All of you who know I am a book lover and collector know that I recommended a book to you earlier in the year--The Green Ember. My son, Joel, was the reader for this great, rousing adventure. Now, our friend, Sam Smith, has come out with the second book--The Black Star! You will love it. I asked Sam to tell you about it!
This is my goal: I want to tell new stories with an old soul. I want to look forward, to hope and dream, to gaze through the fog to the certain dawn of the true New World. I also want to echo. I want my tales to resound with old words, old ways, old wisdom.
I want to make vintage adventure.
Who cares? Does it matter? I think it does. I think it does because the stories we hear shape us like nothing else. Hearing the phrase “Jesus is good,” is positive, but it is meaningless without a story. When we read to our children the story of Jesus raising the dead, healing the lame, and sacrificing himself, we get more than just the information. We get the heart, the hope, the joy, the pain, and the information. We get formation. Because we see and feel that Jesus is good. We know it in our souls.
Stories matter. Fiction shapes us in a deep way as well. Perhaps especially when we are young. But why new stories with an old soul?
My friend (and the illustrator for my books) Zach Franzen is kind of a genius. When I run out of clever things to say, I usually pull out a Zachism and run with it. (It’s about to happen again.) He has been a cheerleader for the “New Stories, Old Soul” side from the beginning. He contends that most publishers don’t want to release new books with old virtues. If people want those, it’s easier and cheaper for the publishers to just release the old books again. So the virtues featured in those books are for now, he says, trapped in amber. They are museum pieces. So Zach has been a partner in more ways than just by illustrating my books. He’s been an encouragement, believing that those old virtues can live on in new adventures—that they can be seen in the wild again.
I want to uncork some vintage adventure on a generation of thirsty young souls.
The reason Sam wrote the books was with his own children in mind! The wonderful Smith family.
When I wrote The Green Ember for my children, I hoped they would love it and that the story would capture their hearts. I’m so grateful that it did and that they wanted to give others a chance to enjoy it too. When we were finally able to share it with other families, we began to hear that many of them also seemed to resonate with this new story and its old soul. That made us glad, like seeing the look on a dinner guest’s face who loved the food and enjoyed the laughter at the table. We shared something of our family’s life and other families welcomed it into their own homes and hearts. What an honor. What a privilege!
I want to keep doing it. So I wrote The Back Star of Kingston for my kids. And for all the kids who loved (or might love) The Green Ember.
It’s a story and that’s it. It’s not a tricky vehicle to teach truth. But I hope it is truthful. It’s not meant to sneak in a moral lesson, but I hope it burns with the fire of moral imagination.
Black Star is a simple story about a simple rabbit named Fleck. Faced with threats to his king and community, he must make a choice to stay and fight the overwhelming odds, or follow his dearest friend as he abandons hope.
The Green Ember (which was expertly read by Joel Clarkson for the audiobook) features a prologue that confused some readers. Why is this old, unrelated story in this book? Well, the prologue from The Green Ember is a part of Black Star, which serves as its prequel. It’s all related, but the series is just getting going. Here’s a small sample…
Two soaked and battered rabbits washed up on the shore of Ayman Lake.
Gasping, Fleck crawled onto the stony beach, rolled over, and tried to clear his head.
Galt was already standing. “We have to go, Fleck,” he said, eyes darting from the lake to the tree line.
“I’m no traitor,” Fleck managed to say through ragged breaths.
“Traitor?” Galt cried. “The winning side gets to decide who the traitors were. We’ve lost, Fleck. It’s over. Even you, Captain Blackstar, can do nothing this time. We have no chance.”
“We? We have no chance?”
“He has no chance,” Galt said, head down, edging toward the forest.
Fleck stood slowly, staggering. The usually grey fur of his arm was blotched with dark scarlet. One eye was swollen shut.
“He can be saved,” Fleck said, reaching for his sword. His hand closed on air. His scabbard was empty.
“Nothing,” Galt said. “There’s nothing we can do. It’s the end of the world. It’s the end of the world!”
“But the oath, Galt. Remember? We can still turn this. King Whitson needs us. Prince Lander needs us,” he said, pointing to the burning ship. “I’ll never turn traitor.”
“You’re only a traitor if you betray yourself,” Galt said. He sprinted off, disappearing into the trees.
Fleck struggled to stay upright. Swaying, he turned from the fleeing rabbit to face the lake. Charcoal smoke corkscrewed into the sky. The blackened ship teemed with enemies. Flames snapped at the red-diamond standard as the last kingsbucks grappled with the invaders on the deck. Whitson Mariner stood among them, his sword poised and his harried shouts echoing over the lake.
Fleck straightened and stretched his arm. Pain flared. Unbearable agony. He bent, wincing.
He opened his eyes and saw King Whitson fighting desperately to protect Prince Lander. Fleck rose, ignoring the pain, and shouted across the water.
“My place beside you, my blood for yours! Till the Green Ember rises, or the end of the world!”
Swordless, Fleck Blackstar hobbled to the water’s edge and plunged in.
The Black Star of Kingston releases July 13. You can get it here.
I am giving away 3 of these today. If you want to enter, share on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or leave a comment about the book on Sam's page and let me know what you did. I will be picking the winners in the next couple of days.