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WRiTE CLUB 2014 – Bout #12

Huntress walks away the winner of Bout #10. The voting for Bout #11 remains open until noon on Sunday, July 27th.

A rundown of all the past and current matches, with their respective winners, can be found right HERE.

Here's a recap for anyone just stopping by for the first time. Back on May 3rd we began taking submissions from WRiTER’s far and wide, spanning the globe, representing all ages and multiple styles of WRiTING.  We received 167 entries in all! Those 500 word samples went under careful consideration by 11 judges and that panel narrowed the list down to 32…which are the ones that are pairing off in the ring over the course of eight weeks. 

These illustrious WRiTER’s are not only from all walks of life, but they also occupy various levels of the publication world. But none of that matters here, because inside this ring everybody stands as equals. You know why?  Because no one uses their real name…the only identification you’ll ever see is their pen name. This is not a popularity contest.  The focus here is on the writing, where it should be.

Today is the twelfth of sixteen bouts, two bouts per week, with a new one posted every Monday and Thursday. The winners are decided by votes left in the comment section and anyone can vote. The voting for each fight will last for one full week, so you can vote for a Monday battle all the way until midnight on Sunday, and you can vote for a Thursday brawl up until midnight the following Wednesday.  And when you do vote, please let the contestants know what you liked and disliked.

Have you got your popcorn and favorite drink? Time for the fun to begin!

Here are this bout's two randomly selected WRiTER's.

Standing in this corner, representing the YA Dystopian genre and weighing in at 497 words, please welcome to the ring……..Octavia Worldsend.

An hour passes and I’m about to give up and go when Cullie finally swaggers back to his room.  He’s all big talk and grabby hands, but I can tell he’s lying.  The bigger the lie, the deeper the dimple in his cheek.  John Cullpepper’s nothing but a flunkie and he’ll never be anything more.

“It’s happening, Nonni.  Kard’s taking over East Valley and making me his top man.” He slips an arm around my waist and pulls me against him.  “If you’re nice, I’ll put in a good word.”  I don’t react.  Sure he’s handsome—dark eyes, thick black hair and dimpled smile—but no way we’re hooking up.  I don’t need that kind of trouble.  I just let him yammer till he runs out of spit.
A lot of guys would show you the back of their hand if you treated them like that, but Cullie just gives me his wounded puppy look.  “Nonni, why are you always so cold?”

Because you’re a jerk, asshat.  That’s what I’m thinking, but I don’t say it out loud.  I have a place in this sector and I don’t need trouble from a bootlicker like him.  “Gotta go, Cullie.  Jupiter’s waiting.  You gonna pay me or not?”  His expression gets hard and for a minute I think he’s going to renege on our agreement.  “Come on,” I say, “I made the delivery.” 

“Maybe I don’t like your attitude.”

“We had a deal.”

He grumbles and cusses, but he pulls a whole credit out of his pocket and tosses it to me.  I don’t bother to thank him. I pick up my knapsack and walk out. 

The streets of East Valley are humming this time of day.  Humanity of every kind crawling over one another.  A broken down Humvee roars past.  Guys just like Cullie congregate on every corner, looking for trouble, or a hook up to make them feel like men.  I get catcalls, but I ignore them.  Time was I’d turn around and smash my fist into the guy’s face, but these days I try not to be so conspicuous. 

Jupiter says I’m getting soft, but I think I’m getting smart.  Doesn’t pay to attract attention in the Grey City. 

What Cullie said about Kard makes me nervous so I head over to Lawanda’s place. If anybody’s got the skinny, it’s Lawanda Mattson.  Her place isn’t swanky like the cafes in the Hills Sector, no polished floors or cloth napkins on the tables.  In the Hills, the waiters wipe your chin if you dribble your soup.  Never been there, but that’s what they say.  Electricity is always on in the Hills.  At night, the glow from that side of the wall lights up the whole sky.  I tell Jupiter we’re going to live there someday, but deep down I don’t believe it’s possible.  Need a ton of credits to live in the Hills, and most days, I can barely scrounge enough to keep me and Jupe fed.


And in the other corner, representing the Middle Grade Contemporary genre with 498 words, let me introduce to you……….The Baron.

They’ve been watching us all along, gathering in force. Oh, they may look like cute little lawn decorations, but secretly, they’re preparing for total world domination. I’m all that stands between humanity and the gnomes.

The dark night calls to me. The lights on our street have been out for months, but life is tough everywhere. The city cannot be bothered to replace them despite the beautification tax I hear everyone talking about. I don’t mind: it’s perfect for gnome hunting. Despite my best efforts, the little monsters with their sinister smiles continue to multiply—congregating in broad daylight no less—but tonight I strike back. One has slipped past my defenses. It will die for its transgression.

When the children’s breaths turn to the solid rhythm of sleep, I slip out of my bed. Slowly, I creep down the hallway. I know what it is to be caught killing a gnome. The retribution could last for days, or weeks. Limited rations, diminished yard privileges, but if I can eradicate them from my home, well, I’m doing this for my children.

One step at a time, I avoid the squeaky parts of the wooden floor, and all too quickly, I stare at the vile creature from across the living room. It sits on a place of privilege, above the fire place, the heart of the home. In just months, the children will hang their stockings from that mantle. A growl rumbles through my chest, but now isn’t the time. Soon.

With grace to make the cat envious, I climb the couch and prepare to jump to the mantle. There’s no fire tonight, but a miss would spell doom. The gnome stares ahead, not watching my progress out of arrogance. After all, it doesn’t fear my attacks.

They are impervious to normal attacks, encased in a magical shell.

I gather my legs under me, bunching for the leap and spring into the dark air. I hit the mantle, scrabbling until I make the ledge. Hopefully, the noise won’t wake anyone. Gearing my mind up for the gruesome task at hand, I slink along the mantle, one foot at a time. Even better, it will look like the cat did it. High places have always been her purview.

Light floods the room, blinding me.

“Baron! What are you doing? Bad dog!” my mistress yells.

The gnome is close enough. I push it with my nose. It tumbles from the mantle in slow motion, falling to its death.


The gnome flips away from the hard tile fireplace beneath. I pushed it too hard! The gnome bounces harmlessly into a throw pillow, sparing it from its deserved death.

I’ll eat every pillow in the house.

“Baron Von Barker, you have some explaining to do, mister.” She shakes her finger at me. As I jump down from the mantle, the gnome grins at me, safe for now. My plot foiled again.

I am Baron Von Barker, and I am a gnome hunter.

Enjoying the words of two talented writers is only part of the price of admission, now it’s up to you to decide who moves forward to the playoffs.  In the comments below leave your vote for the winner of Bout #12.  Which one tickled your fancy?  After you vote please tell all of your friends to stop by and make a selection as well.  The voting for this round will remain open until noon Sunday.  Yes, it’s subjective, but so is the entire publishing world.  It’s as much about the readers as it is about the writers. 

Here in WRiTE CLUB, it’s not about the last man/woman standing -- it’s the audience that gets clobbered!


  1. Octavia Worldsend. Her piece was much smoother, less forced.

  2. Two very well-written pieces, each with much to commend it. However, if only because the realisation that the narrator is a dog caused me such a chuckle, my vote goes to The Baron

  3. Both have great voice, but I dig it was the dog hunting the gnomes. My vote goes to The Baron.

  4. A very tough choice this week. I enjoyed both, but I have to go with the Baron

  5. Yay! These were two of my favs! But boooo, now i have to make a decision.

    I guess i'm going for Octavia Worldsend. If i had these both in front of me, i think i'd choose to continue reading Octavia's first

  6. Although I enjoyed the first piece it didn't really pull me into the world but I thought the gnome hunting dog was original so my vote will go with The Baron today. Good luck to both of you.

  7. I can see that Octavia's entry is a dystopian society quite easily. And that men (no erotic pun intended) are on top again. Maybe I haven’t read enough dystopian fiction but everything I’ve read has the same trope and it bores me. But that is a personal side issue. The setting is conflict in itself but the narrator just wants to talk to someone---not enough want/need to hook me into reading any further.

    In the Baron's piece the sentences in the second paragraph about the lights being off for months because the city cannot be bothered made me think I was reading dystopia again. Perhaps it was simply because I had just read some but I think a different way to describe the dark is needed here.

    After the first little bump I found myself smiling as I read. I liked this. The present tense works well here, too. So the Baron is a dog. That is what makes it amusing.

    So I’m going to have to vote for The Baron.

  8. I'm going with The Baron. I love the dog's voice; reminds me of the Bunnicula and Hank the Cowdog series. The line about eating every pillow in the house was hilarious.

  9. In today's bout, two more writers of not-for-adult fiction pair off. But after making a comment last bout about how I noticed "how many" WRiTE Club entries were in non-adult genres, I actually went back and counted. Turns out this is another one of those cases where perception does not match reality. Out of 24 entries so far in WC, 13 of them have been in various adult genres, 1 was New Adult, 6 were Young Adult, and 4 were Middle Grade. Most of the entries so far have actually been for adults. So I clearly stand corrected, and am reminded once again that it's always better to research and check facts BEFORE writing. 

    But on to this bout…

    Octavia Worldsend gives a present-tense, first-person scene set in a dystopian world. The voice is strong and I get a very good sense of who Nonni is as a character. The setting and basckstory elements are worked in smoothly. I don't know what the "deal" is that Nonni and Cullie had, although it feels like she's a drug-runner or something along those lines. Dystopian worlds can be interesting, although a bit depressing. I think the key is to give the reader something positive to cling to -- a pure heart, a ray of hope, a determination to do good in spite of overwhelming odds, etc. I don't get much of a positive element here, but it is only a 500-word piece, and I'm willing to assume that it is there in the larger story. I would certainly read on to find out.

    The Baron gives a present-tense, first person scene set in what could become a dystopian world, should the gnomes ever take control. The build and reveal that the narrator is a dog is handled well, and I like the touches of humor. The bit about the "beautification tax" doesn't quite ring true for a dog's PoV, but almost everything else does. Overall, it flows well, although perhaps a little overly-dramatic. I'm not quite sure if this is part of a larger story or a stand-alone piece, but if it were part of a longer story, I would read on to learn why Baron has such a hatred of gnomes and what the repercussions of his attack will be.

    Again, I find myself liking both pieces, but I think Octavia did somewhat more with her piece, so that's where my vote will go today.

    1. I can understand why you would get the impression that there were more entries here for younger readers. Since non-adult genres tends to be the majority on most writing-related sites (especially with the huge popularity of YA), if you've also looked at other writing sites recently it's easy to feel as if you've just seen a whole bunch of it!

      Added to that is the fact that most of the adult pieces are the kind of genre fiction that's often written at a fairly young reading level so it's accessible to a wide range of readers. When I think of my original perception of 'grown-up' writing based on the books my parents read, I wouldn't really say that any of the entries here fit into that category, and it's interesting to note that for the most part there's little difference in the style of the YA vs. adult writing samples.

      So I think you're excused for not checking the facts. :)

  10. Both pieces are fantastic, and I admit, I'm a sucker for a good dystopian novel. I'd love to read more of each piece, honestly.

    My vote goes to The Baron. I just think a gnome hunting dog is so imaginative and I loved the way the scene played out. Very cute.

  11. wow tough call. I liek the smiel that the Baron put on my face with his weaving though. It makes me wonder if the gnome really is alive or it's just some trick in the dog's head.

  12. Octavia for me. The piece is smooth. The voice compelling. I'm afraid the gnome hunting dog is a bit too cute for me, but kudos to The Baron for trying a dog's POV.

  13. It may be insufficient sleep making me grumpy this morning, but I had issues with both entries.

    Octavia's voice was good, but the world wasn't distinct enough from other dystopian worlds I've seen. The line "Guys just like Cullie" sums it up and makes me wonder why I should read on if all the guys are alike in this dystopian world that hasn't differentiated itself from all the other dystopian worlds of Have Everythings vs. Have Nothings. I'm sure there's something - some spark - that makes this world and these characters unique, but I didn't see it and I'm really nervous about the possibility of flat characters. I'm being blunt, I know, but I hope you'll understand my intent is to encourage you to make your characters unique and complex - so that despite ourselves, we love even the dumb brute - and to make your world a place we've never seen before. A great example of this is Red Rising, which has profoundly written characters and despite familiar elements, remains shockingly fresh.

    Baron's premise was fresher, but I struggled to place the narrator. Being MG, I began reading with a kid in mind. "My children" swayed me toward thinking it was a parent, but then why is he crouching on the back of the couch and walking on the mantle? ... Oh, he's a dog! Others probably feel differently, but I didn't think it was funny. I want an author to pull me into the story, not play tricks on me. I was too busy trying to place the narrator to fully invest in the story. And when the big reveal (It's a dog!) came, I was kind of peeved you didn't tell me this in the first place so we could avoid all the confusion. "I am Baron Von Barker, and I am a gnome hunter" would work just as well - or better - as an opening line, especially for MG.

    Having said all this, my vote goes to The Baron for a fresh idea with a lot of potential for humor, tension, and suspense. And really, congratulations to both of you (and all the other entrants) for putting your work out there for the world to critique. Please don't let anything anyone says drag you down. If you agree with the criticism, use it to strengthen your story. If you don't, file it away if you think it might be useful someday. Toss it if you know it's a case of pure subjectivity. And then write on...

  14. I'm going with the gnome hunting dog because it surprised me and made me smile. The other piece was well written and intriguing. I think I'd like to read more about that Grey City. This was a hard call, but the humorous surprise won out.

  15. Clueless as I am about YA (much less MG), Octavia Worldsend is a story I'd keep reading. The Baron is a completed arc, over and finished, as cute as the twist may be.

  16. I have to say, neither entry really floated my boat today. I like the gnome hunting dog, but I felt the voice was too mature for MG. The voice was perfect in Octavia's piece, but the story is confusing in parts and there are too many characters introduced in such a short space.

    But because I have to vote for someone, I'm voting Octavia.

  17. This is the first time I've had real difficulty choosing, for here we have two excellent pieces. The second piece snuck up on me. It seemed banal, at first, until I realized who the gnome hunter was. The first piece was good right out of the box. Shoot.
    Darn it.

  18. Octavia. While Baron was cute at the end, the beginning was too disorienting. Octavia's piece was smooth, even and despite thinking I wouldn't want to read another dystopian, at the end I was intrigued and wanted to read more.

  19. I liked both, but I vote OCTAVIA.

  20. Octavia's "voice" and use of metaphor won my vote, though both stories were pretty good.

  21. The trouble with coming into the middle of a scene is I feel left out, which is what I felt with Octavia's. I was hoping for a bit more world-building because I love dystopian YA so hard, even though it's not selling well right now. I thought the writing could have been cleaned up a bit more, too.

    Baron on the other hand had me from sentence one. I literally LOLed at "I'll eat every pillow in the house." Totally bought into a dog telling this story. The writing is clean and action-oriented and really gives a mental picture of what's happening, even before you find out the narrator is canine. I'm not sure how it would sell, but I would definitely keep reading.

    My vote is for Baron.

  22. Wow difficult round! These are both wonderful, but I think the voice in .Octavia Worldsend's clinched it for me.

  23. These are both very nice, but I'm voting for Octavia based the voice being a bit stronger. I like the tough, sassy voice of the MC, which is refreshing given the many over-emotional, whiny dystopian MCs out there. Hell, I like a tough, sassy female MC anytime, so I may be biased here :) Sorry, Baron.

    Baron, I love the twist at the end with character being a dog. Very cute. The voice threw me at first, because it was so serious, but I got it after it was revealed it was the dog. Maybe add a touch more humor, take the seriousness to a mock, over-the-top level. Very nice job!

  24. Baron. Gnomes? don't hold anything for me. Writing wasn't bad, but...
    I vote for Worldsend. I like the feel and voice.

  25. I really enjoyed both pieces this round and struggled to make a choice, but I am voting for Octavia. I am not a dystopian reader but this pulled me in. 'I just let him yammer till he runs out of spit' made me laugh and the rest of the story flowed well, held my attention from start to finish, and gave me a good sense of what was happening.

    The Baron had me a little confused at the start because I was thinking why is this labelled MG when it's an adult creeping down the hallway to protect their children? Was clearer after the big reveal, but was enough to tip my vote the other way.

  26. I vote for Baron. I figured out the twist about half-way through the piece, and was amused when it turned out I was right. The writing was crisp and simple. The premise is incredibly fun.

    Octavia's piece was really good, too. Great voice. Really great voice. The piece didn't blow me away, but if it were a full manuscript, I'd probably keep reading.

  27. Hard choice. I'm not a big fan of YA and I'm not all that familiar with MG. In fact, for Baron's piece, I thought maybe it was mislabeled, it seemed more for adults. Like some others stated here, I would have preferred to know from the beginning it was a dog's point of view. I think a MG reader would prefer that, too (don't complicate it). But despite that, I found the piece more intriguing than Olivia's, so Baron gets my vote.

  28. Another tough round.

    I'm going with The Baron only because once the piece got rolling (the first paragraph had me initially voting for the other contestant), I was entranced by the premise and the scope for this story and I really liked this canine's personality. I would have to withdraw my vote if I found out he was not a Jack Russell, though. And I think a good ending for this offering would have been the human yelling at him and then his line about eating every pillow in the house. I did not like the announcement at the end. This is the first time I have ever voted for a piece that begins and ends clunkily, but I love this character. Good dog.

    Octavia Worldsend's writing is terrific but I just think that the feisty resourceful female character vs. all the jerky guy characters is getting to be an ever-present trope in YA dystopian fiction. Ironically, the only reason I wanted to read more was to find out about Jupiter.

    The quality of writing in this year's WRiTE CLUB is fantastic.

  29. These are both fun. I like the voice in both. Tough call....
    I'll vote for Octavia

  30. I didn't really see The Baron as MG, but I suppose that's beside the point. A gnome-hunting dog is original and the writing was good, but I don't think I'd read it again or want to hear more--not sure why. Octavia, on the other hand, didn't have stellar writing, but it was good enough to keep me glued to its words. The story is there. The intrigue is there. I felt it read more like a first draft, but a darned good draft! I found myself thinking about this one for a while and wondering what would happen next. That in itself deserves a vote. So my vote goes to Octavia Worldsend.

  31. I have to go with The Baron this week, even though both pieces were very well written. Tough call. Congratulations to both entrants for making it to the top 32.

  32. I'm truly torn because both are wonderful. And each in its own way. This is the problem with comparing different genres, although I wasn't sure the Baron's was MG until I realized the narrator was a dog. Lots of humor there. But I'm more intrigued by Octavia Worldsend, so Octavia gets my vote.

  33. Wow I thought there was no competition after reading Octavia's, but the Baron delivered so well, it's a tough vote! I'm going for the Baron, just because it felt a little more complete.

  34. Octavia- though I feel the piece could use a little tightening, I like it. I was hooked by the time I reached the end, and therfore would read more.
    Baron- so vivid! I could picture it perfectly (other than not knowing the breed, and wishing I did, as certain ones could make this funnier). I can see this as the beginning of what would become a well-sold book. Maybe even a pixar film. It is fantastic. You have my vote.

  35. Octavia is my vote. I'd want to settle in and keep reading.

  36. While Octavia's subject and style appeals less to me than Baron's, I feel Octavia has succeeded in presenting a more polished entry than Baron. Baron's piece--while intriguing--feels a bit like a prologue to T.V. series...just a bit too telling for me.

    So my vote goes to Octavia

  37. I'm giving my vote to Baron in this round.

    Sadly, this is kind of a protest vote for me as I'm violating my own principle, because Octavia's piece is more skillfully written. However, reading her excerpt made me realize just how much I've come to dislike that overused 'tough teen' voice and that style of YA Dystopian.

    In Baron's piece I have issues with the voice as well, but in a very different way. I know the formality is supposed to be funny when it's in the POV of a dog, but here it's too stiff and some of the language doesn't really work for MG. Someone else mentioned the Bunnicula books -- I'm also a huge fan of those and love to reread them every Halloween, and I would strongly suggest that anyone who wants to do that kind of MG humor with animals should take a good look at those books to see how it's done; Chester the cat is a perfect example of how to do a pompous know-it-all animal in a charming way that still keeps the language appropriate for MG. So while the concept here is cute and there's potential for more comical adventures in the pursuit of gnomes, it needs some work to get the voice right for the audience and to also make it even funnier.

    Though the writing in Octavia's entry is smooth, clean, and quite consistent, making it technically better than Baron's, I have two significant issues with this excerpt. First, everything about the dystopian world presented here seems generic, from the sexism to the place names. As waitingforaname said above, it's crucial to show something unique about your world and characters or they just feel flat, especially in a genre with so many well-used tropes. Secondly, in the past few years I've seen countless writing samples posted for critiques or contests in which the author uses (or attempts to use) this same 'tough girl' voice, and it's well on its way to becoming such a cliché that it's hard to take it seriously.

    It reminds me of the old hard-boiled detective voice, and some of the lines here ('nothing but a flunkie', 'let him yammer', 'got the skinny') would actually fit into that stereotype as well. That voice became so clichéd that now it's mostly just used in spoofs, from Guy Noir to Sam Spud the talking potato. In the same way, the exaggerated clipped quality of this YA voice is starting to become laughable. What's more, it's not quite believable for a three-dimensional character. In the real world, people who've had a difficult life and learned to act very tough on the surface are usually the most insecure and vulnerable inside, and a good novel written in that character's POV (whether it's first person or third), is going to reflect that.

    Also, using very current modern slang (such as 'asshat') isn't appropriate for speculative fiction unless the characters are supposed to have come from this world and this specific time (i.e. the story involves some kind of portal or time machine, or it actually takes place here and now but with some speculative element introduced). Current lingo belongs in current contemporary fiction. In both fantasy and SF, slang words and expressions need to be either classic or creative. Otherwise it sounds as if the author has put very little effort into world building and hasn't thoroughly visualized what it would really be like to live in a different time and place.

  38. Wow. I think these two are my two favorites in the competition so far! Well played, both of you.
    My vote, after a fair bit of deliberation, goes to the Baron. It just felt like a more creative premise overall.

  39. The twist at the end of Baron's piece was nice, but getting to that point felt a bit forced.

    This week goes to Octavia.

  40. The Baron. Fun and original.

  41. Both good entries. I like the grit in Octavia's piece. I like the unexpected protagonist in Baron's. This week, world-building and a strong heroine win for me. I cast my vote for Octavia.

  42. Aww! I have to give my vote to The Baron. That was just too too cute & clever. But I did enjoy Octavia's as well and would be interested in reading on.

  43. I was a bit bored with Octavia's piece. Been there done that reading.

    Baron's I struggled with as well. The whole gnome thing didn't spark anything. The end was the best part once it was far enough in to realize it was the dog.
    I vote for Baron.

  44. Love The Baron! Voting for that one.

  45. My vote goes to Baron. While the first half of the piece was a bit confusing (my exact thought was, "Why does an MG have an adult protagonist?"), I was pleasantly surprised when I found out the POV character was the dog. Loved that twist.

  46. The Baron gets my vote. love the idea of a gnome hunting dog as the MC. :)

  47. Congrats to both authors for making it into the top 32! If I'm being one hundred percent honest, Octavia's piece didn't grab me - I had that, "Been here, already read this" feel. The writing itself was well done but I've read my fair share of stories with the wise-ass, snarky voice lately. The Baron's piece drew me right in - I loved the twist with Baron being a dog was great. I absolutely want to read more!

    My vote goes to the Baron.

  48. I'm having some serious issues with my computer and don't know how long my Internet connection will last -- so, I'm just going to say that I really like both of these pieces and was actually sorry to see them come head to head in this first round vote.

    I'm going to give my vote to Octavia Worldsend, simply because I do think the writing was a little better and I really like the way she worked the backstory into the current scene with enough action to keep me from my usual complaint of too much telling and not enough showing.

  49. My vote goes Octavia Worldsend this week. Smooth and polished to my reading.

    The Baron's premise is great but this little excerpt was confusing and didn't hold me.

  50. I like The Baron. It's actually a complete story, not the introduction to someone's novel. The word usage, writing style, and humor are all great. Definitely worthy of the next round.

  51. Aw, I love both of these entries! Octavia Worldsend gives us an intriguing character and fantastic worldbuilding. I felt that "asshat" was a bit redundant, and possibly an anachronism for the time period here. Maybe that's just me hoping that the word goes away.

    The Baron gives us a strong voice and humor. I began to suspect that we had a non-human narrator early on (I was thinking cat) and thus wasn't shocked by the ending. In general, I have trouble with animal MC's but that's a matter of personal taste.

    This was a close match, but I give my vote to Octavia Worldsend.

  52. I got a kick out of the Baron but Octavia Worldsend pulled me in faster and left me wanting more so my vote goes to Octavia.

  53. Though I did not return from my regrettable life-detouring absence in time to make my vote count, I still wish to state my preference for The Baron. Hilarious! I would buy this story for my nephew. (So, if it does go to print, please get in touch.)
    Congratulations to both of you.




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