Friday, December 15, 2017

Annabelle and Aiden: Worlds Within Us by J.R. Becker

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

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

What’s your favorite sweet treat? Pecan pie, (or “pecan bars”), by far. Then, some sort of salty caramel bar.

What did you want to be when you grew up? Architect. Why? Love design.

What would you write in a letter to your teen self? Don't listen to anyone unless it makes sense to yourself. Make your own decisions. You know better. Think about it, but in the end, do what you think will be best for you. You know best. Trust me.

What superpower would you love to have? As a busy parent and hobbyist with never enough time, honestly, nothing would be better than, every night at 11pm, to be able to make the clock go back to 8pm.

What book is on your nightstand currently? Righteous Minds by Jonathan Haight.

Hunger Games or Twilight? Hunger Games.

Sum up your book for Twitter: 140 characters or less. This gorgeously-illustrated book takes children on an adventure through the earliest stages of our universe. “How did our universe form?" Annabelle wonders to Aiden. Luckily, the friendly Tardigrade Tom answers by taking the children on their biggest adventure yet! Soaring through space and time, they marvel at the big bang, and learn how each and every one of us is literally made of the same stardust. This book empowers children, who learn how we each hold a part of the universe inside us, and are far more special, interconnected, and 'larger' than we may think. #science #childrensbooks #bigbang #wearemadeofstars

Favorite hot beverage. Chai Latte. Why? Soothing, comforting, filling.

Ideal summer vacation. Backpacking through Iceland or the Swiss Alps!

Favorite pizza toppings. Fried, breaded eggplant. It's all about that. Mushrooms too.

Create an ice cream flavor. What’s it called? It's called SPACELUST and it’s purple.

You’ve just won a million dollars and you’re not allowed to save any of it. What do you spend it on? I’d give about half to charity to environmental causes, and the rest I’d invest. And sure, I’d take a week snowboarding trip.

Who was your teenage crush? SHIRLEY MANSON. Why? Because she was/is an amazing redhead rocker. Why not?

"How did our universe form?" Annabelle wonders to Aiden. Luckily, the friendly Tardigrade Tom answers by taking the children on their biggest adventure yet! Soaring through space and time, they witness the universe's earliest stages, marvel at the big bang, and learn how each and every one of us is literally made of the same stardust. Readers will learn how we each hold a part of the universe inside us, and are far more special, interconnected, and 'larger' than we may think.


Did you know you hold the strength
of hydrogen bombs?
Or that there’s parts of different stars
in each of your palms?

You’re made of pieces
that used to be part
of dinosaurs, Shakespeare,
or Amelia Earhart.

You are the world
experiencing itself.
So do not feel small,
or left on a shelf.

We’re made of our world,
its mountains and wells.
So the way that we treat it,
is how we treat ourselves.

There's worlds within us
you would not believe:
Everyone that was
and that ever will be...

are all within you,
and came from the stars.
And that's just how big
and amazing you are.


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

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

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

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

Check out Max's site HERE (
See Max at work on her YouTube page HERE. (

Amazon Listing:
This book raised over $18,500 in preorders on Kickstarter. View the campaign here:

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Monday, November 6, 2017

Welcome to Sortilege Falls by Libby Heily

This post is part of a virtual book tour organized by Goddess Fish Promotions. Libby will be awarding a $10 Amazon or B/N GC to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour. Click on the tour banner to see the other stops on the tour. The book is currently FREE on kindle, nook and at Smashwords. The buy links are at the end of this post.

Sixteen-year-old Grape Merriweather moved to Sortilege Falls expecting a fresh start and new friends. But things are never quite what they seem in this sleepy Missouri town. Her math teacher looks like a witch, her school is being stalked by a vampire, and Grape could swear the town’s garden gnomes are moving. None of that compares to the small group of teenage models, blessed with otherworldly beauty, who rule Sortilege Falls. Even the adults are powerless to tell them no. When the models fall ill from a mysterious disease, all of the town’s secrets start leaking out. Grape is determined to help her new friends, but searching for the cure might just get her killed.

Read an Excerpt:

Grape Meets the Models

Grape’s entire body stiffened as she looked up from her phone. Five of the most beautiful people to ever walk the earth stood scattered around two Porsches. Did I walk into a photo shoot?

“I mean, gross.”

The words came from an impossibly beautiful girl. Loose, raven-black locks fell over her shoulders, the tips lingering above her full bosom. Grape could almost hear the sizzle and static of her electric blue eyes. The sun had kissed the girl’s skin lightly, leaving a glow that made the air around her shimmer. Her pouty, pink, full lips begged to be kissed, though the guy standing behind her, his arm draped over her shoulder protectively, warned off all who would be so bold.

The boy behind her, if anything, was even more handsome than she was beautiful. Muscle stacked upon muscle until his clothes had no choice but to hug every inch of his body. His dark eyebrows and strong jaw lent him a tough look, one that was backed up by the playful anger in his eyes.

The raven-haired goddess turned and embraced her beau, her face tucked away into the heat of his chest. He sat propped up on the hood of a yellow Porsche, the sleek lines of the car offset by the disdain on his face. They were so incredibly, delightfully gorgeous that even though he looked as if he had seen a cockroach instead of a human being, Grape’s heart still melted at the sight of them.

“I think she’s in love.”

Grape snapped her gaze away from the Adonis with the nasty temperament and turned toward the twin boys standing in front of a black Porsche. Her eyes bounced between the two, taking in every perfect feature. Flawless, rich, dark brown skin. Sparkling hazel eyes. Muscles so tight that you could bounce a quarter off their abs, or arms, or anywhere on their bodies, really. They looked as perfectly engineered as the cars they stood by. But it was their lusciously long eyelashes that sent Grape swooning. Men were not meant to be this pretty.

“Leave her alone, guys.”

Grape’s head spun. Each person she saw was more beautiful than the last, and the redheaded girl standing off to the side was no exception. The baggy jeans and generic T-shirt she wore did not detract from her creamy skin and full lips. Her large brown eyes fascinated Grape—red flakes glimmered from inside each caramel-colored orb.

The air felt charged with a million volts. Her thinking grew cloudy. Were these angels? Was she daydreaming? How did anyone get to be this beautiful? She could sense their hostility, but something inside her felt warm and gooey. Snap to, Grape, she told herself. They want to hurt you.

“Awww, look. It likes us,” the twin with the goatee said. The clean-shaven twin’s face softened. Was that pity she saw in his hazel eyes?

“Stop being mean,” the redhead said, sounding more bored than angry.

“I’m not being mean. Where’d you buy that shirt?” Goatee asked. His quiet tone was laced with thorny edges.

Grape swallowed hard. The fuzz inside her head abated. Focus, she told herself, feeling like an idiot. “I don’t know. Kohl’s maybe.” She glanced down at her blouse. The shirt was a birthday present from her mother, and she wasn’t sure where it came from, but since her mother did most of her own shopping at Kohl’s, it seemed like a pretty safe guess.

Goatee turned toward his brother and smiled. “Pay up.”

Clean-Shaven shook his head at her as if she’d named the wrong store on purpose. He pulled a thick wad of cash from his pocket, peeled off a twenty, and handed it to Goatee. “I was sure it came from Kmart.”

“Why does it matter where I bought my shirt?”

The raven-haired girl glanced out from her hiding place in her boyfriend’s embrace. “It just looked familiar. I wore the same shirt. Three years ago.” She smiled, but there was no kindness when she bared her teeth. “Before it was a knockoff.” The girl hid her face against her boyfriend’s pecs. Their chests rose and fell at the same time, breathing as one.

“Okay. Well, I don’t really buy designer clothes.” Grape wanted to have a witty comeback, but she still wasn’t sure where the insult lay. Did they or did they not like the shirt?

What the hell is wrong with me? Of course they’re making fun of me. Why aren’t I angrier?

“She means she modeled the design,” the redheaded girl said, cutting her eyes to the couple.

“You’re a model?”

The brothers snickered. “Pretending she doesn’t know who we are, that’s so cute. Is that the new fad amongst the Normals?” Clean-Shaven asked.

“I don’t understand anything you just said.” Grape felt completely out of her depth. This was the school parking lot, but she might as well have been on Jupiter.

The redhead took a step toward Grape, shooting a nasty glance to the others crowded around the cars. “Don’t worry about it. They’re just teasing.”

“I thought about modeling.” Grape hadn’t meant to say that, but no one else spoke, and she felt like she had to say something. Her skin grew hot. She knew she was was blushing beyond red and into crimson mode. She’d practiced runway shows off and on in her bedroom since she was twelve, but she had never told anyone she wanted to be a model. Ever.

“Ow,” Grape cried, only then noticing that she had twisted her ring so hard it was actually cutting into her finger. A tiny drop of blood oozed out and fell to the pavement below.

“Aren’t you a little fat to be a model?” the boyfriend asked. His voice sounded like pure honey even when he spoke acid.

“You think I’m fat?” Grape stared down at her flat tummy. No one had ever called her fat before. There was still a bit of room in the waistband of her size four skirt.

“I’m just saying you could stand to lose a few pounds, unless you want the runway to collapse.”

“Ouch, Adam.” Clean-Shaven punched the boyfriend playfully on the arm.

Goatee winked at Adam. “My boy calls it like he sees it, and he sees a chunky monkey.”

“I’m well within my weight range.” She could feel her voice growing high-pitched. Damn nerves. These people were jerks.

“Of course you are, you look great,” the redhead told her. “These guys just don’t how to joke around without being completely mean.”

“We aren’t joking,” Adam said, giving his girlfriend a quick kiss on the top of her head.

Goatee pulled out his car keys. He turned his back on Grape, tired of their new toy.

“Whatever. Class is about to start. Are we skipping or staying?”

“Skipping,” the raven-haired girl peeked out to say.

Adam looked Grape over and made a face as if he’d smelled something terrible. “Yeah, I think I’m done for the day, too. I feel the need to hit the gym.”

She rubbed her hands over her stomach but it still felt flat like normal. What were they seeing that she wasn’t?

“The shirt looks nice on you,” Clean-Shaven said before climbing into the driver’s seat of the black Porsche.

“Like a muumuu on a water buffalo,” Goatee added and hopped into the driver’s seat of the yellow Porsche. The couple got into the back of his car and huddled close together.

“Mandy, you coming?” Goatee asked.

“No, I have a test,” Mandy, the redhead, said. “I’ll see you later.”

“Suit yourself.”

Grape waved stupidly at the drivers as the engines revved. You look like a goober, she told herself, but she could not stop waving.

“Move.” Mandy grabbed Grape by the arm and pulled her toward the sidewalk.

Grape tried to shake her arm free, but Mandy’s grip was surprisingly strong. “Let go of me.”

Mandy stared at her with an I-told-you-so look as the Porsches sped off, right through where Grape had been standing.

“Oh my God, were they going to run me over?”


Mandy shook her head. She stared after the Porsches as they pulled into traffic and sped away. Finally, she turned back to Grape and offered her an apologetic smile. “Sorry about that.”

“Which part?”

“All of it, I guess.”

Behind the Scenes Info:“Welcome to Sortilege Falls” is my second novel. My first, “Tough Girl” was about an eleven-year-old who is slowly starving to death and loses herself in an imaginary world to combat the misery of her life. I wanted to write something happy after that and WTSF is about as “happy” as my writing gets. The idea was to come up with a main character whose very name sounds like a smile, thus Grape Merriweather was born. Stories grow and writers hardly ever end up writing the book they intended. That is definitely true with WTSF. My “happy” story grew to encompass the themes of beauty worship, celebrity, as well as delving into the mysterious relationships between child stars and their parents. In the beginning of the novel, Grape is new at school and eager to impress. She was popular back home and has never had trouble making friends. She spends over an hour the night before trying on outfits and picking the perfect one for her first day. But she is ignored by students and teachers alike. Everyone is too caught up with the beyond gorgeous models to bother with one new student. We discover this weird world along with Grape and I tried to stay true to her voice. It was very important to me that Grape wasn’t perfect, that she partially fell under the Models’ spell as well.

About the Author:
I was born during a blizzard. I’m told it was pretty cool but I have no memory of that time. I grew up in two tiny towns in Virginia and spent most of my twenties moving around the US. I’ve lived in Virginia, Florida, Missouri, and Washington. I’ve settled down, for now, in Raleigh, North Carolina.

I’m a writer and improviser. I studied acting in college but spent more time rewriting lines than memorizing them. My first play, Fourth Wall, was produced my junior year. Since then, I’ve written several full length plays, one acts and screenplays. I started writing fiction in my late twenties. Now, I focus mainly on novels but still dabble in theater.

Fun facts about me: There are none. I’m sorry to disappoint you so soon. But, I do love to read, write, and run. My hubby is my favorite person on earth. Dogs are my second favorite. All dogs. I love orange juice, especially when it’s mixed with club soda. Carbonation is better than alcohol. Jaws is my favorite movie. Everything I’ve said so far is true.


Puschcart Prize Nomination for “Grow Your Own Dad” – Published by Mixer Publishing
Semi-finalist Eugene O'Neill Playwrights Conference – “STUFF”
Honorable Mention The Ohio State Newark New Play Contest – “The Last Day”

Contacting Libby: Email:
Snail Mail: PO Box 58251/ Raleigh, NC 27616


Buy the book (currently free) at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Smashwords, or in print at Lulu.

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Keepers of the Stone by Andrew Anzur Clement

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

Pretend your protagonist is at school and opens his/her locker – what will we see inside?

A blood-red sash. A dagger. And an Ax. With any of them, Malka can take down anyone who gives her the slightest milligram of crap.

Before you ask: No. None of these items are permitted by school authorities. And no. She couldn’t care less.

What would you write in a letter to your teen self?

Lighten up at bit. You don’t have to do everything. Or be the absolute best there is at it out there. Trying to do so isn’t going to guarantee that your future is going to be perfect in every way. Take the time to poke your head up. Enjoy what’s going on around you. The expectations of others aren’t nearly as important as what you want from life. That’s really the question you need to think about answering first.

What reality show would you love to be on? Why?

I must admit. I can’t stand most reality TV. The one exception to this is the Amazing Race. I enjoyed watching it while I still lived in the US, because of the worldwide destinations they send the contestants to. And the intercultural nature of the issues they face. Maybe it’s little wonder that I wrote three books about a group of youths who are unwittingly sent on a quest that spans the globe. Where the stakes are high. The destination unknown. And the challenges to completion hard to surmount.

Ideal summer vacation.

The summer before I was about to enter my final year of high school, my family went on a trip to Spain, Portugal and France. But that was only the beginning. Two days after my return I shipped out again. This time to Male. The capital of Maldives. The country was in the process of democratizing. My job there was to teach the best practices of reporting in a democratic society to the journalists working for the national broadcaster, by working with them as a correspondent in the field. Before this process, the profession consisted mainly of reading the government press releases over the air; the job of journalist wasn’t that highly regarded. Most of them were my age (I was seventeen at the time). It was my first time in a Muslim country. I was a bit nervous, at first. But, I had a blast. The best few months I’ve spent in my life.

In Keepers of the Stone, you may notice that the names of most of the inhabitants in Malka’s camp aren’t Tamil. They’re Maldivian. The names of the friends and co-workers I met while there (To the ‘real’ Zaima, I’m sorry. It wasn’t intentional). It was a sort of homage to a time spent doing the news, with great friends and a unique sort of purpose. That, and to this day I can still swear fluently in Divehi. Best summer ever.

You’re stranded on a desert island—which character from your book do you want with you? Why?

Stas. He clearly has the most advanced survival skills of any in the bunch. Before we meet him, he’s already survived – and even thrived – for months in the wilds of Africa and India. This kind of thing would totally be in his comfort zone. He’d probably even welcome the opportunity, given the ‘civilized’ world I make him face in Keepers. Stas would probably know enough to fashion a raft from driftwood, get us the hell away from the damn place and save the day again.

You’ve just won a million dollars and you’re not allowed to save any of it. What do you spend it on?

A really nice apartment in Poland or Slovenia. (Or both! It is a million dollars, after all. Poland can get a bit chilly in the winter). They’re two of my favorite countries in the world. I’d want someplace with a suitably nice view, from which I can put my feet up and write.

Playlist for your current book.

I’m the kind of person who craves silence while drafting. But, most ideas for new plot lines come to me while listening to my favorite genre of music: Opera. An entire plot line of Voyages of Fortune, the sequel trilogy I’m penning to Keepers of the Stone, was inspired by the Royal Opera of Wallonia’s stagings of Turandot (my favorite) and Nabucco. Music from those works is often somewhere in the background of my head as I’m writing.

Who was your teenaged crush? Why?

A Pakistani girl, whose family moved from Karachi to the US. We bantered back and forth a lot, each having similar sarcastic senses of humor; I think that was how it got started. The only problem was that she came from a rather conservative Muslim family. We had to sneak around – sometimes even at school – so that none of her cousins, aunts or uncles would see us hanging out together.

Favorite class in high school. Why?

Weekend Polish language school. Yes, that’s right. I volunteered my time on the weekends to learn Polish during high school, in addition to taking every AP class you could think of during the week. It was here that my teacher first introduced me to Henryk Sienkiewicz’s In Desert and Wilderness. It quickly became my favorite novel. That work now serves as the partial back story for a plot arc in Keepers of the Stone. Yes. I think it was time well spent.

Keepers of the Stone. Book One: The Outcasts

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

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

Keepers of the Stone. Book Two: Exile

Stranded on the American frontier, Malka must stop at nothing to safeguard the all-powerful stone. She has come under the protection of a snarky felinoid – a shape-shifting girl who traces her lineage back to the court of Vlad Dracula. They must rescue with Henry, the American orphan whose thirst for knowledge could help decipher the clues to the next
leg of their journey – if the Urumi don’t kill them first.

 Alone in yet another strange land, Stas mourns the unthinkable loss of his friend, Nell. Cryptic messages offer new hope. But the Dark Order has devised another strategy to outwit the band of misfits. Plans are betrayed and alliances are formed as history points to the final objective of their quest.

Keepers of the Stone Book Three: Homecoming

Stas and his companions have made their way to the partitioned homeland he has never visited. He dares to hope that Nell may be alive. The doomed princess Bozhena vows revenge on the Shadow Warriors, who have enlisted Malka’s most bitter enemy in their latest plot to control the powerful stone.

With the help of a streetwise gypsy girl, the unlikely travelers must outwit the Urumi and deliver the stone to its final destination. All they have to do is put aside the differences that threaten to tear them apart. The secrets of the past hold the key to the history of the future.

Read an Excerpt from Book Three:

“Who are you?” the man asked, looking behind himself in surprise. Inside the kitchen, some of the other staff were moving to see what was going on in the lobby. That could not be allowed. The kitchen employee turned back to find himself looking down the barrel of a six-shot revolver.

“I’m the one who’s pointing a gun in your face. Let me in. Now,” Stas demanded.

The man seemed to hesitate for only a second before stepping aside, placing his frame against the open door. Holding the weapon with both hands, Stas edged forward. In front of him, he could see the kitchen. It was a rather dark space. Various dishes sat on the stone counters in different stages of preparation. Most of the staff looked at him with stares of fear and shock. When Stas used to dream of coming to his family’s home city, this was just one more way in which it had not at all been the experience he’d had in mind.

There was a sudden yowl, followed by the sound of a foot impacting with flesh and a body crumpling to the floor. Stas glanced back just long enough to see that Liza – now in her human form – had taken down a younger man, about Stas’s age, with a side kick. He had been waiting beside the doorframe, apparently intending to attack the Slav from behind with a butcher’s knife. Kneeling quickly, Liza retrieved the cutting tool, which was smeared with blood from some kind of beef or pork meat. Standing in the doorway, she raised it up to a point beside her head. The felinoid turned the blade towards herself as she inspected it briefly, before allowing the ends of her lips to curl slightly upwards, while jutting out her lower jaw. Concurrently she nodded twice, as if deciding that this would do nicely.

“Let’s move!” the felinoid barked at Stas.

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

Amazon Author Page:

Buy the book at Amazon, Amazon UK, iBook, Kobo, or Barnes and Noble.

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Friday, November 3, 2017

The Man with the Crystal Ankh/The Girl Who Flew Away by Val Muller

This post is part of a virtual book tour organized by Goddess Fish Promotions. Val Muller will be awarding a $10 Amazon/BN GC and a download code for The Girl Who Flew Away, a download code for The Scarred Letter, a print copy (US only) of The Man with the Crystal Ankh, and an ebook of Corgi Capers: Deceit on Dorset Drive, to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour. Click on the tour banner to see the other stops on the tour.

Thanks for stopping by, Val. Why do you write juvenile fiction? What draws you to it?

A publisher told me that I must have either graduated from high school or be surrounded by teenagers all day since my characters act modern and realistic. As a high school teacher, I see teenagers every day, and as a writer, I observe them—their goals, their problems, their milestones.

For me, knowing that young adults are my primary audience means that I have a chance to influence them in their formative years. Books have had a significant impact on me, as growing up I would often ask myself what my favorite character might tell me in a given situation. I realize I have that same opportunity. In The Girl Who Flew Away, I wanted to address the heroin epidemic that seems to be overtaking many in this nation, examining it in terms of how it affects the families of the victims. I also wanted to show readers that while our pasts necessarily have an impact on us, they alone do not write our future.

I know it’s cheesy, but Doc Brown’s quote from Back to the Future III has always stayed with me: “Your future hasn’t been written yet… so make it a good one.” Through my novels, I hope to inspire and provide hope.

What books were your favorite as a youth and why?

I must have read every book in the Fear Street series. I always loved horror because it forced me to think beyond the limits of everyday life. In America, we tend to believe we are immune from so much, but all it takes is one major earthquake, one wildfire, one hurricane, to make us realize otherwise. The horror books forced me to think about ways my ordinary life might be turned upside down.

On a similar note, I loved Hatchet by Gary Paulsen. In it, a boy is the sole survivor of a small plane crash. It’s a survival story, and what I liked was its ability to strip down the character to his bare essentials. Situations that push us like that show our true character. I’m reminded of a time in grad school when, leaving an evening class, a large fawn charged me and a friend in the parking lot. At least, we thought it was charging us. And we thought it was a huge dog. We were alone, and there was nowhere to run with only a few cars left in the parking lot. We had no time to think, only to act. By the time the “dog” passed us (and we realized it was a deer, and much more terrified than we were as it searched for its missing mother), we had let our instincts take over. I found myself standing with my backpack raised above my head ready to strike down if attacked. My friend found herself standing behind me, her hands on my shoulders using me as a shield. After the adrenaline wore off, we laughed about it. But it made me realize I am stronger than I thought. And that’s what we take away from books: characters are challenged to their breaking points and come back stronger.

I read voraciously as a kid, everything from The Witch of Blackbird Pond to The Lord of the Rings. Anything in which characters are tested beyond the ordinary.

What did you want to be when you grew up? Why?

I always wanted to be a writer. As a kid, I forced my younger sister to be in my “club” (which had various iterations, such as “The Totally Tubular Two’s Treehouse Club.”) Our required meeting activities involved writing and sharing stories. My sister was a good sport—I could tell she had no interest in writing stories. Perhaps she channeled her irritation at me into her stories themselves. In every one of them, nearly every character died in the end…including bears, girls, flowers, anything! And she was only in grade school.

Several teachers in elementary school encouraged my writing, including my first grade teacher (probably my most influential teacher even though she passed away early in the school year), who had me read a poem I wrote to the fifth grade class, and several other teachers whose end-of-year notes to me involved plans to look for my work in books and magazines in the future.

What would you write in a letter to your teen self?

Although I’d be tempted to answer all of my problems and explain what is important and what is not, what I should have freaked out about and what I should have left alone, I would say instead simply this:

It’s all a process. The human condition is such that wisdom and happiness only comes as the result of struggle and pain. If some deus ex machina came and gave us all the answers, we would be empty inside. The closest thing we have to The Answer is stories—stories in books, on television, stories we tell our children. We can use these stories to shape our understanding of our own journeys, but there is no replacement for the wisdom of experience. It’s the paradox captured in Frost’s “Nothing Gold Can Stay.” We are human. We are flawed. Things are sweetest when we have known loss or know it is coming. We can only appreciate wisdom when we earn it through experience and the suffering that is part of it.

What candy do you give out at Halloween?

Funny story. I do buy a bag of candy at Halloween, but it’s for myself. I live in the middle of nowhere, and (as I was informed by kids in my neighborhood), it’s “too much like a hike” to trick-or-treat in my neighborhood. In four years, we had only one trick-or-treater, and that was the neighbors, coming back and seeing our jack-o-lantern lit the first year we moved in. It was a “pity visit,” and their daughter left with the entire bag of candy. All the kids get dropped off at the development a few miles down the road, where houses are much closer together and candy bags get filled much more easily. As for the candy I’m buying myself this year, probably Kit Kats.

What book is on your nightstand currently?

Dante’s Inferno. I have never read the entire thing, and I thought it was time. It’s such a cornerstone of our literature and culture, even if indirectly, that I thought I’d kick it off my bucket list. Ever since I was left for days without power after Hurricane Isabel (during which time I had countless hours to ponder), I have wanted to write something in a classical tradition, such as the Inferno or Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales. I have several ideas, but I haven’t quite had the time to digest my life experiences yet.

Favorite TV show from your childhood?

Excuse the geekiness, but it was Star Trek: The Next Generation. My family and I made it part of our weekly ritual during which we broke practically every household rule: we got to eat pizza and soda (soda was not generally allowed in our house) on TV trays while sitting on the couch.

My favorite thing about Star Trek: TNG is that it helped me question my own humanity. Here were humans from the future, light years from home, and yet they were confronted with the same questions we ask ourselves today. What makes us human? What is our purpose? What are the essentials that make us human?

The scariest scene from the show, which I still fear today and which likely inspired my darker works, such as The Man with the Crystal Ankh, is when the crew of the starship is not getting REM sleep. As a result, everyone is flipping out. The ship’s doctor at one point hallucinates, and in her vision, a room full of shrouded corpses on exam tables actually sit up in unison. Completely terrifying.

What four literary characters would you most like to have over for dinner?

Hester Prynne from The Scarlet Letter. She is an inspiration to me (and the reason I wrote The Scarred Letter as a way to bring Nathaniel Hawthorne’s tale to the modern teen reader).

Aragorn from Lord of the Rings. I was always fascinated with the pressure he dealt with. Although I’d much rather talk to Gandalf (the wizard), I would probably end up geeking out and not be able to say anything at all if he were there.

Odysseus for sure. Who else would be able to give me first-hand accounts of mythological creatures and struggles?

I don’t know if this counts as literary, but The Doctor from Doctor Who. I would convince him to let me be his (or her, now!) companion for a little while. What a way to travel through space and time! If The Doctor doesn’t count, then Piscine from The Life of Pi. He is all about stories, and I would love to hear some of his.

Create an ice cream flavor. What’s it called?

It’s called “Snow Melter.” It’s dark chocolate with fudge swirled in along with pieces of marshmallow-soaked chocolate poke cake and mini dark chocolate chips. I know, I know.

It’s based on an actual experience I had: there was a snowstorm that started just before rush hour. As a teacher, I was home safe and sound (because schools had been dismissed), but my husband was stuck in the city. Rather than taking the commuter bus home (which we both knew would be a disaster, and it was: the bus returned home at 4 a.m. the next day!), I decided I would pick him up from the metro station. I grew up in New England and knew how to drive in snow, so I was not worried. But Virginia drivers do not know how to deal with even a few flakes. It ended up taking me from 2 in the afternoon until 11:45 at night to go less than 30 miles to pick him up. Other commuters were in the same situation waiting for rides, and they had planted themselves in the lobby of a hotel like urban refugees. I had not eaten dinner, so after running to the bathroom of the lobby, the first thing I did was raid the hotel convenience store, which featured an ice cream pint not dissimilar to what I described above. I am not an emotional person, but I did consume that entire pint as my husband drove us home—and it was therapeutic. (I blogged about the experience:, if you want to know more).

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

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

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

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

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

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

Excerpt from The Man with the Crystal Ankh:

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

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

And then it was happening again.

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

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

About the Author: Teacher, writer, and editor, Val Muller grew up in haunted New England but now lives in the warmer climes of Virginia, where she lives with her husband. She is owned by two rambunctious corgis and a toddler. The corgis have their own page and book series at

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

The Girl Who Flew Away:

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The Man with the Crystal Ankh:


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Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Outcast by Lauren Hillman

This post is part of a virtual book tour organized by Goddess Fish Promotions. Lauren Hillman will be awarding a $30 BN GC to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour. Click on the tour banner to see the other stops on the tour.

Merissa is a faerie with no magic, no memory... and no friends. Until a hummingbird arrives with an ominous message: The Queen wants her dead.

With the help of the hummingbird Chippen, Merissa sets out on a dangerous journey to find the one faerie who may know the truth about her past. But they only find more questions when they meet Griff, a gypsy boy with pale grey eyes and one heart-melting dimple and Merissa discovers a strange connection between them. But soon her past will endanger them all.

But she is a faerie. And faeries are protectors. So if anything will help Merissa regain her lost powers it will be to save her friends.

The next day Merissa walked into the home of Ming-Li, a Juniper Faerie. She was the oldest faerie in the village and an herbalist. Wherever she touched plants would grow. She understood the power these plants had to heal and would break them down and make teas with them, giving them as medicines to anyone who asked. On rainy days faeries would gather in her home to gossip over hot tea.

Before Merissa entered there was plenty of loud chattering, occasionally broken up with the tinkling laughter of a chorus of faeries. The doorbell jingled overhead as Merissa entered and the laughter abruptly stopped. All eyes turned to stare. One young faerie, newer to the village than even Merissa, choked on the tea he was drinking and began to cough. The woman next to him had to slap his back until he stopped. Asha was seated at the centre table but when Merissa entered she quickly excused herself and slipped into the back room.

Ming-Li was the first to break the silence. “You’re not welcome here anymore, girl. Go home. I don’t want no speak about evil magic in my teahouse. Asha’s told us what you been talkin’ about and we don’t want any of that in here, you hear?”

Once Ming-Li spoke up a half-dozen others found their voices too and shouted angry words at her until Merissa found herself near tears, searching the room for a friendly face. She saw a brief glimpse of Asha’s eyes peeking out from the crack in the doorway but she ducked from view as soon as Merissa spotted her.

Andella, one of the older faeries who used to kindly help Merissa with her magic experiments chimed in, “Well I don’t know why you’re so surprised we feel this way. You’re talking about changelings! And if anything you say is true, it means one of us from this village must have been involved in some way. You don’t want to go down this road, Merissa. It won’t be long before some traveler gets wind of what you been saying and a regent of the Queen is sent here to make inquiries into all of us. You want to get us all killed? Now go and don’t let us be seeing you more often than absolutely necessary. In fact, if I was you, I’d consider leaving Reya for good and finding yourself a nice place in the Citadel where you can live a quiet, anonymous life.”

Merissa continued standing there, confused at the sudden turn against her.

“Go,” Andella yelled and Merissa could see the fire in her eyes and hear the flames in her voice. The level of hate scared her into action and she rushed out the tiny door into the drizzly sky outside.

This was the first time since her beginning she returned to that open field. She had no idea what compelled her to return to that spot but that’s where she found herself standing as the drops of rain began to fall more heavily. Merissa quickly searched the ground for any fallen leaves she could shelter under. But it was spring and the forest’s edge was too far so she made do with a daisy standing nearby. It wasn’t perfect and she still got wet, but her wings and hair stayed mostly dry which was some consolation anyway.

She slumped against the stem of the daisy and started to cry.

Lauren Hillman is an actor, teacher and writer living in Vancouver, BC. Originally from Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario she moved west after university to pursue a career in acting. For the last ten years she has primarily been working as an acting teacher in elementary and middle schools, occasionally writing scripts to be performed on stage. The transition to novelist wasn’t easy but was aided by the knowledge and love of storytelling that the theatre gave her. Her first novel, Outcast, was largely inspired by her students.

Twitter: @LaurenJHillman
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Thursday, September 7, 2017

She's Like a Rainbow by Eileen Colucci

This post is part of a virtual book tour organized by Goddess Fish Promotions. Eileen Colucci will be awarding a $10 Amazon/BN GC to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour. Click on the tour banner to see the other stops on the tour.

Eileen, thank you for stopping by and chatting with our readers. What did you want to be when you grew up? Why?

I wanted to be an actress. As a teen, I was very shy and I loved that I took on a whole other persona when I was on stage. My shyness fell away and I lost myself in whatever role I was playing. The summer after 6th grade, I played Gwendolyn in a production of THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING EARNEST. In middle and high school I was in various plays including the lead (Melinda) in TEACH ME HOW TO CRY, and children’s theater where I played a leprechaun. In college I was a ladybug in ALICE IN WONDERLAND; I was asked to read twice for the White Queen, but all the juicy parts went to the theatre majors. Anyway, by then I knew I was not going to pursue acting as a career. It was just a fun hobby. But I think actors are storytellers at heart and I have ended up being a storyteller.

What would you write in a letter to your teen self?

Dear Eileen,

First of all, don’t be so shy! Go ahead and invite that boy you have a crush on to the Sadie Hawkins dance. You should have more confidence in yourself. In a few years, quite a few of your classmates are going to vote for you as “Most Likely to Succeed,” and you should not be so surprised. (That title will ultimately be “stolen” from you by the girl with the highest GPA who will insist on a revote and actually run a campaign to win.) But really, you need to lighten up. Don’t be so serious all the time.

Understandably, you are devastated when your dad dies when you are sixteen. But, as hard as it is to imagine now, you will heal. You will grow into a strong, brave, outgoing young woman. As the song says, you will survive. So, take it easy on yourself and enjoy your teen years rather than wishing you could fast forward through them to your twenties. And know that it does get better from here.

Yours truly

What superpower would you love to have? Why?

I would like to be able to transform into other creatures, especially a dog so that I could play with my Labrador retriever, Phoebo. I do play with him but I think it would be more fun to relate to him as a dog. Plus, Phoebo doesn’t have any canine friends because he lives in our big garden and we don’t take him out for walks for fear of him getting into a fight with the packs of strays in our neighborhood. We did try to get him to be friendly with my brother-in-law’s dog when he was little, but Phoebo was not interested. Living in Morocco, our options are a bit limited. There are no doggy parks though we have taken him to the beach, again when he was little, and he loved that. So I would like to be able to roll around on the grass and just be one of the dogs. My husband actually does this, without any superpowers, and sometimes I think Phoebo is convinced that he is just another dog. It would be cool to have a real tail though.

Ideal summer vacation.

My husband’s and my ideal summer vacation is spending it anywhere with our two sons and their families. The hardest part about living in Morocco is being so far from them. Since they live close to each other in Virginia that is where we go. We usually stay for about six weeks and try to rent a house by the beach for a week during that time. Some places we have been are the Outerbanks (saw the dolphins), Chincoteague (saw the wild ponies – and mosquitoes!), and most recently Sandbridge, Virginia Beach (saw the turtle nesting grounds). Nothing beats building sand castles and going for walks on the beach with our grandchildren.

Playlist for your current book.

She’s a Rainbow – The Rolling Stones
Girls Just Wanna Have Fun – Cyndi Lauper
Going Under – Saliva
Unbreakable - Faydee
Time After Time – Cyndi Lauper
True Colors – Cyndi Lauper
I’m Still Standing – Elton John
Broken - Lifehouse
Feeling the Moment - Feeder
Find What You are Looking For – Amy Grant
Let the River Run – Carly Simon
Time in a Bottle – Jim Croce
Something Fine – Jackson Browne
Feeling Good – Nina Simone
Morocco – Xena Aouita
You are so Beautiful – Joe Cocker

Who was your teenaged crush? Why?

When I was a teenager I was in love with Davy Jones of the Monkees. Davy was so cute and funny and he was short just like me. He seemed very intelligent and was oh so romantic. Most of my friends were also in love with Davy though one or two preferred Mickey. I watched the TV show faithfully every week (it was my favorite show) and compared notes with my girlfriends afterwards. The highlight of my Monkee-mania was going to a concert in Forest Hills, New York, to see Davy and his group in person. That was awesome. Years later by chance I came upon Davy Jones and Mickey Dolenz performing by the World Trade Center in New York City. Though we had both aged, I felt a slight thrill at seeing my teenaged crush again. Sadly Davy Jones passed away in 2012. You can read an article I wrote in memoriam, “For Davy – Thanks for the Memories,” on my website.

Favorite class in high school. Why?

I loved all my English classes in high school without exception. I couldn’t wait to drop math in tenth grade so I could sign up for all the English electives. I couldn’t really pick a favorite. But one class stands out and that was my twelfth grade History class. It was an Honors class so all the students really wanted to be there. What made it so special was the teacher, who had a doctorate, and the textbook he chose for us. It was called, “Viewpoints.” The book consisted solely of original documents. So when we studied a particular subject we would read primary sources from that era usually presenting two different sides of the story. Then we were encouraged to debate with each other and reach our own conclusions on the events. It was revolutionary for most of us who were used to being exposed to the textbook author’s point of view alone and being expected to memorize globs of information. Instead we were being taught to think for ourselves.

Thanks so much for hosting me!

I love interacting with readers and invite everyone to contact me through my website or through my Goodreads blog. I hope you enjoy SHE’S LIKE A RAINBOW and look forward to hearing your thoughts!

Author's Note: It is my hope that SHE’S LIKE A RAINBOW will promote peace and understanding among people of different cultural and ethnic backgrounds. My aim is to stimulate discussion on everything we have in common as human beings regardless of our particular heritage. We are all connected.

“The summer I turned ten, my life took a fairy tale turn.”

So begins Reema Ben Ghazi’s tale set in Morocco. Reema awakes one morning to find her skin has changed from whipped cream to dark chocolate. From then on, every few years she undergoes another metamorphosis, her color changing successively to red, yellow and ultimately brown. What is the cause of this strange condition and is there a cure? Does the legend of the White Buffalo have anything to do with it? As Reema struggles to find answers to these questions, she confronts the reactions of the people around her, including her strict and unsympathetic mother, Lalla Jamila; her timid younger sister, Zakia; and her two best friends, Batoul and Khalil. At the same time, she must deal with the trials of adolescence even as her friendship with Khalil turns to first love. One day, in her search for answers, Reema discovers a shocking secret – she may have been adopted at birth. As a result, Reema embarks on a quest to find her birth mother that takes her from twentieth-century Rabat to post-9/11 New York.

Reema’s humanity shines through her story, reminding us of all we have in common regardless of our particular cultural heritage. SHE’S LIKE A RAINBOW, which will appeal to teens as well as adults, raises intriguing questions about identity and ethnicity.

Read an Excerpt:

We were not very strict Muslims. We did not pray five times a day, nor did we go to Mosque every Friday (though we did attend on all the Aids or Holy Days, to celebrate the Sacrifice of Abraham, the end of Ramadan, and such). Zakia and I emulated Mother and did not cover our heads. As she got older, Mother took to praying and began to wear a head scarf whenever she went out, removing it at home, leaving it on in her shop. She did not insist that we begin wearing one however. Since Zakia and I went to the French Mission schools, we did not receive religious instruction as part of the regular curriculum like our cousins who went to Moroccan schools did. To fill this gap, Mother hired a tutor who came once a week to teach us the Koran and to supplement the mediocre Arabic lessons provided at school.

Mother had several copies of the Koran. There was one, wrapped in gift paper that she kept in her room. I had come upon the sealed package one day when I was about seven and, not knowing what was inside, I had torn the golden wrapping to have a peek. Afterward, when I’d asked Mother why she kept an old Koran that was falling apart, she had scolded me severely and boxed my ears. She told me that Father had brought the holy book back from the Haj and had carefully wrapped it in order to preserve it.

Needless to say, we did not use this book for our lessons. Instead, Haj Brahim (he was addressed as “Haj” because he, like Father, had made the pilgrimage to Mecca) would take down the large, heavy Koran from the top shelf in the book case and try to help us understand the verses. When this failed, he would settle for having us memorize them.

Not content to just recite the words without understanding their meaning, I had convinced Mother to buy a version that had the Arabic on the left side with the French translation on the right. This was the book that I used for my private prayers and to search for an explanation for my multiple transformations.

I was not having much success however and decided I must talk to Haj Brahim about it. I didn’t want to ask him in front of Zakia, so I would have to choose my moment carefully.

One afternoon, Haj Brahim showed up a little early for our lesson. Mother showed him into the sitting room and asked Naima to make some tea. Zakia was having a shower because she had participated in a race at school that day (that she’d lost, of course). Seizing the opportunity, I slipped into the room and gently closed the door.

Haj Brahim was a portly man, in his sixties and decidedly bald. He was an old acquaintance of Father’s who had helped Mother settle the inheritance after Father died. Mother was in a predicament as a widow with only daughters. In the absence of a male heir, Father’s three brothers had tried to wrest as much as they could, but Haj, who was an expert in Islamic law and connected to one of the Mosques in Rabat, had made sure that Mother’s rights, however limited, were protected. (Those rights would have been even more limited had Father not already taken several precautions while still alive, such as putting many of the deeds and wealth in Mother’s name.)

I cleared my throat and Haj, who sat leaning back on the sofa with his hands folded in his lap, looked over at me and smiled. As always, he wore a little white skull cap that he only removed now. I began hesitatingly to describe my problem. Haj must have been aware of my transformations as he’d been giving us lessons since I was nine and still “Reema, The Palest One of All.” He had never mentioned anything about my “condition” though. He listened carefully as I timidly described my tormenters at school, mother’s failure to sympathize, and my personal doubts as to God’s role in all this. I stopped abruptly when Naima brought the tea and placed the tray in front of me.

Using the knitted mitt, I grasped the silver teapot and poured some tea into one of the crystal glasses. Then, I poured the tea back in the pot and served us both. I glanced at the clock. Zakia would be coming in any minute and my chance would be lost. Haj nodded subtly, as if he understood my urgency, and went to get the Koran from the shelf. He put on his reading glasses, then took them off and wiped them with the cloth napkin that Naima had given him.

He paused before putting them on again and recited to me, “’Endure with patience, for your endurance is not without the help of God.’ God presents us all with different challenges, Reema. You must have patience and His wisdom will be revealed to you. All in good time.”

“But, why Haj? Why is God doing this? Making my skin change color all the time like I’m some kind of freak. What have I done wrong?”

Without answering, he opened the book to the very end and read me a verse:

As time passes,
Everyone suffers loss
Except those who believe
and do good deeds and urge one another to be true
and to bear with courage the trials that befall them.

I could hear Zakia coming down the stairs. I quickly noted the page so that I could go back to it later.

Haj closed the book and said softly to me, “You are young, Reema. What seems like a great ‘trial’ today may not seem so terrible later on. You are a good girl. Just be brave – and patient.”

He patted me lightly on my hand. Somehow, it did not feel patronizing or dismissive. The butterfly touch of his fingers gave me hope.

About the Author:
A native New Yorker, Eileen Colucci has been living in Rabat with her Moroccan husband for the past thirty-plus years. She is a former teacher and recently retired after twenty-eight years as a translator with the U.S. Embassy, Rabat. Her articles and short stories have appeared in various publications and ezines including Fodor's Morocco, Parents' Press, The New Dominion and Expat Women. SHE'S LIKE A RAINBOW, which was recently published, is her second novel.

Colucci holds a BA in French and English from the University at Albany and an MA in Education from Framingham State University.

When not writing, Colucci enjoys practicing yoga, taking long walks and playing with her chocolate Labrador Retriever, Phoebo. Now that she and her husband have four grandchildren, they spend as much time as possible in Virginia with their two sons and their families.


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Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Seven Days With You by Hugo Driscoll

This post is part of a virtual book tour organized by Goddess Fish Promotions. One randomly chosen winner via rafflecopter will win a $50 Amazon/ gift card. Click on the tour banner to see the other stops on the tour.

Sean Johnson’s life as a small-town farmhand has been nothing but predictable, but when he meets Sophia Hillingdon at the local animal sanctuary, she gets him out of an eighteen-year rut, away from the mundane existence on the farm, and a grieving, drunken father.

Sophia is the first person who understands him and makes him believe that he might get out of their small town, who tells him, he has the potential to be whoever he wants to be and do whatever he wants to do.

But as their relationship unfolds, it is the most devastating of news that will change both of them forever.

Read an Excerpt from the book:

I hadn’t been anywhere, but my mind had been everywhere. That’s how I felt that summer. Or more precisely, that’s how Sophia had made me feel by the time summer neared its conclusion. The months of July and August had followed identical patterns to June in that we rarely spent a day apart. We rode with Violet across the Suffolk countryside, sometimes for miles on end, often stopping by at local pubs. Then it would be Saturday. That was the best day of all for there was no work on Sunday, which meant dancing with Tom and Jessica until our bodies could no longer stand. We drank, we laughed, and most nights after, we made love as we tip-toed up the stairs of my father’s house. I was obsessed with everything about her. Yes, Sophia Hillingdon, the girl I’d known for barely a few months was the girl I now wanted to spend the rest of my life with. And though we often drove each other crazy, we soon laughed and made up as if nothing happened. It often puzzled me as to why Sophia found our fights so amusing seconds after we were hot from the exertion of spouting obscenities at each other. Red-faced, she’d often say, “You drive me mad Sean. But, you know something? That’s just how I like it.”

“Why?” I’d ask.

“Us,” she would say. “I love how angry you make me because…. Well, I’m obsessed with you… even our arguments sound oddly beautiful.”

About the Author: Hugo Driscoll is a 25-year- old British journalist and content writer for an online publication in London.

When he's not working, you can usually find him writing in the basements of cafes or lamenting the unfair treatment of millennials in overcrowded London bars.

You can also find Hugo on Twitter, Facebook, and his personal blog, which he updates regularly.

Seven Days with You is his first novel.

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Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Seven Days to Goodbye by Sheri S. Levy

This post is part of a virtual book tour organized by Goddess Fish Promotions. Sheri S Levy will be awarding a $20 Amazon or Barnes and Noble GC to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour. Click on the tour banner to see the other stops on the tour.

Why do you write YA novels. What draws you to it?

Having taught many types of students, I enjoyed finding ways to encourage their interests and confidence. Pre-teens and teens develop in different stages and need subjects to identify with and connect. If they don’t have discussions with siblings or parents, it is helpful for them to read a book with the appropriate subjects. Writing for teens is exciting and a challenge. I like to address subjects affecting their lives and hope to encourage their own self-discovery.

Pretend your protagonist is at school and opens her locker- what will we see?

My protagonist is in the eighth grade. Trina is not neat and organized. The floor of her locker is filled with books, clothing left behind, and snacks in case she gets hungry. Her hobbies are training service dogs and riding the barn’s schooling horse, Chancy. She has filled the side of her locker with pictures of her very first dog, a white German shepherd, Gretchel, jumping over bushes, collecting gum balls in her mouth, and her favorite picture is the two of them sitting on the grass with her arm wrapped around Gretchel’s neck. Other pictures of her first black and white kitten, she received at Christmas, Claus, sits inside her dad’s shoe. And another of Gretchel and Claus snuggling, and sound asleep. But in the middle of the locker door is Chancy, a chestnut–colored-thoroughbred. Her head hangs over the stall door with her big brown eyes pleading for an apple chunk.

What’s your favorite sweet treat?

My favorite sweet treat has to be dark chocolate. I am allergic to gluten and have a reaction to sugar, so dark chocolate is safe. Occasionally, when we wander downtown, I can’t resist the ice cream shop and break all my rules. I order a double scoop-dark chocolate ice cream cone with chocolate frosting and Heath bar spread around the cone. Then a few hours later, I must take medication for a headache. It is always worth the discomfort.

Ideal summer vacation

There is nothing better than being on Edisto Beach, South Carolina. After growing up on California beaches, this southern beach is different than any other location. The water is brown instead of blue because the sand is made of crushed shells not quartz like you find on the Gulf beaches. The currents keep the sand stirred up, and keep the water dark. Sea grass grows in the sand dunes and rock jetties help reduce erosion. It is an old fashion beach without commercial activities. The one rental shop supplies kayaks, bikes, and beach toys. Patrons of the small island enjoy casual restaurants, a very small grocery store, and a liquor store. If you need to shop, you can browse the few souvenir shops and find beach clothing and essentials. We rent an older house over-looking the ocean, purchase fresh shrimp or fish caught that day, and enjoy watching the sunset. Our family usually joins us for a few days and livens-up our days. We kayak, ride bikes, or walk the beach looking for turtle nests and dolphins. I sit on the screened-in porch, listen to the waves roar, inhale the salt air, and watch for pelicans.

Life moves slowly, and I never tire of being on Edisto Island.

Sum up your book for twitter.

I am introducing my sequel, Starting Over. Trina trains a new pup, misses her 1st boyfriend, furious with a new girl at the barn, decides 2 offer help & suffers the consequences.

Thirteen year old, Trina has chosen to raise service dogs and have puppy after puppy. But during her seven day beach vacation, Trina struggles with having to return Sydney at the end of the week and worries about her best friend changing into a stranger. To complicate the week, Sydney, meets a young boy with autism and the girls meet his two older brothers. Tension is raised over the guys, and Trina fears she’ll lose more than her service dog. Will Trina's lose her best friend, also?

Enjoy an Excerpt

Uh, oh. The wind lifted the Frisbee into the air. It looked as if the disc had sprouted wings, and disappeared up and over the jetty. Sydney halted, staring at me. He was used to chasing his toy. His eyes asked for permission as his body quivered pent-up energy. Letting him struggle for a minute, I giggled and said, “Okay, Syd. Find Frisbee.”

I did a slow jog towards the rocks and seconds later, Sarah called, “Wait for me.”

I turned around and stopped. “Wow, you're joining me! Come on. I’ve got to find Syd’s Frisbee. It’s on the other side.”

We climbed over the jetty. The dogs used their four-legged drive and moved much faster than Sarah or me. When we reached the top of the mound, Sydney stood a distance away with his Frisbee at his feet, leaning close to a small boy. The boy continued to pat the sand in his bucket and turn it upside down, making a row of mounds.

My heart did a triple beat in quarter time. I started running. Sydney’s stub wiggled and jiggled as soon as the boy’s sandy hands rubbed his back.

“I’m sorry,” I said running ahead. I bent, face to face with the boy. “I hope he didn’t scare you.”

The boy never looked at me, only at Sydney and back to the sand. He said in a monotone voice, “Doggy, doggy.”

Sarah meandered up to us. I panted in fast spurts. Worried about the boy and Sydney, I never noticed the rest of the group. A little ways from the small boy, two guys around our age worked on a fort or it could have been a sand castle. The one who seemed to be the oldest, stood. He had long legs and was much taller than I expected. Using his hand, he shoved his longish brown bangs out of his eyes.

Oh, Sarah had definitely noticed. She smiled, pushed loose hair back into her braid and pulled her bathing suit in place.

I rolled my eyes. Okay. Here she goes.

About the Author:
Sheri, originally from California, moved to South Carolina with her husband, two children and a Siamese cat. Soon they adopted their first rescue dog who influenced their need to continue living with dogs. Sheri taught a multi-handicapped Special Ed class, and then a GED-parenting class, which included home visits. Because of her love of reading, Sheri found unusual ways to encourage children to read. After her rescue of a difficult dog, Sheri enrolled in dog classes to change his behavior. Her dream of writing, Seven Days to Goodbye, came from the culmination of her beach experiences, her understanding of behaviors, and from research with PAALS, a service dog organization.

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