Spotlight, Excerpt & Author Interview: Amulet of Wishes + Giveaway

Amulet of Wishes cover

Amulet of Wishes
by Rita A. Rubin
Series: Chronicles of the Guardians #1
Genre: Fantasy
Intended Age Group: New Adult
Pages: 344
Published: April 28, 2021
Publisher: Self Published

Content/Trigger Warnings:
Shown on page: Violence, Blood, Some gore, Sexual references, Mentions of suicide, Parental death,Brief descriptions of corpses

Alluded to: Implied childhood sexual abuse

The Guardians are the protectors of Aloseria. They are the keepers of the peace and they have a unique ability–they can turn into dragons. Derek Draco is one of them. Haunted by the memories of his past, Derek comes across a piece of a mythical amulet, said to hold the power to grant wishes once all three pieces are brought together. Seeing an opportunity to right the wrongs of his past, Derek sets out on a journey to find the rest of the amulet, along with his friends, Jared and Arabelle. However, Derek is unaware of the true power of the amulet and using it to fulfil his seemingly innocent wish could have disastrous consequences.

Demon Magic Solves All Your Problems • The Shadowhunter Chronicles meets Talon • How to Find Your Dragon Teenager

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It was raining on the night that Derek Draco’s family was murdered.
It had been an unseasonably wet autumn, but after such a dry summer, no one was

complaining. Especially not those who lived in the Valley, many of whom grew their own fruit and vegetables, not only to feed themselves but also to earn a living. For them, this rain was like a blessing from the Goddess, Ithulia, herself.

Derek and his parents were in high spirits that night. Their home-grown produce had sold reasonably well at the autumn market in Windfell, the town that sat on the side of the mountain that towered above the Valley. When they returned to their cottage in the Valley, Derek’s mother prepared them a feast of a dinner with roast beef, stewed vegetables and a delicious apple pie for dessert.

Later, Derek found himself sitting up in bed, nestled comfortably back against the pillow and his teddy bear in his arms. His father, Alexander, sat on a rickety old chair beside him. Outside, the wind was howling and the rain lashed the windows. At the sound of rumbling thunder in the distance, Derek clutched his toy closer but didn’t voice his discomfort. He would be turning seven in the winter, he was too old to be scared of thunderstorms. So he hugged his bear to his chest and listened to the story his father was about to tell.

“Hundreds of years ago,” Alexander Draco began. “Back when daemons still roamed the land, the daemon king, Asmydionn had three sons, Algron, Milrath and Zathral.”

“I’ve heard of them,” Derek piped up. “Edgar told me that it was the daemon Algron who created the vampirism and lycanthropy diseases.”

His father nodded. The candlelight cast flickering shadows upon his skin and put a reddish tint to his brown hair. “That’s right. Or at least, that’s how the legend goes. It’s said that Asmydionn’s sons each left something behind before Aryanna Vir Fortis, banished the daemons from this realm. Algron created the strains of vampirism and lycanthropy. Zathral placed a curse on the Earth Elves that turned them into wicked creatures we now call grems.

And Milrath created an amulet out of three pieces, that when brought together, could grant wishes.”

Derek frowned. “Grants wishes? That doesn’t sound like such a bad thing.” In fact, Derek thought that it sounded wonderful. If he had an amulet like that, he would make a wish to never have to eat vegetables again.

“Ah, but it’s not that simple,” Alexander said with a knowing smile. “You see the amulet—”

“All right, I think that is enough for tonight,” came the voice of Derek’s mother from the doorway. Erica Draco was a beautiful woman with long, ink-black hair and fair skin. Derek often heard people comment about how much he resembled his mother. He had the same black hair, the same chin (which confused Derek because didn’t everyone’s chin look the same?). The only thing he appeared to have inherited from his father was his blue eyes, the same colour as the sky on a cloudless summer day.

His mother was wearing a nightgown that hung loose on her slender frame. Even so, the bump in her stomach was still quite noticeable. In another six months, Erica would give birth to her and Alexander’s second child. Derek’s first sibling. It had become quite the guessing game in their household as to whether the baby would be a boy or a girl. Both of his parents thought it would be nice to have a little girl, but Derek didn’t really mind what the baby turned out to be. As long as it was someone to play with, that was all that mattered to him.

Erica gave her husband a stern look as she stepped further into the bedroom. “Really Alexander? Telling our son stories about daemons right before bed? You will give him nightmares.” Erica pushed back a lock of her hair, revealing the sharp point of her ear.

Erica Draco was a Wood Elf, which made Derek half-Elf. The only sign of his Elvish heritage was that his ears were slightly more pointed than a normal human’s.

“I’m not scared,” Derek protested.

“No, no, your mother’s right,” Alexander said with a sheepish chuckle. “Perhaps that’s not the right story for bed. Maybe a different one? What would you like to hear?”

Derek perked up instantly. “Tell me a story about the Guardians!”
The good mood seemed to drain from the room like water tipped out of a cup.
His words had a strange effect on his parents; his mother closed her eyes briefly and rested

her hand on her swelling belly, a pained look on her face. Meanwhile, the smile fell from his father’s face, his brow furrowing.

It was like this every time Derek mentioned the Guardians. Which he couldn’t help but find odd. The Guardians were the heroic protectors of Aloseria, everyone thought so, but only his parents seemed to think otherwise.

“No, Derek,” Alexander said softly.
“Why not?”
“Because I said so.”
Derek folded his arms, pouting crossly. “It’s not fair. You never want to tell stories about

the Guardians.”
“Derek,” Erica said in a warning tone. “That is enough.”
“But I should know all about them if I’m going to be one someday.”
“Derek, we’ve been over this.” Alexander’s voice had taken on a stern edge. “You can’t be

a Guardian.” “Why not?”

“Because it’s too dangerous.”
“But you used to be a Guardian, Da.”
“Yes,” said Alexander. “I was. But then I left.”
“Why?” Derek pressed.
Alexander sighed and stood from his chair. “I’ll tell you when you’re older,” he said as he

came over to kiss his son’s forehead. “Sleep well.” and he left the room without a backwards glance.

Derek began to fidget nervously with his toy bear. “Is Da angry with me?” He asked his mother.

“No, he is not angry,” Erica said as she began the task of tucking him into bed. “He is just . . . Your da does not like to talk about those days.”

“But why not?”

“It is not for me to say, annwynia,” she said adding the Elvish word for beloved. Erica often addressed Derek and Alexander with Elvish terms of endearment. “That is something your father is going to have to tell you himself one day.”

Derek sighed in defeat as he lay down. “Okay.”

Erica pressed a kiss to Derek’s cheek. “I love you,” she said with a smile. “And your father loves you too. So much.”

Derek smiled sleepily up at his mother. “I love you too, Mum.”

Erica took the candle from the bedside table and carried it out of the room with her, closing the door behind her as she went.

The room was bathed in darkness and within moments, Derek drifted into sleep.

Later that night, Derek got up out of bed to get himself a glass of water from the kitchen downstairs. The air was cool and he shivered in his thin bed shirt and bare feet. He was climbing back up the attic stairs to his bedroom when he heard a knocking at the front door.

Derek paused, wondering if maybe, in his still half-asleep state, he had imagined the sound. A moment later, there was another knock and Derek saw his parents emerge from their bedroom down the hall, Erica holding a burning candle in her hand. Her hair immaculate even after just getting out of bed. “Who could it be at this time of night?”

“Maybe Coren’s cow got loose again?” suggested Alexander as he went to open the door. Everything happened so fast.
His father opened the door, Derek could make out a dark figure standing on the other side,

and before his father could say or do anything, there was a flash of silver. A choked sound and Alexander Draco crumpled to the ground like a puppet cut from its strings.

He fell onto his back and Derek could see the long cut along his father’s throat, oozing blood onto the floor.

“DA!” Derek screamed at the same time that his mother let out a scream that was part, horror, part anguish, part rage.

Stepping inside, over Alexander’s still body, was a tall man, dressed all in black. His coat dripping wet from the rain. He had long black hair, sopping and plastered to the sides of his pale face.

His eyes were the colour of scarlet and seemed to shine unnaturally in the darkness. “Who are you?” Erica demanded viciously.

Instead of replying, the man only regarded her coolly and brandished a long, silver knife. Slicked red with the blood of Derek’s father.

Erica took two steps forward. She was holding a dagger in her hand (Derek wasn’t sure when or where she had gotten it from) and pointed it at the man. “Answer me!” She screamed.

Derek had never heard his mother sound so angry. So wrecked.
The man’s lips curled slowly into a predatory grin. “No one.” And then he lunged.
Erica met the man’s blade with her own.
“Mum!” cried Derek.
His mother looked up to where he stood on the stairs with wide, horrified eyes. “Derek,”

she shouted as she spun to the side to avoid the man’s knife strike. “Get out of here! Go someplace safe!”

“No! Mum, I can’t—”

The man’s blade and Erica’s clanged against each other with a metallic scraping sound. When they broke apart, Erica moved swiftly and jabbed her elbow into the man’s chest. The man coughed and stumbled back a few steps. Erica looked up at Derek. The look on her face was some combination of grief, fear and desperation. She looked wild and Derek never thought he would see his mother look like that.

“Go!” She yelled up at him. “Now!”

Something in her voice and the look on her face propelled Derek to turn and scramble up the stairs.

When he was in his room, Derek threw the door shut behind him before racing over to the window. He pulled over the chair his father had been sitting on earlier and clambered on top of it so that he could reach for the window latch.

His hands were shaking so badly that he fumbled with it a few times. His heart was beating so rapidly he thought it might break open his chest.

The latch slid open and Derek flung the window wide. The wall outside his bedroom was covered by a garden lattice. He had used the lattice many times before when he wished to leave the house without his parent’s knowledge. Derek hopped up onto the windowsill and began to climb down.

The rain had grown heavier, the droplets of water falling against Derek’s skin like cold needle tips, soaking his clothes and hair in a matter of seconds. The rain also made the lattice slippery so that Derek struggled at times to find purchase with his hands and feet.

Once he was on the ground, Derek splashed through the muddy vegetable garden, jumped over the white, picket fence that encircled their home, and made for the hilltop at the edge of the Valley.

His mother had said to get somewhere safe and the first place that came to mind was Windfell. There were Guards at Windfell, Guards with swords that were big and sharp and that would stab that man in the heart if he tried to hurt Derek.

Derek’s legs were tired and sore by the time he had reached the top of the hill. He had paused briefly to catch his breath when there was an ear-splitting explosion and Derek whirled around to see that their little cottage, his home, was on fire.

The plumes of orange flame lit up the night sky.
Derek sucked in a breath. Mum.
But he couldn’t linger here. Windfell. He had to get to Windfell. He had to get someplace

safe, like his mother had asked him to. So Derek turned back around and plunged into the

forest ahead of him. It was so dark that Derek could hardly see what was in front of him. He stumbled over sharp rocks and twigs that stabbed painfully into the soles of his bare feet.

When Derek finally felt like he could run no more, he collapsed against the base of an old, oak tree, boneless and panting and shivering in his saturated clothing. He closed his eyes and saw the image of his father lying dead on the floor. He could still hear his mother’s agonized screams and see his home on fire. He was even sure he could smell the acrid scent of the smoke.

Derek wrapped his arms around his shivering body. Scared. I’m scared. I want Mum. I want Da. I want to go home. I’m scared.

The rain had stopped and apart from the singing of crickets and the sound of his harsh breathing and quiet sobbing, everything was still and quiet.

The quiet was broken by the sound of a snapping twig.

Derek spun around and his heart pounded with fear in dread when he spotted the man with the red eyes.

And he was coming straight towards him.

Derek didn’t have time to wonder how the man had found him and so quickly. His first instinct was to run and that’s just what he did.

Desperate to get away from the one who had murdered his father. Who had probably murdered his mother.

He fell to the ground when he felt something wrap around his legs. His chin knocked against the hard earth and the taste of blood filled his mouth. Pushing himself onto his elbows, Derek looked over his shoulder at his legs, to see they were bound together by something that looked like black smoke. Only it did not feel like smoke. Instead, it felt as tight as rope, cutting into the delicate skin beneath the fabric of his pants.

As he struggled to free himself, a dark figure loomed over him and Derek looked up into the piercing red eyes of the black-haired stranger.

His heart was hammering in his chest, his body trembled like a leaf in the wind. As Derek stared into those bright, emotionless eyes, he thought of his father. Dead. He thought of his mother. Also probably dead. He thought of how he was about to meet the same fate. And he was terrified.

His vision began to blur. He felt as if the ground beneath him was tilting sideways and Derek fell onto his side. He was panting now. He couldn’t catch his breath. His chest hurt. He couldn’t breathe.

He saw the man bending over him. An outstretched hand reaching for him.

Mum . . . Da . . . Help me.

It was the last thing he thought before everything went dark.

About the Author:

1. Tell us a little about how this story first came to be.
The characters and the world of Amulet of Wishes have existed in my head for a long time and I’ve written many different stories for them over the years. The idea for Amulet of Wishes came to me during a particularly trying time in my life when I thought to myself, what if there was some way I could go back and make it so all of these things never happened? But what if there was a cost to doing so? Would I be willing to sacrifice the good things in my life just to undo the bad?

2. What, if anything, did you learn when writing the book?
I learned just how tough it can be to write a book and just how much work can go into it. That it’s not just write the first draft, edit it, done. A lot of the time, it takes countless hours of rewriting and editing. Just one reason I’m glad to be a self-published author who creates her own deadlines.

3. What surprised you the most in writing it?
I was definitely surprised by how much I fell in love with Darus, the adoptive father of our main character, Derek. He really took on a life of his own and I remember thinking, if I ever publish this book, Darus is going to be a reader favourite. And that has turned out to be true so far.

4. If it’s not a spoiler, what does the title mean?
Amulet of Wishes refers to the mythical amulet that can supposedly grant wishes and that the main characters, Derek, Jared and Arabelle, as well as the antagonist, Durbash, spend much of the book trying to find.

5. Were any of the characters inspired by real people? If so, do they know?
I can’t say they were. I tend to draw inspiration from other fictional characters when creating my own, rather than basing them off of real people.

6. Do you consider the book to have a lesson or moral?
I’d say the moral of the story is to not live in the past and that while it’s so easy to focus on the bad things that have happened to you, you shouldn’t let it blind you to what’s good in your life.

7. What is your favorite part of the book?
My favourite part happens towards the end of the book where Darus, Arabelle and the Wood Elves show up at the underground ruins where Derek and Durbash are fighting, and Darus says to Durbash, “Get away from my son.”

8. Which character was most challenging to create? Why?
I think that would be Derek. Out of all the characters, he’s probably the dearest to me, but I struggled for a long time with trying to find his voice and pinpoint the kind of character I wanted him to be. I think it took me until the second or third rewrite of Amulet of Wishes before I finally got a solid grasp on his character.

9. What are your immediate future plans?
As I write this, I’m working on getting Lady Night, the sequel to Amulet of Wishes, ready for publishing. Along with a related short story, Darus’s Story. Hopefully, both will be released sometime later this year.

About the Author:
Australian born, Rita was raised on the farms outside of Melbourne and grew up surrounded by wide open spaces, tractors and lettuce aplenty. For as long as she can remember, Rita has always loved to make up stories. Her first literary work was an Avatar: The Last Airbender fanfiction when she was 11. Now Rita spends a lot of her writing time working on her YA fantasy series, Chronicles of the Guardians.

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