Author Chat with Geoffrey Saign (Guardian - The Choice), Excerpt, Plus Giveaway! ~ (US Only)
Today we're excited to chat with Geoffrey Saign author of
Guardian - The Choice
Recently, Guardian, The Choice won the 2019 Outstanding YA Fiction IAN BOTY (Book of The Year) Award in the YA fiction category. And this week only, book one is on sale for .99 and book two is on sale for 2.99! Read on for more about Geoffrey and his book, an excerpt, plus an giveaway.
Meet Geoffrey Saign!
Geoffrey Saign’s love of wildlife led him to write the award-winning fantasy series, Magical Beasts. He often experiences the magic of nature and wildlife while hiking and swimming. He has a degree in biology and has assisted in field research on hummingbirds and humpback whales.
Geoff loves to sail big boats, hike, and cook—and he infuses all of his writing with his passion for nature. As a swimmer he considers himself fortunate to live in the Land of 10,000 Lakes, Minnesota. See what he’s up to at https://geoffreysaign.net/magical-beasts
Meet Guardian - The Choice!
A demon haunts Samantha Green's dreams.
And she fears it's coming for her...
When wildlife prodigy Sam and her crush—quirky handsome Jake—are attacked by a dragon assassin, Sam discovers her secret past. A past connected to a supernatural giant cat and a glowing faerie.
Sam is quickly pulled into a high stakes battle for the world. Everyone, including a creepy ancient villain, wants her supernatural staff, which she doesn’t know how to use. Sophisticated ninja dragons, a kong-sized gorilla, and mysterious beasts offer help—but are they friends or enemies? Sam has a big heart, but will her love for all creatures tear her life apart?
To survive the hardest choice she's ever made, Sam will have to unlock the hidden power inside her.
Ready or not, Sam is about to find out if she has what it takes to be a guardian…
Guardian: The Choice is the new exciting start of a magic-filled fantasy four book series starring a powerful heroine, a tough brawny hero, and a slew of not-so-friendly magical beasts.
~ Author Chat ~
YABC: What gave you the inspiration to write this book?
Two major elements in this book are Sam’s choice—save her father or the world?—and her love of wildlife. Both of these choices are current for today’s dilemma—what is going on with our planet and whether we will make choices to save it. I wanted to give readers a taste of both without preaching. Also I grew up reading thrillers and fantasy so it was exciting to write an action thriller with giant animals, dragons, and other creatures.
YABC: Who is your favorite character in the book?
I have many, but it would be a toss-up between Sam and Heshia. Sam is someone trying to be strong in the face of great adversity and danger, something all of us can relate to in our own lives when we face adversity and tough choices. Heshia is a mysterious creature, an immortal goddess-like individual with great wisdom—I love how unique, gentle, and wise she is.
YABC: Which came first, the title or the novel?
The novel! The title went through many transitions, and the current title pushed me to make some changes in the final rewrite.
YABC: What scene in the book are you most proud of, and why?
I love the opening. I love the twists and surprises at the end. I love the struggle Jake and Sam go through with each other. I love the introduction of the many strange and powerful characters they meet throughout the story.
YABC: Thinking way back to the beginning, what’s the most important thing you've learned as a writer from then to now?
Characters make a story, but I always knew that
YABC: What do you like most about the cover of the book?
It’s beautiful, pretty, bright, alive. It shows a powerful young woman, and a small dragon in the sky to hint at the many magical creatures in these books.
YABC: What new release book are you looking most forward to in 2019?
My own! Guardian, The Quest: Magical Beasts Book Two.
YABC: What’s up next for you?
I’m preparing the third book in the Magical Beasts series for release in February.
YABC: Which was the most difficult or emotional scene to narrate?
The final battle had a lot of characters involved and since the book is first person, through Sam’s eyes, I had to be careful in how I presented it. That battle also has several strong emotions coming to fruition in Sam, both in her strength, and sorrow, while at the same time she’s fighting for her life.
YABC: Which character gave you the most trouble when writing your latest book?
I wouldn’t say any character ‘gave me trouble’, but the challenge is to get the character right. The main characters pull the reader and story along, but the host of supporting characters add to the sense of adventure and fun.
YABC: Which part of the writing process do you enjoy more: Drafting or Revising?
All of it. I try to get the first draft 80-90% finished. I rewrite constantly as I go and I’m pretty efficient at it. Thus the final first draft is often close to the finished book. I have a great editor and she catches minor things I need to change, edit, or improve, but the heart and action of the story are already done. Thus I love rewriting, because I know I already have a strong book that editing will only make stronger.
YABC: Is there an organization or cause that is close to your heart?
Environmental groups worldwide who are striving to save all the beautiful creatures on land or in the sea that are threatened with extinction at the hands of the human race.
~ Excerpt ~
A guttural roar splits the evening air in the meadow, sending shivers along my bare arms.
I stand rigidly, listening, while I stare across the hundred-yard-wide circular pond at the distant Superior National Forest. Shadows hide everything in the thick woods. The roar was too loud for a bear, too wild and harsh for any animal in northern Minnesota.
My thoughts flash back to the fanged and clawed demon from my nightmares of the last two weeks. Coming to kill me as it does in my dreams. Can’t be real. Can’t be happening. I try to calm myself by breathing evenly.
Slowly I back up through the waist-high meadow grass, my legs stiff. I focus my gaze across the pond. Ski-tailed emerald dragonflies and red damselflies flit by, as do a few yellow jackets. Mink frogs creak from the shoreline. Everything seems normal, except for the roar.
I’m standing at the far eastern edge of Dad’s property. I have the staff with me, still wrapped in burlap. WhipEye. An odd name. I don’t know what it means, or how I know it.
Two specks of gold appear in the distant forest. They look like eyes. The rest of the body is hidden in shadows.
The demon in my nightmares has red eyes, but the gold still freaks me out because two weeks ago a gold tint appeared in my eyes, which are ocean-blue, and then in Jake’s eyes. That’s also when the staff began calling to me, and when the demon nightmares began. And I’ve been visiting this meadow more and more for some reason. After two weeks of all of it I feel buried in crazy.
I get out my phone and dial Jake. No signal. I check. No charge. My battery has been bad for a while and needs constant recharging. Dad is short on money so I didn’t want to pressure him about it. Way to go, Sam! You saved some money, but died.
The gold eyes move toward me through the trees, about eight feet off the ground. I turn and bolt like a jackrabbit.
The tall grass whips across my bare calves and lower thighs, my tennis shoes quiet on the soft earth. I run over the blackened rectangle of earth—all that’s left of our cabin that Rose burned to the ground a year ago.
I’m quickly out of the meadow and into thick forest. It’s a half hour sprint back to the house. I can’t maintain that, but I have a gut sense that my life depends on it.
Another roar splits the air. Prehistoric. Something closer to a dinosaur. I also sense anger.
My back stiffens and I pump my slender legs harder. Underbrush scratches my exposed skin. The burlap-wrapped six-foot staff in my right hand is slowing me down, making it awkward. But I’ll never let it go. It feels like my life depends on it too.
Another roar. Closer. I glance over my shoulder. Something is flying across the pond. Fragments of it appear through the tree trunks, but not enough for me to identify the creature—just bits and pieces of a dark, large shape. Maybe the demon has a twin with gold eyes. The idea that I’m hallucinating is hard to avoid.
My right foot hits a dead branch on the ground and I cry out and stumble forward, trying to prevent a fall. The thought of something landing on my back while I’m on the ground is a huge motivator to remain upright.
Whirling my arms, I manage to regain my balance and keep going. I want to scream for help. No one will hear. I’m too far away.
I’m in okay shape, but still breathing hard. Amped up on adrenaline. I glance over my shoulder again. The creature is flying through the trees, twenty feet off the ground, a hundred yards behind me. I still can’t make out the body, but the gold tinted eyes are clear. Damn. This can’t be happening to me.
Rounding a boulder, I look back—and almost stop. Whatever was chasing me is gone. Where is it?
I run, my heart pounding hard.
Glancing to the sides, red and jack pine block my view—their scent fills the air. I look over my shoulder. Zip. Where is it? I aim myself at a hiding place—I know every inch of Dad’s land.
A snarl splits the quiet of the forest. Startled, I look up. Above me a dark shape is flying over the treetops. Again I catch only glimpses through the canopy. How did it appear so suddenly? It’s faster than a bird.
Once more I flash back to the demon of my nightmares.
I finally give in to panic and shout as loud as I can, “Jake!”
It’s close to dinner. He’s cooking lasagna, my favorite. It’s August, so the house windows are open. Dad and Cynthia would be in the dining room. One of them has to hear me. Please hear me.
When I look up a second time, the creature has vanished.
A deep snort. Breaking branches behind me.
I veer around a tree trunk and look back. A small birch tree in the distance is knocked over. Another larger pine tree gets bumped and its branches shake. I don’t hear the creature’s pounding feet. A dark shape hidden in shadows. Freaky.
Circling around a fifteen-foot-high pile of boulders, I hear a loud thump! on the other side of it—the beast had to have jumped a hundred feet. Not slowing, I duck into a small opening at ground level in the stone pile.
Dropping to my butt, I scoot back into the side corner of a three-by-three-foot hole. Dragging in the staff, angling it into the opening, I shove it up into a crack between two boulders. Then I pull my knees up to my chest and wrap my arms around them. My long brown hair covers my face. I can’t see outside and hope that whatever is chasing me can’t see inside.
Something scratches its way across the rocks above me. Claws on stone. A snarl erupts. I sense fury.
Like a little girl hiding from the bogeyman, I close my eyes and quiet my breathing. More scratching across rocks. Then quiet.
I sit still. Sweat covers my skin. My hands are trembling.
Not trusting that, I wait five minutes. Then ten. Fifteen. The thing is fast enough to have caught me already. It has to be toying with me—like a cat with a mouse. I could wait it out. I’m only wearing frayed jean shorts and a black tank top—with a Native American design of a dolphin on it—but the nights are warm. I wouldn’t get hypothermia.
Jake. His voice is unusually high-pitched and he never calls me Sammy so he’s playing around. He mustn’t see the creature. It has to be hiding behind the boulders. Jake is running into a trap.
“Saaamyyy!” Jake follows with a whistle that sounds like an elk bugle call. For fun he sometimes tries to imitate animal calls.
Slowly leaning forward, I spot him in the distance. Not sprinting, just casually running.
I finger the small jade dolphin on my silver wrist bracelet. Jake gave it to me on my seventeenth birthday several months ago and I never take it off.
Trying to pump myself up, I whisper, “Just do it, Sam,” and quickly crawl out, the staff in my hands. My back is crawling with spiders of fear. I expect something to rip my head off from above.
Quickly out on my knees, I stand up fast and whirl. The rock pile is bare, but I can’t see behind it. I turn and run.
Jake is still running and he flashes his goofy grin at me, which I fell for long ago. “Why are you hiding?” he calls.
In seconds I’m panting hard, running toward him, waving my hand to go back and mouthing in silence, “Run!”
His smile fades fast. He stops fifty feet away, waiting, his brown eyes glinting gold—another eerie reminder that something is wrong. Our parents brought us to doctors to get tested. But supposedly we’re healthy. No one can figure it out.
“What’s wrong, Sam?” he asks, his voice quieter.
Keeping my voice soft too, my jaw tight, I gasp, “Run!”
His face scrunches up—which happens when he’s worried. I think it’s about me, which is comforting.
He’s wearing khaki cargo shorts and a banana-yellow tee. His skin tone is a deep brown and his straight hair is jet black. His facial features are defined and balanced in a way which make him look friendly, and handsome. He says he’s an American mutt, with a blend of eight ethnicities, including German, Native American, Spanish, and Guatemalan.
He turns before I arrive and easily keeps pace with me. He’s a fluid runner. We sprint beside each other and I feel a tiny bit safer. At six feet, he has five inches on me and his arms are strong.
“What’s the hurry, partner?” he whispers.
“Did you see anything on the boulders or in the trees when you were running toward me?” I look over my shoulder, to the sides, and above us.
“Nothing, babe. What’s wrong?”
He uses terms of endearment with me sometimes. I don’t mind. I’ve had a crush on him for as long as I’ve known him. He’s my best friend and I can’t imagine my life without him.
“Something’s chasing me.” Jittery from head to toe, I keep my gaze roving.
“Are you sure?”
“I’m not making this up, Jake.”
He frowns and glances over his shoulders and around in the forest. He’s good at picking out details, but I don’t feel any better when he says, “Just a squirrel to the east. You know all the wildlife in this region. What do you think it was?”
“I don’t know.” How could something that large just disappear? It would have to be very very fast. Fast enough to catch us without effort.
“A bear or cougar?” he offers.
“Much bigger. And flying.” I expect him to look at me like I’m crazy, but instead he bites his lip and continues to glance around us as we run.
“We should talk, Sam.”
Another roar erupts in the forest.
“That’s a freaking monster!” Jake’s eyes widen and he picks up the pace, forcing me to run all out to keep up.
I don’t think we’re going to have time to talk.
The roars chase us all the way to Dad’s ten fenced acres holding Green’s Wildlife and Sanctuary Shelter for injured animals.
My arms are still shaking as I shut the gate behind us and peer through the ten-foot-tall chain-link fence. Nothing in the trees or sky. Yet I feel like I’m being watched. I also feel a little less crazy because Jake can hear the creature too. The roars are getting closer. It’s coming. Whatever the creature was holding out for, I think it’s done waiting.
The female Canadian lynx and male bobcat are standing up in their large pens on either side of me, hissing as they stare at the forest behind the fencing.
“Come on, Sam!”
I whirl and sprint after Jake across the back acre, past the old greenhouse. The other animals are all standing alert in their pens along the fence, and some of the hawks are screeching.
Jakes stops abruptly, putting his arm in front of me as three white-tailed deer bolt by in front of us. We keep running as the deer bound to the northwest fence corner and huddle wide-eyed with the others, their ears and tails straight up.
Our houses are on a dead-end dirt road. With only a few neighbors it’s secluded and quiet for the animals, but it also means we don’t have anyone else to go to for help.
Running up the porch steps, I give one more glance at the forest and sky.
Jakes looks too, and whispers, “I’m freaking out, Sam.”
“You and I need to talk before we say anything weird to Dad and Cynthia,” I whisper.
Jake stares at me, and then nods. “Alright.”
Entering the back door, I hustle down the extra-wide hallway running from the back door to the front. Halfway down, I set the staff against the wall just outside the dining room entrance. I don’t want to answer questions about WhipEye, at least not yet. Dad thinks our elderly renter, Rose, gave me the staff, but I don’t remember that either.
When I enter the dining room, Dad and Cynthia are staring out the north window. Soft music is playing and the table is set with place settings and food.
Dad turns, frowning. A mop of sandy hair, jeans, and a T-shirt cover his lean body. “Did you see what’s roaring out there, Sam?”
“You heard it too?” I feel better just knowing that he heard it.
“Of course we did. Did you see it, Sam?”
I shake my head and grip the back of a chair with both hands.
Dad looks at all of us. “It could be a sick bear. They can amp up their roars so much they don’t even sound like bears anymore.”
“It’s not a bear, Dad!” I blurt. “Way bigger. Megafauna. Something larger than anything we have around here. I saw it flying. It’s huge.”
I decide then and there that I have to tell everyone about the demon nightmares and the staff calling to me. It sounds desperate and heavy, and we’re supposed to be celebrating Jake’s seventeenth birthday and Dad and Cynthia’s engagement. I also kind of wanted to figure out the nightmares and staff on my own, but the appearance of the creature doesn’t give me any choice now.
“Sam, you know every animal on the planet, so what’s your best guess?” Cynthia brushes back her black bangs, her brown eyes steady. Tall and slender, her sharp-featured face is calm, her skin a light brown.
“It stayed far enough above the trees or behind me so I never could make it out clearly. But whatever was chasing me had gold-tinted eyes, like Jake and me.” I look at her and Dad, working out what to say.
Dad stares at me. He knows I don’t make things up.
“I’m calling work, then the police.” Cynthia is already dialing her phone.
Relieved, I wait.
A US Fish and Wildlife agent, Cynthia specializes in illegally trafficked exotic animals. She came straight from work and is wearing a white blouse, slacks, and a blue blazer that conceals her gun.
In moments she pulls her phone down. “I can’t get a signal.”
Dad tries his phone next. He shakes his head, frowning. “No signal.”
I stiffen. “Mine’s dead. No charge.”
Jake quickly has his phone in hand. In seconds he says, “Me neither!” He motions toward the front of the house. “Let’s take Mom’s SUV and get out of here!”
A loud crunch! splits the air. It came from outside and we all stare toward the front of the house. A second crash occurs before we scramble to the front big bay window.
In the driveway the roofs of Cynthia’s SUV and Dad’s pickup truck are both smashed down to the door handles, as if someone dropped a wrecking ball on top of each of them. Undriveable.
"What the heck?" exclaims Dad.
“That’s impossible,” murmurs Jake.
“The creature knew we might try to drive away.” I look at everyone. “This thing is intelligent.” It makes the demon theory even more plausible, and scary.
“Should we run for town?” Jake backs up from the window.
We all turn to him and exclaim together, “No!”
Jake raises both hands. “All right, bad idea. Glad you all agree.”
The front bay window darkens, taking all of our attention. Another roar sends us backing up.
A loud bang! occurs and the west wall of the dining room pushes in slightly. We all stare wide-eyed at the wall.
Cynthia unbuttons her blazer and I can see her gun. She and Dad exchange glances.
“Let’s stay calm.” Dad talks quickly. “We’ll shut and lock doors and windows. Cynthia and I will take the lower level, Sam and Jake you take the second floor. Stay out of view. Predators usually react to movement.”
“Windows won’t stop this thing.” Jake looks pale. “Neither will doors.”
Dad nods. “True. But predators sometimes don’t want to go through glass or closed openings.”
The west wall is banged again, and Dad and Cynthia whirl to face it. Cynthia pulls her gun, holding it alongside her thigh.
Dad turns to us. “Go!”
“Got it, Dad!” I run out of the room with Jake, grabbing WhipEye as I do. As I leave, I trip on a hall rug and nearly fall. “Klutz,” I mutter.
I hurry across the hallway and bound up the wide staircase. Our house is old and everything is mansion-spacious, including the rooms. My arms are stiff as I pull on the rickety railing.
We hustle into Dad’s bedroom first. It’s a large room, and his balcony doors are wide open. Cautiously we sidle along the walls up to the doors on both sides, and peek out. Nothing. Quickly we swing the doors shut and lock them.
We run into my bedroom next. A mosaic of thousands of photos of wild animals and massive trees like sequoia, redwood, and Douglas fir cover my bedroom walls. Mom helped me create it over the years. She loved big trees and she had a gift with wild animals.
I set the staff against my bed and crouch behind my painting easel to peek out the window. Seeing nothing, I close the east window, while Jake takes the south. Finished, I see Jake slowly backing up, staring at a shadow outside his window.
I stop near my bed, watching. Waiting. I glance at WhipEye. Some of the burlap has fallen away from the top of it.
The chestnut-colored staff is the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen. Two inches thick, it has dozens of exquisitely carved, lifelike miniature animal heads along its outer surface. The animal faces seem familiar to me, beyond just recognizing the species of reptiles, birds of prey, and mammals. It’s strange that I can’t recall how I obtained something so stunning.
The shadow outside the window disappears, and Jake is quickly beside me.
He glances at me, keeping one eye on the windows. “Okay,” he says softly. “You wanted to talk, let’s talk. Fast. Why did you bring the staff into the forest?”
“I really don’t know.” I haven’t brought it out of my closet for a year, but the staff has been calling to me for two weeks now—reaching into my marrow—as if to say Hold me! I’ve resisted doing that because something equally as strong inside said Don’t! I finally gave in to it today.
“Do you ever feel it…like…you know…calling to you?” Jake’s hands whirl.
I swallow on a dry mouth. “Okay, the staff has been driving me crazy for weeks.”
He lifts an eyebrow. “Why didn’t you tell me?”
“I didn’t want to sound crazy. What was I supposed to say? Hey, Jake, guess what? A stupid staff is calling to me.”
“You can always share anything with me, Sam. You know that. Even if it is crazy.”
I realize something then. “So the staff has been calling you too? Why didn’t you tell me?”
“Like you said, it sounded crazy.”
I finally notice the new tattoo on his left forearm. He told me he was going to get one for his birthday. A black dragon. That bothers me for some reason.
Jake’s forehead furrows. “My sleep has been twisted for weeks.”
He chews his lip. “I’ve tried talking to you for weeks.”
“I haven’t been the best listener.” My jaw clenches.
“This is going to sound really spooky.” He glances at both windows, and we can hear Cynthia and Dad downstairs, their voices soft. “I’ve had scary dreams during the daytime for two weeks.” He stops to check out my expression. “That makes me sound like a little kid, right?”
“I was hoping for ten to twelve.”
His words bring back the image of the demon nightmare in full force. And the creature outside. The sense of danger is almost overpowering now, as if I’m standing on railroad tracks facing a racing locomotive and can’t get out of the way. “Do the dreams feel like daydreams or visions?”
“I’m not sure.” He gestures to nothing in particular. “But they’re more than just dreams.” His hands swirl wildly. “It was intense today. I had three! I think I’m hallucinating. And I’m not on any medication.” He looks thoughtful. “Though I did have a lot of maple syrup at breakfast today. Buckwheat blueberry pancakes.”
His hands stop. “Did I say the dreams are creepy?”
“Can’t be worse than mine,” I mutter.
“Oh yeah? What—”
He’s interrupted by a loud creak on the roof. Something massive just settled on top of the house. We both stare at the bedroom ceiling. Quiet.
Jake’s face tightens and he points an index finger up and down several times at the ceiling. We back up toward the bedroom door.
I have to keep talking or I’m going to scream. “Okay, weird dreams during the day. And?”
Jake nods vigorously. “You and I are on top of a hill. It’s dark and stormy and there are all kinds of huge creatures. Monsters. Dragons.” He stops to face me. “It feels real. Isn’t that weird?”
The hair on the back of my neck is standing on end. He’s starting to freak me out even more because that’s how the demon image felt when I woke up this morning. Real. “Okay, that is weird.”
“I know, right? It gets worse. There’s a monster two-headed cobra and a giant demon of some kind.”
I gape at him. “Is the demon a woman with fangs, claws, red eyes, and a tattered black cloak?”
“That’s it!” he exclaims.
We stare at each other.
“How can we both be dreaming about the same freaking demon for two weeks?” I’m relieved that I’m telling him, and even more relieved that I’m not the only one experiencing all the crazy stuff.
“You think we have a psychic heart link? Like we’re connected at the soul level?” He looks earnestly at me.
He eyes the ceiling. “How come you didn’t tell me about the nightmares?”
I shrug. “I thought it sounded crazy.”
“Loser.” His hand cuts the air. “It makes no sense. Gold-tinted eyes, demon dreams, and the staff calling us—all in the last two weeks.” His voice is a whisper. “Do you think the demon is outside? On the roof?”
“It crossed my mind.”
“This is so freakin’ insane.” His voice lowers. “In my dreams it feels like we’re going to die, Sam.”
“Sam.” Jake points out the east window, his eyes wide.
I see something flash by outside, but what I focus on is WhipEye. The sudden urge to hold the six-foot staff makes my hands sweat.
I step toward it, but stop as the sound of splintering wood and breaking glass fills my ears. A giant green foot with black claws tears through the side of the house, shredding the animal photographs on the wall. My dresser falls over, but my legs won’t move. At least I was wrong. It’s not a demon. I wish it was a dream though, because it’s way too vivid. And huge.
Guardian - The Choice
By: Geoffrey Saign
Release Date: July 14th, 2019
One will receive a signed paperback copy & five winners will receive a e-copy of Guardian - The Choice (Geoffrey Saign) ~ (US Only)
*Click the Rafflecopter link below to enter the giveaway*
Adorable cover image. I've loved animals since I was a kid, super excited to see an animal expert as a leading lady!