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Choice, Prejudice, and Love

Sean P Valiente
Sean P Valiente Author Interview

The Lightning Knight follows a young noble who is reluctantly tasked with training a boy that is destined to save the world. What was the inspiration for the setup to your story?

The story sort of found itself in a way. I love the idea of the classic hero’s journey, but wanted to have a twist on it. I found having Oliver in the role of mentor, and the story from his perspective was super interesting. Beyond that, I loved the idea of having the mentor not really knowing much more than the person he was training. It really makes it seem real and lived in, versus the cookie-cutter this is the hero and you know what his deal is.

Oliver is an interesting and well developed character. What were some driving ideals behind his character development?

I really wanted to capture the essence of what it was like to be a teenager – the extreme emotions, the big thoughts and ideas with the lack of experience and maturity, and all of that. He really starts out a bit naïve to how the world works, and his sheltered wealthy life hasn’t done him any favors with what’s really going on in the world. He teeters on the line of extreme emotions, particularly confidence and lack thereof. I wanted someone who really could exemplify the goodness of being a teenager, and the angst and confusion as well.

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

Some major themes were haves vs have nots, identity, choice, prejudice, and love. The story really tries to touch upon a bunch of different things but ultimately at the end of the day, it’s about adversity and how you handle everything life throws at you, good or bad.

This is book one in The Knights of Nine series. What can readers expect in book two?

Book two will follow a different character to begin with until they meet Oliver and continue his journey. We’ll get to see a different part of the world, and even a different culture or three.

Author Links: GoodReads | Twitter | Facebook | Website

Magic isn’t real. Not anymore and not like it used to be. Or so I thought…

16-year-old Oliver Quartermain doesn’t believe in magic anymore. But who cares? He has it all: he comes from a rich and noble family and doesn’t have a care in the world. But how quickly that can all change.

In the space of a few moments, Oliver’s life is turned upside down when he is tasked with protecting and saving the very magic he never believed in. But that’s not even the half of it. The only way to save magic is by training a young boy named Po Pondarion, who is destined to save the world.

Not only does Oliver have to train the young and totally clueless Po, but he also has to battle an evil secret organization bent on destroying them, all while deciphering the secrets of a Magical Codex. Oliver enlists the help of his unlikely best friends, Roc and Yokel, as well as the Knight Angels, secretive vigilantes he’s only recently met, to help him train Po and save the world. That should be simple, right?

Will this merry band of misfits be able to train the young Po in time for him to learn the secrets of magic and save its very existence forever?

The Lightning Knight is a gripping epic fantasy that will have you on the edge of your seat, eagerly flipping to the next page. Let yourself become emersed in this rich and magical world and join Oliver and Po on the adventure of a lifetime.

The Lightning Knight

The Lightning Knight (The Knights of Nine Book 1) by [Sean P Valiente]

The Lightning Knight (Knights Of Nine) by Sean P. Valiente is the first volume in an epic fantasy series about Oliver Quartermain a 16-year old who doesn’t believe in magic and descends from a rich, noble family with a self-centered attitude until a sudden turn of events puts him in a position to protect the magic in his world. He has to protect this magic by training a young boy, Po Pondarion who is destined to save the world by defeating an evil secret organization who seeks to destroy magic. Oliver seeks the help of his best friends Roc and Yokel, and the Knight Angels to help him prepare Po for this epic battle.

Author Sean Valiente has created a compelling narrative set in a classical setting. The story feels predictable at first, but after a few sudden and unexpected twists I was completely immersed in a story that was unpredictable yet still felt familiar. The book is filled with action and each scene is richly atmospheric. Since I’m interested in character development, I am pleased with how the author slowly evolves Oliver from a self-centered teenager into a responsible person with the task of protector and mentor to Po.

This book explores themes of loyalty, unity and teamwork in some interesting ways. Roc, Yokel, and the Knight Angels were all intriguing characters that I really want more of. The Lightning Knight is divided into two parts with the first part giving you a view into the main character’s head while the second part is in the third-person perspective that gives readers a better perspective of the story as a whole.

The Lightning Knight is a spellbinding coming of age fantasy novel that will delight sword and sorcery fans and anyone looking for a character driven adventure that is relentlessly moving forward.

Pages: 456 | ASIN: B08QL2DM9T

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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.

Watch What You Wish For

Watch What You Wish For: After all, wishes aren't always just about fairy tales... (Mariposa Mysteries Book 1) by [Valerie Anne Hudson]

Watch What You Wish For is a middle-grade story following a girl named Sophie and a tree with magical powers, infamous for being evil. I absolutely enjoyed this rousing adventure story! Although the characters are in seventh grade their age did not take away from the story’s depth; I was entertained from beginning to end.

I personally loved the character of Sophie, she’s troubled and easily influenced because she wants to be liked and she yearns for companionship–all of that made her relatable and realistic. Sure, this book has a clear morality lesson: be careful what you wish for, because you never know the outcome, but the story goes beyond the conceptual with a mystical narrative filled with expressive characters. The reader witnesses Sophie’s character slowly develop throughout the story. She has made bad decisions in the past, influenced by someone she thought was her friend and we are able to see her take accountability for her actions by the end of the story, and it is satisfying to see.

Author Valerie Anne Hudson does a wonderful job in portraying different types of friendships and relationships that Sophie has had that lead up to the beginning of the story. The refreshing writing style definitely compliments this creative story as each chapter leads up to and hints at what is to come in some entertaining ways. I am even more intrigued by how the story ended, wrapped up quite nicely but with potential for a must-read sequel. I would love to see the story behind Merle and his magic tricks.

Watch What You Wish For is a fast paced coming of age adventure novel that infuses magic and adventure into the story in inventive and captivating ways. This is the type of story I loved when I was younger. With some unforgettable scenes, inspired characters, and a fun storyline, this book will entertain anyone.

Pages: 80 | ASIN: B08SHTH5J7

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The Early Years

The Early Years by [G. Carrington, Rachel]

The Early Years: A Memoir (Matters of the Heart Book One) by Rachel G. Carrington is an autobiography that tells the story of a young girl who was born in Kentucky in 1930. Rachel Gaylord is the oldest of eleven children, and she leaves home at seventeen. This book is a collection of short stories about her growing up and life as a young adult getting married and starting a family. These stories were taken from her journal entries that were written throughout her lifetime, beginning in her teenage years.

The Early Years is a heartfelt story of young love. Brad Carrington had an interesting story to tell Rachel after he walked her home from church, and it kept me wanting to read more. I enjoyed the descriptions of daily rural life in the 1940s, such as cooking on a woodstove, gardening, canning, and laundry, which were reminiscent of stories I have heard from my own grandparents about their experiences living on a farm. I could picture scenes similar to old family photographs I’ve viewed. Some of the stories in this book were of separate unrelated incidents, but most of the stories connect to others in a related chain of events. Many of the stories were humorous, including the wedding night chivaree.

This a touching memoir that explores a young couples relationships, and shares the high and lows one woman experiences. While I enjoyed the story, I sometimes had trouble connecting things because some events were not in chronological order. There are many interesting people that come into Rachel’s life, I thought it would be helpful if the author included a family tree to make it easier for me to connect all the people. Many of the scenes are delightfully detailed, but since this is a true story I had a desire to see what these people and places actually looked like and I would have really liked to have seen some photographs. 

I desperately wanted to continue reading Rachel’s story to find out what happened after she and Brad moved their family to northern Kentucky. This is where Book Two, Dreams Born; Dream Fulfilled, picks up Rachel Gaylord Carrington’s life story. The Early Years: A Memoir is an absorbing and emotional memoir that readers will surely enjoy.

Pages: 248 | ASIN: B08TQKHQPC

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Forging Ahead and Letting Go

Crystal Z. Lee
Crystal Z. Lee Author Interview

Love and Other Moods follows a young woman who has to start life over in a foreign country where she learns a lot more about life than she expected. What was the inspiration for the setup to your story?

Much like Naomi, I left the U.S. in my early twenties and moved to China, a country I had never stepped foot in. The move was initiated by a job, but later was motivated by romance. Both would go up in smoke after a short while. Although the novel is very much fictional, there are some elements that are inspired by real-life events.

Naomi is an intriguing and well-developed character. What were some driving ideals behind your character’s development?

We meet Naomi when she is in her early twenties, having just left New York and is embarking on a new chapter of her life in an entirely foreign country. But the adventure is off to a rocky start when things don’t pan out as planned.

I think personal growth happens most often when we’re thrown out of our comfort zones and into unchartered waters. That’s what happens to Naomi. At the same time she’s adapting to her new environment, issues from her past continue to confront and haunt her. She struggles with juggling the balance between forging ahead and letting go of regrets. I think that’s something most of us can relate to.

The story explores the city of Shanghai as well as the different people and relationships Naomi has. Was there anything you pulled from your own life and put into the story?

Yes. This is very much an “own voices” story. After I moved to Shanghai, my grandfather revealed that his father had once lived in Shanghai as well, during the World War Two era. I myself had lived in China for nearly a decade, and had worked on projects for the 2007 Special Olympics in Shanghai, the 2008 Beijing Olympics, and the 2010 Shanghai World Expo.

Shanghai is one of the most fascinating cities I’ve ever been to, and I’ve traveled to over thirty countries. There are contrasts abound in every corner—east and west, old versus new, modern meets tradition. Every day I was meeting somebody interesting, from all walks of life, all corners of the globe. There was endless inspiration from the streets of Shanghai, from its inhabitants, architecture, cuisine, history, etc.

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

My next book is a children’s book, and will be published sometime in 2021. My kids are very excited about this!

Author Links: GoodReads | Instagram | Amazon

Love and Other Moods is a coming-of-age story set in contemporary China, about falling in love, learning to adult, finding strength, and discovering one’s place in the world.

Naomi Kita-Fan uproots her life from New York to China when her fiancé’s company transfers him to Shanghai. After a disastrous turn of events, Naomi finds herself with no job, no boyfriend, and nowhere to live in a foreign country.

Amidst the backdrop of Shanghai welcoming millions of workers and visitors to the 2010 World Expo, we meet a tapestry of characters through Naomi: Joss Kong, a Shanghai socialite who leads an enviable life, but must harbor the secrets of her husband, Tay Kai Tang. Logan Hayden, a womanizing restaurateur looking for love in all the wrong places. Pan Jinsung and Ouyang Zhangjie, a silver-aged couple struggling with adapting to the ever-changing faces of their city. Dante Ouyang, who had just returned to China after spending years overseas, must choose between being filial and being in love. All their dreams and aspirations interweave within the sprawling web of Shanghai.

This multilayered novel explores a kaleidoscope of shifting relationships——familial friction, amorous entanglements, volatile friendships——in one of the most dynamic metropolises of the twenty-first century.

Through Hard Work and Tenacity

Will Hallewell
Will Hallewell Author Interview

Driven follows a young man who fights to achieve his dreams while trying to pull his dad out of his depression. What was the inspiration for the setup to your story?

I was asked to participate in the Legacy Series of teen sports novels by my publisher and gladly accepted. At that same time, my wife and I were on the phone with my stepson who had played high school sports, and I asked him to help me develop a theme. He had gone through what Gabe had to go through with the rich kids in school getting playing time over those who had played hard for their four years and felt thrust aside because of wealthy parents. The theme was established.

The depression arc with Gabe’s father was based on my depression and the struggle I encountered to even get up off of the couch some days. Even though I didn’t drink my way through it, the struggle is very hard. Whenever I get the opportunity to talk about it or help others through it, I do. The white fleece jacket that Gabe’s father wore was the same one I wore each and every day of my depression. It was my security blanket, keeping me mentally safe.

Gabe is an intriguing and well developed character. What were some driving ideals behind your character’s development?

Every story has to have conflict and a hero to fight through it. Realizing what was going on in his town and that he was the only one who could help himself achieve his dreams, I wanted to use Gabe to bring focus to teenagers the concept that life isn’t handed to them, they have to go out and get it on their own through hard work and tenacity. In today’s world where so many young kids fall into that “me” mentality, I also wanted to stress the importance of family. No one is more important than family. And although I realize that not everyone has the same core family of mother and father, they still have parental role models. And, good or bad, we all need to be there for our families and friends.

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

The fact that money can’t buy you everything, the importance of family and helping those in need, and the possibility that life can be lived and conflict can be resolved with “No Hate in the Heart”. Those were the main themes.

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

I have written a series of mid-grade books called The Gazore Series, which is an older kid’s tribute to Dr. Seuss, and am currently working on turning that into a podcast with 9 episodes completed so far. My current sports book is a hockey book entitled Blindsided. The Gazore Series and Podcast are available now and Blindsided I hope to get finished soon. I am approximately two-thirds of the way through that.

Author Links: GoodReads | Twitter | Facebook | Website

Good or bad, money can be a major factor in everyone’s lives. In the lives of Charlie Shaw and his family, however, it’s what makes them happy and what makes them popular.
When they move into the small town of Falls Creek, divisions of people who have known each other for years begin to occur, and the town becomes split by the creek that bears its name. On the north side resides the Shaws and those who have latched on to their money to try and better themselves, their social status, and their baseball team’s bottom line.
On the south side, there is no influence, only layoffs at the factory. Layoffs and sadness and depression.
Gabe “Honus” Wagner is a senior at Falls Creek High school, and his family is feeling the crunch of the layoffs, his father slipping deeper and deeper into depression. All Gabe wants is a chance to get to the regional game where he and his senior friends will get to display their talents for the scouts of the nation’s biggest schools, but Nate Shaw – Charlie Shaw’s freshman son – has other ideas.
Can Gabe overcome the misguided lure of money as well as help his father out of his depression, or will he lose his chance at a scholarship and his dreams? Driven to succeed, he has to do whatever it takes with no hate in his heart.

“either locked up or dead”

P. W. Freeman
P.W. Freeman Author Interview

The Prodigal Dream follows two kids on different paths out of a troubled neighborhood and explores how their choices affect their lives. What was the inspiration for the setup to this riveting story?

The “almost made it”, “If I had it all to do over again” and “either locked up or dead” stories that permeate communities throughout the US were a catalyst. As a child the reality of hearing adults lament these narratives was hard to digest.

The Prodigal Dream became a creative way to provide an educational perspective of what can happen over a young adult’s lifetime based off their aspirations, choices, and actions.

Joe and Marlon are intriguing and well developed characters. What were some driving ideals behind their character development?

Like many youth today, both of these want to attain a great lifestyle, yet the were both also missing the presence of their Fathers. Since both characters felt the pain of poverty and this heightened their desire for a better life. Their bond of friendship was solidified by the harsh reality of their environment.

The individual paradigms and accountability-or lack there of- for their actions were two major factors. Also both the levels of high school matriculation and incarceration rates for their specific demographic provided context for character development. The other characters that they encounter on their journeys also influence their life’s trajectory.

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

The power of a Dream. Setting goals. Working hard. Walking by faith. Spoken Word. True friendship. Growth. Overcoming adversity. Forgiveness. Self-actualization. Letting your mistakes become your lessons. Never giving up-In a lot of ways Life really is what you make it.

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

The Prodigal Dream Sequel. It will be available contingent on The Prodigal Dream‘s success.

Author Links: Twitter | Facebook

An ambitious young student barely escapes a nefarious neighborhood environment after he is challenged to attain a college education. The intense conflict encountered on the road to success tests his endurance; leaving him profoundly changed. Like brothers, trying to figure how to be successful in life; driving full speed without a road map, best friends Joe and Marlon often speculate about the quickest way to achieve the American Dream. They even beat the odds to graduate from high school together. Yet as young adults pursuing the goal from drastically different perspectives, they arrive at destinations that redefine the meaning of success and the price of achieving it. In the face of urban decay and limited options, The Prodigal Dream contrasts the youthful desires of opulence against the discipline of academic study and hard work. The Prodigal Dream uses gripping realism and spoken word to highlight the power of choice. It asks the reader: where do you want to go…and how do you want to get there?
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