Title: HERO MAKER
Author: TOM STARACE
Genre: Young Adult, Magical Realism
ADAM is 16 years old and lives on an apple farm. He has a big family, lots of friends, and is normal in every way. Except one.
Adam has a special power which enables him to help others who are in some sort of danger. He jumps into their bodies and becomes them, feeling their fear and their pain. He helps them perform the brave acts that they thought they couldn’t do. The people Adam helps don’t know that he has helped them. All they know is that they have done something brave. They feel like heroes.
HERO MAKER is a story of fathers and sons, of family and friends, of bravery and decency, and apple pie.
“Not all superheroes wear capes. Sometimes there’s one living right down the road and he’s just a 16-year-old boy named Adam. Tom Starace has written a wonderful YA novel that you don’t have to be a kid to love.” —John, Amazon Reviewer
“A fast-paced, page-turner of a novel.” —Dan, Amazon Reviewer
IT was dark. People were yelling.
A man cursed. “You invited him here?”
I knew I was dreaming. I tried to wake up, but I couldn’t.
“Yes, he is coming,” said a woman. She sounded scared.
The man threw something.
The woman shrieked, “Calm down! He will come and then we sit and talk calmly.” She spoke with an accent of some sort.
“Where’s the kid?” yelled the man.
He was talking about me. Except I wasn’t me. I was somebody else.
I was hiding behind a long, dark curtain. When I peeked out, the man spotted me. Through the dim, flickering light, all I could see were his squinty eyes.
“There he is!” The man slurred his words. He was drunk. “Get over here, Jamie!”
My name isn’t Jamie, it’s Adam. In the faint light, I looked at my hands. They weren’t my hands. They weren’t my legs or my feet. Somehow, I was Jamie. Somehow I knew that Jamie was six years old. Adam was seven.
What was going on?
“Get out here, Jamie!” yelled the angry man.
These people were Jamie’s parents. I suddenly knew that, too. Jamie’s heart was pounding. I felt his fear.
The man rushed over and tried to grab me through the curtain.
“Leave him alone!” screamed the woman.
She tried to pull the man away from me, and he pushed her over, so hard that she fell and knocked something over. I heard breaking glass.
Oil splashed across the floor, spilling into the hallway. It must have been an oil lamp that fell! In a second, the room was on fire. Flames leaped up the curtain I had been hiding behind.
“Look what you did, stupid!” Jamie’s father shouted. I heard his mother scream.
I felt a knot in Jamie’s stomach—a familiar pain. This had happened before. “Stop!” he screamed. Or was it me screaming? I couldn’t tell.
The man picked me up and threw me against the wall. The pain in my side made my next breath hurt. I gasped. It was Jamie’s body, but I felt the pain!
“Get out, Jamie!” shrieked his mother. “Run, chéri!”
I bolted to my bedroom, but when I opened the door, the flames rushed in from the hallway, and I couldn’t close it. I ran to the corner by my bed. Jamie curled into a ball under the window. He cried, “Mommy!”
His mother was screaming. The flames spread across the ceiling, getting closer.
“Mommy! Mommy!” Jamie sobbed. He was frozen with terror.
He’ll die if I don’t help him, I realized. And my second thought was: that’s why I’m here.
I heard a siren and people outside yelling.
I forced Jamie to stand up. The window was the old-fashioned kind that opens outward with a crank. I cranked it open just enough to squeeze my—or Jamie’s—body out. I stood trembling on the windowsill, coughing from the smoke. I felt the cold air in my face and the heat of the fire on my back.
I heard voices below.
“The fourth floor!”
A woman Jamie knew called to me. “Jamie!” Mrs. Panzica—the name popped into my head.
“We’ll get you, Jamie!” shouted a fireman.
Below me, firefighters rushed to push their truck’s big ladder up, but it wasn’t long enough, or something. It was hard to hear them. I swayed on the ledge. I felt like I might faint.
“He’s gonna fall!” somebody yelled.
Then four or five firemen stood under the window with a red blanket stretched between them.
“Here, little fella, we’ll catch you!”
“Jump, Jamie, jump!”
Jamie cried and shook with panic.
I knew what I had to do. The part of me that was still me knew. I had to crouch down on the ledge and push myself off, hard enough so that I would fall away from the building and land in the blanket.
I took a deep breath and fought back the fear. Just do it, I told myself. Just do it!
One . . . two . . . three. . . .
I jumped. I fell through the air in slow motion. I saw the blanket getting closer and closer.
Next thing I knew, I was wrapped in the scratchy wool blanket. People cheered all around me. Mrs. Panzica hugged me, saying, “You did it, Jamie, you did it.” I laughed and cried at the same time.
The scene began to blur. A man Jamie knew pushed out of the crowd to hug me.
Jamie buried his face in the man’s neck. I heard him ask, “Where’s my mommy?” And then . . .
And then what?
I woke in my own bed, as myself, as Adam, shaking and sweaty. I got up quietly so I wouldn’t wake my cousin sleeping across the room. I tiptoed into the bathroom and looked in the mirror. I looked sleepy but normal. There was no soot on me, no smell of smoke.
It was just a dream, I reassured myself. Dreams aren’t real.
But when I came down for breakfast, I saw the front page of the morning paper in my father’s hands. There was a picture of the burning building, exactly as I’d dreamed it. There were the firefighters with the blanket. There was Jamie in the window. The headline read:
TWO DEAD IN TENEMENT BLAZE
Boy, 6, Saved in Dramatic Rescue
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What’s your favorite way to combat stress?
I try to take a step back and look at the big picture. If I am stressed out about, say, marketing my book, I pretend that I am being interviewed.
“Why are you stressed?” my interviewer asks.
I answer: “I wrote a book and I’m trying to sell more copies.”
“You wrote a book?” the questioner asks.
“Is it a good book?”
“I think so. Everybody seems to like it.”
“You must be a good writer.”
“I guess . . .”
And this puts things back in perspective and the stress begins to lift.
Why is your featured book a stress busting read?
Hero Maker depicts a family that lives together in a big house on an apple farm, works together, and has dinner together. Despite whatever conflicts arise, they all fiercely defend and support one another. More than a few people have told me that they want to live in that house with that family, on that farm, and work in that store.
One lucky reader will win a $75 Amazon US or Canada gift card.
Open internationally. You must have a valid Amazon US or Amazon CA account to win.
Runs May 1 – May 31
Drawing will be held on June 1.
Tom Starace is a writer, an artist, an actor, and a musician. In a career that has spanned five decades, he’s worked for most major publishing companies as a designer or art director. He has illustrated six children’s books. This is his first novel.
He lives in New York State’s Hudson Valley, not too far from where Adam lives. He plays banjo, writes books, paints pictures of clouds, and acts in his local theater group.
Visit Tom at www.tomstaraceauthor.com
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