Archivist of Selay’uu’s Journal: Summer, Day Eleven

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“What the…”

“Seriously, I don’t even know.”

“It wasn’t me.”

The low murmur outside my door was too much for my curiosity. I left my study, to see something I’d never have expected. (Selay’uu has a tendency of showing me the unexpected, but even so…)

Connor, Peter Parker, Winter, Gilan, and Steve were standing in the hallway. Horatio had been thrown over Steve’s shoulder and was apologizing profusely.

“I am so sorry. I didn’t know it was going to… and then… I swear I will never touch a portal again!”

“Especially not when you’re tipsy,” Sam Wilson added, appearing behind everyone covered in mud and walking Bucky, who was wearing a pair of broken sunglasses, toward them.

“How did that happen?” I asked. As one, all the men turned slowly to look at me and answered in a ragged chorus.

“Nothing…”

I looked them over again. Horatio looked a little green, while Connor seemed somewhat dazed, and had lipstick on both his collar, chin, and in his hair. Gilan looked as if he had gotten into a fight with Shelob and lost–there were spider webs in his hair. But from Peter’s guilty look and shuffling feet, I thought I could tell where the spider webs really came from. Winter was looking as silent, aloof and mysterious as usual, but the effect was somewhat marred by the fact that he was too obviously wearing an outfit that was mostly Bucky’s, with one of Steve’s jackets thrown over it.

“What happened to you?” I blurted out. Sam decisively took control.

“I think we can all agree that we should never speak of this again.”

“All of you lost me partway between the leprechaun that insisted he’d known Steven’s parents… and the dragon.” Horatio mumbled, slipping out of Steve’s grip and crumpling into a boneless heap on the floor.

“What did you do?” I gasped.

“And another thing we can agree on,” Winter continued, “is that if you see the Winter Soldier dressed up in a pink tutu you should run like…”

Language,” Steve interrupted tiredly.

I never did find out what had happened to them.

Character Voice (and what exactly IS a Yankee, anyway?)

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Okay, I know I posted recently about something along these lines, but I just couldn’t leave it alone.

Character voice is word choice, not accent. But character voice is also defined by regionalism, and while accents are not easy to write, they can be implied.

I’ve been thinking a bit about how word use can define character voice, as well. Recently, I came across the word “nebby”, which evidently means curious to inhabitants of Pittsburgh (Thank you, Professor!), which I had not heard before.

Also, would Obi-Wan ever use slang? Or would Tony Stark ever say “You lot”? (Yes, there are British Avengers fans out there–I can not take credit for this one–someone online mentioned that they wished that there was such a thing as Reverse Brit-Picking for Avengers fanfiction. If anyone from the British Isles wants to write Avengers fanfic–I VOLUNTEER!!! I may not be from New York, but at least I can help you make them sound American. ;-P)

The other thing that inspired this post was a rambling headache. (Yes, I am sorry.)

I was thinking about how different words mean different things to different people (like, in Great Britain, a “jumper” is the same thing as a “sweater” to us. Also, instead of “cell” they say “mobile.” (Major plot point in a Sherlock episode, here. Which is really crazy because the MacGuffin thingy is the same as Agent Carter‘s.)

And then, I was thinking about my uncle who lives in New York but was not born there. Thus, to an American, he’s not a Yankee. To an American, a Yankee is a born-and-bred New Yorker (I think it’s more the city than the state, but I could be wrong.) Meanwhile, in Hogan’s Heroes the Cockney former thief, forger, and all-around conman Newkirk regularly calls his American counterparts “Yanks”. I could go into the etymology of the word, but that’s really not the point here.

The point is that tone can be regional, and you can learn quite a bit about a character, not only by their word choice, but also how they use those words.

It’s very important that each character just sounds like their role. One example of how this is brilliant: How To Train Your Dragon. From the first moment he opens his mouth, you can tell that Hiccup is the sarcastic social pariah. And the phony Scottish accents of the adults? They create an illusion of time and place, even if it’s not an entirely historically accurate illusion… (Well, most modern-day occupants of the British Isles have at least one Scandinavian ancestor… Which is why Steve Rogers can be Irish when his name doesn’t sound like it. Rogers is probably a corruption of a common surname type–Rogerson–which is sort of normal for historical Scandanavians… just like Ransom in Lewis’ Space Trilogy comes from “Ranulf’s Son”… *gets pulled off-stage by a giant hook*)

In short, whether you’re looking to emulate Faulkner or simply to try your hand at creating the regional illusion, word choice is as important as–if not more important than–accent. Maybe you won’t even need to imply accent if you use word choice correctly…

And your spell check won’t want to strangle you as you put together the final drafts of your characters’ dialogue.

You’re welcome.

Thanks for reading, and God Bless!

Theoretical Science: Nature vs. Nurture?

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Back when Star Wars: The Clone Wars was still running, viewers who watched the supernatural-themed storyline known as “The Mortis Arc” to fans saw this version of Ahsoka:

ahsoka tano mortis

Yet, in Star Wars: Rebels, we see this:

ahsoka tano rebels

I think we can safely pass this off to a character redesign after Disney came in… or that version of Ahsoka on Mortis is still in the future… but seriously!? What gives?

It’s possible that the version of Ahsoka in the future we saw on Mortis was a version that belonged to a future where the Jedi Order was not destroyed and the Rebels version is the result of Anakin turning to the Dark Side.

Basically, Anakin’s turn destroyed the possibility of the future that that Ahsoka belonged to. (That theory is borne out by the appearance of Rebels Ahsoka: the shapes of her face are harsher and sharper, to fit a colder future.)

But if you look at Ahsoka, she really looks very different in between the two versions. Not only is the Rebels version less Shaak Ti, but her costume has changed as well; it now appears to be a close-fitting sheath dress with a chest piece and “kama”, or short kilt made of blast resistant fabric, as well as the central tabard that has remained a part of her look ever since the very beginning:

ahsoka tano season one

(That purple thing? That’s the tabard.)

ahsoka tano season three_2

You can see that they’ve been shifting towards a less-orange, more vital look for her skin, but her coloration seems paler in Rebels, even compared to the “Season Three Look”.

This leads me to think that Togruta (Ahsoka’s species) tend to grow as influenced by their outside surroundings, and that the Ahsoka we saw on Mortis belonged to a kinder future.

If you look closely at her, it’s clear she’s the same character, but her personality and appearance have been changed by the situations around her.

(Irisbloom5 has suggested that the Ahsokas we saw were at different points in their life span, which is hard to verify, since the vision version of Ahsoka has longer montrals (the blue and white part of her head; according to Wookiepedia, the montrals are a sensory organ that has to do with spatial awareness; a bit like echolocation, maybe an ultrasonic sense) but a body form that doesn’t look quite like an adult’s, unlike the Rebels version, which has shorter montrals, but a more adult body form. I’m not certain if this is true, though it is likely–Togruta are supposed to have a roughly 95-year life span, which is greater than the 72-year average for humans, so it’s possible that they age differently as well.)

Sorry this was less of a theoretical science post and more of a ramble on character design changes, but it made me curious. ;-) I’m a writer. My mind works like that. :-P

As always, thanks for reading, and God Bless!

This was completely unplanned…

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I was looking at Pinterest this morning, and I found something…

(TruthWillWin1, thought you might be interested!)

peggy the warrior

It appears that Dan Slott is just trying to be funny, but this struck me as deadly serious. (I have heard that Mr. Slott has a track record of trying to be funny, failing, and also failing to take the good of the story seriously.)

Yes, Steve Rogers would agree. Because that is Steve Rogers. Truly humble, because he knows all his own failings. He knows, deep down inside, that he is not perfect. He doesn’t try to be perfect. He just tries to be a good man, and sometimes, he finds himself lacking.

And, I would argue, that is why he’s the super soldier, and not Peggy.

Peggy Carter is, on a fundamental level, very different from Cap. (My sister and I actually discovered this fact by asking “What if Captain America was Cecelia “Celia” Rogers and what if Celia Rogers ‘survived’ the plane crash and was found and was present during the events of Agent Carter?” We realized that Peggy and the girl version of Cap are very different. Peggy is a woman in an man’s world who is proud of who she is and makes her way in that world without losing her femininity. On the other hand, Celia is not sure of who she is as a woman. She’s a good person, but does not know how to be ladylike, or how to be an adult woman, for that matter. She’s shy, and self-erasing, and wears blouses and skirts that don’t fit very well, and she isn’t really classically “pretty”–the effect the super soldier serum has on a woman’s body isn’t exactly what a lot of people would consider attractive. She doesn’t look like the Black Widow. She has a lot of defined muscle, and a larger rib cage but a smaller bust. Despite their different backstories, a lot of that does transfer across to Steve.)

Steve Rogers doesn’t go picking fights. He might “ask for it”, but he doesn’t start them. He speaks up, but when he’s not speaking up, he’s not noticed a lot. He’s not self-assured. He tends to question his own motives and actions–which is why Erskine picked him, because he is careful about what he’s contributing to. On the other hand, Peggy can be a bit rash at times, and she’s very self-assured, and while she sometimes questions, she doesn’t second-guess herself nearly as much as Steve does (to be just, I don’t think of them either really needs to second-guess themselves often, because they normally get it right the first time.) Steve doesn’t play up to anyone’s expectations, while Peggy acts up to those expectations so that people will underestimate her quite a bit. Steve is always completely honest and open, and while Peggy admires that, it’s not something that she can be in her line of work.

The world needs people like Steve Rogers to be themselves. (It also needs Bucky Barneses and Peggy Carters, filling their capacities, but right now, let’s focus on Steve.)

The whole reason that Erskine chose Steve was because Steve was already a hero in a small way. He was just giving Steve the ability to do it on another scale.

Also, I feel that when we suggest that Peggy could have ended the war so much sooner if she had been a super soldier, we are devaluing Peggy as she is!

She is a strong woman. She’s strong when Steve can’t be. Peggy doesn’t need the super soldier serum to make a change. She takes charge and steps in and doesn’t let them keep her out, and she’s way more successful at it than Steve.

In so many ways, while Steve is the hero the world looks to, Peggy is the hero Steve looks to. Peggy is smarter about her emotions than he is. He gets lost; she puts him back on track.

On the other hand, Peggy is aggressive, certainly much more aggressive than Steve is, and the serum tends to take your emotions and personality and past choices and push that into overdrive, so Peggy the super soldier might not be the same person that we know and love now. And maybe the war would have been over in half the time, but the ending might have been very different–and that might not have been a good thing. (Though, to be honest, if they could have found some way of stopping Hiroshima and Nagasaki from being bombed, I would get behind it–if it were ethical. The ends do NOT justify the means.)

In short, Peggy doesn’t need the serum. In a similar way that Steve Rogers doesn’t need the serum, true, except he isn’t as strong as she is, emotionally or possibly even physically. She’s just better at going far than he is, and that’s why he is the supersoldier and she is not–because he’s humble and will back out when they’re done with the fight, while she will go on to build SHIELD.

The world needs both Steve Rogers and Peggy Carter, in the roles they find themselves filling. The love story is perfect when each person can be truthfully said to be the other’s “better half.”

In closing, I can only say that I’m glad they did it the way they did. (Also, Mr. Slott, please pay more attention to the good of the story you are trying to tell. Maybe the fans would thank you then. And maybe reading a history book or two wouldn’t hurt, either!)

 

Simplifying Villainy

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Related to, and continuing from, this post.

Sometimes, you can’t even show the villain’s true Intent of Evil, because it’s simply too dark and unpleasant to think about. You know what the villain really means, whether it’s genocide or betrayal or something else entirely, but it’s too horrific to simply come out and bluntly say it. What to do?

You show your characters’ reaction to the potential evil to show how Very Bad it really is. Even when it’s unclear who the villain is, you can still hint at their villainy by having some character have a strong negative reaction to them… (No, Connor, your bad feeling about a certain gentleman is totally unjustified. Honest!)

And sometimes, just showing the reactions and not the event that evoked them can be more impactful than any amount of gruesome detail. (People have very active imaginations.)

When all else fails, in a well-scripted and acted movie, watch the eyes. You can generally guess what a character is thinking. It’s sort of the same thing here. By watching the characters’ reactions, you can guess at the true horror of the villain’s misdeeds.

It’s like that scene where the bad guy shoots someone, but we only see him as he makes the shot, not the grisly results.

Thanks for reading, and God Bless!

Archivist of Selay’uu’s Journal: Summer, Day One

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It’s pretty normal for people to run, whooping, through the Selay’uu Mansion. However, normally I’m in my room, writing, when it happens. This time, though, I was leading the charge.

I had just finished my spring semester classes, which means I have no classes for a couple of months until my summer ones start. Which means an excess of energy and a lot of excited screaming.

And, unfortunately, an excess of energy leads to foolish decisions, such as the one to challenge Captain America to a ping pong tournament.

That was a humiliating fifteen minutes.

Anyway, once that supremely humiliating so-called “tournament” was over, I calmed down a little–just enough to invite Rosalie over to work on realizing a few plot elements in one story. I’m good with theory, but actually bringing something to paper takes chemistry sometimes, and she’s much better at that than I am. Of course, we had Bruce Banner as well, but we kicked Tony out, because he wasn’t doing anything but make unhelpful comments.

In the middle of what we were working on, we got called out to a crisis. Harry Potter and friends had invaded Percy Jackson’s world without permission, and as a result it was raining golems on Telos. Never a boring day…

And when we got back, it was chaos.

Tony Stark had already built another Iron Man suit, but the programming was malfunctioning and it was flying in circles around Winter, who was threatening to destroy it, as it had “kidnapped” his apprentice, Will was trying to turn the curtain rod into gold and Halt was making unhelpful comments about alchemy (who put them up to that? If anyone has any information, please tell me. Because starting Will on “alchemy” was Not. Funny. It was probably Tony Stark–I have Gilan and Natasha Romanoff investigating, but no positive proof yet.), and Fred from the Big Hero Six had glued poor Peter Parker to the wall with Rosalie’s and my unfinished polymer. We had to invent a new solvent and abandon what we were originally working on and it took us five hours. In the meanwhile, Steve (God bless you, Steve) tackled the malfunctioning Iron Man suit and freed Elian, Will had figured out that alchemy wasn’t real, and Mordred had to turn Morgana into a potato (there is no magic in potatoes, and she was having an Evil Day and freaking everyone out, including Bucky, who broke a window and nearly killed her–the potato spell worked just in time!)

Six hours after that, the kids were in bed (I don’t know how Melilana and Steve managed that, but thank you all), Morgana was back from being a potato, Bucky had calmed down somewhat (thank you, Rosalie!), and the golems on Telos had all been put to sleep (“swefn” is a very powerful spell, but for some reason Winter had to say it, because I was tongue-tied. And he’s the one who doesn’t use magic!)

Fortunately for Horatio, he got back after all the hubbub was over. (I wonder how he’ll react when he finds out that we planned a combined birthday party for him and Steve. Oh well. That’s not for a few months yet.)

So, as I write this, things are somewhat calmer. (Obi-Wan had to avert some crisis on a far world–maybe he went to Gallifrey.) Bucky is falling asleep on my lap and I’m not willing to disturb him, not after Rosalie’s good work in getting him calmed down (I think Sam Wilson went with Obi-Wan.)

It’s certainly time for bed now… how else am I supposed to get up and do it all over again tomorrow morning!?

Character Reactions Save Space

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Yes, I know that sounds like a slogan, but I couldn’t think of a better title.

Also, they do.

When we don’t have the space for show, don’t tell, due to the fact that books have tight confines and it’s hard to hold the audience’s attention for more than five hundred pages, then we can show by, rather than showing the audience a character’s trait, reveal them using the reactions of the characters around them to their actions.

I realized this while watching Iron Man 3. Early in the movie, we catch the idea that Happy has, post his promotion to Head of Security, been rather over-zealous at his job, irritating both Tony and Pepper at times (Tony, why are you putting your phone in the fridge? That thing can not be cheap by any stretch of the imagination!)

And how do we learn this?

Well, mostly from how Tony and Pepper react to it. We don’t actually see Happy’s over-zealousness in action, but we do see Tony and Pepper’s reaction to it.

Voila.

The way characters react to other characters is a valuable tool to show how the first character normally acts.

This is also done in the first Ranger’s Apprentice book, The Ruins of Gorlan. We don’t know much about Gilan, though we find out more about him as the series progresses (he’s the son of a knight who is also the battlemaster of another fief, etc.) When we first meet him, we learn the most about him by the way Halt treats him–with some (veiled) affection, and humor.

If there’s not time to introduce a second character properly, you can simply have them be already acquainted with another character who’s already a “party member”, and then show what kind of person they are, not just through their actions, but through the way their friend reacts to them.

Not hard at all. ;-)

Thanks for reading, and God Bless!

You Know You Are An Author When…

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…you pause a movie which you love to research if the way they portray a chemical poisoning is accurate. (True story–I just did it.)

I was watching Captain America: The First Avenger and paused it to look up cyanide poisoning and how it kills. The answer: Oxygen deprivation, which literally kills you because, while you may be able to keep breathing, it keeps your cells from performing oxygen intake, or something like that. (Please forgive the grossly inaccurate medical terminology.) It basically causes brain damage and cease of discernible activity in a very short space, via oxygen deprivation, and then “true” death shortly afterward.

Basically, the way they killed off the spy in The First Avenger is inaccurate.

I think they just hammed it up and threw in some instant rigor mortis to make the audience realize what was happening. Medical realism: Under the bus.

(On a side note, I also just spent a few minutes reading about cases of cyanide poisoning. And that is infinitely morbid, but I have an excuse–I’m a science geek fascinated by forensic science and toxicology. I am not likely to kill anyone. Ever. Unless you count killing off the nasties and bad guys in my novels. -_- In which case, I reserve the right to get creative, because I’ve been hating them and by extension myself for most of the book.)

#107 on the You Know You’re An Author When list. (See what I just did there? ;-P)

Thanks for reading, and God Bless!

[EDIT: I was just looking at the toxicity for strychnine and it seems that Hydra may have been mixing it with the cyanide in their false-tooth L-pills, because those cause muscle spasms. Still looks a bit unlikely to me, though.]

The Brooklyn Project: Situational Humor

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Oftentimes, you’ll come across a character who is, to quote Chris Evans, “not a funny guy.” At the same time, they clearly do have a sense of humor. And if you’re in an action story, most of the humor won’t be jokes, of the verbal or practical variety. Nine times out of ten, in an action/adventure flick, your hero won’t be the kind to tell or play jokes. Aside from a wry quip, you won’t hear anything “funny” from them.

What’s an author to do?

Humor is a vital tool, not only in keeping a story from getting too dark and intense, but also as a coping mechanism for the characters. Every story needs humor.

However, these not-so-funny characters often exercise their sense of humor in another way. Patricia C. Wrede, the author of the Phantom Menace young reader novelization, referred to it as “battle humor.”

You were right about one thing, Master. The negotiations were short. ~~Obi-Wan Kenobi, The Phantom Menace

A more commonly used word is “sarcasm.”

And what is sarcasm?

Basically, it’s poking fun at a situation. It’s a coping tool.

If they’re shooting at you they’re bad! ~~Steve Rogers, Captain America: The Winter Soldier

Oftentimes, this sort of snark will take a reader off-guard, but take them off-guard in a good way. Let’s use an example from my work-in-progress “Colorblind”: Connor and Nathaniel are pinned down by the bad guys, in a field. There’s practically no cover, and they will be entirely exposed when the sun comes up. The bad guys are taking pot-shots over their heads in an attempt to get them to jump out early. They are in very deep Trouble, with a capital “T.”

And then, Connor says, “I’m starting to think they just like shooting at dirt.” Nat gives him a rather odd look, to which Connor shrugs and says, “On the other hand, they could be just trying to use up excess ammunition.”

I don’t think it will get a lot of laughs, but that’s Connor for you. His sense of humor is a little off-target.

Nine times out of ten, an action hero won’t crack a joke. He will quip, however. His humor depends on the situation; his humor is really about telling the universe that he doesn’t care what sort of nonsense it drops on his head, he’ll deal with it and own it.

Like a boss.

So, situational humor.

Horatio Hornblower is well-known for this. I can’t think of one particular example at the moment, but a wry aside is something that just happens from time to time.

“Why are they still coming at us?” one grunt shouts in the zombie apocalypse. “I thought they were looking for brains!” (Yeah, this is only the second time I’ve mentioned zombies on this blog. Don’t get used to it.)

Also, if Indiana Jones does differently, please do not notify me. I’d rather not get any spoilers before I’ve seen the movie.

Oh, and late Happy Star Wars day. May the Force be with you–you’re gonna need it.

Thanks for reading, and God Bless!

Ummm… a little help here? Please?

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I just realized that I’m in deep, probably in over my head, in hotter water than I guessed before, probably because they turned the temperature up while I was in it.

I’ve been a shipper ever since I picked up one of my mom’s romance novels. Marcus/Shari. Dave/Kate. I could go on (thank you, Dee Henderson!)

Then I went through a stage where I didn’t like romance at all. I think I was just bored with sexual tension, whatever they call it these days… anyway, I thought everyone was just being stupid. I didn’t have time for that sort of thing. I was in high school.

And now… I’m shipping again. I think it started slow, with Obi-Wan/Siri–Siriwan, as it’s often called. I thought I was a Obitine (Obi-Wan/Satine) shipper, but then I realized, nope, Siriwan to the core. They’re a better contrast and they fit together better. (Though I think the whole arc with Satine back in Season Two was excellently done and very much in character for Obi-Wan, which is sadly a thing–there’s a whole subgenre of Out-Of-Character Syndrome dedicated to Obi-Wan shippings.) And then came Steve and Peggy (how could I not love these two?! His crush on her was just so precious.), and Pepperony (I probably love that ship name way too much…) I also ship Halt/Pauline and Horace/Evanlyn. Though for some reason, I don’t ship Will/Alyss much, but that’s probably because I haven’t finished reading the series yet. (I think the Will/Alyss angle was a bit rushed in the first book, to be honest.)

I also (maybe?) ship Horatio/duty or Horatio/his ship.

(That was a very sad attempt at a joke. I’m sorry. I will refrain from joking again throughout the rest of this post.)

And now, for the first time, I’m trying to write a ship of my own.

What am I getting myself into?!

I know I can’t write romance. I am no good at writing romance. I could not write romance to save my life. Apart from the casual background Pepperony, I always end up writing Siriwan more platonic. (Which works well, because as well as being the adorable lovebirds we know they are, they’re also BFFs 4 life!)

It’ll be fun, I said. Back it up with suspense and action and you’ll be fine, I said. What are you so worried about?! I said.

I. Am. Toast.

I’m so scared I’m going to mess it up. I love these two, I really do, but… I don’t know if I can write them in a relationship. I’ve tried writing background romance before and it never felt right. I can write about two people who are already in love, who love each other very much–that’s easy. But two people falling in love?

That’s outside my experience. And I frankly don’t know where to start. (No, stop thinking about setting me up on dates. And, for that matter, please do not diagnose me, even in the privacy of your minds, as asexual–I think that I’m just waiting for the right partner. In fact, please don’t diagnose me at all. I don’t like being diagnosed. Even if having a legit ADHD diagnosis would make college easier–much easier… Or anything, really. I don’t need it, honestly. I can handle this. Let’s save it for people who actually need it, please.)

I know how my parents show that they love each other. That’s easy. But I’m not sure how to show people falling in love.

I guess that, looking back, it’s all up to Louisa May Alcott: writing romantic love is nearly impossible if you’ve been single all your life, and either totally understated or overstated, depending on who is doing the reading.

I noticed a few things about my romance reading habits, too:

  1. It had to be by one of a specific few authors (mostly Dee Henderson and Irene Hannon.)
  2. I couldn’t sit through a novel that was all romance, either. It had to have suspense or action/adventure in it, too.
  3. Never could stand so-called “sexual tension”, for some reason. If there was physical attraction, it couldn’t be just lust. And I much preferred the people who fell in love with others because of their personalities.

I suppose I just need help. Even if I knew the answer to this riddle, I’d need help.

So this is a shoutout: Can I get a couple of beta readers to help me write the scenes with Alex/Connor in them? Because if you’d read those scenes for me and help me out, I’d be in your debt forever.

Thanks for reading, and God Bless.

P.S. Umm, I probably don’t have to say this, but… CHRISTIAN FICTION FOREVER!!! (Sorry, just felt like shouting it from the rooftops… and yes, this is Christian near-future sci-fi/action/psychological thriller/suspense. It’s not preachy, though. Christian in atmosphere, no reading between the lines required :-) )

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