M9B Friday Reveal: Cover Reveal – The Requiem Red by Brynn Chapman with Giveaway #M9BFridayReveals



Welcome to this week’s M9B Friday Reveal!

This week, we are revealing the cover for

The Requiem Red by Brynn Chapman

an upcoming Month9Books Title!

Be sure to enter the giveaway found at the end of the post!


The Requeim Red

Patient Twenty-nine.

A monster roams the halls of Soothing Hills Asylum. Three girls dead. 29 is endowed with the curse…or gift of perception. She hears messages in music, sees lyrics in paintings. And the corn. A lifetime asylum resident, the orchestral corn music is the only constant in her life.

Mason, a new, kind orderly, sees 29 as a woman, not a lunatic. And as his belief in her grows, so does her self- confidence. That perhaps she might escape, might see the outside world.

But the monster has other plans. The missing girl’s share one common thread…each was twenty-nine’s cell mate.

Will she be next?

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Title: The Requiem Red
Publication date: 2016
Publisher: Month9Books, LLC.
Author: Brynn Chapman






Brynn Chapman is published in Historical and Historical Fantasy Romance for adult books. She also writes under R.R. Smythe for Young Adult Historical Fantasy.

Website- www.brynnchapmanauthor.com

She also blogs with the wonderful authors, Grace Burrowes, Hope Ramsay, Alix Rickloff and many others at http://blameitonthemuse.com

Connect: Website | @rrsmythe | Facebook | Goodreads | Pinterest



Complete the Rafflecopter below for a chance to win!

Title will be sent to the winner upon it’s release.


a Rafflecopter giveaway



Christmas Giveaway!

christmas treeHi Everyone!!!

Today is a really good day because tomorrow kicks off my very first Christmas Santa Giveaway!!

Why am I doing this?

Well, #1 reason is because it’s a Christmas giveaway! Who doesn’t like getting Christmas presents, eh?

#2 reason is to say thanks for tagging along with me this year, commenting on my blog, and just being your super-duper selves!!

#3 reason – it’s fun to give away stuff!

What’s up for grabs?

There are 3 prizes:

3rd Prize:  a $5 Starbucks Gift card

2nd Prize:  $15 of Starbucks Gift cards

Grand Prize:

  • Undisclosed number of YA books signed by the authors (it’s a Christmas Santa surprise, but I can tell you it will be between 3 and 5 books)
  • Swag from several authors
  • a special gift from moi

How can you enter to win?

Simply follow the instructions in the rafflecopter link below.




Oh, and make sure you share with everyone!!

Who is eligible to win!

The giveaway is only open to residents of the continental United States (sorry folks, but shipping outside the U.S. is expensive.)

Contest begins November 20, 2015 and ends December 10, 2015. Winners to be announced December 11. Prizes to be sent to winners no later than December 14, 2015.

Good luck and

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!!!

FIRSTS ~ a fantastic novel about breaking the double standards of teen sexuality

Recently, I had the opportunity to read the ARC of FIRSTS by Laurie Elizabeth Flynn.

Guys, I have to tell you, I had doubts about this one as it’s about this promiscuous girl in high school who wants to teach male virgins how to ‘do it right’ with their girlfriends for the first time.

I’m not one to read books about sex, and I’m certainly not one who wants to promote sex among high school students, but it was written by this lovely girl in my Sixteen to Read blog group: Laurie Elizabeth Flynn, and we are all reading each other’s ARCs, so I set my preferences aside and dug in.

Let me tell you. I started this early in the afternoon, like around 1:30, and I finished it by 5:30. I couldn’t put this book down. It was nothing like what I thought it would be. The characters are fresh, they’re well thought out, and I felt something for every single one of them. And let me tell you, the main character has some amazing friends, and we find out how awesome they are when the story takes its downward spiral.

I don’t want to give too much away on this one, but I will tell you, it totally deals with stereotypes and the way girls are judged for their sexual behavior. I wish there had been a bit more addressing of the double-standard and that guys should be held as responsible as girls for their sexual “mistakes”, but honestly, the story holds a very important lesson. I was overwhelmed by how much I really loved this book, and I highly recommend it.  I give it 4.5 stars out of 5.

The 5 Most Anticipated YA Books to Read in November

Do you love YA novels? Are you scouring the internet and books stores looking for what’s new in November? Well, look no more. I’ve got five fabulous recommendations for you, and I think most YA readers will agree.  They are numbered in order of most anticipated (well, at least the most anticipated for me).


I am dying to get my grubby little hands on this 800 page masterpiece. This is the final installment in the Lunar Chronicles series, (can you hear my weeping already?) and I’m sure it will be a stellar conclusion. I want this so much, I pre-ordered it ages ago. The waiting is torture.

Description From Goodreads:

Princess Winter is admired by the Lunar people for her grace and kindness, and despite the scars that mar her face, her beauty is said to be even more breathtaking than that of her stepmother, Queen Levana.

Winter despises her stepmother, and knows Levana won’t approve of her feelings for her childhood friend–the handsome palace guard, Jacin. But Winter isn’t as weak as Levana believes her to be and she’s been undermining her stepmother’s wishes for years. Together with the cyborg mechanic, Cinder, and her allies, Winter might even have the power to launch a revolution and win a war that’s been raging for far too long.

Can Cinder, Scarlet, Cress, and Winter defeat Levana and find their happily ever afters?

Expected release date: November 10, 2015.


This is the second book in the Firebird trilogy and I can’t wait to get my hands on this one. Oh my goodness. I finished A THOUSAND PIECES OF YOU a couple of weeks ago and I want this book NOW! The reviews have been most excellent.

Description from Goodreads:

Ever since she used the Firebird, her parents’ invention, to cross into alternate dimensions, Marguerite has caught the attention of enemies who will do anything to force her into helping them dominate the multiverse—even hurting the people she loves. She resists until her boyfriend, Paul, is attacked and his consciousness scattered across multiple dimensions.

Marguerite has no choice but to search for each splinter of Paul’s soul. The hunt sends her racing through a war-torn San Francisco, the criminal underworld of New York City, and a glittering Paris where another Marguerite hides a shocking secret. Each world brings Marguerite one step closer to rescuing Paul. But with each trial she faces, she begins to question the destiny she thought they shared.

The second book in the Firebird trilogy, Ten Thousand Skies Above Youfeatures Claudia Gray’s lush, romantic language and smart, exciting action, and will have readers clamoring for the next book.

Expected release date:  November 3, 2015


I am so looking forward to this new fantasy series steeped in Chinese folklore. I fell in love with SERPENTINE, by Cindy Pon, and if this is anything like that book, I am going to love it!!

Description from Goodreads:

For as long as Fei can remember, there has been no sound in her village, where rocky terrain and frequent avalanches prevent residents from self-sustaining. Fei and her people are at the mercy of a zipline that carries food up the treacherous cliffs from Beiguo, a mysterious faraway kingdom.

When villagers begin to lose their sight, deliveries from the zipline shrink and many go hungry. Fei’s home, the people she loves, and her entire existence is plunged into crisis, under threat of darkness and starvation.

But soon Fei is awoken in the night by a searing noise, and sound becomes her weapon.

Richelle Mead takes readers on a triumphant journey from the peak of Fei’s jagged mountain village to the valley of Beiugo, where a startling truth and an unlikely romance will change her life forever…

Expected release date:  November 3, 2015


I fell in love with angel stories after reading Heather Burch’s Halfling books, and this series has not disappointed.  I’m really excited to read this one because it’s Cam’s story, and who doesn’t want to read about a brooding, bad-boy angel?

Description from Goodreads:

High school can be hell.

Cam knows what it’s like to be haunted. He’s spent more time in Hell than any angel ever should. And his freshest Hell is high school, where Lilith, the girl he can’t stop loving, is serving out a punishment for his crimes.

Cam made a bet with Lucifer: he has fifteen days to convince the only girl who really matters to him to love him again. If he succeeds, Lilith will be allowed back into the world, and they can live their lives together. But if he fails…there’s a special place in Hell just for him.


Spread your wings and cry as bad boy dark angel Cam finally reveals his anguished heart in the epic new FALLEN novel, UNFORGIVEN.

Expected release date:  November 10, 2015


From my Freshman 15 big sister, Charlotte Huang, this debut novel sounds like fantastic fun and an un-put-downable read. I’m so excited for her and her rock star cast of characters.  Fans of the t.v. shows, The Voice and American Idol will love this book.

Description from Goodreads:

Chelsea thought she knew what being a rock star was like… until she became one. After losing a TV talent show, she slid back into small-town anonymity. But one phone call changed everything

Now she’s the lead singer of the band Melbourne, performing in sold-out clubs every night and living on a bus with three gorgeous and talented guys. The bummer is that the band barely tolerates her. And when teen heartthrob Lucas Rivers take an interest in her, Chelsea is suddenly famous, bringing Melbourne to the next level—not that they’re happy about that. Her feelings for Beckett, Melbourne’s bassist, are making life even more complicated.

Chelsea only has the summer tour to make the band—and their fans—love her. If she doesn’t, she’ll be back in Michigan for senior year, dying a slow death. The paparazzi, the haters, the grueling schedule… Chelsea believed she could handle it. But what if she can’t?

Expected release date:  November 10, 2015


So, do any of these tickle your fancy?  What YA books are you looking forward to reading?

3 pieces of dragon art that will blow your mind

I love anything fantasy related, especially dragons, so it’s no surprise when I stumble upon fantasy artwork that blows my mind, I have to share.

Welcome to piece #1 – Spyro – a gem dragon

photo by artist Mo van Hamersveld

This beauty was made by artist Mo Van Hamersveld, and she’s made of amethyst, aquamarine, peridot, crystal quartz, selenite, rose quartz, black obsidian, …added aluminium, iron, copper, steel, brass, messing, resin and LOVE.  You should absolutely check out her Facebook page and look at all the beautiful dragon heads she’s made, and if you’re lucky enough, you might be able to buy one for yourself.  

Welcome to piece #2 – Hitofude Ryuu

Do you have any idea what a sumie painter is?  I didn’t either until I found this article on the website, This is Colossal.  Folks, I am totally blown away.  Check it out.

This delicate style of painting is called hitofude ryuu, which roughly translates to “dragon with one stroke.”

Wow. Just wow.  You can find more videos at this link as well.

Welcome to piece #3

I fell in love with James Doran-Webb’s artwork not too long ago when I stumbled upon this piece on the web:


I literally gulped when I saw this beauty, so I did a bit of research on the artist. James Doran-Webb is an incredibly talented sculptor who carves animals from driftwood. I am in awe. Be sure to check out his website to view a spectacular collection of his works, and maybe even buy his coffee table book, ‘Animalier“.

So, what did you think?  Which artist is your favorite?

A fictitious knight reveals 5 secrets to having honor

What does it mean to ‘have honor’? Is it something real, or is it more like an idea, a notion based on a set of beliefs? How does one obtain honor? Are we born with it, or do we learn it?

Read on to find out what Sir Trogsdill Domnall, the most revered knight in my novel, IN THE SHADOW OF THE DRAGON KING, has to say about the subject.


Me:  “Sir Trogsdill, thank you for sparing a few moments to talk to me. I know from talking to the other knights in the Order you do not like these sorts of interviews, but I couldn’t think of anyone else who could answer my questions with complete honesty.”

The knight leans to one side and props an elbow on the arm of the chair. His forefinger and thumb cradle the sharp angles of his face; the other three perch at his lips. Thick, brown hair falls in gentle waves to his collar. His piercing, peridot-green eyes lock onto mine, and I gulp as my stomach takes flight. I can tell he’s waiting for me to continue, but I’m incapable of speech. I am drowning in a sea of green. Part of me wants to run, but I can’t. I’m drawn to him in a way that defies explanation. He is a mystery, an enigma that commands respect. I take a deep breath to ease the pounding of my heart and then shift in my chair, ignoring the sweat pooling at the nape of my neck. Somehow I gather my thoughts and steady the tremble in my voice.

Me:  Sir Trogsdill, the word I hear most often to describe you is ‘honorable’. Would you say that is an appropriate word? How do you perceive yourself?”

Sir Trogsdill: “I believe I am honorable, at least I strive to be.” His deep voice vibrates the air. My nerves quiver. “As for how I perceive myself? I don’t waste the time thinking of it. I am who I am.”

Me:  “What does being honorable mean to you?”

The man leans forward, his hands clasped between his knees. His eyes remain fixed on mine, as if he’s trying to dive deep into my soul. I want to look away, but I can’t. I’m mesmerized. I’m a noodle. I am a victim to his captivating presence.

Sir Trogsdill:  “You ask an interesting question. Honor, to me, is not something a king or a lord bestows upon you, nor is it something you win at the end of a joust. It is solid. It is moral. We are all born with it, this capacity to be honorable. It is what we choose to do with our lives that keep us that way.”

Me:  “Would you mind elaborating a bit?”

Sir Trogsdill: “I am not sure how much clearer I can get.”

Me:  “I suppose what I want to know is if you feel honor is something we learn?”

Sir Trogsdill pressed his back into the overstuffed chair. “No, it’s not. It’s something that resides deep within us. Some of us have it. Some don’t.”

Me:  “But don’t you have a code of honor you must abide by? Aren’t many of those things learned?”

The man smiles, and my heart swells at the way it touches his eyes. He is handsome in ways I can’t pinpoint. I wonder if he knows it.

“My code? My lady, honor is more than a code. It is something intangible. Yes, knights take oaths to follow certain conventions such as serving our liege lord in faith and valor, or to protect the weak and defenseless. To refrain from wanton acts and protect a lady’s reputation, but honor goes beyond these acts.”

He looks away for a moment as if collecting his thoughts, then turns his gaze back to me. His features are strong, his eyes trusting and kind.

“Honor, my lady, is about integrity, unwavering dedication to one’s morals and standards. It means walking a difficult path, even if we must travel it alone, but we must because it is righteous and true. Honor is holding tight to your convictions when you know they are right, and letting them go when they are wrong. It is about putting another before oneself and striving for a life steeped in justice, loyalty, and fairness.”

Me:   “But who is to say what is just, loyal and fair? Your definitions of those may not be mine. Who is right and who is wrong?”

Sir Trogsdill:  “Honor is not a question of who is right and who is wrong, my lady. You asked me what it means to have honor.  If one stands and defends what they believe in with every fiber of their being, whether you agree with their cause or not, then they are honorable.”

Me:  “So by that token, you’re saying that people who are consumed by evil can also be honorable because they adhere to their convictions?”

Sir Trogsdill shakes his head. “No, that is not what I said. Honor and evil cannot exist together.”

Me:  “Why is that?”

Sir Trogsdill:  “Because having honor is to be selfless. As I said before, honor is about putting others before yourself. An honorable act is a selfless act. Evil, on the other hand, is based in self-gratification. Evil, by virtue of what it is, is not honorable. Therefore, those performing it are not honorable.”

I am touched by this man’s passion … and his wisdom. I can tell by the shifting of his legs and body, he’s getting restless, so I ask my last question.

Me:  “If you could give young people any advice about being honorable, what would you tell them?”

Sir Trogsdill counts on his fingers:  “One. Hold true to yourself. Two. Never lose faith in the spirit that guides you. Three. Do not let anyone sway you from your core beliefs. Four, turn your back on those who wish to destroy your sense of integrity, and five, stray away from those who disregard your values.”

Wow. Those are words we could all live by.  I stand and offer my hand to him.

Me:  “Thank you, Sir Trogsdill. That was an enlightening conversation. You have certainly given me plenty to think about.”

The knight stands, and I am dwarfed by his size, but instead of feeling insignificant, I am overcome by a sense of safety and compassion. He bows and kisses the back of my hand before departing the room. I watch as he leaves, noting the confidence in his walk, the strength in his demeanor, and my heart twinges again. What I would give to have half of the courage, poise, and assurance he has. I suppose it will  have to suffice knowing how honored I feel to have sat in his presence. I will never forget him. Ever.


So, what did you think? Do you agree with Sir Trogsdill or does ‘having honor’ mean something different to you? Please leave your comments below.

To learn more about IN THE SHADOW OF THE DRAGON KING, please visit my website at www.j-keller-ford.com and sign up for my newsletter. Once a month, I will divulge parts of my story that no one else will see unless they are signed up.  I hope to see you there.

If you are into YA epic fantasy stories of love, honor, faith, courage and sacrifice, please head over to my Goodreads page and click on that Want to Read button.

I hope you enjoyed this interview. Stay tuned for more to come.

MINOTAUR by Phillip W. Simpson – A Review


When I first read the blurb for MINOTAUR, I knew I had to read it, and I’m so glad I got an ARC from Month9Books. This story did not disappoint.

I do have to say it took me a bit to get into the story. The writing style is unique and a little ‘slower’  than I’m used to. I felt as if I were taking a leisurely stroll with Ovid, the scholar. And then this incident happens and we meet Asterion, aka Minotaur, who leads Ovid to the mountain and the labyrinth of Minotaur legend.

This story is so compelling, so heartbreaking, so different than anything you’ve ever read about the Minotaur.  It is billed as the true story of the Minotaur, and I’m inclined to believe it. Asterion opens his heart, his soul as he tells Ovid about his trials and tribulations of growing up, about being made fun of and ridiculed. About being shunned and despised by his father because he was the son of a god.  We learn of the love of his life and experience his heartache as he retells the moment when she was stolen from him. But the twist I wasn’t ready for was what really happened to him in the labyrinth.

For those familiar with the Minotaur stories, the creature suffers a horrible, bloody, gory end at the hands of Theseus, the god-founder of Athens.  This true story tells a different tale, one that will change everything you’ve ever learned or believed.  I was mesmerized, spellbound, and my emotions were all over the place as I read this story.

This is not your typical Greek mythology story-telling type book. If you’re looking for something like Percy Jackson retelling of Greek mythology, you’re not going to get it here. This is deep, dark and very solid, strong writing, and I’m happy to say I can give a two thumbs up review of this ARC from Month9Books.  This won’t be a book for everyone, but if you like good fantasy that takes its time to unfold, then you’re going to love Minotaur.

Do you want to read what others are saying about this amazing book?  Follow the Review Tour Schedule HERE


 Minotaur by Phillip W. Simpson
Publication Date:  September 29, 2015
Publisher:  Month9books

“Where shall I start?” asked Minotaur.

Ovid made an expansive gesture with both hands. “Where else but the beginning of course.”

Minotaur nodded his huge head. “Yes,” he said. “Yes,” his eyes already glazing over with the weight of thousand-year-old memories. And then he began.

So begins the story of Asterion, later known as Minotaur, the supposed half bull creature of Greek legend. Recorded by the famous Roman poet, Ovid, Asterion tells of his boyhood in Crete under the cruel hand of his stepfather Minos, his adventures with his friend, Theseus, and his growing love for the beautiful Phaedra.And of course what really happened in the labyrinth.

This is the true story of the Minotaur.

Link to Goodreads:

Purchase Links:

Amazon | B&N | BAM | Chapters | Indiebound | Kobo | TBD | Google Play

Giveaway Information:  Contest ends October23, 2015

  • Five (5) winners will receive a digital copy of Minotaur by Phillip W. Simpson (INT)

Enter Here 

Phillip W. Simpson is the author of many novels, chapter books and other stories for children. His publishers include Macmillan, Penguin, Pearson, Cengage, Raintree and Oxford University Press.

He received both his undergraduate degree in Ancient History and Archaeology and his Masters (Hons) degree in Archaeology from the University of Auckland.

Before embarking on his writing career, he joined the army as an officer cadet, owned a comic shop and worked in recruitment in both the UK and Australia.

His first young adult novel, Rapture (Rapture Trilogy #1), was shortlisted for the Sir Julius Vogel Awards for best Youth novel in 2012.

He is represented by Vicki Marsdon at Wordlink literary agency.

When not writing, he works as a school teacher.

Phillip lives and writes in Auckland, New Zealand with his wife Rose, their son, Jack and their two border terriers, Whiskey and Raffles. He loves fishing, reading, movies, football (soccer) and single malt Whiskeys.

Connect with the Author:  Website | Twitter | Facebook | Goodreads

M9B Friday Reveal: Chapter Reveal – Super Freak by Vanessa Barger with Giveaway #M9BFridayReveals

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Welcome to this week’s M9B Friday Reveal!

This week, we are revealing CHAPTER ONE of

Super Freak by Vanessa Barger

an MG title presented by Tantrum Books!

Be sure to enter the giveaway found at the end of the post!


Super Freak


Thirteen-year-old Caroline is a freak. Her parents have uprooted her to a town full of Supernaturals. You’d think she’d be thrilled. But, with someone without a magical bone in her body, this daughter of tree sprites feels like even more of an outcast than she has ever before.

To make matters worse, her new home is cursed. But when Caroline takes to investigating the mysterious and strange happenings of Harridan House, her BFF goes missing. Seems someone doesn’t want Caroline sticking her non-magical nose where it most certainly does not belong. Determined to prove herself, Caroline uncovers a plot to destroy her new hometown.

Undeterred, Caroline can’t give up. But what’s a human without magical powers to do? Caroline better figure it out fast, before she loses everything she has ever loved and the whispers she’s heard all her life prove true: Caroline is a useless superfreak.

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Super Freak by Vanessa Barger
Publication Date: October 13, 2015
Publisher: Tantrum Books
Genre: MG, Fantasy

BAM | Chapters | Amazon | B&N | Kobo | TBD | iBooks




Chapter One

Twenty-five feet into town. That’s as far as we got before the first disaster happened. Dad turned onto Main Street, and just as we pulled up next to Greywolfe’s Spells and Supplies, a huge puff of smoke and flame burst from the front doors. Shattered glass and a large, hairy man shot into the path of our over-packed SUV.
Dad slammed his foot down on the brakes and jerked the wheel to the left, throwing us around the inside of the car. In the back, I covered my head, expecting the piles of wedged boxes to topple over, burying me in an avalanche of dishes and teddy bears.
“Caroline! Are you all right?” Mom reached into the back seat, her horn-rimmed glasses dangling from one ear.
“I’m good. Did we hit him?” I craned my neck, looking to see out the front window. Dad unbuckled and leapt from the car to help the man who had flown in the road to his feet.
“I think he’s fine. You’d think he’d at least have the decency to let out a warning before coming out like that. He could have been killed! We could have been hurt! Dishes might have fallen on you and broken!”
I rolled my eyes. The dishes would be a high priority.
Mom shook her head, letting loose a shower of tiny green leaves. It always happened when she was stressed. Dryads weren’t really known for their calm temperaments. You’d think, being tree spirits, they’d have that stoic thing going for them. Maybe it was because Mom was a weeping willow, but calm wasn’t really part of her vocabulary. Dad on the other hand, was solid as an oak.
Because he was an oak. After unhooking my seatbelt, I slid from the car. Mom followed suit. Her lips compressed into a tight line and she shed another couple handfuls of leaves, but for the moment, she contained herself.
Dad stood, tall and wiry, one arm hooked around a large, barrel-chested man with more facial hair than I’d seen in my life. Had to be a werewolf. He pulled away from my dad and brushed at the gravel and purple residue covering his gray suit.
“Thank you, Mr. …” The stranger held out one hand to my dad.
“George Bennings,” Dad said, shaking the stranger’s hand. “And this is my wife, Grace, and our daughter, Caroline. We just moved here from Lost Creek.”
“My name is William Grouseman. I’m thrilled you’ve come to town, but glad you didn’t pull in a few moments sooner.”
I wanted to warn him that sarcasm was lost on my parents, but he seemed to get the message when they didn’t share in his chuckle. They exchanged a confused glance and smiled blankly at him.
He offered his hand to me and I shook it. “Nice to meet you, sir.”
He frowned, looking between my parents and then back at me.
Mom’s arm curved around my shoulder, nudging me forward. She sniffed. “She’s just a late bloomer. We’ve got great hopes for her future.”
I sighed. She meant well, but it never failed. Supernatural people could sense the paranormal on each other. But when they got to me there was nothing. A void. A great, empty space where everyone expected some sort of natural magic.
The supernatural had been the normal since 1978 when an explorer by the name of Albert Merriweather stumbled into a cave in Greece and found Pandora’s Box, and then opened it. Apparently the myths about the box were off a little. Instead of holding all the evils of the world, it held all the magic that had been pulled out of it. Releasing magic out into the world, well, now every person was a little bit paranormal. It didn’t mean everyone could cast a spell or levitate. But everyone had something. Kids were tested in elementary school.
The ones with lots of magic were usually the popular crowd. The rest of the population lived with it, picking up what they could, where they could. You could ask to be retested anytime. Sometimes people really did make progress.
Except me. I hadn’t just tested low, I’d flunked. So badly they brought in national analysts to make sure there wasn’t someone tampering with the tests. It was a relief really. I mean, my parents were powerful. Who wants to try and beat that?
My lack of powers drove my parents batty. Most people figured I was adopted. Two dryads–tree spirits who could change shape, manipulate the natural world, and talk to trees–produced a normal child? Impossible.
My parents were convinced I would show signs as I matured. I didn’t have the heart to tell them differently, but I really didn’t think it would ever happen. And that was fine by me. Magic was great–when it worked.
Maybe when I turned forty my parents would figure it out. Until then, I’d smile and nod when they gave me their speech about reaching my potential and discovering hidden talents.
I met Mr. Grouseman’s chocolate eyes and gave him a weak smile before he turned to my parents.
“Ah, well, it happens sometimes. If anyone can draw out her gift, it’s our teaching staff at the school. I’m the principal at Stein Middle School.” His eyes moved from them to me. I wished I were small and hidden under a rock. “You look like you’re about middle-school age. What grade will you be in?”
I swallowed. This was not how I planned to meet the school principal. “I’m supposed to start eighth this year.”
“I thought so. You’ll love the school. Excellent courses and teachers, and the students are some of the best.”
Just like every other school I’d been to. They always said that. It must be in a rulebook principals get when they start their jobs. Luckily, that was the end of his conversation with me. He told my parents where the school was, and what the summer office hours were, then waved at us as he headed back into the shop.
Mom raised a tentative finger and cleared her throat. “Are you certain it’s safe to go back in?”
Mr. Grouseman loosed a deep peal of laughter. “Of course! My nephew runs the store. What you saw was an accident when a new display tipped over. Have a great day!”
I didn’t buy his story, and I didn’t think Mom and Dad did either. But clearly he wasn’t going to share family quarrels with the new people in town. With a shrug, I climbed back into the car, put my cryptogram book away, and watched the town unfold outside my windows. The buildings wound around a central park with huge old-growth trees and the county buildings were the same as they’d been when the town was founded in the seventeenth century. My Dad gave me tidbits about the history of Hecate Bay for the last two weeks, trying to pump up my anticipation. History was one passion Dad and I shared.
Spell suppliers, voodoo parlors, psychic readers, and magical bookstores rubbed elbows with Food Lion, florists, and churches. The human and the paranormal had merged and become just like the country–an inseparable mix.
We headed for our new house. As we turned away from town, the library caught my attention. A huge stone building that, based on the size, I knew held thousands of books. I started to drool at the prospect. As I watched the people wandering down the street, and we passed another spell shop and magical supply store, my excitement began to fade. I thought about what I’d seen so far, the encounter with my new principal, and the new school year approaching, and my stomach churned with dread. I knew that no matter what, Hecate Bay wasn’t the restful small town my parents told me about. I’d hoped for one of those rare towns populated with only a few magical creatures and big magical talents. This place, well, I could practically taste the magic in the air.
I was doomed.



Vanessa Barger was born in West Virginia, and through several moves ended up spending the majority of her life in Virginia Beach, Virginia. She is a graduate of George Mason University and Old Dominion University, and has degrees in Graphic Design, a minor in Medieval and Renaissance Literature, and a Masters in Technology Education. She has had articles published in Altered Arts Magazine, has had some artwork displayed in galleries in Ohio and online, and currently teaches engineering, practical physics, drafting and other technological things to high school students in the Hampton Roads area of Virginia. She is a member of the SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators), the Virginia Writer’s Club, and the Hampton Roads Writers. When not writing or teaching, she’s a bookaholic, movie fanatic, and loves to travel. She is married to a fabulous man, and has one cat, who believes Vanessa lives only to open cat food cans, and can often be found baking when she should be editing.

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Middle Grade Mondays: Strange Country Day by Charles Curtis #MGMondays



Welcome to Middle Grade Mondays!

This week, we are doing a featured spotlight on

Strange Country Day by Charles Curtis

an MG title presented by Tantrum Books!




Be sure to enter the giveaway found at the end of the post!






Alexander Graham Ptuiac, the son of an inventor, wants to play for the school’s football team. During tryouts, and under the watchful eye of the team’s coach, he suddenly manifests mysterious superhuman powers. Alexander makes the team, but not before the some ill-intended adults take notice, putting his life in danger.

Alex struggles to suppress and control his strange new abilities, worried about exposing his secret and being kicked off the football team. Then he befriends Dex, a diminutive classmate who can somehow jump as high as ten feet in the air. Seems Alex isn’t the only one at school with a secret.

As the school year unfolds, Alex will find himself the target of bullies, holding hands with his first crush and discovering the shocking truth about himself and his parents.

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Charles Curtis


Charles Curtis is a writer and journalist based in New York City. He has reported and written for publications including NJ.com (where he is currently the site’s sports buzz reporter), The Daily, ESPN.com, ESPN the Magazine, Bleacher Report, TV Guide and Entertainment Weekly. Charles has covered the NFL, MLB, NHL, NBA, golf, tennis and NASCAR. He has also written about television, film and pop culture.

In addition, Curtis has also written, produced and was featured in videos for ESPN.com and The Daily. He has made radio appearances on stations including 92.9 The Ticket in Bangor, Maine, WLIE 540 AM in Long Island and on morning shows across Canada via the CBC.
He can be reached on Twitter: @charlescurtis82.

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“I’m beautiful. I’m worthy.”

We hear every day in the news about kids being bullied.  The shaming and beat downs come from all sides and for all stupid reasons.  And social media doesn’t help. I mean, I was bullied as a kid because I wore glasses and because I wasn’t thin. (I wasn’t fat, either, but I heard it enough to believe I was.).  Even my own brother called me ‘ugly’ almost on a daily basis. But when I was a teen in the ’70s, we didn’t have computers or social media, so the bullying had a short-range effect. Nowadays, social media takes bullying and shaming to a whole different level. I mean, it’s not only confined to your school. It’s nationwide, and people that don’t even know you comment on whatever was posted about you, the victim. Man, that’s just insane. I mean, it’s one thing to deal with 50 kids at a school. It’s something else to be a young kid, especially a girl, and have the whole world viewing your latest fight or bullying saga because someone with a damn cell phone thought it would be cooler to film it and post it on Facebook than it would be to get in between you and the bully and tell the bully where to shove it.

My mom always said to remember the saying “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.”  Well, I’m here to tell you, words do hurt, and anyone who has ever been bullied will tell you the verbal wounds are worse than the physical ones. They remain etched and burned into your soul forever. No matter how often you try to tell yourself that it’s all bogus, that what they’re telling you are lies, it’s bullcrap.  When you have so many people telling you that you are this way or that way, you begin to doubt your feelings about yourself. Afterall, if 100 people are all saying the same thing, then it must be true, right?


Sad thing is, it took me 50 years before I had the courage to say to the world, “I don’t give a damn what you think of me. I’m beautiful the way I am, and I am worthy.”

50 years, girls, of feeling unworthy, unloved, unwanted. Even now, it is difficult for me to praise myself, for patting myself on the back for a job well done. I’ve been beaten down for so long in my life that my self-praise comes along with a built-in sledgehammer to remind me that I’m not all that special.  Even at my age, I struggle with self-confidence and self-degradation, with the degradation winning out in most cases.  Even as I stare at myself in the mirror and give my self-affirmations every day, there is a voice inside of me that says “who are you trying to kid? You’re not pretty and you’re an ok writer and a suck-ass mom.”  The thing is, I know in my heart of hearts and deep in my soul that I am beautiful in my own way, I’m better than an ok author and I wasn’t, nor am I, a suck-ass mom. In fact, I was a damn good mom who made some crappy mistakes.

But saying it and even writing it doesn’t make me believe it. I mean like really believe it. And I know it’s because I waited too long in my life to tell the world, and more importantly myself, that I am a wonderful, good person who deserves an amazing life because I’m amazing.

So, I’d like to offer up some words to you young people that might come across this blog in search of some wise advice.

Don’t wait until you’re 50 to make a change and start loving yourself. Don’t believe the bullying, the shaming, because you are beautiful and worthy, and you deserve a rich, full life. And more importantly, don’t become your own worst enemy by being your own self-bully.  Start now at your young age by tossing off the negative vibes around you. Find like-minded people who know how you feel. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Love who you are and what you are. You are unique, a glorious present to the universe. So what if you’re a nerd, or wear glasses, or might pack on a few extra pounds. You have worth. You are amazing and special and are so many more things outside of your peer group’s definition of who they think you should be. Don’t worry about who they think you should be. Who do you  think you should be? That is the question to ask.  Be strong. Be beautiful and be your own cheerleader.  Love yourself.