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Feeling Like an Outsider

Taylor Fenner Author Interview

Monsters & Mist is a thrilling fantasy novel that I thought was very entertaining. What was the inspiration for the setup to your story?

Thank you! Initially I wanted to write a story about a girl whose nephew went missing who goes on a journey to find him and ends up learning about herself along the way. As the world and story unfolded it became about a group of characters that had been raised to see things one way who had to put aside those beliefs to work together.

Your characters were intriguing and well developed. What were some driving ideals behind your character’s development?

I always see a little bit of myself in at least one of my characters. Monsters & Mist was initially intended to be told solely in Andromeda’s perspective. She starts off the book feeling like an outsider – in her village, in her family even, because she looks different and acts differently, wants different things than everyone else. I often feel like I don’t quite belong, even among friends or with my family and I wanted to show that you shouldn’t feel bad because your differences are what make you who you are. All of my main characters had to go through a transformation throughout the book. Cygni, for example, didn’t think he was ready to follow in his father’s shoes but by having everything ripped away from him he became the leader he was always meant to be.

What were some themes that were important for you to explore in this book?

I think, especially now, it was important for me to get across that despite where someone comes from, what their background is, or how they were raised deep down people all really feel things the same way. We all have hopes, dreams, insecurities, and fears. There are five kingdoms in Monsters & Mist, and for generations the people from three of those kingdoms had spent so much energy hating the people of the fourth kingdom all because the god they worshipped willed them to, when if they had gotten to know those people the world could have been an equal, peaceful place.

What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?

I have a few different projects I’m working on at the moment, all of which are outside my usual comfort zone. My primary project is a horror novel set in an almost forgotten hotel in the Great Smoky Mountains and I aim to have it out in the first half of 2022.

Author Links: GoodReads | Twitter | Facebook | Website

The Girl with Warrior Aspirations.
The Playboy Prince.
The Ruthless Queen.

One will seek to enslave the world. One will lead the rebellion. And one will be the catalyst.

The Warrior General with a tragic past.
The Disgraced Bounty Hunter.
The Girl with the Constellation on Her Face.

One will rise to the challenge. One will return what was once lost. And one will embrace their destiny.

Six lives. One world borne anew.

Chaos in the Cosmos: A Magic Islands story

Stefan has quite a secret, and it is a secret like no other. His secret revolves around a strange being to which he is growing attached. Stefan’s secret is Scratchit. Little Scratchit is not only a Cyclops, but he is a Hook-Eyed Monster. Keeping him under wraps will be difficult, but that is Stefan’s plan–if only it will work. When Stefan and his classmates set out on a day trip, the secret he carries in his backpack weighs heavily on his mind. When Scratchit has other plans, the trip soon turns into more than any of them could have envisioned.

Chaos in the Cosmos: A Magic Islands Story, written by Irene Edwards, is the continuation of the story set forth in Edwards’s book, Magic Islands. Stefan and his friends, one of the focuses of the first book, appear again in Chaos in the Cosmos and provide readers with a highly entertaining string of events that lead them on an adventure like no other. This fantasy by Irene Edwards reads as much like a science fiction story as it does a fantasy for older elementary and middle school students. The parallel storyline involving the banished Purple Wizards picks up where it left off in Edwards’s first book.

Though integral to the plot, I found the Purple Wizards storyline to be a little scattered at times. While it is incredibly engaging, filled with fascinating characters, and also lends itself well to the adventure genre, this part of the plot addresses many aspects at one time and feels a bit overwhelming.

Edwards has done a phenomenal job of attacking changes in climate in a unique way that may be more interesting and meaningful for younger readers. I can say, as a teacher, that we truly do lack engaging materials that help us explain weather patterns, climate, and the impact we have on our environment. This, along with the stand-out characters she has created, is one of Edwards’s true strong suits.

I would recommend Chaos in the Cosmos to any upper elementary or middle school student who enjoys science fiction and is looking to branch out into a new series. In addition, teachers who are seeking to spice up science instruction and add a read aloud to their arsenal will benefit from checking out Irene Edwards’s most recent addition to the Magic Islands series.

Pages: 276 | ISBN: 1838075216

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Mariposa Mysteries

Valerie Anne Hudson
Valerie Anne Hudson Author Interview

Watch What You Wish For follows a group of friends who accidentally unleash the evil powers within an ancient Wishing Tree. What was the inspiration for the setup to your story?

Many people are dissatisfied with some aspects of their lives, and never more so when they are teenagers. I was originally going to have the characters make their wishes at a wishing well, but then I decided that a wishing tree could be a lot more dramatic!

Sophie is an interesting and well defined character. What were some driving ideals behind your character’s development?

Sophie’s a bit of a follower, tending to be easily influenced by those around her. Had she ended up hanging out with the wrong crowd after her move to Mariposa, she could have ended up in trouble again. But through pure good luck, she ended up befriending a couple of really good kids who showed her the meaning of kindness and true friendship.

What were some themes that were important for you to explore in this book?

The theme of friendship was the most important one. I’m always amazed by the extent to which friends can affect a person’s life choices.

What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?

‘Watch What You Wish For’ is now the first book in the trilogy entitled ‘Mariposa Mysteries.’ I’m currently working on a YA novel that will probably be available in late March.

Author Links: GoodReads | Website

The friendliness of small-town life doesn’t appeal to 12-year-old Sophie, who has recently moved to Mariposa from the big city. Despite herself, she ends up making friends with two other adventurous seventh graders. Upon their discovery of an ancient Wishing Tree, they accidentally unleash the tree’s evil powers and turn the once-thriving town of Mariposa into a shadow of its former self. As people go missing and lives are turned upside down, our unforgettable heroes are desperate to get things back to the way they were, while each unknowingly embarks on a journey of self-discovery.

Book One of the new Mariposa Mystery Series.

The Winter Wizard Chronicles

The Winter Wizard Chronicles: An Epic Fantasy Adventure by [Daniel Peyton]

Aeons ago, the earth was in the grips of a bitter war between the elements. The wicked Ice Fairy Queen, bent upon expanding her frozen realm, wishes to engulf the entire planet in a permanent ice age. Witnessing the destruction that she seeks to unleash, the Winter Wizard, her former lover and general of her icy army, turns on his mistress and banishes her to be frozen in crystal for the rest of eternity.

Fast forward four thousand years to modern Tennessee, and here enter the heroes of our story, Brian and Sherri, who unwitting stumble upon the Ice Queens prison and accidentally unleash her, wreaking a new era of bitter revenge upon planet Earth. A new battle erupts, and Brian and Sherri find themselves in the midst of an ancient plan unfolding in a strange land, that has been centuries in the making, and which threatens to make the leap from the fantasy world and into the reality they love.

The Winter Wizard plunges you into a mystical and colorful world from the outset. Not allowing the reader the time to buckle up, author Dan Peyton sets the pace from the very beginning. Jumping straight into the action, The Winter Wizard doesn’t give time to lengthy prose, the action just keeps coming as we’re taken on a non-stop ride into the distant realms of elves and witches, sorcerers and warlocks.

Peyton at times sacrifices narrative depth to keep the speed up and chooses to take us on a journey that gives the feeling of being in the middle a white-knuckled, action-adventure movie. Short, punchy chapters mean we skip from action scene to action scene, introducing new characters, mythology and locations within the blink of the eye, making it easy to read and ensuring there’s never a dull moment or too much time to reflect.

This results in a trade-off between the speed at which the storyline progresses and the fleshing out of the main characters and universe, which can make it slightly hard to relate to the human protagonists. As the storyline develops and expands, the character development doesn’t quite keep up; we see Brian and Sherri progress in their understanding of the magical realm they have found themselves in, but emotionally and individually, less so.

The dialogue is short and snappy, Brian’s quick wit provides comic relief amidst the breakneck pace, and the spikey but warm relationship between a certain cat and a whisky drinking captain of the skies gives an endearing glimpse into lives of those living in this high-fantasy universe.

Peyton creates an entire world that is alive with mythology and magic. Winter Wizard is a adrenaline-fueled ride full of heartwarming moments and tongue in cheek humor that will keep the pages fluttering right until the end.

Pages: 244 | ASIN: B07B8L7CZT

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The Unicorn Princess

The Unicorn Princess (The Pacific Princesses Book 1) by [Ektaa Bali]

Sonakshi has everything she could ever want and a family who loves and protects her fiercely. She, however, possesses qualities that set her apart from all others–Sonaskshi is a unicorn. When she discovers that she is in danger, every nightmare she has ever had begins to make perfect sense. From an early age, Sonakshi recalls the image of a horrible face. It haunts her dreams, and now that she has heard her parents give a name to the face, everything is becoming all too real for Sonakshi.

The Unicorn Princess: The Pacific Princesses Book 1, written by Ektaa Bali, is the age-old story of the quest to break a curse, but it is told with fantastic relatable characters with whom young readers will relate. Sonakshi and her best friend, Kiera, are typical young girls–always looking for adventure. The fantasy element in Bali’s writing is strong and pulls the reader into the story from the first paragraphs.

The closeness between Sonakshi and her best friend makes for a wonderful storyline all of its own. In addition to the peril the children face, the author has woven a beautiful element of friendship into the book which will immediately catch the interest of young readers.

As an adult reading this book to critique for use by my students, I have to say even I was drawn in by Mankini’s storyline. I do love a great villain. What fantasy fan doesn’t appreciate a good evil witch? I am also a huge fan of the underdog. Batuman, Mankini’s sidekick is the perfect downtrodden henchman forced to do his master’s evil bidding.

Some fantasies of this nature tend to be filled to the brim with language that is too colorful and overpowers the storyline. Bali, however, has managed to hand readers a well-crafted plot written with a tone and language that young readers will appreciate and find both easy to follow and engaging on every level.

I am giving The Unicorn Princess: The Pacific Princesses Book 1, by Ektaa Bali, 5 out of 5 stars. As a parent and teacher, I can wholeheartedly recommend this first in series for anyone who has fantasy fans in their home or classroom. An engaging story centered around the value of friendship and loyalty, The Unicorn Princess is a sure hit among young readers. I am looking forward to introducing Sonakshi to my students.

Pages: 196 | ASIN: B08L5K4CV1

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Children of the Elements

Brenna and Adara are twins living in England that spend their days with tutors and fancy automated machines. When not working on their schooling they’re reading from the Grimoire. From the Grimoire they learn of the Elemental Gods and pretend they were them. It wasn’t until they moved to Massachusetts that they began to realize they were different. On their first day of school they meet twin boys, Dimitri and Wyndham that share their same last name, Devins, as well as strange white streaks of hair. From there they realize they all have over-sized pets, a toad, lizard, owl and rat that just found the children and attached themselves to them. Slowly as they get to know each other they develop strange powers, telepathy, the ability to control elements, and the mysterious Grimoire that each has a part of starts morphing before their eyes. What does it all mean? How are they connected? Why are strange things happening to them? What happens when the stories they read as children suddenly start coming to life?

Children of the Elements by Ora Wanders, is set in a steampunk reality of the semi modern world. There are parts that remind me of early frontier times, the one room school house, the simple country life, but then she adds in the steampunk elements of automated machinery and clothing choices. It is a mix of modern and old and blends together in a fascinating way that makes sense to the story line. Each set of twins have similar backgrounds, only one parent, both moving from homes with lots of machinery to a simpler life and only bringing a few things with them, the Grimoire that seems incomplete to each set. When they meet, it is literally like puzzle pieces fitting together. The story is exceptionally well written and everything flows naturally and story elements occur organically. I could picture the characters clearly, the bickering and playing around that you expect from young adults comes out. I found it all relatable, even in the magical setting.

This was a book that I didn’t want to put down. The plot moves quickly, the character development is integrated with the plot, so you’re not weighed down with back stories and character development early on. All that information comes out as you meet the characters and see them interacting with their pets, teacher, and each other. They are typical teenagers with attitudes and short tempers, but you see them grow from the early pages to the end. Without giving away key elements, I can say that all four children are able to grow and see their potential while still retaining a child like wonder of the world. It has all the elements a reader of fantasy could want; magic, conflict, family drama, growth, and an open ending to continue the saga.

One of the most amazing things about this novel is the author. Ora Wanders is only ten years old! I could not believe this when I finished the novel and wanted to learn more about the author because I loved the book that much. I am looking forward to the second book in the series and much more from this amazing young lady.

Pages: 310 | ISBN: 1797718002

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Angels: The Discovery

Fourteen-year-old Fraser dies prematurely as a result of a fluke accident while trying to save his baby sister. Upon waking up in heaven, he discovers that his new life in paradise is far different from the one he lived during his short time on earth. As he adjusts to his new surroundings, he is constantly amazed that there is so much to learn, explore, and achieve in his new permanent home. Fraser begins making new friends and even reunites with a loved one who left earth before him. He learns that everyone in heaven must find something they are passionate about and serve in that area. While his friends quickly discover what they want to do, Fraser is left discouraged and not strongly drawn to anything he is introduced to.

When Fraser begins to experience visions of his family’s current status on earth, he finds them divided, severely broken, and completely devastated about his death. His family is also unaware that they are being tormented and are in danger by evil presences that they cannot physically see. After having a talk with God, Fraser is told that he is chosen for a special assignment and will be enlisted amongst an army of Armored Angels to fight an earthly spiritual war of good versus evil. He finally knows what he is meant to do and is more than ready. He is predestined to save his family.

This is a story that will inspire young readers and beyond to diminish the fear of dying, provide hope concerning life afterward, and understand that God has assigned angels all around us for protection from dangers seen and unseen.

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Beyond The Grumpiness

B.C.R. Fegan Author Interview

B.C.R. Fegan Author Interview

The Grumpface is a charming children’s book about a grumpy old man in a forest and Dan who needs to find a flower for his love. What was the inspiration for this charming kid’s book?

What inspired me to write The Grumpface was seeing that particular grumpy face a child pulls when things aren’t going their way. I have witnessed it on so many occasions, and each time I find it hilarious. What makes it so funny is that quite often parents will naturally try and make the young child smile or laugh. Sometimes this is all it takes to break the curse, yet often this only serves to make them more determined to remain grumpy. The Grumpface himself is the character that embodies this determination to remain grumpy and resist anything positive or amusing. In this sense, he goes beyond the grumpiness of a child and becomes the identity of the pessimist or those caught up in negativity.

Dan on the other hand is the natural antithesis to the Grumpface’s outlook on life. He is optimistic and hopeful even when things aren’t working out for him. His quest for love actually provides the setting for negativity and positivity to meet head on.

I felt that this book was good at teaching morals of persistence, compassion, and friendship. What themes did you try to use when creating this book?

First and foremost I wanted to create an enjoyable tale that excited the imagination. Rather than beginning with a theme, I started with the desire to inspire the imagination. I remember as a child reading some books that were enjoyable, and others that held such intrigue, that they challenged your perception about life. This is really where I tried to begin. I wanted to forge a tale that was memorable, inspiring and filled with adventure. What better way to do this, than to write a new kind of fairy tale.

The morals that were subsequently woven into the story though were intentionally light and simple. It has unfortunately become common for children’s books these days to be so distracted by the message, the tale itself seems to be an afterthought. As you have already mentioned, there are a number of morals such as persistence, compassion and friendship that come up in The Grumpface. Yet for the most part these morals simply arise naturally through the considered development and interaction of characters. As mentioned previously, perhaps the most overarching theme in the book is simply the power of positivity over negativity.

The art in this book is lovely. What was the art direction like and what decisions went into choosing the right images?

The art direction for The Grumpface was a little unique and certainly experimental. Every other children’s book has been briefed with an overarching ambience and emotion that I’m hoping to convey. Each page of text is then detailed down to the perspective of the scene, the emotional response of the characters and any unique aspects to the setting. I am still open to any deviation from the brief if the illustrator is compelled to try something different, but the brief provides a place to begin.

For The Grumpface, I wanted the illustrator to try something different. Instead of providing strict direction, I wanted Daniela to simply draw the scene that the text conjured in her mind. As a fairy tale, it was important to that the text carried enough depth and richness, so that even without pictures, it would still capture the mind. Daniela was very open to this and would send a short summery of her thoughts for each page (which would be approved or slightly amended) before providing a draft. At this point there might be some minor adjustments. When all the drafts had been complete, there was a final check to ensure that everything flowed smoothly before the final drafts were created.

This particular process meant that the illustrations took considerable time to complete and get right, but in the end it worked out well. The book has received numerous comments on the artwork and the impact they have on the tale itself. I think Daniela did a great job!

What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?

The next book will be available on the 3rd of August 2017 (so not long now). The title is Henry and the Hidden Treasure, and it is about a child who attempts to defend his pocket money from his little sister. Henry is convinced that Lucy is a secret ninja spy who has been sent to steal his treasure and he therefore constructs some elaborate defences to try and stop her.

The book highlights some important themes such as listening to parents, being nice to your siblings and carefully considers what constitutes real treasure within the family context. Henry and the Hidden Treasure also introduces children to ordinal numbers in a subtle and imaginative way.

Like The Grumpface, my first priority with this coming title was constructing an exciting and imaginative tale that children will find themselves thinking about long after it has been put down. It is my hope that the many tales to come will continue to provide that magic and inspiration for children young and old.

Author Links: GoodReads | Twitter | Facebook | Website | TableBlade

The Grumpface by [Fegan, B.C.R.]

Dan is a young inventor in love. He ventures into a forest looking for a rose but instead finds the mysterious Grumpface who threatens to hold him captive unless he passes some difficult challenges. What follows is a humorous adventure that neither Dan nor the Grumpface could have anticipated.

The Grumpface is a tale in the spirit of any grand adventure. It is about a clumsy young inventor’s quest for love, and the challenges he must face to find it. But it is also a tale of bravery, absurdity and happiness, and the power of these qualities over negativity and sheer grumpiness.

Every parent will be acquainted with their own little ‘grumpface’ now and then. This story stands as a small piece of hope – that no matter how ingrained the grump, there will always remain in every one of us a smile or a laugh just waiting to come out.

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