Blog Tour and guest post – SECRETS OF THE ALCHEMIST by J. L. Burger. Teen/YA fantasy


GMTA Publishing presents:



Title: Secrets of the Alchemist                       

Author: J.L. Burger

Genre: Middle-Grade Fantasy Adventure

Length: 391 pages

Release Date: April 2014

ISBN-13: 978-0615984827

Imprint: Mythos Press

Blank white book w/path

SYNOPSIS: What are Nora and Tomik to do? They’ve been transported 400 years back in history, and have no clue how to get back home. The members of the Royal Court refuse to let them leave – everyone believes that the children are wizards, come to save their struggling empire.

Well, not quite everyone. The wicked chamberlain wants to toss the children into the castle’s deepest dungeon. The crazed, witch-hunting duke is starting to look at them funny. But worst of all is the emperor’s prized alchemist. He just wants them dead – and has a bag full of sinister tricks to make it happen.

It looks like the only way out of this predicament is to save the empire, after all. But how? Nora will have to come up with some magic of her own, and fast – for his next trick, the scheming alchemist is planning to make the children disappear… forever!


  • A humorous look at history: Secrets of the Alchemist gives a side-splitting presentation of Renaissance life, as seen through the eyes of a modern teenager
  • A strong female lead character: 13-year-old Nora grows in self-confidence as she is forced to face the prejudices of the misguided old men running the world of the 16th century
  • An intriguing plot: Featuring a mix of magic, court intrigue, and slapstick comedy, Secrets of the Alchemist manages to be both fast-moving and satisfyingly complex
  • A new view of magic: Secrets of the Alchemist offers an eye-opening view of just what magic really is, by showing how people 400 years ago might react if shown modern technology, and how people of today would react to the “wizards” of that time
  • A dashing male lead: Young Tomik is headstrong and mischievous, his fearlessness constantly gets him and Nora into and out of trouble
  • Two great villains: Everyone will love to hate the unscrupulous alchemist Edward Kelley and his partner in crime, the devious Chamberlain Philip Lang
  • A colorful cast of characters, including real historical figures: In their adventures, Nora and Tomik encounter a child-like emperor and his loyal pet lion; a wise-cracking dwarf; a chivalrous page boy; a witch-hunting duke; and more. Most of the characters in the book really existed in history, and are presented faithfully in a manner true to their real character.



It was at an early age that J.L. Burger discovered the secret to traveling in time. Since then, he has scoured the universe, searching for the deepest mystical knowledge, sowing discord and trouble along the way. He was most recently sighted in ancient Troy, making tasteless jokes about the hole through which the Greeks exited the rear of the Trojan Horse. His most horrific stunt of all, however, was grossly overcooking s’mores in his microwave last summer. Unfortunately, there are some mysteries that are not meant to be solved…

When not traveling in time and space, he resides in New Jersey with his lovely wife, two mostly-charming daughters, and two mostly-smelly dogs. He spends his summers in Europe, inspecting the most recent advances in medieval torture devices.





Looks like this great book has some deliciously evil baddies, and here the author shares with us his thoughts on writing fantasy villains.


Nothing’s More Fun Than Writing Villains!


According to Wikipedia, this is what a villain looks like

Let’s face it; few things are better than a good villain.  Readers need someone to hate, to fear, but at the same time to admire – someone to create conflict.  For the writer, the villain is an even better prize: first, you craft a character with deliciously wicked qualities; then, you build him or her up until he seems invincible, teetering on the brink of victory; and finally, BOOM!  You get to decide what kind of an ending the rascal deserves, and slap him in the face with it (or reward him with it, as the case may be).

One of the main reasons why Secrets of the Alchemist was fun to write was that it has not just one, but two delectably devious villains.  Each is unique in his own way, yet each equally villainous.  Creating them and chronicling their evil schemes was a lot of fun.

The Alchemist:  Edward Kelley is a master of deception – he’ll mix a potion or summon a spirit that will have you gaping in awe first, and then eating out of his hand.  Eager to be the centre of attention, he knows how to find easy targets and exploit their gullibility and superstition.  This, mixed with his mastery of chemistry and sleight-of-hand, make him a force to be reckoned with.

The Chamberlain:  Philip Lang prefers to work behind the scenes.  What he suggests to the emperor before breakfast usually becomes the law of the land.  Although Lang seldom takes the lead, his invisible hand is unavoidable as he manipulates the members of the Royal Court to get him what he wants – most of all, money!

Of course, every villain has his or her own personality.  Here are a few of the common themes that I’ve noticed make good villains fun:

  1. We all need someone to hate: The villain must spark some negative emotion in the reader. He doesn’t have to strangle a kitten on the first page (although it can’t hurt!), but the villain must generally strive for goals that we find objectionable. He is also generally unscrupulous.  There’s no time to waste on morality in pursuing his goals.  Not to harp on the kitten analogy, but if there’s one in the villain’s way, it’s probably going to get it! These two attributes alone may be what distinguishes the villain from the hero, because…
  2. The villain must be in some way admirable, possibly even likeable: Just because the villain sparks negative emotion doesn’t mean that she cannot also spark positive feelings. In order to be an effective counterpart to the hero, the villain must at the very least be capable, cunning and determined. As both a reader and a writer, I often find myself rooting for the villain at times. It’s not until the villain has really shown her powers that one can see how daunting it will be to defeat her.
  3. The villain must show humanity: Maybe not in a comic book, but in general we need to see some of the villain’s weaknesses, some humanity to make him a realistic character. There may be a sad underlying reason why he has chosen his repulsive goals and methods. We might even find ourselves sympathizing with him a bit… just not too much!
  4. The villain’s triumphs build suspense: During the course of the novel, the villain must employ his powers to successfully achieve several objectives on the way to reaching his ultimate goal. This builds up conflict and suspense. At some point in the book, things need to be looking very dire for our hero. That, perhaps, is the point at which we stop rooting for the villain.
  5. The villain’s end – handle with care: Deciding how our villain gets his comeuppance is a matter not to be taken lightly. First of all, things shouldn’t be too easy. They don’t even need to wrap up perfectly. It all depends on what kind of a feeling you want your reader to end with.


With all of the above having been said, it’s hard to believe just how many different types of villains there are out there.  I guess it’s a testament to the ingenuity of all of us writers that we keep coming up with new stuff!

My favorite villain of all time?  Hands down – Nurse Ratched from One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.  She’s got the complete package, in an incredibly understated but horrifying way!   Who’s your favorite villain?


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