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Category: digital books

Wednesday Wrant – What is this ebook thingy?

I don’t really have a whole lot to rant about this week, but ever since I self-published my first novel on Kindle, I’ve been paying more attention to people’s feelings about books vs. ebooks. There’s a wide swath out there, and to be truthful, I’m getting kind of sick of it. So, you know, I’m gonna add to the slush pile of book vs. ebook hoopla.

Yes, I love physical books. I love the smell of the pages, the feel of the cover, the crack of the spine. I get that curling up with a good book is an experience, and I get why people would think you can’t have the same feeling with an ebook.

Except that you can. And it’s actually easier. I can huddle under the blanket, arms and all, prop the Kindle up against my legs, and turn the page with just my thumb, without even needing to move my arms. Take that, Snuggie… and you can keep the book light.

I tried explaining the fact that I published my book on Kindle to my mom, which was probably a mistake in the first place. After about five minutes of going over the process over and over, she simply asked “When will it be available in print?” Then, when I did a CreateSpace paperback edition (for her, and my family who feel the same way about dangerous ebooks), she asked me what store she could buy it in.

She doesn’t have a credit or debit card because he tends to lose them, so she sent me some cash to get a CreateSpace paperback that I could autograph and send back to her. I’m not saying that a signed book isn’t valuable, but in the time that it took her to mail the letter, me to order an author’s copy, CreateSpace to ship it to me, me to sign it, and then ship it to her, she could have bought my book on Kindle 1,036,800 times. And that’s just a 12-hour day.

I volunteer at the library a couple hours a week. I love seeing all the books, the pretty covers, seeing parents reading Dr. Seuss to their kids. But I also have to sort those books. I’m not sure how many germ-infested books live at our branch at the library, but I’m pretty sure my Kindle could hold about half of them – no sorting, no shelving, no late fees.

I read more on the Kindle. Yes, Kindle books tend to be shorter, but I can set my Kindle on the treadmill at the gym, stick it in the pocket of my purse, all things I can’t do with a physical book. I do read physical books on my recumbent bike day, but it’s way easier on the Kindle. I typically have 2 books going at any given time – an ebook and a physical book – and I pretty much always finish the ebook first.

When we moved to Austin, we went through the inevitable stage of divesting of all the random shit we don’t use, which included – I shit you not – 8 boxes full of books. Oh yeah, and we still have 5 or 6 boxes of books in our storage closet that won’t fit on our bookshelf. What are they doing there? Nothing. To get to them, I’d have to go digging through boxes. When I want to find a book I want to read on the Kindle, I go to the index. If I don’t have it on my Kindle, I can browse Amazon right from my Kindle and get it. I don’t have to put on pants to go to the store, and I can get the Kindle edition for about 1/5 of the cost of a physical book.

I love both kinds of books, and I don’t see either of them going away any time soon. The bottom line, though, I’ve sold over 400 ebooks. Any idea how many paperbacks I’ve sold? 3. And I know the 3 people who bought them. Ebooks? They’re the future, and you can pry them from my dead, lifeless fingers like I’ll pry the physical book from yours. Stop squawking about how ebooks are destroying everything. It’s evolution. Get with it.

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Guest Post: Deborah Court

Today on the blog, I welcome fellow author Deborah Court, spinner of paranormal romance tales. She’s here to tell us about her awesome new novel, Bound to the Prince.



“Bound to the Prince” by Deborah Court (Elven Warrior Trilogy #1)
Paranormal/Fantasy Romance

An elven prince without a throne.
A mortal woman without hope, stolen from her own world to fulfill his every desire.
A choice of love and death that could bind them together forever.

Some people believe that beneath our own world, separated only by a thin veil of human disbelief, there is another one – an ancient land of myths and legends, a place where magical creatures dwell. What would happen if one of them walked the streets of London at night?

Once a proud warrior, elven prince Elathan was living in exile, fallen from grace and separated from his own people. He wanted the mortal woman the moment he saw her standing on Blackfriars Bridge, staring down into the darkness with unbearable pain in her eyes. This strangely compelling female also happened to have luscious curves that made his body ache with desire. Naturally, he decided to hunt the woman down, drag her to his lair and command her to become his slave of pleasure. But would her frail human body survive a night of untamed passion in the arms of a Fae?

After a devastating breakup with her fiancé, Igraine Chandler was spending her honeymoon in England all by herself, her life utterly bereft of meaning. For who could ever love a plain, slightly overweight nurse from New Jersey with nothing left but a broken heart and her lost dreams of a home and a family? But she never imagined that she would soon set out into a world beyond her wildest dreams, and help a prince reclaim his throne …

~ Amazon ~~ Smashwords ~~ iTunes ~~ Barnes & Noble

EXCERPT from Bound to the Prince

Elathan stood at the edge of the lake, waiting for Igraine to serve him. “What do you want me to do, my Lord?” she asked, still avoiding looking at his private parts.

“Don’t you filthy humans even know how to wash?” he hissed impatiently. He gestured to the ornate table. “These vials contain soaps and oils. Use them to bathe my body, slave.” The prince stepped under the waterfall, rinsing off part of the mud, but it stuck to his skin and hair. Igraine sniffed at some of the bottles, inhaling their wonderful, unknown scents. Some of them were fresh, others musky, but clearly intended for use on the gorgeous body of the male who was showering right in front of her, naked. Water droplets glistened on his skin, running down from his chest to his flat, rippling stomach and still further down, gathering at … “Why do I feel like I’m in midst of a Cool Water commercial now?” she nervously murmured, wincing when the elf threw her a glance that clearly declared her a lunatic.

Sighing, Igraine took a small green bottle containing a soapy liquid and followed the prince. Elathan stepped out of his natural shower without even looking at her. Closing his eyes, he turned his broad back to Igraine, with the unspoken order to wash him. She poured some of the aromatic soap into the palm of her hand. The mud was diluted by the water, but it still ran in dark streams over the elf’s body, down over his hips and his muscular backside, dripping over his thighs. It collected in a puddle at his feet.

Igraine’s hands trembled when she reached out to touch him. “May I …?” she said softly. “What are you waiting for?” Elathan replied. Despite the harsh words, his voice was low and hoarse. She couldn’t see the expression of his face from behind, but she noticed his rigid posture. His contempt for her was obvious.

Taking a deep breath, she fought back her tears and started with his dirty hair, lathering it with the luxurious soap. Black, muddy water ran through her fingers and down her arms. When she had worked the soap into the whole silken length, she reached up to massage his scalp. Elathan stiffened before tilting his head back so she could reach him more easily. After she had washed all the mud out of his hair, she reached out to touch his shoulders, covering his pale skin with the soap.

Elathan stiffened even more, looking like a statue of stone now. Her hands wandered to the sides of his neck to wash the dirt away, then moved down over his shoulders, rubbing him in circles. His skin was smooth and soft as velvet over his rock-hard muscles. She longed to touch him, ferociously. No man had ever affected her so much. Just being close to him made her a weak creature, driven by the most primitive desire to mate.

Now that he couldn’t see her shamelessly staring at him, she was safe to admire his muscular back. It was built like an artist’s masterpiece. The scars marring his alabaster skin only enhanced his beauty. Without them, the sight would be too perfect for human eyes to endure. They were old, faint scars, diagonally crisscrossing all over his back. Igraine suddenly realized that the prince had been whipped, even if it had obviously happened long ago. Tears stinging in her eyes, she lightly traced the scars with her fingers while she washed his back. Although she didn’t dare, she longed to touch those reminders of his torment with her lips, kissing the ancient pain away.

Continuing with his waist, she found some very nasty grime there, sticking to the prince’s skin. As she rubbed his sides to get them clean, Elathan seemed to wince. She paused, but when he said nothing, she rubbed some more. He winced again, apparently trying to escape her touch. At first she stared at his back, baffled for a moment. Maybe he didn’t like her to touch him anymore. But then she understood.

The merciless, battle-hardened elven prince was ticklish.

Amazed by her discovery, she pondered about tickling him some more, but decided against it. She should not tempt her fate too much. Instead she reached around his waist and began to wash his wide chest, feeling his strong heartbeat and the heat of his skin. He was so tall that she had to press her body against his back to reach him with her arms. Moving down, she soaped his flat stomach, feeling the tense muscles under her fingertips. Elathan seemed to breathe more heavily now. For a moment, she asked herself what would happen if she dared to go even deeper, washing him … there. When she had finished and withdrew her arms, she glanced down at his butt. Heavens, this was too good to be true – so smooth, perfectly rounded and tight. She wondered if he would allow her to wash him there, too.

Suddenly a mischievous grin spread across her face. Well, even if he would kill her afterwards, this princely backside would be worth it. Now your ass is mine, Your Royal Highness, she thought. She just couldn’t help it. Then her hands touched his muscular buttocks, lathering the soap in small circles over the skin. Maybe being an elven prince’s slave wasn’t going to be so bad, after all. When Elathan moaned ever so softly, she couldn’t hold herself back anymore. A small giggle escaped her lips.

Strong hands grabbed her upper arms. Igraine was whirled around until she stared directly into Elathan’s furious face, his golden eyes burning with anger. Before she could move or utter a sound, he picked her up like a weightless doll and threw her into the lake.

All of this happened so quickly that she didn’t even have time to hold her breath. She sank into the dark water and struggled for a moment in panic. Then she managed to reach the surface and came up, coughing and gasping for air. Bewildered, she was still wondering what had happened when Elathan was suddenly in there with her, wading through the lake and quickly rinsing off the soap from his hair and body. His pitiless grin let her know that he found her distress entertaining.

“You!” she shouted angrily, shoving against his chest with both hands. The fact that his eyes widened with surprise gave her a certain amount of satisfaction, but not enough. “Prince or not, who the hell do you think you are? First you abduct and enslave me, threatening to kill me if I don’t obey your every wish and whim. You hate humans, and still you don’t bother to kill me. Instead, you seem to enjoy your little game of humiliating me. Why don’t you finally get it over with, elf? You incredibly arrogant, insufferable…”

He grabbed her wrists and bent her arms behind her back with a swift movement. Simultaneously, he silenced her with a hard, passionate kiss.

***

Many thanks to Deborah, who featured me on her blog a few days ago. Be sure to drop by her site and say hi!

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KDP Select Promotion Day 1 Report

As part of the KDP Select program, which I detailed in a previous post, I get five days within each 3-month period where The Redheaded Stepchild is available for free download on Kindle. You can choose to have 5 adjacent days, 5 spread out days, or any combination thereof.

I chose to spread out my days for some maximum effect. The days I chose were mostly arbitrary, the first one being January, Friday the 13th. In case you can’t count, that was yesterday, and here’s how it shaped up…

I tweeted the freeness of the book 3 or 4 times throughout the day, and I posted it on this blog. I also let my Facebook friends know, but more because I knew some of them got Kindle Fires for Christmas, and I feel like a bastard asking my friends to pay money for a book where they know all the characters. That was it. As far as I know, the free-ness wasn’t mentioned in any other tweets (I have a watch on the phrase “Redheaded Stepchild” on Twitter).

Yesterday, I had over 300 people download The Redheaded Stepchild on Kindle. The actual number is somewhere between 307 and 342. (It was 308 when I went to bed and 343 when I woke up, and I know I actually sold one for money a couple days before). I don’t care who you are, that is fucking huge. I mean, I’ve had some sales here and there, but I’ve never had more than 300 even look at my book’s page in one day before, and I usually knew who was buying on any given day. I probably know 300 people, but I don’t know the 300 people who downloaded my book yesterday.

I know, I know, I don’t make a dime on any of those 300 sales. Do I care? No. I know people like free shit. Hell, I like free shit. A lot. The point is, if all of those 300+ people like it, that’s 300+ people who positively review my book, tell their friends about it, or lend it to a Kindle friend. If all those 300+ hate it, I don’t lose any money when they ask for a refund (suckers) and I get 300+ negative reviews, and my book still has the Gigli effect (people will check it out just to see how bad it REALLY is).

But the bottom line is this – I have over 300 new readers, and books in hands is more important to me than money and sales. Not to mention, I still have 4 more promotion days from now until the end of March, so keep your eyes peeled if you missed this first promotional day. Or spend the $3 instead of getting that large coffee.

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Racking up the 5-Star reviews

It’s been a little over 2 months since The Redheaded Stepchild hit the shelves, and it’s been steadily building some great 5-star reviews. Have a look for yerself!

A glimpse into a vivid world

I tend to read genre fiction, so when my friend recommended this, I put it off for awhile. When I finally did start it, though, I could barely put it down. Every chapter flowed into the next one, and I was excited to see which chapter of Cady’s life would open to us next. Reaching the end was the only disappointment of the book; I wanted more!

I guess that’s about the most you can say for a book, right? Once I started reading it, I wanted to keep reading it, and it left me wanting more.

Hitchcock’s real strength lies in her descriptions, vivid imagery evoking the sights, colors, lighting, mood, smells and sounds of her locations: a seedy country bar in the middle of nowhere, a trailer park, a parent’s bedroom.

Relationships also form a core component of this book, and it’s delightful to watch them grow or shrink as we move forward and backward in time, discovering first an effect, then a cause, then another effect.

It’s a quick, delightful, sharp and observant read, and I’d recommend it to anyone.

Bittersweet coming-of age relationship tale

Catherine O’Donnell wants what we all want…to be loved. This tale made me want to wrap young Catherine in a hug and tell her it’s going to be OK. Her stepmother is a character you’ll love to hate as you experience those awkward teen years through the lens of a girl who just needs a mother’s unconditional acceptance.

This book is for you if you loathe toddlers & tiaras. This book is for you if you know what it’s like to grow up poor. This book is for you if you, like Catherine, value your siblings and their futures more than you value your own well-being!

This was a quick and comfortable read. I’m looking forward to more from this promising new author!

A great reading treat!

For those of you who have never read a Kelly Hitchcock story you are going to be in for a treat. For those of you who have read one of her stories you will find this one a great read that you won’t be able to put down until you finish it (and I had to read it again to make sure that I didn’t miss anything).
I love Kelly’s stories for the way she paints vivid pictures with her words. It’s almost as though you are there, walking alongside her main character Cady as she heads back to her rural hometown. Her descriptions of the places and people compel you to know them and see them for who they are and the symbolism they hold in Cady’s life.
Even though I grew up in rural Missouri the memories it brought back of my own childhood were like an old comfortable blanket that settled comfortably around me. I can identify with Cady her feelings and her journey. The Redheaded Stepchild is just the first of many stories I look forward to reading from this wonderful author.

From Goodreads

An excellent book from Kelly Hitchcock! I felt like I was journeying through life with Cady, feeling every emotion with her. I couldn’t help but feel hopeful, yet jaded with Cady as she meets her new stepmom, and I understood the love hate relationship Cad had for her stepmom as Cady grew up. Kelly paints vivid imagery of the house Cady lived in, the town, her friends, her relationship with her Mother, and most importantly her relationship with her Father to make the story so realistic. I can’t wait to read Kelly’s next book!
Thanks to all my reviewers!
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The Redheaded Stepchild now available in paperback

Do not adjust your TV – you are, in fact, seeing a paperback version of The Redheaded Stepchild.  Late last week, I received my proof copy from CreateSpace, which I quickly ripped open in the lobby of my apartment office.  I am ridiculously happy with the way it turned out – the back cover is amazing, and even the spine of the book is very slick.

The book itself is thinner than I expected it would be – but it’s not super thin.  Having 12-point font and a 6×9 canvas probably reduces a little bulk that you’d typically find in a squatter paperback.  Most importantly, though, this means my #1 fans, all 5 of you, can get a paperback if you want one! They’re available on the Amazon page, but also in the CreateSpace store, where I get a little bit of a higher cut, I admit.

So there you go, Grandma.  Now you can believe me that I do, in fact, have a book floating around out there.  Also, stay tuned for some exciting The Redheaded Stepchild news this Friday, the 13th.

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The Redheaded Stepchild available on KDP Select!

In case this headline doesn’t mean anything to you, allow me to explain the Reader’s Digest version…

Amazon has a new option with its Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) program that allows their authors to enroll their titles. For a 90-day period, those titles are available in the Kindle Owner’s Lending Library, and Amazon Prime members with Kindles can borrow a book a month for free for all titles enrolled in the program.

What does this mean for me? I not only get to offer my book in the Lending Library, I also get to offer my book for free for up to 5 days during this period, getting it into more hands. So if you’ve got The Redheaded Stepchild in your wish list, you can keep your eyes peeled for one of these 5 free days and get it. The only catch is, I have to offer my book digitally exclusively in the Kindle store. Given that I have sold all of 5 copies on my other digital platform, Smashwords, I think I can remove it for 3 months and be okay. Plus, it’s a different way to earn royalties and get more exposure, and this is all trial and error for me, anyway. I’ll keep you posted on how it goes!

To learn more about KDP Select, go here. To see The Redheaded Stepchild in the Amazon Kindle store, go here.

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2011 in Writer Review

I just got done reading my 2010 review, and now I’m ready to do the same for 2011. It’s been quite a year, and was way different from 2010.

  • I had two manuscripts published in 2011. It was less than 2010, but I’ll still call it a win because I spent more energy on getting The Redheaded Stepchild published and writing my next novel. I also spent more time writing new manuscripts in general than I did in 2010.
  • 2011 came and went, and the two poems that were accepted for publication in February 2010 are still waiting to go to print. And people wonder why print is dead…
  • I forwent the book deal and decided to publish The Redheaded Stepchild myself. I’m still experimenting to figure out what works as far as sales and marketing go, but I’m not in this for the money. I’m in it because I love it and I want to try new things.
  • I tripled my Twitter followers.
  • I once again pimped my writing at South by Southwest. I also submitted a panel proposal for SXSW 2012 which is still under review. Fingers crossed!
  • I used my Kindle to check out works by other Kindle authors. I’m hoping that it’ll be great for you-scratch-my-back-I’ll-scratch-yours kind of sales.
  • I joined a writer’s group, and I’m now leading that group. I look forward to Weird Austin Writers meetings every single time.
  • I began volunteering at my local library. I’m hoping this will help me reach out to readers once I get more established.

Goals for 2012

  • Sell 1,000 copies of The Redheaded Stepchild. I’ll have to figure out what works marketing-wise to make that happen, but it’d be nice to know that my book is in 1,000 new hands!
  • Publish my next novel. I’ve got a lot of rewriting and editing to do, but I’m really excited about the project and I think it’ll be my best work yet. Now if I can just think of a title…
  • Build relationships with readers and other authors. This means I need to keep up with my other author blogs all year round. (Compound goal.)
  • Publish The Other Dentenia Zickafoose. I’ve been shopping this guy around for almost 2 years now. It’s time.
  • Become a contributor on other author blogs. Guest posting, book reviews, whatever I can do. I need to put myself out there.
  • Write 15 new manuscripts. I’ll have the new novel, but I also want to write 10 poems and 5 short stories to add to my repertiore. Can’t be myopic with my manuscripts.

On the whole, I’ll call 2011 a win. I think 2012 is gonna rock.

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Creating for CreateSpace

Long time no see! The holidays did a number on me; don’t worry, you’ll get to hear all about it in next week’s Wednesday Wrant. Lately, though, I’ve been busy preparing The Redheaded Stepchild for paperback format on CreateSpace. CreateSpace, for those who are unfamiliar, is an Amazon affiliate authors can use to create print-on-demand standard size paperback editions of their books. The Kindle edition is, of course, my bread and butter, but we all have those friends and family who refuse to get with the program and want to know “when can I order my paperback?” I’m doing this for them 🙂

CreateSpace makes it all pretty easy, but it has its share of drawbacks, too. I thought I’d write this post to share my thoughts on the good, the bad, and the ugly of creating a paperback on CreateSpace.

THE GOOD

It’s free. I like free. Free is good. Free takes more work, but free is worth it. They have a pay option, too, starting around $300 for interior design and $300 for cover design. No, thanks. I’m not afraid of hard work.

It’s procedural. They keep a running checklist on what you’ve done, what you’re doing, and what you need to do next. If you get tripped up at any phase in the process, you can go right back to it after you correct any issues.

It calculates production costs. CreateSpace automatically calculates how much each copy will cost to print and distribute, and stubs it in as the minimum price you can set for each copy. This takes the guess work out of pricing the paperback.

The preview tools are easy to use. The Interior Reviewer lets you easily check the swankiness of the inside of your book, and the Cover Creator lets you easily design and preview the front cover, back cover, and spine. With the Cover Creator, you can select one of their predefined themes, which are pretty slick if you don’t already have a good cover image, or use your own if you do (which I of course did). You can also add an author photo, back cover text, and pre-place a barcode.

Distribution to CreateSpace and Amazon. I can have my book on Amazon (for a lower royalty share) and CreateSpace just like that.

They provide Word templates. Their downloadable templates keep you from having to manually define the right and left page margins, headers, footers, copyright pages, dedication pages, etc.

THE BAD

The Cover Creator is limited. You don’t get to customize the font set for the spine text or back cover text or set the location of the author photo. You can set the background and text color for the back cover and spine cover, but the palette is pretty limited. I know, I know, you get what you pay for.

The templates are pretty imperfect. The downloadable templates they distribute contain font sets that aren’t supported by CreateSpace (Myriad Pro in the chapter footers) and they can’t interpret blank pages between chapters. So if you want to insert a blank page between chapters, so that each chapter starts on a right page for example, your blank page will still use a header and footer.

The pay services are expensive. I hate formatting in Microsoft Word just as much as the next guy, but I’m not going to pay over $300 for someone else to do it. I suppose if you know nothing about how to use templates and styles in Word it would be worth it, but I’ll do the work myself, thanks.

THE UGLY

The front cover. I had to modify my cover image in PhotoShop several times to get it to meet their standards. They don’t like any text too close to the margin, and to get it to look normal with the 6×9 cover I had to do some layer adjustment that took much longer than I would’ve liked.

Copy and paste. To get the template to play nice, and to not lose my spot in the manuscript, I had to copy and paste each chapter into the template, change the text styles, and modify each footer since it used a font style that wasn’t supported. Nothing feels more like a waste of time to me than copying and pasting, lather-rinse-repeat fashion.

So all in all, the goods outweighed the bad and the ugly, and it was certainly worth the time it took to format the interior and the cover. I’ll be getting my proof soon, and I’m ridiculously excited to hold an actual copy of my book in my hands!

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Answering the question “So what’s your book about?”

If you’re anything like me, you’ve spent years writing your book.  The characters are so real in your imagination that they might as well be walking right beside you, in the flesh.  You’ve added sections, removed sections, rewritten sections so many times you could recite them from memory.  Your book encompasses love, hate, and that which makes us infallible humans…

… and then someone wants to you to simplify all that into a sentence. THE sentence. “What’s your book about?”

You want to scoff at them, tell them you can’t possibly diminish your life’s work to a level they could possibly understand.  But you’re not a pompous asshole, and you want them to actually read it. So what do you do?

You find an answer to life’s great question. You’ll have to answer it the rest of your life after you’re published, so you might as well have a well thought-out, rehearsed (but natural) answer for it. Not sure where to start?  Here are some ideas:

  • Setting. No, you don’t want a Don LaFontaine-esque “In a world where…” statement, but where your story takes place is a pretty big part of the story. If your story’s on a fictional planet incapable of sustaining life, that’s probably something the questioner wants to know about. If it’s just about a small town where escape seems impossible (like mine is), that’s just as crucial to the story.
  • Main character. Bottom line, if they don’t care about the main character, they’re not going to care about your story.
  • The central conflict. If you make your character’s world sound all hunky-dory, then the reader’s not going to see much point in reading a story about everyday life on planet Cilicol or the fun of growing up.

Avoid cliches. Don’t call it a coming of age story (guilty of this myself), a post-apocalyptic survival story, or a sardonic satire. Be unique.  If your elevator answer includes these three elements and steers clear of cliches, then it’ll probably be enough to catch their attention. Here’s one I’ve been kicking around…

It’s a collection of vignettes about a girl who grows up in a small town where everyone wants to get out, but few people actually do. Just as she gets used to life with her younger brother and sister in her father’s custody, her new stepmother comes along and she has to try and figure out how to keep her in her life, even with life around her isn’t so pleasant.

Keep it short. About 30 seconds. After awhile, you’ll get so good at it you’ll forget that it took you years and years to write your epic tome.

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