Go West, Steampunks!

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Xchyler Publishing’s first collection of Steampunked classics mined inspiration from the literary treasures of Europe. Now another lineup of authorial talent is back for book two, this time looking across the Atlantic to find their muse.

Mechanized Masterpieces 2: An American Anthology” launches this weekend, and its blog tour is in full swing. Welcome to my stop, featuring both my review of the anthology and a fun Q&A with one of its authors, M. Irish Gardner!

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Meet an MMAA Author!

M. Irish Gardner

A day-dreamer at heart, M. Irish Gardner has dabbled in imaginary worlds from Day One and developed an incurable addiction when she finally began recording her ideas. Her bachelor’s degree in recreation management does nothing for her writing, but she sure knows how to play. She lives in Arizona with her husband, two daughters, and all the characters in her head. Gardner’s first published work, “Reformation,” appeared in A Dash of Madness: A Thriller Anthology.

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Share how you came up with the concept for your story? 

This is actually the first time I’ve started a story without a full concept in mind. I found Emily Dickinson’s poem, “A Charm Invests a Face”, and decided to create a story around that. Cyborgs are popular in steampunk. And everyone loves a good gypsy character, so I rolled with it.

Any other published works? 

My only other work is “Reformation” in A Dash of Madness, released June 2013.

What is your preferred writing genre?

I have found that every story I write must have some element of romance in it!

And preferred reading genre?

I love stories that incorporate romance, adventure, suspense, and fantasy, all in one neat little (or big) bundle!

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What are your top 3 favorite books?

The Count of Monte Cristo, Pride and Prejudice, Harry Potter series

Do you have any particular writing habits?

I like to use alliteration, if that’s what you mean. I also tend to mix up idioms…

Do you have a playlist that you created while writing your story?

Nope. I’ve learned that my words sound much better than they actually are when music is playing. I have to work in silence so I really “hear” the words.

Panster or plotter?

Short stories – pantser. Full-novels – plotter.

Advice for writers?

Read, then practice. Read, then practice. And don’t give up.

What’s up next for you?

I have a non-fiction piece I’m just wrapping up. It’s about a woman who became very ill while pregnant with her second child and spent three months in the hospital. When she left, she was a triple amputee and blind. She’s been wanting to write her story for six long years, so I was really happy that she asked me to help her. I’m hoping her book will be released in 2015, but we still haven’t finalized a publisher.

Who would you cast for your main characters and why?

Romain Duris

I actually don’t have a solid image in my head for my heroine, but my hero is totally Romain Duris. I was searching online for “French actors” to get an idea of what my character would look like, and as soon as I saw him, I said, “YEP! That’s him!” :D I’ve attached the picture I used for inspiration while writing. I think it would inspire anyone…

Author Favorite Things:

– Quote = “Falling flat on your face is still moving forward.”

– TV show = Oh, too hard to choose! I love The Musketeers, Firefly, Vikings, Alaska: The Last Frontier, Chuck, Dexter, Lost, Sherlock, Downton Abbey, New Girl, and many more. Maybe I should watch less and write more!

– Comic book character = I’ve always had a thing for Batman.

– Movie = The Last of the Mohicans

– Candy bar = Three Musketeers

– Junk food = I’m a total sucker for Starbucks hot chocolate and their slow roasted ham and Swiss!

– Place you visited = I was blown away by the Washington coast last summer, but I think Havasu Falls, AZ still beats them all!

– Restaurant = I love good comfort food, so I have many Italian, Mexican, and American favorite places to eat. I had fantastic Indian food last spring in California, though!

– Island = No man is a…?

Thanks, Ms. Gardner! And now, onto…

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I had the pleasure of reading this book well in advance of its publication – and a genuine pleasure it was. The assembled authors rose to the creative challenge of turning classic works of American prose and poetry into steam-powered stories to stand on their own.

Of course, sometimes the nostalgia of a familiar premise worked in a tale’s favor; my enthusiasm for the recent TV adaptation of the Sleepy Hollow legend and fond feelings for the cozy cast of Louisa May Alcott’s best-known work further enhanced my enjoyment of Jay Barnson’s “The Van Tassel Legacy” and Neve Talbot’s “West End”, respectively. The fact that I’m a sucker for a charming con game made D. Lee Jortner’s “Payoff for Air-Pirate Pete” and M. K. Wiseman’s “The Silver Scam” a pair of easy wins for me. And if you like your adventure accompanied by automatons with personality, “A Princess of Jasoom” by J. Aurel Guay is the perfect anthology opener.

Whether you’re a fan of Edgar Allan Poe or Emily Dickenson, the sea beasts of Herman Melville and Jules Vernes or the sled dogs of Jack London, or just a reader who likes a good book with a bit of clockwork flavor, this second volume of Mechanized Masterpieces has the makings of a classic in its own right.

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Preorder now, join the Release Party on Facebook this Saturday, and don’t forget to enter the Rafflecopter Giveaway!

Tour Schedule:

February 22 – A Princess of Jasoom by J. Aurel Guay

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February 23 – Winged Hope by Megan Oliphant

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February 23 – The Van Tassel Legacy by Jay Barnson

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February 24 – Invested Charm by M. Irish Gardner

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February 25 – Payoff for Air Pirate Pete by D. Lee Jortner

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February 26 – Rise of the House of Usher by J.R. Potter

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February 26 – The Silver Scams by M. K. Wiseman

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February 27 – Nautilus Redux by Scott E. Tarbet

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February 27 – Mr. Thornton by Scott William Taylor

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February 28 – West End by Neve Talbot

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From Sea to Surrogate Sea

Ladies and gentlemen,

fairytale fans of all ages,

it is with great pride and pleasure that I now reveal to you

the cover of the sixth installment of The Wilderhark Tales.

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The Sea’s storm brought them together, and the Sea’s rules will keep them apart, unless the mute but melodious Muirigan can find another to take her place, freeing her to pursue the human man she loves. But when her plan collides with the schemes of the sly South Wind, a princess’s agenda to look for love in all the most fantastic places, and a prince whose head and heart have been long years at war, the result is a tragedy of errors from which the world might never recover.

The Surrogate Sea (Book Six of The Wilderhark Tales)coming Tuesday, March 24, 2015!

(Now on Goodreads, for your “want to read” shelf-building pleasure.)

My dear readers, I almost wept when first my eyes beheld the cover artwork for this book. Yana Naumova has outdone herself, and is even now hard at work on the art for the remainder of the series. My darling novellas wouldn’t the same without her. I am all gratitude.

As stated, “The Surrogate Sea” releases on March 24, kick-off day for the now-traditional Launch Week celebration. Several good buddies have already signed on for the blog tour (Tuesday 24 – Monday 30), but there’s always room for more! So if anyone reading this wants in, give me a poke in the comments or via my contact page, and I’ll get the materials to you in good order. The same goes for anyone game for an advance read ‘n’ review of the book; hit me up!

And This Week Only…

..In honor of the upcoming release of Book 6, you can get the Kindle e-book of Book One for just 99 cents!

That’s right – “The Swan Prince” Kindle e-book can be yours (or your friends’, or their friends’…!) at a delightfully discounted $0.99. Because while Book Six can absolutely be enjoyed on its own, the series is best experienced from start to end. ^_^

Which of the Wilderhark Tales covers have been your favorites so far? ^^ Sound off below!

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Real World Problems (Will Scarlet’s Kiss & Tell)

“From the stage that brought you Will & Allyn’s Interactive Theatre,” Allyn-a-Dale proclaims before the curtain, “here’s Ever On Word’s original talk show, Will Scarlet’s Kiss & Tell.”

Danielle whipped up a logo for me, because she is awesome first class.

The curtain rises, the studio audience applauds, and Will Scarlet himself walks smiling and waving onto the bright, cozy set.

“Hullo, everyone! Let’s jump right into it, shall we?” Leading by example, he hops into his armchair. “Allyn, who is our guest character today?”

As the guest enters from the other side of the stage, Allyn says, “Our guest’s roommate describes him thus:

Singer… well, he’s been through a lot, over the last year or so, and it’s left him with a lot of emotional damage. The sweet, openhearted little boy he used to be isn’t as easily seen, anymore. …if he’s still somewhere in there at all. I’ve got to hope he is.

“Welcome, Singer!” Will greets the young man now seated in the chair across from his own. “So glad you could join me. First things first – how in the world are you so freaking pretty??”

Singer’s chin tips to a scornful angle. “It’s nothing to do with your world at all – not your proper world, though perhaps a bit like this in-between place where you host your show. People in the Abréal can look any way they wish at any given time, so appearance doesn’t count for much.”

“No, I’d imagine not.”

“That’s just it: Imagination. The Abréal is essentially ruled by it. People in the Réalis – the real world, you know – like to say such things as, ‘If you can dream it, you can do it,’ but for them, it’s not true. For us, it is. …or ‘was’, for me and Row.” Singer’s full lips turn down into a petulant frown. “Now we’re stuck in the real world with the rest of the ineffective dreamers.”

“About you and Row,” says Will. “I’m told the two of you are something called a ‘kindred pair’. What is that, exactly? Like a couple, or…?”

“A romantic couple?” Singer scoffs. “Nothing of the kind. It’s more of a spirit-level symbiosis. We need each other. Supposedly.” He scowls, gaze slanting away beneath his long lashes. “I don’t suppose there’s much good either of us can do the other, now.”

“No?” says Will, his manner all of concern and of listening. “Why not?”

The colors in Singer’s face abruptly shift – already fair skin gone whiter, save for the angry red high in his cheeks, eyes snapping bright. “What is this, a talk show or a therapy session? Never mind why. Ask something else.”

Will waves a hand of resignation. “Fine. How’s merry old England? It’s literal ages since I’ve been.”

“Well, I haven’t made it all the way out to Nottinghamshire, but London’s not so entirely dreadful, just… inflexible. You wouldn’t believe the trouble it is just to make breakfast! Got to actually walk into the kitchen, physically pull out the food which you’ll need to have gone out and bought, and take time to fix it into something edible, only to realize you can’t conjure any tableware out of the air!”

“Bloody hell,” Will observes.

“It is, too. But Row insists we’ll manage. And really, we haven’t any other choice.”

“There is one choice left before you: The infamous final question! Will you tell our mutual author’s biggest, deepest, darkest, most mortifying and/or hilarious secret?” He smiles winsomely. “Or would you rather kiss me?”

For the first time, something smile-like lurks behind Singer’s eyes and mouth. “I don’t think Danielle would be terribly mortified were I to share the secret behind my story.” Definitely smiling now, he looks slyly beyond the host. “But Allyn might be.”

The dismay in Allyn’s off-camera voice is evident. “You’re going to tell everyone that?”

“It’s that or kiss Will,” Singer says flippantly. “And one or the other of us might enjoy that too much. I’d rather drop this little fact: I, Heartsinger of the Abréal, am essentially an alternate reality version of Allyn-a-Dale.”

“Several layers of reality removed,” Allyn is quick to emphasize.

“Yes, I know.” Singer slumps deeper into his chair. “You’re the likeable one.”

Will leans across to pat Singer’s hand. “Likeable characters are overrated. Say, Original Allyn – how ‘bout a quick word from our sponsor?”

“Today’s Kiss & Tell segment,” says Allyn, happy for the subject change, “was brought to you by Danielle E. Shipley’s ‘Reality As We Know It’, a short story included in the ‘Toll of Another Bell’ fantasy anthology (officially launching tomorrow, available for preorder now, online Release Party tomorrow at 6pm Central).

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In a realm of infinite possibility, impossibility, and immortality, a broken boy begs to die.

Devoted childhood companion to the shattered Singer, Row will do anything to resurrect his friend’s will to live, including join him in exile in real-world London, where if the grueling battle against unemployment doesn’t kill you, the dodgy neighbor in the upstairs flat just might.

But as Singer’s grief festers and eviction looms, even irrepressible Row begins to doubt whether single-minded determination is enough to make ends – and two hurting hearts – meet.

“Thank you, Allyn,” says Will. “Thanks to you as well, Singer. And thank you, my beautiful audience. Remember, authors – if your characters would like to appear on the show, simply follow the guidelines provided in this post, and we’ll get them on the schedule. ‘Til next time, lovelies: Scarlet out!”

[Re-]Release the Werewolves!

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Heya, Ever On Wordians. Throwing out an extra post, this week, on behalf of fellow author friend J.A. Belfield and her Holloway Pack prequel novella!

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Werewolf Sean Holloway treats the village marketplace like a sexual buffet, though his charm does little to win over his latest entrée of choice. Whether because of Jem Stonehouse’s unique scent, her headstrong nonchalance, or the fact he is forbidden to see her by his pack’s rules, Sean wants her.

When Jem is nothing but flippant toward his advances, he pursues her with vigour, stealing moments alone with her without a libido-driven agenda.

The new and heady experience for him drives their relationship beyond romantic interest, and straight toward love.

That is, until Jem learns the truth about Sean’s heritage. Knowledge of the existence of werewolves leads to only one outcome: death.

In this prequel to Darkness & Light*, we are taken back in time, to the very beginning of Jem and Sean’s love-across-the-centuries relationship.

Did it end there? Or did Sean defy his own pack to save the woman he loves?

*Can be read as a standalone.

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Whoa! I only just now realized what’s going on with that guy’s shadow on the cover. Coolness!

To celebrate its re-release, “Instinct” is FREE for a limited time – from release day on Friday, January 23rd until Sunday, February 1st. So if some werewolf romance sounds good to you, grab yourself a copy, lickity-split!

Amazon UK | Amazon US | B&N | Kobo Smashwords

Goodreads

And don’t forget to leave a review for a chance to enter in J.A. Belfield’s giveaway, in which you could win a $10 Amazon gift card and an e-copy of “Eternal”, the sequel novella to “Instinct”.

A Book’s First Breath

If you’ve read my latest Wilderhark Tale (or snuck a preview of the next installment in the series), you know I love me some fantastic elementals. For that reason, the opening story in upcoming fantasy anthology “The Toll of Another Bell” struck a particular chord with me.

For my stop on the “Toll” blog tour, I have the pleasure of presenting an interview with that story’s creator. Give it up, readers all, for Jodi L. Milner, author of “Breath”!

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Me: Regale us with the tale of your decision to submit to Xchyler Pub’s fantasy anthology. Did you have the idea for “Breath” in mind beforehand, or did you craft it especially for the contest’s theme: “Out of This World… True Story”?

Jodi: “Breath” was one of those stories that flowed out of the ether back in 2013. I had to write it down but then didn’t know what to do with it. When I saw Xchyler’s call for entries for their fantasy line I felt it was worth a try, and I’m super glad I did. Being part of the X team has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my writing career.

Me: Which of your story’s characters is your favorite? …shows up most clearly in your head? …was easiest/most difficult to write?

Jodi: Wow, this is tricky. Each of my characters represents one of the world’s creative elements, earth, wind, water, fire, and life. If forced to pick, I’d say my favorite of the bunch is Terran, the earth guardian. He’s the strong silent type, and I find those very appealing. The most fun to write were the twins, Ventus and Aquata, the air and water guardians. Fauna, the main character was the hardest to write because I felt enormous pressure to make her emotional responses feel authentic.

Me: Your own contribution aside, which of the stories from “The Toll of Another Bell” did you most enjoy reading?

Jodi: Again, that’s tough. Each story is so very different that it would be unfair to select a favorite. In this anthology you can find everything from whimsy to horror, and so many different facets in between. The writing is excellent (if I’m allowed to judge) and reading through its pages is a journey that will not soon be forgotten.

Me: Is “Breath” your debut published work?

Jodi: Yes, “Breath” is my first baby to grow wings and take flight and it has been so thrilling that I can’t wait to publish again.

Me: Whilst creeping on one of your blogs, I saw you’ve got a trilogy planned – the Stonebearer Series. What can you tell us about that? ^^

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Jodi: I think most authors have that one project in the background that they always keep working at with hopes that one day their talent will grow to match the ambition and scope required to do it justice. The Stonebearer Series is mine.  It is my first serious attempt at writing an epic fantasy novel series and hopefully one day I’ll feel it’s ready to be published as well.  The story itself is wrapped around a world where a secret society of immortal magic users is challenged by a demon who threatens to push it into extinction.

Author Bio:

Jodi Milner lives among the most epic vistas of the Rocky Mountains in Utah and uses them for inspiration when writing fantasy. When not shepherding her children, she dreams of magic and getting a good night’s sleep. She’s published fiction and poetry in the online literary magazine Soft Whispers.

Website | Blog | Facebook Twitter Google + | Goodreads |LinkedIn Pinterest

Jodi L. Milner, one talent of many (including yours truly) featured in “The Toll of Another Bell”!

For my thoughts on the full anthology, click the pic!

^ For my thoughts on the full anthology, click the pic! ^

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The book is currently up for preorder! There’s a tour-wide giveaway happening here and now, and the anthology’s Release Party is this Saturday; I hope to see you all there for the fun and games!

“Never Never” Say Never!

As stated at the beginning of the year, my general intention for this blog’s schedule is to post only twice a week. But of course, my general motto for my 26th year of life is “I do what I want”, meaning I’m wide open to spontaneity. So when I came across a call for bloggers interested in joining a cover reveal for an upcoming Peter Pan retelling, I figured why not offer to join in? I’m as fascinated by Pan as the next child averse to growing up!

All that to say, you’ve got an extra blog post coming to you today, Ever On Wordians! And here’s the main event:

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James Hook is a child who only wants to grow up.

When he meets Peter Pan, a boy who loves to pretend and is intent on never becoming a man, James decides he could try being a child—at least briefly. James joins Peter Pan on a holiday to Neverland, a place of adventure created by children’s dreams, but Neverland is not for the faint of heart. Soon James finds himself longing for home, determined that he is destined to be a man. But Peter refuses to take him back, leaving James trapped in a world just beyond the one he loves. A world where children are to never grow up.

But grow up he does.

And thus begins the epic adventure of a Lost Boy and a Pirate.

This story isn’t about Peter Pan; it’s about the boy whose life he stole. It’s about a man in a world that hates men. It’s about the feared Captain James Hook and his passionate quest to kill the Pan, an impossible feat in a magical land where everyone loves Peter Pan.

Except one.

Title: Never Never
Author: Brianna Shrum
Release Date: September 2015
Publisher: Spencer Hill Press

Feeling Hooked*? Add “Never Never” on Goodreads!

*(Hey, I made it all the way through my “Toll of Another Bell” review post without a single bell pun. I think I’ve earned the use of one lame joke.)

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And now, a bit about the author that I’ve “never never” met, but wish all the best with her coming novel. ^_^

Author Bio:

Brianna Shrum lives in Colorado with her high-school-sweetheart-turned-husband, two boys, and two big, floppy hound dogs. She thinks chai tea is proof of magic in the world, and loves all things kissy, magical, and strange. She’d totally love to connect with you. You can find her saying ridiculous things on Twitter @briannashrum

What say you, readers? Think this looks like a book you’d enjoy? ^^

A Review Miraculously Free of Bell Puns

Be proud of me. I thought of two such puns without hardly trying. But seriously, folks…

The Book: “The Toll of Another Bell”, edited by McKenna Gardner.

Genre: Fantasy short story anthology.

Blurb: A collection of out-of-this-world short stories that ring true in mortal hearts.

The Toll of Another Bell

“Breath” by Jodi L. Milner: The Guardian of Souls realizes her life is incomplete and sacrifices everything to find what’s missing.

“Awareness” by Timothy Vincent: To achieve the status of Magi, Jyn must pass his father’s ultimate test.

“Phoenix” by Elise Stephens: Orion loses his wife on their wedding day and uses dark magic to seek her in the afterlife.

“Life Under Research Conditions” by Thaxson Patterson II: Can a bioweapon possess a soul and make choices to save humanity?

“The Year of No Foals” by Scott E. Tarbet: A miraculous colt and a mysterious old man bring healing to a family ripped apart by tragedy.

“Naoki No Yokai” by F.M. Longo: Yokai have overrun a local village, and it’s up to Saga Naoki to discover the reason why.

“Jilted River” by Ginger Mann: An Appalachian fairy tale attracts visitors to a state park, but then they start to disappear.

“Tower Gods” by J.R. Potter: A thirteen-year-old boy with an oxygen mask befits the role of hero in Watcher Benson’s eyes.

“Reality As We Know It” by Danielle E. Shipley: Where otherworldly magic fails, is Row’s friendship enough to mend Singer’s grieving heart?

“60 Seconds to Midnight” by TC Phillips: Fleeing an ancient evil, a young woman from amongst the stars finds unlikely refuge on Earth.

My Thoughts: As one would hope of a fantasy-themed collection, “Toll” displays a vast diversity of imagination. But more than only stories to tickle your flights of fancy, these are, on the whole, stories to make you feel. Stories where the pain of what’s lost is but one turn away from the finding of something more.

Some highlights for me as a reader included Jodi L. Milner’s elemental myth “Breath”; the humor winking from F.M. Longo’s tale of spies and samurai, “Naoki no Yokai”; and “Phoenix”, Elise Stephens’ modern retelling of the Orpheus/Eurydice tragedy, the prose holding my heart like a melancholy song. There’s more powerful music to be discovered when a family goes up against a siren in Ginger Mann’s “Jilted River”, and a meticulous balance of fatal magic awaits in Timothy Vincent’s “Awareness”. Readers whose tastes lean in a more Sci-Fi direction may find particular enjoyment in Thaxson Patterson II’s out-of-this-world creations in “Life Under Research Conditions”, or young Kip’s larger-than-life summer adventure in J.R. Potter’s “Tower Gods”.

If I had to choose a favorite story from the collection (excluding the title attached to my own name, of course), I think that honor would go to “The Year of No Foals” by Scott E. Tarbet, a homey, futuristic yarn that reads like it could have happened yesterday or a generation ago. The blend of ordinary and extraordinary is magic and left me smiling. And I strongly advise that all comers stick around for the book’s world-hopping, mind-bending, heart-pounding adventure of a finale, “60 Seconds to Midnight” … though maybe not right before bedtime, lest TC Phillips’ horrific Daimons hunt you down in your dreams.

HSYRT? (Hey, Should You Read This?): Xchyler Publishing delivers another worthy anthology in “The Toll of Another Bell”. Yeah, you should read it! Preorder the Kindle e-book now, and it will deliver to you just as soon as it launches. January 31st, y’all! – same day as the online Release Party. Be there and play for free stuff! Anyone who had a chance to make it out for the Xchyler release party for “Legends and Lore: An Anthology of Mythic Proportions”* knows it’ll be a good time. (:

*Speaking of “Legends and Lore”: Read it? Loved it (or didn’t)? Don’t let Amazon’s customers miss out on your thoughts – share them in a review! All its authors will thank you. ^_^