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Egypt Doings

Curly sheep at Meroe

In case you don’t know, I’m crazy for ancient Egypt. If I can read it, watch it, play it, I’m there.

The Mummy? Yes.

Amelia Peabody?! Absolutment.

Stargate? Yes!

Joann Fletcher escapades? Yes!

What about that book in Gail Carriger’s series where they finally go to Egypt?! YES.

Gods of Egypt?! EVEN THAT.

Immortal? Yes. (A French film from 2004, based on a 1980 graphic novel, that involves Egyptian gods sometimes playing Monopoly, and Horus gets really rapey, and just UGH. Was it worse than Gods of Egypt? Good question.)

Assassin’s Creed, Origins?! Eventually — I’m not made of money.

Tomb Raider? Duh.

The Pyramid? Yes, chiefly because it involves Anubis, which…well. The entire thing is hilarious.

What about that episode of Highlander where Duncan walks around with a naked Nefertiri? Give it to me!

Naturally when I saw a show on Netflix called Egypt, I clicked on through. Feed my hunger, Netflix!

Egypt is a series produced by the BBC–apparently there are only six episodes (?!), of which I’ve seen two now. And it’s a strange, strange thing. The episodes recreate historical events in Egypt, namely white-centered historical events, like Carter and his search for Tut’s tomb. They’re also going to cover Belzoni, who was really a jerk (yet somehow also brings in my love of carnivals, as he was a circus strongman before he started raiding Egypt for its treasures), and then the Rosetta Stone discovery/translation.

The Carter episodes were almost hilarious, because they centered Carter as the hero (I mean, of course they did), and how he’d been screwed over by those he worked for, but also by the dude who was in charge of being sure Egypt got to keep Egypt’s treasures. And are we supposed to be outraged that the white archaeologists couldn’t haul anything and everything out of the country, thanks to the Department of Antiquities? I just wasn’t. Howard Carter, that burial tomb isn’t yours, no matter what digging permit you’ve been given. Back UP, sir.

What’s fun about the show is watching them recreate the tombs and the nature of that entire world. It’s so easy to lose yourself there, to put yourself in Carter’s shoes as he hammers through a wall and shines a light through. Also, when he finds the intact tomb seal. Just… Ahhhhhhh. What a moment that must have been.

This is the intact seal Carter found on Tutankhamun’s tomb. *screams*

I’m 20k into the writing of the last planned Folley & Mallory book, but I guarantee, my Egypt love won’t stop there. I’ve loved that world too long to let it go. Excited also to read K. Tempest Bradford‘s steampunk Egypt book, too, and vicariously take part in her upcoming Egypt journey.

Ahhhhhhhh EGYPT.

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Multipass Saw Her Standing There

A few years back, this blog had a feature called Multipass, which ran on Mondays. It was widely read and acclaimed (ha no) and had adorable post titles based on song lyrics and here we are again! Today, four things make a multipass.

Over the holiday weekend, I put Fellowship of the Ring into the DVD player (the four hundred hour version, naturally) while I baked all the carrot cake that was fit to eat. After Fellowship concluded, in went Two Towers. I only got through the first disk there before real life called me away. But!

It’s been a heck of a long time since I’ve seen the films and gosh, they look old. Granted, I’m not looking at a blu-ray version, but the digital elements are often really obvious. Oh technology, what’re you doing to our media anyhow?

It’s funny how the films struck me, and also how the sweeping battle scenes haven’t aged well — at least for me. They feel cold and heartless, whereas you get smaller scenes like Eowyn offering Aragorn her awful stew and there’s loads of subtext; she’s highly into him because he saved her world, he’s like 87 and trying to still be polite when he’s ready to run away with the elves because he knows he looks fine while barefoot on a chaise lounge. These small moments payoff when we see Eowyn confront the Witch King, because we’re like “yes, girl, that’s who you are,” but the bigger battles of warg vs. Rohan farmer don’t carry much emotion. They’re all spectacle and little else.

Clarkesworld Year Nine (Volume One) is out, and I’ve got a story in its pages. “Pithing Needle” is one of a duology that I wrote for CW (the other being “The Cumulative Effects of Light Over Time,” in the Upgraded anthology).

These two stories take place on a fucked up Earth where an alien vessel has crashed and all manner of insanity is streaming out of the ship’s remains. The aliens are weird and humanity is made stranger for our contact with them. I laugh when I think of the reviews these stories received, one reviewer saying I was “obsessed” with this story, because I’d published two different versions. The stories are in conversation with one another, is all; they show very different aspects of the world and character. If that’s obsession, okay. In writing this multipass, I found this amazing article by Octavia Cade about aliens and eating and horror and food, which includes “Pithing Needle,” and just wow. Thank you, Octavia.

(The other thing about this story is, I remember being distinctly thrilled to appear along side Helena Bell’s “Lovecraft.” Oh my stars, that story.)

Volume One is out now (more here!); volume two hits later this year, and I’ll have a story in there, too — it’s one of my favorites, “Migratory Patterns of Underground Birds.”

Four years ago, Masque Books published a digital edition of my book, Watermark. They had no interest in publishing it in paper given how badly Rings of Anubis was selling (or do we call that not selling?) — but I sure did, and now that the contract with Masque has come to a close, Watermark is available in paperback!

Watermark tells the story of a kelpie, sent to the human world as a punishment. Pip lives between worlds, not fully remembering why she was expelled from Otherworld, the fairy world that stands on the eve of its own destruction. Pip meets up with other unseelie fae in the human world, some of whom are convinced she can save Otherworld, others of whom contain the memories she can no longer access.

It’s a kissing book, okay?

It’s also a book about losing things and finding second chances in the ashes. It’s about the hope that those closest to us are never quite gone.

Leave a comment on this multipass and I’ll enter you in a giveaway for a copy, okay? Okay! I’ll draw at least one name at the end of the week, April 6.

You can read chapter one here!

I spent Lent away from Twitter again — searching my blog proved I did that last year, too. It’s good for the brainmeats.

I’m ~15K into writing the next Folley & Mallory adventure, which is also the last planned book in that series. I realized something about the book last week, because why have one neat timeline when you could have three braided together — because the subtext of these books has always been mothers and daughters and how they both love and hurt one another, sometimes with intention, and these things need some form of resolution. We can’t be all spectacle; we need to understand the pain so we can fully enjoy and appreciate the confrontation with the Witch King.

They’re taking the jackals to Isengard!

Wait, I’ve mixed my medias.

Leave a comment! Win a book! Multipass! (International is fine!)

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They’re good reads, Brent

I use Goodreads a lot — at least as a reader. As a writer, I try to make sure my stuff is listed, and beyond that I try not to fuss, because reviews are ultimately not for writers, they’re for other readers.

One thing I lovehate about Goodreads is the yearly reading “challenge.” You can specify how many books you want to read in a year as a goal, and as you mark your books read through the year, GR keeps track of what you’ve read.

However.

GR will also tell you how many books ahead/behind you are.

Which implies there must be a timed schedule to one’s reading challenge, and I call bullshirt. (Thanks, The Good Place, I love you.)

I think I understand why they do it. It probably does help some people, especially possibly younger readers who may need that structure. If, for instance, you say you’re going to read 52 books in a year, GR presumes you’re going to read a book a week to get that done. But…not necessarily? What if you read two books in a week? What if you read nine books one month and only two the next? According to GR, you sure are forking up your challenge.

GR thinks I’m four books behind right now, because I haven’t updated, nor have I finished some of what I’m presently reading. But every time I pop into GR to examine New Books I Possibly Need, I see that I’m allegedly four books behind. Pfft.

(There’s also this little anxiety inside when I see that I’m behind, because I know that I’m not, but it says that I am, but I know that I’m not.)

I think it’s a ridiculous assumption for GR to make; you read how fast you read. Here’s your goal, GOOD LUCK, no stress, just read as you like and record when you want, and oh my gourd, who cares if you aren’t keeping to a schedule.

Anyhow.

Go read a book.

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Stride

artist, Duy Huynh

I don’t tend to think of myself as disabled, but then I’ll be out with friends, and I’ll notice that oh, sure as heck, I’m– Is that the word?

When I was sixteen, I was in a motorcycle accident with my boyfriend; we hit the back end of a car that pulled out in front of us, flew over the car, and hit the pavement.

Instantly, I couldn’t feel my left leg, and distinctly remember asking M if he could see my leg. Where had it gone? It was there, he assured me, and then passing motorists had stopped, summoning help, one putting his leather jacket under my head.

Sprawled in the street, there was no pain. In the ambulance, that’s when the pain kicked in. In the hospital, I could see the x-rays, my left femur broken neatly in two. M broke his in two places.

I had to learn how to walk again — but couldn’t put any weight on the leg for three months. Doctors put a metal rod down the center of the bone, and any weight on it might bend the rod and break the bone all over again. (M broke his femur again when he tried to walk too soon.)

I was excessively good about not putting weight on the leg. Being out of school for so long, I had a tutor who would bring me lessons as I attempted to keep up, but when I got back to school, still on crutches because I couldn’t walk without them, I discovered I might not graduate anyhow. I had a gym requirement to fulfill.

That was a strange experience — who doesn’t graduate because of gym? Obviously, all worked out — I was encouraged to do what I could, because they didn’t view me as disabled. It was all only temporary.

But it’s not, of course. My leg will always be with me.

When I was in sixth grade, I broke my right ankle; that’s a break that has never given me trouble since, and usually I’d say broken bones are like that. They hurt like fuck, but your body does an amazing job of healing and moving on.

But then you take a bone like the femur and everything’s different. You can’t stand, you can’t walk, and when you learn to walk again, you feel like a huge toddler; you hold on to walls, onto tables.

Your leg never feels quite right. It’s always weaker. You find you’re more flexible on the side where you were broken, because the other side never relaxes enough to quite let you go; the other side of you is going to hold you up come hell or high water. You’re uneven.

My left leg is shorter than my right; not by a lot, but enough to make it noticeable to me when I’m wearing long pants. I am certain no one else has never noticed. The scars from the surgery — those have been noticed.

It’s worst in the winter. When it’s cold. You’d think that being encased in the middle of my bone, that rod wouldn’t bother me or get, of all things, cold, but it does. The whole leg is cold and never works right quite; the knee doesn’t have all its feeling; the joints are cosplaying the Tin Man and are in dire need of oil.

And this changes the way I walk.

I walk a lot — I love walking, let me put some music on and go. But in the winter, when it’s colder, I slow down.

This weekend, my friends outpaced me as we walked the city streets. I felt a little ridiculous, going slow and falling behind and walking alone, but also knew not to push the leg. Pushing the leg makes it tire, and makes the knee more likely to give out.

I’m slow in winter, and when it came to doing flights of stairs at the end of a long day, I opted for the elevator. Two flights of stairs, but I knew my leg would be aching for it. I couldn’t keep up.

And I felt different for the first time in a long time. Unable.

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Tracks

Sometimes, when I’m feeling blue, I remind myself that Jupiter is out there in the dark, and it’s full of amazing and endless storms and it’s beautiful, and I feel better.

This is not to say it’s always that easy! The weekend, without question, sucked. I made a bad judgment call at work and had to clean up a mess, but once that mess was sorted? Monday was a revelation. I guess this thing had been hanging over my head — I knew it was coming, I could just feel it, and once it DID come, and was handled, and passed… Whew. It was like a long exhale. (Hey, waiting to exhale — such a thing.)

And now, we’re back on track, I’ve got awesome people who’re eager to work on this project, and it’s going to be amazing. We’re doing good work. And I’ll know better next time. It’s important to know who can you depend on, who is going to buckle down and do the work.

The flip side of that is, being delighted when someone you trusted to do the work really hits it out of the park. So if I was disappointed on the one hand, I was happily astonished on the other. I love working with good and talented people.

Progress continues on the next book, Anubis #6. I’m working in small chunks for a few reasons, I think.

First, it’s the last planned book and well, approaching the end of a thing is kinda crappy. I’ll be sad to say goodbye, even if I later return to this universe. It’s also terrifying, right, because that means the next book is totally new and different and filled with people we don’t know as well as we know these people and maybe it’s the book that helps me finally (finally dear god) land an agent and maybe it’s the book that finally (finally) does something and breaks out and is not everything I’ve written up to this point which has vanished in a lukewarm bog of shrugs.

HEY. Wow, that’s some uncertainty and pressure there. Ha ha Next Book, you gotta do it ALL. And the next book runs away in terror, see.

But that uncertainty sits there while I contemplate this next book and it chatters and yeah. I’m not where I wanted to be at this point in my “writing career.” I work hard, really hard, and maybe it will turn out I’m not a novelist and I’ll be sad about that, and… Yeah, not sure what comes after that “and,” really.

Jordan Peele talked about writing Get Out:

“I stopped writing this movie about 20 times because I thought it was impossible. I thought it wasn’t going to work. I thought no one would ever make this movie. But I kept coming back to it because I knew if someone let me make this movie, that people would hear it and people would see it.”

We talk about perseverance a lot, but I’m not sure if we know exactly what that looks like. We come to the desk, or the table, or the notebook, or the Sunken Place every day, we sit down, we do the work. Over and over and over and over and sometimes, we still don’t make it. And so we try again. And again? It’s the journey not the destination?

Someone once told me my most valuable trait was that I kept showing up. I am always here, doing the work. The work doesn’t always pay off. But I’m still here.

Just like Jupiter.

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Dissolved Girl

Massive Attack is playing, see, low and dreamy and then gone. Last night I got the news that another friend died, and sometimes it feels like that’s all this world is. People leaving.

The tulips are forcing their way out of their bulbs though, and this is supposed to be a great metaphor, isn’t it — proof that despite winter (was there ever such a thing), life goes on.

However. The past two years, the tulips have come early, and have lacked blooms. They are empty stems, crushed under the inevitable spring ice storm that will come. They should bloom pink.

The garden should riot from pink tulips into purple vinca and back into pink peonies. But these years, it’s a smudge of green and then a mash of brown because the ice carries the color away. There was purple the year Prince died — it felt like the vinca bloomed solely for him.

I’m reading A Journal of Solitude by May Sarton; it is a journal she kept over the course of a year, detailing the challenges and pleasures of solitude, of gardening and animals and yes, grief.

In the last section I read, a friend of hers had died; he’d been old and fading for a while. My friend was not so fading; her death was unexpected. When I heard of it, I wanted to cry, wanted to feel something more than the soft “oh” that came from me.

It feels like —

There’s nothing, really, I guess? It happens so regularly now — they say this is how it goes, one day you wake up and everyone is dying, everyone has discovered exactly how borrowed all this time is, everyone must be off, even if (especially if) unexpectedly. You can’t help but think if only the people who needed to die would die.

And does that feel like anything?

Last week, I found unexpected common ground with a friend and it felt like exhaling. That is the last thing I clearly remember feeling. Then work packed itself back in and it was just time to get stuff done.

Black is the color of my true love’s hair comes on the playlist next — oh, tiny knife in the heart. Is that when I stopped feeling anything? When he left not once but three times. (But then, I do feel a thing, a secret thing that I cannot say, and they say this is how it goes too, that you can’t own up to the truth, because doing that often means devastation. How vague and coy you are, walking around the thing you want to say.)

Today, I hope to return to the novel. The novel is the place where all things can be said, because it’s not me saying them. It’s someone else entirely. It’s a shape-shifting jackal who has this conflict and absolutely not me.

The tulips are pushing their way into the world. They will get half way there, and the ice will come.

They say this is how it goes.

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Annihilation

I fell in hard love with the Southern Reach trilogy by Jeff VanderMeer. I loved the first book (Annihilation), and didn’t really make plans to read the others, because I thought for sure one would be enough. As it turns out, I was entirely wrong (so wrong, so wrong, oh golly), and after watching the film Annihilation, I find myself wanting more of this weird world, Area X. Like, a coloring book would be amazing.

This isn’t going to be a real movie review — whatever “real” means, but I wanted to jabber some about the journey this film takes and the journey it took me on. I was surprised to find myself having to remember to breathe over the course of the film. Even when something terrifying isn’t happening, your bones still vibrate in your skin like it’s about to happen, and you’re holding your breath so the terrors don’t find you. Though of course they do. Find you. (The score is monstrous in its own right, looming.)

Terrors? Is it horror? I mean, in a way. A woman’s personal horror. A woman’s story. The story of the women who accompany her into The Shimmer (heh, hey, is it full of badgers /in joke). This movie is unique in that we journey with five women into the weirdness. It’s women’s hands and eyes doing the work. It’s women working together to discover what the fuck is happening in Area X. It’s women. It’s rare.

The book and movie differ, of course. I guess some folks are upset or annoyed by this. I used to be upset when movies differed from books I loved, before I was a writer. When I became a writer, I realized you could do different things with a page and with a screen. They don’t always match up. In my wanderings to read more about this film, someone said it was like having a dream of the book, and that’s so right on.

It’s intense. It doesn’t let up, not even at the end. It doesn’t allow you to breathe, or scream — hey, how about that scream? You know the one. I’m still thinking about it days later.

I guess Paramount totally punted on this film, not advertising it and booting foreign release to Netflix. It’s a shame. Wait, no, it’s stupid. Before the film in the theater I went to, there was a piece about “cerebral scifi,” which this film totally is — but it mentioned films like Under the Skin, and Arrival, and Ex Machina. Is this film too smart for a wide release? Is this film too female for a wide release? I don’t know what Paramount is thinking, but I’m reminded of The Shape of Water and how it also got a pretty quiet launch.

The more I think about this film, the more I like it. There’s a lot going on. Are there book-things that I missed? Sure. But guess what? Those things remain in the book. The awesome thing about this world is, we can have both versions. We can have the book and we can have the movie, which is a dream of the book.

Do I need to say how great Natalie Portman is? Probably not, so let us praise Tessa Thompson and Gina Rodriguez and Tuva Novotny. Jennifer Jason Leigh, also great, but unnerving! Ahhhh! (And okay, yes, Oscar Isaac. Let us praise the way the light of Annihilation moves across that face of his. Gasp, Elise, reducing the male lead to his looks? Yeah.)

This film stole my breath; there’s one scene in particular that left me staring and kind of holding myself, and I don’t know if it’s because of the horrors, or if it’s because of the women — women going where men have only gone, women exploring, women knowing. That’s a hell of a thing.

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Kindness

I’m taking a break from Twitter, because it feels like a good time to do it. I’m allowing myself to read some Twitter over lunch, and then I close it up. I’m not posting, and it’s a strange thing.

Still, today at lunch I saw that Marshall Ryan Maresca started a thread about the kind people in SFF, since of late it seems the way to make your name in SFF is to be a hulking jackass. So, here are the people who were kind to me when I was beginning this journey.

The first place I really admitted I wanted to be a writer was ConJose. I signed up for the writer’s workshop was was positively terrified. Another writer and I were assigned to three pros, and they would demolish and improve the stories we had submitted for the workshop.

The evening prior to the workshop, there was a little get together for the writers. I was told I couldn’t bring my convention partner, since it was just for writers who had signed up for the workshop and some other pros who might drop in. I knew literally no one, so did the thing where you come in and hover near a wall that desperately needs holding up.

When I summoned the courage to say hello to someone I had shared anthology space with, I was gently brushed to the side, so crossed the room, and took up a new post, where I continued to watch. And then someone said hello.

It was Devon Monk. She sat with me, and made me feel less alone. She asked me about my writing and I have no idea what I said, because guys, Devon Monk had a story in the new Realms of Fantasy and my socks were blown OFF. The idea that she would sit and chat me up was miraculous. Never underestimate what a single hello can do for a person.

Ann Chamberlin was the one pro at the workshop the next day who didn’t thoroughly decimate the story I submitted. She kindly told me the story was actually a novel, which gave me the notion I could write a novel — and which I then did — and though it’s a mess, and still unpublishable to this day, I learned so much, and think I am approaching knowing how to make the book work. (This book is the one that sits in the back of your head forever, whispering until you do something about it.)

Two editors who were kind would be Ellen Datlow and Don Muchow.

Don ran the magazine Would That It Were, which was highly up my alley, being a magazine of historical science fiction and fantasy. Finding that place was like finding my people. Don was always kind and encouraging, even when a story didn’t work for him.

Three years after ConJose, it was Ellen Datlow who bought my first circus story, for SciFiction. It was Ellen who took the time to tell me what a unique voice the story had and encouraged me to write more in that world.

Every genre will have its jackasses, but I’ve been fortunate in that I’ve found more lovely people than not along the way. Writers and editors who showed me how it was done. I hope I can pay it forward, too.

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2017 Books

I read a lot, but this year I deliberately read less, because at some point in 2016, I felt like reading had become an obligation. When you’re writer and an editor, I suppose it happens. Reading is actually part of your work, and I think I’d forgotten how to read for pleasure. So in 2017, I got back to that.

I made what I felt were modest goals, 52 books, and ended up reading 55. Not too shabby — though it’s super easy for me to say “Yeah but in year X you read 80 books! In year Y, you did 120!” We’re just not going to do that, okay? Okay!

My other goal was to step up my not-American authors reading, and my authors of color reading. I improved on these fronts, but there is more work to be done!

I read things I’ve always wanted to read (Dawn, Octavia Butler) and things I’d been a little skittish to read (The Fifth Season, NK Jemisin). I read novellas and non-fiction and romance and short stories and memoir and well, a little bit of everything.

Did I have favorites? Of course I did.

It’s weird when a friend’s book is a favorite? Or maybe it’s not — but both Wendy N. Wagner and Alex Wells had knock out books from Angry Robot this year. And I felt very lucky to read an ARC of Wells’ upcoming sequel, Blood Binds the Pack. That’s coming in February, go get it. It stole my heart.

I also surprised myself by falling in love with Uprooted by Naomi Novik, and I had no idea how infatuated I would get with the Expanse series from James S.A. Corey.

Did I have books I hated? Oh yes. Hated bigly and badly, but we’ll keep those a secret, right, because they might be someone else’s jam. You might love them!

That’s what I love about books — there’s literally something for everyone.

I’m starting 2018 midway through Anne of Green Gables, which I’ve never read before. It’s one of those years where I hope to tuck a bunch of classics into my reading because I finally want to. Reading something because I want to is still the goal!

 

 

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The Last Leia

Leia was dead: to begin with.

I feel like that’s where Episode IX begins, because how can it not? I came out of The Last Jedi wondering how on earth they meant to go on, without Carrie Fisher, without giving us the Leia film that so clearly should be Episode IX.

If you haven’t seen The Last Jedi, there are going to be some spoilers here, hey.

I’m not going to talk about most of the film. Mostly, I’m going to talk about Leia, because that’s what I do. If you’re new here, you can catch up here, here, and here.

Mostly, I want to sit with her story and think how it has come to an unnatural end, given the death of Carrie Fisher last year at this time.

Mostly, I want to think about the princess I met in the depths of a ship as she fled from Stormtroopers. I want to think about her and R2, about garbage chutes, and flyboys.

Mostly, I want to consider how she lifted everyone up when her whole planet had been decimated. How she never really had time to mourn because the resistance didn’t need that from her. She put a poncho around Luke and she carried on though everything she had known was now debris.

Mostly, I want to think about the woman we see in The Last Jedi and how she has lost everyone — and still goes on. We didn’t need to see her use the Force to know how strong she is (but it was kind of cool, wasn’t it?). Stronger than her brother? Stronger than her father. Stronger than her son.

(It upset me that she was so willing to believe her son was lost — had she lost so much that she cannot conceive of anyone surviving the Dark?)

(Also, I cannot wait to read Leia by Claudia Gray, because Bloodlines was spectacular.)

Mostly, I want to think about Leia sitting beside Rey in a crowded ship and telling her “we have everything we need,” and reminding us all that no matter who has left our lives, they’re never really gone.

Mostly, I want to think about Leia and Luke sitting almost-together, touching hands across light-years. “I changed my hair,” she says. (And you know who wrote that line, you just know.)

Carrie, you came into my life when I was six, and you will stay with me for always. You showed me that women could be strong, especially in expected ways — we can be writers, we can be addicts, we can be recovering, we can be confessing — and we keep going. We keep fighting. We have everything we need.

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