Thursday, April 26, 2018

"The Staircase of Fire" by Ben Woodard

The Staircase of Fire
(A Shakertown Adventure Book 3)
by Ben Woodard

The Staircase of Fire, the third book in the Shakertown Adventure series by Ben Woodard, is due for release on 25 May but is currently available for pre-order at the special price of $2.99 (save $1.00). Also available: A Stairway to Danger (read my blog post) and Steps Into Darkness (read my blog post).

This book blast and giveaway is brought to you by BeachBoundBooks.

A quiet town in Kentucky explodes from a racial incident and fourteen-year-old Tom Wallace is in the thick of it. His past haunts him and now he’s witness to a horrific event leaving him devastated and afraid.
Tom and his cousin, Will, search for lost Shaker gold he believes can help him escape his town and memories. But leaving has consequences. He will lose his friends and his new love.
On a fiery staircase Tom finally realizes that he must face his inner demons and his terrifying nightmares. To do so he must take a stand that could change his life … or end it.
Author Ben Woodard relies on firsthand experience and family history to tell this moving story of personal tragedy and racial hatred set in the rolling countryside of Kentucky in 1923.

Chapter 1
Rose stood up.
"They could kill you," whispered Tom.
"Tom, sometimes a person has to stand for what they believe, and this is one of them. Go on home."
The County Clerk's door opened and Rose and James moved toward it. A crowd followed.
Tom's eyes pleaded with James. His friend ignored him.
"Rose," said Tom. "Don't do this. It's not that important. Your vote won't change anything."
"You don't understand," she said softly. "You can't understand. The Nineteenth Amendment says I have the right to vote. I intend to use it."
"But you know an amendment passed a couple of years ago won't change anything. Mercer County will never allow you to register, much less vote. Few Negroes ever have — especially women."
Rose moved closer to the door and eyes, dozens of eyes, followed her.
"She wants to register," an elderly man yelled.
Tom tensed as the crowd pressed toward them.
A stench of hate filled the stale, tobacco-laden air and constricted Tom's throat. Doors slammed, feet pounded on steps and curses echoed through the tight courthouse space.
The news had sped like a bullet through the small town and an angry crowd of white people filled the tiny courthouse room, spilling into the hallways and out the door.
Tom unconsciously eased away from his friends. He stopped himself. They needed to get out of here. He leaned closer to Rose, "We have to leave, now."
"Go home, Tom," James spat out the words.
Tom flinched. This wasn't the James he knew. The gentle and quiet farm hand Tom worked with on a daily basis.
James stared straight ahead, the muscles in his face like granite, his eyes hard. Showing only confidence and determination.
Rose and James edged toward the Clerk's office and the crowd surrounded and jammed against them.
Tom stood horrified. As he tried to push his way back to his two friends, a rawboned farmer in overalls stopped him.
"Are you with those two?" he asked.
"I'm trying to get them out."
"I seen you with them. You need to leave. We'll take care of them."
Another man spoke up, "I've seen him before. He knows those Negroes."
"Yeah," said the first. "Isn't he the one from Nicholasville who —"
Tom moved with the crowd into the Clerks office. He had to escape before they figured out who he was, and what he did.
Sweat formed on his upper lip as he glanced in every direction desperately trying to find a way out of the courthouse.
The two men were now in the door and continued to point at him as Rose reached the counter. She said above the din, "I want a voter registration form."
The room went quiet. Deathly quiet.
Then, a woman to Rose's left screamed, "Damn Negroes."
Beside Rose stood an older woman in a simple cotton dress with a bonnet covering her mousy-gray hair. Her face was contorted with rage. The rest of the crowd joined her in shrieking at the small, brown woman.
A glob of spit and tobacco juice smacked into the back of Rose's starched calico dress and the screaming woman yanked out Rose's yellow hair ribbon. James spread his arms around his mother and took the brunt of the slaps and pushes.
The women behind the counter stood confused.
The County Clerk came out of his office and held up his hands for quiet. He glared at Rose.
"What do you want?" he said.
"I want to register to vote."
The crowd growled again and the Clerk quieted them.
"We don't allow your kind to vote," he said.
Rose only smiled. "What kind?" she asked.
The two men came closer to Tom and others now pointed in his direction. They must have figured out who he was and they might turn on him next.
Tom remembered a stairway to the basement that led to a rear exit. He wormed his way toward it finding the stairway door closed, but unlocked.
Tom jerked it open.
His body tightened.
The sounds faded as memories and fears came charging back at the sight of wooden steps vanishing into the shadows.
Sweat stung his eyes and salted his lips. Tom's hands trembled. He wiped his face on a sleeve.
He couldn't go down. He wouldn't.
But the men still watched. Tom was trapped.
The bedlam of the room returned and he heard the Clerk scream at Rose and James telling them to get out.
He had to help them, but fear glued him in place.
Tom jerked as Sheriff Smith pushed his way into the room bellowing for the mob to get away from Rose. Two grim-faced deputies armed with shotguns flanked the lawman. They elbowed their way to Rose and James and the Sheriff whispered to Rose. She shook her head. He spoke to her a few more minutes and she finally nodded.
The three lawmen surrounded Tom's friends and led them through the crowd. Screams and curses followed.
Tom snuck through the throng and barreled down the front courthouse steps. The Sheriff and deputies escorted Rose and James to their wagon
Tom stared as their rig bounced down the dusty road toward Shakertown. His stomach rolled. He should have done something.
Anything. Except freeze in fear.
The reeling in his gut got worse and he staggered toward the clump of trees where he'd tied his horse.
Tom untied the reins and slipped into the saddle. He was sure, or at least tried to convince himself, that the Sheriff would protect Rose and James.
He spun the horse around and headed for Shakertown.
As he rode, the fear for Rose and his fear of the staircase still gripped him. Was every set of stairs he saw going to terrify him? Cause the memories to come crawling back?
And no matter where he was in Mercer County, someone might recognize him.
He released the reins, the horse knew the way home, and dropped his head on the animal's neck. Trying not to throw up. And then the sweats started, soaking his body.
The usual. Caused by a memory from that morning at Grandfather's house. Still there after four years.
He needed to get himself under control before he saw Will or Helen. His best friends. But he couldn't tell them, or anyone, what happened that Sunday morning. The memory hurt too much.
But he had to talk to them about Rose and James. His friends would understand.
And right now, Tom needed a friend.

Praise for the Book
The Staircase of Fire succeeds in offering dramatic action, mystery, social insights, and a story line that evolves from pure adventure to something deeper…” ~ D. Donovan, Senior Reviewer, Midwest Book Review
The Staircase of Fire is a riveting and intense tale ...” ~ The Children's Book Review
“Tom grows a lot in this book and I really enjoyed reading his journey. It seems like almost every white character is racist in some way (which is historically accurate) and it was refreshing to see Tom learn to break out of the narrow-minded thinking that he had and which surrounds him.” ~ Eustacia Tan
“An inspiring adventure where the reader discovers that strength of character, the belief in what is right, and facing your demons, is the only answer to true inner peace – Highly recommended.” ~ Susan Keefe

About the Author
Ben Woodard
Ben Woodard is a (mostly) retired amateur adventurer who has traveled across Tibet, climbed to 18,000 feet on Mt. Everest, and solo backpacked wilderness areas. Now his adventures come in the form of imagining stories, writing and telling them to kids and teens. He works with teachers, schools and literacy organizations spreading the word that books are vital - and fun.

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