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Author: Jessica

Little Successes

I am writing and posting this quietly because I am excited but the buy links aren’t up yet and I don’t want to do official promoting.

However, today, this very special day, I have published two stories. Through the Paintings Dimly and Alone are both in the system.

The blurbs might not be perfect. Some matters need to be tweaked, and I should probably add in some ads and such. But step by step, it happens.

 

Each day comes

Take another step

One step, three, ten or a hundred

 

Just watch and see

My stories come to be

 

A Quiet Little October Thursday

All of my creative endeavors and hopes for this weekend look as if they might be coming into question. Unfortunately this little $100 laptop that I picked up as an emergency backup almost a year ago has decided that it is better to be difficult than reliable. In fairness, the poor thing has been under extensive writing strain being my laptop. I use it regularly, and it has served well up to this point. So I will forgive it.

Meanwhile, thankfully I brought two notebooks though not my binder filled with lined paper. Instead I grabbed a binder with grid paper. The grid paper isn’t quite so bad for writing as I expected, but I do prefer a soft green tint on my steno pads and lined paper if at all possible.

Well regardless, it’s all right. I just have to be cautious what I put up on my laptop. No multi-tasking.

To be fair that will be an interesting exercise for me. And it probably won’t be true focus in that I do have my phone, and I could just listen to something while handwriting. But quite so many irons can be in the fire at once.

This slower progress has caused me to focus more on other items. I’ve got an ever growing list of articles to write and a clearer picture of what I want to create. Hopefully the certification progress goes well. We shall see.

Happy Book Birthday to Mermaids and the Vampires Who Love Them

Today is an incredibly exciting day because this is the day that my incredible friend, Debra Goelz (aka Brittanie Charmintine) releases her story, Mermaids and the Vampires Who Love Them on audiobook with Hachette.

Now this is a deeply personal story for me because I’ve gotten to see it develop. There’s something special that happens when you get to see an incredible story developing beneath your eyes and you get to talk to the author and see the amazing (albeit headbangingly frustrating for the author) process.

I’ll be doing a more formal review about this, but let me tell you my thirteen favorite things here.

  • Mer people! (who actually have to do math)
  • Magic-altering tears
  • Rainbow eyes
  • Vampire trope inversion
  • Sea horses!
  • Supernatural teachers with amazing courses (I wish these were offered here!)
  • Cupid
  • Kisses (sometimes in flight, even, hmmhmm)
  • Sneaky sneaky escapes
  • Witty tongue-in-cheek sense of humor
  • Cupcakes
  • Corndogs (I might not enjoy them but Waverly makes them sound so appealing)
  • Shark battering rams

So far as I am concerned, this is a must-read. I mean must-listen. It’s perfect for the summer or for those who wish summer was still here. Or those who just love mermaids. Pick it up here.

Do sign up for her newsletter as well here.

And guess what? She’s hosting a fantastic contest with some great prizes. Opportunities for writers and artists. Check it out here. There are prizes up to $100.

Beautiful job, Debbie. I can’t wait to hear it again and read more of your stories in the future.

#MeToo: Mixed Feelings More From Life Than #

The #metoo is something which I have strong and mixed feelings toward. I don’t know that it’s bad. But one of my friends, Katherine Coble, pointed out the tragedy of this situation, referring to this as a “place where we have to continually expose our pain, make ourselves vulnerable in order to make clear a basic point.”

That sums up precisely how I feel. And let me make clear, I and many others posting this hashtag are not saying that we are only victims (this is not some prize that we won either). We are survivors.

But we are survivors who have to prove not that we have survived but that we were injured in the first place. And subsequently we must demonstrate that it was an actual injury and not some mere scrape or inconvenience or misunderstanding.

Even posting about #metoo makes me feel vulnerable, broken, weak, as if I have somehow failed (though what exactly, I can’t tell you). I do not like feeling this way. I don’t like to remember what happened on these occasions (because yes, there was more than one). But here are some of my thoughts on it.

Evidence Needed

It feels like in part I have to put myself on display to validate many issues. Tear off the veils and expose the scars, break down the walls and show off the wounds. And, to a certain degree, that is necessary. Evidence is needed in many cases. But sometimes that supposed balance tilts so far over the other direction, it feels like there is not enough. That there will never be enough unless it’s the ideal case with objectively demonstrable facts. And that creates a heavy burden that crushes the will to speak or to act when you know that, despite the letter of the law in some cases being on your side, the practice and the individuals involved are not.

I accepted in one instance that there was not enough evidence to support my claim and let it go. Even then, I understood that the worst part about many of these situations is that they can be hard to prove. In that case, the eczema lesions were bloody and covered a broad enough span of my body complete with bruising, particularly where I was grabbed, that there was no independent evidence. And I simply wanted it to be over and forget it ever happened. I also felt intense shame that I could not reason my way out of, and in another case, I was instructed to let it go because he was “mentally damaged and this will go badly for him.”

To be clear, this is not something I want to have a dialogue about aside from in general terms. I only want to use what I need to to make the point that it has happened, and it was violent. (Some might say and have said to me that those who wounded me can no longer hurt me so I should speak up and be loud, but I would counter, no. You cannot force me, and you do not have the right to compel me. I do not ask for pity, and I do not ask for chastisement either.)

Some of the questions and analysis must come about when these matters are investigated. I do understand this. We live under a system of law which in theory follows Blackstone’s formulation that “it is far better that ten guilty men go free than one innocent man be wrongfully convicted.”

But it so often seems that in the case of sexual violation and misconduct, the guilty go free and the innocent suffer (which includes the wrongly accused). (This is in part because our system is one that does not focus simply on the facts but in which legal play and connections and deals make a difference. Justice could be blind, but she is not the only one surveying the case.)

In the times when it happened to me, I did what I thought was best. It was not always what was wisest. (Which is part of the reason that we need to be clear and empathetic about how to handle these situations. Young ones are often the target, and if they get separated from good counsel and their families, even when they have good ones like mine, matters often become worse.)

We need to move to a point (or create a better one as such a place didn’t ever completely exist) where we go back to the focus on justice and protecting the innocent without also sacrificing the wounded on the altar of entertainment, gossip, and convenience.

What About the Liars or the People Who Want Attention?

And inevitably from this will come the “what about people who make it up?”

One of the most traumatizing events for me in college came from a bond I made with another young woman. Somehow in a conversation after midnight, we began talking about life and tragedy, and I let what happened to me slip. She shared that she had been brutally raped. I was horrified. He had gone completely unpunished. She showed me his picture, told me horrifying details. And I decided to support her the way I had needed someone to support me but couldn’t articulate.

I did research standards for the county we were in. Got phone numbers. Contacted the necessary people. She expressed little interest in pursuing anything related to it.

What terrified me was that he started showing up. He lurked near our dorm. He appeared in various places. One night he arrived as we were leaving. He was within arm’s reach and called out to her. I hit him across the knees with a parasol and told him to get back, I was going to call the police. He was confused. She didn’t want me to do anything about it.

Maybe a week or so later, I saw on Facebook, they were dating. I wasn’t sure what to think, but when I talked to her, she admitted he hadn’t raped her. She had said that he had because they had sex and then he broke up with her but now wanted to get back together. (For my readers who aren’t from a conservative religious background, sex before marriage is still a very bad thing because sex is to be saved until marriage.)

I felt gutpunched, betrayed. My soul was crushed. How deeply I despised that man, putting on him the sins of others, still haunts me to a degree. But recognizing this does not mean that we should ignore the claims of others. That doesn’t mean it was easy though. I was completely shaken after my friend’s confession.

Yes, even having experienced assault and more, I found myself struggling in the aftermath of that to believe when others shared what they had experienced in a similar manner while at the same time wanting to understand and wanting to help. I felt like I was being shredded like chicken that’s been in the pot too long because it filled me with doubt. (I also tend to be oversensitive to anyone who might be lying and would note that many who have been assaulted are the same because those who do choose to lie make it all the harder for those who have come forward or will come forward.)

I would also add that in all my years thus far, I only know of a handful of false report cases, and I know of far more situations where the abuse was not reported.

My point in sharing this is that I am well-aware of the fact that not all abuse allegations are true. I have no idea of the actual numbers, but recognizing the reality of some lies, I would still insist that we have to do better in assisting those who are not lying.

Compelled Speech

There will also be some glib responses of how we must not be victims and must speak out to prevent this from happening. And this bothers me too.

The damage done in a violation is done whether the survivor steps forward and speaks up or not. The burden of the wrongdoing is on the perpetrator first and foremost. Or it should be.

But so often it slides to the survivor. Even when it’s not intended.

Not everyone who goes through abuse is able to speak about it. There are some who know that their cases cannot be proven or they live in a place where they are not able to. And the condemnation, scorn, and anger about a survivor who does not respond properly or take all the right steps can feel even larger because that survivor is also dealing with the wounds from the attacker.

One of the most important places to speak up is after it happens to bring those individuals to accountability if that is possible. (But even then I firmly believe that this is the survivor’s choice. There are so many complicated facets to this conversation, and there are few hard and fast rules.)

Another essential place to speak up if you can is when others can be harmed by your silence. Maybe you can’t do it publicly, but do it privately if you can.

After that, demanding that they do more moves into this “show us your wounds!” mentality. Not that it is stated that way. More often, it’s implied in assertions that abuse, harassment, and such do not exist or that they are exaggerated or misinterpreted. Or in the skeptical assertions and knowing glances.

There are individuals who step out and speak up. What they are doing is admirable and deeply appreciated when they do share the truth. This does not mean that all survivors must speak up publicly or that they are somehow deficient for not doing so. Nor does it mean that these survivors must make speaking about sexual abuse, harassment, and assault their priority.

Why Are You Living in Fear?

I know that one of the other responses likely to come from this is “why do you live in fear? Do you think someone is waiting behind every lamppost to rape you?” Usually followed up with a “no one would want to rape you, you’re too ugly” or a “I wouldn’t rape you cause X.” (Joys of the Internet, my friends. Yes, I’ve had this and lots more said to me.)

But I would ask that two things be understood. First, rape or assault has little to do with attraction to the individual but is more often about power and the attacker’s needs. My looks, such as they are, are irrelevant. Second, it is not necessary for a threat to exist behind every post and shadow for one to take precautions. I’d point out that many who  condemn survivors living in fear still lock their car doors and houses at some point.

I do not live in fear. I battle fear. I beat it down and break it apart. But it does lie in wait and creeps at the corners of my mind, a skulking, slithering being that will grow if I do not work to decrease its power. I am not alone in this. (And even those who do live in a state of what more would consider fear and possibly timidity, I’d point out that the vast majority of them fight valiantly as well to even function. It is simply that their circle is far smaller and sometimes their monsters far stronger.)

Some days are better than others. I know how to carry myself. I learned how to defend myself. I learned who not to listen to. I am bold, but I am not a fool. My choosing not to do certain things is not proof that my attackers won but rather that I have adapted.

For Those Learning to Survive and Those Moving Ever Forward

Ultimately what I would add in addition to #metoo is that if you are going through this, you may feel alone but you are not alone. Knowing this does not mean the sensations or the pain goes away. Sometimes it is far more of a feeling than a reality, but that does not make it easy to deal with.

Healing is a process. Some part of you may never feel the same, and, in truth, my friend, you are not nor will you ever be the same. Every experience we have changes us in one way or another. Ones such as this are no exception, and indeed they can prove the rule in a particularly harsh way.

But be kind to yourself. Listen to what you need even if that is simply to be left in solitude and silence.

Understand that some of your feelings, while accurate in that you are feeling them, are not accurate to the facts. For instance, simply because you feel ashamed or weak does not mean you actually did anything wrong or that you are weak. It took a long time for me to wrap my head around that. Bad things sometimes happen to those who do not ask for them or deserve them.

Know that while some questions are normal, it is all right for you to shut the doors when some people become too intrusive (though as you know in the legal system, this gets…iffier). If you don’t want to talk about it, you don’t have to except in a few circumstances. If you don’t want to participate in #metoo or anything like that, you don’t have to, and it does not make you less of a survivor or mean you do not matter.

Research what to expect in your recovery and how to handle this. It may seem strange, but physical maladies (not just STDs) can manifest after these events, not to mention psychological and mental challenges as well. This does not mean you are weak. It is simply an indication that sexual abuse and harassment are more than just physical and have deep roots that will affect you in more than the obvious ways.

Reclaim what you can. If there is something that you can do better, then do it. (But know that just because you erred in one or two ways does not mean you deserve what happened to you.) Then take the rest of yourself back. You don’t have to punish yourself (though if you are like most, you likely will). Focus on healing. I have had to spend a lot of time in prayer and thought, sifting through all that happened.

Forgive. There’s often a lot of people to forgive in this, and I don’t mean it glibly. Forgiveness frees you from the burden, but it’s not just about forgiving your attacker (oh and this doesn’t mean you won’t still be angry at that person).  This does not absolve your attacker from what was done either. You will most likely have to forgive others for how they responded and yourself. If you are like many, you will blame yourself because there will be so many choices that could have gone differently. I know I did. I could have just chosen another route. I could have asked for another shift. There’s a lot of “could have justs.” But what is done is done, and you need to forgive and let go as soon as you can.

Reach out to those you can trust. Get help. And if you don’t know anyone you can talk to, bear in mind that there are organizations like RAINN which have a 24-hour hotline (800-656-4673) as well as The National Center for Victims of Crime and No More. There are many other such organizations, some of which are local. Others can be found through Facebook. Provided your church leadership is not part of the abuse, they also have many resources.

Recognize it may be a long process. As I’ve mentioned, I still don’t like to talk about this. I prefer focusing on trying to get the laws and procedures changed and work with advocacy groups that assist survivors or assisting individual survivors. And, frankly, sometimes things will set you back. It’s hard to keep your head up and not give in to what the fear tells you when someone curb crawls you with dark tinted windows and mud covered plates or someone sends you a threatening letter or email.

But even if your head slips down and you have to cry or all of it comes pouring in and overwhelms you, that doesn’t mean you’ve been beaten. You just pick yourself back up and lift your head again. And remember that even if they demand to see your scars and your wounds, you don’t always have to show them. It is your choice what you do even if once or more someone tried to take that away from you.

 

A Quiet Sunday

This has been a good but quiet day. I spent a fair bit of it editing a friend’s story and helping her get it ready. It’s a brilliant story, and I hope it makes it into the anthology. I prepped and formatted a manuscript and sent it off for proofing. And then I will be working on Cursed for the rest of the evening.

Lots more I could say, but today I shall keep it brief. Tomorrow I will have new words.

Locked Is Now Live!

Locked is now live!

I am so excited to share this because it is the first official release of the Tue-Rah stories. A prequel to The Tue-Rah Chronicles.

It is really happening.

It has amazed me how quickly my readers fell in love with WroOth. As I have mentioned before (and likely will again), he is probably the dearest of my characters because he is the oldest. This is a character who has literally been with me since I was around Inale’s age at the start of Identity Revealed, and he was created out of a need to express myself and all of my snarkiness as a child. Which there was a lot of. I was a smart aleck whose world was quite small with cruel outskirts. I had a lot to say and a deep love of dragons. So why not channel them into a middle-aged shapeshifter whose favorite form is a red dragon?

(Funny thing, originally WroOth [Giluf Wroth and then Wroth, my oh so subtle nod toward my own anger issues] was based off Smaug in an incredibly loose sense. Oddly he never had a love for gold or a hatred of dwarves but he did enjoy riddles and mindteasers, thus the appearance of the puzzle box.)

Thomas Williams described discovering characters as starting a fire and sitting down and waiting to see who comes to warm their hands by the firelight.

What a beautiful thought and image.

For me, it’s never quite the same way, but I typically know who my characters are. It feels more like perpetually walking through a forest or a jungle. The terrain changes. Day fades and night comes. There is no warning about who I will find, and some characters skitter across the peripherals of my mind without sticking. And other times, they walk up, and they walk alongside me, and it is so easy to let them flow then into the pages. With most of the characters in my story, there is a point where I precisely remember them appearing and learn more of who they are.

Because WroOth was so deeply personal to me, I doubted that others would connect quite so well. It’s a common fate that the deeply loved or personal characters are the ones whom audiences grow swiftly annoyed with and despise (and who knows! The same may yet happen, though I hope not). But to those of you who are WroOth fans, you were kind enough to encourage me and affirm your desire to read more about him and his past, present, and future.

Of all the characters, I have received the most kind notes and greatest support for WroOth. And it is actually you, dear readers, who convinced me to release Locked and even gave me the idea to release it before the official release of Identity Revealed and Enemy Known.  (In fact, James was the one who convinced me to let WroOth play a much larger role in the primary series as in a rendition about five years ago, WroOth was trapped in his skinchanger form and unlike who he used to be or would become. So thank you for that, James, my dearest love.

And it makes me laugh because WroOth is a villain. Of sorts. But he connects somehow. I think it’s because of his smiles and what he hides and the reality that inside he’s so broken that the only thing that holds him together is his love for his family and his determination to somehow make it right. And over all that, he plasters a smile and finds the joke, even if he has to make it up himself.

It’s with Mara that he finds some of his greatest happiness. They’re both fractured people in a broken world, and their love story is one I delight in writing. There is a lot more to come for them and all that they experienced as well as the events in Tue-Rah Chronicles and beyond.

So if you’d like to pick up a copy of Locked, I’d greatly appreciate it, and if you would be so kind as to leave a review on Amazon, I’d appreciate that as well. No matter what though, I’ll keep on writing. Thank you for reading.

Why I Am Tired of This Excuse for Star Trek Doing Prequels

The most common reason I have heard for why Star Trek must go back to time periods that have essentially been done (pre-Kirk or around Kirk time) is because we cannot imagine any technology beyond what has been created. We have reached the max of what can be imagined.

Now I am not a skilled science fiction writer, and I declare that to be a sorry suggestion for modern writers.

Are we really so lacking in creativity that we cannot use our imaginations to envision what may yet be?

Qo’!

So here’s my endeavor.

Note: I am a fan of Star Trek and have seen all of the series and movies except Discovery. However, I am not as familiar with a couple series, particularly Enterprise, which I just don’t remember much of beyond that the third season improves and someone got pregnant through their hands.

Drawing Music and Art Straight from the Mind into a 3D Formation or on the Page

Let’s imagine for a minute that you could envision something and then pull it out of your mind and into reality. Obviously this would likely come with something of a cost, but how amazing would that be even if it left you drained for a few days or even weeks? Or maybe that story can be pulled from the mind and directed straight onto the page. I suspect some form of cleanup would be necessary. (If I ripped everything out of my head right as it is, it’d probably be a huge mess, but hey! There’s got to be some work involved as well as a challenge.)

Some Invention (Please!) That Would Speed and Improve Pregnancy

When I first watched The Child, I was shocked to realize that in the future, the only way women’s pregnancies speed up is through supernatural alien interference, and they still had Counselor Troi’s feet in stirrups while she was in pain. At least in Disaster when Worf had to deliver Keiko’s baby, they were in an emergency situation. Then when we get over to Major Kira and her delivery in The Begotten, it’s the natural Bajoran hormone release that results in a pleasant delivery (and the bickering men who make it less than).

So…come on. We’re already talking about in-home baby incubators as a reality in our living rooms (still a fair ways out from being usable). Can’t you give us hope for the future? That in a few centuries it won’t be so incredibly painful? (I could add a myriad of health issues here that would be great to have resolved, but I’ll leave it at pregnancy as that is what we are most likely to see.)

Learn to Use the Distortion Wave as an Energy Source and Control It

So in New Ground, the Enterprise tries riding distortion waves with disastrous results that almost wipe out a bunch of innocents (oops). The idea behind it was interesting, so why not expand on that? What if there was a way to make that work? Or perhaps something similar. Given that warp drive is eroding sections of space, wouldn’t alternative fuel sources be a great thing? And surfing as a method of transportation, why yes!

Mini World Creation

Come on now. We’ve had pet rocks and pet targs and pet cats. We’ve had nanos/nanites accidentally escaping and the Enterprise creating its own form of intelligent life. What if we get to a point of creation where kids or perhaps, if that’s too much, adults can make entire little worlds.

Terraforming is something that more than one series addressed. And in a sense, we did get to see all-powerful aliens creating miniature worlds in such as The Squire of Gothos or illusion-based like Catspaw in just the Original Series among many others. Each series has at some point or another tackled some larger entity taking hold of our courageous protagonists and thrusting them into a smaller altered reality. Sometimes even the occasional hologram character decides to do this as in Ship in a Bottle.

But we haven’t really seen viable worlds being created by humans that are sustainable outside a program. Think Ant Farms but at a much larger level with perhaps a layer of Sim City or Rim World except it’s real. Oooooh. Think of the ethical issues! The possible conundrums. I can hear one of the captains prepping a monologue for us now. Brew the tea, coffee, and raktajinos!

It could even be done on a smaller scale with a biome that has been compressed and that allows the caretaker to oversee what is happening and provide for it. And perhaps…life finds a way (I’m afraid I can’t keep it to one franchise.)

Thought Extractor

So technically this sort of exists if we take it the route of “remove this memory.” But I’d like to see this developed into a device (I’m envisioning sort of a pistol with multi-colored, energy radiating lines) that you put up against the patient’s head and then literally pull the thought out so that you can see it. Perhaps even put it in the hologram (we all know how much Star Trek loves using the holograms, sometimes to the detriment of actual exploration as in Voyager; I feel like I know Fair Haven better than the Delta Quadrant).

Now perhaps this doesn’t work on everyone. That could add some conflict and intrigue. But I would love to see a thought extractor. So many possible uses and misuses! And then of course you must have the counter measure! A way to block the thought extractor. (Maybe the Ferengi will fix this one up. Or the Romulans or the Cardassians. Who knows! Maybe we’ll have lots of different thought extractors now available on the market, but please, let’s push ourselves and not fall back on the trope of “it destroys the mind and personality.”)

Instascan Healing

So it appears that in the future, certain illnesses have been eradicated (though heaven help you if a mutant or modified T cell gets loose). But people still have to go in for surgeries. Throughout the series, we see many problems. But what if we actually got technology that recognizes what should biologically be in particular humanoid’s bodies and repairs that to match (perhaps even using those scans that they mention and use conveniently when they need to deage someone like Dr. Polaski). You have your own profile. You need an organ? No need for interstellar travels to the nearest qualified physician (and no that’s not because the most qualified physician was on your ship all along). Just pop in and get microwaved and everything is restored. Same goes for reconstructive surgeries.

And if you think that this means no medical conflict, how wrong you are! You may note that in Star Trek power surges/loss and situations where they are without their tech occur frequently. There’s too many to mention but Armageddon Game plays with this nicely.

There’s also the possibility of new types of diseases, viruses, creatures, and oh so much more!

Implants to Allow Walking in Space or Underwater or in Hostile Environments Without Suits

Space suits are a cool part of going into outerspace, I admit that. But they can also be rather cumbersome, and they are difficult to walk in. So what if instead, implants were created that would essentially create a miniature forcefield around you so that you can do everything you normally would (and look glamourous doing it)? Or perhaps the implants allow you to be immune to whatever the effects are.

I will also add that when I was about five or six, I was convinced that I had solved this problem on my own. It was obvious how people could breathe underwater. See, all you had to do was get a fish head and cut it off just behind the gills – and that’s where everyone started laughing so hard, I never got to explain why it would work. My poor mother collapsed against the side of the fridge with bread dough on her hands, laughing until she cried. Ah, life was so clear back then.

Ships that Literally Move Their Pieces Around

So we all know that the Borg have a cube for a ship that grows and responds. But what about a multi-cube ship with a fantastic network around it. When you shoot photons or divert something through the deflector at it, it senses this and rearranges itself. Which means that the only way to destroy it is to make sure that you send off so many explosives that it cannot possibly respond to all of them.

And I don’t want this to be a one-off single episode or even a two parter. No. I want to see this developed. I’m sure there are loads of flaws with it, but it’d be such a pest to fight. Might also have some problems with aerodynamics, but I’m sure we can compensate

Sun Colonies

Now I know that in Relics, the Enterprise encounters a Dyson sphere. But that encompasses a star and uses that energy for its own energy needs. I’d like to see an actual sun colony. Maybe they’re there harvesting energy or tending to the star’s needs. I don’t know precisely what that would look like, but you can’t convince me there isn’t some advanced tech and amazing possibilities for characters. (Plus what if something lives inside the sun!)

Person to Person Energy Transfers

Most Starfleet characters seem to enjoy caffeinated beverages. But you know what I’d love to see? Person to person energy transfers. Now of course this needs to be done willingly, but it allows you, if you have some extra energy to send over, to transfer it to someone else. (I know parents of five-year-olds are getting hopeful.)

It would also be an interesting reason for having so many people on board the starship or an even better excuse for a station.

And of course this could be used nefariously! The reason behind chronic fatigue syndrome and adrenal failure is the Cardassians, I tell you! Or the Romulans. It’s hard to say for sure.

Video Messages With All Sensation Included

Holograms can only go so far, but hey surely we can top this. Apparently holograms can go pretty far actually if Voyager is our standard, even to the point of people falling in love with them and apparently the only real reason that they have to be pulled out is because it isn’t “real.”

For whatever reason, this doesn’t seem to be transferrable to video messages from family in one’s own quarters. Perhaps because you need a hologram to make them work? But let’s have an invention that allows you to interact with that video message of a loved one, and it stimulates the necessary parts of the brain to create the right sensations.

(Also how amazing would this be for a revenge plot? Your husband cheats on you, and so you send him a good-bye letter, but you program it to inflict deep searing pain!)

Recreational Calorie-Free Food and Drink and Insta Fitness

Apparently the future involves a lot of rather attractive folks. So let’s explain that by having recreational food and drink and insta fitness programs that explain how everyone can look so great except the one fat person intended to represent greed and hedonism.

Now you’d still have workout classes and the like since you need that to build up your will and knowledge of how to react. But you cannot convince me that in in a semi-utopia like Star Trek, there aren’t people who wouldn’t want to look like models and eat to their heart’s content.

(Though really anything over the play-do squares of the Original Series is probably going to be an improvement in that regard, but let’s reach a little higher here, shall we?)

Acid Swimmers

I have always wondered, what lives at the bottom of an acid lake? Or pool? Or planet? What if something could live in there. And wouldn’t it just be handy to not have to worry about being dissolved into a puddle? Space suits could then be adapted to explore these regions or others with corrosive atmospheres. Yes! Let’s go where no man has really gone before and survived!

So these are just thirteen ideas for possible inventions and developments that don’t yet exist in Star Trek. Some are better than others, but this is just off the top of my head. I refuse to accept that our imaginations allow us to go no farther than the tech showcased in Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, and Voyager. And this doesn’t even touch the possible storylines and explorations that could exist that do not require scientific inventions.

What about you? What are some inventions you wish existed within Star Trek’s future?

May the Force be with you.

And also with you.

The Third Day Is The Hardest: Excuses, Loneliness, and Censorship

Today I’m going to share what’s happening in my labyrinth of a mind (there may or may not be a sane way out). Some of the chaos and bizarre trains that run rampant and carve out new paths at their leisure (which isn’t particularly leisurely).

I have heard several times that for some, change requires radical action. And there has been one thing that has come to me over and over again. One of my greatest weaknesses is that I cut myself off. I don’t put myself out there. And time and again, I have wondered what would happen if I did put myself out there more frequently? What would happen if I posted every day on my website or somewhere similar for a set period of time?

So I am doing it.

The first day was hard. I almost didn’t post because I wasn’t happy with it, and I wasn’t sure if what I was writing about was even helpful or needed.

The second day was easier because I knew what I wanted to write.

Today, the third day, is harder than the first. I’ve hit that line where I feel like an intrusion. That what I share, whether fact or fiction, is an inconvenience and unnecessary intrusion into the world.

At the same time, it feels pointless. Speaking out into a void, surrounded on all sides by a darkness thick and deep.

I am also highly aware of all the things I do not yet know how to do. All the places and points in which I err.

It’s a series of cacophonous overlays that intensify with each new thought and fear.

Oddly it also brings up sensations of rejection and a hundred tiny spider voices that insist on so many things. That I am nothing. That what I have to offer is nothing. That I cannot do it well enough and so should not do it at all. That no one cares. That nothing I do makes a difference.

And in eternity’s light and even just in the scope of a single life’s perspective this is crushed breadcrumbs in the grass small.

This does not feel the way I want it to, but that feeling or unease or sense of intrusion is not particularly relevant to what actually is in this case. And I’m actually quite sure that I am not alone in these sorts of feelings. I know for a fact that while I may feel alone in this struggle, I am not in any way alone.

Loneliness is sometimes far more a perception than a reality. That does not make it any less real or damaging, but it changes what must be done.

The ultimate root is my own perspective of myself and my God-given value. I am the one who is questioning it, and that is what makes the insecurity so loud. I am not in silence but in a chamber where my own voice is so loud it is deafening and I can hear nothing else. A chamber where I am blinded from my own perspective with a standard so high it is as if I made it specifically so I could not reach it.

And it is a mess.

I won’t deny that.

The inside of my head is usually a tangle of prayers, meditations, stories, thoughts, concerns, images, sensations, and lines from poems, stories, movies, and TV shows with the occasional joke that resurfaces and suddenly makes sense.

I know that I am strange, and I accept that. I look at my stories and the topics I choose to write on, the characters who bleed out of my fingers and pen. They are not easy. I write too much. My posts and stories are too long. They’re too weird, and so am I.

But I think that I have accepted this. And the darkness and the chaos is there. I find myself wondering what if this is not a flaw, what if this is how God created me to be? Someone who is feels perpetually torn by contradictory paths? Somehow who has to think of more than one thing? Someone who really doesn’t know how to keep small talk small and can accidentally kill a conversation with something that suddenly goes too deep? Someone who wants to ask questions and fight with the answers even if there is no solid answer to be found? Someone who often feels as if there’s some secret book that was passed around that teaches most everyone else how to respond?

Sometimes I do restrain myself. This is not a bad thing. Far more can be learned through listening and watching. But when it comes to my writing, I see no benefit in cutting out the essence of who I am because I don’t think it can be removed. My attempt to write a vampire romance turned into a fantasy epic with realms behind the phases of the moons and magic systems based on interactions with humans and the children of the sun.

I suppose that what I hope is this. That as I strive to be the best person I can be, to live in a way that honors God and encourages and builds up my family, friends, and loved ones, that I will find my people who love my stories and perhaps even need them. People who won’t be so busy that they can’t make time for a long epic or an odd tale because it fits what they need. I think I need to be cautious of censoring myself because too often I have found the people I needed were those who did not censor themselves. The censorship results in many cases in a loss of that which is needed.

So why is posting each day hard?

I suppose it isn’t.

It just feels like it is.

And feelings aren’t enough for me to go on.

There’s only way through. Through the fear and through the dark. And I do want to know what’s on the other side.

 

Fiction Snippet: What A Sister Knows

So, as I am striving to post at least once each day, I will also be sharing snippets of fiction as well as essays.

This is a rough draft, though the writing time took more than 15 minutes as I intended. Still I had fun with it.

Today’s is from Rejected:  A Tue-Rah Story

Spoiler Level: No spoilers for Tue-Rah Chronicles

Note: brief vocabulary explanations found at the bottom

Snippet: 

Naatos chose the garden because he wanted to be alone. As he passed beneath the stone archway and into the quiet haven, he knew he had to come to a solution. Hatet had become more aggressive with her advances, and she had made fools out of both of them.

He sat on the silver marble bench heavily and let his hands slide over his knees. This was all too much.

This garden should have offered peace and consolation. The ancient trees and thick lamb’s ear and heather bushes scented the air with many pleasant notes, both contemplative and calming. Except for now, the chaos within him overwhelmed even that.

Soft footsteps sounded outside in the hall. Mara started to pass by with a basket of apples. Bundles of herbs and white and yellow flowers sat on top. She broke off when she saw him and then entered the garden. “Why so grave today? Are you all right?” She put the back of her hand to his forehead. “Are you sick?”

“No.” Naatos pulled back. “I am thinking. Go.”

“You’re brooding.” Mara sat and angled sideways to face him. “Is this about Hatet? I like her.”

“As do I. She is many things.” Naatos refrained from looking at her in case she took that as a sign he wanted her there.

“Many wonderful things.” Mara smiled. “She’s bold, she’s ferocious, she’s intelligent. And she is willing to literally break down doors to get to you.”

“But she is not my viskaro.”

“Couldn’t she be?”

“No.”

“What makes her unsuitable?” Mara tilted her head. Her long mass of semi-curly hair fell over her shoulders. The humidity made it all the thicker even as sweat dampened her face.

“Mara…I came to the garden to think. Not to talk to you.” Naatos motioned toward the open doorway nearest them. “So go.”

“If you didn’t want to talk to someone, you would have closed the door. I know you well enough not to fall for all that kabuliblech.” Mara combed her fingers through his hair, gathering it to the side with each stroke. Small strands and tangles caught on her callouses and scars. “If you want me to get WroOth or AaQar or QueQoa or Khanaan or someone else, I will.”

“That’s not the issue.” And she was right. He had left the door open. Naatos sighed. “Mara,…are you braiding my hair?”

“It’s getting too long. You’ll catch it in the door or window or a cabiza’s mouth.”

“I know how to handle it.”

“You look handsome with it braided.” Mara parted his thick black hair. “But more importantly it soothes you.”

It was true, but it puzzled Naatos how she had determined this. He had never told anyone. Then again, she had braided his hair when he was ill. Something about the motion was calming. He glanced at her sidelong. “Surely you have more important things to do.”

“Nothing pressing. The babies are sleeping, and so is WroOth. They’re all tired from playing monster.” Mara smiled crookedly. “So…why not Hatet? She is drawn to you.”

“Apparently. But as I am strong enough to fend her off and not accept the locking, I do not have to join with her.” Naatos remained as he was, shoulders half-slumped, elbows resting on his knees. Even if Mara insisted on braiding his hair, he would not act as if he enjoyed it.

Mara shook her head. She twined the hair about. “I don’t really understand that. If you like her too and she likes you, why not see if you are compatible? WroOth said if you decided you wanted to be receptive that, with a little time, you both might. Maybe give it some time and kisses?”

“That is not the issue.” Naatos started to shake his head, but Mara pulled the braid taut.

“Hm.” Mara nodded. She sounded like she was talking to one of her children. She lifted up one section of his hair.  “I think…maybe this whole idea of you locking with a Neyeb is the problem. Maybe you should reconsider that. It may be keeping you from seeing someone perfect for you.”

“No.” Naatos took hold of the braid as he turned to look at her. “I am strong enough to resist, therefore, it is my choice.” It truly was that simple. Hatet had had numerous chances to overpower him with the locking, but it had not taken. “I do not choose to accept her even though I like her. This is the Vawtrian way.”

Mara drew both legs up onto the marble bench and sat on her knees. She studied him. “But maybe that’s the problem. When aren’t you strong? You’re so set on where you want to go that you’re ignoring this other path that may be even better. The only way anyone changes your mind is if there’s no other option” She picked up the braid once more and resumed plaiting.

“It may be better,” Naatos said. “But it is not what I want.”

“Well…” Mara shrugged and scooted back on the bench to maintain tension on the braid. “Sometimes not getting what you want is part of the fun. And Hatet is lots of fun. She and WroOth have always been close. She’s been close to all of you.”

“She tried to lock with WroOth as well.” Naatos recalled how poorly that had gone as well. WroOth had not understood the first time, and he had not expected the second attempt. After that Hatet, did not speak of it again.  Up above a tracker eagle called out to its mate. The second responded within the span of a breath.

“Yes. And she tried with AaQar, but he’s hard to catch. Unlike you. I almost always know where you’re at.” Mara tugged his ear lightly.

“It’s because I let you know.” Naatos watched her. She had changed a great deal in the past years, but her core head remained the same. “If I did not anyone to know where I was, they wouldn’t.”

“I know. You are terrifying. But anyway, I just don’t think a Neyeb is a good choice for you. You like to fight. You yell.”

“Not always.”

“No. But you’ve got this tone, it’s not yelling, but it feels like you’re yelling. And you know, when you’re wrong, you don’t like to admit it. I suppose none of us do, but you take it farther. A Neyeb is going to be more likely to give you a literal mind adjustment rather than work with you. Or you’ll scare her. And what if she just collapses? WroOth said that some of the Neyeb avoid you because your mind is such a terrifying place.”

“He’s exaggerating.” Naatos propped his chin on his fist.

“Is he?” Mara leaned closer. “Naatos, I love you, but you carry so much heaviness and darkness inside you. Even I can feel it, and I’m not a mindreader. Terrible things happened to all of you, and nothing changes it. At least another Vawtrian could endure through it by your side rather than having to experience it with you while also trying to walk with you.”

Naatos stared at the high stone wall of the garden, avoiding her soft yet piercing gaze. The Neyeb Council had already rejected him once. Despite their promises to continue the search, he wondered if any compatible Neyeb would ever exist. Mara was close in her understanding why it was important, and nothing would convince him to give that up.

“Well, if you aren’t going to give it up, then you need to do your best to start filing down the points and cleaning out the muck.” Mara tied off the braid. “It’s not fair to her otherwise. And, yes, I know life isn’t about what’s fair, but if you want to be a good husband, you won’t make her go through that. And I still think Hatet is good.”

Naatos held up the long braid. It reached nearly to the base of his back. Large white and yellow olna blossoms were woven throughout. “Flowers…”

Mara giggled. She sounded very much like an older version of Sadyr. “You’re going to cut it anyway, and I had extra.” She sank back on her heels. Her smile became more crooked. “So aside from Hatet trying to lock with WroOth and that not working and trying to lock with AaQar and that not working, why are you so set against her? You two might actually become compatible.”

Naatos bristled. “That is precisely the point though. “She wanted both of them before she wanted me.”

“Oh!” Mara clapped her hands over her mouth, a bright grin lighting her face. “You want someone to fall in love with just you. You don’t want Hatet because she wanted your brothers before you. You are so much more like Awdawms than you want to admit.”

“Mara.” Naatos realized too much had been exposed. He hadn’t intended to share this much.

Mara laughed as she stood. “You don’t want to be found out and yet you want to marry a Neyeb? She’ll know you inside and out within the space of a few weeks.”

“They also have a divine gift of discernment and compassion so they know better than to speak of what they’ve seen.” Naatos shifted his weight back.

Mara’s smile became even more crooked as she drew closer. “I know how to keep secrets too.” She kissed him on the cheek. “We just want you to be happy. And this I do understand. I’m sure if you had to deal with being the second or third pick, you’d deal with it. I suppose too that when all the seeds are sown, it makes as much sense that you would find a Neyeb who could make you happy if they find one you’re compatible with. It’s taken me years to figure you out. You are so prickly.”

“It doesn’t seem to bother you,” Naatos said dryly.

“Well of course not. And it doesn’t bother Hatet either. Now.” Mara held up her hands. “I understand that you don’t want to lock with her. That’s fine. I wouldn’t ever suggest going into a relationship because of obligation, but…” Her expression grew more serious. “Have you ever considered why Hatet bounced between all three of you? Is it really that you’re all so charming and wonderful? Or…” She tapped her finger to her cheek. “Is it maybe that she is one of your oldest friends, and you all started locking without letting her know a thing? And maybe, just maybe, she’s afraid that she’s going to lose her friendship with all of you because you’re replacing her with viskaros?”

“That’s a very Awdawm way of looking at it.” Naatos hesitated all the same. There was no spark or depth of interest when Hatet touched him, and it could not be a one-way sensation between Vawtrians. Which meant that she was forcing this. Some other feeling compelled her.

Chuckling, Mara walked beneath the willow tree with the long silver moss. A small yellow salamander scuttled away beneath the black mulch. “You Vawtrians aren’t so different from us as you like to think. Maybe Hatet doesn’t love you romantically even if one day she could. But she most certainly loves you as family, and I think she’d be willing to do almost anything to make sure she doesn’t lose that. Including convincing herself and you that you need to be together.”

“Hatet will not be replaced. Why would she think that?”

Mara lifted her shoulders as she picked up the basket. “WroOth was her best friend. He’d always told her that he was going to lock at the Festival of the Viskaro after he mastered the red fire dragon form. He told all of you that. Everyone in the cadre knew that. And then he met me…” Mara’s cheeks flushed. “I turned his life upside down. And within less time than she can adjust, here comes Rasha. AaQar gave no indications of interest, then biology shocked both him and Rasha. And then you three decided to become Paras. You are no longer the leaders of the Shrieking Chimera Cadre first and foremost, and so much has changed.”

“Hatet is not insecure.” Naatos shook his head. That was impossible. That woman was capable of greater bouts of fury and courage than few he had ever known. But then…the turquoise dragon she had patterned off WroOth, the thuso, she had based off AaQar’s psigolath, and the silver spear she had designed after his own and so many others. He’d taught her how to make it when she’d asked years ago. Much of who she was was similar to them. “Why not QueQoa then?”

Mara lowered the basket so that she held it straight-armed. “QueQoa is the strangest of you all, Naatos. She wants to lock with you because she wants to be near you. But if she were to lock with QueQoa, well who knows if he’ll always come back? How long was he gone this last time? Thirty-seven years? Thirty-eight? And sometimes he gets that look in his eye…like he’s going to fly away.”

“The wanderlust runs deep through him, but he will always come home.”

“Well, I hope so. I like having my brothers close.” Balancing the basket, Mara adjusted the flowers inside so that they did not fall. “And, so you don’t have to ask it, I’ll go ahead and tell you the reason that she is acting this way and none of the others are. Everyone else here either has their viskaro, or they have family beyond this cadre. Hatet does not. You’re all the family she has. If she loses this cadre, she loses everything.”

Pausing, Naatos pulled back. He had not considered that. All this time it had been right before him. “Your perspective is appreciated. I will deal with the situation then.”

“Do you know how?” Mara asked skeptically.

“Yes.” Naatos motioned toward the door. “Now go.”

Mara left, the long purple ribbons in her hair trailing and tangling as she walked. As soon as she passed beneath the archway, Naatos closed the door.

Almost at once, the door clicked open again.

Mara poked her head back in. “I just have to ask. Do you really know the right way to handle this? Or are you just saying that so I’ll leave? Because you have to know that yelling at her or kuvasting her is just not going to work here.”

“Yes, I know what to do. Go away. I closed the door this thing.”

“Beautiful thing about doors.” Mara laughed. “They open both ways.”

“Not if I lock it this time.”

“Maybe.” Mara leaned against the door. “Anyway, promise me you’ll be sweet with Hatet.”

“Mara…”

“Promise?”

“I promise.”

“Good.” Mara darted in again and kissed him on the cheek. “Come have dinner with us tonight. You have to see what my babies are doing.”

“I’ll be there,” Naatos said.

 

Brief Vocabulary

Awdawms – what we would consider human

Kuvaste – non-lethal battles fought for the purpose of calming tensions and dealing with problems

Locking – process by which adult Vawtrians biologically connect to the one who becomes their spouse, become chemically interdependent, and awakens the sex drive

Neyeb – mindreaders

Para – overseers and protectors of the Tue-Rah

Tue-Rah – an interdimensional portal that connects all the worlds of all creation together

Vawtrians – shapeshifters

Disclaimer: This a rough draft, and an exact replica of this scene may not appear in the final version of this story.

Thirteen Reasons Why Your Appearance Shouldn’t Keep You from Sharing/Posting

It amazes me the number of people, myself included, who believe that they should not talk, post, or share their ideas or creations in part because of their physical appearance. Being too fat or too thin or plain or scarred or anything else is not a reason to silence oneself. But sometimes we all need a little encouragement.

These are general concepts and mostly drawn from personal experience and musings. There are probably some deeper nuances that we could get into, but I’m hoping I state these clearly enough. All of these are going to be under the assumption that you are a kind person who does take others into consideration and does not seek to make other people’s lives miserable. While some of the points remain true even then, others such as people looking forward to getting to know you might not be.

Your appearance does not change the value of what you have to say.

Weight seems to be one of the most common factors people use to claim they don’t want to share publicly. I hear many state that they are too fat or sick-looking to be able to share anything of value. Your physical body is a shell of meat and bone that encompasses a soul. Whether your skin sags or stretches, whether your stomach swells or flattens, whether your complexion inspires or repulses, it does not change that what you have to say has value.

Physical beauty is a wonder to behold, but that is not the admission price for sharing your heart and thoughts with the world. People may treat you differently because of the way you look, for better or for worse. Sometimes that will hurt, sometimes it may inspire.

But no matter what, the thoughts you maintain their value.

Your perspective and voice matter.

They do. And if you are the sort of person who generally keeps quiet or who is highly selective about what you say because you are constantly overthinking what you should or should not say, I’d suggest you are probably the sort of person who does need to speak more when you are able.

Bear in mind that there is only one you. Even if you believe that a multiverse exists, the you in these other dimensions would not be the you who is here now. You are fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalms 139:14).  When you share your works and perspective, you contribute to the richness of stories and works already out there and give people the opportunity to understand, empathize, and connect.

Your speaking up does not keep someone else from speaking as well.

This, of course, presumes you’re not taking steps to silence someone. But speaking up alone unless you are literally talking over someone else. (I’ve also found that while this excuse does not really relate to one’s appearance, it’s often one that is used to excuse oneself from sharing rather than admitting that it is about one’s appearance.)

But the Internet does give us a great gift in that there is room for all of us to talk, share, and connect. Perhaps not on every platform in existence. But somewhere and most likely on most of the major platforms that are available to us. (There are some troubling indications of increasing censorship, but that’s another conversation for another time.)

Additionally, your decision to refrain does not guarantee that someone more conventionally attractive or better suited will step up to speak or share what was on your heart to begin with.

If someone attacks you because of your appearance, you probably already know how to handle that because it has happened to you before.

Most people have had to deal with various forms of bullying and shaming in their physical lives as well as online. And while certain situations may be emotionally problematic and even cause PTSD, I’ve found that those situations were generally harder to handle in person.

If you are not sure how to handle an online attack, you can reach out for support. Generally, though I’ve found ignoring is one of the best methods as well as refusal to engage while emotionally charged. I also realized that having to handle it in person made the online attacks distinct in that I did not feel quite as threatened.

Now do exercise proper care for yourself. If you are struggling with troll bombs or it just hits you really hard or you find it too much to deal with, you are not a failure for withdrawing. Prioritize your health. Take care of yourself.

Ultimately, the takeaway I want from this point is that you are stronger and better equipped than you realize. It does not mean that it will be easy necessarily. This does not mean you have to submit yourself to trolling attacks or cyber harassment.

Being silent when you have things you want to say can be damaging to your health.

When there’s something you want to say and don’t, you bottle it up inside you. Unless you have another outlet, this remains inside you, often festering and increasing your stress and frustration.  For me, continued silence can sometimes lead to eruptions that have about the care and effect of a spewing volcano.

If people dismiss what you have to say because of what you look like, they were never going to listen to you to begin with.

This is pretty simple, but if someone responds to your art, your blog, or your post by saying, “put down the cheesecake and maybe we’ll talk” or “eat a sandwich and then I’ll listen,” they were never going to listen to you. Focusing on superficial attributes is generally an excuse to avoid engaging, and your physical appearance is not truly to blame.

Other people need to hear what you have to say.

Whether what you have to say challenges the status quo or comforts those in need or simply shares your perspective, other people need to hear what you have to say.

Also if you don’t share or post or put yourself out there, it’s going to be incredibly hard for you to find your tribe and for them to find you.

Even if it has already been said, even by you, some things need to be said more than once.

If you saw how many times I’ve had to repeat things to myself and go back and learn things I thought I had already learned, you might be ashamed of me. Or you might relate.

Anyway we do need to hear things more than once for it to sink in. Some lucky folks are able to learn on the first go while others of us require more time and more repetition.

If you are wrong, you can make amends, learn, and improve.

It’s a given that none of us are going to do this perfectly. I had a hard time accepting that I was going to mess up, particularly in an environment that seems especially harsh and unforgiving. But in the end, if we are humble in both what we do and how we respond, we can hopefully learn and improve.

Completing something and expressing yourself is good for the soul.

Over the years, I’ve struggled with depression. Particularly when dealing with a bad bout of illness. There is something remarkably healing and encouraging about completing something. Unfinished projects tend to add stress and feelings of failure. Expressing yourself helps you to put it out on the page.

Even if you don’t publish or share it, it is healing to finish. For me, a project rarely feels truly finished until it is published or released as that means I can no longer tinker with it.

You may meet some horrible people, but you will meet and connect to incredible people as well.

The Internet is a portal to some truly terrible people. Not simply individuals with whom you have a difference of opinions or core beliefs. But people who actually want to make others miserable and who take trolling to pro levels.

But they aren’t the only ones, mercifully. And there are increasing resources to avoid interacting with such individuals.

More importantly, there are other incredible people who want to meet you and connect with you and share with you. Some of my dearest friendships came through online communities and sharing my work.

It does take effort and time to locate these people, but if you are up for it, they will truly make your life better as you will make theirs better.

The process of putting together your thoughts and allowing them to be seen publicly can help you finetune and hone your skillset.

It’s easiest for me to write within the privacy of myself, knowing the story or piece is intended only for completion, not necessarily publication. However, when I force myself to go through the steps of polishing and preparing it for publication, I work harder at accuracy, proofing, and finetuning. More importantly, I have a definitive end.

You are the only one who can tell your story.

This has been said in part, but it’s worth saying again because it is vital. The combination of your experiences and responses is unique. You are the only one who has seen what you have from your specific perspective, and you are the only one who can tell it.

 

Note: The irony in all this is that I feel as if this post is garbage, but I am working to be more accountable at completing and posting things. So hopefully this was helpful. Much love! Talk to you soon.

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