I Love America

“I Love America,” by Joan Y. Edwards

Thank you, God for creating America so I can roam where I want. I love America. It’s the land of my birth. Many people protect it and others on earth. It’s fun to see people, animals, plants, skyscrapers, houses, cars, planes, and trains there.

People can take the word “God” out of the pledge of allegiance. They can make laws saying prayers out loud isn’t allowed. However, people can’t take God out of America. They can’t take God out of the world. You can’t take God out of the people. God is in each of us, no matter what country we live in. Our God is good and gave each of us a homeland. I’m proud that mine is America, home of the free.

Never Give Up

Joan Y. Edwards

Copyright 2015 © Joan Y. Edwards

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Never Give Up
Joan Y. Edwards
Copyright 2015 © Joan Y. Edwards                          


Put Quotation Marks after Periods, Commas, and Question Marks in America

Quotation Marks Copyright  © 2015 Joan Y. Edwards

Quotation Marks Copyright © 2015 Joan Y. Edwards

“Put Quotation Marks after Periods, Commas, and Question Marks in America,” by Joan Y. Edwards

Quotation marks are tricky fellows. They can drive you up the wall if you let them. Usually, quotation marks go after periods, commas, and question marks in America. In England, they may be put before the periods, commas, and question marks. If you are submitting to American publishers and editors, my advice is format it the American way. If you’re submitting to a publisher or agent in the United Kingdom, they would probably understand that you would use the American way. In the revision process, you could change it to the format they prefer.

Here are examples:

  1. Jane said, “Come back.”
  2. “Come back,” said Jane.
  3. “Did she come back?” asked Sam.
  4. Sam asked, “Did she come back?”

If you do not understand the correct way to punctuate it as you wrote it, rewrite it. Put it in words and punctuation that you know is correct.

For instance, number 5 below. I’m not sure what the correct punctuation would be as it is now.Which punctuation is correct?

5.Did your sign say “For Rent” or “For Sale”? or Did your sign say “For Rent” or “For Sale?”

If you can’t figure out which one is correct, reword it. One correct way is: Did you put “For Rent” or “For Sale” on your sign?

There are many websites and books with grammar rules and punctuation:

Guidelines for Using Quotation Marks Effectively;
Block QuotationsDirect SpeechLogical PunctuationPlease, Don’t “Quote” MePractice in Using Quotation Marks CorrectlyQuotationScare Quotes


Image Copyright © Joan Y. Edwards

Image Copyright © Joan Y. Edwards

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Interview with Leslie Helakoski, Amazing Author and Illustrator

Leslie Helakoski

Leslie Helakoski

“Interview with Leslie Helakoski, Amazing Author and Illustrator” by Joan Y. Edwards

Leslie Helakoski was one of the presenters at the Highlights Foundation workshop I attended in April, 2015 in Honesdale, Pennsylvania called, “Picture Books and All That Jazz.” 

Leslie is the author of eight picture books including Michigan Reads winners Big Chickens, and Woolbur. Her books, known for their word play and humor, have won acclaim from Junior Library Guild and with starred reviews in Kirkus and award nominations in over 20 states. She has illustrated her three most recent books, including Doggone Feet! (a best math choice by Scholastic Magazine) and her newest release, Big Pigs.

Leslie, I am very impressed with your writing and illustrating talents. Thank you for being a guest on my blog. I know that learning about you and hearing your advice will intrigue and delight my readers.

You’re welcome. I’m glad to be here. Let’s get started.

  1. Where were you born? Abbeville, Louisiana.
  2. Where was your favorite place to live as a child? I grew up in Louisiana, and lived on the banks of Vermilion Bayou. I still love it there and am always looking forward to going back. The culture there is so interesting and the food and music inspires me.
  3. Which states have you called “home?” I’ve lived in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, South Carolina, as well as Louisiana and both the upper and lower peninsulas of Michigan. I loved each of them.
  4. Did you ever want to hide when you were a child? I loved hiding as a child. My siblings and I were always building camps in the woods or crawling into some hole to hide.
  5. What are your favorite places to read a book? In a tree, on the beach, in a hammock.
  6. How did you do in English in high school? Aced it!
  7. When and why did you decide to become an author? In the eighties and nineties I came across fun picture books like Frog and Toad, George and Martha, The Stinky Cheese Man  —they were beautiful and funny and the kids I read to loved them. As a graphic designer and new parent, I thought ‘I can do this.”
  8. Have you always illustrated your books? I have always wanted to illustrate my books but the publishers have not always been in agreement. Sometimes it is a marketing decision to pair a new writer with an established illustrator. Sometimes it is an aesthetic choice—how an editor envisions the book that makes them choose a different artist. In my case, I think I wasn’t ready to  illustrate my first few books, even though I thought I was. It took me a while to understand the depth of illustrating and not just designing a page.
  9. Who or what has been the most help and inspiration to you as a writer? Joining SCBWI – Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators has been the most helpful thing I’ve ever done for my writing and illustrating.
  10. Which is your favorite genre? Comedy, drama, poetry, I love them all.
  11. What’s your favorite book? Impossible to say overall. I love the Ramona books by Beverly Cleary. I loved them as a child and find them still relevant today.
  12. What are you writing now? Four different manuscripts… all picture books. Each is getting good comments from editors but they have  not sold yet. I’m hoping to announce something about them soon.
  13. What are you illustrating now? I’m working on a dummy for one of my projects. It has very spare language and I think a dummy showing how the book could look will help it sell.
  14. What resources have helped you improve your illustration skills? Taking a painting class, being in a critique group with other illustrators I admire.
  15. What has been the most exhilarating moment for you as a writer? Oh, my first sale with a major publisher (Big Chickens) and the starred reviews it received.

  16. Do you ever cry while writing or illustrating your books? Nope.
  17. Do you outline and plan your books ahead of time or do you let your books develop on their own as you write them? I’ve done both. Not sure which is better—anything that gets the story out works.
  18. What is your advice for people who have rhyming in their picture books? If you are going to rhyme, you’d better do your homework. Read tons of books in rhyme, scour websites on rhyme, listen, attend workshops on rhyme. Do not accept mediocre rhyme. Rhyme is fabulous fun when it is on beat.
  19. How can writers use rhythm and sound to make their children’s books come alive even if it is not a rhyming book? Studying poetry can help prose as well as rhyme. Listen to music and lyrics as well—I sometimes try to get my words to echo the rhythm of a musical piece for mood.
  20. What are 3 ways to create an unforgettable character? Shoot, if I knew how to do this, I wouldn’t be waiting to hear on four manuscripts.
  21. What do you do when your story gives you trouble?  Here are some questions I ask myself when I’m struggling with a manuscript: What is the outer conflict? What is the inner conflict? Is the problem clear? How is the problem solved? (Resolution) What is the theme? (Be concise.) Is there a universal connection?  What is the take-away?  Is it child appropriate? Has it been done? And if so, how is this different?
  22. Please explain what you mean by theme or take away? The theme of a book, or the take-away, as some people call it is the underlying message of the story. For example, in Big Chickens, the story is about four fearful chickens running away from a wolf. But the theme, or what I want kids to leave with, is a message about how fear itself causes problems.
  23. What are the main things a writer should check when revising a manuscript? What is the theme or take away?  What is the connection for a child?
  24. How can a writer tell when a manuscript is ready for submission to an editor or agent? If you have revised it until you can’t see straight, then put it aside for a few weeks and gone through revisions again. Then show it to your critique group—WHAT? You don’t have one? Then get one!— After all you’ve done all of the above, then it might be ready to send to an editor or agent. Never, never hurry to submit. Send your very best work.
  25. How did you find your agent? I was submitting to several agents when I saw my agent speak at an SCBWI event. I liked her attitude and savvy. Before I had an agent, I submitted to names I’d see written up in newsletters and professionals I’d meet at conferences.
  26. Which blog do you believe all authors should read? I don’t read a lot of blogs regularly. I am too distracted by the internet to use it wisely and end up procrastinating.

Check Leslie’s website her latest books and workshops: www.helakoskibooks.com
Twitter at @helakoski

Here are two articles about Leslie:

“9 Picture Book Topics to Avoid (Or Be Ready for Stiff Competition and Write a Story with a Fresh Take)” by Leslie Helakoski and Darcy Pattison

“Q & A with Leslie Helakoski: DOGGONE FEET:” http://annemarieobrienauthor.com/2013/09/q-a-with-leslie-helakoski-doggone-feet/

Here are three of Leslie’s Fun-filled Books:

Big Chickens Fly the Coop by Leslie Helakoski

Big Chickens Fly the Coop
by Leslie Helakoski

Big Chickens Fly the Coop http://www.amazon.com/Big-Chickens-Coop-Leslie-Helakoski/dp/0142414646/

Woolbur by Leslie Helakoski

Woolbur by Leslie Helakoski

Woolbur http://www.amazon.com/Woolbur-Leslie-Helakoski/dp/B005X9FTN6/

Doggone Feet! by Leslie Helakoski

Doggone Feet!
by Leslie Helakoski

Doggone Feet! http://www.amazon.com/Doggone-Feet-Leslie-Helakoski/dp/1590789334

Thank you for doing this interview with me, Leslie. It was fun, fun, fun!

Please leave a comment for Leslie or ask her a question. She would love to hear from you.

Never Give Up
Joan Y. Edwards
Copyright © 2015 Joan Y. Edwards


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God, I Need You Now

God, I need you now image Copyright  © 2015 Joan Y. Edwards

God, I need you now image Copyright © 2015 Joan Y. Edwards

“God, I Need You Now” by Joan Y. Edwards

I searched the internet for songs to uplift you and me to never give up, to keep on going, knowing that God is there with us. In this post, the blue is what you might say to God. The purple is what God would definitely say to you. I put links to seven of the songs and their lyrics to give inspiration, encouragement, and peace to you. Because of copyright, I only put a few of the words to the lyrics so that you’d get the main emphasis of the song. But there is a link to the complete lyrics for each song. You might want to click on the lyrics link first, and then click on the song. That way you can sing along.

If you don’t have time to listen to each of the songs now. Please come back and listen another time.

God, I Need You Now

“The Bible says in Matthew 7:7-8 Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened.”

I’ve started out searching for you, Lord. But, I still haven’t found what I’m looking for.

Song: I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking for (U2)
YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M8Wt3dhF4fU
Lyrics http://www.atu2.com/lyrics/songinfo.src?SID=56
U2 Music and Lyrics published by Blue Mountain Music Ltd (for the UK)/Mother Music Ltd (For the Republic Of Ireland)/PolyGram International Music. Publishing BV (For The Rest Of The World) U2 Recordings owned by Universal International Music B.V. exclusively licensed to Island Records (ROW) and Interscope Records (USA)

I have climbed the highest mountain.
But I still haven’t found what I’m looking for.

The Bible says in Philippians 4:4-7 Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

I offer thee, God my prayer and supplication. I praise you. Bless the Lord, Oh my Soul.

Song: Bless the Lord, Oh my Soul (Matt Redman)
YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DXDGE_lRI0E
Lyrics: http://myktis.com/songs/10000-reasons/
All copyrights go to to Matt Redman with the EMI records

Bless the Lord, O my soul.
O my soul.
Worship His Holy name.

There are many things I am thankful for. I am thankful for you, Lord, God, king of our universe. I thank you, Lord for my family and those I meet on my life’s journey. When I am thankful and focus on the things I am thankful for, you give me more of these things. I am thankful for the abundance of all I need.

Song: I’m Thankful for (Hap Palmer)
YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TKl8BuVWnUA
Lyrics: http://www.songlyrics.com/hap-palmer/things-i-m-thankful-for-lyrics/
This version leaves blanks for you to say the things for which you are thankful: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=160VWPsM_og
All songs published by Hap-Pal Music. ©Hap-Pal Music all rights reserved.

There are many things I am thankful for.
Let me tell you what they are.

I give you my requests. But most of all, God, I need you now.

Song: God, I Need You Now (Plumb)
YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WGIumjD6I3M
Lyrics: http://www.lyricsmode.com/lyrics/p/plumb/need_you_now.html
Writers: Arbuckle-Lee, Sheets & Christa Wells
Need You Now Album Copyright: 2012 Curb Records, Inc.

How many times have you heard me cry out
“God please take this?”
How many times have you given me strength to
Just keep breathing?
Oh, I need you.
God, I need you now.

God says to you and me: “HOLD ON.”

Song: Hold On by Alabama Shakes
YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Le-3MIBxQTw
Lyrics: http://www.azlyrics.com/lyrics/alabamashakes/holdon.html

Writer(s): Steven William Johnson, Zachary Riley Cockrell, Brittany Amber Howard, Heath Allen Fogg
Copyright: Alabama Shakes Publishing

You got to hold on…
Hey, you got to hold on…

God says, “You’re an OVERCOMER.”

Song: You’re an Overcomer (Mandisa)
YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b8VoUYtx0kw
Lyrics: http://www.metrolyrics.com/overcomer-lyrics-mandisa.html
Writer(s): David Arthur Garcia
Copyright: D Soul Music, Universal Music – Brentwood Benson Publ.

Whatever it is you may be going through
I know He’s not gonna let it get the best of you
You’re an Overcomer.

In the Bible at 1 Thessalonians 5:23 Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be preserved complete, without blame at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.

I know now. When I keep saying: All is well with my body, my mind, and my soul, it becomes that way. God, your peace is  with my body, mind, and spirit. Thank you. It is especially comforting to know that all is well with my soul.

I am so thankful that ALL IS WELL WITH MY SOUL

It Is Well with My Soul (Wintley Phipps)

YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OXbM8rgiIM4
Lyrics: http://library.timelesstruths.org/music/It_Is_Well_with_My_Soul/ Horatio G. Spafford, 1873 Copyright: Public Domain

When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou has taught me to say,
It is well, it is well, with my soul.

It is well, it is well,
With my soul, with my soul,
It is well, it is well, with my soul.

Please leave a comment. Let me know your favorite song or scripture or quotation that gives you peace, hope, and comfort. I’d love to hear from you.


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Oh, No! I’m human. How can that be?

Oh, No. I'm human. How can that be? Copyright  © 2015 Joan Y. Edwards

Oh, No. I’m human. How can that be?
Copyright © 2015 Joan Y. Edwards

“Oh, No! I’m human. How can that be?” by Joan Y. Edwards

I don’t like to be reminded that I’m human. That I make mistakes. That I make big mistakes. That I make such huge mistakes that I have trouble forgiving myself. Many times I am sure that other people have trouble forgiving me, too. One of the best things about being human is when other people forgive you and love you in spite of the fact that you are indeed human.

Each time I make a big mistake, I look in the mirror and say, “Oh, no. I’m human. How can that be?”

Sometimes I have a hard time forgiving myself, like the day I got a speeding ticket after I’d promised myself I would never get another one, I grounded myself for 3 days.

When I let go and forgive myself and others forgive me and accept me as I am, then I’m usually able to laugh about it. When I’m able to laugh about my frailties and flaws, it makes me feel good.

There are some things that I’ve done that even though others have forgiven me, I still can’t laugh about them. Like the day I tried to get stickers off the windows of my daughter, Lorrie’s new hutch with fingernail polish remover and it spilled on her new dining room table and took the finish off of it. I thought she was going to kill me but she said, “It’s all right, Mom. You are more important to me than the table.” I paid to have the table refinished.

And the day I forgot to put the brake on Mother’s wheelchair and she rolled off the sidewalk and it turned over. When I said, “I’m so sorry, Mother.” She said, “It’s all right. I will heal.”

Here are other times I looked in the mirror and said, “Oh, no. I’m human. How can that be?” I’ve been able to laugh about most of these.

  1. The day I gathered a big huge buggy full of groceries and realized my wallet was on the kitchen counter at home.
  2. The day I forgot to set our clocks ahead for Daylight Saving Time. When my second husband, Carl, and I got to church, the parking lot was empty. We had missed the entire church service.
  3. The day I was so sure I could make it through my day of teaching if it was a Friday that I pretended it was Friday. An hour later, the cafeteria manager came and told me that I had given the children the lunch choices for Friday, would I please tell them the real menu for Thursday and send it to the cafeteria.
  4. The day a couple of years after I married to my first husband when I added the amount I paid for our mortgage in my checkbook, instead of subtracting it and bounced a check at the grocery store/drugstore where he worked.
  5. The day all the noodles for spaghetti fell in the garbage disposal  when I strained them.
  6. One day I woke up and realized it was 7:30 a.m. and my first husband, Alvin and I had to be at work at 8:00 a.m. I woke my husband and told him the time and that we had to hurry. I threw my clothes on, brushed my teeth, and my husband was still in bed. I asked him, “Why are you still in bed? Why aren’t you getting dressed?” He answered, “It’s Sunday.”
  7. The day I hit the publish instead of the draft button for a blog post and the blog automatically notified subscribers of a new post, but it wasn’t finished. And after I changed the title and clicked on the link,  it said, “What you’re looking for is not there?”

Thank you to all who have forgiven me during my life and loved me in spite of the fact that I’m human and make mistakes.

Thank you for reading my blog. I hope my stories about my mistakes made you cringe, made you glad it wasn’t you, and made you laugh. But whatever you feel. It’s okay. Please share your thoughts about  mistakes and being human. How do you use human frailties in your writing?

Celebrate you!
Never Give Up
Joan Y. Edwards
Copyright © 2015 Joan Y. Edwards


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Sounds of Words Bring Characters to Life

Bring Characters to Life Copyright  © 2015 Joan Y. Edwards

Bring Characters to Life
Copyright © 2015 Joan Y. Edwards

“Sounds of Words Bring Characters to Life” by Joan Y. Edwards

Choose great words with sounds that explain your character’s traits for the dialogue in your story. Use your dialogue to tell readers almost every thing you want them to know about your characters. The words he speaks tells us if he’s educated, funny, sarcastic, sad, etc. The words you use to describe the characters actions, situations, and problems helps your readers create an image of your character in their minds. It makes your character come alive.

  • What he looks like
  • What he sounds like
  • What he fears
  • What he’s brave enough to do
  • What he’s passionate about
  • What he’s willing to die for.
  • What makes him so angry he can’t sleep at night?

Descriptions tell a lot about a character.

  • Where he lives?
  • What kind of work he does?
  • What emotion is strongest in him at this very moment?
  • What he wants more than anything else?
  • What he needs more than anything else? This could be different from what he wants. He might not know what he needs, but he’ll probably know what he wants.

Writers use the sounds of words in dialogue and the description in between to bring characters to life. The length and rhythm of words used create the mood that is in synch with the characters or a contrast to his environment.

  • Shows if characters talk rapidly and think fast on their feet.
  • Shows if a character talks slow and easy and never get in a hurry to get to the end of their sentences.
  • Shows if they have a speech impediment
  • Shows if they are physically impaired

Learn how other authors use the sound, length, and mood of words to enhance their writing. Read 10 best-selling picture books, middle grade, and young adult books. As you read them, notice how important the sound of the words are to the understanding the mood and qualities of the characters and their actions. The choice of words is what keeps us glued to the pages to find out what’s going to happen to the characters we care about.

Make a pdf file of a chapter of one of your work-in-progress manuscripts. Click on the pdf file and click on view. Activate reading aloud. Click on read to the end of the document. The computer will read your manuscript to you. Listening to it will help you realize which words fit well and which words you might want to change to add more oomph to your story. You want your words to show the mood and behavioral patterns of your characters.

Good luck with all of your writing adventures. Have fun reading and writing. Enjoy being you. You are fabulous, creative, and fun.

Here are more of my blog posts to help you bring your characters to life.


  1. What Is Your Story’s Premise? Editors Want to Know
  2. I’m at the Bottom of the Pit and the Bottom Drops Out
  3. What? I Need a Plot?
  4. Story Essential: Plot
  5. Where Should You Begin Your Story?
  6. Universal Plots and a Story that Illustrates Each
  7. Put Universal Conflict, Theme, and Emotions in Your Story
  8. 7 Questions to Make Sure Your Plot Has Believable Consequences


  1. Who’s Talking? Can You Tell by the Dialogue?
  2. What Is the Purpose of Dialogue in Your Story?
  3. Backstory: In Description, Dialogue, and Flashback
  4. Watch How People Talk
  5. Watch the Hands of People When They Talk


  1. How to Write a Good Sentence
  2. How Many Words Should Your Sentences Contain?
  3. What Is a First Page?
  4. First Lines from Non-Fiction Best Sellers
  5. Show the Inner and Outer Conflicts of Your Characters
  6. Use an Emotion Orchestra in Your Story
  7. Pull Readers in – Show Believable Emotions in Your Writing
  8. Make Your Character’s Actions Show Emotions
  9. Captivate Readers by Adding Words to Images
  10. Five Ways to Cut the Number of Words in Your Manuscript
  11. Stop Boredom: Vary the Beginnings of Your Sentences
  12. Vary Your sentences: Begin with a Different Part of Speech
  13. Put Your Readers in an Emotional Tug-of-War


  1. Eight Character Archetypes to Emphasize the Conflict in Your Story
  2. Does Your Main Character Fall into the Bottom of a Deep Pit of Trouble?
  3. 7 Ways to Add Surprise to Create a Best Seller That Readers Crave
  4. Show the Inner and Outer Conflicts of Your Characters
  5. Know Your Main Character
  6. What’s a Sidekick? What’s His Job?
  7. Make Your Character’s Actions Show Emotions
  8. 6 Ways to Make Your Characters Memorable and Enticing
  9. 12 Mistakes for Your Characters to Make
  10. Desire That Clashes with Values Equals Conflict
  11. Put Dilemmas in Your Stories for a Compelling Punch
  12. Inner Motives Lead to Conflicts of Characters
  13. Negative Behaviors Are Clues to Your Personal Needs and Those of Your Characters
  14. Do You and Your Characters Follow the Crowd’s Emotions?
  15. Make Character Pay an Arm, a Leg, and His First Child!
  16. Put Your Main Character into a Pit and Watch Him Devise Ways to Get Out
  17. Is Your Main Character’s Head Filled with Lies?
  18. 10 Shortcuts to Make Your Main Character Vulnerable and Lovable

Props, Symbols, and Such for Characters

  1. Animal, Vegetable, or Mineral? And Other Questions to Put in Your Reader’s Mind
  2. Choose a Prop to Symbolize What Your Character Is Willing to Die For (Image Prop #8)
  3. Props for Characters: Toys, Games, and Other Items
  4. Image Props for Stories #7 Pay Phone, Blue Wildflowers, and Fast-Moving River
  5. Image Props for Stories #6: Coffee Maker, Earphones, and a Lamp
  6. Image Props for Stories #5 – Love Bug, Dog/Cat, and Love letter
  7. Image Props for Stories #4: A Remote Control, a Basket of Flowers, and a Bandage
  8. Image Props for Stories #3: A Basketball, a Pillow, and a Pair of Boots
  9. Image Props for Stories #2: Bananas, Scissors, a Vacuum Cleaner, and a Ferris Wheel
  10. Does a Holiday Signify a Deep Emotion for Your Main Character?
  11. Can a World Disaster Be an Omen of Bad Things for Your Main Character?
  12. What Will Your Main Character Eat?
  13. Which Pet Would Your Main Character Love, Fear, Hate, Abuse, or Kill?
  14. Where Will Your Main Character Hide?
  15. What City or Town Will Your Main Character Call Home?
  16. What Will Your Main Character Drink?
  17. How Will Your Main Character Get from Place to Place?
  18. In What House Would Your Main Character Reside?
  19. What Shoes Would Your Main Character Wear?
  20. Put a Hat on Your Main Character or His Sidekick

Never Give Up
Joan Y. Edwards
Copyright © 2015 Joan Y. Edwards


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