Grumpy Cat got nuthin’ on me

Grumpy

 

I woke up late with a headache and a ridiculous sense of urgency that still does not compute. Today’s Monday. Just Monday. No big deal. Happens once a week about this time. I already know what the day holds, and there’s nothing “urgent” about it.

The sense of urgency disappeared after the man left for his trip and I had my third cup of coffee. The headache is lingering in the background. All that’s left over is the grumps, aggravated by something I found in my email this morning.

Over the weekend, MSB and I decided to get some of our Christmas shopping done early. We hit a store or two, but one of the presents I wanted to get could be found only in a catalog. I called the company and placed my order. The rep asked if I wanted to give them my email address for “confirmation and tracking” (aka: to receive a gazillion emails pertaining to the sale of items I didn’t want, otherwise I would’ve already ordered them). I said no. I distinctly said “no,” because I’ve learned not to do that.

First thing this morning, guess what I found in my inbox?

What did they do–Google me to find my address? It’s true, you can find it just about anywhere, because I do business through email and both of my addresses are published somewhere on the internet. If anyone wanted to find them, they could. But the difference between the way I do business and the way they do business is that I don’t spam potential clients. I have to admit, finding this company’s “newsletter” in my box ticked me off.

It shouldn’t be such a big deal, really. I can unsubscribe from the folks who continue to solicit my business, or I can hit the “spam” button and never see them again, but it’s the principle of the thing.

Contrary to popular belief, “no” means “no” in a wide variety of things, not just sexual advances. It doesn’t mean “she didn’t really mean it,” it doesn’t give permission to find a way around it, and it certainly doesn’t mean to do what you darn well please in spite of it.

I came one send-button-poke away from telling them what I thought of them violating my expressed wishes, but I changed my mind and decided to complain about it here instead. I’ve never been able to give the actual offender a piece of my mind. I won’t send a bad meal back, I won’t tell an obnoxious sales lady to bug off, and, though it has happened–and if he pushes me enough it will happen–I won’t tell a forward man what he can do with his advances (I will, however, walk off and leave him looking like an idiot). Apparently, I’d rather spread my complaints throughout the cyber-universe than to tell the one person/business/organization where they can stick it. I’m not sure I understand that about me.

And I’m not sure why it’s bugging me today. I get junk mail all the time. I guess because I’d specifically told these folks “no,” it’s getting to me. Or maybe it’s because it’s Monday. Or maybe I need more coffee.

Or maybe today, I’m just grumpier than Grumpy Cat. Steer clear.

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Writing Lessons from a Cat

Cuddle Bug 2Cuddlebug is mad at me. Because of a thyroid condition, she has to eat special food–but she doesn’t know that. She just knows that PB gets to eat in the living room from a fancy earthenware bowl that gets whipped off the floor whenever Cuddlebug comes near. And it’s not fair that PB gets to have special stuff that she’s not allowed to even sniff.

What my 19-year-old tortoise shell cat doesn’t know–aside from the fact that she has a condition–is that I pay extra for her food and can only get it from the vet. She doesn’t know that I take time to make a gravy out of that expensive food to make it more palatable for her. She doesn’t know that I also cut slices of venison into bite-sized pieces especially for her, to take care of her coat and give her a special treat. I don’t do this for PB, who is a persnickety eater anyway. Just for Bug.

All I do for PB is pour dry cereal into a bowl and feed her in a different room so Bug won’t eat it and get sick again. Funny thing is, PB thinks she’s the one getting the special treatment–except she does seem to wonder why she’s been banned to the living room to eat. She wants to eat in the kitchen like the big cat.

Since I don’t speak Cat and they don’t speak English, I can’t explain that what I’m doing is for the best and that I love them both equally. All I can do is endure their jealousy of each other and their anger with me. I can’t afford to give them each their way because it will result in harm to one of them.

This morning, after our usual feeding ritual, Bug sat and glared at me–she’s on my lap now, so all’s well, but she was pretty ticked off earlier. I got to thinking that this must be how God feels when we compare what He’s doing for others to what He’s doing for us. There’s no point in Him trying to explain–not that He feels the need to explain Himself–because we wouldn’t understand anyway. So all He can do is endure our jealousy of each other and our anger with Him as He continues doing what’s best for us.

Oh, I keep forgetting–I’m supposed to focus on one thing with this blog, and it’s supposed to pertain to writing. So let me see if I can turn this into a writing post:

Don’t be jealous of someone else’s progress in their writing career, just be patient and see what’s in store for you.

 

 

 

Posted in Devotional, Misc., Personal, Writing | Tagged , , , , | 8 Comments

Why I Misbehave

Around 4:30 this morning, the sound of a low-flying plane penetrated my grogginess. I was awake, sort of. I tend to wake at 4 these days, but since it was so cold, I wasn’t ready to get out of bed. I hovered between reality and dreams and listened to the drone of the small-engine overhead as it Doppler-effected itself to the southwest.

The last time I heard a low drone like that, it was in broad daylight, and the twin-prop engine was flying in concentric circles over our neighborhood–law enforcement in search of a rumored marijuana patch. So as I listened this morning, I envisioned that pilot, tilting his wings with each circle, spotting something curious here, then there. I imagined a dialogue between him and some distant federal agent, conducted through a crackling headset. But I already knew how that story played out. Yes–almost 20 years ago, we had a drug bust in my little rural neighborhood. Something about being hidden in a forest makes people feel isolated, invisible to cops and other prying eyes. This fact alone makes the neighborhood a rich source of story ideas.

I drifted from thought to thought, picturing other things: the balsa-wood model planes we used to put together as kids. I came up with a story about a youngster playing with one, pretending to be an ace pilot. (By the way–who knew Big Stock Photo would have just the picture I needed?!)

 

This morphed into a barn storming story, probably prompted by scenes from Second-Hand Lions and KM Weiland’s upcoming novel Storming (which I wish she’d hurry up and finish editing. I swear, that woman stretches anticipation to the limit).

Then I shifted to a story of a hero pilot, saving his plane from terrorists by flying with one hand and wrestling with a bad guy with the other. Then, he sneaks up behind the BG’s cohorts as they point guns at horrified passengers–and all the while, the plane is dropping lower, lower, lower.

He rounds them all up, ties them together with a man’s red silk tie, and rushes back to the cockpit to save the plane, while radioing in about the emergency landing he has to make because a woman went into labor. Then, of course, he overshoots the landing strip because he’s too busy delivering the baby.

Do you see my problem here? Not one of these scenarios involve romance. They could, I suppose, but that’s not where my brain settles when I’m daydreaming. This can not be good for a Romance/Women’s Fiction author!

And this is also what I mean by “misbehaving.” This is why I want to write in so many different genres. Yes, they usually include romance–life includes love: searching for it, running from it, falling in it. You can’t escape that. But meanwhile, I want to write the blood-pumping story of a cocky pilot hero or the nostalgic tale of a boy with big dreams of flying, back in the days of bi-wing planes, dime-a-rides, and barn storming. I have the hardest time sticking to one genre.

But I promised myself I would for a while.

Sigh.

It’s so much more fun to misbehave.

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Review: Chapel Springs Revival

CSR COVER copyGet your giggle-box oiled up and ready to rumble, ’cause Chapel Springs Revival is going to put it to good use. Patsy Kowalski and Claire Bennett are well on their way into the “unforgettable character” category for folks who love humorous women’s fiction.

Take two artsy women, give them two neglectful spouses, and watch the antics unfold. Add to the mix a cleavage-showin’ hussy who’s unhappy with her husband and looking for a new one–anyone’s husband will do–and you have a story that’s uproariously funny.

Beneath the humor is a story all women of a certain age can appreciate, one that shares the insecurities of being involved in a marriage that has become too comfortable. Stagnant, maybe? Has he lost interest? How to rekindle the fire?

Many marriages of length go through this season. Many women suffer through the doubts. We look in our mirrors and see someone who wasn’t there twenty years ago. We worry that his silence, his absences, his distraction are all because of our spreading hips, wrinkling skin, and graying hair. How many times are we worrying over nothing?

Ane’s novel explores that question with humor and finesse. Definitely a winner.

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Pen-L Publishing

pen l
One of my favorite experiences from this past weekend at the Bridge to Publication Conference was meeting the owners of this promising, two-year-old publishing house. What’s fun about the name of the company is that it tells you how to pronounce their name: Duke and Kimberly Pennell. Pen-L Publishing, another small, mainstream house, releases Historical, Humor, Sci-fi/Fantasy, Suspense, YA, Westerns, and Literary as well as some nonfiction titles. For those who know Linda Apple, her newest, Pow: Promises Kept was published through them.

Duke and Kim talked primarily about the relationship between publisher and author. They asked about the author’s goals, and whether they were in sync with the publisher’s goals, and took it long-term. What are your goals in five years, they asked. Ten? Twenty? How many books do you want to have written? How many sold? How are you willing to pay everything forward (are you willing to help/mentor other authors?)?

Some of the things they asked I wasn’t sure how to quantify, like how many names did I want on my mailing list, but their questions did get me to thinking about determining a long term plan and goals. So many of us can’t see beyond the first book written, but once that book is written–if you want to make a career of this–you need to know what’s next. And what’s next after that. And you need to understand what your goals are. If you’re just writing to record your family history for those who share your genetic code, your goals are going to be different from the author who wants to entertain the masses.

pennellWhat I love most about these two is how funny they are. Kim is Duke’s straightman. I got the biggest kick out of them while they were speaking. Duke is just funny–there’s no getting around that–but Kim can zap in some zingers that’ll both keep him in line and send the rest of us into fits of laughter. They’re a fun couple.

I got to chat with them individually after the conference, and Duke and I swapped horse stories. He told me one I’m going to have to repeat here. Some of the details may be wrong because my memory runs on AA batteries, and they’re getting weak, but here goes:

Duke was directing a group of folks for a parade or something and asked one of the ladies if she could ride.

“Oh, I’m a good rider. A real good rider,” she said.

Apparently Duke didn’t believe her, so he stuck her at the end of the line and put her on the easiest horse they had. I’ll call him Jack, but I don’t remember his name.

The rules were simple: ride side by side and don’t run into the horse in front of you.

When the time came for them to move out, they did as told, each pair trotting on down the road in front of adoring fans. Finally, it was the woman’s turn to start moving. He looked back at her, and she was “holdin’ the reins and doin’ the ‘Chicken Dance'” on the back of that horse. You know how it goes. The ol’ chicken squawk. If you flap your arms, your horse is supposed to go. When Jack didn’t budge, she just flapped harder. Those pointy elbows pumping air, trying to get the horse to move.

Like I said, Jack was an easy horse. Nothing riled him. He just twisted his head back and stared at her a moment, then lowered himself to his chest, with her on his back flappin’ those arms.

There she was, sitting atop a horse that was sittin’ on his belly, with her arms flappin’ and her stirrups flopped out on either side of him.

Duke rode back to check on her–I’m sure doing all he could to keep from laughing her off the planet–and she said “Your horse is broke!”

Well, he had her get off the horse, and he put his foot in the stirrup, clicking at Jack as he threw his leg over the saddle. Jack rose while he was still mounting. Duke settled his butt in the saddle and sent Jack on a quick gallop back behind the parade, reined him to a haunch-sittin’ stop, spun him around a few times, and raced him back to a haunch-sittin’ stop in front of her.

“He seems fine to me.”

Oh my word, folks. Duke had me laughing so hard. My writing the story here doesn’t do justice to him telling it. If you ever get a chance to meet these two wonderful people, grab it. You won’t be disappointed. Oh–and if you have a manuscript they may be interested in, submit it. They’re open for queries again February 1, 2015.

 

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Bell Bridge Publishing

Belle-BellBlogHeader

At the Bridge to Publication Conference, I had the privilege of meeting Pat Van Wie of Bell Bridge Books/Belle Books, the house that handles C. Hope Clark’s mysteries. Pat said that Amazon laughed at them not long ago for calling themselves a “small” publisher. According to Amazon, they’re “mid-major.”

This house specializes in publishing Southern authors, and since Pat was speaking at a conference in Lake Charles, Louisiana, she was in the right place. They take unsolicited manuscripts–Pat doesn’t really see the point of having an agent, though she won’t reject your work simply because it’s submitted through an agent. She’ll just wonder why you want to give him a split.

They publish Mystery/Suspense/Thrillers (Pat’s favorite), Cozy Mysteries, Romance and Women’s Fiction, Sci-Fi/Fantasy/Paranormal/Horror, YA, New Adult, Middle Grade, some nonfiction and general fiction. In other words–pretty much everything. I didn’t hear “inspirational,” though, so you may want to check on that yourself. They’re a mainstream publisher that puts out around 15 titles a year.

patWhat I love about Pat is how knowledgeable and intense she is. She loves what she does. A published author, she has seen this business from every possible angle. I said in the previous post that I needed guidance, and talking with her helped. One of the things she said is that, yes, I have to stick to one genre for a while, but that doesn’t mean it has to be forever.

I also learned that she has a serious allergy to and intolerance of exclamation points, so if you intend to submit to her, kill ‘em. Kill ‘em all. (!!!)

But I think my favorite thing about her is that she’s a vegan. Now, granted, I’m a meat eater, a hunter, a fisherman, so you may think it insane that I would love a vegan, but I do. She didn’t try to proselytize, which I appreciate, and she was game for just about any restaurant we went to. At 121 Artisan Bistro, one of my new favorite Italian restaurants, she ordered the Eggplant Melanzanna, and asked them to remove the ham. A simple, no-fuss way to turn a good dish into a good vegan dish. The lady has class, I tell ya. Real class.

Okay, I admit: The real reason I love her is that she asked them to give the ham to me.

Be sure to look them up if you’re writing something you think they may be interested in. And if you land Pat as your editor, let me know.

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About Agents, Publishing, and Social Media

Conference-2014-LogoI promised to write about the Bridge to Publication Conference I attended in Lake Charles, Louisiana, but I didn’t realize how much I could learn in a one-day conference and how much I would have to write about. My experience will take all week to share–which suits me fine. I love having good fodder for my blog.

The folks who put this conference together did a fantastic job, and I was honored to be a part of it. So much wonderful information flew through that microphone that I couldn’t keep up with it all. The best I can do is give you some of the highlights.

Bridge to Publication Panel 2014

The author panel consisted of myself, Edie Melson, Christa Allan, and Elizabeth Ludwig (I linked each name with their Amazon bio pages so you can check them out). We fielded a variety of questions, but the discussions I remember most–because I needed to hear them as much as the crowd did–pertained to editors and agents. When we as writers have an agent or an in-house editor, we are in a relationship, and it’s vital that we have chosen well, particularly when choosing the agent (we don’t always get to choose our editor).
LisaAgents do more for us than just broker a deal. Elizabeth Ludwig’s agent keeps her focused and prods her a bit to make sure she’s working. Under his guidance, her career is off to a wonderful start.

Guidance is one of the things I know I’ve been missing. Don’t get me wrong, my previous agent was wonderful in many ways, but I need someone who can guide me through this business. I’m amazed and dismayed over how much I’ve done wrong because I’ve basically muddled through on my own. Although many things have gone well for me, I still wonder what would’ve happened had I been provided a bit more guidance–or had I at least studied the business side of this business before plunging in head first.

ChristaOf course, whether you need an agent depends entirely upon your goals. If you pursue your career as an indy publisher, you may not ever need one.

Christa Allan is a successful author for Abbingdon Press, but she’s finding that the things she wants to write about don’t have a home in the Christian houses–or in the mainstream ones. She writes for “the fringe group,” as she calls them: those Christians who come from intense backgrounds. These folks rarely have a history of daisies and butterflies, but presenting their stories often offends the sensibilities of other Christians. Yet their stories are distinctly inspirational simply because those whose lives these stories are based upon discovered the healing and forgiving love of Christ–which means the stories will offend the sensibilities of non-believers.

So Christa did some research and discovered how viable the self-publishing route is becoming. She presented the numbers for us during her speech–and don’t ask me to quote them, I can’t. But she showed what many already know: Indy publishing is becoming one of the most viable businesses around. Along with authors, there are indy cover designers, indy marketers, freelance editors (raising my hand here), indy formatters, indy book reviewers. Anything an author could want is there for the asking–and for a price.

GtLaR Front Cover FinalBut these days, I wonder whether that’s really a bad thing. Lynnette Bonner at IndieCoverDesign did my new cover for Give the Lady a Ride and formatted it and uploaded it for a very reasonable price–something around $300, I don’t remember–and I earned it all back within that first month.

These days, there is no excuse for bad books–none. Being cheap is not an excuse. Spend the money necessary to produce something fantastic and get it out there. After you’ve earned your money back, invest the profits in your next book. Be wise about it, of course–don’t be sucked in by scams, but do investigate, see who you can afford and go with it. You may discover that someone you’ve already networked with can be a valuable asset. Do the research, spend the money, get it out there, and let folks know about it.

EdieWhich brings me to the social media game. Edie Melson is one of the queen bees of Social Media. Edie writes for Guidepost, but she’s trying her hand at Steampunk–and I totally love her story ideas. Can’t wait to get my hands on them! Anyway, as is always true whenever I listen to a marketing guru speak, I learn how much I’ve been doing wrong and how to make it right.

I am such a flibbertigibbet–I can’t wrap my head around the concept of restricting my posts to one thing. That’s why this blog has so few followers. I write about me. It’s the only thing in this life that I feel like an authority on. This blog is about what I’ve learned in my walk down the road through the publishing business, but it’s also about what I’m going through when I’m sick or when Mom’s sick or when the weather shifts from bad to good and back again.

According to Edie, Don’t do that! Find something you’re passionate about and write about it. It’s fine to write about writing, but really–don’t you want to reach readers? Write about something they would be interested in. If you’re big on cross-stitch, write about it. Write about it everywhere and develop a following among cross-stitchers. Then, you can toss out, “Oh, hey! I have a book coming out in May!” or whatever, and you’ll have friends who will be interested and want to support you and read your new novel.

This much I did know, even without Edie telling me: You must treat social media as an opportunity to create friendships. It’s not the numbers that matter so much, because on Facebook and other sites, you won’t get to chat with everyone you’ve added to your “friends list.” What matters is the quality of followers, the thought that they consider themselves friends and are willing to champion you based on the fact you’ve developed a relationship with them long before you started pitching your book.

As for me, old habits die hard. This particular blog will always be eclectic. 777 Peppermint Place is my home where I can kick off my shoes and chat with friends about whatever is on my mind. I’ve noticed that my readership has shifted over a period of time. When I was writing about Mom, I had several followers who were going through the same things with an elderly parent. When I wrote about my illness, I had followers who also had to deal with chronic problems. When I write about writing– guess who my followers are?

Maybe someday, I’ll start a new blog and follow the sage advice of marketing gurus. Even if I do, though, you can always find me here–shoes off, cat on my lap, and coffee by my side.

 

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Hittin’ the Road

Conference-2014-Logo

Excited to be on of the authors on the panel at this year’s Bayou Writers Group conference, “A Bridge to Publication,” in Lake Charles, Louisiana. This year’s topic is going to be a doozy: the never-ending challenges we face after getting published. On the panel with me this year are notable authors Elizabeth Ludwig, Christa Allan, and Edie Melson. I’m more interested in hearing what they have to say than I am in figuring out what I’ll say myself.

The fun thing about panels like this is that you don’t have to plan what to say. I’ve given some thought, yes, but plans? No. The conversation between the authors and the audience will determine what I’ll say–and I’ll try to remember it well enough to tell you about it next week.

Meanwhile, I have other prep-work to do–like packing. Wish y’all could come, and if some of you are there, please say hello!

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Three *Very* Different Books

coffee 369

One of my favorite perks in this business is the opportunity to read and review books for friends. So far as I know, most writers get to do this–some more than others, and some enjoy it more than others. Some authors are just so swamped, even if they wanted to, they couldn’t read all the books they’re asked to read. That’s kinda where I’m at. There are so many things I have to read that I have little time for things I want to read. But every now and then, the two overlap. This is one of those times.

The three books I have on deck are entirely different–as different as the personalities at the keyboards when they were written. I haven’t read all three of these yet, but because these authors are among my favorites, I have no qualms telling you about them now.

CSR COVER copyThe one I’m reading right now is Ane Mulligan’s Chapel Springs Revival. If you’re a member of ACFW, you know Ane, and if you know her, you already know what a wonderful, whacky redhead she is. Passionate about everything, fun, funny, supportive. She’s one of my favorites of God’s creations. So it’s no big surprise her debut novel is just as fun and funny as she is.

Ane’s main character, Claire Bennett, is one to charge into a situation without thinking, then wind up with a foot in her mouth. That’s why I love her: we have so much in common. What I love most is that not even I am as crazy as she is. No way would I find myself in the jams she lands in.

I’ll give a full review later, but meanwhile believe me when I tell you: this one should be on your “must-read” list!

Next up is C. Hope Clark’s lowcountry mystery Murder on EdistoThis is the first in a new series. I thoroughly enjoyed her first–The Carolina Slade Mystery series–so when she approached me about this new one, I couldn’t say yes fast enough.

Hope’s characters are always quirky and sharp, written in a pen dipped in South Carolina ink. But the main character in this new one, Callie Morgan, is originally from Boston. I can’t wait to see how a woman from a state that clips their syllables is going to get along in a state where one syllable can be stretched into three. But mostly, I can’t wait to see what twists and turns await from the master mind of Hope Clark.

Billy CoffeyThis last one, In the Heart of the Dark Wood, is special to me because Billy Coffey is special. His works are different from anything I generally read, and his talent is both unsurpassed among new authors and unrecognized in the industry.

I first came across him when one of his blog posts caught my eye. He presents truth in such a way that’s both simple and deceptively deep, and the source of his inspiration seems to come from some of the strangest places. Or the cutest of places. The most recent post I read was “Have a God Day,” a totally charming piece inspired by his ten-year-old son’s desire to send mistake-free texts to his dad.

Billy’s books aren’t easy reads. Don’t get me wrong–his writing is downright lyrical. It’s soothing and flows by as gently as a babbling brook. But his works often hit home, and hit hard. The last of his I read, When Mockingbirds Sing, reminded me how difficult it is to be a believer when surrounded by those who don’t believe–or only pretend to. How hard it is to be the voice crying in the wilderness when the message doesn’t tickle ears.

I don’t know what message I’ll find in In the Heart of the Dark Wood, but I know it’ll touch me–and probably haunt me as much as the other still does.

You know what it’s like to know a book is going to be good just because of who wrote it? That’s the way I feel about these. Even without having read Billy’s and Hope’s books, I can recommend them. And even before I started on Ane’s book, I knew it was going to be good because I know her. I’m a little over halfway through it, and I definitely recommend it. So, if you like as much variety in your reading material as I do, here are a few to choose from!

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NaNo’s in Full Swing

Participant-2014-Web-Banner

Recognize this? If you’re participating this year, you do. NaNoWriMo–the most anticipated writing event of the year.

I’m not doing it.

I’ve tried before. Really, I have. Give the Lady a Ride began as a NaNo project. I loved the story so much, I got carried away with the research and totally forgot to write it until long after NaNo passed. I’ve forgotten what I was working on, but I tried again the following year. But I have this nasty habit of editing what I wrote the day before, and when I discovered it was all trash, I got discouraged and quit.

NaNo’s success over the years is evidenced in the ever-increasing number of participants. People who actually do give themselves permission to write rubbish in the first draft. This is what we as writers are supposed to do–allow ourselves to get that first draft written without editing, without concern that the bulk of it will need to be ripped out anyway. I just can’t do it. Maybe if I were more of an outliner, I could. Maybe if I planned better, I could. That’s the secret to making daily word-count goals work, outlines and plans. And although I’m getting better about it and am sketching chapters out more often, I’m not there yet.

I’ve reached a certain peace about not joining in all the fun. I’ve learned to embrace the way I write, even if it seems incomprehensible to others.

I begin each session by editing what I wrote the day before. Yes, I know we’re supposed to turn off our internal editors, but I do it anyway, sometimes going all the way back to the beginning of the novel and editing from the start–which is why my opening chapters are usually so polished. Then I stare out the window and try to figure out what happens next, unless inspiration hit while I was in the shower or doing the dishes, then I know what happens next and it’s just a matter of getting it down. After I get it written–if I do–I go back and see how well it flows with what I wrote before and edit. Hit save, hit back-up, shut it down until the next session, when I do it all over again.

Maybe I could do the same with NaNo, but the thing is, sometimes I only write around 300 words. Sometimes more, but sometimes even less. I’d never succeed, and not just because I can’t make a daily word count. The last week in November belongs to MSB, which gives me only three weeks when everyone else has four.

So, to you who are actively participating and feel certain you’ll make your daily goals, God bless you. I’m rooting for you. As for me, I’ll just plug along the way I do it and maybe get halfway done by the end of the month, while y’all whiz by to completed first draft. Have fun. Good luck.

 

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