Spotlight on The Wood (Chelsea Bobulski), Plus Excerpt & Giveaway!
Today we're excited to spotlight Chelsea Bobulski's novel The Wood.
Read on for more about Chelsea and her book, plus an excerpt and giveaway!
Meet Chelsea Bobulski!
Chelsea Bobulski was born in Columbus, Ohio and raised on Disney movies, classic musicals, and Buckeye pride. She graduated from The Ohio State University with a degree in history, and promptly married her high school sweetheart. As a writer, she has a soft spot for characters with broken pasts, strange talents, and obstacles they must overcome for a brighter future. She now lives in Northwest Ohio with her husband, daughter, and one very emotive German Shepherd/Lab mix. THE WOOD (Feiwel & Friends/Macmillan; August 1, 2017) is her debut novel.
Meet The Wood!
Do not travel from the paths.
Do not linger after dark.
Do not ignore the calling.
Winter didn't ask to be the guardian of the wood, but when her dad inexplicably vanishes, she's the one who must protect travelers who accidentally slip through the wood's portals.
The wood is poisoned, changing into something more sinister. Once brightly colored leaves are now bubbling inky black. Vicious creatures that live in the shadows are becoming bolder, torturing lost travelers. Winter must now put her trust in Henry--a young man from eighteenth century England who knows more than he should about the wood--in order to find the truth and those they've lost.
Bobulski's eerie debut is filled with friendship, family, and the responsibilities we choose and those we do not.
It doesn’t happen until I’ve been in the wood for an hour, walking the paths that never end, flicking Dad’s Swiss Army knife open and closed.
But it’s inevitable. A traveler always comes.
The sound of footsteps behind me starts as a whisper, a shuffling. A sound that could be explained away as something normal if I were still in my world— a squirrel skittering across a path, leaves rustling overhead. But this sound is neither of those things. I stop, my body rigid, as it draws closer.
Thud- thud- thud. Boots pounding against packed earth.
This traveler is running, which makes him unusual. Most stumble their way onto the paths without meaning to. They walk in circles, their breathing labored as they try not to panic. I’ve found some cradled in the fetal position on the ground, crying to go home. I’ve found others trying so hard to keep it together that they refuse to look at me. They think I’m a figment of their imagination. They don’t know I’m more real than they are.
Running is rare. Running implies fear. Implies purpose. This one is either desperate to be found, or desperate to escape. Either way, desperation makes for a dangerous traveler. Speed and a poor sense of direction can lead to a traveler falling through one of the many thresholds that hide between the trees, and then they’ll be lost. In another time, another place. Somewhere I can’t follow. I have to stop him now, before it’s too late.
I wait until I hear rushed breathing over the footsteps, the faint rustling of leaves as arms swing past overgrowth, and then I turn and run toward the intersection behind me.
He comes out of nowhere, but so do I. He doesn’t even notice me until my arms are already wrapped around his body. He hits the ground hard. I scramble on top of him, my knees pinning his arms at his sides. He struggles against me. He’s strong, and he’s got at least forty pounds on me, judging by the solid wall of corded muscles trying to throw me off. Swearing, I pull my knife out of my back pocket and press the blade against his throat.
Two scuffles in less than twenty- four hours. Either these travelers are getting feistier, or I’m becoming crotchety in my old age.
“From whence do you come?” I ask him. Blue veins swell against the paper- white skin of his neck as he bucks against me. I dig the knife in deeper in case he gets any ideas, just enough to dent his flesh. He won’t be able to move now without seriously injuring himself. I ask the question again, this time in Latin.
“Off with you, woman,” he spits. English, then.
“Not until you answer the question.”
I usually try to have more tact than this. The last thing I want to do is frighten someone who’s already losing his mind, but he’s not afraid, at least not of the wood. I’ve seen what it looks like to be afraid of this place, in the faces of travelers who have begun to give up hope, and in my dad’s face toward the end, when he had finally given up hope, as well.
This guy wants to be here. He stares up at me. He’s young— seventeen, maybe eighteen. His dark blond hair hangs low in his eyes, which are the same color as the shaded grass surrounding him. “I will not return.”
“I’m afraid you don’t have a choice.” I decide to take a different route. “What year is it?”
He laughs, a mocking sound that rumbles through my chest. “You cannot fool me with that, Madam. Time is of little consequence here.”
My brow arches. “So you know about the wood, then?”
“I told you, I will not return,” he says, his voice tight as he strains against me. “Not until I have done what I must.”
“Unfortunately for you, I can’t just let you waltz right out of here. It goes against my job description.”
His face screws up like he’s trying to make sense of what I just said. He knocks his head back against the ground and sighs.
“You cannot make me go anywhere.”
“Oh, I beg to differ.”
I need to get him out of here, and this back- and- forth stuff isn’t working for me. It may be a slow after noon so far, but that doesn’t mean anything, and I don’t want to be distracted by another traveler and accidentally let one—or both— slip through the cracks.
I press the knife harder into his throat. “I’m guessing by your accent and your clothes that you’re British, from the eighteenth or early nineteenth century. Close enough?”
His chest rises and falls as he tries to catch his breath. “You cannot send me back if I do not say. Travelers must be returned to their own time and place and no other.”
My eyes widen. “How do you know that?”
“I would rather not say.”
There was a time, or so I’ve been told, when the wood’s secrets were common knowledge in our world, before they passed into the realm of fairy tales. So I guess it’s not that surprising that I would eventually come across a traveler who knows what this wood is, what it does. But that knowledge doesn’t give him the right to cross into my time— which seems to be where he was headed, judging by his trajectory—or any other, for that matter.
“You’re right, I do have to send you back to your own time and place.” I shrug. “Give or take fifty years.”
“You lie,” he says, but there’s the tiniest spark of doubt— or maybe fear—in his eyes, and it’s all I need.
“It isn’t an exact science, you know. So you have a choice. I can send you back through the right threshold, or I can guess and send you back anyway. I may be right; I may be wrong. It won’t matter much to me either way. But if I am wrong, you’ll live without your family, without your property, and without everything else you’ve built for yourself for the rest of your life.
Which will it be?”
He moves fast, pulling an arm out from underneath my grasp and laying his hand over mine, pushing the blade away from his neck. The knife nicks him in the process, and a drop of blood beads on his skin, lazily dripping down his collar bone. He lifts his head and stares into my eyes.
“Even were that true, which I know very well it is not, I have lost everything already.” His voice cracks, and the brittle sound pierces my heart. “That is why I am here. Please. Let me pass.”
“I can’t.” I say it with conviction, with all the authority my position bestows upon me, but I can’t quite meet his pained gaze.
He lets out a frustrated breath. I decide to try one more time. “From whence—”
“Brightonshire. The third of June in the year of our Lord, 1783.”
I exhale but don’t move. “Now the question is, are we going to do this the easy way, or the hard way?”
“I will not give you any trouble.”
I don’t believe him, so when I push away from him and stand, I grip the coin dangling from my makeshift bracelet and rub my thumb over the ancient glyphs carved into its face. The glyphs light up, pure white on black obsidian.
He stands slowly, wipes the dirt from his breeches. The silk stockings beneath his knees are torn, his leather shoes flecked with mud. The white linen shirt he wears beneath his open coat is damp and clings to his chest. Muscles that would put Trevor’s to shame stick to the fabric, looking sharp enough to cut diamonds.
My stomach flutters, and I silently curse my hormones. Even if it weren’t highly unprofessional, this is no boy to be checking out.
In my time, he’s long past dead.
I tuck the knife into my back pocket and gesture toward the path behind him, where sunlight filters through the canopy in lemon- yellow strips. “After you.”
He straightens, tugging on the hem of his coat. “I apologize, Madam, for I have no intention of returning. Please move aside. I would rather not harm you.”
I smile, and it catches him off guard. “The hard way works, too.”
He hesitates, just a moment, but it’s enough. By the time he’s started running toward me, I’ve already opened my mouth.
“Sahabri’el.” The word rushes past my lips in a voice that is not entirely my own. This voice trills its r’s and practically chokes on its h’s. It is a dead language that has not been heard outside the wood for thousands of years, and it stops him cold.
The coin pulses against my wrist as the word travels through the trees. It all seems slower to me— the sound of the voice drifting on the air, growing louder as it moves farther away; the widening of the boy’s eyes and the falter in his steps as the odd language tickles his ears— but I know, for him, it takes less than a second, and then he is surrounded by a net of blue fireflies.
My last resort.
He lifts his hand toward them, their light shining against his palm.
I shake my head. “I wouldn’t do that—”
There’s a zap, and the smell of burnt knuckle hair singes my nostrils. The boy pulls his hand back and cradles it against his chest. Small, red burns dot the tips of his fingers. He grits his teeth hard and starts to barrel forward.
“Stop!” I yell.
He does, eyeing me with distrust.
“You can try to move through them faster or harder or whatever it is you think you need to do,” I say, “but the burns will only get worse. Now”— I cross my arms over my chest— “are you ready to follow me like a good little boy?”
The emotion flickers through his eyes so quickly I almost miss it.
But it isn’t what I expected. It’s deep and filled with a pain so intense, I’ve only ever seen it once before, in my mother’s eyes. On the day our world shattered. And I can’t help but wonder, What the hell happened to him to leave him looking so utterly devastated?
No. I can’t read too much into his life. Can’t let myself become curious. Every one feels pain at some point or another. It doesn’t give him the right to cross time and muck everything up.
He follows me down the path without saying a word. The fireflies buzz like static around him as we twist and turn through the trees. Ten minutes pass. Twenty. I can feel his eyes on me, but I don’t look back.
Even though I want to.
We finally reach his threshold, the words Brightonshire, England carved into the shingle hanging above it. The fireflies unfold from their net, allowing him to move forward, through his threshold, while creating a wall behind him, blocking his escape.
He gives me a sidelong look. “I will return, and I will find a way around you.”
I shake my head. “I don’t think so, Jack.”
“That is not my name.”
“It’s an expression.”
“It is an odd one.” He studies me. “You are not what I expected.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
But he doesn’t answer me. He takes a step forward, through the threshold, and dis appears. Back to Brightonshire, in the year of our Lord, 1783.
I glance down at my hand. There’s a scrape on my wrist from my less- than- graceful tackle. I’ll have to hide it from Mom. It’s hard enough for her to accept what I do without seeing evidence of the occasional scuffle. I rub my thumb over the coin and leave a message for Uncle Joe. Trouble at the Brightonshire threshold. Sent home a traveler who seems desperate to come back. It’ll need to be watched until we can find a more permanent solution.
I don’t have to actually say the words— the coin records my thoughts. It’s a safety precaution, so that guardians can communicate with members of the council without giving away their position to any unsuspecting travelers who might hear their voice and run. I get its importance, I do, but sometimes I wonder if that’s all the coin is— a magical walkie- talkie with another couple of neat tricks attached. Or if it’s more than that. If someone could use it to read the thoughts I don’t want them to read.
I swear, the more time I spend in here, the more I start to sound as paranoid as Dad.
An hour later, I’ve returned two more travelers to their homes— one in Los Angeles, 1986, another in Shanghai, 1450—and Uncle Joe has replied to my message.
You are the permanent solution, his voice echoes in my head.
I was afraid of that.
By: Chelsea Bobulski
Release Date: August 1st, 2017
Publisher: Feiwel & Friends
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The cover is gruesome - it makes me think of the news stories where the authorities find a body in the woods. The summary is interesting, so I added this to my wishlist.
I've heard so much buzz about this book!
The concept is intriguing: Time traveling portals, vicious creatures.. And hey! Let's throw in a little potential for romance while were at it!
Oh yea! It's going to be one heck of an amazing read!
The cover, while simple, is chilling.
The cover is just creepy enough that it really draws you in!! The synopsis sounds so cool! I think this book is gonna be a great read!
The cover is super creepy. I mean blood dripping off of a leaf? Intriguing. This synopsis sounds sooo good! I am looking forward to getting my hands on this one!
The cover makes me sad for some reason, it definitely screams murder. Korrina from OwlCrate gave this five stars, needless to say I can't wait to read it!