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Who Wrote This? – a review of Aster’s Coda: Exposure by Amy Rosenfeldt

I’m gobsmacked.

I don’t know how, but I found this book lying on my bookshelf and I don’t even remember how it got there. The author’s name was familiar – I don’t remember from what exactly even now – but I was not looking forward to reading certain books on my TBR and decided to pick this one up instead.

What was I thinking?

Abby Tacker is grieving the loss of her mother when her life takes yet another turn. After being rescued from creatures made of smoke, she learns that they are after her because she is being hunted. A curse that has spanned across Three Worlds has targeted her as the next to die in her family’s bloodline unless she can hunt the hunter. But her cowardice leads her running from this problem until it bites her in the butt in the worst way possible.

Reading this book felt like an invasion of privacy. I literally am in the middle of writing a book with characters very similar to these ones. It was basically the backstory of these particular characters and I didn’t even realise. Not to mention that it felt like a mish mash of Men in Black, Shadowhunters, RWBY and Percy Jackson. How could so many shows combine into this?

And the plot was so predictable! I must be a psychic because I could literally tell what would happen next, how every character would react and even how the magic system worked before it was even explained. I have never experienced this with a book before. It’s predictability made it lose all the tension it should’ve had. It makes me so tempted to spoil the whole plot for you guys.

Now let’s get into the worldbuilding, the edgiest worldbuilding you’ve ever seen. The author decided to make up their own creatures – no elves, no dragons – which leaves so much in this world feeling foreign. Why would you do this? People look for familiarity in their fantasy books and this has none of it. I want a world I can connect with, and this isn’t it.

And the worst part is even though this book feels like plagiarism, I can’t sue the author. The author is me.

Aster’s Coda: Exposure gets a score of 5/5. Happy April Fools.

Yours in writing

Amy

Copy of Copy of Character quote

Nate Hallows – Aster’s Coda: Exposure

“You hated yesterday, so shut up next time.”

You could take one look at Nate and discover that he is an asshole. He’s not hiding it. He wants to watch the world burn.

In fact, he’s got a temper. He will lash out at anyone who crosses his path and blow up like a firework. That is most people who would say even the slightest contradictory point. If you’re not the target of his retort, it’s actually kind of funny.

But if you are targeted by Nate, you best watch out. Revenge is a dished best served poisoned, in his eyes. If he has the smallest vendetta against you, he will send it back twice as hard and twice as fast. This doesn’t necessarily make him feared in the school, just known as dangerous. Like the same way you’d normally avoid a spider.

Just as long as you don’t get trapped in his web on your way past him. You could be a pawn in his little games, on his side or his oppositions’ side. In spite of his reckless nature, he is wise enough to know when someone else can do a job for him and he will go at lengths to get this person on his side.

Theme song: Twisted by Missio

Five Facts:

  • Nate will wear a jacket even if it’s too hot for one
  • He was spoiled as a child and likely threw a tantrum a fortnight
  • He is easily spooked
  • It is impossible for him to tan
  • He loves pranks, unless he is the target of one
Copy of Copy of Character quote (1)

Eli Da Ferric – Aster’s Coda: Exposure

“I started to think you were too big of a coward to show your face here.”

Eli is the cold hearted snitch of Beauclark High. His bored expression, only ever replaced by steel-eyed curiosity, makes him ever unapproachable and an enigma

He is the quietest out the his three friends, and the only one who has any piece of common sense in his eyes. Being a friend of his is a feat in of itself, as he never opens up. It takes a mighty social prober to pry anything out of him. Sadly, this mysteriousness is in no ways attractive when you know what he’s done.

He knows how to target your worst insecurities and spread them around like a virus. Is it Eli’s incredible perception, his unwavering insight or his cold way with words that lends him such an advantage? Regardless, the number of kids he’s made cry just from a year at Beauclark is horrifically astonishing.

That being said, he doesn’t hold anything against anyone or hold grudges. The most unsettling thing about his seemingly sinister nature is that he almost never gets angry. It’s a calm like being watched in the middle of the night.

Theme song: Buzzkilll by Mothica

Five Facts:

  • Eli practices meditation regularly
  • He will never resort to violence and is pathetic in a physical fight
  • He was once very studious but is now careless about his ‘insignificant’ grades
  • Most of his wardrobe is grey
  • He is a big fan or horror stories
Copy of Character quote

Kyrie Werman – Aster’s Coda: Exposure

“We don’t have time to hold on. We have to move on.”

Kyrie is an immigrant from Faetos and a total badass. She’s had to lead her sister Jada across continents and through Overlaps, fend off all who threaten their survival.

This incredible fighting prowess lend her in a rather high position amongst a secret otherworldly organisation – the Sub Rosa. This organization aims to keep peace amongst the Three Worlds, but that isn’t Kyrie’s only goal within the ranks. She aims to get a high enough ranking to lead the Sub Rosa.

Most of her friendships come out of her work within this organisation because she knows she will trust her coworkers, and then she will open up to them and call them her friends. This may mean some of these relationships can seem cold but with warmer intentions.

When Abby gets involved in her otherworldly peril, Kyrie is among the first to help her and her allies out. She’s there to offer the training and the nerves of steel they need to finish this blood feud.

Theme song: STFD by TeZATalks

Five Facts:

  • Kyrie is on the asexual spectrum
  • She has little ties to her own culture but is very appreciative of others
  • Her alignment is lawful neutral
  • She wasn’t added to the Aster’s Coda series until the rewrite
  • Kyrie also has the abilities to heal and detect thoughts

Character quote

Abby Tacker – Aster’s Coda: Exposure

“What can I say? Trouble loves me nowadays.”

Branded the nickname Canary from her bright orange hair, Abby Tacker is ever self-defensive. And not just by her position in Soccer – she’s always watching her back.

She’s a soccer-playing history buff with an affinity for her family’s history. She’s been told of it by her mother through bedtime stories, giving her a love of discovering more about her lineage and of battles past. Her family was one of warriors, but Abby is far from one.

Her emotional side has especially revealed itself with a bullying problem at school piling on top of her mother’s unexpected death to start off the year. Talk about tragic. Maybe because she doesn’t expect her life to get any worse, she heads into the start of her final year at Beauclark High School with dreary optimism and the goal to turn her life around.

Though by turn her life around, she didn’t mean to discover that her family is in an otherworldly blood feud. This was a fact withheld from her, never mentioned in her bedtime stories or in regular conversation. This could mean she has inherited some otherworldly abilities too.

Abby struggles to identity who is on her side and her true place in this conflict, but more importantly if she is a good of a fit as the warriors in her ancestry.

Theme song: ANTIHERO by AViVA

Five Facts:

  • Abby originally had green eyes in early drafts
  • She loves to read classical literature
  • Her ideal holiday is at the beach, she loves summer weather
  • Abby is bisexual
  • Her dream job is to become a personal trainer

Character quote

Rocco Tacker-Sanders – Aster’s Coda: Exposure

“The Three Worlds can’t wait for me to be ready.”

He may seem careless and a goofball on the outside, but Rocco has got heart and ingenuity. If you need to find anybody to trust in, he’s one guys you can surely count on.

Though he finished an engineering apprenticeship, he instead took up a babysitting job just to spend more time with his falling apart family after his stepmom died. He does try to find time to tinker in his spare time however, even if it is tinkering with joystick of game controllers. He’s clever when it comes to most things with wires.

But of course, his priorities go far beyond his career. He puts more effort into his social connections than his career connections. This is especially the case for his family. Rocco is willing to have a good time with you AND will go out of his way to better someone else’s wellbeing instead.

However, his ability to do so with his little sister Abby is put to the test as secrets get revealed about his involvement with Abby’s curse. And it’s not something she may be pleased about.

Theme song: Polarize by Twenty One Pilots

Five Facts:

  • Rocco’s original faceclaim was YouTube personality Joe Sugg
  • His fighting style is based of off Yang from RWBY
  • His mum is Maori, but because Rocco doesn’t live with her he doesn’t associate himself with that culture.
  • He has an ever extensive collection of graphic tees
  • Rocco got bitten by a snake when he was 12

Copy of Copy of Character quote

Jada Werdeau – Aster’s Coda: Exposure

“After all, nobody can truly lie to me.”

While Jada resides from Faetos, Jada doesn’t remember much of it. She had to flee from it with her big sister Jada due to a conflict that broke out from back home.

That, however, has never defined her, as she has made a fresh start with her life since them. She’s spent most of her recent years acquiring a normal life on Earth, which she’s managed to fit into pretty well. She’s got a spot on the under 18 girls soccer team and is an ever studious student at Clinkard’s Girls Grammar School.

Her personality is as bright as her blue skin and hair. She’s the cinnamon roll of the series for sure, very bubbly and chipper to most people she meets. She’s quiet yet outgoing, looking to make friends with whomever she can and develop a connection with them.

I say most people because she’s scarily good at reading them and will be among the first to call out anybody she doesn’t trust. Her insight has even scared off some friends, but that just means she keeps those who are truly close to her.

Maybe it’s her otherworldly home calling to her or the monotony of school life, but Jada wants something more out of her existence. She dreams of fantasies where she uses her inherent sorcery to make the Three Worlds a better place. Sadly, people don’t give 15 year old girls many opportunities to spread their wings.

Theme song: Lunchbox Friends by Melanie Martinez

Five Facts:

  • Jada’s fighting style is based of the Bladesinger wizard subclass in 5e D&D
  • The tattoos on her head are a cultural tradition, abandoned since she left home
  • She loves to wear skirts
  • Jada used to also do gymnastics but gave it up in High School
  • She hates the cold

Character quote (1)

Geoff Latu – Aster’s Coda: Exposure

“Better to put the burden to something good.”

Geoff Latu is the one person in the whole of Beauclark High School you’d least want to cross. If his stature wasn’t enough to intimidate you, maybe his dark-eyed stare or his seemingly stagnant frown will drive you out of his path.

Many rumours about him have circled around the school grounds as time after time he gets suspended. He’s been expelled from at least two high schools prior, he broke out of Juvie, the only reason he hasn’t been expelled from Beauclark is because his family is paying the school big money…

His closed nature doesn’t help with determining which ones are right. He’s very slow to trust, but very few have given him that virtue at Beauclark High anyway aside from his closest friends Nate and Eli.

But there’s more to him than he lets on. Music helps him cope with his internal struggles. He’s long wanted to do songwriting and music production as a side gig, ever since he join his church’s choir.

And he has a sense of nobility about his actions. Though how, considering he gets into a fight every two months, I’m not sure. Still, he claims that he won’t fight just anybody. He has reasons that he gets provoked, particularly if his insecurities are targeted.

Theme song: Fairly Local by Twenty One Pilots

Five Facts:

  • Geoff plays the guitar
  • He is the middle child of a single mother and never met his father
  • His fighting style is loosely based of the 5e Barbarian class
  • Geoff is Samoan
  • He loves reggae music
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The Magic System of Aster’s Coda

One of my favourite tropes of all time is magic connected to emotion, especially when it’s rage induced. So yes, I am a big fan of the Wild Magic Barbarian in 5e. This trope is also seen in RWBY and Brigid Kemmerer’s Elementals series. Comment any other media you’ve spotted this trope in!

If you commented my book, Aster’s Coda: Exposure, you are a psychic.

Magic, or casting as it is referred to in my series, I find to be reflective of the character wielding the power. I wanted to create a magic system that reflected this, in part inspired by how magic works in Dungeons and Dragons. I have characters based off of Sorcerers, Druids and Wizards in my novel, just to name a few. Additionally, with my novel taking place between Three Worlds I wanted the magic between each world to have a particular distinctness while still being versatile.

Let’s explore.

Each caster has a particular source or domain from which they get their power from, and while it seems to limit what they can do it leaves room for the magic to be more versatile in each domain. Across the Three Worlds power can be drawn from the elements, nature, sources from energy and even cosmic concepts. The integration between the Three Worlds has even enabled variations and amalgamations on casting.

Let’s start with Faetos. The main power to come from this world is Myst, pure energy which has enabled the Three Worlds to connect in a chain. Casters from here use sorcery, which is defined by being born with the ability to cast in a certain domain and harnessing inner power to put their source to use. Because of this, casting a spell too powerful can be taxing on the user and injury can further weaken the strength of their power. Sorcery is the most malleable casting type and users can forge exact effects from their energy, but the domains they control are typically limited. It is rare in Faetos to not be born with sorcery abilities, but it is mainly used in mundane and daily life. Pure casters usually require many years study of their own abilities and would typically only use their casting in battle.

Corryn is different. They use derivation, which involves drawing power from an external source, most commonly nature. While in proximity of their domain, be it water or the earth, they can control or absorb the element for their use when casting. Similar to the use of spell slots in D&D, this power is expended like pouring water from a bucket. Any derivation caster can store the same amount of energy, but inexperienced casters expelled their power far more inefficiently. Casting in Corryn is typically dependent on the species, but those who can’t cast have the ability to wield Powerstones, which work in a similar fashion and can cast force, necrotic, radiant, lightning and psychic damage. Derivation users can also draw energy from powerstones.

That leaves Earth. Nobody native to Earth is born with the ability to cast, but connections to the Three Worlds have left many deities interested in the lives of people on Earth. Therefore, the only way to cast if you’re human is through bargaining. Deals can be made through deities, malevolent and benevolent, to gain the ability to cast based on the domain of the deity. Similarly to derivation, their power is also a well but it can grow with the bond to a deity. Still, few humans have gotten the ability to bargain for magic. Less than 0.5% of Earth’s population have had the chance. However, bargaining is also of interest to Faetos and Corryn for either the power hungry or those in service of deities specific to those realms.

Woah, bit of an info dump, but more will come to light when reading Exposure and the rest of the series. Check it out next week when it releases, and be sure to pop into the livestream on July 22nd!

Yours in writing

Amy

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Free Snippet of Aster’s Coda: Exposure!

It’s release month! Woohoo!

Because you guys are eager, and if not, then this will get you, I have now got a free snippet available for you to check out here! In these chapters, we get introduced to Abby Tacker, Beauclark high and a few more key characters twisting around the fingers of her fate.

Once you’re done, you can go here to preorder a copy – now in paperback too! It comes out July 22nd!

Want to join the hype on release day? At noon NZT – that’s 8pm EST or 5pm PST – I’m doing a release day livestream! We got an hour of chatting, games and more in honour of my book baby!

Hope to see you there

Yours in writing

Amy

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Rotorua – the Setting of Aster’s Coda: Exposure

People underestimate the power and importance of a setting within a novel, film or any story. Most people think it is just a backdrop for a story to be set upon, a stage to perform on. I digress.

You won’t be able to tell a story the same when it is set elsewhere. The backdrop may be quiet, but it speaks volumes when you ask about it.

And the main setting of my novel coming out in 3 weeks, Aster’s Coda: Exposure, I found to be subtly crucial in the way I told my tale.

I wanted my novel to be set close to home, partly because literally every contemporary and urban fantasy takes place in America and I didn’t want that. But I wasn’t going to use my hometown in spite of my ties to South Auckland. I found a location I liked much more and made much more significant to the story of Abby Tacker.

Rotorua. Located in the middle of New Zealand’s North Island, it is a total tourist hotspot. I’ve visited there three times and always want to go back. If only my bank account would give me a break…

There were three key things that made me chose Rotorua over some other place in New Zealand or even the world; culture, nature and adventure. Funny enough, they are three roots to the Aster’s Coda series. Let’s explore that, shall we?

Culture

As I said in last week’s post, culture and diversity is one of the many things I always consider writing and building my worlds around. I love books that take place in new societies, unexplored or underrepresented cultures as inspiration for fantasy settings. I grew up surrounded by many cultures, so it is only fair I represent them in my works.

And I don’t think anywhere in New Zealand features its culture better than Rotorua. Two of the three times I went there I visited sites showcasing the rich culture of our natives, the Maori people. These sites were villages of days past and ones that still exist today, like Whakarewarewa. It gives an insight and educational experience into the culture of the local iwi (tribes) and significances of their many customs. My personal favourite has always been going inside their local Marae via karakia, that moment alone always gives me chills.

So how does this translate to Exposure? Not in a very explicit way, but some of these cultural aspects are evident. Beauclark High, the fictional school my main character goes to, features a diverse and culturally rich makeup of students. Additionally, themes present in Maori culture are evident in my novel, including genealogy, power and prestige.

Nature

Nature speaks volumes about how a world may look to me. Much can be said about a location simply describing how the trees look. Weather is a particularly underrated aspect of storytelling here.

Rotorua’s nature is almost otherworldly in of itself, most defined by the smell the moment you enter the region – the smell of mud and sulphur. Rotorua is the geothermal hotspot of New Zealand, with a big tourist attraction being the hot mud pools and geysers. I wouldn’t recommend getting close to any of them, some people have died by falling into the mud pools. Spas have made use of this location with the mineral streams too. Another place equally out of a fantasy world is their Redwood forest. I remember first stepping into there and instantly feeling like I had stepped into a high fantasy world.

Nature is key to the surroundings of the world and the casting that people in the Three Worlds do – being beautiful, natural and yet volatile.

Adventure

Adventure and action is a frequently used trope or subgenre in fantasy books, like in mine. High octane fights and bloodshed await!

Well, not quite in Rotorua. I’m not even a thrill seeker myself, but I know that Rotorua is one place you can get some action. Bush walks, a luge track, zorb balls… and this is just to name the more common! There’s plenty to do indoors and out to get your blood pumping!

And with all the highly regarded fights present in my novel, need I say more?

So maybe once this lockdown is over, this can be one place you can visit! See if you can spot locations mentioned in my novel!

Yours in writing

Amy

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Diversity & Aster’s Coda: Exposure

You may be wondering what a straight white girl has to say about diversity. Frankly, more than you’d expect. I know I have my biases based on the privileges that I hold because of that part of my identity, but I hope to use that to uplift others.

One way is through a diverse cast in Aster’s Coda: Exposure, my debut novel. Let’s see how that came to be.

I grew up in a little corner in the world called South Auckland at a crossroads between three suburbs in the region. It was a newsworthy place for housing crises, criminal cases and COVID community outbreaks – that last part mainly because it houses the New Zealand International Airport. And when my high school met with other schools, the teachers would react differently to us within seconds as soon as we said our school was based in South Auckland. They’d consider us a threat, a blemish amongst the other students attending these events. Most people would want to get out of the area, many other white kids who lived in the area were enrolled in out of zone schools because of a reputation that wasn’t ideal.

And wasn’t entirely true.

Housing crises are happening everywhere. Crime happens regardless of location or class. The rest of Auckland wasn’t exactly a utopia.

But we had something a little different. I’d be willing to be that South Auckland is one of the most diverse communities in the world.

My schooling life alone exemplifies this. White people made up less than a quarter of the population of all my schools I went to in South Auckland. I encountered far more people with roots in Asia, Polynesia and Maori culture. And each of my schools took time to embrace these various cultures and educate us about how even cultures not present at our school lived. There was a strong sense of cultural pride and later rainbow pride when I went to high school.

I didn’t connect to culture like others did in their experiences at school. My mother called it “being a minority”, but that phrasing doesn’t sit well with me. I more so had pride for what others had and the gratefulness that they could express themselves in such a way. I was fine for being “without culture” and an observer of these incredible cultures.

But few saw what I saw outside of that community. Some people feared to set foot in South Auckland while I feel like a fish out of water in a crowd of white people. And that’s all I saw in the media, just another group of white people saving the world, typically lead by a guy.

So I knew when writing Aster’s Coda – the whole series – that I’d present these cultures and people in a contemporary/fantasy setting. I’d present the people, the customs, the settings with inspirations from various cultures to create something fantastic and welcoming for everyone. I’ve got characters from all walks of life and all different societies, some which will be explored within the series.

But I do understand that it is not my place to tell the story of another culture directly. I am in a position of privilege where I haven’t experienced what others have. So while I will not tell the stories of people of colour and queer people, I can hope that my writing can at least bring characters like them into the spotlight.

Did this convince you that my story is worth reading? You can preorder Aster’s Coda: Exposure here!

Yours in writing

Amy

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Behind the Cover of Aster’s Coda: Exposure

With my physical copy having been sent to me (you can check out my reaction here) it was only appropriate for me to share more about it here. Today I’m diving into the inspiration behind my cover and design process.

It should also be worth mentioning that it’s available for preorder now and will release on July 22nd! Learn more about Aster’s Coda: Exposure and preorder it now!

The book cover is the most important part of any book or its release. Nobody has listened to the age old saying “Don’t judge a book by its cover” because today it doesn’t apply to books. It is a key marketing tool and a key way to portray what is within the pages of your book, your world, your story.

During my time writing this story on Wattpad in its early stages I made my own covers with amateur sketches and word document screenshots. I was totally chasing trends at the time, with magic swirling around sketches of my main character. I’m certain I changed that cover every four months in its lifetime.

But since I published my novel on Wattpad, Exposure has changed a lot. Thus, so did my opinion on what it should look like as a proper book cover.

I instantly knew that I wanted a book cover that was minimalist. No people on the cover – that was my priority as I knew the people would look nothing like my own characters. Frankly, I couldn’t even draw my own characters properly for a while. I was very paranoid about any photo-realistic depictions of my book being incorrect, so I decided that something minimalist and abstract would be the best approach.

My next priorities were with the colour scheme. I had three colours in mind in very specific ways – black background, white font and blue content. I was definitely inspired in part by the covers of Jenna Moreci’s The Savior’s series and similar covers.

But then it came to deciding what the content would be. I knew I wanted lightning, but not as the primary icon. I pitched a few symbols and things to my designer, and she was fond of the symbol you see on the cover now. The three triangles, one outlined and two solid. It becomes a symbol frequently used to represent the Three Worlds and the connection between them. And a little bit more…

But that’s not for me to say, but for you to find out! Preorder my novel now and get ready for release day on July 22nd!

Yours in writing

Amy

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5 Things That Inspired Aster’s Coda

Creativity doesn’t exist in a void, and neither did Aster’s Coda. Here’s what inspired its creation:

Percy Jackson and Heroes of Olympus

Rick Riordan was probably one of the first authors that encouraged me to pursue writing outside of school, for fun.

There was something about his style that just resonated with me as a kid, and my early writing cringely copied his style. And when I finally picked up the Heroes of Olympus series in early high school, I fell in love with his writing all over again.

RWBY

I can’t think of anyone else who does fight scenes like the team behind RWBY.

Their fights are always a real excitement to watch (minus Volume 5…) because they combine nearly everything that is needed to make a fight stand out! Each character has different weapons, fighting styles and powers to supplement their prowess. The environment is just as pivotal to the battle as the people in it. And of course, a banging soundtrack to pair it to, narrative stakes and hitting emotional beats in breathers. What more could you want?

Twenty One Pilots

If Aster’s Coda became a movie or TV franchise, I’d want Twenty One Pilots to write the score for it.

Initially writing Exposure, I found almost every song by the band correlated to a scene throughout the novel. Of course, I found many more artists who could apply better, but Twenty One Pilots started this off and still have songs applying to scenes!

I don’t know if this is spoiler territory or not, but Fairly Local is the theme song for Geoff and Doubt is the song I pair up with the “darkest hour” scene. This is some examples in book one alone, and the way some of these lyrics relate to my characters is insanity.

Dungeons and Dragons

This was more of an influence that came up in my edits, but an inspiration nonetheless.

Hey, that was a D&D pun.

D&D really helped me reiterate the fighting styles and the roles each character has when they fight. While I don’t roll for initiative when I write fight scenes, it is great to know what each person’s capabilities are when comparing them to D&D classes.

Let’s take the character Jada. I’m writing a fight scene for her in the sequel, and D&D helped me flesh out her abilities well. Her D&D class would be a Wizard, with the Bladesinger as her subclass. While magic is her main feature when it comes to her abilities, those can still be used to help her fight. For instance, with a revamped version of a Shadow Blade spell.

See what classes you think my other characters are when it’s time to read my book.

Iron Man

Though it has since developed far from being an Iron Man knock off, this is where the origins of Aster’s Coda began. I wasn’t actively paying attention to it at the time when I was 12, but I did wonder why there weren’t female heroes shown in the same way as Iron Man.

And so Abby was born a cyborg! But much has changed since then. She and I have grown with our writing styles and developed something truly wonderful. The start of something unlike any of these things that inspired my novel combined.

Hope this inspired you to pick up a copy of Exposure this July! Learn more here!

Yours in writing

Amy