Posts Tagged 'lesbian speculative fiction'

BSB Author Interview with Alexa Black

alexa-black

What made you decide to become a fiction writer?

 

I’ve always told stories and always loved words. I’m told I learned to read very early in my life, and I’m pretty sure I started writing soon after that. I’ve always loved imagining other worlds and how the people in them live. So I’ve always been drawn to science fiction, fantasy, or stories with magical elements. If it’s a world different from our own, I’m talking about the people who live there.

 

Steel and PromiseI’d always wanted to write novels but struggled to do it. My mind would wander off to another world before it bothered to finish a story. But with Steel and Promise, I just kept wanting—needing, maybe—to tell the stories of these two characters. Before I knew it, that became an overarching plot. And I went like this: “This is a novel. I can do this. I am doing this.”

 

What type of stories do you write?  And why?

 

Almost everything I write is speculative fiction (science fiction, fantasy, or some blend of the two). I love stories that take me to new places, that engage me to imagine what life would be like if the things we take for granted about daily life don’t quite work the way we expect them to.

 

A lot of what I write has a dark tone. There’s a lot of intense stuff in Steel and Promise. That’s always been something I’ve wanted to play around with. We often love stories of monsters: vampires, werewolves, and the like. Love and lust that’s red in tooth and claw.

 

If you look at my character, Teran Nivrai, she has claws, and she likes to use them. She’s a little twist on a vampire story. How can I take a legendary creature, like a vampire, and bring her into a science-fiction story? What’s she like there? How’s she the same, and how’s she different?

 

What do your family/friends think about your writing?

 

My family and friends are proud that I write. My family sometimes wonders why I write the things I do, but everyone has been hugely supportive.

 

Where do you get your ideas?

 

Honestly, I often get ideas from things I’ve read. I love to reread my favorite books and stories and find some obscure character or plot point and ask: Is there a story here? What might a very different character make of a plot twist like this? What might a character like this one do and say if I plopped her into a very different setting or situation? Very often when I ponder things like that, a whole universe opens up in my head, one that ends up very different from the one that inspired me originally.

 

How do you write; do you plan everything out or just write?

 

I start off just writing, definitely. Steel and Promise began as a handful of short stories about a courtesan attending a mysterious woman with claws. Before I knew it, the characters grew a history, and a plot connected them. They went from just seeing one another out of mutual attraction to having a whole political and personal connection.

 

What makes Steel and Promise special to you?

 

It’s the first novel I’ve ever finished writing! I’d say that makes it special.

 

I dreamed up Teran many years ago. I always had a strong sense of a character who retreated into herself because of a swirl of rumors about her cruelty and coldness. I felt a deep need to explore that situation: what happens when you really are a little iffy, a little sinister, but aren’t quite the monster everyone makes you out to be?

 

Cailyn was a little more difficult. I knew I needed a partner for Teran who was patient, kind, deeply connected to others–everything Lady Nivrai was not. I also knew I needed to tell the story in her voice, to show why her compassion extended to Ms. Vampire Recluse.

 

But I found that it was very healing to write. All the dark things I wanted to explore with Teran made it into the story, and all the kindness I wanted to show to people who’ve been cast out or rejected by others made it in, too. I was in a bad place when I started writing the stories that became Steel and Promise, and writing it soothed a few of those hurts.

 

How much of yourself and the people you know are in your characters?

 

I think there’s a lot of me in some of my characters. I’m not sure about other people I know. I think it goes back to the alternate-world thing. I know what it might be like to drop someone like me into a different world. Or at least I can guess, because I live in my own head. But I don’t know as much about how that would work for someone else.

 

I do notice that many of my characters end up with histories of trauma. That’s from my own life too, I think. I’ve had some rough experiences, and I know firsthand how they change you and the way you look at things. I don’t enjoy writing about horrible things happening to my characters, but I do enjoy writing about how they protect and support each other.

 

Which gay/lesbian authors inspired you the most?  Do you have a favorite of this author(s)?

 

Clive Barker, definitely! Not just because he writes otherworldly stuff, but because he has a gift for making dark stuff beautiful. He’ll be talking about something absolutely disturbing or violent or bizarre, and yet he’ll write about it using this rich, lavish prose that makes it sound attractive. Enthralling even.

 

That’s always fascinated me and inspired me in various ways. My character Teran is almost a vampire, pricking and cutting with her claws. That’s a little dark, a little sinister. What are sex and love like from the point of view of someone deemed a monster and for the woman who falls for her? For me, those kinds of questions make a story. They provoke us to ask what desire and love are, and how they look to people who don’t quite look like us.

 

For a recommendation, I’d have to say Cabal. It’s about an undead monster with mental illness. (He’s straight, but his romance is awesome.) The story focuses on a city of monsters—their culture, their identity, their art. Not only does that remind me of Teran, but I think it also speaks to many LGBT people’s experiences and support networks as well.

 

Do you have any suggestions for new writers?

 

Write! Don’t let anyone tell you that the story you want to tell isn’t the story you should tell. I never imagined that Steel and Promise would be published. I worried it was too niche, too weird, too intense. But all of a sudden my book had a future, and an audience, and a place to live.

 

When you’re not writing what do you do for fun?

 

Gaming! I play a lot of Magic: the Gathering with family and friends. Once again, it’s fantasy. But it’s also a tool to jog the mind. You can’t play well unless you think, and think a lot.

 

Meet Alexa Black

By Alexa Black

Steel and PromiseHi, I’m Alexa Black. Steel and Promise is my first novel, which began as a series of short stories that just never ended and eventually acquired a plot. I kept writing them as much out of surprise that I had more to say as anything else, and I’m very excited to offer you the characters, world, and relationships that grew out of that experiment.

 

I started writing the stories that became Steel and Promise because I’d just come out of my first relationship with a woman and discovered a great deal about myself. I’d always known that I like both men and women, but there’s a lot of stereotypes in the world that say if you haven’t been with women you don’t know for sure. Well, that relationship made me sure!

 

That relationship wasn’t great, and ended badly, but it taught me a lot about what I wanted and needed from relationships with both women and men. The bad place I was in was a blessing in disguise. I started writing about whatever came into my head, not worrying about whether I was writing something over the top or writing about something silly. That vow to myself to write what I wanted made it possible for me to finish the story.

 

I consciously wanted to mix an erotic story with a more conventional tale with a plot. There’s plenty of that around now if you look, but at the time I started the manuscript many years ago, it seemed like you had to pick whether you wanted something erotic or something more standard. I’m fine with heavy erotica, and I’m fine with stories that have no erotic content at all. I’ve always written both. But for this book, I consciously wanted something that someone who wanted either or both could pick up and enjoy.

 

I’ve also always liked characters that make the reader question things. The character of Teran Nivrai, a reclusive noblewoman with retractable claw implants instead of fingernails, sprang into my head years ago. The rumors about her sexuality and personality came right along with the initial idea. I think a lot of us in the LGBT community can relate to being questioned, or to questioning ourselves. To hearing rumors—or being the subject of them—and having to seek the truth inside us and find ways to reveal it to the world.

 

The character of Cailyn Derys, the courtesan who serves her and draws her out of her seclusion, took a while longer to create. But in the end, I wanted a character who answered rumors and assumptions not just with an open mind, but with kindness. I think a lot of “darker” stories can miss the power of kindness if the writer isn’t careful—and kindness is one of the most powerful forces in any of our lives.

 

Finally, as a bisexual woman, I wanted to create a story that focused on women loving women, but also challenged the stereotype that bisexual women are less serious about women than men. Not only did I learn that in my own life prior to writing Steel and Promise, but I wanted to show other women that they aren’t alone. And in doing so, I hope I’ve created a story that both lesbian and bisexual women (and everyone else!) can enjoy.

Let’s Get Stuck Together

By Barbara Ann Wright

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As I get older, I’ve discovered that ruts are more frequent than they used to be. Don’t get me wrong, I loved a good routine when I was a kid. I adored schedules. I like to plan ahead, and I shudder a bit when plans change at the last minute, but as I’ve gotten older and acquired some long-term illnesses, the ruts have a tendency to pile up.

Medication tapering off? Let’s wait a little while to change it, give the old one a chance to work again. (Like that makes sense!) Want to go out for a special dinner? Maybe next week. Tonight I have laundry to do. Routines are comfortable, even if that comfort turns into boring. It’s easy and safe.

Lately, though, I’ve been trying to break out of my ruts, to try new paths. After all, there will always be more work to do. My fresh perspective prompted me to write Coils. Well, that and my love of all things mythology. (My favorite classes in college.) Cressida is a mortal girl who has little in her life but study. Her aunt June is a world traveler, an adventurer, and her disappearance shakes Cressida out of her routine and leads her to the mystical Underworld. In the Underworld, Medusa has also been stuck in a cycle, a millennia long slog of revenge and hatred. Together, they can make each other’s dreams come true, just probably not in the way they think.Coils 300 DPI

I’ve long wanted to tackle the Medusa myth. She and her two sisters, the infamous Gorgons, were demigoddesses long before the story that had Medusa cursed by Athena. They were fearsome, snake-haired, winged women, and their faces still adorn some ruins as protective symbols, a threat for anyone who entered with ill intent. Then, when later religions took over—like those that favored the Olympians—Medusa was demoted to a monster, a prize for the hero Perseus to slay. I wanted to take her back to that earlier form, still slain by Perseus, but a powerful figure in her own right.

Cressida is my everywoman. We’ve all been her, so stuck in our ruts that we don’t see how unhappy they’re making us. And what better way to shake her up than a sexy, snake-haired demigoddess? I think she would give all of us a wake-up call.

Even though my illnesses will be with me the rest of my life, I’m grateful I’ll always have my books to help me out of my ruts. They take me new places, from fantasy cities to the depths of space to the magic and mystery of the Greek Underworld. And I’m always happy to have company. Anytime you need a lift out of your routine, we’ll go together. You never know what monsters and magic await you. There could be a goddess in your future. Or something you least expect.

 

Th Pyramid Waltz 300 DPI 1Barbara Ann Wright writes fantasy and science fiction novels and short stories when not ranting on her blog. The Pyramid Waltz was one of Tor.com’s Reviewer’s Choice books of 2012, was a Foreword Review BOTYA Finalist, a Goldie finalist, and won the 2013 Rainbow Award for Best Lesbian Fantasy. It also made Book Riot’s 100 Must-Read Sci-Fi Fantasy Novels By Female Authors. A Kingdom Lost was a Goldie finalist and won the 2014 Rainbow Award for Best Lesbian Fantasy Romance.A Kingdom Lost 300 DPI

 

Very Sharp Teeth

BY BARBARA ANN WRIGHT

BarbaraAnnWright

Paladins of the Storm Lord 300 DPIA few years ago, as I walked through an old, overgrown lot, I spotted a fragment of sign that read, “Very sharp teeth.” The rest had long been lost to history, but the words stayed with me. After tumbling around in my head for a few weeks, the words became the drushka, one of the alien races in Paladins of the Storm Lord. Lithe, many-jointed, poisonous: I knew what I wanted them to be, the perfect centerpiece for a novel. I worked in some humans, some gnarly mind powers, some romance, and a bit of mystery. Voila! I had a story I was proud of.

As I was still learning, the novel ended up going through several rewrites and character changes. In college, I wrote a short story based on the Paladins universe, and it went on to win second place in a worldwide science fiction contest. I was on top of the world. I had it made.

Taking what I learned from the contest critique, I tweaked the book some more, sharpened those teeth even further, and tried to sell it to agents and editors. I got a few nibbles, but either the markets didn’t think they could sell a novel with so much LGBT content, or I wasn’t nearly as good as I thought I was. Hell, maybe it was both. Either way, after much soul searching, I shelved it. I still loved it, but if no one would buy it, I knew I should move on to other things. I tinkered with a few other projects before I finally wrote and sold The Pyramid Waltz.

Then after five books with Bold Strokes, Paladins began to call to me again. I thought, I’ve learned. I’ve grown. I’m going to give those teeth another polish. I still loved the story, loved the universe, and now I’d learned so much from working with a professional editor and hearing what audiences liked. I made it better, and BSB said yes.

This book has been years in the making, but that just means the diamond is extra polished, right? At its heart, it’s still the same story about a young woman caught between duty and faith, between the lithe alien she’s falling in love with and a megalomaniacal man who thinks himself a god. It’s a book about fighting back against what’s expected.

What I learned from it is to never give up. If you love something, you’ve got to keep fighting for it. Whether it’s your first novel or your twenty-first, you can’t stop striving, can’t stop improving. It’s your work, your words, and you have to stand up for them. Show them you won’t be stopped.Th Pyramid Waltz 300 DPI 1

Show them your teeth.

 

Bio:

Barbara Ann Wright’s romantic fantasy series, The Pyradisté Adventures https://www.boldstrokesbooks.com/books/the-pyramid-waltz-by-barbara-ann-wright-1003-b, has won two Rainbow Awards and appeared on Tor.com’s recommended reading list. Her May release, Paladins of the Storm Lord, https://www.boldstrokesbooks.com/books/paladins-of-the-storm-lord-by-barbara-ann-wright-1775-b is the first installment in a new science fantasy series, and her comedic fantasy, Coils, https://www.boldstrokesbooks.com/books/coils-by-barbara-ann-wright-1864-b comes out in September. She’d love to hear from you at her blog. https://barbaraannwright.wordpress.com/

A BOLD STROKES BOOKS AUTHOR INTERVIEW WITH RACHEL BAILEY

BY CONNIE WARD

BSB-RachelEBaileyLg

What made you decide to become a fiction writer?

 

Well, I’ve always wanted to tell stories. Weird stories, fantastic stories, stories that posited an answer to the question “What if. . .?”

 

From the time I was little, really little, like toddler age, I used to draw and paint and color. And I eventually went to an arts college to pursue my dream of being an artist. But I didn’t realize until well after I graduated from that arts college that my talent for art wasn’t necessarily just that. It was a need to tell a story. Every person I drew from my imagination had a backstory, an adventure they’d gone on or were about to go on, and even a future. And I rarely drew the same people twice.

 

Anyway, I’d thought my calling in life was to be an artist, an illustrator, and eventually a graphic designer. But my brush with graphic design in college led me to advertising, in the pursuit of which I discovered I was a writer. It was driven home to me that my real talent was in saying things convincingly. All those years in art school to discover I was a writer. . .what irony! I mean, I had begun writing original fiction when I was fourteen, to tell the stories my drawings and paintings couldn’t, but it took almost another ten years and three different majors to discover my true calling.

 

After I earned my BFA in advertising, I couldn’t get a job. I slowly gave up the fading dream of being a copywriter, but around this time a friend of mine introduced me to fan fiction and told me about slash, another thing I’d never heard about.

 

BSB-DyreByMoonsLightI started writing slash fan fiction and still do, to this day, alongside original fiction. Through writing fan fiction, my writing has improved tremendously. Writing it taught me about characterization, pacing, prose, plot, and detail. Penning those first novels at fourteen and fifteen, and then novel-length fan fiction pieces in my twenties, prepared me for writing Dyre: By Moon’s Light and my other novels.

 

I wanted to be a fiction writer to tell the stories that pictures—with their thousand-word worth—simply could not. Every picture is worth a million possibilities, and when I see people, or get a picture in my mind, I choose one to explore, then do so. Rather it chooses me and speaks through me. I mostly sit at my computer and try to stay out of the story’s way.

 

 

What type of stories do you write?  And why?

 

When I have my druthers, I tend to write LGBTQIA stories featuring people of color, often with a magical-realism bent. The fantastic has always, well, fascinated me, especially when paired with the life and times of someone who was basically an ordinary person—in the case of Ruby Knudsen, from Dyre: By Moon’s Light, an HR person for a small college. I like taking the unsuspecting “regular Jo” and dropping her in a situation where she has to adapt to the strange and possibly magical to survive. Perhaps it’s wishful thinking, the hope that someday this would happen to me. Or the wish that it had happened when I was a bit more adventure-ready. I’ve been wanting to be plucked out of my ordinary life and dropped into a magical adventure since I was old enough to know the difference between those two lives. When I was seven, I convinced myself that I was a werewolf and that, on one full moon or another, I would change. It was more than a year before I finally admitted to myself the unlikelihood of that being true.

 

But even now, every full moon, I still gaze upward and hope.

 

What do your family/friends think about your writing?

 

They’re one hundred percent behind me! The ones who’ve read Dyre: By Moon’s Light seem to have enjoyed it, though my mom thought the beginning was creepy—which was exactly what it was supposed to be. They’ve provided me with feedback, advice, suggestions, praise, cheerleading, and more. I couldn’t have asked for better friends and family during this process. They keep using phrases like “When you’re rich and famous. . .remember how supportive I was.”

 

So, they at least have faith that I’ll be successful, ha ha. And not a single one of them has, even after reading my stories, discouraged me from pursuing writing as a career. That’s extremely encouraging.

 

Where do you get your ideas?

 

I get ideas from everything. Everyone. Everywhere. From prompts, which my first three (completed) novels were: prompt-fic. But I’ve gotten ideas from words, phrases, sounds, colors, feelings, thoughts (“what if. . . ?”), characters I see in movies, read about in books, hear about in songs, poetry, quotes, and real people I know or pretend that I might know, etc.

 

Though, as I’ve said, I believe the story chooses the writer, and I think that when I see a prompt of some kind that really catches me, and makes me sit down and write, that’s because a story that wants to be told just walked up to me and introduced itself through that prompt, whatever the prompt might be. Just came up to me, introduced itself, shook my hand, and sized me up. And when we’ve both decided we suit each other, I sit down and start writing.

 

How do you write; do you plan everything out or just write?

 

Oh, I’m definitely a pantser. I fly by the seat of my pants. I’m not a story architect. I have writer friends who are amazing, who plan every bit of their story, down to the last punctuation mark. I am not one of those people. I’ve tried being an architect, but for me, it never works. I don’t really plan my stories, especially short stories. Novels are different, slightly, in that there has to be some planning, like I have to be at least five steps ahead of what I’m actually writing, or else I’ll write myself into a corner I can’t get out of (basically I get in my own way and lose touch with what the story demands of me), which actually happened with Dyre: By Moon’s Light. So even as I was completing my first non-fan fiction, grown-up novel, I was learning important lessons. And I probably will for as long as I’m writing, something that fills me with joy and anticipation.

 

So, yeah, I just write. I’m a strong believer and practitioner of write hot, edit cold. Although I’ve been known to edit while hot, too. Sometimes, that’s the only way for me to have the impetus and cajones to go back and do what needs to be done, in terms of killing off a character or making a bad guy do something really bad.

 

What makes Dyre: By Moon’s Light  special to you?

 

Wow, so many things. It was the first novel I ever completed that was—in my humble opinion—a real contender, publishable. It was the first in the Dyre series. Probably the first piece of work I gave my friends and family to read, in part and in whole. It’s my first novel to actually be published. It was novel-writing boot camp for me. It taught me so much about not only writing, but about perseverance and stick-to-it-iveness. I learned how to follow through with a project on Dyre: By Moon’s Light, even though at times I gave up on it as unsalvageable because I was blocked, because I was trying to impose my own will on the story, because I didn’t know where to end it or how, etc. But Dyre: By Moon’s Light was also one of my first loves, as far as my writing went. I was too attached to it to let it go forever, and when the time came to finish it, I came through.

 

How much of yourself and the people you know are in your characters?

 

Soooooo much, ha ha. The characters Ruby Knudsen and Jennifer “Des” Desiderio are based on two of my closest friends, after a fashion. Ruby has the sweetness, humility, and generosity of spirit of the woman on whom she’s loosely based. And Des has the wise-ass, kick-ass, heart-of-gold qualities of the woman on whom she’s loosely based.

 

As for me, I try not to Mary Sue myself. On the occasions I do, it’s always a very conscious addition, a small part, tongue-in-cheek observer or deus ex machina. Or just some random person in the story with something interesting or funny to say.

 

Which gay/lesbian authors inspired you the most?  Do you have a favorite

of this author(s)?

 

I can name some authors I’ve enjoyed who’ve tackled LGBTQIA themes in their writing, though I don’t know for sure about their sexuality, in some cases.

 

 

  • Robin Wayne Bailey (Shadowdance blew my mind)
  • Octavia E. Butler (everything she touched was golden, loved the Oankali in her Xenogenesis series)
  • Clive Barker (visceral and powerful writing, loved Imajica)
  • Mercedes Lackey (pretty sure she’s straight, but she definitely adds LGBTQIA themes to her novels)
  • Judith Tarr
  • Delia Sherman
  • Nicola Griffith
  • Kelley Eskridge
  • Tanya Huff
  • Nalo Hopkinson
  • Sarah Monette
  • Sheri S. Tepper (The True Game series is phenomenal)
  • Rosa Guy
  • Rita Mae Brown
  • Mary Renault
  • Anne Rice (of course)

 

Of these authors, it’d be nearly impossible for me to name a favorite. Though Mercedes Lackey was my first experience, as I recall, with a gay main character in her Magic’s Promise. Mary Renault and Robin Wayne Bailey were the second writers of gay fiction, historical and speculative, respectively, that I can remember reading after Ms. Lackey.

 

 

Do you have any suggestions for new writers?

 

Sure. READ. A LOT. Read what you like, read what you don’t like, read what you want to write. If only so you know what the conventions of the genre are. Get used to using the tools of the trade, then throw them away, if you dare. Invent new tools, if you can.

 

Don’t be afraid to copy other authors’ style and technique. When it comes to artistic endeavors, it’s “When you know better, you’ll do better.” Or “Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.” Which isn’t to say you should plagiarize. That would be wrong and, even worse than wrong, unhelpful to you as a developing writer. What I’m suggesting is, do you like Edgar Allan Poe? Don’t copy his work with a thin veneer of modernism. Instead, make a note of what he does well. Details and descriptions? Strong. Characterization? Solid. Prose? Rapturous. Take what you like about what Poe wrote and try to write like that. Keep doing it till you have a set of skills, and then find your own technique. Experiment.

 

So, you can write like Poe, now, eh? Big whoop. What would happen if you threw some Hemingway up in that piece? Poe’s descriptiveness meets Hemingway’s starkness. Play around, mix and match, jump between styles in the same story, the same paragraph, the same sentence, even. Have fun. Style, technique, and mode of expression are, really, the only things you have a choice about when it comes to writing. All else is, for lack of a better term, divine intervention. Concept is the cake. Execution is the icing.

 

If you’re a pantser, like me, remember: it’s not about you or what you want. All you can do is tell the story that wants to be told. You’re a conduit. Maybe you want your protagonist to live, when they’re supposed to die, or an antagonist to die when they’re supposed to live. But you don’t get that choice. The story will tell itself. Chances are, if you’re blocked, it’s because you won’t be quiet and still, and listen for the story to tell itself to you. When you do that, you can never be blocked on a story. Try to stay open, and you’ll always have inspiration and the words will always be waiting for you. (Which isn’t to say you won’t have periods when the words aren’t coming because you’ve temporarily exhausted them. But you’ll find that given a break of a few hours or a day, you’ll have them clamoring to spill out of your fingertips once again.)

 

To the architects. . .I don’t know how you do what you do, with outlines and whatnot. I suspect that you’re the true visionaries, who really do make up stories, as opposed to being a conduit for a story that already exists and just needs to be written. I wouldn’t presume to know how to tell you to do what you do. Just keep at it, and maybe some of the same advice I’d give to pantsers applies to you, too. Get out of your own way and stay there, and let the story tell itself. If the words aren’t coming, it may be time to revise or overhaul your outline/script/whatever. Or it may be time to call it a day and try again tomorrow. The trick is knowing which of those it actually is. I wish you luck.

 

But to all writers, new and old, pantser or architect, I say: Keep trying. Never give up. Write the story you want to read, even if no one else seems to want to read it. I guarantee you, once you’ve polished it, there’ll be plenty who do.

 

When you’re not writing what do you do for fun?

 

Ha ha, read, of course! Novels, short stories, fan fiction—lots of fan fiction—and I watch movies, listen to music, and absorb cartoons. I’m a kid at heart. But mostly, I write, when I’m awake. With occasional pit stops for other, less important things, like eating. Sometimes I hang out with my mother, my friends, my girlfriend, all of whom are very understanding when it comes to my need for solitude and GET-OUT-I’M-WRITING! alone time. Writing is pretty much my be-all/end-all. I do it for fun, for catharsis, for my sanity and health. Except for the need to socialize, writing and getting feedback for my writing fulfill most of my emotional/mental needs. I’m basically a one-trick pony, a one-note song. I write. With breaks for reading, eating, sleeping, and attempts at extroversion, I write. And when that happens, “I” cease to exist. There’s just writing. It’s the best, most addictive state ever. When I write, I am writing, in every sense of the phrase. That’s my fun.

Enthralled

Fantasy author Barbara Ann Wright is always entertaining. Tune in to see what new worlds – yes, more than one – she’s creating now.


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