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…a rerun of a superb post from my pal, Brendan Gerad O’Brien…

…this Guest Post featured on my blog a couple of years ago, and it popped up again on the files recently… well worth another read from my great writing pal, Brendan Gerad O’Brien… enjoy…

Interview with Brendan Gerad O’Brien for the Seumas GallacherBlog

1 – Tell us about your connection with Wales:

I was born in Tralee on the west coast of Ireland and came to the UK when I joined the Royal Navy at 18. It was while I was on a course in Portsmouth that I met a beautiful Welsh girl, Jennifer Marshall, who was on holiday from Newport, South Wales. After a short romance we got married and when my service contract ended we went to live in Newport to be near her family. We’ve been there ever since.

2 – Tell us about yourself as a writer and as a person:

When I won my first writing competition I was so excited I ran all the way home. I was about eight years old. The Fun Fair was coming to Tralee – our little town on the West coast of Ireland – and apart from Duffy’s Circus which came in September, this was the highlight of our year. Our English teacher asked us to write an essay about it, and I won the only prize – a book of ten tickets for the fair.

So writing was in my blood from a very young age. I loved essays and English literature

My grand-uncle Moss Scanlon had a small Harness Maker’s shop in Lower William Street, Listowel – a rural town in Kerry that was just a bus ride from Tralee – where I spent some wonderful summer holidays. The shop had a magnet for all sorts of colourful characters who’d wander in for a chat and a bit of jovial banter. One famous storyteller who often popped in was John B Keane, and I asked him once where he got his ideas from. He told me that everyone has a story to tell, so be patient and just listen to them.

And I was there when John B’s very first story was read out live on Radio Eireann. I can still remember the buzz of excitement and the sheer pride of the people of Listowel. And the seeds of storytelling were sown in my soul.

Another source of encouragement was Bryan MacMahon, one of Listowel’s finest writers and a schoolmaster to boot, who was a very easy person to talk to.

Anyway, I left school at fourteen and went to work in hotels in Killarney, and I quickly got caught up in the excitement and colourful buzz of the tourist industry – remember, this was in the 60s when the Beatles were creating a heady revolution and engulfing the youth with hopes and dreams of a wonderful future – so I felt no great urgency to write. I dreamed of being a writer, of course. I wanted to be a writer – but somehow life just got in the way.

When I joined the Royal Navy at eighteen I was sent to the Far East. I spent the first three years between Singapore and Hong Kong, and again I was having so much fun I didn’t get to write anything, although there were loads of stories bursting to get out.

It was only when I got married and the children came along that I made any serious attempt to put pen to paper, and the result was Dark September, an alternative history novel set in Newport during WW2.

I loved writing it – I always write in longhand – but I hated having to type it. After working a ten hour day, I’d be clattering away into the early hours on an old Olivetti typewriter and getting on everyone’s nerves. Then I’d scream in frustration when I’d discover that hours of hard work were ruined by some horrendous typo error, and I’d have to start all over again.

Amazingly, I found an agent almost immediately but she insisted on some major changes so I spent a year re-writing it.

Unfortunately my agent died suddenly and the agency closed. It took ages to find another agent, but he too demanded even more changes. It became too much for Jennifer and the kids, so my manuscript hibernated in the attic for a few years.

Then Jennifer bought me a computer for Christmas – with Spellcheck!

This time finding an agent has proved impossibility – they only want to represent people who’re famous for just being famous – but now I’m delighted to say the book has been accepted by Tirgearr Publishing and I’m delighted with the result and all the hard work they’ve put into it to make it a great success.

In the meantime – while my book was languishing in limbo – I discovered that writing short stories is amazingly therapeutic. I get a great buzz from taking an idea and developing it, often watching it evolve into something completely different from how it started out. And I realized too that great ideas are all around us. Little gems are waiting to be harvested everywhere we look. I found myself listening to what people are saying, and the way they say it.

For instance, the Irish are famous all over the world for their colourful and exaggerated expressions, always using a dozen words when one would have done. So I build on that and set all my short stories in Ireland. The names are changed, of course, because I don’t earn enough to survive a lawsuit. I’ve written hundreds of stories, most of which are still stuffed in drawers somewhere, but I did manage to get more than twenty of them published over the years, in anthologies, e-zines and magazines as well as web sites.

Dreamin’ Dreamspublished as an eBook and in paperback by Amazon KDP – contains twenty of my published stories, of which I’m very proud. They’re all based on real people who passed through my life at some time or other, or events that actually happened to me. Enhanced, of course, and sometimes exaggerated out of all proportion.

The title comes from something my father said years ago, when I got poor grades at school. ‘What do you expect?’ he said to my mother. ‘He never does any studying. He just sits there, dreamin’ dreams.’

3 – Why did you decide to write in your chosen genre?

My favourite reading material has always been fast paced thrillers, murder mysteries, war stories. I write what I think I would like to read.

4 – Tell us about the concept behind your first book

The idea for Dark Septembercame to me when I was in the Royal Navy and we were on exercise in the Brecon Beacons. I wondered what it would be like to be running for your life through such inhospitable terrain from someone who wants to do you a serious injury.

Later on I saw some disturbing footage of Nazi guards disposing of people with special needs and I felt tremendous sympathy for their families. How would I react if I was in that position and Germany invaded the UK? Where would |I take my child? Being Irish I felt it would be natural to gravitate to Ireland, which was neutral during WW2.

Of course once I started writing the story it took on a life of its own. Characters reacted in ways I never intended. People who were created as decent characters turned into monsters half way through a chapter, even a sentence. It was exciting and disturbing all at the same time, and I enjoyed every moment of writing it.

My favourite character is Danny O’Shea – vulnerable, naïve, basically honest but thrown into a situation that he has to face into or go under. I see a lot of myself in him. Not sure who could play him in a film – someone who was sensitive – Aidan Turner, perhaps.The theme tune would be Running up the Hillby Kate Bush, all thudding drums and loud pulsing music.

One concern I did have about the story was making Cerys and Bethan Frost direct descendants of the famous John Frost, a treasured character in Welsh history. They started out as beautiful, kind and loving girls but they got corrupted by both love and promised riches. But so far I haven’t had any negative feedback on that aspect, although some people thought the sudden sex and brutal violence should have been flagged up in the blurb.

5 – Which Welsh person would you like to invite to dinner and what would you serve?

John Frost. I would love to know what makes a man stand out from the crowd and put himself in harm’s way while pursuing a principal. What did he think about the justice system at the time, and people who were steeped in religion but oozing hypocrisy from every pore? And I would serve Welsh lamb, carrots and new potatoes with Welsh Ale from a keg.

6 – What’s the best thing about Wales?

Its similarity to Ireland. Parts of West Wales are so like the places where I ran as a lad in Kerry. Listening to Owen Money every Saturday makes me laugh. The warmth he displays fascinates me – I could be listening to Kerry Radio. And of course my wife …

7 – What are you working on now?

I’ve just finished re-editing my thriller called Gallows Field.  This one is set in Tralee during WW2. A crowded pub. The music is loud. The singing is louder. Joe McCarthy is shot dead. And no one sees a thing.

8 – How did you find the experience of self-publishing?

To be honest I always hoped my work would be snapped up by a main stream publisher who would take responsibility for the sales and advertising. But the reality is totally different. Most publishers now demand that the author does as much self-promotion as possible while imposing restrictions on pricing. I love the writing aspect of it all, but I’m not comfortable pushing for sales and reviews. There are companies who will promote your work for you but it cost more than you’ll ever make in sales. But if you want people to read your stuff you have to put it out there so the world will notice it.

9 – What’s your advice to new writers?

If you are a budding writer, or just thinking about trying your hand at writing, remember to have fun with it. Be aware that very few writers make it to the top of the tree – those that do will tell you that it involves a copious amount of self-publications and a shed full of luck. And of course a good story too.

Yes, take your craft seriously – it’s a God given talent and it’s your duty to share it with the world – but enjoy it too. Just don’t get so immersed in it that you lose track of the people you really care about, the ones you’re proud to show it to first. (And listen to them, as well, even if what they’re saying isn’t what you want to hear!)

And keep working at it, even if it’s just 100 words every day, because every time you write something, you’re fine-tuning your skills.

10 – What are you currently reading?

Val McDermid Wire in the Blood. In paperback.

11 – What’s your favourite book?

So many it would be hard to whittle it down to just one. The Wind in the Willows had the most magical effect on me – I lived in that story and still get the feeling whenever I sit on a riverbank. I also remember running home from school to listen to Treasure Island and Robinson Crusoe being read on the radio. In my teens I was hooked on Mickey Spillane and Zane Grey, but now I have to say Val McDermid is my all-time favourite. Followed closely by Ann Cleeves and Andy McNab.

…thanks once more, Brendan… see yeez later… LUV YEEZ!

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…my pal, Tony McManus, ponders Amazon’s ‘killing the golden goose’ policy on Author reviews…

…the following superb piece from my Author friend, Tony McManus, mirrors what so many of us in the self-publishing community feel right now:

A LOW BLOW FROM AMAZON

I have mixed emotions regarding Amazon. On the one hand, and I guess like most indie authors, I am grateful for the opportunity Amazon has given me to become a self-published independent author of thrillers. On the other hand, they do things that puzzle, baffle and annoy me.

Writing a book, a novel, fashioning a work of fiction, and doing it well, is not easy. Even for ‘natural’ writers, highly gifted and driven writers pursuing destiny, it’s hard work. That’s not to say it’s not enjoyable. A writer on a roll, writing well, enjoys a ‘high’ like nothing else on earth. Like a ride to the moon, it can be the most satisfying thing he’s ever done. He gets to feel good about things.

But then, after completion, he has to sell his book. This is the hardest part.

In order to sell their books, indie writers need to build ‘platforms’ in the form of websites, blogs, and newsletters; all time-consuming chores. It helps to be something of a huckster, a showman. Being shy and reclusive is a drawback. But more than anything else they need reviews. Readers’ reviews are essential, the lifeblood of the enterprise. Good reviews drive sales. Without reviews, a book lies ignored, beached in the shallows. The problem is, reviews are not easy to come by. Only a small percentage of readers are prepared to write them. So, writers are faced with the task of cajoling readers into making the effort. At the end of my latest novel, in the hope of a response, I left a little note:

‘Note to the reader

I hope you enjoyed A Bangkok Interlude. If it’s no trouble, a short, honest review would be greatly appreciated. ‘ 

Getting reviews can be really tough; it’s a hard road to tread. And now, thanks to Big Brother Amazon, it just got a lot harder.

An Australian lady recently purchased and downloaded a copy of my novel, A Bangkok Interlude. She thought it was, ‘Awesome’ and said so on Facebook. She then wrote a review reflecting her enthusiastic opinion. Amazon rejected her review and directed her to their ‘Community Guidelines’. She went there and found that in order to publish a review she had to have spent AU$50 minimum; I imagine that is per year. I have discovered that this rule applies in every ‘Amazon Community’; in Britain, (Amazon.co.uk) for example, one must spend 50 pounds sterling in order to place reviews. The same holds for all the ‘Amazon Communities’.

It wasn’t always this way. Once it was easy and straightforward. You bought a book on Kindle and, if you had a mind to, you wrote a review. It made sense. Not anymore.

I’ve concluded that this financial threshold is the latest salvo in Amazon’s War on Fake Reviews.

Amazon has been waging this war since around 2012. And in so doing they’ve deleted vast numbers of reviews, many of them genuine and not in the least fraudulent. It appears that many innocent writers and reviewers are being cut down, ‘friendly fire’ casualties of Amazon’s unfeeling robots.

Authors are forbidden from holding the slightest relationship with a reviewer. So if a writer develops a group of fans, those fans could be banned from writing reviews, as a fan club could be deemed a relationship by Amazon’s bots. Punishments can include banishment. For life. And there is no appeal. I’m told the entire Kindle store is run by robots and AI. Things are getting more than a little scary. And it appears that the war is largely a failure as the real scammers are getting through.

This latest move, placing a minimum of purchases, will, no doubt, have its effect. But reviewers who get their reviews rejected, like the Australian reader, will be put off from writing reviews; once bitten, twice shy.

At school, I was taught that it was a far, far better thing that a guilty man escapes justice than an innocent man suffers punishment. I feel that Amazon should take note. Far better that a few fraudulent reviews get through than so many genuine and honest reviews get deleted.

Honest reviews benefit Amazon as well as the authors. What a pity they can’t seem to see that.

…thanks, Tony… see yeez later… LUV YEEZ!

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…a first-ever Guest Post from my pal, Authoress, Barbara Spencer…

…my dear friend and splendid Authoress, m’Lady, Barbara Spencer, has dipped her foot in the murky waters of my web with her first-ever Guest Post… and she does a terrific job of it… enjoy… here she is, sitting front left in this Interpol snap of a gathering of suspicious-looking writerly characters in London…

I am not quite sure what a guest post entails, having never been asked to do one before. All I know is that Seumas Gallacher, the author of the Jack Calder thrillers, who is also a poet, a bon viveur, and generous to a fault, issued the invitation.

Strangely, it was his novel, Killer City, that began our friendship. For me, it was special because it was the first book I actually downloaded onto Kindle and enjoyed reading. When he flew into London, several authors and I met up with him under the shadow of John Betjeman, the poet Laureate and steam train buff. It was a great day out.

He said to talk about my new novel, The Year the Swans Came, understanding that for me, a children’s novelist for a dozen years with a similar number of books under my belt, it is perhaps the most important novel I have written. Not only is the style very different, I have switched age groups and genres and now write fantasy for adults/top teens, or to be more precise magical realism. It is also the forerunner of a trilogy – something else I’ve never done before.

It is also a mystery, hence my problem. How do I chat about the plot without giving too much away? This review from Catherine Kullmann says it far better than I ever could:

‘As Maidy Bader anxiously awaits her sixteenth birthday, the day on which ‘overnight, girls become adults, eligible to be courted, and to marry’ her thoughts return to the past and most importantly to her elder brother Pieter’s sixteenth birthday, the last he spent with his family. No one speaks of him or why he vanished. Life goes on as it always did in the unnamed country. The unnamed invaders have left and those deportees who could, have returned. Among them are the Bader’s neighbours, the Endelbaums. Their beautiful daughter Ruth, who is Maidy’s best friend, has had to give up her hopes of marrying Pieter. Slightly older than Maidy, Ruth is the belle of the college the girls attend while Maidy stays more in the background.
On Maidy’s birthday, everything changes. Maidy begins to emerge from her chrysalis. Pieter returns as suddenly as he departed, but gives no explanation for his long absence. Ruth immediately claims him, but she is also intrigued by the four strangers, handsome young men, who suddenly appear at the college. She takes their attention and interest as her due but Maidy is surprised to find herself sought out both by gentle Jaan and the strangers’ leader, the charismatic and mysterious Zande. And Pieter is desperate to marry Ruth and complete his apprenticeship with his father, a maker of mirrors.
But all is not as it seems. This is not a college romance. Unimaginable secrets swirl beneath the surface of daily life and all too soon the unwitting Maidy and Ruth are drawn into the vortex of an ancient tragedy that threatens them all anew.
I was blown away by this book, enthralled by the beautiful writing, the slow build-up of the mesmerizing story and the wonderful characters. Magical realism of the highest order’.

Catherine is quite correct, both the country and the invaders remain unnamed. The country is Holland and the city Amsterdam. That is where the idea originated. I took my granddaughter to Amsterdam in 2010, to celebrate the publication of another book.

This is the blurb:

‘Growing up amongst the ruins of war, four siblings use the bridges and cobblestone walkways of the old city as a backdrop for their games. Pieter Bader, the eldest, wants to follow in the footsteps of his family, designers of mirrors for royalty since the 17th century, while Maidy, the youngest, dreams of becoming a writer. Around the smallest bridge in the city, she weaves stories of swashbuckling pirates and princesses, who wear sandals made from the silken thread of a spider web. Her best friend Ruth lives next door. She dreams of marrying Pieter, only for him to vanish from their lives late one night.
Is his disappearance linked to the arrival of the swans, feared as cursed and birds of ill-fortune? What will happen when they return six years later, on the morning of Maidy’s sixteenth birthday?
And who exactly is the charismatic and mysterious Zande?
Follow Ruth and Maidy’s cursed tale of love as they discover what happened to Pieter, and how the appearance of Zande will affect both their lives, unleashing events as tragic and fantastical as one of Maidy’s stories.’

 

The Year the Swans Came is now on Net Galley and free in the hope of gathering reviews:

https://www.netgalley.com/widget/170266/redeem/bd7ce1b4b4e2e41708099f12305304db971d393bf4f27e82bbd3f17397f1381c

…many thanks  to m’Lady Barbara, who can be contacted as noted below… see yeez later… LUV YEEZ!

Twitter: @BarbaraSpencerO
Facebook: facebook.com/BarbaraSpencerAuthor

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…decimal currency?… not a patch on the old Bank of England ten-bob note…

…the post-groat currency in the UK included farthings, halfpennies, pence, threepenny bits, tanners (sixpence pieces), shillings, florins, half-crowns, ten-shilling notes, and one- , five-, and ten-pound notes…

…this complicated range of hard cash and notes sufficed for the British population for centuries… complementing the standard coinage were crowns, half-sovereigns and sovereigns, plus guineas… for foreign visitors, the confusion was rife, while the locals smirked at the consternation it caused non-Brits… the financial powers-that-be decided to switch to a totally decimal currency, beginning on February 14th, 1971… sensibly, it was announced that a ‘cash-in’ exchange period would be  extended for some time after that particular Valentine’s Day… at the end of that period, all old currency would have to be surrendered at any bank offices within the British Isles, for further surrender to the Bank of England… so far so good, right?… however, human beings generally have an inherent resistance to change, and more so, older human beings… one such person of venerable status lived in a village called Salen, on the beautiful isle of Mull in the Inner Hebrides, where I was serving my time as a Trainee Financial Master of the Universe at the noble Clydesdale & North of Scotland Bank in Tobermory… at the time of this transition from the old currency to decimal, I frequently served on the mobile office the bank used to traverse the island, looking after our customers’ financial interests, principally collecting cash payments from local merchants and shop-owners, as well as cheque encashments – these were the days pre-ATMs… but back to our senior lady customer… she was totally baffled by the new-fangled coinage, and resisted using the new multi-sided ten-shilling (fifty pence) coin, preferring to handle the former red-coloured ten-bob notes… the instruction from the Head Office in Glasgow was to retire all the old notes as they appeared… however, for months we continued to let the old lady have the ten-shilling notes, of which we kept a stack on the van just for her needs… we let all the  shopkeepers in Salen know that it was okay to accept these ‘floaters’ from her and to pay them into us on the van when we came round for their weekly cash takings pay-ins… we must have been the last bank in the country to eventually surrender the old notes after our customer passed away… decimal currency?… not a patch on the old ten-bob note… see yeez later… LUV YEEZ!

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…I’ve become a ghost… and I’m LUVVIN it!

…2018 was a year in which as a writer, I successfully disappeared… physically, there’s still a lot of me, bulk-wise, than p’raps there should be, but as I harbour a great passion for non-exercise, my solid frame is unlikely to diminish much in the near future… oh, yes, of course, my presence is still highly active on the SOSYAL NETWURKS, and that in itself IS writing, but the majority of my scribbling during the preceding twelve months has been that of a ghostwriter for autobiographies… no less than four separate individuals entrusted me with producing their life stories… and what a series of journeys that has entailed… like most things in my career, it happened almost by accident, when one gentleman who knows that I ‘write a bit’ thought it would be a good idea to ask me to get his story written… we agreed a price, and then I set about it in my usual manner – as a business proposition… a schedule of face-to-face meetings, an outline skeleton of the phases for the narrative, then listening, listening, listening

…it’s amazing how much one can ‘hear’ that’s not actually spoken… the halt in a man’s telling of emotional highs and lows in his existence… the glint in his eyes when you know incidents have left a lasting glorious memory with him… and the dark shadow across his mien at the recollection of disturbing times… slowly, the memoirs build… the shape of a man’s trip from childhood into manhood and maturity… the philosophies that attach themselves on the way through… and for some, the urgent desire to ‘leave sum’thing behind’ for family and descendants… a record of what has gone before…

…none of these projects were driven by ego… indeed, often I had to strive to insist that the positives get included in the personal history… and when they were done, the sense of immense humility I felt after each assignment was palpable… that special humility that comes from knowing that a person has spent weeks and months telling me, at first a complete stranger, some of the most intimate details of their life experiences… I know that I am much the better for each of their sharings… see yeez later … LUV YEEZ!

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…Authors… stuff I learned from John Steinbeck, Carlos Ruiz Zafon, John O’Hara, Umberto Eco and others…

…as a young child growing up in 1950s Docklands Govan in Glasgow, my heroes were mainly cartoon characters from the black-and-white television programmes on offer from basically only two channels  – Auntie BBC and the Scottish Television arm of the Independent Television NetworkTop Cat, Yogi Bear, and Freddie Flintstone were foremost among these… moving into my teens and my own professional football playing days, the idols were Slim Jim Baxter of Glasgow Rangers, Dave Mackay of Hearts and latterly Tottenham Hotspur, and emb’dy who played for Manchester United… progressively, into my twenties and thirties, my inherent love of books led me toward literature, and some of the greatest novelists who ever manoeuvered a quill, pen or typewriter… of course, at school, exposure included the icons of the craft, the classic writers such as Dickens, Stevenson, Lamb, Burns and dozens more… little wonder, then, when the scribbling bug eventually snuck up, ambushed and kidnapped me, that I should have ample grounding in writing-style examples… not plagiarism, which I abhor whenever I see it, but the sense of emulation of the techniques the Literary Gods employed… by no means do I claim any parity in the quality they each produced, but at least my desire is metaphorically to track their footsteps in the print trails… fr’example, Steinbeck wrote such a host of work encompassing the early California hinterland experience that his books seem to interlap, becoming a ‘phalanx’ of his writing… Zafon, in his magnificent ‘Shadow of the Wind’, has his closing paragraph almost paraphrasing the opening sentences  in the story, ‘bookending’ his novel, so to speak, thereby producing a satisfactory narrative parenthesisO’Hara is the master of highs and lows of sentiment in continually mixing perceived triumph with defeat, emphasising  that both of these are really imposters, paralleling the timeless poem, ‘If’ by Kipling... Umberto Eco inspires amazing caricatures in his work, as if each player is handcrafted by the comic art genius of the model-maker, Guillermo Forchino and I LUVVED them all, and still do… fellow authors, what’s your take on who has impacted the approach to your writing?  see yeez later… LUV YEEZ!

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…where did ‘Jack Calder’ come from?…

…as with many of my author friends, I’m frequently asked if the characters in my Jack Calder crime thrillers are based on real-life people… the true answer for most of them lies sum’where ‘twixt ‘yes’ and ‘no’… however, for the main man, Jack, the ex-SAS officer, there does exist a gentleman… a true gentleman at that, and a man I’m pleased to call a friend, who fits most of his characteristics… he would not thank me for naming him, but he lives in my books almost precisely as I’ve seen him behave in civvy street many times… without pinpointing the location in which the following event happened, let me describe one incident which enthralled me at the time… ‘Jack’ as I will continue to use his pseudonym, was owed some money by a guy who belonged to the local Hell’s Angels chapter, and was slow to repay the debt, despite several polite, and then not-so-polite requests for its return… one evening, on a late Saturday night in Asia, the English Premier League football was showing on live television… some friends and I were watching the match in a local bar, in which there were also a bunch of the Hell’s Angels, including the debtor… the place was crowded… the bar door swung open, like a passage in a movie… framed in the doorway, the six foot, two inches of ‘Jack’ stood, dressed in his customary, black, muscle-bound T-shirt… he took his time to look  around… the place hushed quiet… only the sound of the television commentary was unusually clearly audible… he noted the bikers’ group and approached slowly, staring at the recalcitrant debtor… the group parted until ‘Jack’ came face to face with the man… wordlessly, he stretched out an arm and opened the guy’s jacket and removed his wallet from its inside pocket… he glanced from the man, to the group, to the wallet, and took whatever money was inside, then threw the wallet onto the bar… not a word was uttered during all of this… nobody moved a muscle, least of all the debtor… there were at least six of the Hell’s Angels present… not one of them budged even as much as an eyebrow… ‘Jack’ backed off one step, and turned his back on all of them before taking his time to walk to the door and left, without looking back… it was the darnedest thing I have ever seen that, dear readers, that is my man, Jack!… see yeez later… LUV YEEZ!

THE VIOLIN MANS LEGACY

myBook.to/theviolinmanslegacy

VENGEANCE WEARS BLACK

myBook.to/vengeancewearsblack

SAVAGE PAYBACK

myBook.to/savagepayback

KILLER CITY

myBook.to/calderkillercity

DEADLY IMPASSE

myBook.to/Calderdeadlyimpasse

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