#MondayBlog The Rules of Writing?

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Don’t use prologues.

Don’t write multiple points of view.

Don’t write in the first person.

Don’t write in present tense.

Don’t write in passive voice.

Don’t head-hop.

Don’t use adverbs.

Show don’t tell.

Sound familiar? These are just a handful of the Rules of Writing. There are more. Many. Many more.

But no need to fear—rules are good things created in part to establish order and organization, maintain quality and maximum outcomes, and define best practices.

They’re also made to be broken.

I’m not saying anyone should write Rebel across their forehead and pen a prologue filled with adverbs. I’m saying you need to know when to break the rules, and moderation is always key.

If you want to include a prologue, go ahead. Prologues can be effective, giving just enough details to set-up the story and prime readers. They should never be info-dumps, burdening readers with information they’re supposed to carry and remember throughout the book.  That’s what plots are for and story details should be shared and shown to readers as the story unfolds.

If your prologue is full of plot points, skip it.

The debate over POVs (points of view) will never end. Some prefer one POV—the protagonist, while others feel the protagonist and the antagonist should be heard from. Still, in genres like romance, POVs of the hero and heroine are popular.

But, it’s the writer who gets to decide the POV of their story, and it should be compelling, always moving the story forward.

A writer once lamented she struggled halfway through her first draft before she realized she had the wrong character telling the story. With a different character’s POV, the story flowed, and in her words, “made so much more sense.”

Multiple POVs can be troublesome and too often lead to head-hopping—multiple POVs in the same scene or chapter.

And that will open up a brand new can of worms.

Some say never, ever, ever hop heads. It’s confusing to the readers and weakens the story.

The opposing teams say it can be done as long as the reader is cued in such a way to know the POV is about to change.

And again, from books and blogs I’ve read and chats I’ve sat in on, head-hopping appears to occur often and be acceptable in the romance genre.

Case in point—author Nora Roberts is a notorious head-hopper who sells books in the millions. Anyone complaining about her books being confusing?

In the end, the issue of head-hopping is between writers and their editors, because they don’t care for it and will point it out.

If you didn’t know any better (like me) or drifted into head-hopping by mistake, correct it and move on.

If it was intentional, be prepared for a fight. You’re not Nora Roberts.

Speaking of famous authors, Stephen King says, “the road to hell is paved with adverbs,” so don’t use them… ever, and who’s going to argue with Stephen King?

Well, J.K. Rowling and Stephenie Meyer might. And William Golding definitely would… while waving his Nobel Prize for literature in your face.

I believe most writers will agree adverbs weaken writing. You can prove it to yourself by writing a paragraph laced with adverbs like, quickly, silently, suddenly, really, and only. Then write the same paragraph replacing adverbs with strong active verbs. There’s no question the second paragraph will be clearer and more compelling… and less exhausting.

Yes, adverbs are considered weak words, but all words have power if used correctly. Books like Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, The Twilight Saga, and Lord of the Flies are still leaving bookstore shelves—adverbs and all.

Again, the problem with the Rules of Writing is all too often you don’t know you’re breaking them until you do. So, it’s in any writer’s best interest to make learning an active part of their writing journey. We’ll never know it all, but it’s better to know when you’re breaking the rules… so you can high-five your inner rebel and enjoy it.

#52weeks52stories “The Sweetest Days”

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#52weeks52stories: Week 28

Word prompt: reunion

Word count – 813;

Reading time – 2 min, 10 sec.

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Moira exited I-94 and rolled to a stop at the traffic signal at the end of the off-ramp.

She drummed her fingers against the steering wheel, indecision tugging at her.

Turning left would take her back to the highway, her hotel, and home in two hours.

Turning right would lead her to the Marriott Hotel… and her thirtieth high school class reunion.

The last thing Moira Lambert wanted to do was attend her class reunion.

She turned right anyway.

High school hadn’t been unpleasant for the homecoming queen and class valedictorian, it just didn’t have the same meaning for her as it did her classmates.

Moira was proud of her accomplishments and honored to be so well-thought of, but everything changed near the end of her senior year and then the only thing that mattered was graduating and leaving Flanders, Indiana.

It’s not too late, Lambert. You could grab your things from the hotel and be home before midnight.

Before she could respond to her own heeding, Moira heard Alexander’s quips.

“Don’t focus on the pain, honey-bunny. God knows we’d never smile if we only remembered the bad times.”

Her pursed lips relaxed into a bittersweet smile. She continued on as though Alexander Lambert was right there guiding her.

She pulled up to valet park in front of the Marriott Hotel and stepped out of her Qx50 accepting her claim stub from the young Latino man who’d opened her door. She thanked him with a smile and headed for the entrance, pretending not to notice the look her valet exchanged with two other young men standing at the valet stand.

She wasn’t angry or offended. Moira knew far too women in her age group who thought nothing of bedding young men half their age and it didn’t matter if they were valets, wait staff or occupied an office across the hall. Moira Lambert didn’t judge. She just wasn’t in that group.

As she entered the hotel, large metallic green signs with yellow glitter text directed members of the Taft High School Class of 1988 to the Grand Ballroom on the lower level.

Moira smirked while walking past the sign.

Kat Volker still had an obsession with glitter.

Approaching the escalator bay, Moira’s steps slowed.

This was the first reunion she’d attended without Alex.

This was the first time she’d done anything other than work since losing her husband of twenty-five years. She knew he’d be disappointed in her.

Like Moira, Alexander Lambert was going through the motions of living when they met on the Purdue University campus.

Tragedy touched his senior year of high also when his mother lost her battle with breast cancer. His misery deepened when he had to move in with his father and stepmother.

Catina Lambert hated him for being a constant reminder Gil Lambert was ever involved with a woman other than her. Her lies and scheming kept the Lambert men at odds so much, Alexander applied for early enrollment to Purdue to get away from the Lambert home.

Melancholy washed over her as the escalator carried her down.

Moira knew she’d met a kindred soul and told Alexander about her parents’ reaction when her older brother, Kevin, came out to them after his college graduation.

Big Abraham Jennings had balked at his only son being a fairy, and Genova Jefferson Jennings knew the Flanders African Methodist Church would shun them all.

Moira stayed at her brother’s side, holding his hand, ashamed of her parents for the first time in her life.

But it wouldn’t be the last.

Moira could see the reception area outside the Grand Ballroom was filling up and took stock of her appearance in the mirrored wall as the escalator took her to the lower level of the Marriott Hotel.

She looked good.

The streaks of gray on the left side of her head gave her a mature look without being matronly. They ran through her soft, brown curls from her temple to her shoulder.

The knee-length, purple silk wrap-dress complimented her hour-glass figure and Moira didn’t even lament the illusive twelve pounds that considered her hips a permanent home.

She stepped off the escalator and approached the registration table to the left of the ballroom entrance, and her first smile of the evening was genuine.

“Moira Jennings!”

A tall, thin woman with snow white hair leaped up from the table and ran to greet Moira, pulling her into a tight hug.

“Oh. I’m sorry, I keep forgetting. It’s Moira Lambert.”

Moira pulled back wearing a big grin. “Mrs. Petry, you know I’ll always answer to whatever you call me.”

The retired history teacher beamed. “Still my best… and favorite student.”

Gayla Petry pulled her former student close for another tight hug.

“It is good to see you, my dear. I’m so glad you decided to come.”

Moira chuckled. “I am too, I think.”

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Thanks for reading! Stop in next week for the conclusion to The Sweetest Days.

©2018 Felicia Denise, All Rights Reserved

Camp NaNo Update Day #14

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I have nothing against deadlines.

They are necessary for organization, to accomplish tasks on time, and to move forward.

I’m a fan of deadlines and don’t believe life works well without them.

I have nothing against writing. How could I? I’ve been jotting down poetry and prose since I was nine.

Writing and deadlines work well together.

Most of the time.

Writing and deadlines disconnect for me when I add in another factor… chronic illness.

Missed Deadlines

It’s difficult to make plans and schedules when you have no idea what each day will hold. Will the pain level be tolerable? How much mobility will I have? Will my thinking be slowed due to brain fog?

So, I’ve stopped trying to make plans.

Now I make game plans and strategies.

If I can’t write, I can read. If I can’t read, I can edit. If I can’t edit, I can outline. If I can’t outline, I can search out art and images, check out new tools for writing and publishing, or work on my blogs.

I’ve taken my obstacles and made them challenges. No one likes to lose a challenge, but sometimes I do and a loss makes me push harder through the next challenge.

So while I still may not be able to say Sins of the Mother will release on April 3, 2019, I keep moving forward, closer to the time when I can publish dates.

Working through illness is my challenge. For others, it could be varying job obligations, multiple jobs, or having to travel frequently. I have several friends who are in school and try to set writing deadlines after midterms and exams. They’re still perfecting their systems.

But without a doubt, writers struggle most with meeting familial obligations, whether it’s spouses and children, elderly parents, or fur babies. It’s easy to get overwhelmed… and do nothing.

It doesn’t have to be that way.

Make obstacles and disadvantages positive challenges and accomplishments and meeting deadlines will become less daunting and effortless.

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Day 14 word count – 26,986

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©2018 Felicia Denise, All rights Reserved

Song Lyric Sunday | “Breakout” – Swing Out Sister

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Song Lyric Sunday was created by Helen Vahdati from This Thing Called Life One Word at a Time. For complete rules or to join in the fun, click here.

The theme for Song Lyric Sunday this week is “break.”

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From the British act Swing Out Sister’s 1986 debut album It’s Better to Travel, the single Breakout was a hit that made many segments of the music industry sit up and take notice.

The single reached the number four position in the UK in the autumn of 1986, and rose to number six on the Billboard Hot 100 in the US and number one on the Adult Contemporary in the US in 1987. The song also resulted in a Grammy Award nomination for Best Pop Vocal Performance by a Duo or Group.

The single was written by the group’s three members,  and performed while the group was still a trio. It was one of their biggest hits, and the song most closely associated with the act. In the US, Breakout remains a staple of adult contemporary and smooth jazz radio station playlists.

It’s a fun video with band members goofing around as they make a dress for Corinne.

Enjoy!

See my Song Lyric Sunday selection on Nesie’s Place.

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Disclaimer: I have no copyrights to the song and/or video and/or hyperlinks to songs and/or videos and/or gifs above. No copyright infringement intended.

Breakout

by Swing Out Sister

Written by

And breakout

When explanations make no sense
When every answer’s wrong
You’re fighting with lost confidence
All expectations gone

The time has come to make or break
Move on, don’t hesitate
And breakout

Don’t stop to ask
And now you’ve found a break to make at last
You’ve got to find a way
Say what you want to say
Breakout

When situations never change
Tomorrow looks unsure
Don’t leave your destiny to chance
What are you waiting for
The time has come to make your break
Breakout

Don’t stop to ask
And now you’ve found a break to make at last
You’ve got to find a way
Say what you want to say
Breakout…

Don’t stop to ask
Now you’ve found a break to make at last
You’ve got to find a way
Say what you want to say
Breakout

Some people stop at nothing
If you’re searching for something
Lay down the law
Shout out for more
Breakout and shout
Day in day out
Breakout

Breakout

Don’t stop to ask
And now you’ve found a break to make at last
You’ve got to find a way
Say what you want to say
And breakout

Don’t stop to ask
And now you’ve found a break to make at last
You’ve got to find a way
Say what you want to say
And breakout…

(Don’t) Lay down the law (stop)
Shout out for more (to ask)
Breakout and shout day in day out
Ooh, breakout

Breakout

Breakout

Lay down the law
Shout out for more
Breakout and shout day in day out

Compiled from Genius Lyrics, YouTube, Wikipedia, and Google.

Camp NaNo Update Day #13

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Emotions can ruin a good story.

Don’t close the browser! Read on.

I beta-read five chapters for an author recently and it went from a bizarre reading to a learning experience.

I’d read for her before, as well as being an admirer of her work and owning most of her back catalog across three genres. I knew her writing style well.

After reading two chapters of the manuscript, I put it away and sent her a text about questions I had.

We talked a short time later and since we never minced words with each other; I asked her why reading about the emotional reunion of a married couple separated by a wildfire during a camping trip read more like a five-year-old tax return. Was she trying something new? Did I get the first draft?

Her response?

She laughed and said she should never have sent the chapters.

Confusion and I were BFFs by this time but she continued before I could respond.

She explained the chapters were written… after an argument with her husband.

Ah-ha moment.

And yes, she proofed them but she was still angry and considered the chapters ready.

While we were talking, she pulled up the chapters and read aloud…. And laughed more.

She promised to send me edited chapters in a few days after she got her head right. The difference was like night and day. I was keyed into the emotions of the couple… not the writer.

We still laugh about the incident but wonder if we’ve compromised past work with our real-time feelings.

Most writers consider it a win if their work sparks their own emotions and they’re optimistic about pulling the same tears, laughter, anger, or melancholy from readers.

But writing is a mind game and our subconscious guides us more than we admit.

The takeaway from the beta reading incident? If the emotions are there, use them.

Having a crappy day? Write the rude encounter scene.

Coworkers making you homicidal? Write the fight scene.

Real-time emotions aren’t a necessity when writing. Writers can pull from prior personal experiences. But don’t avoid writing just because you’re not in the mood. Using the mood and the emotions can give your writing a more authentic flare and keep Mr. Passive Voice at bay.

I used my personal emotions in a recent scene for Sins of the Mother.

The adult children of the protagonist are waiting to hear the outcome of their father’s surgical procedure. My own eighty-three-year-old mother, a cancer survivor, was undergoing a delicate procedure two-thousand miles away. The texts messages between the two siblings who were there and the five who weren’t should have taken down Verizon.

The mister suggested I focus on something else and told me to go write something… because he’s eloquent like that.

I read my scene-list several times before the hospital scene registered and I decided to give it a go.

I wrote until I received the message mom was back in her room and doing great, over an hour.

Of course, the scene is too long, but I’m pleased with the overall result and know the edited version will be spot on.

I have two fearful scenes to write. Channeling my own fear would involve encounters with the infamous Arizona spiders and/or scorpions.

I think I’ll just use my words this time.

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Day 13 word count – 25,266

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©2018 Felicia Denise, All Rights Reserved

Camp NaNo Update Day #12

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Writing is a solitary endeavor.

Writers peck away on laptops, tablets, typewriters, and in long-hand dictating stories being told by the voices in their heads.

Most times, it’s a comfortable collaboration. I mean, who doesn’t get along with their own brain? (Don’t answer that.)

But things aren’t always blue skies and free coffee refills.

Plot twists unwind, harsh thoughts are tossed around and characters retreat to the shadows to sulk.

Writers take their socially awkward selves straight to Snapchat and put on bunny ears, to Twitter to troll their friends, or to YouTube to watch sad videos about darkness and loveless worlds.

No words are being written and writers wonder yet again why they even bother. Careers in mass transit (read; UBER) or the culinary arena (read: DOMINO’S) are considered as well as taking a shot at being the next YouTube sensation because if that guy can do it, well…

But then you find a new four-star review on your last book on Amazon. You open your email to great feedback and winning praise from beta readers. A blog you follow has a great post on Scrivener that will save you time. An editing service you’ve wanted to use is running a buy now, use later special… and offering a 20% off deal.

And you smile.

Your day has turned around and things aren’t as dark and dreary as you believed. The sun will come up tomorrow, and you’ve figured out how to smooth the wrinkle in your WIP.

All because you walked away from your WIP.

No, this isn’t a post about the art of procrastination. No writer needs help with that.

It’s about knowing when to walk away from writing and reach out… for help, encouragement, support, FUN… and accountability.

Some writers can get so caught up in their own heads, they get stuck in a loop, moving neither forward nor backward. They need help and don’t realize it. They need to interact with like-minded individuals. (Who understands the mind of a writer better than other writers and avid readers?)

They could avoid a good deal of anxiety and thoughts of career changes if writers build—or strengthen—their network of support.

Families are generally the first level of support. Even if they never read a word of your writing, share the basic details with them. Never put up walls between your family and your writing.

Join a writing group. This can be a daunting challenge and can take time to find a good fit.

Just being a group of writers is not enough. Also writing in your genre is not enough. Even being close in age is not enough.

And being in a group is pointless if you do not interact. Trade blurbs or sales page details for critiques. Find a paragraph-partner or find out if the group allows public posting and critiquing.

It takes time to build trust in any group or team a writer joins. I wouldn’t advise joining any group and sending out entire manuscripts or even chapters to people you just ‘met.’

Make a plan with your group/team. Set dates/deadlines for brainstorming sessions, progress updates, and manuscript reviews.

Be reliable. Our obligations outside of writing will always be the priority but make your team aware of delays. Don’t be the weakest link.

I haven’t found my perfect fit writing group yet, but I do have a few amazing writer-friends who will point out my overuse of commas, my reluctance to hit the publish button and my tendency to use too many words when a few will do.

Not at all like this post. 😀

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Day 12 word count – 23,519

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©2018 Felicia Denise, All Rights Reserved

#FlashbackFriday: Meet Margot Schultz

Office manager Margot Schultz is the closest thing  closed-off attorney, Olivia Chandler, has to a friend. Margot doesn’t know all the details of her boss’ painful childhood, but she knows enough to understand Olivia’s quirky behavior and stunted emotions.

Margot returns in Family Matters.  Her loyalty to Olivia will be tested when another devastating loss leads Olivia to refuse help and push everyone away.

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Dynamic and vivacious Margot Schultz never met an obstacle she couldn’t overcome… or knock down. Executive assistant and office manager to child-advocate attorney, Olivia Chandler, Margot always seems to know the right amount of charm, wit, and panache to use when dealing with anyone from grumpy judges to cagey Department of Children’s Service employees to Olivia’s peers – some of whom are less-than-ethical.

Early in her career, Margot worked for some of the less than-ethical-crowd. While they could be gods and magicians in the courtroom, pulling out wins from seemingly unwinnable cases, outside the courtroom was another matter. Margot could remember each and every personal errand she’d had to do, each gift she’d had to buy for multiple girlfriends and mistresses, and every lie she’d told to one of her bosses’ wives.

When Margot heard through the courthouse grapevine that the executive secretary of a successful young, female child advocate attorney was retiring for health reasons and had no replacement, she grabbed her resume, took an extended lunch and went in search of Olivia Chandler. Despite her unusual approach, Margot and Olivia clicked immediately.

The two women have worked side by side for over ten years. Olivia admired Margot’s work ethic. She encouraged Margot to continue her education when time allowed, and even paid for it, calling it a ‘sound investment.’ Margot would eventually advance from executive legal secretary to executive assistant and office manager.

Margot knows Olivia has no family and was a foster care kid. She doesn’t know the intimate details, but she does know Olivia’s adolescence was bad enough for Olivia to keep herself closed off to most people. Her boss seems to ‘live’ when focused and working on a case for their minor clients. The rest of the time, Olivia just seems to exist.

The divorced office manager is not one of those people who believe a woman needs a man in her life to be complete, but Bruce Bellamy has suddenly appeared in Olivia’s life, and Margot will do her part to keep him there.

Things are going to get interesting.

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Margot Rose (Parker) Schultz

Age: She’s not telling – but probably mid to late 40s

Born: New York, New York

Marital Status: Divorced – has adult twin sons who are both Marines

Is two classes away from a Bachelor’s degree in Business Management

Loves to dance and can be found on a dance floor most Saturday nights

Collects souvenirs from the Roaring 20s – always says she would have made a great Flapper

Plays acoustic guitar, but rarely does as it reminds her of her musician ex-husband

Is somewhat estranged from her parents and siblings since she dropped out of college nearly 20 years ago to elope with her now ex-husband

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Family Matters 3D cover

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Camp NaNo Update Day #11

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To coin a phrase, when it comes to POV, “The struggle is real!”

POV or Point of View is the angle of considering things, which shows us the opinion or feelings of the individuals involved in a situation. In literature, point of view is the mode of narration that an author employs to let the readers “hear” and “see” what takes place in a story.

Who’s telling the story? Whose point of view will bring the reader into the story?

The wrong—or too many—points of view can confuse, annoy, or bore a reader to tears… and lead them to walk away from a book.

There are four primary POV types in fiction:

  • First person point of view. First person is when “I” am telling the story. …
  • Second person point of view. The story is told to “you.” …
  • Third person point of view, limited. The story is about “he” or “she.” …
  • Third person point of view, omniscient.

Sounds pretty straightforward, right?

When it’s successful, readers won’t notice. The story flows. They’re seeing the plot unwind through the protagonist’s eyes or rotate between characters or the unseen narrator.

When it’s not successful?

“Houston, we have a problem.”

If the point of view isn’t clear, the story isn’t clear.

Who’s talking? When did they get here? What are they talking about?

Confused POV can lead to head-hopping.

What is head-hopping? Technically, it’s having more than one POV in a scene.

I emphasize technically because authors will argue vehemently in favor of or against it. Some say it depends on the genre, while others say it’s the trope, and still, others say don’t do it at all.

I like third person, omniscient because I can avoid most of the confusion… and because I’m nosy and want to know what everyone is seeing, thinking, and feeling. But even that can bring problems if the writer lapses and writes what they’re thinking instead of their character. The third person narrative becomes first person and readers are like, “Wait, what happened?”

Or maybe that’s just me.

I’m trying something different (for me) with Sins of the Mother.  It feels right so far. But then, no one has read the NaNo version except me.

Guess I’ll be sharing excerpts soon.

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Day 11 word count – 21,309

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©2018 Felicia Denise, All Rights Reserved

Camp NaNo Update Day #10

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I come across a good post about writing schedules almost daily. Many authors and bloggers have unique and precise methods of ensuring time is allotted daily for writing.

My writing schedule looks like a casual suggestion.

Don’t get me wrong, I write something every day… at some point. The schedule part? That’s tricky.

I’m not disciplined enough to say, “I must write,” then sit down and do it.

If it’s editing or revising—words already written—I’m all in.

New dialogues and scenes? It’s complicated.

My stories are character-driven and if characters aren’t talking, I’m not writing.

However, that is not the case during NaNoWriMo/Camp NaNoWriMo, or any writing challenge.

For thirty days I write at the same time everyday, almost always exceeding my word count goal, then move on to something else.

First day after the challenge ends, I’m back to pencil-tapping and scrolling through Twitter.

It’s obvious I need supervision.

Writing challenges have deadlines not imposed by me.

To succeed, I have to play by guidelines not imposed by me.

See a pattern forming here?

I need accountability… and not to myself. I’ll blow me off faster than anyone.

Guess it’s a good thing for folks like me NaNoWriMo recently announced they’re launching an updated website later this year which includes YEAR-ROUND writing support.

This is a good thing. Perhaps I’ll actually adapt to a writing schedule which lasts longer than thirty days.

Anything is possible.

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Day 10 word count – 17,281

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©2018 Felicia Denise, All Rights Reserved