Welcome to Mother/Gamer/Writer for The Occasional Diamond Thief Blog Tour! For today’s tour stop, please enjoy this special message from the author, some fun surprises, and don’t forget to enter for your chance to win an Amazon Gift Card!
Hello, I’m J. A. McLachlan, the author of The Occasional Diamond Thief. I’m so pleased to be meeting you, and I’d like to thank Diayll for having me here on Mother. Gamer. Writer. today. This blog tour is part of my online launch of The Occasional Diamond Thief, and I’ll have something different at each stop – book excerpts, author and character reveals, vlogs, reviews and blog posts – for you to enjoy. You can find The Occasional Diamond Thief at:http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00NF9NYJM
And you can find me at: http://www.janeannmclachlan.com
The Occasional Diamond Thief by J.A. McLachlan
Published by: EDGE Publishing on 05/15/15
Genres: Science Fiction, YA
View on: Goodreads
Grab it: Buy on Amazon
About the Book:
What if you learned your father was a thief? Would you follow in his footsteps, learn his "trade"? If you were the only one who knew, would you keep his secret?
When 16-yr-old Kia is training to be a universal translator, she is co-opted into traveling as a translator to Malem. This is the last place in the universe that Kia wants to be—it’s the planet where her father caught the terrible illness that killed him—but it’s also where he got the magnificent diamond that only she knows about. Kia is convinced he stole it, as it is illegal for any off-worlder to possess a Malemese diamond.
Using her skill in languages – and another skill she picked up, the skill of picking locks - Kia unravels the secret of the mysterious gem and learns what she must do to set things right: return the diamond to its original owner.
But how will she find out who that is when no one can know that she, an off-worlder, has a Malemese diamond? Can she trust the new friends she’s made on Malem, especially handsome but mysterious 17-year-old Jumal, to help her? And will she solve the puzzle in time to save Agatha, the last person she would have expected to become her closest friend?
Kia is quirky, with an ironic sense of humor, and a loner. Her sidekick, Agatha, is hopeless in languages and naive to the point of idiocy in Kia's opinion, but possesses the wisdom and compassion Kia needs.
1 How did The Occasional Diamond Thief come about?
When I was teaching English and professional ethics at college, one of my students was a young Edoan woman named “Itohan”. I thought it was a lovely name and when she told me it meant “mercy” in Edoan, I knew I had to write a character with that name. A couple of years later I did some research into the Edoan language and the characters in this book were “born”. I wanted a feisty main character, though, and the name “Mercy,” however lovely, didn’t seem right. So I gave that name to the father she loved, and picked another Edoan name – Akhié. That name, which her father gave her when he became ill, means sorrow. Kia is teased all through childhood for her name until she hates it, so she shortens it to Kia.
For me, a story always begins with the characters. I have an idea of the story line and the themes, but I can’t start writing until I know the characters so well they start talking to me, arguing with each other in my mind. When their voices are that clear and loud, I have to get them out onto paper. I keep paper and pens close to the lamp beside my bed for when they wake me up in the middle of the night. I can’t tell you how much my husband, who’s a light sleeper, hates that!
2 How did you handle teen’s language for the book?
That is a really good question, and it’s tough. I am no longer “up” on teen slang, and it changes, anyway, and you don’t want to date your book. Fortunately, I’m writing SF, so we’re talking future slang, not having to be tuned in today. I can just make up some cool-sounding words that future teens might use.
However, I think writing should be invisible, as much as possible. The reader should only be aware of the characters and what’s happening. Too many strange words or slang, and the reader becomes conscious of the writing, and by extension, of the author, and that creates a barrier to the reader’s total involvement in the story itself. So I’m a minimalist. One or two words to create an atmosphere – teen, cool, future – and the rest just plain, solid writing. So I’ve got a few words like “vidstar” and “palm override” and a few more like that that are fairly easy to understand despite not being in the current vernacular, and I leave it at that. The rest is conveyed in description and what happens and how the teen protagonist thinks and reacts.
3 Who is The Occasional Diamond Thief for?
Oh, everyone. I’m more interested in character and story than in the future of science and technology, so I would call it ”soft” science fiction, or speculative fiction. People who don’t normally read speculative fiction have found it very accessible and enjoyable. The planet Kia goes to is very backward, with medieval undertones, so the novel has been called fantasy by some readers who enjoy fantasy, although there is neither magic nor mythical creatures involved. Both adult and young adult readers seem to like it equally. I think it’s just a good, fast-paced story about interesting characters, with very broad appeal.
(Kia has just opened a safe in a guest room in the embassy where she is supposed to be translating. Her mother is dying and needs expensive surgery.)
I’m admiring a diamond necklace when I hear a soft cough behind me. I freeze. At the corner of my eye I see the Select. She looks at the open safe and then down at the incriminating evidence in my hands.
I don’t say a word. I don’t move. I can’t bear to do anything that will start what I know will happen, from happening. I wish it was me with the failing heart, and I could die right now. How did I ever imagine I could get away with this?
“What have you taken?”
Nothing. I haven’t taken anything yet. I can still put it back, we can pretend this never happened, because it hasn’t yet, not really… I open my mouth—and close it again, because there is the palm override, on the table under the safe, and there’s nothing I can say. I open my hand to reveal the stunning necklace. Even in the darkened room, its diamonds sparkle.
“Oh no, no. Not that one. Of course, I do admire your taste. It is exquisite, isn’t it? But I happen to know it’s a family heirloom, and one of the few Lady Khalida owns. You see, she’s the youngest daughter, and not her mother’s favorite. If it hadn’t been for the intercession of her paternal grandmother, who, I might add, has no more affection for the girl than her mother has, but a better sense of propriety… that’s beside the point, isn’t it? I get sidetracked, you’ll have to forgive me. The point is, Lady Khalida has only three pieces of jewelry she really cares about, and that is one of them. You mustn’t take it. Put it back, and let me help you choose another.”
She lifts the necklace out of my hands and returns it to its velvet box. I’m too stunned to say anything, I just watch her replace the box in the safe and lift out three others, all the while continuing her chatter as I stand there going over everything I ate and drank downstairs. Maybe I’m really lying on the floor in the reception hall and they’re trying to revive me and I’m going to get a terrible lecture from the Dean about not drinking anything anyone gives me—I hope so, oh I hope so!
She stops talking and looks at me. “You’re not going to faint, are you?” she asks.
I don’t think you can faint in a dream, so I shake my head, even though I’m feeling dizzy and my knees are weak. I recognize her now. It’s Agatha, the Select I met at my father’s funeral. She’s still as strange as I thought she was then. When I think that, I really start to shake because if this is Agatha being weird then I’m not hallucinating and I’ve been caught stealing by a Select.
“Let me see. She’s a bit of a magpie, you know. But then, perhaps you understand that better than I?” Agatha chatters on and now I try to listen, to figure out where this is going, because I’m really shaking now and when I grab onto the table to keep from falling it feels very solid and wooden and real, not like a dream at all.
“Look, this one’s about the same value as your original choice. The design is less intricate, but the stones are larger and very nice… Ahh, no, she still sees this gentleman occasionally. We don’t want to embarrass her, do we? What’s in here?” She opens the second box.
“No, this won’t do at all. It’s not nearly as valuable as the others. I don’t want to cheat you. You believe that, don’t you?”
She looks at me earnestly. I nod. The whole episode has taken on a surreal quality. I risk a glance at the open bedroom door and clear my throat. “Perhaps…” It comes out a squeak. I clear my throat again and try for something more like a human voice. “Perhaps we should just forget this?”
“Here’s just the thing!” From the third box, Agatha takes a heavy gold bracelet, studded with diamonds.
“The stones are quite nice. I think you like diamonds, don’t you?” She pauses till I give an embarrassed nod. “It’s about the same value, and the work is so plain it’s almost a crime not to melt it down and see if someone else could do better.” She lifts one of my hands from its grip on the table and puts the bracelet into it. “Best of all, Lady Khalida no longer sees this suitor. Perhaps because she doesn’t like bracelets. She won’t even notice it missing for quite a while.”
She closes the empty box and puts it at the back of the safe with a pleased smile.
“That’s enough, isn’t it? You aren’t greedy, are you?”
I shake my head vigorously.
“Good, I thought not. You must watch out for that. You don’t want to end up like Lady Khalida. I shouldn’t say it, but I’ve never liked her very much.”
Suddenly I get it. She’s testing me. I should have caught on sooner. I drop the bracelet onto the table. “I don’t want it.”
Agatha looks at me sadly. “I can’t give you the necklace,” she says. “I really can’t.”
“I don’t want either of them. I don’t want them.” I wish I could be more eloquent, tell her I’ve learned my lesson, I didn’t know what I was doing, whatever she needs to hear from me. But I’m better with other people’s words, not making up my own. All I can do is repeat, “I don’t want it.”
“Of course you do. You’re not the kind of person who would take something for no reason.”
What can I say? Yes I am? I don’t know what to say so I just blurt out, “My mother’s dying.” And for no reason I can imagine, I start crying. I don’t want her to die and I don’t want to disgrace my translators uniform and most of all I don’t want to be someone who uses tears to gain pity, so I make myself stop right now.
Agatha leans her eye toward the small seal at the side of the door, and murmurs something into the tiny retinal-voice scanner. The door of the safe slides shut.
“It’s very complicated, isn’t it dear?” She says. “Now, wouldn’t you like to hide that bracelet and get back to the party before either of us is missed?”
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