Category Archives: Independent Authors

The Hardest 3 Paragraphs to Write

Most people think that the process of writing a book is difficult. Sometimes it is. Sometimes, on those rare occasions when the stars and planets all align in perfect order, it isn’t.

But what few people realize is writing the book is only half the battle.

Once the book is written, once it’s edited and prepped for publication, then the truly difficult writing begins. For then, a writer has to write the most difficult three paragraphs of any project.

You have to write the dreaded back cover copy!

We’re told that this small insight into our current masterpiece should be about three paragraphs in length and should be between 150 and 200 words. Less than 200 words to tell the world how amazing your novel truly is.

Let’s be perfectly honest, most writers hate writing the back cover copy. I know I do. I put it off until the bitter end and then procrastinate a few hours more hoping against hope that I’ll come up with something clever at the last moment.

Inspiration never happens. I always flounder around in the dark forgetting how to form an actual sentence. It’s a horrible but necessary exercise that I go through with each new writing project.

And yet here’s what the back cover copy would actually say if we were truly free to write exactly what we want readers to know about our book.

“Dear Reader,

Buy my book. It’s the greatest thing you’ve ever read. I know because I wrote it. I spent (insert number) weeks/months/years/decades of my life toiling over every single word to make it perfect. And it’s AWESOME! Even my mom said so.

I can’t tell you about the plot because I don’t want to give away the super secret ending that’s guaranteed to make you laugh/cry/scream in terror. But trust me, you’ll never guess what happens. Be prepared to be amazed.

So anyway, but my book because like I said, it’s awesome. And you’ll love it. I promise. And if you don’t, we’ll just keep that little tidbit between ourselves. Thanks.”

Now that’s the most honest back cover copy that you’ll never read it anywhere but here. The reason is simple, readers would never buy that book. As a reader, I wouldn’t buy that book but as a writer, I wish it was that simple.

Alas, nothing is ever as simple as you’d like it to be. So now I need to spend the next few hours struggling to write three paragraphs for my current project.  Hopefully, it’ll be brilliant!

Good luck with your own writing projects. May inspiration shine down upon us all!

Happy writing!

 

 

 

 

 

Andrea Patten Wants You to Love Your Inner Critic

Author Andrea Patten

Like many of us, Andrea Patten has been writing books — at least imaginary ones — since she could first hold a crayon. A favorite place to play was her grandmother’s desk with its endless supply of scrap paper from Gram’s classroom projects. “I’d spend hours on my stories, adding colorful covers and carefully stapling each masterpiece together. I loved writing “by Andrea Patten” in my best version of fancy handwriting on those covers.”

So, of course, one of the places her writer’s journey frequently took her was to ghostwriting. So much for the byline, huh?

“I worked for several people whose vision was far more inspiring than their ability to share it. I’m not sure how it happened the first time, but it was never uncommon for my immediate supervisor or her boss to stop by my desk and ask me to “have a look” at a speech, an article, a letter, or a memo before sharing with a wider audience.”

But those experiences helped her learn to write in different styles and voices: a CEO’s speech to motivate the staff required different writing chops than persuading legislators to provide funds for homeless teens.

“I wrote curricula and reports, financial disclosures and direct mail pieces… Brochures, classified ads, grant applications, staff bios, and company histories. It was excellent training and helped me appreciate the impact good writing can have,” says Patten.

Eventually, Andrea started to discover her voice as a writer. It’s honest, straightforward, and often funny.

“I worked in human services for a long time and wanted to continue to help people. I realized that part of that might come from sharing some of the fascinating ideas I’d picked up along the way. What Kids Need to Succeed is a book I wrote for parents, but it includes wisdom from the business world: when setting goals and making plans, start with the desired outcome in mind. Part of that book’s purpose was to help parents stop getting discouraged with day-to-day challenges and think about the bigger picture: raising future adults.”

Her latest release has similar roots. “Everybody talks about the Inner Critic, but most of the available advice doesn’t work. You can try to ignore “that voice” until you’re blue in the face but that’s not enough: the name of the game is to get it on your side… to make it an ally. You can learn to use its’ energy to your advantage.”

And, to anyone who has struggled with an Inner Critic (or Inner Editor or Inner Bully) this is very good news, indeed.

Here’s an excerpt from The Inner Critic Advantage: Making Peace With the Noise in Your Head by Andrea Patten

“A few million years ago, when the inner alarm bell sounded, all stress was short-lived: prehistoric primates either responded and escaped or became part of the predator’s buffet. Period. Either way, intense stress did not last long.

Modern stress is different. It’s cumulative — and from the lizard brain’s point of view — relentless. From the jarring sound of the alarm to the gloom and doom news report that accompanies morning coffee, there’s no break. Commuting. Car horns. Caffeine. Kardashians. And that’s even before you get to work.

Most of us don’t pay attention to regular, vanilla stress. It gets stuffed because we think we should be able to handle it. We tamp it down or ignore it and assume we should be able to just power through.

Can you imagine the impact this has on the primitive part of the brain? From that perspective, we’re ignoring death threats which tends to make it cranky. Louder. More insistent. No wonder it wants to take over — you’re not paying attention and giving it relief.

Remember, the survival center’s job is to alert us to potential threats: it is NOT for deep thinking, nuance, delicate wording or high-level negotiation.

Continuing to ignore the needs of our primitive brains can lead to chronic stress, making us unreasonable and sometimes causing arguments. I don’t think that’s what it intends to do — it’s really just the old brain’s way of trying to get your attention.

To help you. When trying to get along with people at work or seeking compromise with a loved one, we need to get that thing tucked in.

Despite the problems it has caused for you, there’s much to respect and appreciate about that old brain. It:

  • loves you and wants to keep you safe,
  • is part of your hardwired survival mechanism,
  • constantly scans your environment for threats, and • will not back down until it has been heard.

It takes hard work and a special sort of mindfulness to turn an Inner Critic into an ally, but do you have what it takes to turn it into an advantage?”

Check with your local indie bookstore for the softcover version of The Inner Critic Advantage: Making Peace With the Noise in Your Head by Andrea Patten. It is also available in e-book or softcover on www.amazon.com

Happy Reading!

(Jennifer B. Duffey is the author of two novels and a collection of short stories. To download a free copy of her latest novel, The Face in the Mirror, click here.)

The Little Things

The other day I was chatting with a lady who was very curious about my writing career. I’ll offer you a condensed version of the conversation.

Lady: So, how do you become a writer?

Me: You write.

Lady: That part doesn’t sound hard because I have some great ideas but what about all the little stuff?

Me: What little stuff?

Lady: You know, like commas and quotes and stuff like that.

Me: You mean grammar?

Lady: Yeah, all that stuff. I don’t know where any of that stuff goes.

Me: Ummm… tactful, tactful, tactful…Yeah, grammar is kind of important.

Lady: But don’t you just send it off and the people do all that stuff?

Me: People?

Lady: Yeah, the people who publish it.

Me: Well, I’m an independent writer so I am the people.

She was somewhat deflated after that but we continued to chat for a few more minutes before we parted company. I’m not sure writing is in her future. Especially since the little stuff she kept referring to is actually pretty big stuff.

In fact it’s major stuff.

In a way, the conversation with this lady reminded me of a conversation I had with my brother about a year ago. He’s a construction expert who specializes in foundation repair. He was telling me about a client of his who noticed the walls of his house were shifting.

The home was not very old and had been built by the previous owner.  It was a nice house, valued well over $250k, which for the area is a substantial size. The client was the poor soul unfortunate enough to purchase the home. You see, as my brother began to investigate the cause to the problem, he found that there was no foundation. For reasons only known to God, the previous owner/builder had not poured any footings. Not one. He had merely laid some crossties or beams down and started building.

I mean, who needs footings anyway, right?

As you can imagine, the solution to this problem was not pleasant. My brother recommended contacting a good attorney.

Grammar is the foundation for good writing. Without it there is nothing to build on.

Grammar is a piano I play by ear. Joan Didion Click To Tweet

Of course, artistic expression comes into play, but the basic grammatical foundation is always there. Can you imagine opening a book and finding one long continuous block of words without the first hint of punctuation? How would the reader differentiate between characters or settings? Who is speaking and when? Where are they and what are they doing?

The mere idea makes head hurt.

I would actually argue that for independent writers, grammar is more important than for traditionally published authors. Why would I say that? It’s simple. The idea of an independent writer comes with a heavy stigma. Many readers assume that the only reason authors go the independent route is because they can’t get a traditional publishing deal. Somehow their work isn’t quite good enough to make the cut. These readers are hesitant to give our work a try from the beginning because they already think it’s going to be of a poor quality and why should anyone waste their money on poor quality?

That stereotype is changing, but change comes slowly in the minds of the masses.

Unfortunately, there are a great number of independents out there who prove that point. Every single day, thousands of new titles hit the marketplace. With those types of numbers, some bad ones are bound to slip by, like the books written by someone who wasn’t worried about the little things, such good grammar. Alas, that just goes to further alienate mainstream readership.

Look, I get it writing is a hard, especially if you choose to go the independent route. EVERYTHING falls squarely on your shoulders. Story and character development, writing, editing, rewriting, quality control, layout and design, publication, distribution, and marketing. Whether you do it yourself or hire a team to assist you, it is all ultimately your responsibility.

And THAT’S a lot of responsibility and work. It’s easy to be tempted to skip something.

Personally, I love being an independent writer. I enjoy learning more about the process with each new project.

But I would NEVER, EVER try to take on a writing project without a firm grammatical foundation. I wouldn’t consider editing it. I wouldn’t want to read it. And I pray to God that I would never write it.

As I said before, the idea makes my head hurt.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I feel the need to go diagram some sentences and brush up on my comma usage.

Here’s hoping you never find a book without its foundation!

Happy Writing!

Meet Award Winning Author Nancy Blanton

Today I’m featuring a guest post by Florida author Nancy Blanton, whose award-winning historical novels are set primarily in 17th century Ireland. her latest book, The Prince of Glencurragh, has won three awards since its July 2016 publication, and is a finalist for two others. She chose the setting not only because of an Irish heritage, but also because it’s a period not heavily covered in fiction. For Nancy, it’s not just a passion, it’s a strategy. She explains why in the following interview.

First of all, what made you choose to write historical fiction?

It is what I love to read. I like to learn as I read, and I feel my time is well-spent. Recently I posted a blog about my favorite book, the first historical novel I read: Gone with the Wind. I learned so much from that book about America’s Civil War and its aftermath. I was both fascinated and hooked. Many writers avoid historical fiction because it requires so much research, but for me that’s the best part. It’s a treasure hunt to discover details most people have never seen or heard before, that will bring history to life.

Why did you pick 17th century Ireland?

My father emphasized our Irish heritage when I was growing up. We heard the music, sang the songs, wore the green, marched in the parade—all that. Our family toured Ireland when I was 15, and he sent me to Ireland for a summer study during my junior year in college. That I would want to write about it seems only natural. But when I started researching, I realized books about the 16th and 18th centuries were prominent, but not so much the 17th. A study for the Historical Novel Society found that the 17th century ranks 7th among time periods readers are most likely to choose when buying a book. This surprised me because it’s an exciting time of sweeping change, when the Irish clan system is overtaken by the English plantation system, when Cromwell led his bloody march. I saw a niche for myself, and made it my mission to illuminate this period.

Most novels set out to explore a question. What question did you have in mind when writing The Prince of Glencurragh?

In 17th century Ireland, many hopes and dreams were destroyed as the English took control of the island. So I was asking, “Is it possible to reclaim a dream once it is lost to the mists of memory?” The book is about a young Irishman facing seemingly insurmountable obstacles in a quest to realize his father’s dream of a castle and estate called Glencurragh.

The premise is interesting to me on two levels. First, everyone has awakened from a dream so beautiful they want to hold onto it, but the longer they are awake the faster it recedes. And second, many of us have seen the sacrifices our parents made and then tried to live their dream for them, only to realize later in life that it doesn’t satisfy. And dreams are sometimes fulfilled in ways we had not expected.

What is setting for this story?

It takes place in southwest Ireland, primarily County Cork, in 1634. As the English plantation system spreads across the province of Munster, lands that have been in clan ownership for centuries now are given to English soldiers as rewards for service. Even castles, once both the bounty and protection of the strongest clans, now have fallen against the power of the siege and cannon.

Faolán Burke will try almost anything to make his father’s castle a reality, including abducting an heiress to elevate his station and his income. But the heiress has a mind of her own, and they are drawn into the crossfire between the most powerful noblemen in Ireland—each with his own agenda.

What themes does the book address?

In many ways, this book is about friendship, the relationship between best friends from childhood. The story is narrated by Faolan’s best friend Aengus O’Daly. I have some very deep and lasting friendships of this kind, and those relationships informed this story in ways I didn’t even realize until the end. I am deeply grateful to my friends for that.

This story is also about hope. In great difficulty, when you have no power to change a circumstance that gives you pain, hope is what we rely on to get through, and it is the most human part of us.

What will readers find most appealing about this book?

This book captivates readers right away because it is fast-paced and rich with interesting historical detail. The 17th century is rife with conflict, disaster, invention and change.

The story also is relevant because it focuses on issues we still face today, such as oppression of ethnic groups and women, the struggle for survival and the struggle to achieve one’s dream. It is also a very personal struggle that most of us can relate to. Faolán is tested, just as anyone is who aspires to a goal. You want this thing, and it seems the mountain grows suddenly higher, the road more rugged, forcing you to show just how much you’re willing to fight for what you want.

Does the protagonist achieve his father’s vision for the Castle Glencurragh?

Without revealing the ending, I will say that Faolán adapts. The end is hopeful, as should be any story that deals with dreams.

The Prince of Glencurragh is available in e-book, soft cover and hard cover on amazon.com, barnesandnoble.com and from other online booksellers.

(Jennifer B. Duffey is the author of two novels and a collection of short stories. To download a free copy of her latest novel, The Face in the Mirror, click here.)

My Own Stupidity

I’m a pretty confident person. And usually, I’m a fairly smart individual. Not one prone to random bouts of folly nor known as a bumbling idiot.

I’ve been told that I’m a bit overconfident.

I don’t honestly think that’s the case. I simply think that I understand myself rather well and know that while I don’t tend to make a lot of little, trivial mistakes, when I do make errors, they are of an epic scale.

Some days you’re better off in bed.

I’m reminded of an incident several years ago when I was diligently editing my first completed novel. (This was well before I realized it was 200+ pages of worthless drivel, but I digress.) I remember that day very well, because I’d been working for about two hours on the project and felt like I’d made some real progress. And then, my stupidity got in the way.

I remember I was trying to finish up one last little thing before I had to leave for an appointment. You see, one of the characters frequently said “okay.” I noticed that for some of the entrees, I had typed ‘OK’ and others ‘okay.’ Trying to make all the entrees uniformed, I used the Microsoft Word feature Find and Replace to change all the ‘OKs’ to ‘okays.’

But I forgot one tiny, insignificant detail.

When using the Find/Replace option in Microsoft Word, there’s a small box that says ‘Whole Words Only’ or something to that effect. Guess which box I forgot to check.

In my haste that day, I completed the task (proud as punch), saved the updated copy, and went on my merry way. Imagine my surprise when I opened the file a few days later and found words like ‘lookay,’ ‘bookay,’ and ‘tookay.’

Do you know how many words have the letters ‘ok’ in them? A LOT! It seemed like hundreds.

I know, because I had used every single one of those words in that manuscript! I was still finding mistakes because of that bout of idiocy months later. Every time I thought I’d found them all, another would pop up. I honestly wanted to straggle my computer every time I opened the file.

Needless to say, I haven’t made that error since.

No, I don’t usually make the same mistakes twice. I merely venture off into entirely new areas of epic stupidity.

Case in point, I recently got an email from Go Daddy that one of my domain names was expiring and I needed to renew it. It’s one that I no longer use and have no reason to keep, so I let it go. No use in spending money on something that’s not needed, right?

Anyway, there was an email address associated with that account. Again, it’s not one I plan on keeping so there’s no problem with letting it go. This was as good a time as any to declutter things a bit.

A few days ago, I went to log into my Twitter account. My professional Twitter account that I use for promoting my writing and my blog. There was a problem. The emails they’d tried to send weren’t going through. I needed to change my password.

Still, no problem.

Until I hit the link to update my password and was informed that they needed to send a reset key to my email. You guessed it, the email they had on file was the one that I let expire. I’d forgotten to update my Twitter account before I lost the old email address.

Well, drats!

I tried emailing Twitter support explaining that I no longer had access to the old email account but was told they were unable to verify that I am who I say I am so they couldn’t help me. Now I’m completely locked out of my old Twitter account. I can see it. I can see my 3,000+ followers. I can see my 11,000+ tweets. I just can’t get to them. They’re stuck in some sort of internet limbo forever to taunt my momentary bout of stupidity.

I know what you may be thinking, 3,000 followers isn’t that impressive. There are people out there with millions of followers and far more tweets than that.

That’s very true, but for an independent author with a small fan base, 3,000 followers on any social media platform is huge. And like I said, it’s one of the major ways I promote my writing, so this mistake really hurts.

It’s not a completely hopeless situation. I’ve opened a new Twitter account (@authorjbduffey) and have begun posting new things there. Currently, I’m up to (drum roll please) 5 followers. Granted I only opened it yesterday, but it’s going to take awhile to get back up to the levels I was at previously. After all, I’d had the old account for about 7 and 1/2 years and had been very active for about 4 of those years.

Trust me, this is a mistake I won’t make again.

No, I’ll venture off into new, uncharted areas of stupid mistakes. That’s my modus operandi. It’s what I do.

And looking back, maybe it’s why I don’t worry, and sometimes don’t even notice, the minute challenges of any given day. Those are easily fixed and corrected. If you’ve spent all your energy on the major problems, the minor ones don’t seem as important anymore.

At any rate, I need to get to work rebuilding a major portion of my social media platform. Here’s hoping that I can avoid any major bouts of stupidity for awhile.

Happy Reading!

Meet Janetta Fudge-Messmer

Good morning!

I’d like to take a moment and introduce you to my friend, Janetta Fudge-Messmer. I met Janetta during the Amelia Island Book Festival and quickly found out that she is a lady who loves to make people laugh. Over the course of the day, we shared countless stories about childhood and unusual names (believe it or not, she was almost named Pickle instead of Fudge!) and everything in between. I’m delighted to take this opportunity to introduce her to my readers and I hope you’ll take a few moments to get to know her and her characters.

Happy Reading!

HI EVERYONE! Let me introduce myself. I’m Janetta Fudge Messmer and I’m an author of two Christian comedies (Early Birds and Southbound Birds). I also have a historical romance, Chords of Love, which is the book I’d love to share with you today.

Abigail Jane Thompson is sassy and certain she’s not singing. Anywhere. Imagine her delight when she spies the Central City Opera House in total ruin. Noah Presley, owner of Presley Mercantile, has a plan to restore the once-celebrated building. Fate throws Abigail and Noah together. Will they see beyond their differences, or will their love end on a sour note?

Everyone in the writing world tell writers we MUST make our characters memorable. From the first page of Chords of Love, Abigail tends toward sassiness. No one, including Abby, knows what will come out of her mouth as you will see in the excerpt below:

“Daughter, is there something you want to tell me?” Papa slowed his horse to a stop next to her.

Abigail had to tell him the latest or she’d burst at the seams. Without a moment’s hesitation she said, “Papa, we’ve only lived here a little more than a month, but what I heard Mama say to the owner of Presley Mercantile yesterday is sure to twist the ends of your moustache.”

Papa turned in his saddle. “What did she say this time?”

Abigail cleared her throat and sat higher in her side-saddle. “Now, remember, Papa, I’m quoting Mama. She said, ‘Mr. Noah Presley, I despise this dirty, desolate town of yours.’”

Her father’s eyes twinkled as he glanced sideways at her. Abby knew she’d gotten away with a little sassiness on their riding excursion, but when they returned to Central City, one of his stern looks would shush her right up.

“Oh, how I love that woman.” Papa chuckled, then his expression grew more stern. “But tell me she really didn’t say those things.” He stroked Dancer’s neck. His horse stayed steady on the rocky path leading out of the little mining town.

“Yes, and there’s more, Papa. You’d better hold tight to the reins for this one.” Abigail did the same, as if she needed to get ready, too. “Mama also told Mr. Presley, ‘You people can’t even keep your opera house running. It’s simply disgraceful.’”

As you can see, Abigail’s a tad feisty. What would you say your personality type is? Funny? Bossy? Introvert? Extrovert? For those of you who have never taken a personality test – I highly recommend it. It’s lots of fun.

Now it’s time to learn a bit about me. My dream from an early age was to write. With pen in hand, and now a computer on my lap, words come forth on the page. Truly, writing has been a love of mine from an early age.

Abigail Thompson, on the other hand, had to deal with her mother’s dream. She wanted her daughter to sing on the stage of the Central City Opera House. Abigail felt more suited for praising the Lord in song on her outings in the mountains of Colorado. Her new home.

Here’s another reminder that Abby’s a little high spirited:

Go ahead and laugh, Papa, you aren’t the one she expects to sing in front of everyone—if and when the opera house is refurbished.

A shiver ran down Abigail’s spine and continued clear down to her toes when the subject of her singing came into the conversation. She agreed to practice, but getting on the stage? Never. Falling flat on her face years ago had cured Abby from ever attempting a performance again.

Her parent’s encouragement didn’t alleviate her fears either. She’d told them, “I love you both with all my heart, and don’t mean any disrespect, but God Himself will have to carry me on the stage if He wants me to sing on it.”

DREAMS! We all have them. What are some of yours and have you accomplished any? Or hope to in the future?

Another snippet I’d like to share is an encounter between my main characters: Abigail Thompson and Noah Presley. When they bump into each other at the mercantile, more than sparks fly.

“Mr. Presley, excuse me.”

Noah’s jabbering came to a halt when he heard the female voice. Seconds later, something tapped him on the bottom of his boot. When he lay on his stomach to fill the lower shelves, he didn’t realize his size 12 feet stuck out from under the curtain between the back room and the front of the mercantile. He scrambled to stand up and flung open the divider and said, “May I help y—”

Miss Abigail Thompson stood smack dab in front of him, her nose a mere two inches from his chest. The only thing Noah could see of the new arrival was the top of her flowered bonnet and some blond curls peeking out from underneath the wide brim.  

He stepped back after he recovered from almost knocking the attractive girl flat on her behind. Abigail did the same, then tilted her head to look up at him.

“Yes, Mr. Presley, you can help me.” She scooted away from him and headed in the opposite direction. “I need you to reach something for me, if you please?”

Noah let her lead the way and could only imagine he resembled a dutiful pup following after his master. But in this instance, he made sure he walked far enough behind her that he didn’t step on the hem of her ruffled skirt.

He also couldn’t help but notice anytime Abigail entered the mercantile, her presence turned his mind to mush. His tongue stuck to the roof of his mouth, and what came out didn’t resemble words in the King’s English.

“Mr. Presley, ah, Mama’s in need of some, ah, let me see. There it is.” Abigail pointed up at the next to the top shelf at a row of kerosene bottles. “The hurricane lamps she unwrapped today need oil.”

Noah nodded and stepped up on the ladder to retrieve the merchandise. He wondered why it had taken her mother so long to unpack her lamps. Night had fallen more than once since their arrival. If he’d known, he’d have taken some to them the day he went to call.

He reached his long arms up as high as they would go, but he still couldn’t reach the bottles. Noah needed to talk to Adam about his placement of certain items. Top shelves. A location which required a ladder.

Help me, Jesus!

Taking another step up meant he would venture into uncharted territory…

Noah was about to take a step out of where he felt comfortable. Think of time you’ve stepped out of your comfort zone. Did you survive? I’d say you did, if you’re reading this, and you’re happy you did.

And as a writer, stepping out takes courage, gumption…and it takes an IDEA. In my case, Chords of Love came to me when a dear friend and I brainstormed about a story set in the 1800s. Of course, my love of Colorado inspired the setting. Visualize someone twisting my arm (wink, wink) when research called me to Central City, Colorado.

Those who know me, know I’m lying. I moved to Colorado in my early 20s and spent over twenty-five years in Boulder and surrounding areas. And loved every minute. If you’ve never visited, make it a point to go. GOD OF ALL CREATION LIVES THERE.

Hope you’ve enjoyed getting to know Abigail and Noah. Now I’m off to finish my next installment in the Early Birds series. You’ll never guess – it’s set in Estes Park, Colorado, and the female part of the Early Birds are visiting and they’re having quite a time. This novella holds more laughs than a monkey at a banana farm (you’ll have to read it to understand – )

All my books are available on Amazon: https://goo.gl/rd0X4T

E-mail: janettafudgemessmer@gmail.com

Website: http://janettafudgemessmer.com/

Blog: http://www.nettie-fudges-world.blogspot.com/

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Twitter: https://twitter.com/nettiefudge