Nadia’s Heart Part Two by Wendy Altshuler – Spotlight and Giveaway

This post is part of a virtual book tour organized by Goddess Fish Promotions. Wendy will be awarding a $15 Amazon or B/N GC to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour. Click on the tour banner to see the other stops on the tour.


In Nadia’s Heart, Part One, amnesiac Nadia knew that something was wrong, so she went in search of her missing heart. What she encountered has only brought more questions: about her origins and her ties to the people of the Land of Silence. She learned that her heart was indeed removed, and that her memory was erased by an evil Voice. But why? Now Nadia and her glowing-eyed companion, Georgeonus, must help recover the stolen hearts of the children of the Land of Silence. In Part Two, they will do battle against the evil Voice and travel to frightening places. They receive help from a powerful Witch and Wizard, and Nadia gets her heart back—but it’s not at all what she expected. Can they rescue the stolen children’s hearts in time?

From Chapter IV: The Silver Witch:

They remembered that her visit had been preceded by a magick dust.

The dust came from above, the air tingled, and miniscule, silver particles glistened as they fell. It was musical, and as they breathed, they smelled fresh air like new spring, and they felt an excitement of imminent magick. She appeared suddenly, and at first no one knew where she had come from or how; she was just there on the road. She came as naturally as if she had approached them from the road. But as the magick dust settled, they realized—remembered—that the Silver Witch had dropped out of the sky.

As she stood there smiling at them, they remembered that they had looked up at the sky at a circling dot which descended. As it approached, it formed the shape of a square, floating quilt. The Witch was soon revealed to be sitting on top in black garb and hat, her silvery skin thick and rubbery. With both hands placed on diagonal corners of the quilt, she jumped off and shook the fabric out like clean laundry and parachuted down to them, the tennis sneakers on her feet ready for the road. Softly she landed, snapping the quilt upward and folding it once, twice, three times, and again and again until it was a small square deposited into one of her pockets.


Wendy Altshuler is a writer-producer who explores myth in new media. She writes fantasy novels and creates works in stop motion animation. Her credits include award-winning screenwriting and WGA-accredited representation. With a degree in psychology and a Master of Arts from Columbia University, Altshuler documented the work of international choreographers and wrote and produced regional programming. Her short plays have been performed at Boston Playwrights’ Theatre, at regional schools and most recently, Puppet Showplace Theatre. Altshuler’s young adult book series has been hailed as “emotionally moving, uplifting and wholesome,” and “spirited and haunting. . .with much symbolism and beauty.”

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Sophie Washington: Queen of the Bee by Tonya Duncan Ellis

Sophie Washington: Queen of the Bee by Tonya Duncan Ellis
Publisher: Dog Ear Publishing
Genre: Contemporary, Middle Grade
Length: Short Story (90 pgs)
Age Recommendation: 8+
Rated: 4 stars
Review by Rose

Sign up for the spelling bee? No way!

If there’s one thing 10-year-old Texan Sophie Washington is good at, it’s spelling. She’s earned straight 100s on all her spelling tests to prove it. Her parents want her to compete in the Xavier Academy spelling bee, but Sophie wishes they would buzz off.

Her life in the Houston suburbs is full of adventures, and she doesn’t want to slow down the action. Where else can you chase wild hogs out of your yard, ride a bucking sheep, or spy an eight-foot-long alligator during a bike ride through the neighborhood? Studying spelling words seems as fun as getting stung by a hornet, in comparison.

That’s until her irritating classmate, Nathan Jones, challenges her. There’s no way she can let Mr. Know-It-All win. Studying is hard when you have a pesky younger brother and a busy social calendar. Can Sophie ignore the distractions and become Queen of the Bee?

This is a wonderful little book that really captures the character and interactions not only between schoolmates, but also with siblings. I have a younger sister and can remember the love-hate relationship we had as we were growing up.

I especially liked the message about working hard to achieve your dreams. This is, I think, a message that all children need to hear. They also need to see that in life, not everyone wins. There was a winner and there were losers…that’s life and a good lesson.

Sophie is a well-developed character and the other characters, although not as developed as Sophie, are fully drawn and not just stock characters. The setting of Texas also serves as an extra character, and the author does a wonderful job introducing us to the area and making this reader feel like she was actually there.

Strongly recommended for ages 8 and up.

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Would I Read This Book If I’d Never Heard of Me? by Tonya Duncan Ellis – Guest Blog and Giveaway

This post is part of a virtual book tour organized by Goddess Fish Promotions. Tonya Duncan Ellis will be awarding a $25 Amazon/BN GC to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour. Click on the tour banner to see the other stops on the tour.

If I’d never heard of me would I read my book?

Most definitely! Bullying is a hot topic, so the subject matter of the book would grab me immediately. This would be a book that I could discuss with my child that might open the door to issues they may be dealing with at school. The book cover and the inside illustrations are super-cute and make it appear even more engaging and exciting.

Finally, I might check out some of the book’s reviews:



5.0 out of 5 stars I love Sophie Washington!

October 30, 2017

Format: Paperback

I love Sophie Washington! Her chapter book has just the right balance of real life and excitement that will appeal to early readers. More important, this story shares a vital message: even if it is unpopular to “snitch,” everyone needs to stand up to bullies and tell the truth. I enjoyed how the author weaves in Sophie’s relationship with her little brother and how she grows through this relationship as well. Sophie is a believable character with foibles just like all of us, and her experiences will delight kids from first to fifth grade.


(Four stars) Laurie

I believe that children who are Sophie’s age would understand her reasoning. Being a relatable children’s author requires understanding what children feel, believe, and how they behave. The author here does an excellent job of showing Sophie’s childlike decision-making. The illustrations are adorable and advance the story.

5.0 out of 5 stars Fun Story and Wonderful Preteen Relationships

By John Hope on November 8, 2017

Format: Paperback

Sophie Washington: The Snitch is a fun slice of life of preteen life. The author perfectly jumps into the head of Sophie from the first sentence, taking the reader on the rollercoaster ride of surviving the fifth grade with school and sibling pressures, but most of all a bully to contend. Sophie’s friendships are so real and endearing, they’re remind me of my friends at that age. Her warmest relationship is with her little brother, who has troubles of his own and loves his big sister, praying for her at her darkest moments. The book’s ending is as expected but still very satisfying and provides a great take away for kids reading this. There’s no doubt kids would love this book. I highly recommend it.

The book’s great presentation and positive reviews would show me that others have enjoyed Sophie Washington: The Snitch and convince me that I would too.

There’s nothing worse than being a tattletale…

That’s what 10-year-old Sophie Washington thinks until she runs into Lanie Mitchell, a new girl at school. Lanie pushes Sophie and her friends around at their lockers, and even takes their lunch money. If they tell, they are scared the other kids in their class will call them snitches, and won’t be their friends. And when you’re in the fifth grade, nothing seems worse than that.

Excitement at home keeps Sophie’s mind off the trouble with Lanie. She takes a fishing trip to the Gulf of Mexico with her parents and little brother, Cole, and discovers a mysterious creature in the attic above her room. For a while, Sophie is able to keep her parents from knowing what is going on at school. But Lanie’s bullying goes too far, and a classmate gets seriously hurt. Sophie needs to make a decision. Should she stand up to the bully, or become a snitch?

Enjoy an Excerpt

I’ve got a secret. Want to hear it?

Secrets are usually nice. Like when my dad surprised me with a new goldfish last year. Or the time Grandma Washington unexpectedly visited us in Houston from her house in Corpus Christi.

I used to love secrets. But this one’s not so great.

No one knows it, except my best friend Chloe. It’s her secret, too. We don’t talk about it, ‘cause if we do people won’t like us. And in the fifth grade being liked is as important as having a fun birthday party, or staying up as late as possible, or…Christmas.

For now, I’m not telling. Chloe’s not either.

“Hey Sophie, wait up!” Chloe yells as I make my way down the hall to our first period math class. “How was your weekend?”

“The same old, same old,” I reply, hoisting my math book and binder up in my arms. “Cole whined about having nothing to do, so Mom and Dad took us to the zoo and then out for ice cream. On Sunday I caught up on all my homework after church.”

Cole is my seven-year-old brother. My mom thinks he’s an angel, but I think he was sent here to drive me crazy. Just this morning at breakfast, for example, he pulled my ponytail while she wasn’t looking, and then started crying loudly after I whacked him with an empty Cheerios box. Of course, I’m the one who got in trouble. My dad is nicer to Cole than he deserves, but I think he’s figured out his game a little bit better than Mom.

“Nothing much exciting happened at our house, either,” says Chloe, “but I did get this cute new purse.” Chloe is what you’d call a Fashionista. I admire the pretty, powder blue bag and notice the red, glittery, slide-on shoes she wears on her feet. She always manages to make our boring, private school uniforms look stylish.

“That’s nice,” I say.

As we near the classroom I see someone in the shadows and my heart starts to beat fast.

“Just great,” I mutter.

Lanie Mitchell, the class bully, heads our way from the opposite direction.

She sees us, grins, and blocks our path. Most of our classmates are 10, like me, but Lanie is already 12 years old. She’s the second tallest girl in 5B, behind Chloe, and a little bit on the chubby side.

About the Author: Tonya Ellis remembers hiding in the restroom from a few bullies during her elementary school days. She encourages kids to speak out if they are being mistreated. She knew she wanted to become a writer after an article she wrote was published in her hometown newspaper. Since then, Tonya has worked as a journalist, written for newspapers and magazines and won awards for her books. When she’s not busy writing, she enjoys reading, biking with her husband and two sons and daughter, and travelling to interesting places. SOPHIE WASHINGTON: The Snitch is the second book in a series about Sophie and her friends.

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Jack Gregson & the Forgotten Portal by Peter Wilson – Spotlight and Giveaway

This post is part of a virtual book tour organized by Goddess Fish Promotions.
Peter Wilson will be awarding a $25 Amazon or Barnes and Noble GC to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour. Click on the tour banner to see the other stops on the tour.

Winner of the Bronze medal in the 2017 Moonbeam Children’s Book Awards in the Pre-Teen Fiction-Mystery category.

Something has changed at Gregson Manor. An evil force from the family’s past has returned to upheave their lives. Jack and his cousins explore the family secrets as they are pulled through a portal into a universe of endless worlds and possibilities. Together, they race to escape and destroy the evil Theorden and his followers who strive to unlock the power of the Forgotten Portal and wreak havoc on Gregson Manor and the World.

Enjoy an Excerpt

“Amazing! It makes sense then. If Theorden had that book in his possession, he could create hundreds of portals and attack Earth from multiple places at once. He could place those Horde stones all over the globe and overrun your world in a matter of weeks!”

“I don’t get why is he so interested in invading Earth.”

“Earth is quite unique, Jack. Because its portal has been kept a secret, it has allowed you humans to grow and thrive without the influences of magic and other civilizations. Unlike other worlds, you haven’t spread out across the Universe and there are now seven billion of you on the one planet. You don’t have magic, but you have weapons that can kill hundreds of thousands of people with the push of a button! If Theorden managed to take control of your people and technology, and combine it with his magic, he’d be unstoppable. He would control the Universe!”

Jack sat back in shock. Control the Universe? He couldn’t understand why someone would want that much power.

“Jack. If David and Rosie went back to the Manor, they should have taken the book with them. It isn’t safe carrying that around. Why did you three decide it should be brought here when you split up?”

Jack shifted uncomfortably where he sat. “We didn’t really discuss it. We didn’t really talk about splitting up either…”

Anthrow looked at him and then sighed. “You decided to come here alone, and didn’t tell them. Why?”

About the Author: Peter Wilson has been writing for years. He started with short stories (many of them just 55 words long). The storylines and genres he chooses to write in are fantasy, horror & fast paced thrillers, as that is what he enjoys reading.

A number of years ago Peter sat down to write another short story, based on a prompt given in an online writing competition. As the word count rose, he realized that it wasn’t so short and it had turned into a novel: Jack Gregson & the Forgotten Portal, which recently won a Moonbeam award. He’s currently working on the sequel to the book, in what he plans to be a trilogy.

Peter lives in Sydney Australia. When he’s not writing, he works in the digital world, creating content for games, music and movie companies.

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Secrets from Myself by Christine Hart

Secrets from Myself by Christine Hart
Publisher: Dancing Cat Books
Genre: Contemporary, Historical, Paranormal, Mystery
Length: Full Length (180 pgs)
Age Recommendation: 12+
Rated: 4 stars
Review by Rose

BoM LASR YA copy

Twelve-year-old Katelyn has always heard voices and had visions. She’s long suspected she was hearing from past lives. But when she runs away from home and hides out with an old friend in Vancouver, things become more real. She even finds herself writing the words of someone else in a diary – the words of someone whose fate was deeply impacted by the Komagata Maru incident.

As Katelyn learns more about the Komagata Maru and the person communicating with her, she realizes that she has a task to fulfill that will correct a wrong from the past.

Katelyn is a modern twelve year old who has been having blackouts and discovering strange writing in her diary (in Hindi, no less). She is, understandably, interested in discovering why, while her mother is concerned that she’s having mental or physical issues.

Little by little, Katelyn discovers more and more about Akasha and starts to believe that not only is she discovering another life, she begins to suspect that it is her life in a previous existence.

The book is an easy read, and it was fascinating learning about the history the book is based on. The characters are likeable, even Katelyn’s mom. Being a mom myself, I can easily put myself in her place and understand how very worried she was.

The mystery was interesting. Katelyn proved herself to be resilient as well as resourceful in discovering evidence to support her idea. There were a few times when she acted more precipitously than once might have wished, but she is twelve, after all.

The author has done a wonderful job in tying these two facets of history together. Kudos, Ms. Hart!

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The Details of My Reality by Katie L. Oslin – Spotlight and Giveaway

This post is part of a virtual book tour organized by Goddess Fish Promotions. Katie L. Oslin will be awarding a $50 Amazon or Barnes and Noble GC to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour. Click on the tour banner to see the other stops on the tour.

Amy Thatcher is full of despair since her best friend is no longer by her side. Known as the ice queen, Amy is quick to dismiss people and barricade her sweet and beautiful soul. Although young, she’s wise beyond her years. And nothing and no one is going to get in the way of achieving her goals; or so she thinks.

Life soon shows Amy that it has other plans. She’s suddenly thrust into a world full of difficult circumstances and even more difficult decisions.

Enjoy an Excerpt

He hugged me tightly for so long I wondered if he’d ever let me go. Our cigarettes developed the longest ashes I ever saw. As mine finally fell to the ground, I was reminded of how quickly I fell for Johnny and how our relationship had been burning for the last three years. Eventually, we, too, like that ash, would fall. We would end up a memory of something that burned so deeply into our souls and it too would eventually turn to ash.

Such thoughts swirled through my mind, as I drove without a destination. Eventually, I found myself at the park where Johnny and I went that fateful night when he showed me the secret overlook and took my virginity and my innocence. I decided to park the car, then I grabbed my emergency blanket, flashlight, and cigarettes and walked toward the precipice where it all began.

A tear fell down my cold wet cheek. I sighed and gave him my heartbreaking answer. “Honestly?” I held back my tears as best I could. “I want you to leave me alone, Johnny. I want you to love me enough to let me go. I want you to help me finally get over you by staying the hell away from me. I want you to stay out of my life and let me be. Please, Johnny, I’m begging you.

“I want to be happy. I deserve that, and you of all people know it. Since I can’t have it with you,” I said, crying a little harder, then I deserve to have it with someone else. So, please, Johnny, if you love me like you say you do, you’ll let me go.”

About the Author:

Katie L. Oslin is a Midwesterner who started writing diaries, poetry and many short stories at a very young age. As a newly published author THE DETIALS OF MY REALITY is her first novel.

She is also a wife, mother and bachelor’s prepared registered nurse. Living on the coast of North Carolina, she frequents the beach and finds inspiration in the sound of the waves and the solitude of her surroundings.

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Broken Roots by Michelle Diana Lowe

Broken Roots by Michelle Diana Lowe
Publisher: Self Published
Genre: Contemporary YA
Length: Full Length (224 pgs)
Age Recommendation: 14+
Rated: 4 stars
Review by Snapdragon

After her father’s invention earns them millions, sixteen-year-old Teisha Cole moves from London to Florida with her family. Uprooted from the place she loves, she now lives in a broken home full of secrets and lies.

After Teisha’s grandmother dies, her fractured family is replanted in rural England, where a kingpin and his clan are laying in wait. What follows is a dangerous game that brings their house to its knees, as the family’s wealth begins to disappear.

When her father develops a mysterious illness, Teisha turns detective to unravel the truth. Escaping onto the streets and stumbling into the foster care system may be her only hope of survival.

Money changes everything right from the start of Broken Roots.

Written in a first person in a very conversational style, the story is like the main character Teisha’s, true confessions.

She a teen, transplanted from her home and not really enjoying what seems like it could be a great, if different, new life. However, ‘great’ is far from the truth. Sunshine and beautiful beaches hide misery.

Violence begins to mark her everyday. Its a relief to find she has friends, but yet another worry when we realize what they are really like. The ups and downs of Teisha’s life are unpredictable and frightening. She seems a victim of all; of people as well as circumstances.

We have the main character’s take on everything, including some things it’s hard to believe that a teen would know. There is definitely an ‘older’ world view in play here. That said, the older world view, while affecting believability, does contribute to the impact of the plot.

“The digital image of love excites you. Actual love means nothing. That is a major issue…” This sixteen-year-old says to her mother. This, and other of Teisha’s insights seem out of character, although this main character’s style is such that it is as if we are staring directly into her psyche: We may be doubtful, uncomfortable; but also enthralled.

My chief complaint is information overload: some repeated (I feel alone/isolated) and some simply too much. Her misery is very apparent. Her family members have become strangers… she lives in this ‘less than,’ yet idyllic-looking world.

Unique, unpredictable and engaging. Once you start reading Broken Roots it is hard to put down! The mystery adds to its intrigue. For a real change of pace from practically anything that is your usual, add it to your list!

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Inspiration for the Annabelle and Aiden Series by J.R. Becker – Guest Blog and Giveaway

This post is part of a virtual book tour organized by Goddess Fish Promotions. J.R. Becker will be awarding 2 personally-signed Annabelle & Aiden books, along with 3 limited-edition Annabelle & Aiden bookmarks (US ONLY) to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour. Click on the tour banner to see the other stops on the tour.

This gorgeously-illustrated book takes children on an adventure through the earliest stages of our universe. “How did our universe form?” Annabelle wonders to Aiden. Luckily, the friendly Tardigrade Tom answers by taking the children on their biggest adventure yet! Soaring through space and time, they marvel at the big bang, and learn how each and every one of us is literally made of the same stardust. This book empowers children, who learn how we each hold a part of the universe inside us, and are far more special, interconnected, and ‘larger’ than we may think. Children learn:

Did you know you hold the strength of hydrogen bombs?
Or that there’s parts of different stars in each of your palms?
We’re made of pieces that used to be part
Of dinosaurs, Shakespeare, and Amelia Earhart.
So when you feel small, that you don’t matter much,
Know stars are inside you, whole worlds you can touch.

My inspiration for this book, and in fact, the entire Annabelle & Aiden series, is to show children that our actual reality can be just as exciting as fiction, or more, and can help us change the world.

Annabelle & Aiden is a children’s book series dedicated to inspiring a new generation of scientists, thinkers, and all-around adventurers. Our books are tailored to foster curiosity, wonder, critical thinking skills, and inspiration on the line where science and philosophy meet.

Enjoy an Excerpt:

Aiden says, “Great!
But I do have to say,
all of those stars
seem so far away…”

“Oh, but they’re in us!
Our bones and our skin.
And even those rocks
you’re now sitting in.

You’re feeling the stuff
from the bodies of folks
who lived long ago
and stood like great oaks.

And also the people
who have yet to be.
They’ll come from our bones,
these rocks and those trees.

And all of us come
from the same exact place:
the Earth, which came from
the stars out in space,

who were kind enough
to explode into shards
that joined to make up
everything that we are.

So when you feel small,
that you don’t matter much,
know stars are inside you,
whole worlds you can touch.

About the Author:J. R. holds a B.A. in Philosophy and a Juris Doctorate from Emory University School of Law. When he’s not practicing entertainment law, playing drums, or enjoying the great outdoors, Joseph enjoys all the science and philosophy books and podcasts he can, pondering the bigger questions and dreaming up ideas for future children stories. (Got any? Send them in!)

After publishing his first (philosophical, dystopian) novel The Spider & the Ant, and later becoming a father, Joseph was inspired to found the Annabelle & Aiden series to foster curiosity and scientific awareness in the next generation.

Joseph lives in New Jersey with his wife Leah, and two children, Annabelle & Aiden.

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This book raised over $18,500 in preorders on Kickstarter.

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ILLUSTRATOR: Max lives in a small town just outside Venice, Italy. As an illustrator, she is proficient with multiple mediums (from physical to digital) and can draw in multiple styles, as seen in her portfolio below. Max is especially fond of cats, Game Of Thrones, and Lindsey Stirling. After wandering the cosmos in search of the perfect illustrator, we’re lucky to have found her, just on the other side of our blue planet.

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Where Ideas Come From by Andrew Anzur Clement – Guest Blog and Giveaway

This post is part of a virtual book tour organized by Goddess Fish Promotions. Andrew Anzur Clement will be awarding a $10 Amazon or Barnes and Noble GC to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour. Click on the tour banner to see the other stops on the tour.

Where Ideas Come From

My ideas come from my characters. While in the process of writing Keepers of the Stone, it was as if the story wasn’t being concocted by me. My fingers typed the words, of course. But, those words were dictated to me from the ether of their voices.

There are certain situations that make one more open to hearing his or her characters in their head. In my case, it was plain simple discontent that allowed their voices to be heard. I wasn’t even expecting to write these books. But, they had other ideas. I was living in Coventry, England at the time. I didn’t know anyone there and was utterly miserable after only a few months. That was when Malka first spoke to me. The inspiration for Keepers of the Stone exploded into my head while I was standing in front of the Lady Godiva Statue in Coventry’s main square. Almost as if in a moment of total clarity, the image of that girl on a horse seemed to ‘download’ the entire opening situation for Keepers into my head. Once it was there I couldn’t unsee it. Before the evening was over, I opened up a new project file and allowed my fingers to type the ‘infamous’ words: “She galloped away from them, studiously refusing to look back.”

That was how the process went. Many of the place descriptions came from my own travels. Mostly, though, my characters spoke to me and my fingers put the words on the computer screen. When starting out, I knew that there were going to be certain broad plot points. These were partially inspired by current events, or real historical elements that occurred during the late 19th century, when the books are set. However my characters’ reactions to them resulted in developments that surprised even me. This was especially the case with Stas, a courageous youth born into exile with no country of his own. Liza, a mysterious felinoid (a shapeshifter that can turn into a cat), who turned out to have a longer history with Stas and Nell, his best friend, than I could have even guessed at when I began writing. And with Bozhena: an unwilling servant of the evil Order of the Urumi, who’s unwavering belief in the birthright of her own aristocratic bloodlines ended up changing the entire endgame of the books, from what I was expecting it would be. The secrets that became apparent in their own back stories ended up having a determining influence on the course the Keepers took in the end.

While finishing up the manuscripts, I couldn’t shake the feeling that it wasn’t myself who’d written these books. Because my characters become so real to me during the writing process, it’s almost like the adult equivalent of having imaginary friends. To the point, weird as it may sound, that I felt funny putting my own name on what became Keepers of the Stone.

It wasn’t until I was visiting family back in California that I realized why. It came from another apparition of Malka, the same character who’d been the girl on the horse back in Coventry. I was attending a performance of a play about Shakespeare’s supposed process of writing Macbeth. In the final soliloquy the character of the Bard’s daughter speaks about stories; the ones we tell when we think that nobody is looking, relating that the entire play had been her own. Yet, it was as if my own character simultaneously stepped out of the one on stage and imparted the following: “This was never your story. It is mine. You did not tell it. I did.”

As I finished writing Keepers, this is basically what happened. There’s a frame for the main action that gets the audience up to speed on the back-story a bit faster (the books open in the middle of the action). Maybe this is a slight spoiler, but here goes: It turns out that these books are a chronicle. One conjured by one of the characters as a gift for the others as a memento of their unwitting adventures together. The girl on the horse was right. These books were never mine. This is their story. I’m glad I had the privilege of being the one to finally tell it.

Keepers of the Stone. Book One: The Outcasts

In a far corner of the British Empire, a mysterious girl gallops away on a horse, fleeing for her life. Malka has sacrificed everything to protect an all-powerful stone from falling into the hands of the malevolent Urumi. The last in a Sect of thieves, the girl is a trained killer. But will her lethal skills be enough to defeat the Shadow Warriors and their superhuman abilities?

The fate of the stone may depend on Stas, a courageous youth born into exile from a country that is not on any map. Nell, his friend since childhood, has been caught up in the Dark Order’s evil designs. The young outcasts must confront demons, real and imagined, with the help of mystical new allies. Their journey will take them to distant lands and change their lives forever.


Keepers of the Stone. Book Two: Exile

Stranded on the American frontier, Malka must stop at nothing to safeguard the all-powerful stone. She has come under the protection of a snarky felinoid – a shape-shifting girl who traces her lineage back to the court of Vlad Dracula. They must rescue with Henry, the American orphan whose thirst for knowledge could help decipher the clues to the next
leg of their journey – if the Urumi don’t kill them first.
Alone in yet another strange land, Stas mourns the unthinkable loss of his friend, Nell. Cryptic messages offer new hope. But the Dark Order has devised another strategy to outwit the band of misfits. Plans are betrayed and alliances are formed as history points to the final objective of their quest.

Keepers of the Stone Book Three: Homecoming
Stas and his companions have made their way to the partitioned homeland he has never visited. He dares to hope that Nell may be alive. The doomed princess Bozhena vows revenge on the Shadow Warriors, who have enlisted Malka’s most bitter enemy in their latest plot to control the powerful stone.
With the help of a streetwise gypsy girl, the unlikely travelers must outwit the Urumi and deliver the stone to its final destination. All they have to do is put aside the differences that threaten to tear them apart. The secrets of the past hold the key to the history of the future.

Enjoy an Excerpt from Book One: The Outcasts

“The firearms,” Malka whispered. “We still have them from the bank.”

“Do you even know how to fire a gun?”

The Thag shook her head.

The felinoid harrumphed. “Figures.” Then she began thinking out loud.

“So, we’re low on ammunition. Only six shots per gun, assuming they’re completely loaded. Okay. They’re in the open. We can use the wagon as cover. Target what shots we have. I’m not very good at aiming, but maybe if Mister Bunny Burglar over there takes….”

She stopped. Looking behind her, to the empty space off to the right side of the wagon’s seating area.

“Where is Henry?”

Malka and Liza looked around. Both of them spotted their erstwhile captive at the same moment.

“Ugh! He’s in front of the wagon running away with one of the cages,” Liza said, as if the situation needed any clarification. “I told you we should have killed that little….”

The gunfire ceased abruptly, replaced in short order with the quick screams of men and horses. Then silence. The escaping youth was forgotten for the moment. Liza quickly poked her head just over the stack of cages.

“Oh, no! Oh, please, no!” For the first time since Malka had known the felinoid, she seemed more genuinely worried than annoyed at their situation; she knew what Liza had seen.

“The Urumi,” she confirmed in a quiet voice.

“All three of them. And they’re moving towards us.”

Malka untied the sash from around her waist and inserted the brass knob into one of its ends. She listened for one of the dark forms, as it approached her side of the wagon.

About the Author:Andrew Anzur Clement departed his native Los Angeles at the age of nineteen, with a curiosity for far-off lands. He quickly discovered an insatiable wonderlust that has led him to live, work and study in many fascinating places around the globe. Now in his late-twenties the unabashed opera fan is based in Europe. He continues to travel and read widely, finding new inspiration in the places he discovers. In his ‘other’ life Andrew is an academic researcher, focusing on nationalism and identity formation. He enjoys including insights from his research in his books and the characters he inhabits.

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Which Characters are Based on Val Muller? – Guest Blog and Giveaway

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Pieces of Me: Character Creation
Val Muller

A question that frequently comes up in interviews is: which (if any) characters are based on you?

The short answer? All of them. In each character, there is a little tiny piece of me, even a piece that happened only in passing. Maybe it was that angsty moment in middle school when a teacher yelled at me for standing on the tape instead of behind it. I came home and wrote a journal about how she made me want to be a horrible student. I had all these plans to sabotage my grade just to make her feel terrible. She was a science teacher, and I vowed to hate science for the rest of my life. I outlined what it would be like to be a bad student, how I would end up with a disappointing career that I could pinpoint on her. Rage practically jumped off the page. Later that week, I forgot about it and continued my status quo of getting mostly As and enjoying science class. But for a moment, I was filled with the motivation to teach her a lesson by sabotaging my grade just to make her fail as a teacher. Several minor characters in my works are based on that experience. A tiny seed motivated them to stop caring about their work as students—and in many cases, they actively didn’t care, working hard to tend to their image as a rebel.

In The Man with the Crystal Ankh, one of the friendships becomes embroiled in anger. While I never had that serious of a falling out, I certainly had little fights with my friends, and the emotions were real. So in that sense, both sides of the fight are little pieces of me.

While some characters are based on little bits of me, others are inspired by a sense of wonder. In Faulkner’s Apprentice, protagonist Lorelei goes down a dark path. I have never gone down one, but like most teens I’d been exposed to the potential to do so, and I can’t say my mind didn’t wonder what it would like to simply scrap the rules of wholesome living and be bad. Lorelei was based on that sense of wonder, and the fact that she is torn about it mirrors how I might feel as I headed down that path.

When it comes to character creation, this is one way to go about it. I think of each character as a tangent to me (uh oh, I used a math analogy. That’s not like me at all—must be one of the characters speaking!). I tap into that minor experience or thought, and build a character around it. I find that the creation is authentic, and the character thus feels real.

The other way I create characters is to base them off of people I know—friends, family, enemies, coworkers. But there’s a big catch there. Of course I don’t want them to know they’re muses or models. I don’t know who originally suggested this term, but a piece of writing advice I’ve been given is to create characters the way Frankenstein created his monster: take pieces of other people, and mix them up to such an extent that it’s no longer clear who inspired what.

For instance, for every story I write, my mother asks me if “such and such” trait displayed by the mother figure in the book is based on her. She’s intentionally reading into the work, looking for pieces of herself. She’ll sometimes say things like, “I wasn’t that crazy, was I?” I’ve had to recently tell her that that isn’t the case: perhaps the obsessive nature of the character in question came from a teacher or guidance counsellor I had in high school. Perhaps the way the character squints when she reads came from a middle school math teacher. But maybe one quality, perhaps the way the mother in the book is concerned about her daughter, perhaps that comes from my mother. There’s always a sense of relief when she realizes that she isn’t all of the character.

So the “Frankenstein” method is another way to create characters: brainstorm a list of traits from people you’ve encountered over the years. Think about how the “connotation” of those people or traits might fit into one of your characters. For instance, I’ve always hated going to the doctor, so I used some of my angst about my pediatrician and combined that with a less-than-effective administrator I once encountered and a power-hungry teacher. They all combined into the character of a high school principal. Someone asked me, “Who in the world did you have as a principal who was that slimy?” The answer: no one. He was a compilation of many people, and there’s no way those who inspired his character could pick out one trait from the next.

Sometimes, to make sure my characters are authentic—and to make sure I know them—I will throw them into a scene together that has nothing to do with the novel I’m writing. They might all go on a shopping trip to Wal-mart or meet for coffee. Throwing them in that scene together allows me to see how they might interact, who might gravitate together. More importantly, the quiet character sitting in the corner tells me that he needs more development because I don’t really understand his personality. In such a practice scene, when all the characters insist on their next lines and actions, I know my characters are ready for the page.

Everyone’s heard the legend of the hollow oak—the four-hundred year curse of Sarah Willoughby and Preston Grymes. Few realize how true it is.

Sarah Durante awakens to find herself haunted by the spirit of her high school’s late custodian. After the death of his granddaughter, Custodian Carlton Gray is not at peace. He suspects a sanguisuga is involved—an ancient force that prolongs its own life by consuming the spirits of others. Now, the sanguisuga needs another life to feed its rotten existence, and Carlton wants to spare others from the suffering his granddaughter endured. That’s where Sarah comes in. Carlton helps her understand that she comes from a lineage of ancestors with the ability to communicate with the dead. As Sarah hones her skill through music, she discovers that the bloodlines of Hollow Oak run deep. The sanguisuga is someone close, and only she has the power to stop it.

No good deed goes unpunished when freshman Steffie Brenner offers to give her awkward new neighbor a ride home after her first day at school. When her older sister Ali stops at a local park to apply for a job, Steffie and Madison slip out of the car to explore the park—and Madison vanishes.

Already in trouble for a speeding ticket, Ali insists that Steffie say nothing about Madison’s disappearance. Even when Madison’s mother comes looking for her. Even when the police question them.

Some secrets are hard to hide, though—especially with Madison’s life on the line. As she struggles between coming clean or going along with her manipulative sister’s plan, Steffie begins to question if she or anyone else is really who she thought they were. After all, the Steffie she used to know would never lie about being the last person to see Madison alive—nor would she abandon a friend in the woods: alone, cold, injured, or even worse.

But when Steffie learns an even deeper secret about her own past, a missing person seems like the least of her worries…

Enjoy an excerpt from The Man with the Crystal Ankh

She picked up the instrument and set it onto her shoulder. A calmness passed into her, as if the violin exuded energy—as if it had a soul. The varnish had faded and dulled. Its life force did not come from its appearance. She brought the bow to the strings, which was still rosined and ready to play. Dragging the bow across the four strings, she found the instrument perfectly in tune.

Sarah took a deep breath and imagined the song, the way the notes melted into each other in nostalgic slides, the way her spirit seemed to pour from her soul that day.

And then it was happening again.

She had started playing without realizing it. Warm, resonant notes poured from the instrument and spilled into the room. They were stronger, and much more powerful, than those she was used to. This instrument was different than the factory-made one her parents had bought for her. Rosemary’s violin was singing to the world from its very soul. And it was happening just as before. Sarah’s energy flowed from her body, causing her to lose consciousness and gain perspective all at once. She rode the air on a lofty run of eighth notes. She echoed off the ceiling with a rich and resonant vibrato. She flew past the guests, who had all quieted to listen to her music; flew past the table of cold cuts and appetizers and up the darkened staircase, where she resonated against the walls and found her way into the guest room. There, she crept along a whole note and slid into the closet.

As the song repeated, she twirled around in the closet, spinning in a torrent of passionate notes. She searched through the notebooks and books on the floor and on the shelves, searched for an open notebook, for something she could read, something that might make her feel tied to the place. Otherwise, she might spin out of control and evaporate out the window and into the sky. She found her anchor on the floor in the darkest corner of the closet, a large parchment—maybe a poster. The notes spun around her in a dizzying way as she tried to stay still enough to read what was on the paper. It was a difficult task; now, with every beat her body downstairs tried to reclaim its energy.

About the

Val’s young adult works include The Scarred Letter, The Man with the Crystal Ankh, and The Girl Who Flew Away and feature her observations as a high school teacher as well as her own haunted New England past.

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