Say You’ll Come

Young Julia was hopelessly in love with Michael. Handsome, kind, and fun to be with, he played the violin so sweetly, and he doted on Julia. Unfortunately, war came and circumstances made it difficult for their romance to continue.

Fast forward twenty years. World War II has been lost. Julia, now a widow with two small children, is trying to rebuild  her life after postwar atrocities left her raped, homeless, and deported.

Gradually she rebuilds her life, but her new husband is hard to live with at times. Sure, he loves her, but you would never know it, the way he treats her.

A letter arrives from Canada. “You can’t believe how happy I am. Twenty years I’ve been searching for you and at last the Red Cross has found you.  Please come to me in Canada for a better life. Say you’ll come. Love, always, Michael.”

By some miracle, her first sweetheart is still alive.  What to do?


Julia’s Violinist is available at Click here:

The paperback version is also available on all amazon sites and on

For all e-reader types, you can download Julia’s Violinist from Click here:


Italics – When to Use Them

You know how it is thought of as shouting if you use all caps in an email or in a blog comment. Think of italics in a similar way when you overuse them. While one or two shouts get your attention, if the shouting goes on and on and on, it becomes something you want to tune out. It is the same with italics.

But used properly, italics can be effective and serve a very useful purpose.

One of these uses in fiction writing, is to convey what a character is thinking. We use quotation marks to show conversation, but to show the reader what a character is thinking, we put his words in italics. It is not necessary to add a dialogue tag (no need to add “said Joe.”) The other important thing about using italics for thoughts is that the thought is in the present tense even if the rest of the text is in the past tense.

Here’s an example from my novel, Marlie.

“Might be starting to get dark soon. Mind if I walk you home?”

“Oh, I’m fine,” she said. “You don’t need to do that.” Now why did I say that? I’m so stupid.


Another use for italics is for words in a foreign language. Generally, if the word is not in the dictionary of the language you are using, it is considered a foreign word and should be italicized.

Try to work it into your writing in a way that the reader will know what the word means.

Here is an example from my novel, Orion’s Gift.

…as Antonio came out to clear the dishes away.

Algo más?” he asked.

I asked Kevin if he wanted anything more.


Italics can also be used to show emphasis.


He thinks my dog knocked over his garbage can? My dog?


Titles of books, magazines, movies, TV shows, and newspapers should be italicized, but smaller essays, articles, or poems within them should not be italicized.


I read an article in The New York Post entitled “Another Mass Shooting.”


Above all, don’t overdo it by italicizing too much. Italics are not as easy on the eyes as Roman font is, and don’t forget about it being too much of a good thing when it is overused. It loses its punch.

Getting to Know Characters

It would be easy to describe Edgar, the log salvage man, in a routine description, telling what he wore and how he talked, how he smelled, or how he behaved. But after a few sentences, would my readers still be with me, especially since Edgar was a secondary character? Why would a reader want to bother?

There are many ways to introduce characters and let the reader get to know them. Here is one method I used in my novel, The Wind Weeps. Edgar is important to the story, but he is a secondary character. Andrea, my main character, has a new job as a wharfinger’s assistant. She greets Edgar as he pulls in to dock at the wharf with his salvage boat and she goes to help him tie up.

Excerpt from “The Wind Weeps”

Edgar’s beat up log salvage boat, Prowler, sidled up to an empty dock space, the engine roaring and spewing blue smoke. Below the waterline, the exhaust sputtered and rumbled. A rainbow film of gasoline crept over the surface of the water. The floating wreck couldn’t have seen a coat of paint in years. Specks of white—all that was left of the original paint—stuck to dented, scarred aluminum. I assumed the jagged metal teeth attached to the bow like pieces of a huge, big-toothed saw, were for pushing logs. The open boat had a canopy over the bridge where the skipper and a deckhand might sit somewhat protected from the weather. But, exposed to the elements, the back was littered with coils of rope, peevee poles, power saws, axes, and piles of chains. Ugly, loud, and stinking of gas and oil, the Prowler’s arrival could not be ignored.

One of the older boat owners and a permanent resident of Lund, Edgar was probably in his seventies, but he hopped out onto the float with the spryness of a much younger man. He was shadowed by an invisible pong of oil and garbage. I wrinkled my nose and reached for the stern line to help him tie up.

“Hi, Edgar. I’m surprised to see you here. Don’t you usually tie up at the floats at Finn Bay?” I knew Bert wouldn’t be pleased to have him tie up here.

“Hey there, Andrea. Yah, that’s right. I won’t be long. Just have to run up to the general store to get some more tobacco. I run out in the middle of the job and it makes me right owly to be without it.”

“Course it does,” I said. He had the sallow, wrinkled skin of a seasoned smoker.

His grimy hand reached for the line I was about to tie. “Here, I’ll do that. These lines is kinda dirty and I don’t want ya gittin’ yer hands fulla grease ’n’ stuff.” I gladly gave the line over to him.


Available at amazon. com and for Kindle and paperbacks.

For other e-readers, go to

If you enjoy reading The Wind Weeps, please check out the sequel, Reckoning Tide.

The Long and the Short of it

Sentence Length

It seems to me that novels and also non-fiction books that were written more than 75 years ago had longer sentences. For me, this meant they were more boring to read, especially when I was still in elementary school.

Fortunately, to the great joy of most readers, this writing style has become less popular, and reading has become more enjoyable. Long sentences require more concentration to read. In a scene where the action is quick, it doesn’t make sense for the writer to tell about it in long sentences. That is a sure way to take the punch right out of the drama.

So is it best to use only short sentences? No. A mixture of longer and shorter sentences usually works best. At times, you could even just use one or two words to break things up. A one-word interjection adds emphasis as well. Notice the word “No” in this paragraph? You didn’t? Go back and look. See what I mean, how it changes things when you vary the sentence length?

In the “old days” when long sentences were more in vogue, these had to be written skilfully so as not to bore the reader. Some say that Hemingway had that skill. Perhaps he did, but I’ve tried reading two of his books and have put them down after a while because I found his long sentences so tedious to read. I prefer variety, at least in sentence length.

The same thing is true of paragraph and chapter lengths. Vary them, leaning towards shorter paragraphs and short chapters more often than long ones.

Even a one-liner can be emphatic.

Next time you write a scene, go back and have a look at your sentence length. If you have too many long sentences, or even if many of them are the same length, try for variety, and try to shorten some of the tediously long ones. Don’t throw away your original, but compare your work after you edit the sentence length and see if you like the one with variety better. I bet you will.


Do you know what, some say, is both the shortest and the longest sentence in the world?

It is “I do.”


Baja Camping

On an extended dry camping holiday in Baja, I was catching a few rays of sunshine, when I met Sylvia. She visited me in my imagination and now lives in my novel Orion’s Gift. Here she is telling us about a letter that changed her life.

They say ignorance is bliss. I can vouch for that. My life was humming along just fine until I received that letter. Afterwards, nothing was the same.

I flipped the envelope front to back looking for clues to its content. When I saw the return address, my mouth felt dry. It was too soon. My hands trembled as I unlocked the front door. On my way to the bedroom to get changed after my morning run, I tore open the envelope.

As I read, I forgot to breathe. Dazed, I threw myself onto the unmade bed. Clutching the blankets, I hugged my knees and stared at the wall, my chest so tight I thought I’d pass out. I didn’t recognize the moaning wail as a sound that could have come from me. Gut-wrenching sobs followed. My mind raced with wild incredulous thoughts. It can’t be true. It has to be a mistake.

My throat ached from crying and my sinuses were so swollen I could hardly breathe. I had to stop blubbering. Feeling sorry for myself wouldn’t change anything. Useless waste of precious time. I had to pull myself together.

I stumbled into the kitchen for a glass of water. My eyes felt puffy and glued shut, but a glimpse of the clock forced them open.

“Oh, shit. I’m going to be late for work.” I hurried back to the bedroom and made the mistake of looking at the dresser mirror. “And I look like hell.” I threw off my sweats, and jumped into the shower.

Thank God Joel had already left for work. It wouldn’t do for him to see me like this, puffy-eyed from crying, and perspiring after my run. He had no sympathy for tears and he wasn’t one to appreciate the natural look—didn’t like his girls sweaty unless it was from a lengthy session in bed. His girls! Hah! Why the plural? I had my suspicions, but what could I do? I was lucky to have him. Lucky he stayed with me. Tall, handsome, getting richer by the minute at his real estate job; most women would consider him a good catch. But would he stay with me now if he knew?

I rushed to dry my hair and style it, threw the blow-dryer down, slapped moisturizing cream on my face, and brushed my teeth. Panic threatened to take over again. I’d always been on time. The boss frowned on employees arriving late. I didn’t know why I still cared. Did it really matter anymore? Did anything?

I stepped into a cool blue-green summer dress and sandals. Grabbing my keys I was off. No! I hurried back to make the bed. What would Joel think if he came home to that mess? Come to think of it, the kitchen needed a quick cleanup. I hadn’t had time for breakfast, but Joel’s dishes still littered the table. Quick! Into the dishwasher, wipe the crumbs off the island, fold up the newspaper, unplug the coffeemaker and give the carafe a rinse. Oh, hurry! I shouldn’t have taken that time to feel sorry for myself.

I loved Joel. I always knocked myself out to please him. Wish he’d do the same for me. I still didn’t know what he ever saw in me. Funny! That was exactly what he often said—“Don’t know what I ever saw in you.” And when he saw the hurt on my face, he’d add, “Must have been something really special, ’cause I’m still here.” Then I worked my butt off to make him see it was worth his while to keep me around. I kept the house sparkling clean, made gourmet meals, gave him whatever he wanted in bed. I made sure I pleased him.

My mother always said I was pretty—long legs, good skin, shiny ash-blond hair—but mothers always say that. Joel says he loves my flashy smile and the four freckles on my ski-jump nose. People say I turn heads. I guess I look good, but wish I was smarter. I did okay in school, but I didn’t take home any prizes or scholarships. Pretty? Smart? What did that matter now?

I had about ten minutes to get to Goodridge. The girls in the office called it Get-Rich. Problem was that only the lawyers got rich. Clerks like me never got more than puny little wages.

On the way out I saw the offending letter on the dining room table. I snatched it up and clutched it to my chest. That would have been a big mistake, leaving it there for Joel to see.


Click the links to see the book.

Orion’s Gift at

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Orion’s Gift at

Natural Selection – My Review

It is my pleasure to host author Jacqui Murray on my blogs today. If you came here first, please also visit for more about Jacqui’s latest fabulous novel, Natural Selection.

Book information:


Title and author: Natural Selection by Jacqui Murray

Series: Book 3 in the Dawn of Humanity series

Genre: Prehistoric fiction

Editor: Anneli Purchase

Available print or digital) at:


My Review

Lucy lives in a world without any technology or modern conveniences. No stores to buy anything. No life-saving antibiotics or vaccinations. Nothing but nature in a world that is still forming, 1.8 million years ago. Imagine having to defend against wild animals, survive the harshest weather, and endure countless injuries, while you try to find the basic necessities of life: food, water, and shelter. Most of us would soon die in these natural circumstances, but Lucy and her small group of travelers work together to survive. They have one advantage over the animal species of their time. They can think and learn and plan.

Lucy’s kind of early man made tools of stone, and are referred to as Man-who-makes-tools, but another group of more advanced of her time has learned to use a spear and is more likely to kill and take slaves from Lucy’s more primitive group.  It is Lucy’s mission to save the members of her group who have been enslaved by the more advanced group.

She guides her group through natural disasters, threats from huge and dangerous animals, and the danger of being killed by other traveling uprights, Man-who-preys.

Each danger is an adventure of its own, and I marveled at the skills and bravery of Lucy’s group while they suffered the fiercest weather conditions and natural disasters without any clothing to help protect them.

Lucy’s kind heart accepts others who are in need. She brings into her group a large dog who would otherwise be considered a fierce enemy, but because she adopted him when he was in need, he is her loyal defender and friend. A Tree-man, reminiscent of our modern ape, also abandoned, adopts her group, as does a cat who will become very large when it grows up. These, and a handful of people like Lucy, including one young man who is nearly blind, and two more advanced uprights, travel together to try to rescue Lucy’s former group from the Man-who-preys group who are holding them captive.

Lucy faces onslaughts of volcanic eruptions, impassable rifts in the land, injuries from poisonous snakes and marauding animals, most of whom are larger and more powerful than she is. But Lucy’s spirit, her courage, and her knowledge of healing plants, keep the group going.

I admire Jacqui Murray, the author of Natural Selection, the third in the Dawn of Humanity series, not only for the huge amount of research she must have done to put this series together, but for weaving the information into the adventures and the group dynamics that are part of Lucy’s story, all in an entertaining and informative way.

I couldn’t put this book down. One threat led to another and I couldn’t help imagining what I would do if I were in Lucy’s situation. She had to be so tough, so brave, and so determined to finally find her former group members and attempt to rescue them.

I was sorry the book ended, and I hope Ms Murray is already working on another series like this one. I can’t wait to read more of her work.

About the Author:

Jacqui Murray is the author of the popular prehistoric fiction saga, Man vs. Nature which explores seminal events in man’s evolution one trilogy at a time. She is also author of the Rowe-Delamagente thrillers and Building a Midshipman , the story of her daughter’s journey from high school to United States Naval Academy. Her non-fiction writing includes over a hundred books on integrating tech into education, and reviews as an Amazon Vine Voice. She is a columnist for NEA Today, and a freelance journalist on tech ed topics.


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Amazon Author Page:







Do You Know About Elmore Leonard?

It is just a couple of days after what would have been Elmore Leonard’s 97th birthday.  This American author was born Oct. 11, 1925 and died Aug. 20, 2013.

He was a prolific writer, but he was concerned more with quality than quantity. Somehow he managed to do both. He wrote many novels, screenplays, short stories, and many other types of publications.

Elmore Leonard at the Peabody Awards in 2011. Photo from Wikipedia.

Here are his Ten Rules for Good Writing, published in the New York Times.

  1. Never open a book with weather.

  2. Avoid prologues.

  3. Never use a verb other than “said” to carry dialogue.

  4. Never use an adverb to modify the verb “said,”…he admonished gravely.

  5. Keep your exclamation points under control. You are allowed no more than two or three per 100,000 words of prose.

  6. Never use the words “suddenly” or “all hell broke loose.”

  7. Use regional dialect, patois, sparingly.

  8. Avoid detailed descriptions of characters.

  9. Don’t go into great detail describing places and things.

  10. Try to leave out the part that readers tend to skip.

Elmore said, “My most important rule is one that sums up the 10.

If it sounds like writing, I rewrite it.”

Excerpted from the New York Times article, “Easy on the Adverbs, Exclamation Points and Especially Hooptedoodle.”

The Clipping Gallery

Further to the recent post about jargon,  I want to suggest a solution for writers who suspect they have too much verbiage in their first draft, but don’t know what to do about it.

Maybe you’ve noticed it yourself as you read a section over, but more likely one of your critiquers noticed it, and pointed it out as unnecessarily long or boring, or both. You read the wordy section again and try to find all kinds of excuses for keeping it as it is. Maybe you even realize that it is a bit repetitious or unnecessarily dull, but you like the anecdote it relates (even if it is long and wordy). You simply don’t want to let it go.

Ask yourself:

Does keeping it move the story along?

Does it provide some essential information the reader needs to know?

Does it increase the reader’s empathy for a character?

Does it foreshadow a possible crisis?

Does it increase the tension by dropping a worrisome clue of something that may interfere with the hoped for solution?

If the paragraph does none of the above, ask yourself, “Do I really need this? Will the story suffer if I remove it?” If the section is not critical to the story, and others have mentioned that it drags the story down, perhaps you should consider making some changes.

I think I have a solution.

A friend in a critiquing group suggested that in a case like this it is good to make a folder on your computer where you can save this precious writing that you have such a hard time giving up. Call it “Clipping Gallery” (or some other name that you will quickly associate with this editing gimmick). Then copy and cut the wordy section out of your “work in progress”  (WIP). Paste this wordy section into a Word file and save it to your Clipping Gallery. You may want to have sub-folders if you have several works in progress.

Now that the questionable writing is saved in a file where you can always retrieve it and put it back into your WIP, you can relax. Your precious writing is not lost and you can change your mind any time and go back to the original version of your WIP.

I’ve agonized over losing all that perfect writing I did. Maybe I had some special turns of phrase that came out  exactly as I wanted, and I simply did not want to let go of them. So what if they were a bit wearisome to the reader?

But once I cut those wordy sections and put them in my clipping gallery, where I could retrieve them any time I wanted, I felt better. The hard work that some others found boring, but I was so attached to, would be safe and available to me any time I wanted it. And, surprise, surprise, the WIP worked just fine without the parts I had removed. I just had to be sure the transitioning was in place where I had removed sections.

Many times, I’ve put sections of my writing into the clipping gallery. Do you know how many times I’ve taken something out of the gallery and put it back into the WIP?


But it’s still there if I want it.

After a while, when I come to my senses, I realize I really don’t want or need the removed part anymore and I’m okay with it.




Dialect in Writing



If one or more of your characters have a dialect or accent that you feel is important to note in your novel, I would suggest that unless you are very familiar with those regional speech patterns or accents, use them sparsely so they  don’t distract from the story. The safer way to do it would be to choose a few instances of the dialect and use them in dialogue. Try as much as possible to have the rest of the writing in plain English.

Falling out of character by messing up the dialect is going to do damage to your credibility as a writer and to the credibility of the character.

I’d like to give you some examples of how I have used dialect of a character in my novels.

One of my secondary characters in The Wind Weeps is Monique, a French-Canadian girl. I wanted to show that she spoke with a French-Canadian accent, but I didn’t want the phonetic spelling of every word of her speech become a chore for the reader. My solution was to limit Monique’s dialect and accent to a few of the most obvious speech habits that were typical of French speakers of English.

Saying the soft sound of “th” (as in “they”) is often difficult for speakers of French origin,  so, for example, instead of saying “there,” Monique would say “dere.”  For the hard sound of “th,” she might say “somet’ing” instead of “something.”

In French the sound of “h” is not used, so in English, Monique would have a habit of dropping the sound of the letter “h.” I showed this by placing an apostrophe in its place.  If she were saying, “It’s time to have something to eat,” she would say, “It is time to ’ave somet’ing to eat.”

That reminds me of the last clue to Monique’s speech being different; she would not use contractions. Instead of “can’t,” she would say “cannot,”  or she would say “it is” instead of “it’s, and “I ’ave” instead of “I’ve.”

By using these three changes in the dialogue, the reader could instantly identify that it was Monique who was speaking.  Just to be sure, I gave Monique two more habits of her own. I added the odd case of her swearing by having her say, “Tabernac,” once in a while. I also had her use an expression that was all her own by having her conflate two common phrases she had heard used in English. When she wanted to say “For sure” or “Sure thing,” as she had heard others say, she ended up saying, “For sure t’ing.”  Whenever this came up in the book, we would always know it was Monique speaking.

If you’d like to check it out yourself, you can find The Wind Weeps and its sequel, Reckoning Tide, at all amazon   (click on amazon) outlets and at (Click on

My books are all marked down to 99 cents US so you can load your e-reader with bargain reading.

You can find a review of The Wind Weeps, by clicking on this blog post by Diana Wallace Peach,

P.S. For those who follow both my blogs, I have copied this post for both this one time. I don’t intend to make that a habit.



Point of View

When I first began to write seriously, I was surprised to find out that using the omniscient point of view, as our great authors of 200 years ago did, just wasn’t done anymore.

“What is point of view anyway?” I wondered. I thought all I had to do was pretend that as the author, I knew everything and I could see into every character’s head and tell what each one thought and felt.

That may have been all right in times of old, but apparently it is frowned upon in modern times, and aspiring authors certainly don’t want to be frowned upon before they even make their debut.

Point of view, usually called POV, is not, as some might at first think, someone’s opinion. It refers to the character through whom we are seeing the story unfold. As the writer, I can pretend that my main character has a camera mounted on his or her head, and whatever this magic camera can see, hear, touch, smell, feel, or know is allowed to be told. The “camera” cannot know what another character is thinking, unless the thoughts are spoken aloud in dialogue. So I am limited in what I can tell about another character’s emotions. I’ve had to become more skilled at letting the reader know what a secondary character might be feeling, through dialogue and by showing that character’s body language. Are his fists clenched? Is his jaw working? Are his eyes filling with tears? Are his eyes narrowing and his brow furrowing?

POV can be a problem if the POV character is not present in a scene that needs to be told. For that particular scene or even a chapter, the main character may be someone else, and the camera can be in that person’s head for the duration of that section. Just be sure the reader can immediately identify the POV character in the first sentence or two. The writer needs to stick to one person’s POV for each scene and not go “head hopping” throughout the scene.

Some of the most popular POVs used are first and third person (“I” and “he” or “she”), and can be in the past or present.

I would like to give you some short examples of some POV types.

First I want to show you something really, really horrible that I discovered in my novel, Marlie — a blatantly obvious (to everyone but me) POV error. In the section marked in red, I had slipped into first person when I should have been in third person POV. I have fixed that error and now I can sleep at night.

He took hold of both my upper arms and looked into my eyes. “Is it so hard to see that I really care about you?”

She swallowed hard. “I do too … care about you, I mean.” That was an understatement. She was totally lost, in love with this beautiful man.

Brent hugged her and muttered, “Clancy is going to pay.”

In spite of the warmth of Brent’s hug, she groaned and shivered in fear for him.



In this excerpt from “Marlie” we have the POV in third person, past tense, and we are in Marlie’s head. This is how third person should be done, with no slips into first person.

“You were going to show me your carvings,” she said.

“Oh yeah.” Clancy took a swig and set the beer down on a wooden crate that served as coffee table. “But first, I need a little kiss.” He pulled her close and kissed her with that horrible beer breath.

She pushed him away, but he kept an iron grip on her upper arms.

“Clancy!” She hit at his shoulders and twisted away. “That’s not funny.”

He grabbed her wrist tightly. “No, not funny,” he said, “but it’s fun.” He laughed and yanked her closer and tried to kiss her again, groping at her breasts with one hand. “Told you we’d have fun.”

Now she was scared. She was all alone in the bush with a guy she hardly knew. What ever had possessed her to come here alone with him? She must have been crazy. She didn’t know Clancy. She’d only met him two weeks earlier and the comments from people who knew him had nothing good to say about him. Why hadn’t she listened? She was only trying to be polite, coming in to see his artwork. Suckered! She couldn’t believe she was so stupid.

Clancy grabbed the back of her hair. “I love your hair, Marlie. There’s so much of it.” He pulled it back so hard that her knees buckled and she fell backwards onto the couch, just as he must have planned it. She scratched his face to make him let go, but he threw his bloodied head back and laughed like an insane man, taunting her with a sound like a cat yowling. “Bit of a wildcat, eh?”

When she bit his arm he jumped back, shocked, and then slapped the side of her head with the back of his hand. Her head roared inside like blood rushing around in her skull, and her ears were ringing. Clancy reached up and grabbed a coil of rope that hung on a nail by the door.



This section from Orion’s Gift is in first person, past tense. We are in Sylvia’s head.

I asked directions and learned that the Banamex was only a few blocks away in the business part of town. As I entered the bank, the security guard gave me a disapproving look. He stole frequent glances in my direction as I sat in the row of chairs in the waiting area with my queue number in my hand. A woman sitting at the far end of my row gave me the same disapproving look.

Do I have a smudge of dirt on me? For sure something was wrong. I felt very uncomfortable, as if I didn’t belong here. I settled back to wait my turn. The young Mexican woman sitting next to me leaned over and said, “Is your way of to dress.”

I looked down at my shorts and T-shirt and realized I had dressed like a camper, not a business person.

“Is not the custom to have the arms and the legs so … not covered,” she whispered. “Not in the bank. Maybe … en la playa … the beach.”

“Oh, dear.” I felt my face get hot. “I’m so sorry. I had no idea.”

“I know. Is why I tell you. For next time.” She patted my hand.

“Thank you so much. Muchas gracias.” I winced and gave her a little smile as I curled my shoulders, trying to shrink inside myself.

I couldn’t wait to escape. When my queue number came up on the digital display, I paid my tourist card fee and changed more dollars to pesos. The teller, a woman about my age, with her black hair pulled straight back and fastened in a chignon, was all business. She raised her nose slightly higher in disdain, brightly painted orange lips twitching disrespect. I scooped up the pesos she shoved through the wicket at me and rushed out of the bank. As I glanced hastily over my shoulder, I saw the security guard craning his neck for one last look at my legs.


Some stories are better told in first person and some are better in third person. Some lend themselves to the present tense while others are better in the past tense. If you’re not sure which is best for your novel, why not try a few paragraphs in both and compare? Just don’t leave any loose threads like the ones I confessed to earlier in this post.


If you go to or you will see all my books on that page. They are also available on where you can download them in a format to suit your brand of e-reader.