A special family member gets into a book

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Monday musings

By Toby Neal

Memory can be a powerful source of writing inspiration…

Her eyes are milky now, this old dog of ours, and her muzzle adrift in silver. She gets up in the mornings from her bed and walks like I feel some days, stiff and sorry that dawn has stolen comfort. She has never been a dog to make assumptions, boldly thrust her nose into my hand and demand petting like my young dog Liko, with his bold stares and entitlement. No, she’s respectful, and keeps her eyes down, and merely follows me from room to room to make sure I’m safe and okay. If I’m sad she will sense it, and come close, and sit with me, and it’s powerful because I know it costs her something.

She came to us fifteen years ago when the kids were young, a tiny pup the kids discovered on Kauai while we were camping.  A hippie girl had the litter in her tent, and the pups were adorable even if the hygiene wasn’t.

We’d had a trail of failed dogs thus far: the Dalmatian that was too hyper, the beagle mix that bit, and Shepherd that knocked the kids over and tracked dirt everywhere. We’d always had to give them away with accompanying heartache and tears, so I said no. And no again the next day. And finally, as the begging reached a crescendo, yes.

Nalu, named because of wave shapes in the markings on her cheeks, was so little that we carried her home to Maui in my purse.

Nalu protecting her people on a beach walk.

She patrols the grounds every day to protect the family, even now with her limp, and the hunch in her back since she fought a pit bull who dared to come too close to our home, and was shaken like a chew toy for her courage.

Nalu has always been a very big dog, for a Chihuahua.

Nalu loves going to bed, because we give the dogs a treat, and pets too, and she can lie down with that sigh she gives at the end of the day, knowing her work guarding us and keeping us company is done.

And Nalu, passed away now, was the model for Keiki, the fiercely loving and loyal Rottweiler who’s been Sergeant Lei Teixeira’s companion in 12 USA Today award-winning books, the Paradise Crime Mysteries. She will live forever, now.

See the books at https://tobyneal.net/ and meet Keiki yourself!

And if you like true stories, you might enjoy my memoir, Freckled. It’s a whole lot of memories strung together.

Toby Neal

Award-winning, USA Today bestselling social worker turned author Toby Neal grew up on the island of Kaua`i in Hawaii. Neal is a mental health therapist, a career that has informed the depth and complexity of the characters in her stories. Neal’s mysteries and thrillers explore the crimes and issues of Hawaii from the bottom of the ocean to the top of volcanoes. Fans call her stories, “Immersive, addicting, and the next best thing to being there.”

Neal also pens romance, romantic thrillers, and writes memoir/nonfiction under TW Neal.

 Visit her on her:

And follow her on Twitter @TobywNeal.

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Monday musings: The inspiration of memory

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By David C. Cassidy

Do memories inspire my writing?

Human Chess at the World Bodypainting Festival in Pörtschach am Wörthersee, Carinthia, Austria.
Photo by JIP – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=41470182

In a word, yes. I have always had a vivid imagination, one that’s immensely visual, and that shines through in all of my stories. But at another level, recollections of past events—whether they happened to me or to others—have always inspired my writing in one way or another.

In Fosgate’s Game, a creepy tale of greed, dark magic, and murder, I pit two well-to-do Englishmen in a battle of wits over something as innocuous as a game of chess. It’s not that simple, of course, as they’re playing with dark forces that neither truly comprehends. The story was actually inspired by a memory of me playing chess as a young boy against one of my brothers. During a rather lengthy turn where he was taking his sweet time to make a move, my mind began to drift, and I began to wonder what might happen if the chessmen were somehow alive.

The Dark is an atmospheric supernatural thriller where a young child has lost his father in a dreadful accident, and in his desperation, is seduced by an ever-present evil that draws him into another realm—a wondrous place that includes his father. In my younger days, I used to enjoy tobogganing down this rather treacherous sledding hill in a park, and on one particularly fast run, I nearly spilled into an ice-cold creek at the bottom. I was this close to disaster, barely stopping myself in time. It was getting rather dark, and when I picked up my sled and turned to head back up the hill to go home, I suddenly froze, staring up at this towering—and rather ominous—oak tree. It just startled me, and to this day, I don’t know why. It was just one of those eerie moments when one gets a case of the chills for no obvious reason. Little did I know then that that hill and that very tree would be the basis for an award-winning novel.

A short story of mine, Never Too Late, was inspired by a deeply painful personal event. The story is a cautionary tale about regret—how we all, at one time or another, figure we have all the time in the world—only to learn the agonizing truth when the unexpected happens. Years ago, my mother passed away quite suddenly, and I was devastated. I never spent nearly enough time with my parents, always figuring there was plenty of time for that. You know, I’ll seem them soon. I’ll make time later. Well, I was wrong. It was the hardest lesson I ever learned.

Velvet Rain, a supernatural thriller with elements of time-travel and alternate realities, was not so much inspired by memories or personal events. And yet, a lot of the characters in the book, including the main character, Kain Richards, possess those human frailties and personal characteristics of people I’ve known—including family. One character, Al Hembruff, a no-nonsense farmer in 1960s Iowa, at one point refers to his daughter, Lynn, as “honey-child”. My father, God rest his soul, used to call his own daughters the very same. I hadn’t heard him say it in years, but as I was writing Velvet Rain, the memory came back, and it just seemed to work in the moment.

In all honesty, I don’t consciously write out of memory—I write out of inspiration and imagination—but I certainly don’t discount the subconscious when it strikes. If the shoe fits, I wear it.

David C. Cassidy

The award-winning author David C. Cassidy is the twisted mind behind several chilling books of horror and suspense. An author, photographer, and graphic designer—and a half-decent juggler—he spends his writing life creating tales of terror where Bad Things Happen To Good People. Raised by wolves, he grew up with a love of nature, music, science, and history, with thrillers and horror novels feeding the dark side of his seriously disturbed imagination. He talks to his characters, talks often, and most times they listen. But the real fun starts when they tell him to take a hike, and they Open That Door anyway. Idiots.

David lives and plays in Ontario, Canada. From Mozart to Vivaldi, classic jazz to classic rock, he feels naked without his iPod. Suffering from MAD—Multiple Activity Disorder—he divides his time between writing and workouts, photography and Photoshop, reading and rollerblading. An avid amateur astronomer, he loves the night sky, chasing the stars with his telescope. Sometimes he eats.

Get to know David at his:

And follow him on Twitter @DavidCCassidy.

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Thursday teaser: The Dark

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Read this week’s horror excerpt to find out how you could WIN a free copy of the award winning novel

By David C. Cassidy

Lost in the blackness of the mine, Harmon Wyatt choked off a scream.

Those words hadn’t come from his cherished daughter. It was the song of her sweet voice that tugged at his heart, but it wasn’t her. It was an abomination.

Skulls stirred in the death pit below. They shifted listlessly, as if detached from their spines. Yet this was but illusion, for they were glowing, somehow pulsing to the rhythm of hearts long lost—indeed, the frontal bones of their craniums appeared semi-transparent, brimming with the darkest blood. Were this not enough to send him screaming, the skeletons began to rise, rattling bone on bone. Shrill scratching sounds turned his heart cold as their wretched fingers clawed at the ladder.

The dead were coming.

Human skulls rose, one by one. Canine skulls began to stir; their jaws began to open. Something snatched Harmon’s leg and yanked it out from under him. He toppled onto his back. The ceiling rock took the color of blood as skeletons emerged from the shaft. A long-dead hand clenched about his boot and dragged him toward the bone pit, yet all he saw was a pulsating skull hovering above his legs. It stared with barren black sockets, and it might have been grinning.

Harmon groaned as the creature crawled onto him. The skull was ice, its proximity burning the skin on his face. Before he knew it, he felt the wrench of thin, hard fingers around his throat. A second skeleton clawed its way up and was on him, pinning his legs.

He reached for a shovel. A dead hand thwarted him, slapping it aside. The shovel slid along the wall rock, and he caught the handle just in time. He brought his arm up and swung hard, hearing a satisfying clunk as the blade caught the skull directly above him. A second blow crushed its temporal bone and half its frontal. Incredibly, blood seeped from the cracks in the bone.

The grip on his throat eased, enough for him to steal a breath. He swung the shovel again and knocked the skeleton off of him. It stayed down.

Harmon struck the one that was pinning him. He thrashed at it like a wild man, driving it back. It rocked against another that was climbing from the winze, sending that one back into the shaft. He drove a boot into it, and it fell into the winze.

Another had come—a child’s skeleton—and Harmon jabbed at it with his foot. Relentless, it moved up and tried to claw at his face. He pounded it with a flurry of fists and it slipped back.

Three more emerged from the shaft, two of them crawling over the child. One crept up beside him, but he managed to fight if off with crushing blows to its skull. Blood splattered him.

Harmon rolled over. He crawled forward and let out a small cry as something snared his boot. He whacked that bony hand until it released him.

Somehow, he scrambled away and shot a glance over his shoulder. Glowing skulls illuminated the rock, their muted light growing as the things closed on him. Some of them had risen and were stalking him in step, shoving the crawlers aside in their thirst.

He got to his feet just as a canine skull carried past the crest of the shaft. One of the human skeletons had lifted the dog and had set it loose. A second dog-thing followed, and now it was after him.

Harmon fled, screaming into the dark. The water slowed his escape as he made his way to the crosscut. He recalled the way being straight and wide, but in his blind panic he stumbled over tool and rock and his old failing legs. He was running in a nightmare.

He heard them coming. Some of them had lost their footwear, the bones of their feet grating on the ore beneath them. Others scraped the wall rock with their fingers as they worked their way along.

It struck him: They were sharpening them.

About The Dark

2015 National IPBA Award Winner in Horror Fiction

2015 Readers’ Favorite Award Winner in Horror Fiction

4-time Readers’ Favorite 5-Star Selection

Pure Heart meets Pure Evil.

Award-winning author David C. Cassidy draws you into a realm of terror, a world unlike any other. With the inspired flair of Clive Barker and the pulse-pounding beat of Stephen King, The Dark will leave you breathless, reminding us all that for all we desire there is always a price, the currency in suffering and sacrifice. Brimming with insidious evil and a nerve-wracking pace that never lets up, this story will grab hold of your most primitive fears and crank them up to Warp 10—and won’t let go. 

It knows what you want.

It knows what you need.

In denial over his father’s death in a horrific accident, Kelan Lisk has grown fearful and withdrawn. For this meek and bullied child, a burning desire to tame a deadly sledding hill consumes him, drawing him inside a wondrous place where anything is possible … including his father. But as this strange new realm spills into this one, twisting an innocent little boy into an agent of evil, the world is forever changed, devoured by an even greater evil—the Dark. 

“Move over Stephen King and Dean Koontz … The Dark is everything that horror fiction fans want—scary, unsettling, relentless and so creepy that you will not want to read it at night.” — Charity Tober for Readers’ Favorite

“I haven’t enjoyed a horror novel this much since the early days of Stephen King’s work.” — Miss Lyn, Amazon Reviewer

“You can’t read this in the dark because the author has made it too real … this is horror at some of its finest.” — Samantha Colville for Readers’ Favorite

“The Dark compares with works of King and Koontz and is tremendously difficult to put down.” — Melinda Hills for Readers’ Favorite

Win a free copy

Name the mining town where The Dark takes place.
(Hint: Check in the “Look Inside” feature on Amazon. ) Click on Leave a Comment above and write the answer. Your answer will not show up until it has been approved by BestSelling Reads.

David C. Cassidy

Award-winning author David C. Cassidy is the twisted mind behind several chilling books of horror and suspense. An author, photographer, and graphic designer—and a half-decent juggler—he spends his writing life creating tales of terror where Bad Things Happen To Good People. Raised by wolves, he grew up with a love of nature, music, science, and history, with thrillers and horror novels feeding the dark side of his seriously disturbed imagination. He talks to his characters, talks often, and most times they listen. But the real fun starts when they tell him to take a hike, and they Open That Door anyway. Idiots.

David lives and plays in Ontario, Canada. From Mozart to Vivaldi, classic jazz to classic rock, he feels naked without his iPod. Suffering from MAD—Multiple Activity Disorder—he divides his time between writing and workouts, photography and Photoshop, reading and rollerblading. An avid amateur astronomer, he loves the night sky, chasing the stars with his telescope. Sometimes he eats.

Website   |     Facebook     |     Google+     |     LinkedIn     |     Twitter     |     Instagram

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Thursday teaser: Run and Hide

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The new year’s first teaser is from the first Eva Driscoll thriller

By Alan McDermott

The weather couldn’t have been more accommodating. After more than three weeks of glorious sunshine, the thunderstorm was welcomed by both farmers and trained assassins alike.

The pounding rain helped drown out the sound of Eva’s approach to the house, an expensive and expansive replica of a Mexican hacienda. It was all terracotta tiles and archways, and she could see the two guards taking cover from the storm. They were patrolling the first floor, letting the second-floor balcony protect them from the downpour.

Eva had been watching them for a couple of hours, and their drill remained constant: one covering the east side and the rear of the building, the other watching the front and west. It took each of them two minutes to cover their half of the house, then another two to walk back and meet up on the corner. She noticed that they never spoke, only acknowledged that the other was still alive and doing his job before the patrolling started once more.

Eva had no idea when the shifts would change, but guessed it would be at the top of the hour. She decided to strike at 2:20 a.m. That would give them fifteen minutes to make their way through the trees that surrounded Alexander Mumford’s villa and get to the back of the house, where she would make her entry. She’d scouted it out already and identified a way in through the door at the rear: it was the perfect place to launch the attack.

She was a hundred yards from the house, ten yards inside the tree line, so Eva wasn’t worried about being seen by the guards. If there were any motion sensors or CCTV cameras in the woods, they would have known about it by now. She had the rest of the team in place with three minutes to spare, only Farooq sitting this one out.

The guard reached the corner of the house and met his companion, then turned and slowly retraced his steps, his eyes always on the trees. Eva waited until he turned the corner then broke cover and ran across the manicured lawn. It took twenty seconds to reach the back wall, and she leaned against it for a few seconds as she brought her breathing under control. The guard would reach the corner again in around a minute.

Eva crouched as she crept past a window, then straightened as she reached the end of the wall. She heard the approaching footsteps just as the guard’s shadow came into view, and tightened her grip on the rubber-handled knife. Her pulse raced as adrenaline surged through her body, every sinew poised to strike. The guard appeared, but not where Eva expected him to be. He was half a yard farther away than she’d anticipated, and she had to adjust her feet as she lunged at him. The knife was inches from the man’s throat when he twisted sideways, bringing his rifle up in the same movement. Eva missed his neck by millimeters, but followed through with her elbow and felt the satisfying crunch of cartilage as the guard’s nose imploded.

He staggered backward and tried to bring his weapon up again, but Eva was too quick for him. The top of her boot connected with his groin and, as he doubled over, she reversed the knife and plunged it into the base of his skull. Spinal cord severed, the man went limp and collapsed to the ground, his rifle clattering onto the tiles. Eva pulled the knife free and ran as silently as she could to the far corner of the house to intercept the other guard. She’d lost precious seconds in the skirmish, and it was about to prove costly.

Eva was still five yards from the corner when the other guard appeared. His rifle rose to his shoulder in an instant and the sharp crack of a round reached her ears. The fact she heard it meant she was still alive, which was more than could be said for the guard. His head jerked sideways as a bullet slammed into his temple, and he dropped like a sack of rocks.

Much as Eva was relieved to still be breathing, the noise was a disaster. Police or other reinforcements would soon be on their way, so her plan to interrogate Alexander Mumford was blown.

She could still make a statement though.

About Run and Hide

There’s only so long you can run for your life.

Eva Driscoll is used to chasing down bad guys, but now the bad guys are chasing her. She knows they won’t stop until she’s dead.

After her brother is killed in a faked suicide, Driscoll teams up with ex-soldier Rees Colback, the one person who can help her find answers. Together they’re determined to uncover why members of his Special Forces squad are dying in mysterious circumstances.

But with every agency in the country in hot pursuit, their only choice is to flee.

The clock is ticking. They can’t run forever. It’s time to make a choice: kill or be killed …

Find it on Amazon.

Alan McDermott

is a husband, father to beautiful twin girls, and a full-time author. Alan lives in the south of England, and in 2014 he swapped writing critical application for the NHS to penning thrillers that have gone on to sell close to a million copies. His debut novel, Gray Justice, was well received and earned him membership of Independent Authors International. That book launched in July 2011, and by the time he’d written the follow-ups, Gray Resurrection and Gray Redemption, it had attracted the attention of a major publisher. Alan signed with Thomas & Mercer in 2013 and has now written six novels in the Tom Gray series and a spinoff called Trojan. Alan’s eighth novel introduces a new female lead, Eva Driscoll, and a new thriller series.

Alan can be found:

BestSelling Reads author page   |   Amazon Author page   |   Website   |   blog   |    Facebook    |   Twitter

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Thursday teaser: Meant for Her

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This week’s excerpt is from the New Adult romance

By Raine Thomas

“There’s something invigorating about autumn in Atlanta,” she said. “It represents promise.”

“Promise for what?”

She shrugged. “Endless possibilities.”

He frowned. What the hell did that mean?

Once again, she took his hand. “You looked lost in there, Evan Dorsey. I thought maybe I could do something to help guide you on your way.”

Pulling his hand from hers, he said, “You don’t know anything about me.”

“I don’t need to.” She tilted her head to the side and looked at him with her compelling eyes. “Have you been sick?”

The question made him glance away. He supposed she hadn’t done her research before making this approach. Still, she was closer to the truth than made him comfortable.

Her voice was quiet when she continued, “I ask because your suit looks tailored, but it’s loose on you right now, as though you’ve lost weight. There are dark circles under your eyes, making me think you aren’t sleeping well and probably haven’t been eating right. And your hair is short, like it’s just growing back. Since your scalp is pale, I assume you don’t normally wear your hair that way.”

Jesus, she was observant. Shaking his head, he turned to walk back into the reception.

“I see,” she said. Her tone made him hesitate. “I’m so sorry for your loss, Evan.”

When her slender arms went around him from behind, he didn’t know what to do. No one had ever offered him such a pure gesture of comfort. Everyone who attended the funeral had been too emotionally involved to do so, not that it would have been welcome.

But this hug from a stranger was about to undo him.

He stood frozen in place as she walked around him to face him again. His gaze moved down to her bare feet and noted that her nails were the same shade of purple as the streaks in her hair. Belatedly, he considered how cold she must be.

“I can see that you’re in a dark place,” she said, touching the side of his face. It was just the whisper of a caress, but it made his throat tighten. “It’s good that you honor the memory of this person you loved. But don’t be afraid to live now. What you’ve gone through, it will bring you where you need to be. Even the stars can’t shine without darkness.”

Mesmerized, he didn’t resist when she pulled him down. He closed his eyes when her lips touched his. She kissed him, an expression of comfort more than passion. The taste of sweet champagne lingered when they parted. She smiled again, her dimples teasing him, then turned and walked back inside.

After a moment, he followed her. This woman whose name he didn’t even know had given him more to think about in their few minutes together than anyone had in a long time. For someone who appeared no older than her early twenties, she had incredible insight.

She’d given him a glimpse of light that he hadn’t even known he craved. He supposed the least he could do was thank her.

Returning to the reception, he went looking for her. He figured she’d return to the dance floor, so he started there. After twenty minutes, he had to give up.

She was gone.

About Meant for Her

Photographer Sierra Stratton views the world through a lens all her own. She has an uncanny sense about people, something that often causes her trouble. When she meets the sexy and brooding Evan Dorsey, her intuition tells her he’s suffering, and she wants to be the one to help him.

Evan isn’t open to help from anyone, however. His focus is on his Major League career and making himself as marketable as possible for his upcoming free agency. He plans to ride out the season in Atlanta and then sign with another team, away from the painful memories that haunt him.

Someone’s eager to send him on his way, too. Between anonymous threats and equipment sabotage, it’s clear he’s earned himself an enemy along the way. To him, it’s one more sign that he’s right to move on.

But Sierra threatens his conviction. Her contagious smile proves hard to resist, as does her kiss. She tempts him in ways he never anticipated, making him question his plans for the first time. If he’s not careful, she might just convince him that he’s meant for her.

Where to get it

Raine Thomas

is the award-winning author of bestselling Young Adult and New Adult fiction. Known for character-driven stories that inspire the imagination, Raine has signed with multiple award-winning producer Chase Chenowith of Back Fence Productions to bring her popular Daughters of Saraqael trilogy to the big screen. She’s a proud indie author who is living the dream.

When she isn’t writing or glued to e-mail or social networking sites, Raine can usually be found vacationing with her husband and daughter on one of Florida’s beautiful beaches or crossing the border to visit with her Canadian friends and relatives.

Connect with Raine at her

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Bestseller joins BestSelling Reads: Meet M.L. Doyle

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Bestselling and award-winning author M.L. Doyle has joined the ranks of BestSelling Reads.

Mary Doyle is the author of two memoirs, three mystery novels, a four-novella erotic romance series, and the first of a series of urban fantasy novels. Her first novel, The Peacekeeper’s Photograph, won the Carey McCray Memorial Literary Award for best unpublished novel from the South Carolina Writer’s Workshop. It has since been published and received consistent five-star reviews.

“When I published my first book in 2010, I thought writing was a solitary thing. It’s still up to me alone to put words on the page, but I’ve learned that working within a writing community means you can find the support you need when you need it,” she says. “I know and have worked with many of the authors in BestSelling Reads already and I am honored to be invited to join such a talented group.”

Mary Doyle’s first book was as the co-author of  I’m Still Standing: From Captive Soldier to free citizen—my journey home (2010, Touchstone) which chronicles the story of Spec. (Ret.) Shoshana Johnson, a member of the 507th Maintenance Company who was captured during an ambush and held prisoner in the early days of the Iraq War. The book was nominated for a 2011 NAACP Image Award in the literary category for best Autobiography/biography, a year in which the category included books about Nelson Mandela, Jay Z and Ray Charles.

Mary has also co-authored another military memoir. A Promise Fulfilled, My life as a Wife and Mother, Soldier and General Officer tells the compelling story of Brigadier General (retired) Julia Cleckley, the first African-American female general of the line in the U.S. Army National Guard. The book chronicles Cleckley’s journey from joining the Women’s Army Corps, to a position of power wearing the star of a military general. The story details her journey to success while facing the most devastating losses a woman can endure: the loss of a husband and of a child.

Originally from Minnesota, Mary Doyle served almost two decades in the Army Reserve. She was stationed in Germany, Korea and the U.S., and her career took her from Central America, the Middle East, and across western and eastern Europe.

She earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in broadcast communications from Metropolitan State University and a Master of Arts in International Relations from the University of Oklahoma.

The Peacekeeper’s Photograph was planned as the first in a trilogy that now includes The Sapper’s Plot and The General’s Ambition, both featuring Master Sergeant Lauren Harper. But experience has shown that Mary isn’t done with writing about Master Sergeant Harper and her British companion, Sergeant Major Harry Fogg. Mary has written companion short stories, The Ceremony and Canceled Plans. She is planning a fourth and perhaps a fifth book in the series.

Mary’s adult romance series is called Limited Partnerships. It comprises Part I – Charlie, Part II – Luke, Part III – Wolf and Part IV – Derek, are available as individual ebooks format and as the Limited Partnerships Omnibus in ebook and paperback.

Her current project is a second novel in her Desert Goddess urban fantasy series that began with The Bonding Spell (2015). “I’ve been working on The Bonding Blade for a couple of years and I can’t wait to release it to the world,” she says. “It’s the second book in the Desert Goddess series aand I think it moves the story in a whole new direction. Ever since I released The Bonding Spell, my readers have been clamoring for the next book. I’m so happy to be closer to delivering it and can now promise that I’ll announce a release date by very soon.”

Mary loves to hear from readers. Find out more about her and her books on her BestSelling Reads Author page; check her out on Facebook.com/mldoyleauthor, or Twitter @mldoyleauthor.

You can read excerpts of all of her work on her website, www.mldoyleauthor.com.

 

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