Review: THE SCAVENGER by J.L. Willow


A few weeks ago I was approached by the author of this novel with a request to read and review her book, THE SCAVENGER. I read the blurb and it interested me a bit, but what hooked me was that she was a teen at the time she wrote the novel. Of course I had to read it. I mean, how could I not? She was a high school student with a love for reading and writing. I HAD to read it.

What’s it about?

“IT’S NOT SECRETS THAT ARE DANGEROUS. IT’S WHAT SECRETS MAKE PEOPLE DO.”

When a number of teen drug overdoses disturbs the NYPD, an investigation is quickly formed to uncover the forces behind it. Four people with no previous connection soon find themselves the object of scrutiny as the case moves forward.

Catherine is a freshman living an unfulfilled high school life. After a gentle nudge from her best friend Eve, she begins searching for more. A boy named Samuel may be the answer to what she’s looking for, but not everything is what it seems.

Samuel has connections to the investigation in more ways than Catherine realizes and carries more secrets than he cares to admit. His decision to take a risky bet with a man named Frank seems like easy money but instead causes his life to quickly unravel.

Frank is a drug dealer living in New York City, best known for his heinously addictive strains of laced marijuana. With the NYPD closing in and pressure slowly building, he discovers the life he’s carefully built for himself in danger of collapse.

Nathan Tawallis of the NYPD is lead investigator of the case. Much as he tries to ignore it, long forgotten memories begin to surface and past connections to the drug network quickly become too hard to ignore.

With lives becoming inexorably entangled, The Scavenger weaves a tale of suspense and finding family in unsuspecting places while simultaneously delving into the dangers and alarming nature of the illegal drug trade.

I have mixed emotions about this book. Part of me loved certain aspects of it, but there were downsides as well that I can’t push out of the way.

The book is told from 4 points of view. This in itself doesn’t bother me as I think it’s a good way to get into the heads of the main characters to learn what drives them to do the things they do. Unfortunately, this didn’t happen with this novel. I thought Willow missed lots of opportunities to allow the reader to discover the backstories of each character. This kept me from knowing the characters, thus connecting with any of them on a personal level. I still learned enough to follow their thoughts and motivations, but I would have loved to have seen more character development.

The plot line is an interesting one. I admire the author tackling the drug issue that is prevalent in our schools. I found the dealer’s perspective interesting, but I would have liked to know more why he chose Catherine as his victim. What made her so vulnerable to him? Why did he need her out of all the students in the school? I also would have liked to have seen more of the driving force behind Nate’s (the detective) determination to capture the dealer, especially early on.

I did like the author’s style a lot. She has a wonderful way of stringing words together and there were moments when I said to myself, ‘why can’t I write like this?’  The teen voice was perfect. Willow captured the snark, the sassiness, everything about being a teen, including the drama. Again, I wish there had been more of it.

I felt the story moved waaaay too fast. Catherine and Samuel meet, they ‘fall’ in love, there is this whirlwind romance, then all this bad stuff happens all within a couple of weeks. I know things move fast in teen world … I do remember that … but not that fast. I would have liked to have seen things slow down, the situations developed a bit more. The quickness of everything took away from the severity of the plot. And the way it all ends was a bit abrupt and weird. I didn’t feel it truly believable.

Please don’t think the book is bad. It’s not. It’s actually pretty good, especially for a first attempt at writing a novel. Personally, I wouldn’t let anyone read the first novel I wrote so I give a lot of kudos to Willow for sharing this first work with us. There is confidence in the writing and I have no doubt her writing will only get better and better.

With all that said, I still think the story gets around 4 stars. I’m looking forward to her next novel – a stand-alone not related to The Scavenger. It’s currently in the genre of mystery with a touch of paranormal and she is hoping to have it out by the start of 2019. Stay tuned for more details.

 

 

L. Willow voraciously read everything she could get her hands on as a child and continues to this day. She was inspired by the way words on a page could capture the imagination, beginning her journey as a writer at just six years old. When she’s not holding a pencil or a book, she can be found belting her favorite musicals or studying to become a mechanical engineer. Days off are spent relaxing with her family in New Jersey.

You can connect with the author through one of the links below:

website | blog | Facebook | Instagram | Goodreads | Twitter

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Cover Reveal: Harbinger (Dragonrider Legacy) by Nicole Conway with Giveaway


 

Hi everyone!! Welcome to the official Cover Reveal for

Harbinger by Nicole Conway

presented by Month9Books!

Celebrate this reveal by entering the giveaway found at the end of the post!

I’ve been really looking forward to this book so let’s get to it straight away!!

 

Victory is written in the blood of the brave.As the armies of the Tibran Empire continue to march across Maldobar, a path of scorched destruction and despair is left in their wake. Even with the formidable princess, Jenna Farrow, leading the charge, the strength of the dragonriders is waning. Tibran victory appears inevitable—especially after Princess Jenna and Prince Aubren are taken hostage by the infamous Lord Argonox. Separated from her brother and tortured for information, Princess Jenna refuses to bend to the iron will of Argonox. But her strength and resolve may only last so long. Held prisoner in his dark tower, it would take a miracle to set her free—or perhaps a pair of demigods and their dragons. With revived dragonrider legend, Jaevid Broadfeather, at his side, Reigh must now make a choice: face the truth about the origin of his dark powers, or turn his back on world in need. But throwing off a lifetime of shame and self-doubt is not so easily done—especially when the cost of failure means the destruction of the world. The long-awaited hero has awakened. The ancient spirits are stirring. The dark goddess has chosen her champion. But is he ready to embrace that rite and become the HARBINGER Maldobar needs him to be?

Harbinger (Dragonrider Legacy #2)
by Nicole Conway
Publisher: Month9Books
Publication Date: August 14, 2018

Pre-order:

Amazon

 

Nicole is the author of the children’s fantasy series, THE DRAGONRIDER CHRONICLES, about a young boy’s journey into manhood as he trains to become a dragonrider. She has completed the first two books in the series, and is now working on the third and final book. Other works include MAD MAGIC (Sept 2017), FAULBENDER (tbd), SCALES (tbd), and THE DISTANCE BETWEEN STARS (May 2017).

Originally from a small town in North Alabama, Nicole moves frequently due to her husband’s career as a pilot for the United States Air Force. She received a B.A. in English with a concentration in Classics from Auburn University, and will soon attend graduate school.

She has previously worked as a freelance and graphic artist for promotional companies, but has now embraced writing as a full-time occupation.

Nicole enjoys hiking, camping, shopping, cooking, and spending time with her family and friends. She also loves watching children’s movies and collecting books. She lives at home with her husband, two cats, and dog.

WebsiteTwitterFacebookGoodreads

 

 

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Five Things I Love about The Handmaid’s Tale HULU series


I tell you what, I had my reservations about Hulu doing an original series of Margaret Atwood’s novel, but they have done an outstanding job. If you haven’t read the book, I highly recommend it before watching the series.

What is the story about?

June, aka Offred, has been abducted and taken from her husband and child to become a handmaid in the Republic of Gilead, a totalitarian and theocratic state that has replaced the United States of America (there are still some small cells of Americans trying to take back the country). The lucky ones to not fall under the regime change have fled to Canada.

Due to dangerously low reproduction rates, handmaids are assigned to elite couples that cannot conceive. The handmaids are forced into copulation with the husbands while the wives watch and take part in the ‘act’. It’s actually quite difficult to watch. June/Offred serves Commander Waterford and his wife, Serena, a former gospel singer and an advocate for traditional values. However, her role has changed to one of subservience and she is as much a victim of this male-dominated totalitarian regime as June/Offred is. They are both prisoners, with Offred only allowed to leave the house while on shopping trips or with Serena, the room to her door cannot be completely shut, and the eyes of Gilead and its police force are everywhere, watching her every move. Serena is kept underfoot by her husband. He rarely touches her. They do not have a relationship of any kind other than one of appearance. She is in a loveless marriage and lives the life of an oppressed woman forced to placate her husband in this new world order that tends to put men on top and women beneath them. We get glimpses every now and then of the pain Serena feels since this is not the sort of relationship she and her husband once had.

The story takes us on June/Offred’s journey through her everyday life. I am not going to give anything more away as I really want you to read the book and/or watch the series, but I do want to tell you why I love this series so much. Of course, I would love to hear your comments so please leave them below.

1. The acting in this show is stellar. The cast really pulls you into the characters. They are the characters. I have rarely found a television series or a movie that is adapted from a book that really takes the ‘reader’ into the live version of the story and make it so real that it almost feels you are watching real-people’s lives on hidden camera. Sometimes you want to jump into the screen and go psycho on some people.

2.  I thought the book wore me out, but the series is so intense. It masterfully brings out the hurt, the anger, the bitterness, the heartache, the sadness, love and especially hate. What happens to these women because of mightier than thou men and their perverse belief in God really grinds my gears. Everything Margaret Atwood made me feel between the pages is forefront on the screen. It’s visual, and it’s just as horrible as my imagination. Kudos to the director, and screenwriters.

3. The sense that all women, no matter their station, can empathize with each other while trapped in their society expectations, is one thing I love about this show. While Serena is an “elite” woman, there are moments when you see her remember her life the way it was, the relationship she once had with her husband. There are moments you can see she understands June/Offred and wants to team up with her and fight with her against all the atrocities of this society. She almost wants to reach out to her, to embrace her, but because of her station and her brainwashing and the fact she’s married to one of the most disgusting men to ever live, she can’t give in to her heart. The latest episode has left me numb and scared for June/Offred and the child she carries. Will Serena come to her senses and see June/Offred for what she truly is … for what they both truly are … emotionally and physically abused women at the hands of the government and especially Commander Waterford?

4. Determination and strong will. June/Offred is the epitome of hope. She’s also a kick-butt heroine who is determined to set things right again regardless of all the horrors that have happened to her. She is determined to not remain a victim. She has gotten very good at playing ‘the game’, as many abused persons do, but she is always looking for a way out, for a way to right the wrongs. There are all sorts of hope symbols thrown out there: handmaids escaping and making it to Canada to gain their freedom. There are the people of Canada protesting Gilead. There is an underground movement for change. June/Offred has chosen to do what she can to make sure everyone is aware of what the American people have suffered at the hands of Gilead. I want to fight with her. I want her to succeed. I want her to make Commander Waterford regret the day he ever touched her. If anyone can do it, it’s June/Offred.

5. Love. Everything centers around love and more so, the lack of it. We see what a lack of love does to small babies. We see what happens when it’s vacant from marriages. We see the devastation when the world is forced to live without it. On the other hand, we see what a parent will do to fight for his/her child. We see the pain when loved ones die. We see the joy when lovers and friends are reunited. We see the power of love in the dark shadows of everyday life and the strength it gives us, even when forbidden. Can the world live without love? The rulers of Gilead think so, but the human spirit gives us something completely different, proving once and for all, love will conquer all.

While this book/series is dark and at times almost hopeless, there are rays of light that shine through. You see what the fight is all about and why it’s important to people as individuals and as a world. And while I know how the book ends, I am desperate to see if the series stays true to story of if they give their viewers something else. I will be watching and waiting, and praying for June and Serena especially. Love always finds a way to triumph over evil, right?  It just has to.

#handmaid’stale, #oppression #maledomination #totalitarianism #theocracy #awesomebook #hulu

SERPENTS AND SAVIORS – the new book by Jamie Zakian


From the author of the dark Ashby Holler series comes book 2 in Jamie Zakain’s newer Sci-Fi Emergence series … SERPENTS AND SAVIORS.

What is it about?

Joey got separated from her twin brother Jesse when their luxury spacecraft broke apart halfway to Mars. The terrorists are dead, but so are most of the passengers who escaped a dying Earth for a new life on a new planet.

The remaining survivors, the future of humanity, are scattered across the lush planet of Mars. Joey and Kami are in a mountainous forest, and they’re locked in a power struggle to guide the people. Jesse and Rai landed on the coast, and are desperate to reach their sisters.

This new world can be a fresh start, where everyone is equal and class sectors are finally made obsolete, if only Kami would give up her self-appointed position as Commander of Mars. Both Joey and Kami are willing to die for their beliefs, even sacrificing the lives of those who’ve chosen to follow them, unless cleared heads can prevail before it’s too late.

ebook
Published April 10th 2018 by Month9Books
ISBN13   9781946700841
Edition Language   English

Series  Project Emergence #2

 

 

 

 

Jamie Zakian lives in South Jersey with a rowdy bunch of dudes, also known as family. A YA/NA writer, her head is often in the clouds while her ears are covered in headphones. On the rare occasions when not writing, she enjoys blazing new trails on her 4wd quad or honing her archery skills. She’s a card-carrying member of the Word Nerd Association, which means she’s probably stalking every Twitter writing competition and offering query critiques so keep an eye out.

TWITTER: @demoness333
WEBSITE: http://www.jamiezakian.com

A Note from the Author

Dear Reader,

This has been a long time coming, but thank you. Thank you for spending your hard-earned dollars on my books. Thank you for taking time from your busy life to get lost in my imagination. Thank you for getting my quirky sense of humor, and appreciating my sometimes purple prose. But most importantly, thank you for being you. If not for those with a sense of wonder, with a love for beautifully strung together words, there wouldn’t be any authors to tell thrilling stories. You, Reader, are my source of inspiration. You’re the reason I continue to create new worlds, the purpose of my very existence. So, basically, thank you for being awesome.

xoxo-Jamie Zakian

Link to Goodreads:
https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/37915783-serpents-and-saviors

Purchase Links:

Google Play | BAM | Amazon | B&N | iBooks

Tour Schedule:
http://www.chapter-by-chapter.com/tour-schedule-serpents-and-saviors-by-jamie-zakian/

Giveaway Info:
• One (1) winner will receive a $25 Amazon Gift Card and a digital copy of Serpents and Saviors by Jamie Zakian (INT)

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STANLEY AND HAZEL – a YA Whodunit Cover Reveal!


Hello Readers! Welcome to the Cover Reveal for

Stanley and Hazel by Jo Schaffer

presented by Month9Books!

Celebrate this reveal by entering the giveaway found at the end of the post!

I absolutely love this cover and could stare at it for hours. I can’t rant about it enough. It has been added to my TBR list. I love a good Whodunit novel.

A great depression has gripped the city of St. Louis in 1934. Stanley, an orphaned newsy, lives in a poor part of town hit especially hard by the economic downturn. One night, Stanley runs into Hazel, a restless debutante in waiting who has begun to question her posh lifestyle in the midst of the suffering she sees. She’s out and about without an escort and against her father’s wishes.

When they discover the body of a girl with her head bashed in by a baseball bat, the very different and separate realities of the two teens inform their decision. Together they will figure out what happened to her and bring those responsible to justice.

But getting involved with each other and digging into the secrets behind this murder earns them some powerful enemies, including a secret group seeking to rid society of all they deem “undesirable.” They’ve put into motion “The Winnowing,” a plan seeking to take over the city and enforce their will.

As Stanley and Hazel’s forbidden feelings for one another grow, their investigation turns deadly. Now, it is up to Stanley and his gang of street kids to stop Hazel from becoming the next victim.

Stanley and Hazel by Jo Schaffer
Release Date: May 15, 2018
Publisher: Month9Books

Available for Pre-order:

Amazon

Jo Schaffer was born and raised in the California Bay Area in a huge, creative family. She is a YA novelist, speaker, writer at Patheos.com, works in film production and is a Taekwondo black belt.

She’s a founding member of Writers Cubed and co-founder of the Teen Author Boot Camp, one of the largest conferences in the nation for youth ages 13-19. She and a crew of local and international bestselling authors present writing workshops to hundreds of attendees at the Utah-based conference as well as hundreds of others worldwide who view the conference online.

Jo loves being involved in anything that promotes literacy and family. She is passionate about community, travel, books, music, healthy eating, classic films and martial arts. Her brain is always spinning new ideas for books and sometimes she even gets around to blogging.

Jo is a mom of 3 strapping sons living in the beautiful mountains of Utah with a neurotic cat named Hero.

 

Website | Twitter | Facebook | Tumbler | Instagram | Goodreads

Complete the Rafflecopter below for a chance to win!

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“Dragonboy” – an adorable animated short film


I love animated short films. I spend far too much time looking at student’s works that are posted on YouTube. I’ve seen some amazing works from Ringling College of Arts students.

I don’t think this film is from a Ringling Art student, but I loved it just the same. It’s an adorable take on the princess in the tower being saved by her handsome, fearless … dragon?

I’m in love. What do you think?

 

Dragonboy is a collaborative thesis done by Lisa Allen, Bernardo Warman and Shaofu Zhang at the Academy of Art University.

And the winner is …


YASH Spring 2018 has come to an end. I want to thank everyone who stopped by my blog and left a comment. This year I had the most responses ever at almost 150!  That is amazing!!!  I love readers!!!

I wish everyone could win but sadly, that’s not the case. I could only pick one winner for my giveaway

Tizzy Brown!

Tizzy’s name was chosen randomly from a contest name generator app called Contest Winner Picker.

Congratulations, Tizzy!!

A message has been sent to Tizzy informing her that she has won my prize of:

1. 1 paperback copy of my first novel, IN THE SHADOW OF THE DRAGON KING; and
2. Her choice of (a) $10 Amazon gift card OR (b) $10 Barnes and Noble gift card.

Thank you again to everyone playing. Make sure you come back for the YASH Fall hunt, probably in October.

Until then…
Happy Reading. I loved meeting all of you!!

 

 

Spring 2018 #YASH has begun!


Spring 2018 #YASH has begun! And you’re hunting with Team Red!!

What is #YASH?  It’s a bi-annual event first organized by author Colleen Houck as a way to give readers a chance to gain access to exclusive bonus material from their favorite authors … and a chance to win some awesome books and other prizes! This Spring, there are 80 authors divided into six teams. I’m on Team Red. Each author on each team has agreed to give away at least one book to the grand prize winner. As a scavenger hunter, you can hunt on as many teams as you want, but you’ll need to play fast. This contest is only open April 3-8, 2018. When you visit each author’s site, make sure you look for other chances to win extra prizes as a lot of authors have giveaways going on separately that you don’t want to miss (I have one going on, so make sure you check it out!)

What exactly are you hunting for?  A number.  Each author on the team will have a special number embedded in their post. Add up the number clues for your team, head over to the Rafflecopter giveaway that matches the team color, and enter the number. That’s it. As you read my post, you will see I’ve mentioned the number a few times (just in case you missed it). While I mention it several times, you will only use it once. If you win the grand prize for the team, you’ll get a book from each of the authors on the team.  Only entries with the correct number will qualify to win.

Rules: the contest is open internationally. Prizes must be claimed within 48 hours or the prize will be re-drawn. You must be 16 years or older, or have the permission of a guardian to enter. Duplicate entries will be deleted. To be eligible for the grand prize, you must submit the completed entry form by April 8, 2018, at noon Pacific Time. You must enter to win before then. Good luck and happy hunting! Entries sent without the correct number or without contact information will not be considered.

Want to see all the books involved in this Hunt?  Check out the Goodreads List and start salivating.

I’m super excited to be hosting the awesome Colleen Oakes, author of WAR OF THE CARDS. 

I can’t wait to read this book. I’ve read at least 15 retellings of Alice in Wonderland and I could read 15 more. It is one of my favorite novels. Of course, I could name 15 other titles that I love, but I’d rather focus on Colleen’s book, WAR OF CARDS.

So who is this gal, Colleen Oakes?


Colleen Oakes is the bestselling author of books for both teens and adults, including The Queen of Hearts Series, The Wendy Darling Saga and the upcoming YA novel The Black Coats. She lives in North Denver with her husband and son and surrounds herself with the most lovely family and friends imaginable. When not writing or plotting new books, Colleen can be found swimming, traveling or immersing herself in nerdy pop culture.

She currently at work on her third YA fairytale series, a YA thriller and a collaborative YA fantasy. You can catch up with her through any one of the links below:

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

And now on to the EXCLUSIVE CONTENT … (yay!)

Colleen is giving us a lot of really awesome stuff! Want to hear the music that inspired the book?  Check out her Spotify playlist. Want to see the artistic inspiration for her book? You’ve got to head over to her Pinterest board.  And who doesn’t love that fan cast, huh?

A playlist for the book: Queen of Hearts Playlist, a playlist by Colleen Oakes on Spotify

A Pinterest board: Queen of Hearts, The Novel

A Fan Casting: Mae Whitman as Dinah, Kevin Costner as Sir Gorrann, Aaron Tveit as Wardley, Tom Hiddleston as Cheshire and Amanda Seyfried as Vittiore.

You can also find a special post by Colleen on Instagram about YASH so make sure you check it out and say hi. @colleenoakes

CONTINUE THE HUNT

Next author on the list to visit is the super-amazing, talented author, Erin E. Moulton!!

Make sure you spread the word!

ADDITIONAL  GIVEAWAY!!!

I’m running another special giveaway.  Everyone who leaves a comment below (it could be anything: favorite YA book, favorite YA character, etc) will have a chance to win a signed paperback copy of the 1st book in my Chronicles of Fallhollow series, IN THE SHADOW OF THE DRAGON KING:

AND winner’s choice of one of the following $10 gift cards

Good luck to everyone and happy hunting!!

 

 

 

 

 

Ready Player One – an enjoyable, fun film from Steven Spielberg


I have to say, I wasn’t expecting much from this film. I’m not a huge gamer (not much of a little one, either. Spyro and Wizard 101 are my speed), but my son wanted to see it and any time I can spend time with my son, I’m on it. I was delightfully surprised and entertained the entire time.

Now don’t get me wrong. This is not an academy award winning film, at least not up there with Lord of the Rings, Titanic, or The Shape of Water. However, there were tons of laughs, lots of action and adventure, and the story and the way it was played out was completely magical.

To pick a favorite character would be difficult. One would like to think it would be Wade Watts a.k.a. Parzival, but I loved Art3mis (Samantha), Aech (Helen), I-R0k, Sho, Daito and the curator. The plot was engaging with other characters you love to hate, and the references to other films, video games, books, etc. were classic write-ins.  The scenes from The Shining were hysterical, probably the best in the entire film, and the characters shined (no pun intended). Seeing as how Stephen King hated Stanley Kubrick’s adaptation of his book, Spielberg used the love-hate relationship effectively as a clue to find the elusive ‘easter egg’ in the film.

In fact, I think Spielberg had a blast making this film. There are all kinds of references to so many films, books, video games. For instance, Aech is building a life-size version of the Iron Giant. The opening scene highlights Minecraft. Batman makes a mountain-climbing appearance. There are references everywhere to Star Trek, Friday the 13th, Speed Racer, Harley Quinn, Tron, Battlestar Galactica, Alien, Dune and the list goes on and on. There are references to The Breakfast Club, Fast Times at Ridgemont High, Animal House, Robotron. I mean, Speilberg turned into a kid with this film, and it was refreshingly fun.

There was also a lesson about balancing escapism with reality, taking chances, and toward the end, I got kind of a Willy Wonka ending moment. It was glorious. Yes, the writing was clunky at times (who refers to their aunt as “my mom’s sister?), the romance was cliche’, but these are things I found fun and kid-like, and they made the movie enjoyable for me. And the Iron Giant taking on Mechagodzilla? Awesome!!

I highly recommend Ready Player One to gamers and non-gamers, adults and kids. It’s loaded with comedy, heart-wrenching backstories, bad guys, and dozens upon dozens of pop-culture references in dialogue and in-scene. I’ll need to watch it several times to pick up on all of them. I think Spielberg is on to something with this film, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see more in the works.  Two thumbs up, Mr. Spielberg. This film is a rare gem and definitely one I’ll be adding to my home theater collection.

 

It’s Back ~ 2018 Spring YASH!!


It’s back everyone! Welcome to 2018 Spring YASH!

What is YASH? It stands for Young Adult Scavenger Hunt, and it’s a bi-annual event first organized by author Colleen Houck as a way to give readers a chance to gain access to exclusive bonus material from their favorite authors…and a chance to win some awesome prizes! Want to learn more? Click here.

This makes the 4th time I’ve participated in YASH, and this year, I’m on the RED Team!! I’m so excited!!  Look at all those awesome books and amazing authors surrounding me!!! I couldn’t ask for a better team!

The Spring hunt begins at noon PST on April 3 and ends at noon PST on April 8. Winners will be announced on April 11!  Stay tuned for more details.

Click the links below to find out more about the authors and books on the Red Team.

RED TEAM
Amy Fellner Dominy
Amy Trueblood
Anna Hecker
Brendan Reichs
Carly Anne West
Cole Gibsen
Colleen Oakes
D.S. Murphy
Erin Cashman
Erin E. Moulton
Ginger Scott
Heather McKenzie
J. Keller Ford
Jessica Bucher
Julie Reece
Lisa Maxwell
Mary Crockett
Paula Stokes
S.F. Henson
Yvonne Ventresca