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If you read a lot of books, or if you’re a writer, you are probably at least aware of what’s been going on between Amazon and the publishing company Hachette. Possibly, you are also confused by it, or maybe just conflicted. I fall into this latter category, and I’ve spoken with a couple of my author friends about it, so my goal in writing this post is to facilitate some kind of discussion about what’s going on between Amazon and Hachette.

To start us off, here’s an article (clearly biased in the anti-Amazon direction) that lays out the situation pretty well and should answer any immediate questions you may have. Basically, Amazon is making it really difficult for customers to buy Hachette-published books because the two companies can’t come to an agreement about how to sell these books. Amazon finally spoke out a little bit at the end of last month, and this article sums it up without any bias one way or the other.

As a person who has never actually had a problem obtaining books from Amazon, and as an as-yet-unpublished writer (either traditionally or independently), I personally do not have any qualms with Amazon. I am not going to boycott them until I understand this situation more. But based on what I’ve read so far, I understand why some people are choosing to boycott Amazon. As far as I’m concerned, it’s a personal choice. Author Neil Gaiman pointed out recently in an interview that we don’t REALLY know what’s happening, because all the details are under non-disclosure.

These articles I’ve linked to show the perspective from some of the big authors who are affected by these business proceedings. But what about independent authors? What about writers who can’t get the time of day from these enormous publishing companies? How does this affect them?

Author Frank Schaeffer defends Amazon because he believes he would not have been as successful without Amazon’s help, and he’s not the only independent author who feels this way. My writing partner told me she wouldn’t be a writer today it it weren’t for Amazon, and that for every J.K. Rowling and James Patterson, there are 500 authors like her. The jury is out as to how this affects unpublished authors seeking traditional publication.

My conclusion is this: it’s a business war between two major corporations. Many people seem to be forgetting that Hachette is ALSO a big company, and I think that’s important to keep in mind. I will never understand the ins and outs of it because I don’t have any expertise in business, so I’m going to wait to pass judgement until everything is settled. But maybe some of you reading this have a better grasp on the situation. Is Amazon really the big bad that so many people are quick to claim? What do you think about what’s going down between Amazon and Hachette? If you’re boycotting, why, and if you’re not, why not?

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Well, I appear to have survived my first week in Houston, TX!

This place is not at all what I expected, and I haven’t reached a decision about whether or not I could see myself living here for a couple years. Luckily, I have 2 more months to think about it and get to know the place.

If you’ve never been here before, this is what it’s like. There is green EVERYWHERE. All along the bayou, on the boulevards, the sidewalks, in yards and gardens. The plants here are absolutely amazing. I imagined a desert or industrial type landscape, but it hasn’t been like that at all. Many parts of the city I’ve seen so far are actually very beautiful. The humidity is real, though. I’ve hardly spent any time outside since I’ve been here, because the air is not very comfortable to just sit in. I’m learning that less cloudy days have lower humidity, and one of these days I’ll be brave enough to go lounge by the pool while I read. But then you have random 5-minute rainstorms come through, and you must run for cover. I’m used to bi-polar weather, but this is on a different level. I’m also learning the joys of air conditioning. I’m from Seattle, where we usually must fight against the cold to find a house temperature that doesn’t cost too much on the electricity bill, but still keeps us warm enough to function. Here, it’s the opposite. I’m trying to figure out how much warmth I can stand before I desperately need the air conditioning to keep me at a reasonable temperature. It’s a delicate balance, but it’s also nice to be comfortably warm for a change. A bonus for this climate, though, is the amount of volume it adds to my hair. I keep it short, so a little climate-controlled volume is actually pretty awesome.

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Being from Seattle, I’m used to everyone ignoring each other when they pass in the street. When I moved to Montana, the opposite was true. I got used to politely nodding and/or smiling at people as I passed them in the street (though less so on the college campus). Houston is a massive city. Once again, everyone goes back to ignoring each other. I ran into someone at the gate to get into the apartment complex, he was struggling to open the gate. He finally opened it just as I made it to the gate to try to help, and as we passed each other, I tried to smile at him, because hey, he’s probably my neighbor. No response. So, it’s weird going back to that after being in Montana for so long.

As for my job, I’m an intern for an energy company. So far, my job has essentially consisted of looking at squiggly lines all day and trying to interpret them. I’m not even kidding. Squiggly lines. Theoretically they mean something, but sometimes it’s hard to tell.

This internship has so far been an interesting experience, and not so much for the job itself, but for the… setting. For one, I’ve got a swanky office all to myself. My name is even on the door! I have two computer monitors and a huge desk! I’ve never experienced an office job like this – the Google office I worked in was all open plan, no cubicles or anything, and tiny desks. Not that that was bad or anything (it was much easier to talk to my friends that way, or lean over to my neighbor to ask for help on a difficult task, etc.), just different.

I’m also used to jobs that keep you to the clock. You clock in when you arrive, you clock out for lunch, you clock back in after, and you clock out when you leave. No cell phones or personal calls or fun internet breaks while you work (those were the rules, anyway). This internship, though? Totally different. As long as you get the work done, and can show you’re making progress, there’s actually a lot of freedom. It’s taking some adjusting to get used to. I mean, I made a phone call to set up my internet installation at my home during business hours and NOT on my lunch break! I was allowed to leave a few minutes early to go to happy hour with the office mates! I’m not going to lie, I could get used to a job like that. Plus, I’m actually using my geology knowledge and skills, which is more than I can say pre-graduate school.

The one weird thing about this job that bothers me is the lack of women in science-related positions. Maybe it’s just this company, but I’m the ONLY woman on my team. Most of the men are much older than me, too. Almost all the women I’ve met are in administrative or assistant-type positions. It’s really strange to be sitting in a big meeting, and be the only woman in the room. Every other job I’ve held, and all through school, the gender divisions have been pretty well split down the middle for all positions. I suppose the fact that I’m a woman in an internship position should be encouraging for the future of the company, but it’s still a little hard to get used to.

I’ve also had the pleasure of trying to sleep on an air mattress. A friend of mine was successful with this for his entire 3-month internship. But my air mattress? Somehow magically developed a pin-hole puncture after two nights. Pro-tip: Three layers of rubber cement plus tens of layers of duct tape won’t work.

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Rather than fight with the mattress for the rest of the summer, or straight up buying a new one, I decided I didn’t want to wake up feeling like I was in a water bed for any more mornings/middles of the night. So I went to IKEA and bought the cheapest roll-out foam mattress I could find, and I have slept well the past few nights. I do not regret the expense.

On the major plus side of doing this internship over the summer, I have no school work to deal with. Sure, I should probably type up my field notes (which I will, I promise), but other than that – I’m basically on vacation when I’m not at work. So, I’ve started working on my novel again! Typed up 3 pages of edited outline material. It’s a lot of work, but I’m getting through it. 11 more pages to go! I forgot how much fun I have while working on it, and how excited I am to begin re-writes. If I’m really lucky, I’ll get through these outline edits, send them to my writing partner, and get started writing some scenes before the summer is out.

I’ve also got time to cook delicious things like butter chicken with broccoli and mushrooms.

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AND I’ve had time to have a bath. With a candle, a glass of rosé, and my kindle.

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I am, of course, also taking this time to catch up on some TV shows and fiction reading (The Immortal Crown by Richelle Mead just arrived and it is SO good and I’m only 50 pages in!). Which brings me to the next thing I want to share with you all…

I know I already wrote a post about book-shaming, and how it infuriates me when someone tries to tell me (or anyone else, for that matter) that I should be embarrassed about the books I like to read, an article recently came out from Slate that has me swearing at my computer screen as I read. Don’t read it unless you want to get angry about something. I firmly believe that you should read whatever you want to read, regardless of other people’s opinions. What you read literally has zero effect on them, and if they’re going to judge you for it, you probably don’t need them in your life. Since I’ve already articulated how I feel about this, I suggest taking a look at these two responses to the Slate article that made me really happy.

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I was recently asked by a good writer friend of mine to give a detailed explanation of my outlining process, so I thought I’d blog about it for all you writer-types. I may have written about this in the past, but now that I’ve finished editing my outline’s first draft, I feel like I have more to say on this particular matter.

When I started writing my urban fantasy novel ten years ago (yes, ten, inspired by the end of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel), I wrote the beginning a couple times and developed my cast of characters. In college, my computer hard drive crashed, and I lost much of my work on this novel. Luckily, this only consisted of a few terrible opening scenes, some character sketches, and some photos. I still had plenty of written notes, and the beginning sucked anyway, so I started over.

I spent the next three years or so writing the first draft of the novel. Sometimes I wrote random scenes, sometimes I actually wrote in sequence. If something major changed half way through the story, I just ignored the older scenes that were wrong and kept going (one character stopped existing, as did the main characters dog, and another character went from being a human, secretly being the vampire brother of the main male character, AND then back to being a human because that subplot started to sound too much like a horrible soap opera). Eventually, I had a complete first draft, and I began attacking it with a red pen. Like you do.

Then I started talking to my other writer friend who was in the middle of writing her own first draft, and she explained that she had an outline that listed the chapter, and all the things that had to happen in that chapter. This sounded like a great idea, and as I’d just finished discovering all the plot holes and wacky subplot changes in my first draft, I thought maybe I’d try to write a detailed outline before I went any further with the second draft.

As I wasn’t entirely certain how I wanted to break up the chapters, I decided to start simpler and just list scenes, and everything that had to happen in that scene. This sounds simple, but I made it much more detailed than that – the whole thing ended up being fourteen pages long. Each scene has a title, which is basically the main point of the scene. Then I listed, in order, everything that happens – what characters are involved, what they discuss, any actions they perform, how they’re supposed to feel throughout the scene – EVERYTHING.

I started with what I knew about what I liked in the first draft (black ink), and then I set about adding new scenes, rearranging scenes, modifying scenes (green ink), and finally, I inserted major problems/plot holes/missing information/things I needed to think more about (blue ink). Once I had something coherent, and I felt like the things that didn’t make sense were starting to sort themselves out, I started editing.

The first thing I did was bring the draft to my writing group, and allowed them to critique. This way, I had other people asking the hard questions about problems in the story that I was in denial about. I already knew about these problems, but having someone explicitly pointing them out to me forced me to face them, and subsequently fix them. We didn’t get through the whole draft (my gods, there were fourteen pages after all, and we all had writing to do that night), but it was enough to set me on the editing warpath.

So I went through the outline again, and continued fixing problems, asking myself hard questions, letting go of things I liked but that didn’t really make sense if I wanted sympathetic characters and for my readers to NOT hate me. I made it through, and now it the part where I have to type up all the changes in the outline. I haven’t done this yet, what with the madness of approaching relocation, but I’m prepared to start.

As far as what’s going to happen next – here’s the plan. I’m going to type up all my edits, and then I’m going to send the second draft to my writing partner (don’t worry, I will write a blog explaining this again later, though I think I wrote one a couple years ago if you care to check the archives). Once she goes through it with a critical eye, I’ll type it all up, and have this perfect, really detailed list of all the scenes I have to create in my novel. When I start the re-writing process, all I have to do is look at this list, pick a scene, and write it out, with the help of my first draft and its multitude of notes and edits and revisions.

Some people will benefit from doing this outlining process first, but I am really happy I wrote a complete draft first. I think it really helped to get the ideas out of my head and onto paper before I mold and shape them into something that can be a publishable novel. But if you want to do an outline first, I completely understand, and I hope my explanation of how I wrote mine helps!

As always, if you have any follow-up questions about this, feel free to leave them in the comments!

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My allergies have been slowly trying to kill me all weekend, so I’m going to try to keep this short so I can go to bed ASAP.

Today I want to tell you about 3 TV shows I love, and the top 3 reasons I love each of them. If you’re looking for a new show to watch, perhaps you’ll find one here.

Before I tell you what these shows are, these are the top 3 reasons I love them:

1. They repeatedly pass the Bechdel Test. Each of these shows features at least four female leads and they all have conversations that don’t revolve around men. The shocking part? Two of these three shows are American (the third is Canadian). Perhaps this is a sign that we are learning.

2. They all have a fairly evenly-split cast between men and women. For a while, this was tough to find. Most television shows lean more toward the male-dominant side of the scale. This balance makes the show more well-rounded.

3. The main characters of all of these are badass women with agency. Need I say more?

These fabulous shows are: *raises curtain*

Lost Girl

Lost Girl

Lost Girl is a Canadian show (Showcase in Canada, Syfy in US) about a succubus who discovers what she is quite by accident. In so doing, she discovers a whole world of supernatural creatures from all kinds of folklore. Her best friend is a snarky little human named Kenzie, and Bo, the succubus, is caught up in a love triangle with Lauren and Dyson (oh yeah, she’s totally bisexual, and it’s no big deal, because Canada is great). In this supernatural world, every person must choose a side – light or dark. At the beginning of the series, Bo gives a big FU to everyone, and refuses to choose a side. Of course, most of her friends are on the light side, but whatever. She didn’t want to follow archaic rules – she just wants to live the life she chooses. Each season has overarching plots, and the episodes are often crime-mystery subplots. The writing is fantastic, as is the acting, and Bo is quite possibly the most realistic badass lady I have ever seen on television.

Revenge

Revenge

Revenge is about a young woman named Emily Thorn who has gone through an extensive amount of training to exact revenge on the people who ruined her life. She wants to avenge her father, who was framed by his wealthy employers and their terrorist friends. When I first heard about this show, I thought it was a really cheesy plot. And yes, I suppose there is a certain element of soap opera-ness to Revenge that I choose to ignore. Overall, I think the writing is quite good, and the plot thickens with each season. The acting is definitely better than a soap opera at any rate. Also, if you are obsessed with all tech-genuis characters – this one has a great one. I named my laptop after him. He’s snarky and complicated and fun.

The Vampire Diaries

The Vampire Diaries

The Vampire Diaries was created to feed off the new popularity that the Twilight series had brought to vampires. I will admit, it takes a few episodes to find its footing, but once it does – it blows Twilight out of the water. Yes, there is a love triangle (I am a huge fan of those – Revenge has one too, but it’s not a focus of the store as much as it is in Lost Girl and TVD), but TVD is absurdly filled with plot. Every season builds off of the one before it – it’s always exciting to see what will happen next. There are very few “filler” episodes in this series, it’s that intense. The writing is brilliant, especially when the two brothers get to banter at each other. But Elena is the star of the show. She is such an amazing protagonist I hardly know where to begin. Everything she does is driven by a need to keep her family and loved ones safe. She’s not driven by an obsession with a boy. She doesn’t even want to BE a vampire. Ever. But she’s cool with being in love with one (or two?). Against the advice of the men in her life, she will often take matters into her own hands. She HATES being taken care of, or protected. She’s not a badass fighter the way Emily Thorn and Bo are, at least, not at first, because she is, after all, just a teenage girl. Her friend Caroline is equally, if not more, awesome. They knock her down and she comes back stronger every time. Here in this show there are two female characters who repeatedly step up and take care of their own problems, and it’s very empowering to watch. These girls are excellent role models for teens.

 

There are, of course, a few other shows I watch that are awesome for the same reasons – Warehouse 13, for example (though that show might actually have a few more female characters than male characters). But if you’re looking for something new, check one of these out, and I hope you’ll like them for the same reasons I do.

Currently Reading: Gameboard of the Gods, by Richelle Mead. This is very different for Mead, but I do see her background in comparative religion all over this. I am not very far into it, but what I’ve read I definitely like.

Currently listening to: The wind blowing outside the door. I think it’s time for bed.

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I know I haven’t updated in a while, and I know I meant to, but life has gotten in the way and all that. I’ve been busy editing like mad the last couple months, applying for new jobs, reading, catching up on television, and working at the day job.

My original plan was to do some rough edits on the paranormal WIP, switch to the steampunk WIP and do some real editing and fleshing out on that, and send it out to beta readers while I do some real editing on the paranormal WIP. I’ve finished the rough edits on the paranormal, and I’ve begun edits on the steampunk, but I have found myself running into two problems.

First, I can’t get my paranormal WIP out of my head. It’s the first novel I’ve finished that I have serious thoughts about publishing. I want it to be great. I want it to be perfect, at least in my head. A big part of me just wants to throw myself into it and not come up for air until it’s ready for at least my writing partner to read. This is a two-part problem, because I don’t really have any beta readers lined up for this WIP, but I do have people who want to read the steampunk WIP. Some of whom are impatiently bugging me about it every time they see me. So I’ve reached the point where I feel like I’m pushing myself to work on something that I am having trouble getting into again (don’t get me wrong – I absolutely love my steampunk WIP and how it turned out in the first draft – I’m just not in the mood for it right now) for other people. I want my writing first and foremost to be for ME, I want to create something that I love, and then share it with whoever feels like reading it. I love that people want to read what I’ve written, but is it wrong to make them wait when my brain is so clearly elsewhere?

My second problem is that I still feel untrained. I’ve been reading a lot more than usual lately, and I keep thinking ,”Wow, this writer is so brilliant, I wish I could do that,” or “This is something my novel is clearly lacking, and I need to educate myself on how to fix that.” I’ve started seriously reading the “Write Great Fiction” series and already I’ve come up with a good handful of things I need to improve on. I want to build and edit and revise my paranormal novel as I go along reading these writing craft books. I’ve only read three chapters of “Characters, Emotion, and Viewpoint” and I feel like I’ve learned so much!

The short conclusion is that it takes a lot of hard work to become a good writer. It also takes talent, and an idea that you feel really good about.

So, I think I’m going to continue educating myself, and work on the paranormal WIP as I learn more. Because really, I have to be in the right genre mood for the right WIP to make it work. I’ve been watching the UK Being Human recently, and as it’s plot has similarities to mine (vampires plotting to take over the human race, etc.), it’s been very inspirational. As has the Sabina Kane series by Jaye Wells (buildup to a mage vs. vampire war).

Of course, it’s not helping that I am being bombarded for countless other story ideas, since I’m not actively writing anything new at the moment. Maybe I should have something new going – but I really don’t have the energy right now. I really am loving the whole editing thing. It feels like progress.

Also – just discovered that Being Human has a soundtrack… that came out last year… and on one told me…

As usual, feel free to comment/discuss/share however you see fit. I welcome any suggestions on how to deal with my two problems. 🙂

Happy writing/reading/editing!

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The madness that is my WIP

Listening to: “Right as Rain” by Adele, as it is stuck in my head

Currently reading: Cat’s Claw, by Amber Benson

Clearly, I am a terrible blogger, as I haven’t posted a single word since February. I apologize. Life got in the way. Stupid Life! Well, no, more like geology got in the way. I know, it’s weird for someone who is in love with rocks (seriously, I spent most of today at a rock and gem show, followed by rock hunting at a local beach – but I found some really cool stuff! It was totally valid! I am now in possession of both of my favorite minerals! And some cool green stuff! and… ok. I’ll stop now.

I’ve been saying for several weeks now that I’d have another excerpt of my novel for you to read, and yes, I do have it written.

But you can’t have it yet.

First, I want to explain myself a little bit. Like many children, I grew up inventing stories, I read like the little nerdy bookworm I still am, and, well, I guess I just never stopped. At some point, after reading one too many books that had a scene that didn’t go quite how I’d imagined it would, or an ending that I wasn’t quite satisfied with, I said, “hey, I’m gonna write something the way I want to read it.”

When I went to college, I was torn between writing and some kind of science. I even picked a school that was well-known for both of these things. Sometime in there I discovered I had a love for rocks, and that all the books I’ve ever read, including my enormous stack of writing guide books, can teach me just about everything I need to know about writing. Speaking of, a few of my favorites are:  No Plot? No Problem! by Chris Baty – this is mostly a guide for NaNoWriMo, but it’s got a lot of general writing tips too. Write Away by Elizabeth George. Getting into Character by Brandilyn Collins – this one is probably my favorite; it’s about using acting techniques to develop 3-dimensional characters, which I highly recommend.

You probably gathered this from my previous novel excerpt (but just in case you haven’t read it yet), but I just need to get this off my chest: Yes, I am writing a vampire novel. No, it has nothing to do with the recent hype this genre has received. My fascination with vampires started many years ago, when I saw the original Buffy the Vampire Slayer movie and Interview with a Vampire on TV. There’s just something about a myth that can cross over so many cultures and remain popular since Bram Stoker wrote Dracula (or maybe even before that…?). I’ve even got several books about it. So, like most vampire novels, mine will have romance, but more importantly, it will also have a real plot (and even a bit of an apocalypse), and as much humor as I can cram in there.

That’s all I’m prepared to divulge at present, so without further ramblings, here is my excerpt. Again, I ask that you judge the story more than the writing, as this is literally the very first draft, and all I’m doing right now is getting words on paper, which is the hardest part.

From the scene “Weapons,”:

Feeling around on the wall by the door, Ana located the light switch, and turned it on. Dusty old tomes lined the shelves, each one looking older than the next, with their soft leather bindings, uneven pages, some even with metal embossing or bindings. The room pulled her deeper within the stacks and shelves of books, until her eye caught the title of one of them.

Vampyres of the 16th Century A.D.

Backing away from the disturbing title, Ana bumped into the shelf behind her. She spun around to see the grotesque, embossed face of a horned humanoid man with a scraggly goatee staring at her from the leather cover of a book. This one didn’t even have a title, but the way the edges of the cover were worn away, and the way it sagged on the shelf was all Ana needed to see to know that it was old.

“What are you doing down here?” A voice coming from the doorway made Ana jump halfway out of her skin and her stomach to drop to the bottom of her feet. It was the woman she’s seen the week before, at the police investigation outside the store. She wasn’t wearing her red leather jacket, but the black leather pants and tight, black, athletic top made her look just as tough as Ana remembered.

“I, um, the door was open.” Ana straightened her back and continued at the dark woman’s raised eyebrow. “I’m looking for Carter. Is he down here?”

The woman’s eyes narrowed. “‘He?’… You’re looking for me. Gwen Carter. Call me Gwen. Not because I like you, but to spite Desmond. I take it he sent you down here? Heard Fowler had some unexpected company on the way.” The last part was mumbled under her breath.

Gwen started to leave the room, and Ana found herself jogging a few steps to catch up, as Gwen had turned the light out with Ana still inside.

“I came down here for a weapon,” Ana blurted.

“What?”

“To protect myself. Against… them.” Ana frowned at herself for not being able to say the world “vampire.” It’s not as if they come when you mention their… species, she chastized herself.

“Have you ever held a gun? Shot an arrow?”

“Er, no…”

“You never learned to fence, by chance?”

“No…”

“Right. I guess we’ll have to start you out with a stake, then. Come on,” Gwen said in a sharp, clipped, no-nonsense tone. Ana hurried to follow Gwen into the last room in the basement. Once again, her jaw dropped when she saw what was inside. She was amazed that she’d been working there for over a year, yet she’d never ventured into the basement before now. Does that make me unadventurous?

This final room was a training room. Various medieval weaponry lined one of the walls, and there was a table in the opposite corner from the door covered in crossbows and sharp pieces of wood. At the far end of the room were a number of large, blue mats, a few targets on the wall, and an exercise bar. Ana noticed there was nowhere to sit in this room, which made her think they were all business when they used it. No lounging around for this lot. Except maybe up in Fowler’s flat.
Gwen started to walk towards the weaponry on the table, stopped short, and spun around.

“What’s a pretty girl like you need a stake for? Can’t you just wrap one of the boys upstairs around your finger and get him to guard your little mansion, or whatever it is you ignorant people live in?”
Having grown up in a mansion, and choosing to defy all assumptions that she was a spoiled little rich girl, Ana took offense to Gwen’s snide remarks.

“I don’t need their help. I just need someone to show me where to point one of those nice sharp sticks to make the bastards stop trying to come after me.” Ana felt the anger rising inside her, “I didn’t ask for some wanker to knock my door to pieces, come into my home, and try to strangle me to death. I thought I was just trying to help someone, and then everything went to shit. Somehow I got myself into this mess, and I’m not even sure how it happened. So if you’d be so kind as to give me a quick lesson in pointy wooden objects, I’ll be on my merry.”

To Ana’s surprise, a wide, respectful smile spread across Gwen’s face. “Now you can call me Gwen just because I like you.”

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