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POISONOUS WHISPERS Releases Today

Happy Book Birthday to Poisonous Whispers!

 
Poisonous Whispers
A Fantasy Romance Novel
By Jana Begovic
Publisher: Roane Publishing
Release Date: December 5, 2016
“Don’t you ever forget about me…,” he whispers during their secret encounters. Like a curse, these simple words now haunt Leandra, a reputable psychiatrist, who finds herself in emotional chaos after the sudden breakup of her illicit affair. Unable to heal on her own and tormented by dreams in which supernatural forces create havoc with her fate, she desperately turns to David, a colleague psychiatrist, asking him to take her through past-life regression therapy. She hopes that this unorthodox and somewhat suspect technique will explain her profound connection to the lover who has abandoned her so abruptly.
The sessions take Leandra through 17th and 19th century Ireland, Italy and England, where love, loss and betrayal are the leitmotifs in an ambiance of co-mingled fantasy and reality. In her hypnotic state, Leandra recounts a saga of intoxicating love, dizzying passion, flaming lust and profound heartbreak. Despite the painful answers she finds under hypnosis, Leandra still cannot let go of the hope to reunite with her lover. Ultimately, the shattering revelations from her past-life incarnations, along with the turmoil over her ruined marriage, become the stepping stones of her introspective path to healing, self-discovery and an appreciation of true love.

With its seamlessly interwoven sub-plots, “Poisonous Whispers” lures the reader from one continent to another, from past to present. The affair at the center of the story is an anatomy of the heart in which the heroine’s sorrow-laced journey reflects the universal themes of love and loss.
 

Available from : Roane Publishing

 EXCERPT:

A tiny streak of pale light is cascading softly down the cell window and making a shy sliver in the veil of darkness. I open my eyes, disoriented. I do not move; I do not even dare blink until I get my bearings. Then I remember and freeze in horror. I sit up, an aching all over my body and cold dread in my heart. Instinctively, I try to disentangle my matted hair with my fingers, but it is hopeless. All around me, I smell mold, decay and death. How can I survive another day in this hole? The sound of the door opening with a screech makes me jump in terror.
The gaoler walks in; a heavy set of keys dangling and jingling in his hand.
“Come. You are being moved in preparation for tonight’s execution. A verdict was reached.”
I speak not but follow him. We climb a steep staircase. Below us, I hear moans and yells and what sounds like the death throes of those hopelessly lost to the world and forgotten by justice, compassion and mercy. Again, I am feeling dissociated from the event of my calamity; I see my body walking, but my soul is not in it and indifference over what might happen floods me. Death is not the end. Death offers me salvation from pain, from the torment of living a human life.
We leave the jailhouse and enter the house across the street to the village inn. The inn owner, James Bourke, looks at me with hatred and disdain. He also always hated my husband because his wife had hoped my husband would marry her. She was in love with him, and when he married me she tried to kill herself. James married her later, but has always known that she never stopped loving my husband.
 The gaoler takes me upstairs to one of the guest rooms and locks the door behind me. The room is wide and clean even though sparsely furnished. The bed is large and looks inviting and I realize how exhausted I am. On the bed is a white, thin chemise and I immediately understand this is what I will wear tonight when I am pushed off the bridge into the water that is cool even on the hottest of summer days. Will I have the strength or the will to swim and save myself? What surprises and almost delights me under such grave circumstances is a bathtub in the corner of the room. There is steam rising from it and I immediately undress and slip into it, relieved to be able to wash off the dirt, the grime, and above all the horrible stench on my body. I rub myself raw trying to clean my skin. Washing my hair is more difficult because at home I have servants who help me with bathing, dressing and undressing. I have been spoilt by marrying a man of wealth and power. Where is my husband now? I crave his protection. If he saved me now, would I give up Kieran, would I give up love in order to live? I surmise I would.
 
 
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

As far back as she can remember, Jana has been fascinated by storytelling and intoxicated with the written word. As a young child, she began spinning stories, talking to an imaginary friend and devouring fairy tales. As a teenager, she wrote maudlin love poetry; and as a young mother, a collection of fables. Her love of reading and writing drove her to study languages and literature, resulting in B.A. degrees in English and German Languages and Literature, an M.A. Degree in Literary Studies, as well as a B.Ed. Degree in English and Dramatic Arts. She works for the Government of Canada in the field of military language training and testing and her work, as a subject matter expert, has taken her all over the world. She was born in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina but has lived in Canada since 1991.

“Poisonous Whispers” is her debut novel. Currently, she is working on her second novel, as well as a collection of short stories.
She lives in Ottawa, Ontario with her husband.

~~~oOo~~~

 GIVEAWAY!

A $10 Roane Publishing Gift Card!
Open only to those who can legally enter, receive and use a RoanePublishing.com Gift Code.  No purchase necessary, but you must be 18 or older to enter. The winner will be chosen by rafflecopter, and announced on the widget. Winner well be notified by emailed and have 48 hours to respond or a new winner will be chosen. The number of entries received determines the odds of winning. This giveaway was organized by Roane Publishing’s marketing department.

My Appointment with Dr. Doom

This week hasn’t gone according to plan. And that really shouldn’t surprise any of us. But when someone suggests I need an appointment with Dr. Doom?

Blog posts are born.

If you’re at all interested in the Marvel Comic Universe (and you probably realize I follow it through the films), what comes to your mind when you hear the name Dr. Doom?

Victor Von Doom the supervillain who is the archnemesis of the Fantastic Four.

If you’re not a fan of those comics, maybe you have a totally different thought.

Here are a few of mine:

Just No

There are some names that doctors should not have.

When I was in high school I dated a college guy who wanted to be a doctor.

His last name was Gouge.

As in Doctor-Gouge-out-your-eyes

Just…no.

And a gynecologist named Doom? I’m pretty sure that’s not any better.

I’m in the delivery room, getting ready to push a baby into the world. My doctor isn’t there yet, so the hospital sends out a page.

Over the intercom everyone hears: “Dr. Doom to delivery room four. Dr. Doom your patient is ready to deliver.”

My child is going to be guided into the world by Dr. Doom?

Uh…no.

Rules for Doctor Names

In this world where the government seems to have a say about everything else, I figure we may as well install some rules about names doctors can have.

After all, doctors are healers. They are supposed to inspire a sense of confidence in their patients.

When they step in to the exam room, hold out a hand and say, “I’m Dr. Doom. It’s nice to meet you” that doesn’t exactly happen.

After you banish pictures of Juilan McMahon from your mind (who this woman in front of you obviously is NOT),

your brain starts the chant.

Doom. Doom. Doom.

It’s the drumbeat telling you to escape while you still can.

Tell me, would you want to be treated by Dr. Payne? Dr. Hurt? Dr. Dent? Dr. Fang? Dr. Rash?

Maybe a surgeon named Dr. Skinner would send you screaming from the room. Or Dr. Lynch? Dr. Slaughter? Dr. Kilgore? Dr. Blood?

Some names would make you scratch your head, wondering if it was a sign or portent of things to come. Names like Dr. Kwak, Dr. Stasik, Dr. Gutman or Dr. Lecher.

My Sad Story

I didn’t actually get to meet Dr. Doom. The emergency room physician referred me to her, but she was booked for this week.

I had to see her associate, Dr. Rangle. And no, she didn’t have to wrangle me into the stirrups or hog tie me. Regardless of what her name implies.

Have you ever met a doctor whose name instilled something other than confidence? Share your stories below.

I’m off to Hawaii in the morning, but my blogs will still appear while I’m gone. I promise to fill you in if anything noteworthy happens while I’m basking under the Waikiki sunshine.

But I’m really hoping for an uneventful trip. Wouldn’t want to have to see Dr. Doom when I get back.

If this post appealed to you, you might like Hero Delivery. It’s a bulletin with deals and specials from Sharon Hughson. It can be on the way to your inbox in a few clicks.
Check out Finding Focus and my other books. You’re sure to find something worth reading.
Already read one of more? Please leave an honest review on your favorite site. That’s like the author discovering a gold nugget in the bottom of her washing machine.

		
happy-birthday-big-sister-quotes-yg3h8rov

Happy Birthday to my biggest fan

Every author wants to have someone who believes in their writing so much they’ll buy it without blinking at the price. Some writers have fans like this who they’ve never met in real life. I have my sister.

And today is her birthday.

So I thought I’d take this opportunity to let everyone know what a fantastic person she is. Not just because she believes in me and buys my books. (You really think I’m that shallow?)

My sister and I share a common history. Not only does this involve our shared genetic ancestry, but it also includes experiencing the nature and nurture of environment for sixteen-plus years.

Walking to honor our Mom at the Relay for Life
Walking to honor our Mom at the Relay for Life
Anyone who knows us understands our shared experience doesn’t mean we’re similar. Although she does like to claim we’re twins (mostly so she can deduct two years from her age).

We understand where the other one is coming from. A lot of things remain unsaid in our conversations (and this totally baffles my husband) because they’re understood.

In the book that is our lives, we don’t need to go on about back story. We lived it together. Do we know every emotion and every heartache? No. But we understand the context for all of those things.

Top Five things I Love about Her

  • She loves to read the same kinds of books I do (and she lends me her books all the time)
  • She listens well and her responses show both how well she heard and how smart she is
  • We can do outdoorsy things together because we both love to walk and hike
  • I feel accepted and appreciated by her even when I’m being a huge jerk (are you surprised that I’m a jerk? Or just that I would admit it in such a public forum?)
  • We can talk about anything and everything (can you tell I like to talk?)

Five things I bet she would Change about Me

Since my big sister is such a nice person, you’d really have to twist her arm to get her to admit she’d like to change anything about me. So this list should probably be renamed.

What my sister makes me want to change about myself. 

Sounds better right?

  • My sarcastic humor which goes too far sometimes and pops out at inappropriate moments
  • My sweet tooth. Back in the day, it would have been so there’d be more Russian Teacakes for her, but now it’s because she wants me to be healthy
  • The knack I have for putting myself down
  • Confidence in my writing ability (because she believes I am so much better at writing than I really am, so it makes me work hard to improve)
  • All my excuses – because I should have been where I am now two decades ago, but I had so many justifiable causes to hold me back

So – no more excuses. Why are you still writing this blog, Sharon? Get back to the writing that will be published and read. Words that will change the world.

Happy birthday, Sister. Hope you have a wonderful day. You deserve it!

2016-nano

What winning NaNoWriMo is really about

National Novel Writing Month continues. As I promised last week, this post is about winning.

Since I’ve won 100 percent of the times I’ve participated, I might know a little bit about this subject. (That sounded a little pompous in my head. I didn’t mean it that way. Really.)

The truth about NaNoWriMo:

There are no losers.

That just harelipped my cousin (*winks at the silly Okie*) and some others who think everything needs to be black and white. Win or lose.

Sometimes it really is about the way you play the game. Or in this case put your seat in the chair and churn out the words.

The Point of NaNoWriMo

According to the creators of National Novel Writing Month, the point is to have fun. They value enthusiasm and determination and see that both are required to complete a 50,000-word novel in 30 days.

What about working on deadline? Some people think that’s an extra motivator and stimulant. Well, they’re all about that at nanowrimo.org.

In short, writing is a creative pursuit with the power to imbue writers with stronger character and impart truth to readers.

Here’s their mission statement:

National Novel Writing Month believes in the transformational power of creativity. We provide the structure, community, and encouragement to help people find their voices, achieve creative goals, and build new worlds—on and off the page.

Whatever you believe about writing a novel, the point of this exercise is to expand your horizons beyond a single project. Think bigger. Think bolder.

What is the point of any creative pursuit?

Print

Winning NaNoWriMo

If you verify a document of 50,000 or more words before midnight on November 30, the NaNoWriMo gurus will declare you a winner.

And there are prizes for winning.

Most of them are free trials of discounts for writer-specific software and services. For example, the folks at Literature and Latte have sponsored every year I’ve participated. They generally offer Scrivener at 50% off to winners.

Wish I would have known this before I bought it at full price. Of course, that happened a year or so before I every participated in the national month of insanity.

I’m hoping they will offer their new iOS application for half off to winners this year. I really want to try it out since I use my iPad for writing almost as much as I use my computer. And it travels SO much easier.

Everyone Wins

Everyone who participates in NaNoWriMo can walk away as a winner.

And not just because plenty of sponsors offer freebies and discounts to all participants.

Attempting to write at a professional pace for a month teaches you many valuable lessons.

To name a few:

  • The knowledge you can write every day and not just when you feel like it
  • The ability to push past the roadblocks while writing
  • Learning to write fast
  • Discovering the joy of creating when you’re so focused (or brain-fried) that your inner editor is quiet for a change
  • New ways to write: maybe jumping around when scenes aren’t flowing or writing from the end
  • Meeting a community of like-minded people to talk writing with
  • Discovering new software and services to help you write better

What are some other things you’ve learned from participating in NaNoWriMo?

Just for fun, here are my stats from the three National Novel Writing Months I competed in:

2013

DOW CoverThis was my first year in the competition. I was writing the third novel in a young adult fantasy series, Gates of Astrya: Daughter of Destiny.

I wrote 66,616 words in 23 days, a resounding win for my first year.

Although this novel hasn’t seen the light of day since I wrote it, I was a big winner that year. Writing at this incredible pace taught me that I could keep up with professional writers.

I began calling myself a professional writer after this. Talk about a WIN!

2014

I was a Rebel this year. I wrote a collection of four short stories called Real Life with a Twist of Lime.

That netted me 50,816 words in 21 days.

What about those stories? One of them has been recently expanded into a novel. Once I survive this year’s National Crazy Writing Month, I will begin revisions on the manuscript, as suggested by the four beta readers who are previewing it for me.

2015

My quick-made cover to post at nanowrimo.org

Last year I wrote the young adult novel on speculation for a publisher. Read more about that here and here.

In 20 days I wrote 67,640 words, making it my quickest win to date. I wrote 3,382 words per day (although I probably wrote more since I didn’t write on weekends).

Although this novel was rejected by the publisher who requested it, I may still resurrect it either for independent publishing or to shop to other agents and publishers. It’s a unique story.

If this post appealed to you, you might like Hero Delivery. It’s a bulletin with deals and specials from Sharon Hughson. It can be on the way to your inbox in a few clicks.
Check out Finding Focus and my other books. You’re sure to find something worth reading.
Already read one of more? Please leave an honest review on your favorite site. That’s like the author discovering a gold nugget in the bottom of her washing machine.

		
2016-nano

How to Write 50,000 words this month

I’ve been a full-time writer since July of 2013. Since November of 2013, I’ve been participating in the insanity called National Novel Writing Month. But this year, things will look a little different on my calendar.

If you’re interested in what NaNoWriMo is or how it came to be, check out the official website here. There’s more than you’ll ever want to know.

Once you decide to join the craze (it’s a little late for 2016, but November 2017 will be here before you know it), check out my profile. My nanowrimo user name is slhughson. We can buddy up. It will be fun.

My writing schedule in 2016 will look slightly different than it has in the past several years. Why? Because I plan to continue substitute teaching two days per week AND I have an author event to plan and attend.

Yes, there are plenty of people who work full-time jobs and plan to write 1,667 words per day. At this pace, they will complete 50,000 words in the month of November and WIN NaNoWriMo (more on winning next week).

I admire them. I am not them, however. I am a full-time author who does some teaching in order to feed my writing habit. Because those royalty-only contracts don’t generate a paycheck that will cover the costs associated with writing.

Someday, I will write a best-seller and the royalty checks will look better than the $175 per day I earn subbing in a local classroom.

A Tale of Two Schedules

2014

I chose not to use last year because I had given myself an earlier deadline because we traveled to the beach the week of Thanksgiving. I didn’t want to cart my writing brain with me. By the end of November, it’s pretty much a frazzled bundle of haywire.

My writing schedule compasses only a five-day week. My husband is off work on weekends, and I like to be available so we can jaunt off to a home remodeling show or to the movies. And Sunday is not even my day. They don’t call it The Lord’s Day for nothing.

So, I look at the November calendar and decide how many full writing days I will have. In this case, twenty or less. I wanted to finish by November 25 so I would have the weekend of Thanksgiving free and time on the 26th to prep my pie and rolls (what I generally take to the Hughson family Thanksgiving feast).

50,000 divided by 17 (available writing days) meant I needed to write 2,941 words per day to reach my goal. So I set a goal of 3,000 per day (which is about three hours of writing for me if I get in the groove and nothing interrupts me).

According to the Nanowrimo website, I finished 50, 816 words by November 21.

That happened to be the Late Night Write-in at the local library. I lugged my laptop there and huddled with six or eight other novelists. They all rejoiced with me when I uploaded my novel and had the words verified before 10pm.

Winner! If you do the math, I averaged 3,387 words per day to accomplish the win.

It’s all about setting daily goals and meeting them.

It isn’t as hard as it sounds. Lock yourself into your writing space until the word count is achieved. Update the word count on nanowrimo.org and celebrate.

2016

Why does this year look so different? Why can’t I just schedule the 3,000 words per day and call it good?

Because I’m a realist.

And I don’t like to fall behind in the word count.

When I look at the calendar for November this year, I have to subtract two days from each of the first three weeks of the month (hoping I will substitute teach on those days).

Now a normal person might ask, “Why can’t you write after you’ve done a sub job?”

My brain will not be in a “writing space” after a day in the classroom. Even if it is a wonderful room filled with engaged students and an engaging lesson plan.

My introverted self will use up every drop of emotional energy to interact with people all day long. That’s a fact. I know it, so I can plan around it.

Of course, I’d like to finish the novel before Thanksgiving again this year. That holiday is on November 24, a little earlier than usual because the month starts on a Tuesday.

Let’s do the math. This is simple math. My writing brain can handle it.

Ten days.

I have ten days to write 50,000 words. Even I can do the division in my head. I need to write 5,000 words per day.

The good thing about my goals is I itemize them by week. Week one I must write 10,000 words. If for some reason I only reach 8,000 by end of day on Friday, I will force myself to write 2,000 on Saturday.

And, yes, I keep my word count in a spreadsheet. At least until I meet my daily and weekly goals.

By the time I attend my author event at the middle school on November 9, I will have written 15,000 words in a new novel.

Before I can enjoy the second weekend, I will need to have written 25,000 words. Halfway to completion before November 15.

Can I do it?

Yes. I’m determined I can.

How do you plan to meet your goals? (Please don’t say you don’t plan. Please. No plan is a plan to fail.) Share your wisdom in the comments.

If this post appealed to you, you might like Hero Delivery. It’s a bulletin with deals and specials from Sharon Hughson. It can be on the way to your inbox in a few clicks.
Check out Finding Focus and my other books. You’re sure to find something worth reading.
Already read one of more? Please leave an honest review on your favorite site. That’s like the author disc
Book-Review

Ready for some Love Under the Harvest Moon

Autumn is the perfect time for romance. Okay, is romance ever out of season? But you have to admit that being kissed under a harvest moon sounds totally romantic.

The newest anthology, Love Under the Harvest Moon, from Roane Publishing features five short stories centered around the theme of autumn. Three of them feature back-to-school in one way or another.

harvest_moon_cover

Amidst Strawberry Fields

This short story is by Nemma Wollenfang. I was interested to read it since Nemma shared a spot with me in Masked Hearts.

First of all, I was surprised that is was a young adult romance. Not because I don’t like them, because I’m a huge fan of young adult literature in many genres. However, Roane Publishing generally excludes stories with young adult characters from their anthologies.

I enjoyed the story. At first, I was thrown off because there was talk of a farm but the first sentence has a Ferrari pulling up to the school parking lot. What?

Eventually, I settled into the rhythm of the story. Beth was more mature than your average teenager. Maybe because of all the responsibilities she had at the farm.

This is a story about race relations, prejudice and even racial profiling. Not that any of those terms were used. But the gypsies aren’t welcome at the school and before long, it’s obvious the police want to blame them for any crime that happens around town.

Some things about Beth remained vague (like where was her father?) and the details of the harvest ceremony were released grudgingly.

A solid start for the anthology.

Four out of five stars

Autumn Leaves

HeartsofValor_eBook_CVRI’m familiar with T.E. Hodden because we shared a cover with the Hearts of Valor anthology.

His story ended up being the best in the bunch. His prose is poetic. His characters solid. And the one-day time frame of the story kept the pace ratched up so I had to keep turning pages.

It took me a few pages to orient myself to a romance narrated in first person by a man.  First, I’m not generally a fan of first person in romances because the tension can be tightened so much more effectively if readers can get inside the heads of both characters.

At first, I thought it was going to be another “I walked in on my girlfriend with another guy” story. But Hodden threw a curve ball (or three) in the middle of these over-used (in my opinion) trope.

I don’t want to give anything away because this is a story best experienced firsthand.

Five out of five stars

Moon Dance

This story by Patricia Crisafulli started slow and never really gained momentum.

It was written in present tense which is tedious for me to read, but I don’t think that’s why I didn’t connect with it.

The shero, Anna, was a single mom with plenty of problems. She was relatable and likable. The writing wasn’t terrible.

A romance never unfolded. We went from a guy telling her to loosen up to her holding hands with him at the harvest festival. No idea how they got from one point to the next. Most of the story is about Anna’s other problems and he makes brief appearances. You know he’s going to be the love interest because there’s no one else.

But how? The story has too many holes.

Three out of five stars

A Harvest Homecoming

This little tale penned by Laura Lamoreaux and T.L. French tried to pull me into its contemporary world.

Tanya is home again after an ugly divorce. She’s marking time until she can find another job as a reporter. And, of course, since anyone can be a teacher (in Texas, I guess), she takes a job teaching freshman English.

You all know I’m a substitute teacher with a background working in education for a decade, so this attitude rubbed me all kinds of wrong. But I kept reading.

Tanya runs into a guy she used to know, who once crushed on her, and he ends up being totally hot nowadays.

I probably don’t need to go on. It unfolded predictably from there.

At least the plot made sense and the story was complete. And the dig at teaching (unintentional or not) was redeemed by the end of the story.

Four out of five stars

Opposite Directions

Claire Davon, another anthology mate of mine from Masked Hearts, writes another girl comes home from the big city and takes a teaching job story. Maybe I would have enjoyed it more if it wasn’t back-to-back with the other one.

Here Vanessa runs into her old flame, who broke up with her after cheating on her. See what I mean about the cheating boyfriend or girlfriend being an over-used trope?

Vanessa still has feelings for him. Does he have feelings for her?

Rather than taking the time to develop conflict and flesh out a longer story, Davon takes our couple out on a date and has them resolve everything over one meal. I believe in the restorative power of Italian food as much as the next person, but I couldn’t get on board with such an easy resolution of big issues.

I also didn’t connect with these characters as well as I had with those from the other stories.

Three out of five stars

Harvest Moon Button

All in all, this was a pleasant way to pass some time cuddled up on a rainy day. Each story is the perfect length for a lunch-hour dive into fiction-land.

Overall, it earns four out of five stars. (Okay, if you do the math, it technically gets 3.8 stars, but that rounds up to four, right?)

You can pick up your copy of Love under the Harvest Moon at your favorite retailer, or click here to get it directly from the publisher.

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Time for LOVE UNDER THE HARVEST MOON

Happy Book Birthday to Love Under the Harvest Moon!

Love under the Harvest Moon
A Sweet Romance Anthology
By Various Authors
Publisher: Roane Publishing
Release Date: November 14, 2016
If you’re interested in a little romance to go with the changing leaves and the dawn of cocoa season, look for my review of this anthology on Goodreads. OR come back on Wednesday when I give each story my full-on attention. Take my word for it, these are stories that will take the chill off these lengthening autumn nights.

Claire Davon – Opposite Directions

Vanessa left her small Iowa town for the bright lights of Miami, also leaving behind the boy who devastated her young self by cheating on her with another local girl. Returning after four years to take a teaching job, she finds her attraction to Zane has not diminished in the time she’s been away.
 
Zane also works at the school and offers to show Vanessa the ropes. She cannot deny her attraction to him is still there, but is unsure if she should act on it. He broke her heart once, could he do so again? Or would their older, wiser selves be able to navigate the tricky waters of love and forgiveness, leading them back to each other’s arms?
 
Nemma Wollenfang – Amidst the Strawberry Fields
Good grades, happy home, pampered life, perfect boyfriend – sixteen-year-old Beth has it all. She tells herself that… a lot. That is until the new students arrive from the recently-built Traveller’s Site, led by the rakishly handsome Razovan Verlak, who begins to turn her world upside-down. The school didn’t want them, the town tried to avoid them, and Beth is determined to ignore him—them. But Raz is not to be ignored, and he has his sights set on her.
 
With the autumn harvest due in, and her boyfriend and the usual harvesters notably absent, Beth and her mother have to accept alternative help to bring in their farm’s crops. And Raz is all too eager to oblige. But Beth is uneasy, and with good reason. Raz and his crew have developed a worrying reputation around town. Assault, vandalism, theft – it seems there’s nothing they haven’t done…according to rumour. But are the gossips to be believed?
 
Will Beth listen to the disturbing tales and keep her distance? Or will she decide for herself and get to know the real Raz as they work together, amidst the strawberry fields?
  
T.E. Hodden – Autumn Leaves
So there I was, on the worst afternoon of my life, surrounded by the kind of argument that left me shaken and single. And there, in the park is Autumn, a beautiful, funny, sweet, trans-girl, who seems to be the only person in the world having a worse day than me. And that…that doesn’t seem right.
 
So, here we are. I have one day, to make her smile, and change her world, before Autumn leaves to face her winter.
Laura Lamoreaux and T.L. French – A Harvest Homecoming
When Tanya Sheldon loses her job and her marriage in the same day, she thinks her life is over. Unable to find anything else, she agrees to take a teaching position in her old high school, but moving back to Silver Lake turns out to be harder than she expected when old feelings come to light.
 
Tanya rejected Jake Green when they were younger, but now he’s all grown up and teaching across the hall. And for a minute, Tanya thought she might have something in her future other than a box of cats. But the moment is gone when Jake’s beautiful girlfriend Ashley returns. After learning the hard way what it’s like to be cheated on, there’s no way Tanya will let herself fall for Jake.
 
Patricia Crisafulli – Moon Dance
For Anna Oliver, life is one big to-do list and her responsibilities, large and crushing. Divorced and a single mother, needing to care for her own mother who is struggling with a cancer diagnosis, Anna has returned to her too-small hometown, which cannot compare with the life she enjoyed in Brooklyn. Now she is overqualified for her job in a community library and overburdened by everything.
When a storm brings down a tree on her roof—revealing damage that the insurance company won’t pay for—Anna feels as split in two as that old ash. Then someone unexpected comes into her life, and she must confront her need to trust, which seems far too difficult and risky. But under the harvest moon, anything can change.

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~~~oOo~~~

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Cover Reveal: A Sequel to GENESIS GIRL

Today Jennifer Bardsley and Month9Books are revealing the cover and first chapter for DAMAGED GOODS, the sequel to GENESIS GIRL which releases January 17, 2017! Check out the gorgeous cover and enter to be one of the first readers to receive a eGalley!!
A quick note from the author:

Do you have a friend who has such a messed-up home life that you wonder if they will ever grow up to be normal? That’s how I feel about Blanca, the main character from my series “Blank Slate.” In “Genesis Girl,” readers found out why Blanca’s childhood was so different. Blanca was a Vestal who grew up at Tabula Rasa School, shielded from the Internet and brainwashed into doing whatever she was told. In the sequel, “Damaged Goods,” we find out what happens to Blanca once she escapes
from her Vestal bonds. Blanca doesn’t wear her platinum cuff anymore, but does that mean she is free?
 
Writing “Damaged Goods” was a blast. I hope readers enjoy all the twists and turns in the plot and root for Blanca as she figures out the difference between fact, fiction, enemy, and friend.
 
On to the reveal! 

 

 
Title: DAMAGED GOODS
Author: Jennifer Bardsley
Pub. Date: January 17, 2017
Publisher: Month9Books
Format: Hardcover, Paperback, eBook
Find it: Goodreads| Amazon | B&N
Blanca has everything she ever wanted, a hot boyfriend named Seth and the loving support of her foster father, Cal. She’s finally escaped the abusive control of her birth father, Barbelo Nemo, and her tortured childhood at Tabula Rasa School.
But the scars of Blanca’s Vestal upbringing run deep, especially when the FBI start asking questions. Blanca feels abandoned by Seth who is hunting for Lilith, Blanca’s only blood relative. The Defectos, a support group of Vestal-Rejects, offer Blanca comfort instead.
While the Vestal order crumbles, Chinese rivals called the Guardians rise to power and wrest control of important Tabula Rasa contacts. Now Blanca’s life is in peril once more, and this time, Blanca struggles to recognize friend from foe.

 

Excerpt

Chapter OneAll I smell is leather. Seth’s arms are around my back, his hands tangled in my long brown hair. My lips devour his, hungry for contact. Beyond us a seagull cries and soars above the waves of Santa Cruz beach.

If I kiss Seth hard enough, my scars fade way into oblivion. Barbelo Nemo and his mind control tricks. My childhood spent in seclusion at Tabula Rasa, hidden from the Internet. I slide my fingers underneath Seth’s jacket against the stickiness of his shirt. I begin to undo a button.

“Whoa, Blanca.” Seth pulls my hands away. “We’re not the only people in the parking lot.”

I scan to the left and right of the rest stop. Strangers are everywhere. “Since when did you care about what other people think?”

“Since I started dating a Vestal.”

I pull back and look out at the cliffs. “I’m not a Vestal anymore. You know that.” I feel the antique chip-watch on my wrist. Seth’s dad, Cal, gave it to me as a present after my platinum cuff was removed. Once a Vestal is de-cuffed, they are expelled from the Brethren.

“So those tourists snapping our picture don’t bother you?” Seth motions to a small crowd a few cars over.

I look to where he points, and the flash of thumb-cameras blinds me. Vestals must never have their pictures taken by random people. That privilege belongs to the companies that purchase them and market a Vestal’s privacy one advertisement at a time. I reach my arms out by instinct, to protect my face from the public. “I’m fine with it,” I lie, pulling my hands down. “But we better leave now or we’ll be late to the restaurant.”

“My dad can wait a few minutes.” Seth scoops me in his arms.

“Blanca!” one of the spectators calls. “And Veritas Rex! Is that really you?”

Seth holds up his hand and wiggles his finger-chips. “The one and only!” Then he dips me back for a kiss.

I stiffen like cardboard. “Stop it,” I mumble, trying not to squirm. All I can think about is the cameras, my face flashed worldwide and weirdoes slobbering over my private moment with Seth. “We’ve got to go or we’ll be late.”

Seth kisses my nose. “I didn’t know you were so punctual.”

“Yes.” I pull myself out of his grasp. “Cal’s waiting.” The sooner I put my helmet on and get back on my motorcycle, the better.

“Blanca,” a man calls as we ride away. “I love you! I’ve watched you all year!”

Underneath my jacket, I shiver. The fame that surrounds me is chilling.

A few miles of pavement put me in a better mood. The day is radiant, perfect for riding our bikes from Silicon Valley over to the coast and back. It’s our favorite weekend ritual. Seth cruises next to me on his motorcycle with the lion-headed cobra painted on the side, and I zoom along beside him in head-to-toe white.

The speed rushing over me tastes of freedom. When we shift into high gear I can forget—for a moment—that three months ago I was a captive at the Plemora compound in Nevada. The memory of my mother’s face exploding gets sucked away.

But not for long.

***

The restaurant Cal picked is smothered in shadows. Candles in glass jars at each table are the only source of a hazy glow. As I walk by, other patrons stare up at me.

Their whispers don’t surprise me. Seeing a Vestal in public is unheard of, and I’m the most famous Vestal in history, with the exception of Barbelo, my birth father.

But father isn’t a word I use to describe my tormentor. I don’t think of Ms. Lydia as my mother either, not usually. The closest thing I have to a real parent is Cal McNeal, who paid thirty-two million dollars to purchase me from Tabula Rasa, the school Barbelo founded fifty-one years ago, in 2012, with the ostensible purpose of shielding students from the Internet. Barbelo’s real objective was to create a network of Vestals in key positions. Spies all over the world who were devoted to him.

Cal waits for us at the table, a smile on his tanned face. His hair is long around the ears. I need to remind him to trim it. Cal wears his usual tweed jacket with soft brown patches on the elbows. He stands up when we reach the table and hugs us both. “Enjoy your ride, you two?”

“From the mountains to the beach.” Seth slides into the booth. He pulls off his jacket and exposes forearms covered with ink. Seth also has tattoos on his face, the most noticeable of which is the lion-headed cobra. That snake was the first thing about Seth I noticed. A year ago he snuck into Tabula Rasa, took my picture days before graduation, and posted it on Veritas Rex. Seth is a viral blogger who does anything to break a story even if involves breaking the law.

My own skin is pure white. I’ve been a consummate rule follower my entire life, with a few notable exceptions. Remaining unmarred by ink or technology tops the Vestal code. It’s a hard habit to break.

Cal passes me the bread basket. “So Blanca, I heard from my friend at Stanford today, and I’ve got good news.”

“Yes?” I take a deep whiff of the yeasty aroma and push the basket over to Seth without taking a piece.

Cal butters his slice with a thick slab of butter. “I told the dean about your special circumstance. That you’ve been out of school for a year, but graduated top of your class.”

Seth chokes on his water. “Top of her class? You mean she was auctioned off to the highest bidder at the Vestal Harvest.”

“Exactly,” Cal says. “Blanca, you’re Tabula Rasa’s version of a valedictorian. I told the dean that you had a classical education from a different era and that you were being tutored in science and technology so that you’d catch up in STEM by matriculation.”

Eagerness glides over me. Six months ago when Cal suggested college I thought he was joking. I dismissed the idea without consideration. But since I returned from Nevada I’ve made attending college one of my primary goals.

It’s not that I don’t love being the face of McNeal Solar. Every time I see an advertisement featuring me on a billboard, I get tingles. But representing McNeal Solar and actually understanding how solar power works are two different things. I don’t want to be a token bobble head. I want to be a real engineer who designs power systems and imagines new inventions.

Cal wants to help me achieve that dream. Seth is so committed to Veritas Rex that there’s no way he’ll work for his dad’s company. But maybe someday I’ll join the McNeal Solar board of directors and people will respect my opinion. It’ll be another way I can be Cal’s daughter. I’ll become his intellectual heir.

“What did the dean say?” My knees shake with excitement until I tense my muscles.

Cal puts down his butter knife. “He knows who you are, of course. He watched the news story unfold along with the rest of the world when you were kidnapped.”

“And?” I toy with my napkin.

Cal smiles. “Given the special circumstances, he agreed to let you take a private entrance exam with a panel of professors ten weeks from now.”

“Yay!” I lean across the booth and hug Cal tight, my face brushing the scratchy fabric of his blazer.

“Awesome, Dad,” says Seth. “How the hell did you pull that off? I’ve never heard of Stanford admitting a student like that before.”

“Well that’s because they’ve never had a Vestal apply. Plus, it helps that a dorm is named after your mother, Seth. Being a large donor has its perks.”

Cal’s wife, Sophia, was an anthropology professor at Stanford until she died of the Brain Cancer Epidemic when Seth was seventeen. It was decades before the world realized cell phones caused cancer. Sophia was one of many victims. Before she died her life work had been researching Barbelo Nemo and the Vestal order he created.

“Mom would have been thrilled to have you as a student,” Seth tells me. “She’d probably follow you around and take notes on your well-being.”

“To your mother, then!” I lift up my water glass.

“To Mom,” Seth answers.

Cal holds up his glass of wine. “To Sophia, a three-way toast.”

“Smile, McNeals.” A guy with greasy black hair and an ugly smirk holds up finger-chips in our faces. “What a touching moment.” The flash pops.

I drop my glass and water drowns the tablecloth.

“Veritas Rex and his Vestal girlfriend. Gotcha!” Another loser creeps up too. The fact that they’re both frantically typing their fingers into the air makes me assume they’re viral paparazzi, uploading us straight to the net.

“Get out of here,” Seth growls, chucking bread at their faces.

A rounded man with a balding head rushes over. “Is there a problem?” He turns to the paparazzi. “I am the maître d’ of this establishment and I will notify the police unless you leave this instant.”

Seth pelts them with more bread. The one with greasy hair catches a piece and crams some in his mouth. “Thanks, Rex,” he mumbles through crumbs, “see you around.”

Several waiters rush over to pick up bread and clear off our wet tablecloth. “I sincerely apologize, Ms. Blanca. I don’t know how those Viruses got in.” The maître d’ uses the derogatory term for viral bloggers, the one that Headmaster Russell taught me at Tabula Rasa.

“It’s not your fault. Viruses are hard to shake.” I slide my foot underneath the table and brush my leg against Seth’s.

“They must have seen your white outfit.” The maître d’ tugs his collar.

“It’s okay.” I nod. “I’m used to it.” I wave off his offer of a meal on the house, but he insists.

Later, over cheeseburgers, Cal brings up my wardrobe again. “You know, Blanca. You don’t need to wear white anymore, unless you enjoy the attention.”

“Of course I don’t want the attention!”

“Then why not change things up a bit?” Cal says. “Shop for new clothes. Try to blend in.”

I look at Seth for support, but he nods in agreement with his father.

“Fatima wears colors now,” Seth adds, “and she’s still a Vestal.”

I picture my best friend Fatima. The last time I saw her she wore a silky green dress from her fashion house and looked like a snake that had swallowed a watermelon. Six months pregnant, her figure still says “Babe alert!” Tomorrow night is Fatima’s engagement party with Beau.

I, on the other hand, am the proverbial girl-next-door. Brown hair, green eyes, and clear skin. Back at Tabula Rasa they said I had a face that could sell soap.

“I don’t want to be a Vestal. I’m a McNeal now. But wearing color seems wrong.”

“It’s not just the clothes.” Seth’s finger-chips buzz and he flicks them off. “The only time you leave the house is with me or Dad.”

“That’s not true!” I insist. “I went to the soundstage last week to shoot a McNeal Solar add.”

“True,” Cal admits. “But it’s what a Vestal would do.”

“What’s that supposed to mean? Don’t you want me as the face of McNeal Solar?” My stomach feels bubbly, like I ate too many French fries.

“Of course I do, sweetheart. I love your campaign for my company.” Cal reaches out and pats my hand. “We’re concerned about you though. We want you to get out there and make new friends.”

I turn and glare at Seth. “This is about the other night, isn’t it? You’re still mad because I wouldn’t go to that club with you, so you got your dad to take your side.”

Seth stares at me hard. “It’s not just the other night. It’s all the time. Your world is so tiny that it’s unhealthy.”

“College is a big step,” Cal says, “in terms of academics, forming new friendships, and learning to mingle.”

“I meet lots of people! I’ve made a ton of friends online. Every time I write a new post for The Lighthouse I get thousands of comments.”

Seth looks at me with piercing brown eyes. “Blanca, you’re new at this, but online friends are easier than people you meet face to face. It’s a different type of interaction.”

At that moment a flash makes me jump. But it’s not a Virus snatching my picture this time. It’s a family in the corner taking a photograph of their kid. “Face to face can be scary,” I say.

“Sometimes,” Cal nods, “but not normally.”

“Normal for me is different.”

“Exactly our point,” says Seth.

Cal leans forward in his seat. “We think it would be helpful if you could chat with someone, to help you process all you’ve been through.”

“You mean like a psychiatrist? You think I’m crazy?” I twist my chip-watch around and around my wrist where the cuff used to be.

Seth scoots closer and lowers his voice. “We don’t think you’re crazy. But some really shitty things have happened to you.”

“You lost your mother,” says Cal.

“Ms. Lydia wasn’t my mother! I mean, she gave birth to me. That’s it. What do I care what happened to her?”

“You must feel something,” Cal says.

“I feel nothing.”

“Then why are you talking so loud?” Seth asks.

I take a quick glance of the room and notice stares.

Our waiter rushes over. “Are you ready for dessert now?” he asks.

“Yes,” Cal answers. “Please bring the menu.”

“No, thank you.” I squeeze my fists together, stress coursing through my body like lightening.

When the waiter leaves, Seth touches my elbow. “We’ve made an appointment for you.”

“What?”

“With Dr. Meredith,” Cal says. “A therapist.”

“You want me to tell my private secrets to a total stranger?” I speak with a steadied calm while a storm builds up inside me.

“She’s not a stranger, Blanca. Seth and I started seeing Dr. Meredith when you were kidnapped.”

My heartbeat is ragged. “You told her about me? You shared my private life with an outsider?”

“Of course not.” Seth’s dark hair sticks up in wild tuffs on his head. “Dad and I had our own stuff to work out. You know I spent five years mistakenly thinking Dad cheated on my mom.”

Cal flinches. “And you have your issues too, Blanca.”

I swallow hard. I reach over and stroke my white leather jacket. Maybe I should get up and go. Ride back to McNeal Manor on my motorcycle. But that would mean going someplace by myself. The last time I rode off into the night, my good friend Ethan was killed and Ms. Lydia kidnapped me.

“Sometimes being an adult means doing things you don’t want to do,” says Cal.

“I’ll drive you to your appointment next week, if that helps,” Seth offers.

“No way,” I say. “I don’t need that type of care.”

I can do this if I try hard enough.

I stand up and pick up my jacket. “Thank you for dinner,” I snarl.

But as I turn to go I walk smack into dark suits. The man is six foot three, every inch of him as sharp as his buzz-cut hair. The woman is my height, about five foot five, with silver stud earrings.

“Blanca Nemo?” The woman has a steady voice. Both of them hold up their palms to flash electronic badges. “Agents Carter and Marlow with the FBI. We need to bring you in for questioning.”

“What the hell?” Seth leaps to his feet.

“Blanca?” Cal springs up. “What’s this about?”

“I don’t know.” I shoot him a frightened look the agents can’t see.

“Don’t say anything without a lawyer. Okay, sweetheart?” Cal types at his chip-watch. “Hold tight until Nancy gets there.”

“Come on, Ms. Nemo.” The male agent grabs my arm, “Our car is outside.”

“Ouch! Not so tight!”

“Her name’s not ‘Nemo’,” Seth shouts. “It’s Blanca McNeal.” He and Cal hurry after us out of the restaurant into the night where a black sedan is waiting.

I turn to look at the McNeals one more time. Seth towers over Cal whose face is twisted with worry.

I smile wanly as the agents shove me into the backseat of the car.

The irony kills. I’m going someplace without them after all.

 

Jennifer Bardsley writes the parenting column “I Brake for Moms” for the Sunday edition of The Everett Daily HeraldShe also blogs at Teaching
My Baby to Read
 with the mission of sparking a national debate on the important roll parents play in education. Jennifer is a graduate of Stanford University and a member of SCBWI.
She lives with her husband and two children in Edmonds, WA. 
GENESIS GIRL will release in 2016 and is about an 18 year-old girl whose lack of a virtual footprint makes her so valuable that she is auctioned off to the highest bidder, the sequel  will come out in 2017. Jennifer is represented by Liza Fleissig of the Liza
Royce Literary Agency
LLC.
 
Follow Jennifer on FacebookTwitterInstagram, and Goodreads.

 

3 winners will receive and eBook of GENESIS GIRL & an eGalley of DAMAGED GOODS. International.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Title: GENESIS GIRL
Author: Jennifer Bardsley
Pub. Date: June 14, 2016
Publisher: Month9Books
Format: Hardcover, Paperback, eBook
Pages: 280
Eighteen-year-old Blanca has lived a sheltered life. Her entire childhood has been spent at Tabula Rasa School where
she’s been protected from the Internet. 

Blanca has never been online and doesn’t even know how to text. Her lack of a virtual footprint makes her extremely valuable, and upon graduation, Blanca and those like her are sold to the highest bidders.

Blanca is purchased by Cal McNeal, who uses her to achieve personal gain. But the McNeals are soon horrified by just how obedient and non-defiant Blanca is. All those mind-numbing years locked away from society have made her mind almost impenetrable. 

By the time Blanca is ready to think for herself, she is trapped. Her only chance of escape is to go online. 
2016-nano

What I’m Writing for National Novel Writing Month

National Novel Writing Month is officially here. And I’m in the middle of the writing, which is why you will only see Monday posts from me during the month of November.

You know how I asked all of you for help deciding what to write about? I had four fantabulous ideas. I explained all of them to you here.

I even ran a poll on Facebook.

And then I woke up the week before November started with a fully formed new idea.

It happened to fit closer to my brand than any of the other ideas.

Worse yet (or is that better yet), I had asked women to pray specifically about what I should write next. The same day I got the idea, two of them messaged me to tell me they had prayed for me that very morning.

You know, the one when I woke up with an idea that wasn’t the one I had been outlining most of the previous week.

The one about elves that I was dying to write and all of you encouraged me to give in to the non-brand urge.

The morning when this new idea came to me, I couldn’t drum up even an ounce of excitement about Evendon and the elves. Magic held no appeal. Except for the romantic kind that joined two hearts by true love.

May I introduce you to an inspirational romance?

A cover I roughed out to use at nanowrimo.org
A cover I roughed out to use at nanowrimo.org

Abbie Andrews adores her job as a home healthcare aide and piano teacher. Does it bother her that her friends are about to graduate from college and start big time careers? Maybe a little.

When she meets the great-grandson of one long-time patient, things get a little wacky. Evan Winters is handsome and heartbroken. His initial anger turns to begrudging acceptance. Until his grandmother’s funeral.

Ex-soldier Evan Winters has no intention of giving his heart to the presumptuous pianist. No matter how much she smells like Spring or makes his heart sing. When she avoids him after Grandma Fedora’s funeral, he figures that’s the end of things.

Until a chance meeting brings her into his arms. Enter a matchmaking little brother who nurtures dreams of using Uncle Sam’s money to fund his college education, and things get a little interesting.

Will Evan find the faith he needs to convince Abbie that he’s more than a broken string on an antique piano? Can Abbie surrender her expectations to embrace the melody Evan awakens in her heart?

Oh yeah. This is technically an inspirational romance since there will be faith-based motivations, especially in Abbie’s life.

So, I thank you Abbie and Donna for the prayers. And, yes, I named my heroine after you because nothing else seemed to fit.

Wish me well. I plan to write 50,000 words or more before eating turkey and stuffing on Thanksgiving Day.

If this post appealed to you, you might like Hero Delivery. It’s a bulletin with deals and specials from Sharon Hughson. It can be on the way to your inbox in a few clicks.
Check out Finding Focus and my other books. You’re sure to find something worth reading.
Already read one of more? Please leave an honest review on your favorite site. That’s like the author discovering a gold nugget in the bottom of her washing machine.

		
My opinion meme

Do you have to be Sarah Connor to be a Tough Woman?

Sarah Connor faced down The Terminator. And went to the loony bin where she worked out a plan of escape.

If you’ve watched any of the Terminator movies, you know the story. Sarah’s son John Connor is the one who unites humanity in the future war against machines. Machines that somehow achieved sentience and began destroying their human creators.

How’s that for gratitude?

Sarah Connor is one tough mama. In the original movie, she’s on the run like crazy from the Terminator. This is the only movie wherein her son sent a human back in time to preserve the time line make sure he would even be born. Yeah, I like the twist of that first movie the best.

In Judgment Day, we see an older and much more buff version of the scared blonde from the first movie. This is the Sarah Connor everyone identifies as someone too tough to be messed with.

I mean, check out those arms?

sarah-connor

How many pushups and pullups does a girl have to do while locked in a room at the funny farm to get those guns?

And Sarah is good with all kinds of guns.

But that’s not what makes a woman tough.

My Tough Gal Checklist

Let’s face it, if we met Sarah Connor on the street, toting her assault rifle, we wouldn’t be in awe. We’d be terrified.

So how can we be tough without being scary? (Unless scary is what you’re going for)

Here’s what it takes to be a tough woman:

  • Stand for what you believe in
  • Don’t back down from protecting others
  • Avoid confrontation if there’s a better way to solve the problem
  • Solve problems rather than complaining about them
  • Put your family’s safety first
  • Speak the truth with a loving tone (and never with the intent to wound)
  • Push back without pushing buttons
  • Work hard for what you want
  • Take care of your responsibilities
  • Ask for help when you need it (hey, tough women know they can’t do it all on their own)

What things would you add to this list?

How Average is Amazing

Too many times, women blow up their ideal role model into something larger than life. And then feel like total failures when she doesn’t measure up.

Sarah Connor is a fictional character.

You are a real person.

I’d rather be around the real you. Average is nothing to scoff at.

In fact, most of the time the average mother is nothing short of amazing. The average homemaker is a wizard of accomplishment. The average teacher is underpaid but doesn’t give her students any less because of if.

Average can be amazing when we decide to keep moving forward.

How many things on the checklist above describe you? If even five of them do, I’d say you’re pretty amazing.

Let’s face it, none of us want to have to protect our family from a machine-gun toting robot that can’t be destroyed. The models that can reshape themselves into any form and mimic voices? We wouldn’t even know if we met up with those terminators.

What do you think makes someone tough? What do you admire most about Sarah Connor?

If this post appealed to you, you might like Hero Delivery. It’s a bulletin with deals and specials from Sharon Hughson. It can be on the way to your inbox in a few clicks.

Check out Finding Focus and my other books. You’re sure to find something worth reading.

Already read one of more? Please leave an honest review on your favorite site. That’s like the author discovering a gold nugget in the bottom of her washing machine.