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James Lipton and the Actors Studio did it for fun with the actors…..Now, I’m doing it for fun with the writers.
piper and Holmes
It’s been a while, but I’ve dusted off the 30 Second Interview for a second outing. And who better to kick start it than belly dancing, fiction writer, Piper Bayard.

But first, what do we know about this post-apocalyptic author, who happens to be my critique partner, and a very good friend? Well, she’s a recovering attorney, who has one or two university degrees under her belt, and kinda rules Twitter. (Seriously, I guarantee you a reply – even a conversation – if you tweet her).

Piper grew up in New Mexico, and during her teenage years, worked summers at a Rock Mountain dude ranch (in a State she refuses to name), as a horse wrangler. Why the unnamed State? Because there was this one time when a group of New Yorkers wanted to see an elk – and there wasn’t any elk to see. So, to get over the problem and give their tourists a good time, Piper strapped an ornamental deer ract to the head of a bay horse named Bucky. And, unbelievable as it is, it worked!

So, how did this cowgirl become a writer when she was actually studying law? Well, it was when a job offer for her to sell insurance landed at her feet. She’d hit a cross-roads in life, and her chosen career path boiled down to one thing: What could she not live without? Selling insurance or writing books? We all know how that one turned out.

Apart from Piper’s debut novel being a dystopian  thriller, she also writes spy novels with fellow writer, (who also happens to be an Intelligence Agent and real life James Bond), Jay Holmes. Together, they have just finished the first in the seven part ‘Apex Predator’ series, which will be published by Stonehouse Inc., in the near future.

Oh, four other random things you need to know about Piper… she taught me to shoot a gun, she makes me run for EVERY plane we have to catch, she can ride an ATV like no one else I’ve ever seen, and she is one heck of a cool room-mate!

Right then, let’s see how she did with the feared ten questions:

1.  What is your favorite word?  Serendipity

2. What is your least favorite word? Globule

3. What turns you on?   Laughter. Laughter is the closest thing to sex besides sex

4. What turns you off?    Malice

5. What sound do you love?   Bells

6. What sound do you hate? Fighting

7. What is your favorite curse word?   Fuck me Agnes! (Blame Holmes for that one.)

8. What profession other than yours would you like to attempt?   Host on Mythbusters

9.  What profession would you not like to do?  Nursing

10. If heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the pearly gates? “Good job”

firelands cover

‘Firelands’ is an amazing read, and available on amazon in digital and paperback format.

And, watch out for the first novel in the ‘Apex Preditor’ series. Release date to be confirmed shortly.

Contact Information

For more information regarding Piper Bayard, please check out her websiteFacebooktwitterblog.

If you want more of me, I can be found on FacebookTwitterGoogle+ and Linkedin

 

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Well, hello again. What does this make it? Three weeks? Doesn’t time fly?

You’re probably chomping at the bit to start the writing process but I’ll let you into a little secret. You’re already doing it.

Writing starts way before you type ‘Chapter One’ a third of the way down the first page.

Firstly, there’s all that preparation you have to do. Oh now come on, stop your whining. We all have to prepare for something or other. For example, take builders. They wouldn’t build a house on mud, (unless you’re watching TV show Cowboy Builders), because their house would sink within a couple of years; pretty much like your novel would.

No. The builder has much preparation to do: Dig foundations. Get Building regulations approved. Add concrete. Bring up the damp course. Only then does he start to build his house. - And in case you’re impressed by my knowledge of building, don’t be. My father is a builder and I can build a brick wall :)

It’s much the same with writers. Preparation is a MUST! Without it, you’re novel is guaranteed to sink. Trust me.

Still with me? Tantrum over? Excellent. Let’s move on.

After last weeks post you should now know what genre you’re writing for. But why do we have to talk about social media now? Isn’t that something to think about after we finish writing our novel? And where do we even find a social media site?

I’m glad you asked.

What is Social Media?

Social Media is exactly what it says.

‘Social’ is the social interaction between two or a group of people. It’s similar to going out at night and getting together with friends, or meeting and making new pals.

‘Media’ is media. Just as newspapers and magazines report news, entertainment, local stories, and fashion, your ‘media’ runs pretty much the same. With your friends and ‘new’ cyber pals, you build relationships and discuss everyday life…as well as your work, writing, and upcoming releases.

Building a Brand

Remember, our name is our ‘brand’. The only way we are going to build on it is by using it…. All the time. 

Decide what social media sites you are most comfortable with and plaster it ‘everywhere’. The more you use it, the more you become associated with it. You want people to remember it.

When I first started using twitter I had a random name, like most of us do. We hide because we don’t want to be ‘seen’. But that isn’t going to help us when it comes time to sell our books. Make sure it’s your name (or your pen name) that you use on the social networking sites. To my knowledge, Waterstones, Amazon, and Barnes & Noble don’t have the resources to find me if someone asks for a book by ‘EssexGirl71′.

But why do it now? Wouldn’t it be better to wait until I have written my book before I start promoting myself?

Well, you can but other than your mother and her friends at the W.I., you’ll have nobody to buy it. By building your brand now, you’ll have a loyal following of friends all queuing to read your book when it’s finished.

And, an extra tit-bit of information. I regularly hear that if a publisher or agent likes your book, the first thing they do is Google your name to see how big a presence you have on the internet. A well written book just doesn’t seem to be enough anymore.

Promotion

The promotion package no longer comes wrapped in glittery paper and tied with a silky smooth bow. Here’s why:

Pre-internet: Author wrote a book. Author personally delivered, or posted, manuscript (remember those days?), to the publisher. Author returned home for a well deserved cup of tea before starting their next novel. Publisher runs around like a headless chicken promoting book.

Post-internet: Author writes a book while tackling social media. Author publishes novel either via traditional, indie, or the e-publishing route. Author works their ass off promoting and marketing the novel. Publisher relaxes with a cup of tea.

Promoting and marketing is exhausting and time-consuming and when you first start out, you’ll be doing everything yourself. Try different things. Watch what method makes the biggest impact.

Er, just to clarify, I am not telling nor condoning you take the same drastic action as Russell Brand, but if you do, send me pictures :) 

Social Media Sites

So, that brings us to which social Media should we undertake?

There are many out there: Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Goodreads, MySpace,Google+, LinkedIn….. the list is endless. And you will never have the time to join all of them. You have a book to write, remember? So, pick two or three and throw them into the mixing bowl.

Although I can be found on Google+ and Linkedin, I have two main sites I frequent; Twitter and Facebook. Not surprising as they are both listed in the top ten of social networking sites.

So, you’ve chosen ‘your’ social media sites. What do you do now? How much do you update them? I try to visit my sites at least ONCE a DAY. I update my status, have a chat and a giggle with people, and generally walk away with a smile on my face. Social media can be FUN!

Still not sure? Check out my Facebook page and see how it works for yourself.

Blogging

Okay, now we’ve reached that word that scares the hell out of some writers. Blogging. Take a deep breath. Hold it. Hold it. Breath out. Blogging. Say it. Blogging. See, it’s not so bad, is it?

Blogging is another way to meet the world outside your window. And it’s a wonderful way for writers to enhance their writing skills.

But what do I blog about?

Hey, you’re a writer with a fabulous imagination! Trending topics are reviews and information on gathered research. Start by blogging once a week until you find your feet. Most importantly, be consistent with the timing of your posts. 

Remember, you are a writer the moment you decide to write your book. Be proud to call yourself a writer.

Need more help on the art of social media and blogging? Social media Jedi, Kristen Lamb has two fabulous books on the subject.

So, your task this week is to check out which social media sites you wish to build a presence on. And let me know in the comments section. It will be interesting to see what are the more popular sites.

You can also find me on FacebookTwitter, Google+ and Linkedin

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The above isn’t that far from the truth.

Colon’s and semi-colons definitely deluded me during my early days as a writer. So, I’m going to try and simplify it – and you all know how much I love SIMPLE.

Lets start with the colon first.

The colon :

Not much to look at, is it. Two little dots. Or, two eyes if you’re on twitter and want to add a smiley face at the end of your 140 characters.

One interesting fact: UK users nearly always follow a colon with a lower-case letter, whereas US users nearly always follow with a capital letter.

Right. So what does the colon do? What is it’s meaning?

First up is “The List”:

The colon is used when the writer wishes to introduce a list of items. Here’s an example:

Before I begin writing, I will need: a writing pad, a pen, a dictionary, some chocolate, and a laptop.

See how the sentence has been split into two sections. The first part says that you need some items. Then, after the colon, it lists what those items are.

Now for the “Definition”:

Donna Newton: a writer, author, screenwriter, runner & one crazy, talkative, adrenaline seeking lass.

Here, the sentence starts with Me and goes on to define who I am….. yes, a complete nutter :)

And finally, the “Explanation”:

Mae West had one golden rule for handling men: “Tell the pretty ones they’re smart and tell the smart ones they’re pretty.”

The first part tells us Mae has a golden rule for handling men and the second part explains what that rule is. The above example also shows a colon is useful before a “quote”.

So, to summarise: a colon is used before a list, a definition, and an explanation (or quote).

Is your head spinning yet? No? Well….. let’s press on.

The Semi-Colon ; (or the winking eye).

How is this different to the colon?

A semi-colon must always follow and precede a sentence. Always! (Well apart from one special rule that we will get to later).

So, why not just type two sentences then?

Whey. Slow down and I’ll explain.

The “Relationship Sentences”:

A semi-colon can be used to split two sentences which have a relationship.

Huh?

Okay. Look at the following sentence.

John lives in a blue house. Kerry lives in a yellow house.

Now, these are two perfectly normal sentences and sound fine on their own. But, what if we did this:

John lives in a blue house; Kerry lives in a yellow house.

Now it shows that we, the writer, are suggesting there is some kind of a relationship between the sentences.

But, remember that two sentence rule? You can only use the semi-colon where there are two sentences. Just look at the wrong way:

After working endlessly for little money; Dean chucked in his job.

This example calls for a comma instead of a colon.

The “Transition”:

Semi-colons can also be used to join two sentences using a transition such as however, therefore, on the other hand, hence, consequently, nevertheless and meanwhile, and thusBut note: it cannot be used for sentences joined by and, or, but, yet or while.

Jane cannot swim; however, she loves the ocean.

You should always be polite; otherwise, you may get into trouble.

The lifts have been broken for weeks; therefore, people are having to use the stairs.

The above examples show how the semi-colon works when two sentences  are ‘joined’ together.

The “comma over-use”

Arghhh! Some sentences just carry too many commas. So, here is one special rule where a semi-colon does NOT have to follow or precede a complete sentence.

In my house, where the heating is always on full blast, a broken window pane, which my son broke while playing football, lets in an enormous amount of cold air, so the living room, where I have a dodgy television set, is always cold.

How confusing and mind-boggling is that? It’s hard for a reader to catch breath, let alone follow – and we want our readers alive so they can follow. Don’t we?

So, a semi-colon could be inserted to make it easier on our lovely reader.

In my house, where the heating is always on full blast, a broken window pane, which my son broke while playing football, lets in an enormous amount of cold air; so the living room, where I have a dodgy television set, is always cold.

This breaks up the use of commas, gives your reader time to catch a breath, and makes the sentence much more readable. Or, you could think about rewording your sentence.

The heating is always on full blast in my house. But a broken window pane, which my son broke while playing football, lets in an enormous amount of cold air. Hence the livingroom, where I have a dodgy television, is always cold.

See, no semi colon and a severely reduced amount of commas.

Right, think you understand? I found a great test. Take it and let me know how you scored.

So, how do you find your colons and semi-colons? Do you use them, or avoid them like the plague? Like always, let me know.

If you want more of me, I can be found on FacebookTwitter, Google+ and Linkedin

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A couple of weeks ago I received an email from ECollegeFinder notifying me that my blog had been nominated for an award. Yesterday, voting opened.

This is an extremely exciting for me.

I posted my first blog on 28th November, 2009. Like most new bloggers, I think I blogged about three times in two months and then nothing until October 2010, when I began blogging once a week. Now, however, I blog three times a week. I aim the majority of my articles towards writers, being I am one, but every now and then I like to have a little fun and embarass myself.

Every Monday I list all the latest writing competitions for authors and screenwriters I can find. Each Wednesday I post a 30 Second Interview, the particpants being either authors, screenwriters, or staff writers,  and Fridays are usually a mix between writing advice, guest posts, book reveiws, or just a bit of ‘fun’.

What has overwhelmed me, is the amount of support my twitter and Facebook peeps have shown. I’ve lost count how many messages of congratulations and RT’s I’ve received on twitter alone.

If you like this blog, and if you would like to show your much appreciated support, please click the blue box above (or the one in the top right hand margin). It only takes a minute. Click ‘Donna Newton’s Blog’, and then, at the bottom of the list, ‘VOTE’.

Voting ends Friday 3rd February, so there’s no time to waste. Oh, and if you feel really generous, you can vote for me more than once. So even if you already have …..Vote again :D

I’ll let you know how I do.

Let me know what special awards you’ve been nominated for, or received. I don’t care what it’s for. School activities, competitions, anything goes on here.

If you want more of me, I can be found on FacebookTwitter, Google+ and Linkedin

 

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I want to ask a question. 

You’ve written a book. What direction should you take? Should you concentrate all your energy into querying literary agents and wait for months with bated breath in the hope one asks for a nibble? Or should you take the plunge and go it alone down the e-book road?

I am a book lover. I love holding a book in my hands, to feel the paper rough between my fingers. I love my book case. I love dust jackets….oh God, I love books full stop. Doesn’t everyone?

Up until now, I’d never considered owning a Kindle or Nook and, as an author, I couldn’t imagine my books being in any other format other than paper. I never thought the Kindle would ever take off. After all, how do you ask an author to sign a computer screen?

But, am I behind the times?

A couple of days ago I read a story in the Evening Standard newspaper which kind of got me thinking. I reiterate ‘kind of’. I’m not totally convinced, yet.

Most of you have probably already heard of Louise Voss. She was a struggling UK writer who couldn’t find an agent, took matters into her own hands, and published her novel on Amazon’s Kindle. She is now selling 50,000 books per month and has been offered a six-figure, four-book deal by publishers HarperFiction.

This also seems the case with writing duo Sarah Griffiths and Mark Williams, who write under the pen name Saffina Desforges. Their success on Kindle has led to discussions with a top New York agent.

We, as writers, already enter our stories into competitions and dedicate hours a week to social media so we can proudly boast our conquests to agents. Being able to brag at e-book sales is just another plus point, isn’t it? As author Linda Regan told me last year, “Agents have to sell you as well as the book. You have to be interesting.”

This all sounds super cool and easy, but is it? Going it alone sounds a mighty bit scary if you ask me. But, as I am the curious sort – and probably the only writer on planet earth that hasn’t looked at e-book (or indie) publishing – I had a nose around the Amazon web site.

So, let’s look at what I found.

Marketing.

If I was considering the e-book route, and let’s just use Amazon for this example as it’s the only site I looked at, I’d have to market the book myself. Okay, this I don’t find scary. It’s 2011 and I have Twitter and Facebook. Oh, and my good friend Kristen Lamb’s social media book ‘We Are Not Alone’ to guide me through – it should be a doddle. Plus, I have Kristen’s phone number and I know where she lives. She also taught me how to shoot a gun. There is nowhere she can hide :)

A big fat tick can go next to marketing.

What’s next?

Formatting.

Huh? I saw something about an rtf file and as I save all my work that way, I think I can tick that one too. Moving on swiftly.

Cost.

Books sell for as little as 96p on Amazon. How can anyone make any money from that?

Well, from what I can see, Amazon’s cut is 30%. I’ll round my book off at a £1 to make things easy, and because it’s late and I can’t be bothered to go fetch my calculator. I’ll earn 70p from each sale. Hmmm, that’s about the price of a chocolate Snicker bar these days, isn’t it?

Right, so unless I sell a hundred thousand copies, I’ll never be rich. Then again, writers don’t write for money. They write for the love of it, so that doesn’t matter.

(N.B. There is another plus point to this 96p Kindle e-book downloading, which is – I’d have saved a fortune on the rubbish Vampire Diary books).

Another tick.

Other bits worthy of a mention.

I retain the rights to my novel and, as the author, I’ll have full control of the book cover, pricing, and well, absolutely everything.

Tick, tick, tick.

I’ve tried to find some horror stories on the web regarding e-publishing on Kindle, but there really aren’t any out there.

So, that is why I am turning to my trusty followers. Have I missed something?

What do you think of e-publishing? Do you know anyone who has published on Kindle? Would you consider publishing your novel on Kindle? Have you already published on Kindle? What are your experiences? Do you know of any successes or, more importantly, have you heard any horror stories? Let me know.

You can also find me on Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and Linkedin

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Some people read the book first, others saw the movie first. I belong to the latter club.

Some people are Team Edward, some are Team Jacob. I am Team Bella’s Dad.

The phenomenon surrounding this story is almost as big as Harry Potter….almost.

So, why is this? The movie adaptation clearly helped Meyer buy herself an extra house or two. But, is the story really strong enough to warrant my mate getting herself an Edward Cullen lunch box?

I have already admitted to watching the movie first. And for the first half (and majority of the second), I wondered when the story was going to get a much needed shot of adrenaline. Where was the excitement? This was a vampire film after all. But, even after saying all this, I still sort of enjoyed it. Once I knew it wasn’t an ‘action’ type film, I watched it a second time for what it was….Basically, a bad romance.

Still, is it romantic enough to be one of the biggest hits of 2005 and then again in 2008? It’s not exactly Pride and Prejudice or Brief Encounter.

Is it that women (I wish I could say teenagers, but seeing as most my friends are lusting after these characters, I really can’t), are obsessed with the idea that loving a vampire is sexy? Or, is it just an unhealthy obsession with Taylor Lautner’s six pack and Robert Pattison’s…..er, what does he have?

So, armed with all this information, and while waiting for my flight at LAX, I took the plunge and purchased the paperback version. I’m ashamed to admit, I’d read half of it by the time I touched down at Heathrow, and finished it the following day.

Now, I am not a reader of young adult. I am 40 years old and prefer characters my own age – or a least a little closer to it. That’s not to say I don’t like young adult stories. I just sometimes think writers forget the kids are supposed to be teens, and as such let them run around like adults (not mentioning any names **cough cough** Vampire Diaries).

So, what’s this book about?

if you didn’t already know. Even my mum knows what this story is about. But, for the one person who’s been stranded inEureka for the past eight years, let me explain.

Twilight is a romance about a ‘human’ girl called Bella, who falls in love with a, more white than sparkly, vampire called Edward. And, wouldn’t you just know it? Her life becomes endangered; although it takes until the end of the film to get to this issue.

So, what kept me interested?

Honestly? I am still trying to figure that out. This story has been done a thousand times before, and much, much better. Let’s see, for one there was Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Angel sent hearts fluttering across the nation. Mine, though, belonged to Spike, and, umm, Giles :)

And, I don’t believe for one minute Stephanie Meyer’s inspirational story of I dreamt of two people one night and when I woke up I just had to start writing to see who they were. If there is any truth to that statement, you can paint me blue and call me Smurfette.

And……., even though I am NOT a fan of the Vampire Diary books, I do feel sorry for their author L J Smith. Twilight is a complete rip off!

And……., Stephanie is so repetitive; I kept thinking she’d started the novel again.

And……., Bella is horrid! What kind of protagonist is she? There is nothing endearing about her at all. She is the biggest wimp ever! I mean, how many times can a girl faint for crying out loud? No wonder Hollywood toughened her up a little for the movie….albeit into the nastiest bitch going. Still, anything has to be an improvement, right?

Would I read another Stephanie Meyer book?

After much deliberation, which took all of a split second, I would have to say ‘no’. After I finished the Twilight novel it was ‘yes’, as I read the whole series. However, now it is ‘no’. In fact it is ‘HELL NO!’ I’ve only read the book once and have no desire to read it again. I’d rather watch the film for a couple of hours and then get on with life again. And, I’d only watch the film again if I’d already finished polishing the coal in my fireplace.

I don’t actually think Meyer is a particularly strong writer. When I reflect on Twilight, I don’t see the characters as very strong. The Twilight franchise went on two books too long, three if you count the Edward version. There was an Edward version, wasn’t there? I didn’t dream that. Or did I? And, I’m certain that if you cut all the repetition, you’d have a novel three quarters the size.

Rant over!

Now, I know I’m going to be hung, drawn, and quartered, but I have to ask….

Have you read this book? What did you think of it? Have you read any other Stephanie Meyer novels? Have you seen the movie version? Let me know.

You can also find me on Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and Linkedin

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This week has not been a good week. My writing has been slow, I’ve had a character stuck in her kitchen for more than five days, and I’ve been on the brink of loosing my mind. So this weekend, instead of doing some gardening like I intended, I locked myself in my office and declared all out war on Chapter Four.

It paid off. My character left her kitchen, I finished chapter four, and my sanity (or what’s left of it) remains intact. 

On Saturday, I was furiously typing away on my keyboard when there was a knock at the window. Nothing wrong with that, I hear you say. Well you’d be right, if my office wasn’t on the second floor. 

I peered over my desk and looked down into the garden. There was my husband, giggling his little tush off and holding a long stick with a gardening glove hooked on top of it. The saying ‘small things amuse small minds’ really does have a place in our household, and as I remarked on Facebook later….I married it. 

But as I watch my hubby waving the stick around, I thought of something which happened a few years back.

My husband hates anything paranormal. He screamed like a girl when he watched ‘White Noise’ and ‘The Grudge’, and when I pull my hair over my face and imitate the woman from ‘The Ring’, he hides under the duvet, refuses to look at me, and won’t come out until I promise to stop doing it……which, of course, I don’t :) 

Well, with this in mind, I thought it would be funny to spend the night in a haunted hotel. I found a small guest house in Kent and for a laugh, invited my parents along too.

Hubby wasn’t so keen, but with the promise of hitting the local pub when we arrived, he agreed, and off we set. Three hours later, and staying true to family tradition, we were totally lost and didn’t arrive at the guest house until late.

The receptionist swiftly led us across the grounds to the old, and supposedly haunted, Oast house. Now there are times in a marriage when your partner gives you joy – and, as I looked at the fear in my husband’s eyes while he contemplated spending the night in a place so desolate, I knew this was one of those times.

Having missed dinner, and knowing we wouldn’t make last orders at the pub, we decided to turn in for the night. My parents were quick to apprehend the bedroom across the landing, leaving my hubby and I with the room at the top of the stairs.

With every creak that sounded, my husband gasped and shook me awake. He was convinced there was a ghost in the room. An hour later, there was a scratching at the door. My husband was on the verge of a heart attack and I was sure, if I’d switched on the light, I’d have seen that his hair had turned white.

“There’s something outside the door,” he whispered.
“Well go and let it in then.”
He was quiet for a while. Then the scratching sounded again.
“You go,” he begged.
I declined.

This went on for twenty minutes. Eventually, he got out of bed and tiptoed to the door. His trembling fingers twisted the doorknob. He opened the door no more than an inch, and peered out. There was nothing there. He closed the door and immediately something scratched against the door again. He shot towards the bed faster than a bullet from the barrel of a gun.

The scratching continued. He couldn’t sleep and, with tears in his eyes, he went back to the door. Again, he opened it a couple of inches and peered out. And as before, he found nothing outside. Slowly he closed the door. The scratching sounded and he yanked the door open. There was nothing there. He bravely popped his head out. To the right, an empty stairwell led down to the small hallway and lounge. To the left was a window, and in front of him was the vacant landing which led to my parent’s room.

He quickly shut the door and ran back to the bed. “There’s something out there,” he said. “You can get out next time.”

The scratching noise went on for the next half hour. My husband lay rigid in bed all night, too frightened to move.

I waited a few weeks before I admitted the scratching noise was my dad. He’d found a broom, lay it on the stairs, and hid downstairs just inside the lounge. All he had to do was reach out and wiggle the broom to scratch our door.

So, do you have any tricks, ghostly or not, that you’ve played on people, or that have bee played on you? Do you even believe in ghosts or stayed in a haunted house? Did anything happen? Let me know in the comments box.

You can ‘like’ my Facebook page. Add me on Google+. Follow me on Twitter.

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