Saturday Snippet – ELLY HAYS

elly cover_webElly Hays is the real-life story of a woman struggling to keep her family safe from the Creek Indians during the War of 1812. From the first few chapters, you know there is no way this story is going to end without a terrifying confrontation.

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She angrily plopped down on a rock and yanked dirty stockings from the basket. She dunked them in the water and began scrubbing them hard enough to put holes in them. She could feel her ears buzzing and her shortness of breath and realized she needed to calm down. She stopped scrubbing, closed her eyes, and took a deep breath through her nose, trying to slow her heart. She concentrated on releasing the tension in her shoulders and the knot in her stomach. She felt guilty for losing her temper with her husband, but frustration was taking over her life. Every day brought new problems—life-and-death problems. Her mounting anger was overriding her fear of the Indians and her love for her husband.

She opened her eyes when she heard him clear his throat behind her, and she turned to apologize for her harsh tone of voice. But when she saw the black eyes looking back at her that did not belong to James, she stopped and gasped. They belonged to an Indian, sitting tall on a brown and white painted horse. She hadn’t heard him approach. She jumped to her feet, wondering where she could run.

The Indian was bare-chested, wearing only tan animal hide pants and moccasins. His hair was short, shaved on the sides and sticking up higher on top. Most of the Indians she had seen had this same haircut. His face was covered with lines of red and black paint, and he wore a headband tied around his head with strips of animal fur hanging on either side of his face. His headband was not adorned with any feathers. This was not the same Indian she had seen before.

He stared at her for a long time and did not move. She glanced across the swift creek to the left and right, but there was nowhere to run. She would never be able to outrun a horse. Her heart beat wildly as beads of sweat broke out on her brow. She remained frozen.

“I came to warn you,” the Indian said in a monotone.

Elly was surprised by his English.

He sat motionless, waiting for her response.

She finally blurted out, “Warn me about what? That you want us to leave? We already got that warning.” She could feel her temper escalating again. All of the tension she had felt the last few months, all of the worry for her children, all of the stress of building a new life, was about to explode in this Indian’s face.

“Yes, I’m here to warn you that you need to leave, but not for the reason you are thinking.” He looked down at the reins in his hands, as if trying to gather his thoughts and find the correct words. “My brother and I were the ones who killed your animals.”

Elly threw a wet stocking on the ground. She hadn’t realized she was still holding it, and it had dripped down her blue linen skirt, causing the front of her dress to become dark in color. “You? You did that? How am I supposed to feed my children?” she raised her voice, her temper becoming stronger than her fear.

“This is the least of your worries. When your husband chased us away, my brother’s boy fell from his horse and snapped his neck.” His eyes carried a tint of sadness. “The boy is dead.”

Elly felt her heart soften for a young boy she didn’t even know. Her anger began to subside, as if it were being washed away by the babbling creek beside her. “I’m…I’m very sorry to hear that,” she stammered, wringing her wet hands together.

“You must understand, my brother is the great warrior of our village. He has vowed revenge on your husband and your family for the death of his son.”

Elly’s eyes widened as the Indian continued.

“He told our Great Chief your husband killed his son, and the Great Chief has given him permission to slaughter your family.”

Elly was shocked by the revelation and quickly shook her head. “No. My…my husband would never kill a boy. He’s never killed anyone, for any reason.”

“Our great warrior does not know this.”

“Please tell him. Tell him my husband didn’t kill his son.” She took a step forward as she begged.

The Indian shook his head and looked at her with compassion. “I cannot tell him anything. I can only warn you. You must leave now…before it’s too late.”

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Lori Crane Books at Amazon

Saturday Snippet – SAVANNAH’S BLUEBIRD

bluebird_small webSavannah’s Bluebird is a love story with a ghostly twist.

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The bells rang from atop the steeple as Savannah struggled to pull open the ancient wooden door of the church. When she entered, she saw the backs of the heads of dozens of people sitting in the pews. She stopped in the vestibule and awaited the organ music to announce her entrance. She ran her gloved hand over her dark brown hair, adjusted her pillbox hat, pulled the tulle veil over her face, and smoothed down her ivory wedding gown. In her other hand, she clutched a dainty bouquet of white roses with sprays of baby’s breath. The smell filled her nostrils.

After a few moments, the organist at the front of the church played a fanfare and immediately followed with the “Wedding March.” She inhaled deeply and took a small step forward. After a pause, she took another step…and another. She hesitated, thinking it strange that the crowd didn’t rise and turn to face her. She inched forward again, pausing between steps. Surely the congregation would rise when the minister instructed them to do so, but she didn’t know what he was waiting for. She put a smile on her face as she admired the sun shining through the stained-glass windows, creating a mosaic of bright colors across the room, but as she reached the halfway mark of her grand entrance, the room darkened. The sun had disappeared behind a cloud, and the vibrant colors that bathed the room turned a dismal shade of gray. Her smile vanished also.

It was difficult to see through the netted veil, but she could have sworn she saw something large sitting in the center of the altar. She narrowed her eyes and, yes indeed, something was there. At the top of three small steps that led up to the altar, a white coffin rested in front of the minister’s podium. It was surrounded by beautiful sprays of flowers—roses, carnations, chrysanthemums, daisies. The sight reminded her of her father’s funeral and her head swam with the painful memory. She looked down at her bouquet and closed her eyes for a moment. When she opened them again, her breath caught deep in her chest as she watched her beautiful white roses faded from white to gray to black—black and dead. The leaves shriveled and a few of the petals gently fell from their stems, fluttering to the floor. She tightly clutched the bouquet and quickly pulled her left hand away when a thorn poked through her glove and punctured the skin of her palm. She saw the small hole in the satin fabric, but there was no blood.

She squeezed her hand into a fist to make the pain stop, and looked back up at the altar. Why was there a coffin on the altar, and where was August? Why was her groom not there to greet her? She staggered a bit as she took another step forward. The “Wedding March” kept pounding from the organ and she kept inching forward. She placed her hand over her heart in an effort to make it beat normally. Remembering the puncture wound, she looked down at her dress to make sure there was no blood on the bodice. She stopped dead in her tracks.

Her beautiful wedding gown was no longer ivory; it was now black. She thought she would faint, and looked up to search the crowd for someone to help her. When she looked through the mesh of her veil, she noticed it too had turned black. Panic rose in her chest and her throat constricted. The next breath wouldn’t come. She felt her knees quiver and she didn’t know if she could take another step. Her mouth opened and closed like that of a fish gasping for air, but she couldn’t form any words. She looked left and right at her family and friends, but no one looked back at her. They all stared straight ahead. It was as if they didn’t see her.

She stumbled forward a few more steps and noticed her soon-to-be stepdaughter, Emma, sitting alone in the second pew. She approached Emma and noticed tears running down the girl’s face, dripping off her chin and leaving dark spots on her pink cotton dress. She reached toward Emma, but stopped when the “Wedding March” turned into Chopin’s “Funeral March.” She looked up at the organ on the right side of the altar, but the organist did not look back at her.

Was Savannah in the wrong place?

She spun around in what felt like slow motion and looked at the stained-glass windows, the pews, the high, scallop-shaped ceiling. No, this was her childhood church—Fisherman’s Church. She had been coming here since she was a baby. Was she here on the wrong date? She turned again and looked at the people. She knew every one of them. She had invited every one of them. She knew it was August 25, 1936—her wedding day. Why was Emma here at a funeral? Why was she crying? More importantly, who was in the coffin?

She spun again and faced the coffin on the altar. Was she losing her mind? Where was August? Terror filled her as adrenaline rose like flames up the back of her neck.

Two men she had never seen before, dressed in black suits, stepped forward and gently opened the coffin’s lid, and Savannah saw the inside of the lid was lined with blood-red satin. Who is in there? And why was there a funeral here on her wedding day?

She climbed the three steps to the altar and placed her hand on the side of the coffin. She reluctantly looked inside.

It was a woman—a dark-haired woman in an ivory wedding dress.

She gazed down into her own face and heard a scream escape her lips.

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Savannah’s Bluebird is available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and iTunes.

Saturday Snippet – STUCKEY’S GOLD

stuckey Gold Cover smallIn the second book of the Stuckey’s Bridge Trilogy, Levi met an alluring young woman named Penelope Juzan. Apparently, the Juzans have quite a past which became the third book in the trilogy. Stuckey’s Gold is the story of four generations trying to escape a curse brought on by greed. The story weaves between Penelope and her friend Luke and their fathers, grandfathers, and great grandfathers. It doesn’t much matter which one we speak of. They all suffered pretty much the same terrible fate.

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He glanced back toward the shore one more time to make sure Marguerite hadn’t followed him. But what if she had? It wasn’t like he could hide in a rowboat in the middle of the lake. But if she caught him, she would be furious, and he really didn’t want to attract her wrath. She was a mean woman when she was cross. He chuckled. Well, she’d get over it once she ran her fingers through the gold in the trunk. He smiled at the thought. They were going to be very, very rich, and she couldn’t possibly be annoyed with him for that.

He dropped the anchor over the side and let out the rope. He released more and more of the rope and was almost at the end of the line when it finally went slack and he knew it rested on the bottom. “Gee,” he mumbled to himself, “that’s a thirty-foot rope.” He knew the lake was deep in spots, but it had never before occurred to him until that moment how deep it was. “No wonder no one’s been able to retrieve the gold before.”

Suspecting the trunk of gold would be too heavy to lift to the surface by sheer manpower, he had recalled the ideas written in his father’s journal on ways to raise the trunk, and he had brought two extra ropes with him. The plan was to dive down and tie both ropes around the trunk, and then hoist it up into the boat. He hoped he could do so without capsizing the small vessel because it’d be a long swim back to the shore. He tied the ends of the two ropes to the boat and then slapped the water with his paddle to scare off any snakes that might be lurking. He glanced again at the shore, just in case his wife appeared. The coast was clear. He grabbed the loose ends of both ropes and dove into the black depths.

It had been so hot the whole summer, the cool water felt refreshing. Down, down, down he went. His ears popped with the pressure. He felt around in the blackness, hoping to find the edge of the net floating in the water. He felt nothing. When his lungs felt as if they would burst, he returned to the surface. He looked around again at the landmarks on shore to make sure he was in the crosshairs of the oak, the pines, the rocks, and the inn. Yes, the trunk had to be right here.

He took another deep breath and dove again. About half way down, he felt something brush his thigh. He figured it was one of the ropes, then realized it might be the net. Adrenaline pumped through his veins in anticipation. He grabbed in the direction where he felt the object, but nothing was there. He froze for a moment as an alarming thought came to mind. What if it had been a snake? The snakes around here could kill a man with one bite. It would be a horrific and painful death. He ignored the thought and kept swimming downward, trying not to be too disappointed that he hadn’t found the net yet.

When he reached the bottom, his ears pounded from the pressure. He could feel it in his jaw and across his whole head. He quickly groped around in the blackness, knowing he wouldn’t be able to stay down too long. There was nothing but weeds and silt. He kicked off the bottom and shot up again to the surface. He took a deep breath and turned to check the landmarks once again. When he turned to look behind him, he came face to face with the most dreaded of snakes—the cottonmouth. Its snout was not more than a foot from his face, and Gabriel saw its tail flicker in the water nearly three feet away. It was huge, solid black except for tan markings on its face. Gabriel remained as still as possible, hoping the creature was as startled as he and would turn and swim away.

The snake quickly slithered across the surface of the water, but it didn’t swim in the opposite direction. It darted directly at him and struck him on the cheek. He cried out as the serpent dashed away, disappearing as fast as lightning.

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Stuckey’s Gold is available in paperback and Kindle at Amazon and in paperback at Barnes & Noble.

Saturday Snippet – OKATIBBEE CREEK

okatibbee creek cover front JPEGOkatibbee Creek takes place in Mississippi during the Civil War and is based on a true story. Our heroine, Mary Ann, has been left alone with the children while the men in her family are off fighting. I don’t think she’s as fragile as the Yankees assume.

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I can hear Charlie screaming for me as he runs up the road. He flies in the front door of the store, shouting that the Union Army is coming down the street. Oh, no, here we go. Apparently I am now in the middle of this war. Unfortunately, on this day, I have all of the children with me: my three, William’s four, and James’s five.

I order the boys to run to the field in back and chase the hog and the horse into the woods. I order the girls to take every jug, every crock, and every jar of food from the store and the cellar, put them in the attic, barricade the door, and stay there. Then I load my rifle. I’ll be damned if I’m going to let these disgraceful, plundering Yankees ruin my life any more than they already have. And I will kill every last one of them before I let them harm the children. When the Yankees arrive, I will be more than ready for them.

I watch for them out the front window of the store. My palms are sweating. My heart is pounding out of my chest. My breathing is heavy. I can also feel my anger rising like flames from the very depths of Hell. My hands are shaking, though I don’t know if it is from fear or rage. I can hear them coming before I can see them. Their horses are clomping on the dry road and there is a jingling sound from their spurs and saddles. Sure enough, they stop right in front of my store. There are three of them on horseback dressed in their blue uniforms. They are filthy and unshaven and a bit thin and weary. I slowly emerge through the doorway onto the wooden front porch with my loaded rifle in my hands.

“What do you want?” I yell to the Yankees.

“Do you have any food here?” one of them asks, though it sounds more like a demand than a question.

“No, I don’t have any food,” I say, surprised at the sound of the strength in my own voice even though my statement is a bold lie.

“Is your husband home?” the second one asks.

“No. You already killed him,” I reply, with venom in my tone that would scare off any other man, but they don’t move.

“Is there a man of the house here?” the third one asks.

“No, there are no men here, just me.” I raise my gun slightly.

“You need to put that gun away, ma’am. We just want some food. We’re not here to hurt anyone. You have to have some kind of food in that store,” the first one says with a cocky smile on his unshaven face, as he climbs down from his horse. He removes his dusty hat and takes a couple steps toward me.

“I already told you, I don’t have any food,” I say slowly without raising my voice. I do, however, raise my gun to my shoulder and point it squarely at the man’s face. The two Yankees still on horseback put their hands on their pistols.

The man on the ground stops moving and holds up his free hand to the other two to keep them from drawing their weapons. Again, he starts to move toward me.

I cock the hammer. Again, he stops.

We seem to be at a stalemate. But what he doesn’t know is that the rage inside me will have no trouble blowing his damn head off. We stare each other directly in the eye and neither of us moves.

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Lori Crane Books at Amazon and audiobook at Audible.

Video Trailer

The Backstory of the STUCKEY’S BRIDGE TRILOGY

Here’s a little background on the Stuckey’s Bridge Trilogy.

stuckey's bridge from VA Iron and Bridge Co on wikiMy childhood: I grew up in Meridian, Mississippi and heard the legend of Stuckey’s Bridge my whole life. It actually began in a book about the area written in the 1970s. The local paper, The Meridian Star, picked up on the legend from the book and the story spread like wildfire. The bridge instantly became THE place to party on the weekends, searching for ghosts and frightening girls into cuddling closer. (If you want to go there: head south out of Meridian on Interstate 59. Turn right at exit 142, then a quick left onto Meehan-Savoy Road. Travel 2.2 miles until you see a dirt road on your left. That is Stucky Bridge Road. The bridge will be about two miles down the dirt road. It is now closed, so you’ll have to turn around to leave. After you read the following legend, you may not want to go.)

The legend goes: In the late 1800s, a former member of the Dalton Gang came to Lauderdale County, Mississippi to find his fortune. He opened an inn near the Chunky River and stood on the old wooden bridge at night, flagging down merchants with his lantern, offering them a warm bed and a hot meal. Supposedly, he murdered his victims in their sleep and buried their bodies on the banks of the river. In 1901, the Virginia Bridge and Iron Company began rebuilding the old bridge and the bodies were discovered. The innkeeper, Old Man Stuckey as he is known to the locals, was hung by a posse from the iron rails of the new bridge.

Stuckey's cover_webIf you know me, you know I couldn’t stop searching until I figured out who this Old Man Stuckey really was…that became the first book in the Stuckey’s Bridge Trilogy, THE LEGEND OF STUCKEY’S BRIDGE. (Check out the book trailer…creepy!)

unnamedWhile writing the story, I didn’t want Old Man Stuckey to be alone all the time, so I had him run across a young boy named Levi. In the story, young Levi took on a creepiness all his own, and I received tons of emails and messages asking what Levi’s past was. As usual with my overactive imagination, I was more interested in his future than his past, so I wrote STUCKEY’S LEGACY: THE LEGEND CONTINUES. At the end of that book, Levi “got his” and the story focused on the young woman he met during the story, Penelope Juzan.

Back to my childhood: There was a second legend around the area where I grew up. Supposedly there was an inn on Lake Juzan in the 1840s where an innkeeper murdered his guests for wealth, much like Old Man Stuckey. The man’s name was Pierre Juzan, and he dumped the bodies in the lake with the help of his Indian sidekick. Toward the end of the legend, one of them killed the other for the wealth of gold they had confiscated.

Side note: There were also a couple different accounts of trunks of confederate gold disappearing as they traveled through the area during the Civil War.

I thought all these stories had a similar thread, and I wondered if I could separate them.

stuckey Gold Cover smallBack to the trilogy: I came to the conclusion that these legends were indeed different stories, but thought they were probably connected in some way. Those crazy ideas in my head became the third book in the trilogy, STUCKEY’S GOLD: THE CURSE OF LAKE JUZAN. 

These tales tickled me pink while writing them, and I hope you enjoy them too!

stuckey Trilogy_ smal

 

 

 

 

 

Update: October 1st release of – The Complete Stuckey’s Bridge Trilogy  available exclusively on Kindle at Amazon. Click HERE!

Lori Crane Books at Amazon

Saturday Snippet – Stuckey’s Gold

Here’s a snippet from my coming release:

STUCKEY’S GOLD: THE CURSE OF LAKE JUZAN

stuckey Gold Cover smallBlurb

In 1840, Pierre Juzan was an innkeeper on the shores of Lake Juzan. His business was successful, but he wanted more. One day he got wind of a coach transporting a trunk of gold near his home, and his actions on that fateful day would spark an Indian curse that would haunt his family for four generations. Seventy years later, can Penelope Juzan break the curse, or will she suffer the same tragic fate as her forefathers?

“The Legend of Stuckey’s Bridge” and “Stuckey’s Legacy: The Legend Continues” told tales of the gold leaving a trail of destruction from Meridian, Mississippi to Jekyll Island, Georgia. In “Stuckey’s Gold: The Curse of Lake Juzan,” we may find the victims in the original tales were merely bit players in a story that is far darker and more sinister than one could imagine.

“Stuckey’s Gold: The Curse of Lake Juzan” is the final installment in the “Stuckey’s Bridge Trilogy” and is the tale of four generations struggling to escape a curse caused by greed.

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The sun had already reached its highest point and was slowly beginning its descent behind them. By the look of the shadows, Leon guessed it was around three o’clock. He knew the traveling distance from the county line, so he figured the coach would be arriving at any moment. As he recalculated its arrival time, he heard horse hooves on the road. The two sat silent and still on their horses and watched the man from last night trot past them. Their plan was to let him travel by unharmed as to not warn the drivers of impending danger. They would take care of him later.

Not more than a few minutes had passed before they heard the grinding of wagon wheels. Two men sat in the driver’s seat of the wooden coach. One was whistling a tune. Leon was feeling anxious and wanted to get on with it, so he decided to make the annoying whistler his first target. He pulled out his bow, armed it with an arrow, took aim through the trees, and let his arrow fly. It hit its intended target and the whistling abruptly stopped. The whistler slumped in his seat, an arrow through the left side of his neck. The horses didn’t flinch, but the man’s partner looked over at him and his jaw dropped. Leon quickly pulled out another arrow, aimed, and put it through the chest of the second man as he still stared at his partner in disbelief. The second man slumped in the seat.

From higher up on the hill, Pierre rode his horse out of the woods and fell in line behind the wagon. He gave Leon a nod. Leon nodded back. Leon tucked his bow away and emerged from the woods, trotting alongside the wagon. The wagon’s team kept pulling the wagon forward, oblivious to the fact they no longer had a driver. They began to pick up speed as the road began to slant downhill. Leon grabbed the side of the wagon and pulled himself onto it, abandoning his own horse on the road. He crawled across the canvas back and climbed over the rail, into the driver’s seat. He grabbed the whistler by the shirt and pushed him over the side. The man plopped onto the road like a sack of potatoes, and Leon felt the coach jostle and heard bones snap as the back wheel of the wagon ran over some part of the whistler’s body. He grimaced at the sound.

Behind him, Pierre grabbed Leon’s abandoned horse’s reins and continued down the hill, pulling Leon’s horse along with him. Leon glanced back and saw both horses neigh and rear up when they approached the whistler’s body unexpectedly sprawled in the middle of the road.

He turned his attention back to the coach’s horses. They were now nearing a gallop down the hill. He reached down on the floor of the wagon and fumbled around until he found the reins. He grabbed them and was about to pull back on them when the butt of a gun came down on top of his head. He saw stars as he fell to the floor of the coach. He turned his head and saw the whistler’s partner pointing a revolver at his face. As the driver clicked the hammer back, Leon kicked the gun out of the man’s hand. He heard it bounce off the edge of the wagon then discharge as it hit the ground. The sound echoed through the trees, startling the wagon’s horses who took off at full gallop.

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STUCKEY’S GOLD is available at Amazon!

Goodreads Giveaway of “Stuckey’s Bridge”

Stuckey's cover_webIn preparation for the coming release of “Stuckey’s Legacy: The Legend Continues”, Goodreads is hosting a giveaway of the first book, “The Legend of Stuckey’s Bridge.” There are 20 paperbacks available and the drawing runs through April 10th. Hop over there and claim your FREE copy. Here’s the link —> GOODREADS GIVEAWAY!

Here’s the blurb and the creepy book trailer…

In 1901, the Virginia Bridge & Iron Company began re-building a fifty-year-old Mississippi bridge. In the middle of the project, they began discovering bodies buried on the banks of the river.

Legend has it, he was so evil, he was even thrown out of the notorious Dalton Gang. Years later, he opened an inn near the river, and on foggy nights, boatmen witnessed him pacing back and forth across the bridge, waving his lantern, offering travelers a hot meal and a soft bed.

Those unfortunate enough to take him up on the hospitality were often never seen again.

To this day, eerie experiences are still reported around the bridge that now bears his name, but not much else is known about the man locals refer to as Old Man Stuckey…until now.

Book cover and video trailer by Elite Book Design

Call for Indie Authors!!

INDIE AUTHORS UNTIE…I mean…UNITE

twitter-chat-tree-11This blog is for my Indie Author friends….

I am releasing a new book ELLY HAYS on Nov 4 and doing an online book tour. The last day of the tour, Saturday Nov 16, I am hosting a Twitter Chat called “From Concept to Published!” As I’m sure you do also, I have tons of family and friends who always ask me how to go about publishing a book. Instead of spending hours telling them, I figured we’d just Twitter about the basics.

I’ve invited my book designer to join us and would love it if any of you would also join. I’m already promoting the event and will continue to do so through Nov 16th!

I’m going to ask basic writing/publishing questions like:

“Let’s start with concept: Where do your book ideas come from?”

“How long does it take you to write a book? Concept to published.”

“Do you use outside help? Beta readers? Editor? Cover designer?”

I’ll also ask at the beginning for all authors to tell us their titles and genres. And at the end, ask all authors to post a link where our guest can find them.

If you would like to join me, please email me at LoriCraneAuthor@gmail.com and I’ll email you all the questions, so you’ll be able to figure out answers using “140 spaces or less.” Of course, as our guests ask questions too, ours may be thrown out the window. Wing it!

The Twitter Chat is Saturday Nov 16, 4-5pm Eastern. I suggest using http://tweetchat.com/ which is real-time Twitter that you don’t need to repeatedly put in the hashtag with every comment. The hashtag I’m using is the name of my new book – #ellyhays.

I’m going to limit participating authors to six, as we only have an hour, and it will be too crazy if thirty authors are answering questions. Be one of the first six to email me and lock in your spot! Of course, everyone is welcome to attend the event.

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PLEASE JOIN ME! IT’LL BE FUN! (and it’ll be FREE book promotion, which is one of our favorite things.)