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Posts Tagged ‘fantasy fiction’

When I wrote my book list for Shepherd, it made me so nostalgic that I went down to my library and snagged the paperbacks off the shelf. I’ve since been re-reading them. Well, how do these fantasy classics hold up? I’ll comment in order of their publication.

Witch World, by Andre Norton (1963) is an old-school SF epic. By today’s standards, the prose is a bit stiff. This causes the fighting and other derring-do, and the budding romances, to feel somewhat muffled. However, the basic struggle against gender roles and other prejudice still rings true.

Dragonflight, by Anne McCaffrey (1968), introduces her famous world of Pern, where humans and dragons share a psychic bond of “impression.” That includes the dragons’ mating, which also draws their riders into sexual activity that is right at the edge of consent. This might be problematic for contemporary readers. McCaffrey’s work frequently got frisky by the standards of the era. If she was writing today, I think she’d fit right in with urban fantasy, where there’s a lot of sex and some of it is quite kinky.

The Tombs of Atuan, by Ursula K. LeGuin (1971). Without reservation, this book holds up to any current fantasy. The language is poetic, yet sparse and direct. There’s a sense of history and grandeur in the desolate landscape around the tombs. Yet LeGuin also draws a sympathetic portrait of a young woman stumbling forward as she tries to escape magical and emotional bonds. Arha and Ged both save each other from the powers of darkness. In this reading, it seemed to me she was infatuated with Ged, who kindly did not take advantage of her vulnerable state.

The Forgotten Beasts of Eld, by Patricia McKillip (1974), is one of my all-time favorites and also holds up almost 40 years later. Who wouldn’t love to have a menagerie of legendary beasts? McKillip’s prose is also poetic, but more flowery and emotional than LeGuin’s. You can almost miss the family drama, tormented love, and political intrigue. Sybel becomes intent on revenge and backs one side in a war, but in the end her magical animals prevent the violence that all the humans seem to crave. That’s something I’ve come to value in my own written work.

The last book in my list is Barbara Hambly’s Ladies of Mandrigyn (1984). I haven’t re-read that one yet, but I’m looking forward to it. Perhaps that will come up in a future post.


Have you read one of my books? Then it would be great for you to leave a review! Meanwhile, if you’d like to learn more about me and my work, check out my websiteFacebook, Instagram and/or Twitter.

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Today I’m featuring a forthcoming novella. New Zealand author Sam Schenk is bringing out their witchy urban fantasy, Running Interference. It’s the sequel to A Gap in the Veil (pictured at right) and the character is Aiden Latimer.

Aiden pauses, uncomfortable in a slick suit, blue with black suede shoes. This is what one wears to a ball, but he’s never worn anything like this in his life. It’s a little too big, and the soles of the shoes are slick so he’s walking carefully. He’s a sneaker guy. With any luck, all eyes will be on his twin sister, Aya, whose smile lights up the room. She’s wearing light natural makeup and absolutely nails a fitted, peach coloured full length gown with a trail, despite having never worn something like this before.

Together, they find their seats. Aiden makes sure he knows where everything is — where the band will be playing, the best place to observe all the dancers, and he takes a look at the name cards on the surrounding seats to see if there’s anyone he knows. Next, he’ll check out the food and pile up a plate for both he and Aya to nibble while he gets used to his surroundings.


Character Questions

How does magic work for you? Is it different from the usual? Most people think about magic as like, brewing potions and working with herbs, or even working with the dead. But I think it’s time for a new kind of witch. My powers revolve around technology. I can sense the people behind the screen, and I can make sure a wifi cloud follows me. It’d be super useful if mom let me have an updated phone.

Who is your best friend? Stephen has been my mate since we were toddlers. I used to visit his place and go on his Minecraft server to help out. I guess that’s when he started ordering me around (laughs). Now that we’re getting older, it’s more serious. He’s great at finding things for us to do to make a brand online – including a task to embarrass a high profile hacker. That’s going to be dangerous, but I’m excited to try (and the money will get me enough for a new phone)!

Author Questions

How do you handle multiple points of view in a story? For me, multiple viewpoints have to compliment and foil each other. I love choosing contrasting point of views to help to world build without infodumping. While Running Interference and A Gap in the Veil don’t have multiple POVs, what I love to do is have one ‘weird’ pov character that sees the world in a very different way, and one that’s closer to what the audience would perceive.

Is the landscape important in telling your stories? How do you use it? Landscape builds culture. It’s important to have an understanding of the difference between a people who live underground, in trees, on mountains, on the ocean. It provides resource constraints — a people living on the ocean will need to solve for fresh water, and vegetable nutrients, land based construction materials etc. A people living in a mine may have good material wealth, and may be good at trade, but may be hopeless with animal husbandry. By contrast, I love transient or immigrant characters, because you can explore characteristics that might be inherent, or developed without roots.


About Sam Schenk

I was born in Canada, raised in Texas, and matured in New Zealand, where I’ve lived for the past 20 years. I’m a business analyst by day, a mum, writer, and gamer by night.

I love speculative fiction, particularly dystopia, transhumanism, and anything that normalises the rainbow and outside the normal curve of humanity. I’m a sci-fi and fantasy nerd, and love anything that explores life outside of the modern-day.

My first publication came out in 2021, A Gap in the Veil, in association with Contemporary Witchy Fiction. It’s been amazing to be part of the New Zealand speculative fiction gang, and meeting some amazing writers. I’m looking at producing another part to the collection in the same universe, which will be middle grade.



Have you read one of my books? Then it would be great for you to leave a review! Meanwhile, if you’d like to learn more about me and my work, check out my websiteFacebook, Instagram and/or Twitter.

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Everybody welcome Bob Ironspell-Cabas, star of M. H. Bonham’s urban fantasy, That Dragon Was In No Way My Fault. It’s the starter for her series, The Ironspell Chronicles.

“Seriously, Elryn? You think that Titania would want to talk to me?” I looked at my unofficial partner in disbelief. By the way, my name is Bob Ironspell-Cabas, but everyone calls me Ironspell because lot of people laugh when I tell them I’m a wizard named Bob.

Elryn rolled her eyes as she typically does when I say something stupid. She agreed to help me go through the mail piling up at the post office since our latest adventures since she lost a bet with my fiancee, Luna.

But back to the subject at hand: why would the Faerie Court want to talk to me? Don’t tell me I pissed them off, too. “Look, the queen just sent an invitation…” Elryn held up a piece of mail that looked like just another one of those too-good-to-be-true offers that say that I’m cordially invited to stay in a timeshare unit if I can sit through the boring sales pitch.

“You sure she got the right Ironspell? I mean, what would Faerie want to do with me?” I grimaced as I plucked the invite from her hands. “Shit, it’s real. I guess I’m going to have to go.”


Character Questions

Who are the most dangerous people in your world? Oh fuck. You know we have so many bad guys, I can’t pick just one. Fallen angels (we call them Watchers), Void Daemons, the Drow, and, of course, the Cult of the Messiah. The Cult is a religious group whose main purpose is the eradication of all Supernaturals on Earth

Who is your best friend? Gosh, I always say that Tuzren — oops, I wasn’t suppose to say his name, was I? — I mean, Tuz, is my best friend. He’s a daemon from Onoys — a realm in another plane. But I have other close friends, my werewolf financee, Luna, my unofficial Elf partner, Elryn, and my Jotun partner, Vetr.

Author Questions

Are there any authors who inspire your work? Wow, well, Gary Jonas is a friend and fellow urban fantasy writer who encouraged me to write this series. I also like to read Orlando Sanchez, RL King, and Jim Butcher to keep my mind in urban fantasy. I read other urban fantasy writers as well to get a flavor of what people are reading.

When did you know you were a writer? Before I was four years old. Seriously. I attempted to write a book when I was five, seven, and eventually wrote a book when I was 15.


That Dragon Was In No Way My Fault

Bob Ironspell-Cabas, known as Ironspell, is a rookie officer on his third day in the Denver Police Department Supernatural Unit or DPDS. His partner and mentor takes him to the Denver Zoo, thinking that it’ll be a good training opportunity. Instead, they discover a deranged sorcerer has let loose a dragon from the Supernatural portion of a new exhibit called, “The Magical Zoo.”

With a crazed sorcerer and a pissed-off dragon on the loose, Ironspell must use his knowledge and his magic to stop both. Otherwise, Denver is in for some serious trouble. What’s more, the sorcerer has taken hostages and threatens to feed them to the werewolves in the Lycanthrope House.

The problem is Ironspell isn’t exactly a wizard — he learns his spells by reading magazines like Popular Wizardry. Can Denver and the Denver Zoo survive Ironspell’s attempts to save the day?

Available free from Book Funnel!

M. H. Bonham (and friend)

About M. H. Bonham

I am an award-winning author of more than fifty books living in the wilds of Montana as a Colorado refugee. Because I love confusing people, I go by Margaret H. Bonham with my pet books and M. H. Bonham in my science fiction and fantasy. I train in shotokan and ninjitsu martial arts, I race sled dogs, and podcast. I frequent science fiction conventions, so be sure to check out my blog for places I’ll be at.



Have you read one of my books? Then it would be great for you to leave a review! Meanwhile, if you’d like to learn more about me and my work, check out my websiteFacebook, Instagram and/or Twitter.

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Our guest today is Pip Leighton, from The Secrentary and the Ghost. Gillian St. Kevern is another New Zealand author who offers this gothic romance for your reading pleasure.

A man of average height, chestnut brown hair, and an air of avid interest enters the ballroom, gazing around him with rapt attention. He is so distracted that he immediately collides with another guest. He is profuse in his apologies, and retreats to a corner where he can gaze at the gathering, his delight plain on his cheerful face. He pats the front of his suit, feeling for a notebook, only to collect himself — taking notes at a ball would be unmannerly in the extreme.


Character Questions

What does the law think of your activities? The law generally takes a dim view of anything that cannot be pinned down with facts — indeed, my investigations of the preternatural elements of our world are usually dismissed as fancy! Still, as I am careful not to overstep the bounds of good manners when conducting my investigation, I have yet to suffer any effects more bruising that spurious reviews of my published work.

Who is your best friend? Thomas Cross, Lord of Foxwood. He is much more than my employer, but a dear, dear friend — indeed, I should say he is my life’s companion. I came to Foxwood hoping only to find a tolerable employer. I never expected to find my other half.

Author Questions

Is the landscape important in telling your stories? How do you use it? Setting is basically another character! Gothic vibes demand a remote, isolated environment, preferably with lots of mist and forest. But big cities can be isolating too. I love world building, and researching locations for stories is a lot of fun.

When did you know you were a writer? I knew I was a writer when I started getting frustrated when the characters in the books I read at the time weren’t doing what I wanted them to do. I’d put a book down halfway through, and come up with an ending that I liked better, spending weeks building it in my head. Then one day I realized I could write them down!


The Secretary and the Ghost

Pip Leighton is in a fix. His sister’s marriage hinges on him staving off the family’s impending financial ruin by taking the job of secretary to Lord Cross, a reclusive man with a temper befitting his name. Developing a passion for his employer was not on the cards. Neither was getting caught up in the deep mystery surrounding Foxwood Court and its resident ghost, but Pip has never been one to shirk a duty.

As Pip delves deeper into the past, he discovers that his only hope for a future with Cross may depend on a man long dead — a man with a curious resemblance to himself.

To purchase

About Gillian St. Kevern

Gillian St. Kevern (she/they) is dismantling capitalism one novel at a time. They blend their lived experience as a member of the LGBTQ community with worlds of magic and mystery, creating characters that linger long after the final page has been turned. For a free sampler of Gillian’s work, visit http://www.gillianstkevern.com

When not immersed in fantastical worlds, Gillian house-sits everything from elderly beagles to Machiavellian donkeys. Gillian is the co-founder of the New Zealand Rainbow Romance Writers, and, with co-host Jamie Sands, runs writing streams on YouTube, focused on empowering writers and other creatives.

social media links:

Website: https://www.gillianstkevern.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/groups/963988794102755

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/8337607.Gillian_St_Kevern

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Gillian-St-Kevern/e/B00GJICO4M

Bookbub: https://www.bookbub.com/profile/gillian-st-kevern



Have you read one of my books? Then it would be great for you to leave a review! Meanwhile, if you’d like to learn more about me and my work, check out my websiteFacebook, Instagram and/or Twitter.

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I goofed and published Lyndi Alexander’s visit to Queen Titania’s Court early, so you get a bonus today. It’s another story share from Daily Science Fiction, which I’m constantly recommending as a source for genre short stories.

The story is Kelly M. Sandoval’s fairy-taleish piece, “Four Pieces of Advice on the Selection of a Familiar.” This one is perfect for graduation season, as everyone thinks they know what the heroine should do with her life. I hope you’ll take a look.



Have you read one of my books? Then it would be great for you to leave a review! Meanwhile, if you’d like to learn more about me and my work, check out my websiteFacebook, Instagram and/or Twitter.

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You were at work, the midnight shift, when the overhead radio crackled. Canned music faded away. A silvery voice called your name…

You were at school, searching the library for a certain book. Deep among the shelves, a pair of jeweled eyes peered out. A clawed hand beckoned…

You were on vacation, camping among old growth forest. As darkness fell, fireflies lit the sky. Their flickering gleam spelled out a message…

You were in your garden, rooting out weeds, when your spade clanged against a buried object. You worked to dig it out. Instead of a stone, you uncovered a trapdoor…

The call has gone out, and the path has opened. You are invited to join a fantastic gathering of magical people and creatures. Denizens of all realms, whether Elfin, Angelic or Demonic, are summoned to Queen Titania’s court for her Midsummer Night Ball!


Scheduled Books

June 1:      Amberley Martin, The Rogue and the Peasant

June 4:      Janna Ruth, A Drop of Magic

June 8:      David Lee Summers, Breaking the Code

June 11:    Lyndi Alexander, The Lost Chord

June 14:    Jamie Sands, Onesies and Ouijaboards

June 16:    Jillian St. Kevern, The Secretary and the Ghost

June 18:    Sheryl Hayes, Chaos Hunt

June 21:    Ash Banks, Margin Street Zeroes

June 23:    M. H. Bonham, That Dragon Was In No Way My Fault

June 25:    Sam Schenk, Running Interference

June 28:    Deby Fredericks, Prisoners of the Wailing Tower

July 1:       Grand Finale

It’s going to be a super fun month of books and fantasy. I hope you’ll all enjoy and share!



Have you read one of my books? Then it would be great for you to leave a review! Meanwhile, if you’d like to learn more about me and my work, check out my websiteFacebook, Instagram and/or Twitter.

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It’s that time of year, when Best-Of lists, awards, and other retrospectives are released into the world. This made me think about the books I’ve personally enjoyed during calendar year 2021. According to Goodreads, I’ve read 27 books (three short of my reading challenge) but of them all, two really stand out.

The first was The City We Became, by N. K. Jemisin, which technically was released in 2020. The initial release was in hardback, and I waited for the trade paperback. The book won a number of awards, which it deserved. I enjoyed how it played with stereotypes enough that I already wrote a whole blog post about it. You can revisit that here, if you wish.

The other was The Last Graduate, by Naomi Novik. This is the second book in her series The Scholomance, which is being categorized as contemporary fantasy but really I think is the spiritual successor to Harry Potter. Just think if dear old Hogwarts was an evil entity intent on devouring the students? That’s the Scholomance. Then add in a supremely powerful and snarky POV character, trying to organize her hostile and traumatized fellow students, so that they don’t all fall victim to the Scholomance’s malign tendencies.

Novik is an author who continues to grow and gain mastery with time. She’s also won a number of awards, although not for The Last Graduate. Her early series struck me as fairly ordinary, but she’s really hit her stride with her YA books, Uprooted and Spun in Silver. That’s not to say The Last Graduate is without flaws. El is the sole POV character, and she has a tendency to stop in the middle of the action to explain about things — some of which I already knew. This is one of my own flaws, which is perhaps why it sticks out to me. That didn’t stop me from enjoying the book or thinking about it for days afterward.

So, those are my two most memorable books from 2021. How about you? I’d love to hear your one or two most memorable books from this year.



Have you read one of my books? Then it would be great for you to leave a review! Meanwhile, if you’d like to learn more about me and my work, check out my websiteFacebook, Instagram and/or Twitter.

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I mentioned last time how there can be pushback when authors of work that is not in a Romance genre, include romances in their work. One pattern that I often see is romance included as a secondary plot arc. So there’s the traditional plot with a fight against evil (or whatever), while at the same time a romance is going on. It might be two members of the same team falling love, or a romance with someone not connected to the rest of the plot. Sometimes they even fall in love with someone from the opposite side. Oh, the drama!

To be clear, I think all of these are legitimate story arcs. A love affair can be a great way to raise the stakes in a novel. The characters not only have to solve their initial plot problem, but now they also want to impress their beloved. Or, the other side might threaten their beloved, and they have to protect them. Not only that, but a high percentage of readers are very drawn to romantic emotions. Having a romance arc is another way to keep them hooked on the story.

All this has made me look back over my own stories. What approach have I most often taken to the “Romance, Yes/No” question? So let’s go over a my books, in the order I wrote them.


Caution: Spoilers Ahead!

Many of my books have been out for over ten years, but I can still hope some of you may be interested enough to buy them, right? Right???

The Magister’s Mask was about a young woman who used magic to solve crimes and was trying to get established in her career. There was no romance.

Too Many Princes featured two princes on a quest, and had some political intrigue. There was a secondary romance for one of the princes, who ended up happily with his partner at the end. There also was a positive romance for one of the princes’ sisters.

In The Necromancer’s Bones, sequel to The Magister’s Mask, the young woman fell in love with a man who was socially out of reach, and was tormented by it. But he shared her feelings, and in the end they were talking about marriage.

Masters of Air and Fire was a book for middle readers, about a group of young dragons who all were siblings. No romance there!

In The Seven Exalted Orders, a couple of rebellious young wizards hooked up while on the run. They spent the rest of the book deciding whether they had a future together. I’d call that one a troubled romance.

The Grimhold Wolf was about a woman running away from her evil lover, who took their child and turned her into a wolf. The other POV character was a werewolf-hunting priest. No romance.

Their Weight of Their Souls was a swords and sorcery novella with a diverse group battling the darkness. In the end, there was a possible romance between two of the group.

In the world of The Gellboar, men were forbidden to do magic. The main character was a man who disguised himself as a woman to so he could get around that. No romance.

Now coming to the Skaythe novellas. The Tower in the Mist: it was hinted that there could have been a romance, but then one of them died. Dancer in the Grove of Ghosts: the two characters were heading toward a romance at the end. The Ice Witch of Fang Marsh: flirtation heading toward romance, but then one of the lovers betrayed the other one. Ouch! The Renegade of Opshar: a partnership, but no romance. Prisoners of the Wailing Tower (which will be out this fall): a young woman has a huge crush on a man who doesn’t think of her that way, but by the end he is starting to see her merits. So, potential for a romance.

End Spoilers

I’m not a Romance writer as such, but I guess I started out fairly traditional. If there was a romance as a secondary plot, it ended with a happy relationship. As time has gone on, I’m evenly split between no romance, troubled romance, and potential romance.

It isn’t that I’m against romances. As I said above, they can be a useful part of the story. In general, my stories have become more complex thematically. I supposed that I treat romances the same way. People’s emotions are complicated, and there aren’t always happy endings.



Have you read one of my books? Then it would be great for you to leave a review! Meanwhile, if you’d like to learn more about me and my work, check out my websiteFacebook, Instagram and/or Twitter.

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On my vacation this year, I pulled a few old paperbacks off the shelves to take along. It was sort of eye-opening to read stories from 80 years ago and see how they did it in the beginning of modern SF. The two books I’ve finished so far are Jirel of Joiry by C. L. Moore (1930s) and The Book of Ptath by A. E. VanVogt (1947). What’s the deal with the initials, you might wonder. I know Catherine Moore may have needed to conceal being a woman if she wanted to be taken seriously. Maybe VanVogt just thought the initials looked more classy.

Characters. By current standards, the characters are really sparse. Good or Evil are practically branded on their foreheads. They have just one or two defining traits. Jirel has red hair and incredible pride. Ptath, a reincarnated god, has an overwhelming self-esteem and I couldn’t really tell you what he looked like. Also, everyone is gorgeous.

Landscapes. The authors made a lot more effort at creating fantastic landscapes and creatures. Maybe they were still closer to the age of discovery in the 1920s and the readers valued that.

Magic. There is generally a sense that mages are evil, or at least sketchy. They seek power by meddling with forces beyond their ken. Also, the magic often overlaps what you could think of as mental powers. There’s a lot of astral projection and dimensional travel rather than fireballs and such. In Ptath, they take over people’s bodies a lot.

Endings. As with the characters, the endings are very chopped off. They solve the story problem and two sentences later the story is over. Modern endings seem to have a lot more reflection on how things have changed during the story, or in the case of a series, they think about what problems are left in the series.

Problematic material. There’s a lot of fat shaming in the VanVogt. Interestingly, the evil woman was still gorgeous. It was the merchants and politicians who were grotesquely fat. I also thought it was questionable how they possessed people without asking. In the Moore, there was sexual assault all over the place. No matter how fierce and strong Jirel was, men kept grabbing her and kissing her. I wondered if this was something Moore herself experienced, or if the social mores of the 30s required an independent woman to have some sort of cautionary experience.

Those are a few of my observations. What have you been reading lately?



Have you read one of my books? Then it would be great for you to leave a review! Meanwhile, if you’d like to learn more about me and my work, check out my websiteFacebook, Instagram and/or Twitter.

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Everyone please welcome Astrid Brandon and her character Thurid Sevriens, from the fantasy/mystery series, Mysteries of the Astral. This is an own-voices tale for young adults.

Character Questions

Are you an insider or an outsider in your homeland? I’d say outsider. Being autistic in America, I feel so… unwanted sometimes, y’know? And now that I have these weird powers, great! I’m even more of an outsider.

Who is your closest friend? Before I met Avery, Murtagh was my best friend. Still is. I have multiple besties. Them, Erzulie, and now Avery. Don’t make me choose!

Author Questions

Is there something you wish you had done differently with your craft? I wish I had gone through my manuscript at least one more time before I published it. It’s good, but after months have passed, I wish I had sat down with it one more time.

Why do you write? I write because I look at myself now as a 22-year-old with different neurodivergencies and queer labels and I say, “I wish I had representation growing up.” I didn’t know much about the aro/ace communities, or non-binary communities, or autistic and ADHD communities until I was almost an adult. And there are so many people who feel the same way. I want late middle-schoolers to high-schoolers to read my book and go, “That’s me! I don’t feel that way either.” Or, “I do that thing too!”


Investigation in Nottingham

Autistic Thurid Sevriens has trouble comprehending her grandmother’s aversion to her fascination with Avery Norcova, a deceased actor whose kindness and talent while alive made him loved by millions, to point of his spirit living on long past his physical death. After Thurid gets in another fight with her grandmother, Avery’s spirit has had enough.

Taking Thurid under his wing in the astral plane, Avery takes her to medieval Nottingham, England, a place they could avoid the stresses of day to day life, far from the abuses of reality. But after the town sheriff’s mother is found dead, Thurid realizes that there might be more dangers than originally thought.

As if the dangers of the Astral Plane weren’t enough, the waking world holds its own perils. Far more dangerous than a non-supportive grandmother that hounds Thurid daily life, are magical powers and those who want to abuse them. With magical powers of her own beginning to emerge and danger around every corner, doubt begins to grow in her mind of who she truly, is both in body and in soul.

To purchase

Astrid R. Brandon was born in southeastern Virginia (1999–present). They grew up in Chesapeake and are currently working on getting a bachelor’s degree in Asian Studies with a minor in Japanese. Currently they live with their parents and their two cats. They hope to one day be a translator for the government and to help rescue cats and kittens. As a writer and someone who is actually autistic, they hope to be able to share their experiences and enlighten the world about what autism actually is.



Have you read one of my books? Then it would be great for you to leave a review! Meanwhile, if you’d like to learn more about me and my work, check out my websiteFacebook, Instagram and/or Twitter.

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