As an author with Anaiah Press, it’s my pleasure to welcome Jennifer Novotney and her new novel, Infinite Spring, from Anaiah Surge
As the Black Kingdom spreads, Lilika attempts to save the land from destruction. But is it too late?
With the golden forsythia in hand, Lilika and Talon must work together to plant it before powerful Cyperus and his mallow close in on Summer Harvest and Spring Bloom. Transformed by her recent discoveries, Lilika puts her own safety at risk in hopes of taking down the Black Kingdom. She is their only hope at redemption and the only one with the knowledge to defeat them.
In this breathtaking fantasy sequel to Winter in the Soul, Lilika finds herself trapped in the grip of the Black Kingdom where one mistake could cost her everything, but the right move just might save everyone she loves.
July 7th, 2015
© 2015 Jennifer Novotney
Winter in the Soul
Lilika stood in the upstairs guest room of her cousin Malachite’s house, looking out the window. The house was old and creaky, but she loved it all the same. The snow drifted down from the sky like tiny pieces of paper. Her gaze followed one snowflake to the next, wishing she could catch each and every one of them to save in her pocket. She’d put everything about Wits in her pocket if she could. It was so beautiful here, but so cold. Even standing by the window gave her the chills. She pressed her palm against the glass. It was cold as ice. She quickly pulled it away and crossed her arms.
They’d only been in Wits a short time, but she was beginning to get used to having family around. She still had a mission. She needed to plant the forsythia around the land as soon as possible to stop the Black Kingdom from spreading. It was a big task, and Cyperus was no joke. She could definitely wait to come face to face with him again. She had to admit she was partially glad her father suggested they go back and rest up for the long journey back home.
“You know, I’m really going to miss you, Lilika.”
She turned around, and Malachite stood in the doorway.
“I know. I’m going to miss you, too. It seems like we just found each other and now we have to leave.” Lilika sighed.
“Will you come back to visit? I know my mother would love that. We don’t see much family.” Malachite leaned against the doorway and crossed his arms.
“Sure, if I can convince my dad.”
“Malachite?” a woman called from down the hallway.
“Who’s that?” Lilika narrowed her eyes.
“Is she down here?” the woman called again.
“It’s my grandmother.” Malachite turned toward the hallway and called over his shoulder, “Yes, Grandma Poppy! We’re in here!”
“Oh good!” Poppy appeared next to him and tried to push him out of the way. “Well, come on now and move over. I can’t very well get in past you like this.”
“Oh sorry.” Malachite chuckled and backed up to let her through. Poppy was a small woman who looked to be in her eighties, but she had a big personality. Lilika could already tell that just by her entrance. She didn’t seem like one to let anybody push
her around. She was wearing a long, cream-colored dress that peeked out under a grey, floor length sweater over it. She gripped the collar of the sweater closed tight around her neck. Her lips were a soft pink color, and her barely wrinkled skin looked smooth for her age. Her crystal blue eyes zeroed in on Lilika.
“So, this is your cousin, huh?” Poppy came very close to inspect Lilika. “You’ll have to excuse me. My vision isn’t what it used to be.”
“That’s okay. It’s nice to meet you.” Lilika smiled and held out her hand.
“You can call me Poppy. That’s what all the kids use.” Was she another long lost family member? Was this her father’s mother? Lilika’s stomach danced, and she widened her smile. “So are you my grandmother, too?”
“Oh, no dear. Sorry. I’m from Malachite’s father’s side.”
“Oh.” Come to think of it, she’d never heard Malachite mention his father. Her gaze moved to him. “Your father? Is he here?”
Malachite shook his head. “No, he’s out on an expedition. He won’t be back for another week or so.”
Her smile dropped along with her hopes of meeting him. “Well, that’s too bad.”
“Another time maybe.” Poppy’s gaze drifted down to Lilika’s locket, and she pointed to it. “Oh, I see you’ve got one, too.” She looked at Malachite over her shoulder. “Did you take her to see it yet?”
“Yes, Poppy, I did.” He nodded. “And? What did you think, Lilika? That magical golden forsythia is something, isn’t it?”
“Oh, yes. It sure is.” Somehow, that came out more sarcastic than she’d anticipated. Her cheeks got hot, and she laughed nervously. “I mean, it is quite beautiful, all those bright flowers together like that. I’ve never seen anything like it. It’s… it’s magnificent is what it is.”
Poppy glared at Lilika for a little too long. Her sweet expression seemed to turn in an instant, and her gaze stayed glued on Lilika. “Malachite, why don’t you give me a few minutes alone with Lilika.”
Malachite stood up straighter and furrowed his brows as if he was put off by her request. “Okay. We’ll talk more later, then, Lilika.”
“Sure. I’ll see you downstairs.” She waved to Malachite. Well, this couldn’t be good.
He left and shut the door behind him. Lilika stood as still as a statue. The room was so quiet she could only focus on her pounding heartbeat.
Poppy came closer and whispered, “What do you know, dear?”
“Me?” She put her hand to her chest and shook her head. “Nothing.”
“Oh, don’t you play dumb with me. I can see it in your eyes. You know more than the others. There’s something different about you.” Poppy tilted her head and examined Lilika’s face.
“I… I don’t know what you mean.” Lilika’s stomach filled with a thousand butterflies. Suddenly, the golden forsythia burned a hole in her pocket. She seriously
thought it would catch flame. “Did you see one?” Poppy craned her neck forward, her eyes wide.
“See one what?”
“A what?” Lilika crinkled her nose. It sounded like something horrible.
“So, you don’t know about the Welkins then, huh? I was sure you had met one by the look on your face.”
“The Welkins? I’ve never heard of them.” Lilika narrowed her eyes.
“Oh yes. The Welkins were a mighty force when they were around.”
“Where are they now?”
“They took to the waters when the blackness was prophesized.”
“The blackness,” Lilika said flatly. That she knew about. It was the Black Kingdom led by the worst one of all, Cyperus. It was the exact reason she’d taken a golden forsythia plant from the dome in Winter in the Soul in the first place. She thought disbursing it around the land would’ve destroyed the Black Kingdom. She’d only planted one forsythia so far, so she really couldn’t be sure that was the answer.
“Have you seen it?” Poppy put her warm hand on top of Lilika’s.
She hesitated. “Seen it?”
“Yes, dear. The blackness. The Black Kingdom. Have you seen it?”
She had, but she wasn’t sure if she wanted to divulge that to Poppy. “I…”
“Come on dear, you can tell me.” Poppy’s expression softened.
Lilika exhaled softly. “I have. I went through it on the way here.”
Poppy’s eyes widened, and she leaned back. “Did you? My, I’ve never seen it. Only heard about it. What’s it like?”
“Well, consider yourself lucky. It’s not a place I recommend visiting. It’s dark and frightening. Not a really welcoming place at all. There are creatures there I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy.”
Poppy’s wrinkled lips curved into a smile, and she patted Lilika’s hand. “You know what, dear? I like you.”
“Thanks, I guess.” Lilika shrugged.
“Oh no, that’s a compliment. I don’t normally like many people like this, and that’s why I’m going to give you some advice.”
Poppy leaned in close and whispered, “Stay as far away from here as possible.”
“Just trust me, dear, and never come back. Take an old woman’s word for it.”
“It’s for your own good. You seem like such a sweet girl. You don’t want to get wrapped up with what’s going on around here.” She pointed to the window.
“What is going on here?” She desperately wanted to know more about all of it and something told her Poppy was just the one to inform her.
“Oh, I don’t know if we have time to get into all of that.” Poppy leaned back and pursed her lips.
Lilika had pushed too much. She wasn’t here to make enemies. She just might need Poppy’s wisdom in the future. “Of course. I understand. Well, do you think you can tell me more about the Welkins? Surely we have time for that.” Lilika stared hopefully at Poppy.
“What do you want to know?”
“This is the first I’ve ever heard of them. You said they live in the water?”
Poppy nodded. “Yes, they are the oldest, wisest living beings across our lands. They used to live all around us, but then they predicted a blackness would overtake our lands. So, they moved underwater to avoid it.”
“Underwater? But how do they survive?”
Poppy shrugged. “They have their ways.”
“And did it work? Are they safe from the Black Kingdom?”
“So they predicted that the Black Kingdom would spread before it ever even happened?”
“They did.” Poppy nodded.
“Wow. Do you think they know how to stop it?”
Poppy arched her brow. “Stop it?”
“Yes, the Black Kingdom. I mean, is there a way to stop it?”
Poppy threw her hands up, her palms facing upwards. “Who knows? They are quite elusive and would be hard to find anyway. Even if you did find them, you might not understand their wisdom.”
“Have you seen them before?”
Poppy’s gaze caught Lilika’s. “Yes.”
“Where? When?” Lilika leaned toward her.
“When it was only us in Winter in the Soul. When we were all together as one. There was no Summer Harvest or Spring Bloom. It was just us. Things were simpler then, you know.”
A knock at the door broke Lilika’s concentration. “Come in,” Poppy called out. Lilika’s father opened the door and poked his head in. “Oh, sorry. I didn’t mean to interrupt.”
“No, it’s fine, Sage. I was just getting to know your wonderful daughter here.” Poppy tapped Lilika’s knee.
“Well, we are leaving soon, Lilika. So get your things together.”
“Okay Dad.” That was the last thing she wanted to do. She’d rather stay there and talk to Poppy all day, picking her brain. She knew so much about how things had progressed to their current situation.
Poppy rose from the bed. “Remember what I told you, Lilika. It’s for your own good.” She slowly made her way out of the room past Lilika’s father.
“What was that about?” He looked over at her.
Lilika shrugged and shook her head. “Nothing.”
* * * *
“Do you have all your things?” Lilika’s Aunt Holly cleared the plates from the table after their breakfast. “Yes, I think so. Thanks for the meal. It was delicious.” Lilika hadn’t brought much, so it wasn’t hard to put her stuff together.
“Yes, thank you, Holly.” Sage wiped his face clean with a napkin.
“Here, let me help you with those.” Talon rose from his chair at the table and grabbed a few dishes. He carried them to sink with Holly.
“So, do you feel ready to go?” Lilika’s father turned to her and rubbed her back.
“I guess so. I’m really going to miss my family though. Can’t we stay a little longer? The weather’s been so bad, I still have so much to see here.”
“Lilika, you know we can’t. Your mother and brother miss us too much. They need us back home as soon as possible. We were only supposed to be gone for a few nights. This trip has dragged on much longer than expected.”
“I know. Did your letters get to Mama?”
“Yes, I just heard back from her. She is anxiously awaiting our return.”
Lilika missed her mother and brother, Jet, too, but she had to admit some great things happened on this trip. Her gaze landed on Talon’s and when he smiled at her, she felt warm inside. She would miss him most of all and had to figure out a way to see him again as soon as she could. “Okay, I think you’re all set.” Malachite descended the stairs. “The weather looks to have calmed, so I think this is a good time to travel back to Summer Harvest.”
Lilika was happy the weather had turned worse over the last week since it gave her more time in Wits. She secretly wished for more wind and snow to extend their visit.
“Well, I’m sorry to see you go, but hopefully we can visit again soon.” Holly came over and hugged Lilika. “Yeah, that would be great.” She forced a smile. Sage came over to Lilika and whispered in her ear, “Why don’t you and Talon go check on the forsythia you planted before the storm. Make sure it looks okay, and I’ll be out in a few minutes.”
“Okay,” Lilika whispered back. She rose from her seat and walked over to Malachite. “Thanks for everything. It was great meeting you and getting to know you better. Hopefully, we’ll see each other soon.”
“It was pretty fun. Until next time.” Malachite smiled and hugged her.
“Yeah, thanks for everything.” Talon shook Malachite’s hand.
“Any time. I hope you have safe travels back home.” Malachite patted Talon on the back. After a few more hugs and goodbyes from Aunt Holly, Lilika and Talon left the house. Walking away, a pit formed at the bottom of Lilika’s stomach. She’d miss them, but she’d miss Talon even more than she could fathom. “Are you excited to get home soon?” Lilika glanced at Talon as they walked through the snow.
“Yeah, I guess I am. It will be good to be back home and see my mom, but I’ll miss you.” His chocolate brown eyes landed on her. Lilika’s cheeks warmed. “I’ll miss you too, but we’re not leaving right away. We have to plant the forsythia first in Summer Harvest.”
“Well, that’s true, but I’ll still miss you.” Talon reached out and grabbed her hand. He helped Lilika through the line of trees leaving Wits. As they got closer to the spot, the golden forsythia sparkled bright even though there was no sun.
“There!” She pointed. “There they are!”
“Yeah, I see them. They look like they’re doing pretty well to me.”
Lilika nodded. “They do.”
They hurried to the plants. Lilika took one in her hand, careful not to break it off. “They’re amazing, aren’t they?”
“Yeah, they really are. Do you think this will work? Do you think it will stop the Black Kingdom?”
Lilika shrugged. “I’m not sure, but it’s worth a try, right? At this point, only time will tell, but we’ve got a few more plants still. We’ve got to spread as much as we can as quickly as we can.”
“Lilika! Talon!” Sage called from behind them.
Lilika glanced over her shoulder, and he waved her over.
“Come on, we’d better go. We’ve got a long walk ahead of us.” Talon took her hand and started off toward Sage.
Lilika followed, but reluctantly. Poppy’s words rolled around in her mind. The Welkins. She’d never heard of them before, but their story made her curious. She stared off to her right. Something about that direction pulled her eye there. A thick fog encompassed the area, and she couldn’t see much. The only body of water she’d ever known was the river at the edge of Spring Bloom. If Poppy was right, there must be an even larger body of water out past Wits. What did the Welkins know about the Black Kingdom that she didn’t? How did they thrive under the water? Curiosity consumed her, and she just had to find out more.
“Come on, Lilika.” Her father waved her on. “We’re going this way.” Her gaze followed where he pointed, and she hoped it wasn’t through the Black Kingdom.
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Words From the Author:
Without a doubt, the question I am asked most often is: How did you come up with the idea to write about Winter in the Soul? For a while, I didn’t have a clear-cut answer. I’ve always had a very active imagination, even as a child. Since I grew up an only child, I often had to entertain myself on my own. This is really where my love of writing began. I used to make up stories to entertain myself, so that really became second nature to me as an adult and facilitated in becoming a writer.
Originally, I had an idea for the main character. I knew she would be a young girl, and I knew she would be someone extraordinary. Right from the beginning, I placed her in a fantastical setting. I had this idea where she would be born in a world where she was meant to do great things, but was somehow inhibited by restrictions. I also had the theme of nature very early on. I envisioned her a flower just blossoming at the right time. This idea really set the main character, Lilika, up for quite a conflict. I knew she would have a mission that would reach far beyond herself and her own needs.
One thing readers often want to know is how I came up with the setting. The best way I can answer is that it started with Spring Bloom and really grew from there. Winter in the Soul was the next place to develop and then Summer Harvest. Although Lilika is really the main character, Talon’s character grew and grew from the start. I am always amazed at how readers relate to Talon and appreciate his attributes.
Infinite Spring continues Lilika and Talon’s journey. This series is going to get more exciting with more conflict and many more challenges to come.
Jennifer Novotney is the author of the Winter in the Soul series. She was a 2014 recipient of the Moonbeam Children’s Book Award. Jennifer grew up in Los Angeles, California and attended Northern Arizona University, graduating with highest honors in English. She lives in Pennsylvania with her husband and daughter.