SleuthFest – Day 3

Saturday, March 3, 2018

On Saturday morning at SleuthFest mystery writers’ conference, I listened to Gregg E. Brickman talk about book interior design for indie authors.

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Then I hung around chatting with friends until lunch. Here is literary agent Evan Marshall from The Evan Marshall Agency with myself and historical mystery author Alyssa Maxwell.

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The Saturday luncheon had Guest of Honor Andrew Gross give his inspirational speech on “Career Transitions: Meeting the Challenge of Change.”

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Following the GOH’s talk, our chapter’s winner of the prestigious Flamingo Award was announced. Guess what? It was ME!!!!! I was thrilled and excited to receive this honored service award.

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In the afternoon, I heard Dr. Katherine Ramsland, Al Hallonquist, Dirk Wyle, and Richard Wymer discuss the Natalie Wood case and all the conflicting theories about what happened that fateful night.

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Next, book reviewer Oline Cogdill interviewed all of the guest authors. Then it was time to party at cocktail hour with a buffet food line and cash bar. We mixed and mingled and relaxed with our friends, both old and new. The FlaMANgo award nominees were announced and the men donned their boas. Bestselling author P.J. Parrish is in these photos along with Joanne Sinchuk and Sue Wilder from Murder on the Beach Mystery Bookstore. Patrick, our recording expert, is in the middle photo.

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You can view more pictures on my Facebook page. Look for the SleuthFest 2018 album.

 

SleuthFest – Day 2

Friday,  March 2, 2018

Friday morning at SleuthFest mystery writers’ conference offered a choice of three workshops. I attended the talk on “Why Marketing Can Sometimes Yield Little to No Results” given by Maryglenn McCombs. See my workshop recap below. After this talk, I gave my own presentation on “Audiobooks with Amazon’s ACX.”

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Lunch came next with guest forensic specialist Katherine Ramsland, Ph.D, who spoke to us about serial killers. It was a chilling topic to hear during a meal.

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Friday afternoon, we had to choose from four workshop tracks. I went to the talk by Patrick Kendrick, thriller author and Fire Rescue Training Consultant. He spoke on USAR or Urban Search and Rescue as part of the nation’s disaster preparedness. The goal is to train the armed forces in fire-fighting and rescue techniques.

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Topics covered include technical rescue skills, site surveys and recon, mass decontamination procedures, personal protective equipment, atmospheric monitoring, and incident command organization. What do we expect in terms of domestic terrorism? CBRNE stands for Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear, Explosive. Patrick defined each one and made us glad we have people working to keep us safe.

The formal dinner this evening included the Freddie Awards Banquet. The winner in the Mystery category was Laura Brennan for The End of All Things. The winner in the Thriller category was Howard T. Konig for The Serial Killer’s Brother. Our infamous author auction followed until the evening’s conclusion.

You can view more photos on my Facebook page. Look for the SleuthFest 2018 album.

 

 

SleuthFest – Day 1

SleuthFest 2018 began on March 1, 2018 with “Third Degree” Thursday and a full day of writing workshops at this premier mystery writers’ conference held in Boca Raton, Florida. I arrived in time to give my presentation on “Developing a Mystery Series.” It was well attended and attendees asked a lot of good questions. That afternoon, I did my stint at the registration desk while greeting old friends and making new ones. In the middle photo is Steve Brown and Jeffrey Philips. Then to the right is Marty Ambrose with me and Michael L. Joy.

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Panelists from earlier that day had a booksigning in front of the on-site bookstore run by Murder on the Beach. We had the chance to buy raffle tickets from the boa ladies. Here I am with James R. Benn and Hallie Ephron.

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After a welcome speech by conference co-chairs Michael L. Joy and Victoria Landis, we heard guest publisher Neil Nyren from G.P. Putnam’s Sons give his presentation on “Myths and Truths, Part IV.”

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Thursday evening provided an occasion to eat dinner in the lobby for those of us not attending the SleuthFest 101 banquet dinner. A mystery trivia game followed. On the left are Ann Meier, Vincent H. O’Neill, and Susan Brandt. To the right with me are Kell Levendorf  and Dr. Chris Jackson.

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 You can view more photos on my Facebook page. Look for the SleuthFest 2018 album.

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Write What You Know

Today we have guest author Mary Cunningham discussing “Write What You Know” and sharing her experiences.

I’d written all my life, but until the ripe old age of fifty, I’d never ventured beyond family memoirs and very bad poetry. Then five crazy broads got together and formed WOOF: Women Only Over Fifty. All of us had reached that magic milestone, or were about to, and weren’t all that thrilled with the ramifications. Hormones, hot flashes, hair loss, and weight gain were just a few of the complaints.

We decided we could continue to bitch or become proactive bitches and write a book that not only made light of our fate, but honored our love of dogs, too. We embarked on the WOOF adventure including contributions, Hormones and Harmonies, Are We Barking up the Wrong Tree, The Hair of the Dog, and Old Dog/New Tricks. Really, if we’re going to gain weight, lose hair, and feel like we’re sitting in a pre-bake oven half the night, why not learn to laugh at it?

From there, I moved on to middle-grade fantasy. Huh? Not a natural transition? When you have a recurring dream about a friend’s attic that served as your clubhouse on rainy days when jumping rope or playing softball outside was impossible, you have to write about it. Write? Er…right? Cynthia’s Attic, all five books featuring best friends, ancestors, family stories, and time travel, sprang to life.

Using the “Write what you know” advice, I used old family pictures in this series to describe my characters and the setting for the 1914 stories, a small town in Southern Indiana; my hometown.

Another middle-grade series, The Adventures of Max & Maddie, is also in the works. Again with the time travel! Can you tell H.G. Wells’ The Time Machine was one of my favorite books as a kid? Max and best friend, Maddie, delve more into history instead of magic.

I’m not sure what made me jump into a totally different genre, except I’m so glad I did! Andi Anna Jones Mysteries is an adult series about an inept travel agent whose real talent is amateur sleuthing. Again, using the “Write what you know” advice, I was that inept travel agent in North Miami Beach. (Won’t mention the agency in case there are pending lawsuits against me.) Seriously, I was awful! Just as I’d hoped, the first book, Margaritas, Mayhem & Murder, has given me some sense of redemption and has also exorcised a few ghosts.

Writing can be so satisfying and cathartic, and while I got an unusually late start, I plan to write as long as my fingers will cooperate. Reading gives us the opportunity to escape into our own little worlds, and as authors, we can write books and stories that offer readers a much-needed escape into other worlds, countries, cultures, and minds.

Margaritas, Mayhem, & Murder: An Andi Anna Jones Mystery (# 1), was released Nov. 30, 2017. If you have as much fun reading it as I had writing it, we’ll all be winners!

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Purchase “Margaritas, Mayhem & Murder”

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B076N6KBM3
BN Nook: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/margaritas-mayhem-murder-mary-cunningham/1127355519?type=eBook
Smashwords: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/756600
Google Play: https://play.google.com/store/books/details/Mary_Cunningham_Margaritas_Mayhem_Murder?id=0jU8DwAAQBAJ
Kobo: https://www.kobo.com/ca/en/ebook/margaritas-mayhem-murder

Mary Cunningham

MaryCunningham

Author Mary Cunningham grew up on the northern side of the Ohio River in Corydon, Indiana. Her first memories are of her dad’s original bedtime stories that no doubt inspired her imagination and love of a well-spun “yarn”.

Childhood experiences, and a recurring dream about a mysterious attic, inspired characters Cynthia and Augusta Lee, for her award-winning middle-grade series, Cynthia’s Attic. The setting is her childhood home in Southern Indiana. Family stories and ancestors comprise the storylines. There are currently five books in this series.

Through a horrifying stint as a travel agent and a more rewarding experience teaching travel and tourism, the character, Andi Anna Jones, travel agent/amateur sleuth, inspired her latest adult mystery series. Mary is currently writing Book #2 of the series, along with another middle-grade series, The Adventures of Max and Maddie, a historical time-travel. The author is also trying her hand at writing a bio for a former UConn and WNBA basketball player, former army brat, who started a scholarship foundation to assist the children of deployed military veterans. Mary is a member of The Georgia Reading Association and the Carrollton Writers Guild.

When she gives her fingers a break from the keyboard, she enjoys golf, swimming and exploring the mountains of West Georgia, where she makes her home with her husband and adopted, four-legged, fur-daughter, Lucy.

Social Media Links 

Website: https://www.marycunninghambooks.com
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/marycunninghambooks/
Twitter: http://twitter.com/MaryCunningham
LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/marycunningham1/
Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/367223.Mary_Cunningham
Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/-/e/B002BLNEK4

 

FWA Conference Recap – Staging Fight Scenes

Fight Scenes

Author L.E. Perez gave a good talk on fight scenes at the Florida Writers Association 2017 Conference . Here are the tips I garnered. Any errors are due to my misinterpretation.

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  • Focus on character emotions.
  • Defending yourself is not the same as being prepared to injure someone.
  • PTSD happens to anyone who experiences a violent event or is a crime victim. This also applies to domestic abuse since the characters are at war.
  • Consider words that reflect a fight: sudden clarity, adrenaline rush, freeze up, smashed, buffeted, rage, pain.
  • If your character punches someone, he may need to shake his hand out afterward. It hurts to throw a punch.
  • Allow for recovery time. Either use the recovery in the story, or skip ahead and have the character recount what happened during this interval.
  • In a knife fight, someone invariably gets cut. Or your hero might survive a knife fight and then cut himself chopping vegetables for a bit of humor.
  • Act out your action scenes to get a sense of motion. How is your character moving during the scene? How is he holding a weapon?
  • Kamas is a weapon with a scythe-like blade on one end and a pointed blade on the other end.
  • Not all knives are throwing knives. They have to be properly balanced.

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News Update from Nancy

Fall season is in full swing, and so here’s an update on what’s going on. I’ve been busy writing, and that is taking precedence over blogs at this time. I’m up to page 265 in Trimmed to Death and still have more to go, but the finish line is in sight. This title will be #15 in the Bad Hair Day Mysteries. It’s my first draft, which I’ll be ecstatic to finish, but you know that doesn’t mean the work is done. Lots of revisions are ahead, but I want to work on some more backlist titles and another audiobook as well. Conferences and speaking engagements are coming up, not to mention the holidays.
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Online
Friday, Oct. 6, See what hairstylist sleuth Marla Vail has to say about her latest adventures in “A Day in the Life” at Dru’s Book Musings. Leave a comment by Oct. 8 for a chance to win an ebook copy of Haunted Hair Nights.
Friday, Oct. 13, Guest post on “Going Indie” at Author Expressions
In-Person
Saturday, Oct. 7 at 2:00 pm, “The Indie Experience” with Angela Page, Ruth Berge, Elaine Bossik, Joan Cochran, and Nancy J. Cohen as moderator at Murder on the Beach Mystery Bookstore, 273 NE 2nd Avenue, Delray Beach, FL 33444. Phone: 561-279-7790.
Monday, Oct. 9 at 9:30 am, Guest Speaker Nancy J. Cohen, Friends of the Library, Helen B. Hoffman Plantation Library, 501 North Fig Tree Lane, Plantation, FL 33317. Phone: 954-797-2140.
Oct. 19 – 22, Workshop Presenter at Florida Writers Association Conference, Altamonte Springs, Hilton Orlando Altamonte Spring, 350 Northlake Blvd., Altamonte Springs, FL 32701. Phone: 407-830-1985. https://floridawriters.net/conferences/florida-writers-conference-2017/
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Mystery Fest Key West

Here are notes from some of the workshops I’d attended at Mystery Fest Key West. Any errors are mine due to my misinterpretation.
Friday started off with a talk by a representative from the Bomb Squad. The bomb squad in Monroe County gets about thirty calls a year. Lots of them involve old military ordinance like torpedoes and grenades, and about eighty percent are still live. Once a mortar round was dug up in a fellow’s yard and it dated back to 1887. Other finds might include acid bombs, pipe bombs, vehicle bombs, flares, and other old explosives that turn up in people’s backyards.
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The investigators want to know: What is it? Why is it here? How can we disrupt it? Compressed water will tear the devices apart but won’t set them off. They have to make sure it’s safe while preserving the evidence.
When the guys respond, they keep a distance of three hundred feet or more and stay behind a protective barrier. If they have to go in closer to determine if an object is safe they’ll don helmets and flak jackets. Or they’ll send in the Robot.
The Robot is used for recon and demolition. It costs approximately $265,000 and can run up to seven miles per hour. It has six cameras, some of them encased, and it can climb stairs as well as go in and out of planes and buses. The Robot can take X-rays and can drag up to 300 pounds. It is remote-controlled at a five mile range. The machine runs on dual motorcycle batteries.
Police Myths
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James O. Born spoke about police myths and how to make our law enforcement officers more realistic in our stories. He distinguished between the uniformed Highway Patrol officers and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement that’s more of an investigative agency. He spoke about pay and pensions and how patrol is the main job for a cop. They are taught to shoot in order to stop a suspect, not necessarily to kill. Deadly force would be a last resort. Plainclothes is not the same as undercover which involves deception.
I missed some of Lisa Black’s excellent talk on Blood Spatter as I had to prepare for my “Writing the Cozy Mystery” workshop coming next. Then it was time to head over to Hemingway House for an outdoor reception with drinks and appetizers.
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On Saturday, Randy Rawls moderated a panel on “Where I Get My Ideas” including John H. Cunningham, David Beckwith, Charles Todd, and Paul Sinor. Next came Heather Graham moderating the interesting discussion on “How to Commit a Perfect Murder” with Lisa Black, Rick Ollerman, Robert Coburn, and Siera London. Here’s how: 1. Don’t Get Caught. 2. Is it really a murder if there’s no body? 3. Poisons have worked well throughout history, especially before modern forensics. 4. If there’s trace evidence, you will get caught. There really isn’t a right answer to this question.

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Honored Guest Clifford Irving gave the keynote luncheon speech. Here he is with conference chair, Shirrel Rhoades.
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I skipped the next panel, “It Takes a Crook,” to get ready for Cozy Mysteries and Female Sleuths. I moderated a panel about female sleuths where we touched upon many subjects. One of the main points that came across was that women sleuths are more intuitive and compassionate, and these stories often involve interpersonal relationships or family issues.
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The evening continued with a special dinner party held at the historical Custom House Museum, which houses displays on the island’s military history.
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This is always a fun conference in a relaxed atmosphere with fellow authors and fans who are eager to learn about our books.
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Malice Domestic Mystery Conference

Malice Domestic is a conference for cozy mystery writers and fans. This one began with a bang on Friday morning with the always fun but exhausting Malice-Go-Round. I was number four on the wait list in this author lottery, but I got in as no one else waited in the wings. Armed with my series postcards and a two-minute spiel promoting Facials Can Be Fatal, I sat at the first table with my partner, author Jeri Westerson. The two of us would hop from table-to-table twenty times in total. By the time we ended, my voice came out as a croak and my throat was dry despite the water provided. But I’d met my goal of encountering new readers and greeting author friends along the way. This remains a favorite event to introduce my books to potential fans.
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On Friday afternoon, I skipped out to meet family at Brookside Gardens. We had a lovely stroll and a snack together. I returned in time for the opening ceremonies at Malice. Dinner on your own followed. I’m afraid I bypassed the live auction and later reception in favor of retiring early.
Saturday morning, I attended the Sisters in Crime breakfast.
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At 10 am, I was on a panel titled Just Die Laughing: Humor in Mysteries with authors Donna Andrews, Jessie Chandler, and Nancy G. West. Our moderator was Karen Cantwell who did an excellent job. We laughed along with the audience hearing our stories about research and other experiences. Some humor can be slapstick. Some can be situational. Or some can come from secondary characters or the sleuth’s world view. I enjoyed listening to my fellow panelists.
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A booksigning followed upstairs in the atrium. Here I am sitting next to Marla Cooper, author of Terror in Taffeta, a Destination Wedding Mystery.
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After lunch, I sat in on a panel about U.S. Historicals. It was interesting to hear about each author’s sleuth and series setting.
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Saturday evening was the Agatha Awards Banquet. Congratulations to all the winners! The meal was delicious and my table companions were delightful. I sat with the elegant Carole Nelson Douglas along with Julie McKuras and Patti Ruocco.
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Sunday morning, I attended the new author’s breakfast. It’s fun to hear the newbies speak and tell about their first published mystery novels. Then I sat in on another panel titled “Death for Dessert: Sweet Murder.” These authors write culinary mysteries. Listening to them speak about their works made me hungry again.
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I satisfied this urge at the final Agatha Tea and closing ceremonies. Then we were off to see family again before leaving the next day. Into my suitcase went this stack of books I’d acquired at the conference.
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The best part of any conference is the friends you make. Here are some of the wonderful people I met at Malice.
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SleuthFest 2017 Recap

SleuthFest 2017 was another stellar event held at the Embassy Suites in Boca Raton. This premier mystery writers’ conference is sponsored by the Florida Chapter of Mystery Writers of America. Third Degree Thursday kicked off the weekend with a bunch of workshops and Dirk Wyle’s Readers’ Corner. That evening, co-chairs Victoria Landis and Joanne Sinchuk welcomed everyone to the conference. We heard publisher Neil Nyren discuss the state of the industry and agents in particular. Then those folks who had signed up attended the “Sleuthfest 101” dinner followed by a trivia contest.
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Friday morning, I attended a workshop by publicist Maryglenn McCombs titled Seven Secrets to Promoting a Book. Then I moderated a panel on How to Keep a Series from Getting Stale with authors Lynnette Hallberg, Cheryl Hollon, Carol J. Perry, and Nancy G. West. Using different settings, interesting research, new characters, evolving relationships, and character arcs were some of the techniques mentioned.
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Lunch in the ballroom followed with a talk by our Forensic Guest of Honor, Dr. Vincent DiMaio. His graphic slides made swallowing our meal difficult but his talk was fascinating. He spoke about cases that appeared to be natural deaths or accidents, but upon closer examination, proved to be murder.
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Another round of workshops followed. Next came my own presentation on Preparing for Your Book Launch. I spoke about the various ways writers can publicize a new book release.
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The banquet on Friday evening included the Freddie Awards Ceremony. The winner in the Mystery category was Graham Reed from Vancouver for his entry, The Chairman’s Toys. The winner of the Thriller category was Millie Naylor Hast from Texas for her entry, Takeover.

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Saturday morning found us back attending workshops. I moderated the one titled Crime Solving Couples with speakers Carol J. Perry and Nancy G. West. The three of us spoke about how the couples work together in our respective series.
Luncheon brought us Keynote Speaker and Bestselling Author David Baldacci, who entertained and educated us while we ate. He’s a great speaker, and I couldn’t wait to read his book “The Finisher” that I’d bought in the on-site bookstore run by Murder on the Beach Mystery Bookstore.
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Then former chapter president Randy Rawls presented the Flamingo Award to the very deserving Rick Wymer, who with his wife Mary Lou, have spent hours of selfless devotion as volunteers in the service of FMWA.
At this point, I’m sorry to say, I went upstairs to my hotel room to rest. I’d contracted a cold and sinus infection at the end of the FRW conference cruise, and I was getting worse instead of better. But I made it to the cocktail party that evening and had a nice chat with fellow authors. Still not feeling well, I cut out early on Sunday morning and had to miss our Sunday Guest of Honor, Jeff Lindsay. I’ve heard he was a great speaker and very entertaining.
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And so now we must begin to plan for next year. Go Here to see more photos.

 
 
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Blood, Bones and Books Halloween Party

Blood, Bones and Books: A Gathering of 13 Goblins and Ghouls Day-Before-Halloween Party

Sunday, October 30, 6 – 8 pm at Murder on the Beach Mystery Bookstore, 273 NE 2nd Avenue, Delray Beach, FL 33444. Phone: 561-279-7790 http://murderonthebeach.com/

Halloween

Join us for bloody brews, creepy cuisine, and goblin and ghoul authors as they discuss their work, writing habits, and publishing. Featured authors include:

Prudy Taylor Board
Ali Brandon
Nancy J. Cohen
Susan Cox
Eliot Kleinberg
Fred Lichtenberg
Sharon Menear
DJ Niko
Jeffrey Hammerhead Philips
Randy Rawls
Michal Sherring
Mark Spivak
Tom Swick

· Spooky but delicious refreshments will be served.
· Free treat bag with every purchase.
· Mingle with your favorite authors.
· Fortune teller on hand to predict your future.
· Costumes encouraged, but optional.
· Booksigning will follow.

Admission is free and the public is invited! For more information, contact murdermb@gate.net

NOTE: If you can’t come but want signed copies of Nancy’s books, contact the bookstore and they can oblige.

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