Book Showcase: THE ABSENCE OF MERCY by John Burley

The Absence of Mercy
by John Burley
on Tour November 12 – December 19


Book Details:
Genre: Suspense
Published by: William Morrow Paperbacks
Publication Date: 11/19/2013
Number of Pages: 352
ISBN: 9780062227379
Note: Graphic violence
Purchase Links:    


John Burley’s The Absence of Mercy is a harrowing tale of suspense involving a brutal murder and dark secrets that lie beneath the surface of a placid, tight-knit Midwestern town.

When a brutally murdered teenager is discovered in the woods surrounding a small Ohio town, Dr. Ben Stevenson—the town’s medical examiner—must decide if he’s willing to put his family’s life in danger to uncover the truth. Finding himself pulled deeper into an investigation with devastating consequences, he discovers shocking information that will shatter his quiet community, and force him to confront a haunting truth.

With its eerie portrait of suburban life and nerve-fraying plot twists, The Absence of Mercy is domestic drama at its best for fans of Harlan Coben, Laura Lippman, Jennifer McMahon, and Lisa Gardner.

Read an excerpt:

This is not the beginning.

Up ahead, a young man sporting jeans and a black T­shirt walks casually down the concrete sidewalk. He hums softly to himself as he ambles along, Nike­bound feet slapping rhythmi­cally on the serpentine path he weaves through the late afternoon foot traffic. He is perhaps fifteen—not truly a young man yet, but certainly well on his way—and he walks with the energy and indifference of one who possesses the luxury of youth but not yet the experience to appreciate its value, or its evanescence.

The predator watches the young man turn a corner, disap­pearing temporarily from view behind the brick exterior of an adjacent building. Still, he maintains a respectable distance, for although he has an instinct for how to proceed, he now relin­quishes control to something else entirely. For as long as he can remember he has sensed its presence, lurking behind the trans­lucent curtain of the insignificant daily activities of his life. The thing waits for him to join it, to embrace it—observes him with its dark and faithful eyes. But there are times—times like this—when it waits no longer, when the curtain is drawn aside and it emerges, demanding to be dealt with.

The young man in the black T­shirt reaches the end of the street and proceeds across a small clearing. On the other side of the clearing is a modest thatch of woods through which a dirt trail, overgrown with the foliage of an early spring, meanders for about two hundred yards until it reaches the neighborhood just beyond.

The predator picks up his pace, closing the distance between them. He can feel the staccato of his heart kick into third gear, where power wrestles fleetingly with speed. The thing that lives behind the curtain is with him now—has become him. Its breath, wet and heavy and gritty with dirt, slides in and out of his lungs, mixing with his own quick respirations. The incessant march of its pulse thrums along eagerly behind his temples, blanching his vision slightly with each beat. Ahead of him is the boy, his slender frame swinging slightly as he walks, almost dancing, as if his long muscles dangled delicately from a metal hanger. For a moment, watching from behind as he completes the remaining steps between them, the predator is struck by the sheer beauty of that movement, and an unconscious smile falls across his face.

The sound of his footsteps causes the boy to turn, to face him now, arms hanging limply at his sides. As he does, the predator’s left hand swings quickly upward from where it had remained hidden behind his leg a moment before. His hand is curled tightly around an object, its handle connected to a thin metal shaft, long and narrow and tapered at the end to a fine point. It reaches the pinnacle of its arcing swing and enters the boy’s neck, dead center, just below the jaw. A slight jolt reverberates through the predator’s arm as the tip of the rod strikes the underside of the boy’s skull. He can feel the warmth of the boy’s skin pressing up against the flesh of his own hand as the instrument comes to rest. The boy opens his mouth to scream, but the sound is choked off by the blood filling the back of his throat. The predator pulls his arm down and away, feeling the ease with which the instru­ment exits the neck.

He pauses a moment, watching the boy struggle, studying the shocked confusion in his eyes. The mouth in front of him opens and closes silently. The head shakes slowly back and forth in negation. He leans in closer now, holding the boy’s gaze. The hand gripping the instrument draws back slightly in preparation for the next blow; then he pistons it upward, the long metal tip punching its way through the boy’s diaphragm and into his chest. He watches the body go rigid, watches the lips form the circle of a silent scream, the eyes wide and distant.

The boy crumples to the ground, and the predator goes with him, cradling a shoulder with his right hand, his eyes fixed on that bewildered, pallid face. He can see that the boy’s conscious­ness is waning now, can feel the muscles going limp in his grasp. Still, he tries to connect with those eyes, wonders what they are seeing in these final moments. He imagines what it might feel like for the world to slide away at the end, to feel the stage go dark and to step blindly into that void between this world and the next, naked and alone, waiting for what comes after . . . if anything at all.

The cool earth shifts slightly beneath his fingers, and in the space of a second the boy is gone, leaving behind his useless, broken frame. “No,” the predator whispers to himself, for the moment has passed too quickly. He shakes the body, looking for signs of life. But there is nothing. He is alone now in the woods. The realization sends him into a rage. The instrument in his hand rises and falls again and again, wanting to punish, to admonish, to hurt. When the instrument no longer satisfies him, he casts it aside, using his hands, nails, and teeth to widen the wounds. The body yields impassively to the assault, the macerated flesh fall­ing away without conviction, the pooling blood already a lifeless thing. Eventually, the ferocity of the attack begins to taper. He rests on his hands and knees, drawing in quick, ragged breaths.

Next time, I will do better, he promises the thing that lives behind the curtain. But when he turns to look the thing is gone, the curtain drawn closed once again.

Author Bio:

John Burley attended medical school in Chicago and completed his emergency medicine residency training at University of Maryland Medical Center/Shock Trauma in Baltimore. He currently serves as an emergency medicine physician in northern California, where he lives with his wife, daughter, Great Dane, and English Bulldog. This is his first novel.

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Book Showcase: JUST ADD SPICE by Carol Wyer

Just Add Spice by Carol Wyer

Just Add Spice
by Carol Wyer
on Tour November 2013

Book Details

Genre: Romantic Comedy
Published by: Safkhet Soul
Publication Date: 25th July 2013
Number of Pages: 184
NOTE: Explicit sexual scenes
Purchase Links:    


Escape from reality comes in patent-leather Prada knee boots


Dawn Ellis needs to escape from her painfully dull existence. Her unemployed husband spends all day complaining about life, moping around, or fixing lawnmowers on her kitchen table. The local writing class proves to be an adequate distraction with its eccentric collection of wannabe authors and, of course, the enigmatic Jason, who soon shows a romantic interest in her.


Dawn pours her inner frustrations into her first novel about the extraordinary exploits of Cinnamon Knight, an avenging angel — a woman who doesn’t believe in following the rules. Cinnamon is ruthless and wanton, inflicting suffering on any man who warrants it. Little does Dawn realise that soon the line between reality and fiction will blur. Her own life will be transformed, and those close to her will pay the price.

Read an excerpt:

Cinnamon Knight ground the stub of her Benson and Hedges’ cigarette into the pavement with the heel of her Prada leather motorcycle boot, where it now joined a small pile of tab ends. Strategically placed in a shop doorway, she watched the top left window of a block of flats opposite. She had been there almost two hours. Rain beat steadily on the pavement, drumming against the gutter with constant thuds, but this did not deter her. Her patience was rewarded as the light blazing from the window was finally extinguished. She sauntered across the road to the BMW parked in front of the block of flats along the kerbside, sandwiched between a Peugeot 205 and a C Class Mercedes.

Dressed completely in black, face partially obscured by her North Face hooded jacket; she was almost invisible next to the dark car. It took only a minute to fiddle with the lock, open the door, and slide into the car. She lowered herself down in the driver’s seat, casting a cursory glance out of the window. The streets were empty. The weather was on her side and no one was braving the downpour, not even the old man at the end of the road who rarely missed taking his dog out for an evening stroll.

She leant forward and pulled off the cover below the steering wheel with one deft movement. Extracting the screwdriver from a neat case, she stabbed it into the ignition lock. A quick fiddle, one sharp twist, and the car burst into life; the persistent thudding of the rain against the pavement hid the initial coughing of the engine. She pulled away from the kerb swiftly and headed up the road at speed.

Pushing the hood away from her head, she checked her face in the rear-view mirror. That’ll teach him to mess about with women, she thought. No one, but no one, messes about with Cinnamon—the rat!

Author Bio:

Carol E. Wyer is an award winning author whose humorous novels take a light-hearted look at getting older and encourage others to age disgracefully. Her bestselling debut novel Mini Skirts and Laughter Lines won five awards for humour. Surfing in Stilettos which follows the further adventures of Amanda Wilson as she attempts to inject some fun into her life, was a Costa Award nominee. Safkhet Publishing released How Not to Murder Your Grumpy June 1st 2012, the first of three books in a ‘Grumpy’ series.

Carol has featured on numerous shows discussing ‘Irritable Male Syndrome’ and ‘Ageing Disgracefully’. She has had articles published in national magazines such as Woman’s Weekly and online magazines. She writes regularly for The Huffington Post and author website Indies Unlimited.

She is a signed author with ThornBerry Publishing and Safkhet Publishing.

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Book 336: CUT TO THE BONE Review

Cut to the Bone: A Body Farm Novel (Body Farm 0.5) by Jefferson Bass
ISBN:  9780062262301 (hardcover)
ISBN:  9780062262325 (ebook)
ASIN:  B00BATNLJC (Kindle edition)
Publication date: September 24, 2013 
Publisher: William Morrow

In this long-awaited prequel to his New York Times bestselling series, Jefferson Bass turns the clock back to reveal the Body Farm’s creation-and Dr. Bill Brockton’s deadly duel with a serial killer

In the summer of 1992, Arkansas Governor Bill Clinton and Tennessee Senator Albert Gore begin their long-shot campaign to win the White House. In the sweltering hills of Knoxville at the University of Tennessee, Dr. Bill Brockton, the bright, ambitious young head of the Anthropology Department, launches an unusual-some would call it macabre-research facility, unlike any other in existence. Brockton is determined to revolutionize the study of forensics to help law enforcement better solve crime. But his plans are derailed by a chilling murder that leaves the scientist reeling from a sense of déjà vu. Followed by another. And then another: bodies that bear eerie resemblances to cases from Brockton’s past.

The police chalk up the first corpse to coincidence. But as the body count rises, the victims’ fatal injuries grow more and more distinctive-a spiral of death that holds dark implications for Brockton himself. If the killer isn’t found quickly, the death toll could be staggering. And the list of victims could include Brockton. . . and everyone he holds dear.

The year is 1992; it’s summer in Knoxville, Tennessee, and forensic anthropology is still in its infancy. All of that is about to change due to the efforts of Dr. Bill Brockton, head of the Anthropology Department at the University of Tennessee – Knoxville and his graduate assistant, Tyler Wainwright. This particular summer sees a number of bodies found that all seem familiar to Dr. Brockton, but he can’t quite put his finger on why. What does come from the number of bodies is the notion that perhaps the evolution of insects on the corpses can reveal greater accuracy in determining how long they’ve been deceased. This idea culminates in what is to become the “body farm” located mere yards away from the University of Tennessee – Knoxville hospital. As the summer continues it becomes clear that this particular killer may be directing his kills specifically toward Dr. Brockton’s attention. When the killer strikes a bit closer to home, it becomes a race to beat the clock. Can Brockton, the police and the FBI identify and contain the killer before Dr. Brockton, or his family, become the killer’s final targets?

Cut to the Bone is actually the first book I’ve read by Jefferson Bass. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect, but I think it was probably something along the lines of Kathy Reichs or Patricia Cornwell’s series on forensics and forensic anthropology. This was so much more (and I thoroughly enjoy reading both series by Ms. Reichs and Ms. Cornwell). Perhaps it’s because I attended graduate school at the University of Tennessee – Knoxville, but the images brought to mind by the descriptions of the Anthropology Department in Neyland stadium and the Knoxville area were quite vivid. I could literally close my eyes and see the picture painted by the author’s words. The descriptions of the murdered bodies were a bit more gruesome than I’m used to, but it definitely added to the overall tension and suspense while reading. This was one story where the bad guy is really, really bad and the good guys were really good and should all have been wearing white hats. I liked Dr. Bill Brockton and found him to be realistic and flawed. His relationship with family and friends only added to his realism and believability. It was intriguing to watch Dr. Brockton’s learning curve with this series of murders and the implications it had on the burgeoning field of forensic anthropology. Cut to the Bone is an extremely well-written suspense thriller that had me turning on all of the lights at night (okay, it was just one night). Cut to the Bone is intended as a prequel to the Body Farm series by Jefferson Bass. As previously stated this is the first in this series that I’ve read, but hopefully not the last. I look forward to adding this series and this author to my ever growing TBR list.

Disclaimer: I received a digital copy of this book free for review purposes from the publisher via Edelweiss. I was not paid, required or otherwise obligated to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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The Stranger You Know (Forensic Instincts #3) by Andrea Kane
ISBN:  9780778315018 (hardcover)
ISBN:  9781460319512 (ebook)
ASIN:  B00CN0N7RI (Kindle edition)
Publication date: September 24, 2013 
Publisher: Harlequin MIRA

It begins with a chilling phone call to Casey Woods. And ends with another girl dead.

College-age girls with long red hair. Brutally murdered, they’re posed like victims in a film noir. Each crime scene is eerily similar to the twisted fantasy of a serial offender now serving thirty years to life-a criminal brought to justice with the help of Forensic Instincts.

Call. Kill. Repeat. But the similarities are more than one psychopath’s desire to outdo another. As more red-headed victims are added to the body count, it becomes clear that each one has been chosen because of a unique connection to Casey-a connection that grows closer and closer to her.

Now the Forensic Instincts team must race to uncover the identity of a serial killer before his ever-tightening circle of death closes in on Casey as the ultimate target. As the stalker methodically moves in on his prey, his actions make one thing clear: he knows everything about Casey. And Casey realizes that this psychopathic won’t stop until he makes sure she’s dead.

Casey Woods is all too familiar with the killing of college students. When she was in college her best friend was murdered and the murderer was never found. That seems to be the only link to Forensic Instincts’ current case of a missing and presumed dead college student, until Casey gets a mysterious phone call. While Forensic Instincts puts all of its talents into solving a cold-case file of murdered college students and a missing girl that’s presumed dead, their case quickly becomes a race to beat-the-clock and outwit a killer. Will FI’s team of crack investigators’ be able to solve this crime before Casey becomes the final victim?

The Stranger You Know is the third book in the Forensic Instincts series by Ms. Kane. All of the previous books have focused on cases that involved clients. The suspense and thrills have always been associated with a FI client seeking answers to a question or problem. Although The Stranger You Know starts with a client seeking answers to the case of a missing daughter, it quickly becomes a personal case for Casey Woods and the entire FI team. Once again the FI team works with local law enforcement and the FBI to solve crimes. This book provides a bit more of a glimpse into the personal lives of each member of the FI team as they work together to save one of their own. I found The Stranger You Know to be a fast-paced and enjoyable read simply because of the more personal aspect to the story. This is not so much a true mystery as it is a suspense thriller and the suspense kept me on edge until to the bitter end. If you’ve read the previous books in this series or enjoy reading suspense thrillers with a bit of drama and romance, then you’ll want to add The Stranger You Know to your to-be-read list.

Disclaimer: I received a digital copy of this book free for review purposes from the publisher via NetGalley. I was not paid, required or otherwise obligated to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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Book 258: NECESSARY LIES Review

Necessary Lies by Diane Chamberlain
ISBN:  9781250010698 (hardcover)
ISBN:  9781250010704 (ebook)
ASIN:  B00C74VCMM (Kindle edition)
Publication date: September 3, 2013 
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press

After losing her parents, fifteen-year-old Ivy Hart is left to care for her grandmother, older sister and nephew as tenants on a small tobacco farm.  As she struggles with her grandmother’s aging, her sister’s mental illness and her own epilepsy, she realizes they might need more than she can give.

When Jane Forrester takes a position as Grace County’s newest social worker, she doesn’t realize just how much her help is needed. She quickly becomes emotionally invested in her clients’ lives, causing tension with her boss and her new husband. But as Jane is drawn in by the Hart women, she begins to discover the secrets of the small farm—secrets much darker than she would have guessed. Soon, she must decide whether to take drastic action to help them, or risk losing the battle against everything she believes is wrong.

Set in rural Grace County, North Carolina in a time of state-mandated sterilizations and racial tension, Necessary Lies tells the story of these two young women, seemingly worlds apart, but both haunted by tragedy. Jane and Ivy are thrown together and must ask themselves: how can you know what you believe is right, when everyone is telling you it’s wrong?

Ivy Hart is only fifteen years old, but for the past two years of her life she’s had to take care of her older sister, Mary Ella, her grandmother – Nonnie, and her sister’s son, Baby William. She’s also had to help take care of the house, work in the tobacco fields, and attend school. Even with all she does, her family has very little to survive on. Her grandmother has high blood pressure and diabetes, her sister is most like mildly mentally retarded, her two-year-old nephew only says a few words, and she suffers from epilepsy. Ivy’s father died when she was five and shortly after that her mother was admitted to a local mental hospital for viciously attacking a local woman. The only thing good is Ivy’s life is her friendship/romance with Henry Allen, the son of the farmer that owns their home and the tobacco farm. She and Henry Allen dream of leaving North Carolina and heading out West to California. 

Jane Forrester is an idealist and decades ahead of her time. She’s a new graduate from college, a newlywed and a new hire in the North Carolina Department of Public Welfare as a social worker. In the South of 1962 it isn’t seemly for the wife of doctor to work as social worker and Jane’s husband feels she should be dedicating her time and energy to charitable work and their new home. Before she even starts work her job is a bone of contention between the newlyweds, but her husband reluctantly agrees that she can give it a try. Jane isn’t ignorant of poverty or despair but she’s never seen up close and personal, and the few weeks on the job teach her that very few in her department see their “clients” as human beings with needs, dreams and desires. These are just people that need to be subjected to more rules and regulations to keep them subjugated. One such rule that Jane has problems with is the principle of “eugenics” or sterilization that the department feels is a way to curb “certain people” from procreating. Regrettably, Ivy Hart fits the criteria for inclusion in this program and her grandmother and the local visiting nurse agree. Only Jane is willing to question the program and the way her department makes decisions for these people without any thought or regard to their own desires or dreams. Needless to say, Jane’s attitude causes a lot of problems within her department and with her husband.

Ms. Chamberlain has crafted an intense story that provides a glimpse into our not-so-distant history with the eugenics program and its guidelines in the state of North Carolina. By having a person of authority, Jane Forrester, interact with people affected by the program, Mary Ella and Ivy, Ms. Chamberlain has provided a voice to the dissent against this program and the adverse affects the program caused. Although this is a highly emotional tale, I found it to be an interesting and fast read. After awhile it felt like I was witnessing people from the past rather than reading about fictional characters. There’s a lot of drama and sadness in Necessary Lies, but there’s also love, hope and perseverance. Ms. Chamberlain doesn’t sugarcoat the adversities faced by Ivy Hunt or any of her neighbors. The picture provided of the poverty and despair isn’t harsh or overly ugly but presented in a truthful and respectful manner. I thoroughly enjoyed reading Necessary Lies and can highly recommend it to anyone that enjoys reading fiction based on true historical events.

Click here to read an excerpt from Necessary Lies.

Disclaimer: I received a digital copy of this book free for review purposes from the publisher via NetGalley. I was not paid, required or otherwise obligated to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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Also available as an Audiobook at

Book 339: BROKEN Review, Author Q&A and more

Broken by C. J. Lyons
ISBN:  9781402285455 (hardcover)
ISBN:  9781402285462 (ebook)
ASIN:  B00ENQEMJW (Kindle edition)
Publication date: November 5, 2013 
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire

For Scarlet Killian, every day is a game of Russian roulette – she has a 1 in 5 chance of dying… 

The only thing fifteen-year-old Scarlet Killian has ever wanted is a chance at a normal life. Diagnosed with a rare and untreatable heart condition, she has never taken the school bus. Or giggled with friends during lunch. Or spied on a crush out of the corner of her eye. So when her parents offer her three days to prove she can survive high school, Scarlet knows her time is now…or never. Scarlet can feel her heart beating out of control with every slammed locker and every sideways glance in the hallway. But this high school is far from normal. And finding out the truth might just kill Scarlet before her heart does.

Scarlet Killian has spent most of her life in the hospital. She only attended elementary school for a few years before she was taken out and home-schooled. Scarlet has several “near misses” where she’s been on death’s door only to be revived to survive another day. Now that she’s fifteen, she’s asked her parents if she can attend school. She knows that it will be difficult simply because her heart could give out on her at any time, but she wants this chance to be “normal.” Her parents agree to allow her a one-week trial and then they will reassess the situation. Scarlet feels as if she’s won the lottery, one whole week to experience being a teenager outside of her home or the hospital. Scarlet doesn’t know what she’s in for . . . 

Scarlet’s first day at school begins with problems. She immediately makes an enemy of a member of the football team, so (of course) his teammates and others go out of their way to treat her like a freak. If that wasn’t bad enough her mother (actually her stepmother), the school nurse, intrudes on Scarlet’s lunch on the first day and attempts to take her vitals in the cafeteria in front of other students. The horror! The only plus to the first day is that Scarlet has made some new friends; namely her peer mentor support group consisting of Celina, Nessa and Jordan. She is also befriended by a student, Tony, in one of her classes after she is set on fire by her lab partner (the aforementioned football player), and she throws up on Tony after he tries to help her out. What a first day and talk about first impressions.

All of the action in Broken takes place over the span of five days. It is filled with the normal teenage angst and drama, but it is also filled with friendship, budding romance, and a heart-stopping mystery (pun intended). It seems like the more Scarlet looks into her past medical history the more questions she finds that require answers. Ms. Lyons has incorporated quite a bit of mystery, suspense and thrills into her first foray as a YA author. Of course I haven’t been a “Young Adult” for quite a number of years, but I enjoyed reading Broken as much as I’ve enjoyed her other contemporary suspense thrillers. The action gradually builds, as did my tension while reading, and most of the suspense and thrills take place in the last 20-25% of the book. Broken is a well-crafted mystery-suspense-thriller that can be enjoyed by readers of all ages, so don’t be off-put by the YA classification. Read it and you’ll enjoy it as much as I did.

To read a few of the first chapters of Broken, click here:

Disclaimer: I received a digital copy of this book free for review purposes from the publisher via NetGalley. I was not paid, required or otherwise obligated to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

About the author:

New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of twenty-one novels, former pediatric ER doctor CJ Lyons has lived the life she writes about in her cutting edge Thrillers with Heart. 

Winner of the International Thriller Writers’ coveted Thriller Award, CJ has been called a “master within the genre” (Pittsburgh Magazine) and her work has been praised as “breathtakingly fast-paced” and “riveting” (Publishers Weekly) with “characters with beating hearts and three dimensions” (Newsday).

Learn more about CJ’s Thrillers with Heart at

Connect with the author:     Facebook      |      Goodreads  

The character of Scarlet and the story Broken was inspired by Ms. Lyon’s niece Abby, a teen with Long QT syndrome.

How is Abby coping with Long QT?

CJ: Abby’s great, thanks for asking! She’s totally opposite of Scarlet, fiercely independent and refuses to let her heart condition hold her back from anything she wants. She rides horses, raises Rottweilers, is a straight A student, and a budding fashionista.

You can see for yourself in this video my publisher produced:

Abby has never allowed her heart condition to define her life. I think a large part of the credit for that goes to her parents—they were always open and upfront with Abby about her Long QT. By the age of three she could explain what Long QT was (including a short summary of the genetics!) to anyone who asked about her MedAlert bracelet.

Since then, she’s grown into a smart, independent young woman who is the first to jump in to defend a friend (or tell them they’re making a mistake), confront a bully, or lead a cause she’s passionate about.

If I sound like a proud aunt, it’s because I am!

Psst…pre-order the ebook before November 5th and you’ll qualify for special ebook pricing at only $4.99!

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