Jester by Brielle D. Porter- Exclusive Excerpt and Giveaway

This post is part of a virtual book tour organized by Goddess Fish Promotions. The author will be awarding a $25 Amazon/BN GC to a randomly drawn winner. Click on the tour banner to see the other stops on the tour.

What happens in Oasis, stays in Oasis.

Lisette’s father killed the King. His execution leaves Lisette alone, disgraced, and without the magic he intended to pass on to her. In Oasis, that’s a problem. Glutted with enchanted performers, Oasis is a sin city where courtiers pay in gold to drink, gamble, and above all, be entertained. To survive on its competitive streets, Lisette peddles paltry illusions in place of magic.

Desperate to prove herself, Lisette enters into a deadly competition to be chosen as the highest-ranked magician in the world, the Queen’s Jester. But her rival, the irritatingly handsome Luc, possesses the one thing Lisette does not―real magic. Lisette will do anything to win, but when evidence implicating the Queen in her husband’s murder surfaces, Lisette must choose between redeeming her family name, or seizing the fame she’s hungered for her entire life.

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The seeker is gone. I watch him leave, head shaking as if disappointed, the crowd swallowing him up again. My one big shot, gone as quickly as the smoke from my act.

I gather up my knives, suddenly too exhausted to even finish the show. There are a few shouted threats, but I hardly notice through the fog of disappointment. I can’t believe it’s over.

Seventeen months I’ve waited for the opportunity to impress a seeker, and with just one word, it’s over. And I didn’t even make enough gold dust to buy myself dinner.

I loosen Stefan’s bindings, my fingers slipping as a loud gasp from the nearby crowd steals my attention. Stefan drops with a thud and a curse, but I hardly hear his complaints. Most of my audience has wan- dered off, inflating the already bloated numbers of the show next to mine. The entire stretch of street, known fondly to those in the business as the Noose, is filled with performers clamoring to be seen. Nowhere else in the kingdom of Terraca is there a place so glutted with magic: everything from the mundane enchantments like the ones used to keep the hotels refreshingly cool inside—even here in the desert—to the spectacular.

Sandwiched between the most impressive hotels in Oasis—including the impressive Crown Hotel—the Noose is one of the best spots to snag wealthy patrons with too much gold in their wallets and too much liquor in their blood.

A bolt of lightning so bright it leaves a streak in my vision cracks the pavement several feet away. Applause and gold nuggets are thrown at the magician, who bows.

Ignoring Stefan’s shouts, I wander over to see what has the tourists so hot. I’ve seen most of the shows in the Noose multiple times; after all, I’ve got to maintain a healthy edge over my competitors. So, I’m not surprised when I recognize the performer instantly. His name rises in my throat like bile.

Luc.

About the Author: Brielle D. Porter decided to become a writer after a well-meaning elementary school teacher told her she had a gift for it. Stolen moments under the covers reading anything from Harry Potter to William Goldman solidified the desire to tell stories herself one day. Jester is her debut novel.

Brielle lives with her husband and three sons on a lavender farm in Northern Idaho. When she’s not writing, she can be found running and beekeeping. Only ask her about her hobbies if you have plenty of time to spare.

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How to handle negative criticism (throughout the journey of becoming an author) by Lena S. May – Guest Blog and Giveaway

This post is part of a virtual book tour organized by Goddess Fish Promotions. Lena S. May will be awarding a $10 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.

How to handle negative criticism (throughout the journey of becoming an author)
When you’re eight years old and proudly show the very first story you have ever written to your elementary school teacher and your parents, negative criticism is highly unlikely.

When you’re fourteen years old and your teachers invite you to do a project that allows you to leave class three times a week to work on your very first novel, and then have to present said novel to your entire school – including your classmates who actually had to attend Chemistry and Physics – negative criticism is pretty much guaranteed.

Note: This deal includes free bullying for at least another year.

When you’re fifteen years old and your heart is still screaming I want to be an author, and you’re also determined to prove to your peers that you can actually make it, one night you might grab your manuscript and start contacting the biggest publishing houses you can find. Their submission guidelines tell you that you have to be patient, and so you wait.

Three months, six months, a year.

The good news is, at that point receiving negative criticism is extremely unlikely again – because you’ll never hear from them.

Note: That is technically not true; one or two might eventually send a standardized rejection letter, which hurts like hell, but at least they noticed you, right?

Sixteen, and not writing is still off the table. You’ve got the stories in your head and the characters in your heart, and somehow you’re still convinced it’s all going to work out. For now, the people who read your stories are your little sister and your best friend, and negative criticism comes in the form of He’d look better with bright blue eyes and I’d rather you write another story about that boy with the eating disorder.

Note: This stage is invaluable and you’ll be eternally grateful for it, but they’ll refuse to take the credit, so years later, you’ll put their names in the acknowledgments of your debut and there’s nothing they can do about it. Ha.

Eighteen, and somehow life has gotten in the way. You haven’t written anything decent in a while, and you probably won’t for another year, two, maybe even three. You’re now supposed to pick a university, or a career, start to figure things out, but you can’t – all you want to be is an author, after all. Negative criticism has turned into Being an author can’t be your Plan A and You’ll never make money writing and At least get a decent degree first.

Twenty-three. You still haven’t managed to get that “decent degree” – all you want to do is write, like it always was. By now, you have studied four different subjects and quit two of them; you have tried to learn Spanish, Italian and Ancient Greek so now you can order a beer in four languages and forget how to even read another one; you have worked in daycare, in a bakery, at a language school – but you’re still not an author.

Enter: A pandemic.

Note: If you’re lucky and there’s no pandemic, just pretend.

You stay at home. You gather all the bits and pieces you have written about those characters having lived rent-free in your heart since you were sixteen. You sit your ass down and write that manuscript, and you just know this is the one. This is the novel that you want people to read, this is what you will find a publisher for. Unfortunately, no publisher has kicked in your door yet. So you do the research.

You contact the agents and publishing houses, five or six at the time, for months. You have an excel sheet to keep track of the rejections. You know there will be a lot of those. You don’t know if you’re ready for that, but you have to try.

One, two, twenty-five, then a small publisher shows seemingly serious interest, then ghosts you.

Negative criticism, if any is included in the rejections, looks like I just couldn’t connect to the characters like I had hoped.

In my experience, this is the exact moment that decides whether you will succeed or not, and I don’t think this is limited to becoming an author. From what I’ve heard and read, it’s similar for all kinds of visions, dreams, goals.

You know exactly what you want. The world has repeatedly told you that you can’t have it. A little voice in your head starts telling you to quit.

Do you?

Don’t. The moment you feel your biggest failure might just be the moment right before your biggest success.

I’m twenty-five years old now. My debut novel is on the verge of being released, my publisher’s criticism sounded like Let’s work on this together and I think we have done a pretty good job.

If you’re going to take any piece of advice from me, let it be this:

Listen when your heart tells you where it wants to go. And refuse to quit until you get there.

Thrown out by his mother, 17-year-old Luke hopes to overcome his narcotic addiction and depression by changing his surroundings. At his new school, he quickly becomes friends with Sean, but finding that his developing feelings aren’t returned, Luke retreats into old habits. Determined to hide his self-injurious behavior and an advancing eating disorder, he soon risks much more than a broken heart.

When Sean meets Luke, the last thing on his mind is falling in love with a boy. Grappling with his own conflicting emotions and trying to keep them from his suspicious girlfriend, he brushes off Luke’s strange behavior. But when Luke suddenly cuts him off, Sean is forced to confront the truth and take action to save his best friend.

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It’s my fault.

I’m not sure how yet, but it’s what the white blank hospital room walls keep hammering into my head as the pungent, antiseptic smell makes my eyes water when all I’m trying to do is keep my composure.

My fault.

It’s what they’re all trying to say – the half-dead, bled-out body of the boy lying in the bed beside me, his fingers slowly losing their grip on mine, the over-worked and under-paid nurse already rushing down the corridor, the non-specialist assistant doctor, paying half his attention to the arrhythmically beeping monitor, the other half to fumbling his phone to mute.

And then there’s my brother, leaning against the wall in the corner, his crystal blue eyes asking not what I’ve done but when I’d planned on telling him that I was gay – which I’m really not. When I don’t react, he looks down to the face resting on the pillow next to my elbow, and I do, too: empty whiteness staring back. I’m beginning to think it’s burning into my retina, sucking every last speck of color out of the sky as I finally raise my glance to the window. I can’t let myself get lost in the void that is now his face if I want to clear my head, but there isn’t a single cloud drifting by to take hold of my attention, not a single leaf left in the trees, no bird, not even a gust of wind. It’s just me and my trembling heart and my racing thoughts, and yet, my loneliness is nothing in the face of what I now know he has been going through.

About the Author:Lena S. May is a Germany-based author and student. Living with her dog, she enjoys long walks, ideally followed by a cup of tea and an equally long reading session. After graduating university with a degree in English and American and German Studies, she is working towards her Master of Education to become a secondary school teacher. With her writing, Lena hopes to raise more awareness for mental health and the importance of looking out for one another and oneself. Her debut novel will be published in August 2022.

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Potion by Dorlana Vann – Spotlight and Giveaway

This post is part of a virtual book tour organized by Goddess Fish Promotions. Dorlana Vann will be awarding a $25 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.

#WitchesBeBitches

A Contemporary Retelling.

Eight years ago, the wicked witch held Hansel Lucas Jaeger and his sister, Melrose, captive. They barely escaped with their lives. Now, with high school, a garage band, and a part time job, Lucas finally feels normal.

But everything changes when Lucas sees his awkward, loner sister, hanging out with Star, one of the hot and hated popular girls known as The Bitches. At first, he’s just confused, but when he sees the tarot cards between them, he’s reminded of the curse the witch cast on Melrose.

His fears escalate when Star warns him about two witches from school who plan on using his sister for a ritual. Lucas wants to trust Star; he needs someone to confide in since Melrose thinks his fear of witchcraft is irrational. But Star is unpredictable and has toyed with his emotions before.

As Lucas searches for answers, more mysteries begin to unravel about Melrose’s childhood, Star’s motives, and his own family legacy. Lucas will have to make life and death decisions; but whom can he trust, and how do you rescue someone who doesn’t want to be saved?

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Melrose sat on the bed across from someone with bouncy, blonde hair that flowed down her back. When the girl turned and flashed a smile at Lucas, goosebumps rose from his feet to his face. He did a little head jerk to move the hair out of his eyes, but yeah, Star, the hottest girl at Tangleforest High, was in his house, casual, like his sister’s room was a normal place to hang out.

Be cool, he told himself. “What’s up?” He looked to see what homework they had, thinking a tutoring session was the only sane explanation for Star’s visit. But instead of books or paper, a few oversized cards were laid out on the bed. A second ticked by before he realized what type of cards. Tarot. Immediately, the tension he’d felt earlier returned. “What are y’all doing?”

“Playing a fortune telling game,” Melrose said innocently.

Lucas’ adrenaline started to pump, and suddenly his ears buzzed, the details from the past erupting through his head in a concentrated instant: swirls of color, lost in the trees, gingerbread house of horror, the witch, the cage, the curse. “The hell you are.” He stormed across the room and with one quick whoosh, the cards went flying off the bed.

About the Author:

Dorlana Vann loves taking elements from fairy tales (characters, mood, moral, plot) and mixing them with a paranormal element and then dropping them in a contemporary setting.

She has several supernatural fairy tale inspired stories, including novels, a short story collection, and Kindle Vella series. Her latest adventure is A Witchy Fairy Tale series; book 1: Potion.

Besides writing, life is all about family, food, book-club, BBQ team, festivals, trivia (even though she’s horrible at it), and drinking on patios – All of which she shares on Instagram

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Harley James and the Perils of the Pirate’s Curse by Leah Cupps – Spotlight and Giveaway

 

This post is part of a virtual book tour organized by Goddess Fish Promotions. Leah Cupps will be awarding $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.

Will Harley find the magic pearl before Port Royal is destroyed?

Harley James, explorer and amateur cryptologist, has just arrived in Port Royal, Jamaica—home to the Caribbean’s famous sunken pirate city. Her latest mission? Prevent a mysterious, mythical blue pearl from being discovered and prevent city’s total destruction.

No sweat for an adventurer like Harley, right?

But just when Harley thinks she’s on the right track, everything she believes is turned upside-down. Her friends become enemies; her enemies become friends; and Harley isn’t sure who to trust—including the ghost who’s started following her around.

With time running out, Harley must rely on her codebreaking expertise to discover the truth, solve the riddles, and save the city from certain disaster!

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Standing next to Dad was the captain of the ship, Tom. He was really tall—six foot something—and had teeth that lit up against his dark skin when he grinned.

I looked back toward the city of Port Royal, with all its boats and bustle. From where I stood, it was only about two inches tall on the horizon. Definitely far enough away that we weren’t going to crash into a wharf, especially with Captain Tom at the helm. Except for the fact that he was now standing next to me on the deck.

“Wait a minute,” I said, glancing at Tom. “If you’re here, who’s driving this thing?”

It’s bad enough being seasick, but being seasick on an out-of-control ship? That’s even worse, I thought.

“Oh, we’ll be fine for a bit,” Tom said. “This ship, she can almost steer herself.”

I clutched my stomach, not because I didn’t believe him but because another wave hit up against the ship, sending my guts into a nosedive.

Tom laughed. “You worried about your tummy? I have some tricks that may help. Walk with me.”

Dad nodded to me, signaling it was okay to follow. Dad is very overprotective of me, to the point where I get completely annoyed. Granted, I’m only eleven years old, but I am very capable of taking care of myself. In fact, last year, I saved the world from an army of Mayan zombies by stealing back a magical statue from a super bad guy.

About the Author:

Leah Cupps is an author, designer and entrepreneur. She came up with the idea for Harley James with her oldest daughter Savannah. Savannah had taken an interest in Mayan history and so the two of them worked together to come up with the idea for the first Harley James book; the Mystery of the Mayan Kings.

Leah lives in Indiana with her husband and three children. She is also the cofounder of Vision Forty Press, a small family owned publishing company.

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Port Anywhere by J.S. Frankel – Spotlight and Giveaway

Long and Short Reviews welcomes J.S. Frankel who is celebrating the recent release of Port Anywhere. Enter for the chance to win a $50.00 First for Romance Gift Card! Competition hosted by Totally Entwined Group.

A restaurant in space, a waystation for all those who need a meal. When one of the guests turns out to be forbidden cargo, everything changes.

Rick Granger, seventeen, is the sole human occupant of Port Anywhere, a floating restaurant in space. His parents are dead, and he is aided by an alien called Nerfer—a pink alien that looks a lot like Spam. They journey throughout the galaxy, making a precarious living by offering meals in exchange for whatever their alien guests can pay.

As well, Port Anywhere, while powered by ion engines, has one unusual feature. It can suddenly jump from place to place, although Rick doesn’t know why. It simply happens.

His mundane existence changes when a warlike group of aliens led by a man named Kulida ask Rick to guard a possession of theirs. Upon further examination, Rick finds out that the cargo is a young alien woman named Merlynni from a planet called Kagekia, who carries a secret inside her—a mini galaxy.

The tiny galaxy was placed inside Merlynni by her father, a genius scientist, in order to hide it from hostile forces. As Port Anywhere continues its journey, Rick finds himself falling for Merlynni, and he will not give her up. When Port Anywhere shifts to various galaxies with various aliens in pursuit, they manage to escape time and again, but there comes a time for the inevitable showdown, and Rick has to use all his wits in order to save Merlynni and solve the riddle of the power she carries inside her.

Reader advisory: This book contains scenes of violence and murder.

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Randorran Galaxy. Sometime around noon. Earth Year, 2134

“Is that griddle clean, yet?”

Nerfer’s call emanated from the storage room, a question that went past impatience but stopped just shy of outright anger. Deep and harsh, his voice sounded like it belonged to a giant, but he stood on the short side of one-hundred-sixty centimeters. His actual height was contentious at best, as he was essentially pink jelly encased in a clear plastic containment suit. But the commanding tone was unmistakable.

In days gone by, people would have called him Spam-In-A-Can. Perhaps calling him ‘crushed fruit in a suit’ would have been more appropriate. But after thinking about it…no. It wouldn’t have worked.

With a sigh, knowing he wouldn’t believe me, I answered, “Yes, it’s clean. So are all the other tables. Come see for yourself.” I doubted he’d take my word for it. Nerfer was notoriously difficult to please.

“I will. Give me a second.”

He could have a second—or ten. My journey to spotlessness on the bridge continued. The bridge itself took up a third of the total space, with a captain’s chair and a console in front of the main viewing window, an interstellar communicator, which sat on the console to the left of the captain’s chair, and helm controls to the right.

Behind the helm was the other two-thirds of the bridge. That was the restaurant. The glass that made up our main window to the stars was spotless, and it offered an incomparable view of the heavens.

If the view was incredible, so was the restaurant, in its own way. My late father had designed it after looking at countless vid-photos of diners from the mid-twenty-first century. For some reason, he’d had a fascination with that era.

Our restaurant had plush leather booths—ten in all—a counter with eight stools and a syntha-fridge that could synthesize any kind of food, but only in its raw form. I still had to cook it. We also had a combo grill-fryer where the food got prepared by me, Rick Granger, co-captain of Port Anywhere, our ship’s name.

This place was where I belonged, where my focus was. As the co-captain of this ship, I had a duty to guide our ship among the stars as well as to be on guard for anything that might threaten the safety of—

“Coming out,” Nerfer said, interrupting my dreams of a full captaincy.

The door to the storage room opened. It housed numerous old food crates and doubled as his sleeping quarters. He came toward me, his semi-solid body undulating in his containment suit as he moved along. From what he’d told me, he was a member of the Gliddod race. His people came from a distant galaxy, one so far away that no one really knew where it was.

He’d shown up here six months ago in a spacecraft that had fallen apart after he’d docked with ours, and he’d asked my father for a job. My father, being the decent person he had been, had given him the position of running this restaurant while he went off to attend to the daily mechanics of operating this ship. Oh, and he’d also made him co-captain.

Did that piss me off? There was an old saying—‘Did a one-legged duck walk in circles?’ In a private moment, I’d asked my father, “Dad, why’d you hire this guy? You don’t know where he’s been or if anyone’s chasing him or what. Weren’t you training me to be the captain and the head cook?”

“When it’s time, you’ll be both,” he’d answered.

Thanks for your confidence in me, Dad.

After a while, though, I had to admit that our new pink crewperson had proved to be an excellent cook, and after my father’s death from Bridorran Fever, Nerfer had also ended up being a more than capable captain. It still bothered me at times, though, being relegated to the ‘also-ran’ position.

In a quick, economical motion, Nerfer moved around to check each table. Finally, he finished his inspection with a grunt that sounded like a bubble popping underwater. “Good job, kid.”

Finally, a compliment. A pseudopod shot out from his suit—the suit was porous in a sense, and it allowed him to do that—and he pointed to a table. “Number six has a spot on it. We got Janoorians comin’ in soon, and they hate dirt.”

Compliment given, compliment withdrawn—and with that, he went back to the storage room. Fine, I’d clean the table—again. We had only ten, but he’d spotted a tiny imperfection one-fifth as large as my pinky fingernail on one of them. In days past, people had called it being anal. These days, people called it attention to detail.

Our vessel, an Earth-class freighter, had been converted from a freighter-slash-exploration vessel to an exploration-vessel-slash-interstellar restaurant. So, when we entered a new galaxy and if some alien life forms contacted us, once they found out we weren’t armed, they’d either drop in for a meal or tell us to keep moving.

Usually, they partook of a meal with us, we chatted, then they departed after paying us whatever they could. You could call it a precarious living, because we never knew who’d come our way. My parents had always believed in randomness, and my existence here was as random as it got.

We called our ship Port Anywhere, mainly because we went everywhere, to every galaxy and beyond. We had self-sustaining ion-conversion engines, and the great thing was that they left no radioactive residue upon the stars, unlike other ships. Recycling was cool. ‘Go green,’ the old saying went. We were in space, so, ‘go non-radioactive’.

Our journey had started two years before, just after I’d turned fifteen. We’d lifted off on a bright, sunny day in June from a flight field located near Salt Lake Flats, Utah. A sudden surge, the G-forces had pulled me back, and soon, we’d been in space.

After that, our voyage to wherever continued unimpeded. The ship didn’t have a wormhole device, not exactly. Unlike other, newer ships, it couldn’t go very fast, but it had a recyclable fuel supply, it was safe and from that point on, I’d learned almost everything there was to learn about spaceships and fixing them.

My parents were first-rate engineers as well as designers, and they’d willingly taught me everything I needed to know about the ship, save the engines. “They’re self-sustaining,” my father had once said. “All you have to do is keep the place clean.”

Of course, I learned about other things, such as basic repairs to the hull, space walking, electrical wiring and more, but, by and large, my parents handled things.

The first six months had been cool. Outside of my cleaning and service duties, charting the stars and training against battle droids had taken up most of my time. On occasion, we’d touch down on distant worlds, but like desert nomads, we were always on the move, except we moved among the stars and not sand, although the grains of the universe were always there.

On the surface, everything was wonderful—up until my mother had died from cancer a year ago, just after I’d turned sixteen. Modern science could cure a lot of things, but it still hadn’t gotten around to curing that.

The picture in my cabin showed a tall woman with long, flowing brown hair, a pretty face and a pleasant smile. My father had also been tall, around a hundred and eighty-two centimeters, with an aquiline nose, short brown hair and brown eyes, traits which I’d inherited, although I wasn’t quite that tall—yet.

In all honesty, I’d never thought much my looks. After all, there were no girls here to date, and the closest I ever got to female companionship of my age was watching old holo-vids. Decades back, they’d been called movies.

“I’m sorry about your mother,” my father had said to me after her funeral. He’d encased her in a metal coffin, we’d said our goodbyes then he’d pressed the button that ejected her into space. “She was a good person.”

Yes, she had been, and from that point on, he’d rarely spoken of her. Grief was a powerful thing. Still, we’d soldiered on, and our lives had continued among the stars…

“Rick, you wiping those tables down again?”

Nerfer had poked his head out of the storage room to ask me that question. I gave him the standard answer. “Yes, captain.”

His standard grunt came my way. “Fine.”

He moved to the captain’s chair while I finished doing the tables and gave the grill another touch-up job as well.

We’d been in the Randorran Galaxy for three days. It was the home to Janoorians, Melattans and Sillosians, among others. They were traders, they got along with each other, but they didn’t keep company very often. Something about a guild operating here…

“Rick!”

Nerfer’s voice—loud and stern—made me jump. I’d been spacing out—literally—and while it made me laugh silently, it also confirmed that I had to pay attention more. A good captain paid attention to everything. “What?”

“Check the computer. Company should be coming soon.”

Sure enough, the interstellar com-link device crackled to life. “This is Vadda, of the Janoorian people. We have a reservation. Your Captain Nerfer agreed to this.”

Captain Nerfer. Captain. What about me? However, I had to act professional. “Acknowledged. Co-captain Rick Granger speaking. How many in your party?”

“Three. We requested that you prepare one of our planet’s delicacies. We will bring the raw form of it. Can you make it to our satisfaction?”

If there was one thing I could do, it was cook. I checked our onboard computer’s database. They’d asked for tenlos, a plant of sorts.

“I’ll do my best, sir. Sending coordinates for docking procedures.”

“Acknowledged.”

The com-link fell silent. Nerfer swiveled around with a grunt. “Was that Vadda?”

“Yeah. They’re bringing tenlos aboard. That’s what they want for lunch.”

He nodded. His version of a nod was to bob back and forth, his semi-solid body making a swishing, squishy sound. “Good. You’d better let me handle it first, though. I know about tenlos. It’s alive.”

Nerfer had to be kidding. “Alive?”

Bob-bob. “Yep. You have to kill it first. After that, fast fry it with oil, then slice and dice it. Trust me. I been around,” he said in his usual not-quite-correct way.

Aw, whatever, already! I went to the airlock and waited. Vadda and his friends would be coming soon, and…there! Their ship, a small vessel maybe twenty meters in length, was inching its way over to the landing dock.

Seconds later, a tiny thump accompanied by a vibration indicated a successful docking procedure. I punched the airlock intercom. “When you’re ready, please enter the airlock for decontamination procedures.”

“Acknowledged,” a deep voice said.

The door on their side slid open and three blobs squiggled their way in. One of them carried a sack slung around its neck—or was that its waist? I couldn’t tell. The sack was wriggling. Nerfer would have to be right. Anyway, I started the decontamination procedure. Ten seconds later, a beep signaled that everything was clear.

Once the door opened, three black semi-solid puddles of ink roughly fifty centimeters in height and around sixty centimeters in circumference faced me. A low thrum of a voice spoke from the middle puddle-blob. “I am Vadda. You are the one we spoke with before?”

I nodded. Ordinarily, communicating with an alien species—weren’t we all?—would have been difficult. However, my father had designed a universal translator that operated on interpreting sounds and breaking them down into something understandable. The device was tiny, roughly the size of a pinhead. It was implanted behind my left ear.

“Uh, yes, sir. My name is Captain Rick Granger. I’ll be preparing your meal. This way, please.”

I gestured for them to follow me to the dining hall. They didn’t walk, just squidged along, sort of like a snail moving at a faster pace but leaving no slimy trail behind. Inside the restaurant, I waved my arms at the seats. “Any booth is okay.”

Vadda and one of his crew immediately went to the closest table to our position. The third member of the party, the one that carried a sack, went to the grill area where Nerfer was waiting. The sack was writhing furiously, and the puddle said in a high-pitched voice, “Be careful. The tenlos must be killed first by crushing its root.”

“Got it,” Nerfer said.

Two pseudopods shot out of him and took the bag. He opened it, and immediately, a gray plant around a meter long leaped out and hit the ceiling—literally. It hung there, waving numerous spindly branches around and screeching an unearthly sound.

Well, if I were about to be roasted or grilled, I’d scream, too. “C’mere,” Nerfer said, and his pseudopods quickly grabbed the plant and crushed its root. It gave one final shrill cry then let go.

“You’re on, kid,” Nerfer said as he tossed it on the griddle that already had a coating of oil on it. “Start ’er up!”

Showtime, and I went to the griddle to take out a knife and a spatula and start cooking the mess. A horrible odor came from it, and why couldn’t alien plants or meat smell decent like bacon and eggs…or grilled cheese? Rhetorical—they couldn’t.

While I suffered through a stink that was a combination of wood alcohol and crap, the Janoorians went wild over the odor, undulating their squishy bodies this way and that. “Ah, the young man is a master chef,” one of them said. “He knows our tastes!”

They could have their tastes and keep them. Once it was done, it resembled fried rocks. I divided the portions just so, slid them onto plates then served our guests. Did they use utensils?

No, they simply bent over the mess and ingested it…noisily. Once they’d finished, Vadda leaned back. “A fine meal! The tenlos is a foul plant on our world. It attacks our people from time to time, so please, do not feel bad for killing it.”

I didn’t feel bad for cooking it up. I would have felt bad, though, if I’d had to eat it. Vadda then got up and pointed to the door. “We are sorry not to spend more time here, but we must be on our way. We are delivering cargo to another sector in the galaxy.”

“Not a problem,” I said, attempting to keep my stomach’s contents inside.

His friends also rose, getting ready to leave. Vadda slid a pseudopod inside his body, took out a red jewel and handed it over. “Take this as payment, please. Should you visit this sector of space again, we will most certainly partake of a meal with you.”

Oh, please don’t.

But I said nothing and led them to the airlock. While I waited for it to pressurize, I asked him about the jewel.

“It is called energa,” he said.

Energa? “What does it do, exactly?”

“It has the property of reflection and is considered valuable on our world. Please use it as you see fit.”

Reflection? Maybe it was a mirror. It was shiny, anyway, and I bowed, out of respect. “Thank you.”

They departed, and once they were free of the ship, I checked out the jewel. It sparkled, but that was about it. Out of curiosity, I walked into a storage room nearby, found a small hand-laser and did my best to slice off a tiny piece. The beam simply deflected away and burned a hole in the door. “Oh, so that’s what it does.”

Interesting…and a call that came over the ship’s intercom interrupted my thoughts. “Prepare to shift. Prepare to shift.”

Why now? The computer never gave a reason, although the sensors detected another vessel approximately four thousand kilometers away, its purpose, unknown. No communication came from it, so…

“Shift occurring. Shift occurring.”

With all haste, I ran to the restaurant where Nerfer was in the process of putting all the dishes and cutlery away. “Get ready,” he said. “Shift’s in forty-five seconds.”

“Right.”

I parked my butt in a booth, wrapping my legs around the table support. The shift was simply the interspatial move of this restaurant-vessel from one quadrant of space to another. I had no idea why it happened, and neither did Nerfer. It simply did. After my father had died, the shifts had begun.

And when we shifted, talk about massive! The energy of the movement flung us far and wide, and if I weren’t sitting down, I’d end up on my back or head at the far point of any room I was in.

Good thing we had our interstellar computer. It held all the information on the various galaxies we’d visited thus far. Our ship had no weapons, but it had powerful sensors that could map out any planet’s dimensions and details almost instantaneously, and while it couldn’t tell us about the inhabitants’ culture, it gave the basics on what to expect. It could also translate any language instantly.

Still, face-to-face communication had to be done, and in my almost two years on this interstellar barge—a flying brick that was one-hundred-twenty meters in length by seventy-five meters in width—I’d seen sludge, rock-people, lizards and other life forms that were too difficult to describe. I’d spoken with them all, and it was interesting to learn their ways. But I still missed Earth.

Nerfer’s race—so he said—could learn languages much faster than humans could, within a couple of hours. Very useful for him…

“One,” the computer said, bringing me back to reality.

Then it came, that great heave from here to wherever. I kept my head down on the table and waited it out. “Hey, Nerfer, how are you doing?”

“Still in one piece.”

When we stopped shaking, I asked the computer for more information.

“We are currently in the Madlia Galaxy,” it said in its tinny voice. “Scanning. We are orbiting a planet known as Rattan One.”

“Display information on the planet.”

Whir…click. “Displayed.”

A hologram popped up with the pertinent information. The planet was similar in size to Earth, with approximately fifty percent of its surface covered by water. Oxygen-nitrogen atmosphere, suitable for breathing. Rich vegetation.

As for the people, they were around two meters in height, slender yet muscular, with oversized hands and feet. Hairy all over, they resembled the cavemen on Earth that I’d studied when I had been younger. Two mouths, one on top of the other. Tiny ears. A slit for a nose. Gray-skinned. In a word, ugly. I wondered if they were warlike and if our entrance into space would provoke them…

“Unidentified vessel, respond.”

The crackling of the interstellar com-link and the voice—deep, raspy, and unfriendly—made me jump. “This is Port Anywhere,” I answered.

“What is the nature of your vessel and your visit?”

“We’re a, uh, a restaurant ship. My name’s Rick Granger, and I’m in charge of—”

“You are in orbit around our planet. We have the right to inspect any alien spacecraft or repel it if we wish.”

Jerk. If I’d had a space cannon, I would have decimated that slime, but we had nothing to defend ourselves with. “Understood,” I answered, striving to enhance my inner calm. “I’ll send the coordinates for our docking site.”

“Does your ship not have a landing bay?”

It did, but it had only enough room for one of our ships, a reconnaissance vessel. “We do, but it’s probably too small to accommodate one of your ships.”

Silence…then, “Very well. Send your coordinates.”

The voice cut out, and I dutifully sent the coordinates to our—ahem—hosts. Nerfer was hard to read, mainly because he didn’t often form expressions. He invariably relied on his voice to make his thoughts and intentions known, but now, his mushiness formed itself into a frown and his voice was full of grave misgivings.

“Rattanians don’t take no for an answer. Deal fairly with them and they’ll be nice, but if you cross them in a deal, then you won’t be worth vellora spit.”

In space, vellora were akin to maggots, the lowest of the low. “I’ll be careful.”

He bobbed back and forth. “Good. Did they tell you what they wanted to eat?”

“No, they only wanted to look around.” That was what bothered me.

Nerfer grunted. “Fine, they can look around, for all I care.”

Yeah, that reminded me. “How do you know everyone, Nerfer? You never told me, and you’ve been in charge here for six months.”

His frown deepened. “My world no longer exists,” he said after a time. “A plague hit us. It broke down our cellular matrixes.”

“Which means…what?”

“It means we dissolved into organic ooze. There is no treatment, no cure.”

Geez, no wonder he was impatient and angry much of the time. Even though I hadn’t seen Earth since I’d been just past fifteen, at least I had a home. He didn’t. Nerfer continued in a voice devoid of self-pity.

“I got out, just in time. After that, I became a courier. I delivered goods and sometimes arms to other worlds. Had my own ship, did well, but then I pissed off a warlord and he blew my ship out. I managed to make it here, and…”

The com-link crackled. “Alien vessel, this is Commander Kulida, leader of the Rattanian space forces. We are nearing your space dock.”

Nerfer shut down his bio, formed a finger and punched the intercom-link button. “Understood. Our representative will meet you at the airlock. You are welcome here.”

He clicked off, and had he had eyes, he probably would have rolled them. Instead, he only muttered, “Welcome like hell. I don’t like this one bit. Kid, you be careful.”

Kid, it was always ‘kid’. I’d turned seventeen about a month before, and he still thought of me as an infant. It was enough to make me scream in frustration.

A few seconds later, a dull thud signaled that Kulida’s ship had docked with ours. I ran to the airlock and punched in the command for the airlock doors on the visitor’s side to open. Three tall beings wearing gray containment suits entered. Two of them carried a large metal crate. They looked around the eight-by-eight-meter room with interest.

There wasn’t much there, only the walls and some shodokutan lights which used concentrated light to destroy any possible pathogens from alien races. I pressed the button to start the decontamination process. Their world may have been similar to Earth, but pathogens were pathogens.

“Activating decontamination procedures, Captain Kulida,” I said. “Just a few seconds.”

“Acknowledged,” he responded.

After ten seconds, the process finished, and the readout showed no pathogens. I opened the door to my side, and three massive men stepped out. “Thank you for allowing us aboard your vessel,” said the person who didn’t have his hands on the crate.

He took off his helmet to reveal a gray skull of a head with deep-set black eyes and a visage so gaunt that it appeared that he was suffering from malnutrition. Perhaps everyone on his world looked like that.

With a sniff, he examined the ceiling of the hallway then turned his gaze upon me, as though he were viewing a particularly ugly species of insect. “I am Commander Kulida. I come bearing cargo. We need to talk.”

About the Author: J.S. Frankel was born in Toronto, Canada, a good number of years ago and managed to scrape through the University of Toronto with a BA in English Literature. In 1988 he moved to Japan and started teaching ESL to anyone who would listen to him. In 1997, he married the charming Akiko Koike and their union produced two sons, Kai and Ray. J.S. Frankel makes his home in Osaka where he teaches English by day and writes by night until the wee hours of the morning.

You can check out his blog and follow J.S. on Facebook and Twitter.

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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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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