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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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. 

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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.

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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