by Bob Minzesheimer)
Actor Chris Colfer (Glee) isn't ready to conclude his fantasy/adventure series for kids, The Land of Stories. As the cover of Book Three: A Grimm Warning is revealed here—it will be released July 8 – Colfer, 23, tells USA TODAY he may keep the series going.
"I'm very happy with the fourth book (announced last fall for 2015) being the conclusion," but, "I can't say it will be the final story. I love these characters too much to completely abandon them."
The series, begun in 2012 for readers 8 to 12, stars twins who encounter fairy-tale characters come to life. Colfer says, "As long as I'm still around and people want to read them, a continuation is always possible."
Colfer says the first book in the series was the hardest. "You learn a lot about yourself and develop a process. Once a technique is established it's much easier to go forward. It wasn't until I finished The Land of Stories: The Wishing Spell that I knew for certain I was even capable of writing a book. That fear - "Will I make it? Will I finish this?" - eventually fades and you learn to enjoy it."
Read an exclusive excerpt of A Grimm Warning here:
Suddenly the hall of fairies parted. Something was causing a ruckus, and they hurried away from it as fast as possible. Three boisterous witches had just arrived in the Fairy Palace, and they noisily made their way into the center of the hall.
Each wore a long, ragged black cloak and smelled foul. One witch had cat eyes and twigs for hair, another was missing an eye but had two large noses, and the third had skin so loose, it appeared to be melting off her face like wax. They cackled loudly at the fairies cowering away from them.
The eight members of the Fairy Council formed a circle around the witches. It was obvious they had come to start trouble.
"What business do you have here?" Emerelda asked them.
"We came here for the Fairy Inaugural Ball, of course," the one-eyed witch said in a shrill voice.
"You weren't invited," Violetta said. "This is a celebration for fairies only."
"You're breaking the laws of the Happily Ever After Assembly by being in our palace," Xanthous threatened. "Witches are not allowed to set foot in this kingdom, and you know it."
"Enforce those laws while you still have them, because soon there will be no assembly to scare us with," the one-eye witched warned.
The fairies whispered to one another. What did the witch mean by this? Xanthous grew impatient and didn't care to find out. "Leave at once, or we'll have you thrown in Pinocchio Prison," he threatened.
The witches cackled even harder at his attempt to frighten them. "But if we leave, you'll never receive our gift," the witch with cat eyes hissed. "We didn't come all this way empty-handed."
"We don't want your gift," Tangerina said. The bees flying around her neck and wrists flew at a quicker pace. "Go back to wherever it is you came from."
"Trust us—you want what we have to offer," the witch with waxy skin wheezed. "It's less of a gift and more of a prophecy. It's something the witches have kept to themselves for a great while, but since it's such a ceremonious night, we thought we'd share it with you."
"We don't want to hear your ridiculous prophecy, either," Rosette said.
"I do!" Coral peeped, speaking on behalf of all the curious fairies in the room. "It couldn't hurt just to listen to whatever information they want to give us."
The members of the Fairy Council looked at one another, but no one objected. "Very well," Emerelda said. "If the witches promise to leave us in peace when they've finished, they may share their message with us."
The witches scowled at the audience of fairies around them. They held hands and formed a circle in the center of the hall. The witches cocked their heads up to the sky, and their mouths and eyes began to glow. A strong breeze swiftly blew through the palace as the witches chanted a rhyme in unison.
"Fairies, listen well,
For there is truth in the sights we foretell.
'Happily ever after' will not last,
When it's greeted by a threat from the past.
One by one, the kingdoms will fall apart,
From battles they'll lose and wars they'll start.
Fairy blood will be spilt by the gallon,
When you face the army of thousands."
The witches howled with laughter at the conclusion of their prophecy. All the fairies had to cover their ears from the screeching sounds.
"Get out of this palace before I turn you into ashes," Xanthous said, and his whole body burst into flames.
"Yeah, and then I'll kick your ashes into next week!" Mother Goose added.
The witches left the palace, cackling as loud as they could the entire way. The fairies looked to one another anxiously. Did they have any reason to believe a word of what the witches had just said? Was there really some sort of army on its way?
"Do not worry," Emerelda told them. "This was nothing more than a foolish attempt to ruin our evening, and I refuse to let them. I say we continue our celebration in the gardens and celebrate under the stars."
The fairies cheered, and Emerelda led all the guests through the hall and outside the palace.
"Aren't you coming, Mother Goose?" Coral asked as she left with the others.
Mother Goose was the only one who stayed behind. "Sure," she said. "I'll be out in a minute."
"All right," Coral said, and flew off with the others.
Mother Goose's eyes darted left and right, and small beads of sweat appeared on her forehead. She was the only person to whom the witches' prophecy had meant something. Everything the witches had foretold was very relevant to a dark secret Mother Goose had kept for many years, a secret she had never told to anyone, not even the Fairy Godmother.
But Mother Goose had done everything in her power for years to make sure the army wouldn't cross over. Was the threat still alive?
There was only one way to find out, and there was only one person who could help her—and he was worlds away.
Mother Goose took a giant swig from her flask and hopped onto Lester's back. She steered him to the window of Alex's room. Mother Goose climbed in and had a look around. She found the magic mirror placed in the corner and touched its glass. The mirror shimmered for a few seconds, and the round, freckled face of the person she was trying to contact appeared.
"Oh, C-Dog, thank God it's you," Mother Goose said to Conner. "Listen, we need to talk. I need your help.…"