Mar 09

Am Writing. #amwriting

I started a full-time job in July. My writing skills, honed on historical romance, helped me earn the position. In an office with a team of seven people, I’m now the go-to for editing a career biography or pulling together a press release. I look forward to these few and far between tasks when I can sink my teeth into word choice, punctuation, and flow. Because I’m a writer at heart. And folks at work are happy because — did you know? — some people absolutely hate writing. Even people who love to read can despise creating the written word.

Lucky for me, I’m still writing. This blog, for example. Snippets of marketing material. A gazillion emails a day.

But books? Not so much right now. The plots of unwritten stories float in my head like motion barely caught in my peripheral vision. The children of my very first characters beg for the chance to grow up. My poor new adult heroine, abandoned amidst a volcanic eruption, wants to know if her freshman crush will really be her forever guy.

Every published novelist can tell you that having a story in your head is the easy part. On a scale of difficulty, falling off a log ranks far higher than plotting fiction in one’s head. However, past history shows that the very existence of characters in my head indicates these stories’ time may come. One day I’ll likely find myself building sentences/paragraphs/chapters instead of emails.

Until then, I’ve got a small collection of books already launched in the world, and have been lucky to be part of a few extraordinary boxed sets with the Love Historicals authors. Check out our latest – the Once Upon A Kiss set. #amreading  #amwriting

 

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Mar 03

Once Upon A Kiss with Anastasia Pollack

The Love Historicals presents Once Upon A Kiss is featured today on the blog of Anastasia Pollack, crafts editor and reluctant amateur sleuth. It’s a lovely honor to be there and to meet Anastais. If you haven’t had a chance to check out our newest release featuring 10 award-winning and best selling authors, it’s a great chance to do so. From gladiators to noblemen, rogues to cowboys, there is truly a hero (and heroine!) for every reader of historical romance.

Feb 09

Lakota Moons

Whether in song or affecting our tides, the moon, the second brightest object in the sky after the sun, plays a vital role in our lives.

Native Americans’ close connection to nature is seen in their names for the months. Although calendar types vary from tribe to tribe, nearly all tribal calendars begin in the spring, the time of year that symbolizes the start of a new year through the emergence of new plants and the birth of new animals.

Moons of Renewal and Growth

Each spring, the camp circle moved to higher ground. Men fixed old weapons and made new ones to hunt with. Women gathered early berries and roots, repaired their lodges from new hides collected during the fall and winter hunts, and sewed leggings and moccasins from the smoked tops of the old lodge skins. After being confined to their lodges over the winter, children played outside in the warm weather.

During this time, the animals carrying babies were at their largest before giving birth. This was April, Wihakakta cepapi Wi, the Moon of Fattening.

The warmer weather made its way onto the prairies, and the pleasant temperatures meant it was time to plant. This was May, Wojupiwi Wi, the Moon of Planting.

The berries were tasty and red at this time of year, just right for picking. Parfleches and robes were painted, and raiding parties were underway. This was June, Wipazuka waste Wi, the Moon of Good Berries.

The Warm Moons

As spring gave way to summer, the camp circle moved often to follow the migrating buffalo herds. Women struck the lodges and packed the family’s belongings onto pony drags for transport to the new camp. They also prepared food and made and set up the lodges. Men made weapons, hunted for game and defended the camp. While girls helped gather firewood and water and were instructed in quill- and bead-work decoration, boys practiced their hunting skills on small animals.

Summer was the time of celebrations and ceremonies and for seeking visions. The women made pemmican from ripened chokecherries and other berries, and the men planned war parties. This moon marked the time for one of the most sacred Lakota rites, the Sun Dance. This was July, Canpasapa Wi, the Moon of Cherries Black.

As summer wore on, the men hunted and the women gathered vegetables and nuts and dried meats in preparation for the coming winter. This was August, Wasuton Wi, the Moon of Harvest. It was also called Wicokannijin, the Moon When the Sun Stands in the Middle for the unrelenting heat it brought down upon the Great Plains.

The Moons of Change

As summer turned to fall, the Lakota prepared for winter. Food was gathered to last through the winter moons. Women prepared meat from the buffalo that the men hunted. Underground storage caches were filled with dried meat and fruit, and large quantities of firewood were stocked. As the weather began to change, the trees responded. This was September, Canwapegi Wi, the Moon of Brown Leaves.

As autumn settled over the Great Plains, the Lakota people prepared for winter.The trees also prepared by dropping their leaves. This was October, Canwapekasna Wi, the Moon of Falling Leaves.

The Cold and Dark Moons

Winter brought a quieter time, during which a single camp site was used for the season. While women made and mended clothing, men went on raiding parties to ensure the camp’s safety and strength. Winter was also a time for storytelling. Children slid over the snow in buffalo ribcages and in the evening gathered around the fire to listen to the stories the elders told of past times and heroes.

This was the time when everyone started thinking about the coming winter. This was November, Waniyatu Wi, the Moon of Starting Winter.

When the heavy snows began to fall, and blistering winds fell upon the prairies, and the deer began to shed their horns, it was time to strike the lodges and travel to a sheltering wooded hollow near a river or to the sacred Black Hills where they would be close to supplies of firewood. This was December, Tahecapsun Wu, the Moon of Shedding Horns.

At this time of year everyone experienced difficulties. Food was often in short supply and the weather was fierce. A severe winter could bring starvation, and at times like that rose berries, acorns, and even the horses were eaten. This was January, Wiotekika Wi, the Moon of Hard Times.

As a new moon arrived, the Lakota people noticed a great change. Trees on the Great Plains popped and burst as their branches became laden with winter snow and ice. This was February, Cannapoppa Wi, the Moon of Popping Trees.

Although the promise of spring was on the horizon, the cold winter weather continued. It was a time of blinding sun rays reflecting off the snow. This was March, Istawicayazan Wi, the Moon of Snow Blindness.

And with the passing of another year spring came once again to the prairie, and with it, a renewal of life and hope.

 

My latest release, RESTLESS WIND, Book 3 in my Native American Wild Wind Series, continues the story of trader’s daughter Katie McCabe and Lakota warrior Black Moon. Their love has survived misunderstanding, treachery, absence, abduction, and tragedy, but the ever-increasing hostilities between the soldiers and the Sioux in late 1866 have planted seeds of uncertainty in Katie’s mind as to where she belongs – the white world into which she was born, or Black Moon’s Lakota world in which she has chosen to live. As tensions erupt over the plains and Black Moon rides with Crazy Horse to rid the Powder River country of the Long Knives, Katie joins a wagon train and embarks on a journey of self-discovery, setting into motion events as turbulent as the restless wind.

The story begins late in Canwapegi Wi. As Katie sits astride her Indian pony gazing out across the land, she is reminded of a Lakota legend about why the leaves turn colors.

She had ridden today much further than she intended, having joined the other women to gather wild prairie turnips, and then left them digging on the hillside to gallop her pony across the land in the futile hope that an exhilarating ride would chase away the uncertainty. Grappling with the doubts that plagued her, she gazed at the quaking aspen and scrub oak ablaze in color, with red, yellow, green and orange blanketing the hills in the distance.

The old ones told a story about why the leaves fall. Many moons ago, they said, when the world was still young, all the plants and animals were enjoying the beautiful summer weather. But as the days went by, the weather turned colder. This made the grass and flower people very sad, for they had no protection against the sharp cold of winter. Just when it seemed there was no hope for them to go on living, the Great Spirit came to their aid. He told the leaves on the trees to fall to the ground and spread a soft, warm blanket over them. To repay the trees for the loss of their leaves, He allowed them one last bright array of beauty. This, they said, was why the trees take on beautiful farewell colors before turning to their appointed task of covering the earth with a thick blanket of warmth to protect the grass and flower people against the chill of winter.

Katie heaved a sigh. Soon, the branches would be bare, snow would cover the ground, and ice would clog the rivers and streams. She thought again of the Lakota legend and wondered who would protect her against the chill that had found its way into her heart.

The restless breath of the wind blew across the land. As she turned her pony’s head away and headed back to the Oglala camp in a valley of the Tongue River, her father’s words echoed in her mind.

“Katie, m’darlin’, nothin’ stays the same.”

RESTLESS WIND is coming soon to all e-readers.

Jan 25

Love Historicals Presents “Once Upon a Kiss”

Ten of your Love Historicals authors have banded together to bring you an outstanding multi-genre collection of novels and novellas. We’ll take you from Ancient Rome to America’s west; from Imperial Russia to Medieval England; from the Regency to the Holy Roman Empire.

All for 99 cents!

Buy Links

It’s available at the following retailers:

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Featured Authors

Sydney Jane Baily, Christy Carlyle, Gina Danna, Jill Hughey, Catherine Kean, Anna Markland, Nancy Morse, Laurel O’Donnell, Margery Scott, Cynthia Woolf

Dec 29

Victorians and Etiquette Books

Etiquette doesn’t seem very popular anymore. Rules, strictures, ways of behaving that must be adhered to—for many, I suspect that sounds more confining than charming. My own experiences of etiquette were limited to my grandma’s lessons on how to act at the dinner table, nudging my elbow to remind me to say “please” and “thank you,” and insisting I never let my hemline rise too high or my neckline ride too low. Was there someone in your life who taught you etiquette?

When I began research for my current Victorian romance series, I knew there were a fair number of etiquette books in print during the Victorian era. Certainly more than I’d seen at my local library or in the homes of my family while growing up. In fact, the only such book I recall was my grandma’s copy of Emily Post’s Etiquette, though I never remember her taking the volume down and thumbing through its pages.

My research starting point was that Victorians produced more etiquette books than those of us living in the 20th century. Of course, I wanted to know why. What I discovered surprised me and has informed each of the stories in my current Romancing the Rules series from Avon Impulse.

It’s tempting to imagine Victorians bathed in gaslight, hunched over their etiquette books, memorizing rules so that they could be behave with all the prudery and scrupulous politeness they’ve become known for. Yet if you read Victorian etiquette guides, you soon find that they’re more akin to advice manuals than rulebooks. In many ways, they remind me of our modern spate of self-help books, encouraging good health, physical activity, and urging kindness and politeness toward others.

I often write of aristocrats, the wealthy and powerful of English society. But the Victorian era saw the rise of an expanding middle class, many earning enormous wealth during the opportunity-rich industrial revolution. Etiquette books spoke directly to those ladies and gentleman who wanted to cultivate the social niceties the upper classes would have been taught by governesses and tutors.

To paraphrase S. L. Louis in Decorum, middle class men could “fake it” until behaving like a gentleman became real.

 Advice manuals seemed most plentiful for women’s edification. Then as now, an inordinate amount of time was spent advising women how to “look” in terms of their dress, cosmetics, scent, even how they should appear when participating in the new activities of the day, like cycling. In the 1893 book, Etiquette of Good Society, Lady Campbell advised,

A lady’s tricycling dress consists of a plain skirt, made sufficiently wide to allow the feet free play without causing them to draw up the dress by their action, and yet not so wide as to permit the skirt to hang in folds or flap in the wind.

Perhaps my most shocking find was the discovery that late 19th century Victorians, with all of their “modern” inventions and technologies, were a bit nostalgic for the past. In Decorum in 1883, S. L. Louis opined,

THE very delightful recreation and exercise of riding on horseback is too little partaken of in these days of fast locomotion.

If nothing else, the plethora of Victorian advice manuals and etiquette guides offer a fascinating glimpse into the era. Though the Victorians are often painted as the worst sort of prudes, the books indicate they were a generation of strivers, ladies and gentleman attempting to live up to ideals and fearing they’d fall short.

When trains shuttled people through the countryside, women had more property rights than ever before, and a few men without a drop of blue blood in their veins could afford more lavish lifestyles than some aristocrats, etiquette books must have seemed a useful aid to help people through rapidly changing times.

Works Referenced

Louis, S.L., Decorum. New York: Union Publishing House, 1883.

Campbell, Lady Elizabeth G., Etiquette of Good Society. London: Cassell and Co, 1893.

Dec 14

A Little Christmas History

It’s a wonderful time of year for many of us, seeing family, whether traveling or staying home, parties, twinkly lights, good food, friends, prezzies under the tree.

Victoria and Albert with Christmas tree

The nineteenth century brought about many of the staples of Christmas that we enjoy today: the decorated Christmas tree by the 1850s (via Prince Albert, consort of Queen Victoria, who grew up in Germany where the tree was already a tradition), Christmas cards (though only for the wealthy, at first), Christmas crackers (more popular still in the UK than here in America, but you can purchase them easily nowadays), and, of course, Ebeneezer Scrooge (via Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol.

Let’s get to Santa Claus. Santa is, for many, the secular representation of Christmas. Has that jolly old elf always been so jolly? At least in America, the answer is yes.

Early Christmas card 19th century

Santa, as St. Nicholas, first appeared in popular form in the 1820s, in Clement Moore’s “An Account of a Visit from Saint Nicholas” (also known by its first line as “Twas the Night Before Christmas”), complete with his eight “tiny” reindeer and a mini-sleigh. St. Nick was, indeed, a round, jolly elf dressed in fur who came down the chimney.

In the 1850s and 1860s, Santa was becoming more the modern Santa that we think of today. Thomas Nast (actually a political cartoonist and caricaturist) created Christmas illustrations introducing the idea of Santa’s workshop and of Santa having a record of whether kids were behaving well during the year. It was Nast’s colored illustrations, paired with George Webster’s 1886 “Santa Claus and His Works” that dressed Santa in red and made his domain in the famed and magical North Pole. Santa went from a Saint to an elf and back to a man again throughout the century.

All about Santa Claus

In Boston, MA, where Reed Malloy (from my romantic novel, An Improper Situation) and his family live, by the 1880s, Christmas celebrations were large family affairs that we know today, complete with a feast. Why? Because throughout the century, immigrants came to Massachusetts predominantly from Ireland, England, and Scotland, bringing with them their UK and European Christmas traditions. They came a long way from a 1659 Massachusetts anti-Christmas law of the Puritans to the nationwide celebration of the 1880s.

At the end of the nineteenth century, Virginia O’Hanlon’s now-famous question to a newspaper editor, “Is there a Santa Claus?” could be truly answered that, at least in American culture, “Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus.” That was in 1897.

Happy Holidays to all of you from the authors of Love Historicals.

Dec 01

Celebrating Victorian Christmas Traditions

As difficult as it is to believe, considering that Christmas items are available in stores as early as September, at the beginning of the 1800’s, most people didn’t consider it a holiday. Businesses weren’t closed and few celebrated the way we do now.

Many attribute the change to Queen Victoria’s marriage to Prince Albert. German-born, the prince brought many of his childhood traditions surrounding the holiday to England. When a popular news sheet featured a drawing of the royal family surrounding a decorated Christmas tree, many people flocked to emulate the royals by bringing evergreen trees into their homes and decorating them with candles, fruits, and other sweets.

While decorating homes with evergreens (including kissing boughs and mistletoe!) date back to medieval times, the manner in which this was done changed. Uniformity won the day, along with elegance. Housewives were encouraged “To bring about a general feeling of enjoyment, much depends on the surroundings… It is worthwhile to bestow some little trouble on the decoration of the rooms.” (1881 Cassell’s Family Magazine). Victorian Family Christmas

The custom of exchanging cards at Christmas also dates to Victorian times. Henry Cole commissioned an artist to design a card depicting a family celebrating Christmas in 1843. The concept quickly caught on and children began to draw their own cards to exchange. As techniques for printing lowered the cost and the postage rate dropped, cards were more frequently exchanged. By 1880, the greeting card industry was born as 11.5 million cards were exchanged that year.

Gift giving shifted from its previous New Years’ date to Christmas as well, thanks to the Victorians. The rise of factories and improvements in manufacturing reduced the cost of children’s toys, making it much more practical to indulge the young ones in the household with gifts. However, less fortunate children more often found oranges or nuts in their stocking.

It’s interesting to note that Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol was published in 1843, which encouraged wealthier Victorians to give to the poor, a tradition that is still encouraged to this day.

Father Christmas and Santa Claus are two different stories though the average person today might not be able to guess that. Old English midwinter festivals thrown to celebrate the coming of spring included a man dressed in green. Santa Claus or St. Nicholas (or Sinter Klaas in Holland) came with the Dutch who settled in America in the 17th century. By the 1870’s Sinter Klaas became Santa Claus in England.

Traditional Christmas carols from the Victorian period will sound very familiar to us today. O Come All Ye Faithful emerged in 1843, See Amid the Winter’s Snow in 1851, O Little Town of Bethlehem in 1868, and Away in a Manager in 1883.

lanawilliams_dancingunderthemistletoe_ecover_800What about you? What are some of your Christmas traditions? We’d love to know what is a *MUST* for you each Christmas!

As you celebrate Christmas this year, give a shout out to the Victorians for giving us so many wonderful traditions, and while you’re at, we invite you to read some Victorian Romances! My latest novella, Dancing Under the Mistletoe in set in 1870 (Book 3.5 of The Seven Curses of London series) and is available exclusively as part of Under the Kissing Bough collection for only $.99 for a limited time!

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Nov 15

Funny Animal Sidekicks Steal Hearts

 

By Prince Rael the Magnificent
(Transcribed by Adrienne deWolfe, aka “Minion”)

Greetings, Humans!

It is I, Prince Rael the Magnificent, writing on a subject that is near and dear to every (self-respecting) reader’s heart: why cats make the funniest sidekicks. Er . . . I mean, why animals make the funniest sidekicks.

Frankly, I think every Romance novel should feature a cat hero, but Adrienne outvoted me. (She also chose deWolfe as her pen name! I’m pretty sure that’s a sign of brain rot.)

For those of you who don’t share your living quarters with one of nature’s demi-gods, I hope to inspire you (and mostly, to encourage you to reexamine your woeful existence.) But first, we must tackle the subject at hand: furry scene-stealers.

Back when Adrienne was a newbie author, she got the bright idea to write Texas Wildcat. (An inspired title, don’t you agree?) In her innocence, she envisioned an endearing scene, in which the hero would bring the heroine a puppy in his big, brawny cowboy arms. Of course, this idea necessitated killing off the heroine’s rheumy coon hound. Well! The way her Bantam editor carried on, you would have thought that Adrienne had whacked Garfield or Grumpy Cat! The editor phoned Adrienne and blubbered, “Never again will you kill a dog on my watch!”

Ironically, nobody at Bantam shed a single tear when the sheep-mauling mountain lion got his head blown off! (Where’s the justice?)

Fortunately, Adrienne is more clever than she looks. She started writing animals as fully developed sidekicks. The trouble is, she doesn’t write cats. You’d think that Romance readers would be outraged by this gross oversight on a bestselling author’s part.

Instead, they encourage this madness by sending fan mail to Pris, the border collie, who herds everything from geese to run-away apples in Texas Wildcat. They also write to Tavy, the orphaned baby otter, who doesn’t know how to swim in Scoundrel for Hire. But what really blows my mind is that readers and (supposedly wise) book reviewers love Vanderbilt Varmint, the raccoon, even though that impertinent sneak is known on Kitchen Wanted Posters as “The Masked Moocher!” Vandy has appeared in two of Adrienne’s series – and five of her books – which makes this pussycat want to barf hairballs.

If you’re anything like me, you’re probably wondering, “What kind of noodlehead writes about raccoons instead of cats?” But Adrienne had a creative vision for the climax of her Western Romantic Suspense novel, Devil in Texas (Book 1, Lady Law & The Gunslinger — now on sale for 99 cents.) She needed an animal character to rescue an unconscious child from an evil rattlesnake. Alas, cats must draw the line at fame and fortune somewhere, so I gave Adrienne my blessing.

Adrienne confessed that inventing a raison d’etre for the same furry sidekick, in scene after scene of five books, has been akin to Chinese water torture. (Serves the noodlehead right!) To date, Vandy has broken the hero out of jail; crapped on the antagonist’s pillow; run around a bedroom with underwear on his head; dunked a stolen pocket watch in a lady’s bathwater (while she’s still in it;) and gotten himself locked in a traveling trunk bound for Denver. In Book 2 of the series, Dance to the Devil’s Tune, Vandy saves the heroine from a bushwhacker – entirely by accident, of course.  

Now let us speak frankly. You and I both know that cats are far more interesting (and will sell far more books) than raccoons. However, the nice lady, who commissioned this post, expects me to regale you with tips on how to write funny animal characters. So while Adrienne’s busy shrieking inside the broom closet, I’ll review her Best Practices with you. (Kindly ignore any ruckus you hear in the background. Locked closets are perfectly comfy, I assure you.)

5 Tips for Entertaining Human Readers:

• Once you create a pet, you’re stuck with it for the rest of the novel. Killing off a pet (unless it’s Cujo or maybe a big hairy tarantula,) will earn you an avalanche of mail—from former fans.

• Without dialogue, a furry sidekick must be made funny via human interpretation. For instance, Vandy runs through the snow, getting his paws cold and slushy, before he jumps onto the hero’s crotch. Naturally, Cass thinks the coon is tormenting him. (And Vandy is. He told me so, himself.)

• A pet must help or hinder a human’s scene goal. Your animal character should have a greater plot purpose than wandering into the kitchen to eat. (Psst. I don’t care what Adrienne says. If you’re dishing out boiled shrimp, you can write whatever you want!)

• Invent situations that are innately humorous. For example, during the séance scene, Tavy the Otter, rises up under a sheet like a ghost. (But Tavy doesn’t levitate. Dang that editor!)

• Logistically, you must let the reader know where the pet is in every scene – even if that means writing a one-liner, mentioning that the pet is snoozing on the bed (or making baby animals under the porch.)

What Have We Learned in Today’s Creature Feature?
[Disclaimer: The following summary reflects the views of the FELINE, and not necessarily the person, who’s howling in the broom closet.]

1) Cats deserve the Pulitzer Prize.

2) Dead dogs will get your book rejected by Bantam.

3) Raccoons are blithering idiots.

4) Adrienne is deathly afraid of brooms.

5) Did I mention that cats are superior writers?

‘Til next time, Gentle Readers, this is your favorite Pussy Pal, signing off with a rousing MEOW.

About the Author
ray-with-glasses_paidPrince Rael the Magnificent is the foremost authority on animal behavior in Adrienne deWolfe’s den. Adrienne, his shrimp-cooking minion, is a #1 bestselling author of action-packed Historical Romances. Her most recent novel, Dance to the Devil’s Tune was released today! (Please buy it, so she can feed the pussy brat.) For sneak peeks of Adrienne’s sassy ladies and sizzling rogues, visit LadyLawAndTheGunslinger.com.

Nov 03

How The Dogs Hold an Election

With elections only a few days away, here’s a Lakota legend on how the dogs hold an election.

Once, a long time ago, the dogs were trying to elect a president. One of the dogs nominated the bulldog because he was strong and could fight.

“But he cannot run,” said another. “What good is a fighter who cannot run?”

“He can run,” another argued, “but he cannot fight. When he catches up with someone, he gets beaten up. So all he is good for is running away.”

One little mutt jumped up and said, “I nominate a dog for president that smells good under his tail.”

Another said, “I second the motion.”

So, all the dogs started sniffing under each other’s tails.

dog-sniffing-lh

“Phew,” said one, “he does not smell good under his tail.”

“Neither does this one.”

“He is not presidential timber.”

“This one sure is not the people’s choice.”

“Wow, this one is not my candidate.”

So now, when you go for a walk, watch the dogs. They’re always sniffing under each other’s tails looking for a good leader, and they still haven’t found him.

***

I’m not suggesting that we use the sniff test to choose our president, otherwise, like the dogs, we’d still be looking.

Oct 15

Medieval Adventure with Blackened Chain Mail

I recently had a new book published: The Black Knight’s Reward.

All Luke’s life, this half-Saracen, half-Englishman has sought legitimacy. The reward he desperately wants is to inherit his grandfather’s English estate and have the title of earl go to his own heir. However, his impulsive act in saving a young woman who is about to be executed by the Church changes everything. By the end of the story, he has a new reward in mind, and her name is Merry du Boise, a red-headed healer who seems to have trouble follow her wherever she goes.

Black Knight's Reward cover
Available in ebook and paperback everywhere fine books are sold, including Amazon.

Why the Black Knight? Blackened chain mail, or ring mail, was common. It was oiled and fired to prevent rust, and it became deeply blackened. It could be shiny or matt depending on how it was treated. My knight’s finely wrought mail is blackened and kept shiny with oil. His squire, Erin, takes good care of his master’s mail, except when he loses one of the chausses, leaving more than a chink in Luke’s armor — he leaves a whole leg vulnerable to attack.

The Black Knight’s Reward — co-written by me, Sydney Jane Baily, and Marliss Melton — is a standalone story, and is Book 2 in the Warriors of York series. Merry’s older sister’s story is told in Book 1, The Slayer’s Redemption, available in ebook and paperback everywhere books are sold.

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