BAD DEEDS: A Teaser

 

All right, you’ve been more than patient. So here are a couple of very brief “teaser” excerpts from BAD DEEDS, scheduled for publication in May 2014 :

 

He ignored his mother’s shouts and stumbled down the darkened stairs in his bare feet. He was just reaching out for the front door knob when a brilliant bluish flash lit all the windows around him and the entire downstairs as if it were morning—followed by a deafening bang that shattered all the glass and shook the floorboards beneath his feet.

Ears ringing, he could barely hear screams somewhere behind him . . . upstairs . . . his mind numb for a second, trying to function . . . then remembering . . .

“Dad!” he screamed. His voice sounded muffled by the ringing in his ears.

He fumbled at the door knob, tore it open, lurched outside. To his right, twenty yards away, Dad’s lab—a converted guest house—ablaze . . . coils of smoke and shards of flame pouring from its shattered windows . . . surrounding trees shimmering an eerie red-orange . . .

Horrified, he rushed down the porch steps into the yard.

“Daaaaad!” he screamed again.

 

And from somewhat later in the book, this:

 

She blinked. “You’re the reporter he talked about.”

“Yes.”

“The one investigating this.”BAD DEEDS COVER -- EBOOK -- FINAL REDUCED

“That’s right.”

Something awakened in her eyes. She released her son’s hand and seized Dylan’s.

“Find out who did this!” she hissed between clenched teeth.

He nodded slowly. “I will.”

Her eyes began to fill. She looked at each of her children, then back at him.

“They have to pay.”

He raised her hand. Pressed it to his chest.

“They will.”

 

And here is the product description for the novel:

 

THE VIGILANTE IS BACK.

He sought peace in the tranquility of nature.
But can he tame the violence in his own nature?

At a cabin in the Allegheny National Forest, Dylan Hunter and Annie Woods seek to heal the wounds from their ordeal at the hands of a twisted psychopath. And to build a life together, Dylan promises to abandon his violent ways.

But ideological zealots and Washington’s political elites have conspired to terrorize and plunder the hard-working locals. These victims have no protector against the bad deeds of the powerful and privileged.

Except for one man. A man as ruthless and violent as they. A man committed to absolute justice.

Because Dylan Hunter cannot walk away . . . even if it costs him the woman he loves.

Posted in BAD DEEDS: A Dylan Hunter Thriller, Book samples, Vigilante fiction | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Five-Star Thriller Recommendation

 

Ladies and gentlemen, I owe someone an apology.

Well, thinking back on my 64 years, I probably owe lots of people apologies. But today’s apology goes to thriller author Stephen England.

Way, way back in December 2011, I interviewed Stephen in these pages upon the publication of what is now the first novel in his “Shadow Warriors” thriller series, Pandora’s Grave. At the beginning of that interview I reported that I had begun to read the novel. However, that was the same month in which HUNTER soared onto the bestseller lists, and I found myself constantly diverted and distracted by the ensuing rounds of reviews, interviews, and book signings. So, I put the book aside after getting about a quarter of the way in. By the time I got back to it, months later, I realized that to fully appreciate it, I’d have to restart from the beginning because of how much I’d forgotten.

Pandora’s Grave has been gathering dust on my mountainous “to be read” stack next to my bed, ever since. And that has been a source of personal embarrassment to me, too, ever since. For one thing, Stephen was one of the earliest and most enthusiastic readers of HUNTER. For another, he has since become a good friend. I certainly owed him the courtesy of reciprocal attention.

But now I own up to a third reason for embarrassment: For three years, I have denied myself the pleasure of reading a great thriller.

Pandoras-Grave-smaller-coverThose who know me well also know that I wouldn’t say such a thing if I didn’t mean it, simply as an act of obligation or friendship. So let me say it again: Pandora’s Grave is truly an extraordinary work by an enormously gifted writer.

I don’t want to rehash details about this novel that you can easily get by perusing its product page on Amazon. Suffice it to say that Pandora’s Grave is a sweeping international thriller about an Iranian bioterrorism plot designed to set the entire Middle East ablaze, and the courageous American special operators who are in a desperate race against time to stop it.

Stock post-9/11 thriller plot, right?

Oh, but wait: In Stephen England’s hands, this idea is transformed into an extraordinarily ambitious, panoramic exploration of the minds, motives, and methods of a vast host of international figures and movements: from the U.S. president to foreign religious leaders and heads of state; from CIA bosses, analysts, and field officers, to their counterparts in the Israeli Mossad and other foreign intelligence services; from the feuding factions of Sunnis and Shiites and their Ayatollahs and Grand Muftis, to sophisticated terrorist schemers, to the expendable cannon-fodder recruits in their cells.

But above all, it explores the lives of the “shadow warriors” in this ongoing war: the U.S. special operators who daily, courageously, unhesitatingly put their bodies and souls on the line to protect America from its enemies.

Now, that would be compelling enough. But add to this a ticking-bomb storyline of unrelenting suspense. Then add an utterly astonishing mountain of realistic, you-are-there detail: about Middle Eastern history, geography, and politics; about the history, doctrines, traditions, practices, and schisms within the religion of Islam; about a host of colorful, gritty locales scattered throughout Iran, Iraq, Israel, the West Bank, Lebanon, Crete, the United States (including many scenes at CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia), and a bunch of other exotic places I’ve forgotten; about bioterrorism; about the organization and tactics of terrorist cells; about a mind-boggling array of sophisticated modern weapons, communications gadgets, spy satellites and technology; about small-team special ops methods, equipment, lingo, and tactics . . .

. . . and finally, about the human spirit. The glue holding all of this stunning detail together consists of the character and commitments of real flesh-and-blood human beings, most notably the story’s main hero, veteran CIA paramilitary operator Harry Nichols. His is a rich, complex portrait of a man of deep moral and religious convictions who must do violent and terrible things to protect his country and those he loves from those who wish to do them harm. This is where the heart of this long, sprawling tale lies — perhaps the most singular element that elevates it so far above mundane action thrillers. For author England means to explore the moral and psychological costs of warfare upon the warrior.

Any thriller author of mature years would be proud to craft a novel as big and ambitious as Pandora’s Grave, perhaps even consider it to be his masterwork. It is without doubt the product of years of exhaustive reading and the intellectual mastery of a vast number of arcane topics. Even now in my sixties, I certainly could not have written this book, or anything like it.

But as I was reading it, I had to continually remind myself — in flabbergasted disbelief — that Stephen England began writing Pandora’s Grave at age 19, and that he finished and published it in 2011, at age 21. (Incredibly, even earlier in his teens he also wrote an historical adventure novel set in Gaul and the Celtic islands around 250 B.C.: Sword of Neamha.) Today, with three published novels and two short stories under his belt, England is still only 24 years old.

There is simply no way that a man this young can possibly have learned so much about . . . so much. And yet, there it is. Pandora’s Grave is clearly the work of a young literary prodigy.

Day of Reckoning coverIf you are a fan of big international espionage or military thrillers, I want you to do yourself a huge favor: Buy and read this book now. After you do, you will almost certainly want to read the subsequent entries in the “Shadow Warriors” series: the even-bigger Harry Nichols sequel, Day of Reckoning; plus two nail-biting short stories: the powerful and poignant Nightshade, and the just-released TalismanIf you don’t trust my judgment, thinking me biased by friendship, just go sample the rave reviews by Amazon customers for these thrilling tales.

Pandora’s Grave is the mind-blowing launch of what is certain to be a renowned and fertile thriller-writing career. After my unforgivably foolish tardiness in reading his debut in the “Shadow Warriors” series, I can’t wait to read the rest of Stephen England’s works.

Posted in Author profiles, Interviews, Reviews, Vigilante fiction | 1 Comment

Authors — Beware the New Vanity Publishers

 

As regular visitors know, I am a strong proponent of self-publishing options for most authors. However, I frequently encounter writers (including one posting a recent comment here) who have been victimized by self-publishing scams: “vanity publishing” companies, masquerading as providers of grossly expensive “packages” of “self-publishing services.” Here, I want to warn you about those rackets and some of the major racketeers.

First, let’s get something straight: Today’s true self-publishing options do not have to be expensive. At a host of online sites, a writer can find and hire talented freelance help to produce great book covers, to design and lay out her print edition, and to format her ebooks (which she can also learn to do easily for herself). The cost for all of that does not need to exceed a few hundred dollars — perhaps $1,000, if you go all-out.

You also can enlist competent volunteer “beta readers” for editing and proofreading assistance, often in exchange for no more than a free autographed copy of your published book and a mention in its “Acknowledgments.” With today’s D.I.Y. tools, you can build your own blog, or have some tech-savvy friend do it for you, for a pittance. You can design and buy 1,000 fancy business cards advertising your book cover and contact information from a site like GotPrint.com for under $20. You can simply, easily set up ebook publishing accounts, then list and upload your ebooks to multiple international online sales sites — Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Smashwords, etc. — for free. You can have your book professionally printed by Amazon’s Createspace or other “print on demand” companies at virtually no charge, and never have to pay huge sums to print up an advance inventory that sits unsold and gathering mold in your basement. And by using tried-and-true online marketing strategies, you can promote your book to your target readers without any wasting money on expensive advertising.

Modern self-publishing, in short, is simple and inexpensive. You do not have to buy “self-publishing packages” costing $2,500 to $10,000 or even more, from companies that promise you the moon in promotion, marketing, and advertising . . . but never deliver. To cite my own example: I self-published HUNTER to include book cover, print-book interior design and layout, ebook formatting, beta-reader feedback, setting up this blog, post-office-box rental, business cards, state registration of my “Avenger Books” business name, plus shipping envelopes and labels — all for under $1,000.

And I don’t have to emphasize again how well that modest investment paid off.

But with the boom in self-publishing, it was only to be expected that sharks would smell the blood of potential victims in the water: desperate authors who are uneducated, intimidated, and floundering in this strange new publishing ocean. What those authors probably do not expect is that Big Publishing has joined the circling sharks.

In July 2012, Penguin — now Penguin Random House, the biggest of the “Big Five” publishers — bought an outfit called “Author Solutions.” Author Solutions is the umbrella publishing-services operation for a host of its own “vanity publishing” subsidiaries and imprints, including AuthorHouse, Trafford, iUniverse, Xlibris, Palibrio, BookTango, WordClay, FuseFrame, PitchFest, Author Learning Center, and AuthorHive. In addition, Author Solutions provides its services to a host of outside vanity-publishing shops run by other major publishers besides Penguin Random House: Archway (for Simon & Schuster), Partridge (for Penguin), Westbow (for Thomas Nelson/HarperCollins), Balboa Press (Hay House), Abbot Press (Writers’ Digest/F+W Media), Dellarte Press (Harlequin).

Every single one of those imprints is a “vanity press.” By that I mean: companies that make their money, not by selling an author’s books to paying customers (readers), but by selling expensive publishing services to authors themselves. They couldn’t care less how many books are sold; they care only how many authors they can enlist to buy over-priced “packages” of services.

Nobody has been more on top of these scams than indie writer David Gaughran. (Among his books, David is author of the outstanding guide to ebook self-publishing, Let’s Get Digital, and to its superb how-to companion about marketing self-published ebooks, Let’s Get Visible.) You can read several of his recent exposes about these sleazy operations here and here. Each contains plenty of links to other background information. You will see how the entire publishing industry and its publications — including Publishers Weekly, Writers’ Digest, Kirkus, and major book review organs — profiteer from it all.

Meanwhile, if you really want to learn how to self-publish, simply and inexpensively — and how to avoid the vanity-press scammers — I urge you to read Mr. Gaughran’s excellent books. There are others, but his are a great place to start.

 

Posted in Book business, HUNTER: A Thriller, Marketing Advice, Publishing Advice, Self-Publishing, Traditional publishing, Vanity publishing scams | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Blockbuster Report Reveals Amazon Book Sales Data — and Great News for Indie Authors (updates including B&N)

 

Authors — whether indie, traditionally, or “hybrid” published — have a new “must-read” report to chew on, and a new website to visit regularly.

Previous analyses of book sales and author earnings have left out Amazon, the biggest single book retailer. Because they have based their sales claims mainly on print sales in stores, publishers have been able to present an entirely skewed portrait of the book industry — a portrait that continues to seduce many unwary writers.

No more. Hybrid-publishing superstar Hugh Howey, working with an anonymous “data guru,” has just mined the bestseller lists of Amazon to compile stunning statistics about what kind of books are selling there, how well, which authors are doing best, and much more. Their first report is posted on their new website, AuthorEarnings.Com.

And it is a blockbuster. It reveals — for the first time — just how well self-published and “hybrid” authors are selling and earning in comparison with traditionally published writers. And that’s not all. Among their remarkable findings:

  • In their sample of many thousands of bestselling titles, self-published works have higher average ratings from readers than do the e-books from major publishers.
  • The Mystery/Thriller, Science Fiction/Fantasy, and Romance genres accounted for 70% of all the titles on the Amazon bestseller lists.
  • The combined number of indie (35%) and small-publisher (15%) titles in these bestselling genres significantly outnumber titles issued by the “Big 5″ publishers (28%).
  • In genre fiction, daily unit sales of indie titles account for 39% of all sales on Amazon, with small-press books adding 8%, and titles from Amazon Publishing (the company’s own firm) bringing in 15% of the total. Daily unit sales of all the “Big 5″ publishers combined amount to only 34% of the total genre sales on Amazon. In short: On Amazon, self-publishing authors are outselling all the “Big 5″ publishers combined.
  • Of the top 2500 Amazon genre-fiction bestsellers, a whopping 86% of the sales were in ebook format. All print editions combined made up only 12% of the total, while audiobooks accounted for 2%.
  • “Big 5″-published genre ebooks brought in 52% of the daily gross sales dollars (due to their higher average prices), and indie books accounted for just 24%. But in terms of author earnings on those sales, the figures were inverted: 47% of all author revenue went to self-published authors, while just 32% was distributed among all “Big 5″ authors, and only 4% to authors published by small-and-medium presses.

I found this chart particularly devastating in its implications for traditional publishers (click on it for an enlarged view):

Revenue Distribution to Author-Publisher-AmazonHowey explains what the chart reveals:

Blue represents the author. You can clearly see that for Big-Five published works, the publisher makes more than twice what the author makes for the sale of an e-book. Keep in mind that the profit margins for publishers are better on e-books than they are on hardbacks [link]. That means the author gets a smaller cut while the publisher takes a larger share. This, despite the fact that e-books do not require printing, warehousing, or shipping. As a result, self-published authors as a group are making 50% more profit than their traditionally published counterparts, even though their books have only half the gross sales revenue.

You can see why this report is already causing an uproar in the book business. It demonstrates, with previously unavailable data, that self-publishing is indeed a far more viable option for most authors than is traditional publishing.

Please read the entire report; there is much more, including comparisons of how much more income indie authors are earning on Amazon vis-a-vis traditionally published. The “Author Earnings” website also promises to expand and update its data and reports constantly, providing the most accurate picture possible of what is really happening in the book business today.

Congratulations and thanks to Hugh and his associate for a magnificent and eye-opening job.

 

UPDATE: Hugh and his “Data Guy” have now expanded their efforts with a new survey. It includes some 54,000 fiction and nonfiction titles from virtually all of Amazon’s various category and subcategory bestseller lists. The stunning results only reinforce the conclusions from their initial survey, which focused on 7,000 titles in the most popular genre-fiction categories. You can read their new report here.

UPDATE #2: Hugh and his Data Guy now have run their web-crawling spider through the Barnes & Noble genre bestseller lists. Surprise! Just as on Amazon, self-published ebooks grab a huge share of genre bestsellers on BN.com. That takes away another of Big Publishing’s counter-narratives to Howey’s earlier reports, i.e., “Amazon’s sales aren’t representative of the whole industry.” Try as they might to spin these facts, facts, as they say, are stubborn things. And these prove that lots of indie authors are making lots of money without the industry “support” that publishers claim is so necessary to a writer’s success. Read the Barnes & Noble report here.

Posted in Audiobooks, Book business, Publishing Advice, Self-Publishing, Traditional publishing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Ringing in the New

 

2013 was a year of challenges. However, the year ends with good reasons to expect a much better 2014.

Regarding my long-delayed (and, for many of you, long-awaited) BAD DEEDS, I’ve entered the final turn and am heading into the home stretch, now. Barring any late stumbles, the book will be published in the first quarter of the year. My major goal prior to hitting the “publish” button will be to add the bells and whistles that will make the story worthy of your long wait.

Meanwhile, thanks to you who have visited here this past year, and especially to those of you who have shared your insights and comments. We’ll meet again in the new year, my friends — and I hope it will be your happiest and most rewarding year ever.

Bidinotto signature

 
Posted in Announcements, BAD DEEDS: A Dylan Hunter Thriller, Events, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | 4 Comments

Scene from a Holiday Book Signing

 

“THE VIGILANTE AUTHOR” appeared at a group book signing for local authors, hosted by the Queen Anne’s Library Centreville Branch, Centreville, MD, on December 11, 2013. (Photo by Hafiz Rashid of the Bay Times/Record Observer; click on the photo for a larger image).

Bidinotto at Centreville Library signing 12-11-13Here was an advance item in the local newspapers announcing the final event in this series of local authors’ appearances — this one at the Kent Island branch of the same library system, in Stevensville, MD, on December 18, 2013.

I want to thank all the library’s fine staff for their hard work and support in sponsoring these events. I also want to thank my fellow writers for their camaraderie and “war stories” while we met readers and signed our books. Their names, book titles, and impressive bios are all listed in the article linked above.

Now, back into the office, door shut, phone deactivated, to finish writing BAD DEEDS.

 

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A Key Tip About Marketing Yourself and Your Work

 

Almost every day I am contacted by writers seeking advice about marketing their books. I’ve written about this topic extensively, and I often share with them links to sources that I believe are valuable.

One especially helpful source is bestselling author Kristine Kathryn Rusch, a veteran of the publishing industry who now publishes independently. She maintains an invaluable blog where she discusses all aspects of the business. Lately, she’s been writing a series on “discoverability”: on how to make your books stand out from the millions of competing titles. It’s well worth following. (Click these links for Part I; Part II; Part III; and Part IV.)

The latest, Part IV, highlights an issue I have long emphasized: the problem of what I might call “marketing mimicry.” It means trying to copy the specific marketing tactics that you see everyone else employing, or that have always been employed — and expecting them to generate exceptional sales.

For example, let’s assume that you are a really good writer of romances — perhaps even better than many successful authors in that genre. You see that every romance book cover has bare-chested males, so you copy that concept and put a bare-chested male on your own cover. You see that every other indie author is pricing her ebooks at $2.99 this month, so you copy that pricing, too. You see that a lot of other authors have produced book markers to advertise their titles, so you shell out the money to do that. You see that everyone else this past few months has been advertising on Bookbub.com, so you do that, too. Etc., etc.

And then you wonder why your sales remain disappointing.

What you don’t grasp is that mimicry is fatal to discoverability. In a competitive, overcrowded marketplace, if you do the same things that everyone else is doing, then you will become lost in the crowd, and thus invisible to your target customers. (That same principle applies to all business, entrepreneurial, and job-related competition, incidentally.)

To become “discoverable,” you must do something that makes you distinctive and unique, so that you stand out in the crowd to your target audience.

In her latest post, Kristine cites the example of a successful advertising executive-turned-author named James Patterson, and how he employed an unprecedented marketing tactic in 1993 — while he was still an unknown — in order to put himself on everyone’s radar. Patterson, who was already wealthy, shelled out big bucks to advertise on TV. Well, it seems to have worked out fairly well for him, wouldn’t you say?

Now, you and I don’t have the money to do TV ads. Nor would that tactic necessarily work well today, because the marketplace has changed. But the point is that Patterson did something unique at that time, something that made him stand out and grab the attention of his target readers. He did it because his traditional publisher wasn’t thinking creatively: They were executing for Patterson the same tired old marketing tactics that they always had used for every other author. It wasn’t working for him, so he decided to try something different.

Rusch goes on to point out that traditional publishers — and the authors under their imprimaturs — remain stuck employing copycat marketing tactics and strategies by inertia, simply because things were always done that way in the past. Their entire companies are built around these hoary old plans. Citing Patterson’s example, she says, “I’m telling you to start thinking outside the box.”

I’m telling you to start thinking outside the box.  – See more at: http://kriswrites.com/2013/12/11/the-business-rusch-the-old-ways-discoverability-part-4/#sthash.XB5DOxmP.dpuf
I’m telling you to start thinking outside the box.  – See more at: http://kriswrites.com/2013/12/11/the-business-rusch-the-old-ways-discoverability-part-4/#sthash.XB5DOxmP.dpuf

So am I. One thing I’ll tell every author who writes me for suggestions: Don’t expect the most popular marketing tactic du jour to give you exceptional results. When every author uses the same marketing tactic, adopting it won’t make you or your book stand out and become discoverable. To the contrary: It will only make you and the book fade into the background.

Instead, I counsel this:

Don’t focus too much on short-term tactics. Focus on long-term strategic differentiation. By that I mean: Find something that is essential or intrinsic to your own identity and/or to that of your work — something that is inherently different. Identify a distinction that nobody else could easily copy, or — better yet — even want to copy.

Then build your entire marketing strategy around that distinction.

It might be something unusual about you or your background, as an author in your particular genre (e.g., Dick Francis was a champion jockey who set all his mysteries in the world of horse racing). It might be something unique and memorable about your main character (think Tarzan, Sherlock, Stephanie Plum, or Jack Reacher) — or the world you’ve created (think of Tolkien’s Middle Earth, Robert B. Parker’s Boston, Hugh Howey’s “silo world” in Wool, Vince Flynn’s CIA, etc.) — or even your personal writing style (remember e.e. cummings?).

Whatever it is, if you are thoughtful about selecting that key differentiating factor  — and if you focus all your marketing efforts around it — then you will begin to stand out from the pack and become “discoverable”; you will start to seize the attention of your target readership; and you will set the foundation for a viable long-term marketing strategy.

No, that one principle certainly does not constitute the entirety of effective marketing. But I think it is central to effective marketing. It’s all about branding and “positioning” yourself in the competitive marketplace. Done well, it allows even a lone author without the backing of a Big Publisher, and without a lot of money or name recognition, to compete successfully with millions of other authors for the attention of readers.

So, if you already are a skilled author, one who writes good books that would appeal to a specific readership, then your challenge is to make yourself “discoverable” to that readership by creative, strategic differentiation. If you do that, then I believe you will see much improved sales.

Meanwhile, I urge you to read successful authors like Kristine Kathryn Rusch for invaluable insights into the business end of publishing.

 

Posted in Book business, Marketing Advice, Self-Publishing, Traditional publishing | Tagged , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

Upcoming Book Signings

 

Over the next few weeks, I’ll be participating with a number of area authors in Maryland at group book signings. I’ll have plenty of copies of HUNTER on hand to inscribe for your Christmas gift recipients. And you can peruse and purchase a variety of fine fiction and nonfiction titles from my author friends, all suitable for holiday giving.

First up: On Thursday, December 5, from 7-9 pm, we’ll be signing books at Fisherman’s Inn, at Kent Narrows in Grasonville, on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. Check the link for the names of my fellow writers and their book titles.

The next event will be on Wed., December 11, at 7-9 pm. at the Centreville branch of the Queen Anne’s County Free Library, 121 S. Commerce Street in Centerville, MD. For information call 410-758-0980.

The third event of this month will be on Wed., December 18, from 6-8 pm. at the Kent Island Library,  200 Library Circle, Stevensville, MD 21666. For information call 410-643-8161.

I do hope you’ll drop by if you are in the area. We’d love to meet with you and chat. And there’s some great eating at Fisherman’s, too, so plan to make an evening of it!

 

 

 

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Another HUNTER Milestone

 

HUNTER  has just received its 400th Amazon customer review — which, simultaneously, was also its 300th “5-star” reader review.

To receive this extraordinary response for my debut thriller is an experience I never anticipated. And I can’t begin to express my gratitude to many tens of thousands of readers, who propelled the book to the top of the bestseller lists.

My only appropriate thank-you will be if BAD DEEDS measures up to your expectations. We’ll both know about that soon enough!

 

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Cyber Monday Deals Week on Amazon

 

While I finish writing BAD DEEDS, I want to give you folks something else to read. So, how about browsing all the fabulous deals on Amazon for your Christmas shopping? A huge range of products is available throughout this first week of December.

And if you buy through this link, your friendly neighborhood Vigilante Author will receive a small referral royalty, at no cost to you. Thanks in advance for your consideration.

Happy shopping!

 

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