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Thoughts on Writing – Combining Characters Part 1

One of the writing tips I’ve heard for making stories stronger is to combine characters. Theoretically, combining characters cuts down the number of supporting characters (thus making the cast easier to remember) and makes for a stronger single character (by bringing in conflicting, but often interesting behaviors).

When I was working on Distant Horizon, a YA science fiction novel I’m co-authoring with my husband, Isaac, a suggestion we got from one of our beta-readers was to combine two characters who both played the role of a mentor. Ultimately I turned down the idea, because each character had conflicting backstories that I wanted to be able to bring in later (though that isn’t technically a good excuse–somewhere I read a similar train of thought about a Wheel of Time character, but I can’t remember which article that was).

However, by realizing how similar the two characters were, I realized how important it was to differentiate between them if I chose not to combine them.

Let’s take a quick look at these two characters, Pops and Jim, from Distant Horizon.

Pops is the main character’s grandfather, though she knows him for the same length of time as Jim. He has the wisdom of experience from working with the people he now fights, and he wants to protect the main character from those people.

Jim, on the other hand, is older than Pops, and he’s never worked with the bad guys. He knows the time from before the bad guys took over, and thus, he took on the role of the rebel’s historian.

Both characters are mentor figures, and in my earlier drafts, had a tendency to convey repetitive information.

I needed to determine what made each separate character crucial to the plot, and why I wanted them to be different characters.

One reason was their respective eras.

Pops grew up during a time when the bad guys had almost full control of their territories, but their reign was still uncertain. They were no longer seen as the bad guys, and thus, Pops took part in helping their agenda. He grew up familiar with the earlier uncertainty where the lack of jobs and money were a problem, and he understood the promise of the coming “Community ideals.” But in his work he’s seen the darker side of the Community, and while he still values the ideals, he no longer supports the bad guys. While with them, he trained as a scientist who studied powers, and so he is the resident expert.

As for Jim, he grew up in the age of superheroes (relatively similar to our world, but with powers). He saw the fall of the Super Bureau, and the fall of the free world. He is familiar with the concept of democracy, various religions (which were largely wiped out by the bad guys) and freedom. He was there to watch the world spiraling out of control, and he was there at the founding of the rebels’ group. He’s seen the change of eras. Paralyzed from the waist-down in his early days, he no longer fights direct battles, but he provides useful information regarding the past as it was… and how the bad guys have covered up that past with lies. He is the only surviving member of the Super Bureau.

Each character has several similarities. But they are also different. When the main character wants information regarding how the bad guys act from within their ranks, she should go to Pops. When she needs more information on powers, she should go to Pops. When she wants comfort in the Community ideals she believed in, she should go to Pops.

But when she wants to know why this rebel group behaves as they do, she needs to go to Jim. Only he can give her the dynamics that neither she, nor Pops, can fully understand. When she wants information on the world as it was, and might be yet again, or answers that don’t involve the Community’s dark secrets, she needs to go to Jim. He has a different perspective than Pops, and unlike Pops, who is jaded from the world he’s seen, Jim still has some lingering hope within the sadness of everything he’s lost, in part because of how he was raised.

Now, would it be possible to combine these characters? Probably. The ages might change. The new character might have been a superhero trained in the science of powers who worked for the bad guys for a while, then quit for reasons that are revealed in the story. The new character would still be a mentor, but due to the change in backstory, how they see the world–and how others see them–would be different.

It’s not quite what Isaac and I were going for. There’s a certain symbolism we’re hoping to achieve through the two characters, and they each have different outlooks on life. Maybe the story would have been stronger if they were merged. Maybe it wouldn’t.

For now, I’m planning to keep them separate. But having considered merging them helped me to consider what made them stronger separately.

I hope you enjoyed this post, and next time, I’ll be talking about a couple characters I’m considering combining in The Shadow War. 🙂

Have you considered combining any of your characters? Why or why not?

EDIT: You can read the second part of this post here.

 

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Author Interview – Jordan Mierek (Treasure Darkly)

Today we have an author interview with Jordan Elizabeth, the author of the upcoming book, Treasure Darkly. 😀

***

Beware a Treasure Darkly…

 

(The stunning cover art is thanks to Amalia Chitulescu– find her here)

Treasure Darkly - Book Cover

Seventeen-year-old Clark Treasure assumes the drink he stole off the captain is absinthe… until the chemicals in the liquid give him the ability to awaken the dead. A great invention for creating perfect soldiers, yes, but Clark wants to live as a miner, not a slave to the army—or the deceased. On the run, Clark turns to his estranged tycoon father for help. The Treasures welcome Clark with open arms, so he jumps at the chance to help them protect their ranch against Senator Horan, a man who hates anyone more powerful than he.

And he is not alone. His new found sister, Amethyst, thinks that’s rather dashing, until Horan kidnaps her, and all she gets is a bullet through her heart. When Clark brings her back to life, she realizes he’s more than just street-smart – and he’s not really a Treasure. Amethyst’s boring summer at home has turned into an adventure on the run, chock full of intrigue, danger, love, and a mysterious boy named Clark.

Treasure Darkly Full Cover Preview

TREASURE DARKLY, Book 1 of the Treasure Chronicles

The young adult novel is a dark mix of steampunk, the paranormal and romance in a “Wild West” setting.

Below is an excerpt from TREASURE DARKLY. You can read more on the Curiosity Quills Press website.

“Looks like he did drink it up.” The general client spoke from the right. “Must’ve interacted with all that bloody hertum. Look at ‘im, he’s bleeding already.”

“What’s it gonna do to him?” the guard from the morning asked.

“Lots of stuff.” The general laughed. “When he touches the dead, he’ll be able to bring them back, and exchange that life for another. Perfect soldier, huh? We only have one vial ready and I was going to give it to a lucky fellow. Guess it will be this boy.”

“Whatcha gonna do with him?” The guard snickered.

“Have to be a test subject,” the general said. “Sure thought it was that Judy who stole my bottle. Pity I killed her. She sure knew how to make my pecker sing.”
Judy.

Clark’s mother.

Clark bolted off the ground and ran. He could hide in the hole under the shed behind the brothel. Mable never found him under there. He might be cursed with raising the dead—he’d already done that to the poor mine worker—but it didn’t mean he’d let them take him for tests.

###

And now for the interview with Jordan Elizabeth:

Tell us about your latest book:
Right now I’m working on Book 4 in the Treasure Chronicles, for those who want more of Clark and Amethyst!

How did you get your start writing?
I wrote my first novel back in high school. When I looked into how to get published, I saw that I needed credentials for agents to even look at my work. I started submitting short stories anywhere I could.

What publishing credits do you have under your belt?
I was published in numerous online journals before signing with Curiosity Quills Press. I like to embark upon writing exercises by working on short stories; you can find them in anthologies published by Horrified Press and in the anthology 13 HAUNTING TALES.

What is your writing process?
I take an idea and run with it. I only make notes as I write, so I can keep track of names, locations, appearances…

What has been your most rewarding writing experience?
That has to do with my story TABITHA’S DEATH (you can find the first three chapters on WATTPAD). One of my critique partners contacted me a year after reading it to say it still gives her nightmares! Now, I don’t want to give people nightmares (insert malicious laugh), but I was delighted that something I wrote stuck with someone for so long.

What writing projects are you working on now?
Right now I’m working on Book 4 in the Treasure Chronicles, for those who want more of Clark and Amethyst!

What is your favorite thing about writing?
Creating worlds. All day I think about characters, settings, and adventures, so it is a great release to get home from work and be able to write.

What was your favorite thing about writing this book?
One of the main characters, Amethyst. She’s so selfish and flighty – I had a blast writing about her!

Was there anything you found particularly difficult about writing this book?
Pleasing my critique partners. I don’t always have this problem, but for this book, my critique partners each wanted something different. I love my critique partners, and I hope they’re happy with the final product. Their excitement for different characters is what inspired me to create books 2, 3, and now 4 in the series.

What was the process like for writing, editing, then finally publishing the book?
The process for this book was the quickest! I wrote it, and along the way I shared snipets with my critique partners. Curiosity Quills Press accepted it, it was edited, and now it is published. TREASURE DARKLY really flew…like the airship I’m including in book 4.

Who’s your favorite character in the book? Why?
Although I loved writing about Amethyst, Clark is my favorite. He’s a handsome rogue, who knows how to be bada** while still being a gentleman. Plus he’s sexy as all brass glass.

Since every author wonders… how did you find the publisher for your book?
I’m honored to be critique partners with Eliza Tilton, who is published through Curiosity Quills Press. I compiled GEARS OF BRASS and Eliza contributed to it. She showed it to the publisher, they accepted it, and I was able to show them more of my work.

What’s the cover creation process like?
I explained to the cover artist what the characters looked like and an idea of the story. She came up with the rest.

Anything else you want to tell us?
The sequel, BORN OF TREASURE, comes out September 21, 2015. You will get to see more of the Steampunk Wild West world and there will be plenty of ghosts. The romance will be even hotter.

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You can read more about Amethyst Treasure in GEARS OF BRASS, a steampunk anthology from Curiosity Quills Press available now from Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

Jordan Elizabeth - Author Photo

Jordan Elizabeth, formally Jordan Elizabeth Mierek, is the author of ESCAPE FROM WITCHWOOD HOLLOW, available from Curiosity Quills Press. Check out Jordan’s website, JordanElizabethMierek.com, for contests and book signing locales. Jordan is represented by Belcastro Agency and she is president of the Utica Writers Club.

Gears of Brass - Book Cover

No blog tour is complete without a giveaway. Enter here for a chance to win a paperback copy of GEARS OF BRASS.

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Thanks so much for the interview, Jordan, and good luck with your book! 😀

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1000 Words: The Socks Project Continued

Good news! I’ve finally started editing the prequel to “Socks,” one of the short stories from my 1000 Words project. I’m happy to announce that the title will be “Ashes.” I’m currently in the process of planning the cover, which shall be done in similar fashion to Socks, as a way to show they’re related. The difference is that “Ashes” is not restricted to a one thousand words word-length, and is currently closer to 7000 words. I’m planning on self-publishing it and selling it for $0.99 on both Smashwords and Kindle.

So, for a little more information about “Ashes,” it takes place in the time before “Socks,” so you’ll get to see a little more about the bunkers and the world she lives in. It’s also young adult, sci-fi romance. I hesitate to call it dystopian, since it’s not technically a dystopia, but it runs along similar worlds to popular dystopian YA right now (Pandemonium is the one that comes to mind, though I wrote this before reading that book). It is a complete story, however, if people like it, there is room to continue it before the actual “Socks” story begins. As well as room for right afterwards. Granted, it’ll be competing for time with Distant Horizon, the novel my husband and I are working on, but we’ll see how well it’s recieved. 🙂

In the meantime, go check out “Socks” if you haven’t already. It’s available on Smashwords, and best of all, it’s free. 🙂

https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/154150

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Marketing Your Book

So, as Isaac and I get closer to finishing Distant Horizon (and thus starting querying), I’ve been doing reading on how marketing of a book is done, both for trade and self-publishing. After all, both are looking for readership, right? I found a few interesting tidbits I thought I’d share.

One is the article at the link below. It talks about how marketing is done of a book in the trade publishing world, and points out some good tips that could probably also be used if you’re self-publishing, too. It talks about the importance of marketing as a way to gain publicity, but that marketing doesn’t always equate to publicity. It’s that word-of-mouth you want, when you get other people promoting your book without your asking. Needless to say, I thought it was an informative read:

http://editorialass.blogspot.com/2009/04/why-dont-we-throw-some-money-at-it-like.html

Another interesting idea I came upon was the idea of offering signed prints of your book cover (if it’s one that looks really good)  for the first people who buy your book off Amazon and show you a receipt. Found this at Madame Guillotine’s blog, here: http://madameguillotine.org.uk/

Of course, ARC (advanced reader copies) are also a good idea, and it looks like Goodreads contests may be a good way to get publicity for them. The hope, of course, is that they’ll read your book and leave a review, and maybe, just maybe, recommend t to a friend. 🙂

Also, another neat blog (not so much on marketing, but on publishing) I found is called The Intern: http://internspills.blogspot.com/

Thought I’d share that, too. Anyways, that’s all I’ve got for you at the moment. 🙂

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Interview with Rebekkah Ford – Author of “Beyond the Eyes”

SBibb - Beyond the Eyes Book Cover

So, this is the completed cover for Rebekkah Ford, my first willing client I did cover art for. She’s just released her book, Beyond the Eyes, online, and to celebrate, I offered to do an interview with her about her new book. I’d like to thank her for being willing to have the time and patience with me as I got a start in cover design, as well as let the world know about her release. 🙂

And now, an interview with Rebekkah Ford:

What was your inspiration for Beyond the Eyes?

The idea for, Beyond the Eyes came to me when my husband had suggested I should write something that would totally freak me out. Well, the movie, The Exorcist, has always scared me. In fact, I’ve had bad dreams for years over that movie. So that’s where my inspiration for this book came from: writing something that could be plausible and creepy.

What was your favorite part about writing Beyond the Eyes?

The characters surprising me and showing up out of nowhere.

Did you run into any hiccups while writing Beyond the Eyes?

Yeah, I did. Writing the first sentence and the beginning of the first chapter was difficult. I struggled with that for a while.

What made you decide to self-publish?

I was burnt out on querying agents, getting wonderful comments and encouragements from them, yet their client list was full, or my story didn’t fit the type of stories they represented. I did have some agents interested, however, it didn’t work out or feel right to me. I then did a lot of research on self-publishing and was pleasantly surprised with all the information I discovered about it. One day, at the beginning of January of this year, my husband looked at me and said, “Just do it and quit screwing around. Your book needs to get out there.” And in that moment, I decided to give into that constant gnawing in the back of my head that’s been going on for months, telling me to self-publish, and I decided right then to do it. Not to mention, I have a fire in me that believes strongly in this series.

Who’s your favorite character and why?

Hmmmm, that’s a hard question . . . I think Nathan is. In my second book to this series, Dark Spirits, starting at chapter fourteen, the book goes into Nathan’s POV, every other chapter. It’s pretty cool, actually. I wasn’t sure if it would work, but it totally did. Nathan is my favorite character because he doesn’t mess around. If he says he’s going to open the gates of hell upon you, watch out because he will. I also like that he has a soft side to him.

What’s your favorite thing about Beyond the Eyes?

Paige and Nathan’s relationship.

When should we expect to see Beyond the Eyes available and where?

The Kindle and ebook is available now at Amazon.com, Barnes & Noble.com, and Smashwords. My paperback should be available by the middle of this month.

Want to share a small snippet of your story to give the audience a taste?

Sure. This scene is towards the end of chapter one. Paige is at a dance club called The Lion’s Den, and her best friend Carrie is pulling her onto the dance floor where their friend Matt is already dancing:

            “As we made our way through the crowd of moving bodies, my ears started to ring again. Okay, this was seriously getting on my last nerve, but then I reminded myself I was here to have fun and began swaying my hips when we reached Matt. My body automatically moved inside a bubble of energetic sound waves–free and unencumbered. I was no longer the freak, with a mother who showed up when she wanted to and a father who had died when I was four. None of that stuff mattered, because in that moment I was one with the music and the pulsing lights. And as each song changed into pure techno melodies, I became more entranced, closing my eyes, swaying my body to the beat of the music, entering my own world.

            Then something strange happened. The people around me were now far below me, and I was tethered to a silver cord attached to my dancing body. I wasn’t scared though, and found myself enjoying this sense of release. I had no worries. Even when I thought about the premonition, the fear I’d felt toward it earlier didn’t touch me. Probably since I knew I wasn’t dead. I mean, hey, the silver cord remained attached to my body, so I was good, right?

            As I took in my surroundings, a guy wearing a long black coat caught my attention. He was on the high platform overlooking the floor with his hands gripping the black railing. His hood concealed his face, but he appeared to be watching the people down below.

            My eyes swept over the crowd and rested on Matt standing there staring intently on my swaying body. He took a step closer and leaned forward.

            Was he sniffing me?

            He looked up, searching for something.

            At that exact moment, the hooded guy jumped off the platform, over the black railing, and ran to the dance floor. And then Matt’s eyes locked onto mine. They were pale and glowing.

             I shuddered.

            The silvery cord rippled, and then yanked me toward my body, as if I was a balloon being pulled down by an eager child’s grasp. Everything rushed before me: the tables, the crowd of moving heads, and my own head, moving in a figure eight along with my body. I closed my eyes, and collided into a hard, confining surface, and that was the last thing I could remember.”

Beyond the Eyes Blurb:

“A thrilling, wholly satisfying first book to a new young adult series. It will keep you wanting more.” –Valentina Cano, Carabosse’s Library

“Beyond the Eyes is haunting yet passionate. This breakout novel is quick and hip, a saucy must-read.”–Charles Land, Judas Pistol

Paige knows evil exists in this world, but she never imagined it would want something from her.

After a ghostly voice whispers a haunting message to seventeen-year-old Paige Reed, Paige’s life takes a nightmarish turn. Unwilling to tell her friends about the supernatural occurrences happening in her life, Paige feels more alone than ever–until she meets Nathan Caswell.

Nathan is not only hot, but seems to peer into Paige’s soul, evoking a magnetic energy between them that cannot be denied. But he’s no ordinary guy. He tracks dark spirits, and becomes alarmed when they set their sights on Paige.

And then there are the two power-hungry dark spirits who believe Paige can find King Solomon’s magical ring for them, because when her father was alive, he was close to finding it. If Paige doesn’t comply with their demands, they’ll kill her.

Paige is forced to dig deep into her father’s past and unearths shocking secrets about him and his bloodline. With the past and present colliding, Paige is only sure about two things in her life: she needs to outwit the dark spirits to stay alive, and she’s completely and helplessly in love with Nathan.”

***

Rebekkah Ford grew up in a family that dealt with the paranormal. Her parents’ Charles and Geri Wilhelm were the Directors of the UFO Investigators League in Fairfield, Ohio, back in the 1970s. They also investigated ghost hauntings and Bigfoot sightings in addition to UFO’s. Growing up in this type of environment and having the passion for writing is what drove Rebekkah at an early age to write stories dealing with the paranormal. At one point in her life, she thought she wanted to be a journalist, and although she enjoyed writing articles, she quickly discovered her real passion was writing fiction. Her fascination with the paranormal is what led her to write the ‘Beyond the Eyes’ series. Visit her online and read her blog at http://themusingwriter.blogspot.com

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And there it is! Hope you enjoy, and don’t forget to take a look at her new book. 😀

http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/168857

http://www.amazon.com/Beyond-the-Eyes-ebook/dp/B0088JF7HQ/ref=sr_1_7?ie=UTF8&qid=1338957308&sr=8-7

http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/rebekkah-rebekkah-ford/1111386817?ean=2940014746496

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Premade Cover Art – Now Available!

Great news! I’ve just started offering premade covers on my facebook page. 😀 Prices will vary, depending on the difficulty level of the cover. Please keep in mind that the font, color of font, and placement can be changed depending on your book. Also, minor adjustments can be made with regard to overall color cast of the image, blurring, etc. Feel free to ask if your interested in one of these covers. 🙂

SBibb's Photographic Illustration - Premade Cover 8

Recognize it? (From banner above) This is one of the covers available to be purchased, and happens to be a wrap-around cover. (Can also be done as a front cover). Great for fantasy or sci-fi, and especially young adult. 🙂

Premades: http://www.facebook.com/sbibbphoto
Custom Designed Covers: https://sbibb.wordpress.com/book-cover-design-services/
Main Website: http://www.sbibbphoto.com

So, if there’s anything you’re looking to see, just ask. I’m going to continue uploading more covers over time, and hopefully get some new ones created soon. 🙂

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“1000 Words” – Now Available in Paperback

Well, the good news is: It’s here. My Honors College Project is done. Turned in. Complete.

Yay. 🙂

Formally titled “1000 Words: A Collection of Short Stories,” is is now available on Amazon. I even fixed the description’s HTML so that it used line breaks. (Though it looks like I’ll have to independently set up the “search inside” feature for the paperback book).

http://www.amazon.com/1000-Words-Collection-Short-Stories/dp/1475227477/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1335566292&sr=8-1

Gotta admit, the cool thing is that while I was showing a copy of the printed book to my mentor for the project, a few of the other photo students got a chance to look at it and seemed impressed. Plus, one of the staff who works there decided to buy my book, making him the first official buyer of the paperback edition. Yay! My fiance has first dibs on the ebook edition. LOL 🙂

So now, here’s the part that may or may not be helpful for those of you reading my posts. I’ve taken pictures of the printed book (The Honors College permitted me to buy ten of them, one first myself, one for my mentor, and one for each of the seven models), at different angles. It’s a 6×9 inch paperback book from CreateSpace (they do print-on-demand, or “POD” printing) at 72 pages.

I’ll say one thing. It may be small, but I’m impressed with the interior color printing. The text is crisp, and the colors from the images don’t appear to smudge. The inner covers look great. I might have been a little off on how the spine was supposed to look, but it looks like the guides were correct (once I made a PSD to work from) for the wraparound cover. The paper for the front cover feels a little thin (as opposed to the paper a book printed at Lulu used for the cover) but the quality of the image looks great.

The paper pages are a bright white, but easy to read. I would personally consider extending the gutters out a bit or changing how I typeset the text in word, because the sentence feels a bit short when I try to read a paragraph, but that’s something I personally can do better to improve.

The pages open easily but do not lay flat (I felt a bit concerned about how thin the book is, but the binding appears to be holding).

Now, on to the pictures. 🙂

Front Cover:

SBibb - "1000 Words" Printed Book

Back Cover:

SBibb - "1000 Words" Printed Book

Side View:

SBibb - "1000 Words" Printed Book

Side View:

SBibb - "1000 Words" Printed Book

Inner Pages:

SBibb - "1000 Words" Printed Book

Text Page:

SBibb - "1000 Words" Printed Book

Cover Page:

SBibb - "1000 Words" Printed Book

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My Recent Discovery of Book Trailers

So after reading the post (http://www.ravven.com/blog/2012/03/la-estrella-book-trailer/) by Raaven, which had the book trailer for La Estrella, I started getting an interest in book trailers. To be honest, I’d never really paid them much attention. I figured that if I’d read the blurb and that would tell me whether I liked it or not.

But then I started looking at book trailers, and the movie-like quality of them fascinated me. Some where less than thrilling, but others quickly caught my attention. The one Raaven mention, La Estrella, has me wanting to read the book, though I know very little Spanish. (Here’s to hoping it eventually gets translated).

Another one that caught my eye was also posted by Raaven (http://www.ravven.com/blog/2012/02/book-trailers/), called Harbinger. Personally, it’s not the type of book that I’d normally pick up, though I was fascinated by the trailer. I would give it a look now if I saw it in a book store, though I probably would have passed it over before.

Now publishers are also promoting thier books with book trailers through Facebook.

Starters instantly caught my eye, and I went on to read the sample chapter. Needless to say, it’s now on my to-read list (consequently, I signed up on Goodreads just to keep track of them all).

Starters: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zvNUsW1CItY

The other recent one was Under the Never Sky, which I’d previously ignored. After seeing the trailer, I definatly plan on giving the book a chance.

Under the Never Sky: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A0TnH3GEieE&feature=youtu.be

Would I go out and buy the book on the trailer alone? Probably not. But the ones that catch my interest do get me reading the sample chapters.

And one book trailer just made me happy, because it was advertising book two by showing the ending of book one. If you don’t want spoilers for Matched, you might not want to watch the trailer for Crossed. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ovn8-Jp3ckM

Anyways, twas a thought I had. Personally I really enjoy these movie-esque book trailers, and whether I self-publish or traditionally publish the novel I’m working on, I’d want to consider the possibility of making a trailer. 🙂

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