Monthly Archives: July 2013

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Brenda Pandos
This is Part II of our interview with the author of Young Adult paranormal romance novels, Brenda Pandos. Part I of this Interview appeared on July 29th, 2013.

Our 20-Question interviews usually run more than 20 questions in length and this makes for one rather long and tiresome post for the reader. In order to keep things interesting, We have started dividing our interviews into at least two parts in the hope that it will be be somewhat easier to read.

If you somehow wound up here in Part II first, you can go read Part I and then come back to this page. Now, let’s return to our scintillating interview with Brenda Pandos!

Large Q What is the overall theme of the books and the series as a whole?
Large A The themes are ones of rescue and of honesty.
Large Q Fin is – well – Fin who, despite his aquatic heritage, seems to be a fairly normal young adult male. Nonetheless, it seems like sometimes he’d rather be somewhere and/or something else. How come?
Large A Fin’s unique in that he has experienced life as human’s do, unlike most mermen, and enjoys his freedom, along with the sun and fresh air. But falling for a human girl would make things difficult, considering he couldn’t act on his feelings without revealing his secret.
Large Q Ash loves her family – younger sister included – but she goes through some significant changes in Evergreen. How will her new knowledge – and body – affect her view of them?
Large A Without giving away too much, I’d say a lot. And this might also explain why she has such a difficult time connecting with her mother.
Large Q Goldschlager? Really??{{1}}
Large A Why not? Actually, alcohol isn’t kind to a mermaid’s delicate constitution.
Large Q Ash and Fin have a significant degree of commitment to each other throughout both books. What does this say to your target audience?
Large A Wouldn’t it be nice if a kiss could keep one in perpetual bliss? I’d hope my readers would be smart enough to know that this isn’t reality. But I do say, when you know, you know, and typically one doesn’t marry the first person they fall in love with.
Large Q Towards the end of Evergreen, Ash suddenly goes from being the older sister to a younger one. Add in her commitment to the revolutionary cause and that major change in outlook. Would you say that her acceptance of all this is because of Fin or because of something else in Ash’s makeup?
Large A All I can say is the truth set her free to be who she needed to be.
Large Q How have the first two books in the Mer Tales series been received by both fans and the critics?
Large A Well, I’d say positively. The series holds a 4 star average on Goodreads and closer to 5 on Amazon. I get letters and facebook posts from fans who love my stories often. Again, there’s a smattering of mean reviews and snarky people who have nothing else better to do than be mean, but I try not to let their silly opinions bother me.
Large Q Can you give us any hints about what to expect in Everlost?
Large A It’s a jungle down there. Treachery and secrets galore rule Natatoria. Tatiana has rough waters ahead of her. She’s going to have to grow up, pull on her big girl panties, and face reality without her parents.
Large Q Is Everlost the conclusion of the Mer Tales series or will we see more of Ash and Fin?
Large A Right now, things end at a nice place, though there’s room for more books. We’ll have to see if the characters talk to me more. Right now, a new story is brewing in my mind and I’d love to finally give it some attention.
Large Q Do you plan do write any more novels – or a series, perhaps – with a Merfolk theme?
Large A This next book will be a dystopian with zombies and other creatures.
Large Q Do you have any other projects in the works?
Large A The tagline for the new book is, “What would you do differently if you knew the date you’d die?”
Large Q Before you go, is there anything else you’d like to mention?
Large A Thank you, Howard. I’ve enjoyed reading your reviews and insight of my stories so much. You see things I didn’t know or hadn’t entirely planned on including in my novels, and that makes me feel super smart. I appreciate you taking the time to interview me.

This concludes our interview with Brenda Pandos. It is worth noting that while Brenda intended for Everlost to conclude her Mer Tales series, she has remarked elsewhere that she is considering a fourth novel which would follow Ash and Tachi as they go off to college. We can but hope.

[[1]]In Evergreen, Ash is taken out on the eve of her 18th birthday by her best – human – friend who insists that Ash have a few shots of Goldschlager to celebrate. Mermaids cannot handle strong drink and this is the first real inkling that there may be more to Ash than meets the eye. Brenda’s choice of Goldschlager is rather appropriate since it is a cinnamon-flavoured liquer and Ash has read hair.[[1]]

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Brenda Pandos
This review has been approximately 9 months in the making. The idea was originally pitched to Brenda Pandos in the Autumn of 2012. Brenda graciously agreed to participate and Dr. Data set about drafting as series of questions for the interview. Time passed as it always does and it was suddenly late November or early December. After a brief exchange of e-mails, it was decided that rather than add another task to the pre-holiday burden, Dr. Data would send the interview questions after New Year’s Day. Brenda finally received the interview questions in late January; about the same time that she was furiously working on the final edits for Everlost, the third and final installment in her Mer Tails series.

Dr. Data was one of the first to review Everlost in March of 2013 and Brenda Pandos returned the completed interview questions shortly thereafter. One delay after another prevented Dr. Data from preparing the interview for publication until late July of 2013.

The questions were prepared long before Everlost hit the shelves and therefore are somewhat speculative as to the plot of  the novel. You, the reader, have waited long enough for this interview to come to pass so let’s see what Brenda has to say for herself.

Large Q How did you get started as an author?
Large A Before becoming a full-time author, I worked as an IT Administrator. After my son’s autism diagnosis, my life turned upside-down. I was forced to quit. Being pregnant with #2 and giving birth right before we embarked on a 35 hour a week in-home therapy schedule was grueling to say the least. Overnight my home turned into a train station with very little privacy. Although I was thankful for the specialized learning the tutors gave my son, I craved a meaningful escape. Vampires were hot, so, I decided to write my own vampire story.
Large Q Why Young Adult Fiction?
Large A There’s something exciting and adventurous when it comes to writing about characters who are coming of age and finding first love. I get to experience that time over again, living vicariously through them.
Large Q While you are also known for your Talisman series, you chose to write one about Merfolk. Any particular reason?
Large A I’ve loved the beauty and mystery of mermaids as long as I knew about their mythology. Watching Splash and The Little Mermaid just encouraged my imagination as a tween. I’d wished may times, growing up every summer practically living in the water, to be a mermaid myself. I even sewed a tail to swim around in the pool for fun. So, to indulge my secret love, I thought creating a world of mer would satisfy that craving.
Large Q To what do you attribute the recent surge in popularity of YA Fiction with a Merfolk theme?
Large A I’m not sure. Maybe since vampires and zombies are hot right now, that’s giving the mer a chance. It does couple nicely with the paranormal themes.
Large Q How did you conceive the story arc for this series?
Large A It unfolded as I wrote it. It’s actually funny how, when rereading the end of Everblue, my characters had spoken the existence of Everlost and the horrid things that would become, and yet I hadn’t written the story yet. I typically have a general idea of the storyline, but as I write it, the story peels open like an onion, word by word, and takes on a life of its own.
Large Q What elements do you consider essential for the success of YA novels like yours?
Large A I’d guess love, risk, danger, stupidity, loss, and success all balled up in an adventure, but I’m not sure, really. I write what I like to read and try to help readers want what the heroine/hero wants, then take them on a rollercoaster until they achieve their happily ever after.
Large Q Let’s talk about your characters. What can you tell us about Ash?
Large A Ash, my red-headed freckled heroine, is seventeen, a competitive swimmer, typically shy, and plagued with a pesky younger sister.
Large Q Then, of course, there’s Fin and his sister, Tatiana. What about them?
Large A Fin and Tatchi are twins. Both blonde, blue eyed and beautiful, they’re fiery, spunky, and are Ash’s neighbors, but Tatchi is Ash’s best friend. But together, the twins share a deep secret.
Large Q Natatoria is less a mystical, magical mermaid land and more a dystopia rivaling 1984. How and why did you come up with this particular idea?
Large A As will all governments, Natatoria is the perfect set up for a utopia as long as you have a leader that allows your freedom. Without it, you’re subject to tyranny. And though the mer live in a beautiful world with instant love with just a kiss, without ones freedom, it is bondage. All of us need to remember, though free, things happen daily that take away our freedoms. One shouldn’t depend on their governing body to grant them happiness or rescue them from their troubles without understanding there will be a cost for it in the end. And also to remind us, that many live in these very real situations (minus the fins) right now, with no opportunity for making their own choices of life, liberty or the pursuit of happiness. Freedom is a gift and we need to protect and treasure it.
Large Q In your mer-world, kissing doesn’t just lead to mononucleosis. What other things does it lead to and why, or how, did you arrive at that concept?
Large A It’s a bond between two people, like instant love. Through their breath, their souls unite and they become one.
Large Q Once Fin gives Ash a proper bussing, things start to change for her. Could you tell us about them?
Large A Well, I just learned “bussing” means kissing. Ash has had a crush on Fin since she was 10 years old, and because of Fin’s secret, he couldn’t indulge himself a relationship with her. Of course, something happens to change all of that, and that leads to more tough decisions for the pair.
Large Q In Evergreen, Ash knows the truth about Fin and his family but seems reluctant to take the plunge. Why do you think that is?
Large A At her age, deciding on a lifetime partner is a big decision in itself. But becoming a different species, that’s quite an undertaking. Then the lies she’d need to tell her parents to keep the secret. She’d eventually have to say goodbye to all she knows and welcome in an entirely different life in order to not be found out. I’d be apprehensive, too, no matter how much I’d love to be a mermaid.

Now that you’ve read Part I, go read Part II of our interview with Brenda Pandos.

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by L. Kirstein

Samantha Matheson is a single-focus kind of girl. No time for love. No time for relationships. Her plan is to finish high school early, motor on through college and then on into a career. Love simply does not play a part in her calculus and she has no desire to date. Her best friend Kim, however, has other ideas and keeps trying to fix Samantha up with someone who will make her happy. And so, Samantha finds herself at the beach as the disinterested fourth wheel recruited to hang out with Kim and her boyfriend as well as his un-attached buddy.

Her life – as she knows it – along with her future plans are about to change, however, and it begins with Kim prodding her to go on a date with the unattached friend and Samantha heading out into the surf to escape the verbal chess match that is bound to ensue. She is finally getting a chance to relax in the water when a monstrous rogue wave hits her and she is quickly pulled out to sea in the resulting rip current; Not just a few hundred yards from shore but one or two miles. Her rescuer is a strange man with cold hands and even stranger dark blue eyes. Samantha tries to thank him for saving her and his response is to pull her under water . . . for good.

Samantha finally awakens to find herself 5 miles below the surface of the ocean in the company of this same man who is named Adrian – Prince Adrian to be exact. Samantha has fallen down the rabbitfish hole (Siganidae Siganus) and learns that not only is she stuck there for good, but that she was brought there to be Prince Adrian’s wife and it is expected that she will also take the tail and become a mermaid. (“Take the tail” is a poor pun on “Taking the veil”.) She is in this pretty fix because she is Adrian’s “Soulmate”; a condition that only afflicts the crown prince and his intended. This choice was made by Posiedon’s son, Triton, before either she or Adrian were born. For his part, Adrian knows that she is the one by the translucent crown floating above Samantha’s head. It’s a shame that this does not happen in real life as it would make dating so much easier.

Samantha manages to charm Adrian’s parents, fall in love with Adrian, survive the conversion process and settle into life as a mermaid. Those that once felt cold and damp to her now feel warm and natural. The only thing she can’t seem to reconcile is how everyone’s eyes look. Sam has the same sort of eyes at this point but she still finds it a bit creepy.

Things are much different for Samantha now and they go beyond the fact that she has a hard time staying out of the water. Love and marriage were nowhere to be found on her list supra mare, but down below they offer the promise of happiness. Unfortunately, all is not well in her new home and its environs but otherwise, we would not have such an interesting and exciting story.

L. Kristen goes into a striking amount of detail in describing Samantha and her new world and may have set the gold standard in describing the transition from Human to Mer. Needless to say, it does not involve a sprinkle of pixie dust. The reader will also find it interesting to observe Samantha’s transition from “Adrian, take me home NOW!” to “Adrian, take me in your arms”. Although she comes to accept and even flourish in her new world and new reality, that acceptance does come with a price; Samantha regularly grieves that she will never see her family and friends – particularly her mother – again. Her mother-in-law, Lena, goes to great lengths to fold Samantha into the family unit and Sam is both touched by and greatly appreciative of Lena’s efforts but, as much as she begins to feel like a daughter to Lena, there is still that sad longing in her heart.

If nothing else, this reviewer has learned that there are a number of constants in mer-fiction. The first is that the overwhelming majority of these stories in the current wave are geared towards females. Perhaps when someone writes about a guy battling zombie vampire mermaids from the planet Kelp VI, YA males will hop on to the bandwagon.

The second is that there almost always seems to be royalty involved somewhere. The mer-person is a royal who falls in love with a human who may or may not be royal themselves. Witness such diverse works as Hans Christian Anderson’s The Little Mermaid and S.K. Munt’s The Marked Ones. While royalty is at first tangential in the Mer Tales series by Brenda Pandos, in the final chapters of book 2, it is revealed that one of the main characters is royalty. Indeed, most of the mer-fiction aimed at adults seems to involve royalty in one way or another. Perhaps this common thread reflects the all too human desire to escape our mundane lives and be something else; nobodies becoming somebodies.

If there must be royalty, too many authors have all of their characters – both male and female – bowing to the person of royal stature. It would be so much nicer for the female obeisant gesture to be a curtsey; something that this reviewer finds more elegant for females.

Finally there is the pre-ordained mate. The protagonist learns that they are destined to marry so-and-so. While the translucent crowns featured in Drown Me are unique to the royal family, it is still common in much of mer-fiction for the main character(s) to learn that there is someone out there destined to marry them and that they will know them – somehow – when they see them. One can argue that this is simply an expression of the hope and fantasy that there is a Mr./Miss Right out there just waiting for us to come along, but perhaps it is also an admission that the search for that special someone is going to be a long, bruising journey and that the knowledge of a connubial destiny would save a lot of heartbreak along the way.

In spite of all the good to be found in L. Kristen’s Drown Me, there are two things that this reviewer must take issue with. This first is a matter of semantics. L Kristen is hardly the first author who wants to refer to all merfolk – male and female – as mermaids. But this is the first time that this reviewer has seen an author be so brazen and up front about it. Consider the following piece of legerdemain:

 Adrian took a deep breath. “I am a mermaid, or merman, whichever you prefer. I know your society prefers to call males mermen. They seem concerned about gender, and the word maid refers to a female. In our world, we call ourselves mermaids— men and women both. Merfolk works for groups, though we do not use the term here.”

Is all this really necessary? It would almost seem to be a bit of conceptual laziness on the part of the author. Is there not some word/term – contrived or otherwise – that could be used to denote what most readers would call merfolk or merpeople? While this reviewer has a deep appreciation and admiration for the fairer sex, most males he can think of don’t want to be called females and he has yet to meet a single mermaid who wouldn’t bristle at the thought of being called a merman. Maids are maids and men are men and to refer to one as the other invites multiple instances of confusion as the story progresses.

The second issue is one that occurs all too frequently in the realm of self-published novels; proof reading or the lack thereof. Drown Me is no exception. The early chapters tend to be a fairly clean read but as the story progresses, more and more things start to slip. In this book, things hold together until the general vicinity of Chapter 26 when the bottom seems to have fallen out vis a vis’ proof-reading.

While this reviewer is known internationally for his typos, The Parsons’ Rant hews closely to the concept of “you get what you pay for”. The price is free, the reviewer is on his own patch and nobody pays attention to his writing anyway. It is, however, a different matter when you write novels for which people are supposed to pay up in order to read. If one wants to be taken as a serious writer, then they must be prepared to invest the time and trouble to present the reader with a cleanly written story. When there are egregious typos on the first page, the reader will instinctively know that things are only going to get worse as the story progresses and their interest and appreciation of the novel will decline accordingly. Fortunately, the number of errors in Drown Me is relatively small though annoying nonetheless.

These two issues are not fatal to Drown Me but, rather, they are a bit of annoyance that keeps the story from being as good as it can be and it is already good to begin with.  Drown Me is an exciting and enthralling story and fans of Mer-fiction would do well to place it at or near the top of their “to-read” list.

Drown Me is the first installment in L Kirstein’s Mermaid’s Tail series and the author has left her readers with a good, old-fashioned cliff-hanger. This reviewer will not reveal whom or what pickle they are in but he will reveal that he is genuinely interested in seeing what Book II will bring. Will Samantha ever see her birth-mother again? Sam will feel cold and damp to her mom in that first hug and her visit can’t go more than five days – much too short for any real catching-up. Oh . . .  and a pair of sun-glasses might be in order.

What this reviewer can predict that change in coming to the race of Merrfolk five miles below the surface and Samantha is the harbinger of that change. As Prince Adrian notes:

“Do you remember how Triton evolved our species to have a better chance of surviving? . . . It may be why he sometimes chooses a land walker as a soul mate for his descendants. [Queen] Henrietta brought change to us when she was brought here.”

That in and of itself is enough to make most any fan of mer-fiction want to learn more about Samantha and Adrian.

My Rating:

Buy Your Own Copy of Drown Me
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Tempest_RevealedWondering when Tempest Revealed Dr. Data is happy to report that the Kindle version of Tempest Revealed by Tracy Deebs is now available at Amazon.com. There is no indication that the Paper/Hard-back editions are or will be available. This jibes with the situation at Barnes & Noble two days ago. The price on Amazon is $9.99 which is significantly more than the price for the first two books in the series; Dr. Data hopes that the story is worth the price.

Those readers who have a keen eye and have read both Tempest Rising and Tempest Unleashed will notice that the cover art depicts a more youthful version of Tempest Maguire, the story’s heroine. The first two covers,  as shown below, depicted Tempest as appearing to be 17 or 18 years old. On the cover of Tempest Revealed, the heroine appears to be 13 or 14 years old. Mermaids are blessed with eternal youth and it seems to be finally taking effect!

 
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 by S.K. Munt

We all have fond and not-so-fond memories of adolescence and those summer crushes: The girl at your dad’s Army reunion. The boy who visited his grandparents next door to you.  They were there every year and things developed from a simple ‘like’ to something you dreamed about from the moment autumn breezes began to blow until the time when school was out and the summer really began. You saw them every summer until you didn’t and wondered where they were and what had happened to keep them away. Most of us got over those crushes and relegated them to the fond memories box in the back of our minds.

For some of us though, the emotional wound failed to heal when school started up again and festered inside of us for years afterward. The long needed healing would only come when we finally saw them again ten or fifteen years later and discovered that the perfect person from summers long ago suddenly had a beer-belly, six screaming kids, copious tattoos or all of the above. Reality can be a bite but it can also be a great curative.

Sometimes though, reality can only make things worse. Lincoln Grey is one such victim. He has carried a torch all this time for his long-lost summer love and the years have not been kind to him. Although he’s only twenty-eight, he appears to be in his forties. Hard work and the sense of loss that just won’t go away have sapped his joie de vivre and aged him beyond his years. He is the reality that his summer crush will see when she returns to the resort where they met so many years ago. She seems to have not aged a day and yet so much has taken place in the interval. Even so, that long-forgotten lamp in the dark reaches of her heart is still lit and soon makes its presence known.

Her name is Ivyanne – this reviewer so wishes that he had a daughter to bestow this moniker upon – and her life of privilege is very complicated. She is pursued by three suitors amongst who she must choose a mate within the relatively near future. She has already been promised twice before and in each case, the intended lost his life. Suddenly, Lincoln is a dark-horse fourth candidate for a match that can never take place for you see, Ivyanne is a princess and . . . a mermaid. And so begins a tale of emotional conflict, lies, deceit, forbidden love and broken hearts. The happy ending almost seems to be an endangered species.

Ivyanne is shocked both to discover her long-lost love at the resort and to see the physical and emotional state that he is in. She wants Lincoln to be able to move on with his life and find whatever his destiny may be. It won’t include her but she wants him to be happy so she herself can move on as well. After all, she is responsible – at least indirectly – for his present condition.

Ivyanne landed her job at the resort solely upon the recommendation of some of the other merfolk who work there. One such person is the lady who runs the spa. Ivyanne asks/commands – she is a princess after all – that Lincoln be given a bit of the spa treatment usually reserved for other merfolk with the reasoning that if some of the decade’s worth of physical damage is erased, he will feel better about himself and will be more attractive to human females.
If he feels better, then she will feel better about what has happened.

Or so she thinks. The best laid plans oft go astray and this one will be a prime example. Lincoln has his afternoon at the spa and subsequently attends the staff beach party later that evening. Everyone is shocked and amazed . . . most of all, Ivyanne . . . to see the difference that a single afternoon has wrought on Lincoln. In that pivotal moment, she discovers that her feelings for him are deeper and more alive than she thought. One of her three suitors notices this as well.

And what was the deal with the human? Ardhi hadn’t been close enough to hear them conversing, but he’d seen Ivyanne’s face alight with animation-seen her knock back a full drink in one gulp the moment the tall man had loped away. She’d then turned to the ocean, and rested her hand against her heart with a ridiculously moved smile on her face. A smile Ardhi had never seen before. A smile no human should be capable of gleaning from their princess.

S.K. Munt has penned a smart, compelling and emotionally wrenching story that is difficult to put aside. It is book one in her Fairytail trilogy and is an impressive debut. The Marked Ones is a fish in a very small pool of adult – with a little ‘a’ – mermaid/man fantasy novels. The recent upwelling of mer-fiction has been mostly limited to the Young Adult market. While so much of that sub-genre contains well-written tales of sub-aquatic teen angst, there are those of us who long to read a good story of sub-aquatic adult angst now and then.

The Marked Ones differs from the all too common adult story where a so-so plot is used to tie together a series of hot sex scenes. Throw in the aquatic angle and you have a tale of tails and titillation. This is not to say that there is nothing steamy about Ms Munt’s novel. There is one scene covering two chapters that is guaranteed to curl your tail-fin but that is the only one requiring a cold shower. Without a doubt, The Marked Ones is probably unsuitable for all but the very upper end of the YA range. Nonetheless, there are some of those who will discover it just as this reviewer discovered Herman Wouk’s Marjorie Morningstar in the 11th grade. Unless they have led sheltered lives, readers in the awkwardly named “New Adult” category will be able to relate to the story along with the general adult population.

The Marked Ones is a good . . . really, really good . . . read. By all means, buy a copy of this novel and read it for the mer-folk, read it for the drama, read it for the heartbreak and read it for the unexpected ending. In all respects, the story is a memorable and well told tale. This reviewer is left the feeling that this novel is merely a knock-up and there are greater things to come from S.K. Munt. She is an up and coming author that fans of this genre would do well to keep an eye on.

There are two more installments in this series and this reviewer is eagerly awaiting their release. Once you have read The Marked Ones, you will too.

My Rating:

Buy Your Own Copy of The Marked Ones
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Tempest_RevealedWondering when Tempest Revealed will finally make its debut is rapidly becoming more popular than wondering about what happened to Amelia Earhart. Dr. Data’s original post concerning the whereabouts of the third installment int the Tempest series by Tracy Deebs has garnered almost 700 hits since it was first published back on June 13th, 2013.  For a pisant blog like The Parsons Rant, that’s pretty darn good.

There has been a possible sighting but – like Elvis – it may be another false alarm. Late last week, Dr. Data found a message in his in-box from Goodreads.com that listed forthcoming releases by authors he has read before. Actually, there was only one book which qualified and that was Tempest Revealed.  The publication date was/is supposed to be July 9th, 2013.

Now before the legions of Tempest fans get too excited, here is what Dr. Data has learned:

  • There is no pre-purchase page for the Kindle edition on Amazon.
  • There is no pre-purchase page for the paper/hard-back edition on Amazon.
  • Dr. Data can’t even find the Amazon page announcing a 2014 release that he mentioned in the original M.I.A. post.
  • Barnes and Noble does have a pre-purchase page for the Nook version.
  • The release date is July 9th, 2013.
  • Barnes and Noble has nothing concerning a paper/hard-back version of the book.
  • The Nook price is $10.36 !!! The Nook Price for the other two books in the series is $6.79!
  • There is no update from Ms. Deebs on her website though there is an excerpt from the book.

Only time will tell if Tempest Revealed is truly being released or it’s just another chapter of the mystery. While Barnes & Noble is a fine company and its Nook line is well established, Dr. Data does most of his e-book trade with Amazon and he is loath to add one more app and create one more account with someone just to read this book.

With luck, Tempest Revealed will hit the electronic shelves within the next few days and Dr. Data can turn his attention to finding out just what has happened to Paige Bleu’s LivEternal.

Please see Tempest Revealed is no longer M.I.A. for the latest update.

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