Spotlight, Author Interview & Excerpt: Speechless in Achten Tan + Giveaway

Sometimes Magic leaves you…Speechless!

Welcome to the book tour for beautiful fantasy novel, Speechless in Achten Tan by Debbie Iancu-Haddad. Read on for details and a chance to win a fantastic giveaway!

speechless with ants

Speechless in Achten Tan (The Sands of Achten Tan #1)
Publication Date: February 22, 2022 (Skullgate Media)
Genre: YA Fantasy

Sometimes Magic leaves you…Speechless!

Eighteen-year-old Mila hasn’t spoken in the five years since she became an Onra, a first level Everfall witch. After failing the test to reclaim her voice and control her magic, her mentor sends Mila to Achten Tan – City of Dust – a dangerous desert town, built in the massive ribcage of an extinct leviathan.
To reclaim her power, Mila must steal a magical staff capable of releasing it, from the sky-high lair of the Bone Master, Chief Opu Haku.

Her only resources are the magical luminous elixirs of the cursed caverns where she grew up, and a band of unlikely allies; a quirky inventor, a giant-ant rider, a healer, a librarian’s assistant, a Tar-tule rider and the chief’s playboy son.

But in the City of Bones, enemies & friends are not who they seem and trusting the wrong person can be deadly.

If Mila fails she will never speak again and her bones may be added to the wasteland.

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This time, I have to succeed.

A glimmer of light parts the mist rising from the Everfall, the massive waterfall tumbling from the plateau above Achten Tan into the underground caverns where we live. The waterfall is steeped in magic. To pass my test, I must harness its power, and pause the mighty flow for one brief moment.

The cool spray wicks my skin with moisture as the sun’s first rays creep across the falls. I raise my hands to focus my magic and breathe deep, concentrating on a stripe of rainbow-colored sunlight refracting through the vapor. The water on my skin evaporates as it warms, humming with power. 

I gather the threads of ether to me, weaving them one by one into a spell. I cannot speak it out loud. Since the magic took my voice five years ago, it has reduced me to hand signals, gestures, and the words tattooed on my skin. But if the magic obeys me today, I will ascend to the next level, and be able to speak once more.

STOP. I command the water. The water swirls and writhes like a hissing serpent, escaping my hold. The mighty flow crests momentarily, building into a wave, shooting up above the falls when it should fall downward. Joy and hope flood my chest.

The gathered spectators gasp.

Even at this early hour, I have an audience: other hopefuls, their families, and friends. The other girls are taking their test for the first, or second, or at worst, the third time. This is my fourth try. A fourth failure might drive me to throw myself off the Everfall.

It’s a truly spectacular way to die.

I should know, it’s how my brother died.

But I don’t want to die. And if I had a choice, I definitely wouldn’t jump. As it is, being this close to the edge of the falls makes my knees tremble. I just want to pass my trial and ascend from Onra, first-level cavern witch, to Misra, the second level, trusted to use her voice and powers.

Distracted by the crowd—or the wind, or my frail ability—the water breaks from my grasp, collapsing over the falls with a mighty slap, blowing wind and water back into my face like the insult it is.

I raise my dripping face to view the people gathered beyond the falls. I spot my parents’ disappointed faces, my father clutching my mother’s shoulder in support. My Nora’s weathered visage rarely shows emotion, but I can tell her discontent by the tightening of her jaw, the whitening of her knuckles on her staff. And behind them, sweet Geb, standing a head taller than the rest. He wanted me to succeed so badly. His golden eyes find mine, holding nothing but sympathy. Still, looking at them all, I truly contemplate throwing myself over the edge, rather than having to face them as a failure once more.

I shake my head to dislodge such thoughts. I can’t put them through that again.

Instead, I swallow my shame, hold back my tears, and flee.

Available on Amazon!

Author Interview:

1.     Tell us a little about how this story first came to be.

On May 27th 2020, during the first year of the COVID-19 lockdown, while we were all sheltering in place and going out of our minds, Chris Van Dyke posted a message on Twitter, “Does anybody want to play a game with this collaborative writing idea I have?” 30 different writers, scattered from Dubai to Alaska, answered the call. Over the next month we built a world together and then each wrote stories that took place in it. “Speechless” started out as an 1800 word short story in Skullgate’s inaugural anthology, “Achten Tan land of Dust and Bone” which came out on August 17, 2020, and also included Kamal and D’or’s story `Devastation song`. During NaNoWriMo 2020, I expanded “Speechless” into an 85,000-word novel.

2.     What, if anything, did you learn when writing the book?

That plotting is not the killjoy I expected it to be, that I can write 85,000 words in a month, and that having a supportive writing partner to read the chapters as I was writing them during the process is super helpful.

3.     What surprised you the most in writing it?

I always go blank towards the end of a book, even if I have an idea of the ending. In this case the ending was much longer than I expected, as if the characters kept saying “we’re not ready yet.”

4.     If it’s not a spoiler, what does the title mean?

Speechless in Achten Tan is about a witch who can’t talk, who travels to the desert city of Achten Tan to get her voice back. Its also a tiny homage to “Sleepless in Seattle”.

5.     Were any of the characters inspired by real people? If so, do they know?

Not really, no.

6.     Do you consider the book to have a lesson or moral?

I’m pretty sure its about finding your voice in a more literal sense and standing up for who you are and what you want. Its also about there being power in friendship and the connections we make with others.

7.     What is your favorite part of the book?

The heist scene with all of the characters sharing mind potion and talking in each other’s thoughts. Its where they each express themselves to the max and friendships and romance become impossible to hide.

8.     Which character was most challenging to create? Why?

Mila, my main character can’t talk. I had to approach each scene with that in mind and figure out how her inability to speak would influence the way she coped with each situation.

9.     What are your immediate future plans?

At the moment I’m working on a sequel to Speechless in Achten Tan called “The Bone Master”, which will delve more deeply into Kaii’s story. “Tar & Bone” – which is a prequel about Kamal and D’or as kids, and a YA sci fi series about a teen eco-terrorist on a suicide mission and the girl he meets on a faraway space station. So, I’m mostly editing, talking to my cover artist and juggling all four projects.

About the Author


Debbie Iancu-Haddad is a Jewish Israeli author living in Meitar in the Negev Desert.

She spends her time taking part in Anthologies (seven to date with two more on the way), writing VSS on Twitter, and buying way too much stuff online. Her goal is to promote body positive characters and include characters dealing with physical challenges. #ownvoices

For her day job, she gives lectures on humor, laughter yoga workshops and chocolate workshops, and sees how often she can make her two teenagers roll their eyes.

Debbie Iancu-Haddad | Twitter  | Facebook | Instagram


Click the link below for a chance to win a copy of Speechless in Achten Tan and a $25 Amazon e-Gift Card!

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Book Tour Schedule

May 9th

R&R Book Tours (Kick-Off)

Reads & Reels (Spotlight)

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Liliyana Shadowlyn (Spotlight)

Jessica Belmont (Review)

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May 10th

Sadie’s Spotlight (Interview)

   @books_inthecity (Review)

 Tabithabouldin (Review)

B is for Book Review (Spotlight)

  @booksintheirnaturalhabitat (Spotlight)

May 11th

Riss Reviews (Review)

@takealookatmybookshelf (Review)

I Smell Sheep (Spotlight)

Ravenz Reviews (Spotlight)

May 12th

Cheryl’s Book Nook (Review)


 @cleoniki.books (Review)

@mels_booksandhooks (Review)

                  See Sadie Read (Review)

Breakeven Books (Spotlight)

May 13th

@amber.bunch_author (Review)

Bunny’s Reviews (Review)

The Faerie Review (Spotlight)

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4 Replies to “Spotlight, Author Interview & Excerpt: Speechless in Achten Tan + Giveaway”

  1. Thanks so much for hosting my book Sadie.
    It was fun answering the author questions, though I don’t know why it’s sometimes harder answering a short questionnaire than writing a 93k book.

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