The Reluctant Barbarian – Recommendation Thursday

Hello My Imaginary Friends,

Do you enjoy fun? Humour? Fantasy? Well then I have a book for you. It was my favourite book read in 2018.

The Reluctant Barbarian

Arthur Jenkins would have been happy to live his life the way it was until he finally died, but the angel in his office has different ideas. He’s there to grant a wish Arthur made as a kid, and it’s a doozy. It’s also a wish he doesn’t want in the slightest. After all, what grown man would want to be a barbarian hero? Seriously! Whether he wants it or not, Arthur is getting that wish granted. Angels have quotas too, you know. Join Arthur, Dead Mike and Valeria the Paladin on a quest across the land, having unwanted adventures while looking for a comfy place to sit.

John Haas has a fantastic imagination, great sense of humour, and wonderful understanding of narrative flow. He’s also recently won a spot in Writers of the Future.

His followup novel to The Reluctant Barbarian is due to be released this year from Renaissance Press.

Go read the book!


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Seren Plentyn and the Secret of Hokulua Station – Chapter 1

Chapter 1

Chapter 1: All kinds of leaks

The stars were in different places, they always were, but with a little concentration Seren could map out their location. The universe was impossibly large, but her and her people had spent time untold sailing the stars.

Hokulua was a generational exploration and protection space station. Most GEPS were crawling with scientists, soldiers, and their children. Hokulua was quiet but it wouldn’t be for very long. There were a ten million souls on their way to the station and it would be the flagship of the Starchild Family.

“State-of-the-art my ass!” shouted Mr. Plentyn as he paced around the living quarters, angrily tapping at his tablet. “More like experimental and unstable!”

“Did Hoku refuse to give you your coffee again?” Seren’s large smile lit up her face making her skin seem to glow. Her bright green eyes were questioning as well as teasing.

“No, Hokulua Station didn’t refuse to give me coffee… more than once. It’s this blasted power drain. I can’t seem to stop it. The station is using twice as much power as it should and every time I patch a hole a new one opens up.”

“Have you asked Hoku?”

“Dear child. Why would I bother asking a glorified entertainment AI something I know it can’t answer?”

“So you asked and it gave you one of those weird phrases again?”

It was Aern’s turn to smile at his daughter, he shared her dark brown skin and reddish hair but he had light amber eyes. “Yes it said, ‘Plasma Beasts are at the gates’; whatever that means.”

“Wish I could help,” she said and meant it.

Walking over to the wall and the food dispenser, she asked, “Hoku, can I have some orange juice and a breakfast number four please.”

The soft deep voice of the station’s AI replied, “That will take forty percent of your daily recommended rations food intake. Are you sure you want to proceed?”

“I’m doing a space-walk today and will need the extra energy. Please proceed.”

The food appeared in the food slot and she could have sworn she heard Hoku say, “Good luck.”

She ate in silence, watching the stars. It was the way she ate most mornings. Her father was up and fed hours before her and she liked the quiet.

“I’m here to make sure you don’t miss your first shift,” Jan stood at the door in their uniform. Their blonde, almost white, hair and nearly translucent skin glowed slightly in the dim light of the living quarters.

Seren made a rude noise and drank the last of her juice.

“Jan you know that you don’t need to wear your uniform right?”

“Just because the rest of the military isn’t here doesn’t mean I can slack off. Might as well get used to it.” Jan was officially known as Private Jan Ng, they’d graduated and passed military training a week ago. Seren hadn’t applied for the military but instead tested and passed the tests for both the engineering corps and her real passion, the archeological civilian branch. She wanted to follow her passions but didn’t want to leave her father. He’d had too many people leave him already.

“Well I’m not wearing a uniform until I have to.” Instead, Seren wore a deep red button up shirt with a pair of snug kaki pants, with her comfy dark brown boots.

“I love you, Dad. I’m off to find out where our air is disappearing to.”

Barely looking up, he replied, “Love you too. Be careful.”

“Dad! I’m eighteen!”

“The vacuum of space doesn’t care how old you are.”

She kissed his cheek and headed out.

“So, Private, are you excited for everyone to show up?” Jan’s parents were part of the advance team with Seren’s father that were sent ahead to prepare stations or sent in to repair old stations.

“Mother-of-Stars, yes! This quiet is painful; I’m so glad I won’t have to do this again.”

They headed to the nearest transportation pod. A small train-like transportation controlled by the AI. It would seat twenty when the station was fully manned.

Each pod could move along one of the arms of the station. Like all Starchild Stations, Hokulua was built with a micro-star in the centre of four large rings. Each ring touches at least touches the other rings and has four bridges connecting to the micro-star engine and power station.

Each ring is given a designation, Alpha, Beta, Charlie, and Delta. Each quadrant of each disk is given a letter, A, B, C, and D. Finally each quadrant of each ring had a hundred floors. Each of the floors was roughly six hundred square metres.

“So we need to walk the entire alpha-ring today?” asked Jan.

“No just the top of A quadrant,” Seren said and then added, “That’s still four kilometres.” They had been hired to inspect the outside hull of the station and make sure that there were no air leaks. If there was an air leak, even a small one, it would glow a florescent orange when it hit the cold of space.

The transport pod stopped at the spaceport and they reported for duty. There were five of them that had been hired but only four had shown up.

“Just like Annie to be late or forget to come to work,” joked one of the others.

They were given their sections and assigned space suits. Seren went over to hers and something wasn’t quite right. The suit wasn’t hanging like the others, but was put together and leaning in the locker storage.

The visor was oddly tinted dark brown. She was about to disconnect it when Jan grabbed her hand. With a tremor in their voice, they said, “Your suit is leaking blood.”

Read Chapter 2 (Coming in February)

While you wait for the next chapter, check out previous serial stories:

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Serial Story 2019 – Results

Hello My Imaginary Friends,

You voted and this year’s serial story will be an Adventure Mystery, written in the third person, with 2 regular human main characters in an original setting.

That turned out to be pretty vague and I decided a few things.

  1. I want to write a classic YA style mystery
  2. I want it to be on a space station
  3. The Welsh words for Star Child translates into the perfect name for a YA mystery.

So without further ado I give you the description of this year’s serial story:

Seren Plentyn and the Secret of Hokulua Station

Hokulua Station is the newest in generational exploration and protection space stations. Brand new and not quite working right.

Seren’s dad is the head or engineering for the new station and in charge of getting all the bugs worked out before the rest of the colonists arrive. That leaves her with plenty of time to explore. Something isn’t quite right though; weird noises, things going missing, and power drains that no one can explain.

Seren and her best friend Jan are going to do their best to figure out what is going on before someone gets hurt.

This should be an interesting and fun year.

Later Days,


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Take Two – Recommendation Thursday

Hello My Imaginary Friends,

I love mystery books, movies, and television shows. I also enjoy a good old procedural. Recently a network show came across my radar that I hadn’t heard about. Take Two is a buddy cop show by  Andrew W. Marlowe and Terri Edda Miller, the former creator and executive producer of Castle respectively.

This show owes a lot to Castle and doesn’t even try to hide it, including hiring some of the cast.

If you liked Castle for it’s wittiness and the fact that it never took itself seriously, you’ll love this show. If you liked it because of the charisma of Nathan Fillion, you’ll get almost as much spread between the cast.

I’m enjoying the fact that this show revels in taking its mysteries into weird and unexpected directions.

Have a look at one of my favourite episodes so far:


What do you think? Will this fill the Castle-sized shape in your heart?


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Time for a Contest

Hello My Imaginary Friends,

My daughter feel asleep on my lap and I can’t reach my computer to finish the Word of the Day story I had planned for today. It’ll be on Thursdays post.

A Dinosaur onesie with butterfly pants.
A Dinosaur onesie with butterfly pants.

The first five people who can guess what classic Science Fiction story this outfit is inspired by will be featured in one of the next chapters of this year’s serial story.

Send your answers as a private message to @ericdesmarais on Twitter or EricDesmaraisAuthor on Facebook.


Good Luck!


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Wargrave Island (Serial Story) Part 12: Conclusion

List of Characters | Part 1| Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6 | Part 7 | Part 8 | Part 9 | Part 10 | Part 11

Dropping the bin and running, Riko felt so stupid. She’d left Kate alone and unarmed, other than a baseball bat.

The sand and smoke made running awkward and painful in equal measures. It felt like it took her a month to get to where she’d left Kate, and she fully expected to find the woman dead in her wheelchair.

“Take that, you asshole.” Riko heard Kate’s yell followed by a metal thunk and yelp of pain. The wind turned and the smoke moved towards the inside of the island, letting Riko see what had happened. A man was laying down cradling his head and Kate was glowering over him wielding the baseball bat.

“Kate, are you okay?”

“Yeah, I might be in a wheelchair but I’m also an Olympic athlete.” Giving Riko a sad smile, she said, “Your partner’s an asshole.”

The man laying on the ground was Ethan. His arm was still attached, but without his fathers watch. Taking her handcuffs out of her back pocket, Riko cuffed him to an old stump of a tree. He was unconscious.

After a few minutes of resting, she got some water from the lake and threw it in his face. He woke with a start.

“Why, Ethan? Why?”

Smiling he shook his head saying, “Not how? Really, you won’t give me the satisfaction of telling you how I bested the amazing Riko Dulac?”

Holding back the tears that were stinging her eyes, she shook her head and asked again, “Why?”

“Fine. I’ll monologue for you. This is revenge, pure and simple revenge. You are all terrible people and the planet is better off without you.”

When he didn’t continue, Kate laughed, “If anyone has reason to hate this group it would be me.” She pointed at her legs.

“At least you’re still alive. The merciless teasing and horrible things you all did to my sister made her kill herself. Do you know what it’s like watching someone you love change completely?”

“Yes,” Riko said unable to hide the crack in her voice.

Ignoring her he continued, “She went from a happy inquisitive girl to a depressed and angry one.”

“Kingsley was your sister? She killed herself?” Riko asked completely blindsided.

“Yes, and you didn’t even notice. Protector of the school, moral compass, bully slayer… All high and mighty and blind to everyone but her friends pain.”

“Why did you wait so long?” Kate asked.

“Revenge is a best served cold.”

“Fine. Now that you’ve told us why, tell us how. Do you have some sort of magic powers?” Riko said sarcastically. There was no way he could have sent the texts, move the bodies, set up the traps, and everything else.

His only reply was to smile. She slapped him. She couldn’t help it. She started to shake him. His smile only widened. She was getting ready to punch him when he finally spoke, “I don’t have magic powers. I have partner.” He looked over her shoulder.

She turned just in time to see a sword come out of Kate’s chest. Standing behind Kate with a crazed look was Allison. “You didn’t really think you had the brains or the resources to pull this off, did you?”

“Allison?” Riko’s head spun and she watched the light die in Kate’s eyes.

Struggling to get the sword out of Kate, Allison grunted. She finally gave up and took a shotgun out from a sling on her back.

“Yes. Poor little boring Allison. Did you forget about me again? Like the time I was supposed to tutor you in math and you never showed up? Or the time you, Zane, and I were going to go see Narnia together? Or maybe that time I was supposed to get a ride with you to the grad party? Ring a bell?”

“I’m sorry, Allison. I didn’t realize…”

“NO!” Allison yelled, “You didn’t care! And when I saw what you all did to poor Kingsley, I knew you had to pay. It took me years to get the money to buy this island and put cameras everywhere. Finding Ethan was a nice bonus.”


“Did I make it look like you had no signal? My app has an extra layer. I can activate it and it take over your phone. Making it look like you have no signal. It then only allows texts from me to get through. And you were all dumb enough to install it.”

“Wow. We must have been horrible to have you go through all this trouble,” Riko said. She was still angry, but she was also guilty and exhausted.

“I don’t want your pity, bitch!” Allison snickered and then added, “I want you to die.” She raised the shotgun at Riko. “Any last words?”

Riko recognized the shotgun and hesitated before saying, “Don’t do it. I–”

Cutting her off again, Allison said, “I don’t care,” and pulled the trigger. The shotgun, the same that Riko had rigged to backfire in the hotel, backfired and shot Allison in the chest.

Ethan started giggling at the sight. He didn’t stop as Riko took her phone and deleted Allison’s app. Then she restarted the phone for good measure and when it turned back on, she had five percent battery, but she had signal. She called 911 and explained where she was and babbled what had happened.

Still giggling, Ethan started bashing his head against the tree stump he was tied to. Riko tried to care, she tried to feel indignant that he was trying to escape justice, but instead she just felt numb. When he stopped moving she reached over and felt his neck. He was still alive, barely.

In her numb state, she was relieved he would face justice but she couldn’t help feeling that the entire thing was partly her fault.

Help me write 2017’s serial story and vote for the
2017 Serial Story – You Vote, I Write

If you enjoyed Wargrave Island why not read previous years serial stories: 

2014 – The Ridiculous Adventures of Felix Felicis
The story of a man who likes things neat and organized and gets dragged across time and space.

2015 – Only Human
The story of an ordinary-ish human, who enrols in Monster University to find her sister’s killer, but finds love and friendship instead.

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Wargrave Island (Serial Story) Part 11

List of Characters | Part 1| Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6 | Part 7 | Part 8 | Part 9 | Part 10

“You’ve been crying a hell of a lot,” Sandrine said, sounding callous to Riko. “I mean, sure, all our friends are dying in ridiculous ways, we’re trapped on an island in the middle of lake Ontario, oh, and we don’t know why. But seriously, buck up girl.”

Riko wanted to be angry, she wanted to rage at Sandrine for being a bitch, but all she could do was see the ridiculousness of the situation. Her tears stopped and she grabbed one of the large plastic containers of gasoline next to Sandrine and said, “Let’s get this over with and burn the killer out.”

Both Kate and Sandrine took containers and started spraying it around different areas. The island wasn’t big, and a third of it was already burning because of the house exploding.

Kate had a harder time moving around in the wet grass with her wheelchair so the others moved further off to get more of the small forest. They made sure not to get too far away from each other, always keeping at least one of the others in view at all times.

After splashing eight containers of gas, they moved to the shore and Sandrine threw a match at the grass. Riko watched as the match flew in a perfect arc and she worried that the grass would be to wet to catch. When the match hit the ground nothing happened for a moment and then it caught fire.

The fire snaked out from the grass towards the forest like a wave. The wetness didn’t stop the fire but it did cause more smoke. Even on the gravel shore they had trouble breathing.

“What do we do now?” Kate asked between coughs.

“We need to get upwind to not suffocate,” Sandrine answered. Just as she said that, the wind picked up and started blowing the smoke away from them.

“Finally some luck,” Riko took a deep breath of fresh air.

A dark shadow in the smoke ran across the field away from them.

“I’m going to kill them,” Sandrine said and ran into the smoke.

“Sandrine, you moron. You’ll suffocate before you get to them,” Kate’s words were lost to the roar of the fire. When Sandrine disappeared into the smoke, Kate added, “She’d going to die in there.”

“I’m starting to think we’re all going to die on this island.” Riko sat and sighed. It seemed completely useless. Whoever they were fighting had fate or luck or something on their side. There were only two of them left and the island was on fire. “Might as well accept our fates.”

“So what? We should just throw ourselves into the lake and die?” Kate’s face was red and her brow furrowed. “No. I’m not going to let this killer get me easily. I’m going to make sure they either pay for what they did or I’ll make them work for it.”

When Riko gave her a tired look, Kate sighed and added, “You never know, maybe Sandrine will succeed, she’s one tough woman.”

As if it had been timed, a gunshot echoed over the roar of the fire. Then another and another. Riko counted them out. “That must be the gun Ethan had left for me. It had fifteen rounds, those, and the earlier ones that Blane shot.”

“Did the fire set them off?”

“No they would have been faster and some would have gone off at the same time.”


They both sat in silence, covering their mouths when the wind turned towards them.

Riko’s tears dried up and she kept reliving each of the murders. Over and over she saw her friends die. She felt she deserved to re-watch each incident. She should have been able to stop it.

They silence was broken by their cellphones.

Twelve naughty kittens all trapped on an island; they’re all going to die for certain.
The first betrayed love for cash; now she’s ash.
To violence and hate the second clung; now he’s hung.
To gossip the third fixated; now she’s been asphyxiated.
The fourth preferred those who were incapacitated, now it’s his turn to be penetrated.
The fifth was a jerk who loved a good burn, now in a ball of fire it’s his turn.
The sixth was a model citizen, a spy; and not Canadian but Russian.
The seventh wasn’t what he seemed, he was but a dream within a dream.
Eight and Nine didn’t give a damn, so they died by their own hand.
Ten loved crime, it was her life and destiny, but she ran out of time.

“What the hell do these even mean!” Kate’s voice cracked in fear part way through the exclamation.

“I don’t know…” Riko re-read the text over and over again. Finally she said, “I think the killer is trying to punish us for our crimes.”

Kate snorted, “That would make sense if you weren’t here. I mean you’ve never done anything wrong.”

“I’m not perfect…” Riko trailed off.

“It’s almost noon and I’m starting to get hungry. We didn’t exactly have time for breakfast. We buried some food last night. I think it was near the docks. It’s a little fuzzy,” Kate smirked.

Standing up, Riko waited for Kate.

Gesturing at her chair Kate said, “I can’t make it far in this gravel. Plus, the docks were on fire. Look under where they used to be, in a metal box. Hurry. I don’t like being alone.”

“I can push you–”

“It would take ten times longer for us both to go. Go. I’ll be fine.” Kate patted the baseball bat on her lap.

Riko nodded and headed out to get the food. She followed the shore until she reached the burnt husk of the dock. It was black and still smoldering. The wet and cold had done nothing to stop if from burning. She easily found the metal bin that had the food and had to fight to get it open. It had warped from the fire.

Inside were some basics, and instead of deciding what to bring, she pulled, with her good arm, the entire bin towards where she’d left Kate.

Mid-way back, her phone rang with a text: You left poor Kate alone? I thought you were smarter than that…


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Wargrave Island (Serial Story) Part 10

List of Characters | Part 1| Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6 | Part 7 | Part 8 | Part 9

A cold wind blew into the kitchen, waking up Riko who’d tried hard to stay awake but failed. It was no surprise she’d been exhausted and working on adrenaline, which wasn’t sustainable. Sandrine, Blane, Zane, and Kate were all unconscious on the floor, the bottles of tequila laying empty between them.

The breeze carried the scent of fresh air that comes the day after a rain storm. The breeze reminded Riko of her summers camping. Wait… where was the breeze coming from?

Pulling out her gun, Riko stood, looking over the metal island they’d overturned the night before. The door to the dining room was open and two large barrels had been placed in the middle of the dining room. There was something with wires on top of it.

“Guys wake up!” Riko yelled. The others drowsily started to wake. “BOMB!”

The other four woke up quickly after that. “What? Really?” Sandrine sounded annoyed more than worried as she lifted Kate into her wheelchair.

They left by the kitchen’s back door, and starting running over the smooth field towards the forest that was behind the hotel. They almost made it to the treeline when their cellphones rang. As they rang, an explosion rocked the hotel. Gouts of flame erupted from the roof in multiple places.

It took a few seconds for the shock wave of heat and debris to reach them. Riko turned to look at the explosion and barely had time to see a piece of glass, the size of a butter knife, flying towards her. She tried to move out of its way, but it embedded itself into her right forearm.

It took all her self control to not rip it out of the arm.

“Holy shit,” Zane turned white then green as he rushed to a bush to puke.

Blane was much calmer and came up to her saying, “Don’t touch it. Let me look.” He held her arm still and looked at it.

Shooting flames of pain raced up her arm as he poked and prodded at it.

“Can you flex your hand?” She could but it hurt like crazy. “I don’t think it hit an artery. We should get it out but without bandages or antiseptic I really don’t want to.” He ripped a piece of his shirt off and wrapped it around the glass and her arm. She knew it was to prevent it from moving and causing more damage. “There was a first aid kit in the boathouse.”

“That’s on the other side of the flaming building,” Kate said sounding exasperated and winded. “It might be a flat field but it’s not exactly easy.”

“I know this is what people say in horror movies when I stop watching, but we should split up,” Blane said.

“She needs to be patched up,” Zane agreed, after wiping his mouth.

“I’ll stay with Kate,” Sandrine offered.

“Me too,” added Zane. “We’ll head to the garage and look for gas to burn the rest of this place down.”

Blane looked like he was going to argue but instead he leaned over and pecked Zane on the lips. He said, “Don’t die,” and turned around towards the burning house.

“Are you sure?” asked Riko as they walked towards the path that would lead them by the burning house and to the boathouse. “I could get the kit and bring it back.”

“No. I’m not letting you go alone when there’s a psycho out there.” Seeing her raised eyebrow, he continued, “I wouldn’t let anyone go alone and I won’t let anyone else die.”

They walked in paranoid silence expecting every breeze or rustle to be the killer. “You really don’t think it’s Ethan do you?” asked Blane.

“No. I’ve worked with him for years and he’s been fair, almost to a fault. He wouldn’t just start to kill people.” She didn’t sound convinced even to herself.

“At this point I really don’t care who. I mostly want to know why.”

“I don’t know. It must have something to do with high school.”

“Do you think it’s something to do with the grad party? It keeps coming back up,” Blane sighed.

The two of them stopped and at the same time said, “Kingsley.”

Riko continued with, “She hated us for that night and not inviting her. This seems a little excessive.”

“Unless we wiped out their entire family, any motive would seem excessive.”

The boathouse was filled with gardening tools and boat paraphernalia. An old motor was on a cart in the corner with its propellers in the air.

The first aid kit was on the wall and Blane pulled it off, quickly taking things out. Riko turned her head away, not wanting to see what he did.

When he said, “This will hurt.” She braced herself and tried not to clench her arm. The pain was blinding and caused a roaring in her ears.

Her vision cleared but the roaring didn’t. The engine across the boathouse had turned on and was slowly moving towards them. She reached, with her good arm, for the gun, but she jarred her bad one and dropped the gun.

Blane finished wrapping her arm, took a rake and pushed the engine into the water. It sputtered and sunk.

“Where did you get a gun?” Blane asked.

“It was Ethan’s,” she replied and told him about where she’d found it.

“Seriously? What if he tinkered with it or something?”

“He wouldn’t,” she started, but remembered that he’d been the one to teach her how to cause a gun to backfire. He’d done it to teach her how to make sure her weapon was safe and she hadn’t checked this one.

She picked up the gun and looked it over. It seemed clean. “It’s fine. Lets get back to the others.” She tried to put it back in her belt and flinched.

“I’ll take it,” he said forcibly. She didn’t argue. With her arm now in a sling and bandage, she was useless with a gun.

As they walked back, the fire had started to smoke and with almost no wind to blow it away, it was impossible to see more than a few feet away.

They were nearly next to the house when a dark shadow ran towards them in the smoke. Blane gestured towards the left to avoid the figure just as they heard a loud clicking noise. He’d stepped on a landmine. He gestured for her to leave.

“I’m not leaving you,” she said. The person in the smoke seemed to be holding a bat or something else similar.

“I’m already dead. Get out of here.” He lifted the gun and aimed it at the shadow.

Riko kissed him on the cheek and ran the other way. As she ran, she heard multiple gunshots followed shortly by yet another explosion. She raced back to where the others had been. They weren’t there and she made her way to the garage. Standing outside the garage were Sandrine and Kate.

When she came close enough, Kate asked, “Where’s Blane?”

“He stepped on a landmine…” Riko cried quietly, she was tired of crying for her friends.

“And where’s Zane? When we heard a boat motor, he went out to find you.” Riko started to sob when she saw that they were both holding baseball bats like the shadow in the smoke.

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Éric Desmarais

At Can-Con over the weekend of September 9-11, 2016, we had the opportunity to meet some incredible people. Éric Desmarais (FacebookTwitter, website) is one of those. He is a young adult urban fantasy/mystery author published by Renaissance Press (Twitter, website), and incredibly amazing to talk to! You can meet him at the Mega-Multi-Author Launch happening Oct 29, 2016.


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Madona Skaff-Koren

At Can-Con over the weekend of September 9-11, 2016, we had the opportunity to meet some incredible people. Madona Skaff-Koren (Twitter, website) is one of those. She is a mystery author published by Renaissance Press (Twitter, website), and incredibly amazing to talk to! You can meet her at the Mega-Multi-Author Launch happening Oct 29, 2016.


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