Fly little bird, fly! #FabulousFriday @AuthorMoira

Well I totally forgot it was Friday. Had zero clue until I was heading out of work for the day and everyone was saying “have a good weekend”. To which I stared blankly at them with a big old question mark hovering over my head. Thankfully someone took mercy and reminded me it was Friday. Color me shocked! Short weeks are great because you don’t have to go to work as often, but good lawd do they mess up your internal calendar. That’s my story and I’m damn well sticking to it.

Today’s post, slightly delayed though it is, is about new authors trying new things. We all know the saying “write what you know” well by this point, but there is more to an authors life than that. We should also try new things from time to time.

The main reason folks tell you to “write what you know” is so that you become comfortable, and find a routine of writing that works for you. If you’re writing “what you know” then you are in a comfort zone for your topic of choice for your WIP. But eventually you will discover you’ve done it so often that you are now in a rut so damn deep you’re not sure if you’ll ever get out. Like the one scene in Twister where they were being chased by the tornado and couldn’t quite get the truck out of the ditch.

On one hand it’s great advice for the newbie’s out there, learn your rhythm, find your happy place, and once you have a pattern to work with, stretch out your wings. Not only will this help you grow as an author instead of writing the same old, same old to death, but it will also keep sparking your muse. Because without that psychotic schizophrenic bitch throwing curve balls and wild cards, writing can become dull. Repetitive. Boring.

I’m not saying to pull a 180 and go right off the deep end, that might be going too far unless you truly feel prepared for that. I’m suggesting maybe a different genre, or add on a sub-genre to your current pursuits to add something fresh to the mix. And then build on that. Eventually you could be doing that 180 from where you were to start, no one’s saying you have to or that you shouldn’t. But go at your own pace, in your own time, and with what feels most comfortable to you. After all, you’re the only one that knows what’s going on in your head, what your muse is thinking, and what sparks that creative juice to start flowing.

So write what you know until you’re ready to head into the unknown.

Say what now? #FabulousFriday @AuthorMoira

Happy Friday one and all, and for some the precursor to a long weekend. Here in Canada we get Victoria Day on Monday, A celebration for Queen Victoria’s birthday, who at the time of our (aka: Canada’s) Confederation and establishment of dominion in 1867, was the reigning Canadian monarch. Say that five times fast. Which was, if you’re doing the math, 150 years ago – that’s right, it’s Canada’s 150th birthday this year. Another name for the weekend, quite obviously, is the May Long Weekend. The official demarcation between winter and spring, or the point at which it is now *cough* “safe” *cough* to start dethatching the grass, planting the crops, etc., and for the truly die hard, dedicated lunatics out there – the first camping trip of the year. For those of us who are authors, and not lunatics of the camping variety, we’ll be writing. Which in an extremely roundabout way segues into my post for today.

WRITING IS NOT A REAL JOB

Yup, you read that right. And sadly there are people out there who actually believe this type of malarkey. What I’m hoping to do, if I should manage to avoid a full blown rant, is to dispel this rumor once and for all. But let’s start at the top and work our way down shall we?

JOB: 1. an assignment at which one regularly works for pay (Related Words: business, employ, employment, occupation, profession, career, livelihood, living, etc.); 2. a piece of work that needs to be done regularly (Related Words:  endeavor, enterprise, undertaking, responsibility, etc.); 3. a specific task with which a person or group are charged; 4. the action for which a person or thing is specially fitted or used or for which a thing exists (Related Words:  niche, calling, occupation, pursuit, vocation, duty, mission, etc.); etc… taken from Merriam-Webster online thesaurus and abbreviated as needed for this posting.

We as authors endeavor to undertake the profession of writing. Do we hope to make it a career? Abso-fucking-lutely. For the majority of us though this isn’t going to happen. But it’s a calling, a pursuit that we have to take part in, a vocation and a calling that speaks to our very souls. It is our duty, not only to ourselves but our very spirit, to take on the mission we were always destined to pursue. But I’m getting ahead of myself here, so let’s take it from the word go. Like anyone our day begins by getting out of bed.

From there it’s a variety of the following, but in the end we have as much (sometimes less, sometimes more) to do as the average non-writer type person to get done in a day. And then we still have to get in our time/word counts.

  1. Rise & Shine – or the variant of Groan & Grumble, Moan & Creak, Bitch & Bargain, etc.
  2. Freshen Up – otherwise known as beating down the bedhead, de-furring the tongue, and so forth
  3. Fuel For The Day – usually trying to slurp down a too hot coffee/tea too fast, burn the tongue/roof of mouth, and curse mornings; occasionally there might be a spare 2 seconds for something to eat
  4. Out The Door – this could involve kids, or just yourself and/or significant other, usually in a rush because despite all best laid plans you’re somehow behind schedule, not for the first time that year naturally
  5. Day Job – most authors have this beast of burden to contend with in one form or another unless they are lucky, or have sold extremely well to support themselves
  6. After Job/School Activities – folks with kids know there’s sometimes too many things to try to cram into one afternoon/evening, and yet somehow everything is always planned for the same night (sports games/finals, dance class/recitals, band practice/recitals, etc)
  7. Evening Relaxation – ensuring kids get watered and fed, usually a meal is crammed in there, homework (theirs or yours), etc
  8. Writing – now, unlike those who are lucky to have the daylight hours to write in while the house is partly or fully empty of small demanding beings, those of us with the Day Job get only a set number of minutes to hours to write in a night
  9. Inevitable Crash – bedtime, aka: when the muse really starts coming up with ideas but you’re too exhausted to care/write them down because you’ll remember in the morning, even though you won’t/don’t

Now, as mentioned there are variations on this, but the above is the gist of things of the “average” day for an author. Not only do we contend with everything non-writers do, we still have our actual career, our writing, to try and get time for in every single day. But it’s not JUST writing. For newbies and those who haven’t hit it “big”, we also have all the stuff some lucky authors have assistants for. Things like marketing, research, arranging for trips, conventions, etc. Which is 100% separate for the hundreds of daily tasks we still see to by ourselves, or at least oversee (grocery shopping, laundry, cleaning, bill paying, household fixes, etc, etc, etc.)

So, to those out there that say that writing isn’t a job or a career, that it’s a “cute hobby”, I say unto you – PFFT! I challenge you to step into the shoes of the average author and take our lives for a spin. Like anything out there until you’ve walked a mile in the shoes of the one you are belittling, zip it. You have no more right than anyone else to judge, just like we have no right to judge you in whatever you do. Mutual consideration, understanding, and compassion people. Get over yourself and realize that the first step to a better world is to stop judging that which you have never done and therefore do not know.

To the Newly Published Author by Jules Dixon of @JulesofTripleR #amwriting #marketing #MondayMessages

To the Newly Published Author by Jules Dixon

What a wonderful thing it is to be a published author. Whether it be self-published or traditionally published, you have accomplished what many hope and dream to do in their life. Congratulations!

And as a newly published author, I’d like to take a minute to guide you through your first book baby, post delivery into the great big world of reading, if you will.

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First, you will be excited and many of your friends and family will be excited for you but that might not always be the case. You may run into one or more (hopefully not) who say things that come off as less than supportive. “Anyone can publish a book nowadays” or “I have an idea for a book, but I’m not going to write it because I don’t want to make you feel bad cause I know it’s going to be big, not like yours.” Yes, those are just a sample of things people have said to me. Prepare yourself for the “haters”, and don’t let them get to you. Let it slide right off, and write another book! Cause you know what, they be jealous most of the time.

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Second, you will want to ask a million questions, but I’d ask you use your friend Mr. Google and inquire there first, narrow your question with the information you find, and then if you still have a very pointed and well-articulated question, then ask someone for clarification. It’s amazing what an author can find on Google or any other search engine, or in a supportive author group in the previous posts. In most groups, you can use the “Search” function and see if a topic has been approached and what the responses were.

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Third, don’t be like Luke. When Luke is training in the swamp he freaks out, he gives up, and he acts like a goddamn baby. So don’t be like Luke…have some PATIENCE! Seriously, this probably should be #1. Understand that it takes time to learn. Have patience to accept that it takes time to get a fan base, build loyal readers and connect with readers. Restraint from saying and doing things you might regret later. Step back from holding Yoda in the air on your foot while lifting the rock, some day you too will feel the force, but when it’s all new, you need to take slower steps, listen, and focus. Just breathe.

 

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Lastly, if a fellow author promotes you, give thanks, and make a mental note to do the same when they have a book come out. This is a reciprocity that speaks a lot to your professionalism, plus using people for your own promotion and not reciprocating is not acceptable. I understand things slip through the cracks, but authors take time from writing to help you, please do the same.

Okay, go forth and be a new and wonderful writer. It is an amazing event and you should relish the excitement and happiness you feel.

Congratulations to all first time published authors and to those who continue in this crazy business. We all deserve a pat on the back today.

❤ Jules

All gifs from Giphy.

 

Enough to fill an ocean #FabulousFriday @AuthorMoira

It’s that time again folks, TGIF! Which also means it’s time for another post from yours truly. So let’s get down to it.

Every single person on the planet has doubts at one time, or another. For an author they can be crippling. And while there is no tried and true method to get around them, or banish them entirely, there is one key sentence that you should hold close. For when the wolves are baying outside your window, and doubt comes knocking on your door.

YOUR VOICE MATTERS.

For an author our voice is in every story we write, world we create, and characters we bring to life. Every word in every sentence tells part of the tale that is our voice. Our voices hold power, it can rise above the masses, or be soft enough that everyone must strain to catch it. We use it to draw outsiders deep within the walls we’ve built, paint the picture we wish them to see, and move them through the full range of emotions. From shock, to anger, to sadness, to joy and everything in between.

We are artists quietly toiling at our chosen craft, quite often in solitude. We’re distracted, absentminded, goofy, spacey, and any other number of terms. Not a single one of us is the same, except in a singular matter, doubt.

What if this is too much, or not enough? What if they don’t take, or worse what if they do? No one will read this, or will they? Maybe I shouldn’t put that part in, but what if I do? Can I say/do/have that in there? What if no one buys it? What if no one likes it? What if they hate it?

As I mentioned in last weeks post, you can’t please everyone. So push those questions drilling holes in your brain and squashing your creativity aside, and write. They are doubts, some will be stronger than others, but that’s okay too. You are allowed to doubt yourself from time to time, but do not let yourself get bogged down with them. Grab hold of something real, something tangible and yank yourself up from the mire that’s trying to swallow you whole and drown you. Throw your shoulders back, tilt your chin up high and let out a warriors cry.

YOUR VOICE MATTERS.

Make yourself a compliment jar. I know, it sounds silly, but trust me on this. Put in it every compliment you’ve ever gotten, each one written on it’s own piece of paper. Put in every great thing you’ve done, whatever you’ve accomplished (big or small), and everything that instantly brings a smile to your face. Pack all those little pieces of paper into that jar and leave it in your work space. When your doubts have you up against the ropes pull out one of those little things and give it a read. Embrace it, remember it, remind yourself that you are NOT your doubts.

And when in doubt (no pun intended) it doesn’t hurt to throw your head back and scream at the top of your lungs for no reason at all. It’s definitely cheaper than therapy, and a hell of a lot of fun. Especially in a crowd.

To Revive or Not to Revive? That is the question. #HumpDayHangout with @JulesofTripleR

To Revive or Not to Revive? That is the question.

Heartbeat

Many times authors will start a story and for whatever reason or reasons the inspiration and words just stop and the story gets put away. But should a writer ever go back to the story and pick up where they left off and finish or at least add to the piece of work? Or is it healthier to let go and move on?

Let’s take picking it back up and examine that take first. A lot of good can come emotionally from finishing a story a writer started, especially a story that digs deep into our souls. It can be self-examination of who we are and what we want to be, exposing our inner fears, weaknesses, and faiths. Finishing is determination. Completing is that proverbial, organized word mountain that authors want to climb, and when a writer reaches the summit (a.k.a. The End), they take a look at what they’ve accomplished and can celebrate a victory, but the trek back down (ie. production, finding a publisher, marketing, etc.) can be a bitch of a walk, too.

There are many external reasons for not giving up, too. First, readers. Thinking of them enjoying the story and telling others about the story can give a writer encouragement. Also, economic reasons weigh heavy on an author. If the story sells, it’s money in our pocket. I’m not saying to be a “sell out,” I’m saying that I like to eat. A lot.

Bread and cheese and wine and bread. Did I mention cheese? Or wine?

And I digress.

We want our stories to be magical and give “all the feels” but there are times when a piece isn’t giving us the feels, so a reexamination of the project may be necessary.

Psychologically speaking there are a lot of reasons to move on and some personal detriments of taking that road, too.

On the downside, there is definitely guilt. Why did I start something I couldn’t finish? Then there is doubt. If I couldn’t finish this, what makes me think I can finish another project? Both are rabbit holes that can suck a writer in, and there is no Wonderland waiting on the other side, only disappointment. But somehow most of us pull ourselves together and march on.

In a way, writers fall in love with their own work. They nurture the relationship and give their heart away in the process. But there is a real danger in loving something that isn’t real, at least not in the breathing, thinking, embodied sense. A story can’t love you back. A writer gives and gives until sometimes there is nothing else to give, but what if it’s not enough? It can feel like a breakup and leave an author emotionally depleted and defeated. Exhausted.

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But what about breakups, can’t they be good for a writer—giving time and distance? Well, if you asked Ross and Rachel of Friends, breaks are not always a good thing. One of the best episodes, ever…btw.

 

But yes, a break from a project can give perspective and hope that your dream is attainable and meant to be. Just like Ross and Rachel eventually were. A break from a project can mean learning more information, examining the bigger picture, and taking in more experiences that will enrich and deepen a story. Like writer Wynter S.K. said when I spoke with her about the topic, “Presumably you’ve grown as a writer in that time and can approach the old piece with new eyes and more skill.”

Writing doesn’t come naturally to everyone; many (ahem—all) have to work at perfecting the craft. Even if boatloads of readers say a writer’s work is fantastic, there’s always potential to make it better. When we stop learning and growing we start getting complacent and comfortable. And boring. Readers want exciting and new and different but with a retention of voice. Take them to a new place and they will reward a writer for the journey, no matter how hard the expedition really was for the author, it doesn’t matter to the reader, they paid for the blood, sweat, and tears…all the tears.

It is when writers are outside of their comfort-zone and on the edge of hating a story that often they take the biggest risks and chances to create a story that is phenomenal, not just good. Being off kilter can produce the best results for fantastic twists and turns. When the words are forced to fit some rigid thinking a writer has in their head, they are based on fear and contraction, not expansion. I’ve heard authors talk about writing an outline and then they put it away and don’t look at it again. They’ve given their brain semblance of a path, and now it’s time to let their talent and craft do the rest.

So, if you’re a writer, go visit those old stories that still call to you. If you find one that still rings true, then work on it, give it a little love and see if there’s a reason you continue to contemplate the idea. And if you’re a reader, keep asking writers for new and interesting material. Challenge them to dig deeper or to dig into a writing project that isn’t finished.

Here’s to expanding your past and present in writing, I’m off to open up a Young Adult suspense-romance started in 2012 that will get my attention for the next two weeks. I’ll let you know how it goes.

Happy Huuuuuump Day! ❤ Jules

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Writing the First Book in a Series #SatisfactionSaturday (@KaceyHammell)

 

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Good morning and Happy Saturday. Already the 2nd weekend in February. And it is not any warmer than it was last week. If anything, this week has been one of the worst this season. Freezing rain all day Tuesday, snow overnight last night, and expected again on Sunday. I will be glad to see winter end. I know, I’m a Canadian girl and I should be used to it by now, but the older I get (I’m a young 42), the harder the winters seem to be. However, it makes for some writing hours! *g* The silver lining, right?

Which brings me to this week’s post…writing that first book in a series. I have many series on the go. I LOVE to read them, think that Harlequin/Silhouette got me hooked many years ago (at the age of 14) when I found Nora Roberts, Joan Johnston and Debbie Macomber. I have 7 series on the go. Yes, 7, and none of them are fully complete. Now, in my defense – and the writer brain working as it does – after I write a story set in one world/series, I have to move away from those characters/the world, and move on to something else. As a reader, I don’t mind the wait for the next book in an author’s series, as I understand the writer’s mind has …well, a mind of its own. As much as I know readers would prefer I finish up one series before moving on to the next – and I know many authors who CAN do it this way – I can’t. I have to give myself a break from those characters and the angst, adrenaline of each story, the energy of it all. I’m unsure why exactly, it’s how it works best for me.

I am sure it hurts my sales, and I do dislike that believe me, but if I push myself too far and go against the norm of things, then I’ll be hurting myself as well as doing an injustice to the characters/story. Should the time ever arise that I can immediately move onto the next in a series, then trust me, I’ll be all over it. I WISH it happened for me like that. But all isn’t lost, as I will come back to those characters/the world…in due time. And when they want to.

But what goes into a series – that first book? A well-rounded posse of characters. To me that is first and foremost. I start with the characters and then build the world from there. For me it makes sense, I can’t build a world without knowing who the characters are – what they do, the baggage/wounds they carry, what drives them, what they want out of life, who they are as lovers, partners, best friends, children, parents and/or siblings.

Book 1 should introduce everyone essential to the series – unless a character pops up in a later book that comes from nowhere and matches one of the primary characters, of course. And when I say introduce, I don’t mean pages of pages of history for each individual, work all that in through the story a bit, but leave a lot of the secondary characters information until their own books. Book 1 should introduce the friends, etc., but book 1 should be all about the hero/heroine of that story. Weave their information through the story as well, build the first book around who they are, and bring those secondary characters into it as need be. They’ll show up, trust me. *g*

Through book 1, reveal the series arc that will be sustained through however many books you perceive the series to be.  When it comes to a series, outlining is quite important. I use spreadsheets with all the information – character name, occupation, physical traits, what happens to them in each book, who they are to everyone within the story, etc, etc. I suggest every author use one for a series, that way you will have the information throughout the series readily available to look back at without having to re-read every single book each time. Even though, that too is a great idea. I have done that with every book as I sit to write a new one. But the spreadsheets are easily accessed as I write every book. Saves time as well, when I’m on a writing sprint that is going well and I can glance at the printed copy of the spreadsheet and the info is there.

With the first book of a series, it’s so important that an author make it shine. Even more brilliantly than ever imagined, and take extra time with it. Readers will find that first book, and authors of course want the readers coming back for every single book in the series, so it needs to sparkle like bright lights in a big city. It has to be spectacular. While writing it, even going back to do your self-edits and draft after draft, learn who each individual is as much as possible. You’ll be hanging out with them a lot – most series are 3 books or more – and it’s so, so important to know them as well as you know yourself or your own family. Setting the world for the series needs vivid detail, the deep connections and internal “click” surrounding the characters who are powerful and engaging to the readers. We love series that involve characters who we can identify with, wish were our brothers, sisters, BFFs, etc.  While I am nowhere near JD Robb/Nora Roberts’ standard in writing, though I wish to be one day!, she certainly hit it out of the park with series like – In Death, MacGregors, McKade Brothers, Chesapeake Blue, and I could go on and on.

And when in doubt when a series comes to mind, read!! Read other author’s works that have series. Take that first book from each series and learn from it. See how other authors set up their worlds, the way they introduce characters and how things unfold seamlessly through it. An author’s best learning tool is other authors who have done well with their craft. Of course, don’t steal works but learn the tools of the trade to interweave the valuable info through every sentence and chapter, with every character.

 

Until next week,

Happy reading!! xoxo

Kacey (2)

Cover Art Questionnaire: Freaky Friday with Michelle Roth @mroth_author

Freaky Friday

Oh, hello! It’s Michelle Roth again. Today I’ll be continuing my “What’s Next” series by talking about… the cover art questionnaire!

In my experience, this is actually the one of the most difficult parts about the process. You’ll be asked a few standard questions:

  • What does your hero look like?
  • What does your heroine (or other hero) look like?
  • Do you have a third you need to describe (in menage a trois, quatre, etc)?
  • Are there any scenes that stand out in your book? (A zoo, a park, the beach, the city, the country?)
  • What descriptors or “fair warnings” would you give your book? (MM, MF, BDSM, Menage, May-December – as examples)
  • What do you picture on the cover of your book?

These look like some pretty standard questions, right? What does everyone look like? What’s your image for the book cover? But these are hugely important.

The majority of us readers are usually more interested in substance vs. shiny packaging, but I can tell you first hand. COVERS DO MATTER! When someone is choosing whether to invest in your work, it’s the first impression. A cover that is poorly put together, that doesn’t really give any sort of indication as to what your book is about is much less likely to make someone pick it up and read the blurb.

Next time we’ll tackle what to do with your 1st edits. See you next week!

XOXOX,

Michelle Roth

 

Where does the story start? Another Freaky Friday with Michelle Roth @mroth_author

*taps mic*  Testing. 1 – 2 – 3 – testing. Is this thing on? *screech noise*  Oh, why hello there. Welcome back to another Freaky Friday with Michelle Roth. Today I’ll be talking a bit about where the story actually starts and ends.

I’ve been on vacation from le day job this week (HOORAY!!!!!) so I’ve been recharging my mental batteries. I’ve been writing, researching, and actually doing some reading. Mostly reading, TBH. I’ve gotten hooked on this particular author’s works. They’re just short stories about Sheikhs and their unsuspecting virginal secretaries, etc.

I KNOW, I KNOW. It’s one of the oldest, most trite tropes out there, but… it’s enduring for a reason, I tell you. 😉

But.. after binge reading … umm.. Let’s just call it an obscene amount, shall we? Okay, so after reading an obscene amount of this person’s work, I began to wonder. “So what next? You’ve got this brash, sassy American who is now the equivalent of a princess… I wonder how things will work out?”

This ties back into my series post from last week quite nicely, but also took me down the rabbit hole when I began to wonder where the story actually starts.

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I’ll admit, this is something that I struggle with until this very day. My current WIP is in its infancy and I’m already hemming and hawing about where it starts. Do I add a prologue that goes over the actual event that brings the character back into the life of the hero? Do I go over the event that brings the hero back into the heroine’s life? Do I go over their initial meeting? Have I done enough to garner an emotional connection between my readers and the characters in the book?  Will they be invested enough to wait until I can explain the history?

The ending… Should I include an epilogue that shows you how their happy ending shapes up? Does the reader need that? Will the reader be satisfied with my ending? Will they want more? Will they be left wondering, so what’s next?

Those are big questions. They’re the difference between a decent book and a book that they’ll re-read over and over.

I hope that’s some food for thought, anyway. Till next week!

XOXOX,

Michelle Roth

Choose and Choose Wisely: Freaky Friday with Michelle Roth @mroth_author

*skids into the room, crashing up against a wall in her haste*  I know, I KNOW. I’m late. Normally, I’ve got a post all ready and it explodes forth into the blogosphere at midnight eastern on Fridays. This week, not so much. But then again, that brings me to the point of my post this week.

Strict Black Leather Locking Hand Cuffs on white background

Thanks for sticking with me for this week’s Freaky Friday. Today I’ll be talking with you about work-life balance and why that’s so damned important. I’m about to drop some cold, hard truth on your asses, so gird your loins.

If you’re doing this to make money, you’re almost certainly going to be disappointed.

We’ve pretty much collectively agreed on Naughty Quills that writing is a labor of love. You’re not going to make millions, or thousands.. or even hundreds when you start out. Unless something really huge and earth shattering happens, that’s not likely to change any time soon.

What this means is the following:

  1. You’re probably going to be stuck with le evil day job for quite some time. (Sorry.)
  2. In order to write books at any sort of real pace to maintain exposure, you’ll be forced to make some choices about how you spend your free time.
  3. You will be forced to live with the impact of those choices.

On my down time from my day job, there was a time that I obsessively wrote. I realized, after I did the math at royalty time, that the time I was investing so much of wasn’t really netting me much financially.

The satisfaction of finishing a book that people enjoy is fantastic, but not necessarily as fantastic as what I was missing out on. Real life experiences with friends, family, my pets. Reading a good book. Laying on my ass in my PJ’s until noon on a Sunday.

Shit, the number of times my cat hopped on my keyboard in a desperate ploy for petting was kind of obscene. I’d scritch her ears and set her down. Then I’d keep clacking away at the keyboard. Looking back, I feel like a total dick about that.

Sure, I got a couple more words, but was it worth it? Probably not. Not for me, anyway. I had to change the way that I thought about this whole writing gig. So, for now, writing is a hobby that I try to indulge as I can. I hope that one day it will be a bigger thing, and I’ll certainly keep trying to get it there.

It’s a choice that we all have to make as time goes on. My only advice on this front is to choose and choose wisely. We only get one of these whole life things to work with.

XOXOX,

Michelle Roth