The Traveling Mermaid: Alethea Kontis

Hello, the Lagoon! Princess Alethea Mermaid here.

For our next round of essays, we discussed covering two possible topics: travel and comfort food. I think the Mermaids ultimately settled on travel…but the combination of the two subjects struck a chord. (I mean, I am a writer, after all…)

When we travel back to those places that we loved, or the places we call home, there’s usually a food item or two on the list that is NOT TO BE MISSED when one takes a trip there.

In my lifetime, I’ve had a home in various states along the length of the East Coast. Vermont (where I was born), South Carolina (where I attended school), Middle Tennessee (where I became a published author), Northern Virginia (where the Waterworld Mermaids were formed), and the Space Coast of Florida (where I live now). And when I go back to visit each of those places, there are certain foods I try not to miss, if at all possible.

Vermont is the big one. Yes, my blood runneth Maple Syrup (the darker the better) and Ben & Jerry’s. A trip to Vermont is not complete without at least one maple creemee (what you folks down south call “soft serve”). These can be found at most gas stations, sugar shacks (where they farm & make maple syrup), and tourist stops.

As I drive through Stowe on my way to see family, there has to be at least one stop at Cold Hollow Cider Mill for hot apple cider, and apple cider donuts. I cannot drink apple juice—it makes my stomach hurt in all kinds of horrible ways. But warm, unpasteurized apple cider with lots of pulp is like sipping a cup of home.

There are more specific places: The Burger Barn, Poorhouse Pies, the Beanies truck…and, once upon a time, Nectar’s and Zachary’s Pizza…but maple and apple cider are definitely tops on the list.

South Carolina: I grew up in Northeast Columbia, not far from Fort Jackson. There’s a local burger chain there called Rush’s. They have amazing burgers, amazing fries, and amazing chocolate shakes. The best in the US, according to me.

The other not-to-be-missed place is The Egg Roll Station (or Egg Roll Chen) in West Columbia. I once drove through town, bought a bag full of pork egg rolls, and took them down to Charleston to present to my family for Christmas. Pretty sure I was the favorite child that year.

Middle Tennessee (Nashville): I could go on and on about hot chicken, or the biscuits at the Loveless Cafe, but my absolute favorite thing is the Black Bean Salad and Boja corn muffins from Calypso Cafe. Sigh…I miss those every day. Second favorite: Taste of China in Murfreesboro. No MSG and the best takeout I’ve ever had. I miss that place every day. Third favorite: Tokyo Japanese restaurant in Smyrna. Be sure to have the Smyrna roll!

Northern Virginia: Nashville had a wonderful diversity of cuisine, but NoVA took the cake. Indian, Thai, Greek…and they all delivered to your house. All the kabob places—ANY kabob places—rocked. They all had gyros along with kabobs…and they serve them in the giant flat naan bread, which is really how gyros should be served. My favorite restaurant is right ext to One More Page Books in Arlington called Chasin’ Tails. Get a pound of the shrimp boil tossed in a mixture of all the sauces they offer, put on a bib and some gloves and go to town (yes, I have even done this while wearing a princess gown). That place always makes me miss my Cajun relatives like nobody’s business.

Florida: Don’t ask. I’m still working on it. Titusville has a few decent restaurants, but nothing to write home about. Publix is probably in the top three restaurants in town. Wanna know the best thing here? My mom lives down the street. Nothing says Mom’s cooking like MOM’S ACTUAL COOKING!

What are some of your hometown favorites?

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The Mermaids Dive into NaNo!

Hello dear friends in the lagoon! The mermaids have decided to dive head-first into  National Novel Writing Month this November, and we want you to join us! We may smash the word count, or we may come up a little short . . . but the point is, we are doing this together. Our novels will be the better for it. And we want to support each other — and you — every step of the way!

Thus, we are going to be publishing our word count totals on the blog every Friday, and we’d love for you to share your progress with us, too!

After only two Nano days, our word counts are as follows:

Denny: 4563 words

Kim: 1700 words

Carlene: 1913 words

Alethea: 750 words

Pintip: 3707 words

Mermaid total: 12,633 words

Wow! And that’s just for two days of writing! That is the power of NaNo!

Please share. Are you participating in NaNo this year? How is your progress?

My Very First Mess . . . I Mean, Manuscript

Holy moly, my first manuscript. Wow. It was a total and complete mess. I don’t think it had even a semblance of a plot. Rather, it was just a bunch of rambling thoughts strung together. To tell you the truth, I can’t even tell you what the story was about. That’s how little of a plot it had! When people ask me how many books I’ve written, I don’t count this one. Just like I have my zero drafts (whose words don’t deserve the label of “first draft”), I also have a zero book.

Here’s what I can tell you:

The heroine’s name was Cat.

I wrote the manuscript in a coffee shop a couple blocks away from my apartment. Every day for six months, I went to the Xando and ordered an iced tea and wrote my heart out.

For the first time in my life, I was fully and irrevocably happy. I’ve dreamed of being a writer ever since I was six years old, and now, I was finally living it.

So, no matter what a complete and total disaster of a manuscript my first one was, I will always value it. For the very first time, the passion of my heart took root in something concrete, something that was outside of myself. And that, my dear fishy friends, is a beautiful and glorious thing. (No matter how crappy those words were!)


Pintip Dunn is a New York Times bestselling author of YA fiction. She graduated from Harvard University, magna cum laude, with an A.B. in English Literature and Language. She received her J.D. at Yale Law School.

Pintip’s novel, FORGET TOMORROW, won the RWA RITA® for Best First Book. It is also a finalist for the Grand Prix de l’Imaginaire, the Japanese Sakura Medal, the MASL Truman Award, and the Tome Society It list. In addition, THE DARKEST LIE was nominated for a Romantic Times Reviewers’ Choice Award. Her other books include REMEMBER YESTERDAY, SEIZE TODAY, and GIRL ON THE VERGE.

She lives with her husband and children in Maryland.

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Conclusion to the New York Times bestselling and award-winning series, Forget Tomorrow. 

Seventeen-year-old Olivia Dresden is a precognitive. Since different versions of people’s futures flicker before her eyes, she doesn’t have to believe in human decency. She can see the way for everyone to be their best self-if only they would make the right decisions. No one is more conflicted than her mother, and Olivia can only watch as Chairwoman Dresden chooses the dark, destructive course every time. Yet Olivia remains fiercely loyal to the woman her mother could be.

But when the chairwoman captures Ryder Russell, the striking and strong-willed boy from the rebel Underground, Olivia sees a vision of her own imminent death…at Ryder’s hand. Despite her bleak fate, she rescues Ryder and flees with him, drawing her mother’s fury and sparking a romance as doomed as Olivia herself. As the full extent of Chairwoman Dresden’s gruesome plan is revealed, Olivia must find the courage to live in the present-and stop her mother before she destroys the world.

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First “Manuscript”

I will use the term manuscript loosely because… well, because this is my post and I feel like it.

The year was 1981 (yes, ’81.. I’m old).  I was sitting in a second grade classroom listening to the teacher speak in a language I didn’t understand.  I had only been in America for a month.  In a small deep Midwest town, I was probably the only foreigner in the school.  No ESOL programs for me.  Sink or swim.  Sitting in Mrs. Magruder’s second grade class I was bored.  And so I wrote a story, complete with pictures on every page.  About a lonely little girl who left behind her life to come to a new country, where she didn’t speak the language, didn’t have any friends and had a very bleak outlook on the future.  I don’t remember the plot, the exposition, characterization or metaphors.  I don’t remember the dark moment, the turning points, the scenes or the chapters.  I don’t remember the secondary characters and whether they supported the hero and heroine.  Hell, I don’t even know if there was a hero.  I don’t remember if it was in first person or third, whether there was deep POV, symbolism or too many adverbs.  I don’t remember whether there were clichés or passive voice, the worry whether I would get an agent, whether anyone would read it, whether I would get a contract.

But there are things I do remember.  Clearly, distinctly, nearly 40 years later.  The small bubbles of joy as I quietly pulled the ever-growing sheets of paper from the pouch beneath my 1980s school desk.  The feel of the thin, lined grayish paper that waited to receive my words.  The slide of the crayons, mostly dark colors, in the square box above the Cyrillic script etched in pencil, depicting a scene from the page.  The staples I carefully inserted along the home-made spine.  Reading and re-reading the Russian words, knitted together, that released the cauldron of emotions I was unable to articulate in any language, other than on thin gray paper.

Was it a “manuscript?”  Who knows.   Who cares.  It served its purpose.

The Slippery Slope of First Manuscript Madness

I could talk about the tons of small projects during childhood and adolescence that I wrote as my first manuscript, but my first novel which I started at age twenty-one was just all kinds of wrong. That should be the title of the book. “All Kinds of Wrong.”

The idea started out sweet and easy. It was supposed to be a cute romance about two people who started out as childhood friends at a vacation lodge and how they fell in love as adults. Picture the setting as Dirty Dancing, minus the dancing.

Then I began to think about all the obstacles, the family members, the friends, hell, even the staff and local residents. My cute vacation romance started the slippery slope into wanting all my secondary characters to have lives, too. I could picture these characters with posters, protesting their one-dimensional lives.

So I took the first step into All Kinds of Wrong, my first spiral into Manuscript Madness. I gave them all extensive backstories and lives outside of the main story. Then I realized that I was paying too much attention to them instead of the main characters. I had to give my hero and heroine more than just a backstory. Enter a shit-ton of flashbacks and flashforwards and information dumping.

And that was in the first chapter. I’m not joking when I say that I had my hero driving up winding mountain roads in the first chapter, just reminiscing and flashing back to how he first met the heroine when she was six and he was twelve. It’s painful to read this first chapter. But, hey. I didn’t leave out my heroine. She got the whole second chapter of raking her bittersweet memories over the coals. I gave her flashbacks equal time.

What started out as a sweet, short romance turned into a crazed mashup of The Thornbirds, War and Peace, and every Judith McNaught book I’d ever read. It was epic. It was 150,000 words of epic.

It was Manuscript Madness.

I had whole paragraphs detailing the walk down to the lake where the hero and heroine would meet for the first time after many years. They both started from different cabins, each taking a break beside different trees while flashing back to the last time they had apparently touched that same bark on those same trees before revealing a momentous memory. Something that had happened that changed them both.

I guess I thought at age twenty-one that a first kiss and (years later) the loss of virginity were momentous occassions and crazy obstacles.

What were the things I learned about that first epic manuscript where I descended into madness and All Kinds of Wrong?

You don’t need to put on the page every single character’s backstory and life. That doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t make them three-dimensional characters. It just means they aren’t the main focus.

Weave in backstory in sneaky ways. Don’t dump information. Not everything is important.

Touching the bark multiple times along the journey might seem bittersweet, but years later it’s cringeworthy. Take my word. First manuscripts are learning opportunities. Even second and third ones. Or, as in my case, the thirteenth.

When I start a new manuscript now, I still have to push my secondary characters out of the way. I don’t care if they sign petitions and organize protests or they try guilting me into writing them into the story more.

I have to tell them: “If you deserve your own story, you’ll get one. Wait your turn.”

That’s my first manuscript story. What things have you learned from your first manuscript attempt? Did you ever descend into madness? Did you ever feel like a manuscript (not just the first) went All Kinds of Wrong?

Please share. I can’t be alone in this. Right?!
Twitter: @KimMacCarron

My First Manuscript – Oh Boy!

We are sharing our first manuscripts here in the Lagoon. Oh boy! My first manuscript was for a YA story that I wrote when I was 12 years old in 7th grade and it harked of The Baby-sitter’s Club and Sweet Valley Twins. And, of course, I still have it, cursive handwriting and all. I’ve made a little video to show you the wonder and talent that was my first attempt at a book.

For fun, leave me a comment and let me know what books you were reading back in seventh grade.

The Forget Tomorrow Series: ‘Seize Today’ by Pintip Dunn is Available Today!

Wow! This! Pintip Dunn’s latest is here! I am so excited about this book! Readers, you are in for a powerful read. So, put aside that TBR list and start reading Seize Today now!

Seize Today (Forget Tomorrow #3)

by Pintip Dunn

Publication Date:  October 3, 2017

Publisher:  Entangled Teen

Seventeen-year-old Olivia Dresden is a precognitive. Since different versions of people’s futures flicker before her eyes, she doesn’t have to believe in human decency. She can see the way for everyone to be their best self-if only they would make the right decisions. No one is more conflicted than her mother, and Olivia can only watch as Chairwoman Dresden chooses the dark, destructive course every time. Yet Olivia remains fiercely loyal to the woman her mother could be.

But when the chairwoman captures Ryder Russell, the striking and strong-willed boy from the rebel Underground, Olivia sees a vision of her own imminent death…at Ryder’s hand. Despite her bleak fate, she rescues Ryder and flees with him, drawing her mother’s fury and sparking a romance as doomed as Olivia herself. As the full extent of Chairwoman Dresden’s gruesome plan is revealed, Olivia must find the courage to live in the present-and stop her mother before she destroys the world.

Purchase Links:

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Pintip Dunn is a New York Times bestselling author of YA fiction. She graduated from Harvard University, magna cum laude, with an A.B. in English Literature and Language. She received her J.D. at Yale Law School, where she was an editor of the YALE LAW JOURNAL. Pintip’s debut novel, FORGET TOMORROW, won the RWA RITA® for Best First Book. In addition, it is a finalist for the Grand Prix de l’Imaginaire, the Japanese Sakura Medal, and the MASL Truman Award. THE DARKEST LIE was nominated for a Romantic Times Reviewers’ Choice Award. Her other books include REMEMBER YESTERDAY, the novella BEFORE TOMORROW, and GIRL ON THE VERGE. She lives with her husband and children in Maryland. You can learn more about Pintip and her books at

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Mermaids & Friends: Fiona Roarke

Fiona Roarke and I have the unique distinction of having written stories in the worlds of both Barefoot Bay and Nocturne Falls.

I can’t tell you how wonderful it is to have someone else around who is as quirky and adventurous a workaholic as me! She’s the SF to my Fantasy. And she also likes to name books after movie titles!

Fiona joined me in the January NFU launch with Close Encounters of the Alien Kind. This week we’re celebrating her third Alien novella, The Alien Who Fell to Earth. (Look for a boxed set coming soon!)

But what can I say…women who love books tend to be drawn to other women who love writing books. Only Fiona writes SO MUCH MORE THAT I DO. Trust me on that! I admire her so much that I invited her into the lagoon to tell us a little about her first novel…


The first novel or story I ever remember writing was when I was in the sixth grade. I had a crush on a boy named John M., but I was the new girl in school that year and didn’t rate much of his attention. Isn’t that the way so many romances start out? Sigh.

So, at the tender age of eleven, I wrote my very first what if scenario. What if the boy I had a crush on “had to” pay attention to me? What if I controlled the circumstances—like we were lost on an island? What if we were all stranded there together? What if there were four boys and four girls?

That very first story—which I wrote in long hand, with a pencil in a spiral, wide-ruled notebook—stranded me and several of my friends and classmates (without grownups, of course), sort of like a shipwreck. Perhaps I was influenced by Gilligan’s Island. My brother used to make me watch that endlessly when I wanted to watch Star Trek. But I digress.

I matched up the couples naturally. My imaginary “John M.” who found me completely intriguing in this imaginary island realm, chose me to be his girlfriend. We spent the days working together to find water and food and a place to live until “help” came for us, all the while stealing kisses and smiling at each other.  We did that quite a lot. (Some things never change. My editor can attest to the vast number of smiles and grins my characters exchange in the books I write these days.)

Though that particular story has never been published, fame came early in my writing career. I won second place in a short story contest at a local library while in my twenties and pregnant with my second child. That was a science fiction piece about a global virus pandemic involving a secret formula that forced everyone to tell the truth. What I mostly I remember about it was that the hero’s name was Jake. (Yes, my love that’s why your middle name is Jake, now you know the truth.) That and that the manuscript was supposed to be ten pages typed. Which it was … mostly. It was also single-spaced and had quarter-inch margins on four sides. Hey, I still won second place.

After hearing the phrase “write what you know,” my first full length novel was a boring basic business and work-related drivel that I’m pretty sure I set fire to as a gift to humanity. You’re welcome!

For my second attempt, I managed to get two hundred pages written before I landed in a gigantic plot paradox. One I couldn’t solve without bending physics or ignoring it altogether. And yet, I still refuse to plot to this day. Go figure.

Maybe it’s because I get totally psyched when I’m writing along and a really great surprise unfolds before me. I grin and then I smile, and write faster with gleeful intent in my heart. The utter joy comes through my fingers to the keyboard. Oh and I love, love, love a great twist that even I don’t see coming until it shows up  on the screen. Love it!

Would I have ever shown my first book to anyone? Perhaps if it wasn’t currently a pile of ash blowing in the wind. My second place, global pandemic truth virus short story is somewhere around here. I should look for that.

And in conclusion, I believe those early attempts added to the basic desire I had to keep trying to tell stories because that’s what I love to do, and I imagine I always will.




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Pilot. Guard. Prisoner. … Stowaway.

Crashed in the Georgia woods, all are lost on a world where aliens are the stuff of science fiction. But what if the locals are far from human themselves, with secrets of their own?

Holden Grigori is lost on an alien world, and his memories are just as lost. All he knows is a beautiful woman says she’s his wife, she loves him and he’d do anything for her.

Security specialist Victoria Greene’s mission is to find the heroic pilot of a downed spaceship and keep him safe while he recovers in a human hospital in the Halloween-themed town of Nocturne Falls, Georgia. Part of her ongoing mission is, as always, to keep the humans from realizing that aliens walk among them, hiding in plain sight.

Pretending to be Holden’s wife is far from a hardship. Falling in love with him is even easier. But what will happen when he gets his memories back and realizes that to him she is … no one.

Fiona Roarke is a multi-published author who lives a quiet life with the exception of the characters and stories roaming around in her head. She writes about sexy alpha heroes and used them to launch her very first series, Bad Boys in Big Trouble.

Next up, a new Sci-Fi contemporary romance series set in Arkansas. When she’s not curled on the sofa reading a great book or at the movie theater watching the latest action film, Fiona spends her time writing about the next bad boy (or bad boy alien) who needs his story told.

A hearty dose of laughter, each and every day, is required along with lots of coffee first thing in the morning as important parts of her routine.

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Happiest Book Release Day to Mermaid Princess Alethea!


“Hearts don’t have to touch to fall in love.”

What simple yet extraordinarily beautiful words my fishy sister, Mermaid Princess Alethea Kontis, has written for us in her brand new book, When Tinker Met Bell. This is her second book, I believe, in the Nocturne Falls Universe, and I am 100% smitten with it. When Alethea told me I was really going to love it, I thought to myself that of course I would enjoy it. She’s a great writer! Oh, but she was sooooo right. I absolutely adore this quirky, heart-squeezing book. That line I’ve shared above is one teeny tiny example of why. I asked Alethea if there was anything special she could share with us behind the writing of those particular words and of course, she said yes!

From Alethea…”OMG YES I remember writing that line. I remember that whole scene. I was already crying by the time I wrote “Hearts don’t have to touch to fall in love,” and when I did, I had to step away from the computer for a bit. Not only to process all the emotions I was feeling (and sob and blow my nose like Joan Wilder), but to consider, “Do I *really* want the major tear-jerking scene to be in Chapter Three?? At which point I realized that I loved the story so much, I didn’t even care. I was going to tell it the way it needed to be told, and people were either going to love it or hate it.”


I know Miss Alethea is going to generate and receive tons of love from this book. I cannot wait to share it with you all on her behalf. And so, without any further ado, I give you When Tinker Met Bell, out now!

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Everybody knows that goblins and fairies can’t be friends. But that never stopped Tinker and Bell.

Bellamy Merriweather Larousse isn’t like the other fairies at Harmswood Academy, with her giant wings and their magical dust. “Southern Bell” works as a barista at The Hallowed Bean to help pay her tuition and remains active on the cheering squad, despite her insistence on associating with the unpopular crowd. Every day is sunny in Bellamy’s world and every cloud has a silver lining. The only way to upset Bell’s stalwart optimism is to threaten one of her misfit friends…or try to take one of them from her.

Unbeknownst to everyone–including him–outcast Ranulf “Tinker” Tinkerton is about to be named heir to the throne of the Goblin King, making him ruler of his fellow Lost Boys and the labyrinthine city they inhabit. Now that the time has come for Tinker to leave Harmswood behind, will he be brave enough to share his feelings for Bellamy? It’s no secret that he’s held a torch for her since the fourth grade, but no matter how long they’ve been friends, goblins will always be allergic to fairies.

Or will they?

You’ll definitely be a happy reader if you pick up your very own copy of this gem. I hope you will, xoxo. Learn more about Alethea’s fantastic books HERE!

Mermaids & Friends: Mary B. Rodgers

Mary B. Rodgers and I have been friends for a very, very long time–all the way back to the Codex Writers Group. She’s been my roommate and my date to awards ceremonies…she’s even my legit fairy godmother. Yes, on the eve of my book launch in 2012, I found myself in NYC with nothing but literal rags to wear. “Give me that,” said Mary, and she took the rags. When she reappeared, she had a beautiful renaissance top and full golden skirt for me. I AM NOT EVEN MAKING THIS UP. How could I? You already know my life is a fairy tale.

Mary and I got to spend some  long-overdue time together at DragonCon–I even dragged her to be in the parade with me. The parade is not for the faint of heart and has beaten many a friend before her….but my dearest Mary had the time of her life.

And so it is with great pride that I present to the lagoon Mary’s latest novel, Winner Take All! To celebrate, Mary has decided to jump in with her own tale (ha!) of that first novel…


Imagine a sprawling, adjective-pockmarked portal fantasy featuring a grumpy heroine and some poorly disguised mythological denizens of Irish origin, and you’ve got Vanishing Point, my first clumsy, albeit heart-felt attempt at writing a fantasy novel.

Good Lord, was it awful.

And I loved it. Every cliché-ridden, melodramatic word.  Every impossible situation from which I extricated my protagonist by using the Giant Hand Of The Author ™ instead of logical narrative sequence. Every creature I created that miraculously communicated in perfect English, toothy jaws and skull-crushing mandibles notwithstanding.

I still love it.

And it will never see the light of day. ::triple-locks forlorn manuscript into a pirate’s chest and sends it all down to Davy Jones’s locker::

What do we call these things when, kicking and screaming all the way, we allow ourselves to grow up? Ah, yes. “Learning” experiences.

I may have learned, but thankfully I haven’t grown up that much.

I still love to lose myself in magical fantastical landscapes, still root for the brave and much-put-upon protagonist who fights and loses but keeps on fighting, still passionately believe in the power of love and the truth of hard-won happy endings.

And if someday I decide to break open that pirate’s chest and revisit the little world I invented, and send my hapless heroine down a raging torrent into a dangerous and unfamiliar wilderness …maybe with all that time spent at the bottom of the ocean, my story will have “suffered a sea change, into something rich and strange.” Maybe I’ll be able to hear the heartbeat of the land and understand what it’s trying to say to me.  Maybe I’ll know how to listen better to the secrets  my characters whisper in my ear.

I’m open to most possibilities.

The grumpy heroine is non-negotiable.


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Hot shot skier and unrepentant party girl Carly Carrington is on top of the world until a disastrous crash destroys her championship dreams. Can she lower her guard long enough to trust the one man who might be able to heal her body…and her heart?

When it comes to sports doctors, buttoned-up Paul Blackburn is the best of the best. But when Carly upends his carefully ordered little world, will Paul fight his one chance at true love, or go for the gold in…WINNER TAKE ALL!

I am so excited about this book; I bought the Kindle version immediately! But if you prefer paperbacks, don’t despair–Winner Take All will be available in print very soon!

A career performer and storyteller, Mary was the keyboardist and lead vocalist in an all-female rock band for a number of years, and has acted in leading roles in plays and musicals across the globe.

Her first screenplay, Common Ground, was a finalist in the Moondance International Film Festival competition, and she is a member of the Screen Actor’s Guild/AFTRA and the New York chapter of Women in Film and Television.

An avid gamer and unrepentant nerd, Mary’s been a fan of romance, science fiction and fantasy novels since she was old enough to hide them between the pages of her textbooks during geometry class in high school. She hopes you enjoy her stories!

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