Review: Every Breath You Take

Occasionally, I like a break from reading romance, and Every Breath You Take was the perfect break I needed.

When I read the back-cover copy, I expected this to be a nail-biter of a suspense: “Detective Kristen Conner may not be able to figure out her own love life, but she is about to get a crash course on finding Mr. Right, even as she finds herself in the crosshairs of a determined killer’s gun.”

Based on that, I expected to be holding my breath until the end of the book. But that wasn’t the case.

According to one of the endorser’s comments, the book is an “intense roller-coaster ride.” But that’s not the case either. I never once felt on a roller coaster.

But the same endorser said this: “Gilroy’s writing feels effortless”—and that’s right on point. Even though I didn’t feel like it was a gripping book, I couldn’t put it down.

Every Breath You Take is book 2 of the Kristen Conner series, and I’m sorry I missed the first one (got it on my wish list). Kristen is a typical tough-as-nails, never cries, lives for a workout heroine found in police procedurals, but she has a charming soft-spot for her high-volume nephew and his soccer-princess sister. In fact, Kristen coaches her niece’s team, the Snow Flakes. Can you get any farther from “tough” than that?

Instead of reading like a driven, get-the-bad-guy mystery, Every Breath You Take is like reading a month in the life of a detective. There’s one primary case to keep the novel in the genre and a couple of side cases that illustrates to the idea that detectives often have more than one case file open. There’s an awkward romance, a family crisis, and lots of references to football. And lots of action.

In other words, the novel reads a lot like an episode of Rizzoli & Isles, Tess Gerritsen’s novel series-turned-TV show. And it competes well with it.

Then, as the novel draws to a close, all the clues start falling into place, and you experience the fun part of reading mysteries: Hot dog! I guessed right! or Wow, I didn’t see that coming! Followed by a gripping scene of catching the bad guys and a strong, satisfying conclusion.

Yep. I’m glad I read this one.

 

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Trad vs Indie Revisited

In December of 2018, I wrote “Trad vs Indie—again” and spoke of the temptation for me to try the traditional publication route. Then, I ended the post with “2019 should be an interesting year.” That last sentence was prophetic, but for a different reason. I didn’t get much work done last year.

But it doesn’t matter. My decision to go traditional with a major publisher all but bit the dust after the ACFW conference. One of the premier agents indicated that I don’t have a chance of getting with a major publisher.

So consider this a learn from my mistakes post.

I can’t stress enough the importance of starting your platform now and learning the business end of this business. It’s all well and good to write a book or two, but to make a career out of writing takes numbers: number of books, number of sales, number of fans.

I have several publications, both indie and trad, published with small houses. Most of the books I’ve entered for literary awards have either won or finaled, including an Honorable Mention in the Saturday Evening Post’s 2016 Great American Fiction contest. Being productive is nice. Being an award winner is nice. Neither will have a major agent gushing over me. And the reason is the “numbers of sales” mentioned above.

All of my books together don’t reflect a good sales record, and after all this time, they should. Sales should increase with each new publication because the fan base should increase. But the truth is, I just don’t know how to do internet marketing. I’ve studied all the right books and blogs, but I just can’t seem to find the magic formula.

That formula is vital. As the agent explained, the first thing she’d look at is sales, because it’s easier to sell to a major publisher if her client has the initiative to make a good go of it on her own. The major publisher wants someone who has a record of selling, because that’s the first thing bookstores will look at. As the publisher’s sales rep is reading through the list of new releases, the bookstore’s buyer is looking up the authors’ names to see if they sell well. A lousy record means the sales rep doesn’t sell, which means the publisher doesn’t make money, which means the agent doesn’t make money and you certainly don’t make money.

Writing is an art. Being a writer is an honor. Making a living as a writer means treating your art and honor as a business.

I always have treated it as a business, but some folks seem to understand how to do it better than I do. I’m not worried about myself, though, because I do have a publisher interested in my work. Not a major one, but a traditional publisher just the same. So when things settle down, I’m still going traditional, and I’m still going to aim for a major publisher someday. I have a game plan sketched out that I’m anxious to implement as soon as we’re settled in our new house and my office is in order.

But my advice to any newbie author who wants to make a living at this is to aim for the traditional market. I know that sounds hypocritical and heretical to some, but here’s my reasoning: a precious few indies make the kind of money that will attract a large publisher, which means precious few indies are making a living at this. The larger traditional publishers can put you places you can’t go as an indie and can provide a marketing budget to get you recognized in ways you can’t do yourself. Your efforts will supplement theirs, but incredibly few indies can match what they do.

I used to think if I couldn’t sell a book to a publisher, I’d just put it out myself. And I do. But for the newbie, I would recommend not doing this. If you fall as far from “brilliant” as I do as a marketer, your lack of sales can hurt you in the long run, just as they have me. Keep writing. While you’re hunting for an agent, keep writing. If the first book doesn’t sell, the next one might, then perhaps your first can follow.

For the most part, successful hybrid authors started as successful traditionally published authors who got the rights back on their books and revamped them for the market again. I’m not saying indies can’t be successful. I know too many of them who are. But it is a lot of work, and unless you’re a well informed Type A personality with excellent time management skills, you’re likely to fall into the same category as the rest of us: an indie or hybrid with low to marginal success.

A lot of authors are fine with having a few sales here and there. They just want to write and share their talent. There’s nothing wrong with that. But if you want to make a living as a writer, have a game plan. Educate yourself. Think beyond the art of writing and become pragmatic about the business.

And be a better marketer than I am.

 

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To Be Judged

After we worked our fingers to the bones and our bodies into a state of utter fatigue, we finally had the house ready to be scrutinized by all those strangers who’d eagerly set up appointments to see it. We had four showings, to be exact, and we weren’t allowed to be here for them. Thank heavens, I say. The last thing I wanted was to see the faces of those whose sole purpose for being here was to judge the house and everything in it.

Have you ever watched those house-hunting shows on TV? More often than not, the couple seeking a new home has high hopes and limited funds. They want new or updated houses that match their tastes exactly and criticize everything from the carpet on the floors to the choice of color on the walls.

But not just that. When strangers come into your house, they’re seeing everything that makes it a home to you. The kinds of things you collect. The pictures of your family. Your taste in furniture and decor. Everything. And they judge it, even though it doesn’t come with the house. They see the things you’ve put up with all these years, and they wonder why you haven’t fixed it. The crack in the floor tile, the crack in the wall, the buckling carpet. They wonder why you’ve never repaired the _____ (fill in the blank). Some of the stuff is cosmetic; some create valid concerns, but we’ve dealt with them.

Our house has two strikes against it: It’s old and we’re the owners. It was built in the ’70s and looks it. I stink as an interior decorator. To me, it’s our home and it looks fine. To others, it’s supposed to be a showplace and it’s severely lacking. And it doesn’t help that all of our home improvement budget went to doctors and hospitals instead.

And, when we got to hear the opinions of those who came out, that’s what we heard: the house is dated. It would take too much to bring it up to “my standards.” “Goodness! Are they the original owners?” Which, of course, points to the fact that anyone else would’ve updated it.

I’m well aware of all the problems in this house, and being outdated is only part of it. I’ve been known to get splinters from the cabinets. The dark paneling shows dust something awful. The popcorn from the ceiling brushes off when I clean around the vents. The carpet in the bedrooms has been here since we moved in, and the only reason the carpet in the living and dining rooms is newer is because we had a little fire that burned holes in the old one. The windows aren’t sealed well enough, so there’s a bit of a draft. The drapes don’t close right. The tub has a stain that was here when we moved in, and I have yet to figure out how to get it out.

So, believe me, whatever words of criticism house-hunters express, I agree. But here’s the thing: it’s still our home and it hurts to hear the indictment against it. We’ve been here, broke but happy, for over twenty years. Things would’ve been different had I never gotten sick, but things are what they are. And if I didn’t have to, I wouldn’t move away from the view outside my window—the trees, all the birds and squirrels, the turtles sunning on the pond bank, the fading of the cypress trees in the fall from green to gold to rust. Our new house is in town, in a typical neighborhood, and that’s what we’ll see when we look out the windows there. Neighbors.

I think I’m still tired from all the work we’ve been doing the past several days. Ordinarily, I’m not so morose. We have a lot to be thankful for, so I really shouldn’t complain about anything. I’m certain God has softened the heart of whomever He has chosen to move into this beautiful place. And it is beautiful. Despite all the problems, it has great “bones,” as they call it in the business, and it’s surrounded by lovely woods and the peaceful pond. God knows who will love it as much as we do and will bring them here in time.

Meanwhile, I’ll pick out splinters and watch the fish play in the pond.

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Take My Advice

Saturday morning, I finally got to sit down to take a break from an arduous cleaning spree. I decided to memorialize the moment with a shot of a reasonably clean house—and Ree Drummond.

If you follow me on Facebook, you may have read all the times I whined about sore muscles and smelly oils like Scott’s Liquid Gold and WD40. Believe me, what I posted on Facebook doesn’t begin to match all the whining my body was doing.

As I mentioned in my last post about our goings-on, we had already made the decision to stay put when God nullified that decision for us. During the end of 2018, I thought we were going to move, so during that time and a few months in to 2019 I was packing and cleaning at my own pace, taking my time because we still had to build the house on the farm. Then, as everyone probably already knows, we got hit with a series of crises—not to mention the doubling in price of the house we wanted to build–and figured God didn’t want us to move. Come to find out, He did, just not to the farm, and far sooner than we expected.

Here’s the deal: I haven’t regained my strength since the big Crohn’s flare-up in 2011-2012, so my house hasn’t had a good spring-cleaning since at least 2011. What little I did in 2018-2019 didn’t amount to a hill of beans, because after the first crisis hit in March, all cleaning activity stopped. A fact I deeply regret today as I rub Aspercreme on my sore muscles and pop Tylenol for the added boost of pain-relief.

And, here’s my advice: As much as you’d love to skip spring cleaning—especially when you’re sick or busy or just don’t feel like it—don’t. Hire it done if you must, but don’t neglect it. If you get hit with a surprise move or some other event in your life that requires a clean house, you’ll be ahead of the game.

Dust bunnies multiply, yes, but worse: they dig in. They attach themselves until nothing but elbow grease will shoo them away. Grime gets  everywhere and makes for tedious work in corners and crevices. And don’t get me started on what you’ll find behind and under furniture. {{{SHUDDER}}}

Don’t wait until spring. Start now. Your muscles will thank you in the long run.

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First Titles of the New Year!

More in-depth descriptions of these books can be found on the ACFW Fiction Finder website.

Contemporary Romance:

A Rancher to Trust by Laurel Blount — After learning his ex-wife isn’t so ex after all, rebel turned rancher Dan Whitlock is determined to prove he’s a changed man…but Bailey Quinn is just as set on finally ending their marriage. When tragedy makes Dan the guardian of little orphaned twins, he and Bailey are drawn back together. But can she forgive the past and open her heart to the family she’s always wanted? (Contemporary Romance from Love Inspired (Harlequin))

Star Rising by Janet W. Ferguson — Star Youngblood tries to protect her employer, Mrs. Priscilla Kelly, from the woman’s neglectful son, an aspiring flight instructor who has issues with religion, but finds her own heart is at the greatest risk. (Contemporary Romanc, Independently Published)

A Promise to Keep by Melony Teague — Savannah, a widowed research librarian, goes to her twenty year class reunion and gets reacquainted with Michael, a former troublemaker who is now a professional technical rescuer. Before the night is over, a pact between these two old friends will lead them on an adventure into uncharted emotional territory where Michael must confront his past regrets and find the courage to reveal the truth. But can Savannah fly from her sheltered nest and risk her heart on a real-life hero? (Contemporary Romance from Anaiah Press)

General Contemporary:

A Long Time Comin by Robin W. Pearson — To hear Beatrice Agnew tell it, she entered the world with her mouth tightly shut. Just because she finds out she’s dying doesn’t mean she can’t keep it that way. If any of her children have questions about their daddy and the choices she made after he abandoned them, they’d best take it up with Jesus. There’s no room in Granny B’s house for regrets or hand-holding. Or so she thinks. Her granddaughter, Evelyn Lester, shows up on Beatrice’s doorstep anyway, burdened with her own secret baggage. Determined to help her Granny B mend fences with her far-flung brood, Evelyn turns her grandmother’s heart and home inside out. Evelyn’s meddling uncovers a tucked-away box of old letters, forcing the two women to wrestle with their past and present pain as they confront the truth Beatrice has worked a lifetime to hide. (General Contemporary from Tyndale House)

Historical Romance:

Freedom in the Mountain Wind by Misty M. Beller — A young woman faces overwhelming odds to make her father’s dream come true before he dies of lung cancer, but paddling upriver through fierce rapids and fighting hungry grizzlies to follow the Lewis and Clark trail isn’t what terrifies her the most. Beaver Tail endured more than he can stand from the women in his Blackfoot camp, but the last disaster gave him the final shove he needed to join this band of brothers searching for one of their group who’s gone missing. The last thing he expected was to find a white woman and her sick father stranded at the base of a massive waterfall. His plan is to help them carry their oversize canoe and supplies, then leave them to their strange mission. Yet, the more he learns about the pair, the more he realizes his life is about to be derailed—again. (Historical Romance, Independently Published)

Uncharted Promises by Keely Brooke Keith — Sybil Roberts uses the warmth of delicious meals to lift the spirits of road-weary travelers at The Inn at Falls Creek. Her life at the inn would be perfect if she could just get her brothers and mother to move back home. And if she could see Isaac Owens again. He visited the inn once when he interviewed for the farm manager job, and she’s dreamed of his return to Falls Creek ever since. Isaac Owens knows how to run a farm. His family might not have faith in him, but if he succeeds at Falls Creek, he’ll prove them wrong. He arrives at the inn thinking the job is his, but the inn’s senile owner offered the position to another man too. Isaac must spend the winter competing if he wants to win the job… and Sybil’s heart. It will take more than warm meals on cold nights for Sybil and Isaac to find love while working at the isolated inn. (Historical Romance from Edenbrooke Press)

Forever Hidden by Kimberley Woodhouse, Tracie Peterson — Sybil Roberts uses the warmth of delicious meals to lift the spirits of road-weary travelers at The Inn at Falls Creek. Her life at the inn would be perfect if she could just get her brothers and mother to move back home. And if she could see Isaac Owens again. He visited the inn once when he interviewed for the farm manager job, and she’s dreamed of his return to Falls Creek ever since. Isaac Owens knows how to run a farm. His family might not have faith in him, but if he succeeds at Falls Creek, he’ll prove them wrong. He arrives at the inn thinking the job is his, but the inn’s senile owner offered the position to another man too. Isaac must spend the winter competing if he wants to win the job… and Sybil’s heart. It will take more than warm meals on cold nights for Sybil and Isaac to find love while working at the isolated inn. (Historical Romance from Bethany House [Baker])

The Gray Chamber by Grace Hitchcock — On Blackwell Island, New York, a hospital was built to keep its patients from ever leaving. With her late father’s fortune under her uncle’s care until her twenty-fifth birthday in the year 1887, Edyth Foster does not feel pressured to marry or to bow to society’s demands. She freely indulges in eccentric hobbies like fencing and riding her velocipede in her cycling costume about the city for all to see. Finding a loophole in the will, though, her uncle whisks Edyth off to the women’s lunatic asylum just weeks before her birthday. Do any of Edyth’s friends care that she disappeared? At the asylum she meets another inmate, who upon discovering Edyth’s plight, confesses that she is Nellie Bly, an undercover journalist for The World. Will either woman find a way to leave the terrifying island and reclaim her true self? (Historical Romance from Barbour Publishing)

Romantic Suspense:

Secret Mountain Hideout by Terri Reed — Staying hidden has kept her alive… But now she’s been found. A remote Colorado mountain town and a fake identity have been Ashley Willis’s safe haven since fleeing after she witnessed a murder—but now the killer has found her trail. Desperate and terrified, she’s prepared to run again…but Deputy Sheriff Chase Fredrick won’t let her. With the lawman by her side, can she face danger head-on…and live long enough to bring a murderer to justice? (Romantic Suspense from Love Inspired [Harlequin])

Plus check out these recent additions to Fiction Finder published within the past month:

50-50 by Roger Bruner, Contemporary
Shattered Treasure by Cindy Patterson, Romantic Suspense
The Contessa Is Missing by Linda Siebold, Romantic Suspense
The Forever Sky by Janalyn Voigt, Western Romance
Northern Hearts by Laurie Wood, Romantic Suspense

And don’t forget the 99c sale on the Kindle edition of A Southern Season!

 

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Another New Year, Another Set of Unknowns

Here we go again! God blessed us with a new start-over!

Every year, I write out my not-resolutions resolutions with full knowledge that they’re not going to happen. Oh, I’ll start out like a good girl, bound and determined to lose weight, write three books and four novellas, spend less, love more. Many of these don’t last the first week. Most don’t last the first month. In 2019, thanks to one major crisis after another, the only one I kept was regular Bible study. Not every single day, as I’d planned, but I didn’t miss often either.

This year, the only resolution I’m going to make is to keep my house clean, and I know I’ll be able to do that. We’re moving. This house will have to be ready to show at a moment’s notice, so I must keep it clean. I’ll keep my new house clean simply because it’s new. Until it starts feeling like a home, I’ll bond with it by lovingly decorating, mopping floors, and cleaning windows (when necessary—let’s not get too crazy).

We’re not going to the farm as we wished and planned. One of the things that dawned on us last year with MSB’s frequent trips to the emergency room is that it’s a 45-minute drive from the farm to the nearest hospital. Around seven minutes here, and where we’re moving to, it’s less than five. Although neither one of us consider ourselves old (until I’m trying to get up off the floor or out of a chair I’ve sat in too long), we are older, and something like proximity to hospitals is important.

So, we’re moving back to my hometown and the city where we met 28 years ago. Closer to my soon-to-be 88 year old mother, closer to many of our kids, grandkids, and great-grands, and closer to friends I’ve known since playground days. And only 45 minutes from the farm. What’s a long drive when rushing to the hospital is blink of the eye when going out for a day of fishing or grape-gathering.

I have no idea what other resolution to make and break for 2020. Since MSB retired last April, absolutely nothing of my regular schedule remains. I haven’t written anything but a series of first chapters and sketches of story ideas. 2019 brought only a couple editing jobs. The only thing I got to do more often is read. I shattered my 2019 goal of 20 books. And, going personal, I gained a ton of weight by stress-eating and lost it through stress not-eating, so at the end of the year I weighed the same as at the beginning of the year. I wanted to lose 20 pounds—only 20 more to go!

Having to move means there are a lot of unknowns for 2020. I’ll finally have an office in my new home, but will I ever get to work? Considering my editing business is booked through May, I’ll have to, but will I get to write? I’m still 55K words into a novel I’d intended to finish last year. Every time I thought I could work on it, I had to reread it, but had to quit before actually writing again. Also, a few friends and I have a tentative agreement to do a couple of novella collections together this year. I have chapter one written for one collection and scene one written for another, and I wrote them both early last year. Could it be that God wants me to give up writing? If so, He’ll have to help me. But considering He gave me a business plan around the middle of last year, I doubt He wants me to quit. Maybe just wait awhile.

Will we really have more time with the family, or will everyone be wrapped up in their own lives? We hope to become involved in family activities now that we’re all closer again. We also hope to get more involved in the farm community, where many of MSB’s extended family live. And he mentioned yesterday, we’ll be close to one of the best fishing lakes in Texas, so we just might buy a boat. He knows how much I love to fish! Will we get to?

One of the biggest lessons I learned in 2019 is to not jump ahead of God. Absolutely everything I planned last year bit the dust, from the big move to the farm (by August, we’d already decided to just stay here) to simpler things like driving Mom to her doctor appointments. I’d tell her I was coming, only to discover I couldn’t. As I mentioned, writing became impossible, despite my posts about pushing through the hard times. There is not a moment of the day that’s exclusively mine anymore, so even little personal goals were difficult to achieve.

But God was with us in amazing ways during the year, teaching us to trust Him, to listen for Him, to wait for Him to reveal His will.  He got us through my cancer, Mom’s cancer, Billy’s frequent misdiagnoses that complicated an otherwise simple issue, then zapped us the Sunday after Thanksgiving with the “okay” to move—but not to the farm.

Did I tell you the story?

We were sitting with Mom, having already decided we weren’t going to move and knowing how I felt about moving back to my hometown (didn’t wanna, since the area has grown so big), discussing how Mom could continue to live on her own despite her many handicaps, when my sweet husband announced that we needed to move closer to her. I’ve told God before that He needs to use the 2-x-4 method of communication with me. He doesn’t always. He’s often more quiet, that “still, small voice” you’ve read about in the Bible, but this time He made it 2-x-4-to-the-head clear that what MSB said was true and in keeping with His will.

So, that very morning, my hubby and I jumped in the car and drove around several nearby neighborhoods. We fell in love with the first house we found with a for-sale sign in front of it and made a bid on it that afternoon. My wise old man wanted to be sure we weren’t jumping ahead of our Father, so he prayed, “If this isn’t what You want, slam the door.”

Our closing date is set for the end of March.

Which brings me full circle. We’re moving.

Resolution #1: keep house clean. The photographer is coming next Tuesday to take pictures of each room for publication on the Realtor’s website. This place has to be spotless and remain that way until it sells.

There is no Resolution #2.

God bless your new year with health, happiness, and a bushel of loved ones around you.

*~*~*~*~*~*

And don’t forget the sale, which ends January 6, 2020!

 

 

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Just in Time for the New Year!

From my own Selah Finalist, Ice Melts in Spring, to Ane Mulligan’s Christmas delight, A Magnolia Blooms in Winter, with Eva Marie Everson’s Lillie Beth in Summer and Claire Fullerton’s Through an Autumn Window, all four wonderful stories in this collection can be yours on Kindle for just 99c! Don’t miss this wonderful sale! Ends January 6, 2020!

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Ghost of Christmas past

It’s the day after Christmas. I’m sixteen and still in bed at nine in the morning. My brother’s in the military and not home this year. Yesterday, we had our Christmas, just the three of us: Daddy, Mom, and me. I tore through the carefully wrapped packages Mom lovingly decorated, ate more than my share of Daddy’s  fudge he and Mom made from the recipe on the back of the Hershey’s can, and laughed over old movies and rooted for my favorite team all afternoon and evening with my folks.

This morning, my parents are at the kitchen table, dinging their spoons against their coffee mugs. My alarm clock. They figure I’ve been asleep long enough. They don’t know I’ve been waiting for the sound, waiting for the invitation to join them (as if I needed it) that they’ve issued every Saturday this year, then again on Christmas Day, and again now!  After “Good morning, sleepy head” and a cup of coffee, what has become our Saturday tradition since my brother left now becomes our Christmas season tradition.

Mama sings the opening notes to “Silver Bells,” and we do our own version of  “Daddy Sang Bass.” Which he does. I add the alto, and the three of us sing through every Christmas song, Christian and secular, we know for the rest of the morning. Both my parents sang professionally, Mom on the radio and in the U.S.O., and Daddy with a band that toured Georgia and nonprofessionally in the military. I’m a chip off the ol’ block—a ham off the ol’ hog.

Once we’ve exhausted the Christmas carols, we hit every other song we know, until Daddy decides it’s time for pancakes, which he makes. Mama fries the bacon, I pour the milk, and here it is: our tradition extended from Saturdays to Christmas, with the wonderful addition of fudge and pancakes.

We no longer have a family tradition. Not since Billy and I married, not since Daddy died. Mom’s not able to be too involved in Christmas singing. I miss it. But, I have a recording.

Back in the day RCA and Sony made those sorry little things they called cassette recorders, Mom set one on the table and hit the record button. I have Daddy, Mama, and me singing everything we knew, dinging our coffee cups, and yes, clearing our throats, on tape. I can even hear the bacon sizzle while we make breakfast during our music.

I miss our tradition.

But the meaning of Christmas isn’t in our traditions, not entirely. It stems from the very first Christmas when a Child was born in a manger. It lies in the fact that God loved me and my family and friends—and everyone else who believes—so much He gave His only begotten Son that we should not perish but have everlasting life. That’s the true meaning and the reason for the season.

Merry Christmas, everyone!

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A Coming Home Christmas Special!

Amazing special! Seven novellas for only 99c!

Merry Christmas!!!

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Christmas Sale–Ranch Style!!!

MERRY CHRISTMAS!

For the first time ever, all three novels of the Circle Bar Ranch Series are on sale for 99c each! You can read about each book by clicking on the tabs under my banner.

Don’t miss this opportunity–Sale Ends FRIDAY!

NOTE: Amazon set up the trio in one link, but they didn’t transfer over the reviews. If you want to glance through the reviews, you can look up the books individually:

  1. Give the Lady a Ride (Book 1)
  2. The Final Ride (Book 2)
  3. Ride to the Altar (Book 3)

If you read any of the books, please leave a review and let me know what you think!

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