Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Two guest spots

I have two guest spots today:  join me as I visit author Christina Weigand's blog


and then read a fun interview with author Kai Strand, on her blog


Don't forget release day Friday- all stores are offering a special release price of only 3 dollars!

Monday, April 28, 2014

School of Deaths- Now Available

Now available.  Visit

Can a timid girl find bravery as the first female Death?  

School of Deaths by Christopher Mannino

Thirteen-year-old Suzie Sarnio always believed the Grim Reaper was a fairy tale image of a skeleton with a scythe.  Now, forced to enter the College of Deaths, she finds herself training to bring souls from the Living World to the Hereafter.  The task is demanding enough, but as the only female in the all-male College, she quickly becomes a target.  Attacked by both classmates and strangers, Suzie is alone in a world where even her teachers want her to fail.
Caught in the middle of a plot to overthrow the World of Deaths, Suzie must uncover the reason she’s been brought there: the first female Death in a million years.


Chapter One

The Girl Who Looked like Death

She wanted to scream but no sound came. She wanted to run, but her legs wouldn’t move. The hooded man grinned.
Suzie’s heart pounded as she opened her eyes. Laughter echoed in the back of her head. The terrible laughter she heard every night. She wiped the sweat from her face, pushing aside the sheets. Sunlight spilled into her room from between frilly curtains. Mom would be knocking on the door to wake her soon.
She turned to one side as the dream started to fade. Every night the same nightmare. Every night she heard the laughter. The hooded man with a scythe. The feeling of complete terror.
What did it mean?
Above her clock radio, a worn teddy bear stared at her with its single eye. She pulled the bear to her chest and clutched it with her bony fingers.
Suzie Sarnio. The hooded man had written her name down. He always wrote it right before the laughter began. The man looked like Death. But why would Death have a stammer?
“Suzie,” said Mom, knocking on the door. “Come on, you’ll be late for school.”
“I’m coming.”
Suzie changed, staring at the mirror in her pink-wallpapered room. Each rib stuck out from her chest; she counted all twenty-four. The skin on her face stretched tightly over her skeletal face, and dark patches surrounded each of her gray eyes. As much as she tried to comb it, her long black hair tangled into stringy knots. Her arms hung from her shoulders like twigs, and her legs looked too weak to hold her up. In the past few months, she had lost nearly half of her weight. She glanced at an old picture, taken last year, on the first day of seventh grade. A chubby, pigtailed girl with freckles smiled back at her from the photo. Her braces gleamed in the sun, only a month before their removal. Suzie sighed. She opened the door, looking for a moment at her room. She didn’t want to start another year of school. Slowly, she turned around.
“Hey, squirt, watch out,” said Joe.
“Sorry.” Joe was a pest and a bully, but he was her big brother, and Suzie supposed she loved him.
“Get your skinny butt out of the way already. We’ve got a run before school.”
“Today’s the first day—”
“After last year, coach says we have to practice early.”
Suzie stepped aside, watching the bulky frame of her brother lumber downstairs.
“Later.” He winked at Suzie. “Have fun at school.” He ran out the front door, slamming it behind him, while Suzie went to the kitchen and sat down.
“I’ve made you a special breakfast,” said her mother, carrying a plate and a glass of orange juice.
“Let me guess, something big.”
“I’ve made three eggs, two slices of sausage, four pieces of toast, two slices of bacon, a bowl of oatmeal with raisins, and a doughnut.”
“Mom, I keep telling you, I eat as much as I can.”
“You’re skin and bones, literally. Your father and I are worried sick. You have another appointment with Dr. Fox after school today. Did you take your pills this morning?”
“No, Mom, but I will.”
Suzie gave up arguing. Her parents, friends, and doctors were wrong. She didn’t want to lose weight. Everyone kept talking about anorexia, about eating disorders. The strange thing was Suzie ate more than she ever had before. She ate twice as much as any of her friends, hardly exercised, and certainly never—what was the word the doctor had used—oh right, purged. Gross. No, the way Suzie ate, she figured she should be fat. Only she wasn’t.
Suzie managed to eat most of the massive breakfast. Her stomach ached, but maybe a little would stay this time. She wiped her mouth, rubbing her fingers across the bones of her face. Doubtful.
“Are you ready for school?”
“Yes, Mom.”
“Go brush your teeth, and I’ll be in the car. Don’t forget, we’re picking you up at one for your appointment with Dr. Fox.”
“Yeah, I know.”
“Today’s your first day of eighth grade. Isn’t that exciting?”
Suzie didn’t answer. What would her friends say? She’d spent the summer avoiding them, dropping out of camp and swim club. She was embarrassed. She honestly didn’t want to lose weight, and didn’t have an eating disorder, but she appeared skeletal.
She brushed her teeth in silence, dragging her feet. She put on her backpack and got in the car.
“Honey, you’re nervous, but you’ll be fine. Tell people you’ve been sick, and—”
“I’m not sick, Mom. If I was sick, the doctors would cure me. If I had an eating problem, they’d work with me. I eat more than ever, and I hardly exercise anymore. This doesn’t make any sense.” Suzie wiped a tear from her eye.
“Are you sure this isn’t because of Bumper?”
Bumper. The family beagle for ten years. He had died three months ago, about the time Suzie had started losing weight. Mom believed the two were connected. Dr. Fox agreed. Sure, Suzie missed Bumper, but that wasn’t the problem.
“No, Mom, I was sad for a little while, but I never changed what I eat. If anything, I eat more now.”
“Susan, you’ll be all right. I promise. Your father and I will continue to get the finest doctors, until we figure out what’s wrong with you. Remember what Dr. Fox said last time? For now, the best thing is to go to school and be around other kids.”
She sighed. Mom still didn’t understand, and if Mom and Dad didn’t relate, her classmates would be even worse. They pulled up in front of school, and she gave her mom a quick peck on the cheek.
“Don’t forget. One o’clock.” Mom smiled, trying to hide the strain in her eyes.
“Okay, Mom.”
“Suzie, my gawd, you look like death.”
Crystal hadn’t changed. The smiling redhead with large blue glasses and the ever-present smell of cherry bubblegum was her best friend. She was grateful Crystal had spent the summer away. “Did you have a nice summer? How was Colorado?”
“My summer was great. Colorado’s cold. Geesh, what happened to you, Suzie?”
“I’ve been sick,” said Suzie. Not a complete lie, obviously something was wrong with her, but she didn’t know what.
“Sick?” Her voice lowered to a whisper. “You look like you’re dying.”
“I’ll be fine.”
“Crystaaal. Suzieee,” shouted a voice from across the parking lot.
“Oh gawd, it’s Monica,” said Crystal. “Let’s go inside quick.”
Suzie and her friend started to walk away, but the tall, lanky girl with small eyes caught up to them. Monica. She wasn’t too bad, if you ignored her whiny voice and her inane stories.
“Hiii guys,” said Monica. “I missed youuu this summer. Did you lose weight? The funniest thing happened the other day…”
Suzie realized the worst of the day was over. She got teasing looks from the kids and concerned frowns from the teachers, but like Monica, most people were too wrapped up in their own little world to pay any attention to her. Even Crystal eventually stopped asking questions.
“Tell me again, do you like the way you look?”
“I’m sorry, what?” she asked.
Suzie snapped to attention. The day had blurred by, and she was sitting in Dr. Fox’s office, wearing a hospital gown.
“Suzie, I asked if you like the way you look?”
Suzie was cold and annoyed. The office smelled of bleach, and the fluorescent light overhead hummed like a dying fly. Dr. Fox glanced up from her notes and smiled a dry, lifeless smile she probably practiced in front of a mirror.
“No, Doctor.” She repeated the same answers she had given last time, and the time before. “I despise the way I look. I’m a damned skeleton. You can see every bone. I love to eat, I don’t purge, I hardly exercise, and I actually feel fine.”
“Yes, that’s the strangest part,” interrupted Dr. Fox. “Every test seems to indicate that you’re at the peak of health. No lanugo, no joint issues, no skin problems, and your stomach and the rest of you are actually functioning fine. I’ve almost completely ruled out anorexia, but your weight is still drastically low. It’s like your calories are vanishing into some other dimension.” She laughed. “My husband wishes that would happen with me.”
“May I get dressed now?”
“Susan, I will get to the bottom of this. I have called a specialist in from the West Coast, from San Francisco. He might be able to shed some light on this condition. Your mother and I set up the appointment for next Thursday.”
“May I please get dressed now?”
“Yes, yes. I’m sorry I can’t do anything else for you.” Dr Fox sighed.
None of them knows what’s wrongTo them I’m just another puzzle to solve. She dressed and gave Mom a smirk, turning up her lips on one side to show she was unhappy. Mom smiled and shrugged.
“We’ll figure out what’s wrong, honey,” Mom said. They lied; no one knew.
* * * *
The next day was even worse. Now that the kids were starting to settle back into school, they had more time to notice her.
“Suzieee,” squealed Monica, her breath reeking of garlic and orange soda. “You’re skinnier than a skeleeeton. It’s weeeird.”
“Gawd Monica,” said Crystal. “Leave her alone already.”
Suzie rolled her eyes and sat at her desk.
“Susan Sarnio,” called Ms. Warwood, glancing up from a seating chart. “Would you come here for a moment?”
“Oooh.” The few who didn’t speak aloud were certainly thinking it. The whole class watched. Suzie’s face reddened as she got up and walked to the teacher.
“Yes, Ms. Warwood?”
“Susan, are you all right? When I took roll yesterday, I noticed you appeared tired.”
The whispers behind her grew louder. Couldn’t she have waited until after class? And on the second day of school.
“I’m fine,” said Suzie. “I’ve been ill lately.”
“Yes, well, tell me if there’s any way I can help. Have a seat, dear.”
This was going to be a terrible year. Suzie didn’t even raise her head when the teacher started talking about books or maps or whatever. She sat at her desk, staring at her hands. Each bone poked through her tightly stretched skin. She counted nineteen bones in each hand, not counting her wrists. Disgusting.
Finally, the bell rang for lunch. Mom had packed four sandwiches, three apples, two cans of soda, six bags of potato chips, and two candy bars. Overcompensating again, despite the doctor’s orders to feed her normally. Suzie ate one sandwich and an apple, putting the rest back in her bag. She sat in a corner, not talking to anyone, not even Crystal. She didn’t have the heart.
After lunch, she had math, her least favorite subject. She walked up the stairwell and trudged into class. She sat down and felt a soft squish. A boy behind her started laughing. Suzie got up slowly, eyeing the gum he’d placed in her chair.
She didn’t even tell the teacher. She stood; tearing the wad off her pants, then threw it on the floor and sank back into her seat, hiding her head in her hands. Everything went dark.
“Are you all right?” Suzie sat up slowly. Mr. Thompson, her math teacher, was standing over her, worried. “Do you need to go the nurse?”
Suzie got up. Somehow, she had landed on the floor. She must have passed out. That was new; now the doctors would have even more to worry about.
“Paul, why don’t you help Ms.…?”
“Suzie. I’m Suzie Sarnio.”
“Right. Paul, take Suzie to the nurse’s office, please. The rest of you, back to page thirteen.”
Suzie got her bag and followed Paul to the nurse’s. She had always liked Nurse Cherwell. She had rosy cheeks and always reminded Suzie of a massive gingerbread cookie. Her office smelled like peppermint.
“Oh deary, deary, dear. What’s the matter with you, sweetheart?” Nurse Cherwell had a voice like gumdrops. Suzie had only been to the nurse’s office a few times before. Last year, they’d called her to tell her about Bumper. It had seemed surreal at the time, the year was winding down, and everything was going well. Then she found out her dog had died, and they told her in an office resembling a gingerbread house.
“I fainted in class. Maybe I should go home.” Suzie didn’t need to go home, but why stay any longer at school? The kids were making fun of her, and she wasn’t in the mood for gingerbread.
“Deary, my deary, sweet poor dumpling, oh my. I guess we’ll have to call your mommy and get you straight to beddy-bye, now won’t we, deary dear?” Nurse Cherwell smiled a huge smile full of marshmallow-white teeth and reached down to pinch Suzie’s cheek.
Mom arrived soon after. She spoke to the nurse and gave Suzie a frown.
“Did you eat the lunch I packed for you, Susan?”
“Mom, I ate what I could. You packed a dozen lunches in my bag, and I’m your only kid in middle school.”
“You have to take care of yourself, honey. It’s only the second day of school.” Mom sighed.
For the first time, Suzie sensed how stressed her mother was. Mom wanted to understand what was wrong, but was helpless. She wiped a tear away, trying to hide it, but Suzie had seen. She reached up and gave Mom an enormous hug, wrapping her skeletal arms around her mother’s waist.
“Come on, Mom, let’s go home.”
* * * *
“You okay, squirt?” Joe bounded through her bedroom door. He smelled of sweat and dirt.
“I’m okay,” said Suzie. She sat up in her bed, putting her book aside. “They teased me a lot today.”
“You? My sister? I’ll beat ’em up.” He slapped her on the back playfully, making Suzie slump forward. He leaned closer to her and peered in her eyes. His cinnamon gum stank.
“Tell me honestly.” He lowered his voice to whisper. “What’s going on? You’ve been losing weight since Bumper died. Mom and Dad are freaking out.”
“I’m not trying to scare them, Joe. I’m sure I look anorexic or something, but I keep eating and eating and nothing changes. It must be some disease the doctors haven’t heard about, they’re bringing in a specialist and everything.”
“Suzie?” Joe sat next to her and wrapped his big, muscular arms around her wiry frame. “You’ll be okay?”
“I will be, yeah.”
“Susan,” called Mom from downstairs. A moment later, her head appeared in the doorway. Joe released Suzie and stood.
“How are you feeling honey?” asked Mom.
“I’m fine.”
“Why don’t you both come down for dinner?”
“Okay, Mom,” they said in unison. Joe turned to Suzie and smiled. They headed downstairs and sat down.
“Your father had an urgent call, and won’t be home until late,” said Mom, carrying a steaming dish of delicious-smelling rosemary chicken and potatoes to the table. The doorbell rang.
“I hope it’s not the Mormons again,” muttered Mom, rising.
“I’ll get it,” said Joe. Whenever Dad wasn’t home, Joe tended to act like the man of the house. Suzie wasn’t sure if he was annoying or endearing, or perhaps a little of both. Mom sat down, and Joe opened the door.
“Can I help you?”
A hunchbacked man in a black robe, carrying an immense scythe, stood in the doorway. Something shiny hung around his neck.
“Er, um. H-h-hello. I-i-i-s Su-su-su-Susan here?”
Joe laughed. “Halloween’s not for over a month, man. Why don’t you come back then?” He started to close the door, but the strange man lowered his scythe, propping it open.
“What are you doing?” yelled Joe.
“P-p-please. I n-n-need to ta-talk to Susan,” he stammered.
Suzie gasped, remembering where she had seen the strange man. He was the one who opened the door looking out in the strange dream she kept having.
Mom touched the blade of the scythe and drew her hand back in surprise.
“That thing’s real,” she said. “Get out. Get out of my house!”
“P-p-p-please,” he started again.
“Wait, Mom,” Suzie said, rising. Joe, Mom, and the strange man turned to her. “I want to talk to him.” Was it the man from her dream?
“Susan, sit down,” said Mom, her voice trembling.
“No, it’s okay,” said Suzie. She walked to the door. The man seemed scared, even a little confused. He was probably her father’s age, but was nothing like Dad. His face was chubby, unshaven, and pockmarked, and his blond hair was uncombed. A golden chain with a charm hung from his neck. He raised his scythe and nodded. Joe held the door, ready to slam it, but Suzie stood in the entrance.
“Who are you?” she asked.
“My n-n-n-name is K-k-k-Cronk. C-Cronk Averill.”
“C-Cronk Averill?” laughed Joe. “Is this guy for real?”
“I’ve c-c-c-come to t-t-t-take you b-b-b-back.”
“Take me back where?” asked Suzie.
“You are a D-d-d-d…”
“A Death,” said Cronk. Joe reached for Suzie, but before he touched her, Cronk grabbed Suzie’s arm. His speed surprised her. She yelled, but he raised his scythe and lowered it, cutting the air. Suddenly, the house, Joe, Mom, and the entire world vanished. Colors and smells, noises and strange sensations, flowed past Suzie in a blur.
She opened her eyes. She was standing in a field. Cronk stood in front of her, frowning.
“What did you do?” she demanded. “Where are we?” She looked up. It was sunny. But there were two suns.

FOR MORE visit    

Excerpt © 2014 by Christopher Mannino and Muse It Up Publishing.  May not be duplicated without permission. 

Monday, April 21, 2014

Stories that Inspire - Part Three

I hope everyone had a good Passover and Easter, if you celebrate either.  I celebrate both, and had nice times on both holidays.

Two weeks ago, a number of Muse authors discussed using music to write.  Many of them found it impossible to listen to music and also write.  I usually write in silence, but at times I like to have some music going.  Music stirs the soul in a way no other medium can achieve.  Perhaps my attitude comes from my background.  My parents met in the orchestra of the Boston Conservatory of Music, which they attended for college, and my father is now a professional band teacher.  I myself played trumpet for years, and now sing every chance I get. The following songs do not inspire me to write anything specific.  However, they do help create a mood that brings forth inspiration.

1. Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, The Bridge of Khazad-Dum by Howard Shore

This song is from the movie adaptation of one of my favorite novels.  Gandalf's fight with the Balrog is a particularly wonderful moment in both the books and films.  However, this music holds an even more personal meaning for me.  Last summer, I was fortunate enough to join the Washington City Choir as a guest singer for a performance of The Fellowship of the Ring at the Wolftrap National Park for the Performing Arts in Virginia.  Wolftrap is an enormous complex, with a huge stage, open to the outdoors.  A full-length version of the film was shown with the soundtrack removed.  A full orchestra was in front of us, and I stood with 200 other adults, 50 children, and 3 professional soloists as we performed the entire score with the movie playing overhead.

The bridge at Khazad-Dum is not only an exciting part of the movie, but also the most fun part of the film to sing.  The rhythmic chanting in Elvish, coupled with swells of forte and piano (louds and softs) make for a memorable experience I will never forget.  When I hear the piece, the words start to flow out, filled with the same excitement I felt when performing.

2. Adiemus by Karl Jenkins

This is a song I discovered through Pandora.  It's one of those songs that sounds like it's been in a movie, but not just a movie, nearly every inspiring movie.  This song fills me with wonder, enchantment, and a sense of being uplifted.  I've listened to this before writing on occasions where I'm feeling less than inspired, and all of a sudden those flood gates open up and the words pour onto the page again.

3. Hall of Fame by The Script and

This song is inspiring.  I played it in my classes earlier this year as an introductory activity. For me, this is a good song to listen to if I feel down, or like I'm unable to achieve things.  I enjoy the stories told through the music video as well, emphasizing that anyone can achieve greatness if they try.

What songs inspire you?    

How about this music below?

Monday, April 14, 2014

Stories that Inspire- Part Two

Continuing my look at stories that inspired me, I turn now to television.  Growing up around TV and movies has definitely affected me as a writer.  It's hard to imagine what my books would have looked like without being bombarded by visual and auditory imagery everywhere I turn, now (with the internet) even more so than ever before.  I greatly admire writers such as Shakespeare, or Jules Verne who dreamed entire worlds from their imagination alone.  Today things are a bit more muddled...

1. Farscape

This cult-followed science fiction show was developed by Brian Henson (Jim Henson's son).  While on TV, it was one of my favorites, and I recently re-watched the entire series with my fiancee Rachel.  The show combines puppetry, computer effects, and extremely creative writing to produce one of the most original shows I've ever seen.  An astronaut is hurled through a wormhole where he befriends a group of escaped alien convicts aboard a living ship.

As the series progressed, the writers pushed every boundary, never fearing to break the fourth wall, or even to mock other sci-fi shows.  Many of the episodes focused on what was within the character's minds. Impressively, at the end of the entire series both the protagonist and the antagonist achieve all their goals! That in itself is an extremely rare feat. The biggest inspiration was the idea that our universe is entirely open, anything we dream can exist.  One of my works-in-progress is an adult science fiction novel, and it does begin on a prison ship.

2. Naruto

I'm putting this under TV, though I considered doing a separate anime entry.  Naruto is one of the most popular anime/manga series in production with nine motion pictures, hundreds of anime episodes, toys, and a massive merchandising franchise.  For me, the character development in this series is some of the most complex in any show on television.  I've watched both Naruto series (subbed, not dubbed for the true otakus reading this), beginning when I was young myself, and continuing to this day.  Every character in the series is given a wonderfully layered back-story, a goal and a set of obstacles.  The young ninjas develop not just their skills as fighters, but as human beings, coping with life, love, and death.

Uzumaki Naruto, the central figure of the anime is a boy who spends his life confronting an inner demon- a nine tailed fox with immense power who was implanted inside Naruto as a child.  This makes Naruto isolated, feared, ridiculed, yet ultimately powerful.  I drew on those themes when crafting School of Deaths.  Suzie is ridiculed and isolated because she is a female, alone in a world of men.  Ultimately, her ridicule turns to courage, when she realizes that being different isn't bad.  

3. Avatar: the Last Airbender

The movie was terrible, and completely let me down.  However, the television series, which some have called "American Anime" was brilliantly crafted and extremely inventive.  For any adult who insists that children's shows cannot have good writing (and admittedly they often do not), I recommend watching this series.  While the character development isn't as detailed as a series like Naruto, the world-building is masterfully done.

In School of Deaths, there is a race enslaved by the Deaths called Elementals or 'Mentals for short.  Each has an ability to manipulate an element.  This idea was directly inspired by Avatar, where different nations "bend" different elements in nature.  In my story, I expand the principle beyond the four elements of nature, to include things such as thought.  As I work on the sequel to School of Deaths, the role of 'Mentals in the Word of the Dead is one of the most vital questions to the series as a whole.

Don't forget to pre-order SCHOOL OF DEATHS!


Monday, April 7, 2014

Stories that Inspire - Part One

The act of publishing is circular. For me, the process began after completing the novel and editing it many times. I then queried agents and publishers.  The querying phase is exhausting. I sent small samples (sometimes a single paragraph query letter) to agents, looking for representation. 99.9% of all queries are rejections- either the agent/publisher never answers, or they send a polite note back saying no.  Some wrote back and asked for the novel, but then decided it wasn't for them.  Eventually two publishers said yes, and I chose MuseitUp. Now, the book is preparing for release, and I feel like I am back at the first stage again.  Instead of querying agents or publishers, I am querying bloggers and reviewers.  So far, five have agreed to review the book before release, yet the feeling is similar to the frustration of querying at the beginning of this process.

Another query...  D'oh!
While reading the blogs of potential reviewers, I've noticed how many others talk about the stories that shaped them as both readers and writers. One of the people who signed up for my newsletter (note: sign up for the monthly newsletter before April 14th and be automatically entered to win a 20 dollar Amazon Gift Card. Details at or sign up on the sidebar at right) asked if my students inspire my stories. The answer is "sort of".  To be honest, many of my stories were created before I started teaching.  School of Deaths was finished before I set foot in my current job, yet interacting with kids on a daily basis has certainly shaped my writing and how I view kids and their reactions.

One thing that has undoubtedly affected me as a writer is stories I've read, watched, performed in, or otherwise encountered throughout my life. Towards that end, my next several posts will be a reflection on some of my favorite stories and how they inspired me.


I am a full-time theatre teacher, and have been involved with theatre onstage and off since I was ten.  Writing and theatre are my two greatest passions in life.  It is natural to start a discussion of stories that have inspired me by talking about theatre that has inspired.

Man of La Mancha by Wasserman, Darion, and Leigh

When I was a sophomore in high school, I was cast as the understudy for Don Quixote in Man of La Mancha. It was the closest I'd ever been to playing an actual lead in a musical (at that point), an it was a musical I enjoyed a great deal. I was allowed to perform the role in a single performance, not even open to the public, yet it was one of the highlights of my high school career, and probably the beginning of my current career path, since I am back at the high school level, giving new students the opportunity to experience the joys I did.  The story itself is also motivational. Quixote is a dreamer, an idealist. He lives with one foot in reality, and one foot in his own fantasy. It is his "quest" to constantly strive towards his own fantasies, his own lofty dreams.  From an early age, living with a foot in my own daydreams was something I was accustomed to.  Striving towards making those dreams is a goal Quixote helped inspire, and now with the publication of my first fantasy novel I really have "reached the impossible star."

Wicked by Schwartz and Holzman

One of my favorite musicals (and no, I haven't read the book it's based on), Wicked helped inspire me as a writer.  The writing, and how everything comes together is brilliant.  Add this to a thrilling and wonderful score, and an amazing set, and of course you have an incredible musical.  I first saw Wicked in London, then saw it on Broadway with Rachel for our one-year anniversary as a couple.  While writing School of Deaths I'd play the soundtrack, imagining Suzie struggling at the College of Deaths, while Billy told her to simply try "Dancing Through Life."  One of the characters in the novel, named Athanasius, was even given a goat-like physical appearance directly inspired by Dr. Dillamond.  

Elphaba and Dillamond- Original Broadway Cast

Matilda: the Musical by Minchin and Kelly

When I saw Matilda, I posted on this blog that it was one of the best new shows I've seen (original post here).  Like Wicked, this was a soundtrack I played while writing my first drafts of School of Deaths.  I had read Dahl's book as a child, and the thing that thrilled me about the character Matilda was her love of books and reading.  When I went to the RSC production in London and saw thousands of letter tiles exploding outward to form one of the best sets I've seen- I remembered how much Matilda liked to read.  It reminded me of another child who always dove headfirst into books, and would spend entire summers devouring bookshelf after bookshelf. That child, of course, was me.  One of the most important locations in School of Deaths, as well as the current novel I'm working on (a sequel called Sword of Deaths) is a library.  It may seem redundant to emphasize reading within the pages of a book- but as fewer and fewer children read for pleasure (an unfortunate trend), where better to encourage reading than within a book?

Those three stories definitely helped inspire me.  Next week, I'll examine different stories.

Don't forget that School of Deaths is available for pre-order now if you visit MuseitUp's website here.  This past Saturday, I spent 3 and half hours filming a trailer (to be released later this month).  This is a teaser (not the full trailer)