Title: Joshua and the Lightning Road
Publication date: May 19, 2015
Publisher: Month9Books, LLC.
Author: Donna Galanti
Stay away from the window, don’t go outside when it’s storming and whatever you do, do not touch the orb.
Twelve-year-old Joshua Cooper’s grandpa has always warned him about the dangers of lightning. But Joshua never put much stock in his grandpa’s rumblings as anything more than the ravings of an old man with a vast imagination. Then one night, when Joshua and his best friend are home alone during a frightful storm, Joshua learns his grandpa was right. A bolt of lightning strikes his house and whisks away his best friend—possibly forever.
To get him back, Joshua must travel the Lightning Road to a dark place that steals children for energy. But getting back home and saving his friend won’t be easy, as Joshua must face the terrifying Child Collector and fend off ferocious and unnatural beasts intent on destroying him.In this world, Joshua possesses powers he never knew he had, and soon, Joshua’s mission becomes more than a search for his friend. He means to send all the stolen children home—and doing so becomes the battle of his life.
Donna is the author of the Joshua and The Lightning Road series and the Element Trilogy. She is a contributing editor to International Thriller Writers the Big Thrill magazine and blogs at www.project-middle-grade-mayhem.blogs..., a cooperative of published middle grade authors.
Visit her at www.donnagalanti.com and www.ElementTrilogy.com. Donna wanted to be a writer ever since she wrote a murder mystery screenplay at seven and acted it out with the neighborhood kids. She attended an English school housed in a magical castle, where her wild imagination was held back only by her itchy uniform (bowler hat and tie included!). There she fell in love with the worlds of C.S. Lewis and Roald Dahl, and wrote her first fantasy about Dodo birds, wizards, and a flying ship (and has been writing fantasy ever since). She’s lived in other exotic locations, including her family-owned campground in New Hampshire and in Hawaii where she served as a U.S. Navy photographer. She now lives with her family and two crazy cats in an old farmhouse and dreams of returning one day to a castle.
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Giveaway Information: Winner will be drawn June 19, 2015
· Five (5) winners will receive a digital copy of Joshua and the Lightning Road by Donna Galanti (INT)
“One hundred. Ready or not here I come!” I said with more courage than I felt, pushing the attic door open.
Inky black swallowed me up. I darted my flashlight about, but its small, round light didn’t reveal much. The mustiness of old things hidden away filled my nose. Bo Chez, hurry home. The hair prickled on my forearms as the stairs screeched with each step and the landing loomed in front of me. Could a ghost with an axe be waiting to chop off my head? I took a deep breath, waiting for a blade to fall, but the only thing lying in wait was a dusty bookshelf.
“Finn-man, I know you’re up here.” I flicked the flashlight around the room, its cold metal warming in my sweaty palm. Thunder crashed over my head and my ears popped.
One more step forward.
“Got ya!” Finn jumped up, his shadow against the window. I tripped and landed hard on my butt. My flashlight twirled across the floor.
Then a blue arc of light struck the window. Glass exploded. Finn’s mouth froze in a wide ‘O’. I yelled and reached out to pull him down, but another zap of light blinded me. Finn screamed. Rain splattered my face, stinging with each drop. White dots floated in the air. Something gray billowed past me carrying a familiar, rotten stench that made me gag. A knobby hand grabbed me. I bit it and shoved it away, gagging again, and the hand dropped me back on the floor with the taste of salty dirt on my tongue. An angry howl blasted the air.
Daggers of light shot everywhere as sharp glass cut into me.
He floated in the shadows. Light erupted all around him, his eyes round with fear. The sky boomed overhead, and a deep laugh bellowed out as if the thunder itself were taunting me.
“Next time it’s you, boy,” a raspy voice said.
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Sweat ran down my back as the warm August air washed over me and the scent of earthworms filled my nose. Thunder rumbled far in the distance. I pushed aside the broken glass and knelt where Finn had stood. Water bled into my jeans from the rain pooled on the floor. It seemed like forever ago that I wished Finn would hurry up and get here.
Lightning flashed. I welcomed and feared it. My chest tightened, but there was no time for panic. The crystal warmed my fingers through the deep pocket of my jeans. Bo Chez had to be right—the crystal had powers. What would they be?
“Yeah, just come and get me!” I yelled into the storm, and a bolt of light took the tree across the creek. The top exploded in a fiery ball, then sizzled black. Thunder broke loud over my head like a giant clapping his hands together, and blue light exploded through the broken window. Two rough hands yanked me up.
Light blazed everywhere and heavy, scratchy material bound me tight as I was pulled upward into a swirling wind tunnel.
Anger felt better than fear, so I kicked my kidnapper. “Where’s Finn?”
“You’ll find out soon, Reeker.”
Daring a peek, I saw a wide gray hat slung low over one green eye that blazed at me. Where the other eye should have been was a crater. One side of his face oozed red, melted mush! The man from my nightmares!
A dark swarm swelled in the sky. Dozens of wings fluttered and a cool wind swept toward me in waves. I rubbed the crystal in my pocket crazily, wishing hard to make the birds disappear. It didn’t work.
“The korax,” Charlie said in a cracked voice. “Hold on tight. I saw a kid fall just before you got here.” He smiled to reassure me, although he nervously bounced a curled thumb to his mouth. “But he squirmed a lot. Screamed too. Broke his leg. They took him off to the bunkhouse doctor.”
Charlie certainly had guts for wanting to come with me.
As the swarm drew closer, they appeared as monstrous black ravens with a giant wingspan that filled the sky’s empty spaces. Their massive beaks opened and closed with gurgling croaks, but it was their eyes that terrified me. They burned a bright green, shooting us with a mean glare as they torpedoed down. Chanting words echoed across the dark land: light bringers, light bringers. Imagined words? The whirring of wing beats throbbed in my head as they grew closer, matching the beat of my own thudding heart.
The cackling screech of these mutant birds slammed through my ears as their beaks opened on giant hinges, and tongues like fat worms squirmed about in cavernous mouths. Screaming kids pushed up against me on all sides as a rancid wind roared over us. The words light bringers stabbed me over and over, and I cupped my hands to my ears. The other boys stampeded around me, shoving, yelling, but the guards pushed us back, vapes hissing.
We had nowhere to go, not with monsters and men on all sides.
“Follow me,” Leandro said. “I’ll go first and get you each across, one at a time.”
He leapt from the bank to the first boulder. It was wide enough at the top for two. Spray jetted up, wetting his cloak. He steadied himself on the rock, then reached out his hand. Watching the tusks circle his boulder, I went first and backed up a few steps, took a running start, and jumped, landing hard. Leandro steadied me. The water banged against the boulder, as if it too wanted to pull us in.
It got its chance. I lost my balance following Leandro to the next boulder, and one foot slipped into the cold water. The tusks headed for me and something rammed against my shoe. A snout quivered above the water. Sam and Charlie yelled at me to get up on the rock.
Leandro hoisted me up just before a tusk lanced my leg. “Come now, Joshua, we can make the last leap together.” Could my shaking legs make it? But he took my hand in his rough one and we sailed through the air to land on the muddy bank.
Leandro leapt back across the creek to help the others. First Sam came across, then Charlie. He flew through the air, his face scrunched up in terror and his skinny arms and legs spewing in all directions.
Then he missed.
He hit the last boulder off center and dropped up to his hips into the seething foam.
She trotted toward me on her horse, a menace whose full power I did not want to discover. A whiff of sweet roses flew up my nose as she inhaled my scent. Leandro stepped back, dragging me with him. Her eyes widened and she uncurled a crooked finger in my face—and I saw my vaporized body hanging over me—when a loud boom rang through the hall.
The air crackled. A ring of light whipped above us.
It struck the platform, splitting it in two. The king tottered on his chair and fell on his side. I lunged for him but tripped and cracked my ankle on the platform with a cry as the Child Collector’s horse danced in circles. I scrambled up on the stage, barely missing a hoof to the head, and fell on King Apollo, grabbing the bottle around his neck. He struggled to get up and pushed me away, but I kneed him in the chest and tugged harder. The chain snapped. He cried out, grabbing at me, but I stumbled back with the bottle—and into the Child Collector on his horse. He snatched me up by my collar, and I kicked him hard in the leg. With an angry shout, he dropped me hard on the floor. I landed on my sore ankle and yelled in pain.
Boys ran off the platform in all directions. Hekate’s horse reared up and bolted off, but she held on fiercely, shrieking. Blue fire and screams pierced the air as flames licked hungrily at the wooden stage.
But the Child Collector rushed past us on his horse with Finn in his grasp. Then he was gone with Finn. Again.
The trees crowded around us, the deafening quiet of the woods pounding in my ears. Sweat broke out on my lip and I wiped it away. The one beast licked its lips in return, then curled its mouth in an awful grin, exposing vampire dagger teeth.
The beasts inched toward us. “We don’t want to hurt you.” Bluffing still seemed the best idea.
“And you won’t, my tasty morsels.” The leader panted hungrily.
The lightning orb. I had to trust in Bo Chez’s story and believe all its stormy, electric power could help us. But Sam had said the Greek gods lost their powers. Let it do something! And if it breaks, I’m sorry, Bo Chez!
Charlie clung to my arm so tight it cramped. Fire flashed out of the leader’s mouth, and a long flame roared toward us, cutting through the mist like a fire sword. All three of us stumbled back.
The beast pack leapt toward us like hairy dragons. The moss beneath our feet snapped with fire and heat roasted my face and arms. Fire raced up the wizard trees, and their wood shrieked in splitting agony.
“Run!” Sam dragged Charlie and me back.
Red eyes glared at me.
“Hi-yahh!” I flung the orb hard.
Blue light exploded into the space before us and knocked us all off our feet. I slammed sideways into a tree and slid down to the ground. The beasts were sprawled motionless before us on the blackened, smoldering moss. Trees smoked as flames flickered up them. Charlie and Sam lay a few feet away.