Alrighty, here’s the deal. I’ll be posting one more of these freebie chapters next week. Getting Thin is only 0.99 and I hope that three chapters is enough to get a handle on the characters. This is no bedtime story, though. It contains very mature themes, such as rape and insanity. I absolutely stink at summarizing – I’m working on it – so boiling the plot down to a few lines is not my strong suit. But I’ll give it a try.
Teenage outcast becomes best friends with the girl next door, who teaches her how to be happier with herself. And then teenage girl’s new best friend is murdered. And teenage girl becomes a knife carrying, blood lusting fiend looking for revenge. She’s like Harley Quinn without all the warm and fuzzy. 110 pounds of cute but evil. I guess you could say she’s got a few anger issues. But don’t we all? Anyway, the link is below if you want to know more 😉
“Don’t go down in the woods.” The first rule. The most important rule. Spoken every single summer, the moment my clothes were out of my suitcase and I was firmly entrenched in the attic bedroom at my grandparent’s house in the country. My grandfather always delivered that line with the grim, narrow look that said plainly he expected me to disobey and was already planning my punishment, even though I never broke that rule. Maybe I thought about it, but I didn’t do it. First, because I was only a little girl when Dad started leaving me at the farm during the summer – about the same time Mom sent the divorce papers and made it clear she had no further interest in either one of us – and, later, because I simply wasn’t the sort to disobey.
I sometimes had nightmares about those woods when I was younger. I dreamed of wolves and gingerbread houses. I dreamed of witches and ghosts and monsters that would eat me from the toes up. I would wake up screaming for the first week I was there, certain that something was creeping up out of the woods to come and snatch me away. As I grew up, the nightmares mostly vanished, but the sense of foreboding I got when looking at those woods did not.
There was plenty to do on the farm without breaking Grandpa’s rule about the woods. There were hay bales to climb and horses to ride. There was a swimming hole and a little movie theater in town. I didn’t have any friends there, but that was okay; I had plenty of books and the local library was only a bike ride away. Summer was full of wonderful things without ever considering what was off limits. Anyway. The woods were dense and dark and even from a distance, seemed to promise all sorts of unpleasant things, like ticks and poisonous snakes. So staying out wasn’t exactly a challenge.
“Don’t go down in the woods.” My grandfather’s warning, spoken over pancakes and eggs, used as a good morning, have fun, and goodbye when he needed to go somewhere without me got to where it almost felt like a joke. Or would have, if he didn’t always look so serious about it. Summer after summer, year after year, he tolled like the bell in a clock tower, telling me over and over again, ignoring my frowns and my irritated sighs, pretending not to notice when I’d roll my eyes or protest how well I knew the rule.
And what reason did I have not to listen? I wasn’t a woodsy girl and, despite my love of fantasy adventure books, I felt no desire to go chasing one of my own. Certainly, I’d learned more than one lesson from my books. Refusing to listen to your elders was rarely worth the trouble it caused. I would mention that to Grandpa, but it never stopped him from repeating that rule, always in the same dark, warning tone. Whenever I’d complain to Grandma about his distrust, she’d only shake her head. “He’s got his reasons,” she’d say.
And then came that July day. The heat hung close and heavy. The humidity was a thick haze around my ankles. My grandparents left for town early that morning and, as the heat grew, I knew I wouldn’t see them until evening; Grandpa’s rattling, two toned blue farm truck had a habit of stalling out on really hot days, so they would stay in town until the temperatures got back below ninety.
“Don’t go down to the woods,” Grandpa had warned when I’d stumbled down the stairs for breakfast. Then they were gone and I was left to my own devices. Which mostly meant lounging on the couch reading.
My grandparents didn’t have any air conditioning, not even one of those heavy, ugly box types for the window. By noon, the ceiling fans were doing little more than pushing the humid, hot air around the room and I was pouring sweat. I shuffled out to the porch swing, then, finally, to the hammock at the back of the house, strung between two oaks that kept it well shaded every hour of the day. I did not often go there, despite the deep shade and the way it always seemed about five degrees cooler than anywhere else.
The woods were perfectly visible at the bottom of the lawn, which swept down, perfectly trimmed, to the edge of the trees. The forest was a long, cool shadow that might have been inviting, if not for the creepy sense of being watched I always got when I was that close to it. I was always certain that it was a subconscious reaction to my grandfather’s frequent warning; the older I got, the stranger it became; he’d never caught me even trying to go into the woods and I was certain he knew I wouldn’t choose to go there. Which, to me, almost seemed to say it was the woods he didn’t trust. As if the trees could somehow force me to come, if I was to let my guard down. Not that I ever did; even though I knew my fears of monsters and witches in gingerbread houses was irrational and childish, something I should have shed years before, there was still a part of me that watched those trees, always cautious. Always ready to run.
That day, though, I saw a woman. Maybe she was tall and slim, with dark hair and a way of walking that was almost like floating. I couldn’t see how old she was, though I thought she was closer to twenty-five than forty. It was difficult to tell much else from that distance. The kid, however, was a different matter.
She was small and narrow, with that knobby, bony, coltish look girls get around eight years old, when their puppy fat slides off but hasn’t yet been replaced by feminine curves. Her blond hair hung loose and windswept over her bare shoulders and down the back of her white tank top.
The woman had her by the hand and, as I watched, she turned and led the child into the woods. My neck prickled. I’d been curled up, feet tucked under me, book open in my hands. Now, I put one foot down, frozen by indecision. Don’t go down in the woods. But the little girl. And the woman with her. Didn’t they know it was off limits? And who takes a little kid exploring in woods that don’t belong to them? There were keep out signs and no hunting signs posted all along the edges, where no-one could pretend they hadn’t seen them.
I stood up and, after another moment, I started down over the lawn. With every step, I felt a little more outside myself, the way I always did when I forced myself to go against my own nature. My instincts said that kid was in trouble. My nerves were twanging like an over tightened string on a guitar. I could not, no matter how I told myself I was being silly, get rid of that sense that something was very, very wrong.
The closer I got to the woods, the slower I walked, a feeling like panic clawing at me. I didn’t want to go in. I didn’t even want to get close enough to see past the first trees. Yet I was the type of girl who couldn’t just turn around and pretend I hadn’t seen anything. I stopped outside the woods, straining to see past the over grown border. All I could see were trees. And. A teddy bear.
It was sitting in the crook of a tree. Just an ordinary little toy bear with brown fur and glass eyes. In any other setting, it would have been innocuous. Sitting there, in the crook of a tree, with Grandpa’s warning ringing in my head, it took on a much more sinister aura.
Don’t go down in the woods. I leaned forward. Today. I froze. The last word had come unbidden into my head and not in my grandfather’s voice. A sense of familiarity swept over me, but I couldn’t quite place the full line into a recognizable setting. Was it a story I’d once heard? Something on TV? I put one foot on the narrow deer track leading deeper into the brush. And then the other. The forest did not fall down on me and no wolf jumped out to devour me.
I heard what sounded like a soft, childlike sob. The small, hurt sound a kid might make when they fall down and scrape their knees. That decided me; nature lover I am not and disobedient isn’t my style, but I’m no coward and I’d never turn my back on a hurt kid. I started walking.
Teddy bears. Gray, brown, purple, pink. The first one had been in the tree, the next few were beneath one, circling it, their backs set against the trunk. Then another, sitting on a rock. Some of them were like new. Other’s looked bedraggled, as if they’d been out in the forest for some time. “Don’t go down in the woods,” I whispered, pausing to listen; I couldn’t tell where the soft, intermittent cries were coming from over the sound of my feet rushing over dead leaves. “Today.” I couldn’t swallow the word. I caught that muffled little cry again. “I’m coming,” I murmured to no-one.
I tripped into the little clearing. A thrill of horror raced through me. More teddy bears. They hung like macabre Christmas ornaments, tiny, perfect nooses around their necks. Don’t go down in the woods today. I cupped my hand over my mouth, momentarily frozen again. “You’re in for a big surprise.” I took a gasping breath as the words of the song, sung low, hushed and full of terrible promise, filled my head. It was not a ghostly voice, but a memory. Someone had sung that song to me, once, and it was slowly coming back, line by line, making me feel not just unsafe in those woods, but physically threatened. If not for the weeping, which was quickly becoming more frequent and panicked, I would have run right then. But it was a child crying. A child needed my help.
I stumbled out of the clearing and away from the teddy bears, plunging blindly through the woods. If you go down in the woods today, you better go in disguise. The soft, slow rasp of the voice in my head twisted in my gut, a shadow of a memory that had no context, that I couldn’t make myself see. And when I followed that narrow deer track around, I saw the girl, pale hair running like a river down her back, tiny face tipped up, huge eyes solemnly studying what was in front of her.
My stomach was cold, as if I’d swallowed a gallon of ice water. The little girl was silent, but the soft, whimpering cries still hung on the still, hot air around us. And one more step showed me who was crying and why. But I’d already known why, hadn’t I? It was part of the memory I didn’t know I’d had, the reason Grandpa had warned me over and over to stay away from this place.
I stared up at the girl, nailed to the plank, circled by teddy bears, their once plush fur rotting and black with mold, their dark eyes clouded by age and exposure. Blood trailed from the corners of her mouth and her hitching, torn chest was like a car still running after the key has been turned off; I could already see how empty her eyes were. Behind her was a little playhouse. It looked like it was made of gingerbread. Once upon a time, it was the perfect place to sit down and talk to stuffed animals, the perfect place for pretend.
“Today is the day the teddy bears have their picnic,” I whispered. I could look into the darkness beyond the doorway and remember a man, a handsome man with a too white smile, who had nearly had to bend double to leave the little house. And I could remember my mother. Slim, dark haired, her white dress rumpled and hanging crooked, like she’d just yanked it on over her head without making sure it was on straight. Looking at me and Daddy as if she was only a little embarrassed. Laughing at him and promising that I wouldn’t have to worry about him anymore. Only it was never me that had to worry, was it?
I looked up at the woman on the plank. She was still there, but she’d changed. Her pretty skin had turned gray and was peeling back from bone, shriveling and rotting, turning her into the witch that had haunted my nightmares for so long with her too wide grin that looked like a snarl. I could still see the horrible wounds that had let out all her life, could see the nails still driven in through the bone, hammered so deep that the bone around them had splintered. I stared into the dark pits where her eyes once had been, before he stabbed them out, and remembered the sound of her screaming. I barely felt the little girl as she threaded her fingers through mine. I wasn’t afraid; everything about her was mine, from her cornflower blue eyes to her hair, as pale as milk in the dim. I looked down at her.
“Mommy was bad,” she said quietly. “Daddy had to punish her.”
And I felt him there, behind me. The big, bad wolf that had stalked me through a thousand nightmare shadows. Only this was no dream and screaming wasn’t going to save me now. “Don’t you know what happens to nice girls down in the woods?” he murmured, his low, gravelly voice full of disappointment and terrible promise.
Later on today I’m going to be posting a short story for the forest theme, but, right now, I’m going to give you a preview of next month’s theme, villains. This link is for the first chapter of my book Getting Thin and it does start off in a forest. I’ll be working on getting the sequel, Bone Deep, up for pre-sale later on today, so I thought it only fitting to give Eva a small corner of the spotlight. It does start in a forest, so I suppose it doesn’t really deviate from my theme, lol.
We’ve all seen or heard of it. This fascination with people who do terribly wrong things. I, personally, have a sort of dark interest in Serial Killers. Eva, the main character in my first book, was just that. But she is so much more. I wanted to take on the challenge of writing a character that, despite her many psychological flaws, was lovable. She began as a short story long, long before Dexter premiered, one that was posted to an online writing group back before e-books were even a glimmer of a thing. It was a constant ebb and flow of present tense to past; I wanted to capture that eerie and frightening sense of a true haunting, where reality and imagination get tangled and start tripping all over each other. I do believe in ghosts, of course, but I wanted the story to read almost as though the ghost could be a figment of Eva’s imagination. Like the thing that is haunting her is her own nature, which she’s spent a lifetime chaining up in the basement.
Years later, I decided to use it to prove to my cousin that this whole e-book and self publishing thing did not work. I knew no traditional publisher would touch it with a twenty foot pole, coming from a new writer. It was too weird and the premise, when written as a synopsis, came off like I was fangirling on Dexter (afraid not; I wrote it way before he started wrapping people up like Thanksgiving leftovers 😀 ) and outright saying ‘this is not Dexter’ only made it sound worse. I knew Getting Thin was decent, knew that Eva was, in some weird way, likable, so it seemed like a safe bet. I was wrong about indie publishing, of course, and I happily sat down to that particular crow. Eva remains, to this day, the character most people bring up first when talking to me about my books. Later today I will be posting a complete short story that is more in keeping with the forest theme, so keep your ears on 😉
Here’s the wattpad link, read and enjoy! Oh, and random weird fact: Getting Thin began as a short story about an unpopular, overweight, bullied girl finding herself through her attempts to change what and who she was. The original story very quickly took this dark turn and just kept getting more aggressive with every page. There was no ghost, there was no sense of the supernatural, but it was very much the heart of what the book became. It was not the first time I sat down to a story thinking it was one thing then realizing it was completely different, but it was certainly the strangest and biggest leap I’ve ever made.
There is not one person among us that isn’t aware of the presence of forests in media, fiction, and non-fiction. It is the place where little girls must not leave the path, the place where people go to find themselves, and a place where others go to die. Some of us fear it and some of us wish to disappear into it. It is common in fantasy tales like mine because, let’s be honest, what is a good tale of sword and sorcery without the dark forest at its back? So here I am with this new blog, and I’ve named it after my own creation, a forest where, trust me, nobody wants to go camping and a weekend visit will probably turn into a Monday funeral. It only seems fitting that, since I named the blog Darkwood, to make the theme for this first month forests. All forests. From weekend getaways to spooky and haunted. Maybe it’s the release of The Dragon Rune, a book four years late, that has reawakened my love of haunted forests – not that it ever really goes away – or maybe it is simply that it is the long side of winter and everyone, myself included, is starting to look forward to spring and getting outside without three layers of clothes and boots so heavy that every day is leg day. For myself, spring and summer mean long walks with the huskies in Allerton Park, a place that, despite its smallish size, packs a heck of a hike.
Allerton is one of my favorite places in the world, by the way. I’ll be doing one full post for this place because I owe it a lot. It is the granddaddy of Darkwood, and it is the only place I ever fully panicked and became hysterical – which is a strange little tale itself. This is not the place that spawned my love of forests or my love of weird, but it is the one that cemented it. Allerton is both beautiful and strange, well worth a full post. If you ever find yourself in Midwest Illinois, at a loss for something to do, it costs nothing – though donations are welcome – and it is well worth the trip. Who knows, maybe you’ll even meet up with some crazy lady walking two adorable (read hyper and extremely excitable) huskies. Only approach if you don’t mind 60 pounds of fur jumping up on you.
So what is it with forests? Why is it that we feel like getting out into a forest will help us find ourselves? Why do so many fantasy novels and stories take place there? Everything from Into the Woods to The Forest says that these are places where you go to find magic. Or fear. In old fairytales, the forest often represents the world, dark and unknowable. Little Red Riding Hood is told to keep to the path and, when she fails to listen, disaster is the result. This cautionary tale was basically meant to illustrate not just the dangers of leaving the well-travelled path, but those of talking to strangers or not listening to your elders. In this story, as most fairytales, the forest is never just a bunch of trees.
Spooky woods, enchanted forests, overgrown jungles, and unexplored wilderness, I bet that, if you thought about it, you’d realize you’ve followed more heroes into the woods than you knew. Snow White hides from the evil queen and meets seven dwarves there and Red Riding Hood went off talking to wolves and forgot about the path. It’s where fairies live and Tolkien’s elves kept the best ones for themselves. Every single cabin in the woods is the stomping grounds for monsters and camp is either a never-ending party of hiking and macramé or the preferred site for blood soaked slaughter. Beast’s castle was hidden in one, both unicorns and overgrown spiders prefer them, and werewolves stalk the shadows beneath the trees. Winnie the Pooh lived there, as did the three bears, proving that thieves don’t always stay in cities and bears love honey. And porridge. Tarzan’s jungle was a place we all wanted to go swing on a few vines and I certainly spent a good deal of time wishing I was lost in the wilderness with a tree house of my own.
There are hundreds of forests in our childhoods, some of them haunted and some of them places that we wish we could have found at the backs of all our closets. Any way you cut it, though, the forest is a huge backdrop that runs through more movies and books than you probably realize, casting a shadow of atmosphere that is, like it or not, rooted right down into our subconscious minds. I’ve always thought of my writing as me tripping through the woods looking for castles and werewolves and I suppose the inner imagery was born in my initial love of both fairytales and Disney (don’t you judge me).
It isn’t just fiction, though. People are always daydreaming about going off into the woods for camping, and the idea has a sense about it that is nearly as religious and enchanting as the Buddha meditating for three days to gain enlightenment. This is how you find yourself. This is how you discover who you are and how you prove you are tough and capable. Driving out into the woods, putting up a tent, gathering firewood, roasting marshmallows, and telling spooky stories are all things that have gained near mythical prominence among human kind, especially in America. And we all know somebody who loves the idea of vanishing into the woods – I am that person.
People love to plan camping trips and it creates stories that they can tell for the rest of their lives. Being out in the woods in the dark is spooky, sometimes, sure. Who hasn’t seen those stories at Halloween about strange noises or sites in the wilderness? I’ve got a few of my own and even though the weirdness was explainable in all but a few, that didn’t stop it from being darn spooky at the time. Does that mean we stay away? No. In fact, the chance of getting scared silly seems to draw more of us in. As humans, we fear being lost, a holdover from a more primitive era when being lost meant all sorts of horrible things could happen.
Never mind supernatural enemies or wandering hook men, there are plenty of realistic things to be afraid of when you’re lost, like dying of hunger or thirst, falling and breaking a leg, hungry animals, and poisonous snakes or insects. Yet we keep returning to the forest and nature because we long for the new and exciting or because it is peaceful, a place where we can contemplate our lives and cleanse our souls of the endless cacophony of technological noise, day to day problems, and the strain of being part of the crowd. Of course, most of us also secretly want to believe there are places in our world still unexplored and possibly harboring everything from an undiscovered species of human to mystical temples of doom where magic – and wishes – could be real.
And what better place for a haunting or ancient secrets than out in the dark, where there are no lights or friendly signs to point ‘this way to the food court’?
Yes, we are instinctively afraid of the dark. But we are also naturally drawn to it and where better to find it than out in the woods? Personally, I have this deep attraction to the sort of forests where weird is the daily drill, but that is because I gravitate toward the dark and creepy and my favorite forests reflect that. In Japan, there is the Aokigahara or Sea of Trees, which is known as the suicide forest. In Romania, there is The Hoia-Baciu Forest, which has so much unexplained and frightening activity that the locals refuse to enter it. Josh Gates has been to both and any ghost hunting show worth a second season eventually finds itself wandering around someplace similar asking ‘is there anybody here who would like to talk to us’.
I’ve used reflections of those forests in my own stories, first for my fantasy forest, which is pretty much my favorite creation, ever, and the namesake for this site. Then I wrote another version for Bone Deep, the sequel to Getting Thin (due for release very soon, I promise). Sometimes, the ideas behind these two stories – fear, shadows, hidden evil, getting lost, death – seem best embodied by the forests themselves or the things that can only live in a dark forest.
For me, Darkwood began as a mad forest. It is dangerous, a place where the rules change constantly and the path might seem nice and straight but, without any warning at all, might vanish and leave you lost, alone, and scared out of your mind in the dark. I wanted to create an enchanted wood, but not a nice one because, well, rainbows and unicorns aren’t really my style. I did give the elves of Inìsfail a very nice enchanted wood. I just didn’t want to live there myself and, for the first book, at least, I pretty much had to live in the forest. The whole point of Darkwood was to give this sense of mystery and darkness, that not everything is wonderful and perfect in this place. It is presented as almost evil, but only in the way of a grouchy old man with a gun who shoots trespassers. Stay away from the forest, don’t upset her, and you’re fine. Go digging up her trees or dancing around being annoyingly cute and you probably won’t be coming out. Snow White would not have lasted long, but only because I wanted a very different sort of main character. I wanted to create a heroine that wasn’t in need of rescuing, someone who grew up in a dangerous place and, while naïve, was also tough enough to learn to adapt. And Darkwood was born.
My forest is something that will kill those who break its peace, no matter who they are and while I am not into symbols or trying to hide the idea of a crazy, dangerous world behind the mask of wilderness, I suppose Darkwood does sort of represent the reality of Inìsfail. It is an evil that is sleeping. Not gone. The darkness that once held sway in this place is still there, just beneath the surface. When I’ve finished the series, I’ll be glad to talk about why Darkwood had to be the way it is, why it was important to Shea and who she is, and why it was never a symbol for anything but itself, but that has to wait; I wouldn’t want to spoil anything for my readers 😉 Anyway, anyone who gets to the last book will already know.
What I’d really like to get into over the next few weeks is the tapestry of forests that hangs in our background as a species and as individuals and why the idea of running out into the wilderness lingers on, possibly even more desirable now that our world has grown so small. I’ll be writing about a few famous haunted forests and a few not quite so famous forests I, personally, have been in. We’ll talk about the prevalence of the wicked wood in fairytales, and maybe even find a few new places to camp. If you’re brave enough. Also, I’ll be posting one or two of my own short fictions. I’d love to hear from everyone else, of course. What’s your favorite forest and why? Have you ever been lost in one? Ever had a creepy experience in one or gone out soul searching? Personal stories are always welcome here, please feel free to share 😉
Thanks for joining me! So I’ve heard it over and over. You need a blog. And, because I am, by nature, reclusive and strange, my response has always been ‘ick, no.’ But, lately I’ve been thinking about my life as a writer. See, my reclusiveness is at odds with my desire to share my stories. I want more readers and this year is set to be one of the biggest in my career, release wise and the blog thing has become almost a chant from every single person I talk to. So here we are. You sitting patiently, waiting for me to be brilliant and me sitting over here like ‘why are you looking at me like that?’
Yeah, blogging has never been my thing. I don’t go to parties, my taste in movies is downright weird, and even when it comes to books my recommendations are often odd. I could spend hours telling you how to write, but every single bit of advice is going to be meaningless once I give you the only thing you will ever really use. Which is: figure out what works for you. I could tell you what I do every single day. And none of it might work for you. One writer will tell you to write every single day and another will tell you they only write when they have a handle on the story. If you are a writer, this is your fight and the only way to be any good at it is to figure out what works for you.
So there I was, with this confusing muddle of ‘what could I possibly have to say’, cringing every single time someone told me to start a site with a blog, trying to figure out another way to find my readers. Then it hit me like a load of bricks (you know, the sort stamped with ‘how did I not think of that before’) dropping right on my head. I don’t teach writing classes and I’m not looking to start. There are so many people out there that are better for that job because my second piece of advice is ‘suck it up, Buttercup, and read the last paragraph’. I’m not the sort to coddle you through writer’s block because I’ve been there a thousand times and have come to know it for exactly what it is. Self pity and avoidance. Something is not right in Wonderland and you need to figure it out for yourself. And sitting online reading a thousand blogs will never, ever help you because it is your muse pouting silently in the corner and, like your last girlfriend, she’s waiting for you to say or do something to make her love you again. Hint: start by turning off your phone and logging off Facebook.
So why would I start a blog giving out my opinion on anything or trying to offer up advice other writers have already given a thousand times over in far kinder ways than I am capable of? I wouldn’t and that was where I so often ran up against a wall when the word ‘blog’ came up. What I would do, however, is tell stories. Because that is pretty much all I want to do, all the time, every single day. Not just my own stories either. See, when I was about ten, I became fascinated with two things. Ghosts and magic. In fact, I became so enamored with both that I read every single thing I could. I have read so much over so many years that I can tell you stories from Celtic Mythology and reel out the names of all the Gods and Goddesses in Greek Mythology just to turn around and give you a lecture on their Roman incarnations. Then I can tell you all about the most famous haunted houses and more than a few nobody else really knows about. Urban legends? Right here, baby. And, yes, I can give you a list of excellent books to read if you are into any of these things. What hit me, my dears, is the simple, inescapable fact that, until now, I’d never thought to attach to the idea of blogging what I practice in my stories. Write what you love.
I was that kid at Halloween that was watching the Garfield Halloween special on one channel and taping Ichabod Crane and the Headless Horseman on another. I was the kid in high school English that wrote a twenty page paper on the Pantheon of Greek Mythology (true story). I am that crazy person that wishes I’d gotten a letter from Hogwarts and still stubbornly insists that Santa Claus, in some form or another, does exist.
So here’s the deal. I won’t promise to be brilliant. Writing short has never been my strong suit. But I plan on sharing a number of things with you. I am going to be drawing on everything from my vast library of myths and legends, my knowledge of ghost stories, and my own short fiction, some of which will include short stories from my War For Inìsfail series and my own ghost stories. I am going to, on occasion, be lazy and tell you who else you ought to be reading (and that’s a list we’ll never get to the bottom of) and why. And, yes, this is all copyrighted. Please do not steal from me; I bite.
Good company in a journey makes the way seem shorter. — Izaak Walton