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                    W R I T I N G   W O R L D

A World of Writing Information - For Writers Around the World


Issue 15:18                                   September 17, 2015
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     Drowning in Backlog
CRAFTING FABULOUS FICTION, by Victoria Grossack     
     The Moral of Your Story
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Alert readers will observe that this issue is actually presented 
in/available in HTML format!  This is due primarily to the various 
(and largely unhelpful) changes to the broadcast editors on AWeber.  
However, we're taking advantage of it to use this opportunity to 
"clean" the list - only by issuing the newsletter in HTML can we 
find out how many "non-opens" there are, and I have no doubt that 
there are thousands of long-inactive subscriber names on this list.  
(No worries; if you're reading this, you're obviously not one of 

My greatest concern is whether the TEXT version of the newsletter 
will be fully readable.  If not, my apologies; we're still working 
out the kinks.  The text-broadcast editors on AWeber have been 
basically stripped of their former editing capabilities (this is 
called "an upgrade").  If you are receiving this in text, please 
bear in mind that it is designed for a non-proportional font, and 
will look much better in Courier than, say, Times.


Drowning in Backlog
Last issue, I talked about "shoulds" vs. "wants" -- and how to choose 
which project to work on.  But there's another type of "should" that 
crops up all too often in a writer's life, one that will never, ever 
attain the status of "want."  Indeed, if it had ever been a "want" it 
probably wouldn't exist.  It's the dreaded BACKLOG.

There are many ways to define "backlog," so here's mine.  It's that 
thing that preys on your mind.  It's that thing that looms over your 
shoulder.  It's always lurking, always there.  It's the third party 
in the "should vs. want" discussion -- when you're trying to choose 
between the project you know you ought to do and the project you'd 
really like to do... and the elephant in the room, the project you're 
REALLY avoiding, the one that's more important than either of them: 
your BACKLOG.  

Backlog is often the child of procrastination, but it's not the same 
as simply putting something off.  I procrastinate on writing my novel, 
but that's not "backlog."  I may get to it someday, or I may not; the 
only consequence of "not" is that it doesn't get written.  

Backlog is what occurs when procrastination -- or, sometimes, unforeseen 
events -- result in the postponement of something that actually NEEDS 
to be done.  For example, if I have a book contract that's due in three 
months, and it takes me one month to write three chapters, and I still 
have 20 chapters to write, THAT'S backlog.  It doesn't really matter 
WHY I have fallen behind; what matters is that I have, and that somehow 
I have to catch up or face some sort of consequence.  

Quite often, backlog begins fairly innocently.  One of my lurking 
backlogs involves my sideline eBay business.  I love to shop at thrift 
shops, where I scout for items that I can resell at a profit -- thereby, 
in a nutshell, "shopping for pleasure AND profit."  Last November, I had 
a small backlog of stuff that needed to be photographed and posted for 
sale.  Without thinking, I put up my holiday decorations -- and realized 
that I'd eliminated my photography spot.  I'd have to wait until after 
Christmas to do the photos...  Meanwhile, the pile continued to grow.  
No worries, I thought, in January I'll tackle this... But in January, a 
series of unexpected, and unexpectedly time-consuming, projects with tight 
deadlines suddenly hit, and since the eBay business really is a "sideline," 
it remained on the back burner. 

Did I stop shopping?  No; that would have been too sensible.  By June, an 
entire bedroom closet was full of "stuff."  The only thing that finally 
triggered a massive, three-day photo shoot was the fact that we'd decided 
to have the bedroom painted, and I realized I'd better photograph the stuff 
before packing it up and moving it.  It's still not ALL listed, but at least 
the pile is getting smaller rather than larger.

That's another characteristic of backlog: It tends to get bigger over time.  
Consequently, it becomes harder and harder to face.  This is where 
procrastination tends to enter the picture: We put something off while it 
still looks relatively small and manageable, thinking, "I'll get to that 
in just a bit."  Just a bit becomes quite  a long bit, and in the interim, 
the project has grown from "small and manageable" to "huge and overwhelming."  
At that stage, we begin AVOIDING it, because now we can't figure out when to 
carve out the time to take on something so massive.  

To genuinely qualify as "backlog," the task (or tasks) must be something that 
genuinely NEEDS to be done.  There may be a significant consequence (such as 
defaulting upon a book contract).  Or, it may be that you can't move on in a 
project until the backlog has been taken care of.  My eBay business, for 
instance, is fundamentally "on hold" until the backlog is processed -- not a 
disaster, certainly, but certainly a loss of revenues.  Sometimes a project 
can drag on, unfinished, for years due to backlog.

A backlog is more than just a huge task, or pile of tasks, that needs to be done.  
It's a  joy-killer.  It's emotionally draining.  Because you KNOW it needs to be 
done, you can never completely get it out of your mind.  There's always the 
nagging thought that you SHOULD be tackling it -- but because it has become so 
overwhelming, it's repeatedly postponed for some more immediate need.  That ends 
up adding to the guilt (and in some cases, it also adds to the size of the 
backlog itself).  Backlogs drain our energy even when we're not actually 
working on them, because it takes energy to grapple with the guilt that arises 
every time we think about it and don't DO anything about it.

Now, here's where I'd like to jump in with a cheery bit of advice on how to make 
backlogs go away quickly and easily and painlessly.  Here's a new trick, a new 
twist that will SOLVE this problem, tame the beast and make it go away.

Except... there isn't one.  At least, if there is, I haven't found it.  The only 
cure for backlog is to stop running from it, turn around, and tackle it.  Accept 
that it is huge and that this isn't going to change.  Accept that it's going to 
be a monster and this also isn't going to change.  But most importantly, accept 
that you DO have the power to defeat it -- that's the REAL change.  It doesn't 
have to control you.  You CAN control it.  You CAN make a plan to get rid of it.

My own experience has been that the only good way to tackle a backlog is to make 
it my top priority.  It means putting everything ELSE on hold.  I've found that 
backlogs don't really yield to the "nibble" principle -- work on it a little bit 
here and a little bit there, when you have a little spare time.  They're almost 
impervious to nibbling.  They need the sledgehammer approach: Clear your desk, 
sit down, and concentrate ENTIRELY on the backlog.  

Often, you'll find that when you give the backlog your full attention, it goes 
away more quickly than you anticipated.  It took me only three afternoons to 
catch up on eight months of eBay photos.  I suspect the "full immersion" factor 
helps as well -- when you devote yourself entirely to "backlog" and avoid 
distractions, it's much easier to get into a rhythm that gets things done.  
And finally, dedicating yourself to your backlog switches your mental state.  
You move from a state of avoidance (and guilt, and dread, and worry) to a state 
of control.  You're taking charge.  Instead of running from the monster that 
has been looming over your shoulder, you're facing it head-on.  And you're 
going to win.

Once you've done that, you make a wonderful discovery: Instead of a "backlog," 
you have a "major accomplishment" -- a source of pride rather than dread.  
And it feels WONDERFUL.

Copyright 2015 Moira Allen

This article may be reprinted provided the author's byline, bio and
copyright notice are retained. (For an author bio and complete
details on reprint terms, please visit 

Link to this article here:

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Friday is "Read an E-Book" Day
Here's what the website has to say: "Read an eBook Day is a 
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Are you an author? Chances are, you're poor.
If you're an author who relies exclusively on income from your 
writing, chances are you're living below the Federal Poverty 
Level, according to survey data from the Authors Guild. In its 
first survey of author income since 2009, the organisation claims 
online piracy, declining numbers of stores and publisher 
consolidation are all contributing factors in authors receiving 
lower royalties from publishers. Overall, the median writing-
related income among full-time and part-time authors from 2009 to 
2014 dropped by 24%. For more, visit: https://www.authorsguild.org/

Does reading more make you smarter, or vice versa?
Psychology researchers are finding it difficult to determine 
whether being smart makes you want to read, reading makes you 
smarter, or some combination of the two, especially given the 
variety of literature and its forms. Recently neuroscientists 
have joined the mission to attempt to measure and observe the 
concrete benefits of reading literature. Based on the assumption 
that benefits exist, researchers believe that "reading complex 
literature, including poetry, requires an agility of mind to 
consider multiple meanings and that this mental ability then 
translates to real life, allowing the reader to respond flexibly 
and with open-mindedness to their own trials and tribulations." 
For more, visit: http://sciof.us/1fXGWhD

Rare books sold for recycling in Thailand
Collectors were beating a path to an old bookshop in Bang Bon 
district in Bangkok after a consignment of rare books and 
magazines, weighing three tons, from Silpakorn University Central 
Library were "mistakenly" sold to it. "Some of them were antique 
books dating back to the reign of King Rama VI, others were old 
sociological and anthropological journals that can no longer be 
found anywhere." For more, visit: http://bit.ly/1i6Q6K2

Award-winning YA novel banned by lobbyists in New Zealand
For the first time in twenty years, a book has been banned from 
distribution and exhibition in NZ. "Into the River" by Ted Dawe 
(Random House New Zealand) has been removed from book shops, 
libraries and schools after a complaint from conservative Christian 
lobby group Family First claimed that it contained "sexually 
explicit content, drug use and the use of a slang term for female 
genitalia."  This means that the book, which is targeted at 
teenage boys, can be owned legally, but not shared amongst friends 
under penalty of a fine. For more, visit: http://bit.ly/1J55hJj

Have a pint "with" the world's literary greats
If you'd like to visit the bars that received the patronage of past
masters of the pen, check out this fun and interesting infographic
from Assignment Masters: http://bit.ly/1KeFiA8

Fiction and nonfiction; memoirs a specialty!  Over 15 years 
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Van Der Voort, psychicmind.vandervoort231@gmail.com

by Victoria Grossack

What is the moral of your story?  Do you have one?  Should you 
have one?  In this article we'll review what forms morals can take 
and some decisions you have to make if you want to include one or 
more in your story.


From Wikipedia: A MORAL (from Latin moralis) is a message conveyed 
or a lesson to be learned from a story or event. The moral may be 
left to the hearer, reader or viewer to determine for themselves, 
or may be explicitly encapsulated in a maxim.

As you can see, the definition is very broad.  A lesson to be learned 
implies that the information is either useful or true or both, but a 
conveyed message can be any opinion that the author wishes to portray.  
The author may state it directly or leave it to readers to glean for 
themselves.  If you do the latter, however, there is a huge chance 
that at least a few readers will interpret the story in a completely 
different manner than you intended.


Here are some well-known examples of stories with explicit morals:

Aesop's fables are some of the earliest of the genre, credited to Aesop, 
a slave and storyteller who lived in ancient Greece between 620 and 560 
BCE.  In a version of "The Tortoise and the Hare" referenced below, the 
Hare, after losing a race with the Tortoise by taking a nap in the 
middle of it, always reminded himself, "Don't brag about your lightning 
pace, for Slow and Steady won the race!"

Parables in the New Testament are another instance of stories with 
fairly explicit lessons.  The Parable of the Lost Sheep and how a 
good shepherd keeps looking until the stray is found is often 
interpreted as God not letting anyone go astray.

In the movie (not the book) version of "The Wizard of Oz," we keep 
hearing how there is "no place like home."  At the end, good witch 
Glinda asks Dorothy if she has learned anything, and Dorothy answers:  
"If I ever go looking for my heart's desire again, I won't look any 
further than my own backyard. Because if it isn't there, I never 
really lost it to begin with."

Harriet Beecher Stowe's "Uncle Tom's Cabin," the bestselling novel 
of the 19th century, hammers home the message, over and over, that 
slavery is absolutely terrible for the slaves and often pretty bad 
for the slave owners as well.  Stowe shows this with examples and 
illustrations, but also comes out and states it plainly, too, as 
when one character, St. Clare, exclaims: "Talk of the abuses of 
slavery! Humbug! The thing itself is the essence of all abuse!"

Even though the morals seem awfully clear in these cases, people 
frequently still find much to analyze in these stories.  Perhaps 
the morals give the audience more to ponder and to discuss.


Some stories contain lessons and messages in them without devoting 
the entire text to these messages.

In Jane Austen's "Pride and Prejudice," which many view as the 
blueprint for romances based on misunderstandings, both Elizabeth 
Bennet and Mr. Darcy learn and grow as characters.  Elizabeth 
learns not to judge people too quickly, and Mr. Darcy learns that 
marriage proposals should not include insulting language.  Both 
lessons could be taken to heart by readers.

In "Nicholas Nickleby," which could be viewed as a coming-of-age 
story about a young man making his way in the world, Charles Dickens 
brought to life the horrors of the boarding schools of his time.  
By the way, they WERE horrible.  Jane Austen nearly died after 
becoming sick at hers, and two of Charlotte Bronte's sisters -- 
Maria and Elizabeth, the ones you don't hear about -- died after 
attending Cowan Bridge School, which was a hotbed of typhoid and 
tuberculosis.  Bronte's "Jane Eyre" also contains several chapters 
describing Jane's dreadful experiences at Lowell School.

The Harry Potter series could be viewed as adventure stories about 
schools and wizardry, but J. K. Rowling perpetually peppers her 
tomes with observations about bravery and loyalty.  Dumbledore, 
in particular, makes many pithy remarks, such as when he claims, 
at the end of "Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets," that, 
"It is our choices... that show what we truly are, far more than 
our abilities."
Again, many gallons of ink have been spilled analyzing the morals 
in these books.  A story that makes people think, a story that 
stays with readers, is not such a bad thing to aim for.


I will not attempt to describe what the morals of your story should 
be.  However, if you decide to include lessons and messages into 
your story, you need to figure out how you want to do this.  Here 
are some aspects you will need to consider:


A very short story may be too short for anything but the obvious.  
One form of literature that exemplifies this is known as the 
cautionary tale.  A cautionary tale has three tiny acts: (1) 
warning given to protagonist; (2) protagonist ignores warning; 
(3) protagonist suffers horribly.  An example of this could be 
as straightforward as a rabbit being told not to cross a highway; 
the rabbit deciding to do it anyway, because of greener grass in 
the median; the rabbit becoming roadkill.

One of the worst episodes -- in my opinion -- of Star Trek, TNG, 
was "The Outcast."  It made the case, albeit with the roles reversed, 
for LGBT rights.  I'm all for the rights, but I did not like the 
episode, and one of the reasons was the in-your-face message of 
the show.

On the other hand, I loved Harriet Beecher Stowe's "Uncle Tom's 
Cabin," despite the persistent preachiness and the fact that it 
was written for an audience of 1852, when taste in literature 
was different.

Perhaps whether a moral is obvious or subtle is not what makes 
a story good or lousy -- I mean, from its entertainment value, 
not from the point of view of morality -- but everything else 
that contributes to making a story entertaining and memorable.


If you hold a strong opinion, perhaps you don't believe that there 
should be an opposing view.  You may be right.  If you are a rabbit, 
crossing a busy highway is always a risky move not open to debate.

On the other hand, if you want to create a story with more depth, 
then you may risk presenting the other side of the issue.  Most 
of us agree that stealing is wrong.  But what if you are stealing 
in order to feed your children?  What if you are stealing from 
someone who has no right to it in the first place, such as the 
occupiers in a war?  What if you are stealing from the dead, such 
as all those who looted the pyramids thousands of years ago?  Did 
those Pharaohs really have the right to take everything with them?

Whether or not you agree with the points of view of the thieves is 
one thing, but they certainly did have points of view and rationales 
for their actions.  Showing the other side of the argument can 
enrich the conflict in your story.

However, if you show the other side of an argument, your own life 
may be affected.  Once a play of mine was being read aloud at a 
workshop, and someone in the audience objected to an argument that 
one of the characters made, and was rather unpleasant to me about 
it.  Since I had presented both sides of the debate in the dialogue, 
I was surprised that she ascribed one point of view to me instead of 
the other.

Showing both sides of the argument allowed another play, Jean Anouilh's 
"Antigone," to get past the Nazi censors in Vichy Paris, and may have 
even saved the playwright's life.  Although Anouilh spent time as a 
prisoner of war under German forces, they did not kill him.  And 
although some on the Allied side accused him of sympathizing with 
the Nazis, they also let him live -- which was not the case with 
all intellectuals considered Nazi sympathizers.  The writer Robert 
Brasillach was executed by firing squad on February 6, 1945, for 
crimes of collaboration, even though his activities had been only 
intellectual in nature.  For the rest of Anouilh's life, people 
were never sure about his wartime sympathies, but the ambiguity 
enabled his survival.

Presenting both sides may not win you friends, and die-hard reviewers 
devoted to one side of the argument may subtract one or more stars 
from their ratings of your works because they are mad at you.  On the 
other hand, your works -- though controversial -- may be more popular 
as they provoke discussion and debate.


If your characters, and possibly your readers, learn something, you 
may want to develop this realization over the course of the story.  
The rabbit tale is an example of an arc with three tiny points, but 
you may have more or fewer.  Perhaps you are writing a coming-of-age 
story and so there is a natural progression of points as the hero moves 
from child to adult.  Perhaps you are writing something very short and 
there is only time for the punchline.


Another consideration is how much time and space to give your moral 
within your story.  You may be writing a romance or a detective story, 
and the moral may be part of a subplot.  In "Jane Eyre," Charlotte 
Bronte takes a few chapters to slam schools, but the bulk of the novel 
is devoted to the romance between Jane and Mr. Rochester.


Of course; many authors do.  If your opus is especially long, e.g., 
you are writing seven tomes in a series, then you may even feel the 
need to convey more than one message, or else your work may seem 
monotonous.  You may not want to include too many or your story may 
seem unfocused.  The balance is up to you and what you feel works 
for your story and your message(s).


The discerning reader of this article will notice that I have raised 
questions but not given answers or even definitive opinions.  That is 
because there is no one-size-fits-all best answer -- or if there is, I 
have not figured out what it is!  I nevertheless believe that asking 
these questions will help you as you decide if and how to include morals 
in your stories.

P.S. Despite the themes above, no bunnies were harmed in the crafting 
of this column.






Victoria Grossack studied Creative Writing and English Literature
at Dartmouth College, and has published stories and articles in
such publications as Contingencies, Women's World and I Love Cats.
She is the author of Crafting Fabulous Fiction, a step-by-step
guide to developing and polishing novels and short stories that
includes many of her beloved columns. With Alice Underwood, she
co-authors the Tapestry of Bronze series (including Jocasta,
Mother-Wife of Oedipus; The Children of Tantalus; and Antigone &
Creon), based on Greek myths and set in the late Bronze Age. Her
independent novels include The Highbury Murders, in which she does
her best to channel the spirits and styles of Jane Austen and
Agatha Christie, and Academic Assassination (A Zofia Martin
Mystery). Victoria is married with kids, and (though American)
spends much of her time in Europe. Her hobbies include gardening,
hiking, bird-watching and tutoring mathematics. Visit her website
at http://www.tapestryofbronze.com, or contact her at tapestry (at)
tapestryofbronze (dot) com. 


Copyright 2015 Victoria Grossack 

This article may not be reprinted or posted without the written
permission of the author.

Link to this article here: 

Want to learn more about crafting fabulous fiction? Get one-on-one
guidance with Victoria Grossack's personal writing class; visit

DO YOU LOVE LANGUAGE - how words work to thrill, convince, dazzle,
and excite?  THINK LIKE A WRITER will help you corral your writing
ideas - and saddle up the stories you've always wanted to write!
Discover tools, strategies, and prompts that bring your unique
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By Aline Lechaye

In our modern, fast-paced, Internet-driven world, people seldom 
have time to read through giant blocks of text on social media 
unless their interest has been drawn by an article title or an 
accompanying image. That's why most social media posts consist 
of photos or videos -- they're easy to understand, easy to 
create, and easy to share. Bad news for writers? Not necessarily. 
All it means is that you need to visualize your writing in order 
to garner interest on social media. 

Infographics and charts are a simple and beautiful way to present 
facts for nonfiction writers, and can be a way to start humorous 
discussions for fiction writers (why not make an infographic of 
the percentage of people who die in your latest fantasy novel? 
Or use an interactive map to track the locations your protagonist 
has visited?)

If we were running a contest for coolest web domain names, 
Infogram's (https://infogr.am/) would definitely be on the 
list. An online tool for drawing charts and infographics, 
Infogram can help you create both interactive and static charts 
for your blog, website, or social media site. Simply choose from 
the templates available, edit the accompanying worksheet, and 
then customize the chart colors and layout to suit your needs. 
You need to log in to use the site, but you can use your Facebook, 
Google+, Twitter, or LinkedIn account to log in if you don't want 
to make a new Infogram account. The free account doesn't let you 
download your finished infographics, but you do get an embed code 
that allows you to share your charts online -- you can use the 
analytics feature to track how many people have viewed or shared 
your infographics. Note that charts created on a free account will 
contain an Infogram watermark. 

Piktochart (http://piktochart.com/) is another online chart 
creator that comes with pre-made templates for the graphically-
challenged. The wide array of beautifully designed templates 
means that there is something for everyone, and as all templates 
are fully customizable, all you have to do is upload your own 
images to make each infographic your own. Don't have any of your 
own images to upload? Not to worry, the stock icon and photo 
library contains plenty of images you can choose from. Completed 
infographics can be downloaded as images (PNG or JPG), printed 
out as posters, or shared to the Internet. Like most freemium 
tools, Piktochart comes with many additional features that you 
have to upgrade (pay) to use, but the free account actually 
contains a surprisingly large number of features that should 
be enough to satisfy a standard user. You have to register for 
an account to use Piktochart, or you can log in using your 
Facebook or Google account. 

Canva (https://www.canva.com/) is yet another web-based graphic 
editor, but it can be used to make much more than just 
infographics. Options include graphics for popular social media 
sites such as Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, Instagram, and Pinterest; 
office document designs such as presentations and letterheads; 
writer-oriented graphics such as eBook or Kindle covers; printed 
material designs such as postcards, invitations, and flyers... 
the list goes on and on. The stock library contains thousands of 
photos and illustrations (many of them free) that you can use to 
customize your design. Finished designs can be shared to the web, 
or downloaded as images (PNG or JPG) or PDF files.  


Aline Lechaye is a translator, writer, and writing tutor who
resides in Asia. She can be reached at alinelechaye at gmail.com


Copyright 2015 Aline Lechaye 

This article may not be reprinted without the written permission 
of the author. 

A WRITER'S YEAR is the ONLY 365-day planner designed specifically
for writers! Plan your schedule, track billable hours, organize
tasks, and track your progress and achievements. And it's F*R*E*E!
Download an electronic version in PDF or Excel, or access the print
edition: http://www.writing-world.com/store/year/index.shtml
EVERY WRITER NEEDS A HOLIDAY!  "The Writer's Guide to Holidays, 
Observances and Awareness Dates" offers 1800 events worldwide --
Instant inspiration for those days when you can't think of anything
to write about!  Holiday topics are a favorite of editors, so fuel
your inspiration and jumpstart your articles today!  Available in 
print and Kindle editions; for more information visit


Fun site that points out incorrect usages of the apostrophe seen 
in public. Readers are invited to submit.

" A completely free online English grammar with clearly explained 
grammar rules and plenty of examples to illustrate the main points 
and difficulties of English grammar."  Lots of info here!

An excellent roundup of great writing sites - and I'm not just saying 
that because we came in at #10!  This is a fabulous jumping-off point 
to start your search for helpful information.

Frequently updated with new market links, sometimes with the journal's 

Our September issue brings you a look at:  the dog smugglers of
Gibraltar; an 1875 railway journey across the US; American working
girls; how to make marmalade; addressing people of title; designing
applique for embroidery; making pickles; giving an afternoon tea;
E. Nesbit's school days; recipes and much more! Download it free
At http://www.VictorianVoices.net/VT/issues/VT-1509.shtml

New! Victorian Times is now available in print as Victorian Times
Quarterly - by subscription or by individual issue.
Visit http://www.VictorianVoices.net/VT/VTQ/index.shtml for details.

on how to reach more than 100,000 writers a month with your 
product, service or book title, visit


Writing World is a publication of Writing-World.com

Readers are welcome to forward this newsletter by e-mail IN ITS
ENTIRETY. This newsletter may not be reposted or republished in
any form, online or in print, nor may individual articles be 
published or posted without the written permission of the author
unless otherwise indicated.

Editor and Publisher: MOIRA ALLEN (editors"at"writing-world.com) 
Copyright 2015 Moira Allen

Copyright © 2017 by Moira Allen. All rights reserved.
All materials on this site are the property of their authors
and may not be reprinted without the author's written permission,
unless otherwise indicated.
For more information please contact Moira Allen, Editor