Blog Tour: The Question of Empathy by Carol Jeffers

 

Title: THE QUESTION OF EMPATHY: SEARCHING FOR THE ESSENCE OF HUMANITY
Author: Carol Jeffers
Publisher: Koehler Books
Pages: 280
Genre: Creative Nonfiction/Speculative Nonfiction

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BOOK BLURB:

What if we all had a power to connect with others, to understand what they are feeling, what they are thinking? What if such a power was flighty, unreliable, open to true understanding or total confusion? Would that make us better human beings? In The Question of Empathy, Carol Jeffers explores a power that exists today within each of us and its ability to connect and to delude.

Have you ever wondered about empathy, what it is and why it matters? What makes us human and capable of incredible caring, total savagery, or worse, complete indifference toward each other? Are you looking for ways to better understand yourself, the people around you and across the world? The Question of Empathy entreats you to explore this hard-wired capacity, not through rose colored glasses, but with an honest look at human nature. Philosophy and psychology, neuroscience and art lead the way along a journey of discovery into what makes us who we are and how we connect to others. It isn’t always easy, but then neither is real life. The Question of Empathy offers a roadmap.

ORDER YOUR COPY:

Amazon

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About the Author

Through her writing, Carol Jeffers blends narrative nonfiction and fiction to more fully explore the human condition. She is the author of works both in short- and long-form. Her forthcoming book, The Question of Empathy, was named a semi-finalist in the 2017 Pirates’ Alley William Faulkner Writing Competition (Walter Isaacson, judge). A Professor Emeritus of Art Education, her interest in empathic listening began in the classroom years ago when she and her university students explored works of art that served as personal metaphors. These experiences and related interactions with art, self, and others were the subjects of Carol’s academic writing published in refereed journals, edited volumes and a single-author book (Spheres of Possibility: Linking Service-Learning and the Visual Arts) during her university career.

WEBSITE & SOCIAL LINKS:

WEBSITE | OUR WRITE HOUSE | FACEBOOK

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Book Excerpt:

Chapter I

In the Rhizome

Strolling among the dunes and driftwood, and the mock heather and yarrow of Moonstone Beach on California’s Central Coast, you are likely to come across a humble wooden bench made remarkable by what it declares, by the empathy it stirs, and by the stories it invites us to share. Rough and weatherworn, the bench is evocative of the salt air and wild daisies, the restless tides reshaping the continent’s rocky edge, and the wide sunset views it is meant to afford. But it has become legendary and invokes much more than a simple seascape. From its niche in the coastal ecosystem, this bench triumphs in returning us to the cultural sphere, to the human hands that created and mounted a small plaque to the backrest, and to the soul forever inhabiting the carved letters proclaiming: “I shall always love a purple iris.” Like the bench itself, the thought is at once simple and elegant, forthright and mysterious—a paradox, to be sure, but also a metaphor for that innate capacity enabling us to wonder, to imagine, and thus, to empathize.

If the plaque captures your imagination, as it has mine and others (judging by Internet postings), then you may wonder whose words these are. Full of whimsy, or poignancy, or both, they resonate, inscribe themselves upon our hearts. Who is it that we have to thank for this unexpected delight, and for the images it inspires, the stories it prompts? What is the meaning, symbolic or otherwise, of the flower we imagine, springing from its rhizomic underground network to be capped off by its distinctive beard, caterpillar-like and golden in the April sun? Or maybe we envision a couple who once shared the bench. Is she gone now, his purple iris? What was her story, or his? Theirs? What is ours, we might also ask, as each of us takes a small part in creating this larger narrative, one echoing beyond the beach itself? And where might that narrative take us?

Each time I return to Moonstone, the bench reminds me of the story always unfolding even as it retells itself, an ever-expanding narrative that begins with our shared curiosity and appreciative smiles and builds to the empathic response that connects us all to the spirit of the plaque and the mystery of its maker. I watch as others pause to read the line, then turn from it slowly, thoughtfully, before continuing on to the observation point where the best views of the otters and seals are to be had. And I wonder what images, what stories the bench—our shared touchstone—conjures up in them.

Perhaps there are those weekenders who, like me, envision a loved one—an uncle, in my case—who cherished their iris beds, tended them faithfully through the summer and fall, and patiently awaited the blossoms, lavender and lovely, in the spring. Or perhaps they think of their children who, like my own, found the quivering petals fascinating, and delighted in stroking the fuzzy beards. I wonder, too, if, upon their return to the routines of the work week, these weekenders might Google the bench’s poetic proclamation and come across the image of two purple irises, one pinned on each side of the plaque. If they do, perhaps they, too, will savor the moment and its mystery, even as they wonder about this online tribute and the new connections and stories it encourages. Continue reading

Blog Tour: Blind Switch by Michael Sova

 

Blind Switch
By Michael Sova
Genre: Thriller, Suspense

 

A professional killer makes a hit, leaving no obvious signs of foul play.  There’s only one problem.  He got the wrong guy and is reluctantly called back into service.  His new target is female, blind, and scared.  She knows he’s out there somewhere, closing in on her.  She also knows she’ll never see him coming.

Years after the Deepwater Horizon disaster, bestselling fiction author Martin Reginald introduces a compelling new trilogy and tells a different version of that well publicized story.  In the first two novels, he suggests the explosion was an act of sabotage and the presumed culprit was the owner of Sand-Sational, a Louisiana-based beach restoration company.  The biggest revelations are promised in the final book in the series, but Reginald is murdered before the manuscript is completed.  Why?  Was someone trying to keep him quiet?  Is it possible his novels were less fictional than anyone realized?  What happens when it turns out Reginald himself was something of an illusion?

From the Caribbean to the Big Apple and back again, Blind Switch is a triumph of non-stop action and intensity in which very little is as it first appears.  Michael Sova returns with his most intriguing, most suspenseful, and most surprising work to date.

Available on Amazon

 

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About the Author

Michael Sova is the author of the suspense novels A Shot at Redemption and Parlor City Paradise, as well as his 2017 release, a sports-themed cookbook titled 21 Sundays of Fantastic Football Food: Celebrating the Foods and Follies of Professional Football.  His new novel, a thriller titled Blind Switch, was published in July and is available now in paperback and most popular eBook formats.

On Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Michael-Sova-439490182797826

On Twitter: https://twitter.com/Micsova

Website: http://www.michaelsova.com

On Amazon: https://amzn.to/2KxlZtw

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Blind Switch Excerpt

Having no better options, he waited directly in front of the bathroom door.  The target would see him right away, or so Fisher assumed, but he didn’t plan on giving Reginald time to think let alone react.  He’d grab his wrist and yank him forward.   In that same motion, he’d get an arm around his neck, bring him to the floor, and the syringe tucked into Fisher’s waistband would do the rest.  He’d managed similar takedowns half a dozen times before and never had a problem.

This time, however, the plan had to be modified slightly when Reginald turned the bathroom light off before pulling the door open.  Fisher hadn’t considered that and it gave him pause.  His eyes had already adjusted to the room’s dimness but he still couldn’t see for shit and he knew Reginald wouldn’t be able to see much of anything.  For a moment, he wasn’t sure what to do.  If he didn’t hit Reginald just right, the asshole might fall backwards, slam into the bathroom door and send it crashing into the wall.  Fisher doubted the sound would carry far but it might cause someone in a nearby cabin to come investigate.  That wouldn’t do.

He took a step to the side, giving Reginald space to move into the room.  Except… he didn’t.  Fisher couldn’t see much but he could sense Reginald frozen in the bathroom doorway, no doubt wondering what the hell was going on.  His room hadn’t been dark when he went into the bathroom so why was it dark now?  Was there a power outage?  Had he turned the lights off himself without being aware of the act?  Had something somehow come unplugged?

Reginald was weighing the various scenarios.  That’s what anyone would do in that situation and had to be the reason he still hadn’t moved.  Fisher wished he could see the expression on his face but all he could really make out was an indistinct mass against a pitch-black background.   If Reginald were smart, if he had one shred of common sense, he’d retreat into the bathroom and close and lock the door.  What could Fisher do then?  It wasn’t like his target would sit there quietly while he went to work with his set of picks.  But whatever the guy was thinking, Reginald must not have felt threatened because he reached back into the bathroom and hit the wall switch.

The room was instantly filled with bright, florescent light, as was a small area right in front of the door.  That’s right where Fisher had been standing a few moments before.  He’d moved but not far enough.  His left shoe and the lower part of that leg were now brightly illuminated.  Reginald stared at them dumbly and then his gaze slowly lifted.  He had time to take in the black shoes, black pants, black jacket and black gloves.  A question formed on his lips.  That’s when one of the shoes shot up and caught him squarely in the nuts.  His mouth hanging open, Reginald crumpled to the floor as Scott Fisher moved in.

 

 

Blog Tour & Giveaway: Three Strikes by Ross Klavan, Tim O’Mara, and Charles Salzberg

On Tour September 1 – October 31, 2018

 

Three Strikes by Ross Klavan, Tim O'Mara, and Charles Salzberg

Genre: Crime
Published by: Down & Out Books
Publication Date: September 10th 2018
Number of Pages: 350
ISBN: 978-1-948235-25-9
Series: 3 Authors, 3 Novellas
Purchase Links: Down & Out Books | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads

 

 

 

I Take Care of Myself in Dreamland

by Ross Klavan

Bartok is horribly scarred. Wounded in the Army, he roams through 1970’s New York, a city of perpetual night, punctuated by crime and populated by streetwalkers, hooker bars, strip clubs, easy drugs and a feeling of doom. There’s one thing on his mind: an experience he had when his Army truck exploded, an experience he calls Red River. More than bliss, more than spiritual. But nothing goes right. Bartok loses his girl, his money, any possibility of support and decides that he’s finished, he’s going to end it but before he does, he’s going out on the town for one last attempt to recapture the incredible experience of Red River. And when he does, he runs into others who see him as an easy mark for dirtier plans…plans that involve murder before suicide.

Bartok’s story is told by a driver for the mob, a guy who’s heard it all and usually keeps his mouth shut because when he begins a trip, it’s almost always one-way.

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Jammed

by Tim O’Mara

Aggie’s back. After barely escaping with his life in “Smoked,” Aggie disproves the old adage of “Once burned…” This time around he’s heading from the Midwest to New York City with a sweet shipment of stolen maple syrup. He also has picked up an unwanted-and potentially dangerous-passenger; the fifteen-year-old daughter of his latest boss has hopped on for a free ride to the Big Apple and her on-line boyfriend. When they arrive in NYC, Aggie’s worst fears are realized when the “boyfriend” turns out to be a group of human traffickers. Aggie knew that running one of the world’s most valuable liquids across state lines was skirting the line between safety and danger, but he never knew it could get this sticky.

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The Maybrick Affair

by Charles Salzberg

It’s a couple weeks before the attack on Pearl Harbor and a young reporter, Jake Harper, who works for a small Connecticut newspaper, is assigned a routine human interest story. A reclusive, elderly woman, has quietly passed away in her small cottage upstate. Anxious for bigger stories, Jake begins his assignment by trying to find out who this woman was and what kind of life she led. As Jake investigates the old woman’s death he finds that years earlier she was tried and convicted of murdering her husband in a well-publicized, lurid trial in London, England. And, after digging further, he, unearths evidence that she might have had a connection to an even more famous British serial killer and that the ramifications of this story might affect America’s entry into the War.

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Excerpt from I Take Care of Myself in Dreamland

It was a great time for whores.

New York City, 1970, ’71 maybe, ’72, but, as Bartok was saying, “If nothing else, it’s an ace of a time to be a hooker.” In fact, he says, maybe it’s a lousy time to be anything else. This is what Bartok is telling us he told the whore he’s with, standing in the fleabag hotel on Lex across from Grand Central. Something like, “Must be a great time to be turning tricks.”

Now, a certain kind of guy won’t tell you this but—it doesn’t bother me a damn bit that I’m stupid. Plenty of people would mind—I don’t. They’d be embarrassed—I’m not. When I was a kid they use to say to me, “You don’t have the brains you were born with.” And you know what? They were right. Or maybe I did have those brains, maybe I was born this way. Whatever it is, “stupid” is the reason I’m still around.

The way I see it, I’m just smart enough to keep my mouth shut and at this age—I’m an old man now—you get to see that being smart enough to zip the yap is all the smarts you need. If you take the trip and make your way around, what you’ll end up with anyway is lots of stories you can tell in a bar when nobody wants to listen. So, it’s okay that I’m stupid. Back then, I kept myself dumb except to sometimes say something stupid to make them all laugh. That’s all.

That’s why they let me drive. The smart guys? They didn’t last so long. Smart guys or guys trying to be smart. They’re always the ones who get it first.

“You’re an interesting guy,” they said to me. “You’re the only dumb Yid I’ve ever met.” I told them I was proud to show them that it takes all kinds.

So. Bartok. I’m driving, he’s in the back seat between Nicky and Ray, and he can’t keep his mouth shut, he keeps on chattering like Mr. Happy and he has this strange way of saying things like that he was a guy who “travels the night city, the dark arsenal of bad dreams.”

I said, “You’re a real poet,” and he agreed. I knew he wasn’t gonna last too long.

In the back seat, Bartok shoves his voice down into a whisper so that he sounds like he’s got some hot, evil secret to get off his chest—that’s the way he tells us that he likes hookers except the thing is, they usually don’t take to him. I’m thinking that if this is gonna be his confession, then it’s his last one. “So you’re a guy that even hookers won’t go with,” I say to him. “Man, you ain’t gonna miss much in this world.”

“I can’t say,” Bartok says and it’s the only time he gets so agitated that Ray and Nicky hold him back on the seat. “I can tell.” And then he goes on about the hotel room and how he’s trying to be so cool and charming because, like he says, he’s got this thing for hookers. He likes scotch and hookers he says, and that’s about everything. That’s his entire life. That, and Red River.

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Excerpt from Three Strikes by Ross Klavan, Tim O’Mara and Charles Salzberg. Copyright © 2018 by Ross Klavan, Tim O’Mara, and Charles Salzberg. Reproduced with permission from Down & Out Books. All rights reserved.

 

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Excerpt from Jammed

“I oughta shoot you where you stand.”

I know, but I swear to God, that’s exactly what he said. With all I’d been through in the past day and a half, I almost laughed, and I woulda, except he had this huge-ass gun pointed at my face. I guess all guns look big when they’re pointed at you. Forget about it being the biggest cliché in the world, but I was sitting at the time. In his pickup truck. A beautiful red pickup truck. I tell ya, if ya ever commit a crime in the Midwest, make your getaway vehicle a red pickup truck. Soon as you hit the highway, you’ll blend in like a sore thumb in a podiatrist’s office. A sore toe is more like it, but I don’t know what they call hand doctors, so…whatever. You know what I mean.

Truth be told, I was surprised he said anything to me at all. If I was him, I’da shot my ass before I got into his truck. Make sure I didn’t get any blood on the seats. That’s if I was him. Me? I couldn’t shoot someone who wasn’t trying to shoot me. Or maybe trying to hurt a loved one, I guess, y’know? I especially couldn’t shoot someone who comes to a gunfight with a set of keys, which is all I had on me when I got in his truck. That, my driver’s license, and an expired credit card. I think back on it, if I did laugh, it woulda been more than likely my last laugh. My momma used to say, “He who laughs last, laughs best.”

She’da been wrong this time, though. He who laughed last mighta got his ass blown all the way to hell.

Anyway, that was my cook talking, the guy I got my meth from. I screwed up trying to go big league with him. I shoulda learned my lesson and stayed small time and just kept on going with the flow. Sitting next to my cook, in the back seat of the pickup, was that guy Robert who owned the ranch, and was gonna pay me, Elmore, and Mickey to drive those illegal cigarettes to Illinois.

You know things are going to shit when three guys ride out and only two ride back. Somebody wrote a song like that a buncha years ago. The Byrds? The Eagles, maybe?

So, there I am in the back of a pickup, sitting across from my cook and Robert, and I very slowly reach behind me and pull out the money I owed them. What I had left of it, anyway. Robert took it and did that thing like he was weighing it in his hands, letting me know that had the deal gone the way it was supposed to, he’d be holding a lot more money than I’d just given him, we’d be talking about the next deal, and I wouldn’t have a gun sticking in my face.
Nobody talked for a few minutes and I sure as shit wasn’t gonna be the first one to strike up a conversation. I could tell they were both deciding what to do with me and none of the things I came up with in my head were good. Next thing I know, they both take out their phones and start texting. That confused the shit out of me, but after a little while it dawned on me—the way Cook texted and then Robert’s phone would ding and then he’d text and Cook’s phone would ding—that they were texting each other. About me.

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Excerpt from Three Strikes by Ross Klavan, Tim O’Mara and Charles Salzberg. Copyright © 2018 by Ross Klavan, Tim O’Mara, and Charles Salzberg. Reproduced with permission from Down & Out Books. All rights reserved.

 

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Excerpt from The Maybrick Affair

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If there’s anything more boring, make that deadly boring, than a town council meeting I’ve yet to experience it. But when you’re a young reporter for a small newspaper in a small state—Connecticut—and you’re low man on the totem pole, you don’t have much choice in what you cover. Thank goodness, I only have to do it once a month or in the unlikely event an emergency meeting is called.

It’s not exactly what I had in mind when I broke into journalism after graduating from Yale a couple years ago. I can hardly budget my own meager salary much less understand the town’s budget, and the idea of sitting through lengthy, mostly pointless discussions about traffic violations, Christmas festivals, parades and holiday decorations, well, let’s just say I can think of at least a dozen better uses of my time.

The truth is, not much goes on up here, so you wind up praying for something big, like a multi-car pile-up, a domestic dispute, a burglary, or even a small fire. Nothing too serious, just anything to break the monotony.

But it’s my job to be here, and so I make sure I pay attention and take good notes, which I’ll have to decipher later, since my handwriting leaves much to be desired. My friends used to joke that with that scrawl I should have been a doctor. Not much chance of that, since I gag at the sight of blood.

The way I figure it, I’m just biding my time, paying my dues, impressing my boss with my work ethic in hopes he’ll see he’s wasting me on crap like this and gives me something more interesting. Something like the crime beat. Not that there’s all that much crime up here, but every so often there is a break-in or a domestic squabble, or some two-bit white-collar crime that can possibly make it below the fold on the front page.

I am a fish out of water, living and working in a small town like New Milford. I’m a city kid, born and raised in New York City. Yorkville, to be precise, which is on the upper east side of Manhattan. I literally grew up on the wrong side of the tracks, the tracks of the elevator train, also known as the subway or just plain el. The wrong side of the tracks in this case being east of Park Avenue. My family isn’t German, Czech or Hungarian, but that’s who mostly inhabit my neighborhood and that heritage is reflected in the local restaurants and bakeries, places like the Bremen House, Geiger’s, Schaller and Weber, and Kleiner Konditorei,
A small-town council meeting is a stretch for me, especially since the usual issues under discussion are so provincial and, for the most part, intrinsically uninteresting, at least to me.

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Excerpt from Three Strikes by Ross Klavan, Tim O’Mara and Charles Salzberg. Copyright © 2018 by Ross Klavan, Tim O’Mara, and Charles Salzberg. Reproduced with permission from Down & Out Books. All rights reserved.

 

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Our Authors:

Ross Klavan, Tim O'Mara, and Charles Salzberg

Continue reading

Blog Tour & Giveaway: Exile of the Seas by Jeffe Kennedy

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Exile of the Seas
Chronicles of Dasnaria #2
by Jeffe Kennedy
Genre: Dark Fantasy
Pub Date: 9/4/18
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Around the shifting borders of the Twelve Kingdoms, trade and conflict,
danger and adventure put every traveler on guard . . . but some have
everything to lose.
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Once she was known as Jenna, Imperial Princess of Dasnaria, schooled in
graceful dance and comely submission. Until the man her parents
married her off to almost killed her with his brutality.
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Now, all she knows is that the ship she’s boarded is bound away from her
vicious homeland. The warrior woman aboard says Jenna’s skill in
dancing might translate into a more lethal ability. Danu’s fighter
priestesses will take her in, disguise her as one of their own—and
allow her to keep her silence.
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But it’s only a matter of time until Jenna’s monster of a husband
hunts her down. Her best chance to stay hidden is to hire out as
bodyguard to a caravan traveling to a far-off land, home to beasts
and people so unfamiliar they seem like part of a fairy tale. But her
supposed prowess in combat is a fraud. And sooner or later, Jenna’s
flight will end in battle—or betrayal . . .
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Chapter 1

I crept up to the Valeria’s deck in the predawn dark to watch the sun rise. Though I felt safer, and smarter, keeping to the confines of my cabin, this one excursion had become a sort of habit. I clung to the small rituals, the basic routine I’d been able to establish. Otherwise, I was as unmoored and unanchored as the Valeria on her long ocean journey, sailing over unfathomable depths to unimaginable lands.

Perhaps this was the nature of exile: that all the thrust was in the escape, the moving away. After that, what did you have? If I am any example—and I’m the only example I had—then the answer was not much at all.

I did have my habits, though.

The Valeria was powerful in a way I wasn’t and would likely never be. Ideally suited to her environment, an extension of the waves and master of them, she possessed a singular direction and purpose. The very things I lacked. Thus, I’d become oddly grateful and attached to the ship, inanimate though she was. As long as I was aboard the Valeria, she provided purpose and direction for me. I clung to her the way an infant burrowed into her mother’s breast, murmuring fervent prayers of thankfulness that she hadn’t shrugged me off to drown in the cold, uncaring sea.

Mostly I kept to my cabin. The servant boys and girls brought my meals and fresh water, took away my waste, and otherwise left me alone. It had been easy to adjust to being waited on, as I had been my whole life, and I would’ve been at a loss to put together more than the most basic meal for myself. I wouldn’t let them come in otherwise, which was a new freedom and power I enjoyed flexing. No servants in the walls here, listening to my every movement. And I felt better with the door barred, even though it was only one thin, wooden thing against the world. A world of a sailing ship on a vast, unknowable ocean.

I slept a lot. Which was good because my body began to heal more. And I danced, to relieve the boredom and to encourage flexibility, so I’d heal strong. Dancing felt familiar, too. Something I could do alone in the dim cabin, one of the few things left that remind me of who I’d been…

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Prisoner of the Crown
Chronicles of Dasnaria #1
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She was raised to be beautiful, nothing more. And then the rules changed . . .
In icy Dasnaria, rival realm to the Twelve Kingdoms, a woman’s role is
to give pleasure, produce heirs, and question nothing. But a plot to
overthrow the emperor depends on the fate of his eldest daughter. And
the treachery at its heart will change more than one carefully
limited life . . .
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The Gilded Cage
Princess Jenna has been raised in supreme luxury—and ignorance. Within the
sweet-scented, golden confines of the palace seraglio, she’s never
seen the sun, or a man, or even learned her numbers. But she’s been
schooled enough in the paths to a woman’s power. When her betrothal
is announced, she’s ready to begin the machinations that her mother
promises will take Jenna from ornament to queen.
But the man named as Jenna’s husband is no innocent to be cozened or
prince to charm. He’s a monster in human form, and the horrors of
life under his thumb are clear within moments of her wedding vows. If
Jenna is to live, she must somehow break free—and for one born to a
soft prison, the way to cold, hard freedom will be a dangerous path
indeed…
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Jeffe Kennedy is an award-winning author with a writing career that spans
decades. She lives in Santa Fe, with two Maine Coon cats, a border
collie, plentiful free-range lizards and a Doctor of Oriental
Medicine. Jeffe can be found online at JeffeKennedy.com, or every
Sunday at the popular Word Whores blog.
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Follow the tour HERE
for exclusive excerpts, guest posts and a giveaway!
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Blog Tour & Giveaway: The Butcher’s Daughter by Mark M. McMillin

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The Butcher’s Daughter
by Mark M. McMillin
Genre: Historical Nautical Romantic Adventure
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In an age ruled by iron men, in a world of new discovery and Spanish
gold, a young Irishwoman named Mary rises from the ashes of her
broken childhood with ships and men-at-arms under her command. She
and her loyal crew prowl the Caribbean and prosper in the New World
for a time until the ugly past Mary has fled from in the old one finds her.
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Across the great ocean to the east, war is coming. The King of Spain is
assembling the most powerful armada the world has ever seen – an
enormous beast – to invade England and depose the Protestant “heretic
queen.” To have any chance against the wealth and might of Spain,
England will need every warship, she will need every able captain. To
this purpose, Queen Elizabeth spares Mary from the headman’s axe
for past sins in exchange for her loyalty, her ships and men.
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Based on true historical events, this is a tale about war, adventure, love
and betrayal. This is a story about vengeance, this is a tale of
heartbreak…
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“… a pleasurable and action-packed read … a delicious spin to the
otherwise tired clichés of male captains … the joy of the open
seas – as well as the danger churning below – pulses throughout this
rip-roaring, hearty tale of the high seas.” – Kirkus Reviews
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Born in 1954 in Indiana, Mark McMillin has lived in a number of states
throughout the U.S. as well as overseas. He attended Canisius College
in Buffalo, New York, focusing his studies mostly on military
history, and served as a cadet in Canisius’s nationally recognized
ROTC program. After graduating in 1976, Mark was commissioned a
Second Lieutenant in the United States Army and was stationed in Bad
Kissingen, Germany where he served with the elite 11th Armored
Cavalry Regiment.
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In 1986, Mark received his J.D. degree from The John Marshall Law School
in Chicago, Illinois and began his legal career with a law firm in
White Plains, New York focusing his attention on general corporate
law. In 1994, Mark moved to Virginia and ventured out into hazardous
world of litigation where, in 1999, he won what was reported to be at
the time one of the largest and longest federal criminal trials in
Virginia’s history. Mark thereafter moved to Georgia where he resumed
his general corporate practice and served as general counsel for
several companies, including a $1B publicly-traded airline.
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Mark has been a life-long student of military history. And he has always
had a passion for reading and love for writing and wanted to someday
write his own book. But write a book about what? Mark had no desire
to write about some subject that 100 authors before him had already
delved into. And then, almost by accident, this fascinating, little
known story of Captain Luke Ryan fell into his lap. It was an
opportunity was too good to pass on and so Mark began the long and
tedious journey of researching, writing and rewriting. The twelve
year project ended in 2011 with Gather the Shadowmen (The Lords of
the Ocean), Prince of the Atlantic and Napoleon’s Gold.
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Mark currently lives in the Southeastern part of the United States.
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A man – I cannot say if he was wise or not – once said to me as he gently stroked my hair, as he slowly poured honeyed words into my ear with false affection: “Hush dear child, hush. ‘Tis best if you lay still. ‘Tis best you accept this gift I give you now without complaint my lovely, golden dove.”

I never knew this man’s name. Long years have passed since I heard those vile words. They haunt me still.

 

Blood. I saw a lot of blood as I stepped into my father’s shop that night.

I suppose the matter had to do with a debt unpaid, money owed to one clan or another. When I heard the voices of strange men inside our home arguing with my father, I had rushed downstairs out of curiosity with a candle in my hand, dressed only in my nightgown and barefoot.

And when I reached the bottom of the stairs, I saw two brutes holding my father down against his wooden cutting table while a third man, a tall, sinewy fellow standing in front of him, stabbed him over and over again in the arms, the chest and stomach with a long knife. Then the tall man tossed his knife in the air with one hand and caught it by the handle with the other, as if he was performing some parlor trick, and slashed my father’s throat wide open with one, elegant swing. Sprays of blood spurted across the room. I watched my father’s eyes flutter for a bit before they closed on him forever.

But I am well accustomed with blood and gore. I am the butcher’s daughter.

No doubt I stared at my father’s three murders wide-eyed, confused, even in horror. But I did not scream. I did not cry out. I did not look or call for any help. I buried any urge to panic.

The tall, sinewy man with the knife fled when he saw me. His two companions did not. They had unfinished business. They released their grip on my father. They let his limp body slip to the floor with a dull thud and then slowly moved towards me – all smiles.

I was but twelve or so. I had never known a man before that day. Continue reading

Blog Tour & Giveaway: Armies of the Silver Mage by Christian Warren Freed

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Armies of the Silver Mage
Histories of Malweir Book 1
by Christian Warren Freed
Genre: Epic Fantasy
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Malweir was once governed by the order of Mages, bringers of peace and light.
Centuries past and the lands prospered. But all was not well. Unknown
to most, one mage desired power above all else. He turned his will to
the banished Dark Gods and brought war to the free lands. Only a
handful of mages survived the betrayal and the Silver Mage was left
free to twist the darker races to his bidding. The only thing he
needs to complete his plan and rule the world forever are the four
shards of the crystal of Tol Shere.
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Having spent most of their lives dreaming about leaving their sleepy village
and travelling the world, Delin Kerny and Fennic Attleford never
thought that one day they would be forced to flee their town in order
to save their lives. Everything changes when they discover the fabled
Star Silver sword and learn that there are some who want the weapon
for themselves. Hunted by a ruthless mercenary, the boys run from Fel
Darrins and are forced into the adventure they only dreamed about.
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Ever ashamed of the horrors his kind let loose on the world the last mage,
Dakeb, lives his life in shadows. The only thing keeping him alive is
his quest to stop the Silver Mage from reassembling the crystal. His
chance finally comes through the hearts and wills of Delin and
Fennic. Dakeb bestows upon them the crystal shard, entrusting them
with the one thing capable of restoring peace to Malweir.
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Delin gradually overcame his fear as his eyes grew used to the dark and started to explore. The main room was sparsely decorated, even for a hermit. A rickety old rocking chair sat next to the empty fireplace, and a small round table by the window. The shelf on the wall held a few colored vases and a handful of books. A brilliant silver sword was mounted on the mantle behind it, drawing Fennic’s full attention. Delin grew bolder, knowing that if Wiffe was home he’d have come out by now. He decided to look through the rest of the cottage.

Fennic didn’t move. He knew he should be afraid, but the sword whispered to him, calming his nerves and opening his mind to an infinite number of possibilities. Great tales and high adventure lay within the steel, and Fennic Attleford found himself wondering what it would be like to live that life.

“I finished checking the other room,” Delin announced. He came to stand beside Fennic and looked up at the sword, not seeing what held Fennic’s attention. It was just an old piece of steel.

“All right,” Fennic answered blankly.

“He doesn’t have much, just a plain cot with a half-filled wardrobe. There are lots of herbs and spices and stuff over there where the kitchen area is. The pantry is stocked with jars of food and dried meat.” He paused, noticing Fennic’s empty stare. “Are you listening?”

Fennic wasn’t. Instead, he was reaching for the shining sword. It called to him, begged him to take it from the mantle and carry out their destiny together. What deeds they could accomplish! Folks would tell of the unstoppable Fennic and his silver sword for generations.

“You shouldn’t mess with that,” Delin warned.

Nonsense. “Who’s going to know?”

Fennic opened his mouth to reply when the baying of an old hound dog echoed around the clearing. Old Man Wiffe was coming home. Delin ran to the door in time to see the recluse entering the clearing. They were trapped. He turned and was astonished to see Fennic brandishing the sword like a professional arms man.

“Put that back! We need to get out of here now.”

Fennic marveled at the way the sword cut through the air, whistling with superiority. What a wondrous thing this silver sword was. Delin snatched him by the wrist, breaking the spell. Wild eyes stared back at him.

“Didn’t you hear me? Wiffe is back!”

Panic struck Fennic. He hurried to replace the sword, lest he was caught with it in his hands. What would Wiffe think? That he was stealing the sword? Chances were that he would kill both of them. He ran to the window and peered out. There was nothing out there. No dog, no sign of the old man. “I think it’s safe. I don’t see anyone,” he said.

The door groaned open and the old hound snapped at them. A heavy shadow fell on them.

“Well, well. What have I here?” the deep voice rolled like thunder across the mountains.

Panic gripped them. Delin briefly considered running out the back window but the dog snapping and barking at his feet stopped him immediately. Fennic’s heart skipped. The sword whispered, begged to be used, but Fennic was couldn’t move.

“Would be thieves come to rob an old man? I don’t think so,” said the newcomer with unmistakable menace in his tone.

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Christian W. Freed was born in Buffalo, N.Y. more years ago than he would like
to remember. After spending more than 20 years in the active duty US
Army he has turned his talents to writing. Since retiring, he has
gone on to publish 17 military fantasy and science fiction novels, as
well as his memoirs from his time in Iraq and Afghanistan. His first
published book (Hammers in the Wind) has been the #1 free book on
Kindle 4 times and he holds a fancy certificate from the L Ron
Hubbard Writers of the Future Contest.
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Passionate about history, he combines his knowledge of the past with modern
military tactics to create an engaging, quasi-realistic world for the
readers. He graduated from Campbell University with a degree in
history and is pursuing a Masters of Arts degree in Military History
from Norwich University. He currently lives outside of Raleigh, N.C.
and devotes his time to writing, his family, and their two Bernese
Mountain Dogs. If you drive by you might just find him on the porch
with a cigar in one hand and a pen in the other.
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Follow the tour HERE
for exclusive excerpts and a giveaway!
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Blog Tour & Giveaway: Blossoms of the Heart by Khardine Gray

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Blossoms of the Heart
by Khardine Gray
Genre: Contemporary Romance
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The most intense and passionate romance you’ll read this year.
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Why do I fall for guys I can’t have?
Okay, it’s not guys –plural.
It’s just one guy.
THE guy.
When I was 18 he stole my heart.
Tai was the guy I wasn’t supposed to have…
The tattooed rebel my mother told to stay away from me.
My heart stopped beating that day.
I was off- limits to him and he was forbidden to me.
I never thought I’d see him again.
He stayed away, just like my mother demanded.
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Until… fate decided to hand us an all-access card eleven years later.
Leaving it to us to work out the kinks.
We got to see what could have happened if we got together.
Then it became complicated….
The passion and heat between us is wild.
Scorching hot and consuming.
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He wants more. So much more…
But I can’t give him more…
This time it’s not my mother telling me I can’t have him.
It’s life …
Because … now I have a secret.
A secret that could tear us apart.
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**This is a full length novel with a happily ever after, no cliffhanger, no
cheating, and plenty of steam. ***

If you like hot, steamy, romance with gorgeous, drool worthy ex-marines
that, you will like this book.
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**Only .99 cents!**
Goodreads * Amazon
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Khardine Gray is a contemporary romance author who lives in England with her
husband, two kids, and three crazy ferrets.

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She is well traveled, cultured, and a woman with a passion for dancing
and ice skating.
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When not writing you can catch her shopping, indulging on pizza and hot
chocolate, or hanging out with her family and friends.
No need to spend money on an airline ticket. Simply pick up one of
Khardine’s books to become immersed in the fascinating stories and
characters she creates.
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for exclusive content and a giveaway!
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Blog Tour: The Kithseeker by M.K. Wiseman

 

The Kithseeker

France, 1680

Liara’s defense of the Wizard Nagarath has rendered Anisthe incantate–bereft of magick–but even this cannot guarantee her safety. Because the death of her father-in-magick would seal the girl’s fate, necessity demands she and her wizard maintain a watchful eye on the war mage, while protecting her from his dark designs.

Anisthe has embarked on a journey across Europe, aided by his half-fey manservant with an agenda all his own. They search for a legendary mirror that contains the world’s most powerful magick. Although the stuff of fairytales, the possibility of its existence compels Nagarath and Liara to seek the artifact themselves. Both know that should Anisthe lay claim to that power, Liara would be at his mercy and not even Nagarath could save her.

Thus, the pair find themselves at Versailles, surrounded by agents who ferret out magick users and destroy them. Uncertain who is friend and who is foe, with their rival on their heels, they must discover the mirror before Anisthe releases its evil, or worse, it lays claim to Liara’s magick and brings doom upon them all.

Purchase Links

Amazon

Amazon UK

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Guest Post

On Penning ‘Book 2’ of a Series

I’m a plotter, not a pantser. The Kithseeker is book 2 of a fully arced and outlined series. There are hooks and hints (and even some “red herrings”) built into the first and second outings and I know where it all goes in the end.

That said, I never expected the tumult that would come of introducing new characters. Yes, this in a fully plotted, fully arced series. Yes, this from someone who—compliments of her animation background—makes a stat sheet for every character before starting off working. For my main characters had become comfortable and I had grown complacent in the brief “off-season” that I granted myself between penning books 1 and 2.

Liara and Nagarath’s relationship has just … how do I say this? What I know and what the reader knows are two necessarily different things. Even when it’s all done and I’ve put the final punctuation on the final page. Which leaves me with a whole host of possibilities and wicked agendas when it comes to writing the next piece.

Even fully locked in to an outline, I found myself flabbergasted to discover book 2’s backwards alteration of book 1. (As The Kithseeker went through final edits, The Bookminder was flying through audio book production.) And I wondered, if that was changing for me, what does that do to the story and all my careful plotting?

As I found out: absolutely nothing. I just needed to learn how to write ‘a second book’ (having, of course, already learned how to write ‘a first book’). Funny, that.

As the series goes on, the world and story necessarily expands. The leap from book 1 to 2 is a different leap than books 2 to 3, I’m finding. The characters and elements that make entrance in Kithseeker now get to play with the same freedom as those introduced in Bookminder. There is never a time when the “heavy lifting” is done. When that happens, the story will have reached its natural conclusion and I’ll be able to take another off-season break for myself. Or, more likely, when that happens I’ll simply grab onto a new project and start the cycle all over again.

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Author Bio 

M. K. Wiseman has degrees in animation/video and library science – both from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Today, her office is a clutter of storyboards and half-catalogued collections of too, too many books. (But, really, is there such a thing as too many books?) When she’s not mucking about with stories, she’s off playing brač or lying in a hammock in the backyard of her Cedarburg home that she shares with her endlessly patient husband.

Social Media Links –

https://twitter.com/FaublesFables

https://www.facebook.com/FaublesFables/

https://www.instagram.com/faublesfables/

https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7073540.M_K_Wiseman

http://mkwisemanauthor.com

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Blog Tour & Giveaway: The Artist and the Soldier by Angelle Petta

 

Historical Fiction

Date Published: May 1, 2018

Publisher: Warren Publishing

 

Two young men come of age and fall in love, set against the backdrop of true events in World War II

 It’s 1938. Bastian Fisher and Max Amsel meet at an American-Nazi camp, Siegfried. Neither have any idea what to do with their blooming, confusing feelings for one another. Before they can begin to understand, the pair is yanked apart and forced in opposite directions.

Five years later, during the heart of World War II, Bastian’s American army platoon lands in Salerno, Italy. Max is in Nazi-occupied Rome where he has negotiated a plan to hire Jews on as ‘extras’ in a movie—an elaborate ruse to escape the Nazis. Brought together by circumstance and war, Bastian and Max find one another again in Rome.

Exploring the true stories of Camp Siegfried and the making of the film, La Porta del Cielo, The Artist and the Soldier is intense, fast moving, and sheds light on largely untouched stories in American and Italian history.

Purchase Links

Amazon: https://amzn.to/2x2W2y7

Barnes and Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-artist-and-the-soldier-angelle-petta/1128404614?ean=9781943258727

Warren: http://www.warrenpublishing.net/store/p166/The_Artist_and_the_Soldier-By_Angelle_Petta.html 

Indiebound: https://www.indiebound.org/book/9781943258727

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About the Author

Angelle holds an MA from Emerson College, and a master’s equivalency in Drama Therapy through the NADTA.  She is a registered drama therapist and a PhD student at Lesley University.  She works as a Drama Therapist at an Expressive Arts Center in Virginia called A Place To Be. She lives in Northern Virginia with her husband, two delightful dogs, and one fat cat.

  

Contact Links

Website: angellepetta.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/angellepetta/

Twitter: @angellepetta

Goodreads:  https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/39170800-the-artist-and-the-soldier

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Giveaway

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Blog Tour & Giveaway: A Secret to Kill For by T.N. Lowe

A Secret To Kill For
Secret and Lies Book 1
by T.N. Lowe
Genre: Suspense
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Secrets can ruin lives, break bonds, and destroy families.
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Some secrets are so important they are worth killing for.
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Erin had everything she ever wanted, her dream job as a FBI agent
like her father and grandfather, assisting the lead agent in a head line
catching serial murder case, and a boyfriend who loves her.
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Until she lost everything. The boyfriend, the journalist who she thought
loves her, lied on a story causing Erin to lose everything she worked for.
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After rebuilding her life in a quaint mountain town in Colorado, Erin
learns her family has a dark secret she was never supposed to learn.
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The Messenger?
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The serial murderer she was hunting.
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As I walk into the station the next morning, Roy meets me at the reception desk, “Don’t bother to sit down, there’s been a murder.”

“What happened?” I ask, following him to the cruiser.

“Not sure. Some hiker stumbled onto a woman in the forest.  It looked like she was tied to a tree and cut up pretty bad. The Rangers have cleared the area and are waiting for us,” Roy explains. “I’ve been the Chief for almost twenty years; there’s never been a murder in Moose Valley.”

It can’t be, that’s all I can think as Roy and I drive to the scene. There is no way it could be the D.C. Carver. But the scene sounds like him; the women tied to a tree, being cut up, no evidence left at the scene. It sounds similar, that’s all I can think as Roy parks the car, and we walk to where the woman is covered by a white sheet.

 

Roy lifts the sheet to see the woman underneath, and gasps, “My God. Have you ever seen anything like this before?”

Studying the words and symbols carved into the body, I look Roy straight in the eye and say, “Call the FBI, it’s the D.C. Carver.”

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Growing up in a military family, TN Lowe grew up traveling the world.
Living in the Netherlands, Italy, Missouri, Wyoming, Colorado and Texas.
Currently she resides in Texas with her husband of twelve years and two dogs.
Honestly, she never thought of becoming an author. After high school, she went to a
trade school and obtained an Associate’s Degree of Applied Science as
an x-ray tech and medical assistant. After working a variety of
different jobs, she accepted a position as a medical assistant at a
hospital in Cheyenne, Wyoming. After a couple of years she
became a desk clerk in the hospital. Wanting to do more, she went
back to school and obtained her Bachelor’s degree in psychology.
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When she is not writing, TN Lowe enjoys visiting her family, traveling, cooking,
music and reading. She is also a huge movie buff loving all genres,
but comedies and action adventure are her favorites. TN Lowe also has
a love for classic muscle cars obtained by working on vehicles with
her father while growing up.
TN Lowe released her first book, Saving Ginny in February 2018.
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Follow the tour HERE
for exclusive content and a giveaway!
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