Writer’s Boot Camp Day 16

Today is all about figuring out my weak spots as a writer.  

The timeline given has 7 sections to think about:   

  1. Ideas- I’m pretty darn good at this.  I’m imaginative and creative.
  2. Rough Draft- no problems here generally,  sometimes I’m lazy or spend too much time in research, but the storytelling part is easy and comes naturally for me.  I like making shit up.
  3. First review- I enjoy the first reading of my work, while it’s still new.  I like making little changes, moving things around, tinkering with the characters.  This part sometimes makes me feel a little sad because I think “wow, you write like a little kid” but other times I love reading my own work.  I feel proud the first time I read through and edit a short story. Novels are different, I apparently refuse to read my novel, and the rough draft has been done 4 years!
  4. Second/Third/Fourth drafts –  I start getting a little bored, but I can do it.  I might have to take a day or two off from a project and work on something else, but I got this.  
  5. Proofreading and polishing – here things start to fall apart.   I don’t feel like I have the skill sets and tools to even try proofreading my own work.  Many of my projects dead stop right here.
  6. Sending out work – I have 12 “finished” but unpublished stories,  I have 18 “works in progress”. I have 0 places I plan to send them.  0, nada, none, zilch. I have a page on which to write deadlines, but it is blank.  I have a list of markets I should look into, but I never get around to it. I do have one piece that is scheduled for publication in September, so I do sometimes submit, but not often.  
  7. Dealing with rejection and resubmitting – Yeah, not so much.  I just cry.

That’s pretty clear.  I don’t find places to submit, so I never have to finish proofreading and then submit.  I don’t like rejection so I avoid it. Clearly, this is where I need to be focusing my attention.  It seems a little counterintuitive, but maybe for the next little while I should stop writing for this Writer’s Boot Camp and start spending the time searching markets.  That thought makes me feel a little sick.

Looking for calls and markets takes so much time, and so much reading and effort.  And once I find a place I almost always want to start a new story. I never feel like any of the ones I already have done will work.  This could be a stalling technique.

I guess I need to start adding “look for markets/submitting” to my daily tasks.  This seriously might be where I give up on this whole thing. This doesn’t sound fun at all anymore.

I’ve only been working on this half an hour and I feel emotionally drained, about to cry just thinking about it.  I’m going to feed the cats, take a break and then come back to this and start looking for story calls. Ick.

I found 12 possible magazines and anthologies to submit to in the next few months and put all the info in a spreadsheet.  

Aside from this blog post, I haven’t done any actual writing today and I’m not going to.  I just spend 1.5 hours reading calls and submission guidelines, that is enough for one day.  

Tomorrow I will put them in order by deadline date.  Then I’ll find something I already have finished and polish it up to submit or I’ll write something new to submit, but I’m doing these one at a time, trying to complete as many as possible.

Work time today was 2 hours

Writer’s Bootcamp Day 2- Goals

Part 1 – Writing

Today started with writing for 1 hour before going on to the journaling part.  

I spent about the first 5 minutes of that closing browser tabs that had been left open from work.

Then I decided to write the short story I had thought of last night.  I don’t have a publication in mind for this one, no deadline or theme, just entertaining myself and getting into the habit of writing again.  

After 55 minutes or so of writing, I have 1109 words and a respectable beginning to a short story.

writingIt was fun and easier than I remember it being,  I just moved my fingers and words came out. Maybe not great words,  maybe not interesting words to form a story that anyone would want to read, but words.  The time flew by, time always seems to go really fast when I’m writing. I love writing when I’m doing it for the pure pleasure of itself,  I get so much joy for the act of telling stories. When I was a kid it was my escape from my scary life.

But in the working world of an adult, writing isn’t just a fun, cathartic thing I like to do.  Each moment has to be justified because each moment I spend writing is time that I am not doing something else that needs to be done.  Like today I can write because I am off for a few weeks and I can say this 30-day project is a stepping point in the long-term goal of turning this into my job.  There is no way the person I am currently could have just done this because she wanted to, the guilt would have burned away all the joy and creativity. Even as it was several times in the last hour I thought about the “more important” things I could be doing.  The things I have to get back to in just a few minutes after I do the other half of today’s assignment.

Part 2 – Goals

The book says I need goals,  I can’t just flit around writing whatever, whenever for the next 28 days.  I need a focus. I need to name the project and make a folder on my computer.  I need a schedule, a plan so that I can evaluate if I’m being successful or not.

This is where I panic and this boot camp thing seems too hard.  I suck at making and keeping goals like this. Because I never feel like I have picked the right goals,  I feel like someone else needs to give a fuck about what I am doing and validate my choices. But there isn’t anyone.  When I was married I tried to get my husband to be my writing “Dom”, but that wasn’t something he was into. And I am clearly not very good at being my own Dom.  At this point, I really want to give up and just cry. I’m going to walk away for a second, get a drink of water (cry) and come back, hold on.

DonnieOk, I’m back.  Hydrated, dehydrated for like 2 minutes, hugged a cat and played a stupid video game on my phone.

The book (Writer’s Bootcamp by Rachel Federman, I mention that since I’m doing direct quotes)  gives examples of goals I could have.

It can be a time goal like “20 minutes a day’

Or it can be a finishable project like “write a short story or essay”  or “write a poem to read at a workshop”

It can be working on something bigger like “finish a chapter in your novel”

A year ago when I started this my goal was to edit “Lost in Reflection”  that novel I wrote a few years before. To be honest I think that might be why I didn’t get very far last time, well, that and the leg breaking thing.  The thought of editing that book makes me want to never write again, it makes me sick to my stomach, it makes me want to jump out of a window. It’s not the book’s fault, in fact,  for being the first full novel I have ever written it’s not bad. However….

  1.  Editing isn’t fun, it isn’t exciting, it isn’t something I can write much of a blog about.
  1. Work to profit/cost ratio.  I worked about 4 hours a day for around 30 days to write it, so 120 hours.  I have edited and revised some of it already, but editing takes about twice as much time as writing, so add 240 hours.  Then I have to have someone else edit it, get a cover artist and then format it, then publish it (another 20 hours or so).  The last self-published book I wrote made about $70 so far. So if I finish this book, paid an editor the least amount I could, say $200, to give it a once-over,  and got a cover artist for the least possible amount, maybe $50, it will have cost me 380 hours and $180 to publish a book. That would put me in a super bad headspace.

bojackWhen I think about I realize this hobby costs me too much money and time, it’s just not worth it.  When I think of finishing my book, knowing I don’t have an audience interested in reading it I want to give up and do something that is at least free.  I would lose 0$ by watching tv. Doing nothing is more economically sound than being a writer. So, editing my novel isn’t my goal.

Leading us back to the question, what is my goal?  

I could write one blog post every day about what I am doing,  that’s a goal. But it’s sort of a meta-goal, if my project is writing about my project then I can see possible days in which that doesn’t work. I think doing a blog post every day should be part of my goal, but not the goal itself.  

I don’t want this to be a timed goal every day,  because I have a feeling that each of these daily tasks will have its own time to finish,  I don’t want to feel like I’m racing a clock and I also don’t want to be sitting here with a timer running and have nothing to do.  

My instinct is to have a goal with completion built in,  like “write and submit 3 new short stories”, 3 stories in a month is reasonable goal,  but this doesn’t take into account all the extra time that I would spend searching for markets to submit them,  formatting them to guidelines and stuff like that. That stuff needs a totally different challenge. Before I started trying to be a professional writer I had no idea how much time writers spend doing business work instead of writing.  The other problem with this goal is what if I finish and publish 3 stories before the end of the 30 days?dryden

Days like this I really wish I had a manager or something.  I wish I had someone to tell me what to do. I really enjoyed writing for Dryden House because the publisher, Katie would just tell me what she wanted, when she wanted it and then bully me until I did the work. I miss that.

I’m over 2 hours in on this today and I still haven’t done the thing I have set out to do.  

Ok, I’m going with 3 short stories.  They can be brand new like the one I started today or they can be pulled out of my “in process folder”,  but not my “finished- needs publishing folder” as that would be cheating. The business side stuff (searching markets, contacting publishers and networking) counts as working, so if it says “write an hour” I’m going to take that to mean “write or do writing business for an hour”

Goal:

In the next 28 days, I will write and submit for publication 3 short stories and blog something about the process every day.  

Dragon Con 2014

We went to Dragon Con again this year. It was fun, even more than last year. There were still a lot of people, but it was not as overwhelming for me. I didn’t try to be there all the time; when I was tired I went home. I also did a much better job of scheduling my time, making sure to go to the sessions that were most important to me.

I went to several professional development sessions in the writers’ track and listened to some of my favorite writers talk about the creative and business side of being an author. This was the first time I have gone out of my way to talk to other writers one-on-one and get their advice. I realize networking is important to my career and it is something I need to get better at. However, walking up and talking to someone has never been my strong suit; in fact I find it quite rude and aggressive. I feel like I am assaulting people with my words and presence when I come up without permission. I mostly practiced it on writers who said it was something you have to do in the sessions, because I took that as them clearly giving permission. I ordered great business cards since then, so that will help in the future.

I also did real cosplay this year, as opposed to last year with general anime and general goth. I dressed up as the Flame Princess from Adventure Time and helped Puck be Simon and Lori be Marcelline. I loved being recognized. Several people even took my picture. Cosplay is something I definitely want to do again. I would like to do the Evil Queen from Once Upon a Time next year, but that will be pretty difficult. Maybe something from Avatar. I should decide soon and get to work.

Dragon Con 2014 - 2SimonLoriThis was the first year I have gone to the Walk of Fame and talked to a few celebrities this year. I was nervous and I babbled a bit. Sandeep is one of the cutest people, and one of my few celebrity crushes. I think I might have made him uncomfortable as I make all people I think are cute uncomfortable. He seemed to like Puck, who is for some reason way less creepy than I am. (Future post about how creepy other people find me and dating forthcoming).Sandeep

Richard Howland from “Lost Girl” reminded me of my paw-paw.Talking to people I have seen on TV is weird, it is like they are people and not people at the same time.

I’d like to start going to a few other conventions once I get a job or start making a bit of writing income. I enjoy being around people with common interests in a structured environment.

Trick

Oddly, Dragon Con might become something like New Years to me. I have felt so inspired to work since then. In the last few weeks I have worked harder at my writing than I have in months. This blog post is proof of that. I have also written and submitted a dieselpunk story. This week I am going to try to find five markets to submit to, write 600 words a day, and at least try to edit my novel. This weekend I plan to attend the Georgia Romance Writers’ monthly meeting. I hope I can keep this ball rolling; being around other people who are in the same business will help

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Writer’s Regimen

For a while, almost a year, I had formed a good routine. I was putting several hours a day into my career as a writer. That is not to say I wrote fiction every day. Some days were spent searching for markets, some days doing blog posts, interacting with other writers or possible readers, or working on my webpage. Mondays I wrote a short story from a prompt; most other days I did a mixture of editing and marketing. And then I stopped.
It was a few months ago. And now I can’t even remember why I stopped. I have some issues with mania and depression. Maybe I found something better to do, or maybe I thought writing was pointless. Whatever the reason, one day I decided not to write. The days turned to weeks, the weeks to months. The longer I went without working, the scarier it became to go back to it. I started to not feel like a writer at all anymore.

Last night I couldn’t get to sleep. I thought of all the work I had done, and how no one was ever going to read it if I could not make myself get back in the saddle and finish it. I put “Writing, 1 hour” on my task list. This is not the first time I have done it, but I guess it was the first time I meant it, because here I am, writing. Editing my novel might be the most important thing I could be doing, because I can’t have a career as a writer without a product for people to buy. However, that seemed much too hard to jump right back into. I don’t have any short story ideas and I don’t know if I am up to writing something fresh from a prompt right now.

A blog post about my life, thoughts and feelings is always pretty easy, as I love talking about myself. I know very few people will read this today, or maybe ever. But that is not the point. The point is that the clock is ticking down an hour and my fingers are clicking on the keys. It feels good, still a bit scary, but good.

Maybe I will finish this post in less than an hour. Then what? There are so many things I could do, so many paths I could choose to take back up Awesome Author Mountain. Maybe I could go read and comment on some of my favorite blogs (which I have also been neglecting). Maybe I could at least open my novel and read a bit. Maybe I could organize all my finished and ready to publish stories and start looking for people to buy them. Maybe I could start on another blog post or order business cards. Perhaps making a list is in order. Today it does not matter what I do, as long as I am doing something. Today is one day, but the days will turn into weeks, and the weeks will turn into months, and soon I will feel like a writer again.

I love reading about other writers’ routines; some of them are so strange, with weird superstitions, ticks and habits. Daily Routines is a great blog to check out if you are interested in that sort of thing.

Other than a timer, I don’t have anything that always happens. Some days I feel the need to write with paper and pen, some days I light a candle, burn incense, or turn on the salt lamp. A few days I got really drunk first, which worked out better than I want to admit, but I don’t plan to make a habit of it. I keep a keyboard (the musical type) beside my computer, and I have found that playing a song or two when I am frustrated with something I am failing to write correctly is helpful. If a certain food, action, time of day, or weird habit forms I will let you know here.

Please tell me about your writing routines in the comments.

People Farming

veggiesEveryone on the writing sites, blogs and communities are talking about “fans”.  Some say that social media is the way to get them; others talk about the “million fan fallacy”.  Some talk about “true fans” as opposed to people who just ‘like’ your facebook page.  You can find countless people talking about the correct marketing strategy to get all these fans.

It occurred to me today that this is farming, with people as the crop.  When you friend as many people as you can on every social media site possible, start a blog or Youtube channel you are planting the seed.  When you comment here and there, show an interest in other people life/work/family, write blog posts, read blog and comment, make a new video or put your stories up as podcasts that is the fertilizing and watering.   The idea is that if you do this enough you will get “fans” who are harvested when they buy your books.

If your books are good then the “fans” will buy each new book.

I am doing this.  There is a good chance that you are doing this.  Many of the blogs I read are those of other writers.  Most of my communities are for writers.   All of us say we are there to learn new skills and make friends, but really we are thinking “I am a reader, I read tons of books, all writers must be readers, I bet writers will buy my book”.

But there might be a big problem with this theory.  I don’t think about buy and selling at the same time. This is not like going to a WoW merchant, where you sell all your old stuff and buy new stuff in the same window.  I don’t often think of reading as work/research.  Sure, each time I read a book it sparks my imagination and helps me be a better writer.  But when I am “working” I am not actively looking for the next book to read in my leisure time.

When I am farming for people that is work.  Marketing is the most worky work I can think of involved with writing.    So far, I think I have only bought two books while doing people farming; one because the book looked interesting and the other because I liked the blogger.  So, it can happen, but I have looked at the pages of maybe a few hundred people, so don’t hold your breath.  I don’t think a single person I have met from writing communities or blogging has ever bought my book. So far people I know in person buy it. Some of them just because they want to support me emotionally, not because my writing interests them.

I have two goals that don’t play well together:

-Find my future “fans” when I market and convince them to give my work a try.

-Find the best new writer each time I finish reading a book.anne-geddes-cabbage-kids

There are people out there who would love my stories or want to be my “fan” because of how awesome I am.  I am a fan of lots of people, but honestly very few of them are indie writers. I know there must be indie writers out there I would love, but I mostly read popular, established writers because it is easy to find the ones that matches my tastes.

Here in lies another problem; the soil in which we plant our seeds.

You might not ever be a fan of my writing, and I might not ever like yours.  You can market to me all day about, a Christian romance novel or a sports related mystery, and no matter how good it is I will not buy it.  Ever.  If you don’t like sci-fi, fantasy and feminism you will never like my books.

The big publishers marketing works for them, because they can throw so much advertising out that some of the seeds will have to germinate even if they don’t try to find the right soil at all. They put up posters of their new books in the book stores, we can’t do that.   They send their author’s out on book signing, advertising it on the radio and newspapers. I don’t even have a physical copy of my book to sign.   They send their authors to conventions, where I am just possible person to farm.  They make deals with movie people and famous readers.

As indie authors we don’t have their reach or resources to do that sort of throwing to the wind marketing, and yet we try so hard, wasting our efforts.   But there must be something we can do.  I can’t think of anything right now to try to make you love me (other than be lovable  which I am rocking), but I do have an idea of how to maybe find some indie authors I might like.

My mind is fertile soil, come plant your seed.

Off the top of my head my favorites you have heard of are Terry Pratchett, Jim Butcher, Christopher Moore, Susan Collins, Neil Gaiman  Octavia Butler, Lovecraft, Douglas Addams and Poe.

I like fantasy and sci-fi with a nice amount of action, but not all action.  I like humor thrown in as well as the strange or absurd.  I am a big fan of YA novels, especially with strong female characters.  I like urban fantasy, steam punk and weird westerns.  Creepy and dark, without being gory torture porn, is also a favorite.

I don’t like the type of fantasy that is centered on romance/sex.  Some romance and sex is great, but if that is the main plot then I am not your audience.   I don’t dig non-consensual sex especially  or women being abused.   I am not a big fan of books where sadness is the goal.

If you like at least half of the above authors and you think your work or something you have read is what I am looking for then comment here.  I will check you out.  If I buy your book I will review it honestly.  So don’t try to trick me.

Thank You to My Tens of Fans

First off, I have been out of town for the last week in Chicago, so I have been too busy having fun to post to my blog. Also sadly too busy with the fun to get much work done on my novel, which I am about 5000 words behind on. But don’t worry, I will work hard and get caught back up soon.

Today, what with Thanksgiving being tomorrow, I wanted to write a little thank you note to some people who are making this becoming a professional writer thing a lot easier. A huge thank you to everyone who has bought my book or told people about it. I can’t express how much your support means to me. I have wanted to be a writer as long as I can remember. In fact my first memory of it was a summer night when I was ‘swimming’ in the above ground pool my mom had just gotten. It was a full moon that night and I wrote a poem while I floated around. Of course my little poem when I was 8 was not very good, but I still have it around here someplace. It was that night that I first thought that someday maybe people would want to read my thoughts and care about the things I make up.

Anyway, since I was 8, I have been writing and dreaming of someday having people read my stories, and even better of being able to make a living off of people reading my stories. When I was 11, I got a type writer for Christmas (not a useful tool when you are a horrible speller). But until this year I have always been too afraid to actually give being a professional writer a a try; afraid of rejection, afraid of not being very good, and afraid of losing the dream forever if the reality was that I could not do it.

Something changed this year. I think the first change was when I realized that sometimes people write stories and books that are not “masterpieces” and they do just fine. I don’t have to write something so OMG amazing that it rocks the world. I just have to write.

The second thing was that I can publish my own stuff. I don’t need any “professional” publisher’s approval to be awesome. I can be awesome any time I want, no waiting.

So between giving myself permission to not be ‘great’ and the ability to self publish, my last fear was just that I might lose the dream. Fuck a whole bunch of that. What is the point of a dream if you never even attempt it? It was time to stop waiting around for someone or something else to convince me to write and publish. It was time to take control and do it.

So I did. I worked hard and I wrote something. Yay! But some of that fear was still there. What if no one read it? What if everyone thought I was being dumb and made fun of me? What if it just sits there on the internet getting cyber-dusty? What if this is it, no one buys it, and I lose faith in myself and the dream really does die?

But then people stepped up and bought my book. Most of them are my friends in real life, supporting my creativity. But some stranger has bought “Treacherous Nature”. Friends and strangers alike, it has meant so much to me. Each time I sell a copy I feel so happy, and I feel the urge to keep going. I even sold a story to a publisher. I am writing a novel. I am submitting several stories every month. I am getting paid to write. And I don’t think I would still be working so hard if it were not for all the wonderful people who have bought my book, asked what I was working on, told people about me, commented on my blog, and just said “Good Luck!” or “You can do it” when I needed it.

I don’t want to sound too cosmic space bunny here, but this process is not just about writer and words. The reader is just as important. So, if you are reading this  — Thank You! If you have read my book THANK YOU!!!!!!

Professional Writer

I sold my first story this week! “Noir Noel” will be in an anthology “Strange Christmas” which will be out later this month. It is a nice feeling to know someone wants to pay money to print my story. I am now a professional. 🙂

As for everything else, I have only sold 2 copies of “Treacherous Nature” this month. I need do something to pull that up to at least 5. The NaNo novel is going very well. I have written over 10,000 words and most of them are pretty good. I am enjoying the pace of a novel, which is so different than a short story. If this keeps going so well I hope to have it released in a few months.

It is going to be a long time before I can make a reasonable living from being a writer, but for the first time it does not feel like some silly pipe dream. I have been doing this seriously for 8 months, and this month will be the first money I get paid. Right now it looks like I will get a total of $36, from the sale of “Noir Noel”, Amazon and Gumroad combined. It is only enough money for one trip to the grocery store, but it is income. Maybe in December I will make $50. I just have to keep writing. Put a few more books on Amazon and Gumroad, get better at short stories and submit them everywhere. At this pace it will take a few years to start making minimum wage, but that is ok. I would gladly do this for minimum wage. I have been doing it for free the last 8 months.

Making Goals

I tend to not be a very self-motivated person sometimes. It goes in phases – for a few months I will be like “DO ALL THE THINGS,” and then I will get frustrated or just lazy and slack off. So being my own boss about pretty much everything right now means I have to be the one who cracks the whip, which is not easy for me. Sometimes when the choice is weed the garden bed or watch TV then TV wins. 
 
Over the last few months I have been following a daily schedule to make sure I work on everything I need to do at least a little. I have exercise, writing, cleaning, homesteading tasks, personal time, writing business, and even saying a mantra on there.
 
This month I have set goals for my writing, a well-rounded approach to move me forward an author. It is part about writing more stories and getting better at my chosen profession, as well as connecting with people and selling my work. 
 
This month’s goals are:
Submit 10 stories to publishers– I have done 3 so far
Sell 5 copies of “Treacherous Nature” – Reached that yesterday, yay!
Write 2 short stories – I have finished one so far
Publish a free short story on Amazon – I have not done this yet
Do two blog posts a week– I have already failed at this one, but I need to try to make it work for the rest of the month.
Make some plans for my novel next month – I have a few ideas, but have not put anything down yet. I have not attempted to write a novel in years. This is a very scary thing for me. It is just this year that I have gotten the confidence to finish short stories, so the idea of writing that much, working that hard, and then maybe walking away is pretty intimidating. The most I have ever written on a novel was about 20k words before I ran away from it. So whatever idea I come up with has to be interesting to me as well as to the future reader, and I need some sort of plan so I don’t get stuck and give up. 
 
I am going to have goals like this every month and post them here so I can get your input. 
 
What sort of goals do you set? 
 
How likely are you to meet them? 
 
Are there some facets of what you do that are really easy for you to keep doing, but other parts that you get stuck on? For me writing is fun and pretty easy, but if I did not make myself, I would never edit or submit stories. I would just write and write and write. 
 
How do you stay focused?

Submitting Stories

I don’t think I have the hang of this yet.

So far I write stories to the call. If the editor says “We went Lovecraftian fairy tales” then I think about it and sit down and write one just for that editor and send it off.   I don’t write stories and then look for places to submit them.  Finishing stories just for the sake of finishing them has never been my strong suit, but thinking of them as an ordered product helps.    If I know who the story is going to before I type the first word then I feel committed to it.

Problem is, so far all I have gotten are rejections.  Maybe the stories I write do have a home and it is just not the first place I sent it.  But I am not confident about sending my work to lots of people.  If the people I specifically wrote it for don’t want it, then why would anyone else?  This is why I have a collection already, several of those are stories that other people rejected.

This picture is relevant to the story I just finished.

But now that I am actually thinking about it only two are.  Three of them I wrote just for this collection.  The one many people say is best “Red, in Tooth and Claw” was never submitted anyplace and it is a really good story.

This is on my mind today because I just finished a story yesterday.  And I am going to be sending it to an editor/publisher that has turned me down twice now.   Every call she puts out is perfect.  I read it and I think “This is wonderful, I can do this!”.  Part of me knows it is sort of stupid to keep writing things for her.  But I really like all the stories that she has written and I feel like our work is similar, though different enough.  And hers is of course better, since she has been doing this a lot longer.

I am pretty sure she is going to turn me down again.  And this is new, up until today every story I have sent I felt was going to get accepted.  I think “oh, yeah, I got this one”.   But I don’t have any confidence in this story getting accepted, which is odd, as this story is really good.But should I send it to other places if it is rejected?  Should I send it to other places now?

How many markets do you submit stories to? How do you decide if a market is a good fit for your work?

Treacherous Nature

My book is available now!
If you like fantasy, horror and sci-fi please go check it out. Let your friends know about it if you think it is something they would like. If you buy a copy it will make me very happy.

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Here is the Amazon Link:

Treacherous Nature

If you don’t use Amazon then you can also get it in EPub format on Gumroad.

Treacherous Nature