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Writer’s process…or how my mind controls its creativity, part II: Writing for writing’s sake.

Last time, how I think through the inspiration led to me getting to write about something. Today, we talk about what comes next.

I don’t like to take an idea and control it from the start. For me, it stifles any hope of the characters, plot, and personalities to develop. Just because I can see what my female protagonist looks like, sounds like, or how she sits in the world I’m about to put on paper, doesn’t mean I know who she is. I don’t have characters that just appear to me fully revealed. They don’t trust easily. They want to be able to see the relationship to develop between us is worth it before showing me who they are. Outlining at an early stage makes me feel like I’ve put my characters in a certain personality construct, and they get loud when they get locked up. (Did I mention they’re a little like me? Stubborn as hell!)

So, I free write. I don’t know if they’re going to stay good. Maybe just maybe the evil bloke I saw at the beginning starts showing a softer, more vulnerable side. Maybe that character that everyone starts to like decides he feels like doing some really bad things. Heck, maybe the world explodes and they all end up in Central New York mooing at cows (see, just like me!). I want the story to tell me what’s important. I want to get to know my characters, and start to love or hate them the same way I want those reading to.

The best part of this, for me, is that I am constantly motivated to come back to the document I’m writing because the most curious part of me is waiting to see what comes next. The worst part is that when you go to further parts of the process, you sometimes are confronted with the reality that you might not always write some brilliant things.

So, I write. Chapter after chapter, thousands of words, deepening my understanding of current characters, watching new ones pop up. About a third of the way into what would end up the finished product, something changes, and I start changing with it. The mercurial Lauren, always true to her Gemini nature, decides it’s time to do it a little different.

Then, a new sort of fun begins.

This is when I start needing a direction to move in. My mind starts to realize that, like in most things, it can always run away with itself and this writing idea, and if I want any of it to make sense, I must make it make sense.

And so, now, I start to outline. It starts pretty simple. At this point, I can see the end game, even if it’s well off. I’ve started to see that this character loves to leap before looking, the other is too busy being a flirt to pay attention, and the personalities of all the others have developed to the point I start feeling they’re real people telling me their story. I know what sort they are; now, I just need to know where they’re going.

I plot out the plot as loosely as possible to allow for creativity to still flourish. I get nervous if I don’t know the story has a point. I also like that these ideas developed in the outlining lead on to bigger and better plot ideas. More often than not, the outline leads to future book ideas, and then I start overwhelming myself with the history involved.

During this outlining period, I’m still writing. However, now I feel like I’ve an actual purpose with it. I’m more determined than ever to have a productive output, and I feel rather manic. The ideas start pouring in because I know the structure they’ll be contained in is there. I also know that, as the architect, I’m still able to manipulate as the characters and stories need.

I’m probably my happiest, most productive, and best in this stage. I’m always that mercurial sort mentioned above. I do love being in control…and losing it. It’s so very hard to decide what I think on so many things because of this, the least of which is writing.

But, to where do I go after the outline?

 
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Posted by on 12/13/2013 in blogging, writing

 

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Just an opinion…

(Note: This was written over several nights, mostly due to the fact that I work a changeable schedule and got too darn tired to write it in one go. While I don’t think it’s perfect or expresses ALL of what I wish I could say, I do think it’s a good consensus. For further background outside of what I already gave: I work at a local business sometimes influenced by the college, I know some law-enforcement officials, and I also spent an evening listening to the actual scanner this night. So, what I report isn’t what was rumored, but what I know to have been.)

 

Disrupting the scheduled programming for writing discussion with a little opinion drop on something that’s hit local, state, and even national news over this past weekend.

I’m writing a little removed from it because I did want to decide exactly how I felt about things I continue to read about after the fact. A lot of what I realized is that the nature of media and culture is a lot different than 12 years ago. To be fair, I’ve had to consider that a little when composing this because I think the massive amount of social media technology we have does lend itself a bit to the exposure every moment of this last weekend got.

I went to a SUNY (State University of NY) school in what’s now kinda my hometown, Cortland. Cortland’s kinda known as a school for teachers, and it’s actually a pretty good school if you apply yourself. It also has a reputation as a bit of a party school, and it’s not undeserved.

Back when I was in school, drinking Wednesday nights through Saturday nights was the norm. Monday and Tuesday were about the only day you’d see students consistently in class. There were two big parties, Cortaca and Block Party, and Block Party was actually the more “known” of the two. In fact, I don’t recall too much talk by classmates about this infamous rivalry game that turns into party central. Maybe that’s because I never was the party girl (I hate crowds, loud/dumb people), and I actually didn’t truly drink until I was 21 (The Untruly might be for another entry…haha). I know, atypical college girl.

For those uninitiated, Cortaca is a longstanding rivalry between Cortland’s Red Dragons football team and the Ithaca College Bombers. Cort (Cortland) aca (Ithaca). Get it? Okay, it’s longstanding (like 50+) years, and somewhere along the way, a Cortland captain bought this ceramic jug to serve as a trophy for the winners. Up until the 80s, game scores and winners were written on the jug bought, and when it became too full, another was purchased for the next bunch of games. For the last four years (including 2013), Cortland has held the jug; it is the first time since the 50s that they’ve held it that many years in a row.

Block Party was a massive drinkfest held in the Spring right before finals. People poured into a local street, close to downtown and the college, and basically drank, acted dumb, drank some more, and oh, yeah, imbibed alcohol. Every year, the party grew bigger, with people coming in from neighboring schools and the actions of the individuals getting drunk (cause, we all know what some drunk people can be like) escalated to the point where local Cortland residents, who, ya know, live there year round and have families, jobs, and property complained and did something about it. Rules were made, block party was shut down.

By the time Cortaca really hit my awareness, I was well out of school. I think the absence of the Block Party made it all more essential to the SUNY Cortland culture to emphasize the Cortaca to the point it became this weekend.

Look, I’m not a prude. I may have been a goody-two shoes in college, but I understood the let-loose philosophy of my fellow students. I didn’t appreciate it in that I lived it, and frankly, screaming women at 2 am was never an amazing soundtrack to sleep, but it was an expected thing. Back then, stories were on hard copy. Pictures taken on actual cameras with actual film, maybe a camcorder, and legendary stories were word of mouth. Every successive year could be “better” than the last without even being different because drunken memory works about as well as a 2 month old sleeps.

So, get to the point Lauren. The point is…Cortaca 2013 was this last weekend. And, oh boy, was it a riot.

No, really, it was.

Look, Cortland has a big drinking culture outside of the school. The college is not solely to blame for the plethora of bars, liquor stores, and very well stocked grocery and convenience stores. The locals, to be honest, well support the drinking nature of the town. Trust me, the bars don’t close in the summer or on breaks. Enough locals drink with regularity that depending on the college isn’t a “need” thing. It’s a perk, a surplus, and quite frankly, a bonus.

But Christmas type surprises come in strange packages, and red-hued packages are offered up as Cortaca (red being Red Dragons’ color).

Bars, liquor stores, grocery, convenience, and other local shops start planning for Cortaca weeks in advance. They know people will drink. They order to meet demand. Some downtown businesses rewrite schedules to close because they really don’t want to deal with drunken students, but they don’t want to subject paying customers to it as well. Most locals brace themselves. Be prepared for a lot of yelling, a lot of drinking, and probably a lot of trash on the lawn. It’s actually a treat to read the local paper after a Cortaca weekend. Police beat doesn’t even list names, just the quantity of offenses because they really don’t have the room to identify everyone in the paper.

Then, you just hope for the best. You coast it, you survive it, and when it’s done, breathe a sigh of relief that the next one is a year off.

So, all of that is a little background. It’s needed because, frankly, unless you’ve lived through several of these, understanding what exploded this weekend would be hard. Going through it, over and over, reading people’s comments, looking at videos and pictures, twitter feeds and Facebook posts, I started thinking about a whole bunch of crap I really shouldn’t think about.

This weekend, before the game was even over, Cortland State students, alumni, out of town guests and townies (as they’re called) poured out of houses, dorms, and neighborhoods and into the street near downtown that used to host the Block Parties. This street is lined with many landlord owned student housing, but also has a lot of local residential houses. It leads up a hill that connects with some of the streets running through the college proper. It, by default, became a bit of party central, as up to 6000 people just settled in an area maybe two blocks long. Things started getting heated, people were crawling onto their roofs, throwing grills, tvs, pieces of furniture at people below. Some were throwing themselves off.

Most Cortland alumni will now chuckle. That’s pretty normal. People do stupid stuff when drunk. Then, it escalated.

I’m sorry, partying alumni who chuckle at their own youthful indiscretions, terrifying young children, yanking pizza delivery men (who are just feeding party goers who order, no less) out of their cars, trying to tip said cars, and then shoving cars down a hillside into other cars, things are a little beyond a “good time.” They’ve come into the category of, “WHAT THE F- IS GOING ON?” territory. How about all your neighbors, who are tax paying citizens and invest in their city feeling trapped in their homes because your butts needed to be so insanely drunk and raucous the police gave up on policing and just crossed their fingers? How about those porches cars ran into? How about the houses destroyed that landlords now need to invest insane amounts of money in, but you somehow treat as if you own it? Maybe those fences your drunk ass ripped down in neighborhoods because they prevented you from walking where you want? What about those 16 year olds arrested for public intoxication because someone, somewhere, thought it was, hey cool? Or the countless assaults and rapes not reported, but most likely happened? What about those?

The argument that, of the 100 or so that city police managed to arrest were only a handful of students mean nothing. City police admit they gave up. Dispersing an ever increasing crowd became more important than the amount of collars. Does that mean the college is absolved?

I guess my opinion is such: Sure, college means parties. It means drinking, stupid actions, and things one might not always remember the next day. Sometimes, you do stupid crap. Part of it, though, needs to be a recognition that if you expect to be treated as adults who can purchase and consume alcohol, that you also are willing to accept and pay the repercussions of your actions when you choose to do all those things. College should also be teaching you something, too. It’s not just about the ease of alcohol or pot.

Today, we live in an age where every action can be filmed by the tiny camera in a cell phone, whether video or photo. It can instantaneously be uploaded to the internet for everyone to see. This includes our parents, our grandparents, teachers, or even prospective employer. Every bare butt exposed in some drunken revelry can now haunt us forever, and not just because someone was really fortunate to get it on hard copy. Thousands upon thousands of people outside of this small city of Cortland have now seen your ass. Some might even be people you one day want to pay you to do a job.

Now, commissions are being raised to decide what to do about this game this year. My thoughts? It’s college oriented, even if the students have decided to make it party central. So, no offense to my alma mater, but maybe you need to foot the bill on the location, the security, and all that surrounds this weekend to keep it going. Maybe you need to stop shrugging your shoulders that the party culture of Cortland has finally escaped your excuses and admit to be what it is. Drunk people don’t conform to what they’re expected to be without some outside influence. Be proactive. Show this town that you seem to act as if it revolves around you, that you care. Don’t just say it. DO IT.

 

 
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Posted by on 11/22/2013 in Uncategorized

 

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Writer’s process…or how my mind controls its creativity, part I: The Idea.

If there’s one thing to learn from being around creative types, it’s that there is no one way to achieve an end. There is no real “right” process to making something happen. It just is what it is. Sometimes, it works for you. Sometimes, you have to play with it as you change and grow. Sometimes, it’s an utter crapshoot and you hate every moment of it, even if the end result is beauty. But, there is never just one way to do it.

One of my friends posted about his process in a blog entry, and I read it, understanding every step of it, and responded in the comments with a brief description of my own. But, even though I thought I was reflecting on my own attempts to create something from a blank page, I realized I barely scraped the surface of how I work.

As a person who has always been driven by her imagination, I end up with a lot of ideas. I’m never short of them. I always tell people that my brain never shuts up. It has an opinion: right, wrong, even hardly thought out. It has a vivid show to give: I’m pretty sure I think in color all the time. It’s just always on. I often lack sleep, especially if I have decided that, five minutes before hitting the pillow, this awesome movie needs to play, all inside a head that really, really needs some shut-eye.

I used to call these ideas visions, mostly because I felt they were coming from some external source. I even wrote a poem about how these ideas hit, and they may not make sense. I might be out at a bar with friends, and this amazing scene just plays inside, and I have to fight the urge to just expound upon it while attempting to be social. I might be sitting by a lake or ocean, watching waves lap the shore, and see a female detective sitting in an office, interrupted by her male assistant who informs her some new client is outside, waiting to hire her for the next big case.

Some writers like to carry a little notebook around to jot down these ideas so they can work through them after the first insight to story greatness shows up. I was blessed with a pretty good memory, and I tend to hold on to my ideas as if they were my greatest treasure. I don’t carry a notebook. I just carry the idea with me until I can play with it.

So, let’s get to that play. Some writers like to outline and plan everything. Some free write, planning to edit and smooth out the story later. Me? I like to do both, and not always in some sense of order.

Let’s take that fantasy novel I sometimes mention. The idea for it actually came from another piece of writing I did. I think it was the first time I inspired a story from another story. During college, I had to write a senior thesis, and I wrote a presentation that was poetry and prose combined. Don’t worry; It wasn’t as confusing as it sounds. I was even complemented by one of my professors on my proficiency to mix the two without being awkward. When I decided to dip deep into a fantasy work, I decided to pick out the female protagonist from this thesis and rewrite her story.

At this time, I wrote every bit of prose in third person. I wasn’t confident I could drive an entire plot from the viewpoint of one character, but with the encouragement and urging of a dear writing friend, I picked this idea, already popping those movies into my head at the most awkward of times, to explore it.

So, I had a protagonist, I had a basic plot, and plenty of visions dancing in my head. I knew the tone I wanted to write in. I wrote.

 
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Posted by on 11/15/2013 in Uncategorized

 

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Realizing all the while, you’ve been doing it wrong.

Once upon a time, I wrote a fantasy novel. I haven’t spent too much time on my specific works in this blog, mostly because I had intended on having another blog serve to deal with my “I’M A WRITER, DAMNIT!” thoughts. However, I’ve been in a weird sort of mood lately, and I really just want to talk about stories.

I didn’t start out writing fantasy when I decided writing was the craft for me. In fact, I was just a little obsessed with a time period of history/country called Ancient Egypt and writing a story set there. I was so obsessed that some of my early internet usernames were based upon characters in that novel series. I started that series when I was 17, finished the first book when I was 21, and started up the prequel (because writing out of order is just awesome, let me tell you). Then, the story just crashed and burned.

It wasn’t because the plot couldn’t sustain itself. It could, and I still hope that it can. However, the time of life I was entering, I found myself consumed with other things that distracted me further from the closeness I had experienced with the characters.

Two years later, after writing hundreds of poems, reading a dear friend’s own fantasy work, and trying to work through some visions of plot that danced in my head, I decided to start working on a fantasy novel. It started a lot smaller in scope, and now it sits as a waiting trilogy, but I really believed in the storyline and I admit, it was a lot of fun to write.

That’s the background. Now, here’s what I’m trying to get at.

A few posts ago, I wrote about going through some old writing, finding that 23 year old me, and reliving the past relationships that have since faded with time. I have struggled for years to get myself back into a writing sort of mood, and that Monday was a trigger moment. The following weekend, I actually worked on my writing. I was happy, but a little sad, too.

Since I left high school, writing wasn’t just about me getting whatever thoughts in my head out on paper, but rather a sort of social interaction I held with classmates, friends, other writers, and often, I would just spend an entire night talking about plot points, worries, and directions I wanted to take. It wasn’t selfish. I listened just as much as I talked. I spent countless hours with other creative people, letting the pulse of their own exploration inspire and motivate me to be bigger, better, and stronger as an artist.

I really enjoyed myself, reading the words I wrote about a decade ago, edited seven years ago, and wrote in a very changeable winter. But, part of what I missed was knowing I couldn’t really share that with anyone. I couldn’t do anything but pace the rooms of my house, whispering my thoughts on working through the bad areas of writing. It was a lonely process. I really didn’t like it.

This isn’t a foreign feeling. I’ve been struggling with it for the past seven years. Every time I went to write, that beautiful urge faded as I felt so alone with it. I wasn’t comfortable with the change, so I’d give up.

Yeah, self-inflicted writer’s block.

It doesn’t have to be that way. I don’t want to be that way. I’m sick of letting it be that way.

Time for a change.

 
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Posted by on 11/12/2013 in blogging, writing

 

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To rhyme, or not to rhyme. That is the question I ask…

I figured that if I was going to have any sort of success in keeping this journal a little bit alive, I needed to spend some time when I had the urge and time to write creating a small backlog of entries so that I could at least present the internet with something from me when a block hit. Perhaps this will take the pressure off of feeling guilty when I don’t write, and allow me to enjoy and appreciate the times I do.

I used to write a lot of poetry. And, if I am not too biased, I was pretty darn good at it too. Writing poems helped me work through a lot of dark thoughts and feelings. A lot of my poetry concerned my spirituality (which yes, I’ve mentioned in several entries now. Perhaps, one day I’ll expound a little on that.), but some of it did relate to people, in particular, and feelings I had towards people I couldn’t openly reveal.

I haven’t written a poem in over 6 years. I don’t know why I stopped exactly. I think it had something to do with the death knell of a phase of a particular relationship I had, and that I had lost a lot of the culture that I had created around me during those prolific poetry years. I once told a friend that I write best when in love or happy, coasting on the physical highs those emotions provoke in me. But, so much of my poetry was dark and angry, at least, on the surface. Perhaps I unwittingly lied to my friend when I said that. Maybe the truth is, I write best when I can feel a connection to someone or something that makes me want to be better, smarter, and honest. It’s been a long time since I have had that.

My older brother bought me a leather bound journal for Christmas one year. I haven’t used it. Part of that is that it’s beautiful and I don’t want to ruin it with scratched out words and my own insane thoughts. Another reason is that if I were to use it, I wanted a purpose for it that I would stick to. In truth, as you can see from the haphazard posting I do here, I am not very good at keeping a regular journal. About the only thing in my life that is regulated is my work, and heck, that changes all the time too. Keeping a journal every day, writing on the regular? Ha! That’s just not for me. Never has been, never will be.

Now, I think I know what I want to use that journal for. I want to get in touch with the poetic part of me that has been gone for so many years. I have a feeling that this will not be fun. I think I’m going to hate a lot of what may come out, and I hate when I don’t like what I write. But, I need to do this. I miss the part of me I saw when I crafted a poem, and I need to find that again. If I don’t try now, I might never do it.

That would be the biggest loss of all.

 
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Posted by on 11/10/2013 in Uncategorized

 

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A spring and summer creating memories…

A few days ago, I updated my Facebook status describing how I found some old binders, notebooks, and folders with some writing and thoughts I had when I was finishing college, and learning how to move towards a goal of being a responsible adult. Now, over a decade later, I still can’t say I have figured out the adult thing, but I can say I’ve made progress.

I can admit I’m a bit of a pack rat. In some cases, I keep things because of sentimental value; maybe they remind me of an event, or maybe they just are things I believe I will eventually use. I tend to remember things vividly from years ago, and occasionally get a little too nostalgic due to that. So, if I have things that relate to a vivid memory, or signify a relationship of the past, I tend to keep it.

The other night, I came home from work and walked over to my overstuffed bookshelf. I thought I might have stashed some extra office/school supplies there that I could have taken to work to use for something. Instead, I started pulling out these binders, folders, and a notebook with a “title” written up on it in big sharpie handwriting. A part of me stared at disbelief as I had forgotten that I had stuffed these items away, intending to keep them for posterity.

I never found the supplies I thought I had. Instead, I found the 22/23 year old me, full of opinions, an awakening spirituality, and completely in love with writing. I found the imagination that I sometimes think has escaped from me as I’ve grown older, more mature, responsible. The kid part of me I strove to hold on to those years went down for a nap so long ago, and I wonder if she will ever wake up.

One of the notebooks was a journal a friend and I had kept my last summer at the job I had right out of college before the place went out of business. In the journal, my friend and I wrote about friendships (with coworkers and people we knew outside our little group), our philosophies and beliefs, poetry and short stories. Inside, I also used the notebook to detail out growing relationships I was making with people that, at the time, were consuming my world. In 2002, fresh out of college, optimistic that the world was at my feet, and boy, did I dream and want things bigger and grander than anything I ever did and got. Inside this one subject notebook, I poured out some of the biggest parts of who I was and what I wanted. Ironically, I also made promises and declarations in this notebook I later broke to myself. Ah, the mercurial me.

One of the best and worst parts of reading these materials this week was not the memory trip it conjured, but the realization that back then, so very few people knew me, or, for that matter, saw me. I have always been a bit of the quiet girl, keeping my feelings and emotions close. I can guarantee that some of the people closest to me in proximity knew nothing of what things I wrote, or believed, or hell, felt. The crushes, the falling in love, the intense spirituality building within me, centering me and giving me the confidence to believe, for once, I was okay. The knowledge that writing wasn’t just some hobby I liked to do on cold weather mornings, but an immense part of who I was as a person. And, the fact that writing brought to me so many connections to people so far away that matched my personality in ways I still can’t begin to explain to people. So many secrets back then. So much need for them.

Probably the best part of the trip down memory lane was the fact that I got to see my description of the beginning of one of the longest and fulfilling relationships of my adult life. Sure, living through that, I was aware of what I felt at the time, and what I personally saw, but writing it down for an audience outside of myself, I saw a bit of what I had forgotten about it. It was genuine, unintended, and fun. As it went, sometimes it hurt more than I could ever know things could hurt. But, it started as fun.

I need to get that back. That sort of fun. Ah, well…we shall see.

 
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Posted by on 11/08/2013 in blogging, writing

 

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When you need to be AWAY…

Sometimes, when you’re looking at 300 plus people on a daily shift, the prospect of being social, answering phones, and putting a smile on your face is too damn much.

I’m not miserable. Actually, compared to about ten years ago, I’m much happier. I am smarter. I’m wiser. I’m older, sadly, but such is the consequence of life.  I’m much less motivated to write, which is distressing, but at the same time, I’m not writing crap that only serves to whine as I did about ten years ago.

I don’t like the phone. I never have. I avoid phones if I can. If I can write it or type it out, I’m much happier. Lately, though, these feelings have gotten worse. I can’t really explain it outside of being an introvert and how often the damn phone rings when I’m at my work. My last day of work, I think the phone rang 20-30 times during an 8 hour shift. Combine this with talking to hundreds of customers during that time, it is no wonder that when closing time happens, I don’t want to talk. I don’t want to call in a take-out order. I don’t want to hold a phone to my ear. I don’t want to discover how to save 20% on my electric bill. I just want to be left alone. I want to curl up with my Kindle, or play a mindless game on my computer, or glance at Facebook and just be quiet.

I’ve never been that social. This isn’t to say I don’t like people or being around people. I like being around people that accept me for who I am. My family, for instance, is a very busy network of people. I love just sitting at family gatherings, watching other people reconnect and be social. I don’t feel left out. I used to. I don’t know. I’m just not that way. I like being in the corner and watching. I like feeling a part of things while being on the fringe. 

Beyond that, being with my family in a social way is ten times different than being around people like my customers. I don’t hate my customers, so don’t get me wrong, but they’re not blood related. I don’t look at each of them and see the part of me that I’ve become stemming from who my family is. My family is loud, bold, and the most loving bunch I know. For an introvert like me, that’s a lot to handle, and I love every damn minute of it because they’re MINE. That’s my family, my blood, and the legacy handed to me. I wouldn’t trade it for a damn thing in the world. 

I don’t go out every weekend. I hate bars. I hate crowds. I don’t enjoy myself in them. I don’t like being watched; I don’t like being a part of someone else’s commentary. Sometimes, I just want to sit with another person or two, someone I feel 100% comfortable with and not saying a damn word. 

Best damn therapy in the world…

 

 
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Posted by on 06/17/2013 in Uncategorized

 

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