Blog Tour, Interview + GC Giveaway! Penumbras by Braden Bell


About the Book:

Penumbras (Middle School Magic #2) by Braden Bell

Age Range: 9 and up

Paperback: 320 pages

Publisher: Cedar Fort, Inc. (July 9, 2013)

Series: Middle School Magic #2

Genre: Fantasy


Conner Dell didn’t meant to blow up the school bus.

Or the bathrooms.

In fact, he only wanted to go to sleep and possibly dream about Melanie Stephens.
But explosions had a funny way of happening when Conner and his friends were around.


Conner Dell wants to be good–he really does. But he is terrified that he might be turning into a Darkhand, especially when new powers start to surface. What’s worse, the Stalker is following Conner, but no one else seems to be able to see him. The Magi think he might be hallucinating, the guilt of what happened in the Shadowbox keeps weighing on him, and his relationship with Melanie Stephens is complicating things. Even for a Magi, Conner knows his life is anything but normal.


About Braden Bell:

Braden Bell grew up in Farmington, Utah and graduated from Davis High School. He earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in theatre from Brigham Young University and a Ph.D. in educational theatre from New York University. He and his wife, Meredith live  with their five children on a quiet, wooded lot outside of Nashville, Tennessee, where he teaches theatre and music at a private school. An experienced performer, Braden enjoys singing, acting, reading, gardening, and long walks with the dog.

Interview with Braden Bell:

1. If you could visit any time or place, when and where would you go?
I have always been fascinated by Victorian England. I would probably go there. But only to visit. I’m too fond of sanitation, modern medicine, and air conditioning to want to stay too long.

2. If you could only read 3 books for the rest of your life, what would they be?
Well, there are some religious books I read every day, so I would say the Bible and the Book of Mormon would be in the top two. However, if we were to leave those aside, I’d say: The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes (read that almost every year), Les Miserables and probably the first Harry Potter book. I enjoyed reading that so much! It was so fun and new and magical.

3. How did you get the idea for this series?
One night during a sky-splitting spring thunderstorm, my kids came home from a church activity and told me about a man they had seen driving home. He had a black cape and was walking across people’s yards in the storm. Wondering about who he was and what he was doing triggered the idea for the book.

4. What is your favorite thing about writing for children?
I love that the age group for whom I write is unabashedly enthusiastic. I get emails and comments from readers and they are full of enthusiasm and excitement. It’s very gratifying. I also like that they have a wonderful sense of humor and you can explore ideas and themes and still keep the book clean.

5. Is there anything about writing that you find particularly challenging?
One of my biggest challenges if just finding time. But also, organization is something I have to work out. I have million ideas. They pop up all the time. Taking time to organize them into a plot, to organize the structure of the story, and then to discipline myself to finish one before starting a new one–that all takes some effort.

6. When did you know that you wanted to be a writer?
It’s something I think I was conscious of for a very long time. I always loved to read and I think I saw the two as being linked. I’d read something interesting, and then I’d write my own version. When I was perhaps 9 or 10, I set up an office in the closet under our stairs. This was my writer’s office and I had paper and pens and freshly sharpened pencil. I spent a happy summer in there writing.

7. What is the one book that everyone should read?
Oh goodness, I am so bad at these kind of questions! I am very eclectic and wide ranging in things I like, I have a hard time coming up with one idea!

8. What do you like to do in your free time? 
My wife and I love to watch old movies, or adaptations of literary classics. Nearly anything by the BBC! I also love working in my yard.

9. What is your favorite flavor of ice cream?
Bluebell Pumpkin Spice.

10. Do you like milk chocolate or dark chocolate?

11. Do you have any hidden talents?
I can consume amazing amounts of pizza and Mexican food.

12. If there is one piece of advice you could give to kids, what would it be?
Work hard in school and listen to your parents.

13. Do you have anything new in the works?
I am almost done with the first draft of the 3rd book in the Middle School Magic series. I also have two YA paranormal books in various stages.

14. What did you want to be when you grew up?
A teacher and a writer. There were flirtations with other things, but those were the most constant ones.

15. If you could have any superpower, what would it be?
Honestly at this point, I would love to have my young adult metabolism back–based on my answer to number 11. Lots of energy would be great too!


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Conner Dell didn’t mean to blow up the school bus.
Or the bathrooms.
In fact, he only wanted to go to sleep and possibly dream about Melanie Stephens.
But explosions had a funny way of happening when Conner and his friends were around.
It all started on the annual seventh grade science trip to the Sea Lab at Dauphin Island, Alabama. Fifty-four thirteen-year-olds on a five-day field trip. What could
go wrong?
Especially when three of them happened to be Magi.


For a fraction of a second, Conner thought he saw shadows slithering along the base of the cinderblock walls. Tensing, he blinked and looked again.
Nothing. He was alone in the darkness of his dorm room.
Well, except for his friend and fieldtrip roommate, Pilaf.
Across the room, Pilaf disturbed the darkness by turning his flashlight on and digging through a giant floral print suitcase. Fishing a book out, Pilaf hunched over, tucked the flashlight under his chin, and read.
“What are you reading?” Conner asked.
“Sorry. Did I wake you up?” Pilaf squeaked. “I couldn’t sleep. I guess I slept too much on the bus.”
“No worries.” Conner burrowed into his sleeping bag. He didn’t like messing with sheets on these trips. The springs of the ancient bed creaked beneath him. “I’m not sleepy either.” Lexa? Can you hear me? Conner reached out in his thoughts, wondering if his twin sister was awake in her room on the girls’s floor. Head-talking was a cool benefit of being one of the Magi—a secret group of warriors who used the power of Light to battle evil.
No answer from Lexa. Her allergy medicine must have knocked her out.
Melanie? He tried Lexa’s best friend, Melanie Stephens—also one of the Magi-in-training. Conner listened for her response, trying to ignore the backflip in his chest that came when he thought of her. No answer. Melanie had taken something for motion sickness on the bus. She must be knocked out too.
Conner jerked up as something skittered across the ceiling right above him. No doubt this time. He grabbed his own flashlight, raking the beam across the ceiling tiles as someone whispered his name.
“What?” Conner pointed his flashlight at Pilaf, who looked up from his book, blinking behind his thick glasses. Pilaf’s blinks always reminded Conner of the way a light on a computer blinked when it processed data.
“What?” Pilaf squinted back at him.
“Why did you call me?” Conner asked.
“I didn’t.” Pilaf looked down at his book.
On edge now, Conner lay back down, scanning the room for more shadowy movement, his fingers ready to snap his flashlight back on at any second.
Co-n-n-e-r-r-r-r-r-r D-e-l-l-l-l-l.
A whispered, hissing sort of growl sounded in his head as a flicker of movement caught his eye. He whipped his head around in time to see a shadowy tail vanish under Pilaf’s bed. Flipping his flashlight on, he investigated the space under the metal frame.
Nothing there.
“What are you doing, Conner?” Pilaf managed to blink and stare at the same time.
Trying to protect you from slithery shadow monsters that could slurp your soul like a slushie, Conner thought. How could he keep the flashlight on without alarming Pilaf? Out loud, he said, “Uh, it’s a game. Flashlight tag. You’re it.” He shined the flashlight at Pilaf.
“How do you play?”
“Well . . . one person’s it and he shines a flashlight all over the room.”
“That’s all?” Pilaf blinked until Conner wondered if he was broadcasting the telephone book in Morse code. “It seems kind of pointless.”
“Uh, yeah.” Conner said. “You’re right. Lame. How about shadow puppets?” He slipped his hand in front of the flashlight, wiggling his fingers until the shadow resembled a horse.
“Cool!” Pilaf shouted.
A knock at the door interrupted them and a tired-looking science teacher poked his head in, glaring beneath tousled red hair. “What’s going on in here?”
“Sorry, Mr. Keller,” Pilaf said. “We slept on the bus ride, so we’re not tired. Conner’s making shadows with his hands. Look, a horse!”
“Neeeiiiiggghhh.” Conner threw in sound effects as a special feature.
Apparently unimpressed with great art, Mr. Keller frowned. “Get some sleep. We have a full day tomorrow.”
“Yes, sir.” Conner swallowed his depression at the thought of a five-day science class. Five days of plankton, ocean salinity, salt marshes, and beach ecology. Five days of science, 24/7. At least they were close to the beach. That might be fun.
“Do another one,” Pilaf whispered as the sound of Mr. Keller’s footsteps retreated down the hall.
“Okay, but be quiet this time.” Conner opened his fingers, making a snake’s mouth, complete with a flickering tongue.
It seemed so real that Conner thought he heard a hiss. Unsettled, he dropped his hands, but the hissing noise continued, twisting into words.
Co-n-n-e-r-r-r-r-r-r D-e-l-l-l-l-l—
Trying to squash the sound, Conner raised his voice. “Here’s another one.” He cupped his hands on top of each other, stuck his thumb up, and opened his fingers slightly.
“Wow!” Pilaf yelled. “A wolf!” He giggled as Conner opened the mouth and growled. “Little pig, little pig let me come in.” Conner prayed that none of the other seventh-grade boys heard he’d been doing Three Little Pigs shadow plays. That would not be cool.
Co-n-n-e-r-r-r-r-r-r D-e-l-l-l-l-l—
The weird voice came louder. Conner dropped his hands away from the flashlight.
The wolf head stayed there.
Fighting panic, Conner switched the flashlight off, but the wolf head remained, darker than the darkest shadows on the wall.
It stretched and grew bigger, becoming life-sized within seconds. It turned and stared at Conner, a three-dimensional head sticking out of the wall like some kind of freaky hunting souvenir.
The wolf growled, then jumped off the wall, and sailed across the room toward Conner.

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  • Reply
    July 10, 2013 at 2:24 pm

    Thank you very much, Dena! That was a fun interview.

    • Reply
      July 11, 2013 at 12:41 am

      Thanks Braden! I love all your answers. I had no idea that Pumpkin Spice ice cream actually existed, but I'm going to have to try it now. 🙂

  • Reply
    July 11, 2013 at 1:04 pm

    Great interview Dena, I don't have or know anyone in this age group but will make note of it if I am asked to recommend one.

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