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Historical Fiction Author Jill Limber: ‘Spend as much time as you can promoting’

Jill LimberA multi-published author and former RWA President, Jill Limber’s latest books are Montana Morning, A Heart That Dares and The Right Track. As a child, some of Jill’s tales got her in trouble, but now she gets paid for them. Residing in San Diego with her husband and a trio of dogs and one very ancient cat, Jill’s favorite pastime is to gather friends and family for good food, conversation and plenty of laughter.

You can visit her website at www.JillLimber.com.

About A Heart That Dares

A Heart That DaresAmanda Giles, an unconventional and free-spirited young artist, has to fulfill a deathbed promise to her brother before she can take up her life as a Bohemian in New York. She finds herself swept up in the perilous life of an undercover espionage agent for the Army of the North with handsome young Army Captain. Daniel McGrath. Daniel knows his preoccupation with the woman posing as his wife puts them both in grave danger, but he finds Amanda has no intention of abandoning their mission. As the danger increases, Daniel’s most vital objective is to secure a future for himself and the woman he loves.

Q: Thank you for this interview, Jill. Can you tell us what your latest book,A Heart That Dares, is all about?

Amanda Giles, an unconventional and free-spirited young artist, has to fulfill a deathbed promise to her brother before she can take up her life as a Bohemian in New York. She finds herself swept up in the perilous life of an undercover espionage agent for the Army of the North with handsome young Army Captain. Daniel McGrath. Daniel knows his preoccupation with the woman posing as his wife puts them both in grave danger, but he finds Amanda has no intention of abandoning their mission. As the danger increases, Daniel’s most vital objective is to secure a future for himself and the woman he loves.

Q:  Can you tell us a little about your main and supporting characters?

The main character, Amanda Giles, is a woman ahead of her time. Her plans to work as an artist are interrupted when she is swept up in the American Civil War. She feisty and stubborn and independent. The hero, Daniel McGrath, reluctantly follows orders and works with Amanda, even though he is convinced a spy mission into enemy territory is no place for a gently bred woman. He is strong and steady, where she is impulsive and rash, a perfect match of opposites. The main minor character, a brave run-away slave women named Sylvie and her two children need to be rescued, and Amanda jumps right in.

Q: Do you tend to base your characters on real people or are they totally from your imagination?

Totally from imagination. I sometimes use personality traits from people I know, but the characters are totally made up.

Q: Are you consciously aware of the plot before you begin a novel, or do you discover it as you write?

 Definitely, I’m a plotter. I need the structure of a plot to develop a story properly and keep it on track.

Q: Your book is set during the Civil War in various locations in the Confederate States.  Can you tell us why you chose these cities?

For the plot of this book, the two characters needed to travel, and their adventures take them all over the South. I did a lot of research into where the armies were moving, and chose the cities that way.

Q: Does the setting play a major part in the development of your story?

Absolutely. I feel as if the setting was actually almost like another character in the book, totally necessary to the plot.

Q: Open the book to page 69.  What is happening?

 Amanda has been wounded by Rebel raiders and Daniel is racing to get her back to camp and to the doctor before she loses too much blood.

Q: Can you give us one of your best excerpts?

Sure. I always love the first kiss scene in any book. 

“What do you mean, I don’t know how to kiss? How dare you?” Amanda sputtered, twisting away from him.

Daniel tightened his grip. “I mean you don’t know how to kiss the way a husband would kiss you. The way a lover would kiss you.”

Amanda glared at him. His eyes flashed back at her. Then in one swift movement he pulled her hard up against his chest, one arm circling her waist. He tilted her head back and slowly lowered his mouth to hers, staring directly into her eyes.

Amanda swallowed and tried to speak, but for the life of her she didn’t know what she would say even if she could find her voice.

Finally Daniel touched his lips, warm and firm, to hers and Amanda closed her eyes, savoring the feeling. She felt the strength leaving her tingling body and she leaned into Daniel for support.

He licked her upper lip with the tip of his tongue, then gently nibbled on the lower one. She gasped at the sensation, and when her lips parted, he ran his tongue inside her mouth.

Amanda found she couldn’t trust her legs and she swayed. When Daniel pulled away from her, she opened her eyes, but had trouble focusing.

His voice husky, Daniel murmured, “Goodnight Amanda.”

“Goodnight, Daniel,” she whispered as the door closed behind him.

He was right, she thought. She never had really kissed anyone else before.

Q: Have you suffered from writer’s block and what do you do to get back on track?

No, thankfully. I love to write and because I plot first, the story seems to come easily.

Q: What would you do with an extra hour today if you could do anything you wanted?

 I’d do more writing. I find writing is the best part of my day.

Q: Which already published book do you wish that you had written and why?

This is a tough question. I suppose if I had to choose, I would say any of the Harry Potter books. Who wouldn’t want the royalties from that?

Q: What kind of advice would you give other fiction authors regarding getting their books out there?

Spend as much time as you can promoting. It is not what comes easily to most writers, but it is so important if you want to sell your work.

Q: Thank you so much for this interview, Jill.  We wish you much success!

 

 

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Interview with Historical Fiction Author M.M. Bennetts: ‘I start with a plot then let it grow organically’

We have a special guest today!  M.M. Bennetts is here with us to talk about the new historical fiction  novel, Of Honest Fame (Diiarts).  Enjoy!

Educated at Boston University and St Andrews, M.M. Bennetts is a specialist in the economic, social and military history of Napoleonic Europe. The author is a keen cross-country and dressage rider, as well as an accomplished pianist, regularly performing music of the era as both a soloist and accompanist. Bennetts is a long-standing book critic for The Christian Science Monitor.

The author is married and lives in England.

Bennetts’ latest book is Of Honest Fame.

You can visit the author’s website at www.mmbennetts.com.

Q: Thank you for this interview, MM. Can you tell us what your latest book, Of Honest Fame, is all about?

It’s a war of espionage, set in Britain and Continental Europe against a backdrop of Napoleon’s Invasion of Russia in 1812.

Q:  Can you tell us a little about your main and supporting characters?

There are three main characters:  Thomas Jesuadon, a disgraced gentleman and a gambler who runs his own network of watchers and spies in London, Georgie Shuster who is on secondment to the Foreign Office from the Peninsula, and a boy named Boy Tirrell, who spends much of his time out gathering information, anywhere from Paris to Berlin to Vienna.

Jesuadon’s muscle is in the form of an ex-farrier called Barnet.  There’s also the Foreign Secretary, Lord Castlereagh, and a Scotsman called Dunphail who doesn’t want anything to do with any of them, but unfortunately was a witness to a rather important event.

Together they epitomize the fact that in this period, there was no such thing as a proper intelligence agency.  They were all amateurs, they came to work as and when they chose, they risked their lives daily without recognition, and their existence has, until recently, been wholly denied by generations of politicians and historians.

Q: Do you tend to base your characters on real people or are they totally from your imagination?

Well, in the case of actual historical figures, I base those characters upon a great deal of research—I read biographies, I read their letters, journals, speeches and memoranda—so I build up not just an understanding of what made them tick, but how they spoke, who their friends were, what were their habits.

However, for the fictional characters whom I’ve introduced into the narrative, they’re usually composites of historical figures, plus bits from people I’ve known or observed, plus a bit of imagination synthesizing the whole together.  I very often will have listened to the speech patterns of people around the country so that I can write ‘character’, if you will.

Q: Are you consciously aware of the plot before you begin a novel, or do you discover it as you write?

I start with an idea of a plot, if by that you mean, a general idea of what I want to write about and where I trust the story will go, but after about the first four or five chapters, I’m afraid I step back and let the thing grow organically, building on itself.  Fortunately, I have the history there to keep me from running too far afield.  So certain people have to die at certain points in the narrative, or be somewhere specific, and that does dictate a certain structure.

Q: Your book is set in London.  Can you tell us why you chose this city in particular?

The book is set mainly in London, because that’s the capital and seat of Government of Britain, so there wasn’t much of a choice.  But the marvelous thing for me was discovering how very different was the London of 1812 from even Victorian London, and it provided me with such a background of ancient districts and slums—perfect for a spy thriller—places with names like the Devil’s Acre or the Rookery.  I don’t have to say anything more—these names are just so evocative.

Q: Does the setting play a major part in the development of your story?

Well, because the action of the novel is shared between London, Paris and Eastern Europe—places like northern Germany, Silesia, Poland, the Sudeten, and Czechoslovakia—where Napoleon’s forces had been gathering prior to the invasion, having a character there, on the ground as it were, made for some pretty stark comparisons between peaceful, unoccupied Britain and the devastation that the French army left in their wake.

Q: Open the book to page 69.  What is happening?

We’re in a chamber in the barracks at Edinburgh Castle, where Georgie Shuster is attempting to learn from the commanding officer what happened to an escaped prisoner-of-war, who is, the more he hears, sounding like the man who attempted to kill Boy Tirrell.  And this, together with the commanding officer’s obvious incompetence, is causing Shuster to be more than a little nervous.

Q: Can you give us one of your best excerpts?

“Lady Wilmot had not been outside the walls of Sparrowhawk’s rambling Inn in over a month. Indeed, she had not once been outside of the locked garret chamber in all that time. Not since that first night when Sparrowhawk had escorted her, exhausted and trembling, up the narrow staircase and through the maze of passages and hidden doors to the room under the eaves. And during the past of those lost days and nights, what she had seen of the sky and its changeable, London fog-bound moods had been framed always within the borders of the upper casement window, near which she was not permitted to stand. Not even to look out upon the moon and the never silent city. Not to feel the sun warm and strong upon her cheek.

“But standing now just without the kitchen’s threshold, she paused and looked up to regard the great expanse of London sky, blue and spectacularly cloudless. And caught her breath. And holding that intake of breath within her as a secret, she gazed upon the sky with a kind of wonder, looking up and glorying in this bright moment of freedom, upon the rooks wheeling overhead, and the street sparrows perched upon the gutters’ edges, gazed with unparalleled pleasure and an awe which made her heart quail. And she would have stood thus the whole morning, emptied of thought or expectation, just watching in open wonder and private contentment the threading drifts of cloud and paling blue and the unfettered birds which flew as winnowed meal. But then, a touch on her shoulder reminded her that she could not linger, that she was not safe…”

Q: Thank you so much for this interview, MM.  We wish you much success!

It’s been a pleasure.  Thank you for having me.

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‘The Sixth Surrender’ Hana Samek Norton on virtual book tour November 2010

Hana Samek Norton 1Join Hana Samek Norton, author of the historical fiction novel, The Sixth Surrender (Penguin/Plume) as she virtually tours the blogosphere in November ‘10 on her first virtual book tour with Pump Up Your Book!

Hana’s passion for the Middle Ages dates to a childhood exploring the ruins of castles and cloisters in the (now) Czech Republic. She also developed that “lurid taste in fiction,” by reading dog-eared novels full of the drama and melodrama of history. She graduated with an MA from the University of Western Ontario, London, Ontario, Canada, and a Ph. D. (both in history, of course), from the University of New Mexico where she currently resides. She is married to an Englishman, teaches part-time, and works as a historical consultant.

The Sixth SurrenderHer latest book is The Sixth Surrender. It’s Anno Domini 1200. King Richard the Lionheart is dead. And in the final years of her own eventful life, queen-duchess Aliénor of Aquitaine launches a deadly dynastic chess game to safeguard the crowns of Normandy and England for John Plantagenet, her only surviving son.

To that end, Aliénor coerces into matrimony her two pawns: Juliana de Charnais, a plain and pious novice determined to regain her inheritance, and Guérin de Lasalle, a cynical and profligate captain of a band of Richard’s mercenaries, equally resolved to renounce his. But Aliénor wants their marriage to save Jonn’s patrimony from the plots of Philip, the king of France, and her own vassals, the traitorous lords of Lusignan, descendants of the legendary half-serpent Mélusine.

Preferring the company of his routiers, bawds, and barrel houses, Lasalle does not intend to be a husband to the shy young woman, nor to become entangled in John’s own matrimonial mire, but at the heart of Aliénor’s scheme is the mystery of his own past that could cost John his thrones—and Juliana her life.

You can find out more about her book at http://www.thesixthsurrender.com.

If you’d like to follow along with Hana as she tours the blogosphere in November, visit her official tour page at Pump Up Your Book. Lots of fun in store as you learn more about this gifted author as well as win prizes, too!

Join us for Hana Samek Norton’s The Sixth Surrender Virtual Book Tour ‘10!

Pump Up Your Book is an innovative public relations agency specializing in virtual book tours. You can visit our website at www.pumpupyourbook.com.

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Christmas Memories: A Child’s Christmas Miracle by Dot Ryan

Holiday Memories is a month long series of heartwarming holiday stories from authors all over the world.  We at As the Pages Turn hope you will enjoy and have a happy holiday full of good and happy memories!


A Child’s Christmas Miracle
by Dot Ryan

I ran toward our old house—a ramshackle relic of the past century’s ranch life—my heart pounding with the excitement of what had just happened. Should I tell my mother? Would she believe me? Or would she just smile and think I was making up another story, as I was prone to do from time to time, purely to entertain her and my siblings. They were adventuresome tales about run-away train rides, taming wild horses, getting lost in a secret cave and saved only by the intelligence of my tiny Boston terrier, Jeannie, who led me to safety through a maze of crumbling tunnels. Mother had liked those made-up stories of innocent adventure, and I proudly wrote them down on notebook paper and stashed them away in a big flowery hat box under my ancient iron bed. But this story was different from all the rest. Instead of smiling, Momma just may become furious with me and say that I had let my wild imagination stray too far this time…

For a child to believe in miracles is a good thing … a testament to one’s belief in God or Allah or in the Lord Jesus Christ … or whatever higher power or deity to which one subscribes. But to claim that a miracle was performed just for me, a seven-year old girl—and a mischievous one, at that—with no prior history of holiness that anyone could testify to, could get me a good spanking … at least, an hour in the corner with my nose pressed into a chalk ring!

Fidgeting, as if standing in a red ant bed on a cousin’s dare, I loitered in the kitchen doorway, watching Momma prepare our Christmas dinner, my mind going over the miraculous event just past … knowing in my heart that I would tell Momma all about it, after I figured out how to begin.

I watched her stuff the plump old Tom turkey that had spent his last days strutting around our backyard attacking anyone who dared enter, until Grandpa dropped by yesterday evening and chopped off his arrogant old head. Normally, I and my little brother and two sisters would have felt sorry for him and loudly protested his execution, but he had just about pecked all the sympathy out of us.

Momma had covered the stuffed bird with a wide strip of cheesecloth and then carefully slid him into the oven before I cleared my throat and…

But wait. For you to understand my Christmas miracle, you must first have privy to a bit of back-story, and then you can judge for yourself whether you believe in miracles or not—my miracle, anyway.

It happened in the year of 1945, all because the nuns at St. Joseph’s Parochial school worked so diligently at transforming me from an impish tomboy into a sweetly sanctimonious child of piety—a necessary chore if I was to receive my very first Holy Communion with the rest of the class. To a second grader, ever ready for the recess bell, the catechism class preceding recess each day was a long and tedious interruption to my normal thought processes. The empty swings and see-saws beckoned to me like the glittering Rialto Theatre sign downtown whenever a double feature Western was showing.  As I stared longingly out the window at the playground, I had thought more than once that Sister Margaret would actually jerk my waist-length pigtails out at the roots and wave them over her head like an Indian on the warpath. Once, when I was fed up with her “pigtail yanking” I wound my braids into tight little knots over my ears and used dozens of Grandma’s giant hairpins to stake them down. Let her try and yank them now! … I thought, as I slid into my desk that morning, grinning like my fat Aunt Hester after her second teacup of Grandpa’s homemade grape juice. It wasn’t long before I glanced away from my playground vigil and saw Sister Margaret coming at me; her wrinkled witches’ fingers coiled and ready to ensnare what? Staring down at me, her face grew redder and redder, but then one eye suddenly formed an evil squint and her thin mouth twitched into a tight-cheeked grin. Her raised claw began its descent and my wide stare following it until my eyes crossed and her palm landed on my forehead like a giant suction cup, her craggy fingers twisting mercilessly into my luxuriant little blanket of reddish brown bangs. I locked my jaws to keep my teeth from clattering as she yanked my little head up and down, backward and forward, to and fro  … until I cried out “Damn it! That hurts!” … which got me a trip to the office for a good switching, administered by the head disciplinarian, Mother Superior, a woman twice as bent on torturing St. Joseph’s defenseless little urchins as was Sister Margaret.

I’m telling you this so that you will know what I went through in order to receive my first Holy Communion, which is a blessed and colossal event in Catholicism and, despite Sister Margaret’s tormenting, was extremely important to me, too. For those of you who do not know, the process leading up to Communion can be somewhat confusing to a child, even frightening.  First, one must confess his/her sins to the priest.  I don’t know about other seven year-old girls, but I couldn’t think of a single sin that I had committed—other than the Venial sin of being born—that would cast me into purgatory much less condemn me to hell.

So, kneeling in the confessional, with the priest on one side of the wall and me on the other, I committed the sin of making up sins.  I stole a green crayon from my sister, when she had actually loaned it to me upon request.  I sassed my mother, when that is something kids in my family never dared do.  I had unkind thoughts about … I rattled off a slew of names … the only ones that actually needed absolution were my bad thoughts about Sister Margaret and Mother Superior.

Anyway, I was absolved of my sins, fasted after rising the next morning, donned my beautiful white communion dress and wispy organza veil and, along with my similarly attired peers, had my First Communion at Holy Mass—the Body and Blood of Christ, by way of the perfectly round and flat little wafer that the priest produced from a beautiful golden chalice and administered to those of us kneeling at the church’s railing in front of the altar.  I relished the feeling of peace and happiness that came over me immediately after Holy Communion—the miracle of faith doing its work, but my miracle was still to come.…

If you like this story, click on cover to purchase Dot Ryan's Corrigan's Pool!

In another week, school would let out for the long Christmas holidays and, despite my tendency to be a mischievous tom-boy, seemingly more interested in play than anything else, I was very much looking forward to Christmas Day when I could receive the blessed sacrament of Holy Communion on Jesus’ very own birthday.

So, on Christmas morning, I jumped from bed, dressed for church, grabbed a banana for breakfast, shot out the door ahead of my older sister, and headed for our little wood-framed church a mile or so down the road.  We had opened our presents (always sparse in those days) on Christmas Eve, a traditional family event we called Christmas Tree, when relatives gathered to exchange mostly gifts of clothing and food—most folks in our small, farm and ranch community were still wearing homemade clothes and eating out of their Victory Gardens, although World War II had all but ended with Japan’s surrender in August of that year.  Half way to church, I stumbled to a stop and stared at the partially eaten banana in my hand.  What had I done?!  Oh, No!  I had unwittingly put food in my stomach before I was to receive Holy Communion, and now I would not be able to partake of this holiest of blessings on Jesus’ very own birthday!  “A person who is to receive the Most Holy Eucharist is to abstain for at least one hour before Holy Communion from any food and drink, except for only water and medicine.”  That was the rule!

Sister Margaret had never been able to make me cry, but I did now, as my older sister overtook and passed me by, motioning for me to hurry. I lagged farther and farther behind, kicking at the deep sand of the road as I went, so dejected that I actually ignored a horned toad that scurried across my shoe. Normally, I would have poked lightly at him with a long stick until I had provoked him into spitting at me. But my day seemed so empty now that I couldn’t give him a second glance. I had never been so crushed. There would be other Holy Communions, but I would have to wait an entire year before I could receive Christ on His very own birthday! My heart seemed ready to burst with my unhappiness—a year was a lifetime to a seven year-old girl.

A block from church, I began to mop the tears from my face, dampening the sleeves of my heavy woolen sweater, shivering with the cold of the bleak, damp day.  I had the hiccups, something that always happened when I cried.  With my head still hung, I aimed the toe of my scuffed brown shoe at a little ridge of windblown sand but, instead of kicking it, I came to an abrupt halt, feeling my eyes literally bug at the object protruding from the sand—a thin, white wafer, perfectly round and flat and stamped with an emblem of a dove, wings open, and hovering over a chalice!

I only have bits and pieces of memory after that. Like in a dream, I saw myself go to my knees, take up the Miraculous Offering in the cold fingers of both my hands and place it on my tongue. “Jesus loves little children … knows their joy and their pain,” my mother often told me.

Then I’m in church, my head spinning with the miracle of the Holy Communion wafer melting on the roof of my mouth. Mass had begun and I tiptoed to the end of the very last pew and wedged myself next to Mrs. Sasson, a childless widow who lived in the oldest house in town and sold eggs and starter chicks for a living—Grandma bought starter chicks from Mrs. Sasson and when they had grown a few inches, turned them loose in the barnyard to peck and scratch and prance until they became either good laying hens or candidates for the dumpling pot.  I couldn’t see over the crowd to the altar and Father’s microphone was on the fritz again, as was the heating system, for the church was freezing cold; so I let Mrs. Sasson put her arm around me and I settled against the big comfortable cushion of her body. She continuously petted my shoulder and every now and then brushed my shabby bangs away from my eyes. I thought of the baby chicks basking in the warmth of the big round incubator in her kitchen, and felt just like them. When she shook me awake, the church was empty and my older sister was glaring down at me like I’d just set the place on fire. I jumped up and ran all the way home, well ahead of her.

When Momma turned away from the stove and saw me staring at her from the kitchen door, I blurted everything out. Before Mamma could say a word, my sister burst into the room, pointing at me. “She did it again, Momma! She fell asleep in church the minute she got there—late, as usual, too!”

I was glad she hadn’t heard what I had just told Mamma. We were as close as two sisters could be, but not when she was mad at me.  Mamma immediately sent her to the dining room to set the table, then handed me a dishtowel and motioned toward the pots and pans draining on the rack. We stood side by side, drying. Finally she looped her towel over her shoulder and brushed my bangs out of my eyes.

“We’ll have to trim those a little before school starts, or else Sister Margaret will have a field day,” she said, smiling, then “Do you think you might have dreamed your miracle, Dot? Or maybe you were thinking of another story to write for me … and maybe you thought so hard about it that it seemed real. That happens sometimes, you know.”

“But Mamma, I couldn’t make up such a story! That would really be a sin, a bad one, if I said something about Jesus that wasn’t true.”  I was suddenly glad that I hadn’t told her the rest of my miracle—how not a grain of that cold, damp sand had clung to my Miracle as I lifted it up to gaze in awe at its shimmering whiteness … felt a soothing heat radiating from it, warming my cold fingers and then my lips as I touched it to my mouth.

The look on my face as I hung my head, must have affected Mamma, for she quickly hugged me to her.

“You know what, Dot? I do believe you. Why shouldn’t I, when I’ve experienced many miracles myself. You were one, your brother and sisters were others.  Were it not for miracles, your sister would have died of diphtheria, and then you, when you had pneumonia when you were just a month old.  You were so tiny and sick … the doctor came and said you would be gone by morning.  But I sat up all night, making mustard plasters to cover your little chest, praying, and applying hot towels over those plasters until your chest loosened and you coughed up the pneumonia that had slowly been drowning you.  That was a miracle, pure and true, and there were many more to follow.”  She bent and kissed my cheek.  “Miracles happen in everyone’s lives everyday, but sometimes we just don’t recognize them.  Maybe it’s only through the blessing of a child’s innocence that miracles such as yours happen.  Too bad we can’t hold on to that kind of purity of heart and soul as we grow into adults.” She hugged me again, and then sent me into the dining room to help my sister set our Christmas table.

Many, many, years have passed since then and, with that special child’s innocence that Momma spoke of having dissolved with the years, I often wonder if my miracle was simply the dream of an over imaginative child.  If so, it is one that is as real to me today as it way then.  Or could it be that the actual event contributes to my reoccurring dream of it?  I’m not sure anymore.  I only know that it continues to contribute to my everlasting faith in something much more important than me—dream or no dream.  Come to think of it, isn’t that what Christmas is really all about for all of us?

Dot Ryan, author of the historical novel, Corrigans’ Pool, attributes her lifelong interest in history to the diverse cultures and personalities of her Irish and German grandmothers, both of whom came from pioneering backgrounds and had many tales that had passed down from generation to generation.  Because of these two incredibly strong women, Dot’s ardor for writing and researching began early in her childhood, although neither love was validated until she had raised a family of her own and finally completed her first novel, Corrigans’ Pool.  Dot and her husband, Sam, make their home in “The Sparkling City by the Sea,” Corpus Christi, Texas near their sons and daughters and grandchildren.  She is busy writing her second and third works of historical fiction, one of which is the upcoming sequel to Corrigans’ Pool.  To learn more about Dot, and read Part One of the sequel, visit her website at dotryanbooks.com.

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