Bird Face Wendy

Things relevant to reading, writing, publishing or marketing teen fiction.

An Excerpt! YA Historical Romance for Music Lovers

If you love classical music, enjoy historical fiction with an Italian setting, and appreciate stories of young romance, this is a novel for you (and me)!

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I’m currently reading Playing By Heart from author Carmela Martino. This blog is the last stop on a blog tour celebrating the release of the book, and I was chosen to provide an excerpt. I hope you enjoy it as much as I’ve enjoyed reading this story.

First, a brief summary, and then we move on to the excerpt.

Emilia Salvini dreams of marrying a man who loves music as she does. But in 18th-century Milan, being the ‘second sister’ means she’ll likely be sent to a convent instead. Emilia’s only hope is to prove her musical talents crucial to her father’s quest for nobility. First, though, she must win over her music tutor, who disdains her simply for being a girl. Too late, Emilia realizes that her success could threaten not only her dreams for her future but her sister’s very life.

Playing by Heart is inspired by two amazing sisters who were far ahead of their time—one a mathematician and the other a composer.

First Movement: December 1736-January 1737

Chapter One: Iron Bars

The day I decided to take my fate into my own hands began much like any other. As soon as I was dressed, I headed to the harpsichord salon to practice. The maestro had finally returned from Venice and would arrive shortly. I was anxious to show him how much I’d learned in his absence. But when I turned the corner near Mamma’s sitting room, a clash of angry voices stopped me. Mamma was arguing with Father, something she never did. And something she shouldn’t be doing now, as she was heavy with child.

I tiptoed to the sitting room door. With one hand on the wall, I leaned close. The edges of the decorative plasterwork dug into my fingers as Mamma said, “Did Maria request this herself?”

My hand relaxed. They weren’t arguing about me. But knowing my sister’s fate was intertwined with mine, I pressed forward again.

“No,” Father replied. “It was my decision, one I would have carried out long ago if not for the Sardinian occupation. It’s time she had a tutor who specializes in mathematics, one who can nurture her natural aptitude for the subject. He will teach her astronomy as well.”

“Astronomy!” Mamma screeched. “Maria already spends too much time with books. Haven’t you noticed her pallor? The throat illness took a greater toll on her than the other girls.”

I pictured Mamma seated in the high-backed armchair near the window, her legs resting atop the footstool cushion she herself had embroidered. No doubt her normally calm blue-gray eyes flashed steely as she said, “Maria needs fresh air and physical activity, not more studies.”

“Very well,” Father said. “We will increase the frequency of her dance lessons. And I will order her to keep a window open in her study at all times. Come spring, I’ll have her tutors move her lessons to the garden.”

“They will simply stuff her head with more book learning,” Mamma said. “What of her real education, the one she would have received at convent school? Maria should be cultivating practical skills, such as sewing and embroidery, and how to manage a home—skills she will need to be a useful wife and mother.”

“There will be time enough for that,” Father said. “She is young.”

“Young? Perhaps her quiet manner has led you to forget that your eldest daughter is fourteen! Instead of hiring more tutors, you should be making arrangements for her future. For her betrothal, and Emilia’s, too.”

My betrothal! I clasped my hands to my bodice. It was the subject I’d both longed for and feared, especially since seeing Zia Delia last week.

At thirteen, I’d never heard either of my parents speak of my betrothal before. But that hadn’t kept me from painting a portrait of my future husband in my mind.

He’d be as tall as Father, if not taller, with mysterious dark brown eyes. And even more important, he’d love music as I did and encourage my meager talent.

I turned my ear to the wall so as not to miss a word.

“Though, I dare say,” Mamma went on, “given Maria’s religious devotion, she’d be happier as a nun”

“Don’t even suggest such a thing!” Father’s voice crescendoed. “I will not have her extraordinary talents hidden away in a convent.”

A chair scraped. Father must have stood up. “Do not concern yourself about our daughters’ futures, Woman. That is my responsibility. I assure you I will do what is best for them and for the family.”

Father’s staccato footsteps approached. I gathered my skirts and hurried away on tiptoe.

When I was out of earshot, I let my heels drop and continued down the drafty corridor to the harpsichord salon. Father’s words echoed in my mind. He’d promised to do what was best for his daughters and for the family.

Of the seven children in our family, four were girls, with perhaps another on the way. It would be burdensome—if not impossible—to provide marriage dowries for that many daughters. At least two of us would end up nuns, whether we had a calling or not. Such had been the fate of Zia Delia, Mamma’s youngest sister.

In my mind, I saw again the long, narrow convent parlor where Mamma and I had visited Zia Delia last week. The parlor was separated from the nuns’ quarters by two large windows. Iron bars covered the window openings, crisscrossing the space where glass should be. A linen drape hung over the bars on the nuns’ side.

When we’d arrived that day, Mamma had eased herself into a wicker chair facing the first window, directly across from Zia Delia. We couldn’t actually see my aunt, only her shadow on the drape. I had stood with my hand on the back of Mamma’s chair as she’d tried to make conversation. The other nuns talked and laughed with their visitors. Zia Delia said nothing.

Mamma began describing Father’s recent name-day celebration to Zia. “After the meal, we adjourned to the harpsichord salon. There, we listened to Maria recite two epic Greek poems she’d translated herself. Carlo said it was the best present she could have bestowed upon him.” Mamma gave an exasperated sigh. “Really, he praises that girl too much! If heaven hadn’t blessed Maria with such a humble nature, she’d be unbearably prideful by now.” Mamma shook her head. “Afterward, Emilia gave a spectacular performance on the harpsichord, but Carlo barely thanked her.”

So Mamma had noticed, too.

As I recalled Father’s disappointment, the room started to spin. I gripped the wicker chair tighter and breathed in deeply until my bodice stays dug into my ribs.

“Carlo’s behavior was terribly rude,” Mamma went on, “especially compared to Count Riccardi’s impeccable manners. He praised Emilia profusely, saying how he’d never heard anyone her age play so beautifully, boy or girl.”

I took another deep breath. Mamma didn’t understand. The count was just being polite.

Zia Delia’s shadow shifted. “What did you play, Emilia?”

Surprised by her question, I released my grip on the chair. “Three of Scarlatti’s sonatas and Rameau’s Suite in A Minor.”

Zia bowed her head. “Secular music is strictly forbidden within these walls.” Her voice held both sorrow and longing.

How could such beautiful music be forbidden? I shivered at the thought.

I stepped forward and pressed my hand against the iron grille. On the opposite side, Zia stood and raised her hand to mine. She pressed hard, as though she could make our fingers touch through the linen drape. But I felt only the cold iron bars.

Zia whispered, “Don’t let them do this to you.” Her shadow gestured behind her, toward the nuns’ quarters. “Don’t let them lock you away from the music.”

I shivered again then shook my head Father would never do that to me.

Now, as I neared the harpsichord salon, I wasn’t so sure. Especially not after what I’d just overheard. Or rather, what I hadn’t overheard.

When Mamma had mentioned arranging for Maria’s betrothal and mine, Father had said nothing of me. He’d spoken only of Maria. A spark of envy flared in my chest. Heaven forgive me, I prayed silently as I took a quick breath to extinguish the flame. Even if envy wasn’t a sin, I owed Maria too much to blame her for Father’s favoritism.

I pushed my thoughts aside. Time was running short. I had to prepare for my lesson—my first with the maestro in nearly three years.

Not long after the Sardinian invasion, Maestro Tomassini had accepted a temporary assignment in Venice. The maestro was a stern taskmaster, but I’d sorely missed his instruction. His return made me grateful Milan was again under Hapsburg rule. I’d be doubly grateful if the maestro’s time away had somehow softened his disposition.

I hurried into the harpsichord salon. Paintings of various sizes covered the walls here as in the other rooms. Most depicted scenes from the Bible, though there were also a few landscapes, seascapes, and still lifes. But this room held a work of art not found elsewhere in our palazzo—a harpsichord.

This morning, sunlight from the window fell directly on the harpsichord’s open lid, illuminating the painting there of a small white ship sailing across a blue-green sea. The waves carved onto the harpsichord’s side panels continued the nautical theme, as did the lovely mermaid figures hugging the base of each of the three legs.

Naldo, our manservant, must have been here already, for fires burned brightly in both hearths, chasing away the December chill. I sat down and began as I always did, by pressing the high-C key. As the note rang out, it merged with the sensation of the quill plucking the string to send a quiver of delight through me. I loved both the sound and the feel of the instrument.

Instead of starting with one of my usual practice pieces, I played the opening allemande of Rameau’s Suite in A Minor. I’d hoped the challenging opening would distract me from the dark thoughts hovering at the back of my mind. But playing Rameau only reminded me of Zia’s words, “Don’t let them lock you away from the music.” Which would be worse, to be deprived of music or of love?

My fingers slipped, striking an ugly chord that set my teeth on edge. I dropped my hands to my lap.

I didn’t understand—why couldn’t Father let Maria take the veil? She would truly welcome a life of devotion to God. Yet Father’d been angered by the mere suggestion. I will not have her extraordinary talents hidden away in a convent.

The chiming of the Basilica bells pulled me into the present Maestro Tomassini would be here any moment. I raised my hands to the keys and began my first practice piece—a piece the maestro used to have me play blindfolded.

Suddenly, I knew what I must do. I had to make Father feel the same way about my talents as he did Maria’s.

My fingers stumbled again as a voice in my head said, But you’re not good enough.

To which my heart replied, then I must become good enough.

Attention, readers! This is the last day to enter to win a copy of Playing by Heart. Enter here

PR BW portraitCarmela Martino is an author, speaker, and writing teacher. She wrote the middle-grade novel, Rosa, Sola (Candlewick Press), while working on her MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults at Vermont College. The novel was a Booklist “Top Ten First Novel for Youth” and received a Catholic Press Association Book Award in the “Children’s Books” category. Her second novel, Playing by Heart (Vinspire Publishing), took first place in the Young Adult category of the 2013 Windy City RWA Four Seasons Romance Writing Contest. Carmela’s credits for teens and tweens also include short stories and poems in magazines and anthologies. Carmela has taught writing workshops for children and adults since 1998, and she blogs about teaching and writing at www.TeachingAuthors.com. Read more about her at www.carmelamartino.com.

 

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Enter to Win an Exciting Dystopian Trilogy by Theresa Linden!

      

(This series is for New Adults or for Young Adults who have advanced beyond novels that take place in high school and crave more mature, although cleanly written, themes.  I have read the first book and am into the second. I hope you find them as interesting as I do. )

The Liberty trilogy – A young woman named Liberty lives in a dystopian society where the earth has been elevated above man and the government controls everything. Moving from one trial to another—escapes, imprisonment, secret missions, rescues, 3D games—this action-packed trilogy follows Liberty to her final sacrifice as she learns that true freedom is within, cannot be taken away, and is worth fighting for.

Click HERE to watch the trailer for the third book, Fight for Liberty.

Giveaway:

Stop by the author’s website to enter the Chasing Liberty Trilogy Giveaway for a chance to win the complete trilogy!

Giveaway ends: 12:00AM July 9, 2017.

Winner will be announced at the end of Sabbath Rest Book Talk, 7:00PM July 9th and posted on Theresa’s author website.

Books are available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble in paperback, Kindle edition, and Nook eBooks. Other eBook options at Smashwords.

   Raised in a military family, Theresa Linden developed a strong patriotism and a sense of adventure. She began writing in grade school and her passion for writing has never waned. Love for faith, family, and freedom inspired her to write the Chasing Liberty trilogy, a dystopian story about a future she hopes never becomes a reality. Her other published works include award-winning Roland West, Loner, first in a series of Catholic teen fiction, Life-Changing Love, and her newest release, Battle for His Soul. A member of the Catholic Writers Guild and the International Writers Association, she balances her time between family, homeschooling, and writing. She lives in Elyria, Ohio with her husband, their three adopted boys, and a sweet old dog named Rudy.

Visit Theresa on Facebook, her blog Things Visible & Invisible, or on her website.

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A Story of First Love, Buried Treasure, and Waiting

Rightfully Ours Front  Author Carolyn Astfalk is enjoying the release of her first Young Adult (YA) novel, which I am looking forward to reading. I wonder if she notices the parallels between elements of the book’s story and her journey as an author, which she recently shared with me.

Until now, Carolyn’s published titles were adult inspirational romance, Stay With Me and Ornamental Graces. I’m always curious about authors who try writing a different genre, so I asked her to explain how that happened. Here’s what she said:

“Although Rightfully Ours is my third published book, it is the first novel I wrote, before my two new adult/adult inspirational romances. Most of the first draft of Rightfully Ours was written during National Novel Writing Month in 2010, which I began without a clue as to what I was doing and only a newspaper clipping for inspiration. Because the story involves a treasure hunt, both literally and figuratively, I think young protagonists were a perfect fit. Teens generally have a natural optimism and enthusiasm that open their hearts to discovering truth, beauty, and the possibility of treasure unimpeded by the cynicism and practicality that many of us adults have adopted.”

These are some of the similarities I notice between Carolyn’s journey and the description of this book:

This YA novel about first love was her first manuscript! Dare I say YA might be her first true love among genres?

Like the treasures in the story, this treasure of a book had to be discovered in the right way at the right time.

Finding a treasure requires patience. Waiting. Nothing about treasures is supposed to be easy, is it?

Sixteen-year-old Paul Porter’s relocation to Pennsylvania is a temporary move during his dad’s deployment. Or so he and his brother think, until devastating news lands on their doorstep. 

Paul’s new home with the Muellers provides solace, especially in the form of Rachel, his friend and confidante. Their abiding friendship deepens as they work side-by-side to uncover what could be lost treasure. 

Will they acquire the strength of character and virtue to take only what rightfully belongs to them or are they in way over their heads, with more than a few lost artifacts at stake? 

The teen characters in Rightfully Ours learn to wait as they strive for premarital chastity. The author: “…it will touch the hearts of young people trying to discover the truth and beauty of human sexuality … this book’s journey has come to fruition just as my oldest child is on the verge of entering high school.”

Some might call it coincidence that this novel achieved publication so many years after being written. Others might call it fate or the simple result of the author’s determination to see this YA book in print.

But Carolyn says, “God’s timing is perfect.” I must agree.

Enjoy this trailer for Rightfully Ours. Learn more about Carolyn Astfalk and her books by visiting her website.

Let’s welcome Carolyn to the exciting world of writing for teens!

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Battle between Darkness and Light: author Katy Huth Jones

Note from Bird Face Wendy: I’ve read two of this author’s books (including the one featured below) and recommend them for teens and adults. Now for Katy …

 

Since I was a young girl, I’ve been aware of the great battle between the forces of light and the forces of darkness. In the 1960s, Communism embodied the darkness in my mind, because that’s what my parents talked about. They had met while working at the CIA and saw current events filtered through what they’d learned, things that the average citizen did not know. Other turmoil of the sixties added to my realization that all was not right in the world.

 

Later I came to realize that the physical battles were but a reflection of the great spiritual battle taking place all around us. I discovered books about real people standing valiantly against the forces of darkness, even when they often lost their lives doing so. The Diary of Anne Frank and The Hiding Place were two stories that made a profound impact on me at a young age, and I wanted to emulate the heroism demonstrated by Anne Frank and the ten Boom sisters.

 

One historical person came to embody this great spiritual battle in a personal way for me. The story of Saint Wenceslas (Good King Wenceslas, as you may know him) touched me so much I had to know everything that was knowable about his life of faith. Even as a very young man, his fervor for light and truth shone in the midst of a dark and evil time (the early 10th century, the Dark Ages). Wenceslas stands as a beacon of hope not only to the people of his time, but to those of us living today. I wrote his story as Treachery and Truth: A Story of Sinners, Servants, and Saints.

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My two YA fantasy series have similar themes of finding hope and light in the midst of darkness, though one is more overtly Christian than the other.

In all my books, I show through my characters how young people can demonstrate courage and faith while struggling to make sense of the turmoil of our current times, just as I did in the sixties.

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Katy Huth Jones in costume similar to a 10th century woman’s in Bohemia

Katy Huth Jones grew up in a family where creative juices overflowed and made puddles to splash in. When not writing or sewing or drawing or taking photos, Katy plays piccolo and flute in The Symphony of the Hills. She lives with her husband Keith in the beautiful Texas Hill Country. Their two sons, whom she homeschooled, have flown the nest and live creative lives of their own. Best of all, she is a cancer survivor.

Visit Katy’s blog at http://www.katyhuthjones.blogspot.com or contact her on twitter @KatyHuthJones

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A Christmas Sampling of Good Books

Over the past several months, I’ve probably read the largest variety of books for children and young adults ever for me. It was hard to narrow down a selection of only a few to include in this post. Out of fairness, I chose works from authors I’ve never before featured on this blog. And they happen to include books for audiences ranging from young children to college-age. I hope you enjoy learning about them and consider them for Christmas gifts this year!

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FINDING PATIENCE (Adventures of Faith, Hope, and Charity)

The author, Virginia Lieto, describes her illustrated book: For children, waiting for anything seems endless! Faith Livingstone, age eight, would agree, having just moved to a new town and about to enter a new school. Faith wants so badly to make new friends and feel like she belongs in her new surroundings. It all can’t happen fast enough for Faith! Journey with Faith as she struggles to make new friends and learns an important lesson in the value of the virtue of patience.

The author’s website: http://virginialieto.com

My reaction to this book: This story is so sweet, I almost cried! It can help children understand that their needs won’t (and shouldn’t) always be met immediately. Some things they want and need are worth waiting (and praying) for. The ending is perfect and took me by surprise, which is not easy to do. I recommend this book as a gift any time of year, and if you purchase it well before Christmas, it may help a child practice patience before receiving other gifts.

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PALACE OF THE TWELVE PILLARS (Book one of the series by the same name)

The author, Christina Weigand, describes this novel:

The Peace Summit was in shambles, the prince kidnapped.

When the rival king realizes he kidnapped the wrong prince, hostilities escalate. Loyalties to each other and country are tested for the twin princes of Crato, Joachim and Brandan.

Joachim, captive of King Waldrom, faces deception and betrayal as he struggles to find his way home. Brandan, at home with a father focused on rescuing Joachim, wrestles with his own demons as he searches for his place in the world and the favor of his father.

Torn from the safety and peace of their childhood, they are thrust into a world where bonds of family, brotherhood and roles as heirs to Crato are tested. Through war, spiritual journeys, death and marriage, will they choose the path of good or evil? Who can be trusted, as the world they know slips into a whirlpool of chaos?

The author’s website: www.weigandchris.com

My reaction to this book: I like a number of things about this novel to make me recommend it. And bear in mind that I seldom read fantasy. 🙂

This author uses character and place names that I can pronounce in my head and remember. Many times I’ve tossed aside a fantasy novel because the names were too odd, complex, or similar to one another.

I enjoyed the plot. It holds just enough action and romance for my tastes.

I appreciate that the language and writing style are simple and straight-forward, and the novel is shorter than some in length. I’m always on the lookout for books that teen boys might be interested in reading and would stick with, and this is one I think they’d like. And so would girls who enjoy reading about princes.

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A SHEPHERD’S SONG: A Christmas Romance

The author, Janice Lane Palko, says this about her story:

Tom Shepherd is anything but a hero. A senior physics major at Three Rivers University in Pittsburgh, he just wants to make some easy cash. On the last Sunday in November, he arrives to sell the Christmas season’s hottest toy, So Big Sammy, for three times its retail price to a buyer, but a snafu lands him in the middle of a bone marrow drive benefitting four-year-old Christo Davidson, who has leukemia. When everyone there—including the media covering the event–assumes that Tom has come to give the toy to the sick boy, Tom has no choice but to give it away.

Lauded by the media as a hero and bestowed with the nickname The Good Shepherd, Tom finds himself an overnight celebrity. As a toy scalper and liar, he knows he’s unworthy of the honor. When Gloria Davidson, a fellow student and Christo’s relative, seeks out Tom to thank him for being so kind to her little cousin, Tom, bewitched by her beauty, embellishes his character and lies to further impress Gloria, portraying himself as a big-hearted philanthropist. Tom asks Gloria out, beginning a relationship that will lead him to examine everything he believes or doesn’t believe. On Christmas Eve, Tom finds himself facing choices that will affect not only himself but also Gloria and Christo. Tom must choose between sacrifice and honor, love and loneliness, life and death.

The author’s website: http://www.janicelanepalko.com

My reaction to this book: Although this is a Christmas story, it could simply be a great story that takes place any time of year. The Christmas setting and Christian/Catholic elements make it more special if you are a Christian or enjoy Christmas-theme fiction. I love that Ms. Palko tells this tale from a male point of view only. I get right into the main character’s head and stay there. She makes college student Tom Shepherd believable, and she has him grow from a character the reader might at first dislike, but then pity, and finally find endearing. This novel is more than a Christmas romance, and I recommend it for older teens/young adults and new adults in particular.

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New Summer Reads for You or Your Teen

I’m excited to tell you about some new middle-grade and young adult releases for summer reading. There’s a variety here in realism, both contemporary and historical. And lots of real-life drama for both girls and boys.

LifeChangingLoveCover.jpg Life-changing Love by Theresa Linden releases tomorrow!  I recommend this novel about dating to the older female teen rather than a middle-schooler, but if you are a middle-school parent know that it addresses some serious issues.

Caitlyn Summer, soon to be fifteen, must practice old-fashioned courtship with high parental involvement, but she has a terrible crush on shy Roland West and she has competition from a girl with no restrictions. As Caitlyn struggles to remain faithful to God, her parents, and herself, her best friend gets pregnant and might get an abortion. When Caitlyn discovers her mother’s past mistakes, she begins to resent all the guidelines her parents expect her to follow. The characters in Life-Changing Love face the questions: Who am I? Where am I headed? How am I going to get there?

Theresa Linden is also the author of the dystopian Chasing Liberty trilogy. Find out more about her and her work at www.theresalinden.com

JustClaire Cover Available now, Just Claire by Jean Ann Williams, is  a story that takes place in the 1960s, so it is considered historical. Boy, am I old.

The setting is rural northern California, and I particularly enjoyed the main character’s descriptions of the people and things around her. I think you will, too.

ClaireLee’s life changes when she must take charge of her siblings after her mother becomes depressed from a difficult childbirth. Frightened by the way Mama sleeps too much and her crying spells during waking hours, ClaireLee just knows she’ll catch her illness like a cold or flu that hangs on through winter. ClaireLee finds comfort in the lies she tells herself and others in order to hide the truth about her erratic mother. Deciding she needs to re-invent herself, she sets out to impress a group of popular girls.

Jean Ann Williams comes from a large family, and Just Claire is her first novel! Visit the author at her blog to learn more.

 

7RiddlestoNowhere2 500x750 (1) If you love Chicago and its architecture or, like me, have always wanted to visit the windy city, pick up Seven Riddles to Nowhere. A seventh-grader and his friends go on a quest that takes them through Chicago’s historic Catholic churches and cathedrals. Maybe there’s one cathedral and the rest churches, but anyway the reader is taken on a learning adventure. It would be equally entertaining for girls and boys. I thoroughly enjoyed the advanced reader copy of this book I received from author A.J. Cattapan. Look for its release this coming August.

A.J. Cattapan is a bestselling author, speaker, and middle school English teacher living in the Chicago area. You can follow her writing and travel adventures at www.ajcattapan.com.

TheRoseandtheSword You poets will love this one! The author of The Rose and the Sword, Gina Marinello-Sweeney has a beautiful way with language, and her novels include poetry. ( Her name is rather poetic too, don’t you think?)

Rebecca Veritas is a new college graduate, eager to pursue her dreams as a clinical psychologist. After receiving a full scholarship for an internship recommended by her old professor and friend Dr. Everson, she leaves the quiet suburban town of Cedar Heights for the big city of Los Angeles. As she adjusts to her new surroundings, beginning to work with her assigned mentor and a wide variety of clients with all the enthusiasm of a fresh intern, she finds solace in a mysterious antique bookstore. Yet, as her thoughts still linger on someone from her past, she is unaware that the present has the potential to haunt her the most.

Although the main character is out of high school, this is romantic suspense that is suitable for high school teens, in my opionion.

Gina lives in southern California, where she is at work on the next volume in The Veritas Chronicles, as well as a short story collection. Visit www.ginamarinellosweeney.com for more information.

 

If you pick up one of these, let me know how you like it!

 

 

 

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Exciting Adventure Series for Young People and Adults

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Mark Adderley, author and baker (that’s right!), told his adventure stories first to his children. Now they are a series of novels labeled YA (young adult) but great stories for adults, too.

The main character, McCracken, has been described as “Indiana Jones with a rosary.” That sounds interesting!

McCracken—inventor, engineer, big-game hunter, and Catholic—along with his team, dive to the ocean floor or sail through the skies, ply through steaming jungles or wrestle with sharks and crocodiles. Steamships, trains, aeroplanes and airships abound in these fast-paced adventure stories.

Lost Lagoon - Front Cover

Addrley’s latest release (May 2016) is McCracken and the Lost Lagoon. McCracken has a new family and wants to give up the life of adventure. But adventure finds him when his old friend, Nicolas Jaubert, goes missing, and McCracken must complete Jaubert’s work by finding the Corkindrill, a secret weapon that could help Britain and France win World War I. This thrilling new adventure story brings McCracken face-to-face with assassins, crocodiles, and Amazon warriors, carries him through strange civilizations and steaming jungles, and finally pits him against a diabolical villain whose evil plan is world domination.

An excerpt, with permission from the author:

My face was just a few inches from the grimacing face of the dead bandit. Fire-ants, some of them an inch long, swarmed over his back. I could hear their jaws and legs clicking faintly, beneath the roaring of the river.

Calavera cackled with laughter. He grabbed my hair and pushed my face towards the ants. I strained against him, but he had the advantage of height and weight, and I knew I could not resist long.

Buenas noches, Señor McCracken,” said Calavera. “Be a nice meal.”

But then he gave a sharp cry and released me. I squirmed around to look. Blood trickled down the side of his face—something had hit him in the head. I wrenched myself from under him and leaped to my feet. He struggled upright, shaking his head. on the ground nearby lay a knife. I stole a glance upwards. José stood at the top of the ravine, his hand clutching his wound.

“More luck than accuracy, Señor McCracken!” he cried out.

Probably—and he had only distracted Calavera for a moment, not incapacitated him. But I drove my fist up into his stomach, where I had hit him before, and with a grunt he stepped backwards.

Right onto an ant-mound.

In his terror, he spun away from the swarm of little red devils and overbalanced. He fell over a slick rock and into the shallows beyond. I followed him, fists at the ready. For a few moments, we traded blows, neither of us moving backwards or forwards. I circled about in an effort to find a good opening, but found none; and now, my back was to the raging river. I could feel the cool spray over my back.

Calavera was impatient. With a howl of rage, he rushed at me. I dropped to one knee and, when he was close, shoved him upwards, my biceps screaming a protest, so that his momentum carried him, spiraling, over my head. With a terrible splat! and a bit of a crunch! he landed behind me. I spun round. He lay among the rocks at the very edge of the shallows, but from the waist down he was actually immersed in the river, which foamed white all about him. His fingers scrabbled at the slick rocks, and I knew he could not hold on much longer.

For a moment, while time seemed suspended, a debate raged in my soul. I wanted very much to let him be swept away to his death. I watched his fingers clutching, his eyes widening. I thought of the poor villagers he’d terrorized for ten years, of the profit he’d made from their poverty. What could be more fitting than to see him engulfed by the river?

But that wasn’t my job, I knew.

 

If you enjoyed the excerpt, look for Lost Lagoon as well as these earlier titles in the series:

Lost Valley - Front Cover  Lost City - Front Cover  Lost-Island---Front-Cover

Author Bio: Like the famous Cat, Mark Adderley was born in Cheshire, England. His early influences included C. S. Lewis and adventure books of various kinds, and his teacher once wrote on his report card, “He should go in for being an author,” advice that stuck with him. He studied for some years at the University of Wales, where he became interested in medieval literature, particularly the legend of King Arthur. But it was in graduate school that he met a clever and beautiful American woman, whom he moved to the United States to marry. He has been teaching and writing literature in America ever since and is now the director of the Via Nova Catholic Education Program in Yankton, South Dakota.

Visit Mark and learn more about his books at http://www.mccrackenbooks.com

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Author A.J. Cattapan: What is it about Christmas and angels?

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What is it about Christmas and angels? The two seem to go together like peanut butter and chocolate. Nice on their own, but even better together.

Of course, we have the angels within the Christmas narrative itself. First, there’s the angel Gabriel who appears to Mary and says, “Rejoice, O highly favored daughter! The Lord is with you. Blessed are you among women.” (Luke 1: 28) And then the angel hits her with the big news that she’s about to become the Mother of God.

The second angel in the Christmas story came to Joseph. Once Joseph found out Mary was pregnant, he was planning on divorcing her until an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and told him, “Joseph, son of David, have no fear about taking Mary as your wife. It is by the Holy Spirit that she has conceived this child.” (Matthew 1:20)

The third angel arrived after Jesus’s birth. This angel appeared to the shepherds to let them know what was going on. “I come to proclaim good news to you—tidings of great joy to be shared by the whole people.” (Luke 2:10) And then a whole multitude of angels showed up singing!

No wonder we see angels hanging over nativity scenes and topping Christmas trees. We send out Christmas cards with depictions of angels and sing songs about herald angels singing. If you’re like me, you’ll indulge in at least one viewing of It’s a Wonderful Life this Christmas to see if Clarence earns his wings. Maybe you’ll even hang some angel ornaments on your tree, too.

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I’ve gotten into the habit of buying angel ornaments for my tree whenever I travel. This past year I picked up a handmade beaded angel ornament in Guatemala during my spring break trip. Then in September I visited the adorable small town of Geneva, IL, and I bought a silver angel with a harp. Finally, in November when I was in New York for my investiture as a Dame of the Order of Malta at St. Patrick’s Cathedral, I bought a pretty white angel with her hands folded in prayer.

So what is it beyond their inclusion in the Gospel stories of Jesus’s birth that makes us love angels so much at Christmastime? I think it’s because they remind us of our closeness to Jesus in a number of ways. First, they are His messengers. They are heavenly visitors that come to bring us God’s word, His comfort, and His guidance.

Second, and maybe most importantly, they remind us that Jesus chose to become one of us. He didn’t become an angel. He became human. He chose to walk this earth, not fly around it with wings like angels. He ate our food and wore our clothes. He had a mother and an earthly father. He slept, he woke, he worked hard. He had friends, and he traveled with them. These are all things Jesus has in common with us, not the angels.

This Christmas, I think that thought humbles me more than anything else. Jesus became one of us in order to save us. He sent His angels to tell of His coming, and He continues to send His angels to guard us and guide us, but He became one of us, not one of them. And for that, I have much to give thanks this Christmas.

About the author:

A.J. Cattapan is a bestselling author, speaker, and middle school English teacher living in the Chicago area. Her debut young adult novel Angelhood won a Gold Medal in the Moonbeam Children’s Book Awards for Young Adult Fiction—Religion/Spirituality and an Honorable Mention from Readers’ Favorite Book Awards. She’s also been a Chicken Soup for the Soul contributor and had numerous short stories and articles published in magazines for teens and children, including Highlights, Pockets, and Hopscotch for Girls. Her goal in writing is to empower young people so that they may live extraordinary lives filled with heart and hope.

Website: www.ajcattapan.com

Facebook: www.facebook.com/acattapan

Twitter: https://twitter.com/AJCattapan

Amazon Author Page: www.amazon.com/author/ajcattapan

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About the book:

Seventeen-year-old theater geek Nanette believes her life is headed toward stardom on Broadway. But when her dream theater college rejects her and her best friend dies in a terrible accident, Nanette decides the world would be better off without her. Unfortunately, the afterlife offers something less than a heavenly situation. Trapped between alternating periods of utter darkness and light, Nanette is stuck following a high school freshman around. Soon, she learns she’s a guardian angel, and the only way she can earn her wings is to keep her young charge, Vera, from committing the same sin she did—taking her own life.

Unfortunately, Nanette is missing more than just her wings. She has no tangible body or voice, either. Frustrated by her inability to reach out to Vera and haunted by memories of her old life, Nanette wants to give up, but then she sees what happens when another Guardian at the high school turns his back on his charge. The shock is enough to supercharge Nanette’s determination. If she’s going to find peace in the afterlife, she’s going to have to discover what living is really all about.

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A new novel for teen boys by Theresa Linden

It’s a trend long awaited–growing numbers of contemporary novels for boys in junior high and high school with a male protagonist 13 to 17 years old. Not to say that girls or adults can’t read and enjoy them too!

Watch for more posts in the coming weeks about novels being released for this audience. Today, please take a look at this one mixing realism and the supernatural–Roland West, Loner–by author Theresa Linden. It is one of my favorites.

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Description:
Roland West, Loner is a contemporary Christian story of a fourteen-year-old boy who finds himself friendless at a new school and the subject of cruel rumors. Despised by older twin brothers, he feels utterly alone but not without hope. If he can avoid his brothers while his father is away, he might have a solution to his problem. When his brothers lock him away, having a plan of their own, he gets rescued by an unlikely pair: a neighboring autistic boy and his brother. Struggling to trust his new friends, secrets, rumors, lies, and an unusual inheritance put him on a journey that just might have the power to change the life of this loner.

Roland West, Loner addresses loneliness, sibling relationships, facing fears, autism, and the Communion of the Saints. Susan Peek, highly popular author of saint stories for teens, including A Soldier Surrenders said, “Roland West, Loner is one of those books I couldn’t put down. Linden tells a delightful tale, weaving the supernatural with the ordinary in a way that left me breathless. You’ll never doubt the Communion of Saints after reading this wonderful novel. I can’t wait for the sequel.”  

Excerpt: 

Time stopped. In a moment of clarity, Roland knew what he had to do. Ignore him. The advice hung in his mind like a caption between scenes of a silent movie. Walk away.

A second later, something inside him snapped. He visualized the buttons popping off his shirt and sailing through the air, their threads like streamers. His sleeve ripping in slow motion, exposing his weakness. Jarret wanted to steal his trip to Italy, his salvation? No way.

Roland’s hands shot out and landed on Jarret’s chest. He shoved.

Jarret staggered back, shock in his eyes. Roland had never made the first move in a fight. He hardly ever defended himself.

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Author Bio: 
Theresa Linden, an avid reader and writer since grade school, grew up in a military family. Moving every few years left her with the impression that life is an adventure. Her Catholic faith inspires the belief that there is no greater adventure than the reality we can’t see, the spiritual side of life. She hopes that the richness, depth, and mystery of the Catholic faith arouse her readers’ imaginations to the invisible realities and the power of faith and grace. A member of the Catholic Writers’ Guild, Theresa lives in northeast Ohio with her husband, three boys, and one dog. Her other published books include Chasing Liberty and Testing Liberty, books one and two in a dystopian trilogy.

Connect with Theresa Linden:

Website: http://theresalinden.wix.com/theresalindenfiction

Author FB page: https://www.facebook.com/theresalindenauthor

Twitter handle: @LindenTheresa

Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/TheresaALinden/catholic-teen-fiction

 

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Seeking My Niche

This post was first published on The Scriblerians blog, October 6, 2015.

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Image courtesy of Morguefile free photos

I have one of those in my house—a niche. It’s carved out of the wall at the end of a short hallway. Not much fits there, but I placed a tall pottery vase that is flattened from front to back so it nestles in the space just right.

And boy, is it showcased.

Isn’t that what we authors are supposed to do? Find a niche for our work? An audience where it’s showcased rather than one of many similar, cluttered objects where none stand out.

I suppose those are extreme examples, but books can’t yell for attention like humans can. How do I find the audience(s) where my novels might catch fire, so to speak?

I’m thinking out loud now. Thanks for sticking with me.

My YA novels in the Bird Face series use humor and hope to address serious issues facing teens today. Each novel addresses at least a few. It’s the way I like to write stories, with my protagonist facing multiple issues and crises that are intertwined.

So, how do I find a niche for those books?

Right now, I’m looking for teens with particular challenges or areas in teens’ lives where certain types of stories or characters are lacking. Stories featuring a teen that is hearing-impaired are hard to find, for example. So are those with Catholic teen characters.

I wrote my first book because I care about kids who are shy or bullied. It’s fiction that contains elements of Christian faith, and the half-Cajun Wendy naturally became Catholic because all the Cajuns I knew were Catholic.

I wrote my deaf teen character Sam in my second book because I care about hearing-impaired teens. A good friend in my twenties taught at a school for the deaf, and she shared her experiences.  I grew up not understanding much about the hearing-impaired children I met, but I later worked around hearing-impaired adults, who referred to themselves as deaf and who became my friends.

Like an ethnic group, both hearing-impaired and Catholic teens like to see characters similar to themselves occasionally depicted in the fiction they read.

I’ve decided to try target-marketing to both Catholic teens and hearing-impaired teens (as I continue to market to all teens, Christian and non-Christian). I know, I’ve selected two niches, but I’m still figuring this out.

Anyway, that’s my plan for today.

Are you an author struggling to find your niche? As a reader, are you attracted to specific religious aspects of story or social issues in story lines?

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