Monday, August 27, 2012


Quote for the week:  Laughter is timeless, imagination has no age, and dreams are forever. Walt Disney Company

Fall is almost here. The mornings are cool and refreshing. School has started: bands rehearsing, football games, and lots of excitement for the beginning of the holiday season. Here's a sneak peak at more fun on the way:

Prizes, puzzles, scavenger hunt and treasure hunt coming September 1st.

Twilight Times Books will offer contests and a chance to win free ebooks in the coming weeks.
Celebrating fourteen years as a publisher.

The treasure hunt contest will run from Sept 1st until midnight EDT September 30, 2012.

What does a topaz have to do with the contest? You'll see.
Have a super week.
Happy Reading and Writing.

Friday, August 24, 2012


Please give a big welcome to my dear friend and awesome author C. Lee McKenzie on her virtual book tour for her first MG/Tween novel, Alligators Overhead.
A native Californian, C. Lee McKenzie lives on the edge of a redwood forest with her husband and assorted cats. When she's not writing or blogging she's hiking or practicing yoga. She usually writes young adult fiction that deals with contemporary, realistic issues. In Sliding on the Edge (2009) she dealt with cutting, and in The Princess of Las Pulgas (2010) she wrote about a family that loses almost everything and has to rebuild their lives together. Alligators Overhead is her first Middle Grade novel. Lee blogs at]

and her website is]

About the Book:

Alligators Overhead


Alligators, witches and a spooky mansion aren't your average neighbors unless you live at the edge of the Ornofree swamp in the backwater town of Hadleyville. The town's bad boy, Pete Riley, may only be twelve, but he's up to his eyeballs in big trouble, and this time he isn't the cause. This time the trouble arrives when a legendary hundred-year-old mansion materializes next door and the Ornofree alligators declare war to save their swamp from bulldozers. Things only get worse when Pete's guardian aunt and several of her close friends vanish while trying to restore order using outdated witchcraft. Now Pete must find the witches and stop the war. He might stand a chance if his one friend, Weasel, sticks with him, but even then, they may not have what it takes.

My Review:

By C. Lee McKenzie

What happens when you mix witches and warlocks, a mansion and alligators, mental telepathy and two twelve-year-old boys on a mission? You end up with an adventure, a mystery, a cast of unique characters, and a whole new attitude about alligators, that’s what.

ALLIGATORS OVERHEAD, Author C. Lee McKenzie’s novel for mg/tween readers, takes the reader on a fast paced, never dull journey with Peter Riley and his friend Weasel in their attempts to save the Ornofree Swamp from being destroyed. On the way to achieve their goal, the boys explore a mansion that vanished years ago, but suddenly appears on the vacant lot by Pete’s Aunt Lizzie’s house. (He came to live with his aunt after his parents died.) They meet witches also on a mission to save the swampland, hunters determined to capture the alligators, and have to right a witch’s spell that goes terribly wrong. As Pete and Weasel struggle to solve each problem, confidence in their abilities grows and each boy discovers strengths in himself to carry on, in spite of the danger they face.

The characters in ALLIGATORS OVERHEAD are well developed each with his/her own distinct personality. Aunt Lizzie’s way of doubling up words ¾ “eerie-bad” for example ¾ Weasel’s intelligence and caution, and Pete’s discovery of who he really is bring the characters to life, like real people, although with powers that no mortal has. Oh, and if you’re like I was at first, and alligators are not your favorite critter, I think after you read C. Lee McKenzie’s story, you’ll have a different opinion about the scaly creatures. Now, I like alligators, especially Fanon. I’ll still keep my distance from them, however. This novel would make a great addition for school libraries, public libraries, and your own private library.

ARC EBook courtesy of the author






TWITTER : @cleemckenzie





B & N



This is one book you really want to read, no matter your age. And it's just right for the boys in the family.

Thank you, C. Lee for visiting today. Congratulations on your book.

Happy Reading, All.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Jerome Charyn Virtual Book Tour

My sincere apologies to Jerome and Nicole for being so late with this post. My Internet service has been down since last Thursday. Needless to say, I'm in a pretty sour mood. It came back on awhile ago, so now I'm not quite as stressed.

It is my pleasure to host Author Jerome Charyn on his virtual book tour.

Jerome Charyn (born May 13, 1937) is an award-winning American author. With nearly 50 published works, Charyn has earned a long-standing reputation as an inventive and prolific chronicler of real and imagined American life. Michael Chabon calls him “one of the most important writers in American literature.”

New York Newsday hailed Charyn as “a contemporary American Balzac,” and the Los Angeles Times described him as “absolutely unique among American writers.”

Since 1964, he has published 30 novels, three memoirs, eight graphic novels, two books about film, short stories, plays and works of non-fiction. Two of his memoirs were named New York Times Book of the Year. Charyn has been a finalist for the PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction. He received the Rosenthal Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters and has been named Commander of Arts and Letters by the French Minister of Culture.

Charyn lives in Paris and New York City.

Interview with Jerome Charyn

1. What are your thoughts on the explosion of popularity concerning the YA genre?

I think it might very well be that it started with Harry Potter, that young adult writers are trying to tell good stories and adults have moved into that kind of dream.
2. You are the master of writing across a realm of different genres, what excites you about connecting with different audiences?

I’m not so sure that these are different audiences, I think we all love stories, whether we’re children or great-grandfathers, and when you move from genre to genre you are still telling a story like Scheherazade and the king is always waiting for the next tale.

3. Your writing is so precise, yet evocative - how do you work at crafting your unique style of prose?

Everything begins and ends with the word, with the music of the sentence and as Tolstoy once said, “I’m always composing.”
4. Being a published author for nearly 50 years, what do you think of eBooks?
I think that this is a kind of logical step as we move from the internet into eBooks.

Publishing is changing even as we speak. I think there now will be a more complicated dance between the eBook and the printed book, and as we’ve seen recently, successes in eBooks allow the author to move into print.
5. What would be your advice to young people who aspire to a literary career?

It’s not worth the money – only write if you’re absolutely in love with it.
6. How much of your life is in Back to Bataan? How did you personally experience New York during World War II?

I think so much of the source of my writing comes from my childhood, I grew up during the War - so many of the terrors and the magic of certain films have remained with me. And all of this appears in the character of Jack.
7. Your older brother was a detective. Did your experiences with him influence the plot?

Not really, I think all writing is crime writing. And Back to Bataan is a crime novel with a very original twist.

8. Why did you decide to include the fascination with the famous as a theme - Gary Cooper, Eleanor Roosevelt, etc.?

These people were heroes to me as a child, particularly Eleanor Roosevelt, who was one of the most extraordinary women who ever lived, and of course as a child I fell in love with Gary Cooper’s face and with his very slow drawl, that seemed so exotic to me.
9. Jack finds acclaim through his writing, yet feels guilty for exploiting other people (Mrs. Fink). How does a writer starting out work to bridge this gap?

You’re always cannibalizing other people and writers when you start to write, so it’s natural that Jack should be a young cannibal.
10. How important is the New York Times in your own life? Why did you decide to make it a form of connection between Jack and the Leader?

As a child, I didn’t even know that the Times existed – I grew up in a neighborhood without newspapers and books, so that when I first fell upon the New York Times, I was very very greedy, and wanted to include it in Jack’s middle-class life.


Thanks for a great look at your life, Jerome.

Now here's a contest that sounds like fun.

BLOGGER PRIZE - Change your Facebook or Twitter profile picture to the cover of Back to Bataan and be entered for a $50 cash drawing. It could be anytime between June 26, 2012 and September 30, 2012, and must be up for at least a 24 hour period. In order to be eligible, please email that your profile picture has been changed so that we can confirm it.

About the Book, BACK TO BATAAN:

Back to Bataan
New York City, 1943. War is raging in Europe and the Pacific, while Jack Dalton is stuck attending Dutch Masters Day School. What Jack really wants is to enlist in the army, to fight...

Everything changes when Coco, Jack's "fiancee," throws him over for one of his classmates. Jack sees red and does something drastic. Then he runs away. Hiding out in a nearby park, Jack joins ranks with a group of vagrants and is soon under the sway of a man called the Leader, an ex-convict who is as articulate and charismatic as he is dangerous. The Leader turns Jack's world upside down. To put things right, Jack must prove himself a braver soldier than he ever imagined.

Excerpt: Mauricette told Harriet Godwin I was the pig of the class. I had treated her like garbage. Mauricette wouldn't answer my phone calls. She wouldn't read the notes I dropped inside her desk. But Arturo Fink kept reminding her who she was. “Fiancée,” he said. “Jack’s fiancée.”

I promised myself I wouldn't write anymore compositions, but how could I graduate from Dr. Franklin's class and join General MacArthur?

It felt lonely without a fiancée.

Mauricette began seeing Barnaby Rosenstock after school. They were holding hands and having chocolate malteds at the Sugar Bowl on Seventy-ninth Street. Fat Arturo was eating two ice-cream sodas. The Sugar Bowl is our hangout. It’s the official candy store of Dutch Masters Day School. I didn’t have money for ice-cream sodas. I didn’t have money for malteds. I'd buy a Hershey bar or some Chuckles once a week. I'd peek at the comic book rack and wonder what was happening to Captain Marvel or the Sub-Mariner. Marvel and the Sub-Mariner were already at war, fighting Japs. And when Mauricette was still my fiancée, I'd sit with her over a glass of water and treat her to some candy whenever I could. But now she was sucking malteds with Barnaby Rosenstock. I could hear her from my corner, next to the comic book rack.

“Oh, Jack Dalton,” she said. “He has a wild imagination. He likes to fling words around. He thinks half the school is going to marry him.”

She didn’t have to shame me in front of her friends. Arturo was laughing into his fat cheeks. Barnaby had a chocolate rainbow on his lips. I didn’t even bother with the comic books. Marvel would have to fight the Japs without me. I walked home.

Mama was at the factory. She makes parachutes. Sometimes she’d bring home a little piece of silk left over from one of the chutes. That's how I get my handkerchiefs. Not even Arturo with all his father’s money has a handkerchief of genuine silk. But handkerchiefs couldn’t make me feel good. Silk is only silk. I wondered about the American fliers who had their planes shot down and had to fall into the dark wearing some of that silk.

I couldn’t concentrate on my homework. It didn't seem important when you considered all the Japs and Germans out there. I hope General MacArthur takes me with him to Bataan. I’m not asking for a Purple Heart. I'm only asking to kill Japs. And if I have to die, I want to die near my dad...

Mama came home at seven. The streets from my window looked so dark, I thought the world had gone gray. I didn’t care. I wouldn’t mind going to school after midnight.

“Darling,” Mama said, “what’s wrong?”

I couldn't tell her how I lost a fiancée, because she would have figured I was insane.

“Mama, I’m blue...that's all.”

“You’re still dreaming of the Army, aren’t you? We'll have dinner and listen to the radio, my little blue boy.”

We had soup and bread and boiled potatoes and peas out of a can. It’s not Mama’s fault if meat is rationed and sugar is rationed. No one can inherit ration stamps, not even the President or Arturo’s dad.

We listened to Jack Benny. He played the violin and talked about the Japs. Mama laughed, because Jack Benny is the biggest miser in the world. He would never spend a nickel. But he told everybody to buy war bonds.

“What about you, Mr. Benny?”

Mama told me it was time for bed.

I put on my pajamas. But I didn't feel like sleeping. I dialed Mauricette’s number and let the telephone ring. Somebody picked up the phone.

“It’s me,” I said. “Jack Dalton. Your former fiancé. Coco, are you there? I wanted to—”

Mauricette hung up. And I wondered who was lonelier. The dead cowboys on Bataan, or young Jack Dalton.

ISBN: 9780985792206
ISBN: 9781476119076
Pages: 98
Release: July 1, 2012

Kindle buy link - $2.99

Nook buy link - $4.95

iBookstore buy link - $4.99

Google buy link - $3.79

Smashwords buy link - $4.99

PDF buy link - $4.95

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Thanks again for visiting my blog today.

Happy Reading

Friday, August 17, 2012


Thank you for visiting my blog today. I'm delighted to introduce you to today's guest, Maggie Lyons. Maggie is a freelance writer and editor who was born in Wales and gravitated west to Virginia's coast. A career of writing and editing educational nonfiction for adults brought plenty of satisfaction but nothing like the fun and excitement she has recently discovered in writing fiction and nonfiction for children. Several of her articles, poetry, and a chapter book have been published in the childrens magazines Stories for Children Magazine and knowonder! Her middle-grade adventure Vin and the Dorky Duet is available at various online outlets including MuseItUp Publishings bookstore, and Amazon. Her next middle-grade adventure, Dewi and the Seeds of Doom, will be released by MuseItUp Publishing in October 2012. For more information, see her website at:

A Peek at the Wild Things of Writing for Children
Writing for children requires a very different set of skills from writing for adults. In some ways its much more demanding. Ive come across many people who are unaware of that and many, unfortunately, who dismiss writing for children as if it were inferior to writing for adults.

The criteria for writing what children want to read include suitable subject matter, appropriate vocabulary, realistic dialogue including language todays children actually use, sentence structure, realistic mindsets, point of view, length of chapters, and length of book. Thats just the start and the criteria differ with each age group, to say nothing about the physical appearance of the book and its cover.

In his foreword to the 2012 edition of the Renaissance Learning report, What Kids Are Reading, childrens author Dan Gutman explained what keeps the attention of young readers, especially reluctant young readers.
As a reluctant reader myself, I relate to those kids. I know what bores them, and what holds their interest. They want short sentences. Short chapters. Dialog. Few adjectives. Theyd rather use their imagination than read a paragraph of description. They want one sentence to lead naturally to the next one, rather than jump from subject to subject. They want a chapter to end in a way that makes them want to know what happens next.

Gutman should know. Hes written a hundred books including scores of childrens books that have garnered dozens of awards. He didnt mention humor in his list of criteria, which is surprising for an author who has made a career of it. Humors a key ingredient of many books for youngsters, especially middle-grade readers. As Kemie Nix of Childrens Literature for Children, Inc. put it in her 2009 article What-Kids-Who-Dont-Like-To-Read-Like-To-Read™:
The books with the greatest chance of hooking the transitional readers and pulling them out of the pre-book limbo are the humorous ones. And books of humorous episodes are the very best of all! With fifty really funny books, the world could be saved from illiteracy.

What Nix means by “episodes” are books in which each chapter stands alone, as a separate episode. Children enjoy this type of book because it doesn’t require the “mental effort” of a book “with a climax at the end.”

Humor has done well for a long list of other authors too, including Jeff Kinney, Louis Sachar, Frank Asch, Dan Greenberg, Cressida Cowell, Lemony Snicket, Mo Willems, Dave Pilkey, and Judy Blume, to name only a smidgeon of today
s most popular childrens humorists.
Even when writers think they know exactly what children want to read, they still have to jump the hurdle of appealing to the adults who buy the books that children read, and before that, the agents and publishers editors who believe they know what books adults will buy for children. Each layer has its own filters and each has its own pattern of influence.

According to a 201011 Bowker Pubtrack® report, The Childrens Book Consumer in the Digital Age, the strongest influence on a childs reading material are parents, particularly mothers, who do most of the book buying, relatives, and friends. After that come teachers and librarians.

When it comes to how adults and children find books, bookstore browsing is important but most books are acquired through school and public libraries. Children ages seven through twelve tell their parents what they want to read, but the main sources of their information remain bookstores, teachers, and libraries. Because most purchases are impulsive, the attractiveness of the books cover image is critical. So too are the front covers descriptive copy and age rating. But the latter two factors are less important than a friends recommendation of the book and whether the book is written by a trusted and known author.

Like Max in Sendacks classic tale, we hope to make friends with the wild things of childrens writing, not be eaten by them. But a pinch of humor can tame themwell, almost.


Vin and the Dorky Duet is available at:


Thanks for your inspiring article, Maggie. Congratulations on your books.

Happy Reading, All.

Monday, August 13, 2012


Quote of the week:  How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world. Anne Frank

My guest author today is Penny Estelle. Grab a cup of coffee, tea, or your favorite drink, get comfortable, and meet Penny. Hi, Penny. Welcome.

  I was visiting my daughter in Utah, last summer and my ten-year old grandson was playing with some of his friends. Somehow, the subject of William Tell came up and not one of these boys had any idea who William Tell was.

This is how my series, The Wickware Sagas, started. It seems so much of our history is getting lost, especially when it comes to historical legends.

Miss Wickware is a history teacher for 7th and 8th grades students at Langdon Middle School in Phoenix, AZ. Rumor has it that strange things happened in her class. Is she a witch? Is she from another planet? Nobody can, or will, talk too much about what has happened. Yea…probably just rumors…or are they?

Every year, she gives an assignment for an oral book report. Each student will draw a name from a box and then give an oral report on whom they have chosen and somehow, one of these students ends up face to face with their drawn subject. How does this happen?

Billy Cooper’s Awesome Nightmare
is the first of the Wickware Sagas Series.
Billy Cooper is so annoyed about this oral report. Old Lady Wickware drops this bomb on a Friday afternoon and it’s due on Monday. Well he has plans for the whole weekend and simply doesn’t have time to do a report. He figures he will do a quick computer search on Sunday night on this William Tell guy, whoever that is, and then he will just skate by on this assignment. All that changes when he finds himself in the 14th century and standing in front of William Tell’s house.

ExcerptExcept for William Tell being one of the biggest men he had ever seen, he had to wonder what this guy did to get put on a book report list! “So, Du….I mean, Uncle William, what do you do around here, you know to bring home the bacon?”
“Here in Uri, we would kill a bore to get bacon,” William replied.
“Ooookay,” Billy said, but you are a legend. Why?” Billy figured he might as well take the bull by the horns!
“William, I am no legend. I am but a simple hunter.”
Billy had to wonder why old lady Wickware would put some hunter that didn’t do squat, in the drawing. There had to be more! “So, who’s this Gessler guy? Why is Auntie freaking out about him?”
His uncle did a quick double take and asked, “William, your speech seems so different. Do they all talk like this in Unterwalden?
“Unter-who?” Billy asked.
“Unterwalden. Where you live.” His uncle started to wonder if his nephew was more than just unbalanced.

“Oh yea, Unter….whatever. My home place,” Billy stammered. “Yea, we all talk like this. We are a laid back kind of group.”
William Tell just shook his head. “Gessler is the Governor of Altdorf. As you must know, Austria is trying to take our lands from us. Some are already paying heavy and unjust taxes. These Austrians are a cruel people, William, and they want everyone to live in fear. Until the Rutli Oath came to be we did not know what to do.”
“What’s the Rutli Oath? Billy asked.
They were almost to Altdorf. William stopped and looked deep into Billy’s eyes. “Countrymen from Uri, Unterwalden, and Schwytz are ready to take back what is ours and the Rutli Oath is our pledge to do so.
Billy nodded and turned to continue to the town when his uncle stopped him. His tone was deadly. “Speak of this to no one, William. It would not bode well for you.”
Even in a dream, Billy wouldn’t cross a man like William Tell. “No problem, Dude. Your secret is safe with me.”

I have two more MG/tween stories out at this time. 

Hike Up Devil’s Mountain

Ten-year old Andy Thompson disobeys his mother and sneaks into the basement of an old abandoned house that’s due for demolition. He stumbles upon a mysterious box under an old cabinet. And his troubles begin when he looks inside.

The Crew brothers, twelve-year old Jason, and ten-year old Danny, also find their way to the basement. New to town, Jason has established himself as the school bully. A struggle ensues between Andy and Jason, and the bully ends up as a toad.

Somehow, the boys must reverse the magical spell. And that means hiking up the dread mountain: fast pace, fast action and some scary turns and surprises on the way! The lives of all three boys seem destined to change forever, if they survive…

Create Space for Hike Up Devil’s Mountain – printed book



A Float Down the Canal

Twelve-year old Pam Simpson gets dumped on when her mother is called into work. She must cancel her plans for the mall to babysit her younger brother and his friend and take them to the public pool.  To make matters worse her cousin, Candy, is also coming over for the day.  She doesn’t even like Candy!

Much to Candy’s dismay, transportation to the pool is on inner tubes, floating down the canal.  One thing leads to another and it is Pam who, once again, must save the day.

When things couldn’t seem worse, the day takes a drastic turn for the better and it is Candy, and the float down the canal, that makes this the best day of Pam’s life!

Barnes & Noble

Thank you, Penny, for visiting with us and telling us about your MG/Tween books today. The covers are great. They just beg to be opened and read. Congratulations.

Happy reading, everyone. Have a nice week.

Friday, August 10, 2012


I am delighted to spotlight Author Brenda Stanley today as she talks about her new YA Novel, THE COLOR OF SNOW. Welcome, Brenda. Thanks for sharing your story with us.

Brenda Stanley is the former news anchor at her NBC affiliate KPVI in Eastern Iadho. Her writing has been recognized by the Scripps Howard Foundation, the Hearst Journalism Awards, the Idaho Press Club and the Society for Professional Journalists. She is a graduate of Dixie College in St. George, Utah, and the University of Utah in Salt Lake City. Brenda lived for two years in Ballard, Utah, within the Fort Duchesne reservation where the novel is set. She and her husband live on a small ranch near the Snake River with their horses and dogs.

Guest Post by Brenda Stanley

The Color of Snow has been described as dark or mysterious. I feel most of my writing fits this description because I enjoy looking at the strange and unusual things in life. My novel will definitely make some people uncomfortable. I like to look at situations and issues and try to figure out how people will react. For years I was a crime reporter, so I enjoy investigating stories and learning about the parts of life most people try to hide. When I wrote The Color of Snow, I was working on a story about a young girl who went missing years ago and has never been found. I started thinking about what would happen if she were to suddenly show up now. I loved putting myself in Sophie’s shoes and seeing things for the first time.

Sophie’s relationship with Damien is both intense and tempered. Her father has raised her to believe that she will destroy anyone who truly loves her, so she is torn between her love for Damien and her fear of causing him harm.

The story changes between what is going on with Sophie and what happened in her parent’s past that brought her to where she is. I wanted readers to experience the often isolated feeling of living in a vast rural area, but also the mental confinement of a small town.

Mental illness, teen pregnancy, religious intolerance, and racism are all big parts of The Color of Snow. I like my characters to face challenges and see them grow from them. It is not only the conflicts with the other characters that keeps the story going, but also those within the person’s own mind.

I wanted Sophie to be unusually beautiful so that people treated her strangely and therefore made her feel even more alien when she is first discovered. She has transformed from a tragic kidnapping victim to a mythical ghost from the past and this makes her transition into her new life even more difficult.

My ties to the Mormon Church go back to my great-great grandparents. I was raised in the teachings of the Mormon religion and even though I am no longer a member, I have many friends and family who are still very active in the church. My descriptions of the Mormon culture are how I view it and how I feel someone who has never been exposed to it might see it. I think there are a lot of people who are curious about the Mormon religion and have misconceptions. I feel I’ve been both candid and fair in my portrayal.


About the Book:

The Color of Snow
Can a troubled young girl reenter society after living in isolation?

When a beautiful 16-year-old girl named Sophie is found sequestered in a cage-like room in a rundown house in the desolate hills of Arbon Valley, Idaho, the entire community is shocked to learn she is the legendary Callidora--a baby girl who was kidnapped from her crib almost seventeen years ago and canonized in missing posters with portraits of what the fabled girl might resemble. Authorities soon learn that the cage was there to protect people from Sophie, because her biological father believes she is cursed.

Sophie is discovered after the man she knows as Papa, shoots and injures Damien, a young man who is trying to rescue her. Now, unsocialized and thrust into the world, and into a family she has never met, Sophie must decide whether she should accept her Papa’s claims that she is cursed and he was only trying to protect others, or trust the new people in her life who have their own agendas. Guided by a wise cousin, Sophie realizes that her most heartbreaking challenge is to decide if her love for Damien will destroy him like her Papa claims, or free her from past demons that haunt her mind.

The Color of Snow

Malad, Idaho, early spring 2009

Spring had spread across the fields and pastures. Cottonwood trees fluttered their newly sprouted greenery, and purple asters covered the rolling hills. The snow had melted and Stephanie and I started taking the horses on rides up the valley. It was incredibly liberating to roam and wander without fear.

There was a trail leading from the foothills up into the forest, and once we were in the midst of the wild spruce and lofty pines, the noises of cars and life around the ranch disappeared. The sound of hooves on early spring dirt was solid and steady. The breeze was still crisp, but the sun reached down and warmed our shoulders. For almost an hour we rode in silence. We both were in awe of the day and the splendor that was ours alone to enjoy.

At the top of the hill, the trail opened up to a small plateau and a blue mountain lake. I gasped at the incredible beauty of it. I smiled at Stephanie and she nodded in acknowledgement. Her eyes were bright and her freckles seemed to glow in the sunshine. The horse she rode was a black mare my grandfather was going to sell. Stephanie loved the white diamond-shaped patch on her forehead, and scolded him for even thinking about selling Black Bean. My horse was an old buckskin gelding named Clyde. He lumbered along and rarely went faster than a slow trot, but for a beginner like me he was perfect.

Stephanie turned her horse down the hill and toward the lake. “Do you want to go swimming?” she called back.

“I don’t know how,” I answered.

She giggled as she reached the water’s edge. “You don’t need to. The horses do it all.” Her hair was pulled into two short pigtails and they bounced with each step of her horse.

I waited and watched as she urged Black Bean into the water and out into the lake. As the water got deeper, the splashes became larger around its legs as it pushed forward, and soon they were floating along smoothly.

“Come on!” she yelled, waving me in. She had her legs pulled up on the sides, trying to avoid getting completely soaked. They were pale and freckled like her face, and seemed to make up most of her body. Stephanie wasn’t much taller than I, but her legs and arms were long and made her look gangly and even thinner than she was. She waved so hard she almost fell off the horse, and started laughing as she steadied herself.

It looked like fun, but I was terrified. The water was immense and dark. The largest amount of water I had ever been in was my own bathtub. I wondered what would happen if I fell off in the middle. Stephanie and Black Bean were in the center of the lake and they looked like a serene harmonious duo.

I gave Clyde a slight nudge and he walked to the shoreline. The water lapped as I waited and watched Stephanie continue to beckon. She looked like she was having a marvelous time and wasn’t worried in the least. I patted Clyde and prodded him with the heels of my sneakers. He seemed unconcerned as he clopped loudly into the water. I took a deep breath and told myself to keep looking forward and it would be okay. Clyde had no hesitation, which helped ease my fear.

The sun beat down on us and made splashes of water light up as Clyde moved forward into the water. The splatters that hit my exposed skin were freezing and made me realize how cold it would be if I did fall in. I fixed my eyes on the opposite shoreline and put my faith in Clyde. The horse had a wide back, and as we got deeper into the lake, I curled my legs back the way Stephanie did and clung to his mane. We were riding bareback that day, because Stephanie didn’t want to spend time putting on saddles.

I held my breath as we got further away from the shore and closer to the very center of the lake. At one point I looked down, staring deep into the abyss. There was no bottom, and I felt my stomach turn, knowing I would surely die if I left Clyde’s back.

As the horse rhythmically propelled us along, I began to feel a sense of buoyancy and freedom. When we crossed the center point and were on our way to the other shore, my confidence turned to elation. I started to breathe again and smiled at what I had accomplished. I sat up straight, closed my eyes and imagined I was flying, gliding along on my winged unicorn, soaring through clouds and racing the wind. When I opened my eyes, I giggled at my foolish imagination, but couldn’t help beaming at what an amazing adventure it was.

When the horse’s hooves made contact with the lake bottom and we started to emerge from the water, I wanted to burst from relief and joy. “That was the most wonderful thing ever!”

Stephanie was sitting on a large tree limb that had fallen while her horse munched on fresh new grass beside her. “I didn’t think you’d do it. I’m proud of you.”

“It was so scary, but then it was so amazing.”

“I’m glad you liked it, because that’s how we’re getting back.”

We led the horses to a shaded area and tied them loosely to a tree so they could rest and graze. Stephanie leaned back against a tree and looked out at the incredible view of mountain-lined lake and clear blue sky.

“This is where I go when I can’t stand life anymore. The first time I came here, I tried to kill myself. I stole my dad’s gun and had it all planned out. Then I sat here and looked around at all this and thought...who would care? I’m nothing and no one would miss me, so why do it? That’s when I decided to live for me. I do what makes me happy now and screw the rest of them.”

“You were going to kill yourself. Why?”

Stephanie took a deep, labored sigh. “I didn’t see the point in living. My mom was dead and my dad married that crazy bitch.” She shrugged. “I don’t really fit in anywhere. Even at school, the kids hate me.”

I shook my head. “I don’t believe that. There is no reason to hate you.”

Stephanie scoffed. “You say that because you don’t know any better. You don’t know what normal is. That’s why we get along. I’m a freak, but you’ve never had any friends, so you don’t know how weird I am.” She smiled.

“I’ve had friends,” I protested.

“Really? I thought you were kept alone at that house all the time.”

I nodded.

Stephanie raised an eyebrow. “So, did your dad kidnap kids and bring them home for you play with?”

My eyes went large, but then Stephanie laughed and I realized she was joking. I paused for a moment, trying to pick my words carefully.

“Don’t worry about me telling anyone. Remember, we’re best friends, so you should be able to tell me anything. I’ve never told anyone that I was going to kill myself.”

I looked at her with a mixture of love and concern. “I had two friends. I met them when I was eleven. Their mother worked with my father and they came to our house one day. That’s how they knew I lived there. They lived over the hill from us and they came over while Papa was at work and we played in my yard.” I stopped and smiled at the memory.

“You had to hide them from your father. Why?”

“He was afraid that if people knew I was home alone all day, they would come and take me away.”

“Didn’t it drive you crazy to be alone all the time?”

I shrugged. “Not really. When I met Donny and Damien I was much happier. I didn’t know what it was like to have friends before I met them, so I didn’t realize what I was missing.”

She studied me. “Isn’t Damien the kid your dad shot? Why’d he shoot him? Did he catch him with you?”


“Why didn’t you just tell him that you two were friends and that it was no big deal?"

“I tried to convince him, but...there is a lot you don’t understand.”

Stephanie gave me a disappointed curl of her lip. “And I won’t be able to understand if you keep everything a secret.”

I stayed silent.

“Sophie, I’ve already told you something that I never told anyone. I trust you because we’re friends. That is what friends do. They trust each other and they tell each other things. Do you think I won’t believe you?”

“No, it’s not that. And I do trust you, but there are things that will sound strange, and I don’t want you to think I’m a monster.”

She laughed. “You are the opposite of a monster. You’re friendly and kind. People would love to be near you.”

I ran the word through my head several times. I wondered if the statement had validity, because if it did, it explained some of the things Papa told me that seemed unimaginable.

“So, what is this big dark secret? You say your father didn’t kidnap you or treat you badly, so why did he keep you locked up in that house hidden away from the world?”

I thought it was inconceivable that the two of us were best friends. Stephanie had just confessed that she had almost ended her life and now I was about to tell her how I had ended my mother’s and one of my friends. My fears of being ostracized and treated like a disease were still at the surface, but the thought of releasing some of the weight with a person I trusted was like having a balloon inflating inside me ready to burst. I felt my secret was slowly killing me, and the only way I could get relief was to talk about it. I was still scared that once it was out, it would sprout wings and fly out of control.

“I’ll tell you, but you have to swear you’ll never tell anyone else.”

“I swear. I swear on my stepmother’s grave,” she giggled.

I looked at her, worried that she wasn’t in the right mind frame to hear what I had to say. My face must have showed it, because Stephanie quickly lost her smile and leaned forward. She put her hand on my shoulder. “God, Soph, I was just kidding. You look like I just cursed her dead.”

I gasped and put my hand to my mouth. I felt an icy chill go down my back and my heart jumped.

“What?” she asked.

“It’s what you said. That is why I had to hide all those years.”

“What I said? How could that be? I wasn’t even around.”

I was speechless and stunned. Just hearing the word made me dizzy. I put my face in my hands and rocked back and forth, trying to steady my nerves and my thoughts.

“Sophie, what’s wrong with you? You’re not making any sense. I can’t help you if you don’t talk to me.”

I stopped rocking, and looked up at her. “I’m so afraid to say anything.”

“You have no reason to be afraid. I’m not going to tell anyone. You’re my only friend!” She smiled. “You’ll go crazy if you keep it all inside.”

“But what if you don’t want to be friends after I tell you?”

“That’s crazy.” She sat up on her knees and squared her body to mine. She held my shoulders and made me look at her. “Here, think about this. Imagine I’m the one telling you this big secret. If that were the case, would we still be friends? Sophie?”

I realized I had drifted off. I blinked as I came back and smiled. I had no reservations about how I would react if she were the one telling it. Stephanie would be my friend regardless of her secrets and I knew that she felt the same. So with the same strength I had mustered to lead my horse into a deep dark lake, I pushed forward and decided to reveal what had shaped my entire life. It would either knock me into a cold, deep abyss, or I would cross it and end up gaining the confidence I needed to take even more risks in my life. I was willing to take that chance. I suddenly realized that I had no idea where to start.

It struck me as funny, and I stopped and smiled to myself.

“You’re a tease!” she yelled. “Come on, out with it.”

“I don’t know where to start. There is so much to tell.”

She leaned back against the tree and put her arms behind her head. “We have all day. They don’t expect us until dinner and I brought food in my backpack. Spill it!”

I took a deep breath. “There is something terrible that happened a long time ago and it’s the reason Papa and I had to hide all those years.”

“Did he kill someone?” she asked, both horrified and intrigued.

“No,” I said firmly. “It’s not something we did, but something that was done to us.”

Stephanie lowered an eyebrow. “What?”

“A curse.”

Her eyes shot wide open, but she gave me a sideways grin. “A curse?”

“Yes. We had to hide away because Papa says we are a threat to the people who love us.”

She cocked her head to the side. “How?”

I looked at the ground and felt my face flush. “I’m not sure, but some of them have died.”

Stephanie reeled back. “They died? How?”

I shrugged. “Papa says it’s the reason my mother died and Donny. He says we’re the reason.”

Stephanie shook her head. “You said he didn’t kill anyone.”

“It’s not us. It’s the curse that kills them.”

“How did they die?”

“Donny died when a dirt cave collapsed on him.” I felt a heavy lump in my stomach. “I don’t know how my mother died. Papa never talks about it.”

“Sounds to me like your father gave you a line to keep you in line. There is no such thing as a curse.”

I felt rejected and embarrassed. It had taken every ounce of trust I could muster to tell her and now she brushed it off. “Yes there is.”

She furrowed her brows. “Did you push that kid into the cave?”

I shook my head. “No!”

Stephanie sat up straight. “Do you think that other kid was shot because of this curse, too?”

I lowered my eyes. “Yes.”

She sat in silence, looking as if she was deep in thought. Several times she began to talk and then stopped. She stood up and walked in a circle. “That doesn’t make sense. If you say the curse kills people who love you, then why am I still alive? And what about your grandparents? Why aren’t we all dead?”

“I’m not sure. Sometimes it scares me. I don’t want to hurt people, but I don’t want to be alone. Papa was trying to explain it, but then we got caught. I’ve tried to figure it out, but without Papa, I can’t. There’s more to it, and he’s the only one who knows.”

“Who put the curse on you?” I shrugged.

“Papa said it was done a long time ago, before I was born.”

Stephanie lowered her brow. “If you weren’t even born, why would anyone want to curse you?”

“It was placed on our family for something Papa did. He said it was done out of anger. He said he didn’t believe it at first, but when my mother was killed, he knew we had to hide or more bad things would happen. He said if anyone found out about the curse, I would be taken away. He hid us away for our own good. He didn’t want the curse to hurt anyone else. I didn’t know about it until after Donny died. Papa felt it was his fault for not warning me sooner.”

Stephanie looked at me in awe. She hadn’t moved a muscle or changed her facial expression in the slightest, as though my story had struck her dumb. I started feeling awkward and worried that I had said too much, but before regret set in, she took a seat beside me and put an arm around my shoulder. “So, what are you going to do? If you think you’re cursed and you’re putting other people at risk, how are you going to live?”

I thought for a moment. “I don’t know.”

“That’s crazy, Sophie. There is no such thing. I think he told you that just to keep you from running off. He knew that if people saw you they’d find out who you were. That
would threaten him.” She scratched her head; pulling at the hair in one of her pigtails, making it crooked. “He makes it sound very convincing.” She sat back with a start. “He must have seen the newspaper article that ran the sketch. That’s why he took all the mirrors out of your house. He didn’t want you to discover who you really are. On the other hand, this is so strange, because if he really thought you were cursed, a lot of this stuff he did makes sense. That’s totally wild.”

I thought about the mirrors. I remembered the expression on Damien’s face when he realized all the mirrors in my house had been taken down or destroyed. I still had aversions to them, and rarely gave in to the temptation. They were everywhere at my grandparents’ home, but I did my best to avoid them, knowing that God watched and judged what I did.

“When I tell you that I love you, does it scare you?” she asked.


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ISBN: 9780983741893
ISBN: 9781476172309
Pages: 413
Release: June 1, 2012

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Thanks again for sharing your story with us, Brenda. 

Monday, August 6, 2012


Quote for the week:  How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world. Anne Frank

I am delighted to introduce you to a young author and his debut novel, The Nameless Prince.
Dominick Domingo is a veteran Animation Artist (Lion King, Pocahontas, Hunchback, Tarzan, Fantasia.) who's illustrated YA books for Penguin, Random House, Lowell House, Disney Publishing, Hyperion Books, and Harcourt. Developing original screenplays as a filmmaker led to a growing writing resume. To capitalize on it, Dominick recently penned a collection of Narrative Nonfiction essays titled "Jesus Shoes," two of which have been included in anthologies. One of the essays, 'L'Epiphanie,' was awarded the 2011 Solas award in the humor category for 'Best Travel Writing.' The Nameless Prince represents Dominick's foray into Young Adult urban fantasy. He'd be happy to retire as a full-time author. He lives in the Silver Lake neighborhood of L.A., surrounded by hipsters.
Author web site:

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Author Interview:

Dominick has shared a little about himself and why he decided to write for young adults. Here's what he has to say:

Why YA?

by Dominick Domingo

With the pending release of The Nameless Prince, I’ve often been asked why I chose to write for the Young Adult market. The truth is, I’ve written in many genres. This is my debut novel, and it just happens to be YA. The concept was inspired, and it just demanded certain things, including a protagonist on the cusp of adolescence. I wasn’t thinking necessarily about conforming to the traditions of any one genre, or of marketing limitations with regard to readership. I just wanted to write a good story. I will say, however, that I’d carried a long-standing desire to write a ‘through the rabbit hole’ fairy tale, based on the hero’s journey. I’d always loved stories in which the protagonist (usually a loner) encounters a mythological creature in an unexpected place, and follows it to an alternate realm through some kind of portal. I grew up on C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkein, among others, and found myself returning to the worlds they created over and over again, as an escape. I like the idea of offering this solace to young readers- a place to go that makes the tough journey of adolescence a bit easier.

I remember stumbling into Bridge to Terabithia as a child and for the first time, relating one hundred per cent to a main character. Jesse was an unlikely protagonist- sensitive, intellectual, interested in the arts and culture- all the things boys were not supposed to be. I want to offer something relatable to readers that makes them feel validated. Especially the marginalized, disenfranchised, or unique!

I’m interested in challenging young people, not condescending to them or ‘dumbing down.’ My interest in writing YA has to do with offering content with literary value and artistic integrity, not just fluff. But I learned early on what I was up against. In developing my own intellectual properties (for both the literary and film markets) and pitching to acquisitions executives at major distribution companies, I learned terms like ‘child-centric,’ and ‘family entertainment,’ Several years ago, I was pitching a CG Animated feature to Lion’s Gate. I was told the fact that the protagonist advances in age (in a montage midway through the film) was a deal-breaker. The fear was that we would lose the G-audience. Convention dictated that the pre-teen audience could not identify with characters a few years older than themselves.

Are you kidding? I thought. They can’t wait to be their older brothers and sisters. They aspire to being older, even romanticize the idea. When I pointed out the long history of precedents in which the main character ‘comes of age’ in a montage (Bambi, Lion King, Tarzan, Anastasia, the Fox and the Hound etc., etc.) I was reminded that those films were 2-D, not 3, and came out over five years ago. So there it was. The formula was just this limiting and short-sighted. And it had to do with making bank at the box office. The almighty dollar, and nothing more. What about the idea of imparting wisdom and life lessons to the youth of today? If we limit content to that which pacifies based on the pleasure principle, to what is already on their radar without challenging audiences, what have we gained? These are the films that taught my generation and those before, how to live in the world!

I personally believe that both valuable content and commercial success can coexist; they are not mutually exclusive. Lion King struck a chord with audiences, as did Avatar and the Matrix, precisely BECAUSE of the profound nature of their universal message. The themes go to the core of the human experience. In the literary realm, the same can be said of commercial successes like Harry Potter, the Lord of the Rings, and countless others.

I’ve also been asked in interviews how I hold the attention of young readers in this technology-driven climate. Kids grow up surgically attached to a device of some kind, headphones tuning out the world around them. Given the potential for isolation and lack of community, I believe the same old ingredients still work- humanity, affinity, a strong character arc, and illustrating something relatable about the human condition. In fact the younger generation may be starved for poetic simplicity. I myself went from seeing one of the latest Matrix movies (very effects-driven and sophisticated) to a performance the very next day of Vietnamese shadow puppets at the Bodhi Tree bookstore. I was more captivated by the latter! Studio Gibli films (directed by Miazaki) mesmerize children with their relative silence- the lack of explosions and scoring, the wind whistling on the stillness. I have no interest in giving up on young people and catering to cultural A.D.D. I will continue to challenge them to take in character-driven, rather than effects-driven or technology-driven fare.

This is not to say that The Nameless Prince is out of touch. It is quite hip and relevant, if I must say so myself! With sixteen nieces and nephews, and fourteen years of former students, I have my finger firmly on the pulse. The world of Silver Lake is urban and contemporary, pulling timely social issues straight from the headlines, such as the ongoing war between local gangs and the growing homeless population. There is a strong theme of Gaming, as many of the characters are addicted to Gears of War and World of Warcraft. This aesthetic becomes a driving force on ‘the Interior,’ in the war between its residents and the Dark Forces that threaten them. But behind it all is something more universal- the idea of exposing the humanity that exists between the lines.

The theme YA readers will likely identify with most, is that of discovering ones true identity. Seth embarks on an odyssey of riddles and self-discovery, symbolically learning his own name. This questioning of purpose, this testing of the waters, is synonymous with adolescence. And many teens go through this questioning phase feeling like they’re the only one in the world who’s ever felt insecure. The irony is that no one is exempt, but it’s not really talked about. If Seth’s journey rings true, makes readers feel less alone, my mission is accomplished!

When first asked ’why YA,’ it took some time to remove myself from the mindset I’d been living during the writing of The Nameless Prince. I’d been so steeped in the adolescent world of Seth, Elena and their peers, that I’d forgotten some of their concerns are unique to adolescence and perhaps not on the forefront of many adults’ minds. Perhaps I think like a child, or the other way around- as I child I thought like an adult. Either way, I don’t see a big separation. As someone who promised himself at eleven never to become ‘jaded,’ and has devoted his work largely to the theme of preserving innocence, it’s easy for me to slip into the shoes of the characters in The Nameless Prince. And so far, adult readers have said the same! It seems to be speaking to readers, whatever their station in life. And this is rewarding to me- that the text takes on new meaning with perspective. Rereading The Lord of the Rings or the Narnia Chronicles as an adult for me has been a very different experience than the first time around.

The Nameless Prince is meant to be ‘fantasy for all ages.’ Having said that, the language may be too sophisticated for Middle Grade readers, more appropriate for YA and older. Similarly, some of the plot details are a bit dark. The alternate realm known as ‘the Interior’ can be seen to truly exist, or as an elaborate construct of Seth’s subconscious, designed to reveal the truth that will set him free. He has glimpsed certain things that the world is not revealing to him, and stored them away in his subconscious. It is suggested by Seth’s court-ordered psychologist that Seth himself created a safe place to learn the facts, on a ‘need-to-know’ basis. The truths that are revealed, surrounding the mysterious departure of his mother soon after his birth, prove quite harsh. But the message is ultimately redeeming. The journey of riddles in The Nameless Prince is arguably one big parable for overcoming disillusionment, and returning to innocence.

Despite all the academic speak, the Interior is at turns charming, whimsical, absurd, comical, and sublime. I’ve fallen in love with its fanciful residents. I find myself wishing to return time and again to visit. And with several rounds of edits, as well as the scrutinizing of multiple print proofs, there have been a lot of ‘visits’ of late! I don’t see myself tiring of Interia anytime soon. And my wish is that readers will grow fond of the world and its characters, just as I have!


Thank you, Dominick. I think The Nameless Prince will find a huge audience. Now, here's a bit about the book.

Seth Bauman has issues. His Mom split ten years ago, right after his birth, and guardian Uncle Troy won't discuss the past. Seth's only friend is Mexican immigrant Elena, whom he must walk home from school through Silverlake's gang-ravaged streets. When Elena is abducted by local gang 'the Mayans,' Seth has no choice but to follow the Boatman of the L.A. River into the sprawling network of sewers and metro tunnels concealing Mayan headquarters. To Seth the great labyrinth unfolds as a magical realm called 'the Interior,' whose residents immediately deem him the 'Nameless Prince' of prophecy, sent to save them from peril.

To find Elena, Seth embarks on an odyssey of riddles and self-discovery. Only in 'Interia' is it safe to discover the truth about his past, and the forgiveness that will set him free. In rescuing Elena he rescues his own innocence. In fulfilling prophecy by learning his name, Seth discovers the greatness that lies within.
Excerpt and purchase link:

Book trailer:

My Review:

By Dominick R. Domingo

Sometimes a thin line exists between fantasy and reality. Or perhaps the two blend together as one, forming our lives. Dreams often seem so real, we believe they actually happened. It’s entirely possible they have.
Author Dominick R. Domingo’s debut young adult novel, THE NAMELESS PRINCE, takes the reader on a journey between the real world and the fantasy world of ten-year-old Seth Bauman’s life. Abandoned by his mother after his birth, his father dead before his birth, Seth lives with his uncle, Troy, and Troy’s girlfriend, Cheryll. Seth has questions about his mother. Troy has answers, but refuses to reveal the truth to Seth. He also has to deal with the school bully, and protect Elena Gomez, the new girl from Mexico, as well as himself from the tough Mayan gang. To complicate his life even more, the Mayans spot Seth and Elena at the portal underneath Interstate 5. As they attempt to escape, Seth falls and is knocked unconscious. He awakes in a new world of tunnels, creatures that talk, and prophesies, known as “The Interior,” where he is called “The Nameless Prince,” the long-lost twin of King Amado. Elena has vanished, kidnapped by the Dark Forces. Seth has no idea what all this means, but he begins an adventure not only to save Elena, but to discover the truth about his mother, father, and himself, as well.
Riddles to solve and a book titled The Unfinished Story lead Seth down a trail of danger, hope, and ultimately trust and understanding. There’s plenty of action to keep young readers turning the pages, older readers, too. THE NAMELESS PRINCE is a story of family, love, forgiveness, faith, and trust. The novel would make a great addition to middle school and high school libraries, and personal libraries also. The author describes the scenes so vividly you can picture the “peculiar little sphere, an eyeball” and other nice imagery. A lovely debut novel.
ARC courtesy of Twilight Times Books

Have a good week.