Category Archives: Books

Books from the Emerald Isle

Two weeks ago, my mother and sister visited Ireland. Before they left, they asked what type of souvenirs I’d like them to bring back for me. I didn’t have to think about it long before I decided exactly what I wanted. I’m sure you may even be able to guess . . .

I asked for them to bring me books. Used books from a little Irish book store tucked away somewhere. On further thought I asked my mom to stop alongside a beautiful country road in Ireland and pick wild flowers, and to press them into the pages of the book she got for me. Not an expensive gift. Not a difficult gift to get. But I was ecstatic at the mere thought of it.

I’m sure most of you read the rambling and rather passionate thoughts in my last blog post about why I love paperbacks (and hardbacks, of course!) so very much. As my mom and sister handed me my gifts, it hit me once again just why I love physical books as I do.

From a library sale in Carlow, Ireland, to secondhand bookstores in Newry, Cahir and Dublin, my dear little Irish books are full of worn pages, penciled-in notes, unglued binding, age spots, wildflowers, a yellowed bus pass that someone must once have used for a bookmark, and, in short, more history and food for imagination than you could get into an infinite number of eBooks.

Are you ready for some serious book-love pictures?! Meet my new-old books:

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I wonder who W.H. Fowler was? Did he enjoy reading this book? How long did it sit on his shelf?

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Irish wildflowers picked from an obliging field.

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Where did this bus ticket take the person who bought it? Who was he going to see? Perhaps he (or she, of course!) was reading this book as he rode the bus…

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Whose fingers blackened the edges of these pages with their thumbing? This book must have been well-loved, to have such worn edges.

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All my books have history. Some of that history I’ll never know about – I can only imagine where the many books I own have been, what shelf they have rested on, whose eyes have smiled or cried or even drowsed while reading them.

These books from Ireland are no different, really. They sat on a shelf somewhere, or maybe amid a stack of other books, perhaps in a household, perhaps in a bookstore or library. They passed from hand to hand, home to home, heart to heart, just as many books do.

It’s a connection between myself and someone far away. It’s a cord woven between me and a stranger whom I’ll never meet. What a mysterious, lovely thing. My fingers touch where their fingers have touched. I’ll read the very words that someone far away once read. Perhaps I’ll even be touched by those words in the same manner as the one who read them before me.

What history, real or imagined, do your own hand-me-down books have?

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Paper and Ink: 3 Reasons I’m Not an eBook Girl

A few weeks ago I was in line at Nebraska Furniture Mart, preparing to purchase a book.

The man behind me in line laughed and said, “You don’t see people doing that much anymore.”

I said, “What? You mean buying a book at a furniture store? I know –  kinda strange, huh?”

“No,” he said. “I mean buying a book . . . at all. People just don’t do it.”

I just smiled. “Well, I certainly do.”

“So you don’t read eBooks?”

“Not much. I’m rather stubbornly rebelling against the eBook world. I’ll always stick to my paperbacks first and foremost.”

The man just grinned at me and shook his head . . . then kept smiling and shaking his head until I had checked out and walked away. That’s what he did. I’m not exaggerating.

Now, maybe people who live in Nebraska just don’t read as much as people from my State of Missouri, but I doubt it. It could be that this man just has a skewed idea of the bookish world and readers in general . . . I sure hope so!

Whatever the case, it made me ask myself – why do I cling so desperately to my paper-and-ink books? After all, it’s not nearly as convenient to tote around books like Middlemarch or Mansfield Park than it is to simply click it on my tablet and start reading. And let’s not even talk about the difference between having 3,000 books uploaded to your e-reader . . . versus owning 3,000 paper and hardback books that are slowly pushing you out of your own home . . . ahem, not that I have that problem.

Why do I put up with it? What is the superhuman pull of paper and ink and, let’s face it, possibly even spine glue and dust jackets? Because really for me, it is a superhuman pull.

MEMORIES . . .

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Nothing has such an insistent tug as childhood memories. At least, not for me. The stories I experienced, the places I journeyed to through them, the places I sat while reading them, the walks home from the library with arms-to-chin piles of books, the feel of my childish hands on a book’s hard spine . . . those memories will be with me for most of my life, I imagine. And they’re incredibly strong, deeply happy memories. Maybe the coming generation will have those memories with their Kindles, too . . . but somehow I just can’t imagine the dearness of those memories ever being quite the same.

SENSES . . .

Ok, this is a big one for me.

A few days ago I finished a chapter of the book I’m currently reading and my husband looked at me and said, “Why do you look at your book like that every time you stop reading?”

“Umm . . . what do you mean? All I did was shut it and put it down.”

“Nope. Every time you get done reading you close your book and give it a strange look. Every single time. It’s kinda weird.”

“I do?” And then I believe I blushed. This is a man I’ve been married to for 12 years. I can’t remember ever blushing in front of him for, well, anything. But this felt . . . strangely personal. Because the moment he pointed it out, I realized it was true, although I’d never given it a moment’s thought before then.

Apparently I get a little doe-eyed with my books. So what? I bet lots of people do. Right . . .?

That beautiful sound paper makes when I flip pages all at once, or the sound when I let a single page slide through my fingers. The fresh scent of new paper, the sharp smell of ink, even the nose-tickling mustiness of an old, dusty book from my Grandma’s shelf. The very sight of a book or, better yet, a whole shelf of books, their motley, mismatched spines like a beacon to something deep within me. The feel of a book’s squared edges against my palm, its heaviness in my hands as I take it from a shelf.

You know, when I first read The Chronicles of Narnia, the whole box set of them that I owned had a distinct scent to the pages. Who knows what caused it – I imagine something as simple as the combination of ink and paper the publisher used. But whatever it was – to this day when I smell the pages of another book with that same scent, I am instantly transported straight back to my childhood bedroom, with Narnia swirling all around me. I even sometimes feel the ghostly twinge of the crick I got in my neck from burying myself in those books for such long periods of time.

“O, there is lovely to feel a book, a good book, firm in the hand, for its fatness holds rich promise, and you are hot inside to think of good hours to come.” – Richard Llewellyn

SLOWING DOWN . . .

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Those first two reasons are good enough, for me, that a third one wouldn’t even be necessary. But I’ve noticed that, as I get older, I’ve dug my heels in and become quite old-fashionedly stubborn about my books. After some thought, I believe it has to do with my need for control in a world that moves too quickly and demands too much.

A book in my hand represents a slowing down of life, a focusing of my attention to what is in front of me. By picking up a book I feel as if I’m pulling myself out of the tumult of the e-world (or even, sometimes, the world in general) and giving it an emphatic “no.”

STORIES ARE STORIES

Yet in the end, a book’s truest pleasure comes from the words that are written – not the object from which you read them. Stories – good stories – will always be important in their own right, whether told by mouth, written on papyrus, scrawled with crayons on construction paper (those are the ones my son writes for me!), printed with ink on paper, or published on an electronic device.

There is no right or wrong here. Stories are stories and I will always, always love a well-told one.

It’s just that I’ll enjoy it much more if it’s on paper 🙂

 

Tell me, do you have strong feelings about the particular form a book takes?

 

Lines from my WIP and a Party Invitation for YOU

The 777 challenge requires you go to Page 7 of your work-in-progress, scroll down to Line 7 and share the next 7 lines in a blog post. Once you have done this, you can tag 7 other bloggers to do the same with their work-in-progress.

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The following lines are from the novel that is now in the hands of my beta readers, so they are definitely subject to change. But in the meantime, maybe they’ll give you a small glimpse into my story, since it may be a while before the rest of it is seen …

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Aylah looked at her husband, light flickering in her dark eyes. “It’s a Gift, Eoghan, I know it.” Her voice was breathless with a timid excitement.

But a deep frown creased Eoghan’s face. He stood staring down at his son, who was frozen with the knowledge he had given himself away. Then his good hand shot out and took hold of Frayne’s arm. He jerked him to his feet. Frayne was fifteen, and already nearly as tall as his da. They stood eye to eye.

Eoghan’s voice was a low growl. “How long?”

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Ok, so that was a very tiny glimpse. But you were introduced to the main character, Frayne, and in the throes of a fairly crucial scene, actually. So that’s something! I never like tagging people for these types of things, but I will leave it in your hands … if you’d like to share 7 lines starting from line 7 of page 7 in your WIP, go for it. Comment with your post link below and I’ll be sure to visit and read your lines!

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On another, completely unrelated, note … have you heard about Nadine Brandes’ 6-month-anniversary release party for her novel, A Time to Die? Well, it’s happening soon! March 31, in fact. I will be a special guest at the party (so excited!!), promoting The Word Changers (and giving away 2 Kindle copies of it). And Angie Brashear (Of the Persecuted) will be there, too!

You won’t want to miss it! Consider yourself invited! Click here to visit the party page 🙂

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Tidings of New Stories

2 + 2 = 4

For those of you who follow my Facebook page, you’ll have seen that I’ve finished revisions (at last!) on book 1 of my new fantasy series, and have passed it on to my first round of beta readers. This is the first time I’ve used betas, so I’m naturally a bit nervous. It’s one thing to finish a book and hand it to your husband or sister or mom, knowing they will gush with praise. It’s quite another to hand it to someone and say, “Please tear it apart.”

*Gulp*

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I originally planned for this book to be one of two. The first draft of the sequel has been written already, in fact, although it is awaiting much work! However, something has happened along the way. Rather inevitably, I suppose …

The characters … have come alive.

One or two of them are asking for their own stories. A couple others are wishing for more of their stories to be told. It’s all I can do to keep up with the ideas that are being flung at me, and in the process … two additional book outlines have taken shape. So it looks like this book duo has now become, officially, a series. A family of four books … two of which are only ideas thus far, yes, but rather strong and insistent ideas.

*Another gulp*

A bit scary. Quite challenging for someone who has never even considered writing a series. But what a delicious challenge! I think I’m willing to tackle it 🙂

BETA READERS

As I’ve said, the first round of my beta readers have copies of the book already. However, I will be announcing, at a future date, my need for a second round of 2-4 readers. Those who follow my newsletter will be the first to hear about this opportunity, and if the need is filled by them, I may not be announcing it again on my blog.

NEW FAIRY TALE

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Before I launch into revisions for book 2 of the fantasy series, I am working on a novella of a fairy tale retelling that I plan on indie-publishing sometime soon (eek!). As it was written a couple of years ago, I’ve got a lot of work to do on it yet. I began revisions on it today, and I must say they are going swimmingly so far! I basically read through it and marked down all the “homework” I’ll need to do. Several hefty changes, but I’m excited to get started on them.

My wonderful newsletter followers will also be the first to hear about beta reading opportunities for this book, plus fun things like participation in the cover reveal, etc., when the time comes. (Ooh, helping design another cover … I’m definitely looking forward to that part!)

READING

On a rather random note, I just finished the amazing His Dark Assassin trilogy by Robin LaFevers, and am in a bit of withdrawal. None of the books I pick up seem to be appealing to me, but I’m ready to dive into something. Any great suggestions?!

Last Words

Characters die.

Sometimes they’re characters we don’t like. But sometimes they’re characters who mean so much to us that we mourn their deaths almost as a friend would do.

I’ve never liked killing off my own characters – even the truly evil ones. Yet sometimes an author must.

Recently I had to work on writing the death scene of a beloved character … a heartbreaking process, to say the least. To aid me (emotionally more than anything else), I refreshed myself on some famous last words, or “death speeches,” in literature.

As I read them, I had to wonder: What was going through each of the authors’ minds as they wrote their characters’ last words? Did their hearts break, even a little, as they composed the scenes that would mean the end of someone so close to them?

More so: What do last lines say about the characters themselves and their stories?

HONOR

“It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done; it is a far, far better rest that I go to than I have ever known.” (Sydney Carton, A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens)

BETRAYAL

“Et tu, Brute?” (Caesar, Julius Caesar by Shakespeare)

IRONY

“Bad form.” (Captain Hook, Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie)

PASSION

“Towards thee I roll, thou all-destroying but unconquering whale; to the last I grapple with thee; from hell’s heart I stab at thee; for hate’s sake I spit my last breath at thee. Sink all coffins and all hearses to one common pool! and since neither romeo and julietcan be mine, let me then tow to pieces, while still chasing thee, though tied to thee, thou damned whale! Thus, I give up the spear!” (Captain Ahab, Moby Dick by Herman Melville)

“Precious, precious, precious! My Precious! O my Precious!” (Gollum, The Return of the King by J.R.R. Tolkien)

“Yea noise? then I’ll be brief. O happy dagger! This is thy sheath; there rust and let me die.” (Juliet, Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare)

REMORSE

“Lord, forgive me everything.” (Anna Karenina, Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy)

“Farewell, Aragorn! Go to Minas Tirith and save my people! I have failed.” (Boromir, The Fellowship of the Ring by J.R.R. Tolkien)

“The ultimate sacrifice for love: I kiss’d thee ere I kill’d thee: no way but this; Killing myself, to die upon a kiss.” (Othello, Othello by William Shakespeare)

FRIENDSHIP

“Cher ami …” (Hercule Poirot, Curtain by Agatha Christie)

“Harry … Potter …” (Dobby, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling)

“You have been my friend. That in itself is a tremendous thing. I wove my webs for you because I liked you. After all, what’sthorin a life, anyway? We’re born, we live a little while, we die. A spider’s life can’t help being something of a mess, with all this trapping and eating flies. By helping you, perhaps I was trying to lift up my life a trifle. Heaven knows anyone’s life can stand a little of that.” (Charlotte, Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White)

“There is more in you of good than you know, child of the kindly West. Some courage and some wisdom, blended in measure. If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world. But sad or merry, I must leave it now. Farewell!” (Thorin Oakenshield, The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien)

Is there a character whose death broke your heart? Who was it? What were their last words?

True Evil in Christian Fiction: Where Do You Stand?

Two things happened recently which made me want to explore this question, which is a rather broad one: Should there be evil … true evil … in Christian fiction?

The first thing that made me begin thinking about it was a conversation I had with a family member. She told me that she couldn’t understand why books had to be so full of evil. She just wanted to be able to pick up a book that gave her a sense of peace and happiness. Why bad guys? Why horrible obstacles?

The second thing that made me question this was a 1-star Goodreads reviewer who emailed to explain to me that she didn’t enjoy my book because it was “filled with witchcraft and premarital romance.” This example is a bit extreme, especially if you’ve read my book, and I have to admit I didn’t let it effect me greatly. In my book the small amount of magic used is certainly not glorified (although magic is a whole other blog post, honestly …). Also, I’m happy to say that I myself didn’t venture into marital romance without a bit of premarital romance first … I’m afraid of what the consequences would have been if I had, and certainly wouldn’t wish such a thing on my characters or anyone else! 🙂

However, after hearing the words and views of my reviewer and of my relative, I still had to wonder. Where does evil have its place in Christian fiction? What do you, as evil in christian fictionreaders and Christians, believe?

Is magic wrong, even when it is used solely by the antagonist? Is romance (the holding hands, kissing, puppy love kind) wrong for Christian teens (or anyone else, for that matter) to see? Where do you draw the line? And is it wrong to depict evil – you know, the kind that makes you shiver and feel like your stomach has dropped – within the confines of a Christian story with a God-glorifying theme?

I’ll admit, sometimes my tastes in reading and my personal beliefs don’t perfectly coincide. I suspect we’re all guilty of this in one way or another. I like reading about epic battles, and magic, and mysterious murders. Does that mean I’m going to grab a sword and run someone through, or sit pining for my letter from Hogwarts to come … or worse yet, go kill someone? No, not even a teensy bit.

In my opinion, reading about sin only becomes a sin itself when you find pleasure in the evil you see. More so when you not only take pleasure in reading about it, but take it to the next level and perhaps indulge in it yourself. As I heard Bob Ross say (as he was painting happy trees …) on a recent re-run, “You have to add the dark to make the light more striking.” He was speaking about painting, of course, but the minute he said those words, I thought, “Yes! That’s exactly it!” And so it is.

It was much like I told my relative after she expressed her concern over evil in stories. I explained to her that, as a writer myself, my desire is for my stories to mirror the world we live in, the battles (sometimes invisible) we fight every day against an evil that is all too real. To show the reader that evil (whether it takes the form of magic or murder or any other immoral thing), and then to show her a heroine much like herself who overcomes that evil … what could be more powerful than that? What else could leave such a deep sense of peace? Even – no, especially – if that hero or heroine overcomes the evil with grace and mercy and love, things God fully intends us to overcome our real-life troubles with.

So where do all these preferences and beliefs, so seemingly at war with each other, leave me? With several questions, actually, for myself and for you:

  1. Where do we draw the line when reading for entertainment about things we may not morally agree with?
  2. What if truly evil things come only from the antagonist in a story? Are they still wrong to read about?
  3. If we protect ourselves from all thoughts, books, and talk of the things we don’t believe in or agree with, what could be the possible consequences of that, for better or worse?
  4. How much responsibility do we take, as readers, for the direction of our thoughts and actions in relation to what we read, and how much responsibility lies with the author? What does that responsibility entail (for reader or author?).

You, as my readers and friends, have opinions that are extremely important to me. Opinions that I want – and need – to hear, if my future books are to be ones you will want to read. So what do you think? Do you have answers to any of these questions? Opinions? Questions of your own? I want to hear them!

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For some interesting and varying thoughts on magic and romance in Christian fiction, you may want to check out these articles:

Standing Up for Magic

Fantasy Magic and the Christian Author

Magic in Christian Fantasy

How Far Should Couples Go in Christian Fiction?

And the Winners Are ….

So, my wonderful reviewers, the time has come to pull the names from the hat – literally 🙂 (Does it make it more fun if I tell you it was a pirate hat?!)

My little Bug helped me out in drawing the names, and here’s what they are!!

The winner of the Amazon gift card is …..

Reviewer Winner1

And the winner of the memory authors game is …..

Reviewer Winner2

Congrats, you two!  If both of you would e-mail me, that would be great. For the winner of the game, I will need a physical address to send it to. Winner of the gift card, I will try my best to get it sent to you as soon as I can. I warn you, I’ve never bought an e-gift card before (I’ve led a very sheltered life …), so here’s hoping I can do it right and get it to you without any hitches!

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As for the rest of you, I was tempted to spend my vacation savings and buy every one of you a gift, because I’m so thankful for you! But for now you’ll have to accept no more than my heartfelt thanks, and of course an Internet hug or two … *hug!!*

Have a blessed Thanksgiving!

A Giveaway for Reviewers of THE WORD CHANGERS!

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Once upon a time, there was an author who was very thankful for all the support she had received from her readers and reviewers. As grateful as she was, she knew that “thank you,” and lots of smiles (which no one saw anyway) could only go so far….

So she decided to give something away … no, make that two somethings. They weren’t much, but they at least said “thank you” in less of a virtual way, and in a bit more of a physical way.

Here’s the first something:

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Because who in the world can’t use an Amazon gift card??!!

And here’s the second something:

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Make no mistake, this game has more to it than an ordinary memory game. You can become an author, publisher or editor (um, yes!), you can create your own personal library, and you can challenge other players to a literary duel. Too much bookish fun to handle, really! If you want to travel to Missouri, I’ll even play it with you ….

Here’s the Giveaway Info

WHO QUALIFIES?  Those who have read The Word Changers and posted a review of it on Amazon.

WHEN DOES THE GIVEAWAY END?  It will run from today until Tuesday, November 25th (and yes, I changed the original dates I had decided on because I didn’t want it to run through Thanksgiving!).

HOW DO YOU ENTER?  Simply e-mail me with the link to your Amazon review of The Word Changers, (ashleew(at)zoho(dot)com), or comment with the review link below.

HOW WILL YOU KNOW IF YOU WON?  I will announce the two winners here on my blog first thing on November 26th (that’s a Wednesday, and yes, it’s the day before Thanksgiving!).

Perhaps you are in the middle of reading The Word Changers, or maybe you haven’t got a chance to start it at all yet … No fear! You have a week to finish it, write your Amazon review, and be eligible for this giveaway!

I really can’t tell you how much I appreciate it, readers and reviewers, for your taking the time from reading books whose authors you have at least heard of … and  agreeing to read and review mine instead! 😉

Vanquished Release

I’m excited today to introduce you to a new Christian series for teens published by Pelican Book Group. A novel set in a world where sickness is rampant and medication is limited, Vanquished was written by author Katie Clark. The entire series is available in paperback at Amazon or Barnes and Noble, and will be available in eBook form on November 22, 2014.

I myself had the privilege of being an early reader for this book, and if you like dystopian novels with a foundation of faith and hope, you’ll want to consider this one!

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Here is a little about Vanquished!

When Hana’s mom is diagnosed with the mutation, she is denied the medication that might save her life.  Fischer, a medic at the hospital, implies there are people who can help—except Hana’s not sure she can trust him; Fischer is involved in a religious group, and religion has been outlawed for the last hundred years.  Hana embarks on a dangerous journey, seeking the answers Fischer insists are available. When the truth is uncovered does Hana stick to what she knows?  Or does she join the rebellion, taking a stand against an untrustworthy society?

 

Author Katie ClarkKATIE CLARK writes young adult speculative fiction, including her dystopian Enslaved Series, made up of Vanquished, Deliverance, and Redeemer. You can connect with her at her website, on Facebook, or on Twitter.

 

Fun News for Reviewers of The Word Changers!

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Most of you probably know the importance of getting reviews for your own book, or leaving reviews for others’ books. They help potential buyers find a book to begin with, and then help them to decide whether or not it’s the book for them. Real, honest opinions from real, honest readers – for me, at least – count far more than even the book’s blurb or cover.

The Word Changers now has 55 reviews on Amazon (thanks to 55 very awesome readers!). When it reaches 60 I am going to be doing a giveaway. For what, you ask? Well, there will be an Amazon gift card involved, and something bookish and creative which I haven’t yet made a final decision on. But trust me, it will be lovely, and you will want it 😉

So my request for you is this:  If you have read The Word Changers but haven’t yet left an Amazon review, hop over to their site and write one! Reading4And if you’ve been wanting to read The Word Changers but haven’t got around to it yet, get your own copy over at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, or Smashwords (see sidebar for links), and then leave a review. It’s just $2.99 right now in eBook (rather than its original $3.99).

If you know a friend who may like to read it, lend her your e-copy, or buy her a copy as an early Christmas present … and then ask her to leave a review as well! The more the merrier!

This opportunity will be for Amazon reviewers ONLY … and we only need 5 more reviews for me to start the giveaway!  Yay! So get your review in so you can enter your name when the giveaway begins.

Ok, my shameless requests for you to read and review my book are over. But I will have you know they are just a front for what I truly want to do:  THROW A GIVEAWAY!  😀

Have a great weekend, a fun Halloween … and happy reading!