#OHH My Gosh, the Day Has Come!

Our Hungering Hearts, front coverHappy Release Day to “Our Hungering Hearts: A Four-Course Short Story Collection”!

On the Menu:

“Two Spoons, the Devil’s Son” = A little girl’s soul meets its match in the family diner’s most mysterious patron…

“A Mind Prone to Wander” = An assassin princess and an incognito madman brave a monster’s mechanized fortress and the pasts that left them broken…

“Reality As We Know It” = Where otherworldly magic fails, is Row’s friendship enough to mend Singer’s grieving heart?

“Date Due” = A magic library’s guardian determines to protect her treasured books, whether their authors elect to do things the easy way … or the fatal one.

Two servings of paranormal, a taste of fantasy, and a side order of steampunk – first released in various anthologies, now served up all together in one delicious combo deal. Bon appétit!

If you haven’t already ordered your copy(ies) of the e-book edition, you can do so HERE (via Amazon, for Kindle and other mobi file readers) and HERE (via Barnes & Noble, for Nook and other epub file readers) – and/or get the paperback HERE!

Because I’m so pleased about my solo anthology’s launch into the world, I am concurrently launching four new designs in my Society6 shop – one for each of the “Hungering Hearts” short stories. Observe!

1 = #Like An Escaped Convict

Escaped Convict Triptych.png

Again, the Black Man did not smile. Nor did he frown. His thin mouth was straight, his slender brows at rest, his eyes resetting to narrow after their flare of surprise. Measured and silky, he asked, “Where are your people?”

Eyes and thumb still fixed in place, Tidbit half-turned her body toward the swinging double door to the kitchen at the dining room’s far end.

“I see,” he said, flicking a glance where she’d directed, then back down to her. “And do they allow you out here to creep upon their clientele’s tables, or are you an escaped convict?”

– from “Two Spoons, the Devil’s Son”

I don’t expect ol’ Two Spoons to shop my little e-store any time soon, but just in case, I made sure this design inspired by his story included his favorite colors: Red and (most obviously) black.

2 = #Mad Pretty #Pretty Mad

Mad Pretty Quartet

The monarchs would have had yet another catastrophe on their hands if they couldn’t both keep their promise /and/ satisfy the Lord of Wings’ demand. And there was I, an amnesiac orphan. Unclaimed. Unwanted. Unhinged, though no one seemed to notice. And most importantly, a boy pretty enough to pass for a girl.

– from “A Mind Prone to Wander”

A tastefully fractured design for the beautifully insane among you, or, whatever, for the princess looking back at you from the mirror. I don’t know your life.

3 = #Real World Problems

Real World Triptych

As do we all, he knows of the Réalis — the world alongside our own. We are that world’s dreams, they are this world’s stories. And some of us, I’m told, exist in both places at once, having been born there only to be conjured here at the judges’ whim.

We call the world real — not because it is any /truer/ than ours, for it’s not, but because it is fixed, its base rules inflexible, unaffected by the merest wish of its inhabitants. Heartsinger rasps, “Why would anyone want to go there?”

– from “Reality As We Know It”

Why indeed? But hey, if you’re gonna be stuck in this reality of ours, why not weep your tears of adulting exhaustion in an Ever On Word throw pillow that gets you?

4 = #Word Wizard

Word Wizard Triptych

“Shall I be honest with you, Elizabeth?” I asked.

She said, “I wish you would.”

“Well, the truth of it is, I deeply love your work. You have a talent like no other I’ve seen.”

“Thank you,” she said, with the merest dip of her head. Not flattered, not scornful. Simply acknowledging. “I have been called something of a wizard with words. You could say it’s in my blood.”

– from “Date Due”

Whether on a mug that holds your writing beverage of choice, the notebook that holds your brainstorming notes, or the bag that totes your laptop full of story documents, this is a design for all of us who claim the pen as our magic sword. …And for any dragons who crave swaggy book merch for their hoard.

So! That’s what’s new from your gal DEShipley. If you’re in a place to do so, feel free to support my artistic endeavors with your dollars and/or – also of great importance!!! – book reviews. (Go on, don’t be shy about sharing your readerly opinions with Amazon; the Merry Men showed you how easy-peasy it can be!)

‘Til next time, dearies,

~ Danielle

New Look, Same Great Taste!

Previously on the Ever On Word blog, I teased the sometime-soon re-release of four short stories o’ mine. That soon sometime draws ever nearer – I’m aiming for an August launch date … which somehow is now only a month away?? Where did June go???

But HEY, rather than suffer a panic attack over how swiftly this summer is flying by, how about we have ourselves a little title / cover reveal?

Showing its face for the first time ever, I give you…

“Our Hungering Hearts: A Four-Course Short Story Collection”

Our Hungering Hearts, front cover

Aaaaaand the full spread:

Our Hungering Hearts, full cover 02

Dat back o’ book blurb:

On the Menu:

“Two Spoons, the Devil’s Son” = A little girl’s soul meets its match in the family diner’s most mysterious patron…

“A Mind Prone to Wander” = An assassin princess and an incognito madman brave a monster’s mechanized fortress and the pasts that left them broken…

“Reality As We Know It” = Where otherworldly magic fails, is Row’s friendship enough to mend Singer’s grieving heart?

“Date Due” = A magic library’s guardian determines to protect her treasured books, whether their authors elect to do things the easy way … or the fatal one.

Two servings of paranormal, a taste of fantasy, and a side order of steampunk – first released in various anthologies, now served up all together in one delicious combo deal. Bon appétit!

HUGE kudos to Hannah Vale for her help in bringing my vision for the cover to life! The background photos, I was able to obtain via unsplash.com; the lettering / general graphic design, I created myself in various basic Microsoft programs. (Because, low-key, I am a baller.) But NO WAY could I have illustrated that symbolic “chalk art” on my own, so for that unique pop of the fantastic, Hannah has all-ll-ll my thanks.

Life is hectic, and my relationship status with the internet = “on again / off again”, but I should have “Our Hungering Hearts” up on Goodreads, ready for your “Want To Read” lists, in the near future. Stay tuned!

Ballad Cover, front 02

In other book news: All July long, its the Smashwords Summer/Winter Sale! For a FREE ebook of “The Ballad of Allyn-a-Dale (Outlaws of Avalon, Book 1)”, click here. To browse the full sale catalog, click here.

…And to tell me what you think of what you’ve seen so far of “Our Hungering Hearts”, go off in the comments! ^o^

Reading, Review Writing, Rithmatics and a Rook

It’s a double book review day! …because I’ve been sitting on these reviews for a while, and if I don’t put ‘em up on the blog today, when the heck will I?

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Book the First: “The Rithmatist (The Rithmatist #1)” by Brandon Sanderson

Genre: YA Steampunk Fantasy

Blurb: More than anything, Joel wants to be a Rithmatist. Rithmatists have the power to infuse life into two-dimensional figures known as Chalklings. Rithmatists are humanity’s only defense against the Wild Chalklings. Having nearly overrun the territory of Nebrask, the Wild Chalklings now threaten all of the American Isles.

As the son of a lowly chalkmaker at Armedius Academy, Joel can only watch as Rithmatist students learn the magical art that he would do anything to practice. Then students start disappearing—kidnapped from their rooms at night, leaving trails of blood. Assigned to help the professor who is investigating the crimes, Joel and his friend Melody find themselves on the trail of an unexpected discovery—one that will change Rithmatics—and their world—forever.

Bestselling author Brandon Sanderson brings his unique brand of epic storytelling to the teen audience with an engrossing tale of danger and suspense—the first of a series. With his trademark skills in worldbuilding, Sanderson has created a magic system that is so inventive and detailed that readers who appreciate games of strategy and tactics just may want to bring Rithmatics to life in our world.

The Rithmatist

My Thoughts: I picked up this book – my first taste of Sanderson lit – on the recommendation of a friend (holla, Chelsea!), and I gotta say, I really enjoyed it. Who knows how I’d have felt if I’d been left to try to envision Rithmatics on my own (visualization = not my strong suit), but happy days, the book actually included instructional illustrations before every chapter! So instead of feeling glumly out of the loop, I found myself studying the drawings with genuine interest, almost as if I, too, were a student at Armedius Academy.

Of course, not just every student is granted the opportunity to study Rithmatics in depth. For all his unflagging fascination and non-magical skill with the art, Joel has missed out on the chance to become a Rithmatist. (Forever?! Time may tell…) This causes him understandable disappointment, and some measure of scornful frustration at the seeming incompetence of fellow student – and lucky-duck Rithmatist – Melody. But there’s a dire mystery afoot, so naturally the pair figures out a way to ally against the threat.

I had a fun time trying to puzzle out the entity behind the kidnappings and/or murders. And spoiling nothing, I will say that the ending left me both with a satisfying “AHA! I knew it!” and an equally satisfying “What?! Oh my GOSH, I can’t believe it! Sanderson, you excellent fiend!”

Also, the world-building was awesome. And I say that as a reader for whom world-building is generally among the least of my interests. Just the fact that the United States had been reimagined as a bunch of islands tickled me no end. Throw in the charts of Rithmatic defenses, and I was straight-up sold.

HSYRT? (Hey, Should You Read This?): Do it, bro.

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Book the Second: “Rook” by Sharon Cameron

Genre: Young Adult [Historical] Dystopia

Blurb: History has a way of repeating itself. In the Sunken City that was once Paris, all who oppose the new revolution are being put to the blade. Except for those who disappear from their prison cells, a red-tipped rook feather left in their place. Is the mysterious Red Rook a savior of the innocent or a criminal?

Rook 2

Meanwhile, across the sea in the Commonwealth, Sophia Bellamy’s arranged marriage to the wealthy René Hasard is the last chance to save her family from ruin. But when the search for the Red Rook comes straight to her doorstep, Sophia discovers that her fiancé is not all he seems. Which is only fair, because neither is she.

As the Red Rook grows bolder and the stakes grow higher, Sophia and René find themselves locked in a tantalizing game of cat and mouse.

My Thoughts: Post-apocalyptic dystopia isn’t usually my scene, but this book got away with it clean, thanks to its future setting’s captivating aura of a Europe of centuries gone by.

And oh, the cleverness of the plot! Full of twisty intrigue from the get-go (which I, being neither twisty nor intrigue-y by nature, cannot help but admire), with a latter third careening at a pace that would not let up. On the micro level, I appreciated how the beginnings of each section tended to echo or cunningly follow-up the section before, everything carefully connected and choreographed; it was a treat to see that kind of artistic thought put into the storytelling structure.

Of course, if a story doesn’t have living characters, it’s got nothing.

“Rook” doesn’t got nothing.

*ignores the excess of negatives and questionable grammar* *moves on*

The main villain was scary-smart, so thank goodness the protagonists weren’t lacking in competence. Their schemes were as sharp as their banter, and their relationships dynamic. Also, I freely confess – it didn’t take long at all for René to charm me. I doubt he’d be surprised to hear it.

HSYRT? (Hey, Should You Read This?): Do it or face the Razor.

(Do it or you may not know just what is this Razor to which I refer.)

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Such are my thoughts on the “Rook” and “The Rithmatist”. Have any of your own? Share below!

The Tour that Keeps On Touring

Steel and Bone, cover 3.0

The official blog tour for Xchyler Publishing’s “Steel & Bone: Nine Steampunk Adventures” has been over for a while, now. …Plus this special character edition post over on Andi’s ABCs, featuring Rowan Charles/Rowena Charlotte from my short story therein. So by all means, go read that, if only to get an eyeful of the fabulous coat he/she wore during my tale’s opening pages. (Seriously. Coat envy.)

But back to my original point. So many tour stops! So much content! So much so that even I – who had a vested interest in the tour – had difficulty keeping up with it all. Between that and the fact that there’s no guarantee which bits of all the goodies provided by the anthology’s authors will see the light of day, it occurred to me that if I wanted to ensure you guys had the best chance of reading the behind-the-scenes info and extras for my own short story in the collection, Ursula would have to take matters into her own tentacles, so to speak.

(*assumed high-fives from all the Disney’s “Little Mermaid” fans in the house. …and my fellow kraken-lovers, because tentacles*

*double high-fives to anyone whose brain read “Ursula” and for a moment thought “Wilderhark Tales”*)

And so here for you, my Ever On Wordians, I present two of my favorite bonus features for my steampunk fairytale, “A Mind Prone to Wander”!

Where It All Began…

Once upon a time, I wished for a story. More than that – central to that – I wished for a character.

“What about me and mine?”

A vision blew in before my mind’s eye: A wash of blue sky, and a white sea of clouds. A proud ship sailing over the thick, misted swells. And riding the rigging, a beautiful young man. Though I could not yet see him clearly, his beauty was clear as anything.

When he saw that I saw him, he smiled, and asked me, “How would you like to work together?”

I thought I would like it very much. But who was he?

“Yet to be determined,” he said, and hopped down from the ship’s rigging. Rather than landing on the deck or in the sea of clouds, his booted feet touched down on the floor of my room, his long coat briefly flaring behind him. A long, stylish coat, tall boots, and a ship… Was he a gentleman pirate?

“No, not I,” he said, brushing his hair back from his face with slim, shapely fingers.

Then why sail a clouded sea?

He tipped his head and looked at me with an enigmatic smile. “Why indeed. What reasons can you suppose?”

I gave it thought, allowing my imagination to wander, rejecting nothing yet, simply searching until I found what felt the truest. Explorer. Adventurer. Spy. Why a spy? What had a spy to do with a sea in the sky? And did this young, beautiful stranger have what it took to be an undercover man? He certainly had the face to be an undercover woman…

An involuntary flutter of his long lashes told me I’d hit somewhere near the mark. Was that what he was, then? A woman trying to pass as a man?

“Not at all,” he said. “A man trying to pass as a woman. Trying, and succeeding. It’s a part of my mission, you see.”

His mission as a spy?

“Would you like that? Espionage seems beyond you. You scarcely read such things, and never write them. Have you any true interest in attempting it now?”

I didn’t, I admitted. He, himself, intrigued me, and I wished to know him better. But was his a story I was fit to tell?

He asked me, “What is the story you want to tell? I have told you, I am yet to be determined. My story is the same. We can determine it together, if you wish it.”

I did wish it. I had wished it. Here was the very character I’d called for, before I’d even known his name. Come to think of it, I still didn’t know his name. What was it? Or was that, too, yet to be determined?

Again, that enigmatic smile. “I have a name. But if you think I’m simply going to tell you now, right at the start, you are much mistaken.”

Would he tell me nothing?

His eyes of undetermined color shined. “I will tell you everything, for it is a tale worth telling. My name, however, is not the tale’s beginning.”

Then what was?

“The tale began,” he said, “Once Upon An Ending…”

Character Casting

Character Casting_Bellamy, Emma Stone

Princess Bellamy / Emma Stone

“Beside me, Princess Bellamy doesn’t fidget. Doesn’t shiver. She’s tougher than winter, and nearly as icy.”

In accordance with her royal parents’ oath, Bellamy has been groomed since her earliest youth to become her people’s savior, along with her twin sister. …until aforementioned sister disappears without notice. With the lives of her kingdom’s women on the line, Bellamy fiercely turns her back on what she views as her twin’s betrayal, the better to focus on her destiny ahead. But the monster she’s sworn to kill may be the least of what she’ll have to face.

Character Casting_Arinwald, John Rhys-Davies

Arinwald / John Rhys-Davies

Arinwald looks at me, and though his expression is as pleasantly neutral as I’ve ever seen it, his dark-golden gaze pierces like a knife point. “Because whatever I told you would essentially be a lie. And do you know how tiring it is to be always hiding the truth?”

Sharp of eye and blunt of tongue, the beastly Lord of Wings’ steward appears to have these primary functions: Manage his master’s castle, serve his master’s guests (*cough* hostages *cough*), and keep hidden his master’s secrets. Regarding the execution of all three without the castle’s visitors dying, the score so far is death = thirty-eight, Arinwald = zero.

Character Casting_Rowan, Unknown

Rowan / Unknown

And there was I, an amnesiac orphan. Unclaimed. Unwanted. Unhinged, though no one seemed to notice. And most importantly, a boy pretty enough to pass for a girl.

Search though I might, I have no idea who is in this photograph, or even whether the subject is male or female. For the young man called Rowan Charles, that couldn’t be more perfect. After all, the whole reason the king and queen chose him to replace their missing daughter is the hope that the Lord of Wings won’t notice one half of this year’s sacrificial pair is not, in fact, a woman. That the femme-faced co-assassin is out of his mind with inexplicable visions is, apparently, immaterial.

Coming soon: A day in the life of my favorite AMPtW character, and selected questions from the blog tour packet interview. See you then!

P.S. – Have you seen the “Steel & Bone” book trailer? Click the pic if you haven’t, ‘cause wowza!

Steel and Bone, book trailer pic

Princess in the Sky with Gold (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 author describes Bellamy, princess of Skycastle, thus:

In accordance with her royal parents’ oath, Bellamy has been groomed since her earliest youth to become her people’s savior, along with her twin sister. …until aforementioned sister disappears without notice. With the lives of her kingdom’s women on the line, Bellamy fiercely turns her back on what she views as her twin’s betrayal, the better to focus on her destiny ahead. But the monster she’s sworn to kill may be the least of what she’ll have to face.

“Welcome, Bellamy!” Will greets the young woman now seated in the chair across from his own. “So glad you could join me. First things first – who do you think makes the prettier girl: You, or your new crossdressing co-assassin?”

She gives him a look cold and flat as an artic plain. “Why on high is that ‘first things first’?”

Will shrugs. “I usually open the interview with a completely superficial question like that. It makes for a fun icebreaker.” Under the weight of her glare, he mutters, “Though it looks like the ice is on me, this time around.”

“It’s a frivolous practice,” says Bellamy, “but as I’m not in the habit of bucking established tradition, I would answer if I could. Unfortunately, I haven’t seen my face in the past eight years, so I can’t very well compare myself to Rowan – or Rowena, as he’s called in his work clothes.”

Will gapes. “Not seen your face once in eight years? What, are mirrors not a thing in your kingdom?”

Bellamy’s posture stiffens. “Skycastle has no shortage of mirrors – those left by its former occupant, and those brought by our people when they emigrated from the world below. I choose to avoid my reflection, that’s all. For personal reasons.”

“Personal reasons to do with your missing sister?” Will hints.

“I’d really much prefer not to talk about her.”

“I figured as much,” Will sighs. “Well, then, let’s talk about Skycastle. How did your people convert a giant’s castle in the sky into a human kingdom?”

Bellamy visibly relaxes somewhat. “It took some ingenuity. Space, the castle had aplenty, but much of it was difficult to access, due to the scale. So over the first year, the best of our architects and engineers led in building upward along the walls. Our population is small enough and the castle tall enough that there’s plenty of room on the main floor to house all of our kingdom-city’s districts – from the affluent top tiers, to what we call ‘the Ground’ (which is as near as Skycastle comes to a slum and is, if I rightly recall, where the royal guards found Rowan). Twenty years later, we’ve yet to fully explore the second story, to say nothing of what’s beyond. Oh, and thanks to the late giant’s collection of the stuff, gold’s more common than dirt in our castle on a cloud.”

“Wow. How fantastic is that? On a more personal note – but not too personal for you, I hope – what are your plans for once you and Rowan/Rowena have taken out your kingdom’s archenemy, the Lord of Wings?”

“I haven’t thought about it much,” Bellamy says contemplatively. “My life’s focus has been to kill our giant’s brother, if it’s the last thing I do – which there’s always a chance it will be. If I survive my mission’s completion… well, I suppose it will be back to Skycastle to learn how to run a kingdom. I am, so far as we know, the throne’s only surviving heir.”

“A real ‘all work and no play’ type, aren’t you?” says Will. “Well, let’s see if you’re at least game for this. Tell me, Bellamy, what is our mutual author’s biggest, deepest, darkest, most mortifying and/or hilarious secret?” He offers a sunshiny smile. “Or would you rather kiss me?”

Bellamy’s mouth twists downward. “I don’t feel right telling secrets not my own. I suppose that makes my duty clear.”

With an air of resignation, the princess rises from her chair, takes Will’s hand in hers, and brushes a kiss over his knuckles.

“My! How… gallant,” he says, rather pleased at the gender role reversal. “Allyn, how ‘bout a quick word from our sponsor?”

“Today’s Kiss & Tell segment,” says Allyn, “was brought to you by Danielle E. Shipley’s short story in the “Steel and Bone” steampunk anthology – launching tomorrow! – ‘A Mind Prone to Wander’.

Steel and Bone, cover 3.0

The refugees of Skycastle survived the end of the world only to fall prey to the dreaded Lord of Wings. Together with an assassin princess, a young man gone mad with missing memories must venture into the monster’s mechanized fortress to vanquish him once and for all. But the threat against Skycastle takes a most unexpected shape, forcing both princess and madman to brave the pain of the pasts that left them broken.

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

The Strange Island of… (STEEL & BONE Blog Tour)

Mere days from its official release on Saturday, the blog tour for Xchyler Publishing’s “Steel & Bone: Nine Steampunk Adventures is already underway!

Steel and Bone, cover and blurb

Behind every story in this collection was the prompt/theme/inspiration, “The Strange Island of…” That, combined with a story I’d been carrying around inside me for years but just couldn’t figure out how to get down on paper, resulted in my first-ever steampunk fairytale, “A Mind Prone to Wander”.

We’ll get to go into more detail about my story on Friday, when one of the main cast sits down for a Will Scarlet’s Kiss & Tell character interview. (Stay tuned.) But for now, pull out your dapper fob watches, because it’s time for my 5-Second Impressions! …or however many clockwork ticks it takes to read five words – no more, no less – on the other eight stories in the anthology.

Steel and Bone, my review

The Clockwork Seer” by Katherine Cowley =

An inventive, senses-bending vignette.

Sindisiwe” by Scott E. Tarbet =

Cinderella retelling? I’m for that!

Stand and Deliver” by TC Phillips =

Loved the humor. Particularly Mathew’s.

Island Walker” by C. R. Simper =

Engaging characters, and ooh, shipwrecks!

Curio Cay” by Sarah E. Seeley =

Dinosaurs least monstrous island inhabitants!

The Mysterious Island of Chester Morrison” by Kin Law =

Lol, MC is AU me.

Revolutionary” by John M. Olson =

Shady stuff, Captain! Run now!

The Steel Inside” by Gail B. Williams =

Secrets. Suspense. A top story.

How ‘bout that lineup, guys? ^o^
How ‘bout that lineup, guys? ^o^

Steel and Bone, available on Amazon

If you haven’t yet, I encourage you to get in your pre-order of the “Steel & Bone” Kindle e-book today, and/or spring for the paperback on Saturday (Book Bomb day!), that these stories may be yours to read and treasure. And that could be the least of the goodies you get if you enter the tour-wide “Steel & Bone” Rafflecopter giveaway!

Steel and Bone, prizes

We’re talking free e-books (including my soon-to-launch addition to the Wilderhark Tales, “The Sky-Child and Other Stories”!), t-shirts, keychains… swag for days, people. For days. So come one, come all, come win stuff. I hope to see you around on the tour, at the Book Bomb, and/or below in the comments.

Which strange steampunk island of steel and bone are you most excited to explore?

All Will Be Revealed

And by “all”, I mean the covers of two soon-to-be-released books with Danielle E. Shipley stories inside of them!

Cover the First

If you keep an eye on me on Facebook and Twitter, chances are you’ve seen this one already. But for those of you who missed it, I now present to you, in its debut appearance on the Ever On Word blog, the face of Xchyler Publishing’s upcoming anthology, “Steel and Bone: Nine Steampunk Adventures”!

Shovel the coal and stoke the boilers as nine Steampunk authors explore islands of mystery and adventure across the seven seas.

“The Clockwork Seer” by Katherine Cowley: On an island of oddities, a young clairvoyant struggles for normalcy, but deadly automatons have other plans.

“Sindisiwe” by Scott E. Tarbet: A slave girl in Zanzibar escapes a beating when a stranger in the marketplace proves her past in more than just a fairy tale.

“Stand and Deliver” by TC Phillips: Neither shackles, slave labor, nor the island’s deadliest inhabitants will prevent these brothers from meting out justice to their father’s murderers.

“Island Walker” by C. R. Simper: Kit digs her treasures out of trash heaps, but the theft of her invention leads to discoveries money can’t buy.

“A Mind Prone to Wander” by Danielle E. Shipley: Beyond a locked door lies Rowan Charles’ death or his sanity, and the survival or extinction of his people.

“Curio Cay” by Sarah E. Seeley: The future of humanity rests in the hands of three time-traveling scientists battling biomechanical creatures in the Jurassic past.

“The Mysterious Island of Chester Morrison” by Kin Law: Dodging her chaperone, a debutante stumbles into adventure and romance at the World’s Fair.

“Revolutionary” by John M. Olsen: A dirigible captain goes down with his ship, and wakes to find himself a captive of a sky-dwelling civilization.

“The Steel Inside” by Gail B. Williams: Darkness lurks in Sarah’s forgotten past, kept hidden by those who claim to be her devoted husband and loyal servants.

Steel and Bone, cover front

Ahhh, my very first authorial venture into steampunk… I look forward to holding you in hand.

The book’s available to add to your Goodreads shelves, and will be out for everyone’s reading pleasure June 27th. But hey – if you’re up for an early read in exchange for an honest review, give a shout and I’ll score you an ARC!

Cover the Second

I did something a little different for the cover reveal of my next Wilderhark Tales title. Instead of rounding up volunteers on my own, I engaged the prompt and professional services of Lola’s Blog Tours. It’s been nice, getting to leave the cover reveal’s organization to somebody else, for a change. And it’s extra nice to finally be able to show off yet another piece of breathtaking Yana Naumova artwork on my blog. Behold, my friends: “The Sky-Child and Other Stories (A Wilderhark Tales Collection)”!

Born into a world his heart knows as beneath him, an extraordinary boy becomes a man of music, hopeful that someday he’ll find a way higher.

As the first day dawns, a world comes awake, order and disorder striking a dangerous balance.

Under the stars, a princess and tailor trade age-old lore, little dreaming of the future that could trap them in the past.

All of it in, around, and far above the timeless trees of Wilderhark, the forest whose secrets reveal themselves slowly, if ever at all.

Tales of beginnings. Tales of quests for belonging. Most of all, tales of true love.

Once upon a time, you knew something of Wilderhark’s tales. Now for the stories that fall in between.

Sky-Child Cover, front 02

High goodness, Gant-o’-the-Lute, how were you so beautiful as a youngster?

He shrugs, indifferent. “Genetics, I expect.”

Yes. Well. *awkward cough, ‘cause some characters are just weird to ogle* Book 6.5 of The Wilderhark Tales is coming for you on July 7th. Like the steampunk antho, “The Sky-Child” is on Goodreads. Also likewise, I’ve got ARCs for folks interested in a read ‘n’ review ahead of the pack. You have only to ask. ^_^

Eyes on you now, readers. What think ye of the covers above? Share your thoughts below!

Tête-à-Tentacles (Will Scarlet’s Kiss & Tell)

“From the stage that brought you Will & Allyn’s Interactive Theatre,” Will Scarlet 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 steps back onto the bright, cozy set with a broad smile and wave.

“Now, as regular viewers will know, that announcement is usually Allyn-a-Dale’s to make. But our little minstrel friend’s decided to take a mental health day, whatever that’s supposed to mean. So for this episode, I’m flying solo. Jumping right into it then,” he says, leading by example by hopping into his armchair. “Here courtesy of author J. Aurel Guay, let’s give it up for today’s guest, Miss Elizabeth Carter!”

The young woman enters from the other side of the stage and takes a seat in the chair across from Will’s.

“Welcome, Miss Carter! Won’t you give us a brief description of yourself?”

“Gladly Mr. Scarlet. I am, or rather was, a researcher of the mysterious crystals found in my late uncle’s gold mines after his passing. The mines themselves belonged to Automaton Incorporated, referred to as AI. My uncle, John Carter, was rather fond of me and my cousin E. R. Boroughs, and it was a bittersweet prize when Edgar, the officiator of Uncle Jack’s will, informed me that I had been granted the funds for an advanced education.

“Oh, did you say ‘brief’ description? Sorry, I do tend to prattle on, so I’m told. According to some I also have something of a temper. They say it comes with the red hair. Of course I would disagree. I am merely passionate about my work, that is all. Careful now, Nauty! Don’t get your tentacles caught in my hair again…”

“I say!” says Will, leaning forward to inspect the mechanical creature more closely. “What do you call that lively thingamajig?”

“Yes, how could I forget my little friend here? This devious little contraption is Nautilus. We call him Nauty, for reasons that, with any luck, you will not have to bear witness to. He is an oct-omaton and the first to be animated by a synthetically made crystal.”

“Ha! Fantastic. Don’t let my author swipe him off you; she’s got a thing for anything remotely resembling a kraken. So, this work you do – what else can you tell me about it, and these weird crystals of yours?”

“Oh, well unfortunately, I’ve recently found myself unemployed. I was researching the crystals discovered in my uncle John Carter’s gold mine. They had the power both to transmute energy, and perceive human thought. We used them to animate and control our automaton. James could tell you more about them, since as it turns out… well, it’s rather difficult to explain. Let’s just say that he is not quite from this world and that the crystals are very close to his heart.

“As to my role in the recent events… It was really mostly James’ doing. Though I suppose, if I had not enlisted him in studying how the crystal shards animate our automaton, he might never have found the truth about himself. And there was that time I rescued him from a mob of mercenaries…”

“Whoa, what now! How’d you pull that off? Were there tentacles involved?”

“It was nothing really. I had a rather large, nearly sentient automaton on my side and the element of surprise. And no, the tentacles did not come until much later. I did try my best to deal with that beast as well, but it was ultimately James who succeeded. What he thought was a sacrifice on humanity’s behalf, turned out to be the key to his own mystery. Still, he is far too humble about the whole affair. It was he who put a stop to the rotten plans of that dastard Mr. Powell, and even returned my dear Nauty to me.

“But, there I go again carrying on. Rather than listen to me, why don’t you go read about it yourself? My dear friend Dr. J. Aurel Guay has written it up and included it in an anthology by the name ofMechanized Masterpeices 2’. The section regarding our story is titledA Princess of Jasoom(the title still makes me blush each time I hear it, but he gave me no say). I think you can find it on that Amazon thingy, at this address.”

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“My, your thoroughness leaves me with little more to say, though one more very important question to ask. Tell me, Miss Carter, what is your author J’s biggest, deepest, darkest, most mortifying and/or hilarious secret?” He flashes his classic smile. “Or would you rather kiss me?”

“Oh, my dear Mr. Scarlet, you should know better than to try to trick a lady, such as myself, into revealing anything she doesn’t want to. Nor do I think you would want to incur the jealousy of an alien spacecraft. Let’s just keep everything aboveboard here shall we?”

“A-alien…? Er, yes,” Will coughs, “maybe I’ll, um, leave that one alone. At least until Allyn’s back to save my tail. In the meantime, thank you, Miss Carter. You, too, little Nauty-boy! And thank you, my beautiful audience. Remember, authors – if your characters would like to appear on the show, simply follow the guidelines provided here, and we’ll get them on the schedule. ‘Til next time, lovelies: Scarlet out!”

Letting Off Steam (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, “The protagonist of author Neve Talbot’s ‘West End’ introduces himself thus:

Theodore ​Laurence. My friends call me Laurie. Strange, I know, but the lads were calling me Dora. Given the choice, Laurie is less objectionable. Jo calls me Teddy. Can’t seem to break her of the habit.

“Welcome, Laurie!” Will greets the young man now seated in the chair across from his own. “So glad you could join me. First things first – for the benefit of the vision-impaired members of our audience, won’t you describe in your own words the eye candy I’ve got the pleasure of looking upon right now?”

Laurie blushes, but complies. “Well . . . I’m tall—but not too tall. Not so tall as you, Will. Not so muscle-bound neither. Not that I’m scrawny, mind. I can hold my own in my weight class. Have you ever leg-wrestled?”

Will’s eyes brighten. “Oh, frequently! Good fun, that!”

“Greco-Roman wrestling, too,” Laurie adds. “I do that pretty well. Ivy-league stuff. Average looks, I guess. Beth calls me Adonis, but she likes to tease. Women don’t really think of me that way. Jo certainly doesn’t.”

“Thank heaven for Will Scarlet, then,” Allyn mutters off-camera.

“Ignore him,” Will advises Laurie. “You were saying?”

“My father’s family was originally British, but my mother was Italian. And I got her coloring: black, wavy hair, dark eyes, that sort of thing.” He shrugs. “I play the piano like her, too, but with the war and everything—I wanted to build something, after all the destruction. MIT suited. As for being a doctor . . . I’m fortunate to do what I love and still make a difference to people.”

“Difference-making and loving it is the best,” Will agrees. “Now, then. This Jo you’ve mentioned on multiple occasions… Jo March, I believe. Am I right in inferring that there is or was a little something going on between you? Or that you wish there were?”

“Jo—I didn’t fit in with her plans. I thought I did, but . . . Let’s just say, I had good motivations to bury myself in my studies, and leave it at that. I thought this was supposed to be entertainment?”

“All right, all right, doubling back to doctoring, then. What sort do you do, and what is it that attracts you to that particular niche?”

“Of a ​truth, I hadn’t actually planned on becoming a doctor. I spent prep school in Switzerland, not far from where I was born in Italy. Then, I returned to Concord with the plan of starting Harvard when I was ready. Grandfather wanted me to join his banking firm. But . . .

Laurie backtracks, “They don’t have much steam technology in the Alps. They’ve cities enough, but it’s nothing like you see in England, where everything is steel and soot. But, that’s when I first met Edward Rochester, my grandfather’s friend. Surely you’ve heard of him, the famous inventor. You’ve never seen such a sight as his airship, Will. No one has! The Andromeda 2 is like nothing else on the planet. Crossing the Atlantic in the airship started me dreaming. I wanted to make things, so Grandfather allowed me to attend MIT instead of Harvard.”

His excitement sobers. “The United States was deep in a civil war when I came from Switzerland, although it never reached Massachusetts. They only stopped shooting because there weren’t enough people to make weapons any longer. There were no more soldiers to use them. They finally made peace and rejoined forces when they realized the British and French were just waiting to step in and pick over their bones.

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“People kept dying even after the armistice. Famine, disease, pestilence—it was a nightmare. They would have never recovered nor held off the invaders from Europe if it weren’t for Rochester. He meant his mechanical men for heavy labor, to remove the rubble, erect buildings, grow crops, bury the dead. He brought the first shipment of Mandroids to Concord just after I graduated MIT.

“I said that Massachusetts escaped the war, but I should say, the cities escaped the destruction. There was death enough, with all the soldiers that never came home. The people still knew plenty of privation, especially when the refugees from New York started flooding in. Then came the wounded. Too many had lost an arm, a leg, an eye or two, often times multiple amputations. They came streaming through Boston, Cambridge, Concord, and the residents did their best to offer relief, especially Mrs. March and the girls.

“I saw those broken soldiers and what passed for prosthetics, and knew I wanted to use what I’d learned at MIT to give them their lives back. After I graduated, I spent time in England learning from a brilliant metallurgist, then went on to medical school, and the rest is history.”

Will chuckles. “Well, so much for the short version.”

“Gosh. Sorry. I didn’t mean to rattle on, but you did ask. That’s a sore subject with me: war, weapons, mass destruction, wholesale murder.”

A still-chuckling Will holds up a lenient hand. “Hey, I banded with Robin Hood. I’m used to voluble passion on the subject of humanity – and inhumanity. How ‘bout a fresh topic to bring your blood down a few degrees? New England, Old England, Switzerland… Amazing all the geography you can cover, when you’re not stuck on an immortal Faerie island. Which of these places have you enjoyed most and why?”

“My parents lived a fairly Bohemian lifestyle when I was a child. They took me all over Europe, although our home was in the Alps above Milano. I had thought to share those warm memories with Jo. We would see the world together, but . . . but it’s just as well. One can’t very well study metallurgy and medicine and globe-trot both at once.

“I haven’t found a favorite place, but Jamaica just may be it. ​​My friends are there. I’ll begin my career there. And, it’s just different—peaceful. They don’t have coal, you see. Rochester’s inventions don’t use it. They harness the sun to create steam to power their technology. He has even installed electricity. Everything on Jamaica is still green and clean and unspoiled—Rochester’s personal Utopia.

“I am looking forward to an extended stay on the island. I’ll be leaving London soon to start my residency. I’m only doing this interview because a certain young lady coerced me into it.” The sound of giggles causes Laurie to glance over his shoulder into the wings and scowl. “I lost a bet.”

“Which brings us to the final question,” says Will, eyes twinkling, “where all bets are off. Tell me, Laurie, what is your author Neve’s biggest, deepest, darkest, most mortifying and/or hilarious secret?” He grins. “Or would you rather kiss me?”

More giggles from the wings. Laurie glances suspiciously from the source to the smirk on Will Scarlet’s face.​ A decided glint of mischief sparks in Laurie’s eyes. He relaxes into his chair, finally making himself at home on the set. “Well, Will, let me tell you, Neve Talbot is just about the most boring person on the planet. She has no deep, dark secrets, and certainly no hilarious ones. As for mortifying—let’s allow the woman some dignity, shall we? So, I’m afraid I can’t help you on that score. And, while I certainly don’t walk on that side of the street, you are a rather fine specimen of manhood.”

Laurie rises from his chair and advances on Will, then turns back again, his brow furrowed as he considers the ramifications. He begins to pace. “How far does this broadcast reach? My grandfather is of a conservative bent, you see.” He pivots and paces as the off-stage giggling continues. “The man actually disinherited my father when he married my mother. I know Grandfather would be mortified if . . .” Giggle, giggle. Pivot, pace. “On the other hand, ‘Bohemian’ is putting it rather lightly when I describe my upbringing—hence the disinheriting—so, the idea isn’t so very shocking to me—”

Of a sudden, he lunges into the wings. A curious yelp is heard. Laurie again emerges onto the stage, propelling a beautiful young lady with corn-silk hair and blue eyes toward Will Scarlet.

“Perhaps a substitute? Miss Amy March, meet Will Scarlet, but I see you two have already met. I’m certain the Snow Maiden here will suit, and she is more than happy to oblige.”

Will laughs. “Ah, well, Amy, we nearly had him. What say you and I make good on the kiss while Allyn gives us a word from our sponsor?”

“Today’s Kiss & Tell segment,” says Allyn, as Will and Amy get busy, “was brought to you by Neve Talbot’s ‘West End’, a short story included in Mechanized Masterpieces 2: An American Anthology.

In this steampunked sequel to “Tropic of Cancer (Mechanized Masterpieces #1)”, it’s Jane Eyre meets Little Women, with a bit of intrigue and skullduggery thrown in to keep it interesting. Rejected by the love of his life, Theodore Laurence travels to England to continue his education, ultimately arriving in Jamaica for his residency as a doctor specializing in prosthetics. As the protégé of Edward Rochester, he achieves some sense of purpose healing the severely maimed, but finds himself thrown into the middle of an international plot to steal Rochester’s inventions for nefarious purposes.

“Thank you, Allyn,” says Will. “Thanks also to you, Laurie and Amy. 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!”

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!” 😀 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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http://cbybookclub.blogspot.co.uk

http://lizjostte.blogspot.com

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February 23 – Winged Hope by Megan Oliphant

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http://thenaughtlibrarianplayground.blogspot.com/?m=1

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February 23 – The Van Tassel Legacy by Jay Barnson

http://authorcandyodonnell.blogspot.com/

http://coffeehobby.blogspot.com/

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February 24 – Invested Charm by M. Irish Gardner

https://www.facebook.com/KittyMuseBookReviews

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http://www.melsshelves.blogspot.com

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

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http://www.melsshelves.blogspot.com

http://coffeehobby.blogspot.com/

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

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http://coffeehobby.blogspot.com/

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

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pennybrojacquie.blogspot.com

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February 27 – Nautilus Redux by Scott E. Tarbet

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http://coffeehobby.blogspot.com/

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February 27 – Mr. Thornton by Scott William Taylor

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http://thebookbeacon.com

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February 28 – West End by Neve Talbot

http://ellelainey.wordpress.com

http://fictionalrendezvousbookblog.blogspot.com/

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