When I was putting together the Rediscovery set, I gave some thought to slightly rewriting The Man From Empire, having had a few reviews where the reviewer indicated they misinterpreted what I was writing.

1) The Empire is significantly older than the return of civilization to Earth. It owes nothing - zilch - zip - nada - to anything we've done here on Earth. There are a very few conventions from the Empire that were either somehow perpetuated on Earth or reintroduced for their own reasons by the stons who found Earth sometime in our 1840s.

2) Osh Scimtar is about fifteen thousand Earth years old. He's a recognized expert in one field, and a polymath with demonstrated professional competence in several others. Grace is twenty-eight when we meet her, a re-entry college student who realizes all of the mistakes she's made earlier in her life. What do you think their respective argumentative weights would be? How effective would you expect her to be at resisting Osh in an argument? That she does resist and keep arguing on one point argues how strong her beliefs are on that issue.

As the writer, clear communication is my job. If I were writing it again, I'd be considerably more heavy handed on these points so they're not misinterpreted so easily as current political polemics. So I was tempted to make some revisions, but I overcame the temptation because it would be something akin to cheating. When Arthur C. Clarke was dissatisfied with Against The Fall of Night, he didn't revise it on the sly - he wrote an entirely new novel The City And The Stars. The Man From Empire was (like Clarke's earlier work) my first novel. I learned from it, and from the reviews, but I think you deserve to see it as it was originally written.

"May I help you?" The receptionist asked. I could tell she was about to tell me that these were the administrative offices and they didn't buy dogs at this location - her mind was all but shouting it. I don't know why - I was still in Imperial uniform today, and would be for two more days.

"Actually, I'm one of the investors, and I'm looking for my sister Dalia. She should be expecting me."

"And you are...?"

"Graciela Juarez." She was skeptical that I was who I said I was. I looked like I was thirty Imperial (21 Earth years), and she had to know my eldest sister was about one hundred thirty. But my perception could tell there was exactly one person in the office behind the closed door, and the mind felt like what I remembered of Dalia. Still, I decided to make one more try, "I was the original dog lady. I was also Earth's first Guardian - I'm older than I look. If you look at the photographs on the wall behind you, you'll see me in several, including with these two dogs." According to Earth's calendar, I was 108. By my own sense of duration experienced, I was fifty-three Earth years of age. Earth's years were longer than standard Imperial, but duration passed about four times more quickly here.

She gave me a look I recognized well - you've got to be kidding me. "But that was seventy years ago! And you don't look like family!"

I got it. This young woman was a great grand-niece or something. "Who's your mother? Mandy? Molly?"
I didn't get any further, "My grandmother's name is Mandy. The boss is my great-grandmother."

"I just visited your grandfather yesterday on Sharanna, but how is Mandy these days?" Divorces happen. People drift apart. Mandy felt she needed to get away from the family when she divorced Peter.

"She's well. She still breeds dogs, but she sells through Meneas." Mandy hadn't been one of the original workers, but she'd come to work for me part time when the Empire came to Earth.

"How is Meneas?" He was an old associate of mine. I brought him from the Empire to help me start the dog trade between the Empire and Earth. He now headed the family's main rival in the dog trade, but it was professional rivalry, nothing personal and no bad blood. At least none that I was aware of. There was plenty of Empire to sell dogs in. Last I knew, he was still the pilot for the commercial run between Earth and the Empire that the family also operated. He was operant, but not a fully trained Guardian. At least the last time I knew. "Is he still doing the charter runs back to the Empire?"

"He talks about quitting, but yes. I think if he quit, he'd have to ride along anyway to know how many dogs to ship where. Might as well get paid for the trip. Okay, you know enough to maybe be my great-grandaunt. I'm Therese, and ..."

"Marta is your mother. She was only two months old the last time I visited."

She was thinking, that's creepy, but to her credit, she didn't say it. I suppose she had a point from the point of view of most Earth people. It had only been about fifteen years from my point of view. But the universe doesn't care about feelings, only facts. Time in Earth's Instance moved about four times faster than in the Imperial Home Instance. I suppose I could have visited to stretch out the leave time I'd taken, but I hadn't.
She knocked on the door to the inner office. "Ma'am, your sister is here." So Dalia had the family used to the difference between work and home. Good.

The door flew open, and out came my sister Dalia. She looked every bit the successful Earth businesswoman I remembered, about my height, a little heavier in terms of appearance, but shockingly to me, she also looked like she was at least sixty. She still had that golf ball sized diamond I'd made her when I first returned to Earth. I'd made the diamond from a converter before I realized the price of diamonds at the time, before the Empire brought converters to Earth. She'd been the one to put it on a gold necklace. Everyone used to assume it was fake. Now they didn't care - converters were common, even on Earth. Anyone could have a diamond that size.

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Then, with an hour still to go, we took a walk, the two of us meandering through the public areas of the level, hand-in-hand, just being alone together in the crowd. We sat on a planter and watched people go by, then with ten minutes until the reporting window opened, we teleported into the transport terminal in the small city at Fulda, no more than three or four million people. From there, we took a public portal to the base gate, used our orders to pass the gate and approached the induction center. Entering, we found that there was no line. "Excuse me," I asked the attendant, "We have orders to report between fortythree and fortyfour, but it's only fortytwo fiftytwo. Would it be better to formally report now or to wait?"

"A good start," the woman in the uniform of a Staff Private commended us, "We'll take you now."

The hardest part was cutting off my hair. I've never been a beauty (unless you asked Asto) but I took good care of my hair. It was very dark brown, almost black, and thick, with just a hint of wave and went down to my shoulders and they simply told me to stand here and cut it all off in about fifteen seconds. I'd been expecting it, but it was still difficult to accept. They took our measurements, issued us recruit clothing, subjected us to a quick medical exam despite the fact that as Guardians, we were as qualified to heal as their doctor, told us to get dressed and told us to go wait in a room with two other people, both of whom were obviously operant as well. There we sat for several hours, waiting. A couple more people came in, one at a time, all operant. There was a purpose to everything the military did with recruits, Parnit had informed us. Part of the purpose was to start off making it obvious that according to the military, nobody was any more or less special than anyone else. That said, it would be ridiculous to start Guardians and other operants on the same training regimen as natural state recruits, so they didn't. They'd be shipping us off to a training unit designed for the fact that we could do things natural state humans couldn't. We were stronger, faster, more agile, physically superior in every way because we'd won the operancy lottery and were able to augment ourselves better than healers could augment natural state humans. But our training was designed to accomplish the same thing theirs was: force us beyond our normal limits and teach us what we needed to know. Make us understand that to the military, a soldier was a soldier was a soldier. Nobody was intrinsically more valuable than anyone else, as a soldier or as a human being.

Eventually, they sent an inoperant trained private in to take us to a meal. He formed us up into a file, and walked us about half a kilometer to a place where they served three different kinds of tasteless glop; protein glop, carb glop, roughage glop. The glop was nutritious, but about as appetizing as cold baby food. It was likely mass extruded out of a converter that could just as easily have produced something appealing. Once again, the military had their reasons for everything. They wanted you to think of yourself as one more cog, no more important than the one next to you. Once that pattern of thought was engrained, trained soldiers got better food. Oh well, I suppose they could have just thrown us a chunk of Life and a cube of water, so it could have been worse. Come to think of it, as unappealing as the glop was, I'd rather have gnawed a chunk of Life.

Meal concluded, the same private escorted us back to more hours of waiting. One more operant inductee joined us, and then the same Trained Private came in with an operant Staff Private. Addressing us, he said, "This is Staff Private Ugatu," gesturing at the Staff Private, "He will be escorting you to your training facility and turning you over to your unit Instructor. Follow his instructions." Why was a lowly Trained Private instructing us to obey a Staff Private, several grades higher? Because staff ranks were not part of the chain of command. Yes, a Staff Private was senior to us, but wasn't normally entitled to give orders, to us or to anyone else. Technically speaking, if we obeyed an order from a Staff Private without such an instruction, we'd be responsible for the consequences. "There are reasons for everything the Imperial military does," Parnit had explained over and over. "You might not understand or even agree with those reasons. You might think they are pointless, even counterproductive. The reasons are never explained, for reasons that won't be explained to you, either, at least not until you achieve your first staff rank. But every single one of them has been field tested and cross-checked over thirty square (75,000+ Earth years) of successful operations covering an incredible volume of space and situations too varied for you or even me to imagine."


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Catharin slept through the night, so when I awoke, I carefully disentangled myself from Petra while making certain the blankets still covered her. She drowsily stirred enough for a quick kiss, then I dressed hurriedly and strode quickly through the Tower down the two levels to where Neekel awaited in his assigned room.

"How does my lord Alexan intend to travel?"

"You have heard the story of the seven leagued boots?" The story seemed to be one that went wherever humans did. He nodded. "I can do slightly better." I took him by the hand and teleported us about two paces into the air above the King's camp.

He cried out at the sudden fall, but my sympathy for him was limited. I let him fall about my own height in the light of dawn - being east of Treemount, the day was a few minutes more advanced here at Avande. Had he been seriously injured, I would have healed him, but the odds were against it.

I admit I could have spotted us on the ground. My survey of the previous evening was precise enough, but ultsi learned at an early age always to build in a margin for error when we could. Being too low would have violated one of the Exclusion Principles on a macrocosmic level. In other words, BOOM! - with fatal consequences for everyone around, possibly even myself. By comparison, the density and fluidity of air meant things were much more controllable, and a few feet high was no challenge to survive unscathed. I lit with legs bent slightly to absorb the fall.

I looked around, ascertained the location of the King's tent, and strode off in that direction. Neekel would find his way back to whichever superior he reported to on his own. I was challenged by one guard who'd seen our abrupt arrival, but his partner stayed him, saying, "It's Jarl Alexan, fool! If you challenge him and he doesn't know the pass, you'll get both of us killed to no good purpose!"

"Actually, I try to avoid killing King Edvard's men for doing their jobs," I responded, "But I doubt you'd enjoy the experience anyway. The pass is Queen Veronia." I'd read it out of their surface thoughts.

"Thank you, Lord Alexan!" and they both saluted.

The King's tent was not far. "Alexan! I'd hoped to see you yesterday!" King Edvard was already armored for the day.

"My apologies, Your Majesty, but I was on an errand of my own when your messenger arrived. Since it was too late in the day to begin an assault when I returned to Kiltig's Tower, I decided to wait until this morning."

"If I'd known you were coming, I'd have the men in better order for an assault already. Do you have a plan?"

"Nothing solid. I brought along a few mana bombs like I used on the diligar cohorts last year, but a quick survey didn't suggest anything masterful. I decided to consult with Your Majesty, as your engineers have had a week to prepare the field."

"Not nearly enough time. They tell me the soil is too moisture-laden to be easily tunneled. Pity you can't simply knock the walls down."

"Who says I can't? It would require loosing enough energy to destroy most of the rest of the town, though, and I presume you'd prefer to have the townsfolk alive and paying you taxes. Would it be sufficient to simply remove it?"

1. Go ahead and introduce yourself.

Zebulon Kyle. Most folks call me Ol' Zeb.

2.Tell us where and when were you born.

I was born in South Carolina, on an Indigo plantation near Charleston. I couldn' tell ya what year but I 'member people talking about Old Hick'ry Jackson when I was a young-un.

3. How would you describe yourself?

In pretty good shape for someone of my years! It could have somethin' ta do with the elves teaching me neecro..aw hell - healing!

4. Tell us about where you grew up.

I's a slave on a plantation. Massa worked us all day.

5. How old are you?

Not sure eggsakly. What year is it? Really? I don't reckin I'm two hunnert yet, then!

6. Did you have a happy childhood? Why/why not?

My mammy did the best she could after Massa sold Daddy away down south, but there were four of us young-uns and she didn't get much from Massa. Thin's got a little easier when my sisters left, but we still had to work hard.

7. Past/ present relationships? How did they affect you?

The women they love me!

8. What do you value above all else in life?

Bein' my own man.

9. What are you obsessed with?

Obsessed? What's that? Right now I want the elven mages to teach me a little more life magic. I think there's a way to make m'self young again! They promised if'n I help this young feller Mark Jackson, they'll help me.

10.How do your beliefs make life better for yourself and the people you care about?

Since Mammy died, haven't really cared about no one. I believe in Jesus and life everlastin' for humans, but the elves have their own deal goin' with the Mother in the Summerlands.

11. Biggest fear?

I ain't afeered o' much. Maybe drawing the eye o' one o' the big powers... Nah, pissing off the elves so they don't help me learn no more!

12. What line will you never cross?

Never thought about that one. Don't want to tangle with ennythin' I cain't handle.

13. What is the best thing that ever happened to you? The worst?

Bein' born a slave was the worst. Escaping was the best - until I went back and bought Mammy's freedom from Massa with fairy gold!

14. Most embarrassing thing that ever happened to you?

There was this woman one time, I thought she liked me! And she not only threw me out, she took two dollers ta go off with someone else!

15. Biggest secret?

Wouldn't do you no good to hear it - you're not a mage!

16. What is the one word you would use to define yourself?

Slick. Ah'm slick!

17. What is your current goal?

Ah want to learn to make m'self young agin!


Zebulon Kyle is a supporting character in The Gates of Faerie available through Amazon and also all of the Books2Read retailers such as Apple, Barnes and Noble, Kobo, and their library services as well. He's looking forward to a bigger role in the second book, tentatively titled "Gifts Of The Mother".


Rediscovery Medium.jpg

Releasing the four novel Rediscovery series as a set today.

The e-book is available from Amazon or the Books2Read retailers (Apple, B&N, Kobo, etcetera) for $9.99 US. Essentially buy the first two, get the third for a buck and the final novel is free.

For paperback fans, Amazon couldn't handle the file as it was. The only way we could get the paperback through Amazon was to make it 8.5 x 11, and in 10 point type. The paper size is fine, but 10 point type is less readable than I'd like. The advantage is the set is $22.99 on Amazon, less than half the price of the four paperbacks individually.

The Books2Read retailers are selling a more readable 12 point type. It's more expensive at $32.99 - still $15 less than the price of the four individual novels - but much more readable.

If you're a fan of library checkouts, Books2Read includes several library services such as Overdrive and Biblioteca. Find out which your favorite library uses and ask them to order a copy!

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Rediscovery 4 Book Omnibus

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Got the file uploaded for the Rediscovery omnibus edition both to Amazon and Draft2Digital. E-books are fine and will launch November 4, but Amazon is not liking the file length for print as it's above their Print page ceiling.

In order to get the paperback within Amazon requirements, I had to move the type size down to 10 point, which is less readable than I would like. It's also 8.5x11, as opposed to most paperbacks being 6x9. The good news is that it's only $22.99, which is basically four books for the price of two. The pre-order link for the actual paperback on Amazon only is: Rediscovery

Draft2Digital could also only do the print edition in 8.5x11 trim, but they could do it in more readable 12 point, so I recommend that edition. $32.99, which is still better than ten bucks off the price of the four novels in print individually, available from Kobo, B&N, Apple and all of the other Books2Read Retailers (and library services!) but not Amazon: Rediscovery

The e-book will be a heck of a good deal, either on Amazon or through all the Books2Read retailers: All four books for $9.99, which is essentially buy two, get the third for a buck and the fourth one free. They are basically the same with only slight differences to tailor them for specific reader hardware, as with e-books you get to control the print size on your reader.

The Books2Read retailers' link for Rediscovery (also useful if you want your local library to acquire a copy) is here: Rediscovery

The e-book link for Amazon is here: Rediscovery

Ten seconds later, we grounded with a thump-KLANG. Harder than I liked to put my ships down, but with a full hull charge, I had no reason to believe Ugatu had endangered the ship or anyone in it. Weight returned as the impellers went dormant. I stayed buckled and so did Asto; nobody had told us we were getting off here.

A few seconds later, Ugatu came back into the cargo bay and did just that, "Unstrap yourselves and grab your bags. Follow me out in reverse order to how you came in. Welcome to Sharanna Military Reservation Twentythree, the Empire's newest initial military training facility for Guardians. You'll be here until you pass or they allow you to quit."

The lone man who'd been on the opposite side of the ship followed him out first, followed by the left side from front to back, reversing the order we'd loaded in. We debarked on a much larger landing field, with many ships of varying sizes from Starbird all the way up to convoy craft at least, and it was just that I didn't see anything bigger, not that I was certain it wasn't there. First, we trotted at the same speed away from the ship as we had in approaching. This area of Sharanna was a lot cooler and less humid than Fulda or even Sumabad; maybe the equivalent of five degrees Celsius outside. Cold enough for natural state humans to be uncomfortable, and you could feel a hint of rain in the air. Classic towering cumulus and cumulonimbus clouds occupied a good slice of the horizon, approaching rapidly, and you could see the rain approaching. Overhead, the clear sky was rapidly turning to grey. Once the weather got up steam here, it could really move fast and grow powerful enough to make a joke of any Earthly storm. Imperial construction was tough; people just didn't go out when storms were bad. Sharanna was a completely artificial environment, so unless there was an intentionally created barrier, storms could travel millions of kilometers, alternately waxing and waning the whole way until they did run into something that stopped them for good. Kind of like the Great Plains states, or the oceans of Earth, times a thousand or so. My dog farm was in the prevailing wind-shadow of Band City with its massive ten and twenty mile high arcologies spreading across a swath a million kilometers or more in any direction, and no major sources of storms between the city and the farm. I gathered that this place was not so sheltered.

Another operant was waiting for us, a woman in a uniform like none I had seen before. It was Imperial forces field uniform, but with a large white tabard over each shoulder, like enlarged epaulets, as if she were staff, only more so. On each, an insignia of rank the size of my hand was emblazoned, about four times the normal size. It was a private's circle of rank, split by a horizontal white line. Below the line was purple, as in a Senior Private, above was green, as if for a Team Private. "This is Instructor Jereya," Ugatu told us, "She will take you to your barracks and your training units." Then without further ado, he headed back for the cutter.

"This way," the woman said, moving us quickly behind a safety line. As soon as we were all over the line, the cutter was off in a trailing vortex of wind, no sign of its presence remaining. "We're going to start with military discipline now. You jondats will keep step and interval as you follow me. You're all operant, so there's no excuse for violating a ninety isixths interval or getting out of step." The distance was just shy of one Earth meter, a little over three feet. "Each pace is seventy-five isixths, always step off with your left foot. First Step is four paces per second, Third Step is six." Eighty-two Earth centimeters, roughly thirty-two inches per step. Imperial seconds were 1.7 Earth, so first step was about 140 paces per Earth minute - a brisk walk - while third step would be 210 or so, a moderate trot about equal to what we'd done with Ugatu. "Third Step, march! Left-right-left!" she called the pace for three steps, by which time everyone was with it and she ignored it thereafter.

She yelled over her shoulder as she moved. "I am Instructor Jereya! Instructors are specialists, utilized at need to help instruct you pathetic losers in hopes of achieving a marginal competence. We are technically civilians, but unlike Staff, Instructors and Leaders are in your chain of command until you are promoted to Trained Private! All recruits are to treat Instructors as superior to Senior Privates, subordinate to Team Privates! Similarly, Leaders are superior to Team Privates, subordinate to Squad Privates! You will have one Leader to a squad, learn your current Section Leader and otherwise let the Leaders sort out who's a Section Leader! There is one active duty Section Private assigned to command each platoon; they will have final say in all matters having to do with your training. You must have your squad Leader's permission before initiating contact above that squad Leader."

Jereya took absolutely no notice of the impending storm. I didn't believe for a moment she hadn't noticed, but she didn't show that she had. We trotted past several boomerang-shaped assault cruisers and empty, recessed berths in the white pavement intended to hold others as large raindrops started splattering on the pavement and on us. Within minutes, it had become solid rain with occasional sheets, and we were all soaked. She trotted on, apparently oblivious, as the wind began driving the rain into our right side. After perhaps fifteen minutes, we came to a portal, which she programmed and led us through.

We emerged into the middle of a multistory building, kind of an atrium without glass. The light was artificial. Around us, snowflake-like, six wings of barracks in six levels. "This is Operant Training Barracks Two, your new home! Each bay holds one section in three squad rooms! The squads I am now assigning you to will be your place here until you are otherwise notified! The assignments have been made at company level and are not subject to appeal! Your squad leader has been apprised of your joining their squad and has your records! Your first assignment will be to stow your gear, change your wet disgusting clothes and report to your squad Leader! Move"

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If you're one of those who gets attacks of the vapors, look away now.

I'm serious. Last chance. Abort now or be prepared to deal with it.

The dirtiest word in science fiction and fantasy is 'retcon'.

Short for 'retroactive continuity', it means going back and altering previously published events.

Let's be clear on what retconning is and is not. It's not a different point of view or different opinion from a different character. It's not fixing typos or spelling errors or genuinely ambiguous conflicts between events or character viewpoint. It's not even new information that changes how the reader views the event (aka 'gutpunch'). It's an unambiguous change to a major event or consequence of a previous point in the story line. Comics are notorious for 'retconning', which is one reason I rarely read comics.

Let's consider one of the best known retcons to a major media property. It's decades old, so if I'm spoiling it for you, you have only yourself to blame. In Star Wars (The original movie) after Luke and Obi-Wan leave the cantina, Han Solo is accosted by a bounty hunter who's got the drop on him, pointing a blaster at Han from a such a distance even a toddler who's never seen a pistol before would have difficulty missing at. Han sits down, distracts the bounty hunter with a line of patter, draws his weapon under the table, and calmly shoots the bounty hunter.

When Lucas was gussy-ing up the original trilogy, he added a completely unbelievable prelude of the bounty hunter shooting first - and missing across the small table before Han shoots. Which is completely unbelievable, unless Han is a member of some weird mystical order with the power to bend light ("Beware! I'm one of the authorprotectedcharacters"). The bounty hunter is a professional, and guns are a tool he has to have some ability with in order to survive in the profession more than a day or two. But for some reason a bounty hunter with a gun pointed at you, wanting to force you to go to a mob boss who's going to kill you isn't enough 'self-defense' for the later George Lucas. It also short-circuits our understanding of the character of Han Solo. It was a perfect Han moment - until it was retconned.

I've never seen retconning be justified. Frankly, I don't think it can be. It's a tool for a lazy writer who can't handle the corner they've written themselves into. You got the benefit of whatever reader or viewer emotion was when you wrote that scene. Now suck it up and deal with the consequences. If you can't make it make sense, go write something new instead.


P.S. In comics, it is to be admitted the writers are doing everything by direction, so it can be laid of the feet of greedy and often lazy executives with the comic company. In their defense, however, comics fans keep letting them get away with it. When the fans stop letting them get away with it, retconning will stop.

How I Respond to Reviews

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(1) As a reader what prompts you to leave a review for a book you have read?

As a reader, nothing really, just experience. As an author, though, I understand how important they are. But since I'm not being paid, I generally ask 'would I want this review?' before I post it. Occasionally, though, something just leaps out and has to be posted even though the answer is no.

(2) As an author, what do you do to encourage readers to leave a review for your book?

Ask for them. (Won't you please read and review my books?)

(3) To what degree do you think reviews and ratings are important in helping book sales?

Amazon is where the largest number of sales happen. And on Amazon, the number of reviews often controls whether they see your book - particularly if you're not paying for it to be seen right now. 25 reviews seems to be the first 'magic number' - when Amazon starts showing your book as an 'also bought'. The second is around 75 reviews when they start including it in newsletters.


(4) What advice would you give to a novice author regarding reviews for their book?

A: Good or bad, don't take it personally.

B: Seriously, don't take it personally

C: It's just their opinion. I recently had a review that was evidently offended by something. They flat out ignored things that were stated plainly more than once, instead attacking the book for everything they could dredge up and going so far as to accuse me of having nothing but 'friend reviews' thus far but they were going to Set Me Straight (in fact, precisely one of my friends has reviewed the book in question, out of a double digit number of reviews). This applies to good reviews as well: It's just their opinion.

When reviewing, I try to differentiate between story telling choices I disagree with (which I'm as charitable about as I can be) and things that do not make any kind of sense or which flat out do not work that way and ten seconds of research should have told them better. I'm also charitable about things that are boring in real life - boredom is a mortal sin in entertainment (I'd put you to sleep writing about the detail work that's really what's important in real estate - real life is not HGTV). But not everyone does this.

E: Good or bad, Don't take it personally

F: If someone makes a valid complaint about your work, pretending it's not valid doesn't help. The only time I have engaged a review is to thank the reviewer for valid criticism. Uncomfortable as it may be, they're actually helping you.

G: Did I mention not to take them personally?

 



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Rediscovery 4 novel set
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