(insert pithy rejoinder here)

Reapers With Issues

It’s Funny Blog Friday!

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fbfHappy Halloween and welcome to our first ever Funny Blog Friday! Me, along with a group of other hi-larious bloggers, are celebrating an otherwise spooky holiday with loads of laughter and free stuff! Click the links to participating bloggers at the bottom of the page for a chance at winning prizes and to read a lot of funny blogs, too.

Since our first Funny Blog Friday has fallen on Halloween, I thought it only appropriate to call on one of the rantiest funniest people…er, “beings” I know for a good laugh. (more…)


Disturbing Ode to a Literary Agent

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A laborious and lengthy session of work on REAPERS WITH FANGS has led me to the sad conclusion that my writing needs work, so I’ve decided to give a bit of prose a try in an effort to beef up my chops.

Poetry and prose is not an area I am comfortable with as you will see, but the spirit of Halloween got the better of me and I rose to the occasion.

For better or worse I bring you:

 

 

 

 

 

 

DISTURBING ODE TO A LITERARY AGENT 

(more…)


Funny Blog Friday @Hellis’ Blog

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fbf***POSTED BY THE GRIM REAPER***

So it seems that I am the subject of another interview over at H.E. Ellis’ blog this Friday, October 31st for a blog hop called Funny Blog Friday. Like I don’t have enough to do. Doesn’t this woman know it’s Halloween?!? The one day a year the souls of the dead are allowed to walk the Earth? (more…)


The Soundtrack to Characterization

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One of the oddest things about my blog is that I rarely utilize it for what it was originally intended- namely, sharing my writing. Since I’m nearly finished with REAPERS TWO, I decided I would share some of the writing techniques I used in the conception of that novella, and hopefully get new ideas from other writers about their character-building habits and techniques.

Today I thought I’d share a specific technique I use for conceiving characters: I assign them a song.

On the surface this may seem counter-intuitive since music is capable of conveying emotion without words, but I find that the perfect song will reveal emotions or behaviors in the characters I create long before I construct a single sentence. The right song can encapsulate a single moment or an entire lifetime of a person’s emotional experience (recent birthday boy ElGuapo knows what I’m talking about). With that in mind, I’ll describe two different ways I use music to build characters.

The first way I do this is to create a generic version of a character in my head, and then find a song that suits him/her after the rough draft is written. I find this works best for when I really want to “flesh out” a character by layering dimension over the bare bones of the initial conception. One of the characters that benefited most from this technique was the character of Raphael in THE GODS OF ASPHALT. Because his character was the most like me, I found that he was the hardest to flesh out. You’d think he’d be the easiest since I ought to know him so well, right? He wasn’t. I suppose that is because it is always easiest to hide our truest selves from ourselves. Well that, and the fact that I had never planned for him to resemble me in the first place. By the time I did my first run-though edit it was painfully obvious that I had captured myself in print.

I struggled for what seemed like forever to find something, anything, about myself in Raphael that I could use to turn him from an angry, closed-off parent into a character with true dimension. Finally I discovered that what made his character and myself alike was our inner struggle with our ethnicity. Being raised as an American in a household filled with Old-World ideals made it hard for me to know who I really was and where my loyalties lay. I was constantly conflicted and to this day struggle for a sense of equilibrium. Without realizing it I had passed that same internal struggle onto Raphael.

Once his (our) internal conflict had been revealed, I searched for music that would tell the story of a compelling character- one who grew from a disgruntled Midwestern teen into a man struggling to find peace as a proud Spanish father. Rodrigo y Gabriela’s cover of the Metallica classic ORION instantly became that song for me.

From that moment on, every time I wrote Raphael I would listen to that song. The music brought him to life for me; from the timbre of his voice to picturing the way he walked. ORION became the soundtrack to every scene Raphael was in and helped me navigate his character through the story.

Rodrigo y Gabriela – ORION

This next example illustrates the same technique, although switched-up a bit. That example is the character of Lucifer in THE REAPERS WITH ISSUES Series.

Unlike the example above where I conceived of a character before assigning him/her a song, with REAPERS I was faced with the challenge of re-characterizing established characters. The one that gave me the most trouble was Lucifer. The difficulty lie in the fact that Lucifer is more than established; he is downright iconic. There isn’t a culture on the planet that doesn’t have a vision of evil-incarnate, so how was I to reinvent him?

I knew that within the context of the story I would have to humanize him to some degree, so I decided to portray my version of Lucifer not as purely evil, but simply as…a dick. I also knew that to “flesh” him out would not be to layer dimension onto him, but to reveal him; to strip away his skin and discover what makes him tick.

I failed epically.

Every version of Lucifer that sprung to mind was a stereotypical construct from the deepest, most generic part of my brain. I had nearly lost all hope when I came up with a solution: I’d do it all backwards and let Lucifer pick his own music. Sounds crazy, right? Well it worked. I turned on my music, closed my eyes and listened to every song I could think of that wasn’t evil, dark or brooding until Lucifer revealed his song. That song, believe it or not, was CLINT EASTWOOD by the Gorillaz.

Why that song? I have no idea (I let Lucifer pick, remember?). But I will tell you that things became instantly clearer for me whenever I listened to it. I easily pictured the way he walked [slightly slouching] to the way he spoke [slightly spoiled] and imagined a dozen tiny little habits [folding origami] the instant that song became a part of his character. But as great as that song was, it wasn’t exactly right. I needed a version of that near-perfect song to do more than just bring Lucifer to life. I needed Lucifer to be reborn.

Words + Music = Art

I enlisted the help of a musician to remix CLINT EASTWOOD into something that sounded slightly more sinister, slightly more spoiled, and slightly more modern. Below is that song: Lucifer’s Remix conceived of by production musician extraordinaire, DJ Casper. Believe me when I tell you that to my mind, this song IS Lucifer.

DJ Casper – LUCIFER’S REMIX

I imagine the idea of using music to inspire or create words on a page may seem unconventional or downright bizarre, but to me it is the most natural thing in the world. I chalk it up to spending too much time on the road as a kid with nothing by my father’s music and my imagination to keep me company. I firmly blame my inability to finish GOA2 on the fact that I can’t figure out what kind of music River listens to. Like Lucifer, I’ve decided to let River choose. I am praying he’s not into Rap.


BLOGSHORTS: The Dog Days of Summer

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Shih-TzuThe legendary  BLOGDRAMEDY has come up with the perfect mental diversion she’s calling BLOGSHORTS: a ten day, ten story, 110 word canine-centric writing extravaganza.

How does that work, you wonder? Let’s ask Blogdramedy:

I’ve select nine dogs (a mixed breed of real and imaginary barkers) and you write a story of 110 words around each character. They can be the main participant or just bark in the background. That’s up to you.

I’m not going to write your stories for you no matter how much Gravy Train you put in my bowl.

The final story will feature a dog of your very own. It can be one you live with now, in the past, one you hope to own some day…or your imaginary puppy from when you were wee. The ten dogs are:

Cujo (Stephen King)

Toto (Wizard of oz)

Lassie

Fluffy (Harry Potter)

Eddie Crane (Fraser)

Snoopy

Frank (MIB)

Blacktoe (Will Riker’s dog)

Odie (Garfield)

The dog of your choice

Some of you may know that I am not particularly fond of dogs (if you’ve read REAPERS WITH ISSUES you know exactly how much), so being challenged to write about dogs is the perfect solution for my epic case of brain mud. In fact, I’ve already gotten started on an idea that I think about…TEN bloggers may get a kick out of. Sound like we’re barking up your tree? Sign up here and join these pups in this year’s BlogShorts.

RETURN TOMORROW FOR MY FIRST INSTALLMENT!

Throw these bloggers a bone by dropping by for a tour of their yards:

1pointperspective

SteveBetz 

Joe’s Musings

Jtailele’s Blog

MC’s Whispers

Shouts from the Abyss

Lenore Diane

Fix it or Deal


Death Comes to New England

Newbury Comics

Yes, ladies and gentlemen, Grim has arrived. The graphic novel empire known as Newbury Comics has graciously agreed to take a chance on everyone’s favorite Reaper by offering a spot for his book on its illustrious shelves.

For those of you who may not know, Newbury Comics is New England’s premiere comic/graphic novel/punk/new wave/indie music vendor. Considered Mecca to the pop-culture obsessed, I couldn’t imagine a better fit for a novella series as potentially off-putting as REAPERS WITH ISSUES.

Now, if I could just finish Book Two…

 

CLICK THE PIC FOR STORE LOCATIONS

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ConnectiCon!

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connecticonNot only was the day I met Neil Gaiman one of the best days of my life, but it was the first half of what may have been the best weekend ever. That is because I spent the very next day rubbing elbows with some of the most die-hard fans ever to converge in one place- a massive, multi-genre gathering better known as…ConnectiCon.

That weekend, from now on known as the Pilgrimage of Awesome, began in New Hampshire where I journeyed east to Harvard Square, Boston- the place where I would meet and become best buds with Neil Gaiman. From there I traveled southwest to Hartford, Connecticut, the place of my birth and home of the comic extravaganza, ConnectiCon.

941424_469207396495513_935284982_nIt was there, amidst the historic and stately buildings of the insurance capital of the world, I found myself in a convention center surrounded by a throng all dressed as their favorite cartoon/comic/video game characters. Never in my life have I felt so out of place for not wearing fangs or serpent contact lenses (you all have no idea how angry I was to have forgotten my Jayne Cobb hat).

I’ll be honest with you and say that if a person wore anything other than a BrownCoat, I probably didn’t know who they were supposed to be. That’s how new I was to this sort of gathering. I was such a newbie, in fact, that I was chastised by HR Nightmare for not taking pictures of me meeting Marina Sirtis, and then later by our daughter for not getting the autograph of some dude called, “Fargo.” Both of these actors were pleasant and approachable despite the hoard of hangers-on converging into their booths, but I didn’t want to be a bother and ask for attention. From what I’ve learned, being a “bother” is what it’s all about.

176956_411314275603922_1134951588_oI would have to say that the highlight of my walking tour of weird was to a booth manned by a company specializing in Steampunk/Vampire wares known as Great American Gothic.

Not only was I impressed with the quality of their work, but their showmanship during the event was very entertaining as well.

Yeah, I’ll admit they suckered me in for a Chimera’s Blood flask which I then gave to Prince Charming, an avid flask collector himself. A little networking may have landed me a sweet deal for a line of custom flasks, all designed around the REAPERS WITH ISSUES novella series. I’d love to see each Horsemen get his own flask. How’s that for clever marketing?

ConnectiCon is by no means as big a deal as Comic-Con, the uber convention held yearly in San Diego, but I imagine it is still as fun and entertaining as anything the west coast has to offer (minus the crowds and price gauging), and I for one am very glad to have attended.

Now, if I could just convince Nathan Fillion to attend next year…


Jazz, Jesus and the 1 Star Review

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jazzEvery so often there comes a moment when we see ourselves through another person’s eyes. Determining whether that’s good or bad depends entirely on what we see. Most of my epiphanies are delivered in the form of my sister telling me my ass looks fat in my jeans, whether I ask for her opinion or not.

Commentary on my fat ass or bad breath I can handle, but what I wasn’t prepared for was the reality of personal feedback in the form of reviews for my novella, Reapers With Issues.

Before I begin I’d like to state that every reader who reviewed my work negatively did not condemn me personally for what I’d written, despite not particularly enjoying the book. I’ve read reviews of other books where the reviewer took the author to task, and I am happy to say I’ve been blessed with a classy group of readers who didn’t feel the need to blast me.

I guess what confounds me most is that I expected there to be more blow back for subject matter. Portraying Jesus as a closet homosexual and writing a scene where Genghis Khan violates a shi-tzu wasn’t going to win me an audience with the Pope, and I knew that going in. I also prepared myself for a critique of the quality of the writing itself, which as it turns out I didn’t receive much of. What I did get was essentially the same question, asked in so many words, of what kind of person could conceive of the Reapers idea at all. Again, good or bad depends entirely on what we see.

[enter the dreaded introspection process]

The first thing I did was try to answer the question of what kind of person I am. Despite an obscene amount of navel-gazing I am no closer to that answer now than I was when I began. My motivation to write Reapers With Issues was just as strong and the subject matter just as easy to conceptualize as Gods of Asphalt’s was, so identifying a specific default in thinking didn’t pan out. The truth is that I’ve got a hundred different stories buzzing around in my head; everything from harmless children’s stories to British comedies to even more Reapers sequels (oddly there’s nothing milling around in there that remotely smacks of Erotica, but that’s a post for another day after an hour on a couch).

So after an even more shameless bought of self-contemplation I began to ask myself a different question, “Why do any of us write what we write?”

Do we choose our genre or subject matter because of who we are, or because of what we make of the world around us? I imagine it’s no coincidence that Reapers With Issues was written during the darkest hours of a friend’s battle with cancer, or that Gods of Asphalt was written while stuck in bed, listening to my two teenaged sons bicker amongst themselves and argue with their father.

It is also not lost on me that I wrote Reapers With Issues from a third-person point-of-view, allowing me to observe at a distance the story of a Reaper whose best efforts to gather souls are thwarted by a Savior, or that the overall theme of Gods of Asphalt is how brothers cope when their mother isn’t around.

I suppose in the end what we choose to write comes from the harmony of both who we are and what we see. I’ve learned that whether my writing is received as harmony or dischord depends entirely on who’s doing the reading, and no amount of alteration of my “music” will accommodate everyone.

For the record, I’m fine with that. I am a Jazz fan, after all.


F*ck Me – It’s NaNoWriMo Time Again

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I know I’m four days behind in this post, but better late than never as someone much more clever than I once said.

For those of you who may not know, NaNoWriMo stands for NATIONAL NOVEL WRITING MONTH which basically describes an online community of writers gathered together to practice their craft. You can create a page similar in style to Facebook where you connect with others and draw support from the world of writers.

Anyway, it’s NaNoWriMo time again, and I of course have signed up to fail. The good news here is that I have my second novella, REAPERS WITH FANGS to finish, so I am determined to be successful this year. Who wants to be my buddy and crash and burn succeed with me? I promise it will be a glorious disaster success!

H.E. ELLIS @ NaNoWriMo

If you’ve already joined up, leave a link to your NaNoWriMo page in the comments. For blog posts penned by folks far more dedicated to their craft than I, please visit:

TOM ELIAS

JOE HINOSA

VERY NORMAL

JENNIFER VAUGHN

SIPS OF JEN AND TONIC

OUT WHERE THE BUSES DON’T RUN


Reapers With Fangs

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Yes, Ladies and Gentlemen, the day is nearly here when we will unveil Book Two of the four book compilation series called REAPERS WITH FANGS. The sequel to Reapers With Issues follows the Grim Reaper on his journey through middle management Hell.

For those of you who have not read Book One of the series entitled, REAPERS WITH ISSUES but would like to purchase a copy visit www.wristsaroundtheworld.com where every purchase donates 100% of the profit to a great cause that you too can be a part of. Don’t forget to visit the REAPERS WITH ISSUES website and sign Grim’s DEATH BOOK. Now onto a preview of:

 

REAPERS WITH FANGS

 

Death’s bag landed with a thud, dumping its coconut scented contents and nearly a pound of beach sand onto the cold, office floor. “When was someone going to tell me about this?” Grim asked the three Horsemen scrambling to form a line in front of him.

“What ‘this’ are you referring to?” Famine asked, backing away slowly.

Grim stepped forward and shoved a pink, bubble gum scented memo into Famine’s bony hand. “THIS is what I’m referring to. This memo that’s nearly two weeks old. I count on you three to cue me into this kind of thing when I’m gone. I shouldn’t have had to hear this from Lucifer.”

Pestilence flinched at the word “Lucifer,” but said nothing. War looked to Famine who, after returning a stony glare, reluctantly answered. “No one wanted to bother you. We all agreed you needed the break.”

“So you thought waiting until I got back from vacation to walk into this mess was the better idea?” Grim asked as he snatched the memo from Famine’s hand and tossed it atop a monstrous stack of waiting paperwork.

“No, that’s not what we thought at all,” Famine explained. “We agreed we’d do some recon first and get a handle on who this Ashli person was before we decided whether or not you should worry.”

Grim startled. “Worry? Why? Who is she?”

Without saying a word Pestilence slowly lifted Grim’s mug off his desk and then went for coffee just as Famine produced a silver flask from deep inside his cloak.

“That good, huh?” Grim asked, not convinced he wanted to know.

“I’m not sure “good” is the word you want here,” Famine said as he poured a stream of red, viscous liquid into the steaming cup of coffee. Pestilence blew the billowing smoke away before handing the mug to Grim who promptly set it on the desk behind him.

“I’m not a Cherub, Fam. You don’t have to pussy foot around me. Just tell me straight out who this Ashli person is.”

Famine took a quick sip from the flask, steeling his courage before he spoke. “From what we’ve been able to gather Ashli is…well, let’s just say word around the Cloud is that the boss has got himself a new girlfriend.”

Grim stood frozen for a moment before he snatched the flask from Famine’s hand, tipped it back and sucked it dry.

“We’re still not sure what this is, so I see no reason to assume the worst,” Pestilence said in an attempt to put Grim at ease.

“Bunch of bullshit is what it is,” War blasted. “Give me five– no, four thousand real Reapers and we’ll take care of business no problem I guaran-fucking-tee it. We don’t need no Bible bitch tellin’ us how to do our jobs. We–“

Famine backhanded War into silence just as Grim dropped the flask to the floor. “Wait–what’s he talking about?” Grim asked, wide eyed. “What did he mean by, ‘telling us how to do our jobs?’”

Famine hung his head and sighed. “Yeah…I hadn’t gotten to that part yet.”

“So what are you saying?” Grim asked. “That I finally got Skippy and his shih-tzu out of my department and now….now I’ve got the girlfriend setting up shop here? Are you telling me she is actually in command of the OHD??” Grim’s shocked reaction forced his eyeballs to pop out of his skull and roll along the floor.

Famine picked the eyes and his flask up and set them all on the desk. “I’m afraid that’s the way it looks,” he reluctantly replied.

“Well that’s just fucking great,” Grim said as he ripped off his best tanned meat suit, stopping short of revealing a heart-shaped tattoo with the words Fran Forever emblazoned across the bicep. A tattoo that for the life of him Grim could not recall getting. “I need to sort this shit out so give me a few minutes alone, please. Pronto.”

Famine nodded and then led the Horsemen out of the office. As soon as he was alone Grim headed straight to the closet to change into his regular uniform. His official cloak, Grim decided, would put him in the right frame of mind to deal with the fact that once again, God pulled the rug out from under him.

As Grim slid on the heavy, black robe he set to putting this new dilemma into perspective. Maybe this wouldn’t be so bad, he thought. Anything had to be better than Jesus and his Reaper disaster. After all, the Big Guy never kept a woman for long, and he was sure it would only be a matter of time before this new one grew tired of his continued absence. Running the Universe for an eternity isn’t the nine to five job most women think it is.

Still, there was reason for concern. Even though this wasn’t the first time God took a mate, it was the first time in at least two thousand years he’d been this public about it. As Grim could recall, Lucifer was the reason behind God’s last romantic debacle. Grim wondered just how deep into Ashli’s pie his demon colleague’s fingers were, and just how bad the blowback to the OHD might be if God found out.

His mind racing with new concerns, Grim threw open the office doors and called for his Horsemen. “Have any of you spoken to Lucifer yet?” Grim asked once they arrived. “He’s the one who forwarded the memo. He’s got to know how this happened.”

“We…didn’t think it was such a good idea,” Famine tentatively began. “We didn’t know how much of this action originated from the Southern offices, you know, considering how Jesus’ Reaper solution went down.”

Grim ran a bony hand back and forth along his spinal column. “I do know what you mean, but it seems like a lot of risk, even for Lucifer. This isn’t Jesus and his shih-tzu we’re talking about, this is the Big Man and his woman. Anyone remember Lilith?”

“Come on, Boss,” War interjected around a wad of chew. “You know you can’t trust ol’ whistle britches, especially when there’s a female involved. Don’t matter who she is. He nails ‘em faster than Jesus to a cross.”

Hearing his Horseman echo his thoughts reinforced Grim’s suspicion of Lucifer’s role in Ashli’s sudden appearance at the OHD. Determined to get answers, Grim reached for a phone that rang as he grabbed it. “Hello?”

“Why Grim! You’re back!” Lucifer announced with mock cheerfulness. “What’s the good news?”

“You tell me. I’ve been skull deep in sand for the past two weeks.”

“Hmm…how very odd. I’d have thought your ponies would have alerted you to the magnitude of the situation by now.”

Grim shot his Horsemen a look of death as he spoke. “Never mind all that and just answer a question for me. Did you have something to do with this Ashli bullshit or not?”

“Hold your Horses,” Lucifer snickered. “The answer’s no, I had nothing to do with this. Although I wish I had, because this is more glorious than any plan I could have concocted.”

“Plan? What fucking plan are you talking about?”

A sudden, thunderous crash resonated throughout the office followed by a sulfurous puff of smoke. Lucifer appeared at Grim’s side. “Sorry about the theatrics Grimmie old boy, but I just had to be here when you got the news.”

Grim rubbed his skinless temples in exasperation. “Fuck the news and just get to the plan.”

An expression that was both gleeful and menacing at once took hold of Lucifer’s face as he stared into Grim’s and said, “I can sum up the plan in one word-

Vampires…

FOR MORE REAPERS VISIT:

http://www.reaperswithissues.com

TO BE PART OF A GLOBAL PROJECT AND GOOD CAUSE VISIT:

http://www.wristsaroundtheworld.com


CALLING ALL WRITERS/AUTHORS/BLOGGERS!!!

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Now that I’ve got your attention I’d like to make you aware of an ongoing project I’ve been spearheading that I am hoping you’ll want to be a part of. It’s a project to benefit a cause that’s close to my heart called LIBSTRONG, a community of friends who have gathered together in support of Libby, a dear young friend who is battling cancer.

We’ve put together a surprise project called WRISTS AROUND THE WORLD not only to raise money but to raise her spirits as she battles her illness. Keep reading to find out what it’s all about and to learn how you too can be involved:

From the WATW site:

Our latest endeavor is called WRISTS AROUND THE WORLD- a fun global project designed for people everywhere to show their support for Libby and her battle against cancer. Bloggers and non-bloggers alike are invited to purchase her LIBSTRONG wristbands and then snap pictures of their wrists against an iconic landmark of their city, state or hometown. Once the photo is taken it is emailed to us and then posted to our GALLERY.

The message behind our project is to show the world how Libby’s strength and determination touch more than just those around her. Her positivity reaches around the world!

When sending a picture please include information noting where the picture was taken. We would be happy to post your name or a link to your blog, although that is not necessary and we will respect all wishes for anonymity. We are requesting snapshots be of wrists wearing wristbands only, so even the most camera shy supporter feels comfortable enough to be involved.

LIBSTRONG wristbands are available for sale individually or in package deals combined with items donated from various blog supporters. Visit our MAKE A DIFFERENCE page for information on how to purchase the package that’s right for you!

To be a part of WRISTS AROUND THE WORLD send your snapshot to:

wristsaroundtheworld@gmail.com

I am asking my fellow bloggers everywhere to purchase at least one wristband not only to raise some much needed money for Libby’s cause, but to show her your support from your very own hometown. Package prices include shipping within the United States only. Since I would like the wristbands to actually go around the world, I would be willing to donate both of my ebooks for free to anyone outside of the United States who purchases even just one LIBSTRONG wristband to offset the cost of shipping which would be the responsibility of the purchaser.

As of the writing of this post, Libby doesn’t know about this project. We’d like to get as many pics around the world as possible and then reveal her site as a gift.

As for my part in the WRISTS AROUND THE WORLD project I’ve decided to donate both my REAPERS WITH ISSUES and THE GODS OF ASPHALT ebooks and paperbacks to be included in wristband package deals. I am also including the blog compilation project F*CKED UP FAIRY TALES for donation once it is completed. Each contributing author’s name of that work will receive an honorary mention on the FRIENDS OF LIBSTRONG page with links to their blogs.

Additionally, if you are an author you can contribute by donating your own books for package deals to be included on their site. For ebooks simply donate a free coupon for your book that others may purchase to raise money for our cause. For information on paperback donations, please contact wristsaroundtheworld@gmail.com for more details.

Thank you everyone for taking the time to stop by Wrists Around The World!

www.wristsaroundtheworld.com


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