Saturday, December 2, 2017

What Makes Harry Potter Special - the 4 BIG Reasons

Image result for free harry potter images

So I've been plotting a series lately (well, trying to - it's pretty [expletive] hard), and it's made me think about some of my favorite book series I've read over the course of my life, like R.L. Stine's Goosebumps, Louis Sachar's Wayside School, C.S. Lewis's The Chronicles of Narnia, and yes, J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter.

Of course, there are different types of series. Goosebumps, for example, is a bunch of very short, non-connected stories, whereas Harry Potter tells an overarching story with the same characters who grow and "improve" over the course of the series (as well as a plot that comes full circle). There's no wrong way to do it, of course, but I feel like what makes a series special, or really any story for that matter, comes down to the  unique elements of the story itself, which made me wonder (at least for the point of today's post): What makes the Harry Potter series so special? Of course, my opinion may vary greatly from yours (in which case you should alter your opinion - jk), and I think all of the above series are special in their own unique ways, but when it comes to Harry Potter, these are the reasons I came up with. (Keep in mind I read the series quite a few years ago now, but if anything that distance has made it clearer to me what elements are truly special to me personally).

1. An incredible mystery

The entire, long, epic series of Harry Potter is driven by a singular, incredible mystery: What exactly happened when the dark lord Voldemort tried to kill Harry Potter when he was just a baby? Why was he not able to kill Harry even though Harry was just a defenseless baby? Heck, Voldemort was even weakened by the encounter - how and why? Why did the mysterious encounter result in a lightning-bolt-shaped scar on Harry's forehead? Okay, okay - those are several questions, but they're all introduced in the very first book under the cloak of a single mysterious event, and in my opinion they serve as a very important piece of the engine that keeps the reader chugging through the entire series to find out every last single last piece of that mysterious event.

2. Hogwarts

Yes, yes, we all know and love Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry where Harry spends most of the series learning about magic spells and the wizarding world. The name (or at least the word "Hogwarts") is pretty famous nowadays in and of itself because of the Harry Potter series. But there truly is something special about the magical, castle-like school. So what is it?

I think it all boils down to the feeling that countless magical secrets are constantly hidden from the characters (and the reader) within the castle, always hidden juuuuuust out of view. Like, I wouldn't be surprised if I was walking down one of the school's random hallways and if I just happened to know what exact spell to utter while I pointed my wand at the exact right brick on one of the hallway's walls, a whole panel of the wall or something would slide away and there would be another short hallway that led to a piece of Voldemort's soul or something - or a magical talisman that lets me speak directly to one of the castle's original founders from beyond the grave - or even just a passageway used only by the elves in the castle. You just always have this feeling that so much of Hogwarts's and the magical community's long history and ancient secrets are hidden in its very walls, under its floors, in covert side rooms accessible only if you know the magical means...and there's something so much fun about that feeling, that mystery, that it subconsciously envelopes me every time I open a Harry Potter book. That's what makes Hogwarts special to me, anyway.

3. Plotting

Make no bones about it, J.K. Rowling is a plotting genius. Every single one of the Harry Potter books is like an incredibly complex, innately woven fiction-rug with surprises and twists periodically stitched into the fabric. So many things and events are happening with so many characters that it mirrors real life in a way. And the truly magical aspect is that they all weave in and effect one another, also kind of like life - and you never see how any of them relate until - BAM - J.K. Rowling ties a couple threads together. What's more - and what might truly be impressive - is that the entire series is also an incredibly complex, innately woven fiction-rug. Events that happen in book one effect events that happen in book six. Large reveals that happen in later books have all the seeds and foreshadowing planted for them in earlier books. That is, of course, because J.K. Rowling plotted every single book out before she even started writing the first one - and the result is truly special: an intricately woven plot that not only constantly entertains, but frequently blows your mind. At least it did mine.

4. Epic-ness

Loads of fantasy stories/series are epic in nature. It's really just a part of the game (heck, there's even a fantasy subgenre specifically called epic fantasy), and Harry Potter is no exception. In particular, when I was a kid reading the Harry Potter books, there was something so awe-inspiring about each book being longer than the last. In some way it made the series feel bigger and more epic as it went along, and I remember particularity being blown away when the fourth book (Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire) was released, since it was quite a bit longer than the first three. I mean, it was a monster. Of course, after the fourth book, the rest of them were all around the same length (well, they were all "monsters," at least) and even though they didn't each continue to get longer than the last one like the first few books did, it was still pretty freaking epic overall, which, of course, was pretty freaking awesome.

Anyway, to me, those are the four elements that put Harry Potter in the special category. I imagine there are other things I'm missing, and I'm sure you have your own personal elements, but whenever I happen to think and look back on Harry Potter, those are the four things that pop out the most to me. How about you?

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

All The Missing Girls "Review"

So I recently finished another book I enjoyed a lot. Like the last one, it's a psychological thriller (or maybe it's just plain called a thriller? I'm honesty not entirely sure). Anyway, it's called All the Missing Girls by Megan Miranda, and it's the first adult book I've read in a while (I tend to read primarily middle-grade and young adult books, and usually of the fantasy and science fiction variety at that).

Image result for all the missing girlsAs as I was saying, it's a pretty fun book. It's about a young woman named Nicolette whose dear childhood friend went missing in her small hometown (gotta love those small-town mysteries haha) when they were both only eighteen years old. At that point Nicolette immediately left the town, abandoning her other friends and family, to start a new life elsewhere and leave her friend's mysterious disappearance and all the baggage it heaped up behind her.

However, ten years later she visits her hometown and family again, and another girl goes missing while she' s staying at her old family house. Of course, there seems to be a mysterious link between the two girls' disappearances even though ten whole years have passed between them. Nicolette winds up staying at her old family house for a while to piece together the truth of the latest missing girl, Nicolette's own family, and what really happened the night her childhood friend went missing all those years ago.

Like most thrillers, it's a very twisty read, and a unique element of it is that the story is basically told backwards from a significant event (I'm not going to say what event that is), so each large section of the book is labeled "The Day Before." I admit the format confused me a tiny bit from time to time, but overall it was a very interesting device that worked well for the story and gave it a unique feel. Anyway, I highly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys psychological thrillers. It's rare that I finish reading a book at all, and with this one I made it right up to the twisty end hehe.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

New Release: Abby's Letters by Dana Romanin

I am excited and pleased to announce the release of fellow Clean Reads author Dana Romanin's debut novel Abby's Letters. Congratulations, Dana - looks like a fun and meaningful story!

For years, Jane’s mom told her horror stories about her time spent in foster care. Now she’s determined to keep her little sister from suffering the same fate.

Seventeen-year-old Jane Sanders has had to take care of her alcoholic mother and little sister, Abby, since her dad died seven years ago. And now Mom had to go and die too. Authorities determine it was a homeless transient who died in the fire of the old manufacturing plant, but Jane knows the truth.

There is no way she’s going to let Abby go into foster care which leaves her with one option—fake her mom’s life. As far as Abby knows, their mom is in rehab. And Jane wants to keep it that way. She’d be eighteen in a few months then she could become legal guardian to her sister. With the help of her best friend, Clark, it should be easy, right? 

Juggling nosy neighbors, a concerned school counselor, and an oblivious new boyfriend turns out to be harder than Jane thought. But the real problem begins when Abby starts writing letters to Mom. Through Abby’s letters, Jane sees a different side to their mom—a side she could have loved. And loving Mom is something she didn’t plan on. Because loving somebody makes it harder to ignore their death.


Clark exhaled. “Anything for you, Janie.”
Oh. He had to pull out the nickname. It crushed her. Asking Clark to lie for her—she had never asked so much of him. It went against everything he believed in. She didn’t believe in all that Christian stuff, but he did. Keeping this secret would mean disrespecting his mother. It meant he would have to go against his beliefs.
Disrespect his God.
But his God wasn’t there for her, and He certainly wasn’t going to save Abby from foster care.
Jane would, though.
She entwined her fingers with his. He was so different than the little boy who’d played hide-and-seek with her on warm summer nights, back when her world was filled with her father’s laughter and her mother’s smiles. Now his muscle twitched in his strong jawline. What happened to the freckle-faced boy she had played G.I. Joe and Transformers with? He even had stubble.
“Thanks, Superman.”
“You’re the only one allowed to call me that.”
“And you’re the only one allowed to call me Janie.”
“This is too much. You can’t do this alone.” His thumb caressed her hand.
“I’m not. I have you.”


Heart-wrenching, beautiful, and complex, Abby’s Letters is an exquisitely written treatise on mother-daughter relationships, forgiveness, and love. Romanin skillfully tells this fragile family’s story with tenderness and grace, highlighting the interplay of a young woman’s painful past, uncertain future, and unflinching sisterly devotion. Each moment in this novel is a treasure shaped by masterful prose and lyrical storytelling. Do not miss this book. This is a story that should be read by anyone who is a mother or who loves one.
--Megan Whitson Lee, author of Suburban Dangers and the award-winning novel, Captives.

Dana Romanin’s debut novel is a poignant tale of love and lives lost, and one girl’s attempt to keep what’s left of her family together, despite all the odds. A wonderful and thought-provoking read.
--Diana Sharples, young adult author of Running Lean.

Displaying Dana Romanin.jpg

About Dana

Dana Romanin has dreamed of being a writer since she was a little girl pretending to be Anne Shirley (from Anne of Green Gables). She used to write under a forsythia bush, but now she writes in a messy office that she shares with her sewing obsessed daughter.

Dana’s short story, The Silence of Sand, was chosen for adaptation into a short film performed by the Blue Man Group. Dana has also published short fiction for teens in Encounter—The Magazine and had a short story published in a Family Fiction anthology, The Story 2014. Her first novel, Abby’s Letters, releases in June 2017.

She lives in a small town near the Blue Ridge Mountains in Virginia with her wonderful husband, three beautiful kids, and a lot of persnickety pets.

You can find her blog and awkward videos on her website She can also be found on Twitter (@DanaRomanin) and her Facebook fan page (DanaRomaninAuthor).


Barnes & Noble:

Saturday, July 1, 2017

The Fourth Generation on Sale for $.99 Again!'s happening! My debut novel The Fourth Generation is on sale yet again (that's a second full time, folks) for a limited time and for the remarkably cheap price of only 99 cents. Seriously, it's only 99 cents, folks! Below is a brief summary/back-cover copy of it. Oh - and don't forget to drop by Amazon or Barnes & Noble to snag yourself an e-book copy if you haven't already:

In the future, no adults exist. Ever since the plague swept the world 100 years ago, no one has lived past seventeen.

Sixteen-year-old Gorin, a collector of curious artifacts left over from the pre-plague civilization, is on the verge of perishing from that deadly epidemic. And his last wish is to find a way to visit the rulers’ reputedly magnificent, off-limits mansion.

Up against the clock, he and his friend Stausha steal into the mansion and discover a secret more horrifying than they ever could’ve imagined—a secret that holds the key to the survival of the whole human race.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

The Stranger Game "Review"

Image result for the stranger game cylin busby
So I just finished reading a young adult psychological thriller called The Stranger Game by Cylin Busby, and I honestly have to say this is one of the most fun books I've read in a long time. It was very tough to put down, and I literally had to read the last 100 pages or so in one day this past Saturday (which is unheard of for me - I rarely read that much in one day, and I'm a very slow reader at that). The book just commanded that I finish it.

In any case, for those of you who are wondering, here's a bit about the book: It's plugged as "Gone Girl for teens" (incidentally, I read and enjoyed Gone Girl recently, too, although I think I enjoyed The Stranger Game more due to the faster YA-style pacing), and it's about a high school girl name Nico whose older sister mysteriously disappeared for four years, and then is found by authorities and rejoins Nico's family. However, there are some major and mysterious (there's that word again) discrepancies between the sister Nico remembers from four years ago and the one who has returned. I won't say more than that, except that the story is predominantly told through Nico's eyes with sporadic flashes to her sister's perspective while she is "gone", and there are many great plot twists galore throughout the book. All in all, a very eerie, but very satisfying read.

On another note, I've found myself reading and enjoying psychological thrillers more and more. It's interesting...throughout my writing career I've been into and written horror, space opera, alien science fiction, epic fantasy, "straight-up" science fiction, dystopian, and I've even written a humorous superhero book somewhere in the mix, but I'm starting to think the next genre I'm going to write a story or book in is psychological thriller.

Also, I think I'm going to review a book on my blog every once in a while to add a variation to it, and I think it's a nice way to "give back" to the writing community, too. So, yeah, bottom line of this post: I highly recommend The Stranger Game, and I'm the last person to say that lightly, so go out and buy it and read it now!

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Stuck Stuck Stuck in a Rut Rut Rut

I've been hard at work on my latest book, a young adult science fiction time-travel novel, but unfortunately I've been stuck in a rut as of late. I really, truly, absolutely hate it when this happens, but it seems to happen at least once per book (if I'm lucky) - I simply get to a point in the story where I don't know how to progress, and that happens to be where I'm at right now.

In this particular case, I've made it a whopping two hundred pages through the draft without a hitch (well, for the most part). But for some reason I'm just not sure what should happen next (similar to what happened with the last book I scrapped, although this one is much farther along). Funny thing is, since I'm somewhat of a pre-plotter, I had a pretty well-realized idea beforehand of where I wanted to go, but for some reason the story simply isn't cooperating with my initial plan and I have no idea why. Right now we're talking more than two straight weeks of not being able to continue with the story at all. I've been brainstorming like crazy, bouncing ideas off friends, writing buddies, and even the ficus in my backyard, and have even tried revising some of the ideas we've come up with into the book itself (well, the ficus didn't have much input), but so far nothing has solidified itself as a worthy fit.

Talk about a serious "ARGH!" Haha.

Oh, well. At the end of the day I might need to put the book on the back-burner for a little while, get some distance from it so I can return to it later with fresh eyes, but it's definitely a doozy. I have one friend who's been right there with me every step of the way these past two weeks trying to help me crack this one, and even he is stumped.

But have ye a little faith - I'm positive I'll get through this rough patch at some point. It's just a little frustrating, that's all, made even more frustrating due to the fact I'm stuck at a spot close to the story's conclusion (this book will be more on the slimmer size length-wise, but then again what else is new with me?). Hopefully I'll eventually solve the riddle, finish the book, and it'll be out in the world for people to enjoy. In the meantime, wish me luck cracking this one! I'm going to need it!

Sunday, March 19, 2017

New Website is Now Live

I'm very excited to announce my new-and-improved author website has just gone live (check it out at! It's got the same background pic as before, but now it has a new layout, a new "About My Writing" tab, and revamped bio and contact pages, among other things. Concerning the "Contact" page, you can now join my mailing list to be updated about any new releases or exciting announcements. Yay! So if you get the chance, feel free to stop on by and check it out. Until next time, happy reading and/or writing!

Friday, March 3, 2017

Back from Hiatus & New Website

So some of my health issues have at least subsided a bit, and I’ve been back in the groove of the writing thing. I’m working on a new project, too. I wound up scrapping the young adult science fiction novel I was working on before. I’d made it to about 30,000 words (for those of you who aren’t publishing-industry-insiders, that’s a little over a hundred pages), and now I’ve started a new YA sci-fi book.

Why am I scrapping the old one? Well, quite simply, I don’t know where to go with it. Sometimes this happens with us writers. We pour loads of time and effort into a project, and it winds up just simply not working out. (Sounds like some other things in life, eh? Like my quest of beating all the cups in Mario Kart 8 on 200CC mode. Just kidding. Well…I wish I was.) I got about halfway through the story, but it was too short, and I couldn’t think of a way to extend it that’s both original and compelling enough to me personally to write. And, believe me, it’s VERY important that I find my own stories compelling enough to write hehe.

Anyway, I’ll keep the story file on my computer, of course, in case I ever have a burst of revelation in the future as to how to continue it. You know, a subconscious one that’s sure to happen when I’m eighty years old and am watering a ficus in my backyard and – BOOM! – I realize I can add a vengeful, mutated ficus into the second half of the story, woven among a brilliant plot line, of course, that’ll extend the story to a natural conclusion. OK, I’m being ridiculous, but you get the point. Maybe at some point in the future I’ll have a random light-bulb moment, and I’ll be able to continue the story. But for now, it’s in my best interest to put my efforts into a new tale, which, coincidentally, is another YA sci-fi. This one has to do with time-travel, though, whereas the one I scrapped is an alien story.

In other news, I’m planting a ficus in my backyard. Just kidding – I’m working on a new author website (a revamped version of the existing site - It’s going very well, thanks for asking. In all seriousness, it’s going to be bigger and better and more fun. It’s not quite ready yet, but I’ll be sure to post when it is. Until then, back to watering that ficus!