Check This Out: Legends of Windemere—Path of the Traitors

On the eve of destiny, the fate of the champions are in the hands of those they once called Enemy.

Cover Art by Jason Pedersen

Hated and distrusted, Queen Trinity must leave the shadows and reach for redemption.

With their final battle on the horizon, the champions are faced with a long-lost piece of the prophecy. Unable to search for the crests that are rumored to be the key to survival, they must turn to a band of their former enemies for help. Sinister desires and hopes for redemption collide as Queen Trinity of the Chaos Elves leads the hunt and struggles to keep her companions on the path of heroism. Monsters, traps, mysteries, and their own pasts will rise up to stand in the way of these people who have spent their entire lives committing sins. Throughout it all, another old enemy is lurking in the shadows and determined to claim her own delicious prize.

By the end of their journey, those who survive will learn that being a hero is more than simply stepping into the light.

Dive into the adventure on Amazon for $2.99!
Find it on Goodreads!

Excerpt: The Aura Syphon

A gurgling causes the two women to pause and look into the pit where the shadows are swirling among the jagged stones. Two black tentacles lance out of the ground and wrap around Yola’s waist, the ooze-dripping projections turning silver at the taste of her magic. Attracted to the stronger energy, the aura syphon yanks the immortal into its slime-covered maw and becomes a metallic beast. With its armored skin, the camouflaged predator is now visible and resembles a sea anemone with the body of a beetle. The jagged rocks are fused to the animal’s exoskeleton and there are six jointed legs that help it scurry out of the pit. Standing over Trinity, the creature opens a faint crease on its body to reveal a bulbous eye with a star-shaped pupil. It pauses to shove a few tentacles into its mouth and hit Yola with pulses of electricity to stop her from struggling. It changes from silver to gold when she attempts to break free, her efforts being quickly drained by the monster.

“Let the crazy woman go before you get killed,” Trinity whispers to the aura syphon. She creates a fireball in the hopes of getting its mouth open, but her spell is ignored. “No reason to have a snack when you have an eternal meal in your belly. Maybe we can have a trade. Can’t believe I’m trying to bargain with this thing. Well, I gave you a chance, so I’m going to blow you up before things get worse. Hope you heard that Yola and are bracing yourself.”

The beast gurgles before releasing a blast of sticky strands that lock Trinity in place. Instead of going after the trapped chaos elf, the creature turns its attention to the helpless army. Having had its fill of magic, the aura syphon is ready to gorge on fresh meat and opens a second mouth that is filled with knife-like teeth. Heading for Sir Harbiss, it is stopped when a chunk of earth erupts beneath it and flips it back into the pit. Unsure of where the attack came from, the aura syphon leaps out and reveals several eye stalks that search for an unseen enemy. A cutting wind lops off half of the projections, but Yola’s potent energy revives them and protects the crystalline armor plates. When the spell comes back around, it bounces off the new defense and bursts against a hill. Blasts of fire strike the beast from behind, so it sprouts a fan-shaped tail of water that douses the flames.

Looking around, the aura syphon stops when it sees that Trinity is nowhere to be seen and there is a hole where she once stood. Spikes grow from the predator’s belly and it slams against the ground in the hopes of impaling the chaos elf. The hiss of escaping gas is heard an instant before an explosion sends the shrieking animal into the sky. Careening towards a solitary cloud that is very low to the ground, the beast catches the scent of an aura that revives the one currently in its gut. Passing through the cloud, it finds its legs caught in a net that runs down to where Trinity is hiding behind a hill. With enhanced strength, the channeler slams the aura syphon into the ground and delivers a leaping stomp to its soft upper body. Instead of ejecting Yola, the creature opens its skin to swallow the chaos elf’s leg up the knee.

“Fine. Backup plan it is,” Trinity mutters, synching her aura to that of the imprisoned immortal.

Releasing as much magic as she can without killing herself, the channeler creates a power surge within the aura syphon. Unable to absorb or redirect so much energy at once, the predator tries to reject the grinning chaos elf. Plunging her fingers into its flesh, Trinity refuses to be thrown off and continues her assault. Blisters appear on the hard exoskeleton and the metallic color flakes off to reveal the natural black of the tentacles. Without warning, the gold returns and the animal explodes with enough force to collapse the ground. Before she can escape, the channeler falls into the pit and is buried beneath the icy dirt.

Need to catch Legends of Windemere from the beginning? Then click on the picture below! First book, Beginning of a Hero is free!

Ready for the newest adventure in Windemere? Find out if Queen Trinity earns redemption or will return to the Baron’s side!

About the Author:

Charles Yallowitz was born and raised on Long Island, NY, but he has spent most of his life wandering his own imagination in a blissful haze. Occasionally, he would return from this world for the necessities such as food, showers, and Saturday morning cartoons. One day he returned from his imagination and decided he would share his stories with the world. After his wife decided that she was tired of hearing the same stories repeatedly, she convinced him that it would make more sense to follow his dream of being a fantasy author. So, locked within the house under orders to shut up and get to work, Charles brings you Legends of Windemere. He looks forward to sharing all of his stories with you, and his wife is happy he finally has someone else to play with.

Blog: www.legendsofwindemere.com
Twitter: @cyallowitz
Facebook: Charles Yallowitz
Website: www.charleseyallowitz.com

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Returning to Childish Things

Before I get into the subject of today’s post, let me just say my thoughts and prayers are with and for those affected by Hurricane Irma. And of course I think about 9/11 so many years ago, when terrorist attacks here in the States changed our world in so many ways.

😦

You know how you’re told to “put away childish things” when you become an adult? That’s good advice, especially when it comes to relating to people. It encourages us to actually talk to people we’re in conflict with, instead of rolling our eyes and sticking our tongues out at them, like we did when we were kids, or making up a song about them and taunting them with it.

Oh wait . . .

Moving on (though you probably have the song “Bad Blood” going through your head), I went against the advice to put childish things away and returned to a childhood pastime—making paper rooms.

Why would you do that? I hear you asking. Well, fiction writing has been difficult for me lately. I freeze up whenever I attempt to put words on a page in any of the stories I’ve been working on. Whenever I ran low on inspiration when I was a kid, I made what I called a chain house. First, I would make furniture by folding notebook paper and taping or gluing it so that it would stand up. Second, I would arrange the furniture of each room to fit on one sheet of paper. When I finished two rooms, I would tape them together in a chain before moving on to the next set of two, until the house was complete. The chain houses could be rolled up and stored away.

But these days, instead of using notebook paper, I use the paper you find in the paper crafting section of Michaels or Jo-Ann. Yeah. The good stuff.

Here’s my first attempt at a living room, bedroom, and kitchen.

    

This room is my crafter’s room:

When I was a kid, I never revised anything. Stories remained as they were first written. Same with drawings and chain house rooms.

Now that I’m an adult, revision is second nature. Whatever I write, I revise. And now I’ve begun revising the paper rooms. Here is the revision of the bedroom above. Instead of just a generic bedroom, I positioned it as the ultimate girl’s room. I’m picturing a kid who isn’t the neatest kid on earth living in this room and having sleepovers here.

Instead of a generic living room-like space as before, I’m going for a cozy family room in this revision. Obviously, I have a lot more to do in this room to add more character. Like maybe adding more furniture.

What I realized through this paper room exercise is the value of having specific goals for each space, as well as having characters in mind. When I made the first rooms (the living room and bedroom), I didn’t put much thought into the rooms. I just made them, because they were fun to make. But during the revision phase, I realized I needed to have goals for the space, as well as character marks to show what the person or people who occupy that space is/are like.

When I made the crafter’s room, I had a specific person in mind—myself. I don’t really have a craft room like this. This room reflects my crafting style and the tools I often use. But the reason why you don’t see a revised version of this room, is because I knew when I started it what the goal was and who it was for. I’m happy with how it turned out.

Maybe what I learned while making paper rooms will help me when I return to fiction writing. So many times, I’ve leaped into a story without giving much thought to goals and without really knowing the characters I wanted to write about. But now I know I can give more thought to both and have fun during the journey.

Sometimes it’s good to return to childish things.

Have you returned to an activity you loved when you were a kid? How has this activity helped you in your adult life?

The start of the next room . . .

Girl sticking her tongue out image from imgrcade.com. All other photos by L. Marie.

It’s a Matter of Perspective

It’s Labor Day here in the States. On this day, we cease from our labor and go to the home of friends and enjoy fondue.

Oh wait. That’s just what I plan to do today. But for many of us, this is part of a much-needed three-day weekend. (Unless you work in a hospital, store, or restaurant and have to work on Labor Day.)

Before I head off for fondue, take a look at this photo. What do you think it is? You can see what it is if you scroll down to the end of this post. How close were you in your guess? Does the photo below change your perspective?

So many things in life are a matter of perspective. Ever reread something you wrote but put aside for years, thinking it was a lost cause then, but now discovering a treasure? Or perhaps you recently took another look at a DIY project you finished years ago. What did you think of it when you first finished the project? What do you think of it now?

Time can change your perspective. Think about all of the books, TV shows, or movies you loved or hated when you were a kid. Do you still love/hate them? Case in point: my parents loved documentaries. But when I was a kid, I thought documentaries were too serious and were super boring—unless they had something to do with predators like lions or sharks. Then I was interested. But now I love documentaries of all kinds.

Anyway, I recently reread some poems I wrote years ago, when I first began a daily poetry challenge. Now, I don’t consider myself a poet at all. Andy of City Jackdaw and his new poetry-centric blog, Coronets for Ghosts, is a published poet. Charles Yallowitz regularly features poetry on his blog. I just dabble at it, thanks to the assignment of a grad school advisor (also a published poet), who told me to get The Aspiring Poet’s Journal and do the exercises in it every day to inject more whimsy into my writing. I was a little resentful of the assignment at first. But I soon grew to enjoy it. I now look forward to my daily sessions.

When I first began writing poetry, I was convinced that a kindergartner just learning his or her ABCs could write better poetry than the ones I churned out. But last week, when I reread one of my earlier poems, I was surprised to discover that I wasn’t as embarrassed by it as I’d assumed I would be. Time had softened my perspective. And no, I don’t plan to post it here. I don’t have that much nerve.

Off I go for some fondue. Before I go, let me ask you this: What perspective shift, if any, have you experienced recently?

Labor Day image from wallpapercave.com. Other photos by L. Marie.

When It Rains, It Pours

This weekend, we celebrated my younger brother and sister-in-law’s silver wedding anniversary with “a party of special magnificence.” (If you’re up on your fantasy novels, you’ll know that reference. If not, scroll down to the end of the post to find out where this quote came from.)

Yet the joy of the celebration was tempered not only by those who were invited but couldn’t come for various reasons, but especially by the arrival of Hurricane Harvey and the flooding of Houston. My parents and older brother and sister-in-law live on the outskirts of Houston. A tornado recently hit that area, thanks to the hurricane. Also, the sister of a friend lives in Corpus Christi where the hurricane landed.

After some phone calls, I’m relieved to mention that all are safe. Yet so many people are struggling right now, as you can see on the news, thanks to the rainfall.

My cousin, who had come to celebrate with us, mentioned that her husband is preparing to head down to Texas for storm duty. He works for an insurance company, so he has long hours of work ahead of him.

As the party wound down, we stared at all of the pans of untouched food, wondering what to do with them. My brother and sister-in-law finally decided to take the food to a nearby homeless shelter. Wouldn’t you know it? When they walked in, the workers told them that a record number of people had shown up that day and they weren’t sure what to serve them. In walked my brother and sister-in-law with the solution.

I sat outside after returning home from the party. The gray sky had a bruised sort of look to it, almost like it too mourned what was happening down in Texas. And I felt sort of bruised too. Bruised, but still hopeful.

Life certainly has some highs and lows, doesn’t it? From the wonder of the solar eclipse to the horror of Hurricane Harvey. There’s also the unrelenting sadness of homelessness. But as we saw on the news, people reached out to rescue those in Houston who were trapped in flooded homes. And a homeless shelter in Illinois was able to serve those in need, thanks to some party guests who didn’t show up.

P.S. The quote at the beginning is from the first paragraph of chapter 1 in The Fellowship of the Ring by J. R. R. Tolkien.

Photo by L. Marie.

Life Off Camera

Happy Eclipse Day—the first total solar eclipse in 38 years that we’ll be able to see here in the States! Some friends traveled to Carbondale, Illinois for this occasion since that’s the place where it can be viewed the longest.

Try as I may, I’m not always able to capture, via my phone’s camera, all of life’s amazing moments. Like the time aliens took over New York, but were stopped by the Avengers (thus freeing us to all have shawarma at the end). Or the time when the evil peace-keeping robot (what an irony) threatened to destroy the world, and the Avengers had to help out again.

Okay, those events happened on the big screen, instead of in real life.

But I can’t help thinking of last week when I witnessed a territorial fight between two male hummingbirds. I immediately thought of Jill Weatherholt, a blogger/author you undoubtedly know. Lest you get the wrong idea, I didn’t think of her because of the fight. Jill has shown me photos of the hummingbirds around her house.

I was seated near the balcony at the home of some friends after their hummingbird feeder had been refilled and placed on the balcony. The usual ruby-throated hummingbird soon landed on the feeder. Let’s call him HB-1. I mentioned “usual,” because one of my friends told me this hummingbird usually came to the feeder. But this day, a rival came too—HB-2.

Oh no, he didn’t!

Oh, yes he did!

Pretty soon, tiny wings beat the air even faster, while long beaks jabbed. After a bob and weave, HB-1 got the better of HB-2 and forced his rival to fly away. Sadly, my phone was nowhere near me at the time, so I did not get pictures.

Nor was I able to capture something that happened at a birthday party I went to recently. The birthday child was a little girl who turned one. Over forty kids were present. One of the games they played was one involving a box wrapped with about fifty layers of wrapping paper. The kids sat in a circle and passed the box around, each unwrapping one layer, hoping to be the one who reached the last layer. That kid would have the privilege of claiming what was inside the box.

The kids gave that box the care and attention a neurosurgeon would give a patient. Every time the kids thought they’d reached the end of the wrapping paper, still more layers would appear. Without knowing what was in the box, they were fully invested in solving the mystery of what was inside. I was the one tasked with picking up the discarded wrapping paper, so I didn’t have a free hand to snap a photo. But I loved the fact that the kids were riveted by a wrapped box, rather than some expensive video game. (Lest you think I dislike video games, let me admit to you now that I play them. Just sayin’.)

Neither of these moments has the awe-factor of a solar eclipse, I know. But life has these little moments of mystery and wonder—moments too quick or too powerful to capture on film. Like the time a two-year-old hugged me around my knees. Like the laughs I shared with friends last week. I’m glad I was fully present, enjoying those moments, instead of fumbling for my camera.

But I was able to capture this butterfly not too long ago. He sat still, allowing me time to photograph him (though I wish I’d managed a closeup).

What moments have you enjoyed recently that took your breath away, but that you weren’t able to record on your camera?

Solar eclipse image from Wikipedia. Avengers poster from nzgirl.co.nz. Hummingbird from free-background-wallpaper.blogspot.com. Wrapping paper from zazzle.co.uk. Monarch butterfly photo by L. Marie.

Cloudy with a Chance of Awesome

If you were a kid like me, cloud watching was an integral part of your day. But when adulthood beckoned, bills and boys and benchmarks and a plethora of worries crowded out the cloud-watching habit. I have since discovered the error of my ways and returned to cloud watching.

I’m so glad I did. Clouds are beautiful masterpieces painted on a heavenly canvas each day. And they have been really interesting lately. Like these clouds below. They look like letters to me. What letters, if any, do you see?

    

Or how about this one? I see one letter just above the tree at the left, in the center of the photo. Do you see it?

For some reason, this one gives me a Cinderella-going-to-the-ball vibe. It’s actually the first “letter” in the first photo before the clouds shifted a bit.

I see numbers in the photo below. Do you? The cloud at the left looks like a 4 or a 1 and a 7. The middle one could be another 7 or a 1. The one at the right looks like an upside-down 2, or even a Z. What do you think?

This one looks like a heart (top center) surrounded by a larger heart:

This one has a cloud that looks like a hand (at the right):

Here are some others. For the second one, I think, “Sheep May Safely Graze.”

   

Clouds remind me of infinite possibilities—of creativity and wonder. Honestly, I’d rather watch the clouds than continue to watch recent news events, which have frustrated and angered me, and nearly driven me to despair.

That’s why I look up. I can dream of a world where hate has no place; where fingers aren’t angrily aimed at people in blame; where voices are raised in praise and gratitude, rather than in fury.

That’s why I’m also grateful for authors like Steve Bramucci, who write books to take kids and adults on an adventure. What a positive goal! (How’s that for a segue?)

This is as good of a time as any to announce the winner of The Danger Gang and the Pirates of Borneo! by Steve Bramucci. (For the interview with Steve, click here.)

   

The winner is . . .

Is . . .

Is . . .

Is . . .

S. K. Van Zandt!

S. K. Van Zandt, please comment below to confirm. Thank you to all who commented!

P. S. Keep looking up!

Book cover and author photo courtesy of Steve Bramucci. Cloud photos by L. Marie.

Check This Out: The Danger Gang and the Pirates of Borneo!

Ahoy there, mateys! Glad I am ye stopped by today. With me on the blog is the awesome Steve Bramucci, who is here to talk about his middle grade adventure novel, The Danger Gang and the Pirates of Borneo! ’Twas illustrated by Arree Chung, and then published by Bloomsbury on August 1. For a synopsis, go here.

 

Steve is represented by Sara Crowe. In a few minutes, I’ll tell ye all about a giveaway for The Danger Gang and the Pirates of Borneo! But first, let’s have a chat with Steve!

El Space: Four quick facts about yourself?
Steve: Random facts? Book related facts? Important life facts? Orangutan facts? I’ll try one of each!
1. Even though I write about exotic food, my all-time favorite meal is just rotini overloaded with parmesan cheese. It was my favorite as a boy and the draw of “flavor nostalgia” still gets me at least once per week. I was traveling around the world a few years ago and missed pasta with parmesan so badly that I had a friend bring me some Kraft parmesan when we met up in Cambodia.


2. The first page of The Danger Gang and the Pirates of Borneo!in which the narrator introduces himselfremains virtually unchanged from its very first incarnation, written during a break at an SCBWI conference. Everything else has changed drastically from those early days.
3. My dad died two weeks after the book sold.

El Space: So sorry. You have my condolences.
Steve: He was such an amazing guy that I’ve always worried I won’t be able to measure up to his legacy. That, really, is the theme of the book: One boy’s longing to impress his parents and step out of their giant shadows.

4. Orangutans are a truly astounding species and critically endangered due to habitat encroachment. A portion of my proceeds from the book go here. Anyone who decides they want to donate to that charity, or any other orangutan initiative, can email me on my website for some free Danger Gang swag!

El Space: Awesome! You wear a lot of hats, including managing editor at Uproxx, and you’ve written travel articles for many publications. How did you come to write children’s books?
Steve: I’m actually surprised that more travel writers don’t start writing for kids. Travel is basically the real life incarnation of our childhood fantasies about adulthoodthe way that we thought adulthood would feel when we were young. For me, travel writing is the chance to live out my boyhood adventure dreams, and writing this book was right in line with that.

Photo credit: Jake Anderson

The journey to writing for kids was actually a little longer than me just pivoting all at once. I’ve been telling pirate stories to kids at schools and events near my home for more than a decade now, I’ve been involved in SCBWI, and even written another, unsold, novel. It wasn’t until I went to the Vermont College of Fine Arts that all the pieces congealed.

The author, livin’ the life

El Space: The Danger Gang and the Pirates of Borneo reminds me of the fun of adventure stories like the Indiana Jones moviesat least the earlier onesand The Goonies. What was the inspiration behind it? How did your main character, Ronald Zupan, come to be? Why was a pet cobra an ideal pet for him?
Steve: I definitely wanted the book to feel pulp-y, like an old-timey serial. The Indiana Jones connection was obviously intentional and you can see that in the way the book is packaged. Semi-side note: For me, modern technology rarely serves adventure, so Ronald and his friends sort of exist in a vague pre-tech era (50s? 40s?). You won’t see cell phones or computers or… I actually made great efforts to avoid mentioning any plastic objects all together.

The Goonies is a huge reference point too. I love stories where the basic pitch is: “Kids go on an adventure and learn stuff along the way. Also, there are mean bad guys with bad oral hygiene.” Bloomsbury calls the book Indiana Jones meets Lemony Snicket which is the most flattering “blank meets blank” analogy I could ever hope to receive.

As for the cobra, there are a few big reasons:
• I’m highly allergic to cats and house dogs, so I always had reptiles as pets. My dad would take me to a farm and let me keep whatever snakes I could catch.
• Indiana Jones hates snakes and I love them, so I wanted to give that massive series a little poke in the ribs by having Ronald be a snake lover.
• Ronald would never have an ordinary pet, so the choice feels very natural for the character.
• But mostly, it just came to me and people laughed. When I read something and people laugh, I suddenly become very attached to that bit.

EPSON MFP image

El Space: Are you a pantser or a plotter? What’s your writing process?
Steve: I’d say I’m … a little of both. I’ll outline, but if some idea strikes me, I’m quick to ditch my notes. I’ll follow whims without much convincing. I also don’t outline before the first major turning point. I like to keep the early pages moving and full of that electric energy.

In this series, Ronald and I are so similar in mindset that most of the time I just have to ask: “What would I do next in this situation?” By following that thought process, I manage to get Ronald in a lot of trouble.

El Space: You’ve traveled extensively. Of the places you’ve visited, which is/are your favorite place/places to return to again and again? Why?
Steve: I get asked the “favorite place” question a lot and my answer hasn’t changed in a long time now: Madagascar is my #1 place on earth. It’s just … for the adventure traveler, it’s really perfect: Affordable, exciting, not over-touristed, and unique, with incredibly kind people and a fascinating local culture. Also, the whole mini-continent has a rich pirate history and, as you know, I love pirates.

As for a place to return to, I’m going to say the American Southwest. It’s just so iconic, so different from citified-America, so full of sprawling landscapes and potential for adventure. Every few years I go to Canyon de Chelly and ride Navajo ponies through the canyon for a few days. That’s one of my favorite shorter trips on earth.

El Space: You’re going around the world, but can only take three things besides a passport. What would you take and why?
Steve: Objects? A surfboard, an iPod without internet capability, and a good bookmaybe a compendium of Twain or a copy of The Princess Bride. With that set up, I could travel for a year without much complaint.

El Space: What will you work on next?
Steve: I’m finishing the edits on The Danger Gang and the Isle of Feral Beasts right now!

Thanks, Steve, for being my guest!

Where in the internet world is Steve Bramucci? You can find him on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Uproxx.

The Danger Gang and the Pirates of Borneo can be found at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Powell’s. But one of you will find a copy of it at your doorstep—or tablet if you prefer—simply by commenting. Winner will be announced on August 14.

Photos and book cover courtesy of Steve Bramucci, with the exception of the Canyon de Chelly photo, which is found at galleryhip.com, the rotini photo, which is from 34st.com., and The Princess Bride book cover, which is from Goodreads. The Goonies movie poster from movieposter.com. Pirate from clipartlord.com.