September 2022

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Table of Contents

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Lucy Score: Writing Snarky, Sumptuous, Sigh-Worthy Escapes!

27 Not Your Best Effort:

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Grace Draven

31 Expanding Your Media Reach With Audiobooks!

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Break eld & Burkey

23 Parenthesis and All That [Sic] Stuff: Paul Stans eld

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38 Are We Still Laughing Out Loud?

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S.L. Carpenter


September 2022

42 Rising Star Spotlight: Kate Archer!

46 From The Final Word Typed To The First Page Turned: Tamara Cribley

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Reviews: Historical:

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Contemporary:

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Paranormal:

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Fantasy/Urban Fantasy:

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Science Fiction:

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Time Travel:

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Suspense/Thriller: 90 New Adult:

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Young Adult:

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Novella

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Mystery:

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Audiobooks:

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The Path of the Gods:

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Chapter 2

Julie L. York 5


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Our Staff:

Publisher/ Editor-in-Chief: TJ MacKay Executive Editor: Katy Nielsen

Copy Editors: Julie York, Marc Joseph, Penny Baker Special Publications Editors: Sarah McEachron, Ryan Jo Summers Social Media: Laura Trujillo, Amanda Hupe, Lynn-Alexandria McKendrick Columnists: S.L. Carpenter, Paul Stans elf,Tamara Cribley, Rachael Tamayo and Cynthia Austin Transcription: Ralph Conley Graphics: Elle J. Rossi, Rachel Rossano RONE Awards Coordinator: Amanda Hupe Technical Editor: Gabriella Sawyer Reviewers* Chelsea Anderson, Belinda Wilson, Lynn-Alexandria McKendrick, Tricia Hill, Viola Robbins, Emerson Matthews, Sarah E. McEachron, Roslynn Ernst, Carey Sullivan, Victoria Zumbrum, Shailyn Rogers, Marie Sanderson, Austen Grace, Joan Lai, Cara Cieslak, N.E. Kelley, Jennifer Shepherd, Sadie Wilson, Annalee Stilove, Ruth Lynn Ritter, *Please note, ALL InD’tale staff are required at times to read and review books. Material in this publication may not be reproduced in any form without written permission. All books and material reviewed by InD’tale have been read by the stated reviewer and are the opinions of that reader.

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Editor’s Note I do admit it is a bit disappointing that we are not able to see everyone in person like in years past - and that the state of the country (and the world) makes it impossible for us to even hold a live event this year, but we are doing our very best to ensure the video presentation will give each and every finalist and winner the recognition and praise they deserve. The RONE awards presentation is scheduled to air on Saturday, October 8th, at 5:00 PST (8:00 EST and varied other times depending on the zone you live in!) on the InD’tale page of YouTube. It will also be presented on Facebook and other social media venues in the days after the initial presentation. Oh, we hope you will attend and watch! And, we’re keeping our fingers crossed that inflation will diminish enough to allow us to celebrate in person next year!

So, has everything settled down a bit for y’all now that school is back in session and the world is slowing down into fall? Here at InD’tale, this is our very busiest time of year! In years past, it has meant InD’Scribe Con, and even now it is RONE award season! Yep, the judges have turned in their scores, the numbers are being tallied, the video is being created, and the awards are waiting to be engraved. Everyone who works at the magazine gets just as excited as the authors and readers this time of year. We can’t wait to see the results!

Smiles,

TJ Macka y

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Contributors

Paul Stansfield

Breakfield & Burkey

New Jersey born and raised, Paul Break eld is a 25+ year technology Stans eld spent decades as a eld expert in security, networking, voice, archaeologist for his day job. and anything digital. He enjoys writing, Surprisingly, even though he studying World War II history, travel, professionally disturbed hundreds of and cultural exchanges. graves, he has yet to suffer a haunting or Burkey is a 25+ year applied zombie attack. He’s had over 20 stories technology professional who excels at published by magazines, including such optimizing technology and business publications as Bibliophilos, Morbid investments. She writes white papers Curiosity, The Literary Hatchet, and and documentation, but found she has Horror Bites. He has stories available in a marked preference for writing ction. 10 anthologies, and the upcoming Together they create award-winning “Death’s Garden Revisited” (October stories that resonate with males and 2022). He’s an Af liate Member of the females, and both young and Horror Writers Association. experienced adults.

Julie L. York Julie is an author, editor, and mom though not always in that order. She also teaches English to adult and incarcerated students. She was was born and raised in the East Bay Area, California, graduated with a B.A. in English, minoring in Business Computers... got married and had children. Then she completed a Masters of Fine Arts in Media Design. Oh, and did she mention she is a voracious reader? Thanks to iBooks and the Kindle App, Julie has consumed thousands of eBooks and claims reading is her rst love.

S.L. Carpenter A lifetime Californian, Scott Carpenter lives the ordinary life of a husband and father. Humor has always played a large role in his life, and he enjoys making people smile. His stories range from the outright absurd to the deeply poignant, and his mastery of the short story format is undeniable. If asked, he'll describe himself as just another guy. His many fans will tell you that his writing paints quite a different picture.

Grace Draven Looking for any excuse to delay in doing the laundry, Grace Draven turned to the much more entertaining task of telling stories about fantasy worlds, magic, antiheroes, and the women who love them. Her talent soon propelled her to super stardom in the Fantasy genre, and she is now one of it’s bestselling authors. Grace currently lives in Texas with her husband, kids, and a big doofus dog. Laundry has now been assigned to the kids.

Tamara Cribley Tamara Cribley is a self-professed formatting junkie who believes beautiful books don't happen by chance. Having worked as a Commercial Photographer, Graphic Artist, and Art Director, Tamara’s unique skills enable her to put together classy and professional books that keep the reader focused on the story. She resides in Colorado where she gives back to her community by being an active Search and Rescue volunteer, and in her free time enjoys reading, gardening, and exploring with the dog.

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Lucy Score Writing Snarky, Sumptuous, Sigh-Worthy Escapes!

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Isn’t it wonderful when great rst impressions turn out to be true? Lucy Score is one of those people who seems to be such a bright, sunny, fun person, and when you actually meet her, she is! Only even better! She is also quick, intelligent, humorous and just plain enjoyable to spend time with. She doesn’t take herself too seriously, yet is very serious about creating and gifting the very best of herself in every book she writes. So, if reading light, funny stories that also have a surprising amount of depth and emotion in them, Lucy is your gal! InD: Where did you grow up? LS: I was born and raised in Pennsylvania, and I still live here. InD: Have you ever moved anywhere, at all? LS: No, I have never moved out of state. I even went to college in Pennsylvania. I love living here. We get all four seasons with snow in the winter and summers hot enough to spend in the pool. We’re on almost nine acres on the outskirts of town and only twenty minutes from the state capital. So I get to enjoy a lot of the amenities of a more urban location, unlike the tiny town I grew up in! InD: How was it growing up in that type of environment? LS: I had a great childhood. I was born into a family of readers, so I spent a lot of time in libraries, and in my room, reading. And because we lived out in the country in the 80s, my brother and I grew up playing outside. We didn’t have social media or smart phones around. It was such a different experience from what kids today deal with. I didn't love school. When I was younger, I was painfully shy. Then I really struggled with math and being told what to do all the time! I just wanted to be in charge of my own time and my decisions, so I got detention pretty often in high school for skipping classes. InD: So you started reading really young?

LS: I did! My parents read everything, so we had a great introduction into all kinds of books. My mom was a huge Romance reader, but we read The Chronicles of Prydain series by Lloyd Alexander as a family. It’s like "Lord of the Rings", with magic and all that kind of stuff. My dad and I read a lot of Clive Cussler. As a kid, I would read Sweet Valley Twins one day, and John Grisham the next. I read my irst Romance novel at 13, off of my mom's shelf. InD: What a rich experience! Even coming from a very small town, you were able to read such a wide variety of books. LS: My mom was a librarian and she was never one to say no. She was very lexible with what she would let us read. To this day, her book recommendations are awesome. For instance, she’ll recommend books that are middle school age, which I may be hesitant to pick up, but once I do, I’m like, “Why did I wait so long? This is amazing!” InD: Did you like to write in the 3rd, 4th, and 5th grade? LS: I did. I remember one of those formative, but also emotionally scarring moments. It was in the 2nd grade. We had to write a paragraph pretending we were kids on the May lower. I wrote mine and the teacher made me read it out loud to the class because she thought it was so good. But for me, public speaking, especially at that age, was a nightmare. I

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thought I was having a heart attack. But, that was also the irst time someone thought I might have talent. InD: As you sat down, were you happy and proud of yourself? Or were you just scarred for life? LS: De initely scarred for life. I was just relieved it was over. It didn't occur to me until later that it wasn’t a punishment; it was because the teacher thought it was good. It took me a while to get to that point. I knew I enjoyed writing assignments, but it was the irst time that I realized I might be good at it. InD: When did you start to write your own short stories? LS: Probably elementary school, and it continued into high school. I would write these dramatic teenage scenes as they popped into my head. I took all of the English and writing classes I could, because those were the ones I didn't hate. In college, when I didn't have much time to read for fun, I would jot down scenes of dialogue as a hobby. It was just a break from writing papers and articles. I majored in Journalism, so my classes were focused on the short, factual Non-Fiction pieces. I didn’t actually consider writing books until I was out of college. InD: When you picked up your irst Romance book at 13, did you think it was a book just like any other? Or did you decide that was what you really liked? LS: I fell in love with Romance at that moment. It was a story about people falling in love and being happy. What other genre prioritizes living happily ever after? From that point on, Romance was my number one favorite genre to read. That has never wavered, and I have never considered writing anything other than Romance because I love it so much. One of the things I love most about the genre is the character development. It is so important in a Romance novel. When I am reading a long action series about a private investigator or a military hero, it’s more dif icult to have these intense arcs where the main character learns and grows and changes. The formula is, this is who this

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person is and this is what happens to him or her, which is entertaining in its own way. But, in Romance, it’s more about people who become their best selves and how they ind happiness. It’s such an uplifting, awesome message. I’ve always been interested in things like growth and personal development, so I think that genre theme resonated deeply with me. InD: When you were in high school, did you know what you wanted for a career? LS: I wanted to be Lois Lane. I was heavily in luenced by the adventures of Lois and Clark on TV. I thought Dean Cain was cute [both laughing]. I thought the idea of journalism was very exciting. I could go to different places, meet different people, and experience their different stories. It was a much idealized version of journalism that I had my head, and by the time I actually experienced it in an internship, I started to think I’d made a mistake. InD: Why? LS: I thought journalism was a conduit through which change could happen. Telling stories, I think, is the most effective way to affect change, to get people to understand and empathize with others. We aren’t necessarily motivated by data and numbers. We’re motivated by stories that resonate with us. And that’s what I thought my journalism career would be like. InD: You were thinking about journalism as a conduit to help people looking for truth and enlightenment, but in reality, journalism was just sticking with the facts. Is that true? LS: Yes, I think that is exactly right, and that was my understanding with the kind of journalism I was doing. There wasn't an opportunity to really do the kind of storytelling I thought was important. I was an administrative assistant and a copy desk editor for my hometown newspaper on weekends when I was in college. My irst real, grown-up job was writing obituaries and laying out pages of the newspaper.


I really started to escape into writing short stories to give myself freedom somewhere. InD: So it was when you were in those jobs you hated that you started to write stories on your own? LS: I tried to write a book when I was working as a proofreader and it was terrible. I remember thinking, “I am not cut out for this, it isn't working.” I think I went as far as submitting it to Harlequin. I de initely got rejected, and that was it. I burned the manuscript very dramatically. InD: Why was it terrible? LS: I think it was because it was my irst try and I am really hard on myself and how long it takes me to learn to do new things. There are a lot of people in my life who have a lot of natural talent. When they try something for the irst time, they do it right, but I am like a bumbling idiot who falls through the door the irst seventeen times. Writing really is the only natural talent I have ever found. Everything else I have had to work hard just to be average at. I really believe that every day, when I wake up and get to write books for a living, it’s because it’s something I’m good at, so I don't mind spending a lot of time honing my skills because I just know I am going to get better and better at it, rather than just incrementally less mediocre. InD: It is interesting that you say you don't have a lot of natural talent, but the one natural talent that you have is huge! LS: Thank goodness for that! (laughing) InD: Since you said your irst book was terrible, what brought you back to try

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I realized that the journalistic opportunities I had available to me were not what I wanted to expose myself to on a daily basis. The news was not good and happy things. It was not sharing stories that were uplifting, but of murder, child abuse, crime, and politics. It was everything that enforces the belief that the world is dark, and that we are too different to get along. As I was coming up in that age of digital revolution, I saw the advertising element was becoming even more powerful than it had been in print. You can track so much digital information, and with that kind of feedback, everything became driven by the number of clicks, so every headline had to be as sensational as possible, even if that meant making it misleading. More clicks meant more advertising dollars. I didn’t like it, and I de initely was not cut out for it. Obviously journalism is essential to the fabric of humanity, and there are media outlets out there that are doing wonderful and important work, but I just didn’t want to expose myself to that much negativity all the time. I’m not someone who can spend my entire day mired in it and then still function without it affecting me. InD: Once you realized that, what did you do? LS: I graduated from college early and I landed a job as a proofreader. I thought, “Okay, journalism and proofreading are close enough.” I did that for eight years. I had a whole string of jobs as an adult, but I was bad at pretty much everything besides writing Romance novels. InD: Bad, or just didn't like them at all? LS: Both. I think if I'd liked any of them, I would have made more of an effort to get better at them. Once again, I felt like I was being told where to go and what to do, and I didn’t enjoy that kind of structured atmosphere which is hilarious. I was this rebellious teenager and now I am 42 with the same problem! I hated having a dress code, having to take lunch at a set time, and everything just felt so arbitrary to me. It felt like eight more years of high school, so that's when


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again? LS: I just couldn't leave it alone. I took a bunch of creative writing classes in college and I really enjoyed them, and I think every time I picked up a book that didn’t grab me, I would rewrite it in my head. I just kept tinkering on the side, even though I didn’t think I was cut out for writing novels. Still, I couldn't leave it alone. It was the one hobby that was just for me. InD: What happened when you inally got another book completely inished? LS: My entire career can be blamed on my brother. He’s two and half years younger than me. Our little sister is almost 12 years younger than I am, so my younger brother and I were really close. We were each other's friend in childhood because we didn't live around a lot of other kids. As adults, we would email each other every day and he was telling me about self-publishing. He knew I enjoyed writing and said, “Hey, this stuff is pretty cool! And it’s really taking off. You should look into it." I was actually working for a newspaper at the time, in the custom publication division. Instead of typical news content, I was working on magazine content. It was much more my speed with storytelling and it was fun, uplifting topics. This was also around the time that "50 Shades of Gray" came out and we were all passing copies around the newsroom. I remember my boss, at that time, picked up the book off my desk and said, “I can't believe you're not embarrassed to have this on your desk.” To me that response was just very funny. It had never occurred to me to be ashamed of what I read. I just loved the phenomenon. The idea that someone sat down and wrote a story that connected with millions of people. I mean, it was like Harry Potter; those books turned so many non-readers into readers. That’s the magic of writing! It’s amazing. That kind of thing changes lives. So thanks to my brother and “50 Shades of Gray”, I decided I was going to write my own story and started researching self-publishing. I took about a year. It was during that time I was laid off, so I picked up some freelance writing work and I wrote a novella. I was pretty excited about it, but it took me forever. When I inished it, I published it online and it sold 35 copies; that was it. InD: Were you happy with selling 35 copies? LS: No. I like to aim very high for things. I like to watch the people at the top and see what they are doing. There were so many stories at the time, “I just published my book six months ago and now I am a millionaire!” so I was like, “Why not me?!”

I was shocked when bags of money didn’t begin falling from the sky. In true dramatic writer fashion, I decided the dream was dead. I’d given it a real shot and it didn't work out. It was time to get another real job because the freelance gigs and the novella were not paying the bills. I got lucky and landed a job in marketing for a local accounting irm for more money than I had ever made before. I decided that this was what I was supposed to be doing. Adults give up dreams and earn salaries in jobs they don’t love because they’re responsible. And they have bills to pay. I needed to bite the bullet and do a job I might not love, but at least it had security. InD: How did you come back to writing again? LS: About a year into the job, I received an email from an author who ran her own publishing label. She’d read my novella after my brother shared a link to it in a forum she was in and wondered if I would turn it into a full novel and let her and her business partner publish it. Suddenly, the dream was alive again! So I took a couple of months, reworked the novella into a longer story, and sent it off. In March 2015, it came out and it made a decent amount of money for a debut novel in its irst two months, enough money to where I came up with a ive-year plan. I was going to save every dime until I had one year of salary in the bank. Then I was going to take a year off to try my hand at being a full-time author. At irst, I didn’t tell anyone at work what I was doing, because I had a feeling this was not a hobby management would be excited or enthusiastic about, but I did tell one of my close friends, and it turned out that another

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employee had read the book without knowing it was mine. InD: What was the name of the book and how did it perform? LS: "Undercover Love", was my irst one. It did okay. I didn't know any other indie authors so I wasn’t sure what to expect. Everything I knew about indie publishing came from stories about big seven- igure authors, and I was clearly not that. InD: That surprises me because I was thinking 35 books sold irst time out and with no one knowing you isn’t so bad. I have to say, your expectations were really far out there! LS: It’s the story of my life. My expectations are totally out of whack with reality. [both laughing] InD: I think, at that time, many people were doing that, because people were seeing everything going nuts. I remember we, at the magazine, had such a hard time trying to get all the new authors to see things more realistically. It was very common for them to say, “I am going to write this book and make $1 million!" No, you are probably not... 35 books sold is truly not bad for a irst try. It takes time and growth. LS: Exactly! Everything I have done has brought me one step closer to what I'm doing today, even the things that have taken me two steps backwards. I had a general idea of what success would feel like, but I never realized the day-today effort required to be successful at your dream job. At the very least, I realized that authors like Nora Roberts and E. L. James had been doing it for years, working very hard for a really long time and I had only just started. InD: So how did that ive-year plan go? LS: That ive-year plan didn’t last a year. Since the word was getting out about what I was doing, I decided to tell one of my bosses because I didn’t want them to hear it from somebody else. So on a Monday in October 2015, I went in and said, “I have this hobby I do on the side. I write Romance novels and my second book is coming out this week. I just wanted to let you know that it is what I do in my spare time." I did this because during my employee review that year, she said she was disappointed I did not share any personal goals in the interview and I was thinking, “Well, my personal goal is to become a full-time author and quit this job.”

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When I told her what I do, she said, “Good for you!” That was on a Monday, and on Wednesday I got called into the main conference room with three of my bosses. They ired me. They were very nice about it and said they were shutting down my department (I was the only one in “my department”) and I had till the end of the year to ind a new job. I was crushed. I thought I could stay at this good paying job and write books in the evening and on the weekend, to build up to my ive-year plan. I thought I was going to have to, once again, quit writing and start working on a new resume and ind a new job. I was devastated. I called Tim [Lucy’s husband] and said, “They just ired me”, and instead of sympathy, he said, “Thank God! This is going to be the best thing to ever happen to you!” I was whining about how was I going to pay my bills and ind a new job and he said, “Just trust me.” InD: So he really had faith in your writing and he really felt you could make a living at it? LS: Well, he’s not a reader but he believed in me, and believed in my stubbornness that cannot let things go. The next day, my book "Pretend You Are Mine" came out, and within two weeks, it was number one on Amazon in the Kindle store. One of the authors who had published my book called and told me I needed to quit my job early and start writing my next book. I told her that wasn’t really an option, that I needed the paycheck to keep me a loat until I could ind another job. And she said the publishing company would give me an advance on what I earned in the two weeks since my book had come out. I was like “…okay, what will that be?” And she named a igure that was my entire annual salary! I’d had no idea because I didn’t have any access to the sales numbers. I said, “I guess I am turning in my resignation tomorrow!” So I of icially quit the day before Thanksgiving. Walking out of that of ice was the best feeling! I didn’t need my ive-year plan because my future had already started. InD: What did you do then? Did you sit down and write all day? LS: I thought, “I am going to write so many books because I have nothing else do.” But that was not how it worked. What so many people went through with Covid and the lock down, I went through in 2015.


At irst I was excited. There were no rules! No dress code. I could do whatever I wanted and eat whenever I wanted… but I realized, without any kind of structure, I wasted a lot of time. Plus, I was so conditioned to writing at night that I really struggled switching to daytime. I still struggle with it to this day. But it was de initely a learning experience of how to organize my time and not waste it. It took me a long time to get into a groove. I still feel that I am easily derailed, but I made it work and I never had to get a second job. InD: That is so awesome! It is a challenge, and it takes a lot of self-motivation and selfdiscipline to make this a career, and I think a lot of new authors don't realize that. LS: It takes so much time and effort to inish a book, not to mention publish it and run a business around it. It is a lot. InD: Without exception, the authors I’ve met have said, if it was just sitting down and writing a book, wouldn't life be wonderful? But that is not how it works. It is a business. LS: That’s exactly right. Being an indie author is like juggling two full-time jobs - the writing and then everything that comes after the writing. My irst traditionally published book, “Maggie Moves On” was released in June, and that was a brand-new experience for me. I kind of assumed I could just turn the book over to a publisher and my job was done. But just like an indie release, there was still a lot of work I had to do. InD: What are the differences you see in your Indie work versus traditional? LS: As an indie author, I get the inal say in things like the cover, the blurbs, how many steamy scenes I include in a storyline, etc. But I found the traditional publishing experience to be more collaborative. Like I could give an opinion or make a suggestion, but ultimately the inal decisions are left to the editors and the marketing teams. I also don’t go through developmental edits with my indie books because I’m very protective of my stories. I don’t want to feel like I’m putting someone else’s voice into my book. So working with an editor who was making story suggestions was brand new to me. There are so many pros and cons of doing everything yourself, and so many pros and cons of having somebody else do it for you. It was such a different experience for me. I’m

glad I took the chance to experience what a traditional release was like. InD: I can understand that, especially with you, because your stories are doing fabulously well just the way you are writing them. I think that would be hard to suddenly have to go through developmental edits. LS: It was. I know some authors whose writing is very social, very collaborative. They have alpha readers, where they send them a chapter at a time, ask what they think of it, and then incorporate the feedback. I couldn’t work that way. I don't ever want anyone to see my un inished work until I’m happy with the story and feel it is ready. So for me, that was de initely a crazy experience. InD: Traditional publishers are really going after Indie authors who are really doing well because they can bring their audience with them. You already know how to write a book and have a built-in audience. That is a win-win for a publisher. LS: They are very smart for targeting authors who are already doing well. It makes so much sense from a business perspective. It’s easier to boost an author’s visibility when they already have a dedicated following, a built-in audience. InD: Did you consciously decide you were going to write a lighter type of Romance or did that come naturally? LS: That came pretty naturally to me, because I am hilarious. (both laughing) When I was 15, my local hometown newspaper started a program for teenagers where we could come in and get the whole newspaper experience. We would write articles, reviews, and columns for our own little section of the paper. I thought that was the coolest thing! My favorite things to write were the humor columns, like Dave Barry, who was a long-time humor columnist for the Miami Herald. That just felt very natural to me. I did that for years and had a great time doing it. That was a very natural style for me, and I believe that is what shows up in my books. InD: So when you started writing Romance, you just did what came naturally, and that was humorous? LS: Yes. I think real life has so much humor mixed up in it it’s only natural for that to end up on the page. Now, Mr. Lucy [Tim] has a higher standard of what is funny and doesn't always think I’m

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rewriting for that story, and it took me almost six months to inish. At the time, though, I was working through a lot of grief, and those characters allowed me to examine that on the page. I think dealing with it on the page helped me through things in real life. I don't want to say it was a struggle, but those characters required a lot more effort for me to make sure I was portraying them authentically. InD: That is really interesting because I had read all of these fun books by you and thoroughly enjoyed them. Then I read "Things We Never Get Over”. It was lovely, but it had a more thoughtful feel to it. How hard is it for you to write your sex scenes? Because you laugh and joke around it and they enjoy the same humor, but you have ive or six page long sex

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quite as hilarious as I do. But I remind him often that readers ind me entertaining. InD: What do you think is the hardest part about being an author? LS: Writing. It is the best part. It is the worst part. It is the easiest and the hardest. Finishing something that you can be excited about is tough, and I think that it should be. The best things in life should require hard work. Like parenting; I am not a parent, people tell me it’s great, but it does not look easy. And I think that’s true for the most worthwhile things in life. They’re dif icult and maybe that’s what makes them so great. InD: Very well said! Looking at your characters, have there been any that have been super hard to write? LS: I think there have been different characters I’ve had to put different amounts of effort into. Some have come to me fully formed and I totally understand them and get them on the page immediately, like Riley Thorne of my Riley Thorne series. I love those books, and all of the characters were already there. It was like I was watching a TV show and I just started writing down what they were doing. In my "Things We Never Get Over" book, I really struggled with getting to know the hero and the heroine. I was going through so much in my personal life I wasn't focused and I was missing the most important pieces in the characters. I couldn’t move them forward until I “got” who they were, so I did quite a bit of

scenes. Is that hard or pretty easy? LS: I just wait until I am in the mood! So if I’m in a nice hormonal mood, I will write all the sex scenes in two days. That’s my secret, because I don't think I could fake my way through those scenes! InD: So… tell us about your own romance! LS: My husband and I have known each other since I was 21. We had been friends for a very long time while we were both in other relationships. I always joke that we went from friends to lovers, which is my least favorite trope to write because I don't think there is enough con lict! In real life, friends to lovers is a very healthy relationship to have, but on the page, I am like, snooze fest! I still remember the irst time I saw him; I was standing in a driveway with other friends. I thought he was super cute and very tall, and he was very funny and kind and smart, and he could tell a really good story. He likes to make the people around him feel comfortable, and we just hit it off. We became friends and spent the next nine years bickering, in a fun way. And after those nine years, I


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moved from my hometown to his. We had both just ended relationships, and as I was starting my life over, we got to hang out together more. That’s when it hit me that my feelings for him had not changed. I have always loved and absolutely adored him. I just thought he was one of the best people I had ever met, and those feelings for him had been there from the beginning. So it was just an awesome way to start a relationship. InD: When you have been friends for nine years, how do you take the step and make it romantic? LS: We went on our irst of icial date, and at the end of it, he pushed me up against my door and kissed me. Like kissed me kissed me, Romance novel style. I was thinking, “Yep, that works, I like it!” InD: Did you two actually have a discussion about dating before you started? LS: I think there was some discussion, but it all felt very natural... compared to a Romance novel, this would have been the most boring story ever! InD: I don't think it would've been boring as a Romance novel because you both were seeing other people, but you have loved him since you irst met… and then one night you go out for sushi and he pushes you up against the door and kisses you. That sounds like the perfect Romance! Does your family read your books? LS: Yes, they do, even my dad! He started reading Nora Roberts years ago because I think he lost a bet with my mom. So after he read her, he was like, “So this is what I’ve been missing!” Both my dad and my mom read every one of my books. My brother was the lone holdout; he did not want to read my books, so we hired him to do the audio.

Now, he has to listen to all of them! My sister is an author too and she is working on a trilogy that will be publishing later this year or the beginning of next year, so it is all in the family and really exciting. InD: Now, with all your success, does your husband say “‘I told you so?” Does he help manage things? Or does he just go off and do his own thing? LS: He runs the publishing side of everything. He does all of my business stuff. I handle the writing, the social media, and the newsletter, and he does everything else, so he is very involved. It is funny because a part of him says, “I told you you could do this.”, and the other part of him says, “I can't believe this is really happening! Things just keep getting better and better!” It is the coolest thing that I get to go upstairs to his of ice and talk about work. He gets it and we understand each other, because we're working together. It is pretty cool for me, and hopefully, he doesn't regret it. He comes from an engineering background, but he had gotten laid off years ago and he was lipping houses at the time. I had done ive books with my irst publisher and I was itching to get some say on the covers and blurbs. We were driving to dinner one night and I asked him if he would ever consider being my publisher. Normally when I ask Tim a question, his irst response is "No.", but that time he really thought about it, and so here we are, all of these years later. InD: It is best of both worlds. I think that would be living the dream. You have your husband do the stuff you don't like to do, while you do the stuff you love! LS: Yes, everything just fell into alignment. All of his strengths are my gigantic weaknesses. If I had to maintain author statements and spreadsheets I would be in IRS jail so fast, but if he had to write the books, it would never work either. He has ive other authors who he publishes now. InD: Does he read your books? LS: Yes, as often as he can. We’re listening to the audio of “Things We Never Got Over” every time we get in the car together.


house. I am very comfortable here. InD: What is the best piece of advice that you have ever been given, personal and/or professional? LS: I have been on the receiving end of a lot of good advice, but the one that tickled me to no end was from a Q&A with Nora Roberts. Somebody asked her what she does when she gets stuck, and how do you write when you can't inish a sentence? How do you keep going when you just can't get it right? Nora leaned in close to the microphone and said, “You put a f*cking period.” It was so shocking but so true! She said, “It doesn’t have to be perfect. You just need to inish it, and then make it better.” I thought that was really great advice because, to become an author and sell and market your books, you have to inish the book irst! InD: What about personal advice? LS: In the book, "4000 Weeks" by Oliver Burkeman, he says (and I’m paraphrasing) “Life isn't about getting as much done as possible, it should be about recognizing how little time we have here and being more in tune with how we choose to spend it." That really resonates with me because I am a list maker and I love crossing things off my list. A lot of times I fall into the trap of, “I am going to accomplish these things, and then feel good about how productive I am.” But when you really start thinking how short your time is, you start asking how do you want to spend that time? What are your priorities? That’s how you should live your life. That was amazing. InD: That is wonderful! And part of living that life is reading all of those wonderful, wonderful books!

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InD: Are there topics or genres you would really like to try that you haven’t yet? LS: I would love to do a Mystery Thriller, but I would make it a Romantic Suspense. I love how Liane Moriarty writes. I love that style, but I don't think I would be as good at it as I am with Romance. I admire a lot of authors and the different genres that they write, but Romance is still my one true love, and by adding suspense elements to the stories, I feel like I can keep things fresh and exciting. I do plan to write a fairytale someday. InD: Okay, I love asking about favorites because you always learn so much about a person by inding out what their favorite things are. What is your favorite food?. LS: Tacos. I love tacos so much; everything from Taco Bell, to taco truck street tacos, to full-on restaurant tacos. I think they’re all delicious. InD: Your favorite dessert? LS: Chocolate chip cheesecake. InD: What is your favorite color? LS: Black. InD: Why? LS: Because when I was a teenager it meant rebellion and mystery, and I didn't feel very mysterious growing up with all the kids who have known me since kindergarten. So at the time, black was rebellious. Now, I like it because it is so easy to match with everything, and no one can see all the food stains I end up wearing. InD: What is your favorite time of day? LS: 7p.m. because work is done and dinner is usually in the process and I really like food, so it means I get to relax for the rest of the night. InD: If you could choose a favorite place, where would that be? LS: Honestly, I would say my home. We built this house and moved in right before Christmas. It took almost a year to build, and the novelty of it has still not worn off. We have a swimming pool! I’ve wanted one since I was a little kid, and so I go down there every single day and enjoy it. I just love everything about this


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Parenthesis and All That [Sic] Stuff

I’ve long been a big fan of using parentheses, those curved symbols used to separate additional information that’s not necessarily relevant to the immediate sentence’s point, but still relevant to the overall point.

A few teachers in my life noticed this, and tried to dissuade me, but I’m unrepentant, and unmoved. I don’t use them gratuitously—that is, I’m not using them just for the sake of using them (with rare exceptions, like maybe in this article).

The (small) amount of research I did for this post informed me that I’m not alone in this. William Faulkner was evidently another parentheses proponent (say that ive times fast), especially in “Absalom, Absalom!” and “The Sound and the Fury”.

I always use them in the correct manner, I think. It’s just that additional but not immediately relevant information often springs to mind when I write, whether it’s a short story or an email to friends. (I do, admittedly, use postscripts gratuitously, but that’s another story.)

EE Cummings was another notable practitioner (although unlike him, I’m not against the use of capital letters or periods). There are several types of parentheses, too. Often, all of these types are labeled as being various types of

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brackets, although in the U.S., the kind I use is usually considered the distinct, and different, parentheses. For example, the sort I’ve mentioned are the curved, half-moon-shaped symbols, ) and (. Then there’re the squared off brackets, [ and ], called “square” or “closed” brackets, used mainly in quotations to indicate missing material provided by a later editor, in chemistry, or in certain types of math. Other types are curly brackets, { and }; angle, chevron, inequality, or pointy brackets, < and >; angular quote brackets, << and >>; and corner brackets 」「. Most of these latter types are rarer, and used largely in linguistics, math, hard sciences, or computer programming. Curly brackets seem to have the most, and sometimes silliest names, called, among others, “birdie brackets”, “Scottish brackets”, “squirrely brackets”, “fancy brackets”, “seagull brackets”, and “DeLorean brackets”. I didn’t look up the reasoning behind this last one, as I want to believe that it has to do with the car maker (acquitted) drug traf icker, John DeLorean, in general, and “Back to the Future” speci ically, and I don’t want to lose my plausible deniability. I also enjoy that, within parentheses, all punctuation is independent. You can have an exclamation pointed sentence, and then another sentence with a question mark, etc., within the original sentence ending in, say, a period. This appeals to the rebellious side of me. (Perhaps paradoxically, I’m a strict constructionist on quotation marks, though—I hate, HATE it when stream of consciousness type books don’t include

them, as I wish to conclusively know if someone’s talking, or if it’s instead a thought, or the narrator, or something else.) I’ve also learned that parentheses are uncommon, and discouraged, in formal writing. This hasn’t affected me much, as my formal writing days ended in college, but, still, good to know. Finally, I was amused to see that something I sometimes do, having parentheses within parentheses, is okay (or at least they’re as okay as parentheses ever are) and even has a name. The inner set is “nested”, and is typically paired with the square brackets, to better separate them. So, if you’re new to my writings, in whatever form, I should warn you, you’re going to see parentheses, and most likely a whole slew of them. (This might be wrong, I know it’s a “pride” of lions, a “band” of gorillas, a “murder”(!) of crows, and a “business” of ferrets, but I’m not sure of the proper group name of parentheses.) By the way, I considered making this entire post one immense parenthetical aside, enclosed within parentheses, but I realized it wouldn’t be grammatically proper, so I didn’t. [it would be edited out--ed] (That’s a lie. I thought it would be too “on the nose,” so to speak, and it would only really look cool with two giant parentheses, and alas, my keyboard doesn’t have these either.) [it would also be edited out--ed] While researching (and I use that term loosely) parentheses, I was reminded of another, more

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literary parties, but alas (I guess), it mostly seems to be written criticisms. (I have to admit, now that I learned about this latter use of it for ridicule, I might start using it some, as it appeals to my snarky nature.) The Chicago Manual of Style now recommends just quietly copyediting away the mistake unless it’s inappropriate, so this obscure punctuation might be as endangered as the white rhino. I also saw that there are a few other [sic]’s, like the regional code of Sicily, and the (real) acronym for the Shetland Island Council. Used more relevantly to our discussion, it’s also the name of a hardcore band, and a Slipknot song. obscure punctuation symbol, [sic]. Intrigued, I decided to check up on this. Apparently, a lot of people don’t know the derivation of this, as many think it’s an acronym for “spelled in context”, “said in copy”, or “spelling is incorrect”, etc. This is actually incorrect, and I was further amazed to learn that ascribing an acronym when one isn’t intended has a name, it’s a “backronym.”

marking what they think are logical or factual errors, say after quoting a politician they don’t like. This ridicule is also controversial, and sometimes condemned. Simon Nowell-Smith and Leon Edel, among others, spoke out against its use in the 20th century. I like to picture ist ights at

If any writer has considered being clever and using it as a book title, I’m afraid at least six other authors have beaten you to it. Martha Brockenbrough titled her 2008 book, which mocks/corrects the grammar in advertising, politics, and Hollywood quotes, “Things That Make Us [Sic].” According to its reviews, it’s very funny.

“Sic” is actually Latin for “thus”, and it is a shortening of the full expression “sic erat scriptum”, or “thus was it written”. Used properly, it indicates that a written or oral quoted passage contains a spelling or grammatical error. On the rare occasions I’ve seen it, that’s what it was used for. Some folks are de initely against this short punctuation. Back in 1876, a Dr. Enoch Mellor complained, in a letter to the editor of "Literary Churchman" about “the cheap insinuation of ignorance which can lie in a bracketed ‘sic.’” Others have expanded [sic]’s use, to include

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By:

Grace Draven

Not Your

Best Work

I used to read many of them, usually as I peeked through my ingers and swallowed back the dread closing up my throat—pretty much how I watch horror ilms. I rarely read reviews these days. Time and experience has taught me that they aren't for me, the author, they're for other readers. Once I send a book out into the public arena, it becomes a reader's experience, and I, as the author, have no part of that, for better or for worse. That doesn't mean I don't still peek every once in a while, and I no longer do it from between my ingers. I still wince on occasion at spotting the critical/ brutal review. Those are as guaranteed as a sunrise. If you write and publish, you'll get a reader who hates your book(s).

I've been writing as a hobby since 2003, and professionally since 2005. In that time, I've garnered a fair number of reviews for the books I've written.

The irst bad review will knock the breath out of you just as much as the irst good one will make you glow inside. Authors who've been in the trenches a long time will say you'll either grow a thick skin or abandon writing. I have the hide of a rhino at this point. More or less. About a year ago, my oldest daughter asked me what trick I used to get past the fear of a bad review. She's a brand new writer, still in those early stages of

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1) reviews are for the reader, not the author; 2) there hasn't been a single bit of writing in the history of the written word that everyone liked;

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3) you'll toughen up with each criticism. While I still believe all three of those things, they weren't exactly motivational in getting my daughter to share her very entertaining, and frankly, well-written story with anyone but me. And honestly, I didn't always believe those three things were what totally contributed to that thick hide I'd grown. Then about a month ago, I read two reviews of my books (remember when I said I still peek on occasion?) on two different platforms. It was an “A Ha!” moment of enlightenment, and certainly a teachable moment for my daughter, and one I plan to use for every frightened newbie writer who asks me in the future, “How do you handle the critical review?” The irst review wasn't even a true review but more of a response to the request for recommendations of good Fantasy romances to read. Several readers kindly recommended my most popular title, "Radiance". One reader, however, offered a contradictory comment to the recommendations, one that pulled no punches. While I'm paraphrasing here, it’s pretty close to the exact wording: “It started out well enough, but ended up being dog shit.”

Ouch. I think the only interpretation one can come away with from that comment is the reader didn't like the book. Fair enough. I'll direct you back to my earlier paragraph to item #2 regarding how to grow a thick hide. While that comment could be construed as a brief but hands-down negative review, I've read others a lot more brutal and de initely more in-depth. They sting the vanity for about ive seconds, and then I shrug it off. It's part and parcel of the business that is professional writing. I highlight this one, however, for a particular reason. I read it on the same day that I read a paragraph-long review of another of my books on a different platform. This was de initely a review left by a reader who gave the book a nice 3.5 star rating and explained what she liked and didn't like about the book; a useful review for readers who are looking for details about the book that will help them decide whether or not they want to try it out. There's as much of a chance that people will buy a book based on what the reviewer hated about it as much as what they liked about it. Reading is subjective, and we all have varying tastes and preferences. Anyway, I skimmed through the review fairly quickly, until I reached the second to last line. And then I saw red. Not for long, but for about a minute, I was ready to breathe ire out my nose. Want to know what she said? “Not her best effort.” Seems like a rather bland statement at irst glance, doesn't it? It certainly doesn't have the zing and zap of

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inding the joy in storytelling, but not yet con ident enough to share with others for fear of criticism. I haven't feared a bad review in a long time, and I trotted out the same (valuable) advice given to me when I irst started writing:


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“...ended up being dog shit.” So, why react so badly to what reads as a rather insipid remark, especially compared to the irst one? I mulled this over for a few days (yes, I'm guilty of navel-gazing at times, trying to igure myself out, usually while laying in bed waiting to go to sleep), and inally igured out why the irst very negative comment bounced off me like nothing while the second, very mild one, just about set me alight. In a moment of personal enlightenment, I realized I also had the perfect answer and some good advice to give my daughter. The “dog shit” comment addressed the book itself in its failure to please the reader. This kind of thing happens all the time with every product created and for every consumer of a product, whether it be a book, a restaurant meal, a pair of shoes, etc. Your best hope as a product/content creator is to make something some of the people will like some of the time. The “best effort” comment, on the other hand, made an assumption about me, the author. In the moment of reading it, I felt like the reviewer put my personal work ethic into question, presumed to know what I did at my desk when I wrote the book or was privy to the effort I put into not only it, but others I'd written before and after it. Writing a book takes a lot of effort. It's the most joyful job I've ever had, and also the hardest. Thousands of hours of research before the irst word is ever written, more hours of research while the book is being written, all-nighters to meet deadlines, edits and rewrites, thousands of words deleted to be replaced by

thousands of stronger, better words, scene-blocking, etc. And the list goes on. I, like most dedicated authors, bring my A-game to every book I write. Each one is my best effort. Sometimes that best effort still fails and disappoints the reader, but at no point is it not my best effort. Knowing that, when I step away from my desk, overjoyed at inishing a story, I've given it all I’ve got, it makes it pretty easy for negative/critical reviews to bounce off without leaving a dent. I may have failed a reader (which can be disappointing for a hot second), but I didn't fail myself. I realized I read too much into that “Not her best effort” statement. It's a fairly ubiquitous one, and I've used it on occasion myself as a way of saying, “I like that product more than this product.” I did, however, indulge in a ranty phone call to a fellow author who offered a sympathetic ear until I was no longer ready to combust. However, both comments, read on the same day, offered something I could share with other writers fearful of the negative review. Write your story. Share your story. Expect that not everyone will like your story. Some may hate it. Some may love it. But ask yourself, when you're ready to put that story out into the world for public review, did you put in your best effort when you wrote it? If you can say yes, then you are well on your way to telling fear to piss off and developing that rhino hide.

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Expanding Your Media Reach

With

Audiobooks! Authors write books for a variety of reasons, from sharing their experiences to telling tales. The goal is to give readers value, gain opinions, notoriety, and earn fans. Publishing traditionally results in eBooks, paperbacks, and hardbacks, but what of audiobooks?

The market demand for audiobooks in the last two years saw a dramatic upward trajectory. Entries to the audiobook market are increasing, due to technology inroads, but quality over quantity rules for happy listeners and lower returns. Many listeners engage in multiple books during a given period. One report suggested that 67% of American listeners have four or more audiobooks in their library. To create an audiobook, an author must understand the process and determine what’s best. Many authors feel their voice is perfect for the job. There are production considerations to keep in mind. With technology today, many people can successfully record in a home studio, but typically a professional studio achieves lawless results. The quality of the recording not only tells the tale, but also immerses the listener. The following is a list of considerations, ideas, and knowledge necessary to begin the audiobook journey. There is a distinction between a narrator and a voice actor, which is better? Suppose your book delivers non- iction content such as self-help, spiritual insights, or a new business philosophy. In that case, a narrator could maintain consistency with good intonations—from start to inish.

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Listeners know what they enjoy. We recommend you listen to various samples, much like when looking inside a book at a sample chapter. If you start with your genre, you’ll ind options, but also look at ratings for the production. An exercise like this gives you a sense of how your genre can sound. Then you can begin to narrow your search by asking yourself questions:

Your requirements differ if you are in a ictional world, with multiple characters and expect changed voices, points of view, dramatic pauses, etc., during the telling. For this, a voice actor with a good vocal range might align with your goals. There is no rule for deciding one over the other. A close partnership exists between the author and the "voice" to correctly convey the content. It would be best to determine what you want in a listening experience. What kind of "voice" is needed?

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Fictional writing requires a broader variation of voice(s). For example, Historical iction often requires the ability for accents, speci ic pacing suitable to an era of the story, or a gender-speci ic point of view. Science Fiction may need a mechanical voice for a robot or interactive computer characters. Fantasy may have fairies or dragons with a range of vocal sounds.

Does the target audience for your audiobook need a speci ic voice quality?

When the king’s voice is consistent and different from the magical fairy throughout the audiobook, it engages the listener. A different voice for the same character in the middle of the book versus the beginning, will irritate a listener. A consistent voice helps a listener visualize the personality, in addition to the description delivered by the author. A listener knows if the narrator is comfortable or unfamiliar with the material.

Identifying the right voice should align with the book’s genre: children, YA, men versus women, or senior audiences. The voice range of the selected narrator should it the target listener.

When you hear a voice that resonates or makes you think of your book, capture their name and other works they narrated. Develop a list of narrators to consider for your project. Keep

Does your book need a speci ic "voice"? For example, a story told from a dad’s point of view about his daughter would make sense being performed by a masculine voice. If you have a self-help book by an expert who is a woman, then a feminine voice would it the bill.


How can an author partner with their narrator/ voice actor? Authors have options for partnering with a narrator/ voice actor. Amazon has a company, ACX, that matches voices with authors. If your books are for sale on Amazon, this is an option for you to consider and can make it easier for your followers to learn about your new media format. ACX has a way that allows you to gain auditions from those interested in a new project. Auditions require you to provide a sample of your work, and the audition responses get posted in the portal. Provide a selection from the manuscript which will give you the best example of their voice talent. You want to see an exhibit of abilities over a demanding portion of your book. You can also look for a narrator based on the names you saved from research. When reviewing an audition, listen for pace, pronunciation, con idence, and enthusiasm. Providing some modest background on your manuscript and even high-level direction is fair. They will give a better example if you help frame the work and identify requirements. You may provide an audio sample of those pronunciations if you have speci ic words. If you do not like something, it is your responsibility and right to alert the narrator to correct the problem. Our experience shows this up-front effort makes it

easier for the narrator and reduces the ixes to the recordings delivered for your approval. Allow the voice actor the opportunity to bring their unique skills to the forefront when recording. A voice actor can add elements and perspective to enrich sequences you may have overlooked. Not all interpretation comes from the author. No one works for free. Voice talent will have a cost unless the person is a friend. Typically, the quote is based on the inished hour. It may take two or three hours of effort per inished hour delivered for production. Please, keep that in mind when reviewing the cost per hour. If you are using ACX as your platform, you can do a shared royalty or pay the narrator upon completion and veri ication by the ACX team. If you choose a royalty share using ACX, each audible sale will automatically split the royalty between the author and narrator. This option of no upfront cost to the author requires a longer-term exclusive commitment ACX, to help the narrator gain a return on their time investment. Creating an audiobook is a partnership between the author and the voice actor, so approach this as a with a business partner. You may want to think about using this narrator in future projects, so the relationship becomes a key component. Spend time getting to know one another to understand professional compatibility. No one likes working with a jerk. What are the steps for verifying the content? We recommend you create a syllabus for your project to capture pronunciations and any areas of advice for the narrator. Medical terms, technical terms, and even

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track of your decisions for voice types in a spreadsheet. Some narrators and voice actors deliver a range of voices, including accents, gender, child, and adult.


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After a year, the author can place the audiobook on other platforms, and remain on Audible. Royalty payments, however, will reduce. When an audiobook is on multiple platforms, the amount of marketing to highlight availability increases. Amazon will market and offer books in various formats based on the title’s popularity. All audiobook retailers have marketing tools authors can use, but one cannot expect any distributor to do the heavy lifting to promote your books. foreign words or sentences in your manuscript may be stumbling blocks. You are trying to make the project frictionless so they can deliver a polishedsounding product. When planning review time, consider the total hours and provide time for required changes. In our experience, waiting until the last chapter is delivered is a mistake. Imagine the name of your main heroine character mispronounced in every chapter until the end. Errors or boo-boos need to be related from the beginning of the story to avoid extensive rework. Please don’t forget to provide positive feedback, not just complaints. Reviewing a few chapters at a time rather than the whole book allows you to do quality reviews. You don’t want to get listener fatigue from trying to listen all the way through.

Where should you make your audiobook available? Based on your decision regarding exclusivity, you may only offer your audiobook in a single marketplace, like through Amazon. You have options to cast a wider net and provide your audiobook in multiple marketplaces. One avenue is to leverage AuthorsRepublic.com. This platform allows numerous distribution paths from a single-entry point [like D2D/Smashwords-ed.]. From this distribution center, you decide the retail price and earn 70% across over 50 retail channels, including Audible/Amazon and libraries. Do not be surprised if you set a retail price and one of the channels increases that price on their website.

Differences between exclusive and non-exclusive rights of an audiobook Exclusive or non-exclusive applies to your audiobook available on Audible. There are multiple reasons authors may select either avenue. Like many options, it pays to read the ine print. When an author partners with a voice actor for shared royalty, Amazon Audible requires that property be available only through them, and they control the income distribution between the two parties. The length of this commitment is seven years. The narrator is gambling they’ll receive all per inished hour fees over this period or more because the author doesn’t have to pay for the voice talent in advance. Audible makes this avenue attractive by paying an additional royalty percentage. The author can negotiate to pay off the voice talent to exit the exclusivity.

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Authors can pay for the voice talent up front, allow the audiobook as an exclusive on Audible, and receive a higher royalty per sale. The period is one year. One of the bene its for authors of a year of exclusivity is having promotional codes to give away the listen in exchange for a fair and honest review. Free promotional codes to listeners can jumpstart the author’s marketing.


Earnings relate directly to your retail pricing. Retailers that sell your property are in business and set their pricing based on their historical audience. Protect your property as much as possible. The key to this is doing your homework. For example, never agree to upload your digital property to a hosting entity without checking to see if they have Digital Rights Management (DRM) technology in place to protect your property. What are some methods for marketing your audiobook? Marketing changes continually occur. Flexible marketing, targeting your audience, is critical. Some authors get good traction from initially releasing their paperback and eBooks using broad advertising/ promotion avenues, then releasing the audiobook version. It depends on the fans of the author and the voice actor used, and your target market. We ind preferences for reading or listening differ between individuals and their lifestyles. For audiobooks, creating audiograms that combine the narration and pictures of the book is helpful. Several tools are available to develop audiograms which allow listeners to sample your book. Pick compelling sections, as you would with printed

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sample chapters. Keep in mind social media have size limitations. Reviews are essential for books in any format. Always ask for reviews, and if you have contact information, follow up with individuals. The hardest metric for authors to gain is feedback, reviews can, and should be used for marketing.


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Laughing Out Loud? When I heard we were having an edition of the magazine featuring a humorous writer, I igured this was right in my wheelhouse. I could crack all those off-color jokes and talk about pretty much everything from rubber chickens to foot fetishes.

This would be awesome. There would be no limits and I could joke and talk about tongue in cheek issues with no barriers or limitations. Spin my webs of weirdness to the masses as I do in my books.

is no longer any room for blatant harsh comedy that degrades people by race, sex, etc. But we also need to understand that society as a whole can be pretty darn funny. Hell, daily life is funny.

Then the magazine editor said, “Ummm, NO”. So I started to really think about it. Over time humor has de initely changed, just as society has changed. In a lot of ways, we have all became a little more sensitive. It has become time to push aside a lot of the really offensive humor that we used to take for granted. Sorry, serious moment. There

By:

Doing stupid things like walking into a glass door at Walmart is pretty funny. With everyone focused on their phones this happens way too often. In fact, cellphones give us a boatload of humor all by themselves. Think about it. Walking across the street while watching a TikTok video and having a car honk

S.L. Carpenter

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their horn - you actually go into convulsions and jump out of your skin, leaving a puddle…that’s some funny stuff. We have become a society reliant on technology to do everything. Admit it, you argue with Siri or Alexa about directions (yes guys, this is aimed at you) because you know where you’re going. Then Siri taps her shoe when you have to lip a turn because you didn’t listen. We have animals that drive us crazy, but we still spend millions on them, watching the cat play in the delivery box and the dog shred those new French designer shoes. Actually they are knock-offs, but nobody can tell. Besides, now they are a redesign with the leather all falling apart. At last you’re a fashion icon. As a writer, I use things like this to add reality to my characters because nobody is perfect. We all have quirks that are humorous. Do you mumble while you eat? Perhaps you’re the tops at spilling a drink on your new blouse. Gotta love watching the dog chase its tail and tripping over its paws at the same time. You think how silly the dog is, then realize you’re watching the dog with fascination. Who’s the silly one now? I have to believe that things like this help connect my characters to my readers. Seeing the nervousness they display in a new or awkward situation. Writing the tongue twisters that naturally happen as they try to act cool and make small talk to a special person. It

helps reveal our laws and humanizes characters. At least, that’s my belief. Since our world changed with the onset of Covid, and all the precautions, distancing, mask wearing and shots, we were walking around like astronauts on the moon. I wrote a whole article about dealing with it. Thankfully, we are getting past most of the things that really hurt our world and approaching something resembling normal. Whatever normal is. But now, if you take a look around, you’ll ind that the old places we used to ind humor have changed – in fact many have lat out disappeared. Whatever happened to the stand-up comedians like Richard Pryor? George Carlin? Bernie Mac? Joan Rivers? And of course, Robin Williams? The real groundbreaking humorists who pushed boundaries and limits? Maybe I’m really showing my age, but I used to love watching them all on television and HBO. Rodney Danger ield was another one. Yes, I have a nasty side to my humor but I also enjoy people that simply improvise, wing it, and make us all laugh. For Television there was Steve Martin, a driving force for tv as well as books, stand-up performances, and movies. His appearances on Saturday Night Live are the stuff of comedy legends. He is a multi-faceted and still brilliant humorist. Woody Allen fell into that area as well, although his focus was more on movies. I grew up with Benny Hill, and of course Monty Python’s Flying Circus. SO many comics started on Saturday

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organs. Laughing provides a natural workout for a number of muscle groups, can defend against illness, and even increase the response of bene icial tumor and disease-killing cells throughout the body. Laughter has also been shown to increase memory, intelligence, and creativity. You might want to check out this article: https:// www.organicfacts.net/healthbene its/other/health-bene its-oflaughter.html

Night Live, alongside Steve Martin. So many in fact I could write an entire book on the genius that came from that show, and SCTV, an incubator for comic geniuses. Literary humor has always been present, starting with Aristophanes, who wrote – apparently – 40 comedies. I’ll bet he had them rolling in the aisles of the amphitheaters. Shakespeare wasn’t afraid to go for a laugh, and got them with plays such as “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”, along with several others still popular today. Mark Twain gave us pure American humour, Oscar Wilde wrote some wonderful plays, and until he passed, Terry Pratchett collected fans by the millions with his Discworld books. And of course, Douglas Adams brought the funny to science iction and his books have been made into radio shows, television series and movies. We can safely say there will always be a place for humor, always room for laughter, and always readers who enjoy both. As usual I am trying to make a point with all this and most probably failing.

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I adore humor. I believe that we all need more humor because the ability to make someone laugh is a great gift. Given the chaos and negativity around us, the pleasure of gifts like that cannot be underestimated. Out of curiosity, I did some research on laughter and learned that there are some great bene its that come along with it. Here’s some interesting things I learned... The health bene its of laughter include the reduction of stress hormones and blood pressure, as well as increased blood low and oxygenation to the cells and

So when you see your cat leap from the loor onto the counter and misjudge the landing and faceplant into the dog’s water bowl…it’s okay to laugh. If your signi icant other sings in the shower, it’s okay to lush the toilet and hear them scream as the water temperature changes rapidly. They may not be real happy, but you laughed! And when you have gas, it’s okay to let loose and ask others if they smell popcorn as you walk away. Hey, it’s funny, and we need more funny.


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Rising Star Spotlight

Kate Archer You hold dual citizenship, American and Irish. Tell us about that!

tennis in your free time and then somebody says, “I can make tennis your job.”

My Nana emigrated here in her twenties. She’d been raised on a small farm in County Leitrim that could not support all the brothers and sisters, so they scattered and went all over the world—Canada, the \ U.S., and Australia mostly.

One career I would like to leave behind FOREVER was running a county civil court. Not much good happens there, it’s pretty much all bad news—divorce, custody, evictions, mortgage foreclosures, tax liens, judgements, you get the idea. The only happy things we did were name changes and passports. Customer service is a challenge anywhere, but when everybody who walks in is already upset, angry, and/or distraught, it is a heightened sort of experience. As well, I worked for an elected of icial, and I will never do that again! As it turns out, I rather despise politics and its unseemly habits.

My grandmother’s ending up in the U.S. was a little bit of happenstance. She had been working as a nanny for a British Colonel and he was being transferred to Nairobi. She was invited to go and she desperately wanted to, but her mother put her foot down on that idea so she joined her sister in New York instead. You’ve had a lot of different careers, which one was the most rewarding, and which would you like to forget? I have had a lot of careers. The last time I interviewed for a job, I noticed the interviewer looking a little perplexed at my resume and I said, “I should probably walk you through this.” Writing is, no surprise, the most rewarding. It is a job, yes, but it is a job that I would do even if nobody was paying me. (There have been long bouts of no pay, especially in the beginning.) It is a privilege to work at something that feels like fun. It’s like if you love to play

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One of your past careers was teaching SCUBA. Tell us about that. That was one of the careers I fell into almost by accident. I was working hard in NYC for too many hours and too many years and had a lot of vacations canceled at the last minute. So one day I decided I would take a year off and live in the Caribbean. I ended up staying for eight years and became a master instructor. While it didn’t seem like the next logical step from an of ice job in NYC, it was a pretty good it for me; I’d been swimming and sailing all my


life. I really liked the aspect of training students into con idence, and the psychology learners taking in and synthesizing new information. What irst prompted you to write a book? Writing, like most of my careers, was not a linear progression. First I thought I’d write a book for my young niece and nephew, which I did. In retrospect, it was far too long and had way too many characters for a book for young readers. It also was set in Regency England, as that’s where my real interests were. From there, I tried all sorts of writing, but kept circling back to that time-period. Writing takes a lot of practice and though I read that fact a hundred times in a hundred places, I conveniently ignored it. And then I found out through experience that it was true! There is nothing so deeply fun and satisfying as to be able to create a world and people it with interesting characters. I help run a writing group and we just had our summer social. I looked around the room that night and thought, “We are the luckiest people on earth!” Your regency romance books often feature servants with their own point of view. Why is that important to you? I think of a regency era house as a living organism where everybody has a part to play. And, like most organizations that involve multiple people working in concert, things are not always going to go smoothly, nor is everybody going to exhibit mad respect for the bosses. One of the things I think managers overlook in their carefully laid plans is diverse personalities. I want my regency house to be illed with big personalities. I love my butlers especially. In book two of A Society of Sponsoring Ladies, The Sprinter, Mr. Ranston has a nervous condition and is prone to fainting at inopportune times, while also telling spine chilling stories of his experiences in the war to his staff. In book six, The Regal, the duchess believes her butler can predict the weather and that is, in fact, how he got the job. He can do no such thing and is almost always wrong, but he has invented lofty

technical terms and rather whimsical theories about weather. I have also had a few lady’s maids playing a large role in some of the plots. Bemmy in book 3, The Undaunted, is perhaps my favorite. She is not a lady’s maid at all. She saw other women coming and going for interviews and walked right in. She has remarkably bad judgment and leads her young charge into all sorts of nonsense. What she can do, though, is appear the most serious, strict, and grave maid that ever walked the earth when speaking to the mistress of the house, who calls her ‘a treasure’. Bravo aux serviteurs, I say. Your books contain a lot of humor, tell us about that. I actually wrote my critical thesis on humor because it is such a fascinating subject to explore. If you ever want a good laugh, check out Freud’s theories—there was never anybody less funny trying to de ine funny. I think the overarching general consensus today is that humor is subjective, but I also do not think that is exactly true. It is true that what one person might think is hilarious, another does not. However, I believe that is not due to the structure of the joke, but rather its subject matter. I am most attracted to character-driven humor. Meaning, the humor is not random but springs from the character’s particular view of the world and their place in it. We all learn thousands of societal agreements throughout our lives—red lights mean stop, that sort of thing. The humorous character has gone off the rails on some of these agreements. BUT, they’ve gone off the rails for reasons that are part of their history and seasoned by their innate temperament. Jane Austen may not have known what to call it, but she instinctively understood it. Emma is who she is because of what she’s lived and tempered by her innate personality. Mrs. Bennet is who she is because of what she’s experienced and her natural inclination toward hysterics. I am also convinced that Charles Dickens looked at what Miss Austen had done and took it even further. If you are looking for examples of

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One day, they decide to do something about it. They decide they can have daughters, if not their own lesh and blood. They will bring in girls who have the background but not the money for a season, conveniently leaving actual parents behind. How can readers get in touch with you?

characters with their own delusions about themselves and the world, look no further than The Pickwick Papers. The essential is that this character might be or do or think outrageously. But they are not outrageous to themselves. They make perfect sense to themselves and society is their ultimate straight man. What attracted you to the Regency time-period? That’s always such an interesting question because while it was an actual time-period, the reality of it is really not what we romance authors are writing about. It is as if we have been able to create a new and invented time-period that is so much more pleasant! I do not write about the abominable state of human rights, or the horrifying positions a woman was put into by the governing laws, or the abject poverty or the terrible punishments for being poor and committing a crime to stay alive, or the workhouse or the lack of antibiotics or any of the terrible realities for most people of that time. I do not even write about the toilet situation or lack of deodorant or awful dental care. I have swept all of those realities offstage and am happy to do so. I suspect there are curmudgeons out there who would be violently opposed to this sweeping away of realities. Fortunately, I do not

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believe many curmudgeons read romance so I am unlikely to hear from them. If I did, though, this is what I would say to them: “Explain to me why it is wrong to wish to travel to a different time where everything sparkles and all will come right in the end? Explain to me what sticking to cold reality all the time gets you? Because as far as I can tell, it’s only turned you into a curmudgeon.” Really, the actual world we live in is complicated enough. I am delighted to travel to this wonderful world we have created together, even if it never really existed as I describe it. Tell us about The Society of Sponsoring Ladies. Six highly placed matrons are bound together in friendship by the one tragedy of their lives— none of them have daughters. These women are not at all alike and would not have been friends but for that commonality. They had all imagined they would have daughters to dress and coddle and bring out into society. It is a disappointment they cannot get over.

Katearcherauthor on both Facebook and Instagram and my website is katearcher.weebly.com. My newsletter sign up link is http://eepurl.com/hcOKyn (Don’t worry, I do not email regularly— just when I have a book coming out). I have started to post regency crosswords I make up myself, and also break apart puzzles where you click on a picture from the regency and it jumbles it into pieces and you put it back together again. Try them, they’re fun!


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From The Final Word Typed To The First Page Turned Demystifying Self-Publishing Platforms, Part 1 By: Tamara Cribley As you type the metaphorical “The End”, you’ll probably be thinking about how you’ll get your book into the hands of readers. Like most things in self-publishing, the options seem endless, and the best choice to meet your goals may not be clear. Though there are many options, I will highlight the most common ones for those selfpublishing. Once you have established an audience, you might ind more suitable niche options. Most platforms that offer print options also offer eBook options. There are also several eBook-only options. We’ll talk about eBooks next month. At the highest level, there are only two major print options: 1. You can place a bulk order for books printed overseas or locally, and you’ll handle distribution yourself or work with a distribution house.

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2. You can publish through a platform which offers Print-On-Demand (POD) publishing.

Bulk Printing The Bad: This irst option requires up-front capital, usually starting at several thousand dollars and increasing from there. You’ll need to have a basic understanding of printing processes—or an experienced advisor—and the ability to manage the logistics involved. Printing overseas can be impacted by import fees and processes, not to mention the cost and shipping time. You’ll also need to igure out how to get those books into the hands of your readers, either through direct sales, where you manage order ful illment and shipping (and all that comes along with that, including return processing, taxes, and regulations) or by working with a distributor. Even with a distributor, you may still need to handle order processing.


The Good: Depending on the printer, you’ll likely have greater control over the quality of the printed book. Trim size, printing stock, binding options, and color quality can exceed the basic options available in POD. When buying in bulk, the larger the order, the lower the per-unit cost, and the more likely you’ll have consistent color and print quality. You’re also cutting out intermediaries that expect payment for their services. If you’re selling directly to readers, you get to know who’s buying your books and may have an opportunity to engage with them.

Print-On-Demand (POD) The Bad: Your production options are limited, quality can vary, and you have limited control over the inal printed product. To provide cost-effective and ef icient printing, POD platforms offer set trim sizes and orientations, limited paper options and binding types, minimum and maximum page counts, and limited color options. If you’re looking for coffee-table-book quality or unique cover features like embossing or spot UV, POD isn’t a viable option. Trying to manage color in this environment is a moving target. From the unreliable color displayed on most home computers to the variety of variables that impact color, accuracy and consistency are almost impossible to achieve. Another drawback is that you don’t get to know who’s buying your books, and you have limited access to sales data. Royalties can be very delayed and may be minimal, depending on the platform and settings you choose. The Good: POD allows authors to make their books available for sale with a low- or no-cost set-up. These platforms earn revenue through production fees and a percentage of your sales. Many venues offer distribution services to major online retailers, and some make your books available to brick and mortar stores. They handle customer orders, ful illment, and returns. Your book can be published and available for sale in a few days.

Let’s talk about the dominant POD platforms. The two most popular are Amazon KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing) and IngramSpark, Lulu is a third notable platform. All three offer print and digital services with varying degrees of distribution to distributors, booksellers, and libraries. Distribution may be limited to speci ic trim sizes or book types, so it’s essential to review the requirements before publication. If you hope to see your book on the shelves of brick-and-mortar stores, IngramSpark is the leading option, though there can be drawbacks. Brick and mortar stores often only pick up Indie books after you’ve successfully marketed to them. Some have particular requirements and processes to vet which books they will acquire. Most retailers require a minimum wholesale discount of 40% off retail, and that books are returnable. If your books don’t sell within a certain period, the retailer can return the books, and

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you are responsible for the production costs and associated fees. If you choose to have the returned books shipped to you, instead of being destroyed, you’ll also be responsible for those shipping costs. It can be an expensive surprise when this happens. While being on store shelves is a dream for many authors, online book sales dominate the market. Some sources say that online sales account for nearly 70% of the market, so it’s possible to have a very successful and lucrative publishing career without your book ever sitting on a literal store shelf. IngramSpark also has a very robust distribution network that will make your books available to over 40,000 online retailers like Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Target, and Walmart, to name a few. While IngramSpark has the most robust distribution network, the platform has some drawbacks. Of the three, it is the only platform with set-up and revision fees. However, through membership with select trade organizations and occasional promotions, there are coupon codes that will waive set-up fees. The user interface of the Ingram platform isn’t the most intuitive, and the site often has intermittent bugs that cause users grief. Technical support is severely lacking, as phone and chat support are no longer available. Users are limited to email support but can sometimes reach support via the company’s Facebook page. Amazon KDP is a much more user-friendly platform. The interface is relatively quick and easy to navigate. While distribution is not as robust as Ingram, Amazon is still the largest online retailer of

books by a large margin. Set-up and revisions are free, and the review process typically takes just a couple of days, whereas Ingram’s review process can vary widely. Publishing directly on KDP allows authors to run Amazon ad campaigns and book promotions. By publishing directly to KDP and bypassing another distributor, you cut out another middleman needing a cut of your revenue. On the downside, there is a growing contingent of buyers who refuse to purchase anything from Amazon. While still a minority of buyers, depending on your audience, that sentiment could signi icantly impact your sales. It’s another reason to know and understand your target audience. The good news is that you’re not limited to publishing on one platform. You can publish on IngramSpark and KDP and leverage the bene its of both platforms. If you choose this path, there are a few critical items to consider. You should own your ISBNs. Free ISBNs are limited to the platform where you acquired them, and using different ISBNs will result in duplicate book listings, if permitted at all. Be sure your trim size is available on both platforms. Each ISBN is limited to a single book format. Trim size and binding type must be the same in order to use the same ISBN on both platforms. Pro Tip: Set up your book on both platforms before enabling distribution on either. Doing so will reduce the likelihood of having ISBN validation issues on either platform. Both Ingram and KDP have tools to help you build and design your book interior and covers. While

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published, and taking back that management can be frustrating, at best. While I think that there are better options available, you may still be interested in this option. If you explore one of these companies, research them thoroughly before committing to their services. As with all contracted services, read and understand their terms of service before proceeding.

available, they may not yield professional results. If your goal is commercial viability, and you don’t already possess the skills, I strongly recommend working with industry professionals or advisors to create your interior and cover iles. Lulu is another attractive POD platform. While offering distribution, the area where Lulu shines is with its own online bookstore and for direct sales. Unlike Ingram, the Lulu bookstore has a unique landing page for your book. They also have integrations for direct sales from your Shopify store or your website. If you have an existing audience or a robust marketing plan to drive sales, Lulu provides an excellent POD platform that handles order ful illment for you. Direct sales options also give you better

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oversight of who is purchasing your book.

Before I wrap up, I want to share some words of caution. Authors who are new to selfpublishing often search for “SelfPublishing Companies” or something similar. Most results will be vanity presses. Vanity presses have an abysmal reputation. They offer various services, either a la cart or onestop-shop style. The prices are exorbitant, and results vary widely. On occasion, using these companies limits your control over how your book is

With a better understanding of the most popular self-publishing platforms available, you should be able to decide which will serve your needs most effectively. If you still have questions or experiences to share, join the Professional Indie Publishing Roundtable community. We’re on break for the summer and will resume in the fall. In the meantime, I invite you to contact me directly (tamara@deliberatepage.com) if you have questions or need support along your Indie publishing journey. Visit www.DeliberatePage.com/ Roundtable to sign up for information about upcoming changes.


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**When we left our story last, Yana was trying to get used to her new position at work, while ignoring the blue ames that burst from her hand. Donal is headed into the Concilium Chambers with Ebbe and Emme to meet with the gods and goddesses to discuss Yana’s being the Leveler, a being prophesied for millennia.**

Stepping through the doorway took Donal’s breath away. Trying not to audibly gasp, the slight whistle still made enough sound to have the entire Concilium dais turn their heads. Unitedly, Ebbe and Emme stepped in front of him, allowing him to catch his breath and do another tug at his rumpled clothing. The Concilium did not reside on a plane he journeyed through, and the adjustment was always... breathtaking.

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He slid his eyes sideways and down, to wink at Emme in thanks. Not every God Pair, charged with leading a Progression Cycle of Spirits through Mortality, into the Hereafter, and then onto their godhoods, were as compassionate as his mother and father. As a high level Incorrupt, he was allowed to meet others who were ahead of him on the Path. He was not always impressed with them. Turning back to face the dais, he forced himself not to look up to the endless abyss above his head.


“What is wanted?” The deep rasp didn’t seem to come from anyone’s mouth, but Donal knew better than to respond. His previous, and irst, visit to the Chambers had brought with it a painful price for talking out of place. He was not high enough in his Progression to speak directly to them, but he was feeling cantankerous, daring to look through half-closed lids at each of the aged Members.

“Place your evidence there,” she said, gesturing to Donal.

Ebbe stepped forward to speak, bowing irst. “I...”

They were all old, and not simply from appearance. Some of the most ancient did not look it, but his history classes had mentioned many of them doing works on the Path for untold eons, long enough in time and distance that it was not reckoned on the timelines. If something as simple as the voice of the Concilium was not what was taught, were larger things, then, also not correct?

“How dare you bring an Incorrupt dressed in such... attire,” the voice sneered. Donal glanced at his Mortal clothing, again cursing himself silently for not taking the handful of clicks necessary to change into his formal robes. Memories of the heat at the Sites had him snif ing slightly; he should have washed too. Ebbe straightened to his full, and rather mountainous, height and width. “I apologize for his attire, however, I was under the impression that timely information regarding the Leveler being among my lineage would be paramount. He returned and reported, as is required by Law, and I am certain the evidence he has will put his lack of formal trappings in a less damaging light.” “We should consider him at odds for this transgression. Formality shows the sanctity of the Chambers. A misstep is not in line with the Path of Progression,” the voice answered. Before Ebbe could speak, the middle Council Member waved his arm lazily. “That is enough. You are an arti icial intelligence, a nueral emulation, not a god. Do not speak for us on this matter. The Ebbe of this Cycle is correct. If the evidence clearly shows the Leveler has been brought forth, then formality at this juncture is unneccesary.”

He snuck another glance at the Concilium, trying to reassess. What he’d learned on his Path while a Spirit, then as an Incorrupt, did not it with what he’d just heard. He pulled his adapted tele from his pocket, hiding the fact that he was taking the measure of each of those on the dais while walking to the portal.

Donal’s mind stopped mid-thought. The voice heard in the Chamber was not a god’s, or even a collection of gods, but a god-created unnatural life form?

Donal’s mind stopped mid-thought. The voice heard in the Chamber was not a god’s, or even a collection of gods, but a god-created unnatural life form? He shook his head slightly. It was taught that the voice was the collective thoughts of the Concilium, rendered by their power. As a Spirit, he had asked constantly how it was done, wanting to recreate it. No wonder no one would answer me. The goddess to the right pulled her pad closer to her, waving her left hand over it. A small shelf appeared and she began adding select elements to the surface. Tapping the pad three times, and dragging two ingers across the screen in a pattern, a portal opened, rising to the middle of the Chamber and loating. Black, and silent.

“Is something amusing?” the goddess inquired, though her tone denoted irritation, probably because he was hesitating. “No, Goddess.” He glanced at her, she motioned toward the portal, keeping her left handing waving patterns above the pad. He waved his own hand above his tele, pulling up a similar, but less impressive looking shelf, then added the required elements. A wobbly sphere lifted from the tele, and with a few gestures, he placed it into the

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Once the scenes from the Sites were inished, the goddess closed the portal, taking his sphere with it. Opening, then closing his mouth immediately, he realized that having Yana’s image to gaze at was not worth taking on the power of the Concilium. The middle Member spoke again. “Indeed, it does seem as if the Prophecy is occurring.” His brow furrowed. “She is Mortal. Her Divide is intact?” he asked Ebbe. “Yes, her Mortal form would not be alive if it wasn’t,” Emme answered. The Member asked Ebbe the question again. A lesser

“Donal couldn’t hold his tongue any longer. “And you are an out of touch dotard if you cannot see the danger for us all. The Prophecy is beyond clear about what the Leveler is to do…”

intended, however, if she is the Leveler, which I believe, and have solid evidence of markers throughout her Path as proof, then there is no time to waste with formalities and pettiness.” Donal and Emme’s eyes saucered. The goddess on the dais stood erect. “How dare you! You are nothing but a Cycle God, having Progressed not a whit beyond that!” Donal couldn’t hold his tongue any longer. “And you are an out of touch dotard if you cannot see the danger for us all. The Prophecy is beyond clear about what the Leveler is to do, and a Mortal with an intact Divide, meaning no memories of her past, has been chosen. Your hurt egos do not matter under the weight of this!” Wood splintered behind his head, as his knees hit his chin. Dropping onto an incalculably hard... something... Donal couldn’t lift himself, or think beyond the pain. A whiff of Ebbe’s morning drink coming from his shirt had him realizing he’d broken Ebbe’s desk. With his body. Through the tears, and perhaps some blood, he saw a portal open, and an explosively enraged Emme burst out, complete with sparks and ire. Even in pain, he couldn’t help himself. “You made the ire match your hair color,” he quipped. Emme couldn’t decide between strangling him or laughing, so she chose neither. Waving her hand, from her shelf she pulled the heaviest element from it, and dropped it onto his back. “Yes, I know it hurts,” Emme said, voice laced in fake concern. “And you’ll probably have a broken... oh, stop your moaning. I’ll make sure you heal completely. Eventually.” All he could do was wheeze in acknowledgment. Ignoring her when she was this angry was hazardous to one’s health.

being on the Path would have withered under Ebbe’s glare. Donal’s mouth opened as Emme’s elbow connected with his hip. Through gritted teeth, Ebbe answered, “She is Mortal. Not having an intact Divide to keep her Spirit knowledge from her Mortal self would kill her, as you well know.” “Insolence will not aide your cause,” the deep voice of the Concilium rasped. “Nor will ignoring my goddess,” Ebbe shot back. A collective gasp echoed. He closed his eyes, drawing a deep breath before he continued. “Disrespect is not

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portal. He smiled at the scenes. Yana always made him smile.

“Now, while Ebbe makes an attempt to clean up your mess, again, you will go forthwith and arrange Yana’s lessons. She is to begin them as soon as the irst one has been approved. Do not wait. She needs to start now.” She knelt down, titling her head so she could look directly into his eyes. “Your presence in proximity to the blue lames will not have gone unnoticed, as you are well aware. The Corrupt you encountered on your way back will barter their knowledge to the Demons, and this... incident... with the Concilium will make everything harder.” She stood and retrieved her pad, waving her hand over it. Pulling elements from her hovering shelf, her


Standing and straightening her clothing, she said, “All Ebbe and I have about the Leveler is in your pad. As knowledge is needed, your time piece will be able to pull it forth for viewing.” Putting her hand over where the heavy element sat crushing him, she licked her wrist and spoke a word. Gasping and wincing, he sat up. “Do not speak. Leave. Now. Get your guards and protect her.”

Through the tears, she saw someone half her age, with the largest brown eyes she’d ever encountered. “Demons?” “Yes, Ms. Yana. You know they’re real. Everyone knows they’re real, but most have forgotten how dangerous they really are,” she paused. “Uh, yeah, I probably should introduce myself, but we really need to get you home... can you stand up and walk by yourself?” “I’m going to, even if I can’t,” Yana said through gritted teeth. Taking a deep breath to push the pain away, she continued, “I’m not going to be seen limping out with no visible injuries and no one’s heard any noise.” She paused. “So, your name, and how did you know to come here?”

Nodding, and knowing better than to cross her again for some time, he limped through the portal she’d opened for him.

**** Not for the irst time, Yana cursed herself inwardly about taking on more responsibility. Ambling back to her box while reading on her pad, she was failing at avoiding walls, corners, and others walking just as distractedly as she was. Giving up, she shoved her pad in her carryall, determined to get back to the one place where she was allowed to shut the door and hide. For a few clicks, anyway. Closing the door behind her, her right shoulder shoved forward, she tripped over her fallen carryall, landing hard on one knee. Before she could breathe inward enough to yell, pain radiated from near her middle. Gasping and grabbing her shirt to lift it, her door opened and slammed behind her. Reaching frantically all around her front, she pulled her hand away. No blood, but she swore her ingers had tripped over something poking out of her skin. “Ms. Yana, you don’t know me, but I know you. I chased the Demons away, but,” the voice paused and quavered. “They got to you. I am so sorry. I tried getting here as fast as I could.” She felt her arm being tugged up and cried out. “It’s tearing!” An arm wound around her waist, being more gentle, but much more insistent, and helped her to stand. “What is happening? It feels like something is ripping me up... like a pole went through me from back to front, and now the tip is poking out of me and shredding,” Yana looked down at her perfectly intact skin and laugh cried. “What in cold ochu?” she wheezed, the pain compounding with every breath.

“What is happening? It feels like something is ripping me up... like a pole went through me from back to front, and now the tip is poking out of me and shredding,”

“My name is Kit, short for Kitarra,” she said with a quick grin. “I work here, in processing, and saw a passel of Demons come through my area’s wall, and they were talking about you. So I came, but, um, the Guardian told me where your of ice is, so, yeah.” “The Guardian talks to you?” Yana asked, trying to get her legs to not collapse. “Yeah, I know it’s not normal, but yes, it does.” She looked down at Yana’s middle. “It’s really bad.” Yana looked down and saw nothing. “How come I can’t see it, but I can feel it?” Tossing Yana’s carryall over her shoulder, Kit shrugged. “I... don’t know.” “But the Demons,” Yana began, heading to the exit.

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mouth moved as ingers danced on the pad. With a lash of sparks and white light, a time piece loated above the pad’s surface. She knelt again, attaching the piece to his wrist. With a few more muttered words and a pinch of items from her shelf, both the time piece and his pad at his hip began to glow and hum.


Yana snorted. “How about getting this invisible pole outta me irst? I can feel the internal bleeding.” “Oh, that’s not good. But really, healing isn’t my strong point, mixes are,” Kit answered. “But on the positive side, I can see and hear those in the Hereafter, so maybe I can get a Guide?” Sucking air through her teeth, Yana carefully lowered herself into her vehicle. Taking several deep breaths, she wiped her eyes and steeled herself, with a pain- illed sigh. I’m taking home a girl who can see Demons and invisible poles. Says the woman who’s hand erupted into blue lames no one else could see.

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“Will be back, and if I don’t get you out of here, it’ll be worse,” Kit said, walking closely, but carefully behind Yana’s halting gait. “You have a book on balsams and elixers from the Oracles, right?” Yana nodded. “Well, at the very least, we should be able to ind something to hide you from them.”


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Guide to Our Reviews and Ratings: Our rating system is the standard 5 star rating system:

5 = 4 = 3 = 2 = 1 = CNF

exceptional excellent good fair poor = If the problems

in a book are such that a reviewer is unable to finish it, the book will be given to another reviewer to read. If both reviewers are unable to finish the book, it will receive the rating of “CNF” or “Could Not Finish”

We also rate the "Steam" or sex factor so readers can enjoy whatever level they are most comfortable with. The criteria is as follows:

1 Steam Kettle = 2 Steam Kettles = 3 Steam Kettles = 4 Steam Kettles = description 5 Steam Kettles = graphic description

Nothing but kisses Passionate kissing, Sex but the door is closed Slightly steamy sex with some Steamy sex with somewhat

Those books receiving a 4.5 or a 5 star review will also be awarded the "Crowned Heart" for excellence. This symbol will be seen beside the review in the magazine.

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Historical

Purity (Diamonds of the First Water Book 2) Sydney Jane Baily

all polite manners. And yet the spark and passion when they are together is a living breathing thing tugging at the reader from the pages. The storyline shows great character development as Matthew becomes more civilized and Purity learns to trust what they are building together. But when Matthew’s inal secret is revealed and accepted quickly it seems out of character, and leaves the reader waiting for more. A fun passionate read historical romance fans are sure to enjoy. Cara Cieslak

Purity Diamond is the second eldest daughter of Lord and Lady Diamond. Purity is known for her excellent manners and adherence to societies rules and customs. But when she breaks a small rule to look in on a painting unsupervised, she meets the infamous Lord Matthew Foxford. Lord Foxford is known for his many indiscretions and he’s exactly the sort of gentleman Purity would never choose. When Lord Foxford sets his sights on Purity as the perfect bride, he will do anything to convince her. What he never intends to do is lose his heart to her. Purity cannot politely turn away Lord Foxford’s pleas for help, and as she comes to know him, her heart becomes invested in a way her brain wishes it could deny. Purity’s manners and grace make her the most proper of ladies. But when she is with Matthew, she feels her manners slip and she says and does things that go against all she’s studied in her manner books. It is hard to believe she would be grateful for Matthew’s experience in the bedroom and that she would accept his advances so easily when his indiscretions are against

The Fury of a Storme (The Storme Brothers Book 6)

he needs. But inside Catherine’s mind she knows she wants more, a true marriage. How can she gain a true marriage if she isn’t even sure what a true marriage entails? This unique tale is sweet from the start but illed with angst and hope as they struggle to communicate and work toward what they both want. Catherine and John have great chemistry. When they meet their instant chemistry excites them both, even as it confuses Catherine. John’s patience puts Catherine at ease, and she is eager to explore these new desires she feels. As John teaches her about relationships the pages are ablaze with passion. The character development is excellent as Catherine learns to navigate the ton and learns to communicate and be in a relationship. John learns his worth and that he is not his father. As John learns to let go of his father’s abusive hold on him, he blossoms into a caring man who can someday be a father the way his never was. Absolutely delightful! Cara Cieslak

Sandra Sookoo

Catherine Storme has long been misunderstood. When she was 12, she was abandoned to an asylum. She has returned to London but is misunderstood by everyone she meets. John Butler has come home in a last attempt to connect with his father. When John and Catherine have a chance meeting, there is an instant spark that cannot be denied. John’s patience allows him to understand Catherine in ways few have ever tried. John quickly decides that a marriage of convenience would serve them both, granting her freedom and him the settled life

The Dance of Love (The Book of Love 14) Meara Platt

As a favor to Rafe Quinton’s cousins, Lady Augusta Nesbit is to

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“The Dance of Love” is book 14 in the Book of Love series and is a sweet historical romance illed with murder, mystery, and love. The characters are relatable, especially Rafe and Auggie, for whom the reader will be cheering. Both are extraordinarily strong, intelligent, and caring, and the romance between them is sweet and believable. The reader will love Auggie, who has no interest in men who want her money and is in no rush to marry. Rafe is a handsome widower who is always working, yet he’s remarkably close to his son. Rafe’s son, Sam, is such a cute and smart boy, who knows what he wants and is not afraid to tell his father. The reader will enjoy the relationship between Sam and his father, and the connection he has with Auggie. Auggie’s aunt is one tough bird who will not tell Auggie the truth about the ire and her nephew, whom she adores. The mystery and murder just bring more to the story, and the reader will be rooting for Rafe and Auggie to igure it out and get their happy ever after. Victoria Zumbrum

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bring the Book of Love to him. Lady Augusta is visiting her father’s aging aunt and discovers her house has been burned down. Rafe Quinton is a widower with a young son and is magistrate of Exeter, who is investigating the ire at Lady Augusta’s aunt’s house. As Auggie and Rafe work together on solving the mystery of the ire, they ind themselves falling in love.

The Highlander & The Queen’s Sacri ice (The Queen’s Highlanders Book 1)

personalities of Maggie’s family just leap off the pages with excitement and detail, yet others seem lacking, even when they have a large role in the plot. The shocking ending seems a bit farfetched. Though the tale is a bit predictable, there is still a great story with mystery and intrigue around every corner. Regardless of the few shortcomings, this book will leave the reader with pleasant thoughts and looking forward to the next in the series. Marie Sanderson

Heather McCollum

Every good queen needs a sacri icial lamb, someone who will place their life secondary to hers. For Queen Elizabeth, this person is Margaret Darby. Maggie spends her days running tests on clothing the queen will soon wear including putting them on herself and risking her own life to make sure no ill will befall Elizabeth. When Highlander Kerr Gordon shows up with a gift for the queen in the form of a pair of gloves, Maggie soon discovers that the gloves have been tampered with and may have cost the queen her life had they been given directly to her. Maggie can hardly believe that Kerr would have done this and begins to investigate. They must work together to ind the traitors and uncover an even bigger plot than they could have ever imagined. A story of treason, sacri ice, and love of country is encapsulated in this sweet story of two people from con licting countries falling in love. With Kerr just outrightly professing his desires, Maggie must look deep inside herself to discover what it is she really needs and wants in her life. The

Empowered by the Earl (Second Sons of London Book 3) Alexa Aston

Major Owen Hasbury, the second son of the Earl of Danbury, is serving in the military, ighting the war against Bonaparte. Owen receives a letter from the family solicitor begging him to come home to settle affairs. When Owen arrives at Danbury, his brother has died, making Owen the new Earl. Owen’s friend, Everett, invites Owen to his house party, to hopefully meet a bride. Everett and his wife invite Miss Louisa Goulding, her cousin, to come visit also. When Louisa arrives, Owen is instantly attracted to her. Louisa knows that Everett and her cousin


This intriguing enemies to lovers Regency tale does have an interesting premise of a second son inheriting a title. This might be the third in the series, yet can stand alone with very little confusion. It might help to read the previous books to understand the past history. Regency mores aren’t strictly followed either. The verbal sparring and bantering is entertaining. Unfortunately, the many miscommunications between the main characters become tediously boring, and the plotlines also seem dully formulaic. When Owen and Louisa are inally able to express themselves, the book rushes through the con lict so quickly that the anger doesn’t even feel genuine. Owen, the brash, handsome Earl leaves much to be desired. Louisa, the strong-willed, independent, smart heroine, makes up for the hero’s shortcomings though. The story is nonetheless amusing, and a satisfying read. Roslynn Ernst

Once Upon a Duke’s Wish (The Duke’s Lost Treasures Book 1)

everyone. At times, things aren’t explained fully even though everything works out in the end. Each person seems trapped in the past; from the cold-mannered duke, to the brusque Leo, his mother, Ella’s other sisters, and even Ella herself. Leo is not the most cordial guy. Yes, he cares for others, yet he seems callous and not an ideal hero. Luckily, Ella, the level-headed, smart heroine, brings a bit of light into the story. Still, the tale is a captivating mystery that readers will enjoy.

Lana Williams

Roslynn Ernst

Leo Stanton, Earl of Marbury, listened to the Duke of Rothwood, who wished things would have turned out differently. Leo and the duke are bound by the past, because Leo’s father was the duke’s daughter’s jilted betrothed. Miss Ella Wright and her two sisters are on a transatlantic voyage leaving Nova Scotia, for London, England. When the ship docks in London, Ella meets Leo. She feels an instant spark, yet, dismisses it because she won’t meet him again. When Ella gets to the Duke of Rothwood’s home— she is his granddaughter—no one expects them. As Ella adjusts to her new life, she comes to know Leo. Ella and Leo are deeply attracted to each other. However, a missing journal, together with the past, could destroy any hope of a relationship between the two. This is an adventuresome historical romance illed with treasure hunting, intriguing characters, love and loss all rolled into one! Ms. Williams writes concisely yet quite eloquently about wittiness, slight humor, familial ties, and sorrow. The tale is dark and melancholic with much death surrounding

Notorious (Poisonous Passions – Book 1) Mae Thorn

Set in New York City during the Revolutionary War, “Notorious” is the story of Delia Wolcott, her family, and the death of her brother, supposedly at the hands of British soldiers. Delia vows to avenge her brother’s demise, so she takes on the mysterious persona of Foxglove, a shadowy igure working on behalf of the colony rebels who dispatches a number of British soldiers using poison. William Travers, Lord Carrington, is sent to New York by the king to track down Foxglove and bring him to justice. Little does he know the young woman

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want them to get married. Instead, Owen and Louisa join forces to protect each other. The plan is set into motion, except neither was expecting to fall in love, which could ruin the best laid plans, no matter how both try to avoid it.


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“Notorious” by Mae Thorn is the irst book in this new series of mystery romances. Delia, the heroine, is strong and resourceful and adamant about avenging her brother’s death. Lord Carrington is the epitome of an English gentleman and of icer. When he’s offered refuge at the Wolcott home, Delia’s family attempts matchmaking between Delia and the handsome Lord. It isn’t long, though, before Carrington realizes Delia is behind Foxglove, yet he can’t bring himself to arrest her, and returns to England without unmasking her. Out of sight isn’t out of mind, and they inally declare their feelings, which causes Delia to leave New York to marry Carrington and take up residence in England, which, of course, sets up the next book in the series. There are open-door love scenes, however, they are not graphic. Fans of some great action along with a very under-utilized time in history will love this book. N.E. Kelley

Dangerous (Poisonous Passions – Book 2) Mae Thorn

humorous look at Hugh during the ocean crossing was a fun diversion one doesn’t usually see in romance novels. Unfortunately, Hugh never quite gets to the lofty status of a true hero. Still, the story itself regarding the unexplained murders, the wrongfully accused heroine, and the ultimate resolution of the crimes, more than makes up for a milquetoast hero. It would be advantageous to read the irst book in the series before this one, although not totally necessary. NE Kelley

When Abigail Riverton decides to lee New York City and the scandal surrounding her family, she travels to England to visit her friend, Delia Wolcott, now married to Lord Carrington. She is accompanied on her trip by Lord Carrington’s younger brother, Hugh Travers. Their crossing isn’t exactly ideal since Hugh is not a fan of traveling by ship. Once they arrive in Cornwall, Abigail inds herself the prime suspect in a murder which takes place at Briarwyck, the home of her friend and Lord Carrington. More murders ensue, and Abigail inds herself on the lam while trying to prove her innocence - with Hugh as her protector. This second book in the series carries on the story of the Travers family (Hugh and the Lord), and friends Abigail and Delia. More of a murder mystery than the previous book, the true murderer is not immediately apparent, and it isn’t until Abigail is taken prisoner by the real assailant that readers’ suspicions are con irmed. While Abigail is a competent and likeable heroine, Hugh is nowhere near the hero that his older brother was in the irst book. The fact that the author added a quite

A Treacherous Engagement (Gentlemen of London – Book 1) Laura Beers

Dinah’s sister Evie is missing. Rather than accept the constabulary’s theory that her sister has run off to get married, Dinah decides to take matters into her own hands and hire an infamous Bow Street Runner to track Evie down. Unfortunately, Dinah has no idea where to actually ind a real Bow Street Runner, and con ides her plight to the irst man in a red coat. Nathaniel Calvert is not a runner, but rather a government agent, and also the Earl of Hawthorne. Already given an assignment to

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he inds himself attracted to is the stealth criminal. Once he discovers Foxglove’s true identity, he’s torn between his duty to the king and his desire for the lovely Delia.


ind a missing agent, he’s drawn into the young Dinah’s request for help when he realizes the two disappearances may be related. With Dinah’s insistence that she needs to help, Nate manages to solve a mystery, ind the missing agent and sister, and save the day. Falling in love along the way wasn’t in the plan.

“A Treacherous Engagement” shows much promise. And as far as the intrigue goes, it delivers on that promise. Unfortunately, it falls down everywhere else. There is no chemistry between the two main characters. Dinah is childish, spoiled, and at times, downright annoying. Nate is, fortunately, much better suited to the story, displaying the consummate spy skills and bravery to get the job done. He also seems to have a soft spot for rather dull women. This is an often used trope with nothing special to set it apart from the other Regency spy romances. The language is stilted with short laundry-list sentences. The story is redeemed somewhat by the overall setting and detailed suspense. If you’re a fan of Regency era intrigue, you may enjoy this book. N.E. Kelley

Of Mortal Fury: A Medieval Romance (The Executioner Knights Book 11) Kathryn Le Veque

Morgan de Wolfe has been ordered to undertake a dangerous spy mission. He is to in iltrate and retake Mount Grace, the site of a valuable silver mine, from King John, who himself stole it from Oliver le Marche. Morgan will have to impersonate Gere le Marche, the dead heir to Mount Grace, in order to collect le Marche’s waiting Irish mercenary army. He’ll need to contact surviving le Marche soldiers imprisoned in the silver mines who are ready to mutiny. He is also expected to ingratiate himself to the current garrison commander of Mount Grace, Lord Hollis de la Haye, to determine his weaknesses for an attack. For the latter two, Morgan will need to hide both the de Wolfe and le Marche identities. It’s a busy plot made busier by the beautiful distraction of the commander’s daughter, Amarantha de la Haye. Although a standalone, “Of Mortal Fury” shoulders a heavy burden of pre-existing lore from the Executioner Knights and de Wolfe series that both number in the double digits. Despite the complexity of this mission, Morgan spends an inordinate

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amount of time not following the steps of the plan, but rather, procuring himself a wife. Poor Amarantha’s “womanly igure” makes her the object of desire to every eligible knight and mercenary in her vicinity, much to her detriment. While other participants make unilateral changes to the takeover plot, Morgan prioritizes keeping Amarantha away from all harms. With all the deviations from the original scheme, its inal success seems random. This one is suspense and romance that feels unevenly combined. Nevertheless, fans will be thrilled by cameos made by other Executioner Knights. Joan Lai

The Sword: A Time Travel Historical Romance (Guinevere Book 3) Fil Reid

Knowing the future does not mean there is anything to be done about it. No longer an ordinary librarian, Gwen Fry has been brought back to ifth century Britain by Merlin and has been living as Queen Guinevere for nearly three years. Gwen and King Arthur have managed to bridge their awkward divide to form a happy family in Din Cadan. But Arthur is Dux


Britanniarum, the military defender of Britain, and his duties take him to far corners of the British kingdoms. Gwen learns to make sacri ices of her own, leaving their infant son in their defended castle, to join Arthur on his campaign north of Hadrian’s Wall, always wary of the whispers of history that may come to pass. She discovers why Arthur is never mentioned in the writings of his supposed contemporary, the venerated monk, Gildas; Morgana makes a bold move against Merlin; and The Sword is inally lifted from the stone. “The Sword” is a love story that artfully blends imaginative archeology, captivating ancient history, and the tenderness that de ines humanity through the ages. As Book 3 of the Guinevere Series, the previous two books are recommended for continuity. Now wiser to the stark realities of her chosen time, Gwen is prepared to pick up a sword of her own in defence of her allies. With steady inevitability, she grows into the Queen she needs to be, still seeing her world through the starry eyes of a modern history buff but slowly leaving twentieth century sensibilities behind. Details are so rich that one can imagine exactly what Gwen is feeling and thinking. Masterfully written! The series is to be continued. Joan Lai

Historical

Love Abandoned (Honorable Intentions, Book 2) Rose Phillips

unexplained. Readers will ind this book is not a standalone. If one hasn’t read the irst of the series, one should, otherwise readers will be confused about several aspects of the story: what is wrong with Elizabeth and Richard’s second child, Sebastien; the backstory of Elizabeth’s friend, Catherine; and the arrival of Catherine’s brother, Laurence, near the end of the story. The story will end on a high note as Richard inally realizes that communication is key, and love always inds a way. Heather McCoubrey

Elizabeth Thornwood loves her husband, the Earl of Thornwood, and she knows he loves her too, but she doesn’t understand why he’s left her to a lonely existence in their country estate. Two years later, Elizabeth needs to know where their marriage stands, and while Richard is happy they’re in London, he continues to put space between them. An opportunity presents itself for him to assist in the war efforts by passing along ciphers, but when Elizabeth inds Richard in a compromising position, she is devastated. Realizing there’s no ix to their broken marriage, she lees back to the country to begin her new life alone. What will it take to convince Richard that love is worth the risk? Elizabeth and Richard are two people who love each other deeply, but when Elizabeth almost died in childbirth, Richard decided he would do whatever it took to keep her safe, even if it meant leaving her alone in the country. Readers will enjoy the bit of espionage and cloak and dagger the author has written into the story. The intrigue is a nice distraction from everything that’s left unsaid and

Healing Hazel (The Blue Orchid Society #3) Jennifer Moore

When Hazel and her traveling companion, Ms. Nella Westbrook, get turned away from meeting Hazel’s father for Christmas; they get more than they bargained for on the journey back to London. From the train being bombed and not knowing what comes next, Hazel is able to stay at the makeshift Red Cross hospital, working as a nurse, and comes to realize her life’s mission, the meaning of friendship, and she falls in love. Dr. Jim Jackson learns to trust Hazel and sees

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As the third book in The Blue Orchid Society series, this can be read a stand-alone book. The author has interwoven the characters of the Blue Orchid Society seamlessly and shows how friendship, even though far from each other, is everlasting. As readers follow the story of Hazel and Dr. Jackson, they will ind themselves turning page after page until the journey is complete. Ms. Moore has written not just a tale, but a journey for the readers to experience! Ms. Moore’s well rounded stories, not just for the main characters but for the supporting characters throughout the book, leave no question unanswered, and the reader illed with love from this charming, masterfully written tale. An unexpected highlight comes at the end of book where the author explains more of real life history as it pertains to the setting of the story. History buffs and others will enjoy every aspect of this simply delightful tale! Heather Kroll

A Scot to Have and to Hold (Once Upon a Scot Series Book 2)

supposedly the devil’s mark which never allows her to be happy. It is up to Ross to teach her to believe otherwise. Ms. Greyson has a gift with words, and she describes both her characters and the world with such skill that the reader can imagine all which is taking place. Secondary characters are delightful and three dimensional adding much to an already brilliant story. A praiseworthy tale which transports one to the beautiful shores of Scotland where love can conquer all!

Maeve Greyson

Belinda Wilson

After cuckolding a neighboring Scot, Ross MacDougall is called before his laird. The wily lord has a surprise for Ross from another whom he has betrayed. Ross sees a wee lass who is skin and bones, with a red mark on her cheek, dressed in rags. Alexander MacDougall, his laird, tells him this is to be his wife! Ross is astounded this creature could be female. He accepts his fate goodnaturedly. Ross insists his bride clean up before the nuptials. When he sees her, he is labbergasted. Before him is a wee beauty! He had vowed never to wed or fall in love, but Elise wins his heart. What Laird Alexander does not know, is she is already married, and twice a runaway. She con ides this to Ross in hopes he will let her go her way come spring. But Ross is determined to annul her previous marriage and convince her to stay with him always. “A Scot to Have and to Hold” features Ross and Elise, two very real people with complicated lives. Elise is Irish and lives with many superstitions; the main one being the stain on her cheek that is

The Duke of Aces (Ladies of Risk Book 2) Rachel Ann Smith

Lady Isadora Malbury has been named leader of the Wicked Ladies Salon, a secret group of select ladies. She must secure Wembly Hall for their meetings. Thomas Grandstone, Duke of Avondale, is equally interested in Wembly Hall and Lady Isadora. Tom has determined Isadora is the only lady who will do for his duchess. She’s independent, which is important to Tom because he is a spy for the crown. But why does she want Wembly Hall? They show up at Wembly Hall at the same time to talk to the owner. Isadora proposes they compete in a series

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that he has misjudged her as he gets to know her, resulting in healing and new journeys for himself.


Historical of three games of chance. The winner gets Wembly Hall. The catch is that Tom is known as the Duke of Aces, and has the uncanny ability to win almost every game of chance in which he partakes. His goal is to win Isadora as his bride. Be prepared for a bit of delightful wickedness when beginning “The Duke of Aces”. Tom is devilishly conniving as he competes with Isadora, taking his time to spring it on her that his goal is to wed her. There are several disappointing factors in this fun story, however. There never seems to be any real chemistry between them, even though they admit to loving one another. Character development is lacking, coming across as seemingly emotionless and one dimensional, even though

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Isadora is described as adventuresome. The Wicked Ladies Salon is never fully explained. The “wickedness” is seen only when Tom and Isadora get together later in the story, then things get really hot! An enjoyable story that would shine more if read in the order of the series. Belinda Wilson


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Miranda Writes

quickly a high-pro ile trial can go to court, but iction isn't held by the same time constraints as reality. Romance is a minimal part of the storyline. The ending seems to fall lat, not packing the punch one would quite expect, nor does it live up to the superior writing in the rest of the book. Regardless, readers who like light romance, legal iction, and strong women iction in their stories will want to read “Miranda Writes”.

Gail Ward Olmsted

Emerson Matthews

Miranda Quinn left her job as an Assistant District Attorney in disgrace; her key witness in a high-pro ile case disappeared just before the trial, allowing a suspected murderer and rapist to go free. Now Miranda is inally getting her life back on track. Her successful “Miranda Writes” blog turned into a successful podcast, and now she is preparing to launch her own daytime television show based on “Miranda Writes blog/ podcast”. She has turned her life around, rising above the shame from back then… Until another girl is attacked, and Miranda’s missing witness reappears with a shocking story, that if true, shows how far people will go when lives are on the line.

Discovering Her Heart: Kristen (Wishful Hearts Collection #1)

Readers will be hard pressed to ind a more creative or wittier book! “Miranda Writes” is fresh, original, and surprising. The characters are fully leshed and well portrayed. Miranda Quinn’s entire life is full of con lict and readers will enjoy seeing what is coming at her next. Background knowledge is retold a few times too many, causing the story to drag in places, which in turn makes the timing seem off; whether it be how much Miranda can it into a packed week or how

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pretending he doesn’t know who she is or how much she’s beginning to mean to him. Facing reality is dif icult for Kristen, but with the handsome resort owner around, her book boyfriend might have to take a back seat. Readers will get the best of both worlds as book boyfriends and a real hero collide for Kristen. Set with a beautiful Tennessee backdrop, this story explores the importance of real life connections and how they fuel our con idence and our creativity. While the story lacks major con lict or depth, it tells a simple yet enjoyable romance. It further successfully addresses the issues both Kristen and Brett have from their pasts in a realistic way without losing its light and engaging style. Readers who are looking for a quick read with a guaranteed happy ending will ind plenty to enjoy in this book! Sarah E Bradley

River Ford

Kristen Parker is burnt out. Her imagination has always been bigger and more immersive than reality which helped when she wrote multiple bestsellers that launched a movie; less so when she suddenly can’t seem to write a word. In an effort to jump start her writing again, Kristen takes her agent up on the offer of a vacation at a resort in her home state of Tennessee. It seems like a great idea until the main character of her book meets her at the airport. Brett Stone adores his aunt, and he’s willing to do anything necessary to make sure her client and his favorite author enjoys herself, even if it means

Hold: The Fieldings, Book 2 Kimberley Ash

Thea Fielding is a single mom after ending a troubled marriage. Her goals are simple: be a good mother and earn her teaching degree. After his ex-wife cheated on him, costing him his beloved teaching career, Liam McConnell


“Hold” by Kimberley Ash is a well written contemporary romance of two people who struggle to make their way despite disappointments in both their professional and personal lives. Thea and Liam are both very likeable and relatable. The glimpse we get into Liam’s failed marriage and background shows his strong character. Thea’s desire for independence and devotion to her family makes her a strong female lead. Their friend, Chloe, is a very well-rounded supporting character, as are the other friends and family. Thea’s ex proves to be a good villain, especially when he returns to supposedly reclaim his family. He and Liam are excellent adversaries for Thea’s heart. “Hold” is the second book in the series but can be read as a standalone. However, reading the irst book in the series may give the reader a better understanding of Thea’s background. For fans of contemporary romance with a light hand on the physical relationship and not opposed to strong language, this is a great read. N.E. Kelley

Monterey King (California Suits #3) Claire Marti

approach in incorporating these facets is thoughtfully done. The second chance love plot is not unique; however, this story is creative and carefully done. There are hidden gems within the supporting characters and an endearing service dog. The main characters are distinguished and portrayed as professional with sincere family bonds. This is the third book in the series and stands alone; however, reading the others will allow readers to get to know the cast that rounds out the close knit group. Delightful! Viola Robbins

Lucy Goodwin has an interview for a job that has been her dream career for years. She’s a bit nervous, as there is history with the group of resort owners that she’s interviewing with. The group includes ive best friends who decide to start a business of high-end hotel resorts throughout California, which include all the amenities, even wedding venues. Cameron Taylor is one of the ive, and he’s taken aback by the scheduled interview with Lucy for the wedding coordinator position. They were high school sweethearts until Cam chose to serve his country in the US Army and broke off their relationship and never looked back. After many tears over Cam, Lucy moved on and focused on her career. Will her dream job become reality? Or will past hurts muddy the waters? “Monterey King” is a turbulent yet sweet read of second chance love. Book three hits at the heart of all that matters: successful business group, military veterans, and the love of family and friends that’s the glue to hold it together. Ms. Marti has incorporated a lovely saga that includes a military veteran with signi icant PTSD and also an amputee. The author’s

Confessions of a Gamer Girl (Her Confessions #2) Kirsten S. Blacketer

Maggie is a gamer girl and wishes there were more like her. She is over at her friend Lily’s house for movie night, but her three male roommates are in the TV room, gaming. They don’t want to give up the eighty-inch TV to the girls. Then Gavin challenges Maggie to a game. They seem to be equally matched, but in the end, Maggie triumphs. Gavin leaves without a word, and the other roommates follow. Later, Maggie wants to put a new iling system on her computer at work, but does not know how. She reaches out to

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has to start over and reclaim the job to which he was devoted. When Thea and Liam meet in night class, there’s an instant attraction despite their mutual distrust of the opposite sex. They combat their attraction by doing everything they can to antagonize one another, hoping this will convince those around them that there is nothing between them. Yet, the only ones they’re truly trying to convince are themselves.

Contemporary


Contemporary several companies, but no one is available. She learns Gavin works for Muselab, the irst company she reached out to. Next thing she knows, Gavin is in her of ice, putting her dream iling system together for her. It is dif icult working with him because he is hot, hot, hot! “Confessions of a Gamer Girl” is a comedic romance, written so that even non-gamers can understand the gaming scenes. The main characters are delightful; Gavin is modeled after Shemar Moore from the TV show Criminal Minds, right down to his mannerism of saying, “baby girl.” That said, there is no originality to the character because he is so closely based on an existing personality. Lily’s

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other roommates, Mike and James, are referred to several times and are an integral part of Gavin’s enterprises, but one never knows the difference between the two because they are lumped together. The girlfriends in the story add drama and sisterhood. There are several interesting twists sure to keep readers engaged. A fun romp, one can eagerly anticipate the next installment in this series. Belinda Wilson


On Sale Now!

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The Haunting of Wilton June (Romantic Hauntings #2)

each of the main characters, making them more personable. The paranormal aspect of the story is light-hearted and not at all something that will make you leave the lights on. This story is enjoyable from cover to cover with its laugh out loud scenes and romantic dialogue. Readers will not be able to put down this witty and entertaining paranormal romance! Jennifer Shepherd

Peggy Jaeger

Botanist Jerica Toussaint is living a humble life in a cottage outside of her ancestral home when she is informed that the famous movie director, Wilton June, would like to rent the home for his new ilm. The problem is she hasn’t been able to keep anyone in the home for even a short period of time, let alone six months, which is what Wilton needs for the production of his ilm. Jerica inds this offer very tempting. Her money is slowly dwindling down, trying to maintain the home without a tenant. But can she trust Wilton June with her family secrets and the mysterious things that occur inside the home? “The Haunting of Wilton June” is a fun, fast-paced paranormal romance that readers will ind dif icult to put down. The main characters have an interest in each other right away, which may leave some readers wanting the development of their relationship to be a bit slower. However, their chemistry is off the charts! Readers will get swept up in their romantic banter and quirky personalities. The character development is done well and the reader will be given the history of

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S’mores Siren Song (One Scoop or Two)

Yeates, a marine biologist, came to town. The storytelling by Virginia Barlow is straight out of a modern fairytale. Every character has a clear purpose that aids in telling Addy’s story. With that said, everything is predictable with no unexpected surprises. It is a cute touch to have Addy’s new boyfriend be the town's new marine biologist, who just so happens to have a mermaid story of his own. The relationships are fun and organic, and none of them feel forced. It is also interesting how easily the story could go in two different directions: a happy redemption story or a revenge plot. The possibilities are endless with this story, but the modern fairytale take is light-hearted and refreshing. “S’mores Siren Song” is the perfect novel for a quick read bundled up by a ire, maybe with a s’more or two. Sadie Wilson

Virginia Barlow

Adysson Townsend has been trying to combat the unusual swimming patterns of the local ish, which she claims is the result of illegal activity of a big ishing company. She makes it her responsibility to protect the locals in the community, but every time the ishing company goes under investigation, all the evidence disappears. However, this isn’t her only dilemma at hand. Addy spends her nights in the ocean, swimming as a siren. During the day, she works at her ice cream parlor. Once she turns 25, she has to decide which form she will keep forever: human or siren? It used to be an easy decision until Benjamin

A Magical’s Gift: The Magicals Series, #5 Maya Tyler

Amelie Ricard has been told stories of fairies all her life by her mother, and with the help of her friend, she goes to college. Now Amelie Ricard has a master’s


“A Magical’s Gift” is Book 5 in the Magicals Series, and is a enjoyable addition! The author has created a delightful world, illed with fairies and wizards, who are at war with one another and will do anything to destroy the other. What the fairies and wizards do not count on is one from each species falling in love, which has the potential to bring the species closer together. The reader will love the connection and passion between Amelie and Niall, but may feel that the tale could have had more romantic scenes between them. The pacing is a little uneven at times, slowing in some places and lying by with action in others. Though this story can be read as a standalone, readers would probably get far more enjoyment if the series were read in order. A fun way to spend the afternoon! Victoria Zumbrum

Spears and Shadows Defenders of the Light, Book 1 S.C. Grayson

ongoing ight between Good and Evil abound! An Where sorcerers are disguised as professors, where the girl participates in her own protection, and where love transcends the restrictions of time. Main characters are relatable and likeable while secondary characters provide subtle side stories. The story's pacing is a little slow, however the ominous presence of The Shadow is a constant throughout the story. This new world being crafted by S. C. Grayson promises to be an interesting and intriguing world into which readers will gladly want to escape. Tonya Mathenia

Nora Zvezda, a historian for The Chicago Field Museum, is hoping her work on the new Eterian weapons exhibit will be her promotion ticket. She enlists help from handsome professor Adam Scott, an expert in ancient languages. Imagine her surprise when she discovers he’s a powerful sorcerer in an ancient secret society called Eteria. When the dark entity known as Shadow is drawn to Nora and the museum because of the Eterian weapons she's working on, Adam defends her in dramatic fashion! The two are drawn to each other, but Adam still has a secret that may alter their feelings for each other. Nora, Adam, and the remaining warriors and defenders of Eteria pull out all the stops to defeat the Shadow. Will the existence of a secret society overload Nora's already crazy work life balance? Will Nora's and Adam's feelings be strong enough to blossom into love? Will their plans to thwart the Shadow succeed? Filled with romance and action, "Spears and Shadows" is a promising introduction to a world where everlasting love and the

The Agent and the Outlaw Les Dames Dangereuses 2 Lily Riley

Agent Charlotte awakes tied to the back of a horse. Her Order’s sanctioned and well-planned assassination of the Marquis de Sade has been interrupted, foiled by the Marquis' murder and her kidnapping! Lieutenant Antoine de Valle, man on a mission that has him deemed an "outlaw", he has no time for the beautiful, exasperating woman he inadvertently "rescued" from Sade's clutches. The misadventures grow more and

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degree in folklore, and when her thesis is rejected for a prestige fellowship in favor of a male colleague, she feels she has no purpose in life. Then she meets Niall Ward, who is very handsome and charming, and makes her feel incredibly special and cherished. Amelie and Niall both throw caution to the wind and pursue a passionate relationship that leads them down a road that neither expected to be taking. Niall Ward comes from an extensive line of wizards, including his father, but he has no desire to be the next wizard.

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more dangerous as Charlotte and Antoine travel through small towns on the outskirts of France. Their growing feelings for each other, a squad of vampire soldiers, and a mysterious beast are obstacles thrown in their path. Antoine must decide if his feelings for Charlotte are strong enough to put aside his mission and accept her as the enterprising and empowered woman she has worked so hard to become. This story delivers a whimsical perspective on werewolves and espionage with a French accent! Familiar tropes are used with a werewolf twist that's intriguing. Main characters have a chemistry that's not white-hot, but still warm enough to take the chill off. Although their communication skills are subpar, their feelings for each other come through with intensity. The villains provide an enemy to work against, however, they lack dimension providing no real sense of fear, but a healthy dose of disgust. The story is decent enough to get readers through a sit by the pool or a few hours in a cozy corner. The mysterious "beast" and his alter ego offer a little nibble to whet the appetite for more. Ms. Riley's romantic world of French aristocracy, supernatural beings, empowered women, and espionage provides a lighthearted and slightly thrilling escape! Tonya Mathenia

Heartquake Terry Newman

Marie Sanderson

When billionaire businessman Riley Brockton walks into Charlee’s coffee shop one morning, the only word that comes to her mind is “impervious”. Just being near Riley causes electricity to surge through Charlee’s body. Shapeshifter Riley immediately recognizes Charlee as his lioness and wants nothing more than to tell her, but fear of rejection keeps his secret locked deep inside. When Charlee decides to run for city council to shut down the fracking industry happening in their own town, Riley is her biggest supporter. With a reporter snooping around to dig up dirt on both Charlee and Riley, it’s only a matter of time before a wedge, in the form of secrets, comes bursting to the surface. “Heartquake” is a captivating, page-turner of a novel! Clawing their way into readers’ hearts, Riley and Charlee are both amazing and complex characters. The each have their own stories that uniquely intertwine. With quite a bit of environmental turmoil spread throughout, this story feels real and authentic, with descriptions that will draw the reader in. The delightfully quirky, but intelligent townsfolk only seek

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to further Charlee’s endeavor, sealing for themselves a solid place in the reader’s heart. The plot holds water until the end when it almost too conveniently is wrapped up in a cute little packaged ending which is hardly realistic. While not a hot and heavy romance, the slow, methodical build allows both protagonists to realize their true feelings for each other. Overall, a fantastic novel that the author should truly take pride in!

Cambion's Blood (Book 2) Erin Fulmer

Lily Knight's world has turned upside down. A former prosecuting attorney in San Francisco, she's now out of a job and living above a friend's garage. She's also half-human, halfsuccubus, called a cambion, with only a basic understanding of what that means, other than that most humans don't know cambions exist. When a murder that appears the work of a demon takes place at a fraternity house, Lily is called in to assist by a shadowy government organization. As she walks a ine line between protecting others like herself and inding a killer, Lily will discover more of her


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Paranormal capabilities, test the boundaries of friendship, and carve out a path forward in a landscape de ined by fear of the "other". Lily Knight is a force to be reckoned with! "Cambion's Blood" hooks the reader from the start and never lets go as tension and suspense ratchet up from one page to the next! Although this is book 2, enough backstory is given to situate the story. Lily lacks knowledge about her non-human side, which adds pressure as she navigates her world, but it also means that neither she nor the reader clearly understands the larger battle being played out beyond the one she is in. Lily's relationship with a wealthy tech CEO provides the requisite romance, but Sebastian seems more background iller to work out Lily's issues than a romance that readers can get behind. On the other hand, her protectiveness of a young orphaned demon is touching. The action and obstacles Lily faces constantly raise the stakes. "Cambion's Blood" offers up a gripping paranormal tale that intrigues and captivates right from the get-go! Tricia Hill

A Kelly Society Christmas (The Kelly Society #2) S.K. Andrews

PARANORMAL: Vivien Kelly previously saved the modern world. She killed a demon and commanded banshees to torment humans. After all of that, Vivien could de initely use a break. Just before Christmas, she is trying to live a normal life; preparing for the holiday, buying gifts, decorating, and preparing food. However, her peaceful reality takes a sudden turn when her friend, Josh, accidentally summons the Christmas demon, Krampus. Vivien must now save her friend from being dragged to hell, literally. To do so, she summons Hel, the goddess of the underworld. Will Vivien be able to save her friend from impending doom? And will she be able to stop Krampus before Christmas ultimately arrives? “A Kelly Society Christmas” has a very unique plotline. However, the story is not very engaging and there are several plot holes in the tale. There are quite a few things that are left unexplained, and some situations throughout the book that don’t exactly make sense. The characters are well written, but not entirely relatable, which in turn makes them not

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very memorable. The story is average in its pace but it is incredibly short for such a heavy topic. The plot twist is a bit lacking and not very surprising. The general idea and premise of the story are good, but the execution of it is done a bit poorly. If the story had been expanded upon, it could make for a much more enjoyable book. With that being said, fans of Krampus and eerie Christmas stories are sure to enjoy this short and spooky read. Jennifer Shepherd

Bewitching Andie (Baga Shores Romance #1) Candace Colt

After her lifetime of erratic magical attempts, and her life experiences afterwards, Andie wants nothing more than to have a magic free life for herself and her son, Sam. That wish is dashed when Sam shows signs of strong magical abilities. Now she’s on her way back to her grandmother’s house in her home town, hoping to ind a way to help her son tamp his abilities down and forget about them. What she didn’t expect was for her grandmother to setup her childhood friend Brett as both Sam’s mentor and a possible match for Andie, secretly


hoping Andie would see the bene its of magic. Brett has no intention of being anyone’s mentor after how his magic failed him, nor taking on a relationship, but when feelings get involved, it can be hard to say no. A charming paranormal romance that is sure to dazzle the heart of anyone who lips through its pages. Andie’s desire to keep magic out of her life is beautifully written into the story in a way that shows how much she wants to protect her son without depicting her as being closed minded. The way in which Brett’s desire to help Andie’s son, as well as his desire for Andie, pushes through the trauma of his past is heartwarming and healing on his part as well. The magical aspect of the world is also written quite well, giving the reader a magical world that feels normal and relaxed rather than overly secretive and stressed. With a little more attention to editing and fewer confusing metaphors and sayings, this story will cast a spell on readers the world over. Annalee Stilove

Void of Course (Boulevard of Bad Spells and Broken Dreams #1) Carole Ann Moleti

the fantasy. Both Taina and Arnaldo can’t seem to help but get sucked into assisting the people who live and struggle in the city in unique ways that give each character distinction. That being said, the plot’s timelines are a little confusing when it’s mentioned that time has passed, but not how much. The world is beautifully written and gives the reader a feel of an almost magical apocalyptic atmosphere that is very unique. With more attention to timelines, and some greater detail to editing, this book will be a must-have on every shelf. Annalee Stilove

While growing up in Puerto Rico with her grandmother had its advantages, Taina could never shake the soot-covered memory of losing her entire family to the lames of an unsolved arson in the paranormal infested Bronx area of New York. Now Taina is back with a mission to igure out exactly what happened to her family. As a new witch, Taina isn’t completely defenseless, but in this city, her underdeveloped powers make her a target in the war-torn streets. Arnaldo is a powerful witch who desperately wants to help as many people in this crumbling city as he can. When his ex asks him to take care of her new ex, Taina, and teach her some more witch tricks, he can’t say no. Developing feelings and becoming detrimental to the war, however, wasn’t part of anyone’s plan. A dazzling fantasy adventure that is sure to conjure a good time. The story’s romance plays out in a subtle way that allows the reader to feel things develop naturally and keeps the relationship between the characters from overshadowing

Veil of Light (Seven Deadly Veils #9) Diana Marik

After leaving her vampire mate and house in order to hone her skills with the Light Elementals for three years, Miranda is convinced to return to her life in New York. With constant battles, threats of war, and dark schemes, things have changed for the worse, and to top it off, her mate has found a new love to call his own. With her heart in pieces for more reasons than one, Miranda feels like a stranger walking the streets she once knew so well.

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Paranormal Taking a vow to avenge the death of her old friend doesn’t promise to make life easier anytime soon. If all that wasn’t hard enough, her old house prepares to face the human regent, Blackmore, who wants nothing more than to see them all destroyed. The story takes on the prospect of humans learning to accept the supernatural in a unique and diplomatic way. The plot is intriguing and complex. However, the book loses ground fast as character dialogue, inner monologue, and even narrative voice switches from old English to modern, making it challenging to stay connected to the story. Several secondary and side characters are introduced so quickly, it becomes hard to keep

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track of what each is, and what their af iliations are. This might be a bit clearer to readers who have been following through since book one, however. The way Miranda reacts to how people moved on after she decided to up and leave them also makes her a bit of an unlikeable character. With a little more attention to the character development and plot, this book will soar. Annalee Stilove


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On These Wicked Shores (The Azantian Trilogy Book 2) Katherine Quinn

Quinn weaves her tale of delight. Margarete and Bash have terri ic chemistry. The character development as Margarete learns to harness her powers and trust herself is great. Bash learns his true nature and as Margarete nurtures him through the acceptance of it and loves him through it, their relationship deepens and grows. The supporting characters are all well written and leave room for not just the end of the trilogy, but many separate stories begging to be told. Absolutely unputdownable! Cara Ceislak

Margarete Wood is in love with the Azantian king, King Bash. Margarete has the powers of a God inside her, gotten during an epic battle three months prior. But she still hasn’t even begun to master these powers. Now creatures released during the battle have hidden themselves in the human realm, and Margarete and her king must hunt them down. When a storm causes their ship to crash on a mystical island, they ind themselves in a legend with coins and trials, where failing costs your life. As Margarete and Bash ight to live through the challenges and keep their crew intact, their love will be tested to the very end. They ind the entire event has been orchestrated by a God who believes Margarete to be his queen. Can their love survive the island? Katherine Quinn has created a new realm illed with ire creatures, giant squid, and soul sucking nymeras to name a few. With descriptions that leave out nothing but are so cleverly entwined into the story that the island itself comes to life, Ms.

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Fantasy/Urban Fantasy

Fire and Amulet Helen Henderson

and watches over Deneas on her journey. “Fire and Amulet” is a romantic fantasy that takes Deneas, a badass heroine on a dangerous adventure where she learns everything in the world is not what it seems… and what really happened to her mother. Deneas learns she cannot trust the village council and they are not telling the truth. Helen Henderson, the author has a well written story with complex and unique characters. The reader will love the connection between Trelleir and Deneas who are far more than friends and have connections on every level. Deneas has a lot of courage and strength which she learned through her mother and knows how to ight for what she wants. The reader may wish for more romantic scenes between the two, but will enjoy their relationship nonetheless. The obstacles that all the characters face throughout the story will keep the reader engaged. One will enjoy also following the second slayer’s journey as he sets off to destroy Deneas, and see how much he changes. An incredibly engaging story that readers will not want to end! Victoria Zumbrum

Trelleir is a true dragon and the last of his kind. His magic allows him to take human form. His only human friend is Deneas, a dragon slayer who is sent on a quest by the village council to kill all dragons and come back with proof. Trelleir was friends with Deneas’ mother and still mourns her loss every day, but vows to protect her daughter at all costs. Deneas traces her slain mother’s footsteps and faces each obstacle along with Trelleir, who follows


The Rose Stone L.A. Kelley

Artist Jessica Stone’s days are numbered. An inoperable brain tumor is attacking her body and threatening her ability to paint. But when things seem darkest, one of Jessica’s paintings somehow transports her to a mysterious, alternate world called the Commonwealth of the Rose, which is under attack by an evil and vicious darkling. Saved by a guard captain named Grif in, she inds herself waging battle on the darkling and her tumor as she is dragged between this dream world and her reality. At home she is offered a slot in a clinical trial with experimental medicine which forces her to question everything. Are the people in the Commonwealth real and can she help? Or is it all a hallucination brought on by her tumor? To save herself and everyone else she must igure it out before the darkling breaches the Commonwealth for good or her tumor kills her. A vibrant and absorbing story, “The Rose Stone” is a blend of scii and fantasy that grips the reader from the beginning and sends them and Jessica on a journey that delights and surprises until the end. Jessica’s

battle and journey can be taken either literally or iguratively, but the attraction between Grif in and Jessica is full of sweet sparks from the beginning, and their relationship manages to walk the line between insta-love and sincere. The numerous humorous moments bring a natural levity to a story that could easily be much darker and make it ideal for those who enjoy triumph over world ending destruction without drowning in the horror. Although the explanation for how the darkling and the rose stone work is mostly left up to magical science, it still brings the story to a feasible conclusion with some added twists to keep the reader guessing through the end. Overall, fans of fantasy, sci- i, romance and adventure will want to add this book to the top of their toread lists! Sarah E Bradley

The Shadow Elf's Rescuer (Elves of Eldarlan #2) Elisa Rae

horrifying workroom, she inds herself the caretaker for the magus’ experiments, magical creatures drained of their magic and lifeforce. With no way to free herself and return to her brother, she has only one hope: the tortured and half dead Shadow elf, Casimir. As the brother of the elven kings’ spymaster, Casimir knew it was a risk tracking a traitor within range of a magus. Unfortunately, there is only one way to escape and live, but it will mean using the new human girl to do it. But a price must be paid for using bond magic this way, and maintaining the balance could make their temporary alliance more complicated than Casimir or Veta could ever expect. A light fantasy novella featuring a brooding spy elf and a courageous and sel less human girl, “The Shadow Elf’s Rescuer” is the topping on your sundae. The story follows a slightly different take on human/elf romance, and throws in some meddling siblings to keep things interesting. The tale is less about saving a people or world and more about individual and group survival, and the unexpected romance. While the story lacks depth and the villain is shallow and quickly defeated, the overall story is engaging, the romance sparks and builds sweetly, and the world introduced in this series invites readers to explore it further. As such, lovers of fantasy will ind this book worth a try, with or without reading the irst. Sarah E Bradley

FANTASY: Veta lives to protect her younger half-brother and ensure he receives his inheritance. When raiders attack their village, Veta sacri ices herself so her brother can get away. Taken to a magus’

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Smoke and Other Storms: A Western Fantasy Adventure (The Revere Trilogy Book 1) J.L. Delavega

“Like it or not, Providence put men on top.” Not if the Revere women have their say. In the desert Rim of the Republic of Delilah, it’s wild west rules and the uninitiated don’t survive long. Moira Revere and her daughters Liza and Tesla, and granddaughters Adelaide, Vesta, Navy, and Leagen, have escaped indentured service in the frontier to remake destiny on their terms, living as outlaws. An easterner named Kane arrives with his crew, looking to rediscover the legendary town of Eden, where a once prosperous black gold mine was lost when Pestilence overtook the West. He hires the Reveres as guides. Tough and close-knit, the Revere women take on the lucrative assignment to save one of their own, but get caught up in betrayal when an absurdly excessive bounty has everyone hunting them from one end of the Rim to the other. “Smoke and Other Storms” is a most surprising and edgy frontier survival adventure! The author’s striking syntax is sharp, economical, and creative, evoking a wild and unfamiliar way of life that is fascinating to discover.

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Fantasy/Urban Fantasy There is power and awe in the way that Moira “The Raven” Revere and Tesla “The Widow” Revere have overcome their slavery and objecti ication to thrive and be self-suf icient. Even greater poignancy and mystery shadows every counted footstep of young Adelaide “The Stranger” Revere, being a half-blood Tov, one of the few survivors of the fabled Tov Shadow Nation eradicated by war and pestilence when the easterners arrived on the West Rim. Together, through misery and sacri ice, this multigenerational family embodies the most haunting demonstrations of female power ever seen in western fantasy. Joan Lai

Bedeviled (Portals of Destiny Book 1) Elizabeth Rose

she’s never experienced before. However, along with these protagonists juggling their secret feelings, they’re thrown another new challenge: there’s a tear in the veil between two worlds, which allows dark spirits from the Land of the Dead to cross over. This couple must do everything they can to close that portal before their world is destroyed by demons. This inviting, love-at- irst-sight romance will pull readers into a dark world of mystical creatures and steep connections. The plotline is hard to keep up with as the majority of the world building is crammed at the beginning. However, the author manages to balance things by drawing out further explanations and introducing other characters a little bit later in the book. The chaotic jumps are what may throw the reader off—it has a lot of action which keeps the story lowing, but it ends up being too much to keep up with. The author matches the pace with a steady inclusion of new characters though, allowing the readers to get to know how each sidecharacter will in luence the tale. Unfortunately, the romance just feels rushed and forced. It does become smoother towards the end, so at the climax of the story, the reader is on the edge of their seat, instantly wanting more. Austen Grace

Darium Blackseed, the Sin Eater of the land of Mura, believes he’s supposed to live out his destiny— eating souls and eventually sacri icing his soul into The Dark Abyss. However, fate seems to have another plan for this Sin Eater. Talia-Glenn is an Elemental of Earth, and when she encounters Darium in a life-ordeath situation, she inds herself drawn to the man, something


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can get more of this talented author and the world she has created. A must read for the warm summer nights with a nice cool drink! Lynn-Alexandria McKendrick

Exiled (Arcadia Book 3) Mary Brock Jones

Seolta den Coille did not expect to be betrayed and exiled. But that’s exactly what happened and now he is hungry for revenge and will get it at any cost. Anyara wants to be left alone. Surely that’s not too much to ask? With fear of her uncle and everything else, something has to change. When Seolta comes to her with an offer that seems too good to pass up, she grasps it with both hands. They make their way across Alliance space in the hopes that the Alliance Council can help and they can inally be free. But their feelings for one another deepen as the journey goes on and the perils could mean that one or both of them will not live to get what they want. Two characters who seem to want different things end up working together which changes everything. Seolta and Anyara are characterized very well, and there is a lot going on for them. Mary Brock Jones has taken space, molded it and makes it her own unique world where there are perils around every corner. Beautifully descriptive language will hold readers irmly in its grip, so much so that readers will de initely go back and read the other books in the series so they

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Dark Star (Dark Star Warriors #1) M.L. Cook

Kate used to be an ordinary girl from Earth, but one day she was taken from her home by a group of large male aliens. After two years of imprisonment, she inds herself in an even bigger predicament: she is pregnant with an alien baby. From the day she is captured she is told she would be killed if she ever fell pregnant, and now she must run for her life. When she runs into Axel, another alien male who swears to protect her, she must decide if she can really trust him. As they both ight to travel to Earth, their trust is put to the ultimate test. The beginning of “Dark Star” starts off with a bang, jumping straight into the plot at hand; however, it is incredibly abrupt– too abrupt. One moment two sisters are enjoying each other's company and joking about running into aliens, then out of nowhere, one of the sisters is

coincidentally abducted by a group of aliens and is threatened with not getting pregnant. The relationship between Kate, Axel, and Kyle is also a bit odd for a girl who was abducted and held hostage by the same alien species for two years. The world building is great, especially the details that go into creating the alien species; however, many of the chapters feel disjointed because of how much is going on at one time. The ending also feels out of place, as the focus shifted entirely. Overall, the writing and creativity are evident and if the chapters were a little less packed with information, it would be a more interesting read. Sadie Wilson


Time -Travel

Love Set Apart (Book One of Edna’s World)

proper research has been conducted and put in place throughout. “Love Set Apart” is a cool summer read that fans of time travel and romance can get their teeth into. Add this book to the to-be-read list and be prepared for an enjoyable ride with well written descriptions. Maybe it will take new readers to the series that this book is based on to get to know the characters better. Delightful! Lynn-Alexandria McKendrick

Janae Vale

Edna Campbell is The Council of Witches romance expert and can travel in time. This comes in handy when a woman needs help in the court of Louis XIII, and she decides to go and assist. Theoretically it should be a relatively easy job for the Chief Romance Expert. However, when thrown into unexpected surroundings, Edna must use all her power, knowledge, and skills to not only succeed in her task, but ensure everything ends well. From modern day Edinburgh to the French court of Louis XIII, this is sure to be an exciting ride. Time travel and romance are woven together to bring this intriguing book to readers. There are an array of fascinating characters that fans of the author’s other series will be glad to see again, and for those who are reading Janae Vale for the irst time, it is a nice introduction. Some aspects may be dif icult to understand for those who haven’t read the series this book is spun off from, however, it is still a good plot that moves at a nice even pace. The historical accuracy is well done and shows that the

Highlander’s Bride: A Scottish Historical Time Travel Romance (Called by a Highlander Book 7) Mariah Stone

his wife instead. Bryanna inally realizes that she is stuck in medieval Scotland, and everything there is harmful to her, not just Raghnall. The more Bryanna learns about Raghnall, the more she wants to be with him, despite it being her demise. An otherworldly historical romance that is marvelously written! The ever-moving plot twists bring non-stop nail-biting action from beginning to end! Bryanna is an extraordinary heroine; yes, there are some things that aren’t explained fully, chie ly the heroine’s diabetes. Still, her illness isn’t badly represented, especially the signs and symptoms. Raghnall, the emotionally bruised and battered hero, who seems trapped in the past, manages to be very swoonworthy! The time-travel, ish-outof-water courtship tale has been used many times and can get a little staid, but Ms. Stone knows how to spin a truly wonderful narrative that is well worth reading! Sure, this might be the seventh in the series, but nevertheless, there is something about it that has true staying power, long after the book is done. Roslynn Ernst

In 2021, Bryanna Fitzpatrick, while touring Scotland, starts to feel effects from her diabetes and knows she needs to check her blood sugar. When Bryanna ends up in a room with a strange woman and a glowing rock, the woman says that she will meet the love of her life when she feels the rock, yet this could also kill her. Still, Bryanna can’t resist touching it. When Bryanna ends up in 1306, she believes it to be a dream. Bryanna meets Raghnall Mackenzie who is waiting for his wayward bride. He asks her to be

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Condemned by Secrets (Rolling Brook Series #4) Blye Donovan

been expanded on to give readers a little more time with the main characters, such as their irst date. While those moments are re lected upon later, readers may bene it from a more in–themoment narration rather than a few brief sentences of what happened. The suspense in the story is a bit lacking, but when the secrets do begin to unravel, readers are sure to be engaged by the twists and turns that take place. Ms. Donovan’s romantic writing style is bewitching and will leave readers wanting more from these two iery characters. Jennifer Shepherd

Luther Monroe’s life is turned upside down when Rolling Brook’s new historic preservationist, 24-year-old Anna Hendricks, makes her way into town. Luther, a small-town police of icer, is smitten by Anna when he stops to help her with what is believed to be a lat tire. Upon closer inspection, it appears that someone may have slashed her tire intentionally. What starts out as an investigation into who could have done this, Luther inds himself wanting something more with Anna. And as he continues to delve deeper into the investigation, he stumbles upon some secrets that could land both him and Anna in imminent danger. “Condemned by Secrets” is a very fast-paced romantic suspense between two very likable characters. While there isn’t a lot of background information on the characters, they each have their own quirks that are hard not to love. Readers may ind it dif icult to believe in the relationship between Luther and Anna because of the momentum in which it progresses. Things get steamy rather quickly. There are also parts of the story that could have

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change that could lead to him being ostracized by the people he thought he knew and could trust? “The Man From Afghanistan” handles some really sensitive topics and the author, Aithal, has managed to pull it off and create a novel that will make readers think, as well as take them on an exciting journey throughout the world. The action of this book starts at the beginning and doesn’t let up until the inal page. The characters are written in such a way that will keep readers interested and hankering to know what happens at the end. The action scenes are absorbing and make it really jump off the page. For fans of suspense, this is de initely a book to read this summer. The descriptions of the different places featured are articulate and will pull the reader into that place and make it feel as though they are actually there. Thought-provoking and intriguing! Lynn-Alexandria McKendrick

The Man From Afghanistan Devel Aithal

Detective Anthony Ramirez is called in to solve a murder. What he doesn’t expect is that the case will take him from Newport Beach to halfway around the world. Terrence Collins is a politician and all American guy who has been in war zones. But even that life experience can’t stop a bullet. Tablib was born and raised in the USA, and he sees the country he has grown up in changing post 9/11, and sadly, it puts him right in the middle of the dif iculties. How will he handle this sudden


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The Wife Win (Puget Sound Pilots #2) Sierra Hill

Viola Robbins

SPORTS ROMANCE: Marek Talbert is the most coveted interview for many sports journalists. He’s the General Manager of the Puget Sound Pilots basketball team. He’s well respected by his peers, team, staff, and fans of the game, not so much by his ex-wife Jasmine. Marek has kept his personal life out of the public eye… until now. His ex is planning a tell-all memoir due to be released soon. When an assertive sports journalist catches him off guard, he surprises himself when he consents to an exclusive interview. Harper Conrad is knowledgeable about all things hoops and needs to up her game to up her income. She is dedicated to her sister and family and truly won’t back down until she gets the shot for her career - which will be life changing. A slam-dunk, game winning story! Readers be warned: there will be no stopping until the last page is read! Ms. Hill has penned an amazing sports story between two unlikely candidates. The hero exhibits a solid and prickly shell while exposing a soft, vulnerable

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inside. The heroine is a true underdog who has paid her dues, showing her loyalty to all she knows and loves. There are twists and some delicate subject matters that are tastefully portrayed. Angst is added with miscommunication overload, which is sorted and rewarding. Readers who enjoy sports genre romance will devour this one, and possibly the entire series. This book stands alone, but readers will want to add the series to their radar and read them all!

Unintentional: A StandAlone College Sports Romance (Blitzed Book 2) Amy Jarecki

been through an event just as haunting as she’s experienced, slowly trying to convince him his life is worth living. What will happen when the football player wakes up to ind out just who’s been whispering in his ear, bringing him back to life? Get ready for this raw and heartwarmingly romantic college sports romance novel that will pull at the heartstrings of every reader who buries their nose in it. The author does a wonderful job of slowly building up the characters’ romance naturally, and making the reader feel just as involved in their individual lives as in their lives together. A downfall of the book is at the beginning when Jason leans toward the same cocky personality he had before his accident, and lets other people stereotype Ellie without defending her. The romance wasn’t as clich as one would think, the geek-jock, broken background combination makes for a unique plotline that keeps readers thoroughly engaged. The ending also felt rushed, but the author manages to tie up loose ends perfectly and satisfy the reader with some inal sexy moments. Austen Grace

Right when he’s on the verge of going pro, Jason Allen gets into a major car accident after a football training camp. After the accident, Jason is in a coma with no hope for his future; that’s when he starts to hear a voice, talking to him and bringing him back from his long sleep. Ellie Pierson, a computer expert and skilled drummer who’s been invisible her whole life, enters the picture by seeking out Jason while he’s still in a coma so she can ind a little comfort in a friend who’s


Young Adult overall premise of the story is well written and thought out. The families in this story have an incredibly dark past and the reader will uncover things piece by piece until everything is out in the open. The build-up to the events that Chapman and Aris learn about is so suspenseful and will de initely keep the reader on the edge of their seat!

Between the Dark Spaces

Jennifer Shepherd

Melissa Groeling

SUSPENSE: Sixteen-year-old Chapman Woolfe has a lot going on in his life. After using his dad’s credit card without permission, he is forced to get a part-time job at a bakery. At the same time, he has a very close friend that is in rehab for the third time due to drug use, and he inally meets a girl, Aris Black, who has been on his mind since they irst met. When Chapman becomes a victim of violence, him and Aris begin to uncover the connection between their families and what secrets they are hiding. “Between the Dark Spaces” is a very intriguing young adult novel that hits on some very hard topics such as drug use, sexual assault, and violence. Ms. Groeling does an incredible job of keeping the reader engaged and connected to the characters. Readers are given a lot of background information on each character and their personalities are described very well. Most of the characters are incredibly relatable and down to earth. The reader will become engrossed in the events that unravel throughout the story. The length of the book is a bit long and at some points repetitive, but the

The Witch and The Watcher Laura Detering

When Laura Detering delves into the memories of Liddy and Will’s antagonist and mentors, her writing glows as brightly as the eyes of her characters’ magic! This book is a continuation of a series and should be read in conjunction with the irst book in order to fully understand the characters and con licts in this book. The worldbuilding, particularly surrounding the realm of Cristes, is fascinating and well-crafted. The story itself is unique and compelling, though the pace could have moved a little more quickly. Though few and far between, there are some grammatical errors that detract from the enjoyment, and some of the characterizations could use a little additional depth. In particular, dialogue sometimes feels stilted and a little overly formal, especially for the teenagers. Each character has moments when their uniqueness and personality shines through, and when they do, the book excels. In “The Witch and the Watcher”, Ms. Detering’s creative worldbuilding truly brings her story to life. Shailyn Rogers

FANTASY: Living in the human world of Mortalia, Liddy and Will are training to learn to use their Watcher powers properly. They are also dating now, but kissing and touching makes them begin to glow, making it dif icult to stay discreet. Their mentors Nick, Shai, and Nolan help the teenagers begin to understand the past of the Watchers through sharing their memories and determining strategy to move forward in their struggle against the witch, Mara. However, after a previous encounter with Mara, the adults in Will and Liddy’s lives are ighting amongst themselves over how much information to provide their charges.

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The Courage of a Lyon (The Lyon’s Den) Linda Rae Sande

see his brother’s quick engagement and marriage. At times, some details seemed exaggerated and the sexual relationships seemed to move too fast to be believable. Readers will be entranced, however, by the entertaining double love story this book offers which will keep the pages turning to discover what could possibly happen next. Fun and quirky characters make this a light and engaging read. Mischief and tenderness all wrapped up in one great storyline! Marie Sanderson

HISTORICAL: Injured in the war, Captain Charles Audley is thankful to not have inherited his family’s earldom and all that comes with it. An earldom would have required him to marry, and Charles can’t ever see himself inding anyone willing to marry a cripple. Besides, he can’t seem to get his “angel”, the ield nurse who helped him, out of his head, even though he can’t imagine ever seeing her again. On a chance encounter at her father’s funeral, Amy Sinclair and Charles ind themselves together once again. With his brother off on a search for his own bride, Charles inds himself unable to push his thoughts from Amy. But with Amy’s future in the hands of the town matchmaker, Charles must partake in the challenge of the night to win the hand of Amy. With so much riding on luck and a game of strength, will Charles be the one to take Amy home? Or will she end up the wife of a burly laird? Chance encounters galore keep this two-in-one story moving at a quick pace. With Charles and Amy’s affections building over time, it becomes almost a shock to

The Duke Trap (Determined Debutantes Book 3) Bianca Blythe

HISTORICAL: Leonora Holt is determined to get her revenge on the dreadful Duke of Dartmouth, who is the bane of her family's existence as far as she is concerned. She concocts a plan to ruin the duke's reputation, just as surely as he seems intent on ruining hers! Sebastian is just as determined to wreak revenge on the family that ruined his father, the previous Duke. Unfortunately, plans go awry. As two enemies who were best friends as children rediscover that lost connection, it becomes increasingly harder to

hold onto thoughts of vengeance. And, when one kiss turns into two, more pleasurable thoughts take over. Even so, events set in motion can take on a life of their own. Can Leonora and Sebastian overcome the obstacles before them to ind true love? "The Duke Trap" entertains and delights with its light, breezy tone that sweeps readers along for the ride! There's a Shakespearian comedic quality at times that will charm readers. The enemies-tolovers storyline never develops to its full potential, instead seeming to peter out. Moreover, the misunderstandings due to lack of communication take away from the sense of any great stakes. While Sebastian and Leonora's banter is amusing, neither character demonstrates much depth in terms of the consequences of their actions, and this is particularly true of Leonora who behaves more as a modern heroine than a Regency one. Sebastian's musical accomplishments along with Leonora's piano playing talent were refreshing touches and could have opened up some intriguing storyline possibilities. "The Duke Trap" engages readers with a light-hearted tale that will elicit chuckles and smiles from start to inish! Tricia Hill

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way only serve to strengthen her position as the book’s heroine. There is a lot going on in this story, which at times muddles the plot a bit. Those readers who love their paranormal shifters heavy on the action and light on the romance will de initely want to check out this novella, and then the full length books that are sure to follow.

Raven Rousting

N.E. Kelley

Heather McCorkle

PARANORMAL: Sonya Michelson is the new shifter seeker whose job it is to ind the newly bitten and oversee their passage to fullon werewolf by keeping them from going mad with the changes to their bodies and minds. The problem is, the last seeker to hold the position has been dead for over three hundred years. Sonya has no idea how to perform her duties, so she seeks an audience with her predecessor via the astral plane. Along the way she makes a connection with a raven which adds a bit of humor to the story. ‘Raven Rousting’ is a short novella prequel to a new series of paranormal romances. The author has a unique and engaging style which lends itself well to this genre. The addition of Norse mythology as part of the story gives wonderful substance to the tale. Who doesn’t love a Norse witch? Sonya, the heroine, goes about her tasks diligently, despite her frustration at there being no real guidelines for what she must do. In her quest to seek out the newly bitten, she becomes involved in the sketchy werewolf ight game. Her ability to overcome the obstacles in her

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Ripples Under The Sea

they continue their relationship in the ‘real world’? Or will outside sources pull them apart? “Ripples Under The Sea” is a sweet holiday novella that will keep readers glued to the pages to see what each chapter brings. Ms. Ricci has a rich knowledge of marine life and what it takes to dedicate oneself to the vocation of marine preservation. The romance, hot and heavy in super quick fashion, may not be realistic, but readers can dream and escape with the characters and watch their budding romance. There is suspense and drama followed by loss and hurts. The characters and their emotions are all well drawn and written from the heart. Although some parts of the story feel rushed, this story is, all in all, a sweet novella that will warm readers’ hearts and spread much holiday cheer at Christmastime. Viola Robbins

Susan Jean Ricci

CONTEMPORARY: Planning a vacation with friends, Merilee is excited for a break from work. While visiting Canada and far away from her usual, day-to-day job as a dolphin trainer, Merilee meets Travis. Travis is a whale expert, and they discover they both live in San Diego, California. Their instant attraction and vacation mindset makes it easy for them to get caught up in the romance of it all. The two are inseparable and have a deep connection right from the get-go. Neither wants the vacation to end, so they start dreaming and planning for when they go back to their real lives. Will their common education and passion unite them and keep the bond strong once

Dark Waves: Mind Hackers Series Amanda Uhl

PARANORMAL: The mind is a mysterious and dangerous thing. Audrey Gilbert works as a paranormal psychiatrist at the Corvey Institute in Chicago,


Novella specializing in the treatment of psychics who work for the Cognitive Mind Unit. When one of her patients suffers an unexpected mental break, Audrey is blamed and offered an unusual chance at penance: travel to the remote town of Marblehead, Ohio and bring back a rogue, level ten psychic, named Kevin Jorgensen. Kevin is reclusive and annoyed. He knows he is damaged goods, since his last psychic assignment went awry. The voices inside his head tell him so, but he doesn’t want any shrink messing with him. However, when Audrey shows up at his home, he inds her hard to turn away. Why is her presence comforting?

What made Kevin withdraw from CMU, and why has Audrey, who seems so unquali ied, been sent to recover him? In a world where the most powerful psychics can erase, lock away, and rewrite memories, traditional sleuthing methods may not hold. Kevin and Audrey will need to deploy psychic countermeasures. There is a sweetness to Kevin and Audrey’s mutual attraction that belies the forbidden aspect of their professional relationship. But Kevin soon turns things around by having Audrey take to the couch to get her head examined! Reading this feels like a mental mind game. A fun and absorbing read! Joan Lai

“Dark Waves” is a short mystery with a strong psychic element. Instead of a physical whodunit, the questions are, well, literally inside the characters’ heads.

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two. The story building is full of life, and the character interactions are beyond typical dialogue, which make the relationships realistic. The last few chapters unveil several major plot twists that will leave the reader with whiplash as they try to make sense of each and every turn of events. Unputdownable! Sadie Wilson

Playing with Fire Maggi Andersen

Brooke Hamilton, a private investigator, has just taken on a huge case that could prove to be too dangerous for her. Even her criminal law father suggests the case is too large for her, especially if her prime suspect is powerful and wealthy. Detective Gabriel O’Reilly gets put on the case with her to investigate the races being rigged and the possible jockey homicide. However, with so much corruption in the police force, Brooke is left to igure out for herself if she should trust the new detective or take matters into her own hands. One thing is for sure, she will do anything to help bring justice, even if that means she is in danger. “Playing with Fire” is a fast paced, action-packed mystery novel that will leave readers gasping for air! There is not a single slow chapter throughoutm, which keeps the story engaging without adding too much unnecessary iller. Brooke is full of passion for her career and for justice, which goes a long way in convincing the reader of the severity of the case. When Brooke's father is irst introduced, the dialogue seems unusual for a father-daughter relationship; however, this later aids in the tension that resides between the

Concession Stand Crimes (The Ballpark Mysteries Book 2) Nicole Asselin

her head? Or will everything become too much as she inds herself ighting to keep her life in check? The second book in the Ballpark Mysteries series has potential. The plot jumps straight in, however; there is a lot of telling rather than showing, which if ixed, could really bring this book to life. As mysteries go, it is a decent whodunnit. There is good characterization and a cast of fun and fascinating characters. The issues that could have been picked up through initial editing really take away from the book, but there is a good basis for a story which makes “Concession Stand Crimes” an interesting and enjoyable mystery. It will be interesting to see where the series goes from here. Madeline is a likable character who is trying to do the best with what she has while everything goes against her. Readers will be able to relate to her struggles and go on her journey with her. Lynn-Alexandria McKendrick

Madeline Boucher has had a lot to deal with. Now she is helping to run her family’s baseball team. Murder comes to the park when a brewery heiress is murdered and the body is found in the stands. Madeline inds herself thrust into an investigation with a long list of suspects. Everything is piling up as she tries to keep the park going without there being any catastrophic blunders, trying to keep her own life safe, and the gargantuan task of iguring out who committed the murder. Will she be able to keep all the balls in the air and prevent them from crashing down on

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Mystery she be able to ind the murderer before her secret bubble pops?

Herbs and Homicide (Heywood Herbalist Cozy Mysteries Book 1) Carly Winter

In an attempt to throw away her Hollywood stardom which left her hurt and alone, Samantha RathBone, now going by the name Sam Jones, inds refuge in the small town of Heywood. Bonnie, the owner of Sage Advice, takes Sam under her wings and offers her a job and a place to stay. Sam’s attempt to hide her identity threatens to crack open when her boss is murdered, and the police and the small town’s news reporters come looking for her. Will grief of her boss overshadow her quest to erase her name from the list of top suspects for the murder? Will

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What a ine beginning to such a promising series! “Herbs and Homicide” hooks onto the reader’s heart right from the irst page as the Hollywood star dumps her red-carpet adventures. The author strikes all the right chords to keep the reader enchanted by the lead character’s new life. The believability of the villain’s persona comes out as a tad shaky, as her appearances are sparingly sprinkled at several occasions after the murder. It would have been better for the author to open the door to the villain’s life wider for the reader to really interact with her world. Sam’s sleuthing abilities, however, do not allow for boredom to encroach upon this enticing cozy mystery. Of sourand-sweet lavor, this novel has the right proportions that will appeal to any fans of contemporary cozy mysteries!

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adventure, keeping the story moving at a fast pace. Sometimes this can be a little jarring, especially in an audio format. Overall, it’s a creative romp that will leave readers guessing!

Fae's Ascent (Clover Book 2) Nicole Kilpatrick Narrator: Cassandra Alling

FANTASY: The Seelie and Unseelie armies are on the verge of war, and Clover is the only one that might be able to stop it. When an unexpected assassination of a political prisoner takes place, the wheels are set into motion and she must scramble to put all of the pieces together before time runs out. There are so many secrets uncovered, and Clover must decide if they’re all true as loyalties and alliances are tested. In the end, she has a choice to make: break her heart and save the world, or hold onto her love and watch it burn. Fast, fun, and full of magic, Ms. Kilpatrick has created a vivid fantasy realm that takes readers on a crazy adventure! “Fae’s Ascent” is the second book in the Clover series, and while there is a well done recap of events, readers will get a fuller experience after reading book one. Clover is the main character of the book, but there are a lot of other side characters to keep up with. As the journey plays out, Clover slowly starts to become more secondary to the story as more characters take over scene time. There is romance, but the couple is tragically tested with distance for a great deal of the book. Chapters jump from adventure to

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Ms. Alling does an incredible job in this production! She does some amazing accents for several different characters. Despite the large cast, she’s able to give each character a distinct voice, whether it be through tone, pitch, or cadence. The pacing lows fairly nicely. Every so often, the breaks between scenes aren’t quite long enough which can cause confusion. A solid performance and production, overall! This is a great read/listen for lovers of YA fantasy and romance! Chelsea Andersen

Broken Man (McCullough Mountain Book 5) Lydia Michaels Narrator: David Allen Vargo

LBGTQ CONTEMPORARY: Tristan Hughes and Luke McCullough are both running away from their pasts; Luke from an injury that’s devastated his future, and Tristan from a town that rejected him because of who he loved. Upon their irst meeting there’s an instant ire between the two, despite the verbal clash. The more time they spend together,

however, the more they discover they have in common. Luke has never been interested in a man before, though. For some reason, Tristan just won’t leave his fantasies. Somehow, Luke must ind the courage to follow his heart before he loses what could potentially be the love of his life. Ms. Michaels has created a slow burn romance that keeps the ire going throughout! Luke and Tristan have an instant chemistry that neither can ight, no matter how hard they might try. The reader is taken on a journey from the very beginning of their romance, and through all of the highs and lows that bring them to their dramatic conclusion. Ms. Michaels does a good job capturing all of the emotions each feels as they come to terms with coming out to their family and friends, and does so in a realistic way. The pacing can drag in a few places, but there are several climactic scenes that will hook readers back in! A very romantic LGBTQ read! Mr. Vargo’s performance is one full of passion and energy! He’s able to bring all of the characters to life in a strong and distinct way, making it easy to tell them apart. This is especially impressive since both of the romantic leads are male. His pacing is spot on, keeping the story moving well even during some of the slower portions of the tale. The tone of his voice really adds to the charm and atmosphere of the setting! This is a great read/listen for lovers of LGBT stories and sweeping romances! Chelsea Andersen


either greatly appreciate this or want to skip ahead. As a series installment, it stands alone well, and readers/listeners will not need to read the other books to enjoy this one.

Irish Rogue (McCullough Mountain Book 3) Lydia Michaels Narrator: David Allen Vargo

CONTEMPORARY: Kelly McCullough is a player and doesn’t try to hide it. He’s always had every woman he’s ever wanted. When one of his friends gets the chance to date the town virgin, Ashlynn Fisher, a spike of jealousy makes him take on a new kind of challenge: dating the good girl. Ashlynn can’t seem to get Kelly out of her head no matter how hard she tries—and she does try! When her walls inally come down and she lets him in, she just hopes she can hold onto the virtues she holds dear. Steamy and full of heartwarming chemistry, “Irish Rogue” shows that bad boys can indeed be tamed! Ms. Michaels has crafted a series surrounding a family where each member is distinct and shines bright when the spotlight hits them. That is especially the case with Kelly, the main hero of our story. While his backstory and motivations have a few Alpha Male clich s, his personality is engaging. The true star of the book is Ashlynn. She sticks to her guns, has laws, yet grows throughout the novel. Readers will cheer on their journey through love. However, there are a few moments where the plot drags from extra details. Readers will

Mr. Vargo gives a great performance. His characterizations of all the cast are distinct and easy to tell apart, making the book come alive. There are some awesome accents present as well, and the female characters especially stand out as being well done. Every so often there are random sound effects mixed into the production. Some of them work in favor of creating an atmosphere, while others are distracting. Overall, it’s a great production! This is a great listen for lovers of spicy romance and small town drama! Chelsea Andersen

Side Squeeze (Jasper Falls, Book 6) Lydia Michaels Narrator: Amber Battaglia

CONTEMPORARY: It’s been ten years since Harrison Montgomery ran off to escape his abusive father, taking Mariella Mosconi’s heart with him. He’s built a new

life for himself in New York and rarely allows himself to think of all he left behind in Jasper Falls. The irst of two regrets, though, is standing in front of him and their chemistry is still electric. But despite their chemistry, one thing is clear: Harrison is still running from his past. Mariella’s life and family are irmly entrenched in Jasper Falls, and Harrison has no plans to stick around being reminded at every corner of the abuse he suffered and the reasons he led. Harrison and Mariella’s story teaches readers that no matter how much time passes, love always inds a way. Readers will enjoy the opening scenes of the story, feeling Mariella’s embarrassment and understanding her inner thoughts. Who hasn’t felt ‘less than’ when showing up to a job interview? One of the strengths of this story is the characters’ relatability. Readers will enjoy the tentative banter between Harrison and his sister, Erin, as they clear out the hardware store and take many trips down memory lane. It is Harrison’s need for Mariella and Erin that sets him on the path toward healing. When Harrison remembers Erin trying to make the coffee cake and then makes it himself as an apology, readers should make sure they have tissues nearby. With the narration, readers might be taken out of the story when moments that require emotion or emphasis aren’t given. One might also have an issue with the male voice attempts by the narrator, whose gruff voices could take them out of the story momentarily. The pace of the narration was easy to follow and readers won’t have any issue understanding the words spoken. Heather McCoubrey

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Audiobooks


Highlander's Heart, Book 3 (Called by a Highlander) Mariah Stone Narrators: Shane East & Emma Wilder

HISTORICAL/TIME TRAVEL: Most of this audiobook occurs in Scotland in 1308. Ian Cambel was sold as a slave years earlier and has spent the past decade in the Middle East, ighting and killing others to survive. When someone attacks the palace where he is held and kills most of the palace guard, Ian escapes, promising to never kill again. He makes it home just before his father dies. Kate Anderson is a present-day chef, and her sister enters her into a competition which she wins. Thus, a celebrity chef takes an interest in her restaurant, so she goes to Scotland. While there, the entitled celebrity nearly attacks her, but she rebuffs him and falls into a cellar, where she touches a magical boulder and awakens near Ian in 1308. She has amnesia and Ian helps her to survive until she remembers her past. The author does an excellent job of delineating the internal and external con licts of these

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Audiobooks protagonists. It is very evident that it will take something major to force Ian to want to pick up a sword again after his life as a ighting slave. It is also very clear that Kate is extremely torn between staying in 1308 and returning to her family in 2020. Somehow, Mariah Stone makes it all work out beautifully. Throughout the story, the dialogue comes across as authentic to the period of Scotland around 1308. These narrators do a fantastic job of bringing this story to life! The accents and the diverse variety of voices employed by both Shane East and Emma Wilder to deliver this story are a delight for the ears. The quality is top-notch and everything about the completed recording is professional. This audiobook is lots of fun to hear! Carey Sullivan

Controlled Chaos (McCullough Mountain, Book 6) Lydia Michaels Narrator: Salenah de Kai

CONTEMPORARY: Braydon McCullough has been searching all his life for the perfect woman. He thinks he

may have found her when he meets Becca Stevens one night in a bar and they hook up. However, when he returns from the bathroom, she is gone. He doesn’t even know her last name or how to ind her again. However, he walks into a meeting at her job, and it turns out they will need to spend some time together. Braydon doesn’t know that she has an autistic child and that the one evening she spent with him is the only time she has ever done anything like that. Her child takes every bit of her energy and time, and there just hasn’t been time for adult relationships in Becca’s life, other than the one with her exhusband. In this story, Ms. Michaels provides countless insights into autism and the way it impacts families. These insights seem authentic, implying that she either did a lot of research on the topic, or she has irsthand experience with it. Through her complex and intriguing storytelling, she lets listeners get inside the heads and hearts of these protagonists. It is also very appealing that there is a strong family component throughout this story. The plot seems a little rushed at one point, with more of the storyline occurring in the period between Thanksgiving and Christmas than seems to it realistically within such a short timeframe. Nevertheless, the story lows nicely, and the pace stays steady. Salenah de Kai does an amazing job with the narration of this audiobook. While some of the secondary voices sounded similar, the main characters were each distinctly different. Braydon’s mother’s Irish lilt is beautiful to


Audiobooks hear, and as an added bonus, Becca’s closest friends are delightful and fun as well. Carey Sullivan

Imaginary Friend Douglas Whaley Narrator: David Allen Vargo

SUSPENSE: Lawyer Franklin Whitestone is a hero after he helps rescue people following a bomb explosion in an Ohio stadium. When he is whisked

away to New York to be interviewed on a talk show, the wine he had with dinner loosens his tongue somewhat. Consequently, Franklin pronounces that he is an atheist and that he didn’t have an ‘imaginary friend’ who stayed with him during the bombing aftermath. This news disappoints authentic Christians, but it really enrages the unbalanced ones, who offer death threats and potential harm to his family because of his statements. This audiobook exposes the ine line between authentic Christians (who are represented here in a couple of places) and the depths to which the unstable Christiansin-name-only will sink to make their point.

David Allen Vargo has mastered the southern accent. Nearly everyone in central Ohio has a southern accent, according to this narrator. While the recording quality is excellent, the stereotype that every Christian speaks like a southern Baptist gets quite old. If readers can move past this egregious stereotyping error, the content and delivery of everything else is worth hearing. This is a thought-provoking story that is de initely worth considering. Carey Sullivan

Whaley offers some valuable insights into the human condition, and he does so in creative and thought-provoking ways. Although Atheism is less common than Christianity, he makes the valid point that because Atheists don’t hold hope for an afterlife, they must make this life matter, by living it the best way they can. Throughout this audiobook, Franklin demonstrates this many times, and much more effectively than Jake, who personi ies the mentally unhinged Christian in this story. This book is dif icult to hear because of the story that unfolds, but it is a must-listen for anyone who actually cares about the dangerous side-effects of extremism.

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