Barbed Wire Kiss

This jagged smile she plays for fun

An indelicate balance tilted in her favour

Such an exact science, applied and described

Crimson painted, plum or sea blue

It matters not

Styled for the moment, smudged with a wave

Exposed is an exposure kindly received

Works both ways she says

And I believe her because she’s grinning

It can only be glee, can’t it?

Trap set, locked and straining

The night vibrates with palpable anticipation

She closes. We close. They close

The next stage of a plan planted

Grown in a place where the sun don’t shine

Tended with steel wool and polish

Scrubbed to angelic perfection

Just awaiting the clack of horizontal gates closed

Where glinting blinds

So eyes are closed

The chink of twinned metal resonates through my spine

Pull away, but I can’t

Free yourself, but I won’t

And she has me, as she’s had those many others

Those tin soldiers, smelted and melted

Reduced to puddles of oozing goop

Sucked through barbed wire lips

With a straw for a tongue

I’ve lost. She’s won. All over

But the night is long and I own pliers

So perhaps I’ll try again tomorrow

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August Author Update

August! Really?

Another month has come around the summer almost lost. The prospect of cooler days and darkening nights only entices me further into a world of typed words. A bit of snow is now less of a dream.

I have had a busy couple of months applying dramatic touches to Nimbus — The Theatre of the Moon: Book 1. Coupled with a rewrite of my first foray into novel work, The Snow Lily, which is progressing nicely, I’ve had a lot on my plate. I’m glad to have. There is nothing gives me greater pleasure than writing and I’m doing it all day long, so who am I to complain.

I read somewhere that paperback books are now reasserting themselves over ebooks, which was good to hear. You can’t beat the smell and feel of a good book, luxuriating over its details, deliberating over how it will end at the turn of every page. Perhaps the world isn’t completely digital just yet.

On a different note, (for those of you who are aspiring to write but don’t know where to start,) here are two writing sites/applications I have recently stumbled across. I can’t vouch for either, but they’re free, so it might help you in checking them out. Here are the links.

Penstra

MyStory

I hope the above are of some use.

As regards the next few months? Well, it’ll be a steady balance between hard editing, rewriting and new work. Much as I would love to have a steady line of books appearing on the shelves, I have a gut feeling I’m going to give birth to two or three at once!

Onwards and upwards.

Richard

Richard M. Ankers

Author of The Eternals Series

How to Step out of the Dark

How to Step out of the Dark

A Writer’s Guide to Creative Self-Expression

As first published on Medium. Please feel free to join me there.

Writing is by its nature a solitary affair. Although we may duet on a poem, seek advice on this fact or that, in essence, we sit, write and publish on our own. Other people walk by our windows, peer in at our small, homemade offices, favourite seats and coffee mugs, shake their heads with pity at our flickering candles and laptop screens and wander away. Yes, writing is a lonesome trade, and it’s just how we like it. It’s the others that don’t understand, not us that’s strange.

For most writers, the hours typing on a keyboard are the best hours of our lives. We love the act of creation, be it in the thinking, or transferring said thoughts to paper, so to speak. There’s no effort to being alone because being alone is what we crave: time to think; time to reflect; time to unravel the worlds that others will tread. We impart our ideas to books, short stories and poems, lean back in our chairs and then think: what now?

For the introverted writer, the next stage of creation is the hardest. There are so many places to send work, so many ways to publish and we’re too scared to use any of them. At least, most are and I include my past self in this. So, what do we do?

The first thing is to not stop. No matter how scary the great, wide world appears, we should never stop doing what we love. Writing out our hearts gives us the same freedom that others find in sport, communal drinking, and social networking. And it is this latter item that can help a writer most.

Hiding behind a computer screen is much easier than hiding behind a book and not just because people cannot see your feet and hair — if you’ve got some. A computer gives us access to the world beyond our windows in privacy. And I assure you, the people out there really do want to read what we’ve written. There are so many great ways to find readers, magazines and publishers out there and just from asking/typing the right questions. We can all do that when no one is watching.

Below is a list of the most active and easiest Social Networks to scan and glean information from:

  1. Twitter
  2. Medium
  3. Facebook
  4. Instagram
  5. Google Plus
  6. Pinterest

All the above can furnish a novice or accomplished writer with great information. Type for example ‘UK/US Publishers’ into a Facebook search or Twitter and you will be amazed at what is revealed. Type ‘Literary Magazines’ into Medium and you’ll be furnished with lots of ‘in-house’ publications to try your hand with. Type ‘Writer’s Resources’ into Pinterest and it will knock your socks off. Then see if you like the look of what they have to offer. Do they sound like your cup of tea? Do they look good? There’s even a chance you’ll already know by association someone that writes for them. Just try those searches and different connotations of the same questions — they invariably yield contrasting results.

Then comes the hardest thing sending your precious work out. The worries begin. What happens if they don’t like it? What happens if they think I’m rubbish? And the list goes on. Think of it this way and it might help. When I first started submitting work, I was very nervous. My self-confidence was low. I then saw an article backed up by several quality Online Magazines that said this: only three percent of all submissions are accepted. Argggghhh!!!!

You could go ‘OH NO!’ and never submit so much as a haiku. But I looked at it rather differently and it was a great help. I said to myself that I should not worry in the least until a piece of work had been returned to me ninety-seven times. Only after that was I a failure and even then only due to someone else’s opinion. But I’ve never had a piece of work rejected more than six times as it happens. So what a fool I would have been to have given up. You should never give up if you are doing what you love.

In conclusion, I say the following. Enjoy writing what you want, how you want, where you want. When you’ve finished, don’t be scared. I’d be surprised if you aren’t a member of at least one of the social networks above — you’re probably reading this on one of them right now. Use them. Plunder them. Take advantage of the world that is only a keystroke away. No more hiding in the dark when you’ve such wonderful lights to shine for others.

Thank you for reading

Richard

Richard M. Ankers

Author of The Eternals Series

The Eternals

Hunter Hunted

Into Eternity (Soon!)

Under My Skin

Like the north wind in winter,

She chilled as she killed.

Like a summer deluge

Driven into naked flesh,

The heat precluding all but

Necessary attire,

She saturated my soul.

Like an unexpected heatwave

When wool was what you’d worn,

She sweated from every pore.

Whatever the conditions,

Whenever she fancied,

She got right under my skin,

And I loved it.

15 Free Tools For Cash-strapped Creatives

15 Free Tools For Cash-strapped Creatives

Being creative doesn’t have to cost a thing.

This is my latest post on Medium. Please feel free to join me there. I hope this list is of help to you all.

BLOGGING

I thought we might as well start with those platforms that have given so many people a voice on the internet. Blogging can offer community, pride to those who thought they’d never be heard, and perhaps most of all, place. Yet despite being the gateway to technology to those who have never experienced it, the big blogging platforms still remain free.

Medium (Multiple Platforms) For those who like a clean, quiet and thoughtful place to write.

WordPress.com (Multiple Platforms) The original noisy neighbour, WordPress powers most of the internet, and although harder to use than some, still remains accessible and highly customisable.

Blogger (Web) Google owns and administrates this platform. Easy to use and powered by internet royalty, Blogger is often the introduction to the world beyond our window.

Browsing the Internet

I think three browser recommendations is more than enough. All are free. All are very good, to lesser and greater degrees. And perhaps most of all these days, each can be made as safe as possible.

Google Chrome (Multiple Platforms)

Firefox (Multiple Platforms)

Opera (Multiple Platforms)

Organisation

WorkFlowy (Multiple Platforms) WorkFlowy is a place to write your thoughts, prep, or organise a whole project. Exceptionally easy to use, although let down a little by its mobile apps, WorkFlowy can soon become the go to place for creatives. Highly Recommended.

The Outliner of Giants (Web) To those familiar with using templates, this outliner will be a dream. Again, easy to use and available in any browser.

Google Keep (Multiple Platforms) Google Keep is a notebook, place for reminders, and a generally bright and visual place to store notes. A highly underrated part of the Google portfolio, you’ll be surprised by this one.

Information Capture

Pocket (Multiple Platforms) If you’ve ever wanted to stash, store, or explore information you find whilst browsing the net or even other apps, Pocket provides that place. Available as an app, extension and any number of other ways, Pocket is superb.

Instapaper (Multiple Platforms) As above, but more text orientated. Instapaper provides a good place to read those things you might not have had time for initially. Highly recommended.

Images

There is much beauty on the internet but it tends to be scattered around. Here are some wonderful sites that you might like to spend an hour or three perusing.

Pinterest (Multiple Platforms) Many peoples’ favourite image site. Pinterest has everything from photos to art and more. Beautiful in presentation and with the offer of community, a popular and easy to use wonder.

Deviant Art (Multiple Platforms) Deviant Art offers predominantly art of a fantasy nature although they would say far more. Some of the illustrations on there are breathtaking.

Pixabay (Multiple Platforms) Photography based, Pixabay offers free imagery to all and what staggering imagery it is.

Writing

There are many places to write without ever downloading a thing even though you could. Here are a few of the more reputable offerings.

Google Docs (Multiple Platforms) The premier online word processor that is now also available almost everywhere. Good for all types of writing it is hard to find any fault with Google Docs.

Celtx (Multiple Platforms) For the budding screenwriter. Celtx won’t be much good to anyone other than the next James Cameron, but if you are, knock yourself out.

LibreOffice (Multiple Platforms) For those who can’t afford Microsoft’s offerings, (which is a lot these days). Beloved of those who use it, LibreOffice is a great free option.

Hemingway (Web) A place to write and have that writing checked, this site offers something a little bit different. Well worth trying, and truly beneficial.

Often the only thing standing between us and our dreams is a little help. I hope some of the above websites and applications can offer just that.

Please note: As far as I am aware, all the above are either free or offer free structuring at the time of writing.

Thank you for reading

Richard

Richard M. Ankers / Author of The Eternals Series

The Eternals

Hunter Hunted

Into Eternity (Very Soon!)

Outlining Tips & Story Structuring

Outlining Tips & Story Structuring

Each To Their Own

This is my latest post to aid aspiring writers on my Medium site. I hope you find it useful.

Every writer has their own unique way of structuring/preparing for their next novel. Some people go into great detail mapping every minutiae from basics like character eye colour to what that individual did fifty years before the story was even being told. Others, usually equipped with greater memories or such speed of storytelling they’ve written the thing without having time to forget details, never touch a book plan in their lives. These methods are politely known as planning or pantsing, (flying by the seat of your pants). I fall more into the latter category but do try to take pertinent notes en route. Either way, I say each to their own.

If you are a planner, the only thing required is a good notebook and pen, or a digital notes/outlining program. If you are a pantser, all you need is some peace and quiet in which to write.

There are, however, a few tricks to help with either method and a few good pieces of software too. I hope the two following lists are some help on both scores. Note: I have omitted some of the big boys like Microsoft Word and Scrivener from this post. The reason for this, is I for one don’t like clutter. I often find having relevant information outside of the application you’re writing on frees your mind when using it. This is a personal thing, but it is true for me.

Tips

  1. Recurring Characters. I write hundreds of short stories ranging from about fifty to five-thousand words. I enjoy them. But I have found that incorporating recurring characters into short stories, set free from the confines of their individual novels, can really give you as the writer a taste for that person. You may never use the story: does it matter if you enjoyed writing it? You may really like it and wish to send it out on submission: just change the characters names so they don’t interfere with any long form work. You may really get your teeth into it and wish to add it into the novel you’re writing: great, good for you! All of these are beneficial.
  2. Names. Sometimes all a book or a character within it needs are appropriate names. The difference between being a ‘WOW!’ character and a ‘MEH!’ character can be the difference between being called Colin or Cornelius. There are hundreds of name reference sites on the internet with pertinent reasons for those names i.e. Oxford Reference. Make use of them. Even knowing why a child is named after an appropriate god/goddess etcetera can assist in a story’s roots and overall believability.
  3. Tags. I was introduced to the world of tagging by a friend. They said that if you use software where you can replace putting folders of information all over the place, which inevitably wastes time in wondering how and why you put something somewhere, and replace this with simple tagging i.e. #John, a character’s name, you will never forget it. She was right, too. I always do this now. You never forget a story title or the lead character, but you may well forget why you put work in a folder labelled ‘relevant information’ or ‘miscellaneous’.
  4. Lists. Instead of writing reams of information about whatever, list it. Lists are quick, to the point and easy to read. Even starting details off with a list can help. NB. Many notes applications now include list making facilities just like iA Writer which I’m using now). Just have a go. I think you’ll find it helps.
  5. Ask. Never be afraid to ask someone you trust of their opinion. Don’t stew and ponder for ages on if something works if someone else can take a five minute look at it and give you an immediate thumbs up or down. Most people would love to help someone whose writing they enjoy.

As I mentioned earlier, there are some wonderful outlining applications available to assist writers. Here is a personal list of ones I have used and can recommend.

Outlining Applications

iThoughtsX

iThoughtsX is a multi-platform outlining application. One of the crème de la crème pieces of software in this category, you can do everything from full-scale mind maps to notes, to ToDo lists, and so much more besides. There is a learning curve, but when the software has been around as long as this one, you know you’ve time to master it.

OmniOutliner

OmniOutliner is available on Mac and iOS and has a fourteen day free trial. It’s hard to list all the capabilities of this outliner — it does so much — so I’d suggest clicking the link and taking a look.

MindNode

MindNode is reminiscent of iThoughtsX. I would suggest it is easier to learn and cleaner in presentation but doesn’t do quite as much. This is not always such a bad thing.

Integrated Notebooks

An often forgotten tool for writers are the integrated notebooks that are preinstalled on computers i.e. Apple Notes and Microsoft OneNote. As well as being very capable notebooks, they often offer indenting, simple formatting and reliable syncing. They are also usually free.

I hope some of the above information is useful to you. Whether you like to plan your way through every scene or just get on with the writing, you will almost certainly end up taking some form of notes on your project. Treat these notes well and they will look after you from ‘pre’ to ‘post’ publication. As always, I wish you well with your writing.

Richard

Richard M. Ankers

Author of The Eternals Series

The Eternals

Hunter Hunted

Into Eternity (Very Soon!)

Writing Practise and Forgetting Your Work


Author’s Note: When I am working on a large project, I will often practise with dummy scenes and similar passages to those I will eventually publish. I find this an ideal way to feel a story out without worrying about it effecting the eventual outcome. The problem is, as with many creatives, your mind is so full of ideas that you prioritise the important ones and forget the rest. A case in point is the following short story. I hate to waste them.
I am collating a steampunk anthology — one of my favourite genres — whose main characters shall then appear in their own books. This along with The Eternals Series, which has just been completed, have monopolised my brain (it’s not big enough to handle too much). Everything else has slipped into a hazy past. So, I thought I’d share the following story here so people can see the sorts of things that often get forgotten, bypassed or dumped without even realising they’ve disappeared. This turned up in my hunting out another story that I’ve misplaced (yes, I am that bad). I genuinely hope you enjoy it.

PS. My Advice: Take more care of your writing than I do mine.

The Tinkerer


An irreconcilable truth, yet, nevertheless a truth, we were meant to die, not last forever. Eternity was meant for gods and monsters, myths and legends, dreams and imagination, never for the ordinary and undeserving. We were supposed to live our lives, make foolish mistakes, garner regrets and memories to be passed down through the generations like water to the sea. Yes, we were meant to pool in that oceanic basin called life, but never stagnate. We were meant for better things but never on Earth.

Modifications, they called them, modular adjustments, augmentations of self. The supposition was that a world without death might become a world without fear and therefore one without any desire for war. The warring nations of our planet would come together under one banner, Victoria’s banner, and peace would settle like the first winter snows carpeting the world in gentle sleep. Peace was an enviable utopia if it were the truth, but eternal life, mortality if you will, could not have been farther from that truth. I knew for I fabricated the lie.

I was an inventor, not a scientist, nor even a man of particular cranial might. My skills, for what they were worth, were formed in those steam powered machines that encircled the globe, and in particular Great Britain because she who must be obeyed — otherwise known as Queen Victoria — commanded it. The youthful me’s methods were formed from cogs and steam under the ever watchful eyes of such engineering stalwarts as Stephenson and later Brunel. If it sounded glamorous, it wasn’t. Filth and smog and oil were my medicines, and I hated taking them. So, I diversified. I tinkered, or so my mother used to say, dabbled with things beyond my ken, things that were better left alone. I left my work and retreated to the basement of my home to be seen less than frequent but more than seldom. Frogs were my speciality, my experiments of choice, as they were plentiful in the streams and ponds abutting our village: frogs in metal frameworks; frogs with extra brains stuffed in their tiny heads; frogs made to be not-frogs. Like a mad professor from a children’s fairytale, I fiddled and jiggled with the fabric of life and never once had a clue what I tampered with.

My parents did not take well to my work, in fact, they hated it. So I took my tinkering elsewhere, left the pile of stone and ivy that constituted my family’s legacy, my home, and ran away for good. I had no desire to have scorn heaped upon me at every turn, who would? Instead, I sought the quiet surroundings of nature, rural comforts, one might have said. I found them, too. Nestled away in a small corner of Yorkshire where a good horse was a greater prize than any of those new-fangled automobiles, I settled into endless days of adjustments.

I grew so good at what I did in those formative years, in my improving, that the local farmers actively fetched their livestock to be remodelled. Can you believe it? To me! I sewed extra udders here and there, grafted a pair of extra legs to this or that animal, increased a sheep’s wool capacity to that of a seeding dandelion. All knew my work by the white clouds of precious wool which lifted from said oves with the ease of blowing seeds from the dead flowers they resembled. There was no limit to my refabrications. I even crossed a pig with a Zeppelin to make it easier to move. Not bad, eh? Not good, either! I should’ve sewn up their behinds before allowing them the freedom of the skies, tethered or otherwise. Life was good. Life was easy.

My fame grew in proportion to the experiments I perpetrated. I say perpetrated because they should never have taken place. My mother had called me evil — I was not evil, I was good — but I began to see why she’d claimed it. A Mister Samuel Rothbarton, an owner of several Bradford Mills and a small island in the Caribbean, had acquired enough of a fortune to prize me from my arboreal bordered land to one of stone and brick. He refused to die and wished for me to prevent it. “I am not a commoner and shall not die like one!” he’d proclaimed. I almost believed him, too.

I had never considered the process of immortality in my tinkerer’s remit. Honestly, I hadn’t! You must believe that. However, I must confess it appealed to my bravado, my showmanship one might have said, to see if I might have managed it. I did. It wasn’t even hard. A few organs replaced, limbs adjusted, all with gears and clockwork minutiae, more than did the trick. In fact, Mister Rothbarton became more of a grandfather clock than the actual clock I’d stolen his parts from. He did not care. The cancer that had plagued him had no hold over metal, his gout ineffectual on an articulated leg. He showered me with all the money I could ever have dreamed of and never required. But like all greedy humans, once garnered, I wished for more.

I advertised myself as a man of miracles, augmenter extraordinaire. The population at large believed me. Eventually, so did our Queen.

Her Majesty Queen Victoria regarded me through heavy-lidded eyes, old eyes, and passed me a sheet of paper that merely said, I wish to be Immortal. She did not speak, not a word, and neither did her advisors. I nodded my acquiescence and was then dismissed to a small workshop adjoining the palace stables.

Things might have gone better with Her Majesty’s alterations, much better. However, live she did and would for as long as someone oiled her. I could do little about her exterior appearance, age had withered her, but her beating heart was strong and became stronger. She took to her new form like the bitten to vampirism, ruled with vigour and a literal iron fist. She bounded about the palace on strong-sprung legs like a newly walking toddler. And for a time, her people admired her that way, accepted her for what she’d become, and she accepted them. It did not last.

Victoria first pitied those doomed to die, then grew bored, then raged in spiralling madness at those unlike her, the unaltered. In a moment of sheer frustration, she had them butchered, every last man, woman and child. Not one regular human remained. Not one! Except me, that was, for I faked my metal appendages; I had no desire to last forever.

Her Majesty never allowed me far from her side — just in case, she claimed — but after a time age told upon me. Whereas she and those she’d had me correct thrived, nature took its course on my weak body. I claimed most of it by choice: I whitened my hair because I disliked black; stooped because it made the table closer, and any number of ridiculous lies. Ridiculous or not, she and her underlings believed them. Believed them until my heart attack, that was, but not after.

Victoria had one Ignatius Bumbleswick perform the operation, my one time assistant and general dogsbody. The man who I had always considered a prying fool was in fact an absolute genius. He manipulated my tools with a skill I should never have managed. Like Constable a painting, or Shelley words, Bumbleswick tore me apart and remade me: he made me exceptional.

I did not thank him or his monarch for gifting me renewed life, how could I? I wanted to die. I wanted death more than anything for I knew God would never allow me into the realm of eternal light after what I had done, not unless I remained untainted myself. That had been my hope, anyway. They stole my one chance of a pardon with an ever-present reminder ticking in my chest.

And so I persevered through the changing dynasties of the world, through Victoria’s massacring of everyone except those she wished Bumbleswick and I to maintain. Soon, although it might have been many aeons, one loses time after the first few centuries or so, few remained in a world too spacious to appreciate its worth. We congealed around London like germs a handkerchief as the rest fell into disrepair then ruin. Or so we thought?

They came from overseas. More beasts than men, the evolved and evolving, such a crush of feathers and fur were they that most Victorians — as we still called ourselves — gawped and stared in disbelief of what we witnessed. The beasts neither gawped nor stared, they butchered.

They saved me until last. I saw all fall before me, even Queen Victoria in an explosion of oil and flame, every human I’d augmented, every soul I’d taken. When a cotton wool ball of a creature tottered over to stand before me, I realised the truth. The creatures were the descendants of those I myself had altered. The ghosts of my past had come back to haunt me, my first tinkering experiments had returned tenfold.

Even then, I might have been excused, pardoned the fate of the others. They watched me through great, big eyes with the expectancy of children unwrapping birthday gifts. However, when upon closer scrutiny I scowled upon their unkempt forms, their ugliness, half-smiles turned to full snarls. They had thought me their God, when in truth, I was the Devil. They tore me apart by talon and teeth. I was glad to go.

There was no promised light, not even a candle. I lapsed into darkness like the shutting of a coffin lid on a catatonic man. In darkness I remained, my conscience trapped to tinker in obsidian forever.

The End

As Always

Thank you for reading

Richard M. Ankers

Author of The Eternals Series

The Eternals

Hunter Hunted

Into Eternity (Very Soon!)

 

Genre Writing For You

Genre Writing For You

The Joy of Words

Author’s Note: This is my latest post on Medium. Please feel free to click the link and join me there.

Today, my wife showed me a video clip of a Jack Russell terrier playing with a balloon. The little fellow jumped up and down in sheer unadulterated joy without a care for who watched, who recorded, or who would discuss his outburst. This dog reminded me of why I gave up everything to write: I had to. Just like my canine sensei who had eyes only for that orange balloon drifting through a cerulean sky, I had eyes only for telling stories. A simple reason easily forgotten.

It is easy to lose track of ourselves in a world where we now see everything, know everything — so we think — or, as so many do, follow the crowd. We lose our own identities in the fabric of life that popular thought stitches together. I liken this to Genre Writing; we are stamped with a badge that says author of Fantasy, Horror, Romance or any number of others. In times where companies like Amazon have sub-categories of sub-categories ad infinitum, this is only exacerbated. I say NO!

What can we do about it?

Well, we can buckle to pressure and repeat ourselves for the rest of our writing lives, or, and here’s the thing, we can use the skills we develop every time we tap on that keyboard or write in that pad to twist things to suit. This takes me back to that lively Jack Russell terrier.

Perspectives

Fantasy: If I’d told you I’d seen a dragon jumping up and down trying to catch a ballon, you would have thought very differently about this post — mainly that I was mad, but that’s beside the point.

Humour: If I’d told you I’d seen a Jack Russell jumping up and down in a snazzy pirate’s outfit whilst balancing a bone on his nose and trying to pop a balloon, you would have thought — Aww, little rascal! If you didn’t, what kind of monster are you?

Science Fiction: If I’d told you I’d seen a Jack Russell terrier jump up after a kid’s balloon, vanish, then reappear inside it, you’d have thought — Wow!

Horror: If I’d told you I’d seen a Jack Russell terrier jump up after a ballon that lurched instead for him and swallowed him whole, you might have felt sad or scared.

I could go on, but I think you get the gist.

Conclusion

There are many ways to write up the most mundane of events. It is up to the author to choose what words to use and how to place them to both satisfy himself and in so doing, his readers. A wordsmith should never tire of writing if they’re provided with limitless ways of doing so — YOUR WRITING IS LIMITLESS!

Like that little dog jumping on the grass with eyes only for a balloon, you, too, can play and skip and jump your way to success and be happy doing it. Stay strong. Stay creative.

Thank you for reading

Richard

Richard M. Ankers

Author of The Eternals Series

The Eternals

Hunter Hunted

Into Eternity (Very Soon!)