target length of 90-100K words by the completion of the first draft this fall.

That’s all for now, friends. Thanks for reading.

~Kevin

Under the Radar…

Greetings, everyone!

The Tome Writer is back, finally, to blogging. And as usual, I will likely blog pretty consistently for a while… until suddenly I don’t again. But truly, it is my intention to remain engaged here in the blogosphere indefinitely. I initially intended to have my comments here be reflective of the writing that takes place in the background, the under the radar wordslinging upon which this entire escapade relies. But I’ve failed at that. The blog has been silent forever, but my writing has not.

As of this moment I am about 37K words into the first draft of THE COUNCIL OF LORDS, Book Two of The Tome of Pasaron. And it’s really going well. I can’t wait to see where the story goes, especially given that it’s already taken some very surprising turns (that I will blog about in the near future). And I have completed my initial planning for the sequel to THE MAGIC STONES OF LAKESDAWN CASTLE, my middle grade novel.  It’s working title is THE MAGIC STONES OF MIDNIGHT KEEP, and it signifies that the Magic Stones series is going to be a collection of related stories featuring different characters at different times throughout the history of Pasaron.

Meanwhile, I remain hopeful that the work my most excellent agent Jessica Schmeidler of Golden Wheat Literary is doing will soon result in some exciting good news for either or both of the completed manuscripts. Only time will tell! But she has some acquisitions editors in her sights that look promising.

More to come soon! Where “soon” equals LESS than eight months.  🙂

~Kevin (The Tome Writer)

Interview Post at Adventures in YA Publishing!!!

Greetings, all!

I am super-excited to share my interview post with the fantastic blog “Adventures in YA Publishing”. It’s a short essay in answer to the question “If you could speak directly to all of the new, emerging authors out there who dream of getting an agent and being published one day, what would you say?”

http://www.adventuresinyapublishing.com/2016/08/quite-or-press-on-be-willing-to-take.html#links

I want to thank Michelle, Jocelyn, Martina and all of the great team over at Adventures in YA Publishing for giving me the opportunity to tell my story. Writers and readers out there, take the time to peruse their entire website. It’s simply fantastic, and rated one of the “Writer’s Digest 101 Best Websites for Writers”.

Until next time,

~Kevin

The Magic Stones of Lakesdawn Castle

I’m happy to introduce THE MAGIC STONES OF LAKESDAWN CASTLE, a Middle Grade fantasy novel full of adventure, surprises, and naturally, magic! While the target audience is chapter book readers from ages 8-14, anyone who likes a great story should give it a try. Comparable books include the “Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief”, “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone”, and “Artemis Fowl”, and is likely the beginning of an extensive MAGIC STONES series. And of course, expect to find a powerful Christian message buried in the fantastic comings and goings of the two pre-teen heroes of the story.

Trustan and Veri have been best friends for as long as they can remember. They both grew up within working families living within enormous Lakesdawn Castle, the home of the Empress of Falonir. While enjoying their favorite hobby – sneaking around the castle’s many hidden passageways – they discover a pair of colorful river rocks that stick together like magnets. But these are no ordinary stones; the two learn that amazing powers are unleashed depending on what colors on the stones are clicked together. Before they know it, Trustan and Veri are swept into the adventure of a lifetime with the fate of the entire empire in the balance.

SO… without further ado, here is chapter one of THE MAGIC STONES OF LAKESDAWN CASTLE in its entirety. Comments are appreciated!

***

CHAPTER 1 – Wallways

My Grandpa Ruman always said there was truth in the old Bard’s Tales, that they actually meant something, but he didn’t tell me that I would be in a Bard’s Tale of my own. In his defense, how could he have? Every kid dreams of having magical powers and having amazing adventures just like in all of those old songs, but every kid also knows that they’re just stories made up for fun. Things like that can’t happen in real life.

Well, it happened to me! No one would have guessed that, with the help of some magic stones, I would help save the country, prevent the second Great Eastern War, and earn the thanks of the Empress herself… all before I was twelve Summers old.

I got my first girlfriend, too. Then lost her just as fast. Grandpa Ruman hadn’t prepared me for that either!

Toward the end of Winter season the ice on Lake Oro finally disappeared, and even the coldest hidden passageways in Lakesdawn Castle became comfortable as long you wore enough layers. My best friend Veri hated being cold, so getting nearer to Spring always triggered our next round of adventures.

“You’re not gonna believe this new wallway I found, Trustan,” she said in my ear, long brown curls bouncing with excitement. We both wore dark clothing as always on our sneaking nights, helping us stay hidden in the dim castle halls, but it was bright enough for me to see her light-brown face beaming as we crept down an empty corridor throne room. She led the way through a small door and into the castle guards’ ready room, then disappeared into the dark bathroom at its far end. I hurried after her in the shadowy gloom, the only light coming from a marsh-oil ceiling torch hanging outside the door.

“Do we have to use this one again?” I asked quietly, grimacing. The castle’s grown-up guards were way worse than any of my friends when it came to being clean. “The maids haven’t been in this place for a month.”

“I thought boys weren’t bothered by stinky toilets,” Veri whispered. “Ignore it! I told you we were gonna find great stuff in this wallway, and I was right. That’s why they hid the door in this gross bathroom. The new passage goes to the left long before you get to the throne room.”

We squeezed into the last stall in total darkness. The snaps of Veri opening her hip-pack echoed across the privy. Then, with a flash, a single match burned in her fingers. By its light, she felt along the cracks in the dark gray stone down near the floor behind the really nasty toilet.

“We really need to find another way into this wallway,” I grumbled.

Shh!

A soft click came from the wall next to her and the stones next to us silently swung open into the blackness of the hidden passage. Veri had started calling them “wallways” years ago when we first found one in the castle kitchens. One day while bored to death on kitchen duty, she had discovered what looked like a loose piece of mortar between bricks in the back of the big main pantry. Pulling on it opened a tiny door into a dusty passage inside the wall itself. Ever since then we snuck out to explore the wallways every chance we could.

Veri shimmied through in a flash, but I had to squeeze my bigger body through the one-foot wide opening.

Shaking out her match, Veri waited for me to close the secret door behind us. Then I lay my hand on her shoulder, and we set off down the pitch black, cramped secret tunnel. She breathed out the count of her steps as usual, and I counted along with her as I held her shoulder tight to keep from running into her. At twelve steps, I felt her move around the big, fallen brick that blocked the right side of the wallway. At fifteen steps, we stepped over the pot-hole gap in the floor that had made me sprain my ankle the first time we’d explored the passage. Then we usually kept going until the right turn at thirty-seven steps. That marked the place where we could spy on the throne room. But not this time. Veri stopped at step twenty-two.

Reaching up to her shoulder, she tapped my fingers twice then drew a circle and a left-arrow on the back of my hand. That meant the new discovery was here and on the left. Stone scraped on stone, then a muffled click sounded. Another door creaked open in the darkness.

“Wow!” I breathed.

Shh!

She led the way into the new, musty passage. Puffs of dust and invisible cobwebs brushed my face, raising my biggest fear; one sneeze and we might be netted by some castle guard.

Veri stopped at thirty-one steps, then drew a zig-zag pattern on the back of my hand from pinky to thumb knuckle. That meant a staircase heading down, so we both plopped down onto our bottoms to butt-slide down like toddlers just learning to walk.

At the bottom of the stairs we went seventeen steps then stopped. Veri drew on the back of my hand again, a circle and an arrow pointing dead ahead, telling me we faced another door. Another click, and suddenly my eyes widened as a narrow beam of stunningly bright moonlight slowly fanned into a full shaft of glittering silver. A stiff cold breeze stung my cheeks and brought the grassy, green smell of lake water to my nose.

I followed Veri out onto a narrow beach of smooth sand. It sloped down to Lake Oro, tucked between two tall stone walls about twenty-feet apart on our left and right. The moon was high overhead and full, lighting the clear blue lake like a slowly rolling mirror.

“I told you it was worth it,” Veri whispered, grinning her bright smile as I stood with my mouth hanging open. Her tan face glowed in the moonlight, her eyes wide.

“Lakes alive!” I said.

“We have a secret way out of Lakesdawn, Trustan!” Veri continued. “I haven’t gone any further than this, and it’s gonna take a ton of sneaking around to find out where we are and what guards are near, but this will take our adventures to a whole new level!”

“We’re gonna have to be careful, though,” I said. “We get caught or locked out, or hurt or something… and we’re lake-floaters.”

“Yeah, yeah, I know. But we’re gonna explore this whole part of the beach, and who knows what other wallways might open from this new one?” She pointed back at the open stone portal behind us. Then she crept over to the right side barrier wall and headed for the water. I followed, staying low, until our toes touched the water’s edge.

“I think we’re safe,” I said, looking back and all around. Lakesdawn Castle loomed above us, but I saw no guard stations or windows from this angle—just lots of giant stone walls, peaked towers, and the huge battlements stair-stepped along the city-like building. “Whoever put this passage here wanted it to stay hidden.”

But Veri wasn’t listening. She was down on her knees in the sand staring at two smooth, colorful river rocks under an inch of slowly lapping lake water. She picked one up, but both rocks emerge as if connected.

“I think they’re magnets,” she said. She pulled hard, and, sure enough, the two oval stone discs separated. They gleamed like the polished granite countertops in the Lakesdawn kitchens, each small enough to fit in my palm. Their colors were amazing; they each had the exact same pattern of white around the rim, black on the flat top and bottom, then areas of light and dark blue, purple, and gold all around in between. One spot on each rock seemed to swirl with different colors all mixed together, but that might have been a trick of the moonlight.

“Let me see,” I said, taking the rocks. One rock slid between my fingers like it was oiled, but I caught it at the last second.

“Careful!” Veri chided. “They feel fragile, like glass.”

I brought the colorful stones together, but just like magnets they pushed each other away. Turning them, they suddenly jerked together with a solid click with their light-blue spots touching.

“It’s the colors,” I said. They held so strongly I had to strain to pull them apart again. “Only matching colors stick together. These are not normal magnets.” I handed them back to Veri.

“Who goes there!” came a loud, deep voice from somewhere behind us. I nearly jumped out of my skin as I spun around, but the guard wasn’t in sight. “Stay where you are and identify!”

“Nightwings!” Veri cursed under her breath as we ran for the still-open wallway door. I got there first and slid into the passage. Light flashed behind me. I turned to pull the secret door closed behind Veri, even though I was sure the guard had already seen us.

But the light was gone. And so was Veri.

I blinked hard, then poked my head back out of the wallway. No sign of her.

“Veri! Where are you?!”

Silence.

“Show yourselves!” the guard bellowed. His heavy footsteps pounded the sand, growing closer to the dividing walls that kept me hidden.

With my heart in my throat I pulled the wallway door closed. I stood like a statue in the darkness, not even daring to breathe, I didn’t know if I should run or cry or call for help. So, I just stood there, cold and unbelievably afraid.

Website Update!

Greetings, all!

After what has been a long pause in activity here on the blog (for good reason, as you’ll read in a moment), this post marks the beginning of a new wave of awesomeness here on the website! There are multiple big changes in the works, including:

  • The addition of “The Art of Pasaron” page, featuring the original works of artist KTJ who masterfully creates paintings and computer renderings based on my books,
  • The introduction of my brand new Middle Grade fantasy novel, THE MAGIC STONES OF LAKESDAWN CASTLE. This exciting adventure chapter book targets readers from age 8 and up, and takes place in the same fantasy world as THE PROVING and the rest of The Tome of Pasaron. This recently completed book, the first in what will become the Magic Stones series of MG fantasy books, is the reason for the long pause mentioned above.
  • Updated Maps, expanded author information, new banners, and more!

Even though some of the updates are still under construction, please feel free to take a look around and see what’s new. And as always, share your feedback!

More soon…

~Kevin (The Tome Writer)