Odyssey of a Novice Writer

Aspiring novelist. Avid reader of fiction. Reviewer of books. By day, my undercover identity is that of meek, mild-mannered legal assistant, Kate Loveton, working in the confines of a stuffy corporate law office; by night, however, I'm a super hero: Kate Loveton, Aspiring Novelist and Spinner of Tales. My favorite words are 'Once upon a time… ' Won't you join me on my journey as I attempt to turn a hobby into something more?

The Warning

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His footsteps as heavy as his heart, he walked up the stairs of the great house, entering their private quarters.

At the sight of her, still seated and staring expressionlessly out the window, he felt the black curtain of depression descend. Her hands held a small daguerreotype. Seeing this, his own grief nearly overcame him.

Willie, my son…

Instead, he knelt down next to her and pointed in the direction of the lunatic asylum. “Mother, if you cannot control your grief, it will drive you mad, and we may have to send you there.”

Mary Todd Lincoln only nodded.

__________________
Word Count: 100
Author’s Note: This story is based on a true incident in the life of Abraham and Mary Todd Lincoln. When their son, William (‘Willie’) Lincoln died in 1862 at the age of eleven, Lincoln despaired for the sanity of his already erratic wife, fearing her grief would unhinge her. The photo above is of Willie.

This piece of micro fiction was written in response to Velvet Verbosity’s 100 Word Challenge to craft a story utilizing the word (or theme of) ‘black.’ The 100 Word Challenge can be found here.

Infinite Jest: The Story of Jackie O’Rourke

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Keeping his hands away from what wasn’t his had always been a problem for Jackie O’Rourke.

Jackie worked for Boss Harrigan, a shady Boston pol who had managed to amass a fortune in ways best contemplated in silence. Jackie was good at silence, and quickly became part of Harrigan’s inner circle. Liking the Boss’s flashy style, Jackie took to wearing fancy diamond cufflinks and an expensive pinky ring.

Whatever the Boss had, Jackie wanted, too. That included Harrigan’s wife, a tall, raven-haired beauty with a frosty attitude.

One night at the Boss’s brick mansion, the old man was holding forth about a new construction project in South Boston.

“Now listen to me, boys. I arranged for the contract to go to the Flaherty group. They’ll work hard, nights if they have to, and they’ll finish the job quickly, no questions asked. They’ll make money and so will we. Even better, we’ll make some new friends; it’s always good to have friends in the construction business. Remember that.”

Jackie’s attention had wandered when Harrigan’s wife entered the room. She gave Jackie a look that raised, among other things, his temperature.

“Hey, Jackie! Am I boring you?” thundered the old man.

Jackie quickly returned his attention to the Boss. “No sir.”

Harrigan said nothing, but his shrewd blue eyes regarded Jackie with interest.

****

Jackie started feeling a pain in his gut. He tried ignoring it, but one morning he woke up feeling like someone had punched him in the stomach. That’s when the doc told him it was cancer. Reeling from the news, Jackie ended up in an unfamiliar part of town and walked into a small bar devoid of patrons. That suited Jackie fine; he didn’t feel like being social.

“Hit me hard,” he told the bartender, a dwarf who stood on a platform to serve drinks.

“You’ve got problems, brother,” the man said.

“I’m not here for tea and sympathy – just pour.”

The dwarf obliged, but then looked into Jackie’s eyes. “Maybe I can help.”

“Can you cure cancer?”

Jackie spoke roughly, wanting the man to leave him be. Instead, the dwarf smiled. “How bad do you want it?”

His face grim, Jackie smiled unpleasantly. “More than I want the cancer.”

“How’d you like to live forever? Disease, injury – nothing could kill you.”

“Pal, I got a tumor the docs can’t do anything about, but you’re gonna make me live forever, huh? Little man, you’re the limit!”

“Think about it: eternal life. Never grow old, never get sick…”

Jackie finished the shot and sat the glass down. “You’re nuts.”

“Maybe… maybe not.” The dwarf held out his hand. “Shake my hand, Jackie.”

“How do you know my name?”

“I said, shake my hand!” The dwarf gabbed Jackie’s hand and held tight. “You’ve just been given a gift. Use it wisely.”

Sudden heat coursed through Jackie’s body, and he took a step backward, closing his eyes. When he opened them, he saw the room was empty. The dwarf – and the booze – were gone.

Dazed, he wandered out into the street, still thinking about the dwarf. He never saw the truck coming…

****

“Hey, mister, you okay?”

Jackie looked up into the worried face of the truck driver.

“I thought you were a dead man! Your neck, it’s at a funny angle. Hey, mister! Don’t get up! Wait for the ambulance!”

Jackie wasn’t listening. He touched his neck with both hands, made a slight adjustment, and went on his way.

He remembered the dwarf and smiled.

****

“Baby… baby,” moaned Jackie into Mrs. Harrigan’s raven tresses. “Why’d you make Jackie wait so long?”

Smiling, she draped a silky thigh over his. “It was worth it, wasn’t it?”

“Baby, you know it.” Hot and hard, he was about to enter her when he heard the sounds of gunfire. Pain ripped into his back and buttocks and he collapsed atop the screaming woman.

Sliding toward oblivion, Jackie heard Harrigan say, “Get the body outta here. You know what to do… they’ll be pouring the concrete tonight…”

****

His mind foggy, Jackie slowly came to, aware that something wasn’t right.

His face… something was all over his face…

He struggled without success to move arms and legs. He tried to open his mouth, but something was clogging it.

Dirt.

And lots of it, packed tight.

The irony then stung him and he wanted to laugh; instead, tears leaked from his eyes.

Harrigan was right: it was good to have friends in the construction business.

As for Jackie, he had immortality.

Beneath concrete and six feet of dirt.

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Word Count: 762
Photo: James Cagney, Movie Actor

Author’s Note: This story is written based on a challenge issued by ThainInVain to write a flash fiction based on the prompt ‘Infinite Jest.’ I certainly went over 500 words, but the story was inspired by the prompt, so I’m crediting ThainInVain for the inspiration. ThainInVain’s weekly challenge can be found here. Be part of the challenge!

A Berliner hausfrau Brünnhilde

Kate Loveton:

John Flanagan has a gift for limericks. This one made me laugh aloud. Everyone can use a little humor on a Monday, right? Enjoy! (And check out his blog, please. He also has some beautiful poetry there as well as other things to delight you.)

Originally posted on johnpoetflanagan:

A Berliner hausfrau Brünnhilde
cried ‘Himmel!’ when an überstud filled ‘er
from Mannheim to München
with his blue-blooded truncheon
Blitzkrieger! Mein Gott! he near killed ‘er

View original

Unanswered Prayers

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Lace curtains fluttered on the breeze of a warm summer’s night.

News arrived and the window was quickly closed. A mausoleum stillness then descended, captured in the mirror’s surface.

Out of view, a lone figure knelt by a bed, fingers flying over a string of beads. Soft entreaties drifted skyward, searching for love and comfort as each bead touched fingertips.

Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us…

Nearby, a body lay in a morgue.

She’d told him easy money was a lie.

She continued fingering the beads, once shiny and new, now worn dull from a mother’s troubled prayers.

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Word Count: 99

Author’s Note: This piece was written in response to two challenges.

The first challenge was to write a 100-word story based on the above photo prompt. The challenge was issued on Rochelle Wisoff-Fields’ blog, Addicted to Purple. This is part of Rochelle’s Friday Fictioneers challenge – found here.  Photo credit:  Janet Webb.

The story was also written in response to ‘My Weekly Writing Challenge’ hosted on the Esther Newton Blog (found here). Her challenge was to write a story based on the words or the theme of money, new and operation. I couldn’t fit ‘operation’ into my 100 words, but I was able to craft a story around the words ‘money’ and ‘new.’

That Old Black Magic

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“You left these inside,” he said, rushing to catch up with me as I exited the coffee shop.

Handing me the sunglasses, his warm hand touched mine.

A frisson of electricity!

He felt it too – there was surprised laughter in his eyes.

Love at first sight.

Sweet mystery. Sweet magic.

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Word count: 50
Author’s Note: This piece was written in response to a challenge issued by Elizabeth Frattaroli to write 50 words (or under) on the theme of magic and mystery. Elizabeth’s blog can be found here.

Invisibility

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You can fool yourself, but you can’t fool the mirror, she thought. Pouches under her eyes and deep crevices on either side of her mouth mocked her.

She looked away.

Like the artist considering pigments on a palette, her eyes surveyed an array of tubes and bottles. How many hundreds of dollars had she wasted in a fruitless quest to appear youthful?

Too many.  Hope springs eternal…

Once beautiful, she’d been a woman accustomed to the kindness of men; now she was invisible.

The anonymity of age was wounding.

She reached for the tube of concealer, hoping to recapture magic.

__________________
Word count: 100
Author’s Note: This flash fiction is written in response to Velvet Verbosity’s 100 Word Challenge to craft a story utilizing the word (or theme of) ‘quest.’ The 100 Word Challenge can be found here.

Ode to Johnny Sunset

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He was six foot four, and mean and trim
He had a scar which traveled eye to chin
Carrot hair with eyes blue ice
But the ladies thought him mighty nice
All aflutter, they’d gather round
And welcome Johnny Sunset
When he came to town.

Yeah, they’d all simper in their pretty gowns
When Johnny Sunset came to town.

He was a righteous man, pure of heart
Hired to finish what evil men start
He’d practice quick draws right at sunset
At dawn he’d shoot, gaining him the epithet
Of Killer Angel of Tumbledown
That was Johnny Sunset’s name
And he wore it like a crown.

Yeah, Killer Angel of Tumbledown
Johnny Sunset’s old hometown.

He was sure and brave when he came to Boulder
Feared no man, nor looked over his shoulder
The Dry Gulch Boys were nothing but trouble
Johnny swore those boys would die in the rubble
If they continued their mischief and didn’t back down
They best listen to Johnny
And quickly leave town.

Yeah, them boys better heed
Johnny Sunset and get out of town.

Johnny had a passion for his odd-looking weapon
A Colt-45 whose fame ever beckoned
To men mad enough to try to take on
The man some folk called Saint John
And when the Dry Gulch Boys decided to try
With thunder in his voice, Johnny cried
‘Don’t even try, boys,
Or you will die!’

Yeah, with thunder in his voice,
Johnny Sunset cried ‘Remember that you will die!’

But them good old boys, they wouldn’t listen
There was no reasoning with ‘em, they had it in their vision
To ambush Johnny at the break of dawn
When he walked the streets and whereupon
They’d rein shots of lead
Through that russet-colored head
And watch him bleed until he was dead.

Yeah, they’d watch him bleed until he was dead
Poor Johnny Sunset, shot in the head.

Came the next morning, tall and proud
Johnny walked the street, his head unbowed
It would take more than two outlaws to plough him down
He was the Killer Angel of Tumbledown
And better men than the Dry Gulch Boys
Had tried to kill Johnny
And with greater poise

Yeah, they’d tried to kill Johnny
But in the end, it was always just noise.

He knew them two boys was hiding in a tower
He didn’t blink but suggested in lieu of flowers
Their women folk get on their knees to pray
For them bad boys was nearing Judgment Day
‘Twas Glory Land where they was bound
So said Johnny Sunset, as he hunkered down.

Yeah, behind a rock,
Johnny Sunset hunkered down.

With lightning speed, Johnny pulled his gun
He fired two shots and it was done
Just two quick shots was all it took
Time for a preacher and a hymnbook
And Johnny Sunset, Killer Angel of Tumbledown,
Slowly stood up.
It was time to leave town.

Yeah, he slowly stood up, and looked around.
His job was done. It was time to leave town.

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__________________
Word Count: 503
Author’s Note: Well, this has to be my silliest experiment yet! Admittedly, I’m not a poet, but when I saw the prompts this week by ThainInVain and BeKindRewrite, I kept hearing Johnny Cash’s voice in my head – and this is what I came up with.  Be gentle with me, good people.  :)

Okay, ThainInVain challenged us to write a flash fiction based on the prompt, ‘Remember that you will die.’

BeKindRewrite challenged us to craft a story utilizing certain words. The words I chose were: sunset at dawn; in lieu of flowers; and odd-looking weapon.

Both challenges can be found here: ThainInVain and BeKindRewrite. Check them out – and be part of the challenge!

Photo credit for second photo: generational justice.

Miss West Virginia

Lake

She stared at what was left of her martini, idly swirling the remains with a toothpick weighted with olives. Rick, her favorite bartender, quietly polished glasses at the other end of the bar, knowing not to disturb her.

It had been a long day.

Stephen’s middle-aged kids had stood a good distance from her during the burial service, their faces devoid of grief. Any feelings they’d once had for their father had evaporated during their parents’ acrimonious divorce proceedings.  She had been the other woman, an interloper who had destroyed a respectable marriage.  It was years ago, but the wounds endured. Like the Boston Brahmins they were, however, they stoically endured the brief service, their faces turned from hers.

They had no use for her.

Well, why the hell should they? She’d never been a part of their lives, nor had she wanted to be.

She was too busy being Stephen’s last acquisition.

Proper CEO of a huge soft drink conglomerate, the two had met during a promotional campaign.

For some time, her film career had been in decline; the same could be said for her fresh, pin-up girl beauty. Even so, she was still a name. Still recognized – and loved – by the public.

The Top Hat Company had hired her to pose for an advertising blitz, hoping to capitalize on her still sexy image. The day she’d met Stephen, she been filming the first of a series of TV commercials. Wearing a slinky floor-length dress, an ermine stole draped carelessly over one shoulder, she’d held a bottle of Top Hat Cola close to her cheek. She looked into the camera and murmured seductively, “Top Hat Cola is my drink of choice.” She then slowly, sensuously, lowered the bottle, giving the public a look at her two best assets.

Stephen had been entranced. Her beauty and the mystique of old Hollywood attracted the older man. In her early thirties, she’d retained just enough glamour and charm to mesmerize.

Marrying him had seemed a good career move.

The business journalists loved her story – the small town girl who had achieved great success.

Born in West Virginia to a miner and his teenage wife, she was ready to bolt town by her sixteenth birthday. Her friends used to laugh at her dreams of stardom, but she’d always been bigger on the inside, bigger than anyone knew. She’d had ambition, aspirations. She’d watched too many movies as a kid to settle for life in a poor mining community. From the start, she knew where she was going – to the bright lights of Hollywood.

A nice profile, blond hair and an outstanding pair of breasts enabled her to leave West Virginia behind.

She never looked back.

She got a job working as a shop girl in one of the Hollywood department stores. From there, she graduated to girl photographer at the Trocadero Nightclub. And then a few big breaks – casting calls where she exhibited her talent both on screen and off. Her best performances were given in the backroom of a producer’s large suite of offices. A girl had to swallow a lot to get ahead. She did what she had to.

And it had paid off. In the end, she’d achieved some notable success. On screen, she was magnetic, excelling in screwball comedies. Off screen, she made sure the public laughed with her – not at her.

As her career wound down, she achieved yet another incarnation: serious wife of one of the country’s leading executives. She’d played the role well. With Stephen, she boarded company jets and traveled the world, the ubiquitous bottle of cola always nearby for photo ops.

She was good for business. So good that she was given an honorary position on Top Hat’s board of directors. Of course, she was only a figurehead, never allowed any say in the decision-making process. Her role was to smile and gaze adoringly at a bottle of cola – and, on occasion, her husband.

Trophy wife and corporate symbol.

She was the best day’s work Top Hat’s CEO had ever done. She was a key acquisition on the corporate road to success, always a marketable commodity.

But that’s how it had always been. Her beauty had victimized her as much as it had opened doors. Four prior husbands, not one of them worth a damn. All actors or playboys.

But Stephen had class. Or so it had seemed.

He’d fooled her with his straight-laced ways.

He turned out to be a tough son of a bitch, perhaps the worst of all her husbands. It was his coldness.

You could forgive a passionate man for the trouble he brought your way.

It was hard to forgive a cold one.

After the fascination with her Hollywood past wore off, Stephen treated her with contempt, throwing her roots in her face, derisively christening her Miss West Virginia. Well, Miss West Virginia, like it or not,  had done damned well for herself, making a few films that won her recognition – if not respect.

Until Stephen, she’d always bounced back. Something about that stiff Bostonian broke her spirit. His steely way of looking at her made her feel like dirt. She quickly lost her way in the frozen wilderness of his disdain. To escape her bewilderment, she developed a passion for alcohol, and took to sleeping in the daytime; eyes wide open, nodding to polite inquiries, doing the necessary, never really there. The real Miss West Virginia had checked out due to disinterest.

The martinis made it bearable.

Several years into the marriage, a business reporter asked her about her Hollywood career, if she ever missed the opening nights, the glamour. She’d felt Stephen’s eyes on her as she answered. He didn’t like the question, she could tell.

Well, to be honest, I threw it away – willingly – when I met Stephen. None of that star stuff mattered after I fell in love with him.” She’d smiled, reaching for her husband’s hand, and gazed adoringly into his eyes.

A photographer captured the moment and it appeared on the cover of BUSINESS WEEK. It was a nice story. Top Hat’s stock had soared when the issue hit the stands.

She’d performed her role well.

But now Stephen was gone. So was her Hollywood glamour. Tastes had changed – in colas and in film stars. The company, now part of a larger conglomerate, had forced Stephen out years ago.

They lived in unhappy silence, tolerating each other. She hid her face behind martini glasses; he hid his behind newspapers. The silence was heavy with hostility. She wondered if perhaps she was psychic; paper held between his spotted and shaking, wrinkled hands seem to speak to her: You threw it away, all of it, for this…

“Mrs. Harrington?”

Startled from her thoughts, she looked up from the martini. Rick was facing her. “Would you like another?” he asked, pointing to her almost empty glass.

I should give up drinking, she thought in a brief moment of fantasy. Stephen’s gone… I could jumpstart my career… give up the cigarettes, get to bed at a reasonable hour.

So easy… just stop the martinis…

I still have contacts… The parts would be different now… Someone’s mother… God, not grandmothers, not yet…

But first, have to stop the drinking… then get work…

“Mrs. Harington?” repeated Rick, tilting his head, staring at her.

Who was she kidding?

She’d thrown it all away, years ago. She’d already had her nine lives – shop girl, movie star, business mogul’s wife.

And now? Her final role, the grieving widow.

Another metamorphosis. Well, she was good at that.

With a quick, practiced movement, she finished off the martini and slid the glass toward Rick.

“Hit me again, friend.”

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__________________
Word Count: 1,287
Author’s Note: This week’s story is based on two challenges. One is ThainInVain’s challenge to write a flash fiction story based on the phrase, “Well, to be honest, I threw it away…” Sorry, TiV – I couldn’t hold this to 500 words, but it was your phrase that gave me the idea for the story, so I’m crediting your prompt.

The other challenge was issued by BeKindRewrite to craft a story utilizing the following words: metamorphosis; psychic paper; bigger on the inside; shop girl; sleeping in the daytime.

Both challenges can be found here: ThainInVain and BeKindRewrite. Check them out – and be part of the challenge!

All prompts utilized are bolded throughout the story.  The photo used above is of Veronica Lake, a long-ago star; the story, however, is not about Miss Lake.

The Toy Patrol

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“Barb, where are the car keys?” he asked, watching her decide what to wear.

She frowned. The keys were where they always were – resting in the ignition of the pink convertible. Her pink convertible. Everything they owned was hers – the convertible, the dream house. He’d brought nothing to the union but plastic good looks, clothing and a healthy-sized ego.

“In the ignition – as always,” she said.

Ken slapped his forehead. “Right! Where else? Okay, gotta run; later, baby.”

Yeah, you’ve such a busy day ahead, pushing paper around Uncle Joe’s office, she thought unkindly.

That position, too, had resulted from his marriage to Barb. Her uncle was a decorated general on Mattel World. Filling endless supply requisitions was all the feckless Ken was good for.

Depressed, she turned to her wardrobe. The hardest part of her day was deciding which of her many outfits to wear. Each article of clothing hearkened back to a former life – airline stewardess, movie star, go-go dancer.

So many incarnations.

She felt old.

Yet, she looked the same: large dark eyes; jutting breasts above a tiny waist. As for her ass, there was plenty of junk in that trunk.

It was good to be Barb.

So why the sadness?

Annoyed, she decided on a cheerleader outfit; then she heard pounding on the front door.

“Barbie! Open up!”

Her friend, Midge, looking anxious, pushed through the cardboard door of Barb’s dream house. “Barbie, they’re coming! We should have known! Did we really expect they’d leave us in peace?”

“Midge, you have ten seconds to calm yourself and tell me what this is about. Jeepers, I haven’t even had my coffee; worse, I haven’t yet figured out what I’m going to wear today!”

“The Toy Patrol is coming!”

The news staggered Barb. Not the Toy Patrol! They’d liberated themselves from the Old Order when GI Joe and the Transformers had joined forces, subduing and imprisoning the instigators of so much misery in the universe. The result: a better world – Mattel World.

“Are you sure?”

Midge nodded. “I checked the kids’ toy box. The Brangelina dolls, the Paris Hilton action figure, they’re missing!”

Barb walked over to her own kids’ toy box. Slightly tipping the lid, she listened for the chatter she should have heard. Silence. Opening the box, she saw it was empty. Gone were the Hillary and Bill dolls, complete with boxing gloves. Gone, too, the George Bush doll with its fractured pronunciation of ‘nuclear.’

Was this the end? Were Barbie and her friends going to be rounded up by the Toy Patrol, consigned to toy chests in an alternate universe?

She’d die fighting first!

This was her universe, her beloved Mattel World. Never was this universe to be retaken by the Old Order. Here she’d make her last stand!

Resolutely, she marched back to the bedroom. Tossing aside the cheerleader outfit, she reached inside the wardrobe, pulling out camouflage gear.

Guerilla Barbie, accessorized with bazooka, went out to greet the enemy.

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__________________
Word Count: 496

Author’s Note: Trying to kill three birds with one stone this week!

This flash fiction was written in response to three challenges – Mark Baron’s Woegman’s World of Witty Wonder Thursday Trope (found here); ThainInVain’s weekly Wednesday challenge (found here); and BeKindRewrite’s Monday Inspiration challenge (found here).

Mark’s prompt was to write a trope on ‘Never Was This Universe‘ – a take on alternate universes; ThainInVain’s prompt was to craft a 500 word or less tale in which the words ‘You have ten seconds…’ was utilized; and BeKindRewrite’s prompt was to fashion a story in which certain words were utilized – of the words provided, I chose ‘Toy Patrol.’

This is a rather silly, fantastical tale, but I hope you enjoy. Thanks for reading.

Posts to Check Out!

Kate Loveton:

Thanks, Mishka, for including a link to my site – and to introducing me to some of your favorite bloggers. :D

Originally posted on A Writer's Life For Me.:

Here are a list of posts I loved this week. Why not check them out? You might find some new bloggers to follow :)

http://mckade.wordpress.com/2014/08/16/hats-off-to-book-review-bloggers/ – A great post about supporting the book review bloggers.

http://bumblesbooks.wordpress.com/2014/08/16/five-year-olds-are-genius-character-developers/ – Love this idea of planning out characters, definitely going to give it a try!

http://kateloveton.wordpress.com/2014/08/17/what-i-learned-during-my-blog-free-vacation/ – Kate came back from her time off from blogging in the most spectacular way.

https://jeanniezelos.wordpress.com/2014/08/19/prophecy-of-stones-mishka-jenkins/ – Cheating a bit, a review on my latest release! :)

http://taylorgraceauthor.wordpress.com/2014/08/19/toil-and-trouble-tuesday-fridge-disaster/ – This made me chuckle! Though, poor Taylor!

http://lovehappynotes.com/2014/08/20/disney-rhyme-licks/ – An awesome and very clever piece!

http://permashift.wordpress.com/2014/08/19/the-soul-is-live-on-google-play/ – The Soul is now on Google Play! This was an excellent book and I really recommend checking it out.

http://alexinbookland.wordpress.com/2014/08/20/top-5-wednesday-10/ – What book world would you like to live in?

http://alanjameskeogh.wordpress.com/2014/08/22/1793/ – The last (for a while) piece in a great story, Shadow Crawlers.

http://lindaswritingblog.wordpress.com/2014/08/22/my-tea/ – Most will know I’m a big…

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