Fiction Fest: Braden Bell’s ‘Penumbras’ takes center stage

Penumbras 2x3Round 2 of this month’s Fiction Fest excerpt series gets underway with Braden Bell’s “Penumbras,” the sequel to 2012’s “The Kindling.”

Speaking of “The Kindling,” you can get an e-book version of the novel for $2.99 on iTunes, Amazon and Kobo from now through July 31.

“I loved how the plot twists and the action scenes come about,” wrote one reviewer of “Penumbras,” which is the second installment in the “Middle School Magic” series and is available in bookstores and on Amazon.com, BooksAndThings.com, and BarnesAndNoble.com.

EXCERPT:

“What are you doing, Conner?” Pilaf managed to blink and stare at the same time.

Trying to protect you from slithery shadow monsters that could slurp your soul like a slushie, Conner thought. How could he keep the flashlight on without alarming Pilaf? Out loud, he said, “Uh, it’s a game. Flashlight tag. You’re it.” He shined the flashlight at Pilaf.

“How do you play?”

“Well . . . one person’s it and he shines a flashlight all over the room.”

“That’s all?” Pilaf blinked until Conner wondered if he was broadcasting the telephone book in Morse code. “It seems kind of pointless.”

“Uh, yeah.” Conner said. “You’re right. Lame. How about shadow puppets?” He slipped his hand in front of the flashlight, wiggling his fingers until the shadow resembled a horse.

“Cool!” Pilaf shouted.

A knock at the door interrupted them and a tired-looking science teacher poked his head in, glaring beneath tousled red hair. “What’s going on in here?”

“Sorry, Mr. Keller,” Pilaf said. “We slept on the bus ride, so we’re not tired. Conner’s making shadows with his hands. Look, a horse!”

“Neeeiiiiggghhh.” Conner threw in sound effects as a special feature.

Apparently unimpressed with great art, Mr. Keller frowned. “Get some sleep. We have a full day tomorrow.”

“Yes, sir.” Conner swallowed his depression at the thought of a five-day science class. Five days of plankton, ocean salinity, salt marshes, and beach ecology. Five days of science, 24/7. At least they were close to the beach. That might be fun.

“Do another one,” Pilaf whispered as the sound of Mr. Keller’s footsteps retreated down the hall.

“Okay, but be quiet this time.” Conner opened his fingers, making a snake’s mouth, complete with a flickering tongue.

It seemed so real that Conner thought he heard a hiss. Unsettled, he dropped his hands, but the hissing noise continued, twisting into words.

Co-n-n-e-r-r-r-r-r-r D-e-l-l-l-l-l—

Trying to squash the sound, Conner raised his voice. “Here’s another one.” He cupped his hands on top of each other, stuck his thumb up, and opened his fingers slightly.

“Wow!” Pilaf yelled. “A wolf!” He giggled as Conner opened the mouth and growled. “Little pig, little pig let me come in.” Conner prayed that none of the other seventh-grade boys heard he’d been doing Three Little Pigs shadow plays. That would not be cool.

Co-n-n-e-r-r-r-r-r-r D-e-l-l-l-l-l—

The weird voice came louder. Conner dropped his hands away from the flashlight.

The wolf head stayed there.

Fighting panic, Conner switched the flashlight off, but the wolf head remained, darker than the darkest shadows on the wall.

It stretched and grew bigger, becoming life-sized within seconds. It turned and stared at Conner, a three-dimensional head sticking out of the wall like some kind of freaky hunting souvenir.

The wolf growled, then jumped off the wall, and sailed across the room toward Conner.