LOVE LIKE SKY by Middle-grade author Leslie C. Youngblood is a 5+Star Read. This book will win awards and become a Best Seller. Release Date is November 6th – Mark your calendars now!!!

Title: LOVE LIKE SKY

Author: LESLIE C. YOUNGBLOOD

Genre: MIDDLE-GRADE FICTION

Ages: 8 to 12 YEARS

Length: 304 PAGES

Publisher: DISNEY BOOK GROUP

Received From: NETGALLEY

Release Date: NOVEMBER 6, 2018

ISBN: 9781368016506

Price: $16.99 USD

Rating: 5+ OUT OF 5 STARS ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

DESCRIPTION:

G-baby and her younger sister, Peaches, are still getting used to their “blended-up” family. They live with Mama and Frank out in the suburbs, and they haven’t seen their real daddy much since he married Millicent. G-baby misses her best friend back in Atlanta, and is crushed that her glamorous new stepsister, Tangie, wants nothing to do with her.

G-baby is so preoccupied with earning Tangie’s approval that she isn’t there for her own little sister when she needs her most. Peaches gets sick-really sick. Suddenly, Mama and Daddy are arguing like they did before the divorce, and even the doctors at the hospital don’t know how to help Peaches get better.

It’s up to G-baby to put things right. She knows Peaches can be strong again if she can only see that their family’s love for her really is like sky.

MY REVIEW:

In the opening scene of LOVE LIKE SKY, G-baby is entertaining her younger sister Peaches by repeatedly dancing the “Nae Nae” and the “Dougie.” I defy anyone to read this and not smile. I believe that would be impossible.

LOVE LIKE SKY is set in the town of Snellville, Georgia, where eleven-year-old G-baby, her younger sister Peaches (real names – Georgiana And Patrice) and their mother have moved to a new town after their mother’s marriage to their new stepdaddy, Frank. G-baby had initially been excited about the marriage because it meant she would be gaining a big sister. However, she has since discovered that her new stepsister wants nothing to do with her or Peaches. On top of all the other changes, G-baby misses her best friend Nikki, whom she left behind in Atlanta.

G-baby becomes obsessed with trying to get her new stepsister to pay attention to her. This leaves baby sister, Peaches at loose ends and feeling left out.

When Peaches gets really sick, neither her parents nor her doctors know how to make her better.

G-baby is convinced that she knows how to make Peaches better. She just has to figure out how to convince her that her family loves her as much as the sky is wide.

Blended families are often more common than “traditional families” which means that many readers will be able to relate to the struggles that G-baby and Peaches face. The topic of blended families is only one of the many themes explored in this amazing debut novel. Other themes include:

– Divorce
– Parents fighting
– Death of a sibling (not Peaches, so don’t think I am giving away any plot points)
– Moving to a new town
– Leaving friends behind and trying to make new ones
– Hospitalization and siblings with a serious illness
– Growing up and a girl’s changing body and feelings
– Racial inequality
– Peaceful protests
– Trayvon Martin and the shooting of unarmed young, black men
– Parents getting remarried and jealousy of the new spouse
– and many more.

The author does an incredible job of making the characters feel real. For instance, G-baby’s father has remarried and his new wife’s name is Millicent. Instead of thinking of her by her given name, G-baby has nicknamed her “Millipede.” This is a very typical tween way to rebel against the new spouse. She is too young to conjure up any truly mean-spirited nickname, yet still needs a way to express her jealousy at what she sees as the reason her beloved Daddy doesn’t spend as much time with them as he used to.

The author’s gift for creating believable and unique characters is displayed in one of my favorite scenes – which captures the fierce loyalty six year old Peaches has for her mother. This scene takes place when G-baby comments about Tangie’s cooking and says it is better than their mother’s. “Peaches eyes widened. ‘Nobody cooks better than Mama.'” I loved this scene. In the grand scheme of the book, this scene is minor, but it is so believable that I found it memorable for it’s simple, yet powerful portrayal of familial loyalty.

If I had to choose a single theme to describe this book, it would be EMOTION.

“Why we gotta jump when he’s ready? What about the times we waited on him and he didn’t come? I bet he doesn’t keep Ms. Millicent Parker waiting for nothing. She’s his ‘best girl’ now.”

Kids with divorced parents will easily relate to the characters in this excellent middle-grade novel. Author Leslie Youngblood understands just how perceptive kids can be. This is clearly demonstrated in the following scene:

“Just like Mama, he didn’t know that I could tell a fake smile from a real one. Mama and Daddy’s separation made me an expert, especially when we’d have family dinner and they’d wear their mannequin smiles.”

I apologize for the length of this review, but I felt compelled to explain why I am giving this book the highest rating possible which is 5+ OUT OF 5 STARS ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐. I realize that it is technically impossible to give a rating higher than 5 out of 5, but this book deserves to be in a category above all others.

*** Thank you to NetGalley for providing me with a free copy of this book. ***

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FAVORITE QUOTES:

“Mama said I got the name G-baby because I’d run to Daddy for every little thing. He’d swoop me up and say, ‘What’s wrong with George’s baby?’ Peaches real name is Patrice, but Mama loved Libby’s sliced peaches when she was pregnant with her, so that’s how she got her nickname.”

“Being a big sister was hard work.”

“Even though Mama says I can always talk to her, she means Mama stuff, like if someone is bullying me, or if a teacher is mean. Not like how to kiss a boy, or when it’s time to sneak a few cotton balls in my bra…”

“I’m supposed to have all the answers. That’s what it means to be a big sister, and why I want one of my very own.”

“When Mama and Daddy first tried to explain {why they were getting divorced}, Mama Said sometimes grown-ups ‘fall out of love.’ The best I can figure it: love is just a big old bed. When you’re not happy, you fall out of it.”

“There’s no reason on God’s green earth a boy should walk down the street with his boxers hanging out.”

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EXCERPT

“Love ain’t like that.”

How is it then?” Peaches asked, turning on her stomach to face me.

“It’s like sky. If you keep driving and driving, gas will run out, right?”

“That’s why we gotta go to the gas station.”

“Yep. But have you ever seen the sky run out? No matter how far we go?”

“No, when we look up, there it is.”

“Well that’s the kind of love Daddy and Mama got for us, Peaches—love like sky.”

“It never ends?”

Never.”

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Leslie C. Youngblood received an MFA from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. A former assistant professor of creative writing at Lincoln University in Jefferson City, she has lectured at Mississippi State University, UNC-Greensboro, and the University of Ghana at Legon.

She began her undergraduate degree at Morris Brown College and completed her bachelor’s at Georgia State University. After graduation, she served as a columnist and assistant editor for Atlanta Tribune: The Magazine.

She’s been awarded a host of writing honors including a 2014 Yaddo’s Elizabeth Ames Residency, the Lorian Hemingway Short Story Prize, a Hurston Wright Fellowship, and the Room of Her Own Foundation’s 2009 Orlando Short Story Prize. She received funding to attend the Norman Mailer Writers’ Colony in 2011. Her short story, “Poor Girls’ Palace,” was published in the winter 2009 edition of the Indiana Review, as well as Kwelijournal, 2014.

In 2010 she won the Go On Girl! Book Club Aspiring Writer Award. In 2016 she landed a two-book publishing deal with Disney-Hyperion for her Middle-Grade novel, LOVE LIKE SKY (Nov.6). She often teaches creative writing classes at Rochester, New York’s literary center, Writers & Books.

Born in Bogalusa, Louisiana, and raised in Rochester, New York, she’s fortunate to have a family of natural storytellers and a circle of supportive and family and friends.

To learn more about this author, visit the following links:

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UNWRITTEN by Tara Gilboy RELEASES TODAY!!!

Title: UNWRITTEN

Author: TARA GILBOY

Genre: MIDDLE-GRADE FICTION, SCIENCE FICTION and FANTASY

Age Range: 8 – 12

Grade Level: 4 – 6

Length: 200 PAGES

Publisher: NORTH STAR EDITIONS – JOLLY FISH PRESS

Received From: NETGALLEY

Release Date: OCTOBER 16, 2018

ISBN: 9781631631771

Price: $11.99 USD

Rating: 4 OUT OF 5 STARS⭐⭐⭐⭐

DESCRIPTION:

Twelve-year-old Gracie Freeman is living a normal life, but she is haunted by the fact that she is actually a character from a story, an unpublished fairy tale she’s never read.

When she was a baby, her parents learned that she was supposed to die in the story, and with the help of a magic book, took her out of the story, and into the outside world, where she could be safe.

But Gracie longs to know what the story says about her. Despite her mother’s warnings, Gracie seeks out the story’s author, setting in motion a chain of events that draw herself, her mother, and other former storybook characters back into the forgotten tale.

Inside the story, Gracie struggles to navigate the blurred boundary between who she really is and the surprising things the author wrote about her.

As the story moves toward its deadly climax, Gracie realizes she’ll have to face a dark truth and figure out her own fairy-tale ending.

MY REVIEW:

This book is going to be a hit with young girls. The story weaves all the magic of a fairy tale with all of the mystery of a middle-grade story well told.

The idea that the main character, twelve year old Gracie is actually a character from a storybook is interesting and will be unique for the younger generation.

At first Gracie is living a normal life, just like the rest of her schoolmates. As the story continues we learn where she came from and how it came to be that her mother escaped with her into the “real” world.

The Author writes with the perfect mix of preteen angst and magic. What twelve year old girl hasn’t fantasized about discovering that she is really a Princess?

Imagine discovering that you owe your life to an author, rather than to your parents. How bizarre would that be?

After Gracie discovers with where she came from, events quickly speed up. She is desperate to know more about what the story says about her, but her mother will not tell her anything.

With typical youthful exuberance, Gracie decides that if her mother will not give her the information she so desperately wants, she will find answers on her own. This leads to a snowball effect and soon events spiral out of control and Gracie discovers that her life is now in danger.

Will she survive returning to the fairytale she had been rescued from as a baby? Or will she discover too late the power of the fairytale?

Writing Gracie must have brought out the author’s inner child. She does a brilliant job of describing the way young girls often feel. They may think they are on the cusp of adulthood, and be aggravated by the way their parents still treat them “like a child.”

It is only later (and sometimes too late, or not all) that they come to realize that maybe, just maybe, their parents are right and should have been listened to after all.

I enjoyed the mother daughter dynamics and could empathise with both characters. The scenes from inside the fairytale are terrific, as are Gracie’s interactions with the characters.

I don’t want to give too much away, so I will say no more about the plot.

UNWRITTEN is due to hit bookstores on October 16th and it is sure to become a hit. It would be a great Christmas present for the preteen or young adult in your family.

I rate UNWRITTEN as 4 out of 5 Stars ⭐⭐⭐⭐

**Thank you to NetGalley for providing me with a free copy of this book.**

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

TARA GILBOY holds a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing from the University of British Columbia, where she specialized in writing for children and young adults.

She teaches creative writing in San Diego Community College’s Continuing Education Program and for the PEN Writers in Prisons Program.

Her work has appeared in Word Riot, Beloit Fiction Journal, Cricket, and other publications.

She lives in San Diego, California.

To learn more about this author, visit the following links:

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THE UNDERWATER WELDER by famous Canadian Author/Illustrator JEFF LEMIRE is wholly deserving of 5 Stars. This graphic novel will stay with you long after the final page.

Title: THE UNDERWATER WELDER

Author: JEFF LEMIRE

Genre: GRAPHIC NOVEL (ADULTS & TEENS), CANADIAN FICTION

Length: 221 PAGES

Publisher: TOP SHELF PRODUCTIONS

Release Date: 2012

ISBN: 978-1-60309-074-2

Price: $25.00 CDN

Rating: 5 OUT OF 5 STARS ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

DESCRIPTION:

Pressure. As an underwater welder on an oilrig off the coast of Nova Scotia, Jack Joseph is used to the immense pressures of deep-sea work. Nothing, however, could prepare him for the pressures of impending fatherhood.

As Jack dives deeper and deeper, he seems to pull further and further away from his young wife, and their unborn son.

But then, something happens deep on the ocean floor. Jack has a strange and mind-bending encounter that will change the course of his life forever. … Equal parts blue-collar character study and mind-bending science fiction epic, The Underwater Welder is a 250-page graphic novel that explores fathers and sons, birth and death, memory and truth, and treasures we all bury deep down inside.

MY REVIEW:

Graphic novels aren’t just for kids anymore and there is no better novel to demonstrate that fact than “The Underwater Welder.”

The story is about a blue collar guy named Jack Joseph. He lives and works in Nova Scotia as an underwater welder just offshore on an oil rig. He is about to become a father and that fact makes him think about his own father and how he died.

Jack dives deep underwater and one day, while welding, he spots something on the ocean floor and decides to investigate.

Above, on the oil rig, Jack’s supervisor notices that something is wrong and Jack is rescued and returned to the rig. The doctor sends him home.

However, the problems Jack is experiencing are not based on location. They are all inside his head.

This graphic novel is an amazing character study. It demonstrates the impact the loss of a parent as a child can have on a person, and that left untreated, depression can continue into adulthood and have a lasting impact on a person’s life, even without them realizing it.

The story also highlights the stress of becoming a father (or mother) for the first time. Family dynamics are also explored and it proves that it can take a major event to break through the shadow of the past to become the person you want to be.

There are numerous life lessons in this 200+ page graphic novel and even if readers do not realize it, those lessons may sink into the reader’s unconscious mind.

Even without considering the lessons learned, this graphic novel is a well thought out and exquisitely plotted tale about an average guy leading an average life. There are no superpowers to be found and none are needed.

It is easy to see why this graphic novel won so many awards and also became a Best-Seller.

I strongly recommend this graphic novel to readers over the age of eighteen. If you have ever been curious about this type of story, THE UNDERWATER WELDER would be a perfect first purchase.

The Underwater Welder was Amazon’s Top Ten Graphic Novels of 2012, Amazon Canada’s #1 Best Graphic Novel of 2012, and A.V. Club’s Top Ten Graphic Novels for 2012. It received a Publishers Weekly starred review and the Comics Alliance’s Charles Xavier Memorial Award Best Comics of 2012 for “Best Melancholic Welding Drama.”

In researching this title, I discovered that Ryan Gosling, Ken Kao, and Anonymous Content are planning to produce a movie adaptation of Jeff Lemire’s graphic novel “The Underwater Welder.” I know that I will be watching it on the big screen one day soon.

I rate “The Underwater Welder” as 5 out of 5 Stars in the graphic novel category. ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

** I purchased a signed copy of this graphic novel at WORD ON THE STREET – TORONTO.**

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Click HERE to watch the video highlighting Jeff Lemire’s next project – the movie.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Jeff Lemire is an award-winning Canadian cartoonist, and the author of the Essex County Trilogy, Sweet Tooth and The Nobody. Lemire is known for a his moody, humanistic stories and sketchy, cinematic, black-and-white art.

To learn more about this author, visit the following links:

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Upcoming graphic novel:


“STRAY MAGIC” AUDIOBOOK REVIEW – A fairy tale for all those of us who love dogs and who dream about happy endings.

Title: STRAY MAGIC

Author: JACKIE BOUCHARD

Narrator: AISLING GRAY

Genre: FICTION, WOMEN’S FICTION, CONTEMPORARY FANTASY

Length: 9 HOURS, 1 Minute

Publisher: JACKIE BOUCHARD

Type of Book: AUDIOBOOK

Received From: THE NARRATOR – AISLING GRAY

Release Date: MARCH 26, 2018

Price on Audible: $13.67 USD

Rating: 5 OUT OF 5 STARS ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

DESCRIPTION:

Cara Snow is newly divorced, stuck working for a jerky boss at a pet boutique, and dreading her soon-to-be-empty nest with only her beloved corgi for company. Worse still, her ex just got engaged. Doesn’t she deserve some romance, too? Or, at least a date for the Fur Ball. She’s always enjoyed the annual pet rescue gala, but this year her ex will be there with his fiancée. Meanwhile, Cara hasn’t met anyone- other than the irresistible dogs at the boutique’s adoption events.

Cara is shocked when her wish to fall for a man as easily as she does for those mutts summons Vincent. His velour track suit, paunchy belly, and tough-guy accent don’t exactly fit her childhood image of a fairy godfather. Not exactly on top of his game, he admits to being twenty-five years late. (Her daughter Winnie is convinced he must be there for her!) Vincent does his best and casts a spell “guaranteed” to help Cara find the One. But when she actually starts meeting men, none of them are her type. If only they were as perfect for her as the dogs they adopt. Did her screw-up fairy godfather botch the spell? If so, what will it mean not only for Cara but Vincent as well?

MY REVIEW:

The description of this story states: it is loosely based on “Cinderella,” and I agree that it is VERY LOOSELY based on the classic fairytale. I enjoyed this book much more than I did the fairytale version.

Why? Well, let’s start with the main character, Cara. She is not a doe-eyed innocent. Cara is a grown woman, with a grown daughter who is about to go off to college. To top it off, she has also just gone through a divorce which hit her self-esteem pretty hard. But, like many women, she did not allow herself to wallow in despair, she just moved on with her life the best she could. Sometimes it takes an exceptional amount of courage just to put one foot in front of the other.

Cara may not think of herself as courageous, but that is how I saw her right from the beginning. As the story progresses, her actions, her attitudes and even her angst all solidified my belief in her courageous spirit.

The introduction of a magical fairy godfather was hilarious. The author nailed this character. From his physical appearance to the clothes he chooses to wear, Cara’s Fairy Godfather is a hoot. And of course, Cara, like any other sane person, reacts to his appearance and his pronouncement of his Fairy Godfather status by thinking he must be an escapee from an insane asylum.

Cara works in a pet store and has a beagle as well who plays a prominent role in the story. Then of course there’s the hunky guy from Cara’s past.

There are lots of laughs in this audiobook as well as lots of tender moments. In fact, this book will constantly put a smile on the listeners face. What more could you want?

I loved the characters, I loved the setting, I love dogs as much as the protagonist does, I am also around her age, and my kids have left home to go to college as well. So, suffice it to say that I very much relate to the book’s central character.

This book is a great read, but I have to say that I firmly believe that narrator Aisling Gray’s performance is so perfect that it makes listening to the audiobook preferable over reading the paperback or eBook version of “Stray Magic.” I rate the narration as 5 out of 5 Stars. ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

I also rate the story as 5 out of 5 Stars ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ I highly recommend this Audiobook to anyone who is in the mood for a light-hearted listening experience. I also recommend this audiobook to anyone and everyone who loves dogs.

*Thank you to Aisling Gray for providing me with a free copy of this audiobook. The fact that I received this audiobook free of charge has in no way impacted my review. I only review books and audiobooks 100% honestly and anyone sending me a book or audiobook agrees that my honest opinion will be posted – sometimes good, sometimes not so good.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Jackie Bouchard, a USA Today bestselling author, writes what she calls Fido-friendly fiction – humorous and heart-warming stories about women and the dogs that profoundly impact their lives.

She spent a long time as a creative soul trapped in the body of a practical person. When she was bitten by the writing bug, she managed to leap free of the hamster wheel of corporate America, and now spends her days walking her dog, talking to her dog, and listening for the voices in her head that want their stories told. When the voices don’t talk to her, she can often be found staring into the refrigerator.

After growing up in Southern California, Jackie moved to Bermuda, where she met her husband. Now back in San Diego, American Jackie, her Canadian hubby, and her Mexican rescue mutt form their own happy little United Nations. Jackie’s novels include STRAY MAGIC, HOUSE TRAINED, the Readers’ Favorite gold-medal winning RESCUE ME, MAYBE, and WHAT THE DOG ATE.

To learn more about this author, visit the following links:

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ABOUT THE NARRATOR:

AISLING GRAY started doing voice work in 2005 with commercial narration and voice acting, but her love of reading lead her to branch into audiobook narration.

Aisling grew up moving all over the world and has lived in the U.K., Costa Rica, Ghana, Sudan, Jamaica, Peru, the U.S., India, Poland, Azerbaijan, and Mexico — all the while learning languages, so she have a knack for accents.

Listeners have praised her clear, engaging, and versatile narrating as well as her comedic delivery. She loves to bring great writing to life.

To learn more about this Narrator, visit the following links:

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HUNTING THE SATURDAY NIGHT STRANGLER by Author and Ex-Law Enforcement Officer C.M. WENDLEBOE is NOW AVAILABLE and it is one heck of a mystery

Title: HUNTING THE SATURDAY NIGHT STRANGLER

Series: A BITTER WIND MYSTERY (BOOK TWO)

Author: C.M. WENDLEBOE

Genre: FICTION, THRILLERS AND MYSTERIES

Length: 288 PAGES

Publisher: MIDNIGHT INK BOOKS

Received From: NETGALLEY

Release Date: OCTOBER 1, 2018

ISBN: 9780738753621

Price: $15.99 USD (Paperback)

Rating: 5 OUT OF 5 STARS ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

DESCRIPTION:

Two innocent victims, strangled to death on consecutive Saturday nights. Even as they see the pattern emerging, retired detective Arn Anderson and TV reporter Ana Maria Villarreal can’t seem to convince the Cheyenne police that the killer may strike again.

Hunting a remorseless murderer leads Arn and Ana Maria down a rabbit hole of ranchers and rustlers. But the closer they come to catching the killer, the more they’re met with suspicion. And when their investigation collides with a desperate act of violence, they wonder whether they’re unwinding the killer’s twisted thread of clues or tightening their own noose.

MY REVIEW:

This is the second book in the “Bitter Wind Mysteries” Series however, it can easily be read as a standalone novel.

Retired police detective Arn Anderson has moved back to his hometown of Cheyenne, Wyoming to renovate his historic family home that had fallen into disrepair.

Arn has two roommates; one is Ana Maria Villarreal, a television reporter for the local news station, and the second roommate is Danny, a previously homeless man whom Arn has offered room and board in exchange for working on the house renovations.

Arn has been hired by the local ranchers association to try to discover who has been stealing their sheep. Sounds like an easy (and safe) job right? Wrong.

Arn has been unable to discover who is rustling sheep despite staking out numerous fields. Then, the job becomes much more serious when a body is found in one of the fields.

The television station hires Arn to find the killer before local law enforcement does. Seeing visions of central air-conditioning, Arn accepts the job.

What follows is a true whodunit. There are clues, promising leads that go nowhere, and gut feelings that lead everywhere.

Author C.M. Wendleboe’s history as a member of law enforcement shines throughout his writing. I believe that his past gives him a unique perspective on the limitations placed on the police when trying to investigate a crime.

Between the mystery of the identity of the local Sheepherder bandit, the fact that someone might be following Ana Maria and Arn’s gut feelings, it is just a matter of time before he either solves the case or more bodies pile up.

A page-turner with believable and compelling characters, this book will keep you guessing right up until it’s stunning conclusion. Reading this book will immerse readers in the life of a Wyoming rancher and even teach you some things about the use of dogs for herding sheep.

I rate HUNTING THE SATURDAY NIGHT STRANGLER as 5 out of 5 Stars ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

**Thank you to NetGalley for providing me with a free copy of this book.**

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To read my review of the first book in the BITTER WIND MYSTERY Series, click HERE.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

C.M. WENDELBOE entered the law enforcement profession when he was discharged from the Marines as the Vietnam war was winding down. In the 1970s, his career included assisting federal and tribal law enforcement agencies embroiled in conflicts with American Indian Movement activists in South Dakota.

He moved to Gillette, Wyoming, and found his niche, where he remained a sheriff’s deputy for more than 25 years. In addition, he was a longtime firearms instructor at the local college and within the community.

During his 38-year career in law enforcement he served successful stints as police chief, policy adviser, and other supervisory roles for several agencies. Yet he always has felt most proud of “working the street.”

He was a patrol supervisor when he retired to pursue his true vocation as a fiction writer.

To learn more about this author, visit the following links:

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ABOUT THE PUBLISHER: 

Celebrating ten years of the very best in mystery fiction, Midnight Ink publishes everything from quirky cozies to chilling thrillers.

From the outset, Midnight Ink has been dedicated to sleuthing out and fostering new talent, from their longest standing series by Jess Lourey, Sue Ann Jaffarian and Karen MacInerney to award-winning mysteries by G.M. Malliet and Catriona McPherson.

Prepare to burn the midnight oil with a Midnight Ink mystery.

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