Category Archives: Uncategorized

Exploring the Willamette Valley: Covered Bridges near McKenzie Bridge

Parvin bridgeSo I’ve had a really busy couple of last weeks… I went to the PNWA writer’s conference two weekends ago, but I’m still letting the experience filter through my brain mentally and so will be writing on it belatedly. Instead, I needed a perfect way to unwind, and so when my father suggested we go on a drive to find some covered bridges just southeast of Eugene, Oregon, I jumped on it.Unity bridge

People who haven’t gone looking for covered bridges mostly don’t understand why it’s so much fun. I know I didn’t before my father first talked me into it. But once I tried it, I was hooked. There’s several fun aspects of it. First, you have to find the bridges. While there’s directions online, those are only so good, and so there’s always a bit of a question as to if you’ll be able to find the bridge, if the bridge is still there even. In that respect, it’s rather like a treasure hunt, usually traveling around beautiful Oregon countryside and farms.

Then, a covered bridge itself is really quite lovely to visit. Usually it’s over a quiet and rather charming river, with lots of plants, flowers, farm houses, and other pastoral scenery. The bridge itself can frame very lovely views of slices of countryside or river, and so it’s rather like going to an interesting park. Also, some of them have interesting histories, which is what my father enjoys. He likes to read up on the bridges, when and how they were built, Oregon history surrounding them, and get several photos of each bridge.

Lowell bridgeEugene is definitely the right area of Oregon for covered bridges. While it took a bit longer to arrive in the area, once we got there all the bridges were close together. The first one we visited, Parvin Bridge, was off on a quiet back road and quite charming. Since it was still in use, we took care to watch for traffic, but there wasn’t any, so we got to fully explore the bridge at our leisure.

The second bridge, Lowell, surprised us by being on a lake more than a river. A dam upriver had changed the flow of the water and so the bridge was more on a dock attached to the main road’s modern bridge.Lowell bridge 2 It is also a much larger covered bridge and historical exhibits are housed inside of it with lots of interesting information. On the downside, it has a pigeon problem, which makes much of the floor of the once lovely bridge covered in bird poop and lots of annoying birds flying around inside it.

However, not only was it still an interesting bridge despite the birds, but it had a very handy map of all covered bridges in the area. Looking at the pictures, my mother and I saw a distinctive red bridge we instantly fell in love with and wanted to see, one that was not on the tour my dad had constructed from research online. Since it was only 20 mi out of the way, we decided to go see it.

Office bridgeOffice Bridge was well worth the detour. It has a covered pedestrian walkway built into the side of the covered bridge that makes it quite unusual. According to the signs, it is also the longest covered bridge in Oregon. The bridge itself can be driven across but leads only to a parking lot and park, with a number of hiking and biking trails leading off from it. There was also a cute cafe and lodge across the street from the bridge that looks like it’d be a great place to stay.

We went looking for Pengra Bridge and found Unity Bridge first, since our directions didn’t quite work out. Unity is currently under construction, replacing the roof, and on a bit busier of a street, but I still got a really nice view from the bridge in between traffic.Pengra bridge

Eventually after several wrong turns and extra exploration, we found Pengra as well, which was on another quiet road and worth the hunt. Overall, I had a fantastic time and would like to see more of the covered bridges another time.

Losing Camp and Tea experiments


2014-Participant-Vertical-BannerI realize I sort of disappeared for the month of April. Signing up for Camp Nanowrimo was probably not the brightest or most doable ideas—but that’s what happened. This year, I’ve been madly trying to get both “Much Ado About Villains” finished and “Dragon Boy edited in time for the writing conferences I’ve signed up for, and my reasoning when poked by a friend to join her at trying Camp Nano again this April was that I needed to finish my draft anyway. I might as well count the word count, right?

I was going to put a realistic goal for the month, but when filling out the novel information sheet, I did need 50k of all the scenes in order still… even if that would be counting revision material (Camp rules are more flexible than the main Nov event, allowing for personalized word count, revision, editing, or screen plays). I probably should have set the more reasonable 30k goal I was originally planning, rather than leaving it at 50k, because I ended up with 28k or rewritten and revised beginning, although I think it’s coming along quite nicely at least.

Camp ate up a lot of mental energy and time, meaning things like this blog got shelved, but not “winning” wasn’t a big deal to me. What mattered more was that I found the missing plot and tension issues that were slowing up the novel. And at least I had a lot of fun sitting in front of my computer with a lot of hot tea. April is an excellent month for drinking tea in Oregon.teapots

Over the last six months, I’ve actually been drinking a huge amount of tea. It’s soothing, it lets me keep the heat bill down (since it warms me up) and it makes for a pleasant time while writing. My husband has always been fond of tea pots, and so I started collecting nice second hand ones as I came across them, which has lead to my being in the habit of using a small teapot regularly for my tea. Most of the teapots are a Japanese style that strains loose leaf tea, although sometimes I’ll use a bag as well. I just put the bag in the teapot instead of a cup and it stays warmer longer in the pot.

teasUp in Beaverton last weekend, my husband and I got a bit daring with a brief stop to Uwajimaya, the largest Asian store in the Portland area, that I know about anyway. They have a wonderful pottery section we enjoy browsing, but we were strong and did not buy yet more teapots. Instead,  the allure of the tea isle roped us in. So many varieties, so many brands, none of which we could read the packaging, or at least not well, but all of which looked fabulous! We went on a 30 dollars spending spree on random Asian teas: two kinds of gen-mai cha (roasted rice), two different green teas, hoji-cha (roasted tea), and an interesting herbal mix with various roasted grains. Not something we ought to do often, but I’ve been having altogether too much fun sampling it all.

Since I shouldn’t drink caffeine (a cup of caffeinated coffee seems to not wear off for 24 hours instead of the supposed 6 that caffeine stays in the body), I usually stick to herbal and decaffeinated teas. However, this can get disappointing to miss some of the more interesting flavors. Certainly, imported Asian teas never come in decaf.

However, I’ve read somewhere that most of the caffeine in tea is released in the first 30 seconds of brewing, so to reduce how much caffeine I get, I will decaf regular teas by brewing for 30 seconds, dumping the water out, and re-brewing. It’s not as low in caffeine as a professionally decaffeinated tea, but at least takes the edge off so I don’t get jittery, and yet can enjoy all the new flavors.



Tai Chi and Chai Tea

taichiOne thing I wanted to do this year was exercise more. My hiking has been a bit erratic. When Minto floods (which is quite often) I tend to not walk instead of going elsewhere. So, I decided I would take some sort of class that would also supplement my walking. I’ve wanted to take Tai Chi out in Hood River and had started looking into places when the whole move came, so we tried the same thing here.

It seems Tai Chi schools are not like other businesses. They don’t have web pages, they don’t answer their phones when you call them, and they don’t even post their hours online on google or yelp or whatever you want to try to look it up on. Basically, you have be persistent and show up random times in hopes someone is there. Not really easy for someone like me with mild social anxiety when I’m not hiding behind my computer screen. But as one place’s phone didn’t work at all and the other place had a perpetual answering machine with a fake promise to call me back, we eventually took a deep breath and just walked into the closest of the two schools.taichi 2

It turns out we arrived in the middle of the teacher class. They were all doing a form in unison, so we sat on the bench and waited, watching. Intimidating to say the least. It took me a while to pick out the teacher everyone was so practiced at it, and even then it felt a bit like a guess, if a correct one. It turns out the school doesn’t actively look for students, only people who hear from other people (or walk in like we did) so I’m not going to list it here, but everyone there was very friendly in person, and we’ve been going for two months now. I love it. It’s relaxing mentally but somehow gets me out of breath even slow… I go into class tired, come out energized, and yet my legs are completely worn out. I’ve never had exercise like that before… it’s always just been exhausting and nothing else.

It reminds me, overall, of chai tea. I love sitting in an Indian restaurant with a cup of authentic chai tea (not the fake stuff you get a coffee shop). There is nothing more relaxing, really… except now tai chi. So try saying the title three times fast, and well, it’s about as confusing but fun as trying to follow my teacher during class. For all the fun I’m having, I’m truly terrible.  Here’s a video of what I don’t look like… an amazing master doing the form I’m learning:

The Dreaded New Year

I’m excited for 2014 and brand new goals and resolutions, but I have so much I want to accomplish, there is a bit of dread involved as well. Still, why not be ambitious and shoot large, right?  Reading about goal-making, I’ve read over and over again to be specific in my goals and to give them a deadline/date, so I’ve decided to stagger my resolutions with dates throughout the year, roughly in the order of when they should be accomplished by. Here’s hoping I can make all of  these come true on time!

Submit to Amazon’s contest (if they have it) or find a different one if they don’t:

I’ve submitted to the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award for the past 3 years and I’m hoping to take another shot at it this year. I’ve enjoyed the excitement, the reviews from top reviewers, and one year a scathing Publishers Weekly review that taught me to stand up to the critics. It’s got a great creative energy and I’m hoping they’ll hold the contest again. Usually the deadline is in January, but there’s still no word, so I’ll wait and see.

My thought is contests force me to make deadlines, to experiment with things I normally wouldn’t, and potentially get me exposure and reviews as an author, so I’d like to enter at least one contest this year. If for some reason the ABNA doesn’t happen (which would be sad, it’s a great contest) I’m going to try to find another one to try.

Calico Avengers (blog)Publish Captain Pit Bull and the Calico Avengers  on Feb 14th:

What goes better with Valentine’s Day than dog pirates and avenging former cat slaves? Honestly! No mushy-mush stuff for me. I want swashbuckling excitement and lovable animal characters. I’m hoping to finish the art and get the book formatted in time for furry fans everywhere to enjoy it.

I originally planned to publish this short chapter book last year, but time restrictions and other projects, as well as that blank page, conspired to make me unable to finish the art in time. But I really want to get it out soon this year, so full speed ahead!

Attends a couple of local writer’s conferences this spring/summer and pitch to agents and editors in person:

While I love indie-publishing I’d like to both improve my public speaking skills and be in the running for some literary awards for Children’s Literature someday. I want to make a significant contribution to the field with my novels, to really inspire children and adults and tackle important issues while telling awesome stories. Winning an award in my mind would tell me that I’m well on the way to doing just that. So, to accomplish that sort of goal, I’ll need a major publisher for those works.

My Dark Lord Academy series was rejected originally because it’s satire and for a niche market rather than one that agents felt could be wide-spread. I can still reach that niche market with indie publishing, but I’d still like to prove my literary chops with a serious work, and so learning to pitch in public will help me learn that. That means madly working on a novel to pitch, joining some great local agencies, like the local SCBWI chapter, and going to conferences! I’m scared and excited. The novel I’ve picked for this is a high fantasy YA novel: Dragon Boy.

ch3_goblingatekeepers_webPublish Much Ado About Villains on May 15th:

All those who have been pining away for a sequel, take heart! I’m working on it madly. A May deadline might be too tight for me, but I’m really hoping I will make this the release date for the dreaded sequel. I’m deep in revisions now, with the book up in my critique group (Critique Circle) and I’m hoping to iron out all the problems I’m having with especially the beginning, and get it off to an editor in March.

Launch a Dark Lord Academy website by Oct. 31st:

I’d really like my series to have a snazzy website where fans can get series info, character sketches, and other fun things. I’m not sure what all it should have, and I have no experience whatsoever in designing a webpage (my friend Wulfie from my critique group did this one) but I think I’m up to the challenge. It’ll be learning something completely new and I at least have relatives in web-design who can help guide me in the right direction with this. As my first book was originally a Halloween release, it seems a great idea to shoot for the website by next Halloween, leaving me free for Nanowrimo. I have no idea what I’ll write next Nano, but hey, I can decide that when I get there.  I think I’ve put enough on my plate for now.

I want to wish everyone else success in your own New Years goals, and feel free to link me in a comment to your own post if you’re doing one! We can cheer each other on.



The Blank Page

Calico PatrickI recall sometime in grade school, the local children’s author Eloise McGraw came to our school for a reading. To encourage reading, the librarian put all the library’s full collection of her books on a month-long display. Interested by the presentation, I tried not her award winning Egypt book, but a different one that caught my eye “Master Cornhill.” It was a rather involved English historical fiction novel about an orphan finding his place in society in the framework of one of the great London fires. An unlikely read for a girl of ten or eleven, but I enjoyed in none-the-less.

An unlikely image from late in the book has stayed with me my whole life. The boy finds an unlikely friend and master in a Dutch mapmaker, who at one point the book hands the MC a paintbrush and pot of blue pain and points to the map he’s about to start and suggests the MC makes the first stroke. Faced with the beautiful blank page, the MC is suddenly terrified. What if his stroke is wrong? What if he ruins the either piece of precious (and expensive paper)? And yet, there is the master, watching, waiting, and he also dares not disobey and so conquers his fear and makes lone long blue stroke across the page.

Good, the master tells him, I did not know until this moment if you had in you what it takes to become an artist. It takes making that first stroke. And if I had ruined the page, asks the boy. Then you would have ruined it, but that’s a risk that has to be taken, because if the page remains blank, you will never be artist… so something like that.

I don’t own the book, shockingly. I have only my memory, the quiet English room on the bridge of London, the white-haired Dutch master, the blond haired young boy, the white of the paper, and that one lone blue stroke. As if I was standing there myself. I suppose considering the vividness of the image I don’t really need McGraw’s book after all, do I?

It’s easy to forget now that I’m a published author that I started out as a visual artist as a child. I’ve long overcome the fear of the word processor page, dingier than a piece of art paper as my laptop screen is smudged and dusty, only hastily wiped off as I focus on churning out the words. It’s easy to forget that just because I have conquered this page does not mean that piece of paper waiting for me will easy to face.

For the past three months I’ve officially been planning to illustrate one of my own books. But the blank page has been winning. I haven’t drawn in I don’t know how long and somewhere in those years, the terror has returned. And so, when I sit down to write and think of the illustration project yet again, I take a deep breath and call to mind that English room, the London bridge, the white-haired map maker.

“Here,” he says, offering me a pencil, freshly sharpened. “You make the first line.”

The infinite white page spreads out and my small hands shake, the world spins, but then rights itself as I reach out and draw a long confident line across the page. This time I will not forget—I am an artist.

Moving–online this time

Bear with me. I had to change web providers, and so I’m still getting the site back in order.  Things should be looking more normal soon.  Thanks for your patience!

A few updates!

First, my theme is back! Yay! Ferros (the dragon) is something I’m very fond of. Thank you Wulfie for all your help! I still have to fix the side widgets, but I’ll be doing that hopefully by Monday so my blog will be up and running properly come my next post.

Second, due to a lot of spam, I’m temporarily only allowing logged in people to comment. Once I kill the spam I might tinker with the security statements.

Third, I seem to have lost my last post. That’s alright. I’ll write something new on Monday. If I can find it on my hard drive, I might repost it in retrospect.

This is, at least, so far easier than moving a whole house.



Batik, Camp Win, and African Violets

I’ve been so busy moving, I haven’t blogged about much else in a while, so here’s a quick news update on other things happening to me:

Batik and Prayer Flags

I had a great time at the Summer Conference last week.  In between Dr. Fagerberg’s great lecture on the liturgy and Fr. Jeremy’s stories about the 2012 synod (which he pronounces sin-id) I took an art class to give my brain a break–batik fabric dying.

batik 003Batik, for anyone not familiar with it, is a process of dripping wax on cloth, then dying it in different colors.  It’s sort of a cross between Ukrainian Easter Eggs and Tie-dye.   I did it last year at the conference, a Holy Spirit dove that worked out pretty well, and Ina (the teacher of the course) and I talked about how all the designs hanging up looked like prayer flags.  This led to a discussion about actually making prayer flags with batik, something I had planned ahead of time to do this year.

batik prayer flagsTraditional prayer flags feature five animals, the windhorse, the dragon, the snowlion, the tiger, and the garuda (a bird-like creature).  The windhorse is usually put in the center of each flag, a symbol of the wind that blows through the flags and carries the prayers out across the earth. The four other animals (the Four Dignities) each represent a different element and aspect of the earth.  For my Christian prayer flag, I picked the Holy Spirit, and the Four Evangelists, traditionally represented by the four beast from Ezekiel’s apocalyptic vision: the winged man (Matthew), the winged lion (Mark), the winged ox (Luke), and the eagle (John).

To simplify, I made one flag for each animal and went with the colors and dyes available instead of trying the traditional colors.  Someday I may try something that echoes a traditional prayer flag more directly–with prayers and all five animals on each color, perhaps with a wood-block print, but I’m relatively pleased with the batik results anyway.

Camp Nano Success

Camp-NaNoWriMo-2013Just prior to leaving I was writing madly, since my Hood River writing group had talked me into Camp Nanowrimo.  I successfully finished the day before the conference.  I have a working draft of “Home Schooled-Villainy” a short story that takes place between books one and two of “Dark Lord Academy” and went over the first four chapters of book two, restructuring it.  I hope to get a working draft of the novel by the end of this month.  I know people are waiting on me.  I feel pretty positive about the content I got during the month though. It’s a strong start even if I need a lot of revisions.

My New Hobby

full blooming violetWhen I was little my great grandmother had a row of African Violets in several colors on her windowsill.  She was always very particular to put the awning down (I love that word–awning) to protect them from direct sunlight.  Mostly I think about it because A few years ago, I noticed my mother had a fair amount of success getting her one African Violet to bloom.  After teasing her about it being an old person’s pastime, she explained she’d discovered African Violet food and that they were relatively easy to care violets

After that, I just had to try one on my own.  Not only did the one flower I bought bloom several times, but I successfully grew a new plant from one of the leaves (although it hasn’t flowered yet) and the original one split into three.  So now I have four pink violets, and when they bloom, I might give a couple of them away.  But it started me wanting more colors!

Full sized plants in bloom range about $4-6 locally, with Fred Myers plants being the healthiest and largest at the cheapest price.  However, some stores discount plants when they finish blooming to 50% off, so now I’ve acquired some discounts, with Lowe’s being the best deal, followed by Wal-mart.  I’m not sure what colors some of them will be, but I’m looking forward finding out.

Don’t worry though. I haven’t forgotten Sylvania.  The move has just postponed getting any of it out again.  I will manage an update hopefully by the fall on them.mystery violets

Living Air Purifiers

New plantsThere’s no nice way to say it… the new apartment stinks. At first I thought it was the carpet smelled like pet… then I wondered if a previous owner smoked, but my husband who smells a lot clearer than I do found the main source: the wood around the sliding glass door reeks of some weird chemical scent. Perhaps they used something as a sealant or an extermination spray… whatever it is, it’s stinky.

That naturally has my husband look at indoor air filters, while my reaction was to always open the sliding door and run a fan every moment I’m home. However, in his research, my husband discovered a delightful fact: NASA discovered some houseplants naturally purify the air.

Now if that isn’t a wonderful excuse to go out and buy a bunch of houseplants, I don’t know what is!plants 2

I love the idea of houseplants, and over the years I’ve kept a couple of them alive, but mostly small things. I’d managed to keep a Christmas Cactus, a philodendron (which split into two), and an African Violet alive most recently in Hood River. However, with the husbandly backing and a buy one get the second one half off deal at Fred Myers, we went on an indoor plant spree.

Looking over this list on wikipedia and this nice gallery of photos, we wrote down the ones that take the least light (since the apartment is pretty dim), and headed out, returning with eight lovely plants. If they live, I’m all for doubling it, really. The greener the better and it can’t hurt the air in here.

Although, note, we currently are petless and childless and a lot of these plants, including my fabulous Peace Lily can be poisonous. We picked the ones noted for doing the best job on the air, but wikipedia also lists whether they’re poisonous or not.

Now, next on my list, the fact all the cats in the neighborhood think the spot right next to our door is a litter box. Sigh. That’s not helping our air quality either. I’m thinking some plants in large buckets/planters with rocks around the base of it all, which will hopefully discourage everyone from pooping there.

Ah, apartment living!  Just what everyone aspires to, isn’t it?

Faizah’s Destiny Blog Tour: Master Wafai

This week I’m thrilled to participate in a blog tour for my fellow author, Marva Dasef. I love “Faizah’s Destiny” a fantasy novel set in a middle eastern style world.

The Village Magician

*** Leave a comment for a chance to win a free ecopy of “Faizah’s Destiny.” ***

MasterWafaiThe four teen adventurers in “Faizah’s Destiny” are all students of the village magician, who also serves as teacher for the children who have some time to expend on schooling. Master Wafai is an all-round teacher, covering the academic topics such as mathematics and writing. As a magician with minor skills, he also loves to impart his knowledge of magical beasts that roam the earth.

Master Wafai wants more than anything to meet the elusive, all-knowing Simurgh. He feels it’s very important for his students to learn about magic, even though there is very little to be found around their tiny village. Of the Simurgh, he says:

“The Simurgh is a tutelary creature.” Wafai looked meaningfully at Bahaar’s tablet. The boy quickly applied chalk to good use. Wafai continued. “It is so old, according to legend, it has seen the world destroyed three times over.” Wafai folded his long fingers around the chalk, holding his hands against his chest. “Many believe it has learned so much that it possesses the knowledge of all the ages―a great teacher and a guardian. The Simurgh simply are. In the past for all of eternity and in the future for all of eternity.”

One day, Master Wafai isn’t at his little school. His four pupils are puzzled and concerned. Why is their teacher gone without leaving word? A possible answer is found on a page of the Magicalis Bestialis. The book was left open to the text describing the Simurgh.

Faizah, a farmer’s daughter and Wafai’s favorite pupil, knows how much the Master loves the Simurgh, she immediately believes the open page is a sign that she and the boys who are also students must seach for the home of the Simurgh.

The boys scoff at the silly idea, but agree to searching the nearby mountains for signs of Wafai’s whereabouts. They only decide to go on the search when they find the adults in the village are content to send word to the Sultan and have troops sent to search for the missing teacher.


LargeSimurghMaster Wafai sat at the small table that served him for both dining and desk. One of his prized books, the Magicalis Bestialis lay on the table before him, open to the section on the Simurgh. If only they were real. Wafai sighed. His advancing years never dimmed the hope that someday he would know for certain such magical beasts truly existed.

The stories he had heard of the flying, fire-breathing horse stabled in the Sultan’s palace, helped to keep that hope alive. Still, he longed to meet such a creature, to see it with his own eyes.

He sighed again and stood. He moved into the bare kitchen and carried a bowl of fruit back to the table. In this tiny village, there was not much chance of seeing anything magical. Wafai had long ago accepted the fact he would never be a great or powerful mage. A competent magician in an average sort of way, he could cure most common ailments, cast a spell to clear the air after a sandstorm, find lost livestock, and sometimes water. He could even generate a few small curses, though he seldom chose to do so.

Peeling an orange, he stared, unseeing, at his whitewashed walls, smudged with ochre chalk. His students provided the greatest joy in his life. A mediocre magician though he might be, Wafai was a born teacher. His pupils made jokes about him ‘putting on his teaching voice,’ but when he did, they listened. Although Wafai had always longed to meet a magical creature or two, what he really wanted was for one or more of his students to have the opportunities he had missed.

He thought about his three students and wondered about the new boy. Would any of them become adept? Would any of them ever meet a flying horse, a demon, or a Djinn? Most of the village children came to his school only until they were eight or nine, and then family duties called them away.

Harib, the son of a rich merchant, was the only one free to do as he pleased. He attended school to be with his friends. Left mostly to his own devices when his mother died, Harib had come to the school out of curiosity and boredom. He met Faizah and Bahaar there, and the three of them soon formed a close friendship. School was easy for Faizah and Harib, however Bahaar struggled a bit. They had all mastered the basics of reading and arithmetic and were now engrossed in learning what they could of the magical arts.

Wafai looked down at the Magicalis Bestialis and picked up an orange pip he had dropped. He closed the book and put it aside.

* * *

Faizah's Destiny 333x500The gods are at war and only a farmer’s daughter can save the world from Armageddon.

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The village magician has gone missing. His four pupils think he has left a clue to his whereabouts in the Magicalis Bestialis–the book of magical creatures. They must seek the help of the elusive Simurgh, the mythical birds who know all the secrets of the universe.

However, this is not an easy camping trip into the mountains. Spirits, gods, and demons confront the four friends, who are not aware they’re being set up by otherworldly forces for a much larger task.

A farmer’s daughter, Faizah is chosen to lead the humans in the battle. She must persuade a slave, an orphan, and a rich merchant’s son to join in the battle on the side of good. Although divided by Dev, the evil god of war, the teens must band together to find the Simurgh, rescue their teacher, and stave off Armageddon.


Marva Dasef lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband and two ungrateful cats. Retired from thirty-five years in the software industry, she has now turned her energies to writing fiction and finds it a much more satisfying occupation. Marva has published more than forty stories in a number of on-line and print magazines, with several included in Best of anthologies. She has several published books, including six since 2011 with MuseItUp Publishing.

Twitter Handle: @Gurina
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