Creepfest Blog Hop and the Meaning of Horror

Tomorrow starts the Creepfest Blog Hop and I really have been looking forward to this.

But Netta, you may say. Why are you so excited about a Creepfest? You’re not a horror writer.

Well, it depends on how you define “horror”.

For the record, although I know labels are necessary in the literary world, it’s mostly for marketing purposes. If you can’t put a label to your work, how are you supposed to market it properly? You need to hit your targeted audience, and if you can’t figure out what you’re writing, how is your audience supposed to figure it out?

Another factor is the blurring of genre lines. It’s not uncommon to find paranormal, sci-fi, horror, romantic, or literary elements all contained within the same book or story. And that’s not a bad thing.

But for the sake of argument, let’s talk strictly horror.

Yes! This is an ALMOST EMPTY coffee pot! Totally horrible, but there are even MORE horrible things. I think.

Many people are introduced to horror through high school reading of authors like Poe, Shelley, Stoker, or Washington Irving (“The Legend of Sleepy Hollow”). Still others have explored horror through authors like H.P. Lovecraft, Stephen King, Dean Koontz, Peter Straub, Robert Bloch…the list is long and impressive. Horror as a genre has quite a distinctive history and showcases some of the finest writing around. In other words, there is gold in them there stories, people. Please don’t make the mistake of pigeon-holeing a writer because they may have written a dark story or two.

The purpose of writing a story is to elicit a response from the reader. Horror certainly serves this purpose. It plays on the reader’s innermost fears, and if done properly, will make an impression long after the last page is turned. Remember Poe’s “Telltale Heart”? I bet you do, even if the last time you read that story was in high school English class. Horror writing can showcase the human condition in a infinite number of ways. How people react in dire circumstances — whether it’s zombies, a serial killer, or a monster — really reveals true character.

However, horror isn’t always a monster or a crazed killer. Take Poe’s story. There’s no monster (unless you count the main character who buried a heart beneath the floorboards). The horror of that story, in my opinion, is the madness experienced by the protagonist, and how his crime ate away at his mind until he finally collapses into insanity.

Although Stephen King has been classified as a “horror” writer, if you read a cross section of his work you’ll find horror elements, true, but he writes a lot more than that. It’s not necessarily the “slash and gore” or supernatural horror which has permeated the genre that Sai King produces, either. For instance, I consider “Apt Pupil” one of THE most horrifying stories I have ever read, and there isn’t one supernatural element in it. No slash and gore. But amazingly horrible, all the same.

Of course, there's THIS, too. *SHUDDER*

So what is horror? It can be things that go bump in the night and slither in the dark corners. It can be the vampire stalking the streets looking for the next victim, the ghost lurking in the shadows waiting to eat your soul, or it can be the nice man living next door with a refrigerator full of dismembered body parts. But the real core of horror is fear, and human fears are as varied as the humans themselves. In other words, what scares you may not scare me at all, and vice-versa. And this is why I’m so excited about Creepfest.

During the next twelve days, you will find a wide variety of writers who explore the darker side. Some writers are considered strictly “horror”, and others, like myself, who cross the boundaries into other genres such as dark fantasy, urban fantasy, paranormal shenanigans, and other sub-genres. You’ll find monsters, sure. But you’ll also find a lot of other things, things like humanized zombies, monsters who aren’t what they appear, psychological horrors, emotional and spiritual horrors which can’t be destroyed with a silver bullet or a stake to the heart, because the horror may actually live inside you. You may even find funny horror; horrors that may surprise you and even better, affect you. Isn’t that the point of a good story?

So, I encourage you to visit during the days of Creepfest, because I am not only going to introduce you to some really great writers through interviews but even better, through excerpts from their work. I’m going to include some work of my own you may not have seen plus an excerpt from “Athena’s Promise”. I’d like you to keep an open mind, and give these writers a chance to move you. Every day will be something different, something tasty. And to further encourage you to broaden your horizons, I’m going to run a sweepstakes.

Here’s the deal: At the end of the Blog Hop, on December 24th, I will give away twelve e-copies of “Athena’s Promise”, one for every day of Creepfest. But that’s not all! I will also give away one autographed print copy. WAIT! One more thing — I’m so excited about Creepfest, I will also give away one Amazon gift card in the amount of $20!

Since this is a sweepstakes and not a contest, entering is easy-peasy, and you can enter as many times as you like. Here’s how:

Leave a comment on any (or all) blog posts here during Creepfest.

Sign up for my Once in a Blue Moon Newsletter. (No spam, I swear.)

Like my Facebook Fan page.

Like “Athena’s Promise” on her Amazon page.

Tweet about this blog or AP and use the hashtag #AthenasPromise so I can track properly.

Mention this blog or AP on YOUR blog.

That’s it. You’ll get one entry apiece for each action – up to 17 entries if you do each of these things! Damn! I will tally the results from all twelve days and choose the winners via Random.org. Make sure you leave a comment that lets me know what you did and include a working email address so I can make an accurate count and contact you if you win.

Spread the word! The more the merrier 🙂

TOMORROW, LET THE CREEPFEST BLOG HOP COMMENCE!

MUAHAHAHA! Come with me to the dark side!
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Fabulous Fiction Friday — Meet Peter Giglio

Before I introduce you to Pete, I just want to give you the head’s up a lot is going to be popping this holiday season here on Word Webbing. You already know about the Creepfest, for which I’m very excited, but I’m also participating in a Debutante Ball for authors which will provide even MORE opportunities for you to fill your Christmas Kindle with lots and lots of free stuff! Very exciting, and I hope you will all pop by to visit and enjoy the work of some very fine writers.

Now, about this Pete guy — I met him through his submission of “A Spark in the Darkness” to Etopia Press. I was lucky enough to be his editor on this project, and I just fell in love with the story. It’s a return to vampires who actually act like vampires, with a very human story at the core. It’s really quite special, and I hope you check it out.

Now, enough rambling by me — you’ll have a lot of that coming in the future. Heh. Check back on Monday for an explanation of Creepfest, why I chose to participate, and what goodies you can expect.

1. What were some of your favorite books growing up? When I was a really young guy, I read mostly movie novelizations. I’ve always been a big movie buff! When I got a little older—again, because of my love of movies—I started working through all the Ian Fleming Bond novels, and I was struck by how different they were from the films. I was about eleven or twelve when I started reading Stephen King and got hooked on horror. My favorite books as a young man were The Fury by John Farris, Firestarter by Stephen King (though it’s not even in my top ten King books now), and To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee.

2. What is it about the horror genre that attracts you? I read all genres, and I see elements of horror in almost everything I read. I like the horror genre—the act of admitting my work is horror—because it gives me a lot of leeway when it comes to articulating notions of fear. Speculative fiction allows me to work in metaphor. Nearly all children, for instance, are afraid of the dark—many adults, too—but I actually get to (in The Dark, the novel I’m writing with Scott Bradley) make the dark a sentient entity, and that’s pretty damn cool! But my work, I hope, aspires to transcend genre. I’m most interested in the human condition, and everything I do is an endeavor to illuminate us. As long as I can keep doing that, I don’t know that I’ll need to write about monsters forever.

3. You are Senior Editor at Evil Jester Press. What are the biggest challenges you’ve faced in this position? Time is the enemy. I have so much on my plate that I occasionally get overwhelmed. I wake up in the morning, make coffee, then sit down and start working. When I look up, it’s almost midnight. I need longer days! But I like to stay busy—keeps me out of trouble.

4. What is your writing process like? It varies from project to project. I outline. I think. I put things away and come back to them later with fresh eyes. But once I get into something, I just go, go, go! I keep chipping away until I’m happy with the outcome. I spend more hours re-writing than writing.

5. What advice would you give to writers who have been at the game for a while? Stay at it. Never give up. Write the thing that screams, write me! Listen to others, but always stay true to yourself. And read when you’re not writing.

6. What do you like about the editing process? Editing is like painting a room. You put up one coat at a time. I like watching things take shape. Editing allows this. You go over a work once—it’s a little better. And so on. It’s very rewarding when you look at a finished product and have that wow moment. Editing is also collaborative. I love working with other authors! Also, editing makes me a better writer.

7. Where, in your opinion, is the safest place during a zombie apocalypse? Dead.

8. What is your favorite horror movie and why do you love it so much? If I have to pick one, I’d go with Kubrick’s The Shining. I love everything about that film—the performances, the music, the directorial choices. What’s not to love?

9. Everyone has one book which has scared the living daylights out of them. Which book is it for you? Pet Sematary, hands down!

10. Tell us about your up and coming projects. I’m wrapping up a novel with Scott Bradley. He and I are also trying to get our feature-length, screen adaptation of Joe R. Lansdale’s “The Night They Missed the Horror Show” made into a film. I have several novels planned for 2012, including a sequel to A Spark in the Darkness.

Synopsis: On the final day of her second life, Edie returns to the family she abandoned five years earlier. Edie is not merely a vampire, she’s a Goddess…one of the vanishing race of beings the vampires need to keep their kind alive. But being dead has taught her much about life, and Edie’s determined to destroy the evil thing she’s become. For something has changed within her, something almost alive in her dead soul. But can a single spark in the darkness be enough to save all she holds dear?

Author bio: Peter Giglio is the author of the horror novel Anon (July, 2011, Hydra Publications) and the co-author of “The Better Half: A Love Story”, appearing in the anthology Werewolves and Shapeshifters: Encounters with the Beast Within, edited by John Skipp. He lives in Lincoln, Nebraska with his wife and three cats, but spends a lot of time in Los Angeles, something of a second home, working with his friend and writing partner Scott Bradley. Several of his short stories can be found in anthologies, and two novellas–A Spark in the Darkness and Balance–will soon be published. Editing an anthology, co-writing a screenplay, and working on his next novel, he stays busy, but always has time for readers at www.petergiglio.com.

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Twisted Festivities and Other News

I never thought I’d say this, but I’m actually excited about the holiday season.

I know! How weird is that?!

Why am I so excited, you may ask. No, Santa has not put me on the Nice List (har!) but Rebecca Treadway (whom you might remember from this interview) has invited me to participate in the Twelve Days of Creepfest Blog Hop.

OMG I am SO EXCITED!

For twelve glorious December days, I will be introducing you to some of the most cutting edge and talented artists in the horror genre, plus exposing a peek at my own dark side. I am so excited about this I can’t even tell you. I often experience horror at Christmastime — did you see the videos of people losing their damned minds on Black Friday? Pepper spray, beatings, absolute barbaric behavior over a $2.84 waffle iron, for the love of Jaybuz — so a good dose of REAL horror is just the ticket to get into the mood of the season. Heh.

Keep your eyes open! And you might want to bring a change of underwear. You know, just in case.

The Creepfest Blog Hop starts December 13th for twelve glorious days. Don’t miss it!

As a reminder, you have a couple of weeks to enter the giveaway for “Athena’s Promise” right here:

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Athena's Promise by Annetta Ribken

Athena’s Promise

by Annetta Ribken

Giveaway ends December 15, 2011.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter to win

Three autographed copies are up for grabs and all you have to do is enter. Wheee!

Now I have to get back to work. I have some dark, nefarious deeds to plan and execute and YOU’LL reap the benefits!

MUAHAHAHAHA!

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The Incomparable and Eclectic Rebecca Treadway

Although I can’t remember the exact circumstances of our first meeting, I can say once you meet Rebecca you’ll never forget her. A fellow Aquarian, she and I hit it off from the beginning. She has that quirky sense of humor I hold so dear, coupled with an honesty that is both refreshing and bracing.

On top of that, the woman is mega-talented. Not only is she a writer with a twisted imagination I find fascinating, she is an amazing artist and the one behind the cover and the trailer for Athena’s Promise. Rebecca is fabulous to work with, and an amazing friend. Here’s a peek inside her unconventional and intriguing head. I’ll just leave the light on for you. Heh.

1. Your roots are in dark fantasy and sword and sorcery, but you work a lot in horror. What is it about horror that attracts you as a writer?

Both genres offers examinations into the human condition – touches deeper into the human psyche’s dark side. From religion or politics, to that inner monster we all possess. I don’t speak of slasher-style fiction or movies in that vein – for me, horror is more psychological than gore.

2. What do you think horror offers that other genres may not?

A catharsis, utilizing horrific imagery or words in real life instances where you’ve experience real horror, has been used in therapy. There’s also of course, the self-reflective approach. You can’t go around hurting people, so you create a character and whack them in the nastiest way possible.

3. Who is your favorite character you’ve created and why?

That’s a tough choice to make. I’ll go with what “type” of my character is my favorite, they tend to crop up in most of my stories, is the anti-hero. They tend to personify our own reality. Ordinary people who become something extraordinary (sometimes not) who do what needs to be done to “save the day”. It doesn’t mean they have to like it, or even volunteered for it.

This is my favorite character so far. And look at that cover!

4. What is your writing process like?

I write on regular note paper with a real pen. 🙂 Most of which are brainstorm sessions from either a notion in my mind, or a dream I’ve had. The longer I brainstorm, the more ideas generate. Sometimes it’s a scene between nameless characters, sometimes a short story. If it blooms into a novel, I create a basic structure for the plot and will fill in the gaps with these ‘scenes’. I still have “homeless characters” and situations with no story. Yet.

5. Who are your writing inspirations?

Michael Moorcock, George RR Martin, and of course – Tolkien. I will have to say however, my first inspiration – Robert E. Howard’s “Conan” – followed up with artists such as Larry Elmore, Linda Bergkvist, and Alan Lee.
Musically, very inspired by the now defunct duo Dead Can Dance, and a horde of Classical composers and music. A Night on Bald Mountain, Deis Irae from Mozart, classical music and operatic scores such as Carmina Burana almost always create mini-movies in my head.

6. What actually scares you the most?

I’ve been asked that a lot. Aside from the surface fear of spiders – the deepest fear is the inability to move, speak, see, or hear – and be completely conscious of this fact.

7. Name the scariest movie and book you’ve ever seen and read.

Vincent Price’s “Last Man on Earth” scared me as a child, and as an adult – Will Smith in “I am Legend.” Both storylines scared me, in that each character was utterly the last of their kind. And both scenes, having to kill their dog. That was just so sad..lol. I haven’t read a book yet that I could call the scariest. One scene in Raymond Feist’s “Faerie Tale” creeped me out. The parts about the “bad thing” were really spooky. But no, to date – I haven’t read a book that made me want to sleep with the lights on. I’d settle for the creep or spook factor!

8. What is your opinion regarding the indie or self-publishing movement?

I’ve been involved in the Indie/Self-Pub movement longer than most people realize. It started out for me in the early 90’s when I made a “zine” – quarterly, and accepted submissions for short stories, art, poetry. California’s had a stable Indie movement in this regard for longer. Back then, I wasn’t online – it was through U.S. Mail, including networking. I fell out of the loop in the late 90’s and about a year and a half ago – came back into the loop to see its growth through electronic media. I jumped back into the shallow end with publishing poetry I had lying around, then a short story. I’m a novelist at heart, however – and don’t have the patience to sit around waiting a year for a novel to go to print. It’s a great opportunity for writers and personally, I don’t see it any different from Indie bands who put out their own labels. If the powers that be in the “market” don’t want you – you create your market. Back then, and in the now – I think it’s great. It’s not so much the “control” and “royalties” but the creative force behind it. “It” being “your product”.

9. You’re both a graphic artist and a writer. Which appeals to you most and why?

Even though I’ve been into drawing since I was allowed to hold a sharpened pencil 😉 (age 3, my first piece of art was Flipper followed by Fingerpainting in pre-school) writing is the greater appeals. It’s easier, to tell the truth -to write down what my head visualizes, than attempt to draw it. haha!

10. Tell us about your upcoming projects.

I just finished type-ups on all of my handwritten mess regarding a novella turned into a novel “I Chiang”. Now I need to assemble them into chapters and do the first round of edits before I toss it to you – the editor 😉 “I Chiang” is going to be the first in a series which I’m calling, for now at least – The Unfailed Series. Each novel is planned as a stand alone with recurring characters – leading up to events that I will keep under wraps. 🙂 That part is still being fleshed out. Book 2, titled “Project 4: Unfailed” was originally Book 1, Project 4 was going to be my debut and in the middle of a second round of self-editing, the character Chiang started to talk. A lot.

I also have several short stories, some short-shorts that I’m compiling into a anthology tentatively titled “The Little Book of Weird”. They’re all supernatural or psychological horror based in and around my childhood, or simply things that came off the top of my head from mundane circumstances. One such a story, called the S(t)ink – is about a horrible odor exuding from the bathroom sink in an upstairs apartment, taking a life of its own. Another, based on where I live – called The Tenant, is about a woman who hears the veiled threats coming from the air conditioner unit outside her bedroom window. You know how sometimes, you get those evil little thoughts in your head towards somebody who peeves you? In the case of this short story, it’s our old apartment manager whose going to get it. Through a story, of course. This is why I love horror 😀 Where else can you get away with being creepy if not downright unpleasant? After the Unfailed Series I’m transitioning to my original love – Dark “Epic” style Fantasy with elements of Sword & Sorcery. (More emphasis on the Sorcery, of course) My “personal epic” – the “Lord of the Rings” in my life, is the “Book of the Accursed”. It’s taken close to 10 years, off and on – to see the conclusion.

Author Bio: I’m a writer and artist, all else is self-explanatory.

Blog: RL Treadway

Rebecca’s Fiction: Chilly Eye Callie

On Amazon

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A Taste of Hunger — Friday Flash

Happy Halloween!

Millie remembered always being hungry. She was starving when the children picked on her in school for being different. When her father screamed and yelled and threw fits and fists, she was ravenous and couldn’t wait for dinner.
 
Somehow her metabolism was able to keep up with her appetite until she married Harry. At first, there was love. At least, she was pretty sure there was love, or some version of it. Over the passage of time, the love lines became blurred and in some instances, totally obliterated.
 
Millie was a good wife, but never good enough. Leftovers from gourmet meals attempted did not end up in the trash. They ended up in her belly as she tried to eat her mistakes and pretend nothing was wrong.
 
Nothing was wrong. She was punished as was only right and natural, for not ironing the crease in Harry’s pants the right way, for being late from grocery shopping, for talking too much or too loudly in social situations.
 
“You’re just bringing me down. I don’t know why I put up with you!” Harry would exclaim and Millie would agree. Sometimes she didn’t agree fast enough and that was good for a few more bruises. Bruises that were hidden by long sleeved shirts, or make-up.
 
She never felt the burning rage always simmering under the surface because she would eat until she felt sick and her heart pounded. She would go on diet after diet at Harry’s command, trying to become the woman he needed, the woman he wanted her to be. She was constantly famished, and the weight would not come off.
 
She started having dreams; dreams of mountains of food that she would eat and eat, never feeling satiated. Millie would wake in the morning feeling drugged and unhappy, until her breakfast of eggs, toast, hash browns, bacon, orange juice and yogurt. Because yogurt was healthy.
 
When she became pregnant she was ecstatic and actually lost weight the first six months of her term. Harry wanted a boy, of course, but in her heart Millie wanted a girl. A perfect girl.
 
Daisy was born and Millie was very happy. Harry had proof of his virility and viability of his seed; Millie had someone to love and someone to love her, unconditionally. Harry just sighed and said, “Maybe next time you’ll get it right.”
 
For four years things were tolerable, even good in places. Then, Harry got a promotion at work which meant more money, more status and more stress. Life took a U-turn back to the days of flowering bruises.
 
The constants were fits and fists, and of course, the sharp hunger that never quite left her.
 
The dreams came back. Mountains of food on which she gorged, never feeling satisfied.
 
The situation finally came to a head one evening when Harry came home from work in a spectacularly bad mood. The screaming was so loud from Harry, and in turn Daisy, that all Millie could hear in her ears was a curious ringing. This was not assuaged by the blows to the face and head she received, or by the kicking once she was down. She thought she would have to go to the hospital for broken ribs, and make-up was never going to cover the black eye or the split lip.

Harry realized he may have gone a little too far. He apologized and promised he would never do it again. Millie agreed that it was her fault in the first place for not being the woman he needed. They went to bed. Millie was starving.
 
She awoke with the realization she was not dreaming and she was not in bed. Disoriented, she sat still until her eyes slowly adjusted to the dark room. She could faintly make out the figure of her husband. Something was wrong with this picture, but at first she couldn’t figure out what it was. She heard a drip, drip, drip, like water from a faucet. The air felt hot around her. A coppery aroma arose from the bed.
 
She reached for the bedside lamp with trembling fingers. The light snapped on and her mind tried to take in what her eyes were seeing.
 
Her hands.
 
Covered.
 
In blood.
 
Red, sticky and wet. She sat in a kitchen chair bedside her bed, in attendance of her husband, not knowing how the chair, or herself, had gotten there.
 
Millie contemplated this for almost ten minutes.
 
She raised her bowed head and looked at the figure in front of her. Something dark fluttered at the edge of her consciousness, but she batted it aside absently.
 
Harry’s head had a dent near the temple and blood soaked the pillow, crimson so dark it was almost black in the low light of the bed lamp. His eye sockets, empty now – but they had been empty even with eyeballs intact – stared  blankly at the ceiling. Once cheek had been ripped off. There were teeth marks around where his nose had been. Millie heard crunching noises in her head, then batted them away too. It looked like something had been gnawing at the knob of his chin.
 
Her gaze traveled down – seeing and not seeing the half-eaten pecs, (so toned, so tough, so tasty, her mind whispered ) the ravaged abdomen, and then finally to the place of Harry’s power.
 
The man root, the masculine rod, and its two attendants were missing.
 
Millie held her hand over her mouth and burped gently. Like a lady. It was a meaty burp.
 
She contemplated this for another ten minutes.
 
She felt full and replete for the first time in years. The dark thing was back and it fluttered madly. She couldn’t push it away anymore, and finally recognized it for what it was.

She knew what she had to do.
 
Pushing back the chair, she spared one more look at her husband, her captor, her torturer – and the father of her child.
 
She went to feed her daughter.

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"Scratching" My Horror Itch

As a reader and a writer, it is the greatest joy of my life to discover new and amazing authors that rock my universe. It doesn’t happen often enough, but when it does, I’m flying like Aladdin on his magic carpet. By “new”, I mean “new to me”, so sometimes my ravings may elicit the response of, “Oh, jeez, know THAT writer, been reading them for YEARS, where the hell have you been?” Still, sometimes we need to be reminded of Golden Oldies, but sometimes we’re lucky enough to catch a rising star, and that’s really exciting to me.

I don’t confine myself to one genre — as a matter of fact, although I recognize the need for labels (marketing purposes, don’t you know) I don’t like them. I love finding material that either crosses the boundaries of genres, or blurs them so they’re not so sharp or delineating. Like a chalk hopscotch, doused in a misty spring rain. I’ve always been of the opinion that although good writers will do well in any genre — a word is a word is a word, and if you know how to wrangle them, it doesn’t matter what the task is — I further believe that writers do their best work if they are in love with their genre of choice. In other words, especially in this profession, you have to love what you do or it’s gonna suck.

****

So, there I was, twittering on Twitter, when in the twitter-stream a very nice young man, who is planning to release a book this fall, was letting it be known he would participate in an interview to anyone who was interested. Of course, I’m interested, I’m always interested. Are you kidding? That’s like throwing a shiny thing in front of a magpie.

I traveled to his blog to check out his work — the first story I read was Scratch .

It was nothing like I expected. Oh, I’ve read horror, lots and lots of horror, and most of the time, especially in shorter works, I’ve found horror rather — unsatisfying. You know, too much gore for the message, or too little. Something that looks on the surface to be horror is really comedy dressed up in a shroud, and it’s often empty, like a zombie’s eyes. Nothing in there, can you dig it, just shock value and if there even is a message it’s lost in the horror of a good story gone bad rather than standing on its own torn up, blistered feet. Good horror is really difficult to write in a way that doesn’t come across as parody.

Not so in this case. This story blew me away. Actually, it made me cry. It made me cry because there is such truth embedded within, it burned my eyes. I couldn’t wait to get my hands on a copy of Vacation, and next up will be my review. All I’ll tell you right now is, I wasn’t disappointed.

Even if horror isn’t your “thing”, I encourage you to give this guy a turn on the dance floor, even if horror is not your favorite genre. Because underneath the horror aspect, there’s a story, can you dig it — an awesome, mind-blowing, thought-provoking and thoroughly entertaining story. You can’t get better than that.

Definitely check it out, and keep your eye on Jeremy C. Shipp. I know I will.

ALL my eyes, because he’s tricksy.

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