Thank you for bringing me out to your school! You can share this video with your students, to introduce them to Clifton Chase and the Arrow of Light. Ask me about turning my author visit into a fundraiser through Barnes & Noble Booksellers Book Fairs! Contact for details.
Two weeks before my visit, please feel free to share this video to introduce me to your students.
A few weeks after my visit, please feel free to share this recap video with your students.
Here are the first 3 chapters of Clifton Chase and the Arrow of Light, published by INtense Publications to share with your students!
The Boy and the Arrow
The thought that this was a brainless thing to do hadn’t crossed his mind until now. He fumbled to fit his bow, his fingers like gelatin, as classmates lined up beside him in Wickham Park. The rest of the seventh graders gathered around to see who would win the bet between Clifton Chase and the new kid, Ryan Rivales. The instructor counted down the seconds from his stopwatch, and Clifton swiveled around to see if a certain pair of green eyes watched him. Yup. Even Ava Harrington had come to see.
“Ready…” the instructor said.
As sweat stung his eyes, Clifton remembered why he’d taken the bet. It was this arrow. He’d found it mysteriously in his closet, and then it lit up for a split second. At least he thought it had. It seemed so otherworldly at the time, and when Ryan started in on him, the only thing he could think to do was show that kid up.
“Take aim…” the instructor continued.
Now he wasn’t sure.
He pulled the notched arrow back. He had one chance, a single-shot test for precision, straight to the bullseye or whoever came the closest. Ryan wagered his sleek emerald green binary compound bow, but they both knew this bet was not about the antique arrow or the slick bow. It was for bragging rights, for pecking order.
For making it through middle school as king.
On command, arrows arced through the air, landing on the targets or the wooden posts they were nailed to. Some struck the 3D molded deer, which now resembled a porcupine. A few arrows passed their marks altogether, landing out of sight in the tall grasses of the hilly sand dunes. ‘The Hinterland’ as it had been nicknamed. And that’s where Clifton’s arrow went.
“Archers….Halt!” the instructor shouted. “The range is now cold. You may retrieve your arrows.”
Clifton lifted his backpack and stepped onto the range with the others.
“What happened?” Ava asked. “You usually have perfect aim.”
Clifton’s hands went clammy whenever she came around. It hand’t always been that way, just recently. “Yeah well, I guess that crappy arrow wasn’t as good as Ryan thought it was.”
“Why’d you make that bet with him? Didn’t you say you found that thing in your garage or something?”
“My closet, actually.” Sunlight brightened her eyes and he stared a moment longer than he’d meant to.
“Well, it seems weird for you. I don’t get it.”
“There’s not much to get, Ava,”
“Except my arrow,” said Ryan as he neared them. “Nice shot, by the way.” He snickered, and the few kids who’d tagged behind him laughed.
“Wasn’t my fault,” Clifton said. “I’d never shot it before.”
“Doesn’t matter now. I won the bet. My arrow didn’t even need to land near the bull’s eye, just on the target.”
More laughter erupted, and Clifton turned away.
Ryan shoved him. “Where you going, Chase?”
Clifton did a one-eighty. “Going to get that worthless arrow you won. Must feel good to know your shot beat an antique.”
Ryan’s smile dropped. “My shot,” he said in a clipped tone, “beat your shot. Now go find my arrow and hand it over.”
Clifton’s hands balled into fists as he left the circle to reach the edge of The Hinterland. Ava followed.
“I can’t believe what a jerk that guy is,” Clifton said. “Can you believe how epic he thinks he is? Like he’s the greatest archer of all times…Robin Hood Rivales.“
Ava’s hands perched on her hips. “You’re the one that tried convincing him your arrow was something special, when you knew it wasn’t. Seems like maybe Ryan’s not the one being the jerk. See you later, Clifton.”
Clifton lowered his head, defeated. He’d lost the arrow, lost the compound bow, lost his dignity, and Ava thought he was a jerk. Now, he had to trudge through The Hinterland looking for the ridiculous arrow that started it all. He swore under his breath and headed up the dune.
Across the way, Juan Sanchez, another victim of inaccuracy, scanned the brush facedown like Clifton. He was about to suggest they join forces when something sunk through his sock into his ankle. Sandspurs. He’d run through a whole patch and took a few minutes to pick them off, which hurt his fingers as much as his ankles. As he avoided a red ant pile, he almost tripped on a root that jutted up like a step.
And still, he hadn’t found his arrow.
About to give up and turn back, he glimpsed something copper-colored in the tall brush up ahead. Clifton spread back the grass to reveal the fletching. Were the feathers swaying? Nah, they couldn’t be. There wasn’t even a breeze. Then, he remembered how the shaft had glowed in his bedroom. No, way. This arrow was as plain as any other. And what did it matter?
It wasn’t his anymore.
He grabbed the arrow, and as soon as he touched it, a wave of dizziness passed over him while a CRACK filled the air. Clifton stood, turned to head back toward the range, but froze. He was standing in the middle of an open field covered in yellow flowers that rolled like carpet into the base of the surrounding snow-capped mountains.
The Hinterland was gone, replaced with a shimmer in the air like heat off a highway. And with a sudden sweat he realized that Wickham Park was gone too.
“Hello?” Clifton yelled. “Is there anybody here?”
A group of birds, startled by his voice, shot out of the grass and Clifton jumped. The arrow grew warm, then so hot he dropped it to the ground and blew against his palm. The shaft glowed like it had in his bedroom, only this time it didn’t burn out.
“I’m having a dream,” Clifton said, taking a step back. “A very vivid dream.”
Clifton nudged it with the toe of his sneaker, and the arrow started to rumble, moving the grass as it slowly turned like the hand of a clock. Once it had shimmied forty-five-degrees, it stopped moving, the tip pointing toward a forest far in the distance.
“Apparently, a glowing arrow wants me to head that way,” Clifton said.
The arrow glowed intensely for a few seconds then faded back to plain wood.
“I’ll take that as a yes.”
The fletching moved again, reminding Clifton of the way his little brother Pierce would wiggle his fingers in the air when he wanted to be picked up. “Does this arrow want me to pick it up?” he said. Again, the shaft glowed brightly then went cold. “Great. I’m communicating with a magical arrow.”
He reached for it, surprised to find that the shaft had cooled, and placed the arrow in his backpack. Somehow it fit; the fletching, slipping inside the shaft, like the arrow was retractable.
“I’m closing the zipper now,” Clifton warned, as if the arrow understood him. “This is too weird.” He slung his backpack onto his shoulders and headed through the flowers toward the forest.
It stayed quiet for some time, with nothing but his breathing and a cool breeze that occasionally swept past. A flock of geese flew overhead. He stopped to watch them, then kept walking. “Man, it sure is hot for a dream. I don’t ever remember sweating in my sleep. I hope I’m not getting sick.”
The flowers cleared as he moved along and now, he was walking through green grass. “Maybe I hit my head on that oak,” he said. “That’s it. I must be passed out from a concussion in Wickham Park and this is all in my head.” He smiled at the thought, but then, his smile faded. “Only, it doesn’t feel like it’s in my head. The sun is hot and my feet hurt.”
As the grass thinned into clumpy patches, a dirt pathway formed between the spaces. “Remember, Clifton, this is a dream. It’s all in your head,” he told himself as he trudged along, moving closer to the tree-line of the forest.
Ahead, a patch of blackberries caught his eye, right off the path. He sat down to rest for a while, popping berries in his mouth until he had tasted enough. This dream wasn’t so bad after all, until a wolf howled in the distance. In fact, the animal noises were changing, the awakening of nocturnal creatures that gave Clifton the chills. He got back on the path and didn’t stop until he reached the tree-line of tall furs.
He had read many stories about children getting lost in the woods, walking for hours, but always arriving back where they had started. Considering he was pretty much stuck in this dream that he couldn’t wake up from, he really had no choice but to follow the dirt path into the woods. So he did.
A canopy of oaks twisted skyward in an odd spiral pattern. Sunlight sifted in streams through the branches. An occasional breeze rattled the high leaves above him, starting in the distance and chasing across the treetops. Other than the wind, the still woods seemed eerily quiet. No birds or squirrels. No bugs. No life at all as he pressed deeper, like walking through a painting rather than through real life.
Then, a branch snapped, and Clifton stiffened.
He scanned the forest, but found nothing. With a deep breath, he quickened his pace along the path, as another snap whipped him around. “Hello?”
Except Clifton who ran for his life, backpack slamming against his back with each stride. Why wasn’t he waking up? This dream had turned into a nightmare.
With a sudden jolt from behind, someone pushed Clifton to the ground and knocked the wind out of him. He scrambled to get up, but whoever shoved him was sitting on his back to keep him down.
“Be still, child. I wish you no harm.”
“Get off me!”
“Quiet!” The man pressed Clifton’s head into the dirt. “Now, I will release you if you promise to keep quiet.”
Clifton nodded, and said, “I promise,” which came out as “I bomis.”
After a few moments, the man removed his hand from Clifton’s head and rolled off his back. Clifton quickly pushed to his feet and turned around. Standing before him, was a man no more than four feet tall, resembling a dwarf—the kind Clifton read about in storybooks, with a bulbous nose, bushy red eyebrows, and a wispy, red beard.
“Where is the arrow?” the dwarf asked.
Heat flashed through Clifton’s body and he knew his face reddened. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
The dwarf shot forward, grabbing him by the shirt. “Dontcha be lyin’ to me, boy. I know you have the arrow. Where is it?”
Clifton’s heart raced. “It’s in my backpack.”
The little man’s blue eyes narrowed. Clifton stared back, afraid to breathe. “We must move quickly,” the dwarf said, releasing his grip.
“It’s not safe here.” He veered into the darkening woods, leaving the dirt path behind.
Clifton watched him go, wondering if he should follow the aggressive little man.
The dwarf turned. “Now, Clifton.”
Clifton took a step back. “How do you know my name?”
“There’s no time to explain. Ya must trust me.”
Clifton felt the ground spin as he stood, afraid to move forward, afraid to press back. He thought he might pass out. Then he remembered that he already had. “It’s all in your head,” he whispered to himself.
The dwarf backpedaled. “I know this must be strange fer ya, boy.”
“You have no idea.”
“All yer questions will be answered in good time. I promise. But right now, we need to get out of the woods.”
“Why?” Clifton asked again.
“Because,” the dwarf said. “He knows yer here.”
Off the beaten path, fallen branches and leaves littered the forest floor. Clifton did his best to not stumble in the growing darkness, struggling to keep up with the little man who bounded several strides ahead.
“Who knows I’m here?” Clifton asked, between breaths.
The dwarf did not answer.
“I said…who knows I’m here?”
The dwarf turned sharply, and Clifton hopped on his toes to catch his weight before barreling into the little man.
“Quiet, boy,” he said, his brows scrunched. “There are eyes all over this forest. Keep quiet and keep moving.”
Clifton did as he was told, staying close to the dwarf and not saying another word. The branches above them rattled. An owl perched on the bough, the first living creature Clifton had seen in the forest besides the dwarf. It stared at him, unblinking, its head turning mechanically.
There are eyes all over this forest.
A shiver crawled across Clifton’s skin. The owl spread its wings and flew, gliding toward him. Clifton ducked, missing its sharp talons but bumping into the dwarf, who turned. Clifton pointed to where the owl had been, but it was gone.
The dwarf rolled his eyes. “Over here, lad.”
Behind a dense patch of green leaves and branches, smoke billowed in gray puffs. The dwarf pulled aside some hanging vines and disappeared. Clifton followed. A cottage with a straw thatched roof lay hidden behind the foliage and a pebbled pathway lined by an herb garden led to the entranceway. The lingering scent of dill hung on the air.
“Welcome to me home,” the dwarf said, pushing open the wooden door.
Clifton stepped into the warm foyer greeted by the scent of stewing meat and vegetables. His mouth watered. He was led down a hallway lined by dark brown wood panelling, etched with vines budding flowers that climbed toward a leaf border. Candles wedged in brass stands sat on cluttered tables and small trunks all over the cottage. The hall ended at the kitchen, where a woman faced a brick fireplace. Her hair was the same shade of wild red as the man’s and her figure was equally as stout. She stirred a wooden spoon in a cauldron that hung over the flame.
“Yer back,” she said, wiping her hands on her apron. “Is this the boy?” She scooted toward them.
“Of course it’s the boy,” the dwarf barked.
“Ya must be famished,” she said, eyeing Clifton up and down. “Why, yer nothing but skin and bones.”
“Ya don’t think I can find a boy out in these woods?”
“Come. Sit,” she said, ignoring the dwarf. She led Clifton to a chair at the block table in the center of the room. “Here. Have some bread.”
Clifton set his backpack on the floor and took a seat. His back ached from the hours of hiking, and the hard chair did nothing to make it better. The woman sliced dark bread from a loaf on the table and handed a piece to Clifton. Honey and golden wheat coated his tongue, and his eyes closed. “It’s so good,” he said, his words garbled by bread.
“More where that came from,” she said, returning to the stew.
The dwarf stared at his empty plate, grunted, and ripped a chunk of bread from the loaf. “Now, show me the arrow.”
Clifton shoveled in bread, bent over, and grabbed the arrow from his backpack. He almost choked as it grew to its regular size before his eyes. The dwarf snatched it, a crooked little smile crossing his face. His fingers passed through the barbs of the fletching, then continued smoothly down the shaft. With wide eyes, the woman joined the man, fixated on the arrow.
“That’s really it, ain’t it?” she asked.
The dwarf didn’t answer, smacking bread between his molars, sliding his fingers across the arrow’s diamond-like tip.
“What is it?” Clifton asked.
The man looked up, his expression surprised, as if he had forgotten Clifton was sitting there. “Let’s eat first. Wife?”
Scurrying back to the cauldron, the woman ladled stew into clay bowls. She placed one before each of them, and the three devoured gamey stew, with thick carrots and new potatoes. They ate in silence except for the slurping sounds made by the dwarf and his wife, as they gulped down every last drop. Clifton might’ve even licked the bowl clean, if he hadn’t been taught any better. Even in his dreams, he worried what his mom might think. And though he’d never tell his mother this, that stew was the most delicious meal he could ever remember eating.