Leap Day Adapalooza – Twitter Ads

A couple months ago I put up a post on designing Twitter ads for writers. Hopefully a few people got something useful out of it, even if it was just a few ideas about things you can do. To celebrate Leap Day – which isn’t even a National Holiday, go figure – I figured I’d show off some of the ads I’ve come up with over the past couple months. If anyone’s interested in getting some ads done, please feel free to contact me.

For the most part the ads I’ve done have been created with open source software and licensed images. Always make sure to use licensed images; they’re not that expensive and, if you get good ones, can be reused in a variety of ways.

Software:

  • Inkscape (Free vector image editor. I use it for text work and layout)
  • GIMP (Free bitmap editor. I use it for editing and resizing images.
  • Canva (Free online ad creator. It’s a good piece of software, but I’m old school and stick to the flexibility of Inkscape and GIMP).
  • Photoshop and Illustrator are quite excellent programs, they’re just out of my price range.

Images

  • Dreamstime (Great selection, buy the five images for $40 pack and get the biggest images you can)
  • VectorStock (Excellent supply of vector images. $25 will get you around 25 images)
  • Free Stock Images (You’ll have to do some digging but there are some absolute gems in here)

You can scream about your book on Twitter all day long and may or may not get anyone to pay attention. One thing that has been proven time and again, though, is tweets with images get noticed and retweeted far more often than just plain text tweets. Text tweets disappear in the chaos of Twitter, but a good image can help draw the eye. Once you got the eye, it’s up to the ad itself to keep the person looking – and hopefully clicking on the link to buy your book. Therefore, the ad has to be eye-catching, but there also has to be something in the ad that makes the reader want to learn more. That thing can be the ad itself, bits of snippets from the book in question, or any number of things. I trend toward using snippets and quotes from the actual book, but not all the time. Sometimes a straightforward image and simple copy can accomplish miraculous things.

There’s a bit of an art (that I admittedly am not spectacular at) to picking the quotes to stick in an ad. You’ve got limited space: 1024 x 512 pixels and the text has to be big enough to see easily. Ideally, ad text should be quick and easy to digest. Twitter is like drinking from a fire hose and unless the image is grabby enough no one will take a second note of it. Once they do, you’ve got mere seconds to get your point across, so the quotes can’t be complicated and need to divulge enough information to warrant a second look. If you can get a click out of it, you’re doing pretty good.

Some people prefer to stick to the same ad images and content, and that’s okay. I prefer to shake it up so the content doesn’t get stale. In advertising terms I’m probably not making the best of my “brand”, but in Twitter terms I know if I see the same thing over and over again, I’ll just scroll by it on subsequent viewings. They become just more noise.

So, here are some of the ads I’ve pulled together over the past couple months along with some notes about where the images came from and what I was trying to do with them. As an added bonus, there’s some extra content about the books here, too. Think of it as the director’s cut. At the very least, hopefully someone will get some ideas out these.

AriseAd1
One of the most recent Arise ads, and still one of my favorites. The image was vertical and had to be faded into the blue on the left using a masking layer in GIMP. The base image is from Dreamstime.
AriseAgentAd1
A simple Arise ad. Image from Dreamstime. Not one of my favorites, but I do like the boldness of it. I should probably redo this one.
AriseComicAd1
One of the newest (as of this posting) Arise ads. I spent some time digging around Vectorstock and found some amazing vectors by Sababa66. A lot of those have been incorporated into the recent Henchmen and Arise ads.
AriseJessicaAd2Final
The text works, but just barely. I do like the intense stare she’s got, though. I always thought of Jessica as an intense young woman, capable of incredible highs and lows. The image was from Dreamstime and, once again, required some masking layers in GIMP to get it to fit the horizontal template.
AriseJessicaComicAd1
Again with Jessica. She really came into her own with Arise. This comes from one of my favorite exchanges in Arise: Jessica’s hand touches my shoulder and she says, “If someone comes up, drop and I’ll open with Painless here.” “Painless?” “Yeah, that’s what Jesse Ventura named his gun in Predator.” “You named your gun?” I ask. “Sure, you guys name your dicks all the time, why can’t a girl name her gun?” “Mighty Thor and I take offense at that statement,” I respond. Painless, of course, is was Jesse Ventura called his minigun in Predator.
AriseJessicaRed
Not one of my favorites. I grabbed the image from Dreamstime for some damned reason or another and it doesn’t entirely fit, but I do like the red.
AriseJessicasBarAd1
What can I say? I love the fact that she had a bar in Mexico. I also like the Dia de los Muertos image. I’m not sure about the background color, though. The image is from Vectorstock and I’ll probably redesign something else with it.
ClockManCocoTwitter
The text is from Duérmete Niño, one of the stories in The Clock Man. The title comes from a classic bedtime song that tells kids to go to sleep or else Coco (the bogeyman of northern New Mexico) will come eat them. Working with the various stories in The Clock Man gave me a lot of room to draw on different designs for the various stories. The image is Francisco Goya’s Que Viene el Coco. I love the text and the conversation, but the image doesn’t work quite as well as it could.
ClockManDevilGirl
For some reason I really liked the idea that Jack (a character from Zona Peligrosa in The Clock Man) would fall in love with a literal devil girl. In case you’re wondering, she’s the SallyAnne from my story Loophole in the Holes anthology. At some point I need to work out a longer story with those two. This is one of those where I’m hoping the image is grabby enough to get someone to take a couple seconds reading the text. I played around with the fonts a lot in this one, going back and forth between Jack’s bombastic style and Zapp’s plain typewriter text, as well as highlighting “sexy” and “devil” with different fonts and colors.
ClockManDragonAd
The Clock Man (the story not the whole collection) started as a simple short story and ballooned rapidly as I explored Aluna. Felix Crow is a dick, but he’s got his heart in kind of the right place. Traditionally, dragons are wise creatures or holy terrors, but I was exploring the idea that the dragons of Aluna were very alien things; most of the people on Aluna know of them, but very few have met one. The dragon section was a fun little bit to write. I’m still plotting out a full-length novel of Aluna with Chan, Kevin, and Felix. Of course, the dragon will be there, too.
ClockManEveAd2
I’ve had at least a few people ask about what Eve is and what her back story was. It’s covered in Eve, one of the Clock Man stories. Some people have said it wasn’t as exciting as they were expecting, but from tiny misdeeds mighty Valkyries grow. It was a fun story to write. I had to do a lot of research on Norse mythology in general and Valkyries in particular. Plus, Eve gets to stab Odin, so it has that going for it. The text very much sums up why Eve does what she does. The story goes on to further explain how this one Valkyrie wound up on her own long before the events of Henchmen.
CLockManHeartAd1
The Clock Man story was a kind of stylized neo-wuxia, detective noir story with magic and horror thrown in. I love martial arts and exploring how the Clock Man would fight was interesting. I spent a huge amount of time on that story just looking up the Chinese I used in the text. I tried to go with a kind of Steampunk style. even though the story really isn’t Steampunk, it’s the closest analog to Aluna’s magic-powered world and the Clock Man himself is definitely a grotesque variation on Steampunk.
ClockManHorrorsAd
The horror aspects of The Clock Man show up pretty near the end. I wanted to explore what would happen to someone who goes completely off the rails and starts throwing his humanity to the breeze. What would a guy like that do? Probably nothing good. This particular ad has gotten noticed a couple times and a few people have even mentioned they stopped to read it. That alone makes it a win. Even as cluttered as the text is, the narrow font and simple use of color make it pretty easy on the eyes.
ClockManHuizhongAd
Huizhong was a part antagonist, part love interest, part unwitting pawn in a game that was much larger than she thought. She’s one of the characters I want to bring back in an Aluna novel. I like the image, it captures her pretty well even if I do need to work on her hair (it’s gray with a pink wash in the story), but the text design needs some more work.
ClockManHuntAd
Wilford Saxton was originally intended to be a disposable character in Henchmen, but I found he was more interesting than I had expected. As soon as he got the gun at the end of Arise it changed his dynamic entirely. The first story in his spin-off series is The Hunt from The Clock Man, it’ll be followed up a few weeks with Saxton: Uneasy Allies. The text is from a conversation between Wil and his gun. The image is a reference to the bruja in the story.
ClockManLegendaryFelixCrow
Felix spends a lot of time getting pushed around in The Clock Man. The colors are great and I like the text for Alyssa’s quote, but something isn’t working for me. I think the font is just too fussy to be read clearly and the excerpt doesn’t convey enough information about the story. The image is from Dreamstime, by the way.
ClockManLingerieAd
I think this one freaked a few people out. It’s a reference to a section in Zona Peligrosa where the Guardian tries to seduce Zapp. The whole feel of the house in the nowhere was influenced by some of the events in Exceeds Expectations, and the Guardian (Alunan, naturally) was intended to trip up intruders by appealing to their baser instincts. There are a couple sections in the story that prove the tactic has worked in the past.
ClockManMonsterHuntAd
This is a subtle reference to the way Wil Saxton isn’t as innocent as he likes to think he is. The Saxton series will explore his motivations and his changing perspective on what makes a monster. The ad itself was intended to be a simple, bold shot, but the Clock Man logo doesn’t work well with it. This was later repurposed for the Saxton series.
CLockManSkull
Trying to pull up the horror aspects of The Clock Man. Image from Vectorstock. I’m actually thinking about redoing the cover with this image. This one is in the rework bin right now. I like the basics of it, but it doesn’t pop, damn it. It just lays there like a bored hooker.
ClockManSPTwitter
A later image and logo design for The Clock Man. I’ve also toyed with using this for the cover. This one is a straight up ad and was done before I started using bits of dialog in the ad pieces. In some ways it works pretty well, but in others not so much. I think the Chinese text on the left needs to be faded, and The Clock Man logo needs to be pop out more.
ClockManZappShoot
The background image was from a free stock image site that escapes me right now. It fit with some of the retro aspects of Zona Peligrosa (like Jack’s 1936 Cord 812 or the old Indian motorcyle). The statue also reminds me of one of the tchotchkes you could always find in the old gas stations along Route 66 (now Interstate 40).
ClockManZonaIndian
I think I only used this once. It’s not my favorite. In some ways the image is perfect for Zona Peligrosa, but there’s simply too much going on for anything to stand out. It’s a perfect example an ad that’s too busy to be of any use. Learn from mistakes, my young padawan.
HenchmenComicAd1
The first Henchmen ad with Sababa66’s graphics. The book has a comic-book feel (super villain and all) and the artwork was perfect. I ultimately redid the covers for both Henchmen and Arise (the text work, too), with the new graphics.
HenchmenComicAd2
Her eyes were blue in the original artwork, but I changed them to gray to reflect Eve’s eyes. It doesn’t say much about the book, but it is eye-catching. Unfortunately, the image took up too much of the usable space to add a snippet from the book.
HenchmenDoTheWrongThing
I still like this one. It’s got an action movie feel going for it. Again, it doesn’t say much about the story, but hopefully it caught someone’s eye. At some point in the future, I’d like to see this or something like it hanging with the rest of the coming soon posters at the theater.
HenchmenGroupAd2
One of the last ads done with photos from Dreamstime (for now, anyway). I’m still not happy with the text. The image is great, but the rest just doesn’t work as well as I’d like. I may need to experiment with the text.
HenchmenJacobTwitter
I like the Henchmen logo on this one and the picture kind of reminds me of my dad.
HenchmenJessicaComicAd1
No text from the book, but “in your face entertainment” sums up Henchmen pretty well.
HenchmenJessicaTwitterAd
I really like how this turned out and I’ve used it quite a bit. I’ve always seen Jessica as kind of crazy and the image captures her pretty well. This one has gotten noticed and even commented on a time or two; that makes it a win.
HenchmenRain
Another one I really liked. Even though I never mention rain in Henchmen, the image fits really well. The simple text pops nicely, too. This has been noticed a time or two on Twitter. I think it’s the simplicity of it all and the bold text that make it stand out.
HenchmenTwitterAd1
As you can gather, I’ve been trying to get something good out of this picture but it keeps eluding me. Sigh.
Saxton1
First promo piece for the Saxton series. Yes, I used the same image earlier. See what I mean about good artwork?

Book Review – Twe12ve by Ceri Bladen

I really like the idea that gods wander among us doing godly things and generally causing problems. That was the central tenet of Douglas Adams’ The Long Dark Teatime of the Soul, it was an integral part of Neil Gaiman’s American Gods and Anansi Boys, and I used a similar idea in Henchmen and Arise.

The one thing, though, that all of those books had in common was the gods were really just doing god stuff and were mostly unconcerned with human things. Today’s book, Twe12ve by Ceri Bladen, changes that dynamic somewhat. The story of Twe12ve revolves around two groups of Norse gods. Naturally, the groups are at odds with each other over a secret buried in Odin’s vault; one group wants to keep the secret safe (they’re the good guys) and the other wants to steal it and hand it off to pharma company, presumably so the pharma company can make sure it never gets out.

And that’s kind of an interesting twist on the god genre. While it’s never actually revealed what the pharma company has promised the bad guys in return for the secret, one can only assume it must be impressive to catch the attention of a bunch of Norse gods. The pharma company is a background element which, interestingly enough, renders it almost a godlike feel in and of itself. That right there would be worthy of some exploration; what does it take for a company to gain enough power to attract the interest of gods? Perhaps Ceri will explore that in a sequel. Twe12ve ends in a neatly tied bundle, so there’s no real reason for a sequel, but there’s still plenty of space to go exploring. I would imagine once a pharma company gains that kind of power, they’re not going to go quietly into the night.

If I had one problem with Twe12ve it’s that some of the mythology is a little off. I won’t worry about the names (Floki instead of Loki), because names can change and it’s entirely possible Loki just wanted to use a different name. He’s a god; he can do stuff like that without even bothering to fill out a change of name form.

The gods make plenty of references to wanting to go home. Unfortunately, they want to go back to Ragnarok. Ragnarok is an event, though, not a place; it’s the end times when the great battle will happen. Asgard is where the gods lived. The cool people got to hang in Valhalla – a large hall inside of Asgard.

Aside from that, Twe12ve was a fun read.

twe12ve

Get your copy of Twe12ve here

Follow Ceri on Twitter

Check out her blog

I’d Like to Buy an ‘O’ – Edit All the Things

You haven’t experienced fun until you’ve spent some time redesigning your covers for maximum awesomeness, cleaning the edges and making sure all the elements align correctly, creating jpg and png versions as well as smaller png files you can use for ad stock, uploading the new covers to Amazon, and waiting patiently until the changes get propagated around the world. The truly fun part, though, the one that I’ll look back on and laugh about at some distant point in the future, is getting everything up and running and having someone tell you there’s a typo on the cover text.

AriseBlod

There are a whopping sixteen words on that cover – and two of them are my name. One of them is misspelled. I guess I got too wrapped up in the awesome to notice a missing O. Fortunately it’s easy to delete a tweet, pull it from my Facebook wall, delete the image from Tumblr, fix the image, re-upload to Amazon, and get a new copy updated on this blog.

Still. ~Sigh~.

Here’s the fixed copy. Extra special thanks to Kevin MacMaster for so rapidly pointing out the typo.

AriseComicCover

The moral of the story? Edit all the things.

Writing Is Work, But It’s Fun Work

I’m a programmer by trade. For the most part, I enjoy my work and my company. There are times when things get frustrating and I swear I’m going to go become an auto mechanic or arms dealer or some such thing, but there’s really no way I’m going to do either of those things. I don’t know enough about cars to fix them professionally and I don’t have the knowledge or contacts in the arms dealing world to get started. That and it turns out there are these rules about selling advanced weaponry to people.

Sheesh. It’s not like I’m starting the revolution; I’m just providing the means at a tidy profit to myself.

So instead I program stuff and generally enjoy my days. In the evenings (and sometimes late into the night) I write books and stories. I decided early on to learns as much as I could about the entire process of putting together a book from writing to formatting to cover design to actual print and eBook distribution. At first I put out some shaky products, but I’m slowly getting better. The only thing I really need to invest some money in is an editor. Fortunately, I have friends who will happily point out typos and generate lists of things that went wrong. I appreciate the effort, but it’s hardly fair to them to do all that extra work, so I’ll be calling on an editor in the future.

This weekend was spent doing some stuff that really needed done. I redid covers for Henchmen and Arise, created a couple new Twitter ad pieces, and edited The Clock Man.

What can I say? It was work. But it’s still enjoyable work and I had a blast redoing the covers. All the work is done, the new covers cleaned up and uploaded, some new text changes (mostly to the Also By pages) were done on Henchmen and Arise, and The Clock Man got a slew of typos taken out and summarily shot.

I decided to embrace my comic book heritage for the covers, rather than redoing the photo images. They may not be realistic but, let’s face it, neither are the books. There are elements of realism in both books and I tried to keep the stories at least somewhat grounded, but there’s still very much a superhero – well, super villain – vibe going on in both books. The third (of four) book in the Henchmen series is well underway, in case you were wondering.

Since the new covers haven’t completely circulated through Amazon’s legion of servers, here they are. Now I’m getting that itch to redo The Clock Man cover.

HenchmenComicCoverSmall

AriseComicCover

Book Review – Wychman Road by Ben Berman Ghan

bookReview

The world is glutted with superhero stories these days. Some are excellent, some are less than spectacular, most are about people in tights doing things to other people in tights. Don’t get me wrong, I love a good superhero story, especially when it breaks the normal routine of putting on tights and fighting crime.

I guess one of the major problems with a lot of superhero stories is they’re all fundamentally the same: good guys fight bad guys, there are lots of flashy things happening, good guys ultimately win. They trend toward an area of fantasy where things are black and white. In a way, that’s why I wrote Henchmen; it was an attempt to break the normal routines.

Other people are doing the same kinds of things. Actually they’ve been doing them for some time now; I’m hardly a groundbreaking author. What I like to see are the stories where the people with the powers aren’t out sacrificing themselves for the good of all mankind because, let’s face it, people usually don’t do that. Series like Jessica Jones (Alias – the comic series it sprung from – was better in my opinion), Daredevil, and Gotham are covering these areas now, but they still trend toward good guys and bad guys doing things to each other out of the kindness (or blackness) of their hearts.

Into this maelstrom drops Ben Berman Ghan’s Wychman Road, a tale about what’s really likely to happen to people with superpowers. The general gist of the story is there are people who can control other people, oftentimes causing irreparable damage to the people being controlled. The reaction to the damage their powers cause is what starts to define the Thought Walkers.and separate them into basically okay and probably pretty bad camps.

Wychman Road is partly a superhero yarn, but it’s also musings on what it means to be human and what regular people will do when suddenly granted amazing abilities. Now, if normal people would go off the rails when they found they had the ability to control others, those who’ve had the ability for a long time would have very different outlook on what’s okay and what’s not.

If I have one complaint about Wychman Road it’s the large amount of telling instead of showing. There are scenes that could have been extremely fun to explore but were simply told. The telling drug the story down in some places, but when Ghan rolls in the action Wychman really shines.

If you’re looking for something exciting, a new way of looking at superheroes, check out Wychman Road.

wychmanroad

Get it on Amazon

Check out Ben Berman Ghan’s blog

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Show Me A Story – Showing vs Telling in Fiction

One of the hobgoblins of writing is the constant admonition to “show don’t tell”. I’ve had criticisms – probably valid – that I do more telling than I should. Certainly the beginnings of earlier cuts of Henchmen had an awful lot more telling than showing, something I think eased back as the book progressed. Earlier editions of the novel placed a much heavier emphasis on telling. In fact, it was due to those criticisms that the book underwent a huge rewrite about a year after it was released. What’s available now is a different beast than what first dropped back ’13.

Still, I hear about showing vs telling every now and then and have taken pains to ease the telling parts of my writing in favor of more showing. Don’t get me wrong, there are still things that need to be told – it is a book after all – but it is quite possible to favor showing information over straight-up telling of information.

So what the heck does all this mean? What is showing? What is telling? It’s a damned book, how am I supposed to show something when I’m effectively telling a story?

As it turns out it’s really not all that difficult, but it does involve weaving information into the narrative. Think in terms of seeding information into events rather than supplanting the events with information dumps. Scribendi actually has some pretty good tips that go beyond the usual “show, don’t tell” request. Among other things they recommend using dialog, engaging the senses, good noun choices, and avoiding adverbs (among other things). I’m not going to rehash it here, they’ve already done a great job, but I do want to explore a couple examples: dialog and word choice.

Using dialog is a good way to disseminate information. If you’re good at it, that is. If your dialog is stilted or chunky, dialog might not be the best way to go. I tend to write dialog based on conversations I’ve had. Somehow or another I’ve managed to memorize vast chunks of conversations over the years and I tend to draw on those when I’m writing. Whether that’s good or bad is somewhat dependent on the reader’s interpretation, but I can at least hold my head up high and say, “I know people have talked exactly like that because I was there when it happened.”

So how could you use dialog to show some information? By throwing in tidbits of information. Take the following exchange between Steven and Wilford toward the end of Arise:

“Subsumed?” he asks.

“She’s Potential Reality, kind of like an engine of creation, he intended to overtake her and make our world his world.”

“Yeah, but subsumed?”

“He wanted to absorb her.”

“You know, I liked this world better when it was just terrorists,” Wilford says with a sneer.

“I know, right?  Find ‘em, shoot ‘em, done deal.”

“A guy could kill an awful lot of bad guys with this gun.  I could make a lot of bad things just go away.”

“Don’t forget the wound healing and probable immortality,” I tell him as I clap him on the shoulder.  “How are we doing?”

“I got most of their patrols, bombs are planted.  That duffel bag full of explosives Jacob kicked down the well really helped.  I think we’re ready to bust this place up.”

“Nice work.  Where is everyone?” I ask.

“I saw Frank dragging Jacob to the elevator earlier.  Not sure where Eve is, but I found a lot of broken guys.  Necks snapped, heads crushed.  I think she might be a trifle pissed.  Haven’t seen your girl, though.”

That little section contains 181 words, but packs quite a bit of information. We (finally) find out what the bad guy’s interest in one of the characters was, that Wilford Saxton has an extreme distaste for the paranormal things he’s seen in general and bad guys in particular. He has a desire to make them all go away and now has the power to do it.. The rest of the team is still moving around, Eve is on a rampage, the whole place is about to blow. We also get a hint that Wilford is quite the bad ass since he managed to kill a lot of people and set bombs at the same time.

I like using dialog to show information like that because that’s how humans actually disseminate information to each other: we talk.

The thing about using dialog is it’s not a one stop shop for showing. You can’t just write an information dump into a single scene and have it make a whole lot of sense. Even the above exchange only delivers its full information packet if you’ve read the rest of the story. Until then, it’s just a couple guys talking about killing a bunch of other guys and preparing to blow something up.

Other things to consider using to show instead of tell is to work with word choice in descriptions. A straight up information dump is major boring stuff.

The dog stinks, but Jessica loves it anyway.

Woohoo! Excitement awaits! How about:

The mongrel shook its matted body and grinned. Jessica wrinkled her nose when the smell of street life hit her, but couldn’t resist the cute thing wagging its tail at her.

The first sentence dropped two important pieces of information: the dog stinks and Jessica loves it anyway. The problem is, that’s a straight information dump. It may be important information but that’s no reason to not give the dog and Jessica a bit of character. It’s not compact information (eight words vs thirty one words), but it is more fun to read. It engages the senses (matted body, smell), gives us a better description of the dog (mongrel, not just a dog), and gives us a hint about why Jessica loved the dog.

Does all this mean that you should never tell in a story? Of course not. There are times when telling has to be done. The key is to keep things short and sweet, drop the information that’s necessary and move on to keeping the story going forward. If there are large information dumps that have to happen, dialog is a good way to accomplish it. Look how Tarantino drops information in any of his movies. Say what you will about Quentin, but the guy can write some damned good dialog.

The whole point of showing not telling is an attempt to keep the reader engaged and a story shouldn’t consist of “they did this and then they did this and then they did this other thing and then that caused this to happen.” Readers want to experience what this is and what this other thing they did was, and what the result of the whole operation was.

That’s showing not telling. It’s simply a process of letting the reader come along for the ride rather than telling them where you just went. When the narrative ceases to be interesting it just becomes tl:dr. Too long; didn’t read.

Imaginary Friends – Silas Payton

If you stumble across this Silas, I hope you’re doing well.

The Quill Pen Writes

Humour me awhile. I’ll tell you a story of ‘Imaginary Friends’ and in particular, one such friend – Silas Payton. That is what Silas himself would refer to us, the members of the IASD Facebook group, as. Now, it’s fair to say that I never knew Silas personally BUT, and here’s the crux of it, within our group I believe it is very possible to ‘feel’ each individual after a period of time, simply by how and what they write. We live in a virtual world, almost literally these days, a world governed by high speed this and super-fast that where everything needs to be done yesterday or for some odd reason, it is too late. So where does Silas and imaginary friends fit into my ramblings? Well, it’s like this you see… Silas Payton is a brilliant writer, he has a talent for stories and as a person…

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