Category Archives: Feminism

Thoughts On the Funeral Service for RBG

We live in a world in which antisemitism and misogynistic views still have a hold on us. But there is still hope that both can be overturned.

Last week, the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s funeral was held in Washington D.C. As I listened, my pride in her accomplishments as a Jew and a woman were just as prominent as my tears.

She is an icon for so many of us who feel marginalized and pushed aside because of who we are. Listening to Rabbi Lauren Holtzblatt speak the ancient Jewish prayers, I had a feeling that in spite of the hatred that still exists, there is light and love at the end of the tunnel. We can look past labels and see each other’s humanity. We only need to open our eyes and our minds.

Though Judge Ginsburg is no longer physically with us, her legacy will last forever.

Z”l.

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Confirming Amy Coney Barrett Spits on the Memory of RBG

Every generation of the feminist movement builds on previous generations. However, that does not mean that the current generation honors or remembers the work of their predecessors.

When Ruth Bader Ginsburg passed away last Friday, the news sent shockwaves throughout the country. According to an interview with her granddaughter, one of the late jurist’s last wish was that her replacement not be confirmed until after the election.

It is therefore, a surprise to no one that not only was that wish ignored, but her potential replacement is politically conservative. Her name is Amy Coney Barrett. Though she has taken advantage of the opportunities that were created for her via Judge Ginsburg, she is everything that RBG was not.

Judge Barrett openly opposes abortion and marriage in the LGBTQ community. Her nomination, if confirmed, would tip the balance within the Supreme Court towards the right. In theory, the court should be apolitical. But, in reality, politics views will always play a role in the decisions that are handed down.

What is more concerning than the choice of Judge Barrett is that Judge Ginsburg is not even in the ground. As far as I am concerned, the Republicans have ignored the choices of both the voters and RBG. They are so focused on winning the election, that they have forgotten who has the power to hire and fire them.

It’s time to remind them who is in charge.

#BidenHarris2020

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Enola Holmes Movie Review

Classic books were given the title of “classic” for a reason. However, that does not mean that a modern writer cannot put their own spin on the tale.

Enola Holmes premiered Wednesday on Netflix. Based on the series of books by Nancy Springer, Millie Bobby Brown stars as the title character. Raised by her widowed mother Eudoria (Helena Bonham Carter), Enola receives an education that is extremely unusual for a young lady in Victorian era England. When her mother disappears, Enola’s much older brothers come home to take charge.

Her oldest brother Mycroft (Sam Claflin) is conventional in every sense of the word. Her second oldest brother, Sherlock (Henry Cavill) is more empathetic, but still concerned that his sister was not raised as she ought to have been. Before she can be sent to a school that promises to make her a proper young lady, Enola runs away to find her mother. Along the way, she meets a young aristocrat, Tewkesbury, (Louis Partridge) who is also running away and a new mystery is set at her feet.

I would categorize this movie as cute and empowering (if that makes sense). The message, I think, is the most important part of the film and feels very relevant for 2020. That being said, it is not without it’s flaws. However, it is one of those movies that is both fun to watch and an inspiration, especially for the younger female audience.

I recommend it.

Enola Holmes is available for streaming on Netflix.

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Manifest Character Review: Grace Stone

*For the foreseeable future, some Character Review posts may not be published every Thursday as they have in the past.

*Warning: This post contains spoilers about the characters from the television series ManifestRead at your own risk if you have not watched the show.

There is something to be said about a well written, human character. They leap off the page and speak to us as if they were right in front of us, as flesh and blood human beings, instead of fictional creations.

When tragedy strikes, we have two choices. We can either let it hold us back or find a way to move on. On Manifest, Grace Stone (Athena Karkanis) went through what no one should go through: the early loss of family. After returning home from vacation, Grace was told that her husband Ben (Josh Dallas), son Cal (Jack Messina), and sister-in-law Michaela (Melissa Roxburgh) were on a plane that went messing.

For five and a half years, Grace raised her daughter Olive (Luna Blaise) as a single mother. Doing the best she could to move on, she started seeing Danny (Daniel Sunjata). Then she heard the news that the plane had landed, everyone aboard was safe and alive. But the happy news of the reunification only complicated things.

Torn between the new life she had been building and the life she had before the flight, Grace has to make a choice. That choice leads her back to Ben, a new baby, and another chance for happiness.

To sum it up: No one goes through life without experiencing a few potholes The question is how we react to those potholes. After grieving, she responds with strength and grit, allowing her and the audience to find some sort of inner peace.

Which is why she is a memorable character.

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Conversations with RBG: Ruth Bader Ginsburg on Life Love, Liberty, and Law Book Review

When our heroes die, we are reminded of the reasons why we adored and respected them.

Conversations with RBG: Ruth Bader Ginsburg on Life, Love, Liberty, and Law, by Jeffrey Rosen, was released last fall. Over the course of more than twenty years, the author, who is also a long time journalist, sat down to interview the late Supreme Court Judge. While the conversations mainly focused on the law, they also revealed the women behind the icon.

I read this book in a very short amount of time and loved it. Well written and very easy to read, the reader is introduced to RBG in a personable and down to earth manner. When I finished this book, I felt like I had gone beyond the standard biographies and bylines. It was like I was able to have a private conversation with her that I will remember and treasure forever.

I absolutely recommend it.

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Rest in Revolution, RBG

Activism is not always done standing on a soapbox with a microphone in one’s hand. It can be done working quietly behind the scenes.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg passed away on Friday. Born and raised in a Jewish family in Brooklyn, she came of age in an era when most women quietly settled in marriage and motherhood. She could have followed the pack, but chose another life. That life led her to become only the second women to join the United States Supreme Court. Serving nearly three decades, she was a feminist and icon in every sense of the word.

I can’t think of any other Supreme Court Justice who has deified on Saturday Night Live. Kate McKinnon is perfection.

Her passing represents more than her physical death. The question comes up of who should replace her. If precedent has anything to say, whomever fills her seat will not be named until after November. But, given the current state of American politics, I would not be surprised if there was already a list of potential replacements waiting in the wings.

In the words of our mutual ancestors, may her memory be a blessing and an inspiration to fight for equality.

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Manifest Character Review: Michaela Stone

*For the foreseeable future, some Character Review posts may not be published every Thursday as they have in the past.

*Warning: This post contains spoilers about the characters from the television series ManifestRead at your own risk if you have not watched the show.

There is something to be said about a well written, human character. They leap off the page and speak to us as if they were right in front of us, as flesh and blood human beings, instead of fictional creations.

When times are tough, belief is sometimes all we have to get by. On Manifest, Michaela Stone has just survived a very strange plane ride. Arriving back in New York City with her brother Ben (Josh Dallas) and nephew Cal (Jack Messina) five and a half years after getting on a flight home from vacation, she finds that her world has changed. Her mother is dead and her now ex-boyfriend Jared Vasquez (J.R. Ramirez) is married to Michaela’s best friend.

Things get complicated when Michaela has to go back to work as a police officer with Jared as her partner. Then the callings come, guiding her to do things that are not quite explainable. This leads her to Zeke Landon (Matt Long), bringing up Jared’s jealousy after they slept together. Eventually, Zeke and Michaela get married.

Through all of this, she follows the callings, believing in their message. While she goes on belief, her brother Ben goes on logic, looking for some sort of connection for what they have been through.

To sum it up: Some may think that believing is hokey or old fashioned. But it is has the power to give us hope when we have none. Michaela’s belief in following what she knows is right leads her to answer the questions in front of her and find the love of her life.

Which is why she is a memorable character.

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Throwback Thursday: The Dick Van Dyke Show (1961-1966)

There are television shows and there are television shows. The first is watchable and entertaining, but ultimately, fades from memory. The second lives on and continues to reach audiences across the generations.

The Dick Van Dyke Show originally ran for five years, from 1961-1966. Created by the late Carl Reiner, the show starred Dick Van Dyke and the late Mary Tyler Moore. Van Dyke played Rob Petrie, a TV writer who lived in the suburbs and worked in the city. Tyler Moore played Laura Petrie, Rob’s wife who was a homemaker.

There is a reason why sixty years on, this program is as revered and beloved as it was during its original run. Though it has the flavor of the family sitcoms of the era (e.g. Father Knows Best), it is a bridge to the modern family sitcoms that we watch today. Unlike their predecessors, the characters are imperfect humans who like the rest of us, are trying to get by.

The program was also revolutionary because Laura wore pants. Up to that point, the mothers in this genre all wore dresses or skirts. Though it is not a huge moment in the march for equality, it was a step that looked upon today is ground breaking.

I recommend it.

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Two More Reasons to Vote Him Out: the DOJ & He Knew About Covid-19

The job of President of the United States is the hardest job in the world. There are pitfalls wherever one looks. There are 1000 opinions of what he or she should do, regardless of how qualified those who share those opinions are.

I don’t know about anyone else, but it seems that since 2017, you know who has fallen into numerous pitfalls and looking worse every time he gets back up. The only other opinion he listens to (besides his own) is the most recent one he has heard.

Two recent news items have come up, adding to the list of reasons to vote him out in November.

The first is that he knew about Covid-19 in February. But instead of acting on that information, he decided that it was not worth sharing with the rest of the country. His reason is the following:

“I still like playing it down, because I don’t want to create a panic.”

Cut to nearly a year later, nearly 200,000 Americans are dead and millions are or were infected. Our economy is in the waste basket and our country is forever changed.

The second is that he is using the DOJ (Department of Justice) as his own personal lawyers. Back in the 90’s, writer, E. Jean Carroll accused you know of sexual assault. When he claimed that she is lying, she accused him of defamation. Now the DOJ has stepped up to be his personal law form. The last time I checked, the DOJ is supposed to be the country’s lawyer, not the President’s. If he is as wealthy as he says he is, he can afford to pay for representation out of his own pocket.

At the end of the day, we need a President who understands that his or her needs are second to that of the need of the country. That is not you know who.

#BidenHarris2020

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Author Q&A with Erin Kelly

The myth of the werewolf has existed for centuries. Half human and half wolf, this creature has struck fear in the in the heart of humanity since the Middle Ages. In our modern world, the werewolf has become one of the key creatures within the horror genre. Which, from a writing perspective, lends itself to a variety of narratives.

In 2016, Erin Kelly released her first book, Tainted Moonlight. The first in a series, the book follows the experience of Korban Diego. Korban is a werewolf who was bitten five years before the story starts. Living in a world in which he faces boundaries due to his identity, he comes to question his place in the world when someone whom he cares of is bitten by another werewolf.

I had the pleasure of reading Tainted Moonlight and I am thrilled that Erin has agreed to answer a few questions.

AB: Where did the idea from Tainted Moonlight come from?

EK: Back in 2002, while on a break from college, I got into Harry Potter after watching the first movie. Like a lot of people at the time, the story connected with me and I began to devour the books in the series. My favorite was Prisoner of Azkaban, but after reading it, I was left with this feeling of complete betrayal. The idea that a werewolf couldn’t teach, even though he was their best teacher that we’d been shown so far, purely because of who he was really resonated with me. The whole metaphor of werewolves being akin to how people are treated with various prejudices really resonated with me. I wanted justice for Remus Lupin. Around the same time, one of my best friends wrote a one shot story that was Remus/Sirius and she had a knack for mean, cliff-hanger endings. It was the perfect storm of “what if” in my mind. I asked her if she would like to continue the story together, and she responded with something along the lines of “it was supposed to be a one shot, but sure” and so we began to write our first fanfiction series together. This was when Lobo, who would become Korban, was born (Alex’s nickname is indeed an inside joke and call back to his first incarnation). He was this American werewolf in London (ha!), who showed up to help Lupin, and the idea took off from there. Lobo became this werewolf rights activist in the story.

We had a really good response to our story, and it grew. There were even spin offs that we wrote. People really seemed to enjoy our story, and they complimented our original characters, which was a rare thing back then. Unfortunately, Fanfiction.net took it down when they changed their policy on adult content, and we refused to be censored or change the adult situations. On top of that life and college soon overtook our schedule, and we sadly never finished that series, but the idea and original characters continued to resonate with me. The concept of “monsters helping monsters”, because the rest of the world saw them as other, really stuck with me. So around 2006-ish, I asked for her permission to continue the story, in a much more original way, and my friend gave me her blessing to continue. I am forever grateful that we were able to write the fanfic we did together, because it led me to writing Korban’s story as it is today. There were at least ten different rewrites after that fanfiction before I got it to where I was ready to publish it, which is why I did not publish it until 2016.

AB: What sparked your interest in werewolves?

EK: I have always been drawn to wolves, and the moon, since I was really young. I’m not sure if it has anything to do with me being born on a full moon night or not, but these two things have always remained a constant interest in my life. I still have this beautiful wolf box that I got during one of my summer trips to my Dad’s. Growing up I also had a love for horror, and would read everything and anything with the supernatural in it. The Last Vampire series by Christopher Pike comes to mind, but I really loved R.L. Stine’s Fear Street Saga as well. One of the first anime movies that I got into was Vampire Hunter D which also featured a lot of supernatural creatures. When the series Supernatural debuted on TV, I was instantly a fan. After we started our fanfic together, I began to research werewolves and that’s when my true obsession started. I collect books, movies, video games, and all things werewolf. I find it fascinating that every culture across the world, regardless of their geographic location, has some version of a werewolf. There’s so much folklore out there, and it varies by location, but every culture has their variation of a story where a man or woman turn into an animal. There are even some places that to this day believe that werewolves exist. It’s one of the few supernatural tales that even has a scientific condition related to it. The more I researched, the more I learned, and the more I fell in love with the furry by moonlight. I’m still learning more about different stories from various cultures every day, and I hope to bring that knowledge into my series at some point.

AB: Your hometown of Syracuse is another character in the series. Was that a deliberate choice or was that decision just a natural part of the writing process?

EK: It’s actually kind of funny, but Syracuse was not my original choice for the setting. I went through different ideas for where this story would take place. Originally I was thinking New York City, but then when I thought about it, as much as I love visiting there, I don’t think I could give my readers an authentic feel to the Big Apple, since I’ve only visited there a few times in my life. I wanted to be able to make the setting feel real, with the sights, sounds, and smells. The more I thought about it, too, so many stories take place in New York City, which is fine, but it didn’t seem to fit. I even thought about having it take place down in Florida, where I was living at the time, but that didn’t seem right either. Too much sunshine for the vampire folk.

So then I thought, why not Syracuse? We have long winters and a lot of cloudy days for vampires, and we have an urban area but also plenty of forest not too far away for the werewolves. Plus, since I grew up here, I could really bring the story to life in a familiar setting. As I did more research it really connected as well, since Syracuse is near a lot of historic landmarks for human rights (we aren’t too far away from Seneca Falls which was important to Women’s Suffrage, and even today we are a sanctuary city for refugees) and it was like the final piece came together. Syracuse became the perfect place for Korban and the gang to call home.

AB: One of the topics that is often discussed among writers these days is representation. Your main character is Latinx and his love interest is not the typical female character for the genre. Was this another deliberate choice or did it feel right for the characters?

EK: Representation matters more than ever these days, but as an author it’s my main objective to tell a story with a variety of characters who are authentic and not stereotypes. When I first created Lobo, it just felt right to me. I pictured him with tanned skin, dark hair, and with wolf-like, yellow eyes. He came to me as Latinx and also as biromantic, demisexual, which means that he is attracted to men and women, but requires a strong emotional connection in order to have a sexual attraction to them. This element to his character really comes into play more in the third book, but there are some references to it along the way. At the time I created him I didn’t know the terms for his sexuality. To be fair, I didn’t understand demisexuality myself until I also realized it applied to me (I am panromantic demisexual which simply means I just want cuddles from everyone regardless of gender identity), and that wasn’t until early 2018. I’ve learned a lot more about the human sexuality spectrum since that time, and how that is one layer of representation in characters.

I think stories that include variety in representation are beautiful. There are so many layers to characters and I feel like it limits the possibilities if your characters are all the same. Part of the time I took to rewrite my story was adding to my characters to give them more dimension. As the story continues, one of the nice things about writing a series is that we get to see more from these characters as time goes on, and get to watch them grow on their personal journeys in a more organic way.

RJ is black, and Alex is Latinx too because they also came to me that way. They also came to me as gay, though in my first publication I didn’t make that obvious because I didn’t want to rely on stereotypes. Alex loves cars and is playful, and RJ is more reserved but caring. I wanted them to be like a lot of the gay couples I know in real life who have been together for a long time. Only instead of having the adorable dog or cat like most of my friends, they get to have a werewolf roommate (to which Alex is infinitely amused). In the first book, they have their hands full with the main plot of the story and it doesn’t blatantly come up because for one thing, Korban already knows and it wouldn’t be a big deal to him by this point in his friendship with them. Sophie has her own conflict within herself, and it’s not that big a deal to her that they are a couple, which is why it isn’t addressed by the characters within the story. Representation doesn’t have to be about the characters “coming out” to anyone, unless it’s a plot point in your story. As the series goes on, we spend more time with RJ and Alex, and the reader can see more of the romantic gestures between the two of them, and it’s sweet and treated just like any relationship should be in my opinion.

As for Sophie, she is the first female werewolf that is introduced to the series. She comes in the story as a guide for the reader, because she’s bitten early on and we get to experience the struggle of a newly infected werewolf through her point of view. She isn’t some untouched, naïve, blank slate but a wife and a mother who is trying to keep her family together, and that’s just her surface layer. Inside she not only struggles with her werewolf, but also her own identity. She is seen by the world as this billionaire’s trophy wife, but as the story progresses she really comes into her own. She gets her chance to shine a lot more in the sequels as she grows and becomes more comfortable with not only dealing with her lycanthropy but also accepting herself.

As the series continues on, I plan on adding more thoughtful representation as well. In the fourth book, which I am writing now, there is a character introduced who is a person with disabilities, and I have plans for even more inclusion as the series goes on. Representation is important to me because the key message in my series is despite our differences, we can come together as human beings, regardless of ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, and in the case of my story, supernatural factors.

AB: Can you describe the research you did to prepare? Was this done before you started writing or during?

EK: Another reason why it took me over 14 years to publish was the extent of research that I did. I started with every book, movie, TV show that I could get my hands on to watch on werewolves. I watched and read a ton of good, bad, and truly awful werewolf stories. I wanted to see what was out there so I could put my own spin on the werewolf lore. I have a notebook somewhere that I hope to find, where I wrote critiques on every werewolf movie and book that I had read during that time so I could keep track of it all. When I started to put how my werewolves functioned together, I stopped taking notes and focused more on writing the story. It led me to some of my favorite werewolf movies and books- Ginger Snaps is my favorite movie, and the Kitty Norville Series by Carrie Vaughn are my favorite books about werewolves, which both feature female werewolves which I love.

AB: Most writers don’t have the luxury of being able to write full time and still earn a reasonable living. What advice to you have for writers who are juggling outside professional and/or familial responsibilities in addition to their writing?

EK: My advice is to make time to write, or create in some way. We often get caught up in so much that we forget to take the time to do something for ourselves. Writing and drawing are outlets for me and help me unwind after a day of work. It’s easy to fall into the pattern of watching someone else’s creation, but try to set some time to make your own art. Sometimes that is the only way to get your creativity out, and you’ll feel better. Even if you make a tiny amount of progress a day, it’s still progress. Also it is equally important not to be hard on yourself for not creating or taking the time, because we end up in a vicious cycle of self-deprecation that only compounds and makes things worse. Forgive yourself, and try to make little goals, and soon you’ll reach the bigger goals.

Another thing you can do is to include family members in your creativity time. Encourage your kids to write or draw their own stories while you work on yours. A lot of people believe that writing is a solitary thing, and that’s fine if that is how you write best, but I find that when I’m with a group of writers I tend to get a lot more done. Writing groups are wonderful, you can even find some online in your area so that you can help one another out, especially right now. Having a critique group with writers also helps bounce ideas off other people and can help improve your writing. I meet with my writing group online about once a month and it’s really helped me stay on track and be accountable for my writing goals.

AB: Do you have any recommendations for those who are writing a multi-book series? What tips do you have for keeping the readers hooked from the first page of the first book to the last page of the last book?

EK: When writing a series you want to make sure that you have plans for your characters’ growth. If a character doesn’t change over the course of the series, then what was the point of telling their story? I plan out my story arcs based on my characters’ wants and the actions they take in every book. Every action leads to consequences, even if I don’t reveal the effect right away. Things that are set up in the first book may not pay off until the third or fourth book, and so on. It’s up to you to bridge those events in order to make a cohesive story that guides your reader through to those major plot points.

If your story has compelling characters that your reader can connect with, then they will be invested in your character’s journey. It helps when they see in every book that there’s some change and growth in your characters, whether it’s positive or negative. Change shouldn’t be immediate. Even in a fantasy story you need to have believable elements, and small changes over time are more realistic.

I plan my series out by story arcs, so for me every three books there is a completed character arc that leads into the next. I outline a lot of the important events and plot twists before I start making my outline and really fleshing those out with details. Even if you are a pantser, keep track of all your major plot points in your story, or you will end up constantly going back to your manuscript for information. I keep track of mine in a series bible, along with all the details of my series. I track things like the moon cycle (even if I rarely mention exact dates), character descriptions, and event timelines. This way I don’t have a full moon happening every other chapter, and there’s key events that happen during various parts of the lunar cycle that I need to make sure I am aware of. This also adds an element of reality into a fictional world and helps make the fantastic events more believable.   

AB: Are you a panster or a plotter?

EK: Confession time: I was once a pantser, but I am now more of a hybrid plotter. Especially when writing a series, it’s important to know your goals for each book. So I always write out what I refer to as my “plot skeleton” so that I know what key points to hit, but the “meat” of the story is often fleshed out as I go. Sometimes I alter my “skeleton” as I go as well, adjusting it as information comes to me from the characters and the way I have them respond to certain events. When Sophie kisses Korban the first time, as an example, I had planned that for the end of the book, but due to the way events played out, it felt right for them to do it a bit sooner in the story.

AB: Do you see yourself staying in this genre or branching out?

EK: Right now I have plans for the next six books in the series, and I don’t have a plan for an ending as of this moment. I think this series will have about fifteen books in it, but I won’t know until it feels right to wrap it up so that may change. I even have some spin off ideas in the works. I really enjoy writing urban fantasy, however I do plan on writing some horror short stories, and I have a fantasy series that is kicking around in my brain, but it’s not ready yet. My plan over the next year is to get comfortable writing two books at a time, so I can keep the Tainted Moonlight series going and maybe branch out into these other ideas. I love my characters and this world that I built so much that I don’t think I’ll be saying good bye to them any time soon.

AB: What advice would you give to other writers?

EK: Write when you can, and when you can’t write read. I’m fortunate that when I hit the dreaded writer’s block that I usually can get into a drawing mode, so that I’m always creating something, but even when that fails, reading has never let me down. It tends to refresh my creativity to just enjoy other stories. I have recently gotten into audio book production as well, and so I have been listening to books and it really opens up a whole other world when you can multitask and read at the same time. I also enjoy stories in other formats, such as video games and Netflix, but it’s so important that when you are writing you take the time to read other works too.

My other bit of advice is if you want to be a successful author, you need to make sure you treat it with professional care. There are so many options for publication now, and I chose the route that works for me by independently publishing. However, if you go that route expect to put the work in so that you are selling the best version of your story. That means investing in a professional editor, and a book cover. You want to put your best foot out there, and you want to make sure that your readers have an enjoyable experience reading your story in its best form. I learned this the hard way, unfortunately, with the very first edition of Tainted Moonlight, where I had taken some bad writing advice when it comes to switching tenses, and the number one complaint I got from my first batch of readers was they had trouble with the different tenses. So I hired my editor, and she helped me improve my story, and ever since then I have had much better reviews coming in. I now make sure a professional editor goes over my manuscript prior to release, but please if you take nothing else away, learn from my mistake.

Ultimately, remember this- only you can write your story. Don’t be discouraged if your story gets compared to things that exist. When I started out and pitched my story to people as a story about werewolves and vampires, they immediately compared it to Twilight, because that’s what they know about. There are so many stories about the supernatural out there, but there’s only one series that belongs to me.

I have a section on my website that has more resources for authors, which includes a lot of links to information and videos, and I’m going to start a monthly vlog for advice based on my experiences in the publishing world. I hope to pay it forward to other new authors. I had great mentors who have helped me along my publication journey but not everyone has that, so I want to make sure to help any way I can. I also welcome any specific questions, I have contact information on my site as well, so please feel free to reach out to me anytime and I will get back to you.

Make sure no matter what you do, write your story. You can do it!

Tainted Moonlight is available wherever books are sold.

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