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A Writer's Edge

English words, writing, and books--with a tech touch

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Name: Georganna Hancock
Location: San Diego, California, United States

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Sunday, July 31, 2005

ISBN Converter

At WindRiver Publishing, an ISBN converter allows you to convert up to 100 ISBN's into 13-digit numbers at once. Bowker's service is limited to one at a time. See this page for an explanation of ISBN (International Standard Book Number uniquely identifies books and book-like products published internationally) and related book identifiers.

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Saturday, July 30, 2005

More Stealing

This just in: Soon Lee wrote to tell us that the controversial Charles Stross article about stealing material from other writers is still available online. I checked the link and by golly, it's there!

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Write Side Out

Take a break. Go shopping at Write Side Out. Yeah, it's more stuff from Cafe Press, but it's so funny! If you can't be a writer, at least you can look like one!

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Friday, July 29, 2005

Writing Pointers

Even if you're not self-publishing a book, Dan Poynter's free bi-monthly newsletter is a little gold mine. I think I've discovered more interesting leads to websites, services, and information sources through his publication than all the rest that I monitor lumped together. Sign up for PUBLISHING POYNTERS through the Para Publishing Web Site: Book Writing, Publishing and Promoting Resources.

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Thursday, July 28, 2005

Book Website


It takes a little digging by mouse (clicking) to find the info, but there are some good tips within Sell Books on Your Own Website. You have to click all three choices at the bottom of the page to see all the hints. []

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Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Doing80 Warning

From Shervene who runs the Yahoo! Groups: independentauthors:

In January 2005, I filed what would be the third complaint from clients doing business with a printing company name Doing80.com a.k.a Doing80 Inc., a.k.a. Rundu Enterprises with BBB. Rundu Stagger, owner, failed to fulfill her obligation to print the books contracted and paid for, and has since not refunded $1,100.00 that she owes, even though I have filed a complaint with BBB. Her sorry story is give me more time. I will pay your money. I gave Rundu the option of making installment. I have not heard from her since May 9, 2005. Beware of this company.

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Sell Books

The new writer, all starry-eyed and sparkling, enthuses about the genre novel being written, and then says, "I'm a shy person. I could never do those book signings or interviews." My shoulders slump. Neophytes have no idea what it takes to sell a book, if it's actually printed and distributed. The realities of what we might call the "post-writing life" are painfully outlined in She'd Be Great on TV. It makes me wonder if I really want to pursue publishing a fiction book. [ ]

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Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Personal Trivia

If every post here began with the weather report, Writer's Edge would soon roll off the map from boredom. Today I anticipate trying to elect a woman mayor of San Diego for the third (?) time, knowing another election will come in November. I'm not entirely pleased with this candidate, but the city needs a radical improvement, and changing the mayor's sex is about as radical as we can get here in SoCal. It's also my play day, so visits to an auto and an aerospace museum are planned, the latter fitting because I just watched the space shuttle launch. Viewing the space ship shuddering into the atmosphere strapped to enormous rockets ignited the cold chills and tears I've experienced witnessing every launch (and re-entry) involving human beings. This is my expression of patriotism, to pray (even if I don't believe), "Oh God, please don't let anything bad happen to them!" This evening I'll fight the rush-hour traffic to welcome a fellow author to a writers' group meeting. He's to talk to us about self-publishing. It won't be difficult for me to play devil's advocate, if needed. Now, was this stultifying, edifying, or what (in light of yesterday's post)?

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Monday, July 25, 2005

Writer Bloggers

Tom Dolby, the author of The Trouble Boy muses on the need for and effects of blogging for writers in this SFgate.com article, Writers make good bloggers, but does blogging affect good writing? Unfortunately Dolby has rather limited vision, at least about blogs, assuming they must contain wrenching emotional outpourings of a writer's personal trivia. I ask if that's what readers want to learn about writing, about an author? Isn't it akin to publishing your own expose, if the cruddy tabloids won't do it for you? [Tectags: ]

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Sunday, July 24, 2005

Readers Digest

Reader's Digest magazine celebrates its 1,000th issue. It was a staple, along with Life magazine and Reader's Digest Condensed Books, in the home in which I was raised. In the rebellious years, rejecting everything that represented my parents' generation, reading the Digest was relegated to time-passing in doctors' waiting rooms. I know, however, that this magazine lead me to a larger world of literature and writing through a method now practiced perhaps only by the Utne Reader. The Digest remains the most widely-read magazine in the U.S. and appears in more than 60 languages around the world. Hail!

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Saturday, July 23, 2005

Word Detective

If you simply enjoy reading about words and their derivations (but not derivatives), click over to Word Detective. It's as if Richard Lederer were blogging. Unfortunately the author hasn't caught on to the value of titles sensitive to search engines (and that make sense to readers BEFORE they've read the entry. If you can get past that little annoyance, the word lover is in for a treat. []

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Friday, July 22, 2005

Web Writing

If you're writing freelance, one income source is writing copy for the Internet or content writing. These works range in length from titles and tags to full articles and in complexity from Google ads to all the text for a multi-page website. In next month's Writer's Digest magazine, veteran writer Robert Bly advocates such writers having their own websites in Weaving Your Web.
And because online writing is becoming a large percentage of copywriting work, cutting yourself off from these assignments will have a significantly negative effect on your revenues. Many copy-writing clients are looking for a writer who can handle both their online and offline work, so being perceived as a writer lacking Web savvy may cost you print assignments.
He also offers seven site design tips for writers including posting articles you've written and a portfolio of clients and samples of your work, having a simple organization targeted to the needs of potential clients, and registering a branded domain name. []

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Thursday, July 21, 2005

Rewrite OED

The BBC (British Broadcasting) and the OED (Oxford English Dictionary) join forces to rewrite the accepted authority on the evolution of the English language in a Wordhunt. They've listed 50 words and phrases with the date of the earliest appearance. The "hunt" is to find earlier instances of each word with verification. Some of the words surprised me:

ditsy -- 1978
made-up -- 1980
pear-shaped -- 1983
Maybe the list is only applicable to use in Britain, for I seem to remember "pear-shaped" describing diamonds and body shapes and breasts since forever as in Diamonds are a Girl's Best Friend. []

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Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Writing Background

Handy tools for writers include cameras and audio recorders for taking notes about locations. This is especially true when performing background research, whether for a novel or a nonfiction article. Sometimes, however, the muse strikes unexpectedly and catches us without recording devices, but recognizing a good story or lead. Perhaps one of Google's latest offerings will help. Google Earth

combines satellite imagery, maps and the power of Google Search to put the world's geographic information at your fingertips. Google Earth puts a planet's worth of imagery and other geographic information right on your desktop. View exotic locales like Maui and Paris as well as points of interest such as local restaurants, hospitals, schools, and more.
It comes in three flavors: free, $20 for GPS device support, the ability to import spreadsheets, drawing tools and better printing, and industrial strength for $400. You can discover the System Requirements and see Products to find more applications of this technology. [Tectags: ]

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Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Paperback Originals

Doug Seibold, independent publisher, made a very compelling case for new authors to consider first publishing trade paperback originals instead of hardbacks in a Book Standard article.

I have met very few authors (especially of fiction) who are not captive to the "white-dress wedding" vision of the publishing experience: handsome hardback first edition, stacked prominently on front-of-store tables, reviews appearing in all the major papers the same week as the publication date, sit-down interview with Katie (not Matt, and definitely not Al or Ann), Charlie, Terry, Larry . . .
Seibold offers insight into the complicated workings of the book publishing/selling industry that too few authors realize until they've been ground up in the machine. Plus, you'll learn about "French flaps" and "rough-cut trim". Ah, so that's what they're called. The extra fold-out part of a cover, the uneven page edges do give a paperback book a cachet not felt about its plainer cousin.

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Monday, July 18, 2005

Reality Check

One of my students mentioned that she seldom goes to book signings of her favorite authors because she doesn't want their reality to affect her enjoyment of their books. I knew what she meant, because I had such an experience seeing Garrison Keillor perform his radio show, "Prairie Home Companion", in Louisville in the 1980's. Afterwards, I stopped listening to the program, not that anyone did anything overtly objectionable. It was as if a peek behind the wizard's screen spoiled the magic! I now live in one of America's major metropolitan areas and have many opportunities to view "big name" writers at close range. I seldom succumb. How did I arrive at this state when I began forty years ago by chasing Alan Ginsberg through a New York hotel lobby, just to get a glimpse of the famous poet? It's not that I don't care. Ray Bradbury remains one of my all-time favorite authors, and he's in town at the Comic-Con, but I wouldn't attend just to meet or hear him present. As my students and I discussed this phenomenon, one asked, "You don't want to meet him at all?" Oh, no, that's not it, I realized and told them I'd love to interview these people, to have conversations with them. Maybe that's maturity finally kicking in? [Tectags: ]

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Sunday, July 17, 2005

Copyright Protection

We're getting better at protecting authors' copyrights, according to this EContentMag.com article:

Copyright Clearance Center, a provider of copyright licensing and compliance solutions, and R.R. Bowker, a provider of bibliographic information, have announced a new partnership that will integrate copyright permission into three of Bowker's Web-based information services.

Books In Print, Global Books In Print, and Ulrich's Resource Linker now allow librarians and staff to clear copyright permissions as they search for bibliographic information about specific books, journals, and other copyrighted material. Customers select the "get permission" link featured on each of the three information services, and are taken to the appropriate permission service and search results page on copyright.com. User and bibliographic information is transferred from Bowker applications to copyright.com, eliminating the customer's need to log in, re-enter information, or conduct another title search.
[Tectags: ]

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Friday, July 15, 2005

Writer's Almanac

Another addition to your arsenal of inspiration might be The Writer's Almanac daily program of poetry and history hosted by Garrison Keillor. Not only available by email and on the website, it can be heard each day on public radio stations throughout the country. Each day's program is about five minutes long. The website archives almanac entries back to 2001. Audio versions require Real Audio to listen to Keillor's mellifluous tones, but I can hear his voice in my mind's ear as I read the text on the page. [Tectags: ]

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Thursday, July 14, 2005

Good Cause

The incomparable M.J. Rose has done it again, come up with a novel notion for promoting her book, The Halo Effect (pun intended!) using VidLit and the Reading is Fundamental charity. She's calling it the GOOD BOOK/GOOD CAUSE BLOG-A-THON series with the first event shown here (needs a broadband connection to view). Read about the project in her blog, Buzz, Balls & Hype. [Tectags: ]

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French Library

Soon after Google announced its library project in December, Jean-Noel Jeanneney, president of the National Library of France, issued a call to arms to European librarians, exhorting them to mount a large-scale digital library of their own. ... His argument has led to action: In May, 23 national libraries in the European Union, including France's, announced their support for the European digital-library project.
reported The Chronicle of Higher Education. Apparently it wasn't soon enough, for the French newspaper Le Figaro has reported, via the UK Guardian, thefts of 30,000 books and priceless documents from the Bibliotheque Nationale, the French national library, founded in the 16th century and France's principal copyright and legal deposit library, with 35 million books, documents, manuscripts, maps, plans and photos. Perhaps they should be less occupied with digitizing and more with retaining. [Tectags: ]

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Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Writing Contests

There's very little about writing contests in the Writer's Edge nowadays. Last year I tried to cover all the major prizes and announce contests that are free to enter (darn few). I still haven't sorted out how I feel about them, except to say everybody and his dog seems to be sponsoring one, usually with fees to enter. It's obvious that running a contest is a new revenue stream and scam opportunity. On the other hand there's the credibility/ego boost to being able to add "Winner of the ... Prize" with your name. The credibility might depend on the contest, though. Now comes controversy about the judging as outlined in this Poets&Writers, Inc. article. If I were considering entering a contest, I'd want to review its history and get an estimate of the expected number of entries (for a logical analysis of my chance of winning). A bad rep and low probability coupled with a high entry fee is a definite negative. What about the quality of my writing? That's for others to judge! [Tectags: ]

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Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Finca Vigia

The National Trust placed Finca Vigia: Ernest Hemingway House, San Francisco de Paula, Cuba on a list of eleven most endangered places. It lies 12 miles outside Havana, Cuba, filled with original furniture, 9,000 books, artwork, and several thousand irreplaceable letters, photographs, documents, and manuscripts. Nine thousand books!!?? It's a wonder Papa ever had time to write at "Lookout Farm", which "was Ernest Hemingway's home from 1939 to 1960, the period when he wrote For Whom the Bell Tolls, The Old Man and the Sea and the posthumously-published A Moveable Feast and Islands in the Stream." The Hemingway Foundation, Inc. website also provides information on this project, along with beautiful photos of the property, inside and out.

"Ernest Hemingway is one of the world's most celebrated authors, and Finca Vigi­a is the home he loved best," said Richard Moe, president of the National Trust. "Even though it stands on foreign soil, this house is part of the shared cultural heritage that defines us as Americans. Yet its very survival is threatened with critical infrastructure problems, which can not be fully addressed unless significant restoration funds can be raised and allowed to be used to preserve this remarkable property."
My real Papa, whom I called "Daddy" as did Sylvia Plath call her father, owned few books. One was The Old Man and the Sea. In the late 1940's my parents visited Cuba, but I recall no stories about seeing Hemingway. Last week my mother turned 88. Note to self: ask Mother about Cuba trip before she dies. [Tectag: ]

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Monday, July 11, 2005

Stealing Writing

Charlie's Diary Rules for Stealing from Writers has mysteriously disappeared from author Charles Stross' blog, and he closed a forum on the topic on 6/28/05 after 870 lively posts. Why? Apparently some of the posts turned vituperous over Stross' suggestions that is perfectly O.K. to filch, oh, let's say, previously published notions. To be perfectly honest, his post was titled "Five rules for cold-bloodedly designing a fantasy series". The somewhat abbreviated rules:

1. don't steal from living authors
2. steal from the best
3. steal from at least two, and mix thoroughly
4. pick themes to pilfer that you find interesting
5. make sure it doesn't look stolen

I think Stross caused so much controversy because of the terms he chose (steal, pilfer) rather than "find inspiration" or "follow in the footsteps of" or even "use ideas (which aren't protected by copyrights) from". Let's face it, there really isn't anything new to write about in fiction. In nonfiction, anyone who's written a master's thesis or worked on a p.m. newspaper with a.m. competition knows about writing others' words in other words. We're always recreating, reinventing, and standing on the shoulders of, etc. [Tectags: ]

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Sunday, July 10, 2005

Who Reads?

A recent culture survey report states:

It is interesting to note that consumers in the US and UK are below the global average (5.7 and 5.3 hours per week respectively) when it comes to reading, but significantly above the average on TV viewing (19 hours per week in the US and 18 in the UK), listening to the radio (10.2 hours per week in the US and 10.5 in the UK) and just slightly below the global average for computer/Internet usage (8.8 hours per week in both the US and UK).
A recent Gallup Poll found that "About half of Americans also say they have read more than five books in the past year, not much different from the number reported a decade and a half ago." Yawn! However, this survey reports that Although Canadians spend a bit more time on the Internet at home (5.5 hours on average per week) than they do reading books for pleasure (4.6 hours), there is a positive correlation between Internet use and reading books. [Tectag: ]

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Saturday, July 09, 2005

Book Promotion


A key part of a nonfiction book proposal, according to Michael Larsen, is a plan for promoting your published work. One of Larsen's suggestions in his widely popular How to Write a Book Proposal is this bullet point in his chapter on Your Promotion Plan:

Consider establishing a Web site that will provide world-wide, 24-hour-a-day exposure for your book, enabling you to:
post your cover and a chapter online to promote your book
update your book the moment you have new information
list your appearances
set up links from search engines and other Web sites
stay in touch with your readers
sell your book or include a link to an online bookstore that will give you a commission on the sales your site generates.

[Tectags: ]

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Friday, July 08, 2005

Revising Writing

Novelist Holly Lisle offers a three-part method for completing a writing project faster in One-Pass Manuscript Revision: From First Draft to Last in One Cycle. She suggests taking your "shitty" first draft (printed out--don't try this on screen because no amount of Wite-Out will remove all the markups you'll make) and subjecting it to discovery, scene checks, and then revising the electronic version. The process also requires a notebook, pens, and space enough for three piles of your ms. and the open notebook all together. Lisle notes:

Does one-pass revision sound like a huge amount of work? It is. Does it sound frustrating? It can be. It can also be exciting, and a lot of fun, and you can walk away from it with some very good books. Itls the only revision method I use. Using this method, I can revise a 125,000 word novel in about two weeks. I've never done more than one pre- submission revision, and usually only one, and never more than two, post-editor revisions. My post-editing revisions are usually light.
[Tectags: ]

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Thursday, July 07, 2005

Blog Book

CultureCat is Clancy Ratliff's blog. She's a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Minnesota, doing her doctoral dissertation on (I'm not kidding):

Gender, Punditry, and Weblogs: A Feminist Rhetorical Analysis of Blogging's Challenge to Current Understandings of Political Discourse.
Well, anyway, she posted an interesting look at the phenomenon I've been following here, making books from blogs. Naturally Blog-to-Book, Hybrid Genre(s) has a decidedly academic bent. Still, along with the comments, it offers some different views of the trend. I hoped she would follow up with more posts, but a search of CultureCat turned up nada. For a true view of a blog become book with the BlogBinders.com service I've mentioned, cast your eyes over Philipp Lenssen's From Blog to Book. He even offers a video that displays the book from cover to cover (requires Windows Media Player).

[Tectags: ]

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Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Resources Online

Research and reading the work of other writers comprise much of a writer's efforts. I've mentioned Project Gutenberg. Supplementing that venerable effort is The Online Books Page with listings of over 20,000 books available on the Internet (from other sources as well as Gutenberg). The website is the creation of John Mark Ockerbloom, a digital library planner and researcher at the University of Pennsylvania, which hosts the site.

Along with books, The Online Books Page is also now listing major archives of serials (such as magazines, published journals, and newspapers). Serials can be at least as important as books in library research. Serials are often the first places that new research and scholarship appear. They are sources for firsthand accounts of contemporary events and commentary. They are also often the first (and sometimes the only) place that quality literature appears. (For those who might still quibble about serials being listed on a "books page", back issues of serials are often bound and reissed [sic] as hardbound "books".)
[Tectags: ]

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Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Writing Models

Romance author Sara Donati/Rosina Lippi explores the makeup of best sellers in Storytelling. She's been using the pretty Venn diagram below. I am becoming more convinced that marketing, especially via Internet buzz, is less a wildcard than a causal factor, especially for nonfiction books. Earlier this year I gathered information on a tangential question about the potential effects of the Internet on the book publishing industry. Mind Hacks author Matt Webb confirmed to me that whenever his book is mentioned online, there's a spike in sales at Amazon. Sci-fi novelist Cory Doctorow and Amazon explorer Chris Anderson made similar statements. The cascading effects of blog mentions for Freakonomics has been analyzed, and we note the coming of buzz businesses like BzzAgent to ensure books reach The Tipping Point, a la Malcom Gladwell.



Contemporary writers straddle the transition from paper to digital, and some researchers predict, as the British Library reports, the publishing world will be almost all digital. Each publishing version has its advantages, as long as enough people can afford paper books. Electronic media appear to have the edge in marketing economics, however, and that's why I would suggest a revised model with marketing a fourth factor. We can still use the Donati/Lippi design above, if we consider the dark pink background as the marketing in which the three elements are embedded. The thicker and richer the foundation, like a nurturing matrix for the embryo book, the greater the probability that it will sell well. Can the buzz be big enough to compensate for lacks in the other three components? I'm not sure we haven't already seen it happen with books like Dan Brown's runaway Da Vinci Code. [Tectags: ]

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Sunday, July 03, 2005

Writing Rules

Developing lessons for a class has been an exciting, puzzling, and enlightening process. It takes rigorous honesty to dredge up the multitude of mistakes from which I learned, self-analysis to track down the core of a useful practice, and a lot of drudgery to slog through all the resources and reference material accumulated in the office to choose the best of the best to recommend. Seldom do I make dogmatic statements, but for this class I'm attempting to draw up a list of what I call, Peggy Hill-fashion, Writers' Rules. Or Georganna's Rules for Writers. Something like that. You get the idea. I fell in love with the connotation of the word "rule" as a straight-edge that guides your markings, not as laws, although I could say that if you follow these rules, you'll have a better chance of succeeding as a writer. Some of the first rules I listed were ideas I've carried on about in this blog: reading and no free lunch. The most successful scribblers often read widely, deeply, and often. They usually advise the practice. Similarly, it's nearly impossible to get published if you aren't willing to invest money in your career in a variety of ways. That's the beginning of my rules, and I don't intend the list to be very long, but I'd be interested to hear your ideas on what's necessary to be a successful writer. [Tectags: ]

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Saturday, July 02, 2005

Slanguage

Your Slanguage Profile

Southern Slang: 75%
Aussie Slang: 50%
British Slang: 25%
Canadian Slang: 25%
New England Slang: 25%
Prison Slang: 25%
Victorian Slang: 25%


Fun from Blogthings - What Slanguage Do You Speak? I'd never even heard of some of the words or phrases, yet my southern accent still came through!

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Friday, July 01, 2005

Buy a Friend a Book!

Debra Hamel wrote to tell me about her new website Buy a Friend a Book!, and who is first to recommend purchases but Damian McNicholl, the author who launched the new "Views" section (his interview, his book's review) last month. Hamel's site is pretty self-explanatory. Here's copy she offers if you feel the need to justify a book gift:

It's Buy a Friend a Book Week and I've selected you as the recipient of a book. Know that this gift is given for no good reason. If it's your birthday, I don't want to hear about it. Anniversary? Not a chance. This is a no-strings-attached present given just because.
[Tectag: ]

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