Get ready to meet the blue haired girl from Baltimore who saves the world.
Following maps her grandmother drew before she disappeared, Maya Loop, the brave, blue-haired girl from Baltimore, has to depend on her wits and bravery to face the alien race of Landions who have taken her grandmother and best friends to an underground world of creatures living beyond the limits of time. The Landions are not only trying to end the human race but erase them completely. A delightfully fast-paced story crackling with energy, Maya Loop meets young readers in the wide-open world of being a kid where everything feels like magic.
KDP Exclusive – Origin Story
The Assassin Bug
For a decade I lived in the mountains, a few miles from the Blue Ridge Parkway, and my yard was a zoo in the literal sense. On a regular basis, there were opossums, raccoons, chipmunks, squirrels, crows, hawks, robins, sparrows, finches, a lynx, foxes, a few bear families, coyotes, moles, groundhogs, and a bevy of insects large and small.
One day during a cold autumn my dog dug up a strange bug in a pile of leaves. It looked like a cross between a huge stick bug blended with an enormous stink bug, bigger than the palm of my hand. The bug didn’t seem to be alive, but was so unusual I wanted to keep him.
I brought him inside and set him gently in a nice big habitat I’d made to hatch ladybugs. Dirt, sand, pebbles, and leaves filled the bottom of the clear house, with twigs to climb and a top slotted with air holes. I set the habitat on top of a table in my bedroom.
The next morning, I woke with the distinct feeling I was being watched. Looking around to find the source I was shocked and charmed to find the bug in the habitat standing upright on two legs, hands on the clear plastic, staring right at me.
“You’re alive,” I said, sitting up.
He watched me closely in anticipation, not worried, but definitely curious. It honestly didn’t occur to me that he could have been hibernating. Seeing I was awake, he tilted his head and tapped at the plastic.
Before taking him out of the habitat, I needed to know a few details that mainly dealt with biting or stinging. It only took a few minutes on the internet to learn he was an Assassin Bug, or some variation, not poisonous or dangerous to humans. I also learned that he wouldn’t live long outside in the below freezing temperature. While not cramped in the habitat, he was much too big to stay there comfortably. Twelve paces would bring him to the end of the house. He needed something bigger if he was going to spend the winter with me, so I set about making a proper bug condo.
I love bugs. My house was complete with earthworm hatcheries, ladybug nurseries, and a big butterfly house made out of netting. I turned the netting on its side and filled it with big, crunchy oak and maple leaves, fat twigs, and a little hut made from seagrass. The butterfly house was big so I delicately set the other house inside and he climbed out. The Assassin Bug explored the leaves and twigs, climbing over and under, up the side, then upside down, then down the other side. I diluted a little raw honey in spring water and watched him eat with his long proboscis. With water and food and warmth he clamored to the back of his house, under a pile of leaves, and went to sleep.
When the sun went down, he was waiting for me. I’d spent the time learning about Assassin Bugs, the many types, how long they live, what they eat. That’s when I found something called a “Killing Jar.” Never a fan of killing, that jar was ominous.
I never mentioned the Killing Jar to my friend, because we had our relationship figured out. Culture teaches people to be afraid of insects. It’s a bum deal. Having been raised by my Cherokee grandmother, I saw every skittling being as a message, a divine mystery, with the potential to change
minds and circumstances. So we spent that winter together, in the warm lamplight of the kitchen. Me, talking to the biggest bug I’d ever met. Him standing on fat twigs, watching me make dinner or sit at a table working on the seed of a story about a little girl afraid of the dark.
She wasn’t just afraid of the dark, she was afraid of entering the darkness. Of course, she had to. But where was the peril, the jeopardy? The stakes had to be high. What would make her enter that darkness? The answer was to save a friend. But who?
One night, I decided, she would follow mysterious lights into a field and find the neighbor boy. I knew the story was more than just two humans. What would compel this girl named Maya Loop to save a boy she barely knew?
I paused, pen in hand, and glanced over. My buddy stood contentedly on a twig, staring back. The Assassin Bug tilted his head. Chills ran through my entire body. Maya Loop didn’t enter the dark to save a boy she barely knew. She went in to save an Assassin Bug.
I knew I was onto something. Like the leading man of Assassin Bugs, he deserved to become a legend.
Winters in the mountains can be long and cold, which bodes well for writers. Every day the Assassin Bug and I sat together in the lamplight as the seed of my story cracked the shell into a dangerous world. Suddenly I knew Maya Loop had big stakes. A mythic quality rose from the outline of her character. A normal girl called to extraordinary tasks.
Life is a test for all living things. The battle to survive and thrive is played on many fields. Some use wit, some intelligence, some sheer force. But the battle for survival is a kind of unity. A call for everything on this planet to ebb and flow. For the humans in my story to survive the Assassin Bug character had to survive. I wrote the first lines of him into the book. His hands on the jar as I’d first seen him when I woke up. How he watched me curiously as I walked across the room to kneel in front of him. I recreated it in perfect detail for the book and added peril, the dreaded Killing Jar. The act of freeing him set the story in motion. Maya Loop wasn’t just going to save the neighbor boy. She was going to save the Assassin Bug. Where the brave blue haired girl from Baltimore showed up afraid of the dark fields, I sent her in search of answers.
I loved the tone of this story, the bravery. How each character showed up on the page with a dynamic personality. They were modeled on real beings in my own environment, the menagerie in my yard. With the Assassin Bug perched on his twig watching me work I wondered about his future, which led me to wonder about my own. I’d always had a sense of the past. My family dragged the past around behind them like five-thousand-pound balls. But I’d never really had a sense of the future. It made me start thinking of time differently. It’s such a slippery construct. What if time was like the image of a snake biting its tail in an endless loop. What if someone could move through the loop? What if time is more than it seems? What if there is a world tree and a world clock? What if ancient ruins aren’t calendars but clocks? What if we are always battling beings from other timelines to survive our own?
I spent a lot of evenings making dinner thinking about those concepts. All the while, the Assassin Bug stood on his favorite branch and helped me think. I loved being near him for the same reason I loved ladybugs and granddaddy long legs and the Queen Ant. Because looking into their eyes allowed me to see them as individuals and not just collective terms. Spiders. Ants. Bugs. Looking at something and developing a relationship is a great harbinger of change, just as bug diversity is a sign of a healthy
ecosystem. I hoped I was a good example of a human.
When spring came, he started to slow down. I took his house outside, ready to let him spend his golden days in nature where he could tell all the other Assassin Bugs about the winter he spent inside one of the enormous wooden boxes, warm and well lit, with the comforts of outside. How food and water in flat lids was offered by a giant who sat next to him every day and hummed, and cooked, and wrote a story featuring him. But the Assassin Bug only wandered to the opening of the house and looked around. Then turned to walk back to the place he called home. Our home. The one we’d forged together.
I wasn’t sad when he died. I wanted the world to experience our friendship. Our system of communication and trust. The Assassin Bug was small, but a big personality, who showed me that friends come in all shapes and sizes and humans aren’t the only ones who enjoy a safe warm place to ride out the winter.
His choice to stay with me added a depth to a novel that I could not have anticipated or outlined in advance. His/her appearance in my life brought me a unique friendship. A sort of fabulous, unlikely friendship that changed both of us. The trick to living deeply is to feel deeply. To choose where we put our focus. Because, in the warm lamplight of winter, a friend is a friend.
Thank you, Lis Anna-Langston
About the author
Lis Anna-Langston was raised along the winding current of the Mississippi River on a steady diet of dog-eared books. She attended a Creative and Performing Arts School from middle school until graduation and went on to study Literature at Webster University. Her two novels, Gobbledy and Tupelo Honey have won the Parents’ Choice Gold, Moonbeam Book Award, Independent Press Award, Benjamin Franklin Book Award and NYC Big Book Awards. Twice nominated for the Pushcart award and Finalist in the Brighthorse Book Prize, William Faulkner Fiction Contest and Thomas Wolfe Fiction Award, her work has been published in The Literary Review, Emerson Review, The Merrimack Review, Emrys Journal, The MacGuffin, Sand Hill Review and dozens of other literary journals. She draws badly, sings loudly, loves ketchup, starry skies & stories with happy aliens.
You can find her in the wilds of South Carolina plucking stories out of thin air.
Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/default/e/B00IXKUOEQ