Sing Down the Stars: Birch

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

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Birch is a boy living Penn's nightmare. He didn't have a family that could protect him from the Warden's Commission, and he didn't have anywhere to run when his family was in trouble, so he's been raised in captivity because his sisters were all touched with special abilities, the same as Penn's. He doesn't even know his own birth name, as he was given the nickname "Birch bark" as a child and it stuck.

When they first meet, Penn writes him off as someone spoiled and weak, assuming that he's an officer's son because of his appearance, but she soon learns that none of her assumption bear out. Like many of the cast-offs taken in by The Show, Birch's early life was miserable. Seen as not-quite-human by an organization that's decided everyone born into a touched family has more in common with aliens than Earth, the fact that Birch is male makes him a particular fascination of those curious to see how he differs from sibling-sets that are solely female. And he's got the scars to prove it - both on his skin and in his memories.

Birch has also cultivated the same sort of public docile behavior many caged animals adopt out of self-preservation, which is something that irks Penn to no end. She wants to lash out, but he's been in the system long enough to know that direct attacks often end in more pain. It's not easy for the two to get along for long because their natures are so different, but eventually Penn comes to understand that these differences can be strengths. He becomes the temper to her steely nature, and tempered steel is much harder to break.

Sing Down the Stars: Klok

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

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Nowhere in the strangely anachronistic world in which Penn lives will you find someone more unique than the boy called Klok.

Like Birdie, Klok came to the circus with a single name and no hint of his past life or biological family. (They call it running away to join the circus for a reason - people are generally running from something they don't want to be found by,) However, in this case, he was actually raised by members of The Show before he arrived at the train. Squint and Smolly, the train's engineer and his wife (both of who are under four feet tall) raised the boy alone until his was about ten years old. This was no easy feat, considering at sixteen he's bigger than most grown men.

Of course, there's one other huge difference between Klok's backstory and Birdie's. Klok's is pure cover-story. Rather than running away or being orphaned like most children of The Show, Klok was created without parents. Yes, created - as in android.

Built by Magnus Roma, and designed to look like Roma's deceased son, Klok is a spectacular creation. Strong, brilliant, and protective, Klok was everything the Warden's Commission was hoping for in the soldier they commissioned Roma to build... except he's also compassionate and capable of remorse. This "flaw" made him unsuitable for military service, and so Roma conspired with his friends Squint and Smolly to hide his "metal man" away where he couldn't be corrupted into the soulless killer he was meant to be.

Now Klok works as a stage hand, literally doing the heavy lifting for the circus as it picks up and puts down stakes for each performance. On the road, he becomes a valuable ally to Penn and her friends, which is a situation she finds uncomfortable given his appearance. She's known since she was a child that she's the one who killed her brother, so being followed by someone who looks so much like him is disconcerting. And given that he can only "speak" via text on a view screen where his voice box should be, she's forced to face her past on a regular basis - whether she can deal with it is another matter.

Sing Down the Stars: Winnie and Birdie

Monday, September 28, 2015

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No hero's journey is complete without a cast of supporting friends to back them up along the road.

I've made a brief mention of Penn's circus friends in the post about The Show itself, but since they're the core group, I'll go into a bit more detail in the last few days before the novel's published on October 6.

Winifred Singh -- Known as Winnie to her friends, Winifred Singh has traveled with The Show for four years at the start of the story. As far as anyone knows, she's either an orphan or a runaway who ran afoul of the Warden's Commission at some point, leading to the scars she wears long sleeves to cover up. Though she portrays a siren in The Show's sideshow, she's never spoken a word.

Winnie's a girl with secrets on top of secrets, and she keeps them buried so deep she hopes to never remember them. But when The Show's train is sacked, it turns everyone's life upside down -- literally. When things get shaken up that badly, a few things are bound to end up falling into the open, and Winnie ends up on the run for the second time in her life.

She's a loyal friend, but how much can you really trust someone who's used to sacrificing anything they have to in order to survive?

Birdie Jesek -- Whether Birdie is her given name or not, no one knows. It's the only name the truly bird-like little girl has ever given or answered to, and as for the "Jesek" part, she gets that from her adoptive family: "The Flying Jeseks," who are The Show's acrobats. Bruno Jesek and his wife (known affectionately as "Mother" to one and all) have made a habit of stitching their family together from people who have nowhere else to go, and Birdie's no different. A confirmed survivor by the age of eight, Birdie was alone and half-starved when she found The Show, and she latched onto stern Bruno as a source of consistency and protection. She also proved a natural at the high-wire and related acts, and was soon an official member of the Jesek company.

One of the youngest Show-members by far, Birdie's seen more in her short life than most adults three times her age, but she's still a kid, and she's spent her two years on board the train learning how to be one again. She delights in mischief - usually at the expense of her favorite target Jermay Baan, and thrills at the chance to finally "fly" during a performance, but it's once the group is on the run that she truly begins to shine. Birdie proves herself to be resourceful and clever in ways the rest of her friends and make-shift family never imagined.

Birdie has secrets, too, and once they come out, Penn's world will never be the same.

Sing Down the Stars: Warden Arcineaux

Friday, September 25, 2015

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So in the last post, I introduced you to Warden Nye, the man doggedly pursing Penn and her friends. There's no question that he's dangerous and manipulative, but that doesn't mean he's the biggest, baddest threat there is, because there's another warden in the mix, one so terrible and feared that he's known as poison to those who've encountered him.

Meet Warden Arsenic... I mean Arcineaux.

A small, blocky man with the appearance and charm of a gargoyle, Arcineaux is ruled by pride and ambition. He believes he's destined for bigger and better things than running a single outpost for the Commission, and he's not the sort to let things like humanity or compassion get in the way of that destiny.

To Penn's horror, she discovers that there are monsters in the world beyond the mechanical wonders her father built to entertain the patrons of their circus. Human monsters that can bleed, but they can also injure. They can cause pain, and they can kill, and the worst of them enjoy it. They don't see people like her as human beings, but as tools, advantages and weapons to be caged and wielded at will.

Everyone seems to fear this man from the moment they meet him - with the exception of his nemesis Warden Nye. Both men have their sights set on controlling a new secret facility built by the Commission, but worse they both want Penn and her friends, and they're willing to do anything to get them.

**Don't forget to pop into this post if you'd like a chance at one of the copies I'm giving away!**

Sing Down the Stars: Warden Nye

Thursday, September 24, 2015

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One of the main aspects of Sing Down the Stars is a Chase. The bad guys are chasing the good guys, and in this case, the bad guy is Warden Nye.

Penn first sees him before her final performance. A warden on circus grounds is concerning, especially since Nye's arrival coincides with the disappearance of Magnus Roma. There's no safety buffer to keep him out of her space because her father can't run interference. Worst of all, he seems to know more about The Show and its performers than an outsider should.

Once Penn and the others are actually on the run, Nye proves to be an unshakable adversary, and while he may never actually be a step ahead of them, he's right on their heels so they never get a chance to catch their breath.

He's smart and he's ruthless with a sociopathic calm Penn finds unnerving. He's also a man with secrets going back as far as The Great Illusion and the arrival of the Medusae, and while trying to escape, Penn is shocked to find that Nye's secrets have more to do with hers and her father's than she'd like to admit.

The world is rarely the way we assume it to be as children, and Penn is about to get an entirely new perspective on things.

Sing Down the Stars: The New Old World

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

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So aliens have visited your planet and left, what's a civilized world to do next?

How about: Do the stupidest things imaginable because it's the only course of action that can be agreed on, even if it doesn't do much of anything to fix the "alien problem?"

That's pretty much the world Penn is born into in Sing Down the Stars. A quarter century after alien visitors appeared in the sky, then left, the world is still debating whether or not those visitors were ever actually there in the first place. And since bureaucracy can be counted on to take the strangest courses of action, that uncertainty has manifested in odd ways around the world.

Since the aliens came to the modern world, twisted logic dictates that they weren't - and aren't - interested in cultural landscapes of less modern times. With this in mind, entire cities have rebuilt their structure to mimic that of earlier days. Some went Victorian, others hopped back to the 1950's, and some simply froze in place, refusing to allow any public signs of progress.

Major cities have moved their technology underground - both figuratively and literally. Nighttime means radio silence, television silence, computer silence, and total blackout as the official policy for avoiding mentions of alien invasion becomes to pretend it never happened. Earth simply decides they won't attract attention.

With this in mind, it's easy to imagine that special events like The Show, with its permits for lights and lasers would be a huge draw for the curious. Kids born into the post-alien world don't get many chances to see cutting-edge technology on public display, so crowds flock to the circus grounds like naughty children who think they're getting away with mischief.

This isn't a brave new world. It's a timid, and anachronistic one.

Sing Down the Stars: The Circus Performers

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

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The Show Family

Like many traveling circuses, the people who perform in The Show are like family, which is why it's all the more devastating when their train home is overrun. This is just a quick primer of the different acts and the people who play them.

The Flying Jeseks

These are The Show's acrobats. Led by Mother Jesek and her husband Bruno, the Jeseks tend to add to their family as they find people in need of a home. Their youngest child is a girl named Birdie who is among those stranded with Penn when the train is raided. She's been with them for two years, and only just got the confidence to "fly" during their act herself.


Frightfully ghoulish, Nagendra is a walking contradiction. Part snake charmer, and part poet, he's someone Penn has known her entire life. An Oxford man, he's transformed himself into a spectacle of tattoos an piercings to erase his real features, and he's the source of most of the information Penn has gathered about what's known as The Brick Street riots from before she was born. Nagendra speaks of them often, but only when he's had too much to drink.

Squint and Smolly

Both dwarves, Squint and Smolly no longer perform with the circus, though they still travel with it. "Small Molly" was once a featured performer with a legendary temper. Now, she's mostly a second mother to the children of The Show... still with a legendary temper. Her husband, Squint, is the train's engineer. Second only to Magnus Roma in his ability to plan and build, he's the one who keeps the train running smoothly.

Zavel the Mystic

Somewhat elderly, and spindly in stature, Zavel is The Show's magician. He's a widower who tragically outlived his much younger wife. His son Jermay serves as his apprentice and assistant and is Penn's best friend / partner in crime. Jermay also serves as an honorary big brother to Birdie Jesek who has made him her favorite target when it comes to causing trouble.

Winnifred Singh

Winnie's mute, which is ironic since she plays The Show's siren. She performs in the sideshow before the main event, doing her act in a tank of water while wearing a mechanical tail. Full of secrets and covered in scars, Winnie's got a past that Penn has been warned not to ask about.


Klok is a little different from the rest of The Show performers. Like The Daughters of Magnus Roma, he's using the circus as  camouflage to hide in plain sight, but he doesn't do an act; he's a stage hand. Klok's a teenager, as far as anyone knows, but he's enormous - and he's not human. He's a metal boy with a soul, a defective "soldier" created by Magnus Roma, and hidden away because Magnus couldn't condemn him to a life of killing and violence.

Free Books!!!

Monday, September 21, 2015

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Sooooooooo, my author copies of Sing Down the Stars arrived, and that means it's time for a GIVEAWAY!!!! YAY!!!!

Whoa, way too many exclamation marks there.

If you want a book, drop me a line and depending on how many people respond, I'll give a few away. US and international are both fine.

Sing Down the Stars: Medusae

Thursday, September 17, 2015

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Simply put, Medusae is a technical name for jellyfish. It's also the nickname given to the offworld-visitors responsible for the sudden expression of elemental abilities in Earth's children. The aliens looked like jellyfish - exceptionally large jellyfish, and so without anything else to call them, a reporter christened them Medusae.

They're a source of confusion and contention among humans. Nearly twenty-five years out from first contact (if you can call it that), The Great Illusion (the year when the sky turned pink and purple) seems like it might never have actually happened. Sure there are people who remember it, but memories can fade and fail, and no one born since that time has ever seen one of these strange creatures... officially.

So the big question becomes did the Medusae actually exist, or was it something else that got blamed on aliens because it was convenient? And if they are real, what do they want? Why did they change Earth's daughters, or was that an accidental by-product of their presence and evacuation?

Sing Down the Stars: Golems

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

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My Preciousssss...

Er... no... that's Gollum. I'm talking about golems. Normally a clay figurine or clay man brought to life by magic, the golems of The Show are elemental creatures spawned by "The Daughters of Magnus Roma" as part of their act.With exceptional skill and concentration, each of Penn's sisters can hone her given element into a living, breathing representation of an animal that also serves as an extension of her personality.

Evie creates "Samson," a dog built entirely of flames. Unlike most of her sisters' creations, Samson is hugely disproportionate to a living dog, rising shoulder-high, even when sitting. He doubles as a deterrant when the girls have to mingle with the crowd; no one's going to get too close to a fire dog!

Nim has her water dolphins, which perform tricks during the sisters' act, but also serve as fire control in case Samson gets a little out of hand. Each Show ends with a spectacular bonfire, and it's always a good idea to have a back-up.

Anise's golem is a Kodiak bear made of dust and stone. It's huge, but deceptively fast, and during the Show, Anise uses it to entertain children by having it break into a set of bear cubs.

Vesper's owls are fairly straightforward. Aerial acrobats, to match someone who controls wind.

To the outside world, these seemingly impossible creatures are entertainment, but they're also weapons that each young woman can wield in defense of herself or her family and home. To that end, their father Magnus has created his own versions, made from metal, gears and circuits.

One of the most popular attractions at The Show is "The Mechnagerie," a classic side-show attraction filled with mythological beasts like gryphons, dragons, and unicorns, all crafted by Magnus Roma himself. These, too, seem innocuous to the pubic at large. They're next generation animatronics meant to thrill the kids who line up to see them, but when disaster strikes, they prove there's more to their mettle than metal...

Sing Down the Stars: Magnus Roma

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

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Magnus Roma is the father of the main character, and the proprietor of The Show.

A brilliant man, he's leveraged his skill with inventions and machines to buy leeway with the Warden's Commission. So long as he provides them with the newest tech off his draft board, they pretend not to notice that his four eldest children are hiding in plain sight, using their elemental abilities to entertain the masses. And he's gone to great lengths to ensure that The Show is so well known, it or its performers couldn't disappear from the public eye without stirring up questions.

This plan works well, until something changes just before Penn's sixteenth birthday. Magnus panics, and then he disappears, leaving his family and The Show to fend for themselves... or maybe not. Magnus' children have always known that the greatest weapon at their disposal is their father's cunning. He's left a few surprises for the Commission, and a some clues for his children. The only question is whether or not his preparations will be enough.

Sing Down the Stars: Unnoticeable

Monday, September 14, 2015

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Imagine being in a room with someone.

You absolutely know they're there, they're not invisible, but you can't see them. The best you can do is to catch small, quick glimpses from the corner of your eye that don't allow you to confirm the person's height or coloring or even if they're male or female. Every time you try to get a look at them, you're compelled to look away so that even sneaking a peek becomes a chore.

This is what happens when someone is Unnoticeable, and people who fit that description are the Wardens' secret weapons.

Unnoticeables can be sent in to do a job, and no one will remember their presence, so how better to carry out clandestine midnight maneuvers that can never be acknowledged? How better to round up touched children and their families in the middle of a bustling neighborhood with nosy neighbors than to send in someone those neighbors wouldn't bother to wave at if by some fluke they saw them on the street? How better to keep secrets from supervisors who think they're the ones wielding power?

Penn, the main character, is used to illusions, but even circus life and a knack for spotting the unseen mechanism behind a trick isn't enough to fight technology that can literally blot someone out of existence.

How can you run from someone when you don't know how many people are chasing you?


Friday, September 11, 2015

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I know I said today's post was a continuation of the pre-publication posts, but this is more fun and more important. There's a book giveaway going on over at Goodreads. 25 copies of Sing Down the Stars are up for grabs, so if you want to toss your hat in the ring, clink THIS LINK and head on over.


Sing Down the Stars: The Wardens

Thursday, September 10, 2015

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The Wardens

So, what's a planet to do when aliens hang out in the sky for a year and then leave with no apparent agenda? Well, first they panic.

Think about it. If weird jellyfish-looking things completely surrounded the planet, cutting off most of the satellite access, which in turn blocks Internet, TV and cell-signals so that you couldn't get much news of what was happening, the situation would look pretty grim. And what would an international coalition of world leaders do in the face of such widespread panic? They'd... launch a commission to investigate the matter.

That's what happens when top-level folks can't agree. They hire people to gather information, and that's where The Warden's Commission comes in.

"Warden" is an a occupation as well as a title, but the Commission is supposed to be a civilian organization. Just like the wardens are supposed to keep busy studying whatever residual evidence they can find from the off-worlders' visit. They're supposed to use that evidence to devise ways to protect planet Earth in case the silent visitors were only a first, scouting wave sent in advance of something more sinister.

Having a Warden's station in a city makes people feel safe, but as anyone from a circus like The Show could tell you - safety is often an illusion.

Like many autonomous groups with big budgets and little oversight, there are rumors that the Wardens Commission have reset their own parameters. Is it possible that they're using their considerable power and resources to investigate the so-called urban legends of "touched" children? Is it possible that the reason no one ever really gets to see one of these girls use their abilities is because the Wardens got to them first?

Surely someone would have noticed... but that's tomorrow's post.

Sing Down the Stars: The Show

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

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The Show

In a world (You heard that in the announcer voice, didn't you? Admit it. ADMIT IT!!!!!)

In a world where overt uses of technology are shunned and girls born with elemental powers are feared for their connection to the aliens from The Great Illusion, people with affected families go to great lengths to protect their children. None have gone further than Magnus Roma, the main character's father.

Magnus and his late wife were one of the families whose children began to show signs of being "touched," or having alien abilities. Rather than run or try to conceal these abilities, as most people did, Magnus made a very public stand and hid his daughters in plain sight by building an entire circus around them. He called this circus The Show, and turned it into a technophobe's worst nightmare.

At The Show, all of that forbidden technology is put proudly on display, along with Magnus' four eldest children "The Daughters of Magnus Roma," who thrill audiences with demonstrations of their elemental prowess. These are Penn's (the main character)'s sisters, all assets to be exploited if anyone in charge realizes that their skills didn't come from smoke and mirrors.

  • There's Nieva (Evie), the eldest. Penn's surrogate mother and a pyrokinetic - someone who can wield fire.
  • Then Nimue (Nim), a foul-tempered hydrokinetic - someone who controls water.
  • Then Anise, the ever-steady middle child and fulcrum of the family. She's terrakinetic, an earth-mover, and the person Penn considers to be the grounding force for the others.
  • Finally, there's Vesper the aerokinetic who can walk on air. She's a teenager, like Penn, and given to bursts of hurricane-level anger.
These four are the stars of their father's show, always walking a line between what they can and can't afford to let the crowds see. Officially, they only pretend to display "touched" qualities, giving visitors a safe place to indulge their curiosity. No one dares question whether it's an illusion or not because everyone knows that Magnus Roma is a darling of the Warden's Commission... but that's tomorrow's post.

Sing Down the Stars: The Great Illusion

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

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We're now one month out from the release of Sing Down the Stars! (It's being published under my actual name / initials, so therefore LJ Hatton.) As I've done with other novels, I'll do some preliminary posts to introduce you to the characters and the world they live in, staring with this one.

The Great Illusion

Sing Down the Stars takes place in a near-future world marked by an event called The Great Illusion, which happened a few years before Penn - the main character - was born.

The Great Illusion was a first contact scenario. Alien lifeforms approached planet Earth and settled in, but there wasn't much actual contact involved. These ships (or creatures, since no one can decide which is the correct term) enveloped the planet for one year, changing the sky from blue to pink and causing general panic with their existence. When the year ended, they left, simple as that.

There were no landings and no incursions, meaning it wasn't an invasion in the usual sense, and once they'd gone people began to explain them away because it was easier to pretend the aliens had never come. They renamed that year The Great Illusion, as though it had all been a dream no one could prove, and officially there was still no such thing as aliens.

Unoffically, people were terrified of what might be out there beyond the atmosphere and what interested them enough that they'd hang out in the sky for a year. So, the world changed, attempting to return to a time before Earth was of interest to those beyond her borders. Technology became taboo in public, especially after dark when extra lights could be easily seen. The old fashioned was suddenly in vogue. Cities the world over became anachronistic pockets of living, modern history. Neo-Victorian up against 1950's kitsch.

What no one had counted on was that the visitors hadn't left Earth quite as untouched as it first appeared. Months after the aliens left, human infants started showing signs of disturbing abilities, always confined within families. Presumed urban myths at first, the stories of these gifted girls - because the infants were always girls - became more common and impossible to quash, even though the girls and their families always disappeared before anyone could prove their existence. Being different became a sort of genetic treason in the court of public opinion.

It's into this world that The Show was born... but that's tomorrow's post.

Currently, you can read the first few pages of Sing Down the Stars on Amazon's Look Inside feature. So if you'd like to read a bit more about The Great Illusion head on over to this link and check it out!