Chasing my crazy dream in the writing world…

New Release: Sarah L. Blair’s DARKNESS SHIFTING July 1, 2016











I’m always thrilled for my writing friends when they take on a new challenge. Some decide to write in a new category or genre. Others decide to share their work via the self-publishing route. Today, I’m excited to share a guest post from Sarah L. Blair who shares insight into why self-publishing was the best option to introduce readers to her debut novel, DARKNESS SHIFTING.




I graduated college ten years ago. Like most new graduates, I entered the world clutching my shiny new Creative Writing degree with a bunch of ideas for what the future would hold. None of them included self-publishing. It was a whole different world back then, so long ago, yet not so far away. My professors all made it clear that getting published would be a long time coming, I’d be one of the lucky ones if I could turn it into any kind of career. It takes practice to hone your skills as a writer. 10,000 hours of doing something to become an expert. I knew I was a good writer, maybe even a great one. But I also knew I wasn’t good enough. Not yet. I also didn’t have any clue about how to get published, even when I was ready. I still have the 2006 edition of Writer’s Market in a box in the back of my closet somewhere, hiding out with a bunch of workshop stories that will never see the light of day.



About a year after I graduated, I got married and moved to Georgia. I still had no clue what I wanted to do other than Be A Writer, but I really had no practical experience in anything other than babysitting. So I got a job teaching at a pre-school. The hours were great, my boss and co-workers were incredible. And in my spare time, I wrote. I fussed around with a few ideas until one afternoon a girl walked into my head and said, “What have we got?”



I had no idea, but I wanted to find out. The idea took hold of me like no other story had before. I knew it was something, even if I didn’t know what.



It took me years to get that first draft down. But I finally had it. The End. And I revised and revised and REVISED. This book barely resembles what it once was. My scrap file is over 100k words. Finally, I thought I was ready to try to get published, because I didn’t know what else to do with it. By the way, it was still a hot mess.



Around this time I joined Twitter. This is where I learned everything about how to get published. Being able to see agent tweets, figure out what they were looking for, how they wanted to be approached, connecting with other writers just like me who were trying to find their way in the darkness of the query trenches—it was everything I didn’t know I needed. It was invaluable. I wish I could go back to 2006 Sarey and hand her this knowledge. There are a lot of things she would do differently.



I queried with a lot of positive response, but from the feedback I got, I knew it wasn’t ready. I revised. I queried again. By that time however, the market for anything paranormal or fantasy was starting to wane, and gauging what agents were looking for with things like Manuscript Wish List, I quickly realized that my little urban fantasy wasn’t what publishers wanted on their desks at the moment. Talking to friends, browsing through tweets from readers, and perusing Amazon lists, I still felt like it was something readers might be interested in. After all, I’d written a book I wanted to read, maybe other people would want it too? Self-publishing was a consideration in the back of my head. Maybe someday. It was at least a backup plan.



I took the advice of better people who had more experience and put my little urban fantasy away for awhile. I started a brand new project. Something completely different. I started something else. Even more different. I liked them both. But I stalled out. The characters just didn’t hold my attention the same way.



In the middle of trying to birth a book baby, I birthed two human babies. If you have kids, you know how time consuming they are. They need constant attention.



At the same time I was just entering the world as an intimidated but hopeful young writer, the idea of self-publishing was associated closely with the word vanity. It came with a certain stigma of entitlement and defiance.



Not anymore. In this past decade alone,  thanks to technology and e-books, it’s quickly evolved into something else: A viable path to getting books in front of readers. Isn’t that ultimately the goal for most writers? We just want people to read our work, and hope that they love it, or at the very least, react to it in one way or another.



One day I sat down and thought of all the reasons I wanted to be traditionally published. The biggest one was that I wanted a team. I needed people behind me who were smarter and more objective than I was to help me hone my words into something better than I could make them on my own. I needed a great cover. I needed publicity and marketing.



And then I realized… I already had those things. Thanks to Twitter, I had an entire community of talented people who love me and my words, and want to see me succeed. I already had my team.



Another thing I realized was that I have two little kids who need a lot of attention. I’m a slow writer. I can’t get to the page every single day. It’s essential that my family comes first. At this point in my life, I absolutely need to work at my own pace. Deadlines are certainly important for meeting goals, but at this point in my life I need flexibility. I’m not the type of person to let other people down or be unprofessional. If I chose to pursue traditional publishing I’d have zero control over deadlines. I’d be beholden to other people who really didn’t care if my kids were throwing a fit, or sick and needing extra attention. They wouldn’t care why I didn’t meet my deadline, only that I didn’t meet it. They’d remember that and see me as sloppy and unprofessional. Sure, they’re all human. Agents and publishers aren’t heartless. They have families and get sick too. But the publishing world keeps going, regardless.



What was I waiting for? I had a team. I could set my own timeline and adjust as needed. My decision to self-publish was made.



It’s probably best that I didn’t know exactly what I was getting myself into, because the learning curve has been enormous. Thankfully, I’ve got Trisha Leigh and Laura Oliva, my self-publishing gurus to hold my hand and guide me through this process. Their advice and input has been invaluable. The best advice I can give anyone else considering self-publishing is to find someone who has done it several times and snuggle up under their wing like a baby duckling. This is not something you can do alone. I mean, you can do it alone, but it’s a lot better with help.



The first step I took was to hire a professional editor. I sort of fell into this. I wasn’t looking seriously, yet. But my friend Julie Hutchings mentioned one day that she was needing a project and I knew I had one. We struck a deal and it was the best thing I’ve ever done for this book. Julie got it. Every single thing about my book, she nailed it. Not only that, but she helped me bring out the very best of my characters. She showed me which parts needed to be strengthened, and guided me into making this book so much better than I ever could have made it on my own. I was extremely lucky. I already knew Julie well enough to know she’d be a great fit for me and my book. If you’re looking for a professional editor, do your research. Read other projects the editor has worked on. Follow on twitter and other social media. You’ve got to find the right person, someone who understands your project as if they were inside your head already. It’s worth the time and effort, trust me.



The next step was a cover. I had no clue what I wanted. I scoured pre-made covers, and browsed other books in my genre to try to figure out what the trends were. I endlessly searched stock photos, trying to find something that caught my eye. Again, my critique partners, and self-published experts came to my rescue. We played around with ideas until I finally had a concept that I loved. I found a couple of stock photos that were perfect. My husband helped me put together a general idea of what I wanted, but he’s not a professional cover designer so he could only get me so far. I took my ideas to local cover artist and photographer Vania Stoyanova to put everything together into a finished product. She absolutely did not disappoint! What she came up with was so much more than I could have done on my own. I’m absolutely in love with it!



While I was waiting for Vania to work on my cover, I decided to tackle getting everything uploaded and ready for publication. I used CreateSpace for my print copies, and they’re great, but there’s definitely a learning curve. Everything is laid out in a step-by-step checklist, which really helps. But as far as formatting goes… I won’t lie: It’s been a total headache. I can’t even tell you how many times I’ve tweaked margins, and spacing, and font-size. No matter what I’ve done, there are still a couple of spots with widow and orphan lines hanging on for dear life, alone and desolate at the top of the page. It’s been frustrating beyond belief. But at some point, I realized there’s truly only so much I can do. No book is 100% perfect in every way. Not even those written by the greatest authors of our time. Yes, even Harry Potter books have typos. You can only do what you can do, and then you have to let go.



And so I have. This book is as ready as it’s ever going to be to head out into the world. People jokingly talk about their book babies, comparing them to real children, but there’s a lot of truth to the analogy. As a parent of humans, I do what I can to guide my children, support them, and urge them into becoming the best they can be. I want them to be good people and grow up to do amazing things. I hope my book babies will do the same. I’ve spent countless hours honing, guiding, and shaping this book into something I want to put out into the world for others to experience. Who knows, maybe it’ll even surprise me and do something spectacular? I have no idea. For now, I’m keeping my expectations low and my hopes high.






Paranormal Investigator, Sidney Lake doesn’t jump at shadows. The weird stuff is her jurisdiction. When the mangled body of a supposedly extinct creature turns up in New York City’s subway system, she’s number one on the Medical Examiner’s speed dial.


But this case hits too close to home when clues point her toward the truth about her parents’ brutal murder twelve years ago. Her boss Mitchell Harris, questions whether she should continue to investigate. However, Sidney insists on facing her greatest fears and putting her parents’ memory to rest once and for all.


What she uncovers sheds a light on secrets that reach further into the darkness than she ever wanted to go… and leads her to a future she never imagined.


Now available via Amazon and Bookbub.





SareyPic2Sarah L. Blair earned a BA in Creative Writing from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. While spending a semester abroad at Swansea University in Wales she traveled to nearby Bath and Glastonbury often, drawing inspiration for her writing from the myths and legends surrounding the area. Sarah now resides just north of Atlanta, Georgia with her husband, their two children, and chihuahua. While writing is her first passion, she also enjoys sewing, tater tots, catching up on her teetering TBR pile, and hanging out on her porch drinking sweet tea.


You can find Sarah around the web on Twitter: @SarahLBlair, Facebook:, or visit her new website:



QUITE THE QUERY – Wendy Qualls and WORTH WAITING FOR April 29, 2016








If you ask any writer about the process of connecting with their agent (or publisher), the majority will say the most difficult part was querying. Not only the actual process of sending out the letters/emails, but formulating the query itself. In fact, I’ve heard more than a few authors say writing their query took them almost as long as drafting their book!



Some people have the talent of being able to summarize their book in a few sentences, but for those who don’t, I wanted to provide a resource so writers could learn what works, and what doesn’t, in a query.



With that in mind, I’m pleased to share today’s successful query from Wendy Qualls. This great query connected her with her agent, Moe Ferrara.





As long as Paul Dunham stays in the closet, he’s golden: he’s nearly made tenure at his small conservative college, he’s finally gotten away from his controlling ex-boyfriend, and he can focus on just trying to make the best of his lonely bachelor-geek lifestyle.



Then a chance reunion with the gorgeous Brandon Mercer turns into a surprisingly hot more-than-one-night-stand, and things all go to hell. Paul discovers his ex has been stalking him and now has photographic proof that Paul and Brandon have become more than friends – proof he’s threatening to use to out Paul to his conservative family and his homophobic boss. Brandon’s offer to “show him what he’s been missing” also seems to have turned into something distinctly relationship-like, which Paul can’t afford to even dream about.  When Paul’s ex finally follows through with his threat, Brandon is the only defense Paul has against his life falling completely apart. Fortunately, Brandon seems to be willing to stick around for the long haul and – with luck – to help make their own happily ever after.



WORTH WAITING FOR stands alone as a single title, but can also be the first book in my planned “Gay and Geeky” series of similarly-themed romances. I am a member of RWA and this book finaled in [an RWA chapter contest]. I can be reached at [email, Twitter, and phone].




Fun Tidbit:



This took three months and a revision between my initial query and “the call.” Which I was super-excited about, except it turned out “the call” was actually “I really like this but can you revise it a bit more to make Brandon more alpha-male heroic?” I did the revisions, sent the new version to Moe and the handful of other agents who had fulls out, and got an offer from another agent about two days later 🙂 After phone calls with both the other agent and Moe, I agonized over it for a day or so and ultimately decided Moe and I would be a better fit. I officially accepted the offer on my birthday, October 11th. Best birthday present ever 😀





WendyQuallsWendy Qualls was a small­town librarian until she finished reading everything her library had to offer, at which point she put her totally unrelated college degree to use by writing smutty romance novels and wasting time on the internet. She lives in Northern Alabama with her husband, two girls, one dog, and a seasonally fluctuating swarm of unwanted ladybugs. Wendy is represented by Moe Ferrara at BookEnds Literary Agency and can be found on Twitter as @wendyqualls. Her first book will be available from Kensington in the summer of 2017.




SvS 2: The Poachers’ Code – Women’s Fiction February 22, 2016

Filed under: contest,Publishing,Uncategorized — chasingthecrazies @ 5:56 am
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Category/Genre: Upmarket Women’s Fiction

Word Count: 88,000





My Main Character would use SUN to battle her biggest obstacle:



As a young girl, Sadie Kessler could taste sunlight. Lemony, with fizz. But as an adult, plagued by guilt from covering up a murder 30 years earlier, Sadie no longer sees (or tastes) the wonder around her. When she uncovers another murder linked to the one she concealed as a child, she knows its time to tell the truth. To resurrect her courage, she’ll need to bring the summer sun into the dark woods where she grew up — the woods where she hid a murder. There’s going to be a fight. And Sadie’s bringing the heat.






Dear Agent,


I am seeking representation for my debut novel, THE POACHERS’ CODE. Set in rural New Hampshire, it is about Sadie Kessler, a restless journalist seeking redemption for the murder she covered up thirty years ago.


Journalist Sadie Kessler discovers a murder linked to a crime she and a friend witnessed as children. A murder they chose not to report. Eleven-year-old Sadie stayed silent to protect the girls from the perpetrator — and to cover up crimes of their own. The girls vowed to remain silent and pledged a blood oath to The Poachers’ Code, a list of commandments they constructed to justify their actions. Torn between misplaced allegiance and the desire for redemption, Sadie spends the next 30 years avoiding her past.


Faced with the second murder, 41-year-old Sadie must confront her guilt. As she searches for proof of the killer’s identity, she rediscovers the sense of wonder she lost as a child and falls in love with a man from her past. But the ripple effect of Sadie’s thirty-year-old secret begins to threaten people she loves. When an illegal immigrant is falsely accused of the murder, it sets off a wave of anti-immigrant protests. Sadie’s best friend Marta, a Salvadoran immigrant, is trying to adopt her niece and nephew, both undocumented immigrants. The protests derail the custody proceedings and land Marta’s father in jail under threat of deportation. Revealing the shameful truth could threaten Sadie’s credibility as a journalist and jeopardize her new romance, but she must act before an innocent man is convicted of murder and the real perpetrator hurts someone she cares about. It is time to betray The Poachers’ Code.


Inspired by storytelling elements in Atonement and the movie Stand By Me, THE POACHERS’ CODE delves into the timely issue of immigration and will appeal to fans of Ann Patchett, Mary Kubica and Karen Katchur.




First 250 words:



Damp ink sizzled against Sadie Kessler’s lips, stirring the hunger she worked years to suppress. The freshly-printed police reports warmed her cheek with possibility. She slipped past the safety of her copyediting desk and ducked behind a wall of file cabinets in the back of the newsroom.


She kicked off her running shoes and spread the pages on the floor. The tease of story fluttered on her fingertips. Pressing her palms into the greasy carpet, she hinged up into a creaky downward facing dog and scanned the pages. Domestic disputes, disorderly conduct.


Sadie had feigned repentance when her editor sentenced her to four weeks writing the Sunday police log. But she couldn’t tamp down the giddiness simmering in her gut.


“I knew you’d be back here.” Marta peeked around the wall. She nudged the stack of incident reports with the pointy toe of her boot. “Sorry you’re stuck with that. Four Sundays seems harsh. Especially when it wasn’t you who screwed up.”


Sadie’s knees locked. Her heart stuttered. Marta stood above her, hand on hip, eyebrows raised. Sadie tried to soften her tight shoulders and flipped to the next page. Vehicle break in, identity theft.


“I know it wasn’t really you who transposed those names,” Marta said. “Why’d you take the blame? You hate writing the police log.”


“Does anybody else know?” Sadie repositioned her hands on the slick carpet and pressed into her throbbing left ankle. “I probably deserved it anyway for mistakes no one ever caught.”


“Your secret’s safe. For now.”



SvS 16: Wonderland Acres – MG Contemporary





Category/Genre: Middle Grade Contemporary

Word Count: 41,000





My Main Character would use sun or snow to battle their biggest obstacle:



Tinker would use the sun because of the added daylight hours of summer to have more time working on fixing the roller coaster. Being homeless, Tinker prefers the sun to the snow.








Dear Agent:



What twelve-year-old Andrew “Tinker” Beals hates the most about being homeless, besides the obvious, is the stereotypes. His mother is neither a drunk nor a drug addict, and he has never stood on the corner with a cardboard sign begging for money.



When Tinker defends himself during a violent robbery at the homeless camp, he and his best friend Colleen flee with their families. They stumble upon an abandoned amusement park, Wonderland Acres. Once a thriving theme park, all that remains is an old roller coaster track and a few broken down rides. When they move into the amusement park, Tinker’s mother reveals she has always wanted to ride a roller coaster. Tinker does not know what the future may hold and worries it will be her one shot at coaster riding. However, fixing the roller coaster could expose his homelessness to his peers, and the world, a secret Tinker has tried to keep his entire life.



When other families move into Wonderland Acres, it attracts the police, who begin the eviction process. Tinker has two weeks to make the roller coaster operational before the city evicts them, and he loses his opportunity to grant his mother’s wish. He will need to decide if he is willing to reveal his secret in order to get the help needed to accomplish his goal.




First 250 words:




Sitting in front of the campfire, I make a suit of armor out of cardboard and duct tape for one of the littler kids at camp.  A cardboard sword lies by my side but will do little to protect me from the danger lurking in our camp, mainly Leroy Carlton.



“Tinker,” my friend Colleen calls me as she points down the path where Leroy staggers towards us; he’s barely upright. The moonlight illuminates the path.



Leroy Carlton is a tyrant who hits like a jackhammer. His tattoos span from the top of his head down to his toes; every inch of visible skin has ink. Rumor is he received all his tattoos in prison. He drinks whiskey from the sunrise to the sunset, only stopping when there isn’t a drop left.



“Gimme your money.” Leroy demands. He reeks of stale booze and body odor. I’ve never seen him bathe.



“It is give me not gimme and no,” I say as I stare at the misspelled tattoo on his neck.



“I forgot we got us a honor student.” He slurs his words.



I want to continue to correct his grammar but I know it will lead to more than just name-calling. To be honest, calling me an honor student doesn’t bother me because I am one.



“I said gimme your money.” He clutches my shirt with his nicotine-stained fingers, pushing me to the ground. “I know you got some, I seen you collecting cans.”



“Just give him the money,” Colleen pleads with me.




Dahlia Adler’s LAST WILL AND TESTAMENT EXCERPT November 25, 2014

Filed under: Uncategorized — chasingthecrazies @ 8:51 am

If you’re a regular on Twitter you may have heard of Dahlia Adler. Not only is she an amazing writer, but she is what I consider a force to be reckoned with when it comes understanding the world of both Young Adult and New Adult books. Need an amazing recommendation for a YA Thriller? Dahlia is your girl. Want a better understanding of how to approach the crazy world of publishing? Check out Dahlia’s blog.


I devoured Dahlia’s first book, BEHIND THE SCENES, and am eagerly awaiting her first New Adult book, LAST WILL AND TESTAMENT.  Here are a few details:




Dahlia Last Will



Lizzie Brandt was valedictorian of her high school class, but at Radleigh University, all she’s acing are partying and hooking up with the wrong guys. But all that changes when her parents are killed in a tragic accident, making her guardian to her two younger brothers. To keep them out of foster care, she’ll have to fix up her image, her life, and her GPA—fast. Too bad the only person on campus she can go to for help is her humorless, pedantic Byzantine History TA, Connor Lawson, who isn’t exactly Lizzie’s biggest fan.


But Connor surprises her. Not only is he a great tutor, but he’s also a pretty great babysitter. And chauffeur. And listener. And he understands exactly what it’s like to be on your own before you’re ready. Before long, Lizzie realizes having a responsible-adult type around has its perks… and that she’d like to do some rather irresponsible (but considerably adult) things with him as well. Good thing he’s not the kind of guy who’d ever reciprocate.


Until he does.


Until they turn into far more than teacher and student.


Until the relationship that helped put their lives back together threatens everything they both have left.



And here is a chapter excerpt…


“Did you mean what you said?” he asks. “About dropping?”


“I’m not sure yet.” No point in lying, especially to the one person who’s actually been helping me organize my thoughts. It’s not like I know I can get into another class this late, but I do know the idea of sitting in one with him is torture. And the truth is, it’s not just his class I’ve been thinking about leaving. The more of Tyler’s moodiness I observe, the more I wonder if Radleigh itself just isn’t the right place for us right now.


“You can’t make me the difference between staying and going,” he says tightly, bracing a hand on the back of kitchen chair. He doesn’t meet my eyes, but instead watches his own knuckles go white from his grip. “That’s not fair.”


I snort. “First of all, you’re talking to someone who lost her parents in an instant and became an eighteen-year-old mother of two, so if you want to compete about ‘fair,’ you’ve brought a fucking watergun to the Second Crusade.”


“That’s not—”


“Second of all, this isn’t a ‘boo hoo, the boy I like doesn’t like me back so I’m uprooting my life’ situation, okay? I need an A in all my classes this semester in order to keep my scholarship, which I need to stay here. Now my transcript is shot to hell. Honestly, it’d probably be better for both me and the boys if I stopped wasting money on my tuition altogether and got a full-time job instead. Maybe then I could actually afford to get the boys’ their own damn bedrooms.”


“But you’re getting an A in the class….”


“Maybe for now, but you think that’s gonna hold up without you tutoring me?” I all but growl, taking care to make sure the boys can’t hear me through the door. “You think I’m gonna be able to focus in class every day? Watching you hand out papers and remembering how those hands feel on my skin? I’m supposed to listen to you lecture and not think about how you said my name like I was a glass of water and you were dying of thirst?”


“Lizzie, stop.” His knuckles are so white now I swear I can see bone through the skin. But I don’t care. I’m not done.


“I can’t be around you. I’m sorry if that sounds crazy to you or whatever. But I need to focus, and I don’t see myself doing that when all I can think about when I see you is finishing what we started.”


Connor swallows hard. “Even now?”


“I threw myself at you earlier today, Connor. Just because your feelings go away with the snap of your fingers doesn’t mean mine do.” The humiliation of my admission burns in my face, and I gather up the remaining dishes with a clatter and stalk past him to drop them in the sink. When I turn back around, he’s standing in my face, so close I can feel body heat radiating from every inch of him.


“You don’t really think that’s what happened, do you?”


“I don’t know how else to explain it,” I counter, but all the fight’s gone out of my voice. He’s just too close. The heady scent of his aftershave is scrambling my brain cells.


“I told you—because I’m your TA. And everything you just said is exactly why they forbid us from getting involved.”


“Then why are you here?” I rasp.


“Because I can’t not be.” He takes the last step needed to close the space between us and slides his hands into my hair, pulling me into a starving, searching kiss. His tongue sweeps my mouth as if he doesn’t want to miss a spot, and pressed up against him as I am now, there’s no doubt he wants me every bit as much as he did last night, if not more. Even when he pulls away, panting.


Be sure to check out this stunning book when it becomes available December 9 via Amazon.


DahliaAdlerDahlia Adler is an Assistant Editor of Mathematics by day, a Copy Editor by night, and a YA/NA author and blogger at every spare moment in between. More often than not, you can find her on Twitter as @MissDahlELama, and if you tweet her pictures of macarons, she just might fall in love with you. She lives in New York City with her husband and their overstuffed bookshelves.




WIPMarathon Intro August 1, 2013

Filed under: Uncategorized — chasingthecrazies @ 3:10 am
Tags: , , , ,


I need a little kick in the pants with my latest Young Adult manuscript, so I decided to join the lovely, Ifeoma Dennis, and several other amazing writers in an August WIPMarathon.  I figured if I have to share my writing goals in black and white on a daily basis, it will shame me into getting the work done.


As part of this great marathon, I’ve been encouraged to share a few things…



Marathon Goal:


Honestly, I’d love it to be 40k, but realistically I’m going with 20k. I’m already 21k into this story, and it’s just getting good, so I’m hoping this goal will really drive me forward.



Stage of writing:


Aaack!! I already answered this one, but I will add that this is a very ROOOOOUGH draft. I’m churning and burning as fast as I can without any editing as I go along – which I WILL admit is killing the copy editor in me!



What inspired this project:


A trip to the Chicago Museum of Science and Industry – and that’s all I’m going to say. Keeping this one pretty tight to the chest!



What might slow down this marathon:


Life? Work? Family? And about a 1,000 other obligations – but I AM going to get my butt in the chair every day and write!



Good luck to all my fellow marathoners and let the merriment and mayhem begin! 🙂


“Departures” for the The Memory Project July 23, 2013

Filed under: Uncategorized — chasingthecrazies @ 11:27 pm
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Just a quick note to let you all know I have a story debuting today as part of Carey Torgesen’s The Memory Project.  I previously wrote about the inspiration and challenge I undertook to pen “Departures” here.


Today I hope you’ll take a moment to read my piece, and then go back to the beginning of this amazing project, and read each and every story included.  Each tale is beautiful, poignant and compelling in its own way. I am honored to have my story showcased among so many talented writers.


To read “Departures” click here.


Have a great day and as always THANK YOU for visiting my blog 🙂


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