CTWS: The NaNoWriMo 2017 Edition

Coffee Talk & Writers Secrets NaNoWriMo 2017.jpg

Coffee Talk & Writers Secrets: The NaNoWriMo 2017 Edition

Hey, writers! How is it going?

I bet you’re writing and editing a storm.

I’ve been dealing with a lot of challenges lately – the biggest of which is a foot which constantly sends pain racing through my body. The way that I deal with it is like any other writer – I focus on something else.

For me, that is the world of The Divantinum Project and its characters. Yeah – if you’re not new here, you’ve heard me babble about TDP for well, forever. It’s the all-consuming project that soaks up my writing time. But the thing is, this November, I’ve dedicated to two things: (1) finishing the first novel which is in an editing stage right now, and (2) drafting Shadow’s Light: TDP Book #4, aka my NaNoWriMo project.

Yes, that means another year of NaNoWriMo! [I think I just heard half of my friends cheer and the other half groan.] I know there are mixed feelings about NaNoWriMo, but I have to admit that I’m a steadfast loyalist who writes by the seat of her pants.


In fact, to gear up for this month’s NaNoWriMo shenanigans, I cleared the decks, swept the cobwebs from the series, and refilled my entire writing bag. I was all geared up…and there are so many events which are happening this month, I felt prepared for anything. Well, anything but my foot in a boot. [Let’s not go there on that saga.]

So I am writing from the comfort of my hobbit hole…here in the Pacific Northwest while rain patters outside the window, dogs snore under the desk, and it’s nice and quiet…until a fly goes by and the Karma dog alarm goes off. We even had a few snowflakes yesterday. She barked at them too.

Can I share a few of my favorite touchpoints this prep time? I think you’ll like them.

I started NaNoWriMo in 2006 and did one novel per year – not including the many April, July, and other month frenzies I had over that time – wow. Yeah, I’ve been doing this for what feels like forever. I started as many do, with John Anealio’s fantastic song which references both writing and Dr. Who: “I Should Be Writing.”

I then moved onto an updated version of the NaNoWriMo Song by Kristina Horner.

I pulled out Stephen King’s On Writing and Chris Baty’s No Plot, No Problem. And then I really geeked out when I learned that Grant Faulkner wrote Pep Talks for Writers. I spoke with my writing buddies – and agreed with a few that we were going to check in with each other for mutual encouragement.

I created a list to help you focus.

How to be focused during NaNoWriMo

  • Turn off all electronics that you aren’t physically using to write
  • Create a soundtrack for your novel – top seven songs
  • Coffee or tea – find a beverage that works for you
  • Clear your workspace
  • Create a door sign/door decoration that allows others to know what you’re doing and why it’s important.
  • Sit your bum in the chair. Make words.
  • Repeat step 6 until your arranged writing time is done.
  • Rinse and repeat as often as needed

And then I created came up with an unorthodox tip list for you for NaNoWriMo.

  1. Pen and paper, keyboard and fingers.
  2. Writing buddies – you’re going to have an emergency at some point during the month. Have a writing buddy to turn to because they will be your support group when all the other normal people in your life will look at you like you’re crazy.
  3. Fruit and vegetables. Don’t go with junk food – be a clean eats nut who drinks her coffee and eats her salads.
  4. Give yourself permission to write something horrible. Because then you’re going to write with no restrictions – and you’re going to get something deeper and more interesting than you would otherwise. This means you will need to edit – and I mean a lot – but it’s worth it. Trust the panster [novelist who writes by the seat of her pants in the first draft to get the interesting stuff out].
  5. Keep in mind this is a first draft. This is not a finished piece. This is the first step on the path of being a writer.
  6. Write. Seriously – sit down and do your work. In the end, this is the only one that matters – everything else is optional.

I dabbled with the idea of how procrastination can help you be a writer, but then procrastinated on the post so it isn’t ready for this week.

DarWrites Wordle 2017

I did create a list of my mobile bag:

  • Container of some sort – like a messenger bag or a backpack
  • Laptop, charger, and accessories
  • Moleskin notebook and pens
  • Post-it notes
  • -Chapstick and lotion
  • Water bottle
  • Coffee and/or tea container

I made a “Heart of Divantinum” graphic while waiting at the doctor’s office.


Hope these little bits of information help – and I hope that you’re working on the novel that makes you happiest! Keep going, writer!


DarWrites Touchstones

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Anagnorisis and Peripeteia in The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time

Anagnorisis and Peripeteia Curious Incident

Anagnorisis and Peripeteia in The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time

Curious Incident

The heart of Mark Haddons The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time is a detective story, but the novel isn’t only about the detective story; it’s about the remarkable boy who solves it, Christopher John Francis Boon, who “know[s] all the countries of the world and their capital cities and every prime number up to 7,057” (2). Some writers create plot twists that are easy to solve, but Haddon creates a character that overwhelms the reader with knowledge naturally that helps to bury all clues. Haddon creates a situation as unique as his character and enables the reader to discern the plot twist only when Haddon wants to.


He sets up the plot as a typical detective story with a crime and several suspects, but the detective in this case is a fifteen-year-old mathematician with behavioral problems (6-8). As in any good detective story, the character eliminates the obvious and redirects suspicion on the next potential offender (30-31), but the setup isn’t the focus here-the clues after the setup are important. Seemingly out of nowhere, Haddon introduces a curious clue: a box full of letters in Christopher’s father’s closet (93). The letters, he finds out, are from his mother, and tell of why she left his father (104-112). Haddon steers the camera lens of the story where he wants to go, to Christopher’s father, who reacts violently to finding out Christopher snoops (114). This leads to the father talking with Christopher and admitting the shocking revelation that he “killed Wellington” (120).

The word anagnorisis comes from the Greek, and according to the Encyclopædia Britannica means “recognition” and “a startling discovery that produces a change from ignorance to knowledge” (anagnorisis). Christopher sees this as a betrayal; to him, if his father could kill a dog, he could potentially kill him too (122). Haddon shows the way Christopher thinks things through logically and makes links without connecting emotions. To Christopher his father may kill him “because had told a lie about a big thing” (122). So it looked as though it was one character (Mr. Shears) (58), but really it was Christopher’s father (122). Haddon cleverly executes clues into the general mix of facts that run through Christopher’s head so that the information just appears as part of the facts. No one recognizes who did it until the outburst. 

Haddon completes the plot twist by using peripeteia, or “an ironic twist” (peripeteia). Instead of completing the normal expectation of a detective novel such as the bad guy going to jail, Haddon follows Christopher through his logical course of events: stating a question, finding several possible answers, and eliminating all but the most logical (130-131). This creates an interesting story situation because Christopher determines the best thing to do is “going to London to live with Mother” (131). The book takes a decided turn of events as Christopher runs away and travels via train to London (137-190). Haddon completes the twist by following it to a logical conclusion: the Mother moves back to the town Christopher grew up in and leaves her boyfriend (213-214). Again, Haddon turns away from expectations—a family reconciliation, or another pat answer—and goes for a reasonable conclusion—the separation of the family, but the idea that both family members are still in Christopher’s life (220-221).

Writers can learn from Haddon how to create an incident and twisting the expectations and the outcome to a new, original place. By weaving the story in the way he did, Haddon creates a story that approaches more universal tones like family life, and runaways. By itself the story of a math genius who solves a puzzle would be good, but Haddon takes his story to another level by creating an original line of thought and following it through to an unusual end.

I rate this as a three star book. starsstarsstars


Works Cited

“Anagnorisis.”Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica Online. Encyclopædia Britannica Inc., 2016. Web. 8 Jun. 2016. 

“Peripeteia.” Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica Online. Encyclopædia Britannica Inc., 2016. Web. 8 Jun. 2016. 

Haddon, Mark. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time. New York: Vintage Books, 2004. Print.


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Thank You, Readers!

Oh, my sunshine! Thank you, readers, for making DarWrites a fun place for writers! I really appreciate the traffic and the feedback I’ve received from this site!

Thank You Readers

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My Top 11 Favorite Anthropology Topics

My Top 11 Favorite Anthropology Topics


My Top 11 Favorite Anthropology Topics

Darlene Reilley



I started with archaeology and come back to it every time. If I weren’t a writer, I’d be at a dig site, buried in dirt up to my elbows…and I might still do this. Archaeology rocks (pun intended) because you get to ask questions and touch artefacts that people used – as an archaeologist, you’re the link between cultures long gone and the people today. You get to help people understand that our human lineage is vastly diverse – and that people in the past were adaptive, creative, and intelligent. As an anthropologist, I see the world as we do – with individual cultures and perspectives, but I also see the grander total of who we are and the deep past we share. We are so much more than what we think. I’m not just “Darlene – Irish-British-German-American, daughter of immigrants;” I’m also “Darlene – human – homo sapiens sapiens, child of a massive lineage including people who built the Pyramids, who cultivated tea, and who touched the moon.” How cool is that?



Underwater Archaeology

I chose dirt over water simply because sharks don’t live in tombs…and underwater archaeology is the most expensive field you can get into. Would it be cool to dig and find pirate treasure? Sure, but I can do that on land, too.



Disaster and Recovery

Some people may think this is a bit morbid, but one of the most interesting research topics is disaster. Catastrophes have a way of bringing out the best and worst in humanity – and we can learn so much by studying them…and try to make sure that the impacts of future disasters are mitigated. For more information on this, check out Catastrophe & Culture: the Anthropology of Disaster, edited by Susanna M. Hoffman and Anthony Oliver-Smith from the School of American Research Advanced Seminar Series.



Ancient Sumeria

Out of all the ancient civilizations, the Sumerians were the most interesting. Sumerians invented writing. They started tallying their goods on clay bullae – and from the humble beginnings grew everything you’ve ever read or wrote. This is the place where our concept of civilization began.



Goddess Cultures  

I’ve written whole papers on this topic. And I’m pitching them to publications now.



Ancient Egyptians

The single question I still haven’t answered from my childhood research lies below the Sphynx. There’s a chamber that Egyptologist (Egyptian archaeologist) Zahi Hawass  and others have looked into…and no one has solved it yet. What is the chamber under the Sphynx? Is it a burial chamber, a preparation area, or what? Inquiring minds still want to know. One of the biggest things that makes archaeologists angry is when people destroy cultural finds…and over the last few years this has been happening in Egypt and other places. As writers, this is good information for novel fodder – if you want to break an archaeologist’s heart and get them worked up, have someone loot a museum. Then you can bring in a specialist and work with international organizations and find the goods…and save the day and unite the romance leads in the book…go ahead, we could all write a version of this and not have the same thing. Run with it.



Ancient North America & Hunter/Gatherers

Oh, the simpler (more dangerous) times.



Ancient Greeks

Want a fabulous culture to explore with mythos, diverse sides, several periods to explore, and a historical setting that is one of the best? Take your characters in time or space to a culture similar to Ancient Greece. There’s nothing like it – and they saved a lot of human culture over the years. Between the Greeks and the Egyptians, they pretty much saved a lot of historical records when Europe was in the Dark Ages. I bet there are still caches of knowledge – books, papyrus, or more – in both places.



Lithics and Stone Tools

One of the coolest things that ever happened in an anthropology class happened in archaeology. Want to create someone who is totally amazing and will wow the students? Create an archaeologist who flint knaps. Here’s a link: http://www.wildernesscollege.com/making-arrowheads.html. I’m not kidding when I say this is one of the coolest things ever – one three-hour class made me want to skip out and drive over two hundred miles to fetch a bucket of special rocks. This is the allure of the dirt…and your archaeologists will never have clean hands – unless they’re attending a function and trying to impress patrons (and even then it will only last until they dig the next day). I have yet to meet an archaeologist who keeps nails painted for more than a day – most don’t bother.



Biological archaeology – bones bones bones

You knew it was going to come up. My favorite room in any anthropology building is the basement lab at PLU. I created a similar room for my novel. Here is the perspective Gaea took on it:

Zavier was a three-story brick building built in 1937 and rebuilt after the tsunami. My haven was the basement anthropology lab that covered half the floor with ten rectangular tables arranged in a horseshoe around Dr. J’s desk at the front of the room. Two chairs sat at each table. Floor-to-ceiling metal cabinets were stacked with boxes to the brim. When I had extra time, I cataloged the items for Dr. J.

The wall opposite the door held massive wood cabinets with roll-out drawers from floor to ceiling and two glass cabinets. Inside the first cabinet were Native American artifacts gifted to the department. The glass cabinet next to it was the reason most people avoided the room and a few were attracted to it—the cabinet of skulls from Australopithecus afarensis to Homo sapiens. Skulls were cool! Where else were you going to see not only what we’re made of, but how? I’m talking Darwinian evolution here—it’s the coolest thing ever. Dr. J. dug all over the world, but before I knew her she was an Archaeologist specializing in Ancient Greece and Ancient North America.

I loved the room because of the cabinet’s contents. The skulls were from Physical Anthropology 101. The plaster copies of real skulls were created for study and given to the department ages ago. The first was A. africanus, found in Laetoli, Tanzania, the maker of the Laetoli footprints and the one they call Lucy, the most famous skeleton anywhere, with broad cheeks, huge eye sockets and brow ridges, and a small skull. A. aethiopicus followed, from Ethiopia, with wide cheek bones and smaller brow ridges than afarensis; the main difference was the sagittal crest—a large Mohawk ridge on his head. Pieces from A. gardhi and A boisei kept each other company—neither was a full skull. A. robustus had smaller eye sockets and brow ridges, a bit of a sagittal crest, but a less wide face and smaller nose cavity. Homo rudolfensis followed, the first who kind of looked like a human skull if you squinted. H. habilis, aptly named the “tool maker” was next, followed by H. ergaster. H. erectus followed, the first hominid to use fire and the guy who left Africa. Then came H. neanderthalensis—short, stalky humanoids who buried their dead and used tools which showed how sophisticated they were. Next on the shelf was Homo sapiens, the first of the modern humans who roamed from 1 million to about 100,000 years ago, and then the Homo sapiens sapiens, modern humans. Next to the modern human skull sat a Gorilla skull for comparison. Through the glass-front case, I saw him past my reflection. I was totally not a Pan.

Two full skeletons stood in front of the cabinet, waiting to greet the students. The male wore a bow tie and fez and the woman wore a bracelet of gardenias and a gold and black woven lei. At the back of the room was a bank of airscreens and behind everything, a solid row of bookcases rimmed the room. A few computers from the last century sat in a cardboard box with other antiques. The Divanitnum Project



Concept of Deep Past

I mentioned this briefly above, but it can’t be understated – our human lineage is more diverse and interesting than most people give us credit for. I’ve heard it in many ways, but the one I react to the worst is “stupid ancestor.” People think that just because a person is a hunter-gatherer or lived a long time ago, they didn’t have as much intelligence, passion, or heart as we do now. That’s a deadly mistake. Especially if you’re character is a person who travels to another country or planet. Literature is riddled with people who “stepped in” the same fallacy of reasoning –  and paid the price. If you learn one thing from this, please let it be this: people in the past were smart. They created everything from art to literature. Give them the respect they’re due.



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Moments of Creation: Wishes for Your Work

Moments of Creation.jpg

Dear Writer,

I was going to share a really cool story today to inspire you in your work.

But then something happened.

Something I wish for you to happen.

DarWrites Wordle 2017

Today, the pen met the hand and it was magical.

Full of light and love and a channel of something bigger than me.

Today, I am writing.

But it didn’t happen out of nowhere.

I had to plan.

I had to work my plan.

And from that energy, my writing life was reignited.


Darlene Reilley 2017

It’s that energy I wish for you – that moment of creation where what you want to say meets what you actually say. I think you know the difference can be a large gulf – and when the two converge, it’s fantastic.

It’s the reason we write.

So go forth, writer, and write.


DarWrites Touchstones

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Balance and the Art of Creative Faith

Balance and the Art of Creative Faith


Hey, writers. How’s it going? Last week was quiet on DarWrites…mostly because I ended up in the ER instead of writing. To make a long story short, the part-time job caused a foot problem and now I’m seeing my doc way more than I wanted.

But that’s not what I wanted to talk about today. No, I’ve been thinking a lot about you. I know you. I know you hope and dream about this thing called writing we are so passionate about. I know you love it as much as I do. I hope you’re writing. I hope you’re doing what you love and nothing is getting in the way of that.


But sometimes…sometimes you have work and life and dogs and kids and everything including the UPS guy jumping in the way of you and your craft.

Sometimes, you try to pull words from air but all you get is a need for tea and echinacea. Let’s be honest…sometimes stuff happens. And then you find yourself not writing. Thunder strikes and your dog crawls onto your lap and you find yourself comforting a 90-lb Labrador instead of writing…and she climbs on your keyboard [Yes, Harley, I’m talking about you]. And sometimes days drift into weeks which blend into months and the next thing you know, it’s almost October and the dog pulled the cord out of the computer and the screen blanks because you meant to plug it in, but never got around to it. And you haven’t written.

At that moment, do you still consider yourself a writer? Even when you aren’t writing?

Yes, you are.

Because in that time when you’re doing the dishes, walking the dog, listening to Barney for the hundredth time, you, my darling writer, are percolating.

And like a delicious cup of coffee, even with the dog shivering on your lap, you too will be ready to attack your work again sometime soon.

And it will pour out of you, onto the page, or onto your computer and water will spill over the dam and crack the foundation wall and then a flood will commence. You’ll realize at that time, you were waiting for the right words. For the right time. Honor that time, my friend. Step up.

Now go, write.


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Writer’s Challenge: Create Your Inner Sanctuary

Maybe you’ve just started writing. Maybe you’ve been writing for forever and need a new tactic. With this challenge, you’ll explore what you really want as a writer – from the inside out.

create your inner writing sanctuary darwrites.jpg

I dare you to take two hours or more this month and create your own inner writing sanctuary. Make it as simple or elaborate as you want. Examples: a writing cave, a mountain chalet, a castle in the clouds, a dragon’s lair. Choose one that suits you and your writing style. Keep in mind you’re going to level up in skill – and so will your sanctuary.

Need inspiration? Check out my post Sanctuary on Chris Weigand’s site, Faith, Inspiration, and a Cup of Tea.

Write on.


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An Inner Sanctuary


Today I’d like to share with you a guest blog on Chris Weigand’s site, Faith, Inspiration, and a Cup of Tea. In this article, I talk about how to build a sanctuary in your mind. Writers, this will be a helpful tool for you to take your work to the next level! One of the things I do in my retreat is work through scenes. My challenge to you: create a place in your mind where you can explore! You can make it as simple or as elaborate as you want to!

For more details, check out my guest blog here: Sanctuary.

Write on! Darlene


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Star Hero Review

Star Hero Review


Genre: Science Fiction Romance

Author: Susan Grant

Title: Star Hero

Series: Star Series


Disclaimer: I received a copy of Star Hero, a Star Series Novella, in exchange for a fair review. When authors send me a book, they know that I will take my time getting through it and will look at the pros and cons before rating the book. That said, I’m human and try to be impartial, but I try. As a Book Dragon, I claim responsibility for this review. May the powers of the Book Dragons be with you. For more Book Dragon info, check out my post How to Read Like a Book Dragon.


Photo courtesy Susan Grant http://www.susangrant.com/books/star-series/star-hero/

About the book: This is a novella – officially book 4.6 of the Star Series. It has a sexy Marine, a scrappy K-9 dog, and an awesome Starpilot. Both Bang-Bang, the K-9, and Lukas are orphans who found a home with the Marines. Now they’ve met Starpilot Carlynn, their world has changed. Carylnn goes missing on a mission and search and rescue is necessary. Will the Marine and his K-9 find their Starpilot?

Oh, and this isn’t the first Grant book I’ve read – let’s be honest, I’ve read the whole series and loved it. I recommend starting with Star King.


About the author: Susan Grant is a fantastic Science Fiction Romance Writer. She won the RITA award for Contact. When not writing award-winning books, she flies commercially and was an Air Force pilot.


The blurb:

A Marine serving in the galactic frontier, Lieutenant Lukas Frank has a lot in common with a street dog named Bang-Bang; they both started off as scrappy orphans fighting to survive–and beat the odds. Things change when Bang-Bang leads Lukas to starpilot Captain Carlynn Riga. The tough war hero learns what it means to surrender–his heart. Lukas’s struggles with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, PTSD, threaten to tear the three of them apart, but nothing threatens them more than when Carlynn goes missing in action. Now the rugged, emotionally scarred Marine and his K-9 partner must find Carlynn and bring her home, or risk losing everything he has finally found worth fighting for.

– Susan Grant, Star Hero



The first go through, I read books for fun. Then in the second dive, I go into details. My first run through happened in one night. The deep-dive took a few days.



You know that anytime I read a book with a dog as a main character, I’m going to love it. And he is and he’s adorable and I felt for the scrappy puppy and was happy with his story and growth. The main characters – Carlynn and Lukas are developed characters with backgrounds: Carlynn is from a huge Italian family, and Lukas is an orphan. Grant did a cool thing by echoing Lukas’s upbringing as an orphan through the eyes of Bang-Bang, his K-9 and best friend.

The line that moved me: “For the first time since he found himself alone, he fell asleep without feeling afraid to wake up.”

My favorite line from Bang-Bang’s perspective: “His Tall One had wounds, old wounds, that were on the inside, where Bang-Bang was not able to lick them. But he could protect his Lukas, a d look out for him, which he did every waking moment of every day since they first found each other.”

[I love that!]

This book tackles PTSD, post traumatic stress disorder, which impacts not only soldiers, but their loved ones as well. It’s an important topic that needs to be discussed more in fiction – and Grant does a good job of showing the effect of PTSD not only on a character, but on the character’s relationships.

When I go through a book, I process the pros in yellow, things I loved in pink, and questionable things in orange. Looking through my notes, there are tons of yellow and pinks.

As a writer, I would turn to this book to learn the elements of fast-paced romance. It’s a great example of how to create a page-turning novella.



No books are perfect. The action scenes were effective, but I hoped for more of them – yes, this is a novella, but I was hoping for at least one more scene where they could engage the enemy. The pacing was efficient – it felt like there was one beat that needed a bit more. Oh, and I’m not giving spoilers, but I was able to guess the ending…



My rating: 4 stars


Would I read it again? I did – I read it twice…and will read it again!

Link: Star Hero


A note to Science Fiction Romance Writers: More pets, please! You know I love them!





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The Power Within

The Power Within

The Power Within: A Poem for Humanity

Darlene Reilley


You speak of equality.

You speak of generalities.

But you only see

The pigment on me.


I stand here to say

I am more than the color of my skin.

I am more than you think I am.


But there’s something else.

So. Are. You.


You are more than the color of your skin.

You are light eternal.

The spark itself that creates existence

All you see, touch, hear, and taste.

You are more than history.

You are more than present.

You are greater than the sum of all ages.

You are the sum of over 200,000 years of evolution.

You are the height of knowledge.

You are the sum of all your ancestors.

Millions have died so that you may live.


Generations have fought and bled and wept

So that you may have the present

in it’s imperfect state.


You, my darling, are

the reason

the meaning

the hope

and the being.


So when you’re










Please keep in mind

We all are the same

Beneath the skin.


I speak to you of anthropology,

A big word that encompasses all of humanity

And with this, I’d like to share

A glimmer of knowledge.


This is the call of my people

The call of those who stay up all night

Trying to perfect art

The workers in the coal mines just trying to get by,

The street cleaners

The day laborers

The muscles

The artists

and the brains.


Without each and every one of you,

This world is not the same.


So when you’re going about your day,

Please keep in mind

That today is the last day for some

And speak with love in mind.


Please fill your dance card

With love and light and sounds

That make you happy and keep your inner spark

From burning out.


Only you can prevent depression.

Only you can help a stranger in need.

Only you can make this life worth living.

Only you must believe


That while we vary slightly from sea to shining sea,

Beneath the hair,

Beneath the freckles,

Beneath the skin,

We are all humanity.


Go with the day and celebrate

Your call to shining arms

Because you are

The sun amidst the stars.

That spark of life that made us all

Is deep inside of you.

Please, my friend, be gentle,

And be honest, and be true.

Remember you are larger than what you think you are

You are the inside of a shining star.



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