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Rockstar Tours: A MISFORTUNE OF LAKE MONSTERS (Nicole M. Wolverton), Interview & Giveaway! ~ US ONLY

June 27th, 2024 by

I am thrilled to be hosting a spot on the A MISFORTUNE OF LAKE MONSTERS by Nicole M. Wolverton Blog Tour hosted by Rockstar Book Tours. Check out my post and make sure to enter the giveaway!

 

About The Book:

Title: A
MISFORTUNE OF LAKE MONSTERS

Author: Nicole M.
Wolverton

Pub. Date: July
2, 2024

Publisher: CamCat
Books

Formats: Hardcover,
Paperback, eBook, Audiobook

Pages: 304

Find it: Goodreadshttps://books2read.com/A-MISFORTUNE-OF-LAKE-MONSTERS 

When legends bite back.

Lemon Ziegler wants to escape rural
Devil’s Elbow, Pennsylvania to attend college―but that’s impossible now that
she’s expected to impersonate the town’s lake monster for the rest of her life.
Her family has been secretly keeping the tradition of Old Lucy, the famed (and
very fake) monster of Lake Lokakoma, alive for generations, all to keep the
tourists coming. Without Lemon, the town dies, and she can’t disappoint her
grandparents . . . or tell her best friends about any of it. That includes Troy
Ramirez, who has been covertly in love with Lemon for years, afraid to ruin
their friendship by confessing his feelings. When a very real, and very hungry
monster is discovered in the lake, secrets must fall by the wayside. Determined
to stop the monster, Lemon and her best friends are the only thing standing
between Devil’s Elbow and the monster out for blood.

For readers who enjoy Harrow
Lake
 by Kat Ellis, House of Hollow by Krystal
Sutherland, Dark and Shallow Lies by Ginny Myers Sain,
and The Lake House by Sarah Beth Durst.

 

 

YABC Interview:

 

What gave you the inspiration to write this book?

The origin story for A Misfortune of Lake Monsters is embedded in a chore I loathed as a kid: washing the dishes. I grew up in the rural hinterlands of northeast Pennsylvania, and my childhood home is positioned on the outskirts of town. As a preteen, I’d stand at the sink in the kitchen and do dishes—and daydream about the horrifying things that might live beneath the surface of the water of the lake that was about a mile behind the house.

That might seem like a weird thing to wonder about, but when you live in an area where there’s not a lot to keep you busy…your mind wanders. The possibility of a lake monster was one of the most exciting things I could imagine—something different than the hum drum life that I had at the time, even if jumped out the water and started terrorizing me. I was always one of those kids who loved the Time-Life series on the paranormal and cryptids—and I always had an active imagination, yearning to discover or experience something that was truly outside the norm.

A lot of years passed between then and when I revisited the lake monster concept for a fiction treatment a few years ago. My fascination with cryptids only grew—to the point where I even visited Loch Ness in Scotland to do a bit of personal observation about what a lake that could potentially house a lake monster might look and sound like.

In the end, it’s gratifying that something good came out of having dishpan hands as a 12-year-old girl!

 

Who is your favorite character in the book?

I love Lemon Ziegler—she’s the main character of A Misfortune of Lake Monsters and has such a great journey in the book as she learns to stand up for what she wants in life. That said, Troy Ramirez, the second narrator and a boy who absolutely and secretly adores Lemon, holds a true soft spot in my heart.

Although I didn’t intend for it to happen, Troy is somewhat loosely based on someone I used to be close friends with, someone who passed away not all that long ago. He was someone who struggled with the best way to be a man on his own terms—and generally how to be good person. Having a front row seat to someone figuring it out is interesting. As I was developing Troy as a character, it’s just who he turned out to be. Troy and Darrin’s friendship in the book was a joy to write, and developing Troy’s story arc was like having my friend back. I could hear his voice in my head.

Interestingly, when it came time to listen to auditions for the audiobook version of A Misfortune of Lake Monsters, there was a single actor who perfectly captured that voice. The second I heard Oscar Fabela sarcastically but good-naturedly rib Darrin in his audition, I knew. I almost cried. Luckily, the good folks at CamCat recognized it, too. The audiobook version of A Misfortune of Lake Monster is so special—the actors playing Lemon and Troy just get the characters in every way.

 

Which came first, the title or the novel?

I am notoriously terrible at titling things. I put it off until the last possible moment, and a good friend who is brilliant at titling is often pressed into service to brainstorm with me. There’s something about coming up with a title that just feels so final and concrete and stressful. So obviously, the novel absolutely came first.

It was only during my very last read-through of A Misfortune of Lake Monsters before it went on submission—when I was picking out phrases from the book that could possibly be relevant for titling purposes—that I settled on the title. Darrin is joking, trying to diffuse a tense situation with humor (as usual), when he wonders what you might call a group of lake monsters. Like a murder of ravens, he proposes a misfortune of lake monsters. Title sorted!

 

What scene in the book are you most proud of, and why?

How and when to open A Misfortune of Lake Monsters is something that tortured me for quite a while. I considered that starting with Lemon while she’s faking an Old Lucy sighting might feel like plunking readers into the middle of the inciting incident, and I didn’t want that to be confusing—faking Old Lucy is Lemon’s normal. Opting to make it Lemon’s first Old Lucy impersonation was my solution, and I’m proud of the way it simultaneously sets up Lemon as villain, victim, and hero while also setting expectations around Devil’s Elbow and the relationship people who live there have with Old Lucy. It sets a nice foundation for what comes next in the story.

 

Thinking way back to the beginning, what’s the most important thing you’ve learned as a writer from then to now?

One of my biggest strengths as a writer, craft-wise, is developing natural-sounding dialogue. There’s an art to it that I think most people do eventually learn through trial and error, but baby writers often don’t have a handle on why their dialogue doesn’t sound realistic or why it reads as stilted and awkward. I was certainly no different when I was starting to get serious about writing for publication. It doesn’t seem like it should be that difficult—I mean, we’ve all been speaking like normal people since we were little kids. You just…write people talking to each other, right?

But that’s not the way it works. Different people have different cadences to their speech. They favor different words and manner of expressing themselves. They often don’t speak in complete sentences, or they get hung up and veer off into tangents. Hardly anyone truly uses perfect formal speech—and then there’s the issue of code switching between different audiences and situations. It’s dialogue, yes, but it also hugely impacts character voice. That’s really important in A Misfortune of Lake Monsters. If you put Lemon, Troy, Darrin, and Ike and Pearl Ziegler in a room and turn off the lights, I would hope you’d be able to tell who they are based entirely on voice and dialogue.

If the general public knew how closely I eavesdrop on conversations, they’d probably be appalled. I’ve probably overheard secrets I wasn’t supposed to, but it wasn’t because I was planning to collect kompromat—it’s simply the best way to develop an ear for the way people speak! That, combined with reading dialogue out loud, helped me improve as a writer. And one of the biggest lessons I’ve learned over the years is that if your dialogue doesn’t ring true or the voice seems inauthentic, the reader is going to lose the ability to suspend disbelief—and in horror that’s particularly important.

What do you like most about the cover of the book?

The cover of A Misfortune of Lake Monsters gives a point-of-view of under the water and tangled in the weeds, looking up at the surface—firmly rooting us in what is real life (the actual lake monster) versus what we imagine is real life (Old Lucy). Metaphorically speaking, it works to mirror several plot points in the book: the relationship between Lemon and Troy, the relationship between Lemon and her grandparents, the relationship between Troy and his parents, not to mention several surprises that come later in the novel. It’s a fun concept.

 

What new release book are you looking most forward to in 2024?

Horror and thriller debut authors are absolutely killing it in 2024! I’ve had the honor of reading ARCs for a lot of the work coming out this year from new writers—it’s hard to narrow it down, so I’ll stick to young adult horror since that’s also my genre and category. Lockjaw by Matteo Cerilli is a gorgeously written book that very much speaks to current politics (plus it has a small town setting, which appeals to me very much since A Misfortune of Lake Monsters is also set in a small town).

One I haven’t read yet and which isn’t from a debut author is The Ones Who Come Back Hungry by Amelinda Bérubé—which, coincidentally enough, shares a release date with A Misfortune of Lake Monsters! Amelinda is an incredible writer who is excellent at creeping me right out. I often think about how much I’d love to get a peek at her thought process—she’s someone who really understands the psychology of horror.

 

What was your favorite book in 2023?

Hands down, my favorite book of 2023 was Monstrilio by Gerardo Sámano Córdova. It is so unique, and the grief and love pour off the page. Córdova’s use of language and his storytelling is incredibly clever. You know how every once in a while you might get someone on social media asking what book you’d like to read over again for the first time if you could? For me it would be Monstrilio.

I finished the book late at night in a hotel room in Venice, Italy. I was by myself, there in town just for a few days—and that was probably a good thing: my husband might have been alarmed because I cried at the end of the book and I cried for everyone in the book.

 

 

Is there anything that you would like to add?

As the CamCat Books folks were laying out the internal pages of A Misfortune of Lake Monsters, my editor let me know that they couldn’t include a sketch that Troy made of a symbol he finds on a mystery device—and that saddened me greatly. In its place is a description of the cone. I think the passage adequately does its job, but I do miss the sketch every time I leaf through chapter 14. I’m not a great artist, so that sketch represents a lot of angst on my part to get it right!

I have the original sketch framed on the wall of my office, and I occasionally think about getting a tattoo to along with the lemons I had inked onto my forearm—a tattoo for each of my main characters seems right!

 

Which was the most difficult or emotional scene to narrate?

This is in no way a spoiler, but the scene where Lemon confesses to Troy and Darren that she and her family have been impersonating Old Lucy was one of the most difficult for me to write in A Misfortune of Lake Monsters. I wanted to get a piece of the scene from both Troy’s point of view and from Lemon’s point of view, so I split the scene between chapters. It’s an emotionally charged scene for both of them to begin with—Lemon’s afraid her two best friends in the world are going to hate her for lying to them for their entire lives, and Troy’s freaked out because he’s sure something could pop up and try to kill them at any moment and because Lemon’s a giant ball of nerves. Because their voices are very dissimilar, it took a lot of tweaking to make it seem right to me. Lemon doesn’t want to dwell on certain aspects of the situation, and while she’s apprehensive about coming clean, isn’t afraid to show how much the secret and the tension of telling are affecting her—while Troy very much keeps a lid on his outward emotions for the most part.

Which character gave you the most trouble when writing your latest book?

Ike Ziegler—Lemon’s grandfather—has a very, very particular way about him. The way he speaks is modeled somewhat on my maternal grandfather. My grandfather spent most of his life as a dairy farmer in the rural northeast Pennsylvania town in which I grew up. He was a very quiet and private man of strong opinions about the role and behavior of women, among other things. So for Ike, it was important to me that what his dialogue conveys is only very surface level—what he says and what he does or means are often two different things. Getting the accent and cadence of Ike’s speech right—without going overboard—was also something that took extra attention. I admit that it frequently gave me trouble!

The most important thing was to give Ike a bit of a gray morality streak—he’s someone that, in the end, thinks of himself as entirely devoted to the success of Devil’s Elbow. In his head, he’s the hero of the story, even if he is lying and circumventing the law in some cases, pushing his family away, and generally manipulating people to get what he wants. Ike does come off as a villain, and I don’t think of my grandfather that way at all—but pushed to extremes, you never know what people might be capable of! My grandfather died quite a long time ago, so writing Ike and thought-experimenting with his personality for this novel was both a challenge and a pleasure.

 

Which part of the writing process do you enjoy more: Drafting or Revising?

Drafting. While revising is a necessary part of the process, I’m meticulous about spending a lot of time on the outline before I start writing. I develop my characters and their voices, why they do the things they do. I develop the setting and why it is the way it is. The forward progression of the plot is thought and rethought, revised again and again, until the pacing and tension feel right. I know the story inside and out by the time I write my very first word.

Part of why I’m aggressively organized about outlining is because it wards off writer’s block—if I know exactly where I’m going, there’s no excuse to be stymied (and obviously that’s not foolproof: characters can often surprise you while you’re writing). But a bigger part of why I operate this way is because I like to work out the kinks before I write an entire novel and discover some part of it doesn’t work. I don’t get mad at myself about needing to revise or rearrange action within scenes—but the idea of taking a scalpel to the underlying story structure fills me with alarm. Architecture holds up every part of the story, and I find that messing with the underlying structure after the fact almost always fundamentally weakens the supports. I’d rather do it right the first time and avoid a disaster later.

 

What would you say is your superpower?

Because Devil’s Elbow is loosely based on my hometown, and I have…feelings about sparsely populated and rural spaces, it isn’t difficult to come up with plot ideas for novels based in the town. Maybe being an idea factory is my superpower? Certainly, I’ve got enough ideas within the world of Devil’s Elbow for more novels than I could possibly write in my lifetime.

 

Is there an organization or cause that is close to your heart?

I worked as a nonprofit fundraiser in Philadelphia for years, so there are a lot of local-to-Philly 501c3 organizations that I love and support—Project HOME (they work to provide housing and supportive services to people experiencing homelessness) and the Abortion Liberation Fund of Pennsylvania (they work to protect and expand abortion access in Pennsylvania—super important since Roe was overturned and, as a result, maternal mortality rates are rising even more sharply and pregnant people are finding it increasingly difficult in some states to get emergency care).

On a national level, the American Civil Liberties Union is an incredible organization that deserves all the love. They have been particularly critical over the last decade in doing everything in their power to hold back attempts to infringe on civil liberties on many different fronts—including infringing on the civil rights of activists who fight against fracking. Inarguably, fracking is the unsung villain in A Misfortune of Lake Monsters.

 

 

About Nicole M. Wolverton:

 

Nicole M.
Wolverton
 is
the author of the adult psychological thriller The Trajectory of Dreams (2013)
and served as the editor of Bodies Full of Burning (2021), an
anthology of short horror fiction through the lens of menopause. She is a
Pushcart Prize-nominated writer of short stories and writes creative nonfiction
and essays as well. Her work has been published in over forty anthologies,
magazines, and podcasts.

Subscribe to
Nicole’s Newsletter!

Website | Instagram | Threads | TikTok | Goodreads
| Amazon | BookBub

 

 

 

Giveaway Details:

1 winner will receive a finished copy of A MISFORTUNE OF LAKE MONSTERS, US Only.

Ends July 23rd, midnight EST.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Tour Schedule:

Week One:

6/24/2024

Two Chicks on Books

Deleted Scene/IG Post

6/25/2024

MoonShineArtSpot

Book Playlist/IG Post

6/26/2024

Fire
and Ice Reads

Top 5 Books/IG Post

6/27/2024

YA Books Central

Interview/IG Post

6/28/2024

Ilovebooksandstuffblog

Review/Top 5 Movies Post/IG Post

6/29/2024

Writer of Wrongs

Dream Cast/IG Post

Week Two: 

6/30/2024

Daily
Waffle

Excerpt

7/1/2024

@dana.loves.books

IG Review/TikTok Post

7/2/2024

@stargirls.magical.tale

IG Review

7/3/2024

@evergirl200

IG Review

7/4/2024

@dreaminginpages

IG Review

7/5/2024

Lifestyle of Me

Review 

7/6/2024

@thepagelady

IG Review

Week Three: 

7/7/2024

@enthuse_reader

IG Review/TikTok Post

7/8/2024

Edith’s Little Free Library

IG Review/LFL Drop Pic/TikTok Post

7/9/2024

@amysbookshelf82

IG Review

7/10/2024

Book-Keeping blog

Review/IG Post

7/11/2024

Country Mamas With Kids

Review/IG Post

7/12/2024

jlreadstoperpetuity

IG Review/TikTok Post

7/13/2024

@niks.bookshelf

IG Review

Week Four:

7/14/2024

A Blue Box Full of Books

IG Review/LFL Drop Pic/TikTok Post

7/15/2024

Books and Zebras

IG Review

7/16/2024

Kim’s Book Reviews and Writing Aha’s

Review/IG Post

7/17/2024

Brandi Danielle Davis

IG Review/TikTok Post

7/18/2024

Bookborne Hunter

Review/IG Post

7/18/2024

@jaimes_mystical_library

IG Post

7/19/2024

@heyashleyyreads

IG Review/TikTok Post

7/19/2024

Deal sharing aunt

Review/IG Post

 

Rockstar Tours: Author Chat with Jordan Sonnenblick (STEPPING OFF) Plus Giveaway! ~ US ONLY

June 19th, 2024 by

I am thrilled to be hosting a spot on the STEPPING OFF by Jordan Sonnenblick Blog Tour hosted by Rockstar Book Tours. Check out my post and make sure to enter the giveaway!

 

About The Book:

Title: STEPPING
OFF

Author: Jordan Sonnenblick

Pub. Date: June 4, 2024

Publisher: Scholastic Press

Formats: Hardcover, eBook, Audiobook

Pages: 336

Find it: Goodreadshttps://books2read.com/STEPPING-OFF 

 

Jesse Dienstag’s favorite sweatshirt
says, “The real world isn’t real.” That’s the slogan of the
vacation-home community in Pennsylvania where his family has always spent every
vacation and weekend for as long as he can remember. In the summer of 2019, as
Jesse is about to enter his junior year of high school in New York City, he
desperately wants to believe the slogan is true. For one thing, the two girls
he loves — equally and desperately — are in Pennsylvania, and all the
stresses and pressures of his daily life and school are in New York.

But when his parents stop talking to
each other, it gets harder and harder for Jesse to maintain his dream life in
Pennsylvania. And when Covid shuts New York City down in March 2020 just days
after Jesse’s mother leaves his father, Jesse’s worlds collide.

 

 

 

Author Chat with YABC:

  1. What gave you the inspiration to write this book?

 

I had several inspirations. First, I was a public-school English teacher before my writing career took off, and I went back for a semester in the fall of 2021 to teach 10th-grade English in my old district because a teacher went on leave and the school couldn’t find a certified long-term sub. That was the first semester of real, full-time, in-person school after the pandemic shutdown, so I got to see firsthand the effects the lockdown had had on kids in high schools. Second, the love-triangle part is quite autobiographical; I wanted to capture the remembered intensity of those teenage feelings.

 

  1. Who is your favorite character in the book?

 

That would have to be Annie, the little sister of the main character’s best friend. She’s based on the real-life sister of my best friend from that time, and she and I were very close, as well. I just tried to capture her unique combination of warmth, sweetness, and blunt honesty. It’s always fun to write a character based on a person I know well in real life, because it’s such a challenge to nail those nuances.

 

  1. Which came first, the title or the novel?

 

Oh, the novel – by miles and miles! I’ve written fourteen books now, and never once have I come up with a decent title until at least a month or two after the first draft is finished. It takes that long for my unconscious mind to figure out what the novel was truly about!

 

  1. What scene in the book are you most proud of, and why?

 

There are a few. I like the July 4 fireworks scene a lot, because it’s so visual, and because of all the complicated relationship tensions that are brewing beneath the surface that night. I also like the opening scene, when the characters are building up their courage to jump off the bridge. When I was a kid in sleepaway camp, we really did jump off a high bridge into a lake in the Pocono Mountains of Pennsylvania, and I think I captured the heady mix of excitement, peer pressure, and raw panic that jump entailed.

 

  1. Thinking way back to the beginning, what’s the most important thing you’ve learned as a writer from then to now?

 

If we’re talking about the very beginning of my writing career, like when I was just coming up with the idea for my first novel, DRUMS, GIRLS & DANGEROUS PIE, I think the main thing I’ve learned is not to panic. The whole time I was writing that book, I lived in constant terror that I’d get writers’ block and not be able to finish it. Once I had a couple of books under my belt, I started to feel that pressure lifting. I might not always be sure that what I’m writing is any good; that insecurity is very hard to banish. However, I’m usually around 93% confident I’ll finish writing any book I start.

 

  1. What do you like most about the cover of the book?

 

By far, my favorite thing about the cover of this book (and of each of my Scholastic YA hardcover editions) is that the designers always print a little Easter egg behind the dust jacket. I love peeling off the jacket and seeing the little surprise for the first time! In the case of STEPPING OFF, the Easter egg is a little exploding firework imprinted in the lower right-hand corner of the cover.

 

 

  1. What’s up next for you?

 

I honestly don’t know. I never know what idea is going to strike me. I just have to be ready to receive it when it comes along. For me, that’s the most magical part of writing. I never know what the Muses are going to throw at me next!

 

  1. Is there anything that you would like to add?

 

I think I feel a special sense of gratitude about the plot of this book, because while I thought my 17th year of life was incredibly difficult at the time, looking back on it now, I can see how much I learned and grew from it. Plus, I was delighted to find that, once I had fictionalized it quite a bit, it made a very entertaining story.

 

  1. Which was the most difficult or emotional scene to narrate? It was really hard writing the scenes in which Jesse’s dad is suffering. In real life, my dad isn’t around anymore, so reliving how painful my parents’ breakup was for him was rough. Again, the specifics of the parents’ breakup are fictionalized, but the emotions are not.

 

  1. Which character gave you the most trouble when writing your latest book?

 

Honestly, none of the characters gave me trouble. Their voices spoke to me whenever I tuned in. That was part of the joy. I was shocked by how much better I understood the struggles and motivations of all the people I had been closest with as a teenager, now that I can look back from the vantage point of having been a husband, a father, and perhaps most importantly, a teacher and mentor to lots of kids.

 

  1. Which part of the writing process do you enjoy more: Drafting or Revising?

 

Believe it or not, neither of these is my favorite. My absolute most beloved part of the writing process is the research I get to do. I learn so much! Through book research, I’ve studied everything from asthma to Zen Buddhism, which means I never, ever get bored, because each book opens up a whole new field of inquiry. For this one, I got to interview a bridge engineer and a paramedic – and that was just to get me through the first hundred pages.

 

  1. What would you say is your superpower?

 

This question is so eerily perfect for me, because I spent my whole childhood wishing and praying I’d get a superpower somehow. Unfortunately, I’ve never fallen into a vat of radioactive anything, so I’ve had to accept my destiny as a Muggle. If anything, my lack of special gifts might have given me a very useful non-super power: compassion.

 

  1. Is there an organization or cause that is close to your heart?

 

Absolutely! Any organization that helps to fund cancer treatment or research is very important to me. I particularly like Alex’s Lemonade Stand, because one of their divisions, SuperSibs (https://www.alexslemonade.org/childhood-cancer/for-families/supersibs_), supports the brothers and sisters of childhood cancer patients. The sister of a cancer patient inspired my first book, so I will always support any group that helps those kids.

 

 

About Jordan Sonnenblick:

 

Jordan
Sonnenblick is the author of the acclaimed Drums, Girls & Dangerous
Pie
After Ever AfterNotes from the Midnight DriverZen
and the Art of Faking It
, Falling Over Sideways, and The Secret Sheriff of
Sixth Grade. He lives in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, with his wife and two
children.

Website | Twitter | Instagram | TikTok | Goodreads | Amazon | BookBub

 

Giveaway Details:

1 winner will receive a finished copy of STEPPING OFF, US Only.

Ends July 16th, midnight EST.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Tour Schedule:

Week One:

6/17/2024

kaylyn_s_booknook

IG Post

6/18/2024

Two Chicks on
Books

Excerpt/IG Post

6/19/2024

YA
Books Central

Interview/IG Post

6/20/2024

onemused

IG Post

6/21/2024

@dharashahauthor

Review/IG Post

6/22/2024

@thepagelady

IG Review

Week Two:

6/23/2024

@dana.loves.books

Review/IG Post/TikTok Post

6/24/2024

GryffindorBookishnerd

IG Review

6/25/2024

@enthuse_reader

IG Review/TikTok Post

6/26/2024

@evergirl200

IG Review

6/27/2024

Lifestyle of
Me

Review

6/28/2024

Brandi
Danielle Davis

IG Review/TikTok Post

6/29/2024

nerdophiles

Review

Week Three:

6/30/2024

Kim’s
Book Reviews and Writing Aha’s

Review/IG Post

7/1/2024

Country Mamas
With Kids

Review/IG Post

7/2/2024

@amysbookshelf82

IG Review

7/3/2024

A
Blue Box Full of Books

IG Review/LFL Drop Pic/TikTok Post

7/4/2024

@stargirls.magical.tale

IG Review

7/5/2024

Michelle,
The Book Critic

Review/IG Post

7/6/2024

anitralovesbooksanddogs

IG Review

Week Four:

7/7/2024

Satisfaction
for Insatiable Readers

Review/IG Post

7/8/2024

Review Thick
And Thin

Review/IG Post

7/9/2024

pick a good book

Review/IG Post

7/10/2024

The Momma Spot

Review

7/11/2024

Fire and Ice

Review/IG Post

7/12/2024

Two Points of
Interest

Review/IG Post

 

Rockstar Tours: SPELLBINDERS: THE NOT-SO-CHOSEN ONE (Andrew Auseon), Q&A plus Giveaway! ~ US ONLY

May 22nd, 2024 by

I am thrilled to be hosting a spot on the SPELLBINDERS: THE NOT-SO-CHOSEN ONE by Andrew Auseon Blog Tour hosted by Rockstar Book Tours. Check out my post and make sure to enter the giveaway!

About The Book:

Title: SPELLBINDERS: THE NOT-SO-CHOSEN ONE

Author: Andrew Auseon

Pub. Date: May 14, 2024

Publisher: Yearling

Formats:  Hardcover, Paperback, eBook, Audiobook

Pages: 448

Find it: Goodreadshttps://books2read.com/SPELLBINDERS-THE-NOT-SO-CHOSEN-ONE

 

“Ben may only be pretending to
be the ‘Chosen One’—but I’ve definitely chosen this one as my favorite new
fantasy series.”
—Max Brallier, #1 New York Times bestselling author of the
Last Kids on Earth series

How far would you go to play the hero? One seventh grader gets way more
than he bargained for when he is swept into the fantasy quest of his gaming
dreams in this funny illustrated series full of adventure and twists.

It’s not so easy being the Chosen One (or in Ben Whitlock’s case, pretending to
be the Chosen One). Sure, when you’ve been mistaken for a long-prophesied hero
by a teenage girl/mysterious assassin and transported to a fantasy realm you’re
supposedly destined to save, you don’t have to worry about things like math
homework. But when flying narwhals are trying to blast you into oblivion (gulp)
and a bunch of old mystics in flip-flops want you to enter something called the
Gullet of Eternal Torment (double gulp), suddenly a C in algebra doesn’t seem
like such a big deal.

Back in the real world, Ben preferred to escape into fictional adventures and
role-playing games. But the more he learns about his true quest, the more he
realizes that being a hero goes way beyond rolling a few dice. . . .

 

Reviews:

Spellbinders hooked
me from the beginning
, but it became one of my favorites around the first
flying narwhals.’“—James Riley, New York Times bestselling
author of the Story Thieves series

“Here comes a new series that brilliantly embodies the power of
creativity
….The book’s immersive fantasy world of Lux is one I did not
want to leave.”—George Jreije, author of the Shad Hadid series

“To use the local parlance, a “ridonkulously” entertaining kickoff.”
Booklist

“The themes of interpersonal relationships and change give the work
emotional heft…A love letter to escapism and writing one’s own
destiny.” 
Kirkus Reviews

“Through subversions of familiar fantasy tropes and a thoroughly engaging
plot, Auseon conjures an idiosyncratic realm replete with endearing
characters, madcap humor, and hijinks-filled adventure

Publisher’s Weekly

Book Trailer:

YABC Q&A

  1. What gave you the inspiration to write this book?

I’ve always been fascinated by games, even before it was cool. Ha. I’m not mathematically inclined, or a particularly gifted thinker when it comes to logic, but there’s something about trying to navigate the world within a set of strict rules that I find endlessly compelling. Most games have a theme, offering players a fantasy: riding dragons, conquering Wall Street, time traveling, or even saving the world from slimy monsters with your best pals back in the 1980s. Like books, they offer escape, but games have an added layer that allows you to simulate a story or experience firsthand. Games let you take a deeper step into your favorite fantasies. What’s not awesome about that? I’m obsessed with understanding and building game systems, those unique sets of rules and mechanics that bridge the space between story and player, and every book I write expresses some of that obsession.

Spellbinders is the inevitable product of my two greatest creative pursuits: writing and game design. But there’s more to it. I’m interested in people’s fantasies, real and imagined. Kids dream about life when they get older, aspire for what they don’t have yet; and we all do that to some extent, we’re constantly on the search for a better situation. Honestly, I wish that wasn’t the case and more people found true contentment in life, but the truth is that we’re always casting a curious eye for ways to improve our lives or measure up. That’s especially true in the age of social media. Fantasies drive our perceptions of one another and the world around us. It’s very warped and confusing.

Ben, the main character in Spellbinders, uses his gaming fantasies as a way to escape the difficulties in his own life. Everything in those imaginary worlds works out just as he wants it to–he’s big, powerful, wise, celebrated, and infallible. Of course, Ben learns that fantasies can be misleading, and that it’s tough to balance daydreams and reality.

  1. Who is your favorite character in the book?

Normally, the cheating answer would be to complain that I can’t choose between them. (“It’s like choosing between my children!” cries Every Writer.) Instead, I’m going to say it’s a tie between two characters: Niara and Merv. Late in the book, Niara emerges as an important focal point for one of the story’s biggest emotional moments, and I hadn’t really expected that. She’s an incredibly rich character with a lot of personal issues at stake. It’s every writer’s dream! In many ways, Niara is the hero of the series. She’s such a driven, confident person, which isn’t something to which I can relate personally. (I’m an insecure weenie.) She’s certain of her beliefs, steadfast, and devoted, and I found that so endearing. As Niara’s point of view is challenged, she’s forced to reflect on who she is at a fundamental level, and that’s a hard thing for anyone to do. I have a lot of respect for Niara. She’s also the most unintentionally funny character.

Merv is also a huge favorite of mine, and a fan-favorite as well, which tickles me to no end. In the series, Merv is a bit of a late bloomer, playing a follower in some of the early adventures but then coming to the fore once they start to discover who they are and what they want. Most of the other characters start the story with much stronger visions of their identities and roles within in the questing party, but Merv is still trying to figure theirs out. Some of this is due to their life as a mimir, a shape-changer, but it’s mostly because they’ve moved around their whole life and never found the time or luxury to contemplate the future. Now, safe among friends, they’re experiencing that first taste of possibility. It’s been exciting to watch Merv learn about themself and start to try new things and contribute to the team. They really go play places in the later books, so readers should definitely come back to find out what happens.

  1. Which came first, the title or the novel?

Interesting. I’ve never gotten this question before. The novel, for sure. Titles are notoriously troublesome. That’s something books and games share. You stumble upon the perfect title maybe once in a lifetime. The name Spellbinders wasn’t the hardest I’ve ever had to settle on, but it certainly had its challenges, specifically because it’s my first series, so weighing title and subtitle became its own separate consideration. I liked Spellbinders because it has the element of magic with “spell,” but also the entrancing vibe you get when “spellbound” by a particularly good or immersive story. “Bind” has such a unique connotation in the context of books and bookbinding, but it also carries with it the slightly sinister “binding” meaning, which can be associated with ancient magical or spiritual rites, as well as the simple verb form to trap or hold something tightly. In all transparency, the first book was nearly done when I decided on the series title, and it was so evocative that I returned to the manuscript and made some changes to really play into the idea of power having the ability to trap someone. Sometimes the best things in the world can hold you back if you’re not careful. I thought that was interesting.

  1. What scene in the book are you most proud of, and why?

Even with all its high fantasy trappings (and ridiculous humor), I tend to enjoy writing realistic fiction the most; and when I mean “realistic” I mean realistic for me, which always includes just a pinch of heightened reality, it’s just how I see the world. There’s a scene late in Spellbinders: The Not-So-Chosen One when we get a glimpse of Ben’s life before everything changed, before his family fell apart and he moved to a new town. I don’t know if it’s the scene of which I’m most proud, but it came very easily, which isn’t always the case when writing a book, and the emotions of longing and loss rang so true. It’s one of my favorite moments in the book because I hadn’t planned for it, and it ties so much of the story together. When I sat down to write it, the words just came splashing out.

  1. Thinking way back to the beginning, what’s the most important thing you’ve learned as a writer from then to now?

I have an incredible editor. Correction. I’ve had several incredible editors, but my editor on Spellbinders is Incredible +10. She gets me. Nothing is more important in a creative relationship than mutual understanding. From the very beginning, Spellbinders was meant to be a comedy. No questions asked. Everybody signed up for the trip to Silly Town. However, one of the first lessons I ever learned as a writer was that there needs to be an authentic heart at the center of every story, an honest About with which readers connect and relate. People in my life know me as an empathetic and sensitive person, and I value emotion, but when I started getting goofy, weird, or silly… Watch out! If done right, humor and emotional honesty are a very powerful combination, maybe the most powerful, but it’s a challenging needle to thread. Doing it wrong can be disastrous. My editor, along with my other amazing readers, taught me the important balancing act of staying true to both my comic self and my dramatic self, and while I don’t pull it off perfectly 100% of time time, I’d like to think the series as a whole is successful.

  1. What do you like most about the cover of the book?

What’s not to like? Lisa Weber crushed every piece of art in the Spellbinders series–and there are a lot of illustrations. The covers are no exception. If I had to pick a favorite thing it would probably be the energy and dynamism she captured with Ben and Niara bursting from the center of the image. The flying narwhal is also a favorite. It’s hard to capture such a complex tone–funny and fantasy and friendship–in a single composition, but I think Spellbinders: The Not-So-Chosen One, and the subsequent books do as good a job as anyone could have expected. They certainly far surpassed any expectations. 🙂

  1. What new release book are you looking most forward to in 2024?

I think the easy answer is The Sherlock Society by James Ponti. James’ books are always a rip-roarin’ good time, and I love a good mystery. I’m also hoping there’s a new volume in the Nathan Hale’s Hazardous Tales series. I’m a sucker for history, especially in graphic novel form.

  1. What was your favorite book in 2023?

(Checks GoodReads.) Okay, well… while it looks like a lot of the books I read are a few years old, I do try to stay current on what’s coming out in middle grade and YA, especially since so many of my friends write for those audiences. A book that stuck with me all through this past winter was Simon Sort of Says by Erin Bow. It’s a charming, surprising, funny, and deeply moving book that feels both realistic and surreal in just the right doses. I tend to gravitate towards books that manage to do something I’m trying to do in my work, but more successfully. They teach me things, so I puzzle over them for long stretches of time, hoping to understand their secrets.

  1. What’s up next for you?

There’s never enough time. I look at what some people manage to accomplish and I scratch my head. How do they squeeze it all in? It boggles my small mind. To answer the question, I’m always working on a big new video game, which is an ongoing team project. I also continue to design small tabletop games on the side, as creative exercises. When it comes to writing, I’m finishing the third adventure in the Spellbinders series, and I have an idea for a fourth novel, but I don’t know if I’ll end up writing it. We’ll see! In addition, I’m working on a few new books that a very different from what I’ve done in the past. One is an anthology of horror short stories, and the other is a graphic novel about time-traveling kids. And guess what? Neither of them are funny! As a creator, I think it’s really important to always try new things and to stretch your comfort zone, so I’m diving headfirst into some new territory. I’m excited for what comes next? Are you?

 

  1. Is there anything that you would like to add?

 

  1. Which was the most difficult or emotional scene to narrate?

The most emotionally charged scene for me, as the author, is near the ending of the book, when Ben and Niara encounter each other in the sewers under Lux. Ben is heading out, hoping to escape the palace with his life. Niara is heading in, on a mission that will put her in direct confrontation with him. These two intense characters have always had very different approaches to life, very different childhood experiences, and they come from different worlds–literally. At this point in the story they’re the closest they’ve ever been as friends, but they’re the farthest apart they’ve ever been when it comes to motivations and character development. It’s truly a moment where no one–not even the reader–knows what’s going to happen next. Both Ben and Niara need to make some big decisions, and those choices will shape who they ultimately become.

  1. Which character gave you the most trouble when writing your latest book?

Ben Whitlock is always the most difficult of the Spellbinders crew to write, and that’s probably because he and I are very similar. It’s like trying to have a complicated emotional discussion with yourself, only it’s a version of yourself you haven’t really spent time with in 30+ years, and he’s very chatty and opinionated, oh, and full of energy. Ben is amazing, and I understand why he’s beloved by his friends, but his motivations and his desires are very alien to me now. He’s unpredictable and bold, qualities I may have once possessed when I was younger but have weakened with age. No matter how much I write Ben, I still feel like I’m still scratching the surface of him as a character. He grows up quite a bit in the span of the Spellbinders stories.

  1. Which part of the writing process do you enjoy more: Drafting or Revising?

I adore revising because it means I never have to stare at a blank page. All your life, people tell you, “Starting is the hardest part!” And you know what? They’re so right! Ha! For me, the most fun is having a wild idea and playing with it for a while, scratching out scenes or character conversations and experimenting, but once I have to plot out a story and sit down to connect everything, it suddenly becomes science, engineering, all the subjects I struggled in when I was a student. Sure, I’m working with raw materials that I know well, such as sentences, scenes, mechanics, technique, but building the complex machine is so hard, so time-consuming and cumbersome. That’s why revising rules! You already have all the “lumber,” as my first editor used to say, and it’s all about following the flow, shaping the stone, and enjoying detail work that brings the whole story into clearer focus. Editing is a blast.

  1. What would you say is your superpower?

Can I say writing? Ha. Such a weak answer, I know. Some of my writing friends and I always joke that we’d be the first to go in a zombie apocalypse because we don’t possess any useful skills other than writing. We’re one-trick ponies, as it were. When you need to fix an air conditioner or forage for food, we’re the last ones on the recruitment list. Ha! But I’m mostly joking. It takes a whole toolbelt of skills to devise, write, finish, and revise a book. You have to bring plenty of talent and skill to the operation. So, who knows? We might be the most useful people in a zombie apocalypse. Let’s hope we never find out. 🙂

But to answer your question, I think my superpower is probably my writer’s voice. For whatever reason, I grew up trying to make myself laugh in nearly every situation, and I view the world in a unique and peculiar way. That perspective really shines in my style, description, and dialogue. I’d like to think my books have a singular authorial voice, regardless of the characters, and even when I’m tackling a common subject, I’m doing so in a way you’ve never seen before.

  1. Is there an organization or cause that is close to your heart?

I’m a strong advocate for the rights and welfare of LGBTQ+ youth, as well as for the acceptance and support of autistic people. These two causes, which often overlap, are incredibly important to me.

 

 

About Andrew Auseon:


Andrew Auseon is the
author of several books for children and young adults, and he is the writer of
numerous bestselling and award-winning video games. A transplant from the
Midwest, he lives in Washington, D.C. with his family and two very naughty
cats. He loves breakfast cereal, the sound of the ocean, and the feeling of a
brand-new book in his hands.

 

Website | Book Website | Twitter | Instagram | TikTok | Amazon

 

 

 

 

Giveaway Details:

2 winners will receive a signed finished copy of SPELLBINDERS: THE NOT-SO-CHOSEN ONE & a swag pack. US Only.

Ends June 8th, midnight EST.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Tour Schedule:

Week One:

5/20/2024

Two Chicks on Books

Guest Post/IG Post

5/20/2024

Wishful Endings

Guest Post/IG Post

5/21/2024

@darkfantasyreviews

Excerpt

5/22/2024

YA Books Central

Interview/IG Post

5/23/2024

A Backwards Story

Excerpt/IG Post

5/24/2024

@katherinebichler

TikTok Spotlight

5/25/2024

onemused

IG Post

Week Two:

5/26/2024

@enthuse_reader

IG Review/TikTok Post

5/27/2024

Review Thick And Thin

Review/IG Post

5/28/2024

jlreadstoperpetuity

IG Review/TikTok Post

5/28/2024

Fyrekatz Blog

Review/IG Post

5/29/2024

The Momma Spot

Review

5/29/2024

@thepagelady

IG Review

5/30/2024

Satisfaction for Insatiable Readers

Review/IG Post

5/31/2024

Country Mamas With Kids

Review/IG Post

5/31/2024

Kim’s Book Reviews and Writing Aha’s

Review/IG Post

6/1/2024

@dana.loves.books

Review/IG Post/TikTok Post

6/1/2024

More Books Please blog

Review/IG Post

Week Three:

6/2/2024

One More Exclamation

Review/IG Post

6/3/2024

nerdophiles

Review

6/3/2024

The Book Critic

Review/IG Post

 

Rockstar Tours: DON’T (Gabriella Batel), Author Q&A plus Giveaway!~US ONLY

May 16th, 2024 by

I am thrilled to be hosting a spot on the DON’T by Gabriella Batel Blog Tour hosted by Rockstar Book Tours. Check out my post and make sure to enter the giveaway!

 

About The Book:

Title: DON’T

Author: Gabriella Batel

Pub. Date: October 31, 2022

Publisher: Crown of
Thorns and Roses Press

Formats: Paperback, eBook

Pages: 326

Find it: Goodreadshttps://books2read.com/DONT 

 

A heart-pounding debut ready for fans of Cory Anderson’s What
Beauty There Is 
and Marieke Nijkamp’s This Is Where It Ends.

“This ambitious debut novel…marks this young author as one to
watch.” —Corinna Turner, author of the Carnegie Nominated I Am
Margaret 
series

Don’t play. I saw you.

Paityn’s awake. Her near-terminal lupus keeps her that way. That’s how she
crosses Tony Suarez again. That’s how she becomes the only witness to something
she wasn’t supposed to see.

The first time, Tony shot Paityn’s stepfather. Now he wants Paityn. He wants to
keep her quiet about what she saw. And the best way to keep Paityn quiet is to
silence her family.

But Paityn’s not going to let Tony touch her family—not while she’s still
alive. And she’s not dead yet.

 

 

 

 

YABC Q&A

  1. What gave you the inspiration to write this book?

 

The running joke among my family is that every time I have an issue or question about life, I wind up writing a book. It’s true, though, and that’s how Don’t got started. Originally, it was because of a far different issue than when it started. I think it was first inspired because I felt like I didn’t fit in, but as the story developed, I realized I was more interested in the topic that Don’t tackles: why is there pain in the world? And what do we do when everything doesn’t turn out okay, when things just keep getting harder? I translated that question into a medium I would enjoy and connect with (high-stakes thriller) and just started exploring, and that’s how my book was born.

 

  1. Who is your favorite character in the book?

 

Ooh, that’s a tricky one. They’re all my babies! That said, I think my favorite character is Paityn. She’s so strong but that doesn’t make her hard. I love how she can simultaneously be so stoic and commanding but have the most intensely loving, tender heart inside, and I think that’s what I love the most about her: she feels so much so strongly, and so I get to, too.

 

  1. Which came first, the title or the novel?

 

Easily the novel. I am notorious for having the hardest time coming up with titles. I went through over one hundred options before settling on Don’t.

 

  1. What scene in the book are you most proud of, and why?

 

I’m most proud of the scene in Chapter 63 with the snowy forest and the man from the cemetery. First, I got to pull out all the stops with creating the atmosphere and setting, and I took a risk doing something a bit genre-bending. Most of all, though, this is where the point of the whole book finally came to a peak. It was a pivotal moment that I could either do right or make way to explanatory and “in your face,” and I feel like I wrote a moment that will leave readers with a satisfied, moved exhale. (And maybe a few happy tears.)

 

  1. Thinking way back to the beginning, what’s the most important thing you’ve learned as a writer from then to now?

 

I’ve learned a lot, so it’s hard to pin down what’s the most important, but I’d say it’s probably this: it’s not enough to just have characters, you have to live and breathe them. You have to know and love these people like they actually exist. You have to know their favorite podcast, flavor of gum, and member of BlackPink. You have to know the first time they skinned their knee, that time they messed up a line in their high school senior play but they were so smooth no one could even tell, and that day their mom had a close call in a car accident. When they despise or fear or love someone, so do you, as deeply and immensely as them. And most of all, you have to let them lead. Let them tell you that they like Jisoo and which line they fouled up and who they’re in love with. I know that might sound abstract, but what I’m trying to say is that you can’t steamroll a personality that you decide onto them and make it work. The personality will come to you out of mulling over this person and spending time in your imagination’s scenario. Become friends with them. The plot (a much better lot) will follow.

And then when you feel them, so will the audience.

 

  1. What do you like most about the cover of the book?

 

First, that gorgeous gradient of red that my designer put on the glass. Second, the FROST! Third, that freakishly cool way that we are seeing part of the title through the glass.

 

  1. What new release book are you looking most forward to in 2024?

 

The Storm We Made by Vanessa Chan just came out in January, and I haven’t gotten to it yet, but it sounds mind blowing. It’s about “a Malayan mother who becomes an unlikely spy for the invading Japanese forces during WWII”; the stakes are through the roof, and I know the emotional impact is going to gut me.

 

On a lighter note, I’m also wildly excited for Serpent Sea by Maiya Ibrahim, the sequel to Spice Road. I loved every single piece of the setting and magic system, every single character relationship, and every single artful word in the first book, so I’m thrilled that the sequel’s finally coming out!

 

 

  1. What was your favorite book in 2023?

 

The Ones We’re Meant to Find by Joan He. And I generally don’t even like sci-fi and tropical settings, but this one—oh my goodness, the atmosphere of impending doom, the drive for survival, the betrayal, and the immense sister bond left me starstruck.

 

  1. What’s up next for you?

 

A sequel! Don’t is a standalone, but I also thought a couple of these characters (and my readers!) deserved an extra chapter, so the second in the series, Done, follows Mercedes and Luiz a couple of years later, when everything is not quite as finished as they think!

And in case you thought the story would be done then, I’ve got two more in the works: one is Don’t through Tristan’s eyes, and the other is an alternate version of Don’t where a few of the characters make a single different decision, and the rest of the story turns out very different.

 

  1. Is there anything that you would like to add?

 

To all my artists and storytellers (which are basically the same thing) out there:

Have. Fun.

Don’t just stick only to what you’re good at or what you think you’re supposed to be doing. Dip into it all if you want! Write. Draw fanart. Make animations. Go for photography. Try acting. Write some music. Dance. Is it going to be any good the first time? Probably not. I wasn’t. (Have you seen my earliest fanart?) Do it anyway. Do whatever sparks joy, make what you’re passionate about real, create something you wish you could see or hear, and don’t do it for anyone’s approval. Just do it because there’s something bursting inside you and it needs every venue possible to come out.

It’s not going to be pretty the first time, and if it doesn’t do much for you, drop it and try something else. But if you love it, keep going. Learn. Practice. Keep having fun. Keep making what you love. Just do it for the sake of doing it.

Your audience will thank you for it.

 

  1. Which was the most difficult or emotional scene to narrate?

 

The most emotional scenes were also the most difficult ones—Chapter 55 and Chapter 59, both between Paityn and Tristan—because there is so much raw emotion in them, and I had to work and rework them so many times so that I didn’t waste a single drop of it. Imagine an actor: a scene can inherently be so touching, but if the actor either undersells it or overdoes it to the point of melodrama, you lose the audience and any potential, and then it’s just annoying. So I had to be the actor here, writing each line so that it hit so hard but didn’t feel sappy.

 

  1. Which character gave you the most trouble when writing your latest book?

 

My boy Luiz in the sequel, Done! I’m always walking a tightrope, striking some kind of tenuous balance with him. I want audiences to love him but not forget that he’s absolutely flawed and made some bad choices in Don’t.  I want him to work through guilt, but not seem self-pitying (or, worse yet, make the audience pity him!). I want him to express emotion but not to the point where it contradicts his naturally hard, stoic personality. And I find that I keep leaning toward writing him like a cinnamon roll, when that’s NOT what I’m going for. He’s got me practicing my balancing act hard!

 

  1. Which part of the writing process do you enjoy more: Drafting or Revising?

 

Revising. It’s easier for me, takes less time per round (even though I might go through six or seven rounds), and it’s more fun to be almost a spectator,  enjoying the completed story, and sometimes roaster. Every once in a while, get the pleasant surprise of reading a line that I love but don’t remember writing, and I’ll get to squeal over it or cheer. And, more often, I’ll read something that makes me actively cringe, and then I’ll laugh, fix it, and wind up with something much better.

 

  1. What would you say is your superpower?

 

I have this thing called hyperphantasia where, when I imagine something, I see it so clearly, a crisp, detailed picture in my mind. And then, when I’m trying to create, I am relentless until I can hammer that picture into reality. I guess those two combined are my superpower.

 

 

  1. Is there an organization or cause that is close to your heart?

 

Pro-life activism! I love every beautiful baby, and defending the most vulnerable among us, protecting their rights and their precious lives, is SO close to my heart! And with that, empowering women as mothers for that beautiful heartbeat their amazing body made, and supporting those same women who may feel alone. There are a bunch of organizations who work for this, but a couple I know best are Students for Life and Marisol Health.

 

 

About Gabriella Batel:

 

Gabriella
Batel is a vibrant young Catholic woman with an adrenaline craving and a
passion for God, her family, movies, and all things YA fiction. Don’t is her
debut novel, and she’s already working on the next thrill ride.

Website | Twitter | Facebook | Instagram | TikTok | YouTube | Goodreads | Amazon

 

 

 

 

 

Giveaway Details:

1 winner will receive a signed finished copy of DON’T, US Only.

Ends May 31st, midnight EST.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Tour Schedule:

Week One:

5/13/2024

Two Chicks on Books

Playlist/IG Post

5/13/2024

@darkfantasyreviews

Top 5 Scenes

5/14/2024

Writer of Wrongs

Top 5 Books

5/14/2024

@kaylyn_s_booknook

IG Post

5/15/2024

@niks.bookshelf

IG Post

5/15/2024

Brandi Danielle Davis

IG Post

5/16/2024

YA Books Central

Interview/IG Post

5/16/2024

jlreadstoperpetuity

IG Post/TikTok Post

5/17/2024

GryffindorBookishnerd

IG Review

5/17/2024

@amysbookshelf82

IG Review

Week Two:

5/20/2024

Review Thick And Thin

Review/Top 5 Movies/IG Post

5/20/2024

Country Mamas With Kids

Review/Fan Cast/IG Post

5/21/2024

@thepagelady

IG Review

5/21/2024

The Book Critic

Review/IG Post

5/22/2024

anitralovesbooksanddogs

IG Review

5/22/2024

@evergirl200

IG Review

5/23/2024

Kim’s Book Reviews and Writing Aha’s

Review/IG Post

5/23/2024

@dreaminginpages

IG Review

5/24/2024

@enthuse_reader

IG Review/TikTok Post

5/24/2024

A Blue Box Full of Books

IG Review/LFL Drop Pic/TikTok Post

 

Rockstar Tours: THE THIEF OF TIME (Vivi Barnes, Christina Farley, and Amy Christine Parker), Interview & Giveaway! ~ INT

May 9th, 2024 by

I am thrilled to be hosting a spot on the THE THIEF OF TIME by Vivi Barnes, Christina Farley, and Amy Christine Parker Blog Tour hosted by Rockstar Book Tours. Check out my post and make sure to enter the giveaway!

 

About The Book:

Title: THE
THIEF OF TIME (The Library of Alexandria Series #1)

Author: Vivi
Barnes, Christina Farley, and Amy Christine Parker

Pub. Date: May 7, 2024

Publisher: Infinity House Creative

Formats: Hardcover,
Paperback, eBook

Pages: 312

Find it: Goodreadshttps://books2read.com/THE-THIEF-OF-TIME

 

The Thief of Time is a
thrilling contemporary fantasy that will steal your breath away. Chock full of
complex world building and magic that springs from the power of story, this
book will definitely keep young readers turning pages.”—Polly Holyoke,
Award-winning author

Unleash the Magic…

THE THIEF OF TIME is an exciting middle-grade contemporary fantasy adventure
that takes readers on a thrilling journey through the realms of magic,
friendship, and self-discovery.

On a visit to their local library,
Ben, Bridgette, and Maya unwittingly unleash a dragon from an ancient book and
find themselves fighting for their lives against a swarm of evil birds. They
battle to escape with the help of the dragon and are whisked through a portal
into the magical Great Library of Alexandria.

Once they pass the Trials and prove
themselves worthy, they are invited to become students at Helicon Academy.
There they train to become librarians for the Library of Alexandria, protecting
books and the magical artifacts within.

Ben, Bridgette, and Maya fall in love
with the story-themed dinners, fantastical animals, and fictional characters
roaming the halls. But when they discover a dark and sinister mystery within
the academy’s halls, the three must embark on a quest to protect the library
and preserve the fabric of time itself.
 

REVIEWS:

“Every so often, you read a book with a fictional place
that is so full of magic and so full of wonder that you want to live there
forever — the library in The Thief of Time is such a place. You’re in
for a treat!” —Sarah Beth Durst, award-winning author of Spark

What a ride! The Thief of Time whisks readers from the
immortal Library of Alexandria to adventures across the globe. Maya, Ben, and
Bridgette kept me reading to the very end! —Sarah McGuire, author of Flight
of Swans
and Valiant

We all know books are magic, but in The Thief of Time,
they are beyond our expectations! This adventure jumps right in with our
protagonists facing an adventure, both physically and mentally, unlike any
other I’ve read. Fans of Land of Stories and magical school books are going to
devour this new twist on what it means to truly get into a book. —Kellee Moye,
librarian

 

Book Trailer:

Interview:

YABC Q&A – by Amy Christine Parker, Christina Farley, and Vivi Barnes (Infinity House Creative)

For The Thief of Time

  1. What gave you the inspiration to write this book?

We were at a book festival years ago when we heard writers speak about a collaborative project they were promoting. That was what gave us the idea to write a book together. We were already friends but realized we’d probably be the perfect collaboration team. The idea for The Thief of Time came later (at another book festival) when we decided to combine our love for librarians, mythology, and adventure.

  1. Who is your favorite character in the book?

While we love all our characters (and have a special place in our heart for the dragon), Homer has got to be our very favorite. He was SO much fun to write—this old man from ancient times who is trying to understand the modern world. Bridgette becomes especially fond of the old man, and writing the scene where she gives him her spare eyeglasses gave us lots of laughs.

  1. Which came first, the title or the novel?

Definitely the novel. We had this idea for years, and put a placeholder title (cleverly titled “Untitled Middle Grade Project”) when writing it. It wasn’t until we finished drafting and revising the book that we came up with the title The Thief of Time.

  1. What scene in the book are you most proud of, and why?

This one took some extra thought, as we are proud of all our scenes. They were thought out for years! We are especially proud of the battle scene that takes place toward the end – because we all had equal part in making this as strong as possible. Each of our characters play a very important role when they fight against the enemy, and it was gratifying to see them working together doing what they each do best.

  1. Thinking way back to the beginning, what’s the most important thing you’ve learned as a writer from then to now?

This was our first time to collaborate with each other, so we had to learn how to plot together, write chapters separately, and—most importantly—listen to each other and compromise when needed. While we may have disagreed on occasion about certain elements (I’d be worried if we didn’t!), we worked together to come up with solutions that we all got our arms around and are proud of.

  1. What do you like most about the cover of the book?

We are so proud to have the incredibly talented Brandon Dorman as our cover designer. We honestly love every single thing about our book cover, from the dragon to the library itself. But probably our favorite part is how well he illustrated our characters. We were in tears when we first saw the trio—he not only accurately depicted their look, but he captured their spirit as well!

  1. What’s up next for you?

We are in the process of writing our next book in the Library of Alexandria series – The Curse of the Scarab Scrolls. We are super excited about this one because part of it takes place in Egypt—and in a pyramid!

  1. Is there anything that you would like to add?

Advice for anyone wishing to collaborate on a novel with other writers—be sure that you are working with people who are on the same page as you about how things should be done. Not that you have to agree on everything, but you absolutely need to be able to work together to compromise when needed.

  1. Which was the most difficult or emotional scene to narrate?

That would easily be chapter one. Chapter ones are HARD! It is the reader’s introduction to the characters, not to mention your world, so it has to have the perfect amount of pacing, worldbuilding, and emotional hook. I think we revised that chapter fifty times. But at the end, we can honestly say it’s one of our favorites, and we love it!

  1. Which part of the writing process do you enjoy more: Drafting or Revising?

When writing collaboratively, our favorite part is brainstorming the novel: plotting out the overall story, then each individual chapter. It was so much fun to devise what was going to happen with our characters and how they would each grow, not to mention discussing details that went into the worldbuilding. We bounced ideas off each other both in person as well as virtually (including the occasional late-night text). We also had to discuss how this story would connect with the goal of the overarching series, not just the one book.

  1. What would you say is your superpower?

Our superpower would absolutely be related to our collaboration – compromise! We often may have difference of opinion, but we talk through it and come up with even better ideas. Just like our characters, we are amazing friends, and that friendship is the foundation of our process.

  1. Is there an organization or cause that is close to your heart?

Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library is one that we absolutely love. Through her organization, Dolly offers free books to children around the world regardless of income level, inspiring a love of reading in the next generation

About Vivi Barnes, Christina Farley,
and Amy Christine Parker:

Vivi Barnes, Christina Farley, and
Amy Christine Parker
are
best friends who bonded over their love of telling stories and going on
adventures. They live in sunny Central Florida with their families, where
inspiration is just a beach day away.

 

SOCIAL MEDIA

Instagram

@amychristinepar

@christinaLFarley

@vivibarnes

 

 

TikTok

@AmyChristineParker

@ChristinaFarleyAuthor

@ViviBarnes82

 

Giveaway Details:

1 winner will receive a $25 gift card to the book vendor of their choice, International.

Ends May 21st, midnight EST.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Tour Schedule:

Week One:

5/6/2024

YA Books Central

Interview/IG Post

5/6/2024

@darkfantasyreviews

Excerpt

5/7/2024

Kim’s Book Reviews and Writing Aha’s

Review/IG Post

5/7/2024

onemused

IG Post

5/8/2024

@thepagelady

IG Review

5/8/2024

GryffindorBookishnerd

IG Review

5/9/2024

jlreadstoperpetuity

IG Review/TikTok Post

5/9/2024

@evergirl200

IG Review

5/10/2024

Satisfaction for Insatiable Readers

Review/IG Post

5/10/2024

@katherinebichler

TikTok Post

Week Two:

5/13/2024

Review Thick And Thin

Review/IG Post

5/13/2024

Wishful Endings

Excerpt/IG Post

5/14/2024

Two Points of Interest

Review

5/14/2024

Lifestyle of Me

Review

5/15/2024

blueeez_away

IG Review

5/15/2024

The Book Critic

Review/IG Post

5/16/2024

Triquetra Reviews

Review/IG Post

5/16/2024

The Momma Spot

Review

5/17/2024

Country Mamas With Kids

Review/IG Post

5/17/2024

A Backwards Story

Review/IG Post

 

Rockstar Tours: BEASTLY BEAUTY (Jennifer Donnelly), Excerpt & Giveaway! ~US ONLY

May 8th, 2024 by

I am thrilled to be hosting a spot on the BEASTLY BEAUTY  by Jennifer Donnelly Blog Tour hosted by Rockstar Book Tours. Check out my post and make sure to enter the giveaway!

 

About the Book:

Title: BEASTLY BEAUTY

Author: Jennifer Donnelly

Pub. Date: May 7, 2024

Publisher: Scholastic Press

Formats: Hardcover, eBook, Audiobook

Pages: 336

Find it: Goodreadshttps://books2read.com/BEASTLY-BEAUTY

*”A dreamy, sublimely written tale.” — Publishers
Weekly
, starred review

From New York Times bestselling,
award-winning author Jennifer Donnelly comes a revolutionary, gender-swapped
retelling of Beauty and the Beast that will forever change how
you think about beauty, power, and what it really means to follow your heart.

What makes a girl “beastly?” Is it having too much
ambition? Being too proud? Taking up too much space? Or is it just wanting
something, anything, too badly?

That’s the problem Arabella faces when she makes her debut in
society. Her parents want her to be sweet and compliant so she can marry well,
but try as she might, Arabella can’t extinguish the fire burning inside her —
the source of her deepest wishes, her wildest dreams.

When an attempt to suppress her emotions tragically
backfires, a mysterious figure punishes Arabella with a curse, dooming her and
everyone she cares about, trapping them in the castle. As the years pass,
Arabella abandons hope. The curse is her fault — after all, there’s nothing
more “beastly” than a girl who expresses her anger — and the only
way to break it is to find a boy who loves her for her true self: a cruel task
for a girl who’s been told she’s impossible to love.

When a handsome thief named Beau makes his way into the
castle, the captive servants are thrilled, convinced he is the one to break the
curse. But Beau — spooked by the castle’s strange and forbidding
ladies-in-waiting, and by the malevolent presence that stalks its corridors at
night — only wants to escape. He learned long ago that love is only an
illusion. If Beau and Arabella have any hope of breaking the curse, they must
learn to trust their wounded hearts, and realize that the cruelest prisons of
all are the ones we build for ourselves.

 

 Excerpt From Beastly Beauty by Jennifer Donnelly

Prologue

Once upon a time and ever since, a key turned in a rusted lock, and a  woman stepped into a small and dismal cell.

Her gown, the color of ashes, hung off her shoulders like a shroud.  Her hair, styled high on her head, was as black as ebony. Her dark eyes  glittered; their gaze pulled at whomever it fell upon, sucking them in like  a whirlpool.

Across the room, a high window, shaped like a half-moon, was filled  with midnight, yet the room was not without light. A wan glow suffused  it, like that of a single candle.

It came from a child.

She was gazing up at the window, her hands clasped behind her back.  “Lady Espidra, always a pleasure,” she said at length, turning to face the  woman.

Her pink dress, once pretty, was dirty and torn. Her hair, so blond  it was almost white, was wild. Her face was open and frank. Anyone  glimpsing it would guess she was nine or ten years of age, except for her  eyes, which were as ancient as the stars.

Lady Espidra set her lantern down on a table. She opened the small  wooden box she was carrying. “Shall we play? To pass a bit of time?” she  asked, taking out a deck of cards. “How long has it been since we last  chatted, you and I? A year? Two?”

“Twenty-five.”

Lady Espidra laughed. It was an ugly, jangling sound, like shattered  glass raining down. “Ah, it’s true what mortals say—the days are long  and the years are short.”

She placed the deck faceup on the table, then fanned it expertly. The  cards were yellowed at their edges but beautifully illustrated. The kings,  queens, and jacks were framed by a thin line of black. Rich pigments  colored their robes. Their golden crowns sparkled; their silver swords  gleamed.

The queen of hearts blinked and stretched. Then she glimpsed the queen of spades, who was next to her, and waved excitedly. The queen  of spades gasped, then laughed. She reached a hand to the frame sur rounding her and pushed at it. Gently at first. Then harder. Until she  was beating her fists against it.

The king of diamonds placed a hand over his heart and gazed with  anguished longing at his queen. The queen of clubs, stuck between two  numbered cards, stared listlessly ahead of herself.

Espidra seemed not to notice their distress. She briskly gathered the  cards, shuffled them, and dealt two hands.

But the child noticed.

“Poor things,” she said, picking up her cards. “Imprisoned in their  boxes, just like the mortals who drew them.”

“A box is the best place for mortals,” Espidra retorted. “It keeps them  out of trouble.”

Espidra looked at her cards and smiled; she’d dealt herself an excel lent hand. As she arranged them in order of rank, the queen of clubs  blew a fervent kiss to the handsome jack of hearts. The king of clubs saw  her do it. His smile crumpled. He gripped his sword in both hands and,  with an anguished cry, plunged it into his heart. The queen turned at  the sound, then screamed when she saw what he’d done. Blood flowed  from the king’s wound. It pattered onto the bottom of the frame, spilled out of a crack in the corner, and dripped onto Espidra’s withered fingers.  She slapped the cards down on the table, scowling, and wiped the blood  off on her skirt.

“Such a lovely way you have about you,” the child said. “Why have  you come? Surely it wasn’t to play cards.”

“Of course it was,” Espidra said. “I like a challenge when I play, and no  one bluffs like you do.”

“Liar.”

Espidra shot the girl a baleful look. “All right, then. I wish to offer you  a deal.”

“Ah, now we have the truth. What kind of a deal?” the child asked. “Leave this place. Do not come back.”

“What do you offer me in return?”

“Your life.”

A slow smile spread across the child’s face. “Why, Lady Espidra, you  are afraid.”

Espidra flapped a hand at her. “Me, afraid? Of you? Don’t be absurd.” “You would not offer me this deal otherwise.”

“Yes, I would. Because I wish to be rid of you, and you would be wise  to accept my offer. The girl is beaten. She has given up. She merely bides  her time now, waiting for the end.”

Pain sliced across the child’s features at the mention of the girl.  Espidra saw it. She leaned forward. “You cannot win. The clock winds  down. The story is over.”

The child lifted her chin. “Almost, but not quite.”

Her words were like a torch to straw. Espidra smacked the cards off  the table. She shot up out of her chair; the legs screeched over the stone  floor.

“You are nothing but a trickster,” she hissed, jabbing a bony finger  at the child. “You come and go, as careless as the wind, leaving a trail of broken mortals in your wake. But I stay. I am here for them after you  abandon them, with my arms wide open, my embrace as deep—” “As a freshly dug grave.”

Lady Espidra looked as if she would like to wrap her hands around  the child’s thin neck and snap it. “You will be sorry you did not take my  offer,” she said.

“This cell will not hold me forever.”

“Big words from a small girl. I hope you enjoy the darkness.” The door clanged shut. The key turned in the lock.

Espidra’s footsteps receded, and silence descended once more, suffocating and cruel.

The child sat, motionless and alone, her head bent, her fists clenched. Trying to remember the light.

 

― One ―

“I’m freezing my balls off,” grumbled Rodrigo. “Hungry as hell, too.  What about you, boy?”

Beau didn’t reply. He couldn’t; his teeth were chattering too hard. Icy  rain needled his face. It plastered his hair to his skull and dripped from  his earlobes.

The storm had swept down upon the thieves as they’d ridden out of  the merchant’s lands. It howled ferociously now, scouring the rocky hills  FOR REVIEW PURPOSES ONLY

around them, tangling itself in the branches of the bare black trees. It seemed to Beau as if the thrashing limbs were warning them, wav ing them back. But back to what? They were lost. Riding with their heads  bent against the driving rain, they’d missed the trail to the mountains.  To the border. To safety.

Raphael was certain that if they just kept heading south, they’d find  their way. A few more miles . . . a little bit farther . . . he kept saying. They’d  passed ruined cottages, a deserted village. They’d ridden through dense  woods and crossed a river, but still could not find the path.

Beau hunched down in his wet coat now, seeking comfort and  warmth, but found neither.

“What’s the matter, Romeo? Missing Her Ladyship’s pretty smile?”  Rodrigo asked. He was riding on Beau’s left.

“Look at him, melting in the rain like he was made of sugar!” taunted  Miguel from Beau’s right. He leaned in close and grinned, revealing a  mouthful of rotten teeth. “That pretty face is your fortune, but what hap pens if I carve it up, eh?” He pulled out his dagger.

“What happens is that Raphael carves you up, you fool, since my face  is also his fortune,” Beau replied.

“Poodle,” Miguel grumbled, sheathing his blade. “All you do is beg  rich women for treats and kisses while we do the hard work.”

“Begging for treats and kisses is hard work,” Beau said. He pictured his mistress now. Former mistress. She was older than he  was, but not by much. Married to a man who only loved his money. She  hadn’t given Beau this information; he was a thief—he’d stolen it. He’d  taken the sorrow in her smile, the hunger in her eyes, the ache in her  voice, and he’d used them. Just as she’d used him.

“Oh, you beautiful thing,” she’d whispered to him last night, tracing  the line of his jaw with her finger.

He’d been standing in her bedchamber, looking at the books on her  FOR REVIEW PURPOSES ONLY

night table. His eyes had lit up when he’d seen Candide. “I’ve read everything Voltaire’s written,” he said, turning to her excitedly, thinking he’d found a kindred spirit, someone—the only one—in  his life he could talk to about a book. “Could I borrow this? Just for a day  or two? I’m a fast reader.”

But his mistress had only laughed at him. “You’re just a servant,  boy. I don’t pay you to read. Or talk,” she’d said, pulling the book from  his hands. Then she’d tugged at the ribbon that bound his dark hair  and caught her breath as it tumbled around his shoulders. A moment  later, her lips were on his, and the things he’d wanted to say, the  thoughts he’d wanted to share about books and ideas, turned to ashes  on his tongue.

Beau pictured her face as she’d learned that her servant was gone,  and her fine emerald ring with him, and remorse pinched him like a  pair of borrowed boots. He fought it, telling himself that her husband  was wealthy; he’d buy her another ring. He almost believed it.

The ring was nestled safely inside a slit he’d made behind a button  on his jacket—a place where its contours couldn’t be felt. Raphael often  patted them down after a job, all of them, and Beau had seen him beat a  man bloody for keeping back a single coin. The ring would buy him the  thing he wanted most: a way out. For himself, for Matteo.

The boy had been unwell the last time Beau had seen him, listless and  pale, with a rackety cough. A fever. It will pass, Sister Maria-Theresa had  said. Beau had written to her two weeks ago, to ask if his little brother  was better, and just that afternoon he’d received a reply, but he’d tucked  the letter inside his jacket unopened. There had been no time to read it.  Not with the robbery planned for that very night.

“It’s not fair. I could be the inside man. Why not?” said Miguel, breaking into Beau’s thoughts, jutting his chin at him. “What does he have that  I don’t have?”

“Teeth,” said Rodrigo.

“Hair,” said Antonio.

“A bar of soap,” said Beau.

Miguel threw him a venomous look. “I’ll get you, boy. When you least  expect it. Then we’ll see who’s laughing. Then we’ll—” “Shut up. Now.

Raphael’s words fell across the men like the crack of a whip. He was  several strides ahead of them, but Beau could still see him through the  lashing rain—with his felted black hat, water dripping from its brim,  and his sodden gray ponytail trailing down his back. His shoulders were  tensed; his head was cocked.

An instant later, Beau heard it—the baying of hounds. Amar, his  horse, danced nervously under him. The pack likely numbered a dozen  or so, but the hills amplified their cries, making it sound as if there were  a thousand.

“The sheriff’s men,” Rodrigo said tersely.

Raphael gave a grim nod and galloped off. Beau and the others followed. The wet ground made for treacherous footing and they had to  work to keep their seats. The rain had let up, but a heavy mist was moving through the trees now. One minute, Beau could see the thief lord up  ahead of him; the next minute he vanished.

Faster and faster the men rode, but the hounds still pursued them,  their cries savage and bloodthirsty. Beau’s heart slammed against his  ribs. Not now, he thought desperately. Not here. This was supposed to  be his last job. Just a few more miles, and he’d be beyond the reach  of sheriffs and jails and gallows. Beyond Raphael’s reach. Him and  Matti both.

The baying grew louder. Amar’s nostrils flared. He surged ahead, trying to catch up to Raphael’s horse. Every second, Beau expected him to  stumble over a fallen limb or break his leg in a ditch. He could see lather on the animal’s neck; he could hear him panting. They would have to  surrender. The horses couldn’t keep going.

And then came a shriek that severed the night like a saber. “Hold up!” Raphael shouted. “Nobody move!” It was his horse that  had made the awful sound. He was rearing, his hooves slashing at the  air. Beau, right behind him, only had a split second to halt Amar. “Whoa! Whoa, boy!” he shouted, yanking on the reins. The bit caught;  the horse stopped short, snapping Beau forward like a rag doll. He  jammed his weight into his stirrups to keep from falling. The others halted behind him, jostling, swearing, their hands on their  weapons. Eyes searched for movement, but the mist blinded them. Ears  strained for sounds, but the baying had stopped. All they could hear was  the panting of their played out animals. They waited, hearts thumping,  blood surging, bodies tensed for an attack, but none came. Instead, the mist receded like a treacherous sea falling back from  jagged rocks, and the men saw a cliff, high and sheer, sweeping down  into nothingness. Raphael, perched at the very edge of it, had come  within inches of an ugly death. Yet fear, if he’d felt any, had not lingered  on his hard, scarred face. Instead, his features were fixed in a look of  astonishment—a look that only deepened as the ebbing mist revealed  what lay on the far side of the abyss.

Beau squeezed his eyes shut, then opened them again, but they were not  playing tricks. He clearly saw the things around him—the mist, the men,  their stamping horses. These things had all been there a moment ago. But the castle had not.

 

 

About Jennifer:

 

Jennifer Donnelly is the author of A Northern Light,
which was awarded a Printz Honor and a Carnegie Medal; Revolution (named
a Best Book by Amazon, Kirkus ReviewsSchool Library
Journal
, and the Chicago Public Library, and nominated for a Carnegie
Medal); the Deep Blue series; and many other books for young readers,
including Lost in a Book, which spent more than 20 weeks on
the New York Times bestseller list. She lives in New York’s
Hudson Valley.

 

Website | Twitter | Facebook | Instagram | TikTok | Goodreads
| Amazon

Meet Jennifer! 

 

Giveaway Details: 

1 winner will receive a finished copy of BEASTLY BEAUTY, US Only.

Ends June 4th, midnight EST.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Tour Schedule:

Week One:

5/6/2024

The Cover
Contessa

Excerpt

5/7/2024

@darkfantasyreviews

Excerpt

5/8/2024

YA
Books Central

Excerpt/IG Post

5/9/2024

Fyrekatz Blog

Review/IG Post

5/10/2024

onemused

IG Post

5/10/2024

Ilovebooksandstuffblog

Review/IG Post

5/11/2024

Kim’s
Book Reviews and Writing Aha’s

Review/IG Post

Week Two:

5/12/2024

@niks.bookshelf

IG Post

5/13/2024

Wishful Endings

Excerpt/IG Post

5/14/2024

@katherinebichler

TikTok Post

5/15/2024

@dharashahauthor

IG Post

5/15/2024

@travelersguidetobooks

IG Review

5/16/2024

Books With a
Chance

Review/IG Post

5/17/2024

jlreadstoperpetuity

IG Review/TikTok Post

5/17/2024

@thepagelady

IG Review

5/18/2024

anitralovesbooksanddogs

IG Review

Week Three:

5/19/2024

Triquetra
Reviews

Review/IG Post

5/20/2024

Country Mamas
With Kids

Review/IG Post

5/21/2024

@bookish_aly_cat

IG Review/TikTok Post

5/21/2024

@dreaminginpages

IG Review

5/22/2024

nerdophiles

Review

5/23/2024

A Backwards
Story

Review/IG Post

5/23/2024

YA Book Nerd

Review/IG Post

5/24/2024

@jaimes_mystical_library

IG Review

5/25/2024

@celiamcmahonreads

IG Review

Week Four:

5/26/2024

A
Blue Box Full of Books

IG Review/LFL Drop Pic/TikTok Post

5/26/2024

@enthuse_reader

IG Review/TikTok Post

5/27/2024

One More
Exclamation

Review/IG Post

5/28/2024

The Momma Spot

Review/IG Post

5/29/2024

traceyreadsandrambles

Review/IG Post

5/30/2024

Satisfaction
for Insatiable Readers

Review/IG Post

5/31/2024

More
Books Please blog

Review/IG Post

 

Blog Tour: Explorer Academy Vela, Book 1: THE SAILOR CIPHER (Trudi Trueit)

May 2nd, 2024 by

Welcome to the Explorer Academy Vela Blog Tour!

 

 

 

 

About the Book: Explorer Academy Vela, Book 1: THE SAILOR CIPHER 

Sailor York and the daring recruits of Explorer Academy uncover an elusive animal-smuggling ring in the first electrifying book in this new companion series.

Soon after Cruz, Sailor, Emmett, and Lani return for their second year at Explorer Academy, their sense of calm is shattered when Sailor’s older sister goes missing. Amidst incredible expeditions to far-flung destinations and competitive classes, Sailor bravely steps into the lead to discover how her sister’s sudden disappearance may be linked to an illegal and deadly animal-trafficking ring.

Despite winning the prestigious North Star Award and being surrounded by close friends and teachers who she has traveled the world with, Sailor’s never felt less sure of herself. As the team faces puzzling obstacles and follows complex clues aboad the new ship, Vela, Sailor grapples with a secret of her own. Will she she risk everything and choose to embrace her destiny?

Purchase

 

 

 

About the Author:

Trudi Trueit writes the award-winning EXPLORER ACADEMY fact-based fiction series for National Geographic, which has been translated into 20 languages. She is the author of more than 100 fiction and nonfiction titles for kids, including MY TOP SECRET DARES AND DON’TS, THE SISTER SOLUTION, and THE SECRETS OF A LAB RAT series (Simon & Schuster). A Seattle native, she makes her home in Everett, WA with her photographer husband and lives to serve the whims of their three cats. And yes, Trudi Trueit is her real name (by marriage)!

 

 

 

Guest Post

 

Blogpost #4: Finding Your Passion

Trudi Trueit

Now and again, I get to visit schools accompanied by a real explorer from National Geographic. I’ve done presentations alongside a submarine pilot, a photographer, a paleontologist, and a biomedical scientist who collects animal venom for use in lifesaving medications. All were riveting! Along with sharing their incredible discoveries, the explorers revealed that their enthusiasm for their chosen career field first blossomed when they were kids; the sub pilot had always loved the ocean, the photographer enjoyed nature hikes, the paleontologist was into dinosaurs, and the biomedical scientist was forever bringing home snakes. Now adults, each had turned a passion into a profession.

            It was like that for me, too. I’d always loved writing but wondered, even as a child, could I make a living at it? There weren’t too many writers in my hometown of Kent, WA, a suburb of Seattle. We had teachers, lawyers, doctors, business owners, and farmers and if your parents weren’t any of those, they most certainly worked for Boeing (my dad was an engineer). When I told my eighth-grade journalism teacher I was considering a career as a news reporter, he responded, “Good! We have a newspaper here in town!”

            I was stunned. “You mean, I should be one now?

            That’s exactly what he meant.

            While my dad waited in the car, I nervously met with the features editor of the Kent News Journal. She was kind and supported the idea of adding a young person’s perspective to the paper. So I began writing a monthly column for and about teens, which evolved into a monthly magazine insert called Expression that I continued to contribute to through my high school years. After earning a college degree in broadcast journalism, I pursued a career in writing—one that took me in more directions than I’d ever thought possible. I’ve worked as a newspaper reporter, radio anchor and disc jockey, TV news reporter and weather forecaster, freelance writer, publicist, and now, the author of more than 100 fiction and nonfiction children’s books. That last one is the biggest surprise of all.

Along the way, I discovered that as long as I was willing to keep learning and stretching, new steppingstones would appear in front of me. Hop on one, hone my craft, set a new goal, and voila—soon, the next stone would magically materialize. If I could go back and give some advice to my younger self, that anxious girl who worried about whether she could survive on storytelling, I would say, “You will be a writer, because you already are one.”

            As I head out to talk to school kids this spring, the message I bring is this: explore, explore, explore! You are not too young to search for, and even find, your passion. Try new things. Try scary things. Try things that excite you. Try things that don’t excite you. But try. Only in the doing will you expand your world and discover just where your heart lies. Then believe in yourself, work hard, and be ready to follow the steppingstones. They will always appear. And they will lead you to places you never dreamed possible!

My new Explorer Academy book Vela Book The Sailor Cipher features Sailor York as the main character. Sailor and her Explorer Academy classmates uncover an elusive animal-smuggling ring, face puzzling obstacles, and follow complex clues aboard the new ship, Vela.

 

 

 

The new Explorer Academy book Vela Book The Sailor Cipher features Sailor York as the main character. Sailor and her Explorer Academy classmates uncover an elusive animal-smuggling ring, face puzzling obstacles, and follow complex clues aboard the new ship, Vela.

Rockstar Tours: SYLVIA LOCKE AND THE THREE BEARS (David Horn)

April 30th, 2024 by

I am thrilled to be hosting a spot on the SYLVIA LOCKE AND THE THREE BEARS by David Horn Blog Tour hosted by Rockstar Book Tours. Check out my post and make sure to enter the giveaway!

 

About The Book:

Title: SYLVIA LOCKE AND THE THREE BEARS

Author: David Horn (Author), Judit Tondora
(Illustrator)

Pub. Date: April 30, 2024

Publisher: David Horn

Formats: eBook

Pages: 83

Find it: GoodreadsAmazon

 

“A whimsical twist on a classic
fairy tale with plenty of twists, turns, and sass for early chapter readers.”
– Kirkus Reviews

RED ALERT FOR FAIRY TALE LAND: Sylvia Locke is out and ready to cause
mischief.

Once upon a time in Fairy Tale Land, there lived a very bad girl indeed. Sylvia
Locke may have been abandoned by her adventuring parents but that’s no excuse
for being mean to her loving grandparents, rude to everyone at school, and even
bullying rare magical creatures. Right?

One day, when out on a break-and-enter job at the Bear family’s house, Sylvia
happens upon a magical mirror that turns out to be more than she bargained for.
Could even a kid like Sylvia find a friend? Could some warm and fuzzies change
her heart?

The first book in Tairy Fails, a modern fractured fairy tale humor series
that will have elementary school kids and early chapter book readers screaming
with laughter.

 

Reviews:

“Will wow middle grade
readers—and transform them into instant devotees of the next in the
series.'” – BookLife Reviews

“Original action and humor at their best . . . highly recommended for
elementary chapter book readers seeking a fresh, original voice and novel
atmosphere in their fantasy reading.” – Midwest Book Review

“Will have readers doubled over with laughter as they follow one very
bad girl, Sylvia Locke . . . This is a gem of a magical story that will enchant
young readers.” – ReadersFavorite (5 Star Review)

“Families will love the comedic spin the chapter book takes on a
classic fairytale. It deserves more than five stars! I’ll be on the lookout for
book two in the Tairy Fails series, and I know once your family and class read
this story, they will be, too.” – Superkambrook (Kam’s Place)

“The perfect story of the pains of a growing teen, with characters
based on those we all know and love.” – ReadersFavorite (5 Star
Review)

“David’s wonderful modern fairy tale will engage young readers and make
their parents smile.” – ReadersFavorite (5 Star Review)

 

YABC interview with the Author: David Horn

 

What was your inspiration for writing your book?

 

My children are always my inspiration. Like a lot of my books, Sylvia started as a story I told my kids (usually during dinner or during a dog walk). They asked for a fairy tale, so I had to come up with something. As they were already familiar with my Eudora Space Kid stories, I needed a new character too. So, Sylvia Locke was born – a play on Goldilocks, but a girl who was even worse. Breaking into a house is something a good kid would never do, right? I mean, she just had to be bad. But the bears had already been through Goldilocks, so they had to be a bit wiser too. Hilarity ensued! I hope you agree!

 

List your favorite books from when you were a child and talk about how you see them as an adult.

 

My favorite books as a child were the Mr. Men books, and I still love them, have them, and my kids have read them, though we added in the Little Miss books too. All of them are hilarious, even the new ones. A lot of quirky, simple characters and it really is a fantasy world in a way. Just love them!

 

List your favorite books this year and why you like them.

 

Ascendance of a Bookworm light novels! I love them. It’s clear, fun writing and the main character is a good person who loves reading.  What’s not to love? And the books have a huge, colorful cast of characters. I’m in awe of the author.

 

Describe your ideal writing space.

 

I like to write on a little portable laptop, small and light. I can take it anywhere – at a desk, on a couch, outside with the dog. I like to write from anywhere.  Oh, and the right music playlist that matches the story – that’s important!

 

Describe your ideal home library.

 

My ideal home library has a ton of classic sci-fi books and classic children’s books. All inside a sun-filled turret with a lazy dog on a big comfy dog bed. Or the dog took the comfy recliner and I’m stuck on the dog bed? To be clear, though, I don’t have anything like that – the books just sit sadly under the bed  waiting for the day …

 

 

 

 

About David Horn:

 

David Horn
lives in New Jersey with his wife, two daughters, and a funny dog named Trixie.
He is the author of the popular Eudora Space Kid early reader humorous sci-fi
chapter book series, along with Tairy Fails, a modern, humorous fractured fairy
tale chapter book series. He enjoys making kids laugh. Author photo drawn by David’s child.

Subscribe to David’s newsletter!

Website | Facebook | Goodreads | Amazon

 

 

 

 

Giveaway Details:

1 winner will receive a $25 Amazon Gift Card, International.

3 winners will receive an eBook of SYLVIA LOCKE AND THE THREE BEARS, International.

Ends May 14th, midnight EST.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Tour Schedule:

Week One:

4/29/2024

Two Chicks on Books

Excerpt/IG Post

4/29/2024

YA Books Central

Guest Postt/IG Post

4/30/2024

@darkfantasyreviews

 Excerpt

4/30/2024

Fire
and Ice Reads

Excerpt/IG Post

5/1/2024

amysbookshot82

IG Post

5/1/2024

The Momma Spot

Excerpt

5/2/2024

@thepagelady

IG Review

5/2/2024

Kim’s Book Reviews and Writing Aha’s

Review/IG Post

5/3/2024

mjreadsmagic

Review/IG Post

5/3/2024

GryffindorBookishnerd

Review/IG Post

Week Two:

5/6/2024

Satisfaction for Insatiable Readers

Review/IG Post

5/6/2024

@stargirls.magical.tale

Review/IG Post

5/7/2024

aportaltomagic

Review/IG Post

5/7/2024

avainbookland

Review/IG Post

5/8/2024

@alexandriavwilliams_

Review/IG Post

5/8/2024

Comic Book Yeti

Excerpt/Twitter Post

5/9/2024

A Dream Within A Dream

Excerpt

5/9/2024

Country Mamas With Kids

 Excerpt/IG Post

5/10/2024

nerdophiles

Excerpt

5/10/2024

@evergirl200

IG Review

 

Rockstar Tours: THE MARK OF THE SALAMANDER (Justin Newland), Excerpt & Giveaway! ~ US & UK ONLY

April 16th, 2024 by

I am thrilled to be hosting a spot on the THE MARK OF THE SALAMANDER by Justin Newland Blog Tour hosted by Rockstar Book Tours. Check out my post and make sure to enter the giveaway!

 

About The Book:

Title: THE
MARK OF THE SALAMANDER

Author: Justin Newland

Pub. Date: September 28, 2023

Publisher: The Book Guild Ltd.

Formats: Paperback, eBook

Pages: 256

Find it: Goodreadshttps://mybook.to/MarkofSalamander 

 

1575: Nelan Michaels is a young
Flemish man fleeing religious persecution in the Spanish Netherlands. Settling
in Mortlake outside London, he studies under Queen Elizabeth’s court
astrologer, conjuring a bright future – until he’s wrongly accused of murder.
Forced into the life of a fugitive, Nelan is dramatically pressed into the crew
of the Golden Hind.
Thrust into a strange new world on board Francis Drake’s vessel, Nelan sails
the seas on a voyage to discover discovery itself. Encountering mutiny, ancient
tribes and hoards of treasure, Nelan must explore and master his own mystical
powers – including the Mark of the Salamander, the mysterious spirit of fire.
The Mark of the Salamander is the first in The Island of Angels series: a
two-book saga that tells the epic story and secret history of England’s coming
of age during the Elizabethan era.

 

 

Book Trailer:

Excerpt: 

1

The Fire

The village of Mortlake, near London, England

31st March 1575

Nelan stepped carefully over the planks of the wooden jetty, moist  from an early morning shower. He boarded the wherry bobbing in  the flow of the spring tide. The wherry master grinned, showing  a tranche of rotting black teeth behind a ragged salt-and-pepper  beard. As far as Wenceslaus was concerned, this passed as a morning  salutation.

Wenceslaus let go of the rope and kicked the jetty with the sole of his tattered boot, shoving the boat into the flow of the River Thames.  As usual, the wherry master’s breath stank of ale, and to enhance the  delights of the morning, he let out a huge fart. As with everyone else  in England, more vacant air than solid food filled the wherry master’s  guts. Well, it was Maundy Thursday, the last day of Lenten fasting.  Wenceslaus eased out the oars and bent his back to the task, and with  each pull he emitted a low grunt, like the wild boars that roamed the  woods near Nelan’s Mortlake home.

“Tide’s on the full, little master,” said Wenceslaus.

“’Tis that,” Nelan said.

Reaching the middle of the flow, Nelan glanced back at his house.

Next door and nestling on the bank was their neighbour’s place – a  large, rambling house just west of the church between it and the river.  The natural philosopher and celebrated astrologer to the court of Queen Elizabeth, Dr John Dee, lived there. Dr Dee was a great friend  of Nelan’s father Laurens, who had encouraged Nelan to visit Dee’s  house for private tuition in matters both sacred and secular. Just the  other week, Dee had agreed to cast Nelan’s horoscope, but before he  could reveal his findings, Dee’s second wife had died. And on the day  of her funeral, the Queen herself had paid him a surprise visit. How  Nelan mixed with such exalted company!

Today was a special day: the last school day before Easter. Nelan

pulled out a crumpled broadsheet that Dee had recently given him. It  was dated March 1575, and depicted an elegant city with tall spires  protruding into the heavens. One more term at school, and Nelan  would be off to university and strolling down Oxford’s alleys. The time  was ripe for him to make his own way in life.

They passed wherries tacking upriver, and avoided ferries crossing from bank to bank. Wisps of mist rose from the glassy  swell. Wenceslaus stopped by the hamlet of Sneakenhall to pick  up two other boys from Nelan’s school. Dressed in doublets of  fine Spanish cloth, leggings, and leather shoes, they stood behind  their stepfather, St John of Southampton, or San Juan de Antón in  Spanish. They sniggered and pointed their fingers at Nelan, but that  wasn’t unusual. The brothers climbed into the wherry. Nelan had  been born in Sangatte, Picardy, Northern France, while Guillermo  and Pedro harked from Seville, Spain. They attended the same school  and were of a similar age. They had that in common. But Nelan  couldn’t stand the boys; nor they him. They had that in common  too.

Wenceslaus disliked their rivalry. “Now, be civil to them both, young Nelan,” he warned.

“I’ll try,” Nelan murmured.

“You do just that.”

Nelan said, “Good morrow, Guillermo, Pedro. The Lord be with you both.”

“I want nothing to do with your Lord!” Guillermo snarled. “Now move over, you stupid!” He pushed Nelan off the seat.

“Oi!” Wenceslaus intervened. “Stop it. Hell’s teeth. Every mornin’, every month, every year. Always the same. You two spar like a pair of  fightin’ cocks. An’ old Wenceslaus gotta keep yous apart.”

He was right, Nelan thought. But what could he do? In Queen Bess’s England, the law compelled ordinary folks to follow the  new Protestant religion and forgo the old Catholic one. Nelan was  Protestant. The brothers were Catholic. He and they were like oil and  water. They fought in words on the wherry, just as their respective  armies warred in Europe and clashed all over the New World.

A pall of silence shrouded the rest of the trip around the Barnes–

Chiswick oxbow. As Wenceslaus grunted and groaned, passing more air  from his orifice, he rowed the wherry past Putney and then Battersea  Fields. Nelan stretched his legs. He was a shorty, and they barely  reached half the length of Guillermo’s, who sat, arms folded, avoiding  eye contact. Pedro mimicked his older brother, brooding beneath a  dark, forbidding frown.

As the wherry moored by the Westminster jetty, Nelan and

Guillermo stood up at the same time, rocking the boat. Wenceslaus  scowled at them, which annoyed Guillermo, who took a leap. The jetty  was still moist from the overnight rain, and he slipped and smashed  his knee.

As Guillermo winced with pain, Wenceslaus passed comment and more air. “Silly boy. Serves you right; it does that.”

Rubbing his knee, Guillermo snapped at the wherry master, “Me,

I am Guillermo. You ferry me and my brother to school and back. You  speak to me like that again, I tell my stepfather. You know he is very  important man, ¿cierto?

“Beggin’ your pardon, young master,” Wenceslaus said, doffing his cap and clutching it to his chest.

As far as Nelan was concerned, this was more respect than the boy deserved for his rudeness and arrogance. But Guillermo’s stepfather  was a senior figure with influence at Elizabeth’s court. A word in the  local constable’s ear, and Wenceslaus could easily have spent the day  battened down in the stocks at Putney market.

Pedro jumped out of the wherry and helped his brother hobble along the landing quay. Passing the woodshed, they headed towards an imposing  brick building boasting tall, graceful spires and elegant stone etchings:  Westminster Abbey. Next to the abbey lay the entrance to the newly  formed Westminster School. There, the school’s steward, a burly man with  a black beard and black cap, stood by and greeted them one and all.

Nelan joined the rest of the school for the church assembly.

Pastor Christopher, the school’s minister, conducted the morning  service, which concluded with the singing of Psalm 23, ‘The Lord is  My Shepherd’. Nelan mouthed a silent prayer to the Lord. If only He  would shepherd him to the place where he could deal with Guillermo.  Because of late, the Spanish boy had grown increasingly hostile towards  Nelan, and it frightened him.

After Mass, Nelan attended lessons in Greek, Latin and French.

Then came rhetoric, astronomy, and classical studies touching on the  School of Athens and the philosophers Plato and Aristotle.

On another day of fast, Nelan’s stomach rumbled like the eruption of Vesuvius. Dusk drew in its gentle wings. To celebrate the end of  term, all the boys ran out of class and jumped in the air with elation.  Nelan said a prayer of thanksgiving in the abbey, then headed towards  the river to find a wherry to take him home. He spotted Guillermo  talking to Pastor Christopher by the school entrance, and then the boy  turned and headed Nelan’s way. To avoid any confrontation, Nelan  darted into the woodshed.

In the shed stood a solid oak table. Its numerous scratches and indents bore testament to a life of long and dedicated service. It was  as old as King Henry VIII, the father of Elizabeth, the present Queen.  In the middle of the table was a ceramic bowl, like the fruit bowl on  the cedar table in Nelan’s home, except that this one had no fruit in  it. Twists of straw and a scattering of dead leaves bedecked the top of  the table. The shed was crammed on both sides with logs, kindling and  twigs, various tools, saws and axes.

Nelan’s right palm itched. He scratched the source of the irritation: three wavy vertical lines beneath his middle finger. His father had  scolded him when he was a child, saying that, because he never washed  his hands, the lines were like three wisps of smoke rising from his  smelly paws. Nelan was unconvinced. Either way, he scratched his  palm. He’d always wondered how he’d got the lines. Were they a kind  of birthmark? His father had never told him. And what did it mean  when they itched at certain times, like now?

From outside the shed, he heard the distinctive sound of Guillermo’s limp. His heart sank. The door squeaked open. Nelan ducked beneath  the table.

Too late, because he heard a voice crow, “Come out, muchacho!”

Nelan crawled out from under the table. Guillermo lurked on the other side.

“I’m not a baby. I’m a man!”

“You not a man! A man, he stand up like a pole. He face the world.

Insects, they creep along the ground!” Guillermo thundered, smashing  his fist on the table with so much force that it shuddered under the  impact.

“What’s got into you? Are you possessed by a diablo?”

Guillermo put his palms on the table and leaned towards Nelan, his eyes glaring like fire. “My stepfather says all Protestants are heretics,  and we must cleanse the world of their sin.”

“You Spanish do that anyway. All around the world you spread torture and cruelty! Spain is pain.”

“No! Spain is top, highest country in world. You, you’re a low

country boy. You’re from the nether regions. Ha!” Guillermo laughed  at his pun.

“Yes, I lived in the Netherlands… until you Spanish invaded, forcing my family to seek refuge here!”

“Bah!” Guillermo gritted his teeth, rubbing his forefinger and thumb together. “You are a flea, a tiny flea, and I, Guillermo de Antón,  am going to squash you!”

“I may be small, but I’m not that small,” Nelan said, trying to make light of the insult.

“You’re – how you say? – seventeen years old. I meet you when you come here six years ago. But after that, you never grow. Not like me  and Pedro. We big, strong Spanish boys. For King Felipe, we build a  world empire.”

The spite flowed thick and fast. As much as he wanted to fight, Nelan swallowed his bile and lurched around the table.

“Ha! You cobarde!” Guillermo sniped, blocking his way.

Nelan faced his nemesis. “Enough! I’m no coward!”

Quick as a flash, Guillermo pulled out a small canvas bag from the pouch hanging from his belt. He emptied its contents,  a brownish powder, into the ceramic bowl. The powder whiffed of  sulphur.

“What on earth are you doing?”

“You’ll see, amigo,” Guillermo scowled. With both hands he scooped up the twists of straw and dried leaves and dropped them on  top of the brown powder.

“Wait. You’re not going to…?”

Guillermo pulled two strike-a-light irons and a flint from his pouch and brandished them in front of Nelan’s face. “, amigo. I am,”  he said with a mischievous grin.

“Let me out!” Nelan cried, and tried to push past the Spanish boy again.

With a demonic expression on his face, Guillermo shoved him aside, and Nelan fell against the log pile, but got up as quickly as he could.

“It’s gunpowder! You’ll kill us both!”

“No! I run out the door. You heretic, you die! It’s Easter. It’s the time to cleanse the world of sin!” Guillermo crushed an iron against the  flint. A solitary spark leapt from the flint, but didn’t catch the strands  of straw and leaves. He shoved one of the irons back into his pouch,  then crunched the other against the flint, squeezing out another spark.

Thankfully, the gunpowder failed to ignite – or so Nelan thought.

But he smelled burning. A spark had lit a piece of straw next to  the ceramic bowl. Again, he rushed at the madman. Flint in hand,  Guillermo raised his fist. Nelan ducked to avoid the blow. Guillermo  lost his balance and fell, dropping the iron and flint. He winced with  pain as he clutched his knee, then crawled along the floor.

The door was flung open. Two men stood there: the school’s steward and Pastor Christopher. Nelan swept up the iron and flint. The  gunpowder was going to ignite. The men blocked the exit. A small blue  flame leapt from the straw across the open space and, as if drawn to the  bowl of gunpowder, dropped into it. The shed was about to explode.  Think. Quick. Nelan crawled across the floor and dived between the  men’s legs before scrambling through the open door.

The world ground to a shuddering halt. Everything slowed, like the actor he’d seen at one of those new theatres in the city who moved  at a snail’s pace. A burst of flame followed a massive explosion. The  force of the blast threw him backwards. Winded and half blinded, he  crawled away from the scorching heat. Hungry flames devoured the  kindling, sending orange-yellow embers into the dusk. Had it not been so frightening, it would have been beautiful. The flames crackled and  spat as the logs caught fire. Nelan’s ears were ringing, but the sound  was muted. His head spun like a top. The burning seared into his  mind’s eye.

As the flames engulfed the shed, it rained hot embers, covering the steward in soot. The pastor crouched on the ground, holding his  head. The explosion must have thrown them clear. The blast had also  ejected Guillermo, but only just. Smoke rose from his ruined clothes  into the dry, early evening air. The Spaniard lay on the ground near the  blazing shed, his mouth open as if he were shouting or crying. Nelan  could hear no sound coming from his mouth. Pedro hared across the  yard towards them.

Dazed and confused, Nelan hugged his knees, rocking back and forth. It eased the pain. Because in his imagination, he saw painful,  destructive pictures from his past. In this vision, he was in an earlier  time, another town, a different country altogether. It felt strange,  unreal. It was as if he watched the scene unfold from a distance. He  stood at the edge of a crowd. They yelled and shook their fists. They  shouted, but not in English. He was young and small. Even on tiptoe,  he couldn’t see over the tops of the heads of those in front of him.  He climbed on top of a barrel to get a better view. Before the heaving  crowd, soldiers lashed two men and a woman to three wooden posts.  They tied the woman to the middle one. She wore a black headscarf  from which a loose strand of brown hair protruded. Nelan yearned to  tuck it into her scarf, but he couldn’t. Tears rolled down her cheeks.  Her chin trembled. She glanced towards him and then turned away.  She moved her shoulders, wrenched her arms, and twisted her legs, but  then fell as still as a scarecrow. Had she accepted her fate? No. She must  never do that. She must keep struggling to get free. Nelan desperately  wanted her to escape and take him with her.

A wooden crucifix hung from the top of each post. Perhaps Jesus peered down from the cross at what was about to transpire. Did He  know that this was being done in His name? Why didn’t He stop it?  A crow glided over the heads of the crowd – once, twice – and then  squatted on top of the woman’s post. Black wings, black beak, black  squawk; an omen that the woman’s soul was about to fly off into the  beyond. She was going to surrender her soul. But was it to Jesus or to the black crow? No one answered that question. Nelan wished they  would.

A military cohort appeared from behind him. Pikes pointing up and frowns pointing down, the soldiers pushed through the crowd.  Following them came a man wearing a black cloak. A pair of narrow  eyes looked out from two tiny slits in the hood. The cohort stopped by  the woman tied to the pole. Nelan stared at the pole and the woman.  It was no ordinary pole. She was no ordinary woman. Kindling, logs,  bits of rags, and curved struts from broken barrels nestled at the base  of the post. It was a fire in waiting. This was an auto-da-fé or an act of  faith, though he doubted there was much faith involved.

The image of the woman and the pole shattered, and he was jolted out of his reverie.

“Nelan! Nelan Michaels!” someone called.

Nelan turned around.

“Hell’s teeth,” the steward said. “What are you doing sitting there like a stone?”

The huntsman accompanied him, along with a clutch of schoolmasters and a legion of boys drawn by the roar of the explosion  and the spectacle of the fire. The huntsman’s wife tended to Guillermo.  Pastor Christopher got down on his knees and prayed for the boy.  Pedro cradled his brother’s head in his hands. Wisps of smoke rose  from Guillermo’s jerkin as he shrieked in agony.

“Quick. Move the boy to the infirmary. Get a hand cart,” the steward said to the huntsman, and then added, “Boys, get in a line.  We need water.”

They passed buckets from hand to hand, scooping water from the river and dousing the fire, then sending the empty vessels back to be  refilled. The woodshed resembled the burning bush; an eternal flame,  a testament to the Lord’s fury and His power to cleanse the furious and  bring down the proud. From where he stood, at twelve paces, Nelan  felt the heat of the fire. He didn’t move as wave upon wave scorched his  face and arms. The flames were a marriage of reds, yellows and golds.  Deep within the inferno’s inner sanctum, they were coloured a lithe  violet blue.

Pedro confronted him, his face a picture of anguish. “You. You let my brother burn!”

“I did?” Nelan murmured.

¡Sí! I saw it with my own eyes. My own brother. His clothes burn. And you. You did nothing to help him. You wanted to give pain to my  brother!”

Guillermo screamed and writhed on the ground. The flames didn’t  care. They burned anything and everything. They were ravenous, with  neither mercy nor pity.

Nelan shook himself and said, “I-I don’t know. I-I would’ve done.

I didn’t mean it. I don’t know what happened to me.”

“You always hate him,” Pedro said, jabbing a finger at him. “You want him to suffer. Happy now?”

The huntsman approached with a rickety handcart and said, “You boys, help me get the lad onto the cart.”

Nelan went to help. Pedro blocked him.

“Let me help. I want to.”

“Stay away from him!” Pedro said, staring him down.

Carefully, the men lifted Guillermo. He yelled as they loaded him onto the cart. Nelan had heard screams like that before – from a fox  snared in a trap.

“You will pay for this!” Pedro growled.

Nelan shrank back. I defended myself. And that dreadful vision… Why doesn’t anyone understand that? 

The huntsman hauled the cart across the courtyard towards the infirmary, followed by his wife and Pedro.

“How could you ignore the boy’s distress?” the steward said.

“It… It wasn’t my fault,” Nelan stammered. “Guillermo’s mad. He wanted to blow me up. He lit the gunpowder and wanted to leave me  in there.”

“Is that what you saw, Pastor?” the steward asked. But before

Pastor Christopher could answer, the steward added, “Because that’s not what I saw.”

“But… he started the fire. He wanted to kill me,” Nelan murmured.

“No! When I arrived, you stood over Guillermo, who lay on the floor. You’d hit him!”

“I didn’t. You must believe me.”

“I saw you clutching the strike-a-light iron and flint. You must’ve started the fire.”

Nelan bit his lip. A silent scream rose from the depths of his being.

“No! It wasn’t like that!”

“Go home, and don’t come back!” The steward shooed him away like a fly.

“What d’you mean?”

“You’re expelled.”

“But I’ve only one more term before—”

“We don’t want the likes of you at Westminster School.”

Nelan slouched off towards the river, as low as he’d ever felt since arriving in England. He found Wenceslaus and slumped down on the  wherry seat. Plunging his hands into his purse, he fingered the iron  and the flint – a lot of good they’d do him now.

By the time they pulled into the jetty at home, the cloak of sadness and misfortune weighed heavily on his shoulders. He hauled himself  out of the wherry. He felt like a creature dredged up from the ocean’s  depths, thick with sludge and bound with seaweed. Now he had to  gird himself to tell his father. With hard steps on grassy soil, he trudged  along the path from the jetty to his house.

The maidservant told him that his father had gone to the city on business and would return early the next day. Nelan waited in his  room. His clothes stank of fire and smoke, evoking memories of the  explosion. Images of the woman tied to the stake flashed through his  mind. Her screams beat against his ears… or were they Guillermo’s  yells of pain? From his north-facing room, he could hear the swishing,  gurgling sounds of Old Father Thames as it raced towards its destiny in  the estuary. The river had ferried him to Westminster School and back  for nigh on seven years. And in this, his last school year, his dream to  attend university in the autumn had gone up in flames. His head sank  low. The Lord was pitted against him. For this to happen to him, he  must have committed some awful sin. Either way, he needed justice  and a pardon, and quick. Damn Guillermo. And once and for all, he  needed to know the identity of the woman tied to the Inquisition’s  stake, lest her image haunt him for the rest of his days.

He must have dropped off to sleep, because when he awoke, the first  slithers of dawn slanted across the river, and he heard his father’s booming  voice echo around the rafters of the house and the front door slam shut.

Nelan knocked on the door of his father’s study. Laurens Michaels was a bulk of a man; as tall as an oak tree and just as thickset. His  bald head showed his years. Dressed in his favourite dark green velvet  doublet, he dominated his desk.

When Nelan had explained what had happened, his father got up and adjusted his flat, black Anglican hat. Pacing the floor, he asked,  “Nelan, what’s happened is terrible. But why did Guillermo threaten  your life? Tell the truth, as God is our witness.”

“He said his father wanted him to cleanse the world of heretics.”

“So, it concerned religion. I might have known,” Laurens said with a sigh. “I’ve always tried to be neighbourly to the St John family,  but to no avail. By coming to England, I hoped we’d escape Spanish  persecution. I was wrong.”

“We left the Netherlands… what about…?” For a moment, Nelan’s

head spun. He turned away from his father’s gaze and instead stared at  the painting behind his father’s head: the hamlet of Sangatte with its  white, sandy coastal dunes. It brought back memories of his mother;  her smell and her touch. He felt her staring at him from one of the  cottages in the painting. He jerked his head away and looked through  the study’s solitary window. On this cloudless day, he could see all the  way to the bank on the other side of the river.

“What about what, Nelan?” his father repeated.

Once and for all. Nelan’s voice broke in his throat. “Mother.”

“What about your mother?”

“What happened to her?”

“I told you already. She was English. Her maiden name was Pickford. She fell into the arms of Our Lord before we left the Netherlands.”

“Yes, I know, Father. But you’ve never told me how she died.”

This time, his father averted his gaze and studied the wainscoting.

“I’m seventeen; you don’t need to protect me anymore.”

“I’m going to tell you—”

There was a loud rapping on the front door. The door opened,

squeaking on its hinges. Footsteps marched up to the study door. The  footman hauled it open.

“Sir.”

“Yes? Who is it?” Laurens asked.

“Dr Dee.”

“Dr John Dee?”

“Yes, sir, the same. He’s on the porch.”

“It must be important for him to call at this time of the morning.

Well, don’t stand there, man. Show him in.”

“Sir.”

Dr Dee had a milk-white beard and was a tall, wiry man with the stare of a lighthouse. He wore a black cap and a long black gown with  hanging sleeves, crisp in the morning’s rays. “Good morrow to you  both,” he said in a husky voice. “May the Lord be with you.”

“And with you, Dr Dee,” Laurens replied.

“I cannot stay long; I must return to my experiments,” Dee said.

He appeared to drift around the room, touching the spines of the books  on the shelves and then examining a portrait of Laurens attending a  Low Church Calvinist meeting.

“Our condolences over the demise of your dear wife,” Nelan’s father said.

“Thank you. I’ve been in mourning these last days.”

“She’s resting in the arms of Our Lord,” Laurens said.

“Have you been able to cast my horoscope, m’lord?” Nelan asked.

“I’m so excited to hear your interpretation of it.”

“Yes, I’ve just finished it, and that’s why I come bearing urgent news,” Dee said. Every word he spoke sounded like a Sunday sermon.  “I’m here to warn you that over these two days – yesterday and today  – the planets Mars and Saturn figure prominently in your chart. Has  anyone in the family recently died violently?”

“That’s extraordinary! No, not in our family,” Nelan said, “but yesterday evening an explosion badly hurt one of the St John boys.”

“I see.” Dee nodded. “There’s also an unfortunate opposition in

Libra, the scales of justice.”

“What does that mean?” Nelan asked.

“I suspect it means that the law is now involved in this case, and that there’s a warrant out for your arrest.”

“What? That’s not justice; that’s injustice,” Nelan yelled.

“So, we’ll wait for the constables, then,” Laurens said.

“Father, they can’t arrest me. Only the pastor and the steward witnessed the incident. On their evidence, they’ll hang me. I’m sorry,  but with the news Dr Dee has brought, I must leave.”

“If you’ve not sinned, the Lord will protect you.”

“The Lord might, Father, but the law might not. I must clear my name.”

There was a loud knock at the front door. A cry rang out: “The Queen’s constables here. Open up in the name of the law.”

“Well, that was prescient, Dr Dee,” Laurens said. “They’re here already.”

There were voices at the front door, and then a knock at the study door. It was the footman.

“What is it?” Laurens asked him.

“The constables are here with a warrant to arrest Master Nelan for murder.”

“Let them in,” Laurens said.

“No, don’t!” Nelan cried.

“Let. Them. In,” Laurens snapped.

The footman left the study.

“Then I must go,” Nelan said.

“No,” his father replied. “We are visitors here. Refugees. England is renowned for its adherence to the law. You must surrender to the  constables.”

“Quickly, Dr Dee, what do I do?” Nelan asked.

“There are other significant elements in your horoscope that suggest you have a part to play in the future of this country. That’s why  I’m here to help you escape: because you can’t do that while confined  within a prison. So, you must run away and avoid capture for as long as  possible. Then you can absolve yourself of this unjust accusation. Now,  you must go,” Dee said, pointing to the window.

Nelan opened it.

“Do not go,” his father said. “You must defend yourself, and my honour.”

“Father, I must. The constables—”

Laurens squeezed himself between Nelan and the window. There he stood, legs astride, arms folded, glaring at him. At times, he had a  fearsome presence. This was one of them. “You are staying here,” he  said through gritted teeth.

“But, Dr Dee, even if I run, they’ll catch me,” Nelan said. “It’s broad daylight outside.”

“Not anymore,” Dee murmured, nodding his head. “Look out the window.”

Outside, a mist as thick as pea soup hung over the river. Where’s that come from? Did it arise naturally, or did Dr Dee conjure it out of the  ether? 

“Where is he?” an unfamiliar voice boomed from the corridor.

“Nelan, be a man,” his father said, “and account for your actions.

If you flee, you will dishonour the Michaels’ family name.”

Nelan clenched his fists. “Father, I have to find another way to clear my name. I’ll not end my days in Newgate or Marshalsea for a  crime I didn’t commit. Besides, if anyone’s guilty, it’s Guillermo. Now,  move, please!”

“I will not!”

“This time, I’ll not bow to your wishes. I’m innocent and disappointed that you don’t believe me. I beg you, get out of my way.” “No.”

The study door burst open, and Laurens glanced towards the intruder. In one swift, agile movement Nelan darted between his  father’s legs and came out the other side. He scrambled onto the  windowsill and jumped down to the ground outside before his father  had time to stop him. Finally, he’d found an advantage to being small.  The ground was moist and soft from the mist. A light breeze swirled  vapour around him, adding a ghostly effect to the scene. From the  study he heard muffled voices: those of the constables, his father, and  Dr Dee.

He knew the paths leading to and from the house like he knew the course of the river. He felt invisible to the world, and in a way, he was.  Leaving one life behind and taking the first frightened, tentative steps  into a new one, he concentrated on every footstep. He could barely see  the path, but he knew that the river flowed by some fifty paces in front  of his house.

There he met an extraordinary sight. He stepped out of the swirling mist and into broad daylight. Apart from his house,  everywhere was clear: the north bank of the river in Chiswick, the  monastery of Syon Abbey to the west, and to the east the city of  London, where filaments of woodsmoke snaked into the dawn skies  on the horizon. The mist had settled around his house, but nowhere else. He’d never witnessed such a strange phenomenon in all the years  he’d lived there.

He still didn’t know the identity of the woman in his vision. During  the fire, she had made him freeze at the crucial moment. Providence  had spoken. So had Dr Dee, and so had Nelan’s horoscope. Dee had  told him that he had a part to play in England’s future. What on earth  did that entail? If only he could have had more time with Dr Dee.  But time was the one thing he didn’t have, so, after one last Parthian  glance at his old home, he set off along the riverbank away from the  mysterious cloud of mist and into a new life.

 

 

 

About Justin Newland:

 

JUSTIN NEWLAND’s novels represent an innovative blend of
genres from historical adventure to  supernatural thriller and magical
realism. His stories explore the themes of war and religion, and
speculate on the human’s spiritual place in the universe.  

Undeterred by the award of a Doctorate in Mathematics from
Imperial College, London, he  conceived his debut novel, The Genes of
Isis
(Matador, 2018), an epic fantasy set under Ancient Egyptian
skies.  

The historical thriller, The Old Dragon’s Head (Matador,
2018), is set in Ming Dynasty China  in the shadows of the Great
Wall.  

The Coronation (Matador, 2019) was another historical adventure and
speculates on the genesis  of the most important event in the modern world
– the Industrial Revolution.  The Abdication (Matador, 2021) is a
mystery thriller in which a young woman confronts her faith  in a higher
purpose and what it means to abdicate that faith.  

The Mark of the Salamander (Book Guild, 2023) is the first in a two-book series, The
Island of  Angels.
Set in the Elizabethan era, it’s an epic tale of
England’s coming of age.  His WIP is the second in the series, The
Midnight of Eights
, the charting of the uncanny  coincidences that led
to the repulse of the Spanish Armada.  

Author, speaker and broadcaster, Justin appears on LitFest
panels, gives talks to historical  associations and libraries and enjoys
giving radio interviews and making podcasts.  Born three days before the
end of 1953, he lives with his partner in plain sight of the Mendip  Hills
in Somerset, England. 

Website | Twitter | Facebook | Instagram | Goodreads | Amazon | BookBub

 

Giveaway Details:

1 winner will receive a finished copy of THE MARK OF THE SALAMANDER, US & UK Only.

Ends May 7th, midnight EST.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Tour Schedule:

Week One:

4/8/2024

Two Chicks on Books

Excerpt/IG Post

4/9/2024

@darkfantasyreviews

Excerpt

4/10/2024

Comic Book Yeti

Excerpt/Twitter Post

4/11/2024

Lady Hawkeye

Excerpt/IG Post

4/12/2024

#BRVL Book Review Virginia Lee Blog

Excerpt/IG Post

Week Two:

4/15/2024

A Dream Within A Dream

Excerpt

4/16/2024

YA Books Central

Excerpt/IG Post

4/17/2024

Fire
and Ice

Excerpt/IG Post

4/18/2024

Country Mamas With Kids

Excerpt/IG Post

4/19/2024

nerdophiles

Excerpt

Week Three:

4/22/2024

The Momma Spot

Review

4/23/2024

@evergirl200

IG Review

4/24/2024

The Book Critic

Review/IG Post

4/25/2024

GryffindorBookishnerd

IG Review

4/26/2024

MoonShineArtSpot

Review/IG Post

Week Four:

4/29/2024

Kim’s Book Reviews and Writing Aha’s

Review/IG Post

4/30/2024

jlreadstoperpetuity

IG Review/TikTok Post

5/1/2024

More Books Please blog

Review/IG Post

5/2/2024

@pagesforpaige

IG Review

5/3/2024

@stargirls.magical.tale

IG Review

 

Rockstar Tours: THE QUELLING (C.L. Lauder), Excerpt & Giveaway! ~International

April 1st, 2024 by

I am thrilled to be hosting a spot on the THE QUELLING by C.L. Lauder Blog Tour hosted by Rockstar Book Tours. Check out my post and make sure to enter the giveaway!

 

About The Book:

Title: THE QUELLING

Author: C.L. Lauder

Pub. Date: January 16, 2024

Publisher: River Grove Books

Formats:  Paperback, eBook

Pages: 362

Find it: Goodreadshttps://books2read.com/THEQUELLING

 

When you’re Stained, patches of skin
glisten like liquid starlight, and sooner or later, his creatures find you.

When Kyjta accidentally brands
herself with an alien fluid while plotting revenge, she knows her fate is
sealed. As one of the Stained, her markings glisten star-bright, and the
creatures sent by the Rhemans to scavenge for bodies will have no trouble finding
her.

One night, while sheltering during a
raid, Kyjta forms an unexpected pact with a Rheman rebel to protect a young
girl, Calipsie, who’s fallen into her care. Days later, when Calipsie is taken,
Kyjta abandons precaution to go after her. Facing impossible odds and allied by
a Rheman she’s not sure she can trust, Kyjta must not only rescue Calipsie, but
also face the Rheman overlord who’s taken a disturbing interest in her.

 

Trailer:

 

Excerpt:

1

KYJTA

It’s cold down here. Cold and miserable, and I wish I hadn’t come.

But wishes are like curses, as my mother used to say. I should have  asked her what she meant. I thought we’d have time. I was wrong. There’s a girl nearby. She’s not the only one; about a hundred of us  are crammed into this dank, subterranean space, but she’s the one who  has my attention. She’s small and thin. Silently crying. I could probably touch her shoulder if I stretched out my hand. By now, Helacth’s  ghoragalls must be circling. Hideous, winged creatures with shards of  bone protruding from their moulting black feathers, and long limbs  perfect for snatching up anyone left wandering around in the dark.  I’m sure she’s scared. She has no family. None that I can see, anyway. I  could put an arm around her and warm her scrawny arms. I could rub  the chill out of her bare legs. She isn’t dressed for the cold stone floor. I lean my head against the wall and do my best to ignore the painful jut of an old man’s hip bone in my side. How long until morning?  It’s impossible to tell. Some people are sleeping, gently snoring. The  young girl must be tired but has nowhere to put her head. I could  offer her my leg, but it’s not my way.

The walls are hypnotic, not your typical cellar walls. They’ve been  strung with zionate; the ceiling too. The delicate threads overlay each  other in a crazed, haphazard pattern that shimmers in the lamplight.  The protective canopy makes us invisible to Helacth’s ghoragalls.  Not us, exactly, but our Stains: glimmering silver-gold markings that  brand the lot of us. The Rheman overlord’s ghoragalls may be merciless abductors who attack us in the dark, but at least they’re blind. It’s  when you’re stained that they can find you. Day or night, inside or  outside, they know where to look. Except where zionate is at work.  Something about the shimmering strands disturbs their sense of our  Stains, and we go unnoticed while it shields us.

The young girl is from the north. Skin the colour of polished dark wood, hair bright as the setting sun. She wears it in a braid that crowns  her head. How old is she? Eight or nine alignments? Maybe. Too  young to be on her own. Too young to be here. She turns and catches  me looking. Sniffing, she lowers her long copper lashes and wipes at  her eyes. I lost my mother young, so maybe I don’t have a caregiver’s  nature. There are other women here, though, older than me and experienced, women with children of their own. Why don’t they comfort  her? Isn’t that what mothers do?

The floor is hard and icy cold. I shift uncomfortably, nudging  my boot past the town carpenter’s ample bottom. She treats me to a  pointed look, and I smile, but my eyes send a different message. She looks away. It’s not that I scare her. I’m just a girl, nineteen alignments and a rawhide sack of bones. But she won’t want to offend  me. I might be wearing a field hand’s clothes, but she knows me as  something more than a farm girl. I am my father’s daughter, and she  has no alternative but to hide her scorn if she values his deliveries.

I wish I hadn’t come.

Wishes are like curses. Wishes are like curses.

I should have asked my mother for the meaning. Not knowing  bothers me, and the words stick in my head.

If only I hadn’t been at the market when the warning bells chimed.  These people scare me about as much as the wraith-like ghoragalls whose pouches are full of Stain. I remember the day many here got  their mark. There was a stampede to get away. The ghoragalls flew  low on skeletal wings that spanned the sky. The sun was bright, and  then it wasn’t. The shadow raced across the baked earth, sweeping  people up like scattered dust. I fell, and the rest kept running. Some  ran over me, digging heavy heels into the backs of my hands, spraining my fingers, tripping over my legs; but they didn’t stop.

They didn’t stop for me, and they’re not going to comfort the girl. She’s not crying any more. She has hiccoughs. The irregular  spasms look painful, contorting her tiny frame. They say a good scare  will chase them away, but she’s had one of those already. ‘Hey. Girl.’

She turns her violet eyes on me, shimmering and luminous. ‘You play Top It?’ I pull a set of shells out of my pocket and splay  them across my palm.

She nods, her expression serious.

‘Come over here. I’m bored as a monolith.’

She crawls over on hands and knees, not minding who she bumps  along her way. When she reaches me, she squats. Her feet are bare.  They must be freezing. Her expression is a little hilarious. She’s wide eyed and solemn enough to lead a death march.

I distribute the shells. The young girl picks each up in turn and  examines it. I let her go first, but I don’t let her win. That would be a  false lesson. She’s good, though. Smart. She’s definitely played before. ‘Who taught you?’ I ask.

‘My brother.’

So there is someone to look after her, at least.

‘Your Stain looks like a fez; anyone told you that?’ Someone must  have. The silver-gold marking at the back of her neck is a perfect silhouette of the tiny blue birds that swarm over the meadows. ‘Yours is like—’ she stalls, suddenly shy.

‘Like I’m crying. I know. Unfair, isn’t it?’ I chuckle softly so she  knows I’m not offended.

‘I’m Kyjta,’ I tell her.

‘Calipsie,’ she says.

We play five rounds. She wins one when I topple the stack, and I  take the other four. Now that I have all my shells, I slip them into  my pocket.

‘If you’re tired, you should try to sleep.’

I straighten my legs and flatten my shawl over the stone floor. It’s  a makeshift bed that will offer little protection from the chill, but  it’s better than raw skin against frozen masonry. I tap my thigh where  Calipsie can rest her head. She looks uncertain but then crawls forward  and snuggles up like a forest animal on a nest of reeds.

I return to resting my head against the wall at my back, giving the  radiant zionate mesh covering the opposite wall my attention. Don’t  ask me how the House of Judgement figured out that zionate blocks  whatever attracts the ghoragalls to our Stains. Sion Ignoti worked the  Parched Lands and probably tweezed all this from the wings of giant  satermijtes, cart-sized desert insects that scavenge the dunes, preparing  for his retirement. It used to be the stuff was only good for brooches  and trinkets. He couldn’t have known it would be our first defence  against the ghoragalls. Not that the beasts are the enemy. They only  serve their master, Helacth, the Rheman overlord, and the reason I’m  cowering in a basement with a small stranger curled up in my lap.

My world, Aurora Saura, used to be home to only two sentient species. My people, the Aurora Saurins, populated the habitable  climes of Fareen and Sojour, while the Tarrohar kept to the equatorial Parched Lands. Only the most intrepid explorers ever made it past the Tarrohar into the Ice Realm of Thormyth, south of Sojour. Everything changed the day the Rhemans landed their ships.  There were six in total, and they scattered them across the three continents. Three ships in Sojour, two in Fareen, and the last in Thormyth  which Helacth occupies.

The Rhemans are not people; they are creatures. Just like the  Tarrohar are not people. Both species are parasites. They use my people to fully experience the world. Their methods may differ, but the  outcome is the same. My people suffer under their control.

With the Tarrohar, at least, there can be no deception: the monster  is as plain as the victim it rides. Rheman control is more nefarious— they’re invisible, hidden inside your body, controlling you. They  could be anyone. They could hide inside your own mother—you  wouldn’t know. I favour the monster I can see, but that doesn’t make  the Tarrohar any less repulsive. It’s not that I’d opt for having an  eight-legged sack of organs suckered onto my back over being quelled  by a Rheman. The sight of a Tarrohar turns my stomach, all squishy  tentacles and shiny translucence—like a pudding that’s sat too long  in the heat. It’s just that, with the Rhemans, you can’t see it coming.  A Rheman travels from person to person with no visible sign. You  won’t know they’re there until your consciousness is pushed aside.  Probably not even then. We call it being quelled. The Quelled are  my people, Aurora Saurins just like me, but under Rheman control.

I close my eyes and try to listen for the sea. I can almost feel the  sun on my back, if I sit very still. The cold walls burn. I wish I could  just get up and leave. Not just this place, but this place: Merrocha,  my hometown in Sojour, and everything it represents. Past. Memory. Pain. I want to go somewhere new. Somewhere the ghoragalls can’t  follow me.

The Rhemans landed in 4036, the same alignment I was born.  Some might call that an omen, but I call it palm’s luck. The Hands,  our guiding deity, dole it out, and I’ve had more than my fair share.  I’ve never lived a life out from under Helacth, and I’ve stopped  wondering if I ever will. The Rhemans came here looking for bodies because they didn’t have enough of their own. Now that I’m  marked, my body is theirs for the taking. With my Stain, I’ll be  taken. One day—probably soon—a ghoragall will swoop down  from the sky and carry me to the Ice Realm, where I’ll behold their  mother ship and forfeit my mortal shell. It’s a fate I accept.

Wishes are like curses, and I did this to myself.

A shift in the light catches my eye. Movement at the top of the  stairs. Calipsie stiffens. I thought she was sleeping, but the girl is  smart. A young man and an old woman descend the stairs. I know  the man. More of a boy. A farmhand called Merrick, who used to  do part-time work on the farm. I lower my head and let my shaggy  curtain of hair hide my face. All I need now is another reminder of  my mistakes.

Peering through my mess of blondish hair, I watch Merrick lead  the old woman down the stairs, making sure she doesn’t trip. The  woman’s skin is milky white and sparkles like starlight. It isn’t right  how Merrick holds her by the hand while supporting her at the  elbow. Merrick is a labourer and not a bit gentlemanly. He’s built like  a farmyard elvakan, and she like one of the fez that flutters over the  meadow. It’s like watching two different species caring for each other.

It’s all wrong.

I lean into Calipsie, my field hand’s cover-ups scrunching in the  eerie silence.

‘Sit up,’ I say quietly.

She twists in my lap, her enormous spectral eyes fearful. She rises  and quickly shuffles forward.

Merrick and the old woman reach the bottom of the stairs. He’s  only a few alignments older than me, but you’d think him older to  look at him. His face is all hard angles—parts pleasing, others brutish and sun scuffed. He’s fit, though, beneath his farmer’s shirt. It’s  a terrible cut, but I can see the triangular jut of his muscled torso  through the ill-fitting material.

Merrick leads the woman to a wobbly stool, which Sion Viandti  vacates for her. Viandti owns a textile shop, and that gives him title  of Sion. In Sojour, any man past his middle alignment and without  title is belittled in private and snubbed in public. There’s a thriving  market for the smallest sliver of earth. No one wants to be branded  with the opposing prefix of Hok, meaning a man without standing.

The shopkeeper doesn’t look pleased to see Merrick. Once the  woman is seated, he pulls him aside.

‘It’s past curfew. What are you doing here?’ I can’t really hear  Sion Viandti from my position at the back of the room, but I think  that’s what he says. Merrick is facing away from me, so I don’t get  his response.

‘The rules are there for a reason,’ Sion Viandti continues. ‘It’s a  disgrace,’ the shopkeeper says, eyes darting toward the older woman  with the starlight skin. ‘What use would they have for her?’

I stare harder. Merrick doesn’t seem himself. I’ve watched him take  a scolding before, and he always stuffs his hands in his pockets and  studies the floor. Not so today. He’s engaging with Sion Viandti, trying  to explain something to the old man. He might even be succeeding.

I settle back against the wall and motion for Calipsie to get comfortable. I don’t want to think about Merrick. The fact he’s here is bad enough. The last time he got a scolding in front of me was when  he lost his job. My stepfather was angry. He caught Merrick lurking  around the farmhouse, peering in at the windows. Sion Cromenk,  my stepfather, hadn’t an inkling of what I’d done to make Merrick  follow me around. If I was ever found out, my days of moonlighting  as the potion master’s delivery agent would be over.

Boots stomp on the floorboards above. The focus of the room  shifts. A heavy clunk resounds as the wooden trapdoor to the basement impacts the floor above. Light streams down the stairwell.  Calipsie goes rigid, her eyes wide. Then, like a plague of insects funnelling through a breach in a wall, the Quelled rush in. I lose count  of their number because, screaming, everyone around us surges to  their feet. Their momentum lifts me as I try to hang on to Calipsie.  Most rush for the stairs, thinking they can make it past the Quelled.  I stand firm, battling the tide, too scared to attempt an escape.  Outside, the ghoragalls are surely circling. The thought of those waxy  talons sliding under my arms sickens me, and I don’t trust my legs.

The Quelled seem so much less terrifying. Some are even familiar.  I see a boy I spent a summer with when we were small. Though he’s  quelled, and not the kid I recall—a Rheman is controlling him— his face is still that of my old friend. The boy—the Rheman—leaps  the balustrade and lands with astonishing balance, scattering the  crowd. The Rheman clamps its arms around the meaty torso of Sion  Turbotol, who’s twice the boy’s size and wrought from hard-earned  muscle. In no time, the Rheman has the larger man tucked under  one arm and wrangles him up the stairs. I’ve heard stories about  Rhemans bringing superior strength to the Quelled—the bodies they  occupy—but I never believed them. I guess I should have. I do now.

When Calipsie wraps her arms around me, I realise how badly  I’m shaking. She doesn’t notice. Her eyes find mine, and her upward gaze is expectant. She trusts me to find a solution. That’s what adults  do. Find solutions to impossible problems. But I’m no adult. Still,  I search the room. There must be some way out. Calipsie has faith  in me, and that faith creates an obligation. If it weren’t for the tug  of her slender arms around my middle, I might take my chances on  the stairs.

On both sides, people pummel us, trying to get away from the  closest Quelled. This one is tall with greying hair—probably some  kid’s grandfather. It wears a floor-length, maroon frap, typical of merchants from Oblix. I pull Calipsie low to keep her out of its sights,  and when I look back, it’s bundling two of the Stained toward the  stairs. They’re screaming for help, kicking and biting it, but resisting  is pointless. The Quelled don’t feel pain. Being unconscious, they’ve  no means to experience it. The Rheman is running things, and pain  doesn’t translate to them.

Someone has given us away. We might be safe from the ghora galls down here, but we’re never safe from the Quelled. Five more  rush down the stairs and the cellar’s occupants fall back, crushing  Calipsie and me into the cold webbing of zionate strands crisscrossing the walls.

Whether guided by the Hands or pure desperation, my eyes hunt  for Merrick. He stands out from the crowd, not because he’s Merrick  and we share an uncomfortable history, but because he’s successfully  fighting back. His right arm is locked around the neck of one of the  Quelled, and he uses the other to free one of the Stained.

I grab Calipsie her by the arm and use the crowd’s momentum  to work my way forward. It’s not easy, we’re constantly shoved off  course, but the throng is thinning. Some were taken; others have  escaped, or if they’re unlucky, they’ve been lifted away by one of the  ghoragalls as they fled the shelter. By the time Calipsie and I reach Merrick, he’s managed to free the man and is searching the room for  his next challenge. I step up and meet his gaze.

Merrick squints at me, his expression a little wild. Then, his attention shrinks down, and he sees me.

But he doesn’t recognise me.

‘Need something?’ Amid the chaos, it looks genuinely curious. It . . . Because whatever I’m talking to, it isn’t Merrick. I’m still clinging to Calipsie’s arm, but I’ve tucked her behind

  1. The creature glances down, sees her, and waves its hand in the  air, tilting it quickly back and forth in an Aurora Saurin gesture that  means ‘Are you okay?’

I look down and find her waving back at it. With a grunt of  admonishment, I push her firmly behind my back. She should let me  establish this Rheman’s motives before we join hands and prance our  way across the Parched Lands.

‘You’re Rheman,’ I say.

The creature looks briefly apologetic, then launches at us. I’ve  made a mistake. A staggering force pushes us backwards, Calipsie wailing as we collide with Sion Uberick. The alchemy master col lapses into a chair, taking our weight. Winded and reeling, I suck  down air, scanning the room for an escape route.

One of the Quelled leaps off the balustrade and lands precisely where Calipsie and I were a moment ago. It lunges for us,  but Rheman Merrick grabs it by the arm and jerks it backwards.  The Rheman controlling Merrick is trying to protect us, I realise, launching to my feet. Rhemen Merrick and our attacker circle each  other, and the people fall back, clearing the area. I grab a chair, my  knuckles white around two legs of the makeshift shield. The attacking Rheman is broad-shouldered and wears a teal tunic edged in  silver. It swings like a fighter, but Rheman Merrick ducks and then brings a knee into Teal Tunic’s side. The attacker retaliates by grasping Rheman Merrick in a brutal chokehold. Without thinking, I  raise the chair and slam it down on Teal Tunic’s back. Teal Tunic  doesn’t even flinch. It pauses to scowl at me though, and Rheman  Merrick strikes back, head-butting it on the chin.

‘Get the child to safety! The latrine. Go!’ Rheman Merrick demands. I was so focused on getting up and out that I never thought of  going down.

Teal Tunic rises behind Rheman Merrick.

I shout a warning, then grab Calipsie by the arm. If we can get to  the latrine, we can take to the tunnels that serve as the town’s waste  works. I fight the crowd’s momentum, forcing my way to the back  of the room, but progress is slow. When we’re partway there, I look  back. Rheman Merrick has gotten the better of the attacker and is  sweeping the crowd, looking for us. Our eyes connect, and I wave  it toward us just as the mass swallows Calipsie and me. Through the  crush of bodies, I catch another glimpse of it, unnervingly steady  on its feet, immune to the pummelling tide of people it leaves in  its wake.

Passing all the desperate faces makes me uneasy. I should tell them  how we plan to escape, but I can’t risk it. If they panic, the crush of  bodies might kill more than the Rhemans can carry away. Calipsie’s  behind me and barely able to keep on her feet with all the shoving.  If everyone were headed for the latrines, she’d never make it. I pull  her closer, urging her to keep up. We struggle against the crowd until  Rheman Merrick pushes in front of us, clearing our path ahead.

Calipsie tugs my arm, and I turn back to check on her. She’s fighting our progression, looking back the way we came.

‘What is it?’ I shout.

‘My brother,’ she says. ‘He’s outside, waiting for me.’ Copyrighted Material

I scan the stairs. They’re swarming with the Quelled now. The  Rhemans are empty-handed on their way down, but they carry armfuls of Stained going back up the stairs.

‘Is he stained?’ I yell to be heard over the screaming chaos. ‘No,’ she says. Her eyes are wet, but she’s holding herself together. ‘Then he’ll be fine,’ I lie. If he isn’t stained, the ghoragalls are unlikely

to carry him away, but I can’t say the same for the Rhemans. I tug on  her arm to get her moving and point to a small door. ‘Over here.’ We travel down a short flight of narrow steps. When we reach  the landing, there’s another door on the right. Behind it, we find the  latrine. We struggle to close the door with the three of us inside.  The room is gloomy, lit by a pitiful basking lamp that sheds no  more light than a candle. The smell is fetid, but I expected that.  Rheman Merrick wastes no time, pushing between us and gripping  the wooden seat. It comes away with a splintering crunch. Rheman  Merrick sets it against the wall and turns.

‘Who’s first?’ it asks.

We can’t drop Calipsie into the dark, foul-smelling hole; I don’t  know what’s down there. I clamber onto what’s left of the seat. One  of my feet rests on a crumbling wall of rocks, while the other bal ances on a section of distressed wood.

I hold my hands out to it. ‘A little help?’

The Rheman hesitates.

Like every kid in my generation, I’ve been taught never to touch a Rheman. When they make skin-to-skin contact, their essence,  being—whatever it is—can transfer across to you. When that hap pens, you lose control. Your body becomes their body. If you’re lucky,  they’ll transfer away again, and you’ll get your body back, but you  won’t remember any of what was done while you were quelled. ‘Are you helping us or not?’ I demand.

Rheman Merrick takes my hands and lowers me into the sewer. I’m  not exactly heavy, but I’m almost of age and have done nearly all my  growing. Still, my weight seems trivial to the creature. My feet touch  down with a wet slap, and I stare up at the square of light above. Then Rheman Merrick leans down, holding the basking lamp in one hand.  It must have snapped it off the wall. I take it and look around. The tun

nel is dank and grim, meandering off in two directions. I set the lamp  down to help lower Calipsie to the floor. I’ve no idea when the sluice  water will flow, but we need to be out of here before then.

Rheman Merrick leaps down and lands with a splash. The putrid  mess splatters my legs, but I don’t complain. I still don’t know what  I’m dealing with. The creature has been friendly until now, but that  could change.

Rheman Merrick drops to one knee, squatting before Calipsie.  ‘You did all right in there. Being small has its advantages.’ I shuffle on the spot, keen to be on the move. ‘We can’t go  uphill; it’ll take us deeper under the town,’ I say. ‘We should head  to the farms.’

‘I know where there’s shelter,’ it says, standing. ‘We can get  cleaned up. Maybe even have a meal.’

A banging door echoes from somewhere nearby, and the creature  looks up, its expression suddenly hostile. With a quick gesture for us  to follow it, Rheman Merrick sets off down the tunnel toward the  farms. At first, we run, then we slow to a fast walk. It’s quiet except  for our feet slapping the putrid waste coating the floor. For a long  time, no one says anything. When Calipsie finally speaks, she strikes  bone with her question.

‘If you’re Rheman, why’d you help us?’

The Rheman’s response is quiet, and its words send a chill  through me.

‘Some of us are tired of being someone else’s nightmare.’ ‘Who are you really?’ asks Calipsie.

‘My name is Kranik,’ the creature says. ‘What do they call you?’ Calipsie shares her name and then introduces me. She doesn’t share  my reservations about the Rheman, and I can hardly scold her here. ‘What about your body?’ asks Calipsie.

‘This body belongs to Merrick,’ Kranik says.

Interestingly, it can name the owner, and correctly too. Calipsie goes quiet, probably plotting her next line of interrogation. ‘I’m just borrowing it,’ Kranik says, filling the silence. Maybe it

thinks it owes us an explanation. For a fleeting moment, I pity it. ‘Your Asaurin is very good,’ I say, surprising myself. The Rheman  has had nineteen alignments to learn Sojour’s continental language.  It probably speaks perfect Farich too.

The creature—Kranik—nods. ‘Thank you. Communication is  essential. Change is impossible without understanding.’ I feel annoyed. No one would need to change if its kind hadn’t  invaded our world.

‘It’s not much farther,’ Kranik says, picking up the pace. The tunnel gets narrower the farther we get from the city, and I  have the clawing sense that the walls will crush us. Sharing the tight  space with a Rheman isn’t helping.

‘Can we take the next outlet?’ I ask. The smell alone is nauseating. ‘But your Stain . . .’ it says.

‘I don’t care about my Stain,’ I snap. How much worse can it  be outside, with the ghoragalls circling, than being trapped underground with a Rheman?

‘And the girl?’

The Rheman has a point. If we’re stumbling around outside in the  dark, we’ll be begging to join Helacth’s army of Quelled.

‘Where are we going?’ Not knowing is making me crazy. ‘Nortjie Farm. I know the owners,’ says Kranik.

Most of Sojour could say the same. The farm is run by Sion Chaffrot  and his sister Maisi. It’s one of the largest in all of Sojour. Thinking  about it, I haven’t seen either of them at the market for an age.

‘And you think they’ll be there?’ I ask, making an effort to keep  the worry from my voice.

‘They’re both home,’ says Kranik.

‘How can you be sure?’

‘The Sion had an accident,’ replies the Rheman. ‘He’s unable to  walk.’

 

About C.L. Lauder:

 

C. L. Lauder grew up in South Africa before immigrating to
the United Kingdom, where she attended the University of London to complete an
MA in Creative Writing. She now lives at the foot of a lush mountain in Hong
Kong with her husband and two rapidly lengthening sons, who all enjoy their
newfound proximity to nature, especially the sea.

 

Website | Twitter | Facebook | Instagram | Goodreads

 

 

 

 

Giveaway Details:

1 winner will receive a THE QUELLING box with a book and swag, International.

Ends April 23rd, midnight EST.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Tour Schedule:

Week One:

3/25/2024

@darkfantasyreviews

Excerpt

3/26/2024

Lady Hawkeye

Excerpt/IG Post

3/27/2024

#BRVL Book Review Virginia Lee Blog

IG Post

3/28/2024

A Dream Within A Dream

Excerpt

3/29/2024

Two Chicks on Books

Excerpt/IG Post

Week Two: 

4/1/2024

YA Books Central

Excerpt/IG Post

4/2/2024

The Momma Spot

Excerpt

4/3/2024

Callisto’s calling

IG Review

4/4/2024

Country Mamas With Kids

Review/IG Post

4/5/2024

jlreadstoperpetuity

IG Review/TikTok Post

Week Three: 

4/8/2024

A Blue Box Full of Books

IG Review/TikTok Post

4/9/2024

Kim’s Book Reviews and Writing Aha’s

Review/IG Post

4/10/2024

Confessions of the Perfect Mom

Review/IG Post

4/11/2024

@fiction._.fuss

Review/IG Post

4/12/2024

@evergirl200

IG Review

Week Four:

4/15/2024

The Guild

Review

4/16/2024

Books and Zebras

IG Review

4/17/2024

Fire
and Ice

Review/IG Post

4/18/2024

Destiny’s Path

Review/IG Post

4/19/2024

Writer of Wrongs

Excerpt

4/19/2024

Review Thick And Thin

Review/IG Post

4/20/2024

Fyrekatz
Blog

Review/IG Post

 

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