Friday, March 28, 2008

Betrayed . . . and Tired

Walked from the coffeeshop to work today - if I wasn't already tired, that would have done the trick. Don't have time for more than a quick post about CFBA's book of the week (or at least the latter half).

Check out Betrayed by Jeanette Windle. No, I haven't read it. Her other books are good. I'd read it if I didn't have a pile of books to finish in half a month.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness

(This blog post is being accomplished by the sole fact that I have today off.)

On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness is a hilariously witty adventure for young and old alike. I enjoyed every minute of reading and immediately passed the finished book onto my fantasy-loving siblings.

The text pokes fun at itself at every half-turn, starting with the brief, not so brief, and very brief prologues dropping the character into the storyworld. In a world overshadowed by a Nameless Evil named Gnag, the three Igiby children lead quite miserable lives in their happy cottage on the edge of the Sea.

One of the other posts on the CSSF tour mentions how the bad guys in this story don't really seem all that evil. I agree in some ways - the Fangs of Dang are more like the quarreling orcs than the terrifying uruk-hai. But this is only book one in the series. It ends with a secret-revealing pause in the action (think Luke and Leia's conversation in the middle of Return of the Jedi), but danger is still on the hunt. And so far, only the occupying force has entered the picture.

For more about this delightful book, check out the blogs below:


Sally Apokedak
Brandon Barr
Jim Black
Justin Boyer
Jackie Castle
Valerie Comer
CSFF Blog Tour
Gene Curtis
D. G. D. Davidson
Janey DeMeo
Jeff Draper
April Erwin
Beth Goddard
Marcus Goodyear
Todd Green
Jill Hart
Michael Heald
Timothy Hicks
Christopher Hopper
Jason Joyner
Kait
Carol Keen
Mike Lynch
Margaret
Rachel Marks
Shannon McNear
Rebecca LuElla Miller
Pamela Morrisson
John W. Otte
Deena Peterson
Rachelle
Steve Rice
Cheryl Russel
Ashley Rutherford
Chawna Schroeder
James Somers
Donna Swanson
Steve Trower
Speculative Faith
Robert Treskillard
Jason Waguespac
Laura Williams
Timothy Wise

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Exclusive Bits from James Scott Bell Interview - Part Two

More that my article missed out on:

I have spent the past 20 years collecting, trying, developing plot and character techniques. Many of these will be in Revision & Self-Editing.

For plotting, I still like to use 3 x 5 cards (which I used as a screenwriter). I like to write random scenes on cards, just brainstorm, then shuffle the cards and see what kind of crazy connections I get.

For characters, I always do a "voice journal." It's a free form, stream of consciousness, run on document in the character's voice. I need to get to the point where I "hear" the character before I can start doing dialogue.

How does your Ty Buchanan series differ from your previous novels?

The series, which begins with Try Dying, is written in first person POV, which I've only done a couple of times before. That's also a great way to get into a character's life.

In this series, not only do I want to have twisting plots, but also create a cast of great secondary characters -- like the basketball playing nun, Sister Mary Veritas.

P.S. This week, the CFBA is featuring For Pete's Sake by Linda Windsor.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Exclusive Bits from James Scott Bell Interview - Part One

Here's part of the interview I couldn't fit into the article - check back tomorrow for more!

How do you balance your nonfiction-about-fiction (Plot & Structure, Writer's Digest articles) with your novels?

It's actually a great balance. The non-fiction uses a different part of my writer's brain. So I can go back and forth between fiction and non-fiction easily. Isaac Asimov used to do this, sometimes with multiple projects going at once.

Who do you look up to as spiritual and literary mentors, and why?

So many spiritual mentors. From the past, C.S. Lewis and R. A. Torrey. In the present, John Piper and Dallas Willard.

In literature, Raymond Chandler, of course. Michael Connelly. John D. MacDonald. In college I loved Hemingway and Saroyan. I still think Saroyan's collection of stories, My Name is Aram, and Hemingway's stories, are the best in the English language.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Job, Bell, and Toothy Cows

First, the big news - I have a job! I'll be working full-time as an administrative assistant for the Pipeline Group. I still plan to keep up with my writing, though. If posts on here become more scarce, you'll know why.

My article on James Scott Bell is up on Christian Music Planet! I hope to compile some "extras" in a post sometime next week.

And this week, CFBA is featuring On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness by Andrew Peterson. A brief intro:

Once, in a cottage above the cliffs on the Dark Sea of Darkness, there lived three children and their trusty dog Nugget. Janner Igiby, his brother Tink, their crippled sister Leeli are gifted children as all children are, loved well by a noble mother and ex-pirate grandfather. But they will need all their gifts and all that love to survive the evil pursuit of the venomous Fangs of Dang who have crossed the dark sea to rule the land with malice and pursue the Igibys who hold the secret to the lost legend and jewels of good King Wingfeather of the Shining Isle of Anniera.

Andrew Peterson spins a quirky and riveting tale of the Igibys’ extraordinary journey from Glipwood’s Dragon Day Festival and a secret hidden in the Books and Crannies Bookstore, past the terrifying Black Carriage, clutches of the horned hounds and loathsome toothy cows surrounding AnkleJelly Manor, through the Glipwood Forest and mysterious treehouse of Peet the Sock Man (known for a little softshoe and wearing tattered socks on his hands and arms), to the very edge of the Ice Prairies.

Full of characters rich in heart, smarts, and courage, On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness presents a world of wonder and a tale children of all ages will cherish, families can read aloud, and readers’ groups are sure to discuss for its layers of meaning about life’s true treasure and tangle of the beautiful and horrible, temporal and eternal, and good and bad.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

FIRST - Only Uni by Camy Tang



It is March 15th, but no need to worry about the Ides of March when we have a special blog tour for one of our FIRST members! (Join our alliance! Click the button!) Normally, on the FIRST day of every month we feature an author and his/her latest book's FIRST chapter! As this is a special tour, we are featuring it on a special day!



The special feature author is:




and her book:

Only Uni

Zondervan (March 2008)



ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Camy Tang is a member of FIRST and is a loud Asian chick who writes loud Asian chick-lit. She grew up in Hawaii, but now lives in San Jose, California, with her engineer husband and rambunctious poi-dog. In a previous life she was a biologist researcher, but these days she is surgically attached to her computer, writing full-time. In her spare time, she is a staff worker for her church youth group, and she leads one of the worship teams for Sunday service.

Sushi for One? (Sushi Series, Book One) was her first novel. Her second, Only Uni (Sushi Series, Book Two) is now available. The next book in the series, Single Sashimi (Sushi Series, Book Three) will be coming out in September 2008!

Visit her at her website.

Click the first button to read the first chapter!

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Exclusive Bits from Susan May Warren Interview - Part Three

More from my interview with Susie!

How has your writing changed over the past few years?

I have branched out into new voices (first person, chick voice), and deeper stories. I love stories with rich subplots and innovative techniques, and Taming Rafe, with the "story in a story" element really gave me an opportunity to stretch my wings.

How do you research your novels?

I love research!! I spend hours learning the intricacies of professions I’ve used in my books, from SAR K-9 work, to firefighting, to flying an airplane, to bull-riding. I even traveled out west and lived on a ranch for a week, learning to rope and herd cattle. I have been blessed with an arsenal of people who I go to who will check my details – firefighters, pilots, soldiers. Once, on an airplane, I made my son change seats with me so I could interview his green beret seatmate! That information I used in constructing, Flee the Night. I have to admit, I can go overboard with the "everything’s research" mentality. Like the time our garage burned down. The fire was still blazing and I was over at the fire trucks, drawing pictures of the gauges and quizzing one of the firefighters on how they worked!


Can you tell me a little about your family and home?

[First part in my article.] Most of all, it’s fun to live with people who are creative, also, because we have wonderful “help mom brainstorm her books” sessions! We live in the north woods, surrounded by 5 acres of woods, and spend a lot of time snowmobiling, or camping and fishing in the summer. And, on a Saturday, it’s not strange to see us all laying on the sofa, under our own blankets, reading a book (to ourselves, or even out loud).

Thanks again, Susie! Be sure to visit her site for more about her novels!

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Exclusive Bits from Susan May Warren Interview - Part Two

From missionary in Russia to novelist? How did Susan May Warren do it? Read my article to find out, and come back to read more of her story and about her upcoming novels.

"I dove in and wrote my first novel (approximately 800 pages – a James Michener epic about Russia from 1938-1980) in about a year. I learned a lot about pacing and setting and storytelling and characterization in just "doing it." I did get great feedback from a couple publishers and also landed my first agent. However, I really didn’t know what I was doing, and I spent the next four years writing more novels, and gobbling up everything I could about writing and craft. I read books, and joined ACFW, and attended online chats, and submitted my work for critiques and contests.

"My big break came after a traumatic experience – I was locked in an elevator during one cold November night for about 2 hours, and after relating my experience to my ACFW friends, they encouraged me to write a book about it. At the time Tyndale was having "novella" contests . . . so I wrote Measure of a Man, and submitted it the day before the deadline. I thought for sure nothing would come of it because I had talked to another author who said the two things publishers didn’t wants were missionary stories and international stories (and mine was both!) But, Tyndale took a chance on me, and bought it! I couldn't believe it when I got "the call" (or, in my case, the email, since I lived in Russia at the time). That opened the door to my "arsenal" of books that I’d been writing for the past four years. Oh, but the epic is still sitting unpublished on my shelf. (It makes a great footstool!)"

What's next from Susie? Read on:

"The next book out (in May) is Wiser than Serpents. It’s a thriller set in Taiwan about a woman who goes undercover to find her sister, who’s been swallowed into a human trafficking ring. Thankfully, she’s joined by a delta force captain who is also undercover, and together they work to uncover the ring and rescue her sister. It’s fast-paced, and tense, as well as wonderfully romantic. I also give information in the back of the book about how to get involved in the fight against human trafficking.

"In July, Finding Stefanie, the third book in the Noble Legacy series hits the stands. It’s a story about a movie star with a secret who heads to Montana country to start over and find healing. However, he finds trouble waiting for him in Montana in the form of a runaway teenager and his siblings. Stefanie is a horse trainer, with a soft-spot for the hurting, and she takes the kids under her wing…a move that brings more trouble than any of them can imagine. It’s a story of strength, and finding a fresh start, with suspense, a rich romance, and a spiritual theme that will encourage anyone going through a season of struggle.

"November brings Get Cozy, Josey, the third book in my Josey series. Josey and her family move to Siberia , and as Josey’s world gets colder, she wonders just what a girl needs to do to light the fires of her marriage when it seems the spark has died. It’s about being a mom to toddlers, living in crazy conditions, finding a new rhythm of marriage, and discovering that even at the ends of the earth, God has treasures waiting for a girl who trusts Him. It’s a great way to end the Josey series, and since I set it near where I lived, the hardest part was trying to figure out which of my own stories to put in!"

Hmm, this is getting kind of long - so stayed tuned for part 3!

P.S. This week the CFBA is featuring a book by Susie's friend - and My Book Therapy cohort - Rachel Hauck! Check out Sweet Caroline!

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Exclusive Bits from Susan May Warren Interview - Part One

My article on Susan May Warren is up at Christian Music Planet! Check it out, then come back here for extras I didn't have room for!

Here's Susie:

"If I was stranded on a desert island, I’d take my Bible, my family, and probably something to write on (and a cool pen!). Those three things pretty much define my passions. I love to study the Bible. If I have more time to spend them my usual 45 minute quiet time, then I get out my Strong’s and my Vine’s Bible dictionary, and a few other translations and follow the Holy Spirit’s lead through a passage in the Bible. It’s like hunting for treasure, and I just love discovering what new insights God has hidden in His Word.

"I also love being a wife and mom. It took me by surprise – I thought I wanted to live and work in NYC in advertising. But as soon as I had my first child (I have four), I realized nothing for me could compare to being a mom. I homeschooled for many years, and now I really enjoy hanging out with my teenagers. I think the teenage years are the reward for all the years of wiping snotty noses and cutting up food! I also love the partnership my husband and I have – raising the kids, supporting each other in life, ministry, struggles and joys. I’m married to every one of my book heroes—because they’re all a little bit of my husband!

"Finally, I love love love to write. I love words, and story, and seeing how they work together. I love the magic of watching a character come to life on the page."

Susie's latest release is now in bookstores! Here's the story in her own words:

"Taming Rafe is the story of bull-rider who finds himself caught in his worst nightmare. A friend of his has died, and Rafe has destroyed his career, and he’s broken and at the end of his rope. Enter Kat Breckenridge, a philanthropist from NYC who is trying desperately to keep her charitable organization from going under. It doesn’t help when Rafe decimates her event – so she goes looking for him, hoping he’s a decent guy and will help her out of bankruptcy. Uh…sorry, no. Rafe’s too wrapped up in his own problems to help her. But she’s persuasive, and she’s going to help him heal. In the process she also discovers a few secrets about herself that will change her life.

"It’s one of my favorite stories because I just adore Rafe. He’s a great hero – unwilling to see his need for someone until they practically force themselves into his life, but underneath that prickly exterior is a man with a great capacity to give, and love. Add to that the beauty of Montana , the excitement of bull-riding, a delicious subplot with a couple locals, and a spiritual theme about God at work in our lives. It’s story I am very grateful to have been allowed to tell."

There's more, but I think I'll save it for later this week. Until then, check out my reviews of Escape to Morning and Expect the Sunrise!

Saturday, March 01, 2008

The Restorer's Journey




It is March FIRST, time for the FIRST Day Blog Tour! (Join our alliance! Click the button!) The FIRST day of every month we will feature an author and his/her latest book's FIRST chapter!







This month's feature is:


Sharon Hinck



and her book:




The Restorer's Journey



Navpress Publishing Group (February 7, 2008)




ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Sharon Hinck holds a BA in education, and she earned an MA in communication from Regent University in 1986. She spent ten years as the artistic director of a Christian performing arts group, CrossCurrent. That ministry included three short-term mission trips to Hong Kong. She has been a church youth worker, a choreographer and ballet teacher, a homeschool mom, a church organist, and a bookstore clerk. One day she’ll figure out what to be when she grows up, but in the meantime, she’s pouring her imagination into writing. Her stories focus on characters who confront the challenges of a life of faith. She’s published dozens of articles in magazines and book compilations, and released her first novel, The Secret Life of Becky Miller (Bethany House), in 2006. In April 2007, she was named “Writer of the Year” at the Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference. When she isn’t wrestling with words, Sharon enjoys speaking at conferences and retreats. She and her family make their home in Minnesota. She loves to hear from readers, so send a message through the portal into her writing attic on the “Contact Sharon” page of her website, http://www.sharonhinck.com/. She is also an avid blogger...visit Stories for the Hero in All of Us.


The first and second books in The Sword of Lyric series are The Restorer and The Restorer’s Son. The FIRST chapter shown here is from the third book, The Restorer's Journey. Enjoy!



AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:


Chapter One - JAKE

My mom was freaking out.

She stared out the dining room window as if major-league monsters were hiding in the darkness beyond the glass. Give me a break. Our neighborhood was as boring as they came. Ridgeview Drive’s square lawns and generic houses held nothing more menacing than basketball hoops and tire swings. Still, Mom’s back was tight, and in the shadowed reflection on the pane, I could see her biting her lip. I didn’t know what to say to make her feel better.

I ducked back into the kitchen and used a wet rag to wipe off the counters. Clumps of flour turned to paste and smeared in gunky white arcs across the surface. I shook the rag over the garbage can, the mess raining down on the other debris we’d swept up. Broken jars of pasta and rice filled the bag. I stomped it down, twist-tied the bag and jogged it out to the trashcan by the garage. Usually, I hated the chore of taking out the trash. Not tonight. Maybe if I erased the signs of our intruders, Mom would relax a little.

So Cameron and Medea dropped a few things when they were looking for supplies. No biggie. Why did my folks have such a problem with those two anyway? They’d been great to me. I trudged back into the house, rubbing my forehead. Wait. That wasn’t right. A shiver snaked through my spine. Never mind. They were probably long gone by now.

“Kitchen’s done.” I carried the broom into the dining room, hoping Mom had finished in there. But she was still hugging her arms and staring out the window.

She turned and looked at the china cabinet, then squeezed her eyes shut as if they were hurting. “Why?” she whispered.

Glass shards jutted from one cabinet door, and the other hung crooked with wood splinters poking out. Broken china covered the floor. Mom and Dad had been collecting those goofy teacups ever since they got married.

I pushed the broom against the edge of the fragments, but the chinking sound made her wince, so I stopped.

Dad strode past with an empty garbage bag from the hall closet and stopped to give my mom a squeeze. He nodded toward me. “Honey, Jake’s alive. Nothing else matters. We all got back safe.” He leaned his head against hers, and I edged toward the kitchen in case they started kissing. For an old married couple, they were a little too free with their public displays of affection. No guy wants to watch his parents act mushy.

But my mom didn’t look like she was in a kissing mood. She pressed her lips together. I had a sneaking suspicion that she was more freaked out about what had happened to my hand than our house. Like when I had cancer as a kid. She’d gotten really stressed about the details of a church fundraiser and cranky about everything that went wrong—stuff that wasn’t even important. It gave her a place to be angry when she was trying to be brave about a bigger problem.

“It’s only a piece of furniture.” Dad was doing his soothing voice. When would he catch on that only made things worse?

“Only a piece of furniture we bought as a wedding gift to each other.” She swiped at some wet spots on her face. “Only twenty years’ worth of poking around garage sales and thrift stores together. Don’t tell me what it’s only! Okay?”

“Okay.” Dad backed away from her prickles.

I made another ineffectual push with the broom. My folks didn’t argue much, but when they did, it grated like a clutch struggling to find third gear. Typical over-responsible firstborn, I wanted to fix it but didn’t know how.

Mom picked up a Delft saucer, smashed beyond repair, and laid the pieces gently into the garbage bag. Dad folded his arms and leaned against the high back of one of the chairs. “I can fix the cabinet. That splintered door will need to be replaced, but the other one just needs new hinges. I can put in new glass.” His eyes always lit up when he talked about a woodworking project. The man loved his tools.

Mom smiled at him. Her tension faded, and she got all moony-eyed, so I ducked into the kitchen just as the doorbell rang. Thank heaven. “Pizza’s here!” I yelled.

Dad paid the delivery guy, and I carried the cartons into the living room. Flopping onto one end of the couch, I pried open the lid. “Hey, who ordered green peppers? Mom, you’ve gotta quit ruining good pizza with veggies.”

That made her laugh. “We’d better save a few pieces for the other kids.” She cleared the Legos off the coffee table and handed me a napkin.

I gladly surrendered the top pizza box, along with its green pepper, and dove into the pepperoni below. “Where is everyone?”

“Karen’s spending the night at Amanda’s—trying out her new driver’s license. Jon and Anne are at Grandma’s. But if they see the pizza boxes when they get home tomorrow . . . ”

I nodded. “Yep. Pure outrage. I can hear it now. ‘It’s not fair. Jake always gets to have extra fun.’” I did a pretty good impression of the rug rats. What would the kids think if they found out what else they had missed? This had been the strangest Saturday the Mitchell family had ever seen.

I popped open a can of Dr. Pepper. My third. Hey, I’d earned some extra caffeine. “So, what do we tell the kids?”

Mom smiled and looked me up and down, probably thinking I was one of the kids. When would it sink in that I was an adult now? I guzzled a third of my pop and set it down with a thump. “We could tell them there was a burglar, but then they’d want to help the police solve the case, and they’d never stop asking questions.”

“Good point.” Mom licked sauce from her finger. “Jon and Anne would break out the detective kit you gave them for Christmas.”

Dad tore a piece of crust from his slice of pepperoni. “If we finish cleaning everything, I don’t think they’ll pay much attention. The cabinet is the only obvious damage. If they ask, we’ll just say it got bumped and fell.”

Dad wanted us to lie? So not like him. Then again, when Kieran told me Dad wasn’t originally from our world, I realized there were a lot of things he’d never been honest about. Now I was part of the family secret, too.

He rested his piece of pizza on the cardboard box and looked at Mom. “Do we need to warn them?”

“Warn them?” She mumbled around a mouth full of melted cheese.

“In case Cameron and Medea come back.” His voice was calm, but I suddenly had a hard time swallowing. Something cold twisted in me when he said their names. The same cold that had numbed my bones when I’d woken up in the attic. Why? They’d taken care of me. No, they’d threatened me. Confusing images warred inside my brain.

“You think they’ll come back?” My baritone went up in pitch, and I quickly took another sip of pop.

Dad didn’t answer for a moment. “It depends on why they came. If they plan to stay in our world, we need to find them—stop them. But my guess is that Cameron wants to return to Lyric with something from our world that he can use there. That means they’ll be back to go through the portal.”

Mom sank deeper into the couch and looked out the living room windows. At the curb, our family van shimmered beneath a streetlight.

They might be out there, too. They could be watching us right this second.

“Maybe we should call the police.” Mom’s voice sounded thin. I’d suggested that earlier. After all, someone had broken in—well, broken out.

Dad snorted. “And tell them what?”

He had a point, but it’s not like there was a rulebook for dealing with visitors from other universes. Unless you attended Star Trek conventions. “So what’s your plan?” I asked.

“I’ll get extra locks tomorrow. Maybe look into an alarm system.” Dad believed every problem could be solved with his Home Depot credit card. He turned to me. “Can you remember more about your conversations with Cameron? What did he ask you about? What did he seem interested in?”

A shudder moved through me, and pain began pulsing behind my eyes.

Mom gave Dad a worried glance, then rested a hand on my arm. “It’s okay, honey. We don’t have to talk about it right now.” She smoothed my hair back from my face.

“No problem.” I brushed her hand away, sprawled back on the couch, and studied the ceiling. “It just seems like it was all a dream.”

“What’s the last thing you remember clearly?” Dad pulled his chair closer and watched me.

“Braide Wood.” I closed my eyes and smiled. “It reminded me of summer camp. And I was so tired of running and hiding in caves. I finally felt safe. Tara fussed over me, and I taught Dustin and Aubrey how to play soccer. It felt like home.”

I struggled to remember the rest. For some reason my memories were tangled up, like the time I had a major fever and took too much Nyquil. Mom and Dad waited.

“I went to see Morsal Plains with Tara. Brutal. The grain was all black and it smelled weird. Tara told me about the attack. How Hazor poisoned it on purpose and how Susan the Restorer led the army to protect Braide Wood.” I squinted my eyes open and looked sideways at my mom. They’d told me she had ridden into battle with a sword. “Unbelievable.”

Even though she was watching me with a worried pinch to her eyes, she smiled. “I know. I lived it, and it’s hard for me to believe.”

“Anyway, I hiked back to Tara’s house, and some guys came to take me to Cameron. He made a big fuss over me. Said it was his job to welcome guests to the clans. Said I’d run into bad company but he’d make it up to me. He gave me something to drink, and there was this lady. She was amazing.” No matter how fuzzy my memories were, Medea was easy to remember. The long curly hair, the sparkling eyes, the dress that clung to all the right places. My cheeks heated. “I can’t remember everything we talked about. She made me feel important, like I wasn’t just some teenage kid. It was . . . ” I sat taller and angled away from my parents, my jaw tightening. “She helped me realize that no one else had ever really understood me. I wanted to become a guardian. I had an important job to do.”

“Jake.” Dad’s voice was sharp, and I flinched. “The woman you met was a Rhusican. They poison minds. Don’t trust everything you’re feeling right now.”

A pulsing ache grabbed the base of my neck. I pressed the heels of my hands against my eyes. Mom’s hand settled on my shoulder, and I stiffened. Weird static was messing with my head.

“Jake, they used you to find the portal. She doesn’t really understand you.” Mom’s voice was quiet and sounded far away. I felt like I was falling away inside myself. She squeezed my shoulder. “Remember my favorite psalm?”

I managed a tight smile. “How could I forget? You made us learn the whole thing one summer. ‘O Lord, you have searched me and you know me…’ blah, blah, blah.”

Despite my smart aleck tone, the words took hold and some of the static in my brain quieted.

“What’s the rest?” Dad pressed me.

What was he trying to prove? That I couldn’t think straight? I could have told him that. I struggled to form the words.

“‘You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways.’” Once I got started, I rattled off the verses by rote. In some strange way, the words actually stopped the sensation of falling away inside myself.

“Sounds like there’s someone who understands you a lot better than Cameron and Medea. Remember that.” Dad stood up and tousled my hair. Then he yawned. “Let’s get some sleep.”

Mom didn’t move. She was still watching me. “How’s the hand?”

I rubbed my palm. “Still fine. Weird, huh?” I held it out.

A scar, faint as a white thread, marked the skin where broken glass had cut a deep gash an hour earlier. My lungs tightened. What did it mean?

Dad shook his head. “Come on. Bedtime.”

Mom hesitated, but then stood and gave me a quick kiss on the forehead. “Good night, Jake. We’ll talk more tomorrow.”

Oh, great. She sure loved talking. I looked at Dad. His mouth twitched. “I’ll get us signed up for some practice space at the fencing club.”

Good. He hadn’t forgotten his promise. I couldn’t make sense of my trip through the portal, or the sudden-healing thing, but I knew I wanted to learn to use a sword.

My parents gathered up the pizza stuff and carried it to the kitchen, out of sight, but not out of earshot.

“If we hide the portal stones Cameron and Medea won’t be able to go back,” Dad said over the crinkling of a sheet of aluminum foil.

Someone slammed the fridge door shut hard enough to make the salad dressing bottles rattle. “We don’t want them running around our world. They don’t belong here.” Mom sounded tense.

“I know. We have to send them back. But on our terms. Without anything that would hurt the People of the Verses. And what about Jake?”

Silence crackled, and I leaned forward from my spot on the couch.

When Mom refused to answer, Dad spoke again, so quiet I almost couldn’t hear. “We need to keep the portal available in case he’s needed there. But how will we know?”

Needed there? Did he really think . . .?

I waited for them to head back to their bedroom, then slipped down the steps from the kitchen to the basement. Most of the basement was still unfinished – except for my corner bedroom and Dad’s workbench.

I hurried into my room and shut out the world behind me. Tonight everything looked different. The movie posters, the bookshelves, the soccer team trophy. Smaller, foreign, unfamiliar.

I pulled a thumbtack from my bulletin board and scratched it across my thumb. A line of blood appeared, but in a microsecond the tiny scrape healed completely. I had assumed the healing power was some heebie-jeebie thing that Medea had given me, or that had transferred over from my interactions with Kieran.

But now that my head had stopped throbbing, I could put the pieces together. Excitement stronger than caffeine zipped around my nerve endings. My folks thought this was more than a weird effect left over from my travels through the portal. They thought I might be the next Restorer.