First Chapter Review: Beware of the White by Kai Strand


Author Kai Strand is on a virtual book tour to promote her new middle grade novel, Beware of the White. She submitted the first chapter of this book for review.

Beware of the White Final

BLURB: As is tradition, Terra learns on the Saturday past her twelfth birthday that she is a Nature’s Spirit. It is her legacy to serve in the peaceful underground city of Concord. Learning she is named in a prophecy and being threatened by the leader of the death tribe…that part breaks tradition.

The Trepidus are the death janitors of the Underworld, responsible for delivering fatalities with a smile and cleaning up after themselves until Blanco, recent leader of the Trepidus, decides the day of reckoning for his species is coming. He begins organizing the creatures and leads them toward an uprising. The prophecy says there is one person who can stop him. Terra.

With Spirit of Security, Frank, protecting her, Terra attempts to complete her training and discover her Spirit talents. Together, they go on a rogue investigation to learn how to defeat Blanco. In the end, it comes down to a battle of the minds. The future of Concord is at stake. Will Blanco, the older, more experienced being win? Or will Terra, the young, new Spirit earn back the peace of the city?

COVER: I like the details: the city in the background, the arm sticking out of what looks like wreckage, the spooky-looking dude behind the girl, and how the girl stares right at you. I also like the selected font with the big, bold letters.

FIRST CHAPTER: Just past Terra’s twelfth birthday, her entire life changes. She learns of her destiny as a Nature’s Spirit and is introduced to the underground city of Concord. With Hermie, an elf-like creature as her Introguide, she must learn her reason for being in Concord and all about those she is there to help.

KEEP READING: I’ll be the first to admit fantasy isn’t my preferred genre. I enjoy books about the real world. But Strand has created an interesting world we get a glimpse into within the first chapter of this novel. Smartly dropping the reader immediately into the action, Strand is quick to set up Terra’s conflict: she’s not your ordinary twelve-year-old and her mother never told her that. Suddenly, Terra is reading the signs she didn’t know existed behind her mother’s behavior. And though we don’t see any resentment on Terra’s part in this chapter–it’s more like an acceptance of her potential role in the underworld–the reader can’t help wonder if as the story proceeds Terra gets angry at her mother for not preparing her for this.  I like how Strand also gives the reader a quick rundown of Concord through Hermie’s eyes as he tells Terra more about the city. This is well done, and leaves the reader with a good picture of Terra’s new surroundings.

I’m definitely intrigued and want to keep going. First, I want to see how this new revelation impacts Terra’s relationship with her mother. But I also want to know what kind of dangers lie ahead for Terra.

Pages 246
ISBN 978-1-77127-320-6
Publisher: MuseItUp Publishing (May 16, 2013)
Language: English

The author submitted the first chapter of this book for review. This review contains my honest opinions, for which I have not been compensated in any way.

Character Interview from Faizah’s Destiny by Marva Dasef (Giveaway)

Faizah's Destiny 333x500

The gods are at war and only a farmer’s daughter can save the world from Armageddon.

The village magician has gone missing.  His four pupils think he has left a clue to his whereabouts in the Magicalis Bestialis–the book of magical creatures.  They must seek the help of the elusive Simurgh, the mythical birds who know all the secrets of the universe.

However, this is not an easy camping trip into the mountains.  Spirits, gods, and demons confront the four friends, who are not aware they’re being set up by otherworldly forces for a much larger task.

A farmer’s daughter, Faizah is chosen to lead the humans in the battle. She must persuade a slave, an orphan, and a rich merchant’s son to join in the battle on the side of good. Although divided by Dev, the evil god of war, the teens must band together to find the Simurgh, rescue their teacher, and stave off Armageddon.


She looked at Harib when he said, “Ahmajd is a good man, but he’s hardly the type to run off after mountain raiders. Matter of fact, I can’t think of anyone in the whole village who’d even consider it. You heard Faluj. He didn’t even suggest forming a search party. I don’t think anybody is going to do anything.”Faizah bit her lip in frustration. The villagers lacked any adventurous spirit. Most preferred to live their lives as quietly and safely as they could.

Leaning over the table, Parvaiz stared thoughtfully at the open page of the book. “I haven’t had the chance to get to know Master Wafai, or anybody else yet, but I have a feeling Faizah is on the right track. Still, I think he just meant for us to search for him in the mountains, not go looking for these birds.”

Bahaar stood looking down at his feet, lost in thought. Now he lifted his head to look at Parvaiz for a second and then turned to Harib. “How about you, Harib? What do you think?”

Harib sighed and scratched his head. “I agree with Parvaiz. But we can’t go charging into the raider’s camp and tell them to give him back. They’d just laugh at us…or worse.”

Parvaiz nodded. “However, we can at least try to track where he is. If we find some evidence, we can come back to tell the village elders.”

“All right. I’ll concede Master Wafai was just directing us to the mountains, but we still need to figure out how to get started,” Faizah said. “Once we convince our parents,” she continued, glancing at Bahaar, “or brother, to let us go, we can work out the rest ourselves.”

Parvaiz stared at her and then gave a short bark of a laugh. “What makes you think you’re going? This is going to be hard enough without having a girl tagging along. That’s the last thing we need!”

Faizah glared at Parvaiz, her face flushed with anger. “I can take care of myself! Nobody has to watch out for me. Least of all some slave boy,” she shouted at Parvaiz. She regretted the last comment the moment she said it. Still, it didn’t make her any less angry that these boys, she thought were her friends, would so casually dismiss her just because she was a girl.

“You have no call?” Parvaiz began and then shut his mouth. He looked at Harib and Bahaar, who were both studying their feet with intense interest.

Bahaar looked up at him and then over at Faizah and shrugged. “Sorry Faizah, I have to agree with Parvaiz. I…I just don’t want you to get hurt.”

Faizah turned to Harib. “Well? Do you agree?”

The boy’s face reddened, and he wouldn’t meet her eyes. “I’m sorry,” he whispered.

She glared at each of them in turn, spun on her heel, and stormed out of the house, her fists clenched and her head high. Stiff-backed, she marched across the tiny courtyard and through the archway. Only when hidden by the wall, did her shoulders slump and the tears begin to flow.

The Boys Have Their Say

*** Leave a comment for a chance to win a free ecopy of “Faizah’s Destiny.” ***

The Boys(Marva Dasef) I am the author of Faizah’s Destiny” and decided the three boys in the story might like to share their views while Faizah isn’t in the room.

(Marva) I’m pleased to have Faizah’s three male companions here today for the interview. How are you doing?

(Parvaiz) Sure, make us out as secondary characters. Typical. Snorts in disgust.

(Marva) A little testy aren’t you? After all, the book is titled “Faizah’s Destiny” not “Parvaiz’s Destiny.”

(Harib) Sorry about Parvaiz, ma’am. He’s a little touchy since he was a slave all his life. He’ll loosen up the longer he’s free.

(Parvaiz) Easy for you, Harib. Your father is the richest man in the territory. He owns slaves!

(Bahaar) Hey, Parvaiz, lighten up. Harib or his father weren’t ever mean to slaves. His dad has even freed most of his workers, and they chose to stay on.

(Parvaiz) mumble…

(Marva) Hey, sorry to hit a sore spot Parvaiz. Maybe if you talked it out a little. Don’t you feel a little grateful to your father for adopting you as his son and heir?

(Harib) What’s that, Parvaiz? I don’t hearrrr youuuu!

(Parvaiz) Yeah, yeah. I am grateful to Ahmadj, but at my age it’s a little hard to adapt to having a father.

(Bahaar) I wish I had even a fake father to get used to. Me and my brother are all on our own. We don’t carry a chip around on our shoulder.

(Parvaiz) All right! I’m grateful! Now can we just drop it?

(Marva) Of course. Tell the readers about your search for Master Wafai.

(Harib) Jabs his hand in the air. Oh, me, me!

(Marva) Go ahead, Harib.

(Harib) One day, we all went to school in the morning at Master Wafai’s house. But he was gone and the room was a mess! We couldn’t think of anything other than he was kidnapped.

(Bahaar) You see, his herb bag was still there. He wouldn’t go anywhere to treat anybody without that. It had to be a kidnapping.

(Parvaiz) But Faizah doesn’t accept that story. Well, she didn’t say Wafai wasn’t kidnapped, but she thought he left a sign we were supposed to find the Simurghs to find out where he was.

(Marva) Why did she think that?

(Harib) His book of magical beasts was open to the page about the Simurghs and a big X was chalked on the page. She figured he’d never mark up a book except for good reason.

(Marva) So you all set out to search for the Simurgh?

(Parvaiz) No way! I thought it was an idiot idea. Faizah being a girl and all…

(Bahaar) interrupting Hey! Faizah can take care of herself. She made that pretty clear when she caught up to us.

(Harib) Yeah. She never hid behind her skirts or us. She always jumped in and started swinging. Remember when Raziq and his gang were beating you up?

(Bahaar) Huffs I could of taken them. But it was nice you and Faizah showing up to help.

(Marva) So, you’re saying at first that you all didn’t want Faizah to go along on the search, but you changed your mind.

(Parvaiz) Well, yeah. I didn’t know her like these guys. She pulled her weight once we got going. She even saved the rest of us from Pazuzu’s ill wind.

(Marva) Ill wind?

(Parvaiz) Yeah, it’s a demon who makes everybody sick. Most of the time, people die, but Faizah knew what plants to use to cure us.

boysandfire(Marva) Speaking of demons, what was that all about?

Bahaar and Parvaiz turn noticeably red.

(Harib) That jerk demon didn’t take me over like these two.

(Bahaar) We apologized for that! It wasn’t our fault.

(Parvaiz) Right. Harib didn’t even have a very good demon try to tempt him to Dev’s side.

(Marva) Who’s this Dev?

(Parvaiz) God of war. What could we do? Both Bahaar and I wanted to be warriors, and the demons promised we would be great heroes.

(Harib) Yeah. All Nanghaithya did was try to make me feel bad. Not a good way to convince somebody to join the dark side.

(Marva) I know there’s plenty more to tell the readers about your search for Wafai, the battle with the demons, and so forth. But since I’d like to sell a few books, we’ll leave it for now and let folks read about it themselves.

Thank you, boys. You’ve been a great interview.

(Boys) Sure. Anytime. Hey how about a story starring me?

Purchase at: MuseItUp (all ebook formats):

Also available at Amazon, B&N, Nook, and other on-line stores

Marva Dasef lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband and two ungrateful cats. Retired from thirty-five years in the software industry, she has now turned her energies to writing fiction and finds it a much more satisfying occupation. Marva has published more than forty stories in a number of on-line and print magazines, with several included in Best of anthologies. She has several published books, including six since 2011 with MuseItUp Publishing. 





Twitter Handle: @Gurina

Book Trailers:


First Chapter Review of The Master’s Book by Philip Coleman


The first chapter of this young adult thriller was sent to me by the author, Philip Coleman. This book was recently released by MuseItUp Publishing.

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BLURB: In 1482 Mary, the last Duchess of Burgundy, lies on her deathbed in a castle in Flanders. She is only 24. In her final moments she makes a wish that, 500 years later, will threaten the lives of a boy and a girl living in Brussels.

The Master’s Book is the story of Sean, an Irish teenager, just arrived in Brussels to a house that is also a crime scene. Together with Stephanie, his classmate, he finds an illuminated manuscript, only for it to be stolen almost at once.

Where did this manuscript come from? Who was it originally made for? Is there a connection with the beautiful tomb Sean has seen in Bruges? Above all, why does someone want this book so badly that they are prepared to kill for it?

Part thriller and part paper-chase, this book is aimed at boys and girls of twelve and over.

COVER: Love it. Great for the age group. The color scheme and fonts used are captivating.

FIRST CHAPTER: Sean, his younger sister, Maeve, and their parents are outside a restaurant at the Grand Place in Brussels. The parents are arguing because Dad didn’t tell Mam that the house they moved into was a crime scene. Sean is more concerned with how many points he lost with his mates by not knowing he was moving into a house where the former owner was murdered.

KEEP READING:  Yes. Coleman drops the reader right into the action. Though this is a serious conversation, Sean’s sarcasm and his view of how everything unfolded between his parents is kind of funny. It makes me wonder what my kids think of it when my husband and I get into a heated discussion. Though this first chapter is short, we get a fair amount of information from it. First, that Dad and Mam were not necessarily on the same side when it came to the move. Sean was less than thrilled about moving, too. Maeve plays a minor role at the beginning, but her childlike curiosity adds to the plot. My interest is definitely piqued.

File Size: 435 KB
Print Length: 267 pages
Simultaneous Device Usage: Unlimited
Publisher: MuseItUp Publishing (March 12, 2013)
ISBN 978-1-77127-277-3

I received the first chapter of this book from the author. This review contains my honest opinions, for which I have not been compensated in any way.

Interview with Pat McDermott, Author of Autumn Glimmer

Pat McD Author Photo

Boston, Massachusetts native Pat McDermott writes romantic action/adventure stories set in an Ireland still ruled by the heirs of High King Brian Boru. Autumn Glimmer, a young adult paranormal adventure rich in Irish myth and packing a hefty wallop of fairy magic, is the sequel to Glancing Through the Glimmer. Both books are “prequels” to her Band of Roses Trilogy.

Pat’s favorite non-writing activities include cooking, reading, music, hiking, music, and traveling, especially to Ireland. She is a member of the New Hampshire Writers’ Project, Romance Writers of America, and Celtic Hearts Romance Writers. She lives and writes in New Hampshire, USA.


Travel/Writing Blog (Put the Kettle On):


Thank you for joining us today, Pat. Can you please start off by telling us a bit about yourself?

Before I do, I’d like to thank you for having me today, Cheryl. It’s a pleasure to visit The Children’s and Teens’ Book Connection. I grew up in Boston, and I miss it until I try driving down there. I currently live near the New Hampshire seacoast with my husband and three Tonkinese cats. My kids are grown, so I now have the luxury of spending my mornings writing. My grandparents came from Ireland, and the music and legends heard growing up still inspire the stories I write. When I’m not writing, I love to cook and have my own cooking blog. I also have a writing/travel blog in which I describe my visits to various places, especially Ireland.

When did you first get bit by the writing bug?

I can recall writing down stories when I was six. My family included some talented storytellers, especially my father. He made up most of his bedtime stories, and his tales often kept me awake for hours, in a good way: they made me want to make up stories too.

Why did you decide to write stories for the YA market?

I had already written the Band of Roses Trilogy when an acquaintance suggested the YA angle. I found I loved writing about my “Roses” characters as teenagers. Their romantic escapades are a tad sweeter than those of their grownup personas, but their adventures are just as exciting, thanks to the zany Irish fairies who’ve joined the cast, creating all sorts of mischief with their magical glimmer.

Both “Glimmer” stories take place in the modern Kingdom of Ireland. They star Janet Gleason, the sixteen-year-old granddaughter of the U.S. Ambassador to Ireland, and Prince Liam Boru, the seventeen-year-old son of the King of Ireland.

What is your favorite part of writing for this group? What is the greatest challenge?

I found it a joy to read dozens of YA books to get a feel for the genre, and I’m still reading them. YA is a perfect vehicle for creating imaginary worlds and devising impossible situations with happy endings. Troubled young readers can find comfort in characters with problems similar to theirs, or they can escape from the stress of growing up for a while. I’m happy to provide a story or two to help.

As for the challenge of writing YA, the biggest one for me is getting my head back in teenager mode, but only from an emotional point of view. No sense trying to incorporate fads or clothing styles, as those change too rapidly. I’m also careful to avoid using “current” American teenage slang, though I do have fun with Irish slang. It’s no botheration at all!

Can you tell us what your latest book is all about?

Autumn Glimmer reunites Janet and Liam for their second fairy adventure. It isn’t necessary to have read Glancing Through the Glimmer to enjoy Autumn Glimmer, but a touch of background wouldn’t hurt.

In Glancing Through the Glimmer, Finvarra, the King of Fairies, is unfazed by the fact that Ireland’s fairies are dying from lack of mortal belief in them. Finvarra would rather dance than worry—but he must have a mortal dancing partner.

When Janet Gleason’s grandfather/guardian becomes the U.S. Ambassador to Ireland, she must leave her American school and friends behind. A royal invitation to the Ambassadors’ Ball terrifies her. She can’t even waltz and dreads embarrassment. Finvarra’s fairy witch overhears her fervent wish to learn to dance.

Seventeen-year-old Liam Boru loathes the idea of escorting another pampered girl to a ball. In fact, he detests most of his royal duties. He dresses down to move through Dublin unnoticed and lands on his royal backside when Janet crashes into him. He asks to see her again, and she agrees. Unaware of each other’s identities, they meet for a date, and the fairies steal Janet away. Liam’s attempts to find her lead to a glimmer-fraught showdown in the dungeons of Clontarf Castle.

In Autumn Glimmer, King Brian invites Janet and her grandparents to Glensheelin, the royal family’s country estate, to celebrate Halloween. Glensheelin is Irish for “the glen of the fairy pool,” which the mortals think is a fictitious old legend. In fact, a clan of fairies still lives beneath Glensheelin’s lake, and every seventh Halloween, they must leave their watery home to collect the flowers their queen requires to keep a hungry monster asleep. This year, Blinn, Mell, and Lewy get the job. Blinn wants to see the mortal king’s house. Lewy wants to taste oatcakes again, and Mell goes along on a tragic ride that leaves poor Lewy lost and alone. Liam and Janet must help him find the flower bag before the monster awakens, but Lewy’s misguided glimmer catches the young mortals in a magical spell that threatens to trap them forever in the palace beneath the lake.

What inspired you to write it?autumn-glimmer-200x300

Why, the fairies, of course! Seriously, a trip to Ireland, specifically to the Connemara Heritage and History Centre in Galway, introduced me to crannogs, which are ancient man-made islands. I liked the idea of having one in the lake at Glensheelin. As I already had my hero and heroine, I only had to concoct a troop of water fairies and a monster. That was easy enough to do after reading several old Irish legends, most of which I found in my aunts’ spectacular collection of antique Irish books.

Where can readers purchase a copy?

Autumn Glimmer is available in e-book format from:

MuseItUp Publishing

Amazon Kindle U.S.

Amazon Kindle U.K.


What is up next for you?

I’ve nearly completed my first contemporary romance, set—where else?—in Ireland. After that, I’ll likely start a third Glimmer book.

Do you have anything else to add?

Just to say thanks again for having me, Cheryl. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed my visit!

Thank you for spending time with us today, Pat. We wish you much success.

Odessa by Rebecca Ryals Russell

17-year-old Myrna is drawn into the middle of an epic battle between Seraphym and Demons. An average High School student from Florida, struggling with inner demons resulting from an attack when she was 15, she wakes one morning on the Steampunk planet of Dracwald, home of the demon-dragons responsible for her brother’s recent murder as well as many other atrocities in the news. She meets sweet and sensitive Michael, who explains that according to prophecy, Myrna must gather the remaining six Vigorios (teen warriors with special talents) then train with the Majikals on an enchanted island. He accompanies her on the quest, but harbors a secret past that ironically would destroy all the faith she has placed in him. A handsomely roguish Scientist with suspect motives haunts her dreams and makes sudden appearances in unlikely places, while a sensual dragon warrior defends her against her will.

Will love and lust, jealousy, greed, deceit and distrust break the delicate tie that binds these teen warriors called The Vigorios? Can a troupe of teens help the Seraphym finally defeat the massive empire of evil dominated for eons by the demon-dragons of Dracwald?

Read an excerpt!

Chapter One
I floated on wings of silence like a piece of driftwood at sea. Colored gases swirled around me like silk scarves, brushing against my bare arms and legs. It delighted my senses and tingled nerve endings. For as far as I could see, a myriad of colors swam and twirled dipping and rolling around particles of dark matter and glittering specs of sunbeams in miniature cosmos.

Was this a dream? I didn’t remember falling asleep. In fact, I didn’t remember anything at all. Soft singing and the sharp but pleasant ringing of bells echoed around me. I opened my eyes—had they been shut? Thousands of glimmering radiant beings hovered in the rainbow cosmic cloud. So beautiful. So peaceful. My eyes drifted shut.

“Mind the signs, Myrna,” echoed in my skull and repeated over and over in millions of separate voices in unison. “Mind the signs…Mind the signs….”

. I shoved the covers off with my feet and stood, stretching. The house was unusually quiet. Must be the first up. After showering I listened while I dressed. Still no sounds. I went to the kitchen. No one. This was not like my parents to sleep in, especially later than me. I made my way toward their room.

“Mom.” Softly I pushed on the door which was slightly ajar. “Dad? Anyone up? Hey, sleepy heads….” The room was empty. The bed was made. My stomach flip-flopped. Marcy’s room was next. I padded down the hall then pushed on the half-opened door.

“You’ll be late….” I didn’t finish because no one was there to hear me. Her room was immaculate—which never happened—and empty. Panic pricked my brain like a nest of wasps. My mind was a jumble of anger and fear. People don’t just disappear. Where are they? What happened to them? I ran to Jarrod’s room and found the same thing. I was alone. Sliding down the wall I crumpled in a heap on the carpet.

“Where did you all go without me?” I shrieked at the ceiling, tears burning my eyes. “Where is everyone?”Running to the foyer, I slid on the white tiles in my socks. Swiping at my wet face with the back of my hand I gasped a shuddering breath.

And flung open the front door, daring to look outside.

The slam rattled the dishes in the kitchen cabinets like bones in a closet as I threw it shut. My heart pounded against my ribs. This isn’t possible. I’m still dreaming. The deadbolt lock thudded with a satisfying crunch as I twisted the key. My breath came in short gasps. My mind reeled with the impossible unreality of what I had seen. Who were these people? They were people, weren’t they? Then why had I seen horns and tails? I ran back to my room. Crouching, in the corner behind my bed my head ached from crying and fear. My room was still dark and shadows wavered and squirmed across the walls like living shades. I shut my eyes and slid my hands across my ears to shut out the world. I had to shut out this world that was not mine.

* * * *

I must have fallen asleep again because I woke to a dark room, and knew the sun had gone down. I searched each bedroom along the hallway—not surprised this time to find them empty, but still disappointed. I was alone. Even when alone at home before, I’d known I was not alone. This was different. This was scary.

My stomach audibly rumbled and I jumped at the sound. In the kitchen I luckily found peanut butter and bread, and made a sandwich. The peanut butter stuck to my dry mouth. I drank some milk, diluted with salty tears as I tried to swallow. My eyes wandered across the spotless, silent kitchen until landing on the phone. I picked up the receiver. No sound. Cords and plugs seemed fine. I clicked the receiver button up and down. I always wondered why people in movies did that, but still, I did it again. No sound. I couldn’t even call the cops. Tomorrow I would have to find help. Find out what happened to my family. An unnatural, sudden drowsiness overcame me and I stumbled sleepily back to bed. Why was I so tired? How could I sleep when my entire family was missing? And what about what I’d seen outside earlier? I slept nearly all day so there’s no way I could be sleepy. My eyes shut, almost on their own and I fell into a fitful sleep.

Tossing and turning like a storm-tossed ship at sea, my bed was soon sweat-damp and rumbled. Dreams which morphed into nightmares writhed through my confused brain. Blackness that felt alive as it wove around me like an anaconda, squeezing out my breath, was filled with screeches and banshee wails of pain and suffering. All around, shapes moved in the darkness. Amorphous, slithering, scales on dry stone, sometimes as high as my ceiling, others low on the ground—shapes without shape. Voices that growled like the notes of a tiger beside my ear, whispering words I couldn’t understand. Running. Running. Through trees stacked so closely together I had to inhale to squeeze through them. Water, slimy and brown with more amorphous shapes wriggling through it and around my thighs as I walked through it. Skies heavy and dark, oppressive in their grayness, sucking all joy, pleasure, even satisfaction from my soul.

My eyes flew open and I sat up. In my bed. In my room. In my house. Deep breaths of fresh air filled my lungs, restoring my brain’s oxygen. Then I heard movement in the shadows. Saw the shadows slide across my wall in the vague moonlight that managed to streak through the closed blind. I stared hard, trying to see for certain, unwilling to believe my senses anymore. The dry scraping sound echoed around the room followed by a hiss. More shadows, black as a moonless midnight wove across the floor and walls. My throat, already dry from screaming in my nightmares, constricted—useless. Who would hear me anyway?.

Then the atmosphere in my room changed. The hair on my neck and arms stood up. My skin prickled as though with a soft electric shock. My breathing became ragged and my heart thumped so loudly in my chest I could hear it in the silence of the room. I hadn’t prayed since I was a very little girl, but something in me told me to pray hard right now so I said the only bits I could remember from the days, as a toddler, when Mom insisted I go to Bible School.

“The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want …” my brain screamed for the next words. I repeated the phrase over and over trying to recall them but they wouldn’t come. The shadows no longer clung to the edges of the room but slid across the floor, around the corners of the walls, directly toward me.

“The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want…” I screamed as loudly as I could, emphasizing the word Lord. “He maketh me to lie down in still pastures, He restoreth my soul. Yay, though I walk through the valley of death I shall fear no evil for thou art with me. Thy rod and thy staff protect me. My cup runneth over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all my life, and I will dwell in the House of the Lord forever” I knew there were parts left out, but it was the best I could do. I repeated it over and over, getting louder and more confident each time.

The room filled with the brilliance of a noonday sun. I screamed, shading my burning eyes with a hand. Other screeching and scrambling sounds filled the room for several moments until there was compete silence. The brilliance faded and I dropped my hand to see what had happened. I expected to see a gaping hole in my wall or maybe half the house missing with starlight streaming in.

Nothing. There was nothing. My room was empty. I could feel its emptiness. Total and complete silence. But I also felt better. I wasn’t scared. I knew there would be no more nightmares for the rest of this night.

When I woke again, that same gray light as yesterday pushed past the edges of my window blinds spitting its dullness into the room.

After several hours of fruitlessly contemplating last night’s events and finding no food in the kitchen to sate my ever-grumbling stomach I managed to work up the courage to go for help. After dressing I took several deep breaths before opening the door again. I thought I was prepared.

The murky gray light that filled the sky seemed watery and weak. Although there was no cloud cover, there was no sunlight. Several brown dragons swooped through the grayness, casually flying above the buildings of this strange city. I stared wide-eyed, heart pounding. Dragons? On Earth? Had I been taken backward in time somehow? Was this the Middle Ages and I was in a Fairy Tale? I glanced up again as one swooped directly overhead, its beady red eyes watching me.

I have to leave the house. If I ignore them, perhaps they won’t notice me. Heart beating a mad tattoo, I stepped onto the stoop and jumped when my foot landed on something soft. It was a folded newspaper. I opened it and read Jacksonville Times Union. With it securely tucked under one arm I stepped down onto dirt. Dad’s pride and joy green grass was gone.

My heart pounded and lungs burned like I’d just finished a marathon. I twitched and jumped at every sound, spinning from side to side. Squeezing my eyes shut tightly, I inhaled deeply several times trying to calm down. The air stunk of sulphur and coal dust. I opened my eyes. Standing at the end of the yard, a loud chug and zip then a puff of steam enveloped me. I leapt backward, nearly falling into the dirt. A triangular car with a glass top sped down the road. Another headed my direction on the opposite side. The driver sat in the front of the triangle managing the car with a joystick while two passengers sat side-by-side on the rear seat. It maneuvered surprisingly well and was quite fast.

Leading east and west at the end of the walkway, a crushed stone path lined a packed dirt road that ran in front of the house. To the left and right of the house stood tall and short buildings of every description. Some seemed to be stores, others apartment buildings or individual homes like mine. Tall brass street lights stood sentinel on each intersection.

“Toto, we’re not in Kansas anymore,” I murmured softly. I flipped a glance back at the house expecting ruby slippers.

A rumble overhead pulled my attention to the murky sky as a glass-enclosed egg with the silhouettes of seated people lining its interior floated by. At the rear spun a huge brass propeller. Occasional clouds of steam escaped into the atmosphere. I grabbed my chest and inhaled deeply several times, settling my nerves. I turned right and, with eyes lowered to avoid making eye contact, began walking down the path.

A layer of black soot coated the buildings and walkways reminding me of photos of Victorian London when chimneys belched black coal dust. Many of the grimy windows displayed new handbills showing a child with the question: “Have You Seen This Child?” underneath. It shocked me to realize each face was that of a different child. How many children had disappeared from this city and where did they go?

Glancing forward occasionally, I was surprised to see the odd assortment of costumes on the people who passed me. While some men wore bowler hats others had formal top hats and long-tailed coats. Women wore long dresses with pinafores and bloomers. Most wore wide-brimmed hats mounted with feathers and other doodads or jaunty small headdresses angled over impressive updoos. Many of these strange characters stared openly at me as they passed, causing goosebumps to roll up my arms and neck. I caught my reflection in a wavy window and realized why they were all staring. My jeans and Pink Floyd tee-shirt definitely stood out. I smoothed back my long black hair and wrapped the ponytail band around it, happy I’d thought to grab one on my way out the door and toss it onto my wrist. My younger sister Marcy showed me that trick. Thinking about her now made my eyes burn, blurring my surroundings. I swiped the back of a hand across them.

“Watch where you’re going, lunchmeat,” a low, menacing voice growled next to my ear. I turned my head to apologize. There was no one beside me. I fell against a building, scraping my arm on the rough siding. Someone had deliberately shoved me. But who?

“Imbecil,” the voice continued. I spun in search of the owner of the voice. I was alone on the walkpath. People across the street stared in passing. One last time, I looked back the way I’d come. I could still hear him like he was next to my ear.

“Mother’v pearl!” I muttered, eyes roving from feet to hat of a giant man who was walking away. He was easily over eight feet tall—not fat, just…big. A black top hat and full-length black cape added to the effect. I wondered for a split instant how he found clothes big enough. He spun a black cane with gold dragon-shaped handle and glittering diamond eyes. He must have realized I was staring because just his head spun backwards. He grinned maliciously at me with a flick of red eyes before his head swiveled back around.


Rebecca Ryals Russell writes MG and YA Dark Fantasy and Horror while living with her family in a Victorian house on five acres of North Florida countryside. She also runs a Vacation Rental Log House on the property: Florida Black Bear Cabin. ( )

She is a fourth generation Floridian. She was born in Gainesville, grew up in Sunrise, lived in Orlando and Jacksonville before moving outside Lake City to care for ailing parents. The family now wishes to return to Jacksonville, which is why the house is for sale. ( )

The daughter of an Elementary-school principal and secretary, for fourteen years she taught Middle Grades, preferring English and Creative Writing. She had several students’ works published in anthologies as well as her own poetry, photography and stories. Her main interests are her four children ages 22, 19, 16, 11 and Irish hubby of 35 years. She enjoys spending her time writing, drawing, going to movies, reading, discussing philosophy with her 16-year-old son.

Over the course of the next few years she has several books being published.

Visit Rebecca online at or the book’s blog at Like the book’s page on Facebook or follow Rebecca on Twitter