Tuesday, February 28, 2012

SHIFT river scene by Zachary


Saturday 21 June

Dear Aura,

I doubt I’ll send this letter when I arrive home Monday. Maybe years from now I’ll show you, and we can laugh at how things were at the beginning.

But I wanted to write it down so I’d never forget that night in the river (and by the river). Six eternal months apart lie before us, but with one glance at this page, I can be with you again.

-----

Naked.

You stand before me, trembling but unafraid. I stand before you, perfectly still but pure afraid.

Afraid, because without clothes my body feels awkward, my arms too long, my gut too soft. Afraid, because I know I’ll do something stupid. Afraid, because I’ve told you I love you, and you’ve not said it back.

Hands clasped, we step into the mountain river, sucking in breath at the icy shock. It takes all my will not to shriek like a wee lass, or crush the fine bones in your hand. I’m relieved you saw me before the cold water had its effect on—well, you know.

We stop and face each other, joking about shampoo and such, pretending we’re here to get clean. Seeing your bare skin glisten with drops of moonlight-tinged water, I feel the opposite of clean.

I put my hands on your waist, as much to steady myself as anything. The river’s current runs at my back, pushing me towards you and pulling you away. “Do ye trust me?”

“I trust you.”

My heart pounds, keeping blood flowing to parts extreme. But it’s still fear, not passion, pumping this adrenaline.

Because when I look into your eyes, I think of him. A chance squandered, a love lost. Death stalked him even as you lay in his arms. If he were alive, would I be holding you? Are we a tragedy?

“I love you.”

There, you’ve said it, and with those words, changed the course of the river itself, so it pulls us together, and suddenly feels not so cold after all.

Together, we sink underwater. You close your eyes to protect your contact lenses, but I keep mine open, watching your dark hair stream upwards. It looks like you’re falling.

Back at the surface, we kiss hard and fast, trying to forget how in three days, an ocean will come between us. All too soon, we’re interrupted by the distant sound of a DMP search party.

That’s a dreadful bit, so I’ll skip the telling. But it makes us hide close to shore, in water shallow enough to sit in.

I pull you into my lap. Your flesh is warm against me, sliding, pressing, reawakening the heat inside until it’s as if the DMP and this cold water never existed. My thoughts become a long, low howl of static. I fumble for conversation to keep from—I don’t know what.

“Does this remind you of anything?”

You go still in my arms, making me wonder what memories my question has sparked. I hurry to remind you of our first kiss, stolen in a potato bin, during another escape from federal agents.

You remember, and all at once you’re mine again, closer than ever. I hold you tight and press my teeth to the back of your neck, feeling pure animal ache.

Then your hand slips between us, down to where…God.

And I can’t think and I can’t breathe and I speak in tongues and I taste your hair, silky wet, smelling of river but underneath so incredibly, undeniably you. And this is all I ever need. I could die right now.

But somehow I find breath again. You say words, then I say words, I don’t remember which. Then we fall silent, because our would-be captors are closer. This waiting should be torture, but after so many never-holding-you months—in the past and future—I’ll not complain.

When the DMP has moved on, we force our cold, stiff limbs to return us to shore, where we huddle in towels, laughing, kissing each other’s lips from blue to red again.

You stretch out on the towel, and I’m suddenly glad we’ve no condoms, glad we’re saving sex for another time. Tonight, we can explore each other, enjoy each other, with no fear.

First I must know what you want. “Aura, where can I touch you?”

Your arm trembles under my hand. “Anywhere,” you whisper.

“And where can I kiss you?”

Your right foot arches, turning your whole leg taut. “Everywhere.”

I take a deep breath that quakes my lungs. “I’ll start here, aye?”

“Aye,” you say, before my mouth covers yours.

As we kiss, one certainty takes root in my soul: we are no accident, no spawn of tragedy. This was meant to be. This would have forged a million frozen rivers, set the paths of stars and planets, created universe upon universe, to make itself happen.

Later, after we dress, you sleep with your head in my lap, a rolled-up towel for a pillow. I swat away mosquitoes before they can reach your cheeks and your bare arms. The underbrush hides all of you and most of me except my eyes, so I can scan the far shore for searchlights.

The moon sets at last, and through the trees I see patches of sky carpeted with stars. I’ve not been anywhere this dark in ages. I sync my breath with yours, dissolving one more boundary between us.

A flash of violet appears across the river. I rub my eyes, certain I’m half-asleep and dreaming. But there it is again, a ghost on the distant shore. It lingers at the water’s edge, perhaps remembering a fishing holiday or a canoe ride—or a rendezvous like ours.

At this moment, I see the world through your eyes, Aura. The joy and pain of lives loved and lost. And it is beautiful.

Thank you,
Zachary

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The fruits of Team Kilt's labor

You GUYS! How did you pull that off? Zachary came back from 80 votes down to win Team Smackdown by over 100 votes. It took a day and a half to make up the gap, but you never gave up. With each person getting only one vote, every vote truly counted. I cannot thank you (and especially his advocate Saleana from Fictional Distraction) enough for your dogged support and your positive spirit.

Well, maybe I can. I promised to write the river scene from Shift from Zachary's point-of-view. After he won, I contemplated how I would attack it. (Actually, after he won, I finally got a good night's sleep, then finished the novella version of "Let It Bleed," which today I'll send to Those Who Edit.)

I wanted to do something other than the usual hot-scene-from-guy's-POV. It's been done a lot, and very well, by other authors. Did I want to make it realistic or impressionistic? Funny or serious? Past tense or present? First person or third? Hey, what about free verse, like Logan's story "Bridge"? Or haiku? Perhaps a collage! Interpretive dance!

Finally, in the middle of the night, frustrated and anxious, "Zachary" tweeted this:




Not quite the subtlety I was hoping for.

My goal was to keep it YA-level sensuality, but most of all to keep it real, keep it Zach. I wracked my brain thinking how he would share this moment with the world, until finally I realized...he wouldn't. He's too private, too protective of himself and especially of Aura.


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Saturday, February 25, 2012

Team Smackdown Finals: Time to get serious


As I noted in yesterday's post, the Team Smackdown has shaped up to be a bigger battle than anyone could've expected. Team Kilt has come from over 80 votes down to take a tenuous lead, one that was challenged by a surge in votes for the other side earlier tonight during the SHADEboys chat. We mounted a desperate counter-rally and somehow stayed ahead.

I think the most total votes any of the earlier contests received was 300. We're well over a thousand with almost 24 hours to go!

I've been posting mini-teasers (collected in yesterday's post) for every 50 votes Zachary receives, and while they've been great incentives, I knew something had to be done.

So, while I'll continue to post mini-snippets for every 50 votes (double-sized if Zachary's in the lead), and if Zachary wins I'll do my best to post a non-spoilery excerpt with twice the number of words as there are votes, I'll also add one other thing:

If Zachary wins, I'll rewrite the infamous river scene from Shift from his point-of-view. I can't promise it'll be eloquent or sexy or even coherent. He's a 17-year-old boy, after all, and the water was quite cold at the time. But it'll be real, and it'll be Zach.

So if you want to see what Zachary was thinking (or not thinking) while he and Aura were skinny dipping, go vote! You can only vote once per IP address (usually this means at your home or work. Sometimes you can turn your phone's WiFi off and use the 3G/4G network to vote again, but not always).

If you'd like to do more to help, here are some easy ways to find your local WiFi hotspots for more voting opportunities. I mean, if you're looking for an excuse to buy coffee and a muffin, anyway....

Or just spread the word to help Zachary the Perennial Underdog come out on top. Voting ends at 7pm EST Sunday.

And remember...TeamKilt bows to no one!

EDITED TO ADD: You did it--you ROCK! Here's the scene.

(Cheers to Ginger from @GReadsBooks for the image up there.)

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Friday, February 24, 2012

Team Smackdown Finals heat up! Chats, parties & giveaways

(Read this with the knowledge that I am completely zombified from lack of sleep. If I sound incoherent or...I don't know, there's probably another word that should go here, that's why.)

Heh. Um...so the other day I posted about the Team Smackdown and promised another "Shattered" teaser if Zachary won the finals, a teaser the length of which would be determined, as it was in the first two rounds, by the number of votes he received.

Twenty-four hours ago, he was well ahead of the competition with 108 votes. It looked like he was cruising to an easy victory as he had in the earlier rounds, and I'd have a nice-size teaser to share, but nothing too huge or spoilery.

And then last night, things blew up. Some Jem fans found out about the poll and he, being from an infinitely more popular series (Infernal Devices, which I got for Christmas and can't wait to read) went way ahead, 188-108.

Team Kilt responded, as they always do, with a rally last night, and now the vote is much closer, though Zachary is still in second place.

At press time, he has 245 votes. If things keep going this way, with the battle continuing through the weekend (voting ends Sunday at 7pm EST), you could be in for a VERY large teaser. Which is awesome for you, but for me, it might mean I got some writin' to do!

So I've decided to make things more interesting and tweet/share one "Shattered" line for every 50 votes Zachary gets. So far we've got:

----

Martin: "If ye sleep on yer side like that, ye need something extra firm."

Zachary: They’ve not given me a mirror--they know what it could become in my hands.

Zach: I do as Aura says. It's good personal policy.

Zachary: And if my silence can make her safe, then it can shatter me, smother me, slay me. I don’t care.

EDITED TO ADD:

“No.” My throat’s raw from need and screaming. “Don’t leave. Not yet.”

AND

Zachary: Just like that, we're talking about It again. The last thing I wanted her to think of when I took off my shirt.

AND...a double-sized teaser for every mark he hits while in the lead:

“Am I that bad?” I ask. I expect him to reply, “Naw, I’m just taking the piss out of ya,” but he stays dead silent, which I thought impossible for Martin. “Yeah,” he says finally. “It’s bad, mate.”

---

Zachary, on his dad:

He hates being helped, but hates even more having to ask for help. I’ve learned to spot the tiny hesitations that tell me he needs a hand. It’s a fine line, and on either side lie rage and sorrow.

---

"Really?" Crap, my voice just did that Glaswegian pitch-up thing, making me sound 13 yrs old. "I mean, really?" I keep my voice warm & low. She nods & seems to be waiting for me to say or do something. Finally I realize what.

---

I'd no idea this was possible, this complete connection without touching. When we cast aside our fears of the past and future, and simply dwell in This. Perfect. Present.

---

I lie awake, hands to my face, inhaling the scent of brass on my fingertips. Reminding myself that here, metal exists.

---

And finally, Zach's 600-vote "Shattered" snippet of victory:

I can show them I'm still alive. I still want. I still need. They may have shattered me, but I'm not broken.

---

The words in these lines will be deducted from the final big teaser, which will be posted if Zachary wins. EDITED TO ADD: he did win--thank you so much for all your support! I've written the river scene from SHIFT from his point of view.

In appreciation for your support, we have some fun in store for you.

Tonight at 9pm EST, the SHADEboys will hold a little music party where they'll share songs that remind them of each other. They'll post them on their tumblr and of course hang out on Twitter to see your offerings. I have a hunch Fictitious Delicious might be on at the same time, and we might all be giving away some goodies. Because we like to do that. Hashtag is #SHADEboys.

And tomorrow! At 6pm EST we’ll have a SHADEboys chat with special guest Aura Salvatore. You can ask all three of them anything. I've got a stash of Shade paperbacks with the "classic" cover (for everyone) and Wicked Games (for ages 18 and up) to give away, as well as some surprises (whatever I can dig up from my bookshelf and swag box).

By holding it on a weekend we'll get to see some new faces who normally can’t make it on weeknights. Hashtag as always = #SHADEboys.

-----

EDITED TO ADD--CHAT DETAILS:

Prizes!

Signed books:
3 Shade paperbacks
Winners: @Poochylover, @shellseeker93, @LovesBooks96
3 Wicked Game mass market paperbacks (for 18 and older--Shade will be substituted as a prize if winner is under 18)
Winners: @jderucki, @booglebum, @coldmoonviolet
2 Enthralled paperbacks
Winners: @NightBookThief, @geekchic_mag
2 Eternal paperbacks
Winners: @clairehuggy, @RebekahMillet

Congrats to the winners! Please send your name, address, and the prize you won to me at jeri AT jerismithready DOT com. Thanks!

PLUS
10 exclusive, collectible TeamKilt signed bookplates for Shade, Shift, or Shine. These come with all the different covers and are ONLY available at TeamKilt events. They can't be requested like regular bookplates. Winner gets a randomly drawn bookplate--no specific cover/title requests. That's what makes collecting fun, when you never know what you're gonna get!

Winners will be drawn from the people who ask a question of Aura, Logan, and Zachary. No limit to number of entries. If I run out of time and can't answer your question, your entry still counts. International entries are welcome.

The easiest way to follow the chat is using Tweetchat, which automatically adds the #SHADEboys hashtag to your tweet. Questions without the #SHADEboys hashtag will probably not be seen, much less answered or entered into the drawing. As I said, things get hectic, and I can only watch one stream at a time in tweeting for three characters at once.

----

So please go vote for Zachary, once every 24 hours, per IP address (i.e., work, home, coffee shop, whatever). And vote for Logan in the Ultimate Book Boyfriend battle, where you can vote as much as you want.

Looking forward to seeing you all this weekend! And now, I need to go pass out for a couple hours to prepare.

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Thursday, February 23, 2012

Community countdown widget

I was dorking around on the internet last night, killing fifteen minutes before bedtime, when I heard this news:



So I made this:





I have no design skills, but it made me happy. Probably more to come with different characters, because I am that excited.

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Monday, February 20, 2012

Team Smackdown Round 4 and another "Shattered" teaser

Thanks to everyone who helped Zachary win Round 3 of Library Mosaic's Team Smackdown!

This week is the finals, so please help take our boy to the top--it would be a great way to show your support not just for Zachary, but for his awesome advocate Saleana at Fictional Distraction. Saleana was up early every day reminding her followers to vote for Zachary (since voting is limited to one per IP address per day, which is kinda nice), so all the credit goes to her. Especially since I kept forgetting.

As in Round 2, I promised a teaser sample from Zachary's Summer 2012 short story "Shattered," one word per vote received, if Zachary won.

A little more about "Shattered" (but only a little, because there's not much I can say about it without spoiling Shine):

The title is what it is partly because it fits with the SHADE/SHIFT/SHINE "SH" title motif. But it also fits thematically. Zachary is shattered in more sense than one--in the British slang sense of "exhausted," due to insomnia, but also at a soul-deep level, due to his experiences in Shine, with which the story runs concurrent.

Zachary's "shattered-ness" will be reflected in the style and structure of this piece, which will definitely be the most ambitious work of fiction I've ever attempted. That's what I love about short stories--they let you play with all the toys in your head. I hope I'm up to the task.

Anyway, here you are, an 86-word shard of "Shattered":

---

As Aura speaks, she flutters her hand beside her head, drifts her fingers through her hair, twisting the ends into dark curls that linger when she lets go.

I watch her hand onscreen, and I want to hold it. Not to walk sweetly through a park (though that would be good, too). I want to clutch it, our fingers intertwined, palms glued with sweat as I press both hands to the mattress beside her head. Deep within her, I could lose myself. Or find myself. Whichever.

---

Want more? For every vote Zachary gets in the final round of Team Smackdown, I'll post TWO words of "Shattered." It'll be Super Sized! This time the voting goes until Sunday, and Library Mosaic is giving away one of the three finalists' books as well as a cool bracelet that has the book quote of the winner's choice.

~~~~~~

Speaking of polls, Zachary and Logan are both in the second round of the Ultimate Book Boyfriend Challenge over at Read Me Bookmark Me Love Me and Eleusinian Mysteries (each blog has the same post and poll, so follow either link). These two lovely Aussie bloggers, Lisa and Brodie, are giving away some great prize packs, with different books and swag depending where you live. You can vote as many times as you want, they say, but giveaway entries are limited to one per person, plus two extra entries for leaving a comment on one of the posts.

I know many Shade fans will want to vote for Logan and Zachary and send them both to the final round. I could be greedy and say, YES, DO IT!! BRING ME GLORRRRRRYYYYYY!!

But honestly? Nothing would pain me more than to see them go up against each other again. Since Zachary's had all the attention of the crush tournament and now the Team Smackdown, maybe it's Logan's turn?

Anyway, I think voting runs until some time Tuesday morning, either at 12:01am EST or maybe at 8am EST, not sure which. The final round will be posted on Wednesday afternoon in Australia, which means Tuesday night for those in US (the east coast is 16 hours behind Sydney). I'll post about it here if either of the boys makes it.

Oh, and Shift is up against Clockwork Prince in this genre battle tournament at Fiction Fervor. I know there is zero chance of it coming out on top, but figured I should let you know.

Are you sick of online polls yet? I probably should be, but I'm truly grateful and honored every time a blogger chooses a book or character (or love triangle) of mine even to contend in a competition. And then to see the readers come out and support them...well, may I never get sick of that.

Love you guys!

*ducks back into deadline cave*

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Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Ask an Indie Bookseller & win a gift certificate!



Tomorrow on "Zach and Logan in the MORN-ing!" the SHADEboys are interviewing Lauretta Nagel from my favorite independent bookstore, Constellation Books.

(Speaking of the SHADEboys, yesterday they held a Valentine's Day "Kilt-Off"--sort of like a "walk-off" from Zoolander--to thank their readers for all their awesome support. It starts with this post, with a link at the bottom of each leading to the next. It gets weird, even for them.)

In case you don't know, Constellation is the place to get signed books by me. You can call 410-833-5151, or order online and let Lauretta know in the comments how you want the book personalized. (Please allow a couple weeks for personalized copies, as the store is a half hour from my house, so one of us has to make a special trip, usually her, because I'm a hermit.)

International orders, please use the email link on the left sidebar of Constellation's website, and Lauretta will send you payment instructions.

(NOTE: I realize the online catalog now shows the new cover for the Shade paperback, but that won't actually be available until May 1.)

PRE-ORDERS FOR SHINE

If you pre-order Shine, the books will be signed, personalized, and shipped the day the books arrive at the store, which may be a week before the book officially releases on May 1. So by ordering from Constellation, you not only get a signed copy, but you might get it early!

INTERVIEW AND GIVEAWAY

The SHADEboys' interview with this lovely bookseller will take place on Twitter at 10:30am EST tomorrow, Thursday, February 16. The easiest way to follow/participate is to visit the #ZOGANam hashtag at Tweetchat.com. Everyone who asks Lauretta a question will be entered to win a $25 gift certificate for her store.

Can't make the live chat? That's okay! Just leave your question here in the comments and I'll--I mean, the boys'll pass it on to Lauretta during the chat.

Deadline for entry: 10:30am EST Thursday, February 16. International entries welcome.

THE FUTURE OF ZOGAN

This might be the last "Zach and Logan in the MORN-ing!" chat for a while, even though the intention was to keep it going until Community came back on the air next month. I'm trying to catch up on the many, many things I fell behind on during the last deadline (including writing the next book), and all these fun special events take up time.

If you are enjoying them, please tweet me (or Zachary or Logan) and let "us" know! Not fishing for compliments or applause, just curious to know how many people out there are listening.

See you tomorrow!

EDITED TO ADD: Congrats to @BookishAndrea on winning the $25 Constellation Books gift certificate, and thanks to everyone who stopped by and asked Lauretta questions! You can now read the transcript of the chat, which had a strangely dramatic ending in which Logan went into--well, you'll just have to read it.

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Monday, February 13, 2012

Team Smackdown Round 3 and "Shattered" teaser

Thanks to everyone who gave Zachary the victory in Round 2 of Library Mosaic's "Team Smackdown"!

I promised that if he won, I'd share a teaser from his short-story-in-progress, "Shattered," which will be out this summer. The size of the teaser was determined by the number of votes Zachary received.

He's in the semi-finals this week, so if you want, go vote for him and your choices in the other two races. And once again, if he wins, I'll share another "Shattered" teaser that will also reflect the number of votes.

So here it is, from Round 2, a 135-word piece of Zachary (with usual this-is-a-first-draft disclosure. (Is "disclosure" even the right word? I am still deadline-braindead. Also, a little nervous.) EDITED TO ADD: the correct word is "disclaimer." Duh.). Anyway:



-----

The dream won’t even grant me grey. It’s all white, blank. Nothing. No one.

Standing (sitting? tumbling?) in the void, I hold up my hands. They look false, laid against no skin.

The fading, it starts at my fingertips. Nothingness devours them, turning my knuckles to air. Then my palms, my wrists.

I scream at my arms to fight back. They flap and flail until they’re gone as well, and the nothingness is at my throat, swallowing the shrieks.

I sit half up in bed, choking, my gut leaping towards my mouth. This time, I’m certain breath won’t come. This time, I’m certain I’ll die.

“Zachary!” A touch in the dark on my arm, which apparently still exists.

Instinct launches my other fist, but instead of smashing a face, it meets another hand. This time.


----

Thanks again to all who voted! (And if you want more, well, you know what to do.)

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Wednesday, February 08, 2012

The SHADEboys interview Jodi Meadows + INCARNATE giveaway!

Whew! I finally turned in Lust for Life (WVMP Book 4) yesterday. Now it's time to go back and finish "Let It Bleed," the WVMP novella that I had to tragically abandon late last year after I realized the ending needed to be changed (due to events in Lust for Life). There will definitely be news on that within the next couple of months. Obviously some form of "Let It Bleed" in its entirety will be available before Lust for Life comes out in October.

But that actually isn't what this post is about! Consider it a bonus news item.

Tomorrow at 10:30am eastern, Zachary and Logan (collectively known as the SHADEboys or ZOGAN) will air their fourth episode of "Zach and Logan in the MORN-ing!", their Twitter-chat homage to Troy and Abed from the best show ever made, Community, which is currently on hiatus.

Transcripts to the first three episodes can be found on the SHADEboys tumblr:

Episode 1: Fictitious Delicious, creators of KiltandKeeley.com
Episode 2: Christian Ready, astronomer guy
Episode 3: Ginger Clark, literary agent at Curtis Brown, Ltd.

Their first published author guest will be Jodi Meadows, whose brilliant debut fantasy Incarnate just came out last week. I was privileged to read Incarnate last summer because Jodi thought potential readers might have actually heard of me. I was blown away--so blown away I said this:

One word: Breathtaking. More words: Heart-melting. Soul-feeding. Mind-blowing. INCARNATE captured all of me and won't let go.

Usually I'm a little more circumspect with cover quotes, so as not to sound too fangirly/over-the-top/dorkish. I tend to use things like commas and compound sentences. But I couldn't help myself with Incarnate. It was just that beautiful.

Though the settings are completely different, because of the prominence of music and the emotionally wrenching storyline, I think it's more like the Shade series than any other book I've ever blurbed. So if you're reading this, and you like Shade, you want this book.

And I'm giving one away! As I mentioned, the SHADEboys are interviewing Jodi tomorrow morning. To enter the giveaway, simply ask Jodi a question, either during the chat (hashtag #ZOGANam, 10:30am to 11:30ish EST--they usually "open the phones" for questions around 11am), or here in the comments. The giveaway is open to international entries, and the deadline for entry is the end of the chat. (NOTE: due to time constraints, I can't guarantee that every question will be asked, but the boys will do their best!)

EDITED TO ADD: Jodi may be bringing her ferret Todd to the chat, if he's feeling extroverted tomorrow morning.

EDITED AGAIN TO ADD: The Winner of the copy of Incarnate was Jen R! Thanks to everyone who asked questions before the chat. You can read the transcript of the chat with Jodi on the SHADEboys' tumblr.

See you then!

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NEW RELEASE!

This Side of Salvation

This Side of Salvation, Jeri's new contemporary YA novel!

Now available in hardcover and ebook.

“A smart, well-rounded, and unpredictable tale...bringing to light issues of belief versus free will, spirit versus body, and family versus self.” —Booklist, **Starred Review**

More about THIS SIDE OF SALVATION

Order from Indie Bound, Barnes & Noble, or Amazon.com.

NOW AVAILABLE!

Shattered

"Shattered," a Shade novella!

Available here on this website as a free download in all major ebook formats, as well as a printable PDF (now with photos!).

More about "Shattered"

About the author

Jeri Smith-Ready

Jeri Smith-Ready is a Maryland author of books for teens and adults.

Learn more about Jeri...

Photo © Geoffrey C. Baker

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