Tracking Results

Tracking Results

by Patricia Grady Cox

I admit it’s difficult, with my right-brain tendencies, to analyze my marketing results. It’s only been a couple of months since I really started working at marketing again, with regular weekly postings on more than 60 Facebook groups. In fact, October 8 was COX - Sally Reads Hellgatemy first such posting, a blog featuring my newest novel, Hellgate. So it’s really only been about a month.

I’ve noticed a small uptick in sales. A problem is that I can’t get good figures on Hellgate, which is published traditionally. I have access to the self-proclaimed inaccurate reports on Author Central, which don’t include Kindle sales.

I posted about Chasm Creek, and nothing happened. The following week, I put up an ad for Hellgate, and two Kindle versions of Chasm Creek were downloaded. Now, it may be that there were sales of Hellgate. But if I don’t want to keep bothering my editor for sales figures, I’ll have to wait until next spring to find out.

COX - Large Print EditionI do have some anecdotal results: when I post a review, I tend to get a lot more “likes” than with a blog post. But when I posted an ad for Hellgate featuring my dog, Mustang Sally, the “likes” and “loves” were off the chart. People even shared my post to other reader’s group pages and made comments, to which I replied, which is the beginning of real interaction.

Consistency is important. The steady increase in likes on my posts may be attributed to that, rather than the cute dog ad (sorry, Sally!). My plan is to continue with the weekly postings, alternating between the two books and, soon, the large-print edition of Chasm Creek.

I recently participated in the Tempe Book Festival. I sold COX - Tempe Book Festivaltwo books there, but many people stopped to look at my books, chat, and take a rack card. I may see results from that down the road. Also, I met a woman who invited me to submit my books for consideration to Sibley’s West, a store in Chandler that sells all things Arizona. (Note: This link takes you to a submissions page. They are possibly interested in books set in Arizona. Bonus if the author is an Arizona resident. If you submit a book, they also want a picture of the cover.)

I plan to continue the in-person marketing. I’m participating in Laura’s Author Holiday Open House on November 28 and attending the KJZZ Author Showcase taking place in Glendale on December 1. These opportunities can pay off in ways not immediately apparent, some of them are free, they COX - Tempe Festival Ice Creamoffer good practice in pitching your books, and they’re fun!

Writers: Do you have a scattershot approach to marketing (as I seem to) or do you concentrate in one area? What has worked for you?

Readers: Do you attend book festivals? If so, why? If not, why?

Thank you so much! I hope to see you at one of the festivals mentioned above!

 

 

 

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Patricia Grady Cox
is a member of Western Writers of America and Women Writing Trish Coxthe West. Her nonfiction work has appeared in magazines, newspapers, and ghost-written memoirs. Patricia has volunteered at the Pioneer Arizona Living History Museum where she experienced, first-hand, the realities of life in the 1800s. Her love of the Southwest – the landscape, the history, the culture – infuses her work with authenticity. Originally from Rhode Island, she moved to Arizona 24 years ago and currently lives in Phoenix. Her novel, Chasm Creek, is available on Amazon or through her website. Patricia blogs weekly at Patricia Grady Cox, WriterHer second novel, HELLGATE, is now on sale.

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Pacing, the Toughest Hurdle

Pacing, the Toughest Hurdle

by Vaughn Treude

fast turtle slow rabbit

When we begin writing fiction, a number of issues confront us as novices. Issues of technical proficiency such as spelling, grammar, and punctuation are first on the list. Then come dialog, plotting, and the creation of believable characters. Yet the biggest challenge, in my view, is pacing. Writing on FictionFactor.com, Dr. Vicki Hinze calls pacing “the rhythm of the novel,” which affects the rate at which the reader reads. Good pacing can propel a mediocre story to greatness, and bad pacing can doom a great idea to obscurity.

Why is pacing so difficult? It’s partly because it’s totally a judgment call, and I haven’t come up with a good rule of thumb to measure it. Pacing consists largely of the details the writer chooses to include or leave out. Assuming the characters are human, they will eat, sleep and walk one step at a time, like real people do. Rarely are these routine activities crucial to a story, though if used sparingly, they can help make the story more realistic.

An appropriate pace varies by genre. A Gothic romance will include lots of description, dialogue, and the characters’ internal monologue. A science fiction military adventure, however, should move along rapidly. Furthermore, tastes have changed over the years, as well. If you read classic works from the nineteenth century, you’ll see that readers were more patient in those days.

Recently I read novels by two different self-published science fiction writers. One had a bored readergreat concept, including a revolutionary “smart drug” which was the center of a number of cloak and dagger conspiracies. The story should have been great, but it also included dozens of characters, each of whom the author felt obliged to introduce, name, and describe physically. I wanted to shout “No!” On the other hand, a different author had written a steampunk adventure with a premise that wasn’t particularly creative, yet he kept the action moving right along with only as much description as he needed. The pacing literally made the story.

When I first began writing fiction, I had a hard time getting the pacing right. Especially in writing science fiction, if I had a great concept, I wanted to describe it in the minutest detail. Then if I wanted to get the characters to a certain situation and place, I’d gloss over the transitional scenes. My pacing was inconsistent, which is perhaps a greater problem than writing it too fast or too slow.

A case in point was a Western by an author with several books under his belt. It had one of the strongest beginnings of anything I’ve ever read, as the protagonist faced a sudden threat to his life. In succeeding chapters, the story slowed dramatically as the hero prepared to start a new life out West. It was obvious the author had done meticulous research about the period he wanted to share. I could forgive the discussions about firearms, because that was the lead character’s stock and trade. We didn’t, however, need to know all the details of horses, wagons, foodstuffs, etc. Thankfully the book picked up later, as the main character and his companions encountered crooked riverboat gamblers, roadway bandits, and hostile Indian tribes. If I weren’t a compulsive finisher, I might have abandoned it before I got to the good parts.

Every good rule has an exception, however. My wife and I are big fans of Japanese animation and recently watched a series called Flowers of Evil, a drama involving teenagers with some serious psychological issues. In one episode, a boy and girl sneak into school at night and vandalize their classroom. After their frenzy of destruction, their walk home seems like a crawl. It builds tension. You can literally feel the anguish of the conflicted male protagonist as he agonizes over what will happen if they get caught.

In short, pacing is critical to fiction. Unfortunately, I have no magic bullet or even a good rule of thumb; I rely on feedback from my beta readers and fellow writers. Reading extensively has helped me see what works and what doesn’t, as I’ve tried to illustrate in the preceding examples. The most important thing is to be acutely aware of pacing, particularly during the editing process. Are these details appropriate or not? To sum up, though, pacing is more of an art than a science.

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vaughntreude

Vaughn Treude grew up on a farm in North Dakota where the isolation of his home made books a welcome escape. He has been reading sci-fi as long as he can remember. In 2012, he published his first novel, Centrifugal Force. Since then he has concentrated on Steampunk, writing Fidelio’s Automata and coauthoring the “Ione D.” series with Arlys Holloway. See Vaughn’s blog at steampunkdesperado.com.

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The Effective Author: Great Gifts for Authors 2018

The Effective Author: Great Gifts for Authors 2018

© 2018 Kebba Buckley Button, MS, OM. World Rights Reserved.

gift from a friend

As we hurtle into the holiday season, wouldn’t you just love to have a handle on gifts for authors? Wouldn’t you love to know what to get or make for any of your author friends? Conversely, wouldn’t you adore having a ready answer when your husband/partner/cohort asks you what you would like for Christmas? I started making lists of author gifts in 2015. (Find my previous posts on this by searching this blog for “gift.”) Here are some fresh ideas for this year, to help your (other) author friends throughout the year. And I’ve given you enough time to both ponder and shop! Consider these:

  1. A tablet cushion. Also known as a “tablet sofa,” it saves wear on your wrists. author gift ideas 2018For those times when you/they want to read Kindle books or travel light with the “junior computer,” such as an iPad. These come in black and in red, and perhaps other colors from other sources. Last seen: Harriet Carter catalog. Last price observed: $9.98.
  2. A new mouse. Especially if your author friend has small hands and composes on her/his computer incessantly, a new right-sized mouse may be just the thing to reduce hand fatigue. Yes, there are also mice for large hands. Last seen: Office Depot. Last price observed: $19.98 .
  3. Gift card from an independent bookstore. Why? Because, if you’re thinking of getting your author friend a book, s/he already has all her/his friends’ books and every other book of interest. So get a gift card, and tempt your author friend to get away from the computer and actually go to a bookstore! Or at least to its website. Plus, gift cards can be used for ornaments, mugs, journals, booklights, and many other enhancements to a reader’s life. Last seen: Changing Hands Bookstore and The Poison Pen Bookstore. Name your own price.
  4. A tiny grabber/nabber. This one is a “claw magnetic pickup tool.” Because authors would love to be able to get at that pen or note that fluttered down to the back-of-the-desk zone. The most author-specific grabber, this one is flexible, 24” long, and magnetic. Also, it has a claw end and a bright light. So you can reach for that favorite pen that rolled away. Or use the light to look for a black thumb drive inside the back of a supply drawer. Last seen on Amazon under Tools – Nabber. Last price observed: $11.99.

Of course, you could always give your beloved author a pen that they can add to their drawer full of gift pens. So try these new ideas, and let me know what else you think of. Now you are even more wonderful, as a friend and as The Effective Authorsm!

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Kebba Buckley Button
is a stress management expert with a natural healing practice. SheKebba books 2017 also is an ordained minister whose passion is helping people find their Peace Within. She is the author of the award-winning book, Discover The Secret Energized You, and also Inspirations for Peace Within: Quotes and Images to Uplift and InspireIPW is available on Amazon in full-color glossy format. Her newest book is Sacred Meditation: Embracing the Divine, also in full-color. For full-color PDF versions, contact her office. For an appointment or to ask Kebba to speak for your group: calendar@kebba.com.

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Mexican Red-Kneed Tarantula

Mexican Red-Kneed Tarantula

by Rita Goldner

This month’s interesting animal is a Mexican red-kneed tarantula. A particularly Hairy mexican spiderbeautiful creature, this one has red-orange leg joints. The wild ones live in the Sierra Madre Occidental and Sierra Madre del Sur mountain ranges in Mexico. There are also lots of captive ones in pet terrariums – but, as you know, my passion is always wildlife, not pets. These spiders have eight eyes, but poor eyesight, so they have to find prey with their hairy legs, which can smell, taste, and feel vibrations. Their prey is mostly bugs, but they can and sometimes do eat reptiles, small birds, and mice.

The most interesting characteristic (at least to me, since I’m always looking for life hacks from my blog subjects) is their ability to molt. Their outer shell (exoskeleton) doesn’t grow, so as their inner body size increases, they have to shed it. It’s quite a dramatic process, splitting and bursting through from the inside. Young spiders do it once a month or so, and older ones every year or two. If you don’t already have a case of the screamin’ meemies, you can see a video of the molting process here.

My recent interest precipitated from a trip to the Phoenix Zoo last Friday, opening day of the Bugs. BIG Bugs! exhibit. I’m taking a class on how to create a YouTube channel, and our teacher challenged us to make a video for Hallowe’en. We’re instructed to customize it with our own unique agenda, and since mine is illustrating, I figured the giant tarantula would be a perfect Hallowe’en subject.  I ventured off with my intrepid sister, who never says no (thanks, Meg.) She was behind the camera, a real perfectionist, in contrast to me, who hates retakes. She took umbrage at the fact that I can never pronounce “animatronics display” but I left the mispronunciation in, for added homespun charm, (i.e. I hate retakes).

My YouTube channel (a work in progress) is called Rita Goldner Books, and the title of this video is Tasty Tarantula, if you want to check it out. The class I’m taking, explaining the logistics of setting up the channel, plus making and editing videos, is a steep learning curve for me. I hope to use my channel as a vehicle for promoting my children’s books by igniting parents’ interest in literature for kids, especially in the science field. The rest of the students are about half my age, but I’m determined.

I’ll wrap this up with my author’s life hack: I’m molting from a technically challenged septuagenarian into a hip, savvy, techie reincarnation. Imagine me on the floor of my writing/illustrating office wriggling out of my old exoskeleton made of self-doubts, procrastination, waning motivation, and inertia. The new me is crawling with resolve, creative zeal, commitment, and focus.

Rita signature

Comments welcome.

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Rita Goldner is the author and illustrator of the children’s picture book, Orangutan: A Rita Goldner2Day in the Rainforest Canopy. Rita has also written and illustrated two eBooks, Jackson’s History Adventure and Jackson’s Aviation Adventure, in the Jackson’s Adventure series.For orangutan facts and images and to purchase the book (also available as an ebook), visit OrangutanDay.com. Or by the Kindle version here. Rita’s newest book, Making Marks on the World: A Storybook for Left- and Right-Handed Coloring, is available for purchase here. Works in progress: H2O Rides the Water CycleThe Flying Artist, and Rose ColoredTo view additional illustrations and Rita’s books in progress, visit Rita’s website. Contact Rita here. Follow Rita on Facebook. Subscribe to Rita’s newsletter, Orangutans and More! and receive a free coloring page of today’s illustration.

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Self-publishing: The Good, the Bad, and the Fraudulent

Self-publishing: The Good, the Bad, and the Fraudulent

by Marcus A. Nannini

I began this post with the intention of delving into some of the statistics and facts underlying the production of one million self-published books in 2017. The first keyword links to pop up had nothing to do with self-publishing success, but instead focused on the multiple ways self-published authors are being ripped off. Consequently, I am sharing this link from The Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America website, which publishes Alerts for Writers. I suggest you refer to it, often: Writer Be Aware Alerts.

Scary Skeleton Skull

By the time I waded through multiple stories depicting all manner of frauds being perpetrated upon the 81 percent of Americans who either aspire to write their first books, are writing books, or have written books, I began to experience depression. Not everyone has the chance to belong to a group like Phoenix Publishing & Book Promotion or the Southern California Writers Association. Belonging to a group such as I just mentioned is a big boost to side-stepping fraudulent book publishing and marketing potholes. I belong to both groups and have never left a meeting without learning something important.

During my research, I uncovered enough fraudulently placed articles extolling the virtues of various self-publishing or marketing companies to know nothing is better than first-hand information. If you are among the millions of writers seeking to publish your own book, I urge you to find a group of like-minded persons anywhere near you and join it. Of course, just joining the group is not enough. In my experience, people must force themselves to get out of their abodes, attend the meetings, establish relationships, and grow their knowledge.

When it comes to self-publishing (and I include vanity/hybrid presses in the definition), a person needs more than their own research to discover the best route to publishing. I truly believe a writer needs input from those who have tread before them. The best way, in my opinion, to obtain the requisite input is with one-on-one personal contact through group participation. So get out and join, or if you already belong to a group, make an effort to attend most of the meetings. Simply joining without attending is unlikely to yield your desired results.

One million self-published books in 2017! That likely means a whole lot of poorly drafted ramblings making it into book format, ISBN and all! At least a writer has a chance to break even in the bargain, assuming said writer publishes in one of the top three book-Writing note showing Self Publish Write Promote Sell. Business photo showcasing Auto promotion writing Marketing Publicity Megaphone loudspeaker speaking loud screaming frame pink speech bubble.buying countries in the world: the United States, China, or Germany. Breaking even, meaning recouping your actual out-of-pocket costs, is a reasonable goal.

If you have a rough idea of how much time you have invested in your book, you can calculate an hourly rate of return in the event you realize income above the actual out-of-pocket break-even point.

I have invested from a high of 2,000 hours to a low of 800 hours, so far, in the three books I seek to see published in 2019. Thanks to my publisher’s advances, I know I will make at least a whopping $1 an hour on the first book and $2.50 an hour on the second book. But these books are being published by a publisher that is in the business of generating income from book sales, as opposed to selling publishing services. They have more than 100 people on three continents to pay, so they are going to sell those books or die trying. They don’t even recoup their extensive costs until they have achieved significant sales. They are motivated to sell books.

A vanity or hybrid publisher generally has already covered its costs, and even earned some profits, with the fees they charge their authors. Beyond that, they have little motivation, as their focus is generally on soliciting more authors. As a self-published author, you will need a very well-defined and funded marketing plan. Every hour you spend writing the book can be spent again on marketing – likely more. As a self-published author, you are the person who must be motivated. The publisher has already made its profit, from you!

Please do not rush to publish and, even more importantly, do not rush into a marketing plan. One of the reasons groups such as the two I mentioned above feature different topics and speakers throughout the year is because publishing and marketing can’t be done in one swoop. There is too much information to digest, and the parameters of book publishing and marketing are in a constant state of flux. Again, I suggest you regularly attend the meetings as they can establish an effective marketing knowledge foundation for you.

I recently spent a week visiting the websites of more than 800 bookstores in the USA and Canada. I can count on two hands the number of them featuring a section for self-published books on their home page. Roughly a third of them state they focus, at least to some extent, on the offerings of INDIE publishers. However they offer a caveat: The indie publishers must use Ingram as their book distributor. As for the stores with a self-publishing section, they appear to be reserved for local authors only.

A book, once published, needs a physical distribution system to reach the buying public. A self-published author cannot expect a bookstore to buy directly from them, though there are a few who will take books on consignment with the absolute right to return any books they do not sell without regard to their condition. The potential potholes to navigate when it comes to distribution and bookstore sales are mind-boggling, but with knowledge you can dodge most of them.

Join one of the groups I mentioned above, or a similar group, attend the meetings, and learn. I urge you to be proactive and get involved. You can succeed in realizing your dreams. After all, it is still the United States of America!

_______________________
Marcus Nannini
began his journalistic career when he published his own newspaper in the Marcus Nanninisixth grade, charging 25 cents for the privilege of reading the only printed copy of each edition. During his undergraduate years, Nannini was a paid reporter and worked three semesters as the research assistant for journalism professor and published author Richard Stocks Carlson, Ph.D. Nannini is a life-long history buff with a particular interest in World War II and the Pearl Harbor attack. His continuing curiosity over several Japanese aerial photographs and the turtling of the U.S.S. Oklahoma lead him to write Chameleons, first as a screenplay and now as a full-length novel.

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The Gift of Wings and Song

The Gift of Wings and Song

by C. K. Thomas

Seeing birds in flight gave the Wright Brothers a desire to build a machine that would make flight possible for people.

Wright Bros - B

A mythical bird arose from its own ashes and became known as the Phoenix. I live in a place called Phoenix, and birds frolic in my backyard fountain, just as they did in my mother’s birdbath when I was a child.

Robins stood in line on flagstone steps next to our backyard birdbath in Indiana.  A Jenny red breasted robinWren woke me on summer mornings, singing from its perch on my mother’s clothesline. When I lived in Virginia, I kept track of the birds I spotted in my backyard in the back of an Audubon bird encyclopedia. There were nuthatches, blue jays, downy woodpeckers, cardinals, robins, titmice, and many others. Their songs at first light were magnificent. When I moved to the desert, I no longer heard birdsong in the mornings and I missed their music terribly.

I owned a bird book from National Geographic that came with 45 rpm records of birdsong. One very early morning, after completing his newspaper route, my son put one of those records on our turntable, and I awoke to birdsong filling my bedroom through the stereo speakers. Try as I might, I couldn’t put that bird music into those speakers, as my mind was positive those birds were right outside my window. It was a funny trick my son pulled, and eventually I did lure birds to my backyard with seed and water features.

I discovered a whole new roster of birds like grackles, Inca doves, curved-billed thrashers, verdins, and a wide variety of hummingbirds, among others. I still miss the colorful Eastern birds, but I’ve come to appreciate the Gila woodpeckers and cactus wrens of the desert.

Birds have been written about in poems: “quoth the Raven, nevermore.”

In fairy tales: “four and twenty blackbirds baked in a pie.”

And in songs like “Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah”:

Mister Bluebird’s on my shoulder
It’s the truth, it’s “actch’ll”
Everything is “satisfactch’ll”

And everything did become “satisfactch’ll” for me in Phoenix once I felt the presence of birds around me again. I was desolate without them. To me, they’re a precious gift from the power of the universe.

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C.K. Thomas
lives in Phoenix, Arizona. Before retiring, she worked for Phoenix Newspapers while raising three children and later as communications editor for a large United Methodist Church. The Storm Women is her fourth novel and the third in the Arrowstar series about adventurous women of the desert Southwest. Follow her blog: We-Tired and Writing Blog.

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BookBub Promo: A First Time for Everything

BookBub Promo: A First Time for Everything

by A.L. Wright

As an indie author, my biggest expense is advertising. That includes pulling money out Agent Coltof thin air for paid promos to get my books in front of potential readers. I’ve been using quite a few services, with medium to decent results, but they have been generally short-lived.

How does an indie, who often puts out more money than she earns, get ahead in this digital age, competing against thousands of other authors?

I turn to an author mentor every now and then with these questions, and his most recent advice (among other gems) was to get into a BookBub promo and run them regularly.

Of course, we all want to do that, right? But every time I submitted, I was denied. Not to mention it’s a bit more expensive than other promos sites. Especially for fantasy genre writers like myself. But I decided to try it with one of my romance novels. The results were beyond what I expected.

AC on BB

Here’s what I learned:

  1. Don’t just submit your promo request – sell yourself! Fill out the submission form. Then, after you submit, take note of the box that asks if you have any additional info to provide. Most authors just skip this part. Mistake! That is why many books never get chosen for a promo spot. Provide info, juicy info, like your 5-star critic reviews, any awards the book has won, and the number and average of your Amazon reviews. Yes, they may already have planned to look up your Amazon reviews, but providing this info altogether and up front truly helps. I submitted a dozen times and was denied – until I actually wrote this info in that box!
  2. Free is not bad! The promo I ran recently was for free downloads of a book that is in the Amazon Kindle Unlimited program. I ended up with 5,480 downloads! It potentially could have been more, but many of those readers who were KU members clicked on the KU Read It Free button, and then I earned pages read. Up until this promo, the most KENP (Kindle Edition Normalized Pages) pages read I’d had for this book in one month was 18,000. I ended the month with just shy of 50,000 KENP pages read!Remember, KENP helps your overall paid rankings, too. My book was #1 in several categories during the free promo period and continued for almost two weeks in all the same categories for paid rankings.
  3. Residual sales matter. After my promo free period ran out, I changed the price to 99 cents for a week. Then back up to the normal price of $2.99. I had an additional 84 sales in the two weeks after the promo period ended.
  4. Remember Audio Book formats. My book has an audio version that I rarely remember to advertise, which therefore results in dismal sales. I happened to look at my sales records a couple of weeks after this promo, and realized I had scored 24 audio sales I would not have made otherwise.
  5. Reviews are a bonus! I’ve received four additional reviews on Amazon, and 43 ratings and 5 reviews on Goodreads.
  6. Grow your follower base on BookBub. Not only will you gain a follower or two on Amazon and Goodreads, but BookBub offers its own excellent system of followers and reviews. I had zero followers on BB at the start of this promo, and now I have 27. And 11 of those followers gave recommendations for my book on their own page!

So, to summarize, I paid $104 for the BB promo because I chose a book in a less expensive category.

I earned $260 via KU; $94 in eBook residual sales; and $150 (estimated) in audio book sales for a total of $504. To break that down, I spent $104 and earned $400 from one promo.

ALW BB Followers

The genre for which I ran my promo was lesbian romance fiction, which is admittedly pretty niche. That is also why the fee was less, and the potential downloads and residual sales may be less. I’m convinced that running the promo for a high-quality fantasy or Sci-Fi novel will have just as good, if not better results, even with the higher initial cost.

As a result of this experience, BookBub will now be my go-to for promo advertising, with the other services I’ve used coming in just for a boost. Between BB and KU, I can see myself continuing to grow sales, and perhaps coming out ahead at the end of the year.

Now, just to get more writing done!

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Alicia Wright

Writing under pen names A.L. Wright and A. Lynn Wright, the author is a mother of two living in the Arizona desert. She enjoys driving fast, riding motorcycles, hiking and chilling with her Corgi. Her book referenced in this blog, Agent Colt, and all other books, can be found on Amazon.

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