Fantasy Friday – Tidbits


Lo and behold, the latter part of this week, the Christian Fiction Blog Alliance featured Donita Paul and DragonLight. How cool is that! Back-to-back tours. Now that’s the way to keep the buzz going.

My name isn’t listed at the CFBA blog as one participating on the tour because I didn’t order a book through them. Nevertheless I want to mention Donita and her work again—partly because she is one of the pioneers in the Christian fantasy resurgence, partly because I enjoy her writing, partly because I think she has a wonderful Web site with lots to explore, including some games to play and art to enjoy, and partly because she has a new blog.

Then there’s the upcoming Motiv8 Fantasy Tour coming to the West Coast in a few short months when I’ll actually get to meet Donita and several others I’ve only had the pleasure of corresponding with on line.

Lastly, there is the t-shirt I just received—a very cool blue on gray that says, “Look wise, say nothing, and eat only those who annoy you.” 😉 In small print below it says, “I read DragonKeeper Chronicles,” which I do. 😀

Turning the corner to another piece of fantasy news some of you may be interested in, Michael Warden, author of Gideon’s Dawn, a … substantial first volume of the Pearlsong Refounding series, has self-published the second book, Waymaker.

The first volume was an echo of Stephen Donaldson’s Thomas Covenant trilogy. Since I credit those novels with providing me the impetus to write fantasy, I have followed Warden somewhat, and am pleased that he’s making an effort to finish what he started.

No doubt about it, epic fantasy is a challenge. Happily, it appears he has every intention of seeing the story through to the end. Good for him. Good for Christian fantasy.

Then the third piece of news. Jeff Gerke of WhereTheMapEnds.com posted an interview with me which you can read here. He also posted one of my short stories, a piece entitled “Swallow and Beyond” which I wrote for a Writer’s Digest contest. I hope you take a moment or two to stop by either pages some time this weekend.

We Have Winners


Multiple winners have emerged from the just-concluded CSFF Blog Tour for Donita Paul’s latest release, DragonLight.

Starting with the CSFF tour itself. Thirty-nine bloggers participated in the tour, with a higher number than ever posting all three days.

Fantasy won too. Of the thirty-seven individual sites participating, a whopping forty percent where run by men. For those of you who know that the audience for Christian fiction is supposedly eighty percent women, you quickly see the fantasy tour had a better 60/40 gender balance. Christian fantasy, I conclude, is drawing in the untapped male market, but not losing women readers.

DragonLight won. On the list of Popular Books on Technorati, DragonLight landed in the number one spot on Tuesday before dropping to number four (where it still remains, behind three books by James Scott Bell, CFBA’s featured author). Impossible to know what part the CSFF tour played on DragonLight‘s Amazon ranking, but it dropped from the 8000’s a week ago to 4500 today, and the seven-day ranking was another thousand points lower (the shrinking number being better).

The DragonKeeper Chronicles won. Numerous bloggers reviewed the earlier books, re-read them, recommended them, and even bought them. Three of the five had a significant dip in their Amazon ranking—again something the tour may or may not have affected.

Participant bloggers won. Good discussion went on at a number of sites. My own visitor numbers spiked. Comments from our featured author, Donita Paul spoke directly to what the bloggers commented—a plus for those regularly visiting the sites.

Of course, one particular participant won. I’m referring to the recipient of the CSFF Top Tour Blogger Award for July 2008. This was another tough, tough decision because we had some excellent discussion, some posts with creative content, and views that were well thought out. But for his Four posts, including the “0 Day” recap of the earlier DragonKeeper books, the award goes to John Otte.

Which brings us to our final winner. I held a What’s Wrong with This Picture contest, and the winner who first correctly identified the fact that Donita has in fact written for children was Katie Hart, one of our CSFF Blog Tour charter members. As a prize, she will receive one of the specialty t-shirts provided by our author.

CSFF Blog Tour – DragonLight, Day 3


What’s Wrong with This Picture.

Today’s contest is part of the CSFF tour for DragonLight by Donita Paul (WaterBrook). If you’ve been visiting the other participants or if you’ve read interviews with Donita in the past or visited her web site, you probably already know quite a bit about her. So this is a chance for you to put your knowledge to work (and maybe learn one or two other tidbits along the way).

By way of reminder, your goal is to find the ONE incorrect fact in this post about Donita. The first person to email me with the correct answer at rluellam at yahoo dot com will win a t-shirt from Donita. So here we go.

Background.
Donita Kathleen Paul was born November 20, 1950, in Lawrence, Kansas, to Arthur Norman and Elnora Evelyn Foster Paul. In childhood, Donita read avidly. Her treat each week was a trip to the local discount store with her father where he bought her a book for $1.25.

She had three older brothers, David, Stephen, and Jon—one to hold her feet, one to hold her arms, and one to tickle their little sister. When she was five, one brother tried to kill her [Note: this is hyperbole] by shooting her with an archery arrow when they were playing Indians. Actually, she knows now this event was an accident and probably more her fault than his.

Her best friend was a Jewish girl. Donita was devastated to learn that Martha would not be celebrating Christmas with her and that she would not be celebrating Hanukah with Martha. However, Donita’s mother, a farm gal who furthered her education through fiction, made some adjustments on their end.

At age 13 Donita began teaching Sunday school, perhaps a hint of what the future held. She graduated from high school in 1968 and from the University of Houston in 1973 with a BS in Elementary Education.

She then became an elementary teacher, working in both public and private schools, until she retired in 1996. She also homeschooled her own two children who are now grown. Her daughter is married and has children of her own, making Donita a proud grandmother.

Currently she lives in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

Writing.
Because of working with young people, Donita considered writing for teens but eventually abandoned the idea. She first published fiction as a romance writer in 1999 under the name Kathleen Paul. Her fantasy series, the DragonKeeper Chronicles, followed, with DragonSpell releasing in 2004.

Donita credits Robert Jordan as having the biggest influence on her move to fantasy, but her mother also challenged her to write something different. When her critique group turned thumbs down to her first fantasy effort, she accepted this as another challenge and kept at it.

When giving new writers advice, she says first to read, read, read, then to write, write, write. She also advises going to a writers’ conference and reading good how-to books.

Her personal favorite is The Key by James. M. Frey. She has also attended such conferences as the Mount Hermon Christian Writers’ Conference and in 2006 a Donald Maass writing seminar where she learned the importance of tension on every page.

Her main project at the moment is A New Tail about an emerlindian young lady who has held her home together during her father’s absence only to discover she must undo some of the measures taken to pay the mortgage.

– – –

So, did you find it? The one glaring error that can win you one of Donita’s fun t-shirts? If you spotted it, hurry on over to email your answer to rluellam at yahoo dot com. By the way, unless you say otherwise, I will take your entry in the contest as permission to pass along your email address to Donita in the event that you are the winner.

After sending your email, come on back to the web and see what the other tour participants are saying:

** Brandon Barr
Justin Boyer
Jackie Castle
# Valerie Comer
Karri Compton
CSFF Blog Tour
Gene Curtis
Stacey Dale
D. G. D. Davidson
Jeff Draper
April Erwin
Karina Fabian
# Beth Goddard
Mark Goodyear (note corrected link)
Andrea Graham
Todd Michael Greene
# Katie Hart
+ * Timothy Hicks Don’t miss his interview with Donita
Christopher Hopper
Joleen Howell
** Jason Joyner
Carol Keen
Magma Check out the unique interview with Ms. Paul discussing the DragonKeeper books and characters.
* Terri Main
Margaret Check out her contest explained in her Day 1 post
# Shannon McNear
Melissa Meeks
+ Nissa Don’t miss her Day 2 interview with Donita
** John W. Otte Don’t miss his “0 Day” recap of the other books in the series
Deena Peterson
** Steve Rice Don’t miss his interview with Donita posted last week
# Cheryl Russel
Ashley Rutherford
* Chawna Schroeder Be sure to read her Day 2 interview with Donita
+ Sean Slagle
James Somers
* Robert Treskillard
# Steve Trower
Speculative Faith
Laura Williams

A “+” indicates a blogger left off the original list
Bold type indicates a site I know has posted.
An “*” indicates “must read” content.
“**” indicates “must read” content, an intriguing discussion you might want to join.

“#” indicates CSFF participant in the 2006 tour for DragonKnight

Published in: on July 23, 2008 at 11:17 am  Comments (4)  
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CSFF Blog Tour – DragonLight, Day 2


The Review. Yes, you’ll need to wait one more day for The Contest. (:-D – I’m trying to sharpen my suspense skills.) And of course, I’m referring to a review of Donita Paul’s novel DragonLight, fifth in the DragonKeeper Chronicles (WaterBrook).

Because this is the last of the series, many readers coming to DragonLight will want to spend some time with the helps provided—a nice map and cast of characters in the front and a glossary of terms in the back. Understandably, DragonLight brings in many of the characters from the earlier books as part of the conclusion of the series. Without knowing these characters, much of the import of this book may be lost.

The story is enjoyable. It is another quest tale, one of Ms. Paul’s best, in my opinion. The characters set out to find the hidden meech colony and aren’t deterred from that goal, though many complications arise. More so than in other DragonKeeper books, these complications interconnect with the overarching goal and this gives a completeness to the story. I also found the antagonist to be truly menacing—a worthy opponent for the assembled forces.

The strength of DragonLight, as with the other books in the series, is the characters, in my opinion. And by “characters” I’m including the dragons. No race of the many races in the series is so well developed as the minor dragons.

When it seems Ms. Paul could not come up with another job for the little, lovable beasties, up pops the protector dragon, completely different from any of the others. These minor dragons, above all else, create the DragonKeeper world of Amara as a unique place. They add the texture that stamps these books and sets them apart from any other.

The other characters develop during this book more than in any other, too. Kale, Toopka certainly, and Gilda, are different at the end of the story. They change in significant ways that I won’t mention here because I don’t want to give spoilers.

Another thing I thought was especially strong about this book was the theme. Or more accurately, themes. There are some obvious spiritual threads running through the story. Dependence upon Wulder is key. Changed lives is another. Even for Holt, a fairly minor character. But there is the equally significant theme regarding spiritual heritage and false teaching and the steps away from the Truth that can snowball into apostasy. For a book I termed “light fantasy” in my post at Spec Faith there are some exceedingly thought-provoking ideas to consider.

Is DragonLight a perfect book? No, like most it has a few weaknesses. The end seems rushed to me. Some of the significant action happens off stage. The numerous obstacles seem to resolve in amazingly easy ways.

But in the end, these shortcomings don’t deter from the enjoyment. This book, this series, is truly one of the fun fantasies. I highly recommend DragonLight to all fantasy readers.

Now see whether my opinion differs from others on the tour:
** Brandon Barr
Justin Boyer
Jackie Castle
# Valerie Comer
Karri Compton
CSFF Blog Tour
Gene Curtis
Stacey Dale
D. G. D. Davidson
Jeff Draper
April Erwin
Karina Fabian
# Beth Goddard
Mark Goodyear (note corrected link)
Andrea Graham
Todd Michael Greene
# Katie Hart
+ Timothy Hicks Don’t miss his interview with Donita
Christopher Hopper
Joleen Howell
Jason Joyner
Carol Keen
Magma
Terri Main
Margaret Check out her contest explained in her Day 1 post
# Shannon McNear
Melissa Meeks
+ Nissa
John W. Otte Don’t miss his “0 Day” recap of the other books in the series
Deena Peterson
Steve Rice Don’t miss his interview with Donita posted last week
# Cheryl Russel
Ashley Rutherford
Chawna Schroeder
+ Sean Slagle
James Somers
* Robert Treskillard
# Steve Trower
Speculative Faith
Laura Williams

A “+” indicates a blogger left off the original list
Bold type indicates a site I know has posted.
An “*” indicates “must read” content.
“**” indicates “must read” content, an intriguing discussion you might want to join.

“#” indicates CSFF participant in the 2006 tour for DragonKnight

Published in: on July 22, 2008 at 11:07 am  Comments (1)  
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CSFF Blog Tour — DragonLight, Day 1


It’s here, it’s here, it’s here! Yes, I’m a little excited. I love CSFF Blog Tours, and I’ve been looking forward to this one for oh, so long. For the next three days we are featuring Donita Paul’s DragonLight , the final volume in the DragonKeeper Chronicles.

As I often do, I plan to give a review of the book, either Tuesday or Wednesday, but this month I’m also planning a contest: What’s Wrong with This Picture. For the prize, Donita has offered one of her famed DragonKeeper t-shirts (limited size available). It makes sense, then, for any who hope to win the prize to 1) read this heads up; and 2) to take time to study. 🙂 (Ooooh, the school teacher in me persists in showing itself from time to time!)

Here’s the heads up. The contest is simple. I will write what appears to be a normal, informative post about Ms. Paul and her books, in particular DragonLight (though not the content, since this contest is available to everyone, even those who have not yet read the book). However, I will include one inaccuracy that you must spot. The first person to email me with the correct error ( 😉 ) at the address I’ll provide will be the winner.

So now you can see why studying might help. 😀

But study what? Well, since Ms. Paul has been writing fantasy since 2004, she has given a number of interviews, one posted here (and here) at A Christian Worldview of Fiction back in 2006 during the first CSFF book blog tour. In addition, you’ll find a few interviews during this tour, too.

Of course, those of you not inclined to study might rather spend some time exploring. Donita’s Web site is full of goodies. You can learn about her other books, take a look at the related games and art work, check out her fan forum, and even participate in some fan fiction. You might also make a note of the fact that Donita participates in a regular chat.

And of course, there are also all those other CSFF participants to check in with. Enjoy!

Brandon Barr
Justin Boyer
Jackie Castle
# Valerie Comer
Karri Compton
CSFF Blog Tour
Gene Curtis
Stacey Dale
D. G. D. Davidson
Jeff Draper
April Erwin
Karina Fabian
# Beth Goddard
Mark Goodyear
Andrea Graham
Todd Michael Greene
Katie Hart
+ Timothy Hicks
Christopher Hopper
Joleen Howell
Jason Joyner
Carol Keen
Magma
Terri Main
Margaret
# Shannon McNear
Melissa Meeks
+ Nissa
John W. Otte
Deena Peterson
Steve Rice Don’t miss his interview with Donita posted last week
# Cheryl Russel
Ashley Rutherford
Chawna Schroeder
+ Sean Slagle
James Somers
* Robert Treskillard
# Steve Trower
Speculative Faith
Laura Williams

A “+” indicates a blogger left off the original list
Bold type indicates a site I know has posted.
An “*” indicates “must read” content.
“**” indicates “must read” content, an intriguing discussion you might want to join.

“#” indicates CSFF participant in the 2006 tour for DragonKnight

Published in: on July 21, 2008 at 11:06 am  Comments (6)  
Tags: , , ,

The Chief Means of Marketing, Part 8


I’m not sure how much more I’m going to do with this topic. As I may have mentioned once or twice, CSFF will hold the blog tour for Donita Paul’s DragonLight next week. After that, who knows which way the cyber-wind will blow. 🙂 But for one more day, at least, I want to discuss Word of Mouth Marketing (WOMM) by Andy Sernovitz.

By the way, I might mention that I am just twenty pages in and still in the first chapter. Hopefully that gives you an idea that this book has much to say. I certainly have much to think about especially as I consider how to implement the principles in the writing world.

As Brandilyn Collins reported on her blog Forensic and Faith when she was discussing WOMM, Sernovitz has identified five T’s of word of mouth marketing. The first of those is Talkers.

The question is, who will talk about you?

When I first got on the Internet, I didn’t know if I was supposed to come up with some kind of a cutesy fake name or what. I went on one sports forum (remember what a sports nut I am) and registered as B. Fan (for Broncos fan—ah, for the days of John Elway … 😉 ) Eventually I discovered the writer community, mostly through Faith in Fiction. Somewhere soon after, it dawned on me. Rather than protecting my anonymity, if I really wanted to be a writer, I needed to get my name out there into the public arena.

It was a departure from what I expected.

In real life, I was used to going places and running into people I knew—usually former students or parents of former students. At 60 new kiddos a year for 25 years, with the adults added in, that ups the chances of those chance encounters. Not so long ago I was pumping gas and a guy one island over looked at me, looked at me, then headed on over. And sure enough, this was the dad of one of my former students, from eight years ago.

But on the Internet? Put my real name on the web? My picture out there for the world to see? Well, why not, if some day I hope my name is on the front of a book and my picture on the inside flap. I mean, those books might go to who knows where. And isn’t that the point? If people are to talk, the conversation has to begin somewhere.

For the writer, it begins with the people we know who will be willing to talk about us. Family, friends, neighbors, business associates, … and cyber-friends. So who are the talkers in your world?

Published in: on July 18, 2008 at 3:22 pm  Comments Off on The Chief Means of Marketing, Part 8  
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The Chief Means of Marketing, Part 7


I just sent out the notice about Donita Paul’s DragonLight tour for next week. I’m really, really looking forward to it, as you might have suspected. I started the book this week (had it much earlier but was committed to Other Reading), and I’m thoroughly enjoying it. Except, last night I couldn’t find it and … oh, right. No journal type stuff here. Interesting copy. That’s what we’re going for.

Interesting and trustworth. That’s the best way I can explain another of the “musts” Andy Sernovitz identifies as buzz worthy in Word of Mouth Marketing. The idea is, consumers, and for us writers that means readers, are looking for a company (author) they can respect and trust.

For fiction writers, trust is earned through the craft and story. Tell a good story, and the readers will trust you to deliver a good story next time. Hook them with your opening, and readers will trust you to keep them interested the whole way through.

Writing instructors often refer to the promise an author makes to the reader, especially in the first few pages. Readers probably don’t realize it, but expectations are set in those first few pages. Will the story be funny, fast paced, thoughtful, full of description, peopled with interesting characters, and so on. The author becomes trustworthy as he delivers what the readers are led to expect in those first few pages.

Bloggers have another way of earning respect and trust. One is simply by telling the truth. That point brings up the canned content issue again. There is no respect or trust a blogger can earn if all they do is copy and paste. There’s also not a lot of trust and respect to be had by praising a book without some interaction with it.

That can be through reading reviews, studying the opening, comparing the book cover, commenting on the premise, or any number of other possibilities. Obviously I have blog tours in mind here because the biggest temptation to say what everyone else is saying comes during tours. Or does it?

How many times have I read an opinion one “important person in the business” expresses, then see that idea parroted hither and yon.

Respect, in my opinion, comes when a blogger thinks for himself, writes what he believes, and does so kindly.

The kind factor is another major marketing point, one that would undermine brevity if I said any more about it just now. 😀

Published in: on July 17, 2008 at 2:30 pm  Comments Off on The Chief Means of Marketing, Part 7  
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The Chief Means of Marketing, Part 4


Be interesting, or be invisible.” So said Andy Sernovitz as part of his golden rule for business in his book Word of Mouth Marketing.

What an important principle for writers! Just the other day, fantasy author Karen Hancock blogged about a book she was to read in order to provide an endorsement. The problem was, she couldn’t get into the book. Not “engaging” we say, which is a code word for interesting.

I’ve thought about this topic some, wondering how it is some people can write about things I have no interest in at all and they make them sound so fascinating, I’m only sorry there isn’t more on the subject.

I wish I was a witty writer. I know of several humor writers that can turn prose into insightful laughter. Undoubtedly I’d even have a few more repeat visitors here at A Christian Worldview of Fiction if I could just say what I wanted to say about marketing but do it so that readers would be holding their sides (rather than rubbing sleep from their eyes 😀 ).

But here’s the thing. Don’t we all think we’re interesting? I mean, I never intentionally sit down to the computer thinking, How can I bore my readers today? I never write a story knowing the editor probably has seen sixty dozen just like it already.

How do we know if what we’re writing is fresh, new, interesting? Isn’t that the key to avoid being invisible?

One writer who definitely is NOT invisible is Donita Paul. The last volume of her DragonKeeper Chronicles, DragonLight will be on the CSFF Blog Tour in ten short days, and you’ll have the chance to learn all about Donita, the series, and this book in particular.

In the mean time, I’d like to think about being interesting. What makes a blog post interesting?

What makes a novel interesting?

The Chief Means of Marketing, Part 3


Are you familiar with Zappos? I wasn’t. Not until I read about them in Word of Mouth Marketing. Actually, I was assessing the book by reading the back cover, the forward, the author profile, and so on. That material included an Afterward by Guy Kawasaki, and in it were the ten stories Kawasaki liked most in the book. Number ten was this:

Zappos has a one-year, no-questions-asked return policy for shoes. This boggles my mind although I’ve never seen my wife return anything to them.

As “coincidence” would have it, several days after I read that, ABC’s Nightline ran a piece about Zappos and how different they are from the norm. Everything reported fit with what I’d read in WOMM. Zappos was making themselves buzz worthy by the way they cared for their customers and by the way their CEO cared for their employees.

Just a few examples:

  • Zappos has a real person answer the phone, someone in their company. No outsourcing customer service.
  • If a customer asks for something out of stock, the employees are trained to look up the item at several competitive Web sites and tell the buyer where they might be able to find what they’re looking for. Sure they might have lost a sale, but chances are they will gain a loyal customer.
  • The CEO does not have a separate office. His desk is in the middle of the other employee cubicles, though none is the stark, isolated affair you might think of. The employees are encouraged to bring their own personality and creativity to their work space.
  • And of course, there’s that return policy. Coupled with the fact that Zappos pays for shipping.
  • So here I am, blogging about a company I’ve never done business with but one I already admire. They made themselves buzz worthy.

    How does this translate for writers? I keep coming back to that question because I think it would be tempting to believe buzz is generated by gimacky things. WOMM author Andy Sernovitz mentions some things that sound like they are mere attention getters—a barber shop that offers free drinks while you wait, a shoe shine stand with plush red chairs, and the like.

    Well, those are buzz worthy because they are different and offer something with the customer in mind. But if the barber gave terrible haircuts, no offer of free drinks will generate a solid customer base, and chances are the buzz that results will not be positive.

    So for the writer, the place to start is the story. Is it buzz worth? How? Why? Why would people talk about my book?

    And speaking of talking about books, there are just eleven days before Donita Paul’s DragonLight blog tour. I happen to think Donita has some pretty good ways of generating word of mouth for her books, and I hope to point those out during her tour.

    Published in: on July 10, 2008 at 11:53 am  Comments Off on The Chief Means of Marketing, Part 3  
    Tags: , , , , ,

    The Chief Means of Marketing, Part 2


    Word of Mouth. That would be the chief means of marketing, at least according to book people. And now it seems this is also the favorite tack of others in the business of selling, as evidenced by Andy Sernovitz‘s book Word of Mouth Marketing.

    Just in case you’re unclear how this work, I’m actually demonstrating it by writing these posts. Author and one time marketer Brandilyn Collins blogged about WOMM, the book, and gave two copies away. The things she said convinced me this was a book I wanted, so I diligently left comments each day she posted about the topic, and wonder of wonders, I won a freebie. Now here I am, passing on to you some of what I’m learning. That’s word of mouth.

    The organic kind—that which arises from happy consumers, not one, like a blog tour that is initiated by an organizer. In my way of thinking, the organized kind of word of mouth will generate the organic kind of word of mouth if the product (the book) earns it.

    I ended yesterday saying that I believe this type of marketing is eminently consistent with the Christian life. Quotes from Andy say it best:

    This is nominally a book about a specific marketing technique. But it’s really a new [old?] philosophy of business (and how to live it).

    It’s about honesty and admiration. It’s about making people happy.

    It’s a simple philosophy, a new golden rule:

    Earn the respect and recommendation of your customers [readers], and they will do the rest.

  • Treat people well; they will do your marketing for you, for free.
  • Be interesting, or be invisible.
  • A new golden rule. Just like the one God set up in His word, about loving our neighbors as ourselves. Lo and behold, business people have discovered the pragmatic side of this equation, that customers, when treated with respect, become loyal to the point of talking about businesses they’re happy with.

    Of course, there is that all important ingredient—giving readers a product they’ll be happy with. That, above all else, is necessary with books. Andy explains:

    Word of mouth marketing only works if you have good products and services [books]. It only works if peole like you and trust you … If your product or service [stinks], no PR campaign, clever TV ad, or announcement on your website will make consumers believe that it doesn’t. Not anymore. And the speed of word of mouth on the internet spreads the truth almost instantly.

    The sum and substance of this first point is this: be buzz worthy. For a book to accomplish this, it takes more than a great cover or a scintillating premise. Those are ingredients that could initiate buzz, but the story and writing have to be there if it’s really going to catch fire.

    And speaking of buzz worthy, we are now twelve days away from Donita K. Paul’s DragonLight blog tour. This is one you won’t want to miss.

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