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When Life Interferes with My Passion

Make time to write every day even if it's just for a few minutes! Feed your soul!

Make time to write every day even if it’s just for a few minutes! Feed your soul!

So, those of you who follow my blog might have noticed that I haven’t written a post for a while. The reason? My job, and I don’t mean writing. I mean that thing I do that pays the bills. And every day I cannot get to my computer and focus on my first love, my passion, my creative outlet, and drug, to put it mildly, makes me grumpy and miserable.

I enjoy teaching ballet, but there comes a time when it all becomes too much, especially when I can’t find time to spend writing or editing for even just a couple of hours. My mood sours, my husband complains I’m not as cute and cuddly as I usually am when I manage to spend a few hours a day feeding my addiction, my hunger to create and unleash what churns inside!

I share my teaching week with another teacher, who is also an international examiner and tutor. As a result of her status, she frequently travels all over the globe  leaving me with more classes to teach and less time to write. The month of March was insanely busy for me as I taught six days a week as opposed to the usual three. Hey, I received an incredible salary at the end of the month so no complaints there, but I can’t help but feel robbed of time with my beloved characters; you know, spending quality time with them in their world.

I know I don’t really have to ask you this, dear Writer, but do you not also feel a sense of separation when you cannot be with your characters, especially those you’ve written four or more books about? For me, it hasn’t only been the last five years of penning their story. No, try thirty-seven years!!! Yup, my epic fantasy tetralogy was born when I was a wee kid, and the story has evolved over all that time, growing, morphing, evolving, until it eventually found its voice in 2009 when I decided to share it with the world. These characters have lived with me practically my entire life, so when I can’t spend time with them every day it feels like I’m ignoring them and my relationship with them suffers. I lose the connection with them and their story, never a good thing when writing an emotionally charged tale!

My writing and blogging have taken a back seat this past month but I hope now to finally kick it up into gear again and finish editing The Sword Bearer’s Ascension: Book 4, the final installment and the end of a thirty-seven year journey. My characters are waiting for me to finish telling their story so that the world can read it, so that they can become part of the hearts and minds of those who choose to read it. I also hope to blog more regularly, and I want to thank all my followers for your support and interest in what I have to say. It means a lot to me that you read this humble blog, and I hope that in some way you are inspired to never stop writing every day no matter what life throws at you.

I have determined to make an effort to write every day even if it’s just for a few minutes. My soul sings when I create; how could I be so cruel and deprive it of  such joy and expression?

I love reading your thoughts. Have you also had times when the mundane necessities of life have interfered with your first passion? Please share!

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The Afterglow of Finishing a 700-page Novel – again!!!

The Cover Image for Book 3: The Sword Bearer's Awakening

The Cover Image for Book 3: The Sword Bearer’s Awakening

Yes, that’s what I’ve just accomplished! It’s done! It’s being printed – hard and soft cover – and formatted as an ebook to be released very soon, and I walk around, whether at home or at work, in a kinda daze ’cause writing my third epic fantasy novel – all three around 700 pages long! – is like conquering Everest…thrice!!!

Whew! *wipes brow*

What a journey of sheer ecstasy, mingled with the usual blood, sweat, and tears, but I wouldn’t give it up for anything. These characters, this exciting, thrilling world is so part of me now I can’t even imagine parting with them. The fourth book, The Sword Bearer’s Ascension, is the last in the tetralogy, and I’ve already started it. I know how it ends, and every time I think about it I can cry. Those tears are for the moment I edit the last word and then, with the touch of a key, send it off to be published. On that day there will be many tears and perhaps a lot of drinking (I don’t drink, by the way, which tells you how bad it’s gonna be!), and my hubby will have to deal with a weeping mess.

Flu1 by evah sxc

I believe my sadness stems from the undeniable fact that my characters are so intrinsically part of me, and saying farewell is like losing part of myself. This story has grown and evolved inside me since I was eight years old, that’s thirty-six years of living with and breathing life into this wonderful tale, bringing life to my characters, and creating a brand new world from scratch; thirty-six years of bringing this story to fruition, to a place where I could finally put it down on paper and realise a lifelong dream of being published and sharing this marvellous story with the entire world!

Hemingway

I know many of you reading this know exactly what I’m talking about. I understand what Hemingway said about ‘bleeding’ onto the page. It’s the same as a dancer losing herself in the choreography, and a musician losing himself in his creation. It is in those moments that the observer/listener sees the magic, the glory, the power, and joins with the artist in a journey that takes them far away from boring reality.

When I get comments from reviewers saying they are moved to tears when they read my book, I know I’ve bled enough. Then I know I held nothing back, and that I have accomplished what every artist seeks to accomplish: making a ‘normal’ feel, imagine, live, experience, become so utterly absorbed that they temporarily forget where they are.

The Sword Bearer’s Awakening: Book 3 is the powerful, emotional, thrilling continuation of what transpires in Books 1 and 2. Out of the four books I wrote this one first because it is the very heart of the story; it is where the adventure began for me; it is the birth of all the characters and of this unique universe.

I will keep you up to date as the release date nears, and as soon as I have a copy of the cover you’ll see it right here – and all over Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, ect.

Butterfly Heart

I want to take this moment to thank everyone who has supported me during this great adventure, from reviewers to readers to friends and family. All of you make this magical dream possible.

Writing Book 4 is going to be an amazing, emotional experience for me, and even though it will be one of the saddest days of my life when I complete it, I will be celebrating a near lifetime of glorious creation. I will write many, many more stories for I have a boundless imagination that contains an endless supply of fantastic tales (one is almost finished actually, thanks to NaNoWriMo 2012), and I just might continue with The Sword Bearers into the next generation…?

I love hearing your thoughts, so put them down right here. Tell me about your personal journey, and how it makes you feel when you end a project you’ve become so emotionally attached to.

Rest Weary Spirit, Reignite Your Fiery Heart – A Contemplation

This week has been extremely busy and downright exhausting for me, and usually when I’m this tired I find it difficult to write or do rewrites because my concentration levels are just not where they need to be in order to attain my personal standards of performance and achievement in every area of my life. Even though writing never fails to excite me, I find that when I’m tired it becomes more of an effort and like work instead of the easy flow and joy I experience when I’m rested and my mind is uncluttered.

When I’m this tired my mind shuts down, and where writing my Fantasy series can still happen rather easily because of my eternal, almost preternatural, passion for it, writing a blog takes more energy. When I blog I am having a conversation with my friends, but as my hubby knows, when I’m tired I don’t like talking too much. But I am committed to you guys and the relationships I have built up with you, and that to me is never an effort; the act of writing, however, can be. So, all I did today was take a few minutes to sit in front of my laptop and look out the window and allow my mind to wander where it wanted.

Now, I have, and always will be, a fiction writer. I have tried my hand at poetry many times and had reasonable success with it in school, but I’ve never really gotten into it. Karen Robiscoe writes fabulous poetry, and I follow her blog, Charron’s Chatter, with great enjoyment. Frequently her poems are hilarious, but I just know that I will never be able to write like her!! She is a poet; I am not!

*snicker* *snort* (slightly embarrassed look) But today I have tried! This is what my tired brain came up with as it meandered through the messy tangle of limp thoughts drowning in a river of fatigue inside my head (he-he, pretty good, yes??), and personally I think it’s a silly ditty but lots of fun! Give it a bash, even if poetry isn’t your thing, because at least you’ll get a giggle out of it at my expense!! Enjoy!

Let Rested Soul Magic’s Flame Reignite

When words do dwell in shadows’ knell,

and heart and mind reach forth from cell,

yet doors remain closed here within,

and make my soul and spirit dim.

*

When passion sleeps – a deep, drowning swirl,

and dreams come fast yet nil reveal,

I lay a-pant and wish and long

for more of that which once magic spun.

*

Magic eludes my heart and mind,

only bringing forth the dark’s unkind,

when I listen not to Source’s trill within,

and harken only to soulless din.

*

Now I remind kindly me and you . . .

*

How can you scribe and not hear well,

when heart and mind and soul do tell,

to open up your inner-Sun

and give that golden power Gun?

*

By nature, Gun must burn and fire,

for soul and heart and mind to flower!

Its sparks must shower upon that within,

that creates and births the magic din.

*

For absent magic cannot glory make,

neither golden page nor moving tale,

that brings tear or joy or laughter true

to reader, writer, listener . . . or you.

*

Find rest, dear writer, yon weary soul,

to keep alive yon glorious goal.

Make time for love, light, joy, and fun,

and don’t forget to fire that Gun!

*

Magic needs fiery Source-born Gun

to make its energy flare and words become spun.

Seek Muse in rest then write as though

your tale shall become this world’s greatest show!

*

For Gun and Muse and Magic must flare;

three united yon goal shall easily ensnare

each reader, writer, listener and you;

no looking back once choice to fire Gun comes true.

*

Listen well, dear writer, to heart’s quiet plea

to rest, to find magic, to make magic in thee.

All exists already there in soul’s warm glare,

just trust in the Magic and make Gun flare!

by Monique Rockliffe

Will I ever become a famous poet? Nah, don’t think so! But I had fun writing it even though it’s quite possibly just awful! He-he!

Share your ditties here and there will be no judgement! Promise!! I love hearing from you!

P.S. Wishing all the countries participating in the Olympics all the very best, and to all my blog friends, may your country perform to your greatest satisfaction! Good luck/Break a leg/Chukkas etc!
Both Images courtesy of stock.xchng

The Art of Classical Ballet and Writing Compared – A Musing

I don’t know if anyone else has had, or is still busy with, an artsy profession other than writing, but I’m sure you can come up with some interesting comparisons and similarities just as I have.

Keeping fit for me requires hard work, but doing a ballet class does it like nothing else. It reaches every muscle – major and intrinsic – and keeps my mind and body strong and fit as the years march on.

Writing, and doing it consistently, works the same way – although, unfortunately, when it comes to the waistline it isn’t so great!! He-he! Writing requires as much commitment and dedication, knowledge and understanding of the craft as does ballet because if you can’t do it reasonably well then you’re going to run into problems.

Painting of ballet dancers by Edgar Degas, 1872.

Painting of ballet dancers by Edgar Degas, 1872. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Ballet requires you to deeply and truly understand your body and the technique required to prevent injury – immediate and long-term – and so be in total command of it. It requires absolute focus and incredible awareness of yourself, and you have to be very musical and expressive, as well. At least once you’ve moved out of the examination (amateur) status and into the professional arena you don’t have to worry about failing that much anymore – unless, of course, you get onto the stage and, because of your lack of commitment and hard work and your lack of the technical knowledge needed to successfully perform at the required level, you end up falling flat on your face (quite literally!) and causing damage to your body and your reputation. In a sense, being a professional dancer takes more work psychologically than being a student still in the learning process, a learning process that takes a lot of time and is pretty slow going, quite necessary to prepare an aspiring dancer to achieve his or her dreams. Students (amateurs) are quickly forgiven for their mistakes in technique, but professional ballet dancers are expected to be brilliant, ethereal, strong, and beautiful – in other words, as close to perfect as possible!

With writing we also don’t stop learning no matter how high up in the ‘rankings’ we go. We move on from being amateurs and advance into the professional arena, therefore our writing abilities have to match our status. It is expected that we no longer write like amateurs/students the moment we call ourselves ‘published authors’. Our craft always has room for improvement – just much less so the better we get at it, just like a professional dancer – requiring absolute dedication and commitment and, most important, A TOTAL LACK OF EGO! As a professional dancer you learn quickly that you need to be arrogant onstage in order to perform at your best, to be enigmatic and charming, to draw the audience in by showing off your brilliance, and fully engage them emotionally in your performance (sounds exactly like writing, doesn’t it?) – but then be completely humble offstage.

By all means, believe in your writing abilities and think highly of yourself when you sit in front of your computer and create your masterpiece, showing off your brilliance to the world, but always be willing to listen and learn and accept constructive criticism from others because your goal is to get better and better at your craft. Even the ‘superstars’ of the literary world must know (hopefully) that they can always learn something new, that there is always someone who has a better, deeper understanding than them in a particular area. As writers we must be careful that we never reach the place in our lives where we think we know everything . . . because we never do! The superstars of the dance world are very aware (almost painfully) of their own shortcomings, believe me, and are always trying to improve their technique to remain the best at their craft. Because there is always someone better than them out there and they know it!

“Pursue knowledge as though it is your life-blood, then you will know greatness!” – my personal belief.

Just like dancers, us writers need to be consistently nurturing and improving our craft and increasing our knowledge and exercising our minds, because if we don’t have the knowledge to combine with our incredible, unlimited imaginations, how will we ever be great? You can’t have one without the other, I keep telling my ballet students; you cannot separate knowledge from artistry. You simply cannot achieve the success you want if you don’t have both, whether a dancer or a writer.

I was a successful professional dancer for over twenty years so I know what I’m talking about when it comes to being a performer. As I’ve entered the vast universe of writers and see everyday how many are so good at what they do, I’ve come to realise that I will never stop learning and growing and improving, and that by listening and reading others’ works I can only improve my own writing. So let me take this opportunity to say two things: First, thank you to those who have so far inspired me and opened my eyes to the art of writing and for showing me exactly what it requires to become really good, if not great, at it; and, second, I am thrilled that I began on a good note, with amazing teachers, advisers and supporters from the very start of my writing career whose excellence have made my schooling in the craft of writing such a pleasure.

To everyone who reads this blog, thank you for inspiring and teaching me! Even if it wasn’t directly just believe that something about you as a person or in your work has impacted me. Please, don’t stop being you and don’t stop teaching others. And, please, whatever you do, don’t stop learning!

Happy writing/performing/creating!

The Profundity of Me . . . and You, dear Talented Writer

“Profundity” def: the intellectual ability to penetrate deeply into ideas.

The Cover Image for The Sword Bearers: Book 1

When I first pursued my writing seriously, when I finally sat down at my laptop and began to type for hours and hours on end, looking within for the unique, attractive ideas that would create The Sword Bearer: Book 1, my fantasy debut novel, I had no idea how I was going to actualise this epic fantasy – four books! – from scene to scene, moment to moment. Oh, I knew exactly what was going to happen in my story – the outline from beginning to end was perfectly clear – but when I thought about those intricate, intimate moments of making my characters come to life and of building the detailed foundation of the story, I admit I was a little afraid. Where was I going to find those details? Sure, the story has been growing and evolving inside my heart and mind since I was eight (movies like Star Wars started it!), but now that I needed to create a unique story that would take the reader on an adventure they’d never forget, that would hold them emotionally captive and enthralled from page one to the last word, meant that I had to find a way to express and share my masterpiece in the minutest detail.

The Story of Star Wars 1977 LP

The Story of Star Wars 1977 LP (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Being a debut novel, writing The Sword Bearer was like giving birth! It was a labour of love that caught me up in its magic and left me gasping and agonising and sometimes swearing rather colourfully when things didn’t work as smoothly as I wanted, and then crying with relief and utter joy when I finally held the completed work in my arms, so to speak! It was an amazing, never-to-be-forgotten process of love, frustration, patience, pain . . . and a mind-blowing journey of self-discovery!

And this is what I discovered: I have abilities and skills I never dreamt I possessed; I can ‘see’ inside myself and find what I want at the exact moment it’s needed – or rather, when a character or scene needs it; I have a vast collection of emotions, insights and talents I never would have discovered unless I had placed myself in the honoured position of a writer before her laptop where the magic happens; I can envision worlds, people, and places that only exist in my limitless and ever surprising imagination, who have such life and awareness that sometimes they scare me; I have the power and ability to manipulate those characters and scenes at my pleasure to ensure the story is as powerful and moving as possible. Mainly, I discovered I have such deep and accurate intuition (especially if I surrender to it completely) that sometimes when I put my head down and write a fast-paced scene full of drama, action, roiling emotions, and breathtaking scenery, and I finally come out of my frenzy and take a breath and reread it, I am ALWAYS astounded at what I have created! (I encourage you to read my previous blog – The Art (and Science) of Using Your Imagination – for further thoughts on the power of being a creator.) So when I began to write The Sword Bearer’s Journey: Book 2, the belief I had in my abilities made the process of creation so much more relaxed and way less painful! My ‘child’ was growing into a fine specimen and I couldn’t be happier or more impressed with myself, and all because I’d learned to trust in my abilities, in my unique creative powers, that which every writer/creative genius possesses!

The Cover Image for The Sword Bearer’s Journey: Book 2

My conclusions: I am indeed a writer of great profundity, and the reason I have included you, dear fellow writer, in this rendition of creative genius is because daily I am moved and surprised and excited by the overwhelming originality of ideas my author-friends come up with. I read synopses and excerpts of such marvellous variety that they never fail to leave me enthralled with their talent and creative diversity! I have a follower on Twitter who is twelve and a published fantasy author! She inspires me because she has not allowed her age to limit her and because she understands the inherent creative genius she possesses. (Follow her @FlashBackSeries)

I mentioned in an earlier blog that I do not have a muse, that since the ‘birth’ of  The Sword Bearer I have learned to trust in my unconscious mind, in my inherent, God-given intuition, knowing now from experience that it can be fully trusted. But those of you who do have a muse, I just know that you, too, trust in her or him to faithfully produce the magic that is uniquely you, that creative genius that is all you. This is why personally I believe that writer’s block can be cured by simply learning how to restore one’s trust in one’s muse or unconscious mind, in that place deep within where ideas are born and come forth with blazing brilliance! And, hey, we don’t need to understand it, just trust it. If you’re struggling to write, struggling to find, struggling to trust that which you always did before with such ease, then rest assured that it has not gone anywhere because it never leaves you – ever! It is part of you; it is you!

You are unconquerable, you are inherently capable of creating a masterpiece, and you are exquisite to the point of preternatural genius! Dig deep and trust in yourself, oh Profound One!

The Art (and Science) of Using Your Imagination

I believe that from the day I was born I had the power to use my imagination! I believe it is every human being’s inherent gift and I know every writer of every genre believes it too.

Children are free of cynicism and the harsh experiences of life. They don’t know about limits and boundaries and walls, and that is why when I write I do my best to return to my childlike state where it’s so easy to believe that a misty morning means a portal to another world has just opened and anything can come through it (The Mist: Stephen King – although whether I came up with the idea first or him we’ll never know. He just wrote about it first!! He-he!).

Cover of "The Mist (Two-Disc Collector's ...

Cover via Amazon

I’m listening to an audio book called ‘Psycho Cybernetics‘ by Maxwell Maltz. In it he explains the power of the imagination, that is has the ability to create the world around you and shape it into what you would like it to be, into the life you want – and I think I believe him! Now initially our sceptical, cynical adult brains go, “Yeah, riiiight!!”, but, hey, fantasy authors, where’s the belief in your unlimited imaginations now? Why should the harsh reality of our existence negate the possibility that we have the power, with our thoughts alone, to create the life we want when whenever we sit down in front of our computers or notebooks we strip away the limitations of reality and create worlds, characters and circumstances no one else has ever dreamed of?

How’s this for an idea: What if fantasy writers have an understanding – that we’re not quite consciously aware of yet – that we have the ability to turn the mundane into something magical, into something not quite seen or heard of before, into something FANTASTICAL? Does magic exist in our real world? Can we change our lives and remake it into what and how we want it to be? Can we really?

So how can I support what I’ve just said with something that at least sounds logical or plausible? Well let’s look at our predecessors, shall we.

First let me say that I personally cannot imagine writing in any other genre because quite simply with fantasy there is just no limit to what I can put down on paper; there are no brakes, no locked gates, no high walls, no dykes, no ‘reality checks’, no voices saying, “Whoa, girl, you can’t go there!” And that is what stirs my soul and what will  never make writing boring or laborious for me!

Albert Einstein Français : portrait d'Albert E...

Albert Einstein Français : portrait d’Albert Einstein (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Can you imagine what would have happened if Gene Roddenberry and George Lucas had put the brakes on their imaginations, or da Vinci, or Einstein, or Edison, or countless other artists, inventors and scientists who, thank goodness, refused to conform to or accept the limits of reality? Where would our world be with regards to Sci-Fi and Fantasy films, technology, and science? Would we have computers on our phones, astronauts in space, organ transplants, aeroplanes, and nano technology? Of course not!!

Einstein is a man after my own heart. For a mathematician and scientist he understood the importance of not leashing the spirit or the soul. Such quotes as: “Imagination is more important than knowledge” and “The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and science”, makes him one of the most inspiring people I’ve ever learned about. Even he understood the importance of using one’s imagination to discover, to learn, to invent, to understand deep truths and receive revelations our unconscious minds, connected to Source/God, know very well indeed. Scientifically speaking, our unconscious minds take in about 400 billion bits of information a second, but because it passes through our filters – our life experiences, good and bad – we are only consciously aware of 2000 bits!

So what does all this have to do with writing? Well, everything! I ask the question: Why do we limit/doubt ourselves when we create and when we write? We have everything we need to create our masterpieces. The trick is to learn to trust in our limitless, unfettered unconscious minds, in our imaginations!

If not for the people who refused to give up, who refused to believe that what they could see with their eyes was all there was, then as a civilisation we would not be where we are now! So when I write I make sure that I, too, do not limit myself in any shape or form for that would mean I cannot take my reader on a journey of mind-blowing excitement, making them believe that what they are reading at that very moment is true, that the emotions they are feeling are real, that for all the time they sit with my book before them the worlds, characters, and adventures they partake in are, in fact, all real! Because, you see, the unconscious mind cannot tell the difference between what’s real and what’s imagined, especially when there are emotions involved! Crazy, huh?

And this, dear fellow writer, is what makes you a god!

Now my religious friends, don’t get upset. I did write it with a small ‘g’, but what I am trying to get across is that God/Source has given us the ability and power to create/recreate our realities, and as writers we have that same ability to create our stories with conviction and total believability so that when our readers get lost in our tales they ‘live’ our stories with us. This is, after all, why we write, don’t you agree?

Fantasy is my chosen genre, but all I’ve said can also be applied to other genres. It’s just that with fantasy we are not held back by anything. When I sit in front of my laptop my mantra is: “Ok, Monique, how far can you go?” and the answer is always: “Well, let me see”. To date I have yet to find a limit, and I firmly believe I never will.

Our imaginations are limitless, fellow writers; as an artist, a creator, a little god, you MUST believe this is a fact.

Listen to the Voices . . . unless they mess with who you are!

Over the past week I have read a lot of wonderful advice on writing, editing, agents, querying, plots, characters, layout, writer’s block, etc, etc . . . I mean, there is just so much and so many people out there who have many wonderful things to offer and say and share. Their personal experiences can be intimidating; they have ‘war’ wounds to show how long and how deep they have gone to find the perfect approach to writing that perfect novel that was always lurking in the bowels of their very beings!!! (If you believe that perfection for us mere mortals actually exists.)

The thing is, when you read all these blogs, and the tips and help and advice they give, you may feel overwhelmed and ask yourself, “Which bit of advice and help do I apply to my situation?” Granted, there is certainly someone out there who is going through, feeling, agonising exactly what you are at this very moment, but at the end of the day you have to solve your own problems and face your writing-demons yourself.

Personally, I love reading what other bloggers post, and most of the time I learn something and apply the lessons where necessary in my own work, I admit. But I am also very aware that it is so easy to allow these well-meaning people to control you and your creative processes – those natural God-given talents and skills, nevermind the burning passion inside you to write, write, write even if the world is about to end!

Yes, there are hundreds of thousands of writers out there who are very good at their craft, but there is absolutely NO ONE like you! There is no one else who carries within them the stories you have living and breathing and incubating within your very soul, created from your unique experiences of life, love, success, and loss! We can learn, yes, always, but we must not forget who we are: unique individuals with unique perspectives and unique stories to tell!

We were never meant to become a clone of another’s brilliance (or lack thereof), and it just concerns me that by reading too much advice we will forget our own brilliance and succumb to what the world already tries to do: make us look and sound like everyone else.

It is those individuals who have held on tightly to their uniqueness that have made their mark on the world and have lasted in their chosen professions for many, many years: actors, models, singers, fashion designers, authors, movie makers, etc, etc. It is those that have not conformed, that have listened to their own voices, and taken a chance on being their unique selves, that have impacted their world and made a lasting impression for decades, sometimes even for centuries.

The question you have to ask yourself is this: Do I believe enough in my talents, in the stories I have roiling around inside me screaming to get out, in my own unique brilliance that no one else in the universe possesses, to allow the world to see what I have to offer? By all means read, learn, take advice from those that have gone before and conquered their fears and doubts. Just, please, please don’t forget that you will never go through what they have and they will never experience what you will on your own journey.

Take a risk and allow your brilliance to shine! The world needs to hear your voice, too. Please let them do so; give them the chance to see something they never have before – and never will again.

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