Welcome to this week's guest YA author Jeff Miller

Jeffrey Aaron Miller is a 1997 graduate of the Creative Writing program at the University of Arkansas. He has held a wide variety of jobs over the years, from social worker to bus driver, from postal carrier to pastor, but through it all, he has remained a storyteller. He is the author of numerous novels, both print and e-books, in the genres of science fiction, fantasy and YA. He resides in Northwest Arkansas with his wife and children.

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 A tale of mystery and magic set in a tiny town nestled in the hills of the Ozark National Forest. Mary Lanham lives with her elderly Papa in a small house overlooking Main Street. One day, she finds herself at the heart of an unfolding mystery, as a strange man in a long, gray cloak comes to town and begins stirring up trouble. What is the terrible secret her father has kept hidden from her? What is the truth about Mary's past that has awakened a great evil? And how will she win the heart of the boy she loves when the whole world is falling apart? The first of a planned four book series. The sequel, Mary of Shadows, comes out August 2013.
Read an excerpt:
“There’s someone at our door--”
               The whole house shook with the force of the next blow. Pictures fell from the walls, and the windows rattled. Mary dropped the phone and covered her head as bits of plaster rained down from the ceiling. Before she could recover, there came another crash, and she heard the door splinter. Mary looked down the hallway and saw the front door bowed inward, split right down the middle, jagged edges sticking out like broken bones. A final blow ripped the door hinges out of the frame, tore the bolts loose and sent the door flying into the living room in pieces.
               As the pieces settled, Mary saw a man standing in the jagged opening, a tall man in a gray cloak and hood. She ducked back into the kitchen and retrieved the phone, but in her panic, she accidentally hit the “Talk” button and hung it up. She heard the stranger’s feet crunching wood as he entered the house. Mary dropped the phone again and glanced back into the living room to see the stranger sweep his long cloak off his shoulders and stride into Papa’s room.
               “Get out of here,” Papa said, trying to shout but managing only a hoarse croak. “There’s nothing for you here.”
               “Nothing for me?” The stranger’s voice sounded surprisingly calm and deep. “Are you certain of that, old man? I‘ll tell you what I think, I think you‘ve got a secret, old man.”
               Mary raced down the hallway, not thinking clearly, wanting only to protect her frail Papa. The stranger loomed over his bed, his hands held out to his sides, fingers hooked into claws, as if he meant to rend flesh. Papa had not moved from the bed, managing only to throw off his covers.
               “We have contacted the local constable,” Papa said, struggling to prop himself up on his elbows. “He will be here any minute now, but if you leave peacefully, we will consider not pressing charges.”
               The stranger shook his head, so that his hood fell back, revealing a dark head of greasy hair. “Let’s not play these silly games,” he said. “Pretending you don’t know full well why I’m here. We are not afraid of some local rent-a-cop, and we recognize no authority but our own. Tell me where it is.”
               Papa settled his face into a placid smile. “I am sorry to disappoint you, Looker, but I have nothing for you.”
               Mary had no idea what they were talking about, but she noticed that the stranger was inching his way toward Papa as he spoke, tensing as if to leap upon him. She felt a sudden surge of anger, as if something had caught fire in her chest, and, reaching into her pocket, she clutched the tiny crochet hook and pulled it out.
               “Secrets do not make friends, grandpa,” the stranger said. “Now, look, I’ve been following aether trails all over town. They center on this house, and they’re all over this room and all over you. I know you’re hiding something in here. I can take it by force, you know that, but I am giving you the chance to hand it over willingly, before blood is shed.”
               “Delusions of a dim mind, that’s all you’ve been following, fool.”
               The stranger lunged at Papa, grabbing him by the wrist and jerking up from the bed. Mary dove at him, driving the blunt end of her crochet hook into the back of his right leg with all the force she could muster. In her mind’s eye, she saw the crochet hook piercing cloth and flesh, tearing through muscle and bone. However, even with her great burst of rage, she did not penetrate the faded denim of his pants. Nevertheless, the stranger gave a pained yelp and released his grip on Papa.
               He turned to see who had stabbed him, and when he did, Papa grabbed his cane from beside the bed and brought it up and over in a great whooshing arc, cracking him across the top of the head with the brass handle.
               The stranger crumpled forward onto the bed.
               “Mary, get out of here,” Papa said. “Run down the hill into town. Hurry!”

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