Thursday, March 23, 2017

Critiquing Opportunity! Erika Mathews

A number of the authors have volunteered to critique YOUR writing. This post is Erika Mathew's.

How this works -

You comment below with up to 500 words of your writing.
Sometime today, Thursday, Erika will come by and give you feedback.

Sound awesome? Awesome!


(Oh, and for the record, it's completely unfair that all of my friends who have babies all live far away where it isn't convenient for me to go to their houses and kidnap hold those babies.)
(...)
(I'm in serious need of a baby fix. Just for the record.)

15 comments:

  1. As an editor, I'm thrilled to critique for the E-Con! Bring it on!

    (And as a mother, it's equally unfair that friends I want to share my baby with live so far away. :) Ah well...)

    ReplyDelete
  2. With that, Andrew stood and turned off the light. He stepped out of the room to find Clara and her father arguing just down the hall. At least, he assumed that they were arguing. Their conversation was certainly animated, but since they weren’t using English, Andrew had no idea what they were actually saying.
    Clara’s father was half Chinese. He had family in China, which Andrew knew that he and Clara visited at least every other summer. Andrew also knew that she’d fallen out of practice with the language during their twenty-five years in Rizkaland, and Mr. Mandras had consequently set up a rule that any conversation that the two of them had would be held in Chinese. A rule that frustrated her, but she rarely complained about.
    Andrew just watched them, watched her brow knit in confusion every few words, and her father occasionally help her find the right word or correct her pronunciation. It wasn’t fair, the way they’d been ripped away from their lives and, just when they were comfortable in their new one, shoved right back in to the old one. And then asked to pretend that the last twenty-five years hadn’t happened.
    He was about to turn away and leave them alone when Clara looked up and a smile broke across her face. The next moment, her arms were around his neck and he was falling. Automatically, he wrapped one arm around her waist, while he thrust the other behind him to catch them.
    “That excited to see me?” he whispered in her ear – it was next to his mouth anyway – once he was sure that they had fallen safely.
    “Nah,” she said, pulling back. “I just remembered that I like you better at my eye level.”
    “Right.” Andrew nodded, taking in the glittering brightness of her eyes. “Now I remember. How could I forget that your eye level is me on the floor?”
    Her eyes narrowed, and she leaned in. “You are out of shape, Tom Canty. That shouldn’t have knocked you down.”
    Andrew sighed. “I know. I just don’t get many chances to practice.”
    “Well, we’re going to have to do something about that,” she declared, pulling back again. “That was a warning, by the way. Be on your guard. Come off of it and you’ll be on the floor again.”
    Andrew chuckled. “Consider me warned, Alice.”
    She gave a sharp nod. “Good.” With that, she stood and scampered back to her father, leaving Andrew to awkwardly regain his feet. He gave a quiet sigh. It wasn’t fair – she got back her pre-kids body, while he was shoved back into this awkward form that felt too small, yet the limbs too long. It was only made worse by the fact that he knew his potential.
    He was pretty certain that he was going to spend the next few days predominately on the floor.

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    1. This passage begins with more telling than showing: "He stepped out of the room to find..." Perhaps consider another word instead of "find" - but at the same time, this is a transition and you're not trying to spend a lot of time on it. :)
      The second paragraph feels like an inserted explanation. I get that perhaps it's essential information, but it drew me a bit out of Andrew's POV. The repeated phrase "Andrew knew" indicates that it is still his POV, but it felt a bit awkward or forced. Just my two cents, but I felt that this is the weakest paragraph of this passage.
      I love the third paragraph! This one is my favorite of this passage. Very artistic. Great use of strong, picturesque words. The sentences are structured very well. "Shoved" needs a word in front of it to match the verb tense of the sentence - I suggest "been" to parallel what you have in the first half of that sentence.
      Fourth paragraph: wow. He's talented. I don't even know how he would manage to do all that so quickly. :)
      Fifth paragraph: I like your use of dashes. It sets the phrase apart well. I am quite partial to dashes, though... And extra bonus points to you for correct use of the word "anyway." :)
      Next section of dialogue: consider changing "taking in" to a stronger phrase.
      Great interaction between the two of them! Both of their personalities shine clearly.
      "Pulling back again" - I'm not understanding the meaning of this phrase exactly. Perhaps consider a more precise term?
      "Come off of it." I personally like using the phrase "off of," but it's more professional not to. So I reluctantly deleted the "of"s from my own manuscript...but if you love them, don't mind me. :)
      "...yet the limbs too long" - I would add "felt" in this phrase to make it flow better and be more clear.
      Great job getting inside Andrew's head at the end and showing his thoughts. The technique of ending a scene with a short pithy (perhaps witty) sentence is also quite effective.
      Overall, this is a strong scene that sounds like it moves the plot forward. Excellent grammar, excellent word choice in general, excellent character interaction.

      Delete
    2. I'm going to try to work that info into a previous chapter in the rewrite.

      Fourth paragraph: He's ... practiced.

      I'm a huge fan of dashes.

      Thanks so much!

      Delete
  3. 1942: Burbank, CA Naval Training Base

    Rafe unbuttoned his jacket, and tossed on the corner of the bunk. A groan escaped his lips as he lowered himself onto the relative comfort of the mattress.
    Art watched him with a grin, slamming the barrack’s door behind him. What are you doing?"
    Rafe's voice came out muffled from under the pillow. "Getting some shut eye for the next ten minutes.”
    Art shook his head as he ran a hand through his white blond hair and straightened his collar before slapping his officer's cap back on his head.
    "What in the world are you getting all primped up for?"
    He turned to see Rafe emerging from the pillow, a look of bewilderment on his face. "I thought you were dead set against girls and marriage."
    "Oh, and you're right." Art replied as he turned and took a seat on his bunk, facing Rafe. "But you see, as far as I can figure, these W.A.V.E.S. girls are something like sisters to us Navy men. And I'd take my sister to a dance."
    Rafe shook his head and rolled his eyes. "Something tells me that if these girls had brothers, they wouldn't quite see eye to eye with that statement."
    Shrugging his shoulders, Art stood the slipped his jacket on, and buttoned it. "Well, you're more than welcome to come along and keep me in line. Unless. . ." He allowed a flicker of teasing to seep into his voice. "Unless your head's too full of little-blond-curls back home to have any fun."
    At that, Rafe sprung from his bunk, picked up a boot, and tossed it at Art, who ducked out of the way just in time.
    Art bit back a chuckle. "Well, didn't know she meant that much to ya, seeing as you told me she was like a sister to you." He stressed the word with a grin and leaned against the bunk, crossing his ankles.
    A mischievous twinkle settled in Rafe’s eyes, and Art knew he’d stepped smack into a tramp.
    "She's as much as sister as that little brunette you're taking to the dance."
    At that moment, Art wanted to pound his brain that couldn't think of a comeback, and it must have shown on his face as Rafe laughed aloud.
    Art groaned. "I guess I left myself wide open for that."
    Rafe laid back down, and a smug look of satisfaction crossed his face. "That you did, Art my boy. That you did.”

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    Replies
    1. Thank you for the critique opportunity! It's somewhat nitpicky, but my goal is to help you convey your message as effectively as possible, so use whatever is helpful and take the rest as just my opinion. :)

      First, I love the tag with the date and location - it lets readers know the setting immediately - no frills necessary. Simple and effective.

      Upon reading the first word, my question was, "How is this name pronounced?" RAYFE, Rah-fay, or something else? I'm not familiar with the name, so you may want a pronunciation guide if you don't have one already.

      Either remove the comma in the first sentence or else add a "he" after the "and." This ensures that you don't separate the subject and verb. Also it appears that a word is missing - tossed IT on the corner of the bunk?

      Excellent descriptive words: tossed, groan, escaped, lowered - all set the scene well.

      Add a quotation mark before "What are you doing?"

      You might want to mention something about Art taking his cap off, even briefly, before he puts it back on - just to keep the continuity.

      "What in the world...?" I had to reread it a few times to figure out who was saying this. Perhaps have some dialogue tag or action here.

      Your dialogue is very realistic. I can hear them speaking and the manner in which they are speaking - well done!

      "Shrugging his shoulders" - I suggest deleting "his shoulders" as it's redundant. It's implied by the word "shrugging."

      Add a comma after "stood" in that same sentence, and also change "the" to "then." Also remove the comma before the "and."

      "He allowed a flicker of teasing to seep..." I like this sentence! It paints a great picture!

      I suggest deleting "At that" at the beginning of the next sentence to tighten your narration and keep the pace moving quickly, since Rafe's moving quickly. "At that" doesn't seem to add much. For the same reason (pace), I would also split the sentence in half. Start the new sentence with "Art ducked out of the way..."

      "He stressed the word..." This sentence is detailed, which is generally good, but in this case it almost feels as though it detracts from the flow of the dialogue. Perhaps you may want to evaluate whether it is truly necessary to include the fact that he's crossing his ankles.

      Change "tramp" to "trap."

      "At that moment" - this sentence feels like it takes too long to read compared to how quickly the thought passes through Art's head. Consider shortening it - picking stronger words - so that we can "feel" him thinking the thought. Again, splitting the sentence in two might help with this.

      Overall, this is an interesting scene. You portrayed the relationship between Rafe and Art well with their banter and the words they chose in the dialogue. Such friendly banter is a delight to read in a story. I'm curious regarding how this area of "conflict" (playful conflict, it seems) will play out in the rest of the chapter or book. My biggest suggestion would be to work on tightening some of the description so as not to detract from the flow. You do use strong words in a number of places in this piece, so I'm sure it won't be difficult to tighten the entire piece in the same manner.

      Again, thank you for letting me critique this! I enjoyed reading this short scene.

      Delete
  4. Creeping closer, Gavin shakily pressed his hand against the door, his back touching the stone wall. He drew in a breath, holding it steady before letting it out.
    The door stood ajar, and he could plainly see inside the chamber, a candle flickering on the oak table. A figure stood by an open window, the moon hanging, a white sliver in the sky.
    “How did Bow hear that ye were asked about signing a pact?” a low voice asked. “How did word leak out so fast?”
    Gavin pressed his ear closer, waiting for the reply.
    “Bow is suspicious.” A door slammed inside the room and footsteps paced back and forth. “He always has been—I should probably fire him.” Gavin caught a flash of dark curls. Milosh.
    “He’s stirring up the folk,” the other man said quickly. “I can’t go anywhere without hearing about how ye should die. Ye let this go on for far too long. And now word is spread about the Messenger Sword bearer—the man who will bring back the old ways.”
    Milosh grunted. “And what am I supposed to do? This ruse took over two years to plot and plan and now you want to back out? I won’t let a Messenger Sword Bearer mess that up for me. I only wish I could talk to him—we need him now more than ever.”
    “But why continue? Let everyone of the folk know! Don’t hide!”
    Milosh sighed and began pacing again. “I’ve threatened my entire army. I said I’ll kill all their family if they didn’t obey me and one by one they hastily agree. They will stay loyal…for now.”
    “And what about the peasants?”
    Gavin leaned closer, trying to learn the bearer of the other voice, peering through the crack in the door.
    Milosh shrugged, smoke trickling up from his pipe. “I can deal with them… I think—if we continue wisely with our plan.”
    “Yes, the plan.” The unseen man’s voice rose. “I’m becoming angry with ye Milosh. I understand why we did this for eight years, but now what? Why not buy the peasants loyalty before this? Ye knew that if the peasants’ rebel and march for Minogloria that they’ll go for ye first for not helping.”
    “I’m trying,” Milosh muttered irritably. “The Knights are ruining everything—everything we’ve tried so hard to build. What am I supposed to do? Panic like you are?”
    “Nay just—”
    “Just nothing.” Milosh drew in a deep breath. “I need a little more time. I’m trying to find the second piece of the document that will tell us about—” Milosh tensed. “Do you hear that?”
    “What?”
    Gavin stiffened.
    “There!” Milosh pointed at the door.
    Gavin jumped backwards, turning on his heels. He heard nothing but the throbbing of his own heart. The staircase stood about ten paces away. The echoing of his pursuers resounded behind him. Only a few more paces to go.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you for sharing your snippet!

      Excellent word pictures in your first paragraph. With "creeping" and "shakily," I can feel the tension of the scene. You also introduce the character immediately, and the reader would tend to sympathize with his situation.

      Ajar - great word choice. In that sentence, I might join the candle phrase to the rest of the sentence in a different way, as it draws undue attention to itself as is. Perhaps try something like "due to the candle flickering..." or "thanks to a candle..." If you want to indicate that he was looking at the candle, on the other hand, say so. The same with "the moon hanging" - it's as if you switched subjects in the middle of the sentence from the figure at the window to the moon outside when really the moon should be a side point.

      Good dialogue tag - effectively reinforces that the room is dim and the "low voice" is what Gavin perceives, not necessarily a person talking.

      Excellent job describing the scene from Gavin's point of view alone!

      You capitalize "Bearer" once and don't another time. Pick one and be consistent. Does the title belong primarily to the sword or the person? If the person, capitalize Bearer; if not, don't.

      Change "everyone of the folk" to "every one of the folk."

      Milosh is keeping an army by violent threats - this should be interesting. He can't be the "good guy" here... But readers would tend to already assume that because Gavin is spying on him. :)

      I would say "identity of the other voice." It's more clear and precise. Also I would rephrase the sentence, as it almost sounds like the owner of the voice is peering through the crack. What about this? "Gavin leaned closer and peered through the crack in the door, trying to discover the identity of the other voice."

      I would think it would be difficult to see smoke trickling up from a pipe in a dark room when you're a spy - but I could be wrong.

      Add a comma between "ye Milosh." Add an apostrophe: "peasants' loyalty." Delete the apostrophe in "peasants rebel."

      I like how you have Milosh break off his sentence. However, would Gavin really see that "Milosh tensed"? Perhaps find another way to indicate Milosh's heightened awareness of Gavin's presence.

      The phrase "turning on his heels" threw me for a loop. I thought Gavin had his back to the wall (in the first sentence of this scene). So wouldn't he just run? Or did he change position somewhere? I do see that his ear was pressed against the door and that he peered through the crack, so I'm a bit confused about where his back was to the wall. So - you probably wrote this all correctly but I just thought of it wrong in my head. :)

      Great tension to end the scene with! The use of short sentences is effective to convey Gavin's terror and the urgency of his position. I was left wanting to know more - what happened? Did he escape? Did they catch him?

      Overall, this piece is well written. Overhearing a conversation from outside the door is fascinating to read and sounds like a key plot point. Even though you didn't describe Gavin much, I did feel like I got to know him somewhat through this piece, as you did a great job causing the reader to "feel" what he was feeling and get into his head.

      I'm curious about the Messenger Sword and its bearer - this sounds interesting. Thanks for sharing this piece.

      Delete
  5. Thanks for taking the time to critique our stories! I'm quite excited about hearing your thoughts on what I've written.
    ---------
    Our story begins as do most tales: with a dream.

    The ground rippled beneath Alexander’s feet, sending him stumbling sideways into the nearest tree. He pushed himself upright, brushing lichen and tree sap from his jacket. Another ripple unsteadied him, but he was ready for it this time and stayed upright.

    Alexander fingered the hilt of the pistol at his side. The ripples could mean only one thing: the Midnight and Starlit Realms had merged again and trapped some poor soul. As a knight of the Order of the Sun, his duty was to find the person and rescue him or her from the nightmare. And he’d have to do it quickly, before whoever it was became so entrapped that no escape besides a dream-death remained.

    Alexander set off in the direction from which the ripples had come, jogging easily across the rolling hills. As he ran, the red-barked trees and smooth-surfaced rocks thinned out and then abruptly gave way to a barren, black plain. In its middle a tower grew out of the ground, its jagged top a silhouette against the eternally-twilit sky. A single window near the tower’s top showed cold light within but nothing more.

    So it was a fair maiden to be rescued. Alexander paused a few yards from the tower to catch his breath. Whatever shape a nightmare took for the dreamer within, from the outside it always appeared as a tower for ladies and a gaping cavern for men.

    His breath caught, Alexander walked forward and laid a hand on the stones. As he expected, an arched entryway rapidly formed and swung open beneath his palm, leading into pitch blackness. No nightmare, after all, would refuse the chance to catch another victim.

    Alexander grasped his pistol, eying the darkness warily. Who knew what monsters lurked within? Then he stepped inside. The blackness reformed itself into a narrow, dimly-lit stone stairwell, the walls of which seemed to draw inward, threatening to crush him. Alexander shuddered and hurried onward, murmuring a prayer: “Great Father, guide me and protect me in this darkness.”

    He watched carefully for any rooms in which the maiden might be trapped, but saw not one. The twisting stair herded him ever upwards, continually narrowing and yet never becoming so tight that he could not slip through. Dimly, he heard voices from below, though he’d seen no one there: laughter, chatter, the clink of dishes, even the melody of a classical waltz.

    At last, he heard a sound from ahead: rustling skirts and slowly walking feet. Alexander quickened his pace. “My lady!”

    The beat of the footsteps skipped, as if the lady had stumbled. Then they sped up, but not so much that Alexander could not, a few minutes later, catch up. “My lady?”

    She whirled around, the dim light catching in her dark, fearful eyes. “Who calls me? What do you want?”

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks for sharing this scene! I hope you find my feedback helpful. :)

      In your first sentence, who is talking? The first sentence doesn't seem necessary to me - unless its purpose is to inform readers that someone is dreaming. Still, I might just start with the next paragraph and say afterwards that it's a dream, or perhaps just rewrite the dream sentence. It feels like an overused phrase as it is.

      The "ground rippled" paragraph is excellent - full of great words and word pictures that paint a scene in the reader's mind. I also enjoy the excellent sentence flow and variety.

      Great job setting the scene and genre in the second paragraph. All the "clue words" you used are helpful: ripples, realms, trapped, knight, Order of the Sun, dream-death.

      Personally I love all of the descriptive words - it paints the picture of the scene: rolling hills, red-barked trees, smooth rocks (I might delete "surfaced" as it's redundant), barren black plain (I suggest removing the comma here).

      Did the tower literally or figuratively grow out of the ground? If it's a dream, you never know. :) Again, excellent description here! "Eternally-twilit" - is "twilit" a word? Regardless, I know what it means and it is quite descriptive.

      How did he know it was a fair maiden just by the tower? That wasn't obvious to me, but perhaps he'd experienced this before enough to know. And, if it's a dream, sometimes in dreams you just know things for no reason. :)

      Oh - you explain that in the rest of the paragraph. That makes sense. But wait - who is dreaming? Alexander or the girl? Or both?

      "His breath caught" - I see what type of sentence structure you are trying to use here, but the word "caught" doesn't work with this structure. I would either choose another word that does work or (more likely) I would put a period after "caught" and then start a new sentence.

      "No nightmare" - I like this sentence giving us more of the substance of Alexander's thoughts. By the way, you've done a great job of presenting Alexander's point of view all throughout this piece.

      "Saw not one" is a bit awkward - it sounds like a typo of "saw no one," except that you're talking about rooms, not people. So I would simply say, "did not see one."

      "Herded" is a strong descriptive word - its only drawback is that it makes me think of a group being herded. I suppose you can herd just one person, but that's not the first thing I thought of.

      You say "voices" but then after the colon, you describe sounds. Because of this, I recommend changing "voices" to "sounds" or "noises." Otherwise, you could leave "voices" and delete the colon: "Dimly, he heard voices from below, as well as laughter, the clink of dishes, even the melody of a classic waltz, though he'd seen no one there."

      Changing "slowly walking feet" to "slow footsteps" might be more concise. I do like the parallel structure of your version, though.

      I might move "a few minutes later" to the end of the sentence "...could not catch up within the next few minutes," for example. Otherwise it sounds a bit abrupt.

      I also might delete the word "in" in the last sentence.

      Very excellent and quality writing! Your diligent work shows in this piece. The pacing and flow are good; the words chosen are strong; the plot moves naturally and I can see that this is going somewhere. I especially like your sentence variety and flow - it's easy to read and fits with the story. Keep up the good work!

      Delete
    2. Thank you for the critique! I'm glad you thought it was good! Your comments were very helpful; I'll definitely go back and make the changes you suggested.

      Delete
  6. Cat led them down to a lower level of the ship and rapped hard upon a closed door. No one answered, and she called out.
    “Uh .. we’re comin’ in, alright?”
    Still it was silent, so Cat proceeded to slowly push the door open and step in.
    Peering over her shoulder, Jason saw that the room was furnished as a bedroom, with a cot hanging and a rug on the floor. And a slight figure was curled up in the corner, shivering.
    Cat hurried over to the girl and put a hand on her shoulder. The girl jerked away, and Cat backed off.
    “Hey, hey, calm down,” she said gently, “you’re alright, we ain’t gonna hurt ya.”
    The dark-skinned girl looked up, straggly hair falling around her face, which possessed two wild eyes.
    “That’s better,” said Cat, giving the girl a smile. “You doin’ okay?”
    The girl just stared.
    Ryan sidestepped past Jason and crouched in front of the silent girl. “We just want to help ya out, alright?” He said, his voice soft and low. “You safe ‘ere. We ain’t friends of Quarter.”
    The girl stared. Then she moved her hand and tapped her mouth. Shaking her head.
    “Ya can’t … ya can’t talk?” Cat questioned, brow furrowing.
    The girl paused, then nodded, burying her face in her hands again. Zade snorted, and Cat sent a fiery glare his direction before turning her attention back to the girl.
    “Is there anything we can do to help ya talk to us?” The piratess asked hopefully, “we could really use your ‘elp.”
    The girl looked up and shot one hand towards the ground, finger moving like she was trying to draw something.
    “Huh.” Cat said. “Ryan, watch ‘er for a sec, I’m gonna get a stick of charcoal.”
    The piratess climbed to her feet and hastened out the door, only to return moments later carrying a short, black stick.
    “Here,” Cat said, sitting beside the girl again and handing her the charcoal stick. Brushing her now-smudged hands on her leather skirt, she said, “Try this.”
    The girl took the tsick and looked at it with a baffled expression. Passing it from hand to hand, she observed the dark smudges it left on her fingers. Seeming to get it, she clumsily rubbed it against the ground and started forming pictures.

    ~ Savannah
    scattered-scribblings.blogspot.com

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    Replies
    1. Thank you for sharing your story!

      "Rapped hard" - it seems to me that if they "rapped," it would by definition not be particularly hard. Perhaps choose a different word here.

      "Uh .. we're coming' in, alright?" Change the two periods to an ellipsis (...) - also, change alright to "all right" in accordance with grammar rules.

      Delete "proceeded to" as it is filler. Instead, say "Cat slowly pushed the door open and stepped in." (Add the -ed to step.)

      The next paragraph is Jason's point of view while it seemed like the previous paragraphs were Cat's. Since I don't have whatever might come before this scene, I don't have context to know which POV you are using before this - but just make sure it's consistent.

      Again - change "alright" to "all right."

      Tighten the sentence describing the girl by saying "...straggly hair falling in her two wild eyes." "Which possessed" is unnecessary filler here.

      Don't capitalize "He said" when Ryan's talking. Also don't capitalize "the piratess asked hopefully." (As a side note, I'm not sure who you're referring to here. I'm assuming if I had more of the scene, I would know.) Change the comma after "hopefully" to a period and capitalize "We" in her next words.

      Personally I would say "her finger moving" (adding "her").

      Change the period after "Huh" to a comma. Change the comma after "sec" to a semi-colon or period.

      I would cut out the last "she said." We know who's talking, and you use the word "said" several times. For example: She brushed her now-smudged hands on her leather skirt. "Try this."

      Change "tsick" to "stick." :) I'd also consider changing "looked at it" to a stronger word - perhaps "eyed it."

      Interesting scene - it left me wondering what the girl was doing in the bottom of a ship and what Cat, Ryan, and Jason were up to. Work on choosing strong words - the words that best and most concisely communicate your message. I like the dialogue - it's realistic and I can hear their conversation. I also like the description of the dark-skinned girl - that was very written. Perhaps add a few words here and there revealing the personalities of Cat, Jason, and Ryan - they feel alike in this scene. Add something to make them differently, even if just slightly. Make sure to stay in character with point of view, but in general, good writing - a strong imagination shows through (which I need for my writing)!

      I hope this is helpful to you - thanks for sharing your writing!

      Delete
    2. You're welcome! And thank you for taking the time to critique this, Erika - your notes were very helpful and allowed me to see a lot of the mistakes that I missed ;).

      ~ Savannah
      scattered-scribblings.blogspot.com

      Delete
  7. Thank you for the critiquing opportunity! I enjoyed reading and giving feedback on your stories! I do offer editing services if anyone is interested - check it out at restinglife.com. :)

    ReplyDelete

Hi! Now that you've read my post, hast thou any opinions that thou wouldst like to share? I'd love to hear them!

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