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Friday, November 29, 2013

"The End is Where We Begin"

You know, I don't often comment about books I don't like on here. I usually only comment on books that I LOVE and want to make sure y'all know influenced me, but I was reading through reviews for the third in a YA trilogy I was mildly interested in finishing - not madly in love with as many other people are - but interested in finishing . . . until the preponderance of the reviews came back negative. I won't name the book because I'm not interested in damaging the career of any fellow author, no matter how misguided she may have been with this book, but I mention this here because a) I think it's important for authors to pay attention to both good and bad reviews because we have a responsibility to our readers, and b) There was a comment made in one of the reviews that made me go, "uh huh! That's why." One reviewer said that this author has been quoted in interviews saying that she had "no idea" where the story was going when she first started writing the series. My creative writing students will chuckle at this, but if I've said it once, I've said it a thousand times - you DO NOT START WRITING A BOOK BEFORE YOU KNOW THE ENDING. This holds *especially* true for writing a series! If you are scrambling to make sense of everything you've already written at the end of the series, your readership can tell. At least, with this particular series, I could already tell from the beginning that she didn't have a plan, which is part of why I didn't get too emotionally invested in it in the first place.

So, here's what I promise you.

I have a plan. I have always had a plan. I planned out the basic premises of all six books before I started writing book 1, and I've known how the whole series will end before I started writing book 1. Have there been some changes to my plan along the way? Sure! Have I come up with new and different ideas as I go? Of course! Has the story evolved somewhat organically once the ball got rolling? You bet! But I have striven very hard to keep everything pointing toward the ending I planned out six years ago, and that has helped me to write a story that is coherent, logical, and enjoyable. You, the reader, can trust me. I take your feelings into consideration, and as long as I CAN work something in that I know you want, I WILL. Everything that you think "means something" probably in fact does, and there really is a "puzzle" for you to figure out. AND I have beta readers already lined up to read book 6 when I finish who will let me know if my plan has been executed to satisfaction and whether or not you, the reader, will feel fulfilled by it. I don't want to let you down, and I think any author who puts edginess or shock value above the needs of the readers has lost his/her way. I promise to give you an ending that has a eucatastrophe, an ending that makes sense, and an ending that has, really, existed all along.

One of my favorite bands has a recently-released album entitled, "The End is Where We Begin." Good advice for any author, especially an author with thousands of people riding on his/her books. At the end of the day, I don't want my readers to close book 6 and say, "What was the point?" And that is clearly what has happened to this author.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Letter to My Readers

Dear Readers,

A long time ago (in a galaxy far, far away . . . sorry, I couldn't resist), I said that I would just like to hit some bestselling list somewhere, somehow. I will admit that I really didn't think this would happen, at least not any time soon, so imagine my surprise when The Scroll, and then The Six, hit Amazon top 100 lists and stayed there . . . for a week! I am truly overwhelmed and humbled by the outpouring of support for my books, especially as of late, and I wanted to write and let you all know how thankful I am.

I've never been one of those authors who puts the "art" over all else. I am well aware that being an author is to be in the entertainment industry, and if I am not entertaining in the entertainment industry, then I am failing at my job. This has never been about being "true to myself," nor has it been some abstract thing where I just feel compelled to "create." Yes, I do want to be true to the calling that is on my life, and yes, I do want to create (or rather, subcreate, as I see it, but that's a discussion for a different day), but I feel very strongly that telling a good story that people get as invested in as some of you have gotten invested in mine is as much a service as anything else. I feel it is a high calling to be a storyteller, and that calling comes with a responsibility to not only tell a good story well, but to uplift the reader, and to meet their expectations for my work - expectations that I, as the storyteller, have set up. In a way, there is an informal contract that exists between reader and author. You have shown your dedication to my stories by buying them, reading them, discussing them, and (in some cases) leaving reviews on Amazon and elsewhere. I promise to do my best to not disappoint any expectations you may have for how the story should end. At the very least, even if you don't like how I end the stories, hopefully you will all find it to be at least a fulfilling ending. I take this very seriously - I always have!

But, at the risk of getting too much further offtrack from what I set out to do, I really just wanted to say THANK YOU!

 I can hardly believe I can now call myself a bestselling author, and that sort of thing has ultimately very little to do with me, and very much to do with you. There would be no bestsellers without readers like you who support authors like me. Many people have written fabulous novels that have disappeared into obscurity for lack of a good readership base, and I count myself blessed to not be in that situation. I say onwards and upwards, and hopefully, with your support (and the tireless efforts of my unofficial social media army), we will all be rewarded with more and greater things happening for The Gateway Chronicles.

Yours very humbly,
K. B. Hoyle

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Blog Tour and Sneak Peek!

It's almost that time again - time for a Blog Tour! In honor of the upcoming release of book 5 of The Gateway Chronicles, The Scroll, my publishing house is hosting a Blog Tour that will begin on Monday, October 14th. Featured will be reviews, guest posts, and more! I hope you tune in for all the action (metaphorically speaking, of course. Writers tend to not actually be that active...) :) The schedule for the tour is as follows:

While the tour is going on, I will also post daily links on my Facebook page here: 

Also, don't forget that I have a new website, and there is a giveaway running on it where you can win an entire E-Book set of books 1-5 of The Gateway Chronicles! Visit and enter now: 

And now, since we are a week (a WEEK!) away from the release of The Scroll, I decided to give you the entire prologue as a sneak peek. Enjoy! I hope it builds your excitement to get your hands on the book next week. 

The Scroll

“What can you ever really know of other people’s souls—of their temptations, their opportunities, their struggles? One soul in the whole creation you do know: and it is the only one whose fate is placed in your hands.”
C. S. Lewis

The Boy and the Fire

Six Years Ago

     Colin couldn’t breathe. His father’s hands were iron gloves around his throat, threatening to do it, to finally kill him. Black dots danced before his eyes, and the side of the building slid out of focus as laughter and a babble of conversation joined with mangled strains of Für Elise not ten feet away.
His mind was screaming. Come outside! Somebody open the door.
     But they didn’t. Nobody ever came to his aid. They all hated him, like his father did.
     His feet twitched, his toes just brushing the ferns in the underbrush, until his dad released him to fall in a crumpled heap on the ground. Colin dragged a ragged breath into his lungs and rolled over, keeping his father always in his sight. He knew what was coming next—the explanation, the ranting and raving, and then more pain.
     “You embarrassed me,” Lawrence Mackaby said as he raked his hands through his golden-blond hair. “Embarrassed me! How dare you make me look bad in front of a potential client?” He fumbled his cigarette lighter from his pocket and Colin flinched, cowering among the leaves. So it was to be burns again. He still bore the scars on his chest from the last time.
     His father lit a cigarette and took a long drag, his hands shaking with rage. Another burst of laughter came from inside the rec hall, and Colin imagined the potential client, the wealthy parent of some camper, waiting on his dad’s return and assuming Colin’s dad had taken him outside merely for a lecture on polite behavior.
     “If I lose his business because of you, you’re going to wish you had never been born,” Mr. Mackaby said, his voice eerily calm. “Stand up.”
     Colin struggled to obey, but his clothes were caught in the underbrush, holding him down as though conspiring against his father’s command. Mr. Mackaby grabbed Colin by the shoulder and wrenched him up so violently Colin stumbled and almost fell again. “Stand up straight and face me like a man. Stop crying like a girl!”
     Was he crying? He hadn’t realized.
     His father pointed at his chest with the cigarette. “Lift your shirt.”
     Colin met his father’s eyes with a dull stare. Just hit me, he thought. Hit me and be done with it. The blows he could take. Sometimes he even savored the pain, imagining himself absorbing it and storing it away for some future day when he’d get his revenge. But the burns grew worse even after the fire was gone. They sizzled and festered, and they smelled of cooked flesh.
     Colin fingered the hem of his shirt, not taking his eyes off his father’s face. If he did it slowly enough, maybe his father would grow impatient and hit him instead.
     Mr. Mackaby lunged forward and ripped Colin’s shirt up and over his head so that he was blinded by fabric and his arms were pinned above him. The searing pain of the hot ash against his skin took his breath away, and then he cried out and kicked with all his might. He felt his foot connect and heard his father double over with a grunt.
     Colin fell into the undergrowth, flailing against his shirt as he tried to regain his sight. He heard his father curse, and the smell of smoke intensified. He yanked his shirt back down over his chest in time to see a pile of dry pine needles go up in a blaze of fire. His father cursed again and kicked at the pile, sending the flames skittering toward the rec hall.
     Colin coughed as the smoke invaded his lungs. The small fire was already blackening the siding of the building. It was his father’s cigarette, his father’s fault, but that wouldn’t matter. Like a snake, he’d slither out of it, and Colin would be blamed.
     So he ran.
     His father called his name, shouted for him to come back, but Colin kept running. Going to jail for arson, or wherever they sent eleven-year-old criminals, would be worse than any punishment his father could concoct for him. He crashed through the underbrush, not paying attention to where he was going. The air around him cleared of smoke just as screams echoed from the rec hall.
     But they’d get out. There were plenty of exits and tall windows. None of them really knew what it was to be trapped.
     Before long, he glimpsed the silvery sheen of the lake through the trees and recognized where he was—the Cedar Point Trail, far removed from the chaos behind him. He slowed to a walk and caught up against a tree. His chest burned from smoke inhalation and exertion, and the actual burn on his skin felt as though it was still on fire. He bent double and held on to the tree for support as he took deep breaths. The deeper he breathed, the more his eyes welled with tears and, before he knew it, he was sobbing and clutching at the tree bark as though his fingernails were claws.
     I hate you, I hate you, I hate you, he thought, wishing his father could feel the power of his oath and burn under it as Colin had burned under the cigarette. “I’ll make you sorry someday,” Colin said, spitting the words like acid. “I swear it, someday I’ll be powerful, and I’ll make you pay!”
     A chill of cold air washed down his back, and he straightened and stilled his sobs and his breathing. The forest had gone silent, and fear invaded his mind where rage had been a moment before. Colin squinted at what looked like a shadow, hovering in the woods, not belonging to any of the trees around it. It was indistinct and shapeless, but it was there.
     Another burst of cold air swept around his neck, and with it came words so quiet they might not have been words at all, but thoughts invading his own.
     You asked for power?
     Colin shivered and took a step toward the shadow. “Are you talking to me?”
     That chill again. The voice. Power is my specialty. Who has hurt you? I can help you to make it right.
     “My—my father.”
     Do you desire to hurt him back?
     Colin squared his shoulders. “Yes.”
     It will take time, and if I help you, you must promise also to help me.
     “I won’t have to do anything . . . illegal, will I?” Colin suppressed the voice in the back of his head that said revenge on his father would certainly be illegal.
     The shadow began to fade.
     “Wait! I’ll help you.”
     “I promise.”
     The shadow darkened and then came near him. I’ve been waiting a long time for you. I’m glad we’re going to be friends.
     “Sure.” Colin’s teeth chattered as the shadow’s approach brought a renewed burst of cold. “What are you? Do you have a name?”
     My name is Tselloch. Let that be enough for now. 

Monday, September 30, 2013

Make Time to Read!

I thought of this post as a piggyback off the post I did a little while back called, "Make Time to Write!" I can't claim full credit for the idea, as a fellow author had recently posted in a discussion thread what is perhaps a little-known fact: that once we - authors - really get enmeshed in the business of being an author, we find it very difficult to actually read what our fellow authors are writing anymore! I read her comment and sat back and chuckled, because it is a very true statement. I know I'm speaking for many an author out there, but I think it's fair to say that authors love to read. Of course we do! Why else would we be writing stories of our own? But the tasks that surround first taking a story idea from conception to completion, then revising and producing it, followed by selling and promoting it, make for very little time to do other than those things. As I touched on in my previous post, it can be difficult enough to find the time to do that very quintessential thing which is writing. Sitting down to engross ourselves in any sort of leisure reading, therefor, tends to go out the window in a pinch.

But this is something that must not happen. If you consider yourself a writer of any sort, you must always make time to read!

Reading is one of the most important ways we hone our craft. As a teacher, I can always pick out my readers in my classes as the readers will almost inevitably be better writers. I have found over the years that people who don't read don't know how to craft engaging sentences, they don't know how to bend words to their needs, they don't understand, and therefore cannot utilize, the intricate subtleties of language. Writing is in large part imitative, and as writers, we first seek to emulate other writers we admire. And there is nothing wrong with that, in fact, it ought to be encouraged! I have never ascribed to the theory that everything we need to create a masterful work already exists within us. Rather, I believe writers are all born with an innate talent and predisposition for writing, but that writers must look outside themselves to learn the craft and hone it. Much like in physical disciplines such as martial arts, writers must also learn from a master, and it will only be after a great deal of "wax on, wax off" that a unique, creative voice will emerge. Once you know the craft, then you can really have fun with it! My creative writing students often don't like to hear this, but with the exception of a few creative geniuses, it will always hold true that most of your early writing will be little more than practice and imitation.

This is why writers must always read. Not only is it enjoyable and relaxing, but it helps with the ongoing task of learning how, and how not, to write. And if your time for leisure reading, like mine, is short, just be exceedingly choosy about your choice of reading. I've said it before, but I mainly only read books in the same genre in which I write - to see what's out there in the market, to see what "the kids" are reading, and to see what I find to be effective and ineffective writing (and storytelling, but that is often a different thing entirely!). So remember, "wax on, wax off!" Make time to read.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Instagram/Vine Video Challenge!

Instagram/Vine Video Contest

Teen Read Week is coming up – Oct. 13-19, 2013

TWCS is excited to be part of the fun with a VINE/INSTAGRAM Video Challenge!


VineHow does it work? Simple.

1. Between September 12th and October 17th,
Make a VINE or INSTAGRAM video featuring a TWCS YA Book

2. Post it on the TWCS Young Adult Facebook Wall 

3. Use the hashtag #YATWCSVINE
There will be a PUBLIC VOTE to choose the BEST VINE October 17-19, 2013.
In addition, a RANDOM WINNER will be chosen from all participants.

What do you win? THIS cool prize package of eBooks and ARCs!


So what do I VINE? Just show us something cool about a TWCS YA Book!

We are asking our readers to come up with a VINE or Instagram Video of you or someone you know:
•Reading a special part of the book
•Acting out a scene of the book
•Giving a review of the book
•A funny reason why people should buy the book
Be creative! Draw a comic strip! Have your dog read the book! Read the book to your dog!
Use interpretive dance! Whatever!
We want to see what you can do with that 7 seconds!

Please base the VINE on one of following books. All are available in eBook or print on all major outlets.

(Click on a cover for more information)

Don't forget to post your VINE or INSTAGRAM Videos onTHE TWCS YOUNG ADULT FACEBOOK WALL  with the hashtag #YATWCSVINE 

(Click the link if you want to see an example) 
Winners for both BEST VINE and the random drawing will be announced on Oct. 19th
Good luck, have fun, and happy Vining!!
All videos must be rated for all audiences.   All videos are subject to removal by TWCS Staff.  Any video with the following will be removed immediately: swearing or vulgar language,  nudity, sexual content, drug use, derogatory language, or racist remarks.  The final decision on removal is solely the responsibility of TWCS.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Make Time to Write!

Being a full-time author this year is full of new and exciting challenges, but probably the greatest challenge of them all is also the most ironic of them all - it's really, really hard to find time to actually sit down and write! I don't know how it is for other writers, but I'm kind of a get-in-the-groove-and-don't-stop sort of girl. Once inspiration strikes, I can write for hours on end, and even when inspiration is fleeting and illusive, I can still keep writing as long as I have the time because I am such a meticulous planner (ie. my stories are planned out well enough so that I usually know where I'm going, even if I'm not "feeling it"). But if I'm interrupted for days on end with countless other tasks, or if I have said other tasks hanging over my head, I find it very difficult to write.

Now, I actually have much more time on my hands this year than in previous years. I'm no longer teaching full-time, which frees up an enormous amount of time, energy, and brain capacity (really), but when I was teaching full-time, prioritizing writing to the top of the to-do stack was actually easier. Think about it this way - with writing deadlines hanging over my head, I really had no choice but to use my limited free time to write. Neglecting the extra stuff was a necessity. What I'm finding now, about one month in to being a full-time author, is that it's much more difficult to prioritize that writing time. My tasks this week have included: filling out a marketing form (still not done with this - they are a beast to complete!), signing and organizing and mailing book orders, working on my website (still in construction), blogging (ha), corresponding with a variety of different people about a variety of different necessary things, and cleaning and organizing our home office into a usable space. Finally, three days ago, I threw up my hands and said, "That's it! I have to write!" Having my surgery a month ago, followed by a family-wide stomach bug (which I got twice - yay), followed by traveling to the Decatur festival last week and all the work that came with that, really meant that I hadn't truly written in over a month, so getting back on the proverbial horse was a challenge. But the moment I made myself sit down and DO IT, the juices started to flow once again. The next day I wrote 4,000 words, which is a really good day for any writer. Long story short (pun intended), I have learned a very important first lesson about making this full-time author career work. To be an author, you have to write books. Yes, all the other marketing and corresponding stuff is also important, but writing absolutely has to be my priority. Every day, without excuse, I must make time to write!

And now I'm off to take my own advice...

Monday, September 2, 2013

You Don't Sell Books Sitting Down

I spent the weekend in Decatur, GA (a beautiful and historic suburb of Atlanta) at the Decatur Book Festival. I was a participant in the Emerging Writers Tent, and it was not only a very profitable weekend for me, but it was also a time of reflection and observation. There was also one BIG lesson I learned: always, always bring more books than they tell you to bring. The rules for the Emerging Writers area stated that each author (and there were over 100 of us participating) could only bring 20 of each title. So I brought 20 of each title. I started selling at 10 AM. I sold out of book 1, The Six, by 1:50 with a day and a half left to the festival. Thankfully my publisher and I rallied and were able to offer a special deal for people who wanted to order copies of book 1 directly from me, and I sold several more copies that way, but I was really kicking myself for not bringing more than the prescribed twenty, because I know I could have doubled my sales on all the rest of the books. All of this led to a general observation though. Selling books doesn't just happen. Of all the authors there, I was the only one selling books in the Emerging Writers Tent in high quantities. In fact, of all the authors there, I was one of the only ones actively selling any books at all! Early in the day on Saturday I spoke with a fellow author who was there with his debut book, and I asked him what his strategy was for the weekend. He chuckled and said that he didn't really have one. He just wanted to put his book out there and see what happened. For the rest of the day, I saw him sitting on a bench watching the crowd go by. Meanwhile I (and my sister who came along for moral support and ended up being a great sales assistant!) was on my feet handing out flyers and bookmarks, engaging in conversation with people, smiling, laughing, and in some cases practically tackling people to bring them over to my books. I didn't scalp people away from other authors' books or anything like that, which would have been wrong and unkind, but I made an attempt to actively engage every person who so much as paused in front of my books. And you know what happened? I met wonderful people, I got to know some of my future readers, I learned what sorts of things they look for in stories, and I sold books! Now, I don't mean to be overly critical of the gentleman who spent his day on the bench. Novice authors tend to have this, "If you write it, they will come" mentality when it comes to publishing their first books, but the fact of the matter is that that's simply not true. Writers are generally introverted, but if you're like me - an author who is making a career out of writing - then you have to attack the pragmatic side of the coin as well. This year I can finally say this is my career, and I'm going to attack it with what financial guru Dave Ramsey would call "Gazelle intensity" (imagine a gazelle outrunning a cheetah and you'll understand the metaphor a little better). I will not sit down. You don't sell books sitting down.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Why I Wasn't Surprised by Miley

I try to keep my finger on the pulse of YA culture. What are teenagers doing these days? What and how are they thinking? What do they like and dislike? How do they talk? What is important to them? I've been a teacher for several years, so observing them has been pretty easy, and even though I'm no longer teaching full time, I'm still teaching a creative writing course and keeping in touch with my students. As a YA novelist, I think it's very important to keep up with "what the kids are doing." A couple of things this week have made me rather thoughtful about YA culture, especially from the perspective of someone who writes for a YA audience, so I figured my blog was as good a place as any to ruminate on them.

I wasn't surprised by Miley Cyrus's performance at the VMAs. While everybody else seems to be sounding off in shock, awe, dismay, and disbelief, I watched the performance (for the record, not live, but on YouTube) and thought to myself, "Yep, that seems about right." I don't mean that sentiment in any sort of condoning sense. It was vulgar, and the use of children's motifs in sexual ways ought to disturb and infuriate anyone with any sense of morality. What I mean by it is that Miley Cyrus merely followed her pop star trajectory to its logical conclusion - self obsessed, convinced of her own perfection, impulse driven, and hyper sexualized. These things are the markers of YA culture at its worst, and they feed and are fed by the natural inclination of all young people to be self absorbed. These are also all the things I have kicked back against in my writing for young people. Along those lines, I found a great article this week that perfectly articulates what I try to do when I write my books. It's a very short article and worth a read (click HERE), but the gist of it is that young people need to be encouraged to look outside of themselves and to see that they aren't the center of their own little worlds, but rather they are participants in a world much bigger than themselves. I love this quotation from the text: "One way to display a higher opinion of children than the popular fashion is to address them as members of the human family and not as a special class of self-worshiping mirror-gazers." (Zach Franzen, "Get Children Outside - Of Themselves). I will always try to drive this point home in my stories, no matter what I am writing. I don't keep my finger on the pulse of YA culture so I can regurgitate back to them what they already believe and are doing, I do it so I can know how to encourage them to be better people. It is important for young people to know they each have unique, God-given gifts and abilities, and that they are important as individuals, but concurrent with this, they need to be encouraged to focus not just on themselves and how they can make their own lives better, but on others and how they can use their gifts and talents to serve other people. I try to avoid doing this didactically, but it should be clear in all my currently published books that selfish behavior results (ultimately) in bad things happening. If this is a message we can drive home to our youth, perhaps we'll have fewer Miley Cyrus's running around in the future. 

*For the record, I should note that I don't in any way believe it is only young people who are inclined to selfishness - it is a malady, rather, of humankind. I'm merely addressing young people since they are my target audience. Furthermore, I believe that young people, more so than adults, have a much greater capacity for great acts of love, heroism, and kindness. What I see in young people is the potential for great good and for great evil, and also a great potential to change. This is why I think children's and YA literature is so important - because it addresses the formulative years when almost anything is possible. 

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Multiple Personality Disorder?

This fall I will find myself in a unique position - a position in which I have never been before. I will be working on two novels simultaneously! Wait, wait, wait, some of you are thinking right now, aren't you always working on multiple ideas at a time? To be sure, yes, but I've never seriously worked on two novels at once. It's one thing to gather ideas and take notes, it's another thing entirely to sit down and write to a deadline, and that's what I'm going to be doing. I have to say, I'm relishing the challenge, although I'm also wondering if, in the end, I'll feel plagued with multiple personality disorder. Authors tend to get so immersed in their writing that they become their characters, or at least one of them, so working on two novels with two very different protagonists and two very different story concepts is going to be interesting. The first book, and the one that will obviously take precedence, is the last book in The Gateway Chronicles, The Bone Whistle. The second book, due shortly after the manuscript for The Bone Whistle is due, is Breeder, the first book in my upcoming dystopian trilogy. So an added challenge here is that I will be pulling all the pieces together on one series while putting all the pieces out on the next. I think it's going to feel a bit like playing two games of chess at the same time - one I'm just in the process of winning, and one I'm just starting to play. The Bone Whistle, too, is contemporary fantasy adventure, while Breeder is futuristic dystopian romance with a touch of science fiction. Aside from the speculative nature of both mixed genres, these books are going to be very different! Not to mention that I'm playing around with the idea of writing Breeder in first person present tense, and The Bone Whistle, as with all the books in The Gateway Chronicles, is in third person limited omniscient past tense. Multiple personality disorder indeed. But truly, I am looking forward to it. I think it will be a treat to be able to go back and forth between stories and characters, and I think it will help my brain to stay elastic, as it were. A brain that is never challenged grows stagnant over time!

Some of you who have been following my adventures for a while may be wondering how I can possibly have the time to write two novels at a time this fall. Well, I'm happy to announce that I'm making the leap to full time author! I will no longer be teaching history at my school, although I am retaining just one creative writing course. I will always have a passion for bringing young people along in their writing endeavors, so teaching creative writing just three hours a week is an important thing for me to continue doing. Aside from that, I will be caring for my boys at home, writing, promoting, traveling, and speaking, and I think it's going to be wonderful! And yes, I do have time to write two novels.

Don't forget to mark your calendars for the release of The Scroll on October 17th! I've been finished with it for so long that I can hardly believe you all haven't read it yet! To whet your appetite, here's a little sneak peak:

Perry began to deal the cards, acting indifferent. “Hearts, everyone? Someone will need to be on a team.”
“I’ll team with Darcy,” Sam said. “I’m terrible at this game.”
Darcy felt a stab of annoyance. She was ultra-competitive at cards and hated being on a team with anyone. Still, she knew she shouldn’t be so uncharitable toward her best friend.
“You do this every year . . . by yourself?” Darcy asked as Perry continued to deal.
“Yep. Helps me to wind down.”
“You know what doesn’t help me to wind down?” Dean said, and his tone of voice caused them all to look up. Dean lifted his chin toward the window and stood.
Darcy looked out the window and followed suit so fast her chair skittered out behind her and fell over.
Colin Mackaby stood on the other side with his nose almost flattened against the screen. The light from the dining hall reflected eerily off his eyes and washed his face in a pale yellow light.
Sam gasped and backed all the way up to the wall, clutching at Darcy to keep upright.
Colin stared at them without moving, and then he smiled and turned to walk away.
“Oh no he doesn’t!” Perry threw his cards down and charged out of the wing and to the patio door. The sound of Perry smashing into the crash bar echoed in the dining hall. Dean was fast on Perry’s heels, and Darcy and Lewis followed, dragging Sam with them.
They caught up to Perry behind the lodge, just off the patio. He had Colin backed up against the side of the building, his forearm jammed beneath Colin’s chin and his other arm cocked out, fist ready.
“Stop!” Darcy threw her hands out and caught each of them with her magic, forcing them apart.
Perry stumbled backward, looking affronted, and Colin slid a few inches down the wall, never taking his eyes off Perry. He seemed unsurprised that Darcy could perform her magic at Cedar Cove now.
“You broke my sword!” Perry shouted at Colin. “And you tried to give Darcy to Tselloch. She should have let Liontari kill you, you worthless piece of—”
“Perry, stop it!” Darcy shoved him hard. “You’re not helping anything.”
“You should listen to her,” Colin said.
Perry made to lunge at Colin again, but Dean held him back.
“You have no idea what you’re dealing with,” Colin said. He looked at each of them in turn. “It amazes me, how in the dark Pateros keeps you.”
“If you know so much, why don’t you enlighten us?” Dean said.
“You don’t even know how a gateway is formed,” Colin said, continuing as though Dean hadn’t spoken.
“And I suppose you do?” Darcy asked, trying to keep her voice level.
“Wouldn’t you like to know?”
“Yeah, I would, actually.”
“Darcy,” Sam said. “I don’t think this is the best way to learn—”
Darcy shook her off. “We need to know, both for Alitheia and for here. If he knows how, maybe he can help us.”
“Why would he help us? He’s working with Tselloch. He’s obviously trying to help Tselloch take over this world as well as Alitheia,” Lewis said.
“He doesn’t know anything,” Dean said. “He just wants us to think he does.”
“Of course I do! I’m part of it.” Colin’s expression became manic. “I’m more a part of it than any of you ever will be. I’m destined to rule Alitheia, not Darcy, not any of you, I—”
“Colin, Tselloch fed me that lie, too—”
“It’s not a lie!” he screamed, and spit flew from his mouth.
“Darcy saved your life,” Sam said, speaking soothingly. “Twice. She’s trying to help you.”
“She’s trying to help herself.”
Darcy huffed and rolled her eyes. There didn’t seem to be any way of breaking through to him.
“You shouldn’t judge her,” Sam said, pointing at Colin.
“If I wanted advice from a dumb blonde, I would have asked for it.”
Perry broke free of Dean’s grip and punched Colin across the face. Colin’s head recoiled against the siding, then he ducked so Perry’s second fist struck the side of the building instead. He crouched, spun, and leapt onto Perry’s back before throwing an arm around Perry’s neck and bringing Perry to his knees with a chokehold. Dean leapt forward and grappled with Colin’s shoulders.
“Do something!” Sam shouted and grabbed Darcy’s arm.
“I can’t if you’re holding on to me like that!” Darcy wriggled out of Sam’s grasp.
“What’s going on out here?” an adult shouted across the grounds.
“Help, please!” Sam waved her arms.
A flashlight clicked on and two men ran their direction. “Boys, break it up! Boys!”
Perry shoved up with his legs and slammed Colin against the side of the building. Colin let out a sharp exhalation of pain, and Dean pried his arms off Perry’s neck and pinned them to his sides. Perry spun, coughing and gasping, and punched Colin across the face again.
Stop, Perry.” Sam grabbed his wrist as he wound back again. “Dean’s got him. He’s done.”