Juan Pablo and the Butterflies by JJ Flowers follows the story of two friends trying to find sanctuary. Read an exclusive excerpt here.

About ‘Juan Pablo and the Butterflies’ by JJ Flowers

After facing a vicious drug cartel in Mexico’s Monarch Butterfly sanctuary, Juan Pablo and his best friend Rocio follow the butterflies’ migration, and flee to California for their freedom and survival.

In the small town of El Rosario, Mexico’s butterfly sanctuary, drug traffickers begin to take over and disrupt the life of the community. As Juan Pablo’s grandmother, the medicine woman of the town, lies on her deathbed, she tells her grandson that he must follow the migration of butterflies to Pacific Grove, California—to another butterfly sanctuary—where someone will be waiting for him. When Juan Pablo uses one of his grandmother’s poisons on members of the cartel, he and his best friend Rocio must leave for California as soon as they can and follow the butterflies. But is he following the wings of freedom? Or death?

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Read an excerpt from ‘Juan Pablo and the Butterflies’

Pacing now, Juan Pablo covered his ears to escape the distant drum of the ugly music of the narco-traffickers. Before this invasión his biggest problem had been finding good Wi-Fi for his violin lessons, perfecting Bach’s Allegro, and whether he should read the last Harry Potter book in his beloved Spanish or in the sometimes more difficult English.

Seeking the old woman’s familiar comfort, he approached the cot and stared down at her small brown head peeking out from her favorite orange blanket. The blanket formed the shape of a colorful kite, her long gray braid its tail, as if waiting for a wind to carry her up.

For several minutes, he closed his eyes, willing her to wake from her long illness. “Juan Pablo.”

His eyes flew open to the miracle. The old woman’s soft brown eyes stared back. “Abuela, you’re awake!”

She shook her head and closed her eyes again as if pained. “It is time.”

“Time?” he repeated before starting to explain the dangerous siege taking place outside their door.

She stopped him with a slight shake of her head. “It is time for you to make the journey north. To follow the butterflies.”

“Follow the butterflies? North?”

“Sí, to America.”

He tried to make sense of this, but couldn’t. Her illness must be speaking.

“Take your violin, of course, and the seeds. Use them to make your way.”

The townspeople sold packets of milkweed seeds to the tourists. Milkweed fed the butterflies on their perilous journey from El Rosario to the great lands of North America. It took four generations of butterflies traveling 4,200 kilometers to make the mystical pilgrimage, a journey that ended with their return to the ancient forested mountains of Sierra Madre. Tourists came to their small town from all over America to see the millions of winged creatures together in one magical place. During the winter months, as the butterflies’ numbers grew and grew, these winged creatures swallowed up the whole of the blue sky. Other times they appeared as a colorful stream riding an invisible river of wind above. The delicate beings clustered so thick on the trees, it was not uncommon for branches to break off, sending thousands of orange and black butterflies into the air with a cacophony of sound and color.

The butterflies sustained the people of El Rosario.

“Be generous with our seeds,” his abuela continued, unaware of the emergency just down the street in the square, the armed men threatening them or even her grandson’s desperation. “And always follow the butterflies’ path; they will not steer you wrong.”

He glanced anxiously at the door, as if the banditos might be bursting through any minute.

“Cross the Sea of Cortez to Baja, and continue north. I think you should pass over the invisible line separating our two lands in Tijuana. This might be difficult, but you are clever. You will find a way. Follow the ocean’s shore north, just like our butterflies.”

All he could think of was get the idea out of her mind. “Abuela, you don’t understand. Banditos, here, in Rosario—”

Yet the old woman was not listening. She reached for his hand, as if needing more of his wide-eyed attention. “To save a life and slay a beast. This is your journey, your transformación. Promise me,” she said with sudden intensity before she remembered. “You must reach Pacific Grove before summer’s end. In August, late August . . .”

Pacific Grove? This was another butterfly sanctuary, he knew, but one far away in California, the golden land of dreams: Hollywood, Apple, Google, Facebook, Twitter, and Disneyland. (Since they were small, he and Rocio dreamed of visiting the Magic Kingdom, and sometimes he could even cajole Rocio into pretending they were in Disneyland.) There was also the Golden Gate Bridge that spanned the beautiful city by the bay. Beyond San Francisco stretched the land of the magnificent redwoods, trees taller than the tallest buildings. (His abuela had always dreamed of touching a redwood tree in the north and “looking up to see how small I am.”) California, this golden land, more than a thousand miles away, but might as well be a million miles away, for he could never reach it. He had no car, no money, and most of all, no papers.

“Promise me,” she demanded again.

“Sí, sí,” he had finally relented to ease her worry, stealing another anxious glance at the door.

“Remember, the sky people will always be with you…”

A large butterfly floated in from the tiny kitchen off to the side. He stared in wonder at the miracle as the winged creature drew close and began circling his abuela’s cot.

The wrinkled face changed with a smile, despite her illness and fever, and a twinkle lit her strange amber eyes. “A good omen, that.”

“Impossible…” Juan Pablo managed the single word.

Butterflies cannot fly at night. The sun fueled their flight. Without the warmth of the sun, there could be no flying.

Butterflies, according to his abuela, were the living symbols of spirit energy in the material world, a reminder to all souls of a transcendent purpose.

He watched as the butterfly floated out of sight again. Never, in all his life, had he seen a butterfly fly at night.

He was about to give it chase, to set it safely in a tree, but his abuela’s eyes closed again and she muttered her last words, the strangest of all. “He will be waiting for you in the sanctuary at Pacific Grove, Juan Pablo.”

“Who abuela? Who will be waiting for me?”

But there was no answer. The nightmare was upon them…

Excerpted from Juan Pablo and the Butterflies Copyright © 2017 by JJ Flowers and published by Merit Press, an imprint of Simon & Schuster, Inc. Used by permission of the publisher. All rights reserved.

About the author

Most of JJ Flowers’ published books are historical romance novels (Avon Books, Zebra Books, written under the name Jennifer Horsman) many of which actually won awards and one of these awards was almost considered prestigious. She finally stopped being able to write these novels when she started having fantasies of killing off her heroines—in really dreadful ways.

JJ’s screenplays have been optioned at Warner Bros., Julian Krainin Productions, and Bright Light Pictures among other production companies and was recently hired by Richard Harding hired me to write the Emma Edmonds story, a true story about a woman who disguised herself as a man and fought heroically in the Civil War. As we all became increasingly aware of the world’s refugee population, Juan Pablo showed up on her keyboard to share his story.


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