Archive for March 2016

The Deep State Takes Care of Its Own   2 comments

“You have to trust the government,” Justice Department attorney Richard Roberts unctuously told Jesse Trentadue. Seeking to understand why his younger brother Kenneth had died while in federal custody, Jesse, a trial attorney in Salt Lake City, had asked to see the findings of a federal grand jury investigation of the case.

In an incandescent response to Roberts’s patronizing dismissal, Trentadue reminded the Justice Department functionary that the proper relationship between citizens and the government is not one of “trust,” but rather of “accountability from that government to the citizens.”

Source: The Deep State Takes Care of Its Own

Posted March 26, 2016 by aurorawatcherak in Tyranny

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Calling All Sanders Supporters   4 comments

Similar to my question about Trump — why do you support Bernie Sanders for President?

If you look at my conversation with Trump voters who logged in on that same question, you can see that I’m respectful. I’m not looking to argue. I just really want to know what you see in this candidate. This is your forum to state your views about why you think he would be the best choice.

The Truth About Environmentalism   1 comment

One reason I like Lew Rockwell’s site is that the writers are, by and large, good about linking to the articles they reference. This helps to keep them honest. Sometimes the article they are citing is worth a reblog. Lela

Prince Ea Is Sorry. Me Too by Rachelle Peterson

Prince Ea, a St. Louis rapper and spoken word poet, released a video tribute to Earth Day. “Dear Future Generations: Sorry” apologizes to posterity for leaving them a world desiccated, overheated, and run down. Many apparently share Prince Ea’s remorse. His video has more than 60 million views on Facebook alone. Collegeadministrators, professors, and students, too, have cited Prince Ea’s message as a prod to penitence.

Like Prince Ea, I, too, am sorry. The amiable spell-binding poet crafts some clever sentences, but falls for a number of popularized half-truths.

https://www.nas.org/articles/prince_ea_is_sorry_me_too

Marxism and Environmentalism   2 comments

Authoritarian is the key term here. We are certainly not saying one should not care about the environment, but as the experience of real socialism so vividly demonstrates, nothing is more likely to preserve a livable environment than strong property rights – which are the very thing constantly under attack by the left. Idealistic leftists – those Lenin referred to as “useful idiots” – are merely economically ignorant. As Friedrich Hayek once said: “If socialists understood economics they wouldn’t be socialists”.

Source: Marxism and Environmentalism

Scary Scenes Followup   2 comments

So in the wake of the Brussels attacks, Americans of course look inward. This article from the Alaska Dispatch News is indicative.

http://www.adn.com/article/20160322/how-vulnerable-united-states-brussels-attack

WASHINGTON – The apparently coordinated bombings that killed more than 30 people in Belgium are unlikely to be duplicated in the United States, which is separated by an ocean from Islamist extremists fighting in Syria and Iraq and has seen far fewer of its people traveling there, former intelligence and counterterrorism officials said.

Of course, we’re not immune to attack and we shouldn’t be complacent, but I cringe when I hear folks saying we need police in the streets and armed guards in the airports, schools, etc.

NO, WE DON’T!

We shouldn’t be so afraid of terrorism that we allow our government to act like terrorists. A friend of ours was in Belgium when the attacks happened. She’d been in the impacted airport just five hours before. She emailed us to let us know that she and her husband were okay and in her email, she talked about how truly frightening it was to have these armed men in the streets, dressed in camouflage and carrying fully-automatic rifles in the ready position. She was especially put-off by the balcavas. “Who is they are guarding their identity from? Terrorists or the people they are terrorizing?” Jenna and Tom were stopped trying to get to their hotel, held for 45 minutes their bags and persons searched twice (though nothing but the usual tourist on the street things were discovered) and their passports retained. They just got those back yesterday, which has made them late for the European trip they were planning. In fact, after the attacks, they had planned to go on to Germany early (“We certainly didn’t need to be in the way here.”), but they couldn’t without their passports. Why were their passports retained? No one will tell them. Our consulate in Brussels was able to get them back, but without explanation.

And, yet, there are Americans who think we need to that sort of scrutiny here. I find it particularly telling that these same people are usually the ones who want to disarm private citizens. “Just let the police and the military handle it,” they say. The military especially is not your friend, folks. I speak from the experience of a lifetime living in a huge military town and being friends with many soldiers, both active and retired. The retired ones will tell you that they were trained to be terrorists. In the last 20 years (it started in the Clinton administration), soldiers have received specific training in US crowd control — “What to do in the event of a homegrown uprising?” is how my friend PJ refers to it. Kendell tells me that training included intense classroom “encounter sessions” designed to “break down our attachment to our neighbors and our natural reflex to protect American lives.” PJ says he would never fire on American civilians, “not even the President ordered it.” Kendell says he wouldn’t want to, but he would if ordered by a commanding officer. Levi sent a chill down my back when he said “Well, if they’re truly Americans, they wouldn’t be fighting our army. We’re on the same side. They should just calm down and let us do our jobs.”

Wow! That’s all I can say about that. Wow! I did ask Levi to give me specifics and it included things like home searches, demanding to see papers, detaining people for “routine” screening, and pretty much everything you would expect of the Stasi. Levi is scarier than some. Most of them are reasonable folks who would at least feel badly about doing it, but Levi really has bought into the whole mentality that the military is always right and that civilians should recognize that and bend to their will.

So, when I see jack-booted thugs patrolling the streets of Brussels with rifles at the ready, I will now remember what Jenna wrote in her email.

“A terrorist attack could happen at home, but I hope this response never does. I’d rather risk a terror attack than live under constant terror from my own government.”

And this comes from a woman who lives in Fairbanks Alaska where it’s estimated that at any public gathering in Fairbanks, at least 10% of the attendees are carrying concealed. I would rather put my life in the hands of a well-meaning neighbor who really doesn’t want to shoot anybody, but wants to be ready if trouble comes his/her way than rely on the judgment of someone who has been trained to kill and sees everyone not wearing camo as a threat.

Posted March 25, 2016 by aurorawatcherak in Tyranny

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What Killed the Middle Class?   Leave a comment

Source: What Killed the Middle Class?

Posted March 25, 2016 by aurorawatcherak in Uncategorized

Scary Scenes   Leave a comment

I haven’t been ignoring the Brussels attacks, but I had a busy week at work and I caught a cold so really haven’t had time to blog about it.

No argument – the Belgians have been through a rough time and have every reason to be scared. I mourn for the loss of life and hope the terrorists will be caught and punished.

But … as Brad and I watched the news from Brussles, we both felt horribly uneasy and it took our teenager to point out why.

A look at these pictures tells the story. Police, in camouflage and balacavas, with fully automatic weapons at the ready, crowding the streets, search bags and asking people for their papers.

Does this make anyone safer? It certainly didn’t stop the terrorist attacks in the first place. And then the American press gets ideas from it. “We need that here!” A government official says it’s not politically correct to say that here, but we “need that sort of vigilance.”

Bull! NO, WE DO NOT!

How much freedom of speech do you suppose goes on in the plazas of Brussles under the watchful eyes of the highly armed police? Those guys look pretty intimidating to me.I think they’re meant to look intimidating and I’m willing to bet that a substantial slice of the Belgian population does not feel warm and fuzzy when they see them.

They give up essential liberty for temporary security deserve neither. Benjamin Franklin

And, it doesn’t make the Belgians any safer because not they’ve just exchanged one form of terror for another form of terror. Maybe it’s because I grew up in a military town and know a lot of soldiers, but the idea of them patrolling my streets under the pretense of “keeping us safe” fills me with cold dread. The last thing any people needs is a bunch of armed control freaks under government auspices “protecting” us. It’s not protection. It’s tyranny.

When are we going to realize that government is the larger sponsor of terrorism that our world has today? The Belgians may not experience another bombing for a while, but they will get to experience tyranny every day from now on.

Wake up, people!

Posted March 25, 2016 by aurorawatcherak in Tyranny

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A Choice for Liberty   4 comments

I don’t really want to call Pavel Durov a hero, but I admire the courage of his stance.

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If you’ve never heard of Durov he is the elusive founder behind Telegram, an app that is now at the center of the encryption debate.

If you’ve been living in a cave since the Paris attacks, you may be unaware that international investigators have discovered terrorists used encrypted apps, including WhatsApp and Telegram to hide plotting for the attacks. You may also not be aware that the FBI wants Apple to unlock the phone of one of the San Bernardino shooters.

Here’s the problem in brief – technology companies are increasingly using encryption to protect our data. Encryption keeps your data out of the watchful eyes of hackers and … you guessed it, government data collectors. Terrorists use encryption to “go dark” so police can’t monitor those messages. What’s more, the phones themselves have passcodes that prevent anyone who doesn’t know the code from accessing the phone’s contents. When police obtain a court-authorized search warrant to seize evidence, they approach a tech company with a demand to see a customer’s information. Encryption largely makes those court orders worthless because many tech companies cannot unlock their customers’ data even if they want to. Customers hold the access key because Apple doesn’t know or store the password.

The FBI is demanding that tech companies like Apple and Microsoft design a second set of keys for law enforcement. The worlds’s top cryptographers call the FBI’s “suggestion” a really bad idea. Data is either secured against everyone or it’s not against anyone with skills. If the FBI can access your phone by a second access key, hackers can exploit that backdoor and use that “just in case” key to access your personal information … like, you know, your bank information, your social security number, and your private thoughts on whatever you have private thoughts on. Basically, everything on your phone can become public knowledge if hackers get hold of the secondary key code.

Which brings us back to Pavel Durov, who explains that encryption is software. Much of it is free and almost all of it is easy to replicate and share. Law enforcement could get the extra access it seeks, but terrorists could just use software with encryption law enforcement doesn’t have a backdoor for. They could create their own if they wanted to.

Durov’s Telegram is the Berlin-based competitor to Facebook’s WhatsApp. Using two layers of encryption, the app claims to be “faster and more secure” than other messaging services. Users can message and send files to friends, create group chats with up to 200 members, or opt for “special secret chats” where messages self-destruct after a user-defined period. Of course, ISIS terrorists use encrypted apps like Telegram to communicate. It’s the new hot trend among jihadis … or anyone who values their privacy.

For the record, I do not support jihadists, but I do support liberty and my right to keep my personal information and communication away from anyone, including the government, which is why I consider Durov to be courageous.

The 31-year-old Durov, who is often referred to as the “Mark Zuckerberg of Russia”, founded the popular Russian social media Vkontakte (called VK) in 2006. When Russian granted Edward Snowden temporary asylum in 2013, Durov proposed Snowden work as a security software developer for VK. Then in 2014, he opted to flee his home country, refusing to comply with requests from the Russian government to turn over data on Ukrainian Vkontakte users.

In other words, this 31-year-old libertarian understands that the privacy that terrorists use to hide their activities is also used by legitimate dissidents. If the government can use encryption backdoors to neutralize terrorists, it can also use them to deny you and I the right to protest the activities of our government or Ukranian citizens to stand against the Russian government’s interference in the internal affairs of the Ukraine.

Simply put, Durov is more concerned with privacy threats than terrorist plots.

“If you look at the situation statistically and get rid of emotion for a second … the probability that you or me will die as a result of terrorism is almost zero,” Durov told CNN’s Erin Mclaughlin. “The probability that we will get into a car accident is a million times higher than the probability we will suffer as a result of terrorist act.”

He thinks the benefit of providing private communications outweighs the costs, although Telegram did block 28 ISIS-related channels across 12 languages following reports that ISIS was using Telegram to communicate. This did not impact private communications at all, which is a separate system that Telegram cannot access.

Durov says this doesn’t mean that encryption is bad.

“We think that providing this kind of secure private means of communication for the masses for 99.999 percent of people that have nothing to do with terrorism means more than the threat that we see from the other side,” Durov told Mclaughlin. He explained that it is impossible to limit encryption from spreading.

“Terrorists will always find a means of secure communication,” he said.

 

Posted March 24, 2016 by aurorawatcherak in Thankful Thursday

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Watch for Thoughtful Thursday   Leave a comment

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I’ve moved from historical examples of courage to modern ones. Join us.

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Posted March 23, 2016 by aurorawatcherak in #openbook, Uncategorized

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Interview with HL Burke   1 comment

Today’s interview is with H. L. Burke. Welcome to the blog, Heidi. Tell us something about yourself.

Burke.HL.author picI’m the wife of a Marine, Mother of two Super-Hero-Princesses, and guardian to Batcat (my cat’s name is Bruce Wayne. He’s BAT CAT!). I’m originally from Oregon, which means I have a high appreciation for nature and coffee and rain doesn’t scare me.

 

At what point did you know you wanted to be a writer? 

I dictated a short story to my mom when I was five or six. I only remember that it was about rabbits and included the bit of dialogue, “Why is it always snowing at your house?” “Because I’m a snow rabbit.”

Brilliant, huh?

Actually, that’s a great play on words for five.

But I have always wanted to write or been writing. I used to write short stories based on the imagined adventures of myself and my friends. I also inserted us into Star Wars fanfic so we could hang out with our heroes. Ah, good times.

 

Burke.HL Cover MontageI have similar experiences with my friends. Tell us about your writing process.

It starts with a Holla and ends with a Creamsicle … and if there’s time in between, THUNDERCATS!

Oh wait, that’s Shawn Spencer from Psych, not me.

I’m kind of a hybrid pantser-plotter. I used to just start with a general idea of where I wanted the story to go and some “highlights” along the way (like, I want a scene with a sword fight between the brothers … a tearful reunion … then in the end SMORES!), but occasionally whole book plots will pop into my head in surprising details and I’ll write down a long summary and follow it closely. Though I’m always open for a surprise twist or turn. Got to leave room for inspiration.

 

You do, absolutely. What is your favorite genre … to read … to write?

Fantasy and fantasy. I love the limitless. I love to explore possibilities without being confined by real world rules.

 

Burke.HL Cora CoverWhat are you passionate about?

Individuality. People are so eager to cram each other into boxes and categorize people. Probably going along with my need for infinite possibilities which drives me to write fantasy, I need freedom and I want other people to have the same freedom. God gave us a universe full of the strange and the wonderful. There’s no reason not to let ourselves be strange and wonderful, too.

 

Oh, you and I should be neighbors! Where do you get the inspiration for your novels?

I like to ask “what ifs” and work backward from there. For my dragon series, I asked, “What would happen if a knight showed up to save the princess from the dragon and she preferred the dragon?”

Or I’ll take a concept and build out from it. Beggar Magic was based on the idea of how dependent people are on phones and internet, so that if they lose those they have no idea how to complete simple tasks (How do I find my way without a gps? I don’t know anyone’s phone number anymore. All my recipes are on Pinterest.) … except I replaced the Internet with Magic.

Nyssa Glass and the House of Mirrors is based on computer adventure games.

Cora and the Nurse Dragon was inspired by those vending machines that used to dispense plastic eggs with cheap prizes in them.

 

Burke.HL. Nyssa GlassAre you a plot driven or character driven writer? Why?

Character driven. Most plots are fairly tried and true. They have formulas that if you deviate from them, you can actually leave readers dissatisfied. Characters offer a lot more opportunity for creativity than plots do. Several of my books have fairly standard plots, but I put a lot of time into the world building and characters. I want it to be a world you want to hang out in with characters you want to hang out with.

 

I’m going to drop you in a remote Alaska cabin for a month. It’s summer so you don’t have worry about freezing to death. I’ll supply the food and the mosquito spray. What do you do while you’re there and what do you bring with you? If you’re bringing books, what are they?

I would bring a lot of notepads and pens. Does the food you are providing include coffee? (Absolutely!) My cat would be nice … I like my cat. My toy dragon, Theodore … Honestly, I can’t say what books because I’d want them to be books I hadn’t read yet. Bruce (the cat) and I would spend a lot of quality time together and I’d hopefully get some writing done.

 

Talk about your books individually.

I have nine …ish … is it bad that I’ve lost count?

 

Nah, that just means you’re productive.Tell me about the ones you want to talk about today.

Burke.HL.KnightMy four book The Dragon and the Scholar Saga is a story I’ve carried with me from high school and in some ways me retelling my own love story with my husband … but with a LOT of artistic license. My husband is not nearly poetic enough to be a fictional love interest.

I then moved onto YA Fantasy with Beggar Magic, a story set in a world where music is magical …

then a friend sent me a picture of a cat rubbing up against a dragon statue, and I’m like OMGOSH! I have to write a story about a cat who is best friends with a dragon!

Then onto Epic Fantasy with Lands of Ash, and while I should’ve gone right into the sequel for Lands of Ash, I put out a fairy tale novella, a middle grade novella, and a steampunk novella … Did I mention I was easily distracted?

 

What do you want readers to think or feel after reading one of your books?

Depends on the book and ranges from amused to thoughtful. I like to write funny books, but I also like to play with themes that are important to me like family and persistence.

 

What influenced your decision to self-publish?

Impatience. I never seriously tried the traditional route. I mean, when I was in my late teens, I sent out submissions to any publisher I could find online who accepted non-agented submissions, but looking back, none of that was really good enough for them to seriously consider. When I started seriously considering publication, in my late twenties, I thought for a few weeks about submitting things and thought about waiting back to hear from them, submitting to someone else if it was a rejection, over and over and over again … when I was sitting on a book I basically felt was good to go, and I just didn’t want to wait.

So I put out my first book. Now I’m somewhat addicted to being able to get my books from first draft to my readers’ hands in less than six months. My last two novellas, in fact, were for sale on Amazon within three months. Plus I don’t feel I have to write to anyone’s specifications but my own and can chase whatever shinies I want to. Oooh, shiny.

 

With the number of self-published books increasing by such a huge rate, it is really difficult for authors to make their books stand out. How do you go about this?

You need word of mouth. That and paid advertising really seem to be the only way to get anywhere.

I’ve been building a fan base who I interact with via social media quite often. “Fan base” seems so egotistical, so maybe I should say “reader base,” but there are people out there who will take a chance on a book just because it is mine and who will tell their friends about my book. To do this, I gave away a LOT of free copies.

I don’t really want to do gimmicks, and I don’t really have the funds to pay for much advertising so for me it’s just been getting books into people’s hands and saying, “Here, this is me. This is my book” and hoping my writing speaks for itself.

 

Who designed your book cover/s?

My friend, Jennifer White. I believe I am her only client, but I can hook people up. She’s a long time internet buddy. We met on a J. R. R. Tolkien fan site and when I told her I was self-publishing and showed her the concept sketch I had for a cover she said, “Hey, I bet I can make that look better …”

She lured me in by giving me my first few covers free, and now I pay her about $75-100 a cover depending on what stock photos she needs to buy and such.

 

What do you find to be the greatest advantage of self-publishng?

The speed. When I  started editing my first book for publication, I joined a critique group. This would’ve been, like, 2012. There was another writer who had an AWESOME space opera. Like Star Wars with a young female protagonist (this obviously being prior to Abrams and Rey) and I adored it … I finished up my edits and put Dragon’s Curse on the market … she shopped for agents. And shopped, and shopped … a year later, she put the book up again in the critique group hoping for another round of edits because it “obviously wasn’t good enough” since she hadn’t got an agent. This book was really really really good. I swear. One of the best Scifi books I’ve ever read. Almost three years later, she’s finally “giving up” and self-publishing. In the meantime, Dragon’s Curse has been on the market for about three years and has had a lot of readers … plus I’ve put out eight other books.

I’m not patient enough to wait on the whims of agents and publishers before sharing my work.

 

Conversely, what do you think self-published authors might be missing out on?

Donuts? I like to believe publishers often send you donuts. It makes me feel better about the world in general, believing this.

 

Do you believe that self-published authors can produce books as high-quality as the traditional published? If so, how do you think we should go about that?

I think aiming for traditional publishing standards is a mistake. I think we should endeavor to have our words spelled right and our formatting legible, but who made traditional publishers the “standard?” Basically, they did. They’re on a pedestal they built themselves, and it only has value if you acknowledge it.

Yeah, the homemade brownies your mom makes might not have the slick packaging of the brownies you pick up in a supermarket, but dang, they can taste just as good, and may even be preferable.

Consider Indie music vs highly produced pop music. Yeah, the struggling artist just starting out may not have the tech behind them. They may just be singing into a cheap microphone with a beat up guitar, but artistry isn’t about the tech. It’s not about producers and glitz. It’s about art. Art is not definable, and I think traditional published books often lack soul because they are produced to formats and formulas.

Now this is not EVERY traditional published book, obviously. A lot of art slips in. But I think it’s a mistake to assume “professional” as defined by the industry is always better.

That’s the brilliant thing about the internet age. It’s the age of the gifted amateur. You don’t need permission. Just be brave and authentic and original and go make your art.

Now, you aren’t promised success. The world doesn’t owe you anything, but if your true goal is to make art, success is kind of just a cherry on top of having the ability to do that.

 

Do you write specifically for a Christian audience? Why or why not?

Since I write fantasy, there isn’t a huge market for that. I find that it is very restrictive writing for Christians. They’ve been trained to expect all Christian fantasy to be allegorical (a la Narnia … and I love a good allegory, but I’ve never been given a story to write that IS one. Plus so many authors have already done that better than I could.) and for every story to have a salvation message (as someone who has been Christian since early childhood, I’ve never quite got the hang of writing a conversion scene for adults. For six-year-olds, heck yeah, I can do that.). I also write in “other worlds” a lot that have different history and world building at play. So the faith in my books is pretty dang sneaky. You kind of have to look for it … but I think that gives it sort of a stealthy advantage. I like to think I’m planting seeds for concepts of faith, hope, and virtue in my own small way.

 

Nice! More of Tolkien flavor then. What are some of the special challenges of being a Christian writer?

I find a lot of Christian art gets pigeon-holed. People are afraid to read things explicitly labeled Christians unless they are Christians. I mean, I may not believe the humanistic message in Star Trek or the Eastern spirituality themes in Star Wars of the Last Airbender, but that doesn’t mean I can’t enjoy them as entertainment. Maybe it speaks to the power of the message that people are literally afraid of it.

 

Christians are told to be “in the world, but not of it.” As a Christian writer, how do you write to conform to that scripture?

As a natural rebel, I’ve always kind of taken this as a challenge not to do things the most popular or expected way … which I try really hard to rein that in, so I’m doing things God’s way, and we have conversations in my head where I say, “This is Your way, right?” But He tends to just pat me on my head and let me play with my dragons. He’s a good Dad that way. Occasionally, though, I’ve gotten an idea or a thought that I know I’m not nearly deep enough to come up with on my own, so I figure that’s where that’s coming from.

 

Do you feel that Christian writers are expected to conform to some standards that are perhaps not realistic to the world?

Probably. But I’m big on not caring what other people think. I’ve seen groups get into arguments about what slang terms are too crude, for instance. Can Christian fiction use the term suck? What about “crap”? I tend to not be a “rules” person, so I don’t give it a ton of thought/worry, though.

 

Do you feel that Christian writers should focus on writing really great story or on presenting the gospel clearly in everything they write? Or is it possible to do both?

It’s possible to do both.

However, it isn’t necessary to always do both.

I think the idea of a Christian writer is kind of odd.

Consider the idea of a Christian plumber.

A Christian banker?

A Christian chef?

Being a child of God should be part of who we are and we should be willing to speak when the spirit leads, but I don’t think there are any plumbers who I’d rate down at the end of the work day because, “Well, he fixed my leaky sink, but he didn’t convey a clear salvation message.”

Why should authors have some sort of divine calling that plumbers don’t?

It would be like expecting a painter to only paint Biblical scenes. A picture of a sunset showing God’s creation can be as divinely inspired and as Christian as the Last Supper.

 

Oh, man, I am REALLY agreeing with you! You write speculative fiction. Do you find that the Christian reader community is accepting of that genre?

The younger members, yes. Or at least the trend is growing. I think there is still a painful expectation that everything should be an allegory. My favorite author, Tolkien, didn’t care for allegories, and I’m not a huge fan of them either because you always know how they are going to end. The moment I realize that Aslan is Jesus, I know He’s coming back from the dead. It has to be a really excellent allegory for me to get past the, “But I know this story already … if I want to hear it again, I can just read the Bible.”

 

Where can readers find you and your books?

 

Www.hlburkeauthor.com

www.hlburkeblog.com

www.facebook.com/hlburkewriter

www.twitter.com/typativemamacat

www.instagram.com/burkesdragons

http://www.amazon.com/H.-L.-Burke/e/B00EYQ1HLW

 

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