Writers, Words, and a Thick Skin

May24

Posted by in writing advice | 0 comments

Writers, Words, and a Thick Skin

A week ago I had an uncomfortable conversation — who with doesn’t matter. But words were said to me that inflicted great pain. Words that accused me of being someone I’m not — someone I know I’m not. Even with that knowledge they hurt. This quote seems to appropriate in light of that situation: I tried to track down the source for this image and quote, but the link went nowhere. Don’t worry, I’ve forgiven this person. But I still have to tell myself that the words are lies and aren’t the truth about me a dozen times a day when they resurface. And eventually I will drown them out. And maybe I will forget. Be careful with your words…and get a thick skin. #amwriting #words Click To Tweet Maybe. Why do I mention this here? On a blog that is for writers? I mention it because writers are going to hear a lot of criticism. Some of it will feel extremely unfair and unfounded. I still remember the way I felt when I read feedback on the one unpublished author contest that I entered. I wanted to stop writing but my wonderful mentor Colleen Coble wouldn’t let me. She helped me filter through the comments to find the couple nuggets of gold, and then aided me as I tossed the rest overboard. Then there’s feedback from editors. Just last week I learned I made the shortlist for a novella collection, but not the short enough list. It happens. I learned a long time ago to be grateful that I got that close. Others didn’t. Then there’s editorial feedback on the books I’ve written. It takes a stiff upper lip to dive into those with the ability to smile at the partnership. A good editor will point out what isn’t working or needs to be improved while also letting you know what does sing. I’ve been blessed to work with amazing editors. And the partnership has been a joy even as it takes a day or so to process the editorial letters. Add in reviews. Yes, I periodically read my reviews. Why? Because I want to be told how wonderful I am? Or how terrible my books are? I’ve learned that not every reader will love my books, and that’s okay. Christian fiction is big enough that I can help that reader find authors they will love. I read the reviews to see if there are common themes. In those, I can see where there are areas in my story telling and characters that may continue to need improvement. Many reviews are written by readers, and I need to know how they’re connecting with my books. But even as I say that, I just looked at a few of mine, and the words can hurt. They can be hard to dislodge from my mind…and my heart. Writers need a thick skin. They need to be able to sort through criticism for the constructive pieces that will help them improve. We need to find the beauty in the cracks the words can make. We work with words, so we should know this. But just as the words spoken to me in anger continue to echo in my mind, so these other words — even the helpful one — can bruise....

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Finding Beauty in Unexpected Places

May17

Posted by in family, Grief/Miscarriage | 0 comments

Finding Beauty in Unexpected Places

Last weekend I went out to our patio and found a fun surprise sprouting and blooming in the very narrow sand lines between the bricks. Interspersed intermittently all along the bricks were these tiny, tenacious pansies. I’m not really sure where they came from, but as I pulled the weeds last night, I left these little beauties. Part of me wanted to know as I absorbed their beauty what had given the tiny plants a toehold in such a thin slice of sand. We aren’t talking good soil, but sand. And yet it was enough for these pansies to take hold and root. Such tenacious, unexpected pops of beauty. Isn’t that how life goes? In a season of hard? @Cara_Putman urges to look for the unexpected beauty. Click To Tweet We might be in a season of hardship. On my blog last week I talked about how sometimes Mother’s Day can be hard. A day that is filled with joy for so many, is equally filled with pain for others. If I hadn’t had hard Mother’s Days, I wonder if I would appreciate this smiling darling as much as I do. Her feisty spirit is a blessing and a challenge all rolled up in one 8 year old body. She made Mother’s Day special by being born the day before it a year after an excruciating Mother’s Day post-miscarriage. Beauty that erupted in what felt like a barren period in my life. A beauty that has been adored and annoyed by older siblings from the moment she arrived. Isn’t life like that? Sometimes the beauty that erupts is sweeter because of the pain we’ve experienced. Her two older siblings brought great delight to my heart, but this one…this is the child for whom I prayed…and wept…and want to tear my hair out…and there is immense beauty in that. I look at her and I ask God, “What do You plan to do with this one? The one who is so stubborn she survived. The one who is so stubborn, I’m amazed I haven’t ground my teeth down to bits. The one who loves whole-heartedly and extends the hand of friendship with warmth and embraces all. What do You plan to do with this natural leader who doesn’t appreciate being led?” And I sense beauty developing in unexpected places. Night turns to day. Winter to spring. And in each there is beauty…sometimes completely unexpected. But it’s there. And it’s in those moments that I ask God to open my eyes to the beauty and wonder He’s planted all around me. Whether it’s on my patio. Or in my family. Beauty in unexpected places....

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Fiction Friday: Sins of the Past

May13

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Fiction Friday: Sins of the Past

I love a good mystery. When it moves to romantic suspense, I love it even more. Then if you make it a novella collection with three of my favorite authors, well, I’m a goner. Love romantic suspense? Try the new collection from @lynetteeason and @DaniPettrey. #amreading Click To Tweet That’s what you get with Sins of the Past. This collection of romantic suspense novellas from a trio of best-selling authors is the perfect read for those days you can’t commit to a full-length novel. Each novella is around 120 pages, and is the perfect bite size for reading on a day at the beach or on the porch of a mountain cabin. I’m also hard-pressed to pick a favorite. Dee Henderson’s Missing focuses on finding a sheriff’s missing mom with the lightest sprinkling of future romance. Eason’s Blackout is a very satisfying story of the past catching the present in a twist of deadly stalking and romance. Pettrey’s Shadowed is an equally satisfying dip into frigid Alaskan waters with a murder to solve and a romance to pursue. Each is a fully complete story, separate from the rest, and a satisfying  read. If you have a vacation coming up and want a book that will capture your attention without stealing your time, Sins of the Past should climb in your suitcase. Or if you love romantic suspense, but can’t commit to a full book, take Sins of the Past for a read. You won’t be disappointed. Three Novellas from Bestselling Authors In Dee Henderson’s Missing, a Wyoming sheriff is called to Chicago when his elderly mother goes missing. Paired with a savvy Chicago cop, the two realize her disappearance is no accident, and a race against the clock begins. Dani Pettrey returns to Alaska with Shadowed, introducing readers to the parents of her beloved McKenna clan. Adventure, romance, and danger collide when a young fisherman nets the body of an open-water swimming competitor who may actually be a possible Russian defector. Lynette Eason’s Blackout delivers the story of a woman once implicated in a robbery gone wrong. The loot has never been found–but her memory of that night has always been unreliable. Can she remember enough to find her way to safety when the true culprit comes after...

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First Readers: One Tool to becoming a Better Writer

May10

Posted by in writing advice | 6 comments

First Readers: One Tool to becoming a Better Writer

Hello. My name is Cara. I’m a recovering reader and writer. I live and breathe words. But sometimes as a writer I need help ensuring the story I see so vividly in my mind translates into words that resonate with readers. But I wrote the story. I saw it in living color as it played in real time. How do I bridge the gap? I use first readers. Not every reader does this. Sometimes no one sees the book other than their editors until the book is available for everyone. I’ve had some books like that, but not many.  1st Readers can help you discover your story. @Cara_Putman shares 4 tips. #amwriting #amreading Click To Tweet I much prefer to work with first readers who help me identify if a story is working. This happens on multiple levels. And sometimes I work with different first readers to ensure that multiple facets of the story are looked at it before I turn it in. My goal is to always send my editor the very best book that I can and first readers are a key piece of the process. So what do I look for? Look for readers who love your books. I want a first reader who has already read a few of my books and has a sense of my style for telling a story. I’d call that style my personal writing voice, but I’m not necessarily looking for readers who understand the nuances of writing. I want first readers who are readers first and foremost and that love my books. Have a variety of first readers. I tell each reader what I’m hoping to learn from their read of the book. I often have to tell them not to bother with grammar and typos. They are free to mark those, but my editors and I will find most of those. Instead, what I’m interested in at the first reader level of the story is connection. Are they connecting with the story and characters? If they aren’t, I want to understand why. What do I need to fix to make the story resonate and be un-put-downable? (Yep, I just created a word!) Know the strengths of your first readers. I have one who sees inconsistency in eye color, places, etc., like no other. I rely on her! I have others who understand story and can let me know if the pacing is off. Still others just let me know what works or doesn’t work for them. Each plays a valuable role. Understand what each reader brings to the story and know that’s what you can hope to get in their read. Remember to say thank you. The acknowledgments section of the book I turn in this month will be obnoxiously long. That’s okay. Many people have helped me get the idea to the point that it could become a book. And many more have helped me as I’ve written it. I also like to send little goodies as a thank you. Sometimes it’s a pack of red pens But make it something that lets them know you appreciate them. And don’t forget a copy of the finished book. Have you ever used first readers or been a first reader? What did you learn from the...

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Fiction Friday: The Inheritance

May06

Posted by in Fiction Friday | 2 comments

Fiction Friday: The Inheritance

It’s Friday, and that means time for Fiction Friday. I love taking this day to introduce you to books and authors I enjoy. Usually, the titles are fiction but every once in awhile I throw in some nonfiction. Today I’m thrilled to talk about Michael Phillips‘ latest release, The Inheritance. Growing up I inhaled his Stonewycke series and his translations of George MacDonald’s books. I think I’ve always been in love with Scotland because of his books. He also is one of the authors who wrote back to me when I was a young teen wondering about whether I could sometime write. I will always be grateful for his kindness in handling my dream. Love to read sweeping sagas filled with mystery? @Cara_Putman suggests The Inheritance…. Click To Tweet In The Inheritance, Phillips demonstrates why he’s a master storyteller of sweeping, generational sagas. The book starts with short chapters that introduce to a host of characters from current and past times. All end up tied together because of one place, a tiny island in Scotland, an island where time has largely stood still, but now the current pressures of the world are pressing against it. The Inheritance also delves into deeper themes of what does it mean to inherit. Why should we care about preserving the past? How do we honor that while moving forward? There are even a few hints of ties to the older series that brought a smile to my face. This book is perfect for readers who like to submerge in a book rich with characters and setting, one that will allow them to be swept into another place. It’s also ideal for readers who really enjoy the back and forth of multiple perspectives and times. {MORE ABOUT THE INHERITANCE} The death of the clan patriarch has thrown the tiny Shetland Islands community of Whale’s Reef into turmoil. Everyone assumed MacGregor Tulloch’s heir to be his grand-nephew David, a local favorite, but when it is discovered that MacGregor left no will, David’s grasping cousin Hardy submits his own claim to the inheritance, an estate that controls most of the island’s land. And while Hardy doesn’t enjoy much popular support, he has the backing of a shadowy group of North Sea oil investors. The courts have frozen the estate’s assets while the competing claims are investigated, leaving many of the residents in financial limbo. The future of the island—and its traditional way of life—hangs in the balance. Loni Ford is enjoying her rising career in a large investment firm in Washington, DC. Yet in spite of her outward success, she is privately plagued by questions of identity. Orphaned as a young child, she was raised by her paternal grandparents, and while she loves them dearly, she feels completely detached from her roots. That is until a mysterious letter arrives from a Scottish solicitor. . . . Past and present collide in master storyteller Phillips’s dramatic new saga of loss and discovery, of grasping and grace, and of the dreams of men and women everywhere. Learn more and purchase a copy. Enter to win a copy of The Inheritance—five winners will be chosen! Click the image below to enter to win. The winners will be announced May 12 on the Litfuse blog!   {MORE ABOUT MICHAEL PHILLIPS} Michael Phillips is a bestselling author with more than 70 of his...

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When Mother’s Day Hurts, there is Hope

May03

Posted by in faith thoughts, Grief/Miscarriage | 6 comments

When Mother’s Day Hurts, there is Hope

  Mother’s Day can be hard for so many reasons. Hard. Hard. Hard. Maybe you long to have children and can’t. Maybe you have a Prodigal child that you long to see come back to God. There are so many maybes and each can lead to a place of fear. I want to walk through life without fear. To walk with the sure knowledge that God is with me. He. Is. With. Me. Much of my life, I have known this to the core of who I am. In fact, this knowledge is foundational to who I am. If you read my novels, you will see that ultimately they come back to this point. That God is with us. My characters learn that in some way. If you’re in the midst of your own pain right now, @Cara_Putman urges to know God never leaves…. Click To Tweet I’ve had to learn that in some deep, real way. The way that strips the candy coating from my faith and digs deeply into the bedrock of my beliefs. Eight years ago I had a miscarriage. Prior to that I would have said life had challenges, but it was nothing God and I couldn’t handle. Much of it was the kind of thing I could handle on my own. I’d thank God for His provision, I’d ask for His leading and His direction, but there had been very few times where I had been pushed so far beyond what I could endure that I didn’t know how to find myself. Here let my words from 2010, a few months after my second miscarriage, illustrate how shattering these events were: I’m on a quest to restore my heart. The miscarriages have caused a piece of my heart to break. And while I want to grieve fully and completely — and some would tell you a tad too much — I don’t want to live with heartbreak. I want to live where the sight of a pregnant woman doesn’t remind me that I’m not 7 1/2 months pregnant right now. Where the learning that another relative or friend is pregnant doesn’t pierce through my heart with another reminder that I have another little one waiting for me. That there isn’t the pain of separation. Of what ifs. Of what might have beens. Each day I think I get a bit closer. Then there’s an anniversary of a loss or a due date. Or I simply go to Chick-Fil-A and see a pregnant woman or someone with an infant. And I smile as my eyes fill with tears. So if you see me like that, know I am fighting back even while my heart breaks again. That’s where I lived. But I wrestled it to the ground with God. I had to know that when I was curled up in the closet with so much pain that I didn’t know what to do, that God was there. I had to believe that He would somehow use the pain for His good. He has. If you’re in the midst of your own pain right now (so many of my friends and loved ones are walking such hard journeys right now), know that God is there. He never leaves. He never forsakes us. Jesus endured that, so...

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Want to Write? I have one piece of advice

May02

Posted by in ACFW | 2 comments

Want to Write? I have one piece of advice

If you know anything about my writing, then you know that I attribute the fact that I have more than 20 books out with more in the works to ACFW and its conference. I have met all of the editors that I work with at the conference and have gained invaluable instruction on writing, marketing, and so much more. Want to write Christian fiction? Then @cara_putman advises come to @ACFWconf in Nashville…. Click To Tweet I truly believe if you want to write Christian fiction, then you need to attend ACFW. This year, ACFW is going to be in Nashville, Tennessee, August 25-28. This year, Don Maass is teaching our early bird. I’ve attended his workshop based on Writing the Breakout Novel twice, and it is amazing. This year he’ll be teaching Writing 21st Century Fiction, based on his latest craft book. This intensive hands-on workshop teaches the techniques that give multi-year best selling novels their high impact, resulting in both strong story and beautiful writing regardless of category. A literary agent in New York, Donald Maass’s agency sells more than 150 novels every year to major publishers in the U.S. and overseas.  He is the author of The Career Novelist (1996), Writing the Breakout Novel (2001), Writing the Breakout Novel Workbook (2004) and The Fire in Fiction (2009) and Writing 21st Century Fiction (2012).  He is a past president of the Association of Authors’ Representatives, Inc. You can learn more here. I’m also really excited that Ted Dekker will be our keynote speaker. He will be sharing during two general sessions about the inner life of a writer. Ted Dekker is a New York Times best-selling author of over thirty five novels. He is best known for stories which could be broadly described as suspense thrillers with major twists and unforgettable characters, though he has also made a name for himself among fantasy fans. Ted’s latest work, a historical fiction based on the teachings of Jesus, is a radical departure from previous outings and is receiving critical acclaim. Dekker’s novels have sold over 10 million copies worldwide. Two of his novels, Thr3e and House, have been made into movies with more in production. Dekker and his beautiful wife, LeeAnn, reside in Nashville, Tennessee. Then there are all the editors (currently there are 16), agents (currently there are 14), mentor, and speciality appointments. These appointments can be an amazing part of your experience, but aren’t even the main part. Then there’s 5 continuing education sessions all on Friday. I’m super-excited to colead one with the amazing Deborah Raney. Each session is designed for a different level and style or writer. We’ve got beginners, multi-published, independent, self-editing, and the spiritual aspects. I wish I could sit in on each…so I’ll get the MP3s instead. Then on Saturday, there are 20 workshops. There truly is something for every fiction writer regardless of your level and needs. Add in the Gala and an amazing post-conference session with Rachel Hauck and Susan May Warren, and you have an opportunity for a very full learning experience. Oh, and don’t forget that if you need a headshot, the amazingly talented Emilie Hendrix will be there and will take your headshot for $40! She takes mine and does a fantastic job. I am so very excited. If this will be your first year to attend, be sure...

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4 Books that Bring History to Life + bonus selections

Apr29

Posted by in homeschooling | 0 comments

4 Books that Bring History to Life + bonus selections

From time to time as a homeschooling mom, I feel the need to mix things up a bit. If all we are doing is reading through textbooks, then the education my kids get here with me is no different than it would be in a traditional school. One of the things my kids and I have done this year is reading lots of books that are filled with mini-biographies of 7-14 people. It’s been a great way to go deeper than the paragraph that most history books give important people. I’ve been able to watch my kids understand why these people are in history books and get excited about the stories behind the names. Following I’m going to list some of our favorites and why we’ve liked them.  #Homeschooling? Want to bring #history to life? @Cara_Putman recommends 4 books. Click To Tweet Women in Black History was a great addition to our studies – a perfect dovetail and supplement to an American history curriculum. The biographies are 10-12 pages, easily read in one sitting and are appropriate for a wide age range. (My kids currently are 5, 8, 12, and 15) As a homeschooler, I also loved the discussion questions and creative prompts at the end of each story. It was a great way to test comprehension and dive deeper if you like. Several times we would springboard from the biography to YouTube or another source to learn more about the woman mentioned. The women included in Women in Black History are Phillis Wheatley, Sojourner Truth, Harriet Tubman, Mary Ann Shadd Cary, Frances Ellen Watkins Harper, Anna Julia Cooper, Mary McLeod Bethune, Marian Anderson, Mahalia Jackson, Rosa Parks, Fannie Lou Hamer, Althea Gibson, and Coretta Scott King. We kicked off our year reading 7 Men and the Secret of Their Greatness by Eric Metaxas. I wanted to test the idea of diving deeper into biographies with this book that focuses on George Washington, William Wilberforce, Eric Liddell, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Jackie Robinson, Pope John Paul II, and Charles Colson. It was a diverse collection of men all with different impacts. In fact, some of you might question why he included some of the men, but by the end of the bios the kids agreed the men had shown reasons for greatness. The biographies led to some interesting discussions and gave us the chance to explore what does it mean to live a life of greatness. While there aren’t discussion questions at the end of each biography, there are many places you can take the stories and I loved how they covered a 300 year period of time.   Because we enjoyed 7 Men and the Secret of Their Greatness, I decided to turn to the women. 7 Women and the Secret of Their Greatness was a great next step. In this volume Eric Metaxas examines 7 diverse women and the impact they made on the world. While, I was familiar with the men he had selected, this volume included a couple of new-to-me women: Joan of Arc, Susanna Wesley, Hannah More, Maria Skobtsova, Corrie ten Boom, Mother Teresa, and Rosa Parks. Each of the bios mirrored the length of the first book — and we would spend about a week on each woman. We had already studied Susanna Wesley, Corrie ten Boom, and Mother Teresa, but the author’s take focused on what made them different and world-changers…a perspective I enjoyed exploring with...

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Celebrating The End: What’s a Writer to Do?

Apr26

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Celebrating The End: What’s a Writer to Do?

On Friday night, I typed words that are magic to every author: The End. They are glorious words, because they mean that an author has reached the end of a journey. Characters that I first began to imagine two, almost thr ee years ago have been fully developed and have lived their lives on the screen of my mind. I have taken faithful dictation and tried to capture their adventures on the page. I have emailed the crazy long document to my editor, and now I wait, I pause before I receive the macro edits from her next month. How should writers celebrate THE END? @Cara_Putman wants to know. #Amwriting Click To Tweet And here’s where I, the neurotic writer, have a problem. My type A personality leaps to the forefront because literally ten minutes after hitting send, characters began screaming at me that it was time for their story to come to light. You see, I am TERRIBLE at celebrating the end. This book was, I believe, manuscript 23 that I’ve turned into a publisher. And I’m still an abysmal failure and novice at taking a moment to breath and celebrate. Instead, I’m ready to launch into the very next adventure with barely a pause. I’m pretty sure that’s not healthy. I’m sure there is someone out there thinking “this girl needs help.” The ironic thing is I am a big believer in the need to look back and celebrate what God has done in our lives. I fully believe our faith needs those pauses and moments of celebration. That moment where I pause and thank God for carrying me through another book. About book 8 and 9, I thought I’d take the kids out to a movie every time I finish a book. I’m more of a Redbox girl myself. So this time I bought the new Star Wars movie and watched it with my husband and older kids. Does that count? This time I purposely scheduled a spa day for Saturday morning. Now before you think that’s awesome (which it was), I used a gift card I received last Mother’s Day. It’s almost this Mother’s Day, folks! But I knew I really needed a pause this time. Something to look forward to because this book really kicked my behind. And that facial was sooo relaxing. And I’m still admiring my painted nails and toes. I just don’t take the time for me, so it was awesome. I also went to dinner with friends. The invitation was perfectly timed because one of the things I had to cut this go-around was making time to spend with friends. I was just stretched too thin. So an evening with friends and good food was ideal. If you’re a writer, how do you celebrate the end? And for the readers, how would you tell a writer to celebrate?...

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Fiction Friday: Bachelor Girl’s Guide to Murder

Apr22

Posted by in Fiction Friday | 11 comments

Fiction Friday: Bachelor Girl’s Guide to Murder

Every once in awhile there is a debut novel that I am super eager to read because of the buzz I’m hearing about it. The Bachelor Girl’s Guide to Murder by Rachel McMillan was one of those. I met Rachel at ACFW a couple years ago, and her personality was so fun, I was intrigued. Then I heard she had landed a multi-book contract for a series of historical, Sherlock Holmes-eque mysteries with the twist of being set in Toronto in the 1910s with female leads. There was a short story that was up as an ebook for $2.99 that I enjoyed, so that made me even more excited for The Bachelor Girl’s Guide to Murder. The title alone is simply fun and perfect. Love a good mystery? @Cara_Putman is #givingaway @RachKMc debut #mystery. #amreading Click To Tweet Toronto is one of the cities on my bucket list that I haven’t visited yet. After reading this book, I feel like I’ve been there — at least a century ago The characters are fun and quirky with Merinda diving into all kinds of chaos and more than a little uncomfortable in her own skin, and Jem following along because she just can’t say no to Merinda. Together with the help of a demoted police investigator and a reporter, they set out to solve the murders of two young women. The Bachelor Girl’s Guide to Murder has political intrigue, romantic entanglements, and a mystery that is well-layered. I found it a fun read and am already looking forward to the next novella and the novel, both of which will release in the next few months. Readers who love the Drew Farthering mysteries from Julianna Deering will love these. Because I love to support my fellow authors, I bought an extra copy of the book, so I could give it away to one reader. All you have to do is use the form below. The Bachelor Girl’s Guide to Murder (Harvest House, April 2016) In 1910 Toronto, while other bachelor girls perfect their domestic skills and find husbands, two friends perfect their sleuthing skills and find a murderer. Inspired by their fascination with all things Sherlock Holmes, best friends and flatmates Merinda and Jem launch a consulting detective business. The deaths of young Irish women lead Merinda and Jem deeper into the mire of the city’s underbelly, where the high hopes of those dreaming to make a new life in Canada are met with prejudice and squalor. While searching for answers, donning disguises, and sneaking around where no proper ladies would ever go, they pair with Jasper Forth, a police constable, and Ray DeLuca, a reporter in whom Jem takes a more than professional interest. Merinda could well be Toronto’s premiere consulting detective, and Jem may just find a way to put her bachelor girlhood behind her forever–if they can stay alive long enough to do so. Learn more and purchase a copy. a Rafflecopter giveaway a Rafflecopter...

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