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My Life is in My Dropbox!

Writing imageThursday my life flashed before my eyes. It was the first time it had ever happened, and I hope like hell it’s the last. The first thing that struck me was that it was nothing like I’d thought it would be. There were no memories of my childhood, no memories of getting married or moving off on my own to Croatia. There were no memories of falling in love or of my favorite trips, nor the major milestones in my life. It still gives me cold chills thinking about it. It was intimations of my worst nightmare. I never thought it would be like it was. Though now, looking back, I can’t imagine how I would have expected it to be otherwise.

Due to complications installing a new operating system on my computer, which I won’t go into, I ended up having every file in my Dropbox deleted. Now, before you tell me not to worry, there are ways to get it all back, let me just say that I know that now. I knew that even as it was happening. BUT all of those ways of recovering data are only theories until you put them to the test, and then you have to be in a calm logical state of mind in order to be able to do that. I was neither calm nor logical as I prepared to continue with my WIP and opened a completely empty Dropbox. I back up everything – EVERYTHING in the whole universe, I back up! I’m fanatical about back ups. And where do I back it all up? On the f*cking Dropbox!!! AND NOWHERE ELSE!!!!! You see where I’m going with this? Panic sets in when the 135,000 word manuscript you’ve just completed disappears along with every picture you’ve ever taken, Drop box image imagesevery word you’ve ever written of any sort. ANY sort, for the past five years.

To give you a bit of perspective, I wrote The Initiation of Ms Holly in 2010. Since then I’ve written literally millions of words – some of them novels, some of them blog posts that I’m rather fond of, some
of them short stories, poems, novellas, even the odd navel gaze. There are stories and story ideas that have never lived anywhere outside cyberspace, but I hope they will someday. There are pictures of holidays, of veg gardens we’ve planted, of long walks we’d taken on the Downs in every season at every time of day. Words! There are literally millions of words that I’ve written, and suddenly they were all gone!

Recovery happened, as the tiny part of me that wasn’t vacillating somewhere between total panic and growing despair, knew that it would and, at the end of the day, all was well. I’d lost nothing. I was even able to recover the efforts of that morning. The point is that the fear that I might have lost all my words was an eye-opening experience for me. It was a huge insight into how I define myself and how I judge the value of my life.

For good or for ill, I define myself by the words and the pictures in my Dropbox. That’s what it boils Writing pen and birds 1_xl_20156020down to; that’s me stripped to the bare bones. And for a terrifying few minutes I was no one.

No one …

When I think about it now with all my words back safely where they belong, I can’t quite get my head around what I felt. There are words in the Bible meant to describe Christ. Most of you know that I came from a conservative Christian background about a hundred years ago, but these two passages transcend my faith or lack thereof and speak to the heart of the writer on a much deeper level than they might to anyone else.

 

For the word of God is living, and active, and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing even to
the dividing of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and quick to discern the thoughts and intents of the heart.

Hebrews 4:12

 

And the word was made flesh and dwelt among us.

John 1:14

 

Words are more than just a collections of sounds that allow us to communicate. Words have power, like a sword, like a scalpel, to discern thoughts and intents. And words, in the hands of a writer become flesh and dwell among us. For a writer – certainly for me, they become my flesh, and they become the flesh of the characters with which I people my stories. They dwell in me as surely as if they were alive, and they do often discern the thoughts and intents of my heart, without me even realizing that’s what they’re Scribe computer keyboardMG_0777doing. Words are my companions, my guides, my friends; words are the mirror through which I view myself. For my whole life it’s always felt like the more words I write, the more clear the reflection of self in that mirror becomes. Navel gazing much???

Even as I write this, I’m well aware of just how neurotic it sounds to define myself by my words, and a
part of what happened in that short time without my words was an internal battle for points of reference, for other ways to define myself, which at that moment, I couldn’t even imagine existed. The point is the value of words – my words – to me can’t be overstated. I live with them close and personal every day of my life, and most days I bring home a few more to live with me. Losing my words, even for just that short amount of time before logic could kick in, before I could regain enough equilibrium to know that wasn’t going to happen, was like losing myself. How can I define myself without my Dropbox full of words? Who am I without those points of reference? Of course it wouldn’t have been the end of the world, had I lost all my words, but I promise you as sure as I’m sitting here, it would have felt like it.

 

The 1003rd Post!

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The 1000th post on A Hopeful Romantic completely took me by surprise, so I’m celebrating 1003 posts as an after-thought. I’d planned to rent a big hall in London, hell I’d even thought I might rent one in New York and Los Angeles as well. I’d planned to have a band, Champaign fountains, fireworks, dancing. Oh I had a really huge soirée in mind.

I’d planned to wear a midnight blue off the shoulder number made of shimmery, silky fabric, that if it didn’t make me exactly look like a fairy princess, certainly would have made me look like a very wicked witch with some very naughty magic in mind. And Raymond, well I’d planned for him to wear a kilt for the occasion and some serious bad-boy boots. He would have looked SO scary-hot.

It would have been the party of the century, I’m sure. But instead the 1000th post sneaked up on me and bit me in the butt when I wasn’t looking.

Since I’m too late to throw a big party, I thought I’d hit the highlights in pictures instead.

The Initiation of Ms Holly Started it all almost exactly five years ago. I was bursting with pride at the success of my lovely First Born.

 

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The lovely Lucy Felthouse advised me that if I had a book, I should have a website and a blog for pimping
purposes and well, just so I could make myself known to the great big world of readers and writers out there. She designed my website and blog and helped me figure out just what the hell I was doing. And here she is, looking lovely and lusty at the launch of The Initiation of Ms Holly in Sh! Women’s Store! Thanks EP!

 

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There were launch parties and readings and events in London and Las Vegas and Scarborough and Cardiff, to name just a few.

 

 

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Soon Holly wasn’t alone. Her family grew and grew to include 11 novels, 6 novellas and countless short stories.

 

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I got to be on telly!

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I decided I’d have twice the fun, twice the Romance and Grace Marshall was born and so were the Executive Decision novels.

 

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I wrote about walking

 

 

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I wrote about gardening.

 

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I shared my travels.

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I won ETO’s Best Erotic Author Award 2014!

 

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I posted about writing and the creative process and my experiences as a writer.

 

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I became a Brit Babe.

 

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I made fabulous friends and had some amazing people on my blog.

 

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After 1st read-thru 1 July 2013

 

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I shared the experience of collaborating with the lovely Moorita Encantada writing Medusa: The Eye of the Beholder a burlesque play.

 

 

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I wrote my first ever M/M and my first ever vampire story for the fabulous box set, Brit Boys on Boys

 

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I explored the online serial, first with Demon Interrupted, a Lakeland Witches novella.

 

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Now with something totally different in my ongoing online series In The Flesh.

 

 

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For 1003 blog posts I’ve been sharing my writing adventure and inviting other writers and artists and interesting people to do likewise. For 1003 posts I’ve been celebrating the written word, which is and always has been the passion of my life. For every picture, every memory shared, there are a thousand that I wish I could. It’s been an amazing 1003 posts! I can hardly wait to see what the next 1003 bring.

Thanks to all of the lovely people who have been my guests throughout those 1003 blogs and to all the lovely people who read and follow A Hopeful Romantic and especially to those who follow my blog because they enjoy my books. You’re all fabulous, and I hope to see you at the BIG soiree when I celebrate the 2003rd post. (If somebody would just, please, remind me at about post 1950 so I can hire the band and the fireworks blokes :-))

 

 

Small Flashlight, Big Darkness

I’m sharing a little something from the Archives with you today, because I’ve been truly In The Zone the past few coming up from the depths
days and when I’m not writing like a mad woman, I’m thinking about characters, about plot, about why what’s happening needs to happen. That all brings me back to the intense, sometimes frightening, position we writers all face  on a regular basis — shining a small flashlight into our big 
darkness. (This post first appeared, with modifications, on the ERWA blog October 2012)

Today’s post is a hard one for me to settle into because it could so easily devolve into navel gazing, and one of the promises I made to myself and to my readers back when I wrote my very first ever blog post was that I would keep the navel gazing to a minimum. There must be a gazillion writer and write-hopefuls blogging, and each one is convinced that their journey to writing success is totally unique and must be shared. Well maybe not each one, maybe I’m only speaking for myself, in which case, I blush heartily and apologise.

My point is that all of the energy, angst, fear, adrenaline, exploration of dark places, exploration of forbidden places that used to go into the pages and pages of that gargantuan navel-gaze that was my journal now go through that strange internal filtering process that takes all my many neuroses and insecurities, all my deep-seated fears, all my misplaced teenage angst and magically transforms them into story.

That was sort of my little secret — that I alone, in all the world, suffered uniquely and exquisitely for my art. I took all the flawed and wounded parts of myself, parts I wasn’t comfortable facing, examined them reflected through the medium of story and found a place where I could view them and not run away screaming.

Where is all this borderline navel-gazing leading? There was a BBC article some time ago asking the question, is creativity ‘closely entwined with mental illness?’ I shared it on Facebook and Twitter to find that lots of other writers had shared it as well and the general response was simply that it sounded about right. There were some very moving conversations that came out of those sharings of that article along with the realization — something I’ve long suspected — that I am not all alone out there in my vibrant unique neurotic bubble. And really, it comes as no surprise that one has to be at least a little neurotic to be ballsy enough to try to bring, in one form or another, what lives in our imagination into the real world and to attempt to put it out there for everyone to see. Or secret exhibitionist is alive and well.

As the article was shared around and the responses mounted, I found myself thinking of C.G. Jung’s archetype of the Wounded Healer. The healer can only ever heal in others what she herself is suffering from. The archetype of the storyteller is alive and well. And I believe writers live out the archetype of the wounded healer on a daily basis. Empathy goes much deeper than sympathy. The human capacity for story is as old as we are. Before the written word, story was the community archive. It was our memory of who we are, our history, our continuity, our triumphs, trials, sufferings, joys, all memorised, filed away, and kept safely in the mind of the story teller. That had to do something to your head, knowing that you were the keeper of the story of your people! How could storytellers be anything other than neurotic?

It’s a lot more personal now that we have the written word. No one has to dedicate their lives to memorising the story of their people. It’s just as well because that story has become way too expansive for one person to ever manage in many lifetimes. Now we tell our own story, the story of the internal battles that wound us, the story of those wounds
transformed. We all tell our stories in our own personal code. What may well start out as a navel gaze into the deep dark wilderness of Self can be transformed into powerful, vibrant story, and we’re healed! At least temporarily, or at Writing imageleast we’re comforted. And hopefully so are those with whom we share our stories. When I journalled my navel-gazes, I wasn’t interested in anyone else seeing what was on those pages. It was a one-sided attempt at a neurotic house-cleaning. Sharing the story is a part of the healing; sharing the story is a part of the journey. The Storyteller had no purpose if she didn’t share the story with her people.

Most of the time I write my stories because I can’t NOT do it, and it’s a lot of fun. That’s the truth of it. I seldom consciously dig deep to find those wounded, neurotic places. Really, who would want to do that deliberately? But the wounded places find me, and they end up finding their way into the story. And what surfaces is never quite what I expected, always more somehow, even if started out to be nothing more than a little ménage in a veg patch.

 

Eroticon 2015: I’m Still Processing

I’m still processing!

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It’s been a week since I came home from Eroticon 2015 exhausted, encouraged, and excited — my head buzzing with
ideas. The thing about Eroticon is that it’s the event that keeps on giving. As much as I needed to talk shop and laugh and joke over a glass of wine or a cup of coffee, as much as I needed the company of like-minded folks and kindred spirits all sharing fresh ideas, I needed something to take home with me as well. I needed that most of all, and I don’t think I was the only person who felt that way. This year, I brought way more home with me than just the gorgeous Love Sex Love Toys personalized mug and the swag bag full of naughty, delicious goodies. Here’s what I mean.

I’ve always liked taking piccies I can share with you lovely lot, and the hour I spent Sunday morning in Molly Moore’s photography workshop encouraged me to be bolder, 2015-08-02 11.37.53more adventurous with my photos and to remember that the best photos are the ones I love. As I put the photos into this post, I think of that informative and fun hour, and I smile at the pics of the people I feel honored to call friends and colleagues.

I spent a deliciously naughty hour in Ashley Lister’s Writing Erotic Romance workshop. At the end of the day, it’s always a poetic experience being around Mr. Lister. Reading his filthy pennings over his shoulder at lunch encouraged me – one who is most definitely poetically challenged — to try my hand at a little doggerel. Yesterday I plucked up my courage and sent two poems off for consideration in Ashley’s Coming Together in Verse anthology, and I may very well have opened a whole new world for myself. I was surprised and pleased to find just how much writing a bit of verse, no matter how bad, stimulates the creative juices for the WIP.

2015-08-02 11.36.40If there was a main message I took away from last weekend, it was the need for erotica as a genre to redefine itself and the need for a close community within, of which we had a lovely example at Eroticon 2015. For me, as a novelist, the times are exciting, as well as terrifying, and the journey ahead is definitely through an undiscovered country. I spent some quality time with the lovely M. K. Elliot, who is the go-to-girl for successful self-publishing and, I have to admit, I’m very excited about the possibilities, including some creative play with stories and WIPs on Wattpad. (I’d love it if you’d visit me there and see what I’m up to. I’m new, but hoping to find my way around quickly.) M. K. made me aware of lots of exciting possibilities. Though the world of publishing is a scary, changing landscape, it has the potential to be very exciting and foster new outlets 2015-08-02 09.53.10for creativity.

Most of you know that in addition to my online serial, In The Flesh, my WIP, Buried Pleasures, is completely different from my usual KDG or GM novels, I’m exploring dark paranormal romance/urban fantasy and loving every minute of it. That being the case, I took great pleasure in attending Janine Ashbless’ workshop on Fantasy writing. I’ve managed 10K on the WIP, plus another chapter on In The Flesh since I got home. I was encouraged to find that I was doing a lot of things right and excited to learn new things to make my writing even stronger. Oh, and there is an epic fantasy in the works.

At a time when quality is more important than ever and yet, as we’ve all seen, not required to get works out there, good editing is more important than ever. It was very interesting to hear editorial consultant, Cressida Downing, AKA The Book Analyst’s views and advice on editing, beta readers, reading other writer’s work and hiring an editor.

Yesterday I met with one of my long-time writing friends for a walk, catching up over lunch, and some shared writing time after. During the walk, the discussion turned to the dark elements in our writing, and I found myself telling her about Remittance Girl’s 2015-08-02 11.43.18riveting talk on Jouissance. All week I’ve been thinking about that place of perfection that we long for, but can’t actually get to, that place of excitement closest to the forbidden, and that dark place where I write the most powerful stuff, but the stuff that disturbs me the most. I’ll be thinking about jouissance and its place in my writing for a long time to come, but it was interesting to share it with a writer who often writes from just that place. No doubt she’ll be listening to RG’s podcast when she gets home.

Of course the whole Eroticon experience was made better because I shared it with my partner in crime, fellow Brit Babe, Lily Harlem, with whom I also taught a workshop on Crafting Creativity. Lily’s insights, her enthusiasm and her laughter are always encouraging to me and were a big part of what I took away from Eroticon 2015. Sharing the event and seeing it through other people’s eyes is at least as enlightening and exciting as my own experience of it. The lunches, the coffee times, the drinks at the The panel on publishing
pub, the Cuban food, the planning and scheming in hotel bars, these parts of Eroticon are the real points of connecting,
at least for me. From talking about the brutality of getting fit with Remittance Girl, to planning and scheming another m/m anthology for Brit Boys on Boys; from finding myself outside my introverted comfort zone at Revelation Vodka Bar to getting totally lost in conversation with F. Leonora Solomon and Janine Ashbless; from devouring delicious crepes under a brilliant blue moon with Lily Harlem, to long conversations about where does erotica go from here in the post 50SoG/ self-pub world in which we
now live – my response to it all is I’M STILL PROCESSING! The creative forces – blogger, writer, crafter, photographer, poet, editor, friend and
colleague, partner in crime – are all at work, and as I get back to my introverted 2015-08-01 21.49.57writerly world, it’s very nice to know that I’m not alone in my introversion, and that
the adventure, no matter how harsh and unforgiving it can feel at times, is a shared one and a very exciting one.

 

A very special Thank you to Ruby Kiddell at Write Sex Right, for organizing Eroticon 2015, the event that keeps on giving.

 

Myth Busting in the Big Apple

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I’m just back from another stonking trip to New York City, and I have to say without a doubt I am right up there with all of the masses who heart New York. I heart it more and more each time I visit, as I get to know it better. Raymond and I were joined again this year by his sister, my lovely sister-in-law, Cynthia, who accompanied me in terrorizing the town while Raymond was training in martial arts. The three of us enjoyed several discussions about how different the city was from our original expectations of the Big Apple. So here are a few of the myths busted by our first visit, but totally shattered by our second.

 

 

 

Myth: NYC stinks.

Truth: Only if you’re repulsed by the smell of every sort of freshly cooked food, including pizza by the slice and2015-07-19 13.25.45 bakeries that are a feast for the eyes as well as the nose and mouth! Seriously! Nose-gasms at every corner! Oh I was
told by a gentleman from New York State who’s been visiting the city on a regular basis for a number of years that it used to stink, but those days of olfactory nastiness are long gone, replaced with scents guaranteed to make your mouth water rather than your eyes.

One of the adventures we had on this visit was to take an open-bus tour of the city — well part of the city anyway — to get an overview for further exploration. We got caught 2015-07-16 14.14.40in a total downpour, and had the kinky (if you like that sort of thing) experience of doing half the tour wrapped in plastic, and I have to admit the drowned rat look was massively improved by our complimentary garbage-bag style Greyline Tours rain panchos. All that to say, even as the water rose around our feet on the floorboards of the upper deck, we sniffed and inhaled the mouthwatering scent of NYC. Which I also heart, BTW! And NYC-style pizza – I really heart that a lot!

 

Myth: NYC is dirty.

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Truth: Not from what I could see! As most of you know, I do a lot of my exploring on foot wherever I go, and the Big Apple was no exception. I believe you can never really know the soul of a place until you’ve walked it with the soles of your own feet. And though NYC is way to big for me to have completely taken in hoofing it, I did give it a gallant try and, up close and personal, I have to say New York is one of the cleanest cities I’ve ever visited. Mind you, I do feel I’ve not made a fair judgment until I can get more data. I’ll hopefully have an updated report on the city’s cleanliness next year.

 

 

 

 

 

Myth: People in NYC are rude.P1030715

Truth: In my own experience, nothing could be farther from the truth. In two visits to

NYC, I can’t count the number of times people have been kind, helpful and mostly just friendly. I’ve never asked
anyone for directions or advice or information of any kind who didn’t give it cheerfully. I’ve never engaged anyone in conversation who wasn’t friendly. I’ve had people make room for me in a crowded subway, I’ve had people simply engage me in light conversation. I’ve had people laugh with me and joke with me and, best of all, people always seem happy to share their feelings and experiences of their city. I learned a lot about the place in just that way.

 

2015-07-16 16.43.20Myth: NYC is easy to get lost in.

Truth: Two words: Grid layout. I’m an old fashion girl who still enjoys the feel of a map in my hot little hands, and armed with just a map and a landmark, I’ve managed to ‘stay found’ and end up where I intended to be with very little problem. NYC is laid out in a grid, so cross streets going north and south, east and west always give a clear picture of where you are. For me, the job of navigating the Big Apple was even easier because I always came in from Penn Station, and the first thing I looked for was the Empire
2015-07-17 14.38.47State Building. From there, the grid was my oyster – so to speak.

OK, I admit, that as a tourist, I’ve always found the open bus tours a helpful way of getting an overview of any city. I
quite often do that first, then get an idea of where to explore on foot. It works for me. However NYC is so big that there are five tour routes and several boat tours associated with the busses. That, of course, is not even
counting the Staten Island Ferry, which is free and gives some of the most amazing views of Manhattan imaginable. All that, plus the easy access to most parts of the city by the subway, and exploring is a piece of cake … from a very nice bakery … Having said all that, I have a lovely cousin who is convinced that getting lost isn’t a bad thing at all because you never know what you’d discover on the way to getting found again.

 

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Myth: NYC is a dangerous place.

Truth: Every place is a dangerous place, and that can easily be said of any city in the world. I remember being a little bit timid the first time I went into the city, and I discovered, to my surprise, that I felt right at home. I’ve been in big cities all over the world, and I often explore them alone on foot armed
with nothing but a map and a camera. That comes from tagging along with
my husband, who often works while I play, but even before I met him, I was exploring cities on my own. I personally find there’s nothing more empowering, no better way to make a city my friend that to follow my nose, 2015-07-20 10.56.18and my map. And NYC is easy on both. Common sense is the key in the Big Apple just like it is anywhere else I’ve ever been.

On both trips I’ve relished the days I’ve had to explore alone in a city that never fails to inspire. The very best parts of NYC are the opportunities to follow my nose, to get lost in the thoughts and ideas and inspiration that flow from being anonymous among the throngs. I get to be the invisible observer, a voyeur with a purpose.

 

Snippets of convo …
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Two young women talking in a coffee bar:

“Did he say anything about me?”

            “He did.”

            “So what did he say?”

            “You don’t want to know.”

 

Young man behind me on the train talking on his mobile:

  “Dad, I underestimated how much money I needed. No! No, I’m find, I’m all right, don’t worry. I just 2015-07-17 20.58.55underestimated how much New York would cost.”

Visual inspiration:

A frantic- looking young woman decked out in evening wear at 10:30 in the morning, running to catch the subway.

Cynthia and I had great fun making up a story about her situation while we wandered around Midtown Manhattan.

 

 

P1030705There you go! Myths busted! In my opinion, there are two big dangers in NYC. The first is being too timid and missing the good stuff. I was shocked at the number of tourists I saw seeking out McDonalds or Sbarros (and yes tourists are as easy to pick out in NYC as they are the world over. I’m sure I am too, though I did remember to remove my bin-bag rain poncho when I left the tour bus.)2015-07-20 14.00.30

 
The second, and the biggie for me, is falling totally in love with the city, even as I’m melting in the 100 degree heat or
doing the back stroke in a glorified garbage bag in a rainstorm in an open topped bus. I’m a tourist. I know that’s completely different from living in a place and dealing with all the little niggles and irritations local folks deal with all the time, but then that’s part of the fun. I can have a love-affair with the Big Apple, let it tease me and entice me and seduce me for one week a year, and I can come home smug in the fact that I spent a delicious, inspiring, tantalizing few days in the arms of one of the coolest cities on the planet.

 
© 2017 K D Grace
The Romance Reviews

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