Tuesday, March 20, 2018

How Do I Make Covers?

Do you ever wonder how book covers are made?
Actually, it's one of my favorite parts of writing and publishing a book. I don't know how the publishing houses order their covers, but here's how I do it:

Usually I get the idea of the cover while I'm still writing the book. Depending on what's going on in the story, I envision what I'd love to have on the cover. I won't be falsely modest here; I think that all my covers are beautiful. Maybe it's because all of them were made by the a professional designer.
But before the designer begins, I sketch the cover myself or fix something together in Adobe Photoshop.

This is what I had sketched for the last Witch Hollow book.

And this is how it came out in the end:

Me and my boyfriend (who's now also my cover-maker) ended up with exactly what I had envisioned. I wanted the town of Hollow to be placed inside a snow-ball, and here it is, Hollow in winter inside a snow ball.

Here's the process of making another one of my recent covers:

Again, from the very beginning I had been thinking about a torn Teddy bear on a windowsill. And for a very long time I was looking for an old teddy to snap its photo and place it on the cover. Some people promised me the bear, then disappeared. I searched until I realized that I could just buy the necessary image from istock websites. Yeah, I was a bit slow and it delayed the publishing of my first horror book for a few months, but in the end I got exactly what I wanted:


Things were a bit harder with Abracadabra. At first I thought I wanted to have a castle on the cover -- the Witchcraft Academy. But after a bit of research I found myriads of covers with castles and palaces and knew I needed something else. Something simple yet subtle. Something that would stand on its own among so many covers with teenage girls and boys and wizards in cloaks.
So I began making my own cover in Photoshop:

After I knew what I wanted, my boyfriend did the professional part. The cover was red in the beginning, because red is such a noticeable cover, but a few days before the release date, I changed the cover to green. Because the badges of the first-years at the Academy are green:


The cat, the broom, the cauldron -- Witchcraft Academy's coat of arms. 
I think it's beautiful and hope my readers agree.

Sunday, March 18, 2018

A Review From the Reader's Favorite

Yay! I've got a 5 STARS review from the Reader's Favorite. How great is that! And I submitted the review request without a payment. Submitting a review request without a payment gets you a lower chance to receive a review, but Abracadabra got a review nevertheless.
Please do not confuse the submission fee with a paid review. Reader's Favorite is a respected website and does not sell reviews. But they receive so many review requests that they have to ask for a submission fee to guarantee you a review. And that review can be anything, from 1 to 5 stars.


You can read the review here: Reader's Favorite. Liz Konkel, the reviewer, went into great details and said everything better than I could do.

There's also a GIVEAWAY on the Reader's Favorite. You can find the book by the author or the title and get it for free.

Another great news for me is that because Abracadabra has received a 5 star review, it will be emailed to 500.000 email subscribers free of charge. I have never been a part of such a massive subscription list, so I'll keep you updated on how everything went.

A Review from The Life of a Bastard

Such a pleasant surprise on my birthday! Damien from The Life of a Bastard blog has posted a very nice review on Amazon and Goodreads for Abracadabra: The Witchcraft Academy. You can see the review by clicking on the cover of "Abracadabra" below.

Damien has also started a giveaway for Abracadabra, so if you want to get the e-book for free, here's the LINK. No purchase is necessary to enter the giveaway and it ends on March 23th, so hurry up!

I was very lucky that Damien picked up my book. I think I'd contacted at least 60 reviewers and all of them were buried under huge piles of review requests. It's getting harder and harder to get reviews from the book bloggers: too many books, too little time. I think I need at least another 5 reviews to even think about a Bookbub promotion. They say Bookbub is the best, and the rest don't even come close, so let's wait and see if I'll ever get a Bookbub promo. It's hard, guys, really hard, but don't give up on your dreams. Nothing comes easily. We just need to keep trying and trying, over and over again.

Stay well,
Your loving witch!

Friday, March 16, 2018

Happy Birthday, Witch!

It's my 100th birthday today, and I couldn't be happier. 🎈🎁🎂 I am working on the 2nd book of "Abracadabra" series, as well as a young-adult sci-fi about humans and androids living together (or rather, trying to). I'm not very active on social media recently, as I'm working on 2 books at the same time, and also doing a lot of reading of the ARCs that I receive from Netgalley. But I love posting on my blog, so won't be away for too long.
While I'm gone enjoy one of my favorite songs by Faun.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Trads vs Indies

So, recently I began accepting books from Netgalley in exchange for my honest review. If you don't know what Netgalley is, it's a virtual space, where the publishers offer advance review copies (ARC) to reviewers, to garner reviews for their upcoming books. I thought if I'm so poor and cannot afford to buy books from the trads, then I'll get their books free of charge and will improve my writing by reading wonderful books by the amazing trads.

And you know what? Traditionally published authors do not write better than the indies. Nope, they don't. I've read books by indie authors that have been amazing, and I'm now reading books by traditionally published authors that are dull, uninteresting and badly written. 
Know what that means? We're better than we thought! Aright, maybe you already knew about it, but I used to think that all the trads were these brilliant authors with brilliant writing skills and vocabulary. I was so wrong. But then, if they're not better, why are they traditionally published?
I guess there's such thing as luck. Connections. Let me think a bit more... I guess that's all. You need to be lucky. But if you're not, still it's not a reason to be sad. It's not all about luck. Finish your book and publish it independently. And if you're lucky, your book will get noticed... oh, wait...

 Damn it!!


Monday, March 12, 2018

Read and Gone by Allison Brook

Read and Gone (The Haunted Library Mysteries, #2)Read and Gone by Allison Brook
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I received an ARC from the publisher in exchange for my honest review. All the opinions are my own.

3 stars out of 5.
When I read the blurb of the book, I thought it was going to be an Agatha Christie-style murder mystery. Since I’m a huge Dame Christie fan, I couldn’t pass this one. I’ll be honest here: I’m a bit disappointed. While I can’t say that I hated the book, I enjoyed it less than I’d been expecting.

This is apparently a second book in a series, but you don’t have to read the first one, as it stands on its own in terms of the story and characters.
The story. While not bad per se, it was a bit dull for my taste. The murderer’s identity wasn’t a big surprise and didn’t make me go “WOW!”. From the very beginning it was obvious to me that Carrie had made a wrong assumption regarding a certain character and a certain conversation. That was probably the weakest part of the mystery.

The pace was slow and there were too many characters and mundane situations. This was no Christie, but more a Janet Evanovich type of book, with lots of secondary characters, a lot of dialogs and descriptions of things like eating, cleaning the table, watching the TV...
Another thing that bugged me was the ghost. But it was solely my fault. When I read the blurb I wasn’t attentive enough and didn’t take the “ghost” part seriously. Turned out there really was a ghost, and it took me out of the story a bit. I hadn’t been requesting a paranormal story, but again, solely my fault.

But there were also things that I liked.
The setting: I like mysteries and murders in small towns where everyone knows each other and anyone can be a suspect, and “Read and Gone” was exactly that kind of mystery.
The writing was good, too: smooth and easy to follow. It was a surprise for me to spot grammatical mistakes in a traditionally published book, but I hope they’ll be fixed before the book goes live.

Do I recommend “Read and Gone”? Yes. If you want a 3-hour entertainment with a mug of hot cocoa on a rainy day, then this book is for you. Enjoyable characters, a murder mystery and some snarky dialogues. If this sounds like your type of book, then by all means give it a try. If you’re looking for a fast paced detective story that will leave you breathless, then look somewhere else.

P.S. Big thanks to the publisher for the advance review copy.

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Friday, March 2, 2018

Doctor Sleep by Stephen King

Doctor Sleep (The Shining, #2)Doctor Sleep by Stephen King
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Doctor Sleep will put you to sleep. Literally.
One of the least scary and most boring horror books in my life. Sometimes I just don't get King. These are his books, so he's the one to decide what to do with them, but doesn't he think that one of the most chilling horror novels called "The Shining" deserves a better sequel?
If he's got beta-readers, then they're failing him badly.

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The Mage and the Magpie by Austin J. Bailey

The Mage and the Magpie (Magemother, #1)The Mage and the Magpie by Austin J. Bailey
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Sadly, did not finish. Stopped at 40%.
But this is by no means a bad book. It was a nice YA fantasy and I’m sure a lot of interesting things were going to happen. It was just not for me. There’s magic, mages, a kingdom in another world, but it seemed to me that story is more for 9-12-year-olds, and even though there are books written for even a younger audience that I enjoy, this one was just not for me.
The e-book is free, so if you love the genre then by all means give it a try.

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Sunday, February 25, 2018

ABRACADABRA on a Free Promo!

Abracadabra: The Witchcraft Academy is on a Free Promotion today and tomorrow!
Grab a free copy now and don't forget to tell me what you thought of it.


This is a very special book for me. I worked a year on it, and it's the hardest book I've ever written. Turns out that the hardest thing for an author is to create a whole new world with its laws, economy, education, transportation, fashion, and of course its inhabitants. When there are all kinds of creatures living in your world from elves to dwarves, from humans to dryads, you have to devote a lot of time to each of them, otherwise your world won't seem complete. And so I did. I've tried to create a beautiful world full of wonders and magic, and hope very much my readers will love it as much as I do.
There's so much I want to tell about Abracadabra, but right now I'll leave you with the first book, and I'll go work on the second one, where I have to create another part of the magical world, with its own laws and dwellers.
Have a great time at the Witchcraft Academy!
Your loving witch,

Friday, February 23, 2018

The Subtle Knife by Philip Pullman

The Subtle Knife (His Dark Materials, #2)The Subtle Knife by Philip Pullman
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

After the fantastic first book this seems to have been written by someone else. What happened? Why was Golden Compass followed with such a slow-moving and hard-to-get-into story? And why was bratty but fun Lyra swapped with boring Will? I liked Lyra as a character, and my main complaint is that in the second book she stopped being the protagonist. Will came, and Will isn’t even half as fun as Lyra was. It’s like we left Bilbo Baggins somewhere in Mirkwood and followed one of the least interesting dwarves.
Another problem was the pacing. It was slow. And the worlds had become less interesting than they were in the first book. Sometimes it seemed that the author had no idea where he was going.
After the fantastic first book the second one was seriously lacking. I feel heartbroken.
I hope that the third part will be an improvement and Lyra will become the main character again.

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Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman

NeverwhereNeverwhere by Neil Gaiman
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Something has to be seriously wrong with me, because I can’t get into Neil Gaiman’s books. He’s the master, one of the best, his writing is excellent, but his books do nothing to me. It’s like going on a date with this gorgeous guy everyone has been talking about and pining for, and feeling nothing. Staring into his bottomless eyes and thinking about ending the date ASAP and getting back home to the not-so-perfect, “independently published” guy who somehow manages to make my heart beat faster.
I didn’t like a single thing about Neverwhere, and most of all I didn’t care about the not-so-smart and whiny protagonist, who sat down and began to cry instead of fighting for his life. I don’t even remember what the story was about, so little I cared for it during the reading. Such a shame!
Coraline, American Gods, The Ocean at the End of the Lane, Trigger Warning, Neverwhere… I’ve tried and I’ve failed. I still have the “Anansi Boys” on my Kindle. One day I’ll brace myself up and give it a try.

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The Genesis Code by John Case

The Genesis CodeThe Genesis Code by John Case
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I can see why this book would be a bestseller when it had just come out. For the 90s it was probably groundbreaking. In 2017 it didn’t leave a big impression on me.

Spoilers ahead!!

A scientist has cloned Jesus Christ, using the ancient relics, many of which were fake, but still, one might have been the real one. And it did, because one of the many children born with the help of that doctor in the end turns out to be a clone of Jesus. What was his name? Jessie. What was his mommy’s name? Mary. That’s right, Jessie and Mary. This kind of coincidences make me roll my eyes. Also, Jessie is a very kind boy, a possible leader and loves fish. This is actually the last page of the book. The other 400 were filled with action, murder, running away from bad guys and a lot of bad or stupid decisions by the main hero. I still don’t understand why the bad guys from the bad church wanted to kill the cloned children. So what if one of them might have been a clone of Jesus, what would that change?
I think I’m being too harsh with this book. Actually it wasn’t bad. It was quite entertaining, even though the ‘cloning-Jesus’ part was obvious from the very, VERY beginning, therefore there wasn’t a big revelation for me when the truth was found out by the characters some 350 pages later.
For the genre lovers this will be a great read. For me it was a bit of letdown. I was never a Da’Vinci Code lover, but even I once in a while like to read something for pure entertainment and fast action.

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Wednesday, February 21, 2018

The Paper Magician by Charlie N. Holmberg

The Paper Magician (The Paper Magician Trilogy, #1)The Paper Magician by Charlie N. Holmberg
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

What a lovely book! It’s been a while since I’ve enjoyed a YA fantasy so much. The Paper Magician is absolutely adorable and I enjoyed every single page. It was beautifully written, with a fast pacing and a very interesting approach toward magic. It was like reading about magical origami, and I love making origami so much!
I don’t think I’ll be reading the sequels, but I thoroughly enjoyed The Paper Magician. It was a quick, fast read that left me with a smile on my face.
Recommended for anyone who loves cute little tales about magic and magicians.

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Infinite by Jeremy Robinson

InfiniteInfinite by Jeremy Robinson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

4.5 stars.
When I can’t get a book out of my mind after finishing it, then the author has done something right. Infinite is an outstanding sci-fi novel. The author has put a lot of hard work into it and it shows. Infinite is well thought and well written. It’s a book about humanity and desperation, loneliness and hope, and about our desire to love and be loved.
Interestingly the blurb doesn’t do justice to the book. I didn’t really want to read it, but it had been a while since I had read a sci-fi book and I had missed the genre. I have to admit that it took me forever to finish the book. I’ve read a lot of long books, but with Infinite it seemed that I felt each and every one of those 400 pages. There was a moment in the middle when I didn’t want to go on anymore. I’m happy that I persevered.
is the story of Will, who’s one of the two last humans in the universe (the other one is in a cryo sleep). Will is alone on a faster-than-light spaceship traveling into the depths of the cosmos. Will encounters a lot of crazy adventures, and many times I thought to myself that maybe everything happening to Will wasn’t real, that unknowingly, he was inside an experiment, that he was being tested. I thought that if the author did something like that I’d throw my kindle into the wall.
Will’s journey reminded me of the dreams I have sometimes, about a spaceship with a sole survivor heading into nothingness, reaching the edge of the universe. Maybe that’s why the book has left such an impact on me. I loved the problematic AI, loved the parts with the evil AI, loved the idea of a 2-D planet and that the universe is a coded simulation, loved the part of the humanless Earth inhabited by strange creatures, of the Antarctica that had turned into Eden, of the blood-chilling adventure on the planet that was inhabited by crazy dwarves… And when Will woke up and the whole 370 pages turned out to be a simulation in a virtual reality I seriously thought about throwing my kindle into the wall. I stopped reading the book and couldn’t get back to it for a few minutes. But I did eventually, and I loved the ending. I seriously loved this book; I won’t ever forget it.

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The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman

The Golden Compass (His Dark Materials, #1)The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

One of the best and most original books I have read in a long time. I couldn’t get enough of it. Everything about The Golden Compass is perfect. There are very few books that I’m ready to reread, and this is one of them.

The Golden Compass tells the story of Lyra, a girl who lives in a parallel world, which is very much like our world, but different at the same time. Lyra was a real brat, sometimes obnoxious, other times a pain in the neck, but I liked her a lot. She was fun. Like a friend of mine who had taken me on a journey of a lifetime.

Really, I can’t praise this book enough. There are a lot of stories out there that repeat the ones we have read many times already (you hear me, Irena Davidian?), but The Golden Compass stands on its own. If you are a fantasy lover, then you need to check this book out. The plot is truly unique, the characters interesting and memorable. The names were fantastic: witch leader Serafina Pekkala was probably my favorite.
And I will never forget Iorek Byrinson and the fires of Bolvangar.

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Daughter of Smoke & Bone by Laini Taylor

Daughter of Smoke & Bone (Daughter of Smoke & Bone, #1)Daughter of Smoke & Bone by Laini Taylor
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book was beautiful, and I mean it. Laini's writing is mesmerizing. Check out my reviews, I'm quite frugal when it comes to praising an author's writing. Daughter of Smoke and Bone has to be one of the most beautifully written books I've ever read. I can only dream to write like this. When the writing is so good you don't even feel like reading. This was like watching a movie, and god, was this movie beautifully shot!
Now the story. I was pleasantly surprised as I was expecting something totally different. Something sappy and boring. But the book started with a blast. It was awesome. I was loving every bit of the story... until it turned into a romance. It's not the book though, it's me. I don't like flawless and eye-hurtingly beautiful characters. And I don't like it when all they do is falling in love with each other's beauty.
The book was so brilliant, I was ready to forgive the romance part, until the romance was all that there was. Still, I'm not sorry for reading it. I may not check the sequels of the Daughter of Smoke and Bone, but I'm happy for having read it. I love monsters, all their kinds, and god, the book was full of them, each one better than the other.
Highly recommended for romantic fantasy lovers.

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Pavilion of Women: A Novel of Life in the Women's Quarters by Pearl S. Buck

Pavilion of Women: A Novel of Life in the Women's QuartersPavilion of Women: A Novel of Life in the Women's Quarters by Pearl S. Buck
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Definitely, an unusual book. I’ve always been fascinated with China, but had never read a book that would go deep into details about its people and culture. Also, I had never heard of Pear S. Buck and had no idea she was a Noble prize winner. After I read her book, I can see why she’d get an NP. She’s an amazing writer.

The Pavilion of Women might be boring at times, but when the book characters visit me in my dream at night, then the book has left an impression on me. And it did leave a big impression. Madame Wu, the main character, seemed weird at first. She brought a young concubine for her husband who adored her and didn’t want another woman in a country where concubinage and polygamy were common. She denied physical contact with him. I couldn’t understand her motives. I considered her a total fool, but little by little the picture became clear. I won't spoil the book for those who haven't read it, but this was one of the most interesting changes in a book character I had ever encountered.

Keep in mind that the people in this book are different. Everything is different. This was like getting into a time machine and having a trip to the other side of the world, then becoming a fly on the wall of a wealthy Chinese family. This is why I love reading good books by talented authors. They take you on an unforgettable journey at no price.
Pavilion of Women was an interesting journey and definitely left a big impression on me.

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The Haunting Of Winchester Mansion by Alexandria Clarke

The Haunting Of Winchester Mansion (The Haunting Of Winchester Mansion, #0)The Haunting Of Winchester Mansion by Alexandria Clarke
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book wasn't really scary, but I got attached to the characters, which rarely happens to me, and read it till the end. It's a prequel that ends with a cliffhanger. No one likes it when a book ends with a cliffhanger, but I got all three books for free, so it doesn't anger me much :))) I'll be reading the second book to see how it's all going to end. As with all haunted house stories, this one features mysterious deaths, and who doesn't like a good detective ghost story?
As I said already this book isn't very scary, it's more like a Supernatural episode (Winchester Mansion, wink, wink), but I used to like Supernatural, and will dedicate a few hours of my time to The Haunting of Winchester Mansion. I hope I'm not going to end up disappointed.

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The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton

The MiniaturistThe Miniaturist by Jessie Burton
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Fascinating. Beautifully written. I love the way Jessie Burton writes, and will probably buy her other book, too. Her writing flows like a river without obstacles, it's smooth and even, and her outstanding research added even more colors to her already beautiful writing.
The story though wasn't my cup of tea. I still can't understand what was the purpose of this book. What was the story about? I'll try to keep the review spoiler-free, so won't go into details, but I didn't care for the story. Never once. And I didn't care for the characters. This was Amsterdam in the 17th century, but the characters, especially the main heroine, acted too modern to be believable.
The ending didn't give any closure to the story. The mystery was never really resolved. It seemed as if after 400 pages the story was just beginning. There were a couple of good twists, but the rest was rather predictable.
Overall, I'll advise this book to those who want to learn to write in English, but to me the story wasn't memorable.

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Monday, February 5, 2018

I Will Review Your Self-Published Books

I'm so sad for us, indie authors, but I know why it's happening. I was googling book reviewers, and it turns out most of them are not accepting self-published books anymore. The reason is the low quality of SP novels. And yes, it's true. Not always, but most of the time indie authors publish badly written, badly plotted, badly edited and badly formatted books.
And no one wants our books, because people want to enjoy their reading time, not trudge through a low quality novel. It's their right. 
In the last few years I have started and abandoned midway a lot of books, something I had never done in my entire life. Most of those books had been on a free promotion. And I have another 300 books on my Kindle that I've got during free promos. I know I won't be finishing most of them.

But there are authors among the indies, who are incredible, who have fantastic books. And they all need to get started from somewhere. So, I've decided to find those indies and help them get their first reviews. I know I'll have to go through a lot of mediocre books, but I've recently finished my new book and have a bit of free time.

If you want me to review your book, leave a comment under this post. Please DO NOT email me. Leave a comment about your book. If it's published, post the URL.

I am doing this to support the indie authors, which means I won't be giving your book less than 3 stars.
Does this mean I am going to give 4 and 5 stars left and right just because I want to support indies? Of course not. It would be dishonest. If I feel I can't give your book more than 3 stars I will tell you. If you still want me to post my negative review (can't believe someone will, but who knows?) then I'll post it.

1. Your book needs to be edited
I know that good editors cost a lot, and that the indies cannot afford them, but you either have to find someone with a reasonable price, or edit your book yourself. Don't tell me it's impossible. If necessary, go through your book 100 times, but find the typos. I've done that, and you can, too. One or two typos is okay, but 100 is a disaster.

2. Your book needs to be properly formatted
I hate unformatted books with wrong indents, margins, and chapters. If you don't know how to format a book in MS Word, message me. I'll explain you everything, or might even format your book for you FREE of charge.

3. Get a good cover
Designers are expensive, so go to istock websites and search for beautiful images. Some will cost you just $5-10.

If you can't do this much, then you're not ready to be an author. 

4. You shouldn't have a lot of reviews
If your book has more than 20 reviews, then please DO NOT contact me. Better choose a promo website.

5. No romance
Please, DON'T. I don't read romance. NEVER.

6. I will post my review ONLY on Amazon.com.

That's all, folks! Good luck!

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

ABRACADABRA: The Witchcraft Academy

Yes! It's live!

The Academy of Lost Knowledge teaches witchcraft and sorcery, and just like any other school of magic, it is full of old secrets and chilling mysteries. 

When thirteen-year-old Aram Nazarethian finds the road to the Witchcraft Academy, he plunges headfirst into the world of sorcerer wars and wizard conspiracies.

Together with his new friends Aram will have the adventures of his life, while trying to find a cold-blooded murderer and stop the peril that might turn upside-down the world of magic.

“Abracadabra” is a spin-off of “Witch Hollow” series. If you liked the stories of witches of Hollow, then you will surely love this one too. Unlike "Witch Hollow" series, the story is happening not just in Ireland, but in a school of witchcraft, where the students arrive from all over the world.
The protagonist, Aram Nazarethian, is from Armenia. His two friends are Nikolai from Russia and Theodore from Great Britain.
Soon they are joined by Karishma from India, Gwenlian from Ireland, and Meilin from China. 
There's a lot of magic, magical creatures and fun adventures. The teachers at the Academy are humans, elves, dwarves, and dryads. They celebrate Halloween and Beltane, Christmas and Valentine's Day. The have all kinds of festivals and games; they play Pixie Polo and race on magic carpets.

Come to the Witchcraft Academy and become a magician, then study hard and receive a wizard's or a sorcerer's degree. 

The Academy of Lost Knowledge is a place you will never want to leave!