2020: The Year of STEADY

2019 was the year of BOLD, and I’ve finally chosen my word for 2020: STEADY.

My top Gallup strength is “Achiever,” so I feel my best when I’m crossing off a checklist item or hitting a goal. I have this hyperactive compulsion to spin a lot of plates, and when my hands are full, I try to run with them. I accept that this is my nature, but this year I got so ambitious that I almost sacrificed my financial health for it.

Candidly, self-publishing is expensive. Cover art. Editing. Formatting. Table fees. Travel. Marketing. People assume authors are all rich, when in fact I’m astounded if I break even on any given project. I continue because it fills my heart, not my wallet. But for 2020, I was preparing to dive into TWO publications I couldn’t afford to produce, rush into Ph.D applications I wasn’t ready for, and potentially become a homeowner all at once. And with the rest of my time, keep working, grant wishes for Make A Wish, write another book for 2021, and more. Somewhere down the line, I knew a plate was going to fall. I wanted to do everything full force, but I hadn’t thought through everything all the way.

So the year of STEADY is about starting with one book at a time, one class at a time, one wish at a time, and really thinking critically about my work load before I dial it up in any area. This means I have dropped my summer release and postponed Niraya Storm for a while so I can focus wholeheartedly on the second ROSES book. This means I AM going back to school, but as a non-degree seeking student taking one class at a time. Maybe this eventually leads to a Ph.D, or a new book series, or even something I never saw coming. I really do remain optimistic. But this year will be about learning wholeheartedly, being present, and celebrating victories.

And that absolutely includes doing an excellent job with BRAMBLES IN THE WISHING WELL. 😀 The candid truth is that 2020 is going to determine whether I continue publishing. There is a chance that BRAMBLES will be the last book that I’m financially capable of producing, at least for a few years. It certainly isn’t the last one that I’ll write, because writing is baked into my bones, but there may come a time for me to hit pause. Part of being STEADY is being okay with taking things slow… knowing that slow progress is still progress, and knowing that what’s meant to be will be! 🙂

Do you have a word of the year set for 2020? If so, share your goals so we can cheer you on!

Cheers to you and to a new year around the corner!

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Release Day! Roses in the Dragon’s Den on Audible

Think of it as an adventure. If you see me freak out, then you have permission to freak out. But I’m Diego Rosas, and I promised your mom I’d take care of you. I don’t freak out.
Diego Rosas, approximately 10 minutes before the dragon incident…

Thank Lady Fortune! Roses in the Dragon’s Den is now available on audiobook, and you can find it on Audible and Amazon today!

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I knew within the first minute of his sample that Danny Pardo was the one true voice of the Rosas family. If he looks or sounds familiar at all, he has lent voice and acting talents to projects such as:

  • Prison Break
  • Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle
  • 24
  • The Call of Duty video games
  • and now, Roses in the Dragon’s Den!

The most important thing was to find somebody who could bring the Rosas family to life. When I listened to his recording, there were times when I forgot I had written the words because Danny filled them with brand new life: all the heart, humor, and thrills you could ask for in a listening experience. I hope you’ll agree.

Pick it up today and share with a reader in your life!

Synopsis:

Twelve year old siblings Karina and Charlie Rosas aren’t looking forward to vacationing with their estranged uncle. But when the Fernweh Express derails and tosses them into a wild, unrecognizable land, they trust he’ll know what to do. After all, Diego Rosas wrote the book on survival in deserts and arctic tundras. There’s nothing he can’t handle . . . until a colossal, fire-breathing dragon snatches him up and carries him away, leaving the siblings to embark on an impossible rescue mission.

With the natural elements working against them, the Rosas family adventures through the curse-infested, uncharted world in order to solve the mystery of what doomed their travels. When they meet up with a dwarf and a pirate queen who offer aid, Karina and Charlie must decide whether they can trust anyone willing to voyage into a dragon’s den. But if the siblings ever want to return home, they must trust and lean on each other, and above all, hope Uncle Diego is still alive.

Buy on Audible!

Buy on Amazon!

Year of BOLD Revisited

Hey everyone!

So, a year ago I made a post about my “one-word theme” for 2019, and even though 2019 is far from over in a lot of ways, today felt like an excellent day to come back to it. I found a note card tucked in the back of my notebook, and I had written down all the ways I would know if I was truly being BOLD in 2019. It was a wish list in a lot of ways, but they all required work. I couldn’t be passive or vague about any of them:

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Looking back on this list today, I have to wonder a little about the Law of Attraction. Have you heard of this before? The way it was first explained to me, my boss in college told me to, “Tell the universe what you want, and the universe will deliver.” At the time I really wanted to study abroad and go to Italy, but I wasn’t sure I could ever afford it. I told her, “I hope I can make it happen.”

“No,” she told me. “Don’t say you wish or you hope. Say you WILL go to Italy. Then you’re putting it in the universe, and by the Law of Attraction, it will come to you.”

I think about that a lot these days, especially when I look back on my “Year of Bold” card. The thing is: I forgot about this card for most of the year. I tucked it in the little pocket at the back of my notebook, and it disappeared from my memory until today. When I read it, had to smile, because all of these things happened in one way or another.

Yes, some were simple: “I will study some screen-writing.” All that took was a simple textbook purchase. Others involved a lot of little layers, and sometimes, lucky timing. They didn’t all happen in ways that I imagined they would. Technically, #8 never happened at all. I interviewed for a new job that actually ceased to exist. But a few weeks later, a job I never saw coming opened up. It was a very similar description, lived in the same office, and it was even better suited for me. I’ve been there for about eight months now, and I still can’t believe the way it all worked out. It’s perfect.

Writing was interesting. My idea well was dry for a lot of the year. The words came at a slow drip, if at all. I worried that I had written my last book. But in September, I dusted off a manuscript I’d forgotten about, and now, ROSES IN THE DRAGON’S DEN has a sequel on the way. It’s drafted, contracted with cover artists and editors, and three months ago, it only existed as a a few chapters and a dead idea.

The Law of Attraction means different things to a lot of people. Some invoke magic. There’s talk of the idea that our thoughts have mass and physically influence the world around us. There’s always the religious implications as well. As for me, I’m open-minded, but I’ve boiled it all down to this: When you tell the universe what you want and you’re willing to work for it, it will answer in one of three ways:

  1. A resounding and emphatic “YASS!”
  2. A thoughtful, “Yes, but not right now.”
  3. “No. There’s something better for you around the corner.”

As for 2020, I haven’t chosen a word or made my list yet, but I look forward to editing Books 5 and 6! I continue to embrace the challenges and rewards of writing and in my day job. I know I have another house move on the horizon, which isn’t to say the last moves weren’t a needed change.

As we get ready for a new year and a new decade, give this a try. Come up with a word that means something to you, and tell the universe what you want. Write it all down. And if you’re willing, share your word in the comments! I could use some ideas 😉

Wishing you a wonderful December!

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Catching Up

Hi Friends!

Do any of you find that the fall season makes you want to read or write more? In Tucson, it’s finally starting to feel a little more cozy around here. I’ve always been a fan of the flannel weather and hot drinks, and something about it gets me turning some pages and spilling some ink! I may or may not be reading THREE books right now… (Becoming has been a great Audible listen, The Secret History on paperback, and The Dream Thieves on Kindle, for when I need something a little lighter, physically.) Then I may or may not have ordered three more yesterday. *shrug*

Keeping with the rule of three, I have three exciting bits of news I want to share with you:

  1. ROSES IN THE DRAGON’S DEN is getting an audio book! I’m thrilled to have Mr. Danny Pardo telling the story of the Rosas family. Danny’s been in all sorts of projects you’ve probably even seen or heard: Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle, 24, Prison Break, the Grand Theft Auto games, and he’s currently working on a stage production of The Diary of Anne Frank, in addition to narrating ROSES! He’s the perfect voice for this story. Wait until you hear his pirate voice! Our target release date for Audible is January 2020.
  2. Roses also won an award! New Apple Literary has named it an Official Selection for their 2019 Summer eBook Awards, specifically in the Children’s category. Now if you buy an ebook, it’ll have a cool digital medal on it!
  3. There WILL be a sequel one way or another! I’m about 50,000 words in and hope to wrap it up during NaNoWriMo this year. But with the work that needs to go into cover art, edits, and formatting, it may not arrive until 2021. I promise I’ll make it worth the wait! Does anyone want to take some guesses on the title? 😉

Roses in the Dragon's Den final front cover for preview

Wishing you all the very best, and if you happen to attend Tucson Comic Con next weekend, look for me! Mention this blog post and I can even share some book coupons with you.

Happy October!

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A Surprise Storm is Coming!

Hey all,

It’s monsoon season in Tucson, and while it hasn’t been a very active one, I decided there was no better time to tell the story of my favorite Storm, with a capital S.

If you’ve read ROSES by now, maybe you can see how it works as a sort of rabbit hole for the ORDER OF THE BELL series. And the funny thing is, I found a million other branches I wanted to follow in ROSES itself, and the Florindale universe just keeps getting bigger. So last year for NaNoWriMo, I decided to follow one of those branches, and that’s how I wrote NIRAYA STORM AND THE CRYSTAL COMPASS.

Finishing the story was one thing–deciding what to do with it was another. I wrestled with ideas for a long time, but ultimately, I’ve made the decision that instead of releasing this on Kindle or paperback right now, it’s going to have its first home on Wattpad this week.

Niraya as a character is not one for extravagant bells and whistles. She’s a little more raw. If she could produce her own book, she’d probably write it in a simple leather book and hand it over with nothing on the cover. She deserves more than that, but to go through the level of production that I used for ROSES and THE CARVER wouldn’t feel quite right. Plus, in full transparency, it gets expensive. It may be a very long time before I’m ready to start conversations with the editor, formatter, and cover artists I want to work with again, especially because I want to continue going to cons and seeing you all at festivals!

I really love this story. I didn’t want to make Niraya wait until I could afford a fancy production. By then, I may have another story or two that I can’t wait to share with you all, and that’ll be another year or two that the story will have to sit unread. And ultimately, my dream has never been to make money off these stories–only to share them with you and hope they provide some sort of escape and entertainment when you need it. If it gains some demand on Wattpad for a tangible paperback, I may take it further, but in the meantime, I simply want to make it available to you as it is.

It’s raw. It’s not perfect. It may even be a little wild. But that’s always been Niraya Storm to her core, even when she was having her first adventure on the high seas…

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When you’re ready, you’ll be able to start the story HERE this week! If you love it, leave comments on it. Niraya will want to know she was able to hold your attention. 🙂

Scorpions and Dragon Scales

Hello world!

It hasn’t been long since I last put out some updates, but I feel like a world of things have happened since my last post. First, I am mildly disappointed that I woke up today and did not look like Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, who played The Scorpion King in the Mummy movies. This would have been a fair and valid trade for being stung by this big guy in my bed last Monday evening:

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I’m sorry that you have to look at him–or her, I shouldn’t assume its pronouns–but I need you all to know that the desert is a crazy place, and that I may start sleeping in a hazmat suit. (This is also why Diego Rosas always checks his boots and bed sheets in ROSES. I could learn a thing or two from my characters sometimes.)

While my thumb buzzed, burned, and tingled, I had SO MUCH FUN meeting so many of you at Phoenix Fan Fusion this past weekend! It’s been one of the favorite events I’ve ever done, and that’s largely because of the people who go… people like these phenomenal cosplayers. Seriously, Benedict Cumberbatch, is this you?:

Did these people spend any amount of time trying to find Jeff Goldblum while he was on site?

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Which Awesome Mix Volume is this Starlord listening to?

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And this time I got a lot more into the cosplay myself. Any guesses who I was supposed to be on Saturday? 🙂

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It was also fun to see Chris Sarandon and George Takei, as well as to connect with James A. Owen, the author/illustrator of several epic dragon-y sort of books.

And then there are my goofy friends, who make the whole event so memorable!

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But it wouldn’t be half as fun without the readers who come support us, so thank you to everyone who made this happen:

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I have two more events coming up, so whether you’re in Tucson or Phoenix, you’ll have another chance to grab a copy of ROSES or CARVER and get it signed:

  • Arizona StoryFest – Mesa Convention Center on Saturday, June 1, 10am-4pm
  • Grand Central Toy Show – Tucson Mall on Saturday/Sunday June 8/9, 10am-9pm (5pm on Sunday).

Hope to see you all there! Happy reading,

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The Master List

Hey friends,

Happy Sunday! I hope this weekend and the month of May have been excellent to you. As for me, I’m hard at work preparing for summer events! First up is Phoenix Fan Fusion (what I will always refer to as Phoenix Comic Con) from May 23-26th in the Phoenix Convention Center. The League of Fantasy Authors (which includes some of my bestest author buddies Jenna Elizabeth Johnson and Katie Salidas) will be returning to booth #696 to sell books and merch, and new this year, we’re hosting a fun game of Cosplay Bingo!

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All you need to play is the card we’ll give you, something you can use to take pictures, and a good eye to spot those Disney villains, Game of Thrones characters, and favorite Avengers. Score a blackout and win a prize!

You can also find me at Arizona StoryFest in Mesa on June 1st, where I’ll be doing a live reading of ROSES IN THE DRAGON’S DEN on the author stage. Thanks to KJZZ radio for the invitation!

After Mesa, I’ll be taking a short break from events to focus on my non-authorly job for the summer, but I won’t be idle! NIRAYA STORM is in beta, and truthfully, I’m waiting for some ideas to slow-cook right now, so I’m using my pockets of free time to soak up some craft knowledge. Currently a book called Screenwriting Tricks for Authors by Alexandra Sokoloff is keeping me busy, and I invite you to work through it with me!

Sokoloff encourages writers to build a “Master List” of at least ten books/movies that influence our work, and then there are exercises that involve rewatching/rereading and analyzing the bones of these story. I love a good excuse to watch my favorite movies again and call it work! I may even share some of my findings and Master List with you all on this website somewhere. For example, one really cool trick I’ve learned is to pay greater attention to what happens at the 15 and 30 minute marks when we watch movies, which should be turning points that can teach us a lot about plot and pace.

Just looking at two of the movies on my Master List:

  • Stardust (2007)
    • 15 minute mark: The King of Stormhold throws a necklace into the sky and declares that the first of his sons to recover it will be his successor to the throne. The necklace knocks a star out of the sky. In another part of the world, Tristan Thorne watches the star fall and makes a promise to go find it in exchange for Victoria Forester’s hand in marriage. (I love this whole scene so much that I keep coming back to it in the Neil Gaiman book for other craft exercises.)
    • 30 minute mark: Tristan Thorne crosses the Wall and finds the star. Surprise! The star is a woman, which definitely complicates his plans to bring it back to Victoria.
  • Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle (2017)
    • 15 minute mark: After a few minutes at each other’s throats, the four teenagers in detention get sucked into a video game and become their adult avatars.
    • 30 minute mark: an NPC explains that the group needs to return the jewel they’re holding to the top of the mountain, but there’s a bad guy after it too… oh, and his gang is right behind you. 🙂

If you’re a writer, I’m curious what stories you’d put on your Master List, or even on mine! Most of mine tend to be family-friendly adventures with fantasy elements, ever-shifting settings and an emphasis on travel/multiple worlds, and ensemble casts. If only there was enough time to read and watch them all… 🙂

Happy reading!

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The Dragon Tamer’s Tale (Excerpt #1 from ROSES IN THE DRAGON’S DEN)

Hey all,

Happy Saturday! Every day is a little closer to the release of ROSES IN THE DRAGON’S DEN, and I’m so excited by the little gems of feedback that are popping up here and there on social media. One reviewer wrote to me that it inspired her to go watch the La Llorona movie that just came out . . . oh man. First, let me promise you all that ROSES is not a horror story meant to give you nightmares. La Llorona is. Whenever you get to the book, you’ll understand exactly why this reviewer wanted to go watch the movie! (Full disclosure: I don’t know this person, but I’m confident she must be braver than me. I don’t have the heart to watch La Llorona in theaters…)

Oh, how the crazy crying ghost story used to scare the pants off me as a kid. Especially when it was storming outside, and the wind was strong enough to pull open the screen door when I was at my grandmother’s house…

But if you’re up for a story within a story, I have the first excerpt for you from ROSES today. If you’ve read The Carver, you just might recognize the storyteller. If you haven’t, don’t worry! You’ll learn all about the man before you’re done reading…

     The dwarf paced back and forth, tugging his beard in alternating motions like cow udders. While he got over his fit, I checked out his home. This guy seemed like the least likely person to put wanted posters around the city for a dragon’s death. Reptilian figurines lined his shelves, golden eggs the size of my head sat in silver bowls, and paintings of winged beasts clung to every inch of the wall. And yet, here stood a man who was blubbering like he had a phobia. When he finally stopped pacing, he poured three goblets of wine without asking. I wondered if it was juice at first, but the smell stung my nostrils, and I vowed not to touch it.

     Zid gulped his wine, wiped his lips, and then slammed his goblet down in front of him. “I’ll have you know that I used to be a dragon trainer. I’ve bred and raised a few. I fed them and exercised them and advocated for their rights. See that one on the wall right there?” He pointed to a painting of a dragon that oddly seemed to be smiling. “My Draco. I loved him dearly, so much that I had to move him into Grimm’s Hollow with a friend. He was too big and too free for my little yard.”

     A tear sparkled like a marble in Zid’s eye.

     Karina offered a smile. “I can imagine you’re very passionate about dragons.”

     “Was,” Zid said. “Until Verdoro.”

     I gripped the sides of my chair, ready for some kind of story. We needed a thunderclap and a theater spotlight to properly set the mood.

     Zid cleared his throat dramatically, rising on his toes to make himself look taller. “Verdoro first plagued Florindale Square some time ago. You can imagine my excitement when I first saw those scales. He was a dream. Most people ran in fear, but I wanted to talk to him. They can understand us, you know. They know our tones, our intentions, and our body language. But when he burned down Midas’s Pub without provocation, I knew there was something . . . off about him. Dragons do not descend on civilization to burn or consume unprovoked. They’re actually quite gentle. Leave them be—respect them—and they shall never hurt a soul.”

     Based on that statement alone, I knew Zid would’ve become fast friends with Tio. Coffee shop buddies. I tried to picture them broing out, and I almost laughed. The trouble was I didn’t agree with Zid’s statement at all, and Karina clearly didn’t either.

     “My uncle did nothing to the dragon,” she said. “It came out of nowhere and took him away with no good reason.”

     “That’s because this one’s different,” Zid said. “As if Hades itself spat him out. He cannot be reasoned with or tamed. Believe me, I was the only one foolish enough to keep trying. I considered that he might be a shifter—a human who’s dabbled in dark arts to assume another form at will.”

     Karina and I exchanged wide-eyed glances. Real life shifters? Like Dracula and his bat form? Or the blue lady from the X-Men comics? Neither of them was very nice.

     Zid must’ve sensed my discomfort because he waved a hand and said, “But I have doubts. Humans have different auras that don’t go away when they turn. You can sense it. Go figure, we finally settle into a period of peace, free of curses and evil queens, and now we have Verdoro returning at random intervals to terrorize Florindale. Sometimes he engulfs buildings. The Woodlands are dying. Sometimes he batters a living being and leaves them there to suffer, as if he enjoys the sport of torturing people.”

     My stomach churned. What was the monster doing to my tio?

     “I should say there are few who have ventured out to hunt him. None have returned, and not a soul wishes to attempt the journey anymore, even with the rather generous reward on Verdoro’s head. It feels as though we are destined to settle into our fear, to keep one eye fixed on the clouds until the monster finally plummets from them. Unfortunately, the life of such a beast spans ages we do not care to wait for.”

     Rina and I grew up with some messed up legends. Mom liked to scare us with La Llorona, the crying ghost woman that took bad kids away. But never an actual dragon.

     Karina put on that famous Rosas concentration stare, like she was taking an X-ray of Zid. “What do you think is the lifespan of somebody who’s been taken by the dragon?”

     Zid frowned, deep lines appearing on his forehead. “I’m sorry, younglings.” He refilled his goblet and then drained it again. “Nobody’s ever come back.”

Zid

There’s still time to download an ARC of ROSES if you’re interested in getting it for free! Most of them have been claimed already, but there are about 8 left last I checked. As for the eBook, it’s on preorder for $2.99 where digital books are sold! Try Barnes and Noble, Amazon, Kobo, Apple . . . they’re everywhere, and they’ll hit your ereader on April 30th!

Cover Reveal! Roses in the Dragon’s Den

Hi Friends!

Happy Friday to you all! So, this post really can’t be about the words today. What I’m about to reveal can only be shown to you, and that’s the cover for ROSES IN THE DRAGON’S DEN! *trips* *drops cover*

Roses in the Dragon's Den final front cover for preview

I’m just . . . I’m absolutely . . . I can’t describe it. It’s everything I ever dreamed it would be. Special thank you to the designer, Amalia Chitulescu, one of the most incredibly talented artists I know. It was important to me that this cover show off a pair of young, strong, determined LATINX heroes, and I think that Amalia just did that beautifully. Look at Rina and Charlie squaring off against that beast up there! And, they look incredibly close to how the characters were imagined for the trading card set:

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The preorders for this book will be live soon, but in the meantime, if you’re interested in an ARC opportunity to read this before it even hits release day, you can sign up here! I believe this is a book for you if:

  • You’ve ever wanted to see new places
  • You enjoy character-driven stories with family themes and a spirit of adventure
  • You like Oreos (and who doesn’t?)
  • You secretly wish you could sail with pirates
  • You’re a fan of Percy Jackson or other stories told in goofy first-person POVs
  • You want more Latinx heroes in your books
  • You’re fascinated by dragons (and who isn’t?)
  • You’ve watched Man Vs. Wild and wondered what Bear would do if he encountered a dragon. (Okay. Maybe that’s only me?)

Lastly, I ask that if you like this cover, share the preorder widely and add it on Goodreads. I have big dreams for this story… but it’s gonna take a team effort to make sure people know about it! What do you say? Are you with me?

Happy weekend!

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A Place Off the Beaten Path

Hey Friends!

I hope 2019 has been everything you hoped it would be and more so far. On my end, life’s been a little chaotic, but in a great way. It’s all chaos that I asked and prepared for, so I’m rolling with it! On the surface of it all, I recently traveled to Chicago and got an incredible fill of the famous Bean, deep dish style pizza, time with a great friend, and I discovered a random place to have amazing strawberry-lemon pancakes for lunch. I think that will be my mission every time I travel from now on… not necessarily the pancakes, but to find at least one great place off the beaten path that people don’t tell me to go to. Then I can tell YOU about it, and if you ever end up at Eggy’s Diner in Illinois, think of me. 🙂

As fate would have it, ROSES IN THE DRAGON’S DEN is a bit of a love letter to people who have ever wanted to venture off the beaten path before. Speaking of which, I’m MOVING! Last night I let one of my new roommates peek at my upcoming book. I really hope he keeps the juicy spoilers to himself… I think I can trust him.

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But until then, I can show you that ROSES is just about done with interior formatting now, and Melissa Stevens worked some real magic! Get a look at the chapter header for the first page of the book:

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The only thing left is to do is put a killer cover on all this, and I believe that will happen next week so . . . YEET! (Did I use this word correctly? It felt natural…)

By the way, everyone who is reading from Tucson should come see me at the Tucson Festival of Books on Sunday! I’ll be in the YA Indie Pavilion from 2:30-4:30, and I’ll have ROSES trading cards ready to give away! If you want a set, purchase any book at my table, or if you already have ’em all, just come up to me and whisper the pass phrase: LADY FORTUNE.

Until then, happy reading!

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