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Zephyr, The West Wind: Meet Teen Entrepreneur and Author R.J. Tolson

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In only 20 years, R.J. Tolson has accomplished more than most people will their entire lives: entrepreneur, model, founder of a charity, college student and professor, athlete, and most recently the author of the debut novel, Zephyr the West Wind, the first installment of the young adult fantasy series Chaos Chronicles.

“I had always loved to read and write fiction. The power of words enticed me,” said Tolson, who speaks six languages. “I wanted to use writing to connect with others while also bringing my imagination to life.”

Influenced by the works of J.K. Rowling, Jenny Nimmo and C.S. Lewis, Zephyr The West Wind is a heroic tale about a young man growing up in an island village where everyone except the chief despises him for no apparent reason. Zephyr desires much more for his life than simply to survive as an outcast. He trains and sets off for an epic journey filled with demons, paranormal activities and undiscovered lands – and soon learns the secrets of his past and the dangers the people of his village face.

Take a few minutes and read the first chapter of Zephyr, The West Wind, which R.J. Tolson has generously shared with the LA Books Examiner. Be sure to share it with the YA Fantasy readers in your life.

Reprinted by arrangement with Universal Kingdom Print, from Zephyr, The West Wind by R.J. Tolson. Copyright © 2012 by R.J. Tolson.

Chapter 1: Dentro Village

I’d heard people say that being able to understand other people’s emotions is a gift beyond comprehension. Of course, I myself did not see the significance in that statement. Whether it was because I was seventeen, came from a small village on a small tropical island, or simply hadn’t had enough time to broaden my horizons, I just could not fathom the gift that I had been given by whomever may have created this world that I called home.

Life is something that I think we all take for granted at first, and some do their whole lives until they can’t anymore. What is the purpose of life? And even more to the point, why am I here? I had asked myself this over and over, unable to figure out a reason. I didn’t even stand out from others my age, aside from my name, Zephyr.

Life was simple in Dentro, on this island surrounded by what seemed to be endless amounts of water. I'd asked myself time and time again why we all ended up here, on this island. And if there are any other lands out there, why did we, and even more so I, end up on this one? And if there are other lands...then we really are just a small piece of something a whole lot greater and bigger.

Lately, this was all I had been thinking about. Of course, someone like myself who was low on the food chain compared to all of the other people in my village had time to drift off and think about such things. Now, I know what you’re thinking. This kid Zephyr is crazy to be dreaming up such foolish thoughts—why isn’t he getting ready for a mission or something?

By the way, missions are quests assigned by the chief of Dentro Village that potentially allow a person or team to leave the island for some given reason. Also, missions are only assigned to those who are deemed worthy by what is known as the Council of Elders—really five grumpy old villagers who have nothing better to do with their lives. I couldn’t even try to ask for a mission, as I had not completed what is known as the Trial of Adulthood. But all of that would come into play soon enough.

Anyway, I always wasted my free time imagining myself leaving this village and exploring the world beyond it. But like always, I had to come back to reality. Sitting up from my bed, I shook my head to move the stray pieces of my hair from in front of my face. Standing up, I felt the regular unpleasant sensation in my muscles that comes after lying on my rock-hard bed made of straw and held together by Sea stone.

Sea stones, unlike other rocks, are rocks that formed in the deep sea over thousands of years and gained some of the magical properties of the sea; these range from creating invisible rays that kept land creatures away to healing and other undiscovered properties. When used to create beds, they offer quicker physical recovery and keep demons from coming within a certain vicinity, although I don't really understand how it works myself.

After stretching my muscles a bit by doing jumping jacks, I looked around my room. Living in a very small one-room house just ten paces long and wide, I always liked to keep it clean. On the left, I had a small desk that rose up from the Sea stone foundation of my house, and next to my bed was a small box filled with a large number of different weapons that I used for different tasks. Of course, now you’re definitely thinking, What, a box full of weapons? But don't worry about that for now, that explanation also comes later.

Walking towards the door, I opened it to look upon a small pathway that branched in two directions; left towards the village square, and right towards the south dock, also known as Demon's Pool. Directly beyond this path, in front of my house, were hundreds of sky trees that went as high as the human eye could see.

Each tree was bright green with a trunk that was large enough to enclose three or four regular-sized people. They would make excellent climbing trees, except that if you climbed too high, sky beetles would swarm and attack you with their deadly poison.

Closing the door behind me, I stepped onto the left side of the path. Next to my house on each side were tons of other small one-room houses where all of the other villagers lived, stretching all the way to the beginning of the village square.

It was a long walk down the dirt path towards the village square, and as I finally arrived, the path and sky trees came to an end and the hard ground surface became soft, warm sand. Looking towards the square, it seemed as busy as usual. Every afternoon, every village resident not away on a mission was in the village square—either buying food or weapons, or just hanging out.

Each of the shops was made of Sea stone; some had actual indoor buildings, such as the weapon shop, while others, like the strawberry shop, had small stands. All of the buildings were next to each other and formed a circle around an area that was known as the village center. In this area, all important village events occurred: quarrels, death fights, the announcement of new laws, mission assignments, etc. Beyond the square, at the opposite side from the path to my house, was the north dock, or Heaven’s Dock.

As I continued walking towards the village center, I ignored the glances and displeased looks that people around me gave and smiled back at them. In response, they all looked away and tried to act like they hadn’t notice anything. Reaching my destination a couple of feet before the village center, I looked up towards the village chief's two-story office and residence.

The office's Sea stone had been painted red using crushed fruits, and the doors were made out of sky tree bark. I put my hand on the cold doorknob and pulled. As I entered, I recognized the familiar sweet scent of cinnamon.

In front of me was a large desk covered in papers. Behind the desk was a slim, elderly man with a round face and a long white beard that stopped slightly short of the floor, wearing scruffy but nice-looking shorts and a t-shirt. As I walked up to the desk, he looked up and smiled.

“Good afternoon, Zephyr boy.”

I laughed. He always called me boy, no matter how old I became.

“Good morning, Chief.” I tried to sound excited. I mean, the Chief, as everyone called him, had invited me yesterday to come to his office this afternoon and chat before the ceremony. In a few hours, there was to be a ceremony that would decide whether the people I had passed when I entered the village would continue to ridicule and look down on me or start to respect me.

“Zephyr boy, I hope you are ready. This is your fifth ceremony. Even though you have failed four ceremonies in the past, I have believed and will always believe in you and your potential,” he said, looking back down at his desk.

“I know. I know,” I muttered.

The Chief looked worried. “Have you studied properly this time?”

“Yes,” I promised. “It's just that—” But before I could finish my sentence, the Chief dropped his head and started snoring. “Chief!” I yelled.

“Oh, oh! Ha! Sorry, Zephyr boy. You know me and my little difficulty,” he said, laughing.

I did. The Chief’s narcolepsy didn’t make him any less powerful a figure in my eyes, and the villagers were all used to it. Somehow, his condition didn’t seem to undermine his authority with any of us.

“But I do hope you complete the ceremony this time. As you know, I cannot send you on any missions outside of the village or even to hunt or train in Demon's Pool until you do. I have a good feeling this time, though. Don't let me down. It's almost time, so head over to the ceremony grounds by Demon's Pool.”

“Yes, Chief,” I murmured. Turning around, I grabbed the doorknob and started to push the door open, when the Chief spoke again.

“Remember this, Zephyr boy,” he said in the deepest voice I had ever heard him use. “This ceremony is a life or death situation. I’ve saved you all of the past times, but I cannot do so this time. If you fail, you will die.”

“I plan on succeeding, Chief,” I stated. “I won't let you down.” I walked out of the office feeling mostly confident, but slightly scared. Death was not a joke. And for all I knew, mine could be rapidly approaching. Stepping off the steps that led back into the Chief's office, I stepped onto the soft sand. As my feet slowly sank into the welcome heat, I calmed down. The sand always seemed to have that effect on me. Forcing myself to move from that spot, I quickly increased my pace as I walked back towards my house.

After lying on my bed and thinking for a while, I thought to myself, if I ever want to discover the rest of the worlds and the other pieces to the puzzle of life, I have to move past this test.

I quickly changed into my combat clothes: tight white shorts that wrapped around my tan skin, a white t-shirt, sandals, and a small white headband to keep my long, gray-and-black spiky hair from getting in my eyes.

Grabbing my white combat gloves from my weapons box next to my bed, I pulled them over my hands so that only the parts of my fingers beyond the knuckles were visible and rubbed my hands together to make sure the gloves were on tightly. Opening the door, I took a step and walked onto the path, closing the door behind me. Turning right, I began to walk towards Demon's Pool.

Reprinted by arrangement with Universal Kingdom Print, from Zephyr, The West Wind by R.J. Tolson. Copyright © 2012 by R.J. Tolson.

To learn more about R.J. Tolson and his work, visit:

RJTolson.com
Twitter: @RJTolson
Facebook: Author RJ Tolson
Goodreads: RJ Tolson

Read Chapter One is a special feature at Frank Mundo's LA Books Examiner where authors, from emerging to bestsellers, share an excerpt of their newest books.

Frank Mundo is the Amazon.com bestselling author of The Brubury Tales (foreword by Carolyn See) and Gary, the Four-Eyed Fairy and Other Stories. Don't forget to subscribe and follow Frank Mundo on Twitter @LABooksExaminer or @frankemundo for the latest updates to LA Books Examiner.

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