Origin Story of Cloud Canyon by Rachel Kowert

This post is part of a virtual book tour organized by Goddess Fish Promotions. Dr. Rachel Kowert PhD will be awarding a $75 Amazon or Barnes and Noble GC or 1 copy each of the 3 Cloud Canyon books (available in November) to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour. Click on the tour banner to see the other stops on the tour.

Origin Story

The initial inspiration for Tales from Cloud Canyon came to me in 2019 when my daughter was 4 years old. I was lucky enough to pick up about a hundred different paperback books at a garage sale of a former teacher and had started reading her a new book every night before bed. After a few weeks of this, I started to notice a theme: there were very few books with female protagonists and when there were, they were pigeonholed into a damsel in distress or only successfully navigated their challenges with the use of superpowers. While there is nothing wrong with a female superhero or a knight in shining armor, I wanted something different.

After a bit of digging, I realized there was a dramatic lack of representation in children’s literature. The Nielson 2018 book scan report found that of the top 100 best-selling children’s books, 1 in 5 did not feature a single female character, only 2 out of the top 100 featured a black, Asian, or minority ethnic character in a central role ( with 70% of the black, Asian, or ethnic characters were in non-speaking roles) and only 1 out of the top 100 featured a disabled child but they did not speak or have a key role.

Fueled with discontent, I called my friend who runs a small micro press and told her she needed to write or commission some books with strong female characters at the heart of them. She told me I should write them. At the time, this made me audibly laugh! However, after sitting with her words and fueled by her encouragement, I decided to open up my notes section in my phone and give it a try. In less than two weeks I had written what ended up becoming the first collection in the Tales from Cloud Canyon Universe: the 26 stories of Pragmatic Princess. In 2019, I successfully kickstarted these stories as the collection Pragmatic Princess: 26 Superb Stories of Self-Sufficiency and raised more than $25,000 in 30 days and earned an INDIES award for educational children’s picture books (so I guess I can write children’s books!)

Over the last few years, I have continued to write and expand the Cloud Canyon universe and am excited to announce that I am launching a second Kickstarter June 4 for a BRAND NEW collection of three topical short stories: Here, There, & Everywhere, Invisible Friends, and The Secret to Success. These stories were the ones that I felt were still missing from my children’s library.

As a mom and a psychologist, I feel like I had a unique perspective to bring when it came to crafting the actual building blocks of the stories. The fictional characters in childhood stories are some of our earliest teachers. We learn a range of things through the observation of these symbolic models, such as what is right and wrong, desirable and undesirable behavior, gender roles, norms, stereotypes, and more. The role of models is particularly influential in childhood as it can have a long lasting impact on intellectual, social, emotional and moral development. I am so proud of this new collection and hope you and your children find them inspiring too!


THE STORIES

Tales from Cloud Canyon is a series of character driven, topical short stories celebrating the everyday child, doing everyday things, with their everyday abilities designed for children aged 3+. Developed by a research psychologist and mom of 3, these stories were developed to be entertaining, educational, and celebrate the power of the everyday within our the beautiful, diverse world.

This Kickstarter collection features three topical short stories from the Cloud Canyon Universe: Here, There, & Everywhere, The Secret to Success, and Invisible Friends. Each of these titles are fully illustrated from artist Randall Hampton and are about 25 pages long.

THE SCIENCE BEHIND THE WRITING


The fictional characters in childhood stories are some of our earliest teachers. We learn a range of things through the observation of these symbolic models, such as what is right and wrong, a desirable and undesirable behavior, gender roles, norms, stereotypes, and more. The role of models is particularly influential in childhood as it can have a long lasting impact on development.

Each story in this collection was developed to not only be entertaining but educational as well, with the stories’ characters modeling a range of age-appropriate skills spanning four areas of human development: intellectual, social, emotional, and moral. The skills that are modeled within any particular story are displayed on the back cover of each book and explained in more detail on the last page of the book.

DIVERSITY, REPRESENTATION & INCLUSION


Tales from Cloud Canyon changes the narrative by reflecting and celebrating the beautiful and diverse reality of our world. The characters within the Cloud Canyon Universe were developed to represent a range of shapes, sizes, abilities and disabilities, and traditional and non-traditional families.

In the Cloud Canyon universe:


-More than half the characters are female

-More than half the characters come from an ethnic-minority background

-1 in 10 characters have a visible disability

-Characters come from traditional and non-traditional families

-Different body shapes are represented

-she/her, he/him, and they/them pronouns are represented

It was also equally important that these details were not the central theme of the stories themselves as our shape, level of ability, and what our family unit looks like are just some of the many parts of who we are and not necessarily the defining feature of our stories.



PRODUCTION AND RELEASE


All of the stories have been written and are currently being brought to life through the illustrative magic of Randall Hampton. The physical production of the books is expected to start in June 2022. Time from production to shipping is about 6 – 8 weeks (+/- 2-4 additional weeks due to COVID delays). Once Rachel receives the books, they will be shipped to backers. There is an expected arrival date of the books no later than November 2022.




Enjoy an Excerpt

Invisible Friends tells the story of Winnie and Yuna. On a playdate, Winnie finds Yuna is talking to strangers online and sharing personal information. which I know is an ever-present discussion in many homes. This story discusses the how’s and why’s of navigating online stranger danger.

Excerpt:

After a while, Yuna softly said to her friend,

“I’m sorry about earlier, down in the den

I just thought it would be fun to meet someone new.

I didn’t want to do something to upset you.”

Winnie smiled, “I know, it’s just I’ve seen the headlines,

We stay safe by not talking to strangers online.

You can’t see them, you don’t know who they really are,

and they don’t know you, it is all a bit bizarre.”

“It’s like when I venture off to play outside,

When I am online, all of the same rules apply.

I wouldn’t walk into a stranger’s house to chat,

Or invite the mailman inside to pet my cat.

If I don’t really know someone, I stay aware,

Of all the risks – I was upset because I care.”

“I like to make new friends, too, really I promise,

But you can’t tell if strangers are truly honest.

Online everyone’s invisible, it’s scary,

Because of that, it is best to remain wary.

With ‘invisible friends’ the risks are much greater.”

Winnie said she was a great de-escalator.


About the Author:

Dr. Rachel Kowert is a research psychologist, award-winning author and mom of three. In 2019, she launched her first Kickstarter project from the Cloud Canyon universe was a collection of female centered stories entitled Pragmatic Princess: 26 stories of self sufficiency and raised more than $25,000 in 30 days and won an INDIES award for educational children’s picture book.


ABOUT THE ILLUSTRATOR

Randall Hampton is an author, illustrator, husband and father of 3. He is the Creator of “The Little Game Master” series of books and considers himself a story teller above all else. When he is not spending time with family and friends, Randall enjoys reading, video games, music, and table top games of all sorts.

Amazon Author Page | Website | Twitter | Facebook | Instagram | YouTube | LinkedIn

Check out the Kickstarter Campaign and see how you can get the books.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Create Your Own Masterclass: Reading with a student’s eye by C.W. Allen – Guest Blog and Giveaway

This post is part of a virtual book tour organized by Goddess Fish Promotions. C. W. Allen will be awarding $10 Amazon/BN GC to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour. Click on the tour banner to see the other stops on the tour.

Create Your Own Masterclass: Reading with a student’s eye

Learning from the masters is valuable. And therefore expensive.

In generations past, if you wanted to become a master painter, or brick mason, or carpenter, or anything else, there was exactly one way to go about achieving your goal: become an apprentice to a master of the trade, who would teach you everything they know (for the low, low price of years service.) While the Master/Apprentice study dynamic has largely been displaced by the collegiate system, the modern masters have turned to the internet. Do a quick search, and you’ll find that successful writers like Margaret Atwood, R.L. Stine, Judy Blume, James Patterson, and Neil Gaiman are willing to share the secrets of their craft in online Master Class offerings. Never having plunked down the cash for one of these courses myself, I can’t say that they’re not worth it, only that, like many struggling writers, I can’t afford them. Fortunately, if you’re willing to put in the work, there is a budget alternative: reading these authors’ published works for instruction, rather than entertainment.

Benjamin Franklin taught himself to write

You probably know Benjamin Franklin as a respected American statesman, inventor, publisher, and writer, but as a fourteen year old newspaper apprentice, young Ben realized his writing was lacking. He didn’t have a teacher, but he did have access to many of the preeminent printed materials of his day—magazines and newspapers. He started out by taking sentence-level notes of articles he liked, waiting a few days until he had forgotten the actual wording of the article, and then trying to write the article himself, based on the notes. He then compared his writing to the published article to see where he might improve.

In the beginning, he realized his limited vocabulary was holding him back. Once he worked to improve the variety of words at his command, he focused on his writing voice. Little by little, he got to where he sometimes preferred his own version of the article to the original. He also played with format, turning a prose source into a poem, then using the poem to recreate the prose.

It’s worth noting that in recreating the writing of others, Franklin was not attempting to claim these copies as his own original work—that would be plagiarism. But for purposes of study, rather than publication, he saw no harm in imitating the work of writers he admired.

What to look for in writers to study

To follow Franklin’s example, first you’ll need to select an author to study. Reading a wide variety of authors and genres is important. However, for in-depth study, it’s best to select a writer that addresses the technical details you’ll need to iron out in your own work in progress, so a successful writer with recent publications in your preferred genre is best. Studying Shakespeare or Dickens probably won’t clue you in to what the current publishing industry is looking for.

Go after the low-hanging fruit first: has this author given a TED Talk or interviews about their work, or written a blog or instructional book directed at aspiring writers? After you exhaust nonfiction sources, dive into their published works. Is there something about the writer’s voice you admire? What narrative perspective did they choose for each work, and why? How do they handle dialogue? If the narration is omniscient, how are characters’ thoughts represented? What’s compelling about the first sentence of the novel? Are character descriptions introduced immediately, or gradually? What about setting? Backstory? Is the story timeline chronological, or presented in some other order? Where do chapters end, and why? What makes you want to keep reading?

Poetry, nonfiction, journalism, and other formats

Novelists aren’t the only writers that can benefit from close reading of sample texts. Poets will want to look at perspective and voice as well, but also rhyme scheme, meter, and stanza and line breaks. Are there intentional changes to standard spelling or capitalization? Does the poem ever break its own established rhyme scheme or rhythm? In free verse, how are line breaks used?

Journalists and bloggers will want to pay special attention to headlines, as well as use of color, font, and formatting. What tone does the article take? Are most articles or essays from the same work consistent in tone, or is there some variety? And of course, you can look for mistakes to avoid as well as successes to emulate. Are important details ever left out? Is the length appropriate? Are you ever confused, bored, or irritated by something in the writing or formatting?

We may not be able to get direct tutoring from our favorite writers, but by studying their interviews and published works, you can get the next best thing.

For Zed and Tuesday, adjusting to life in modern-meets-medieval Falinnheim means normal is relative. Lots of kids deal with moving, starting new schools, and doing chores. But normally, those schools aren’t in underground bunkers full of secret agents, and the chore list doesn’t involve herding dodos. The one thing that hasn’t changed: all the adults treat them like they’re invisible.

When a security breach interrupts a school field trip, the siblings find themselves locked out of the Resistance base. With the adults trapped inside, it’s up to Tuesday, Zed, and their friends to save the day. And for once, being ignored and underestimated is coming in handy. After all, who would suspect a bunch of kids are capable of taking down the intruders that captured their families, let alone the murderous dictator that put them into hiding in the first place?

Turns out invisibility might just have its benefits.

Enjoy an Excerpt

Snowflakes the size of baseballs were falling outside, which was ironic, since baseball didn’t exist anymore.

Zed had never cared much for organized sports, so the loss of baseball wasn’t so horrible, in his opinion. He cared a great deal about snow, however. In his last house, he’d had a favorite windowsill in the upstairs hallway that was deep enough to sit in and read while looking out the window. Cloudy fall afternoons made for excellent reading weather, but an early morning snowfall was even better, because school might get canceled, and then he’d get to stay home and read as long as he liked. That was before the move, though. His new home had school too, of course, but no windowsills. You don’t need windowsills in a place with no windows.

His older sister Tuesday was not such a fan of the “organized” aspect of baseball—she’d had some unusual barriers to making friends in her last town, not least among them her name, and it’s tough to play baseball by yourself—but she did enjoy sports, because sports are something you can win. You can’t win at reading a book in a windowsill. And anyway, she reminded Zed, baseball technically still existed, somewhere. It’s just that no one else in Falinnheim had ever heard of it.

About the Author C.W. Allen is a Nebraskan by birth, a Texan by experience, a Hoosier by marriage, and a Utahn by geography. She knew she wanted to be a writer the moment she read The Westing Game at age twelve, but took a few detours along the way as a veterinary nurse, an appliance repair secretary, and a homeschool parent.

She recently settled in the high desert of rural Utah with her husband, their three children, and a noisy flock of orphaned ideas. Someday she will create literary homes for all of them. (The ideas, not her family.)

Relatively Normal Secrets (Cinnabar Moth Publishing, Fall 2021) is her debut novel. She writes fantasy novels for tweens, picture books for children, and short stories and poems for former children. Her work will appear in numerous anthologies in 2021. She is also a frequent guest presenter at writing conferences and club meetings, which helps her procrastinate knuckling down to any actual writing.

Amazon Author Page | Twitter | Publisher Author Page

Buy the book at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, or Booktopia.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

The New Enchantress by Sunayna Prasad – Spotlight and Giveaway

This is part of a virtual book tour organized by Goddess Fish Promotions. Sunayna Prasad will be awarding a $25 Amazon/BN GC to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour. Click on the tour banner to see the other stops on the tour. Click here to see our review.

Cursed by a sorcerer’s hex, Alyssa McCarthy finds herself in a fight she can’t afford to lose, or everything she knows will be lost!

After she finishes her final year of junior high, fourteen-year-old Alyssa faces an uncertain future in more ways than one when a sorcerer casts a hex that leaves her with involuntary magical powers that are too dangerous to remove.

Unable to control her newly gained abilities Alyssa’s end-of-middle-school sleepover ends in disaster when she knocks her friends unconscious when her powers go out of control. If Alyssa can’t learn to master her magic soon, she will be cursed to forget her loved ones and serve as the warlock’s slave for all of eternity.

Her only hope is to focus on controlling her emotions if she is to break the curse. However, the difficulties of adolescence, along with the perils and growing disasters she faces, make Alyssa struggle even more. From putting her friends’ lives at risk to losing their trust, she continues to fear what will become of her if she fails.

Will Alyssa be able to break the hex and become the enchantress that she was meant to be, or will she become enslaved to the sorcerer forever?

Enjoy an Excerpt

Alyssa played the video she’d made for the upcoming teen film festival. If she submitted it, she would earn five extra points to add to her 70 in math. That would allow her to drop the mandatory extra-help class for students with final scores less than a 75.

She watched the clip, experiencing watery eyes when she heard herself discussing losing her parents in a car crash when she was seven and other tragic events in her life. It concluded with how those times had shaped her into the person she was today, Friday, June 10th, 2011. She exported the project and would upload it to the festival’s site later. The deadline was not until Monday, 7 P.M. So, after this, she could focus on the end-of-middle-school sleepover that would happen today.

But the screen froze, and a small popup stated, “Cannot export file.”

“Huh?”

How could a two-month-old device encounter issues already? Alyssa had had to wait until her last birthday, in April, and needed to maintain good grades at school to get her own computer. She recalled what her godfather, Alex, had told her in February after her math substitute had informed him about her scores dropping. “Alyssa, if you don’t get your grades up in math, you might not earn that laptop.” He loved and cared for her like a daughter yet shared no blood relation to her family members. She’d lived with him since turning thirteen last year.

Her breathing caught at the popup—a new model should not have a virus already. But she told herself, I’m fourteen and am going to start high school this fall. I can fix this.

The computer turned itself off, closed itself, and crushed Alyssa’s fingers.

“Ow!” she cried.

The device slid off her lap and under her bed. She looked underneath it—without warning, dust blew onto her, covering her petite body.

She coughed as the soot settled. Then she brushed the dirt off her black shirt and its straps on her narrow shoulders, followed by her short shorts and skin. She shook bits out of her straight, pale-blonde hair, which fell a few inches below her hips.

She’d dealt with enough sorcery already, once last year in March and again this past fall. However, neither she nor anybody in her life possessed magic in their blood. From age eight until two springs ago, she’d believed that magic hadn’t existed.

She had interacted with a few magicians when dealing with supernatural situations that no one as young as she should have to experience.

She planned to find that idiot who just ruined her summer by stealing her laptop. A folded piece of paper appeared on her bed and seemed to include the word, laptop, so she read it.

Alyssa,

Your laptop is going to become a new brain-domination computer. The International Magic Control has disabled all the existing ones and has banned any magic from transforming enchanted technology into mind-managing devices. But your laptop is needed exclusively for my particular process.
Also, don’t remove your new magic powers. If you try, you might die.

Anonymous

The note vanished into thin air. Alyssa touched her forehead and breathed since wizardry shouldn’t work on standard technology. Possibilities advanced over time, but they still had numerous everlasting limits.

About the Author:Sunayna Prasad enjoys writing fantasy books for children, as well as cooking, creating artwork, watching online videos, and blogging. She has also written The Frights of Fiji and A Curse of Mayhem. She is passionate about modern-day life in fantasy stories, worldbuilding, and even humor. She is constantly brainstorming new ideas and using her creativity.

Sunayna graduated from college in 2017 and lives in New York.

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Amazon Author Page

Buy the book at Amazon.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Beyond the Birch by Torina Kingsley – Spotlight and Giveaway

This post is part of a virtual book tour organized by Goddess Fish Promotions. Torina Kingsley will be awarding a $10 Amazon or B/N GC to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour. Click on the tour banner to see the other stops on the tour.

Eleven year old Macy dreams of action and adventure that will take her far beyond her family’s farm. But what will happen when that adventure finds her?

Long ago, faeries were banished from the land after a legendary battle. So long ago that many wonder if faeries really exist or if the battle was just a tall tale. But one mysterious night, Macy’s mother is attacked, and ever since, unusual things start happening. Missing items, changing moods, and most strange of all, the family’s sheep start behaving unusually.

Her mother is suddenly determined to get rid of the sheep, and Macy suspects that the reason may be sinister. When Macy meets a boy her age, the aloof and sarcastic Jay, they embark on a journey to discover the truth and save her mother. In this twist on The Wonderful Birch, you won’t find kings, queens, or evil stepmothers. Instead, you’ll find two courageous pre-teens from the outskirts, ready to defend Odele from the magical forces that threaten it.

Enjoy an Excerpt

The sun was just starting to set on the rolling hills of the Jensen property. Laurel Jensen climbed the nearest hill, the wind whipping at her graying curls. She looked all around, searching her surroundings.

Where did that sheep run off too? she thought with frustration. She looked back towards the pen, where she could see the rest of the flock grazing. With a sigh, she turned from them and continued on in search of the silly creature.

“How many times have I told Macy to keep the pasture gate closed?” she muttered, gathering up her skirts as she began to climb a particularly steep hill. Though her boots were sturdy and built for the rough terrain, Laurel much preferred flat ground to these hills. Each step left her more winded than the last.

All at once, she slipped and landed hard on her hip. In a panic, she reached into her pocket on that same side and pulled out a clay, beaded necklace that her daughter had given her earlier that morning. She breathed a sigh of relief to see it unharmed.

“Happy birthday, Ma!” Macy had said. Her brown curly locks framed her face, making her look much older than her eleven years. “I made it just for you.”

Laurel smiled as she remembered, knowing these moments would become scarce in the next year or two. She put the necklace around her neck and then flinched as she reached down to rub her bruised hip. She exhaled and picked herself up to continue up the hill. At the top, she saw a treeline not far ahead. Feeling hopeful, she began her descent in that direction.

About the Author:Author Torina Kingsley masterfully creates a world where things aren’t always as they seem. Beyond the Birch is an imaginative spin on an old folktale that reminds us all to hold our loved ones close and always believe in own our capabilities.

Facebook | Goodreads

Buy the book at Amazon, Amazon UK, Amazon AU, or Barnes and Noble.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

What Scares Me the Most as an Author by Cherie Colyer – Guest Blog and Giveaway

This post is part of a virtual book tour organized by Goddess Fish Promotions. Cherie Colyer will be awarding a $15 Amazon/BN GC to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour. Click on the tour banner to see the other stops on the tour.

What Scares Me the Most as an Author

As an author, what scares me the most is that no one will find my books. That I’ve spent hours writing and revising, pouring my heart and soul into bringing the characters alive, that I found a wonderful publisher and have an amazing editor, but when the book is released, readers simply don’t know it exists. It’s very similar to that fear of throwing a party and no one comes. You know the one where you’re home, streamers huge, food prepared, drinks chilled, party hat on, and it’s just you.

This is a very real fear. There are a lot of books out there. Authors need to have faith that ours will be seen. We depend on the reading community to spread the word about our books. So I’d like to give a huge shout out to all the wonderful book bloggers, bookstagrammers, YouTubers, TikTok-booktoks, and so on. You’re amazing. Thank you for sharing your book recommendations!! I’d also like to thank every reader who has ever left a review or talked about a book. You rock!!

There is also the trepidation of the first reviews. (I bet you’re seeing a trend here.) I know not every reader is going to love my books. It’s a form of art, and stories are very subjective. But it is nice to know my book babies reached the right audience. I’m always delighted when a reader enjoys my book. I hope you do too!

It has been a pleasure to be on Long and Short Review. Thanks for having me!

Happy reading!
Cherie

Twelve-year-old Zach is convinced he’ll never be happy without his best friend Jeremy by his side. But both of their lives changed with a bang five months ago, and as far as Zach’s concerned, it’s his fault Jeremy will never see his twelfth birthday.

When Zach moves with his family to a Chicago suburb, he quickly becomes friends with a group of thrill-seeking kids trying to find a disappearing haunted house. But Zach’s not worried. He doesn’t believe in ghosts, so he follows them into a wild, dangerous encounter that becomes a battle to decide what’s real and what’s not.

Enjoy an Excerpt

My bewildered gaze slithered from Dom to Josh, finally coming to a stop on Morgan as I tried to decide if they were crazy.

“If the house is invisible, how do you expect to find it?” I asked.

Morgan sat on the stoop next to me. “It’s not always invisible. My brothers saw it once. They said it’s a big house with a long porch. It vanished before they could set foot on the first step, and I’m glad, too.”

“Why? What would have happened if they were on the steps?” I asked. Not because I believed an old ghost story had any truth to it, but I was curious to know what she’d say.

Morgan had to pick her jaw up from the walkway before she could answer, and when she did her voice came out in a high-pitched squeak. “If they had been on the porch or worse—” she swallowed loudly “—inside, they would have disappeared with it.”

About the Author C.L. Colyer found her love for writing in first grade when her class was sent to the library and asked to find a book for their first book report. While she doesn’t still have this book report, she’s very proud to say she got an A on it. Her favorite thing about the book was that it had no words. That’s right, not one! That gave her the freedom to interpret the pictures in any way she wanted and write her own story.

This sparked her love for writing essays. It wasn’t until she was an adult that she sat down and penned her first novel. This story has a special place in her heart because it’s the story that helped her discover her passion for writing. She has since written several books, many of which may never see the light of day, but all of which helped her learn to combine her passion for writing with her fascination with all things mythical. You’ll find examples of this in her novels.

She lives in Illinois with her family.

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Goodreads | Amazon Author Page | BookBub Author Page

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Theological Systems in Fantasy by N.K. Carlson – Guest Blog and Giveaway

This post is part of a virtual book tour organized by Goddess Fish Promotions. N. K. Carlson will be awarding a $25 Amazon or Barnes and Noble GC to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour. Click on the tour banner to see the other stops on the tour.

Theological Systems in Fantasy

Only the youngest of readers can miss the significance of Aslan in Narnia. He is the Christ figure, the Lion, the one who lays down his life and rises from the dead. C. S. Lewis’ theological approach to his fantasy world is heavy handed.

On the other hand, J. R. R. Tolkien is notoriously light handed with the theological system of Middle Earth in The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, though he does expand upon his theological structure to his world in The Silmarillion. Fleming Rutledge actually makes the point that the God figure of Middle Earth is present in a hidden way on nearly every page in her work, The Battle for Middle Earth.

All fantasy authors, whether religious themselves or not, face the issues of theology in their fictional worlds. As most fantasy works, particularly high fantasy with elves and dwarves, take place in pre-industrial society, the writer must grapple with the fact that most pre-industrial human cultures have religious beliefs regarding various gods, goddesses, and higher powers.
When I sat down to write Shadow and Sword, I knew I would have to include religion. In my day job, I am a youth minister. I went to seminary and graduated with a Master of Divinity. I am pursuing ordination within my denomination. But how heavy handed to be?

As a Christian, I believe that Jesus is the Son of God, who died and rose from the dead. But I specifically decided against having an incarnate God within my story, like an Aslan. Theologically, it’s too complicated to create a God inside a world of my own creation modeled after that God I believe created me.

So, I shifted my focus from the God of Terrasohnen to the beings analogous to angels and demons. Without giving too much away, angels and demons, though not known by that name in Terrasohnen, are key players in my story.

As you read, you will join Reith as he travels and encounters various religious centers around Terrasohnen. Some of my favorite parts of the story are the conversations Reith has with priests and lore masters. I hope you enjoy them too.

The word was just below a whisper, yet in sixteen-year-old Reith’s ears, it rang louder than he could have ever imagined. Reith had his life in order: apprentice under his mentor, Master Chronicler Vereinen, and follow in his footsteps. Until a shadowy figure appeared in his village, burning everything to the ground, including Reith’s future. Now Reith’s mentor is missing and Reith is on the run from the mysterious Shadow.

Reith adventures through magical forests, ancient ruins, and the lands of prejudiced elves to find his mentor, learn the secret of his sword, and unravel the mystery of the Shadow. Will Reith discover the truth of will the Shadow continue to fall over all of Terrashonen?

Enjoy an Excerpt

“Run,” the word was almost a whisper, yet it rang out, louder than Reith could have thought possible. It beat against his ear drum as if someone had rung a bell by his ear. “Run. If you look back, we will shoot over your head. The next arrow will be right behind it, aimed true at your back. If you come back, we will kill you. I am a man of my word. If you come back, I will give you a name we can mark on your tomb.”

Reith hesitated for just a moment, but then the Gray Man screamed, “RUN!”

The word hung in the air like the smoke from the smoldering town and Reith bolted. He pushed past the archers and rushed out of town, running in a headlong sprint, running for his life.

At the town’s edge, just before he reached the forest, he chanced a look back and an arrow whizzed past his head, sending a short breeze across his face. He jumped behind a tree and heard the thud of an arrow hit the other side of the trunk.
Reith fled from the horror behind him, running faster than he ever thought he was capable of running. The Gray Man yelled after him, “If you see Vereinen, tell him I’m looking for him! Run!”

About the Author:N. K. Carlson is an author living in Texas. Originally from the Chicago area, he graduated from the University of Illinois before studying at Logsdon Seminary, where he graduated with a master of divinity degree. He has published two books.

The Things that Charm Us and the Smelly Gospel (which was co-written with Drew Doss) both came out in 2020.

His love of writing began in elementary school when each student was given a blank white book to fill with a story. In college, he took an interest in blogging and writing novels.

Website | Medium | Facebook | Twitter

Buy the book at Amazon.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

The Need for More Diversity and Inclusivity in Children’s Literature by Kalifa Rodriguez – Guest Blog and Giveaway

This post is part of a virtual book tour organized by Goddess Fish Promotions. Kalifa Rodriguez will be awarding a $15 Amazon/BN GC to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour. Click on the tour banner to see the other stops on the tour.

The Need for More Diversity and Inclusivity in Children’s Literature

I believe a great children’s non-fiction book should have 3 key elements; it should be informative, entertaining and inspirational. Eating These Foods Makes Me… provides a great basis for food/nutrition intelligence at a young age, and plants the seed for leading a healthy lifestyle. It’s perfect for picky eaters because the real photo images expose them to different kinds of foods and allow them to explore in a totally safe and fun way via the characters and illustrations in the book, while the bonus activity pages offer even more interactive ideas to consolidate their learning. Last but not least the repeated positive affirmations are empowering and aim to inspire a healthy relationship with food. The gender and culturally diverse representation of characters, even those with special needs such as those having physical or “hidden” disabilities such as ADHD, aim to broaden the reader’s view of the world- something all non-fiction books should strive to accomplish, such that readers of different backgrounds and experiences can also recognize themselves within the pages of the book.

In fact, research shows that by the tender age of 2 years old children already start noticing social differences such as race. Diversity in children’s literature is so important, especially for kids who identify with different communities. It is about ensuring all our kids feel seen and included in activities, especially ones as important as reading!

Let’s clarify: what is a multicultural book?

According to https://multiculturalchildrensbookday.com diverse & multicultural books include:

• Books that contain characters of color as well as main characters that represent a minority point of view.

• Books that are written by an author of diversity or color (such as myself) from their perspective.

• Books that share ideas, stories, and information about cultures, race, religion, language, and traditions. These books can be non-fiction yet still entertaining and informative.

• Books that embrace special needs or even “hidden disabilities” like ADHD, ADD, and anxiety. For example, Eating These Foods Makes Me… features a character with special needs and embraces children with “hidden disabilities” like ADHD.

• Books that show IBPOC readers what is POSSIBLE–like in my book there’s a black female teacher with dreads, there’s also a Muslim child modestly dressed in a hijab practicing gymnastics.

Why choose children’s books that celebrate diversity?

I remember growing up and feeling frustrated by the lack of books, toys and dolls that looked like me. As a child, you don’t really understand these thoughts and begin to harbour subtle feelings of inferiority and estrangement that can last a lifetime. Our kids inadvertently start to compare themselves to those they more frequently see books written about. However, books with diverse characters aren’t only meant for IBPOC readers, they help to develop kindness and empathy in all readers! These books help our children learn respect for all identities, something we desperately need in today’s world.

If you share my mission to raise awareness for kid’s books that celebrate diversity, you can do your part today by sharing the word about your favorite children’s books and #elevatemelanatedvoices by supporting authors of color, as well as requesting them at your child’s school, local libraries and day camps. Together we can raise our #ownvoices and #readyourworld by demonstrating how much #representationmatters.

Is your kid a picky eater? Do you want your child to enjoy eating a variety of foods? Reading can be a proactive way to introduce your little one to the amazing world of nutrition! In this book, readers will explore healthy foods and learn how key nutrients benefit the body. These pages repeat positive affirmations that will empower and build your child’s mindfulness about the foods they eat.

It is never too early to instill life-long healthy eating habits. Happy reading! Or should I say, happy eating!

Enjoy an Excerpt

Fun Learning Activities to Promote Healthy Nutrition

1. Using paper and crayons or coloured pencils, draw a rainbow, and then draw a fruit or vegetable that is the same colour as each colour of the rainbow. You can even use this book for ideas. Remember to eat a rainbow of fruits and vegetables (at least 5 servings) each day! How many have you eaten today?

2. Do you like to play any sports or games? Do you like to walk to the park? Help your parents choose and prepare an energizing snack before the next game or walk to the park.

3. Eat your water? That sounds silly! Did you know that some fruits and veggies such as celery are mostly made up of water and can also help to keep you hydrated? Can you think of any others? Now try adding those slices of fruit or even cucumber to your water bottle to give it some pizazz.

4. Try introducing interactive sensory play for preschoolers (age 3 and older). Gather a variety of beans, nuts, or seeds on a tray or in a bowl with a spoon. Under adult supervision, let the preschooler feel, grab, and scoop the legumes, nuts, and seeds. See if the toddler can separate them based on different colours, sizes, and textures while the adult names each food and talks about how these foods make us strong from the proteins and smart from the healthy omega fats.

About the Author:Kalifa Rodriguez is a registered dietitian and certified breastfeeding specialist. She currently works as a clinical nutritionist in Montreal, Canada. After receiving her bachelor’s degree in nutritional biochemistry, she went on to complete a master’s degree in human nutrition and dietetics at McGill University. Kalifa is passionate about promoting healthy lifestyle choices through nutrition, exercise, and mindfulness. She also hopes to leave a positive impact in the community through her work by giving nutrition education sessions to community groups and organizations. Kalifa and her husband are parents to their delightful toddler, who is the inspiration for this book.

Website | Facebook | Instagram | YouTube | Goodreads

Buy the book at Amazon, Amazon CA, Indigo Chapters, Barnes and Noble, or Book Depository.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

What Lessons Did I Learn from My Hero? by Namita Mahanama – Guest Blog and Giveaway

This post is part of a virtual book tour organized by Goddess Fish Promotions. Namita Mahanama will be awarding a $15 Amazon/BN GC to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour. Click on the tour banner to see the other stops on the tour.

WHAT LESSONS DID I LEARN FROM MY HERO IN MY CHILDREN’S BOOK, ‘MY MUMMY AFTER OUR BABY – A JOURNEY OF HOPE AND HEALING’?

The children’s book that I wrote, My Mummy After Our Baby – A Journey of Hope and Healing, is an actual true story about my family. It is a story of ‘Aydan’, who is actually my eldest son Ari, navigating his way through my post-natal depression after I had my second son ‘Kameron’, who is actually Kaiyaan.

I wrote this book as one that I wished was available for me and Ari, when I was unwell, as it explains so eloquently through the illustrations and narrative exactly what was happening in a very gentle and soft way.

It helps to give so much understanding, compassion and hope around the whole experience of PND. This is why I needed to create this support tool, so that it could help other families through their difficult chapters; in hope that it gives some solace and respite to their situation.

I was riddled within my darkness of post-natal depression that came on suddenly and ferociously on day 5 after giving birth, which completely blind-sided little Ari at the age of 4 years old.

This story shows how he was the silent observer to my illness, and was completely confused about where I had gone and what had happened to me. Yet, this beautiful story shows how his unconditional love for me, became my strength and guiding light into walking towards my recovery.

His strength, his resilience, his ability to see me beyond the pain and darkness that the condition brought to me…and him searching for glimpses of my light within, gave me my ‘WHY’ to keep going day after day.

His character in this book as Aydan, and him in real life as Ari, have given me my greatest lessons. My boys have been my greatest teachers in life, thus far.

His unconditional love for me was the first lesson he taught me. He taught me that we do not need to be ‘perfect’ or have ‘Instagram worthy’ ‘picture-perfect’ moments, because unconditional love is always there between all of the cracks…and it lays waiting, ready to rekindled when the dust begins to settle.

He taught me the power of inner strength and gave me my reason to keep trying everything to recover from this silent, and very isolating disease.

I did it for him, knowing that he deserved to have a healthy mother who would do anything for him to live his best life. The thought of a life for him without a mother in it, crushed my soul and gave me every ounce of energy I needed to keep fighting another day.

His beautiful innocence allowed me to gather the courage to do everything I needed to do to recover from this illness.

He believed in me, he relied on me and he needed me to get better.

He taught me the lesson of tribal support, and that our children are our tribe.

He taught me that although this heart-wrenching condition cuts off our heart-centre and brain-centre; that our love and connection is always primal, there and runs through our veins…no matter what.

He taught me that patience is a virtue, and he patiently waited until I returned back into my light and that connection returned in abundance. We then savoured it a million times more, because we had lost it instantly, through no fault of our own, for those 11 weeks.

He was my strength, my purpose, the breath in my lungs to get me through one moment and day at a time.

I am so grateful for his love and for choosing me to be his Mummy, because without him, I would not have a ‘happily ever after’.

That part in the story, where I woke up that morning in week 11 post-birth, and ‘Aydan’ (Ari) held and sang to me the Noongar (Indigenous Aboriginal song) as I woke up, absolutely happened.

To this day, it brings me to tears; the emotion, the heart, the love that I felt in that moment, and I will never, ever forget the perfection and divinity that was.

‘Baby you are my heart…Baby you are my heart…Baby you are my heart…my star, my love, my life’

He is my star…my love…and he gave me my life back…and I will be eternally grateful.

My Mummy After Our Baby: A Journey Of Hope and Healing is a beautifully written and illustrated story, about the reality of post-natal depression setting in after the birth of their perfect little baby.
It is a gentle, soft, perfectly put together story, filled with an abundance of emotion and heart to explain what is happening at home, for all children who may be feeling lost and confused about what is happening to their Mummy after becoming unwell.

It is written by a mother who experienced this twice herself and vowed to create a beautiful explanation and tool, in order to provide hope, solace and strength for other families, that she wished was available for her children.

This beautiful book is written in the hope of educating, as well as to be a connective and bonding tool, at a time when a family needs it the most. It is gently and eloquently written, with the most amazing illustrations, that will form the basis of a vital healing tool in the home of everyone who is going through this harrowing chapter.

The author has brought the prospect of hope in a perfect package here and is her gift to you and your family, to navigate through this chapter with as much peace and lightness as possible.

Enjoy an Excerpt

Once upon a time in a far-away town called Knocksville, there lived a little boy called Aydan. He was a very kind, fun, smart and sweet boy full of so much energy and brightness!

Aydan made friends with everyone that he met and he was always the bright spark in every room that he walked into.

Aydan lived with his Mummy and Daddy and they loved spending time together. They played golf, loved going to the beach or running around the park with their little doggy Rupert.

Every day felt like it was filled with so much joy and happiness.

Every night they always shared turns in saying three things that they were thankful for.

Most nights, Aydan would say that he was thankful for food in his tummy, a roof over his head and for having a family who loved and cared for him as much as all of the stars in the sky.

This always made his Mummy’s heart shine brighter, grow bigger and she would hold him tight until he fell asleep.

About the Author:Namita is a mother of two boys and draws upon her heart-wrenching first-hand experience of
post-natal depression, after the birth of both of her children. She is creating a myriad of support tools for women and their families, to navigate through their journeys of PND with as much ease and grace as possible.

Namita is a registered pharmacist who has qualifications in Ayurveda and Ayurveda Yoga teaching, as well as being a PMC (paediatric massage consultant) and CIMI (certified infant massage instructor). She draws upon her professional knowledge as well as her own experience, to be the support lifeline at a time when families need it the most.

Her intention is that she can be a beacon of hope and shine much-needed light, on the road
towards the mothers and the entire family’s healing and recovery. She hopes to inspire and uplift you through this chapter in your life.

Website | Instagram | Goodreads

Buy the book at Amazon, Amazon CA, Chapters Indigo, Barnes and Noble, or Book Depository.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Queen of Shadows by Erin Dulin and Britt Cooper – Spotlight and Giveaway

Long and Short Reviews welcomes Erin Dulin and Britt Cooper who are celebrating the recent release of Queen of Shadows. Enter for the chance to win a $50.00 First for Romance Gift Card! Competition hosted by Totally Entwined Group.

Why be a princess when you can rule the shadows?

Rejecting the senseless demands of her wicked stepmother, Ella of Locksley shares her family’s abundance with the people of her land. Yet, the desperation of her community has only begun.

When the nation of Llundyn is brutally attacked, Princes Ric and Johan begin to fight for their right to rule, leaving the kingdom’s very heart to hang in the balance as subversive forces emerge. Taxation drives the citizenry toward hopelessness, with the absence of leadership taking its toll.

Striking out on her own, Ella takes up the nation’s cause, making a name for herself as the infamous Hood, and leads her cunning crew, stealing from the rich to provide for the poor. But the return of the rightful heir, along with a forbidden romance, changes everything—with artifice and betrayal leading to an unlikely alliance that unites prince and thieves.

The passion and true love of a king leave Ella torn between duty and loyalty when, at the stroke of midnight, her identity is exposed. She’ll face the ultimate choice—enduring as the Hood or sacrificing it all for the ones she loves.

Reader advisory: This book contains some scenes of violence, a maiming and a death.

Enjoy an Excerpt

Fitful cries from the Carvers’ infant son pierced the silence, cleaving away Ella’s remaining shreds of calm. Trekking through the village was a dubious task on the most temperate of evenings. Doing so in the biting gales of waning wintertide was sheer idiocy, but she had little choice.

Ella tugged the hood of her cloak, attempting to keep it in place atop her head. The wind swirling around her had other ideas, whipping her mantle with vicious ferocity and nearly knocking her onto her backside as she crouched beneath a narrow window. She gripped the rotting sill, cursing under her breath before digging her heels into the frozen earth.

“Be grateful.” Much met her gaze, his eyes alight with suppressed mirth as he observed her predicament. “The weather should provide us a little more time.”

It was true. Ella glanced skyward, where the silvery haze lingering above conveniently veiled the moonlight. “Would that it could also grant us more provisions to share,” she whispered as Much tossed a small bag of grain in her direction. She wedged it neatly between the pile of cordwood and the decaying shingles sheathing the exterior, the burlap sack catching on the splintered timbers of the ramshackle cottage. “Another?” She held out a gloved palm expectantly.

“We cannot spare it.” Much’s words were but a breath, born both of necessity as well as grief. “If we double their portion, we’ll leave another family with nothing.”

Ella rose, making her way toward Much with a muted stride. “I filched an extra sack of grain from the lovely Lady Margaret before we set out.” She loosed the pouch from her horse, Monroe, with nimble fingers. “The Carvers will put it to far better use. They have five children now, you know.”

“Indeed.” Much folded his arms across his chest for warmth. “But Lady Margaret is apt to skin you alive if she catches you.”

“Tosh.” Ella waved his concern away with a dramatic sweep of her hand. “My stepmother would never sully herself over the likes of me. Doubtless, she’ll task you with that burden in her stead.” She grinned, waggling her eyebrows in amusement.

Much groaned. “You are as delightfully morbid as ever.”

Ella ignored him as she scurried toward the shanty for a second time, pairing the modest sack of grain with its twin nestled beside the kindling. The bags were always well hidden from passersby so as not to be stolen but quickly found by the tenants seeking firewood for their hearth. “It shouldn’t make any difference,” she groused, mounting her horse as Much followed suit. “It all belongs to me.”

“Ah, if only, Lady Locksley. It shall be yet another two years, for until the age of—”

“Twenty, I know. I know.” Ella sighed. It was an inconvenient fact she wished desperately to change. Thus far, her finest efforts in evading the ill-conceived lineal law of Llundyn included skulking through her hamlet in the wee hours before dawn, distributing food from her manor.

In the simplest of terms, she was stealing from herself, though with great care so as not to be discovered by her insufferable stepmother—the rightful heir of her lands and fortunes until she was finally of age.

Ella was discreet in her thieving endeavors, pinching items that would not be missed. It didn’t hurt that Cooke willingly turned a blind eye. And, as luck would have it, Lady Margaret wasn’t much for kitchen duty. It was a task she viewed as too menial for a woman of her stratum, even if she had only managed to achieve her status via a wholly undeserved union with Ella’s father.

Heavens, how she missed him, God rest his soul.

“Where’s the good in my title if I’m unable to use my station? I’m a member of the gentry with no more authority than that of an entitled rat.” Ella urged her mount toward their next destination, gritting her teeth against the brisk air as her horse picked up speed. Plucking an arrow from the quiver on her shoulder, she turned, aiming at the weather-worn door behind her, her drawn bow taut. Her bolt found its mark, despite Monroe’s bounding gait, announcing the presence of a delivery—the handmade arrow a telltale sign of her brief visit.

Much scoffed. “Nonsense. A rat would never share the spoils of its domain as you have. Neither would it have your impeccable aim.”

Ella glanced at Much, expecting to see him smiling as he often did when he teased her, but his handsome face was surprisingly austere.

No. There was no humor to be found in these circumstances.

Two years of poor, drought-riddled harvests had taken their toll on the kingdom of Llundyn. The dearth of crops had failed to significantly affect the nobility, of course, with many a lord and lady inclined to take advantage of the bountiful imports from neighboring realms. But the paltry yield was nothing short of devastating for the commoners who had little coin to spare. Many had begun to exhibit its brutality outwardly, the sharp planes of their faces and bone-thin frames a startling illustration of the land’s insufficiency.

Yet wealth poured into Locksley in the form of generous taxes, collected by Lady Margaret from the tenants surrounding the estate. As residents of the Locksley lands, they paid their due and worked the countryside in addition to their regular employment in the borough of Coventry, some five miles south of the manor.

Shame grieved Ella’s conscience as she observed the growing disparity, convicting her of something far worse than her newly established hobby of larceny.

Abundance.

Attempting to shed her sense of guilt was worthless. It merely required action. Thievery paled in comparison to the atrocity of starvation and poverty. And, as far as Ella was concerned, it wasn’t truly theft if she were merely pilfering from herself.

Much’s eagerness to be complicit in her scheming had been all the sanction she’d needed. She’d considered him the more reasonable of the two of them for as long as she’d known him. If he could rationalize the madness in her subterfuge…well, then perhaps it wasn’t madness at all.

As an orphan of some four years now, Much was far from his natural element. His father had been a man of the sea, captain of the king’s navy, his young son serving as a boatswain under his command and following in his footsteps. But his untimely demise had left his widow and son at the beneficence of the kingdom.

Ella’s father, Robin, had taken them on, providing steady work until fever had suddenly taken him away, with Much’s mother following quickly behind. The staggering loss had left Much and Ella reeling, grappling for some fragment of hope, an element of security—qualities that they’d had the great fortune of discovering in one another, bonding them at once in heartache as well as mercy.

Then, in a startling turn of events, tragedy had taken a turn for the positive. Lady Margaret had deigned to agree with Ella, who’d insisted that Much be permitted to continue his employment assisting the manor’s only carpenter. Whether due to genuine benevolence on her stepmother’s part or some peculiar sense of duty, Ella was never certain. Still, it was a small victory that she and Much readily welcomed.

“Blast this wretched wind,” Much grumbled, his complaint a swell of haze in the frigid air. “Remind me to wear several more layers of clothing for our next outing.”

“And you dare to deem me the foul-mouthed one between us?” Ella demanded, bringing about a reluctant smile from her surly partner in crime. “Perhaps you should reconsider.”

“Your words are well received, milady.” He raised his brows in satisfaction, well aware that his use of the highborn term was profane to Ella’s sensibilities. While he knew his place in Llundynien society, Ella had never treated him as lesser than an equal and always took his ribbing in good humor.

“Well, you’re a fiend, James Much. Cease your peevishness at once so we may complete the task at hand,” Ella intoned in a haughty impersonation of Lady Margaret, giggling with pleasure as his features crumpled in annoyance.

“Oh, but you do that too well, my friend.” Much laughed, shoving her playfully in the shoulder. “How many more deliveries?”

“Only two.” Ella patted the satchel that had been replete with various dried meats, grains and hard cheeses only hours ago. Now it was close to empty, bringing about a sobering reality. “How does it go so quickly? What we have will never suffice.”

“You’re doing your best. Your father would be proud,” Much said with reverence, warming Ella’s aching heart. “I don’t know of many nobles who give one thought to the peasants occupying their lands, and here you are, feeding yours from your own stores. It’s far better than doing nothing.”

“Yes, but also not nearly enough,” Ella agreed. “And besides, I thought the food didn’t belong to me yet.” Recalling Much’s previous assertions, she couldn’t help elbowing him in the ribs, nearly tumbling from her horse in the process.

“Careful!” Much hissed, grasping her arm and righting her before she slipped too far. “What good can you do for your hamlet if you meet your end beneath your horse’s hooves?”

“Worry not.” Ella resettled into her saddle as she adjusted her grip on the leather reins. “I do believe I’d live forever, simply to spite the lovely Lady Margaret.”

About the Authors

Brittany has been a cosmetologist for over a decade, an occupation that continuously explores fresh avenues of creativity and beauty. She is a new mother, learning to balance the reality of what it means to be a mom, wife, stylist, and author. Reading has always been one of her passions and writing an endeavor she refuses to leave behind.

Instagram | Website | First for Romance

Erin is a wife and mother who loves spending time with family. She’s an enthusiastic fan of all things sports, experimental baker/chef, and amateur gamer in her free time. Writing has been a passion since her childhood, and while finding peace and quiet in which to write never comes easily, she knows it worth every ounce of chaos when the stories take shape.

Instagram | Website | First for Romance

Buy the book at your favorite online venue or First for Romance.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Where Mythology & Imagination Meet: The Creation of a “Real-World” Mermaid Fantasy by Talena Winters – Guest Blog and Giveaway

This post is part of a virtual book tour organized by Goddess Fish Promotions. Talena Winters will be awarding a hardback copy of The Undine’s Tear (Rise of the Grigori Book 1) and also The Sphinx’s Heart (Rise of the Grigori Book 2) to a randomly drawn winner (International Giveaway) via rafflecopter during the tour. Click on the tour banner to see the other stops on the tour.

Where Mythology & Imagination Meet: The Creation of a “Real-World” Mermaid Fantasy

Every book has to start with a seed idea. For the Rise of the Grigori series, that idea was a question, sparked while watching a mermaid show where the entire race was female: Where are all the mermen?

Despite the fact that some popular mermaid stories include mermen, historically, the idea of mermaids have been far more prevalent and romanticized. While mermaids were the stuff of sailor’s wet dreams—often conflated with the alluring sirens of Greek mythology to draw human men to their doom beneath the waves—mythological mermen were twisted, stunted things akin to tricksters and demons, if a male counterpart existed at all.

And my brain wanted to know why.

While answering that question, I researched mermaid myths and discovered that nearly every ancient culture had mermaids in some form. Soon, my brain had started to create the world and history of the undines (UN-deens, an elemental water creature from Greek mythology) to answer my question about the absent mermen.

Undines haven’t been able to birth their own males for three thousand years, since a powerful Mad healer in their history sank Atlantis. No one knows why the powerful healers go Mad, nor why the undines can’t produce boys, nor why the Heartstone that powers the barrier hiding their island is failing. Not even Calandra, the most powerful healer to be born since the Sinking—which means she’s probably going to go insane eventually, too.

Well, none of the undines know. Outside the barrier, someone knows—and they have assigned a young sphinx cherubim to guard Zale, the first undine male to be born in three millennia. It’s the sphinx’s job to reunite him with his sister (Calandra) and mother to save not only the undines, but the entire cosmos, before a powerful fallen dragon seraph plunges it into chaos. Again.

In creating the Rise of the Grigori series, I pulled on my interests in ancient and modern cultures and myths, history, my passion for social issues such as gender and racial equality, and my own Judeo-Christian spiritual beliefs about angels, demons, and the cosmos, and built a fantasy world set on an Earth almost like our own in 1799. While most of my research will never appear on the page, it creates a vibrant backdrop to the action and adventure tale of the brother and sister destined to save the universe.

If they can only figure out what went wrong in the first place.

She’s destined to save the world . . . if she doesn’t destroy it first.

Calandra’s destiny is also her doom. As the most powerful healer since the woman who sank Atlantis, she’s been raised to restore the Heartstone that protects her island from humans . . . before she goes Mad like her mother and all the powerful undine healers before her. When she learns she needs both male and female magic to succeed, she becomes desperate—there hasn’t been an undine male born for over three thousand years. Instead, she’s being pressured to use the siren mind-bond to enslave her childhood friend, the one man she’s sworn to risk a death sentence to free.

When Calandra discovers a cryptic message that shows her exiled mother was not only sane but pregnant with a boy, she questions everything she’s been taught to believe. But revealing the horrifying truth of the bonds could tear her island apart—and concealing it could unleash the Earth’s oldest, most destructive enemy. With insanity looming, can Calandra find her brother and save the Heartstone, the man she loves, her people, and the world . . . before she loses control and destroys them all?

The Undine’s Tear is the first book in the mind-blowing young adult epic historical fantasy series Rise of the Grigori. Packed with complex characters, lush world-building, gritty action, and impossible odds, this intricately woven tale presents mermaids like you’ve never seen them before. Join Calandra in a search for redemption that will threaten the very fabric of the universe. Dive into the adventure today!

Enjoy an Excerpt

“You are wondering how to gain control of your powers,” Damon said without preamble.

Calandra thought about ignoring him or denying it, but what was the point? This was nothing more than a dream, and the slippery logic of dreams fuzzed her will to keep her more rebellious thoughts to herself.

“You know, I shouldn’t even be talking to you. An Unredeemed male. I could get in big trouble.”

The corners of his mouth curved under his trim goatee.

“And who will report you?” He indicated the blackness around them. “Certainly not I. I exist only in your mind.”

She crossed her arms and cocked her head, studying him. “Have you ever been Redeemed?”

His expression became stony. “Redemption is for humans.”

“Redemption is for men. To make them safe. It just happens that the only men are human.”

Thinking of Osaze’s dread, she wondered again at the morality of it. Uncrossing her arms, she shifted her gaze from Damon’s face to his bronze chest.

“And one of them is my friend.”

“All humans should be controlled,” he replied nonchalantly, drawing nearer. “They have not the patience nor discipline to control themselves. And I am not human, yet I am male.”

She looked up at him, eyes narrowed. “I can see that. What are you? I’ve never seen an undine with golden eyes.”

He smiled knowingly. “Not human. But I could be your friend.”

That same feeling of security and warmth from their first encounter enveloped her, as though he were projecting it from himself intentionally. She frowned, wanting to accept it and shake off her heavy heart, but not daring to trust him yet.

“What do you want from me?”

“I want to help you.”

Damon came near enough to touch her but didn’t, pausing before her with his arms to the sides in a placating gesture.

She wrapped her arms around herself and glared into the blackness beyond him. “Yeah, well, you can’t. Not unless you can tell me how to control powers that could sink an island and heal the Heartstone without going Mad.”

“Little lark,” he said, amusement dripping from his voice like honey from a spoon, “that is exactly what I intend to do.”

About the Author: Talena Winters is addicted to stories, tea, chocolate, yarn, and silver linings. She writes page-turning fiction for teens and adults in multiple genres, coaches other writers, has written several award-winning songs, and designs knitting patterns under her label My Secret Wish. Master of the ironic GIF response. She currently resides on an acreage in the Peace Country of northern Alberta, Canada, with her husband, three surviving boys, two dogs, and an assortment of farm cats. She would love to be a mermaid when she grows up.

Website | Instagram | Twitter | Goodreads | Facebook | Facebook | Pinterest

Buy the book at Amazon.

a Rafflecopter giveaway