Tag Archives: BFest

2018: The Year of Writing Limbo

29 Dec

Last year I wrote this article—2017 Wasn’t My Writing Year—and I talked about failing my top three goals. Those goals were wanting an internship at literary agency, working for a library, and signing with a literary agent.

Every year, I write an article like this. But this year, despite struggling to find time to blog, I had to make myself follow up about this year. I mean, come on, I succeeded at one of my major goals! Two months after my past article, I was hired by the library, and last month, I was promoted and became full time. In regards to my other goals, I actually had the opportunity to speak to two literary agencies about internships this year, but with all my life changes going on, I had to back out. But hey, I’m still in contact with them about a future opportunity once life settles down.

This year, I didn’t make any goals for myself.Mainly because I realized how hard I was on myself last year due to the goals I created. In fact, I took a long, hard look at those goals and realized I shouldn’t have goals with uncontrollable results. Ex. “Signing with a literary agent” shouldn’t be a goal dependent on one year. The goal should’ve been “finish writing that new book,” or “query X amount of good fits this summer,” or “take a query workshop to improve your skills.” So, yes, signing with an agent is still a dream of mine, but I’ve learned how to redefine my goals overtime.

So what did I do this year to achieve my dreams?

To be honest, I barely wrote. I sent out a limited number of queries. I didn’t have a single publication come out for the first time in six years.

I could concentrate on the negative, or I could concentrate on this:

I was hired by the library, one of my dreams, and I was promoted eight months later. We moved into a better, healthier house and neighborhood, and my health is improving. I was featured in YASH (the Young Adult Scavenger Hunt) twice! I was invited to speak and sign books at the LitUp Festival, a YA festival run by teens. They were amazing, and I had so much fun. I even got to meet one of my memoir heroes, Ishmael Beah. Clean Teen Publishing released  Bad Bloods: November Snow as an audiobook, narrated by Jonathan Johns, and Minutes Before Sunset also released as an audiobook, narrated by Sarah Puckett and Steve Campbell. They were a blast to work with. I also signed books at the Local Author Fair here in Kansas City, and saw my books in a library for the first time. And I never stopped writing. I finished writing my first historical fantasy during NaNoWriMo, worked on lots of beta reader notes, beta read many books myself, and began writing my next sci-fi.

2018 highlights

So you know what? I did just fine, new publications or not, agent or not, internship or not.

I did my best every day, and I’m going to continue doing my best every day, and I feel pretty good about it in retrospect. Now, to be kinder to myself on a regular basis. I think I’d be a much happier, healthier person.

This is my only goal for 2019.

~SAT

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NA or YA? College-Aged Protagonists

27 Jan

If you live on Twitter like me, then you probably saw last week’s discussion on college-aged protagonists in young adult fiction. Many were calling for it. Others pushed back. Personally, I’m somewhere in the middle.

I desperately want college-aged protagonists, but I want them placed in NA, and I want NA to rise up on its own as an age category full of various genres.

Why?

Fun fact: I graduated high school in 2009. I graduated from the University of Kansas in 2013.

1. The Teens I’ve Listened To:

When I sign books at Barnes and Noble, specifically for BFest (a teen festival), I get to speak with a lot of teens. And I listen. I listen a lot.

Teens are already telling me that they feel left out of YA fiction. They ask me for sweeter, funnier, feel-good stories about friendship and finding your place in the world. Many tell me they’ve stopped buying YA altogether (opting out for fan fiction online) because YA feels too dark, too violent, too sexy for them.

Where are the sweet, just-for-fun road trips? Summer camp stories? Where are the books about friends? Not everything has to be a twisted romance filled with fighting to the death over a crown. (Not hating on those. In fact, I love them. But you know what I mean.)

By adding college-aged protagonists to YA, I fear that YA will only be aged up even more. It will get darker, with more violence and more sex. And that’s fine if teens want to read that. But there is a large portion of young teens that don’t want that, and we’re ignoring them.

Basically, I feel like we’re failing younger teens, and they need to be prioritized when it comes to YA.

2. We Need to Embrace NA

New Adult is a long-existing category. It isn’t new. But unfortunately it carries the stigma of erotica-only. Not that erotica is bad. (I work as an editor, and many of my clients are erotic authors, and I LOVE them. They SLAY.) But if a consumer base thinks that’s the only plot that exists within NA, then NA will turn those away who don’t want erotica. It will also set up those who want erotica to be disappointed if they buy a book in that age category when it’s clean. NA should be full of space pirates and sweet romances and twisty heists, with and without the X rating. But it isn’t right now. And that’s our fault. I understand that we’ve tried to expand NA before, but we need to try again. There’s no reason it should be for only romance. And now that there are more people pushing for NA, I think this is an optimal time to use our fan bases to spread the word about the age category and all the potential it holds.

3. Libraries/Families and How They Work 

Cycling back to the sweet stories in YA and non-erotic NA. They are out there, but they aren’t being prioritized on the shelves. Personally, I see younger YA and non-romance NA in the indie industry, but the indie industry is not as accessible. Libraries often chose what to carry from publishers’ catalogs, which automatically discount self-published or small press books. If they go to the edges of publishing, libraries still want books that have been reviewed by recognized editorials, and those editorials? They generally favor traditionally published novels. At my library, they carry very few indie titles, even when I put in requests. So while there are sweeter YA and non-erotic NA, libraries, schools, etc. might not have access to those, which is why I think pushing college-aged protags into YA wouldn’t be fair to young readers in particular. Also, Teen Librarian Toolbox has a fantastic thread on how families will chose reads for teens, why libraries label books the way they do, and how labeling college-aged teens as YA could negatively impact shelves. She also explains why YA was a wrong term to begin with in the first place. Definitely worth the read.

So what age category are you in if you write college-aged protagonists?

That depends on three things:

1. Voice: A lot of YA books have literary prose (Like “The Reader” by Tracy Chee), but if your book is written in the style of George R.R. Martin, you’re probably leaning more towards adult rather than young adult, even if your character is nineteen. An example: “Don’t You Cry” by Mary Kubica follows a college-aged woman dealing with her roommate acting very very strangely, but the voice isn’t YA. If NA was a thing, I would put it there, but since NA is still struggling, I personally think it leans more toward adult. Voice expectations are something you’ll pick up on by reading within your genre and age category.

2. Themes: Even the agents/publishers calling for college-aged protagonists in YA were clear on one thing: it still had to feel coming-of-age. If your book has a nineteen-year-old protagonist, but they are pretty settled into their life, then you’re probably looking elsewhere. In this case, think college-aged protags struggling to leave home, trying to find independence, a place between home and ultimate adulthood. However, this is largely going to depend on how YA and NA swing in the coming months.

3. Who you are submitting to: Always, always read submission guidelines and research agents/editors/publishers thoroughly. What works for one might not work for another, especially in this case. One agent might think a college-aged protag is YA as long as it features coming-of-age themes, while another might think you have no idea what you’re doing if you query them a YA novel with a nineteen-year-old protagonist. Adjust accordingly. Find a good, professional fit for you and your work.

In the end, everything is just a label, and labels can change overnight. In fact, this whole article is my little, humble opinion. Nothing more than that. And, honestly, my opinion could change.

Still, my best piece of advice has never changed: Read a lot. Write what you’re passionate about. Research thoroughly. Stay up-to-date on the latest news and shifts in the industry. Make friends. And you’ll be just fine.

~SAT

2017 Wasn’t My Writing Year

9 Dec

Last year, I wrote an incredibly positive article called, Dear Writers, 2017 Can Be Your Year! It summed up my 2016 accomplishments and how I got there by taking advantage of every opportunity I could and working hard, and how you can, too. (Oh, how I side-eye myself so hard now.)

This year? 

I failed most of my goals. There, I said it.  

Following the format of last year, I had three main goals.

1. I wanted an internship with a literary agency.

2. I wanted to work for a library.

3. I wanted a literary agent.

To be honest, I got SO, SO close to most of these goals. So close that I feel like crying just thinking about it. But it ultimately didn’t work out.

Why? Well, there are numerous reasons why.

Firstly, adjusting to my new job (while keeping my old job) allows me very little free time. Then I got sick. Like really, really sick. To be honest, I’m still super sick, but I’m currently undergoing a lot of health assessments to figure out what is happening to me. It’s scary not knowing. It’s worse feeling like something unknown has such a negative impact on my life…and there’s nothing I can do about it except get more tests done so I can be healthy again. (Not to mention medical tests cost a lot of money.) My savings for conferences has gone toward medical expenses.

Basically, it didn’t matter that I took advantage of every opportunity I could…because most of the opportunities I received I couldn’t take advantage of due to health, finances, and other issues.

Basically, this year failed. I failed. I failed so hard.

I’m trying to be kind to myself though.

I mean, I didn’t completely “fail” in 2017. Clean Teen Publishing released Bad Bloods: July Thunder (#3) and July Lightning (#4). My first audiobook released! I revised one of my books three times. (I’m determined to make this book work.) And I began writing my first historical. I attended my first writing retreat, joined SCBWI (and an in-person writers group), and began a new job as a publicist for a YA/MG publisher. As an editor, I worked with some amazing authors, and I was featured in YASH and signed books at BFest in Barnes & Noble. On top of that, I was invited to speak at Wizard World Comic Con again! (Oh, how I wish I could’ve attended.) Denver Comic Con also featured my monster panel, even though I couldn’t attend last minute, but fellow Clean Teen authors enjoyed it, and that makes me happy.

2017 highlights

So why do I feel so awful?

It hurt so much watching opportunities pass me by. It still hurts. But I’m grateful that those offering opportunities thought of me in the first place. I’m hoping I’ll have more opportunities in the future when I am healthy—and have more time—again. I’m not giving up. Just because I failed my goals this year doesn’t mean I can’t succeed in those goals next year. In fact, I’m holding onto my 2017 goals as I move into 2018. I’ll probably add new goals, too!

Who knows what 2018 will bring? Maybe I’ll repeat a successful 2016. Maybe I’ll repeat my terrible 2017. Or—and here’s a crazy thought—maybe 2018 will be 2018, with all its failures and accomplishments and surprises.

Not every year is going to be successful and wonderful and feel amazing, but you can always try your best. And that’s what I’m planning for 2018.

Here’s to working as hard as I am able to and keeping my chin up.

I hope you keep trying, too!

~SAT

Back to Blogging!

30 Sep

Hey, everyone!

I’m back, but the major change around here will be my posting day. Instead of Mondays, I will post every Saturday. It should be easier to remember. I mean, I’m SAT…and I’ll post on SATurdays. Aside from one exception…

This year I’m a featured author in YASH, a.k.a. The Young Adult Scavenger Hunt. Here is the official announcement. So what does that mean? It’s an awesome blog hop that features over 100 authors, and you get to win a stupid amount of prizes. (Not going to lie, I totally enter this every year as a reader, so I’m super thrilled to be an author this year.) I am on the Purple Team! The blog hop runs between Oct 3 – Oct 8, so be sure to visit this website to enter. If you can’t wait to get involved, you can vote for Minutes Before Sunset on this Goodreads Listopia list. (P.S. The extra I’m providing might be about the never-before-seen prequel.)

This means that my regular posting schedule will start on October 14.

 In other news…

I went on my first writing retreat with SCBWI. We went to a monastery in Northern Missouri, and aside from getting caught in the worst thunderstorm of my life during the drive back, I had a freakin’ blast! I’m currently working on some major revisions (again), but hey, that’s just how an author’s life goes, right?

My first audio book released this past month! If you love to listen to books, check out Bad Bloods: November Rain, now available through Audible. The narrator, Jonathan Johns, is amazing. In fact, in order to get the characters *just* right, he had the opportunity to learn some behind-the-scenes info no one else knows. So I hope you’ll check it out and enjoy it! You can already listen to a sneak peek of the November Snow audio book here. How cool is that? Please leave a review!

Special thanks to everyone who came out to Barnes & Noble in Kansas City for BFest! I really enjoyed meeting you all, and I can’t wait to see you again next year. If you’re in the KC area, you can still pick up a few signed copies at the Zona Rosa store!

A Not-So-Great SAT Update

I am working hard at setting up publications for 2018, I promise, but I have to be honest about something else. I originally talked about this in my newsletter, but I’m having some health issues. I’m not dying or anything, so please don’t worry too much, but I don’t want to share details. That being said, I find out in March if treatments are working. Until then, I’m hanging on. I will let everyone know as soon as I know about more publications, but please understand if 2018 isn’t very exciting. I really need to concentrate on my health. But, hey, I received my author copies of Bad Bloods: July Thunder and Bad Bloods: July Lightning! I hope you’re enjoying the newest duology in the Bad Bloods universe! If you’re curious what happens next in the Bad Bloods series, I have been working on the next books. October Blood and October Bone are told by Ami and Skeleton, and focus largely on the Highlands after a certain (very important) character is killed. But that’s all I’m saying for now. If you love this series, be sure to share it and leave a review. Every review helps me more than I can express. In fact, if you’re a blogger and interested in reviewing Bad Bloods, feel free to e-mail me at shannonathompson@aol.com for a review copy! 

And last but not least…Can you believe my five-year anniversary for blogging happened? Thank you for sticking it out with me these past couple of years. I hope you’ve enjoyed learning about writing, reading, and publishing. I know I sure have! You all are the light of my life, and I’m glad to be back.

Thanks for letting me take a break,

~SAT

#MondayBlogs Writing With Barbie

13 Jun

Authors use various methods to write novels. Some of these strategies are popular, while others are simply bizarre, and two years ago I confessed one of my strangest approaches.

Barbies.

You see, I began writing what would be my first published novel when I was 11, and because I was 11, I loved to daydream with dolls. Instead of plotting with a pen and paper, I pulled out those Barbie dolls—the same dolls that told me I could be anything while I was growing up—and I assigned each one to a potential character. I played out scenes, I tested dialogue, I assessed locations, and I watched my book come to life…Well, a plastic life. And the results were pretty humorous.

Many of my characters’ physical descriptions were actually based on the dolls I used. You can see more of this in the original novel, but some of the characters changed in the remake. That’s right. I’m talking about my upcoming release, Bad Bloods.

Bad Bloods began as a game I played with my Barbie dolls when I was a kid.

Now, if you’ve read the original or even the back covers, then you might be concerned for 11-year-old Shannon, considering how violent the book is, but there’s no need to be concerned. (I think.) Today is meant for laughter. Today, I wanted to share that funny truth behind Bad Bloods, no matter how dark the story is. Even better, I still have these toys (and I definitely still use them to this day), so I’m sharing a few of them as well as small excerpts from Bad Bloods that prove this goofy aspect of my writing.

You’ve been warned.

A little background before we begin:

Bad Bloods in 35 words or less: 17-year-old Serena is the only bad blood to escape execution. Now symbolized for an election, she must prove her people are human despite hindering abilities before everyone is killed and a city is destroyed.  

Bad Bloods is told from dual, first perspectives: Daniel and Serena. Unfortunately, I lost the Serena doll (she might have lost a limb or two or maybe even a head), but I still have Daniel, who you will see soon. I’m going to share two pictures. Read below for info on the characters, including a one-sentence background and a real excerpt from the novel. I’m also including a little note, explaining how my 11-year-old brain worked. Got that? Okay. I think I’m even lost, but trust me—it’s organized. I hope you chuckle as much as I did while writing this post! Traveling to the past can be a funny adventure.

theboys

Robert: 20, leader of the Southern Flock (hates hugs)

“Everything is fine.” Robert’s light voice didn’t match his stiff movements. When he ran a hand through his hair, his brown bangs stuck up. “But everyone needs to be quiet.”

11-y-o Note: Believe it or not, he’s not the antagonist. Sort of? Okay. Let’s go with antihero.

Daniel: 18, leader of the Northern Flock (all around hunk)

Daniel walked through the crowd, but it wasn’t much of a walk. It was more like stumbling and I had never seen Daniel stumble. Not once. Not even when he was fighting. But he was wearing the blue-and-white plaid jacket and it fluttered amongst the crowd of black coats and gray sweaters. He was practically asking to be arrested.

11-y-o Note: So, if you didn’t notice, I even based some clothes off of these toys.

Calhoun: 57, Daniel’s mentor (kind of a hard ass)

Before I had the chance to knock, the door swung open and smacked against the brick wall. An enormous man filled the entrance. The muscles in his left arm were hard to ignore, but the sleeve that should’ve been tightly wrapped around his right arm was dangling at his side, limbless. Despite his injury, Calhoun wasn’t troubled one bit. A shotgun swung outside and pointed toward my chest.

11-y-o Note: So, my one-arm GI Joe helped create this character, but this character’s personality is very similar to my father. Though, my dad has both arms…and he’s not a vet. But I swear they are alike. You might also remember me mentioning Calhoun in Tackling YA in Diversity, where I explain how I went about writing a character with a disability.

girls

Michele: 17, mother figure of the Northern Flock (Her origin story is up on Wattpad: Read Michele)

But the most beautiful one was the woman. She was tall and willowy, with long white hair and gray eyes like mine. Unlike me, though, every part of her seemed soft, like a warm glow followed her around wherever she went.

11-y-o Note: I definitely kept her white hair, and the character is almost always wearing black in the book as well.

Ami: 14, member of the Southern Flock. (Hates being called “Ami.” Her name is Ameline Marion Lachance.) 

When I first laid eyes on the girl, she was dressed head to toe in pink. Her blonde hair was threaded back into intricate braids, and a bow sat at the end of the braids where the golden strands came together. When Ami cried, she swung her head back and forth, and the bow swayed like a pendulum, all neat and tidy like a present.

11-y-o Note: You can’t really see the doll’s hairstyle anymore, but it was there. I promise. I also used pink on this character a lot.

Tessa: 9, member of the Northern Flock (too small to crush on Adam, but apparently, all the girls like Adam…maybe I should’ve shared Adam…Adam’s origin story is also up on Wattpad: Read Adam)

I pointed to the girl with pigtail braids. “That’s Tessa.”

“So what?” Tessa said, looking over her shoulder at Adam, then to me, her earthy brown eyes matching her powers and her complexion.

11-y-o Note: Her hair, like Ami’s, used to be tied up, too.

The End.

On a serious note, I think writing can be explored in a million ways, and I love my shameless Barbie play. I’ve legitimately called my #1 beta reader complaining of being stuck and she has asked me if I pulled the Barbies out yet. Having a physical representation works for me. I definitely don’t use their descriptions in newer writings, but I wanted to keep what I could for the rewrite since this particular work was built upon them. Imagination shouldn’t be chained to rules. Find what works for you, explore how you want, and daydream until the end of time. Even if that means playing with dolls.

Original posted April 19, 2014

It actually has different dolls and characters, but some of those characters have changed, so I didn’t include them in this post.

~SAT

To everyone I met at BFest this week, thank you for coming out! 

I had a blast!

BFest2016

If you missed out, you can buy signed books from Barnes & Noble in Oak Park Mall in Overland Park, KS and in Zona Rosa in Kansas City, MO!

For you online readers, don’t forget that Minutes Before Sunset, book 1 in the Timely Death Trilogy, is FREE right now. (And book 2 and book 3 are available, so no waiting!)

Minutes Before Sunset: book 1:

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Pre-Order Bad Bloods

November Rain, Part One, releases July 18, 2016

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November Snow, Part Two, releases July 25, 2016

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#SATurdate: Me Before You, Thief of Lies, Pit Mad, & Bad Bloods Sequel

11 Jun

I’ll be signing books and hosting an author panel at TWO Barnes & Nobles this weekend for #BFest! Come see me today at Oak Park Mall’s B&N in Overland Park, Kansas from noon to 3 PM, or stop by Zona Rosa’s B&N in Kansas City, Missouri from 2 PM to 4 PM tomorrow!

What I’m Writing:

So remember how I finished the mysterious manuscript known as D? Well, I started outlining N, the sequel to D. Granted, since I wrote the original D years ago, I also wrote an outline for a sequel years ago, and I had to go through it to see what was salvageable. Spoiler alert: almost nothing.

I also joined #PitMad this week, which was a lot of fun! I’m actually helping host a writers group on Facebook—Twice the Jennifers—while author Jennifer Anne Davis is out of town, and I recommended that everyone with a completed unpublished manuscript join #PitMad, so I thought I would get in on the fun! I love these contests because you can connect with great people, and I’ve also received priceless advice by participating. Also, if you’re looking for an awesome online writer’s group, you should apply to join Twice the Jennifers! For all of you wondering what D is about…Well, here it is:

As you can see, it’s about a 16-year-old Wing Chun fighter with narcolepsy who portals to a shadowy dreamscape where nightmares are people, princes need saving, and spirits steal our subconscious. I’d compare the overall gothic feel to Splintered by A.G. Howard and the world-building to Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas.

P.S. D = Dreammare. N = Nighttrance. I’ll call these novels by their titles from now on.

What I’m Publishing:

I FINALLY got my hands on pre-release copies of November Snow, part two of Bad Bloods, which means some of you are already reading it! If you’re interested in reviewing Bad Bloods on your blog, please e-mail me at shannonathompson@aol.com. For those of you already reading, I hope you’re enjoying the duology. If you didn’t see the latest Teaser Tuesday, check out my right side tool bar, but here is the #1lineWed preview. This week’s theme was numbers:

In other exciting news, I’ve spoken to Clean Teen Publishing about the possibility of continuing Bad Bloods. Originally, when I first started off writing Bad Bloods when I was eleven, my plan was to write 12 books—one book for each month of the year—and I wrote a sequel and outlined a third book. Granted, I haven’t rewritten these novels, but I’m considering continuing the Bad Bloods series in the future. But that’s all I can say for now! We will see.

Pre-Order Bad Bloods

November Rain, Part One, releases July 18, 2016

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November Snow, Part Two, releases July 25, 2016

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Sign up for the Book Blitz!

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What I’m Reading:

Thief of Lies by Brenda Drake

Thief of Lies by Brenda Drake

I finished Don’t You Cry by Mary Kubica, and I LOVED it. It was an addictive, thrilling, & personal tale of twisted deceit. I recommended it to readers of suspense, mysteries, thrillers, and those who love detailed, personal voices. Read my 5-star review here.

I also started re-reading Thief of Lies by Brenda Drake! I originally read this wonderful novel when it first came out in January, but I just had to read it again! If you haven’t checked out this book, do so. I’ll write a more in-depth review soon, since I didn’t write one the first time, but I love, love, love this story.

What I’m Listening To:

My roaring AC. It is the summer!

What I’m Watching:

Me Before You: I LOVED it. And I cried nearly the whole way through it. Emily Clarke did a FANTASTIC job of Lou without her Game of Thrones character leaking through, and Sam Claflin was perfection (as per usual).

movies

I also watched the documentary Girl Rising, which is about educating young girls from around the world. Their stories are heartbreaking, honest, and moving. Then, I saw the documentary Code Black, which is about emergency room situations in county hospitals and the health care crisis in America. I recommend both (and they are both on Netflix).

What I’m Baking, Making, and Drinking:

Since I had extra ingredients left over from s’mores cookies last week, I made literal s’mores this week. Granted, I did this on my gas stove…and dropped a marshmallow onto the flame, so it smells like burnt marshmallows in my house. It could be worse. Wink.

What I’m Wearing:

Work out gear, because I’ve been moving furniture all week. But I got a new bed! Yipee! (Things I never thought I’d be excited about when I was younger.)

What I’m Wanting:

13327458_1056510257729488_2781665878724677783_nSomeone to decide what I should write next. I don’t have a lot of writing time, but between editing Take Me Yesterday, outlining Nighttrance, writing a Bad Bloods sequel, or continuing with the mysterious S, I feel like my creative heart is being pulled in a million directions. So many books, so little time.

What I’m Dreaming Of:

All of my cats were running around the front yard, but so were a bunch of bobcats. I kept chasing the bobcats away, but the bobcats were relentless, and though they never snapped at my cats, I kept feeling like they were trying to eat my cats. It was a definite nightmare for my catlady self.

What Else Is Going On:

Photo from today's B-Fest book signing at Oak Park Mall!

Photo from today’s B-Fest book signing at Oak Park Mall!

I’ll be signing books and hosting an author panel at TWO Barnes & Nobles this weekend for #BFest! Come see me today at Oak Park Mall’s B&N in Overland Park, Kansas from noon to 3 PM, or stop by Zona Rosa’s B&N in Kansas City, Missouri from 2 PM to 4 PM tomorrow!

~SAT

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