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While the Cats are Away, Martin's Gonna Play

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Martin L. Shoemaker
(@martin-l-shoemaker)
Posts: 1950
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Inspired by S'mores by the fire - Kary's reflections on writing, I thought I would add a thread for thoughts on writing that I post on Facebook and on my blog. I really should share them here as well, as part of my Pay It Forward that I owe to the Contest.

Here's a collection of recent writing posts, starting with...


The only pattern is: There is no pattern.

http://nineandsixtyways.com/
Tools, Not Rules.
Martin L. Shoemaker
3rd Place Q1 V31
"Today I Am Paul", WSFA Small Press Award 2015, Nebula nomination 2015
Today I Am Carey from Baen
The Last Dance (#1 science fiction eBook on Amazon, October 2019) and The Last Campaign from 47North

 
Posted : January 28, 2022 7:43 pm
Martin L. Shoemaker
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Posts: 1950
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Failing takes a lot more work than not trying in the first place.

Failing is a lot more frightening than not trying in the first place. You get your hopes up, and then they crash down and shatter.

These are understandable reasons why some people would rather not try.

This is the point where you might expect me to add an inspirational counterpoint to make you try anyway... but I can't. No one can make that decision for you. Only you can know whether you have the drive to try, to create, despite the risks.

There's no shame in deciding that you don't need the work and the heartache. There's no shame in deciding to create only for yourself, or not at all. There are plenty of other worthwhile pursuits in life.

But if you have that drive, then I hope you find that courage as well. Because there's no shame in choosing a different path, but there can be regrets. "If only" are two of the saddest words I know.

http://nineandsixtyways.com/
Tools, Not Rules.
Martin L. Shoemaker
3rd Place Q1 V31
"Today I Am Paul", WSFA Small Press Award 2015, Nebula nomination 2015
Today I Am Carey from Baen
The Last Dance (#1 science fiction eBook on Amazon, October 2019) and The Last Campaign from 47North

 
Posted : January 28, 2022 7:44 pm
Scott_M_Sands, Joni Labaqui, jadeankh and 3 people reacted
Martin L. Shoemaker
(@martin-l-shoemaker)
Posts: 1950
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Writers... If you lose some work, you can be like Coleridge: moan about your lost brilliance, get depressed, walk away, and console yourself with opium.

Or you can put your ass back in the chair and write it again. Write it better. Write so great, you forget the version you loss.

Coleridge was a wimp. You're better than that.

http://nineandsixtyways.com/
Tools, Not Rules.
Martin L. Shoemaker
3rd Place Q1 V31
"Today I Am Paul", WSFA Small Press Award 2015, Nebula nomination 2015
Today I Am Carey from Baen
The Last Dance (#1 science fiction eBook on Amazon, October 2019) and The Last Campaign from 47North

 
Posted : January 28, 2022 7:45 pm
Martin L. Shoemaker
(@martin-l-shoemaker)
Posts: 1950
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"Our hands shake roughly every third of a second. If you can draw your line in under that time, you won't shake." -- William Messner-Loeb

http://nineandsixtyways.com/
Tools, Not Rules.
Martin L. Shoemaker
3rd Place Q1 V31
"Today I Am Paul", WSFA Small Press Award 2015, Nebula nomination 2015
Today I Am Carey from Baen
The Last Dance (#1 science fiction eBook on Amazon, October 2019) and The Last Campaign from 47North

 
Posted : January 28, 2022 7:45 pm
Martin L. Shoemaker
(@martin-l-shoemaker)
Posts: 1950
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Be bold! Don't hesitate! Practice until it's natural.

http://nineandsixtyways.com/
Tools, Not Rules.
Martin L. Shoemaker
3rd Place Q1 V31
"Today I Am Paul", WSFA Small Press Award 2015, Nebula nomination 2015
Today I Am Carey from Baen
The Last Dance (#1 science fiction eBook on Amazon, October 2019) and The Last Campaign from 47North

 
Posted : January 28, 2022 7:46 pm
Martin L. Shoemaker
(@martin-l-shoemaker)
Posts: 1950
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At some point, you have to stop worrying and start doing something to worry about!

http://nineandsixtyways.com/
Tools, Not Rules.
Martin L. Shoemaker
3rd Place Q1 V31
"Today I Am Paul", WSFA Small Press Award 2015, Nebula nomination 2015
Today I Am Carey from Baen
The Last Dance (#1 science fiction eBook on Amazon, October 2019) and The Last Campaign from 47North

 
Posted : January 28, 2022 7:46 pm
czing, Scott_M_Sands, David Hankins and 2 people reacted
Martin L. Shoemaker
(@martin-l-shoemaker)
Posts: 1950
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Chekov's Arsenal: When you put so many pistols up on the wall, the audience can't guess which one you're going to use.

http://nineandsixtyways.com/
Tools, Not Rules.
Martin L. Shoemaker
3rd Place Q1 V31
"Today I Am Paul", WSFA Small Press Award 2015, Nebula nomination 2015
Today I Am Carey from Baen
The Last Dance (#1 science fiction eBook on Amazon, October 2019) and The Last Campaign from 47North

 
Posted : January 28, 2022 7:46 pm
Scott_M_Sands, David Hankins, storysinger and 1 people reacted
Martin L. Shoemaker
(@martin-l-shoemaker)
Posts: 1950
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If you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice.

http://nineandsixtyways.com/
Tools, Not Rules.
Martin L. Shoemaker
3rd Place Q1 V31
"Today I Am Paul", WSFA Small Press Award 2015, Nebula nomination 2015
Today I Am Carey from Baen
The Last Dance (#1 science fiction eBook on Amazon, October 2019) and The Last Campaign from 47North

 
Posted : January 28, 2022 7:47 pm
Martin L. Shoemaker
(@martin-l-shoemaker)
Posts: 1950
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The Dribbler: A character who dribbles out information a little at a time to drive the plot, while if the information were revealed all at once, the story would be over too quickly.

The Dribbler can have good reasons. In mysteries, often the full truth would incriminate the Dribbler or someone else (in the central crime or a different crime). The Dribbler might not realize that the information is relevant until someone draws the connections. The information may be confidential for many reasons. Maybe the Dribbler is a manipulative jerk who's using the information to control the protagonist. Maybe the Dribbler is Glinda the Good Witch who knows Dorothy has to learn a lesson before she's ready to go home.

But sometimes a Dribbler is just a lazy plot gimmick. The only reason the Dribbler holds back information is so the author can keep secrets and stretch out the plot. There's no CHARACTER reason not to tell the whole story right up front. Often this is a mysterious character who shows up at odd moments to drop a clue, then disappears before the protagonist can ask questions. This is a trap for writers. It's so bloody convenient! A writer recently used the metaphor of moving characters around like chess pieces, not people; but this isn't even chess, it's checkers. It's patching a hole in the story, not mending it.

And you might get away with it, if you can carry the mood and distract the reader. "It's an omen! Omens are supposed to be mysterious!"

But you run the risk of readers asking "Why didn't she just tell him the whole thing?" Omens are tea leaves and bird entrails. They have no motivations, they just are. Characters aren't omens. They have reasons for what they do. And what they don't do.

I have a character in this book who is at risk of becoming a Dribbler. A lazy Dribbler. I have to nail down the reasons why she doesn't just tell the whole story.

http://nineandsixtyways.com/
Tools, Not Rules.
Martin L. Shoemaker
3rd Place Q1 V31
"Today I Am Paul", WSFA Small Press Award 2015, Nebula nomination 2015
Today I Am Carey from Baen
The Last Dance (#1 science fiction eBook on Amazon, October 2019) and The Last Campaign from 47North

 
Posted : January 28, 2022 7:47 pm
czing, David Hankins, storysinger and 1 people reacted
Martin L. Shoemaker
(@martin-l-shoemaker)
Posts: 1950
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"I wanna tell you something, this writing is not as easy as it looks." -- Lt. Columbo

http://nineandsixtyways.com/
Tools, Not Rules.
Martin L. Shoemaker
3rd Place Q1 V31
"Today I Am Paul", WSFA Small Press Award 2015, Nebula nomination 2015
Today I Am Carey from Baen
The Last Dance (#1 science fiction eBook on Amazon, October 2019) and The Last Campaign from 47North

 
Posted : January 28, 2022 7:49 pm
Martin L. Shoemaker
(@martin-l-shoemaker)
Posts: 1950
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If it sells, learn from it.

If you think you can do better, prove it.

Time you spend laughing at it could be time you spend writing.

WIBBOW?

http://nineandsixtyways.com/
Tools, Not Rules.
Martin L. Shoemaker
3rd Place Q1 V31
"Today I Am Paul", WSFA Small Press Award 2015, Nebula nomination 2015
Today I Am Carey from Baen
The Last Dance (#1 science fiction eBook on Amazon, October 2019) and The Last Campaign from 47North

 
Posted : January 28, 2022 7:51 pm
Martin L. Shoemaker
(@martin-l-shoemaker)
Posts: 1950
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My research standard for a story might be summarized as "Not provably wrong."

http://nineandsixtyways.com/
Tools, Not Rules.
Martin L. Shoemaker
3rd Place Q1 V31
"Today I Am Paul", WSFA Small Press Award 2015, Nebula nomination 2015
Today I Am Carey from Baen
The Last Dance (#1 science fiction eBook on Amazon, October 2019) and The Last Campaign from 47North

 
Posted : January 28, 2022 7:51 pm
Martin L. Shoemaker
(@martin-l-shoemaker)
Posts: 1950
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In Agile Software Development, we describe the Value of Courage: being willing to try something challenging because you know your practices will let you take a chance and recover if it doesn't work out.

I think that Courage is a Value for authors as well. What could go wrong if you try? Honestly, what can you lose? Your time and emotional investment, yes, but nothing more. Back up your work and then try another approach if it interests you. Do something you never thought you could.

But Courage is hard. When your work consists of listening to the voices in your head and trying to find a story in there, there's always one voice you have to watch out for: Doubt. He's out there, and he wants to stop you from trying. Don't let him. Have Courage. Try something. If it doesn't work, try something else.

http://nineandsixtyways.com/
Tools, Not Rules.
Martin L. Shoemaker
3rd Place Q1 V31
"Today I Am Paul", WSFA Small Press Award 2015, Nebula nomination 2015
Today I Am Carey from Baen
The Last Dance (#1 science fiction eBook on Amazon, October 2019) and The Last Campaign from 47North

 
Posted : January 28, 2022 7:52 pm
Martin L. Shoemaker
(@martin-l-shoemaker)
Posts: 1950
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Topic starter
 

What you hear depends on how you listen.

http://nineandsixtyways.com/
Tools, Not Rules.
Martin L. Shoemaker
3rd Place Q1 V31
"Today I Am Paul", WSFA Small Press Award 2015, Nebula nomination 2015
Today I Am Carey from Baen
The Last Dance (#1 science fiction eBook on Amazon, October 2019) and The Last Campaign from 47North

 
Posted : January 28, 2022 7:53 pm
Martin L. Shoemaker
(@martin-l-shoemaker)
Posts: 1950
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"What is illness to the body of a knight errant? What matter wounds? For each time he falls, he shall rise again! Sancho!"
 
"Here, your grace!"
 
"My armor! My sword!"
 
"More misadventures?"
 
"Adventures, too, old friend."

http://nineandsixtyways.com/
Tools, Not Rules.
Martin L. Shoemaker
3rd Place Q1 V31
"Today I Am Paul", WSFA Small Press Award 2015, Nebula nomination 2015
Today I Am Carey from Baen
The Last Dance (#1 science fiction eBook on Amazon, October 2019) and The Last Campaign from 47North

 
Posted : January 28, 2022 7:54 pm
Martin L. Shoemaker
(@martin-l-shoemaker)
Posts: 1950
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Topic starter
 
Aim high, miss high.
 
Aim low, miss low.
 
Aim for nothing, hit nothing.

http://nineandsixtyways.com/
Tools, Not Rules.
Martin L. Shoemaker
3rd Place Q1 V31
"Today I Am Paul", WSFA Small Press Award 2015, Nebula nomination 2015
Today I Am Carey from Baen
The Last Dance (#1 science fiction eBook on Amazon, October 2019) and The Last Campaign from 47North

 
Posted : January 28, 2022 7:55 pm
Martin L. Shoemaker
(@martin-l-shoemaker)
Posts: 1950
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Topic starter
 
There’s no One True Path to writing. If someone tells you The Way, it’s just Their Way, not Your Way.
 
Listen anyway. Think, learn, try, with every way you encounter. That’s how you’ll discover Your Way.

http://nineandsixtyways.com/
Tools, Not Rules.
Martin L. Shoemaker
3rd Place Q1 V31
"Today I Am Paul", WSFA Small Press Award 2015, Nebula nomination 2015
Today I Am Carey from Baen
The Last Dance (#1 science fiction eBook on Amazon, October 2019) and The Last Campaign from 47North

 
Posted : January 28, 2022 7:55 pm
Martin L. Shoemaker
(@martin-l-shoemaker)
Posts: 1950
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Topic starter
 
Chekhov's Prohibition: If in Act 1 someone says that something must not or cannot be done, in Act 3 someone will HAVE TO do it. If in Act 1 someone says something is impossible (or nearly impossible), in Act 3 it will happen.
 
"Don't cross the streams."
 
I wonder, though, how far I can stretch this out. In chapter 2 of this book (the first in a series of 9), my protagonist notes that a certain ability is "rarer than rare." Sure as Chekhov, eventually she'll meet an antagonist with this rare power. But does it have to be in this book? Or can it be in "Act 3" of the entire series? And if the latter, do I have to reinforce "rarer than rare" in the intervening books?

http://nineandsixtyways.com/
Tools, Not Rules.
Martin L. Shoemaker
3rd Place Q1 V31
"Today I Am Paul", WSFA Small Press Award 2015, Nebula nomination 2015
Today I Am Carey from Baen
The Last Dance (#1 science fiction eBook on Amazon, October 2019) and The Last Campaign from 47North

 
Posted : January 28, 2022 7:57 pm
Martin L. Shoemaker
(@martin-l-shoemaker)
Posts: 1950
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An idea is not a story. At best it is a Story Seed that might blow away in the wind, never to land. It might land someplace inhospitable, and then grow into a sad, twisted shadow of what it might have been.
 
But if it is gathered by careful hands... planted in the best soil... watered and tended and pruned... and cross-pollinated with the fresh green shoots from other seeds... Only then, if you are very careful, does it become a Story.
 
The secret to Story is in how you tend, not in what you plant.

http://nineandsixtyways.com/
Tools, Not Rules.
Martin L. Shoemaker
3rd Place Q1 V31
"Today I Am Paul", WSFA Small Press Award 2015, Nebula nomination 2015
Today I Am Carey from Baen
The Last Dance (#1 science fiction eBook on Amazon, October 2019) and The Last Campaign from 47North

 
Posted : January 28, 2022 7:57 pm
Martin L. Shoemaker
(@martin-l-shoemaker)
Posts: 1950
Platinum Plus Moderator
Topic starter
 
Right place. Right time. Right attitude.
 
If you don't have the third one, the first two don't mean squat.

http://nineandsixtyways.com/
Tools, Not Rules.
Martin L. Shoemaker
3rd Place Q1 V31
"Today I Am Paul", WSFA Small Press Award 2015, Nebula nomination 2015
Today I Am Carey from Baen
The Last Dance (#1 science fiction eBook on Amazon, October 2019) and The Last Campaign from 47North

 
Posted : January 28, 2022 7:59 pm
Martin L. Shoemaker
(@martin-l-shoemaker)
Posts: 1950
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Topic starter
 
My general advice, given a setting and characters, is to go back to the basics. Who wants something? Why can't they have it? What will they do about it? Sometimes it's a protagonist wanting something and an antagonist thwarting them. Other times (ala Hitchcock) it's an antagonist wanting something and a protagonist innocently finding themselves in the way.
 
The problem doesn't have to start big. In fact, it should end big, much bigger than it started, and that's easier if you start small and build up. But the problem should MATTER to the character. "I can't decide where to eat lunch" doesn't matter. You know they'll eat eventually. "I got lost finding the new lunch place," that matters. A character who's lost can stumble into worse trouble really easily.

http://nineandsixtyways.com/
Tools, Not Rules.
Martin L. Shoemaker
3rd Place Q1 V31
"Today I Am Paul", WSFA Small Press Award 2015, Nebula nomination 2015
Today I Am Carey from Baen
The Last Dance (#1 science fiction eBook on Amazon, October 2019) and The Last Campaign from 47North

 
Posted : January 28, 2022 7:59 pm
jadeankh, David Hankins, storysinger and 1 people reacted
Martin L. Shoemaker
(@martin-l-shoemaker)
Posts: 1950
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Topic starter
 
There's an important lesson that some readers never learn: the author is not the characters. An author may write characters that do, say, and believe things that the author never would. That the author vehemently disagrees with. Never assume the character speaks for the author. That's a juvenile way to read.
 
But it works the other way. The character is not the author. The character may say or do things the author would never even consider. I know that sounds weird, but it's true.
 
Yesterday during dictation, my protagonist wrote of another character's insouciance. I didn't plan it, it's just the word that came into her head and out of my mouth. AND IT WAS THE CORRECT WORD, THE PERFECT WORD.
 
It's not like I don't KNOW the word. I have a pretty good vocabulary. But I am convinced that I never wrote it nor spoke it.
 
I still haven't. She did.

http://nineandsixtyways.com/
Tools, Not Rules.
Martin L. Shoemaker
3rd Place Q1 V31
"Today I Am Paul", WSFA Small Press Award 2015, Nebula nomination 2015
Today I Am Carey from Baen
The Last Dance (#1 science fiction eBook on Amazon, October 2019) and The Last Campaign from 47North

 
Posted : January 28, 2022 8:01 pm
Disgruntled Peony
(@disgruntledpeony)
Posts: 1283
Platinum Member
 
Posted by: @martin-l-shoemaker

Chekov's Arsenal: When you put so many pistols up on the wall, the audience can't guess which one you're going to use.

As a longtime GM for various tabletop RPGs, I'm a big fan of this one. (Although, in an RPG, the players get to pick which guns you use!)

If you are in difficulties with a book, try the element of surprise: attack it at an hour when it isn't expecting it. ~ H.G. Wells
If a person offend you, and you are in doubt as to whether it was intentional or not, do not resort to extreme measures; simply watch your chance and hit him with a brick. ~ Mark Twain
R, SF, SHM, SHM, SHM, F, R, HM, SHM, R, HM, R, F, SHM, SHM, SHM, SF, SHM, 1st Place (Q2 V38)
Ticknor Tales
Twitter
4th and Starlight: e-book | paperback

 
Posted : January 28, 2022 8:07 pm
storysinger
(@storysinger)
Posts: 1261
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All very enlightening stuff Martin. I have to ask; what is WIBBOW?

Today's science fiction is tomorrow's reality-D.R.Sweeney
HM-V32/Q3
HM-V36/Q4
HM-V38/Q1
HM-V38/Q4
HM-V39/Q2
Published Poetry
2012 Stars in Our Hearts Notions
Silver Ships

 
Posted : January 29, 2022 4:53 am
Martin L. Shoemaker
(@martin-l-shoemaker)
Posts: 1950
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@storysinger Would I Be Better Off Writing? It's a question to help guide you whether a task is a productive use of your time. The answer isn't always yes, but it often is. Coined by Scott William Carter. A New Edition of The Dinosaur Diaries (and Some Thoughts About WIBBOW) – Scott William Carter

http://nineandsixtyways.com/
Tools, Not Rules.
Martin L. Shoemaker
3rd Place Q1 V31
"Today I Am Paul", WSFA Small Press Award 2015, Nebula nomination 2015
Today I Am Carey from Baen
The Last Dance (#1 science fiction eBook on Amazon, October 2019) and The Last Campaign from 47North

 
Posted : January 29, 2022 6:52 am
storysinger
(@storysinger)
Posts: 1261
Platinum Member
 

That's so cool Martin. I never would have guessed what those letters stood for.

I'm on top of the fence when it comes to answering that question.

I love the high word count of digital typing, but misunderstood words kills the zone feeling.

Now that I've learned to type, my count is much lower but staying in the moment is easier.

I'm going to upgrade to the pro version and keep practicing until that sucker understands what I say. Hyah! deadhorse  

Today's science fiction is tomorrow's reality-D.R.Sweeney
HM-V32/Q3
HM-V36/Q4
HM-V38/Q1
HM-V38/Q4
HM-V39/Q2
Published Poetry
2012 Stars in Our Hearts Notions
Silver Ships

 
Posted : January 29, 2022 9:30 am
jadeankh
(@jadeankh)
Posts: 3
Active Member
 

I'm late to the party, but I've saved (and shared with attribution) a bunch of these. Thanks, Martin!

1 R (but it's a start)
V39 Q3 RWC Q4 HM

 
Posted : May 15, 2022 12:40 am
babooher
(@babooher)
Posts: 186
Silver Member
 
Posted by: @martin-l-shoemaker
There's an important lesson that some readers never learn: the author is not the characters. An author may write characters that do, say, and believe things that the author never would. That the author vehemently disagrees with. Never assume the character speaks for the author. That's a juvenile way to read.
 
But it works the other way. The character is not the author. The character may say or do things the author would never even consider. I know that sounds weird, but it's true.
 
Yesterday during dictation, my protagonist wrote of another character's insouciance. I didn't plan it, it's just the word that came into her head and out of my mouth. AND IT WAS THE CORRECT WORD, THE PERFECT WORD.
 
It's not like I don't KNOW the word. I have a pretty good vocabulary. But I am convinced that I never wrote it nor spoke it.
 
I still haven't. She did.

I was going through the online workshop here and I got to OSC talking about how he hears accents sometimes when he is writing dialogue. But he types; you dictate. So, do you do accents when you dictate? Do you hear them in your head but filter them out when you dictate? Just curious.

 

2012 Q4: R
2016 Q3: SHM
2019 Q2: HM, Q3: HM
2020 Q2: HM, Q4: SHM
2021 Q1: HM, Q2: SF, Q3: SHM, Q4: SHM
2022 Q1: SHM, Q2 RWC, Q4 RWC
2023 Q1: WIP

 
Posted : June 5, 2022 6:04 am
storysinger reacted
Scott_M_Sands
(@scott_m_sands)
Posts: 430
Gold Member
 
Posted by: @martin-l-shoemaker

@storysinger Would I Be Better Off Writing? 

I was going to mention that I just heard this recently!
I then realized it was Martin who was talking about it.  Smile

"Many people will tell you that you can't write. Let no one say that you don't." -Ken Rand
V36-37: R x6
V38: R, HM, R, HM
V39: HM, HM, HM, HM

 
Posted : June 7, 2022 8:37 pm
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