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Treasury of Feel-Good Stories

Karina McRoberts
Karina McRoberts Author Interview

Dargo: Eco Hero follows a lonely young man as he rises from despair in his going-nowhere-fast job to his new position as hero for the environment. What was the inspiration for the setup to your story?

This came from many sources. Part from a dream (the character’s first name and the bone thing). Part from my childhood adoration of my older brother. Part from a recent visit to Northern California, where I was shocked by mile after mile of freeway with memorials to fallen highway patrol officers, many with Hispanic names (hence Fernandez). Part from my own experience of being bullied in the workplace. Part from my ongoing love affair with music. Part from my life-long love of nature. Part by the First Nations American elder who saved his people from annihilation due to his translatory skills and eloquence of speech. Part from the ordinary cold-war Russian soldier who did NOT hit the red button to signal incoming nuclear attack (otherwise, we would not be having this conversation, I suspect). All this reminded me of what just one person can do, even though they may feel at the end of their tether.

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

There are plenty of people who don’t fit into everyday society. So many have suffered as a result, and of course still do. I wanted to say that no matter how hard things get, be exactly who you are.

And please BE. Don’t give up. Things will turn around. Hang in there. There may be 7.5 billion people and counting in this world, and the pressure to conform to the idealised ‘thing’ is greater than ever, but we need YOU! As Samara Jones learns in The Girl with Ten Diamonds, my companion novella to Dargo, “You can’t clone a soul”.

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

This disconnect between humanity and nature, and how that problem might be addressed. Because it absolutely must be! You can’t save it if you don’t love it, and you can’t love it if you don’t know it.

Also, personal redemption. So very, very important in this increasingly crowded and competitive world. I wonder how many fell through the cracks-of-no-return just today…

So, as Dargo discovers, he begins by lifting spirits, and that includes his own.

I really hope this book lifts readers’ spirits in these very tough times we find ourselves in. Especially important for those trying to save the Earth. It’s a tough gig, and I hope Dargo can provide a little solidarity and joy.

Find nature and you will find yourself — worked for me!

Thanks for reading.

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

Kahnilla the Dragon. She will be the 6th instalment in this Treasury of Feel-Good Stories. This series follows the style of Dargo – examination of serious, topical issues through humorous story-telling.

The series has stories for all ages. Kahnilla is another adult fairy-tale. It deals with hate and its cost, and how young people and others learn to hate by following wrong information. The story focusses on the importance of true listening, thinking for oneself, and getting one’s facts from reliable sources. We really need to, more than ever!

Kahnilla is in production now, and will hopefully be out early next year.

Author Links: GoodReads | Twitter | Facebook | Website

HILARIOUS, HEART-WARMING, DIFFERENT and DELIGHTFUL!
A lonely young man suffers a massive defeat. When all is lost, he meets a fiery fortune-teller who pleads with him to save her.
Can he re-invent himself as a hero?
A light-hearted but poignant little story, Dargo is humorous and heart-warming; a fairy-tale for adults.
You can also read this to your children who care about Earth. And, if they don’t, Dargo will help them to do so!
An enjoyable timely tale that will appeal to the magic in all of us.
Illustrations

Take A Closer Look

Nikki Minty
Nikki Minty Author Interview

Pastel Pink follows a girl who was murdered on Earth and reincarnated on Zadok, but when her human spirit is drawn back to Earth she’s plunged into a world of intrigue on both planets. What was the inspiration for the setup to your story?

My son Randall Jackson, AKA RJ, helped to inspire The Zadok Series.

We were sitting in the library waiting for his sister to finish her art class when the question “I wonder what happens after you die” came up.

RJ said, “Wouldn’t it be cool if every time we died, we regenerated onto a different Planet?”

Of course, I jumped on this idea and together we discussed what the different races on the next planet would look like and what new capabilities/powers they would have.

As a tribute, I’ve modelled a character after my son RJ. He has Aspergers/Autism and is quirky with a brain like an encyclopaedia.

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

I wanted Harlow to be different to Ruby even though they are theoretically the same Zeek/person. Ruby is confident and outspoken whereas Harlow’s confidence has been crushed due to years of being told she is worthless. Harlow starts meeker and milder and then builds into someone much stronger. She learns to stand up against the haters.

I thought the color caste system was creative and intriguing. Where did this idea come from and how did it evolve as you wrote?

The overall message of The Zadok Series is one of acceptance. Just like here on Earth with humans, Zeeks face prejudice characters who are intent on making their lives a living hell.

Not only that, there are different Zadonian races, and they feud with one another. Not everything is as it seems. Sometimes there’s more to the story than meets the eye.

Don’t let others force you into believing a certain race, colour, or way of living is wrong. Take a closer look and let yourself be the decider.

This is book one in your Zadok Series. What can readers expect in book two?

Expect to see more of the Drakes and Vallons and discover how they live in the following two books of the series.

Author Links: GoodReads | Twitter | Website | Instagram

From one ending comes a new beginning…Ruby was murdered on Earth eighteen years ago and reincarnated on Zadok as a Pastel Zeek named Harlow. To be born at the bottom of her race’s caste colour system to a middle-class family of Magentas has made Harlow a source of conflict amongst the ruling Purples, and a source of derision from all three colours.When Harlow is attacked by a fuegor on Zadok, the effects of its slow reacting venom triggers an unforeseen phenomenon, and due to the strong connection she had with her former twin sister Jade, her human spirit is unexpectedly drawn back to Earth. Now living a double life, she has plunged into a world of intrigue on both planets.On earth, she watches on in horror as Jade reconnects with Lucas, the man who murdered her and got away with it. And to complicate things further, she’s being pursued by Alex, the ghost of Lucas’ twin. On Zadok, she becomes embroiled with Jax, the son of the Commanding family. He’s determined to bring about change to the colony’s colour system, but it’ll come at a cost.As Harlow mixes with the political intrigue of the Zeeks, will she become a victim of those trying to rigidly maintain the status quo or will she usher in a revolution? And will ghost Ruby resist the temptation of the handsome Alex or pursue an impossible relationship that could have dire consequences on both planets?

Dargo

Dargo: Eco Hero! (Treasury of Feel-Good Stories) by [Karina McRoberts]

Poor Dargo Fernandez. He doesn’t want much out of life. In fact, he really wants nothing more than to belong. At the rate he is going, he won’t even  accomplish that much. His life is more of an existence than anything–he has no social life to speak of. When Dargo comes face to face with the fact that even his meager position in the company is in jeopardy, he heads for home with his heart on his sleeve. Wondering how he will be able to pay his bills, Dargo finds himself creating a laundry list of new worries on his journey home. Before he can even begin to resolve his issues, he is quite literally swept away to face a whole new challenge

Dargo: Eco Hero, by Karina McRoberts, follows main character Dargo Fernandez as he rises from the depths of despair in his going-nowhere-fast job to his new position as hero for the environment. McRoberts’s work hits on a few genres but hones in primarily on fantasy. In fact, it gives me the best kind of Wizard of Oz vibes. The author has nailed the same type of warmth as L. Frank Baum but puts her own unique spin on main character Dargo and his band of merry cohorts.

The ecological lessons conveyed in McRoberts’s work are huge ones. She is successful in creating quite an impact with her words and the experiences of her cast of characters. I was especially impressed with the mixture of personification and metaphors found throughout the writing. The imagery she creates leaves readers breathless at times. Her writing is timely and gives voice to the environment in a way no other writer I have seen has been able to do.

Dargo: Eco Hero is a short read, easily digestible in one sitting, it packs an important punch–and one we all need to feel right about now. Protecting and appreciating the earth for the miracle it is tops this author’s list of priorities. Readers looking for a hard dose of truth in their fantasy reads will appreciate McRoberts’s style and character development. I highly recommend Dargo’s story to anyone looking for something different, something fun, and a book that will leave them smiling.

Pages: 85 | ASIN: B083RBML74

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It Always Felt Incomplete

Rizwan Asad
Rizwan Asad Author Interview

Dio in the Dark finds the Gods of Greek myth living among mortals, and when Zeus goes missing in Toronto it’s up to his son to find him. What was the inspiration for the setup to your story?

Honestly, this story began as practice. I wrote a short story several years ago to experiment where I felt the Greek gods would fit into today’s world. It always felt incomplete to me, and I revisited it some years later, and it turned into this novella.

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

Thank you! Dio was a challenging character for me to write for the same reasons that he experiences challenges in his life. How can one forgive their father for murdering their mother? How do you respect yourself when the only thing people like about you is the same thing everyone mocks? His story is very much about learning to accept himself as a god, while tuning into a sense of familial responsibility rooted somewhere deep within.

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

Acceptance of oneself, familial responsibility, and the long-lasting effects of trauma.

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

I’m working on the sequel to Dio in the Dark! It doesn’t have a title yet…or a release date, though I’m hoping it will be out by late-2022 or early-2023.

My next release is a children’s picture book called “City Kitties”. It’s scheduled to release on December 3rd, 2021.

Author Links: GoodReads | Twitter | Facebook | Website

The powers of the pantheon have faded. The gods live amongst the mortals, grasping for what little of their divinity remains.
When Zeus – King of the Gods – goes missing in modern-day Toronto, it is up to his estranged son, Dio, to find him.
And with rumours of The Darkness coming, Dio will have to race to find his father, and uncover the truth before it’s too late!

Winterset Hollow

Winterset Hollow keeps readers on edge throughout this riveting story. The author is expressive, entertaining and writes in an intriguing manner which really benefits this alluring story. Winterset Hollow is a great book to read if you enjoy suspense, drama, and plot twists all delivered with a good sense of humor. The construction of the plot, development of characters and the style of narration were all excellent. Jonathan Durham does an amazing job with his writing as he describes events and characters in a way that the reader can visualize.

Winterset Hollow will have you experience all sorts of emotions through the chapters. The book opens with a backstory on each character which sets up the characters nicely before we get into the depths of the mystery at the heart of this dark fantasy novel. I enjoyed how the tone of the novel slowly changes as the story progresses from cheerful to somber, but does so almost effortlessly, to the point where I really didn’t think about it until the story was over and I reflected on what happened.

Winterset Hollow follows the story of a group of friends that enjoy adventure and exploring. These friends have the best of times among themselves. Certain eerie events however have them questioning reality, wondering what is real and what is not. I love how curious they were and appreciate the author for making the characters diverse and relatable.

I recommend Winterset Hollow to readers that enjoy books that easily combine action, melodrama, and engaging dialogue. While I wish the story was a bit longer, I think this novel provides a fantastically refreshing mix of dark fairytale storytelling with a contemporary edge. With a lot going on and unexpected twists around every corner, the solid writing ensures readers always know what is going on in this captivating novel.

Pages: 326 | ASIN: B09F9YKSRT

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Dio in the Dark

Dio in the Dark by [Rizwan Asad]

In this modern take on classic Greek mythology, Rizwan Asad creates a world poisoned by darkness in this short novella, Dio in the Dark. Dionysus, “Dio,” is over thousands of years old, and yet, in the twentieth century, he has chosen to play the role of a young adult. Sadly, over the years, he has become moody and depressed; constantly at odds with his father, Zeus. Night after night he explores the city of Toronto going from one party to the next in a haze of alcohol-induced numbness and crowded by sweaty, dancing bodies. One night, after partying and drinking, Dio spots a woman tied to a bridge. He rescues the woman fated to be sacrificed to the darkness only to discover that without her sacrifice the world would be destroyed. With his father missing, it is up to Dio to save the world from an unknown entity.

The author’s passion and creativity are shown through his vivid, descriptive writing. Asad creates an air of humanity around the gods, displaying the worse and the best parts of people. For some minor characters, Asad stays true to their original depiction in Greek mythologies and does it well. Asad changed some of the stories and information from the original mythologies to conform to his story making this an intriguing twist. For example, Semele, the princess of Thebes was not tricked by Nyx (Goddess of the Night) but Hera (Queen of the Gods) when Hera discovered Zeus’ infidelity. Though, true to the mythology, after Zeus killed Semele, he sowed Dionysus into his thigh and gave birth to him. In Dio in the Dark, Hades is portrayed as one of many antagonists. His role in the story was a little confusing. It is hard to tell if it is Hades who kidnaps Zeus for the sake of a bargain he made with Apollo, or if it was Nyx, to prevent him from stopping the end of the world.

The structure of the story is similar to a murder mystery, revealing pieces of the story bit by bit making the reader want to read more. Asad has creatively recreated these stories and the reader can tell a lot of hard work and love was put into this novella. There’s no definitive antagonist and protagonist, though Dionysus is a strong contender for the role of protagonist. I would’ve liked for the story to have been longer so I could’ve learned more about the characters.

Dio in the Dark is a great short story that takes the reader on a mythical adventure.

Pages: 170 | ASIN: B09FFR4M6D

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Scroonathan: A Diwali Story

Scroonathan: A Diwali Story by [Ram Tirthdas Daryanani]

Scroonathan: A Diwali Story by Ram T Daryanani takes the story of A Christmas Carol and views it through a contemporary Indian lens. We see the typical character of “Scrooge” in an entirely new light. Scroonathan is an excellent businessman, and the story opens with the death of his firm partner, Balaji. Scroonathan is a shrewd and frugal man who values money above all else, even the lives of others around him and the celebration of Diwali.

Many of us are familiar with the story of A Christmas Carol, and it’s so refreshing to see these same themes explored through Indian society. It shows that selfishness and cruelty can be universal, yet they can also be unlearned as we welcome generosity into our lives. As we see Scroonathan turn down kind words from those around him, it’s clear that he has shut himself off from joy. However, the ghosts of his past come to visit and set the record straight, and the story becomes a beautiful exploration of character growth.

I found Scroonathan: A Diwali Story to be a touching retelling of A Christmas Carol. This book allows a classic story to live on in the contemporary world and creates a shared experience between people of all nationalities. It teaches everyone to be thankful for what they have and generous with what they share, to ultimately live more fulfilling lives.

I would have liked to see even more descriptions of Scroonathan’s home and life in India. I think the setting makes this story so unique, and as someone who has never been to India, I was fascinated learning about how Scroonathan reflects the same experiences of the original text in his homeland.

Scroonathan: A Diwali Story by Ram T Daryanani is such a unique take on a story that has lasted throughout decades, and I think everyone could benefit from reading this book and experiencing a different cultural connotation. I loved learning about Diwali while simultaneously feeling the life lessons associated with the classic tale.

Pages: 98 | ASIN: B09C6L6Z47

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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?
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