A Month on the Bike: Asthma Rears Its Ugly Head

August in Texas. Not my favorite month of the year. It has nothing to do with enduring day after day of hundred degree temperatures, although that’s no great pleasure. Rather, I dislike August for what it brings. Illness. Allergies. Asthma. As someone who enjoys going out for two or three hour bike rides, not being able to breathe because of asthma can be somewhat problematic.


August on the bike started off well. I signed up for the Blazin’ Saddles charity ride in Granbury, Texas, about an hour’s drive away. Their website boasts of it being the hardest ride in Texas. I’ve done some hard rides, we’d have to see how they stacked up.

I maintained realistic expectations about how I’d do. Although I’d been riding and training, I hadn’t been preparing for a hilly, 75 mile ride.

It should be noted about my biking abilities. Yes, I’ve been riding for over 10 years. Yes, I’m dedicated to working out and riding a bike. No, I’m not the fastest guy on the bike, nor do I care. I ride because I enjoy it. You want to pass me? Go right ahead. I’ll still have a good time.

On the day of the ride, after the requisite thanks for attending and warnings to be safe, we set off. I struggled right away. Hyperventilating. It happens from time to time. I’ve never been able to figure out the cause. I don’t know if I start off too quickly or forget to breathe in and out, but within a few minutes my heart is racing and I can’t seem to breathe. I feel like I’m blowing air out, but not taking any in. I’ve learned I have to ease off the pace and concentrate on breathing. Sometimes, I literally have to tell myself- breathe in, breath out, breathe in, breathe out- until my breathing returns to normal.

After a couple of miles, I could breathe regularly again. Time to concentrate on actual riding.

The first half of the ride, I flew. Down in the aero position, hanging over the handlebars, quick cadence of the pedals, going fast- it was a blast.

This was hard?

Then came the second half of the ride. Uphill. Uphill. Uphill. We’re not talking the French Alps or anything, but it was up and up and up. Long stretches of hills at times. Steep inclines at others. If there’s one thing I’m not, it’s fast going uphill.

At mile 70, the route reached the top of a hill. The event organizers had posted a sign indicating this was the peak of the entire route. Finally, no more going uphill. As I crested the hill, the road went straight downhill. By this time, I was beat. The last hill had taken what little energy I had left.

No energy equals slower reflexes. Going down a sharp descent, the smart thing to do would’ve been to ease off the pace. Tap the brakes. What if a car shot out of a driveway? Or a pothole appeared in the road?


Slowing down meant more time on the bike and getting to the finish line later. I was ready to be done.

I gripped the handlebars tight and hoped for the best.

I managed just fine.

Sorry, no tales of flipping over the handlebars or narrowly avoiding a car.

At the finish line, there was a tent with refreshments. Usually, there’s nothing but water, watered-down Gatorade, warm bananas, and oranges. I wanted something liquid. I grabbed a cup, willing to take whatever came out of the orange container.

It wasn’t water or Gatorade.

Sweet tea.

I stood there and downed three or four cups. Sweet tea never tasted so good.


Asthma. Tightness in the chest. Struggling to breathe. Wheezing, if it’s really bad. I’ve dealt with it my entire life. The earliest occurrence I recall took place in the fourth grade. My mom tells me I was diagnosed at the age of three. I’ll have to take her word on it.

Elementary school and junior high were the worst years. In the fourth grade, on the way to lunch, I had to go to the nurse’s office to use a nebulizer. Every day. In the fifth grade, I spent a week in the hospital. In sixth grade, my mom held me out of PE the entire year after an allergy test demonstrated I was allergic to nearly every type of weed and grass. It also showed that I was allergic to cigarette smoke, cats, and dogs, but that didn’t stop my dad or step-dad from smoking, nor did it propel my mom to give away the cat and the dog.

Eighth grade might’ve been the worst. For a few months, we lived in Phoenix. My routine went like this: Monday= school; Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday= home sick; Friday= school; Saturday and Sunday= home recuperating. It was quite the life. I also received allergy shots during this time. They provided no discernible difference.

Once I went away to college, my asthma symptoms abated somewhat. It could’ve been the West Texas air. Or the lack of cigarette smoke, cats, and dogs. The only times I remember having serious asthma problems were after mowing the yard.

For the next twenty years or so, while living in the Dallas-Forth Worth area, my asthma had seemed manageable to me. Yes, I carried an inhaler with me everywhere I went and used it a couple of times a day. But, compared to when I was a kid, bed-ridden, and wheezing, I felt much better.

But there were flareups. Reminders of the stranglehold asthma held over me. One doctor put me on allergy medication. It helped some. Another tried a different allergy medication. It helped a little more. A few years later, after experiencing a flareup that lasted for a couple of weeks, another doctor had me try a preventative inhaler. Dulera. Wow. This is what normal people must breathe like. For the first time in my life, I walked around without an inhaler.

Until I’d have a flareup. Which happens in August. At least for the past four or five years. It has to do with…well, I don’t know what causes it. I only know it happens. It could be the extreme heat in Texas. The lack of air movement. Perhaps it’s ragweed? We haven’t been able to pinpoint the exact culprit.

So this August rolls around and a dread descends upon me. Will the awful asthma rear its ugly head?

It did.

This year, as soon as I noticed a discernible difference in breathing, that tightness in the chest, I called the doctor. She prescribed six days of Prednisone (Hello, headaches and insomnia!). My breathing improved while I was on it. Hooray!

As soon as I went off it, my breathing was worse than before. I spent a Friday night sitting on the couch, struggling to breathe.

Every time I have one of these flareups, I descend into a mental abyss. It’s not depression, but a worrying, woe is me mentality. It’s over. This is it. The asthma is back. The meds won’t work this time. The asthma flare up is here to stay. It’ll be just like when I was a kid. Goodbye, outside. Adios, active lifestyle. See you later, bike.

Unable to do much of anything, I read a few books. I worked on my own book (about the only positive). I did a whole lot of nothing. I ‘slept’ sitting up in bed, propped up by four or five pillows, which equates to not really sleeping.

On Monday, I called the doctor again. This time, she had me come in. No messing around this time. Antibiotics, steroid shot, and another round of methylprednisone.

By the end of the week, I felt better. Two and a half weeks I’d been down. Doing nothing. Sitting around.

As Saturday approached, my mind drifted towards the bike. Did I dare go outside? For a bike ride? Into the nasty, allergen polluted air? Should I risk it? Or take it easy?

What to do?

Yeah, I risked it. A two hour bike ride on Saturday and another on Sunday.

I waited for the inevitable asthma attack. A few days passed. It didn’t come. I might be out of the woods.

Until next August


My thoughts turned to September. Another ride was coming up. The Cowtown Classic. A 59 mile ride. Could I do it? Essentially, aside from the Blazin’ Saddles at the beginning of August, I’d sat on my rear.

I would have Labor Day weekend to get in some long rides. Would it be enough? Should I even try?

I stared at the registration page. I pondered the possibilities. I hit the submit registration button.

Of course I would ride.

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What I’m Reading (September 2015)

The big news of the month

Taken for granted ebook final copy

Two years in the making, Taken For Granted, is now out and available. Only .99 for the ebook.

In case you forgot to get me a birthday present (it’s in September as well), don’t worry, just order a book or two or three. (One for yourself and a few copies for some friends.)

Go ahead. The rest of this post can wait a minute.

Done yet?


And thanks!


Aside from my own book, which you should buy and read, here are some other books I enjoyed this month.

Book of the Month: This should actually be plural for books of the month. I stumbled upon a new favorite writer, Malcolm Mackay. He’s written an enjoyable trilogy, The Glasgow Trilogy, which contains the following three books: The Necessary Death of Lewis Winter, How a Gunman Says Goodbye, and The Sudden Arrival of Violence. Although the books center around crime organizations and their fight to stay in control, the main character in all three books is a hitman hired by one of the organizations. First, he’s a freelancer. Then he’s brought into the organization. Last, he has to decide if he wants to continue living the life of a hitman. Great stories. Excellent writing. Definitely worth the read.

Some other books I read this month:

  • The White Van by Patrick Hoffman- Russian gangsters, a bank robbery, and desperate people. Good crime novel.
  • What I Talk About When I Talk About Running by Haruki Murakami. A memoir of sorts. This is the second time I’ve read this book. It’s about running, writing, and life.
  • The Art of Memoir by Mary Karr – A book about memoirs and writing memoirs. Really good book.
  • Under the Banner of Heaven by Jon Krakauer- A look at Mormonism, particularly fundamentalism. The things people will believe.
  • The Race to the Truth by Emma O’Reilly- She worked for Lance Armstrong at one time. Then she told the truth. He ripped her in the press and made her life hell. Then he confessed to his doping practices and apologized. This is her story.
  • The Backup Men and Twilight at Mac’s Place by Ross Thomas- More crime novels by Thomas.


I’m still sort of plodding through Deadwood. I haven’t watched much else. Looking forward to the return of Fargo.


Did I mention I published a book this month?

And yes, I’m already onto the next book. I’m about halfway through the second draft of the last novel in this series, which somehow became a series.

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New Book: Taken For Granted

Taken for granted ebook final copyMy next book, Taken For Granted, will be released September 22, 2015. Taken For Granted is a follow-up to my first novel, Secrets To Keep, and follows the lives of Jefferson, Linus, Al, and Max as they deal with the fallout that took place in Secrets To Keep.

Taken For Granted is currently available for pre-order from Amazon (ebooks .99 and paperbacks 10.95) and will soon be available at iBooks, B&N, and other sites.


Max can’t get seem to get a break. His two best friends are dead. He’s broke, homeless, and stealing cars to earn money. 

Jefferson did everything they said and it wasn’t enough. He can do what they say or lose everything. Of course, doing what they want might land him in prison.

When the police can’t find who murdered John Petri, his employer hires Linus to investigate. The case leads Linus back to the people responsible for him being forced out of the police department. 

Al prides himself on thinking of everything. In his business, it’s paramount if he wants to remain free. His new money laundering scheme is working to perfection. Then Al’s partner wants him to kill someone who has become a problem.

Who knew trying to kill one man could unravel so many lives?

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What I’m Reading (August 2015)

August equaled a superb memoir, a further descent into the work of Don Winslow, an introduction into the work of Ross Thomas, and the long-awaited publication of Huraki Murakami’s first two novels into English.


Book of the Month: The Splendid Things We Planned by Blake Bailey. Known more for his biographical works, The Splendid Things We Planned, is Bailey’s memoir of growing up in a dysfunctional family and dealing with an older brother’s addictions. Heart-wrenching story of attempts to deal with a brother held in the chains of addiction.

Other great books this month:

Wind & Pinball by Haruki Murakami. Murakami is one of my favorite writers and his writing is mesmerizing. For the first time, his first two novels are available in English along with an introduction on how Murakami came to be a writer, which is worth the price of the book itself (and shall not be spoiled here- although a few book reviews have).

I continued to be amazed by the writing of Don Winslow. Three more great crime novels from his backlist.

  • California Fire and Life
  • The Winter of Frankie Machine
  • The Dawn Patrol

Somebody mentioned Ross Thomas on Twitter, indicating that during his day, he happened to be one of the best crime writers working. So far, Thomas has not disappointed.

  • Briarpatch
  • The Cold War Swap
  • Cast A Yellow Shadow


I’ve heard much praise heaped on Deadwood, an HBO show, but I’ve never given it a look. Not finding much to watch, I decided to give it a try. I’m only part way through the first season, but the praise is warranted.

I’ve managed to watch one episode of Mr. Robot and it looks intriguing.


Two years in thTaken for granted ebook final copye making, look for Taken For Granted in September. The cover is done. I have one last copy edit to make.

Max can’t get seem to get a break. His two best friends are dead. He’s broke, homeless, and stealing cars to earn money. 

Jefferson did everything they said and it wasn’t enough. He can do what they say or lose everything. Of course, doing what they want might land him in prison.

When the police can’t find who murdered John Petri, his employer hires Linus to investigate. The case leads Linus back to the people responsible for him being forced out of the police department. 

Al prides himself on thinking of everything. In his business, it’s paramount if he wants to remain free. His new money laundering scheme is working to perfection. Then Al’s partner wants him to kill someone who has become a problem.

Who knew trying to kill one man could unravel so many lives?


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What I’m Reading (July 2015)

Hype. It seems that every month, if not every week and day, someone is hyping something. This movie is Must See! That show is the BEST! This podcast (well, maybe podcasts don’t get hyped to the same level as movies and shows- although if you’re not listening to Mystery Show, really, I don’t know what to say) And yes, even books- this story is riveting!

In my experience, the product rarely lives up to the hype.

Thus, when I come across something, like a book, that matches and even exceeds the hype, well, that book will be the book of the month.


Books of the Month (yes, books in plural)- Recently, Don Winslow released The Cartel, which is a follow up to his earlier book, The Power of The Dog. I must’ve been hiding under a rock when The Power of the Dog was released, because I’d never heard of it until The Cartel came out.

I can’t recall, at least in recent memory, hearing so much praise for one book. Since it garnered so much praise and was a crime novel, I had to give it a try. However, since The Cartel is a sequel to The Power of the Dog, I started with it, although that’s not necessary.

Taken individually, each book is a standout. Taken together, they are phenomenal. Masterful.

In short (which is a bit of a misnomer, since the two books total over 1300 pages), Winslow tells the story of two men, Art Keller (DEA Agent) and Adan Barrerra (cartel drug lord) over a forty-year period. An early friendship turns into a life-long battle with each man wanting to get the other. The story of these two men is told against the backdrop of the drug wars in Mexico over the last forty years. Graphic and dark in sections, the storytelling is hypnotic.

If I had to compare these two books to anything, I’d liken them to James Ellroy’s LA Quartet (The Black Dahlia, The Big Nowhere, LA Confidential, and White Jazz).

Having been blown away by Winslow’s writing, I delved into some of his other books:

  • SavagesThe Kings of Cool, and The Death and Life of Bobby Z. How best to describe these two books? Ken Bruen meets SoCal (Or maybe Ken Bruen is Don Winslow meets Galway.)

Other books I read this month include Small Crimes by Dave Zeltersman (noir), The Great Detective: The Amazing Rise and Immortal Life of Sherlock Holmes by Zach Dundas (an in-depth look at Sherlock Holmes), and The Pine Tar Game: The Kansas City Royals, the New York Yankees, and Baseball’s Most Absurd and Entertaining Controversy by Filip Bondy (an entertaining look at the infamous Pine Tar Game).


I really should keep an ongoing log of what I watch (which isn’t much), because when the end of the month arrives, I can’t remember what I’ve watched. I gave up on True Detective after episode 3, the story made no sense. I watched the first episode of Rectify– seems promising. That’s about all I can remember.

Except for the Tour de France. I did watch that.


Here it comes, an actual drop-date (or semi drop-date) for my next novel, Taken For Granted. Look for it by mid-September at the latest, if not earlier. Hopefully, I have one last copy edit and then it will be ready.

In case you missed it, this month I reduced the price of the ebook version of Secrets To Keep to .99.

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What I’m Reading (June 2015)

A few good books and an interesting documentary.


Book of the Month – All the Old Knives by Olen Steinhauer. This is a page-turning spy thriller well worth the read. (Review here.)

I also read the following:

  • Dirtbags by Eryk Pruitt (review here)
  • A trio of noir books by Bill S. Ballinger: RaffertyThe Body in the Bed, and The Body Beautiful.
  • Quack This Way by Bryan Garner. Backstory on this book: I listened to an interview with Bryan Garner on The Moment with Brian Koppelman. Years ago, Garner wrote a book, Modern American Usage, and David Foster Wallace (one of my favorite authors) wrote a ninety-five page essay about the book. Wallace and Garner then became friends and Quack This Way is an interview of Wallace by Garner about language and such.
  • Don’t Suck, Don’t Die: Giving Up Vic Chestnutt by Kristin Hersh. I first heard of Vic Chestnutt, a singer, when he appeared on a song or two with Jack Logan. Who was this guy? Chestnutt was a quadriplegic, who developed a cult following with his music. He died a few years and this book, written by a friend of his, is a close up, unflinching perspective on the complications of friendship with Vic Chestnutt.
  • The Badger: The Life of Bernard Hinault and the Legacy of French Cycling by William Fotheringham. A long overdue biography on the five time winner of the Tour de France.
  • Little Victories: Perfect Rules for Imperfect Living by Jason Gay. A humorous book on life and living. Gay is a columnist for The Wall Street Journal.


Going Clear– A documentary about Scientology based on the book of the same title. All I can say is ‘Wow, the things some people will believe.’

True Detective (Season 1) – A little late getting to this one. I can see why so many people liked it, although I’m not sure about the last episode. Pretty good viewing though.


Taken For Granted is in the copy-editing phase. Not sure how long it will take, hopefully not too long. My goal is fall at the absolute latest. Sooner if possible. There might be some news on the cover soon.

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Book Review: All The Old Knives by Olen Steinhauer

I read across a wide variety of genres, noir being preeminent among my reading, but I don’t read many spy thrillers, unless your name is Graham Greene or Olen Steinhauer. I’ve been a reader of Steinhauer since the beginning, when he released The Bridge of Sighs, the first in a five book series about a fictional Eastern European country after the end of WW2. Since completing that series, he has transitioned to modern day spy thrillers, and his latest, All The Old Knives, continues in that vein.

The story takes place over two nights, one in the present and the other in the past. The narration alternates between the perspective of Henry and Celia. The central question concerns who fed information to a terrorist that led to the slaughter of innocent people.

Henry, a current operative, invites Celia, a former operative and his former lover, to dinner. Celia has moved on from the spy game, trading the spy game for marriage and family. Despite their breakup, Henry still pines for her. Henry is investigating who gave the information to the terrorist.

The past sequence revolves around the day in question when a terrorist group hijacked a plane and demanded the release of certain prisoners. They threatened to kill everyone on board if their demands were not met. An operative inside the plane begins sending text messages to the other operatives with details about the terrorists. His messages continue until someone outs him to the terrorists, resulting in his death. Who sold him out and caused the deaths of everyone on the plane?

Back in the present, the former lovers and operatives try to figure out what the other knows and the evening climaxes with the revelation of the truth. All The Old Knives is an outstanding page-turning spy thriller.


If you haven’t read Steinhauer’s previous books, you should check them out:

  • The Cairo Affair
  • The Milo Weaver stories (The Tourist, The Nearest Exit, An American Spy)
  • The Ruthenia Quintet (The Bridge of Sighs, The Confession, 36 Yalta Boulevard, Liberation Movements, Victory Square)
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Book Review: Dirtbags by Eryk Pruitt

In most cases, if I see the words ‘serial killer’ in the synopsis, my interest in the book dissipates. For me, the serial killer crime novel is a tired genre with writers using it as an excuse to write gruesome scenes with deranged characters. However, if I’ve read another book by the author and been impressed by him or her, I’ll give their serial killer novel a chance.

I’d heard of Dirtbags by Eryk Pruitt when the book first came out, but upon seeing ‘serial killer’ in the synopsis I passed on reading the book and forgot all about it. Recently, I read Pruitt’s second novel, Hashtag, which I enjoyed a great deal (Review here) and wanted to read more of his work. A quick search brought me back to Dirtbags and I decided to give it a chance.

Sometimes, a bias can keep you from a really good book and Dirtbags is one such example. Although one character’s quest to become an infamous serial killer is at the heart of the story, the overarching theme is the desire to be known.

In both of Pruitt’s novels, he employs an intriguing writing device. He writes from the viewpoint of three different characters, but rather than telling a linear story jumping back and forth from each character, he takes a different approach. His two novels are divided into three sections. Each section is told from the viewpoint of one character. When he switches to the next section and thus the next character, he takes a step backward in the story, provides a bit of backstory, and then progresses the story forward. When he moves from section two to section three, he does the same thing again. The story moves forward with each character taking their portion of the story to a certain point. The device works well.

Dirtbags revolves around the three characters: Calvin Cantrell, a born loser who believes the only way he’ll ever be recognized in the world is by becoming a serial killer; Tom London, a restaurant owner who hires Cantrell to kill his ex-wife which causes him multiple problems; and Rhonda Cantrell, the wife of Calvin and the lover of Tom, who uses her body to get what she wants. Pruitt uses these three characters to tell the story of three hard luck losers stuck in a small town, desperate to break free from the constraints of the small town, and eager to find recognition in the eyes of others. I’m eager to read more of Pruitt’s work.

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Book Review: Hashtag by Eryk Pruitt

Aspirations for fame mark the characters in Hashtag by Eryk Pruitt. The novel revolves around three characters who desire recognition in a world where they feel overlooked. To get what they want, they resort to a life of crime.

Odie Shanks works at Maggie’s Pizza Pick-Up in Lake Castor. A chance meeting with Jake Armstrong leads Odie to concoct a robbery plan at Maggie’s where Jake will take him hostage. His name is bound to fill headlines as the victim. When he doesn’t even make the news, Odie joins Jake on his tour of revenge and robbing gas stations for money.

Deputy Roy Rains patrols Lake Castor. The robbery of Maggie’s Pizza Pick-Up and the abduction of Odie is seen as the final black mark on the the Deputy’s ability as a law enforcement officer. Threatened with his job, Rains devises a plan to frame someone for the crime. Despite nothing going according to plan, Rains emerges as a hero. Soon people are treating him different and talking about him as the next Sheriff. Everything’s fine until people starts asking questions.

Melinda Kendall wants to teach her boyfriend a lesson. His drug-dealing is getting in the way of their relationship. Her scheme backfires and fearing for her life, she goes on the run. Along the way, Melinda resorts to the robbery and humiliation of the men who cross her path. Despite her efforts to keep a low profile, she becomes a news and pop culture sensation.

While running from the police, Melinda runs into Odie, who recognizes her. They decide to work together on the way to Hollywood, where Odie is headed for fame and fortune. Will they find love or will their aspirations doom their relationship?

Hashtag is fast-paced crime novel shining a light on the desire for fame and recognition and the ways every day people go about manufacturing it in a tech-driven world. Great writing, great story. I’ve not read Pruitt’s work before, but next on my bookshelf is his previous book, Dirtbags.

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What I’m Reading (May 2015)

Anytime I talk to someone from outside Texas, they want to know, ‘Are you floating away?’ Another example of how the news highlights one thing and insinuates that everyone is suffering. Is it raining a lot? Yes. Have I had to take some detours to work? Yes. Am I in danger of flooding? No.


Book of the Month: Portrait in Smoke by Bill S. Ballinger. Another classic noir book republished by 280 steps. Curiosity over a girl in a picture turns to fascination and then to obsession. Danny April might wish he’d never seen the picture of Krassy Almauniski. He decided to find out what happened to the girl and finds a trail of men and bad debts in her wake. When April finally catches up with Krassy, will he be the man to tame this beauty, or will she leave him in the lurch as she’s done with all the others? I couldn’t put this one down. I’m looking forward to reading more of Ballinger’s books.

Other books I read:

  • Green Hell by Ken Bruen (outstanding as always)
  • Walkin’ After Midnight by Joe Ricker
  • Hashtag by Eryk Pruitt (review coming later)
  • Gravesend by William Boyle
  • Slice Harvester by Colin Hagendorf (review coming later)
  • Natural Born Heroes by Christopher McDougall. Born to Run was a fascinating read. As for Natural Born Heroes, for me, there seemed to be too many storylines and i had trouble seeing how they fit together. The majority of the book centers on a group of individuals on the island of Crete who kidnapped a German general during WW2 and managed to avoid capture by the Germans. Even the parts of British intelligence worked for me. The parts on parkour seemed a stretch to me. I see how he attempted to bring them all together, but it seemed like a stretch to me.
  • Do Over by Jon Acuff (I heard Acuff interviewed on The Moment with Brian Koppelman.) This is a book on starting a new career, something I’ve done a few times in my life.


Either I didn’t watch anything this month or nothing impressed me enough to stand out in my memory.

Strike that. My son wanted to watch all three Lord of the Rings movies, so we did. Mostly. I may have been reading at the same time through one or two of them.


A productive month. I finished the first draft of a new novel, which might be the fastest I’ve ever finished a first draft. Tentative title is Down By The River (likely to change).

I’ve started on another round of edits with Taken For Granted. I keep saying I’m almost done. One of these days.

In other news, I might have a new cover of Secrets To Keep coming soon.

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