Thursday, October 26, 2017

VBT: The Man with the Crystal Ankh / The Girl Who Flew Away by Val Muller

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.


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

The Girl Who Flew Away:

The Man with the Crystal Ankh:

Interview questions for Val Muller, author of The Girl Who Flew Away

What is your favorite part of this book and why?
In The Girl Who Flew Away, protagonist Steffie forces herself to return to the woods—to the site of her friend’s disappearance. The scene is emotionally heightened because Steffie is alone: after keeping her knowledge of the disappearance a secret, she forces herself to make things right (or at least, attempt to). Her moment of determination comes as dusk falls, so she’s alone in the dark in a state park that has closed for the day.

I based the physical descriptions on my experiences camping in Brownies and Girl Scouts when I was a kid. While I always enjoyed the outdoors (and still do), things take on sinister shapes in the darkness. The pleasant rustle of leaves in daylight hours becomes a mysterious menace after dark. In fact, the first short story I ever sold was to New Moon Girls magazine (“Night at Camp Sandalwood”), and it was also based on a frightening experience camping at night.

In The Girl Who Flew Away, Steffie’s forest trek, an already challenging task, becomes all the more frightening in the darkness. This scene is my favorite because she is forced to face her fears in a way more intense than she expected.

If you could spend time with a character from your book whom would it be? And what would you do during that day?
A minor character comes to mind. His name is Ian, and he’s an amazing artist. He likes to go out into the wilderness and sketch what he sees, only he adds all types of whimsical creatures into the landscape so that it looks fantastical. I’ve always had an interest in art, and when I am pressed for time or too tired to see words, I often take up pencil and paper. I would love to just sit somewhere with him on a perfect autumn day and watch his creations come to life on the page. I imagine I would come away from the day quite relaxed and perhaps a bit wiser.

If you could have been the author of any book ever written, which book would you choose?
Every time I think of a great book, I realize I wouldn’t want to live through the inspiration behind it. 1984 is one of my favorite books, for instance, but I would never have wanted to live through the torment that Orwell endured to conceive that novel. Or take John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath: he actually traveled with a group of migrant workers during the Dust Bowl era to research that novel. When they went hungry, he did. Maybe I’m a coward, and I know pain is usually necessary to achieve greatness. That said, I think I’d love to have written The Invention of Hugo Cabret (by Brain Selznick). I mentioned above that I have a love of drawing, though I’m nowhere as good as Selznick. I would love to eventually conceive of a work that I could both illustrate and write. Selznick’s book is simple and complex—it works on many levels and can be enjoyed by children and adults.
Are your characters based off real people or did they all come entirely from your imagination?
My characters are mostly fictional, but I think it’s true of most—or all—writers that each character is made up of little pieces of themselves and those they have encountered in life. Primarily, the character of Sally is based on articles and accounts I have read of victims of opioid abuse. She’s in this vicious cycle in which she knows she needs help, and even seeks it, but cannot always control herself. In the county where I live, as well as many places in this nation, opioid abuse is a dangerous and complicated issue, and I wanted to raise awareness of it as well as examine its effects on the family members of the victim.

What made you want to become a writer?
I can’t ever remember not wanting to be a writer. At an assembly in elementary school, the speaker was a storyteller, and he led us to collectively create a narrative to explain the origin of our school’s name. At the end, he said, “Now don’t you feel better that you know the backstory?” I remember not understanding the question: storytelling was so inherent in me that I always wanted to know the stories behind things. Who wouldn’t?

I do remember the moment I truly felt the power of words. My dad had me memorize “The Night Before Christmas” when I was around five. I never really thought about what the words meant; I simply liked the rhyming patterns. But one night, after a heavy snowfall, the skies cleared and the moon rose. My dad called me to the window and recited the line “the moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow gave the luster of midday to objects below.” Then he went through the lines, pointing out the reality of the imagery in the moon reflecting off the pristine and sparkling snow in our backyard. I realized that I could be anywhere, even on a tropical island, and would forever have that image attached to those words. From that point on, I saw words differently and knew they would impact my life.


Val Muller will be awarding a $10 Amazon/BN GC and 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, and an ebook of Corgi Capers: Deceit on Dorset Drive, to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour.


  1. congrats on the tour and thanks for the chance to win :)

  2. I really liked the excerpt. Sounds like a great book.
    Best wishes for you and your book!!

  3. Great excerpt, thanks for hosting.

  4. Congrats on the new book and good luck on the book tour!