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The Castle
Cover by Claiborne O'Connor
Trade paper -- 395 pp.
ISBN 978-0-938513-31-5

First Printing $10.00

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"... Alex and Fasha quickly get pulled into an adventure that's more magical than scientific, so although the story begins in a sci-fi setting, it eventually transitions into a mode of storytelling more common in fantasy.... I enjoy both genres thoroughly, and Gatuskin's unique blend of the two makes for a highly engaging read..."
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paranormal romance, urban fantasy
So engrossing you won't want it to end
(and maybe it doesn't have to)

and The Tale that Stopped Time
by Zelda Leah Gatuskin
illustrated by Clairborne O'Connor

Two teens from the twenty-second century discover and reactivate an ancient spell. Time stops. Earth's fate hangs in the balance. Adventure, romance, magic and mystery — times two!

2nd Printing now available from all vendors.
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2022 Hoffer Award Finalist for cover design!
2022 Finalists

This is a powerful work of a modern imagination—full of history, wizards, castles and moral energy.    —Barbara Beasley Murphy, SOUTHWEST BOOKVIEWS

When I first started reading CASTLE LARK..., and met its teen aged protagonists,I thought this might be a good book to send to my grandchildren to read. But the deeper I got into its serpentine plot, the more enthralled I became with Zelda's ability to entrance the most adult reader. She is keen in her observations, excellent in her technical knowledge and a master at page turning suspense. —Paula Shulak, JEWISH VOICE

Imagine... Earth has been plagued by a series of ecological disasters. The population has been forced entirely off the planet for a time, living under massive domes on Mars and the moon. By the late twenty-second century Mars and the Luna are full partners in the Tri-World Union, and Earth is being resettled. Dotted with theme-park-like restorations, the home planet makes an ideal destination for vacationing Mars families like the Hope-Berbers — Cammie, Walsh, daughter Fasha, and family friend Alex. Finding a common interest in castles, Fasha and Alex prevail upon the adults to send them on a side trip to Great Britain, still largely engulfed by mutant vegetation. Accompanied by young environmental engineer, Amy Berry, the teens discover an uncharted castle hidden under a rampant growth of ivy. In the castle's turret they find an old tablet and begin to read the story written there. As the teens unravel the tale of Aziza, Rider, the Brotherhood of Wizards, the Counts of Fois, and the Earls of Hunt, competing researchers are racing to unlock the secrets of the strange mutant vine which surrounds them. When everyone has converged on the castle, the old story meets the new — and the fate of recovering Earth is sealed.

Readers respond..."I read Castle Lark and am impressed with the intelligence and imagination it took to weave such a complex and gripping story. It is the best novel I have ever read; and it surely must point the way to the future of creative writing. We've all had more than enough of the major presses'—and college writing programs'—formulaic pap: fictitious memoirs, 'coming-of-age' prattle, fake history—all dripping with explicit sex. It is stimulating to experience a return to the timeless basics: great imagination and good grammar. I must say that I was similarly struck by The Time Dancer. It is my fervent hope that you will attain the wide readership your work deserves." —Bruce Ferguson, Las Cruces, NM

"Zelda spins a tale that grips her readers and takes them on a spectacular journey to the world of tomorrow. I am not usually a big fan of fantasy writings, but I was captivated by the inner workings surrounding Fasha and Alex's adventure to his ancestral estates. I was fascinated at her perspective of what the world will be like in a thousand years. Also the workings of a 'tale that stopped time' within CASTLE LARK was enchanting, I couldn't put the book down and I actually read it all in one sitting. I was charmed by CASTLE LARK and I recommend it to all." —Shelby Harrigan, Freshman at Salve Regina University

"I was so busy reading, I almost skipped lunch." —Jim Davis, lifelong sci-fi reader and avid eater

"Teens and adults will enjoy this intriguing tale of travel from post-cataclysmic Earth to Scottish castles and beyond. Gatuskin gently weaves the reader through the lives of young Fasha, Alex and their families while raising questions as to the very nature of time. The story lingers after the last page has been turned." —Jane Freeman, Parent and Educational Consultant

Here's what author and educator Judith Isaacs says about CASTLE LARK:
In Castle Lark and The Tale That Stopped Time, the reader travels with two sophisticated teens thrown together by accident, Fasha Hope-Berber and Alex Huntly. They journey from Mars to Earth and from futuristic domed theme parks to the ruins of medieval castles in what once was Scotland.

Gatuskin couches some important questions in a highly engaging science fiction fantasy, not the least of which is, Do you believe in magic? So skillfully does she weave the tale, that I am a believer by the end. As knight errant, Sir Amy, says, "The only difference between magic and disaster, after all, is faith." This is more than time travel.

In 2054, life on earth has been largely eliminated by biological warfare; only a few areas have become habitable. Outside these rare recovered zones, everyone who returned to Earth after the great evacuation (The Evac) lives in mammoth climate-controlled domes. The situation introduces another important question: Is this a prescient look into our future if earth's societies continue to develop biological weapons and exploit our natural resources?

The lives of Alex and Fasha are changed forever when they first step outside a dome. They are astonished and frightened by everyday occurrences they had never experienced, like the feel of wind on their skin. With their first real taste of an environment where not everything is regulated, they come face-to-face with another significant question, one we all must answer at some time: When is taking a risk worth the potential reward? Despite their anxiety, they resist a return to safety and predictability — and thereby hangs the tale.

Castle Lark pulls you willingly into an exploration of futuristic technology, ancient wisdom and family rivalries, all backdrop for the burgeoning relationships between two teen adventurers and their diverse companions. Layers of mystery, political suspense and romance make this an engrossing read for all ages.

[Judith Isaacs, a former middle and high school teacher and administrator, is director of the Jemez Springs (NM) Public Library and the author of Jemez Valley Cookbook, as well as a variety of short fiction and nonfiction.]

Here's what author Michelle Miller says about CASTLE LARK:
Just as the two teens from Mars, Fasha and Alex, hero and heroine of this "sci fi fantasy fairy tale" find their home on the remains of war-torn Earth, 2054 A.D., so has author Zelda Gatuskin found hers as a writer in this genre. A superbly crafted story for sci fi and magic lovers of all ages, Castle Lark and The Tale That Stopped Time has that universal and enduring quality that has all the great literature that one recalls from one's youth. Settle in for a can't-put-it-down read, and plan on being thoroughly delighted at the characters, entertained by the tale-within-a-tale, and impressed by Gatuskin's agility in handling both the vistas of a future — where humanity lives in synthetic environments and visits planet earth to experience what is left of organic habitat — and a time trip back to a strangely preserved Scottish castle which holds the profound secret of planet Earth's ultimate post-bio-war fate.

Gatuskin assumes that her readers are game for a wild ride and that they, like the teen protagonists, are intelligent — a kind of intelligence of both head and heart. If a teen reader suspends belief long enough to think about the book (which I doubt will happen, it is so engrossing), he or she will probably say to themselves, "This writer knows what it is to be me, on the inside." And as adult readers follow the travels of Fasha and Alex, they are likely to think at some point or other, "Hmmm, this is really a sophisticated teen-age book for adults."

If Gatuskin had stopped at the point where she had a fascinating sci fi plot, engaging characters, compelling time-travel geographies and thoroughly convincing, detailed "fantasy" realities, she would have had an unforgettable book. But she didn't stop there, and that choice moves this book into the category of literature, more than just an entertaining "read". Castle Lark is layered with subtle considerations of the results of ecological exploitation, the endurance of genetic memory, the undeniable existence of synchronicity and the power of the collective unconscious...

...and a gentle romance to boot. The evolving relationship between Fasha and Alex is drawn with the light and emotionally efficient touch of compassion. Their reactions to each other, and to the various adults in their lives, are true to life and will make the reader smile, laugh and shake his/her head in recognition. Because Gatuskin is so faithful to such details of external and internal reality, the worlds of fantasy and magic which she creates in Castle Lark become entirely believable. Castle Lark is truly a time-traveler's dream in that way: her description of adolescence brought me back to my own, instantly. And from that place, I willingly and eagerly traveled with the two teens into the interplanetary future, back through the Celtic past and out again. As I did so, I could remember being twelve, curling up sideways on my father's green easy chair with my legs dangling over one of the arms, munching from a box of Ritz crackers, and reading Madeline L'Engel, Mark Twain or Ray Bradbury all of a summer Saturday...and getting fussed at for reading too much. I know exactly with what focused excitement I would have met and traveled with Gatuskin's characters as a teen reader — and continued to sneak in more pages after lights out, with the proverbial under-the-covers flashlight.

As if she has walked the route herself, Gatuskin carefully unfolds a map which charts the impact on a future, Mars-raised, genetically-engineered, human, arriving on his/her planet of origin for the first time, breathing real earth air, feeling feet on the the visceral, psychological, archetypal and cellular/DNA level. She is a highly competent writer of depth in all areas — emotional, historical, political and technological — for all ages.

Even with the best of writers, I am usually impatient with stories-within-stories when they are based in historical content to the contemporary tale, especially if they are presented in the form of writings being read by the protagonist. I usually want to skip those narrative parts and get back to the contemporary plot-line action. However, in Castle Lark, Zelda Gatuskin has not only found a completely engaging and active way to present her imbedded tale, but winds the telling of it so tightly into the plot threads — and paces the telling by a fascinating mechanism of magic — that the reading out loud of the tale-within-a-tale becomes critical to the story. The whole point of the story, in fact, and a mystery to be solved. It is not "inserted" and it cannot be removed, nor will you be tempted to skip it.

You will finish Castle Lark with a satisfied feeling that characters and story have come full circle...and yet with a hope for not just a sequel, but a full trilogy. It'first editions that kind of a book, deserving of a classical presentation. Because it will be around for a very long time. Perhaps long enough for some of Gatuskin's futuristic visions — told in a good, old-fashioned tale — to have come true.

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