Monthly Archives: March 2013

…Moving On, Then.

*ahem*

I feel I should apologize for the… incident on Friday night. The one where I had not just a headache, but a full-blown motherfecking migraine, and I revealed the sad extent to which painkillers affect my brain. If you read it, you can probably guess why I’ve never tried hard drugs.

I don’t need them.

We’ll just leave that where it is and pretend it never happened, hmm? Good.

Now, moving on… ‘Tis the night before (Camp) NaNo! Do you know what that means? Sadly, it does not mean I’m all stocked up on crappuccino; I’ll have to fix that later. No, it means that I know exactly what I’m going to be working on (and I hope finishing) in the month of April, but as I was walking the dog this evening a BRILLIANT, AMAZING, STUPENDOUS IDEA jumped into my head, and it is demanding to jump the line. I’m like, “No, I have to finish this other thing,” and it’s all, “but dude, I start with EASTER, you can’t put that shit off!” Ugh, so pushy.

I can handle it, this happens a lot. I’ll just have to appease it by writing out everything I thought of tonight and telling it that it needs to fester a little longer. Maybe in July, depending on how things do between now and then. I might need a break from my other world by then.

Ooh, but it’s going to be fun! *squeak!*


Migraine WHEEE

I’ve had a migraine all day. It feels like an upset stomach in my head. My brain is going to throw up.

Where would that go? Maybe it already did and there’s nowhere for that stuff to go, and it’s squishing my brain. Why is no one reporting this in medical journals?! Somebody should get on that.

I’m pretty much a zombie. Advil, Tylenol, Aleve. It still hurts. I just don’t care as much. Do painkillers do this to everyone? I’m all wonky.

Actually, a zombie probably wouldn’t feel pain. Or do they? Would I feel better if I were deader? But then my limbs would probably fall off. Kind of a trade-off, I guess.

Know what’s a funny word? Ornery. Sounds like a bird. An Oriole. Or Ornithology. Orville the Ornery Ornithologist should be a thing. Should be a children’s book. I should do that after I finish writing my last brilliant idea:

Blueballs the Eternally Frustrated Pirate and His Crew of Seasick Seamen.

Heh.

Ow.

I should not try to work tonight.

EDIT:
Holy crap this teapot has a helm it’s a Game of Thrones teapot. O.o

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Know What’s Coming Next Week?

Camp NaNoWriMo, that’s what!

Some of my longer-time (is that a thing?) readers might be familiar with my NaNoWriMo love. I hardly posted here at all in November, because I was spending so much of my time banging out words on Torn. Well, the big event doesn’t roll around again until next November, but they’re running camp sessions in April and July.

Yay!

Camp’s a lot more laid-back; this year they’re letting you set your own word-count goals, and are encouraging people to write whatever they want: a book of poetry, a screenplay, a bunch of short stories, a guide to the care and feeding of cephalopods, whatever floats your canoe. Write 10,000 words or write 99,000 words, just do it and have fun.

I’ve already got my cabin assignment; I’m with a good group of people, most of them from Hamburg, Germany. I’ve packed my toothbrush and some cozy blankets for those nights when the wind blows cold off of lake NaNo, lots of tea and cookies. I’ll still have my regular responsibilities around here, still have the kids to love and squish and the husband to hang out with and the dog to walk, but other than that, I’m gonna be writing!

I’ll be here, too, just maybe not as much. It works out, though, because I’ve been posting too much lately. I’ll keep posting WIPpet Wednesday snippets when I can (in fact, I’ve already set a few up– this is me tempting fate again), and I’ll send y’all postcards via this blog.

Try not to miss me too much if I get lost in the woods, OK? 😉

Oh, and there’s still time to register (for free!) if you want to join in the fun. If you do and want to keep in touch via camper messages, my user name over there is KittySparkes.


Since We’re Talking About Character Descriptions…

People seem to agree (at least, in the comments on my last post) that less is more in character description, and natural better than forced.

So of course, I had to write the worst character intro description I could, because doing things the wrong way is way more fun than it should be.

Come on, you’d totally keep reading this, right? 😉

(for Jae)

I interrupted the flow of early-story action to study the oil painting of myself I’d just happened to finish the night before, because looking in a mirror is, like, so cliche, amirite? My sapphire blue eyes captivated me from beneath perfectly groomed, raven black eyebrows; my lips were like ruby-red cushions of desire, and my adorable little nose was almost as perky as my breasts. My alabaster skin glowed in the painting as it does in real life, like, all the time, and I sighed excessively over the tiny mole on my upper lip that everyone said lent my appearance a charming hint of imperfection that is so important in a heroine, but that I hated with a passion. Because I’m flawed. Did you catch that?

“Dude,” said my boyfriend, who was ridiculously handsome in ways that I will explain in excessive detail in a few paragraphs, “you are beautiful, and you forgot to mention that your earlobes are small but perfectly formed, but perhaps you could admire your painting and think more about your appearance when there aren’t any zombie capybaras invading your family’s colonial brick mansion, which is lovely but really not defensible in any way?’

I sighed and flipped my long, wavy, ebony locks back over a perfectly formed shoulder. ‘Fine,’ I said, ‘but when we get to the obligatory Zombies in the Mall Scene, I insist on at least twenty minutes in a changeroom with adequate lighting and a 3-way mirror. The People have a right to know how my butt looks in a miniskirt.”

He didn’t answer. A capybara was gnawing on his kneecap. Asshole.


He Looks Like What?!

So here I am, reading “Imminent Danger and How to Fly Straight into it” and having a grand old time. I like Eris a lot (maybe partly because she reminds me so much of me), and Michelle Proulx has managed to create a male… well, I don’t know what he is. He’s certainly antagonistic, but something tells me he’s not going to end up being the enemy, so… prantagonist. That’s what he is. Anyway, he might be even less likeable than mine, which pleases me greatly. Why go half-way, right?

The book is a YA sci-fi, which means lots and lots of ALIENS. Obviously an author isn’t going to spend pages describing every detail of every creature we run into; that would be boring, and to my mind unnecessary. If it’s not important to my understanding of the story, I like to be given a few details to sketch a character in my mind, and then be allowed to fill in the rest myself. Tell me a character is deadly attractive and give me a few details; let me decide the rest for myself.

This book is a good example of that approach, but it’s made me consider a question I’ve asked myself before: how do the characters in my mind match up with the ones in the author’s?

This goes for any book. It’s one of the reasons I get nervous when a favourite book is being turned into a movie or TV mini-series (hi there, Under the Dome!); there’s no way all of the actors will look like they do in my head, and it ruins it a bit for me.

I drew a sketch of one of the characters from Imminent Danger, Miguri. He’s described as humanoid, 3 feet tall, brown-skinned, with massive blue eyes and a mop of white hair, plus a huge white, furry tail. He wears a brown, knee-length, belted tunic. Also, Eris thinks he looks like a cross between a monkey and a garden gnome, which kind of tickled me. And this is what came to mind:

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I didn’t say it was a GOOD sketch 😉

It’s a great description, isn’t it? But I’d be willing to bet money that Michelle Proulx’s mental image of Miguri is nothing like mine. There were still blanks to be filled in, weren’t there? Ear shape, for one. My mind made them big and pointy, I don’t know why. Face shape is another; I guess what I see in my mind came from the monkey thing. Even the shape of the milky-white gem on his belt and the way that it’s hanging are probably off; I picture a smooth, round gem, but in the author’s mind it could be cut and polished.

I like that. It’s like a collaboration between writer and reader, and something new is created every time a different person reads a story.

I also wonder what people think my characters look like, the ones I’ve created. I tend to lean toward less description; Rowan has auburn hair and grey eyes, fact. I know exactly what she looks like in my mind, but does it really matter if someone else pictures her differently? Not so much. Aren gets a bit more description as Rowan notices things about him, but again the details are up to the reader to fill in. Does it affect the story if I think Rowan has a few freckles? Not unless Aren notices them when it’s his turn to speak. Then it matters… but he generally has other things on his mind.

Likewise for creatures. I don’t have a plethora of aliens to describe, but I have critters and creatures. My horses are rather unusual, so they get a few extra lines of description, but when a dog appears and I say “brown shaggy mutt,” you guys can feel free to give him floppy ears or straight as you see fit. Heck, give him white socks and a black patch over one eye. Have fun with it.

Stephen King says a little about this in On Writing, and if you haven’t read that one, I highly recommend it. He’s an author who tends to give very little physical description of characters unless it’s important to the story (or his POV character is observing it), but I’ve never had trouble picturing his characters in my mind.

One other note, while we’re on the topic: do you guys remember when they revealed the casting for the Hunger Games movie, and there were people who were outraged that Rue was being played by a black girl? Oh, the horror. -_-  How dare they use this beloved character to promote some kind of… Well, I don’t even remember what the arguments were, I tuned them out, they all sounded like assholes. Basically, people thought it was political, and were for some reason upset about racial diversity.

Guess what?

“She has bright, dark eyes and satiny brown skin…”

The Hunger Games, chapter 7, page 98 in my edition. Quoted.

It doesn’t matter how you describe your characters, people are going to see what they want to see in their minds. If I pictured Miguri as a fluffy, pink-haired, horse-faced, 7-foot-tall thing with nifty shoes… that would be really weird, but I doubt the author would lose any sleep over it.

What do you guys think? When you’re reading, do you see characters clearly in your mind? Do you prefer more description, or less? When (and if) you’re writing, how badly do you want your readers to understand your vision of your characters, human or otherwise?


Oh, Autocorrect…

This just made me laugh so hard I had tears rolling down my face. I love you, iPhone.

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EDIT: Just wanted to confirm that this ruined any potential emotional impact of the second act. -_-


WIPpet Wednesday the 27th, in Which Chapter 1 Kicks My Ass

So, the twenty-seventh, is it? If chapter 20 would have been too spoiler-loaded, you can imagine why I won’t be sharing anything from chapter 27 today. Boo. I like that one.

But Chapter 1 has, quite frankly, been kicking my ass lately. I’ve laid awake at night for hours, trying to figure out how to properly introduce Rowan. Aren already got his creepy little moment in the prologue (yes, I’ve decided, it’s staying in the story), so chapter one has to pick up from there. Different character, different mood (though not as different as she’d probably like to think), different voice. Going from magic and bad-guy-ness to a far more mundane place and a girl who thinks the only thing unusual about her is the fact that she doesn’t want the perfect life that’s coming to her.

Pfft. Teenagers.

I loved the previous version of this scene, but it lacked excitement, and we all know that stories aren’t allowed a slow build these days. No, I’m not bitter. And this does bring a major plot point to our attention in a much more interesting way. It’s just these first paragraphs that sit there and laugh at me.

Stupid words.

So here’s where we are now, a WIP in the truest sense of the term, though I’m happier with this now than I’ve been in a long time. It’s an unusual start, maybe, but I like it. This picks up right after the prologue ends; I guess that’s all you need to know.

27 lines (according to Scrivener) for the 27th. Enjoy.


(Chapter 1- Rowan)

Another day done.

Another shift at the library, with the smells of the old paper and new ink, with adventure and romance and tragedy. Another volume of fairy tales sneaked out of the restricted section and hidden deep in my bag; another morning of pretending not to listen to Mr Woorswith reminiscing to his cronies about the wonders and horrors he’d seen when he traveled past the mountains when he was a young man.

Another day of pain.

Another day closer to the next phase of my life, to everything I was supposed to be longing for, to the part where my odd little life would finally begin to line up with what it was supposed to be from the start. Still no closer to figuring out why all of those good things sometimes felt so wrong, though.

My boots scuffed over the cobblestoned street, kicking up dust that swirled in the breeze and settled into a thin layer on the bottom of my skirt. My mother would tell me to lift my face to the world, to take pride in myself, and for goodness sakes just smile a little, but she wasn’t there to bother me, and I could hardly be bothered on my own. A bright ray of sunlight broke through the clouds overhead, and the dull headache that had been building all day pressed harder at the back of my skull. The world swam in front of me, and I paused to take a few deep breaths. You’ll be home soon, I told myself. Just get home, make some heartleaf tea, go to bed, everything will be fine. This thing hasn’t killed you yet, it’s not going to happen now.

From somewhere far away, a clattering noise interrupted my thoughts. Hoofbeats on stone, faster than they should have been. I opened my eyes, but the pain made everything slow; by the time I lifted my head and struggled to understand exactly what was happening, they were almost on top of me: four horses with uniformed riders wearing the king’s colours, armed but not armored. What’s the rush, boys? One of them yelled; I tried to step back against the building behind me, but something wasn’t working. Nothing connected. I closed my eyes again.

A hand grabbed my arm and yanked me away, spinning me out of the road as the horses thundered past. It hurt my shoulder, but that hardly mattered when the pain in my head was screaming louder than it had been before, the dull ache roaring to life, growing sharper when my head snapped sideways on my neck. I pressed my hands to my eyes and leaned into my rescuer. My brother. Who else would have bothered?

When I opened my eyes a few seconds later, Ashe was looking down the street where the riders had disappeared. “Didn’t even look back,” he observed.

“Must have been late for something.” I sat on one of the crates that were stacked outside of the grocer’s store.

“Too late to do any good, that’s for sure.” Ashe scratched at the arm of his blue messenger’s uniform and bent to pick up the papers he’d dropped when he pulled me out of the road. “You OK, Ro?”

“Same old thing,” I said, and tried to smile. “Just need to get home to bed.”

He frowned. “I’ll walk with you.” I started to object, but he held up a hand to stop me. “No, I know. It’s not my fault you’re incompetent, but I’d feel sort of bad about it if something happened to you. I just have to post these on the way.” I stuck my tongue out at him. He laughed, then offered me a hand to help me up. “Come on.”

Hmm, where are those soldiers going? Nothing a nice girl would want to get mixed up in, that’s for sure.

As always, thanks to KL Schwengel for hosting WIPpet Wednesday. If you want to join in, or to check out everyone else’s offerings for this very awkward date, head over here for the links.

Thanks for reading!

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And hey, look what I found at Walmart. 🙂


To Self-Publish, or Not To Self-Publish?

It’s a serious question. Increasingly so, in fact. A few years ago you heard of the odd success story (and even that one was discovered “by chance” and then traditionally published), but that’s just what they were: odd. Self-publishing was the road you took when your book wasn’t good enough to be accepted by a traditional publisher– at least, that was the perception. Still is for most people I know.

And now? Well, now there are people publishing their own work to e-readers and/or print-on-demand companies like CreateSpace and selling hundreds of thousands of copies. Hardly what you’d expect from a book that’s “not good enough,” is it? People are turning down offers from “real” publishers because the benefits of going it alone are very real.

For some people.

This is a tough topic, and I’m working out the questions for myself in this post. Please offer advice in the comments, thoughts, anecdotes, whatever. And to make it all easier to stomach, I’m gonna throw in some pictures of cats. Because I’m nice like that.

I can't work under these conditions.

I can’t work under these conditions.

I always assumed that I’d do things the traditional way. Agent, publisher, edits, publication, see my book on the shelf in Chapters, cry, party. Obviously that’s greatly simplified; I understand the obstacles and the potential (even unavoidable) frustrations.

But as I sit here attempting to polish my quivering blob of a query letter into something more closely resembling a diamond (a feat of alchemy that I’m quite aware may be impossible)**, I wonder whether this is really the way I want to go. Not only is self-publishing becoming a more attractive deal in many ways, but traditional publishing is pulling back, offering less to unproven writers (and even to established writers), and screwing them over, sometimes in epic and permanent ways. So many questions…

  • Do I want to spend the next X number of months begging agents to take a few minutes of their time to look over my work, then waiting for them to attempt to find an editor who likes it, then waiting two frigging years to see my story in print? Because that’s how it goes these days.
  • Do I want to give up control of everything? Am I willing to risk my book going to a publisher who probably won’t put much effort into cover design or promotion, thereby dooming my book to the dreaded midlist for all eternity? It happens.
  • Do I want to face the possibility of being forced to change my book to be a “stand-alone with series potential?” Because that’s all you hear when you read about pitching a book: series potential=awesome, but don’t get ahead of yourself, honey. Nobody wants to hear about a three or 4 book series from an unpublished author when you can’t prove the first one will make good.

You know what? I’m telling a long story. Yes, each book has its own story and character arcs, its own themes, its own beginning, middle, climax and resolution, but they’re all tied together, and the story only gets bigger as it grows. Think more “Hunger Games” than “Nancy Drew.” Do I want to let go of that vision?

Not particularly.

Stop blabbing and pet me. Right meow.

“Stop blabbing and pet me. Right meow.”

But there are problems with going the other way, too. There’s still a stigma attached to self-publishing; people still think it’s second-best, that it’s what you do if you’re not good enough to make it the “real” way. Do I care what people think? If I’m being honest, yes. I do. I shouldn’t, but I do. This is huge for me, this feeling that I need to prove myself this way, but I can’t let it outweigh other considerations.

There’s the fact that I’m not an outgoing, glad-handing, look-at-me, self-promoting entrepreneur. And as anyone who has self-published or indie-published will tell you, promotion is an absolute necessity. People will not find you on their own. You’ve got to make yourself known.

…but again, I’m a new author, unproven, and these days a publisher is probably going to tell me to market my own work, anyway. So that sucks.

There’s also that little issue of me knowing nothing about formatting or cover design, the issue of me not having any friends who are professional editors to barter with for their services, and me not having money to pay for any of these things. Call it being professional, call it investing in yourself and your work… I just don’t have the cash.

It’s enough to make you want to close the computer and use it to gently bash your own brain in.

"Who cares about publishing? I'm an adorable sea otter! Yay!"

“Who cares about publishing? I’m an adorable sea otter! Yay!”

What would this look like if we laid out the benefits of each path? Please feel free to add to either column in the comments:

TRADITIONAL PUBLISHING:

*Someone else takes care of cover design and marketing; professional editing is part of the package.

*A chance to see my book on store shelves. Not as important as it once was from a sales standpoint, but it’s a dream of mine. It’s part of the validation thing, of knowing that my work is good enough to be there, playing with the big kids. Stupid? Probably. But it means something to me.

*Working with an agent means working with someone who knows the business, who knows about foreign rights, etc., who has contacts, dammit!

*E-readers are gaining ground, but most people I know still do their book shopping by browsing in stores. So maybe that point above isn’t so stupid, after all.

*Sales potential- but really only if the publisher decides that my story is the shit and promotes the hell out of it. Otherwise, as far as I can tell, I’m still mostly on my own.

*Might be more likely to get reviews… I’d have to look into that, but most book reviews I read are for traditionally published books. So there’s that.

SELF-PUBLISHING:

*I can still hold a real, paper copy of my book in my hand if I go through CreateSpace, and they’ll help with e-publishing, too… to a point. I don’t think they publish to kobo, but they do Amazon and a few others.

*Potentially being in bookstores means less and less. (But as the author of that piece points out, people aren’t likely to stumble upon you while browsing on Amazon, either)

*Creative control. I still get to tell the story I want to tell (if I can dig up the cash for a good editor), I can make sure the cover kicks ass (if I can dig up the cash for a good designer), I can make sure it’s available everywhere I want it to be (if I can dig up the… you get the picture)

*Greater percentage of profits. Instead of paying an agent 10% and getting a small fraction of every book’s sales because the rest goes to the publisher, the money that comes in would be mine (minus Amazon or whoever’s cut, which is significantly smaller).

*Control over prices. If I want to sell the e-book for $4.99, I can do that. If I want to do a 99-cent promotion, I can do that, too. If a traditional publisher wants to price an ebook at $9.99 where few people will ever consider it, that’s not my call.

*It’s faster. Call me impatient, but I’ve been working on one book for two years; I don’t know whether I want to wait two more (minimum) to see anything happen with it. I could publish on my own schedule, get the next books out when they’re ready and not when a publisher demands them, get short stories into the mix.

*Rights. I’d keep them. All of them.

Seriously?!

Seriously?!

There are people with convincing arguments who are firmly positioned on both sides of the debate. This does not help me at all.

Side A: “Self-publishing is less than the best you can aspire to, and it’s killing the publishing industry. A traditional publisher will find the best work and take care of it. If you’re not good enough to make it the real way (and why else would you resort to self-publishing, you ogre-faced noob?), best to keep your work in a drawer. If you are good enough, why wouldn’t you want to have the power, reach, and experience of a real publishing house behind you?”

Side B: “Side A is full of shit. Traditional publishers don’t care about new authors unless they prove themselves through their own efforts, anyway; all others can fall by the wayside. These days they’re just throwing (insert substance here) at the wall and seeing what sticks. Self-publishing lets you avoid those assholes and reap so many nifty benefits… if you do it right. Oh, and they find the best work? Please. They ‘take care of’ poorly-written-but-popular crap like 50 Shades of Grey, and publish knock-offs of whatever else is selling. They’re not going to take a chance on something different.”

Side C: “Um… hi, what about smaller publishers? Sure, with many of us you might never see your book in print, but we’ll take care of the editing and cover and stuff, and for an e-book-only edition, turnaround time is about a gazillion times quicker than going with a big publisher. Just watch out for anyone trying to give you the worst of both worlds.***”

Thanks, guys.

That helped a lot.

*bashes head in with computer*

** Someone recently said that an author writing a query letter to an agent/editor is like a ballerina being asked to prove her skills with a lap dance. Whole different skill set, and that’s not the only reason the comparison works.

***Footnote to that: Yes, those guys are fixing it. That doesn’t mean someone else won’t try it.


Kobo! Eek!

Forgive my excitement, I’m new to the e-reader thing.

Yes, I finally have an e-reader. No, my books aren’t jealous; we had a little talk about how much I love them, and how no machine will ever take their place in my heart. An e-reader will never feel the same, or smell the same, or give the same experience, but I am excited about it for several reasons.

Most of those reasons are books. Specifically, cheaper books. Also, the ability to carry them around without breaking my shoulder with my bag.

My mom passed her kobo on to me when she got a new kobo mini for her birthday (isn’t that awesome? Thanks, mom!). This newfangled contraption still seems a bit strange; it’s so light, it feels like it’s going to snap in half. It’s like one of those fake TVs they have at Ikea, but it’s real. It works. I know, I have an account and TWO WHOLE BOOKS HOLY CRAP TWO BOOKS.

And I’ve been waiting for a while to get these books.

Blogging’s fun, isn’t it? (I am going somewhere with this…) You get to meet other writers, and some of them have books you can buy! And read! Yay! So my first two purchases were books by bloggers I follow here on WordPress. In no particular order (with links!):

IMMINENT DANGER And How to Fly Straight into it   by Michelle Proulx

Born In Flames by Candace Knoebel

Whee! For less than $15, I have two new books to read that. No wait time, no shipping fees, cheaper than paperbacks. No, e-books are not real books, at least not as I think of them. But they’re real stories, and that’s what I’m paying for.

They’d better be good, guys… 😉

If you’re wondering, yes, I’ve already discovered books I can’t get through kobo; looks like I’m going to have to get Robertson Davies’  the Deptford Trilogy as a real book off of Indigo. I would have wanted them as a “real” book anyway, but it would have been fun to have them available this way. On the other hand, look how adorable it is when it’s sleeping! Aww… I can’t stay mad at that little face.

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Zzzzzz…

EDIT: I did it, I read a whole book on the kobo! Imminent Danger was way too much fun for you. You couldn’t handle it. I don’t usually read sci-fi, but I really liked this one. Recommended. Yay!

EDIT 2: OMG the free books that there are!


50? Really?!

Wow. My phone binged at me while I was in the shower; it just couldn’t wait to tell me that my little blog now has 50 WordPress followers- as in, 50 people who receive notifications from here because they actually want to.

This was unexpected.

I know, 50 isn’t many to a lot of you. But I started this thing back in October thinking it would just be a bit of fun for me, a place to do my random little thing, goof off a bit, and write stuff that was a bit longer than a Facebook status update.

I didn’t think anyone would actually read it.

They say a blog should have a cohesive theme… This one has no such thing. Well, there’s writing, but there’s a whole lot of other stuff here that has no business being on a proper writing blog. Engrish, pictures of a depressed dog, stuff I see on my walks, links to things that make me laugh. Nonsensical babbling from my pained brain, and posts sharing the wonders of Newfoundland (or the funny bits– we have a lot of those!). In short, I’m doing it all wrong. It’s too disorganized, too cluttered, too personal.

Too much like my brain, really.

Thank you for being here. I don’t know what brought you my way or why you’ve stayed, but I assume it’s something like hanging out at the local zoo’s monkey house: fun, sort of unpredictable, and you never know who you’re going to catch scratching their butts. Whatever the reason, I’m happy to have you, and I hope you’re having as much fun as I am.

So… What shall we do next? Choose as many as you like!

Now, let’s have another party? Who brought cupcakes?


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Avid Reviews

Fantasy and Sci-Fi Reviews For Both Self-Published and Traditionally Published Books

Author Jen Wylie's Blog

Welcome to my mind... Blog for fantasty author Jen Wylie