Friday, October 9, 2015

"Gorgon" by Geoffrey Saign

(WhipEye Chronicles Book 2)
by Geoffrey Saign

Gorgon is the second book in Geoffrey Saign's WhipEye Chronicles fantasy adventure series for children ages 10 and up. Also available: WhipEye (read my previous blog post), winner of the 2015 International Book Awards - Children's Fiction and winner of the 2015 Outstanding Children's Fiction - IAN Book of the Year Awards.

Author Geoffrey Saign joins me today for an interview and to share an excerpt from Gorgon

Samantha and Jake have two days to save their poisoned parents, and only Gorgon - the cruel and scheming leader of Amazon Lessers - can help them. But Gorgon is planning to destroy KiraKu, and he pits Sam against Jake. Worse, Sam feels controlled by the supernatural staff, WhipEye, and Jake gains a dangerous weapon. Can their friendship survive its greatest test? Can Sam and Jake stop a war and save their parents? Mysterious creatures, dragons, and Gorgon force them into a life or death adventure that some will not survive.
... a story about love, nature, wildlife, intuition, and trusting yourself ...

Video for Book 1

My gut, which is never wrong, has been telling me all day long that I’m going to die before the day is over. I ignore it, or at least try to, and smile at Dad.
Today is the first Friday of August, sunny and humid, and in two days I’ll be camping with Dad in nearby Superior National Forest. Our first trip together in a year. I need it to happen so life feels normal. More than anything, I want that. A normal life. To spend time with Dad doing ordinary things.
However, the image of WhipEye jumps into my thoughts again as it has all day long. I imagine holding the chestnut staff, its warmth seeping into my hand. A year ago, I stashed WhipEye in my closet, hoping to forget about it. Now the staff is calling me and the last thing I want to do is go to it. My brain shouts, Leave me alone! I’m sweating and strands of my long brown hair stick to my forehead. A rotating floor fan pushes air over my bare feet.
“Samantha and Jake, we have something important to tell you.” My father, Bryon Green, smiles at us from one end of our oak dining room table. He’s wearing a white T-shirt and jeans, and appears relaxed, his hands clasped in front of him.
“We do.” From the other end of the table, Cynthia brushes back her blond bangs and beams at us, her blue eyes shining. Tall and slender, her sharp-featured face is calm.
Cynthia is a US Fish and Wildlife agent specializing in illegally trafficked exotic animals, and she came straight from work. She has on a white blouse, slacks, and a blue blazer that she hauls around in her SUV. It hides her gun.
She and Jake moved in across the street over a year ago, and Dad has been dating Cynthia for most of that time. Lately, they’ve spent a lot of time together. Dad’s often smiling.
I give her a wink. “I’m all ears. Left and right.”
Cynthia chuckles. “We wanted to tell Jake and you first.”
“Nice.” A shadow passes outside the dining room window and my head snaps back. Probably a cloud. Still, shadows bring back memories that give me nightmares.
I manage a lopsided grin. “We can’t wait to hear the big news, right, Jake?”
Sitting across from me, Jake is staring at his dinner plate. I want to kick him.
His blond hair hangs in wild tangles on his neck and his tan is dark, like mine. Today, on his thirteenth birthday, he put temporary lizard and dragon tattoos on his forearms. That bothers me. Barefoot like me, he’s wearing khaki cargo shorts and a yellow tee.
My outfit is similar, except my shorts are white and my tee is aquamarine with a picture of a surreal dolphin. A silver bracelet with a small jade elephant hangs from my right wrist. He gave it to me on my last birthday. Elephants are kind of a joke between us, and a reminder of the secret parallel world of KiraKu.
Two months younger than me, Jake is my best friend and we do everything together. Still, in the last weeks I’ve avoided him. I feel a little guilty over that and miss his goofing around, but he started talking to me about things I’d rather forget.
I look closer. He’s glassy-eyed, as if he isn’t seeing anything, which makes me concerned about what he is seeing.
“Jake? Are you all right, honey?” Cynthia places a hand on his arm, but he doesn’t respond.
Dad frowns.
“Yo, Jake-man.” I kick his shin under the table and he lifts his head.
His face scrunches and he adjusts his glasses. “We need to talk, Sam.”
I swallow. “How about after dinner? Dad and I slaved all day and made your favorite cake, a.k.a. carrot.”
“Thanks, Bryon. That sounds great.” He glances at my father, and then pushes away his plate of lasagna, which he cooked for us. He’s considering becoming a chef and spends time cooking healthy recipes with organic food. I haven’t figured out a career yet, but it has to include working with animals.
Cynthia pats Jake’s arm. “Honey, this is important. It will only take a minute. Then you and Sam can talk.” When he doesn’t reply, she tries again. “I know it’s hard, Jake.”
Gold flashes around his blue pupils, sending Cynthia leaning back in her chair. He waves off her concern, his voice calm. “Dad hasn’t called for my last two birthdays. I’m over it.”
Eye doctors pronounced the gold in our pupils a mystery, but Jake and I know more than they do. We breathed KiraKu’s air, drank its healing water, and Great Ones channeled energy into us so we could defeat the evil guardian, Magnar. We have great night vision, a fact we keep to ourselves, and my asthma has gone away. We’re clueless about what else the change in our eyes means, but the Great Ones of KiraKu have golden eyes too.
Through the open window behind Jake, I glimpse the white-tailed deer running across the backyard to a fence corner where they huddle.
I jump to my feet, gripping the table. “Something scared the deer.” I’ve always been able to sense what animals feel, but the fear in the deer is obvious.
“Spoookyyy.” Jake lifts both hands, shaking them comically, and then sits back and rolls his eyes.
“They’re fine, Sam.” Dad smiles and runs a hand through his sandy hair. “The lynx or bobcat probably startled them.”
“Yeah. Silly me. Must be the cats.” I slowly sit down again and make a goofy face at Jake. He returns the favor.
Dad owns and operates Green’s Wildlife Sanctuary and Shelter for injured wildlife, and I help him. His love for wild animals seeped into me a long time ago.
I add, “We can feed the critters after dessert, Jake.” He often helps me, and maybe it will take his mind off whatever is making him moody.
“Wonderful, Sam.” He twirls a finger with little enthusiasm, but I know he cares about the animals.
“Well.” Dad clears his throat. “Cynthia and I are engaged.”
I lean over to look at Cynthia’s hand, but don’t see a ring.
Dad smiles. “We’re picking up the ring tomorrow.”
“Wow. Really?” I try to act surprised and smile at them. “Congrats. That’s great!”
Dad’s eyes light up, and Cynthia blushes.
“Woohoo!” Jake lifts both arms high and gives a weak smile. “Super, Bryon and Mom. I’m happy for you.” He rises and bends over to give Cynthia a quick squeeze, and then walks to my father to shake his hand.
I want to give Cynthia and Dad a hug too, but Mom’s face pops into my head and I just sit there. Mom’s been gone for two years, but I still miss her.
Jake rounds the table behind Dad and walks up to me, his eyes narrowing. “Samantha, now can we talk?”
About my height, he’s sturdy and a good athlete with a black belt in kung fu. Slender, I have long klutzy legs and couldn’t fight my way out of a pile of spaghetti noodles. However, I’m a decent runner now that my asthma is gone.
Annoyed with Jake for ruining Dad and Cynthia’s big moment, I push my chair back and look up at him, trying to sound lighthearted. “Okay. A quick huddle, and then it’s dessert and make a wish time.”
“I can’t wait.” He stalks out of the dining room.
Cynthia stares after him, her brow lined.
The feeling of approaching danger circles like a vulture in my head. I tense when I hear the stairs to the second floor creak. Jake’s been in my bedroom before, but it worries me that he’s headed there now. When I stand up, I have to control the urge to bolt from the room.
“We’ll do the dishes, Sam.” Dad nods to me. “Good luck.” He smiles, his eyes hopeful.
I keep my voice light. “Piece of cake. Carrot.” After Mom died, Dad and I lived in horrible silence for a year. That’s all over now, but I don’t want him to lose confidence in me.
Cynthia rests a hand on my arm. “Thanks, Sam. I’m glad you’re happy for us. Do you know what’s bothering Jake?”
“I’ll find out. I’m sure it’s nothing big.” As I leave the room, the bay window darkens and I nearly trip on a rug. I have to remind myself we destroyed all of Magnar’s shadow monsters. Well, except for one. The fifty-foot two-headed cobra escaped.
I cross the hallway leading from the front door to the back, and bound up the wood stairs, pulling on the rickety railing.
By the time I walk into my bedroom, Jake has my closet door open and he’s staring at WhipEye. Crap. I stop near my bed. The urge to hold the six-foot staff makes my hands sweat.
I’m an animal nerd and study everything I can about wildlife. A mosaic of animal photos covers the walls of my room and my bookshelves are crammed with animal books, but what captures my gaze now are the dozens of lifelike, miniature animal faces carved into WhipEye. The staff is the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen—a gift from the Great Ones, and the faces on it represent Great Ones who pledged to come when called.
WhipEye is ancient and named after the WhipEye tree in KiraKu, which has whiplike branches and knots on its trunk that look like eyes. I’ve never seen the tree, and I don’t think anyone knows all of the staff’s secrets.
“Do you ever feel it calling to you?” Jake asks quietly.
“No.” I want him to shut up about the stupid staff.
Without turning, he gestures over his shoulder. “Quit lying to me.” He reaches for WhipEye.
My heart races and sweat beads my upper lip. “Don’t.”
“Really?” He whirls, frowning, and spreads his hands wide. “What’s your problem, Sam?”
I shrug. “There’s no reason to mess with it.”
“We’re both guardians.”
“Whatever that means.” We’re both bonded to the staff, so he has every right to hold it. Still, I don’t want anyone except myself touching the chestnut wood
“Right.” He studies me, and then paces back and forth in front of the closet, his hands swirling wildly with his words. “My daydreams are getting worse. I had one at the dinner table.”
“Get more sleep. Have you tried naps? Counting sheep?”
He stops, gaping at me, and falls back against the wall while slapping his forehead. “Why didn’t I think of that? Really, Sherlock? Is that the best you can do?”
I walk to a bookshelf and squeeze a plush toy loon, one of the many stuffed birds there. The toy gives its haunting call. “Count elephants.”
He doesn’t smile, and I stuff my hands in my pockets. He’s tried to talk to me before about his waking nightmares, but I keep putting him off. His stories give me the creeps. “Sorry your dad’s a no-show.”
He shrugs. “It’s been four years.”
Trying to keep him distracted, I ask, “What do you think?” I gesture to the large easel near the desk, which holds the half-finished painting of a killer whale. I took an art class during the winter and started painting—it helps keep me calm.
“Yeah, it’s great. Very cool.”
Quickly, I add, “Any new recipes?”
His eyes light up. “Buckwheat blueberry pancakes with cinnamon, maple syrup, and a little vanilla yogurt.”
I hope it’s enough to move on, but he continues pacing, his hands doing circles in front of him. “I see us standing at the head of an army. It’s dark and stormy, and there are all kinds of huge creatures with us.”
“Sounds like a fairy tale. Great imagination, though.” I walk to the open window, needing air. I hope if I stand there long enough, he’ll stop talking. A warm breeze floats the curtains away from the wall, while a sense of impending doom darkens my thoughts.
He pokes my shoulder from behind, and says, “Hey.” When I turn, his hand slices the air. “I’m sick of you not listening to me, Samantha.”
“You think you’re the only one having scary dreams? I have nightmares every night, so I don’t want to hear about yours.” My words snap out before I can stop them.
His face twists in hurt and his arm drops. Dang. Happy birthday.
Something bangs against the window screen, and I flinch and pivot with my hands raised defensively.
I lower my arms and stare. “Charlie?”
“Charlie!” Jake moves to my side.
I quickly bend back the screen, torn a year ago, and the Congo African Gray parrot—my other best friend, climbs in. The parrot uses his claws and black, hooked bill to get inside. Mostly gray, he has a bright red tail and white rings around his eyes. He’s barely a foot in length and only weighs a pound. He helped us fight Magnar last year, and helped me remember Mom without feeling pain.
The parrot cocks his head up at me. “You look like you saw a zombie, kid. I’m not dead yet.”
“Well, I wasn’t sure, Charlie.” I smile. The thousand-year-old parrot appears tired, as if he’s been flying hard. Charlie left us over a year ago to visit the Amazon, but I always hoped he’d return. “Where have you been hiding out?”
Jake leans over. “I need to talk to you, Charlie.”
The parrot clicks a few times. “Whoa, slow down, kids. Help me up, Sam.”
I extend a finger, and the parrot clutches it. I lift him to my shoulder and he perches there, his claws digging in. It feels good to be reunited. No, great. I’ve missed him terribly. However, something about his arrival worries me. “It’s super to see you, Charlie.”
“The feeling’s mutual, kid.”
“Yeah, awesome.” Jake’s hands spin. “Charlie, I’m having nightmares during the day and—”
“Where’s Rose, Charlie?” I ignore Jake’s glare for cutting him off. Rose is a ten-thousand-year-old methuselah guardian, mostly human, who helped us fight Magnar. She and Charlie were traveling together. Charlie used to be a methuselah, but now he’s just an ancient parrot. “Why isn’t Rose with you?”
Squawk. Charlie bobs his head. “Remember what I said about staying out of trouble, kids? Well, it found us. Where are your feathers?”
I always have mine with me.” Jake gives me an accusing glance.
“Good job, kiddo. That’s how I found you.” Charlie nudges my cheek with his head. “What about you, Sam?”
The ruby-red tail feather the parrot gave me over a year ago lies on my dresser, two feet away. Charlie’s feathers allowed us to travel into KiraKu—we don’t need them anymore for that because once you visit KiraKu you’re somehow bonded to it. However, we do need his feathers to see shadow monsters. Like WhipEye, I put mine away a year ago. It was just another reminder of stuff I’d like to forget. “Why do I need it, Charlie?”
“Grab your feather, WhipEye, and run, kid.”
“What’s the hurry?” I snatch the feather. I’ve learned the hard way to pay attention to the parrot. “Run where?”
Charlie gives a sharp whistle. “Guess who’s coming to dinner, kids?”
My skin tingles. “We’re having a guest?”
“A big nasty one.”
“How big?” Jake pales.
Charlie clucks. “Imagine Godzilla’s wannabe puny midget son.”
“Godzilla?” Chills run down my arms. Charlie watched thousands of movies while he was Magnar’s prisoner, and he mentions them sometimes. I tense, not wanting to believe him.
“Sam.” Jake flicks my shoulder and points out the window, his blue eyes wide.
Splintering wood and breaking glass fill my ears as a giant green foot with black claws tears a hole through the side of the house, shredding the animal photographs on the wall. The dresser slides past me, but my legs won’t move. I want to believe this is a dream, and everything in me screams, No!  Not now!

Praise for the Book
"This fast moving, action packed adventure will certainly keep young readers enthralled, it certainly did me! The characters are well developed and relatable to the book’s intended audience. As a follow up from WhipEye, which I have also read and reviewed, Gorgon certainly doesn’t let us down. I think your family will enjoy reading it." ~ Susan Day
"Saign has done it again! Gorgon is the book following WhipEye about two young children who discovered a whole new world of mysterious beings and unbelievable adventure. In this sequel both children are changed by their experiences and are aware that something big is about to happen and that they are not the same anymore. [...] Very well written, and easy to follow story for young teens. I recommend this book!!!" ~ Amazon Customer
"This fantasy is full of excitement. Toward the end it had me turning the pages quickly to see the outcome. The evil villain, Gorgon, is depicted as being someone no one can trust. He turns Jake's and Sam's lives upside down when he sends a Komodo dragon to steal WhipEye. What ensues is a daring attempt to save the lives of both children's parents and a potential war between Lessers, Originals, and Great Ones. Much like the first book, this is well worth the read." ~ Lenita Sheridan Graves

Interview With the Author
Hi Geoffrey, thanks for joining me today to discuss your new book, Gorgon, Book 2, WhipEye Chronicles.
For what age group do you recommend your book?
Any age, but targeted to 10-14
What sparked the idea for this book?
My love of wildlife and nature. I wanted a character that was in love with wildlife, so readers could see the beauty of nature and wildlife through her eyes.
Which comes first? The character's story or the idea for the novel?
The idea came first; I saw boy walking into a pet store. The boy was changed later to a girl, and her character developed through the writing and rewriting process.
What was the hardest part to write in this book?
Actually, this book flowed out of me very nicely.
How do you hope this book affects its readers?
They ask the question: Does love mean I take care of my own life and family, or does love mean I consider the effect on the whole planet when I make decisions in my life?
How long did it take you to write this book?
One month, with rewrites over a year.
What is your writing routine?
Write every day, give or take a few, and loving it.
How did you get your book published?
I’ve had six New York agents, with only nonfiction published. A small publisher wanted to do this series, but was going broke and ended the contract. Thus, I created KiraKu Press and published through Create Space and Ingram.
What advice do you have for someone who would like to become a published writer?
Don’t assume the publishers know what will sell, or what is good writing. Self-publish is you have to, or want to.
What do you like to do when you're not writing?
Swim, sail, hike, walk, cook, exercise, see friends, find magicJ
What does your family think of your writing?
100% behind me. Mom reads all my writing - she’s a great editor.
That's great. Moms are the best! Please tell us a bit about your childhood.
I spent my early years outside, running through woods and around ponds and streams, and swam and sailed over lakes.
Did you like reading when you were a child?
Yes. I used to come home with an armful of books every week from the library.
When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?
High School. My creative writing teacher said of my writing, "A writer like this comes around once every 17 years." I was shocked, but it planted a seed that I’ve nourished for many decades.
Fantastic! Did your childhood experiences influence your writing?
My love of nature, wildlife, and self-awareness influence all my writing.
Which writers have influenced you the most?
Tolkien, Donaldson, and many others.
Do you hear from your readers much? What kinds of things do they say?
Yes. Most have told me they love my writing and can’t wait to read more. That’s always a thrill to hear.
What can we look forward to from you in the future?
More books. I have several other series in the works, and I’m currently writing the third book in the WhipEye Chronicles series.
Thank you for taking the time to stop by today, Geoffrey. Best of luck with your future projects.

About the Author
Geoffrey Saign can often be found looking for interesting critters, and magic, while swimming, snorkeling, sailing, or hiking in the woods. His passion for nature and wildlife led to his nationally endorsed book, Green Essentials: What You Need to Know About the Environment, as well as The African Cats and The Great Apes, and his wildlife inspired children's novels WhipEye and Gorgon. He has assisted in field research with hummingbirds and humpback whales, and sailed as far away as Australia. With more than twenty years of experience working in special education, he has taught adults and children everything from sailing to novel writing. He won the Shabo Award in 2010. Awards for WhipEye: Winner - 2015 International Book Awards - Children's Fiction, Winner - 2015 Outstanding Children's Fiction - IAN Book of the Year Awards.
Geoffrey lives in St. Paul, Minnesota.

Enter the Goodreads giveaway for a chance to win a signed copy of Gorgon by Geoffrey Saign (closes 15 October).