Wednesday, September 28, 2016

I Must be a Sadist - Switching Voice


I've been working for the past few days on improving my draft of Notes from the Undead, a tale of a vampire who only thinks he is one. In the original draft, one chapter was written in the first person as an experiment. I had a hunch after I'd written it that the whole piece should have been written that way, but I was nearly through the draft, and I'd promised to only get one pass before my husband got his shot at the story, so I abstained.

Months later, I'm working on this thing again myself, and Oh My God, this shiznit is hard! Harder than some of my academic writing, and that's saying something. If you think it's a question of changing "He" to "I" a million times over, you'd be wrong. The whole voice of the piece--his word choices, syntax, the perception of his world, everything changes when shifting to first person perspective. To make matters worse, I am one of those rare breeds who hand writes, then types what I've written. So in addition to script that could almost literally fit on a grain of rice, nearly every line is being rewritten. By hand. At the cusp of mental explosion, I wondered how many of my fellow writers have similar horror stories, and whether you might share your trials and triumphs here with me.

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A good approximation of what my protagonist's beloved looks like.
Shame that she's dead.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

How Many Gods Is Too Many - Recommended Post

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How many Links have visited this grove, wielded this sword? Or has one
hero returned to Hyrule over the course of ages?

I love what's going on in this guest post by The Long War author A.J. Smith--talking about the significance of deities in fantasy fiction, their many uses, and drawing the fine line between not enough of this narrative inspiration, and reaching the saturation point for gods. Working some of things out in Frostbite - are all spirits gods, or only some of them? What earns them that special status? If one is inhabited by a god, does that mean they have become them, and cease to be as they were before? Can deities appear over and over again in multiple forms?  Fellow fantasy authors--your thoughts?

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God or Spirit? Higurashi is one of the best iterations of an alternate deity persona I've seen

Monday, September 26, 2016

The Best of a Bad Situation - Top Ten Horror Remakes

I'm a horror snob. I am. I'm very proud of it, and I can normally wade through the garbage from the great with ease. But one thing deeply unsettles me: the preponderance of remakes out there. As an artist and horror enthusiast, really a film enthusiast of all kinds, I hate hate hate the idea of unoriginality. But, the end seems to be nowhere in sight, with a remake of the beloved classic It on the horizon. Despite my snobbery, I can admit that there are some beacons of hope out there, some remakes that, even if they don't outshine their predecessors, are great films. Here  are ten of them.

10. House of Wax (2005)

It's difficult for me to say that a movie with Paris Hilton in it is better than a film with Vincent Price in it. Very, very hard. But true. The 1953 film does not carry the suspense of Price's other works, and the modern remake had some truly gruesome effects. Skin coming off? Yeah, gross. Kudos.

9. The Hills Have Eyes: (2006)

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There's not too much that's original here, but it does disturb me just as much as the original. It hits the mark on the pervy, debased scale.

8. Halloween (2007)

Image result for halloween rob zombieSacrilege, I know, I know. Believe me, the importance of Jon Carpenter's 1978 film is not lost on me. That film is a masterpiece in many ways. But it doesn't stop me from preferring Rob Zombie's version on a purely subjective, personal level. I appreciate the psychodrama of Michael's pathology much more than slashing. It's done to great effect in both, but I enjoyed Zombie's depth and his attempt (and failure) to humanize Michael as even more disturbing. Also, giving Michael a mask of his own face?? Fucking genius.

7. Woman in Black (2012)

The original, made in Britain in 1989, is hands down the scariest goddamn thing I have ever seen in my life. And I own literally thousands of horror titles. The images burned in my retinas by this film make it hard for me to wash my hair without getting soap in my eyes in fear of her. But Daniel Radcliffe's performance in this new version was surprisingly excellent. They hit the mood right on the head, and the cinematography is more modern in a very sophisticated way. Great return for Hammer to the scene.

6. The Ring (2002)

I am such a big fan of international cinema, and of Asian cinema expressly, and you will never, ever hear me say an adaptation for American audiences is worth the effort. But goddamn it this is the better film. The forbidden film is much more disturbing, as is the effect of the dead girl in the closet. Still shivering.

5. The Wolfman (2010)

I never really was a huge Lon Chaney fan. Here's another instance of a film being important in so many ways, and yet the modern treatment of the same story is so much more wonderful. It also helps that it's much more beautiful too. Really, an artfully done film, wonderful color filters, top-notch acting on all fronts. Showing things like the gypsy camp (love love love Geraldine Chapman) and the asylum gave the story a context and depth that a lover of all things gothic like myself could really appreciate. And, the transformation effects were executed with a master hand.

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This single scene shot just oozes atmosphere

4. Curse of Frankenstein (1957)

Image result for curse of frankensteinThis is one of Hammer Horror's very best films, and brings great tension to the story and characterization of the key players. Though Christopher Lee's makeup in this film cannot touch Boris Karloff's 1931 look, and the sound of his shoes scraping across the floor introduced the world to horror cinema, the artful coloration of this film, and, moreover, Peter Cushing's brilliance, is not to be outdone.

Image result for the fly film 1958 3. The Fly (1986)

Image result for the fly filmThe 1958 film is a great one. Great concept, and simple effects done quite well. But Jeff Goldblum's fly is something truly magnificent. The premise of the film plays out on a genetic level, becoming more and more horrifying as he loses his fingernails, his hair, and eventually his ability to think and behave humanly. All of this, done with excruciating finesse.

2. The Thing (2011)

I can never get enough of a good Thing. Effects and acting are tops here, just as in the original. The effects are top-notch, and the tension keeps you at the edge of your seat. And this remake did something absolutely wonderful. It gave an origin story to the mysterious axe in the wall in the 1982 film. This wasn't a remake made for a newer, younger audience who had never seen the original. It was made for people who had. Brilliant.

1. Bram Stoker's Dracula (1992)

Bela Lugosi's 1931 performance is iconic, yes. Yes yes yes. But have you seen that film? All of it? It's very slow for something that should be terrifying. Its mood is concentrated in a few short scenes, whereas Bram Stoker's Dracula is one of the most accurate renditions of the essential vampire tale, with fantastic mood and cinematography. It's a beautiful story, beautifully told. There's fan edits out there that cut out the romance sections as well, making this film one of the very best pieces of horror cinema we have.

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Your thoughts on this list are welcome as always, and, suggestions about future lists are encouraged as well. To reiterate, I have a private list in the thousands. Many of them wonderful, that I'd like to share with you. So you tell me, what kinds of lists do you want to see? Best monster flicks? Slashers? Found footage, maybe??

Friday, September 23, 2016

John Harwood's The Seance: Review

I think John Harwood must be a fellow Vincent Price fan. I caught shades of The Haunted Palace, and the suit of armor mechanism screams House on Haunted Hill. William Castle used these kinds of tricks to great effect in his films, and they certainly added to this modern novel written in the neo-gothic style of Wilkie Collins. But ultimately, the best parts of the novel were parts that left me wanting more, with the meat of the tale being disappointingly familiar.

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Read The Seance and tell me with a straight face this isn't Magnus.
This tale is broken up into several narratives. As an ardent fan of Dracula, I don't shy away from epistolary novels, but here it was not done to great effect. The glue holding the different threads together - John Montague's narratives - were the most unoriginal of all. The voices in between were not distinct enough, and often confused me in terms of where and when they intersected. I was forced to flip through pages to recall their significance to each other.

The best parts were absolutely the beginning, which held great promise in how Constance is exposed to Spiritualism, and how she comes to participate in its practice. As a scholar of Spiritualism, with a monograph on the subject forthcoming from SUNY Press, I was positively inspired to see what I read as a perfect fictionalization of the records I'd buried myself under for several years. The passages dealing with true experience and questions of sanity were particularly compelling. Those introductory plot developments, however, are all we get of this, which then turns quickly into an unfortunately standard tale of the gothic mansion and decaying family. Nell's narrative of a mesmeric maniac comes close to some of the better parts of Stoker's Lair of the White Worm, and the ending comes back again to Constance, but the earlier threads were left on the floor to rot. So very,very sad. Had she been the sole protagonist, and the plot the story of her life thereafter without Montague ever having set foot on her doorstep, the book, in my view, would have been much the better for it.

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I would still suggest this for people who are not as well read in the genre as I am, perhaps it would not come off as overdone. Similar reads that might yield better responses: The Moonstone, Lair of the White Worm, "The Strange Case of Charles Dexter Ward." Or, you could always watch some Vincent Price. You'll never go wrong there. Those unafraid of subtitles, or wanting a better treatment for the haunted monk trope - look for Klaus Kinski in The Black Abbott, or read The Monk by Matthew Lewis (true Gothic fiction). Any number of M.R. James's short stories will do. Hammer Horror fans: seek out Paranoiac by any and all means.

K Rating: 7/10.
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No matter how many tragedies are set there, I'd still live in a place like this

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Up From the Bog - Character Study

The untouchable Wilkie Collins said of The Moonstone that he wrote the characters, and their motivations drove the action in the plot. With that always in mind, here are some of my preliminary thoughts on the primary characters in Up From the Bog under development. I heartily welcome good honest feedback - I beg for it

Tollund Man - One of the best preserved bog bodies in profile

Image result for romans in britainQuintus (c. 45 A.D.): a Roman officer of middling rank, born into a fisherman's family and rising through the offices because of his ability with languages. He's a polyglot, and has been useful in setting the groundwork in Rome's imperial expansion. Mild-mannered, intelligent, and constantly traveling with the army, in the casual company of women as a soldier might be. He's begun to curse his ability with the spoken word--he's hit the ceiling, and is so valued in his place that he would never be home enough to start a family. He did not envy the friends of his youth, whose fathers were never there. He wouldn't want to put a woman he loved or his own children through that misery. He cherished every day his father was with him, teaching him to fish, taking him to market days, showing him how to haggle. Stationed in the British Isles, he misses his mother's warm, hearty cooking, made in big batches for the boarders they welcomed into their home to supplement his father's modest income. Having no daughter, his mother shared her kitchen secrets with him--grinding herbs, preparing bread, and taking it to the baker. His humble home life has given him social skills among all classes-he's respectful of manners and customs wherever he's ordered to go.

Azi: Short for Asenath. Her name is her inheritance of two archaeologists, madly in love with each other and with Egypt. She was born there, and longs for days spent with her parents exploring The Valley of the Kings. Their contributions to the University were the foundation of their archaeology department, funding top of the line equipment, and drawing the best professors and students. She lives in her parental home, full of antiquities, but it has become a mausoleum. She has not changed anything since their deaths. It's an empty shell of her old life--a symbol of her inability to move beyond her grief.

Image result for egypt hieroglyphs goddessHer father's brother takes her in after her parents are killed by a drunk driver near campus, coming home from a benefit dinner. Her uncle moves in with her at the age of seven, because she has a fit about leaving her house, and her therapist suggests a slow transition, but the temporary situation becomes permanent. As the executor of her trust, the uncle mishandles the money, funneling her inheritance to his own snubbed children. Her parents' estate attorney, a loyal friend, helps to emancipate her at the age of ten, and hires live-in guardians and tutors. She grows up in her parents' library, learning all they knew of archaeology--she has their private notes and catalogs for personal holdings, and she becomes a self-taught expert in the ancient world. Between her uncle's embezzlement and the cost of her caregivers, the only wealth she retains is the home itself and its appointments, which she refuses to liquidate. She rents out rooms to graduate students for money, and is grateful for full admittance without tuition. She's working on her doctoral thesis, and has an almost guarantee on a tenure-track position in her own department. But she wants to spit the silver spoon out of her mouth, and conducts field research far from the Valley, in the peat of Britain.

Alex Carew: Her graduate mentor kicks himself when they discover a great cache of bog bodies at Azi's direction, including the soft tissue remains of a Roman officer in full uniform. A remarkable, career-making find, but, because it was Azi who forged the partnership with the British University, and her deductions that led to the site, she jockeyed for her name to be first on all findings and publications derived from their excavation. In many ways, she intimidates him, and makes him feel insignificant. His idea of her mentorship is little more than a formality.

He was a young man, working as an assistant under her parents' wing before they died. Azi had known him since a child, and had always had a crush on him. The start of silvering in his hair and the appearance of fine lines around his eyes and mouth don't detract from the vision she has of a young, bright, diffident yet self-assured man. Even his marriage to a local heiress she is willing to overlook. Their affair is a long one, recently severed by Azi at the start of the book. She'd made the fatal mistake of revealing her financial situation. When her parents had died, he'd expected to inherit something useful--reputation, if not outright wealth. Though they'd never spoken ill of him, they'd never sung his praises either. He had done a lot of the grunt work in the Valley, and had nothing to show for it. He stalls on his promises to break his marriage and his social ties to be publicly coupled with Azi, pressuring her to sell her home and liquidate her assets. She is not blind to his flaws, and keeps her distance.

Then, of course, there's the wretched woman who put Quintus in the bog...

That's what I've got so far. The plot is forming in my mind, but so far these are the most crystallized thoughts I have. Your reactions are highly encouraged.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Box of Demon Children

It's been a common practice in my household to create film boxes, a collection of films based on similar themes that are chosen in random grab-bag order, as a way to watch some of the great films we have stored up without spending an hour choosing one.

So yesterday, my older kid was acting like a bat out of hell-no listening, ineffective timeouts, banshee-level screaming, the works. It made me want to run away into my hidey-hole. Here's a list of excellent films about demon children, if you're so inclined to craziness. And yes, Rosemary's Baby IS absent, because if you watch closely, there's no baby in that film--that should be a requisite.

In no particular order...

Image result for the omenThe Omen - all three of them. Originals only, and no crap-ass fourth film that makes no friggin sense. The ultimate demon child. And, with Gregory Peck and Sam Neil, how could you go wrong? The first is actually one of my favorite films of all time--the thing I will never flip the channel away from.

Silent Hill - for video game enthusiasts and horror fans alike. When you turn the corner, and Pyramid Head is ripping the skin off of someone--now that, my friends, is ART. Click here to see this bad boy in action.

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Image result for spliceSplice - Rule number one for being a good parent: Don't genetically alter your kids.  Rule number two: Don't try to kill them.  Rule number three: Don't fuck them. Ever.

Ils - Just being on this list might be giving away too much, but if you're looking for something with atmosphere, THIS is it.

Village of the Damned - not as popular as Children of the Corn, but definitely the superior one.
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The Believers - If you're in the mood for a voodoo film, here's something bursting with tension.

Orphan - "I'll cut your little dick off before you even know what it's for." Ultimately quotable.

Pet Sematary  "Sometimes, dead is better." Even more quotable, and absolutely perfect. Two perfectly stupid parents get what's coming to them.

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"I want to play with youuuu"

Thursday, September 15, 2016


Hello Everyone, and welcome to Bathory's Closet. The intention of this sacred space is to act as a sounding board for my musings on horror, fantasy, myth, adventure, the occasional romance, and most especially, anything and everything having to do with vampires. Things under review here will be novels, short fiction, film (hope you like subtitles!), tv, video games, etc. etc. ad nauseum, as they pass through my psyche. I may not view the most up to date releases and titles--you certainly won't find the whole of the year's bestseller lists covered here--but rather a tightly knit family of creativity united by common themes of awesomeness. And, as is par for the course at this stage in my life, it will be one of many vessels through which my own powers of fiction are honed. You will be privy to my innermost thoughts about works in progress, both long and short.

And now, without further ado, I'd like to expend my thoughts on the book I finished just this morning, The Ludwig Conspiracy by Oliver Potzsch (Mariner Books, 2014). K Rating: 6/10.

This is the first book by this author that I have read, although I own other of his titles in my tremendous "to read" list, and was very excited about the prospect of this. Fairy-tale castles, praise as a "romantic thriller" on the cover, and an upcoming title about another beloved subject of mine, Alexandre Dumas's The Three Musketeers!!! Perhaps it was too quick of me to think, based on his subject matter, that Potzsch was about to earn that esteemed place as one of my new favorite authors. If only. Oh, if only.

The precept was great, but all the things you'd hope to have in this novel--romantic tension, glittering descriptions of castles, deep mysteries of romantic Bavaria--all those fell short here. It hews entirely too closely to The Da Vinci Code: ciphers in place of depth, a secret about a powerful figure's bloodline, a mature male paired with a younger female, right down to the suspicious ally who knows everything, only divulging what he wishes when he wishes. I had really hoped for some more originality in the modern sections of this story. Must the protagonist be linked to the plot by blood? Are the circumstances setting up the novel not enough? If not, then, in my humble opinion, get back to the drawing board. I just wasn't drawn in by what I'll call the extensive frame story of this book-the dialogue was strange, the narrative was too maddeningly predictable, and the exposition of mysteries ten times over hit you like a redundant ton of bricks. It's like the guy who makes a joke. You get it, and then he says, "Did you get it? You know, because..." Fill in the blank. Yeah man, I got it. I got it the first time. Actually I got it even before the first time--nothing surprised me in this book, except my own disappointment. And how long the ending took-nearly 100 pages, which were worse than Two Face telling Batman exactly how the giant coin spins and how long it will take to crush him. This ending actually has the protagonist cooperating with the villain by the end for the sake of exposition! Ugh-bad, bad, bad. Overall, two major concerns threaded throughout I will address in short order:

Problem One: Where are my castles?? 

Product Details

One of the main reasons that I picked up this book was my dire need to see Neuschwanstein--the Bavarian castle of King Ludwig II that is the stuff of dreams, and the inspiration for Cinderella's Castle in the Magic Kingdom. I had grown to love it many years ago while playing one of the absolute best PC adventure games, Gabriel Knight II: The Beast Within, written by video game genius Jane Jensen. This game was everything you could have ever hoped for in this story--it had depth, breadth, paranormal elements, detailed investigations of the castle rooms, their paintings, their connections to Wagner's operas, the Bavarian lodge culture, the feel of the city of Munich itself...and the list goes on and on.

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Potzsch's descriptions of the three castles visited in the book are done away with great haste, leaving me no idea of what the rooms looked like, how they were furnished, or anything to keep my creative juices flowing. If more of this is what you're looking for, and you can handle the capture animation of THIS doofy guy standing in for Gabriel Knight, rather than the brilliant Tim Curry (starring as the voice of G.K. in the first and third games in the series), then you'll have yourself a fine time.
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Image resultProblem 2: Where's the romance?? I'm sorry,
but no, this is not a romance thriller by any stretch of the imagination. The characters are completely incompatible, the female is nothing if not downright bitchy most of the the time, and there's simply no chemistry on the page whatsoever. Nothing about their interactions change after their relationship is supposedly consummated, if you can read between the single line that references it. Epic fail in that regard. The romance taking place between Maria and Theodor Marot in the diary passages, however, MUCH more convincing. So I know he can write romance, and it leaves me wondering why he didn't try harder. If you're looking for a stronger romance thread woven into a thriller of this nature, try The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova on for size. Now that book I could not put down.

At this point, you may be asking yourself--why, oh why then, did I continue reading? The book's saving grace was the diary of Theodor Marot, written during Ludwig II's final days. Here, the author finds his strength--in intrigue, tension, romance, everything. It is a dreadful, sinful shame that THIS was not the book in its entirety. It would have been a near perfect read if it had been. So in short, I will hold out hope that this is a minor blip for an author who is known for period fiction, tried something new, and didn't quite execute it right. He can be forgiven for that. Shall I be buying his new historical thriller, Book of the Night: The Black Musketeers, set to be released next month? Eventually....possibly...most likely...but let's hope, not unfortunately.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Who I Am, or, Why You Should Care What I Think

Hello. I'm Kathryn Troy: a budding novelist, a self-trained expert of horror in all its iterations, a published historian and semi-seasoned college adjunct, an apprentice baker, and above all a loving wife and mother.

How did I start writing?
I love genre fiction with extreme passion. Horror, fantasy, mystery, paranormal--they have absorbed me from childhood, from The Chronicles of Narnia to Bruce Coville's Into the Land of the UnicornsDracula is one of the few tomes I have read several times, and consider sacrosanct. My own stories have filled my head for longer than I can remember. But I never really tried to get them down until a few years ago. I was intimidated by words--would the right ones come, would they flow together, would the sum of their parts matter to anyone but me? For whatever reason, some stories stuck. Stayed locked inside my head, replaying over and over again for years like a film I'd seen a million times but did not own. When I was staring down an LIRR commute into the city and down to 23rd Street, I thought I'd spend the time reading, something I had not been able to do as much after the birth of my darling Annabelle. But what ended up happening was quite different. I wrote.

A Vision in Crimson: Frostbite Book One Available Now!

What was originally meant as a stand- alone novel, grown from a germ of fan fiction, has now Book 2: Dreams of Ice and Shadow is in production, and every day Book 3 becomes clearer in my mind, no matter how much I try to push it aside to make way for other projects.
ballooned into an epic fantasy series, wrought with romance, adventure, classical myth, and a healthy dose of the gothic and paranormal. Look to the right for the cover image and back cover copy.
Too much in my head, this man

The Specter of the Indian: Available Now!!
I’m tremendously excited that The Specter of the Indian: Race, Gender, and Ghosts in American Séances, 1848-1890 was released in September 2017 by SUNY Press, to whom I shall be forever indebted. This labor of brain power, sweat, and sometimes even love, gives great insight into the “Indian control.” Its speaks of the by now commonplace, clichéd type of the Indian spirit guide and its emergence in the nineteenth-century as a cornerstone of American Spiritualism, which continues to make waves in our religious and spiritual landscape.

Dream of Ice and Shadow: Frostbite Book 2: Available Now!

I'm very excited about the second installment of this series. It's got action, danger, romance, magic-everything you loved about the first book, only more, and more of the world to discover. Grab your copy today!


    Bog Body: Venue Hunting
Tollund Man - looks like he could wake up and
 yawn any moment
Bog Body is my answer to so many “man out of time” stories that have such great potential, but always end up being rather flat. It takes as its premise the return to life of a bog body, slumbering in the peat of the Welsh countryside by pagan magic. He is awakened by a young, unsuspecting archaeologist with ghosts of her own. It has required the most preliminary research of any of my fiction projects to date. I’ve come to know everything about bog bodies, archaeological study and preservation, museum policy, archaeology in the academy, British paganism and lore, Egyptology, and Roman expansion in the British Isles, Aside from the material facts, this project will draw inspiration from M.Y. Halidom’s The Woman in Black and The Mummy by Anne Rice.

Notes from the Undead: In Revision
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Love this picture- have a copy from a
Christmas stall in Bryant Park

Notes from the Undead is about a man who comes to think he has transformed into a vampire, and whose reality deteriorates in very short order. The idea came to me as I was reading Hideyuki Kikuchi's series of novels VampireHunter D when, once again, D cuts off his sentient hand, infested by a nameless symbiote, and sends it off like Thing from the Addams Family to do his bidding. “What if,” I ventured, “what if this idiot just thinks his hand will come back to him? What if he just maimed himself, and sent his dead hand flopping to the floor, with a ‘chop chop! Hurry up now!’” Insanely grotesque. Immediately I began imagining the possibilities to address the state of vampire fiction, and contribute something innovative to it at the same time. As I pondered the modern application of vampiric tropes in my fiction, I stumbled into one seldom used—displacement, the longing for home soil.

Night of Storms - Frostbite Book Three - Drafting

Who cares that I'm juggling two other manuscripts, two story germs out of ten pushing themselves to the front burner, two jobs, two children, one book to read, two audiobooks, and learning how to speak German? When my head is filled up with a story, I have to get it out. This one is particular is being pushy - and I suppose I'm not in the mood to say no.

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New places to discover, monsters to fight - just the usual