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Author David Walton: The Importance of Food When Telling a Story

Posted by on Oct 9, 2017 in Blog, guest | 0 comments

I’m delighted to have author David Walton as a guest! His new book The Genius Plague came out last week, and as you might guess with a glance at the cover, mushrooms–and other foods– play important roles in the plot…

 

The Importance of Food When Telling a Story

Genius PlagueEveryone eats.  To some people, food is central to their experience of family or national culture, a thing to be cherished and enjoyed.  To others, food is a sterile necessity.  How and what a person eats can tell us a lot about them.  When creating a character in a novel, then, it’s important to get the food right.  In one sense, it’s who they are.

In my newest novel, THE GENIUS PLAGUE, a South American fungus takes center stage.  That means a lot of the novel takes place in Brazil, with main characters who grew up there.  For me, that meant not just researching Brazilian food, but also talking with a native of Brazil to understand what food meant to him, and translating those feelings to my character.  Brazilian flavors include a mix of indigenous and Portuguese influences, mostly involving beans and rice.  In fact, beans and rice is such a common part of everyday life that the phrase “beans and rice” is a Brazilian expression meaning common or ordinary.

When one character goes to his parents’ home and his father cooks shrimp bobó, the delicious flavor means a lot more to him than just a good taste.  It’s comfort food that brings back memories of childhood experiences and better times.  Times when he and his brother weren’t on opposite sides of a bitter argument.  Times when his father wasn’t dying.  When he shovels a third helping onto his plate, it’s more than just food he’s eating: it’s memories and nostalgia and hope.

Another character is a mycologist–someone who studies mushrooms.  When he and a woman he barely knows are stranded deep in the Amazon, food isn’t a matter of taste or culture — it’s only his knowledge of what mushrooms are safe that allows them to survive.  I personally love to eat mushrooms, but I’m the only one in my family who does.  Which means a lot of mushrooms being passed over to my plate!  The mushrooms in the story, however, are not entirely safe, as it turns out…

Food is an essential part of who we are, both to stay alive and to form relationships and cultures.  If you are a writer, be sure to think about the food your characters are eating and what it means to them.  If you’re a reader, a story may not tempt your taste buds or fill your stomach, but I hope you’ll notice how food can enhance the flavor of our books, even as you are devouring them.

Look for THE GENIUS PLAGUE online or at your local bookstore!

Amazon Barnes and Noble | BAM | IndieBound | Powells
David Walton is the author of the international bestseller SUPERPOSITION and its sequel SUPERSYMMETRY. His novel TERMINAL MIND won the 2008 Philip K. Dick Award for the best SF paperback published in the United States for that year. He lives near Philadelphia with his wife and seven children.
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Bready or Not Guest: Spencer Ellsworth with Un-Ruinable Gluten Free Brownies

Posted by on Aug 22, 2017 in Blog, Bready or Not, brownies, chocolate, gluten-free, guest, guest recipe, healthier | 0 comments

I’m happy to welcome Spencer Ellsworth with a Bready or Not guest post! His debut novel is out today. I was lucky enough to read A Red Peace a few months ago, and blurbed it: “This is space opera candy!” Seriously, if you love space opera, GET THIS. It’s fresh and fun, mixing up cozy tropes in fantastic new ways.

Which is pretty much what Spencer does with this recipe today, too. He shares a recipe for gluten-free brownies that look absolutely delicious. I bet they’d be perfect to eat in accompaniment with a brand new space opera novel…


I’m Spencer, and I have two big things in common with Beth: we both like to write a good swashbuckling adventure (here’s mine) and we both like to bake.

Unlike Beth, I have celiac disease, which means, although I bake all the time, I use gluten-free flours. I was diagnosed way back in the dark ages of 1985. I did all of elementary school in the 1980s gluten free. Let us all turn and salute my mother, who had to bake “special cupcakes” every time someone else in the class had a birthday and brought in gluten cupcakes.

*Salutes Mom*

Ahem.

Celiac disease is, like Crohn’s, arthritis and lupus, an autoimmune disease. Our immune systems, upon consumption of gluten, attack and inflame our intestinal lining, preventing the absorption of any food. Because autoimmune disease is on a spectrum, people often have reactions to gluten that are tricky to diagnose without an endoscopy or colonoscopy.

There are two great lies about gluten-free food

1) you can just substitute GF flour mix in most recipes

2) gluten-free food just doesn’t taste as good

1 isn’t true because different proteins act differently in different grains. Gluten-free flours are not sticky like wheat. You don’t need to knead any gluten-free bread product; you just need to mix the dough and let it rise. You may find certain GF flours, like sorghum or millet or brown rice, less palatable than wheat. But most celiacs can find a preferred flour mix.

Un-Ruinable Gluten Free Brownies

This picture shows plain rice flour (the fine-textured flour), a gluten-free mix, and a gluten-free pancake mix (the one with dark specks).

However, that leads me to…

2 isn’t true because there are a LOT of celiacs out there making a LOT of amazing food. But you do have to do some baking on your own. The best gluten-free food is made at home, with patience. Commercial kitchens can’t take the time and ingredients necessary.

So if you’re new to GF baking, here’s an un-ruinable recipe to start. Peruse Gluten-Free & More (formerly known as Living Without) for anything else you need, or just contact me through my website.

Un-Ruinable Gluten Free Brownies

 

Un-Ruinable Gluten Free Brownies

These are totally un-ruinable because they can be made with just about any gluten-free flour, flour mix, or pancake mix. They will have a slightly different consistency depending on the flour, but they work with anything from plain rice flour to Pamela’s pancake mix.

Your celiac friends will appreciate the attempt to make real brownies, rather than those flourless peanut butter cookies or rice krispie treats we ALWAYS get.

Make sure to clean ALL your work surfaces very well first. All counters and bowls should be scrubbed clear of any trace of gluten. Use non-porous materials like Teflon or glass. Make sure they are scrubbed completely clean of every last scrap of anything that ever contained gluten. (Even better, use the excuse to treat yourself to a new dish and new mixing bowl.)

4 eggs
1 cup sugar (add more to taste, especially if not using chocolate chips)
1 tsp vanilla extract
2/3 cup cocoa powder (I much prefer the darker, richer Ghiradelli’s over the chalky Hershey’s)
1/2 cup butter, margarine or coconut oil
1/2 mushy avocado (this is weird, but it makes the whole endeavor much fluffier)
1 cup of any gluten-free flour, baking mix or pancake mix
2 tsp baking powder (if not already included in your mix)
Chocolate chips & nuts to taste

Set oven to 350.

Beat the eggs with the sugar and avocados.
Un-Ruinable Gluten Free Brownies

Melt the butter or oil in a saucepan or microwave-safe dish, and add the cocoa powder and beat until smooth.

Un-Ruinable Gluten Free Brownies

Allow the butter/cocoa powder mix to cool a bit, then mix into eggs, sugar and avocado.

Mix your flour in with the rest. Add baking powder if you simply have a basic flour mix.

Pour into a greased baking dish and bake for 30-40 minutes on 350.

Un-Ruinable Gluten Free Brownies

Un-Ruinable Gluten Free Brownies

Bready or Not Guest: Spencer Ellsworth's Un-Ruinable Gluten Free Brownies

Un-Ruinable Gluten Free Brownies

These are totally un-ruinable because they can be made with just about any gluten-free flour, flour mix, or pancake mix. They will have a slightly different consistency depending on the flour, but they work with anything from plain rice flour to Pamela’s pancake mix.

Your celiac friends will appreciate the attempt to make real brownies, rather than those flourless peanut butter cookies or rice krispie treats we ALWAYS get.

Make sure to clean ALL your work surfaces very well first. All counters and bowls should be scrubbed clear of any trace of gluten. Use non-porous materials like Teflon or glass. Make sure they are scrubbed completely clean of every last scrap of anything that ever contained gluten. (Even better, use the excuse to treat yourself to a new dish and new mixing bowl.)

  • 4 eggs
  • 1 cup sugar (add more to taste, especially if not using chocolate chips)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2/3 cup cocoa powder (I much prefer the darker, richer Ghiradelli’s over the chalky Hershey’s)
  • 1/2 cup butter, margarine or coconut oil
  • 1/2 mushy avocado (this is weird, but it makes the whole endeavor much fluffier)
  • 1 cup of any gluten-free flour, baking mix or pancake mix
  • 2 tsp baking powder (if not already included in your mix)
  • Chocolate chips & nuts to taste

Set oven to 350.

Beat the eggs with the sugar and avocado.

Melt the butter or oil in a saucepan or microwave-safe dish, and add the cocoa powder and beat until smooth.

Allow the butter/cocoa powder mix to cool a bit, then mix into eggs, sugar and avocado.

Mix your flour in with the rest. Add baking powder if you simply have a basic flour mix.

Pour into a greased baking dish and bake for 30-40 minutes on 350.

 


Red Peace

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Kobo

Spencer Elsworth’s Site

A Red Peace, first in Spencer Ellsworth’s Starfire trilogy, is an action-packed space opera in a universe where the oppressed half-Jorian crosses have risen up to supplant humanity and dominate the galaxy.

Half-human star navigator Jaqi, working the edges of human-settled space on contract to whoever will hire her, stumbles into possession of an artifact that the leader of the Rebellion wants desperately enough to send his personal guard after. An interstellar empire and the fate of the remnant of humanity hang in the balance.

Spencer Ellsworth has written a classic space opera, with space battles between giant bugs, sun-sized spiders, planets of cyborgs and a heroine with enough grit to bring down the galaxy’s newest warlord.

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Interview with Sara Dobie Bauer, author of BITE SOMEBODY ELSE

Posted by on Jun 23, 2017 in Blog, guest, others books | Comments Off on Interview with Sara Dobie Bauer, author of BITE SOMEBODY ELSE

I’m happy to welcome back my good friend Sara Dobie Bauer! We’ve been IRL friends for years, though she’s now moved to Ohio, we keep in touch–and we love each other’s books! Case in point: her new release Bite Somebody Else from World Weaver Press. In this sequel, she delves into the POV of raunchy, ’80s-loving vampire Imogene. The book came out this week–and be sure to check out the first book, Bite Somebody.


bitesomebodyelse_final-1_sm

You’re an ex sexpert for SheKnows and your characters sure enjoy rambunctious love lives. Your love scenes read so easily—do you find them easy to write? What types of scenes DO you have a hard time writing?

Based on reader reaction (and my penchant for landing in erotica anthologies), I’m apparently good at writing sex. Honestly, though, sex scenes take time. A two-page sex scene can take me an hour to write as most of that time is spent staring at the screen and choreographing in my head. I also tend to mix dialogue within the sexual choreography, so not only do I stare at the screen, but I also talk to myself. This is why I don’t write in public. Plus, since I’m choreographing sex scenes in my head, I can only imagine the ridiculous faces I might make. That’s the long story.

The short story: sex scenes are my specialty. I enjoy writing them. I’m good at writing them. But they are “a process.”

Action scenes are hard to write. Talk about choreography! There are several fight scenes in Bite Somebody Else, and you almost literally need to work these out with a partner. (Bahaha, I guess a partner helps in writing sex scenes, too … there might be a short story there …). ANYWAY. Fight scenes are difficult. Oh, so are dance scenes, of which there are a couple in Bite Somebody Else because, duh, Imogene.

Ian versus Nicholas_smYour muse is Benedict Cumberbatch. What would happen if you saw him in person? Would security personnel be involved?

My husband is legitimately worried that, if I ever met Benedict Cumberbatch, I would become a black hole and destroy the universe. Honestly, though, if I ever met the British stud in person, I imagine it would be a lot like the time I met Neil Gaiman. I smiled, panted a little, and he took pity on me and gave me a hug. I like to think I’d be all cool and collected and sexy (like Imogene), but I’d be more like Celia, drooling and stuttering and saying a bunch of really dumb shit.

It’s funny, but both male leads in the Bite Somebody Series are based on different incarnations of Mr. Cumberbatch (because, as you said, he is my muse). Ian in Bite Somebody is laid back, behind-the-scenes Benedict. Nicholas in Bite Somebody Else is suave, red carpet Benedict. No wonder the two characters get along so well …

Imogene loves her rum punch. Do you love it, too?

I do love rum punches. The first time I had a rum punch was in Belize on Ambergris Caye during my honeymoon. I don’t know if it was the drink or the location or my husband—but I was euphoric. I’m pretty sure I almost drank the island dry that week, but I did figure out the recipe! Simple. Fill a tall glass with ice. Pour a double shot of Captain Morgan’s on top. Fill three-quarters of the way with strawberry-banana juice and one quarter peach juice. Stir and slurp, preferably on a beach or while reading your shiny new copy of Bite Somebody Else.

Bite Somebody was told from the viewpoint of Celia, who is more of a frumpy every-girl. In the sequel, you get deep into Imogene’s POV. She is more like a force of nature, profane, crude, and utterly honest. Was it easier to get into one character than the other?

Not really. As women, I think we encompass both characters depending on the situation. At times, we can all be nervous and frumpy. Other times, we can be fierce. Celia and Imogene represent two extremes, but the rest of us float somewhere in the middle. That said, in my daily life, I’m a bit more profane and honest, like Imogene. My sense of humor is the Bite Somebody Series to a T, so it was easy to write both books—probably because I was just having so much fun!

What’s next for you?

Sleep until Halloween? No, better not. Ummm, I have short stories in a couple upcoming anthologies. My story that has caused the most arguments about how we define “sexuality” will be in Stoneslide Corrective this fall. (Keep an eye out; see if it pisses you off.)

Next year, I’m part of a three book series with Pen and Kink Publishing called Enchanted. A bit about that …
In modern day Charleston, lonely white witch Cyan Burroughs has waited her whole life to lead the battle against dark witches and eventually meets the man she is fated to love. A tragic trolley accident brings Liam Cody into her life. He is her destiny, but he’s also in love with someone else. Now, Cyan and her magic family must find the dark witch who caused the accident while Cyan fights her feelings for Liam—a charming Irishman with secrets of his own.

With the release of Bite Somebody Else comes a certain amount of freedom. As you can attest, finishing a series is sad because you have to say goodbye to a bunch of people you’ve spent years hanging out with. However, finishing a series is also a relief, as you are free to think about other projects with a clear head. I have two finished manuscripts to rewrite (both a bit darker than the Bite Somebody Series), so come July, it’s time to dive in. Wish me luck, and remember … only bite the people you love.


 
sara_dobie_bauer_smSara Dobie Bauer is a writer, model, and mental health advocate with a creative writing degree from Ohio University. Her short story, “Don’t Ball the Boss,” was nominated for the Pushcart Prize, inspired by her shameless crush on Benedict Cumberbatch. She lives with her hottie husband and two precious pups in Northeast Ohio, although she’d really like to live in a Tim Burton film. She is a member of RWA and author of the paranormal rom-com Bite Somebody, among other ridiculously entertaining things.

 

 

 

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Guest: Rebecca Roland Author of Shattered Fates Talks About a Favorite Book

Posted by on May 23, 2017 in Blog, guest | Comments Off on Guest: Rebecca Roland Author of Shattered Fates Talks About a Favorite Book

Roland-Shards New Front_halfsize_sm

I’m happy to welcome Rebecca Roland to my site again! Shattered Fates is the final book in her trilogy with World Weaver Press. I read it as an early draft, and it was awesome. To celebrate the release, Rebecca has new covers for all three of her books. She’s here today to talk about an old favorite book of hers.

Roland-Fractured New Front_halfsize_sm

 


 

Years ago when I was in grad school, a friend of mine who was a voracious reader pressed a book called Shards of Honor into my hands and said, “I think you’ll like this.” Eager to read a new book, I took it home and started it. And… it was slow. I read a few pages, then brought it back to her and said I couldn’t get into it. “Keep it,” she said. “Try it again.”

I tried it again and couldn’t get past the first few pages. But I held onto it because I knew if I brought it back to my friend without having read it, she’d be really disappointed in me. And I knew she wouldn’t steer me wrong. Eventually, I picked it up for a third time.

I don’t know what changed, but I got past the first few pages, and then barreled right through the rest of it. The book was great. Once it got going, it never let up. Shards of Honor and the next book in the series followed Captain Cordelia Naismith, but then the series switched over to her son, Miles Vorkosigan. As much as I love Cordelia, Miles is one of those characters who leaps off the page at you. He’s brilliant but flawed, and he gets into the biggest messes. He’s a man of honor. He’s witty and romantic. He’s so energetic, and he thinks so far ahead, that he keeps nearly everyone around him constantly on their toes. The other characters never knew what he was going to do, and neither did I. In short, he’s a fantastic character. He’s one where you can let him loose on the page, and he will write the story for you.

I love stories about unique characters. I love cool idea stories, too, but it’s the characters who burrow under my skin and stay with me, and Miles Vorkosigan is my favorite by far. When I write, I try to make my characters as multi-dimensional as Bujold made Miles Vorkosigan. I try to push my characters into situations where there appears to be no coming back, and I try to make them flawed and real. There’s a real joy in writing when the character is genuine and doing what they do.

I borrowed all of the books in that series from my friend. Then I went out and bought copies of my own. I’ve read them all several times now, and each time is just as enjoyable because there are always some details I’ve forgotten, or some new insight I gain.


Roland-Shattered Fates Front_halfsize_sm

About Rebecca’s book Shattered Fates:

The magic barrier protecting the Taakwa from their enemies, the Maddion, is gone. Malia, who led the Taakwa against the Maddion in the Dragon War, must convince the magical being, the changer, to repair the barrier before the Maddion invade to take revenge on her people and the winged Jeguduns who also call the valley home, even if it means reversing the healing the changer wrought for her.

Chanwa, the wife of the Maddion leader, uses the disorder created by the changer to lead a coup against her husband in a desperate attempt to ensure she and the other Maddion women are treated as equals. Her life, and the future of every Maddion woman, depends on her success.

Both women know the only way to succeed is to come together in an unlikely alliance.

Available for at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, and direct from the publisher, World Weaver Press.

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Snowed in: A Giftmas Guest Blog from Jennifer Crow

Posted by on Dec 7, 2016 in Blog, giftmas, guest | Comments Off on Snowed in: A Giftmas Guest Blog from Jennifer Crow

giftmas-blog-2016

One of the first things anyone learns while growing up in Maine is that winter weather means preparing, adjusting plans, or else spending some quality time stuck in a snowdrift. For us kids, a blizzard brought adventure and welcome days off from school, an extra morning or two of sleeping in, or an afternoon sledding and sneaking extra marshmallows into the hot chocolate. Snow usually meant extra fun.

giftmas-crow1_smBut even Christmas wasn’t off-limits for those polar blasts that swept down out of the northern forests to whomp my hometown. One Christmas morning we woke up to a foot or two of the white stuff and more still falling. My sisters and I were in a frenzy of frustration because Grandma and Grandpa were supposed to join us after breakfast—already way too far in the future—and between Grandpa’s slow driving speed and Gram’s nervousness with regard to his driving and the weather, it looked to my siblings and I like the vital present-opening part of the day might get pushed back until the January thaw.

Dad stepped in to rescue the day, and his in-laws, by heading out in his truck to pick them up. While he was gone, Mom called our elderly neighbors and honorary grandparents to see if they’d weathered the storm. Yes, they were warm in their little farm house, but they wouldn’t be driving to their son’s home while snow was still flying.

“Go get them,” Mom told Dad when he’d returned from fetching the grandparents. “Patience and Karl won’t be able to get to Norm’s in this weather.”

“Okay,” Dad said.

“Patience will tell you not to bother,” Mom added. “Do not listen to her.”

“Right,” said Dad. (I think he liked knowing he and the truck could not be defeated by a little blizzard.)

So that was how we ended up eating Christmas dinner with both the grandparents we expected, and the adopted grandparents we hadn’t planned on. I always thought of that as the ‘Kidnap Christmas,’ but the truth is, that meal which we stretched a little farther, that table where we squeezed a little more, was one of the best holiday dinners I remember. The pictures from that day still make me smile.giftmas-crow2_sm

Today the world seems a little colder, a little more unsteady than it did when I was a kid. But I haven’t forgotten the lessons of the Kidnap Christmas, and how little it took to make the world a better place for someone in a time of need. If we can help, through the Giftmas Blog Tour, to provide for families who are at risk, that will be one small way to keep the darkness and the cold at bay.

Light a candle. Add an extra leaf to the table. No matter the strength of the storm, there’s always something we can do to make a difference.

This year, the Giftmas Blog Tour is raising money for the Edmonton Food Bank. The link to our page is http://bit.ly/Giftmas2016.

Please help us to make sure some needy families have what they need for the holidays. No one should be going without a warm, wholesome meal.

 

giftmastourschedule

 


 

Jennifer Crow has been writing speculative poetry for almost twenty five years now, which is probably a sign that her judgment is not to be trusted. Her collection of fairy tale poems, The First Bite of the Apple, was published in 2013 and nominated for the Science Fiction Poetry Association’s Elgin Award. She lives near a waterfall in western New York.

Read some of her recent poems in Uncanny Magazine, Mythic Delirium, and Mithila Review.

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Guest: Author Tina Connolly Talks About SERIOUSLY SHIFTED, a special comic, & book tour

Posted by on Nov 3, 2016 in Blog, guest | Comments Off on Guest: Author Tina Connolly Talks About SERIOUSLY SHIFTED, a special comic, & book tour

I’m excited to welcome Tina Connolly today! She’s the author of a whole pile of awesome novels from Tor and Tor Teen, plus a short story collection from Fairwood Press (that I happened to blurb). Her latest is the second book in her funny and fun YA series about a teenage girl, witchcraft, and all sorts of mayhem. Tina is kicking off a book tour and has an especially nifty incentive for buying her book: a one-page comic!


 

One of the most fun things about the Seriously Wicked series has been getting to collaborate with other artists. The series overall is about a girl who’s stuck living with a seriously wicked witch. But she also has to keep up her grades and pass Algebra and deal with everyday 10th grade problems, as well!

tina-seriously-shifted-coverIn the first book, Seriously Wicked, Cam falls for a cute boy-band boy who plays guitar. He writes a song about her, “Lion Tamer”, which is written out in the book. So when Seriously Wicked was released, I thought it would be really fun to have this song available to hear. I got my good friend Spencer Ellsworth to record the song and you can hear his awesome work on Soundcloud—lion roars and all.

In book two, Seriously Shifted, I knew I wanted to include another artistic character in the series. Enter slightly geeky Henny Santiago-Smith, who writes an online comic called Henny’s Pathetic Love Life. Poor Henny gets caught up in witchy things when one of the new wicked witch characters decides to make Henny’s life an absolute disaster. Henny flees to the girls’ bathroom, where she encounters Cam secretly working a spell.

In the book, this scene is of course from Cam’s point of view. But I thought it would be great fun to see how this scene looked from Henny’s point of view, as if she were writing it up (as she keeps threatening to do) for one of her online comics.

I contacted another friend of mine—amazing cartoonist Becky Hawkins—about developing a piece that would illustrate this scene. Becky writes a delightful comic called French Toast Comix, and it has a really playful, fun style that I could see fitting the work of an (obviously super-talented!) teen.

Becky came up with a one-page comic for me that is just fantastic, and I decided to use it as a giveaway on my upcoming book tour stops for Seriously Shifted. So come see me at one of those and you can collect your very own comic page that goes along with the book!

Here’s a teaser of the comic for you:

Tina Connolly comic

Alternatively, if you don’t live near my tour stops, you can email me (I’m tinaconnolly on the gmail) with a picture of your proof of purchase of Seriously Shifted (take a selfie with the book or a pic of the receipt or whatever works for you!) and I’ll send you one of these darling comic pages in the mail. Offer good to December 15, 2016, or while supplies last. 🙂

Here are the tour stops; read more details on my Appearances page on my website:

>Wordstock – Portland OR, Nov 5, 10am panel
>Powell’s Cedar Hills – Beaverton OR, Nov 7, 7pm
>University Bookstore – Seattle WA, Nov 14, 7pm
>Corvallis Library – Corvallis OR, Nov 15, 4pm
>Mysterious Galaxy – San Diego CA, Nov 16, 7:30pm
>Powell’s Cedar Hills – Beaverton OR, Nov 20, 4pm
>Another Read Through – Portland OR, Dec 3, 1:30pm

Many thanks to Beth for having me on the blog, and I’m delighted to see Seriously Shifted out in the wild at last!

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