Tag Archives: Character development

When Your World Falls Apart – Cause and Effect by LV Gaudet

What do you do when your world falls apart?

 

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Photo by Jordy Meow on Unsplash

This is the sort of question that is so open ended that there is no right or wrong way to identify with it.

There is the major falling apart, dealing with loss and grief.  The kind that you cannot do anything but mourn for as long as it takes to learn to live with it.  Debilitating emotional turmoil.  Depression.  That is only to name a few.

A middling falling apart of your world might involve being fired from your job, that guy or girl you have dated for the past six months breaking up with you, or perhaps a car accident where the only casualty is that automobile you loved.  It hurts.  You want to wallow in your feelings of self-pity and loss, but even you know somewhere inside that it is not such a big loss as it feels like at that very moment.

And then there are those momentary mind-numbing mini tragedies.  Flash pan moments that bring on sudden extreme emotions that can die heartbeats later.  The kind that bring you into a heat-of-the-moment panic.  The flash of anger.  The moment where tears suddenly burn your eyes and you feel how foolish you must be because it’s not worth crying over and you must be tired.  You make more excuses for yourself.

Finally, there are the truly trivial. These are perhaps most often experienced by one in the midst of a severe emotional mood swing, including toddlers.  You dropped your ice cream.  Your mascara glopped on your eyelashes, sticking them together and it is truly the end of the world because that boy you like is going to think you look like some kind of moronic goon who doesn’t know how to use mascara (note the run on sentence thought of the teenager in the throws of a hot mood swing).  You truly are over-tired and you spilled your coffee.  These moments of your life falling apart are no less severe in your feelings at the moment they are happening.  Later, you might think, “Wow.  I really got upset about that?”

 

 

The question to dig deep and ask yourself is, “What would I do?”

 

Imagine a situation.  Imagine how you would feel.  What you would do.  What if you were in a different mood?  Experiencing something else, good or bad, at that moment.  How you imaging other people you know or observed would handle the situation.

 

 

Now place your character in that spot.

 

Ok, so your character is coming to a red light.  Just as they are approaching, the light turns green.  The cross traffic has the red.  With an internal sigh of relief, your character moves the foot hovering over the brake to the gas, accelerating through the now green light.

Just as they are beginning to sail through the intersection, a car cuts them off.  Your character is shocked.  Indignant.  Panicked.  They react too late.  Time has slowed to a crawl as they bear witness to the coming accident they feel powerless to avoid.  By an almost impossible chance, between lamely groping for the brake too late with that foot, fighting the urge to swerve onto the sidewalk where people wait to cross the street, and the offending driver gunning the gas, your character barely avoids the collision.

Weak with the after effects of the momentary surge of adrenaline, your character has a hot flash pan moment.  Anger.  Your character swears at the other driver.  Looks at the steering wheel and silently swears at themselves for not blaring the horn.  Your character drives home angrily, stomping into the house to be greeted by….

What?

A toddler?  Your character, still hot and angry, snaps at the toddler, regretting it even as the words are coming out of their mouth.

Hurt, the toddler wanders off, looks at that sparkling pretty round diamond ring, the one your character lost last month, and woefully decides you don’t want to see it.  Hurt, angry, the toddler wanders to the bathroom and flushes it down the toilet.  Cause and effect.

Maybe it is a teenager.  Hurt and angry and in the midst of her own flashpoint of emotions, the teenager stomps off to her room.  There, she grabs up her phone and texts her boyfriend.  Hurt and angry over some very minor thing he perhaps doesn’t even know he did wrong, she breaks up with him.  Breaks his heart.  Cruelly, lashing out with the hurt and anger she is feeling against your character.  What kind of person is her boyfriend?  Do they both wallow in self-pity and pain until they get over it?  Maybe he takes drastic action to vent his grief and anger.  Cause and effect.

Or, perhaps in that flash of hot anger, your character does something extreme they will regret.

 

Writing is constantly putting your characters into these positions.

You need drama.  You need adversity.  Your readers need to be pulled in, desperate to know what is going to happen, what is your character going to do.  Can they fix this?  Can they at least survive it?

Always think about how you or others might handle the situation you put your characters in.  How their actions affect the other characters, how the cause and effect might play out rippling through the story line and the other characters.

Think about how that very cause and effect ripple will come back to hit your character, because, let’s face it, in real life it does tend to.

 

When you are stuck on where to go next, follow the ripple of cause and effect.

You may end up with word clutter that you will cut from the book.  But it can help pull you along to find the key that will push the story’s momentum further.

 

Like real people, characters need depth.

Depth is making your characters feel real to the reader. By messing with them.  Give your character a reaction to some minor thing in a pivotal moment that leads them in a new direction that makes sense for the story.  It may not affect the story at that moment, but it can be a foreshadowing of something to come.  Cause and effect.

 

 

Follow me on my blog.

The Intangible World of the Literary Mind

This blog is about writing, being an author, and life.

 

LV Gaudet, author

This blog is for the fans of dark fiction, those stories that slither softly into your dreams in the night to turn them dark and foul.

 

 

Published with Indigo Sea Press:
where the bodies are

 

He can’t stop killing.

 

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Learn the secret behind the bodies in Where the Bodies Are.

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Physical Traits

Traits

Image courtesy of Billy Frank Alexander Design

In my own writing, the topic of the day is: How and when is it important to know your character’s physical traits? Do you decide these early on, or as you go when the plot or character needs them?

I am currently working on a fiction piece, writing characters who have been evolving in my mind for years, who are currently only “souls” I’ve imagined.  I have some general sense of what they may look like in the human form, but not concrete enough to share in the writing.  Recently I decided it might be nice to try and find actors/actresses that I have an affinity for in light of the “feeling” these “souls” give me when I think of their situations and end game.  I’m thinking that it may have been good to figure these out before I got too far down the road with their development.  At the very least it would have given me a reference point to either agree with later or change as these characteristics are exposed through the story telling.  I think I might know them even better had I gone that route.

Assuming that the three of the most important things about the character are known when we meet them in our imagination, (sex, age, name) these are a few other things I am considering.  Of course if the trait already matters to my plot, I will spend more time on that characteristic.

Trait 2Image courtesy of sxc ba1969

Height______  Tall?  Short?  Average? .

Weight/Shape/________ Flat?  Flabby?  Rolls?  Pudgy?  Protruding?  Jiggles? Fat?  Athletic?  Big/Tall or dwarfism?

Hair color/Length_______  Crew cut? Ponytail? Bald?  Lost to cancer? (I admit, I knew this when the characters came to me.  Do they come immediately for you?)

Facial and body hair_________ Beard?  Mustache?  Back hair?

Eyes ___________  Color? Too close together?  Crossed?  Lazy?  Bloodshot?  Almond?  Glasses?

Eyebrows_________ Full?  Thin?  Fair?  Dark?  Wide spread? Connect in the middle?

Skin_____________ Tone/Color? Flabby?  Wrinkled?  Acne?  Birthmark?  Tattoos?  Scars? Body piercings?

Ears __________ Small?  Large?  Stick out?  Ear rings?  Hairy?

Nose____________ Does it turn up?  Is it broad?  Flat?  Crooked?  Nose rings?

Lips _____________Narrow?  Full?  Painted?

Teeth___________Missing?  Bucked?  Yellow?  Straight?  White?

Chest ________ Voluptuous? Flat?  Muscular?  Large?  Hairy?

Some of my characters are fully fleshed out so to speak when I create them, and others take time with lists like the above for some guidance.

How do you go about determining your character’s physical traits?

Trait 3

Image courtesy of Billy Frank Alexander Design

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A Matter of Perspective

Gabriel Iglesias 3A mentor once told me, “Everything is funny. Just depends on how you look at it.”

Okay, this might not apply to tragedies like war and natural disaster destruction, but for the most part she was right. What reduces one person to hysterics might bore another. Comics utilize their own unique perspective in their work. But in order to sell it to the audience, it must be believable. Perspective lies in the moment. What you see or feel comes with a mix of your personal circumstances, life experiences, upbringing, belief system, and attitude.

I recently watched Gabriel Iglesias’ comedy show Aloha Fluffy. He usually makes me laugh until I cry. This guy gained recognition from a comedy talent show where the audience determined the winner by voting someone off each week. Gabriel did not win his season, but he won me over. I always voted for him. I may not have much in common with a Mexican man, but I identified with his perspective on life.

Gabriel found fun in everything. Especially things others might find hurtful. Mister I’m-Not-Fat-I’m-Fluffy made good money regaling audiences with his own life experiences. He made no bones about his love of junk food – tacos, doughnuts, and chocolate cake.

“People ask me all the time, Gabriel, why are you always making fun of yourself? Well, I don’t make fun of myself. I just tell you about other people making fun of me. That’s from my real life.”

Another guy that size might hide himself away and take every fat comment directed at him to heart. He might have lost a girlfriend or job because of it, so his perspective could swing the way of great misery. But Gabriel viewed his weight through his own lens, harnessed it like lightning and turned it into a cash cow.

Some comics highlight the positive in the experience, while others seek to tear down and ridicule. I think their perspective reveals their true character. I’ve heard comics claim, “I’ll say anything for a laugh.” and “It’s only an act.” But I think they are kidding themselves. Comics create their persona around their material, similar to musicians. Gabriel is Mr. Fluffy Guy – a fun loving character. Imagine if Frank Sinatra hadn’t liked love songs. Could he have performed them with the depth of emotion required for his audience to find him believable, and immortalize his persona?

When my story isn’t working, I have to ask if I’m seeing it through the right eyes. I shift gears or I change who is telling the story to regain momentum. Perspective is the cornerstone of identity, and the difference between being a good sport and getting arrested. Some see the light through the dark, moving forward instead of grinding to a halt. Others wallow in the mud of self-pity, then refuse to shower afterward.

If you character said to the box of doughnuts next to him, “Oh, when we get home, you’re gonna get it!” would you believe him? You’d believe Gabriel.

Sheila Englehart is the author of Warning Signs, published by Second Wind Publishing

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A Good Mother

I have a friend young enough to be my daughter, and when she tells me her troubles, I only want to be helpful. She was trying to decide what to do about a man when I, along with another friend my age, dealt her a hand of “do this” and “don’t do that unless” cards, like moms.

“I get it,” she said. “You guys never had kids of your own, so you have to mother somebody.”

Wow. True. But . . . wow.

We middle-agers shot each other guilty looks. We had good intentions, gave what we thought to be solid suggestions, and stressed important points we had learned from our own experiences. Three problems with that:

1. We weren’t giving her credit for being adult enough to solve her own problem.

2. We weren’t her mother – or anyone else’s.

3. She had not solicited our sage advice.

As writers, we make those same mistakes with our characters. We push them into taking our advice, living by our rules, doing and saying things they wouldn’t normally. Why? Because we think they are our creations, and therefore, ours to possess, like the mother who molds a child to fulfill her own long lost dream. So when our characters give us the cold shoulder or silent treatment, and refuse to meet the potential we imagine for them, we stupidly try to force them. Any mother who has tried this knows the distance it can create.

A good mother understands that even if a child has inherited her hazel eyes and adventurous spirit, she may not have similar dreams and desires. Children’s goals and interests are as individual as their personalities. Some kids turn out opposite of the way parents imagine, and others do exactly what is expected. One kid might lay tracks upon graduating from high school and never ask for another thing, while his sibling is too fearful to leave the house much less venture out of her comfort zone.

Our characters will behave like children. As character Moms, it’s our job to guide and nurture, allowing them to make their own discoveries as they learn how to doctor their own boo-boos without Mom stepping in to fix everything. We don’t tell them what to do, as if we could. They’re going to do whatever they choose no matter how much we warn them. They’ll trip and fall, head down dangerous roads, and engage in battles that have nothing to do with us. We can whack them with a broom if the situation calls for it. But tell them what to do and how to do it? No chance.

When all is said and done, a good character mother like Bill Cosby’s knows that she wears – and shouldn’t hesitate to wield – The Shoe of Power.

“I brought you into this world, and I can take you out.”

Sheila Englehart is the author of Warning Signs, published by Second Wind Publishing

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The Beauty of Black Sheep by Sheila Englehart

Some families look forward to gathering for the holidays. My unconventional family prefers to remain still in hopes they creep by unnoticed. Gatherings are often dreaded and avoided. In fact, the common thread in my family is our desire for independence. I was curious to know where this began, or if someone in my family tree had ever made a connection that stuck. For the first time, I made inquiries with my Christmas phone calls. And what to my wondrous eyes did appear? A whole tree full of outcasts, black sheep for reindeer.

My father struggled to remember pieces of his past. His grandparents on both sides emigrated here sometime during the First World War. One set from Italy, the other from Germany. They found work in a railroad town on an Indian reservation where my parents and I would eventually be born. My father was never very interested in the family history and English was not their native tongue. It kills me that he didn’t pay better attention to the many stories his grandparents probably tried to share. He did remember that, as a boy, his Italian grandfather’s job was to take bags of grain by mule to the mill ten miles from home. After unloading he got to ride the mule home.

“Where was this?” I asked.

“All I know is it wasn’t Sicily.” No mob connections.

His son (my grandfather) did a bad thing. He married a German girl. His Italian family and her German family cast shunned them for that. My father followed his footsteps and also married a German girl his family did not approve of.

I got the impression that my mother’s side didn’t care for my father either. Her father took off when she was a baby. And all I knew about my grandmother was that she had worked for a furniture company and she’d been married three times before cancer claimed her. That alone would have made her a black sheep at that time. And who knows what secrets she took to her grave?

We all spawned from outcasts. And two black sheep don’t produce white sheep. Rebellion was bred into me and history repeated again when I married a man my mother didn’t approve of. But to a writer, black sheep are better than plump geese that lay golden eggs. Why rely on imagination if the coolest characters might be hanging on the branch above you to the left? On one side you might find a great aunt who sold homemade wine to the Indians during Prohibition, while on the other, an uncle who was a famous judge. I found generations of black sheep who defected from their families. Filling in the missing blanks can only make for richer characters, not to mention the deepest connection with my family that I’ve ever made.

Who broke from convention in your family tree? And can you write them into more trouble than they actually lived?

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https://secondwindpub.wordpress.com/2013/01/12/the-beauty-of-black-sheep-by-sheila-englehart/

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Interview with Dellani Oakes, Author of “Lone Wolf”

What is your book about?

Lone Wolf is set in the year 3032 when humans have conquered long range space flight and have settled into many parts of this and other galaxies. Hovering in space far from civilization, members of the Mining Guild, Marc Slatterly & Matilda Dulac, wait for their miners to return from the planet they’ve been working. Unbeknownst to them, one of their miners has harvested Trimagnite, a toxic and volatile liquid ore. Exposure to Trimagnite causes madness and death. Their ship isn’t prepared to handle this load.

Enter Wilhelm VanLipsig, the Lone Wolf. He is assigned by the Mining Guild Commandant, John Riley, to pick up the ore and carry it back to the Mining Guild home planet. He and Marc have a history, apparently one ending in violence. Despite this, the two men agree to work together with Matilda in order to track down the villainous Commandant Riley before he can wreak havoc on the galaxy.

How long had the idea of your book been developing before you began to write the story?

The characters were in my mind many years ago. The idea for the three main characters of Marc, Wil and Matilda came from a role playing game my husband and I played. I had originally set out with the idea of recording their adventures in game, but that changed almost immediately. The characters took on a life of their own and insisted on telling a different story. What they came up with is far better than what I had initially had in mind.

What inspired you to write this particular story?

As I mentioned above, the idea came from a “Traveler” game we played back in 1982. However, the characters apparently thought that scenario rather lame and came at me with other ideas. I like theirs better.

How much of yourself is hidden in the characters in the book?

Matilda is a lot like me in some respects. Her fierce devotion and the way she takes up for those she loves is totally me. Oddly enough, some of the aspects of Wil’s personality come from me as well. Mostly, he and Marc mirror aspects of my husband’s personality.

Tell us a little about your main characters. Who was your favorite? Why?

Of the three main characters in “Lone Wolf”, I love Wil the most. I’m very fond of Marc and Matilda, but Wil stole my heart the minute he walked through the airlock. He’s smart, sexy, handsome, wicked and not scared of anything. He always has a contingency plan and he’s easily the most paranoid character I’ve ever created. His paranoia keeps him alive and one step ahead of his enemies. As long as he’s lived, that’s quite a feat.

Who is your most unusual/most likeable character?

I think that Caprilla Mayeese, the enormous Fellician warrior is the most unusual and likeable. Fellicians are giant cat people who speak and walk upright. They are almost all mercenaries and fight like no others in the galaxy. Caprilla is the leader of a small group of mercenaries, all Fellicians. He’s about eight feet tall, with sleek black fur and penetrating blue eyes. He’s got a quick wit and a wonderful sense of humor. He’s also loyal to the death and will gladly kill anyone who gets in his way or threatens his friends.

How long did it take you to write your book?

“Lone Wolf” took a few months to write, but far longer to edit and perfect. It was one of my earliest novels and it took me awhile to get my style down. I didn’t really figure out what I was doing until about the fourth book in the series, so each of them requires a lot of perfecting. Now, I can sit down and write a book that’s close to finished with the first draft.

How much of a story do you have in mind before you start writing it?

I had quite a lot in mind when I started to write, but the characters took me in a totally different direction. I can honestly say that absolutely nothing in “Lone Wolf” was in my mind except for the three main characters. What’s on the page came from Wil, Matilda, Marc and the others telling their story in their own way.

Did you do any research for the book? If so, how did you do it? (searching Internet, magazines, other books, etc.)

It’s hard to research something set so far in the future. Since I created my own worlds and locations, I didn’t have to study maps or anything like that. However, in order to get the Mining Guild and Galactic Marine ranks correct, I had to do some research into military rank. Most of my research is done on-line as it’s the most easily available. Thank got for the Internet!

How do you develop and differentiate your characters?

The characters delineate themselves. I come up with a body for the slot, give it a name and it develops its own personality and characteristics. Even minor characters speak loudly wanting a name and an occupation. Some of these seemingly unimportant people later become major players in the series. One character in particular that comes to mind is introduced in book two, “Shakazhan”. I thought Dr. Stanley Savolopis was unimportant, merely a cog in the corporate wheel. By book three, “The Maker”, he’s a main mover and shaker.

Does writing come easy for you?

Writing comes very easily for me. The ideas come faster than I can get them down, which is why I have so many unfinished stories. I’ve learned to work on one until the ‘muse’ grows silent, and move on. I come back and work on each story a little at a time until it’s done.

Other stories come to me all at once and I write until I’m finished. One in particular I think of—I’d finished my NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) project early and got the idea for an entirely different book. I started it Thanksgiving afternoon and finished four days later.

Have you ever had difficulty “killing off” a character in your story because she or he was so intriguing and full of possibility for you, his or her creator?

I greatly dislike killing a character and avoid it if I can. However, there are times when a character must die to advance the plot. The one who upset me the most was a guy named Murdock Pickford. He’s in a prequel to my sci-fi series. Murdock is a nice guy. He’s kind, capable, loving and forgiving. He’s engaged to a woman who’s pregnant with another man’s baby & he agrees to raise her as his own. He’s thrilled about the baby, excited about getting married—and he has to die, horribly, brutally, for the book to move forward. I’m not ashamed to admit that I cried when I had to kill him off.

Do you have mental list or a computer file or a spiral notebook with the ideas for or outlines of stories that you have not written but intend to one day?

I’ve got a list in the back of one of my notebooks with story ideas that one day I might get to. Let me finish the 54 novels and short stories I’ve got pending before I take them on. (Gosh, didn’t realize it was so many. Kinda sorry I counted them up.)

How many stories do you currently have swirling around in your head?

Apparently 54, cause that’s how many are unfinished.

Have you written any other books?

I have one other published novel, “Indian Summer”, also available from Second Wind. “The Lone Wolf” is the first in my sci-fi series. I’ve written six books in the series so far & am working on a 7th. Finished books not in the series—27 and probably 20 short stories.

Where can people learn more about your books?

My novels are available through my publisher, Second Wind Publishing at www.secondwindpublishing.com “Indian Summer” and “Lone Wolf” are also available at Amazon.com where it can be purchased in paperback or Kindle format. The books are on Smashwords and a variety of other websites.

To find out more about me and my books…

Check out my blogs:

http://dellanioakes.wordpress.com/

http://writersanctuary.blogspot.com/

Or look for me on Facebook:

http://www.facebook.com/dellanioakes

***

Click here to read an excerpt from: Lone Wolf

Click here to read the first chapter of: Lone Wolf

Click here for an interview with: Wil VanLipsig from Lone Wolf by Dellani Oakes

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Characters With a Life All Their Own

An idea for a new book smacked me in the forehead last week. It was painful, but I took aspirin, put aside the book I’ve been working on for the past several months, and let the new story pour out into a word document.

Three pages into it, I had another realization smack me in the head. I donned my husbands football helmet to protect my brain and reread the beginning I had just written. It was true. I hated the lead female character in the book. She came across as a princess type. She was pretty, and she knew it. She dated brainless eye candy and realized they weren’t nearly as perfect as she was. Yep, I couldn’t stand her and she wouldn’t shut up.

“Write my story,” she kept yelling in my ear as she stomped her size seven shoe. “Write my story. I’m perfect. My life needs to be perfect. Keep going.”

I frowned, looking out past the face guard of the helmet at the computer screen. “Shut up. You’re too perfect. Your problems are in your own perfect little head. You need real problems if you want a place in my book.”

Then I read over the parts about her best friend, a normal mother of two with motherly hips and a determined smile. She wasn’t anywhere near perfect, and she didn’t claim to be.

Thankfully, the helmet deflected the brain impact this time around. Despite the cries of outrage from Miss Perfect, I backspaced clear to the point where their personalities really started to emerge. My perfect character became more realistic, more flawed, and her best friend became more wise, more single, and less motherly. I quickly added another five pages full of words building their lives and rounding them out into likable, believable people.

Miss Perfect’s voice in my head became less demanding as I wrote. She became freindlier, more caring. By the time I finished the first chapter, she was my new best friend, and her best friend was a strong counterpart, her strengths and weaknesses merging well with Miss NowNotSoPerfect.

“Thanks for not listening,” she whispered, scuffing the toe of her size nine on the floor. I clicked the save button and smiled, but I keep the helmet handy, just in case.

Claire Collins is the author of Fate and Destiny and Images of Betrayal.

www.secondwindpublishing.com

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Watching People

My mother ran her own business, starting with craft shows when I was only about five years old. I always went with her so I learned to make change at a very young age. I also learned how to smile and be polite to make the sale. When the crowds were slow, I learned to watch people and I would make up stories about them in my head. What else was a child supposed to do while working for eight to ten hours?

The mannerisms and actions of the people walking by the booth would portray what was going on in their lives. The ones who walked by very quickly had no interest in what we were selling, their minds set reaching their destination. The mother’s who walked by with strollers were usually moving much slower, the stroller still rolling back and forth while they stopped to look at baby blankets. A wayward child would wander by with a frantic mother coming soon after in search of them. I learned to watch their eyes. The eyes gave way to internal dialogue. This customer loved the items and would have paid twice what we were asking, or another person may have had a longing for the item, but the price was too high and they had to weigh what adjustments they could make and how much they really wanted the item. Most of those people came back.

When they paid for the items, I noticed their hands. Long graceful hands with sculpted fingernails always made me think of someone with disposable income. Women with chipped nail polish and weathered hands reminded me of the middle aged mother who still wanted to remember that she was a woman, but spent more time on her family than herself.

Dirty or calloused hands belonged to people who used their hands to work. It’s nothing to sacrifice a chunk of skin if you hands are bringing something broken back to life.

All of these observations paved the way for me to create characters. It’s very important that a character is a fully rounded person, from the way they stand, the way they walk, the way they move their hands are all just as important as what they look like while they move and what their hands look like. Character development isn’t only about the words they speak or the events around them. It’s about the unique mannerisms they posses and the mindless unspoken clues they unconsciously carry.

 

Claire Collins, author of Fate and Destiny and Images of Betrayal, will be in the Greensboro, North Carolina area over Valentine’s Day for Second Wind Publishing’s Author Event.

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