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Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Welcome Guest Author Christopher Maninno

Do you feel the sudden chill on this blog? You are in the presence of my guest author for today, Christopher Mannino, the author of School of Deaths!!! Christopher is a fellow author at MuseItUp Publishing. Though the subject of his book might seem a little chilling, the author is not.

I had the pleasure of interviewing him and I hope you will learn more about this interesting author:

  • Where did you grow up and where do you live now?
As a youg kid, I lived in the Berkshire Mountains in Western Massachusetts. I lived in a very rural area, and spent a lot of time daydreaming while wandering around the woods, which helped inspire me creatively. I now live just outside Washington, DC. 
  • What and or who inspired you to begin writing?
I have been writing since I was very young. I devoured books as a kid, and the love of reading easily led to a love of writing. My first novel (unpublished) took me ten years, beginning when I graduated high school.
  • Besides writing, what do you do for fun?

I love to act, sing, travel, and cook.  
  • Your history of education shows that you really love theater and theater education. How do you incorporate this love in your writing?
I am fortunate enough to be pursuing both of my dreams.  Theatre and writing are two of my greatest passions.  One way teaching has influenced me, is through my daily work with teenagers.  I am a young adult author who interacts with actual young adults on a daily basis.  This helps me understand their needs, wants, and desires better than authors who do not work with kids.  Theatre is also highly creative.  I see the world in a slightly different way thanks to theatre, and the use this ability to create abstract visualizations when writing.

On the other hand, my job makes writing more difficult at times.  I am usually the first teacher to school and the last one to leave, because of the many theatre programs I run.  Time is not my ally, and I struggle to find time to write.  Most of my first drafts are done purely in summer vacations.
  • Please tell our readers what a typical day of writing is for you.
I'm not sure I have a "typical" writing day. Some days I get no writing at all, other days, particularly during the summer, I might write 5 or 6 thousand words. Generally I go for a walk or go outside briefly for inspiration (if possible I write outside). I like to listen to "film scores" on Pandora as I draft. I usually start with a bit of note-taking/outlining, and then just start writing.  
  • When you are writing are you a “pantser” or a plotter?
  I am definitely in between.  I need to have an idea of where I’m going, and I sketch out with pencil and paper where I want my story to take me.  I outline roughly at the beginning, but once I have a general idea, I let the story run its own course. 
  • What inspired you to write School of Deaths?
The idea for School of Deaths emerged when I was finishing my graduate degree at Oxford University.  I spent four months abroad, far from everyone I knew.  Every week, I traveled somewhere I had never been before.  I would climb castle ruins in Wales and visit cathedrals in England.  One of my favorite trips was to Tintagel Castle in Cornwall.  I crept to the cliff face of Barras Nose, a stony peninsula jutting into the North Sea and overlooking the ruins of Tintagel, which some believe to be the birthplace of King Arthur.  It was dawn, there were no other people in sight, and I had to struggle against the wind, fighting to keep my balance so I didn’t crash into the ocean.  I imagined being buffeted by winds, alone, and what that would do to a character, and came up with the character of Suzie, alone in a world of men, buffeted by sexism.

Returning to Oxford, I envisioned Suzie alone in a strange school.  The idea of a school of trained Reapers appealed to me, giving a fantasy edge to her story.  In an early draft, the school of deaths resembled Oxford.  However a beta reader told me, very correctly, that Oxford was the inspiration for JK Rowling’s Harry Potter series. I eventually changed the setting drastically to avoid that parallel.

  • Would you please tell our readers the path to publication for School of Deaths.
School of Deaths was written as the beginning of a series, but a stand-alone novel if necessary. I wasn't sure it would be published. I spent a year following the draft's completion querying agents and eventually publishers. Two publishers actually accepted simultaneously, and I decided to go with MuseItUp.   
  • With everything you are doing, how do you find time to write and publish a book?
I'm not sure myself. I don't sleep much.  
  • Are you planning a sequel to School of Deaths?
School of Deaths is the first book in a trilogy called "The Scythe Wielder's Secret." The second novel, "Sword of Deaths," which is also being published by MuseItUp, is scheduled for publication this coming June. I am currently working on the final novel, "Daughter of Deaths" 
  • Do you have any WIP’s that are close to publication? 
Sword of Deaths releases June.  
  • What kind of promotion are you doing for School of Deaths?
I recently completed a blog tour and a thunderclap campaign. My main efforts, however, are in live events. I am attending a number of sci-fi/fantasy conventions as a vendor, selling both novels and art prints inspired by the books, and painted by my cousin. At the end of this month, for instance, I will attend AwesomeCon, an event with an anticipated attendance of about 55 thousand guests, and will be selling in a booth right near Star Trek's George Takei.  

Just a heads up that MuseItUp Publishing is one of the sponsors for Imaginarium 2015 being held in Louisville, KY in September. You should consider trying to get there for this. I will be there along with a few other MuseItUp authors.
  • Finally, where can our readers find your book?
The best place is to visit 
for all purchase links.  School of Deaths is available both in ebook and paperback, with an audiobook coming in late summer.   

Now let's find out more about your book, School of Deaths


The Scythe Wielder's Secret, Book One

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 enslave 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.

Wow, can we get a sneak peek at some of this book?


She walked to Hann who stood in the center of the class. He handed her a long scythe, even taller than she was. It was light in her hand; the handle danced with energy. The blade slid through the air like sunlight through water. Life flowed down from the blade, coursing through the handle, sending tingles into her arm. Sweat beaded in her palms and trickled from her forehead.

“Let the scythe do the work,” reminded Hann. “And you’ll be fine.”

She nodded and walked back to her group. She tied herself to Frank and Billy using a tether. Then she held the scythe in her hands and paused.

This was ridiculous. She was a thirteen-year-old girl, a kid from Maryland, holding a scythe. Not some costume piece, but an actual, working scythe. Now she, Suzie, was supposed to Reap a soul. Even her mysteries with Sindril and the Dragon Key suddenly seemed trivial.

“Good luck,” said Frank.

She adjusted her grip and adjusted again. The tingles in the scythe grew stronger, itching her hands and arms. It’s ready. It wants to swing; to do its job. She moved her hands a third time and Frank glanced at Billy. Billy adjusted his mask.

“What’s the matter,” taunted Luc behind her. “Is the little girl scared?”

She clutched the handle and let the blade fall. She hardly moved, but the blade shot downward, slicing air, light, heat, even thought. For an instant, her arm was on fire and the world vanished into darkness.

The smell of strawberries exploded around her as color, form, and details blurred into a single, unending stream of confusion. She heard the sound of screams in the distance, and tears. The scythe pulled her down, down, down between the worlds. She slipped past the twin suns of the In-Between and watched the Mortal World approaching. On the edge of her vision, she glimpsed two bright pools of green fire.

“You grow stronger every day,” said the eyes. “But the greatest challenge is yet to come.”

She tried to turn, but the scythe pulled her onward. She coursed through stars and space, beyond time and emotion. Lighter than a daydream, she slipped through a crevice: the gap between light and shadow. The blade twisted, finding its way.

A face appeared before her: an elderly man she didn’t recognize. Somehow, she sensed a name: Elias Stoneridge.

She landed hard, stumbling as her feet hit a tiled floor. Beads of white light trickled off the blade.

For a moment, she couldn’t tell where she was. She heard beeps and the slow intake of air.

Frank patted her on the shoulder. “You okay?” he asked.


“Remember, don’t let anyone else see us,” said Frank, looking around the hospital room.

Certified Deaths received special robes to help avoid mortal eyes. Ironically, the Deaths who’d inspired tales of the Grim Reaper throughout the ages had been students like her. Students and ones who didn’t make it back. She shuddered, remembering her skeletal appearance. It seemed long ago.

A man lay in a bed, connected to an array of tubes and machines. Suzie walked to the foot of his bed and read the name on his chart. “Elias Stoneridge.” The scythe quivered in her hand. The handle pulsed like a beating heart, or was that only her own heartbeat? No, the blade felt the soul, it was hungry.

“It’s his time,” said Frank, patting her on the shoulder. “Quickly, before someone comes.”

Elias’s eyes stared at her, but he seemed to look through her. He gasped for air and the machines behind the bed beeped.

“A nurse is coming,” said Billy, glancing into the hallway. “She’s only a few doors down.”

Suzie didn’t have time to think, but in a way, she didn’t have to. She didn’t even swing; she relaxed her muscles and stopped fighting the scythe. The blade leapt downward, straight through Elias Stoneridge. As it struck the weak stranger, she felt a strange sensation as the blade swam through the soul. For an instant, she swore she heard chewing, not from Elias, but from the blade itself. The scythe continued down through the floor, before swinging around. It pulled on her, jerking her into a stumble.

Elias sat up, his eyes wide with fear. His body lay on the bed and the machine let out a long, droll beep. The scythe tingled again.

“About time,” said the soul of Elias Stoneridge. “Past few days have been awful. What kept you?”

“Sorry?” said Suzie.

“Quick, quick,” said Billy.

The beeping and hiss of tubes grated on her. The blade at the end of her scythe turned slightly. Had she turned? No, the scythe was ready to go on. The tingling in the handle started to itch. Billy tugged on one of the tethers and waved his hands, telling her to hurry.

“Take my hand, please,” said Suzie.

“You lot are dressed a bit dark for angels. And where’re your wings?”

“Please, Mr. Stoneridge,” said Suzie. “We have to go.” She felt her strength failing her. She could barely stand. She was Reaping a soul. An old man she’d never heard of. A man she was taking from his family. She was taking him away to never come back.

Elias turned and peered at himself. “I am dead, right?”

“We are Deaths,” said Frank. “And we’re here to take you onward.”

After reading this excerpt I want to read the whole thing. If it was possible you took us into a world that has not been explored in this way. This is definitely on my Want to Read list!!!

Here is another look at School of Deaths:

Christopher Mannino Bio 
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 finishing the “Scythe Wielder's Secret” trilogy, and is working on an adult science fiction novel.

Fiction Author
Inspiration - Imagination - Fantasy

Theatre Teacher- Eleanor Roosevelt HS

Christopher it has been a pleasure hosting you today and I look forward to reading your book, School of Deaths. 

Until the next time as we go into May I will be hosting Maureen Fisher-Fleming on May 21st.  

On my radio show, Red River Readers Tales from the Pages this month my guest will be Whit McClendon. Whit is a new author and  he is also an expert in karate. You will want to tune into this show, because he has had a very interesting life. 

I managed to write 30 poems for April and all of them are posted in My Poetry on this blog. This month I hope to continue working on the sequel to If I Could Be Like Jennifer Taylor, "Jennifer's Story". 

If you are looking for some great summer reading for yourself or a teen you know please consider If I Could Be Like Jennifer Taylor and After. Ideas for how to use If I Could Be Like Jennifer Taylor
are also on this blog under Readers/Teachers Guide for If I Could Be Like Jennifer Taylor. Teachers who are interested in using this may use and copy it for educational use. Also please contact me if you are interested in having me visit your class. 


  1. Replies
    1. My pleasure Christopher. As I said your book looks amazing and I love the writing. Everyone should grab this book!!


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