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Dindi is kidnapped to be the bride of a shark... To escape she must untangle a terrible curse caused by a love and magic gone wrong.


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June 26, 2015

How to Use Reiteration in Romance

Arwen and Aragorn-barbies
Staurt Horwitz in his book Book Architecture makes the case for using Reiterations to create structure for a novel without tying yourself to a linear outline. Especially if you’re writing a literary book, a book with multiple viewpoint characters or multiple timelines, this method is gold.

Horwitz is weak on one point where Coyne is strong, however: Genre specific advice.

But how about if one combined Coyne’s and Horwitz’s methods?

I’m going to take my list of Obligatory Scenes for Romance, inspired by Coyne, and mash it up with Horwitz’s Reiteration method. Let’s see what happens!

First, here’s a re-cap of Obligatory Scenes for Romance.

  1. The Cute Meet: Meeting the each other is an unusual, even life-changing event, or occurs during some life-changing event. (If they knew each other long ago, this is replaced by an Unexpected Reunion. Sometimes, the Cute Meet is included too, as a prologue or a flashback.)
  2. The External Problem: Something outside the heroine and hero keeps them apart.
  3. The Internal Problem: Some internal wound keeps the heroine and hero apart.
  4. The Draw: Despite the problems, something forces the heroine and hero to spend time together.
  5. The First Kiss: The heroine and hero express their attraction for the first time.
  6. The First Fight: The heroine and hero quarrel, but overcome their difficulty.
  7. The Commitment: The heroine and hero admit to loving one another or in some way commit to one another.
  8. The Betrayal: Despite their commitment, either the external force or internal force keeping the lover apart threatens to separate them forever. There seems to be no way to overcome this.
  9. Love Conquers All: The heroine and hero overcome the betrayal, proving the strength of their commitment (even, in a tragedy like Romeo and Juliet, or a romance without a HEA like The Titanic or The Notebook) despite death). In other almost-romances, or romances involving very young teens, an ambiguous “happily ever after for now” is acceptable.
  10. The Happily Ever After (HEA): In a true sits-on-the-romance-shelf genre Romance, as opposed to a strongly romantic story that might end tragically, the hero and heroine remain in love, remain together, and remain alive: they live happily ever after. Their HEA may be confirmed in an epilogue, or whenever the couple shows up in later books (about other couples) of the same series.

First of all, notice Points 9 and 10. The larger Theme, and the outcome that proves that Theme, for all Genre Romance (as opposed to Women’s Fiction or literary novels with a love story) must be “Love Conquers All” and a Happily Ever After (HEA). This is part of the Genre. If you don’t like it, don’t write Genre Romance. That’s pretty simple.

That doesn’t let you off the hook from developing your own Theme, however. This will be a variation of Love Conquers All, a specific example of what kind of problem Love Conquers. For instance, in 50 Shades of Grey it would be: Love is stronger than sexual sadism. The theme of Pride and Prejudice would be: Love is stronger than social prejudice. Another book might have the theme: Love is stronger than greed. One of my favorites is the HEA version of Romeo and Juliet: Love is stronger than enmity.

So far, that’s just Romance 101.

Here’s where it gets interesting. In my list of Obligatory Scenes, there were three that bugged me, the scenes I labeled 2-4 on the list: the External Problem, the Internal Problem, and the Draw. They weren’t quite right—because they weren’t Obligatory Scenes, as such, but rather ongoing elements necessary to drive the Romance. These elements might go into every scene, in fact!

I was trying to use a linear sequence, but what I needed was a set of parallel sequences—a grid. First let’s leave only the real scenes in our list:

  1. The Cute Meet: Meeting the each other is an unusual, even life-changing event, or occurs during some life-changing event. (If they knew each other long ago, this is replaced by an Unexpected Reunion. Sometimes, the Cute Meet is included too, as a prologue or a flashback.)
  2. The First Kiss: The heroine and hero express their attraction for the first time.
  3. The First Fight: The heroine and hero quarrel, but overcome their difficulty.
  4. The Commitment: The heroine and hero admit to loving one another or in some way commit to one another.
  5. The Betrayal: Despite their commitment, either the external force or internal force keeping the lover apart threatens to separate them forever. There seems to be no way to overcome this.
  6. The Happily Ever After (HEA): In a true sits-on-the-romance-shelf genre Romance, as opposed to a strongly romantic story that might end tragically, the hero and heroine remain in love, remain together, and remain alive: they live happily ever after. Their HEA may be confirmed in an epilogue, or whenever the couple shows up in later books (about other couples) of the same series.

What happened to 2-4 and 9? They are still there, but along a different axis. Let’s look again at that list once we’ve turned it into a Reiteration Grid:

Romance Obligatory Scene Grid

The Grid allows us to see that Reiterations can (potentially) iterate in every scene. (They don’t have to but they could.) This is critical, because touching on these narrative events is key to making a romance romantic. Each Obligatory Scene, as well as the other scenes in the book, will combine more than one Reiteration Arc.

Let’s take the Cute Meet. Looking at the Grid, we can see a there are several elements that might go into that scene. First there’s an iteration of Draw—the reason they are meeting and will continue to meet. Instantly, they are attracted to one another, though at this point it might be purely physical attraction. There may be an iteration of the External problem already evident. And even at this point, we should see the first iteration of the Heroine’s secret and the Hero’s secret, though the hint might be so well disguised we don’t recognize it as the first iteration of that Reiteration Arc until we’ve seen further iterations.

Least it seem the Grid is too, dare I say it, formulaic, let me emphasize that each individual story will have a different palette of Reiterations flowing into scenes. The Heroine and Hero might meet for the first time before they know that something is going to continue to work together, so there may be no Draw iteration in Cute Meet. Or they may meet, be attracted and go right to the First Kiss scene before an External antagonist pulls them away and stirs up the doubts that become an Internal Problem for one or both of them.

It’s not always necessary for the Heroine and Hero to both have a secret/internal issue. Sometimes it’s just one or the other. In Twilight, Bella is a normal girl; Edward has a secret. But in the subplot romance of Bella and Jacob, both Bella and Jacob have an internal issue. Jacob has a secret identity. Bella’s issue is that she’s still in love with Edward. In the Bella/Edward romance, they are able to overcome their external and internal problems, whereas Bella/Jacob are not. (Obviously the Bella/Jacob love story could not stand alone and still have the required HEA, but as a subplot, it works. Romances can have bittersweet, unhappy for now, or even unhappily ever after subplots for the third wheel. Usually, though a HEA is implied even for the loser of a love triangle, unless the rival was a Baddie.)

This Grid is solely for Obligatory Scenes. It could easily be expanded along the y-axis to include all the beats of a standard Narrative Arc. Several of the Obligatory Scenes are also usually broken up into successive scenes in a standard length novel.

The First Kiss can be extended into a sequence in either direction: The First Look, the First Touch, the First Time to First Base, the First Time Making Love, the Second Time Making Love…and so on. In Romantic Erotica, the first sex scene might occur about two seconds after the Cute Meet. A Sweet Romance might replace the First Kiss scene with a gentle holding-hands gesture, and the couple might not kiss until the final scene when the preacher says: “You may kiss the bride!”

A Romance trilogy that follows the same couple may extend the later beats, such as Kiss, Fight, Commitment and Betrayal, several times, with a new arc in each book. The true HEA is withheld until the last book in the series.

June 25, 2015

Recommended for Writers: Kate Walker’s 12-Point Guide to Writing Romance

Bookcase StairsKate Walker’s 12-Point Guide to Writing Romance orients aspiring Romance writers toward Mills & Boon’s guidelines for their numerous “lines” of subgenera. This might make it a strange book for me to recommend, since I encourage up-and-coming writers–especially for Romance–to consider going Indie.

Nonetheless, studying Publisher Guidelines for Romance Subgenera is a wise move, especially if you’re just starting out. One of the problems Indie writers run into is a failure to refine their focus to win a particular readership. They make basic mistakes that would have their manuscripts tossed into a Reject pile by any acquiring editor… but in this case, the Readers throw the books into the Reject pile.

To avoid that, the wise writer will not scorn the high standards of the “Gatekeepers,” but learn their secrets. After mastering a genre and associated subgenres, of course, the writer can knowingly (not ignorantly) choose to bend or merge them from a position of strength.

Buy Kate Walker’s 12-Point Guide to Writing Romance by Kate Walker.

June 15, 2015

What is Fantasy Romance? (Guest Post by Amy Raby)

Loving Fairy Couple In A Bed Of Grass
Are you a fantasy reader who enjoys pairing the characters off in romantic relationships? Do you sometimes wish a fantasy novel would spend more time on the characters, go a little deeper into what makes them tick? If so, fantasy romance is the genre for you.

When I started writing my own fantasy novels, I found myself beginning not with situations but with characters. I spent a lot of time on worldbuilding, but I didn’t create my characters for the purpose of revealing the world. Rather, I created my world for the purpose of revealing the characters. My first novel (never published) was about two men on an adventure. They were a mage and a thief, essentially, and I put them in constant conflict with each other.

Someone beta-read the novel and was confused. “It reads like a buddy movie,” he said. Yes, it was supposed to! The reader seemed to think a fantasy novel couldn’t spend so much time on the characters and their relationship. Maybe that novel didn’t work, but I knew that writing about characters and relationships was what I wanted to do.

I’d been reading science fiction and fantasy since childhood. I discovered the romance genre later in life, and when I did, I realized this was what I’d been missing. Here were the character-driven books I’d been looking for. This was the genre I was meant to write. But I didn’t want to give up my fantasy worlds and magic and dragons. So I started writing romances that took place in fantasy worlds.

Fantasy romance novels sit astride two genres. They are romance novels, fulfilling all the requirements of the romance genre. And they are fantasy novels, fulfilling all the requirements of the fantasy genre. I aim for a 50/50 split between romantic content and fantasy adventure content.

At this point I don’t even know how to write a novel that’s not fantasy romance. Having two intertwined storylines gives me so much narrative freedom, as well as advantages in pacing. We’ve just had a big action scene as part of the adventure storyline? It’s time for a quieter scene focused on the romance. My romantic couple just had a big fight and they’re not speaking to each other? Get them together with new developments in the adventure storyline that force them into contact.

Adding magic to a romantic relationship can be all kinds of fun. I had a great time writing the playful love scenes in one novel, in which the man had the power to turn invisible. Magic can also serve as an equalizer for female characters. I enjoy writing powerful, magically gifted heroines.

When I started writing fantasy romance, I thought I was the only person doing it. I’d never read a novel in this hybrid genre in my life—although several novels shelved in the fantasy section might have qualified (one by Ellen Kushner, several by Barbara Hambly).

But I was wrong. I wasn’t the only one. It’s a lesser known genre, but a few fantasy romance authors have been published by Penguin, and self-publishing has really flung open the doors for fantasy romance, adding many talented authors to the mix. We’re an emerging genre, and we’re building steam. The world is full of readers who grew up reading fantasy novels and also love romance. Those are the readers we’re writing for.

June 13, 2015

5 Ways to Make Money Writing Romance (Guest Post by Vashti Valant)


by Vashti Valant

There are so many ways to write Romance! And get paid for it. There are Pros and Cons to each of the career paths. But the good news is that these aren’t mutually exclusive.

1. Write for a Big Publisher

PRO: When you dreamed of being a writer, this is probably what you envisioned. A paperback on a wood shelf in a real bookstore, with a familiar label on the spine, like Harlequin. There are so many different “lines” for Big Pubs, it’s easy to find one you fit. It’s a good way to learn how to craft your novel to a niche readership. You’ll get an editor and a book cover.

CON: Advances are smaller than you think. Really.  Plus, while you have the advantage of the publisher’s reach, they don’t promote for you. You’re still on your own when it comes to truly promoting you as an author and a brand. Your books are off the shelves and the Publisher doesn’t always care about keeping alive your backlist.

2. Write for a Small Press

PRO: As with a Big Publisher, you’ll get an editor and a cover and a built-in audience. You’ll also have guidelines to write to. And it’s a lot easier to break in than with a Big Pub. Most of these specialize in ebook publishing.

CON: No advances, and no guarantees that royalties will be great either. Plus… frankly, the publisher might provide a cover that really sucks. And you’re stuck with it anyway. You have to promote yourself. And small presses often go out of business…often down in flames.

3. Ghost Writing

PRO: You can find work on a site like Elance or Odesk (which recently merged) and have enough projects to write full time. You have to hustle a bit to win bids, but it’s still a lot easier than promoting your own book—and easier on the ego. You get a guaranteed amount of money upon delivery of the work; it’s like an advance you don’t have to worry about earning out. Depending on what you prefer, you can look for gigs that let you write your own stories (within guidelines), or gigs that provide much of the work for you already done, like background and outline. This makes it a great route for beginning novelists, especially, to hone their trade. It’s like getting paid to learn how to write books.

CON: You don’t get the fame and satisfaction of seeing your name out there on a book cover. Also, you write to someone else’s specs and you have to respect their wishes, even if you think you know better. You don’t receive royalties.

4. Co-Writing / Team Writing

PRO: In Hollywood, it’s pretty standard, but it’s a new thing for novel-writing: joining a partnership or a team. The income is more regular, and you have the ability to bounce ideas off your partner or teammates. You can focus on the parts of the story you write best, and your partner can do the same. You have more control of the final product than with ghost writing, but still less sole responsibility for the final product… including the marketing. If you trust your partner or team, that lets you focus on the fun parts.

CON: You have to be careful that the financial arrangements are solid and that it’s clear how you’ll be paid: an upfront fee for each assignment, royalties, or a salary—or some combination? Make sure this doesn’t ruin a friendship or destroy a small business. And if you’re the one in charge, make sure you have the legal bases covered.

5. Indie Writing

PRO: You’re the boss, and you have full artistic control—and you keep all the net profits. What could be better?

CON: When you go Indie, you’re not just an artist anymore, you’re a business. Remember that the profits you earn are gross, not net. You have to subtract all the costs of your business… editors, book cover artists, promoters. And if you do all that yourself, you are basically limiting the time you can spend writing. If you ignore the other aspects of the business, your books will languish unnoticed—no matter how good they are!

May 23, 2014

My Immortal Playlist by Julius St. Clair

If you like paranormal romance, check out My Immortal Playlist from Julius St. Clair. MyImmortalPlaylist

Alexandra Cain is cursed.

She’s unpopular, a little lonely, and all of her boyfriends have this nasty habit of dying and then coming back to haunt her in unimaginable ways.

It’s not easy being a Siren in high school. A femme fatale whose first instinct is to enchant a man and have him for dinner, instead of being asked out to it. Burdened by her nature, it doesn’t seem like she’ll ever find the romance and passion she’s been looking for.

Until Lucas Hawthorne arrives.

He’s gorgeous. He’s mysterious. And he’s so dangerous that even she knows she should stay away.

But there’s something about him that keeps her digging deeper into his past, and following him into situations that keep getting worse and worse. She just can’t break his hold over her, and soon she has no choice but to ask herself a terrifying question: Who cast the spell over whom?

Download My Immortal Playlist from Amazon.


“I should’ve stayed home,” I sighed under my breath.

“You didn’t put up much of a fight,” she said, her blue mascara strangely accenting her vibrant green eyes. What was with this new fad of mixing strange colors together?

“Yeah,” I said. “But that’s only because someone told me this movie was different. It wasn’t what I thought it was going to be at all.”

“Okay, and what were you expecting? A horror movie?”

“Exactly. I mean c’mon, the movie is called Zombie Kisses. How do zombies kiss?”

“Like everyone else.”

“Well, it didn’t look appealing.”

“You’re not supposed to like horror movies anyways,” she huffed.

“And why is that?” I scoffed, sitting up in my seat quickly. Margaret flashed an award winning smile and made her voice all cutesy.

“Because you’re a woman,” she said. “You’re not supposed to like horror movies.”

“Ugh,” I groaned again, closing my eyes and turning around to see our fellow moviegoers leave in frustration and disappointment.

“I’m serious. If we’re ever going to graduate high school and snag a husband, we can’t give off the image that we’re into blood and gore and all those unattractive things.”

“Not like horror movies…snag a husband…what is this? The 50’s? Seriously, Margaret, you’re being unrealistic. And a little bit of a hypocrite. Do you seriously think that just because this movie is classified as a romance, it means you’re not into the supernatural? Think about it. A girl gets tired of her marriage with a vampire and decides to fall for a zombie! Who, I might add, tries to eat her shoulder when they’re making out! Listen, I don’t care if Malcolm Maximus looked nothing like a zombie. Yes, he was as gorgeous as always, but the concept is still gross and creepy.”

“This is completely different and you know it! There was no gore or violence whatsoever!”

“Yeah, but it’s a girl and a zombie…”

“Which if you ask me, didn’t look so bad.”

Silence filled the theater and I realized her face was not giving off its usual amused glow.

“You’re serious,” I said.

“Dead serious.”

“Okay, that’s not funny…I think I’m going to be sick.”

“What do you want to me say, Alexandra? I love these types of movies, but I still think it’s improper to engage in viewing gory flicks like that stupid torture one that’s making all the headlines these days.”

“Oh, you mean Screwdriver VIII.”

“Yes. Absolutely disgusting.”

“It’s classic horror. A carpenter teams up with a mechanic on this one. Double the screwdrivers. Double the terror. Double the fun.” I really wasn’t fond of horror movies, but I was willing to say anything to get under Margaret’s skin.

“Are you like doing a commercial for them or something? You sound way too excited.”

“Um,” a voice interrupted our conversation from below. We looked down to see a pimply faced, red-haired attendant brushing some nachos under a chair in row six. “The movie’s over. I gotta clean up the aisles before the next showing starts.”

“Sorry about that!” I called down as we awkwardly retrieved our purses and jackets in one swoop.

“So…he was cute, wasn’t he?”

“Not really,” I muttered, trying to attempt damage control. “His face was so greasy I could see myself in his forehead.”

“Isn’t that your type?”

“What do you mean?” I asked, trying to drown out my annoyance by taking loud footsteps on the parking lot asphalt.

“Well, you went out with that Elliot kid, and that was after he changed over the summer, I might add.”

“Well,” I muttered, unsure of what to say. I kept my head down in shame as we walked, but then I miraculously remembered that we drove separately. I didn’t actually have to suffer through the whole conversation today. Maybe if I got to my car in time, I could change the subject. Make a comment about how rusty and old it was before Margaret had any follow up questions. But of course, it was Three Dollar Tuesday at the movies, which meant every high schooler with a half-beaten go-kart was in attendance, and my car suddenly blended in like a toenail in a bag of rice…don’t ask.

“He was so dreamy before,” she continued on. “I mean, I almost broke my own dating rule and asked him out, but you know, a lady has to have standards. After his…um, makeover…he didn’t appeal to me as much.”

“You wouldn’t have liked him,” I muttered, before I realized what I was saying. I was such an idiot sometimes. Why didn’t I just keep my mouth shut?

“Oh? And why is that? Did you two…”

“Ew. No,” I shuddered, “and I’m surprised a woman of your class would ask such a thing.”

“Some things transcend class.”

“Apparently,” I said, fumbling with my car keys. Why couldn’t it have one of those convenient beepers that let you know where your car was located? I would be spamming it like an elevator button.

“So tell me about you two. I know you went out for at least a month last summer. What was it about him that attracted you?”

“To be honest? He was a little obsessive. Kept hounding me for a date.”

“Oh? Do tell!” Margaret said excitedly as she grabbed my arm and made me face her. I guess the search for the missing rust bucket was at a halt for now.

“All he wanted to do was touch me…or grab me,” I said, smiling like a maniac. “And he liked the taste of my flesh.”

“Okay, that’s enough,” Margaret backed away, wrinkling her face. “Why do you have to put it like that?”

“It’s true though, and it started getting crazier too. He would chase me around the neighborhood, roaring away as he picked at his face, peeling off dead skin like he had gotten the worst sunburn imaginable, yelling how he wanted to lick my sweat…”

“Stop! Just stop!” Margaret shrieked, stamping her feet to the pavement. “That’s just disgusting! And you know how I can’t stand it when you’re being gross! Just…just see me at lunch tomorrow!”

And with that, my best and only human friend ran away like I had been infected with a plague. I didn’t get why she was so upset. I thought she liked zombies.

Oh well, people just liked dreaming. They never thought about how unromantic it was in reality. Deep down, they didn’t really want to be a part of that paranormal world…

And I would know.

After all, I was living in it.



To read the rest of My Immortal Playlist, download it from Amazon.

To find more from Julius, visit his blog, Facebook and Twitter.

May 9, 2014

The Water Crisis Chronicles from Amber Garr

Today I’m happy to welcome author Amber Garr and let you all know about The Water Crisis Chronicles and Amber’s BIG giveaway and fundraiser going on this month!

First, a little about the books. A NA/Mature YA dystopian trilogy, they are full of action, love, and survival. Set in the not so distant future, two desserters fight to save each other while learning that the truth behind the twisted science keeping them alive.

Waterfall (Book 0.5)The water is gone. The wars have begun.Clean water is a luxury most can no longer afford. Climate change, industrial sabotage, and greed have turned country against country as each one tries to provide for its citizens. Terrorist groups target desalinization plants and frustrated governments hunt those who work against them. Rationing, sequestering, and patrolling have become routine at a time when there are too many people and not enough resources.While the world around them disintegrates into chaos, Zach and Vivienne hope that their life in a government-run complex will retain some semblance of normalcy. But when attacks on their water supplies bring war to their sheltered community, they must accept their new fate. Stay and fight or flee and endure—it’s a difficult decision  with lasting consequences.

Will they choose what’s safe? Or will they choose to survive?

Cover by Amber Garr


Waterproof (Book 1)

Dying of thirst is the new reality.

Five years after the last drop of clean water disappeared, global societies collapsed and nuclear war shattered all hope of recovery. In a place now only a skeleton of its former self, survivors fight to avoid capture by the government. Forced to work in factories that produce the only drinking water available, those who go in, never come out.

Zach and Vivienne have lived as deserters since they were teenagers. Fighting amongst their own and scrounging for the necessities of life, they’ve learned to rely on each other in every way. Yet when tragedy strikes and the true objectives of the government facility are revealed, their world is ripped apart. 

A fate once thought to hold their demise may be the sole answer to their survival. Who can they trust? Who can they believe?

In this life, it pays to be waterproof.
Cover by Creative Book Designs and Amber Garr


And now a little about the fundraiser. Be sure to check it out because not only can you help support a great cause, but you can win a KINDLE FIRE HD!


From now until May 31st, Amber will donate 100% of the proceeds from EVERY sale of Waterfall and Waterproof (ebook AND paperback) to her month-long fundraiser for As The Water Crisis Chronicles is based in a dystopian society where war over clean drinking water has destroyed the world, this cause can help make sure that we don’t ever reach these extremes. You can read more about what inspired Amber to create The Water Crisis Chronicles here. In short, the world is sorely lacking in freshwater resources (drinking water), and it may be only a matter of time before we reach a pivotal point. Will we destroy the world with our wars? Maybe.  Will we ever get the upper hand on the crisis? That’s the plan.

Let’s do what we can to help save the world. Everyone can conserve water, and everyone can support the non-profit organizations really out there in the field and making a difference for millions of people who can’t go to school or get out of poverty because they must search for water all day long.

So from April 30 to May 31, each time you buy one of the books from The Water Crisis Chronicles or donate directly to the cause, you can enter to win a Kindle Fire HD. Just $0.99 (the cost of Waterfall) or $2.99 (the cost of Waterproof) can go to support a worthy cause and help bring clean drinking water to those who need it most.

Her goal is to raise $500…please join her in helping to make that happen!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

May 1, 2014

Rockin’ The Heart by Gracen Miller

If you’re in the mood for a steamy romance, check out Gracen Miller’s Rockin’ the Heart.rocking the heartfinal

If music nourishes the soul…

Loved by millions, but shunned by blood, Heath “Fang” Fangor has led his band, Hot Wired, to the top while others have fallen by the wayside. He devoted his life to music, and from that devotion harvested a new family—his band mates and fans.

A man can desire nothing else…or can he?

Living in the shadow of her brother’s fame sucks! Sam Collins is desperate to have what she wants—a simple and uncomplicated life. She’s no stranger to scandals and how they work. Now that she’s inadvertently dragged Fang into the center of her latest gossip, could the scandal she created in her quest for freedom have gone too far?

Amid stardom the heart stages a new melody…

Fang has more fame and fortune than he will ever need, but none of that matters if he can’t have the woman of his dreams. Years have been wasted waiting for the right moment to approach the woman his heart desires above all others. There’s just one major problem…she’s his best friend’s sister. To have her, he will have to risk it all.

One that might be responsible for Rockin the Heart!

Download Rockin’ the Heart from Amazon and Barnes and Noble.


Chapter One 

(Warning: Strong language)

Heath was a rock star god. The tight lines fanning outward from his silver eyes classified him as a pissed off rock star god.

“Wanna tell me what you did this time to get the platinum treatment?” He indicated the jail cell, while ramming his fingers through his shaggy, jet-black hair.

Preferring to shrink into the shadows and avoid a confrontation with him, Sam took a deep breath and rose from the bench. She stepped away from the metal seat to draw closer to the bars dividing them.

She’d expected her brother, Jason—Jase—to ride to her rescue. Like always. Her foundation. Predictable. Dependable. Rattled by her sibling’s abandonment, she ogled the skull on Heath’s shirt, mortification overwhelming her.

If Heath was Jase’s replacement, then he’d been serious when he said ‘don’t call me the next time you’re arrested.’ She’d assumed he yelled that in anger. She was surprised he’d bothered to offer aid at all.

Gut hollow at her brother’s desertion, she cleared the ache out of her throat and asked, “Can’t you just bail me out and we’ll forget this ever happened?”

Knowing he wouldn’t go for that suggestion, Sam swallowed hard and shuffled her feet. Disappointing Jase was one thing, but letting Heath down was an entirely different matter. She’d crushed on the man since her tenth birthday when he’d given her a heart-shaped jewelry box. Didn’t matter he’d been too old for her at a mature fourteen. That infatuation hadn’t waned with age either, but only grown stronger. Not that he showed her a stitch of interest. To him, she was nothing more complicated than a kid sister.

His digits curled around one of the bars. The tattoo lettering on his left knuckles fit his current disposition—ired. On the other hand the letters H-O-T-W graced his knuckles. If read together, they spelled out the name of his band: Hot Wired.

“Not this time, Samantha.”

She cringed. The only time he broke out her full name was when he was upset or disappointed with her.

“You been drinking?”

“You know I haven’t.” Just shy of twenty-one, in her world getting liquor wasn’t an issue. Neither was alcohol her preferred drug of choice.


She rolled her eyes, the question too stupid to warrant a response.

“This type of publicity is bad news for the band.” She’d heard that one before. None of her recklessness damaged Hot Wired’s career. Not that she sought to hinder their mega stardom. She wasn’t that selfish, she just struggled with controlling her impulses on occasion.

Therapy failed to help. Yelling spawned further rebellion.

Living under the umbrella of the band’s fame grew tiresome. Her life should be her own, to live however she pleased. Weary of the media hounding her, she craved going back to a time when nobody knew her name. A normal life like when she’d been a kid.

She’d grown up on daydreams of the band making it to the big times. They won the lottery of recording deals, while Sam discovered stardom came at a high price. Along with that knowledge came the freebie of all lessons…fantasies were often better than reality. The last time she’d visited the mall without a trail of vipers eager to report her purchases she’d been fifteen.


Was it too much to ask to have a date the world didn’t scrutinize? Even the loss of her virginity made headline news. That act should’ve come with the expectation of privacy. Thanks to the tabloids, Jase almost burst a blood vessel over that exploitation.

Once she’d picked her nose in public on purpose because a rag-reporter stalked her. Scratched her butt on another occasion. Gave them something to write. Those were the photographs and articles that gave her incentive to laugh.

“The only reason they’re not pressing charges is because of Jase.”

“Thanks for the reminder.” Along with it came the reminder that her brother sent Heath instead of coming himself.

Despite the news-hounds, she got out of a lot of shit thanks to her brother’s identity. This incident would be all over the rags and Internet before morning.

‘Hot Wired’s drummer’s sister is at it again!’ They’d go on to paint her wild and immoral comportment.

Have at it you fucks. Can’t hurt me any more than you already have, but what about the band?

Distance from Hot Wired would aid all of them. She’d get her peace of mind back, and they’d be devoid of the rebel-rouser in their group.

She’d mentioned changing her last name and moving back to their Southern roots in the small Alabama town where she’d been born. Jase had gone bat-shit crazy at the suggestion and went on and on about how their parents would be rolling over in their grave at her abandoning the family name.

The name-change idea had been discarded. Swept under the rug like a dust bunny never to be spoken of again.

Torn between two worlds, Sam was suffocating. Living with someone she couldn’t have in a world where she didn’t belong.

She sank back down onto the bench and lay down on the uncomfortable metal, staring at the ceiling. “Go away, Heath. I’m not in the mood for a lecture.”

A sigh came from him, followed by a long pause. She anticipated he’d argue, but she focused on the water spot marring the tiled ceiling and prepared herself to fight back.

The sound of his retreating boots hitting concrete echoed in the room. His exit surprised her, but relieved her too. Faced with his disappointment, she vowed again she’d terminate her criminal behavior.

She settled the backside of her wrist against her forehead. She made that promise to herself often and botched the good intentions each time.

After a moment, a new set of footsteps approached the cell. Even with her eyes closed she determined the intruder wasn’t Heath. In a room full of guests, she could identify his gait. Heath’s solid steps and long stride made for a unique swagger that bespoke his self-confidence. Celebrated his rocker status. Watching him walk compared to admiring art. Ogling his ass as he strode away…eye-gasms.

This individual’s fast-paced walk reminded her of the peppered rounds of gunfire. She waited for the person to speak. The clink of metal striking metal and locks disengaging snagged her attention. She turned her head. The thirty-something deputy swung the cell-door open. “You’re free to go, Ms. Collins.”

Sam rolled off the bench and grinned at the officer as she sidled past him. She’d bragged as they booked her that they wouldn’t hold her long and the charges wouldn’t stick.

In the lobby, Heath waited for her with his hands shoved in his jeans pocket. His shaggy-butchered hair shadowed his eyes, doing a good job of hiding his expression, but the hard line of his jaw indicated he’d married his irritation. Lectures were sure to come.

Looking at him, no one would guess he rocked the panties off chicks worldwide. With his long-sleeved, pull-over black shirt, sporting a white skull, his snug well-worn jeans and scuffed boots, he appeared as average as any hard American worker.

That’s what I need to warm my cold bed. Average. Not my brother’s best friend and rock star god.

There was nothing average about Heath Fangor—Fang to his band mates and the world. Neither would he seduce her. Not even as a one-time gig. The man and his fucked up principals…or maybe they were her fucked up principals because she couldn’t say for sure if she’d enter into a one-night-stand with him if he begged for one. She wanted more, and a one-nighter would be difficult to live with.

“Thanks for the bail out, Fang.” She breezed past him with all intention of snubbing him, but he caught her arm. He held on tight, giving her a warning glare when she tried to jerk free.

“Don’t be ungrateful, brat.” He towed her toward the elevator.

“Thanks for the autograph, Fang!” She glanced back at the deputy who’d released her from the cell. He waved a piece of paper at them, grinning ear-to-ear.

Heath shoved her into the lift. The moment the doors shut, he slammed his palms down on either side of her head. Sam sucked in a breath, her eyes frozen on his sexy-ass mouth. The bottom lip was slightly puffier than the top, nice and pink, and wet. He’d probably licked them, which explained the sheen. She had naughty fantasies with them as the star of the show navigating her body. The damage she suspected they could accomplish created a slippery situation in her panties.

A slight tilt of his lips before he said, “Eyes on mine.”

She refocused and locked onto his silver gaze. The accusations she saw there struck her like a blow to the gut. Looking away would be easier, but Heath had a way of holding her to a higher level with just a penetrating stare. His expectations were tall, and she despised him for having such grand aspirations for her.

“What’s gotten into you? Base diving—”

“That was fun. You should try it.”

“—bar brawls, knifing chicks in Miami—”

“Hey! I was found innocent of that allegation!”

Elevating his eyebrows, he called her statement a lie without uttering a word.

“—and now you’re adding grand theft auto to your long list of offenses.”

To read the rest of the story, download Rockin’ the Heart from Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

Find more from Gracen on her website, Facebook, Facebook group, blog and Twitter.

April 25, 2014

Johnny Doesn’t Drink Champagne by Cody Young

Johnny doesn't drink champagneStart your weekend off with some paranormal romance and download Johnny Doesn’t Drink Champagne.

I’m seventeen and he’s twenty-one.
That’s okay… isn’t it?

He drives a Lamborghini.
So what?

He was born in 1462.

He seeks revenge, but there is one person standing in his way.

On a high school trip to London, Madison Lambourne meets seductive stranger Johnny De Vere, who believes he knows her already, and is torn between love and revenge.
Eager to learn more about this beautiful, lonely, young man, Madison agrees to go with him to a re-enactment at the Tower of London. Dressed as a highborn medieval lady in a black velvet gown, she accidentally slips through a doorway that leads to the past. Knowing she will not last long on the streets of medieval London, Johnny must follow her… with devastating consequences for them both.

A wild time-travel adventure full of love, lies, mystery and betrayal.

You can download Johnny Doesn’t Drink Champagne from Amazon.


I run, with my heart thundering and a rushing sound in my ears. I’m hampered by my gown, which is bundled up over one arm. My bare legs are visible for all to see but I no longer care. I try to head back the way we came, but the maze of narrow streets confuses me and it is so gloomy and dark. There don’t seem to be any streetlights around here so I head for a dim light at the end of one of the alleyways, hoping to find my way back onto a main street.

About halfway down the alley I am whirled around, shoved roughly into a wall. I feel the texture of crumbling plaster – or is it dried mud – under my fingertips, and a lattice work of sticks underneath. I scrabble against it, but I can’t get free. Something thick and warm and hairy – a man’s arm, I guess – is around my neck, suffocating me. I scream, but he silences my scream with a huge hand over my mouth. Something glints in the darkness, and I feel a pinprick of pain on my neck.

A knife. He has a knife.

I tremble. The blade of the knife is against my neck. The point touches my flesh and if I make the slightest movement he will cut my throat. I’m weak with terror, and my knees threaten to give way and shorten my journey to my inevitable, violent death.

“Unhand her, ruffian, or you’ll swing for this!”

Johnny’s voice in the darkness. I dare not call out to him though. The pressure of the blade is still there at my throat. It does not waver. In fact, my attacker, who I cannot see but I can smell, is laughing.

“Find your own sweetmeat, lad!”

Johnny inches nearer to me. Even in the darkness I can feel it. “Leave her be, or your life ends tonight!”

The older man snorts in disgust. “You’re no match for me.”

This time it is Johnny who laughs. “Indeed I am not. I will vanquish you and tomorrow your body will be on that stinking midden with the horse dung, where it belongs.”

I sense a frisson of fear go through the hefty body of the evil man who holds me. His beard is touching my face and his foul breath nauseates me. Still he refuses to release me.

I see a flash of steel and a dagger is drawn. “I warned you.” Johnny’s voice is low and menacing. A whispered curse in the darkness.

In an instant the men engage in one swift lunge. The knife falls from my neck and clangs onto the cobblestones at my feet. I sense Johnny’s body close to mine, but I can’t see him. I can’t see what’s going on at all. The sound of metal rasping against metal chills me, and then there is a cry of pain.

“Please! Have mercy!”

Johnny’s voice answers him – stern and cold. “Would you have had mercy on the girl, you foul dog?”

The man who attacked me falls to his knees with a heavy thud. I stand, quaking with terror in the dark alleyway, unable to move or speak. Then, an even more chilling sound – my attacker, on his knees, begging for his miserable life.

“Please, sir, please. I didn’t mean her no harm!”

I tremble and try to touch Johnny’s arm. “Let him go!”

A tense moment passes. A black silence. I almost wonder if my plea for mercy came too late. Perhaps the deed is already done and the evil man lies dying at my feet.

But then, Johnny speaks. “Begone! The lady’s heart is warmer than my own. She spares thee.”

In the darkness the man struggles to his feet, panting with fear. He doesn’t stop to look for his knife.  He starts running – running away from us down the dark alleyway. As fast as he can go. I listen, hardly daring to breathe, until I can’t hear his footsteps anymore. Johnny takes my hand, and though I want to recoil from his touch – I don’t. He has saved me. He has saved my life.

“Come on!” he says, angrily. “I find the stench of that ruffian’s blood detestable, and we must find a safer place than this. London is full of cut-throats, Maddie.”

Johnny pulls me along by the hand and we head towards the light again. My dress is trailing in the filth, but I no longer care. We come out onto a wider road – but there are still no street lamps. I’m shaking, but it is all becoming clear.

I look up at the face of the man who has just saved my life.

“The moat,” I whisper, my voice shaking with fear. “At the Tower of London. There was water in the moat.”

“I know.” His voice is terse. Cold.

“But the moat was filled in,” I say. “Ages ago.”

“I’m sorry. You were never meant to see… ”

I’m shaking uncontrollably now. “Where the hell are we, Johnny?”


To read the rest of the story, download Johnny Doesn’t Drink Champagne from Amazon.

For more from Cody, visit her blog.

April 9, 2014

Speakeasy Dead by Vicky Loebel

Speakeasy DeadTake a peek inside Speakeasy Dead: A Roaring Twenties Historical Urban Fantasy by Vicky Loebel, a romantic zombie comedy.

Speakeasy manager Clara Woodsen will do anything to save her silent film idol from an untimely death. Even summon a demon. Even bet she can teach his half-human/half-cheetah assistant to foxtrot.
But people around town are acting strange. Have Clara’s efforts unleashed a zombie plague? Or are her customers just really bad at dancing the Charleston? And can Clara find true happiness with the man of her dreams if she uses her…brains?

Download Speakeasy Dead from Amazon or listen to it via Audible.


I: Follow the Swallow

Trust no one.
—The Boy’s Book of Boggarts


LOOKING BACK, it was the phrase “human sacrifice” that tipped me off something was rotten in the state of Falstaff, Arizona.

“Don’t you dare break a single one of those bottles,” my cousin Clara hissed over her shoulder. I tightened my grip, and the enormous black satchel I was carrying containing a couple of baby elephants and—apparently—glass bottles ceased its horrified clanking.

It wasn’t witchcraft, a word of passing acquaintance to any red-headed youth raised in our town. It wasn’t magic. In that age, everything was magic. Electricity was magic, telephones, biplanes lifting off the brown grass next to the county fairgrounds, jazz records blowing the crazy rhythms of the South up under the skirts of New York and Chicago were magic.

“Guard this”—Clara set her own satchel on the ground— “with your life.”

Cinema was magic and, of the many wizards of the silent screen, most magical of all was Beau Beauregard: war hero, vaudevillian, dancing heartthrob of Ali Baba’s Arabian Knights and the even more popular Blood of Ali Baba. Beau Beauregard who, as Clara and I crouched in the dark alley between a row of ash cans and the Falstaff Ninepin Fellowship building, lay writhing in agony across the street at the Hollywood Grand Hotel, suffering from an advanced case of peritonitis, close to death.

All very tragic, but I was still working on Clara’s “human sacrifice” remark.

“A human what?” I bumped against one of the ash cans.

“Quiet, dummy!” Clara sidled over to the Fellowship’s coal chute and turned a key in the padlock. We ducked again as an open jalopy coughed and sputtered up the gravel alley behind us.

The air was cool, the evening brilliant in that benign way Mother Nature sometimes has, starry bracelets glittering around the limpid wrists of Heaven. Across the street around the front of the building, lights blazed, cars blared, and people called excitedly to one another as the three-day gala opening of the Hollywood Grand Hotel got underway, while through the Ninepin Fellowship’s back door, a dance band could be heard playing an Al Jolson tune:

When your dreams fall apart
And despair fills your heart
Follow the swallows back home.

A catchy sentiment, but one I couldn’t entirely agree with, since home for the particular swallow I was following was, in fact, the building we were breaking into. And I suspected despair lay ahead.

“Did you say….” I glanced uncomfortably from the coal chute to the back door, left open for ventilation, to the coal chute again. “Human sacrifice?”

Clara produced a brass can and oiled the coal chute hinges. I was beginning to wonder why she’d instructed me to dress in the second-best high school baseball uniform I’d never outgrown. It was hardly the glad rags I’d expected to don for an evening of escorting surplus females around the Ninepin Fellowship’s dance floor.

Clara tilted the narrow chute open. “In you go.”

“Me?” I staggered aghast. Nevertheless, despite the fact that I was three years older than Miss Clara Woodsen, a returning senior at Falstaff University (Delta Kappa Kilta), and a member of the superior sex to boot, I wasn’t surprised to find myself, moments later, swallowing dust at the bottom of a very dark hole. Thus has it always been between myself and young C. She calls the shots. I take the lead in the chest.

“Ouch.” A lump of coal probably doesn’t mind the six foot drop into a cellar, but my backside was complaining. Fortunately, the space was empty, swept up neatly for summer by the Fellowship’s Hungarian janitor. I dusted my hands and caught the satchel Clara was lowering on a rope.

“Mind the bottles,” she admonished.

I untied the swag, received my cousin’s smaller, lighter bag, and then provided a clean, soft landing pad for Clara’s patent-leather Mary Janes.

There are females whose shoes I’d happily invite (girl attached) to drop six feet into my lap. There are others for whom, upon consideration, I’d chivalrously volunteer. Seventeen-year-old cousins belong to neither category, but since Clara leapt before I looked, my backside received another bump on the floor while my front endured a more painful indignity.

“Ow!” I curled into a ball like an electrocuted caterpillar.

“Bernard Benjamin” —Clara flicked a flashlight— “stop fooling around!” She’d dressed for the occasion cat-burglar-style in my best baseball uniform, waist-length rag curls tucked under a man’s cap, looking convincingly masculine except for the Mary Janes.

Clara picked up her bag and tiptoed toward the door.

“Hey!” I lifted my luggage and legged it, limping, behind.

The coal-room opened onto a dimly-lit mad alchemist’s laboratory, complete with gas jets, bubbling beakers, and six enormous stills topped with spiraling copper tubes. Sparks crackled along bent wires connecting a sequence of copper globes. Cabinets of herbs and powders surrounded a long wooden workbench cluttered with bowls, and stacks of crates and wooden barrels were lined up in rows against the walls. The smell of yeast and juniper berries scented the air.

Across the lab, facing away from us, a matronly woman in a severe brown ankle-length skirt was filling two jugs from a barrel of gin.

Hullo Priscilla—

Clara’s palm throttled my greeting and dragged me sideways into shadow. We waited, listening to muffled music from above, until Clara’s half-sister, Priscilla, finished filling and hustled her jugs out the laboratory’s secret door.

In case you’re wondering, let me present a few facts:

Fact A: The building we’d just broken into was the Falstaff Ninepin Fellowship, a combination witches’ coven, bowling alley, and saloon of limited local repute.

Fact B: Young Clara’s half-sisters (she has four, witches, wicked, all), while not exactly owning the coven, rule over it with fists of steel.

Fact C: The thumping music upstairs issued from a three-day dance contest Clara, herself, was staging to coincide with the elaborate opening of the Hollywood Grand Hotel.

Fact D: Men can be witches (a warlock is something else). And no, I wasn’t one myself.

So there you have it: the situation on that fated Thursday night as I trailed Clara past her family’s illegal distillery, through the secret door into the stairwell where jazz cascaded down a set of spiral steps—and thence into the witches’ coven that filled the other half of the basement.


To follow the rest of Clara’s story, download Speakeasy Dead from Amazon or listen to it via Audible.

To find more from Vicky, visit her website, Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.

March 26, 2014

Zoo by Tara Elizabeth

Zoo by Tara ElizabethWith nearly 100 reviews averaging over 4 stars, Tara Elizabeth’s Zoo is definitely worth a read.

A chronicle of my time living in a zoo . . . I’m not really sure where to start, and you may have trouble believing me even as I tell you my story. My family did. They laughed the first time I told them, so now I just say it was all a crazy dream. You see, I died in a totally preventable car accident . . . or so I thought. When I opened my eyes, I was shocked to discover that I had been resurrected into the year 2282 and, just as unbelievably, was locked up in a zoo! A HUMAN ZOO! Oh wait, I mean the People’s Past Anthropological Center.

The Global Government created the Centers because all of the different cultures of the world had, over centuries of time, slowly absorbed into one uniform culture. Everything and everybody felt the same, and the world didn’t like it. So, to help the people of 2282 find cultures they thought worthy to live their lives by, they used time travel to zap the people of the past into the future. They created enclosures to house their live human exhibits. And that’s what happened to me. I became a research project, a source of entertainment. I was a prisoner who was over two hundred years away from my family and friends.

Most of my time in the enclosure was spent trying to escape. I also made friends, lost friends, fell in love, was betrayed, was held captive within captivity, and lots of other fun stuff. There were some shocking moments and some devastating moments . . . It’s a lot to recount, but I’ll try my best to tell you all about my time travel . . . PAST, PRESENT, and FUTURE.

I’m Emma, by the way.

You can download Zoo from Amazon.



When I woke up, I saw green, lots and lots of green. There were green plants, green trees, and green moss covered rocks. Underneath me was a cushion of green grass. I heard rushing water coming from somewhere nearby, but the pounding in my head dulled the pleasant sound. They drugged me, and my body did not like whatever they gave me. I stayed stretched out on the soft carpet of grass, trying to adjust to my surroundings.

“Hi there! About time you woke up,” a breezy, female voice chirped.

I slowly rolled my head in the direction of the voice. A girl about my age was sitting on a boulder staring at me. Her blonde hair was wild, like she took the time to tease it but used a twig to do it. Her eyes were a cool blue like a clear sky. Her dress was plain. It was made from what looked like burlap or some other horrible fabric (if you could even call it fabric). It looked completely out of place on her.

I was thinking about how awful it would be to wear something like that while I was scratching at my own skin. And sure enough, I had the same horrible fabric on. I was so mortified. I was wearing a brown sack that came to about mid-thigh, and when I checked, I discovered that I also had on tiny, bikini-cut panties. I was more of a boy short kind of girl.

“Where am I?” I asked the blonde girl.

“Didn’t they show you the film?”

“Yeah, but . . . ”

“Well, you’re in your new home.” She flipped her hair over her shoulder, and I almost expected her to start smacking on some gum.

I sat up and looked around. There was a small jungle toward the back of the enclosure with the rest of the area being flat land. The jungle was thick with ferns and trees. I could see a hint of a waterfall over some low hanging vines. At the front of the enclosure, on the flat land, I could see a small vegetable garden, a fruit tree, and a cow tied to a post. Half of the space was surrounded by a rock-wall, and the rest was encased by a glass-dome.

“This isn’t anything like where I came from,” I said aloud to myself and to the girl.

“Yeah, me neither. All I can figure is that they want to experiment by putting us in different environments and then seeing what happens.” The girl shrugged her shoulders. “So, what’s your name?”

“Emma David. You?”

The girl spewed a ton of information at me all at once. “Janice Hall. Grew up in Manhattan. Got into partying young. Overdosed on cocaine in a nightclub. Been in here alone for about a month. It’s good to have some company. I started talking to the cow a few days ago. Can you believe that? They could have at least put me in one of these things with some good neighbors or something.”

She completely overwhelmed me, and I didn’t know what to say in response. The thing that stuck out the most about her little speech was that she said she had overdosed. She looked too young to have had an overdose. “How old are you?” I finally asked her.

“Sixteen,” she answered nonchalantly, while inspecting her cuticles. Then she dropped down next to me and grabbed my hand to have a look at my nails. She was behaving like a monkey. I could recall watching them at a regular zoo. They would sit and pick at each other, searching for bugs or whatever nasty things inhabited their fur. It made me uncomfortable, but I was so focused on figuring her out, that I let her continue for a while longer.

Janice was so young and beautiful, and she was probably wealthy if she grew up in Manhattan. I’ve seen plenty of famous socialites on cable TV hit rock bottom before they hit 18. What a waste. Drugs were one thing that I never messed with, and she was a prime example of why.

“What year are you from?” I could tell she wasn’t from my time, even though we were dressed the same. There was something about her that was different, besides the New York accent.

She continued to look over my cuticles. I let her because it seemed to calm her down, which also helped my own nervous energy. She answered, “I was born in 1962. They ‘saved’ me in 1978.” She made air quotes with her fingers as she said the word “saved.” Then she asked me, “What about you?”

The time travel crap was starting to weird me out. I felt like my head was going to explode, but I held myself together long enough to answer her. “Um, I’m 17. I was born in 1995 and they ‘saved’ me in 2013 . . . This is crazy!” Nope. I couldn’t keep it together after all. Why was I sitting there making small talk with a strange girl? I needed to get the hell out of my new prison.

I ran over to the rock wall, searching for a door. Nothing. After I reached the glass front of our enclosure, where the public would be observing us from the other side, I beat my fists against the hard surface. I screamed and screamed and screamed.

Then, I screamed some more.

“Tried that already. It’s no use. Besides, the park’s not even open. Nobody’s here, silly,” Janice told me. She stood behind me, next to the cow, with her hand on her hip. I noticed she had fashionably tied some kind of vine around her waist to accentuate her curves under the hideous sack dress.

I didn’t care what she said, so I ignored her and kept beating the glass wall from one side all the way to the other. I went on that way until I reached a point where I could see into the enclosure next door. What I saw was unexpected.

To read the rest, download Zoo from Amazon.

Find more from Tara on her website, Twitter and Facebook.

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