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Posts Tagged ‘creative writing’

Life BalanceFor those who’ve been following this blog for a while, you’ve likely noticed I’ve been suspiciously absent in my posts for some time. The reason is simple; life keeps getting in the way.

I didn’t set out to let this happen. Each day and each week kept getting busier and busier with so much stuff, and I told myself I’d get back to my blog next week. I didn’t. Then I realized I needed time to attend to life’s duties and the increasing demands to get my current WIP edited and in to my publisher. For those who aren’t writers, let me tell you, editing is a loooong, sloooow process that drives writers crazy. We can’t hurry it along (although we desperately want to), and we can’t take short cuts. It takes as long as it takes, and it’s not the fun part of writing. Still, it’s absolutely essential to creating something you want to put out there in a public format and ask people to purchase with their hard-earned dollars. In the end, it’s time well spent.

I’m also working with a new publisher, Books We Love (BWL). They are a Canadian publishing company that I have to say that I’m enjoying working with so far. They’ve been quick to respond to my emails and questions, and they’re diligent about staying on top of everything from editing to cover art and final preps for publishing a book. I like that, but it does mean I’m having to learn (and in some cases, re-learn) what I thought I knew about publishing, but that’s all to the good too.

The problem, as I was starting to see it, is that life kept getting in the way of my writing work. I started resenting not having the time to attend to my duties as a writer, or get the next blog posts written and published, or even breathing, it seemed.

Stumbling blockSo, I’m headed down one road when suddenly I’m tripping and stumbling over blocks in the road. I’m thrown on my ass, and it takes a while to figure out which way is up. We’re still dealing with the realities of aging parents and Alzheimer’s with my mother-in-law, a disease that we’ve all learned to hate (are there any diseases we don’t hate?). We’re coping.

Then I had a set-back with my own health issues. I have Sjogren’s Syndrome . The dry eyes and mouth associated with the condition worsened in about that same March/April time frame. Stress? Maybe. The problem really became a problem when my eyes became so dry, despite multiple applications of special eye drops a day, that my vision was impaired. For about two weeks I really couldn’t see well enough to drive. I had to have my husband drive me to a memoir writing workshop I was giving in a nearby town, and after the workshop I had to hightail it into the bathroom to insert more drops for the drive home. Eventually that issue resolved itself as well and I’m back to normal, whatever normal is for me.

I was actually going along pretty good for a month or so, until we put our park model home on the market so we wouldn’t be carrying two residences each month. Good news. We sold it. Woo Hoo! Oh, then I realized I would have to leave the wonderful area of Grand Bend and Port Franks, Ontario and live only in the city. That really bummed me out for a while. I also knew I’d miss the “mini house” and all the memories associated with it. I’d miss living up near the lake and being able to slip down to the beach at a moment’s notice. I was sad to be putting aside another chapter in my life.

Along with the sale came the stress of moving everything we owned out of it and figuring out what the heck to do with all the stuff we’d accumulated there over the course of five years! I’d just moved back to the city in December, remember? Now I was having to downsize yet again, and amalgamate, give away, or throw away more stuff. That all takes time. Time I wasn’t writing. Time I wasn’t editing. Time I wasn’t blogging, or reviewing books, or interviewing other writers.

ConnectionWhat I did do was stay current on social media through all of it. It kept my hand in the game, which kept me up to date on what’s been happening with who. I read writing related articles of interest galore. I wrote when I could. I edited when I could. I gave myself permission to do what needed to be done and not beat myself up too much over it. I also periodically vented to my husband. He’s an excellent listener, so his ears got a good workout. I’m grateful for his patience, believe me!

This past six months has served to remind me that I can’t control everything. I have to “Let go, and let God,” as I’ve heard the expression said. I’ve learned that sometimes good enough has to be good enough. I also knew that some things would just have to work themselves out. I consoled myself over the sale of my mini-house by acknowledging that it was a good, sound financial decision to sell. The single woman who bought it was thrilled to have her own little place with a good-sized garden and beautiful view of the wooded area across the street. I’m sure my old neighbours welcome her into their midst, and I sincerely hope that she’s able to settle in and make it her own.

Blue Starburst by Debbie McClure

Blue Starburst by Debbie McClure

Surprising, to me at least, is the fact that I discovered a new creative outlet. I began experimenting with acrylic abstract painting and I love it! I can’t draw a straight line with a ruler (my son, brother, and grandson can, but I’m hopeless). What I do have is imagination and a good eye for colour, or so I think. I’ve even started doing a few large paintings for family and friends who’ve requested them, so that’s pretty cool. I’m not a professional painter, by any means, and I’ve hated some of what I’ve created, but as with writing, I can go back and fine-tune, or erase what I’ve done and start over. It’s become a great stress reducer, and I believe it stretches my imagination in other ways I hadn’t encountered before. It’s also a great way to just zone out, and sometimes that means I’m able to work through writing issues, without having to actually work at it. I like that.

The King's Consort Cover ArtIn the meantime, I’m happy to announce that my most recent (bio) historical fiction novel is finally done! This book has been a long labour of love, since my mother tells me her paternal great aunt claimed we are related to Louise Rasmussen, Countess Danner. Whether it’s true or not, I became intrigued by Louise and King Frederik VII of Denmark’s remarkable love story, and knew I had to write my (fictionalized) version of it. For information and a brief synopsis of the story, head over to the Amazon link provided below.

The great news is that my publisher let me know that we’re looking at an e-book release date of September 10th, 2016 for The King’s Consort-The Louise Rasmussen Story, followed by a print release a few weeks later. For anyone interested in ordering their copy right away, it’s available for pre-order now (see link above). I’m so excited! I’m also extremely nervous (that’s another post). It has taken me two years to get this book to this point, and now I’m standing on the threshold of seeing all that hard work come to fruition. Yikes! I truly hope you enjoy it, and if so, please consider leaving an honest review on Amazon (it really, really helps the writer), email me, or drop me a line on the blog, and of course, share the news with your family and friends.

As for what’s next, well, I’m in the process of getting my first two books, In The Spirit Of Love and In The Spirit Of Forgiveness, re-released – complete with new cover art and titles (details to follow once I have them). My plan is to re-release these two books and follow them up with a new series that continues Sir Richard and Claire’s story, and adventures. I’m really excited about that too, so check my website periodically, or social media sites, for new information. I have a second (bio) historical romance novel I started working on several months ago, and am itching to get back to, so it’s in the works for a little further down the line.

I’ve settled into our city house and am loving my little courtyard garden. The weather has been hot and summery. My family are all doing well, and I have my life back—for now. I know life will rear its head again soon, but today I’ll celebrate the good things and not worry about what’s around the corner.

We all go through life challenges. How have you dealt with some of yours lately? Share ideas for what’s worked for you – you never know who might benefit from your insight and wisdom. Thank you for sticking with me, and I’ll talk to you soon. Promise!

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Moving on Up

Moving on Up

 

 

 

 

We’re moving again. Even though I tell myself before, during, and immediately after every move that I’ll never do it again, life gets in the way and I find myself packing boxes and going through a surprising accumulation of stuff. It’s a tremendous chore to pack, sift through, and unpack everything you own, but it can also be a good thing.

First there’s the feeling of a new start that is inherent with any move. It can also be one of the most stressful situations we can be in – up there with divorce, change of jobs or schools, marriage, and new babies. But life is constantly changing. We’re forced to either accept the tides of change, or get sucked under. Personally, I like the opportunities that moving brings with it (I guess that’s why I keep doing it). While I’m grumbling about all the work it is to move, I try to focus on what’s ahead. I imagine my new home, and in my head I decorate to my heart’s content. I place furniture in different rooms, paint walls, hang pictures, and visualize how it will all look. I talk about it at length to my husband, and make long lists of what to keep and what to toss. It’s exhausting, but also strangely liberating. It’s personal world-building in the very truest sense.

Inspiration Moves Us

Inspiration Moves Us

Writing is the ultimate in world-building though. We’re literally crafting characters, worlds, situations, and outcomes out of the ether. Our job is to make the reader enjoy the journey and be able to make sense of the world we’ve created. Even the most outlandish fantasy stories must contain key elements of grounding for the reader to hold on to. If the writer fails in that, they’ve lost the reader, because he or she can only go by what’s written in front of them. They can’t see inside the writer’s head for the details that failed to make it to the page. If something is jarring or seems completely out of place, the writer risks upsetting the dear reader to the point where they close the book and become dissatisfied and distrustful of the writer.

Writers are entrusted with a great deal of responsibility. Not only do characters need to have substance and value, but consideration must be paid to things like time, place, costuming, language, point-of-view, and what characters see, smell, hear, and touch. Be careful of the info drop though, since no reader wants to slog through pages and pages of description before getting to the good stuff – action and dialogue. It’s a careful balance, but when achieved, brings the reader right into the heart of the story. They’re right there chasing the bad guys, or up in the rigging fighting (or being) pirates, or falling deeply in love. The reader is taken out of his/her everyday life and given a chance to be someone they aren’t and explore places they may never see. That’s what they pay for. They buy a book in hopes that it will transport them. World-building is complex, but must appear seamless for it to come to life.

Like moving to a new home, the first page of a book is a brand new start. A new adventure. As a writer, you determine where you’re taking the reader. You get to decorate to your heart’s content, and when it comes time to edit, well, it’s like down-sizing; you take away the things you know you aren’t going to need, and even get rid of things you once loved, but no longer have a place for in your new home. You build a new world full of hope and promise, and is a reflection of the story you are telling yourself and visitors. Welcome readers to your book like you would to your home. If you’ve done your job, they’ll return for another visit.

Friends

Friends

 

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Re-blogged from Michelle Tupy’s blog, where I was invited to guest post today.

 

Be Creative

Be Creative

People ask writers and other artists all the time, “How do you do it?” I have to admit, I don’t know. When I think about the hours a writer, musician, visual artist, clothing designer, interior decorator, architect, basket weaver, whatever, spends on his/her chosen craft, there’s this huge mystery around the how of it all.

So let’s tackle the “why” question then. We create things because something, anything, sparks our imagination. We see or hear something that resonates with us, inspires us and puts a mental picture in our heads of what that something means, or could mean. It’s different for each person. A painter will see it in terms of paint, a musician will see and/or hear it in terms of notes of music or song, and a writer will see it in terms of words on a page that tell a story or impart some sort of information.

Click the Original blog link to read the full post: http://www.michelletupy.com/blog/how-to-be-creative

 

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Research is Important

Research is Important

I used to think that research would have to be the most boring aspect to writing. I remember actually making a similar comment at a book signing event I attended for another writer who wrote historical fiction. I was pretty smug in my assumption, but honestly, I had no idea what I was talking about. I’d just begun my writing journey, and I thought fiction writing, especially paranormal romance writing, wouldn’t require any research. I was wrong.

 

Not long into the process of writing my first published title, In The Spirit Of Love, I realized that I needed more information on a variety of subjects ranging from food to geography. Then I thought I should learn a little bit about the types of grand country estates that dot the English countryside, and period clothing. Oh, and I figured it might be a good idea to learn about some of the famous ghost stories surrounding those old English manor homes. One thing kept leading to another, and as I wound down the various paths of information, each new thing pointed to another interesting tid bit of information. I began making notes, book marking sites to return to, and generally getting right into the research behind the fiction story I was telling.

 

I had no idea I’d enjoy it so much! In fact, periodically I had to pull myself back into the business of actually writing the story. Now, I should probably have done all the research up front before even starting to write, but what did I know? I let the story tell me what areas to research. Each time I’d come up against a blank wall where I didn’t know something, I’d go off on a tangent and research it. That was actually fun, and it gave me some much needed breaks in my writing. In fact, some of my research became the germ of an idea for the story, or the sequel, In The Spirit Of Forgiveness, which followed.

 

History speaks

History speaks

I was surprised by how much I enjoyed the research part of writing, but I suppose I shouldn’t have been. After all, I love learning new things, and the past has always fascinated me. It also made me yearn to visit the places I was researching. I came away with a deeper appreciation for people I hadn’t met and places I had never been. I developed a love of research I hadn’t expected.

 

After the small success of my first two books, I felt I was ready to tackle a much bigger project I’d been wanting to write for several years; a fact-based historical fiction novel entitled The King’s Consort-The Louise Rasmussen Story (not yet published), about a woman who lived in Denmark’s mid-1800s. Going into the writing of this story I knew I was biting off a good, sizeable chunk. It was a daunting task, because the people and places actually existed. So, armed with my new love of research, I began reading anything and everything about the main protagonist, Louise Rasmussen, and her love interest, King Frederik VII. From my experience in writing the two In The Spirit Of books, I knew the internet and library were my closest friends and allies. I couldn’t actually go to Denmark (not on this writer’s budget), but I could research to my heart’s content, and I did. I also talked at length to my Danish-born mother about the small details of Danish life, and some of the locations I was writing about. I made copious notes and bookmarked many pages to refer to time and again. I created a story outline, arc, and character profiles based on the information I retrieved. I began to see the characters and story come alive in my mind as I wrote, and any areas I became stuck on, I researched some more. As with the first two books, the research for The King’s Consort lead me down paths I hadn’t considered before, and helped me create a fictional world to surround the very real characters and places I was writing about. I don’t know if I got everything just right, and I’m sure there are areas I could improve on, but I write with my gut instinct. I let the story unfold, assisted by the facts I uncovered. I felt as if I were placing flesh on old bones and giving sound to voices long silenced.

 

I recently read a Writer’s Digest article written by Scott Francis, wherein he discusses “How to Research Your Novel”. Scott gives some excellent advice to writers, and reminds us that fact-finding and verification make for a much more believable story.

 

At The Centre for Fiction, author Helen Benedict talks about the importance of writers doing their due diligence when it comes to blending fact and fiction. As Benedict claims, it’s imperative that the writer not “cheat” and try to fool the reader. That’s not to say that every novelist gets it right every time, but the goal is to get it as right as possible and check the facts.

 

Freelance fiction editor, Beth Hill, addresses this issue in her post, Details and Descriptions-Getting the Facts Right and gives some concrete suggestions about where writers should focus their efforts when researching for a story.

 

While I’m in the querying phase for The King’s Consort, which is akin to long, slow torture, I console myself with hours upon hours of research for my next historical fiction novel. It’s a huge project, but it excites and enchants me. It also scares me, but I’m going to go for it anyway. The research for this novel is just as deep, the characters are just as complex to learn and understand, and the work ahead is tremendous. Still, I’m once again enjoying the process of learning the who, how, what, and where of the story. When I finally begin writing the chapters, I know I’ll feel the familiar thrill of bringing the past to life again. It’s a challenge I simultaneously welcome and dread, precisely because it’s a challenge.

 

Storytelling

Storytelling

I’m not an expert. I’m not a historian. I’m not a scholar. I’m a writer and story-teller, and I just do the best I can with what I have. Because of my fascinating research, I’ve learned so much about subjects I had no idea would appeal to me. I’ve also promised myself I’ll some day visit the many places I’ve written about, walking through streets, halls, and gardens my characters, both real and fictional, have tread. For now though, I’ll content myself with my imagination and the dusty old facts I uncover. Such is the life of a writer.

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We are all connected

We are all connected

 

 

I find people endlessly fascinating, and enjoy connecting with them on multiple levels. Whether in-person or on-line, people’s views, personalities, and idiosyncrasies come through loud and clear in very short order. Some I gravitate toward easily, perhaps because of shared mind-sets and values, while others quickly become abrasive and offensive. The truth is, it doesn’t matter which. Of course I’ll seek out those whose ideas and opinions I share and enjoy, and will avoid those whose don’t mesh easily with my own. Still, I learn something from every single person I come into contact with.

 

For example, just this weekend I held a creative writing workshop at a local art centre, The Grand Bend Art Centre. It was a very small class, but that didn’t bother me. I believe in showing up for those who care to attend. I don’t like turning people away who might have an interest in learning, so when given the choice of going ahead with the small class or cancelling, I chose to go ahead. Why wouldn’t I? If even only one person shows up, then I feel I owe it to the Centre and to the attendees to do my part. The smaller classes just mean more one-on-one instruction and interaction, which can be great fun!

 

As we went through a series of small writing exercises, I began to see where each participant’s strengths and weaknesses lay, both in writing, and personally. One young girl was very shy and reluctant to share her written work aloud, even though she showed remarkable ability and promise. One woman had taught creative writing, but lacked the impetus to actually write the novel she’d always dreamed of. She too showed much promise and skill with words. What they both lacked was the ability to get themselves started on the path to writing and completing a full body of work. In short order, I knew my role; kick-starter. I was going to do what I could within the limits of four hours to ignite a spark of fire and encourage them to really start, and finish, a project.

 

Grand Bend Beach

Grand Bend Beach

One of the exercises I particularly enjoy during the workshop is what I refer to as a “walkabout”. This is where we go outside to explore the five senses and articulate what the participants see, feel, smell, touch. Writers must be able to bring forward these experiences while sitting in usually quite locations, away from the source of the experiences they are trying to write about. I wanted to remind them to be aware of the world around them on a daily basis. I wanted them to begin thinking in descriptive terms as they experienced where we were that day. Holding classes near a beach gave me excellent fodder for this type of experience and expression. We took the five minute walk down toward the lake. As we walked, I encouraged each person to describe what they saw around them. Then we stopped for a few moments, off the side of the road, and I asked them to close their eyes and describe what they heard and smelled. They talked about feeling the breeze on their skin, and hearing the cry of a gull as it swooped and dove overhead, or the sound of a squeaking bicycle gear as it passed by on the other side of the road. The scent of motor oil from boats moored nearby, and tang of fishy water assaulted their noses. By closing their eyes, they could focus on these elements one by one and experience them in a different way than they might normally. On reaching the dunes overlooking the long expanse of sand, water, and sky, they each described the tall grasses that graced the tops of the sand dunes, the leaden grey sky overhead that touched partially fog-shrouded land in the distance on one end, and cleared on the other to reveal the long pier and lighthouse close by. I reminded them that writing is about perception; their perception. The writer’s perception is everything, since it is always the writer who determines what the reader will see, hear, feel, scent, taste, and touch. Turn your head one way, and you experience one set of sensory input. Turn it the other, and you get a completely different angle. Turn your head too far, and you can’t see the other side at all, but it’s still there. Each person described the identical setting very differently, but with such passion and conviction. I loved it!

 

As I drove home from that class, I thought about how that little exercise is mirrored in our every day life and experiences. We can only perceive the world through our own senses, and we interpret those experiences in individual ways. No two people view themselves and the world around them in quite the same way. This is perfect. We aren’t meant to see and interpret the world around us exactly the same. It’s this variation that makes us unique and interesting. In that walk-about exercise, there was no right or wrong interpretation. Everything was valid and exciting. Putting words to the experiences helped us all see, for a quick span of time, through the other’s senses and mind. This is what the writer does. We share our views on the world, both real and imaginary, with others for a brief span of time. Close the book, magazine, or computer, and we all move back into our own lanes of thought, belief, and understanding. This is the magic, and joy, of writing, and life.

Writing and Life

Writing and Life

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Getting Started

Getting Started

When I first decided to start writing, I had absolutely no experience. I hadn’t taken any writing courses, and had no formal writing education. Because of this, I kept putting off writing. I was afraid I had no business tackling such a tremendous endeavour. I don’t claim to be an expert on writing. I’m just a writer who is feeling her way along as she goes.

I have, however, learned a thing or two since I embarked on this journey. First; it isn’t as difficult as I’d thought. Second; it’s more difficult than I ever dreamed. Let me explain. You see, I thought because I didn’t have the education behind me, I had no business taking such a huge step. I thought I couldn’t possibly have gleaned enough knowledge through my many years of reading other people’s work to do it justice myself. Finally I realized that if I didn’t just do it, I’d run out of time. None of us gets out of here alive. As I neared my fiftieth birthday, it became clear that only I could do, or not do, anything I chose. Scary business. Still, I’d always thought I wanted to write. I always believed I would. So, I did it. One painful, joyous step at a time. So, I decided to just start writing, and worry about the rest later. That was the easy part.

The really difficult part came once I realized I was hooked on writing, and what a significant task I was undertaking. I quickly realized I needed to write. I’d finally found what I’d heard others refer to as “a calling”. I knew this is what I was born to do. Everything in my life had lead me to this point, and I don’t regret that. It was a necessary passage for me. Once I realized this, I became aware that I’d have to give it my all; more than anything I’d ever done previously. I’d have to delve into more than just the nuts and bolts of learning to write, but also understand the business of writing and publishing. I’m kind of an all or nothing girl.

One of the first things I had to do was decide what I wanted to write about, and once I had that germ of an idea, I wrote out a very brief outline, in point form. Then I had to decide whose point of view the story would take. Now remember, I had no experience, and hadn’t been able to afford the writing courses I was sure I was going to need. Instead, I do what do best; I began researching what POV (point of view) was on the internet. I’d heard the term, and was pretty sure I understood it, but wanted to check. I learned the best way to determine POV, for me anyway, was to start writing and see whose voice came through first. That first chapter taught me that I prefer to write in Third Person Narrative, at least for this book. It felt easy and natural for me, which is why I chose it. The other POV options are: Second Person Narrative, and First Person Narrative.

Whose eyes are you looking through?

Whose eyes are you looking through?

I also learned from my research to stay with one POV per chapter, to allow the reader to follow along a little easier. This made sense to me. I’d read books where there was a lot of “head hopping”, and found it confusing, so wanted to avoid this mistake. It also simplifies the writing, since essentially you are writing “as” one character, not multiple characters. It allows the writer to see the world through one character’s eyes and mind at a time. When I got to the next chapter, I could switch perspective and choose to “become” the other character, and explore their world. As the story evolved, so too did the characters, in part because I’d had sufficient time to understand who each of the characters were and their purpose. As I wrote, I was able to begin drafting a profile of each character, i.e. hair and eye colour, occupation, family members, if needed, needs and drivers, etc.

I know many writers who do complete, complex story and character outlines before actually beginning to write the story. I’m not one of them. I tend to think as I type, and let the story and characters evolve. I guess I figured that’s what editing is for. That’s when you get the chance to go back and re-visit each aspect of your work and modify it as you think is needed. Editing is also where I go back to make sure I’ve stayed with the right POV throughout the chapter. I have definitely caught myself “head hopping”, or losing the original POV I’d started out with at the beginning of the chapter. This is most likely because life gets in the way of writing. I have a husband, family, and outside obligations that can and do interrupt my writing time. It’s very easy to forget where you are in the writing process and pick up where you hadn’t intended. I also don’t set time or word count limits on myself. Although I usually wrap up a writing session at the end of a chapter, again, life sometimes gets in the way and I need to stop before the end of a chapter. Rather than go back and re-read an entire chapter, I’ll also often go back a couple of pages to refresh my mind on where I was, and start where I left off. I know, many writers would likely shudder to think of doing this, but it works for me. Again, I figure if I’ve messed up, I’ll fix it when I get to the editing stage. During the first draft writing, my goal is to write, not edit. It may be very different for each writer, and each one must choose what works best for them, their personality, and their lives. I do what I do because it’s how I work best. I know this, and don’t fight it.

Oddly enough, I’ve recently heard a few people who know me well say that one character or another sounds like me, but doesn’t fit with their vision of the character. That’s a tough one, since as the writer, I can really only write as me, or should I say, variations of me and my personality. We all have inner voices and are multi-dimensional. Writers simply take all those dimensions and put them into a story. We do occasionally have a certain person we know of, or have read about, and imagine their POV, but again, it really comes down to how the writer perceives those characters. I suppose each point of view, each character, is really my own, but manifests in different forms and voices. It’s a fun and exciting thought.

Communicating

Communicating

To me, writing is really just another extension of my desire to communicate with others. Even though I can, and do, speak publicly on a number of topics, I’m actually an introvert. I prefer smaller groups and intimate settings rather than loud, boisterous gatherings. It sounds strange, but I’d rather be up on the stage speaking, than standing in crowd. Writing also allows me the opportunity to express different thoughts and ideas, and explore new adventures with exciting characters who live far more exciting lives than I do myself. Because of my love of travel, I tend to seek out settings that are far removed from where I currently live. This is not because I don’t love where I live, I most certainly do, it is just that when I write, I want to reach beyond where I am and learn as I go. Just as with choosing POV in writing, choosing the setting is just as important to the finished product. However, choosing the setting for a story is another blog post I’ll address next time.

The next time you read something by an author, be aware of and think about the POV the writer has chosen. Did you enjoy it, and if so, why? If not, why not? If you are a writer, do you have a favourite POV? If so, why?

Please do take a moment to comment in the comments section to share your thoughts and ideas. If you enjoyed this post, please consider sharing with your social networking circles. Thank you.

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The Persecution of Mildred Dunlap

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