ELLCon…Gromits and all

The build-up of nervous tension prior to a conference is familiar territory to me now having attended three GCLS events and a Diva Literary Festival. And it didn’t diminish with having had these experiences in the weeks leading up to ELLCon – the inaugural European Lesfic Literary Conference.

As well as preparing notes for the panel I was on, there were the big questions of how many books should I take? and will anyone want to buy them? (Luckily some people did – a big thank you to them!)

I’m sure I wasn’t alone in this. The vendor room was buzzing with activity when I arrived on Thursday morning dragging my suitcase full of books and giveaway items. (Clothes were a secondary consideration in my packing…needing to make sure I could lift the case on and off trains on the journey to Bristol.)

With the table set up, there was still plenty of time before the first panel session of the day to chat with authors and other delegates, meeting some for the first time, including my Affinity colleague, Samantha Hicks.

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The conference hotel was in a central location, next to the city’s impressive cathedral and close to the waterfront area – alive with bars, a funfair, and boats.

waterfront

I ventured out on Wednesday afternoon and found a few of the Gromit Unleashed2 sculptures but generally had to wait for the other Gromit-trail hunters to move away in order to get photos. So, along with the pics I took of Wallace and Gromit, I’ve borrowed this splendid one of Feathers McGraw from my friend, Jody Klaire. (She’s photobombing in the background.)

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That was the extent of my sightseeing. Later on I met up with two other friends, Robyn Nyx and Brey Willows for a Mexican meal. With a two-for-one offer on Mojitos, it was a good choice of venue! Lovely to catch up with these two who were celebrating their first year wedding anniversary and Robyn’s birthday.

Back to the business end of the conference, I took part in the last panel of the morning on the first day: When Writing Feels Like a Marathon – how to get over the finish line. May Dawney was our expert moderator and the other panelists were Nita Round, Harper Bliss and Jane Fletcher. I think I look somewhat petrified here as I know Harper is going to pass the mic to me next.

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As with other conferences, I found the time slipped away quickly, and I know there were many missed opportunities for longer conversations and some people I didn’t chat with at all. But I have an abundance of precious memories.

So, what happened to the nerves I mentioned at the beginning of this post? Well, once the conference is underway and you’re meeting new and old friends, surrounded by smiles and hugs and laughter and the chance to spend two days talking about lesbian fiction…the nerves disappear and the joy of being in a loving, shared, safe space takes over.

Zara Wood and her team did an amazing job in preparation for the event and organisation throughout the two days. The city and the weather also played a part in creating a welcoming atmosphere.

ELLCon 2018 was a success…so roll on ELLCon 2019!


My latest book, Calling Home is available from Affinity Rainbow Publications, Amazon US, Amazon UK, Amazon CA, Barnes & Noble, Bella Books, Smashwords, and Apple iTunes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lesbian Writers Read…in Hebden Bridge

Happy Valley Pride is over for this year…and what a fantastic week it was. Congratulations to the trustees and volunteers who worked hard to make it all happen.

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With the success of the previous year’s Lesbian Writers Read event, the planning committee was keen to include it in this year’s programme as well. So I was thrilled to be asked to host another group of authors.

We were able to get a slightly larger, and accessible, venue this time…Squeeze cafe. The tickets sold out and it was standing room only by the time everyone ‘squeezed’ in. We had to turn off the fans for the readings, but the upsurge in heat caused the ice cream machine to start working overtime to keep the contents frozen.

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Pictured from left to right: Deborah Delano, Lise Gold, Velvet Lounger, Helen Baron, Mayor Carol Stowe, Jen Silver, Cari Hunter, Jody Klaire, and Ferb

The mayor of Hebden Royd, Carol Stowe, came along for the first part of the evening before she had to fulfil her other festival obligation by attending the art exhibition and auction across the street at Nelson’s Wine Bar. When I met her at another event a few days later, she told me she had enjoyed the readings, hearing the different styles of each author…and (don’t tell the artists) would have liked to stay for the Q&A session.

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The featured books

Cari Hunter drew the short straw, literally, and read first. As she read from the opening scenes of her latest thriller, Alias, she had the audience drawn in to the story from the start. I’m sure they would have liked her to carry on, but she stuck to her five-minute time limit.

 

Our mystery guest reader for the evening was well known lesbian book reviewer, Velvet Lounger. There is quite a story behind the gathering together of a collection of stories published as The Velvet Anthology. She explained it very well before reading from the contribution by Erica Abbott, ‘Seize Her Salad’. All proceeds from the sale of this book will go to the Golden Crown Literary Society Readers scholarship fund. Velvet’s book reviews can be found at the Lesbian Reading Room website.

I read from my latest novel, Calling Home…interrupted a few times by some latecomers and the need to raise my voice over the ice cream machine’s complaints about the heat. With the second interruption, I continued by saying loudly, ‘The toilets were at the other end of the room…’ – this wasn’t a health and safety announcement, it was part of the reading.

We then heard from another local author, Deborah Delano. Her latest book, The Portrait of Adie Denton, is a historical novel set in the 1920’s…but is also a love story…described on the cover as “a moving yarn of a working class girl mixed up in the glittering, but dangerous, bohemian world of the Parisian Demi-monde”.

Staying in France, Lise Gold read from her newest romance, French Summer. Lise spent a good part of this year in France, purely for research, of course. The setting and the romance that develops between the two main characters certainly resonate with authenticity…the sensual atmosphere of warm days in Provence, although the piece she read involved one of the main characters throwing herself into a ditch. An avoidance tactic with painful consequences.

Last to read was Jody Klaire. I was so impressed that Jody and Em travelled up from South Wales in a motorhome to join us for this event. Their golden retriever, Ferb, charmed everyone and had the audience captivated with his attempts to catch a fly while the reading was going on. Jody read from her newest book, which is due out in a few weeks, In Fashion. This is a romance set in the fashion world and from the excerpt she read, it features Jody’s delightful brand of humour.

(Ferb caught the fly.)

Another distinguished visitor in the audience was Zara Wood (our host next week at ELLCon), who had travelled from Bristol with her visitor from Brussels, Gerd Van Loock (stopping by as part of a Yorkshire sightseeing tour). Zara recorded some of the readings and the Q&A session that took place after the break. They are available to view on the ELLCon YouTube channel.

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The Q&A session: Jen Silver, Cari Hunter, Jody Klaire, and Ferb

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The Q&A session: Deborah Delano, Lise Gold, and Velvet Lounger

The whole evening was lovely…it was like reading to a group of friends. The Happy Valley Pride team led by Helen Baron did a great job of setting up the room, serving the refreshments (which included Welsh cakes from Em and Jody, and tiffin from Cari), and welcoming the audience. (Nothing they could do about the ice cream machine though…have I mentioned this before?)

And once again the authors provided a great mix of stories, giving voice I thought, to our Happy Valley Pride motto: Be Here, Be You, Be Proud.

During a stroll around Hebden Bridge earlier in the day, we stopped by one of the many window displays. One of the most delightful aspects of Happy Valley Pride is the way the community and local businesses show their support with window displays, contributions to the raffle prizes…and just overall enthusiasm for the event. Long may it continue.

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With Jody and Ferb outside Noir


ELLCon

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So, I just have time to catch my breath before the next book-related event of the summer – ELLCon. A great deal of planning has also gone into setting this up. Congratulations to Zara Wood and her team for bringing it all together…the first ever European Lesfic Literary Conference.

With over thirty authors attending, plus delegates from all parts of the country and Europe, it’s shaping up to be a magnificent couple of days. Check out the list of authors attending and the programme here.

As well as sharing a vendor table with another Affinity Rainbow Publications author, Samantha Hicks, I will be taking part in a panel discussion on the first day. The topic is ‘When Writing Feels Like a Marathon: how to get over the finish line”. May Dawney is our fearless moderator with the task of keeping four of us on topic…Harper Bliss, Jane Fletcher, Nita Round, and myself. Should be fun!

I’m also looking forward to finding a few of the Gromit Unleashed statues and Zara kindly presented me with a brochure so I can find the ones nearest to the conference hotel.

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So many books to explore! Enjoy all your summer reads.


 

Awards and events

First of all, congratulations to all the finalists and winners of the 2018 Golden Crown Literary Society Awards. I wasn’t in Las Vegas for the conference this year but I watched from home – seeing all the posts and photos on social media – and wishing I were there to greet and hug all the wonderful women I’ve met over the previous three years of attending the event.

I gather I also missed a great speech from Dorothy Allison, accepting the Trailblazer Award. I heard her speak at the 2015 GCLS conference in New Orleans and know that she can hold a roomful of women spellbound.

As one of the many contributors, I was thrilled to see this collection of stories win a Goldie Award in the Anthology/Collections (Fiction) category.

OurHappyHoursAward

There are two more events on the summer calendar that I will be attending.

The first is right on my doorstep in Hebden Bridge…the third year for the Happy Valley Pride Festival. This is a week long celebration of LGBT+ life and the organisers have outdone previous years with a stunning line-up of performers featuring music, comedy, dance, art…and, I’m pleased to say, writing.

Following the success of last year’s Lesbian Writers Read event, we have six authors taking part…all planning to read from their latest novels and then answer questions from the audience. (Please book early as there is limited space in Squeeze café – as the name implies!)

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The second event, also in August is EllCon – August 23-24. Masterminded by Zara Wood and her enthusiastic team, this brings together over thirty authors from the UK and Europe…and, we hope, lots of readers.

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The last time I visited Bristol was over thirty years ago and I don’t remember much about it. I’m sure it has changed a lot. As well as looking forward to attending the conference, I’m also keen to see a few of the sculptures on the Gromit Unleashed 2 trail. My objective is to have my photo taken with a life-size sculpture of Feathers McGraw.


Looking for a summer read, then please take a look at my latest book, Calling Home.

Calling Home

Calling Home is available from Affinity Rainbow Publications, Amazon US, Amazon UK, Amazon CA, Barnes & Noble, Bella Books, Smashwords, and Apple iTunes.


 

Not in Vegas…

What do these three books have in common? They are all GCLS finalists – in the running for a Golden Crown Literary Society Award – known as a ‘Goldie’. 3books_mod

My novel, Changing Perspectives, set in 1993 London, is a finalist in the General Fiction category. And I also contributed a story to each of the two books that are finalists in the Anthology category…Gateway to Heaven in Our Happy Hours and Con Virgin Convert in Conference Call.

Unfortunately, I won’t be at the GCLS conference this year. I have attended for the last three years, visiting three amazing cities – New Orleans, Washington DC, and Chicago. I’m hoping that whatever happens in Las Vegas doesn’t stay there. I look forward to seeing all the posts on social media. But I know that I will miss all the friends I’ve enjoyed meeting at the previous conferences. Already I’m feeling something missing in my life.

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Will definitely miss the ‘Beth Burnett hugs’

This is the weekend when I would be checking everything for the trip…tickets, reservations, passport, ESTA, cash…practicing a reading or checking on notes for a panel. Clothes didn’t need too much thought – shorts and t-shirts mainly and something a bit dressier for the Awards Ceremony.

Speaking of dressing up, I was there for the inception of the idea that has now blossomed into the publication of The Velvet Anthology. If you’re at GCLS, be sure to pick up your copy and get it signed by Velvet herself, plus some of the renowned authors who have contributed their stories.

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So best wishes to all the finalists…with a special mention for Renee MacKenzie’s book Pausing. If either of our books should win, I’m sure I will hear the Affinity team’s raucous celebration from here. (And if you’re at the ceremony, please post photos of Annette Mori wearing a tux!)

I will somehow distract myself for the next few weeks with my usual activities – golf and archery. Also preparing for two events in August.

The Happy Valley Pride Festival takes place from 6 to 12 August…check out the countdown on the website…tickets will be on sale soon. Before that, there’s the week long Hebden Bridge Arts Festival that has just started. If you’re visiting the town, check out the tree trail. And make sure you stop by the Happy Valley Pride tree…can’t really miss it…next to the Lamppost Café.

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The next event in August is EllCon, the very first European Lesfic Literary Conference, which is in Bristol on 23 to 24 August. I’m looking forward to meeting all the authors and readers who will be attending. (And hope I have to time to check out the Wallace and Gromit sculpture trail in the city.)

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Meanwhile, if you haven’t picked up my latest book: check out the book review on the Lesbian Reading Room website.

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Happy summer reading!


Calling Home is available from Affinity Rainbow Publications, Amazon US, Amazon UK, Amazon CA, Barnes & Noble, Bella Books, Smashwords, and Apple iTunes.


 

Number Eight

My eighth novel is on its way…publication day is imminent…June 1st!

Calling Home wasn’t an easy book to write. It’s the first of my novels to include police investigations for a start. But my main focus, as always, is on romance.

Calling Home

Calling Home

Setting the story at a writers’ retreat on an island in a lake was an important element and I was able to draw on my own experience. In 2014, a few months before my first novel was published, I attended a week-long residential writing course. The location wasn’t quite as remote as the one in this story but there was no wi-fi or internet connection and although we could bring our own alcoholic beverages – if we ran out, then we had to use the public telephone to ring through an order to the wine shop in the village for a delivery.

This would seem like a recipe for disaster, leading perhaps to drunken orgies. Everyone was remarkably well-behaved although the number of empty bottles overflowing from the recycling bin at the end of the week led the organisers to say that our group were the highest consumers of alcohol they’d ever had. We even out-drank the poets. Which, apparently, is quite a feat.

Lumb Bank

A writing retreat

Now, I’m not saying my characters in this book drink a lot. They enjoy a glass or two of wine with their evening meal. (Although the poet does overdo it on a few occasions.)

Anyway, back to the romance. Here’s an excerpt that doesn’t include the consumption of alcoholic beverages:

Galen collected her archery equipment and set off for the range. Although she wanted to hurry to get there before Berry, she made herself walk slowly. No point in working up a sweat, replacing the one she had just washed off.

She set up both bows in case Berry wanted to have another go. Berry arrived just after she had shot her first three arrows. Perhaps aware of her impending approach, Galen felt her concentration was off and the result had been disappointing. Two arrows in the blue ring, and one slightly better in the red.

Berry was holding a Booth’s carrier bag in one hand and a picnic rug in the other.

“Might as well dine in comfort,” she said, putting both items down behind Galen’s backpack.

“Um, do you want to shoot first and then eat, or…” Galen felt her nervousness returning.

“Or, what?” Berry stepped in close to her.

There was no mistaking the spark in her eyes. Galen let her instincts take over and bent her head to kiss Berry’s inviting lips. This time the tug of their mutual desire left no room for hesitation. When Berry’s lips parted, Galen knew it was an invitation to explore with her tongue. The sensations coursing through her body were startling in their intensity. Even with no experience to draw on, this felt so right…like coming home. The movement of Berry’s body against hers was intoxicating, and the sudden onrush of warmth between her legs, added another dimension to their connection.

When they had to stop for air, Berry whispered, “Let’s get more comfortable.”

She slipped out of Galen’s embrace and reached for the rug. Galen helped her spread it out on a flat piece of ground. Berry lay down and patted the space next to her. Uncertainty swept through Galen’s mind. Her body wanted whatever was going to happen next, but her brain hadn’t caught up. She slowly lowered herself onto the blanket, lying flat, staring up at the patches of blue sky above the treetops.

Berry raised herself on one elbow and looked at her.

“I’m sorry. I’m a complete novice. I don’t know what to do.”

“I don’t have that much experience myself.” Berry was smiling but her eyes were serious. “If I do anything you don’t like, just tell me to stop, and I will.” She leaned forward and kissed her again.

Galen felt her body slowly relax as she enjoyed the contact once more. After a few minutes, Berry tentatively slid a hand under her shirt. Just that light touch sent a jolt of desire through her. When Berry’s hand cupped her breast, Galen moaned.

“This would be easier if we took our clothes off. Are you okay with that?”

Powerless to speak, Galen nodded. She sat up to remove her shirt and bra, then wriggled out of her shorts.

The book is available now for pre-order on Amazon. After the release date of 1st June, it will be available on other sites including Smashwords, Barnes and Noble, Bella Books and iTunes…as well as Affinity Rainbow Publications.

Pre-order links: Amazon UK / Amazon US / Amazon CA

Other news for the summer:

Book number seven, Changing Perspectives, is a finalist for a Goldie award. Check out the complete list here on the Golden Crown Literary Society website. Winners will be announced at the conference presentation ceremony on 7 July at the Las Vegas.

Portrait woman

Changing Perspectives: Goldie Finalist 2018

Happy Valley Pride‘s plans for the 2018 Festival are coming along nicely. The Lesbian Writers Read event is on Tuesday 7 August from 7pm – venue to be announced. The authors taking part are: Jody Klaire, Cari Hunter, Lise Gold, Lola Keeley, Deborah Delano and myself.

EllCon is also taking place in August…the first ever European Lesfic Literary Conference on 23/24 August in Bristol. Check out the list of authors attending – and book your place, if you haven’t already.


Happy reading!

First blog of 2018

My first blog of 2018, almost three weeks into the new year…

What have I been doing with that time? Well, it’s a sort of semi-hibernation. Gone are the days of making resolutions I’m not going to keep…wasted gym memberships, home exercise regimes, diets, lists of household chores. However, I have been doing some reading, a bit of writing, planning some holidays for later in the year.

On the writing front, a new story is starting to take shape. But this is the gestation period. And I know I can’t rush it. The ideas are coming through…slowly but surely.

This week though it’s mainly been weather-watching. Every day we’ve been told it’s going to snow. Reports on the news of disaster on the roads, power cuts, trains and buses cancelled, airports closed.

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Two snowflakes indicate heavy snow showers. (Not so far today!)

The BBC Weather app shows snow for us today, as this screenshot from yesterday shows. Well, wherever the snow is falling, it’s avoiding this part of the region. Rain, a bit of sleet,  I can see a smattering of snow on the hills but here in the valley we have none.

Maybe I should be grateful we’re not suffering any ill effects from the weather  but I can’t help feeling  disappointed to look out the window and see that it’s only raining… again.

Apart from the no-show snow, life goes on. In a few months time I’ll be heading back up to Vindolanda for my fifth year of digging on the site. Last year, only a few weeks after my session ended, a lucky volunteer found a sword. Someone else came across more writing tablets. I hope they’ve left something for me to find.

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Can’t wait to get stuck in!

In June we have a golf holiday booked, a week in East Lothian playing on some of their very fine courses.

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This was in August on a previous occasion – hope it’s a bit warmer in June this year.

The month of August is looking particularly busy. There’s the week long Happy Valley Pride Festival in Hebden Bridge from the 6th to the 12th. Lots of activity over the coming months as preparations gear up.

Then ELLCon. I’ve mentioned it before, but it’s worth talking about it again. The very first European Lesfic Literary Conference is being held in Bristol on 23/24 August. Take a look at the website to see how the programme is shaping up and book your place. The site also has useful information about accommodation options in the city.

Earlier this month, I was featured on the EllCon Author Spotlight page and gave away a signed copy of Changing Perspectives. The winner was Amy Barr from Pennsylvania. I’m guessing she won’t be attending the conference, so I was certainly happy to send her a book.

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Book cover images used for ELLCon Author Spotlight promo

On the book front…June is the proposed date for the release of my next novel, Calling Home. This one is very different from any of the others. A bit of mystery involved, but not a detective novel. Still a fair bit of romance.

Also, if you haven’t yet read The Starling Hill Trilogy, now is your chance to pick up all three books for the price of one. My lovely publisher, Affinity Rainbow Publications, released the omnibus edition on not just Amazon, but also Bella Books, Smashwords, and Barnes & Noble. It has been available on the Affinity website for some time. They’re very generous like that and it’s worth visiting their site to check out all their authors, and a good number of free books.

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Happy reading for January and the rest of the year!


Book Links:

Changing Perspectives: Affinity Rainbow Publications / Amazon US / Amazon UK / Bella Books / Barnes & Noble / Smashwords

The Starling Hill Trilogy Omnibus edition: Affinity Rainbow Publications / Amazon US / Amazon UK / Bella Books / Barnes & Noble / Smashwords


 

 

My year in review

Looking back, I’ve had a very good year writing-wise with two novels published and three short stories included in three different anthologies.

Books: Changing Perspectives and Running From Love (shortlisted for a Diva Literary Award in Romance)

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Short Stories: Con Virgin Convert in Conference Call / Maybe This Christmas in Affinity’s Christmas Medley / Gateway to Heaven in Our Happy Hours, LGBT Voices from the Gay Bars

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2017 also saw the first Lesbian reading event held in Hebden Bridge during the Happy Valley Pride festival. Many thanks to authors Lise Gold, Robyn Nyx, Brey Willows, and Cari Hunter for taking part on a wet evening in August – and to Helen Baron for hosting the event in her haberdashery, Ribbon Circus.

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I attended the GCLS conference in Chicago – always a wonderful opportunity to meet up with many readers, authors and publishers – plus, of course the Affinity team pictured here: Angela Koenig, Renee MacKenzie, Annette Mori, Ali Spooner and myself.

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The inaugural Diva Literary Festival was another highlight offering the chance to connect with a host of authors and readers from the UK and Europe.

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Pictured here with Caroline Manchoulas, Clare Lydon, and Harper Bliss – all dressed up for the Awards dinner

I also celebrated the 30th anniversary of living with my wife. We had a lovely gathering with friends, plus local singer/songwriter, Terry Logan, came along and added to the fun by playing some tunes for us.

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And she even got me up ‘dancing’!

Other highlights of 2017 included two weeks of digging at Vindolanda, visits to the British Library and Gladstone’s Library, spending time with my mother in Victoria and Vancouver – plus the regular activities of golf, archery and boxercise.

Looking forward to next year – I have a new novel due out in June. I’m also looking forward to taking part in the first ever European Lesfic Literary Conference (ELLCon) in Bristol in August.

I’m ready to welcome in the new year…hope you are too!


Book Links:

Changing Perspectives: Affinity Rainbow Publications / Amazon US / Amazon UK / Barnes & Noble / Smashwords

Running From Love: Affinity Rainbow Publications / Amazon US / Amazon UK / Barnes & Noble / Bella Books / Smashwords / Apple iTunes

Christmas Medley: Affinity eBooks / Amazon US / Amazon UK

Our Happy Hours: Bella Books / Amazon US / Amazon UK / Amazon CA / Barnes & Noble

Conference Call: Bella Books