Have you ever wanted to visit the worlds and characters of your favorite books? Well, come and walk into our beautiful vast library and let us get you stuck in the pages!
If you’d like to try this feature out, please contact us for further details!
For SPFBO 9 I’m returning to my old tradition, where I offer to the authors in our batch a spotlight on Queen’s Book Asylum. While in previous years I created a new feature, this year I let them choose between all of my available ones: What the Hungarian?!, Tales from the Asylum, Stuck in the Pages, Party with the Stars, To Be Continued…, as well as the regular author spotlight options of an interview, and a guest post.
Peter Mooren, author of The Return of Abaddon, chose Stuck in the Pages and so, let’s see how he did with it!
Pete’s passion and wit are nearly always on display. Another way to put that is he can be a bit intense and fiery, but it’s offset by a smashingly remarkable sense of humor (some might make the dastardly claim that dad jokes aren’t funny, but those people would be wrong). Whether resulting from his hearty laugh that “the entire neighborhood can hear” or an allegedly frequent colorful expression, Pete’s wife has been known to turn red from embarrassment on occasion.
Born and raised just outside of Green Bay, Wisconsin, Pete speaks Upper-Midwesterner fluently. Thanks in part to his decade plus spent in the Army (enlisted first, then officer via West Point) after high school, he’s lived in many places around the country and world since then. But his favorite, by far, was in Costa Rica, long after his Army days were behind him. In a tiny Pacific coastal town and with no vehicle, Pete and his family embraced the Pura Vida life. The beach, the ocean, the sunsets, and the Ticos were unforgettable, and it was the perfect place for him to begin pursuing his dream of writing.
Pete currently resides in northeast Florida with his wife, two sons, daughter, and two golden doodles. Photo is Pete with their newest puppy, Koda.
Connect with Peter Mooren
You are an esteemed guest in the Asylum and you are currently browsing the books in our vast library when you spot a familiar title you really enjoyed once upon a time. You pick it up, nostalgia rushing through you. Which book did you lift from the shelves?
“No way! Alcatraz Vs The Evil Librarians. I really didn’t expect to see this here,” I said.
No one responded. How could they? I was the only one there, in the far recesses of the library. Maybe you’re thinking I’m a little crazy, but so what if I talk to myself? Everyone does it. I’m totally sane.
I ran my hand along the spines of the books and smiled. “I know this isn’t Brandon Sanderson’s most publicized or sought-after fantasy series, but it’s so underrated. Probably because its target audience is children. But I love how Brandon wrote the whole series as if he were Alcatraz talking directly to the reader. And then he essentially transmuted people’s—the Smedry’s—flaws into superpowers.” Yes, I was still talking out loud to myself. Whatever.
My fingers stopped on book three, and I pulled The Knights of Crystallia off the bookshelf. After looking over the cover, I opened the book to a random page—268—and began reading.
Turn to page 268 and pick up a passage that’s not spoilery. Share it with us!
At that moment, one of the “unconscious” knights near Grandpa Smedry began to move. He lifted his head, and I could see a deadly smile on it. Archedis, otherwise known as Mr. Big Chin, supposedly the most accomplished of all the Knights of Crystallia.
I should have listened more to Socrates.
“Grandfather!” I screamed, trying to fight the crowd and run forward, but they were so frightened that I barely got a few steps before being pushed back again.
Grandpa Smedry turned, still singing, looking up at me and smiling. In a flash Archedis rose, pulling free his crystalline sword. He slammed the pommel against Grandpa Smedry’s head.
The old man went cross-eyed—his Talent unable to protect him from the power of a Crystin blade—and he fell to the side. With his singing gone, Himalaya and Folsom immediately stopped fighting and froze in place.
Oh no! Our pet demon just got too excited by your presence, opened a portal into the book, and now you are stuck in the pages. Describe yourself as a character! What is your theme song in this situation?
I nearly jumped out of my skin when the Asylum’s pet demon snuck up from behind and leapt over the top of me.
“Babbling Buzzards!” I cursed. “You gave me quite a scare. What are you doing, way in the back of the library?”
I wasn’t entirely sure if the pet demon started hopping up and down because it relished nearly giving me a heart attack or because it really did love books as much as the Asylum staff claimed. But at least I wasn’t talking out loud to myself anymore, so there’s that.
I shrugged and angled the book downward so the little demon could see the cover. “Do you know the Alcatraz series?” I asked.
It nodded quickly and reached up to touch the book. A moment later, a crackle of energy coursed through me before it felt like my body turned inside out. “This can’t be good,” I mumbled before vanishing.
A man suddenly appeared through a shimmer of air. His disheveled medium-length light brown hair with a tinge of white coming through on the sides, blueish-hazel eyes, and eclectic blend of tattoos along his arms immediately stood out.
While not entirely hideous, I could tell he had a bit of a dad bod. (As I’d come to learn, he was less than two months shy of 50. Typical.) He did his best to hide that dad bod behind an extremely comfy-looking t-shirt. “That has to be tri-blend,” I said softly to myself.
Before I continue, I should probably catch everyone up on what’s happening here. This is my book. It’s not Brandon Sanderson’s. And it certainly isn’t the book of this wannabe writer, Peter Mooren, and his sad attempt at altering my story. It’s mine—Alcatraz Smedry—and I’m writing in first person. Anyway, let’s get back to the intruder, shall we?
Perhaps the strangest thing of all was the sound I heard. Barely audible at first, it slowly grew louder until I recognized the catchy melody of I’m Still Standing by Elton John. I only knew of it because it had been Roy’s favorite song, and I’d heard it like a bajillion times—until I’d, naturally, broken the record player, along with Roy’s signed Elton John record. It didn’t go over well.
For those who haven’t read the first book—first, shame on you, go read it—and second, Roy was my last foster father. He was nice, but I broke far too many things for him and Joan, my foster mother, to keep me around. Burning down their kitchen was the last straw. I didn’t really care, though. I break stuff. It’s my Talent.
After the initial shock wears off, you assess your environment. What do you see? How do the other characters react to you if there are any?
The strange man’s appearance in the middle of the chamber caused everyone to freeze in place—the High King, Archedis, the Librarian thugs, the remaining crowd. All except Himalaya and Folsom—they already froze in place when Grandpa Smedry stopped singing, thanks to Mr. Big Chin and the pommel of his big dumb sword.
Even Swcbn had put down her knitting needles and rested her hands on the half-finished afghan. (Again, for the new readers out there, I started calling the most powerful Librarian in all the Hushlands, Swcbn, because I got tired of typing, She Who Cannot Be Named—which I now had to type one last time to re-explain it. Sheesh.)
Since you are stuck, you have to decide whether you stay where you are or go and find shelter. What do you do?
The man seemed uncertain, like maybe he didn’t belong there. And I couldn’t help wondering the same. Where did he come from?
After surveying the scene around him, he began stretching. He rolled his head around—first, to the left, before switching directions and rolling it to the right. He followed that up by twisting his torso from side to side with his hands on his hips. But the man suddenly stiffened as he reached for his lower back.
Several seconds later, he gingerly rolled forward, likely in a feeble attempt to ease the new ache he’d caused himself. I’m guessing this sort of thing happened to him often. Then he slowly unrolled to a standing position and shook his head before finally shrugging.
I’m not entirely sure what he was “limbering” up for, but his entire display of flexibility, or lack thereof, was truly something to behold.
Your decision made, time to think a step further. You need food and drink. Can you find some in nature, buy some, barter or require it any other way? How?
A deep rumbling echoed throughout the chamber, and the man smiled sheepishly as he held a hand to his belly. “Oof. Sorry about that,” he said. “Where can I get some food around here? Apparently, coming through that portal made me hungry. Got anything spicy? That would really hit the spot.”
As if on cue, Prince Rikers walked forward to present the stranger with a plate of buffalo wings. The prince had found enough courage to forgo the relative safety of guarding the exit in favor of somehow procuring the hottest wings the royal kitchen had to offer.
Socrates. The questions piled up. What is going on here?
After devouring the wings, beads of sweat plastered the man’s forehead as he sniffed repeatedly.
“Water?” Prince Rikers asked.
The man shook his head. “No. It would only make it worse. I’m too far in, so it’s best to just ride out the heat. The flavor was so good, though. Compliments to the chef.”
I couldn’t stand by any longer. “What portal?” I asked, stepping closer to the stranger.
“What portal did you come through?”
“Oh, sorry. Well, I was in a library, looking at a copy of the third book in Brandon Sanderson’s Alcatraz Vs The Evil Librarian children’s fantasy series. Then, the library’s pet demon sent me through a portal into the book. So, here I am.”
“Where was this library located?” I asked, grilling him relentlessly.
“You’re not a Free Kingdomer!?” I half-shouted.
“Nope. I’m not from Europe, though–I was just visiting. I was actually born and raised in the good ole US of A, the heart of the Hushlands.” The stranger smiled and winked.
Openly admitting that he’s from the Librarian-controlled nation of the United States, he clearly thinks the books are a work of fantasy. This man has no idea what he’s gotten himself into.
Once you are full, a creature approaches you. What/who it is and is it dangerous?
While I was hitting the stranger with the hard questions, Prince Rikers lost his courage and returned to guarding the exit. And it turned out to be just in time because, not a moment later, an emu with an epee waded through the remaining crowd and Librarian thugs. I can’t say I was surprised. Especially after the bunnies with bazookas incident.
“En garde!” the emu challenged the stranger, causing everyone in the chamber to gasp.
I know what you’re thinking. How can an emu with a fencing sword be dangerous? And for that matter, how can an emu even hold a fencing sword?
Those are legitimate questions. I’ll give you that.
But let me ask you a question. Have you ever been poked in the eye with that blunted tip? No? I haven’t, either. But I imagine it wouldn’t feel pleasant. And I’m guessing being whipped by that bendy sword in the wrong place could leave a gnarly welt, too.
As far as your second question goes, just picture it in your mind—an emu holding an epee. C’mon. You can do it.
Aah. There you go. You answered your own question.
While interacting with this creature, you discover you have magical abilities. What are they? And can you use them at all?
The emu lunged, and that’s when things took an unexpected turn.
The stranger laughed at the sight of an emu poking at him with a bendy sword. But it was no ordinary laugh. It was loud and hearty—some might even say over the top. The boisterous guffaw caused the emu to falter, and it pitched to the side, missing its mark.
When the laughter subsided, the emu recovered and dusted itself off. (If an emu can hold an epee, it can also dust itself off. It’s common sense, people.)
Raising the thin sword, the emu yelled, “En garde!”
Clearly finding the idea of an emu wanting to attack him rather amusing, the stranger laughed. Loudly. And once again, the emu stumbled to the side.
“He has a Talent!” Folsom practically shouted.
If the stranger did have a Talent, that could only mean one thing. “Are you saying he’s a Smedry?” I asked.
“He’s not wearing any lenses,” Folsom replied. “There’s no other explanation why that laugh would cause the Emu’s obvious confusion.”
Folsom made a good point, so I turned to the stranger and asked, “What’s your name?”
“That’s a terrible name!” Prince Rikers yelled. “We should call him Attahasa! Much more fitting!”
“Atta what now?” Folsom blurted.
“Attahasa!” the prince repeated.
Funny coincidence. When I dropped one of the books earlier in the Royal Archives—
“Not a library!” Prince Rikers shouted. “Just wanted to point that out, you know, in case you were thinking about the Royal Archives!”
His timing was uncanny. Anyway, this book fell open to an alphabetical list of names and their meanings. And before I closed it, I just so happened to see the name, Attahasa. Apparently, it means loud laughter. I mean, what are the odds?
Attahasa. It sounds a little odd, but so does Alcatraz. At least Attahasa isn’t named after an old closed-down prison. No wonder I grew up in foster care.
But much like with Swcbn, I’m already tired of typing Attahasa. So from now on, I’ll refer to him as Aha!. (You probably think the “.” at the end is a typo, but it’s not. I wanted the “!” to be part of his abbreviated name—like Wham!! Incidentally, the second “!” isn’t actually a part of Wham!—I just used it for emphasis! Wake me up before you go-go. Don’t leave me hanging on like a yo-yo. Catchy, right?)
Are you still singing it? Did you continue with the chorus or jump back to the beginning?
How ‘bout now?
How does your encounter end with the creature?
The emu refused to dust itself off this time and immediately attacked. It didn’t even say, “En garde,” which I thought was very poor etiquette.
Unfortunately for the emu with an epee, Aha! couldn’t stop from laughing at the ridiculousness of it all. And that didn’t bode well for the emu.
After yet another failed attempt, the emu realized it could never beat Aha! and yielded. Then it dropped its head and waded back through the crowd, exiting the chamber in shame.
If you thought that would be the end of this little side-story, you thought wrong. Because everything went to h-e-double hockey sticks in a handbasket after the emu with an epee left.
Everyone started fighting. But it wasn’t the Free Kingdomers battling the Librarians, like it should have been. It was a free-for-all. The remaining crowd went into a full-on melee. The Librarian thugs fought each other. Swcbn pulled the thread from her afghan, unraveling all the work she’d done. Aha! continued hooting and hollering—even louder, if such a thing were possible.
To make matters worse, Aha!’s theme song, I’m Still Standing, began blasting throughout the chamber again. That, in turn, caused Himalaya’s Smedry Talent to activate, and she launched at her husband. Folsom welcomed the challenge, meeting her halfway.
“And what was I—Alcatraz Smedry—doing?” you ask. Excellent question. While you were asking it, I saw the High King snap his head around and point at me before he pulled his sword and charged. So, what I was doing was gulping nervously as I braced for the impending attack.
Meanwhile, the Asylum staff realizes what happened and finally manages to figure out how to get you out of the book. How much time do you think passed?
“I think you’ve just made everything worse,” I said, dodging the High King’s sword.
“I don’t know about that,” Aha! replied, having finally stopped laughing. “The Librarians are fighting each other, and that didn’t happen when I first read this book.”
“Yes, but we’re also fighting each other,” I retorted. “So, how is that any better?”
Aha! pursed his lips and nodded. “Good point.”
Mr. Big Chin took advantage of the lapse in confusion and leapt at Aha!. But he crashed to the ground with a heavy thud a moment later.
Aha! had vanished just as quickly as he’d first appeared. And Smedry or not, I hoped he would never return.
I opened my eyes, and the first thing I saw was a metallic humanoid pulling tubes out of my body while it whistled. It was a catchy tune, and I almost didn’t recognize it—until the chorus. I’m still standing. Yeah, yeah, yeah. (And, yes, it’s me, Peter Mooren, writing in first person again, now that I’m back in the “real” world.)
That’s odd, I thought. Looking around, I noticed other futuristic-looking apparatuses—apparatusi?—ugh, more than one apparatus.
“Where am I?” I asked.
“You’re at the Asylum,” the metallic humanoid answered.
“I’ve finally lost it, have I? I guess it was always only a matter of time. So, how many nutters are in this place with me?”
“What? No. You’re in the Queen’s Book Asylum.”
“This looks nothing like it did just an hour ago. What happened?”
“It wasn’t an hour. You’ve been inside that book for a very long time. It’s 2160.”
“It’s been 137 years!?” (I’d instantaneously made the calculation using my superior math skills.) The metallic humanoid nodded, clearly impressed. I shook my head. “Well, ain’t that a mother—”
While the staff fusses over you, your thoughts are whirring. How do you think your character would have changed the story going forward? What impact your short stay had on the world?
Other staff members poured into the room—some human, some not. They poked, prodded, and peppered me with questions. I was positively puzzled—perplexed, even.
But all I could think about was Alcatraz and the Free Kingdomers. I was sure my presence had made an enormous difference. And I knew—like really knew—that, if I could have stayed just a little longer, we would have defeated Swcbn and the Librarians right then and there.
The Asylum staff escorts you to a cozy room with a window to our garden and puts you in bed. When you wake up from your nap, you find the book on your nightstand. What’s your first thought? What do you do?
“Everyone I once knew is gone, so I might as well go back in and help Alcatraz,” I said with a shrug. (Yes, I was talking to myself again.)
“I should arrive earlier, though. I could really put my Talent to use. Ooh! Walking out of the pig’s butt alongside Alcatraz, Bastille, and the others would make for a way cooler entrance, anyway.” I won’t go into a long explanation on what the pig’s butt is, but I’ll at least say this—it has to do with tough guys riding hogs. If you want more details, read the book.
So, I opened the book to page 256. “Yeah, this’ll work. Now, where is that pet demon?”
The Asylum staff, concerned with your behaviour decides to keep you under our careful watch indefinitely. We assure you this does not make us happy but we will let you play with our pet demon whenever you wish. We hope you enjoy your time with us!
I’m sure I will—especially if the pet demon can send me through more portals into any book I choose! Ttfn.
Grab a copy of Peter Mooren‘s SPFBO 9 entry, The Return of Abaddon which is free on Amazon until July 13, 2023!
If you’d like to try this feature out, please contact us for further details!
If you don’t want to miss any of our posts, please consider signing up to receive email notifications or follow us on social media:
You can also support us on Ko-fi so we could keep maintaining the Asylum!