Does a second book imply greater determination?

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image courtesy of Miklav at Stock Xchng

The first week my debut novel was listed on Amazon, back in 2012, I was buzzing with excitement – and personal pride. However, that feeling settled after a wee while and I began thinking about the sequel, which has now been over a year in the making. As the First, and then the Second Drafts dragged on, a mild sense of panic began to rise within me.

What if I can’t do this again?

What if the first book was all I had inside me?

And so, a renewed determination to finish the sequel arose. I would NOT be a one-book wonder. I wouldn’t end my days thinking ‘What a shame I only ever wrote the one…’ *croaks*

Sure, I’ve written many, many stories in my time. A lot of them have even begun paying me back for the time I spent on them. But a novel is something else, isn’t it? It’s the obelisk of the publishing world, the menhir of our career, the monolith…

Well, you know what I’m getting at. To me, the magazine articles I’ve written are fine, if a little thin, like single sheets of paper in a breezy doorway. My short stories (especially electronically-published ones) can feel like leaves in the wind, but in comparison, the novel is a bit of a cast-iron doorstep.  To have published one feels like a serious achievement; to publish a second means it wasn’t a one-off event and I really, really can do it.

And then, of course, there’s the pressure to sustain the output until the end of days. Once that begins, there’s no getting off the roundabout.

Can anyone else relate to this feeling?

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Revisiting the scary world of creation

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terror

After having spent so darn long living with my debut novel, revising, re-revising, then working through Tara Shaner‘s edits, I find myself (finally) back in familiar territory – something that all writers may recognise.

I’d almost forgotten the simultaneous fear and thrill of creating new adventures for my characters, of developing their personalities from the ones I’d grown so accustomed to in the first book, whilst remaining faithful to their original outline.

Just to throw a spanner (wrench) in my own works (something I do very often), I’ve switched First Person POVs for the sequel, describing the new adventures through the eyes (and other senses) of a different main character. For me, it provides a fresh perspective on the character’s mileu.

I just hope the reader will agree. By comparrison, Philip Pullman did something similar between ‘The Northern Lights’ and ‘The Subtle Knife’.

Another spanner/wrench is the two-day overlap that occurs between the first and second books… a sort of half-reboot, if you like. Think of how ‘Back to the Future II’ meshed with the first film – except I’ve used days instead of years. No DeLorean, though. Shame.

By introducing this half-rebooted overlapping First Person POV switch (still with me on this?), I may have limited my timeline to some extent as the confluence of events must fit snugly against the original adventure. On the plus side, the alternative POV enables me to expand on the details of the overlapping scenes.

Win-win? We shall see. Ask me in a year’s time. :D

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CoA

Coming soon! Dun, dun-dundun-duuuun.

Write on!

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A Construct of Angels – the 2014 re-launch.

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CoA post its

It has taken many, many months of hard work, but the revised version of CoA (Kindle, ePub and Kobo) is finally ready to be shown to the world. The paperback is due to follow shortly afterward.

My editor, Tara Shaner and I have been bouncing the MS back and forth across the pond since July, and now, finally, we are both happy with the result. It’s fifty or so pages shorter, two characters lighter and a great deal tighter than before.

I’ve learned a great deal during the process of revision (old hands will nod sagely at this point, but bear with me).

An edit is not just about spelling and grammar. It’s as much about the flow as it is about the structure. It’s about plot threads and loose ends; developing characterisations as well as removing characters who either complicate or lend nothing to the plot. Pace, language and humour are also essential elements of an engaging MS.

I began 2013 with the certainty that after scores of read-throughs, my MS would be error-free and ready to roll.

No need for an editor, I thought.

I can do English. I know how to use punctuation.

I was so naive.

I’ve learned, by taking this long way around, that it really does take an outside and professional eye to spot repetitive or erroneous patterns in a Manuscript – and to offer solutions. A writer can become settled and overly accustomed to the flow of the story and (I have caught myself doing this at times) can tend to ‘read’ the story, rather than edit it objectively.

Be in no doubt that you may begin to question your own skill as a writer as overused words, inappropriate dialogue tags and pointless character actions are unearthed before your disbelieving eyes. ‘Did I really write that? What was I thinking?’

But a good editor should also indicate the places where your work shines, where the humour tickles and where the pace grips the reader. And whilst human nature will automatically remember the bad over the good, an indicator of  competent, nay, great work will help to soften the blow – as well as encouraging the writer not to throw in the towel.

I know where my towel is. :D

So the re-launch is imminent. Watch this space and if you can, please join me on my Author page for some fun, frolics and giveaways on Friday, 28th February.

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The editing continues – revisiting CoA (again)

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lucianotb remington

Sometimes, I’ve been extremely fortunate in my writing journey. When I’ve needed them the most, I’ve met people who have shown me that ePublishing is not only possible, but in some ways it is preferable to traditional publishing. 

During my year of querying agencies and receiving a whole basketful of raspberries, around the time I’d started to build my author platform, I quickly began to encounter other writers, some of whom were still querying, others who had decided to go it alone by self-publishing.

And as they proved to me that there is definitely hope after rejection, one author in particular steered me towards the tutorials that explained how I could complete the process myself.  Thanks Ryan!

I’ve also become friends with several other authors who went on to recommended exactly the right cover artist.

Thank you everybody! You are my guardian angels. Or at the very least, he recommended you all. :)

Now I am entering a new phase in my writing. By sheer chance, and some very fortunate timing, I have become friends with Tara, an aspiring editor who began by examining my first chapter, but went on to review the entire MS.  We are now working together on a complete and thorough edit of CoA.

When I wrote the post How to accept editing feedback I thought that accepting a professional critique would be much more daunting, but Tara has been fair as well as thorough with my MS.

She even likes my jokes… :)

As I write this, we have already made some major changes to the story and I now have several words to purge from the MS, on pain of nagging.

It seems that I use the words ‘just’, ‘like’ and ‘sigh’ a great deal (thanks, WordSmith!), to the point where it has begun to leap off the page at Tara. *Sighs* We are also discussing the intricacies of ‘forwards’ versus ‘forward’ and it looks as if I have sinned with ‘towards’ as well. Taking into account that I write in British English (BrE), we both understand that different rules apply on our respective sides of the Big Pond, but she may have me cornered in this instance. :)

However, Tara seems to enjoying the peculiarities of BrE and I’m slowly introducing her to some of our colloqualisms. I’ll soon have her speaking like a native of the UK and then we can be china plates for life!

Once we’ve finished my fish hook, of course. 

Toodle-pip!

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Published for a year…

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CoA post its

On October 17th, 2012, I clicked a button marked ‘Upload’ and sat back, nervously awaiting the delivery of a stream of electronic information to Amazon KDP. Twelve hours later, ‘A Construct of Angels’ was live and I realised that I had finally achieved my dream – to complete a novel and put it up for sale.

Thirty-seven years ago, I could never have dreamed that in this future age of flying cars, silver jumpsuits and daily trips to the Moon, my book would exist only as data and that it would be held in storage in a distant country. Readers would only have to tap it with their finger if they wanted to select, pay for and read it.

Cool.

I am still working to make the paperback version a reality, but with the recent bout of editing that I have subjected the poor thing to, that particular realisation has been delayed yet again. Configuring an electronic (Word-based) template with paragraphs, page breaks, chapters and the odd image isn’t as straightforward as it ought to be. *frowns* It’s now back with my new editor, Tara, after receiving some swathing cuts, including the complete removal of two characters.

In some ways, I hardly seem to have moved on at all. I am still editing and I really need to put A Construct of Angels to bed and pick up the sequel. But it will haunt me if my first book isn’t the best it can possibly be. Only when that’s sorted, can I let it go…

However, as I mentioned in a previous post, One Year On,  a great deal has changed for me in the last twelve months (plus I now have 300 followers – who’d have thought?) and I still can’t quite believe how much has been crammed into such a short space of time. I can only wonder what the next twelve months will bring, although I can’t imagine them being as crazy as the last twelve. The learning curve, I feel, is no longer as steep as it has been and for that, I am grateful. :)

Regular readers will know that my job sends me all around the UK. Well, by sheer chance, this week happens to have landed me back at the exact same desk from where I uploaded my book, one year ago. I am experiencing an eerie sense of deja vu – again.

It’s another reminder of what’s changed. If I could borrow Sandra Bullock’s time-travelling postbox (The Lake House), I would send my past self a message that says ‘hang on to your hat.’

Not that I wear a hat. I’m not Terry Pratchett. :)

Anyway, until Tara has finished looking over my new edits, I’m hoping to press on with the sequel,  ‘A Vengeance of Angels.’ I’d really liked to have completed it, one year on, but life has a peculiar way of rearranging even the best-laid plans of mice and authors.

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Casted – by Sonya Loveday

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Casted Blog Tour banner

Today is my turn to host Sonya’s whirlwind tour of the blogsphere, as organised by Book Crazy.

Sonya Loveday

I thought it would be just a simple interview, just a quick half-hour chat by Skype, but I found that I had to go to unusual lengths to grab a few words from Sonya’s very busy (and fairly cautious) characters. ‘Skype is traceable’ I was told by a young guy who introduced himself only as ‘Jude.’ Before I could say anything else he warned me not to ‘make that crack about the Beatles.’

I’m still not sure what he meant.

No, I was told that I’d have to meet with my interviewees in person. I suggested a public place – somewhere they’d feel safe, but a chorus of ‘No’s in the background led me to compromise. I would have to meet them where THEY felt safe.

What follows is my notes from that meeting;

*   *   *

If you’re reading this then you may already be sympathetic to the plight of the people I’m about to meet. Or you might be a Triad spy. Either way, what you’re about to hear will perhaps explain why these women have been running for most of their lives.

I’ve not been allowed to know the location of the interview. In fact, I’m not even sure which country I’m in. I can’t feel a blindfold. Nevertheless, I’ve been in darkness for the past half hour – ah!

A snap of my escort’s fingers returns my sight. That’s better! I can see.

“Sit yourself down,” the stern-looking guy says to me. “I’ll tell them you’re here.” He throws me a look that makes something very clear – he doesn’t trust me one bit.

“Thanks,” I say. He leaves via a chipped off-white door, giving me the chance to pull the crumpled notes from my inside jacket pocket and try to smooth them out on my knee.  The room is spartan, empty of all but the essentials of a farmhouse kitchen. A well-used cooker tries to hide itself in a corner. I’m on a mass-produced chair, set back from a planked table big enough to seat eight people.  The light, too, is poor. There are no windows in this room, only a couple of strip lights without diffusers that provide harsh illumination.

Not for the first time, I wonder what I’ve gotten myself into. I’m considering moving the hard chair over to the table when a frowning young woman bangs open the door and stares at me.  I swear that I can see sparks rising from her mahogany hair. She’s athletic, but her anger stops me from considering whether she’s attractive.

“We’re here, now what the hell do you want?”

I wonder what I can say to calm her – to assure her that I’m no threat to her and her friends – when a study of calm and beauty wafts past her. Long blonde hair and startling blue eyes consider me for a moment before she turns to her companion and sighs.

“It’s okay Jessa. Mister Toynbee is only here to help tell our side of the story.”

“I don’t trust him. He looks like a Triad spy.”

“He’s not a spy Jessa, he’s from WordPress.”

“Wordpress, spy, Mick, Triad plant…..all the same to me.”

“Jade asked us to do this, now stop trying to scare Mister Toynbee.”

“It’s nice to meet you ladies,” I say. Nervously, I shuffle my notes, hoping to find a starting point.

“Thank you Mister Toynbee, it’s nice to meet you too. Would you be more comfortable at the table?”

I nod my thanks to her and move to a chair half-way down the rough table. Now seated, I could spread out my notes and begin to figure out what I was going to ask them. But I think my first question was a big mistake.

“Will Jade be joining us?”

“I bet you’d like that wouldn’t you.”

“Jessa, we discussed this. Jade will be coming soon, Mister Toynbee.”

“I still don’t trust him, Rainy.”

Jessa spins one of the wooden chairs the wrong way round and drops herself onto it. Her dark eyes watch me carefully.

“I understand that you’re trying to protect her,” I say. “But at the same time, a lot of people are watching this battle between the Triad and the Original Coven and wondering why it’s happening.”

“You’re kidding me right?”

“You shouldn’t be so surprised Jessa.  The Micks don’t understand what is happening because it is not of their concern. The Covens have never included the Micks in our world, only the Triad have. You see Mister Toynbee, it’s a war as old as time, ever since the Original Coven formed there has been a restlessness in the spell caster community.”

“The Triad wanted to continue using the magic that was banned. The Original Coven wouldn’t let them. A small group of men broke away from the Original Coven and plotted ways to rise above the Original Coven, they were ruthless in their plight. They forced powerful people into their ranks by murder and entrapment. It was, and still is, an ongoing fight. No one is willing to let the other side win. The original Coven thought at one point that the Triad had gone off to lick their wounds after they failed to get Elinor and Leif – they were wrong, so very wrong.”

“That’s the reason for all this killing?  All the destruction? Isn’t there any kind of compromise that can be reached?”

“Compromise? Ha! You think this is just something both sides are going to sit down and negotiate? People are dying because of this. Jade is hunted. We’ve lost everything…family, our Coven’s…everything Mister Toynbee, all for the sake of a man on a power trip. He’s a ruthless bastard that would take out his own granddaughter to gain more power.”

“What Jessa is trying to say is that there is no compromising with someone like Lorenzo. The Original Coven members have been picked off slowly; the other Covens are running scared, splitting their Covens up and hiding in fear, when they should be fighting back.”

“But you still outnumber them, don’t you? I thought there were many Covens, even though the Triad has destroyed some and scattered others.”

“Outnumbering them isn’t the problem,” Jessa said

“There aren’t many willing to go up against the Triad – against Lorenzo,” Rainy added.

“And this…” I consult my notes. “…Lorenzo. He’s behind all this? He’s the driving force?”

“He’s the reason everyone is running scared, yes.” Rainy nodded.

I lower my voice. “But you must have some kind of plan. You don’t seem the types to just hide in this…” I indicated the room with a wave of my hand. “…bunker.”

“Hiding? In fact Mister Toynbee we’re doing the exact opposite…….OUCH! Damn it, Rainy, that hurt.”

“What Jessa is trying to say is there’s always a chance for hope.”

“Of course.  I understand. But you must realise that there are a lot of people out there who are ready to take sides. If they see that you’re the good guys, you may gain some useful allies.”

“It’s hard to gain allies when a war is being waged over a book. Would you join a war like that?” Jessa asked.

I decide to go for the human story angle. “Well, why don’t you tell me a little about yourselves. How did you meet, for instance? And how did you meet Jade?”

“Jessa and I have been friends since childhood. We’ve witnessed what the Triad was capable of. We made a pact that if our Covens split, we’d meet in Scotland. Never did we imagine that we’d actually have to do it. When I witnessed the murder of my family……”

“And you’ve been running ever since? You must have felt so lonely – so scared. No wonder you’re suspicious of everybody.”

“We’ve been through a lot Mister Toynbee…things we don’t care to discuss because it’s painful. I’m sure you understand. The fact is, we met up in Scotland after losing EVERYTHING….it was in Fate’s hands that Jade was in the same place at the same time. Rainy took one look at her and insisted we needed to help her. I was just trying to get us to a safe place – There isn’t anything we wouldn’t do to keep Jade safe, she’s our family.”

At that moment, another young woman enters the room. She seems nervous. Jessa  and Rainy rise from their chairs to flank her like bodyguards. Thin and of average height, she watched me with bright green eyes that were a startling counterpoint to her thick red hair.

“It’s okay….Sonya told me we can trust Mister Toynbee. She wouldn’t put us in danger.”

“So, Jade. You seem to be at the centre of all this,” I say as she settles into a chair opposite me. She is careful to remain out of my reach.

“Unfortunately, yes I am.”

I glance at Jessica and Rainy. “But you’re not alone. You have good friends. You seem to be as close as family, would that be a fair assumption?”

“They are my family.”

“And is there anyone special for you right now? A guy, perhaps?”

“You don’t have to answer that Jade.”

“No, it’s okay, I don’t mind. Edge is….”

“Overbearing, demanding, protective….”

“….acts just like Dagger?” Jade quirks her eyebrow at Jessa.

“Shhh…don’t let him hear you say that.”  Jessa laughs quietly.

“Edge is my preordained, Mister Toynbee. We are bonded through a very strong, very old spell – one that doesn’t choose sides, only people. “

“That’s very old magic, Jade. And very rare, I believe.  With that sort of power behind you, you might just have the edge.” Jade smiles at my unintended pun.

“Do you know that there are a lot of people rooting for you out there?”

“Really? I’m not sure how to reply to that Mister Toynbee. For so long I’ve stayed to the shadows…we’ve stayed to the shadows. Involving others only guaranteed someone’s death.”

“Some will remain neutral, but there are many who are waiting to see which way this swings before they decide to join in. What would you say to them?”

“You either let things happen or make things happen. Don’t expect mercy from the Triad, they will give none.”

“Many Covens have suffered so far. Do you really think one Coven of refugees can prevail against the Triad?”

“People are dying because of me….DYING! They don’t understand why….they run in fear from a situation no one understands. I will fight with everything in me to stop him. He’s taken too much from everyone, not just me. I owe it to the Covens, I owe it to my family. This small coven of refugees, as you call us, we’ve all lost so much because of him – because of Lorenzo. Don’t mistake our secrecy for weakness. We may be few in number, but that’s not going to stop us from doing everything in our power to stop the Triad.”

“Well, you certainly have good on your side – and that can count for a lot. One last thing – do you ever think you will find out the truth about your family? About what happened to them?”

“The little I’ve learned about my parents is that they paid the ultimate price for their love. As far as what happened to them, I may never really know the answer to that. I could lie and say it doesn’t bother me, but the truth is that it bothers me too much.”

“Well, I wish you the very best and I’ll be sure to let the world know that you are fighting for all the right reasons.” I begin to rise to my feet, but Jessica stiffens. I’d wanted to shake Jade’s hand, but I’m sure that would have earned me more than a harsh look.

“I’m ready to leave, now. Could someone tell the gentleman who – .”

“Matheson!” Jessica bellows. Rainy sighs as she makes a show of clearing the jangling from her ear with a forefinger. Matheson couldn’t have been far away. He steps into the room and meets my gaze.

“Ready?” he says. I nod. He snaps his fingers and my sight goes dark before he grasps my arm and leads me on a series of stomach-lurching jumps back to my own world. I have time to wonder how far we have travelled before we lurch to a stop. I hear fingers snapping. My sight is restored and I find myself standing alone on a rain-swept street, my notes clutched tightly in my hand.

Andrew Toynbee

Reporting from somewhere in Southern Ireland…

…in need of a good taxi service.

Casted book cover

http://www.facebook.com/sonyalovedayauthor

Twitter:
https://twitter.com/SonyaLoveday/status/371384324764860416

Goodreads:
http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/17839278-casted

Blog Tour managed by Book Crazy

Amazon:
http://www.amazon.com/Casted-series-ebook/dp/B00E891C06/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1377378873&sr=1-1&keywords=Casted

B&N:
http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/casted-sonya-loveday/1116240459?ean=2940148653486

Book Trailer:
http://www.facebook.com/l.php?u=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.youtube.com%2Fwatch%3Fv%3DzrmmGao_b-k&h=2AQHef6aa

WordPress:
http://sonyaloveday.wordpress.com/

How to accept editing feedback

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Professor at work

Within the last few weeks I have been on both sides of the editing fence, in a non-professional capacity, and it’s been a fascinating and emotional experience.

It’s surprising how much this editing lark tugs at the heartstrings…probably because I was working with friends’ MSs, not an ‘author unknown’ whose work I could have viewed more dispassionately.

At first. there’s the realisation that I am holding someone’s hard work in my hands. I handle it like fine china whilst wearing thin white cotton gloves. Eventually, once I have carefully tip-toed through the copyright page and the dedication page – pages that look uncannily similar to my own – I get down to reading the actual story.

Fairly quickly, I begin to read it as an editor, albeit an amateur one. I discover small errors. There are the obvious typos, misplaced words that the spell checker skimmed past, stray aspostrophe’s :) Those are all straightforward and easy to highlight. At this stage, I feel no guilt for messing with someone’s hard work.

But then there are the ‘clumsy’ sentences; the ones that find you circling the same spot on the page like a buzzard as you consider rephrasing; ‘The stars appeared in a velvet sky along with the shining object that as a child, the cow had jumped over – the Moon – just before the clouds began to roll in.’

I should emphasise that no-one actually committed that sentence to ePaper. It’s just an example…but it’s awkward, right?

But I’ve stared at many similar sentences, wondering if I’m just being mean, picky or plain British-awkward by even considering the idea of changing them. If I correct it, will it then jar with the rest of the MS? Will I have ruined the artistry that the writer sought to inject into the words?

Will it change the mood if I type it up as; ‘Clouds mushroomed along the horizon, building quickly, threatening to swallow the moon – my childhood inspiration – and spoil the cobalt, star-spotted beauty of the late evening sky.’ That’s more my style – but do I have the right to impose it on another writer?

Guilty questions begin to rattle my brain;

‘Do I leave that alone?’

‘Is it actually wrong – or do I just not like it personally?’

It’s the same thing when I read ‘Phil pushed himself off of the table.’  Brits hate this – but it seems to be normal in the US.

With some phrases, I wonder;

‘Is that how an American would phrase it – or is it wrong?’

Take; ‘He dropped the tailgate of the pickup and drug out the fishing nets.’ Brits would throw up their hands in horror – but in the US? I honestly don’t know if drug is an acceptable past tense form of drag.

If it’s speech, then I leave it well alone. Characters can talk exactly as they want to – unless I stumble across someone suddenly saying ‘I did not want to…’ or ‘I shall not do…’ when they would normally contract their speech.

Then we have; ‘The teenagers hung around the park most of the day, but one by one they began to slope off home.’

‘Would American readers understand that term? Is it too British? Should it be international-ised?’

It’s been pointed out to me that I use a lot of British English. Yes, that’s probably true, but short of avoiding all words that end in ‘-ised’ or changing them to ‘-ized’ and cutting out the letter ‘u’ from words ending with ‘-our’, I’m not sure of the best way around that issue. I am (mostly) English, my story is set in York, my main characters are (for the most part) English and at no point do they leave the country. If I was to convert my MS to American English, I would then be turning my back on the very ‘Britishness’ of my story. It’s a no win, no win situation.

I find myself thoroughly quandried, plus I feel a growing respect for editors who must straddle these intenational conundrua.

On the receiving end;

The edited MS arrives as an attachment – I download it and crack it open, wondering how much red I will see.  The first comment pops up, and I instantly feel (in turn and within the space of a few seconds) the following;

Irritation

Annoyance

Anger

Resignation

Acceptance

Determination

Purpose

Is it just me? Am I unique in that I see red because someone has dared to question my writing? I mean – how dare they?

Oh, they’re editing it for me. Fair enough.

The ire quickly fades as my Muse nods sagely and persuades me (diplomatically) that the editor could well be right and that perhaps a small change would benefit the MS.  So I sigh, I change it, I move on to the next comment.

It’s a hard thing, to accept the critique of another. If you’ve a thin skin, it feels as if someone is simply telling you; ‘No, you’re done that wrong.’ If you’re thicker skinned – and writers need to be – then it should be seen as ‘fine tuning’, as necessary as – for example – a haircut. The hairdresser may not actually hate your hair, but they still need to take off a little bit here and tidy it up there. It’s not personal.

But it can sure feel like it. >.<

Just think of it as the next little step towards presenting your best possible work to the world. Grit your teeth, thicken your skin, go get that haircut and let it happen.

So easy to say…so tricky to accept.

:D

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The writings of your not so average mother of two trying to manage a crazy life one random thought at a time

Would You Read This?

A Writing Blog

Somnolent Soul

living life through words, naps, and photographs

ChronicleMe

Support. Laugh. Inspire.

Bookshelf Battle

The only site where new bestsellers are forced to do battle for space on a nerd's bookshelf.

readers+writers journal

Connecting Readers and Writers

1 SIGFRIDSSON

ON = TIME

Dimitris Melicertes

I don't write, I touch without touching.

Author P.S. Bartlett

I'm Taking a Fantastic Voyage. Won't You Join Me?

Harry A. Manners

Sci-Fi and Fantasy Novelist

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