WRITERLY WISDOM: Nicole Zoltack

 

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Here is another post in my WRITERLY WISDOM series I first ran back in 2013. Six years later, I’ve updated the material and made sure it still applies to today’s writers. This week we learn about building tension between our characters from my friend, Nicole Zoltack…

 

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Building Tension
by Nicole Zoltack

 

Tension is such an important part of writing. The greater the tension, the higher the stakes, the faster a reader will turn pages and the greater the chance that a reader will be so gripped and caught up in your story, they’ll read it all in one sitting!

So how do you build tension in your story?

 

Pacing and Action –

 

Pacing and tension go hand in hand. Pacing revs up during a conflict and then slows down after it’s resolved until the next conflict point. As the story continues on, the slowing down period shortens as tension ramps up as the climax nears. During action, high-paced scenes, use shorter sentences and sparingly use adjectives and adverbs. Shorter sentences heighten paces and increases tension. Choose heavy duty action verbs. Moving the story along at a faster pace with action helps to build tension.

A ticking clock –

 

A deadline, a race against the clock, is a strong way to heighten tension. Any time a goal has to be reached by a set amount of time, the tension is automatically raised. Drama, suspense, tension—all results from a ticking clock. If a serial killer is taunting the police, leaving them clues as to who they are going to kill next, promising they will kill again and again, the police officers are going to be scrambling to locate the murderer before he can kill again. Talk about tension! Especially if the clues point to a family member of a police officer, or even a police officer himself.

Stakes –

 

Increasing the stakes build tension. If your character’s sister is kidnapped, there is plenty of conflict. If the ransom call comes in and demands more money than they could ever afford, the stakes are raised. If they rob a bank to get the money and are caught, the stakes are even higher because now they have to elude the police and still find a way to get the money. And if their brother is then kidnapped… Stakes can be built upon to build tension throughout the story.

Obstacles –

 

Make it as hard as possible for the main character to reach their goal. Block them at every turn. If the reader fears the character will not succeed, the tension will be sky high. The bleaker the outlook for the character, the more the tension. Going back to the ransom story, if the main character is the next one to be kidnapped, but by different people than the ones who have his siblings, that is a huge obstacle for the main character to overcome.

All stories need different levels of tension. A suspenseful mystery will need a ton of tension. A romantic comedy, not quite as much. Determine the level of tension that is correct for your story and then add that amount of tension through pacing action, timing, stakes, and obstacles. Tension is a wonderful tool in a writer’s arsenal. Do not overlook it.

 

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Nicole been writing since she first learned how to write. Her mom used to sit her sister and her down at the kitchen table with paper and pencils, and they would created their first stories.

Nicole’s first stories were short and terrible! She started her first novel in the sixth grade – literally writing it during class. It took her ten years working on and off to finish that story. It’s currently collecting cyber dust.

During college, she learned about NanoWrimo. During one time, Nicole wrote WOMAN OF HONOR. Originally intended to be a historical romance novel, it morphed and grew and became medieval fantasy romance and a trilogy to boot.

WOMAN OF HONOR is currently not available for sale as the publisher closed its doors, but Nicole plans to reedit the story. She’s grown a lot as a writer since the story was first published!

Since then, Nicole has written and published paranormal romances (superheroes and vampires and witches), historicals (mostly regencies), time travels, and epic and urban fantasies. She will never stop writing!

You can find out more about Nicole at her website, www.nicolezoltack.com.

THOUGHTFUL THURSDAY: You Can Be THAT Kind of Writer

 
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There are many movies made from books coming out these days. Movies portraying characters first born in the mind of a writer. A few years ago I went to see TWELVE YEARS A SLAVE. This book turned movie was based on a true story about the life of Solomon Northup. In 1841 he was a free black man living in the northern United States. Through certain circumstances, he ended up spending the next twelve years of his life as a slave in the deep south. I got wrapped up in the portrayal of this one man and even had tears well up during certain scenes. But as I walked out of the theater and stepped back into reality I began to wonder what was it exactly about the movie that moved me so?

Was it the fact one of my favorite actors, Brad Pitt was in it? Although he played a lovely Canadian, I don’t think so. Was it because the movie covered a dark part of US history I will NEVER understand? Even the time frame wasn’t responsible for my being drawn into what was happening on the screen in front of me.

Then it hit me.

It was the words. I should have known. Those beautiful, mesmerizing, gut-wrenching words created by someone reaching out to the universe through the power of the written word. Blood, sweat, and tears dripping across the page to leave their mark on someone 160 years into their future. How did the author telling Soloman’s story know exactly which words to write?

Honestly? I don’t think they did. I think they must have tried and failed and tried and failed until the combination of thoughts were perfect. I think Solomon’s writer had a wish to share his story with others and a hope it would leave it’s mark on the heart of history. I think they would have been astounded to discover the changes in the world today and the lives they have touched with their words.

I want to be that kind of writer. YOU can be that kind of writer! The kind of writer who motivates through their words. The kind who inspires with their stories. Someone who weaves their magic to skip across the page and entice readers to join the dance. No matter the genre, no matter the day and age, there will always be writers to take us on that journey of discovering the deeper side of ourselves.

So I wonder…what kind of writer are you?

 

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LUNADAR: Homeward Bound

Ruler by day, a reluctant pirate by night, 18-year-old Princess Ariana fights for her subjects in the waterfall city of LUNADAR. In a kingdom surrounded by fairies and mermaids, and ravaged by deadly Drundles, only a chosen few are trusted to guard her daughter, Candra, as the secret heir to the throne. But it only takes one ill-fated meeting for Ariana to suddenly be plunged into an escalating web of secrets found in her father’s journal, a deadly kidnapping, and an ever-weakening resolve to turn her back on the call of the merman’s song. With Ariana’s world falling apart and the future of LUNADAR at stake, how will she bring her father’s murderer to justice and fulfill a deathbed promise to protect Lunadar’s legacy?

$16.99

 

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donna

 

International best selling, award-winning author, Donna L Martin, has been writing since she was eight years old. She is a 4th Degree Black Belt in TaeKwonDo by day and a ‘ninja’ writer of children’s picture books, chapter books, young adult novels and inspirational essays by night. Donna is a BOOK NOOK REVIEWS host providing the latest book reviews on all genres of children’s books, and the host of WRITERLY WISDOM, a resource series for writers. Donna is a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators and Children’s Book Insider. She is a lover of dark chocolate, going to the beach and adding to her growing book collection. Donna’s latest book, LUNADAR: Homeward Bound (a YA fantasy), is now available in ebook and print form from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Books A Million, and other online retailers

 

 

BOOK NOOK REVIEWS: Margaree King Mitchell

 

jed

 

Title: Uncle Jed’s Babershop
Author: Margaree King Mitchell
Illustrator: James Ransome
Publisher: Alladin Paperbacks
Ages: 9-11

 

Synopsis:

 

Everyone has a favorite relative. For Sarah Jean, it’s her Uncle Jed. Every Wednesday night he comes over to her house to give her daddy a haircut and a shave.

What makes Uncle Jed special is his dream of opening his own barbershop one day with shiny sinks, real barber chairs, and outside, a big, tall, red-and-white barber pole. Even when life’s hardships and unexpected family emergencies get in the way, Uncle Jed never loses sight of his dream.

 

Why you should read it:

 

Sometimes it takes an oldie, but a goodie to remind us of what’s important in life and that’s our dreams. During a time when the spotlight is on diverse books, it’s nice to discover a strong story spotlighting the love and devotion of an African American family during a time of social unrest.

Illustrator James Ransome creates realistic portraits of a family struggling through the times right before the Great Depression and author Margaree King Mitchell touches our hearts with a poignant story of one man’s dream fulfilled almost before it was too late.

Like-o-meter Rating scale**: 5 out of 5…grab it!

**Rating scale**

5 out of 5…grab it!

4 out of 5…think about it.

3 out of 5…take or leave it.

2 out of 5…maybe not for you.

1 out of 5…forget about it!

FLASH FICTION TUESDAY: Ode To Camelot

 

Camelot

 

Now on Tuesdays…at least for the foreseeable future…welcome to Flash Fiction Tuesday. In case you don’t know what flash fiction is, it is an extremely short story (sometimes created in 100 words or less) with a beginning, middle, and an ending.

But in my case, I write flash fiction with an open ending. I allow my readers to draw their own conclusion as to what happens. This week I gave flash fiction a different slant and wrote a poem about a time long ago when dragons roamed the land…

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Ode to Camelot
By Donna L Martin

 

Farewell good knights from those days of old,
When dragons were fought and legends told,
Of grand wizards and a holy grail,
With battles won on some distant trail.

Farewell to maids in velvet dresses,
With eyes of blue and golden tresses,
When kings were made from a sword in stone,
And honor still reigned when day was done.

Farewell to One who came from waters,
And all of Magic’s sons and daughters,
No longer will your spells be needed,
Your wisely words no longer heeded.

The Camelot days have gone away,
All replaced by the dreams of today,
But what if Arthur and knights returned?
What other lessons might still be learned?

Lessons like having codes of honor,
Lending a hand to help another,
Protect the weak; champion the small,
Knightly deeds of chivalry to all.

Those days of old may have long since gone,
But those of us left to carry on,
Will pray those days were not lived in vain,
That Camelot ways will come again.

 

Okay, it’s your turn! Put your creative cap on and add to the poem if it calls to you. Continue my story or start one of your own and leave a comment below…

 

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LUNADAR: Homeward Bound

Ruler by day, a reluctant pirate by night, 18-year-old Princess Ariana fights for her subjects in the waterfall city of LUNADAR. In a kingdom surrounded by fairies and mermaids, and ravaged by deadly Drundles, only a chosen few are trusted to guard her daughter, Candra, as the secret heir to the throne. But it only takes one ill-fated meeting for Ariana to suddenly be plunged into an escalating web of secrets found in her father’s journal, a deadly kidnapping, and an ever-weakening resolve to turn her back on the call of the merman’s song. With Ariana’s world falling apart and the future of LUNADAR at stake, how will she bring her father’s murderer to justice and fulfill a deathbed promise to protect Lunadar’s legacy?

$16.99

 

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donna

 

International best selling, award-winning author, Donna L Martin, has been writing since she was eight years old. She is a 4th Degree Black Belt in TaeKwonDo by day and a ‘ninja’ writer of children’s picture books, chapter books, young adult novels and inspirational essays by night. Donna is a BOOK NOOK REVIEWS host providing the latest book reviews on all genres of children’s books, and the host of WRITERLY WISDOM, a resource series for writers. Donna is a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators and Children’s Book Insider. She is a lover of dark chocolate, going to the beach and adding to her growing book collection. Donna’s latest book, LUNADAR: Homeward Bound (a YA fantasy), is now available in eBook and print form from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Books A Million, and other online retailers.

TALES FROM THE BAYOU: A Bicycle Built For Two?

 

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Despite living in a small town, there was a lot of ground to cover if the only means of transportation were your feet. Gueydan had only two main roads running through it with two segregated schools on one end where poor folks like my family lived and the “upper class” folks living on the other end of town. Our houses on McMurtry Street were only a few blocks away from the library where my oldest sister worked during the summer.

Usually I didn’t mind walking all the way from our house to the library and back. It gave me a few moments of freedom away from my home life, but it also gave me a chance to fill my head with dreams of faraway places and worlds where my life had more meaning. But my favorite time going to the library was when my mother used to tell me to walk my sister’s bike to her so she could ride it back at the end of her shift.

I was only about eight or nine at the time but thought I had the perfect plan for being able to teach myself how to ride that bike. You see, Carol was the only one who had a bike. Mother thought I would hurt myself trying to get on it so she forbid me to ride it over to the library. So I walked it…that is until I thought I was out of sight of the house…and then I would hop on and wobble my way down the road several blocks until the library came into view. Then I would hop off and walk it the rest of the way.

Day after day I rode the bike that summer, never realizing my mother was actually watching me from the safety of our front porch, until I became quite proficient at handling it without running into the parked cars along the way. Oh the thrill of those clandestine rides, summer sun warm on my cheek and the wind lifting the ends of my hair like little bird wings as I soared down the street toward my daily destination.

I truly thought this would be my only chance to travel by any other means than my own two feet, so imagine my surprise when Janet and I received two bright blue bicycles from Santa Claus that Christmas. We could hardly contain our excitement and Mother let us ride it in front of the house on Christmas Day but told us we were never allowed to ride it when she wasn’t around. A simple enough rule to follow…that is if you didn’t count the temptation for two eager children full of the need to test the speed of their new bikes.

Later that day my parents had to make a run to the grocery store and wouldn’t be back for about an hour. Just enough time for two girls to hatch up a plan to ride our bikes some more without Mother’s knowledge we were breaking her number one rule. There was a narrow gravel road that ran for several blocks behind our house and we thought it would be safe to ride our bikes there for just a few minutes. There would still be plenty of time to return the bikes to the garage before Daddy and Mother returned home.

Everything started out fine and we rode side by side until we suddenly came upon a car parked in front of us. We were going too fast to stop in time but there was just enough room for us to pass on each side…me going to the left and Janet to the right…and we would continue down the road once we got past the car.

Or so we thought.

Imagine our horror when we miscalculated the distance between our front tires and with a sickening crunch, crashed into each other just as we cleared the car in our path. Tumbling to the ground, we sat for a moment in stunned silence and almost too afraid to check for any damage. Knowing we couldn’t just sit there forever, we got up to inspect our brand new bikes and discovered both front tires were badly bent.

It’s moments like those that make a kid want to run away from home and never look back. We KNEW this was a beating offense should our mother discover our misdeed and yet we desperately tried to think of a way to conceal it from her without any luck. Unfortunately this is where I have to leave my story an open ended tale as I honestly don’t remember what happened next other than I remember having to walk our brand new bikes back home because they were too damaged to be ridden. Maybe Janet can help my memory out and let us all know if we ended up not being able to sit down for a week or if, by some miracle we managed to keep Mother from finding out. All I know is by the time the dust settled from our foolish accident, there was only enough good parts left of those two bikes for ONE bike for the two of us to ride…

 

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LUNADAR: Homeward Bound

Ruler by day, a reluctant pirate by night, 18-year-old Princess Ariana fights for her subjects in the waterfall city of LUNADAR. In a kingdom surrounded by fairies and mermaids, and ravaged by deadly Drundles, only a chosen few are trusted to guard her daughter, Candra, as the secret heir to the throne. But it only takes one ill-fated meeting for Ariana to suddenly be plunged into an escalating web of secrets found in her father’s journal, a deadly kidnapping, and an ever-weakening resolve to turn her back on the call of the merman’s song. With Ariana’s world falling apart and the future of LUNADAR at stake, how will she bring her father’s murderer to justice and fulfill a deathbed promise to protect Lunadar’s legacy?

$16.99

 

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donna

 

International best selling, award-winning author, Donna L Martin, has been writing since she was eight years old. She is a 4th Degree Black Belt in TaeKwonDo by day and a ‘ninja’ writer of children’s picture books, chapter books, young adult novels and inspirational essays by night. Donna is a BOOK NOOK REVIEWS host providing the latest book reviews on all genres of children’s books, and the host of WRITERLY WISDOM, a resource series for writers. Donna is a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators and Children’s Book Insider. She is a lover of dark chocolate, going to the beach and adding to her growing book collection. Donna’s latest book, LUNADAR: Homeward Bound (a YA fantasy), is now available in eBook and print form from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Books A Million, and other online retailers.

WRITERLY WISDOM: Miranda Paul

 

multicultural

 

 

Here is another post in my WRITERLY WISDOM series I first ran back in 2013. Five years later, I’ve updated the material and made sure it still applies to today’s writers. This week we learn  about writing multicultural literature from my friend, Miranda Paul…

 

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On Writing “Multicultural” Literature
By Miranda Paul

 

For those of you who don’t already know, I’ll put it out there: I’m white.

It probably shouldn’t matter, and at the same time, it should and does. Here’s why:

Not every story is mine to tell.

I know that, and I respect that.

That doesn’t mean I only write stories that originate my Midwest hometown, about characters who look like me, grew up like me, talk like me, etc. In fact, those of you who know what I write is far more diverse. But what I write is also based upon experience, research, passion, and personal connection.

Let’s consider this current kidlit dilemma:

Even though people have been advocating for more “multicultural” literature for decades, we still need more stories about all kinds of people who come from all sorts of backgrounds and live and talk in diverse ways.

Oh, and they need these stories written by authors who are just as diverse.

Back in 1970, award-winning poet Lucille Clifton published two children’s books—The Black BC’s and Some of the Days of Everett Anderson. This certainly wasn’t the beginning of multicultural kidlit, of course. But I begin with Lucille because she was my first professor of children’s literature, and because she championed the idea that children needed both “mirrors and windows. Mirrors in which they can see themselves, windows in which they can see the world.”

I was blessed to be initiated into the craft of writing for children by such a kind, strong, and gifted woman. Her books offered positive, contemporary portraits of African Americans without racial stereotyping. Her books are wrapped in authenticity, humanity, and universal truth.

Lucille’s example of consciously giving children access to “windows and mirrors” stuck with me as I headed off to teach in West Africa later that year. There, my students had a significant lack of books that accurately depicted individual, contemporary African settings and characters, and I’ve been working over the last few years to build libraries with relevant books. I also married interracially and when we had children, this idea became very personal. Most picture books were “window stories” for my children. Far fewer were “mirrors”, with characters who looked like or had families like our own. Thus, I’m always on the lookout for great “multicultural” books (although sometimes, the separation and separate-shelving of that label irks me) that depict biracial families, children with grandparents living abroad, immigrant parents, a second language in the home, West African and Caribbean cultures, etc.

Let me now get back to an earlier point, about not every story being mine to tell.

Although I’ve written several stories that are classified as “multicultural”, they’ve mostly been stories I have a personal connection to and resulted from experience, research, and collaboration with people within the culture.

There are a lot of underrepresented cultures or lifestyles that interest me, and I see a need for stories about them in the publishing market. But ultimately, at the end of the day, each story should be about a character, in a specific place, at a specific time. That means DETAILS. I am not always the best person for writing those details, especially if the culture is one I’ve not experienced firsthand.

The thing is, not only do children deserve stories that contain “mirrors,” but the author bio or photo needs to reflect diversity as well. Growing up, I never got the chance to actually meet anyone who wrote for a living, and the lack of a model seriously affected my confidence that writing for a career was even possible.

So when I got invited to a school with other authors, I noticed immediately all four of us were white women with blond hair and blue eyes. I had to question what unintentional message this was sending to the kids. Perhaps our lack of diversity meant nothing on a conscious level. Maybe the kids didn’t notice. But what if there was some sort of subconscious message at work? Don’t they deserve to see authors who look like them, in order to ignite a sense of possibility that they, too, can be authors?

I think it’s extremely important for authors who are not of color to remain encouraging and supportive of the organizations who are consciously making an effort to address the call for diversity in children’s books. I am thrilled that publishers such as Lee and Low are hosting a New Voices contest for authors of color. The Coretta Scott King award (http://www.ala.org/emiert/cskbookawards) and Pura Belpre multicultural children’s book awards (http://www.ala.org/alsc/awardsgrants/bookmedia/belpremedal) are critical in realizing visions where all children can find both windows and mirrors in books.

Whatever your race or ethnicity, don’t feel as though multicultural literature means only writing about your own heritage, or about making the culture more important than the story or character. At the same time, don’t feel as though a marketing need or lack of books on a subject qualifies you to write that particular book. If you feel like an outsider, your narration will seem distanced and inauthentic, and your reader won’t have access to a true window or mirror.

Writing multicultural literature is a daunting task, but there are individuals and organizations out there to help you. A few agents at the Andrea Brown Literary Agency (http://www.andreabrownlit.com) and Full Circle Literary (http://www.fullcircleliterary.com) mention a desire to see multicultural submissions on their websites. The Highlights Foundation can help you find out which stories might be yours to tell, and how to present authentic and diverse characters and settings. 

Remember, if you have the passion to write a multicultural story, and if you honestly address your bias or fear of writing across boundaries, keep in mind the child who deserves that window to another world or a mirror of her own. Then go immerse yourself in that world.

 

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Miranda Paul is a teacher, world traveler, and mother of two. As she raises an international family, her writing goals include depicting diverse characters (and animals!) with positive and sometimes ridiculously funny stories for children. Miranda Paul has served as a volunteer teacher in Gambia, West Africa and also has family scattered around the Caribbean — so she occasionally escapes her Wisconsin homeland for tastes of the tropical life.

Two of Miranda’s picture book manuscripts won her the 2012 SCBWI-WI Mentorship award and her debut picture book, ONE PLASTIC BAG, was published from Lerner Publishing (Millbrook Press). Her second book, WATER IS WATER, illustrated by Jason Chin, was published from Neal Porter Books (Roaring Brook / Macmillan) in 2015.

Miranda also works for-hire writing and editing children’s stories for digital and print markets, and has published pieces in national magazines such as POCKETS and TURTLE. Find out all the latest news about Miranda on her website, www.mirandapaul.com.

 

THOUGHTFUL THURSDAY: What Color Are Your Writing Leaves?

 

 

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Every Autumn my sister and I eagerly await the changing of the leaves. The summer is always hard on both of us and the cooler temperatures does much to improve our temperament. We will drive around, doing our errands, and search for Mother Nature’s artistic hand in the surrounding trees. My sister and I, however, argue on which color is the prettiest. She likes the bright yellow leaves of the black maple tree while I favor the deeper oranges and reds of its cousin the sugar maple. But no matter which color we choose, they all serve a purpose in bringing beauty to the landscape on a crisp fall day.

It’s kinda like the different writing styles a writer can choose on their journey to publication.

 

Yellow…

 

A bright, cheery type of writing but sometimes without the staying power of the other colors. Yellow is the color of the sun but like a dreary November morning, it lacks the warmth to entice a reader to stay and discover more.

 

Orange…

 

A nice, sweet type of writing but generally needing a little bit of something added to spice things up. Orange is the color of pumpkins harvested from the fields, just waiting for someone to turn it into something special and tasty.

 

Red…

 

A deep, rich type of writing but occasionally overshadowing all those around it. Red is the color of a woodland campfire, shining brightly with its intensity, but sometimes burning the fingers of anyone coming too close.

 

Evergreen…

 

A vibrant, alive type of writing well suited to the world in general. Evergreen is the color of life, the color Mother Nature choses when providing shelter during a frosty Autumn wind and warmth during a cold winter’s night.

Driving through the beautiful Tennessee hills I can look at the lovely Autumn foliage and ask myself what color are MY writing leaves? Will my leaves simply tease and frustrate readers while lacking the boldness to touch their spirits? Or will my leaves paint a picture in their hearts forever and become an evergreen, casting its warmth for years to come?

What color is YOUR writing?

 

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LUNADAR: Homeward Bound

Ruler by day, a reluctant pirate by night, 18-year-old Princess Ariana fights for her subjects in the waterfall city of LUNADAR. In a kingdom surrounded by fairies and mermaids, and ravaged by deadly Drundles, only a chosen few are trusted to guard her daughter, Candra, as the secret heir to the throne. But it only takes one ill-fated meeting for Ariana to suddenly be plunged into an escalating web of secrets found in her father’s journal, a deadly kidnapping, and an ever-weakening resolve to turn her back on the call of the merman’s song. With Ariana’s world falling apart and the future of LUNADAR at stake, how will she bring her father’s murderer to justice and fulfill a deathbed promise to protect Lunadar’s legacy?

$16.99

 

 

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donna

 

International best selling, award-winning author, Donna L Martin, has been writing since she was eight years old. She is a 4th Degree Black Belt in TaeKwonDo by day and a ‘ninja’ writer of children’s picture books, chapter books, young adult novels and inspirational essays by night. Donna is a BOOK NOOK REVIEWS host providing the latest book reviews on all genres of children’s books, and the host of WRITERLY WISDOM, a resource series for writers. Donna is a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators and Children’s Book Insider. She is a lover of dark chocolate, going to the beach and adding to her growing book collection. Donna’s latest book, LUNADAR: Homeward Bound (a YA fantasy), is now available in ebook and print form from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Books A Million, and other online retailers