Writing/Articles

NJG Writing Section Revamped!

Hello Readers! I’m currently working on a few new book reviews and fancasts that I can’t wait to share with you, but in the meantime, go over to my writing section and check out the completely redone section with much more aesthetically pleasing graphics/images for every single article on there like the ones pictured below.

I’ve also redone my “TGIF” page and added tons of behind-the-scenes photos and the year long process, and even images for my short stories to show some more context before you click on them to read them. There’s plenty of content and material to keep you busy in case you’re getting anxious to see what I post next!

Thanks for Reading!

— Nick Goodsell

Editorial Articles, Writing/Articles

15 Questions to Ask Someone Who’d Just Read Your Novel

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So, you’ve finished the first draft of whatever piece of literature you may have written: a novel, screenplay, memoir, biography, self-help, or erotic fanfiction that you feel brave enough to share outside of Tumblr or An Archive of Our Own…first off, I want to tell you congratulations!! You’ve just accomplished something major that not everyone else can claim to have done, and that deserves to be rewarded. I say, go for that extra slice of chocolate cake, eat that gigantic plate of carbolicious pasta, have a whole bottle of wine, sleep in or whatever you prefer to do when you treat yo’self!

***Act responsibly, of course!***

One thing you absolutely should do is take a step back and separate yourself from your draft and give your mind a mental vacation. A few days to a week, maybe two, is the best amount, but honestly it’s up to you!

After the celebration is complete and you’re ready to get back to work with a fresh pair of eyes and rejuvenated mind, you can then start editing. One great method of doing that is to gather a small batch of people called “Beta Readers.” For those that are not familiar with the term, they’re basically a small group of people—similar to a focus group—who read your work and give you feedback on how it is: what works and what doesn’t, are there major plot holes, and what the overall impression of your words look like for someone other than yourself. They can give valuable perspective from an outside source, and give a whole new perspective to make your work even an even stronger piece of literature.

Going about gathering those readers is also important. Ryan J. Pelton wrote a similar article to this topic on writingcooperative.com—the link is HERE—but for those that want to stay loyal to my URL, he gives some guidelines on who would be a great candidate:

  1. Beta Readers shouldn’t be writers, if possible…basically, it’s a tricky spot because each writer has their own voice, their own method of how things work with written word, and it’s likely they’d focus too much on switching things around to however they’d write it. Beta Readers shouldn’t be correcting grammar (unless it’s a universal no-no); they’re to help figure out story flow, character impressions and development, pacing, and plot. Grammar is something you’ll worry about later!
  2. Only choose 1-2 Beta Readers…Everyone reads at a different pace and interprets the words differently. Ryan also uses the quote: too many cooks in the kitchen to help emphasize the point that too many people at a time giving feedback could be counter productive. I gave my five beta readers two months to look my draft over (which may or may not be more than enough time), and you want to make sure you’re selected readers you trust will actually do it and give honest, constructive criticism. Imagine my disappointment when the two months passed, and I get back to my some of my readers on their progress, and I either get some of them didn’t actually read it or the greatest response ever: “It was good.”…that’s it.

For this article, I focused more on the types of questions to ask if you’d written a piece of fiction over a piece of nonfiction like a memoir, biography, or self-help title. You really want to leave the questions open-ended so you don’t just get “Yes” or “No” answers, as those don’t really help. There are also plenty of other questions you may want to ask your readers that pertain to specific components of your story, and that’s totally okay! Go with that gut feeling, I am all about that journey for you. Just remember, you also don’t want to overwhelm your readers with too many questions, so I’d probably stick to twenty questions maximum; the twenty questions are entirely up to you on whatever answers you seek.

Below is the list of questions (in no particular order) that seemed to be broad enough to cover all the main aspects of what the Beta Reader is supposed to look for:

“At what point did you feel like the story had really begun?”

This question is about when they sat down and started reading, and you want to know where it was when they’d first gone “Awh yeah, now it’s getting good!” What was that first initial part that was (hopefully) early on in the story that really pushed it along and raises the call to action. Ideally, the introduction to the main conflict of the story should be introduced within the first 1-3 chapters, and I’ve had some fellow readers even say they give a book only the first twenty-five pages to grab their attention, and they’ll toss it aside if they aren’t interested by then…so if need be, get to the point!

“What parts did you find yourself skimming over?”

Basically, what were the boring parts? What parts seemed slower to the overall story, and if possible, how can you make them better? Maybe you don’t even need them at all, and could probably axe it from your story entirely. If you’re an artist, you’ve probably heard the phrase “kill your darlings,” which means to not get too attached and be prepared to trim off anything that needs to be. One suggestion that I’d like to give is to not actually delete any parts you decide to omit from your story, but instead to cut and paste them into a separate document–you never know if you might actually need them later on in the same project, or a different one!

“Was the overall premise of the story exciting enough?”

Did the conflict seem big enough? Are the stakes high enough? Is the conflict something the main character(s) absolutely can’t walk away from? If not, maybe you need to go back and rethink a few things about the plot…Think about Frodo and his task of taking the one ring to Mordor in order to destroy it before Sauron can fully return to power! Think about Harry Potter needing to defeat Voldemort in order to save the world. Your premise doesn’t necessarily need to be end of the world level of excitement, but it does need to be big enough to be a story worth telling.

“Did the conflict(s) your main character(s) deal with seem big enough or relatable at all?”

Besides the outer conflict, there’s also the inner conflict that your character is dealing with as well that’s a driving force for the whole story. Maybe they’re just looking for an adventure, or maybe they seek acknowledgement or glory from everyone, or maybe it’s to come to terms and move on from a past trauma, or it’s falling in love; it could be anything! What does your character want more than anything, and what are they willing to do to get it? Also, is their desire relatable in any way? Is it a desire anyone else could have in their own life, even if it’s not the same as the Beta Reader’s? If you have a main cast of multiple main characters: if their story arc doesn’t seem strong enough, if their development doesn’t seem strong enough, should they even be a main character? Maybe they’re better served as a minor character instead.

“Which characters(s) felt the most fleshed out, and who wasn’t?”

Obviously, some characters are going to receive more attention than others, especially if you have a cast of multiple main characters. For my WIP, I have a cast of six characters as my main cast, and I will say: it’s tricky… I relate to some of my characters more than others, and it does show in the writing with how in-depth you are able to get with their inner turmoil and their overall story arc. Do they have their own personality, or does it blend too much with someone else, and your readers may even get the two confused.

“Were there any moments in the story that felt really confusing?”

When you’re writing a scene in your story or maybe it’s just describing a person, place, or object, you may have a clear image in your head of what it all looks like. Unfortunately, no one is a mind reader–at least as far as I’m aware of–and they might not actually understand what you’re saying or trying to get across. Or, maybe you got some facts mixed up, or you screwed up a name somewhere, and need to go back and fix it. Maybe a character did something that’s completely against what they represent or it was so out of the blue, maybe rethink it if it’s purely for shock value.

“What were your thoughts on the pacing of the story?”

For this question, it’s all about how well your story flows. Is it really choppy and inconsistent, or do the scenes transition really well together? Is there a definite beginning, middle, and end? Does the tension rise as you read further along? With that, are the stakes continuing to rise and is the character being put in more confrontations that they can’t simply walk away from?

“At what point(s) in the story did you start to care about the main character(s), if at all?”

It’s referred to as the “Saving the Cat” in the story, but what it means is was there a specific moment in the story that really showed the characters moral code in a simple moment. If they’re being chased, would they take a longer route to avoid running over the little old lady across the street, or would they not care? Would they stop to save the cat stuck up in a tree, or would they say “screw you, beast, I’m out!” It’s usually how the character reacts to a certain situation that shows what kind of person they are, and the main character(s) need to be likeable to some degree, whether they’re the hero, the antagonist, or even the villain.

“Was the storyline too predictable?”

Maybe your story needs a few more levels of excitement to boost it up, or some major plot twists that no one could see coming. It would still need to make sense for the sake of the story, but readers need a delicate balance between what is expected to happen, and something that comes along that they’d never experienced before or never would’ve expected to happen. Maybe a character experiences a major betrayal from someone they’d trusted most of their life? Maybe a belief or myth that everyone had believed true for thousands of years turned out to be a lie? Maybe the villain turns out to be the father? Maybe someone’s gay? Be sure to add some foreshadowing moments so it’s not completely out of the blue, but to also add some sizzle to that steak!

“Did the characters sound like actual people with their dialogue?”

You’d want to go back and check your dialogue by reading it out loud and checking how well it sounds and flows together. I’m guilty of doing this, but characters can’t say lines while they laugh, snort, yawn, etc… It doesn’t make sense, and it’s an amateurish move in any sort of writing. Also, consider how each character sounds in the sense of their own voice. Not everyone talks the same way, and can use different words, dialects, or phrases to describe the same thing. Each character needs their own specific voice/vocabulary to help stand out amongst everyone else.

“How was the setting? Was it too descriptive or not descriptive enough in some areas?”

Going back to the question of whether something was really confusing in the story, the setting could be a specific component that may need to be edited. It may have made sense to you, but you want to make sure others can understand the image you’re trying to paint in their heads as to the location(s) your characters are in the story. Like Goldilocks and the three bears, you need to be just right in the amount of descriptions you give about the place. No one wants to read half a page of what the coffee shop looks like; they can fill in the blanks to a certain degree, and really, you should mainly stick to whatever is within the setting that pertains to the story. You want to sprinkle out little tidbits as the scene moves along, or even wait until the characters return another time to describe something. All in all, avoid info dumps but give your readers something to work with too.

“Did it feel like the main character(s)’s story arc had a strong enough beginning, middle, and end?”

Your character’s arc needs to somewhere to start, how it furthers along as the plot thickens and they have choices to make, and to have some sort of resolution towards the end. If it’s a series, maybe some part of its conclusion doesn’t happen right away, but a small chunk of it definitely does as every book within a series needs to have it’s own storyline within–Think about the Harry Potter books and how each one has it’s own journey or quest that Harry, Ron, and Hermoine work through everytime they return to Hogwarts. They deal with the sorcerer’s stone, then the chamber in the next one, and so forth as it all pertains to ultimately defeating Voldemort in the grand scheme of things. It helps to have an idea of how the story arc will end from the very beginning when you initially start writing the story, that way you’ll have knowledge of the direction the story arc is going and won’t drift off it’s path.

“If you had to get rid of at least one character, who would you take out from the cast, and why?”

You love all your characters, you don’t want to kill any of your darlings, but maybe your story is too long, or there’s just too many scenes that are filler and don’t need to be there. If their story arc isn’t strong enough, if their conflict isn’t strong enough, or they just don’t really serve much of a purpose at all except for maybe being another sidekick to the main character, maybe consider that a character should just be taken out of the story. Reminder: don’t just delete everything! Cut, paste, and store into a separate document somewhere because you never know if you’ll use that material elsewhere!

“What was the most exciting/suspenseful part of the story for you?”

You’re looking for criticism on plenty of what doesn’t work for your story, but you should also be aware of what DOES work for your story. Maybe you’re really good at writing sex scenes, or battles, or weaving between different character’s perspectives, or something else. That’s great, and you should also look into why whatever it is that works well in your writing, and remember it for future projects. Don’t fix something what isn’t broken, and it’ll even help make it easier on what components you should focus on in your writing from now on.

“What was the last book you’d read?”

This seems like a random addition, but it’s more for the Beta Reader themselves because how they critique your work can be heavily influenced by what they normally read, or even the last title they’ve read. Maybe they’re on a vampire binge, or maybe they’re looking for the next fantasy series to forget about the travesty that was season 8 of Game of Thrones, or they’re really into contemporary romance/erotica, or they’re not even into fiction at all, and instead love to read about subjects of history or political science. This can help you get a little intel into where your reader’s mindset is at when they’re looking through your work.

~~~

So there you have it, some help for anyone who feels a little lost on what exactly to do after you’ve finished writing your novel!

Look for feedback and gain some insight into where you need to go next, and honestly, remember to take whatever a Beta Reader says with a grain of salt. What they suggest may only pertain to their needs as a reader, and they only really offer another set of eyes on your work. They may be onto something or maybe they’re not; I’d at least take a closer look into whatever they’ve pointed out and give it some more thought, but ultimately it’s YOU that makes the final call! It’s YOUR work that YOU created!

Be proud, and be happy that you created something that took a lot of time and effort to do!

Thanks for Reading!

— Nick Goodsell

Editorial Articles, Writing/Articles

What Annoys Me (Or Just Completely Pisses Me Off)

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The title is pretty self explanatory, but I thought I’d switch things up and write something that’s not what I normally put on here. It’s more about myself and not about books or reviews for once, and it was kind of fun/therapeutic/etc to make an extensive list about the annoyances I face everyday. It’s supposed to be funny, it’s supposed to be serious, it’s supposed to be relatable.

Please Note: This list will be ongoing, and I will add more as it come to mind, and is in no particular order.

  • Social Media posts where people have an image of them “Sleeping”…yeah, it’s totally not posed, its totally not pretentious and fake AF, and I only imagine you had someone wait for you to actually fall asleep (which is creepy, but not likely)
  • Warm Toilet Seats…I mean, someone else’s ass has been on that same seat maybe not even five minutes earlier, so the imagery that our bare asses are embracing each other, physically touching each other and that fills me with disgust, regret and unpleasantness.
  • People Who Request Sleeves on Iced Beverages…Does it stop the condensation? Maybe, but it also doesn’t stop me from thinking your pretentious.
  • Slow Traffic…Bitch, just fucking keep driving. Do you need to be pressing on the brakes when two cars could fit between you and the car ahead when you’re going only 10 mph?
  • Screaming Kids…Working at a Waterpark within an Amusement Park (Namedrop: Valleyfair Family Amusement Park) basically ruined me for kids, so they can all just STFU. This also brings me to my next point…
  • Parent’s Who Do Nothing About Their Screaming Kids…Be a parent, you chose to have kids, either get them to shut up in a public place or go away. Don’t just ignore them and keep having them throw a tantrum over something, nor should you ignore the much deserving glares me and others are throwing at you.
  • Free Food Complainers…Complaining for the sake of getting the meal for free, when an issue is so small or after eating most of it just so you can get free coupons looks so trashy, cheap, obnoxious, and yes…the whole staff is judging you because they are currently venting about you and your awfulness in the back to help them get through the rest of their night. Hope you enjoy looking like gutter trash while scarfing down that free food.
  • Entitlement…Spoiled brats who act like everyone owes them something just piss me off!
  • Racism…We are all human beings underneath; we bleed the same blood, our genes are all the same (to a degree), can we please focus less on our differences? (Yes, I am fully aware I am writing this as a white male in this world, I see my privilege).
  • Politics…What a freakin’ mess that’s turned out to be, especially in recent years. Just a bunch of greed, corruption, and cover-ups to hide what’s really going on, and divide us as a country because we can’t even be Facebook friends with people based off their political views.
  • Not Putting New Toilet Paper in the Holder…You leave it on the counter, you place it right above the holder, I don’t know…I’m just surprised that it must take so much effort for some people to just replace the tube with a new one. I”m pretty sure you can even do it while sitting on your porcelain throne.
  • People Who Don’t Flush…Again, minimal effort to the point that you can still be seated and still be able to do it, and not have the room smell terrible afterwards.
  • Other WWE Fans…seriously, some of the most irrational, fickle, selfish, disrespectful, entitled group of people (not all of them) who will find a way to complain about everything; its to the point that I swear, some of them just keep watching to bash it online. If you hate it so much or complain about it so much, stop watching it. Stop giving Vince money and find something else to watch.
  • When Technology Breaks Down For No Reason…Is nothing built to last, anymore?
  • Searching For Jobs…I can only take rejection so much in one week, and who likes not even hearing back from job recruiters? No One, so don’t ghost. I felt bad doing it once, and I won’t do it ever again.
  • Traffic Lights…I have the worst luck with stop lights, like they know whenever I’m coming and they immediately go yellow then red.
  • When People Talk about their BM’s…Why would anyone want to know anything about that? I bet not even Doctors care to hear about it unless you’re dying.
  • Internet Trolls…sad, pathetic, cowardly, bored, ugly people who really need to find a better passion in life other than tearing people who they wish to be down. Plus, try saying any of that in person and not behind the safety and anonymity of your keyboard in the small basement you live in.
  • Onlyfans…Most of the people on their have their “exclusive” content all over the internet anyways, it’s not like we haven’t already seen it, and for those that charge $24.99 a month to look at your junk?…good luck with that. Not trying to shame sex workers, but seriously, if people want to subscribe, it’ll cost a fortune to even sign up for a handful on profiles.
  • When Every Radio Channel Was on Commercial At the Same Time…Notice I said was; because fuck using the radio anymore. Plus, who likes listening to the same 8 songs on repeat anyways?
  • Being Taken for Granted or Brushed Aside…People tell me that I’m a teddy bear, and they’re right…the one that you abandoned and left on a shelf or in the back of the closet to collect dust and be forgotten about. Do that shit to me and your done. Out of my life. I’m worth more than that.
  • Farting…It smells bad, sounds bad…I get it, better in than out Shrek always says, but do it when no one else is around.
  • Excessive Burping…Similar to the last one, it’s just coming out the other end.
  • Rude Customers…the bane of any retail worker’s life. Check yourself: we are all people and not a human piece of tissue paper that you use to collect your old wad of gum to throw away, have some class, chill the fuck out, and realize that we as employees are never going out of our way to make your life harder on purpose, and sorry if you’re having a bad day for whatever reason, but don’t take it out on us. We are just a stranger trying to get through the day too. This one might even be a separate article, because honestly, people are the absolute worst in how they treat Retail Workers…The customer is NOT always right, screw whoever made that to be. Read between the lines everytime we smile through our teeth and wish you a happy day after you’re a complete dick to us.
  • Musical Episodes of TV Shows…I’ve watched the ones on Grey’s Anatomy, The Office, How I Met Your Mother, literally ALL of Glee, and I’ve come to the conclusion that they’re just random, totally cringeworthy, and I usually question if it’s actually them singing or not.
  • Older Generations Always Struggling on their Smartphones…Google it, look it up, and get with the times, please.
  • Crappy Photos on Social Media…This one sounds pretentious of me, but after taking courses on Photography, it’s just annoying to me now. Also, when I make an effort to take a good photo of someone for their timeline, but I only get half-assed results in return.
  • Fidget Spinners…What a useless fad.
  • How I Overthink Everything…Fuck anxiety.
  • How I Dwell On So Much From Years Ago…Like I said, fuck anxiety. It’s a real bitch.
  • How Bitter I am about High School and 90% of My Graduating Class…Yes I am salty about it, because so many people made me feel insignificant, unimportant, a background character shoved to the back on the stage, hell, behind the curtains. Don’t expect me to go to any reunions.
  • When People Don’t Knock Before Entering a Bathroom…How have people not been raised to not do this? Would you want someone to walk in on you while your sitting on the toilet? Can we just try and avoid this awkward situation at all costs?
  • When People Don’t Move the Mouse on the Projection Screen For A Video…It leaves the bar and menu up and ruins the experience. I partially blame my friend Elijah for this one, because once he pointed it out, I was no longer able to ignore it.
  • For Retail: When People Wait Outside the Front Door of the Store Before Open… The Store (at least the one I work at) is open for 12 hours out the day…Get a life.
  • Cheesy Work Orientation Videos…Are they purposefully made to torture us? They want us to want to work for them, right?
  • When Celebs are Younger Than Me…How Dare they be more successful than me but not have been on this planet as long as I have. IT’S NOT FAIR
  • Worrying About Money/Finances…I hate adulting.
  • Retail: When People swipe their card before I’m even done scanning all their items into the register…Umm, impatient much?!
  • Retail: People Talking on their Bluetooth while walking through the store…You seriously look like a prick, and not to stereotype, but it’s always men in business attire. I hope they’re not trying to impress us all…they definitely aren’t. They’re still better than screaming kids though…
  • Retail: When People Bug constantly about Discounts, Coupons, or Marking Something Down…At a Used Book Store…The merch is already so much cheaper, if you’re still worried about the cost of something, maybe you shouldn’t be out shopping or spending money then?
  • Retail: When Customers Feel the Need to Tell Us Their Life Stories…Honestly, I usually don’t care, and this now annoys me because I once had to suffer a retired man and their story of them trying to justify why they’re homophobic or transphobic because they were picked on as a kid and became traumatized at even being associated with gay people…and I just don’t want to hear it anymore…Find some friends to talk to about that shit with, but good luck with that in these times.
  • People Who Don’t Read or Watch Stuff Because It’s Popular…Excuse me while I attempt to imitate Gene Wilder in that meme of him and how he’s sarcastically congratulating you on your individuality, you’re smarter and better than everyone and not just a douchey hipster…Just because there’s a bandwagon following, doesn’t mean its not good or not worth checking out…Get over yourself.
  • Over-Powerful Social Media Influencers…So, a lot of you have been asking, and yes…they’re annoying, and once social media dies, what are they going to do with their lives?
  • People Who Always Cancel or Never Show Up…Make a fucking commitment, or at least be proactive and try to reschedule on a specific date and time.
  • People Who Chew With Their Mouths Open…Close that shit up.
  • Drunk People When I’m Sober…Being the one sober person amongst drunk people sucks…it’s funny for only about the first five minutes.
  • Unibrows…I mean, do people actually not care that there’s a fucking caterpillar growing above their face?
  • When People Take Forever to Answer Back to a Message…Us millennials have our phones on them all the time, so how does this even happen? Either I’m actually boring AF, our the other person is a dick who can still post on Social Media but leave me on “read…”
  • MN Drivers…Minnesota Nice is out the fucking window, along with my patience, when it comes to how terrible a lot of drivers are up here in Minnesota. I can’t even consider it road rage anymore, it’s just how I normally drive at this point.
  • Insurance Companies…We pay a huge amount every month when we don’t need it, then have it raised after we actually use it? For the thing that it’s there for? What a scam…To bad it’s required.
  • How I Get When I Feel Like I’m never Enough, Sought After, or Desired…It’s been my whole life, and what about me is so unlikeable? What do people see about me that immediately turns them off from me and writes me off as someone not worth their time or respect? It’s happened too many times that I can just ignore it and try to tell myself that my worth is not determined by others…We all want to be loved.
  • People Who Make Everything About Themselves…Can we talk about my issues for once, Karen?
  • How Millennials Are Terrible At Keeping In Touch…Myself included, but we have so many ways to communicate right at our fingertips, tons of apps, smartphones, Facetime, Skype, etc. but we still can’t keep in touch with people and we suck at communicating to each other.
  • Trigger Society…It seems a lot of people go out of there way to find something to be angry about and have it “canceled”. Just don’t watch it, read it, go to it, whatever, why do you have to ruin for the people that enjoy it? It feels like a giant witch hunt half the time. Also, if a celeb apologizes for something they tweeted 11 years ago—aka doing the very thing people ask to do—LET IT GO, and stop holding it against them. Also, people need to get all the facts straight before jumping to conclusions, demonizing someone and trashing them all over the internet.
  • How Expensive The World Is…How do they expect us to live? Plus, we’re sometimes paying 5x more what something is actually worth from it’s cost of production, but I get it…It’s just business and simple economics.
  • Networking At Social Events…I’m an introvert and I hate/suck at small talk, it’s usually so cringeworthy and about the weather and I always feel so stupid afterwards…
  • Retail: When People are Extra Pushy about coupons…especially when it’s only 5 or 10% off. You’re not actually saving all that much unless its at least 25% in my opinion.
  • “The Walking Dead”…I gave the show multiple shots to draw me in, and I just can’t get past the second season. I just can’t get myself to care enough to keep going!
  • Camping…I’m talking the roughing it in a tent with no toilet or running water. Sorry not sorry, I’m a city boy who needs modern technological advances in order to survive. Get at me!
  • Chili…I’ve just never gotten into this food choice, but I can say I’ve tried it and can defs knock it!
  • Sweet Potatoes…Please refer to “Chili” directly above…
  • Amazon…the worst part of capitalism in our society today…I worked at one of the warehouses and can say it’s a nightmare and people are massively underpaid for the richest man in the world…also, how is it okay to be so rich that you DON’T have to pay for taxes?! If anyone agrees with that set up, you’re a part of the problem! Also, hate how psycho people get about that Prime next day delivery.
  • Frosting…And this is coming from someone who has a massive sweet tooth…I’m talking about the typical frosting you find on store-bought cupcakes or regular cake that tastes anything but natural. It’s sickly sweet, and there’s always WAY too much of it.
  • Politics…worth mentioning again.
  • Large Crowds…I’m claustrophobic, and people tend to suck in general.
  • Reality TV Shows…I’m not about to support someone “finding love” on The Bachelor or anything close to Jersey Shore and will wait for their 15 minutes to end already.
  • More to come as time goes on!

Thanks for Reading!

— Nick Goodsell