Fiction Fest: Braden Bell’s ‘Penumbras’ kicks off July excerpts

Penumbras 2x3With the start of a new month comes the start of a new series of excerpts from our upcoming releases. First up is Braden Bell’s “Penumbras,” the second installment in the “Middle School Magic” series.

The book is the follow up to 2012’s “The Kindling,” which is available for $2.99 — in e-book format — from now until July 31, 2013, on iTunes, Amazon and Kobo.

Although “Penumbras” won’t drop until July 9, you can pre-order it right now on Amazon.com, BarnesAndNoble.com, and BooksAndThings.com.

EXCERPT:

Conner Dell didn’t mean to blow up the school bus.

Or the bathrooms.

In fact, he only wanted to go to sleep and possibly dream about Melanie Stephens.

But explosions had a funny way of happening when Conner and his friends were around.

It all started on the annual seventh grade science trip to the Sea Lab at Dauphin Island, Alabama. Fifty-four thirteen-year-olds on a five-day field trip. What could go wrong?

Especially when three of them happened to be Magi.

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For a fraction of a second, Conner thought he saw shadows slithering along the base of the cinderblock walls. Tensing, he blinked and looked again.

Nothing. He was alone in the darkness of his dorm room.

Well, except for his friend and fieldtrip roommate, Pilaf.

Across the room, Pilaf disturbed the darkness by turning his flashlight on and digging through a giant floral print suitcase. Fishing a book out, Pilaf hunched over, tucked the flashlight under his chin, and read.

“What are you reading?” Conner asked.

“Sorry. Did I wake you up?” Pilaf squeaked. “I couldn’t sleep. I guess I slept too much on the bus.”

“No worries.” Conner burrowed into his sleeping bag. He didn’t like messing with sheets on these trips. The springs of the ancient bed creaked beneath him. “I’m not sleepy either.” Lexa? Can you hear me? Conner reached out in his thoughts, wondering if his twin sister was awake in her room on the girls’s floor. Head-talking was a cool benefit of being one of the Magi—a secret group of warriors who used the power of Light to battle evil.

No answer from Lexa. Her allergy medicine must have knocked her out.

Melanie? He tried Lexa’s best friend, Melanie Stephens—also one of the Magi-in-training. Conner listened for her response, trying to ignore the backflip in his chest that came when he thought of her. No answer. Melanie had taken something for motion sickness on the bus. She must be knocked out too.

Conner jerked up as something skittered across the ceiling right above him. No doubt this time. He grabbed his own flashlight, raking the beam across the ceiling tiles as someone whispered his name.

Coooonnerrrrrr.

“What?” Conner pointed his flashlight at Pilaf, who looked up from his book, blinking behind his thick glasses. Pilaf’s blinks always reminded Conner of the way a light on a computer blinked when it processed data.

“What?” Pilaf squinted back at him.

“Why did you call me?” Conner asked.

“I didn’t.” Pilaf looked down at his book.

On edge now, Conner lay back down, scanning the room for more shadowy movement, his fingers ready to snap his flashlight back on at any second.

Co-n-n-e-r-r-r-r-r-r D-e-l-l-l-l-l.

A whispered, hissing sort of growl sounded in his head as a flicker of movement caught his eye. He whipped his head around in time to see a shadowy tail vanish under Pilaf’s bed. Flipping his flashlight on, he investigated the space under the metal frame.

Nothing there.