1. photojazz
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    photojazz Member

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    First Novel written

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by photojazz, Feb 15, 2014.

    but questions!

    Sticking to my plan to keep my novel completely under wraps, I will not divulge my book at this point. However, I am SO new to this hobby, passion, sickness, profession. (take your pick), that I'd like to get a little input from a few pros.

    I have read that a Novella is difficult to sell. Anyone care to comment on that statement?

    I am really at a crossroads with my book, do I leave it alone at Novella Length, and creatively what I felt was the natural start and stop point, or do I try to explore some new avenues to expand the book and push closer to full novel length, (going to have to be a pretty big push!). I've considered backing the start point up to include a lot of prefix info, and expanding some other items that were not explored in the book. But will this diluting become boring monotonous fluff. It might.

    In case you are wondering, a word counter reveals 41,900 words Type written 8.5 X 11 pages double spaced with 1" margin, it comes up to about 130 pages.

    I wrote my novel in about 2 weeks. I guess I write pretty fast. It just clicked. Which was pretty crazy, considering I've only written forum posts and technical documents since college many years ago.

    My novel is romance/adventure oriented with a little mystery as well.

    Do you think I have a chance at selling my Novella length fiction book if it's any good, or am I wasting my time with this length book?
    Do I need to expand it or throw it in a drawer until someday when maybe I have credits, and people l might jump at something small from me, if I was to ever get so bestowed with fortune.
    I guess the bottom line, if I expand it, but somehow ruin the creative footprint of my book by diluting it, am I worse off than just trying to sell a Novella length book?

    I like my book the length it is. But I would like to sell work. I want to be a working author. Obviously, I plan to write more. I have a few concepts on the dart board right now as soon as some tasks are completed to allow dedication.

    Thanks much!
    Doug
     
    Last edited: Feb 15, 2014
  2. Nightstar99
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    Nightstar99 Contributing Member

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    Hello Doug. Congrats on finishing your first book!

    Without reading it I have no idea about any of your questions, why dont you send it to some agents and see if anyone is interested in giving you feedback?

    You can also pay an editor to look at it or just show it some friends and see what they think.
     
  3. Thomas Kitchen
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    Thomas Kitchen Proofreader in the Making Contributor

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    Whatever you do, don't expand or reduce your finished product (reducing is a different thing from tightening). Leave it where, as you say, it naturally ended. That's good, because if you do add or take away too much, then it will feel false and either noticeably bloated or shriveled.

    Yes, novellas are harder to sell, but nothing is impossible. I agree with Nightstar: have a look at some agents' websites, send them a proposal (plenty of books and internet pages that tell you how to do that, although be careful with the latter method), and see if any of them pick you up. Don't give up after the first three you send out; send it out to as many agents you think will suit both you and your work. Also, have a look at how many publishers actually publish novellas, as it might be a larger number than you think.

    Also, if you are worried about it, do you think your novella could be treated as a book for children? It is a good length for growing boys and girls, and you might want to consider that, too. Just a thought, although you'd probably have to tweak the words quite a bit.

    Just remember, though, that you should let your work settle for at least a couple of weeks before you pick it up again to edit. It will leave a little more 'cold' to your work, almost as an outsider looking in, rather than the actual author. You should be able to edit and find mistakes a little easier.

    Well done, and keep at it! :)
     
  4. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    in the US, neither agents nor paying publishers of print books will take on adult market novellas, as they don't sell at the price they have to set due to the cost of turning the ms into a too-thin book... even romance presses that sell shortish p/bs would find 42k way too short...

    so, the only alternative i can see for you is to self-publish it as an 3-book, since they can be any size...
     
  5. photojazz
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    photojazz Member

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    Ok then. That produced about what I would have expected so far. I've got the snowball's chance in hell answer, and the stay true to your work answer.

    Nightstar, I have considered sending a query to a few agents, and I might yet. I am just trying to put some thought into where my book is in the process and ask myself a lot of questions. Is my book all that it could be at this point, are there things I should add that will increase it's length, and provide a fuller picture of my characters? Should I keep the story short and to the point. Move on in my writing process and keep this story for later, after I have more experience. I'm still not sure I have a right or wrong answer. Of course, the story won't go anywhere until I am ready for it to.

    As soon as I finish another editing pass or two, I will probably print the short version of the manuscript, and test my work on a few people. There's one or two avid readers I have in mind to test my work with. Additionally, I do have a connection with a PHD in an English department at an academic institution. It's possible I could get notes from him or someone he recommends. Possible, not probable.

    Thomas, this particular book is definitely not for children. It's strictly adult oriented. It would take one heck of a lot of editing to clean that up. Good point on letting the work settle. Actually, other than starting to add possible new chapters that are independent, I have not changed my work since finishing it last weekend. Well, I did do a few edits last night, minor stuff mostly, other than changing page 1. That was pretty significant.

    mammamaia, P/BS? 3-book?

    I am pretty new to this, so I guess you lost me on those two terms. Thanks.

    Thanks all for any encouragement, and for any doses of reality. I appreciate it all. This is an iterative process. wash rinse repeat. It is not cut and dry. So, I don't expect any cut and dry answers.
     
  6. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    Regardless of what you decide to do, keep in mind that your first serious work can be a great learning experience. At the very least, you should obtain a serious critique of it to see if your writing is on track.

    Good luck.
     
  7. chicagoliz
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    chicagoliz Contributing Member Contributor

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    As others have said, under no circumstances should you add stuff to your story just to make it longer. But, given that you finished your story in a pretty short period of time, while you're editing, you *might* find that you need to expand it in order to make things clearer, or to give a fuller picture of what's going on, or define the characters a little more. So it is possible that during the editing process you could end up making it longer. After all, many novels have been based on short stories that an author wrote, which ended up later being expanded into a longer story.

    But, if you find your story is complete as it is, don't lengthen it. Yes, it is in kind of a no-man's land as far as commercial viability, at least via traditional publishing. (Novellas can have more success in the self-publishing market.) But, it is possible also, that you might be able to write a group of inter-connected short stories, and kind of fudge that novella label into a long short story label in connection with that. I've seen quite a few short story collections where one of the stories takes up about half the book. But of course, I have to add that a collection of short stories is also a tough sell in the traditional publishing market for an unknown author.
     
  8. photojazz
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    photojazz Member

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    Ed, I definitely agree, that there was a lot learned in this first venture into writing. I actually noticed myself turning a corner around 50-60 pages of manuscript. The words were flowing much easier. For a while, and this may sound a little scary, but I felt the story was actually writing itself. I was just the typist to get it on paper er' uh in Word. Is that crazy? LOL

    Liz, well said. Actually, I did add certain components already, and expanded some things during edits. So my first pass was really short I guess. I'm not thinking of that as such a bad thing though. It's just what it was. Someday, I may think of a story I have trouble containing to epic proportions. If and when that happens, I may look back on this moment with laughter.

    Then there is always the possibility that my book is actually intended to be a screen play. It may well be a made for TV movie, well showtime, unless it's cleaned up some. lol. My book does contain some adult language and sex.

    I actually did think that this character could have more viability than just this one story Liz. It's possible. I've built a character, a character that could be dropped into a number of circumstances and make the story work. So, from that perspective, it is possible that I could back the story up, and create a new story. I could then think of it as 2 short stories, or I could think of it as a book with part 1 and part 2. As long as they flow seamlessly together, they are chapters. No more, and no less. So, that gives me something to consider. Cool.
     
  9. Tesoro
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    Tesoro Contributing Member Contributor

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    I was about to say the same as Mammamaia, why don't you self publish it? I have the same thoughts for my current WIP, I think it's going to be too short for a novel, and I'm starting to consider that option for myself as well.
     
  10. photojazz
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    photojazz Member

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    Tesoro, I have a lot to learn. I have heard the term self publish, yes. I'm not entirely sure exactly what all that entails. I have read that you basically subcontract out the book's assembly, is that a fair statement? but then the marketing and sales are your responsibility as well, and without channels, a published book is well, a nice paperweight. I am sure there's a LOT I do not know about this, I just haven't taken the time to research self publishing much yet. Someone once likened learning a lot of new stuff to taking a drink out of a fire hose. That's a bit how I feel right now. I can only drink just a little bit of what is passing by. I am sure I will learn more in time. Today, not so much. But I am spread pretty thin at the moment too, with some other projects unrelated to writing. I hope to get most that off my plate within a few weeks.
     
  11. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Self-publishing it wouldn't become nice paperweight if you publish it on Kindle, an e-version. It's free to do - it's just a bit of hassle/work to get the formatting and cover designs right, but the rest is just uploading it. I think shorts and novellas tend to do better as e-books because the prices are lower, aka the customer does not have to invest a lot to read it. In the case of uploading it to Smashwords and Amazon etc, you can do it yourself free of charge. There're indeed services that can do formatting and even uploading it onto the right platforms for you, but you'd have to pay. With some research you can do this by yourself.

    And yes, promotion and distribution etc are up to you. In terms of exposure, it'll probably be harder to get than if you went with a traditional publisher, but the truth is, word of mouth is usually the most successful promotional method, and in that case I don't see what difference it could make to be self or trad-pubbed. Another best way to promote your books is basically this: write more. Put up more books under your name, so your works would pop up in the search engines or related items section etc. There're definitely advantages and disadvantages in both routes (self-publishing and traditional publishing). For your particular case, I'd say self-pub might be the best because big publishing houses don't tend to be interested in short works from debut authors. Or you can of course shelf the novella until you're famous from other longer works, but you could be waiting a long time potentially.

    Don't lengthen a book for the sake of length, if you can help it, and as others have said, you may find there're areas that would shine better if you expanded on them, but you will see if that's the case when you edit. But don't lengthen it "just because".
     
  12. JayG
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    JayG Banned Contributor

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    I hate to do this to you, but this, alone, says you're not where you want to be. Assuming that this is a serious post, some points any new writer needs to know:

    1. Your plot is neither new or special, and announcing it, in detail would give nothing away, because unless your writing is on a professional level, the reader will close the cover and walk away before the end of page one. So that brilliant idea will never be seen. And of course, every year, year after year, tens of thousands of books are successfully published. Given that each of them was selected from 1000 submissions, you can see that in total, the publishers see over 100,000 submissions each year. No way in hell will your idea be unique.

    2. In our schooling we're taught nonfiction writing techniques because that's what most adults need to make them competitive in the job market. So starting out, we have no clue of how to write fiction for the printed word. This is especially true, given that our storytelling skills are verbal, and are performance skills that don't translate to the printed word.

    3. When we read our own work back we have intent, memories, images, and more driving our understanding, so it makes perfect sense. But when someone else reads our words we, our intent, and everything about us becomes irrelevant. Only the selected and arranged words count, and even then, it's the reader's impression o what they mean, not the author's that matters.
    .
    You're in the wrong place, then. While some of us have been published, damn few who post in these forums are making their living through their fiction.
    How many novellas do you see on sale at your local bookstores? You'll find your answer there. While online-only publishers do sell novellas they're making their money through small sales from many stories.

    Here's the thing, and I hate to disappoint you: writing fiction is a difficult and demanding profession that takes years of study, thought, and work to perfect. The average writer chews through a half million words that are written, polished, and put aside before that first contract. You've written a total of less than 50k/words, and spent no time being mentored or tutored. You've not looked into what publishers look at as professional writing, or even the current market conditions. For your work to be ready to submit you would have had to guess right at a thousand decision points you weren't even aware were decision points.

    Given that, before you think of submitting your work you might want to do just a little research on the structure and composition of fiction. And for that the local free library's fiction writing section is a great resource.
     
  13. Okon
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    Okon Contributing Member Contributor

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    Have you done any editing yet? That's a very important step before even looking for a critique, let alone sending to a publisher.
     
  14. photojazz
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    photojazz Member

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    Mckk, thanks for your input, and shedding some light on the self pub route. Again, I've either been writing, editing, or working on some other projects that are necessary at this point in my life, I haven't had a lot of research time yet and I have not picked up any info to read on self publishing. I know that I have a lot of work to do, regardless of if I go agent/publisher route, or self publishing. So, it is definitely early in this process for me. I know that.

    Also, announcement to all. I never really said I am ready to publish tomorrow. What I am doing here, is gaining ground on that publish date, when I have determined my novella/novel is ready to go. I have not made the final creative decision to keep it like it is, or expand it. I do have some expansion ideas that would definitely add to the front end of the book, and would also add a lot of of background on my protagonist, and another character that is a sub character.

    Jay, I am not so naive that I think my idea is completely original. Truly, there probably aren't a lot of completely original ideas out there. But I am so new to this, that I don't want to get in my own way either. That means, I take baby steps through this process, and don't burst through the gate, and screw stuff up before I even get started. I think I am wise to do that.

    Okon, I have made several editing passes through my writing already. I have made some technical changes fixing plot holes, and I have done a lot of grammar editing. Am I through? To that I would say, is a person ever really through if they are editing their own work? No, I am not through.
     
  15. Okon
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    Okon Contributing Member Contributor

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    I'm 2/9'th finished writing what will end up at about 90k words. I love every bit of it and I think it's original, but I'm not going to publish it.

    Why?

    Because it's my first book. You mentioned taking baby steps and not bursting through gates: how is publishing your first large work not comparable to making giant, clumsy leaps? Ever look back at something you wrote when you were seven? Fourteen? I do sometimes, and I wince. Hard. How about looking back at what you wrote at the start of what you seem to think will become a career? The half-million rule makes sense.

    It does sound like you're determined to get it out there, though. If so, I suggest self-pub under a pen name. If your work claws up from the burning slush pile of tissue paper out there, then you can just stick with the golden name and be hailed as the mysterious new King or Wells or Rowling. If it turns out that your final, supremely-polished work isn't as good as you thought it was, and ends up landing far below par, then who cares? It's just a pen name;).

    In spite of either result, you'll be heading back to that word processor to hone your craft.
     
  16. photojazz
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    photojazz Member

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    I am probably as determined as anyone out there at this point Okron. But you make some good points about not publishing Okron. Indeed, I have considered shelving it and starting a second book, then coming back to the idea, or seeing how I do with another effort before self publishing at least. We'll see. One thing is for sure, I am not doing anything until I have had a few people read my book.

    Jay, FYI, I don't really believe you hated doing that to me, I rather think you enjoyed it probably based upon your condescending attitude. Just because I want to keep my book under wraps, does not mean I am not ready either. You certainly don't know the status of my book. You've not read one word of it.
     
  17. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    These three statements lead me to say, "Don't worry about length yet."

    You may have a tremendous amount of innate writing talent, but I think that *any* writer at your stage of experience will have plenty of things to learn before he can produce a piece of work that is ready to publish. So I would suggest that you find ways to expose your writing to readers--critique groups, the Review Room here, test readers, and so on--and see what you learn from that process. If you don't want to expose your novel yet, write some short stories that you feel less protective of.

    If you discover that, wow, you are the un-heard-of person who can produce professional writing at the very beginning of his writing career, then turn back to worrying about the length of your novel. But you may well discover things that result in your novel growing, expanding, transforming, and becoming something of publishable length. So don't worry about the length issue right now; wait.
     
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  18. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    Not crazy, but also not indicative of work that's ready to be published. When I wrote my first attempt at a novel, I was amazed at how easily words flowed once I got into it. The software I used at the time did not automatically provide word count, you had to press an F-key. I didn't until I had finished it, and was shocked that over 400,000 words had flowed. An agent pointed out several common novice errors that contributed to the inflation, and I was able to edit it down to a more-reasonable-but-still-much-too large 140,000 words. I realized that there were structural problems in the novel that the excess verbiage had served to hide, and I decided to shelve it as a keepsake and a marker of progress.

    So, I wholeheartedly second @ChickenFreak's excellent advice above.

    One other thing - @JayG was correct when he pointed out that very few members of this forum are making their living on their writing. I tend to view this forum as similar to a law school study group, with certain members being strong in certain things. You will probably come to recognize a precious few whose advice you trust on most matters, others who are entertaining to read and some who are just friends. Like a study group, we don't claim to be established pros, but some have learned and are willing to share at least some of what it takes to get there.
     
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  19. Jhunter
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    Jhunter Mmm, bacon. Contributor

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    Agreed.
     
  20. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    jazz...

    sorry for the confusion... that '3' was supposed to be an 'e'... as in 'e-book'... and 'p/b' = 'paperback'...
     
  21. photojazz
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    photojazz Member

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    Thank you all for your input. I do appreciate it. I will answer with more input when I am not so tired and short on time. Tonight it's time for bed.
     
  22. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    Hi @photojazz. I've read through all these responses, and none of them have asked MY first question. Who, besides yourself, has read your story yet? Have you passed it to a couple (or more) beta readers for evaluation? Are you at that stage yet? I would say, after doing a preliminary edit of your own, this is the most important next step. Get a variety of other people to read it.

    Getting reader feedback—especially from people who are maybe experienced writers themselves, who are willing to take the time and be honest—will certainly give you a better idea of your chances for publication. Even people who don't know beans about writing can tell you what they like or don't like about the story, what they wish was there, etc.

    For example, it might turn out that your story DOES need some 'fleshing out.' If you have presented your story in 'telling' mode - ie "Jack was exhausted," or "Jane's cold made her feel horrible," you will probably need to shift to "showing" mode on occasion: "Jack tried to lift his end of the sack one more time, but it slipped from his fingers and he did not have the strength to grip onto it again." Or "Jane's eyes blurred as another wet sneeze gathered at the back of her sinuses. She had just enough time to snatch another Kleenex from her pocket before it exploded out of her. She felt, rather than saw, the other bus passengers cringe. "Sorry," she murmured. "Sorry..."

    You can see this technique more than doubles your word count right there, and gives a more vivid picture of what is happening. (Not that these examples are particularly stellar, but you get the idea...)

    You really need to test your story on 'real' readers before you make up your mind a) that it's truly finished, or b) how to market it.
     
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  23. photojazz
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    photojazz Member

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    Chicken Freak, you snip right to the point, huh? ;) Thanks for your opinion.

    Thanks for the advice Ed. Also the insight. I have since I first started posting decided my book is not ready for primetime. I never thought it was ready for publishing. However, I believe it may require more effort before I am ready to have it read. So I am certainnly not ready to publish.

    Jannert, I thought I responded here. But apparently it didn't post, for some reason. You bring up some good points about the telling and showing mode. Thanks for the tip.

    To answer your question, no, my novella has not been read yet by anyone. I know I want someone to read it eventually, it's just a matter of when, and do I want to do anything else to it FIRST.

    I actually decided in the immediate short term, to continue writing something else first. It's probably the best thing I could do right now. Read books and articles on writing. Read something for pleasure, and write something else. So, that is what I am doing right now. I haven't had much time for text books, but at least I am reading and writing. I started another book. It's been a bit of a slow start, but it is moving anyway. Later on, after it's rested some, I will go back to my first book and revisit it.
    Thanks,
    Doug
     
  24. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    @photojazz - I would make one suggestion. When you read something for pleasure, and it pleases you, go back and take a second (and maybe a third) look and see what it was that you liked so much about it, how the writer told his/her particular story and how that compares to what you do. It's a good way to improve your writing.
     
  25. photojazz
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    photojazz Member

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    Absolutely Ed. I am trying to keep very open eyes in my reading. Another thing I have been doing, checking writer's styles on Amazon.com previews. Great way to sit at your own computer, and read enough to get a general sense of someone's style. Also, great way to view by genre. Of course, it can lead to putting a few books on your reader. too.

    I stepped outside fiction a bit and reading The Monuments Men. I am not sure how much liberties he took with this book, and how much is factual. Interesting read, though not my style of book to write at this point. But I am enjoying reading it for the most part.
     

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