Take a moment and remember what happened to you in high school. For some people, this was a den of depression, oppression and pain. As teenagers, we’re severely lacking in skill and experience, yet we need to navigate a world that expects us to act like grown ups. Many a poor decision has been made in high school that can go on to affect our lives for decades afterwards. In The Perfect Teresa by Ulises Silva we have an example of just that. Our protagonist is a jaded 43-year old woman working in corporate America. She surely hasn’t had it easy and while not everything can be blamed on her high school experience, what she clings to from that time is definitely ruling her life. Teresa can’t move forward and she’s trapped in this sad, drunken life where happiness eludes her. It’s not until she crashes hard into rock bottom that she is given a chance for a do-over, thanks to a talking coyote.
Our protagonist isn’t all quite there. It’s clear that she’s broken and she’d rather blame everyone else than accept any sort of responsibility for it. This tale is told in the first person and is showcased in such a way that it feels like the reader is Teresa herself. We’re privy to her thoughts, her neurosis and her desperate attempt at avoiding herself. She’s miserable and her life sucks. There is no denying that. Silva does an excellent job with the imagery and how the story jumps around Teresa’s mind. It’s hard to do that and keep the story on track. Silva is clearly talented in this realm.
Even the time skip is well done. It’s hard to shift from present day to the past and keep in mind how things have changed: technology, manner of speech, what is and isn’t popular with teenagers. Silva either did some great research or potentially tapped into their own past in order to recreate what it was like in the late ‘80’s for teenagers. This isn’t easily done, and the book is better for it.
Using deities from various mythologies can be a bit messy, but Silva focuses on what would suit our protagonist. She is of Latin-American descent and the use of Quetzalcoatl and our friendly talking-coyote Piltzintecuhtli, or Pill for short, makes sense. For an Aztec deity, Pill dislikes the use of profanity and seems to have an attachment to Teresa. It is well known that the gods will favour a mortal here and there for their own amusement. Is Pill the same?
Combining a slice-of-life with a timeslip can bring about a unique experience. Instead of the washed-up twenty-something that usually happens in stories like this we have a woman who has really lived her life and come to regret it. The Perfect Teresa by Ulises Silva is a story about self-search, self-love and acceptance. What Teresa accomplishes through her foray through time is a lesson to be learned by all. This is a must read for anyone looking for excitement, adventure and even just that gentle reminder that things will be okay.
Pages: 421 | ASIN: B06XG2GT22
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Nickerbacher follows a fun loving dragon on his quest to be more than a dragon protector of princesses and sets his sights on becoming a comedian. What was the inspiration for the setup of this entertaining book?
This story started out as a Picture Book and evolved to a Chapter Book. In the beginning stage, I wanted to find a way of saying that it’s okay to be who you are. Being true to yourself and following your dreams. It went through a lot of stages, twists and turns but having been involved in theater, I ultimately went with performing as a fun way to get my message out.
I felt that the story carried some important lessons for children, like the importance of friendship and believing in yourself. What were some morals you felt were important for this story?
Those were exactly the morals I felt were important. The princess is a true friend who supports Nickerbacher 100%. And the evolution of the prince’s friendship is great to see ’cause once you get to know someone, unlikely friendships can develop.
The book is filled with some great art. My favorite includes ghosts and goblins at the Fairywood Forever Cemetery. What were the decisions that went into the art direction for this story?
Working with artist, Kim Sponaugle, was a wonderful collaboration. There was a lot of back and forth. We’ve spent hours on the phone planning each scene. Then she sends rough drawings and we discuss any needed changes before she does the final shading with ink & pen.
What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be published?
I’m working on a few different things right now. Pretty much in the beginning stages. Don’t really have any publishing plans yet.
“Nickerbacher is a dragon and aspiring comedian who travels to La La Land to audition for The Late Knight Show. Hoping to prove to his father – and the world – that dragons can be funny. Nickerbacher befriends a prince and a princess who help him realize his dream while paving the way for equal rights of all citizens.”
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Set in a futuristic world with air-bikes and credits for cash, we come across one of Danny Estes’ lovely worlds. The Paranoid Thief is a lovely addition to Estes’ roster of exciting and fun to read books. It opens with our poor protagonist, Randolph, in the midst of a very bad day. As the paranoid thief from the title, he has just botched a job and has the unfortunate job of reporting to his client. In a whirlwind of intrigue peppered with sheer ignorance our Randolph finds himself slammed into a strange cell after being tried and convicted for an atrocious murder he did not commit. Randolph isn’t alone in this prison and soon finds himself in the company of Jill, a secretary who has just lost her job and been thrown in the cell beside him. There’s more to Jill than meets the eye and Randolph begins plotting his revenge.
If there’s one thing Estes is good at, it’s writing an interesting and slightly humorous story. He’s very good at writing from the point of view of the protagonist in such a way that the reader can immediately identify with them. As with most of his books, there is a sexual component that isn’t too over the top. The stories are told from a male point of view and that is just what readers get: an unfiltered look at this world through the eyes of a man. Expect physical descriptions of female characters and which body parts the protagonist enjoys the most.
For The Paranoid Thief there were some disappointing spelling mistakes and some incomplete sentences. Having read other works by this author, it was a surprise to see them. Normally his works are clean with very few mistakes. The incomplete sentence in an early section of the book was the most disheartening as the reader is left to figure out what Estes meant. While it is still pretty easy to finish it in the readers mind, that’s not what people are looking for. Estes makes up for this with his exceptional story-telling skills and his excellent descriptions. There are times when the book feels like a narration of a movie. The action certainly does not disappoint and the way Estes is able to lead his readers by the nose and keep them wanting more is excellent.
As a short read, The Paranoid Thief by Danny Estes is a highly recommended addition to any library. As soon as you start reading about our hapless protagonist Randolph and his really bad day, you’ll want to continue reading to find out how it all gets resolved. Short, without leaving out any important information, this fun read feels like an author’s careful first step into the literary world. It’s a good first step and it reminds us all that perhaps we should pay more attention to those around us. Especially their eyes.
Page: 276 | ASIN: B009Q1I6SM
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The story of Nickerbacher takes you on a journey of mystical beings and starry-eyed dreams. It’s an adventure with a dragon and a prince and princess. Nickerbacher is a dragon destined for a life of working as a protector of princesses- a job that was proudly held by his father and his father before that. However, Nickerbacher dreams of something more and wants to perform on The Late Knight Show where he can show off his comedic value. With the help of a leprechaun, a prince and other magical beings, can Nickerbacher change the hearts and minds of all La La Land?
Nickerbacher, written by Terry John Barto, is a fun-loving children’s novel based on the story of a dragon and his friends. Nickerbacher dreams of being something more than a dragon protector of princesses and sets his sights on becoming a comedian. There is an underlying message that children will love as it promotes following your dreams even if other people may not believe that you can achieve them.
Throughout the story, the fantasy characters participate in modern-day activities, like taking selfies with mystical beings or trying to fit their feet into the prints of famous celebrities. This provides a modern twist to a classically styled fairy tale that combine beautifully in this incredible city. My favorite character is Miss Phoenix, a receptionist who rises from the ashes to greet the unlikely trio. She is dedicated to her work but has a heart of gold which sings true to the end.
Pictures are included throughout the novel which brings to life the extraordinary fun loving characters. My favorite image is one that includes ghosts and goblins at the Fairywood Forever Cemetery, royal chariots at LAX and the Medieval Tar Pits. The images are a mix of castles with high rise style buildings that replicate a similar style of what I would imagine LA would look like if it had been sprinkled with a touch of fairy dust. I love how the imagery complements the text and helps with engaging the reader in expanding their imagination.
This story will help children to learn the importance of friendship and believing in yourself. Nickerbacher also touches on issues such as family, societal expectations and breaking through the barriers of life in a fun and engaging story line. Children will relate to parts of the story and see parts of themselves in each of the magical beings. I love the relationship between Princess Gwendolyn and Nickerbacher and how they break the stereotypes of the typical dragon and Princess friendship.
I would recommend Nickerbacher to any school-aged children who wants to be lost in the magic of La La Land. This book would be perfect as a bedtime story to be read aloud as Terry John’s Barto’s wonderful way with words will delight all children and adults alike.
Pages: 34 | ASIN: B00SKKX2AW
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The Sightseers Agency picks up with Richard Pencil leaving the government position he took up at the end of the previous book. With the new world order well underway, the big three-letter agencies are breaking up, and Richard is going back to work with Joe Fraser and the man known as the Inlooker. Richard also has an impressive upgrade to his extra-sensory detective powers. He’s joined by a new remote-viewer, Miss Plum Duff, whose talents were honed by alien intervention. Fraser hires them to launch the the Sightseers Agency, reporting to him and their mysterious benefactor. Their mission is to oversee the behavior of elected officials, and another secret goal is revealed later. Seb Cage, who is now a talented computer security specialist (along with the skills he gained from the Sombrella Syndicate), joins the agency as well.
The Sightseers soon discover that the greatest threat to earth isn’t just from rogue officials and politicians, but also hostile aliens who have been planning an attack for some time. Complications arise because some of the aliens on Earth are friendly, while some are more like tourists who take on human form just to experience something different. Ms. Plum Duff comes into her own here, since she, like Seb, has a long history with regard to aliens.
Like the previous agency novel, there is an overarching plot that is played out in several different investigations. While the book is described as a series of whodunits set in the future, each case is a link in a chain that ultimately brings conflict on both a personal and global scale. I was glad to see more about the use of psychic mind-reading to ferret out lies and criminal activity, and the manipulation of auras and even the soul itself. There’s also the fascinating angle of this “new world” society, run on a democracy-on-demand system with a goal toward a true meritocracy. While some of this society’s social practices seem dystopian, others, like the use of Tesla’s wireless transmission of energy, offer a utopia of readily-available power.
One of the things I’ve enjoyed throughout the Dreadnaught series is the author’s vivid imagination. His notes at the beginning of the books give real-world tales of psychics and UFO phenomenon that act as the launch pad for his stories. His humor and wordplay are also in full force, with inventive non-cuss words, ribald comedy—especially when it comes to Richard and his Lothario tendencies—and the continued jokes about “potties,” which are ubiquitous self-driving transport pods, giving “on the throne” a whole different meaning.
Overall, this series has been fun to read. The major recurring characters are so unique, each with their own set of skills, flaws, and quirks, that it’s a delight to follow them from one adventure to another. The Sightseers Agency ties up a lot of loose ends, answers questions, and ends on a hopeful note and fans of the series will be satisfied by the ending.
Pages: 307 | ASIN: B01KBAKX1E
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The Time Slipsters spans science fiction, travelogue, historical fiction and comedy while showing a vibrant world of the future and the past. What is the funnest part about imagining and writing the future?
The fun is in seeing things that are commonly regarded as Sci-Fi beginning to happen. I believe that research on the web reveals what a wonderful world we live in. If you look for articles on medical research, the motor industry and technology in general, it also indicates where the human race is heading.
We are already seeing Nano robots being used for keyhole surgery, drugs being tailored to combat and kill cancer cells, and the early diagnosis of dementia, to name but a few. Plus the whiff of flying cars and free power is in the air!
Imagine a world where the health service does not feel overwhelmed by an aging population, because old people are no longer suffering the ‘ravages of old age’. Why would that be? The answer is: treatment of their various sufferings is being mastered, until death they do part! By the way, I come into the latter category.
Envisage a world where travel is from home to destination, in minutes. No airports, no connecting flights or trains or buses or taxis. No squandering of natural resources, no electricity costs, no power stations needed, no pylons or towering wind vanes blotting the landscape. Much of what I describe has been available for over a century, if it were not for intervention of vested interests.
The characters end up traveling through time, and like many stories, their actions in the past affect the future. What was the most interesting part about writing a time travel story?
Getting into the heads of the characters on both sides of the experience of time travel. Drawing word pictures of the experience and conveying mental images to readers was fun too. It challenges my imagination to run riot. By the way, unlike Professor Hawking I do not believe that the death of an ancestor caused by a time traveler would have any impact whatsoever on his or her descendants.
The threat to Earth is revealed by uncovering the mystery of the aliens who have been living under the auspices of the Sombrella Syndicate. What was the inspiration for the Sombrella Syndicate?
I once worked for a Lloyds of London group of insurance syndicates, so am familiar with the concept. The deserted brickworks near where I live in Spain was an ideal undercover location for an alien base, but not big enough to house it, on the surface. Who better to man it, underground, than dwarfs, who have a reputation for mining and gold!
Time Slipsters is book three in the Dreadnought collective. Where does book 4 take the characters?
Book 4 takes the characters in an entirely new direction that totally engrossed me for a while. I took great interest in the feasibility of psychic involvement in crime detection. This added another dimension to the evolution of the Dreadnought Collective. The various characters in all the books are intertwined in book 5, the Sightseers Agency, which is now run under the auspices of the U.S. government, as is the entire collective. The individual agencies in the collective instantly become more effective as the two genres are mixed.
A group of friends who have drifted apart decide to reunite and take a trip together. It is the near future, and their intention is to travel on the latest type of transport, in order to visit the ancient sites in Turkey.
They want to do this in luxury, and the travel company they selected has done its best to accommodate their desires. They are lost for words when they first cast their eyes on the spectacular, gleaming new vehicle waiting for them. It is in fact alien in technology, and far more of a futuristic craft than a mere ground-hugging coach.
Unwittingly, they are entering a world where time travel is a reality and machines can cater for individuals as well as the masses.
Soon, they embarking on a sightseeing tour like no other they could have imagined, and meeting a time-travelling stranger who takes them under his wing.
More than one person has a hidden agenda, as they realise when reach a highly protected secret location. It contains hybrid creatures on which the Gods of mythology are based.
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West Point, the school for those that value honor and tradition. A group of elite students and soldiers that want nothing more than to continue the long-standing traditions and be the absolute best out there. It is also a school that has long been a boy’s only club, stuck in the mindset and traditions of the male gender. However now, women are there. They are changing things and not everyone likes these changes. When Jan, Kristi, and Pamela start leaving a trail of bad luck behind them they are branded as witches. Jan is convinced someone is out to kill her. It isn’t long though before Kristi and Pamela are also targets, someone wants them gone for good. Susan Spieth takes readers into the world of being a West Point cadet in her novel Witch Heart.
The novel starts out at Army Airborne School in Fort Benning GA. At first the novel is mildly humorous as you realize that Jan the main character is afraid of heights. Why is she at Airborne School? The simple answer is, she is a West Point Cadet and she will not fail at anything. We start getting some of the back story of her bad luck and how her old roommate Violet killed herself. The reason for why this happened lies deep into the novel and Spieth takes the reader on an emotional journey to get to the answers. Along the way you find romance with Jan and fellow Cadet Rick, and friendships so deep hazing and Honor Courts will not rip them apart.
The plot deepens and the witch hunt continues, all we know of the antagonist is that it is a male that wares a black ski mask. This mask holds a special meaning for him but you don’t know what that meaning is. After there are three deaths all from the time Jan, Kristi and Pamela arrive at West Point, they become known as the witches’ coven. The mystery intruder braking into rooms is only known as the man with the ski mask and he reveals his plans and hate for two of the women especially.
The author has given a lot of time into explaining the environment at West Point, it is a boy’s club atmosphere that is just tolerating women in the ranks. I feel this is still relevant today, that many feel West Point should still be an all-male environment. The author uses higher ranking officers to brush off hazing rituals as good old fun and traditions. It speaks of the hostility that women face when they are told “you want to be one of us deal with it” and are left with little options; all too real of a situation. Susan Spieth is able to tap into the fears and anger that these female cadets feel.
While not overly complex in plot lines, the social structure and interactions of the characters make this a complex novel. The reader is drawn into the stories of Jan, Kristi and Pamela and how they have survived to be 3rd year cows’s at West Point. This is not your mushy feel good novel, but it does speak to the strength of women cadets and their ability to overcome the odds against them.
Pages: 237 | ASIN: B01MCYSLQB
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Book 3 in the Dreadnought Collective series returns to the home of Terry and Sandra Tumbler. Terry and his wife plan a return holiday to Turkey, recalling their last visit with their grandson, Seb, when his tour group from the Sombrella Syndicate got into trouble in the underground city of Derinkuyu. They’d like to go again to see it at their leisure. Terry invites several couples who had accompanied them on an earlier visit to Santiago. Since they’d had trouble on that particular tip, Terry sweetens the deal by booking a luxury version of fast-travel flying cars, colloquially known as “potties,” to speed them on their way.
On arrival in Istanbul, the five couples embark on a grand tour of historic sites on a large coach, shared by a group of Spanish tourists. During their travels, Terry meets with a mysterious man named Marius. Marius asks Terry for help regarding Alien visitations, and Terry is delighted. His love of researching UFO phenomena may help save lives, and Marius may be able to explain the odd dreams Terry is having. When the tour visits the ancient hospital of Asklepion, the true nature of the “Magic Carpet” tour coach (dubbed the Turkish Floater by Wilf) is revealed, and the travelers slip back in time to witness ancient Rome in person. This leads to uncovering the mystery of the aliens who have been living under the auspices of the Sombrella Syndicate, and a threat to earth.
If you can’t tell by the irreverent names of the vehicles, this is a very funny book. The Time Slipsters is a delightfully fun read. It crosses genre borders as easily as the Magic Carpet crosses timelines. The story spans science fiction, travelogue, historical fiction and comedy while showing a vibrant world of the future and the past. Terry is a loveable rogue, and his gaffes are both funny and important to the story. Laughing at phallic rock formations and obsessing over bathroom facilities in ancient buildings could be jokes, but they may come in handy later.
But the trip is not all fun and games. When the ship begins to slip between time zones, the travelers are under very explicit orders to stay away from the locals. One of them foolishly ignores that advice, and like any time travel story, what you do in the past can have a ripple effect into the future.
The author’s imagination is truly fantastic. Even the little details of this future world are well fleshed out. There’s the concept of Democracy on Demand that allows people to guide their government by instantaneous voting. And sure, the flying cars are neat, but what about smart suitcases that carry themselves to and from your hotel, or having delicate surgery performed by nanobots while you sleep? I can’t start on the alien technology without spoilers, so you’ll have to read for yourself.
One thing I liked was the occasional break in the intrigue so I could wander the streets of ancient monuments along with the characters. It’s clear the author has visited these places and wants to share these remarkable places and their histories with others.
Though Seb Cage Begins His Adventures was a book aimed at young readers, The Time Slipsters is decidedly more adult. The adult humor and a few sexual references, though never explicit, wouldn’t be appropriate for a young reader. If you like SF, time travel stories, or dry British humor, you’ll like this book.
Pages: 291 | ASIN: B018MLKT7M
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Book 1 of the Dreadnought Collective series begins in Spain, where Sebastian Cage and his younger brother Bart arrive to spend the summer with their grandparents. Terry and Sandra Tumbler have plenty for them to do, with sporting activities and swimming to keep the boys active and burn off their boundless energy. Despite this, the rivalry between the brothers starts to fray their grandparents’ nerves, so Terry devises a plan. He enlists thirteen-year-old Sebastian as his research assistant for a secret project. Terry has noticed a larger-than-average number of little people in his town and is convinced they are aliens.
Seb’s intelligence and tenacity are put to good use. Seb and Terry’s set out to observe and follow people under five feet tall as they move about town. The pair’s activities are noticed, and a man named Skip approaches Seb and Terry and confirms their suspicions. Skip and his organization – the Sombrella Syndicate – aren’t hostile at all. He invites Seb to join their summer campus to learn special skills and advanced technology. Terry is skeptical, but he can further his research than getting the information straight from the source, even if he has to get the data by tricking his grandson.
Seb Cage is intended for middle-grade readers and offers a fantastic, “what I did on my summer vacation” adventure story. Seb must cope with discovering and controlling abilities he never knew he had, making friends with his fellow students and focusing on his education. He must also work in tandem with his partner Maisie, and develops a crush on her.
His uncertainty and awkwardness over Maisie, coupled with constant teasing from his younger brother, makes it easy to sympathize with Seb. He faces some issues that tween and teen readers will be familiar with. He’s essentially joining a new school and is soon surrounded by a group of young people his own age who come from all over Europe. He must learn to deal with embarrassment, mistakes, and successes, as well as bond with his classmates and learn from mentors who are very different from any teacher he’s had before.
The humor in the book is delightful, with a distinctly British feel. Some of it is word-play, with funny scenes (mostly involving Seb’s grandfather, Terry) that range from misunderstandings and mishaps to literal bathroom humor. Since the students and mentors are telepathically linked, the occasional stray thought slips through to hilarious effect. This kind of comedy plays through the whole story, keeping the mood light and the story moving.
The students visit real historical sites, and the descriptions of these monuments, battlefields, and triumphs of ancient engineering are wonderful. The author provides an appendix of links to some of these fantastic places that inspired the story.
Seb Cage Begins His Adventure is well-suited to readers from 9-14. It’s full of adventure, science fiction, and fantasy and will also appeal to youth who enjoy sports and exploration. The novel features strong themes of friendship, discovery, and learning to care for others and the planet Earth as well.
Pages: 382 | ASIN: B00VVCVNYI
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No Quarter: Wenches follows two characters; Atia Crisp as she finds herself imprisoned in the wickedest city on earth, and Captain La Roche who must find a way to liberate the woman he loves while waging a war against the English. What was your inspiration for creating a women’s adventure novel involving pirates in the 1600’s?
I am inspired by stories/movies with strong female characters, so naturally if I was going to write a story, I would be drawn to having strong female leads. I wasn’t particularly drawn to writing historical fiction until I read the original No Quarter Series (Dominium and Wenches) scripts written by GM O’Connor. He’s always been fascinated with history, particularly during the time of pirates. He asked me to read the scripts and I thought they would make a great book series. So we collaborated our interests and I became fascinated with getting all the details (locations, costumes, furniture, architecture, ships) as accurate as possible. We also use a combination of real-life inspired and fictional characters, which adds realism and adventure.
No Quarter crosses many genres. What books or authors were the biggest inspiration for you?
Moonfleet by J. Meade Falkner was the most inspirational book as it told the tale of smuggling, pirates, treasure, a sea voyage and a hurricane in 1898. It was very rich in details and I felt very transported by it, so I wanted to do the same for No Quarter. Also the book Port Royal, Jamaica by Michael Pawson was inspirational as it gives a glimpse of every day life in 17th century Port Royal and details locations, how they imported food/water and even what ships were around and what they were used for.
This is a very fun novel. Did you have fun writing it?
Yes, it was very fun writing this. My co-author GM O’Connor and I would have brainstorming sessions to come up with entertaining names and comedic dialogue/scenarios. Or sometimes we’d come up with something just buying groceries, watching movie or wake up at 3am with something hysterical and had to write it down before forgetting it.
No Quarter is the first volume in a series. Where do you take the characters through the rest of the series and how does the development of their characters progress?
Atia for example, is indentured, so she’s quite complacent, but she also has a rebellious side that hasn’t been fully explored yet. When she starts working at a Port Royal tavern, she starts to understand the workings of the city and she learns manipulation and eventually turns to being a spy. Basically, she grows up and becomes a fighter. La Roche is already set in his piratical ways, it’s in his blood, it has been since he was a child. When he meets Atia, he’s drawn to the idea of a “normal” life with marriage and children. His development hinges on his willingness to let go of violence and piracy. He wants to retire from it all, but that’s not an easy task, as situations arise which require him to be piratical. He eventually comes to peace with his internal conflicts and finds balance.
In 1689, Atia Crisp finds herself imprisoned in the wickedest city on earth, Port Royal, Jamaica, while the refugees from Strangewayes’s plantation in the Blue Mountains are on the run and seeking a new home, deep in the Caribbean. Captain Jean-Paul la Roche must get them to safety and find a way to liberate the woman he loves while waging a war against the English with the pirate Laurens de Graaf. While besieged people suffer and starve, a group of women form a secret and illegal society deep from within the bowels of the city called: WENCH. A network that deals with smugglers, merchants, cutthroats and thieves. Dragged into the struggle for supremacy of the Caribbean, the women are divided and find themselves engulfed in bloodshed. The pirates of Port Royal and former enemies may be their only hope of escape. Hell hath no fury like a cross wench!
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