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January 14, 2013
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Welcome to our new members :iconastraldaamon: , :iconladymerrethsauthor:

and  our new Watchers: :iconsadisticicecream: :iconepiclevelsorcerer:

RipleyNox, the founder of this group, Has shared somethings about her and her creative process, and given us some interesting writing tips in this interview!

Enjoy!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Rama :Why and when did you start writing?
Abstract: I started writing stories when I was eight years old. The first one was an episodic adventure called "Cindy and the Witch". I don't even remember the premise of the story now, though my older sister thought it was the coolest thing ever and still talks about it.
As to why, I suppose it started when I was about three years old. That's when I started reading. If my mother is to be believed - and I have no reason not to - I just started reading one day. I remember a lot of Sesame Street, so that's undoubtedly where I learned. In any case, I started reading everything I could get my hands on obsessively. And I do mean everything. My grandfather came to visit for my fourth birthday once and I crawled up on his lap and read the headline of the newspaper he was holding. "United States Olympic Committee".
I think I liked his reaction more than anything. I always liked shocking people. So I kept challenging myself with harder and harder texts. My other grandfather gave me a stack of books he had inherited when he was a child, classics like The Diary of Marco Polo, Treasure Island (the original version, not the watered-down modernized one), The Bridges of San Luis Ray, La Guillotine, and Two Years Before the Mast. Also classic sci-fi written by the likes of Heinlein and Arthur C. Clark. I loved high adventure and science fiction especially, but the true stories really fired me up.
My parents divorced when I was five and I escaped into my books more and more. I had several philosophical epiphanies when I was around seven years old. I didn't think about it in grandiose terms, of course. I was just a kid. That's probably why I got what I did out of it: I wanted to create worlds that others could get lost in, just like me. I wanted to write big, thick, beautiful books and live in a house that smelled like a library.

Rama :How would you describe your art ?
Abstract: I push the boundaries of my personal experiences to find new topics to write about and I tie it back in with what I know. I actively seek feedback from people who read my work and understand that there is no limit to improvement, which I find very positive. Art is the process, not the final product.

Rama :What is the thing that sparks your imagination and motivates you?
Abstract: It's like a compulsion that I must absorb, translate, and create more stories. I take an enormous amount of inspiration from the reactions of readers - I love to make them cry, laugh, cheer for my characters. Seven-year-old me is delighted by this process.
On a more day-to-day level, music is often where I start. It's easier to get the imagination kick-started when you have a mood and a soundtrack. It was music that got OpheliaBell and I writing together. I've been using the Grooveshark music app for a few years and she hadn't heard of it before. We started swapping songs and ideas and the rest is history. I'm pretty much addicted to writing with her now. She's a major source of inspiration - well-read in the genres I love, educated, with a wicked sense of humor and a no-apologies attitude. Pretty much like me, really, but we've led very different lives, which keeps things very interesting.

Rama : Speaking of time, How do you find the time during holidays and busy days ?
Abstract: Even if I've decided not to write or if I just don't have time, I can just let ideas incubate. I record notes on my phone (text or voice) so I can start off my next writing session with a bunch of ideas. It's a bit of a pain to transcribe them, probably my least favorite task, but I muscle through it. Once I'm making enough with my fiction to pay for an assistant out of pocket for my own projects, I'll have them do it, but for now I do that job myself.

Rama :You and OpheliaBell have some interesting partnership. how did you get together? and do you think partnership has an important role in the evolution of a writer?
Abstract: We both had stories with the same Mass Effect pairing. I read hers, then she read mine, we exchanged favorite music, then a loooooong email thread getting to know one another. I asked her if I could use her original character Mason Black in my next story and if she'd beta it, she agreed, and the rest is history.
Finding a beta ring (a group of people that are willing to read and critique your work in exchange for the same) is essential to an independent author, in my opinion. We don't have the resources to hire professional editors and so forth - and seriously, unless you're paying top dollar for big names in the business, you aren't getting any better quality than I've found meeting enthusiastic writers who are seeking to improve themselves.

Rama :What do you think constitutes "good writing"?
Abstract: Good writing communicates its message to its intended audience, clearly and memorably. Same for fiction and nonfiction.

Rama :How thoroughly do you plan what you're writing? How much time/energy do you personally apportion to each part of the creative process?
Abstract: In the beginning, I didn't plan at all. I thought my talent could see me through. But that simply doesn't work.
these days, I plot out the basic intentions of each character in a scene beforehand. It may be something very specific or just a general idea. I set the scene, decide on the elements in play - and then I sit down and hammer it out, no excuses. I allot about two weeks to every major story arc - that's my publishing schedule. It might have one scene or five, one character or fifteen, but two weeks is two weeks. Set yourself a schedule, have someone to be accountable to, contribute to a community and you will progress through your narrative faster than you thought.  
(Take a look at Abstract's  writing process >>> Fiction Writer's Cheat Sheet by RipleyNox )

Rama :How do you stay committed to your work? do you usually challenge yourself?
Abstract: I am never not working. If I'm not writing, I'm researching, If I'm not researching, I'm blogging about writing and researching. If I'm not doing any of those, I'm just living my life, waiting for lightning to strike.
The material point there is that I'm a writer. Writers are always writing, even if they aren't tapping at the keyboard or scribbling on a page. There is no question of commitment. Writing isn't a task or even a lifestyle. It is the art of communicating complex ideas through the medium of text. It goes through several stages to get onto the page. At any given point, I'm in one of those stages. Period.
Challenging yourself is essential to supporting a continuous practice of writing: getting the writing actually onto the page in a way that others will understand. I know so many so-called "writers" who never actually write anything. Sure, they have have a lot of stories locked in their head. But it isn't communication unless you're sharing it with others.

Rama: What are the genres you enjoy writing in?
Abstract: Depends on the mood I'm in. I don't like visual horror for some reason, movies and such, but I've read quite a bit of horror and have written some too. It's a genre I'd like to get better at. But my heart has and always been centered directly over gritty adventure/dramas, and I think that shows in "The One That Got Away". I'm still learning, as we all are, but I've grown more from creating this single story than from the previous fifteen years of practice. I'd love to write a true scifi classic, something cultish with fanatical readers who dress up as the characters. I'd also like to write a deeply introspective modern story where the character is seemingly banal and ordinary, but has tremendous depth of character that no one else sees.
I'm kinda all over the place, in other words. No genre is safe from my keyboard.

Rama: Is there any specific type of content or character persona you're more into in your writing?
Abstract: I love writing deeply flawed people with something to prove to themselves. Powerfully motivated, but with a dream of something better. And, honestly, everyone is like that to some degree. I like to find out the different ways that people go about pursuing their goals. People are so interesting, so molded by their experiences and their environment.
But I also like to switch things up and keep it unexpected. For example, a paragon-like character who centers their purity of love around something so wrong that you want to reach into the text and save her. Rosie from "The One That Got Away" is like that. The pure are often blind, however, and often doomed. The deeply flawed tend to develop more resilient strengths and have more varied life experiences. In the future, I'd like to expand my repertoire of potential characters. I've been watching documentaries about various political and historical figures for inspiration.

Rama: Many people talk about the "Writer's block"  what do usually do when you have one ?
Abstract: I don't believe in writer's block.  What we usually call writer's block is actually a vital part of the creative process. Ideas need to incubate - sometimes we need inner silence. To have that, we need to clear out the jumble of ideas that we're trying to shoehorn into the plot. So the first thing I do in this situation is "write out my garbage" - I freewrite for a set period of time to give my worries and fragmented thoughts their voice so they'll shut up and let inspiration in. I use an app like WriteorDie or 750Words if I have trouble getting started. The second thing I do is sit in quiet meditation. If you try to fill up the space you've created, you'll just have to do the exercise all over again. Sometimes taking a nap is all you need - your dreams will pull it together for you. Keep a notebook by your bed and jot down anything that comes to mind, even trivial thoughts. Rinse and repeat. I consider this part of the "research" phase of writing - stage one, basically. If you've been trying to finish your writing goal and are stuck in this phase, you're working against yourself. Scrap what you've got and start over. You'll feel much better.
But maybe that's easier for me because I've been an editor for a while. I have no problem scrapping weeks of effort if it isn't working. I call this "killing the baby", and I've gotten really good at it.

Rama: What do you do when your story stops making sense to you or just doesn't work anymore?
Abstract: When I start off a story, I have a great time putting all the details together and starting the plot threads, weaving them together in a way that makes sense to me and seems pretty at the time. But mid-way into a story, things can easily turn into a train wreck. If I'm doubting decisions I made early on, the characters may not want to go the way I want them to. It's tempting at this point to start over fresh with a new story.
I know so many, many writers that have gotten stuck in this exact spot. They've written half a novel, or ten halves of a novel. We think we have to be so fragging brilliant all the time, when really the goal should be to finish the book, period. We gain skill as a writer by FINISHING, come hell or high water. All I can say is, if you get stuck in the middle of a story or in editing a scene over and over because it's not "perfect" - let it be imperfect and move on. Finish the thing. You can always fix it later when you know exactly what to do, or you can let it stand as proof that you've grown when you finish the next story, which will be even better.
It's so important - many writers miss this - to understand your process. In fact, I'll take a picture of the whiteboard above my desk so you all can see what mine looks like. I have it all mapped out.


Rama: People say writers put lots of them selves in their stories- do you have so much self-insertion in your stories ?
Abstract: No. I live vicariously through my characters. They are nothing like me.  Sometimes after writing a character for a long time I start to talk or act like them. I believe actors have similar problems. It can get problematic. However, I do put actual incidents and quotes from my life into my stories from time to time.

Rama: Since you live through your characters, How do you usually create and develop them?
Abstract: By parsing out what pieces I need to get to the goal of the story, personifying them, and adding depth by making them flawed and giving them sympathetic internal motivations

Rama: what do you do when you have to write out of your comfort zone? any advice on it?
Abstract: Push it as far as you can. Do tons of research. Reach books outside of the genre and try to make unusual connections. Follow any threads you find as far as you can go - I've been surprised at where it takes me. I'll start off reading military nonfiction, then studying the geography of the area described, then reading about the culture of the area and I'll discover an obscure myth that factors into the story perfectly. You just never know.  

Rama : What do you do if you find yourself focusing on secondary characters more than the main ones?
Abstract: Save the extra material in a character sheet and use them in another story. Stay focused on the characters you've got already. When you're ready to start your next story, you'll have a bunch of ideas to start everything off. Makes the new story that much easier to get started.

Rama :How do you prevent your story from turning into a dialogue?
Abstract: Write it out how it feels natural. If you read through and find too much dialogue, try and think of ways to demonstrate what they want to say without talking. Example:

"I love you," she said haltingly.
"Then we must get married," he said.

OR
She opened her mouth, but the words wouldn't come out. He put a finger on her trembling lower lip. "I know," he said. "Save it for our wedding day."

Which one is more interesting to read? The second example bring out the characters, too. It doesn't matter that we don't have a setting or character descriptions. We know that she finds it difficult to express deep emotions, and he is more of a take-charge personality, which obviously works for her.

Rama :What's the best way to set a scene with the smallest amount of words?
Abstract: By capturing the essence of the moment. I could describe a scenario down to the last detail, and that's nice. but finding a single, iconic image will deliver the scene and carry the reader more easily along for the ride. For bonus points, demonstrate it through a character's actions.

After only moments outside, her hair was covered with confetti. She didn't bother to brush it off; it flew from behind her like snow as she ran to the Maypole to meet her friends.



Rama:Can you give me some tricks about using the secondary characters to help "show" your main characters' personalities and traits ?
Abstract: Sure! It's best to teach by example. So, let's say that your main character's major flaw is their desire to rescue abused ponies, even at the expense of their own children's needs. He needs someone to egg him on, encourage him to save just one more pony even though his daughter needs a special operation that their insurance won't cover. This could be a veterinarian, a member of PETA, any number of personas.
But you also need a nemesis. The nemesis can be a concept, such as the trauma he experienced as a child when the neighborhood bullies steal his pony and starve it to death just within sight of his bedroom window, but no one believes him. They think wolves got the pony. Or it can be a character, someone who is determined to reduce every pony in the country to glue for his factory. Every character is an extension of the main character to some degree or they have no place in the story.
As far as demonstrating personality straits, it's far simpler. If you want to establish that a woman is a bitchy authorization type that doesn't take shit from anyone - to a fault. Now put her in a situation that seems benign and throw stuff at her to bring out her dark side. See what comes up.

The sun shines through a window nearby, glinting off the badge on her ten-gallon hat. Her lip curls as she scans the menu in her hand.
"What can I fetch for you, ma'am?" the waiter asks, waving his pencil over the pad in his hand. He doesn't meet her eye, momentarily distracted by a crumb on the arm of his otherwise pristine uniform.
Her eyelid twitches in irritation at his affectation. She jabs a finger at the menu. "I'll have the steak dinner, but I don't want none of that fancy wild rice. Give me a baked potato with all the trimmings."
"I'm sorry, ma'am. We don't allow substitutions on our dinner plates. Perhaps I can interest you in something else?"
He simpers at her as he reaches for her menu, one long, slender finger extended imperiously to point out the more expensive specials. Lightning-quick, se grabs the bony appendage and twists it sideways. Every head in the restaurant turns when he squeals in pain.
"If I wanted your opinion, I'd ask for it," she says in his ear. "I said steak and potato, all the trimmings. If you can't handle that, then I'll go back there and make it my damn self. Think your chef is gonna like that?"
"No ma'am!" he gasps. "I'll take care of it right away!"

... aaand scene! It doesn't matter what his name is or why he acts like that. He fits a certain situation and creates a response. Creating his character before I started writing wouldn't have worked for me. Other people are different, which is why you need to understand your own process, but it always starts the same: your scene's main character has a goal (to eat dinner) and you want to establish her character by bringing out her flaws. You do this by challenging her. You can take the secondary character further if you want, if it has relevance to the plot.

Here’s the same scene, but with the secondary character development left out for comparison.

The sun shines through a window nearby, glinting off the badge on her ten-gallon hat. Her lip curls as she scans the menu in her hand.
"What can I fetch for you, ma'am?" the waiter asks.
She jabs a finger at the menu. "I'll have the steak dinner, but I don't want none of that fancy wild rice. Give me a baked potato with all the trimmings."
"I'm sorry, ma'am. We don't allow substitutions on our dinner plates. Perhaps I can interest you in something else?"
As he reaches for her menu, she grabs his finger and twists it sideways.
"If I wanted your opinion, I'd ask for it," she says in his ear. "I said steak and potato, all the trimmings. If you can't handle that, then I'll go back there and make it my damn self. Think your chef is gonna like that?"
"No ma'am!" he gasps. "I'll take care of it right away!"  


Her unpleasantness doesn't seem so repellant when you don't have the secondary character to show her reaction. The waiter is annoying. Her reaction is extreme, but in the other example we can almost see ourselves in her shoes. The more sympathetic your characters are, the more depth you can give them. It works the same for heroes or villains.

Rama: Why have you made the decision of turning pro? what can you tell me about it? and since you're a pro... why are you writing fanfiction?
Abstract:I worked with entrepreneurs - people who start businesses with little or no money because they believe in the core concept - for about three years as a service provider. They really inspired me. It didn't take long before I realized that they were no different than I am and I was thinking about what I'd really like to do. At the time I took the natural first step and turned my freelance work into a business. I was creating content for web apps, mobile apps and websites, consulting for electronic media, and doing customer service for web developers, so that's what my business was built on. It was going okay. I got work, but my heart wasn't singing with joy to do it. It wasn't creative or stimulating enough for the long term, I realized quickly. Not sustainable means a waste of time in entrepreneur land. I knew that something had to give, so I decided to keep my eyes and ears open.
Then several things happened at the same time that brought everything together. This always happens, in my experience. We just need to be aware enough to notice when it happens and not sell ourselves a lie that we can't do it.
First, I went out to lunch with another writer and it came out that I don't get writer's block, for the reasons I stated above. She was shocked. I didn't ever realize it was special or different, it's just the way I think. That made me really reconsider my stance on writing - although at the time, I thought I could turn it into being a productive writer of nonfiction, which as I said before, wasn't sustainable for me. I started paying closer attention to my writing process and learned a lot about how I work. Self-knowledge is a major plus if you want to go pro. But I was already technically a pro, so I wasn't quite there yet.
Then last February I got the flu and couldn't work for about two weeks, so I played through the entire Mass Effect game series for the first time. I usually avoid playing RPGs because I love them so much they become a time sink, but if I'm sick, all bets are off. I was inspired by the unanswered questions I had about the last character they introduced, James Vega. I started writing. I had never read or written fanfiction before.
It was a creative release like I had never experienced before. I didn't get caught up in the details of creating the universe because it was already created. The foundation of the characters was already laid out and I had a clear goal already in mind: to answer specific questions and to create a more satisfying ending to the game. For the first time, I finished a full-length story. I began to see fanfiction as a tool to perfect the skills of writing original fiction.
The final key was reading Steven Pressfield's "The War of Art" and "Turning Pro". he talks about having what he calls a "shadow career" - a job that almost, but not quite fits your dream job. So I wanted to be a writer, but I was writing nonfiction for developers and entrepreneurs instead of fiction. It was enough to fool me into thinking I had arrived at my dream, but not enough to make me happy and it created a deep-seated dissatisfaction with my life in general, as if nothing I did had any intrinsic value (professionally, anyway).
Finally, a friend asked me a simple question: where would your life be today if you had never underestimated yourself? That really got me thinking about how I spend my energy.

Rama:How can you balance between Amateurism and professionalism ?
Abstract:You don't. You're either on the pro road or you're not. To hold to an amateur level on purpose without a clear end date in sight is to deny yourself your dreams on purpose. Remember the question from before: Where would you be right now if you hadn't underestimated yourself? You can say that things aren't in the right place right now, that now isn't the time, but no matter where you are on the amateur path, you can redirect it toward your professional goals.
If you want to be a novelist in ten years, then you have ten years to produce a great novel before you intend to publish. You're a pro. If you intent to START that novel in ten years, you're underestimating yourself. You're an amateur. You can't be both.

Rama: What is your favorite reaction to your stories ?
Abstract:I love to get formal critique, but I also love to see people get excited and emotional about the story, showing that I've truly made them care about what happens to the characters. It's like they cannot help but comment almost nonsensically at times, their emotions are so overpowering that they have to say SOMETHING - they don't know what, but they have to let me know. It never fails to put a smile on my face. Here are my favorite examples from my current WIP:
• oh my god, i am near a heart attack !
• WHAAAAT? OH MY GOD! Okay, now that I got that out of the way, seriously: ohmygee. Holy shitsnacks.
• She. Kicks. Ass. Nuff said, I loved it :D
And on the more coherent front:
• It is without doubt one of the BEST plots in the mass effect universe, I've ever seen and your writing is simply flawless. I have a distinct feeling that I'll read this over and over, even long after it's finished.
• John Irving says hello! You can really write cinematic sometimes and with a feel for subtlety.. I am so envious.
• Your characters are so vivid and so heartbreaking.

EDIT I was thinking in terms of reviews, but since this interview I've realized the reaction that meant the most to me was really two things: first off, when someone sends me a message saying I've inspired them to try to write their first story. That's the bomb, amazing feeling, and so humbling. Secondly is when people read my fanfics and say that it's changed the way they play the game forever.

Rama: Why have you started build-your-platform?
Abstract:It didn't take much research into my chosen profession to be able to tell that the industry had changed dramatically. I don't need to sell a million books to support myself and having a major publishing label isn't necessarily the way to start, though it's often the way writers end up. We have to do some footwork first.
After working with entrepreneurs for so long, I also recognized that artists and writers are essentially running independently owned businesses. Unexpectedly, I was in familiar territory. I know this stuff already. And the number one rule of entrepreneurial ventures is that you can't do it alone. You need partners. You can't be every part of your business or you'll burn out. More to the point, if you're doing something creative, you also need other people to challenge you and give you feedback - and you need to do the same for them.
I was amazed, once I joined deviantArt, how few artists actually understand this. Being one of those people that learns best by teaching, I knew I could provide something truly useful to the community, and in exchange I would be able to assemble the resources I needed to launch my own platform. Or my new platform, the one focused on what I truly want to do: write fiction.

Rama: Do you have any formal academic qualification when it comes to literature? Do you see this as being essential or even important in a writing career?
Abstract:No and no. Allow me to explain.
I learned everything I know about the web, online engagement, entrepreneurship, the creative process, writing, and everything that goes with all of the above, entirely on my own. If a college or university created a course on the topic, the materials would be out of date before it was approved for the classroom. The industry moves that fast.
Additionally, publishers are about 500% more likely to offer you a contract if you already have a list of ready-to-buy readers from your independent platform. You don't need a degree to do that, either. It's just a lot of footwork and community-building. You can find out anything you need from free ebooks that blogs give away. No kidding, I have an astounding library of them.
As for craft, go to the library. Every college-level textbook is there. I know, I've read a lot of them. Six figures of debt and the degree that your readers honestly could care less about isn't included. I haven't missed either one.
That's not to say that a college isn't useful. I've often thought that when I get time I'd like to go and sit in on a few of the creative writing classes or take a workshop for some inspiration and feedback. But I don't need a degree. I know more Journalism majors that assistant manage retail stores than I do published authors. The degree doesn't help them in either case.
If you want to be a doctor, sure. Go ahead and enroll. But writing is about life, and life happens outside of the classroom.

Rama: What can you tell me about the responses you've gotten from the people to your work in Build Your Platform??
Abstract:Mostly appreciation, enthusiasm, and a willingness to take a more active role in their own future. So many writers and artists think they can just create piece after piece and "wait to be discovered". I can put on a tinfoil hat and sit outside, but it doesn't mean that I'll get struck by lightning. One of the things I'm hoping to demonstrate by interviewing successful artists and writers is that NONE of the successful ones get where they are by waiting. They work, and they work hard. They research and never stop learning. They build relationships with patrons and similar artists.You can't succeed in a vacuum, and you can't support yourself without understanding the business of life - and the business of art.

Rama :What is the best way to support your art?
Abstract: By practicing it every day, studying the work of others, and reaching outside of your usual sphere of influence for creative inspiration. If you aren't doing the research for your project, you're missing out on a huge source of inspiration. It's not as dry as it sounds. It's one of my favorite steps in the process.

Rama :can you take us through a day of your life?
Abstract:Wake up, get my kids off to school, go to meetings, complete the important tasks that need to be completed, have lunch with my husband, work out, get the kids from school, write, make dinner, put the kids to bed, write some more, then sleep. It's pretty consistent.

Rama :What is your last advice to all of the fellow artists?
Abstract:Don't ever stop learning. Ever. There is no point at which you can sit back and bask in your perfection. Once you do, you've become irrelevant to yourself as well as your audience.

~~~~~~~~~~~
Special thanks to everyone who has contributed questions!

By Rama-Kay with RipleyNox
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:iconaillin1:
aillin1 Featured By Owner Jan 14, 2013   Writer
Insightful and a good resource for writers.
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:iconripleynox:
RipleyNox Featured By Owner Jan 14, 2013  Professional Writer
Thanks! :hug:
Reply
:iconaillin1:
aillin1 Featured By Owner Jan 14, 2013   Writer
:iconhal9000plz: I very much enjoy being of compliment to you, Miss.
Reply
:iconopheliabell:
OpheliaBell Featured By Owner Jan 14, 2013  Professional Writer
What a great interview! I especially liked the part where I got warm fuzzies thinking about writing with Abstract :love:

But the one thing that stuck out was the idea of the "shadow career", something I've personally been agonizing over for awhile. I have a pretty solid day job that pays the bills and also allows me some down time in which to write my own stuff. My actual job involves editing more than writing, which I enjoy. I thought about quitting to do freelance editing to allow myself more time to write, but decided I would just be short-changing myself if I did that - it wouldn't be an improvement in my personal writing experience, plus it would severely affect my income to a point I'm not sure I'd be comfortable with. The fact is, it takes patience as much as drive and determination. It's not going to happen overnight. If any change needs to be made in my own day-to-day routine it's that I need to be writing more (or at least more consistently), not working less, and I can make time to write more if I try hard enough.
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:iconripleynox:
RipleyNox Featured By Owner Jan 14, 2013  Professional Writer
Well-said.
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:iconripleynox:
RipleyNox Featured By Owner Jan 14, 2013  Professional Writer
:iconrama-kay: rocks! Thanks for the interview :hug:
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:iconrama-kay:
Rama-Kay Featured By Owner Jan 14, 2013  Hobbyist Writer
Thanks !! :tighthug:
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:iconmothbanquet:
mothbanquet Featured By Owner Jan 14, 2013  Professional Writer
All hail our Glorious Leader!!!
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:iconripleynox:
RipleyNox Featured By Owner Jan 14, 2013  Professional Writer
I live to serve. :bow:
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