Friday, June 19, 2015

How to Research Dogs for Fiction by Wesley Banks, Author of Hope in Every Raindrop

I'm very excited to welcome Wesley Banks, author of Hope in Every Raindrop, to the blog today.
I love dogs and have to say this novel looks quite intriguing :)

How to Research Dogs for Fiction (And How I Created an Entirely New Breed)

by Wesley Banks

One of my favorite aspects of writing Hope In Every Raindrop was creating a fictional breed of dogs: the Carolina Gray.
It all started in 2007 when I visited a man named Don Anderson in the small town of Bishopville, South Carolina about a rare breed of dogs called Carolina Dogs. I left Dr. Anderson’s 1000 plus acre farm that day with one of the most intelligent dogs I’ve ever owned.
Her name was Pace, and I could go on for hours about her. But right now I want to talk about what started the idea for Hope In Every Raindrop.
As I was playing with the puppies that day, Dr. Anderson was excitedly explaining everything he knew about a breed he had found in the wilds of Lynches River. They could out swim a lab because of the increased webbing on their paws, they had greater blood scent than any hound he had ever seen, and they could run for hours on end. In fact, twice a year a gentleman from Alaska would fly down to pick up 1-2 dogs from the new litters.
My attention was piqued, but Dr. Anderson kept on talking and I never got the story behind Alaska. That is, until I made it up in 2010 when my wife and I took a 2 week honeymoon there.

Dogsledding in Alaska.

We did a lot of cool things on our trip to Alaska. By far though, the coolest was taking a helicopter ride to a remote glacier where we learned to dogsled.
I watched the dogs in the distance as the helicopter landed. Each of them was tethered by a rope or chain to their own individual dog house, which was nothing more than 3 ft x 3 ft white box flipped upside down with one side missing.
Over the next couple hours we spent time with one musher and his team. We learned terms like Gee (turn right), Haw (turn left), Whoa (stop), Hike (go), and Easy (slow down).
We rode in the sled (also known as a basket) and helped rig the dogs, discovering the neck line, tug line, tow line, and other pieces of rigging.
As the dogs ran the musher explained to us how each pair of dogs had a specific purpose. The dogs closest to the sled were the wheel dogs, and they needed to be strong and steadfast. The team dogs were the collection of dogs just in front of them, they were the fuel. The swing dogs were the two dogs just behind the leader and were responsible for keeping the team in line during turns. And lastly was the lead dog (or sometimes a pair of lead dogs).

Not all sled dogs are huskies.

After several miles sledding over the glaciers we returned and the musher told us about the dogs. The first thing I asked was, “Are Siberian or Alaskan Huskies better sled dogs?” Everyone knows that Huskies are the ultimate sled dogs, right? Wrong.
There were two pure bred huskies, but the other eight were a mix of Samoyed, Canadian Eskimo, Chinook, Alaskan Malamute, and even Wolf.
As I looked around at the literally hundreds of sled dogs it got me thinking. What if one of these is a Carolina Dog? What if there’s one from Dr. Anderson. And that’s where one of the core ideas for Hope In Every Raindrop was born.

Truth in fiction.

Having owned a Carolina Dog, and gone dogsledding I had a huge head start in the research department.
I know this isn’t the conventional method of doing research. I’ve talked to many authors and they spend days or weeks contacting people for interviews, email questions, and so on. But going forward I think I’m going to live by one principle: some of the best fiction writing can come from taking an experienced truth and just altering it slightly.

Hope in Every Raindrop

Wesley Banks

Contemporary Romance
May 2015

“Small towns have big stories.”

That was a lesson Katie’s father taught her years ago. A lesson she’s taken to heart. And right now, Katie is desperate for a big story.

Reeling from the recent loss of her father and with her agent breathing down her neck for the next book, the twenty-one-year-old writer picks a spot on the map and finds herself bound for a middle-of-nowhere town called Bishopville, South Carolina.

Taking a chance on the words of a local grocer, Katie stumbles upon a rare breed of dogs raised by the town doctor and his nephew Kyle. The only problem? Kyle isn’t interested in telling stories—especially not to a big-city girl who can’t seem to sit still. In an attempt to win him over as the clock winds down, Katie finds herself immersed in Kyle’s world, doing everything but writing.

When inspiration finally strikes, Katie is faced with an unforeseen catastrophe and a truth she can no longer ignore. While she has come to love the dogs, the real story may be about Kyle Walker.

About the Author

Wesley Banks was born in 1983 and grew up on the west coast of Florida. He graduated from the University of Florida with a Bachelor’s and Master’s degree in Civil Engineering.  After spending over 7 years building movable bridges from Florida to Washington he decided to focus on his true passion: writing.

Wesley recently moved from Florida to Oregon to get back to the great outdoors that he’s love so much. He lives with his wife Lindsey, and his two dogs Linkin and Story. Most of his time these days is spent writing, with as much rock climbing, hiking, or skiing as they can fit in.

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Thursday, June 18, 2015

Diversity & Interracial Romance by Chris Ledbetter, Author of Drawn

I'd like to extend a warm welcome to Chris Ledbetter, author of Drawn, a new YA contemporary fantasy adventure.

Diversity and Interracial Romance by Chris Ledbetter

Diversity is a topic near and dear to my heart. I realize I’m not alone in this but the traditional publishing industry as a whole hasn’t exactly caught up to demand. I certainly believe that everyone should be able to read stories about characters that are like they are. It’s not necessary, mind you. There’s nothing wrong with reading about characters that are unlike you. How else can you learn about other cultures and develop tolerance? But accepting racially diverse stories is a subtle move that helps readers to know they matter. I applaud Evernight Teen for taking a chance on a young African-American protagonist and his artistic and romantic endeavors as they relate to a young Caucasian girl. After all, romance is romance. Emotions are universally the same for everyone, despite skin color, ethnicity, or nationality.

I attack this concept in the story within the pages of the cursed sketchbook, wherein the citizens are distinguished not by the color of their skin, but by how they were introduced to the world. Those who were sketched in from the outside have more heft, shall we say, than those that were created within the book itself. It’s a complicated concept that is fully explained in the story. But, there are people in Terra Sempre that are as multi-colored as the rainbow.

Along the subject of diversity as it applies to romance, I have seen more ethnically homogenous couples in literature than not, especially in young adult stories. And that’s not to say that there aren’t any out there. I’ve seen some and applaud them. Mostly the ones I’ve seen have been on the adult side of things, not YA. In fact, it’s the young adult market that needs the diversity more than the adult market. We have a duty to pry minds open while they are young and malleable. Open minds are far better than closed minds.

Until recently, it took a handful of courage and conviction to even approach the interracial theme, be it adult or YA. My hope is that one day, it won’t take that same courage and conviction. Interracial romance stories will be so commonplace as to not even raise eyebrows.

I have been in interracial relationships during my life. Gladly. I used to teach in a small city in Virginia wherein they were as common as running water. And now I work in a shopping mall, and every other couple that walks through the corridors is mixed at some level or another. But if you gaze at the shelves in the bookstores, ninety-nine percent (if not higher) of the books in the romance section are homogenous couples. I would love to see shelves that truly reflect our cultural and ethnic melting pot accurately.


Chris Ledbetter

YA Contemporary Fantasy Adventure
Evernight Teen
June 5, 2015

Caught between the sweltering fall landscape of Wilmington, NC beaches and southern illusions and expectations, all sixteen year-old Cameron Shade thinks about is art. That, and for Farrah Spangled to view him as more than just a friend. Cameron longs to win her heart through art.

After several warm interactions with Farrah, including painting together at the beach, Cameron discovers just how complex Farrah’s life is with her boyfriend and her family. Following a tense run-in with Farrah’s father, she forbids Cameron to ever speak to her again, but Cameron’s convinced there’s more behind the request.

To impress Farrah with a last-ditch effort, Cameron sketches her portrait. But the sketchbook he uses hides a dark secret. Farrah’s now in grave danger because the sketch he drew of her siphons her real-life’s soul into the sketchbook. Cameron now has twenty days to extract Farrah. To save her, he must draw himself into the book.

If he fails… they both die.

About the Author

Chris Ledbetter grew up in Durham, NC before moving to Charlottesville, VA in 11th grade. After high school, he attended Hampton University where he promptly "walked-on" to the best drum line in the CIAA. And, without any prior percussion experience. He carried the bass drum for four years, something his back is not very happy about now.

After a change of heart and major, he enrolled in Old Dominion University and earned his degree in Business Administration. He's worked in various managerial and marketing capacities throughout his life. While teaching high school for six years in Culpeper, VA, he taught business management, business law, marketing, and sports marketing, and also coached football.

He has walked the streets of Los Angeles and New York City, waded in the waters of the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, and climbed Diamond Head crater on Hawaii and rang in the New Year in Tokyo, Japan. But he dreams of one day visiting Greece and Italy.

He's a proud member of SCBWI (Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators) and a strong supporter of the Need for Diverse Books. As a self-described, young reluctant reader, he writes young adult stories specifically to reach other reluctant readers. As a participant in the prestigious Nevada SCBWI Mentor Program, he was blessed to be mentored by Suzanne Morgan Williams, 2012 SCBWI member of the year.

He now lives in Wilmington, NC with his family, including three cats.

Connect with Chris:  Website  ~  Twitter  ~  Facebook

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Wednesday, June 17, 2015

The Heartbeat Thief by AJ Krafton - Guest Post & Giveaway

 The Heartbeat Thief

AJ Krafton

New Adult Fantasy
June 12, 2015

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Haunted by a crushing fear of death, a young Victorian woman discovers the secret of eternal youth—she must surrender her life to attain it, and steal heartbeats to keep it.

In 1860 Surrey, a young woman has only one occupation: to marry. Senza Fyne is beautiful, intelligent, and lacks neither wealth nor connections. Finding a husband shouldn’t be difficult, not when she has her entire life before her. But it’s not life that preoccupies her thoughts. It’s death—and that shadowy spectre haunts her every step.

So does Mr. Knell. Heart-thumpingly attractive, obviously eligible—he’d be her perfect match if only he wasn’t so macabre. All his talk about death, all that teasing about knowing how to avoid it…
When her mother arranges a courtship with another man, Senza is desperate for escape from a dull prescripted destiny. Impulsively, she takes Knell up on his offer. He casts a spell that frees her from the cruelty of time and the threat of death—but at a steep price. In order to maintain eternal youth, she must feed on the heartbeats of others.

It’s a little bit Jane Austen, a little bit Edgar Allen Poe, and a whole lot of stealing heartbeats in order to stay young and beautiful forever. From the posh London season to the back alleys of Whitechapel, across the Channel, across the Pond, across the seas of Time…

How far will Senza Fyne go to avoid Death?

Guest Post by AJ Krafton

Speaking “English” English: Cockney Rhyming Slang

The Heartbeat Thief is a historical fantasy that follows the journey of a girl who learned a secret that was quite dangerous for an English girl in 1860s Surrey: the secret of immortality.

As a writer, I faced a challenge. Not only was I writing a historical, but one that would span many different time periods, in various countries. What had I been thinking? : ) This wouldn’t just be a case of making up a story—this was going to involve serious research.

I don’t mind research. (In fact, writers tend to do it without even realizing it—everything we see or hear or read or experience is potential research for a book.) However, I’m easily distracted when doing Internet research. One page leads to another and another and the next thing I know I’m three hours away from my original query (but a happy, happy reader, nonetheless.)

One particular scene in The Heartbeat Thief involved Senza’s stay in Whitechapel in late 1888. You hear the neighborhood, you hear the year…you must know the story.

It wasn’t enough to research names, dates, maps of East London during the time. When I write, I hear the characters conversing in my head. Trouble is, I didn’t spend much time in Whitechapel in the late 19th century, so I needed to research the sounds of Whitechapel.

Every region has its own dialects and slang. In East London, there was a particular slang that grew amongst criminals and dodgy folk. They used the slang as code—that way, they could speak without their information being overheard by the wrong ears. Some of it was to hide vulgarity and some of it was just fun to say.

Whitechapel and Spitalfields were considered Cockney neighborhoods, so the characters we meet in The Heartbeat Thief would have been fluent in Cockney rhyming slang. A country-born manor-bred woman such as Senza Fyne was sure to be completely bewildered the first time she encountered one of the residents and attempted conversation.

Cockney rhyming slang

When I came across this dialect, I realized that there was an entire separate world of English to be discovered…and, once I delved into the phenomenon of Cockney rhyming slang, I was completely hooked. It would days before I got back to actually working on my manuscript and by then, I was using the slang so much my family thought I’d suffered a minor stroke.

My research also put to rest lingering questions I had from the first time I watched Austin Powers: Goldmember. (Yes, I know I just dated myself by referring to a movie from 2002.)  Remember this scene with Myers and Caine?

Austin: Listen, dad, if you are going to say naughty things in front of these American girls then at least speak English English.
[Nigel looks back at girls]
Nigel: All right, my son: I could've had it away with this cracking Julie, my old China. (Subtitle: I was about to make love to this pretty girl.)
Austin: Are you telling pork-pies and a bag of trout? Because if you are feeling quigly, why not just have a J. Arthur? (Is this true? If you were aroused, why didn't you pleasure yourself?)
Nigel: What, billy no mates? (What, alone?)
Austin: Too right, youth. (Indeed.)
Nigel: Don't you remember the crimbo din-din we had with the grotty Scots bint? (Remember Christmas dinner with the Scottish girl?)
Austin: Oh, the one that was all sixes and sevens! (The insane one?)
Nigel: Yeah, yeah, she was the trouble and strife of the Morris dancer what lived up the apples and pears! (She was the wife of the dancer who lived upstairs.)
Austin: She was the barrister what become a bobby in a lorry and... (A lawyer who became a policeman in a truck) [inaudiably] (????????)...
Austin & Nigel: --tea kettle!
Nigel: And then, and then--
Austin & Nigel: She shat on a turtle!

Of course, when I first saw the movie the only thing that made sense was the last line…and that didn’t really make any sense at all. (But at least I knew what a turtle was.)

After a bit of researching, I was able to translate Austin Powers all by myself (I thank you) and even tried a hand at the lingo myself.


In The Heartbeat Thief, Senza was the most innocent ribbon and curl when she went to Whitechapel. Her very best china was a brass nail but then some bushel of coke took a shovel and spade to the birds they knew and the next thing you know, it’s off to the overcoat maker. Again. Poor fing can’t catch a break.

So, anyway that’s Cockney rhyming slang. And it’s a whole different kind of English than the kind we speak here in eastern Pennsylvania. (Although…we do have a unique slang of our own in these parts. How’s this for a linguistic cage match: Cockney verses Coal Region Speak

As much fun as it was to learn more about Cockney rhyming slang, you won’t find large portions of The Heartbeat Thief written with it. Unless you’re well versed in the dialect, you’d need a reference or two to translate it all—and in the process, you’d get as distracted from reading the story as I did when I was writing it!

But when you’re reading a passage from Senza’s stay in Whitechapel, I hope you’ll hear the characters conversing in your head while you read. If you do, then all my hours of watching mini-series and movies and reading novels research totally paid off.

About the Author

AJ Krafton is the author of New Adult speculative fiction. Her debut The Heartbeat Thief is due out on Kindle in June 2015. Forthcoming titles include Taking' It Back & Face of the Enemy. She's a proud member of the Infinite Ink Authors. AJ also writes adult spec fic as Ash Krafton. Visit Ash at

Author links: 

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Tuesday, June 16, 2015

New Release Alert: Scorched by Jennifer L. Armentrout - Giveaway

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We are absolutely thrilled to bring you the Release Week Blitz for Jennifer L. Armentrout's SCORCHED!! SCORCHED is a standalone New Adult Contemporary Romance and is a part of Jennifer L. Armentrout’s Frigid Series. And be sure to grab FRIGID, the first standalone in this amazing series!!

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Portrait of a pretty teenage girl with redhaircovering her face with her hands
SCORCHED Synopsis:
Sometimes life leaves a mark… Most days, Andrea doesn’t know whether she wants to kiss Tanner or punch him in the gut. He is seriously hot, with legit bedroom eyes and that firefighter body of his, but he’s a major player, and they can’t get along for more than a handful of minutes. Until now. Tanner knows he and Andrea have had an epic love/hate relationship for as long as he can remember, but he wants more love than hate from her. He wants her. Now. Tomorrow. But the more he gets to know her, the more it becomes obvious that Andrea has a problem. She’s teetering on the edge and every time he tries to catch her, she slips through his fingers. Andrea’s life is spiraling out of control, and it doesn’t matter that Tanner wants to save her, because when everything falls apart and she’s speeding toward rock bottom, only she can save herself. Sometimes life makes you work for that happily ever after… 

Praise for SCORCHED: “Armentrout’s latest new adult offering tackles substance abuse and mental illness — and, thankfully, the love of a good man is not going to be what heals this heroine.” – RT Book Reviews


And don’t miss the first standalone book in the series…



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Author PhotoAbout Jennifer L. Armentrout: # 1 NEW YORK TIMES and USA TODAY Bestselling author Jennifer lives in Martinsburg, West Virginia. All the rumors you’ve heard about her state aren’t true. When she’s not hard at work writing. she spends her time reading, working out, watching really bad zombie movies, pretending to write, and hanging out with her husband and her Jack Russell Loki. Her dreams of becoming an author started in algebra class, where she spent most of her time writing short stories….which explains her dismal grades in math. Jennifer writes young adult paranormal, science fiction, fantasy, and contemporary romance. She is published with Spencer Hill Press, Entangled Teen and Brazen, Disney/Hyperion and Harlequin Teen. Her book Obsidian has been optioned for a major motion picture and her Covenant Series has been optioned for TV. She also writes adult and New Adult romance under the name J. Lynn. She is published by Entangled Brazen and HarperCollins.  

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Monday, June 15, 2015

Cocktails & Characters with Cecily Magnon, Author of Dark Skies

I'm excited to welcome author Cecily Magnon to the blog today. She is sharing her Cocktail & Characters list for Dark Skies.

Cocktail & Characters for
Dark Skies by Cecily Magnon

Cocktails & Characters (for the secondary characters)
Choose 3 or 4 of your secondary characters tell what their favorite cocktail is and why.

Caleb is Jarron's best friend. His favorite cocktail would have to be a Brain Hemorrhage. He's got uber telekinetic powers and can blow things up with his mind. He finds it funny, that the drink actually looks like a brain.

Anya is the Oracle for the Order of the Anakim. She's fun, bubbly, and a little bit quirky just like her favorite drink, Mimosas made with fresh squeezed orange juice and garnished with strawberries. She loves oranges and uses the left over peels in her potpourri mix and for chocolate dipped orange peels. She doesn't believe in wasting anything.

Gina is Ellie's best friend. Her favorite cocktail is a shot (or  several shots) of B-52. She's a scientist like Ellie and she loves the creamy, rich, pretty, layers that form from the liqueurs. Gina also doesn't mess around and when it's time to have fun, there is nothing like a quick shot to get things started.

Kash is one of the four High Guardians. He's big, strong, and uses Earth Elemental powers. He's broody and serious. Cocktails?! Um, no.  Give him an ice cold beer any day. He's about simplicity and getting the job done. He doesn't have time for cocktails.

Dark Skies
Order of the Anakin #2

Cecily Magnon

Paranormal/Fantasy w/ Romantic Elements
12 Angels Publishing
November 28, 2014

Passions are erupting.
Cryptic alliances are forming.
Armies are gathering.
And the fabric between good and evil is slowly tearing open.

Time is running out on Elysa and The Order of the Anakim. A gathering gloom hangs heavy over their mystic realm as the demon hordes measure a final deathblow in their age-old struggle. Step by step, the demons murder, capture, and conjure their way to a realm unified by utter darkness. Their ruthless queen Ashtaroth, guided only by ambition and her voracious thirst for carnal pleasures, masterminds their rising tide of evil.

The Order must unify its splintering members to meet the defining challenge of their history... or pass forever into oblivion.

But in a world where magic, warfare, and sinister prophecies rule the day... in the night, vile enemies may seek the warmth in each other's touch.

At this vital juncture, Elysa's passion is lured by a wicked voice both arousing and terrifying. If the love between Elysa and Jarron is eternal, it will have to overcome pressures seen and unseen and withstand the crush of an all-out attack by demon forces.

Darkness is bleeding its treachery into our world and Elysa and The Order of the Anakim must find a way to combat the gathering doom.

Dark Skies will sweep legions of fantasy fiction fans into Elysa Amalfi's thrilling and treacherous world of the supernatural.


The days were melting into each other and Ellie felt like she'd lived a lifetime in just these few weeks she'd been with the Anakim. She'd found out she was descended from angels, she'd met an amazing man, and her friend was going to join the ranks of the Wiccans to help in their fight.

She'd always thought stuff like this only happened in the movies. That nothing like this really existed except in the creative minds of storytellers. But here they were, she and Jarron, driving into the city to pick up Gina and permanently close down her apartment.

Gina had been house sitting for her for the last three weeks, but now that they were both going to be with the Anakim, there was no longer any reason to hold onto it. The apartment had been her place since her mom disappeared, and was where she'd put together a new life for herself. Letting it go was letting go of the past to allow room for a new beginning she was strongly forging with The Order of the Anakim.

It was bittersweet.

She looked at the driver's side of the SUV and studied Jarron's profile -- the chiseled jaw, the pout of his lips, the perfect slope of his nose, and those eyes… He could stare down a demon during battle and, in their private moments, lock onto her gaze, making every fiber of her being melt into goo. He owned her and he didn't even know it. Her heart beat wildly when he caught her staring and threw her one of his half-cocked smiles. That smile was her undoing.

He reached over and grabbed her hand, squeezing it lightly before returning his eyes to the road. "We should be at Gina's in a few minutes." He slowed the car to a stop, waiting for the traffic light to change. "Are you okay?"

Ellie nodded, but she wasn't sure how she was feeling. There was too much going through her mind… some good, some bad. "It's been a lot to take in these last few weeks."

He shifted his hand, twining his fingers with hers as he drove to Ellie's apartment. Jarron pulled into a parking spot at the apartment's lot and turned the engine off. He turned in his seat to face her and kissed the tips of her fingers. He didn't say anything, just looked at her. His eyes were so bright, one green and one blue, drawing her in and ensnaring her within the safety of his heat and light.

"Thank you for coming with me to do this." She had to look down for a moment to release the breath she'd been holding. He did that to her. He made her forget to do even the simplest thing like breathing.

He leaned towards her, his cocky smile returning as he angled for her lips. His heat drew her in, warming her cool energy and making her bubble with pleasure. She surrendered to him, giving back as much as he was taking, deepening their kiss.

Gathering Storm
Order of the Anakim #1

Sarah Amalfi and her best friend Samantha are headed to Tijuana looking for some summer fun after their high school graduation... but there's something far more sinister looming over this road trip than an innocent shopping trip at Tijuana's famous market place... 
Warnings from strangers, a vicious attack by a shadowy assailant, a charismatic stranger named Will... What do they want with Sarah? Sarah is forced to consider that there was nothing chance about her meeting with Will, but how can she accept the fantastic possibilities that Will presents to her? A hidden realm within our own, governed by cryptic magic, ancient alliances, demons... and passion beyond her understanding The truth comes hard and fast in this riveting prequel to the romantic supernatural awakening of Gathering Storm!

Prelude to a Storm
Order of the Anakim Prequel

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Sarah Amalfi and her best friend Samantha are headed to Tijuana looking for some summer fun after their high school graduation... but there's something far more sinister looming over this road trip than an innocent shopping trip at Tijuana's famous market place... Warnings from strangers, a vicious attack by a shadowy assailant, a charismatic stranger named Will... What do they want with Sarah? Sarah is forced to consider that there was nothing chance about her meeting with Will, but how can she accept the fantastic possibilities that Will presents to her? A hidden realm within our own, governed by cryptic magic, ancient alliances, demons... and passion beyond her understanding The truth comes hard and fast in this riveting prequel to the romantic supernatural awakening of Gathering Storm!

About the Author

Cecily Magnon is from the fertile valleys of northern California, where she lives with her husband and kids, and gets inspired by the diversity, beauty, and bounty of the people and of the land around her.

A self-proclaimed nerd girl, Cecily has had a fascination with all topics outside of the norm since she was a little girl. Things of fantasy, magick, sci-fi, the supernatural, and day dreams are the juice that nourishes her imagination and infuse into her writing.

According to Cecily, there is no such thing as “ordinary” when you believe and you see that the everyday is filled with magick. 

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