Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Review of "The Spitting Post"


I love stories which are reminiscent of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and The Wonderful Wizard of Oz where a hero or heroine is whisked off to another land and you're not entirely sure whether what's happening is a hallucination, coma dream, or reality.


The Spitting PostWhile not a children's book, Jason R. Barden's The Spitting Post is firmly rooted in that tradition. Our main character (or so we are led to believe) is in a car accident and wakes up in another world. He then embarks on a quest to find the love of his life, The Green Maiden, at a location she has specified. Somehow our main character has inhabited this world before, though he has no memory of it.

The strength in this story lays with the gruesome details and imaginative antagonists the author developed to inhabit his imaginary world. The protagonist is propelled along on a series of quests, and this is a plot definitely driven by events, not by character development.

My three biggest complaints are as follows: I never really connected with the narrator. Some of the extensive song lyric inclusions seemed like an attempt to get word count up and didn't really lend to the story. Finally, I read up to the shaggy dog ending and it hit me like a brick wall, and not in a good way. The ending could have used some rethinking and a polish, since the reader does not get a real sense of growth or change in the final perspective.

Part Secret Window, and part Tarnsman of Gor this book draws on a lot of source material that readers will find familiar and satisfying.

Friday, June 15, 2018

Jersey Ghouls Tour Graphic
JERSEY GHOULS
A.L. Sirois
Jersey Ghouls
Genre: Horror
Publisher: Azure Spider Publications
Publication Date: June 15, 2018
A disabled cop and his ex battle giant centipedes and ghouls in a small riverside community that's about to be flooded out.
The rain-drenched riverside town of Sherwood's Landing, NJ is invaded by a species of centipede from Central America armed with psychedelic venom. Former cop Lafferty "Hoff" Hoffman and his ex-girlfriend Beatrice St. John are swept into terror as their neighbors are enslaved by a centipede-generated group mind. Those remaining free must band together to survive the onslaught of ravenous ghouls.

Purchase Links

Get the eBook copy of Jersey Ghouls for only 99 cents! Offer ends June 15, 2018.

Excerpt

Terry Haggerty was no pushover. She had gone to work at sixteen to save money for college, which is where she met Rook. Before the kids came, they'd often spent weekends at campsites throughout the region. Rook was an avid fisherman and hunter, and although she hadn't had any familiarity with firearms before she met him, Terry now owned two or three guns and was proud of her ability to shoot.
Under Rook’s tutelage, Terry always made sure her guns were in excellent condition. She went now to the gun cabinet in the living room. She kept most of her attention on the sounds from the back porch. From the cabinet she took out her .22 pistol and loaded it. Then she stuck it into the waist of her jeans, and pulled her shirt out to hide it.
She went into the kitchen. She paused at the door to the back porch and drew a breath. Someone out there swore quietly, and there was the tinkle of glass.
Enough, she thought, and opened the door.
Grant White and Rick Carrington stood in the dusk outside. They looked in at her with dull surprise on their faces. She relaxed. She knew them well. They were friends of her late son, Loren, even though they'd been a year ahead of him at school. But what the devil were they up to?
"Hi, guys," she said. "Que pasa?"
Rick snarled in response, and her hackles rose as she realized they were both filthy, covered with mud and dried blood. Something was very wrong here. She pulled the gun out of her waistband. "Just stop right there," she said, pointing it at Rick, who stood slightly in front of Grant at the broken window.
Rick snarled again, but Grant laid an arm on his shoulder. "Hi, Ms. Haggerty," he said in an oily voice. Her hackles rose even further at the sound of it. "We were just wondering where Greg was."
"He's upstairs having a nap."
Grant grinned in a particularly nasty way. She'd never seen such a feral expression on anyone's face. "Oh, I don't think he is," he said. "I think maybe he's out looking for... Jessa."
Unconsciously she took a step or two toward the boys at the window. Their eyes... she leaned forward for a better look.
Rick's arm snaked out faster than she would have believed and seized her sleeve. Terry staggered back and broke free. Rick shrieked wordlessly at her, a sound that didn’t sound as though it could have come from a human throat. Grant shoved him aside and tried to force himself through the broken window. She watched in horror as the glass gashed his flesh. He ignored it. Terry realized she was in mortal danger. She raised her gun and discharged it into his face. He slumped forward without a word. Though her ears rang from the shot, she heard the thud thud thud of Rick Carrington’s feet as he fled into the woods.

Book Tour Schedule

Follow the upcoming book tour from July 11 - 24, 2018.
Join us and visit each tour stop daily and discover more features, excerpts, reviews, interviews, fun facts and more! To check the latest tour schedule, visit the Jersey Ghouls Book Page at Book Unleashed.

About A.L. Sirois

A.L. Sirois
A.L. Sirois is a writer, developmental editor, graphic artist and a performing musician. His publication career began in 1973 with the appearance of the short-short story "War Baby" in Fantastic. (It would be called "flash fiction" nowadays.) He has gone on to have fiction in Isaac Asimov's Science Fiction Magazine, Fantastic, Amazing Stories, and Thema, and online at Electric Spec, Mystery Weekly, Every Day Fiction and Flash Fiction Online, among other publications. His story "In the Conservatory," from Thema, was nominated for the Pushcart Prize. In addition to JERSEY GHOULS, other Sirois works include a children's book, DINOSAUR DRESS UP (Tambourine Press / William Morrow), a graphic novel, THE ENDLESS INCIDENT (2014), and a fantasy novel, THE BOHEMIAN MAGICIAN, published in 2017.
As an artist, he has hundreds of drawings, paintings and illustrations to his credit. Al has contributed comic art for DC, Marvel, and Charlton, and has scripted for Warren Publications. He wrote and drew "Bugs in the System" for witzend #12, the famous comics fanzine started by for MAD artist Wally Wood. He lives in Rockingham County, North Carolina with his wife and occasional collaborator, author Grace Marcus. Together they are writing a Young Adult novel set in ancient Egypt.
Social media links: Facebook | Twitter

Giveaway

WIN FREE BOOK AND MORE
Jersey Ghouls Giveaway Graphic
Prizes up for grabs:
1. Print Copy of Jersey Ghouls by A.L. Sirois
2. Color Rough of the book cover, painted in acrylics on illustration board
3. Drawing of the book cover on tracing paper
4. Drawing of the book cover on layout bond paper
Contest runs from June 15 - July 24, 2018.

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Monday, April 16, 2018

Review of "Silent Meridian"

I was really exited when I saw this Elizabeth Crowens' Silent Meridian posted as a possibility to review with Books Unleashed. I love steam punk and gaslight fiction. I love stories that incorporate historic figures in fun, imaginative ways, as Seth Grahame-Smith did with Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter or in another story I reviewed, Tim Symonds's Sherlock Holmes and the Mystery of Einstein's Daughter.  In my mind these stories work best when one or two historic characters are thrown into the path of our protagonist. I also love alternative methods of time travel stories, as I am a huge Doctor Who fan.

Silent MeridianSo I gave this story a couple of thumbs-up before I even read it. There are a lot of really interesting elements going on it. For the most part the protagonist is likable and I sympathized with him. I enjoyed the various settings and the mysticism built in.

Ultimately, however, it left me feeling as if it could have used another good edit before it went out to audiences. A few typos and, more jarringly, inconsistencies really pulled me out of the enjoyment of the reading. And the plot never really seemed to gel. I never felt as if I understood what the real struggle was for the protagonist, where he needed to get by the end of the story.

The blurb:

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle is obsessed with a legendary red book. Its peculiar stories have come to life, and rumors claim that it has rewritten its own endings. Convinced that possessing this book will help him write his ever-popular Sherlock Holmes stories, he takes on an unlikely partner, John Patrick Scott, known to most as a concert musician and paranormal investigator. Although in his humble opinion, Scott considers himself more of an ethereal archaeologist and a time traveler professor.

Together they explore lost worlds and excavate realms beyond the knowledge of historians when they go back in time to find it. But everything backfires, and their friendship is tested to the limits. Both discover that karmic ties and unconscionable crimes have followed them like ghosts from the past, wreaking havoc on the present and possibly the future.

Silent Meridian reveals the alternate histories of Conan Doyle, H.G. Wells, Houdini, Jung and other luminaries in the secret diaries of a new kind of Doctor Watson, John Patrick Scott, in an X Files for the 19th century. Stay tuned for A Pocketful of Lodestones, book two in the Time Traveler Professor series by Elizabeth Crowens.




Monday, February 26, 2018

Review of "Scenes and Sequels"






Mike Klaassen has written a book, Scenes and Sequels, that is fairly easy to understand and pretty useful for an aspiring writer. In it, he explains how to use scene and sequel to help craft a better novel. This information could be utilized before drafting or as an analysis tool once a first draft is complete.

In addition to the exploration of the concepts of scene and sequel, Mr. Klaassen provides several concrete examples from novels with which most readers will be familiar. He also uses a fairy tale and passages from his own writing. These help effectively illustrate the structures he is discussing. As a writer myself, I can't over stress the need for writers to first be avid readers, and his analysis helps drive home that point.

While reading this book, I was also reading Raymond Chandler’s The High Window. I found myself thinking of the novel's structure in terms of scene and sequel, and being able to see the structure in action gave me some insight into my own writing.

A lot of the work here can be found elsewhere, so if a reader has already explored this topic, he or she may not find anything new, other than the specific examples.

My biggest problem with Scenes and Sequels is the use of filler to increase word count. The author repeats a great deal of information, summarizes chapters at both the beginnings and endings, and includes a large glossary of literary terms, many of which are not applicable to the text. I would definitely feel more comfortable buying this book if the cover price were lower.

All in all, I would recommend this to an author who has yet to put pen to paper, someone who feels as if he or she has a novel inside but does not yet know how to go about organizing it. I think this book could help a writer like that hit the ground running and end up less frustrated in the long run.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Review of "Something Down There" by Nancy Widrew

Review of Something Down There

I was very interested in the premise of this book; the idea had me hooked. I enjoy stories based around cults, and the idea of members of a cult moving into a cave to completely isolate themselves from the outside world seemed like an idea that would hold a lot of tension and potential. The story is a solid attempt by a first-time novelist. Would I read it a second time? Probably not, but I was entertained the first time around and other readers probably would be too.

The basic plot is this: Karen and Jeremy go spelunking, are abducted by the leader of an underground cult, and are forced to assimilate. The tension comes from the couple's desire to reach the outside world again, the failed attempts of a friend to find them, and infidelity on both Karen's and Jeremy's part.

The strength of this novel is definitely in the setting. I enjoyed envisioning the cave, its formations, the waterfalls, and the strange flora. I just recently finished Journey to the Center of the Earth again, and so this was a nice follow-up.

And a couple of critiques. Spoilers ahead!

The cult aspect is underutilized. The members seem more a bunch of misfits rather than a group grounded and ruled by a set of strange, fringe beliefs. Some members claim to be Christian, others not. Fertility rites and gods are hinted at but disappointingly never explored or exploited. The story sort of lost my interest because I was really expecting some "diabolical cult" members, as promised in the blurb. They are cranky and demanding--like squatters sharing a derelict building--but not diabolical. Even the leader, who has somehow mutated to become something subterranean, lacks the charisma, slyness, and fervor I expected.

On top of that, from the very beginning I found both Jeremy and Karen to be unsympathetic. Jeremy is manipulative and downright mean to Karen. I had to question why she was with him in the first place. Because she was weak and gave in to him, I disliked Karen. I wanted her to stand up for herself more than she does.

The ending was unexpected. Granted, at least Karen did not stay with Jeremy, but her change of heart did not seem supported by her point of view leading up to the final decision. I wish there had been more foreshadowing as to Karen's transformation.


FEATURED BOOK
Check out this special feature from Something Down There by Nancy Widrew!
Something Down There Tour Graphic
SOMETHING DOWN THERE
Nancy Widrew
Something Down There
Genre: Psychological Thriller
Publisher: Azure Spider Publications
Publication Date: November 15, 2017)
Not all caves are uninhabited
Horror erupts when newlyweds, Karen and Jeremy, cross paths with members of a diabolical cult inside a West Virginia cave. Living below the earth’s surface has triggered mutations, rendering the cult members nearly infertile. Their leader, a wild-eyed, cunning brute, refuses to let the couple leave, believing they and their potential offspring hold the key to surviving underground. Are Karen and Jeremy doomed to spend their lives inside this sunless, subterranean wasteland, or do they escape before their minds shatter and their bodies betray them?
[Praise]
- [Name], Goodreads Reviewer

Purchase Links

Available now $3.99 only. Grab your copy today.

Blog Tour Schedule

Ongoing till December 2, 2017.
Get behind the scenes on Something Down There.
Visit each stop daily and discover more features, excerpts, reviews, interviews, fun facts and other extras.
To check the latest schedule, visit the Something Down There Book Page at Book Unleashed.
Something Down There Tour Graphic

Giveaway

WIN A PRINT COPY OF
SOMETHING DOWN THERE *
Something Down There Giveaway Graphic
* Available for US Residents Only
Contest runs from November 1 - December 2, 2017.
Additional Giveaway
Join the Goodreads Giveaway and win a print copy of Something Down There (US Residents only).
Contest runs from September 19 - November 15. Click here to enter.

About Nancy Widrew

Nancy Widrew
Nancy Widrew was born and raised in NYC before settling in New England with her husband. She has two grown children and two four-legged furry ones, always a source of amusement. She has had short stories published in webzines and a print anthology. This is her first novel.
Follow Nancy Widrew on Twitter at https://twitter.com/nancywidrew

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Saturday, November 18, 2017

*** SPECIAL 20% PROMOTION ***
Get a whopping 20% off the regular price of Silent Meridian, a thrilling fantasy novel by Elizabeth Crowens. Check it out now.
Silent Meridian Tour Graphic
SILENT MERIDIAN
Elizabeth Crowens
Silent Meridian
Series: The Time Traveler Professor Book 1
Genre: Speculative Fiction, Gaslight Fantasy, Alternative History
Publisher: MX Publishing
Publication Date: May 15, 2016
A 19th century "X" Files meets H.G. Wells's "Time Machine" featuring Arthur Conan Doyle and partner
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle is obsessed with a legendary red book. Its peculiar stories have come to life, and rumors claim that it has rewritten its own endings. Convinced that possessing this book will help him write his ever-popular Sherlock Holmes stories, he takes on an unlikely partner, John Patrick Scott, known to most as a concert musician and paranormal investigator. Although in his humble opinion, Scott considers himself more of an ethereal archeologist and a time traveler professor.
Together they explore lost worlds and excavate realms beyond the knowledge of historians when they go back in time to find it. But everything backfires, and their friendship is tested to the limits. Both discover that karmic ties and unconscionable crimes have followed them like ghosts from the past, wreaking havoc on the present and possibly the future.
SILENT MERIDIAN reveals the alternate histories of Conan Doyle, H.G. Wells, Houdini, Jung and other luminaries in the secret diaries of a new kind of Doctor Watson, John Patrick Scott, in an X Files for the 19th century. Stay tuned for A Pocketful of Lodestones; book two in the Time Traveler Professor series by Elizabeth Crowens.

SPECIAL PROMOTION !!

Get 20% off your purchase of Silent Meridian! Promo valid till Christmas.
Promo Price: $13.56 (Original: $16.95)
Use coupon code: silent

Book Excerpt

Take an inside look at Silent Meridian with this thrilling excerpt!
Edinburgh, 1898
Scotland was just barely crawling its way out of the nineteenth century. I was a naïve, but ambitious student studying music at the University of Edinburgh hurrying over to meet Arthur Conan Doyle, the man who would change my life forever.
“John Patrick Scott, sir,” I said as I approached Mr. Doyle, who was already seated at a back corner table where he hoped he wouldn’t be recognized. He had picked the Deacon Brodie, the pub that inspired the Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.
I extended my hand to greet him and removed my rain-soaked hat, while my overcoat slipped out of my hands and fell on the floor by accident. It was still hard to believe that good fortune had finally brought us together, but we were both nervous.
“The pleasure is all mine.” Doyle responded like a father to his son.
“Mr. Conan Doyle, or should I call you Doctor Doyle?” I said unsure how to address him.
Doyle scrutinized me from top to bottom as he signaled the waiter. “John, call me Arthur,” he said casually, ignoring the tension I couldn’t control.
“Sir, I’m so honored that you agreed to discuss this matter. Perhaps you can enlighten me in a way that I’ve failed to comprehend.”
I wanted to ask him about my unusual turn of events straight away but he caught me off guard and was dead set on pulling me into the swift current of an unexpected conversation.
“Can I assume you believe in the transmigration of souls?” he asked.
“Until now, I haven’t given it a lot of thought,” I said, unsure as to which direction he was leading.
“Did you ever read those books about that Swiss doctor who felt his body and soul had been taken over by a Benedictine monk? That presented a curious case. He claims that he was approached by the spirit of an elderly monk before he died, and that the monk needed to rent his body to continue his spiritual mission.”
“Rent?” I choked in disbelief.
“We truly don’t take anything with us when we pass on, do we? This monk knew that he was dying, and therefore had to replace his physical body with something more youthful and vital.”
“That’s incredible. It debunks the theory that you have to die and be reborn as an infant to carry on your spirit,” I said.
Mr. Doyle had the tinge of excitement in his voice.
“John, here’s another instance. I’ve had my suspicions about a famous musician who had an obsession about a notorious and controversial mystic. You’d surmise by his overwhelming attraction to that person that he might’ve been him in a previous lifetime, but facts were clear that he was born three years before the mystic died. My understanding is that the mystic knew he didn’t have long in his present incarnation. Therefore he made plans for some sort of partial soul transference while he was still alive to imprint his essence upon the child. That would’ve allowed him to carry on and accomplish unfinished business that couldn’t have been executed otherwise. Essentially he had the ability of being two places at once.”
“Sounds more like Spiritualism,” I replied.
“Honestly, John, I don’t think there are any steadfast rules when it comes to this matter. That’s what makes it so intriguing.”
I sensed he had a secret agenda.
Doyle reloaded his churchwarden pipe with fresh tobacco and continued, “This is not at all like anything you’ve ever read from H.G. Wells or Jules Verne. We’re poking holes in every treatise written on the subject— the idea of being able to reincarnate a part of yourself while you are still alive into another soul.”
Our conversation was quickly becoming like a speeding train ready to jump the tracks. Realizing this, Doyle slowed down the pace and took a deep breath. He carefully composed his next statement.
“Fiction it may seem to be but it’s not hocus pocus. Don’t you also find it strange that you somehow found yourself initiated into a mystical order on a commuter train bound from London to Edinburgh when the instigators kept on mistaking you for me? There are no accidents.”

About Elizabeth Crowens

Elizabeth Crowens
Elizabeth Crowens is the pen name author of SILENT MERIDIAN, an alternate history/ 19th century “X Files” alternate history novel published by MX Publishing in London. Recently she won First Prize in Chanticleer Review's Goethe Award for Turn-of-the-Century Historical Fiction, is on the short list of finalists for Chanticleer’s 2016 Cygnus Awards for Speculative Fiction, Paranormal and the Ozma Award for Fantasy Fiction and received an Honorable Mention in Glimmer Train’s fiction short story contest for Emerging Writers. She has also published a variety of non-fiction articles and is currently writing a column called The Poison Apple in the World Fantasy and Alfie Award-winning publication, BlackGate.com.
Recently, she participated on panels at The World Fantasy Convention, MidAmericon II/Worldcon, Lunacon, Heliosphere, the Writer's Digest Conference, Queens Book Festival, Philcon and was also interviewed for the radio show, Hour of the Wolf. A Pocketful of Lodestones, the sequel to Silent Meridian is awaiting a publication date. Current work-in-progress is Dear Mr. Hitchcock, a psychological/domestic suspense novel/series.
A 15-year veteran of the film industry in Hollywood, she’s also an alumnus of Algonkian workshops and the Gotham Writer’s Workshop and a member of the Horror Writers Association, Historical Writers of America and Mystery Writers of America. An active Sherlockian, she’s lectured on Arthur Conan Doyle, belongs to several Sherlockian scions, and is an independent scholar on Eastern and Western mysticism and Jungian psychology. A blackbelt in martial arts, she’s lived in Japan. Currently, she lives in New York City.
Connect with Elizabeth Crowens on social media:

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Friday, November 17, 2017

HAPPY BOOK BIRTHDAY !!
Something Down There
SOMETHING DOWN THERE
Nancy Widrew
Genre: Psychological Thriller
Publisher: Azure Spider Publications
Publication Date: November 15, 2017
Not all caves are uninhabited
Horror erupts when newlyweds, Karen and Jeremy, cross paths with members of a diabolical cult inside a West Virginia cave. Living below the earth’s surface has triggered mutations, rendering the cult members nearly infertile. Their leader, a wild-eyed, cunning brute, refuses to let the couple leave, believing they and their potential offspring hold the key to surviving underground. Are Karen and Jeremy doomed to spend their lives inside this sunless, subterranean wasteland, or do they escape before their minds shatter and their bodies betray them?
[Praise]
- [Name], Goodreads Reviewer

Purchase Links

Available now $3.99 only. Grab your copy today.

Book Tour Schedule

Save the Date! Follow the book tour from November 20 - December 2, 2017.
Something Down There Tour Graphic
Get behind the scenes on Something Down There.
Discover more features, excerpts, reviews, interviews, fun facts and other extras on the tour.
To check the latest tour schedule, visit the Something Down There Book Page at Book Unleashed.

Book Excerpt

Take an inside look on Something Down There with this thrilling excerpt.
Reaching into his pants pocket, he drew out a small leather case attached to a silver chain and dangled it before her eyes.
Karen grabbed it from his hand and looked it over as if she needed to make certain it was real. “I know I took the damned keys from the car,” she said. All the same, she felt a moment of relief at having a new set in her possession. That relief, however, ended in a flash.
With a powerful leap to a ledge above, Rahm crossed his arms over his chest like a dictator about to make a pronouncement. “They won’t do you any good,” he bellowed.
Jeremy swallowed hard, raising a hand to his throat. “W-what do you mean?” he said, reaching out for something to grab onto. Finding nothing, he spread his legs wide, feet flat on the floor, trying to maintain his balance.
Rahm, aware of the significance of this moment and wanting to ensure that it remained stamped in everyone’s mind, stood tall, chin out. “While you were sleeping last night, I climbed out and drove your car off a bridge. You will not be allowed to leave.”
Karen’s hands flew to her face. She began to cry and dropped to one knee. Protectively, Jeremy rushed to her side, encircled her in his arms, and pulled her close. He glared at this insane man, his new enemy, standing above. With hate etched in the dark hollows of his cheeks and in the lines of his furrowed brow, he said, “What do you mean? Why can’t we leave? You won’t get away with this!”
Rahm, a leader of few but a leader nonetheless, addressed his flock, gathering with solemnity about the pair, now unofficial members of the tribe, even if against their will. All eyes riveted up.
“You can’t leave because we need you. That is, we need your baby—the baby you will have, sooner or later. And yes, we will get away with it. You see, the harnesses are gone, and we dismantled the machinery that lowered you down. You will never be able to find your way out. Don’t even try. It would be suicidal.”
Karen stared at her husband, her jaw dropping in disbelief, as the horror of her predicament bore down with jackhammer force into her brain. Unless she and Jeremy were guided out, they were snared, trapped, condemned, damned. Without the candles, lanterns, or torches they couldn’t see the tips of their fingers, and even with their carbide lamps they wouldn’t know the way through this puzzling maze with its unknown levels and intricate network.
Jeremy’s nails dug into his wife’s shoulders. “Dear God,” he wailed. “We’re doomed, and it’s all my fault. Forgive me, Karen. Please!”
She looked at him blankly, then blinked, her breath coming in staccato bursts, piercing her lungs like wounds from a knife. She began to run blindly, crying, “Let me die! Let me die!”

Giveaway

WIN A PRINT COPY OF
SOMETHING DOWN THERE *
Something Down There Giveaway Graphic
* Available for US Residents Only
Contest runs from November 1 - December 2, 2017.
Additional Giveaway
Join the Goodreads Giveaway and win a print copy of Something Down There (US Residents only).
Contest runs from September 19 - November 15. Click here to enter.

About Nancy Widrew

Nancy Widrew
Nancy Widrew was born and raised in NYC before settling in New England with her husband. She has two grown children and two four-legged furry ones, always a source of amusement. She has had short stories published in webzines and a print anthology. This is her first novel.
Follow Nancy Widrew on Twitter at https://twitter.com/nancywidrew

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