The Man With The Crystal Ankh

Please welcomeVal Muller author of The Man With The Crystal

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.


The Man with the Crystal Ankh / The Girl Who Flew Away

by Val Muller


GENRE: YA paranormal / YA literary



  • What or who inspired you to start writing?

Although I’ve always wanted to be a writer, life kept getting in the way. As a new high school teacher, I didn’t see how I could find the time to write and plan/teach/grade. When I was about ready to give up, I had a dream in which my grandfather, who had died before I was born, reassured me. His advice was simple: leave work at work, and write at home. I did, and shortly after, I received my first publishing contract. I blogged about the dream here:


  • When did you first decide to submit your work? Please tell us what or who encouraged you to take this big step?

Shortly after that dream, I took an enrichment class at a community college. The class required us to write one story each week, which was much more strenuous than the pace I was used to. I was frustrated because my writing style requires ideas to “simmer” for months before I could write about them. The class kicked me into gear, making me a more effective and efficient writer. The instructor told us about, which was free at the time, and that’s where I found my first markets to submit to. My first several acceptances were from that set of stories and queries.


  • If you could be one of the characters from any of your books, who would it be and why?

The character I most admire is Heather Primm from The Scarred Letter. This is a young adult reboot of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s famous work. In the novel, Heather turns into a rogue journalist who reveals a truth about her school’s football team that makes her an enemy of students and staff. I admire Heather’s adherence to the truth regardless of consequences. She follows her father’s advice to always be herself and never betray her sense of morals. I wish I could live in such a way, but as most of us have learned, it’s easier to go with the flow, even if it means contradicting what we truly believe.



  • How did you come up with ideas for your books?
    My books are all based on life experiences, though some are tangents to reality, touching only a tiny sliver of my life. When my parents read The Man with the Crystal Ankh, they commented about the fact that I’d remembered several details of my grandmother and her life after she moved to a nursing home suffering with dementia. These are details my parents had forgotten, but as a writer, I had those details locked in my mental and emotional vault. I took that truth—the way my grandmother functioned with dementia, added some witchcraft, and it ended up bringing depth to the novel.
  1. What expertise did you bring to your writing?

The important role of the violin in The Man with the Crystal Ankh stems from the years that I played. I started in third grade, which was the earliest my school offered string lessons. From the moment I held the violin and smelled the rosin on the bow, I was in love with the magic a human could bring to a silent piece of wood. I continued playing through middle and high school, and in college I joined the community orchestra. Like Sarah, the protagonist, I found music offered me a chance to relax mentally and enter an almost hypnotic state. When playing music, I truly lose my sense of self and feel that I’m part of the flow of the universe. While I never saw ghosts during the trance-like state of playing, it wasn’t difficult for me to imagine that a specter wanting to contact a human might find someone in this trance-like state rather receptive—which is exactly how Sarah finds herself haunted in the opening scene of the novel.


  • What would you want your readers to know about you that might not be in your bio?
    I was a very shy child. I had all these thoughts, but I never wanted to share them verbally: I much preferred art, music, and writing. An interesting tidbit about The Man with the Crystal Ankh: during a violin lesson, my instructor’s hand was very chapped and bleeding. The instructor ended up borrowing my violin to demonstrate a passage, and a drop of two of blood ended up on the neck of the violin. Two of my friends were in the lesson with me, and even though they were much less shy, they were afraid to speak up, too. That moment stayed with me, watching the blood seep into my violin. I wiped it off with a cleaning rag, but I’m certain the idea of blood on the violin was truly the moment of inception for an idea that would decades later become a young adult paranormal mystery.




  • Do you outline your books or just start writing?

I love to outline books. For each novel I write, I buy one spiral notebook (sometimes I need a second or third). In the notebook, I jot down ideas. Since I’m not always near the notebook, I will jot thing on scraps of paper, napkins, etc., and the notebook will then become almost a scrapbook of ideas. For The Girl Who Flew Away, I have maps and sketches of the logistics of the park where Steffie and Madison get lost. For The Man with the Crystal Ankh, I have a fold-out family tree, tracing Sarah’s lineage through the colonists who first came to the New World. I need to know how the book is going to end when I start writing. I’m not always sure about the middle, but I know where my characters will end up. Usually, I have the final scene in mind from the first page.


  • Do you have any hobbies and does the knowledge you’ve gained from these carry over into your characters or the plot of your books?
    I find pieces of me and my interests in all that I write. Like Steffie in The Girl Who Flew Away, I was enthusiastically involved in Girl Scouts, and I was always fascinated by the wilderness. Like Ian in the same novel, I enjoy sketching as a way to untangle ideas. Like Sarah in The Man with the Crystal Ankh, I spent years studying the violin. My series Corgi Capers is based on my experiences with my two corgi siblings, which I adopted as rambunctious pups at almost 6 months old.


  • Do you have an all time favorite book?

I love the novel 1984. It’s a novel I read every single time I teach it. The narrator is so paranoid—and rightly so—that I find myself questioning the truth of anything he says or believes. The paranoia in that novel runs deep, and it’s never clear if any of the information he has been given by his government is anywhere near true. As a writer, it really makes me consider the idea of an unreliable narrator in a new way.


  • Have you started your next project? If so, can you share a little bit about your book?
    I have outlines Corgi Capers Funny story: on the release date for Book 3, which is about a fire station and has a picture of a fire truck on the front cover, a real fire broke out where I work. So I was a bit spooked that there might be ties to reality in the series. In my 4th book, one of the things that happens is someone goes into labor during a historic snowstorm. I didn’t want that to happen to me, so when I was pregnant with my daughter—and had a February due date—I stopped writing it and turned to drawing instead. I didn’t want to jinx the birth and hoped for a quiet, snowless day. That didn’t happen. Just like in the outline for Corgi Capers 4, I went into labor 2 weeks early during a historic blizzard. It made an interesting story, and of course as a writer I blogged about it:




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:

Free preview + discount code




The Man with the Crystal Ankh:






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.