Albert Camus

Don't walk behind me; I may not lead. Don't walk in front of me; I may not follow. Just walk beside me and be my friend.

Monday, April 20, 2015

A timid girl finds bravery at the edge of a scythe - School of Deaths by Christopher Mannino

As her year progresses, Suzie suspects her presence isn't an accident. She uncovers a plot to overthrow the World of Deaths. Now she must also discover the reason she's been brought there: the first female Death in a million years.


Thrust into a world of men, can a timid girl find bravery as the first female Death?
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.

Scythes hungry for souls, Deaths who subjugate a race of mysterious magicians, and echoes of an ancient war with Dragons.

As her year progresses, Suzie suspects her presence isn't an accident. She uncovers a plot to overthrow the World of Deaths. Now she must also discover the reason she's been brought there: the first female Death in a million years.

Are writers actually timelords? 

Timelords are a group of aliens featured in the BBC sci-fi show Doctor Who. The protagonist of the long-lived series is a timelord himself, constantly helping humans. Timelords come from a planet called Gallifrey, and are an ancient and very tech-savvy race. They have only one real "superpower," which is the ability to regenerate, instantly healing themselves and turning into a new person (allowing for multiple actors to play a single role). 

Aside from their ability to regenerate, and their two hearts, timelords are basically just like people. Their name derives from their ability to go anywhere in the universe and to any time, using a device called a TARDIS (Time And Relative Dimension In Space), which is a fancy box that can bring you anywhere. As I said, very tech-savvy. 

So how do writers fit in? 

Well, let's start with the timelords' ability to heal and regenerate. Every writer has faced rejection. A traditionally published author has about as much chance of success as you have of becoming a world-famous Hollywood actor, maybe even less. Yes, there are new options now, like self-publishing. But for those who go the traditional route, as I did, rejection comes swiftly. Each agent or publisher who turns you down, sometimes after only reading a two paragraph blurb, hurts your pride. An author who can't heal himself, allowing a new face to come forward, won't succeed. 

And let's not forget the writer's TARDIS. Timelords can go anywhere or to any time. They've got a box that brings them places. Well writers have a box as well. In fact, I'm typing on my box right now. This magic box allows me to explore any place in space or time, or even places that only previously existed in my imagination. In fact, writers are perhaps more powerful than timelords- since a writer is limited only by the margins of his or her imagination. 

Writers show us the world, sometimes to give us an escape, sometimes to help change things. Our motivations are identical to the Doctor's motives. What writer doesn't want to grab their readers in the night, and whisk them away on an amazing adventure? Something funny, but dark; incredible, yet honest. 

And let's not forget that writers have a lot of heart. Maybe even two hearts... 

Each story I write is a new adventure, a new journey. Each time I face disappointment, I throw on a new face, and heal myself. And the power of my imagination, keeps plugging away at this magic little box, a box that can take me anywhere...


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.”

About the author
Christopher Mannino’s life is best described as an unending creative outlet. He teaches high school theatre in Greenbelt, Maryland. In addition to his daily drama classes, he runs several after-school performance/production drama groups. He spends his summers writing and singing. Mannino holds a Master of Arts in Theatre Education from Catholic University, and has studied mythology and literature both in America and at Oxford University. His work with young people helped inspire him to write young adult fantasy, although it was his love of reading that truly brought his writing to life.

Mannino is currently working on a sequel to “School of Deaths” as well as an adult science fiction novel.

Author's Giveaway a Rafflecopter giveaway


Chris Mannino said...

Thanks so much for hosting. The print edition of School of Deaths releases in less than two weeks, and the sequel Sword of Deaths releases this June.

Juana said...

I liked the excerpt, and I've added this book to my book wishlist.

Jan Lee said...

I would love to read this book, very compelling cover :)

collenga said...

Sounds like a very suspenseful, exciting read and I can't wait to check it out!!

Chris Mannino said...

Thanks Jauana, Jan, and Collenga. Hope you enjoy- and as I mentioned, the sequel comes out in a month.

Unknown said...

The excerpt sounds great! Thanks!

Unknown said...

Nice excerpt. I think her being the only Female Death in millions of years will lead to a lot of interesting conflict.

Jessica Schank Snow said...

I enjoyed reading the excerpt.
Thanks for the giveaway! =)

Danielle merkle said...

Great excerpt, thanks for the giveaway!

Chris Mannino said...

Thanks everyone for taking the time to comment and read. I hope you enjoy. The novel also just released as a paperback.

Anonymous said...

thanks for the chance!

Unknown said...

sounds like a great book! Thanks for the giveaway.

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