Zachary Paul Chopchinski



My Book Story: The Harry Potter Series by J.K. Rowling

Zachary Paul Chopchinkski

It’s difficult to examine what influences us, as we have so many different encounters in our life. For myself, I would have to say that the author/work that really is an idol for my writing and creativity is J.K. Rowling and the Harry Potter series.

HPATSSGranted, looking at something as big and iconic as these works, it’s easy to say that they influenced a lot of youth, and yet I consider it a saving grace from my childhood. Growing up, I was lucky to have many good things in my life; however, I was also unfortunate in many circumstances. When I first found the Harry Potter series, I was living with my mother and 6 siblings in an 850 square foot 2-bedroom apartment in the outskirts of Cleveland, Ohio. It was safe to say that we did not have much.

Coupled with the fact that we lived in a rather impoverished area, with more buildings either boarded up or vacant than occupied, opportunities for expression in my childhood were rare. As a middle schooler, I often missed class due to threats from other students (being a rather gang affiliated school, despite the ages of the students), bomb threats to the school, weapons being found or just the utter lack of desire to leave my room. I was desperate for an escape. This formed my fuel.

Enter the catalyst, J.K. Rowling. She managed to create an entire world, not just a story line, that allowed for one to escape their lives and enter that of another (as many great works often do). This was something that I heavily gravitated to. This new world I could enter, coupled with the fact that the primary protagonist, Harry Potter, found himself in a life of strife and neglect, allowed for Harry to become my hero, so to speak. When the sun set, and things began to quite in the dark, often I could be found in the communal bedroom, under a small lamp in the corner reading for as long as I could keep my eyes open.

These books came at an amazing time for me, for the ages of the characters where close to mine. So as the books came, and the characters aged and grew, it was like they grew with me. These became an escape of mine for years. With the intricacies and clever plotting, it was a chore to not become immersed in J.K Rowling’s world.


ZPCZachary Chopchinski is the author of The Curious Tale of Gabrielle, a piece of young adult fiction that’s an adventure through time, mystery, love, friendship and death unlike anything you have ever read.

Zach lives in Maine with his wife, Layla, and their two dogs and two cats. He had two short stories published by Ohio State University when he was in elementary school, and a poem published when he was in high school. When he isn’t writing, or thinking up his new story, Zach can be found watching horror movies with his wife, studying watches or playing video games.

The Curious Tale of Gabrielle


Angela Campbell



 My Book Story: The Nancy Drew Files by Carolyn Keene

Angela Campbell


First of all, thank you for allowing me to share my book story with The Modest Verge and its readers. As anyone who loves to read knows, asking a book lover to select a favorite book is similar to asking a parent who her favorite child is. It’s next to impossible for me to select only one favorite book! Do I go back to my young adulthood, when my love of books truly developed, and choose “Are you there God? It’s Me, Margaret” by Judy Bloom, “The Chocolate War” by Robert Cormier or “The Outsiders” by S.E. Hinton — the three books I re-read dozens of times? Actually, I think I’ll go back a little further to the series of books that really jump-started my love of reading: “The Nancy Drew Files” by Carolyn Keene.
Nancy Drew
Growing up, I had three brothers, no sisters, and was the daughter of a cop, so the idea of a strong and smart girl detective really appealed to me. I devoured all of the Nancy Drew books I could get my hands on at the library or bookstore. Back in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s, Nancy Drew had romantic plots as well as stories that sometimes found her investigating hauntings and monster sightings. It’s no wonder I grew up to write romantic suspense that veers into paranormal more often than not. So, here’s to Nancy Drew, girl detective — my favorite book heroine of all time.
I really appreciate The Modest Verge’s support of my books. Thank you for inviting me to be a part of this.
Angela Campbell
Author of romantic suspense, with a scent of paranormal

Sydney Lane




Summer Days

by Sydney Lane


When I was a little girl, my big sister loved to read. She always had a book in her hands, and I just wanted to play outside. We lived on a farm with rolling fields and beautiful horses. The trees were great for climbing, and the lake was perfect for afternoon swimming. At dusk, we caught fireflies, and after dark, the neighborhood kids crowded around a campfire and told ghost stories. I was enchanted by one particular boy who never wore a shirt and told the best stories. With all of that going on, I just couldn’t understand why anyone would want to lay in bed all day with their nose stuck in a book.

WTCFThe summer I turned thirteen, all of that changed. My sister checked a book out from the library called Walk Through Cold Fire by Cin Forshay Lunsford. By this time, my sister was seventeen and we were allowed to stay home alone. Playing hide-and-seek and catching fireflies wasn’t as fun as it used to be, and the boy who told good ghost stories had a girlfriend. I was listless, searching everyday for something to keep me occupied. When my sister recommended that book to me… she forever changed my world.

First, the book! That book was like a modern day Beautiful Disaster. Forbidden teen romance, hot guys in a gang, and poignant revelations… what more could you ask for? Interestingly, this author never wrote another book under that name, and Walk Through Cold Fire became a piece of cult fiction. Years later, I would search and search for a hardback copy and purchase it at unmentionable price.

But what really changed that summer was my relationship with my sister. She was four years older than me, and we had very little in common. She had long since outgrown Barbies and tag, and I wasn’t yet able to do the things she was allowed to do. We never liked the same things, and we had differing opinions on every subject known to man. But that summer, we found a common ground, a place where we met in the middle and shared these beautiful stories that I never knew existed. We often lay in the same hammock, reading the days away under the hot summer skies. It was a whole new world, and we were in it together.

Even as we both grew up and moved away, we shared books, trading them back and forth. I remember picking up and dropping off boxes of books at each other’s houses. There were many late night phone calls when we couldn’t wait until the next day to discuss our latest reads, and we had to talk quietly so as not to wake our roommates. Lots of laughter and lots of tears were shed as we bonded over the miles that separated us.

When my sister was thirty-six years old, she took her own life. As you can imagine, it was devastating. It was so completely heartbreaking that no words exist to describe it. I was angry and hurt and broken. No matter the sentiments everyone offered, I felt in my heart that they could never really understand. Often, my only solace was a good book, a beautiful story that could take me away from the reality that was now mine.

To this day, when I read a really awesome book, I want to call my sister. I think to myself, “She would’ve really loved this one.” And as the rest of the world lies sleeping, I sit in the dark and share those quiet moments with my sister.

Books, to me, are not a luxury. They aren’t a hobby. They are words someone put on a piece of paper that sometimes reach right into your chest and make you live that moment. They briefly take me to another time and place, one where I lie in a hammock, drinking Dr. Pepper and eating Doritos, beside my sister. I can feel her leg brush against mine and hear her voice… and the breeze blows while we read the day away.


7060081Sydney Lane lives in Nashville, TN with her husband and children. Growing up in Smalltown, USA, Sydney dreamed of being a writer. After spending an outrageous amount of money to go to college, Sydney finally decided to follow her heart. With her babies in bed and husband neglected, she worked by the light of her laptop and wrote Choices. Sydney is very active in charity work for anti-bullying and depression awareness groups.



Our reviews of Sydney Lane’s books:

ChoicesFate Cover


Sandra Danby



My Book Story:  Pigeon Post by Arthur Ransome


Sandra Danby


Pigeon Post, my old copy 2-5-15The book which opened doors/pages for me was Pigeon Post, one of the ‘Swallows and Amazons’ series by Arthur Ransome. It was a birthday present and, judging by my handwriting in the front – ‘If this book should dare to roam, Box its ears and send it home’ – written in ink with my first fountain pen, I judge it to have been 1969-1970. This first Puffin edition was published in 1969 though Ransome wrote it in 1936. To me it is timeless. It was the gateway to the whole series which still, to this day, have an important place on my bookshelves and are picked up on days when I am feeling ill or vulnerable and need to retreat to a place of familiarity.

The Swallows and the Amazons are two sets of children – the Walkers and the Blacketts – who come together each summer for holidays and adventures in the Lake District. These were ideal books for me – the farmer’s daughter, a tomboy, who loved stories, was writing stories, had an over-active imagination, and longed to be allowed to go sailing with my brother in his dinghy on the cold NorthIf this book should dare to roam 2-5-15 Sea.  I wanted to be Nancy, the leader of the Amazons, she was the strong one, brave, and decisive [no female stereotyping for the Amazons, though Susan Walker is deemed the sensible adult and clucks over food and blankets].

In Pigeon Post, the Walkers and the Blacketts trek into the hills, prospecting for gold, where they run into all sorts of problems, not the least of which is a suspicious character they call Squashy Hat: is he a rival gold prospector, or a spy?

S&A books on my bookshelf 2-5-15The story is timeless, as usual Ransome slips in all kinds of useful information – survival skills, sailing, nature, human relationships, chemistry, mining – and the children are brave, adventurous and unafraid to try new things.

There is something addictive about these books. Just writing about PP makes me want to read it again, though like any serial addict I will start with book one, Swallows and Amazons, and work my way in order through the series. The anticipation of having a whole series to read is like contemplating eating a whole chocolate bar to yourself.


sandranewsletterAuthor Sandra Danby lives in England and Spain. She turned her childhood love of stories into an English degree and became a journalist. She now writes fiction full-time. Her short stories and flash fiction have been published online and in anthologies. Ignoring Gravity is her first novel. Her next novel, second in the series about ‘Rose Haldane: Identity Detective’, is Connectedness [to be published in 2015].

Twitter: @SandraDanby


Watch the book trailer for Ignoring Gravity:

Read our review of Ignoring Gravity:






S.E. Zbasnik



My Book Story: The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas

S.E. Zbasnik


My favorite book should be something out of the science fiction or fantasy oeuvre. Perhaps from the grandfather of fantasy, Tolkien, or something by Verne, or those rare funny sci-fi fantasy writers, Pratchett and Adams? While I do love them (except for Verne – I can’t stand British literature from the romantic period. Deal with it, Dickens!) my favorite book has nothing to do with speculative fiction.

I first learned about its existence from a talking dog. Specifically, a Wishbonetalking dog with a massive renn-faire wardrobe and a show on PBS. Wishbone introduced me to a lot of the classics that our test-focused education system skipped over, but nothing held my attention and love the way The Count of Monte Cristo does.

TCOMCWritten by Alexandre Dumas, it’s about Edmond Dantés, a man who’s about to have everything. He was just promoted to captain and is about to marry a woman he adores. The only problem in his life is that he puts too much trust in people. They all conspire to take away Edmond’s promotion, his fiancé, and money by tossing him into Château d’If. In prison, Edmond befriends an old man who teaches him how to write and read as well as pointing out the conspiracy against him. On his death bed, he tells Edmond about an island with more coin than god.

Breaking out of prison by sewing himself into his friend’s death sack, Edmond discovers the island and with it vows to take revenge. What follows is another 600 pages of the most intricate vengeance I’ve ever read. Sure, there’s absolutely no way his plans were plausible. And, in order to afford half the shit the Count of Monte Cristo does, somewhere a small country went bankrupt. And how did spending a decade in a prison keep Edmond looking so youthful? Can we convince the 1%ers that a couple decades in prison will reverse aging?

But none of that matters, because what I love, what keeps pulling me back, are the complex threads Edmond’s woven for years for that final day when he needs to only give a light tug for all his enemies to come crashing down. The best part is that he doesn’t have to hurt them himself. Instead, he relies upon their own greed and hubris, ferreting out their secrets and quietly bringing them to light. A few road blocks are thrown up — he winds up having to save a girl from her own stepmother’s poisoning because the son of the only man left to care for Edmond loves her. And his ex-fiance who married one of the men that wounded Edmond recognizes the Count and begs for her son’s life. She doesn’t care if he hurts Ferdinand when the truth is revealed and Edmond relents.

The Count of Monte Cristo is karma itself, a mysterious figure who floats into Parisian society to reward the virtuous and punish the wicked. It’s a tale of vengeance that despite there no longer being court society, fears of Napoleon, or everyone passing out in corsets resonates with the human need for justice. Deep in our conscience we know how fragile and illusive justice truly is. To keep going we need to believe there is some balance in the universe. That at the end, there’s a ledger tallied up. Rather than wait for a god to step in, Edmond does it himself.

Dumas, while not of the same literary talent of Hugo also doesn’t randomly dump his research into a few chapters and insist it’s theStoker most fascinating thing you’ve ever read. It’s a strange comparison, but I’d say Hugo is to Mary Shelly as Dumas is to Stoker. Everyone knows, or thinks they know the story of Frankenstein, the same can be said of Les Miserables or The Hunchback of Notre Dame. They’re novels wound up in a ball of romantic literary rhetoric. But Stoker’s Dracula is a much lighter read by comparison. The action is at the forefront, introspection occurs in small spurts and not massive passages, as does the Count.

I love The Count of Monte Cristo so much, in my search for an unabridged version, I’ve purchased five copies. It took getting the gilded one from Barnes & Noble to finally accomplish my life long task (Which leaves me with a lot of free time). I’ve read some okay abridged ones – they drop the neighbor’s storyline, and some god awful ones – abandoning Danglar’s fate despite that being Edmond’s final redemption from the avatar of vengeance. It’s a tale I adore so much I don’t want to miss a single word.

DIS coverS.E. Zbasnik is the author of the Dwarves in Space series – think Tolkien and Hitchhiker’s merged in a horrific transporter accident – as well as a bunch of other fantasy novels. You can find her on Twitter as well as Facebook, and hopefully not standing right behind you.






Check out our reviews of S.E. Zbasnik’s books:

DIS coverkings_blood_coverSZ_auth_int

Shannon A. Thompson




My Book Story: A Long Way Gone by Ishmael Beah

Shannon A. Thompson


Picking one story that has affected my life is nearly impossible. Although I love the idea of sharing impactful stories, I found myself so riddled with options that I was afraid to pick one in fear that it wouldn’t be the “right” one to share. That being said, I could talk about this subject forever, but I knew I had to talk about one story, and I wanted to pick one story that I feel – personally – doesn’t get enough attention from various communities of readers despite the wide amount of attention it has received from nonfiction readers.

43015I found A Long Way Gone by Ishmael Beah in a Hastings in Lawrence, KS. I thought I was having a rough day, so I skipped class to disappear into the bookshelves of a store off-campus. I said “I thought I was having a rough day” because A Long Way Gone is a memoir about a child solider in Africa, and the issues explored in Ishmael’s story shattered any notion that my problems mattered at all. For instance, right when I was following the rhythm of the horrors scattered throughout this story, Ishmael would remind me of his age, by stating, “That was my fifteenth birthday”, and all of my “rhythm” was disrupted. All my worries were disrupted, and I was filled with so many emotions about Ishmael’s life and all the lives like his.

As a writer of YA fiction, poetry, and nonfiction, I often find myself reading all kinds of fiction and nonfiction, but memoirs often go untouched by the masses, and memoirs have so much to teach us about the world and about the people who affect this world. Ishmael Beah stayed with me because he went beyond this world with one of my favorite literary quotes to this day: “We must strive to be like the moon.”

But – perhaps – the most important quote that summed up my emotions for this striking and memorable life story was this: “…children have the resilience to outlive their sufferings, if given a chance.”


A Long Way Gone on Goodreads:



SATShannon A. Thompson is an author, poet, blogger, and coffee enthusiast. She is also an editor and social media marketer. Her Timely Death Trilogy  will be released by Clean Teen Publishing this summer.

Howard Shapiro


 My Book Story: The High Cost Of Living by Neil Gaiman

Howard Shapiro

I was doing an elementary school visit back in 2010 and as I was leaving the librarian said to me that I should check out this genre of books called Graphic Novels.  “We can’t keep them on the shelves, the kids, mainly the boys, will take them out no matter what the subject.”  So, I did check out their collection and I was pretty intrigued.  I had grown up on mostly Marvel Comics (Spiderman, Daredevil, The Fantastic Four etc) so I thought of these graphic novels as being expanded comic books.
Oh how wrong I was!
I found out when I did some more research at our local library (they have a killer collection of GN’s) that the subjects tackled in the books can range from the obscure to super heroic and everything in between.  I didn’t take any out, instead deciding to stop at Barnes and Noble to buy one and take it home and read it.
DTHCOLI came across one that looked very interesting at the B&N, it was called “Death:The High Cost of Living” written by Neil Gaiman with art by Chris Bachalo and Mark Buckingham.  I had heard about Neil Gaiman but not not read any of his work but figured I’d take a chance on it and to this day I’m so glad that I madethe purchase!  I read it all in one sitting and that very day I was inspired to try and take a chance and write my own graphic novel.  I knew that it would never be as good as “Death” but the goal was to try and make it as great as possible.  The bar was set so high and it still is, that book literally changed my life that day!
So, I’m still trying to write a story as great as “Death: The High Cost of Lving” with characters as rich and wonderful as the ones Neil created, I may never fully succeed, but thanks to that book, I will always keep trying!
Howard Shapiro
howardshapiroI live in Pittsburgh, PA with my wife and two sons. I am the Controller for the Pittsburgh-based Visual Effects firm, Animal Inc., and I have written four children’s books and “The Stereotypical Freaks” will be my debut Graphic Novel.My 2008 book, “Hockey Player for Life”, has been the #1 downloaded children’s hockey e-book on Amazon’s Kindle chart since its arrival as an e-book in November of 2011.My “Hockey Days” book was the only book featured in the December 2007 Sporting News Annual Gift Guide as a Best Buy Gift for Children. Through a corporate
sponsorship program I set up (and maintain), since the 2010-11 season, both of my children’s hockey books have been given to NHL teams (over 2,500 copies to date) for use in their community and educational initiatives.Since 2006 my annual charity raffle, which he matches dollar for dollar donated, has raised funds for several hockey-related charities including the Mario Lemieux Foundation, Hockey Fights Cancer and the Keith and Lisa Primeau Scholarship Fund.

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Read our review of The Hockey Saint:



Nancy Warren



My Book Story: Georgette Heyer & Susan Elizabeth Phillips
by Nancy Warren
There’s comfort food, there are the comfort clothes, the old baggie things that are perfect for curling up in, and there are comfort reads. For me, when I’m stressed, sick, having a bad day or simply want that feel of visiting an old friend that a well-loved book gives you, I have two main go-to authors. Georgette Heyer and Susan Elizabeth Phillips.
Georgette_HeyerGeorgette Heyer wrote her delicious, funny regency romances back in the 1920s to 1950s, mainly. I can practically recite parts of the books but I don’t care. I read them anyway over and over. Thank goodness for ebooks because my GHVenetiaprint ones are falling apart. When Harlequin was reissuing some of the Heyer books I was thrilled and honored to be asked to write the forward for Venetia, which is, coincidentally, my absolute favorite of Ms. Heyer’s books.
SEPMy other comfort read is Susan Elizabeth Phillips. I think she does romantic comedy like no one else. What I love about her books is that her stories aren’t all sunshine and butterflies. There are dark moments that make the light parts so much brighter.  My all time favorites are: It Had to Be You, Dream a Little Dream and Glitter Baby. But they’re all good. I’ve recently discovered that she is aIHTBY Georgette Heyer fan too, which sort of brings it full circle. Of course, there are all kinds of other amazing authors I love. Reading is the greatest hobby in the world, but on those dark days when the rain is falling and I just need a break, reading one of these wonderful books is like a visit with a dear friend.

nancy-warrenNancy Warren is a USA Today bestselling Harlequin and Kensington author who got her big break when she won Harlequin’s 2000 Blaze Contest. Her sensuous, humorous romances have won numerous awards and appeared on the Waldenbooks bestseller list.

Awards and lists are great, but nothing beats the thrill of hearing from readers. Most have commented on how much they enjoy the mixture of humor and sexuality in Nancy’s books—which is good, because she works darned hard to put them in there.

Nancy holds an honors degree in English literature and lives in the Pacific Northwest. She spends her days sensibly employed inventing men who combine amazing sexual prowess with sensitivity to a woman’s needs, and women who aren’t afraid to fight for their dreams.

Nancy Warren
USA Today Bestselling Author
Try our review of Kiss a Girl in the Rain:
kiss a girl in the rain

Amanda DeWees

The Modest Verge is two this month and to celebrate we have something very special for you. We asked our favorite authors to tell us about their favorite books. The response was overwhelming and we are grateful beyond measure. We received so many Book Stories that we will be able to post them on Tuesdays for all of May and June.  We hope you enjoy them.



My Book Story: Robin McKinley’s Beauty


Amanda DeWees


Robin McKinley original hardcoverOne of my all-time favorite books, and one that was a huge influence on me as a writer, is Robin McKinley’s novel Beauty: A Retelling of the Story of Beauty and the Beast. I was a young teen when I found it at the local library, and I was completely enraptured by it. I loved the heroine, an awkward bookworm saddled with a nickname, Beauty, that she knows she doesn’t live up to. She was the most relatable fairytale heroine I had ever encountered.

McKinley also transfigured the world of the fairytale, bringing humor and character development and a wealth of concrete visual details that made the story so much richer and more vivid than the short tales I had grown up with. Perhaps best of all, she made it believable that Beauty could fall in love with her captor-companion, showing the humor, intelligence, and warmth behind his terrifying exterior.

The idea that a writer could take a classic fairytale and develop it into a novel was new at the time, and it seized my imagination powerfully. I embarked on my own novel-length versions of “Cinderella” and “East of the Sun, West of the Moon,” which were great learning experiences for me as a writer. Even when I resumed writing original stories, for the next few years I tended to set them in a fairytale world full of comedy and romance as well as adventure.

Many years later, when I realized how much I loved writing historical romantic suspense set in gothic surroundings, I found that I was still revisiting the “Beauty and the Beast” plot. The classic gothic romance storyline is about a plucky, innocent young woman who travels to a strange new home and is both drawn to and repelled by the frightening yet charismatic master of the house—essentially “Beauty and the Beast” with some mystery and supernatural elements to season the mixture. For me it’s a story with endless fascination, maybe because the Beast is by his very nature more complex than many other masculine archetypes. He is both man and monster, and he is literally transformed by the power of love. What a powerful fantasy!

My book story has a postscript, too. Years after I first read Beauty, Robin McKinley herself revisited the original story with a new novel, Rose Daughter. It has much to recommend it, but I find the heroine more elusive and distant. McKinley’s original Beauty feels like a sister to me, or like a better version of myself. She’s a funny, lovable, joyously imperfect companion for any reader (or writer) as they navigate the adventures and challenges of life outside the fairytale realm.


5783151Amanda DeWees is an author and editor based in Atlanta, Georgia. She received her PhD in English literature from the University of Georgia and likes to startle people by announcing that her dissertation topic was vampire literature. Besides writing, her passions include theater, classic film, Ioan Gruffudd, costume design, and the preservation of apostrophes in their natural habitat.



Don’t miss our reviews or our interview: