Cover Update

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I’m thinking about moving the eyes around on Tula-for; I haven’t seeded metal through his hands. Don’t know if I will.

This is a scene near the end of the book, when her soul starts to expand frighteningly.

Happy writing, anybody.

You’re reading Victor Poole; like a crank, I persist in finishing a series before publishing. If you love intentionally harsh writing and mind-numbing deliberation, you would love Ajalia. She has a knife; the girl in the picture above doesn’t get one for one-and-a-half books. May many of the Wednesday good things happen to you.

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There’s A Delay For My Next Book

So The Second Queen was supposed to come out last month, but my editor, bless his heart, had an epiphany, and metaphorically flung the book across the room, and now we’re into thematic rewrites.

Plus, it turns out I forgot to write in some sex that should have been there the first time around.

Ah, experience, you great teacher, will you ever cease to pummel me between the eyes?

In other news, here’s a rough mock-up I’m working on for Ethan and Mary.

 

last cyborg final

You’re reading Victor Poole. Don’t worry, the sex will be worth the wait, and by the way, Philas wants everyone to know that he’s decided to be in love with Ajalia after all. I wonder how his wife will react to this news. Happy Wednesday, internet-kin.

How Contractions Can Smooth Your Prose Into A Bright Vernacular Today

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Often, as I am writing, I find myself using slightly elevated language, because I get drawn into the pathos of the scene. Later, I return and make a smoother flow to my dialogue, to make sure it doesn’t sound overinflated.

Examples:

Stilted language:

“It is common knowledge in the stars that cyborgs sent to run the Human Museum were one step away from falling under the general extinction order. Your mind and body are of a low grade, only just passable for conversion. You are lucky you are alive,” the tall cyborg said in a dry, emotionless voice.

“That might be true for the others, but not for me,” the director snapped. “I am in charge here; I am different. My master wanted to keep me for something more important, I know he did. He was forced to let me go. You cannot deny they needed a clever man to run their little project here.”

“Then that is all that you are,” the tall cyborg said, “a man. You will never be a true cyborg.”

Smooth vernacular:

“It’s common knowledge in the stars that those sent to run the Human Museum were one step away from falling under the general extinction order. Your mind and body are of a low grade, only just passable for conversion. You’re lucky to be alive,” the tall cyborg said.

“That may be true for the others but not for me,” the director snapped. “I’m in charge here; I’m different. My master wanted to keep me for something more important, I know he did. The others forced him to let me go. You can’t deny they needed a clever man to run their little operation here.”

“That’s all you are,” the tall cyborg said, “a man. You will never be a true cyborg.”

Changing some of your words to contractions and loosening the formality of your language can add a soothing sense of rhythm to your prose, and strengthen your dialogue.

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You’re reading Victor Poole. My cat tried to attack a roll of paper towels the other day, and my cyborgs are marshaling their forces against the Ben-sa alien empire today. The rough study is from this.

Petty Relationships

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I always feel as if I’m behind, and trying unsuccessfully to catch up. Sometimes I resign myself to the fate of the ever-behind, and sometimes I try to convince myself that all is humming peacefully along. I suppose the evaluatory criteria are so subjective as to be ultimately meaningless.

Today I’d like to talk about the petty relationships that can contribute to great characterization.

Rules For Petty Relationships

  1. The relationship must subsist on a mostly-unconscious emotional exchange.
  2. One half of the partnership has to be poor.
  3. A romantic interest must form conflict between the two halves.
  4. The relationship must be comprised of the same gender/orientation.

An Experiment

First, I’ll write a plain and unadorned pair-bond between two characters. I will then add, one by one, the qualifiers above, and you can judge for yourself the alteration in the resultant prose.

Plain Pair-Bond (Incorporating by Default Rule 4):

Otso and Benm carried their sticks over the mountain and searched for blue and green stones along the way. Benm claimed to have learned the secret of shaping the rocks, which he said were called mountain teeth, into razor points.

“We’ll affix them to our rods, and then we’ll be able to fight the groundlings in the caves below the lake,” he said.

“I don’t think we’ll find any of those stones,” Otso said doubtfully. He enjoyed carrying his stick, which he scraped in the failing light of the evenings until it was smooth and bright.

Plus Rule 1 (Addition of an Emotional Exchange):

“See if you can find any blue rocks,” Benm said. He walked far ahead of Otso, the two long sticks balanced over his shoulders. “I’ll make us spear tips out of them, if we can get any.”

“We’re not going to find blue rocks out here,” Otso called. He looked down anyway, and watched carefully over the mountainside as he rode their sickly pack mule.

“My grandfather taught me how to sharpen the rocks. Green ones would be all right, too,” Benm said. He rolled the wooden rods against his neck and studied Otso. “He called them mountain teeth.”

“All the rocks here are gray,” Otso called. Benm sniffed, and looked out over the expanse of mist below them.

“If we have spears, we’ll be able to fight and have adventures down there,” he said.

“You don’t know how to fight,” Otso mumbled under his breath. He kept his eyes fixed on the passing ground, which was uniformly gray and dull.

And Now, Rule 2! (One is Poor):

“See if you can find any blue rocks,” Benm said. He walked far ahead of Otso, the two long sticks balanced over his shoulders, his fitted jacket snug around his waist. “I’ll make us spear tips out of them, if we can get any.”

“We’re not going to find blue rocks out here,” Otso called, his own ragged cloak wrapped close against his body. He looked down anyway, and watched carefully over the mountainside as he rode the sickly pack mule. He kept his bare feet snug against her warm and fuzzy sides.

“My grandfather taught me how to sharpen the rocks. Green ones would be all right, too,” Benm said. He rolled the wooden rods against his neck and turned to face his friend. Benm’s supple leather boots made regular crunches on the slate as he paced backwards up the slope and studied Otso. “My grandfather called the stones mountain teeth.”

“All the rocks here are gray,” Otso called. He pulled his threadbare cloak more closely around his arms, and hugged his legs against the mule. Benm sniffed, and tuned to look out over the expanse of mist below them.

“If we build spears, we’ll be able to fight and have adventures down there,” he said.

“We don’t know how to fight,” Otso mumbled under his breath. He kept his eyes fixed on the passing ground, which was uniformly gray and dull. No hint of blue or green showed between the shattered stone. Otso tightened his grip on the coarse reins, and stared up at the mountain.

Throw in Rule 3, a Romantic Competition:

“See if you can find any blue rocks,” Benm said. He walked far ahead of Otso, the two long sticks balanced over his shoulders, his fitted jacket snug around his waist. “I’ll make us spear tips out of them, if we can get any. Marli would like that. She likes weapons.” Benm stretched his arms, and rolled his shoulders. Otso’s ears burned red at the mention of the tavern-maid.

“We’re not going to find blue rocks out here,” Otso called, his own ragged cloak wrapped close against his body. Marli had noticed his bad clothes, he was sure. If he found rare stones, Otso thought, he could sell or trade them for a better cloak, and shoes. He looked down and watched carefully over the mountainside as he rode the sickly pack mule. He kept his bare feet snug against her warm and fuzzy sides.

“My grandfather taught me how to sharpen the rocks. Tell me if you see a green one,” Benm said. He pretended to strike an enemy in the air, and let out an extravagant sigh. He rolled the wooden rods against his neck and turned to face his friend, his supple leather boots making regular crunches on the slate as he paced backwards on the slope. “My grandfather called the stones mountain teeth. I bet Marli would find that interesting.”

“All the rocks here are gray,” Otso called. He thought Marli would find colored stone fascinating, but he wasn’t going to say so to Benm. He pulled his threadbare cloak more closely around his arms, and hugged his legs against the mule. Marli likes me better, he told himself. Ahead on the slope, Benm sniffed, and tuned to look out over the expanse of mist below them.

“If we build spears, we’ll be able to fight and have adventures down there,” he said. Otso was sure Benm was thinking of how Marli would react to tales of their battles.

“We don’t know how to fight,” Otso mumbled under his breath, but he was thinking of Marli’s brown eyes, and the way her cheeks flushed when she was excited. He kept his eyes fixed on the passing ground, which was uniformly gray and dull. No hint of blue or green showed between the shattered stone. Otso sighed; he tightened his grip on the coarse reins, and stared up at the mountain peak.

I Would Call That A Resounding Success

Well, I wrote the damn thing, and I didn’t expect it to turn out that well. Let this be a lesson to me, then. I would like to add here that I think I write rather well. No qualifiers.

A Recap

Great characterizations are often founded on fundamentally petty relationships. The rules (that I just made up) for constructing such a pair-bond are as follows:

  • The relationship must subsist on a mostly-unconscious emotional exchange.
  • One half of the partnership has to be poor.
  • A romantic interest must form conflict between the two halves.
  • The relationship must be comprised of the same gender/orientation

May your own relationally-joined characters find a satisfying base of transferred emotion, economic disparity, and competitive love.

You’re reading Victor Poole. My books are here. I have a lot of editing to get through this week.

Why Your Point Of View Needs A Subterranean Motive

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This is a cover I’m designing for an update to my sci-fi thriller, My Name is Caleb; I am Dead. I got a great review for the book from Taylor Morrison, and I’m softening up towards commercialism in my cover designs. I wanted to fully embrace commercial appeal from day one, but I didn’t know how. I am approaching market viability one step at a time.

I didn’t realize that I’d neglected to update the interior of the book with Vellum, so that’s also in the works.

In Other News

The ‘a’ key on my laptop has worked loose, and refuses to adhere properly to the little hook parts underneath. I am training myself to type gently over the key so that it doesn’t pop off with every vigorous ‘a’ stroke.

Funnily enough, this quirk has made me grow fonder of my laptop. I have one of the MacBook Air laptops with the shredding power cords. I was patching it diligently with electrical tape, but my beloved spouse, observing the sticky and disintegrating cord, carried me forcibly to the Apple store and bought me a new one.

Now, Ulterior Motives For Point Of View

Your novel is necessarily written from one point of view or another; I tend to favor third person omniscient, but there are many kinds of point of view, and they are all good for achieving different effects. What we are talking about today is the message relayed by the style of point of view. What are you telling your readers, subtly, about the overall meaning of the story?

Every book relays a conglomerate of messages; the most long-lasting and impactful communication is that portrayed by the overall implications of the point of view. We’ll look now at some broad examples, to give you an idea of what I mean.

Leo Tolstoy

Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina is (mostly) written from a bemused, factual third-person omniscient point of view that gives the novel as a whole a sense of inevitable absurdity and reverence; the novel mourns for, judges, and prods acerbic fun at the characters.

Agatha Christie

Christie’s The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, on the other hand, embraces a first person, past tense point of view, which turns out wonderfully in the final chapters when you find out the doctor’s been (spoiler, spoiler, spoiler). In this book, the subterranean message is one of deceit, danger, and false jollity. The book would lose much of its marvelously eerie, suspenseful quality without this point of view. The underlying message, that of the intensely personal and permanent nature of homicide, makes the scenes excessively memorable.

Victor Hugo

One more example is The Hunchback of Notre Dame. If you haven’t read the unabridged novel, you’ve missed most of the point of the book, which is a third person omniscient impassioned ode to the architecture of Paris. Quasimodo, Esmeralda, and the emotionally impoverished Frollo are incidental to the main story, which is a very long and loving treatment of the city. This point of view creates a backdrop against which the characters move like miniatures picked out against an expansive landscape.

What Does Your Point Of View Say?

Books that have no second or third meaning, and that do not contain an overt message about life, art, and humanity, are books that do not last. The best and surest way to convey such a message is like this:

Examples:

Message: Life is hard, and people are corrupt inside.

Point of View: First person, present tense

I’m getting ahead of myself. I started to tell you about the day that I died. It was an afternoon, of course, broad daylight. Not at all the sort of scene you imagine, when you picture yourself dying suddenly. I always thought I would go in a car accident, if I died early. I hadn’t even found a girlfriend. It was incredibly ironic. I’d gotten away from my parents, I had a house that I almost owned, and I was current on my taxes. Plus, I’d just gotten a raise at work, and my boss liked me. I thought it was one of the best days of my life. Well, I wasn’t thinking right at that moment, this is the best day of my life, but I did have that feeling of something really great starting. I felt like I had been digging my way out of a deep hole, and I’d finally reached the surface and started to make some kind of genuine progress, and then Bam! Dead. Heart failure, or something. You don’t really find out, when you die like that, and are taken up right away. You don’t find out what it was that killed you. I suppose most people do some sort of hovering deal, you know, their soul hanging around over their corpse for a few days before they figure out that it’s time to move on. I would’ve found out what killed me, if that’d happened, because the ambulance would have come, and the people would have said to each other what killed me.

This is a passage from a book I’m writing about a young man who is enslaved by a goddess, and made to act as an undead guardian to humanity. This example is tricky, because it almost reads as first person past tense, but it is technically present tense, as Paul is speaking in the moment and telling the story.

I think I need to talk myself down from trickiness. I am apt to be too complex. In the meantime, here is another example:

Message: People are good inside, and honesty always pays off.

Point of View: Third person, past tense

Going inside the castle, she rummaged in the junk room until she located a putty knife. She took it out to the front steps and began scraping the wall until she hit smooth stone.

“Much better,” the princess said. The blackened goop peeled away in reams of thick, greasy sludge that dripped and seemed almost alive.

“No, no, please, oh please, no,” groaned the voice from the door. “Not my beautiful lovely sludge! I have been cultivating that sludge for decades, and now you mean to peel away my protective skin with a putty knife? What kind of a princess are you?”

“A cleaning princess,” she said, and got to work with the putty knife. After a few minutes she had cleared a sizable chunk on the wall, and she retrieved her rag, rinsed it clean, and scrubbed the stone. “That’s more like it,” she said, as she saw clean, bright white stone emerge.

And Now, For Contrast, A Terrible One

Before I jump into the bad example, remember that when you choose no message, your message is chosen for you by your psychological precedents. A message will be conveyed, whether or not you formulate one. Is it not better, particularly in the realm of art, to make a choice, and control the emotional outcome as far as you are able?

Bad Writing:

Message: I’m a super cool storyteller, and my readers love me!

Point of View: Psh! I don’t need a point of view! I’m a genius!

The house was dark; she held the phone against her chest, waiting until the time arrived. I knew he would come for me, even though there wasn’t any light to see by.

I’m outside the house, and there are no friends with me this time. I’m going to get that magical necklace she’s got. I don’t know where she got it from. It’ll be mine soon.

Her heart beats, and her knees shake. She doesn’t want to open her eyes.

I open the door. Then I realize I can’t, because it’s locked.

I hear the doorknob jiggle. My opening eyes take in the light from the desktop alarm, and the modem blinks. They aren’t afraid. Not like I am.

He goes to the window, and tries the casing.

Today’s Takeaway

The point of view that you choose inevitably creates a rhetorical framework, and determines the most lasting impression your story will leave on the reader. For example, in my very long and gradual fantasy series, the point of view is third omniscient, past tense, and the framework, the purpose of the novel and the overall message is about sex. Ajalia starts out as a severely-traumatized woman, and the whole impetus of the nine books, the through-line, is her sexual development. The moment she can get busy with Delmar, the story ends, because the point of the story is that sexual trauma is real, lasting, and possible to work through and heal from.

Well, Victor!

I’ve said this before, but I used to work every day with actors, and I found that every single one of them (yes, really) had severe energy blocks through the pelvic cradle. They could not bring their true selves onto the stage, and they could not mate. Their creative selves were almost completely obliterated. More to the point, they were incapable of love.

What Do You Mean, Incapable Of Love?

This problem fascinated me. I chose a female protagonist (Ajalia), because the damage in the women was incredibly worse than than in the men, and I framed the series as a practical exercise in releasing and integrating pelvic trauma. I gave Ajalia a perfect energy match (Delmar), and I went to work on their bodies.

The book unfolds slowly, and gently, because opening and integrating the pelvic cradle is delicate work, and it is dangerous. The characters heal, one piece at a time, and the series ends with a satisfying fade out on the wholly-integrated Delmar and Ajalia about to finally have sex.

The Ultimate Fade-To-Black

There’s a good deal of kissing, and even more talking, but the purpose, the sole motivating factor in the series, is real sex. By real sex, I mean sex in which both partners are whole, complete, and volitional in the practice.

The next time I produce a show, and I end up with three young women sitting forlornly in my living room and asking me to teach them how to date, I will be ready. And the next time I have a probably-gay actor following me around like an abandoned puppy, I shall have something more useful to offer him (because I cannot adopt the whole world, or my entire cast).

And Yes, Actors Have Tried To Move In With Me

The biggest obstacle in the past has been time; I can heal individuals, but the work often takes weeks, if not months, and everything moves like sludge because the subject has to understand what is happening in order to maintain the new energy forms after I’m out of the picture.

Because If Healing Doesn’t Last, It Does More Harm Than Good

Therefore, I wrote an extended analogy. If I meet an actor who is damaged, and longing for more, I can hand off a tidy pile of novels, and then have a ready lexicon for the eventual dialogue and individual work to follow.

This type of thinking may appear ludicrously long-term to some of you; I don’t know, maybe it doesn’t. I am satisfied with all of my preliminary trials of the novels; they appear to function as I intended them to. You, of course, are welcome to try them out yourself, but be warned that they are rather long, and will make a lot of anger and heat rise through your physical shell. Releasing old injuries often manifests as sudden rage, or as a fever.

You’re reading Victor Poole. Don’t buy Caleb until I’ve updated it, okay? And many thanks to Taylor, who took the time to read and review my science fiction novel!

Why Re-Writing Your Novel Doesn’t Work (And What To Do Instead)

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I just finished another cleaning sweep through the first two books in my fantasy series. I caught a couple of typos, and several phrases I wanted to tweak a bit. I think I cut one sentence this time. I get the impression, from reading about other writers, that I edit differently to everyone else.

Most Of You Chop Things To Bits, I Hear

I’ve talked about this before on my blog, but a couple of years ago I wrote a novel. It’s one of my editor’s favorites, but I haven’t published it yet. I thought, when I wrote it, that I would need to cut it all to pieces and rewrite it from scratch. I even tried to do this, several, several times. Having been around the creative block more than once, I had the perspicacity to save a copy of my original draft.

Months Passed; I Hammered At Re-Writing

And the novel, you know, just kept getting worse. It was as though, with every new tweak and alteration, the heart of the writing skipped farther away from me. Finally, after months of “progress,” and feeling a little bit jaded from my seemingly-fruitless efforts, I pulled up my last-edited file and put it side-by-side with my original draft.

I’ve Learned This Lessen Several Times; It Didn’t Stick At First

I found, as I looked at the original and at my painstakingly-improved draft, that the story I had written down first was stronger, more playful, and contained within it an unbroken chain of impulses that drove the action forward.

My edited draft was like a cup of lifeless nails. There were words describing actions, but no heart within the writing, and no flow inside the plot.

The Impulses Are Key, Here

I’m an actor, and a director, and my job, in that area, is to unblock and link together organic, deeply-human, aesthetic impulses from within human bodies. In a way, I have an advantage over many writers because I’m approaching my prose with an eye to the overall performance aspect. I know how to follow organic impulses, and how to drive the action into the heart of a scene.

It’s Called “Getting Work Out Of People,” In Theatre

Getting work out of people means that I take actors and crack them open, artistically, and make sure they have the framework they need to essentially bleed, emotionally and spiritually speaking, on the stage in visually pleasing ways. There’s a reason acting is cathartic; it is the act of unearthing from within yourself a deep humanity, and offering it freely to the audience.

In Writing, I Get Work Out Of My Characters

When you edit your work, your natural impulse is to hide yourself behind an unbreakable facade of cleverness, emotional depth, and know-it-all maturity. This results in dead writing, in that no organic impulses are left inside the work. And no reader wants to read (see, consume) dead work.

Impulses Are The Life-Blood Of Performance

You may be over there thinking to yourself, “Yes, but Victor, you’re a nobody! You have lousy rankings on Amazon. You have a huge series that nobody reads. Are you an idiot?” You might be thinking that, and I’m not going to defend myself to you, because I’ve been around the block, artistically and business-wise, and I’m digging a foundation for myself. I have a plan. I’m aiming for long-term sustainability.

When You Edit, Make Sure You Aren’t Disrupting The Embedded Impulse-Chain

Editing while preserving the inside of the story, the throbbing chain of impulses that led you to write what you wrote in the first place, is very difficult. I’ve been studying the creation and preservation of impulses for almost fourteen years, and I still have to stop myself from tearing parts of my work to pieces. The desire to protect yourself, and to look invulnerable and perfect to others, is very strong.

Examples

Original Draft:

Bruno was the very first person to see the aliens arrive. They had spatial transponders, and vibrated into being on the sidewalks, and in the center of public parks. He had meant to be at work early that morning, but the cat had spilled his orange juice down his suit, and then the dry cleaners had a line, which Bruno thought was absurd at seven in the morning.

He had to wear his second-best trousers, and the jacket that was a shade too dark. He hoped the client wasn’t going to notice the difference, but today was the Fishars, and he was sure they would.

Bruno was just running down the steps to his first-floor lobby to unlock the case files when, with a crackle that threatened to shake the windows free of their moorings, a long, tall shadow of murky green appeared in the street outside.

Bruno went to the double doors, and pressed his nose to the glass. The shaking grew, and the shadow became solid. A row of brilliant red eyes, arranged in a wide circle around the being’s head, stared straight at Bruno; he dropped the keys, and they made a slight jingle when they hit the floor.

Destructive Editing:

Bruno saw them first. Their green discs in their hands seemed to be a machine that allowed them to appear at will.  They came first into the wide avenues and busy sidewalks of the city, each of them holding one of these ominous devices. Bruno saw them first, and he was immediately sure that the world was over. He saw them first because he had a series of unpleasant accidents through the morning, one of which involved juice and a busy dry cleaners.

His suit didn’t match, though the aliens would not care about that, and he had been in a knot of anxiety about his clients, the Fishars, who were picky about dress. They felt that the snazziness of their attorney merited respect, and Bruno dreaded the looks he would get from Mrs. Fishar in particular.

He was on the steps to the bottom floor when a buzz in the windows made him stop. A premonition in his spine made him look up, and he saw a weird smudge out the window. What could it be? It reminded him of his unpleasant childhood.

He went to the glass doors and looked out. The aliens looked like nothing he had ever seen before. He was sure the being was staring right back at him. He dropped his keys.

Excellent Editing:

Bruno was the first person to see the aliens arrive. They had spatial transponders, and they vibrated into being on the sidewalks, and in the center of empty roads. Bruno had meant to be at work early the morning of the invasion, but his cat had knocked orange juice down his suit, and when he brought the wet clothes to the shop around the corner from work, there was a line, which Bruno thought was absurd at seven o’clock in the morning.

Bruno had changed into his second-best trousers, and a jacket that was a shade too dark. Most of his clients weren’t going to notice the difference, but this afternoon he had the Fishars, and he was sure they would.

Bruno, keys in hand, was just running down the last steps to the ground floor to unlock the day’s case files when, with a crackle that threatened to shake the windows free of their moorings, a long, tall shadow of murky green appeared in the street outside.

Bruno saw the shadow; he went to the lobby doors, and put his hand against the glass. The vibration grew, and the shadow turned solid. Elongated limbs, lean with muscle and glistening green skin, supported a strange figure. The being was tall and thin, like a rod of coarse stone, and a flat head lay atop a narrow neck. A row of brilliant red eyes, arranged in a wide circle around the being’s head, stared straight at Bruno; he dropped his keys, which made a harsh jingle when they hit the floor.

You’re reading a blog by Victor Poole. My books are here. My cat, Rose, has been staring at the neighbor’s dog with her ears laid sideways lately; she looks like a small, furry window guardian.

Almost There

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“I have heard the most extraordinary thing,” the queen of Old Laffet said.

“You have heard that your husband proposed to marry me,” Claire supplied.

“Why, how did you ever guess?” Lysette asked, clapping her hands. Her mouth was smiling, but her eyes glittered. “I also heard that your response was not so decidedly negative as I would have liked.”

“It was in no way negative,” Claire said. “I accepted him.”

“And in this little agreement,” Lysette asked, “had you reached any conclusion as to what was to be done about me?”

“To me,” Claire said, “you do not really count.”

You’re reading a blog by Victor Poole. My new book is nearly finished. I’m getting the files ready for paperbacks of my previous series.