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Holiday Connections Twelve stories based on celebrations we commemorate every year and how those celebrations bring together family, friends, lovers and sometimes strangers. From the little girl wh…

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Posted by on July 22, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

And We’re Off … Treasured Fate Goes to Press

You’d think with four books already under our belts, having the next book of the Fate Series finally done wouldn’t be much of a thrill. But it is. This book took longer than any other to finish mainly because we took a year off to put out Holiday Connections. We also published Treasured Fate ourselves, which meant hiring an editor and a designer and spending more hours going through the book carefully, searching for plot flaws and typos.Treasured_Fate_Cover

The excitement with this book is that finally someone besides us gets to read about Elmer and Maud and the hidden treasure that’s central to the theme. We know you’ll love the new characters, and we’ve brought back some of the other favorites in the Fate Series as friends to the main protagonists.

For those writer friends out there considering self publishing, we want to report that yes, it can be done. Certainly if you have the money upfront to put into perfecting your book or the money to pay someone else to do the production and administration, it’s an easy task. However, for those us living with limited budgets, putting together your own book can be grueling. As with most aspects of being an author today, you spend too much of your writing time worrying about details and making a mistake because suddenly, you have to be an expert in the software packages that make producing a book possible. You also have to deal with a large printing/distribution firm that does almost everything remotely and through technology.

But that made getting this book into print even more of an accomplishment. We made the decision to self publish based on advice from several authors who suggested that since the series is already up and running and popular, we should use the momentum to produce, instead of seeking a new publishing situation—something that can take years.

The result is Treasured Fate, and we can’t wait for you to read it. It usually takes a few weeks for the book to be in print and a week or so after that for it to appear on the main retail sites. We’re now planning an official launch in September, but the book should be available by about mid August.

Let mom and I know if you’d like a signed copy or an invitation to our launch, and we’ll arrange it.

–Genilee Swope Parente

 

 
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Posted by on July 20, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

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Where the Talent Lies

I have many useful ingredients in my arsenal of skills: a huge helping of creativity, a learned ability to set priorities and schedules to get things done, keen observation talents that are useful for a writer, passion for understanding how human emotions work and (dare I say it, my gamer “Friends”) a talent for Words. What I do not have or ever hope to have is a green thumb.

© Thevegetable | Dreamstime.com

© Thevegetable | Dreamstime.com

My dear husband and a landscaping friend built me a giant square wooden box in our fenced-in townhouse backyard about six years ago that has been responsible for this discovery. I was truly excited and inspired the first year I had “the box”: I bought a 4-inch-thick book on everything-you-would-ever-imagine-knowing about herbs and spent a delightful Saturday morning visiting a garden store talking at length with the proprietor about what I should grow. I brought home way too many plants and crowded them into that box, only to have them immediately begin to compete for space. Mint won out (as I understand it often does) and soon I was drinking Mojitos just to be able to use a tiny portion of what I had growing in my yard (or at least, that was my excuse).

No problem. My first lesson was learned. Next year, I did not buy mint at all and I cut way back on the number of plants. Lo and behold, my first crop of herbs was born and I felt at last I’d become a woman of the earth. Then I was faced with what to do with the result. A few fresh leaves of thyme in my potatoes, a failed experiment of rosemary in eggs, and I realized, most of the crop was going to waste.

Again, no problem. The following year I read up on how to dry herbs and hung sprigs of rosemary, thyme, basil around the kitchen. This experiment may have been worth it just for how glorious the kitchen smelled, but I quickly discovered that crushing herbs and sifting out stems and seeds and other unwanted material was a time-consuming process that was actually quite silly in light of how easy it is to buy a supply from the store.

It was time to switch tactics. Because I love fresh flowers, I decided to use “the box” to grow cut flowers.  Back to the garden store for bulbs and discussion. I was seeking something that came back each year so the result didn’t depend on replanting. I was so excited when the leaves began to push their way through the soil, then grow upward and finally sprout buds. The excitement petered out as the buds produced tiny flowers that died before I got a chance to snip them. I kept thinking they’d continue to grow: had I somehow planted miniature daffodils? Were tulips really that washed out in color? I gave those bulbs two more years to see if they would somehow mature and produce adult-sized flowers, but by year three I realized these flowers needed something I couldn’t give: loving care and probably some plant food.

So I went back to the drawing board once again and decided to save some money and grow vegetables. Here was a truly healthy choice that would support my passion for good eats. I read up on what was easiest to grow, then bought a few experimental seed packets. I started with several kinds of peppers, zucchini and a cucumber plant, and I made sure I bought the right kind of plant food and soil. I watered them religiously and was rewarded in my efforts by lush green leaves that fanned out over the width of the box, looking for all the world like a true Mr. McGregor’s garden. The neighborhood bunnies agreed with that assessment. I came out one morning to discover that every single one of those leaves had disappeared over night. All that was left of my garden were stubby stalks, which I knew were not going to make it. At least someone had a feast!

These days “the box” has one plant: a blueberry bush I planted three years ago. It produced nothing but pellets that first year, but this year I got a half pint of full size blueberries! I’ve kept the tree going despite the paltry yield for one reason: we now have two dogs who love to jump up on “the box,” dig in the dirt and lay down for a nap. For some reason, they (and the neighborhood bunnies) leave the blueberry bush alone.

I guess I’ll stick to farming words.

Genilee Swope Parente

 
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Posted by on July 1, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

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On the way up the hill again

As my sibling and fellow author Allyn M. Stotz can attest, writing books is a hilly, bumpy ride with a lot of potholes. You might be flying fast towards the top of the hill, pushed along by great success in selling your book or terrific comments from a reader, only to be jolted into reality by an equally slow event or thrust into a pothole by the everyday realities that get in the way of writing a book. It sometimes seems like you’re constantly struggling to find the energy to climb back up to that sweet crest.

© Alphaspirit | Dreamstime.com - Driving Uphill Arrow Photo

© Alphaspirit | Dreamstime.com – Driving Uphill Arrow Photo

This spring has mostly been spent at the bottom of the hill. Sales have been slow, and we’re in between publication of new books. For mom and me, that’s about to change. The fourth book of The Fate Series: Treasured Fate, will be out in July and we’re already planning an official launch for September. Allyn also will have a new book out this fall: a Halloween story called Pumpkin Squash. All of us: mom, Allyn and I, know that our busiest season of selling is about to start, and the excitement has already begun.

For the launch of Treasured Fate, Mom and I are returning to our favorite neighborhood restaurant, Applebee’s, which hosted a big party last Spring for Violet Fate’s unveiling. We picked this restaurant for a reason: mom and I meet there on a regular basis because it’s close to her house, reasonably priced, changes the menu frequently enough to remain interesting, and we like the food and staff. We acknowledged that staff in our first book, Twist of Fate, thanked them in last year’s book of short stories for hosting the launch of Violet Fate, and are mentioning them again in this current book. We do this because the wait staff gets to listen to us discuss how to shoot or poison people and how to get away with all kinds of crimes. The staff and management also stop by the table frequently to encourage us and find out how the books are coming.

As far as what to expect from this latest book: Treasured Fate is about a woman kicked out of her own home who gets on a bus with no destination in mind, ends up in the Lancaster area and answers an ad a local farmer has placed for a wife. Our beloved private investigator Sam Osborne is a good friend of the farmer and becomes involved when someone tries to hurt the woman. Behind the whole plot is a treasure that everyone knows exists and no one can find. Is it the reason someone is after the woman?

You’ll have to read the book to find out. Or better yet, come to our event this fall and we’ll give you a first-hand description.

I’ll write more on our launch, the progress of Treasured Fate, and fall’s busy schedule in upcoming blogs. Now that we’ve begun climbing towards a crest of the hill again, I’ve resolved to keeping in better touch with our readers.

If you’d like an invitation to the launch, please email us at swopeparente@gmail.com.

–Genilee Swope Parente

 
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Posted by on June 27, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

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Can I tap your brain?

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© Demage | Dreamstime.com

Reading audience: I need your help.  But I’m not going to tell you for what until I finish this blog. You see, I’ve been promising Genilee I would write a blog for a year and a half.  I haven’t been able to get there, partly because I just couldn’t make myself do it during this year of significant events and partly because of writer’s block.

Today, I am determined to answer some of the questions often asked of me at book events and during discussions with readers. The single most frequently asked question is: What made you start to write at the age of 83?  The truth is that writers don’t always just write on paper. I have been writing books in my mind for over 70 years.  I wrote my first novel in the seventh grade about a boy in Paris who lived in a castle. The next year I started to carry “Danny,” the protagonist in Twist of Fate, around in my story-telling brain. Danny was based on a movie character played by Gene Reynolds.  He was a homeless young man with no parents, no home, no family, no education and no real friends. Unless you consider me, that is. I carried him around in my mind for the next 70 years. He “talked” to me all the time, and I was determined to put him down on paper.  But this particular task was daunting.  How can a person survive the world of living on the streets without giving in to crime or addiction? My Danny was strong and honest.  I couldn’t, however, find a way to take him off the streets and get him on paper.

What inspired me was that my youngest daughter, Allyn Stotz (http://allynstotz.blogspot.com/), wrote her first children’s book (she now has five and several more on the way!) and got it published.  That was a wakeup call: If I was ever going to write a book, I needed to get with it.  So five years ago, I sat down at my computer and the story began to unfold. Somehow through the act of actually making myself do this routinely, another character was born: Gus. Gus became Danny’s mentor and once he was around, the stumbling blocks began to fall and the story unfolded.

Book two, Wretched Fate, began with me looking at myself in a mirror, which is a crucial scene in which the main character begins to desire more for her life. Book three, Violet Fate, was the story of what might have happened to Danny if there had been no Gus (you’ll note the strong role the criminal plays in the plot). Book four, Treasured Fate, started as an exercise for seniors we developed for a class Genilee and I gave. The main characters: Elmer Jones and Maud Novec, were names I said aloud to the audience and asked how they saw the characters who fitted those names. We got some fascinating responses, and those of you that were in the audience will recognize some of the traits and descriptions. Treasured Fate is due to come out this summer.

It wasn’t until book five, which is likely going to be called Family Fate, that I began to have real trouble again with writer’s blocks.  This time I started with a character that is a far cry from my usual protagonists. And the plot has a lot of complications and twists. I also rewrote the first 15 chapters at least four times. I would stop for a month, and then, because it was a mystery, have to begin at the beginning again to get it to flow. I did this for well over a year—partly because, during that time, we put out our book of short stories—Holiday Connections. I finally forced myself to trudge forward to the end, and that book is now in Genilee’s domain, which means it has to wait for us to get through publication of book four, Treasured Fate.

Meanwhile, I am now working on my second short story book, and once again engrossed in a new character.  He’s a modern day Paul Bunyan–standing 7 feet tall, weighing 275 pounds. He has long black hair and a full beard covering his face.  He reminds me of a bear but inside, I intend for him to be candy cotton fluff.

But now it’s time to ask your help. I am also seriously considering writing book six in the Fate series, which would be a deeper investigation of Gus’s background and maybe even Danny’s from the original book. To those of you who have read the series and our short stories, I ask: what is your opinion on this? Should I let well enough alone with The Fate Series or try to explain some of the past?

I’ll be interested in hearing what you have to say.

–F. Sharon Swope

 
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Posted by on May 31, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

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Invasion of the Sleep Snatchers

I woke up next to a Kindle, an Android tablet and an iPhone this morning. And no, my husband had not made the crossover from tech nut to robot; our home had not been invaded by electronic aliens; the spicy food from last night had not given me nightmares.

I looked over at the devices and realized they were all mine—I’ve come to depend so heavily on these things they are with me when I close my eyes.

In my defense, I asked my husband to buy me my first tablet when I started writing six

© Petrovich11 | Dreamstime.com

© Petrovich11 | Dreamstime.com

years ago because I figured the brave new world of publishing was starting to depend more heavily on this method of reading. I was right. According to stats from the Association of American Publishers, e-book sales as a percentage of publishing grew from half a percentage point in 2006 to over 8% by 2011 and went to a whopping 17% the next year. Depending on whose figures you believe, e-reading now constitutes about a quarter of the market, and while growth has slowed on selling e-reading devices, many sources way that’s because we now already own the technology.

However, having one doesn’t necessarily constitute using it, as witnessed by many nifty gadgets I’ve purchased for our household or my techno-geek husband over the years (how about that car-starting system that was supposed to save him from getting into a cold car. Where is it now? Collecting dust in the electronic graveyard he keeps in his office.)

My Kindle and its predecessors (I have a nasty habit of unintentionally killing them off) didn’t suffer that fate from Day One mainly for one reason: I can read anywhere, anytime without using glasses—including reading to make myself drowsy.

So you see, I can perfectly justify waking up next to a tablet that put me to sleep the previous evening. However, that doesn’t account for the second tablet OR the phone.

OK … well I guess I shouldn’t feel too bad about the phone being there either. I’ve started taking my cell to bed with me since mom’s last hospital visit. It’s a scary world when you’re mom’s 88 and a trip to the bathroom can cause a fall that morphs into an EMS ride. She has one of those buttons to call emergency responders directly, but I feel better also knowing she can call. Of course, I also now have the capability of texting my 20-year-old daughter “goodnight” (i.e. checking up on her to make sure she’s still alive) when I know she’s out with friends past mommy’s bed time. But we won’t dwell on that.

So I’m down to that third device: the second tablet. I got it as a freebie from Verizon during a phone upgade, and it’s really come in handy at book events. For whatever grand reason Amazon might have, you can’t take Square electronic payments through a Kindle Fire, though you can do just about everything else. But how did this tablet find its way to my bedroom? Time for true confessions: with two tablets comes two functionalities. How am I supposed to know when I go to bed at night whether I want to read a book … or play a computer game? Now I can do both!—Genilee Swope Parente

 
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Posted by on May 20, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

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Happy Mothers Day to Me

When people ask me what the best days of my life have been, I give them two answers: The day I was married and the day I first saw Christina, my baby. I had already lost a child to miscarriage so I never quite believed the miracle of my successful second pregnancy–until I saw the tiny kidney bean on the sonogram that proved she was alive. I remember exactly the pure joy I felt; the only thing I can compare it to was seeing my husband waiting for me at the altar.  I knew in both moments that my life was exactly where it was supposed to be.auntnancy copy

Being a mother is just as difficult as being a wife, but the job parameters differ. For example, both require a lot of patience, but unlike with spouses, motherhood seems to have the patience built in. Somehow when a little girl scrawls “I luv mommy and daddy” in permanent ink on the bathroom vanity, the reaction isn’t anger; it’s wonder. Though you know that wooden vanity will never be the same, you somehow do not care, and it remains there for the next 15 years to remind you of the sentiment.

IMG_0306at mirrorBeing a mom’s hardest responsibility is worry. It starts from the moment you get your little wrinkled being home from the hospital and suddenly realize there are no nurses there to take up the slack. It continues through school whenever your child struggles with a class, a teacher, the fickleness of young friends and the heartaches of first love. And while it slackens in certain areas as your child grows up and takes on more worry herself, it never leaves. Like the child itself, the worry matures and takes on tougher issues: Can my baby find something she’s passionate about as a career? Will this young man treat my daughter well? Is she taking care of her health?

Okay, so maybe fawning is called for here: Thank you dear for being my baby girl and bringing me so much joy.

Genilee Swope Parente

This blog is dedicated not just to Christina, but to Judy and my own mom, who both had a very rough week. I love all of you.

 
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Posted by on May 5, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

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Not your typical dog day afternoon

Not your typical dog day afternoon

Normally, we’re a three-animal family: two cats and a dog. Yesterday, we went up to four for a while, then down to two and finally settled in at five furry heads resting in our home. It was an interesting day to say the least.

The morning began with a simple request from a neighborhood friend to watch her dog at night for a few days. The young lady was in the middle of a move and needed someplace for her new puppy to stay. She knows us well enough to know we are suckers for big brown dog eyes and enthusiastic wags. Although we hesitated and asked to meet her “baby” to make sure it wouldn’t eat our cats, she knew we’d eventually say yes, and we asked her to swing by that night for a meet and greet.

A couple hours later, another young lady and neighborhood friend called and asked if we had a spare leash. She and a friend had been shopping in Target when they noticed a commotion. A little beagle with—that’s right, folks—big brown dog eyes, had been wandering in and out of the big swooshing automatic doors all morning with no owner in site and Target was about to call animal control. The two young girls became the heroes of the commotion when they agreed to take the dog so that no one had to call the pound. Then they swung by our house and we all agreed it made sense to keep the darling at our home until we could put up fliers in the neighborhood and try to find the owner.

houseguest

Kelly Girl

Our dog Laney had a playmate for the day and her enthusiasm was contagious. She stuck by that little dog’s side long enough for both of them to frolic and play and enjoy the nice weather, then escape through a gate that somehow got opened. Of course, the minute freedom presented itself, Laney abandoned her new playmate and took off for the woods. Since this was her 25th time of escaping our clutches, we shrugged our shoulders and said a prayer she would somehow miraculously find her way back. We knew pursuit was not an option because this dog is FAST and when she wants to be gone, she’s gone and our hearts are broken once again.

Her fellow escapee, however, is an older dog with a few extra pounds, and she got as far as five houses down before my husband caught up with her and brought her back. We were back to one dog, two cats and the deep-seated fear we live with that our Laney will run out in front of a car—we love our dog, but let’s just say she’s one putt short of a par.

While my husband and I pretended very hard that it didn’t bother us Laney was gone, we got to know our little houseguest, who we nicknamed Kelly Girl for her temporary status. Our daughter gave her a bath, which was a hilarious adventure in itself because she didn’t seem to understand what was going on and squiggled and wormed on the carpet, feet flailing in the air, trying to get the dang water off her back.

cropped laney

Our own escape artist Laney

We put fliers up all over the neighborhood and awaited the puppy who was originally scheduled to be our guest. She arrived about 7:30 p.m. and we fell in love all over again, this time with a beautiful mixture of lab and pit bull with a black mane, a whip for a tail and a child’s delight-filled heart. Our two house guests got along beautifully. Our two cats acted like they normally do with canine guests: one hid and one hissed until he was hoarse.

At about 8:45, the phone rang. My husband, my daughter, the pitbull/lab owner, her friend and I were all watching the dogs interact and deep in discussion about how different animals were so when the phone rang, we started.

Kelly Girl’s owner was ringing to thank us for being heroes?

Nope. It was another set of heroes. They’d “found” Laney in their yard, so exhausted from hours of running free and wild that she didn’t even want to get up when they approached her. Laney had returned once again, bringing her beautiful brown dog eyes home.

Does anyone happen to know who Kelly Girl is?

—Genilee Swope Parente

 
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Posted by on March 8, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

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When Not Selling Books is Fascinating

When Not Selling Books is Fascinating

Sometimes these vendor events that mom and I attend are entertaining for reasons other than selling our books. Here’s a sample:

We had the opportunity recently to be analyzed by a lipologist. One of “only six in the U.S. and one on the east coast,” this individual had piqued my interest as she walked by, adorned in a flowing skirt and blouse decorated with kisses. Early into the event, she had the opportunity to announce to attendees that, for just $10, they could press their lips to a piece of paper and she would ‘read’ the print and tell them about themselves.

We sat next to a booth table where a woman had only a stack of construction paper preprinted with giant paw prints. She began to apply glue, then gold glitter to each print, then was joined by two high school students. The three of them sat there for three hours putting glitter on the prints until they were joined by another two high school students and the four of them packed up to find a bigger spot where they sat for another two hours applying glitter. I had to admire the fortitude of all five of those women for “sticking” with it for five hours.

We received an education on what a “cropping” is. Mom and I had no idea that scrapbooking had taken off and sprung wings to include painting, card making and other crafts. Women get together and spend a whole day working at their art and sharing conversation, methods and table space. They come laden with huge canvas bags full of strange-looking cutting and pasting tools, pots of paint, mounds of stickers, bows and intriguing paraphernalia. What we found out from meeting a few cropping attendees was that, the most common reason they give for being there is: “to get away from the husband and kids.”

We found out that in some European countries where health care isn’t as prevalent as in the U.S., people use natural ingredients to create herbal oils, which they then spread on the bottom of their husbands’ feet to prevent colds, on their children’s pillows to stop snoring or on their own feet to relieve the stress of taking care of sick husbands and snoring children.

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Valery Li and helper

The most remarkable aspect of these four examples, however, is that all occurred at one event last weekend. Since we had no traffic at all at our table, we were happy to be entertained, though we felt like we were in the Twilight Zone (we never did figure out where the occasional strains of flute music were coming from). We also had the very best food ever at an event (rich lasagna, creamy chicken penne and mouth-watering breakfast sweets as opposed to the usual overdone hotdogs, pizza and donuts). And despite the fact that most of the vendors that were there were selling branded products, we met an artist that wowed us. Her company is appropriately called “Valery’s Wonderland Treats” (www.valeryswonderland.blogspot.com) and I’ve never seen anything like it: little cookies and pastries that are so hard to describe, I’ll just call them, “beautiful” and show you pictures.

We won’t be making a reappearance at this particular event. But we thank the hardworking women who scrapbook, the student volunteers who persevere and the friendly vendors and croppers who stopped by our table and made up for a total lack of public visitors for keeping us entertained. And we thank Valerie Li for simply wowing us.

–Genilee Swope Parente

 

 

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Posted by on February 29, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

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How would you define “artist?”

apple being painted

© Altaoosthuizen | Dreamstime.com

Some people say an artist is a person able to create beauty that many others can see, feel or experience. Does that mean you have to have an appreciative audience to be considered an artist? Does art itself have to be beautiful and who gets to say it is?

Others would define an artist as someone who is doing exactly what he or she wants to do in ways people never thought of before. But that takes the audience factor out of the picture, and some might say it also removes the beautiful. Are the serial killers in Criminal Minds that come up with creative new ways to murder someone “artists” as their often-sick minds think they are?

That brings me to this question: is an artist someone who can make a living creating something unique or beautiful instead of standing behind a machine or sitting at a desk? I’m afraid many starving artists would greatly object. In fact, most of us doing something creative would starve if art was all we did.

This is my definition of an artist and it’s based on what I see every day. Most of us spend our spare moments—those times when we’re not at work—playing games on our tablets or phones, watching movies or television, texting, connecting on social media. When it’s time to relax, we need an avenue that takes us away. If the vehicle that provides that escape is performing or making music, polishing words or putting a brush to paper, you’re an artist. You choose to give some of your leisure time to your chosen art form. You also have enough faith in what you’re doing to enjoy the act of doing it and you have enough passion to push yourself to do it.

If you’re extremely lucky, you can find a way to do this during the working day. Only a few fortunate souls among millions can do that, however.

The rest of us plod along, spending most of our hours on everyday realities and trying to find time to continue doing this thing that gives us so much pleasure.

How would you define it?

–Genilee Swope Parente

 
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Posted by on February 25, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

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