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Genre – Juvenile Fiction/Bedtime and Dreams
Rating – G
Dealing with the Bad Review Blues
As my friends know, Josh Ritter is my celebrity soul mate. In my humble opinion, he is the best lyricist of my generation. He’s amazing and if you’ve never heard of him, definitely check him out.
A few years ago, when his album The Historical Conquests of Josh Ritter was released, I read an interview in which the interviewer asked him if he worried about upsetting his fans by departing so drastically from his previous efforts. His response was something to the effect of this: If you’re an artist, you should be upsetting people.
I think what he meant was that artists aren’t trying to please everyone. They are trying to express their vision. If you try to please everyone, you end up in a Fahrenheit 451 world where everything is sanitized and simplified and boring. But if you stay true to your vision, you might inspire strong emotions in people, which is what art is supposed to do. When some people feel strongly that a work of art is amazing, others will undoubtedly dislike it.
Or at least, this is what I tell myself when Watch Me Disappear gets a bad review.
Novels, like any other art form, are subjective and personal. What one person likes will be off-putting to another. All you have to do to see objective proof of this is to look up your favorite book on GoodReads.
For instance, one of the best books I’ve read in a long time is Barbara Kingsolver’s latest, Flight Behavior. I loved it from page one and have recommended it to all my book-loving friends. It has gotten 491 four- or five-star reviews. Obviously a lot of people agree with me. It has also gotten 52 one- or two-star reviews. 7% of people who read it didn’t like it. It is possible that some of the people I recommended it to will read it and wonder what the heck I liked so much.
In a more dramatic example, consider The Great Gatsby, one of the most beautiful novels of all time. Over 550,000 people gave it four- or five-star reviews, but over 120,000 gave it one- or two-star reviews.
Knowing all of this only makes it a marginally easier for a writer to read a bad review. It’s like overhearing someone bad-mouthing you. You go through life well aware that not everyone is going to like you, but it shakes your confidence when you actually hear someone put you down. Or course, in life, most people have the good grace not to be confrontational about their dislikes, but online, in the world of books, everyone is a critic and manners are nonexistent.
That my first novel has a very respectable average 3.56 rating out of 45 reviews on Goodreads should not be a source of such distress (consider that it got four-stars on much respected IndieReader.com and was a Kindle Book Review Best Indie Book Award finalist in 2013), but in the indie book world, 3.56 doesn’t sell books. If you want to sell books, you need five stars. That’s how you get noticed Amazon’s algorithms, that’s how you become discoverable.
The pressure to get five-star reviews has led some indie authors, among them a number of the best-selling darlings of the self-pub movement, to the odious decision to pay for reviews. I don’t mean paying someone to read and review his or her book. I mean paying a “book promotion” company a certain dollar amount for a certain number of top reviews. The “reviewers” had no obligation to read or actually like the book. As if self-publishing didn’t already raise suspicions about quality.
Some indie authors have also taken the childish approach of scolding and verbally attacking people who gave them bad reviews. Another great way to gain respect for self publishing.
I think the solution is by taking the long view. Are you in it for big sales or are you in it to tell great stories? Do you want to be a rising star in world of self-publishing or do you want to be a writer? If you want to tell great stories and be a writer, be a professional about it. Do your best writing, put it out there, and when you get a bad review, give yourself a few seconds for a pity-party and then get back to your writing.
To my fellow authors, I leave you with a word from Nathaniel Hawthorne (no stranger to the bad review):
“When [the author] casts his leaves forth upon the wind, the author addresses, not the many who will fling aside his volume, or never take it up, but the few who will understand him, better than most of his schoolmates or lifemates.”
To amateur book reviewers, I leave you with a word from Yeats (also no stranger to criticism):
“I have spread my dreams under your feet;
Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.”
What is it about guys with guitars in their hands that makes them so irresistible, even when they are obviously self-centered jerks? If Abby and Maggie could answer that question, maybe they could finally get over Nathaniel. There’s just something about him when he picks up his guitar and gets behind the microphone, something that makes sensible women act like teenyboppers instead of rational, self-respecting adults.
Abby was first sucked in by Nathaniel’s rock ‘n roll swagger four years ago when a drunken fling turned into a series of drunken hook-ups that became something like a relationship. Now, as New Year’s Eve promises a fresh start, she wants to believe he’s finally going to grow up and take their relationship seriously.
What does Nathaniel hope the New Year will bring? An escape from the disappointing realities of his life. He’s thirty-four years old and he’s barely making ends meet as an adjunct philosophy professor, which was always only a backup plan anyway. Nathaniel’s real goal was always to make his living as a musician, but his band, The Latecomers, broke up a couple of years ago, and he hasn’t picked up his guitar in months.
When he decides to spend the holiday with some high school friends instead of hanging out at the bar where Abby works, he gets the happy surprise of reuniting with his long-lost friend Maggie. Newly divorced, Maggie has just moved back to her mother’s house to regroup. Nathaniel and Maggie were supposed to be the ones who left Worcester forever to conquer the world. He was going to be a rock star. She was going to take the world of art by storm. He’s never gotten farther than Boston, and her best efforts only left her broke and heartbroken.
As they ring in the New Year together, Nathaniel decides it’s time to take control of his life and to start making his dreams come true. He thinks the first step will be easy. All he needs to do is break up with Abby and finally admit his feelings for Maggie. But the New Year has more surprises in store, and nothing is ever as simple as it seems.
Genre – Women’s Literature
Rating – PG-13
More details about the author
“Whew, we made it,” Melody Wilkins said with a laugh as she, Lance Dunn, and Imani Jordan escaped the throng of fraternity partygoers.
Imani brushed past Melody, eager to enjoy the relative oasis of the makeshift bar. She pulled up a stool and swallowed her disappointment. During their mad, congested dash from the front door to the back bar, she scanned the two hundred plus, hard-dancing students looking for Trevor, but to no avail.
She pasted on a smile to prevent Melody or Lance from misinterpreting things. Hell, even she didn’t know what to expect from the Trevor situation. All she knew was that she liked hanging out with him in and out of class. Imani checked her expression in the nick of time before Lance caught her eye.
Lance winked and arranged his muscular, 6’2” frame into a GQ stance while he stroked his goatee, a pose that he assumed oozed sexy charm. Please, like he didn’t already generate enough attention when they entered the fraternity house, working the room like a campaigning politician or the ridiculous jock he was.
Imani tried to choke back a guffaw as Melody watched her in amusement. But much to Imani’s awe and chagrin, Lance’s ridiculous antics started working. Four attractive girls honed in on Lance’s horny, homing beacon, their mouths almost salivating.
What the hell? Imani frowned as two of the girls shot her and Melody jealous daggers. All of this unwarranted attention just because Lance played football the last two games of the season and played well?
Imani sucked her teeth and turned to the bar. “Damn, I’m ready to get my swerve on!”
“Well, you deserve a drink,” Melody replied as she hopped her petite, frame onto a stool to Imani’s left. Melody’s thick, blond curls bounced about like springs. “Heck, after our intense studying all week and your physics exam today; you deserve to unwind.”
Right on cue the attractive fraternity brother acting as the bartender meandered over. “What can I get you, Sugar?”
“Two amaretto sours,” she said gesturing to Melody and herself, “and one vodka tonic for him,” she said nodding towards Lance.
“Sure thing, Sugar,” he replied with a wink.
After the flirty bartender departed, she elbowed Lance in his side. “You’re awful quiet.”
“I’m sure he’s thinking what I’m thinking,” Melody said, swiveling her stool around to face them. “Looking at all these beautiful faces and wondering which person is the one, that magical one, true love.”
“Oh Lord, here we go!” Imani moaned and leaned back against the bar.
“Ah, let me handle this, Imani.” Lance clapped Melody’s back. “Dear, deluded Melody,” he said, then he stroked his mustache and goatee. “In actuality, I was looking at all of these beautiful women and wondering which one is going to end up in my bed. However, it seems I need to school you.” He cleared his throat and his deep voice took on a preacher-like quality.
“Love is highly overrated. It’s this fantasyland you read about in those Harlequin rags you devour. A vicious lie parents tell their little girls.” He shook his head and shrugged. “That’s why the divorce rate is so high. Unreasonable expectations.”
“Thoughts, Imani?” Melody smiled knowing she could get a rise out of her. Melody’s gray-green eyes twinkled in anticipation against her golden-tanned skin.
“Lance is kinda right.” Imani’s nose scrunched up, hating to agree with Lance. “You’re one of these women that fosters unrealistic fantasies about the fairytale wedding and living happily ever after. That shit don’t happen.” Imani threw Lance a scathing look. “But love does exist and it ain’t overrated.”
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Genre – New Adult, Contemporary
Rating – R
More details about the author
Quality Reads UK Book Club Disclosure: Author interview / guest post has been submitted by the author and previously used on other sites.
Midshipman Henry Gallant In Space
A massive solar flare roared across the pockmarked face of the sun producing static interference on every display console operating in the tiny spacecraft as it approached the United Planets’ battle cruiser Repulse in orbit around Jupiter.
“No need to worry young man, we’re almost there,” said the aged pilot.
“I’m not concerned about the storm,” said newly commissioned Midshipman Henry Gallant. Eagerly, he shifted in his seat to get a better glimpse of the massive ship that was to become his new home for the next two years.
The pilot maneuvered expertly to minimize the worst effects of the x-ray and gamma radiation until the craft made its tortured way from the sunlit brilliance into the cold black shadow of Repulse. The tiny ship quivered gently as its tractors reached out to the behemoth warship, slowly drawing alongside.
When it attached to the Repulse’s docking hatch, Gallant transferred to the warship and made his way to the bridge. He found the Officer of the Watch standing next to the empty captain’s chair surrounded by its nest of displays and virtual readouts. The officer rested his hand briefly on the panel concealing the Artificial Intelligence (AI) tactical analyzer.
“Midshipman Henry Gallant reporting aboard, sir,” he said, standing as tall as his seventeen-year-old gangly figure would allow. He tugged at his uniform blouse to straighten the buttons into proper alignment.
“Welcome aboard, Mr. Gallant. I’m Lieutenant Mather.” Mather was of average height, barrel-chested with sharp-angular facial features. Stoic, he showed little interest in the new arrival. “Please give me your comm pin.”
Gallant handed over his pin and Mather made several quick selections on a touch screen console. He swiped the pin passed the chip reader which loaded the ID and personnel information into Repulse’s computer.
Gallant took the opportunity to look around the spacious semicircular compartment with its numerous apparatus and instruments. The captain’s seat was centrally located and he noticed that many of the other chairs were also unoccupied. Apparently some watch stations were only manned during conditions of higher alert.
He observed the watch standers carrying out their ritual duties. The communication panel was manned by a midshipman who looked occupied with an incoming message. The radar station was also manned, but by a technician who was diligently studying his display. Gallant couldn’t tell what he was tracking, but there were several blips on the scope. The weapons and astrogator positions were vacant; several science analysis stations were operating automatically. To Gallant’s approving eye, the entire bridge watch seemed a model of efficiency and diligence, just as he had been trained to expect at the academy.
Soon his attention was captured by the huge view screen at the front of the compartment that revealed the gas giant Jupiter with its orbiting space station. He marveled at the spectacle.
“Junior officer authorization, verified. The ID pin has been updated with Repulse’s access codes,” announced a computer’s voice emanating from a nearby speaker. It had a neutral soothing tone that reminded Gallant of a rather cold and distant teacher he had had in basic math years ago.
“Did you bring your personal gear aboard?” asked Mather.
“My duffle bag is forward at the docking port, sir.” The aged pilot had helped Gallant carry his gear from the craft through the airlock onto Repulse. He had given him a cheery smile and said, “Good luck,” as he departed. Having no family of his own, Gallant had found some faint comfort in the good wishes.
“I’ll have your gear sent to your quarters. For now, you had better see the captain,” said Mather, as he flicked an eyebrow at Gallant.
“Aye, aye, sir,” said Gallant.
Mather turned to one of the bridge’s junior officers, a young woman who wore a single thin gold stripe on her blouse sleeve indicating she was a Midshipman First Class, one year senior to Gallant. He ordered, “Midshipman Mitchel, take Mr. Gallant to the captain’s cabin.”
As they left the bridge, Mitchel said, “Henry Gallant. I remember you from the academy. I’m surprised you’re still in uniform.”
Gallant grit his teeth, as he had done many times before when confronted with what he perceived as overt disapproval. He didn’t recognize her, but he couldn’t help observe that she was a pretty brunette with a trim figure.
“Will you be training as fighter pilot, or missile weapon’s officer?” she asked.
“I had basic fighter training on Mars and I will be taking advanced pilot training with Repulse’s Squadron 111.”
“I’m a qualified second seat astrogator in 111. Most likely, we’ll wind up flying together at some point.”
Since her demeanor displayed no indication that that state of affairs either repelled or appealed to her, Gallant merely nodded.
When they reached the captain’s cabin, she said, “I’m Kelsey by the way. Good luck.”
Gallant watched her walk away, wondering if the remark was sincere.
Genre – Science Fiction
Rating – G
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Quality Reads UK Book Club Disclosure: Author interview / guest post has been submitted by the author and previously used on other sites.
Seven Tips to Make Journaling Your Writing Ally
Author: Carla Woody
Once you consider a writing project, you embark on a journey of sorts. This is particularly true if the idea won’t leave you alone, and you’re compelled to pursue it. You become involved in a process, not unlike the
Hero’s Journey that mythologist Joseph Campbell documented in his many books.
For most of us, it takes courage to face the blank page to even get started. Then there’s writer’s block which can raise its ugly head…and…ugh…the rewrite and editing. In those times, don’t you wonder why you ever considered writing to begin with?
What I’ve found over the years is that journaling can be your ally and get you through—if you really use it that way. Here are tips on seven areas that are rich to dig into. By focusing on them, you’ll not only gain increased understanding of yourself but added material for your writing—and inspiration.
1. Thoughts and feelings. A lot of authors would say that writing is a form of therapy. Depending on your subject matter, it can reignite hopes, bring up unresolved personal areas, create nostalgia or instill dreams. You may find yourself having old or new thoughts and feelings in the process. By journaling about what comes up, you can create: greater mental clarity, direction and stress release.
2. Resistance. If you find yourself dragging your feet on getting started, staying with it or even a particular character’s voice, look deeper. Is it something to do with an old personal pattern? Is your heart in the subject matter? Find out if it’s an authentic area of discomfort or how you get in your own way. Undoubtedly it’s emerged for a reason: resolution.
3. Creativity. New ideas and possibilities will crowd your mind as you leave an opening for them to emerge. Document and explore them. As you continue the process you can discover which ones are a right fit.
4. Dreams. By undertaking the writing journey, you’ve given a signal to your mind. You may dream vividly—and remember your dreams even if that’s normally not the case. You may find yourself working through personal things or storylines during sleeping hours. It’s particularly important to record your dreams at such times. Don’t think you’ll remember them. You won’t. They’re elusive. I’d encourage you to take the content of your dreams not so much literally as metaphorically. Look for symbolism. What could something represent? Then explore those elements.
5. Synchronicities. For me, when I’m immersed in a creative venture, it’s like living in some altered plane. Many folks report it that way. You may begin to notice great and small coincidences, more frequently, in your life. These aren’t coincidences at all, but a phenomenon called
synchronicity. Carl Jung first introduced the occurrences as simultaneous, unrelated happenings that aren’t so much grouped by cause but by the meaning they produce. Some may offer real guidance. Be alert! Journaling about them will help you notice.
6. Overall differences. Real transformation takes place at an unconscious level. When change occurs at that level, it lasts. There’s nothing you have to remind yourself to do or say, it just becomes part of who you are. It’s often a challenge to recognize the change going on inside because it seems so natural and can be subtle. In your journal, note what you find different in your life. Use the differences as markers of your progress, telling you where you’ve been and where you may yet want to go.
7. Acknowledgement. It is so important to acknowledge yourself at each step of the way. When any significant part of your project is complete…celebrate! How does it make you feel? What are your thoughts about having taken this journey? Don’t scrimp on this important part. It will provide inspiration for the next trip.
Of course, you can use what I’ve written here as guidelines for any aspect of your life, not just writing. I’ve adapted the content of this post from my mentoring program
Navigating Your Lifepath, which guides folks on how to live through their deeply held values—and thrive.
What is your experience with journaling? I’d love to see your comments below.
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Genre – Nonfiction, Spirituality
Rating – PG
Have you started another book yet?
I have fleshed out several scenarios. I have to pick the best vehicle for me.
Where do you see yourself in five years?
Hollywood maybe politics.
What are your current writing projects now?
Are you reading any interesting books at the moment?
A Doctor Who book by Douglas Adams
Are there any new authors that have sparked your interest and why?
I have been so involved with marketing that my time has been consumed by that.
What are some of the best tools available today for writers, especially those just starting out?
The internet and get a good publicist.
What contributes to making a writer successful?
Not being afraid.
Do you have any advice for writers?
Be fearless. It is your book. Write it your way. If you don’t like it, throw it out.
Do you have any specific last thoughts that you want to say to your readers?
Do not be afraid of the subject matter of the written word. Ignorance is a sin. Educate yourself and make up your own mind.
What do you do to unwind and relax?
Exercise and music
What dreams have been realized as a result of your writing?
I can hold my book in my hand and put it on a bookshelf. That gives me an immense sense of pride.
Do you have any upcoming appearances that you would like to share with us?
Apparently I will be abseiling down Mount Everest on a piece of dental floss with a copy of my book clenched between my teeth. Seriously? I will be on Radio National ABC Australia very soon.
If you could leave your readers with one bit of wisdom, what would you want it to be?
When you see someone in pain help them. One act of compassion. One act of empathy. One act of kindness, can change their world forever.
When you wish to end your career, stop writing, and look back on your life, what thoughts would you like to have?
Should have learnt how to use a semicolon correctly; damn!
The King of Sunday Morning is a geezer. Not in the traditional sense of the word as in old man. This geezer is a face, a wannabe, a top notch bloke. He is the greatest DJ that never was. He should have been. Could have been. Would have been. Now becoming a has-been.
Tray McCarthy was born into privilege but with the genetic coding of London’s violent East End. Having broken the underworld’s sacred honour code, it is only his family’s gangland connections that save him. But in return for his life, he must deny that which he has ever known or ever will be and runs to Australia where he is forced to live an inconsequential life.
But trouble never strays far from Tray McCarthy and eventually his past and present collide to put everyone he has ever loved in danger. He must now make a stand and fight against those that are set to destroy him and play their game according to his rules.
Set against the subterfuge and violence of the international drugs trade, The King of Sunday Morning is the tale of what can go wrong when you make bad decisions. Tray McCarthy has made some of the worst. He must now save those he holds dear but in the process gets trapped deeper and deeper into a world where he doesn’t belong.
“I want three pump-action shotguns, about twelve sticks of dynamite and a blowtorch”
THIS BOOK CONTAINS EXPLICIT LANGUAGE, FREQUENT DRUG USE AND SEX SCENES – NOT RECOMMENDED FOR PEOPLE UNDER 18 YEARS OF AGE
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Genre – Thriller, Action, Suspense, Gangster, Crime, Music
Rating – PG-18
More details about the author
Tell us a bit about your family
My family is a different sort of family. My father is a medium and I grew up learning much about spirituality, ghosts, and ‘the other side’. His controversial teachings caught the attention of the NBC Today Show, Time Magazine and other media sources.
I’ve never felt it necessary to read books on spirituality because it was taught to me as I was growing up. It was taught through example, love, and general discussions. I also passed this onto my own daughter as she was growing up.
I’m thankful for my childhood, especially as I began to develop my own medium abilities. I knew I could talk to my family and understand how it all worked or why certain things would happen.
How do you work through self-doubts and fear?
In the past, I’ve had to work past a lot of fear. Fear around ghosts, fear around ridicule, and fear around my daughter making painful life-long choices. Each fear that surfaced, I had to do something with it. A lot of times, I would try to deny the fear and push it aside. That is until the fear was in my face and I could no longer deny it. I had to confront the fear and stop giving it control over my mind. If my fear says I shouldn’t do ‘that’, then I do it anyway. That is confronting the fear.
It’s the same with self-doubt. I have to identify from where the doubt is coming and address it face forward. If I deny the self-doubt, it just gets stronger. In addition, the more respect I have for myself, the less self-doubt I have. Strong self-respect, a self-knowingness, and positive pride cannot reside with self-doubt. They are opposites.
How did you develop your writing?
As a child, I always loved writing stories. A story would enter my mind and I would immediately go to my notebook and begin writing down whatever story plot was entertaining me at the time. I loved doing that until I took a creative writing class in community college.
I allowed the instructor to determine my self-worth about my own writing ability. So I stopped writing in a creative fashion. As I worked towards my degrees in Special Education and Public Administration, I only wrote in an academic format. That was safer for me and I was good at it after writing so many college papers.
Even after I stopped working as a teacher, I wrote articles for newsletters and a local free paper. My writing style continued to be very academic. When I began writing my memoir, I had to shift from academic style to creative style so that my story would be interesting to read.
I had an editor who assisted me in this process of writing good dialogue, paying attention to redundancy, and structure. I improved my creative writing style through practice. I didn’t take any classes. I just wrote my story and then edited and re-wrote it so many times that now I know how to write in a creative way.
Tell us about your new book. What is it about and why did you write it?
My book is my memoir-Loving Conor; A Clairvoyant’s Memoir on Loving, Bonding and Healing. I work with the public as a medium/clairvoyant, but my story is less about that and more about my daughter and her son, Conor.
The story began when I was eighteen years old and in an abusive marriage. I walked away from my marriage at nineteen, with a month-old baby, and no money. I continued to make painful relationship choices until I turned twenty-two years old and I realized my pattern. I met my second husband who continues to love and support me in my work.
The story moves quickly to my daughter’s teenage years in which her anger profoundly develops toward her biological father and also her desire for older teenage boys. My daughter’s anger was expressed in different ways and my anxiety level was high much of the time during her teenage years.
At the same time, my medium abilities were developing when my daughter was around age thirteen and fourteen. In one of the chapters, I explain how it developed and some of the people I approached in a public setting who had a ghost attached to them.
When my daughter was around age fifteen, she fell in-lust with a boy of age twenty-one and who carried similar personality characteristics to her biological father. She became pregnant at age sixteen and we found out just how traumatized and angry the soul of her unborn child was. With my medium abilities, I had to help him begin healing his anger while he was still in spirit form-before birth. We talked with him while he was in spirit form. I had no idea if what we were doing would work. But this is how we came to love Conor. Did it work? Read it to find out! Also, my daughter writes her perspective at the end of the book too.
When you are not writing, how do you like to relax?
I am the type of person who has to have relaxation time. I can’t say for certainty when that developed, but I’ve been that way a long time. I relax differently depending on where I’m at and what time of day it is.
I like to relax through reading, listening to music from the 1940s and 1930s, drinking wine, taking walks, exercising/hiking, taking naps, watching music videos, and meditating. It’s not difficult for me to relax. I especially like low-key mornings. I’ll have my ‘old school’ Big Band Swing music on, drinking my coffee, and I’ll be on my computer. Or on a weekend evening I’ll have ‘old school’ Jazz playing, enjoying a Grey Goose martini or Kendall Jackson chardonnay, cheese and salami or crackers.
Relaxation is very important to me-just as important as my work. Balance.
What are you the most passionate about? What gets you fired up?
When I see or read about parents physically punishing their children or I read comments in which people say children need to be punished more gets me really fired up.
People have a misperception that punishment teaches respect. Like attracts like and like teaches like. Most people can agree that we learn by our parents’ examples more so than their lectures. We learn by what we see, feel, and experience. Punishment teaches punishment. Respect teaches respect. Consequences teach respect for outcomes. Punishment teaches how to hide so not get caught and it teaches the cycle of punishment.
Most people who were consistently punished as children continue that cycle as an adult. For some, it’s a major issue and for some not as major. Self-punishment is a synonym for self-judgment, self-sabotage, self-denial, and allowing others to control you on some level.
We can raise our children to be respectful by creating strong boundaries, offering respect, and delivering consequences without the energy of punishment or judgment. It just takes a lot more work and involvement.
What is your greatest strength as a writer?
I think my greatest strength is taking the time to write. But, that wasn’t always the case. I had to have my inspiration. A strong desire had to be there and then I always had time to write and edit my work.
Broke, with a month-old baby, nineteen-year old Tami Urbanek walks away from an abusive marriage only to find herself wallowing in anxiety and confusion, wondering how she will survive. At the time, she had no idea that the journey in front of her would guide her so far away from fear of financial survival and instead would push her into the realm of healing and spirituality. As the daughter of internationally renowned medium, Hossca Harrison, Tami seeks the assistance of her loving parents and a spiritual teacher named Jonah. With their help, she begins to understand herself and her daughter, whose adolescent path of destruction threatens to tear apart their relationship. As Tami’s own clairvoyant abilities surface, she is challenged with the task of helping not just her daughter, but the child that her sixteen-year old daughter is carrying: a child whose painful past life still haunts him and which must be resolved before his birth. Told with humor, insight and honesty, Tami’s story challenges readers’ minds as it touches their hearts, and when the last page is turned, it is a story not easily forgotten.
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Genre – Memoir
Rating – PG-13
More details about the author
President Obama quieted members of the C.T.F. and pressed a red communication button. Thunder burst almost directly above the White House, vibrating the windowpanes and startling everyone in the room. The static screen came into focus, revealing Chinese President Xi Jinping. He was sitting in an ornate gold chair wearing a black suit, a pretty white cat sitting in his lap. He gave the cat gentle pets and smiled at the screen, reminding a few senators unfamiliar with Chinese people of Leslie Chow, the character from The Hangover.
Congresswoman Bachmann not familiar with that film looked at the screen and whispered to Senator Ted Cruz, “I heard they eat them; that’s probably his breakfast.”
President Xi Jinping continued to pet his cat and responded, “Not true, Mrs. Bachmann, you have us confused with the Koreans.”
“No, I heard it my prayer group. I’m not going to fall for your communist lies. Oh dear, that poor cat.”
President Obama raised his hand. “Please, Congresswoman Bachmann, let us show some respect to President Xi Jinping.”
“It is okay, President Obama. She does not know any better; her YouTube videos are very popular in China—well, we ban most American videos, but still let hers in for our own political reasons.” Jinping continued to run his fingers through his cat’s fur. “If you must know, Congresswoman Bachmann, China is actually going to go on entire country vegan diet.”
Bachmann shook her head again in disgust. “That sounds about right, you’re a bunch of wall-building pansies…and stop putting that MSG in your General Tso’s chicken; it causes great problems to my husband’s health. You should be paying me, huh.”
Even the Chinese President decided not to mention Mr. Bachmann’s rumored homosexuality. “We are not, as you say, pansies. We are a very disciplined people and lover of animals. I love this cat, her name…17 Trillion Dollar Debt.” Jinping laughed as the storm got stronger.
The thunder was so loud it spooked the money sum-debt named cat on the end of the teleconference speakers and she jumped off the Chinese President’s lap. Jinping brushed the cat hair off his suit. “I hear the weather is quite deadly in Washington today, almost unnatural sounding. Maybe it like your capitalist economy and not functioning properly.”
President Obama tried to take control of the conversation. “The weather is acting strange but it doesn’t help that your carbon emissions have surpassed ours recently.”
“Do not change the subject, President Obama. We want to be clean; we have great plans for China, but my economic czars tell me we need money to do our great plans and we cannot do them till your debt is paid back. We need back now! You pay now! Your democracy move too slow. Always spending money on wars, and no win! I want pay now!”
“Now, now, President Xi Jinping, no need to get hasty and raise your voice. We are hurting right now. We had the recession. We’re still trying to recover from it, but you’re acting like sharks with blood in the water.”
The Chinese President smiled. “Ha, good choice of words, President Obama. I believe your English word for it is—foreshadowing.”
“Look, let’s be civil here, no need for that kind of talk. We both have nukes. We can’t have any kind talk of war—not over debt, not in the 21st century. We are both strong nations.”
“We don’t want war or to hurt global community. Nuclear war would be mutual destruction. But unless you pay the money you owe us, we must punish you; it Chinese lesson that thieves must be pay when they steal—they must pay back debt or meet white demon. It is in the Tao… probably. Either way today is day you learn this lesson or you shall perish.”
Obama’s brows furrowed, his usual cool demeanor shaken. A drop of sweat ran down his right cheek. “Let me be clear, President Xi Jinping. I don’t like where this going. Congress and I are doing our best to figure out the debt situation.”
“Your best not good enough; we are beating your country in science and math; we are soon to be new super power. We have great power that only your conspiracy countrymen on radio and Internet have realized. We can do things that no one would believe!” Jinping stopped and raised his eyebrow as another boom of thunder shook the White House. “Like, control the weather. Yes, it is true, we have figured it out; while you watch football and sex tapes, we study! While you eat hamburger, we eat fish, which is good for brain.”
Chinese President Xi Jinping then held up what looked a super-sized remote control; he smiled and pressed a button. “You will like this!”
The windows again rattled and the screen flipped to show different parts of the city. The storm throughout Washington became stronger; thunder cracked and rain increased, creating more flood-like conditions. An image of the White House barely visible through the precipitation made the C.T.F. collectively shudder. Members’ jaws dropped and they turned toward the window, where they saw raindrops so unreal, it was like the final battle of Matrix Revolutions.
The President of China smiled as gut-busting thunder caused a few in the room to whimper.
When the thunder stopped, Xi Jinping continued. “We must give you some credit. We the Chinese people are not ‘creatives,’ but love watching American cinema like X-Men Part 1 & 2. My scientists were inspired by Halle Berry’s African special powers, and learned to harness them. Soon your White House will be surrounded by water.”
Senator McCain shook his stiff arm at the screen. “You commie bastards. That’s why they gave Annapolis fake Intel.”
Joe Biden, back at the decanter, drank deeply from the scotch. “John, when you’re right, you’re right. I told you, Barry, we need to keep funding science, not your damn healthcare bill.”
“It’s funny you mention Annapolis, Senator McCain,” Jinping said. He clicked his over-sized remote again. The screen flipped to images of Annapolis. Through the sheets of rain, Annapolis looked like Michael Bay’s Pearl Harbor, with ships partially submerged and seamen struggling to escape the wreckage.
Biden rolled his eyes and finished his scotch. “That looks fake to me. Chinaman’s tricks. I’m not falling for it.”
President Obama’s jaw dropped. He didn’t think it looked fake at all.
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Genre – Fiction, Humor
Rating – PG-13
Who is your favorite author?
Nora Roberts is probably my favorite author. She does so many things so well as a writer. Her characters are compelling and her pacing is dynamic. Even after having written so many wonderful books, she still amazes me nearly every time I read her.
What book should everybody read at least once?
Gone With the Wind. I’ve read GWtW at least four times, and every time I read it, I learn something new.
What is hardest – getting published, writing or marketing?
With the advent of indie publishing, getting published is almost too easy. Not that I discourage anyone with a good story idea not to give it a try. Writing and marketing are equally difficult, but in different ways. Sometimes you sit down to write and you have the black screen and that darned blinking cursor staring at you and you haven’t the slightest idea what you’re going to write. Luckily for me, those moments don’t stretch out into something more substantial. I don’t necessarily ever get writer’s block, but I can understand how some people do. That blank page can be intimidating. I just remind myself that I control my output. Marketing, especially for a new author like myself, can be just as intimidating as that blank screen. Approaching reviewers can feel like those awkward childhood moments when you wanted to ask a boy to dance at a junior high dance.
Do you plan to publish more books?
The Good Life series is a trilogy, so yes I do. I’m hoping to complete the trilogy by the spring. And after that… I have an idea for a YA paranormal series. I don’t want to give away the details, but it’s going to be fun to write!
How do you write – lap top, pen, paper, in bed, at a desk?
Ever since I was little, I always had the romantic notion that someday I would write longhand in journals. But, realistically, that’s not how my brain works. I’ll write a sentence on my laptop and then rewrite it sometimes a dozen times. While I still harbor those romantic notions, writing in longhand would never work for me.
How much sleep do you need to be your best?
I wish I could get by with less sleep, but I’m a crabby zombie if I sleep less than eight hours a night. Nine hours would be even better, but the demands of work, family, and writing won’t allow it.
Every writer has their own idea of what a successful career in writing is, what does success in writing look like to you?
Really, if my characters entertain my readers for a few hours, then I’m doing my job. It’s hard to predict how many readers I’ll ever have, but I would feel like a success if my readers follow me from one book to the next.
Tell us about your new book? What’s it about and why did you write it?
From the book description:
A failed actress, twenty-something Julia McCarthy begins writing a fictionalized blog as a form of self-therapy. Based on her carefree summers at her grandparents’ farm, she never expects her little experiment to garner a viral following, but it does. Boy, does it ever.
Now, with thousands of loyal blog followers, and a syndication deal with the Chicago Herald, Julia is approached by GreenTV to adapt her blog into a TV show. The producers see her as a “Rachel Ray on the Prairie-type”. She sees herself as a fraud.
In Julia’s fictional world, she’s successful. She can pay her bills on time. Heck, she even has a fictional gorgeous husband and charming little boy. Ready to realize her dreams, Julia returns to her grandparents’ farm to shoot the TV pilot.
Brad Taylor is definitely not her type: he’s rugged, sensible, and oh-so smug about learning that Julia’s blog is a farce. As the manager of her grandparent’s farm, Brad doesn’t have time to deal with whimsical women who don’t even know how to cook.
Julia can’t allow her attraction to Brad to distract her, not when her dreams are about to come true. But are these truly her dreams, her good life?
A fun, fast (150 pages) contemporary romance
What’s your next project?
Right now I’m wrapping up Madi, The Good Life Book Two. Next up, I’m planning to write a Christmas novella: Trudy, A Good Life Christmas. That story will focus on Julia’s grandmother when she was a newlywed during the 1950s.
How do you feel about self-publishing?
I find it both liberating and scary. On the one hand, it has freed so many talented authors from the confines of the traditional publishing model, many of whom never had the chance to get their work published until now. One the other hand, with few constraints to what gets published there is also a rising tide of bad books on the market. It makes it confusing for readers. I would encourage any reader in this new publishing world to read samples before you buy. Reviews are helpful, but they can only help so much.
I LOVE my Kindle Paperwhite, I just wish it was waterproof so I could relax a bit more when I take it into the bath. When I find a free half hour I enjoy romance, paranormal romance and new adult books, mostly.
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Genre – Contemporary Romance
Rating – PG-13
More details about the author
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I rush upstairs with Mrs. Caldwell close behind. It takes a moment for Reese and Mr. Caldwell to react, whereas, Drew’s way ahead of us.
I head in the direction of the scream and peer inside a bedroom. A thin girl, white as bed linens and dressed much like myself in a long, black skirt and ebony organza blouse, convulses on the bed. A few feet away from her, a younger girl stands slack-jawed—her gaze fixated on the ceiling. She’s a chunky little thing with pink, healthy cheeks. She glances at me while pointing at the ceiling. A few stuffed animals circle the room above us. They drop to the floor as I enter.
The mother gasps at the sight, covering her mouth with her hand. “Lizzie,” she cries. She runs to the older girl and sweeps her frail daughter into her arms. Lizzie trembles. Her eyes roll back down so that the pupils are showing instead of the whites.
I mouth to Drew, “What did you do this time?”
Drew crosses his heart. “I swear it wasn’t me.”
The older girl Lizzie stops shaking then bolts upright. She seems unaware of her previous state and grins when she sees me. “You’re the new girl at Plymouth High everyone’s talking about. You’re here for the ghost.” Lizzie breaks from her mother’s grasp and gets up. When she falters, I grab her shoulders and help her back to bed.
“I need to ask you a rather personal question,” I say, curious what my peers are saying.
“Sure,” Lizzie says. She hugs a pillow one-handed, gesturing with the other for me to sit next to her.
I bite my lip because my next question isn’t always well received. “Are you on your period?”
“Why would you ask that?” Thankfully, Lizzie appears interested, not appalled. She brushes back her dyed black hair shadowing her face.
Mrs. Caldwell taps my shoulder. “We’re on the same cycle, so Lizzie should be…”
I sit down on the bed next to Lizzie. “Poltergeists are noted for creating havoc. Throwing and moving things. They often manifest when a girl goes through puberty and usually when she’s menstruating. Many believe the paranormal activity is caused by the teen’s emotional turmoil being transferred to kinetic energy.” I swallow a laugh when I glimpse Reese taking notes.
“I’m causing the disturbances?” Lizzie asks, tugging my hand.
“There’s another spirit here,” Drew says. “It’s probably both.”
“You may be responsible for some of what you’re experiencing, but I believe there’s another entity here as well,” I say.
“Does her kinetic energy cause the convulsions?” Mrs. Caldwell sits next to Lizzie and smoothes her daughter’s hair.
“It can.” I really have no idea. This is beyond anything I’ve encountered.
“The doctors couldn’t find any explanation for her seizures,” Mrs. Caldwell says. “Lizzie hasn’t been eating much lately. I’m worried about the girls, especially Lizzie.”
“Mommy, I don’t want to stay here anymore,” Ellie says, still glued to her spot.
The temperature suddenly plummets in the room.
“It’s cold.” Ellie takes a hesitant step toward the bed while watching the ceiling. She creeps toward us then snatches a blanket from the end of the bed. She drapes it over her shoulders and shivers.
Mrs. Caldwell wraps an arm around Ellie. “We’re leaving the house for a bit while the investigators work.”
The young girl appears relieved by her mother’s words.
Reese and Mr. Caldwell stand outside the room as if it has been quarantined. Reese scrawls hurriedly, probably writing every word in his notebook.
Lizzie clutches my arm. “He’s here.” Her whole body tenses.
“Who?” I ask.
“He wants something, but I can’t understand him,” Lizzie says, digging her fingers into my hand. “His voice is all garbled.”
“We’ll figure out what he’s saying,” I say.
Mrs. Caldwell stands, holding a protective arm around Ellie who clings to her mother. “We should get going.”
Mr. Caldwell comes into the room and helps up Lizzie. Reese and I trail behind the family. Lizzie pads behind the others. She looks over her shoulder and grins at me.
Drew catches up. “How cute. You have a groupie.”
I fall farther behind. “Lizzie’s too thin,” I say to Drew.
“She looks worse than me, and I’m dead,” Drew says.
Reese slips. He catches himself against the wall. “Oh God.” He seems really spooked.
“It’s just water,” I say.
Lizzie backs up. “We’ve been finding puddles all over the house since the ghost showed up.”
That’s odd. “We’ll clean it up,” I say.
Downstairs, Mr. Caldwell grabs a coat for each of the girls. “Are you okay?” he asks Lizzie.
“Yeah, Daddy,” Lizzie says, though she doesn’t look well.
The two girls walk outside. Lizzie wobbles a bit but manages to make it to the car.
Mr. Caldwell nods in my direction. “So that’s the girl Lizzie’s been copying her dress code from,” Mr. Caldwell says so that I’m sure to hear. “I don’t want her influencing our daughter. She probably uses drugs.”
Not hardly. Pagans practice holistic medicine, though it could be because it’s cheaper than doctors for my mom.
Mrs. Caldwell pushes her husband out the door. On her way out, she says, “Thank you.”
Reese stands behind me. He looks pale for a black guy.
“Don’t worry,” I say, shaking his arm. “You get the gear. I’ll clean up the water.”
“You aren’t scared?” he asks.
“Ghosts don’t scare me. Humans do.”
“What does the water mean?” Drew asks.
I shrug. “Don’t know,” I mouth, so Reese doesn’t think I’m talking to myself.
As Reese goes outside, I grab a towel. After I finish, I walk out to the van while Drew remains upstairs. Organizing the gear seems to have calmed Reese. We unpack cables and haul equipment into the house.
“We run cable to the bedrooms and kitchen to monitor the active sites, right?” Reese asks.
“Sure.” Though I rarely need the evidence, it’s good to show the clients.
After Reese painstakingly unrolls the cable, he securely tapes each section of it to the floor.
“If you went any slower, you wouldn’t be moving.” I take a spool of cable and unroll a trail behind me.
“What if one of us trips on it?”
“I’m not going to be running through the house.” I turn on the digi-recorder in the kitchen before heading toward the stairs.
“Shouldn’t we first try debunking the paranormal activity by checking the plumbing and electrical?” Reese asks.
High electromagnetic field readings can cause feelings of dread or nausea, and air in pipes can often explain weird noises that occur in a house.
“They already checked the plumbing,” I remind him.
Reese ignores me. He walks toward the cellar.
“You sure are anal,” I say.
Reese opens the door leading to the basement and waits for me.
“All right,” I say. “I’m coming.”
“My grandmother always says, ‘Any job worth doing is worth doing right.’”
“Did she also tell you that if you don’t get the job done, you won’t get paid?”
We go downstairs. Even though the house is over three hundred years old, PVC and copper plumbing run along the ceiling. The electrical box has copper wiring instead of the cheaper aluminum used before I was born. I did learn a thing or two from the plumber and electrician I ghost hunted with in New Orleans.
I grab Reese’s EMF detector and take several readings. “No fluctuations or high EMF. The electrical is well insulated, so let’s go.”
Reese grabs my arm. “What about that?” He points at the only rusty pipe. It extends the length of the cellar and disappears into the foundation of the house. The pipe would cause major damage should it burst.
“We’ll tell the Caldwells to replace it.”
He pushes his glasses up on his nose, making him appear even dorkier. “We need to be thorough, so we get paid.”
“We will,” I say. “Just chill.” And give me a breather.
We head back upstairs to set up video in the kids’ bedrooms plus one in the parents’. When we go back down the hall, I look outside through the picture-framed window in the living room at the van holding the monitors.
“My mama would kill me if that got stolen.” Reese stares at the equipment that must’ve cost him a fortune.
“Where did you get the money?”
“I worked for the local chocolatier in town.”
“That sounds like my kind of job. Why did you quit?”
“I want to hunt ghosts,” he says.
“And leave the chocolate factory? Well, we can’t afford to have your equipment ripped off. You want to observe while I investigate?”
“We should stick together.” Reese purses his lips. “I’ll drive the van into the garage. We’ll connect the cables through the door leading into it.”
“Good idea.” I’ll give him that much.
After Reese pulls the van into the garage, I close the garage door. We finish plugging the cables into the computers in the van then go back into the house. I clean up the plate Drew pitched and throw the shards into the trash.
“You didn’t even flinch when that happened,” Reese says.
“It wasn’t our ghost.”
“What do you mean?”
“I’ll explain later. Are you ready for lights off?”
Reese nods, though he looks uncertain. Probably wants to triple-check every cable. After we shut off the lights, I turn on my flashlight.
“Let’s do Lizzie’s bedroom first. I’m pretty sure that’s where our spirit lurks.”
“How can you be so sure?” Reese asks, the hair on his arms standing erect like soldiers.
There’s no sense telling Reese. It will only upset him and possibly botch our investigation. I climb the stairs to Lizzie’s room with Reese trailing behind me.
While we hang in the room, I turn on the digital voice recorder.
Reese walks around the room with the EMF. “I got a spike of two-point-zero.”
High EMF readings can indicate a spirit’s presence.
“Do you want to tell us your name?” he asks. “Why are you here?”
“It went back down to point-one,” he says, appearing bummed.
Drew comes into the room then sits on the bed beside me. He’s probably been up to no good. Reese takes more readings at the other end of the room while encouraging the ghost to respond.
“Dork,” Drew calls Reese.
For the next half hour, nothing happens unless I count Reese tearing up and sneezing every time he passes through Drew.
“Let’s go to Ellie’s room,” I say, stifling a yawn while getting up. I hate this part of the job where we sit and wait and sometimes nothing ever happens.
“Maybe there isn’t a ghost,” Reese says, leading the way this time.
I look at Drew. I can tell by the fact he’s not begging us to leave that we have a presence here. “Spirits sometimes take a while to warm up to us humans.”
Drew laughs at my remark. “Warm up to? How about cool down?” He bumps into me on purpose, reminding me of how cold he is as his iciness ripples through me.
“I don’t want to know them on a first name basis,” Reese says. “I just want to get paid, hopefully catch a few EVPs or an apparition on tape and get out.”
EVPs are great evidence to show the client. Electronic voice phenomena, the recording of the dead, often occur at low frequencies the human ear has difficulty discerning.
“It’s not just about the money,” I say. “We’re helping the family, and the spirit needs our assistance in crossing over. They’re better off that way.” I think. Legends say if the dead don’t cross, they may get stuck here or much worse, though I’ve seen a few crossings that didn’t go well.
“How do you know?” Reese asks.
I don’t really. “My grandmother always told me they need to go into the light.”
We camp in Ellie’s room. Drew paces. I can tell something’s up. Reese sneezes, spraying a fine mist.
“Ew.” I back out of the way, then not so gracefully, I land on the floor in another puddle of water. “What the…”
Reese gasps. “It’s blood.”
“No, it’s not. It’s just water or the kid wet the floor.” I find a towel to mop it up.
Drew throws his hands up in the air. “Stop what you’re doing,” he yells at something I can’t see or hear. His voice grows louder. He pushes his hands out as if shoving someone.
Drew flies across the room, crashing into the wall. A ghost has to prepare himself to go through walls and some never master the hang of it. A ghost who can’t has to wait until a door is left open and even then they can be trapped by an invisible barrier.
“What happened?” Reese asks, his hands trembling while pointing the flashlight at the wall where Drew hit.
“You okay?” This sounds dumb asking a dead guy.
Drew nods and gets up.
“I’m okay,” Reese says. “You?”
“Please tell us your name,” I say. “What happened to you?”
Drew screams, “Leave the kids alone.”
He’s so helpful sometimes. I snarl at Drew because he’ll only tick off the ghost. As usual, he completely ignores me. An invisible arm hurls a stuffed elephant at Drew.
“Is that all you got?” Drew asks in a mocking tone.
Great. That’s going to get the spirit to open up.
Regardless of upsetting Reese, I stand and stab a finger at Drew. “Stop it. You’re going to scare him off.” Then he’ll only come out for the Caldwells.
Drew keeps yelling at the hidden specter. He glances sideways at me. In the kitchen, Drew was a big help, but right now, he’s getting on my nerves.
Reese flings himself at me. His eyes and nose are running. He’s sneezing up a tornado. Stuff I don’t even want to think about is flying everywhere.
“Who are you talking to?” he asks. “Can you see him?” His hands lock on my shoulders, but he’s shaking hard and spewing on me.
“Let go of me.” Before I puke. I rub against the bedspread to remove Reese’s bodily fluids. He is so disgusting.
That’s when our ghost materializes. He looms over us and has eyes that glow like a demon’s. Some of them do this to get you going, but that’s not what my gaze locks onto. It’s the gaping hole in his head I can see clean through. With the gust of hurricane-force winds, the spirit blows between Reese and me. It breaks Reese’s hold on me, and we’re flung backward. Reese lands on a mound of stuffed animals while I land in what smells like where the cat peed.
“What was that?” Reese asks, turning deathly gray once again.
“Our ghost,” I say.
“Should we go after him?” Reese asks.
“No, he’s long gone.” I glare at Drew who smiles cutesy at me. He is adorable regardless of his lack of judgment. “I’ll deal with you later,” I tell him.
“I’m looking forward to that,” Drew says smugly.
Reese says, “I thought he was gone.”
I gesture Drew to stay back. “Why did you choose ghost hunting when you’re allergic to them?”
“What are you talking about?” Reese asks.
I grab my head and shake it in frustration. “You have no idea? Every time a ghost is near, you slime me.”
Reese reddens. “I’m sorry. I didn’t realize. I guess I was caught up in the moment.” He wipes his nose with a tissue he retrieves from his pocket.
I’d feel guilty for embarrassing him if he wasn’t so nasty.
“How do you know this?” he asks.
I debate telling Reese. He’ll just think I’m crazy, then he won’t want to work with me. What a good idea. “Everyone has a reason for getting into this business. For some, it’s a personal experience, but I do it because I can see the dead.”
Reese is looking at me with awe instead of skepticism.
That didn’t scare him off. “In my case, it’s hereditary. All the women in my family can communicate with the dead in some fashion. Apparently, I’m as good as my grandmother. At least that’s what my mom tells me.”
“Does it bother you?”
I’ve never had anyone interested in my gift before other than freaks like myself. Most give me a wide berth after hearing me talk to ghosts, since they think I’m talking to myself. I’m not sure where to go from here. “I hated it at first.” I had waking nightmares, but then as I got older my grandmother showed me how to deal with the dead and help them cross over and stop pestering me.
“Wow. My grandmother told me she could see the dead, too. My mom never believed her. I always wanted to. You said ‘not our ghost’ earlier.”
“I have a friend who helps me out. He smashed the plate in the kitchen.”
Reese glances around the room. “Where is he?”
I point to the dresser. “Over there.”
Reese walks over toward Drew. His eyes tear. He scratches his nose. “I really am allergic.”
“Back off,” Drew says. “You better not juice me again.”
Reese’s face lights up like he’s been given backstage passes to Lil’ Wayne. “Way cool that you have a ghost friend. Is that how you get business when there are no ghosts?”
“No, like I said, if we can debunk, we do that. Sometimes the homeowners need a little push, and Drew is good at that. He also can see the spirits right away, whereas sometimes they hide from me.”
“Did he make all those noises we heard?”
“Only some of them. He sort of agitated the ghost. That’s how I know the entity won’t be back tonight.”
“Did he scare him off for good?” Reese asks.
“I wish it were that simple. It’s up to us now to find out why he’s still hanging out here.”
“How do you know it’s a he?”
“I saw him and I think he died violently.”
Reese gulps. “As in murdered?”
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Genre – YA Paranormal Mystery, Romance
Rating – PG-13
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