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Today’s cards… (Contest)
Saturday, November 21st, 2020

UPDATE: The winner is…Jeanine Lesperance!
*~*~*

I feel like I have to explain my desk before I start. 🙂

The document on the bottom is my bloggers’ schedule. Duh. Anything that says “DD” is mine. So yes, I do “pencil” in my guests on a hard copy. The squishy toy on the left is a fish squishy the 7-year-old gave me when she heard I was scouring the house for the stress ball my physical therapist recommended I exercise my hand with. She said it would be better because it’s softer. LOL. She’s really sweet. The tile on the right says “Artist” and it was from the 16-year-old, who gave it to me for my birthday this year. I love messy paintbrushes—to me, they are a testament to the work that, lately, fills my “well” with happiness. The pretty jar holds a tiny, very fragrant candle I light when I want to improve my mood. And in the bottom right corner is my mom’s mousepad with all the presidents through 45 on it. I gave up my Thor’s hammer pad for mom’s…well, because. I like touching something she touched every day.

So, to the cards…

I have this “Women’s Empowerment” deck of cards sitting on my desk to the far side. It was a gift. I generally don’t like the new age stuff. I prefer tarot cards, famous quote books, etc., for my daily inspiration, but the WE cards are pretty. I opened the box and looked for a card that “called” to me today. These two made me pause.

The first reads, “Be still my mind. Be here now.” I’m not a “now” person. I’m a dreamer (a great thing to be for a writer, BTW!). However, I have work to complete and need some focus, so this thought helps.

The next says, “I enjoy the ups and downs of everyday life. Only the present moment is real.” I do appreciate the ups and downs. If we didn’t have them, life would be boring and we’d never learn a thing. The “only the present moment is real” thing is also very true. What you do now defines who you are and will be. So, today I will write because I want to be a writer. Writers who don’t write are just dreamers without the proof of the stories spinning in their heads.

So, does any of that help me begin my workday? Um, yeah. I guess. As soon as I hit “publish” to post this blog, I will begin “the work” and then I can claim to be a writer once more.

My philosophy isn’t deep. It’s self-serving, right? I need a kick in the ass because I have a minimum of 2,000 words to write today!

If you’d like to deliver that kick, tell me how you go about girding yourself to do “the work” of being who you are for a chance to win a $5 Amazon gift card!

These contests are closing soon!

  1. My Furbaby-Jealousy (Contest) — Win an Amazon gift card!
  2. Anna M. Taylor: Who’s On Second? (Contest) — Win an Amazon gift card!
  3. Diana Cosby: Inspiration From Nature – Deer (Contest) — Win a FREE book!
Cheryl St.John: Take a Bite Out of Self-Doubt
Wednesday, October 7th, 2020

Along our writing journeys, it’s not uncommon for writers to struggle with confidence. One of the things we can do to build confidence is to recognize and overcome self-defeating behaviors, like negative self-talk. Negative thinking can be detrimental to our performance, make us doubt ourselves, and inhibit our creativity.

We all wonder if we have the stuff it takes. As beginners, we wonder if we have an inkling of talent. Once our talent is validated by other writers and readers, we still wonder if it’s good enough, if we have what it takes. It’s good to acknowledge that we don’t know it all and to have a desire to learn and grow, but doubt can hold us back. We shoot ourselves in the foot by creating and feeding feelings of inadequacy.

Being unprepared can leave us feeling inadequate, so reading, attending workshops, and staying informed on the craft of writing and the market is another way to help us feel prepared. When positive thinking is paired with common sense, we can stay open to possibilities.

Confidence can be built by setting and achieving goals, so it’s pretty important how we choose to set goals and measure them. Short term and long terms goals should be realistic and achievable. Don’t set yourself up for failure by setting a goal like, “I will be published by this time next year.” Unless you’re independently publishing, a goal like that is out of your control, and the result will leave you feeling helpless or like a failure. Set goals with smaller steps. A long-term goal might be to produce a polished product for submission with the next ten months. Then set short-term goals to make it happen: Two new pages a day or two hours of writing a day, for example. Perhaps take an online class or find a critique partner.

“Our doubts are traitors and make us lose the good we oft might win by fearing to attempt.” – William Shakespeare

Most of us were raised in a competitive and comparative environment, where our achievements were profiled and graphed into percentiles; where we were matched up against our peers as a gauge to see how we were doing. It’s no wonder so many of us have self-esteem issues and doubts about our abilities. Thank goodness teachers, counselors and parents have learned to work in teams to choose learning methods suitable for children of all capabilities. Students are treated as individuals and encouraged to learn at their own speed and in the manner best suited for them.

Sometimes, we make mistakes. Sometimes, a project crashes and burns. Sometimes, we have to do something wrong before we figure out how to do it right. And that’s okay—as long as we’re moving forward.

You have to be willing to make mistakes.

I know writers who never get started because they’re always planning, plotting, and talking about the book instead of putting words on pages. Know anyone like that? There are writing students (not actually writers yet) who read every book on the craft and attend all the workshops and conferences and ask questions and take notes and plan, plan, plan.

It’s a good thing to be teachable and eager to learn, but you can’t learn to write until you put words on paper. The people who don’t get that far want everything to be perfect before it gets on the page – or they want it to come out perfect on the first try, so they wait until they’re good enough. Guess what? Ain‘t gonna happen.

You have to be willing to make mistakes. You have to be willing to write badly in order to learn to write well. Ask yourself: What’s the worst that could happen?

“Confidence comes not from always being right but from not fearing to be wrong.”  – Peter T. McIntyre

I’ve been a worship leader for quite a few years, and I always say to my team of singers, “If you’re going to make a mistake, make it with confidence, and no one will know you didn’t intend it that way.” I have been known to sing the wrong notes or words, but I sing them with such authority that everyone follows along. Confidence grows with practice and with maturity.

I wrote a how-to-write book. It was a pretty big deal. Who was I to write a book that would be marketed beside admired and credible instructors? It was a lofty goal to write an instructional book, but I’d been leading workshops and teaching online classes for years, and I had a lot of encouragement from other writers, which built my confidence in my ability. I always ask myself, “What’s the worst thing that could happen?” Writing this type of book was something I’d thought about for a long time. It was as big of a step as writing or submitting my first book. My long-term goal was to submit it for publication. My short-term goals involved gathering my notes and thoughts, preparing the manuscript, and getting feedback.

Imagine my delight when the publisher I had dreamed of made an offer. The process was so different from my other publishing experiences that it was a stretch. The editor of Writing With Emotion, Tension and Conflict told me I should be proud of this project. And I am. I did something I had only dreamed of doing.

I have high hopes for the future generations of students and young adults receiving recognition for intrinsic value. We should all know that our value lies inside of us, not in our performance.

Some things just can’t be measured. What makes one book better than the next or one writer better than another? Only perspective. Only the reader, when you get right down to it. Because story-telling can be so subjective, I might enjoy a book you can’t finish, and a story I think is drivel could land on your keeper shelf.

No one can tell you whether or not you’re going to sell a book, publish fifty more or be a success. Another writer can read your work and assure you it’s good, but that’s not a guarantee. There are no guarantees when you start writing, and that can get frustrating.

As much as we’d love for there to be, there’s no writer’s crystal ball to foretell the future.

Take a man with a desire to run a hundred-meter race. He buys a pair of Nikes, goes out and gives running a shot, but he doesn’t do very well. Why not? He didn’t practice! He didn’t study how other runners achieve endurance through diet and exercise. He doesn’t know how good he really is until he’s trained by learning all he can, eating properly for energy and muscle and all that—and after he’s ready, after he’s prepared, by stretching to limber up and then running.

Then running again and again and again until he’s fast and he’s confident that he’s fast, and he’s ready to compete.

In many ways submitting a book is a lot like that. Your manuscript will be compared to all the others that cross an editor’s desk. It will be scrutinized for its ability to make the publishing house money in the marketplace—bottom line in this business. The only way you can have the confidence to know you’re submitting something with a chance of making it past that test is to learn your craft and practice, practice, practice. Work at writing and work at it until you get better, until you hit your personal stride. Then share it and get feedback from people you trust.

So how can you grow your confidence?

Confidence is gained by successfully completing a task and recognizing the accomplishment—repeatedly. By acknowledging a success, your brain processes, “I can do this again.”

We can’t nurture confidence if we don’t recognize or even appreciate what we’ve done. Don’t ever demean an accomplishment by saying or thinking, “I was just lucky” or “Anyone could have done it.”

Don’t look at a project as too large. Break it down into steps and accomplish them one at a time. If it’s helpful, record your page/time goals and accomplishments in your planner. Check them off as you reach and overtake each one. It’s like that joke, “How do you eat an elephant?”

One bite at a time.

Celebrate each success along the way.

Have a chapter one achievement award party or treat yourself to something special for milestones reached. Give yourself fun stickers or hearts on your calendar—something visual to note progress.

Learn from your mistakes. This might sound simple, but if one method didn’t work, try a different one. You can’t expect a different result from the same behavior.

“Ability is what you’re capable of doing. Motivation determines what you do. Attitude determines how well you do it.” – Lou Holtz

 Confidence is conditioned behavior.

Many years ago, a study was done at the University of Wisconsin. A scientist tied a mouse’s front feet together and placed the animal into the cage of another mouse. The mouse whose cage was being trespassed easily beat up the mouse with its feet tied. After that happened several times, the scientist put mice without tied feet into the cage. The mouse who’d won repeatedly was so confident by then that it took on and defeated mice even larger than itself. Under ordinary circumstances, that mouse would have run when it saw a larger opponent, but it had been conditioned until it believed it couldn’t lose. And it didn’t.

Condition yourself.

Congratulate yourself.

Celebrate your successes.

Sure, sometimes self-doubt is much deeper, it’s inadequacies we’ve carried with us from childhood and relationships and past hurts and experiences. But there’s help for those things, too, in recognizing it and getting help if need be and working on it. You’re a valuable person. You’re worth it. You deserve to give yourself the gift of improving yourself and reaching for your dream.

“If you want confidence, act as if you already have it.”  – William James

Whisper My Name

Ripped from the headlines…

Laurel Whitaker has spent her entire life burying her infamous past and becoming a normal person.

Joe Cavanaugh suspects she’s in trouble. His job demands honesty, and it’s his nature is to protect.

Will Laurel’s truth be her undoing…or his?

BUY LINK: https://amzn.to/3hl5a5g

About the Author

Cheryl is the author of more than fifty books, both historical and contemporary. Her stories have earned numerous RITA nominations, Romantic Times awards and are published in over a dozen languages. One thing all reviewers and readers agree on regarding Cheryl’s work is the degree of emotion and believability. In describing her stories of second chances and redemption, readers and reviewers use words like, “emotional punch, hometown feel, core values, believable characters and real-life situations.”

Amazon and Goodreads reviews show her popularity with readers.

With a 4.9 star rating on amazon, Cheryl’s bestselling non-fiction books, Writing With Emotion, Tension & Conflict and Write Smart, Write Happy by Writers Digest Books are available in print and digital.

Melanie Jayne: Lessons from My Mother
Friday, September 25th, 2020

A few days ago, was the anniversary of my mother, Betty’s, death from cancer. I’ve worked through the stages of grief. I celebrate her life and all that she taught me. Like most, I didn’t appreciate her lessons until years later. I’m going to share the top three with you.

#1—Compliments. We are not given a finite number of compliments. Give them often and spread them far and wide.

I work part-time in a beauty salon in my small town. They don’t really need me; clients can make appointments online, and there are only two stylists working at a time (due to COVID-19). They keep me around because I compliment freely. I praise the stylist’s work, the outcome, shoes, jackets, the sunny day. I say it all. The best part is that it makes me feel better to see a person’s face light up.

In the Writing World—I compliment often. I send messages to authors that I’ve never met when I discover their book and enjoyed it. I respond to posts that make me think or feel. It is an easy way to network, and I’ve made great connections that started with a simple comment.

#2—Pick Your Battles. Why waste energy on something you will never win?

I remind myself of this every day since it is election time. Especially, when I see posts on social media. I do my best not to engage, however, my “snooze” button is getting a workout. The only thing I can say is that if a person is acquiring their news from a Facebook post as their only source—I’m not sure that they can be educated.

In the world of Romancelandia, there is a battle brewing weekly or so it seems. I have not returned to twitter since the RWA debacle; I can no longer handle the vitriol. I do admit to following some of the interactions, but I rarely enter the fray. I will comment on the never-ending trademark filings for commonly used words.

I try to follow Rule #2 because fighting a battle takes energy and emotion. My goal is to use my energy on my writing, and if there is any leftover, then dusting my old house.

#3—Acceptance.  No one is perfect so why should we expect our friends to be?

You might be jealous—I have a friend who is the authority on everything. She is – just ask her.

I’m a part of a group message where we share our day to day victories and fails, our news, and our concerns. If I post that a friend received a cancer diagnosis—she’s had three this week. A mention of how you called somebody to express your sympathy at the loss of their parent—she tells you how you did it incorrectly. Somebody had a kitchen fire—she’s lived through two and the damage was much worse.

It’s exhausting and sometimes very frustrating. However, she has many good points, so I choose to overlook her responses, or I try to. I know I cannot change her, nor do I have the time to try. Yes, she can be an annoyance, but I’ve become used to her and I now “prepare” myself for her responses.

I could also go on about Betty’s rules concerning no white before Mother’s Day or after Labor Day—Take that Vogue! Her belief that you should never offer a beverage without a napkin. If you give a purse or wallet as a gift, you should always stash some coins and a dollar in it for luck. And finally, good-byes should take at least fifteen minutes.

My hope is that this fall you might try to incorporate one or more of Betty’s lessons into your life. It will enrich yours and others.

I’m Melanie Jayne/M. Jayne, and I write Romance. I live on a grain farm in central Indiana with my husband and our mastiff, Duncan Keith. I’m a huge sports fan and cannot wait for SEC football to begin. I have a deep attachment to The Real Housewives franchises and daytime court shows.

My books incorporate true stories from life and many of my characters are over the age of 35. My heroines are usually larger than size 16 and never apologize for their love of food and dislike of diets.

About the Author

Melanie Jayne/M. Jayne lives on a farm in Indiana with her husband and Duncan Keith her mastiff supervisor. She is addicted to trashy TV and TMZ.com. She writes The Novus Pack Series featuring a human psychic who lives amongst werewolves and several Contemporary Romance Series that feature characters over the age of thirty-five.

You can learn more about me and my writing here:
https://www.facebook.com/MelanieJayneAuthor
www.ReadMelanieJayne
on Twitter @1MelanieJayne
https://www.bookbub.com/authors/m-jayne
https://www.bookbub.com/authors/melanie-jayne
readmelaniejayne on Instagram

Vonna Harper: Where Inspiration Lives
Thursday, June 25th, 2020

Setting, for me, is where every book begins.

Yes, I love getting to know the characters that slip out of the shadows at the back of mind where they’ve been living, sometimes for decades without my being aware of them. I enjoy the plotting process which consists of waking up in the middle of the night to mull over possibilities, running down roads both promising and dead-end, and throwing possibilities into a Word program called “Notes”, but I have to have a strong picture in my mind of where everything happens before I can write the first word.

I love going for solitary drives accompanied by Neil Diamond going full blast while the world around me becomes part of me. I’m a mountain gal born and bred. I don’t understand cities. They don’t speak to me. But give me the wilderness and I come alive.

That’s true even when I’m writing erotica.

Case in point, I’m in the process of releasing two self-published books. Cry of the Wolves will hit the virtual shelves on the 29th. I haven’t set on a release date for the companion novella Call of the Wolves, sometime in July.

The two connected stories came to me unbidden. I had no idea that’s what would happen when I went for a hike near Crater Lake at a place known as The Gorge. The Rogue River of southern Oregon flows through The Gorge, or rather it fights to. As I explain in the forward for the two Wolves stories, an ancient volcanic eruption sent molten lava to the Rogue. At one spot, the river was squeezed into a narrow channel. Every spring during snow runoff, the river screams and boils as it struggles through the lava.

That’s where I found my characters. Each in their own way, they listened to and watched the ageless battle between rock and water. That wild place impacted them as deeply as it did me and gave rise to the ghost wolves. I’m including a couple of pictures I took. I just wish readers could feel the spray and sense the ground shivering.

A big part of the writing business consists of getting the word out, which is what I’m doing right now via a couple of projects designed to try to garner reviews.

In case you’re interested in getting your hands on some free ARC (advanced reader copies) in exchange for a voluntary review, I recommend becoming a member of Book Sirens, https://booksirens.com/advanced-reader-copies, and/or The Hidden Gems, https://www.hiddengemsbooks.com/.

A.C. Dawn: My Writing Journey
Wednesday, May 27th, 2020

I started my writing career as a ghostwriter. It was a great way to cut my teeth and hone my craft, but the pay was abysmal, and of course, other people took the credit for my work. So, last year I finally made the leap to writing for myself, and so far, the pay hasn’t been any better, but it’s been a blast! I’m back for another Boys Behaving Badly Anthology and have several more anthologies planned for the coming year. The most fascinating part of this journey has been developing my writing process and learning about that of other authors. It’s amazing how differently everyone approaches writing. Some authors meticulously plan out their work step by intricate step. It’s like a beautiful dance in colorful illustration before the first word is even put on the page. For others, they wade in with a vague notion or idea and just see where it goes. My process lies somewhere in the middle.

Typically, I have a rough outline of where the story will go with major plot points. How I get from point to point isn’t necessarily defined. Sometimes, the storyline drives the words, but more often, I find the characters and who they want to become influences the story the most. I’ve been astonished at how some of my stories have turned out!

No one was more surprised than me when I finished my latest short story, The Invisible Goddess, about Hestia, the Greek goddess of fire, hearth, and home. I call her the forgotten Olympian because she has almost no stories about her. She’s rarely mentioned at all in the myths. So, I reinvented her with the idea to make her bolder and write a bit of romance into her hum-drum life of keeping Zeus’s court at Olympus. What I ended up with was a fiery hot goddess who brings Olympus to the brink of war over her hand and in the middle of it all, a primordial god of darkness stirring the pot, and the heroine’s heart. The god of darkness wasn’t even in my original outline of the story! This is the coolest part of writing. I love it when my imagination gets churning, and suddenly, a story that I never even realized was there materializes on the page. I look back at this short story and wonder where the heck it came from!

Aside from how writers approach the structure of their stories, I also find the logistical aspect of how authors work intriguing. Some authors write every day, 8 hours a day. It’s their job, and they treat it as such. Of course, that whole time isn’t necessarily spent spinning words onto the page of their latest and greatest novel. A lot of it is spent working social media, responding to emails, editing, and updating their website and blog. Some authors have a particular place they like to write, or they have a prewriting routine they do. Other authors don’t touch their keyboard for days or weeks. Then, they sit down and binge write for days on end. Again, I find myself somewhere in the middle.

First Response: A Boys Behaving Badly AnthologyI’m not cool enough to write full time- yet! One of these days…. But for now, my writing must fit in with a full-time job as a nursing instructor, a 21-acre farm, and a family. I don’t have time for rituals or routines- other than coffee. There is always time for coffee! I fit writing in whenever and wherever. I often peck away at my keyboard at my daughter’s horse riding lessons and scribble ideas on the back of my grocery list while waiting in line at Costco. I wish I was one of those disciplined souls that would get up 2 hours early and write before work. Countless failed early morning exercise aspirations have proven that it isn’t a sound strategy for me! My main goal is to write a little bit every day. Sometimes, it’s literally a single sentence, and sometimes, when the writing gods smile upon me and the stars align, it’s pages. In the end, it always seems to come together.

Anthologies, like the latest Boys Behaving Badly with my gracious hostess, Delilah Devlin, attract me because I can write tons of different storylines, and they’re typically short story to novella lengths. I have several going at the same time. One of the other things I’ve discovered about my writing process is the stories and characters often need to marinate at different points along the way. Sometimes, we gotta give each other a bit of space! I also like to sleep on my stories. Seriously, I do my best writing as I am falling asleep. I’ll turn a particular point around and around in my head, and in that semi-dozing state, my mind forgets boundaries, conventions, and the distractions of daily life. Suddenly, the imagined world is possible and some of my best ideas have come from this technique (Ok… I’m not sure that falling asleep is a technique, but I’m going to go with it!). I’ve also utterly annihilated storylines and caused myself tons of extra rewrites because I came up with a scene that I just couldn’t live without. I guess that’s why they call it a process!

I will continue to hone my practice and do hope to transition to writing full time. I have dreams of writing full-length novels with glossy dust jackets adorned with my picture and having a fan base that stretches beyond blood relatives! For now, I’ll continue to grab the time as I can find it and inspiration where it is granted. I can’t wait to see where my journey takes me next. I hope that you’ll join me along the way!

My website and latest releases, including The Invisible Goddess coming this fall, can be found at acdawn.com or wander over to my Facebook page and follow me there!

As always, many thanks to Delilah for letting me pop in! Until next time…

Here’s a picture of my home base in north Georgia…

Three weeks in… (Puzzle & Contest)
Tuesday, April 7th, 2020

UPDATE: The winner is…Pansy Petal!
*~*~*

Psst! Just a quick reminder!
This offer is ending in just a couple of days!
Get your free read! Lily’s Last Stand

So, here we are in our third week of lockdown. It has been three weeks now, right? Hard to tell. The days blend together.

On the pro side of things (I don’t let myself think about any cons!)—I’m nearing the end of another book! Yay! My dd has been decorating/rearranging things in the house. It’s so pretty now! Her attention has now turned to the storage sheds. I’m not sure how that means multiple trips to the dump and the burn pile, but she has warned me not to look—so for my mental health, I have not! The kids have really liked their online classes and assignments. Sure, they miss their friends, but they’ve been hanging out on TikTok and FaceTime. They aren’t feeling horribly isolated. Not yet, anyway. And now, Arkansas has made the hard decision to close the schools through the end of the school year. What a relief!

Today, in addition to hopefully getting to the end of my book, I begin my #100dayproject art challenge! I’m stoked! I haven’t done anything to prepare, so I’ll be busy scrambling to do my first pieces. I’m sharing everything I do on Instagram. The good and the bad. (I’m sure there will be lots of horrific, too! 🙂 ) An artist, I am not, but I do love working with paints and color, so it feeds something inside me. Makes me happy. That’s the point.

So, three weeks in, how are you feeling? I saw something from Dr. Fauci saying that our return to normal will mean a “new normal.” Makes me sad that we will forever be hyper-aware of what we touch, who we stand next to, and that this disease will continue to be with us. I’m so very thankful that my family lives in a rural area, away from other people. I can’t imagine how paranoid people living in cities will become.

On a lighter note, I have another puzzle for you! It’s something fun! Solve the puzzle, then answer me this for a chance to win a $5 Amazon gift card!

If you were to write a YA book using this picture as the cover,
what would the story be about?

2019 is at an end…
Tuesday, December 31st, 2019

2019 was not a good year for me.

After a long illness, my father passed away in March. His care, up to the time of his death, placed a pall over everyone. We knew what was coming. We took care of his needs—getting him to dialysis, cleaning the ulcers on his feet, the day to day of helping a mostly wheelchair-bound man get around… We didn’t mind any of that. We just wanted him comfortable and happy. After his death, personally, I felt drained of energy and creativity. Mourning is a malady, just like flu, and it also makes you susceptible to every bug going around. So, I barely wrote.

That’s why this list of releases for 2019 is so short. I’ve always been a prolific writer, but I couldn’t make myself sit at my computer and do the work. If you missed any of these releases—some new works and some re-worked previous releases—the links are embedded here:

1. 01/22/19 – ANIMAL, Montana Bounty Hunters series
2. 03/11/19 – ALONG CAME A SPIDER, Men in Uniform Anthology
3. 04/30/19 – STRANDED, A Boys Behaving Badly Anthology
4. 05/14/19 – GILDED CAGE, Femme Surnaturel series, reissue
5. 07/14/19 – NEW ORLEANS NIGHTS, SEALs in Paradise series
6. 07/30/19 – QUINCY DOWN UNDER, short story, reissue
7. 08/12/19 – BIG SKY WEDDING, Montana Bounty Hunters series/Brotherhood Protectors crossover
8. 08/30/19 – MAMBO’S DOOR, Femme Surnaturel series, reissue
9. 09/24/19 – QUINCY, Montana Bounty Hunters series
10. 11/05/19 – HARVEST MOON, Beaux Reve Coven series

My favorites projects to work on from the list were…

Animal Stranded Hot SEAL, New Orleans Nights Big Sky Wedding Quincy
 

We lost my grandmother, who also lived with us, in 2018, after months and months of in-home 24/7 care. We lost dad in 2019. At the end of this year, my mother’s health has taken a hit. She’s spending the New Year holiday in the hospital, while we wait for the doctor’s to tell us what her future will be.

I’ll be glad to see the end of this year. I’m not very hopeful on the home front for 2020, but I do have a plan to do better on the writing front… More about that tomorrow.

I’d love to hear how you deal with sadness. Any advice would be appreciated.