Blood of the Wolf now available to pre-order!

The fourth and final book in my Forest Lord series is now available to pre-order on Amazon Kindle. Paperback and Audible versions will also be ready soon.

Click HERE to go directly to your own country’s Amazon page for the book.

Publication date is October 14th!

Available to pre-order now!

The Robin Hood Legacy attraction/ Adam Greenwood Q&A

A new attraction has opened in Nottingham, or at least it WILL tomorrow, with the Grand Opening on August 29th. The Robin Hood Legacy is creating quite a stir and I was lucky enough to bag an interview with the guy that’s running the place, Adam Greenwood!

Read on…

The Robin Hood Legacy? What is it, where is it, and who’s part of it?

The Robin Hood Legacy is the brainchild of David Ward, an entrepreneur who is the son of two champion archers. He was appalled that Nottingham had no dedicated Robin Hood attraction and decided to do something about it. He hired me to design and create the attraction, knowing that I had a keen interest in the subject, had done a vast amount of research and was passionate about Robin Hood and his legend.

The attraction is located very close to Nottingham Castle and is a story-based adventure. Visitors travel from room to room and each room contains a different “set piece” where at least one animated character talks about Robin Hood and their connection to him. The visit ends with a “museum room” with various medieval and Robin Hood-related artefacts.

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You get into character for it too, dressing as Robin himself. Is this something you just started recently, to tie in with the attraction, or did you do it previously?

I’ve been portraying Robin professionally for around ten years although he has always been a character that fascinated me. My Robin Hood character began as a way to promote my first novel but, once people got to know that I played Robin Hood, I started to get invited to other events. Now there are many people for whom I am the embodiment of Robin Hood.

Are you an archer yourself?

I’d describe myself as competent but not skilled. This is something I have incorporated into my novels. My partner Sarah is actually a far more skilled archer than I am, as Holegn (Robin’s lover) is in my novels.

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Ruth Knowles of Variety Characters playing Maid Marion (Matilda?!)

I assume you have a big interest in the legend of Robin Hood, as you also write books about him. Tell us a bit about those, and how you came to write them. I understand they’re a bit different to most retellings, which is crucial nowadays since the legend has become so well known. Any new version needs something to set it apart from what’s gone before, right?

My first novel, “Robin of The Wood – Legend” was written as a therapeutic exercise to deal with issues I was experiencing at the time. It is a very fantasy-based story with faeries, spirits and lots of magic. For several years I entertained the idea of a sequel or spin-off and eventually began the “Robin of The Wood – Legacy” trilogy which tells what I believe to be a more plausible tale of a man who is persuaded to take on the title and responsibilities of Robin Hood. While there are some fantasy elements, I consider these books more gritty and realistic. I would liken them to George RR Martin’s “Song of Ice and Fire” novels which inspired the series “Game of Thrones”.

Every memorable reinvention has incorporated new elements which become part of the “canon”. It is my sincere hope that some of the original characters and ideas my novels introduce will become part of the established Robin Hood lore, used by future story-tellers.

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What’s your favourite version of Robin Hood, either in books, film, TV or whatever? Personally, I love RoS and the new audio production Knights of the Apocalypse with the old cast was really enjoyable. Have you heard it?

I love RoS but have not heard the new audio adventure. “Prince of Thieves” will always have a special place in my heart as it was really my first Robin Hood interpretation and triggered my passion. I think I would have to call RoS the definitive interpretation ‘though.

I was less keen on the recent BBC series although I thought series 3 was brilliant. Too bad the series was cancelled just as it was becoming brilliant. I thought the portrayal of Robin in the recent Doctor Who episode “Robot of Sherwood” was fantastic and a real positive contribution to the mythos.

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My own books on sale in the Robin Hood Legacy!

Where can people buy your books? Do you sell them in the RHL shop?

They are available on Amazon but the copies available in the RHL shop are exclusive editions with covers that are not available anywhere else.

What do you plan on doing in the future, both with your writing and the RHL attraction? I understand there’s a Grand Opening on the 29th of August?

I plan to finish the Legacy trilogy as well as writing a prequel which will be the same story as “Legend” but told from within the universe of the later trilogy. As for the RHL itself, we plan to constantly evolve, add new artefacts and exhibits. It’s our intention to change the stories the characters tell with the seasons. Our next plan is “Robin’s Christmas Adventure”. The Grand Opening should be a great day with lots of colourful characters and a guest appearance from Councillor Jackie Morris – the real Sheriff of Nottingham!

Have you had much publicity from the media? Radio, newspapers, TV even?

When we opened we had great features in The Nottingham Post and on Notts TV as well as BBC TV and Radio. We’re hoping the Grand Opening will generate more media interest.

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Robin Hood on TV!

I heard mention of a possibility of Phil Rose, who played Friar Tuck in Robin of Sherwood, making an appearance at your shop? That would be great wouldn’t it? He was fantastic in RoS and basically IS the bold friar for many people.

It’s impossible to underestimate the importance of that series for many Robin Hood fans. For so many it was their first exposure to the legend and for many others it has been adopted as the definitive interpretation. Any link to that series can only be positive!

Where can we find out more about RHL and your books?

We are very active on Facebook. I also have my own Amazon page for my books, HERE

Thanks so much to Adam for talking to me, I’m sure my readers will love this new attraction!

Check out the link below for that TV piece mentioned in the Q&A and make sure you visit the next time you and the family are in Nottingham…

http://nottstv.com/video-see-inside-citys-new-interactive-robin-hood-attraction/

Blood of the Wolf blurb and…delayed (but only a little!)

I just wanted to bring everyone up to date with what’s been happening and why the new book isn’t out yet. I know a few of you are really looking forward to it as you message me often, which is amazing. I honestly expected Blood of the Wolf  be ready by now but a few things have meant there’s a little bit of a delay in publication.

Firstly, this has turned out to be the longest book I’ve written so far. The previous three novels were all around 90-100,000 words but Blood of the Wolf is at almost 109,000 and I’m still adding little bits as I edit!

Speaking of which, my editor was really busy during July and August so took longer than expected to go through the book and give me her feedback. I’m on it now, though, and it’s all coming together nicely.

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Me, feeling apologetic for the delay.

There’s also been a hint – just a hint – of some amazing PR opportunities centred around the publication of this new book. I’ve not heard anything about it in the last week so it might turn out to be nothing but that would have involved another delay. In terms of my career though, it would have been well worth it. Fingers crossed on that…

The main issue for me – and I’m sure most of you will totally get this point – is the lack of hours in the day. I still work a full-time day job and have two young children so it can be hard when I come home at night to find the energy to sit at the laptop and work. However! To address that problem I’ve just bought a cheap, small little laptop which I can carry around with me and bring out when I have ten minutes to spare. Waiting on my daughter to come out of her theatre class last night, for example, I managed to get a little proof-reading done. Today, on a break, I typed up a Q&A and am now writing this post you’re reading.

Hopefully, by doing this sort of “admin” during the day I’ll have more free time at night/weekends to work on the actual writing and editing.

Don’t know why I never thought of getting a little super-portable laptop sooner actually.

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My new laptop. It’s so portable!

In general, I get quite stressed about the release date of a new book – it feels like I’m letting my readers down if I don’t publish it as soon as possible. There’s always a slight fear people will get so angry about waiting that they’ll either forget me or stop buying my books! Which seems ridiculous, if you think about it logically. As a reader I’ve never become annoyed at Bernard Cornwell or Terry Pratchett, for example, for not bringing out a new novel every year exactly when I expected it. I forget all about it until I see it’s available then hurry to read it (time allowing!).

And yet, as a writer, I get quite stressed about pushing back a publication date by a month or two. I suppose it keeps me on my toes and working hard.

Still, the good news, for those who ARE getting annoyed with me is that Blood of the Wolf should be out within the next few weeks. I’ve already finished about half my editor’s suggestions and know exactly what to do with the rest. The extra tweaking will be worth it and hopefully lead to an exciting, worthy end to the series.

In the meantime I’ve been buoyed – stunned in fact – to see the other books, particularly Wolf’s Head, zooming right back up the charts on both sides of the pond. That one actually reached number 628 in the overall UK chart last week, which is probably higher than it’s EVER been, outwith special offers or promotions. I have no idea what’s pushing those sales but I’m very happy about it.

Thank you readers, new and old for continuing to buy and review my books!

As a tiny thank you for your loyalty, I’ll give away a signed copy of the new book (with shiny bookmark – woooo!) to a couple of people. Just add a comment here, or email me using the CONTACT button up top, or message me on Facebook/Twitter and let me know you’d like your name in the magic quiver…As always, this is open worldwide.

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Coming soon – Blood of the Wolf. Promise! And to whet your appetite, here’s the blurb I came up with for the back cover.

I’m still tweaking it (literally, I just spent half an hour working on this before I make it public here!), so let me know what you think please.

Cheers!

ROBIN HOOD RETURNS!

And this time the legendary wolf’s head is working for the sheriff…

After winning his freedom in Rise of the Wolf, Robin – with his faithful lieutenant John Little at his side – now spends his days travelling around northern England dispensing King Edward II’s justice.

When a new band of outlaws appears in Barnsdale, Sheriff Henry de Faucumberg sends Robin and John to deal with them. Before the lawmen can track them down though, Will Scaflock is attacked and another of their old companions brutally murdered in his own home by the outlaws whose leader has only one thing on his mind:

Bloody vengeance!

Will Robin’s reunited gang be enough to defeat this savage new threat that seeks to wipe them out one by one? Or will another old foe provide the final twist that sees England’s greatest ever longbowman dead and buried?

This stunning conclusion to the bestselling Forest Lord series will delight and entertain readers looking for action packed historical fiction in the mould of Scarrow, Kane and Cornwell!

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No, really – coming soon!

The Arms and Armour of Robin Hood

by Steven A. McKay

(this article originally appeared on the English Historical Fiction Authors website on August 14, 2013)

Picture this:

You’re a well-to-do medieval clergyman quietly making your way from Doncaster to Pontefract, minding your own business, rubbing your hands in glee at the thought of all the money your brothel in Nottingham is making you. Suddenly, almost like magic, from the trees around you half a dozen heavily armed men appear.

Outlaws!

It’s a familiar image. One we’ve seen in countless TV shows and movies. How realistic are the celluloid depictions though? What would you actually see if you were suddenly stopped by the “real” Robin Hood? What were his clothes like? His armour, if he wore any? His weapons?

In the movies he’s normally depicted as a dapper, dashing gentleman with an easy smile, but what was the reality like? Was Robin Hood scary?

The clothes a medieval outlaw such as Robin wore would have been green and brown – not the bright, gay, freshly-laundered shades seen in the 1950’s movies, but more natural, earthy, downright dirty hues. Which is why you didn’t notice such large men concealed amongst the foliage until it was too late. Leather boots, simple hose and woolen tunic, possibly a hood and, of course, armour.

In a full-scale pitched battle, soldiers, if they could afford it, would have worn chain or plate-mail, but hiding out in Barnsdale Forest, trying to stay one step ahead of the law, heavy armour was completely inappropriate — you try running away from the sheriff or swinging from a tree onto the back of a horse wearing a suit of 20 kg plate-mail! Instead, Robin and his men would have worn a lighter and much cheaper gambeson, which was like a long linen vest or cuirass, padded, and with plates of material – metal, cloth or maybe horse hair – riveted underneath to offer basic protection while still allowing freedom of movement.

The outlaw might have carried a basic steel sword in a wood and leather sheath, and a dagger. Some might have favoured the oaken quarterstaff which, in Little John’s case, could have been over 9ft long!

There was no quiver to carry their arrows as these weren’t developed until much later. Instead, the missiles – perhaps as many as eighteen of them – would have simply been stuck in the outlaw’s belt, ready to be drawn and fired quickly.

Gloves and leather bracers would have protected their hands and wrists when using the bow.

And what about that bow? Well, the type Robin Hood would have used, in my opinion, would have been a longbow. In most versions of the legend, usually set around the end of the 12th century, longbows were not widely used in England, but, by the time of my own novel – the 14th century – they were quite common.

The longbow would have been roughly the same height as the man wielding it, made from yew with a hemp string. It was utterly lethal in the hands of a trained archer, offering much more power and range than previous designs.

Capable of firing up to twenty arrows in a single minute, you can imagine what even half a dozen robbers, concealed in the bushes and armed with these weapons could do to an unsuspecting party of travelers…

Firing such a powerful bow even once, never mind multiple times, took an enormous amount of physical strength though. Boys usually began training with the bow from the age of seven, but often they were even younger. By the time they were adults, these men had developed hugely muscled shoulders and arms – particularly the left arm which took most of the strain. You don’t see that in the movies – Russell Crowe or Errol Flynn roaming around the Greenwood with one arm like Popeye’s and the other like Olive Oyl’s!

So…you’re a medieval clergyman, suddenly surrounded by these hugely muscled violent criminals, some carrying 9 ft quarterstaffs and some aiming bows as big as themselves at your face…What do you think?

Was Robin Hood scary?

Blood of the Wolf coming SOON (promise)!

Things have been progressing a little slower than I’d have liked with this final novel in the Forest Lord series. The combination of building works on our house plus two young children has meant my energy and time to write has been limited.

But Blood of the Wolf is almost finished! I have one more scene to write, plus an epilogue and the author’s note and that will be it. My editor – the same one I’ve used for all the books who worked with Bernard Cornwell, Jilly Cooper and Ben Kane in the past – will be looking at it next week. Then all I need to do is follow her orders and it’ll be ready to send out to my usual beta-readers. I’m hoping to have it ready to publish within the next few weeks so clear a space in your reading list…

This book is much more direct than Rise of the Wolf. I had fun writing that one and exploring a couple of female characters but Blood of the Wolf is back to the all out action and there’s one truly horrible new villain for Robin to deal with. Will our hero survive, or die as he does in the original ballads? Bearing in mind I’ve tried to stay faithful to those early tales all the way throughout this series…

Set in 1327, four years after the events in Rise of the Wolf, I think it’s a fitting and exciting end to the series. It’s also the longest book so far, so it should be good value.

When it comes time to publish it I’ll be running giveaway competitions for signed copies and so on, with extra chances to win for people on my Email List so, if you haven’t signed up yet, please do so here: Email List Sign-Up  You also get a free and exclusive short story when you do.

The Audible version, narrated as usual by Nick Ellsworth, will follow a couple of months (I expect) after the Kindle and paperbacks are out, so hang onto a credit!

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A Few Medieval Outlaws

by Steven A. McKay

(This article originally appeared on the English Historical Fiction Authors blog March 1, 2015)

Since the very beginning of time there have been those who chose to live a life of crime: outlaws, or, as they were often known in the middle-ages, wolf’s heads. Obviously the most famous of them is the bold Robin Hood who stole from the greedy rich to give to the downtrodden poor. But, as I found out when researching my novels Wolf’s Head and The Wolf and the Raven, there were plenty of others who, in their own day, were just as notorious as Hood and his mates and some of them might surprise you…

Back then, extortion and bribery were rife – you could be imprisoned on some trumped-up charge by a crooked sheriff or bailiff just so they could take money from you in return for your freedom, even if you hadn’t actually broken any law! If you had committed some criminal act, even a minor one, you could expect a fine you’d struggle desperately to pay, or some other even more humiliating punishment like the pillory. This was a wooden board that held the criminal’s head and hands while the crowd threw things at them. A butcher selling bad meat would be dragged through the streets on a hurdle before being locked in the pillory where he’d have the offending offal burnt under him. 1
And if you were a woman caught stealing? You’d be taken to the nearest river and drowned!2

No wonder some people chose to go into hiding and become outlaws rather than face medieval justice…

The pillory (burning offal not shown)

With so many being forced into a life outside the law it wasn’t unusual for well-organized criminal gangs to spring up and cause trouble for the unlucky people living in the villages and towns of England. John Fitzwalter, for example, who led a gang that besieged Colchester not once, but twice, holding the whole town to ransom. 3 Or the notorious Folvilles, a group of brothers who murdered a man and fled the country but were able to return – with pardons – in 1326, thanks to the help of Roger Mortimer. They robbed, raped and murdered their way around the country for the next couple of years before being captured. They simply joined Mortimer’s army and were pardoned again whereupon they resumed their reign of terror. They continued in this way for many years before, finally, their luck ran out, the law caught up with them and this time they were beheaded.4

One of the bounty hunters employed to catch both the Folvilles and another murderous gang, the Coterel’s, was Roger de Wensley. He managed to find the Coterels but rather than dispensing justice he joined them! 5 The Coterels were, like the Folville’s, ‘gentlemen’ who, as well as being vicious criminals, served in King Edward III’s army, were bailiffs and even Members of Parliament.

The funny thing is, like Robin Hood, the Folville’s eventually came to be celebrated rather than vilified by the common man. They kidnapped an apparently corrupt justice of the peace, killed a widely-hated judge and were, in the years after their death, generally seen as men who had righted wrongs. 6

Fulk Fitzwarine is another outlaw cum-folk-hero, this time from the thirteenth century and, although he was a recorded historical figure, he may have been the source of some aspects of the Robin Hood legend. Outlawed for treason, he rebelled against King John twice. Despite this the people of the time celebrated him in poetry and song, drawing in elements from Arthurian mythology – Merlin himself was supposed to have prophesied Fulk’s exploits!7

Medieval England was a dangerous place, even if you were a law-abiding citizen. You might be accused of a crime you hadn’t committed so some corrupt lawman could extort money for your release from jail, and, if you were a notorious, violent criminal you could be pardoned from the most heinous transgressions by making yourself useful to those in power. The sheriff in my novels, Henry de Faucumberg, was a real historical figure who had a criminal record for assault and, on more than one occasion, stealing wood before he found himself serving the crown as Sheriff of Nottingham and Yorkshire. 8 Justice? “…it is estimated that there were more outlaws at this time than at any other period in England’s history.” 9 No wonder – it seems like you could get away with anything back then as long as you had money or well-connected friends to help you out.

What interests me the most about all these accounts is how the outlaw – a criminal after all – usually becomes a romantic hero to the common people. The Folvilles raped and murdered for years yet a generation after their death they were celebrated as heroes poking a finger in the eye of the ruling classes. The original ballads of Robin Hood portrayed an incredibly violent man whose followers murdered an innocent child (in Robin Hood and the Monk) while he himself beheads the honourable Sir Guy of Gisbourne, sticks the head on the end of his longbow and mutilates the face with his knife! 10

What is it about these dangerous men that makes them so compelling, so heroic, to the common people, even when they’re clearly operating outside the laws that supposedly hold our society together? I believe it’s mostly down to the old idea of “sticking it to the man.” Everyone likes to get one over on those in charge, especially when the rulers are rich and you’re barely able to afford a crust of bread to feed your starving children. The medieval ballads sprung up around the Folvilles, Clim of the Clough (who appeared in a story alongside Adam Bell  11) and Robin Hood because they prospered in the face of adversity and gave hope to the common people that they too might, one day, break out of their life of thankless servitude to their betters.

Adam Bell, Clim of the Clough and William Cloudesley

700 years later audiences still enjoy tales of anti-heroes within literature and film: Batman and Judge Dredd, for example, represent the ultra-violent face of modern fictional ‘justice’, yet both are miles away from our Western judicial systems in the way they deal with criminals.

It seems our fascination for justice outwith the judicial system continues to this day. Maybe, eventually, the lawmakers will get things right – crimes will be detected, the perpetrators will be dealt with fairly and proportionately, the little man will enjoy justice as much as the wealthy, and the likes of Eustace Folville, Robin Hood and Batman will no longer seem so romantic…

Aye, right!

Judge Dredd and Judge Anderson bringing justice to the lawless in Dredd 3D

Steven A. McKay is the best-selling author of the Amazon “War” chart number 1’s Wolf’s Head and The Wolf and the Raven. The third in the series, Rise of the Wolf, is nearing completion, while a spin-off novella, Knight of the Cross, has just been released. All his books are also available from Audible as audiobooks.

To find out more go to StevenAMcKay, Amazon UK, or Amazon US

1 Mortimer, Ian The Time Traveller’s Guide to Medieval England, p95
2 Ibid, p219
3 Ibid, p240
4 Ibid, p240-242
5 Ibid, p241
6 Jones, Terry Medieval Lives, p63
7 Phillips, Graham and Keatman, Martin, Robin Hood – the man behind the myth, p115
8 http://midgleywebpages.com/shirereeve.html
9 John Paul Davis, Robin Hood – the Unknown Templar, p89
10 http://www.boldoutlaw.com/rhbal/bal118-gisborne.html
11 http://www.robinhoodlegend.com/adam-bell-clim-clough-william-cloudesly/

Robin Hood meets Odysseus!

Here’s a fun new Q&A between myself and Odysseus author Glyn Iliffe on the Edinburgh Book Review website, take a look!

http://www.edinburghbookreview.co.uk/news/steven-a-mckays-interview-with-glyn-iliffe

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Glyn Iliffe, author of the excellent Adventure of Odysseus series.

Wolf’s Head on special offer!

Yes, find out what the fuss is about for next to nothing. The UK Kindle “War” chart number 1 and overall top 20 bestseller is just 99c in the USA this weekend (starting Thursday)!

Click the pic to buy – hurry, before it’s back up to $2.99! And don’t forget to tell your friends, family and hated enemies.

Oh, by the way, once you own the Kindle version you can add the Audible narration (which is awesome!) for a greatly reduced price. You can’t lose!

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How I sold 60,000 ebooks – some tips

People often ask me how I managed to sell so many books without an agent or publisher to help me but, sorry, there’s no simple answer. A good cover, a good blurb, some buzz generated before you even publish your debut novel, and good early reviews from honest beta readers are all a good start. But you need luck too.

However, I’m always thinking of new ways to market my brand and my books and these are some of the Kindle books I’ve read to try and get ideas. I probably got them all for free, or no more than £1, so check them out. I hope you find them useful and remember me when you make a fortune!

Twitter Marketing That Sells

This is the one I’m reading just now. I don’t find Twitter very useful but I’ve learned some cool new techniques thanks to this (using HootSuite to schedule Tweets and tweeting much more often being the main ones).

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Reader Magnets

This is what gave me the idea to write a short story and offer it for free in return for people signing up to my Email List. It’s free! And so is that short story – get it HERE! 

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5 Minute Marketing For Authors

Can’t really remember much about this one to be honest. It’s currently £1.99 but it will no doubt be available free at some point so keep an eye on it.

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How To Market A Book

I don’t remember being blown away by this. From memory it had a lot of ideas I was already doing, but Joanna Penn has a great reputation so some of you will surely find this useful. It’s currently £4.99 for the Kindle edition but I doubt I paid that for it so keep an eye out and, hopefully, it’ll be on a Countdown Deal or freebie at some point.

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Social Media Marketing For Publishers

Don’t remember this one either, but it’s short, and it’s FREE so you can’t lose!

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Write a Great Synopsis

Of all the books on this list, I found this one invaluable. Seriously. One of the main things that attracts readers to your work is the blurb that appears on the back cover or on the Amazon page. If it sucks, no one will buy your book, right? But it’s damn HARD coming up with something short and snappy that hooks people in, and that’s where this little gem comes in.

There’s a couple of great techniques for writing that short kick-ass blurb, and I go back to this book every time I have a new book needing a description.

It’s priced at £3.83 and, to be fair, I might well have paid that for it but it’s worth every penny!

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Those are the ones that are in my own Kindle library but if you have any you can recommend, please share in the comments section!

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