Feeling Hawaiian Blue

The gals at the Triple Threat Investigation Agency are still solving their latest case (Ha-Ha-Ha-Ha).  It’s a challenge, but who doesn’t love one or three of those?  As they run around Oahu, searching for clues and tailing villainous sorts, I’m realizing how much I miss Hawaii . . . and am feeling blue.

While I can live vicariously through P.I.s JJ, Rey and Linda, it’s not the same as strolling along the Canal where pretty plumeria are found in abundance … ambling in Ala Moana Park with its awesome banyan trees and vibrant rainbow shower tress … sitting on a sandy beach sucking shave ice … sauntering in non-tourist neighborhoods, admiring the serenity and everyday familial life. WPhawaiiWestHawaiiToday

I’m pining for loco moco and Spam musubi, taro chips and poi, poke and mocha, and anything haupia.

I long for the sounds of the squawking seagulls, the early morning keek-keek-keek of the mynahs, spraying waves, breeze-blown foliage, beachside cheer, and food-truck chatter.

Yeah, I’m feeling blue, but not that of Presley’s “Blue Hawaii”.  Fortunately, Hawaiian music cures that.  For a wee while every day,  I tune out my work-heavy world and travel back to the Islands.  One special song , most of you have heard, is “Hawai’i Aloha”.  King Kamehameha IV dearly loved the Christian hymm “I Left it all with Jesus” so much, he asked if it could be rewritten.  Reverend Lorenzo Lyons obliged and wrote the lyrics, James McGranahan the music.

I’ll leave you with Israel (Izzy) Kamakawiwo’ole, a talented singer/musician who left this mortal coil much too young …..

VERSE 1: 
E Hawai’i e ku’u one hanau e 
Ku’u home kulaiwi nei 
‘Oli no au i na pono lani ou 
E Hawai’i, aloha e 

HUI: 
E hau’oli na ‘opio o Hawai’i nei 
‘Oli e! ‘Oli e! 
Mai na aheahe makani e pa mai nei 
Mau ke aloha, no Hawai’i 

VERSE 2: 
E ha’i mai kou mau kini lani e 
Kou mau kupa aloha, e Hawai’i 
Na mea ‘olino kamaha’o no luna mai 
E Hawai’i aloha e 

(repeat hui) 

VERSE 3: 
Na ke Akua e malama mai ia ‘oe 
Kou mau kualona aloha nei 
Kou mau kahawai ‘olinolino mau 
Kou mau mala pua nani e 

(repeat hui)

 

Jello, Yes – Gelatin, No

Love Jello.  It’s wiggly, it’s jiggly.  And it’s tasty, too!

Wikipedia describes gelatin as “is a translucent, colorless, flavorless food ingredient, derived from collagen taken from animal body parts”. Sounds ucky.

But that’s exactly what many characters are: colorless/flavorless … drab, banal … predictable … and translucent.  Gelatinous characters make for boring scenes and plots.  Sometimes, they serve as a good laugh, but not necessarily of the good kind.

Breathe life into fictional people.  Provide them with distinct personalities, traits, habits, expressions.  Don’t make them cliché or wooden, or just out-and-out silly … and [please!] don’t model your characters on pre-80s films and shows.

Here are a small handful of characters that pop up more frequently than they should:

♠  females who constantly sob/weep/cry or scream     ♠  women who cower with wide-eyed fright, watching Mr. Muscular Hero thrash and bash Mr. Bad Guy or Demonic Creature #3    ♠  ladies who allow men to do everything as they wait and wonder where the villains are lurking (apparently, they have no ability to do anything but look pretty and appear vulnerable)    ♠  protagonist with good physique is gosh-darn-good and constantly apologizes while providing gosh-darn-I’m-lovable smiles, and    ♠  bad guy, built like a box with ugly scarred face and questionable IQ, quotes bad film dialogue while taunting good guy.

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“I’ll take care of this,” Rudy declared, straightening to his full six-foot-seven height and putting an arm round each of the two women. Linda hugged him, but Marsha pulled away, sobbing, her head in her hands. He tried to pull her back to him.

The brute sent Ursula into some shrubs and turned to face Leonard with a smug smile. He urged him forward. Leonard stepped forward, but before the boxy muscle-bound goon could react, Leonard sent his right foot into the man’s belly, sending him flying into the sidewalk. Before the brute could rise, Leonard then kicked him in both kneecaps. The man yelled in agony and writhed on the ground. Leonard quickly hurried to Ursula and helped her to her wobbly feet. She smiled gratefully and, placing her face on his broad chest, started to cry.  “There, there,” he said soothingly, patting her slim back.

Barry held her slim hand with his free hand and helped Renata step over a gnarled tree root growing through the pavement. She accepted the help and allowed him to lift her over a larger root that followed. His strong hands felt natural around her slender waist, and he lifted her with effortlessness. Gently, he lowered Renata before him, their bodies brushing as he did so.  She smiled gratefully and whispered her thanks.

Jasmine felt her glossy lips part in shock. A tear trickled down her flushed cheek. She closed her eyes, letting sympathy wash over her. Then, opening her eyes and taking a steadying breath, she smiled sadly. “Are you all right?” Vic asked, regarding her pretty face closely. “I shouldn’t have told you. I’m so sorry.”

Think of Jello; it comes in a variety of colors and flavors.  So do people, whether in real life or on paper or screen.  Variety is the spice of life, as it should be with characters.  They should be memorable—for the right reasons.

What’s in a Name?

Bee to the blossom, moth to the flame; Each to his passion; what’s in a name?

Too much sometimes.  As in eye-squinching, brow-furrowing overkill.  Some writers feel a need to ensure readers know who’s speaking, or being spoken to, frequently—as in all the time frequently.

Jeff jumped and almost dropped the phone when he saw the number on call display.  He stared at the phone for a couple of seconds in disbelief and then hit the answer button.  There was silence on the other end.  “Hello, who is this?” Jeff asked anxiously.

“Jeffrey, is that you Jeffrey?” a female voice on the other end asked.

Jeff hadn’t expected a female voice.  The number on call display belonged to Marcus Smith, who was only to call if urgent.

“Jeffrey, is that you Jeffrey?” the female voice at the other end asked again.

“That depends on who’s asking,” Jeff said angrily.

“Jeffrey, its Jane Holloway.  Marcus Smith gave me this number.  He’s been shot and told me to call you.  Marcus said he needs to see you, Jeffrey, as soon as possible. Please come, Jeffrey!”

“Jane?  Jane?  Are you there?  Where’s Marcus?”  Jeff suddenly realized that Jane had ended the call.  He stared at the phone and wondered what the hell was happening.

“Jeff, who’s Jane?”  Nancy’s voice from behind Jeff demanded in a voice that was both inquisitive and peevish.

Like anything, use names in moderation. Yes, sometimes readers need to be reminded who is speaking or being referred to, particularly if there’s a lot of dialogue.  By and large, however, we’re pretty decent detectives: we can deduce the obvious.

So, how about some quick rules about names?

Once you’ve given a character a name (or maybe a pronoun to refer to him/her), keep using it.  The hero’s name is George.  Don’t call him “the man” or “the government agent”, or “my older brother”, unless perhaps someone is describing him as such.

No:  The tall man stood and looked over at Henry.  “I want to know what happened,” George said.

Yes:  George straightened to his full height and eyed Henry warily.  “I want to know what happened.”

Don’t refer to relationships repeatedly.  Neddy, for example, has a habit of referring to his sister and girlfriend as “the two women” (over and over and over again).  Once in a while, depending on the action/scene, sure, do so.  Constantly, however?  No.  Nor does Neddy need to tell us that Margaret is his sister … over and over and over again.  We understood that the first time it was mentioned.  Don’t overuse titles and personal/professional relationships; stick to names and pronouns.

Now, some characters may have several names (maybe they work undercover, lead different lives, are criminals).  If this is the case, keep those to a minimum.  Too many names for one character can lead to confusion, particularly if they thrown here, there, and everywhere.  If a lover calls his sweetie “Cutie-pie”, cool.  Make sure no one else calls her that, unless maybe in jest.  Be aware of which character(s) would know and use that other name; ensure this is evident and logical.  Use common sense and consistency—give a character multiple names only if the plot/character warrant it.

When you open your story, keep your characters—and names—to an “understandable” level.  There’s no reason to introduce all the primary characters, and secondary ones, in the prologue or first chapter.  And if you name [a lot of] characters early on, give them a purpose.  Don’t throw them in for the sake of padding the plot or because you want readers know these characters exist.  Too many characters at once is, simply, too much.  Some can appear later, as the scene and story [logically] dictate.

One major rule: do not, please, constantly call people by name in dialogue. We don’t do this in real life (listen to conversations at work, on the bus, at home).  Characters shouldn’t do this, either.  It becomes annoying, to say the least.  Use names in dialogue with a particular purpose—basically, to let us know who’s speaking to whom (when dialogue is lengthy) or inform us that someone new to the scene is speaking.

Names should enable us to follow the story easily and effortlessly—to understand what is happening to whom.   ‘Nuff said.

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◊ Helen Hunt Jackson (American poet and writer; activist of Native American treatment by US government)

Wanna Comma?

I know, I know, no one likes learning about grammar/punctuation.  It’s eye-glazingly dry.  Still, a little refresher now and again, never hurts, so why not grab a cup of java and put the old feet up?  Promise.  This’ll be relatively short and sweet.

As an editor, I see two common practices: the comma used [way] too often and the comma used not at all.  This indicator of a “brief pause” serves a purpose. Like anything, should be used in moderation—but not ignored.

No:  “I said its vodka and tonic it will be fine” Lenora winked “a good thing it wasn’t your rum and cola or you would have a major cleaning bill”

No:  Mrs. Ralston helped me today, but what if she hadn’t found me? I can’t tell her what happened, at the rally, I can’t even tell my brother, so what will I say?

Let’s avoid in-depth/overloaded info that leads to furrowed brows and a dull headache, shall we?  Comma basics (just a handful), as they relate to fiction writing, are as follows.

Use commas to separate words and phrase in a series.

         Larry said he’d bring wine, cheese, and chocolate.

Separate two adjectives when the order is switchable.

          Petra is a beautiful, fit woman.   /   Petra is a fit, beautiful woman.

Now, we get into those lovely little things called “clauses” (yes, I’m wincing, too)—groups of words that contain a subject and a predicate.

♦  Subject: every sentence has a subject and an action.

♦  Predicate: every sentence has a predicate, too.  A predicate is everything that follows the subject (and has one finite verb).

Some writers will run two independent clauses together with a comma.  What’s the result?  That’s right.  A run-on sentence.

No:  Jane raced into the pub, she knocked over a server

Yes:  Jane raced into the pub and knocked over a server.   /   When Jane raced into  the pub, she knocked over a server.

When there are two independent clauses joined by a connector such as “but”, “and”, or “as”, place the comma at the end of the first clause.

No:  Jane raced into the pub and she knocked over a server.

Yes:  Jane raced into the pub, and she knocked over a server.

If the clauses are super short, you can omit the comma (a personal preference thing).

Roger writes poems and Marshall paints watercolors.

If there’s no subject before the second verb, you don’t really need a comma.

Freddy finished mixing the dough but had forgotten to heat the oven.

However, if there’s a chance of confusing the reader, add that comma.

No:  Patty noticed Jeb was preoccupied with work and slipped out the back door.

Yes:  Patty noticed Jeb was preoccupied with work, and slipped out the back door.

With the comma, it’s clear that Patty’s the one who slipped out.

Now, let’s take a gander at commas in dialogue.

Use commas to launch or separate direct quotations.

Nathan muttered, “Not in this lifetime.”

“What,” Leo asked crossly, “is wrong with him?”

If the quotation comes before she said, Dawson grumbled, they stated, and so forth, use a comma to end the dialogue (even if only a solitary word).

“In a pig’s eye,” Gerry spat.

“Please,” she implored.

Now that you’ve finished your java (I’ve finished my second), I’ll leave you to mull over the uses and applications of the ever useful punctuation mark, our little friend, the comma. WPcommaukcbc1

 

 

Too Much Overabundance

Touched upon previously, one way or another, one can never say /write /blog /post this too much. Don’t provide an overabundance of action that doesn’t enhance the scene or plot.

Some writers feel a need to detail everything that occurs.

Example of Overabundant Details/Actions:

Lawrence walked into the kitchen and sat at the table, and looked at his sister.  “Hi, Jenny,” he said and looked at the stove, and saw the kettle was still steaming. 

“Hi,” Jenny said and walked over to the counter and got the teapot and two cups, and walked to the table. She sat and poured tea into the cups, and passed one to him with her hands.  He took the teacup with his hand and sipped, smiled happily, and placed the teacup on the table.

Tighter / More Descriptive:

Entering the kitchen, Lawrence greeted his sister and sat on a battered chair at the cluttered table.  He noticed Jenny had prepared a pot of tea and asked if he might have some.  With a cheery smile, she brought over two cups and decades-old teapot. Lawrence walked into the kitchen and sat at the table, and looked at his sister.  “Hi, Jenny,” he said and looked at the stove, and saw the kettle was still steaming. 

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Steer clear of stating the obvious.  Readers can infer what’s happening.  Normally, we take—grab, touch, hold, clutch, squeeze—something with our hand(s).  If, however, the action of taking was done with a foot or device, then that would likely be worth mentioning.  Give thought to what’s [truly] relevant.

empty words = empty storyline

Re a past post, avoid excessive use of non-active verbs like “said”. Dialogue, like action, should serve a purpose—to impart information, demonstrate emotion/interaction, advance the scene.

Example of Overabundant Details/Actions:

“Let me get you your sweater,” Jane said, moving to the doorway.

“Oh, thanks, Jane. Listen Laura, it’s nearly seven.”

Laura looked down at her pajamas and said, “I know.”

Jane left the room quickly.

The three roommates listened to Jane climb the stairs.

Margaret sat down with a shawl in her hands. “I can’t eat a thing this morning with all this fuss. Laura, will you just get over it … finally?”

“Or what?”

Margaret sighed and looked at Rhonda.

Rhonda said, “Please. It’s Jane’s birthday.”

A heavy silence descended, during which Laura watched the clock and Rhonda fidgeted, and Margaret picked at the shawl.

Tighter / More Descriptive:

“Let me get you your sweater,” Jane offered, strolling across the chilly living room.

“Oh, thanks.” Rhonda smiled gratefully and turned to Laura. “It’s nearly seven.”

Self-consciously, Laura pulled at the sleeves of her wrinkled pajamas.

With a tsk, Jane headed upstairs.

The three roommates took seats on the sofa.

Margaret pulled an old wool shawl from the headrest and draped it over her lap. “I can’t say I have much of an appetite with all this fuss.” She eyed Laura critically. “Will you just get over it?”

Her chin lifted defiantly. “Or what?”

Margaret sighed loudly, then swore under her breath.

Rhonda jumped to her feet. “It’s Jane’s birthday. Stop it!”

Tense silence descended.

Wordiness can serve a purpose—if part of a character’s make-up, by all means, use it in dialogue to demonstrate this.

As an FYI, writing that uses more words/details than necessary is called verbosity.  I prefer the less pretentious word: long-windedness. But whatever you call it—keep clear of it.

Shameless Self-Promotion . . . of a Limited Scope

Voilà—my “limited” wee bit of shameless self-promotion, which is nothing more than displaying my Amazon page.

To those of you who have time to post about ratings, update/upgrade blog visuals, stay on top of marketing and promotion, request votes, and do tours . . . God bless you.  Hats off! I envy you so very much.

In the meanwhile, this is all I can accomplish.  And that’s okay; it’s all good.  And for those of you who continue to follow me, thank you for doing so.  You truly mean a lot to this humble [time-challenged] soul.

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She Said that He Said that Me—uh—I Said

“Said” is a useful word—it tells readers who’s speaking and when.  It’s also an over-used word—it tells readers who’s speaking again … and again … and again.

Used too often, “said”—a dialogue tag—becomes tedious and contributes to glazed-eyes syndrome, which is usually preceded by the mouth opening into a large “O” shape.  The storyline/plot becomes flat and can discourage readers from continuing.  An overabundance of these puppies in your book will serve to distract and/or detract.  WPsaid2

Yes, now and again—particularly with lengthy dialogue/conversations—we should be reminded who’s speaking, but not with every piece of dialogue.  There’s no need to constantly advise readers that a character said something; this should be obvious via the conversation and/or action.

Dialogue / dialogue tags serve these purposes:

♦  distinguish who’s speaking    ♦  communicate who we should identify with (feel sympathy for, be angry with)    ♦  keep us from becoming bewildered (who’s talking, what’s being said)    ♦  break up lengthy dialogue    ♦  add friction / create ease / advance a scene    ♦  sound natural, and    ♦  offer new or fresh information (not repeat what we already know).

While the following identifies the speakers and tells us what’s transpiring, is it interesting?  Does it make us want to read further?

“Jim’s picked up dinner,” Leslie said.

“He usually does on Thursdays,” I said.  “I’d have been surprised if he hadn’t.”

“Maybe we should help him set the table,” said she, looking toward the kitchen.

“Nawww, he doesn’t like having people get in his way,” I said.

I don’t know about you, but I feel a yawn coming on.  Why don’t we aim for something a tad more descriptive and active?

“Jim’s picked up dinner,” Leslie advised softly, peering into the kitchen.

“He usually does on Thursdays,” I reminded her.  “I’d be surprised if he hadn’t.”

“Maybe we should help him set the table,” she suggested, waving me over.

“Nawww.”  I shook my head.  “He doesn’t like people getting in his way.”

A teensy-weensy better.  We have a little action.  Let’s give it more oomph; we can remove some of the descriptive prose/action or add extra wording to paint a more vivid picture.

“Jim’s picked up dinner.” Leslie hopped to her slippered feet and padded to the kitchen door.  Quietly, she peered inside.  “Oooh, we’re having Thai.”

“He usually does take-out on Thursdays,” I reminded her and, stepping up behind, gazed over her knobby shoulder. Our youngest brother was whistling happily as he unpacked two huge bags.  I was reminded of the days when my sister and I took over for our ailing mother; given the circumstances, we’d done a pretty decent job of raising the kid.

Her high brow furrowed like a plowed field. “Should we help?”

“He doesn’t like people getting in his way.” I chuckled, recalling Jeremy’s petulant pouts when things didn’t go his way.  “Let him do his thing.”

Add visuals (details, descriptions) wisely—more in moderation than in excess. Too much of anything can be overwhelming, just as too little can prove underwhelming; both approaches lead to huh-duh moments.  Think: balance.

Utilize adjectives and adverbs resourcefully. When strategically added to dialogue tags, they’ll not only provide specific information about the speaker or situation, they’ll make a story come alive.

Consider the different deliveries (and interpretations) of these:

“Challenges are part of life,” Jake said.

“Challenges are part of life,” Jake said flatly.

Jake sighed and smiled ruefully.  “Challenges are part of life.”

“Challenges are part of life,” Jake spat, flinging the phone across the room.

“Challenges are …” Jake struggled to find the right words and sighed loudly when he couldn’t. With a limp shrug, he murmured, “A part of life.”

. . . “Feel free to use ‘said’, but use it prudently,” the blogger said.  <wink>

Me Me Me

That’s me-me-me singing . . . with joy . . . because my friend, fellow blogger/writer/reviewer Jay (James J. Cudney IV) featured me on his blog.

I won’t cut and paste the extensive “Author Alert”, but perhaps you might find a few moments to check it out.  You’d make me a very happy gal, as Jay has.

https://thisismytruthnow.com/2019/07/22/author-alert-tyler-colins/

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Incidentally, New-York based Jay’s written some great books (in addition to posts and reviews).

Watching Glass Shatter and Father Figure can be purchased on Amazon as electronic copies or physical copies.

His Braxton Campus Mysteries will appeal to those who love cozy mysteries and crime investigations … with a twist.

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Please check him out at https://thisismytruthnow.com!

 

Take a Look-See, but Don’t Keep Looking

Some writers like to detail every action conceivable, from looking at an item, to reaching for it, to doing something with it. This, my friends, is a newbie no-no.  Readers are amazing creatures; they can discern what’s transpiring in a book without being provided every teeny-weeny fact.

One action that seems to be a favorite is “look”.

Jeremy looked at her as he spoke.

I nodded as I looked at her and then continued.

We were looking at each other as we sat at the table.

They had been looking at each other for several minutes as they chatted.

The children looked at the candy as they ate it.

Then, there’s detail-action overload.

Roger looked at the device on the desk and moved over to it, picked it up with his hands and looked at it closely as he held it with both hands. Then, hearing sounds, he looked around, but didn’t see anything.  Sighting a door in the dim distance, he walked over and looked the plain door over, before opening it and looking inside.

Unless the action of “looking” is crucial to the scene/plot, don’t add it.  As readers, we can assume that’s what a character is doing—when he/she walks, runs, speaks, natters, chatters, kills or is killed.

Sure, you can use “look” if you’re describing something.

It looked like a storm was brewing beyond the hills.

Sally looked angry.

However, might this not work better?

A storm was brewing beyond the sun-kissed hills.

Sally’s cheeks reddened with anger.  /  Sally’s expression turned to anger.

Avoid newbie no-nos. Use as active a voice as possible to present details and descriptions, and keep them to a minimum.  Show, don’t tell.  Steer clear of pages and pages of dialogue, where your main character (or any other for that matter) drones on—and on—by explaining sequences as they transpired or offering the history of an event. WPLooking123RFDOTcom 1

You’re a writer with a story to tell.  Have at it!  Show us what that awesome story entails; paint pictures. Keep us in the [enjoyable] moment with well-executed actions, scenes, and storylines.

Thank You, Jay!

I had an editing-related post . . . and Jay (James J. Cudney IV) caught me off guard.  I knew there was a review coming, but time got the better of me . . . and I forgot.  <LOL>

I want to give a great big thank-you to Jay, not just for the awesome review, but for all that he’s done for me and other writers/bloggers.  He’s supportive and helpful, and a wonderful person (the world could do with more Jays).

♦ ♦

Coco’s Nuts by Tyler Colins
My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

Coco’s Nuts is the third book in the ‘Triple Threat Mysteries’ series written by Tyler Colins. I previously read the first two books in the series and noticed the author has signed on with a new publisher, updated the covers, and launched two more books in the series. It’s time to catch up before I fall behind, as these are full of witty characters, memorable stories, and tons of wonderful descriptions. Let’s chat about Coco’s Nuts and the random body parts we find with tattoos on them…

First off, the title and the cover. Can you get any more eye-catching? Are they bombs? Is the author playing with the word coconut? Is it about eating fruits and nuts, being crazy nuts, or leaning toward that all-too-familiar and funny euphemism? Before reading the book, I didn’t know… after reading it, I can say with hilarity, it’s all three! I love when an author can be both serious and amusing in his/her books. Tyler Colins has a great balance of delivering snappy dialog and natural conversation. At times, there are breaks in conversation and questions being ignored (to be later responded to), matching how people really engage with one another. I like the reality of this world.

It takes place in Hawaii, and let me tell you… Colins knows how to visually create a scene. Between the descriptions in the narrative and the add-ons when someone is speaking or physically doing something in a scene, you kinda feel transported to this fictional place. I like that immersive feeling, and it’s not always included in these genres of books. Often a mystery is entirely about the mystery, but Colins ensures there is just as much ambiance and background to make you feel part of the story.

Of the three private eyes, we tend to follow JJ the most. In this caper, she’s much stronger and more pushy than the last two. The girl knows how to solve a crime, even if the client only hired the agency to prove she wasn’t guilty of murder. The ladies know that in order to do that, they need to find the guilty party. And it isn’t easy! There are a few victims and a couple of different killers / lawbreakers in this edition. Buddy, the beautiful female truck driver who’s accused of murder, isn’t all we think she is, which makes the plot even murkier and layered. I like those types of stories, as you never know what you’re getting yourself into. In this one, each chapter unfolds like a clue… we think we have a lead only to find out it opens up another murder or subplot. Then, they all come back together. You have to really keep yourself focused to know who stole Coco’s Nuts!

Kudos to Colins for another splendid entry in the Triple Threat investigations. I look forward to getting to know our main characters even more, as Colins continues to drop details left and right, but we always wonder what they’re doing when they’re not present in the chapter. I suspect there is something big coming in the next book, which I’ll be reading next month. Thanks for the opportunity to get lost in another good book, Ms. Colins… 4.5 stars for this caper.

♦ ♦

Please check out Jay’s awesome site (he’s got some pretty amazing books himself): https://thisismytruthnow.com.

BlogJay for WP