Category Archives: Guests

Guest Post: 19 SELF-EDITING TIPS FOR YOUR WRITING by Jacqui Murray

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Thank you to author Jacqui Murray for today’s guest post, which previously appeared on A Writer’s Path.

pencil self editing

Now that I’ve published my first novel, To Hunt a Sub, I can say from experience that writing it and editing it took equally long periods of time (and marketing is just as involved). After finishing the final rough draft (yeah, sure) and before emailing it to an editor, I wanted it as clean possible. I searched through a wide collection of self-editing books like these:

The Novel Writer’s Toolkit by Bob Mayer

Self-editing for Fiction Writers by Renni Browne

The Marshall Plan for Novel Writing by Evan Marshall

…and came up with a list of fixes that I felt would not only clean up grammar and editing, but the voice and pacing that seemed to bog my story down.

Continue reading this article here.

Guest Post: Improve Your Writing Forever by Josh Spector

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Thank you to Josh Spector and to For The Interested for today’s guest post. Sign up here to subscribe to the For the Interested newsletter, featuring 10 helpful ideas each week. This article originally appeared on For The Interested.

You’re busy, so I’ll keep this quick.

Following are the simplest tips I can give you to easily — and forever — improve the quality of your writing.

Click here to continue reading this article.

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Guest Post: Bunnies!

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Guest Post: Bunnies!

Thank you, Donna, for this wonderful post from your blog two years ago.

My OBT

bun 0 Arefin Ashraful

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Guest Post: Rules for a Successful Writing Life from Maya Angelou By Jenny Hansen

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Guest Post: Rules for a Successful Writing Life from Maya Angelou By Jenny Hansen
Thank you to Jenny Hansen for today’s guest post, which was originally published on Writers in the Storm.

Maya Angelou, inspiration

Today I’m thinking about the people who inspired me on this writing journey.

There are the usual suspects… My mother, who encouraged my constant scribbling. The 6th grade teacher who put my essay up on the wall with a shiny gold star. Countless friends and teachers, in my home writing chapter and online. The founders and contributors here at WITS.

There are the great writers who have already passed: Pat Conroy, Blake Snyder, Zig Ziglar, Harper Lee. And Maya Angelou, who deserves a post all to herself. Angelou is who I’m thanking today, as she’s my get-up-and-go girl when I’m down about this writing life. Her quotes are in blue.

A mentor helps a person to interpret the world.

I can hear Angelou’s strong voice in my mind, that well-modulated tone that filled hundreds of auditoriums and thousands of hearts. She said, “In order to be an effective mentor, a mentor has to care.” It’s her special talent that, although we’ve never met, I still feel her care. I know I’m not alone…she has mentored millions with her words.

Her Lessons for a Successful Life

1. Do right – it will satisfy your soul.

“Try to be the best you can be. People will know you and they will add their prayers to your life and be happy for you.”

I don’t know about you, but I’m a huge fan of kindness. It doesn’t cost you anything to help lift others up. It doesn’t push you down. In fact, it will probably give you a mental lift for the next task you face. It might be a door you open, a review you write or a tweet that you share, but paying kind deeds forward will satisfy you. I promise.

Pick up the battle – this is your life. This is your world. Make it a better one where you are. It is up to us to make the world better.

2. Be courageous.

Courage is the most important of all the virtues – you can’t be kind or fair or humane or generous until you find your courage. Courage is required to defend all the other virtues, and to be a whole person.

3. Self-love is very important.

Never trust anyone who says they love you if they don’t first love themselves. At a college commencement address, Angelou shared an old African proverb with those young people: Be careful of a naked man who offers you a shirt.

If you’re having trouble with the self-love today – and we all have those days – she recommends “gathering everyone who has loved you – bring them along with you when you have to do anything.”

Think of your granny who stroked your hair as you fell asleep at night, or the relative who taught you an important skill. Think of your best friend who thinks you hang the moon and stars in the sky. If you’re a believer, think of God.

Just because your loved ones aren’t always with you anymore, doesn’t mean their love doesn’t still live inside you. Pass their love along to yourself.

4. If you don’t laugh, you will die.

The sense of humor is self-defense against life’s difficulties, but it’s also good for us. Stress is the current slow-killer in our society, paving the way for illness and depression.

This article from Laughter Online University gives several health benefits of laughter:

  • Laughter triggers the release of a cocktail of happy chemicals that boosts the immune responses, particularly components related to anti-viral and anti-tumor defenses.
  • Laughter boosts secretion of growth hormone, an enhancer of key immune responses.
  • Laughing leads to the release of endorphins, a natural opiate that has been scientifically shown to carry messages of attachment and bonding (the scientific terms for love), and to stimulate feelings of caring and forgiveness in addition to acting as a natural painkiller.
  • Laughter stimulates circulation and aids muscle relaxation, both of which help reduce some of the physical symptoms of stress.
  • Laughter can help you learn. This theory is held by many learning experts and leaders.

I’m quite certain that the younger Maya didn’t know the science of it all, but she learned that laughter helps you find a way forward when you feel like there is no way.

5. Be a blessing to someone.

Be a rainbow in someone’s cloud. We may not speak the same language or dance the same dance, but be a blessing to someone.

After a childhood rape, Maya Angelou stopped speaking for five years. When she stopped speaking, she started reading and the stories kept her afloat.

She knew what we all know: stories are important. They are our friends when we’re lonely, assurance when we’re scared, inspiration when we’re down. Stories are a gift and many of us write to pay that gift forward.

Angelou quotes that speak to me as a writer:

“You alone are enough. You have nothing to prove to anybody.”

“A bird doesn’t sing because it has an answer, it sings because it has a song.”

“If you get, give. If you learn, teach.”

“When I am writing, I am trying to find out who I am, who we are, what we’re capable of, how we feel, how we lose and stand up, and go on from darkness into darkness. I’m trying for that. But I’m also trying for the language. I’m trying to see how it can really sound.”

“All great artists draw from the same resource: the human heart, which tells that we are all more alike than we are unalike.”

“If you are always trying to be normal, you will never know how amazing you can be.”

“My wish for you is that you continue. Continue to be who and how you are, to astonish a mean world with your acts of kindness.”

“Nothing can dim the light which shines from within.”

She exhorted all of us to “turn struggles into triumphs,” know you are talented, do your best and, most of all, “keep rising.”

From her poem, Still I Rise

You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may tread me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I’ll rise.

Do you have a Maya Angelou quote that particularly speaks to you? Or a quote from a different writing mentor. Who has been a rainbow in your cloud?

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About Jenny Hansen

By day, Jenny provides training and social media marketing for an accounting firm. By night she writes humor, memoir, women’s fiction and short stories. After 18 years as a corporate software trainer, she’s delighted to sit down while she works.

When she’s not at her personal blog, More Cowbell, Jenny can be found on Twitter at JennyHansenCA or at Writers In The Storm.

Guest Post: “The Mona Lisa” by Leonardo da Vinci ~from The Joy of Museums

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Thank you to The Joy of Museums for today’s guest post.

Painting of Mona Lisa

“The Mona Lisa” by Leonardo da Vinci

The Mona Lisa by Leonardo da Vinci is a portrait which he started in Florence around 1503. It is thought to be of Lisa Gherardini, wife of a Florentine cloth merchant. Leonardo took this painting with him to France when he joined the court of the French King, and after his death, the picture entered King François I’s collection. The Mona Lisa became part of The Louvre collection in 1797 and is considered to be one of the world’s best-known paintings, the most written about and the most parodied works of art in the world.

In 1911, Leonardo’s Mona Lisa painting was stolen from the Louvre, and the Louvre closed for an entire week during the investigations.  The theft created a media sensation and rewards were offered. Pablo Picasso was on the original list of suspects questioned and jailed for the robbery, but he was later released. After many false leads and claims, the Mona Lisa thief was caught when he attempted to sell it to the Uffizi Gallery in Florence. It was returned to the Louvre in 1914 and the thief, a Louvre employee Vincenzo Peruggia only served six months in prison for the crime.  Peruggia was hailed for his patriotism in Italy as he claimed he wanted to return the Mona Lisa to the country that gave birth to the Mona Lisa and Leonardo. Perugia argued, that the Mona Lisa had been stolen from Florence by Napoleon and that he deserved a reward for doing his patriotic duty and returning it to its real home in Italy.

Monalisa uffizi 1913

The Mona Lisa is on display in the Uffizi Gallery, in Florence (Italy), just before it was returned to the Louvre.

Before the 1911 theft, the Mona Lisa was not widely known outside the art world. The nearly two-year hunt across multiple continents helped to publicise the Mona Lisa to the public imagination. In 1956, the painting was damaged when a vandal threw acid at it, which provided more publicity and notoriety. That same year, a rock was thrown at the canvas which left some minor damage.

Bulletproof glass was then used to protect the Mona Lisa. Which was fortunate when in 1974, a woman, upset by the museum’s policy for disabled people, sprayed red paint at the Mona Lisa. More recently in 2009, a Russian woman, upset for being denied French citizenship, threw a ceramic teacup at the famous painting.

The painting has been exhibited in New York City, Washington, D.C, Tokyo and Moscow with great success. Before the US tour, in 1962 the picture was assessed for insurance at $100 million. In today’s terms that translates to approximately $800m, considered to be the most valued painting in the world.

Leonardo da Vinci - Mona Lisa (detail) - WGA12713

In art terms, the Mona Lisa is the earliest Italian portrait to focus firmly on the sitter in a half-length portrait and set the standard for future artists. Depicting the subject in front of an imaginary landscape, Leonardo was one of the first painters to use perspective in this way. Da Vinci pioneered a shadowing technique at the corners of her lips and the corners of her eyes which give her a remarkably lifelike appearance and look of amusement.

An unexpected historical copy of the Mona Lisa was discovered in 2012 at as part of the Prado collection in Madrid. When the painting was cleaned, scientific analysis revealed that the copy was probably painted by another artist, possibly an apprentice of Leonardo da Vinci, who sat beside Leonardo and copied his work, brush-stroke by brush-stroke. The Prado painting suggests what the Mona Lisa might look like if layers of yellowed varnish could be removed from the original. The face, especially the smile, does look slightly different but it is a close copy in many other respects and dates to a similar time. The painting cannot be considered as a workshop copy due to its careful and thorough execution, as well as its use of materials such as lapis lazuli or red lacquer, which were used by Leonardo.

The Joconde by a student of Leonardo da Vinci

A copy of the Mona Lisa that was discovered in 2012 at as part of the Prado collection, in Madrid.

Leonardo da Vinci was an Italian painter, draftsman, sculptor, architect, scientist and an engineer who was already famous in his lifetime and is today considered a genius. Leonardo’s masterpiece had considerable influence during his lifetime and continued to influence and attract lovers of history and art in our life.

Mona Lisa:

  • Title:           Mona Lisa
  • Français:    La Joconde, La Gioconda
  • Artist:         Leonardo da Vinci
  • Created:     1503
  • Periods:      High Renaissance
  • Subject:      Not certain, possibly Lisa Gherardini
  • Media:        Oil paint on poplar wood
  • Dimensions: 77 cm x 53 cm
  • Museum:    The Louvre (since 1797)

Leonardo da Vinci:

  • Name:               Leonardo di ser Piero da Vinci
  • Born:                 1452 – Vinci, Republic of Florence (present-day Italy)
  • Died:                  1519 (aged 67) – Amboise, Kingdom of France
  • Movement:      High Renaissance
  • Masterpieces:

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“The greatest deception men suffer is from their own opinions.” Leonardo da Vinci

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Photo Credit 1) By Sambodhi Sakhare (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons 2) By Apprentice of Leonardo da Vinci. [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons 3) See page for author [Public domain or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons 4) Robert L. Knudsen [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons 5) Leonardo da Vinci [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons ; Museo del Prado [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Guest Post: 6 Ways to Increase Your Productivity as a Writer Without Burning Out by Jennifer Louden

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Thank you to Writers in the Storm and to Jennifer Louden for these tips on avoiding writer burn out.

lamca-kubrick-typewriter-jack-dull-boy-shiningJust about every day I read an article about a writer who’s written 988 books in the last three months under seventeen pen names while maintaining an active presence on every social media platform.

It’s enough to send me to bed with Netflix and a whole lot of dark chocolate.

But after a good binge, you and I still have to face the fact: it’s a crazy world we authors inhabit. And staying sane and productive without burning out is a skill we must cultivate, right up there with establishing a compelling voice and a thriving platform.

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Jennifer Louden, from her website

I’ve spent a big part of my career studying how writers can work with more ease and consistency, mostly because writing has always been a struggle for me (8 books with a million copies in print aren’t proof writing is easy for me, only that I’m stubborn). I hope the following suggestions for sane productivity will help you like they have me and the writers I coach.

Read the rest of the article here.

365 Days of Tea

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My mom used to save tea bag strings to darn my father’s white work socks, but this is even better! Thanks to Donna from My OBT for this inspiring post.

My OBT

ruby Ruby Silvious

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Guest Post: Piecing Tips I Wish I Knew 20 Years Ago by Superior Threads

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Guest Post: Piecing Tips I Wish I Knew 20 Years Ago by Superior Threads

A great big ARHtistic License thank you to Superior Threads for these quiltmaking tips.

I’ve been piecing quilts for over twenty years. Recently, my granddaughter wanted to help me with a quilt and asked that I teach her what I knew about sewing. That’s a pretty tall task, teaching someone what I’ve learned about sewing and quilting over the course of two decades. I realized that this was a fantastic opportunity for me to reflect on what I wish I would have known as a beginning quiltmaker. I hope you enjoy reading some of the tips that I believe will help beginners become more skilled and make better quilts than I did.

Seams

It’s important to use an accurate 1/4” seam! A difference of 1/8th of a seam allowance adds up quickly as you try to put blocks together. A little too-big of a seam can result in your quilt being 3” smaller than it’s supposed to be. The solution is simple; use a 1/4” foot. Next, practice until you feel confident that you can use the foot to keep a straight, even seam

Pressing

Once you sew a seam, iron it in the direction the pattern calls for. Press as you go. It’s worth the effort because the fabric fits better and you’re left with a completely flat quilt top. Using a smooth thread like MasterPiece will help keep your seams flat.

Piecing a quilt with MasterPiece thread
Piecing a quilt block together
quarter inch seams
No bulk at the seams with MasterPiece

Unpicking

I used to get so frustrated and upset when I realized that I had sewn something wrong or made a mistake (anyone not have their points matching when completing a block understands) that required the stitches to be unpicked. I use to think of it as such a loss. Unpicking is not a loss, it’s a gain. It’s the chance to do it better. Understandably, there is a balance as to when you should spend time unpicking your stitches and being OK with imperfect stitches. There is no need to unpick everything. I think we tend to be our own worst critic and guaranteed, unless you are piecing a show quilt, you are the only one that will notice that the corners are a millimeter off.

Thread Choice

I wish MasterPiece was around when I was learning how to make quilts, or even when I just started sewing. Why? Because the time required to clean your machine is time consuming! You have to stop working on your project, arrange your blocks and tidy up your sewing station so nothing falls out of order, find your brushes, open the case of your machine and that’s only the prep work required to start cleaning. MasterPiece is a 50 wt./3-ply low lint Egyptian-grown extra-long staple cotton thread. It’s strong, smooth, creates lasting stitches. Using threads with low lint has made my life much easier and my sewing experiences more enjoyable. Not only am I able to clean my machine less often, my seams lay totally flat.

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Guest Post: The First 10 Scenes You Need to Plot for Your Novel by C.S. Lakin

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A big ARHtistic License thank you to C.S. Lakin for this article about story structure. Lakin is a prolific writer and professional editor and critiquer. She writes about the craft of writing on her website, Live Write Thrive, where this article originated.

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Now that we’ve spent weeks looking at most of the key scenes you need in your novel and that will form the foundation for your entire story, we’re ready to look at the “10” in my 10-20-30 Scene Builder concept. These are the first ten scenes you will do well to lock in first.

Of course, if you haven’t taken the time to develop a strong concept with a kicker, the protagonist and his goal, the conflict with high stakes, and the themes with heart, you should hold off until you do so.

You can take my free online video course to understand fully what those four essential corner pillars of novel structure are. Just enroll at cslakin.teachable.com and then click on the free course. I want you to nail this! Also think about studying my 12 Key Pillars of Novel Construction and use the workbook to flesh this all out. Then you’ll be ready to dive into laying out all these scenes.

Last week I gave the example of filling a jar with rocks. These first ten scenes are your rocks. You put them in first, then you add the pebbles (the next twenty scenes) to fill in the spaces. From there you’ll move into sand, then water—all those other scenes that will round out your story within the strong framework you’ve fashioned.

Want to write a perfect scene every time? Download this PDF worksheet with 8 simple steps to success! Click here to get your free worksheet!

So, here are the ten scenes you’ll want to get working on:

#1 – Setup. Introduce protagonist in her world. Establish her core need. Set the stage, begin building the world, bring key characters on stage.

#2 – Turning Point #1 (10%): inciting incident.

#3 – Pinch Point #1 (33% roughly): Give a glimpse of the opposition’s power, need, and goal as well as the stakes.

#4 – Twist #1: Something new happens: a new ally, a friend becomes a foe. New info reveals a serious complication to reaching the goal. Protagonist must adjust to change with this setback.

#5 – The midpoint (50%): No turning back. Important event that propels the story forward and solidifies the protagonist’s determination to reach her goal. “I’ll never go hungry again!”

#6 – Pinch Point #2 (62% roughly): The opposition comes full force. Time to buckle down and fight through it.

#7 – Twist 2: An unexpected surprise giving (false?) hope. The goal now looks within reach. A mentor gives encouragement, a secret weapon, an important clue.

#8 – Turning Point #4 (75%): Major setback. All is lost and hopeless. Time for final push.

#9 –  Turning Point #5 (76-99%): The climax in which the goal is either reached or not; the two MDQs are answered. (Be sure to read my posts on MDQs if you haven’t nailed that concept).

#10 – The aftermath (90-99%): The wrap-up at the end. Denoument, resolution, tie it all in a pretty knot.

Twists and Turns

I haven’t gone into twists yet, and we’ll talk about them further. Twists make good stories terrific. They are surprises, reversals. Just when you think . . . then the unexpected comes out of nowhere (or maybe it’s expected, but here it comes anyway).

You can have lots of variations on your twists. The movie Outbreak comes to my mind with twist #2. Dustin Hoffman’s character finally finds the monkey carrying the disease. He flies to the family’s home and the monkey is caught. They now have great hope to get a cure made before everyone in the quarantined town (and possibly the world) dies.

BUT he learns upon returning that the president has authorized full cleansing, and the bomb is en route to annihilate the town. Hope is raised but then so are the stakes, and that barrels the story toward turning point #4—that major setback.

There’s nothing more fun than raising someone’s hopes to the heights, then dashing them. No, I’m not mental. This is good storytelling! Raise your character’s hopes at a moment when he really needs hope. Then smash it into pieces and send him reeling. That’s the build to the climax.

Yay! More Charts!

And since I love creating charts and handouts, as you’ve probably noticed, I’ve put these first ten scenes in a list in two formats for you: An Excel chart(which will come in handy when you go on to paste your scene summaries into the final thirty-scene chart) and a PDF, for those of you who can’t access Excel (or don’t want to use it).

Print out your chart (maybe multiple copies so you can play with ideas) and get working on your ten scenes.

I’ll talk more next week about these twists. And then we’ll move on to the next twenty scenes: the pebbles that go into the spaces in the jar between your ten rocks! There are countless ways to approach the next ten scenes, and over the next weeks we’ll play with some ideas.

Share some thoughts in the comments. Do you have all these ten scenes figured out? What are some great twists you can think of from a movie or book?

Don’t fail to write a perfect scene every time. Download this PDF worksheet with 8 simple steps to success! Click Here to Subscribe

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Guest Post: The Lady and the Unicorn Tapestries by The Joy of Museums

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Guest Post: The Lady and the Unicorn Tapestries by The Joy of Museums

Thank you to The Joy of Museums for this wonderful exploration of one of my favorite topics–unicorn tapestries!

The lady and the unicorn Taste

The Lady and the Unicorn Tapestries, is over 500 years old, and has inspired books, songs and movies and have stirred debate amongst historians. “The Lady and the Unicorn” is regarded as the Mona Lisa of woven artworks due to its symbolism, history and mystery. The tapestry’s meaning is obscure but has been understood to represent “love or understanding”.

Woven in Flanders, the Dutch-speaking northern portion of Belgium, from wool and silk, the “Lady and the Unicorn Tapestries” consist of six tapestries designed from drawings that originated from Paris. Five of the tapestries, illustrate the five senses using a woman to interact with a unicorn, a lion and a monkey. The sixth tapestry remains more of a mystery with the prominent wording “À Mon Seul Désir” (To my only desire) on the tent.

The Lady and the unicorn Touch

In the “Touch Tapestry”, the lady stands with one hand touching the unicorn’s horn, and the other holding up the pennant.

The Lady and the unicorn Sight

In the “Sight Tapestry”, the lady is seated, holding a mirror up to the unicorn.

The lady and the unicorn Taste

In the “Taste Tapestry”, the lady is taking sweets from a dish.

The Lady and the unicorn Smell

In the “Smell Tapestry”, the lady stands, making a wreath of flowers.

The Lady and the unicorn Hearing

In the “Hearing Tapestry” the lady plays the organ on top of a table.

In all the five tapestries, the unicorn is to the lady’s left and the lion to her right, a common theme to all the tapestries.

The sixth, “À Mon Seul Désir” Tapestry is wider than the others and has a different style. The lady stands in front of a tent, across the top of the entrance to the tent is written “À Mon Seul Désir”. An obscure motto, the unicorn and the lion stand in their standard positions framing the lady while holding onto the tent pennants.

Tapestry weavers use to create the design as they progressed using their imagination, from the fourteenth century onward they copied from a broad sheet of paper (cartone) or from a drawing or painting (cartoon). “The Lady and the Unicorn Tapestries” are one of the most significant surviving examples of tapestry art from the Middle Ages.

Historians argue that in five of the six panels, the mysterious lady with the unicorn is Mary Tudor, third wife of Louis XII and sister of Henry VIII, who was Queen of France from August 1514 to 1 January 1515. This Middle Ages masterpiece was “rediscovered” in poor condition in 1841 in the castle of Boussac.

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Essential Facts:

  • Title:                       The Lady and the Unicorn Tapestries
  • Artist:                     Woven in Flanders based on drawings from Paris
  • Year:                       1500
  • Medium:                Wool and Silk
  • Dimensions          H: 3.68m  w: 2.00m
  • Discovered:           1841
  • Museum:               Musée National du Moyen Age

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“A bad craftsman blames his tools.” French Proverb

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