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Hosting Your Own Webcomic

Journal Entry: Sat Jan 10, 2015, 2:42 PM
Joining | Submitting | About Us | Featured Articles | Summer 2012 Contest | Live Sessions

What is Web Hosting

With the previously discussed closure of InkBlazers, there are many authors looking for a new home to move to.  While several are going to Tapastic, there are still some who may want to break free of reliance on communities for their primary source of income, and create their own websites.

Web Hosting is, in a nutshell, a service-based where you get space on someone else's server to display (host) your own website.
When you buy web hosting services from a company, you are essentially buying your own little piece of the Internet.

There are other ways to have a presence on the Internet, but having your own website allows you greater control over how things look and work.

Most paid web hosting offer things such as the following in their packages:
:bulletred: Space for your website*
:bulletred: Access to the website files using FTP
:bulletred: The ability to access your website using a domain name
:bulletred: The ability to utilize scripting languages such as PHP or ASP.NET
:bulletred: Access to SQL-based databases
:bulletred: Access to create email addresses with their packages

*Many webhosts will say that they offer "Unlimited" space or bandwidth, thanks to the way their servers are configured.  In the fine print, most of these hosts actually have a disclaimer stating that their Unlimited Resources Policy applies only to files meant for your website, and not for storing or sharing files that aren't a part of your site.  If you are found in violation of these policies, they may contact you.


:lightbulb: But what does all that mean?

Here's a brief breakdown of some terms and acronyms you might see in use by a webhost:

:bulletred: Domain name - This is the .com/.net/.org address that people use to access your website.  For example: Deviantart.com is the domain name for deviantArt; and if you had a comic, you could have a domain name of myawesomecomic.net.  While a domain name is not required to have hosting, it's VERY helpful to have one for your website.  If you're going for a recognizable way to put yourself out there, it's almost vital.

:bulletred: Linux vs Windows - These are two different operating systems used for Web Hosting. Usually, you don't want to pick your hosting based on the operating system (unless you're looking at a private server), but rather on what is supported in the environment.

:bulletred: Apache vs IIS - These, like the above, are two different web server software options which are very popular.  Apache is what you'll see 99% of the time on a Linux box, and occasionally on a Windows server.  Windows servers often use IIS, which supports the ASP.NET framework.  Both server software options have the ability to run PHP.
IIS is exclusive to Windows, while Apache can run on both operating systems.

:bulletred: PHP - This is a popular scripting language which is used for software like WordPress and Joomla.

:bulletred: ASP (ASP.NET) - ASP is Microsoft's scripting language, which natively runs on Windows server installations with IIS.

:bulletred: SQL Database - This is a family of databases which use a similar architecture and syntax for executing queries.  The two most common types in webhosting are MySQL (commonly run on Linux) and MSSQL (runs on Windows).  Most software will tell you what type of SQL database you need, and usually will provide minimum version requirements.

:bulletred: FTP - File transfer protocol.  This is how you move files between your computer and your website.


Do I want my own website?

What can you do with your own site?  Pretty much anything.  You get to choose the content and appearance, and also are able to decide who can do what (to an extent).

It can be pretty convenient!

On the other hand, you actually have to maintain the website.  If you're running software like WordPress, it's important to periodically check if it's up to-date, like you would for your own computer.  Your webhost will most likely NOT maintain or update your website for you.  (They may update the server, though.)
If you write your own code, it goes almost without saying that you may need to update it periodically as the server is updated.

Google has an article over at their WebMaster Academy which also goes over the pros and cons of having your own webspace.

Once you decide if you want your own website, it's time to choose your package and your host.


What kinds of web hosting are there?

There's three main types of hosting out there:

Shared Hosting, Virtual Private Server Hosting, and Dedicated.

Most of these packages come in two flavors: Linux, or Windows.

:bulletgreen: Shared Hosting is where a company charges relatively cheap rates to put a bunch of customers on one server.  It's like the apartments of web hosting.  This is great for websites that don't get a lot of traffic.  Be aware, however, if someone's being a bad "neighbor," it can affect the performance of your site!  Most shared hosting pakcages don't require you to interact with the server, and come with a control panel interface, such as cPanel or the Parallels Panel.

:bulletgreen: Virtual Private Server (VPS) Hosting is like having your own townhouse.  You get more control over the environment, and a lot of space.  Most webhosts won't manage the server itself for you (unless they say they do).  In return, you get the freedom to make changes to your system to do what you want!

:bulletgreen: Dedicated Server hosting is like having your own house.  Depending on the company you go with, you may get to customize your build - though you don't own the hardware.

Other types of hosting you'll see are Cloud hosting, which allows you to pay for resources you use by the hour (or for a longer term, depending on the provider), and colocation, where you send your own server to a datacenter.

Well, that's all fine and dandy, what if I want MacOS For my server?
Work that out with your hosting company, but be aware that MacOS isn't a typical option for hosting.  You'd likely be responsible for the configuration and maintenance of such a system.
...And if you're asking for that, you probably aren't the target audience of this article.


Okay, I have hosting! How do I set up a comic?

Getting into setting up a webcomic might be a little bit out of the scope of this article - but I'll list the two main options below:

1.  Create each page for a comic using HTML & CSS - This is awesome if you want to have full control over the layout of each page.  One comic that does this to great effect is Unsounded (NSFW at times) - where some panels just burst out of the page and into the layout.

2.  Use a Content Management System - This allows you to upload your comic using blogging software, and you usually don't need to worry about code at all.  Using a content management system (CMS) comes with its own pitfalls, however -- so this is something you would need to make sure is up-to-date regularly.  I've listed a few options below:
:bulletblue: WordPress with any of the following:
ComicPress OR Comic Easel
WebComic
Manga+Press

*WordPress comes with its own set of issues, so if you choose to go this route, you may want to look at this quick article: sta.sh/01xeiuxjl5kn

:bulletblue: WebcomicX - This is a C#-based CMS, which requires a Windows-based environment.  By the looks of it, this is best run on an Azure-based cloud server.

:bulletblue: Graffito for Joomla - If you don't want to use WordPress, Joomla might be of use!  Grafitto seems to be best with an older version of Joomla, so tread carefully.

Not yet released but worth a watch:
:bulletblue: Grawlix CMS - Rumor has it that a beta is coming soon!



And So...

That's pretty much it!  Once you get set up, start posting comics and have fun!  Having your own site can be its own reward, so it's definitely worth a shot if you're willing to put in the time and effort!


Happy New Year, and enjoy making comics!

Disclaimer:
This article is intended for informational purposes only, and does not constitute technical support.
You should reach out to the technical support team of the service or software provider you are using with respect to any particular issue you may be experiencing.







InkBlazers Shutdown

Journal Entry: Mon Dec 22, 2014, 11:56 AM
Joining | Submitting | About Us | Featured Articles | Summer 2012 Contest | Live Sessions

The Bad News

It's been a few days since the news came out to the general public: InkBlazers is shutting down.

This is very sad news for many folks, as InkBlazers was the home of tons of comics and their fans, and offered a centralized community for many to participate in.  Several of our own members have been a large part of InkBlazers, so this has been very difficult news for everyone involved!


What does this mean for you?

:bulletred: If you were a member of the InkBlazers community, this means that the site will go dark on February 1, 2015.

I cannot stress this enough -- BACK UP YOUR DATA.  You can do this by downloading any work you want to save, or copying and reposting blogs and other information you want to maintain long-term.

:star::star:There's a fantastic Emergency Exodus handbook by omittchi, which details steps to take for this process.  You can find links to it on Google Docs.


:bulletred: If you weren't a member of InkBlazers, you might see some of your favorite artists relocate their comics, open commissions, or reach out to their readers in other ways.


Alternative Webcomic Hosting Sites

If you were an comicker on InkBlazers before, and you need a new place to host your webcomics, here's a few options for you to evaluate (taken from the Emergency Exodus Handbook).

:bulletorange: Tapastic
Taptastic is a community which allows for creators to be supported by their readers, though individual comic sites have limited customization.  It also has a mobile app which can be used to display your comics as well!
You can learn about Tapastic on their site, and find out a bit more about publishing through their platform at on their Publishing page.

:bulletyellow:SmackJeeves
SmackJeeves is a fairly established fixture in the webcomics community.  It allows for users to customize their sites through HTML and CSS templating.  The front of the community is a bit dated.

:bulletorange: The Duck Webcomics
Formerly DrunkDuck, this community has also been around for a good while.  Like Smackjeeves, you can customize your website.

:bulletyellow: ComicGenesis
Formerly Keenspace (back in the early 2000s), this hosting platform hasn't changed much.  You're able to customize your websites using HTML and CSS, and their own template tags.  While I haven't used it recently, there are parts of their system which are quite dated (such as their comic administration pages).

:bulletorange: ComicFury
While I don't personally know a lot about this site, it's another free comic hosting platform, along the lines of Smackjeeves and The Duck.

:bulletyellow: Amilova
Amilova is a community centered around comics, which also offers the ability to translate comics to other languages.

:bulletorange: Comic Dish
JadineR has some input on ComicDish, and says that the administrator on the site is highly active and works to keep the site functioning well for its users!  You apparently can't completely control the design of your site, but that's not a bad trade off for no ads on your site (unless you choose to put them there).


Hosting Your Own Site

Don't like the options posted above?  You can always build your own website for your comic!  The world of webhosting is vast, and can offer you a lot of opportunities for growth.

When you host your own website, you can build it pretty much any way you please, and design it in any way you want!

A lot of people enjoy using content management systems like WordPress (with the ComicPress theme or Webcomic Plugin) for their websites.

:star:Bear in mind that if you go with independent hosting, you are in full control of what happens on your site.  This means that if you install software like WordPress, you -- not your host (in most cases) -- are responsible for keeping your website up-to-date and secure.


I can't really recommend any webhosts here (as I work in that industry) - but each comes with its own pros and cons.  If you need help choosing, check out the Web Hosting Talk community!

I can give you a quick rundown on the main types of hosting so you have an idea what to look for!

:bulletgreen: Shared Hosting
Shared hosting is usually a very cheap option.  It's great if you have a small site and are just starting out, and don't want to tinker with the server itself.
Many webhosts offer Linux-based hosting with a control panel (such as cPanel or Plesk) - so you usually won't work with the server directly.
Keep in mind that a shared environment isn't really suitable if you want to run a huge webcomic site, and expect a lot of readers -- you'll end up running out of resources to run your site!
:star: For most folks coming from Inkblazers, this may be the best option to explore!

:bulletwhite: VPS/Dedicated Hosting
VPS and Dedicated servers offer you your own environment to control.  Unlike shared hosting, you usually are in complete control (unless you pay for Managed Hosting -- where someone handles that for you), and are expected to know how to work with your own environment.  This is really good if you intend to build your own webcomic community, or get a LOT of traffic.

:bulletgreen: Cloud Hosting
Cloud Hosting often offers you something similar to VPS or Dedicated hosting -- where you have your own environment to work off of.  Unlike other hosting types, however, Cloud Hosting is often readily expansible, so you can add resources to your server as you need.  Many cloud hosts offer you the ability to pay by the hour for resources you are using.


Networking / Advertising

If most of your promotion came through InkBlazers, it's time to find a new platform.  The previously listed webcomics communities can be really great for making friends and getting recognition through that environment, but you may find that you need to reach out to your potential fans in other ways.

The Big Networks
Pretty much everyone has an account on at least one of these platforms, so you can use these areas to your advantage to gain more readers.  I'm no marketing expert, but if you haven't already, start a a place where your fans can spread the love!

:bulletblue: Tumblr

:bulletwhite: Twitter

:bulletblue: Facebook

Art Communities
Some of these communities are dedicated to one thing:  Art.  They're great for gaining fans -- and some of these, you may already be well aware of.

:bulletblue: deviantART

:bulletwhite: Pixiv

Webcomic Collectives
These types of sites often offer some linking between the comics in the collective, though you may have to apply to join.

:bulletblue: SpiderForest

:bulletwhite: HiveWorks

Comic Listings
Comic lists have been around forever, and are still a good way to get attention.  In many cases, these lists also rank your site.

:bulletblue: ComicRocket

:bulletwhite: Top Web Comics

:bulletblue: Piperka


Monetization

The Emergency Exodus Guide has a great section covering this -- especially considering that InkBlazers represented a source of income for many.  Many of these links have been shared here as well, so you can check out the options available.

Crowd-Funding Sources
:bulletpurple: Patreon

:bulletwhite: Subbable

:bulletpurple: KickStarter

:bulletwhite: IndieGoGo

Storefronts
:bulletpurple: Storenvy

:bulletwhite: Etsy

:bulletpurple: Society6

:bulletwhite: RedBubble

Donations
:bulletpurple: PayPal

Advertising*

:bulletpurple: Project Wonderful

:bulletwhite: Google AdSense

:bulletpurple: Comic Rocket Ads

*Be sure to keep an eye on what ads go up on your site, if you choose to go this route!


Final Words

Even with the coming closure, the end of InkBlazers needs not to be the end of a great community and the creations that grew in within it.

Thanks for reading, and we here at Manga-Apps wish you all great success in this tough time!

If you have any questions, please don't hesitate to ask!
:iconkabocha:






WEBCOMICKERS: What are we afraid of?

Journal Entry: Tue Apr 15, 2014, 11:48 AM
Joining | Submitting | About Us | Featured Articles | Summer 2012 Contest | Live Sessions

Anxiety and Comics

For the Month of March, we polled webcomic users on Deviantart, Twitter, and forums, posing the question:

:bulletgreen: What are the challenges that make you most anxious when beginning a new story or project?

We got a lot of excellent responses and more than a few webcomickers were willing to bare all their anxieties and frustrations!




:star: Any advice for conquering any of these infamous terrors? What worked for you? :star:

Tell us in the comments!



Top 5 Anxiety issues


:bulletorange: 1. Confidence/Self-doubt (22%)

:icontheblackwonderland: "i'm just afraid people might not like it and all the work would be for nothing"

:iconwhiskeyii: "To clarify, I think it's a combination of self-doubt and being overwhelmed. For whatever reason, I feel more comfortable when a setting in my head has been well fleshed-out, but it gets to the point where I start thinking about minor things and then wondering if it even matters (for example, what religion does a specific setting adhere to in a story where I might not address religion at all), but then I start thinking about how even small things shape people's lives and cultures (like that religion could tie back into a morality system, or not), and then I just...@_@"



:bulletorange: 2. Where to start (21%)

:iconhikapi: "Not knowing where to start. I'm not a good story teller and I tend to.. not have beginnings to my stories! XD"

:iconkomicfans: "definitely the story planning and making up my mind where to start. I remembered edited my story nearly 6 times and I'm still not satisfied :("



:bulletorange: 3. Time management (19%)

:iconpandasayori: 'A rather complicated mix of problems. Most of them revolving around university life and homework. Bleeh."

:iconkalafin99: "My weakness is in procrastination and time management... Also my family and school trouble me a lot, which deal with stamina, limited-time-on-computer allowance, and a naughty child."



:bulletorange: 4. Procrastination (14%)

:iconshiniro: "Guess you can almost call it chronic procrastination. I'm a student and right now I actually have quite a bit of free time due to certain circumstances, but even so I rarely get to take out my tablet and actually be productive even though I easily could be. Instead I play games or do nothing at all... guess it's also a bit because I get easily discouraged to actually find where to start."



:bulletorange: 5. Lack of stamina (13%)

:iconsachi-pon:  "it takes so long that i fear i will get exhausted and lose the will to finish. still, i want to try. i do like drawing, i do like making up stories. it exhausts me physically and mentally but that doesn't mean i dislike it. i still want to do it! but i feel like i will take forever and ever and ever..."

:iconkay-beast: "For me, it's a combination of time management, procrastination, and stamina. I'm in art school right now, and by the time I finish all my homework, I don't work on my own personal projects cause I'm all "but I already did art today!" T_T"




Other Problems


- Lack of feedback
- Health challenges
- Copyright concerns
- Need a community/support
- That tools do I need?
- Planning
- Update schedules
- Paneling

Need a Community:
:iconfanfreak200: "There is webcomic/writing community?!  O_o"


Copyright

:iconluffynotomo: " i'm worried about art theft or copyrights and such -- making sure no one else steals the same idea or characters ><"


Paneling
:iconiiwi: "-u- paneling man, that damned paneling and not knowing where to start."


Planning-Related
:iconsky-morishita: "I think the main thing that makes me most nervous when I'm starting a new project is having the whole story objective clear in my mind so that I don't end up dropping the project later because I don't know where the story is going."

:iconzumoarino: "Hmm, I think the main problem I have is that... I will have the general story planned out in terms of the "major/important" scenes "

:iconogawaburukku: "I really wish I'd made a buffer when I started. I kept putting off the comic for years and when I finally decided to do it I jumped right into it because I was so nervous I needed to know if people hated it before I continued. Very dumb move DX"


Health-Related
:iconlibbyrust: "Oh god, the health problems, make them go away so I can get some shiznit done. ;___;"

:iconequilonic: "I also have health problems that prevent me from drawing, but that would only be a problem if I'd have enough confidence in my ideas in the first place. "


Update Schedule
:iconjaybiejarrett: "what intimidates me the most is the idea of a rigid updating schedule.  I mean I know that's what people expect and I fear that I'll always be late and stuff.  I need to work on my organization.  I'll probably end up updating once a month."




:star: Did we miss any? What makes you anxious? :star:

:star: Any advice for conquering any of these infamous terrors? What worked for you?
:star:

Tell us in the comments!

NEXT POLL: This month, tell us what your favorite webcomics community is (and why)





Comic Veggies #1 Wrap-up!

Journal Entry: Wed Jan 2, 2013, 12:55 AM
Joining | Submitting | About Us | Featured Articles | Summer 2012 Contest | Live Sessions

Comic Veggies


Practice is good for all of us.

:bulletgreen: Comic Veggies:  by #Manga-Apps and MangaMagazine.net

What is it?
Comic Veggies is an exciting community-wide comicking activity brought to you by Manga-Apps and MangaMagazine.net.

How's it Work?
Every few weeks, we will post a new activity and all you have to do is complete it and upload your work on your favorites media site, whether that's here on deviantart, mangamagazine.net, twitter, tumblr, etc! Our social media hashtag is #comicveggies. More keywords are listed below.

 How Long Does it Last?
Each activity lasts 2 weeks.

Where's the Fun in that?
"Get better, get motivated!" At the end of each two week period, the #Manga-Apps and  MangaMagazine.net staff will review and select a representative sample of work and provide feedback on areas of improvement.  





Activity #1 WRAP-UP!


We think we've got everyone from the first activity included here! (If we forgot you, let us know!)

:star: Activity 1 Roundup! :star:

Comic Veggies: Faces by SoVeryUnofficial Comic Veggies: Faces by Ennun Comic Veggies: Faces by pferty Comic Veggies: Faces by l-Vampy-l Comic Veggie  Challenge- Heads by Fiorii :thumb346217929: Comic Veggies: Faces by Hiyami-hime Comic Veggies: Faces by kaisaki1342 [Comic Veggies Project] Faces by YKajitaka Comic Veggies: Faces by WitchOfStories [Comic Veggies Project] Faces by YKajitaka Comic Veggies: Faces - Tenshi Kamine by SakuraTenshi101 Comic Veggies: Faces: InuYasha by ArtisticMii





Artist Interview: Sammi Guidera

Journal Entry: Tue Dec 18, 2012, 6:27 PM
Joining | Submitting | About Us | Featured Articles | Summer 2012 Contest | Live Sessions

Artist Interview!

:bulletred: Kabocha: Hello everyone!  As you all know, from time to time, we like to do interviews with artists and groups.  Well, today, I'd like to bring some attention to Sammi Guidera, who works as an independent artist.

With the semester ending, and the end-of-year break upon us, it's always good to take a minute and get some perspective from someone else!  (So you graduating seniors, read up for some encouraging advice!)


Interview with Sammi

:bulletorange: Kabocha:  Hi, Sammi!  Just so everyone knows, who are you?  What sorts of things do you enjoy doing?
Sammi:  Hi!  I'm a comic artist and illustrator.  I took a hiatus from comics for about a year, but I'm getting back into them!  I've been doing  traditional art for as long as I can remember.


:bulletyellow:  Kabocha:  Where did you study art?
Sammi:  Cal State Fullerton.  They have a really great illustration program. School's like pulling teeth for me, but I enjoyed it!  Due to the budget crisis here in California, there was a tuition hike every year though, and I kind of powered through school to save money.  It may have been a little too fast, since I don't feel like I really had a chance to sit and focus on the skills I wanted to...  But I did earn the foundational skills to learn more on my own, and I'm glad for that!


:bulletgreen:  Kabocha:  Do you think it's necessary to study art in academic setting to be successful as an artist?
Sammi:  Nope! If you look long and hard enough, you can find all the knowledge you need online.
I feel like I've learned more through the Internet than I did in school.  School can teach you a lot, but if you're really driven, you can study on your own and advance. I didn't even take the watercolor classes in college - I learned through Youtube!  Youtube is a fantastic resource, as is deviantArt.  You just have to sit down and do it.  It's so worth it!


:bulletblue:  Kabocha:  What are your favorite mediums to work with?
Sammi:  Watercolors!  It's kind of funny, because when I started school, I was very much like, "MARKERS!  YES, THIS WILL BE MY THING!" But then I started working with watercolors, and it really just seemed to click.  I guess it's a case of the tools choosing you, rather you choosing the tools.
I'm also a big fan of pen and ink. There's something therapeutic about hatching and inking.


:bulletpurple:  Kabocha:  If you had to pick a word to describe your artistic style, what would it be?  Why?
Sammi:  I'd have to say... "Soft."  I really like "dark" and I really like "cute," but I feel like I can't get them to fit together.


:bulletpink:  Kabocha:  What do you feel drives you to create?
Sammi:  Oh, man, stories!

I've always been an impatient kid, and when it comes to stories, I'm a bit of a motormouth.  It used to drive me nuts to try to write, because I couldn't get it done instantly. My dad got my family a computer in first grade, and my mom let me dictate the stories to her while she typed.  She couldn't always be around to do this though, so I started drawing illustrations about them.  Drawing comics seemed like the next step.   I've been doing them since before I even knew what comics were!


Current Work

:bulletred:  Kabocha:  Can you tell us about your current projects?
Sammi:  Well, I have two comics in the works.  One is a side story to a larger one I've been working on, called "A Shadow in the Castle."  It's a tough one to write because I have to carefully explain the mechanics of the world without giving away too much of the plot of my main story!

The other project is a collaboration with a friend.  It takes place in a post-apocalyptic world, where a plague is running rampant.  A traveling doctor seeks the last bookstore, full of lost knowledge, but it is inhabited by a demon.  The doctor has nothing to give so the demon demands his companionship in return for the book he seeks.
Creating comics makes me tear my hair out sometimes, but I love it!

I also just finished up some freelance work, where I was working on a few pages of a children's book.  I tend to do a lot of personal commissions, too.


:bulletorange:  Kabocha:  What is your favorite part of doing freelance work?
Sammi:  I really enjoy being able to work on things at my own pace, rather than a regular 9-5 job.  I've done illustration for all sorts of clients, and it's nice to have a variety of different types of things to do.


:bulletyellow:  Kabocha:  If you don't mind sharing, how do you happen to come upon freelance gigs?
Sammi:  I tend to approach people and get my name out there.
Just try to get comfortable handing out your business card to anyone and everyone!  It was difficult at first, and took a lot of courage, but I started getting calls and emails back.  Always be polite -- the art world is extremely small, and if you're icy with one person, everyone will hear about it.


Advice and Outlook

:bulletgreen: Kabocha:  Do you have any advice for aspiring artists?
Sammi:  When you get discouraged, it's just a feeling - like being excited or happy.  It will pass.  I've had so many instances where I wondered "why am I doing this to myself?"
I worry that I'm not talented enough, or that everyone else is better than me - but the moment I shut it all out and focused on being a better artist for ME, I find I make more progress.

So, don't compare yourself to others too much.  Be patient, and remember, art isn't a race.  You'll get better as you work through it.


:bulletblue: Kabocha:  What's your philosophy on life?
Sammi:  Pretty much the same thing as my art. When things get tough, it's just a phase.  You gotta power through it.  I could never put my life philosophy into words until I read The Perfect Bait by Bobby Chiu.  He phrased it well...  "When bad things happen, good things are right around the corner."
So, when bad things happen, you can't give up.  There's always good that comes afterward. And boy, is this true!!



Showcase and Links

:bulletpurple: Kabocha:  Do you have any samples of work that you'd like to share?
Sammi:  


:bulletpink: Kabocha:  Where can we find your work?
Sammi:  My tumblr is the best place to find me.
I do sometimes check out my deviantArt, but I upload sporadically.  I'm ThatDarnKat.
You can also find me on Youtube!





Kabocha:  Thank you, Sammi, for taking the time to sit down with me and chat!  Just talking with you made me feel more motivated to work hard!  :D






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