The Interview Fence and Humorous Books

Image Credit:-

All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated.

Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing.

And below – well books are such magical places to be, are they not?

 

What inventions populate your fictional world - image via Pixabay

Facebook – General

Nice big walk with Lady today before the weather set in. Not looking forward to tomorrow. I suspect Lady and I are going to get a good soaking, no matter what time I take her out.

Have drafted answers to second set of interview questions so will be reviewing those and sending them off to the interviewer probably tomorrow.

Now I am on both sides of the interview fence of course. I love questions which draw a writer out of their shell a bit. So questions which always find favour with me will include things like:-

Why do you write what you do? What made you pick that genre?

This is a fab question as it makes you think well why did I pick that route and why am I still sticking with it? In my case with the flash fiction it is because I love the challenge and variety of it. But that sort of question makes you re-evaluate what you’re doing and that’s a good thing. It should confirm you really do love what you write and it is that love which keeps you going during the tougher times of the writing life.

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Hope Monday has been okay for you. Very busy with the old domestics today. Only too glad to get to my desk and write. Writing relaxes me and I always feel so much better for having got something down on the old laptop.

Looking forward to sharing Part 1 of my Launches in Lockdown series for CFT on Friday. As well as sharing my experiences with Tripping the Flash Fantastic, I’ll be talking to two Authors Reach writers – Teresa Bassett and Francesca Tyer. Plenty of useful tips and thoughts given “normal” writing events won’t be back with us for a while, even if everything does go well with controlling, and eventually beating, You Know What.

Still one lovely thing about writing is there is always plenty to be getting on with and it is something positive to focus on. My goal for this week is to return the other set of interview questions I’m working on and prepare material for something special I hope to talk more about in the next month or so.

Plus there are always stories to work on and the new idea I referred to yesterday for a draft I’ve got prepared is something else I hope to write up later this week. I always jot down ideas like this in fairly detailed notes when I know I can’t write something up immediately. I’ve found it’s the only way to make sure I don’t forget something important.

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It is great fun being on the receiving end of the interview questions. I’ve just sent one batch back and will be working on another set but what is great is these questions stretch me and make me think. They make me think about what I write but also how and why. That’s a good thing. It pays writers every so often to take a step back and remind yourself of why you do what you do here. I look forward to sharing the links on these interviews later on.

Have drafted a story for submission, rested it for a week, and as so often happens a better idea for how to end the story has occurred to me so that will be going in. That is the whole point of resting a piece of work (and it applies equally well to non-fiction). You need distance between when you first wrote the piece and then when you look at it again.

Time away does help you see things more clearly, including where the story might be strengthened (and that is always worth doing. Someone said you should try not to write the boring bits that people skip when they read. It’s equally true you should try not to write the “weak” bits as people skip those bits too and you want readers hanging on your every written word!).

Had a lovely couple of writing Zooms over the weekend. Great fun to catch up with everyone and a much appreciated morale boost for yours truly – these things always are.


Hope you have had a good Saturday. Glad I delayed taking Lady out as the weather went from grotty to cold but sunny. She liked that too.

Just to say the paperback of Tripping the Flash Fantastic is currently on offer via Amazon. See http://author.to/AllisonSymesAuthorCent for more on that. Many thanks for all of the fabulous reviews so far on this. Would always welcome more of course!

Whether it is for my book(s) or those of any other author, well thought out reviews are always welcome. They don’t have to be long and can be as simple as I liked this book because…. Or my favourite story is …………. etc. A couple of minutes and you’re done and you’re supporting authors too. So what’s not to like?!

Of course one problem all writers have faced in the last 12 months has been the lack of our usual writing events to promote and sell our wares. This is why I wanted to write the Launches in Lockdown series for Chandler’s Ford Today.

That starts next week but my interview with Richard Hardie yesterday was insightful as to the challenges faced by publishers. I’ve found it pays to understand something about the way publishers operate as that helps me in turn to tailor my approaches in them in such a way it increases the chances of acceptances! It really does make sense, folks!

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again


Is there anything about longer forms of writing I miss when it comes to focusing on flash ficton storytelling?
I suppose if there is anything, it is the lack of subplots. There simply isn’t the room for any in a sub-500 words flash story. (You can get a simple one in if you write up to the 1000 word limit and I have done this with my story Rewards from From Light to Dark and Back Again. Also this is a good story if you want to be wary of how you upset someone with the power to get their revenge in print!).

But then I do see the joys of novels with their twists and turns as something to savour separately from the flash tales where I do just focus on the one important moment. And the great thing?

Both have their place in storytelling.

Both have their place on my writing and reading lists!

And there’s nothing to stop you writing in more than one form.


Wow! Many thanks for the huge response to my most recent Book Brush adverts involving my flash fiction collections, From Light to Dark and Back Again and Tripping The Flash Fantastic. That came as a very nice surprise after a tiring Monday. (I hadn’t twigged today is so-called Blue Monday. Mondays are tough days regardless of when in the year they are! I wonder if that is why Bank Holiday Mondays seem to be more of a holiday than they are. It’s not just a question of getting a day off, we’re getting a Monday off!).

I thought I’d reshare one of my most popular story videos from my Youtube channel. Last Request lives up to its title! Hope you enjoy. (I often create a new story over the weekend but did not have time to do so this time. Mind you, this story is a good example of the kind of quirky tale I love reading and writing).

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MXGNt9XndN8

F = Fun to Write
L = Language to be direct and specific
A = Action – conveyed in as few words as possible
S = Story complete in and of itself
H = Hero/heroine but room for only 1 or 2 characters.

F = Fairytales and fantasy work well in a flash format
I = Imagination – let it run riot and then hone what you come up with to produce a piece of hard hitting flash fiction
C = Characters. Have to make impact quickly as flash fiction has to be character led.
T = Truth – flash fiction is as capable of conveying truths about the human condition as an epic novel!
I = Intense. Has to be due to the word count restrictions (but that makes truth hit home quicker and harder)
O = Omnipresent narration can work well in flash.
N = No restrictions on what genre of story you use for flash.

TTFF - posh chairBookBrushImage-2021-1-3-16-443BookBrushImage-2020-11-14-19-1939


Have been having fun with Book Brush again re promoting for FLTDBA and TTFF. Easy to do too. (See above pics though the phone one I created a little while ago but is a favourite of mine).

One of the things I do enjoy on the promoting side is being able to share some of the stories. Flash doesn’t take long to read so it makes quite a good advert for itself!

A good advert is one you can remember years later so the ideal for book straplines is to try and do the same with those. This is where flash fiction writing can help, especially practising writing the one-liners. But it takes time, it is not always easy to judge if you’ve got it right so beta readers and the like can be an enormous help here.

Am looking forward to getting my third collection together too. That is one my tasks for this year. I’ve written a fair amount already but will be getting the rest up together while I rest my non-fiction project. These are the two major things I want to submit later this year. I like the balance of having a fiction and a non-fiction to work on and I did find using NaNoWriMo incredibly helpful so will be open to using that structure again.

Below is the video I created for the Waterloo Arts Festival back in the summer of 2020 as that had to go online. I share an extract from my story Books and the Barbarians here and talk a little about my work. Hope you enjoy.

Goodreads Author Blog – Humorous Books

If ever there was a time for humorous books, it is now isn’t it? Something to cheer people up with and I must admit I was pleased to see that sales of P.G. Wodehouse books have gone up during the pandemic. (I hope the same has happened with Terry Pratchett’s Discworld books too).

And of course humour creeps into other genres too, including crime and horror. I do love a witty one-liner from a character where you know the character is capable of coming up with such things.

It is a bugbear of mind that humorous books aren’t taken more seriously. They are “proper” literature and shouldn’t be looked down on. If anything a writer capable of writing humour should be lauded simply because it is not the easiest thing to do. Humour is subjective after all.

Mind you, the written word has a huge advantage here. I love “seeing” puns come out, where appropriate to the storyline. Language, and playing with it to make stories, should be fun and I like to see fun in the final results.

I guess this may well be one reason that misery memoir really is not for me, no matter how well written it is. I’ve got to have some cheer somewhere and even a gripping crime novel, with the odd bit of humour in it, will always work better for me than that.

Have you any favourite funny books you turn to for literally light reading relief as and when you need it?

 

Twitter Corner

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Brechin/Angus Book Festival – 21st and 22nd November 2020

Image Credit:-

All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated.

Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing.

Top Tips image created on Book Brush (who use Pixabay images – I’ve recognised quite a few!).

Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

Delighted to share my latest CFT post – Brechin/Angus Book Festival – Local Author News – Allison Symes. Not perhaps the snappiest of titles I’ve ever come up with but it does do what it says on the tin, to quote the old Ronseal advert!

Very pleased to be in such distinguished company too and given book festivals celebrate stories and books, what is there not to like about that?

Pleased to say I’m “on” for the Sunday from 1.35 for about 20 minutes or so.

Hopefully “see” you there!

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Given I can’t go swimming at the moment, raking up leaves from my oak trees is proving to be a good replacement workout! Lady would love to be out “helping me” but we live on a main road so that’s not possible.

There are advantages to living on a main road by the way. Nobody but nobody parks in front of my house. Even delivery drivers never stop long….

True story: years ago, we were unfortunate enough to be burgled. We were lucky. We got our things back (my engagement ring, things like that) because they caught the thief red-handed literally further down the road from me.

A police officer came to see us after all was sorted out just to make sure we were okay and parked his marked car outside our drive. He and I were chatting when we heard this enormous bang.

Yes! Someone had driven round the corner and somehow had not seen a marked police car and went smack into it.

Would’ve loved to have seen the insurance claim on that one!

Writing wise, I’m looking forward to sharing my CFT post tomorrow about the Brechin/Angus Book Fest. Naturally I’m looking forward to taking part in that over the weekend.

I also hope to have further publication news in the not too distant future.

Favourite thing to write ever? For me it’s those magic words “the end” after I’ve got the first draft down. I then know I’ve got something to work with and that always comes as something of a relief even now after many years of writing.

Oh and a huge thanks for all the views on my Last Request story on Youtube. And a big welcome to all of my subscribers too!😊


How has your Wednesday been? Good I trust.

What made you start writing? I’d always loved stories and loved composition lessons in English where we had to write tales to whatever theme the teacher said. And there my writing remained.

I had in the back of my mind that it might be a nice thing to do one day but I didn’t write seriously until two major landmark events in my life made me realise if I was going to get any writing done, I ought to get on and do some.
My only regret in writing has been not starting sooner.

It takes you longer than you realise to find your voice and discover what form of writing suits you best and this is an ongoing process. As you know, I hadn’t started out by writing flash fiction but that is where I’m published.

What I would advise anyone who is thinking of writing is to go for it.
At best you will discover something that entrances you, keeps your mind active, encourages the development of your imagination, and hopefully you’ll end up published too.

At worst, you’ll discover it’s not for you or that you will only write occasionally for your own pleasure and that’s fine too.

It is important to love writing. It is what helps keep you going when the rejections hit the fan.

Okay, you’re not going to love all of it all of the time but, as long as most of the time, you can’t imagine your life without writing, then you’re on a good path!

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Looking forward to waving the flag for flash fiction at the Brechin/Angus Book Festival over the weekend. I am “on” during Sunday from about 1.35 pm for 20 minutes or so.

See my CFT post at https://chandlersfordtoday.co.uk/brechin-angus-book-festival-local-author-news-allison-symes/ for more details. There is a direct link to the event as part of my post (as well as the first link given above).

Delighted to see that my Last Request very short flash story on Youtube has attracted almost 300 views. A big thank you, everyone. I plan to do more of these. They’re great fun to do and I hope make for an entertaining advert for my writing.

I don’t know about you but I never mind adverts that amuse or entertain me. I can think of several from years ago that I can remember now precisely because they were entertaining and/or amusing.

Flash fiction is, by its nature, ideal for this kind of thing!

Favourite tips for writing flash fiction and which have never let me down:-

  1. Focus on the character. It is their story. What matters to them? What is the problem they’ve got to overcome? What gets in their way? What helps them?
  2. Just get the story down and edit afterwards. My first edit starts by taking my wasted words out – very, actually, and that. I don’t worry that I seem to just write them in the first draft. I know they’re coming out and that bit can wait until I’m ready. What matters initially is just getting that story nailed down.
  3. When you think you’ve edited the story enough (note I say think!), read it out loud. This is easier to do with flash fiction writing I must say but I will pick up on wording I could phrase better when doing this. It is worth doing.

Happy writing!

BookBrushImage-2020-11-18-21-3548


A flash fiction story shines an intense light on one particular moment of change for a character. In a longer short story, that point could well be the start of the story and the tale would be long enough to show other moments of change happening (catalysts happen!).

What that moment of change is depends on the character to an extent. A feisty character is going to take major change more in their stride than someone who isn’t and therefore for the latter that change is more dramatic.

Ultimately, for me, any story is about how the character handles the situation they find themselves in. If your character, say, shows great courage, there should be some inkling that they are capable of it earlier in the story. In flash fiction, that inkling will be the odd seemingly throw away line which, on a second read of the story, proves to be pivotal.

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Fairytales With Bite – Be Wary!

If you’re a resident of a magical world, what should you be wary of? Plenty!

The little old lady/gent who looks harmless. Note I said looks there! They’re usually a witch or wizard in disguise and are anything but harmless.

Dragons, vampires, monsters of all kinds turning up. You live in a magical world. You get used to it.

Being unkind to the youngest son or daughter or a stepdaughter in particular. Things usually dramatically improve for them. Your fortunes on the other hand will sink completely the moment theirs shows any signs of that improvement.

Spells going wrong. Trick here is not to get in the way of any apprentices to wizards (who are usually looking to get out of doing cleaning the boring manual way) or trainee fairies. They are bound to make mistakes. You just don’t want to be on the receiving end.

Animals. Some of them talk. Some of them weren’t animals to begin with. If you’re invited to kiss a frog by said frog, think about what you might be letting yourself in for (it’s not giving birth to tadpoles by the way).

Any notices that invite you to “eat me” or “drink me”. Any truly good food and drink has no need to advertise itself in that way. Any food and drink that does… well there has to be a catch and you don’t want to be the one caught out by them.

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This World and Others – Settings Used as Characters

Yes, it is possible to use a setting as a character. Think about Wuthering Heights. The moors there play a pivotal role as does The Cobb in Lyme Regis in Jane Austen’s Persuasion.

So how can you use a setting as a character?

It has to be distinctive. The story can’t happen anywhere else. It has to happen in the setting you’ve created.

It can be a threat to your characters. Think The Lord of the Rings or Narnia. Mordor and Narnia where it is always winter but never Christmas are not exactly fun places to be!

It has a mood of its own. Think moors and you generally think of damp, foggy places where people can easily get lost or injure themselves. Can the weather change quickly? Do you have to be a local to understand the mood of the setting and avoid its traps? Also can the setting in and of itself affect the mood of your characters?

It has to have some sort of input to the conclusion of your story. You can’t have The Lord of the Rings without Mordor being faced up to at some point.
What makes your setting unique? Why have you chosen it? What aspects do you want to bring into your story?

Plenty to think about there but, just as I outline a character, I think it pays to outline your setting too. Work out how you will use it to add depth to your story. Ask yourself what you want your readers to “see” and “feel” as they read your story and absorb the setting you’ve put it in.

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Twitter Corner

Looking forward to sharing this post tomorrow. I’ll be talking about the Brechin/Angus Book Fest which I’m taking part in over the weekend. pic.twitter.com/bJMGojgwlQ— Allison Symes (@AllisonSymes1) November 19, 2020

Brechin/Angus Book Festival – Local Author News – Allison Symes https://t.co/gXqFRomCag Delighted to share my CFT post. Not the snappiest of titles I’ve ever invented but it does do what it says on the tin! I’m “on” for the Sunday from 1.35 for about 20 minutes. “See” you there! pic.twitter.com/1usdNYZNwZ— Allison Symes (@AllisonSymes1) November 20, 2020

Running Orders, Book Brush, and the Brechin/Angus Book Festival

Image Credit:-

All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated.

Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing.

Facebook – General

Smashing autumnal walk with Lady today. Hard to tell who is more tired out of the two of us though!

Happy with the progress on my kind of NaNoWriMo project yesterday as I had one of those lovely moments where the words just flowed and it was just a question of keeping going with it. (That is the definition of the ideal NaNoWriMo really isn’t it?!). I’m adding new material now and enjoying it so hopefully future readers will do so too.

Am really enjoying playing with Book Brush. Latest effort below.

Oh and talking of CFT, my post this week will be a Local Author News one about yours truly in connection with the Brechin/Angus Book Fest I’m taking part in over the weekend. See https://www.facebook.com/groups/808280536653169 for more details on the Festival, which is part of Book Week Scotland. I will also flag up more news here as I get it. (Oh and I also flag up my Youtube channel on my CFT post but more on that on Friday).

Chandler's Ford Today post reminder picture(1)


After Saturday’s deluge, and a world record time set by me for walking Lady (20 minutes, bare minimum, both of us returned looking like drowned rats), it was a relief to have a dry, reasonably mild day today.

Sight of the week and probably the year: Lady’s best buddie, a Rhodesian Ridgeback, having a wonderful run and play fight with another Ridgeback – 100 kgs of dog between the pair of them. Wonderful sight. Just stay well out of the way! Lady decided to leave the pair of them to it and focused on her Chuckit ball, probably wisely.

Delighted to say I’ve been playing with Bookbrush again and for the first time have used the video function. Hope you enjoy the very short story that goes with this. Naturally this went up on my Youtube channel earlier today (I do love scheduling!). (Have also included the video here).

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MXGNt9XndN8

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCPCiePD4p_vWp4bz2d80SJA

Last Request by Allison Symes

Have spent time this afternoon doing some “housekeeping” on my website.
My About page is now my Home page and I’ve added new material to it, including those lovely images I created yesterday using Book Brush. (A big thanks for all the positive comments about those). Am so looking forward to using Book Brush more.

There is now a direct link to my Youtube channel on the About page too.
I like to add material to the website every so often to keep it fresh, of course, but it is easy to forget to do the housekeeping side of it such as removing things no longer relevant, finding better pictures than the ones you had originally and so on.

I’ve also tidied up my Books page too. I’ve not yet found a way of changing the URL slug for the Books page from Home to Books but will sort that out in due course I hope.

The ideal of a website is to make it easy to navigate, eyecatching, and fun for both you and your visitors.

Hope you enjoy the tidy up!

 

I went out with the dog once today. It was enough! So glad to be back at my desk. Still no watering of anything will need to be done for some time in my neck of the woods!

Many thanks to #LizHurst for her fab interview with me on Chandler’s Ford Today yesterday (Friday, 13th November, see previous post).

I’ll be talking about the Brechin/Angus Book Fest for my post next Friday. The fact I’m taking part in it is NOT coincidence! 😀😀

I’ve also been experimenting with graphics for my books (using Book Brush). See throughout this post for various images created since the weekend using this.  

This kind of marketing is fun! Hope to be doing more of this. This has come out of a Zoom event I was at on Friday night where I learned so much. Many thanks to #WendyHJones and #KathleenSweeney for running this.

Below are some of my earliest attempts at creating book adverts. Just need to replace the spaniel with my Lady for the dog one! Mind you, I suppose I could avoid telling Lady….


From Light to Dark and Back Again

Having a lot of fun experimenting with Book Brush. Latest effort for Tripping The Flash Fantastic below.

One thing I have learned though creating Feature Images for my Chandler’s Ford Today posts is to keep them simple and avoid over-complicating things. Great tip for writing flash fiction there too!

I like to hit the ground running with my stories, which is why I often use the first person as that encourages this approach.

It is often said for story writing that you have to get straight to the action and hook the reader immediately. That is true but flash helps you sharpen that skill which you can then adapt for any other writing you do.

Even for non-fiction you need to draw the reader in immediately.

Looking forward to sharing more about the Brechin/Angus Book Fest as and when I can later this week. I’ll be writing about it in my Chandler’s Ford Today post this week as well.



Hope your Monday has been okay. I’ve posted a mini flash story, Last Request, on my Youtube channel at https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCPCiePD4p_vWp4bz2d80SJA

Good fun to do and I love the bats and that’s all I’m saying about that here!

paper bats and spiders on orange background

Photo by Karolina Grabowska on Pexels.com

I love many things about flash fiction but one of the major ones is that it is more flexible than it might at first appear. I’ve written stories across the spectrum from six words to the maximum of 1000.

I’ve written in the first person, the third person, and shown things from the viewpoint of a mother dragon (see my trailer for Tripping The Flash Fantastic).

It is a great format in which to have fun with your writing. If a story works well at 100 words, I leave it there. If it needs more and ends up at say 500 words, that’s fine.

I also think it is good discipline to practice writing to different word count lengths. For one thing, it means you can have a stock of stories in store ready to send to different competitions and markets depending on their requirements.

Happy story writing!


As well as selecting the stories for my flash fiction collections, thought has to go into the running order too. That isn’t an always obvious thing to decide.

For TTFF I deliberately kept two historical stories together as one is from the viewpoint of Richard III (Getting It Right) and the other is told by his niece, Elizabeth of York (Not Knowing). Those two were going to go together from the offset.

But I didn’t put all of the historical ones together in one batch. There are others later in the book.

I also look at the mood of the stories too. I like a mixture of funny, poignant, scary (think light horror – that’s as far as I go) and back to funny again. I also try to end a collection on a positive note too. Kind of “that’s a wrap, folks”!

Did I get the running order right immediately? Oh no!

Did I expect to? Definitely not!

But it is worth taking your time over. You want to think of the impact your stories will have on your readers and that helps a lot with working out an appropriate running order. I did the same for From Light to Dark and Back Again. It makes, I hope, for smooth seamless reads and an even more enjoyable reading experience for your reader.

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Well, I’m glad I don’t write stories which match the mood of the weather. Anything I’d come up with today would have been unremittingly grim!

Now you know I like the good old random generators for triggering story ideas. I’ve used random number, word, noun, and adjective generators to good effect. Ta da – I’ve found another one!

Welcome to the good old random object generator. Yes, really.

This particular site has four categories – All, Outdoors, Clothing, and Office.

You can select a number of items though I have found with all of the generators, you are better off selecting up three or four and no more.

So how can I use the random object generator in my flash fiction, I hear you cry?

1. The object has to be in the story somewhere.

2. The object has to have special meaning to a character in your story.

3. If you’re a crime writer, how about making the object either something to be stolen or the murder weapon?! (In my selection tonight, a pillow came up. I’m sure you can think of a way of using that in a crime story!).

But you get the idea. Have fun!

 

Goodreads Author Blog – Effective Blurbs

The book cover is usually the thing that attracts my attention to a potential new read, of course, but following that comes the blurb.

I like a blurb that is (a) short, (b) intriguing and (c) gives an idea of what the story is about without giving everything away.

My blurb for Tripping the Flash Fantastic reads as “Allison Symes loves reading and writing quirky fiction. She discovered flash fiction thanks to a Cafélit challenge and has been hooked on the form ever since. In this follow-up to her From Light to Dark and Back Again, Allison will take you back in time, into some truly criminal minds, into fantasy worlds, and show you how motherhood looks from the viewpoint of a dragon. Enjoy the journey!”

Was it easy to write that? Not particularly! The stories were easier to do but many authors find that. It is hard to capture the essence of your work without giving too much away. After all, the idea is to entice the reader in to read your book, not leave them feeling as if they have read it all from what you’ve put on the back cover!

Is it worth taking time and trouble over to get right? Oh yes.

Put yourself in the reader’s shoes. What is it about your book that they would want to know to make them want to find out more? It is all about triggering interest and from that a wish to know more.

Happy (blurb) writing!

Twitter Corner



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