Hey Scavengers, welcome to my stop in the YA Scavenger Hunt. This bi-annual event was first organized by author Colleen Houck as a way to give readers a chance to gain access to exclusive bonus material from their favorite authors…and a chance to win a lot of books. At this hunt, you not only get access to exclusive content from each author, you also get a clue for the hunt. Add up the clues, and you can enter to win the big prize–one signed book from each author on the hunt in my team. But play fast: this contest (and all the exclusive bonus material) will only be online until Sunday!
Go to the YA Scavenger Hunt page to find out all about the hunt including a list of all the authors participating and the prizes up for grabs. There are FIVE contests going on simultaneously, and you can enter one or all. I am a part of the GOLD TEAM but there is also a red team, a blue team, an orange team, a green team, a pink team, and a purple team. So you can play for a chance to win different sets of signed books!
SCAVENGER HUNT PUZZLE
Directions: Below, you’ll notice that I’ve listed my favorite number. Collect the favorite numbers of all the authors on the gold team, and then add them up (don’t worry, you can use a calculator!).
Entry Form: Once you’ve added up all the numbers, make sure you fill out the form here to officially qualify for the grand prize. Only entries that have the correct number will qualify.
Rules: Open internationally, anyone below the age of 18 should have a parent or guardian’s permission to enter. To be eligible for the grand prize, you must submit the completed entry form by Sunday Oct 8, at noon Pacific Time. Entries sent without the correct number or without contact information will not be considered.
SCAVENGER HUNT POST
Today, I am hosting Eva Pohler on my website.
Eva Pohler recently retired from a twenty-year position teaching writing and literature at a university in San Antonio, where she lives with her husband and three kids. Now a full-time writer, she’s the author of The Mystery Book Collection and three series for young adults: The Gatekeeper’s Saga, The Purgatorium Series, and The Vampires of Athens. Her books have been described as “thrilling” and “addictive.” A Kirkus reviewer said of The Gatekeeper’s Sons that it was “sure to thrill Hunger Games fans.”
A reader herself, Eva writes in multiple genres, but all of her stories blur the line between reality and fantasy, truth and delusion, and draw from Eva’s personal philosophy that a reader must be lured and abducted into complete captivity in order to enjoy the reading experience.
Book description of The Gatekeeper’s Sons:
Fifteen-year-old Therese watches her parents die. While in a coma, she meets the twin sons of Hades—Hypnos (the god of sleep) and Thanatos (the god of death). She thinks she’s manipulating a dream, not kissing the god of death and totally rocking his world.
Than makes a deal with Hades and goes as a mortal to the Upperworld to try and win Therese’s heart, but not all the gods are happy. Some give her gifts. Others try to kill her.
The deal requires Therese to avenge the death of her parents. With the help of Than’s fierce and exotic sisters, the Furies, she finds herself in an arena face to face with the murderer, and only one will survive.
CHARON’S QUEST (Sneak Peek)
The ferryman of the dead is forced to leave the life he’s always known.
Apollo has had a vision: as the life of each soul flashes before Charon’s eyes, the ferryman ages like an old man. Charon needs to experience his own adventures to become youthful again, or he will soon die.
Terrified and homesick, Charon’s first friend is a stray dog, and, when it dies, he finally understands loss. After an argument with Thanatos, Charon befriends a terminally ill teen and helps him through his bucket list—ziplining over the Amazon Rainforest, smoking pot in Amsterdam, gambling in Vegas, and parading in New Orleans, only to suffer another loss.
The last thing Charon expects is to fall in love with a mortal woman—someone he can’t take with him when he returns. Charon must decide whether to abandon the love of his life or his duties.
“Off the boat,” Hades demanded.
Charon looked up at his master, unsure if he’d heard him correctly.
“I’ve had a visit from Apollo.” Hades crossed his arms and widened his stance. “Your future is unclear, but your demise is certain if you do not leave my kingdom.”
“Leave, my lord?” Charon’s bones were tired, and it pained him to speak.
“Haven’t you noticed how aged and withered you’ve become? You’re no good to me like this.”
“I don’t understand.”
“My dear Charon, why are you the only one among us who has aged like an old man?”
Charon glanced at his trembling, bony hands and wrinkled, spotted flesh.
“Apollo saw the answer in a vision,” Hades said. “Off the boat. Follow me.”
Charon rarely left the skiff—only to sleep in his abode on the night of each full moon. When he did leave the boat, he flew, because to walk was painful.
He followed Hades down the winding corridor of the Underworld along the river of fire. He did not need the soft glow from the Phlegethon to see his master walking ahead of him, upright, muscled, virile. Unlike Hades, Charon’s frail back was bowed, even in flight, and every bone trembled with old age.
So, he was to get his youth back, eh? Charon couldn’t care less about it. And the last thing he wanted was to visit the Upperworld, where he hadn’t set foot since the beginning of time. Why did Apollo have to stir up trouble for him?
Hades rounded the corner and entered the foyer of his and his queen’s main palace. “Have a seat.”
Charon flew to one of the oversized wooden chairs that were gathered around a golden table. He couldn’t recall ever sitting in this room before.
Hades paced across from him. “I’ll allow you to retain your powers, as long as you don’t abuse them. You’ll need money…and better clothes. Perhaps a cane.”
Charon’s old robes were immediately replaced by dark gray trousers and a pale button-down shirt with long sleeves. His sandals disappeared, and in in their place were short black boots made of leather. A black wooden cane appeared in his hand and a gray fedora on his head.
“That’s better,” Hades said.
This was all too much. Charon already missed his robes.
“I didn’t think it possible for a god to die, my lord.”
“You seem to be the exception, my friend.” Hades continued to pace, and now he scratched his beard. “Apollo says it’s because you vicariously experience the lives of each soul that boards your skiff.”
Charon rubbed his temple, where a new pain was forming. While it was true that the lives of each soul flashed before his eyes, it hadn’t occurred to him that his aging was the result.
“Might Apollo be mistaken?” Charon asked.
“I suppose there’s a first time for everything,” Hades replied. “Even so, we should err on the side of caution.”
Charon bit his trembling lip.
Hades stopped pacing to study him. “I would think you’d be grateful for the chance to go out on adventures of your own, for a change. Why so glum?”
“Glum seems hardly the right adjective, my lord. Terrified is more like it.”
Hades sat in the chair opposite him and furrowed his brow. “You forget who you are. Why should a god be terrified to go among mortals?”
“I’m a creature of habit. I like my life just as it is. I’ve never been anywhere but here, in your kingdom. This is my home. I prefer it to anyplace else.”
Hades laughed and clapped him hard on the shoulder, nearly cracking his clavicle in half. “My dear Charon, it’s not like you won’t be coming back. Think of this as an opportunity to spread your wings.”
“I haven’t got wings, my lord.”
Charon sighed, realizing there was no getting out of it. “What would you have me do?”
“That’s more like it. Chin up! I’m truly happy for you to have this chance. You can travel the world, meet interesting people, and do exciting things.”
Charon would rather have none of it.
Hades climbed to his feet and resumed his pacing and the scratching of his beard. “Where should I send you first? One of the great cities, perhaps?”
“I know little of the Upperworld, my lord. I’ve come to understand bits of it from the souls I ferry.”
“And from those bits, aren’t you curious about the world? Isn’t there something you wonder about?”
There was one thing he wondered about. He never imagined he’d have the chance to experience it.
“The cinema,” Charon said. “I wonder about the cinema.”
The corners of Hades’s mouth curled up into a gleeful smile. “Well, then. I know exactly where to send you, my old friend.”
* * *
Charon emerged at night amidst a bustling city. Although he’d retained his godly powers, he didn’t need night vision to see the automobiles crawling by on the streets, or the people walking briskly to who knew where. Nor did he need the starlight, invisible here beneath the smog. The ample light emanating from the signs, streetlamps, and headlights was more than enough to make everything about this crowded, dirty place visible.
He hobbled along with his cane and entered the cinema. While he’d retained his powers, Hades had warned him against using them. His lord had said that if mortals discovered they had a god among them, Charon would have no chance to enjoy his experience. The constant requests and complaints would sabotage his efforts at happiness.
The last thing Charon wanted was to be bothered by people.
He reached into his trouser pocket for one of the golden coins given to him by Hades and handed it to the clerk.
“Um, cash or credit card, sir,” the boy said as he turned over the coin.
“The gold is more than enough for a ticket,” Charon said, compelling the pimpled youth to cooperate.
“Which show, sir?”
“What genre do you like?” the boy asked. “Drama? Comedy? Suspense?”
Charon grinned. “I like it all.”
The clerk handed over a ticket and Charon walked past.
The theater was half-empty when Charon entered and found a seat on the end of the first row, away from others. As the movie played, he forgot where and when he was as he ran the full gamut of emotions. He laughed, he cried, and he gasped in surprise, and he cried again at the end.
When the film ended, he used his cane and the arm of his seat to pull himself to his feet. Getting up was much more difficult than getting down. Among the others leaving the room, he plodded along, deciding to go to the room next door, where another film was about to begin. No one stopped him. He sat in the same row, same seat.
The comedy left him in a delightful mood. He decided to try one more film. The movie in the room next door had already begun. He found his seat and watched.
The third film left him feeling terrified. His hands were shaking—worse than usual—and he could barely breathe. Wasn’t the purpose of coming to the Upperworld to restore his youth and vitality? And yet, he felt worse than ever.
As the others in the theater made their way to the exit and the lights turned on, Charon sat there, holding his chest. There was a new pain there—a tightness that left him crippled.
“Sir? Are you okay?” a woman asked him.
Before Charon could reply, Thanatos appeared beside the woman. Charon could tell by the woman’s lack of reaction that she couldn’t see Death.
“Have you come for me?” Charon asked the youthful god, whose bright blue eyes looked down on him with concern.
“Excuse me?” the woman asked.
Thanatos frowned. “We need to talk. Come with me.”
Taking him by the arm, Thanatos god-traveled with Charon from the cinema to a brightly-lit hotel room with two beds, a sofa, and a table and chairs.
“I just collected a soul from this room,” Thanatos said. “The body is in the bathtub.”
“Won’t there be a stench?”
“You can book your own room downstairs,” Thanatos said. “But first, we need to talk. Have a seat.”
Charon eased himself into one of the two wooden chairs beside the table.
“When you said you liked the cinema, Hades thought you might enjoy a tour of Universal Studios,” Thanatos said. “That’s why he sent you here, to L.A.”
“To learn how the movies are made.”
Charon waved his hand at the wrist. “I don’t care about that. I only care about watching them.”
“That’s no different than seeing the lives of others flash before your eyes,” Thanatos pointed out. “It won’t help.”
Charon looked up at his old friend, comforted by his presence. They’d spent most of their time on the skiff together. Thanatos brought the souls and remained aboard until the dead reached their final resting place—whether that was the Fields of Elysium for the good, Tartarus for the wicked, or Erebus for those needing time to heal. Charon had rarely exchanged words with him in the last century or two, because it pained him to speak; but it hadn’t always been so.
“You need to experience life,” Thanatos said. “I envy you this chance. You need to take full advantage.”
“What’s so funny?”
“The irony, Than,” Charon said. “Death telling me about life.”
“If not a tour, then what?” Than asked.
“Take me somewhere,” Charon said. “Be my guide.”
“You know mortals can’t tolerate me,” Than replied.
“I’d forgotten. They drop dead in your presence.”
“Not immediately, but still.”
“I don’t like people anyway,” Charon said. “Take me someplace where I can have adventures away from others.”
Thanatos grimaced. “That’s rather missing the point, isn’t it?”
“I disagree.” Charon climbed to his feet, which wasn’t easy. “Put me on a boat on a river somewhere. You have the remarkable ability to be everywhere at once. Come with me.”
Than crossed his arms. “I’ll make a deal with you.”
“Now you sound like your father.”
“I’ll keep an eye on you, until you find a companion,” Than said. “You’ll need American money—not the gold my father gave you.”
Than handed him a wallet made of leather. Charon opened it to find it stuffed with pieces of green paper.
“That’s American cash,” Than said. “Use it to buy things—like food and clothes. Don’t wear the same trousers and shirt each day.”
Charon rolled his eyes. “You want me to go shopping?”
“And meet someone,” Than said.
“That’ll be easy,” Charon said sarcastically.
“Then I’ll put you and him—or her—on a boat on a river of your choosing.”
“How do you expect me to do that? It’ll take time to get someone to trust me enough to go on a trip like that. Your deal is worthless.”
Thanatos put a hand on Charon’s shoulder. “This city is full of people. Surely you can make friends with one of them.”
“I don’t know where to start.”
Thanatos turned away. “Try the bar downstairs.”
* * *
Charon took the elevator to the first floor and found the bar across from the lobby. A group in their mid to late thirties sat together at one table, but, otherwise, the place was quiet with a couple in a corner booth and two individuals sitting at either end of the bar.
Charon hobbled across the room to sit on a stool at the center of the bar.
“What can I get for you, sir?” the bartender, a young woman in her twenties with short, black curls and a chocolate complexion, asked.
Charon had only ever drunk ambrosia and the wine of Dionysus. “You choose.”
The young woman smiled. “Are you thirsty for something sweet or sour? Something stiff or weak?”
“Something stiff and not sweet.”
“You’ll want a shot of whiskey then,” she said. “Do you have a favorite brand?”
Charon shook his head. “Give me your finest.”
The spunky bartender poured him a glass and set it before him.
She watched as he put the glass to his lips and tasted the whiskey.
“Mmm.” Charon gave her a smile. “This will do.”
“You look familiar,” the bartender said. “I think I’ve seen you before.”
Charon squinted at the inscription on her nametag. “That’s unlikely, Matilda.”
The bartender poured another drink and delivered it to the man at the far end of the bar. When she returned, she asked, “Are you from around here?”
“Nowhere near,” he said before taking another sip of the smooth whiskey.
“I know I’ve seen you before,” she said. “I bet I’ll figure it out before the night’s over.”
Charon lifted his glass, as if to toast her. “You do that.”
Matilda left to attend to the large group. When she returned, she said to Charon, “Enjoy the quiet while you can. It’s about to get busy in here.”
“What makes you say that?” he asked.
“The parade is nearly over.”
Charon frowned. “What parade?”
“Dia de los Muertos. You must have passed it on your way here. It’s been going on for three days.”
“The Day of the Dead?” Charon had never heard of such a thing.
“I guess you aren’t from around here.” Matilda poured five drinks and then delivered them to the large group.
Charon now had a vague memory of having learned about the celebration from some of the souls who boarded his skiff. Halloween. Melinoe’s night. Some of the dead who’d managed to escape Thanatos were rounded up and brought home. But the mortals believed the dead were released from their resting place and allowed to walk among them. Centuries ago, people disguised themselves out of fear, to blend in with the other ghosts. Somehow this tradition had become an elaborate, week-long festival, complete with music, art, dancing, costumes, and—according to Matilda—parades.
He wondered if it had been Apollo or Hades who’d decided to send Charon to the Upperworld during Dia de los Muertos. And, whoever it was, did he think he was being funny?
When Matilda returned behind the bar, she took a square, flat device from her trouser pocket and held it to her ear. Although she spoke into it softly, Charon could hear her every word. He realized she was speaking to someone on a phone.
Matilda was being told that someone named Makayla didn’t have much time to live, that Matilda needed to prepare herself and visit the hospital as soon as she was able.
The bartender wiped tears from her cheeks and returned the phone to her trouser pocket. When she noticed Charon’s empty glass, she asked, “Ready for another?”
Charon gave her a nod and watched her fill his glass before bringing it to his lips for another sip. Matilda’s dramatic change in mood unsettled him, so he said, “Death isn’t so bad, you know.”
She stopped mixing her next concoction and narrowed her eyes at him. “You sure have good ears for a person your age.”
He shrugged. “What can I say? That’s true.”
He took another sip of the whiskey, enjoying the numbing effect it was having on his aches and pains.
The bartender continued mixing her drinks but said, “I’m not worried for Makayla. I know she’s going to a good place. I’m worried for her little girls and the husband she’s leaving behind.” Tears fell down the young woman’s lovely face. “And I’m worried for me, her best friend.”
Charon didn’t know what to say. How could the loss of one person affect so many people?
“It may not seem like it now,” he began. “But life will go on for the rest of you. I doubt you’ll have any trouble making a new friend.”
Matilda’s face twisted into a deeper frown as more tears leaked from the corners of her eyes. Clearly, he’d said the wrong thing.
Just then the glass doors to the street swung open, and a crowd of people with painted faces and jeweled costumes burst into the bar, filling the remaining tables and booths. Their faces were painted white and resembled skulls. Some of the women wore black veils with short dresses, while others wore paper flowers in their hair and long, colorful skirts. Some of the men wore sombreros with black suits, while others were dressed in ragged clothing decorated with fake blood.
Matilda sighed, wiped her cheeks, and went to take their orders.
Charon watched the mortals dressed in their depictions of death and couldn’t help but laugh at them. They must be desperate for an excuse to have a party. Then he supposed one had to pass the time somehow, so why should he judge them?
When Matilda returned, looking haggard and pale, Charon leaned over the bar and said, “This might not mean much to you, but I thought you should know that you are the first real person with whom I’ve ever had a conversation.” He laid down a handful of the cash Thanatos had given him. “Thank you.”
Matilda stared at the money as her mouth dropped open in surprise. “That’s over two hundred dollars, sir.”
“You keep the change,” Charon said.
She covered his hand with hers as more tears slipped down her cheeks. “Your kindness couldn’t have come at a better time. Thanks so much.”
As Charon stood from the stool to leave, he found it easier to move. Apparently, speaking with someone had worked wonders on him. He wondered what good it would do to speak to a group. Maybe interacting with more people would multiply the effect.
He crossed over to the painted faces gathered around the tables and waved.
“I hope you enjoy your celebration,” he called out.
“Join us, Senor!” one of the men in a sombrero said to him. “Pull up a chair and have a drink on me!”
Charon would rather return to the lobby, rent a room, and retire in solitude, but because he hoped to regain more of his strength and stamina from the encounter, he accepted the young man’s offer. A chair was brought over from another table and scooted into the middle of the group, where Charon sat, despite his misgivings.
“What are you drinking?” the man with the sombrero asked. “Bartender, please bring this man another of whatever he’s having.”
Matilda brought him another whiskey, and it went down smooth.
“Thank you,” Charon said to the man with the sombrero.
“De nada, Senor,” the man said. “So, tell me, do you have any advice to give for how to live a long and fruitful life?”
Charon scratched his head beneath his fedora as the others in the group grew quiet and waited for his answer. “Avoid death.”
His new companions broke out in boisterous laughter.
“Claro que si!” The man in the sombrero stood up and held his glass aloft. “A toast! May we all avoid death as long as humanly possible!”
“Cheers!” one of the women shouted.
“Cheers! To avoiding death!” another said.
The group clinked their glasses together and drank to the toast. Charon felt himself feeling more energetic. For the first time in centuries, he straightened his back in his chair.
After a few more minutes, he stood to leave, thanking the man in the sombrero for the drink. He waved goodbye to Matilda and had already reached the lobby when she rushed to his side and said, “You forgot your cane.”
“Thank you,” he said, as he took it from her—though he no longer needed it. Then he added, “I hope you’ll get to see your friend once more before she dies.”
“It’s too late,” Matilda said, fighting sobs. “I just received word. She’s gone.”
A feeling quite foreign to Charon compelled him to comfort the poor mortal. He put his arms around her and cupped the back of her head with his hand.
“Not gone,” he said. “Just not here. She’s somewhere else.”
Matilda collapsed against him, and he was surprised that he could hold her weight. She was petite, but, before tonight, he could barely manage his own weight, much less that of another. More of his strength had returned.
He’d never held a living being against him like this. Her beating heart pounded against his, and her warm flesh was a comfort to him, even though he meant to comfort her. She smelled lovely. He felt as if he could hold her there, in the middle of the lobby, for a very long time.
“Thank you,” she said when she pulled away. But when she met his gaze, her brows furrowed into an expression of perplexity.
“What’s wrong?” he asked.
“Nothing.” She continued to stare up at him. “It’s just that, in this light, you seem much younger than I thought you were.”
Charon turned to look at his reflection in the mirrored wall behind the front desk of the lobby. He was fully upright and less thin—more robust. He had more hair on his head beneath his hat, though it remained gray. Instead of a man on his death bed, he looked like a respectable man in his sixties. He rather liked the change.
“You’re the reason for it,” Charon said, turning to Matilda. “You make me feel like a younger man.”
Matilda blushed and smiled. “Goodnight, sir.” She turned to leave.
“Goodnight.” He watched as she retreated to her place behind the bar.
Now a new feeling penetrated his heart. The only word he could think of to describe this new feeling was longing.
Get The Gatekeeper’s Sons for free on Amazon
Don’t forget to enter the contest for a chance to win a ton of signed books by me, David, and many others. To enter, you need to know that my favorite number is 175. Add up all the favorite numbers of the authors on the gold team and you’ll have the secret code to enter for the grand prize!
CONTINUE THE HUNT
To keep going on the YA Scavenger hunt, check out the next author: Paula Stokes.