writing

Interview: Literary Classics Award Winner, Stephan von Clinkerhoffen

The Hidden City of Chelldrah-ham, by Stephan von Clinkerhoffen, won Gold for Best High School Series in the 2017 Literary Classics Book Awards contest! Stig’s Flight of Encounters, one of the books in the series, also received Gold in the middle school general category.

Congratulations on your achievements! When did you first start writing?

It’s a bit of a long story.

We were quite happily living in Christchurch, on the South Island of New Zealand, when I began writing.  About seven years ago Christchurch was hit by two massive earth quakes which destroyed our city and many thousands of homes. Surrounded by so much hurt and destruction I found it almost impossible to carry on my job as an artist painting beautiful landscapes.

I Googled “volunteering Christchurch” and soon found myself volunteering full time, first for the Civil Defence then for the NZ Red Cross. Assessing the worst hit areas and helping those most in need.

But the artist in me needed an outlet so I started to paint large images of a fantasyland with a few sentences describing each one in a short story, kids loved it. Then the stories grew and in no time at all I had started to write my first book Stig’s Flight of Encounters.  The title of the series comes from the twin cities of my home town Cheltenham in the United Kingdom and an imaginary city Drah-ham hence The Hidden City of Chelldrah-ham. I found I could draw on the experiences that surrounded me; the poor living on a fractured land struggling to survive, and use it in the story of a young lad from a city of riches beyond belief where money was worthless. So the story developed book by book, painting by painting.

What’s the target age group for your books?

My series, The Hidden City of Chelldrah-ham, is in three volumes. When I started to write the first book I was targeting 12 years and upwards but with each new book the age group has matured as have Stig and Meg, my main characters. Many of my readers are adults of fifty plus who like escapism and to take a break from reality. Can I call “young at heart” an age group?

Chess’s ed. note: Young at heart is a most acceptable age group, in my humble opinion.

What inspired your award-winning books?

When I was about nine or ten years old I remember being inspired by a teacher.  He told me to follow my passion, and helped me a lot with my art which I loved more than anything else. He also enabled me to win an award at an art exhibition. I still have the prize, a dinosaur book. He is now a main character in my book, War of Chaos, playing a “Guard of Old”. My art and my writing feed from each other so I’m glad of his encouragement all those years ago.

Describe one of your characters with a cliché or a famous quote.

The main character in the book series is Stig who is a “Reluctant Hero”. I also describe him with an old word from the 16th century: “Younker” denoting a young nobleman. I love that word.

Do you have plans to, or have you already, released audio editions of your books?

This is something I would like to do in the future. Can I put it on the bucket list?

Chess’s ed note: Yes, absolutely!

Who would you cast as the voice actor for your main character?

I think that someone like Rupert Grint (Ron Weasley), but in his younger days, would be good as the main character.

Do you illustrate your own books?

Yes, I do all of my own illustrations, to me it’s a major part of my writing, because all of my wildest machines start on a sketch pad, to make sure that they are plausible, and potentially could work. I was in engineering, prior to my career in art and then writing, and because of this I don’t have magic in my books. I like everything to work as it should or could do, even if it is from another planet. I find this inventing of new mechanical wonders very exciting.

I always find myself looking at new machines and studying their mechanisms.

Who are some of your favorite YA and/or children’s book authors?

I never read much at all, for several reasons, I like to be creative all the time, so I would rather be writing a book than reading one. Also, I would not want to plagiarise another author’s work so hopefully I will have a writing style of my own.

But that’s not to say I don’t hear of other authors or appreciate the work taken to write a book. I do love to watch a good sci-fi fantasy movie like Harry Potter, love that sort of thing.

Do you have any quirky writing habits?

I do like to put onomatopoeic words in italics. It seems to bring the sound of the word you are reading into the imaginative world of what you are seeing, in your mind’s eye. Early on my editors were in two minds about it, but now as it has progressed they have applauded it, many of my adult readers like it too.

There are a few images of my paintings in my books and at times my writing is an expression of these paintings in words.

I paint to music, but I write in silence.

How do you balance writing with book promotion and everything else there is to do in life?

Thank God I have a wife (Sally) who is very computer literate, she was also a sales person for quite a while. She has more experience at marketing etc. which I loathe. We know we need to do more promotions.

Sally is also my first port of call for editing, prior to professional editors, and helps with all those rewrites.

Do you have anything special you’d like to say to your readers or fellow award-winning authors?

To all CLC winners I would like to say a big “Well Done!”

“Hats Off To You”, I know how hard and costly it’s been to get to this stage, so let’s all look to a bright future as authors, and as the ending of my first book says “My your beliefs travel with you wherever you are”.

Author Bio

Award winning author Stephan von Clinkerhoffen grew up close to the English Cotswolds, surrounded by nature and the region’s rich history. An engineer for twenty-five years, he spent ten years in the British aerospace industry.

Clinkerhoffen’s career influenced many of the inventions found in the Chelldrah-ham series, as did his time in New Zealand, where he served as a humanitarian volunteer in the aftermath of the Christchurch earthquake.

An artist for the last thirty years, Clinkerhoffen has returned to England, where he rediscovered his love of local history—a love that permeates Belas Rift.

He has received praise and numerous awards for his writing from Literary Classics Book Awards, Kirkus Reviews, Readers’ Favorite, and ForeWord Clarion.

Follow Stephan von Clinkerhoffen and his writing on Twitter, Facebook, Goodeads, YouTube, Amazon, and his website.

Award-Winning Books

Stig’s Flight of Encounters

Stig is eager to test out his Spiral Drive, a power unit built for his clockwork plane. He’s so eager that he ignores his fellow inventor’s words of warning. It’s a decision that changes his life and tests whether he has enough fortitude and skill to survive.

Stephan von Clinkerhoffen’s City of Chelldrah-ham: Stig’s Flight of Encounters takes readers on a journey to Chelldrah-ham, the city of riches Stig calls home. They travel with him to strange and beautiful lands as his test flight goes astray and crashes into a wooden pod.

Stig’s trip back home isn’t going to be that easy. Soon he discovers bat-like creatures called the Bach that threaten the pod’s homeland. He escapes the encounter but will have plenty more to face.

Stig must rely on what he finds in nature and the help of new friends like Meg, whom he meets on his trek. He’s got his clockwork skills and a map that his father gave him. But is that enough to help him get back home?

War of Chaos

Stig and his friends Arn and Baits head out of the city of Chelldrah-ham on a mission to Polandrea. Their task is to determine whether the battling Bach creatures still pose a threat.

Stig has his own plans to find and rescue his missing friend Meg in Polandrea. Baits, meanwhile, is tasked as a member of the Guard of Old to search for signs of their absent leader, Lillet. Little do they know the danger that awaits them.

Chelldrah-ham prepares for war when the trio finds evidence of recent battles, and Baits learns Lillet’s fate. Stig and his comrades must confront the Bach and learn their mysterious secret if he hopes to rescue Meg.

Stig, Arn, and Baits must rely on their inventions, each other, and their own ingenuity to survive on a harrowing journey through a magical fantasyland fraught with hidden dangers.

Mystical creatures, secret weapons, action, war, and romance—along with author’s own fantastical artwork—await in The Hidden City of Chelldrah-Ham: War of Chaos.

Belas Rift

After the ferocious battle in War of Chaos, Stig and Meg pursue the evil Anet through a swirling interdimensional rift—and straight into new trouble.

On the other side of this portal, the two Manna find themselves in a world of giants and strange, ominous technology—a world that seems as obsessed with greed and gold as Anet herself. They’ve pursued their enemy to her homeland, a country known as England.

Alone and hunted by a terrifying flying machine, Stig and Meg find allies in the unlikeliest places, and they come to realize other Manna have made this trip between worlds before.

When their frantic search leads them to a golden temple hidden deep beneath the earth, Stig learns that fate ties him to this mysterious shrine. Unfortunately, the two Manna have bigger things to worry about. Anet knows Stig and Meg are in England, and she’s using all her resources to hunt them down. Stig’s ability to devise disastrous plans isn’t helping matters, but the Manna can’t afford to give up now. Anet is breeding new creatures to unleash on Chelldrah-ham, and it’s starting to look as if the Manna simply can’t stop her this time.

“Each of the three books in this magical collection are full of wonder and imagination with delightfully multi-faceted characters and a plot which keeps readers enthralled throughout this dynamic series. With a background in engineering and art, author Stephan von Clinkerhoffen lends a unique perspective to this enchanting series which he both wrote and illustrated.” Literary Classics Book Awards

In addition to the above-linked titles, a color edition of Belas Rift is available for purchase on Amazon.

Did you enjoy this interview as much as I did? Don’t miss upcoming interviews of award-winning authors! Be sure to follow my blog.

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Cover Reveal for Darker Stars

So excited to share the cover of Darker Stars with you! Didn’t L.J. Anderson of Mayhem Cover Creations do an amazing job?

Here’s what the book is about:

Travel talents have evolved far past what the Time and Space Travel Agency imagined, leaving it unable to keep travelers under its control.

Silvie Hall is a descendant of Chascadia, Aboreal, and an ancient Earth. The Remnant Transporter talent flows through her blood, giving her the ability to transport silhouettes from different times and places to help heal lost loved ones.

But will it be enough to stop the darker talents that threaten her legacy and her home?

Don’t miss this book release! Sign up for my newsletter to get an email when Darker Stars is available!

Add my upcoming releases to your TBR list on Goodreads:

Lantern: The Complete Collection

Darker Stars (The Song of Everywhen, #1)

Teardrop Moons (The Song of Everywhen, #2)

Many thanks to Promo Stars for organizing a gorgeous cover reveal and setting up a giveaway (see below)!

  Title: Darker Stars

Series: The Song of Everywhen #1

By: Chess Desalls

Publication Date: January 2018

Publisher: Czidor Lore, LLC

Genre: YA Sci Fi Fantasy

Cover Designer: Mayhem Cover Creations

#darkerstarsreveal

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Interview: Literary Classics Award Winner, S.A. Larsen

S.A. Larsen is the author of Motley Education, the Gold medal winner in the Juvenile/Grade School category of the 2017 Literary Classics Book Awards contest.

Congratulations on your achievement! When did you first start writing?

I began writing little poems and songs during my elementary and middle grade school years. That morphed into darker pieces during my high school years when I was figuring out where I fit into the worldor if I fit in at all. (My teenage therapy.) Plus, I’ve written my daily thoughts in a journal for most of my life.

What’s the target age group for your book?

Motley’s target audience is ages 8-13.

What inspired your award-winning book?

My youngest child was born with Apraxia of Speech—a neurological disorder where no pathways from the brain to the mouth muscles exist. (*Basically, CJ had plenty to say, but was unable to speak. Because of that he gained an endearing love of puzzles and books, in particular mythology. We’d read and explore those for hours. He began speech therapy at the age of 22 months. Today, he’s a thriving thirteen year old, who excels in athletics and school, which I attribute to his disciplined years of speech therapy.) So from that background information, I knew I had to include all the Norse myths and history CJ had introduced me to. And my main character Ebony is a kid who is misunderstood because she’s different, yet determined to be who she is. That’s CJ, and in there lies my inspiration.

Describe one of your characters with a cliché or a famous quote.

“The graveyards are full of people the world could not do without.” (Elbert Hubbard) This is for Ebony Charmed, Motley’s main character and misfit medium. Her favorite place to ‘hang out’ is The Boneyard, which is a cemetery on the other side of a woodlot between her house and Motley Junior High School.

Do you have plans to, or have you already, released an audio edition of your book?

An audio version of Motley is currently in the works by my publisher, Leap Books.

Who would you cast as the voice actor for your main character?

I’d probably go with Anna Sophia Robb (from Bridge to Terabithia & Charlie and the Chocolate Factory) in her younger years.

Who are some of your favorite YA and/or children’s book authors?

She’s not a children’s author, but Jane Austen is my absolute favorite and biggest influence. Her ability to knit a story together with such complexity, yet so much flow and emotion fascinates me. Children’s authors that I consider my favorites are LJ Smith, Melissa Marr, Dr. Seuss, Cornelia Funke, Meg Cabot, and Rick Riordan.

Do you have any quirky writing habits?

I like to write to the sound of the rain or earth tones. Kind of weird, but it works for me.

How do you balance writing with book promotion and everything else there is to do in life?

I wish I had a better answer for you, but learning to balance it all is still a work in progress for me. I can say that I have found taking time to step back and breathe is vital to keeping it all together. Live, experience, allow for a little crazy, and then return to work. Spreadsheets, calendar lists, and sticky notes are pretty helpful, too.

Do you have anything special you’d like to say to your readers or fellow award-winning authors?

To my fellow award-winning authors I’d like to offer a huge round of applause. I’m still in awe that I’ve been included with such an amazingly talented group of writers. And to my readers I’d like to offer up a huge Gouda Cheese thank you, as Ebony Charmed would say. I’m honored you’ve chosen to peek into Ebony and Fleishman’s world of ghosts, Norse beasts, a peculiar school, and of course The Boneyard. I hope you’re looking forward to book II as much as I am! And wait until you see it … think Sleeping Beauty, Sleepy Hollow, and crows. Lots and lots of menacing crows.

Author Bio

As a little girl, S.A. Larsen believed her closet held secret passageways to magical worlds brimming with all sorts of creepy creatures – her favorite kind. Sheri never did find a ghoul or a goblin in her closet, only a half-eaten fluffernutter that her brother repurposed as a hockey puck. Her debut novel Motley Education (Leap Books) is a multiple award-winning, fantasy-adventure for middle grade readers; this is the first book in the series. She’s written young adult stories, community interest newspaper pieces, youth athlete magazine articles, and Marked Beauty her debut YA contemporary-fantasy romance novel, releasing October 17, 2017 (Ellysian Press). She’s also a @MixedUpFiles contributor, #MGLitchat co-host, and writing mentor for First Five Pages under Adventures in YA Publishing. When she’s not chasing her characters around a cemetery or antagonizing them with the wonders of young love, she can be found in the land of lobsters and snowy winters with her husband and four children (yes, they all play hockey), a playful pooch, and three kittens.

Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Website | Blog | Goodreads | AmazonAuthorPage

Award-Winning Book

Forget having a lively after school social life, Ebony Charmed is fighting to keep the entire afterlife alive.

Ebony’s less-than-average spirit tracking abilities are ruining more than sixth grade at Motley Junior High: School for the Psychically and Celestially Gifted. Her parents argue so much her dad’s moved out. And, even though he’s scared of his own shadow and insists on bringing his slimy, legless lizard everywhere they go, Ebony wouldn’t survive without her best friend, Fleishman.

When Ebony’s Deadly Creatures & Relics’ project goes missing she learns her missing project is one of the keys to saving the spirit world.

Now Ebony and Fleishman must battle beasts from Norse mythology to retrieve her project before spirits are lost, the Well of Urd dries up, and Ebony loses all hope of reuniting her family. But someone lies in wait, and he has other plans…including creating a new world of spirits without them in it.

In addition to Literary Classics Gold, Motley Education has received the following awards:

First Place Winner, 2016 New England Book Festival for excellence in Children’s Literature

Bronze Award Winner, 2017 Feathered Quill Book Awards for Best Juvenile/YA Fiction

Honorable Mention, 2017 Purple Dragonfly Awards; ebook

“Full of thrilling twists and an intense battle between good and evil, this fast-paced tale, replete with magical beasts and lovable characters is a must read for young fans of paranormal fiction.” Literary Classics Book Awards

Amazon | B&N | IndieBound | iTunes | Kobo | Goodreads

I hope you enjoyed this interview as much as I have!

Read more about the 2017 Literary Classics Book Awards contest winners on my Interviews page and the Literary Classics website.

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Read Ivory of Aboreal, Chapter 3 on #Wattpad!

With Darker Stars (The Song of Everywhen, #1) in beta readers’ hands and Torch (Lantern, #3) undergoing copy edits, I’ve decided to continue with Ivory’s story. This novella is set in the worlds of both The Call to Search Everywhen and The Song of Everywhen.

Chapter 3 of Ivory of Aboreal is finally up on Wattpad. For those new to the story, here are the links to the first few chapters. Enjoy!

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

 

Interview: Literary Classics Award Winner, Gary Schwartz

The King of Average, written by Gary Schwartz, won two Golds in the 2017 Literary Classics Book Awards contest, placing in Tween (General) and Middle School (Fiction). Schwartz will be attending the book festival in South Dakota this September.

Congratulations on your achievement! When did you first start writing?

I’ve written skits and sketches to perform in and kept a journal from the age of thirteen into my forties. During my career in Los Angeles as an actor, I tried my hand at screenplays and scripts but it wasn’t until my fifties that I attempted to write a book.

What’s the target age group for your book?

I’ve always enjoyed entertaining children, but I try to write for adults at the same time. It’s like Rocky and Bullwinkle. I loved the cartoon as a kid, but as I got older I realized it was adult political satire. I watch it today and still enjoy it. That’s my goal to write for kids but aim something at grownups.

What inspired your award-winning book?

To be sure it was The Phantom Tollbooth, by Norton Juster. It was one of my favorite childhood books and I came up with the idea of trying to be more average than anyone else when I was eleven. That idea made me want to tell the same kind of story with great puns and wordplay.

Describe one of your characters with a cliché or a famous quote.

“Every cloud has a silver lining.” Spoken by Monsieur Roget, the professional Optimist. I named him Roget, because I got tired of looking up synonyms for optimist in Roget’s Thesaurus.

Do you have plans to, or have you already, released an audio edition of your book?

I have already released the audio book this year and I will have special CD copies for sale at the festival.

Who would you cast as the voice actor for your main character?

Me, of course! 🙂 It’s no secret that my story’s hero, James, was me at age 11. Actually, my other career is as a voice actor in movies, TV and video games. (I am the voice of Heavy Weapons Guy and The Demoman in Team Fortress 2, Langus Tuno in Star Wars, The Old Republic, The Pilot and the “Tank” in Left 4 Dead 2 and several other games as well. Here’s a link to my IMDB profile: http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0777229/.)

Do you illustrate your own books? If not, how did you find your illustrator?

My illustrator was a friend of a friend. She was a concept artist at Walt Disney Company and I gave her ideas on how I imagined each character. Her name is Nicole Armitage.

Who are some of your favorite YA and/or children’s book authors?

J.R.R. Tolkien, Frank L. Baum, Roald Dahl, Norton Juster and C.S. Lewis and J.K. Rowling.

Do you have any quirky writing habits?

I write in bursts. I procrastinate a lot, but when I get going I can sit for ten or more hours at a time. I love when that happens. I re-read a lot and vacillate between hating it and thinking it’s not so bad. I would like to be more disciplined, and am trying to be more scheduled, but to date, I have not been super successful. I hired a writing mentor to keep me accountable. That is how I got to finish my book after five re-writes.

How do you balance writing with book promotion and everything else there is to do in life?

I use book promotion as a way to procrastinate on my current writing project. It’s actually fun to promote, as that is what an actor essentially does his whole career. Promote yourself and work on your craft. I’m coming late to the writing game, but I want to achieve a level of success, if I can.

Do you have anything special you’d like to say to your readers or fellow award-winning authors?

I am glad my first book was so well received and I’m thrilled to know ‘real working authors’ and learn from them. This is a new world for me and so far, the writers I’ve met have been smart, hard-working and really interesting.

Author Bio

Gary Schwartz is an actor, director, and master improvisational acting coach.

He has appeared in numerous film and television projects, including the Oscar-winning feature film Quest for Fire. Schwartz has written for two children’s television series in which he co-starred: Zoobilee Zoo as Bravo Fox and the Disney Channel’s You and Me, Kid. As a voice-over artist, he’s lent his voice to hundreds of film and television projects and is the voice of several well-known video game characters, including Heavy Weapons Guy and Demoman in Team Fortress 2.

The King of Average is his first novel. Learn more at gary-schwartz.com.

You can also follow him and his writing on Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads.

Award-Winning Book

This delightful, pun-filled allegory tells the story of a neglected boy who is convinced he has no worth.  Inspired to become the King of Average, he undertakes a journey to a fantasy land filled with interesting characters that have strong personalities while also being archetypes. The book is fast-moving and funny, with a touch of sadness. It will appeal to adults as much as young readers, reminding all that average is not easy since everyone is special in his or her own way.

“This book has incredible depth with a delightfully engaging plot, threads of humor throughout, and a resounding underlying message that is truly inspired.” Literary Classics Book Awards

Amazon ~ Barnes&Noble ~ Audible

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Interview: Literary Classics Award Winner, D. G. Driver

D. G. Driver’s book, No One Needed to Knowwon Silver for Preteen Fiction in the 2017 Literary Classics Book Awards contest! Learn more about this author and her writing below.

Congratulations on your achievement! When did you first start writing?

I began writing very young as a hobby, creating my first picture book stories while still in elementary school. I started writing professionally a couple years after I graduated college, selling my first story to a magazine and having my first play produced in 1994.

What’s the target age group for your books?

I primarily write middle grade and young adult novels. The majority of my readers tend to be kids in middle school. No One Needed to Know is targeted at kids 8-13.

What inspired your award-winning book?

No One Needed to Know is based loosely on my own experience as a younger sibling of a brother with Developmental Disabilities. My brother is four years older than me and was starting high school when I was in 6th grade. He wasn’t diagnosed as Autistic, because that wasn’t a well-known disorder back then. We figured it out later on. Still, my brother and I were great friends and played together a lot. When I was reaching puberty, I became less interested in playing pretend or having adventures, and that’s when it dawned on me that my much older brother should have stopped wanting to play that way years earlier. I based the novel on this turning point in my life and also on the bullying that my brother and I both dealt with as kids.

Describe one of your characters with a cliché or a famous quote.

“I’m not a smart man, but I know what love is” Forrest Gump – works a little for Donald, Heidi’s brother. He’s a true sweetheart.

Do you have plans to, or have you already, released audio editions of your books?

I would like to do an audiobook, but I haven’t made any solid effort in that direction yet. I welcome all the suggestions.

Who would you cast as the voice actor for your main character?

I don’t really follow any audiobook narrators. If I were to find a studio here in Nashville to record it, I might hire my daughter who is 16 and a talented actress. I think she would sound great as Heidi.

Do you illustrate your own books?

My book isn’t illustrated, but I did the cover myself. I found an image from stock art for Heidi. Then I ran it through a program to make it look like a drawing instead of a photo. I used a background image of the iconic Autism puzzle pieces and changed the color to a more muted tone. The book takes place in the fall at school, so I wanted the puzzle pieces to appear a little like falling leaves. I put it all together on Canva.

Who are some of your favorite YA and/or children’s book authors?

I have many and the list grows. I have to admit I was inspired to write by Judy Blume and Louise Fitzhugh (Harriet the Spy – my favorite book in 6th grade). Current authors that blow me away consistently are my Nashville SCBWI friends: Tracy Barrett, Ruta Sepetys, Kristin O’Donnell Tubb, and Sharon Cameron, (among others).

Do you have any quirky writing habits?

Not really. When I’m really under a deadline, I have to get away from the internet, so sometimes I’ll drive somewhere and write at a park or in my car, so I don’t have the option of going online.

How do you balance writing with book promotion and everything else there is to do in life?

It’s very difficult. I have a full-time job as a teacher, and I’m a parent and wife. Writing time is precious. I tend to do promotion stuff on weeknight evenings after work (and sneak in a tweet or two during the day at work), and I do my writing in sprints on the weekends. For this reason I’m a little slower than most indie authors at getting new work out.

Do you have anything special you’d like to say to your readers or fellow award-winning authors?

Congratulations to all the 2017 winners. It takes a lot of courage and determination to write a book and then just a smidge more to enter a contest. I think an award for a book is a nice validation for hard work and effort. I hope for readers, it is seen as a marker that these books are worth their time. For my part, I feel certain that if the issues of bullying and special needs are dear to your heart, you will enjoy the story and message of No One Needed to Know.

Author Bio

D. G. Driver likes to write about diverse people dealing with social or environmental issues, but she likes to include a touch of fantasy or fun, too. She primarily writes middle grade and young adult fiction. She is the award-winning author of the YA eco-fiction series The Juniper Sawfeather Novels, which includes Cry of the Sea, Whisper of the Woods, and Echo of the Cliffs. She has stories in a variety of anthologies, and her newest book is a middle grade story about bullying and Autism awareness called No One Needed to Know. When she isn’t writing, she is teaching, performing in a local community theater musical, or probably watching TV.

Connect with D. G. Driver on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Amazon, Goodreads, and her website.

Award-Winning Book

Heidi was trying to keep a secret. Her brother, Donald, is 16 and Autistic. She has always loved playing with him, but now she’s 11 and her life is changing. She’s embarrassed to have Donald around and tries not to tell anyone about him. High school boys bully him. When the kids at her school find out about him, she starts getting bullied, too. It’s not fair. No one seems to understand what she’s going through.

But Heidi needs to understand, too. She can’t change her brother, but she can change how she feels about him, and she can get people to see why her brother is special.

“Author D.G. Driver’s No One Needed to Know touches on many of the issues encountered by siblings of special needs kids. A book which will appeal to a broad audience, readers of all ages will appreciate Heidi’s story.” Literary Classics Book Awards

This book is available on Amazon (print ed.) and the Schoolwide Inc. Zing! Digital Library (ebook ed.). Learn more at www.dgdriver.com/no-one-needed-to-know.html.

Read more about the 2017 Literary Classics Book Awards contest winners on my Interviews page and the Literary Classics website.

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Torch (Lantern, #3) blurb; cover reveal coming soon!

The next Lantern story is scheduled to release in early September, and I plan to reveal its cover by the end of August! In the meantime, here is the blurb for Torch (Lantern, #3):

Evelyn moves to Pennsylvania where she attends her first lakeside Halloween party. But she misses her brothers and is disturbed by a lantern on the pier that’s burned out.

Graham’s dreams come true in Havenbrim where he is Machin’s newest apprentice. Until he finds himself repeatedly disappointing his master.

Is the solution to their happiness in her world, or in his? Who will light the way to pull the other through?

New to the Lantern collection?

Download Lantern FREE for Kindle, Nook, iBooks, Kobo, and more!

Download Beacon (Lantern, #2) for Kindle, Nook, iBooks, Kobo, and more!

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Interview: Literary Classics Award Winner, Luke T. Harrington

Author, Luke T. Harrington, won three awards in the 2017 Literary Classics Book Awards contest! His novel, Ophelia, Alive (A Ghost Story), took Gold in High School Horror/Paranormal, and Silver in both High School Mystery/Thriller and College Horror/Paranormal.

Congratulations on your achievement! When did you first start writing?

Probably before I could technically “write.” I think my mom still has some of the construction-paper-and-crayon “books” I “wrote” as a kid—which, if memory serves, were mostly about me defeating alien invasions. She promised to embarrass me in front of all my high school girlfriends with them, but I’m not sure she ever made good on that threat. As far as I’m concerned, they’re still a ticking time bomb—my mom could still blackmail me with them at any moment.

I really didn’t get serious about writing until a few years ago, though—right around the time my first child was born and I realized I’d probably never be a pop star. (There was a whole quarter-life crisis involving a failed American Idol audition, which…the less said about that, the better.)

What’s the target age group for your book?

In my mind, I was writing my book for an adult-ish audience, but despite that, my good friend best-selling author K.B. Hoyle (name drop!) encouraged me to submit it to Literary Classics, who gave it two votes for “high school” and one for “college.”

I’d personally recommend it for a college audience, since that’s the life stage my main character, Ophelia, is at, and the themes are pretty “adult.” Mature high school audiences could probably handle it, though—my mom (there she is again!) donated a few copies to some high school libraries, and no one’s shown up at my door with torches and pitchforks yet, so I guess that’s a good sign.

What inspired your award-winning book?

Ophelia, Alive is a novel about how “the killer” might be lurking within each of us, which is a question that’s been gnawing at me for a long time. I’ve long been fascinated by stories of “homicidal somnambulists”—people who go through their lives as normal, upstanding citizens, but then, one night, just get up and commit a murder or three in their sleep. Assuming the stories are true, are those people really different from conscious, deliberate killers? And are any of us? Or are we all just waiting to have that particular “switch” flipped?

What inspired me most directly, though, was an article I read about a stop-smoking pill called Chantix. It’s a psychoactive drug that, for most people, just prevents them from enjoying cigarettes; for a handful of people, though, it triggers symptoms analogous to paranoid schizophrenia. It kind of blew my mind—both that it exists and that it’s FDA-approved—and it seemed like way too good of an idea for a story to pass up.

Then I threw in some ghosts and Shakespeare. And poop jokes. Every good novel needs poop jokes.

Describe one of your characters with a cliché or a famous quote.

“Poor Ophelia / Divided from herself and her fair judgment, / Without the which we are pictures, or mere beasts.” —Gertrude, Hamlet Act IV Scene 5

Do you have plans to, or have you already, released an audio edition of your book?

That’s the sort of thing I’d love to do, but my publisher would have to give the greenlight to it. Actually, I’d love to just record the audiobook myself (“record an audiobook” is def on the ol’ bucket list), but my narrator is female, so…eh. No one wants to listen to twenty hours of me trying to sound convincingly female.

Who would you cast as the voice actor for your main character?

I’m going to say Kristen Stewart, mainly because I just watched Personal Shopper (another good ghost story), and her performance in that was beautifully understated. Also because I’m sure there’s a ton of money to be made off of Twilight fans.

Who are some of your favorite YA and/or children’s book authors?

Louis Sachar is the one who immediately comes to mind here. He was essentially the author I grew up with, and who grew up with me—he got me early as a kid with his wacky Wayside School books, but my jaw dropped when I read his thoughtful coming-of-age novel Holes as a high school student. Sachar taught me, indirectly, that it’s possible to be funny while still pursuing insight and depth.

Do you have any quirky writing habits?

I only type by smacking my laptop keyboard with a dead fish.

But for real, not really, I guess? I get up before sunrise to write every day, and I use my kitchen island as my desk. Are those things weird? They’re kind of weird.

How do you balance writing with book promotion and everything else there is to do in life?

I have no clue. I was hoping you’d tell me.

Do you have anything special you’d like to say to your readers or fellow award-winning authors?

You all should buy a Nintendo Switch. Those things are more fun than an explosion of rainbows and puppies.

(Chess’s Ed. Note: Remember the line above about being funny while pursuing insight and depth? Yeah, me too. Pretty sure it applies here.)

Author Bio

In addition to three Literary Classics medals, Luke T. Harrington’s debut novel, OPHELIA, ALIVE (A GHOST STORY) also snagged itself an Independent Publisher Book Award for horror. Luke’s writing has also appeared in publications such as Cracked, BuzzFeed, Christianity Today, and also the back of a napkin once.

Luke lives in Madison, Wisconsin, with his wife and two young daughters, where he’s a stay-at-home dad, a freelance editor, and basically a pro at Nintendo Switch.

Connect with him on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

Award-Winning Book

Trapped in the fifth circle of state university hell…
…flat broke…
…and then the bodies start piling up.


I should have sensed something wrong when my mortician sister offered me a job. And I should have known something was up when she talked me into taking those pills. At the very least, the hallucinations should have been a red flag.

But now, here I am, standing over a half-eaten corpse.

I can’t believe I didn’t see this coming.

“Horror meets literary fiction in this unique novel in which Shakespeare, Poe, and the like join efforts to create a surreal montage of thoughtful introspection.” Literary Classics Book Awards

This book is available on Amazon.

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Interview: Literary Classics Award Winner, Rebecca Hammond Yager

Author Rebecca Hammond Yager received the Literary Classics Words On Wings Book Award for her YA novel, Beauty & the Beast. Words on Wings is one of the contest’s Top Honors awards, given to extraordinary young adult fiction. Beauty & the Beast also won Gold in High School Romance.

Congratulations on your achievements! When did you first start writing?

Thank you! I first started writing around age 8, dipping my toes into poetry first before discovering novel writing at age 11. But I’ve been telling stories pretty much since I learned to speak. My mom always said I was alarmingly quiet at first, not starting off with all the typical baby words, and that when I finally started talking, it was in complete sentences. And once I was forming sentences, I was telling stories.

What’s the target age group for your books?

Beauty & the Beast is… I don’t know…12 and up? I think of it as for all ages really.

My first novel, Winds Cove, a YA mystery published in 2004, was also about the same, maybe for ages 10 and up. I think, or at least I hope, that my books are crafted well enough that they can’t be outgrown. My future books, several in the works but none finished yet, will be for teens and some for perhaps a slightly older audience though not because they’ll be inaccessible to teen audiences, more because the heroines will start to range more in age.

What inspired your award-winning book?

This is perhaps a longer answer than you were looking for, but here goes:

I dine on fairytales almost daily. They are not the only things I read—I love all kinds of Fantasy, Supernatural, Murder Mystery, some Horror, as well as Science Fiction/Science Fantasy—but I obsessively collect fairytales. Fairytales were my introduction to the Fantasy genre, and some of my earliest memories are my mom reading me fairytales before tucking me in at night. I can still hear her voice in the cadence of the words in one particular version of Cinderella, and I’m on the hunt for the particular version of Sleeping Beauty she read to me which I have not ever come across since. That’s a long way of saying fairytales are important to me. They’re literally woven into the fabric of my imagination. So in the midst of all the writing projects I have going, I’ve always wanted to squeeze some fairytale retellings in as well.

I had a vague idea, a lifetime or two ago, about a story centering around a cursed black lion. I knew immediately it was a Beauty and the Beast type of story, although I didn’t know how closely it would mirror its source. And then my ideas regarding the noble, raven-furred lion were lost to my piles and stacks and mountains of notebooks as other story ideas threw themselves in my path. I never forgot him. But his story has been stuck on the back burner ever since. Growing up with Madame Beaumont’s 1756 “Beauty and the Beast” and of course Disney’s enchanted retelling, I was utterly unprepared for Gabrielle-Suzanne Barbot de Villeneuve’s 140-page original version, The Story of the Beauty and the Beast, published in 1740, sixteen years before Madame Beaumont severely condensed it into the tale commonly found in fairytale collections. Moreover, I didn’t even know Villeneuve’s version existed until I stumbled across it on Amazon and realized Beaumont, so often credited as the inventor of the tale, was in fact only a reinventor like Disney and everyone else. While I completely understand why Beaumont chose to streamline the rambling story so much, I was simultaneously thrilled and dismayed to discover that the version I knew was only half the story. Beauty’s heritage and backstory had been shorn away and have now been all but obliterated from common knowledge. I was mesmerized in particular by Villeneuve’s Fairy Realm, a kingdom in the air belonging to a fairy race with their own laws, their own hierarchy, their own customs, and which fit so seamlessly within a fairytale world I was already constructing involving a Sky Kingdom and a race of Fae creatures. I also immediately felt I owed it to Beauty to finally get her story out there—or at least my version of it. I read and watched every version of BATB I could get my hands on, marinating in the story and seemingly infinite interpretations of it. Villeneuve’s & Beaumont’s versions of BATB, and the Brothers Grimm “Singing, Soaring Lark” were together the wellspring for my own reimagining. The three greatest influences for my inspiration aside from the fairytales themselves would have to be Jean Cocteau’s beguiling and eerie cinematic adaption released in 1946, the 2014 visual feast directed by Christophe Gans, and Hilary Knight’s magnificently illustrated 1990 rendition, all of which had me falling in love with the story over and over again each time I read or watched them. It is my hope, among many other hopes, that someday people will be as swept off their feet by my reimagining as I was about theirs.

Describe one of your characters with a cliché or a famous quote.

The Beast – “The eyes are the windows to the soul.”

Do you have plans to, or have you already, released audio editions of your books?

I have not. To be honest, I haven’t even thought about it. Hmmm…

Who would you cast as the voice actor for your main character?

Are we talking dream voice castings here? For the Beast it would be Liam McIntyre. I think he’d be smashing in a live action film adaptation too, but the reason I thought of him for the role was first and foremost for his delicious voice. Manu Bennett would be pretty spectacular too. If we’re talking reality then…. I have no idea. I have a friend who’s an actress who I would probably beg and plead to read for Beauty.

Do you illustrate your own books? If not, how did you find your illustrator?

My book doesn’t have illustrations but I did do the cover art myself. All the photography as well as the graphic design to put it all together. I did a fair bit of photography on the side before my allergies to the vulture sun forced me into a more vampiric nocturnal lifestyle.

Who are some of your favorite YA and/or children’s book authors?

Alexander Key for middle grade/YA. His books were my gateway to science fiction, and he captures a marvelous sense of wonder of the Universe while still seeing it as both broken and beautiful. It doesn’t matter how old I get or how many times I read them, his books haunt me and inspire me and sweep me away to this day.

For children’s books, there are probably too many to name but thinking in terms of picture books I would say Jan Pienkowski, Hilary Knight, the Sisters Johnstone, and Kinuko Craft are the ones I specifically look out for. I’m aware that they are all illustrators but some of them do their own writing, and while Kinuko Craft does not, her paintings make me want to fall inside her stories. In fact, she is one of my writing inspirations even though she’s not a writer—she is a master storyteller through her art, and I like to think of my writing as word painting. Even though I use a different medium, I want to tell stories the way she does. She’s fantastically brilliant.

Do you have any quirky writing habits?

I don’t know if they’re quirky—they all seem pretty normal to me anyway, lol. I write inside and outside, at the zoo or the lake or the park when I can find a shady spot, but most of the time I’m holed up in my house, surrounded by plants and animals and stacks of books as I write. I stare into space for days, weeks, even years, mulling and meditating over my ideas and letting them marinate in my imagination. I outline my stories usually halfway through writing them, which perhaps is one of my less practical habits. I also tend to write out of order, writing whichever scene overwhelms me when I pick up my pen and then stitching all the scenes together afterward. I’m trying to break myself of that habit actually since it makes for a lot of extra work toward the end.

I like to surround myself with things that inspire me specifically in the tone of whatever it is that I’m writing. For Beauty & the Beast, for example, I bought up every vintage version of Beauty & the Beast I could stretch my tiny paycheck to accommodate as well as a few lion statues, a pewter pegasus, and along with a pewter castle I’ve had for years that inspired the castle in the story, I would literally surround myself with them, the books open to my favorite illustrations and carefully overlapping each other in artistic piles, the lions and castle etc perched all around me while I wrote so that every time I glanced up my eye would fall on something beautiful and magical, my rescued cats and dogs in fuzzy heaps around me, with youtube enchanted forest videos playing in the background. It’s in those quiet, creative moments that I’m overwhelmed by the fact that no matter how little money I’m making, the writer’s life can be intensely beautiful.

Oh, oh! I don’t know if this is a habit exactly, but while I never ever put real people in my stories, myself included, I do give real animals cameos and roles. My stories always have animal characters as well as human ones, and they’re often inspired by or based on specific animals I have known. It’s sort of my way of imparting a slice of immortality on them. Beauty & the Beast contained 4 animal characters inspired by real life animals.

How do you balance writing with book promotion and everything else there is to do in life?

Book promotion is brand, spanking new to me so I’ll have to get back to you on that one. As far as the balance in my life between writing and keeping up a home and rescuing as many animals as possible, I’m afraid the housekeeping is what tends to fall by the wayside, lol. I’m still working on finding the right balance to be productive AND healthy AND have a clean house. It’s a challenge. My husband is very patient, although I am frequently banned from the kitchen due to my tendency to novel-plot and wander off to parts unknown while handling knives or using the stove.

Do you have anything special you’d like to say to your readers or fellow award-winning authors?

To writers—just write. The hardest part for me is gluing my rear to a chair long enough to be productive because I’m so easily distracted. So to writers like me, just write.

To my readers—thank you for getting swept away by my story. I hope I can sweep you away many many more times.

To all readers—Don’t ever let anyone make you feel like reading fiction is a waste of time. Fiction and Fantasy and Beauty have tremendous value. Savor beauty. Revel in it. It’s a treasure that can be anywhere and everywhere, and yet we can never have too much of it in our lives.

Author Bio

Rebecca Hammond Yager grew up in the bewitching realm of Vermont. She has a degree in creative writing and a lifetime love of monsters and beasts. When her nose isn’t in a book, her head is firmly in the clouds where all dreamy heads ought to be. She now lives in South Carolina with a menagerie of beasts and her handsome, longsuffering husband where she obsessively collects fairytales, devours fantasy and science fiction, and rescues animals.

Connect with her on Facebook, Goodreads, and Amazon.

Award-Winning Book

Winner of the 2017 WORDS ON WINGS Award, Literary Classics’ Top Honors Award for Young Adult Fiction

A young woman sacrifices herself to save her father and enters a moonlit kingdom of beasts on the borders of Faerie, overrun by thorns and roses, haunted by memories, and ruled by lions. To have any hope of seeing her family again, Beauty must unravel the riddle of the Beast and dispel the shadows of her own past in this lush and vivid reimagining of the timeless fairytale.

Those who yearn for poignant prose and vibrant imagery will no doubt delight in Yager’s brilliant representation of this timeless classic. Literary Classics Book Awards

This book is available on Amazon.

Read more about the 2017 Literary Classics Book Awards contest winners on my Interviews page and the Literary Classics website.

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Darker Stars BETA: Chapter 31 Locked

Darker Stars Beta Cover“Is there really no cure?” I sniffled, rifling through pages. “There has to be a cure.”

I sat in the library, with notebooks, volumes, papers, and all the journals I could find, many of which Grandpa Plaka had written in, scattered about me. Father must have had the journal with the cure. Why would he hide it from us?

“Looking for something?”

I spun around to see Javis’s outline in the doorway, his hand pressed against the jamb.

“I…um.”

“What’s wrong, Silvie?”

“Nothing—I—”

“Don’t worry,” he said, smiling. “The suggestions given at the Clock Tower will work, though I don’t agree the baglamas should be kept hidden. We’ve heard the stories about Susana and the Fire Falls. This is just another chapter. Courage and good will prevail, like they always do.”

I grimaced. “I hope you’re right.”

“Come on, you’re not getting scared now, are you?”

Sighing, I shook my head. I considered telling him about the Occlusion, wondering whether he knew how sick he was. That I’d felt it—the darkness in him—again, at the Clock Tower after he’d collapsed.

“Then, what’s the problem?” he asked. “You look as if there’s something worse to worry about.”

I sucked in a breath. I was sure Father would fill the role of World Builder on our mission, anyway. I couldn’t stand Javis holding a false hope, or worse yet, that he wouldn’t recover from his illness.

“I’m worried about you,” I said.

He entered the room and nudged one of the notebooks on the floor with his toe. “Me? Why?”

“Obviously because of what happened at the Clock Tower. How long have you been feeling like this?”

“I’m not feeling anything at all, honestly. At least not until it hits me, then afterward.”

“What do you mean?”

“Like I told you before, when I fell over in the bathroom, I didn’t feel it coming. Everything disappeared into whiteness, accompanied by a sudden weakness, like I was empty.”

“You have no way of knowing when or where it will happen again?”

He frowned and shook his head. “Father had a couple doctors examine me. They think it’s something I’ll grow out of.” He slapped his ribs with his hands. “I’m fine now, see. Nothing to worry about.”

A huff escaped my lips.

“Is that what this is about?” He grinned at the floor and gathered papers into a stack. “Are you trying to heal me?”

My stomach twisted. “I’d do this for anyone, especially you.”

“You have enough to do right now, Silvie. You don’t need to worry about me. The doctors who saw me are the best of the best. They’re probably right—whatever’s happening will work itself out and go away.”

“But it won’t,” I blurted, my voice rising. “This is more serious than they know. Mother said—”

“What did your mother say?”

Javis and I froze. We glanced over our shoulders to the doorway. Father stood there, clenching and unclenching his jaw.

I breathed in and out, steadying my heartbeat. “Where is Grandpa Plaka’s journal?” I said. “The one where he wrote about Occlusions.”

“Occlusions?” whispered Javis. “What’s that?”

“Answer my question first,” boomed Father. “What did your mother say?”

“I told a past version of her about Javis falling ill,” I began, shakily. “When I reached out to heal Javis, I felt a darkness there, something I hadn’t noticed in anyone else before. It was there again, at the Clock Tower, only darker…stronger. Like the Occlusion had grown.”

Javis’s head snapped toward me, his jaw slackened.

“Mother had sensed this darkness in others,” I continued. “But she couldn’t tell me much about it. She said Grandpa Plaka studied Occlusions and was interested in a cure.”

“Is this what’s wrong with me?” Javis sunk in on himself and pinched his shoulders upward, then shuddered as if he were disgusted by his own body. “Father, why didn’t anyone tell me?”

“I’m not convinced you have an Occlusion,” Father replied.

“Then why are you hiding the journal?” I said. “If you don’t think that’s what’s making Javis sick, why won’t you give it to me?”

“I’m not hiding anything, Silvie. The journal is on my desk at the hospital. I’m sure you’ll find very little of interest there.” He turned and walked away, with steps as icy and rigid as his voice.

“He’s angry,” I said, stating the obvious.

“But you haven’t done anything wrong!”

“I know. But I don’t think he’s angry with me.” I placed a hand on my brother’s shoulder to still his agitation. “Father is angry with himself.”

“For what?”

“By now, he must have come to the same conclusion I have. That he’s responsible for your illness. Mother told me Occlusions tend to be found in those whose travel talents have been repressed. You rarely get to use your World Building talent.”

Javis’s face had blossomed to a deep shade of red by the time I finished explaining. He tugged at his shirt. “So there’s this thing inside of me, feasting on the erosion of my travel talent? And you’re saying there’s no cure?”

I almost snorted at how much he sounded like Grandpa Plaka. “There’s no known cure, as far as Mother and Father are concerned. I haven’t seen the journal yet. Father may be right that there’s nothing in there that will help. But I have a theory.”

I bit my lip and carefully gathered the remaining books on the floor and set them back on the shelf, leaving Javis to pace back and forth behind me. I knew there was a question on the tip of his tongue. He may have been waiting for me to continue, to tell him my theory. But I wasn’t sure I could fully articulate an explanation in words. It was more of a feeling, an amorphous thought too high level to make sense, even if the solution itself was simple.

Footsteps behind me halted. Followed by the thick plop of a cushion. I looked back to where Javis sat in front of the fireplace with his head in his hands.

“What do I need to do to fix this?” he said, finally.

“You’ll need to trust me when the time comes,” I said. “Your World Building talent wants to be released. Something important needs to be unlocked. To be set free.”

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I’ve been posting chapter updates, mostly copy edits and clarifications, to the table of contents, but I’ve reached a point where I need to consider major rewrites to bring home the ending. Thank you for your patience and continued support during this stage of editing.

If you’re new to this story, read Darker Stars from the beginning, and learn more about its serialization here. If you’d rather wait until the book has been published, please join my main newsletter to get a message when Darker Stars releases.

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