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Random Friday

Published 01/12/2017 by Barb

Since Sundays were busy with other stuff and I don’t have any random fact for you, here’s some writers on writing, words of wisdom or whatever… It’s been more than two months since the last, so I hope you like it! Have a great weekend! 🙂

First off, I need to explain what I see developing for a writer in this new world of publishing.

With discoverability difficult, with no real way to even manufacture or promote yourself into a bestseller anymore, the writer of today going forward is going to have to build a career slowly. And build it on quality storytelling and productivity.

In other words, the writing world has returned to what it used to be. When I came in, the standard was that if you were prolific and could keep learning and getting better and were persistent, you could start making a small living in ten years or so.

Now, with the indie road to sudden riches gone, writers must learn numbers of things to survive in this new world and start making a living with their writing.

A writer must be prolific. Long gone are the one-book-a-year writers making decent money (past the crop of older traditional bestsellers still going.)

A writer must be a good small-business person. Long gone are the days when you could have an agent take care of you.

A writer must learn sales language and be able to understand sales. Long gone are the days when a sales department did all the work for you.

A writer must learn how to do all their own production. Long gone are the days when you mailed off a manuscript and it came back a finished book a year later.

So now a writer must be a writer, publisher, production person, and a sales person, all balanced and wrapped together in tight, but separate spaces.

That’s the reality I see going forward for writers.

Dean Wesley Smith

Look, if there’s room on bookstore shelves for my books, which smash together genres like a toddler with building blocks, then there’s room on shelves for whatever you got going. Don’t worry about the ephemeral vicissitudes of “the market,” or fret over what’s trending with agents and publishers right now.

Write the story that screams to get out of you. Take chances. Make mistakes. Get messy. Don’t be like Arnold on The Magic School Bus, the kid who always said, “I knew I should’ve stayed home today.”

Nobody liked goddamn Arnold. He should’ve stayed home. Don’t be Arnold

Michael J. Martinez

The bottom line is that writers need the freedom and relief of knowing they aren’t failures just because they don’t promote books a certain way.  I know authors who have written excellent books who have done ads, mailing lists, newsletters, blogs, Facebook, and other things very well.  And yet, their sales aren’t showing it.  You’d swear by the lack of sales that they aren’t effectively promoting their books or that their books suck.  Things couldn’t be further from the truth.  They are doing everything right, and for some reason, they aren’t selling as well as they should be.

Whether marketing gurus will ever admit this or not, there are forces outside of our control that impacts our sales.  We have no control over which reader reads our books, likes it enough to pass it on to others, or even if a particular reader has a high level of influence within his/her circle.  All writers can do is control the product (book) and the type of promotion they choose to do.  From there, it is out of our control.

So take heart if you’re a struggling writer.  You’re not alone, even if you might feel like it.  No one can guarantee your success if you follow their formula.  They can only give you strategies that might help.  But they can’t promise you anything.  Take their advice with a grain of salt and apply that which fits your personality best.

Ruth Ann Nordin

So why is this? Is it because, as many would like to so casually say, I just haven’t done “enough”?  That I just don’t live and breathe writing every second of the day? That I’m not a *real* writer? Is it because my books are bad? Because if they’re good and I’m really trying I’d be a monetary success by now. I’d have tons of money. I’d be rolling in the easy dough.

Right?

Wrong. Because writing is not a get rich scheme. Period. Sure, there are going to be a few success stories. Some people can get rich at anything, but just like in traditional publishing, those are few. How many Stephen Kings are there? How many JK Rowlings? How many midlist people you have never even heard of?

Exactly.

So, my point is not to say “boo hoo” (I’m happy with where I am). It’s NOT to ask for your advice, it’s to say that maybe we should stop judging success by whether we are making a fortune and start judging it by whether we’re writing books we love – books that our readers love – and quit worrying about whether we’re selling as many as everyone else.

Besides, it’s impossible to truly compare to everyone else because, you know, no one wants to cop to the numbers.

Have a pennies on a tombstone kind of day!

Joleene Naylor

“I love deadlines. I love the whooshing noise they make as they go by.”
Douglas Adams, The Salmon of Doubt

“There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.”
Maya Angelou, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings

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Random Friday

Published 24/11/2017 by Barb

Hi guys,
I’m Samantha and I come from another world – the original, old Silvery Earth, where people are immortal and never grow up. When I’m not switching bodies at will, I travel to other universes, especially books or movies. That’s how I met Rajveer the vampire, for example!

So, I’m taking over the interviews on this blog! And here I am, meeting people from other books/universes/whatever! So… hello, there! Let’s start with the lady first, shall we? Tell me a little about yourself, ma’am!

Maria Inesceu Sabov. I was 43 when I died.

Oh, you’re dead. Interesting… Describe your appearance in ten words or less.

People always mention my green eyes. I’m nice enough otherwise.

Cool! What is your role in the story?

My need to be buried in Romania brought my husband, my mother, and many others back there. That’s where everything else happens.

Romania! Interesting place, I’m told, with the Carpathians and everything… What is your relationship with the protagonist?

He’s been my husband for almost twenty years.

Aw, so sweet… Where did you live?

We lived in LA, but my true home is Transylvania in many ways.

Are you involved in a relationship? If so, with who and what is it about them that you find appealing?

Leo saved my life by helping me get sober. He made my life worth living.

I bet he did! What is the biggest challenge you face in the story? Besides getting sober, I mean…

Coming to grips with my choices.

Do you have a moral code?

Never forget crossing one line will lead you to cross others. Always.

Please give me an interesting and unusual fact about yourself.

I’m an intellectual property attorney, working with writers on movie and TV deals.

Thank you so much, Maria! Now let’s hear the gentleman, here! Tell me a little about yourself!

Leo Sabov. I’m 42, though lately I’ve been feeling a lot older.

Describe your appearance in ten words or less.

Relentlessly average. Brown hair, light brown eyes, medium everything else.

Do you have an enemy or nemesis? If so, who are they and how did they become an enemy?

My wife’s addiction. That part of her tried to steal her when we were in college, and never gave up until it had her.

Would you kill for those you love? And would you die for them?

I would have for Maria if it would have helped her. I would have died for her, too.

Where do you live(world/town/whatever)?

Los Angeles, but I’m in Romania for a least a few weeks now. Transylvania.

Are you involved in a relationship? If so, with who and what is it about them that you find appealing?

I am. I was. I’ve been married to Maria for almost twenty years, a widower for a couple of days.

What is the biggest challenge you face in the story?

Bringing Maria home to Transylvania to rest. Some of the traditions don’t sit well with me, but I want to keep my promises to her.

Do you have a family? Tell me about them.

My brother Brian has been all that’s kept me sane over the last few weeks. Our parents care about us, but they’re not the best at showing it.

Please give me an interesting and unusual fact about yourself.

My grandparents came to the US from Slovakia, what they knew as Czechoslovakia. That’s not terribly uncommon in Cleveland where I grew up, but kind of unusual in Los Angeles.

 

 

About the author

Kari Kilgore lives and works in her native mountains of Virginia. From that solid home base, she and her husband Jason Adams and adventures all over the world to bring to life in fiction. Exploring local legends and mythologies in particular delights and inspires them.

Kari writes science fiction, fantasy, and horror, and she’s happiest when she scares herself. She lives at the end of a long dirt road in the middle of the woods with Jason, two dogs, two cats, and wildlife they’re better off not knowing more about.
You can keep up with upcoming fiction from both Kari and Jason, their travel adventures, and whatever else strikes their fancy at www.karikilgore.com and www.jasonadams.info.

Facebook page and don’t forget that Until Death is included in the Vampires of the World bundle currently on sale!!

Sunday Surprise

Published 19/11/2017 by Barb

Hi guys,

I’m Samantha and I come from another world – the original, old Silvery Earth, where people are immortal and never grow up. When I’m not switching bodies at will, I travel to other universes, especially books or movies. That’s how I met Rajveer the vampire, for example!

So, I’m taking over the interviews on this blog! And here I am, meeting people from other books/universes/whatever! Oh, hello there, little one! Tell me a little about yourself!

My name is Kero, and I’m a West Highland White Terrier.

Describe your appearance in ten words or less.

Small white dog with pointed ears and a black nose.

Would you kill for those you love? And would you die for them?

I love my human very much, and would do anything to keep her safe. I hate being away from her for that reason: What if she needs me to protect her and I’m not there?

Indeed! What is the biggest challenge you face in the story?

I face all kinds of challenges, but they can all be explained in one short sentence: Exploring the world, and trying to make sense of some of the strange things humans do.

Ha! Good luck with making sense of humans! Do you have a family? Tell me about them.

I have a human I absolutely adore. I sometimes have to share her with other humans – sometimes even other animals – but you won’t hear much about that in my books, because the stories focus on the adventures me and my human have together.

Wonderful! Please give me an interesting and unusual fact about yourself.

I’m bigger than a lot of West Highland White Terriers. Most Westies only get to somewhere between eight and ten inches at the shoulder, but I’m a whole foot at the shoulder. I still meet Kennel Club standards for my breed, since they do state that my height is acceptable for the maximum size of a Westie, but most people find it unusual that I’m such a big boy.

***~~~***

The “Kero’s World” series is a seven book series that follows the adventures of a West Highland White Terrier named Kero – based on the real life experiences of the author’s dog by the same name.

The books have been in eBook and paperback for a while, and now they’re also available in audio, thanks to the skills of narrator Giles Miller.

Regardless of the format you’d prefer, here are the main places where you can buy the books:

Book 1 – Kero Goes Walkies

Audible: https://www.audible.co.uk/pd/Children/Kero-Goes-Walkies-Audiobook/B075G1P29M/

Smashwords: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/312873

Barnes & Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/kero-goes-walkies-victoria-zigler/1115292107

Kobo: https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/kero-goes-walkies

Chapters-Indigo: https://www.chapters.indigo.ca/en-ca/books/kero-goes-walkies/9781301045556-item.html

iBooks: https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/kero-goes-walkies/id646101881

iTunes: https://itunes.apple.com/gb/audiobook/kero-goes-walkies-keros-world-book-1-unabridged/id1281682080

Amazon UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Kero-Goes-Walkies-Keros-World/dp/1512358002/

Amazon US: https://www.amazon.com/Kero-Goes-Walkies-Keros-World/dp/1512358002/

Amazon Canada: https://www.amazon.ca/Kero-Goes-Walkies-Keros-World/dp/1512358002/

Book Depository: https://www.bookdepository.com/Kero-Goes-Walkies-Victoria-Zigler/9781512358001

Book 2 – Kero Celebrates His Birthday

Audible: https://www.audible.co.uk/pd/Children/Kero-Celebrates-His-Birthday-Audiobook/B076JLCYM8/

Smashwords: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/319037

Barnes & Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/kero-celebrates-his-birthday-victoria-zigler/1115457791

Kobo: https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/kero-celebrates-his-birthday

Chapters-Indigo: https://www.chapters.indigo.ca/en-ca/books/kero-celebrates-his-birthday/9781301569700-item.html

iBooks: https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/kero-celebrates-his-birthday/id655736313

iTunes: https://itunes.apple.com/gb/audiobook/kero-celebrates-his-birthday-keros-world-book-2-unabridged/id1299188305

Amazon UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Kero-Celebrates-His-Birthday-Keros-x/dp/1512358061/

Amazon US: https://www.amazon.com/Kero-Celebrates-His-Birthday-Keros-x/dp/1512358061/

Amazon Canada: https://www.amazon.ca/Kero-Celebrates-His-Birthday-Keros-x/dp/1512358061/

Book Depository: https://www.bookdepository.com/Kero-Celebrates-His-Birthday-Victoria-Zigler/9781512358063

Book 3 – Kero Gets Sick

Audible: https://www.audible.co.uk/pd/Children/Kero-Gets-Sick-Audiobook/B076JHMF35/

Smashwords: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/324875

Barnes & Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/kero-gets-sick-victoria-zigler/1115766744

Kobo: https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/kero-gets-sick

Chapters-Indigo: https://www.chapters.indigo.ca/en-ca/books/kero-gets-sick/9781301564569-item.html

iBooks: https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/kero-gets-sick/id662445496

iTunes: https://itunes.apple.com/gb/audiobook/kero-gets-sick-keros-world-book-3-unabridged/id1299180270

Amazon UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Kero-Gets-Sick-Keros-World/dp/1512358118/

Amazon US: https://www.amazon.com/Kero-Gets-Sick-Keros-World/dp/1512358118/

Amazon Canada: https://www.amazon.ca/Kero-Gets-Sick-Keros-World/dp/1512358118/

Book Depository: https://www.bookdepository.com/Kero-Gets-Sick-Victoria-Zigler/9781512358117

Book 4 – Kero Celebrates Halloween

Audible: https://www.audible.co.uk/pd/Children/Kero-Celebrates-Halloween-Audiobook/B076JLY9N8/

Smashwords: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/342194

Barnes & Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/kero-celebrates-halloween-victoria-zigler/1116264603

Kobo: https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/kero-celebrates-halloween

Chapters-Indigo: https://www.chapters.indigo.ca/en-ca/books/kero-celebrates-halloween/9781301689095-item.html

iBooks: https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/kero-celebrates-halloween/id681250334

iTunes: https://itunes.apple.com/gb/audiobook/kero-celebrates-halloween-keros-world-book-4-unabridged/id1299188237

Amazon UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/d/Books/Kero-Celebrates-Halloween-Keros-World/1512358177/

Amazon US: https://www.amazon.com/d/Books/Kero-Celebrates-Halloween-Keros-World/1512358177/

Amazon Canada: https://www.amazon.ca/d/Books/Kero-Celebrates-Halloween-Keros-World/1512358177/

Book Depository: https://www.bookdepository.com/Kero-Celebrates-Halloween-Victoria-Zigler/9781512358179

Book 5 – Kero Goes To Town

Audible: https://www.audible.co.uk/pd/Children/Kero-Goes-to-Town-Audiobook/B076JKC8WY/

Smashwords: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/344560

Barnes & Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/kero-goes-to-town-victoria-zigler/1116351967

Kobo: https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/kero-goes-to-town

Chapters-Indigo: https://www.chapters.indigo.ca/en-ca/books/kero-goes-to-town/9781301736898-item.html

iBooks: https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/kero-goes-to-town/id685077071

iTunes: https://itunes.apple.com/gb/audiobook/kero-goes-to-town-keros-world-book-5-unabridged/id1299180347

Amazon UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Kero-Goes-Town-Keros-World/dp/1512358258/

Amazon US: https://www.amazon.com/Kero-Goes-Town-Keros-World/dp/1512358258/

Amazon Canada: https://www.amazon.ca/Kero-Goes-Town-Keros-World/dp/1512358258/

Book Depository: https://www.bookdepository.com/Kero-Goes-Town-Victoria-Zigler/9781512358254

Book 6 – Kero Celebrates Christmas

Audible: https://www.audible.co.uk/pd/Children/Kero-Celebrates-Christmas-Audiobook/B076JLCWXJ/

Smashwords: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/344566

Barnes & Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/kero-celebrates-christmas-victoria-zigler/1116351968

Kobo: https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/kero-celebrates-christmas

Chapters-Indigo: https://www.chapters.indigo.ca/en-ca/books/kero-celebrates-christmas/9781301781553-item.html

iBooks: https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/kero-celebrates-christmas/id685077053

iTunes: https://itunes.apple.com/gb/audiobook/kero-celebrates-christmas-keros-world-book-6-unabridged/id1299184684

Amazon UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Kero-Celebrates-Christmas-Keros-World/dp/1512358290/

Amazon US: https://www.amazon.com/Kero-Celebrates-Christmas-Keros-World/dp/1512358290/

Amazon Canada: https://www.amazon.ca/Kero-Celebrates-Christmas-Keros-World/dp/1512358290/

Book Depository: https://www.bookdepository.com/Kero-Celebrates-Christmas-Victoria-Zigler/9781512358292

Book 7 – Kero Crosses The Rainbow Bridge

Audible: https://www.audible.co.uk/pd/Children/Kero-Crosses-the-Rainbow-Bridge-Audiobook/B076JLDP7B/

Smashwords: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/467451

Barnes & Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/kero-crosses-the-rainbow-bridge-victoria-zigler/1120258086

Kobo: https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/kero-crosses-the-rainbow-bridge

Chapters-Indigo: https://www.chapters.indigo.ca/en-ca/books/kero-crosses-the-rainbow-bridge/9781311579089-item.html

iBooks: https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/kero-crosses-the-rainbow-bridge/id909832745

iTunes: https://itunes.apple.com/gb/audiobook/kero-crosses-rainbow-bridge-keros-world-volume-7-unabridged/id1299180482

Amazon UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Kero-Crosses-Rainbow-Bridge-Keros/dp/1512358320/

Amazon US: https://www.amazon.com/Kero-Crosses-Rainbow-Bridge-Keros/dp/1512358320/

Amazon Canada: https://www.amazon.ca/Kero-Crosses-Rainbow-Bridge-Keros/dp/1512358320/

Book Depository: https://www.bookdepository.com/Kero-Crosses-Rainbow-Bridge-Victoria-Zigler/9781512358322

You can also find the books on Goodreads.

Book 1: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/17881737-kero-goes-walkies

Book 2: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/17974626-kero-celebrates-his-birthday

Book 3: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/18052712-kero-gets-sick

Book 4: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/18052730-kero-celebrates-halloween

Book 5: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/18052750-kero-goes-to-town

Book 6: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/18052768-kero-celebrates-christmas

Book 7: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/22919083-kero-crosses-the-rainbow-bridge

***~~~***

About the author:

Victoria Zigler is a blind poet and children’s author who was born and raised in the Black Mountains of Wales, UK, and is now living on the South-East coast of England, UK. Victoria – or Tori, if you prefer – has been writing since she knew how, has a very vivid imagination, and spends a lot of time in fictional worlds; some created by her, others created by other authors. When she remembers to spend some time in the real world, it’s mostly to spend time with her hubby and pets, though sometimes to indulge in other interests that capture her attention from time to time. To date she has published 8 poetry books and more than 40 children’s books, with more planned for the near future. She’s also contributed a story to the sci-fi and fantasy anthology Wyrd Worlds II.

Author links:
Website: http://www.zigler.co.uk
Blog: http://ziglernews.blogspot.co.uk
Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/toriz
Facebook author page: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Victoria-Zigler/424999294215717
Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/victoriazigler
Google+: https://plus.google.com/106139346484856942827

Sunday Surprise

Published 12/11/2017 by Barb

And it’s a guest! Not really new for whoever has been following this blog since she was already interviewed here waaay back in 2011  and  then again in 2015 for her wonderful series… And even her characters were interviewed on this very blog! Anyhow, for those of you who don’t know Mighty Jo, let me present you Amaranthine creator Joleene Naylor!

Where do you live and write from?

I live – and sometimes write – in the midst of chaos; a Victorian house that we’re very slowly redoing. We have three rooms finished, the rest are in various states of stacked boxes, displaced furniture, and partially stripped wallpaper, with copious amounts of dust bunnies and a few skulking cats.

Why do you write?

I’d love to say that I write because I have a story to tell, but honestly I write for two reasons. 1) It’s fun. 2) I have people who want to read what I’m writing. If the day comes when those no longer apply, I’ll quit and find something else to do. Maybe glut on anime.

When did you start writing?

I started writing stories before I could spell. My first “book” was a fully illustrated masterpiece about a girl who gets a phone call and goes roller skating. I didn’t do too bad for a three year old, though I hadn’t grasped vowels, so the spelling is pretty creative.

What genre(s) do you write?

I write the paranormal Amaranthine universe. Though it’s vampires, I lean on a lot of fantasy-style tropes – including epic quests, evil wizard-like figures, and sort-of magical abilities – because fantasy is my favorite genre.

What is your goal as a writer and what are you doing to achieve it?

I see so many authors with great answers to this question. They want to help people, or save the world, or change someone’s life. Me? I just want to entertain people. Nothing is more amazing to me than when someone tells me they were thinking about my characters.

As far as what I’m doing to achieve it, I’m trying to relax and not get caught up in the numbers game. Author communities put so much emphasis on sales numbers, on making money, on getting votes, on having a 1,000 member email list, on and on, by saying that we have to do these things in order to be “legitimate” authors. There was a time when I happily said, “Sure, I’m a hobby author, and I don’t care.” But, after listening to the same routine for years, it got to me. My sales aren’t good enough. I’m not making enough money. No one votes for me (or nominates me) in contests. I have a very small email list. Those kind of thoughts sap all the fun out of the craft, and make you not care whether you’re entertaining anyone or not – why should you care when they can’t even click a vote button? That’s why I decided to back off novel writing for a year and reevaluate if I want to keep at it. To fill in the gap, I’m writing serial short stories for a blog group. The blog group is fun, and if I write – and publish – shorts from the Amaranthine Universe I can use them to stay relevant, just in case I want to keep at this writing gig (a year vacation can make an author’s sales disappear, and mine were pretty low already). I’ve been at it for five months, and I’m starting to remember why I liked writing. Since the stories are free, there’s no sales numbers for me to worry about. Dropping out of most authors’ groups has also helped a lot, not to mention I refuse to read any “You MUST do THIS!” articles. I’m once again happy to be a “hobby writer”, and am planning some longer works in the future.

Outliner or improviser? Fast or slow writer?

Usually I’m an improviser, though I’ve outlined a couple of times. As for speed, I’m sloooooow. It takes me a year to get a novel done.

Tell us more about your book in the bundle

I have two books in the bundle: Shades of Gray and Legacy of Ghosts.

Shades of Gray introduces us to Katelina. When her friend with benefits is murdered, she’s dragged into the world of vampires. Dodging an angry coven, she falls under the protection of Jorick. But what happens when her knight in shining armor turns out to be one of the monsters?

Legacy of Ghosts picks up where Shades of Gray ends. Healing from their previous battles, Katelina is afraid to go home covered in bandages, so she agrees to go to Jorick’s house to heal. If only they’d get left to recuperate in peace, instead of getting dragged into another war…

Tell us about your latest book

I’m working on a year of short stories right now, with at least two free shorts released every month. Currently I’m writing Tales of the Executioners, short stories about the elite police officers of the vampire world. You can find all the details – including links to all retailers – on my website http://joleenenaylor.com/freebies/tote.php

Any other projects in the pipeline?

When my short story year is up, my next novel will star Micah and Loren on a road trip to California. Then I have a trilogy planned that takes place sixteen, or so, years after the original Amaranthine story ends, and stars Paylin and Jayleth. I also have plans for a gothic-style novella, and a half idea for a standalone mystery with Jamie and Verchiel. We’ll have to see about that one, though.

Barb’s note: I totally agree on the point of being a hobbyist writer so one doesn’t have to care about sales numbers and MustDo – it’s probably where I’m going too (keep writing but not publishing). As for the projects after the sabbatic year… erm… Jo… Sorino and his pet human (no spoilers) pleez? (Yes, I’m a fan of Amaranthine, my favorite being Verchiel, followed by Jorick)

________________________________________________________

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To read sample chapters and more, visit my website!
http://www.JoleeneNaylor.com
*For more info on how YOU can get YOUR book featured * on my blog, please
see:  http://joleenenaylor.wordpress.com/2010/12/31/author-excerpts/
*First time author?* Check out The Self Published Authors’ Lounge<http://selfpubauthors.wordpress.com/>for tips and advice!

Vampires of the World Weekend Part 2

Published 05/11/2017 by Barb

My flesh ignited with the sweetness of the drink, the sweetness and the saltiness and the pure, tawny wholeness of it.  I could feel the rough ridges where my pantyhose had run as I stumbled through the hallway — when was it?  A lifetime ago?  I could feel a hangnail on my right thumb, sense it tingle before it closed itself up, before it disappeared.

And I could feel the mangled mess beneath my jaw.  My torn vein was weaving itself together, knitting itself back to health.  The flow of blood was restored beneath my skin, and the smooth stretch of my neck was new again.

With the healing came full awareness.  Full comprehension.  I knew that I was on a leather sofa.  That I was cradled against a body.  Arms were wrapped around me, holding me close, spoon fashion.  My face was pressed against one of those arms, against a smooth, muscular wrist.  My lips were suckling at the edges of a wound.

I was drinking Mr. Morton’s blood.

I pulled back, horrified.  My motion, though, only moved me closer to his chest, closer to the body that sheltered me, that protected me.  Closer to the vampire who was my boss.  “Let me go!” I demanded, but I was still too dazed to put actions to words, to actually push myself away from him.

In a moment,” he said, and his words reverberated along the length of my spine.

I should have been petrified.  I should have fought for freedom, given my life to escape to the human world, to the sane world, to the normalcy that waited somewhere outside this office.  But the energy inside me — the alien blood inside me — soothed me, calmed me as if it were a drug.  I sank back, dazed by the sensation that all was right, that I was safe.

I licked my lips, and I realized that the blood carried information.  I knew things that I’d only imagined an hour before.  A lifetime before.  I understood vampires — who they were, what they did, how they lived, year after year after year, forever, unless they were killed.

Vulnerable to silver:  check, as I’d already witnessed back in the courtroom.

Destroyed by sunlight:  check, if “destroyed” meant increasingly severe burns tied to the length of exposure, culminating in brutal, cindery death.

Killed by stake:  check, but only with a direct blow to the heart, with a weapon made of oak.

Teleporting, mind-reading, turning into a mist:  nope, nothing that cinematic.

Garlic, crosses, and other pathetic human folk remedies to protect against fangs:  forget about it.

Vampires didn’t need to sleep in coffins, and they didn’t salvage earth from some distant homeland.  They did require an explicit invitation before they could cross the threshold of a home.  And somehow, creepiest of all, they had no reflection — not in a mirror.

All of that was crystal clear inside my head.  All of that, and one more fact:  vampire blood healed humans.  Healed humans completely, from whatever physical harm we suffered, from whatever illnesses our weak, flawed bodies harbored.

Vampire blood had brought me back from the very brink of death.

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The door jerked open and Jorick stood in the doorway, framed in a glaring blaze of light. His black hair was wild about his face. Blood splattered across his pale features and his dark eyes were filled with anger. As if to make the scene more surreal, he brandished a bloodstained sword.

Without a word, he pulled her from her attacker and threw her behind himself. The intruder lunged and Jorick lashed out at him with the blade.

Katelina’s screams had stopped, replaced by someone else’s. She looked around to find the basement bathed in the brilliant light of flames. The pile of wooden crates looked like a miniature bonfire, as did a screaming man. He danced around and tried to beat out the fire that engulfed him. Two bodies lay slumped some distance from him, face down on the basement floor. Dark puddles spread beneath them.

A new cry sounded and Katelina looked in time to see the attacker in the corridor fall. Jorick paused indecisively over his body, and then quickly turned away.

Come on!” He grabbed Katelina’s arm and tugged her after him. The wooden beams above their heads began to catch fire and the thick smoke rolled against the ceiling.

The stairs,” she cried and pointed desperately to their only escape.

No. There are more of them upstairs. This way.”

He pulled her to another padlocked door. Though he didn’t bother with his keys, he only kicked the door to shreds in one smooth motion and dashed though it. The darkness quickly swallowed them as the tunnel twisted and turned, going ever upwards. Katelina glanced over her shoulder time and again, eyes scratching the darkness for signs of pursuers, but she saw nothing.

At last Jorick stopped. He released her hand and threw open a trap door above them. Cool moonlight spilled down into the corridor and she shrank back from it.

Jorick pulled himself through the opening. He motioned for her to stay where she was, then disappeared from her sight. He was back in a moment, crouched at the edge of the opening. “It’s clear, come on.” He held his blood stained hand to her and she took it, too numb to care. He pulled her up into the night where she collapsed on the dewy grass and gasped mouthfuls of fresh air.

We must not linger; we may yet be followed.” He slammed the trapdoor shut and busied himself locking it from the outside.

Katelina sat up and nodded mutely, all of her limbs shaking. She tried desperately to catch her breath and gasped out the question, “Who… who were they?”

Jorick sighed. The moonlight made his skin gleam white and turned the blood splatters into splotches of black. “Vampires,” he said quietly. “They were Vampires. Just like Michael.”

Katelina stared at him for a moment, waiting for the punch line. When one didn’t come she threw back her head and laughed. “Of course they were!” In that moment it seemed the slender thread that separated waking from nightmares had snapped, and she suspected she’d never see a Twinkie again.

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They cut through the untouched snow, circling the ruins of the mansion. Some distance from the back of the house was a grouping of forlorn trees. Dead, heavy moss trailed from their branches, and at their feet were clustered several old gravestones. As if to make the scene complete, a wrought iron fence bordered three sides of the tiny cemetery and thick, thorny vines grew around the stones and onto the trees; old rose bushes waiting for spring.

Man, it’s like a horror movie,” Loren mumbled. Though he shuffled along casually, his hands in his pockets, his eyes darted around nervously. “Hey, you’re sure this isn’t, like, a trap?”

No one would know of this place,” Jorick answered firmly. He came to a stop in the center of the graveyard and waited patiently.

Katelina moved to stand next to him, but a patch of softer earth sank beneath her feet and she jerked back instinctively. The snow rose in a small mound and hinted at something beneath the surface; a fresher grave, perhaps. She glanced to her left and saw a lopsided stone that had four names roughly carved into it. All but one were names she recognized: Jesslynn, Alexander, Tristan, and Bethina. Tristan? Could that have been the baby? And how had he buried them? Had he picked their bones out from the remnants of the fire and dug the hole himself?

The macabre thoughts made her shiver, and she stepped away, instinctively putting space between herself and that grave. Loren glanced at her uncertainly, uncomfortable fears in his eyes. A chill crept up her spine and she imagined a thousand terrible monsters that might be hiding somewhere. But, there were no foot prints; no sign of life at all except the heavy trees and the mournful winter wind.

Loren caught Katelina’s attention and held his hands out questioningly. She shrugged in reply and he cleared his throat to get Jorick’s attention. “Hey, man, I don’t mean any disrespect, but I don’t think-”

Jorick held up a hand to silence him. He pointed to a distant figure that was slowly making its way towards them. Katelina squinted and thought she recognized Oren’s gait.

Sure enough, it was Oren who joined them moments later, his blonde hair windblown around his face and his hands tucked into the pockets of a long gray coat. He looked from one to the other, then settled his attention on Jorick. “You got my message, then?”

Yes, in a way.” Jorick’s face was unreadable as he studied his friend. “What was so pressing, Oren, that you must send for me? I’ve already made my position clear.”

Yes, of course.” Oren replied impatiently. “That isn’t why I asked you here. I both have something to give you and would ask something from you.”

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He couldn’t pretend that seeing her laughing and smiling like that at that guy hadn’t cut into him. Hadn’t he been watching it all year? Hadn’t he been supportive when she’d been dating that idiot Chris?

Of course he had and that was the problem right there. He was always supportive. He was the friend and she’d never, never see him as anything else.

He was doomed.

And it was his own damned fault because he couldn’t figure out any other way to get close to girls. He didn’t have Charlie’s ability to chat them up. The only thing he knew how to do was be nice. And when he was nice all they thought of him was nice.

Doomed to be nice.

Dammit!

He kicked at some dead leaves on the ground. His pace slowed. There weren’t any leaves on the lawn. He lifted his head and actually looked around. In the gloom, he saw the suggestion of trees all around him. Somehow he’d wandered off the lawn and into the trees off the path. Great, that would be great to get lost in the trees until the sun came up. He still had class tomorrow even if it was later in the morning.

Well, he’d probably walked straight in so he would just turn around and walk straight out again. He spun and headed back. Without his head down, he felt the lower branches brush at the top of his head, messing his hair even more than usual. What did it matter? No one ever bothered to look at him twice so who cared?

Great, now he’d turned into a self pitying whiner.

Someone just shoot him.

He caught a suggestion of movement out of the corner of his eye to the right. Before he could turn, something slammed into him. He stumbled, his legs buckled with the force of it. He landed on his side, his arm pinned under his body. He tried to push up on the ground, his hand sinking into wet, squishy vegetation, but something dark fell over him. He smelled a sour stench. Something grabbed his head and yanked it to the side. A soft wetness licked along his neck then sharp pain pierced his skin. His body jerked and flailed. Something encased him in a vice grip, preventing him from moving. Soon he didn’t want to. Ice seemed to flow into his body from his neck, paralyzing his muscles. Was this what snakes did, he wondered but there couldn’t be any snakes here, not one this big. He tried one last time to kick his feet, thought he might feel a running shoe slip off and go spinning into the darkness. Then the pain didn’t matter any more, in fact it wasn’t pain at all, it was euphoria spreading through his limbs, leaving him weak and jelly-like and the vice grip was a warm blanket, wrapped around him by his mother. He could almost feel her kiss on his neck.

But her teeth… Oh her teeth were too sharp…

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Vampires of the World Weekend Part 1

Published 04/11/2017 by Barb

Fever devoured him – or maybe it was just a fast. weak pulse and heavy breathing. He felt shaky and unable to move, drained of strength and blood.

He realized at some point that he was in his bed, sweating. He opened his eyes on the night and saw Bran’s silhouette standing by the bed. The sorcerer’s presence had brought Rajveer back to his senses.

He moaned, his chest heaving in pain.

“Good evening, Rajveer.” Bran’s voice seemed to reach inside his head. “Would you like me to finish you?”

“No…” He was too weak to fight, but he couldn’t die in his bed, taken away by a mysterious sickness. He was meant to die on the battlefield. Not like this – helpless, defeated, in pain.

He saw Bran’s fanged smile come closer to his face.

“So you want to live?” A whisper.

“Yes…” He nodded, breathless. Not this agony, gods, please. He closed his eyes, exhausted.

Bran grabbed the nape of his neck and pulled up his head. Rajveer felt something pressed to his lips, and coppery liquid dripped into his mouth. And then he grabbed Bran’s wrist with both hands, biting, sucking as if his life depended on it, the warm blood sliding down his throat. He could feel both his heart and Bran’s thundering in his head.

Then Bran pushed him away and let him fall back on the bed. Rajveer held his breath, feeling a change through his veins. His blood had been replaced by something else. His eyes opened on the darkened bedroom and he saw the canopy in all its embroidered detail as if it were day. The air in his lungs was cool and his body shivered. He lost control of his limbs and his bowels as a low moan came out of his mouth.

“Don’t worry, only your body is dying.” Bran’s voice was eerily gentle.

A final jolt made his back arch, and he lay still as his breathing slowed. He could still feel his heart beating. Bran’s hand on his forehead wasn’t so cold anymore. He exhaled in relief.

“Welcome to darkness,” Bran said, leaning to kiss his sweaty forehead.

Rajveer closed his eyes, then opened them again. He could hear everything. Every night animal moving in the garden, the owls and mice and a honey badger. The whisper of two guards meeting on watch duty to give each other the “all clear” on the battlements. The soft snores of sleeping servants in the apartment.

And the smells. Of plants and flowers and water ponds, but mostly of warm-blooded creatures. Including humans. Humans smelled different. Their blood sent intoxicating fumes. Luckily there were none in the room to tempt him.

He looked at Bran, who seemed less pale now. He sat and glanced around the room as if the sun were up.

Bran grinned. “Are you still hungry?”

Rajveer touched his lips, unsure. “Sort of…” he admitted. He glanced at Bran’s wrist, but didn’t see any traces of blood or wounds. He licked his lips, but they were clean. Bran’s blood was coursing through him, making him feel invincible. He wanted more.

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Kaylyn awoke with a gasp, and her throat was filled with heat and smoke. She’d been dreaming of falling into the pits of hell, and she opened her eyes to a raging fire devouring the wooden partition of her chamber.

She heard Baldwin’s roar, but her husband wasn’t by her side anymore. Panting, she frantically looked for a way out. Why was the manor on fire? Why wasn’t anyone trying to extinguish it?

Screams and curses came from beyond the flames. The wood crackled and then suddenly gave in. Soon everything would come crumbling down and Kaylyn couldn’t gather her wits.

It was daytime. She was supposed to be asleep, away from the sun’s rays. What if she left the burning room from the window and was incinerated by the sun? The chamber was so filled with smoke that she couldn’t see the weather outside.

Fire was attacking the wooden floor as well as the beamed ceiling. Only the external walls were made of stone. Eyes wide, Kaylyn didn’t know what to do. But then, if Baldwin had left the bedroom, there was probably no danger in going out.

Maybe outside it was another cloudy English day. The heat was getting worse, and Kaylyn decided to move. She got off the double bed and made her way along the walls towards the stone staircase to the lower floor on the other side of the rectangular room.

She was about to reach the closest window, her back against the wall as if she were walking on a narrow ledge, when the floor under the bed gave way, and the canopy crashed downstairs into what had been the main hall of the castle.

Kaylyn froze, staring at the chasm that had opened a few paces from her feet. Soon the whole floor would collapse and she’d fall into the furnace of the lower floor. Her “life eternal” would come to a blunt end in a literal hellfire after only ten years.

She was beginning to think the fire wasn’t an accident. Holding her breath, she started moving again towards the small windows. It wouldn’t be easy to get out that way, but she was thin, and hopefully could get through.

Someone broke the central column of the closest window, widening the opening, and a blurry figure landed in the smoky room that still had half of its floor, since no furniture weighed on it.

“Baldwin?” Kaylyn called with a shaky voice. Only her husband would be capable of jumping so high to break the window. He had come to save her!

But from the smoke emerged the tall figure of Bran, the Celtic druid who had been both hers and Baldwin’s maker. His long platinum-blond hair looked red by firelight.

“Let’s go, Kaylyn.” He threw a blanket over her face and upper body and threw her over his shoulder like a sack of potatoes.

Kaylyn screamed, but didn’t fight. She felt the jump, and then she was shaken by Bran’s run. She wasn’t afraid of the darkness anymore, but the smell of blood that reached her nostrils as soon as the smoke cleared made her lick her fangs.

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Part One: Arizona & New Mexico

Chapter 1

As Jonah Ivory sat between his parents’ caskets in the parlor of the funeral home in Tucson, he finished his eighth beer of the evening. His goal was to drink a whole case.

Eight down, sixteen to go.

Crumpling the eighth empty can in his fist, he tipped his chair back and chucked the can behind the caskets with the other seven. Before he could tip forward and reach for number nine, however, his chair rocked off balance, and he fell back and down to the floor.

Perfect.

After the impact, Jonah lay there for a long moment, staring up at the ceiling. His eyes burned as the tears he’d been holding back tried to force their way out.

But he wouldn’t let them.

I’m too young for this. Too young to lose them.

In fact, Jonah was seventeen years old…not that he looked it. He was skinny, with a boyish face, and he wasn’t exactly wearing responsible grown-up clothes for a viewing: a black Jethro Tull concert t-shirt, ratty faded blue jeans, and sneakers.

But then there was his shoulder-length hair, which was prematurely white. It had been scared that way five years ago.

That was when he’d lost his two brothers, who had been abducted right in front of him. He’d been thirteen years old when it had happened…so maybe he wasn’t too young at seventeen to lose his mother and father, after all.

First the twins, now my parents. I ought to be getting used to this by now. So why do I miss them so much?

It was a mystery to him.

Jonah hadn’t been close to his mother and father for ages. Though they’d been living in the same house in Tucson, seeing each other every day, they might as well have been living in separate towns for the past five years. The loss of the twins had driven them apart.

But in the few days since the car accident that had killed his mother and father, Jonah had been feeling completely and irretrievably lost. All he could think to do was drink himself into a stupor and stumble through the motions of the prearranged viewing and the preparations for the funeral.

Why does it matter? We were practically strangers.

The biggest question of all, though, the one that loomed up in the gaps between lazy drunken sparks and ripples, was this:

Now what?

Jonah rolled off the upended chair and got to his feet. He pulled his ninth beer out of the red and white cooler that occupied two chairs in the front row of seating.

As he snapped open the tab on the can, he looked around the empty room.

At least I don’t have to deal with anybody.

Jonah and his parents were alone. Other than the undertaker, who had strolled through a few times, not one soul had shown up for the viewing.

Nice turnout.

After a long drink of beer, Jonah righted the chair he’d knocked over and sat back down on it. He glanced over at the closed caskets beside him, then quickly looked away as the reality smacked him in the head again.

I hate this.

Just as he lifted the beer for another drink, a young, black-haired woman walked into the room.

She was beautiful. As soon as Jonah caught sight of her, he lowered the beer from his lips. Her body was slender and shapely under her waist-length red leather jacket and short black dress. Knee-high red leather boots accentuated the curves of her long, lean legs.

As she approached, Jonah saw that her features were even prettier than they had looked from a distance. She had a long face and angular nose that gave her an exotic look—Italian, maybe, or Greek or Arab. She must have been wearing contact lenses behind her black horned-rim glasses, because her eyes were two different colors: one hazel, the other amber flecked with red.

Simply put, she was a knockout.

As bad a day as Jonah was having, he still automatically assessed his chances with her before she’d even said a word. He knew it in a heartbeat: she wasn’t just out of his league, she was out of his universe.

Even if he hadn’t been having the second shittiest day of his life, he probably wouldn’t have bothered to make a play for her. That was why he didn’t bother to get up when the woman approached him. He just stared out from behind his long, white bangs and burped softly.

“Hello, Mr. Ivory.” She stopped a few feet away and didn’t offer to shake his hand. She had a slight accent—Italian, maybe? “My name is Stanza Miracolo.”

“Don’t mind me.” Jonah waved at the two closed caskets. “Go ahead and view all you like.”

“Not here for that, thanks.” Stanza slid two fingers into a vest pocket of her red leather jacket. “Here for you,” she said, tugging out a business card and offering it to him.

When Jonah didn’t take the card, she flipped it at him. The card landed face-up on his stomach, and he stared down at it.

Stanza Miracolo, it said. Bloodlines Genealogy & Beyond.

Jonah brushed the card from his black Jethro Tull t-shirt. “You picked the wrong day to try to sell me something, lady,” he said, and then he polished off his beer.

“Already paid for,” said Stanza. “I’m your inheritance.”

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Now

The villagers never paid attention to the dogs anymore.

The constant barking and scrabbling was background noise after years of so many strays learning to survive past their pampered origins. The rich, forested mountains in Transylvania were kinder than the crowded streets of Bucharest, under Communism or decades later. Creatures meant to warm laps and comfort hands have no easy transition to wandering, endlessly searching for shelter.

Some whisper of instinct surely must remain, even with every appearance of wild ancestors bred out of them decades before.

Leo Sabov wondered at that every time he was in Romania, how such a huge population could go unnoticed in the city or in the country. People could get so worked up over stray animals in the US, yet somehow the nomadic animals here seemed healthier and more content with less attention.

He sipped strong coffee on his third floor balcony, watching the first rays of sunlight trace orange fire on the sharp granite cliffs above the tree line across from him. His bare feet were pleasantly chilled by the tile, his mind soothed by his first good night of sleep in many weeks. Staying up too late and drinking too much with his little brother usually had the opposite effect.

A young girl walked through the chicken coop below, gathering eggs for the guests of the inn he’d been returning to with his wife for over twenty years. The milling birds stirred up a scent of rich earth strong enough to overcome even the coffee. The girl sang to herself, a sweet song at odds with the quarreling chickens and agitated dogs. Maria would have known the words to the song, would have whispered them into Leo’s ear.

He rubbed his eyes, struck by a different sound in one of the dog’s voices. His mind seized on the escape from memory. An old female with the dangling teats of many pregnancies stood in the neat yard beside the inn. She stared at something Leo couldn’t see behind the rough-hewn logs of the outdoor kitchen. Her black and tan coat was healthy, and she was normally friendly, one of the sweetest in the village. This morning, though, her voice had a harsh, desperate edge.

Dogs began to gather around her, from neighboring houses and inns, from their rough shelters on the hillsides. Some looked around, searching for what was bothering her so, then resumed their normal morning discussions and investigations. The others, many of them clearly her offspring with that same rangy body and distinctive coloring, watched her silently at first. Then their voices began to take on that same worried note.

The old mother dog took a few stiff-legged steps forward, more than a dozen of her young following. Her sharp, fast barks were interrupted by low growls. Even from three floors up, Leo could see her long hair rise into hackles from her neck to the base of her tail. She walked forward again, her group in near lockstep beside her.

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Sunday Surprise

Published 29/10/2017 by Barb

And it’s a guest! And she is in not one, but two of my curated bundles! You can find her book both in Sci-fi July (that will go on sale from Oct.31 to Nov.5)  and in Vampires of the World! Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome Rebecca M. Senese!

Where do you live and write from?

I live in Toronto, Canada and write wherever I find myself.

Why do you write?

I write because when I don’t write I feel miserable. And someone’s got to tell these stories that are floating around in my head.

When did you start writing?

I think I started writing as soon as I could hold a pencil. My earliest memory of writing a story is in grade school. We had these workbooks and we were only supposed to write on the right hand page so the teacher could write their comments about our work on the facing page. Rebel that I am, I wrote a horror story on the left side page about a haunted house with a vampire, a mummy, Frankenstein, a werewolf, and a gorilla, because I thought gorillas were scary. I got in trouble for writing that.

What genre(s) do you write?

I write contemporary fantasy, horror, science fiction, mystery, urban fantasy really whatever strikes me at the time. And usually my stories are more than one genre. For some reason my brain loves to mash things together because why not?

What is your goal as a writer and what are you doing to achieve it?

I want to create the best stories I can to entertain and touch readers. The best way I can achieve that is to write as much as possible and read as much as possible, to learn from other writers. What can they teach me about being entertaining and telling a great story and how can I do the same?

What is the best piece of writing advice you’ve ever been given?

Trust yourself, keep writing, and just get out of the way. Also, read for enjoyment and afterwards figure out what they did that worked.

Outliner or improviser? Fast or slow writer?

A little bit of both. I mostly write into the dark but do make a few notes along the way of ideas that pop up, as a sort of guide. I don’t necessarily follow that though. My writing speed depends on the project. Ironically, short pieces tend to go slower for me. Longer pieces tend to go faster. But I do generally try to write every day and I’m focusing on doing a lot more next year in a personal challenge!

Tell us more about your book in the bundle

Vampires of the World

A Reluctance of Blood is the story of Sebastian Lockhart, a normal college student, who gets bitten by a vampire but doesn’t fully turn. I wanted to take vampires back to their monstrous roots and explore what it would be like to suddenly find yourself overwhelmed by these monstrous desires. Sebastian finds his life turned upside down as he struggles to come to grips with what happened to him and what it means to his life.

Sci-fi July Fever Fun

Beyond Control, Interlude, Beyond Reach is a collection of three stories in the Beyond Saga, a science fiction space opera. They introduce the main characters: Nadia, a genetically engineered assassin who begins to question her work, and Devon, a Tracker who is sent to hunt down Nadia. For both of them, I liked exploring how they responded to situations, especially when their responses were not what was expected of them and how they had to deal with the consequences of those actions.

Tell us about your latest book (add link if published)

November 1st, I’m publishing a story called Borrowed Magic, part of the Uncollected Anthology: Warlocks issue. Find out more here: https://rebeccasenese.com/books/borrowed-magic/

Any other projects in the pipeline?

I’m currently working on a series of novels about Santa’s son working as a private detective. I’m hoping to have the first one ready soon!

Where to find Rebecca:

website

blog

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