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GRL and Facebook

October 24, 2014

canstockphoto16576385 Last week I took time out to attend GRL – GayRomLit 2014. This now-annual retreat for readers and authors of M/M romance has become a highlight for me. The best part is the chance to spend a few days immersed in a large group of people with a shared love for the genre I write and read most. This year it was in Chicago – close enough for me to drive, past scenery like this. Sharing the 7 hour drive with author Jessa Ryan made the miles go quickly, and glorious fall colors were the icing on the cake.

The retreat this year was held at the Indian Lakes Resort in Bloomingdale, IL.
This was a lovely hotel and quirky, built primarily out of hexagons. The rooms were hexagons, with two walls of windows, and slightly domed ceilings set with a stained glass hexagon boss at the peak. The corridors twisted and turned between them, in short angled segments. In fact… some of you may remember that I said last year we needed more corners for shy people to hide in at a conference like this? Well, I think I was taken too literally, because there were hundreds of corners. Not to mention a whole atrium of potted plants to hide behind. Perfect for lurking introverts.

This year the internet worked (yay!) and the whole thing went amazingly smoothly. Almost the only complaint I heard was that going from the rooms to the convention area was a quarter-mile walk. But it kept us all fit, walking off some of the good food we were served.

I brought a variety of swag this year – post-it notes with the cover from The Family We Make, candy and my reading ducks (back by popular demand.) ducks4CroppedThe ducks were gone fast. Author swag seems to get more interesting every year. Pens with a stylus tip for touch screen use were popular. I came home with a bunch of fun/silly/useful stuff. (I was collecting it for a friend who couldn’t come. Really!)

The thing I love most about going to GRL is the feeling that the whole place is full of family. The first time I left my room, I met Amy Lane getting onto the elevator, and she recognized me even without a badge. A majority of people wore purple on Thursday for Spirit Day (to bring attention to bullying in schools, particularly of LGBT kids.) Two guys can kiss in the hallways, and everyone passing by will smile happily. It’s a warm, inclusive feeling.

I had a Question and Answer session Friday, shared with L.C. Chase and the two authors who make up Kindle Alexander. For a nine a.m. event the morning after a party, it was very well attended and there were some excellent questions. The Kindles showed us pictures of the hot guys they use as story inspiration, and L.C. talked about getting her start in cover illustration by winning a Josh Lanyon cover contest.

The most fun I had was at the Cockwalk, a raffle of cock-themed arts and crafts, benefiting a local youth center. The event MC, author Edmond Manning, kept the audience laughing so hard we almost couldn’t get the raffle part accomplished. A group of good-natured (and hot) guys dressed as the Village People helped out with drawing tickets and bothering Edmond in all the best ways. (Well, the best that were legal in public anyway.) The youth center got a great donation, and we all left with cock-shaped candy, and book-ends, and artwork, and bottle openers, and wine, and more. Hard to picture it? Check out the pictures on Heather K’s blog post.

I met so many wonderful people, some familiar, some for the first time, including author Julie Bozza who PMed me that she was there. I was delighted to spend a couple of hours talking to her about writing and life. And I could go on for hours about the other good parts of GRL, and all the people who make it special. But that’s probably enough.

Next year will be in San Diego. I hope to see many of you there.

Oh yeah, I mentioned Facebook in the title of this post. Well, one of the things I asked the audience at my Q&A was whether they liked having authors available on Facebook. The yes vote was pretty overwhelming. So this weekend I’m going to try to get a Facebook page up. Wish me luck. Tell me what you like seeing on an author’s page. All tips are welcome. When it’s done I’ll post a link here. And I look forward to seeing you there and checking out what Facebook is all about.

Coming Out, Equal Marriage, Life and Fiction

October 12, 2014

This weekend I’ve been preparing to attend the Gay Rom Lit retreat at the end of next week. This now-annual event brings together writers and readers of gay romance to talk about and celebrate the stories and the genre. We have discussions, parties, book readings and more. I’ll have an Author’s Lounge event on Thursday at noon, and a Question and Answer session on Friday at 9 AM. I’m looking forward to all the events (mostly, with a little nerves added.)

This week is also one in which we support and celebrate being out and LGBTQ, with Coming Out Day yesterday, Oct 11. Then on Thursday Oct 16th, it will be Spirit Day. On that day, we wear purple to bring attention to the bullying of LGBTQ youth, and express support for everyone who stands up for the right to be yourself in every setting including our schools and in sports.

I’m hoping the first day of GRL will be awash in purple, in support of Spirit Day.

In addition, there have been significant events on the gay marriage front in the US. Those court rulings, and temporary stays, and lifted stays, have produced both new freedom to marry for many couples, and a nasty backlash of rhetoric from those who want their personal views to be the only option for their state and nation. We’re seeing both progress and reaction.

As I pack the swag I’m bringing, that says “Real men, real life, real love” and “Love is Love”, the timing of GRL together with these events makes me think about how the stories we write and the community of M/M romance readers and writers fit into the larger world.

I think this genre is unique in combing pure entertainment and escapist fun with a strong sense of moral purpose. The readers of gay romance are a growing advocacy for LGBTQ equality. I hear from first-time readers who are surprised to find how much they empathize with the story of two men falling in love. I’ve had reviews, particularly for “Into Deep Waters”, that say “Now I believe that everyone should have the right to marry the person they love.” We are changing minds with our fiction.

And I love hearing readers discuss how they feel the need to speak up more with each story they read. How loving Ty with Zane, or Whyborne with Griffin, or Tony with Mac, makes it harder to just stand by in the face of injustice. Our community of writers and readers volunteers, contributes and advocates. Slowly, gradually, as we gain comfort in the world of our stories, we put up bumper stickers and wear rainbows, and purple. We write to politicians, sign petitions, donate books to LGBT teen libraries. And we teach our kids. Whether they are going to grow up to discover themselves LGBTQ or straight, we talk to them about acceptance. We tell them that love is love.

One of the great things about going to GRL is that it is a world of acceptance. Suddenly, one location is filled with 400 people who will smile when two guys kiss. People are open and eager to embrace the rainbow. It’s not perfect, but it’s damned sweet to be a part of.

And every year, I think, “This is what we’re working for. The day when the world is like this, when you can say, ‘He and his boyfriend are getting married next month’ and know that everyone who overhears thinks that’s something to celebrate. Even when you’re not at GRL.” Will it happen soon? No. But we’re making progress, year by year, and it’s wonderful to know that the fiction I love has a small role to play in helping that to happen.

Now I have to go pick a purple shirt to wear on Thursday…

Win books and more

October 5, 2014

old papers It’s been a busy week with two releases.

Since I had the new novella Nelson & Caleb come out on Friday, I didn’t post a link to my guest blog on Prism Book Alliance the same day. I want to do that now:
at Prism Book Alliance I wrote about why I love to read (and write) historical M/M romance. Being asked to do a story for Another Place In Time has been a wonderful experience. I’m very happy with the comments on Unfair in Love and War so far.
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And I wanted to remind readers that there was a blog tour for this anthology, with “Why I love Historical Romance” posts by each of the story authors, and a drawing for over $50 worth of prizes.

You can find all of those posts now active, and the chance to win:

* Monday, September 29 – Sinfully Sexy (Guest Post – Aleksandr Voinov)
Rainbow Gold Reviews (Spotlight)
* Tuesday, September 30 – Elisa Reviews (Guest Post – Jordan L. Hawk)
Cup O’Porn (Spotlight)
* Wednesday, October 1 – Boys in our Books (Guest Post – KJ Charles)
The Blogger Girls (Spotlight)
Book Pushers (Spotlight)
* Thursday, October 2 – Love Bytes (Guest Post – Tamara Allen)
Attention is Arbitrary (Spotlight)
* Friday, October 3 – Prism Book Alliance (Guest Post – Kaje Harper)
Boy Meets Boy Reviews (Spotlight)
* Saturday, October 4 – Joyfully Jay (Guest Post – Joanna Chambers)
MM Good Book Reviews (Spotlight)

GIVEAWAY:

There is a giveaway that will be available throughout all blog tour stops.

A backlist ebook from ALL of the authors participating in the anthology (one each from Tamara Allen, Joanna Chambers, KJ Charles, Kaje Harper, Jordan L. Hawk, Aleksandr Voinov, and Alex Beecroft),
A $25 Amazon giftcard
A $50 donation in the winner’s name to AllOut.org (all proceeds from the sale of this anthology will also be donated to this charity)

AnotherPlaceinTimefinal The anthology is available at Smashwords, Amazon, All Romance eBooks and soon at other booksellers.

Nelson & Caleb released

October 3, 2014

NelsonCaleb
Time passed. The storm outside seemed to come in waves, lulling almost to a gentle rain, and then cresting again in a fury of wind and driven water…

One storm. Twelve men. The Storming Love series from MLR Press is a set of six novellas, loosely connected by Hurricane Lauris. In these books you’ll meet men dealing with the storm preparations, the violent, frightening and destructive impact, and the sometimes-heartbreaking aftermath of the hurricane. Each book stands alone. Each couple meets the challenges in their own way.

In my contribution, Nelson & Caleb, Nelson Dunn has a settled routine – an evening security-guard job, days off for his therapy dogs, occasional club sex, and good books. He sometimes dreams about more, but he’s made himself content. So when Hurricane Lauris strands Caleb Robertson at his house, Nelson has mixed feelings about having an attractive guy in his space. Especially when nothing more can possibly happen.

Caleb had gone to the hospital to get the cast off his broken foot. Instead, he finds himself waiting out the storm with Nelson, his three dogs, and a very wet cat. It’s less of a hardship than he’d have expected.

The novella is now available from MLR Press, Amazon, All Romance ebooks and soon at other retailers.
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excerpt:

Nelson reached over and snapped on the radio, tuning it to the traffic station. They rolled on through the steadily deepening gloom. The rain hit the roof like pebbles, and ran in sheets down the windows. Wind buffeted the high-riding SUV, first from one side and then another. They passed front yards already shiny with standing water and puddles that had hopes of becoming lakes. He drove around one and through another, the water arcing away from his wheels in a high fan. Another branch blew by, and he had to run over it. He winced at the crunch, grateful for the SUV’s high clearance.

“Take a right on County Road Seven,” Robertson said. “Unless you think we should stop trying to get to my place. You still have to get home afterward.” His voice sounded tight with stress.

“Don’t worry about me, sir.”

“Hey, you don’t need to call me sir. Caleb is fine.”

He hesitated a minute. His badge at work just said, “Dunn”, but there was no reason to keep a distance right now. “Nelson.”

“Good to know. Thanks for the ride, Nelson.”

The radio crackled, with reports of a power line down to the south of town. Another warning telling residents to take shelter and only drive if necessary was repeated. He was able to ease his speed up a notch despite the warning, becoming familiar with the shift and sway as the wind found gaps in the trees lining the county road. They were getting into more rural areas now, passing clumps of scrubby woods whipping around in the slanting downpour, and fields bleak, rain soaked and empty.

A truck blasted past them the other way. The wave of spray on the windshield blinded him momentarily, and he cursed and slowed until the wipers could catch up. He’d driven in worse weather than this, back when Protect and Serve meant taking his patrol car out in any storm, but it wasn’t comforting to think this was just the leading edge.

As they crested the next little hill, he peered ahead. “Damn.” He pulled over and stopped on the shoulder.

“What?” Caleb leaned forward quickly and rubbed fog off the windshield, trying to see better. “Oh. Not good.”

Ahead of them, the road dipped down before climbing the next ridge, and at the low point a sheet of water covered the pavement. It might only be inches deep, or it might be feet.

“We can try it,” Nelson said slowly…
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The other books in this Storming Love series include
Gage and Collin by S.J. Frost
Bradley & Mike by Stephani Hecht
Bear & Travis by Parker Williams
Austin & Troy by Kendall McKenna
Doug & Neal by Diana DeRicci

Twelve men, one storm, six love stories.

Unfair in Love and War story released

October 1, 2014

Another-Place-In-Time_thumb3 Today is the release of the anthology Another Place In Time. I’m really excited. I’m betting that fans who pick this book up to read a story by one favorite author will stay to devour them all. No doubt there will be a lot of “Why haven’t I read this author before??” comments, as readers meet the amazing men who live and breathe, and love, in other times and places, between these covers.

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All profits from this anthology will be donated to AllOut.org in celebration of LGBT History Month, October 2014.

Included in this anthology:

“Office Romance” by Tamara Allen
“Introducing Mr. Winterbourne” by Joanna Chambers
“The Ruin of Gabriel Ashleigh” by KJ Charles
“Unfair in Love and War” by Kaje Harper
“Carousel” by Jordan L. Hawk
“Deliverance” by Aleksandr Voinov

Along with a foreword written by Alex Beecroft

Unfair in Love and War

My own story tells the tale of Warren, a young man who moved away from his small Wisconsin hometown to Philadelphia before the start of WW II. In the big city there were opportunities for him to really live a full life, including visiting a few lavender bars and other places where he could meet men of his own persuasion. He’s been fairly content there.

But then the war began. As his friends gradually volunteered or were drafted, his inability to join up due to the effects of childhood polio began to grate on him. Even his younger brother Charlie went into the army, and Warren was left in an unneeded homefront civilian job. And then Charlie was killed, over in France.

Now Warren has come home, to the small town he thought he’d left for good, to support his grieving mother. On the day he arrives, he finds the house next to hers vandalized. The man living there is a stranger to him – young, blond, handsome, remote, with accented English. The rougher of the local lads have decided he’s a German spy, even though Warren’s mother has seen the man’s Swiss passport. Both Warren’s sense of fair play, and his attraction, are engaged.

But in this place and time, after D-Day, as fighting and losses overseas mount, navigating hometown waters turns out to be a challenge. And Stefan is something far more complex than just the attractive boy next door.

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There will be a blog tour for this anthology, with posts by each of the story authors, and a drawing for a backlist book from each of us, and more.

You can find those posts and the chance to win:
* Monday, September 29 – Sinfully Sexy (Guest Post – Aleksandr Voinov)
Rainbow Gold Reviews (Spotlight)
* Tuesday, September 30 – Elisa Reviews (Guest Post – Jordan L. Hawk)
Cup O’Porn (Spotlight)
* Wednesday, October 1 – Boys in our Books (Guest Post – KJ Charles)
The Blogger Girls (Spotlight)
Book Pushers (Spotlight)
* Thursday, October 2 – Love Bytes (Guest Post – Tamara Allen)
Attention is Arbitrary (Spotlight)
Smoocher’s Voice (Spotlight)
* Friday, October 3 – Prism Book Alliance (Guest Post – Kaje Harper)
Boy Meets Boy Reviews (Spotlight)
* Saturday, October 4 – Joyfully Jay (Guest Post – Joanna Chambers)
MM Good Book Reviews (Spotlight)

GIVEAWAY:

There is a giveaway that will be available throughout all blog tour stops.

A backlist ebook from ALL of the authors participating in the anthology (one each from Tamara Allen, Joanna Chambers, KJ Charles, Kaje Harper, Jordan L. Hawk, Aleksandr Voinov, and Alex Beecroft),
A $25 Amazon giftcard
A $50 donation in the winner’s name to AllOut.org (all proceeds from the sale of this anthology will also be donated to this charity)

AnotherPlaceinTimefinal The anthology is available at Smashwords, Amazon, All Romance eBooks and soon at other booksellers.

Sharing covers with my heroes

September 29, 2014

Although perhaps not in the way that first comes to mind.

In just two days, the anthology Another Place In Time will be released. It contains historical short stories by the writers whom I most love to read in that genre – Aleksandr Voinov, K.J. Charles, Jordan L. Hawk, Joanna Chambers, and Tamara Allen. This is seriously my dream team of writers. When Susan, from Boys in Our Books came to me with the idea, and listed who was onboard to write stories, and then asked me if I’d contribute… I think I sprained a finger typing yes.

The jitters came later. Because really, I have one free historical story out so far. I’m the novice in this group when it comes to making the past live and breathe, and love. But it was a good reason to dive back into World War II research, which I’d had to forcibly put down to actually write Into Deep Waters. And it was a lovely excuse to write something new when I was really supposed to be editing novels.

And it meant sharing a cover with my heroes.

AnotherPlaceinTimefinal Another Place In Time is available for preorder on Amazon and Smashwords. It will appear on other retailers October 1st. All the profits from the book will go to AllOut.org in celebration of LGBT History Month, October 2014.

I can’t wait to read all the other stories in this anthology. I hope you enjoy finding my guys among the wonderful mix of characters, times and places. And if you’re not a fan of historical stories yet, I’m betting this anthology will be a great way to change your mind.

Wolves, good friends, and winners

September 20, 2014

Unjustified Claims is now available on Amazon so that should be all of the major outlets completed. Um… let the reading begin?

I told an author friend, Edmond Manning, last night, as we both obsessed a bit over our book releases, that I was really crappy at promo. I should be out there guest-blogging and Facebooking about my new book, and I’m barely here on my own space discussing it. I run out of things to say fast. I knew I’d post again to put the Amazon link up, so what else new could I write? (Other than posting the winners of the free ebook drawing below – if you entered, check for your name. I’ll be contacting the three winners shortly.)

Well Edmond was busy with his own release. (The third of his Lost and Founds series, by the way, which are exceptional. I gave the first book King Perry a glowing review before I ever knew Edmond, and I’m halfway through The Butterfly King and loving it.) But Edmond is not only a funny guy with an amazing turn for emotion and language, he’s also very sweet. So he said, “Hey, I can do an interview for you. I’ll give you questions to answer so you can post it on your blog.” He knows I do much better answering questions than self-starting. So below is his interview for me. With a few Manning touches, of course. (Thanks, Edmond.)
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“Kaje Harper is known throughout the MM world for her grounded, heartfelt romances and the authenticity she brings to real-world stories (Flattery – he likes me.). Are you prepared for her to cavort through the woods at night, snarling, drooling, and running naked? Get ready. Today she celebrates her latest triumph, the latest in the Hidden Wolves series, NAME OF BOOK HERE. (Kaje, you never mentioned the name of the book to me!)” He doesn’t actually read my werewolves, he was working off the blurbs, which is why I’m doubly grateful for the help, although not so much the naked drooling part. Unjustified Claims BTW, Edmond.

Curious readers want to know how the deviousness of her shifter mind works, so we tamed her long enough (bacon and belly rubs did the trick) to pose some questions about the nature of werewolves, the American military complex, and the Michigan pack Brandt tries to leave behind.

1. In your world-building, the pack remains homophobic and part of that is the notion that a werewolf could be “blackmailed into giving out pack secrets.” Very much a parallel to the old-school military fear of homosexuals in the armed forces. Old school homophobia. Can you talk a little more about that? Were you trying to highlight that outdated military thinking?

I wasn’t deliberately mirroring the military, or even the 1950s congressional hearings, although some similar forces are at work. My pack history reflects some of the excuses that have been made for homophobia, and some of the psychological reasons behind prejudice. There are a lot of factors that contribute to it. When I created my packs, my goal was to make it believable that they might continue to exist undetected in modern society. And with some of the choices I made about how the packs were structured, homophobia became a plausible part of it.

My wolves are somewhat longer-lived, which means that their leaders tend to be of an earlier generation than their human equivalents. They are all male, and very focused on rank and hierarchy. They are not tolerant of perceived weakness or differences, they are very paranoid, and have a strong us-versus-them attitude. Their solution to a threat is to kill it and hide the remains. They have very few offspring, and getting a mate pregnant is a cause for extreme celebration. And in real canine groups, accepting being topped by another group member is a gesture of submission, even when it doesn’t involve actual sex. All of those factors contribute to a strong and hopefully believable anti-gay bias within the pack.

2. Writing about werewolves probably has some interesting freedoms from writing a very grounded, contemporary romance. What do you like about writing stories that are paranormal?

I really enjoy writing fantasy and paranormal. Part of it is the chance to create conflicts and challenges that don’t have to be researched for realism and that can involve the MC’s emotions in new ways. (The bonds of a wolf to his pack, which in some ways parallel a mundane person’s ties to their family and their past, also add the paranormal threat of being tracked down by that family if the MC decides to leave, for example.)

The other enjoyable part is trying to make the magical world feel real. I enjoy world-building. I like to figure out how to make the characters and setting out of the realm of human experience and yet real enough to engage the reader’s emotions. Ideally, readers should feel like this fantasy world could really exist somewhere out there.

There’s fun to be had in puzzling out the logical consequences of each paranormal decision. (If shifting takes body energy, do I want them to lose weight when it happens? If a mate-bond means that mates can feel each other’s emotions, what happens when one mate dies?) Instead of hopping on the Net to do real-world research and find out an answer, I get to sit back with a drink and a cookie and invent my own.

3. Every writer wants their characters to be unique. What makes Brandt unique?

Brandt’s a guy who’s had a long, drawn out battle with his own built-in prejudices, as well as the threat of discovery by his pack. He’s not just bisexual – he could have perhaps ignored his attraction to men given the Pack consequences. But he also, early in the book, reveals that he has a lingerie kink that is most satisfying when he’s the one in the corset and heels. He’s tried to work through his fears and accept himself and what he likes, but the values he was brought up with, and the prejudices of humans as well as wolf society make it hard.

When he meets Ethan, he’s still hiding a lot of who he is. Getting kicked out of the pack didn’t let him suddenly undo all his indoctrination. Ethan is a gay man with an open mind, and as Brandt hangs around with him, he’ll slowly let down some of his walls.

4. Does this book illustrate repercussions of leaving his Michigan pack behind? Or are we finished with them?

Brandt’s pack definitely looms large in his mind, and they will show up in the book to make his life more complicated.

5. You’ve probably been asked this before. Sorry about that. But when you write, what drives you: the plot, the characters, or something else?

I’m very much about the characters, especially early in the creative process. Books first come to me in the form of one or both MCs and a setting, but I rarely know where the plot is going to go. At the same time, I do try to eventually have a real external plot happening in my stories. I want the lives of my gay MCs to happen as part of a wider story, and not as the sole focus.

6. What do you think a progressive wolf pack would look like? What old-world values would they cherish and which ones would they junk?

There are some traditions that don’t serve much purpose anymore. That includes their homophobia, their misogyny that excludes the pack wives from the decision process, their secrecy even from other packs. But until they are out to the human world safely, they need to maintain control over pack members and information. And no matter how much they come out, the bonds between pack members and their Alpha, and the military-like obedience and discipline, aren’t likely to ever change. Those are part of what being in a pack gives to the members— structure, common goals and a leader they trust. Individual wolves might be more likely to leave the packs, but those who remain will probably keep that hierarchical structure.

7. Do you see werewolves in your future work? Other paranormal leanings?

There will be at least one more book in this werewolf series. I’m also starting a mystery that I thought would be contemporary, but which has picked up a small paranormal twist. So I’m sure both paranormal and full-out fantasy will be among the things I continue to write.

8. Final question: you’re at a party. You volunteer that you wrote a book about gay werewolves. The person you’re talking with gets very, very excited. Would you rather A) she talk for the next hour about her love for gay werewolves, or B) she grills you for the next hour about the book, your relationship with werewolf stories, etc., forcing you to talk for the next hour?

That’s tough. I try not to read too many other werewolf series, to keep my world-building as personal as possible and not catch ideas. So an hour of listening to someone else talk about their concepts and favorites of other people’s wolves wouldn’t be ideal. At the same time, I’m not a big talker. But if someone asks specific questions, I’m pretty good at finding answers. So if pressed, I’ll take B. If not pressed, I’ll take a dark corner and a quiet cup of tea.

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Kaje Harper, author of Life Lessons, Into Deep Waters, and The Family We Make, is proud to introduce her latest release, zzzzzz. (Oh yeah, Unjustified Claims. ) She would like to affirm she is definitely not a werewolf. She just likes to take long walks in the forest at night when there happens to be a full moon.(Not that I’m spying on anything that might happen out there either. Really. Aaron would not be pleased, and I’m not making that Alpha mad at me.)

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And if you entered the drawing for the three free copies of Unjustified Claims I will be contacting the three winners:

Kim (GR message 5)
Jenn (GR message 18)
ArdentEreader (WordPress – comment 3)

If you don’t hear from me today, do get hold of me to claim your ebook. Thanks to everyone who commented.

Now it’s time to write again. (Yay! No editing! Did I say Yay?!)

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