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Hi all

This might be of interest to some of you. This is a preview of the first chapter of Part Five of the Dragon Wine series, called Skyfire. I thought to post it here as a teaser and to guilt myself into finishing the polishing required so that I can send it to the editor in early May. I think I have two weeks. I don’t know where the time has gone. I’ve been busy and tired and my plans have faltered. Any encouragement welcome.Skyfire-highres

Anyway, there should be little to no spoilers as this chapter introduces a new character.

 

Chapter One

More than a Trace

Karol hated the compound where his kind was imprisoned. This morning, his mother said that Tarkel, his father, was never coming back and then she cried. Ilania was so sad and Karol hated that she was like that, without hope. She spoke with so much conviction that he had to believe, and grieve. He remembered before, before they’d been brought to this compound, where their poor circle of tents barely kept out the wind and the dust. Surrounded by rock on three sides there wasn’t any place to go in this prison. Not that the guards knew about at least. Their village had been neat and tidy and happy and hidden from the outer world. Now, Karol understood why they hid away from the awful humans, who knew nothing grand, who had no culture and were just miserable, evil creatures, preying on everyone.

Karol was small for his age. But he didn’t mind that so much for it meant he could explore where the adults could not and even better he could go where the guards could not. His favorite place was a fissure in the cliff face behind his family’s tent. There he had found water. It gurgled pure and clear as it slipped over a small rock to disappear into the nooks and crannies of the cliff, never to appear again. He dipped his hand in the sweet smelling water and sipped his fill.

His loin cloth had seen better days. His mother wanted him to wear his tunic but it lay abandoned with his things in their tent. He didn’t mind that his ribs stuck out or that his knees were bony knobs on thin legs. He would grow big and tall like his father one day.

And one day there would be enough food. Food for them all. And he’d lie around with his belly protruding and sleep for an age without being prodded awake by hunger pains.

His long hair was tied back, which made climbing and drinking from the spring easier. Like his mother, his hair was white. He didn’t mind that it wasn’t like Tarkel’s, for his father praised him for his looks. Praised him for being true kin.

The water helped ease his hunger. There was never enough to eat. Dried bread and a few beans was all they had eaten in the last year. His mother said his growth was stunted forever now because of the poor diet. Thinking of his mother, he watched the water trickle. He had forgotten to bring a cup to take some back to her.

The sun moved while he sat there staring at the interior of the fissure.  What he thought was a shadow disguising nothing suddenly seemed more. With thin arms and legs, Karol slid into the dark cleft. The slit in the stone was long and gloomy and as he peered in he saw that there was an opening. Not a big space, but if he could squeeze through it might make a good hiding place.

“Karol? Karol!” his mother’s words reached him, echoing around the rocks as if her voice came from everywhere. No time now to explore. His mother needed him.

Now back in their tent, he saw nothing had changed. His mother was still stooped with grief.

“I’m glad you’re back,” she said in a low voice and hugged him to her.

Yelling in the compound jerked them apart. They shared a terrified look and then let their breaths roll out of them. “Roll call?” his mother ventured.

“Early food delivery?” Karol returned.

His mother bit her lip. “You wait here and let me see.”

Then she slipped out of the tent with its ragged flap that kept nothing out. Karol went to his sleeping space. Rolled up and placed at the rear of the tent was his sleeping blanket. It was where he could be the most unobtrusive. Where he could be unnoticed. He saw a lot. None of it good. He folded himself amongst the bedding, hidden.

It was so quiet and the sound of his breathing annoyed him. His mother hadn’t returned so Karol crept to the tent flap and peered through the strips of torn fabric out into the compound. Bent old men, ragged women and a bunch of thin, white-haired children stood in a group, surrounded by guards. There were not many of them left. Some had died of disease and hunger. Karol’s stomach clenched painfully. He could see no signs of food.

A scream rang out. Karol started. His heart raced as he squinted against the setting sun. A child ran across the clear area and then fell down. Karol stared. A spear stuck out of the child’s back. Karol gaped, not quite believing. With sweaty hands, he moved strips of fabric out of the way to run forward.

More screams. Splashes of red. Then is mother’s voice. “Run, Karol. Hide!”

Karol bolted from the cover of the tent. Feet pounded the hardened ground behind him but he didn’t look back. He closed his eyes and thought of his mother. Was that her scream?

Their captors were killing them all. Karol ran harder, so hard he thought his heart would fly out of his chest. He was ten years old. He could do this. He was the man of the family now.

With a quick leap, he landed on a protruding rock and then scrambled up. A spear hit the boulder near him and it clanged and then clinked when it dropped. A deep voice yelled. “Stop where you are!”

Karol didn’t look and scrambled faster, higher and sideways.

“Follow him.” An order was given.

“Hey kid, is this your mother?”

A whimper echoed around Karol’s ears.

“Call him.”

“Hide!” His mother screamed.

Karol didn’t look, couldn’t look. If he did he’d go back to her, he would die with her. He knew they were baiting him.

“I’ll kill her,” the deep angry voice raged.

Karol scrambled up the rockface. He was heading for his little stream. There he could survive for a little while without food. Karol’s legs shook, his muscles were starting to feel the exertion, the lack of food, the fear.

“I kill her. Stop!”

But Karol knew his mother was already dead. She didn’t want him to come back. She didn’t want him to die too.

An odd sound reached him, amplified by the rocks. It was a sickening sound followed by a dull thump. He had to look, had to see. The man had cut his mother’s throat.

There she was blood in a pool around her head, legs twitching. Standing over her was a man, a brutal looking man, thick muscled, bearded, a beast.

Something snagged his foot. He’d stood still too long. A hand pulled at his foot. Karol kicked, kicked like one crazed but still he was dragged down. He was caught. Panic like a demon possessed him. He screamed and clawed and choked off when he thought he was done for. He was caught!

The man held him around the hips and then changed his grip. Karol took his chance. He kicked out hard, blindly and connected with something soft, something that left a wet smear on his foot. A crunch, a pain-filled whoof and a hail of curses. Karol dropped. He flung out a hand and a foot to stop his plummet to the compound below. He slid and then caught on a nub of rock. He clawed for a hold. Dirt and stones hissed as they moved beneath him but Karol was away, carried by fear to climb like a spider up and away from pursuit.

I am a leaf, I am a feather, I am light and I can scuttle like beetle so fast no one can catch me. Soon he was out of sight of the compound. The tell-tale trickle of his little stream beckoned.

Panting, he slid down at last to his tiny cobbled bank, a space large enough to crouch in, no more. He drank and he wept but only for a minute. They were coming. More of the men were climbing to where he was.

He stared into the fissure where the water emerged. He was small. He could fit. He had to try. Climbing up and over the canyon wall was beyond him. He’d tried and there was no easy way out. Not without ropes and supplies.

He could hide. He had to hide. He had to hide or die.

As Karol inserted himself into the fissure, the cold water ran over him, startling his sun-warmed skin. The rock surrounded him and beyond where the light did not reach loomed dark. The sounds of pursuit were wiped out by the crash of the water, his own frightened breathes and beating heart. The fissure grew very tight and small just after a few side-ways steps. Karol flattened himself and squeezed further in. If he was far enough in they wouldn’t see him—they wouldn’t know he was there.

Karol squeezed himself further, first a leg, an arm and then wiggled his pelvis and chest into the narrow gap between the rocks. He ought to have been scared, but Karol wasn’t. The rock was safe, welcoming. While had not been underground before, he knew that his forefathers had lived in the ground. Tarkel had told him. Told him of the great cities. Regaled him with tales of their people.

As the darkness embraced him, Karol didn’t fear anymore. The water blocked the entrance and he was now hidden in darkness.

A large face pushed through the water. Karol drew back, jammed in between the rock of the fissure, water pushed around him as he blocked the way. He had to keep pushing through or they would know, they would notice the current wasn’t a strong that the flow was less.

With all his might Karol pushed himself, squeezed himself, using the palms of his hands pressed against the rock face, the soles of his feet, keeping the pressure up so that he could get through. Water fell on his face, into his mouth. Karol held his breath and then let it out slowly and pushed.

His lungs were desperate for air. Water smothered his face, ran into his nostrils, his mouth, his ears. There was no sound except for water in his ears. Karol knew he was going to die. Here. He was going to drown here. He should have died with is mother. He shouldn’t have let her die alone.

Then, just as his strength was fading, something shifted. His body passed through and he landed in a heap on the other side of the fissure. Choking and crying, he looked around him. It was a cave. Here the water was but a rivulet and passed through a channel in the floor. He saw where it fell from above to the right of him. He’d lost his loin cloth and his pale skin had dark smears where he’d torn the flesh from his torso.

Shaking his head, he sucked in breaths and checked his body for further injury. Scrape marks ranged over his chest, hips and knees. He rubbed at his chin and blood was on his hand. He cried more, releasing his pent up fear and grief. His mother was dead. His people were dead and he was all alone.

He calmed down, telling himself that his mother wouldn’t have wanted him to cry or be sad. She wanted him to live and live free. His father would have wanted him to be true to his people. Tarkel had said there was a place for him in the world. He only had to look.

After wiping his eyes and clearing his nose, he looked about him, serenaded by the little cataract as the water hit the floor. It was surprisingly light inside, with the sun filtering through from outside and reflecting off the water. The floor was tiled. He ran his fingertips through the space between the mosaics. This was no natural cave. He quickly scanned his surroundings and in the dim recesses he saw something strange. He crawled forward, rubbing tears from his cheeks. In front of him was an archway, embellished with strange writing. He staggered to his feet and went up to it. It was a door.

#

Karol slept, turning fitfully due to his various aches. It was a sound that woke him. There were men outside the fissure. He crept forward to hear what they were doing. His heart hammering so loud he missed a few of the words.

“…the debris will cover the dead…”

“…explosives…here…”

Karol blinked trying to understand. They couldn’t come and get him, but they could kill him by blowing up the cliff he was hiding in. He backed up and detected the waft of smoke. He didn’t have any time left. He turned and faced the door.

He knew what it was. He knew what lay beyond. It was a secret that his father had died for, that his mother had died for. It was what was going to save him.

He knew the chant off by heart. It had been a lullaby when he was young, something that made little sense to others.

High for the sun, down for the ground, once for the right and twice for the left. There you can enter into the way of your forefathers…

The door slid open. The smell of smoke was strong. The rumble under his feet making him sway. He dashed inside the darkened Way and groped around in the dark when the door shut. As he moved away, praying that the waygate would hold, Karol tapped his feet in front of him and put his hand out to the wall. A faint glow grew outwards from where his hand touched. The longer he was inside, the more his saw. Soon he saw the stairs and the directions they went. He had no idea which way to go. He had no food or water. He wasn’t going to go far or last very long, but at least he was free.

The ground lurched suddenly throwing him off his feet. He fell into the wall, which glowed light gray and the substance of it smothered him. Karol fought and fought and then calmed. He was either going to die or be all right. He moved his leg as if walking and the substance of the walls let him move. Not back out into the way but within the substance of way.

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This is not the Mama Mia… (dot, dot, dot) this is life getting in the way and fatigue. It’s bloody hot I tell you and that makes writing a chore.

I’m about to head out to a granddaughter’s 11th birthday party. I mean really 11. What the hell happened! She’s not meant to be so grown up. I’m not meant to be so old. Okay. I’m not old. Ageism is the mindkiller. I’m with Judy Dench on that. I wish my body would get on side. I have arthritis generally and for the last few weeks some weird as swelling, numbness, tingling in my hands and arms. I must admit it freaks me a bit. But I’m not blogging to be a downer.

I have family here at the moment. My son is visiting from Shanghai and it’s great to have him around. I mean I scored cookies!

I’ve been writing too and that has to be a good thing. After the 52,000 words I wrote in November as part of #NaNoWriMo I picked up the ball again and am currently at 73,000 words. I’m hoping to get more in this arvo and I’m hoping to finish the first rough draft of Skyfire by New Year’s Eve because….I’m going straight on to Moonfall in January, Part Six of the Dragon Wine series and the end of the current story arc. I say this because I have other ideas but they will have to wait until after the PHD studies.

In 2018 I really have to knuckle down and get the bugger done! However, I am taking some time in January to do a mini writer retreat and write Moonfall until I drop. Then it’s back to the Phd novel which is still sitting at a pitiful 30,000 words.

Even while I plan to have both books drafted by the end of January, I’m not sending Skyfire and Moonfall out to be published for a little while.

I have to revise them first. I tend to get the story arc done and then go back and work on scenes and add atmosphere. It also gives me time to add stuff in that I missed out and tweak stuff.

Then I will send it to beta readers and get feedback. Then I act on that feedback and revise again.

Then I send it to the editor if I think it’s ready. Then she flings it back to me, usually with some homework which can take anywhere from two weeks to a month to do and then it goes to the proofreader.

It’s a bit of a team effort getting a book ready.

Sometimes it takes a while to take up the proofreader changes but within a month of getting it back from the proofreader I usually publish it. The print version takes longer as it has to be formatted.

If I succeed in my plans with the draft and revision I’ll have a better idea of timetable. I think my Amazon pre order ban might be lifted by then. hahahaha!

So if I don’t come back with a year in review blog post or my plans for 2018 before New year. Happy New Year!

I

 

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I love the Christmas season….but!

I don’t like all the stress. So my Christmas fantasy is that there really is a Santa Claus and he/she/it buys all the presents and maybe cooks the dinner as well.

Photo by Fionna Sullivan

Talking about fantasies leads me to think about wishes…I wish that Christmas wasn’t so commercial and that we were less materialistic generally.

We live in a capitalist society where the dollar is the key. At times I think it’s a great machine that has run mad, eating up everything in search of profit, destroying the planet, churning through people and selling the idea that the dollar is what is important.

I’m part of this great capitalist machine and while I’m caught in this churn I can’t think of a way out. I feel deeply that there is no perfect system. There might be fairer systems. What worries me that such what is conceived of a perfect system is open for abuse, of power being concentrated in the few and then the system is no longer fair.

I also hate the idea of chaos and chaos is everywhere too, stirred up by the fight for resources and supremacy. It’s hard to shut it all out. I keep a fairly positive attitude but scrape the surface and it’s a bit morbid in there.

Mmmm I’m getting a bit dark here. Sorry! Some of my fiction, particularly, the Dragon Wine series is me processing stuff that happened in the world so yeah dark fantasy. Luckily, I also write lighter stuff so I do have an imagination after all. I think I write to escape. I used to escape into daydreams before I started to write. Now I don’t spend a lot of time daydreaming, I spend it writing. It’s a sanity valve.

I joined a book bundle called Into the Horizon with 22 other authors. It is coming out next year. That’s 22 novels in one bundle. It’s currently up for preorder.

Have a safe and happy holiday season.

 

 

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I don’t know what it is about my writing process, but I work so much better when I have a good run at something, rather than a bits and pieces approach. I guess it comes from the fact that I am either a half-arsed panster or a half-arsed planner and I’m pretty good once I hit my creative stride. (note a panster is someone who writes from the seat of their pants with little planning. A planner is someone who plans their novels out, chapter by chapter, scene by scene). I do a little planning, but not detail planning.

When I had a full time job, writing retreats for at least two weeks really worked for me. I could get a whole bunch of story down and then finesse it during the year. Now that I don’t have the day job (although I do study the Phd most days), I can’t afford to do a retreat in the same way as before. Also, well physical restrictions with RSI and spine problems, which I hate more than anything.

However, NaNoWriMo works for me. NaNoWriMo for those who don’t know is the National Novel Writing in a Month thing that’s been around for ages. It happens in November and the objective is to write a novel of 50,000 words. Most novels are longer than that though and there is an incentive to write more, say 60,000. It is possible to do more if the writer has the chops for it.

As previously mentioned, I am working on Skyfire, Dragon Wine Part 5 and I’m pleased to report it is going great guns. Not readable at this stage as it is a draft, but I’m at over 40,000 words. Picture me happy dancing. Not quite half way with the draft I think but well on the way to meeting the NaNoWriMo target of 50,000 words. I hope I can keep this up until the draft is done and that it gets done before Christmas because then I’m going to roll on to Moonfall, Dragon Wine Part 6. I didn’t think I’d get to these books until later in 2018. Keep sending me positive vibes so I can get then out in the first part of 2018.

I’m not trying to jinx myself here but finishing another series is a major achievement and I can feel the end point there. That’s not to say that I don’t have ideas for more books. I do. But there is a resting point there at the end of the narrative.

I am also working on the PhD novel and to own the truth I haven’t touched it for a few weeks owing to a technical difficulty. But today I spoke with my PhD supervisor and he suggested a few approaches to me. He hasn’t read the thing. It really is a technical things…like how do I do this to get this effect? I think his suggestion is pretty cool. Well one of them. He had more than one, so I’m now itching to get back to work and try that. For this reason I’m sneaking out off campus early today so I can get back to it. The latest version is on my home computer.

I did my NaNoWriMo writing this morning. I try for an hour in the morning and if I have the will another half an hour before bed. Yesterday, because I was home all morning as the plumber was there I wrote 5000 words. Today was more like 3000 words.

So there you go. For fans of the Dragon Wine series, there is progress. For writers out there maybe some inspiration and for my fellow NaNoWriMo peeps, you can do it.

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Boom! Boom! Boom! Boom!

Ungiven Land is coming. Book three in the Silverlands Series is coming. Happy dancing in sexy (not) trackie dacks!

It’s a long book at 145,000 words. It’s a bloody trilogy and it’s almost there. Almost to the bookstore!

There is a small matter of proof changes but phew! Wipes brow. It is done and I honestly never want to write a long book again or a trilogy. Alas, there is the Dragon Wine Series to complete so desire might have to wait.

I’m not going to put up a blurb because that would contain all kinds of spoilers. Argenterra and Oathbound lead to Ungiven Land and I consider them one story in three parts.

All I can say is Ungiven Land the exciting conclusion to the Silverlands Series. Guaranteed no cliffhangers in Ungiven Land!tripple-cover

Also, I’m reposting the map. I think the Smashwords version ate my map or it’s hard to see in ebooks. I will have to get to work on the print versions too.

Final Map Argenterra

Get your copy of Argenterra, Oathbound and Ungiven Land. Unfortunately Ungiven Land is only in Amazon atm, but will be with other retailers shortly.

The Silverlands’ Series is an epic fantasy series, featuring magic and the occasional sword fight. It’s a portal fantasy featuring two young women from our world who are transported to Argenterra.

About the Silverlands

In a land where oaths can’t be broken be careful what promises you make.

To break the binding oath is to risk the very magic of Argenterra.

Vorn and the First Comers fleeing death and destruction came to Argenterra through the Crystal Gate. On arrival, they made a binding oath to not kill — and in return the land gave them the given, a native magic. For over a thousand years they have prospered but now the Ancient Evil seeks Vorn’s descendants and reaches a hand into the land.

Oaths are bound with the given and every promise must be kept or the land’s magic will compel completion of the oath or prevent its breaking. Only a murder can sunder the binding oath, which would make the given fade. In his later years, Vorn prophesied that a time would come when the land would be ungiven. That time is near.

Argenterra, The Silverlands Book One

Sophy is not looking for a talisman: she is the talisman!

Sophy is snatched from our world during a ghost tour. Landing in the lush world of Argenterra, she’s the odd one out. She can’t use the land’s native magic, the GIVEN, even though her friend Aria, and everyone else, can.
Worse still, she’s a faded version of herself and doesn’t fit it at all.

Abandoned by Aria who marries a handsome prince, Sophy travels the land with Oakheart, the high king’s ambassador, to explore the mystery of why there is a crystal leaf growing inside her.

Then the accidents start to happen and she realises a dark force wants her: alive or maybe just dead…

Argenterra with subtitle

Argenterra is available in print and in ebook.

Buy links. Print copy from Book Depository here

Amazon  here.

Kobo Here

ibooks Here Barnes and Noble here. Print (Amazon.com) Here.

 

Oathbound, The Silverlands Book 2

 

Oathbound

Amazon link  here.

Barnes and Noble link here.

Kobo link here.

iBooks link here.

Smashwords link here.

And you can pre-order Ungiven Land from Amazon here.

 

Remember if you want to hear about any of my books going on discount or for free, or other cross promotions sign up to my newsletter Wing Dust. .

I do not sell or give away email addresses and as the list in managed by Mailchimp it complies with the law and you can unsubscribe at any time. Link here.

And to make your day, a pic of me in my trackie dacks!

me in my trackie dacks May 8 2017

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I was bright eyed and bushy tailed yesterday.

This morning not so much.

Of course there are a number of reasons for this. Yesterday afternoon I sent off Ungiven Land (The Silverlands Book 3) for proofreading after quite a while working through the toughest edits yet. It was going to take me a lot longer but on Sunday I hit of spot of chapters that had light edits and I pushed through them and built up some momentum. That left yesterday morning to finish it off. I had some family obligations during the day, but after that I did some more tinkering and sent the book off. It’s a bloody long book at 145,000 words.

Then yesterday evening, I picked up the revision I was doing of Bloodstorm (Dragon Wine Part 4) without much recollection of how much more I had to do. Well, I was further along than I thought so I pushed through and sent that book off to the editor last night. It’s a shorter novel at just under 90,000 words. I think I have more work to do on a battle scene but the edit will help with that I think. It gives me a month to think about it and make notes. I needed to push it off my plate as I have important PhD stuff to do.

So you would think after an excellent sleep that I’d be ready to roll and full of vim and vigour. Obviously my stories are still in my head. I was thinking about both of them while driving and drove right past two turns offs to my university and didn’t realise until I made a t-junction. Oops! So I had to go to another entry and park in a different spot. Then I realised I hadn’t brushed my hair. This called for emergency coffee and I hope  it kicks in soon.

After having these deadlines I don’t think I like them. I had listed Ungiven Land for pre-order on Amazon. For some strange reason beknownst only to my back brain I put down 31 May 2017 as the delivery date. However, I had not allowed enough time for processing proofreading changes so I had to push it back by two weeks. Amazon lock you out of the file about 3-4 days before release btw. I have had now had my pre-order privileges revoked for one year because I pushed back the date. Thank god for that. I can’t be tempted to put in hard dates that give me stress. I don’t want to do that again because that deadline plus the ones I had with the editors really put the pressure on.

As I don’t have more fiction planned other than putting up books of which I have the rights back, I’m going to give deadlines a miss for a while. I have my PhD novel to think about.

Fingers crossed I get some covers this week because Shatterwing and Skywatcher are ready to go. Deathwings and Bloodstorm the next two parts of the Dragon Wine series are coming soon.

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Like most people I know I have a big to read pile. Some of my to read books are very old. There is no particular reason why I haven’t read some of them. It just happens. Mood. Other recommendations that send a book higher on the pile, new acquisitions etc.

I remember picking up Garth Nix’s Sabriel. I had the trilogy for ages but hadn’t read it. And when I did, I was like…I could have read this and enjoyed this for years before now. I could have kicked myself. It was so good and I read all three books. I have Clariel too on the to read pile.

So for a while now friends have recommended Anne Bishop. Apparently she does dark and my Dragon Wine series is dark so just for research purposes I should have read at least one of her books. So after a recommend from the romance group lunch last Sunday I went into our house library and picked up a book I bought in 2005.

I met Anne  Bishop when she was guest of honour at Thylacon in Tasmania in 2005. Rowena and Marianne were trying to get her to suck her coffee through a Tim Tam and I was like…real Aussies don’t do that. She was a quiet lady. I bought her book and she signed it for me.

Wow. 2005. I looked at the price on this book, Dreams Made Flesh, and saw that I paid $29.99 for it. Back in 2005 I had money to burn so often spent hundreds on books a time and on DVDs whatever. My how times have changed. My how the market has changed. These days people quibble about paying $2.99 or $4.99 for an ebook. There weren’t many ebooks back then. I don’t exactly quibble about prices but I am much more careful about what I spend. I have a limited income now so $29.99 seems like a lot of money to me.

I am about half way through Dreams Made Flesh and it’s really good. I like her style, her complex world building, I like the romance to balance the darker elements. I’m so intrigued about the story that precedes this one. Dreams Made Flesh picks up after the Black Jewels Trilogy.

Today I got paid some royalties for Dragon Wine books so reinvested them in the Black Jewels Trilogy. Tada! So not only am I reading a to be read book that’s been sitting there for twelve years, I’ve ordered more. Apologies to Anne Bishop for taking so long.

Dreams Made Flesh

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