Photo Tour with author Amber Elby!

Grand Ledge, a small town in central Michigan, is unassuming.  Visitors today may know it as the city that hosts the annual Island Art Fair or Mudge’s Follies variety show, a quaint place with an antiquated main street and several parks lining the Grand River.  


Long ago, Grand Ledge was a tourist destination with a vibrant resort and a variety of attractions.  None – or at least very little – of that remains.  The city of today is also the city of my childhood, a town trapped in unchanging time.


Bridge Street


Bridge Street is the main street of Grand Ledge, the north/south route that leads across the Grand River.  I remember the current bridge being built when I was a child.  During construction, we crossed the river on a temporary wooden bridge that terrifyingly swayed as we drove across.  


The Grand Ledge Public Library


Back in the time before the internet, the library was the only place to find books or information.  The décor is nearly identical to when I was a child, and they still have the same collections that I frequented in high school.  


The Sun Theater


The Sun is a reprieve from modern cinemas.  It offers recent runs of films for a few dollars and is a place where you can still get a popcorn, soda (or “pop” as we call it), AND candy for under $5.  There are single restrooms and a single screen.  Despite its small size, the theater is romantic and nostalgic, the place where I saw nearly every film from Jurassic Park to Gladiator and where I first experienced love and independence and the creative stirrings that led to my life as a writer.


The Ledge Path


This path spans from the island to Fitzgerald Park, which was a former spiritualist campground in the late nineteenth century.  When I was in elementary school, we walked this path yearly and heard oral histories about buried treasure and plagues brought by European settlers and myths of the islands’ creation.  The path has been somewhat neglected since my childhood and is difficult to navigate in parts, but it is still beautiful.

 Sandstone Creek


Sandstone Creek branches off from the south side of the Grand River and was once part of the appeal of Grand Ledge, popular with picnicking tourists.  When I was a child, I caught crayfish in its waters and once found a petosky stone, which is the state stone of Michigan.  The creek is rather desolate today and unknown by many visitors and locals.  


Oak Park


Across the river from Sandstone Creek, Oak Park boasts some of the most popular rock climbing cliffs in Michigan.  It also contains many fabulous pieces of nineteenth and early twentieth century graffiti, including an intricate carving of a mermaid and my grandmother’s name, Arleta, immortalized by a former lover.  There is a carved spiral as well, which is part of how I tied this town to my imaginary world in Cauldron’s Bubble.  


Lincoln Brick Park


In addition to tourism, Grand Ledge was once a town of industry.  It was home to a clayworks plant, a chair factory, and a brick factory.  Lincoln Brick Park houses the ruins of the brickmakers, as well as a quarry that became a swimming hole after workers struck a spring.  When I was a child, I searched for fossils along the quarry’s banks.


The Cemetery


Oakwood Cemetery sits atop a hill on the far north side of Grand Ledge.  I used to play saxophone in band concerts here during Memorial Day ceremonies.  This is the cemetery where Alda’s grandmother is fictionally buried, and it is known that bodies of those who died in winter – before modern gravediggingequipment was used – had to be stored in mausoleums until the ground thawed.


The Island


The Second Island is the only one of the seven islands that is accessible today.  It is actually a combination of two islands, tied together with a jetty where a rollercoaster once spanned the gap between.  The gazebo stands on the site of Mudge’s Hotel, a circular tower that was planned to have a whirligig on top, until its foundation was damaged by a flood.  Apart from that hotel’s foundation, no other evidence of the original resort remains on the island.  


Amber Elby will be hosting her book launch for Double Double Toul in Austin, Texas at Malvern Books on October 14 at 2:00 p.m. She will also be at the Mid-Cities Teen Book Fest at North Richland Hills Library in Texas on October 20 from 11:00 to 5:00!


Six months after the events of Cauldron’s Bubble, Alda is stranded in her remote cottage, unable to recreate the magical object that allows her to travel between time and place.  Meanwhile, Dreng’s home with Miranda on a distant island begins to crumble.  They both escape to Fairy Land, where they become embroiled in a battle of immortals as the clans of Queen Titania and King Oberon fight for supremacy.  In order to evade capture and return to their worlds, Dreng must rely on his adversary, Caliban, while Alda discovers an ally in the mysterious Ophelia.  In a realm where only humans can die, will Alda and Dreng save themselves and, more importantly, each other?  Or will they succumb to the fantastical powers in play?  


Double Double Toil continues to build on the world introducedin Cauldron’s Bubble by intertwining Shakespeare’s plays in a unique and exciting way, introducing their stories to new readers and established Bard fans alike.  Elements and characters from Hamlet, Macbeth, The Tempest, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Othello, and Romeo and Juliet combine in this fast-paced tale of magic and adventure.  Read on…


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Guest Post: Authors need Bloggers with Ms. Hannah Lynn

Hellllooooooooo blogging world!

I want to take the time to thank Ms. Hannah Lynn, author of The Afterlife of Walter Augustus, which will be releasing July 12, 2018, for stopping by today!

The blog tour for The Afterlife of Walter Augustus will be running from July 15th-July 31st.

Make sure you stop by on Sunday to check out my stop on the tour!

Without any further ado, I am handing the mike (so to speak) over to Ms. Lynn!

Authors need Bloggers:

Why self-published authors need to take a little more care when they are contacting bloggers.

As a writer, I am a member of various online groups and forums aimed to connecting readers and writers. Some of this is for promotion — writers seeking out reviews for their latest novel — and others are simply there to allow you to make a connection. Time and time again on these forums I see the same thing, reviewers frustrated by the impersonal blanket emails sent out seeking reviews. In all honesty, I don’t understand why any writer — or generally any well-mannered person — would do that. So, I thought I would offer an explanation as to why this is such a bad idea and why taking the time to know bloggers can be not only worthwhile, but incredibly rewarding.

Writers need bloggers, not the other way around

Perhaps it has escaped your notice as a writer, but there are hundreds upon hundreds of thousands of books out there. Yes, yours may be incredibly unique, a masterpiece, rewriting fiction as we know it — I could go on and on, but I’m making myself a little nauseous — but even if it is, (and the truth is that it’s probably not) it won’t matter if no one ever gets to see it. Bloggers are our doorway to readers. And they don’t have to unbolt the door if they don’t want to.

Bloggers are people

Again, it may have escaped your notice yet again, but bloggers are actual people. You know that annoying work colleague, the one who can’t be bothered to learn your name but thinks you should jump to his or her command when they call. That’s you if you can’t be bothered to go to the effort of finding out who you are actually talking too. It is just plain rude. You are asking for vast amounts of their time, if you can’t be bothered to even find out their name, you don’t deserve it. Which brings me to my next point.

Blogs are hugely time consuming

For about 3 months my husband did a daily vlog. I nearly killed him and I’m not joking. I never saw him, let alone spoke to him. Every waking thought was about his vlog, and that was only 3 months long.

The amount of time that goes into preparing material for any blog is massive, but with a book blog, it’s colossal. First the bloggers need to read the book. Even a fast reader is going to need to give over a day of their time to do this. Then they need to hone the review as well as post it on various different sites to up your exposure. If you don’t believe me, write a guest post for a blog — I’m certain you will find plenty of blogs willing to accept your offer — and see how long it takes you. I’d be impressed if you could get anything worth reading done in less than an hour (I mean that, I would be genuinely impressed. It takes me ages to write them).

Now let’s not forget that many of these blogs have been running for years. Some have passed the decade point. These guys have followings that lots of us self-published writers would die for, and if you don’t respect that, you’re in the wrong business.

Blogs are good

This is my last point. There is a reason that so many of these blogs have vast followings that stick by them year after year, and it’s quite simple. They are good. Bloggers are writers too and a lot of them are damn talented. Their posts are witty and clever, both detailed yet succinct; everything a lot of us hope our writing could be. Throw in with that some great recommendations and light-hearted humour and why wouldn’t you want to spend half-an-hour reading through their back catalogue of posts?

It can be hard as a self-published writer to get people to even look at our books, so for the good of all of us out there, can we try and be a bit more mindful of our manners in the future please.

Hannah Lynn, Author of The Afterlife of Walter Augustus available on Amazon from 12th July 2018.

Find me on Twitter @HMLynnauthor and Facebook @HannahLynnAuthor

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Blog Blitz + Guest Post: Merciless by Heleyne Hammersley

Book Description:

Two murders. One missing girl.

DI Kate Fletcher is called out to a freezing canal where a woman’s body is found floating in a lock. With no identification, the police struggle to piece together the details of the woman’s life.

In Thorpe a daughter confesses to the murder of her father. She says she helped him escape a painful death from liver cancer, but was her role more active than she claims?

As Kate and her team investigate, the links between the two cases are inescapable and everything seems to lead back to the disappearance of a teenager years earlier.

Then the main suspect vanishes….

Can Kate connect the events of past and present to bring the culprit to justice?

Guest Post:

Just over a year ago I was interviewed by somebody from my local newspaper about my writing and my latest book.  During the course of the interview he asked about my partner and whether we share a study space.  He had an image of us in a cosy room with wing-back chairs and a roaring fire, swapping ideas over a glass of brandy.  He couldn’t have been more wrong.

My partner writes non-fiction.  She’s well-known in the outdoor community as something of an expert on the Lake District and her walks appear in local and national magazines.  She’s also written more than twenty walking guide books covering the Lake District and other areas of the UK.  She’s appeared on local and national radio a number of times, local television (once!) and she’s won a number of awards for her writing.  Her career is very different from mine – as is her working day.

On my writing days, I usually start to write mid-morning after a dog walk.  I’ll work until lunch, have a break and then return to my computer in the afternoon or evening.  I like to listen to music while I work – Beth Orton, Tracy Chapman, Brandi Carlile – and I often get up and pace the room or stretch my back.  I talk to myself, trying out lines of dialogue or I’ll make a hand gesture or facial expression that I’m trying to describe.  None of this is conducive to sharing a work space.

My partner, when she’s not out walking (she says it’s work!) starts straight after breakfast and usually works in silence.  If she’s doing something that doesn’t require too much concentration she’ll listen to Radio 2 on iPlayer – usually Johnnie Walker or Trevor Nelson.  I find the radio too distracting so we often both wear headphones, lost in our own worlds.

As for the sharing of ideas …. she often asks for my opinion on a piece about the history of Northumberland or the best beaches in the country for dog walking.  I read all of her weekly walks before she sends them to the local newspaper and I read most of her magazine articles, mainly checking accuracy.

I share nothing!

She’ll sometimes ask how it’s going and my stock responses are ‘not too bad at the moment’ or ‘getting there, I think’ but I don’t really discuss the plot or the characters.  It’s hard to disclose details because I don’t want to give away anything about my latest book.  My chosen genre relies on suspense and surprise so, as my partner is my first reader, I like her to be ‘fresh eyes’ when mine really can’t see any room for further improvements.  I can’t think of anything worse than reading a novel when somebody has already told you everything that happens in it.

So, while we are both in the same profession, our work and our work-space requirements are very different.  While my partner has the ‘box room’ as a study, I’m happy to have my little corner of the spare room, with the washing, the dog and the muddy walking gear.  Our separateness might not suit everybody but it works well for us.

Author Bio:

Heleyne Hammersley is a British writer based in Cumbria. She writes psychological suspense thrillers and crime novels.

Heleyne has been writing since junior school – her first work was a collection of poems called ‘Give Them the Works’ when she was ten years old. The poems were carefully handwritten on plain paper and tied together with knitting wool.

When she’s not writing, Heleyne can often be found wandering on the fells or in the local park with her dog.

Links: Website:

Facebook: Heleyne Hammersley author

Twitter: @hhammersley66

Guest Post: A Journey from Teaching to Writing by Amber Elby

Hello all you lovelies checking in on Beyond the Stars! I recently had the pleasure of working Amber Elby, who is the author of Cauldron’s Bubble! I recently did a review of Cauldron’s Bubble, which you can find here, and Amber agreed to come on the blog with a Guest Post.

I am probably too relaxed honestly, but I told Amber I had no preference on what she posted, all I wanted was to ensure that she was happy with what she sent me. She sent me a list of options and I chose one that hits close to home for me.

I am actually in school right now getting my Bachelor’s degree and I will have an emphasis in education. I am preparing to take my practice PPR and possibly teach after graduation. Obviously I love reading, so I have thought about writing as well, but I am not very good at it. But enough behind my reasoning.

I would like to welcome Amber Elby to the blog and thank her for joining us here today!


A Journey from Teaching to Writing

by Amber Elby

I never expected to be a teacher, especially not a high school teacher.  But as I approached graduation, it became clear that I could not find employment in my degree field.  My timing was terrible: I was about to earn a Master of Fine Arts degree in Screenwriting during the height of the Writers’ Strike, a period when every screenwriter was essentially unemployed.  I knew I had to do something if I wanted a job.

To be clear, teaching is the most noble profession, and I have the greatest respect for teachers.  It’s difficult, and it takes years of training to do it well.  Even though both of my parents were teachers, I took a different path with my education and focused instead on writing.

But when I realized that I could not immediately pursue a career in writing, I went to night school and earned a teaching certificate to complement my undergraduate degree in English.  Austin had a teacher shortage at the time, so one week before graduation, I attended a job fair and landed a position teaching English and Screenwriting at the Liberal Arts and Science Academy, the city’s academic magnet school.

Within a few months, I went from writing dozens of script pages each week to the more challenging task of teaching American teenagers how to appreciate Beowulf and The Odyssey.  The problem was that I never really stopped writing, at least not in my head.  Even though my days were spent managing my classroom and my nights were a constant grading spree, I imagined stories that were inspired by my environment.

The students themselves helped this creativity with their curiosity and questions, continually sharing events from their personal lives.  I listened to their concerns and joys, their speech patterns and dramas and angst, and they helped form characters in my heads.  I listened to tales of their vacations and siblings and awkward dates, their parents and sports teams, and I listened to what they loved about literature and what they hated.

You see, young people have little agency when it comes to the literature they consume.  If they are lucky enough to have free time, they may be able to read one or two books each semester.  Yet if they are like the vast majority of high school students, their free time is spent whirling between extracurricular activities because their goal is college, and college applications ask if students are in track or choir, not how many books they read.  So reading falls to the wayside, at least reading for pleasure, and students only consume the required texts for class.

And honestly, many required readings are boring.  Well, they’re not boring so much as inaccessible.  So much of a teacher’s time is spent simply trying to get students to understand a literary work – its archaic language and antiquated allusions – that there is little time left to actually discuss and appreciate the text.  As a high school teacher, I soon found myself moving away from traditional “this word means this” and “here is another metaphor” education strategies and back to my creative writing roots; we discussed characters’ motivations, plot structure, conflict, arcs, and in doing so, we enlivened our learning environment and made a deeper connection with the literature because we could actually relate to the stories.  The students learned how to make literature come to life: the characters became real people with whom they could relate, and the students in turn took control over their literary education.

I would like to say this strategy of combining writing theory with literature worked and that I had one of those “Captain, my captain” moments, but the truth is that I quit teaching high school after two years.  As I said, it’s difficult.  Like many K-12 teachers, I could not endure the long hours, stress, and inadequate pay, so I instead moved to the community college where I still teach.  Now, my focus is more on the literature itself and less on the students simply because our classes are shorter and transitory, so I instead appreciate and explore conventions like syntax and setting and listen less to stories about my students’ pets and parties.  But I still often find myself thinking back to the time when I began my teaching career.

Remember that teachers are the bridge between young people and knowledge.  A teacher’s job is to take basic understanding and mold it into lasting, deep comprehension.  But it is also their job to turn young people into kind and functioning adults.  So every day, teachers build worlds inside students’ heads and motivate dramatic personal change, much the same way that authors create new civilizations and develop dynamic characters.  Teachers and writers are one in the same, in many ways.

My advice is simple: if you are a teacher and want to become an author, think about your students.  Be inspired by them.  Consider what they enjoy about reading and what they observe when they read.  By doing so, you can create characters that speak to young people like your students, and you can spur students into listening to texts and to themselves.  Also remember to never stop learning, or imagining.


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Meet Amber Elby

Amber Elby 2_20.jpg

Amber Elby was born in Grand Ledge, Michigan but spent much of her childhood in the United Kingdom.  She began writing when she was three years old and created miniature books by asking her family how to spell every, single, word.  Several years later, she saw her first Shakespearean comedy, Much Ado About Nothing, in London.  Many years later, she studied Creative Writing at Michigan State University’s Honors College before earning her Master of Fine Arts degree in Screenwriting at the University of Texas at Austin.  She currently resides in Texas with her husband and two daughters and spends her time teaching, traveling, and getting lost in imaginary worlds.


Connect with Amber

Goodreads • Twitter • Facebook • Instagram



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Guest Post: Rogue Treasure, The Subscription Box for EVERY Fandom

Good morning everyone!

Today we’ve got a guest post from a dear friend of mine, Jordyn! She runs a few companies, but today we are featuring her BRAND NEW book subscription box, Rogue Treasure.

Jordyn and I actually met through a fandom group on Facebook. She wanted to create a group message for women to chat about books and life. Out of the thirty or so that wanted in, there’s about ten of us (maybe?) left. Honestly, they are some of the funniest, spunkiest women out there. I consider them to be great friends and some of the best women I have ever met.

Anyway, I’ll let her get into the details, but it’s unlike every other book box out on the market right now. Y’all should definitely check it out and give her a like and a share on Facebook!


My name is Jordyn and I am the idea person of Rogue Treasure, a new YA bookish subscription box shipping in April 2018! Your first thought might be, “Oh great another subscription box!” (Both with sarcasm and without!)

However, let me just say that we are a small company that is just trying to make sure that every possible fandom gets represented! A lot of boxes are focusing on upcoming releases or hyped-up books, but we want to include those fandoms that maybe came before the sub box days or even those fandoms that fall under the weight of some larger ones! Yes, we will still include those large fandoms for all of you super addicted Shadowhunters and Harry Potter fans!

The major thing that we do that no one else does is every month will have a fabric item. What’s a fabric item? Well I’m glad you asked! This is many things, such as, a t-shirt, scarf, booksleeve, tapestry, pillowcase, hand knitted item, etc.). When scrolling through thousands of comments from subscribers to other boxes, almost everyone wanted a wearable/fabric item of some sort, so we decided to be the company that delivered on this wish!

We are a company of total transparency, if you have a question, ask it, and we will answer! Everything we do is to make You the customer, happy! With this logic, prices were recently reduced to give you the best deal! We may not be a huge company, (yet!), but we can promise to do everything we can to do right by you and keep you happy!

Pre-Order is happening right now! So be sure to head on over to get your box today before they’re gone!

Always feel free to check us out at or on Instagram or Facebook!

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Guest Post: Southern Gothic Reads by Hannah Carmack

I am so excited to be sharing our first guest post here on the blog with y’all!

Hannah reached out to me to read her new novella, Take Your Medicine, and let me just tell y’all it is to die for. Hannah is such a sweetheart and it has been the biggest blessing for me to be able to work with her. I have really enjoyed the one-on-one aspect of our interactions and just how easy going Hannah is. I feel like we both kind of let each other do our own thing and take the lead on our respective sides and it worked amazingly!

Thank you so much Hannah!

If you’re looking for your next read, check out Hannah’s Take Your Medicine. Take Your Medicine is a LGBTQ+, Contemporary YA novella with an emphasis on normalizing disability and learning to love every part of yourself. It actually is being released today, 3/5, and I’ll provide links to purchase further down.

I’ve inserted a graphic from the Take Your Medicine release campaign as well. Let me tell y’all, the visuals for Take Your Medicine, which are in my review post that I have linked above, are absolutely breathtaking. Below the graphic, we jump directly into Hannah’s guest post on Southern Gothic Reads. Keep reading to check it out!

Links to Purchase Take Your Medicine

Amazon • NineStar Press


Southern Gothic is one of those genres that is often associated with school-related reading. Both To Kill a Mockingbird and A Streetcar Named Desire are perhaps two of the most well-known pieces of Southern Gothic lit and also required-reading in a number of school curriculums.

Now, if you liked those pieces and want more of that driving, literary fiction Flannery O’Connor is another great writer to get into . But, if you’re like me and tend to struggle with the classics and need something more modern, there’s a lot of great Southern Gothic work out there right now, it may just be a bit more difficult to find because of the genre.

Here are just some of the awesome Southern Gothic Reads for the YA-Minded.

Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia & Margaret Stohl

Beautiful Creatures (Caster Chronicles, #1)

I too dream of sweet, red muscadines

I know this book got a bad rap, because it’s film adaptation came out right as the vampire bubble was getting ready to burst, but it is worth a read if you’re into Southern Gothic. The book itself is fairly large, but it’s rich with detail about the small, southern town of Gatlin and the mysterious magic it has.

Garcia and Stohl hit on all the genre tropes religious fanatics, the civil war (and civil war re-enactments), dangerous critters, and backwater witchcraft. The story is rich and is a great starting point for a young reader looking to learn more about the genre.

That said, this is a giant book, and it’s a part of a GIANT series. The word-count gets crazy there towards the end. But, if you’re looking for a fun, southern read, this would be a great place to start.

The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater

The Raven Boys (The Raven Cycle, #1)

Probably not as edgy as it looks

I can’t speak from personal experience on this one, but it would have been a crime to leave it off the list. The Raven Boys is perhaps the most popular southern gothic YA out there right now. It follows Blue, a young woman who has fallen in love with a boy destined to die.

Like I said, I haven’t read it, so I can’t say much about the quality of the content, but this is a very popular book and seems to have all of the fixins’ of a solid witchy novel. Oh, also, it has a super cool playlist.

Rebel Belle by Rachel Hawkins

Rebel Belle (Rebel Belle, #1)


This book is super campy and I feel like it takes a certain kind of reader to enjoy it, but that said it is such a fun southern romp. A lot of people compare it to Buffy The Vampire Slayer and although they do have some similarities, I do think going in with the Buffy mindset could lead to some disappointment.

Either way, pageantry, kicking-ass, and femme fatales are abound in this one and it’ a fun read if you’re into the campy-YA scene. There are tropes. There is a love triangle. And of course, some deep south setting. It’s a fun read and a good ride.

About Hannah Carmack


Hannah Carmack is a recent graduate of Northern Illinois University. She enjoys volunteer work and spends most of her time with the organization STEM Read, connecting authors and reluctant readers through hands-on STEM activities. Her debut novel Seven-Sided Spy was released January 2018.

Goodreads • Website • Instagram

Casting Call! Kind of…

As part of my personal blogging goals in 2018, I am looking for authors who are wanting to participate in author interviews and/or guest posts! I am here to help YOU!

If you take a look around my site, you will see that I have an ever expanding section of book reviews. I am wanting to expand my content further and what better way to that than a direct line to the people who make my blog relevant!

We will get you all set up here on Beyond the Stars!

Head on over to my contact page and fill out my form. It goes directly to my email where we can get started ASAP on setting up questions specifically for you and/or brainstorming topics for your guest post.

Hope to hear from you soon!