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Tag: road tripping

Summer 2019 goal review

Going In Circles Ebook

I released this not too long ago. Not a goal but it’s still an accomplishment!

Summer is in full swing. The flood waters have finally receded (yay for a record-length flood of 66 days of major flooding and 103 total days of flooding), my garden is in overdrive, and I’m longing for a North Dakota winter with snow and cold and zero humidity.

And it’s also time for my quarterly goal review.

Every 3 months, I review my annual goals. Here’s my progress so far this year.

  1. Publish to Medium at least weekly and Patreon monthly.
    I should be at about 26 Medium stories and 6 Patreon. I’m at 13 for Medium and 2 for Patreon, with another short story posting this weekend.
  2. Finish my novella series.
    I’m still final revising book 1, Captive and the Cursed. Book 2, Sleeping Shaman, is finished and needs to be edited. Book 3, Little Amethyst Abaya, is half done. I’ve also written a stand-alone short story, “The Maiden in the Tower,” which is currently available on Patreon, and I’ve halfway through a couple more stand-alone shorts: “The Brave Little Thrall” and “The Fabiranum Town Apprentices.” These are about side characters and take place years before the main storyline. I’m hoping to have several to send to my publisher when I get them the first book (which I hope to have to them soon; I’m just more interested in writing new stuff than revising).
  3. Increase my networking.
    I was doing well with this but since I got a new job, it’s fallen off. I put the Medium app back on my phone though, so I theoretically will read stories on it when I have free time rather than playing stupid games.
  4. Read 100 books.
    I’m at 40 right now, which is 10 behind schedule. Between working and writing and gardening and destressing from my job with YouTube videos, reading hasn’t been a priority. I also haven’t really found anything recently that’s grabbed my attention.
  5. Keep going with my trauma-informed care/school social work writing.
    I have a couple posts in mind but nothing written yet.
  6. Have more adventures.
    My new job means I don’t have the summers off anymore. And it also means I don’t have enough vacation time accrued yet to take time off for adventures. I’ll have enough days in August to head out west to the Grand Canyon, Vegas, and other places I’m going based just on the name (Truth and Consequence, NM) or because The White Stripes told me to (“I’m going to Wichita/Far from this opera for evermore”). Yeah, that seriously is why I go places. Like Medicine Hat, Alberta, a few years go – I liked the name.

Just because my life hasn’t aligned with my goals doesn’t mean I’ve been unproductive. My writing group is doing a great job of keeping me accountable and motivated with my Heartsbane novellas. And even though I haven’t hit my short story goal, between those stories and my series I’ve been writing more in the past six months than I probably have in the past six years. I’ve also been crocheting a ton so that maybe I can do some craft shows this fall. We’ll see how much I have made closer to time.

If you’ve set goals for yourself, what are they? How are you doing with them?

Spring 2019 goal review

Going In Circles EbookHow is it April already??

Every 3 months, I review my annual goals. Here’s my progress so far this year.

  1. Publish to Medium at least weekly and Patreon monthly.
    So far I should be at 13 or Medium stories, and 4 Patreon stories. I’m at 5 Medium stories and 0 Patreon stories. Although to be fair, I currently have 0 patrons, so I’m not really that motivated to post any stories there. No excuse though for Medium.
  2. Finish my novella series.
    I’m in the final revision stages of book 1, Captive and the Cursed, and have book 2, Sleeping Shamans, about half written. If I can keep up the pace of writing a book every couple months, I’ll be on track to have this done in a year or so. We know I won’t stay on track, but it’s nice to currently be on schedule.
  3. Increase my networking.
    I’ve been reading and clapping for about 20-30 Medium stories a week and commenting on quite a few of the blogs I follow as they write new posts. Most of my comments have been on fellow writers’ blogs, so I need to expand to industry people too.
  4. Read 100 books.
    I’m at 27 right now, which is 2 ahead of schedule. I haven’t read much nonfiction yet, but I have been trying to read more than just US/Western authors.
  5. Keep going with my trauma-informed care/school social work writing.
    This has not happened. At all.
  6. Have more adventures.
    This has also not really happened, sadly. My son and I went to Detroit for a few days, but I wouldn’t really call that an adventure, even though I could probably spin it that way if I mention, completely without context, that he held a human brain and we dug around in a cemetery. I’d planned to go to Florida or Carhenge over spring break but my car needs a new radiator and I decided to be responsible and fix it rather than go on a trip. I probably won’t have time for an adventure until this summer, when hopefully I’ll have an epic one.

Mostly I’m not meeting my goals right now because I have too much free time, and I tend to waste it on YouTube videos or just not being productive since I think I have all the time in the world. Fortunately my writing group is keeping me focused and accountable, at least for my series!

Not on my goals this year but something I DID accomplish – a new short story collection! Going in Circles: Vol 1 contains 10 connected very short stories that were originally published on Medium. If you’re not a member of that site, you can pick up a copy of the collection at Amazon.

If you’ve set goals for yourself, what are they? How are you doing with them?

Resolutions: 2018 review and 2019 goals

cat

Random cat having an adventure in Kuala Lumpur’s train station.

It’s that time of year: looking back on my goals for the previous year and then setting goals for the new year.

2018 goals

First, let me preface this by saying that 2018 was mostly a good year. I went to India in January, Iceland in March, and Thailand and southeast Asia in June. I started a job that I love, with coworkers that I’ve really connected with because they have the same passion for the job that I do.

But then, starting in about August, some sucky stuff happened. Other people’s personal problems because my personal problems, causing me to have to take a pause to rethink my life plans. I’m still rethinking them, three months later.

Here’s how all that came together with my 2018 goals.

1. Better time management.

For the whole year, I’ve tracked my daily activities. Not as detailed as Vikings QB Kirk Cousins who apparently uses spreadsheets to track his day in 10 minute increments (which I totally understand; I think in spreadsheets), but enough to know what I spend my time on and what I need to work harder on for next year.

2. Publish to Medium at least weekly.

I published 27 stories on Medium in 2018, plus two lists of related stories. Of those, I think only three had previously appeared elsewhere. A lot of the stories I posted were microfiction (less than 350 words), but still, I’m proud of myself for getting so much out there – even if I haven’t posted anything new since September.

3. Publish a stand-alone novella or short story collection quarterly.

I did not do this. However, I did finish a novella! I’m currently editing it and hope to get it off to my publisher in the next month or so. I’ve already started on the second in this series, and with the push I’m getting from my writing group to finish these, I hope to crank several more out soon.

4. Grow my reader base by at least double.

Facebook goal: 600. Actual: 309.
Twitter goal: 1500. Actual: 860.
Medium goal: 200. Actual: 302!
Mailing list goal: 3000. Actual: 1760.

Maybe if I actually posted more to social media, or came out with more books, or sent out my mailing list more than every couple years, I’d get more followers?

5. Post to my blog at least twice a week, and promote those posts to get more traffic here.

I was doing well with this until I wasn’t.

6. Read 100 books.

I ended the year with 81 read. I didn’t really have time to read at all during the past couple months, due to being swamped with Etsy orders. But 81 is still pretty damn good.

Overall in 2018

Nothing much to say. Just like every year, I set my goals too high. But whatever. I was still pretty productive.

2019 goals

  1. Publish to Medium at least weekly and Patreon monthly. There’s really no excuse for not writing at least one 300-word microfiction short every week. Plus one of my Patreon rewards is a new short story each month, which I can then publish to Medium the following month. Assuming I ever get any patrons, I need to be able to meet this reward.
  2. Finish my novella series. As I mentioned above, I’ve been working on this over the past few months and getting feedback from my writing group, who love the characters and plot. I love the story too, which helps motivate me to write it (as well as the urging of my group). I plan on having 7 books total, which is doable if I make myself hit a word count every day or week.
  3. Increase my networking. Whether by commenting on more people’s blogs, interacting more on social media, or whatever. Maybe if I’m more visible or supportive, I’ll get more followers of my own.
  4. Read 100 books. And of those 100, I want a sizeable percentage to be nonfiction.
  5. Keep going with my trauma-informed care/school social work writing. People in education are really receptive to this concept, and I have a lot of information to share in a way that non-academic people appreciate.
  6. Have more adventures. They’ll probably happen through travel (most of mine do, like that time I was detained by Canadian immigration, or last summer when Visa froze my debit card and I had to ask a random German family on the Thai/Malay border for money to get to Kuala Lumpur), but they definitely won’t happen if I don’t give them the opportunity.

Like most years, I probably won’t meet most of this goals, but I definitely won’t meet them if I don’t try.

If you’ve set goals for yourself, what are they? How do you plan to accomplish them?

Travel Tuesday: The Land of Smiles

I love to travel, and I love to seek out experiences that maybe don’t involve the best judgment but always result in the best stories.

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Bangkok

Boats transporting tourists on the Chao Phraya River

 

Thailand is known as “The Land of Smiles,” and aside from the apathetic customs agent at the Bangkok airport who expressionlessly stamped our passports, the country seems to be living up to its name.

According to the internet as well as several locals we’ve talked to, saving face is very important in Thailand. This means that Thais will smile not only when they’re happy but also when they’re seething inside at some affront from that damn tourist. And they’ll also smile when they’re ripping you off.

My son and I are spending a month in northern Thailand, and we opted to take the overnight train from Bangkok to Chiang Mai, partly as a chance to see more of the countryside but also mainly because I like trains. This left us with about twelve hours to kill in the capital. We checked our luggage at the station, then ventured out to find some food and explore the neighborhood.

Part of being a Westerner in a non-Western country means that you’re an easy mark. I’ve spent enough time in India to realize just how much pale-skinned people stick out, and also how lazy tourists are and how easily they make dumb decisions. Tuk-tuk drivers and travel guides have also realized this, and that results in Westerners being accosted by offers to take them places rather than letting them walk.

As soon as my son and I stepped onto the sidewalk, a tuk-tuk driver approached us. Would we like a boat tour of Bangkok? Only two hours, and he would take us there, just 50 baht (about $1.50USD). I didn’t want to spend a whole day sitting at the train station, so off we went.

Our driver was very friendly and chatty. He knew enough English to tell us about his young daughter, and that America meant freedom, smiling all the while. He delivered us to a boat company’s dock, where we paid a ridiculous amount to take a boat along the Chao Phraya River to the floating market, then to the Royal Palace, and then back to our starting point. Our driver emphasized, several times, that we would end up where we started.

We climbed in our boat and headed out, our boat pilot (captain? driver?) delighting in hitting the wake so water sprayed in our faces. Several smaller boats approached us selling cheap crap — I mean handicrafts — and I bought a bottle of water from one just because the seller was so damn smilingly persistent. We stopped for lunch at a small market, then hopped back in the boat to go to the palace. We landed and paid a small dock fee, and then our pilot waved and sailed off.

I tried to find out when and where he was coming back to pick us up, but all the smiling people conveniently didn’t understand my English. We eventually stumbled across a man with a similar racket to our tuk-tuk driver, who took us back to his tour organizer — who then tried to sell us a pricy one-way ticket back to our original location.

I declined.

My son and I were fuming. We’d either been blatantly lied to and ripped off, or we’d misunderstood our own tour organizer and this new person was trying to rip us off now too. Then add insult to injury that the palace charged admission of 500 baht per person, it was 90 degrees and sunny with 90% humidity, and we were jetlagged from traveling halfway around the world in the last 36 hours. Suffice to say, we were not happy campers.

But then we stopped for a bit of perspective. The boat ride had been exhilarating, the market food was delicious, and we’d had the chance to see more of Bangkok than we would have had we stayed in the train station (especially when you add in the tuk-tuk ride we took back to the station). So we chalked it up to a stupid tourist learning experience and ended up enjoying the rest of our day.

After all, we were in the land of smiles.

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This story originally appeared on Medium.

 

Thursday Things: Dyrhólaey #AtoZChallenge

A to Z challenge 2018 DI went to Iceland over spring break, and let me tell you – four days is NOT enough time there. We spent a day in Reykjavik, a day doing the Golden Circle circuit tour, a day driving along the southern coast, and a morning horseback riding around the volcanic fields before flying out.

I was especially excited to explore the southern coast. We didn’t get a chance to go to the Sólheimasandur plane crash site – it was cold and drizzly, and we didn’t have enough time in our schedule to walk a mile or two each way to the site – but we did get to some other famous places, like several beautiful waterfalls.

Dyrhólaey

We also made it to Dyrhólaey, which is a park overlooking the black sand beaches that show up in Icelandic metal videos, especially Sólstafir’s “Miðaftann.” And I’m pretty sure some clips from their video for “Fjara” were shot around here too.

My short story, “The Beach,” was partially inspired by Solstafir’s “Fjara” (which is Icelandic for beach, by the way). Even though I’d only seen videos and pictures of the area before I wrote the story, I envision it being set here. I imagine Pría, the main character, standing on this beach watching her true love’s funeral barge float out to sea, then walking along it later as she’s about to give birth to their son.

I’m not a fangirl by any stretch, but there was something amazing about standing in the spot where some of my favorite songs’ videos were made, where my story took place too. It’s a feeling that makes me want to go back to Iceland, this time for several weeks, and just wander the countryside. Who knows what kind of stories I’ll come up with?

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About “The Beach:”

When Pría’s true love is killed before they can marry,
she must decide how to stay true to his memory while moving on with her life.

Available to read for free on Medium,
and it’ll also be included in my upcoming short story collection, Unkept Women

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Thursday Things is a weekly-ish feature highlighting little known facts, ideas, and stories behind my stories. Is there something you want to know more about? Let me know!

 

Resolutions: 2017 review and 2018 goals

gnome

Another form of self-care: crocheting random stuff, which I then list on Etsy because who needs a handful of tiny gnomes?

Every year I set goals for myself.

Let me preface this by saying 2017 sucked. I took on too much academically, especially in light of getting a part-time job that was more stressful than I’d anticipated (emergency shelter residential youth services direct care counselor), and having to revise my comprehensive exam twice set me back too. Throw in a health scare (I’m okay though!) and some personal issues that’ll make for a great book, tentatively called Every Day Is the Worst Day of My Life, and maybe I should be proud about how much I actually did manage to accomplish, rather than frustrated about how many goals I didn’t reach.

Either way, here’s how I did over the past year.

1. Finish something every month – short story, novella, novel, anything.

I finished a handful of new stuff, but nowhere near something every month.

2. Publish at least 4 things – again, short story, novella, novel, anything.

I DID THIS!!!!!! I published THIRTEEN stories on Medium, nine of which were previously unpublished works.

3. Finish the draft of a nonfiction book that’s good for my career.

I outlined the book and started the draft, but that’s as far as I’ve gotten. I had to revise my comprehensive exam twice, which set me back and took away from this project, as has working on my dissertation.

4. Do more live events – readings, book fairs, etc.

I did several events this year: a local lit fest, a book fair, and a solo reading. I sold an average of one book per event and didn’t give away enough swag to even say I got my name out there. My time is pretty damn valuable right now, so I’m going to hold off on local stuff for awhile because it’s just not worth it.

5. Travel more internationally – and Canada doesn’t count.

Other than a couple weeks in India last January, I unfortunately only made it out of the country to Canada – and even then, it was only once (okay, maybe twice because we drove from Seattle to Banff to Glacier National Park back up to Alberta and over to Winnipeg, but it was all the same trip). I got a part-time job starting in the summer, so now I have the money to travel but not the time. I did manage to get several trips in though: Georgia and the Carolinas over spring break, a week solo in a secluded cabin in northern Michigan, that trip to the Pacific Northwest and the Rockies, plus some day trips and weekend trips around the Midwest. And on a happier note, I leave for India again in about a week (spending two weeks there with my kid), then it’s on to Iceland for spring break and a month in Thailand in June, which hopefully will also include some time in Singapore and Bali. And a summer trip to the southwest, that may include a jaunt down to Mexico.

6. Read 100 books.

I started out doing pretty well at staying on pace, but really fell off this fall due to a grueling schedule that left little time for reading. I read a bunch of stories on Medium, but those aren’t trackable or books. I ended up reading 56 books total in 2017.

Overall in 2017

As Armando Christian Pérez says, “Reach for the stars, and if you don’t grab them at least you’ll fall on top of the world.” Every year I set myself some Big Hairy Audacious Goals (BHAGs), knowing full well that I probably won’t reach them but at least they’ll move me closer to my overarching, long-term goals of becoming a more successful author, expanding my horizons, and achieving within my career field. This year, despite not really doing everything I’d planned, I’m still further along the path than I was a year ago. And next year’s BHAGs will get me further along as well.

2018 goals

  1. Better time management. I’m generally pretty busy with work and school and life, so when I get a moment to breathe I spend it on something like cat videos. While self-care is important, I have a long list of goals with many parts, and I need to focus if I’m going to accomplish everything on my lists. To that end, I’ve made a checklist of 13 things I want to get done every day, including writing tasks, school and career projects, and self-enrichment activities. I plan to track what I do every day, at least until it becomes an ingrained habit.
  2. Publish to Medium at least weekly.
  3. Publish a stand-alone novella or short story collection quarterly.
  4. Grow my reader base, whether on social media, my newsletter, or Medium, by at least double. So, 600 followers on Facebook, 1500 followers on Twitter, 200 followers on Medium, and 3000 mailing list subscribers.
  5. Post to my blog at least twice a week, and promote those posts to get more traffic here.
  6. Read 100 books.

Can I do it? Probably not. But I can at least try!

If you’ve set goals for yourself, what are they? How do you plan to accomplish them?

The most pointless roadtrip ever?

Alberta has dinosaurs.

If you’re a regular reader of my blog, you know I like traveling – especially roadtrips. I take a lot of them, and often for random reasons:

 

  • I went to Detroit for a couple days last month just so I could pop into John King Used Books and eat delicious shawarmas and hummus at my favorite Dearborn Middle Eastern restaurant.
  • For spring break 2016, we detoured through Tulsa, Oklahoma, simply because I wanted to see what was there (answer: the Center of the Universe and nothing else).
  • Last summer, I drove up to Nipigon, Ontario, because I wanted to see the bridge that had collapsed.
  • Summer 2014, we detoured through Medicine Hat, Alberta, because I liked the name.
  • I plan on heading over to Alliance, Nebraska, in the next couple weeks because I need to check out Carhenge.

So, basically, I am the queen of random roadtrips.

sunset

Heaven is watching the sunset on Lake Superior from a secluded cabin in the woods

Yet when I was up in the UP of Michigan last month (different trip from the Detroit one), while I was driving up through Wisconsin I remembered that episode of That 70s Show where the gang drove to Canada for a beer run. From Wisconsin – which doesn’t share a border with Canada (including water ones).

I checked and it’s about 3-5 hours to drive from northern Wisconsin to Canada (either Grand Portage convenience stores north of Duluth or Sault St. Marie). It’s 5+ from southeast Wisconsin (down near Chicago) to Windsor. Regardless of where in the state they live, driving from Wisconsin to Canada just for beer seems like a lot of effort – and this is coming from someone who wants to go to Flin Flon, Manitoba, and Truth and Consequence, New Mexico, simply because of the towns’ names.

Wouldn’t it have been easier and cheaper just to bribe someone in their town to buy them beer?

A high mileage odometer is a badge of honor

I like to travel. A lot. And seeing as how I’m kinda poor, being a grad student and all, most of my domestic travel is by car.

That’s why I’m happy to report this milestone I hit this week:

250k miles!

Yep, that’s right – I hit 250,000 miles on my car!

It had about 130,000 when I got it in the spring of 2012, so that’s 120,000 miles in 5 years – an average of 24,000 miles per year.

A lot of it, of course, is due to commuting to my university, driving 125 miles roundtrip 2-4 times a week for the past couple years. But it’s also a couple trips to Canada every year, and California, and the East Coast, and everywhere in between. So far in 2017, for example, I’ve gone to India, San Diego (flying, not driving though), Georgia and the Carolinas, and Michigan – twice. That’s a lot of miles. :)

timeline map

Google has a cool feature that plots your adventures on a timeline, and here’s what my US/Canada trips look like, starting in August 2013 (so excluding a roadtrip to New Orleans I took in March 2012). This summer, depending on my work schedule, I’m also heading to the Pacific Northwest and taking several small trips around the Midwest. And I’d love to get down to Mississippi to research the sequel to my novel Yours to Keep or Throw Aside (spoilers: it involves Aida in Andrew’s hometown). No matter where I end up going, though, I’m looking forward to adding more dots!

How’s your odometer looking? Any memorable trips you’ve taken or cool dots you’ve earned?

Thursday Things: Keep on rocking in the free world

thursday thingsI’m not sure if it’s genetic, but I definitely inherited my dad’s wanderlust (he’s currently on a roadtrip to L.A. with an old friend, and I just got back from a random trip to Detroit solely taken to eat hummus and buy used books) and love of music.

As a kid, I remember him cranking his stereo whenever he was home, as well as dragging me and my younger brother to music festivals, like my hometown’s annual Blues Fest. And now I’ve become his concert buddy, accompanying him to a local music venue every couple months to see blues-rock artists that come through.

Sometimes we get people I’ve actually heard of, like Samantha Fish, Will Hoge, and Leon Russell. And most of the time it’s artists I’ve never heard of, but still enjoy.

I’m not musically inclined, nor do I ever want to be on stage performing, so I find it interesting to imagine what it’s like being one of these acts, especially the opening bands, especially when no one’s ever heard of you. And that’s what gave me the inspiration for not only my short story “Not My Thing,” but several other stories about bands and concert goers that I’m about halfway through writing and plan to someday release as a collection.

One of the best compliments I got on “Not My Thing” was from a beta reader who said I nailed the details, from the two free drinks that are included in the contract, to the weird guy who’s a little too close to the stage and a little too involved with the song.

Upcoming stories in this collection include “The Best Night of Herb’s Life,” about an unassuming accountant who stumbles into some action, and “Hunting Johnny Cervantes,” about a washed-up guitar player who’s actually the devil. Stay tuned!

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Not My Thing coverAbout “Not My Thing:”

When The Dancing Freemasons embark on their first major tour, Jeff’s dreams of being a rock star have come true – until he can no longer connect with the music. One night after a show, he meets a woman who might be the one to get the music flowing again, but is the cost worth it?

Available at Amazon

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Thursday Things is a weekly-ish feature highlighting little known facts, ideas, and stories behind my stories. Is there something you want to know more about? Let me know!

Thursday Things: The best book store in North Carolina closed!

thursday thingsOne of the settings in my novel Yours to Keep or Throw Aside is a bookstore, McKay’s, in downtown Asheville, North Carolina. It’s where Andrew and Kasey, the two main characters, meet, and several scenes take place in its attached coffee shop.

While Asheville does have a downtown bookstore, I actually modeled McKay’s after the Books-A-Million I worked at while I was in college – not that the specific details of the store actually matter to the story, other than it has coffee, books, tables, and couches. I don’t think its baristas or employees even have names.

I stole the name from my favorite used bookstore, Edward McKay’s in Raleigh, NC. I probably spent way too much money there (is that even possible at a used bookstore?), but they had a wonderful selection of everything – lots of obscure titles that look great sitting on my shelf, waiting to be read. When I was back in the Triangle in March, I may have spent an hour or two there, browsing the shelves and buying a couple bags of books.

AND NOW THEY’RE CLOSED FOREVER!!!!!

About a week or two ago, without any warning, they announced they’d permanently closed that store (although they still have a couple locations around the state).

Good news, however, in that MY McKay’s – my fictional one in Asheville – is still open, and it’ll even have a brief cameo in the sequel to Yours to Keep or Throw Aside that I’m currently plotting out.

RIP, Edward McKay’s. :(

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YTKTA coverAbout Yours to Keep or Throw Aside:

After her husband’s infidelities are revealed, Kasey Sanford just wants to rediscover who she is. After an abusive childhood and years as a career soldier, Andrew Adams just wants someone to tell him that he’s doing the right thing with his life. When their paths cross, Kasey and Andrew embark on a tumultuous journey that demonstrates just what they’re willing to do to save the ones they love.

ebook and paperback: Amazon

audiobook: Amazon * Audible

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Thursday Things is a weekly-ish feature highlighting little known facts, ideas, and stories behind my stories. Is there something you want to know more about? Let me know!

 

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