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Alone In A Strange World

Amanda Maynard-Schubert
Amanda Maynard-Schubert Author Interview

The Bards Of Birchtree Hall follows a young woman who moves to Ireland and discovers a family secret that reveals a whole new world and changes her life forever. What was the inspiration for the setup to your story?

I have always loved Ireland and have been fascinated by the lore of the druids and pagan peoples. As a lover of fantasy stories, I knew that Ireland was always going to inspire my story, so I researched all I could about the Tuatha Dè Denann and the Celtic gods and goddesses. Having spent much of my childhood reading books about the Greek and Roman deities, it was wonderful to explore another system of immortals.

A lot of my inspiration also came from nature and music. Music, in particular, has been a constant presence in my life – indeed, I cannot go a day without listening to some form of music! It is a language that transcends time and space, and I loved the idea that we are all connected by this mystical force. The same goes for nature – we cannot survive without it, and it certainly carries its own magic! For my Bards, I wanted to highlight that their sensitivity to the elements and the vibrations that unite every living thing is what enables them to do what they do. Their power is inherently built into their blood, but, like ordinary humans, the way they use their gifts is unique to them. Having been lucky enough to visit Ireland in 2019, and to experience what it is like to be completely surrounded by nature without the influence of human activity, it really inspired me to express this magical feeling in a story, and to explore the myths and legends that make their history so fascinating.

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

When I was a young teen, I remember reading the books by author Tamora Pierce, which follow strong, independent girls as they grow and mature into who they want to be, often overcoming adversity and opposition, while always staying true to themselves. As a shy, quiet teen, these girls became role models to me – they inspired me and I drew a lot of strength from them. As an author now myself, I wanted to be able to give other young girls a protagonist who was utterly and completely relatable, someone they could see themselves in. Neala is not flawless or perfect. She has moments of doubt, she has days where she struggles and things become overwhelming, and she doesn’t always have the answers. For me, I needed Neala to be a true sixteen-year-old girl; someone who is still working out who she is, who can be socially awkward at times, yet still grounded. I wanted her to be the hero I needed when I was that age – a girl who could absolutely be my best friend in real life.

When Neala starts discovering her power, the magical world she is part of, and that she is particularly unique in what she can do, it was important to me that she approached all this in a very natural way, because the reader is discovering all of these things as Neala does. Having her doubting what she is seeing, of trying to rationalise what is happening as anything but magic, and navigating each new revelation as best she can, it makes her a relatable character and helps the world unfold around the reader in a very real, tangible way. Neala is, in many ways, an ordinary girl. My driving ideal behind her creation was bringing to life a girl who readers could connect with, relate to, and, ultimately, grow with throughout the story.

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

For much of my life, I have wondered who I truly am, and what my purpose is. This quest for self-discovery, I believe, is one that many people experience. Particularly young people. One of the reasons I love writing for YA is these teens are just beginning to find themselves, and to explore the wider world around them and how they fit into it. It is a time for experimenting, for trying new things, and for finding people who make them feel like they belong. This is the core theme of my book, and will be for the trilogy as a whole. In a world that seems to be changing and evolving at a much faster rate than it has before, it can be so easy to lose ourselves in the flurry of life. For Neala, this is expressed in her struggle to cope with the sudden loss of her father and the subsequent relocation to the other side of the world. Everything she knew about herself and her world has literally just been swept out from under her, and she finds herself having to learn and adapt to a very new version of who she is.

This theme, this longing we all have to feel connected, not only to others like us, but to ourselves in general, is one that plenty of people can relate to; certainly not just teenagers. Part of what appeals about Neala is she gives us a way to vicariously go through our own journey of self-discovery, of learning about what we are truly capable of, and, sometimes, our hesitation to take that leap into the unknown, particularly when it all gets too overwhelming. Friendship becomes vitally important to Neala; by connecting with others like her, to people who understand what she is going through and who can share in her experiences, Neala begins to feel more comfortable and confident in herself and her power. The theme of family, community, and friendship is also one that was important for me to explore, because the people we surround ourselves with can truly impact our growth, for better or worse. Not just for Young Adults, but everyone who has felt lost and alone in a strange world!

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

I am very excited to be releasing the sequel to ‘The Bards of Birchtree Hall’ very soon! Pre-orders will be opening in September for a November release. The book is titled ‘The Vengeance of The Morrígan’, and it follows Neala and her friends as they come to grips with the choice they made at the end of book one, and the consequences that follow. The world they find themselves in is nothing like the one they imagined; the scars of betrayal run deep through the land, and the Guardians are not welcome here. Navigating a world where mistrust and suspicion hangs like a shroud over the land, and war is imminent, Neala and her friends learn the truth about why the Gate was created and what they must do to restore balance to the worlds. Because the Morrígan, the Goddess of War, is coming for vengeance on those who have wronged her. And no one is safe.

Author Links: Amazon | GoodReads

Neala Moran knew that moving to Ireland would change her life…but she never imagined this.
From the moment she arrives, strange things start to happen – things she cannot explain.
Why did her unusual birthmark – the pale one in the shape of a leaf – start hurting the moment she touched that tree? How is a gigantic horse with glowing yellow eyes materialising from the ocean? And who is the mysterious visitor who speaks to her in her dreams calling her ‘Neala Stormbringer?’ Neala also discovers a long held family secret – she is a Bard. Part-human, part-Faerie – ancient magic flows in her blood and she now must learn to control her elemental powers to discover the meaning behind her affinity with thunderstorms.
Because danger is coming…a threat that no one is prepared for. The Otherworld – home of the Fae and other magical creatures – has been sealed off for centuries by a magical barrier known as ‘The Gate.’ But it will not hold forever…
The Guardians are being summoned. Their purpose is to protect.
Will Neala risk everything to save the ones she loves? Or will she turn her back on her destiny?

The Witch’s Cookbook

The Witch's Cookbook: A Faerie Tale by [Vee James, Nikita Nel, Hannibal Hills]

The Witch’s Cook Book by Vee James is a whimsical tale of faerie that follows our main character, Tardnattle.  Tardnattle is of the Sgahm people, who believes in friendship, cooking, and being good people. He lives happily in his cottage, until the day the storm rolls in. Then his journey unfolds as he and his friends are tasked with returning a cookbook to a spooky witch—and while this seems impossible and frightening, they are Sgahm, and the Sgahm will always do the right thing even when that seems to be overwhelmingly intimidating.

The Witch’s Cook Book is a heartwarming adventure tale full of the fairytales we all love from our childhoods with James’ own inventive storytelling intertwined. Throughout the story, the reader is treated to themes of friendship, love, and the goodness of one’s heart. While this is a book geared toward younger readers, I think anyone of any age could enjoy it, especially when it comes to the loveliness of fairytale nostalgia.

I loved the creative world built in The Witch’s Cook Book. James takes care in inventing wonderful and intriguing fantastical creatures among those known in lore. I especially loved the descriptions of the Sgahm people, and how their innocent desires for joy were manifested in the good deeds that they did for others. The magic that fills this book shows that first impressions are not everything, and I found each character so heartwarming as we learned more about them.

While I loved the lore that James invented, I simultaneously found myself wanting more of it. There are many creatures mentioned with fun names and beautiful descriptions, and I would have loved to learn about everyone that James mentions throughout the story. However, the inventive characters that we do get to meet with in depth histories are exciting and make this story a memorable one.

The Witch’s Cook Book by Vee James is a sweet read that promises a cozy night. It’s a beautiful tale of working together and forming lasting bonds that is sure to remind you that even in the darkest times, a dear friend can be found.

Pages: 237 | ASIN: B095J3VWPH

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The Cursed Fae

The Cursed Fae (Accessory to Magic Book 2) by [Kathrin Hutson]

The Cursed Fae by Kathrin Hutson brings back beloved badass protagonist, Jessica Northwood, into chaos again, after the intense events of the first book from the Accessory to Magic series. This time she has to find a way to fix the bank’s malfunction while predicaments from the past step slowly back into her life. And as if all of that isn’t enough, she has to handle the curiosity of numerous magicals, both inside and outside the bank, about the gateway upstairs, which she can’t satisfy since she doesn’t know a thing about what’s going on.

This creates a tense atmosphere of mystery throughout the book ensuring the reader is engaged throughout this well defined fantasy story. But it isn’t dense at all, there’s lots of humor to go with it! Jessica’s dialogue with the bank inside her mind are one of the highlights, witty even in the moments of action. The dialogue is humorous and sharp. It showcases the nature of her relationships, whether it is her verbal sparring with Leandras (yes, he’s back!) or her mysterious interactions with Mel. The best thing about the protagonist is her attitude, she doesn’t shy away from a fight or a sarcastic remark. But her fatal flaw is not wanting to face her past problems, a theme in the book and I bet in the rest of the series. Another highlight of the book are the actions scenes. The first part of the novel is a bit slow, but the second half has lots of action that propels us forward, using the well – written dialogue as foil for the physical conflict. At the end of the book, Jessica is closer to getting her answers, but not quite yet, since the book sets up a cliffhanger which is bound to make you grab the next installment as soon as possible.

With interesting characters, an intriguing fantasy world and engaging conflict The Cursed Fae is a lively urban fantasy novel that infuses just the right amount of humor into this dark paranormal story to keep you coming back for more.

Pages: 290 | ASIN: B08T9Y58PY

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The Ranatanland Tales

The Ranatanland Tales by [Lloyd Chiasson]

Books transport us to other times and places, but none of us have quite the same experience as Gus. Thanks to his grandfather’s extraordinary storytelling abilities, Gus finds himself in a magical place called Ranatanland. When Gus finds himself swept into the land of the Poppingras and Sassafras, he can’t believe what he sees. The story read by his grandfather centers around Joey Perch and Willie G Soon and their day of adventure in a most astonishing land. They have a first day of school unlike any other imaginable. The most amazing thing about their big day? It hasn’t even happened yet!

The Ranatanland Tales, by Lloyd Chiasson, Jr., is a fascinating tale of magic, mystery, and adventure. Multiple stories within a story, it is one of my favorite styles of writing for young readers. Gus and his family await a hurricane while listening to a grandfather’s amazing tale. Chiasson does a fabulous job setting up the fantasy portion of his book. From the very first paragraphs, I was greeted with shades of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. Chiasson’s work goes far beyond the dynamic, but the feeling is definitely there.

From an encounter with a dragon who doesn’t breathe fire but does read their thoughts to eating brightly colored clover with the flavors of the finest sweets, Joey and Wille G, their trek leads them through some enchanted lands on the way to discover the secret of Holiday Stream. Young readers will be drawn quickly into the first story; the mystical beings who inhabit Ranatanland are simply captivating. The human emotions given Chiasson’s characters only serve to make grandfather’s tales all the more appealing and relatable.

One of the most endearing aspects of Chiasson’s writing is Gus’s reactions to the stories his grandfather reads. He is a child swept up in the sheer power of imagination, and his excitement and love of a good story is almost palpable. Gus and his grandparents’ narrative is every bit as engaging as the fantasy element of Rantanaland.

Young readers looking for a fantasy steeped in unique characters and amusing storylines wrapped neatly in the story-within-a-story packaging will find Chiasson’s work right up their alley. There exist in Chiasson’s tales bits of wisdom and advice shared throughout the characters’ adventures. Young readers will appreciate the gentle way in which these life lessons are revealed.

Pages: 119 | ASIN: B08SRDLV7G

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Whizzojack

David Bush
David Bush Author Interview

The Joyous Adventures of Whizzojack is a collection of short stories following a boy who dons a costume and helps others in his neighborhood. What was the inspiration for the idea behind Whizzojack?

I have read many Spiderman stories to my five year old great-nephew, Jack. He always surprised me by countering my stories with stories of his own, He created the characters and their names. He also instructed me on how to draw these characters. These were the sketches which I then submitted to the illustrators. The basic ideas of the novel are his. Jack and I together created the stories, while I filled in the more high flown details. Jack, who could neither read nor write, built the skeleton of the story, I added flesh and all the rest to it. That, in short, describes the anatomy of the book. Jack is the main protagonist of the novel as Whizzojack. He emulates his superhero and believes himself to be a force for good in the neighbourhood, constantly flitting to the various flashpoints of the city, trying to help out where he could.

Whizzojack is a fun and imaginative character. What were some driving ideals behind your character’s development?

In a sense, the book is autobiographical. We called our parents Pa Tony and Ma Mollie. My father was a senior civil servant, an economist, statistician, auditor general and a university professor. My mother was a pharmacist. The main superpower that Whizzojack thinks he has is his moral formation and common sense, fruits of a good upbringing. The stories also reflects the character of the real life character, Jack. His imagination, good nature, last but not least his willingness to learn and help. This book is as much a tribute to my own parents as it is to the innocence and initiative of Jack. In real life, Jack has a curious, inquisitive mind, constantly seeking new experiences and conducting experiments be it in the garden, the bath or wherever. That too, is incorporated in the story.

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

In the last decade, the Mediterranean Sea has become a dangerous throughfare for refugees fleeing war-torn countries on rickety boats. What I find striking is the utter disdain and indifference of the authorities in the refugees’ regard, no doubt acting on behalf of the assenting public. This translates into the refusal of various countries to take on the responsibility of search and rescue operations. Once the migrants are reluctantly admitted into the country, they are vilified and stigmatised as agents of disease and crime, who can never integrate. Essentially, at worse they are treated as criminals, at best as undesirable intruders. Sometimes they are even dehumanized. Despite the palpable hostility, they are shamelessly exploited by employers thriving in the black economy. Though the authorities are aware, they turn a blind eye to the abuses. The employers fiercely and openly protect their right to utilize these underpaid, nonunionized workers in menial jobs under degrading conditions knowing full well that the authorities will not enforce legislation. If anything, the politicians whip up the xenophobia of the masses to win votes at election time. Although some of the migrants behave badly, which only serves to fan the racial prejudice, they live in abominable conditions at times suitable for animals. Unless they prove themselves useful, they are dismissed as an unwelcome subhuman nuisance to progressive society. The authorities seem to have an interest to keep the migrants’ living conditions suboptimal to act firstly as a deterrent for other refugees who may be considering the voyage and secondly to tacitly coerce the immigrants into leaving of their own volition.

This story is an allegory about people who are different to us. It deals with racism and immigration as seen through the eyes of a young boy. Whether, the immigrant behave badly or not, he empathizes with them and tries to help them integrate despite the rampant popular prejudice. This is all about respect and tolerance for the disadvantaged minorities and about having strong principles despite the fickleness of the masses.

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

Being a practicing doctor, it hasn’t been easy to write. I dedicated two hours in the early morning before going to hospital to writing two novels. At the moment, I’m concentrating on the promotion and marketing of the two books which is quite a handful for a novice and self-publisher at that. I have many ideas for writing new historical novels. I’ll let the ideas germinate for a few more years, and in six years’ time when I retire, I should have plenty of time to take up the writing pen again.

Author Links: GoodReads | Amazon

This book chronicles the adventures of an eight year old boy who admires the comic strip superheroes. He fancies himself a superhero. He calls himself Whizzojack and goes into action after donning a whizzojack costume which gives him “special” powers. He uses these powers to help others. Does he make matters worse? Whizzojack interacts delightfully with thirty eight colourful villains. The results of these relationships are comic, poignant and unpredictable. They have unexpected effects on the wellbeing of the fictional city, Jacktown.
Spiderman juggles with Aesop in this 21st century Parable of the Talents.

My Own Version

Luis Ammerman
Luis Ammerman Author Interview

Against All Odds is a historical romance novel that gives a Regency spin to the Cinderella story. What inspired you to write this story?

When I was a kid I love the story of Cinderella there was so many version of the story and movies based on Cinderella. I wanted to write my own version of the classic story and and bring it do a Regency era. There is one Cinderella story that stays to my heart is a book called Yeh-Shen by Ai-Ling Louie I found the story magical. So over the years I am grateful to write my own version of the classic tale.

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

Hazel was inspired by my mom and big sister. I took inspiration of both them to make my character. After losing our father long ago. Our mom work 2 jobs to take care of us and my sister made sure that I was watch when our mom was at work. I took from each of them and put them in the blinder and Hazel came alive in my story. My mom with heart and working hard and never giving up. And my sister who is strong and heartwarming.

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

Making Hazel a strong person. Letting her know that she not along in the world. And there always a choice to make even when you have to give up the things you love to get away from the bad to find the good.

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

At the moment I am working on a Suspense Thriller that takes place in 1888. I know it will be out next year. Crossing fingers.

Author Links: Amazon | GoodReads

A wicked stepmother plots to keep Hazel from the love of her life in this delicious Regency spin on Cinderella. Hazel is a baron’s daughter, but after losing both parents, she’s stuck living with her unlikable stepmother. Penniless, Hazel spends her days doing chores but dreams of finding a handsome husband to take her away from her fruitless life.The Duke of Caldwell isn’t interested in marrying the first woman who comes along. He wants someone beautiful and unique–someone who embodies the properties of his late mother. But women like that don’t come along too often, so he bides his time in hopes he will find someone to share his life with.When his carriage breaks down and a beautiful woman stops to assist, he knows he’s found the woman for him. But courting her proves to be a challenge because Hazel’s stepmother interferes at every turn. Just when Hazel finally thinks she’ll find true happiness, a shocking turn of events results in her losing everything.But some things are worth fighting for. But how long will Hazel fight before she admits defeat?

The Journey to Finding My Way

Rachael Higgins
Rachael Higgins Author Interview

Twinkle’s Starlight follows a star on a journey through the universe to find its light. What was the inspiration for the setup to your story?

My inspiration for Twinkle’s Starlight came from a self-reflection of my own experience. I spent my twenties studying and travelling, trying to find my place in the universe. Sometimes I looked for answers in the wrong places, but it was all part of the journey to finding my way to becoming who I am. It is, and was, an adventure of self-discovery, which I think is a lifelong quest for us all as we each navigate our way through different or similar circumstances. We all have our own light within us, and once found, we should let it shine as brightly as we can, so we can guide others when the opportunity arises to do so.

I loved the beautiful art pieces in this book. What was the art collaboration like with illustrator Carole Higgins?

The collaboration with Carole Higgins was an awesome experience. Once I had formed the script of the story, I passed the manuscript on to Carole to create the illustrations. All the artwork is Carole’s visual perception of the message found within the text, there was no storyboarding, just “this is the story, would you like to do the illustrations?” Which is a totally different technique to how Carole usually works.

On canvas, Carole would usually use a live or photographic reference for the portrait interpretation. She did an amazing job in rising to the new challenge of book illustration. Carole is an amazingly creative and imaginative artist, and the person who I have to thank for my own creativity as ‘Twinkle’s Starlight’ was the result of mother-daughter collaboration.

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

The main theme of importance for me is that through our individual life journeys we will encounter times of struggle, excitement, despair, loneliness, happiness, companionship and so on. But in the end, when we achieve our goals, and find where we belong, it will all be worth it as long as we don’t give up.

Sometimes other people might not be willing or able to help, or simply do not agree with the path we are on.

Sometimes you might not be willing or able to receive the help that is offered. Sometimes you might be walking with someone on parallel paths that seem the same but eventually diverge.

Sometimes you will be on the path entirely alone.

And sometimes you will be surrounded by people.

In every circumstance, it is ok, and you will find your way as long as you keep going. I would be lying if I said I had all this figured out in my own life. But that is what ‘Twinkle’s Starlight’ is all about – the journey of figuring out where you belong in life, and looking toward the future.

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

As author, I am currently working on another illustrated children’s book. The availability is yet to be confirmed.

In an editorial role, ‘You Can’t Ride a Yak: Looking for yaks and finding God’s call in Nepal’ written by Sarah Reardon was recently released by Ark House. ‘You Can’t Ride a Yak,’ is the autobiography of Sarah’s journey in founding the Wise Woman Project charity organisation. It is an amazing story of strength, faith, hope, and love for both people and country. The book is available for purchase from the WWP website (https://wisewomanproject.com) and Ark House Press (https://www.arkhousepress.com/you-cant-ride-a-yak/).

Author Links: GoodReads | Facebook

Twinkle shines brightly over the heavens and earth, among all the other stars. Then one night, the little star loses his starlight and must journey across the universe to find Sol. Along the way, the little star encounters the many planets of the Milky Way. Will Twinkle succeed in his quest to find starlight, and shine brightly once more?

Twinkle’s Starlight is an illustrated children’s book that explores the effects of losing sight of self and purpose. As the star travels through the universe to find it’s light once more, Twinkle seeks help from all the planets. The moral of the story highlights that it is alright to need and seek help. However, life is a journey and seeking the right people for support is important in keeping motivated to achieve goals. It takes dedication and commitment to succeed and keep the passion alive.

Daughter of the Gods – Book Trailer

Summer, 367 A.D. The Celtic tribes of the lands we now know as Scotland and Ireland conspire to assault Hadrian’s Wall and drive the Romans out of Britain forever. But in order for the warriors to achieve victory in the military campaign, the druids must first gain ascendancy over the new Roman god.

Amid clandestine preparations for war, Flora, a young Pictish healer, finds herself embroiled in an epic struggle between gods and men. In order to save her family, her clan, and her people, she is called upon to sacrifice not only her life, but her very identity. Feeling trapped in a web of manipulation and deceit, she struggles to discover the true reality of who she is and who she will become.

Set in the Scottish Highlands, this story brings to life an age and a people that have remained veiled in the mists of time. Based on extensive research into the archaeology, culture, and geography of fourth-century Scotland, Daughter of the Gods explores the mysterious people knowns as the Picts—a collection of tribes so determined to retain their freedom that they dared to defy the mightiest army the ancient world had ever known.

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