Author Spotlight – Sang Kromah with her new book, Djinn

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Authors like this make blogging so much fun! I am extremely excited to talk to you about Kromah’s upcoming book, Djinn.

“Hauntingly captivating. Perfect for fans of The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer and all things myth and fantasy. I can’t wait to read the next one!” – GoodReads Reviewer

This Young Adult book is full of mystery and sure to catch your attention! I had the opportunity to talk with Sang Kromah about her upcoming book, Djinn, and ask her a few questions about being a writer. 

When did you first discover you wanted to be a writer and why writing?
Honestly, I’ve always been a storyteller. Well before I could read or write, I was taking apart the traditional Liberian folklore my parents would tell me and reassembling them as stories of my own. When I became literate, I always had a notebook and a novel with me, reading and writing simultaneously. I remember telling my parents in the first grade that I was going to be a writer, so every time we’d travel (which was a lot), they’d make my younger brother and me write a story about that trip. After that, I would write down the things I’d see daily, and adding magical aspects to make reality seem a little more fantastical. In the seventh grade, I had the best Language Arts Teacher, Mrs. Norvell, who would allow me to read my stories to the class every Friday. After that year, I knew more than anything, I wanted to be a writer more than anything else in the world.

Tell us about your book and why you wrote it?
While most people were told fairytales of princesses losing slippers and beauties being awakened with kisses as children, I drifted off to sleep with stories of dwarfish baby snatchers, unearthly beauties, and looming shapeshifters, who granted twisted wishes. These were the tales my parents told me nightly from their native land of Liberia. Both of them had a knack for weaving dark and alluring characters of mystical beings, but there was one story that stood out to me about a strong-willed, mischievous girl named Femeni who escaped—what should have been sudden death at the hands of a notorious Djinn. After hearing the story, I always wondered what happened to Femeni, and did she have any other encounters with the Djinn? As I grew older, the questions became more complex; what was so special about Femeni that helped her escape the Djinn? What if Femeni had a child, would there be something special about that child as well? These questions and my obsession with ‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer’ gave birth to my novel, Djinn.

This book has a very long history. As I would finish a chapter, I’d email it to my mom, and she would tear it apart, only to have me re-write it. I was angry with her at the time, but I’m grateful that she did, because my novel became something that I am so proud of.

After reading your book, it seems like this is the first in what looks to be a series.
There will definitely be more. I know exactly where I’m going with the story and I just completed my outline last night.

Can you tell me more about this series?
I feel like there’s no way to answer to this question without spoilers, but I can say the lore gets much deeper and since the truth is out, there’s no holding back.

I can tell you that this book takes place at the high school I went to, in the town that I grew up in, and although it’s fantasy, there are many real elements in this world I’ve created. (I’ll attach a photo of Main Street) (middle picture above) The bookstore (A Likely Story) (below) that Bijou, Sebastian, and Amina really exists, as well as the candle shop (Unwined) they visit.

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Where do you see this series going and what can the readers look forward to next?
I see the story eventually leading back to where it all began for Bijou. Liberia.

What message or lasting thought do you hope your readers will take away from your book?
Stay true to who you are. This is something Bijou (my MC) struggles with when the story starts. She’s insecure and constantly doubting herself and comparing herself to others. Within a few minutes of meeting Sebastian Sinjin, she makes a comment about why he speaks the way he does. His response? “Why would I want to be like everyone else when I can be myself?”

(I’ll be honest readers, before I asked if i could do an author spotlight, I was given the book to read. And don’t worry, the review is coming!! But I know exactly where this quote is in the book because I highlighted this exact one! I love that the author also singled this quote out. We so often get stuck in the day to day grime of life and politics that we sometimes forget who we are. This is such a great quote and reminder!!)

This message was important to me, because I’ve never really been able to conform. As a kid, I was bullied and never truly fit in at school, so I went through a stage, where I didn’t think I was good enough. Even though I was born and raised in America, you could look at me and tell I wasn’t a typical American kid and my name was definitely foreign. Then on the other hand, I didn’t truly fit in with people from my parent’s country as well. I always seemed to be on the outside, looking in. What helped a lot was having parents and a younger brother, who believed in me and supported my endeavors so much that I became so sure of myself that I didn’t mind marching to the beat of my own drum or sitting alone at lunch.

By the time I made it to middle school, I knew exactly who I was and what I was capable of. As I’ve grown, I’ve seen that there are other kids who can relate to how I felt and what I went through, so even when I write fantasy, my stories and characters reflect those experiences, how to cope, and how to rise above it. It seems easy to try to conform, but the more time you take trying to fit in, the longer it takes to find yourself.

What author and/or what book has had the greatest impact on your life?
This probably sounds very cliché, but To Kill a Mockingbird is the first book that moved me to tears. I actually read it before my classmates, because my mom made me read it the summer after seventh grade. I think I read it in two days. I remember hiding to read it at night, because it was after my bedtime, and crying so hard during the trial.

In the fifth grade, I became obsessed with R.L. Stine’s Goosebumps and Fear Street series. After reading Say Cheese and Die, I thought, I could definitely do this too. By that time, I was already used to writing every day, but I asked my mom to make sure I wrote a hundred words a day. I wrote my first book in middle school about vampire cheerleaders.

But if I’m talking about stories that have stuck with me, I’d have to say, just about Isabel Allende and Alice Hoffman. Both authors have the ability to weave magic into the lives of everyday people, transforming the mundane into something wondrously strange. That’s something I’ve always wanted to accomplish as a writer.

Can you offer any advice for beginning writers or those trying to get published?
Get used to hearing the word, “No!” I would be lying if I said that rejection has never hurt, but I’ve heard no so many times that I take it as a challenge, because all it takes is one “yes” to change your life. So I look at “no” as a message from the universe to keep going. I feel like that’s the only way you will ever get published. You have to develop thick skin, keep writing, and be persistent.

Besides your book, are there any other books you would recommend reading this Winter?
Currently, I’m really into witches (I’m lying. I’ve always been into witches) so I’m currently reading A Secret History of Witches by Louisa Morgan. After that, I’m going to read A Discover of Witches by Deborah Harkness. But I’ve decided to re-read Alice Hoffman and Isabel Allende novels this year, and I suggest that if you love magical realism or witches that don’t have moles, you should do the same.


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Published
: March 20, 2018
Pages: 343

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Synopsis:
Some believe that at birth, we’re each born with some sort of guardian attached to us, watching from afar, but never seen. But are they wrong? Truth is, there are certain people, special people, born of this world and of the other, who need that extra protection…that extra guidance. They go their entire lives, unaware of the other world, and unaware of the existence of their own personal watcher that watches from afar. But what happens when fate takes a turn for the worse, and The One who needs the aid of a watcher more than anyone before her can’t be found to be protected?

Bijou Fitzroy is strange. With the unwanted gift of being an empath, she has spent her entire life as a sheltered recluse, homeschooled by her secretive and overprotective grandmother, who never allows them to stay in one place long enough for Bijou to settle and make friends. When Bijou and her grandmother move to Sykesville and she starts to attend the local high school, Bijou’s world begins to crumble. Town locals begin to disappear and the creatures from her nightmares begin to take shape in her reality. She finds herself at the center of a war she never knew was being fought all around her.


Excerpt, Chapter One:
Imagine not being able to tell whether it’s you or the person beside you who’s schizophrenic. That’s the story of my life.

Most mental illnesses have thousands of web pages devoted to them online, but whenever I insert my symptoms into a search engine, I get pages upon pages of fanfiction.

The only word that describes my appearance is “peculiar.” Almond shaped eyes might be considered beautiful on some people, but my almond shaped eyes can’t decide whether they’re green, amber, or gray, so “frightening” becomes a more accurate description. The changing colors of irises may not sound scary, but my eyes are the size and shape of a little green man’s. Maybe I’m exaggerating a bit, but this is what I see when I look in a mirror. Peculiar.

I’m not white. But I’m not black. Well, at least I don’t think I am. I’m somewhere in between. Maybe. I’ve asked these same questions about my background, but the topic of race has always been off-limits with my grandmother Gigi. So, on an EEO survey, I have to choose other.

Gigi has always made excuses for people’s confusion. Words like “exotic,” “unique,” and “special” are thrown around, but never “pretty,” “cute,” or “beautiful.” People tend to stare, but when I look back and attempt to make eye contact, they look away in fear. How do I know it’s fear? Because I can feel what they feel. It doesn’t happen with everyone, just with typical people. While most people see race or ethnicity when they first meet, it isn’t that simple for me. Through my eyes, there are two types of people in this world, and the color of their skin has no part to play in the matter. With the Typicals, their emotions rub off on me when they’re in close proximity. It’s even worse if they happen to make eye contact; I see things—sometimes truly horrible things. It’s like being in a room full of babies who are screaming at the top of their lungs for attention. Luckily for me, eye contact is as rare as my interactions with Typicals. When I do have to be around people, I have to keep my hands busy or I’ll go into shock.

And then you have the Others. They’re a little harder to explain. I can’t feel what they feel and, when I see them, I know exactly what they are. They’re ethereal. Some are beautiful, but there’s always a haunting element about their appearance and presence that makes people want to avoid them. You would think I’d prefer their company since I can’t read them, but they scare me.

When I was a kid, my grandmother would tell me I was imagining these things, that I had an overactive imagination, so I just stopped talking about them. Claims like those would land me in a psychiatric ward, so, to block out emotions, I began carrying a deck of playing cards with me everywhere I go. Now I constantly shuffle, distracting myself from all the emotions that are vying for my attention.

“Bijou Fitzroy!” My grandmother’s voice startles me out of my closet. “You harass me about going to school, and, now that I’ve agreed, you’re going to be late on your first day. Allez! Dépêche-toi!”

She always becomes more French when she’s yelling.

“Webster’s defines a door as a moveable piece of wood that people use to enter or leave a room, but if Miss Manners were here, she’d insist on you knocking on said door before entering my bedroom.”

My grandmother, Gigi, is not amused as she addresses me with a cold blue glare. The chilly look, combined with her crown made of a tightly wound blonde bun, brings the term “Ice Queen” to mind.

“If you can memorize the entire dictionary, you have no business going to high school in Hicksville, USA.” She comes toward me in that intimidating way of hers, the way the Victoria’s Secret angels fly down a runway. “We could scrap the whole high school idea, go back to homeschooling, and spend the day exploring Eldersburg.”

“We live in Sykesville, Gigi, and I’m going to school. You know, like normal kids do?” Since moving to Maryland, Gigi and I have been in a constant argument about this. Sykesville and Eldersburg are neighboring towns with smudged borders. They’re so smudged, in fact, that you can live in Sykesville while your next-door neighbor lives in Eldersburg. It really doesn’t matter because the towns share one zip code. “My problem is that I can’t find anything to wear.”

Gigi rushes into my closet and, five seconds later, emerges with skinny jeans, a cute top, a cardigan with elbow patches, and tan Oxfords to match.

“How did you do that? I’ve been in there for the last half hour and nothing.”

“It’s a gift,” she says, leaning against the wall, her impatience apparent. “Magic, really.”

Gigi isn’t like other grandmothers. Yes, she’s the mother of my mother, but other than that, she looks as regal and young as Grace Kelly in High Society, and dresses like her too. She hardly looks like anyone’s grandmother, which is why calling her grandma is forbidden, and hence the name Gigi. Hell, we don’t even look related. She’s pale and tall with bone-straight, long, blonde hair. I’m of a darker hue, about five-foot-seven, and although my hair is long, it’s so black and wild that I break combs and brushes on a weekly basis. So she’s Tracy Samantha Lord and I’m Holly Golightly’s ethnically ambiguous half-sister with the crazy curls. We look nothing alike.

###

“I really don’t understand the need to go to high school here,” she says as she follows me to my mirror with the only brush in the house that hasn’t lost the battle with my hair yet. “Jou Jou, you’re in the eleventh grade and it’s the middle of the school year. And besides, with your marks, you could get your degree now.” She’s right. I’ve been homeschooled my entire life. With a photographic memory, retention of information makes schoolwork simple, but I’m sixteen years old and I’ve never set foot in a school building, never had a friend.

I know why I’m supposed to respect her opinion about my education. She’s been a mother to me since my mom died during childbirth, and my father is an unknown entity. Parents should be respected, but our relationship is a strange one. To me, she’s Lilith Fitzroy, my vain grandmother who looks too young to be a grandmother. To the world, Gigi is the international bestselling paranormal romance author, Anastasia Powers. She writes under a pen name to conceal her identity from the world, and whenever some nosey journalist starts to get close to discovering who she really is, we pack up and move. This is why I’ve been homeschooled my entire life. This is why she’s not very comfortable with me making friends with random strangers, but all that changed last month when she bought a house in Maryland and decided to move us here. It’s a huge change from the big cities we’re used to. Imagine leaving Park Avenue for a home at the end of a cul de sac in a development where most of the houses look the same, the grass is measured, and people smile when they really want to spit at you. Sykesville may be a little too normal, but it’s home now, and I’m glad we’re here.

After Gigi gives up the fight of taming my curls, we leave for school.

On the way, she continues trying to convince me to go shopping instead of going to Liberty High School. “Last chance to change your mind.” Her tone is less than enthusiastic as she glares at my new peers with disgust. “Didn’t you say once that you wanted to write a book? I could talk to my agent, and we can make it happen.”

Just as I’m about to retort, a figure wearing a black hoodie and black jeans comes into view. He’s standing completely still, staring at me, as the crowd maneuvers around him. I close my eyes tight in disappointment, knowing that he’s found me once again.

“You’re not here. You’re not here. You’re not here,” I whisper to myself. When I reopen my eyes, he’s no longer there.

Maybe I’m imagining him, but this hooded figure has been following me for a long time.

“No! No! No!” Gigi interrupts. “You’re not doing this again. If you’re going to attend school with these people, no weirdness and no talking to yourself. The last thing we need is these people running us out of town or attempting to burn you at the stake because you start doing or saying things they don’t understand.”

She can be such a snob. She fails to realize how much I need this. I could get into any top-tier university, but when it comes down to the test of relating to my peers, I fail miserably. I have zero social skills, and I am sure I will be a laughingstock once I open my mouth. The girls will probably snicker and point, while the boys won’t bother looking at me at all. But I’m not too concerned about the boys.

There is one boy though, a boy I’ve always thought about. The disappointing part is that he only exists in my dreams, faceless like so many characters in dreams. Though I don’t know what he looks like, I think about him entirely too much. I know this makes me certifiable, but he’s the only friend I’ve ever had. He was my playmate as a kid and grew to be my protector, keeping me safe in my dream world.

I’m sure other homeschooled kids have friends and some semblance of a social life, but not me. Gigi is an overprotective hawk, watching my every move, keeping me busy with one activity or another. I have been taking martial arts, gymnastics and piano lessons for as long as I can remember, but none of these activities involves an outside individual. She’s always taught me, so it’s always just been us.

“I love you Gigi,” I say as I exit her red Jaguar F-type, “but I’ll write a book after I get some real-world experience.”

“You’re so special, Jou Jou, and my fear is you may be too special for small-town folks,” she murmurs. I’m sure her words are supposed to be comforting, but they put me on edge even more. I smile weakly as she pulls off.

Cursed is a more fitting description.

Cutting through the schoolyard chatter, a flood of emotions hits me like a bloodcurdling scream at the beginning of an Anastasia Powers novel. It’s sometimes hard to separate my own feelings from the influx of emotions that come from others. I pull out my cards and begin shuffling. It must look like I’m about to do some magic trick. I shuffle so fast I have no need to look at the cards as I survey the school from the entrance to the yard. It looks large for a small-town high school. I glance around as I try not to run through the crowd to the entrance. They all look so comfortable with each other. They’ve probably known each other since kindergarten and won’t welcome the arrival of a weirdo who will unbalance things.

I definitely don’t fit in.

“Check out the cards,” a blonde girl says as I walk by. She isn’t exactly one of the Others, but something’s not right about her. “Don’t we belong in a freak show!” The sarcasm in her voice is venomous.

Something about her makes me stop walking and shuffling completely.

“Tell me she doesn’t have a perm,” another girl says as they continue toward the school.

My heart beats wildly, but the moment she leaves, everything returns to normal. Or as close to normal as it gets for me.

I am becoming more agitated by the second, so I resume shuffling my cards and walk away. I’m relieved to enter the front office. It’s not as intimidating as the entrance of the school. The walls are a pale shade of blue and in dire need of a paint job.

Breathe, I tell myself as I walk toward the front desk, clearing my throat.

“Hello, I’m Bij—”

I am interrupted mid-sentence by a dirty look from a frail, spray-tanned receptionist with salt-and-pepper hair. She looks up from her romance novel as if I have disrupted the juiciest part, and she points in the direction of a tall boy I hadn’t noticed until now.

“Hi, I’m-”

“Bijou Fitzroy. I’m aware.”

Normally, I would’ve been irritated about being interrupted for a second time, but I am distracted.

He’s perfect.

His lips are so full that I can only pray he has horrid teeth to make me feel better about my own appearance. He’s slender, muscular, and tall. A veil of dark lashes almost hides the intensity of his eyes. He looks as though he’s swallowed a piece of the sun, and its golden rays glow within his flawless skin. Though we don’t know each other, there is something familiar about him.

“Well, that’s kind of rude,” I say. “You know who I am, and I have no idea who you are.” His silence and unblinking stare make me nervous, so I keep yammering. “Okay, you have about five seconds to say something before I start believing you’ve been stalking me.”

He just stands there staring at me with deep-set, gray eyes—never blinking. I can’t help but stare as well. It takes me a moment to notice he’s making direct eye contact with me. No one ever does.

He tilts his head to the side like a dog ogling a shiny new object when a sudden look of mystification etches his dark brows, and he contorts as if something ghastly has appeared before him.

He looks sideways.

Have I somehow offended him?

He turns back. “My apologies. G’day, I’m Sebastian.”

G’day? Is this how high school students talk? It’s nothing like Pretty Little Liars.

He reaches out to shake my hand, not giving me more than a glance. I stop shuffling, stuffing my cards into my leather satchel to take his hand.

The touch of his hand sends a jolt of electricity through my body, and flashes of a familiar scene of someone drowning surges through my mind until he retracts his hand, putting an end to the vision.

It’s obvious he feels something as well.

The look of concern returns to his face, and then he quickly looks away.

“Just consider me your personal tour guide, eh? They want you to follow me ‘cause we have identical schedules, so where I lead, you’ll follow. No sooking and no whinging.”

The more he speaks, the more evident his accent becomes.

I nod, intimidated by his assertiveness, but I am intrigued.

“Right-o, let’s be on then.” He starts toward the door, expecting me to follow. “Hooroo, Mrs. Reaper,” he salutes the unfriendly receptionist, who actually smiles at him, exposing teeth smudged with red lipstick.

The halls are quiet as we make our way to first period.

“Liberty High,” he says. “Not a ripper. Small town, so lots of bogans, but it’s fair dinkum.”

“I don’t mean to be rude, but I didn’t understand half of what you said.”

He doesn’t stop walking. He doesn’t even look my way. He smiles as if my comment is right on time.

“It’s Aussie-speak.”

“Why don’t you just talk like everyone else?” The stupid question escapes before I have time to censor it.

“Why would I want to be like everyone else when I can be myself?” He holds the door open for me. “Being normal is highly overrated, ta.”

He looks at me point blank and winks.


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Sang Kromah was born in Philly, raised in Sykesville, became confident as a writer in New York, but is Liberian at heart and by blood. As a child, Kromah would sit in the living room with her brother and listen to her parents recount the folklore of their native land of Liberia, absorbing in the words and falling in love simultaneously.  Born a storyteller, Kromah would run away with the words, creating her own stories, telling them to her family and anyone else who would listen. The summer after receiving her Master’s degree in Communications from New York Institute of Technology, she decided she was going to do what she said she would as a little girl. She moved to Liberia and wrote the novel she was born to write, Djinn.

As a communications specialist, Kromah’s credits range from her work at Seventeen Magazine to UN Women and Half the Sky Documentary. As a model, she’s been featured in Essence Magazine, Jet Magazine, and more, but her greatest accomplishments are with Project READ, a female-run library initiative she started and Project GirlSpire, an online media site she started where girls and women empower each other through digital storytelling.

 Facebook           Twitter           Instagram           Project GirlSpire


Keep an eye out for my review and don’t forget to comment below if you have already read the book or your thoughts on this author! Until next time, Happy Reading 🙂

Author Spotlight -Emmanuella Hristova, with a look at her new Poetry book called: The Day My Kisses Tasted Like Disorder

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Welcome beautiful people to this weeks author spotlight! Today we will take a look at Emmanuella Hristova’s new Poetry book, The Day my Kisses Tasted Like Disorder, ask her a few questions on being a writer and get a inside look at a couple of her poems!! 

Emmanuella Hristova is an amazing woman who has a refreshing view on feminism and the part women play. As I am writing this post, I find myself internally screaming YES!! and agreeing with so much of what she says. In the world we live in today, we need more stories, perspectives like this!! 

To quote Ms. Hristova, 

I hope that my poetry allows women—or anyone—the right to grieve, to feel deeply. Women don’t need to smile all the time, or to be pleasant. If they want to cry, they can cry and there’s nothing wrong with that.

Emmanuella also has amazing advice for new writers and is a lover of Sylvia Plath. I truly feel like this is a woman after my own heart!! Please check her out and take a look at her poetry. She will be someone worth noting and someone I expect to hear more from!


When did you first discover you wanted to be a writer and why poetry?
I decided to become a writer one year ago, but the catch was: I already was a writer. I just wasn’t sharing my work with anyone. I had written two Moleskin notebooks full of poems and novel material, but nobody knew about it.

Last January, I read some poems out of said notebook, that would later become my first poetry collection, to one of my best friends. “Babe, you need to publish this,” she told me. So, I began doing research on poetry publications and the self-publishing industry and I decided I would do it for myself. I planned to have it done a few months later, by my 27th birthday. I roped in one of my studious coworkers, Maria Ciccone, to help me edit my work for content and order of the poems, and “The Day My Kisses Tasted Like Disorder” was born.

As for why I write poetry, I never planned on it. I wrote to express my feelings and sentiments. I fell in love, and I didn’t plan that. My sister was dying, and I didn’t plan that either. So, pent up emotions swelled up inside of me and they had no other place to spill other than onto a blank page. And I became a poet.

Tell us about your book and why you wrote it?
When I graduated with my bachelor’s degree, a young woman I used to mentor gave me a green Moleskin notebook. She told me to document all of my adventures. My undergraduate graduation characterized many changes in my life, and at the time I was working out my own definition of feminism. But what began as short musings about sexism jotted down on the BART train, eventually became woeful poems about oppression, harassment, and assault. And then, two months later, I fell in love for the first time.

I never decided to write my poetry collection; it came out of me, rather. I documented the relationship from beginning to end, birth to death. I wrote to express everything I was going through on the inside—which was heavy and hectic. Eventually, that green Moleskin became a chronological account of one of the darkest periods of my life. And when I read it again, years later, I realized I had written some amazing poetry. Poetry I needed to share with others.

What message or lasting thought do you hope your readers will take away from your book or poems?
I hope the lasting thought readers have from my work is that they are not alone. If they too have gone through heart-wrenching ordeals, they are not alone. If they too need healing, are healing, they are not alone. The final chapter is dedicated to such women:

The aftermath.

For crying girls everywhere,
hiding in the bathroom stall.
May you find your healing.

I hope that my poetry allows women—or anyone—the right to grieve, to feel deeply. Women don’t need to smile all the time, or to be pleasant. If they want to cry, they can cry and there’s nothing wrong with that.


What author and/or what book has had the greatest impact on your life?
The greatest impact is quite a lofty description. It would have to be the Bible; I was raised quite religiously, and I’ve read it many times. Following the death of my sister, I’ve struggled with my faith a lot and it’s something I’m still struggling with, so it’s had less of an impact on my life. But that’s what my novel is about—struggling with faith in God after a loss. So I would say, yeah it’s still had the greatest impact on my life. However, Charles Dicken’s Tale of Two Cities and George Orwell’s 1984 are my all time favorite books. They have shaped my writing, ethics and taste in books and film.

Can you offer any advice for beginning writers or those trying to get published?
The best advice I can give you, is the advice my editor gave me when I wasn’t being “recognized” and when I was having doubts about self-publishing: just do it and keep writing! No one will notice you at first, and you may be talented as hell. But just keep writing, keep posting, keep promoting yourself, and eventually people will start to notice and read your work. It’s a hard effort, but it’s worth it in the end when readers make connections with you. That’s priceless.

Beside your book, are there any other books you would recommend reading this winter?
The best books I read last year were: Homegoing, Memoirs of a Geisha, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (that’s my favorite in the series), anything by Sylvia Plath, and Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children.

Do you have any strange antics you do while you write?
I just drink a lot of black coffee and occasionally smoke a Cuban cigar. Sometimes I get this idea in my head that I’m a female Ernest Hemingway or something. I do enjoy it though; it’s not just to fulfill a writer cliché.

What are you currently working on?
Right now, I’m finishing up the second draft of my first novel: all these things i never said. It’s a story about a prophetic young woman born to immigrant parents. Even though she can see the future, and the fact that her family members will die, she can’t prevent it from happening. Meanwhile, in another realm, a golden statue of a young girl wakes up. Once the statue realizes who she is and why she’s there, she embarks on this perilous mission to get the main character, Emmy, out of the labyrinth-like castle.

Meanwhile in the real world, Emmy’s left to deal with the psychological trauma of losing loved ones too soon, with her inability to make the American Dream materialize, and with her wavering faith in God. She turns inward to deal with the pain–to the fantastical world she’s built for herself to hide from her grief. However, she’s stuck inside her mind and can’t seem to get out. She’s guided by some fantastical sidekicks inside this dream-world that she hasn’t shared with anyone. The world in her dreams, and in between dreams. It is, as I’m sure you can gather, a novel based on my life.


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kissescover4

Published: June 11, 2018
Pages: 50

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Where to Buy:
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itunes
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Synopsis:
I hesitate when you kiss me because I
am afraid you will taste the disaster
brewing underneath my skin.

Hristova’s debut poetry collection documents the birth and death of a relationship, and the death of her sister. Each poem is an emotional time-stamp that plunges the reader into the depths of the author’s feelings as they burgeon and wane. The book reads like a diary and chronicles the boundaries of the things that we all feel: love, heartache, and pain that gives way to hope.


Book Excerpt:
This is the first chapter of my book, as well as a few poems from the second chapter. The first chapter is a prologue, with a dedication to my sister, who passed away while I was writing the book. The epigraph references the fact that I wrote “June 23rd” at the end of the year, after I had written all the other poems and after having gone through everything that I went through. But, my editor told me to move it to the front. “It’s the preface!” she said, because I originally wanted it to be the epilogue. She told me I already knew the meaning of my suffering, and that the book should end with here’s to the woman, which is an empowering feminist poem written in honor of International Women’s Day. That way, the conclusion would look forward to the future, to my current voice, which had changed since I wrote The Day My Kisses.

The preface.

When the end was the beginning, and
the beginning was the end.

For Dora; I wish you were here.

June 23rd
In the depth of
winter, the flowers do not
bloom, no fruits
appear, the leaves
fall off, and the tree looks
dead, but deep in the
darkness underneath,
the roots grow
and grow
and
grow.


The beginning.

I guess I should thank you,
because you turned me into a poet.

upon identifying the day
I knew I loved you
the moment I saw you
the second time I came to
visit you in The City and you
were wearing a cerulean button-down
that matched your eyes and you
had just shaved your beard and
I wanted to kiss you, but
not like a nervous first kiss or
a slobbery wet one; but rather,
the kind of peck lovers give to one another
after being together for years and
what they’re passing between their lips
is time.

September 21st
upon telling you
The air is cold on the rooftop,
running across my bare shoulders
as I tell you how I feel about you.
My arm presses against yours;
yours doesn’t move. I use it
for support. Our bodies pressed
against the cool, gritty concrete
of the wall that keeps us from falling to
our deaths down below.
Your eyes wax, deep and
limpid like
pools of ocean water
that I see into, staring back at me,
as if you’re
seeing me for the first time.
I see the fear in your face,
breath clutched
between your lips like a
piece of ice
stuck in your throat.
You’re afraid to exhale. Oh shit, oh shit,
oh shit, say your eyes.
No shit.

upon telling me
I am sitting in a middle school
classroom at lunchtime when you
tell me you want to kiss me. My
breath stops in my throat. Instantly,
my heart beats faster and faster
like an unhinged train racing down
its tracks. I was hungry before,
I’m not hungry anymore. A heat
rises from the depths of my soul,
steaming the surface of my cheeks,
pouring out over the tops of my breasts,
and spilling out in between my thighs.
I flush. My flesh heats up, unable
to contain the fireworks exploding on
the inside of my heart.
He wants to kiss me.
And these explosions
going off inside me I imagine will be
bolder, brighter, and more beautiful
when you finally do.


authorbio2

Emmanuella Hristova was born in Oakland, California and grew up in the Bay Area. She is the third daughter to Bulgarian parents who immigrated to California shortly before she was born. She began drawing at the ripe age of four, and studied the fine arts for five years in high school. There, she received many art accolades including a Congressional award for her piece Boy in Red in 2009. In 2015, she received her Bachelor of Arts in Linguistics from the University of California, Berkeley. She began writing poetry at age twenty-four when she was in graduate school. She earned her Master’s in Education from the same alma mater in 2017. Emmanuella spent two years as an English teacher in Richmond, California. During that time, she self-published her first poetry collection: The Day My Kisses Tasted Like Disorder. Currently, she is writing her first novel. She speaks English, Bulgarian, Spanish and is now learning French. You can find her on Instagram: @emmy_speaks

Author Page      Instagram     Amazon Author Page      GoodReads Author Page


I hope you get a chance to check out Emmanuella and her new book! As always, I love hearing from you. Comment below with your thoughts and until next time, Happy Reading 🙂

Author Spotlight, Melanie Nowak, Almost Human Series

New 1st Trilogy promo

This trilogy appears to be a hit with most, with an average review of 4 out of 5 stars. This series is available 2 ways: either as 6 novels or as 22 novellas (novellas are in the kindle unlimited program). Melanie Nowak gives some great advice and tips on being a writer. Check it out!! 


Author Interview:

When did you first discover you wanted to be a writer and why writing?
Honestly, I never dreamed that I would become an author! I have my Master’s Degree in Library and Information Science, with a Bachelor’s in education, and had planned a career as a school librarian, sharing my love of reading with students. Through a series of unfortunate health events I found myself injured, ill, and unable to follow the path I had chosen. Luckily another path had already chosen me!

In 2003 I had begun writing a vampire story because I had an idea and characters in my head that needed to be immortalized rather than forgotten. I wrote my story, enjoyed it, and shared it with a few friends just for fun. When they suggested I try to publish, I did…diligently. For almost 2 years I used all of my resources to research the industry and submit my books to agents and publishers, but got nowhere – no one even wanted to read a sample! Among my 200 rejection postcards, was one that said: “No one wants to read vampires anymore – Anne Rice has done them to death!” This was shortly before Stephanie Meyer’s Twilight came out…

So I decided to just keep writing for my own cathartic enjoyment. I’d never planned to be an author anyway. While at university, a professor mentioned Amazon’s anticipated unveiling of the Kindle. I decided to submit my books…and they were accepted! I was among the first Indie Authors to have their books on Kindle when it was released! It was nice to have closure, feeling like I’d done something with the story and could move on to writing more. I knew nothing about marketing or promotion at the time. I just released my books on Kindle and left them there waiting to be discovered. It was a hobby and I didn’t really expect much to come of it.

A few copies sold that summer and I got wonderful reviews, which was exciting – people from across the country that I’d never met actually loved my books! Then disaster struck…I became very ill with rheumatic fever, (which is bad enough!) but to make matters worse, the illness swelled all my joints and aggravated bad injuries I’d had from a car accident years before and erased all the progress I had made with physical therapy. I was forced to long-term bed rest and had to forfeit the Librarian position I had lined up to begin in a few weeks.

My husband and I were devastated, and unsure what we would do, but they say when one door closes, another opens. Suddenly my books started selling like wildfire! I wasn’t exactly on the Bestseller’s List, but I sold 30+ copies a day for weeks straight! It helped support my family in a time of need and show me a new opportunity. Writing is now my saving passion. Although still plagued by some chronic health issues, I feel blessed that I am able to stay home with my kids and write the stories I love!  


Tell us about your book and why you wrote it?
A few things came together to bring the ALMOST HUMAN series to life. I’ve always been interested in bats. Vampire bats have a anticoagulant in their saliva called “draculin” (named after Count Dracula!) that keeps blood from clotting. I had the idea that such a thing would be useful for vampires as well. It would also be useful if they had something to keep the victim calm, like a drug.

I always wondered about a vampire’s ability to put victims in thrall. In old movies, vampires are always able to hypnotize people, and it’s never really explained. People are just ‘under their power’. I always wondered – why? How does it work? I put those questions together with the anticoagulant/drug idea, and took it further. What if vampires could inject their victims with venom – like a snake? Only the venom would not be deadly poison, but a combination of drugs that kept blood from clotting, kept the victim calm and even willing, and also could mark territory for the vampire – leaving a psychic mark that other vampires could see. The vampire could then use the existence of this ‘drug’ in their victim’s system, to put them in thrall as well. 

The idea of venomous vampires seemed so logical to me, that I assumed for sure that someone else had done it already. I began searching my library for a book like that, so I could read it! This was probably in the early 90’s and there weren’t very many vampire books around at that time. I never found what I was looking for, and I filed the idea away. It never occurred to me to write it myself, LOL.

In the late 80’s, I had discovered Anne Rice’s vampire chronicles and absolutely loved them. That was the first time I read something from the vampire’s point of view. The way that she captured emotions and described surroundings was mesmerizing to me, and I really connected with her story. I’m also a huge fan of the T.V. series “Buffy the Vampire Slayer”. Joss Whedon is a genius! That said – towards the end of the show, I started disliking some decisions the writers made. I understood their vision, but I also saw missed opportunities. I would have done things differently.

That started me thinking of my own storylines and my own characters, incorporating my venomous vampire idea. None of this was written down, just daydreamed during housework. Then one day I realized that a lot of the ideas I had were really good, and it depressed me to think that it would all just be forgotten. So, I sat down one night at the computer, to write out a few things so I wouldn’t forget, and could look back at them one day. The scenes just came pouring out and before I knew it, I’d been up writing almost the whole night! That’s when I realized that I had a real story to tell, and wanted to write it all out from beginning to end. That is how my ALMOST HUMAN vampires were born.


You mentioned that Fatal Infatuation is the first book in a series. Can you tell us more about the series?
I currently have 2 series in my venomous vampire saga. While both follow the same characters chronologically, you can begin the Second series without having read the First.

ALMOST HUMAN – The First Series, set around a small upstate college town, is a paranormal romantic fantasy of drama, angst and action. An elder vampire struggles with his faith, his crusade to mentor others, and his attraction to a young college woman, who is trying to navigate the hurdles of dealing with her peers, her job, vampires, zombies, and…college.

ALMOST HUMAN – The Second Series has more of a paranormal urban fantasy feel, still filled with drama, action and romance, the viewpoints broaden to include more of an ensemble cast of vampires and humans who have traveled beyond college to navigate adulthood, and discover paranormal abilities previously unknown. They must learn to master the difficult nuances of balancing thirst, power and…marriage. Oh, and they may just have to save the world.

There are two different ways to read my venomous vampire series ALMOST HUMAN. There are 6 full novels (2 trilogies), which are quite long, and they were later broken up to also be published as 21 novellas. You can read the story in a feast of novels or as bite-sized novellas – pick your poison! The first trilogy of novels is available in an Omnibus Edition as well.

I have recently released another novella UNITING VAMPIRES – part 1 of my next upcoming novel, VAMPIRESS REIGNING. There will be two more novellas coming out this year. Then all three of those novellas will be combined for the release of the full novel, due in late October.

What message or lasting thought do you hope your readers will take away from your book?
ALMOST HUMAN is a story of love, hope, and faith, in which we recognize that no one is perfect. We all have choices to make and are doing the best we can – we are only human…or almost human, as the case may be. My story means different things to different people.

Can you offer any advice for beginning writers or those trying to get published
Decide why you are writing. Is your ultimate goal financial success, or to tell an amazing story? If you just want to write but aren’t as emotionally connected to it, that is an entirely different path from someone who wants to truly express & share feelings and ideas; the difference between writing articles or informative observation pieces, and writing a novel. While writing a novel can bring financial success, in my opinion that should never be the focus – a good story needs passion behind it. If you are passionate about your writing and want to share your story with readers, here’s my advice: 

 1st – If you have a story inside of you yearning to be told, then be unafraid to really give in to it and write your true thoughts and feelings. You cannot write while worrying about who might read it or what they will think. First, be true to that inner voice and write the story that you want to write. 

 2nd – Edit – a lot. You’ve poured your heart out onto the page, now you need to look at it with a critical eye for grammar, story structure, and continuity. Understand the story structure of different genres and where your story will fit. It’s alright to blend genres, but labels such as YA and Adult fiction need to be discerned more carefully. Sex and language are not the only determining factors between YA and Adult. Also consider the complexity of plot, reading level of the vocabulary used and the intellectual focus of the story as it relates to age. Do not write “down” to your readers – it is important to be sure they can follow the plot and understand the story, but don’t be afraid to write something that will make people stop and think. Proper grammar, spelling, and punctuation is so important that I have to say it again. If you’re unsure about something – look it up! EDIT!

 3rd – If you want to share your story, you will find a way. Independent publishing isn’t for everyone – neither is Traditional publishing. You have to figure out what is right for you. Large publishing companies will be hard to reach without connections. It’s not impossible (but close). Be aware – larger publishers often want you to edit your work to fit their image. Getting traditionally published is HARD. Even if you have the best book ever, getting the right people to read it will be even harder than writing it – you have been warned. I was rejected over 200 times without anyone even being willing to read my manuscript! There are many small presses that are more open to accepting new work without many changes, you just have to find the right one for you. I did some research and found that the small presses that were open to publishing my work, did not feel like a good fit for me, so I opted for Independent Publishing. Whatever publishing path you feel is right for you, do not give up!

 Independent publishing is also a good option to keep your story true to your own vision – but be prepared to put in the effort. If you do not work hard to help your target audience find your book, and if your book is not of professional quality when it is read, your sales and reputation as an author will suffer. Make sure your book is the best it can be, and then find a way to help others find it!

 4th – Believe in yourself and be strong. Publishing Independently can be frustrating and difficult at times. You need to have patience, a very thick skin and an incorrigible spirit. It takes a long time and a lot of effort to gain an audience who appreciates your work. Your audience deserves a professional quality book, and when you are working independently it is often more difficult to see your work with a discerning and unbiased eye. Almost all books get a negative review at some time or another. It is important to truly analyze the review to see if there is criticism in there that can help you improve. Decide whether your story came across as you intended. If it seems that it did, and the reader just didn’t enjoy or agree with it, then that is their prerogative. If the reader seemed to miss your intent, then perhaps it wasn’t clearly expressed in the writing and you should consider toning it a bit.

 5th – Decide how you will define your success. If to you, success = money, quit now, LOL. To me success is the feeling of accomplishment and the swell of excitement I feel when someone tells me my book really resonated with them. In my experience, take care of the emotional success and the physical success will follow. I concerned myself with telling a good story, putting in tons of work to research certain elements, refine and edit it to the best of my ability, and learned what was needed to publish and promote it. I make myself accessible to readers and view it all as a labor of love. Through that sincere effort, I have earned more loyal readers to my series than I’d ever expected. Now writing is my full time job and I can actually pay my bills with it!


Do you have any strange antics you do while you write?
Most of my writing begins as scribbles in a notebook. I play out the scenes in my head and write down all of the dialogue on paper. I always  speak dialogue aloud. That is one reason I usually try to write when no one else is home, but at this point, when I am sitting in my room or out on my deck talking to myself, my family just shrugs – mom’s writing again. Then as I transfer the dialogue to the computer I add details of scene blocking and inner diatribe while typing. Then I go over it yet again to fill in more description of setting and surroundings.

As far as strange antics go… I do truly enjoy “living” out my scenes as best I can and I especially enjoy acting out fight scenes! I can often be seen on my deck, or in the field behind my house, swinging a samurai sword, using a chain whip, or just tumbling and practicing how certain actions would play out with my husband and teenage sons.

If you could have dinner with a novelist, dead or alive, who would it be?
That is a tough question for me! The answer is probably not who most would think – my first inclination (and I think what readers might expect) would be to choose Anne Rice. Her books were a great inspiration to me! BUT…I have spoken with Anne Rice online a few times, and I got to meet her a few years back!

At this point, I think I would enjoy dinner with fantasy author Piers Anthony. I grew up on his books! He was the first author I ever read who wrote detailed Author’s Notes at the end of his books that made me (and all readers, I suspect) feel as though I knew him. Some of his books skew a bit young for re-reading now, but many of his adult books are still very enjoyable to me. I loved the interesting ideas and characters he created. He has a knack for placing relatable people in fantastic situations.

I could say all of those same things about fantasy author Jack L. Chalker, and he would be my next choice!


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Pages: 343
Published: July 3, 2008

Add to GoodReads

Series: Almost Human, The First Trilogy

Where to Buy:
Amazon

Synopses:
Felicity views going away to college as an opportunity to mature into a confident young woman, but her new beginning turns out to be more of an adventure than she bargains for when she finds that her school is plagued by vampires!

Cain is an elder vampire who displays quiet confidence even as he struggles to overcome sins of his past. Surprisingly, he found that in losing his life he gained his faith and a purpose.

His mission: find the hostile vampires that inhabit this small college town, and educate them to live in peace with humans. Their leader, Sindy, is a wicked temptress who has set her sights on Felicity’s new friend Ben. She will be difficult to control, but after meeting Felicity, Cain’s most difficult task lies in controlling himself.

Together they join an ensemble cast of characters to navigate the difficulties of addiction and desire; the perils of zombies and vampires; and struggles with abuse, morality and… college.


Excerpt:

She studied the vampire for a moment as he read the inside jacket cover of the book. He looked like an ordinary guy. Okay well, maybe not ordinary. He looked like an extremely attractive guy. Early twenties probably, broad shoulders, very nice build. How could she be expected to fear someone so achingly gorgeous? His hair fell down into his eyes as he looked at the book and he absently swiped it aside, although it fell back again almost immediately. He was a little pale, but he certainly didn’t look supernatural. He looked up from the book to find her staring at him. She quickly searched for something to say. “I suppose you’ll be taking it over to the café?”

“Mr. predictable, that’s me.”

“Right.” She had an odd thought as she swept the change from the counter into her pocket. “Do you actually drink coffee, or is that just for show?”

He seemed to find her inquiry amusing. She supposed such a direct question might be considered rude, but she couldn’t help wondering. “I can drink what I like.”

She came out from behind the register and began walking him over to the café. She noticed Ben staring, but ignored him. The presence of the man beside her commanded her full attention. “So what do you do besides drink coffee and read?”

He looked a little sobered by the question. “Fight.”

“Other vampires?” she asked quietly.

His gaze travelled over her seductively. “Temptation mostly.”

She wasn’t sure whether to melt or shudder.


Melanie NowakAuthor bio
Melanie Nowak is author of the venomous vampire series ALMOST HUMAN, and a happily married mom of two boys. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in Education and a Master’s Degree in Library and Information Science. Originally a Long Islander, she now lives with her family on a peaceful mountaintop in the forest of upstate New York. She has always had a vivid imagination and a fascination for the paranormal. Acting and singing are loves of hers as well. However, upon conceiving the idea for her ALMOST HUMAN series in 2003, she discovered a previously unknown passion for writing! Now she puts her over-active imagination to good use, creating characters she loves, and she gets to play all of the parts!

Author Page     Amazon Author Page    Facebook Author Page     Twitter: @MelanieNowak

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Let me know if you check out this book. Until next time, Happy Reading 🙂

Author Spotlight – Kelly D. Smith: Rock Stars are Trouble

Not much is out about this book and since I haven’t read it yet, I can’t add much to the internal debate of should you read this book or pass.. But I was able to talk to the author a little bit and she was able to answer some questions. 


Author Interview

When did you first discover you wanted to be a writer and why writing?
When I was about 10 or 11

Tell us about your book and why you wrote it?
I’m a huge music fan and I really wanted to write a series about the boys in a band. I wanted to take the reader away to a brand new world; one that isn’t always seen in the romance genre (though don’t get me wrong, I know rock star romances are popular!)

Is this book going to be part of a series? If so, can you tell us more about the series
This is actually the first book in a series. I’ve got four other books in the series and each one follows one of the band members. I’m working on book five, which will focus on Kenda and Greyson again!

What message or lasting thought do you hope your readers will take away from your book?
More than anything, I just hope readers remember enjoying the book!

Can you offer any advice for beginning writers or those trying to get published?
It’s scary, but take the risk no matter how scary it is! Trying and failing will be the best way to learn!

Do you have any strange antics you do while you write?
Nope, though I normally end out being a pillow to my cat while I try to get my work done!


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Published: January 14, 2016
Pages: 122

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Where to Buy:
Amazon
Siren Bookstrand

Synopsis:
Kenda Lexan has one shot at this interview with Greyson Brant and she’s gotta make it perfect–otherwise she’ll lose her job. Greyson’s up and coming, and got a major reputation for flirting with anyone who interviews him–too bad for him Kenda already knows that rock stars are trouble. When she has to interview him again she can’t help but realize he’s not that bad of a person. He’s actually nice to his fans, and for some reason he’s nice to her, despite the fact she’s made it clear she’s not interested. So she agrees to hang out–as friends. She remembers what musicians are like, and a run in with her ex just solidifies that she doesn’t need anything to do with the type. But when her sister ends up in the hospital and he shows up to help her out she can’t help but think she might be wrong. Are all rock stars trouble? More importantly is Greyson Brant?

Excerpt:
“Hey,” Kenda forced a smile over her lips as she greeted him. He wore a pair of green camo pants and a muscle shirt. Kenda swallowed dryly as his muscles flexed, holding on to something. She glanced down. The black dog sat there. “Hi, Brut.”

“I hope you really meant he could come.” Greyson grinned. His black hair was tied back today, and again his green eyes were hidden behind glasses. He clearly hadn’t shaved for a few days, either. A little five o’clock shadow looked good on him.

“I did.” Kenda forced herself to speak as she continued to look him up and down. “Come on in.” She stepped out of the doorway and motioned for them to come. “Sorry it’s kinda a mess. I lost track of time.” She didn’t see the point in lying, but she wasn’t going to add the part about her boss taking credit she thought she deserved. I could just be overreacting.

“It’s not a mess. Trust me, my place looks much worse.” Greyson grinned. “Before I take him off his leash, do you mind if he goes on the couch? I know some people are super against it.”

“Oh, I don’t fucking care,” Kenda scoffed.

Greyson grinned as he let the dog off the leash. The dog didn’t seem to have any interest in looking around. All he cared about was following Greyson around. Greyson, on the other hand, he seemed very interested in looking around.

“Were you getting the interview ready to go?” he asked, glancing at her computer.

“Sorta.”

Kenda closed the distance between him and her desk before he could get a good look at what she’d just been reading. “Been doing some research, too. You didn’t tell me that fan who needed you was a little girl.” She turned to face him again.

“Maybe I liked the idea that you might be jealous.”

Kenda felt butterflies pool in her stomach. Oh this was not good.

“You thought I was jealous?” she asked as she raised an eyebrow.

“A man can hope, can’t he?”

“So you were hoping I was jealous?”

Greyson shrugged. “Let’s just say it’s been nice to meet a girl who doesn’t seem to want to jump me.”

“But you still wanted me to be jealous?” Kenda grinned, stepping towards him, interested in his answer.

“Doesn’t everyone want something they can’t have?” His eyes locked on her. A warm shiver ran down her spine and settled in the pit of her stomach. His green eyes sparkled behind his glasses.


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Kelly D. Smith is a 21 year old romance writer from Canada. After being homeschooled all her life she got her GED and has been pursuing her passion- writing- with the hopes of turning it into a full time career.

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Hope you are able to check out this Author and her book. Comment below if you’ve read the book or your thoughts on it. Until next time, Happy Reading 🙂