The Art of Character Development and Sons of Anarchy

Character development is a tricky thing all writers have to face during the process of creation. We may say we know our characters well, down to what they may be listening to while getting dressed in the morning, but have we really developed said character within the folds of the plot? I struggle with character development. Sometimes, I believe I know my character a certain way and then when I start writing a scene, my character does something totally different from what I had in mind. Note, I may have used the word “struggle,” but I don’t mean it in a negative sense. It’s good to struggle with developing a character because it allows you to explore different sides of a story. Without a character, we don’t have much of a story. Or, at least, that’s how I choose to see it. When I read a book or watch a show, it’s the characters and the way the story is told that keeps me interested.

I’ve heard about Sons of Anarchy for a long time now. I must admit to not paying it any attention until recently: four seasons, to be exact. What made me start watching the show now? Not having anything else to watch for almost a week. No Vampire Diaries. No Secret Circle. No Pan Am. No Once Upon a Time. The list is very long. And once the episodes stop, I go into a really bad case of TV withdrawal. I get restless. I start pacing. So, I asked myself: what can I watch in the meantime? From the titles I’ve mentioned, you might think that Sons of Anarchy is the last thing I would choose. But, as a girl who likes anything with an engine, I said: why not? I started with the first episode of season one on a Thursday and started mainlining the whole series for the rest of the weekend. Seriously, a season a day. Yes, I have no life. But as the biker drama took a fierce hold of me and refused to let go, I learned something: the art of character development.

When you watch Sons of Anarchy, you can’t help but sympathize and fall in love with the members of the club. You know they deal guns (which is illegal) and the law is after them for it, but something happens in you while watching where you start routing for the club versus the justice system. You actually want them to get away with it. That’s what I call excellent character development. When the line between good and bad blurs and you’re not quite sure who’s the hero and who’s the villain it’s an example of masterful writing.

Let’s take the character of Jax. He is the vice president of SAMCRO (Sons of Anarchy Motorcycle Club Redwood Original). Smart. Strong-willed. Compassionate. Stubborn. And complicated. He can even be cruel and cold-blooded when he needs to be. Basically, Jax gets things done, for the club and for those he loves. Notice, I mentioned compassionate and cold-blooded together. How is this possible? That’s character development, right there. It’s not necessarily about showing who the character is, but more like dropping him into any situation and seeing what he does. For example, Jax can go from dealing with a rival motorcycle gang where he acts tough to coming home for the night and cooing at his baby boy, and it’s believable. You believe that Jax can hassle a rival gang and be a loving father to an infant. He begins to feel real. You stop suspending your disbelief and actually accept every decision the character makes. This is what great character development does to the audience.

Now that I’ve finally caught up and am waiting for the rest of the episodes to air, I’m hanging on a ledge. The last episode was a total cliffhanger, so you must forgive my little divergence. I’m a visual learner. Demonstrate something, and I can usually do it afterwards, which is why I watch TV. I know it sounds like such a slacker life, and I promise, I do air myself out once in a while, but watching shows teaches me how to write. I learn how to put scenes together, how to end a chapter where the reader will flip to the next page because he or she can’t wait to see what happens next, and how to develop a character so complex that you would forgive him anything because he’s touched your life in a way most real people don’t.

I may not be making sense at this point. And I may be writing this purely as a fan sucked into the world of SAMCRO. But, I also know I’ve learned something because of this series. I wish someday I get to a point in my writing where I can blur the line between good and bad and show readers characters they will love to hate and hate to love.

So, I leave you with two questions: Just because a guy does something bad, does that make him a villain? And if a bad guy does something good, can he be a hero?

Certainly something to ponder while getting to know the characters in your head. If Sons of Anarchy taught me one thing, it would be: no one is inherently good or totally bad. The situations we find ourselves in and the decisions we make while in said situations is what develops character.

Now, if you will excuse me, I think I’ll start from season one all over again.

Review Request: Silverbirch by Rob Kaay

The blurb is short, but it's certainly curious. Read it and see what I mean. Then, if you want to review Silverbirch, please leave your name and email address in the comments section so that Rob can send you a copy right away. Happy Reading!

By eating an extremely rare mushroom that has a red lightning bolt image naturally built-in to its black-gilled underbelly, Nudge discovers he can create a tear in the fabric of the night sky that will allow his soul to legally leave Earth and enter Silverbirch.

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Review Request: The Imaginings by Paul D. Dail

It seems like we have a supernatural thriller today. Check out the blurb! If you feel you're courageous enough to read and review this book, please leave your name and email address in the comments section so that Paul can contact you right away. Prepare to be freaked out! Happy Reading!

“never disregard your imaginings”

Three years after his brother Peter’s suicide, David Blithe is still haunted by this cryptic message scrawled on a piece of newspaper in his brother’s apartment. Now he is being pursued by the same supernatural being that drove Peter to his death.

When David collapses in the Montana cabin of Dr. Robert Marrick and his family, he must decide whether or not to surrender his soul to save the life of Dr. Marrick’s teenage daughter, Jeannie.

The Imaginings takes the reader into a world where the questions of “right” and “wrong” aren’t so easily defined, locking David and Jeannie in battle with an evil that threatens not only their lives but ultimately all of humanity.

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Thankful for...

This is the time of year we give thanks. It's the little things that really matter. The small moments like a flower blooming, the December winds arriving, the sky looking bluer than it ever does throughout the year. I want to stop and take this moment to be thankful.

I'm thankful for the love and support of my family. There are many times more than I could count when I hadn't been the daughter they expected me to be. Sometimes, those expectations weighed so heavily on my shoulders that I rebelled. But I realized, in my darkest hour, during a time when I was the worst version of myself, my family never gave up on me and the person I could become.

I'm thankful for friendship. I'm thankful the handful of people I'm lucky to call friends continued to believe in me when I ran very close to losing all my personal belief. When self-doubt crept in, they reminded me of the important things. Their personal strength and inner light kept my head above water.

I'm thankful for fellow writers. They teach me everyday through the written word how creative a person can be. How marvelous the human mind is. The world of publishing may be changing, but one thing remains the same, the drive to tell stories.

I'm thankful for the readers. For those who were excited about Taste even before it has found a home. I humbly ask that you wait just a little longer. Soon all that waiting will pay off. Thank you for hanging out here in the meantime and commenting on my little pieces of web publishing.

Most of all, I'm thankful for each and every day given to me to keep doing what I love. I write not only because I can't imagine myself being happy doing anything else. I write because there are too many characters in my head that want to share their lives with all of you. I tried not writing once, and it felt like a limb had been amputated. It haunted me, begged me to keep going. So, here I am.

What are you most thankful for?

Review Request: After Isaactown by Ward Jones

Here's another interesting novel up for review. As always, please read the blurb.If you find yourself curious and wanting to review this book, then leave your name and email address in the comments section so that Ward can contact you immediately. Happy Reading!

How life’s most unexpected events can change even the closest of relationships.

Norm Armstein, a successful but lonely executive, has long been devoted to his sister-in-law. Bev is married to Norm’s brother, and for years has been the prisoner of a small town and his brother’s neglect.

But when Norm mistakes a stranger for her during a children’s play practice, he is charmed to the point of infatuation. Charmed by someone new, that is. Forgotten is Bev, whom Norm has always cherished — and secretly pined for.

The stranger is Harriet Anderson, a Shakespearean scholar who teaches at a Brooklyn college. As beautiful as she is kind, she weakens Norm’s oldest and strongest devotions: to Bev, and to his career.

Faced with affectionate prospects for the first time in his life, Norm now must choose. And in the process, discover in his fifth decade of life who he is.

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Guillotine 11-19-11

Chapter 3
The Footage

            Adam ran a hand over his shaved head, creating a sandpaper-on-wood sound. “Dude,” he said, dragging out the word like a labored exhale. His eyes were larger than the pepperonis he liked on his pizza.
            Nate was quicker to react. He got off his ass and rushed to inspect Zander’s forehead. Along with Zander and Adam, he’d seen it all. Nothing surprised Nate anymore, which was why he was methodical in his approach.
            “When did the marks manifest?”
            “I don’t know.” Zander had to suppress the urge to step back. Nate all up on his face was violating his sense of personal boundaries. “My guess is when I woke up this morning?”
            “You don’t sound so sure.” Nate traced the scratches without touching Zander’s brow. “What the hell happened when you went home last night? I knew we shouldn’t have let you go alone.”
            Zander jammed this cap back on and approached the table they used for meetings in the editing room. He pulled out a chair and sat back until it was balanced on its back legs. Nate returned to the editing chair he’d vacated beside a still dumbfounded Adam. Their team always edited whatever footage they’d collected during investigations alone. None of the other TV techs touched the raw videos. None of them would have it any other way. And they’d proven themselves enough times that the higher ups didn’t pester them about it. Results and ratings, that’s all network execs cared about, and Paranormal Investigations provided both.
“All I remember,” Zander began when the silence in the room turned oppressive. He steepled his fingers behind his head and searched for answers along the soundproof piping lining the ceiling. He contemplated telling them about Kara briefly before discarding the idea. He wasn’t ready to share her existence with the team. They’d definitely send the Exorcist to get rid of her, and he couldn’t allow that, not until he had found out how he could help her. “I don’t really remember anything. I came home drained. I couldn’t even make it to bed, so I crashed on the couch. Then I woke up, my forehead burned, and when I looked at my reflection in the mirror, I saw what I just showed you.” He paused. “Oh, and I remember dreaming about red eyes. If that makes any sense.”
Adam and Nate exchanged a concerned look before Nate said, “Do you remember anything from the investigation?”
Zander scratched an eyebrow with the tip of his thumb. “That’s the other thing, what the hell happened to me inside Miller House? I can’t put anything together. I remember the interviews we conducted. And I remember the start of the investigation, but after that…nothing.”
“You serious, dude?” Adam whistled under his breath. “You have no idea what happened to you?” He shared another loaded look with Nate.
Zander slammed the chair down on all four legs. “Will you two stop looking at each other like you know something I don’t and just spill? I’m the one with demon marks on my freakin’ forehead!”
Nate raised both hands in supplication. “Chill, man, just chill.” He leaned forward until his elbows touched his knees and entwined his fingers. “It looks like something followed you home from the investigation.”
“No shit, genius,” Zander barked. He shook his head in dismay. “Why do the demons have to follow me home all the time?”
“Hey, don’t hog all the drama, man.” Nate sat back. “You know you’re not the only one dealing with shit following you home. Tina and I have problems with poltergeists, remember? That vase was handed down from her great grandmother. Not even superglue could save the thing. And Adam keeps hearing EVPs at his house.”
“Yeah, bro, and it’s always little kids for some reason,” Adam chimed in.
Zander was incredulous. “Really? A poltergeist and EVPs? That’s the best you’ve got?” He stood up and threw the chair across the room. It bounced of the wall with a deep thud. “I have a freaking demon in my house!” He pointed at his forehead. “You tell me you’ve got it worse than I do right now. And in case you didn’t get it the last time: I. Don’t. Remember. A. Thing. From. The. Investigation!”
Nate and Adam stared at him, speechless.
Zander glanced at the chair and gave in to scratching his head over the cap he wore. He walked to the chair, picked it up, and returned it to the table before sitting down again. He rubbed his face with both hands. The fatigue he’d felt the night before catching up with him again. He hadn’t fully shaken it off yet. “Look, I’m sorry. I’m just freaking out here. This has never happened to me before. You guys obviously know something since you were there with me, and I’m sure you’ve already seen some of the footage, so spill. What happened at the investigation that has this thing following me home and scratching my forehead?”
Adam swiveled his chair to face the console and cued up a video feed on one of the screens. “This is the beginning of the investigation. We’d just finished activating all our static night vision cameras.”
Zander watched himself from the cam Nate held. Adam stood to the left of him by a staircase that led to the second floor of Miller House. His face looked white as a sheet, but that was only because of the night vision they used. Everything else was in various shades of green and black. And like other investigations, Zander had begun provoking the spirits within the house. He shouted challenges for the entities to do their worst, to show themselves, to throw things, the usual dialogue to get the energies rising to a level that allowed the paranormal to manifest. Adam joined in by hitting record on his digital recorder and asking questions so he could capture some EVPs.
The team moved toward the kitchen where poltergeist activity was said to be most prevalent. Nate took over the provoking while Zander led the way. He focused on the LCD of his camera because everything else was pitch black. He’d slammed into countless doorframes and cut himself on many a rusty nail because he couldn’t see more than what his LCD showed him. They couldn’t investigate with the lights on because most manifestations were seen better in the dark as mist figures.
“I remember this part,” Zander said.
Without waiting for Zander’s instructions, Adam fast-forwarded until he got to the part where Zander was about to make his way down to the basement via the kitchen. “This is where things started to get weird,” he said under his breath.
“Right there.” Nate pointed at the screen. “See that?”
Zander couldn’t breath. A ball of light unlike anything he’d ever seen in his years of investigating the paranormal entered the back of his head. The orb looked like it had eyes. Red eyes.
“What the hell is that?” Zander whispered, covering his mouth.
“First, I’ve never seen anything like it,” said Nate. “And I’ve seen many things in this business. I’d say that’s what followed you home.”
“It started getting freaky after that, man.” Adam hit the fast forward button again and when he stopped, it was during Zander’s session in the basement.
Adam and Nate had left him there to collect EVPs of a woman who supposedly committed suicide by hanging herself from the beams. He’d hit record on his digital recorder, and five minutes into the session, Zander just stopped talking and stared into space. The static night vision camera filming the whole thing went in and out of focus and then the picture got fuzzy like a TV antenna being adjusted to catch a signal. When the picture cleared, Zander was no longer in the basement.
“Where’d I go?” he asked no one in particular.
“That’s the thing, bro.” Adam rubbed his head, this time with both hands. “You never left the basement.”
“What?” Zander looked from Adam’s face to the screen showing an empty folding chair.
Nate continued what Adam was supposed to say. “When Adam and I returned an hour later, we found you at the farthest corner of the basement,” an uncertain pause, as if he debated whether to spill what he knew or run away, “you were facing the wall.”
“What?” It was all Zander could say. All his brain would allow him to say. He couldn’t make sense of what Nate and Adam were telling him.
Nate turned to the console and pressed play. A second screen showed video taken from Adam’s camera. He was the first one to enter the basement. He called for Zander, and getting no response, he panned the camera around the room. When he noticed a figure at the corner of the basement, he screamed. Nate seemed to grab Adam by the shoulder because the camera looked like it was yanked to the side. Telling Adam to calm down, Nate approached the corner, his own camera in his hands.
As Zander watched, his face grew paler and paler. He had absolutely no recollection of what he was seeing unfold on the screen.
Adam managed to steady his breathing and stop his cursing long enough to focus his camera on Nate, who was still approaching the figure standing in the corner of the room. At about a foot from the figure, Nate stopped, saying Zander’s name. He didn’t respond.  
Zander could make out the gothic cross design on the back of the shirt he wore that night. He was standing directly in front of a juncture where two walls met, right beside the boiler. He had his back to Adam and Nate, in his right hand his digital recorder, the red light still on, which indicated it was still recording.
Nate hit pause on the video and queued up a sound bite. “This is what was captured on your recorder.”
A guttural groan followed by the words: You are mine, Z.
Cold sweat trailed its way down Zander’s spine. It was a class A EVP, meaning the words were clear as crystal and audible to the human ear without audio enhancement of any kind. Usually, they’d have to enhance the audio or increase the volume and play it over and over again to make out any EVPs their digital recorders had captured.
Nate played the video again and Zander couldn’t take his eyes off the screen.
Adam was asking Nate what was the matter with Zander just as Nate reached out to touch Zander’s shoulder. In a split second, Zander turned around, dropping the recorder. He surprised Nate enough to stumble back. Adam focused on Zander’s eyes while asking if he was alright. Zander didn’t respond. The picture started to shake, Adam’s grip on the cam faltering. He asked Zander once again if he was alright, backing away as he did so. The menacing gleam in Zander’s eyes was enough to force the toughest of men to back away, let alone an eighteen-year-old boy who was the most skittish of the three of them.
Nate regained his wits and called for Zander, but it was no good. Zander wasn’t responding to either of them. He walked toward Adam until the other boy backed into a beam and dropped his camera. It showed Zander’s boots climbing the basement stairs. A door slammed five seconds later.
Eyes wide, Zander swallowed. “What the hell…” He couldn’t complete the sentence. He’d seen himself possessed during investigations before, but never like this. Never had he lost total control of himself and looked like someone ready to kill those in his team.
Nate stopped the video and faced Zander. “We found you passed out by the front door after that.”
“The investigation?” Zander croaked out.
“Ended shortly after that.”
“You were out cold, man.” Adam shook his head. “We called for the Exorcist to come in. You woke up shortly after the house was cleansed. You don’t remember that either?”
Zander buried his head in his hands. “I’m so screwed.”   

Review Request: Wyndano's Cloak by A.R. Silverberry

We have an award winner on our hands, folks! I think this one's a very exciting book. Please read the blurb, and if you want to review Wyndano's Cloak, leave your name and email address in the comments section so that Peter can contact you right away. Happy Reading!

Jen has settled into a peaceful life when a terrifying event awakens old fears—of being homeless and alone, of a danger horrible enough to destroy her family and shatter her world forever.

She is certain that Naryfel, a shadowy figure from her past, has returned and is concentrating the full force of her hate on Jen's family. But how will she strike? A knife in the dark? An attack from her legions? Or with the dark arts and twisted creatures she commands with sinister cunning.

Wyndano's Cloak may be Jen's only hope. If she can only trust that she has what it takes to use it . . .

An award-winning fantasy of loyalty, betrayal, and the yearning of the spirit.

Read an excerpt!

“. . . Constant suspense . . . impossible to put down. You're going to be very tired in the morning.” Feathered Quill Review


Gold Medal Winner 2011 Benjamin Franklin Awards, in Juvenile/Young Adult Fiction

Gold Medal Winner 2010 Readers Favorite Awards in Preteen Fiction

Winner, 2010 Books and Authors Books of the Year Award, in Fantasy/Fairy Tale Fiction

Silver Medal Winner 2011 Bill Fisher Award for Best First Book, Children’s/Young Adult

Finalist, ForeWord Reviews Book of the Year Awards, Juvenile Fiction

2011 Allbooks Review Editor’s Choice Award in Young Adult/Children

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Introducing Eika

I'd like to introduce everyone to my Kimi Doll. Here is a little about her story:

The Kimmidoll® brand was conceived following a long standing passion with elegant decorative gift and homeware items inspired by Eastern culture. The traditional Japanese Kokeshi dolls are a perfect example of this simplistic Eastern beauty.

Kokeshi dolls have been a Japanese cultural institution for over two centuries. Giving and receiving Kokeshi dolls dates back to the Edo period (1603-1867) in Japan. Kokeshi dolls were handcrafted by woodwork artisans of the time known as Kijiya, (which means woodworker in Japanese) to be given away as tokens of love and friendship. Kokeshi dolls were given as gifts to newborn children as a lucky charm to bestow good wishes for a healthy child.

It is this philosophy of bestowing luck and good fortune upon friends and family that is behind the creation of the Kimmidoll® brand. Kimmidolls are contemporary collectable dolls combining a fusion of traditional and modern creative sensibility.

The Kimmidoll® brand is already a global success, now well known in over 50 countries worldwide including Australia, United Kingdom, France, Italy, Spain, Portugal, The Netherlands, Ireland, South Africa, New Zealand, Chile, Argentina, Singapore, Hong Kong, Japan, Korea and the United Arab Emirates.

Kimmidoll® is a family of contemporary doll characters, each lovingly designed and representing one of “Life’s True Values”. As a beautiful collectable or as a home decorative item these gorgeous dolls will bless all the important moments in your life.

The beauty of the Kimmidoll® range lies in the gorgeous inspirational values that each doll expresses. While they look individual, there is one philosophy that all the Kimmidolls share, and that is about celebrating important values in life’s journey such as kindness, happiness, joy and respect. The Kimmidoll® range allows you to celebrate these values with your friends and family. Each gorgeous kimmidoll comes with its own collector’s card.

Kimmidolls are “charming” friends that will inspire you throughout life’s journey.

With that said, I relinquish this blog post to Eika...

Hello, my name is Eika


My spirit is persistent and positive.

With your drive, persistence and unwavering belief in what you set your mind to do, no obstacle is too great, and no failure can waver your firm resolve. May your strong and positive spirit bring you all the success you seek.

Because of the above description, Eika hangs on a ring outside my bag. I keep her with me or close by at all times, and she has proven to bring me success wherever I go.

If you want to know more about Kimi Dolls, you can visit this their website.

As white as snow...

Is it just me, or are there one, two, many Snow White movies coming out next year? Now, you might think I'm sounding a tad bitchy here. But on the contrary, I can't be happier. One is an action packed drama and the other is a comedy with a little action thrown in for good measure. What I love the most about these two movies? They've given Snow White a spin. She's more warrior than damsel in distress now. Here are the two trailers. What do you think?

Snow White and the Huntsman

Mirror Mirror

Review Request: The Quiet Road by Annie Frame

I think we have another spine-tingler on our hands. It's a pleasure to welcome back Annie Frame to our Review Requests. Read the blurb, and if you want a sleepless night, please leave your name and email address in the comments section so that Annie can contact you about your review copy right away. Happy Reading!

The author takes the reader on a journey into the mind of another. Murder, mystery and suspense surround an aging police chief as he battles to solve a number of horrific murders. His real world begins to dissolve as facts start to present themselves and there is little he can do to stop fate delivering itself.

You will love, hate, and weep for those on The Quiet Road......and if you don't believe the in the Devil, you probably will at the end of this sinister tale.

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News...sort of

I have NEWS!

Unfortunately, I can't share it with all of you yet.

So, for now, I've been baking again.

Have a cupcake.

Review Request: Frightened Boy by Scott Kelly

I think we have an intriguing one today, folks! Check out the blurb. And if you want to meet the boy and find out why he's frightened, please leave your name and email address in the comments section so that Scott can contact you right away. Happy Reading!

Havoc has been cried and the hounds of war are loose in Banlo Bay, the last metropolis in America. You’re either a mouth or a mouthful, and young Clark Horton survives with caution, diving in dumpsters and drinking from drains.

He was doing pretty well at it. At least, until he attracted the ire of Escher, the Red King. The madman is the leader of a gang of existential terrorists who are hell-bent on destroying Banlo Bay. Clark must choose a side - order or chaos. The fate of civilization is left in his hands, and a life of constant cataclysm has left him wondering which side is truly best.

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Guillotine 11-10-11

Chapter 2
The Paranormal

            Zander sat inside his car the next morning staring at the key in the ignition. He couldn’t bring himself to start the car and drive the thirty minutes it would take to get to work. He was already late. Nate and Adam must be in the editing room by now, yet Zander felt no urgency. It was unlike him to be late for anything, always being the first to arrive at an investigation. What had happened when he’d woken up in a cold sweat still bothered him. All he remembered from the nightmare were red eyes and the heavy sense of foreboding that wouldn’t go away. He called to Kara, but she wasn’t there. She normally came out at night, so it didn’t surprise him that she was unresponsive, but he wanted someone to tell him everything was fine, that he was fine. Then his forehead burned. It hurt enough to make him fall off the couch.
            Wincing, he reached up and rubbed at the burning sensation. When he pulled his hand away, there was no blood. That was a good sign at least, he thought as he picked himself off the floor. His legs wouldn’t work properly, muscles stiff and rickety from having been on a lumpy couch all night—another rescue. A case of pins and needles assailed his arms as well. He cursed with every step, hating not sleeping in his bed.
            Zander and his team lived most of their lives on the road. He’d seen the inside of countless hotel rooms and slept in many a strange bed. Sometimes, he even had to endure sleeping in the car with Adam, who farted like a cow, while Nate drove all night so they could all make it to their next investigation. So, when he was home, nothing could separate him from his beloved bed. Well, last night was the exception to the rule. What the hell happened to him? He felt like a freight train had dragged his body a hundred miles before the conductor noticed he’d run over someone.
            Zander ran his hands through his hair as he climbed the stairs toward his other pride and joy: his master bathroom. He yawned, stretched—getting most of the kinks out—and flipped on the light switch. He’d converted one of the spare rooms on the second floor into a bathroom that would make most grown men weep. It took the contractors two months to build. It had a Jacuzzi instead of a bathtub, a shower closet with a state of the art showerhead which had ten different settings (his personal favorite was rainfall), and an illusion sink made to look like it was floating. The tiles were imported from Spain and his toilet from Japan had more buttons on it than his universal remote. No other bathroom could compete, which made being away from home always uncomfortable on the first day of any trip.
            He ambled to the sink and froze. With shaking fingers, he lifted up the hair that had fallen over his forehead. Three very red, very angry scratch marks ran down the middle of his brow. The mocking of the trinity. Whatever had followed him home last night was definitely demonic. No other spirit could muster up enough power to cause bodily harm like this.
            “Aww shit, not again.” Zander leaned forward to get a better look at the marks. That explained the burning sensation. But what the freaking hell was going on here? He couldn’t remember anything after he’d stumbled onto the couch last night—no matter how hard he tried to piece events together.
            In an effort to calm himself, Zander took a quick shower and cleaned up his bathroom before dressing in a black sweater and jeans. He jammed a baseball cap on his head to hide the marks and hurried to his kitchen for a quick bite. Opening the door of his stainless steal refrigerator, he scanned the meager contents within. Being away two to three weeks out of every month didn’t exactly afford him time to shop. He reached for the milk carton, took one whiff, and threw the offensive thing in the trash. The orange juice seemed fine after a test sip, so he pulled it out along with a couple of eggs. He searched the counter for the bread he’d bought, but it was nowhere in sight. Shrugging, he took one last gulp of orange juice before dumping the bottle in the trash as well. The eggs he returned to the fridge. What were scrambled eggs without toast? He’d have to grab a bite at work instead.
            Unable to shake the unease that followed him around since he’d opened his eyes, Zander sat in his car, unmoving. It was his Super Freak ringtone that jerked him out of his stupor. He fished out his phone from his pants pocket and plugged it into the hands free jack on the dash. Nate’s picture filled the screen. Buckling himself in and starting the car, Zander debated whether to answer the call as he pulled out of his driveway. At the corner of his eye, he caught a glimpse of white behind one of the second floor windows, but when he looked up to make sure, it was gone. When he couldn’t take listening to Super Freak anymore, Zander tapped the screen and waited.
            “You’re late,” Nate said.
            “What else is new?” Zander turned the corner at the end of his street toward the freeway on ramp. He prayed he’d hit traffic and be forced to delay the inevitable. He didn’t know how he was going to explain the three scratches on his forehead.
            A pregnant pause, then “Not like you, man.”
            “Rough night.”
            “You mean to tell me you went out partying after our investigation? That’s hardly what I’d call professional, bro.”
            Just because Nate had a girlfriend to go home too, it didn’t mean he could lord it over all of them. But Zander chose to ignore his friend’s judgmental tone. He had other things to worry about.
            “I wish,” he said simply. “Look, I’m on the freeway now, and it looks like I just missed rush hour. I’ll be there in twenty.”
            “What happened?”
            Zander had to smile at that. Nate wasn’t one to mince words. They knew each other too well to dick around. “Better that I show you when I get in.”
            “I don’t like the sound of that.” Nate breathed into the receiver. “It’s Octavia Island all over again, isn’t it?”
            “Not even close.”
            “Allen’s Restaurant and Bar?”
“You’re not going to like how it looks, bro. That’s all I’m going to say.”
            Another pause followed by Adam’s voice in the background announcing he’d brought coffee. “Shut up, bro! Can’t you see I’m on the phone?”
            “Is that Z?” Adam asked. His voice held a hint of an echo, which meant he was far away from where Nate stood. “Why’s he late?”
            “Something happened,” Nate said.
            “Oh, bro, you’ve got to be kidding me.”
            “I’m still on the phone,” Zander interjected.
            Nate mustn’t have heard him because he said, “He said he’d show us when he gets in. He’s on the road now.”
            “Can you tell him to grab me pierogis from Faustino’s on the way into the city?”
            “Nate!” Zander barked.
            “Oh sorry, man, forgot you were still on the line.” A muffled argument ensued on the other line then Nate said, “Catch you later. And forget about Adam’s pierogi. Just come in so we can see what you have to show us.” Then he hung up.
            Zander had to stop himself from rubbing his forehead in consternation. The marks still hurt. He loved Nate and Adam like brothers, and he’d definitely bury a body for them, but sometimes, they were annoying as hell. Stepping on the gas, he decided there was no use running away from telling his team about what had happened last night; at least, what he remembered of it anyway. Maybe they could help him piece it together.
            Light traffic and a quick parking job later, Zander walked into the lobby of the Institute for Paranormal Activity, or IPA for short. The heavy thumps his boots made bounced off the marble floors, walls, and high ceiling. It was like he’d entered a cavern, the lobby was so big.
Their building was located downtown, and to the masses, it was known as the Haunted Channel Headquarters, a cable network that featured anything paranormal all day every day. Any show involving vampires, werewolves, witches, fairies, you name it, aired on the Haunted Channel, along with several reality TV shows like the one Zander hosted; aptly titled Paranormal Investigations. All of it was a front for IPA, an organization whose sole objective was to rid the world of any paranormal activity. Zander always thought it ironic that he hosted a show about proving the existence of ghosts only to eradicate them when the cameras stopped recording. As he saw it, he was the modern and cooler equivalent of the Ghost Busters, even if Adam reminded him of Slimer most of the time.
He neared the front desk manned by a leggy brunette named Tina. The Haunted Channel logo of a ghost silhouette hung on the wall behind her. She lifted a finger to forestall anything Zander was about to say and answered the phone. “Haunted Channel Headquarters, how may I direct your call?” She paused to listen. “Please hold.” After connecting the call, she put down the phone and looked up at Zander with a beaming smile. “Good morning, Z. You’re late.”
Zander lifted his hand to scratch his head only to remember he wore a cap. He dropped his hand and said, “I’d been getting that a lot today.”
“What? Ran out of gel for your hair?” Tina’s demeanor changed faster than lightning flash. She scowled at him now.
            “What’s gotten into you today?” Zander rested his forearms on top of Tina’s desk.
            She grudgingly handed him several pink slips of paper. “Here are your messages.”
            He took the stack from her with a confused scowl. “Shouldn’t Morgan be handling these? Did he forget that he’s my assistant again?”
            “How should I know?”
            “Tina,” Zander put on his most winning smile, the one Nate liked to refer to as his on camera face, “what’s the matter? I have a feeling there’s something you’re not telling me.”
            Tina crossed her arms, which served to plump up her breasts further. “What happened to you calling me, huh?”
            The smile on Zander’s face froze as he backed away slowly.
            “Zander! You get back here!” Tina almost jumped the counter from the way she bent forward. “We’re not done!”
He shimmied to his right and ran for the security gates leading to the elevators. He fished out his ID, fed it to the scanner, and gave Bernie the security guard an apologetic grin.
            “You have to stop dating the staff, Z,” Bernie admonished.
            The elevator doors parted with a ding and Zander slid in like he was stealing second base. Those exiting had to dodge or be run over. Several people gave him disparaging looks, but before anyone could comment, Zander punched the security code that would take him to the Paranormal Investigations floor near the top of the fifty-story building. The closing doors blocked out Tina’s mounting histrionics.
            Alone in the quickly climbing cab, Zander sighed. He reminded himself never to enter through the lobby again. One date…and that was before the Miller House investigation. How could he expect to remember to call Tina when he couldn’t even remember everything that had happened to him in the last week?
            One thing Zander did know when the doors parted again, the video taken from Miller House would explain everything. He strode out of the elevator with a newly awakened sense of urgency. If he was going to get to the bottom of the three scratches on his forehead and what had followed him home, then he needed to get to the editing room and scan every second of footage they had. And surely, Adam and Nate knew something. They just had to.
            Zander ignored the greetings of the rest of the Paranormal Investigations crew. He’d apologize for being a diva later. He hurried to the end of a dimly lit hallway and yanked open the door. Adam and Nate sat in front of a large control panel with monitors and editing equipment. In unison, they turned their heads to regard Zander with curious expressions.
            Without waiting for them to speak, Zander removed his cap and brushed back his hair.


Who likes books? Who likes money?

Novel Publicity is now recruiting for 5 gigantic blog tours during the Christmas holidays. Reading the books is completely optional. You can win enormous cash prizes just for copy-pasting prewritten excerpts, interviews, and guest posts. That's right, it's super easy!

The Prizes

  • A total of $3,500 in cash prizes (1 $500 prize, 20 $100, 20 $50 prizes)
  • 3 Kindle Fires
  • 35 autographed paperback books (5 of each book)
  • free eBook copies for anyone who wants to offer a review as part of this tour


Does this sound like something you'd like to participate in? If so, you can sign up for 1 tour or you can sign up for all 5! We make it easy by giving you everything you need to participate and offering huge prizes! There are several different ways to win for each tour.

Visit to sign-up if you'd like to participate in one or all of these tours.

Now here's some more info for you...

More Info + Meet the Books

The Traffic-Breaker: Each of the 5 tours offers the chance to win $100 simply by getting the most votes in our online poll.*This prize is available for all 5 tours.

The Best Original Entry: You don't have to read the books to compete for any of the prizes--except for this one. Whichever blogger writes the most unique and creative post as part of each book's tour will will the $100 prize. 2 $100 prizes are up for the Gaia Wars and Scorpio Rising tours, because each of these books are touring with their sequel. *This prize is available for all 5 tours.

The Random Commenter: Encourage your blog readers to comment on your blog and visit other host blogs to leave a comment of your own. One random commenter will win a $100 prize, simple as that. *This prize is available for the following tours: Scorpio Rising, Gaia Wars, In Leah's Wake, and Farsighted.

The Blogger with the Most Comments: Do your blog readers love you? Get them to comment on your post. If you get the most, you win $100! *This prize is only available for the Farsighted tour.

Sharing Contests on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+: These are the easiest to win of all the prizes and each tour is hosting these contests on at least 2 of 3 of these networks. For Facebook and Google+, you'll simply have to click share on a promotional post. For Twitter, you'll have to retweet a promotional blurb with a designated hashtag. Each of these contests are rapid fire, and the winners are chosen at random within 24 hours. *These prizes are available for all 5 tours.

Special Contests from each Author: Each author is hard at work creating a special contest as part of his or her tour. You could win more cash (up to $500 per prize) or a coveted Kindle Fire. More info about these awards will be coming at the start of each tour. *These prizes are available for all 5 tours.

Bloggers are welcome to compete in all of the awards listed above, and we hope that you will!


Stay Tuned by Lauren Clark

Tour Dates: November 28 through December 2

Genre: Women's Fiction/ Chick Lit

Hook: What happens when a #1 news team becomes the top story instead of reporting it?

Prizes: 3 $100 prizes, 5 $50 prizes, 5 autographed paperback copies

Read the Summary on Amazon



The Gaia Wars by Kenneth Bennett

*plus its sequel Battle for Cascadia (not yet released)

Tour Dates: December 5 through 9

Genre: Young Adult

Hook: DEADLY SECRETS have been buried in the Cascade mountain wilderness for centuries. Hidden. Out of sight and out of mind. Until today…

Prizes: 5 $100 prizes, 3 $50 prizes, Kindle Fire, 10 autographed paperback copies

Read the Summary on Amazon


In Leah's Wake by Terri Giuliano Long

Tour Dates: December 12 through 16

Genre: Literary Fiction

Hook: The Tyler family had the perfect life – until sixteen-year-old Leah decided she didn’t want to be perfect anymore.

Prizes: 1 $500 prize, 3 $100 prizes, 2 $50 prizes, 5 autographed paperback copies

Read the Summary on Amazon



Scorpio Rising by Monique Domovitch

*plus its sequel The Sting of the Scorpio

Tour Dates: December 19 through 23

Genre: Drama

Hook: If the cost of love was the loss of success, which would you choose?

Prizes: 4 $100 prizes, 3 $50 prizes, 2 Kindle Fires, 10 autographed paperback copies

Read the Summary on Amazon


Farsighted by Emlyn Chand

Tour Dates: December 26 through 30

Genre: Young Adult

Hook: Alex may be blind, but he can still “see” things others can’t. When his unwanted visions of the future begin to suggest that the girl he likes could be in danger, he has no choice but to take on destiny and demand it reconsider.

Prizes: 5 $100 prizes, 5 $50 prizes, 5 autographed paperback copies

Read the Summary on Amazon



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If you plan to compete for the best blog entry award for any of the tours (which will require reading the book), please send an email to to request a free eCopy of the book you'd like to review. Please complete sign-up before requesting any book copies. Thank you!

Guillotine 11-7-11

Chapter 1
The Haunted

            Zander slumped backward into one of the four rickety chairs surrounding an old square table he’d rescued from an alley dumpster two years ago. It sat at the center of his darkened, yet spotless, kitchen. He couldn’t be bothered to flick on the light switch when he had entered his home through the back door. The moonless night matched the inkiness hugging him. He wondered for a second what time it was. He’d been missing a chunk of his memory, most of the events in his head a blur, no matter how much inventory he took of it.
The week’s assignment had been the most grueling yet. He couldn’t recall an instance since he’d begun his job as a Paranormal Investigator where he’d been this tired. It was the kind of fatigue that reached inside and wouldn’t let go no matter how much he rested. It seeped into his bones.
His usually meticulously styled hair fell limp over his creased forehead. He couldn’t get the events of that week, as hazy as they were, out of his head. The house looked like any other house he and his team entered, hunting for the paranormal. Its history told of devil worshippers and human sacrifice that reached back a hundred years, but what was new? He’d seen worse as far as backgrounds of a possible haunting was concerned. He’d had his share of demonic possessions and scratches on different parts of his body. But the Miller House was different somehow.
Investigating usually had him pumped, ready for anything, but there was something about this week that didn’t sit right with him. He’d mentioned it to his fellow investigators, but they’d brushed it off as him needing a vacation. Adam and Nathan were always the more happy-go-lucky ones in the group. Zander had mischief in his blood too, but sometimes, like right now, the darkness around him couldn’t compete with the void that slowly grew within him, like something truly sinister had attached itself to him and wouldn’t let go.
            With an effort that stole more of his waning strength, Zander lifted his hands until they hovered just above his face. Even in the darkness, he could see them shaking. He dropped his hands and slumped lower into his seat until the tips of his fingers touched the mopped linoleum floor. He closed his eyes and let his chin fall to his chest. He didn’t know if he could make it up the flight of steps that led to his bedroom on the second floor of his house. But if he didn’t pick himself up, he’d definitely end up sleeping in the kitchen. One thing he hated more than clowns was stiff muscles.
            He’d made up his mind to muster up the strength to stand when goosebumps rose on his arms. He opened his eyes and watched his breath puff out on each exhale. The temperature had dropped dramatically. Keeping his calm, he crossed his arms and braced himself.
            Behind Zander, a white mist formed. First a foggy silhouette that slowly materialized into a full spectral form. The figure floated toward Zander and wrapped her pale arms around his neck. She planted a blue-lipped kiss on his cheek and the cascade of her opaque hair tumbled over his shoulders. Her simple white summer dress rippled over her lithe body like she had an imaginary fan blowing air around her at all times.
            “You look like crap, Z,” she whispered into his ear. “What’s gotten into you?”
            Zander shivered and said, “Nothing more than the usual, I’d say.”
            The specter leaned the side of her head on his and tsked. “No snarky comeback? You must be sick or something. I don’t like it.”
            “You think so?” Zander considered what she’d said. He lifted a hand to his forehead and felt his temperature. His skin felt clammy, as it always was whenever his visitor was around. “You could say it’s been a rough week. I think something followed me home again. I hate it when that happens.”
            “I don’t feel anything unusual right now.” The girl scanned the kitchen. “Are you sure?”
            “We’ll find out soon enough.” Zander shook his head. “These nasty bastards never wait long to make their presence known.”
            “Demonic or something milder?”
            “Kara,” Zander raised an eyebrow she couldn’t see from where she floated behind him, “does anything mild ever follow me home?”
            “I followed you home.” She pouted.
            “Case in point.”
            Kara stepped back and smacked Zander upside his head. The impact of her spiritual energy manifested as a sudden headache. He doubled over and groaned, kneading his temples with his fingertips.
            “Damn it, Kara!” He shut his eyes to keep his world from spinning any faster than it already was. “I don’t have time for your temper tantrums. I’m too tired to cleanse myself as it is. Don’t add to my misery, please.”
            “You started it.” Kara stood her ground, which meant raising the temperature in the kitchen even higher. Her strength grew when she got stubborn, but never enough to send potentially harmful objects flying. She wasn’t poltergeist material, and Zander was thankful for that little mercy. He could imagine the state his house would be in every time he’d ticked her off. His OCD tendencies wouldn’t be able to cope.
            “Don’t make me call the Exorcist on you,” Zander threatened through clenched teeth. The chill in the room dissipated, along with his headache. He sat up and sighed. “Thank you.”
            “Just because I like you, Z, doesn’t mean you have the right to be a jerk to me,” Kara said. Her voice took on a tremulous quality that always stabbed at Zander’s heart. He was defenseless against her tears more than he was against her spiritual attacks. She was a vengeful spirit, but certainly not demonic. He had no right to lump her along with the malevolence he sometimes came up against during his investigations.
            Like caffeine in his veins, her sadness woke him up enough to get up and face her. She looked utterly beautiful for a ghost. In his line of work, ghosts, spirits, specters, apparitions, or whatever you’d like to call entities that were not of this world, hardly manifested as clearly as Kara did. Usually, Zander would be lucky to encounter a shadow figure or a mist during his outings with Adam and Nathan. There was something different about Kara, and he had yet to figure out what it was. He came home one day from an investigation to find her in his room, waiting. He managed to ignore her for a week until she had realized that he could see her. When that happened, it was the end of his peace and quiet. He’d always wanted a pet, but he didn’t think he’d have to put up with a whiny one. At least he didn’t have to feed her.
            Zander met her ghostly gaze, an eternal nothingness behind her colorless eyes, and rubbed the back of his neck. “I’m sorry, Kara. I truly am. You know I don’t mean half the things that come out of my mouth. I provoke, that’s who I am. You have every right to be mad at me. This is certainly not an environment I want to expose you to all the time. Feel free to leave if you want.”
            She grinned. “You’re not getting rid of me that easily, Zander Billings.”
            Zander returned her expression with a smirk of his own. “Was worth a try.”
He moved past her toward the stairs. At the bottom step, he stopped and regarded the ten or so steps he had to climb to reach the three-hundred-thread-count sheets waiting for him in his bedroom. Kara materialized beside him and followed his gaze with her own.
            “What are we looking at?” she asked in a soft whisper.
            Most people wouldn’t hear Kara’s words since she spoke at a higher frequency that most human ears had no idea how to tap into. But Zander’s countless years of listening to electronic voice phenomena, or EVPs as they called them, allowed him to tune into Kara’s speech within the white noise. Sometimes, like now, she drained his energy just by standing by his side.  But, then again, he’d already come home nearly empty. What was an ounce more of energy lost?
            Zander made a mental note to remove his gear from inside his car when he woke up the next morning. He’d completely forgotten to unload them. He might even need a jumpstart since he thought he’d left his headlights on. He crossed his fingers it wasn’t the case. It would supremely suck having to call Nathan just to help him restart his car. He’d never hear the end of it. The great Zander needing someone’s help; the very idea of it made him wince.
            “I don’t think I can make it up there,” he said in response to Kara’s question.
            “You’re really that tired?” Kara faced him. “You’re really scaring me, Z.”
            He gave her a wink before taking a step up. He wobbled and grabbed the banister before completely losing his balance. Kara squeaked, reaching both hands out in an attempt to catch him even if he would literally slip through her fingers if he’d fallen. She may be a fully corporeal spirit, but she didn’t have enough power to actually be of much help if something did happen.
            “God, Z!”
            “See, that wasn’t so bad.” Zander tightened his grip on the wooden railing of his staircase. “Now if I can only repeat it ten more times, I’d be home free.”
            Kara disappeared from behind Zander only to reappear a couple of steps above him. Her black-polished toenails never touched the ground. She wore worry on her face like a veil. “Come on, Z. You know I can’t help you if you fall down these stairs and break your neck. Please.” She pointed at the living room only meters away.
            The couch was certainly a better alternative to the rickety chair. But it wasn’t his massive bed with special pillows that molded to the contours of your head. If Zander had one guilty pleasure, it was his bed. He’d used a large chunk of his first paycheck to buy the thing. Coming from a large family, he didn’t have the luxury of having his own place, let alone his own bed, until he had officially become an investigator. When he’d moved in, the first thing he did was take a nap in every room, no matter how devoid of furniture the house had been at the time. He relished the independence. It was one of the perks of the job, despite the many setbacks like having a demon follow you home and make your life a living hell. Zander never understood that phrase until he’d lived it. He’d never believed in ghosts until he came face to face with one. It was that experience that led him to become what he was now.
            Taking one last look up at the stairs, which was currently blocked by Kara, Zander let out a long and weighty breath before he stepped down and hobbled into his living room. He fell face down on the couch and barely felt Kara positioning a throw pillow underneath his cheek. How she’d done so escaped him. Where was she getting the energy from? He had none left to spare. In seconds, he surrendered himself to unconsciousness.
            The dream came as swiftly as sleep did.
            A dark entity with red eyes hovered over Zander’s prone body. “You think you’ve seen the last of me,” it said in a gravelly voice. “You think just because you’ve left that place that you’re free of me?”
            Zander, asleep, couldn’t respond. His consciousness merely observed what was happening from a corner of the room. He willed himself to wake up, but nothing happened. Panic engulfed him like a powerful wave from a turbulent sea.
            The entity laughed, harsh and chilling. It was like it fed on Zander’s mounting fear. Awake he could handle whatever demonic presence invaded his home. But asleep, he was completely helpless. The demon might as well possess him. At least then, when managed to wake up, he could call for the Exorcist. But until that happened, he was defenseless. And he hated every second of it.
            He knew signing up to be an investigator had its risks, but never did Zander ever feel his life was in any danger. Not until this particular entity arrived. If there was a time he needed to wake up, it was right now.  
            As if responding to his thoughts, the demon said, “Oh, you’d want me to enter you, wouldn’t you? Well, you’re not getting away from me. You’ve taunted me long enough. Now, it’s my turn.” It tapped a clawed finger at the center of Zander’s forehead. “It’s not going to be that easy for you, child. And it never will for as long as I exist. I will follow you everywhere you go. There will be no place you can hide from me.” It laughed again, and this time, it sounded like the end of the world. 

Review Request: Five Dances with Death by Austin Briggs

I always love a book that involves the Aztecs. Read the blurb below and if you believe that you can dance with death, then please leave your name and email address in the comments section so that Austin can send you a copy right away. Happy Reading!

In the days before the Conquistadors, Angry Wasp is fighting to keep his family and his small Aztec nation alive.

Slavers have kidnapped his daughter. His wife has turned to powerful sorcery. His people have challenged Montezuma's dominance and now face extinction. And the Spaniards have begun their march inland.

Now Wasp must rely on his military prowess, wit and even dark magic to regain his family and protect the independence of his nation, as he begins a desperate journey that will forever change the fate of the Aztec people.

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Why I'm not NaNo-ing this Month

Before I explain my decision not to participate during NaNo this month, I want to pass around a plate of Chocolate Mint Cupcakes with Rainbow Sprinkles.

Cupcakes for everyone!

Now, why am I not writing this month? Simple answer, my To Be Read pile.

I was supposed to write Off the Chain, a contemporary YA romance, this month. But as the days to NaNo dwindled, I began to realize I have way too many balls in the air already. So, I've decided to finish reading all the book in my TBR pile by the end of the year. This way, I get a fresh start next year. Why do I need a fresh start? Besides the insane ups and downs this year has dealt me? I plan to make next year a writing year. Yup, you've read it right. I want to challenge myself by writing at least six books. One every other month. Why every other month? Well, after writing, I do need to edit and decompress before starting another novel.

There, I've gotten my secret off my chest. Not NaNo-ing this year. Reading instead. And baking. Lots and lots of baking.

Besides leaving you all with cupcakes, I want to show you the NaNo cover Tirz so graciously created for Off the Chain. Please visit her awesome site A Clever Whatever after you read this post. Totally worth it. :-)

Review Request: The Tourist by Jack Everett and David Coles

Today's Review Request comes from a dear friend of mine. Please take the time to read the blurb. If you're interested in reviewing this novel, please leave your name and email address in the comments section for that Jack can contact you right away.

Robert Cleghorn was a good soldier, so good that he was first selected to join the Special Forces and following a head injury, was recruited by the CIA. A second head injury hospitalized him and psychiatrists rebuilt his memories from what they could recover.

He escapes from the hospital where he was a virtual prisoner and goes to find the love of his life: his brother’s wife and a typically English rose. Always on a knife-edge, Robert quarrels with and kills his sibling.

Finding his brother was about to go to England, Robert assumes the other’s identity and heads for the UK. Blithely unaware that the memories of his beloved are artificial. Unaware of the mayhem about to erupt and the very astute English copper soon to be seeking him and unaware, too, of the Americans dogging his footsteps, Robert soldiers on. The fun is about to start.

The British copper has a love interest awakened by his new sergeant, a shot pet dog and two bosses who change like the weather.

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There's no limit to the books you can get from the authors willing to offer them up for review.

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Thank you!
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