Sunday, October 26, 2014

EBENZER'S LOCKER #spooky #kidlit #ebook #giveaway: #Halloween #creepyfreebies

Milo James Fowler was kind and scary enough to invite me to join #creepyfreebies, a circle of authors giving away copies of their spooky books and stories.

I'm giving away three e-copies of EBENEZER'S LOCKER, my middle-grade paranormal mystery novel (more funny-spooky than scary, dear parents!). The entry form is at the bottom of this post, and the winners will be chosen Halloween night!


A hundred years ago, Corbin Elementary School's building housed Dr. Ebenezer Corbin's School for Psychical Research. It seems that a couple of old spirits are still wandering the halls. It's up to Rhonda Zymler to find out what they want.
Ebenezer's Locker follows the adventures of Rhonda, a sassy sixth-grader who's having trouble finding her place and identity. Getting to know these spirits becomes Rhonda's quest. The more she digs, the more perilous her task becomes, and to complete it she must take two trips back in time. This story blends the realities of an economically challenged modern American town with supernatural elements. What Rhonda finds not only gives her life a sense of purpose but changes the fortunes of her entire town.

EBENEZER'S LOCKER excerpt, in which Rhonda Zymler tries to gather clues by traveling through time. The technique called Semi-Centennial Astral Transport (SCAT) sends her into the past in multiples of fifty years.

One last thought passed through my mind before I was SCAT-ted a hundred years into the past.  I tried to say, “Do we know how I’m going to get back?” But I couldn’t force my mouth to move.
The world went fuzzy. My heart crashed and banged like a rocker’s drum kit. I felt lifted and pressed down at the same time. There were colors, every possible color, swirling everywhere, and then forming sharp-edged shapes, and then sprayed like fireworks. I heard sirens, screaming, a thousand ambulances, and a million dog whistles.
Then silence. What I noticed first were the smells. Men’s cologne. Old wood. Mothballs. Then the sounds. Creaks and scrapes and breathing and talking and wind and plumbing and birds and footsteps and someone slurping a soda. I had superhero hearing.
At last my vision started to clear, but nothing looked right. I saw the little room through a giant magnifying glass. There was too much detail. I could count the stitches on the blanket over the cot and see three layers of varnish painted on the desk. Yet, in the mirror opposite me, I couldn’t see myself. Looking down at where my hand should be, I saw only the floor. I tried to pinch my cheek. I couldn’t feel anything.

Footsteps and floor creaks grew louder, and I heard a deafening CLACK as the lock turned. The door opened inward.

For lots more chances to win ghoulish lit, learn about the other #creepyfreebies participants here.

Of course, you can always buy EBENEZER'S LOCKER (in fact, it's half-price during the month of October!). Find it on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and directly from MuseItUp Publishing.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Andrea Buginsky Considers the Future for the Girls of New Avalon

The magical and the exotic are wonderful elements to add to fiction. However, their sparkly presence is no excuse to ignore the basic techniques of writing that can make stories great. Andrea Buginsky discusses the importance of character development in her YA fantasy series, New Avalon.

*   *   *
Character Growth

by Andrea Buginsky

I have always loved King Arthur stories. When I saw the movie The Mists of Avalon on TNT several years
ago, I loved the way the writer retold the story of the ladies of Avalon. One of my favorite Arthurian characters is the Lady of the Lake. So, when I was choosing a subject for my first (and last) NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month), I decided to create my own story about Avalon and the Lady of the Lake.

I knew I wanted the story to take place in modern times, and I knew I wanted to use magic. The logical choice was to make my characters witch-like. Then I got the idea to write about an introverted character who never seemed to fit in at her school. But once she finds out the truth about herself and is sent off to a special school with other girls like her, she blossoms. This is where New Avalon comes from.

I was always a very introverted person, until I got to know people, then I would come out of my shell. I never had a large circle of friends, but the small circle I had was very tight. I’m still in touch with many of them today. When I created the characters for New Avalon, I had this idea in mind: a group of girls who would form life-long friendships. I knew they would be facing many ups and downs throughout the series, and I wanted them to be there for each other as they went through them.

The first character I created was Elena, the introvert. When you meet her, you’ll understand why she’s so shy around her classmates. I enjoyed watching Elena grow in Destiny, and continue to grow in Fate. There’s more to come for her in future books of the series, and she will discover many layers of herself. She will need her friends to help her get through her obstacles. But they will also need her.

My plan for the books is to focus on one girl per book so readers can get to know each of them better. In Fate, you’ll discover there’s more to Izzy than meets the eye, and suddenly, Elena will have to be there for her, which continues to help her grow. The other girls are always there too, allowing all of them to be together through thick and thin. I’m enjoying getting to know the girls as the series grows, and watching them grow along with it.

*   *   *
Learn more about Andrea Buginsky on her website.
Purchase Destiny and Fate (the New Avalon series) on Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

How SHIFTING ALLIANCES Author Kevin Hopson Discovered Science Fiction

Ah, the allure of a robot on a book cover in one's formative years. How well I recall that feeling! Kevin Hopson, whose science fiction novel Shifting Alliances was recently released, muses on his introduction to that glorious genre.

*   *   *

Discovering Science Fiction
by Kevin Hopson

I was in middle school…I think. I visited the B. Dalton bookstore at my local mall and perused the Science Fiction & Fantasy section. Dungeons & Dragons game sets lined the shelves. I always wanted to play but could never afford to buy one, at least not on a weekly allowance of only a few bucks. You have to understand that a kid of my age and mentality never saved. Maybe my generation was to blame, or perhaps it was due to my impatience, which I still have problems dealing with to this day. Either way, money burned a hole in my pocket, so it had to be spent immediately or my parents would be forced to buy me new pants on a regular basis.

What was the alternative? Buying a paperback book? No way! Honestly, I hated to read in my adolescent years. The only thing worse than reading was having to write something. Yeah, seriously. It’s funny how times change. Anyway, I was drawn to art, and a cool cover was the one thing that might actually make me open a book…and it did. I don’t recall the title, but it was a story by Isaac Asimov, one of our greatest pioneers in the science fiction genre. A child and robot graced the cover, instantly luring me in. I’m amazed at how intelligent kids are today. Unfortunately, I was never a book worm, so some of the material proved to be cumbersome. However, seeing that cover always brought me back to the book. It was my first real taste of science fiction, and little did I know it would lead to a long-term desire.

I can’t remember if I said something to my mom or if it was the other way around, but we both recollect a time when there was mention of me writing a science fiction novel one day. I might have broached the subject as a kid, or maybe she saw something in me (an interest in the genre and a later appreciation for writing) that made her believe it. Regardless, it’s been nearly thirty years in the making, and that day has finally come. Though my book, Shifting Alliances, is technically a novella, I figure it’s close enough to the real thing, and it’s dedicated to my mom for all of her support. Coincidentally, the story touches on a woman’s motherly instinct to do the right thing, so it’s the perfect way to honor her.

*   *   *
Learn more about Kevin Hopson on his blog and his MuseItUp author page.

Buy Shifting Alliances directly from MuseItUp Publishing, on Amazon, and elsewhere.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

J.R. Sparlin's Irish Saga, The Sea at Mughain

Sometimes a journey can open the floodgates of a writer's mind. When J.R. Sparlin visited Ireland, a new saga was born from the ancient past. With the help of a lot of fascinating research, she turned her impressions of the Celtic surroundings into her YA historical fantasy novella, The Sea at Mughain.

*   *   * 
by J.R. Sparlin

When my husband and I visited Ireland, the first thing we saw was a big sign that read, “If you think this is all there is to Ireland, you’re wrong.” A toy leprechaun was stabbed onto it with a knife.

Many threads came together to give me the idea for The Sea at Mughain. Ireland was not at all what I expected. I had not, of course, expected leprechauns. But it is an ancient, remote, eerie place, full of sun-dappled green valleys, sheep, and the ruins of castles, churches, and ancient monuments no one really understands. It is also a modern country, with all the challenges faced by any of the rest of us.

The people of Ireland are anything but remote; we had wonderful conversations with our B&B proprietors and others we met along the way. One of the places we stayed was a renovated nineteenth-century schoolhouse in Ballinskelligs, just out of sight of the sea, an area believed by the ancient Celts to be an “in-between place” between our world and the Otherworld.  I sat by a peat fire in the sitting room and watched a wave of opaque white fog, several feet high, roll in over the hills that hid the sea. No getting around it, it was strange.

At some point after our trip, I was sick and had nothing to read. My husband has a degree in ancient and medieval history and has accumulated an extensive library. I snuffled around and found a volume entitled Ireland before the Vikings. I greatly enjoyed reading it. I especially liked a remark, early in the book, to the effect of, “This was a very long time ago and we have very little evidence so this may or may not be right.” Now that just begs for stuff to be made up. Derek was horrified to find me reading it; it is very scholarly and I was very sick and he felt I should be reading something lighter, so he went out and bought me two movie-star magazines. (I read those as well.) But the damage was done. I read another book, How the Irish Saved Civilization by Thomas Cahill, and was intrigued by the way Christianity had spread in Ireland. It was a much more peaceful process than in the rest of Europe, but it was still a period of conflict and transition between the old and new ways, and that type of transitional period, to me, just begs for stories.

I learned, as well, that a branch of my mother’s family may be descended from Dal Riata, one of the ancient kingdoms of Ireland (roughly equivalent to today’s County Antrim). This may or may not be true, but it is fun to consider.

So these were probably the main threads. Here you have a highly developed heroic culture in sixth-century Ireland, and most of the history and stories of the period deal with kings and battles and so on. I was interested in how a relatively unimportant young woman would fit into this picture, and that is how Mughain, daughter of Tiernan, king of Dal nAraide, came to be. If this were a “real” Irish saga, it would likely be about her father, not her. There is no shortage of strong female characters in the old stories, but they are in positions of more prominence.

So the story wove itself around these threads, and banged around in my skull until I wrote it down, and I present it to you, and hope I have done some justice to its strangeness and beauty.

*   *   *
Learn more about J.R. Sparlin by visiting her blog or following her on Facebook.

You can purchase The Sea at Mughain on Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Janet Brown deals with a teen's feelings of rejection in VICTORIA AND THE GHOST

Today's guest, Janet Brown, chose to interview the main character of her inspirational YA novel, Victoria and the Ghost, to find out what Victoria's all about. 

*   *   *

Interviewer: I have a young girl here that’s going through a terrible time. Let’s find out something about her. Okay?

“My name is Victoria Peterson. My life isn’t fair. I never thought that when I was fifteen years old, I would end up away from my mother, my friends, and Dallas.  Dad got this really dumb idea to move my seventeen-year-old sister, Marcy and me away from civilization. He even expects me to tend chickens. Can you believe that? Why, my nail job won’t last a month, at this rate.

Now, Mom, well, I’m her favorite. We both love…love….love shopping. This spring we missed few shops in Dallas before Mom’s beautiful wedding. After she and Sam left on their honeymoon to the Caribbean, well, of course, I had to move in with Dad. I totally understood. It’s only temporary until Mom returns and settles into her new life.”

Interviewer: I see. Tell me, Victoria, what are your beliefs in life?

“Mmmm….what I believe. Well, I believe Mom is the most sophisticated, beautiful woman. This divorce business was all Dad. He ignored her and so pushed her into the arms of a man who appreciated her value. That’s what I think. Oh, and I believe in God. Did I tell you that? And…I believe Dallas is the most wonderful city. That’s about it.”

Interviewer: What is this about a ghost?

Victoria hunched her shoulders. Each of her hands clasped the opposite arm. “I shouldn’t talk about that. I don’t believe in ghosts.”

Interviewer: But I thought –

“I know. Strange things happen in Clara Cemetery, but every time I say something, people think I’m crazy. If I told my dad, he’d have a fit. Christians don’t believe in ghosts.”

Interviewer: But you do?

“I’m not saying.” Victoria stiffened. “Brad believes me, you know? But, I can’t talk about it.”

Interviewer:  Is there anything else about yourself that you don’t want anyone to know?

Victoria glanced around the room but saw no one but she, the interviewer and that woman behind her who followed her everywhere. “Just between you and me, I act all citified and sure of myself. I tell everyone I’ll be going back to Dallas soon, but Mom doesn’t want me, and I don’t want anyone to know that my own mother rejected me. Don’t tell anyone. Okay?”

Interviewer: What are you afraid of?

“Horses. And everyone thinks I should learn to ride a horse. What’s the big deal anyway?”

Interviewer: Is that all?

“Being alone. Having no one that loves me.”

Interviewer: How would you label yourself?

“A good city slicker. (That’s what Brad & Shelley call me.) But a lousy country girl. And,


Interviewer: And, who’s that woman behind you?

Victoria sighed. “Her name is Janet K. Brown. She thinks she created me, but it was God, you know.” Victoria stood straight and stretched to her full five foot, two inches. “Okay, Mrs. Brown, introduce yourself.”

The Woman in the background: “I visited Clara Cemetery and learned about the ghost of Colonel Specht, a very sad man who built the town, now a historical ghost town in North Texas. Victoria and Colonel Specht needed each other. God told me so. More about the ghost legend I learned can be found at:

 P. S.  Victoria’s nemesis, Shelley Halverson, stars in her own book, A Ghost for Shelley, soon to be released by 4RV Publishing. The mean old country girl moves to Dallas. Serves her right, Victoria says.

*   *   *
Learn more about Janet Hope on her website; follow her on Facebook and Twitter.

You can buy Victoria and the Ghost from 4RV Publishing or from Amazon 

Thursday, September 25, 2014

In her YA novel ELIXIR BOUND, Katie L. Carroll has personal ties to the female characters

I'm delighted to be participating in the blog tour for author Katie L. Carroll's YA fantasy novel Elixir Bound. Katie shares some background on the extraordinary women in this story.

*   *   *

By Katie L. Carroll

I originally conceived ELIXIR BOUND as a there-and-back-again quest, a sort of tribute to my sister

Kylene, who died at the age of 16. I had hoped to give her a fantasy tale of her own. When it proved too hard to write the story from the POV of a character inspired by her, I decided to try from a different character's POV: her sister Katora's.

This really changed the direction of the story. Where Kylene was sweet, sensitive, and wore her feelings on her sleeve, Katora was stubborn, independent, and also sensitive but would never want to show it. ELIXIR BOUND then became a story about a young woman (Katora) who must go on a quest to find out whether or not she will become guardian to a secret healing Elixir and bind herself to it.

The binding part was key because it wouldn't allow to just use the Elixir as she wanted to; the binding would force her to use it in a way that also served the Great Mother (who is also called Mother Nature, and is basically the highest form of being in Katora's world). Now I had a story where a very independent character was forced to make a decision that would seriously hinder her independence and impact the path the rest of her life would take.

This whole story line was a personal journey that was paralleled by a physical journey in which Katora and her companions had to find the secret ingredient for the Elixir. Notice the total lack of mention of a love interest. It was really important to me that Katora's motives for the quest had nothing to do with a boy.

It was also important that Katora be chosen for this quest, not either of her two older sisters or her younger brother. I've always wondered why in so many real and fictional worlds the oldest son is the one who is entitled to the inheritance, so I wanted Katora to be neither the oldest nor a boy. The reason Katora was chosen as the next guardian of the Elixir, taking over for her father, was she was person who was best suited for the job.

As I started writing ELIXIR BOUND, I realized I wanted these themes to be reflected in Katora's world as well. I think a lot of these themes spilled out of me unconsciously and only in revision did I become consciously aware of the feminism in them. Suddenly Katora's world had turned very pagan with the people following a female deity (the Great Mother) closely tied to nature. From there I sort of ran with the idea that females would, in a sense, rule this world. Though I kept it that Katora would take over for her father because I wanted some balance in the world. Women didn't need to rule everything.

And Kylene was still there on the quest and plays an important role (though not the starring one). I wanted her there to contrast Katora's personality because there are other strong female characters besides the bulldozer type, which is kind of how I think of Katora. I needed a female who was strong in character but not in your face about it. Also, Zelenka, a member of the miniature demick species, was an interesting female character. In many ways very much like Katora, but also a bit of an adversary to Katora. They never quite get along, mostly because they are so alike.

There does end up being a love interest on the quest. One I had to emphasize and play up more as I went through revisions because several of my early readers didn't think it played a big enough role. Katora initially resists forming a relationship with Hirsten, the handsome son of a famous mapmaker. She doesn't want anything to distract her while on her mission and while she has such an important decision to make.  Though the quest part of the story is not driven by romance, Katora's ability to realize her capacity for love (and in turn why she has resisted her feelings for Hirsten) does play into her decision on whether or not to become guardian of the Elixir.

As you can see, I thought a lot about the role of females in the made-up world of ELIXIR BOUND as I was writing it. I'd like to think my story offers a feministic look at females and hopefully speaks to teenage girls in a positive way. Although, I didn't want to force any certain didactic message about feminism in the story...more an offering of female characters and how they take control of their lives and futures. Themes I certainly plan on considering while writing future works as well.

YA fantasy
by Katie L. Carroll

Katora Kase is next in line to take over as guardian to a secret and powerful healing Elixir. Now she must journey into the wilds of Faway Forest to find the ingredient that gives the Elixir its potency. Even though she has her sister and brother, an old family friend, and the handsome son of a mapmaker as companions, she feels alone.

It is her decision alone whether or not to bind herself to the Elixir to serve and protect it until it chooses a new guardian. The forest hosts many dangers, including wicked beings that will stop at nothing to gain power, but the biggest danger Katora may face is whether or not to open up her heart to love.

*   *   *

The Ebook of Elixer Bound is on sale for $.99 until September 27 on Amazon and at the

Enter the Goodreads giveaway for a signed paperback copy until September 28.

Learn more about Katie L. Carroll on her website, on Twitter (@KatieLCarroll) or Tumblr.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Kim Rendfeld Interprets Saxon History in THE ASHES OF HEAVEN'S PILLAR

One of the greatest challenges facing a historical novelist is choosing what information to use from a sea of research. But just as tricky is wanting to find out about a historical event or place and discovering that almost nothing is known about it for sure. Kim Rendfeld dealt with both of these situations as she wrote her latest novel.

*   *   *
What Was the Real Pillar of Heaven?

By Kim Rendfeld

The title for The Ashes of Heaven’s Pillar is derived from the Irminsul, a pillar sacred to the Continental Saxon peoples, including my heroine, Leova. The one thing we know with certainty: Charlemagne ordered its destruction in 772 and took the gold and silver in its temple.

The nature and location of the Irminsul is uncertain—as is whether it was the only one. Some sources say it was a stone pillar, others say wooden pillar, and still others say it was a tree. It’s been described as having an idol of the war god atop it. Because of the presence of a carving, some have placed it at the Externsteine, north of the Saxon fortress Eresburg.

We can’t turn to the pagan Saxons for any clarity. They did not have a written language as we know it, and the Church did everything it could to obliterate a religion it considered devil worship.

So what’s a historical novelist to do with so many contradictions? Choose the most plausible version that best fits her story and confess her liberties in an author’s note. Or a blog post.

My first liberty is to call the Irminsul the Pillar of Heaven. Irminsul is often translated as “universal pillar.” I chose Pillar of Heaven in my novel because frankly it sounds better. And Wodan, the war god whose idol might have surmounted the pillar, was a sky god, so the Pillar of Heaven is not too much of a stretch.

Next was the location. Leova lives in a village just outside the fortress of Eresburg. Having it nearby allowed her to smell the smoke when it burned and see the charred blotch it left behind. It made the loss more real and more devastating.

Flames are a dramatic form of destruction, which is why I decided the pillar should be made of wood. To the Continental Saxons, the Irminsul’s destruction was the equivalent of burning a cathedral. Did the Saxons believe anyone who desecrated their sacred monument would face the gods’ wrath? Again, there is no text to verify it. But this was age that believed in divine favor and retribution, so that idea passes the plausibility test.

From a storyteller’s point of view, actual facts about the Irminsul are not as important as its impact on the characters. And in this case, Leova’s faith is shaken, as you will see in the excerpt below.



“I greet you in the name of Our Lord, Jesus the Christ,” he roared. “My name is Father Osbald. We come in peace and mean you no harm.”

By his accent, Leova knew the priest was a Saxon from Britain, like many of the other priests who had come to her village. They were mild men bearing treats for the children along with the teachings of their odd religion.

“But the God who destroyed the Irminsul will strike down anyone who harms us,” the priest said. “The sound of our horn will summon scores of Christian soldiers to our aid.”

From the corner of her eye, Leova saw Wulfgar and Ludgar shrinking back. Perhaps, the Christian God was stronger than the gods of the Saxons.

“We will give safe conduct to Eresburg to anyone who promises to accept baptism,” Osbald continued.

Wulfgar’s voice boomed. “How can you give safe conduct? You are not warriors.”

“We do not need swords and armor when we have the power of the one, true God. The Frankish soldiers know God will condemn their souls to eternal torture if they harm anyone in our care.”

Osbald spoke Saxon, but Leova could not understand half of what he was saying. From the confidence in his voice, Leova surmised the Christian God had given His priests magic power, enough to cow warriors into submission. How she needed safe conduct to the fortress—and Derwine!

“What is baptism?” Leova asked.

“You vow to follow Christ, forsaking your devils, and He cleanses you of your sins,” the priest replied.

“Do we have to shave our hair in that strange way?” Sunwynn asked.

“No, child.” Osbald chuckled. “The tonsure is an honor reserved only for men of the clergy.”

Baptism appealed to Leova. She suspected the conquerors would be more generous with those who shared their religion. Maybe it was fate to follow a stronger God. The Saxon gods had allowed the Irminsul to be destroyed, Leodwulf and Derwine to die, and Eresburg to be conquered by foreigners. Despite her sacrifices and prayers, the Saxon gods had betrayed her and her family!

“I and my children accept your offer,” Leova called to the Christian priest, “but we will attend to our dead first.”
*   *   *

To read the first chapter or find out more about Kim Renfield, visit her website, her blog Outtakes of a Historical Novelist, or like her on Facebook and follow her on Twitter at @kimrendfeld.

You can purchase The Ashes of Heaven's Pillar at Amazon and Barnes & Noble and elsewhere.