Monday, October 30, 2017

Virtual Book Tour + #Giveaway: The Man with the Crystal Ankh / The Girl Who Flew Away by Val Muller @mercuryval @GoddessFish

The Man with the Crystal Ankh / The Girl Who Flew Away
by Val Muller
GENRE: YA paranormal / YA literary

The Man with the Crystal Ankh:


Everyone’s heard the legend of the hollow oak—the four-hundred year curse of Sarah Willoughby and Preston Grymes. Few realize how true it is.

Sarah Durante awakens to find herself haunted by the spirit of her high school’s late custodian. After the death of his granddaughter, Custodian Carlton Gray is not at peace. He suspects a sanguisuga is involved—an ancient force that prolongs its own life by consuming the spirits of others. Now, the sanguisuga needs another life to feed its rotten existence, and Carlton wants to spare others from the suffering his granddaughter endured. That’s where Sarah comes in. Carlton helps her understand that she comes from a lineage of ancestors with the ability to communicate with the dead. As Sarah hones her skill through music, she discovers that the bloodlines of Hollow Oak run deep. The sanguisuga is someone close, and only she has the power to stop it. 

The Girl Who Flew Away:


No good deed goes unpunished when freshman Steffie Brenner offers to give her awkward new neighbor a ride home after her first day at school. When her older sister Ali stops at a local park to apply for a job, Steffie and Madison slip out of the car to explore the park—and Madison vanishes.

Already in trouble for a speeding ticket, Ali insists that Steffie say nothing about Madison’s disappearance. Even when Madison’s mother comes looking for her. Even when the police question them.

Some secrets are hard to hide, though—especially with Madison’s life on the line. As she struggles between coming clean or going along with her manipulative sister’s plan, Steffie begins to question if she or anyone else is really who she thought they were. After all, the Steffie she used to know would never lie about being the last person to see Madison alive—nor would she abandon a friend in the woods: alone, cold, injured, or even worse.

But when Steffie learns an even deeper secret about her own past, a missing person seems like the least of her worries…

Excerpt from The Man with the Crystal Ankh:

She picked up the instrument and set it onto her shoulder. A calmness passed into her, as if the violin exuded energy—as if it had a soul. The varnish had faded and dulled. Its life force did not come from its appearance. She brought the bow to the strings, which was still rosined and ready to play. Dragging the bow across the four strings, she found the instrument perfectly in tune.

Sarah took a deep breath and imagined the song, the way the notes melted into each other in nostalgic slides, the way her spirit seemed to pour from her soul that day.
And then it was happening again.

She had started playing without realizing it. Warm, resonant notes poured from the instrument and spilled into the room. They were stronger, and much more powerful, than those she was used to. This instrument was different than the factory-made one her parents had bought for her. Rosemary’s violin was singing to the world from its very soul. And it was happening just as before. Sarah’s energy flowed from her body, causing her to lose consciousness and gain perspective all at once. She rode the air on a lofty run of eighth notes. She echoed off the ceiling with a rich and resonant vibrato. She flew past the guests, who had all quieted to listen to her music; flew past the table of cold cuts and appetizers and up the darkened staircase, where she resonated against the walls and found her way into the guest room. There, she crept along a whole note and slid into the closet.

As the song repeated, she twirled around in the closet, spinning in a torrent of passionate notes. She searched through the notebooks and books on the floor and on the shelves, searched for an open notebook, for something she could read, something that might make her feel tied to the place. Otherwise, she might spin out of control and evaporate out the window and into the sky. She found her anchor on the floor in the darkest corner of the closet, a large parchment—maybe a poster. The notes spun around her in a dizzying way as she tried to stay still enough to read what was on the paper. It was a difficult task; now, with every beat her body downstairs tried to reclaim its energy.

Interview with Val Muller

What inspired you to write The Man with the Crystal Ankh?

I grew up in the same house my mom grew up in. I’d always gotten chills when I went down the upstairs hallway. I felt safe in the rooms themselves, but something about that hallway gave me the creeps. One day I mentioned it to my mom, and she admitted having had the same feelings since she was younger. We both spoke of a presence, not necessarily sinister, but a presence nonetheless. Something that didn’t belong on this plane of existence. That idea, that there is an invisible world around us, is what sparked the idea for The Man with the Crystal Ankh. In the novel, a spirit world exists, and spirits left behind find that some of us are more receptive to them than others. This explains the feeling protagonist Sarah Durante has in the very first scene, and it doesn’t take her long to realize she’s being followed by something she can’t see.

Can you tell us a little bit about the next books in the Hollow Oak series?

I have the outline done for the next book—and ideas in motion for the third and final one. In book one, Sarah and her friends do a lot of research, so they suspect some of the truth, but they don’t know all of it. In the second book, one of their allies is down for the count, and her life is on the line. The antagonist becomes even more devious in gaining allies of his own, some of them friends with Sarah. I can’t say too much more without giving away spoilers from the first book. Preternatural Cadence follows the musical motif established in the first book, and it continues the importance of Latin and word roots in creating power while pushing characters to discover how much they can truly accomplish.

Can you tell us a little bit about the characters in The Man with the Crystal Ankh?

I’m a high school teacher, so I wanted to include a mixture of characters from the high school setting, but also feature college students and adults. A main theme in the novel is that the supernatural occurrences have been happening since the settling of the Massachusetts colony, and no one age range is more affected than others. One of my favorite characters is Carlton, the kind-hearted custodian of the school. He’s one of those grandfather figures, a caretaker of the school but someone who cares about those within it as well. His late granddaughter would have been around Sarah’s age—and equally fascinated with the violin—so when he hears Sarah play, there’s an immediate bond.

Sarah’s two friends, Marci and Lola, are opposites. Marci is a graphics artist and a creative type but not one interested in navigating the social nuances of high school. Lola is the opposite: she seems to have been born with grace and beauty. But all three of them find common roots as the story darkens. When Sarah discovers her ability to be contacted by spirits, Lola introduces her to her older brother, who is attending a nearby college. He reveals that Sarah isn’t the only one with connections to the world beyond.

Then there’s Mr. Wolfton, the assistant principal. I’ll admit: as a teacher, I’ve often wondered what would motivate someone to be a principal or assistant principal. Every sporting event, every dance, every angry parent phone call or email—it all has to be dealt with. I have always wondered how someone could find the energy to deal with it all. Mr. Wolfton has his boots on the ground in the battlefield of teenage anger and angst—and he seems to enjoy it a little too much.

You know I think we all have a favorite author. Who is your favorite author and why?

Ray Bradbury for me captures the essence of the human spirit. When I was younger, I loved The Martian Chronicles. His work is a little outdated—some of the speculative fiction was written in the 1950s, and so his imagination didn’t quite capture the details of our modern world, but he came surprisingly close in terms of his assessment of the human spirit. As a kid, I imagined what it would be like to colonize Mars, to imagine that there was another culture already there, to imagine how we might interact. The concept of opening ourselves to an extraterrestrial culture made me realize that we’d have to truly consider who we are. I would hope we’d bring our best qualities, but that’s not always possible. In the short story “The Pedestrian,” it’s dark at night and every house is lit with the eerie glow of television screens. The protagonist is the only one out—walking the empty streets. People are so addicted to telelvision that even crime has all but disappeared. When I was younger and would walk the dog through the neighborhood at night, I often looked in through all the windows I would pass, noting that almost all of them had television screens glowing. Sometimes, I could see entire families seated around the screens, like zombies. It got me thinking: if people just abandoned their televisions, what could they accomplish in those evening hours? One of my high school teachers had a t-shirt that said “Kill your television,” and Bradbury’s stories made me understand that. In Dandelion Wine (and the follow-up Farewell, Summer), his character has an epiphany that he is alive. I think that’s an epiphany that so many of us need. We go about our days complaining about little things—When is it going to stop raining? Where did the weekend go? Why is this meeting lasting so long?—when there is so much wonder out there for us to acknowledge. Too many of us squander the gift of our lives, and Bradbury’s works help remind me of that.

If you could time-travel would you travel to the future or the past? Where would you like to go and why would you like to visit this particular time period?

Maybe it’s the movies, but I have this idea that seeing our future won’t do us any good. Rather, I would want to travel to the past. Maybe I’ve been reading too much Bradbury, but I think we’ve gotten to a place in our modern lives that has made us numb. We read things on social media, but we seem to do so superficially. Very few people seem to want to delve beyond the surface, whether it comes to conversation or debate. I would love to go back in time to the Renaissance in Europe or the Enlightenment here in America. Although in some ways we’re more forward thinking now, I would want to experience that intellectual debate—in which words meant so much more without the distraction of Internet or photos or phones. I’m fascinated with the idea of things like extended power outages and natural disasters forcing people to interact in a more personal level in the absence of their technology, as I experienced after Hurricane Isabel several years ago.

Do you have any little fuzzy friends? Like a dog or a cat? Or any pets?

I have two corgis—Leia and Yoda. They’re the inspiration behind my kidlit mystery series. Corgi Capers features a fifth-grade aspiring detective and his older sister. Their two corgis, Sapphie and Zeph, mirror the personalities of my dogs. Sapphie is rambunctious and always ready for adventure. (In real life, for instance, Leia does things like escapes her leash and charges off to meet a giant golden retriever on his own property, heedless of my cries to stop…; Zeph is much more timid and obedient, like my beloved Yoda). You can learn more about them at

Thanks for taking time out of your busy schedule to visit with us today.

Thanks for having me!

AUTHOR Bio and Links:

Teacher, writer, and editor, Val Muller grew up in haunted New England but now lives in the warmer climes of Virginia, where she lives with her husband. She is owned by two rambunctious corgis and a toddler. The corgis have their own page and book series at

Val’s young adult works include The Scarred Letter, The Man with the Crystal Ankh, and The Girl Who Flew Away and feature her observations as a high school teacher as well as her own haunted New England past. She blogs weekly at

Buy Links:

The Girl Who Flew Away:

Free preview + discount code – Barking Rain Press

The Man with the Crystal Ankh:


$10 Amazon/BN GC 

A download code for The Girl Who Flew Away

A download code for The Scarred Letter

A print copy (US only) of The Man with the Crystal Ankh

An ebook of Corgi Capers: Deceit on Dorset Drive

Follow the tour and comment; the more you comment, the better your chances of winning.


Val Muller said...

Thanks for having me today :)

Victoria Alexander said...

These both sound like really great books- thanks for sharing!

Anonymous said...

Congrats on the tour and thank you for the chance to win

Mary Preston said...

A great interview thank you.

James Robert said...

Happy Halloween! Have a fun one and thank you for the giveaway.

Jodi Hunter said... This is where I pinned the first pinned entry, sorry I put the wrong link.

Jodi Hunter said...

Sounds Incredible.

James Robert said...

Hope your Wednesday is terrific and thank you for offering us this giveaway to enter.

James Robert said...

Good Morning! Stopping by to thank you again for the chance at winning.

James Robert said...

Happy Saturday and thank you so much for the hard work you put into bringing us terrific giveaways.

James Robert said...

Good Morning and Happy Sunday! Have a good one and thanks for the chance at winning.