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Loss and love in literature: Sterling author creates fantasy world for children, and in memory of his father

STERLING – Firefly Forest is in danger!

Suzy Shortbread, Penelope Pringles, Francis Frogs and others invite you along as they wage an epic battle between dark and white magic in a struggle to control the lands of Morada.

Teacher and self-published author Joplin James Crossland-Sell, 44, of Sterling, is releasing the first book in his young readers fantasy trilogy, "Tales from Mushroom Manor: The Sorceress Returns."

The tale has been weaving itself through Crossland-Sell's life for decades, born of a childhood tragedy.

"When I was just 8 years old, my father, James Robert Sell, was killed in a two-man airplane crash that happened here in Rock Falls," he said.

"A part of me coped with his dying by creating these fantasy worlds in my mind of other dimensions where he was really at, going on these quests before he would be able to come back to Earth and be my dad again."

The 1992 Sterling High School graduate earned his bachelor's degree in public communication/human relations from Western Illinois University in 1998, then his master's in special education at the University of Missouri-Kansas City in 2005.

His teaching career kicked off in inner city Kansas City, and took him to Alamogordo Public School in New Mexico where he taught for 7 years. It was there the idea for Mushroom Manor sprouted.

"In teaching, I use a lot of alliteration. The very first thing I wrote was 'I see a pretty pink pony prancing on a polka dotted ball.' Then all of these ideas came to me," Crossland-Sell said.

Every so often he shared his book with his students – without telling them it was his – to see how his target audience responded.

"I didn't want them loving the book just because their teacher was the author."

He managed to finish 11 chapters before his busy life – teaching, raising two teen boys as a single dad with no nearby family support – took priority over writing the book.

"I realized that I missed my family. I decided to make the move back to Sterling – I wanted my boys to go through the same schools that I went through."

Back in the Sauk Valley, Crossland-Sells taught special education at Sterling High from 2012 to 2013, at Jefferson Elementary School in Sterling the year after, in the autism classroom at Oregon Elementary School from 2016 to 2017, and at Morrison Junior High for half the 2017 school year before accepting his current teaching position at the Jack Mabley Developmental Center in Dixon.

He hadn't touched Mushroom Manor for 5 years when he attended a "Pathways to Successful Living" seminar in Chicago. It spurred him to set a goal to finish just one chapter, which snowballed into the book's completion in about 2 months.

With one book done the the other two on the way, Crossland-Sells, who writes under the name Joplin James, remembers his father through literature.

"The creative writer in me was born by how I was able to process the loss of my father. He was such a powerful, loving force in my life, truly instilled my love for the arts and how to be a very involved father to my boys.

"I became a writer because of my father, he is the reason my pen name is Joplin James, in honor of him."


Autographed copies of "Tales from Mushroom Manor: The Sorceress Returns" are available for $25 for local delivery or pick-up, or $30 to have it mailed to you, from author Joplin James Crossland-Sell.

Send a check or money order to: Joplin James Crossland-Sell, 811 E. Second St., Sterling, IL 61081

Orders will be sent at the end of March or beginning of April.

The book also will be available at Amazon and Kindle.

Email or find Tales From Mushroom Manor on Facebook for more information.



"Tales from Mushroom Manor: The Sorceress Returns"

Firefly Forest is in danger! There are rumors circling about that Leona, the evil sorceress elf, has returned to avenge her slain brother's death. When a new stranger comes to Firefly Forest, he tries to dispel these rumors. Is he to be trusted or does he have ulterior motives? Join Suzy Shortbread, Penelope Pringles, Francois Frogs and the other friends from Mushroom Manor as they find themselves on an adventure of a lifetime! An epic battle between Dark and White magic is about to begin! Who will end up controlling all the Lands of Morada?

"The Search for Ferante," out in spring 2019

Our friends from Mushroom Manor are back! The evil, sorceress elf, Leona, has finally risen into power! After nearly destroying Firefly Forest, she now has her sights set on conquering the rest of the Lands of Morada! Our enchanted pals separate into two different groups, hoping to find a way to stop her before their time runs out! Join little Molly Mishkin, Francois Frog and Mr. Blinkystein, as they head north to Dark Minion Marsh, hoping to rescue Molly's mother and the once mighty, Governor Peryton, who Leona has captured! Meanwhile,Suzy Shortbread, Dafydd Canicus and Penelope Pringles travel westward across Morada heading to the Dragon Mountains. Following the ominous orders from Oracle of Wayward Wetlands, as our faithful friends of Mushroom Manor find out that their world is a much more dangerous place than they had ever realized. Will Suzy Shortbread be able to find Ferante, the ancient one, in time so he can restore the Heart of White magic? Will all of Morada fall in Leona's darkness?

"The Heart of White Magic," out in spring 2020

The time has come for the final battle to control all of Morada to begin! Leona, the evil sorceress elf, has finally unleashed her secret weapon and it appears like there is no way to stop her destruction! Join the friends from Mushroom Manor once again as their quest to complete the orders from the Oracle reaches its pinnacle.They must somehow find the strength and resilience deep within as they are pushed to their limits. Can they each endure all the tasks set out before them? And even though some families will be reunited and friendships are renewed, there are secrets yet to be revealed, which could tear apart the very fabric that is holding everyone together.Who can be trusted? Who should be feared?Who are the true heroes and villains? Everything everyone has believed in will be tested to the extreme!When the time come for Suzy Shortbread to finally face Leona once and for all, it will be the most epic of showdowns! Which sorceress will be defeated and which one will prevail?

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