GUEST POST and GIVEAWAY
The Occasional Diamond Thief
by J. A. McLachlan
J. A. McLachlan's The Occasional Diamond Thief is currently on tour with YA Bound Book Tours. The tour stops here today for a guest post by the author, an excerpt, and a giveaway. Please be sure to visit the other tour stops as well.
What if you learned your father was a thief? Would you follow in his footsteps, learn his "trade"? If you were the only one who knew, would you keep his secret?
When 16-yr-old Kia is training to be a universal translator, she is co-opted into traveling as a translator to Malem. This is the last place in the universe that Kia wants to be - it’s the planet where her father caught the terrible illness that killed him - but it’s also where he got the magnificent diamond that only she knows about. Kia is convinced he stole it, as it is illegal for any off-worlder to possess a Malemese diamond.
Using her skill in languages – and another skill she picked up, the skill of picking locks - Kia unravels the secret of the mysterious gem and learns what she must do to set things right: return the diamond to its original owner.
But how will she find out who that is when no one can know that she, an off-worlder, has a Malemese diamond? Can she trust the new friends she’s made on Malem, especially handsome but mysterious 17-year-old Jumal, to help her? And will she solve the puzzle in time to save Agatha, the last person she would have expected to become her closest friend?
Kia is quirky, with an ironic sense of humor, and a loner. Her sidekick, Agatha, is hopeless in languages and naive to the point of idiocy in Kia's opinion, but possesses the wisdom and compassion Kia needs.
[In this excerpt, Kia is examining the little leather pouch her father gave her just before he died.]
In the daylight it no longer looks so ominous. It's just a commonplace little sack with a small, hard object inside it.
I have to use my teeth to untie the leather cords that hold it shut. The thin cords are dry and rough in my mouth, and when I finally work them loose they still hold the shape of the knot. Reaching inside with my thumb and forefinger, I feel a jagged stone the size of a marble. I pull it out and drop it onto my palm. The sun hits it, and I gasp in disbelief. It is stunningly, frighteningly beautiful.
The stone is clear and brilliant, like the diamond in my mother's wedding band, except that this one is ten times the size of hers. It has a brilliant circle of darkness at the core, as though I am staring straight into the sun. Light shimmers across this dark center like lightning in the night sky, and shoots out through the surrounding diamond in a rainbow of colours. I stare at it, mesmerized.
And quickly close my fingers tight around it. I look down at my closed fist for a while, before I pick up the pouch and slip the stone back inside. How did my father come by such a thing? And why didn't he tell anyone about it?
He was hallucinating, his sentences disjointed, when he talked to me. "It's yours" was clear enough, but who did he think he was talking to? I shiver, remembering his intense stare, just above my head, as though he was looking at someone behind me. Just thinking about it makes me turn and look over my shoulder.
"Sariah," he said. A word or a name? Either way, I've never heard it before. And he called it... what? A heart? Someone's heart? None of it makes sense, because he wasn't making sense. He was dying. I close my eyes. That's a word that doesn't make any sense. How can I live with that word?
The pouch slips out of my hand. I open my eyes and look down at it. What should I do with the diamond? If I show it to anyone, they'll ask where I got it. Then Owegbe will find out I spoke to Father, that I broke my promise and spoke Malemese, and she'll blame me for his death.
She's right. I did kill him. I spoke Malemese, knowing I shouldn't, and it was too much for him to bear, just as the doctor warned me. He warned me and I did it anyway.
I lean sideways just before the spray of vomit spews from my mouth, and then I heave and heave, unable to stop. When nothing more will come out I spit onto the ground, trying to clear the taste from my mouth with saliva. I grab a handful of weeds and wipe my mouth, then grab a fresh handful and chew on the stems until their bitter flavor drowns out the other.
The pouch is lying on the ground, like a written confession. I scoop it up. No one knows about it or the diamond, I think with relief. And then I think: no one knows my father had it, or that he gave it to me. They'll think I stole it.
Would they put me in jail?
My hand tightens around the pouch. Not if they don't know.
Praise for the Book
"J. A. McLachlan is a terrific writer - wry and witty, with a keen eye for detail. I've been following her work with interest and delight since 2003. In a world where young-adult fiction is booming, The Occasional Diamond Thief propels McLachlan to the front of the pack." ~ Robert J. Sawyer, Hugo Award-winning author of FlashForward
"The story is full of humor, danger, fun, and adventure. This is Science Fiction anyone would love." ~ J. Jones, VINE VOICE
"Flawless - The Occasional Diamond Thief was one of those rare stories where I found myself hanging onto every word. McLachlan delivers a fast-paced, unpredictable story with perfectly-executed twists. Descriptions were succinct and epigrammatic with no room for boredom. It felt so real, it was almost like being in the theater with a surprise treat at the end. Much like the theater, once the credits have started to roll and the crowd starts to thin, there was a snippet at the end that you do not want to miss." ~ BittenbyBooks.com
"Loved it! I haven't read a heroine I loved this much since Katniss Everdeen. McLachlan's Kia is smart, tough and hilarious, and pairing her with serene, forgiving Agatha left me laughing long after I finished the story. The settings were vivid, the plot raced along, and the themes kept me turning pages. McLachlan combines her love of science fiction, ethics and good, old-fashioned storytelling in The Occasional Diamond Thief, and the results couldn't be better. I loved every page." ~ Amanda Darling, Screenwriter
"J. A. McLachlan is a remarkable creator of worlds, a remarkable creator of character, a master of suspense. In short, a remarkable storyteller. You don’t have to be a young adult to love this book." ~ Sheryl Loeffler, Writer, A Land in the Storytelling Sea
Guest Post by the Author
Hello, I’m J. A. McLachlan, the author of The Occasional Diamond Thief. I’m so pleased to be meeting you, and I’d like to thank Lynda for having me here today on Books Direct. This blog tour is part of my online launch of The Occasional Diamond Thief, and I have something different at each stop – book excerpts, author and character reveals, vlogs, reviews and blog posts – for you to enjoy.
The Dark Secret in my Past
Everyone knows the saying “write what you know”; it’s a common piece of advice given to writers. It has caused me no end of trouble, however, ever since I wrote The Occasional Diamond Thief, a young adult novel about a teenage girl, Kia, who has an unfortunate past as a lock-pick. People have begun looking at me sideways, trying to judge how I might know of such things, and how much I might know about them. On one blog last week I was asked outright, “Is there something nefarious in your past that informs your writing? Are you a retired cat burglar or art thief?”
Well, it’s out in the open now, so I might as well confess. Yes, I was light-handed once when I was fourteen. Okay, twice, actually, but I don’t really count the second one. Judge for yourself…
One day, walking through a dollar store, my friends dared me to shoplift something. I was the “goody two-shoes” of the group till then, but when they jeered, “You’re scared, you won’t do it” – well, as you can see, I had no choice.
Since my friends hadn’t been specific, I tried to choose something that wouldn’t put the owners out of business, and decided on a black plastic Batman ring. I can still see it clearly; cheap and tacky sitting there on the shelf. I was terrified, but the operation was a complete success.
You’d have thought I would feel relieved it was over, that I had proved myself… but no, that night I couldn’t sleep. The very thought of what my mother would say if she knew, and worse, the fact that she would be right, kept me awake all night.
The next morning I tucked that cheap, plastic ring in my pocket and headed back to the dollar store. I knew what I had to do.
Confess? Apologize? Not on your life. I was too ashamed to face my victim. I had to shoplift that stupid ring back onto the shelf. I was twice as scared as I’d been the day before when I took it – terrified that I’d get caught and they’d think I was taking it, not returning it. Once again, however, I did what I had to do and went undetected. I guess they weren’t keeping as close an eye on the “plastic rings – .05c” section as they should have been.
After that, I was never the least tempted to take anything again – I knew putting it back would be way too hard!
About the Author
J. A. McLachlan was born in Toronto, Canada. She is the author of a short story collection, Connections, and two College textbooks on Professional Ethics. But speculative fiction is her first love, a genre she has been reading all her life, and The Occasional Diamond Thief is her second in that genre, a young adult science fiction novel, published by EDGE Science Fiction and Fantasy Publishing. After over a decade as a college teacher, she is happy to work from home as a full-time author now.
Enter the tour-wide giveaway for a chance to win a $10 Amazon gift card.
EDGE Publishing has a "Thank You Gift" for anyone who buys the print version of the book. Send an email to email@example.com with your Amazon receipt, and you will receive a copy of a short story featuring Kia.