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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