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2.16.2012

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CRATER LAKE: Battle for Wizard Island
by Steve Westover

Ethan is being taken to spend a week with Uncle Bart at Crater Lake National Park. His mom, dad, and little sister Jordan are going to spend the day hiking before they leave Ethan. Uncle Bart tells them the history of Crater Lake – how it was created when Mt Mazama erupted 77,000 years ago creating a massive crater. Ethan could care less about what Uncle Bart has to say, especially when he sees Allie, a teenaged girl who is going hiking with her parents.

Nathaniel and Jenna are hiking in the woods surrounding Crater Lake when they are surrounded by three cougars. Suddenly the woods are now a tangle of vines and roots and the vines begin to wrap themselves around the pair – binding them. With the cougars help Nathaniel and Jenna are freed but the ground opens up, swallowing them, hiding all trace that they were ever there!

Brady is with his scout troop trying to figure out how to read the topographical map, but he failed the scoutmaster's test. Jacob is then given the task of deciphering the map which he quickly does to Brady's great annoyance. When Brady needs to take a private break, Jacob is his escort. But when the boys return their troop and their packs have disappeared! Jacob and Brady continue on to Mt. Scott in the hopes of catching up with their troop.

As they hike Jordan and Allie strike up a friendship to Ethan's chagrin. As the two families emerge from the trail near Sun Notch View Point they have an amazing view of the Phantom Ship! Ethan, Jordan, and Allie continue on to the lake shore to examine the Phantom closer. Everything near the Phantom has a scorched look to it.

Suddenly Allie's mom begins sinking into the cliff. Ethan's parents and Allie's dad run she calls out in panic, but they can't pull her from the ground and she is swallowed. Then the other three adults quickly disappear beneath the surface before hardening over them.

Brady and Jacob are headed back to the ranger station in hopes of finding the scouts and leaders. Allie, Ethan, and Jordan decide to head to the ranger station in the hopes that Uncle Bart would have an idea of how to get their parents back, but before they start out Brady and Jacob come screaming down the trail with a black bear following them. A specter then moves onto the trail stopping Brady and Jacob, but when Ethan moves forward to investigate a young Native American teenager is standing where the specter should have been. Che-tan introduces himself and tells them he knows what has happened. Che-tan tells them there is time to save their friends and families, but time is short and the ground has devoured everyone over the age of 16.

Che-tan tells them they have until noon tomorrow to free them from their Below World prison or they will be gone forever trapped by Chief Llao. Che-tan then tells them that at midnight the moon will strike the moon dial on the Phantom Ship revealing the prison key's hiding place.

Ethan and Allie ask Che-tan to tell them who he really is and to convince them that he is speaking the truth. To convince them Che-tan transforms into four large birds and then returns to his human form. He then tells them that he is Guardian of Crater Lake and was one of Chief Llao's people until Chief Skell defeated him – imprisoning him beneath Crater Lake.

At the appointed time Ethan and Brady swim across to the Phantom Ship through freezing water. While the boys are getting the key Jacob, Allie and Jordan gather wood to build a fire so that they can warm up. Jacob wades out into the lake and pulls Brady and Ethan to shore. Then the three kids set about drying and warming Ethan and Brady as best as they can. As they wait for the boys to warm and regain consciousness they examine the artifacts that Ethan and Brady recovered. There is a flute that when different notes are played fire or ice come from it. They decide to wait until daylight to find out what the other powers of the flute are.

With everyone sleeping Allie decides to go down to the lake to get water to drink. But when she heads back to their camp she is surrounded by misty darkness and then there is a sudden burst of blinding light and then Che-tan is there holding the flute. Che-tan then bursts into four birds who dive at Brady before returning to his human form. Che-tan then tells Allie and Brady that they must take the next step now, that there is no time to wake the others! Using two of the artifacts that the boys recovered they receive a message "Invade the Conjurer's home. Stab him through the eye. Listen to him scream. Watch him perish. His inheritance will become yours." Now they just have to decipher it before it is too late.

Meanwhile Ethan begins convulsing so Jacob and Jordan melt some chocolate with some water to give him some energy. But when Ethan revives he is overflowing with energy which they realize is a result of the artifact they heated the chocolate in. The three then realize that Allie and Brady are gone.

Che-tan is leading Allie and Brady to Wizard Island, but Brady is still suffering from his ordeal and the pace is hard on him.

Ethan then has Jacob and Jordan drink from the stone bowl, hoping it will give them an energy boost as well. As they heat the water they see the same message Allie and Brady saw. Jordan then realizes that Allie and Brady must be heading towards Wizard Island.

Jordan starts walking away as if in a trance, disappearing into a fissure in the rocky ground. Jacob and Ethan have no choice but to follow her into the narrow into the lava tunnel. As she journeys she sees visions from Mt Mazama's past – it's destruction. Seeing a faint light Ethan leaves Jacob and hurries towards the glow thinking it is Jordan. But instead he finds Chief Llao! Llao then forces Ethan to help him by killing Jacob and promising to restore Jacob's life if Ethan will listen to him. Llao orders Ethan to give him the stone bowl and water. When Llao drinks the water he is transformed into his youthful appearance, to Ethan's horror! Llao then returns Jacob to life. He tells the boys that their parents disappearance was to get their help because when they release their parents from the Prison of the Lost they will release Llao and his people as well!

As the boys race through the lava tunnels, Che-tan is preparing his followers - cougars, black bears, and hawks await his orders to go to Wizard Island and to war! When Jordan comes out of her trance she doesn't remember getting to Wizard Island and she doesn't know why she is all alone on the edge of a volcano. Jordan tells Ethan and Jacob that the Old Man they need to stab in the eye is the log that Uncle Bart said floated in Crater Lake. But Ethan and Jacob don't take her seriously. As the boys decide their search strategy Jordan goes off on her own towards the lake.

Allie and Brady make their escape to Crater Lake in a canoe while Che-tan's army, that can, escape in their various animal forms. When Brady asks Allie if there is anything she can do to help, she tries the last hole of the flute. She creates a wind that clears the lake of the fog and they see Jordan and Ethan holding onto a log. While on the shore waiting for Ethan and Jordan, Jacob decides to resume his search for the conjurer. But as he sets out two zombie-like people trap him so he leaps into the water, only to have one of them pushes him beneath the surface. For the second time Jacob dies at the whim of Chief Llao. Jenna and Nathaniel leave the now dead Jacob floating in the lake.

Using all four of the artifacts the kids are able to unlock the prison and awakening the volcano within Wizard Island! The Wata'm village along with the Wata'mi and Chief Llao erupt through the lava tunnels to the surface . The sun turns purple and the sky green as Wizard Island bulges out with its eruption. When the waves settle down Ethan and Jordan find themselves on the shore near the Phantom Ship. Suddenly their parents call out telling them to hurry up! Jordan and Ethan race up the path to their parents. Allie then joins them from further up the trail. Jordan then asks her parents if they can bring Ethan home with them and not leave him behind as they had originally had planned.

Suddenly Brady comes upon his scout troop where he had left them and when Jacob's dad asks him where Jacob is Brady can't tell him and instead hugs him tight. With Jacob dead Brady doesn't know what to say or to do.

Chief Llao is directing the rebuilding of the Wata'm village in the Above World. Soon Che-tan joins him and tells him his people will be no danger to him. He also tells him that Jacob was lost to the watery depths of Crater Lake but he is truly dead and no longer a threat to Llao either now or in the coming battle with Chief Skell.

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Hi Steve, First of all I'd like to thank you for taking the time to answer some question about Crater Lake. It was an exciting read and I'm sure your readers would like to learn a little more about your thought processes when you were writing it.

What did Ethan's parents and Jordan plan on doing after they dropped Ethan off for his vacation? Why didn't his parents deny Jordan's statement that they loved her more and that was why Ethan was being left with Uncle Bart?
Ethan’s father was actually coming to Oregon for job interviews—hardly an exciting vacation. Ethan was supposed to stay with Bart while mom and Jordan traveled to nearby cities with dad looking for work. It’s not really an exciting piece to the story so I left it out of the book, but I think Ethan was definitely getting the best deal.
My kids say things all the time that I don’t respond to—especially when they’re fighting. I think mom and dad were just tired of the bickering and were ignoring Jordan’s snide remark.
Why does Ethan call his Uncle Bart crazy?
Uncle Bart is a bit eccentric and is known for his “creative” and theatrical storytelling. Ethan has learned not to believe the crazy stories his uncle tells and we get to see a little bit of Uncle Bart’s flair for embellishment when he tells the kids about the war between two ancient spirit chiefs, the magical necklace, and the Phantom Ship. Unfortunately for Ethan, all of these stories are true and I bet he wishes he had paid closer attention.
What was the significance of the white tree that Jordan saw as she was led by the necklace beneath Crater Lake?
The ‘old man’ is a white stump that bobs up and down and wanders around Crater Lake. There is an etching on the trunk that unlocks the key to freeing all the adults at Crater Lake. Jordan sees the past of the white trunk in vision before it falls into the lake to wander aimlessly.
The vision of the defeat of Chief Llao and the collapse of Mt. Mazama where did you get this from? How much research did you have to do to research the history of Crater Lake?
Researching Crater Lake and the legends that surround it was a lot of fun. At Crater Lake there are many landmarks related to the evil spirit chief, like Llao Rock, as well as his nemesis Chief Skell. The legend explains the origins of Crater Lake and provides an excellent jumping off point for a modern adventure and an expansion of the legend. Ethan and his friends learn the hard way that all the legends are true.
Ethan and Jacob's pursuit of Jordan in the pitch black of the cavern would be very nerve-wracking, have you ever had a similar experience?
I wouldn’t say I’m afraid of the dark, but I have been in a pitch black cave before and it’s scary. I’ve also hiked through lava tunnels, which was a great adventure, but I wouldn’t want to do it in complete blackness like Ethan and Jacob did. Courage is only required when we’re afraid of something and this hike through the black lava tunnel was a real test of courage for Ethan and Jacob. They could have given up when faced with a trial like this, but they pushed on.

Why do the Wata’mi not remember anything of their lives before Chief Skell imprisoned them.
Chief Llao is a bad guy. He’s powerful and dangerous and when he commanded his people into battle against Chief Skell, they followed. As a consequence they were imprisoned with Llao below Crater Lake. Mercifully, Chief Skell took pity on them. While Chief Llao was sentenced to imprisonment and the torture of knowing what a full life had to offer and everything he was missing, the Wata’mi’s were ignorant of all they had lost. They didn’t remember, but Llao’s memories are torture and he wants payback.
The lava tunnel that leads Jacob and Ethan to Chief Llao and the Wata’mi, how did it remain hidden over the centuries that they’ve been imprisoned?
For centuries the Native Americans protected the sanctity and beauty of the Crater Lake while also fearing the evil power that was imprisoned beneath. They did not go searching for an entrance into the Below World. They avoided it. Crater Lake was hidden to the outside world until the 1850’s when gold prospectors wandered into the area. Over time, visitors began coming to Crater Lake to enjoy its beauty. It was also able to stay hidden because the mouth that led into the bowels of Crater Lake was concealed along the rocky shoreline of the Crater. Jordan and the others found it only because the necklace led them there.
Would you describe the restorative powers of the stone bowl as a type of Fountain of Youth that was the basis of the legends that Spanish explorers searched for?
All legends start somewhere and then they spread and are changed by different cultures and peoples. I can’t track the changes to the legend over the centuries but I do know that the Legends of Crater Lake have existed for over seven thousand years. The artifacts at Crater Lake, including the healing bowl, have amazing powers. It seems reasonable to me that excitement about this power would spread and that others would seek that same power even if their legends are corrupted and the details of the story change over time.
Che-tan is hard to get a feel for. He seems to be both for and against at the same time. Is he as conflicted as he appears or is it all an act to achieve his ultimate goal?
Che-tan is an interesting character and you’re right, he is conflicted. Like the other youth at Crater Lake, he wants to free his family from the Prison of the Lost. In that way all the kids are working towards the same goal, but there is more to Che-tan than meets the eye. Like many of the choices we make, there may be both good and bad consequences to the things we do. The question is, does the good outweigh the bad and are we justified in doing good even if it hurts others?
Killing Jacob twice, is he a particular threat to Chief Llao? And if so how so or is this a secret that will be revealed in a later book?
Chief Llao is brutal. He killed Jacob with his bare hands but then brought him back to life to show Ethan that they could all work together and be allies. When he brought Jacob back to life, Llao lost some of his strength and glory. He knows what he lost and he wants it back before Jacob can pose a threat. There is more to be revealed.
What happened to the necklace that Jordan was wearing, did it reappear in the ranger station or was Jordan still wearing it?
We’ll have to wait and see. Sorry.
Do you know what kinds of powers the kids will have? And how will they be drawn back to Crater Lake and will it be soon?
Yes. I know what kind of powers the kids will have and they are AWESOME, but I can’t give that away yet. Just remember, they receive their inheritance from the conjurer and it may be more than they bargained for. The kids cannot escape the lure of Crater Lake. They will be back to resolve some unfinished business.
Who is your favorite character? Why this character?
I like all the characters for different reasons. I really like Ethan because he’s just an average 13 year old who may be a little thick around the middle. But he has courage and he’s smart. Through the course of the story he becomes a leader and a champion to the group.
I also like Jacob. In fact, he reminds me of my older brother. He may be small in stature and a little big geeky, but he is prepared with the knowledge and skill to save the kids from real danger. Great things can come in small packages and he’s a real hero.
What is your favorite scene from Crater Lake?
That’s kind of like asking if I have a favorite child. I’ll mention just a couple.
I love the hypothermia scene where Jacob is able to create a fire from the lint on his sweatshirt and a lighter with no lighter fluid. Jacob is smart and level headed.
I also like the scenes in the Living Woods where the dark evil presses against Allie but she is able to escape and the battle on Wizard Island where Brady and Allie fight against the grotesque creatures sent to stop them.
I also like the scenes in the lava tunnels. It’s kind of spooky, but also funny. I love it whenever characters find the courage to do something they didn’t know they could accomplish.
Have you started working on a sequel to Crater Lake? And if so how long will your readers have to wait with baited breath for it to come out?
I have started on a sequel but it’s really hard to say when it might be ready for publication. The success of the first Crater Lake book will be a factor in that. I hate to leave people hanging. In fact, my daughter is really pushing for the sequel already too so I’ll have to get it ready soon.

Again thank you for your time and for sharing with your readers. I'm anticipating an equally exciting sequel in the not too distance future.
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