Ups and Downs

My writer friend Michelle recently posted the following infographic on her blog. It resonated with me, and so I’m sharing it, with her permission. (You may use it too–she says so! Honest!)















I’ve mentioned in the past that the so-called inspiration that comes to me in my half-awake state is almost always, if not always-always, laughable when seen in the light of day. So I couldn’t fully relate to the first part of this scenario. Not as far as good ideas coming to me as I drop off to sleep, anyway.

I’m more apt to come up with good story ideas while I’m doing something else. Something that occupies one part of my conscious mind while giving the creative part freedom to roam. Like washing dishes or pulling weeds or painting a wall. But the point is, I do get an idea now and then, and as illustrated above, I work on it mentally for a while before I sit down and try putting it into words. The Inspiration, Vision, and Genius phases are three of my close acquaintances.

And so, inevitably, is Disaster.

I’m not sure why, but the clearest, most gripping scenario in my mind often doesn’t work when I try to write it. Quite a few plans I’d had for the story I’m currently working on have had to be either scratched or dramatically changed in order for things to make sense.

But that’s okay. This is fiction; if the facts don’t fit, then change the facts, right?

Well, that works to a degree. If you’re writing historical fiction, you can’t change history; that would shift it into the speculative category of alternative history. If you’re writing about the real world, you’ve got to keep all the natural laws intact. Otherwise, you’re writing fantasy.

In case you hadn’t guessed, that’s one reason I write speculative fiction: because I like to write my own history, create my own society. But even in a DIY world, things must be consistent. You can’t have elements changing their properties according to the whim of the moment. Just because something seems like it should work doesn’t mean it will once you lay it all out and see how the pieces fit together.

And then, as the above graphic points out, we writers often have trouble with the basic mechanics of writing. Even when we know what we want to convey, the words do not flow. We stammer on the page. Our sentences look like they were written by a five-year-old.

I think a five-year-old might have a better way with words than what I come up with some days.

So why do I do this to myself?

I have no idea. I keep praying that God would let me quit. I don’t care that I’ve invested untold hours and years of my life in this unprofitable venture; I’m ready to cut my losses. Turn my back on it once and for all and just walk away. Right now. Tell the world, Yeah, I thought I might be a writer, but I guess I was wrong. Let’s just forget it, shall we?

But every time I think that way, I get the impression of God lifting an eyebrow. Are you done with your whining? Yes? Good. Now, quit being such a baby and get back to work.

So that’s what I’m going to do once I publish this blog post. Get back to work on my current writing project. And then, after it’s finished, then maybe I can quit. Can I? Can I? Please?




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Turkey, Cheese, and The Need for Editors

turkey with knife and fork thanksgiving day clipartThanksgiving is probably my favorite holiday ever. Turkey isn’t the reason—after all, we can have turkey anytime of the year. But I don’t eat it very often, because I like to save it for Thanksgiving, much as I don’t make fruitcake except at Christmastime. It might be good any time, but it’s not special if it becomes routine.

The only reason I mention that is because some people don’t like turkey—or they’re vegetarians and so don’t eat it, regardless of whether or not they like it. I know someone who says his ideal Thanksgiving dinner is steak. Seriously? No way. Gimme turkey. And stuffing. And an ocean of gravy. And rutabaga! Squash! Sweet potatoes!

And then more of the same all over again for a week straight, while enjoying the memory of Thanksgiving Day with family and friends and new acquaintances, and being thankful each day for God’s abundant blessings, both physical and spiritual. Yeah. All that’s wrapped up in the taste of the turkey leftovers I’ve been eating since Thursday. Turkey makes me smile.

I don’t associate cheese with Thanksgiving, though it’s compatible with it. Here’s why I mention it:

Some months ago, I was contacted by a fellow-writer, PD Richmond, asking if I’d be willing to be interviewed on his blog. He does an interview once a week, a feature he said he calls Featured Friday, and he apologized for the cheesy name.

I told him: “I’d be happy to do an interview with you on your Featured Friday page, cheesily named or otherwise. At least you don’t call it Feta Friday. Or Immental Interviews (except I guess the cheese is spelled Emmental). Or Tilsit Talks. Sorry…
Anyway, feel free to send me your questions at your convenience. I promise to answer them without mentioning cheese.”

(I must have been overtired when I composed that email.)

His reply: “I’m a sucker for a dodgy pun! I’m now going to be very disappointed if you don’t manage to slip at least one cheese reference into your answers. (I just hope it’s a gouda one!)”

And so the cheese fest began. I answered his interview questions as requested, sent it on its way, and he scheduled it in his lineup. As it happened, it went live the day after Thanksgiving, while I was still picking turkey out of my teeth. (Only to put more into them later in the day, of course.) You can find it here.

editing-clipart-1Before sending the interview on its way, I read it carefully, and re-read it, and felt good about it. But when I saw it in its published form this week, I found several errors! Missing words and things like that. I don’t blame the good Paneer Danby (you’ll understand if you read the interview); I have no doubt he published it just the way I sent it. But I cringe when I find errors in my published work.

Meanwhile, this underscores the need for a self-published author to hire a professional editor, no matter how competent the writer. We all need fresh, unbiased eyes to look over our stuff, not only to spot typos and missing words, but structure problems, errors in word use, improbabilities in the story, and other writerly things.

Even with the top-notch critique partners that I’m blessed with, I intend to have my current WIP professionally edited before I publish it.

If I had an editor helping me with this blog post, it wouldn’t have as many errors in it as I’m sure it has. (I don’t believe I’ve ever published a post without going back and making corrections afterward. Ever.)

And if I had an editor helping me with this blog post, he or she would encourage me to wrap it up a with a bit more style than merely ending it abruptly like this.

UPDATE: Since writing this, PD Richmond has allowed me to revise my post on his site. (How very un-cheesy of him!) Now you won’t see the errors, but there were three of them; two missing words and a misplaced apostrophe. Shameful. Thank you, Pete, for making the corrections.

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Gratitude: It’s Worth More Than 13 Scrabble Points

thanks-1804597_1280This is the time of year when people talk about things they’re thankful for. Gratitude is a healthy thing, and it’s refreshing to hear people express it instead of whining.

Today, I’d like to comment on how thankful I am that I don’t have to earn my living by writing.

Yes, I enjoy writing, and I’m probably fairly competent at it. But earn a living at it? Ha! In order to make money, you have to actually market yourself. And your product. And I loathe, abhor, detest, despise, and abominate* marketing in any form. Besides that, I dislike it rather intensely.

Though I might phrase it a bit more passionately than most, the majority of my fellow-writers feel pretty much the same way. We’d rather write than do promotion. But if you want to sell books (or articles, or whatever you write), you have to let people know your work is available. And worth buying. And there’s no way to do that without putting a good bit of effort into it.

I sell a book now and then. I think since my first self-published book came out in 2014, there’s only been one month when I didn’t earn a few cents’ royalties. (And when I say “a few cents,” I mean that literally. There have been more months than I care to admit when my total month’s royalties for all four books have totaled under a dollar.) But I figure even if I sell only one ebook, that’s one new reader who might tell one or two others about the Gannah stories and/or buy another book in the series. In other words, though I can’t really call it progress, it’s better than paying people to take a book.
So I’m thankful my husband has always been a good provider. His provision allows me the luxury of spending my time writing without having to stress over marketing.

Which is not to say I don’t do any marketing. Awhile back, I submitted The Story in the Stars to Rabid Reader Reviews, and they liked it. Though the review was published a few years ago, they recently tweeted about it, and I thought, “Hmmm, that was a good review, wasn’t it? Maybe I should remind people it’s out there.”

So, in case you care, hop on over to their site and check it out. And if you haven’t bought the book yet, treat yourself to a good read. If you have a Kindle, you can pick it up for a mere 99 cents, so you shouldn’t have to break into the kids’ piggy bank to afford it. And I’ll get a 34-cent royalty payment. We both win!


*apple-1603132_1280In case you’re curious, that heart-felt phrase is borrowed from a poem I loved as a kid. While you’re clicking on links, check it out too!




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Applesauce and Norwich Terriers

Hey, just for something new, why don’t I put up a blog post? What a thought!
After all this time, I have a number of random things to write about, but I’ll narrow it down to two.

First, if you’d like to see what I did yesterday, here’s a pic:

2016-11-05-16-09-28That’s applesauce. Craig and I broke our previous record for the number of quarts made in a day. Previously in the 30s, our total now is 58. This was the yield from 3 bushels of apples.

Here’s the fun part about all this: we don’t have apple trees, and we don’t eat applesauce. I won’t bore you with the whole long story about how this came to pass, but will say that we have kids and grandkids who love applesauce, and most of this will be divvied up among them. The remainder, I plan to turn into applebutter, which activity, as I may have mentioned in the past, is how I traditionally like to celebrate New Year’s Day.

That’s one random thing. Here’s the other:

This summer, some of my writer friends were talking about doing a novella collection together. At first, I thought, “That’s not for me,” probably because I think of novella collections as being romances.

Matter of fact, two of the friends I’m talking about participated in a just-released novella collection, The Bucket List Dare. It’s the-bucket-list-darefour stories by four authors about four friends who challenged one another to revisit the “bucket list” they made in college and tackle one daring item before they turned thirty. I have not read any of these stories (Why not? you may ask. I don’t do romance, is my answer), but two of the authors (Pamela S. Meyers and Linda W. Yezak) are my buds, so I’m putting in this plug for their new release.

Okay, back to my point:
The novella collection my friends were proposing had a tiny house theme. The stories could be any kind of contemporary fiction (that is, they didn’t have to be romances) provided the protagonist lives in a tiny house. As I watched their conversation online, I thought it sounded like fun. So when they said, “Who wants in?” I surprised myself by raising my hand and saying, “Me! Me! I wanna do it!”

This is not a tiny house in the sense I mean, but it’s a free image. And I like free.

These gals are so with-it. Organized. Knowledgeable about what they’re doing. Next thing I knew, they’d set up a Facebook page for the authors involved in the project and a schedule setting out when this aspect and that must be completed in order to be ready on the release date they’d decided upon. (We’re publishing through CreateSpace.) Whoa, Nellie! We’re really doing this!

Next question: Can I do this? I’m the speculative weirdo — I don’t usually write contemporary fiction. And I’ve never been a big fan of the tiny house craze. But I let my brain ramble with a few story lines, came up with one I liked, starting writing, and had a whole lot of fun!

I wanted to get finished as quickly as possible so I could get back to the big project I’ve been working on since last September. So I wrote the story in record time, ran it through my critique group, and am doing a final proofread.

And am back to my first love, which is speculative fiction. And that last sentence is a bit of a pun, because the title of my novella for the tiny house collection is First Love. But it’s not a romance. Interested? I hope so.

I haven’t read any of the other stories, but I’m sure they’ll all be good. Look for the collection’s release in early May, and stay tuned for updates about this project here on YsWords. I promise to not wait another six months before posting again.

Another view of that lovely applesauce...
Another view of that lovely applesauce…

Meanwhile, back in the spec-fic world, remember my last post, in which I gave a preview of the opening chapter of my WIP? Well, I’m now at about 143,000 words, and there’s still quite a bit of story to be told. As I indicated in my last post, it’s too long for one book, so I’ll turn it into a series. Once I get the whole big, unwieldy thing written, I’ll be in a better position to decide where to divide it, and how to make one section end and transition into the next.

I have a lot of work to do before I can release the first part in this new, as-yet-untitled series, which I’d like to do by the middle of next year. That’s why I was eager to get the tiny house story finished–so I could move forward with this puppy.

Speaking of puppies, I gave a dog to my protagonist in the tiny house story.

Photo from Wikipedia
Photo from Wikipedia

I was in the middle of the third chapter when I realized she needed one. I resisted, because I, personally, don’t want a dog. Been there, done that, and am convinced that life is a whole lot easier, cleaner, and less nerve-wracking when you don’t have pets. But my protagonist needed a dog; it just couldn’t be avoided.

So I did some research—almost as if I were looking for a dog for myself—to see what breed would be most appropriate for a woman of her personality and in her situation, and I decided on a Norwich Terrier. I’d never heard of that breed before, but my protagonist is very happy with hers, and she recommends them.

Applesauce the Dog, alive and well 28 years later!
Applesauce the Dog, alive and well and living in Parma, Ohio almost 29 years later!

One last observation: for our youngest daughter’s first Christmas, we gave her one gift: a great big stuffed dog. Why only one gift? Because she (Rustie, the daughter) was less than six months old and so didn’t care about Christmas, but I felt obligated to give her something. The dog was about the same size as Baby Rustie, and she paid no attention to it until she got older. Somewhere along the line, she named it Applesauce, perhaps because of the color. Or perhaps because her mother used to make large quantities of applesauce every fall. And the family used to eat it frequently.

None of this has anything to do with anything, but I couldn’t very well title this “Applesauce and Norwich Terriers” without mentioning the stuffed dog named Applesauce.

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Sneak Preview of My WIP: The First Three Scenes

blog backgroundAs you may recall, I promised you a peek at my current work-in-progress.

Well, maybe you don’t recall, but I do. So here it is!

At the beginning, it appears to be a Young Adult novel, but it isn’t; I start with the protagonist’s childhood in order to introduce the reader to the unfamiliar setting and background, so when you get into the meat of the story, you’ll know what’s going on.

And I haven’t decided on a title yet, so for now, I’m just calling it WIP.

For some reason, however, I’ve been using chapter titles, something I never thought I’d do. Ever. I don’t like chapter titles! So why am I using them this time? I’m not sure. It just seemed appropriate.

So, without wasting any more of your time, I now present to you the first three scenes of my current WIP.


Chapter 1: My First Life

I shall never forget the day my first life ended.

Not that my next life began right away after that. For a fuzzy while, I hovered between them, not certain where to land.

But I’ll explain all that later. For now, let me tell you about that first last day.


Jeriah and I were about eleven, best as we can figure. Maybe twelve. Gran doesn’t remember when we were born, and Pa never talked about it. But we were about the same age as Mayne, and his twelfth birthday was the week after all this, so that’s how we figure our age.

Riah and Mayne found me near the cave that morning. You see, Ibro was at the house. He didn’t live there, but he hung around sometimes, like he was hiding from something. And when he was there, it wasn’t wise for a girl to be anywhere in the vicinity. Which is why I’d spent the night in the cave.

When Riah and Mayne canoed around the bend, I was high up a tallpole tree picking papes for breakfast.

Riah and I had found the cave one time when Pa sent him out with two baskets that he was to fill with papefruits. Pa didn’t send me, of course. As far as he was concerned, I didn’t exist. But he didn’t care if I helped.

Everybody knows papevines climb the trees that grow along the lower part of the sharpfall. Sometimes you’ll find them elsewhere, but they like the water best. So we’d canoed along the water’s edge, searching out the rounded, green-and-white foliage that wrapped around the tree trunks, and the pods of pink fruit high in the branches. We only found a few here and there, and it took all day to fill those two baskets. But we also found the cave hidden behind the falling water.

Now, Riah couldn’t see me up in the tree’s umbrella, but he always called whenever he approached so I’d know who was coming. “Jem!”

He needn’t have warned me, because I’d seen them a mile off. “What ya want?”

Riah didn’t answer. Just steered the canoe toward my voice. When they reached the bank, Mayne grabbed a rope and stepped off the bow seat onto a rock. While he tied the canoe to a scrawny tree, Riah climbed out and shaded his eyes with his hand to scan the slope. “Pa’s off dragoning.”

I didn’t move, wondering how long it would take him to spot me in the branches. “So?”

“So we have to get the skinning shed cleared out and the soaking pots ready before he gets home.”

The pain in my gut, always there those days, twisted and tightened till I thought I’d fall out of the tree. “I ain’t goin’ home.” I’d stay up there for a week if it kept me from Ibro.

Riah’s gaze had been searching all that time, but it zeroed in on me now. “Ibro ain’t there. Gram had him go with her to get a load of salt.”

I relaxed a little, though my gut still cramped. “What do you need me for?” I knew the answer, but had to ask.

“Takes two.” His tone implied I was stupid for asking.

“Only ’cause you’re a gel eel.”

Mayne climbed the steep slope. “I’d help, but Ma likes me to be there when she gets home from work.”

Holding a pod of papes in my teeth, I shinned down the tree, trying not to wonder what it would be like to have a Ma—especially one who wanted you around. “Riah don’t need your help anyway. Or he wouldn’t, if he weren’t such a sliming gel eel.”

Riah snorted. “If I am, you are, ’cause we’re twins, y’know.”

“Wish I could forget.”

I handed Riah the papes. He and Mayne plucked them from the stems and ate as we picked our way along the steep slope through brush and over rocks. After pulling off the last pink fruit, Mayne tossed the pod’s gnarled skeleton into the water below, where it floated on its back like a big dead spider.


I don’t figure you’ve ever been to Freemansland. Not many people have, though everybody’s heard of it. Probably most of what you’ve heard is wrong, though. So let me tell you what it’s really like.

It’s true that it’s an island, and not a natural one. In the distant past, some unknown peoples built it for a purpose long forgotten. The land itself was long forgotten after the last great war centuries ago, which just about wiped out everyone. It took the rest of the world a long time to find us again—and most of us wish they never did.

Freemansland is an uneven oval shape, built in six levels. At the base, it’s about 400 kilometers across and 350 wide. The highest level, the smallest, is flat on top like a table, with sheer rocky sides all around. This steep, almost-vertical wall, called a sharpfall, plunges down about 1700 meters and ends at a moat of sorts. The stillwater, so called because there’s not much of a current and it’s not much affected by tides, wraps around the whole tabletop in a watery band about a kilometer and a half wide and up to 10 meters deep.

A high rock rim around the outside edge holds the water in the stillwater, except for overflow areas where the water pours down to the next level. Each of the levels is the same—a sharpfall going up to the level above, with a wide stillwater at the foot. Except for the lowest sharpfall, which falls into the ocean instead.

On the day I’m telling you about, Freemansland was all I knew. And all I wanted to know. As far as I was concerned, Freemansland was all there was.

Though most of the things you hear about the place aren’t true, it does live up to its nickname, The Land of Many Mysteries. But I was learning its secrets. If I wished for anything back then, it was to learn more of them.

Well, okay, there were other things I’d have liked. To not be scared anymore, for instance, or in pain. I didn’t know why I hurt all the time, but it seemed to be getting worse. Sometimes I’d be too sick to eat. Sometimes my vision would blur. And a couple of times—I never told Riah, but I’m telling you now—sometimes everything would go dark, and silent, and I wouldn’t know a thing until it all came back a while later, with me wondering what had happened.

If I knew more of Freemansland’s secrets, then I’d know what was wrong with me and how to fix it. Just like I’d learned what I could eat and what was poisonous. How to smear my body with a mixture of mud, rufflemint, and burrowrat dung so the dragons couldn’t smell me. How to make a paste of barbweed and charcoal to soothe the yellow rash. How to move so I wouldn’t be seen or heard by predator or prey, and to enter and leave a place without leaving a sign I’d been there. Those were the secrets I knew.

I hoped if I learned more of Freemansland’s secrets, maybe I’d know how to kill whatever was inside me, killing me, before there was nothing left to save.

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We Interrupt Our Regularly Scheduled Programming

I intended my next post to be a snippet of my WIP. But then I ran across this infographic about one of my favorite subjects — commas — and decided to use it instead. You’ll have to wait a little longer to preview my latest novel.

Yes, I love the subject of commas. This might make me a sick-o, but so be it. I love those little squiggles. The cute little thing below, while it doesn’t address every comma issue, is fully self-explanatory, so I won’t say much about it except to comment on the Oxford (a.k.a. serial) comma.

When I was in school, I was taught by every teacher I ever had that we shouldn’t use that final comma in a series anymore; it was old hat, out of style, no longer considered necessary. However, when my first novel was being edited for publication, the editor (Reagen Reed–I love her!) said it’s back in vogue. Really? Are you kidding? No, she wasn’t kidding. Not everyone uses it these days, but those who do aren’t laughed at for being behind the times.

She got me in the habit of using it. In other words, you can teach an old dog new tricks. But when I’m critiquing other writers’ work, I don’t slap their hands for omitting it.

But enough about me. Now let’s talk about commas!

Top 6 Common Comma Problems (Infographic)

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Why I Don’t Blog

blog backgroundWhen I started Y’s Words back in 2010, it was for the purpose of establishing a writing platform–or at least an online presence as a writer. What I’d hoped would be a platform, however, turned out to be an infinitesimal, near-imaginary toehold despite my attempts to do everything pretty much as was recommended at the time.

Back in the day when I posted three times a week, I learned a few things: 1) the effort did not generate significant book sales; 2) as I’m a slow writer, doing three posts a week imposed a fairly small but constant strain and required me to devote the equivalent of one whole workday per week; and, 3) the posts that got the best response from readers were about my personal life, not writing. (Or, about nothing in particular. For instance, a post in which I shared an old, not-so-funny joke is the one that’s gotten the biggest number of hits. Go figure.)

It’s been several months since my last post, though, so it’s time to do an update. That much is obvious. What I’m less certain of is what I should write about.

2015-07-24 12.30.28No point talking about the weather. Whether or not you like the current weather conditions or look forward to the coming winter or summer (depending on your hemisphere of habitation), there’s no point in my writing about it.

I’ve talked enough about snow, spring flowers, gardening, and that sort of thing in the past. To do so again—especially with nothing new to contribute—would be redundant.

There’s nothing going on in our lives at present worth reporting. This is not necessarily a bad thing, for same-old/same-old can be a comfort. But it doesn’t make for interesting blog posts.

How about writing? I don’t know about you, but I’m bored nearly to tears with writers’ blogs by now. Everything worth saying has already been said a myriad of ways and will be repeated many times in the future. A newcomer to the writing life who wants to learn more about it already has plenty of resources, and I see no reason to add my weak voice to the clamor.

file8431289655927There’s another reason I haven’t been blogging, and I touched on it lightly above: the time factor. No, I’m not the busiest person around, but neither am I looking for things to do; and I have neither time nor energy in inexhaustible supply. As a writer, then—and, as I noted earlier, I’m a slow one—I must choose between writing blog posts and working on my next book. I can’t do both on a regular basis.

To summarize: I don’t blog anymore because 1) I have nothing to say; and 2) it doesn’t seem to be the best use of my time.

But, while I have your attention, let me tell you about my current WIP. (For those writing-newbies, WIP stands for Work in Progress.)

I’m about 82,000 words into my latest novel. It took me a while to get rolling, but now that I’m fully immersed in it, I’m loving it. Love the story, love the world I created for its stage, and love the characters galloping about on it. But I have a problem: it’s getting too long. I’ve already written a novel’s worth, but I still have at least as much to go before the conclusion I envision.

Sometimes my fellow writers will say things like, “My novels are usually only about 50,000 words, but my publisher wants at least 75,000.” Or, “I’m done with my first draft, but I’m 15,000 words short. How can I bulk up the story?” Ha! I never have that problem!

IMG_2017For now—that is, while I’m in the first draft stage—I won’t worry about it. I’ll continue to tell the story as it demands to be told until it’s all put into words. Then I’ll decide whether to make sweeping cuts, or add a little more (if necessary) and turn it into a series.

I can think of good reasons for doing the latter, and, though I’d originally planned for this to be a stand-alone, that’s probably what I’ll end up doing. Here are my thoughts on that, in case you care:

  1. Because I intend to self-publish it, there’s no need to consider a publisher’s requirements. That is, I can do whatever I want.
  2. Especially with titles by little-known authors (that is, me), readers are more apt to pick up a short book than a massive tome. Cost is a big factor here: fat books take more paper and ink and consequently cost more to produce, and the price must reflect that. Time is another consideration. Would I prefer to buy a book, even an inexpensive ebook, that’s going to take me forever to read, or one that’s short and sweet? Unless it’s by an author I already love, I’d opt for a short one.
  3. A short book that’s first in a series can whet a reader’s appetite for more. That way, instead of trying to introduce myself to a reader by selling her one heavy-weight volume, I can tempt her to try a short sweet one; and if she likes it, I have a good chance of selling her the whole series. (In other words, it’s better to sell three books than one.)
  4. If I write the whole story and divide it into three volumes, after publishing the first, I can then release the subsequent titles quickly before reader interest in the first one wanes.

And I’ll bet you’re already bored. See what I mean? I have nothing to say that’s worth blogging about.

00097However, I’m giving some thought to posting the opening of my current WIP—just a little bit—to test the waters and/or generate a little interest, so maybe once I finally publish it, I’ll have three or four people already prepared to hand me their money.

What do you think? Would you like to see the beginning of my current project? Or have you already quit reading this post because honestly, you don’t give a fig?




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