Lament

   a fire burnt in my being
 
          in the depths
          in the darkness
          at the heart

 
   fire to create
   fire to love
   fire to be

 
          but grief has translated me through time and space
          away from myself

 
   o, bring me the burning coal
   heart, where is thy passion?
   fire, where is thy flame?

 
   even the ashes are absent

 

In memory of my mother:
Bereaved
Mourning
Grief
Missing Her
One Crossing
Grievous Loss

 

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Grief

    I have gone long past autumn
    The brilliance is fled
    Soft somberness cloaks me
         as I mourn

 

    The winter has not come yet
         to close down this inbetween interval

 

    I tread the shredded leaves underfoot
    Damp from yesterday’s rain, they do not rustle
    There should be weeping
         as I mourn

 

    But the season’s death is soft, weary;
         it drags and muffles, does not cut

 

    I stand beneath dark outstretched boughs
    Remembering another tree, flanked by two like it
    My heart weeps, but my eyes merely ache
         as I mourn

 

    The clarity of the distant sky has vanished,
         coming close to mingle with the soft air, removing hope

 

    Lost between my loss and an unknown future,
    I am alone and forsaken,
    Too weary to find my way
         as I mourn

 

In memory of my mother:
Bereaved
Mourning
Lament
Missing Her
One Crossing
Grievous Loss

 

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Grievous Loss

My mother passed away October 7, 2017. She was 87 years old. I’m going to share with you the words I spoke at her funeral on Friday, October 13, 2017.

I loved my mother very much. I still do. We were close from the very beginning, and we just got closer as I grew up.

My mom was a remarkable woman, and I wish I could share with you everything that made her so wonderful and so special to me. But I’m capable of talking about my kids for 6 hours by the clock, and I suspect I could easily double that for Mom.

Since I can’t tell you everything, I’m going to focus on one very special aspect of her, something that was at the heart of our mother-daughter relationship. And the best way to lead into that is through something that happened to me last Wednesday.

I woke up at 5 in the morning from a nightmare.

I dreamed that someone I love was judging me and condemning me unfairly. It pierced me to my core. It really hurt. And I awoke to a pounding heart and a full fight-or-flight response.

It was one of those dreams that are hard to throw off, but I worked to do just that, reminding myself that it was just a dream, that I was awake now. I wished I could tell my mom. There were so many times in the past, especially when I was still young and living at home, that I would have a bad dream and tell Mom all about it.

She would listen with her whole heart, completely interested in my experience, and immersed in talking it over with me. She was not bored, or waiting to tell me her dream, or thinking about all the tasks she had to get done that day.

She was with me with her whole self, listening to what I said and to what I could not say. I felt so safe in her presence and so heard by her. And she always came up with the insights I needed in order to understand what I could learn from the dream, to arrive at peace with it and be able to let it go.

Of course, my dream of this Wednesday was a fairly straight forward matter. It showed me that I still tend to judge and condemn myself unfairly.

My mother would have enjoyed dissecting that dream with me, but I usually sought her counsel for life problems that were much thornier and more painful. And she gave me the same deep interest and caring that she gave my bad dreams.

She found the psychological puzzles that were posed by my problems to be fascinating in and of themselves, but of course she also wanted to help me and relieve my emotional pain, both because she liked to help people by bringing relief to their psychological hurts and because she loved me very much and wanted to ease my hurt.

As I moved out of young adulthood, our long and deep talks became more of a two-way street. Sometimes she would seek my listening heart and my insight about one of her thorny life problems. We took turns asking one another’s counsel in the search for clarity and understanding.

I miss my mother to the core, because she was my mother and I love her so much. But I am also missing those heart-to-heart talks that were so much of how we related to one another.

I won’t be having those talks with her ever again, but they form a part of her legacy that goes out far beyond me.

I’m going to conclude with one small story that shows what I mean.

As my mother’s health worsened over her last few months, I leaned more and more heavily on my closest friends for support. During the past two weeks, I called one of them nearly every day. I found her words of wisdom and her warm caring to be invaluable.

In one of our conversations, I told her so.

She answered me by saying, “Well, I learned how to listen like this, with my whole heart, from you.”

I was astounded. “You did?” I said.

She replied very simply: “Yes, I did.”

And then I realized that was one of my mother’s many gifts that has been rippling out into the world all of her life, and that will continue to go out to touch those in need of a listening ear paired with a loving heart even now that she is gone.

She taught me to listen deeply – with my whole being – and to think deeply about what I was hearing. She taught me by doing that for me. I taught my friend by doing the same for her. And my friend has surely passed on that gift to yet others.

My mother gave this gift of caring listening paired with wise insight to me, her daughter, but I was far from the only one who received it. She was eager to help anyone who wanted and needed her help, and she did.

Imagine that legacy of her love and insight flowing out through each one of us to others in need of compassion and wise counsel. It seems a mighty legacy to me. That gives me some comfort.

In tribute to my mother:
Bereaved
Mourning
Grief
Lament
Missing Her
One Crossing

 

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A New Cover for Troll-magic

I’ve been replacing all my covers featuring the back & white illustrations by Kay Nielsen.

I loved those old covers, but the odd thing is that I find I’m loving the new ones every bit as much. I suspect it’s because I’ve loved the works by John William Waterhouse for almost as long as I’ve loved Kay Nielsen’s illustrations.

I’m particularly delighted with the art I found for Troll-magic.

There’s a story behind that, which I’m gong to share. 😉

You may recall that when I searched the portfolio of John William Waterhouse for art that would fit Fate’s Door, I initially missed the painting titled Miranda, even though it is perfect, depicting a young blond woman in Grecian robes who could be Nerine, the sea nymph protagonist of my book.

Luckily my friend Laura found what I had missed.

The same thing happened with Livli’s Gift, although I self-corrected there. After doing a mock-up based on Waterhouse’s The Annunciation, I noticed The Crystal Ball, which was (again) perfect.

Well, guess what? You know what comes next, right?

When I looked for art that would fit Troll-magic, I didn’t see anything.

It was only when I was searching on behalf of Livli’s Gift that I found myself doing a double take.

“Wait a minute!” I said to myself. “Psyche has blond hair like Lorelin. It’s too bad that the scene in which Psyche opens Aphrodite’s forbidden gift doesn’t fit anything in Troll-magic. I sat back, staring at the painting, feeling something niggle at my backbrain.

“What, what, what?” I wondered silently.

Then I had it! Waterhouse had painted more than one scene from the Psyche and Cupid myth.

His work depicting Psyche opening the door into Cupid’s garden is perfect on so many levels.

The Psyche and Cupid myth (or, in a more Jungian vein, Psyche and Amor) is the root from which the fairy tale Beauty and the Beast grew.

East of the Sun and West of the Moon (the inspiration for my own Troll-magic) is the Nordic version of Beauty and the Beast. An illustration from the Psyche and Cupid myth felt heart-deep right.

On a more superficial level, it was right also. The motif of an unexpected side door, opening onto wonders, occurs several times in Troll-magic, starting with Lorelin discovering such a door in the gardens outside the palace of my Beast.

Psyche Entering Cupd’s Garden by John William Waterhouse was the right art for Troll-magic!

Prince Kellor, cursed by the troll-witch Mandine to live as a north-bear, wrestles with the challenges of his beast form. Pain wracks his body. Unpredictable rages blur his mind. And straight thinking proves elusive, confusing his search for the loopholes that every curse possesses.

His curse turns on the choices of his childhood friend Elle. She once shared Kellor’s idyllic rambles through the wilderlands. She now loves all things musical. Might Kellor persuade her to neglect her own dreams to confront his lethal nightmare? Should he?
 

But no troll-witch permits her prey to escape with ease. The illusory loopholes in Mandine’s curse all twist back to its entombing heart.

Troll-magic tells a lyrical Beauty and the Beast tale, rife with moments of shining glory, dark magnificence, and unexpected significance. The fate of an empire, a people, and a world unfurls from Kellor’s deeds and Elle’s choices.

* * *

The new cover for Troll-magic has made it through the distribution chain to all of the online stores reached by these links.
Amazon I B&N I Inktera I iTunes I Kobo I OverDrive I Scribd I Smashwords I 24Symbols
(I ordered a proof copy of the trade paperback today! It will be ready soon.)

PRAISE FOR TROLL-MAGIC

“…her writing style is unique and engrossing… There’s a light and lilting tone to the prose… Troll-magic is a book to be savoured and enjoyed.” – James J. Parsons, Speaking to the Eyes

“This is the kind of book that you keep thinking about… All through the day you will find yourself hoping for just a few minutes to pick it up again. Loosely based on a familiar folk tale, the world depicted is magical, but the people are very real.” – Smashwords review

Troll-magic was a fun read… This story mixes adventure, romance, life lessons and, of course, magic. J.M. Ney-Grimm has created a fascinating new world. Her detailed descriptions and colourful writing style bring the world of Silmaren and the Norse-lands right off the page and into life.” – Amazon review

“Her work compares favorably with Robin McKinley and Patricia McKillip… if you’re looking for an intelligent, fun and interesting read, I highly recommend this book.” – Amazon review

EXCERPT FROM TROLL-MAGIC

Surely there had been words when she cursed him. He could hear the scream of her rage and despair. He could see her contorted face, the splintering acidic light. But words? Even a verse? Something about a maiden who would freely chose?

That hardly made sense. He was alone here.

A maiden who would share his bed? How was that possible? And who would want to?

He wore some terrible shape. He had not yet worked out what it was. His eyes in that shape did not work the way he was used to as a man. And he couldn’t make out his reflection in the mirrors . . .

But worse than his fearful shape, he was half mad as a beast. His curse-twisted mind was incoherent, the thoughts spinning out of all sense. Rage would shake his entire monstrous being without any warning.

He was not fit to live with.

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A New Cover for Livli’s Gift

I’ve been on a cover tear, so perhaps you can guess what’s coming next. 😀

Sarvet’s Wanderyar once featured a pen-and-ink illustration by Kay Nielsen, but now it possesses art by John William Waterhouse – an oil painting in vibrant color.

Winter Glory, the other novella in the Kaunis Clan Saga, was adorned by a pen-and-ink rendition of Kay Nielsen’s northern skier. Now that ebook also features art in color.

Clearly the Kaunis Clan novel, Livli’s Guft, would need a new cover as well.

My first sweep through the portfolio of John William Waterhouse did not turn up anything that grabbed at me. I considered his Annunciation (even did a mock-up with it), but had reservations about it.

I worked on other things, while I pondered. When those things were finished, I revisited the Waterhouse portfolio. This time I saw something: The Crystal Ball. I suspect the artist may have been thinking about wiccan paraphernalia when he painted it. But another angle altogether comes to view when the painting is considered in light of my protagonist.

She’s a healer. In her culture, she’s the equivalent of a doctor. Which means that of course she studies anatomy, and like many people in the medicine of the past, she scrutinizes the physical clues that people leave behind, such as the skeleton. That’s what that skull is doing on the table in the scene.

The weighty tome is a medical text. And the crystal ball is not actually a crystal ball, but the sphere of light that she sees in her mind’s eye when she exerts her healing powers.

So…I had found the right piece of art. I opened up Photoshop and went to work. Check out the results below!

Livli struggles with a secret she keeps from everyone, even her closest friends, and she must solve the problem at its heart before she’s discovered.

She’s certain the answer lies in a fragment of folklore and magic half-remembered from her childhood. Almost certain.

She wouldn’t need forgotten magic if only the men and women of her secluded mountain culture dwelt together. But the women—and Livli—inhabit their sister-lodge atop its lofty bluff, while the men live apart in their brother-lodge several valleys away.

Unless she can force a change, Livli stands to lose everything . . . including the most precious thing in her life: her son.

A story of secrets, shibboleths, and deep-forged strength told with insight and engaging intimacy.

* * *

The ebook edition of Livli’s Gift possesses the new cover.
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(The new trade paperback is coming soon.)

PRAISE FOR LIVLI’S GIFT

“I started reading and couldn’t put it down. I love the world and the characters she has created.” – Goodreads review

“I have never read a novel that made me feel so good. Mrs Ney-Grimm, you absolutely BLEW MY MIND! . . . It was so unique, so original . . . Usually I blast through the pages of a book that I love, but Livli’s Gift made me want to go as slow as possible, absorbing every moment of bliss.” – Goodreads review

EXCERPT FROM LIVLI’S GIFT

Livli rerolled the scroll carefully, returned it to its pigeonhole, and sighed. The whisper of her breath sounded loud in the quiet space, as had the crackle of the brittle parchment and the faint click of the closing cabinet door.

The tale of The Princess and the Griffon did not have the reference she was looking for. Neither had The Lindworm’s Eyrie nor Triton’s Egg.

“Why am I bothering,” she murmured. “It’s a wild gos chase.”

But she knew why she was bothering. She really, really wanted the information in whatever tale it was.

“I wish I could remember.”

But she couldn’t remember.

Of course, she could ask her birth-mother. Sarvet would undoubtedly reel off an entire list of the folktales she’d told her children at bedtime. But I don’t want her to know . . . what I’m thinking about right now.

Livli sighed again and shifted uncomfortably. Having to pee so often was for the birds. I just got back from the dump-buckets! I’m not traipsing through all three of those long corridors again. At least not right away.

Instead she straightened and moved over to the windows.

The view was incredible. Not so much for its scope – a vista across a snowy valley brushed by clumps of dark pines, bounded by granite cliffs, and presided over by tall mountain peaks was ordinary in Hammarleeding enclaves – but for its wavy presence through glass while Livli stood indoors within warmth. The scroll-lodge of Siajotti was richly supported by all the sister-lodges and brother-lodges, and a library needed good lighting. So Siajotti had glass in its windows rather than hide coverings. And the scroll repository itself had big windows.

A coal fell in the tile stove that stood in the corner between the windows. The building creaked. The day was abnormally still, with no wind to mask the smaller sounds.

Livli paced from one end of the windowed wall to the other and back, her footfalls soft against age-darkened pine boards.

That lost scroll wasn’t her only problem. What am I going to do about Thoivra?

She traced one of the circular muntins holding the small glass panes – it was cool to her touch – and bit her lip. Focus, she reminded herself. One thing at a time. Scroll first.

I need to look somewhere else, but where?

None of the parchments on prayer, ritual, superstition, or even birth described the rite she sought. If it even existed.

* * *

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A New Cover for Winter Glory

When I was getting ready to publish my novella Winter Glory, and was contemplating its cover, I longed to feature the illustration by Kay Nielsen captioned with: “So the man gave him a pair of snow-shoes.”

The skier depicted was tall and lean, just like my protagonist Ivvar. He even had grayish hair! (Also like Ivvar.) The landscape he skied through was the snowy arctic of the far north of my North-lands. And the illustration was beautiful.

I tried to convince myself that I could build my cover around it.

But the other two books in the series featured pen-and-ink illustrations – black-and-white, not color – and I really felt that I should keep the branding homogeneous. I started to sigh and resign myself. And then I had what seemed to me a wonderful idea.

I could put the color art on my light table and trace it with a drawing pen, thus creating a black-and-white version of the color piece that I loved so much.

I’ll admit that I was really pleased with the result. So much so that I did not regret leaving the color illustration in my wake. I still find that black-and-white cover beautiful.

But as you may realize from my post about the new cover for Sarvet’s Wanderyar, I eventually realized that beautiful as the pen-and-ink work of Kay Nielsen is, it’s not the right art for my books and my readers. I’m replacing all of those black-and-white covers. Which meant I needed to revisit the cover for Winter Glory.

My first thought was to search the works of John William Waterhouse. I’d found something perfect for Sarvet’s Wanderyar amongst his portfolio. Maybe there would be something equally good for Winter Glory. But there wasn’t. Waterhouse seems to have painted mostly women. The few men in his paintings were decked out in ornate plate armor, and all of them were young.

Ivvar is in his eighties, and while he is a skilled hunter, he does not sally forth as a knight of medieval times. He wears wool and leather.

My next thought was to look through the works of the Pre-Raphaelites who influenced Waterhouse. There I encountered the same problem: mostly women, the few men presented as knights in shining armor. So, no. I would have to come up with another idea.

And it was only then that I remembered that, back at the vry beginning, I’d wanted to use the color piece by Kay Nielsen. Could I use it after all?

When I re-visited the image, I grew enthusiastic. I loved it as much as ever, and a vision sprang into my mind as to how I could marry it to the new trade dress I’d evolved when I worked on the new cover for Sarvet’s Wanderyar.

I set to work!

I must confess that I reveled in Photoshop, having more fun than seems really fair.

And, here it is…

In the cold, forested North-lands – redolent with the aroma of pine, shrouded in snow, and prowled by ice tigers and trolls – Ivvar seeks only to meet his newborn great granddaughter.

Someone else has the same plan.

Traversing the wilderness toward the infant’s home camp, Ivvar must face the woman he once cherished and an ancient scourge of the chilly woodlands in a complicated dance of love and death.

Ivvar’s second chance at happiness – and his life – hang in the balance.

* * *

The new cover is available on the ebook editions at most online bookstores, although (as I type this) it is still wending its way through the distribution chain to Scribd and OverDrive.

Winter Glory as an ebook:
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PRAISE FOR WINTER GLORY

“A little atmospheric gem of a novella… interesting, beautifully written, and worth re-reading.” – Amazon review

“In the starkly beautiful North-lands – a place that Ney-Grimm conveys so clearly it’s like watching a movie on the inside of your skull – two people who once knew and loved each other meet up again. This is their story…” – Amazon review

“The descriptive language is nothing short of gorgeous… I love that the protagonists are older… and they stuck with me long after I had finished reading.” – Amazon review

“The writing is lucid, elegant, smooth. Ney-Grimm creates a fantasy world of Norse legends, but with real people…” – Amazon review

“…in the midst of this excellent adventure story comes an insight so brilliant…”
Amazon review

EXCERPT FROM WINTER GLORY

His gaze stopped on a woman sitting alone in the booth at the far left corner.

She wore Hammarleeding garb – wool tunic and leggings like his – hers drab in subdued ecru decorated by patterns of gray and white. She was bony, rangy, likely quite tall when she stood. And old, like him. She’d pinned her long iron-gray braid around her head like a coronet, and she held herself like a queen, straight and graceful as she sipped her cup of tea.

The frontiersmen began a rollicking ballad about bears dancing in the woods, and the Hammarleeding woman turned her face toward them.

Ivvar felt all the air punch out of his lungs.

She wasn’t beautiful, but she drew him. Lightly tanned skin like his own; straight nose, a little on the long side; flat cheeks. Laugh lines framed her firm mouth. Crow’s feet bordered her level hazel eyes. He suspected she’d reached that calm place where life was just interesting, neither a tragedy to be resisted, nor a passion to be exalted. But what was it about her . . . ? She looked genuine and . . . appealing.

The flutter in his innards grew.

Then lagging memory brought another face before his mind’s eye.

Like to the one across the room from him in the here-and-now. So like. But younger; fifty or more years younger. Jaw clenched, hazel eyes hot, and lips tight with anger. His linking-sister – what these lowlanders would call his wife. His former wife. Paiam.

The last time he’d seen her, angry at life itself more than at him, but telling him their linking – their marriage – must end.

How had she grown into this serene old grandmother?

* * *

The ebook links again for Winter Glory (I’m hard at work on a trade paperback edition that will feature the new cover):
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A New Cover for Sarvet’s Wanderyar

All the work I’ve been doing on the new cover for Fate’s Door has me seeing my covers through fresh eyes. And, much as I love Kay Nielsen’s art, much as I love the covers made with his art, I’ve been forced to see that the covers probably aren’t right for my stories.

The art is elegant and unusual. I really do adore it. But it is also melancholy, a little dark, and enters the so-called “uncanny valley” that occurs when human figures are very human, but also possess some features that are decidedly not human. Like clowns. Or like the attenuated sculptures of Alberto Giacometti.

I like to believe that my stories partake of some degree of elegance. And I’ve been told many times that they are unique (thus unusual). But my characters are as human as I can make them, not uncanny. And my themes are all about inspiration and hope and finding strength in unexpected places. They are not melancholy.

Once I’d progressed that far in my thinking, it occurred to me that of the readers who’ve expressed admiration for the covers of Troll-magic and Sarvet’s Wanderyar and Livli’s Gift, the majority have been those who eventually decided my work isn’t really to their tastes.

I’d been hanging onto their admiration for those covers as a reason not to change them. But elegance and uniqueness are not enough in a cover. It also must speak to the readers who will enjoy the book. And these weren’t.

(Looking at the Kay Nielsen cover for Sarvet’s Wanderyar, my husband – who likes the Kay Nielsen art and considers himself a fan of my stories – said: “You know…it really looks sort of like post-apocolyptic horror.” Eek! No!)

So, as my new cover for Fate’s Door moved toward its completion (I’m not quite there yet), I knew I needed to create new covers for more of my backlist, specifically those books featuring Kay Nielsen art.

Now, I would love to commission new covers from DDD. But the same financial constraints that prevented me from buying a DDD cover for Fate’s Door remain in play here. I don’t have the money for a DDD cover for both WIP and a backlist book.

Luckily, I’ve discovered that the art of John William Waterhouse (which is in the public domain) works really well on my book covers! So I returned to that well to find cover art for Sarvet’s Wanderyar.

The painting titled Windflowers caught my eye as being really right. The model could easily be a teenage girl, which Sarvet is. The setting is windswept, very much in keeping with the mountain meadows where Sarvet dwells. And the overall composition has a lot of energy, the terrain at a slant, the girl’s hair and gown whipped by the wind. It’s easy to imagine that she is taking a long walk, something related to the more extensive wanderyar that Sarvet craves.

I’m really pleased with the cover I created featuring Windflowers, so much so that I plan to create a paperback edition to match the new ebook edition.

Running away leads right back home—or does it?

Sarvet walks with a grinding limp, and her mountain culture keeps girls close to home. Worse, her mother emphasizes all the things Sarvet can’t do.

No matter how gutsy her spirit or bold her defiance, staying put means growing weaker. But only boys get wanderyars. Lacking their supplies and training, how can Sarvet escape?

Can dreams—even big dreams—and inner certainty transform impossible barricades into a way out?

The new ebook edition of Sarvet’s Wanderyar has the new cover.
Amazon I B&N I iTunes I Kobo I Smashwords I Universal Link*

(The new paperback is in production.)
 

PRAISE FOR SARVET’S WANDERYAR

“…it’s an entrancing story with a character you care about, and desperately want to succeed… At first I saw Paiam as the clear antagonist, but I came to sympathize with her. This makes for a complex interaction between the two characters that rages almost completely in the subtext–very clever on Ney-Grimm’s part, and very effective… On a side note, one of my favourite things about Ney-Grimm’s work is her treatment of fantastical creatures…the pegasi seem ethereal…creatures of light and gauze that are somehow the most real things in the world.” — Speaking to the Eyes review

“J.M. Ney-Grimm has woven a beautiful, multi-layered tapestry… All the characters, human and otherwise, in her world are well-rounded and believable.” — Barbara Karp, Readers’ Favorite review
 

EXCERPT FROM SARVET’S WANDERYAR

Tense and furious, Sarvet shook her mother’s angry grip from her forearm. “I’ll petition the lodge-meet for filial severance,” she snapped, and then wished she’d swallowed the words, so hateful, too hateful to speak. And yet she’d spoken them.

The breeze swirling on the mountain slope picked up, nudging the springy branches of the three great pines at Sarvet’s back and purring among their needles. Their scent infused the moving air.

Paiam’s narrowed eyes widened an instant—in hurt?—flicked up to encompass the swaying tree tops behind her daughter, then went flat.

“You dare!” she breathed. “You’re my daughter. Mine alone. And I’ll see to it that you and every other mother in the lodge knows it too. You’ll stay under my aegis till you’re grown, young sister, even if I must declare you careless and remiss to do it!”

Oh!

Sarvet only thought she’d been mad before. “You never wanted me!” she accused.

Was it true? Or was she just aiming for Paiam’s greatest vulnerability, aiming to hurt? Because under her own rage lay . . . desperation. Something needed to change. She just didn’t know what, didn’t know how. And didn’t want to be facing it right now, facing her mother right now.

* * *

Here’re the links again:
Amazon I B&N I iTunes I Kobo I Smashwords I Universal Link*

*Books2Read provides a link that leads to nearly everywhere an ebook is in stock. More and more online bookstores will appear on Sarvet’s “universal” page at this link as the ebook makes its way through the distribution chain.
 

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