NaNoWriMo 2020 – Prepping to Publish

Now that the marathon of NaNoWriMo is finished, I can start to relax a little, even though there’s still a lot to do before I’ve got a finished product. And my test reader is plowing through the book, so I better get cracking.

 

On top of putting together cover art, and all of the rest of the set-up involved in self-publishing, I’ve got a marketing to-do list that I gotta remember to follow. In fact, I had published Chronomancer so close to November that I ended up skimping on some of this for that book, and I gotta get on that too.

 

#1 is blogging the playlist. I usually have a playlist I’ve made for myself that I use for inspiration while I’m working on a particular project. I’ve been collecting more soundtracks recently, so my playlists may start including more of them if any particular tunes stand out.

 

#2 is collecting quotes, one-liners or significant phrases within the book that I think would fit nicely on a poster. I gotta put those quotes on some stock images, post them on my blog, then spread them around on platforms like Pinterest and Facebook.

 

#3, if applicable, is to make custom versions of my characters on Soulcalibur, take some pictures, make some fight videos, and then post the images on my blog and Pinterest, and the videos on YouTube. I’ve already started on this a little with Chronomancer with the ‘Rayu vs Erid’ fight, although I haven’t put their pictures on my blog yet.

 

I may not do everything in the written order, but this is more or less the list I go by for marketing to help spread awareness for these stories. I gotta do a lot of this for Chronomancer still, and then once ‘Orcs Vs. Wolves’ is published I gotta do it for that book too. And a quotes list for Vampires Vs. Dragons. I’m actually curious to see how well (or how poorly) I can make orc characters in Soulcalibur VI

 

Have you got a NaNo project finished or nearly finished? What steps are you planning to take next? Let me know in the comments!

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NaNoWriMo 2020 – Mission Complete!

At 11:18 PM on November 30th I finished my novel ‘Orcs Vs. Wolves’! Yes, I reached the 50,000 word mark in the wee hours of the 29th, and kept writing, finishing off the story, adding some fine details, and making sure I had all the right conclusions worked in, hitting a final word count of 56,432. That was quite a marathon!

Actually most of my work the past couple of days was editing, but I started editing so late in the process that I had to do a lot all at once to catch up. Another lesson I’m taking with me into next year – to not start editing any later than the 16th. Allowing the rough draft to reach a certain point before heavy editing makes sense, cuz it often takes that long into the story to make all your decisions firm as to what certain things are called, who is where at what time and so on. So starting editing too soon can potentially be a problem if a lot of things have to be switched around still. But waiting until the the last week as I did this time around is just too much of a sprint.

 

Another thing I’m gonna try and remember is to start my inspirational intake as early as September next time, if it’s a big chunk of material I plan to watch/play. I found this time that there was so much potentially inspirational material to go through that even into November I still hadn’t gone through all of it.

I also need to distinguish between material that is useful only for the inspiration of ideas, and material that is also mood-setting. For this project I would have considered films like Mad Max: Fury Road, The Two Towers, and The Battle of Five Armies to be mood-setting as well as inspirational. Films that could be rewatched during November just to keep me in the right headspace. And also I need at least one game, which in the case of this year was Fallout 4, playing as an orc(like) character trying to modify his gear using junk he finds in a post-apocalyptic wasteland.

 

Another thing I had to do on this last day was spellcheck. Do you know how awkward it is to do spellcheck when you’ve made up so many of the words? I spent a lot of time just telling my computer to ‘add’ words to its vocabulary. It might as well get used to it!

 

The last couple of hours was spent fitting in fine details to some scenes, adding a bit of context to things I felt lacked it, and rethinking one or two chapter headings. (I went in a weird direction with the chapter headings).

I also had to google a lot of violent and disturbing stuff in a short period of time, like “how long can a person survive without” some probably vital organ, and how fast can certain guns fire? Final battle scenes can get intense!

 

I noticed something interesting as well, which is that this story ended up having roughly the same number of words as Vampires Vs. Dragons, the project I did last year. And when I was deciding how long to make the story, I used VVD’s build of roughly 6 action scenes to estimate overall length, and used the same formula for ‘Orcs Vs. Wolves.’ So based on that, I can roughly estimate that future projects will end up with similar word counts if I use the same system, in which case I might have to plan to do a bit more per day. Or otherwise shorten the length of the final battle, but who wants to do that?

 

So how long before it’s published?

 

Well, Vampires Vs. Dragons was published in January of this year, so based on nothing other than that I would say Janruary 2021? There is a bit of work to do as far as having at least one reader go through it just to make sure I haven’t said anything incredibly offensive (which seems more likely this time around given the majority of the cast) and I gotta put together cover art and reformat the manuscript to make it suitable for publishing. I like my projects to be double-spaced when I’m working on them, but single-spaced is better in print because it saves on paper, which is better for the environment and also lowers the cost. I’d like to have it out before the end of the year, but we’ll see. I’ll certainly keep you guys posted.

 

Speaking of which, thank you for going on this journey with me! I’ve noticed a few recurring names liking these NaNo posts and I appreciate the support. I hope my talking about this experience has been helpful in some way to somebody out there. Thanks, guys 🙂

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NaNoWriMo 2020 – Ending Well

I’m less than 3,000 words away from meeting the 50,000 word mark, I’m into the final chapter, and I can tell I still have a few scenes to go. For the most part the final confrontations have yet to be written and, in some cases, decided. So much of this story already has been written on the fly, with only a sense of theme and tone and not necessarily conclusion. There are a few story points I still need to settle.

 

I know what sort of direction the word challenge is gonna go though. At this point I can say pretty confidently that I’ll hit the 50,000 word mark before the actual story is finished, so I’ll have a bit extra to do before the month is finished – which at this point doesn’t leave me much time left.

And I haven’t done nearly as much editing as I’d like, as far as my personal comfort zone. I may end up having to do the majority of it in the last couple of days. And if things get too tight then I may have to sacrifice certain scenes just to make sure that the actual ending gets done.

I’ll very likely be moving my next day off to Tuesday or somewhere around there, just to have the extra work day to get this all done properly.

 

As I write this I’m listening to the Mad Max: Fury Road soundtrack CD I ordered from Amazon that just showed up on my door this passed day. Since that movie was such a big part of the initial inspiration, and I remembered liking the music, I thought it a good idea to pick it up for this project. The tense music is making this feel even more epic as I write this blog post.

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NaNoWriMo 2020 – The Final Stretch

We’re into the final week now, and as I hit the 40,000 word mark I’m at the last 20% of the book to go. It seems to have been paced well, since there’s only the final battle and the lead in to go yet. And action scenes definitely seem to get written faster (maybe because I’m more excited) so even if the project goes over the 50,000 word count required for NaNoWriMo, I’ll probably still have time to finish the story off.

 

I’ve also finally started editing, and got the first two chapters done yesterday. Part of that involved doing some research to make sure I’ve got my info right, a lot of that having to do with Mongolia, where I’ve decided to set this story. There were a number of reasons why Mongolia ended up being the sweet spot, some of which would be spoilers, but one reason is that I needed a place that was close to both Russia and China, and because I’m bad at geography I didn’t know at the time if there was such a place. Then I looked at the world map and, lo and behold, Mongolia is sandwiched between those two specific countries. It was actually hilarious how perfect it was.

 

But if there’s one thing I was not particularly knowledgeable on, it was Mongolian geography. Finding the right spots that had naturally occurring supplies of certain resources, while being relatively close to Russia and China, and also being within reasonable driving distance of each other, took a bit of figuring out. Now I’ve almost got the spots memorized in my head. Since the post-apocalyptic premise is presuming a partially land-altering catastrophe in a non-specified point in the near-ish future, I have provided myself some liberties as far as changing the landscape, and I think I did that a bit with Vampires Vs. Dragons, but the closer I can keep to real-world locations and info on those locations, the better. It adds a sense of realism and emersion to the story. By now I’ve played so many different video games set in New York that I’ve come to memorize some of the places, even though I’ve never been there in real life. I appreciate that attention to detail, and tried looking up likely places to be able to find certain resources in the Mongolian territories and nearby regions, and may have ended up on a watch list as a result. (A common occurrence for writers.)

How’s your NaNo project going? Are you ready for the final stretch?

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NaNoWriMo 2020 – Flashback to 2019

We’re a little bit over the halfway point and personally the exhaustion is starting to amp up. I expected having this blog post written and ready to publish a couple of days ago but by the end of the daily quotas I’m finding the past few days that I don’t have much energy left.

 

I’m taking note of this as a learning experience. I’ve realized that in my regimen of inspirational intake I’ve made the mistake of making everything ‘work.’ Even the time that I spend gaming, normally to chill, I’m doing as Let’s Plays for posting on YouTube. In other words, I’m spending a lot of creativity but not intentionally taking the time to just get filled. When there isn’t a natural flow of intake and output, and all you do is output, the logical result is that you’ll feel drained. It’s actually a life lesson that I learned long ago and just forgot about, in my excitement to do another writing project, but hopefully I’ll learn from this experience and plan better in the future. Maybe actually journaling the experience here will help me remember.

 

This time also takes me back to mid-November of last year, when I came down with a dental infection – a challenge I had not anticipated. I’d had tooth aches before, but there was something different about this particular affliction. I wasn’t always in pain, but it came unexpectedly, and in waves, and sometimes stayed until I finally gave in and took an Advil. But eventually that also stopped helping.

I had a number of theories about what the pain was, and repeatedly assumed that it would go away. I was after all under a lot of stress, and assumed that I was simply clenching my teeth too hard and that all I needed to do was relax. For the most part it didn’t interfere with my work, though at times something about sitting at certain angles made it difficult to type on the computer for more than a few seconds at a time, meaning a lot of stopping and starting while I caught my breath.

The concern came when it got to the point that eating almost anything caused an unreasonable amount of pain. I’m not sure how most people rate pain on a scale from 1 to 10. For me, 1 would be a minor discomfort and 10 is the point at which the pain actually prevents me from being able to function, in which case I would have some hard 9s at random times throughout the day, and a few scary 10s. I remember when the infection made its way to my jaw joint and it became painful to eat. I made myself popcorn one day because I figured it required the smallest bites and was the softest thing to chew through – so there should be no resistance. It took me forever to eat just half of that bowl before putting it aside because the pain from every bite was so strong that I had to actively convince myself that eating to avoid starvation was worth the pain.

At that point I knew I needed a doctor to look at it and tell me definitively what the problem was and, hopefully, how to fix it. I managed to see someone at the clinic who revealed it to be a dental infection and prescribed a combination of antibiotics and probiotics, which took a bit over a week to get through, taking me through the rest of NaNoWriMo. It took another few days for the infection to recede though. By that point it had spread to my incisors and even the feeling of air passing through my nose or mouth caused intense pain. It hurt just to breath. Fortunately that was as bad as it got, and it only lasted for a day. I don’t recall if I continued working on that day or took a sick day, but I certainly would not have pushed myself too hard that day.

 

I remember going over the scenarios in my head, in case I did reach a point where I absolutely had to stop NaNoWriMo and how I would try to honour the challenge under altered circumstances. I wasn’t particularly keen on the idea of taking a chunk of days from November and adding them at the end, extending into December, because even if I wasn’t working as far as actually typing words I could still be thinking about what to write during those days off, and that’s sometimes half the work. It didn’t feel in keeping with the spirit of the challenge I had given myself. Fortunately I didn’t have to figure something out because I was back in decent shape before long, but the situation forced me to come up with contingency plans in case of similar scenarios in the future.

The way I figure it, it is best to take whatever unexpected challenges come my way and work around them or through them, but if anything was ever so bad that it legitimately prevented me from even being able to type words then odds are I’m also struggling to think about what to write ahead of time, so that would probably balance out for me to simply move some days around.

 

As hard as it was to go through at the time, the accomplishment has become a fond memory, and something that makes me prouder of ‘Vampires Vs. Dragons’ as a completed project. It makes me feel a little bad-ass to say that not only did I write and edit a whole novel in a month but that I did half of it while fighting a debilitating infection.

On the flip side, it makes me feel like a bit of a wuss right now since all I’m currently struggling with is exhaustion. It obviously could be worse.

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NaNoWriMo 2020 – Completing Act I

Just over a third of the way through. Y’all keeping up?

 

So far my pace has been up and down with this project. A bout of insomnia one day left me out of commission and losing about a day’s worth of work hours, which I had to catch up on by doing an extra 1,000 words for the last 2 work days, on top of the 2,000 I’m already trying to do each day. I did 3,045 words this past day, which is the most so far for this project. I finally hit the 20,000 mark yesterday!

I definitely lose track of time when writing action scenes, which is why I’m not too worried about having some extra material to write toward the end, cuz I may get through that quickly as the excitement amps up.

 

I also just did the introduction of one of the main characters, and I’m pretty happy about how it went. I may feel differently when I get around to editing, but I’ll bask in the enthusiasm for the time being.

Unlike Vampires Vs. Dragons, in which I had a protagonist who was a part of both worlds and wrote competing antagonists on both sides, I’m flipping it around in Orcs Vs. Wolves by writing a rival protagonist for each side, and then a single antagonist who is a problem for both. I don’t remember why I initially decided to take this different approach this time around, but it led to the development of two protagonist characters that I can’t imagine the story without now.

 

One unusual thing though is how long it takes for both to get properly introduced. The opening scene takes a bit of time, but serves mainly as a prologue, featuring neither of the protagonists, but they get introduced in detail in different parts of what I think is going to be Chapter 1.

 

One thing I feel like I’m overwhelming myself with is the sheer number of characters, many of which only have minor roles but are still developed in detail. This project started with a desire to write about goblins in a post-apocalyptic setting. I thought it would be fun and offer a new context of creativity for me. It seems I may have been on to something.

 

How far have you guys gotten in your stories? Are you following the classic three-act story arc, or shaking it up a bit? Let me know in the comments!

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NaNoWriMo 2020 – The Challenges So Far

We’re almost one week into November. How is everyone doing with their NaNo projects?

 

I’ve been caught off guard by the amount of unexpected challenges this time around. It’s been a bit more than just general life stuff, which is to be an expected part of the challenge. There’s also been some issues come up that make it difficult to sit at the computer sometimes, and this 4-day-long Election Day in the U.S. has been a big moment in history, worth keeping updated on throughout the day, sometimes making it difficult to concentrate on other worlds!

I’ve also had irregular sleep hours this past week (which is not too unusual for me, but does effect scheduling). I’ve been behind in my daily quotas for a few days, and stressing about catching up, but I’m relieved to be able to say that I’ve finally caught up with my own schedule and reached 10,027 words today!

 

So far my approach has been mainly to write out specific scenes that I’ve got fairly solid in my mind, at least to make up the daily quotas, and then going back to the chronological order whenever I feel like I’ve got an idea of what to write for the next scene. Under the time restraint, there’s certainly been more “pantsing” than I would normally do, but it has pressed me to spit out pure imagination more frequently, which I believe is a big point of the whole exercise.

It helps that a big part of what I’m writing is goblin characters and goblin culture, and that they tend to be bizarrely creative with how they operate. Ideas that come to mind that most sane people would never do (and I like to think that most of my characters as sane) are perfect fodder for armies of orcs. So this story is actually a context in which a lot of these crazy ideas would believably make sense.

 

I’m also glad to be able to say that I’ve finally finished my opening scene XD. But the fact that I struggled with it so much has got me curious. I wonder if it’s more difficult to write action sequences before establishing the world in which they takes place. Action is certainly how I felt this story should begin, it’s one of the concepts that I’ve had in my mind the longest, but perhaps it would have been easier on myself to spend just a bit of time establishing the environment before throwing the reader (and  myself) into the action. I certainly think it’s better to catch two birds with one stone (catch because I’m nice) if you can write action in such a way as to establish some things about that world while you do it. I wonder if other writers find it a challenge too.

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NaNoWriMo 2020 – First 2 Days!

Hey everyone! How’s your NaNo project doing so far?

 

I know it’s only Day 3 now, but that’s plenty of time to get a sense of how well you have or have not prepared. I’m finding myself struggling a bit with this project compared to last year’s, despite taking a similar approach.

 

For religious reasons I’ve made sure to designate myself a day of rest each week (usually Sunday but it changes depending on the week), which means that instead of doing the standard 1,667 words a day I’m having to do an average of 1,924 words a day to make up the difference. But that math is hard to remember, so I just round it out to 2,000 words a day.

In fact, in this particular November there are actually 5 Sundays instead of 4, which means 25 work days if I end up only taking Sundays off, and after I did the math I realized I could do exactly 2,000 words a day for the 25 work days in November and end up with exactly the required 50,000 words by November 30!

Of course, it’s not likely to be that simple. Vampires Vs. Dragons ended up being roughly 56,000 words in total by the time I finished the rough draft. In other words, by the time I reached 50,000 words, I hadn’t finished the story yet! It was a good thing I managed to get ahead of schedule with that project, because I also had self-editing to do on top of that before the month finished. Even on the final day and up to the last hour I was adding bits of stuff. I remember it took me until the final day of NaNo to come to a decision about what the final scene should be.

 

I had come at it with the expectation that I would get to the end of the story, have some time and words left, and have to invent some filler scenes, which I was prepared to do, but as is often the case with my stories they end up being longer than expected as new material comes to mind. I have to be prepared for that with this project as well, and get ahead of schedule as soon as I can so I’ve got some margin.

 

As you all know, this year NaNoWriMo actually began on a Sunday, which could have been a challenge for me to ‘hit the ground running’ as I like to. But I count my days off from waking up to falling asleep, and I’m a late sleeper, so I actually managed to get some writing done on the first day (my Saturday night) and update my progress before going to bed.

 

I managed 2,240 words on the first day, and not even a full day of work! That was an encouraging start. I cheated a little bit in that I only did a small part of my opening scene and then really wanted to write out a scene that I’d had solid in my head for almost a year, so that was a little easier to get written down. I did want to take the approach of writing everything in chronological order, but then felt I’d rather make sure certain things got written down before I forgot them.

It was a minor detail, but I remembered something I had meant to include in Vampires Vs. Dragons that I forgot about once I actually got to that point in the story. Nothing heartbreaking to lose, but the experience has left me more cautious with future NaNo projects.

 

As I write this I’m about halfway through my second day of work, and first full day, and I’m at 2,959 words after writing a bit more of the opening and a piece of dialogue I love so much that I’ve been quoting it to myself over and over trying to make sure I remember it. It’s good to finally have it written down!

I’ve got another 1,041 words to do before meeting my personal quota for today, so I better get back to it. And maybe actually at some point complete the opening – that might be good!

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NaNoWriMo 2020 – This Year’s Project

Hey guys! How is your NaNo prep coming along?

 

Now that November is almost upon us, I’m finally ready to talk more openly about what project I’ll be working on this year. I enjoyed writing ‘Vampires Vs. Dragons’ so much that I’ve decided I’m gonna do something in a similar vein. Not a direct sequel, but the post-apocalyptic landscape of ‘Vampires Vs. Dragons’ provided the best context for this new project, so I’ve decided to turn this into a post-apocalyptic shared universe with a variety of conflicts going on in different parts of the globe, and I’ve decided which conflict I’m going to focus on this year.

 

Orcs Vs. Wolves!

 

(Technically it’s orcs vs. werewolves, but that somehow didn’t have the same ring to it.) With this project I’ll be starting a theme of ‘something fantasy vs. something horror’ which, if I keep this going each year, would work out quite perfectly with timing since I tend to do most of my inspiration hunting during October, when all the scary movies are on. (Genius move, eh?)

 

It’s a decision that I was kinda leaning towards early on, since the idea of doing something post-apocalyptic with a heavy emphasis on goblins was something I’d had my heart set on ever since the first time I watched Mad Max: Fury Road. I know there are no goblins in that movie, but many of the villains, the way that they lived, and the way they improvised new tools out of the ruins of mankind gave me a hard goblin vibe, and really inspired me for this kind of a story.

 

And since ‘Vampires Vs. Dragons’ ended up being set in a post-apocalyptic environment, I realized I had given myself the perfect segway. I just needed the perfect opposing side for them to terrorize and/or be terrorized by depending on varying circumstances. Enter the werewolves!

 

To my surprise, it’s been much more difficult to find inspirational material for werewolves. I’ve noticed that most werewolf movies don’t really get into the psychological impact of a person beginning to think and act like a wolf – the werewolf tends to be treated as more of a generic monster transformation. So I’m gonna have to keep looking to find the kind of inspiration I’m hoping for when it comes to the werewolf side of the story. The orc side I’ve pretty much had covered for a while.

 

I’m even doing a Let’s Play of ‘Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor’ as a way of gathering further inspiration. I’m even talking about the world from a fantasy writer’s perspective as I play, and you can check it out on my YouTube channel!

 

My prep work is just about done. I’ve finally got my ‘Orcs Vs. Wolves’ Pinterest board published. I may add to that as I return for inspiration throughout the month, and when the book is published I’ll start categorizing the pins by character names as I did for my ‘Vampires Vs. Dragons’ Pinterest board.

 

How is your prep going? Are you excited, nervous, or all over the place? Let me know how it’s going in the comments!

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The Journey of ‘CHRONOMANCER’

The seeds of the story that eventually became ‘The Final Power: CHRONOMANCER’ were first planted back in 2002, so it’s been nearly 2 decades in the making. I know the timeline because I remember how I was influenced by the first Lord of the Rings film, before the additional influence of reading the trilogy and seeing The Two Towers in theatres, which was late 2002 or possibly early 2003.

The main cast of characters and basic plot of the story have remained mostly unchanged since it was originally conceived. But with other projects taking the forefront of my attention, this one was put aside for a long time.

Roughly 5 years ago I began a personal project of taking all of the fantasy material that I knew of from different fantasy worlds like Middle-Earth, Tamriel and Azeroth to name a few, and fit them all into a single fan-fiction kind of world that I called “Grand Unified Fantasy” – I think just because I had been watching a lot of science documentaries at the time and kept hearing about Einstein’s “Grand Unified Theory” (not at all related.)

This project was begun for one reason, to create for myself singular versions of different kinds of races and groups like elves, orcs, vampires, and the like – creatures that typically have wildly varying rules depending on what story you’re telling. I had seen and heard so many different versions of vampires, and the rules about how they work, that I felt I had to keep making up my own from scratch whenever I wanted to tell a story with them. By establishing my own world with its own rules and myths, I could use that world as a template to build other fantasy stories off of, and then only make any changes that are crucial to the individual story.

 

As this fan-fic world developed, became more solid, and started getting more and more populated by races and characters of my own invention, I realized that I had put too much work into this world to use it for templates alone. It deserved its own story. So I began the process of either removing or greatly altering elements that were not public domain (a lengthy process of research) until I knew that everything in the world was either my own creation or publicly available. Then I began looking for a specific story to tell through this world.

 

This world is what eventually became Vel Ardon. And the story I found to tell through it is the same one that had been inspired all those years ago, which fit perfectly into the fantasy world I had formed.

 

But that was not the end of the process. Early 2016 is when I began writing the story in earnest, and I had a rough draft completed by the end of the year. 2017 was a sabbath year for me, which meant no editing or revising, and I knew I had to not even look at the manuscript until the year was done or else I would be tempted to make changes. So at the beginning of 2018, after an entire year of not even looking at the manuscript, I began revising and self-editing the rough draft until I felt it was ready to send to beta readers and a professional editor, followed by further revisions and self-editing until I finally felt it was ready to publish.

But that alone took an extra two and a half years (with other projects beside) – so much longer than originally anticipated. Not only because it was a longer novel than any I had published before, but also because I was not just telling one story – I was establishing an entire new world. One that I still also intended to be usable as a template for myself to use as a starting point for other fantasy tales. I was editing and revising an entire world with its own cultures, races, and histories.

 

I’m glad to finally be able to share this world with my readers, and thanks to the talents of artist Kirstie Shanks, I’ve got a professionally designed map to show everyone as well (colour version at top of the page)

 

I’ve also just un-secreted my CHRONOMANCER board on Pinterest for those who like to have visual aid when readings stories, or who are just interested in seeing kind of images I was using for inspiration as I wrote.

 

It has been a long journey to get to this point. Thank you for your support along the way!

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