Mythical Monday: Of Fey Folk and Faerie Dogs by Mae Clair

Whenever spring and summer roll around, I think of mushroom rings, twilight evenings perfumed by honeysuckle, and faeries. Tucked away in a drawer, I have of those Frankenstory WIPs that has been hanging around for decades. Every year I think “this is the year I’m going to pull it out and finish it.” And every year it never happens. :(

The story has been through multiple title changes (it’s presently without one), length modifications, character changes, plot thread rewrites, and just about everything in between. I should abandon the wretched thing, but I can’t seem to walk away from the Fey Folk.  Yes, faeries factor prominently into the plot. It’s part urban fantasy, part horror, and part magical realism. The last one is what draws me in, refusing to let me abandon it. Who knows….maybe the Fey have placed a glamour on it and that’s why it’s still wiggling around in the back of my mind.

One of these days…one of these days I will finish it. Given how odd the story is, I’m sure I’ll have to indie pub it, but that’s okay. It’s one of those books you want to see “out there” just because it resonates with you. Kind of like faeries do.

At least for me.

But did you know there are also tales of a Faerie Dog? This ghostly animal appears mostly as a herald to announce the imminent presence of the Fey. Perhaps the ancient faerie races were too lofty to soil themselves by interacting with humans, but they weren’t above using human tools for their purpose.

A spinning wheel in an old cottageAs an example, there is a brief account I found in The Vanishing People, Fairy Lore and Legends, a book by Katherine Briggs. It speaks of a family who were visited by a Faerie Dog. According to the tale, the family would gather on winter nights in the main room, the mother and daughters working at their spinning wheels. From nowhere, a white dog would appear in the room, a sign the family was about to be visited by the Fey Folk.

Bustling about, the humans ensured a fire burned brightly in the hearth, put out fresh water for their guests, then hurried to bed. Below, in their living quarters, they could hear the faeries moving about, but never saw them. Only the white dog was visible.

The same book tells of another family who neglected to leave water out for the faeries when they arrived to do baking. Since they had no water for their dough, the Fey Folk drew blood from the toe of a servant girl and used it to bake their cakes. The next day the servant girl fell ill and only recovered when she was given a bit of cake left under the thatch.

The faeries in my Frankenstory would probably follow either path. They’re focused on their own pleasures, even at the expense of mortals, but aren’t above helping humans if it suits their fancy.

When I was a kid, I thought of faeries as small, tiny creatures, frivolous and harmless. As I grew older and became familiar with the ancient legends, that opinion changed to reflect a race of majestic beings, sometimes heroic, sometimes selfish, living forever on the cusp of right and wrong.

In Cornwall, the faeries are called the Pagan Dead…not bad enough for Hell, but not good enough for Heaven. What’s your take on these magical beings?

Black Cats Aren’t Just for Halloween by Mae Clair

Back in March, I was tagged by C. S. Boyack to share some info on my current WIP. First—thank you, Craig!—this is a fun tag and I’m sorry it’s taken me this long to respond. Unfortunately, April blitzed by in fast-forward and I never got a chance to play. I’m going to remedy that now.

Before I start, for those of you who don’t know Craig Boyack, hop over to Entertaining Stories when you get a chance. I highly recommend signing up to follow his blog as his posts are always a blast to read! A recent favorite of mine is Of Manuscripts and Mayflies. Read it and you may never look at writing and publishing the same way again.

Okay, onto the goods! The rules say I’m supposed to talk about the first three chapters of my current WIP, and then share a short excerpt. Craig broke the rules and talked about his characters instead. That sets a precedent, so I’m going to break the rules and share my blurb instead (creative people never learned to color between the lines).

FOOD FOR POE is a paranormal romance that takes place over Christmas. And yes, it involves a black cat…because black cats aren’t just for Halloween. As someone who was blessed by a black feline for thirteen cat-happy years, I can vouch they are mysterious and mischievous every day of the year. That’s Onyx in the pic below. He passed away a few years back, but I’ve got great memories of our time together. (Notice how he mangled his “scratchy post” which is to the right of the chair. I was fortunate he didn’t unleash all of that energy on my furniture!).

Black cat looking sleepy  in a comfortable chair

My handsome boy, Onyx

FOOD FOR POE is novella length, and should finish out around 20-22K. I still have to write the closing scene, but plan on publishing the end of November, just in time for the holidays.

Here’s the blurb:
When a blizzard strands Quinn Easterly at a handsome stranger’s house on Christmas Eve, she doesn’t realize her newly adopted cat, Poe, is the catalyst responsible for bringing them together.

Breck Lansing gave up on relationships after his wife left him, unable to cope with their daughter’s illness. But the pretty blonde he rescues from a snowstorm has him rethinking his stance—especially when Quinn’s arrival coincides with a dramatic change in Sophie’s health.

Should he believe an old wives’ tale about black cats, healing, and Christmas magic, or do miracles come with a price?

Together, Breck and Quinn must defeat a sinister creature intent on claiming the ultimate payment.

Warning: A clever black cat, Christmas magic, and paranormal trouble

So there you have it. That’s what all of my writerly attention has been focused on lately. What do you think? Intriguing?

Now that I’ve rattled on for a while, what is your current project?  I know several of you are juggling new releases, so I’m going to resist “officially” tagging anyone, but please consider yourself tagged if you’d like to do a similar post. At the very least, take a moment to tell me about your WIP in the comments. As writers, I imagine each one of us always has at one story on the drawing writing board. What’s yours?

The Where and Why of Vanishing by Mae Clair

Life has been a bit cagey for me lately.  Temporary upheaval on the day job spun a few things around, and I found myself covering a different department until a replacement could be found. I work in real estate and spring is when the housing market explodes. As a result, it’s been chaotic. I normally write my blog posts in the evenings and on weekends, but lately I couldn’t summon the energy to look at a computer after ping-ponging between my job and the temporary one. Fortunately, we now have someone new in that position, and life is spiraling back to a normal axis.

Two of my weekends also got sucked up in a bathroom remodeling project with my husband, and a plethora of yard work. Sadly, this is the first thing I’ve written since March 30th.

Am I whining? Yes!  I’ve missed blogging, I’ve missed visiting characters I’d left languishing in unfinished stories and notes, and I’ve missed making my regular blogosphere rounds. So if I’ve been low-key or completely AWOL from your blog recently, all of that is about to change. My mojo has returned. Huzzah!

And I do have some good things to report from those long weeks of languishing without my muse:

I am two scenes away from finishing a paranormal romance, Christmas novella (how’s that for a genre and a mouthful?) called FOOD FOR POE. Poe was my WIP when March 30th hit and my writing world went whacky. I’m hoping to wrap the story and indie pub it in time for Christmas. It’s a weird combination of Hallmark and folklore with a smidgen of horror tossed in. Not your normal Christmas read. :)

I joined a local critique group and have met some fabulous writers. It’s been years decades since I’ve been part of a local writing group, and I’m enjoying interacting with my peers. Only other writers truly “get” writers. Just to have that connection again is fantastic. The group has also been great in providing feedback on my submissions. Coupled with my two online critique partners, I feel like I’ve got a strong foundation to keep me grounded and on target with my goals.

Statue of my favorite cryptid, the Mothman, in downtown Point Pleasant, West Virginia

Statue of my favorite cryptid, the Mothman, in downtown Point Pleasant, West Virginia

I heard back from my editor regarding A THOUSAND YESTERYEARS, my Mothman mystery/suspense novel. She asked me to tighten up one of my plot threads (which I did) then she gave it her approval. YAY! Step one, down.

The manuscript is now on its way to a senior editor in the house. Because I’m venturing into a new/different genre (very little romance with more emphasis on mystery and suspense) it has to be approved by that editor as well. It will probably be 2-3 months until I get a response, but in the meantime I plan on finishing FOOD FOR POE, then starting on the sequel to Yesteryears—A COLD TOMORROW. I’ve put a ton of work and research into my Point Pleasant Series, and I strongly believe Yesteryears is my best effort to date. Hopefully, Kensington Publishing will feel the same. Wish me luck on that one!

Mythical Monday should be back on track beginning this coming Monday. I’ve got new beastie folklore I’m anxious to share, so look for more creature features from my pen.

I was tagged in a blog post by C. S. Boyack on WIPs and hope to have something up soon. It looks like a fun one, so I’m eager to sit down and draft up something about my projects. Hopefully, Craig won’t’ mind I’ve taken so long to get my act in gear.

Finally, here’s hoping everyone has had an enjoyable and productive three weeks while I’ve been on sabbatical. Missed you guys, and am looking forward to diving back into the blogosphere! :)

Are You a POV Snob? by Mae Clair

I’ve resisted writing this post for a long time because I kept deluding myself into thinking the title didn’t apply to me. But I can’t deny the truth any longer.

Yes, friends, I have shameful confession to make: I am a POV snob.

So, what exactly does this wretched trait imply?

Bald man with glasses and a snobbish expressionI’ve come to realize there is a standard set of guidelines I follow when choosing what to read. At first I wasn’t even aware I was doing it. Then a nasty little light bulb pinged on in my head, and I realized I rarely, if ever, deviate from the selection process below.

Before unveiling that list–and the woeful extent of my snobbery–I offer a heartfelt disclaimer so you don’t think I’m totally reprehensible:  My checklist only applies to authors I do not know personally, or have not previously read.  If you’re reading this blog and you fall into either of those categories, there’s no “checklist” involved.

For new authors, however, I systematically apply the following to determine whether or not I should purchase their novel:

  1. Do I like the genre?
  2. Do I like the cover? (Covers rank highly on my list. Without a snazzy cover, I rarely look further).
  3. Does the blurb intrigue me?
  4. Does the book have good reviews? (A few bad ones won’t deter me, but if most slant that way, I usually pass).
  5. Is the story written in first person POV?

“Yes” answers to the first four questions will have me pretty hyped up by the time I reach number five. I love to read, and by then I’m anticipating a great story because four of my five “must haves” have been met. But—and here’s where the snobbery kicks in—If the answer to number five is “yes,” it kills the whole deal.

POV snob. All. The. Way.

How did this happen, I wonder?  In my younger years I wrote a few shorts, and even a novel in first person, all presently languishing in a drawer somewhere. I’ve even tried to overcome my natural reluctance by purchasing the occasional novel written in first person, breaking my own stringent rules.

Did I enjoy those? Heck, yes!  Granted, they only amount to a handful, but a few rank among my all-time favorites such as The Alienist by Caleb Carr, and Bag of Bones by Stephen King.

Still…by habit, I always seek out novels written in third person narrative. I think it’s because I can sink into the story. I don’t have an “I” narrator relating it to me, so I’m able to become part of scene and connect more easily with the characters.

Many readers (and writers) love first person narrative, thus I am going to make a valiant effort to embrace it. Hence my reluctant revelation, crawling into the light to confess I am a POV snob. In 2015, I hope to slink from my comfort shell and read more books written in first person (we won’t mention present tense narrative. I have to take baby steps :) ).

What about you?  Do you prefer one type of narrative over another? Do you have guidelines you apply when deciding if a book is worthy of your time? Are you—gasp!—a POV snob?

Mae Clair Presents: Editor, Corinne DeMaagd, of Kensington Publishing with a Submission Call and Tips

Stack of typing paper tied up with red ribbon, the word Manuscript in bold across the first pageToday is a special day on The Pen of Mae Clair, as I’ve invited, Corinne DeMaagd, my wonderful editor from Kensington Publishing to drop by to share a few tips about submitting to an editor. The timing was idea, as Corinne had just released a submission call for Lyrical Press, Kensington’s main digital imprint. If you’re finishing up a WIP, or will be in a few months, you may find an ideal fit with one of her acquisition needs below.

Please welcome, Corinne!

~ooOOoo~

Part of my role with Lyrical Press, the main digital imprint of Kensington Publishing Corp, is looking out for new acquisitions.

The good news is this year Lyrical is expanding to take on more than just romance. It is still our main genre, but we are looking to include non-romance titles into our catalog, as well.

As of right now, Kensington are looking for the following for Lyrical:

  • Romantic Suspense
  • Straight Suspense
  • Historical Romance

But saying that, Kensington are open to anything that is awesome. So I’m going to stretch those wants a bit farther. I’d love to also see the following:

  • Young Adult historical romance
  • Young Adult dystopian romance
  • Non-romance Young Adult (and subgenre but no angst please)
  • New Adult – the sexier the better
  • Stories set in non-US locations – from Ireland to the Ukraine to Bangladesh (but please, only stories where the author either has intimate knowledge of these locations or has done some hefty research. I can always tell when a writer is fluffing their setting, and setting is key to good storytelling)
  • Romance with the heroines in a high-stress position such as fighter pilot, helicopter pilot, ship captain, surgeon or nontraditional, male-dominated roles, such as construction, mining, space travel, firefighter, camel trainer – you get the idea. Or maybe even if they just have a quirky position in life that others would find interesting because it’s SO different.
  • Pure fantasy romance. Not UF, but pure worldbuilding fantasy with everything from dragons to warlocks to elves. Higher heat level preferred.
  • Romance that includes current events or problems that we face in our society
  • LGBT but with a strong suspense, thriller or otherwise dynamic plot, not just a characterization plot.

*Please email query, manuscript, and synopsis to: cdemaagd@gmail.com and cc: Martin Biro – mbiro@kensingtonbooks.com

Please allow me a couple months to get back to you, depending on the response from the sub call*

*This Sub Call is good for three months from today.*

Check out the website for info on what Lyrical offers. http://www.kensingtonbooks.com/LYRICALPRESS  

Any book over 60K will be released simultaneously in digital and print!  

Since Mae is one of my roster authors with Kensington, I was happy to pop on by and post my sub call on her blog. You can also see what I am up to at www.cmdediting.com. Mae asked me to mention a few things that I love and hate when I read submissions.

  1. I love a great pace with not too much introspection to bog the story down. Much of what the characters are thinking and feeling can be seen through dialogue and action. There are times where we want a bit of it, but not too much, and never repeat anything that we’ve heard before.
  2. I personally hate action eyes and eyebrows. There’s too much in romance, and in years past, authors have relied heavily on both to relay how a character is feeling. A character has an entire body to express an opinion, and even more so when they use the environment around them. The setting or inanimate objects – anything! So get rid of the furrowed brows and the anguished eyes. Take a seat and observe two people in discussion. Note their actions and see if you can decipher by their body language what they are feeling. How often when you talk to your partner or your kids or your boss or a friend do you recognize what is going on in their eyes and eyebrows?

Happy Writing!
Corinne DeMaagd – Editor

Mae Clair Presents: Donna Cummings on “Who Has Influenced Your Writing?”

She’s back! Please welcome Donna Cummings to my blog. This super friendly and supportive author of “humorously ever after romances” was one of the first friends I made online way back in the twilight years of 2012. It doesn’t seem possible I’ve been at this gig a full two years now (gulp!), but what fun it’s been. Not only have I made great friends, but I’ve discovered a treasure-trove of incredible reads, Donna’s among them.

She’s sharing a post today about the early influences that spur us to pursue writing, but I would be remiss if I didn’t mention her latest releases.  For a fun contemporary romance, be sure to check out FALLIN’ IN LOVE, a flirty novella with a lovable pooch as “matchmaker”, the historical romance boxed set, SWEET SURRENDER, and, finally—LORD WASTREL, a Regency romance that will have you alternately giggling and swooning. I do so love Donna’s “rakes.” :)

And now . . . 

Who Has Influenced Your Writing?
By Donna Cummings

Have you seen Pigpen, the character in the Peanuts cartoon with the permanent cloud of dust around him? That’s me and all the ideas constantly swirling around my brain. (Okay, the cloud of dust is also because I’m too busy writing to do housework.)

At random moments one of those myriad ideas will surge to the front of my brain, and, for some reason I can’t quite figure out, it’s usually when I’m in the kitchen. Maybe it’s a self-defense mechanism, because I rarely accomplish anything worthy in that room of the house, so the ideas may be trying to distract me from setting off the smoke alarm, yet again.

The other day’s random thought was about who had influenced my writing adventure. I discovered there were more than I realized, and for wildly different reasons. So here are some of the most influential:

FIL_medJessica Fletcher
Yes, the grande dame of TV mysteries was a huge influencer. Or, to be more precise, the opening credits where she is typing away at her kitchen table is what made such a lasting impression. Each week I experienced a visceral hit when I saw those typewriter keys flying because that was the job I wanted.

I don’t actually have a kitchen table. I definitely don’t have a manual typewriter. But every time I’m sitting on my couch, tapping away at the laptop keyboard, I’m inwardly smiling, knowing I’m fulfilling the dream that started when I saw good ole Jessica writing her mysteries at home.

Mr. Hanson, my high school English teacher
As a teenager, I was more enthralled with reading than writing, and I only wrote things that were required, like papers and book reports. I felt like I had a certain facility with words, but I wouldn’t have called myself a writer, since only people whose books I was devouring were writers.

Mr. Hanson seemed to recognize, and appreciate, how much I loved words, and he continually encouraged me in his kind, patient, and compassionate way.

Whenever I complained about how much work a project required (often), or how it was way too hard (really often), his response was always this: “Do you know how diamonds are made? Heat, and pressure.”

I have to remind myself of that when I’m in the throes of editing and revising, all-too-ready to admit defeat by throwing the uncooperative WIP onto the coal heap. Because if Mr. Hanson thought I had the potential to be a diamond, way back when, I’ve got to believe it too. No matter what I hear from. . .

SweetSurrender_200My muse Endora
I know many of you have heard me whine about mention Endora. She has a knack for disappearing when I need her assistance, and then returning to sniff disdainfully at what I consider my best work.

She actually started out as my Inner Critic, a position she is well qualified for, only somehow she promoted herself to the position of Muse.

So how has this beastly creature influenced me?

She’s impossible to please, so I’ve quit trying. As a result, I’ve learned to write what I enjoy. Don’t get me wrong. I’ll still bounce things off her–er, I’m talking ideas here, not coffee cups. #seriously #notreally

But she’s helped me realize there will always be different viewpoints on a story, and it’s good to carefully consider all of them. But, in the end, I do what I feel is best for the story I’ve envisioned. And I let Endora do what she does best, which is. . .I’ll have to get back to you on that one.

LW_medMy mom
My mom was an avid reader, and thanks to her, I became one too. My sister, who shares the same DNA, is not a reader, and never will be, which completely puzzles me. (When my sister was born, the nurse brought my mom the wrong baby, but after a few minutes realized her mistake and returned with the right one. Still, I’ve often wondered if that other baby was a reader. . .)

Anywho, when I was growing up, being a writer wasn’t really a viable job option. My mom’s parents were freelance newspaper writers, and it was an unpredictable way to make a living, even though they clearly loved it. My mom was always supportive of everything I did, yet I knew she wouldn’t encourage me to go that route, so I chose a more practical, secure career path. I continued to watch the opening credits of Murder, She Wrote, though, pining for that life, all while reading books about the craft of writing.

When my mother was ill, a few months before she died much too young, I told her I was thinking of taking a writing course. I expected her to say, “that’s nice”, but to my surprise, she said, “I think that would be great“. To my further astonishment, she said several times that weekend, “I really think you should take that course”.

So I did. And I’m convinced she’s glad I did.

So these are just a few of the folks who have influenced me. I’m sure I’ll think of more–the next time I wander into the kitchen with the vague notion of “making something besides a mess”.

Now it’s your turn. Who has influenced your writing?

Welcome Page PhotoBio:
I have worked as an attorney, winery tasting room manager, and retail business owner, but nothing beats the thrill of writing humorously-ever-after romances.

I reside in New England, although I fantasize about spending the rest of my days in a tropical locale, wearing flip flops year-round, or in Regency London, scandalizing the ton.

I can usually be found on Twitter, talking about writing and coffee, and on Facebook, talking about coffee and writing.

Look for Donna at the following haunts:
Website
Blog
Facebook 

Twitter 
Goodreads 

LORD WASTREL
When Aphrodite, the Goddess of Love, plays matchmaker, true love can seem like a curse. . .

Lord Wastrel–the most notorious rake in London–has a child? Clearly he knows how to sire one, but he has no idea how to actually raise one. He has to learn quickly, since he is the little girl’s only surviving parent, and he’s determined to find a wife who can be a suitable mother. All he needs is someone demure, and biddable, and most importantly, scandal-free.

Lady Felicia Selby is no stranger to scandal, thanks to her numerous failed elopements and Society’s insatiable curiosity about her misadventures. She has devoted many years to finding her one true love, desperate to escape the consequences of the family curse if she fails. But she has begun to give up hope.

Then, one evening, a chance encounter with Aphrodite changes everything.

~~99 CENTS FOR A LIMITED TIME!! ~~

Purchase LORD WASTREL from:
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iTunes 
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Mae Clair Presents: Gemma Brocato on Noodle Braining

I’m delighted to have Gemma Brocato as my guest blogger today. You’re going to love this post! Grated cheese, anyone?

~ooOOoo~

I have a noodle brain.

Years ago, I heard a comparison on the difference between a male brain and a female brain. Apparently, a man’s brain is set up as compartments, like a waffle. Each box has walls, and men function almost exclusively within those walls. A woman, on the other hand, has a brain like spaghetti, a lot of individual noodles that touch one another. I got to thinking about this comparison in terms of writers and the difference between a plotter, let’s call this writer a waffle brain, and a pantser, you guessed it, a noodle-noggin.

To me, a plotter lives in one compartment at a time, the focus on the action, goals, motivation and conflict. Each box has room for only one issue, and all the boxes march neatly to a conclusion. When a plotter is writing according to the outline they’ve developed, they are like guys. When they are at work, they are only focused on work, in the kitchen creating, that’s it. When a plotter is focused on a turning point, or the set-up, or whatever, their undivided attention is on the single item.

Let me just say, I have a spaghetti brain. Every noodle on the plate intersects in someway. I can switch from one noodle to the next without missing a beat (not quite Lady and the Tramp, but darn close. I’m a romance writer afterall). Every thought and issue in my story is connected to every other issue in some way. The story flows, without following a logical path.

Being a spaghetti brain allows me to multitask like nobody’s business. Whether it’s in the kitchen, where I can fix a meal, talk on the phone, make a shopping list, jot down a story idea and answer questions from the other occupants of my home, or in the worlds that exist in my mind. I can edit one story, leap over to the next to add words to the page, brainstorm a story concept and create promotional artwork within a very short span of time. And here is the most important part: Things don’t fall through the cracks, I keep the facts straight, and the stories move forward in a logical progression. In other words, the sauce sticks to the noodles. And I do all of this without an outline or storyboard or vision map.

The way I see it, there isn’t a wrong way to write a story. You just have to write it in a way that works for you. And I love spaghetti.

AUTHOR BIO:Gemma Brocato
Gemma’s favorite desk accessories for many years were a circular wooden token, better known as a ’round tuit,’ and a slip of paper from a fortune cookie proclaiming her a lover of words; some day she’d write a book. All it took was a transfer to the United Kingdom, the lovely English springtime, and a huge dose of homesickness to write her first novel. Once it was completed and sent off with a kiss, even the rejections addressed to ‘Dear Author’ were gratifying.

After returning to America, she spent a number of years as a copywriter, dedicating her skills to making insurance and the agents who sell them sound sexy. Eventually, her full-time job as a writer interfered with her desire to be a writer full-time and she left the world of financial products behind to pursue an avocation as a romance author.

Her gamble paid off when she was a 2012 Finalist in the prestigious Golden Pen contest for Romantic Suspense and she received contracts for her first and second book.

CONNECT WITH GEMMA AT THE FOLLOWING HAUNTS:
Website
Blog
Twitter
Facebook
Goodreads 

Gemma Brocato is the author of the FIVE SENSES romance series.
COOKING UP LOVE and HEARTS IN HARMONY are available now, with EXPOSED TO PASSION (coming October 2014) available for pre-order

HIH Cover2HEARTS IN HARMONY BOOK DESCRIPTION:

Sometimes life’s most simple melodies become songs of love.

Pippa Sanders’ life is filled with songs of leaving, longing and loneliness. Since the death of her husband, her children have been her world. She’ll do anything to protect them, including encasing her heart in ice until they’re college age. She’s made a practice of shying away from any relationship that could break her heart when it ends. And it’s worked so far.

Clay Mathers has made a temporary move to Granite Pointe, Massachusetts to help with his mother’s Christmas tree farm while she recovers from a stroke. Although his long-range plans don’t include staying in the small town, a little female companionship during his short residency would be welcome. While on duty as sentry against protestors at a military funeral, he finds Pippa visiting her husband’s grave, and begins a campaign to make her into a friend–with benefits.

What starts as a simple affair evolves to something more, something that changes the soundtracks of both their lives…the beating of two hearts in harmony.

CONTENT WARNING: Contains strong language, hot sex and a spicy hero.

Purchase HEARTS IN HARMONY from:
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iTunes
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