In Memoriam

I lost a good friend this past week.

Over 15 years ago, a small tabby kitten was born under a bush in my front yard. Why someone would purposely choose to name a gray cat “Marshmallow” may seem silly now, but back then, in my five-year-old mind, it somehow made sense.  We became fast friends.  Marshmallow never quite learned how to meow–she always sounded more like a creaky door than a cat. I began to grow older and began trying new things and Marshmallow was always right there to try them with me.  When I was learning how to play the piano, she would hop up on the piano bench next to me and gnaw on my fingers as I struggled to play.  When Easter basket hunts rolled around, she would go “hunting” with me, always tagging along at my ankles. And when I grew still older and began writing books, Marshmallow would sit, curled up by me on the couch, and gnaw on my fingers, purring, as I tried to type.  Portions of my last book were written in such a fashion.

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A little over a week ago, Marshmallow took ill very quickly.  Within a matter of days, she could no longer walk, eat, or even meow, and soon after, she was gone.  Only her weak, limp body remained in my arms.

My mom used to tell me that goodbyes are part of life.  Well, I hate goodbyes.  I mean it too!  Goodbyes are hard, and painful, and sometimes you wonder if they are even worth it.  I mean, why would anyone choose to love someone or something that might be taken away from them? Why would anyone logically choose to open themselves up to being hurt?

Answer: because a life without love and loss is a shallow, empty thing, and because it’s worth it.  Because, at least in the case of Marshmallow, the hello was worth the goodbye.

I can probably guess what you’re thinking, and yes, maybe this is a bit melodramatic for the death of one cat, but Marshmallow was my friend. I honestly can’t remember what life looks like without her, since she had been with me for literally as long as I can remember and I will miss her greatly.  She was a great gift for as long as I was permitted to keep her.

And still, life moves on.  School starts tomorrow–biochemistry, this year.  And strangely, I’m excited.  It will be a challenge, true, but I intend to rise to it.

Oh, and I nearly forgot: today, as part of Champagne’s Labor Day Sale, my book, Labyrinth of Lies, is 50% off here.

Till next time,

<3 Hannah

Handcrafted Sodas

As some of you already know, I spent the first six weeks of this summer in Togo, Africa, in a missions hospital.  We were able to participate in a mobile medical clinic and to shadow doctors and see surgeries.  I saw and learned so much! The trip included many surprises, including 127 degree weather, hippos, camel spiders, and, perhaps most surprising of all, amazing sodas.

The local water was ridden with parasites and unsafe to drink, but the sodas were incredible, oddly enough.  At first, I was puzzled as to why they tasted so remarkable, but then, one day, I happened to glance through the bottom of the bottle and I found real fruit pieces floating around.  I also found that the sodas were made with real sugar–real fruit and real sugar.

When I came home, I didn’t miss the heat, but I missed the missionaries and the people and…the sodas.  So I decided to learn how to make sodas so I could recreate them myself.  The research and experimentation that followed has now been turned into a eBook, now available on Amazon.  The recipes included are entirely free of artificial flavorings, dyes, preservatives, and high fructose corn syrup, and they range from ginger ale to grape to rose petal to white chocolate peppermint. The following recipe is taken from my book on handcrafted sodas and it is one of my absolute favorites.

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Pomegranate Blueberry Soda:

Pomegranate and blueberry have always been a killer combination.  Not only are they packed with antioxidants, but they are pretty darn tasty too.  No less can be said of this soda.

What you’ll need:

  • 2 cups pomegranate juice
  • ½ cup blueberries
  • Juice of ½ lime
  • Sugar*

What you do:

Combine all ingredients in a saucepan and heat over low until simmering.  Allow to simmer for around 10 minutes, or until the liquid has reduced by at least half.  This should give you a little over one cup of syrup. Allow to cool.

Pour 2-4 tablespoons of syrup into chilled, carbonated water and mix well.  Makes at least 4 individual servings.  Enjoy!  (No seriously–enjoy it!)

* I personally like this recipe without sugar (I like things a little tangy), but if you are a fan of sweet, consider adding a tablespoon or two of sugar!

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Like this recipe? Feel like taking a stab at some more adventurous recipes like Chocolate Coconut Cream?  Check out my latest eBook for more!

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You’ll find all of these inside–and more!

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And don’t worry!  I haven’t forgotten about the Togo pictures I promised.  Those will follow in a blog post soon!

<3 Hannah

 

Pompeii

Hello again!

I’m back at last from Africa.  It was absolutely amazing–it was crazy hard and scorching hot, and I had a brush with malaria, but it really was amazing! I saw and learned so much and I met so many incredible people I will never forget.  Don’t worry–I’ll post pictures later so you can have a glimpse into what exactly I did there.

For now, today’s post is about summer–the few weeks of it that’s left before school starts once more. I’ve been trying to mow through a long list of projects and get some studying done for the MCAT.  Again, more on that later.  In addition to all the work, there has been some fun too.  My brother really wanted to go to the Pompeii exhibit at the Science Center, here in LA. So last week, we went and it was really good.  And guess what? We found a surprise!

There, hanging on the wall, was a fresco of Bacchus and Ariadne–our old friends!  See?

10589125_519634008169642_2145340111_nFor those of you who have read my book, you will recognize these characters from Greek mythology. Bacchus was the god of wine and Ariadne was, well, there are many different theories as to Ariadne’s identity.  If you’ve read my book, then you know of at least one… (cue dark, foreboding music).

Now, I know what you’re thinking: wasn’t Pompeii a ROMAN civilization?

Well, yes it was.  However, there are some major overlaps in Greek and Roman mythology.  For example, many of the Greek gods also have Roman counterparts.  Aphrodite (Greek) is the same as Venus (Roman), Zeus (Greek) is the same as Jupiter (Roman), and so on. In the same way, many of the other characters of the Greek myths bleed over into Roman mythology too.

In addition to the fresco, we also found an amphora from Crete.  There would likely have been wine in jars like this at the feast Theseus attends in Chapter Five.

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We also found a bathtub.  Haha, I guess those are about the same no matter what country or what age you live in!

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That’s all for now, but I will be writing again soon with details on my latest projects!

<3 Hannah

 

Adventures Await

Hello everyone!

I know it’s been a while (sorry).  The culprit this time? Finals.  Lots and lots of finals.  And, of course, other forms of end of the year madness contributed too.

But guess what? The madness continues!  I am leaving very soon for a medical missions trip to Africa!

Some of my fellow pre-med students and I are going to be serving overseas for six weeks in a hospital. Isn’t that insane? I am so excited!

I have to run now–packing and prepping and such, but hopefully, I will write again in the not-so-distant future.  I am also hoping to work some on my next novel while we are there.

At some point, I will sit down and write some updates for you to read. I don’t know yet when that will be, but until then, adventure awaits!

 

<3 Hannah

 

The Last Bookstore

Hi, friends!  It’s been a while, I know.  The first wave of midterms has struck and is now subsiding just in time for another wave of exams to crash overhead. It goes without saying that the time left over for writing after my studies has been sorrowfully small.

I want to share an adventure from several weeks ago with you, because if you’re able to, it’s definitely an adventure you should undertake yourself. I first discovered The Last Bookstore on Instagram.  I saw pictures of crazy tunnels built out of books, as well as all kinds of book-based sculptures and art. Frankly, I was a little dubious that such a place could exist in real life. Based on the pictures, it looked to me as though The Last Bookstore was the “Wonderland” of bookstores, and as most of us know, Wonderland isn’t exactly real.

But then I had a free day several weeks back and I convinced one of my friends to go with me to LA to see it for ourselves.  And guess what? The Last Bookstore is every bit as amazing as real life as it seems in pictures–maybe even more so.

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It’s located on Broadway in Downtown LA, between 4th and 5th, so basically it’s in the belly of the beast.  Traffic can get a little crazy down there, but it is definitely worth the trip. There’s plenty of meter parking right outside the store, as well as a fairly inexpensive parking lot nearby.

As I was getting close, I was struck by the awesome sight of an old, ornate, massive, stone building and at first, I kept driving, thinking, “Wow, that was a cool building.  I wonder how close we are to the bookstore.”  And then it dawned on me. The cool stone building WAS the bookstore. And just you wait: it gets better.

When you first walk inside, a strong and gripping whiff of dust, old books, and endless possibilities rushes to greet your nose. Even before you’re through the foyer, you can glimpse books upon unending books.  As soon as you enter, there is a man standing at the checkout counter.  This, of course, seems fairly normal–that is, until you realize that even the counter at which he stands is crafted entirely out of books.  Once inside, you will find yourself surrounded by a forest of gigantic white pillars that tower over you, holding up the roof.  You’ll find that, sporadically, the store is sprinkled with worn leather arm chairs in which you may sit and devour books to your heart’s content. The books themselves are very artfully arranged by categories, and by “categories” I mean “every category under the sun.”

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The Last Bookstore sells mainly used books, but most of them are in excellent condition. It also sells old records, CDs, and even some movies. I was shocked by the sea of old vinyl albums sold there, as there were literally thousands to choose from. All of the wares are sold at reasonable prices. And if you have books to sell, The Last Bookstore will gladly buy them from you.

My favorite part is the top floor, a section which is referred to by the workers as “The Labyrinth.”  Kind of makes you think of another Labyrinth, doesn’t it?

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Why the name? Well, it is literally a maze of bookshelves with no apparent rhyme or reason. A good portion of them are sci-fi, but then there are the thrillers. After several lengthy minutes of browsing, you reach a wall of books with a hole just big enough to see through.

After that is the tunnel of books. (Lighting inside was not conducive for photography via my dumb smartphone, so a glimpse of the outside is as good as this is going to get.)

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Once through the tunnel, though, there are even more shelves. This part is my absolute favorite because this portion is where the bargain books live.  And it is HUGE, folks.  There are probably millions of books up there.  You could spend your entire lifetime reading up there, and then your neighbor’s lifetime, and then your first grade teacher’s lifetime, and probably the lives of nearly everyone you know just browsing through books in The Labyrinth. There’s even a color coded section that is literally a rainbow of books! I got two books from this section, The Intelligencer and The Dream-Maker’s Magic, for a total of $2.18.  If they’re any good, I’ll let you know, but you certainly can’t beat the price.

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In addition to books, there are works of art and sculptures scattered all throughout the bookstore. There are succulents growing out of broken stereos, a chalkboard wall complete with drawings of all the employees, strings of lights, pages flying out of a floating typewriter, books flying off the shelves, and even a wooly mammoth head hanging on the wall. There is also an entire art gallery up there on the second floor also.

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I was expecting to be underwhelmed, but completely on the contrary, I was overwhelmed instead. The Last Bookstore is amazing.  If you’re a book enthusiast living anywhere near LA, you should definitely take the time to go experience it for yourself.  I know personally that time can be a rare commodity in the craziness of life, but in my opinion, it was worth the time. I will definitely be going again. As Rudyard Kipling so rightfully stated, “you can never have enough books.”

<3 Hannah

 

My Favorite Book

As much as I love Harry Potter, Eragon, Pride and Prejudice, and A Tale of Two Cities, none of them are my favorite.  Surprisingly enough, my favorite book of all time (so far, at least) is a book many of you have probably never even heard of, a paperback novel called Legend of the Emerald Rose.

It’s set in the time of King Arthur (in the Dark Ages of Europe, right after the fall of the Western Roman Empire, about 500 AD).  Packed with romance and adventure, it’s the kind of book that grabs your heart and never really lets go.

I’ve literally read it at least 4-5 times all the way through, but I’ve read my favorite parts at least 10 times each, probably.

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I follow the author, Linda Wichman, on Pinterest.  She doesn’t pin very often, so when she pinned her book cover a few nights ago, I was surprised, and I “liked” it.  Even more surprising, however, was the notification I got a little while later….

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The author of my favorite book liked some of my novel inspiration pins on Pinterest!  How crazy is that?  I love her writing and she liked my pins. It wasn’t anything super earth-shattering, but it was a nice distraction from physics homework, and it made me smile.

The mid-semester crunch is hitting early this time.  Already, my life is packed out with homework and swiftly approaching organic chemistry tests. I’m still attempting some to maintain the publicity campaign for my novel and still working on the next one, but there never really is enough time in a day, is there?  But I suppose that’s life, so we do our best with what we can. Hang in there!

Till next time

<3 Hannah

Back to the Grindstone

School starts tomorrow. Medical Microbiology, Organic Chemistry II, Physics II, and more: I can feel the avalanche coming.

But it’s alright, because even though it will probably be painful, I’m praying that it will be worth it. And what’s more, it’s okay because I had a really great break.  Here are just a few of the things I’ve been up to lately:

I put 3 eBooks up on Kindle.

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It all started with the eBook on how to make meringues. I had always struggled with making meringues. In Jr. high and high school, I really enjoyed eating them, so I had tried to make them on several occasions, but I had failed on nearly all attempts. Frustrated, I tried to figure out what I was doing wrong, but very few of the recipes I found explained any “why”s at all.  They didn’t explain why to add salt, or cream of tarter, etc. and they were pretty vague.  However, after taking a couple semesters of chemistry and biology, I finally was able to understand why. So, I decided to write a tutorial on how to make meringues, and not only how, but “why.” Don’t worry! It isn’t crazy and all scientific–the goal was to make it accessible and easy to understand and follow. Another goal was to teach people how to take one basic stock recipe and modify it to make any flavor of meringue they so desired. I mean, if you know what you’re doing, then you’ll also know what you’ll need to do to change it, so I think this theory makes sense. Anyway, for $0.99 on Amazon, you can find out for yourself.

I also did two others on how to make modeling chocolate flowers and how to make chocolate bars from scratch.  Click on the images for links.

Also, I finally got around to getting business cards for my book. Pretty cool, right?

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I made cronuts with my friends.

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What exactly ARE cronuts?  That’s a pretty fair question.  Essentially, they are donuts made out of crosaint dough. We used a recipe from Sorted.  They turned out well, but the cronuts were really rich from all of the extra butter in the dough and the lemon icing was very lemony. However, if we omitted the lemon icing and subbed in something a little more subtle, I’m sure they would have been fantastic.

I read Divergent.

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I actually really loved it and thought that it was very well written. Veronica Roth has a very crisp and vivid style of writing. She doesn’t abuse filler words, and none of the words she does utilize are wasted.  She doesn’t harp trite expressions, but cleverly invents new ways of describing things. All in all, I found her style refreshing.  I don’t know if I would let my (hypothetical) child read it, though. There comes a point when the two main characters openly talk about sleeping together, even though nothing happens.  The ending is also pretty violent.  Still, I thought that, overall, it was a well-written and very enjoyable book. Looking forward to the movie!

This past weekend, my college had a campus-wide flag football tournament. I’m not that fantastic at football, but I played, and my dorm’s team won the championship, which was really cool.

Mystery, my eighth cat, is still hanging around, but he is having trouble adjusting to having so many other cats in such close proximity.

Aside from that, I’ve been exploring LA with friends, going on late night runs for burgers and frozen yogurt, and playing midnight games of football on the beach–a last grand hurrah before the scholarly chaos begins again.

As for my book, people have been asking how it is doing.  I asked my publisher about it, and they told me “Well.”  How well? Well, I really have no idea.  Amazon only reports sales every so often, so I’m not sure my publisher knows exactly how well either. But, apparently, it is doing “well.”

Also, I’ve been getting asked pretty frequently when it’s coming out in paperback.  The answer: I don’t really know. Only my publisher knows that right now, but I’m hoping it will be soon.  I promise I’ll post something as soon as I know!!

School tomorrow. Bring it on.

<3 Hannah

 

A Christmas Mystery

Given that Christmas is just about over, this post may be a tad bit late.  Then again, some things never quite go out of season, and I would count crazy, unexplainable surprises among them.  So, here we go:

I have seven cats.

Relax, now. Not all of them live with me in my house.  Some of them stay outdoors in the day and sleep in my garage at night. This way, the sofa doesn’t get too buried in cat hair…

Is this a bit extreme? Possibly.  Seven cats is a lot, it’s true. But you know what’s even more extreme than seven cats?  Eight.

All semester, I’ve looked forward to coming home. This has been due to a variety of reasons: getting to see my friends, getting to see my family, getting more time to write, and, well, getting to actually sleep. Yet, one of the things I miss most at college are my seven furry felines. However, when I arrived home a few days back, I discovered something a tad bit surprising.  I didn’t have just seven cats anymore.  I had eight. No, my family didn’t get a new kitten. On the contrary, this eighth cat was a friend from many years ago, one I’d come to believe had died many years before.  His name, quite fittingly, is Mystery.

I was about eleven or twelve when Mystery and I first met.  One of our friends is a vet.  Because of the nature of her profession, people were forever leaving her boxes of unwanted critters for her to deal with. One October day, someone mysteriously dropped off a box of two tiny scraggly kittens.  Having no room for any more animals, our vet friend asked us if we might want them.  Since we only had about five cats at the time, my mom answered, “Sure.”  And just like that, we became the proud owners of two new kittens.  There was a tortoiseshell one, which I named “Patches,” and a fluffy, coal black one with light green eyes, which I named “Mystery.”

As they grew up, their personalities became more apparent. Patches loved to catch birds and rabbits and was basically fearless. Mystery, however, was sweeter and a little more timid.  He couldn’t quite meow, but made a warbling sound instead. He loved to be pet and always came when I called his name, and he was scared by loud noises.

The years began to pass until, one day, Mystery disappeared. Totally crushed, I went around calling his name for days, but Mystery never came.  I was certain he was gone. It wouldn’t have been the first time I had lost a cat to the coyotes.

Fast forward a few years to when I was about fifteen or sixteen.  A strange cat started hanging around our yard.  It wasn’t a great rarity; stray cats are pretty commonplace in these parts of the woods. This one was weird, however. It was terrified of loud noises and sudden movements and it had coal black fur and light green eyes.  If you called out, “Kitty,” it ran.  It ran from everything really, except the name, “Mystery.”

It was shocking and I didn’t really understand how he could have survived all those years in the desert, but it was definitely the same cat.  Mystery had returned.

Much to my disappointment, he hadn’t stayed long.  Only a few days later, Mystery vanished without a trace.

Fast forward a few more years to the present.  There I was at school, taking finals.  My mom mentioned in a phone call that a stray black cat had been hanging around our house lately.  But like I said, strays are pretty normal and I didn’t think much of it.

When I came home, however, and saw it for the first time, I was stunned.  It looked just like Mystery.  But that couldn’t be possible, could it?

Later that night, when I was out in my yard, I saw it again.  It took off running.

“Kitty!” I called out and it kept running.

“Mystery!” I called and it stopped.  It looked up at me with its bright green eyes. “Mystery!!” I called it again.  To my complete shock, it turned around and started–hesitantly–walking toward me.  It stopped, seemingly afraid, and made the same high-pitched warble that Mystery had always made. I crouched down and held out my hand and called again, and Mystery came running to me.  He rubbed up against my legs and my hand and let me hold him.  He was purring so loudly, as if I couldn’t pet him fast enough.

Want to see him?  Well, of course you do–he’s absolutely adorable!!

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This was taken back when Mystery first reappeared a few days ago.  He was still a little skittish around me then.

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But he quickly warmed up and came closer.

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He loves having his belly petted :)

Now, he’s as friendly as ever. He loves sitting on my lap while I type away at my next novel and he loves napping contentedly on the windowsill.

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Isn’t he a cutie?  (I obviously think so)

Will he stick around?  I honestly have no idea. What Mystery chooses to do is, quite frankly, a mystery.  I don’t know where he came from or where he is going to be next.  All that is for certain is this: Mystery came home for Christmas.

 

Book sales are coming along well.  We don’t know for certain how many copies of Labyrinth of Lies have sold, but there is still the matter of formatting the novel for print that needs to be taken care of.  This might take some time.  Those of you waiting for a printed copy, thank you for your patience and hang in there!

<3 Hannah

 

Finally Free!! (for now, at least)

Whew!

I never thought I’d say it, but the storm we know as “Finals” has passed at last!  I could not be more relieved. And the shocker of all shockers: I pulled an A in physics.  (!!!!!!!!!!!)

Time to burn my study guides….

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This said, I have spent the last couple days catching up on some (much needed) sleep and also working on some other pursuits, like getting my Amazon Author’s Central Page, for one.

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This is exciting because it means that I’m officially recognized as an author by Amazon.  There’s even this cool discussion feature on the page.

I also wrote an article on overcoming rejection for Pick The Brain’s Community blog.  It was featured a couple days back.

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Yesterday, I was featured by a lovely lady named Ute on her blog.  Here is the link.

 

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And guess what?

Tomorrow I’m going to be on a radio show!

It is the 1380 Morning Show.  Odds are, if you live anywhere that’s not the Antelope Valley, you probably won’t be able to hear it.  Still, I’m really excited! I’m a bit nervous too, because I have never been on a radio show before.

 

In the meantime, I’m working on making the ugliest Christmas sweater I possibly can for a party on Friday (pictures might follow, depending on how bad it really is).  I’m also working on redoing my website, so don’t be too terribly shocked if everything changes suddenly.

And lastly, I really do need more reviews on Amazon. The more reviews I have, the more visibility and credibility my book gets. So to all of you wonderful people who have already bought or read my book, I would greatly–greatly–appreciate it if you could possibly spare a few minutes to head over to Amazon and type up a quick review of my book.  Please don’t give away the ending or any important details–short and simple is perfect!

Thank you all so much!

(I’ll blog again soon, since I have a little more time now.)

<3 Hannah

Just plain crazy.

Today was the release.

I’ve been trying to think of a good way to describe it, but the only suitable word that comes to mind is “crazy.”

It has definitely been crazy–and in all senses of the word.

I didn’t really sleep last night.  With Finals next week and a book release the next day, there was just too much to do. I was working on organic chemistry, studying for a physics exam, finishing up final copyrighting business, taking care of PR stuff, and hastily completing some final deadlines. When I did go to bed, dawn had nearly arrived.

I woke a couple hours later with two emotions wrestling in my heart: excitement and fear.

Part of me was so scared that today would come and no one would read my book.  I was terrified that no one would remember, that no one would talk about it, that the world would move on unaware. But that didn’t happen.

I was fortunately able to get out some of the press releases and able to appear on some blogs.  I will still be doing more of this in the days to come to spread awareness of my book.

Additionally, word was spread throughout Facebook. My phone was constantly going off with new notifications that someone had tagged me or my book in one post or another. And I have you, my wonderful friends, to thank for that.

So THANK YOU!!!  For all of you who told your friends, thank you.  For those of you who already bought my book and read it, I am shocked.  I had one friend buy it at midnight and stay up until 5:30 in the morning reading it.  I was so totally blown away and humbled that someone would care that much to read something I had written. And for those of you who are thinking of buying my book in the future or when it comes out in paperback, you have my thanks also. I am seriously speechless.

I don’t believe in dreams, but I do work toward goals.  And I am so thrilled that all of you were here with me to see this goal come into completion.

I know that, in the grand scheme of things, this isn’t that big of a deal.  It’s a small book by a young author.  I’m definitely NOT famous yet (*cough, cough: Matt, Brianna, Britta, Kyle) and probably won’t be anytime soon. But regardless, it was a really special day, one I’ve worked toward for years.

Today was crazy.  But thanks to all of you, it was the best kind of crazy. I’m a little sleepy now, and I’m a little stunned too, but it was worth it.

For those of you who have been asking, the book was just made available on Amazon!!!!Buy Link is: http://www.amazon.com/Labyrinth-Of-Lies-Hannah-Lokos-ebook/dp/B00H1ZC0NW/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1386041536&

However, I do make a higher cut if it is purchased directly from Champagne’s website at http://burstbooks.ca/product.php?id_product=114. Reviews would be extremely welcome, as good ones will greatly help my ratings.

Well, everyone, it’s been a long, hard road. But this isn’t the end of it.

Hopefully, there will be many more (and better) novels to come in the future, as I progress as a writer!

But for now, I’m rejoicing and thankful.

Time to go study for finals!

Thanks!!

<3 Hannah